Philosophy of religion is the rational study of the meaning and justification (or rebuttal) of fundamental religious claims, particularly about the nature and existence of divinity. The word "religion" is believed to be derived from the Latin word "religio" which has a meaning influenced by the verb "religare" to bind, in the sense of "place an obligation on". Concerning the wide diversity of religions and denominations in the world, we may quote René Guénon (1886-1951 CE) and his Traditionalist School with their reference to a philosophia perennis: "de l'unité et de l'identité fondamentale de toutes les traditions" and "il s'agit de celui-là seul qui est effectivement au delà de cette diversité: les formes, pour lui, n'ont plus le caractère de voies ou de moyens, dont il n'a plus besoin, et elles ne subsistent plus qu'en tant qu'expressions de Vérité une, expressions dont il est tout aussi légitime de se servir suivant les circonstances qu'il est de parler en differentes langues pour se faire comprendres de ceux à qui l'on s'adresse" (see also Diversité et unité des religions chez René Guénon et Frithjof Schuon, Patrick Ringgenberg, Editions L'Harmattan, 2010, p.170 and Aperçus sur l'Initiation, chapitre VIII - Contre le mélange des formes traditionnelles, René Guénon, 1992, p. 49).
Philosophy of religion
Philosophy of religion
Philosophy of religion - Introduction
Philosophy of religion - links
Psychology of religion
Psychology of religion
Religion is based on the belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship is called a religion. Religion is the set of beliefs, feelings, dogmas and practices that define the relations between human being and sacred or divinity. Religions are mutualy exclusive. A given religion is defined by specific elements of a community of believers: dogmas, sacred books, rites, worship, sacrament, sacrament, interdicts and organization. The majority of religions have developed starting from a revelation based on the exemplary history of a nation, of a prophet or a wise man who taught an ideal of life (see also What Is Religion?: Origins, Definitions, and Explanations, Thomas A. Idinopulos, Brian Courtney Wilson, BRILL, 1998 and What is Religion?: An Introduction, John F. Haught, Paulist Press, 1990).
Religion can be considered as a philosophical system, which tries to answer the question on the origin, meaning and destiny of life. In order to answer these three questions within a religious system of beliefs, something divine is required in order to be able to come up with an active principle beyond what is capable by human reason ("Deus ex machina"). The system of thought in between the origin and destiny of life is filled with philosophical principles, such as Aristotelianism in Christianity and Roman Catholicism in order to systematize religious thought. Faith is used to fill the gap between the divine and human reason (e.g. logos) as opposed to a non-religious philosophical system. In alternative philosophical systems, the Gods (whenever present) are subordinate to origin, meaning and destiny which is a philosophical principle (Fate, Moira, Destiny, the Platonic Forms, the One, Aristotelian Potentiality and Actuality). In religious philosophical systems this order is reversed and origin, meaning and destiny of life are subordinate to the God or Gods and human fate is in the hands of the Gods or God as opposed to non-religious philosophical systems. In most religious systems man is not capable to reach his destiny in life without divine assistance, which diminishes human life and capabilities somewhat compared to non-religious philosophical systems (e.g. the concept of "original sin" and "grace" in Pauline and Augustinian Christianity).A religion may be defined with its three great characteristics:
Religions can be categorized into three groups:
The earliest evidence of religious thought is based on the ritual treatment of the dead, traces of which can be found from the Middle Paleolithic era (300-500 thousand years ago). The oldest sanctuary which has been found is Göbekli Tepe in in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, which dates from the 10th millennium BCE, at the beginning of the Mesolithic period. From an evolutionary viewpoint human morality is believed to have grown out of primate sociality. Religion as such is regarded as an evolutionary outgrowth of human brain architecture that evolved early in human history. It is believed to have developed as an exaptation or a spandrel, in other words that religion evolved as byproduct of psychological mechanisms that evolved for other reasons. For man a thought could become part of empirical reality and an element of social control and mutual trust. A religion should strengthen the community and therefore with increasing complexity of society the power of control through religion needs to increase (blessing and damnation, heaven and hell). Throughout history important elements of religious rituals are ritual purification, providing structure in life (order out of chaos), and providing safe sanctuaries. Religions also practice initiation rites, consisting of a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into the religious group or society (see also The Oxford Companion to World Mythology, David Leeming, Oxford University Press, 2005)
Myths and Legends
Windows to the World
Virtual Religion Index
Solar deity - heliolatry
The Sun, A Universal Deity - Manly Palmer Hall
Heaven and Hell
Internet Medieval Sourcebook
Hanover Historical Texts Project
The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions
Adherents - statistics
Rites of Passage - Life-cycle Rituals - Transition Rites
Rite of Passage - Wikipedia
The Circle of Life
Male Initiation/Passage Rituals
Female Initiation/Passage Rituals
Many myths existed in history and geographically. Besides the Eurasian myths, Indo-European, Ancient Semitic, Traditional African myths, North and South America, and Oceania developed a wide variety of creation myths and archetypes. Myths are usually regarded as a true account of the remote past. Mythological archetypes refer to battles between deities (good and evil), and creation myths dealing with the creation of the universe and the creation of man (see also The Oxford Companion to World Mythology, David Leeming, Oxford University Press, 2005 and Classical Mythology, Mark P. O. Morford, Oxford University Press, 1999).
Ancient Iranian Mythology
Gog and Magog
Tibetan Book of the Dead
The historic gods of Africa and Asia were of Proto-Saharan origin. The Proto-Saharan civilization is also called the "Fertile African Crescent", because the highland regions in which the Proto-Saharans lived formed a crescent shape across the Saharan region of middle Africa. During the African Aqualithic, there was higher rainfall in Africa which made the rivers longer and more permanent. Many of the Proto-Saharan beliefs originated during the wet African Aqualithic period and their common god was called Maa, the man fish of Eridu. The Proto-Saharan civilization flourished some 4000 years BCE and were the ancestors of the Dravidians, Black Africans, Elamites, and the Sumerians. Traditional religion among Afro-Asiatic-speaking peoples was originally henotheistic in nature. Ancient Egyptian religion developed as a branch of the Afro-Asiatic religious tradition with some influences from the Sudanic religion (see also The Great Civilisations of the Ancient Sahara, Fabrizio Mori, L'ERMA di BRETSCHNEIDER, 1998)
Nabta Playa was once a large basin in the Nubian Desert in North Africa. It is currently the oldest known archaeoastronomy site in the world, older than Stonehenge by at least 1000 years. There are five known alignments of megaliths stretching out from a group of central megalithic structures at the settlement. Research suggests that it may have been a prehistoric "calendar" marking the summer solstice and which may have played a role in the religion of the Proto-Saharan civilization. The level of this civilization remains largely unknown and a lot of speculation is still going on (see also The Origin Map: Discovery of a Prehistoric, Megalithic, Astrophysical Map and Sculpture of the Universe, Thomas G. Brophy, iUniverse, 2002).
The Proto-Saharan Religions
The Origins of Egyptian Religion
The ancient name for Egypt was Kemet, which is a reference to the black Nile Delta earth. The Egyptian religion is often considered to be the Prisca Theologia of the Western world. The Egyptian religion consisted of a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals which was an integral part of Egyptian society. Their religion centered on the interaction with the deities who were present in, and in control of, the forces and elements of nature. The myths about the Gods were meant to explain the origins and behavior of the forces the Gods represented, and the practices of Egyptian religion were efforts to provide for the Gods and gain their favor. Maat or ma'at, was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation (see also Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, Emily Teeter, Cambridge University Press, 2011 and Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation, Henri Frankfort, Courier Dover Publications, 2012).
The Egyptian calendar was based on the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (Sothis), the 'Dog Star', which occurred just before the annual flooding of the Nile and the summer solstice, after a 70-day absence from the skies. The Egyptians built elaborate monuments such as the pyramids, Great Sphinx of Giza and temples, several which remain until today. The theological and spiritiual meaning of the Egyptian buildings is still a subject of research and not all mysteries have been solved. The philosophy, cosmology and theology from which the Egyptians drew their insrparation is manifested in their buildings, which are to a large extent elaborate memory maps illuminating the minds and hearts of their visitors, if only they can read and understand the ancient symbols. One of the temples is Luxor Temple, which is a large temple complex located on the east bank of the Nile River in the city today known as Luxor (ancient Thebes) and was founded in 1400 BCE. The architecture of the temple is sometimes interpreted in a symbolic way, resembling the body of man and relating man with the microcosm and macrocosm (FWIW) (see also Le Temple dans l'homme, R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Le Caire, Impr. de Schindler, 1949).
The Abu Simbel temples are located in in Nubia, southern Egypt. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BCE, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Interestingly the axis of the great temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on 22 October and 22 February, the rays of the rising sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. The heliacal rising of the star Sirius (Sothis) also relates the date to 22 October. The four statues in the sanctuary of the temple on a black wall, are rock cut sculptures of four seated figures, which together constitute the Egyptian tetragrammaton: Ra-Horakhty, the Sun God, who was the first Pharaoh, the deified Pharaoh himself, Amun-Ra who was the god of Thebes and Ptah who is the creator god, the demiurge of Memphis, god of craftsmen and architects. Together they symbolize the four stages of spiritual creation or birth (see also The Mysteries of Abu Simbel, Zahi Hawass, American Univ in Cairo Press, 2000 and Abu Simbel, Nermine Choukry, Farid Atiya Press, 2007 and Ancient Egypt 39,000 BCE, Edward F. Malkowski, Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2010, p. 110-111)
The Great Sphinx of Giza, with his leonine body and human head, is oriented due east facing the rising sun. The Great Sphinx of Giza gazes east into the rising sun, symbol of renewed light/life after the darkness of night/death. The Pyramid Texts are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts from the time of the Old Kingdom and they are one of the oldest sacred texts in the world. These texts were carved on the walls and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Saqqara in Egypt. They contain the earliest references to the Great Sphinx and Pyramids of Egypt. The origin of the statue remains the object of research. The view held by modern Egyptology at large remains that the Great Sphinx was built in approximately 2500 BCE during the reign of pharaoh Khafre or Khephren. Some hypotheses put forward that the original head of the sphinx depicted Anubis guarding the necropolis. In this role Anubis is very similar to the mythological Greek dog Cerberus Khafra (2520-2492 BCE), the builder of the Second Pyramid at Giza (see also The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, James P. Allen, SBL Press, 2015 and The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts 1910, R. O. Faulkner, Literary Licensing LLC, 2014 and The Sphinx Mystery: The Forgotten Origins of the Sanctuary of Anubis, Robert Temple, Inner Traditions/Bear, 2009 and Jackal at the Shaman's Gate, Terence DuQuesne, Darengo, 1991 and An Order Outside Time: A Jungian View of the Higher Self from Egypt to Christ, Robert B. Clarke, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2005).
Several alternative and also controversial hypotheses have been proposed concerning dating the construction of the Great Sphinx of Giza, such as the Sphinx water erosion hypothesis. They put forward that it was built by an advanced civilization 8,000 to 10,000 BCE. Studying astronomical alignments it is also hypothesized that the Sphinx was an equinoctial marker facing east, which identifies the exact position on the horizon that the sun dawns on the spring equinox. The alternative positions question the lineair view on human history and the development of civilization as it puts forward that ancient civilizations may have existed which had achieved a higher level culture and civilization than is generally accepted. All this speculation and discussion makes clear that it is much harder to "read" monuments than books or inscriptions (see also Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century, Zahi A. Hawass, American Univ in Cairo Press, 2003, p.464 and Sphinx: History of a Monument, Christiane Zivie-Coche, Cornell University Press, 2004 and Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza, Robert M. Schoch, Collette M. Dowell (ed.), Circular Times, 1992 and Le Roi de la Théocratie Pharaonique, R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Flammarion, 1961 and The Message of the Sphinx: A Quest for the Hidden Legacy of Mankind, Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, Broadway Books, 1997, p. 59, p. 358 and Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public, Garrett G. Fagan (ed.), Routledge, 2006, p. 251)
The Egyptians developed an elaborate funerary ritual and a belief in an afterlife. The Egyptian Book of the Dead or Book of What is in the Duat is an ancient funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BCE) to around 50 BCE. The Amduat or Text of the Hidden Chamber Which is in the Underworld tells the story of Ra (or Re), the Egyptian sun god who travels through the underworld, from the time when the sun sets in the west and rises again in the east. A dead Pharaoh takes this same journey, ultimately to become one with Ra and live forever. It describes the journey of the dead (first death of the body) in twelve hours to the afterlife (avoiding the second death of the soul) (see also Das Amduat Die Schrift des verborgenen Raumes, Erik Hornung, Harrassowitz, 1963 with drawings by A.G. Shedid).
In the fist hour Ra enters the western horizon (akhet) which is a transition between day and night. In the second an third hour he passes through an abundant watery world called 'Wernes' and the 'Waters of Osiris'. In the fourth hour Ra reaches the difficult sandy realm of Seker (Sokar), the underworld hawk deity, where he encounters dark zig zag pathways which he has to negotiate, being dragged on a snake-boat. In the fifth hour he discovers the tomb of Osiris which is an enclosure beneath which is hidden a lake of fire, the tomb is covered by a pyramid like mound (identified with the goddess Isis) and on top of which Isis and Nephthys have alighted in the form of two kites (birds of prey). This is suggestive of a period of gestation, i.e. the inner, dark and silent processing which takes place before renewal.
In the sixth hour of his journey the most significant event in the underworld occurs. The ba (or soul) of Ra unites with his own body, or alternatively with the ba of Osiris within the circle formed by the Mehen serpent. This event is the point at which the sun begins its regeneration; it is a moment of great significance, but also danger, as beyond it in the seventh hour the adversary Apep (Apophis) lies in wait and has to be subdued by the magic of Isis, and the strength of Set assisted by Serket. Once this has been done the sun god opens the doors of the tomb in the eight hour. In the eight hour the soul is accompanied by the four classical Egyptian elements (water, fire, earth, and air), symbolized by Ausar (Osiris, water), Auset (Isis, earth), Heru (Horus, air) and Set (fire). He then leaves the sandy island of Seker by rowing vigorously back into the waters in the nineth. In the tenth hour the regeneration process continues through immersion in the waters until in the lelventh hour the god's eyes (a symbol for his health and well being) are fully regenerated. In the twelfth hour Ra enters the eastern horizon ready to rise again as the new day's sun (see also Das Amduat Die Schrift des verborgenen Raumes, Erik Hornung, Harrassowitz, 1963.
The transformation process of spiritualization of the Book of the Dead and the Amduat found its way to the Greco-Roman mystery schools, Neoplatonism and Christian mysticism, such as in La noche oscura del alma, where the human soul first has to pass through the "Dark Night of the Soul" in order to find the "light". In Ancient Egypt the world of the living and the dead were continuously interconnected, the day-world was connected to the night-world, the conscious was connected to the unconscious. In the Greek and later Western mystical traditions, this knowledge would become part of (secret) initiation rites or of Chrystian mystics in their monasteries. The ancient belief that the sun moved around the earth and the cyclical nature of life and death would change when man realized that the earth moved around the sun. The sun did not die and rise again in a daily cycle, but became an eternal burning light. (see also The Egyptian Book of the Dead, E. A. Wallis Budge, Cosimo, Inc., 2010 and Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, Jan Assmann, Cornell University Press, 2005, p. 393 and Encounters with God in Augustine's Confessions: Books VII-IX, Carl G. Vaught, SUNY Press, 2004, p. 42).
Egypt witnessed an early from and short-lived period of monotheism, which might have influenced Judaism. The one God was Aten, which was the disk of the sun in ancient Egyptian mythology, and originally also an aspect of Ra the ancient Egyptian sun god. The deified Aten or Ra-Horus-Aten was the focus of the monolatristic, henotheistic, or monotheistic religion of Atenism which was established by pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who later took the name Akhenaten in worship in recognition of Aten. Amenhotep IV was a pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, who ruled for 17 years and died around 1336 or 1334 BCE. Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional Egyptian religion, yet in the end it would not be accepted. After his death, traditional religious practice was gradually restored. The Great Hymn to the Aten was written to the creator god Aten and attributed to Akhenaten. It has been compared to the Hebrew Bible Psalm 104 (see also Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism, Jan Assmann, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2008 and Tutankhamen: Amenism, Atenism and Egyptian Monotheism/with Hieroglyphic Texts of Hymns to Amen and Aten, E. A. Wallis Budge, Courier Dover Publications, 2012 and The Ancient Near East, An anthology of Texts and Pictures, James B. Pritchard, Princeton University Press, 1958, p. 227).
In his book Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion (1937), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939 CE) hypothesizes that Moses was not Jewish, but actually born into Ancient Egyptian nobility and was perhaps a follower of Akhenaten. Jewish monotheism was an attempt of Moses to restore the ancient Egyptian cult of Aten or Ra-Horus-Aten within the Jewish people (see also The Queen of Sheba: Legend, Literature and Lore, Deborah M. Coulter-Harris, McFarland, 2013, p. 83). The Egyptologist Erik Hornung (1933- CE) in his book The Secret Lore of Egypt and its Impact on the West (Cornell University Press, 2002) also refers to the influence of Egypt on Christian and other Western traditions (see also ChristoPaganism, Joyce Higginbotham, River Higginbotham, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2009, p. 64).
Ancient Egyptian Religion
Ancient Egyptian Religion
Egyptian Life - British museum
The Pyramid Text
The Coffin Texts
The Book of Breathings
The Egyptian Book of the Dead - The Papyrus of Ani - (1240 BCE)
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
The Egyptian Heaven and Hell
The Book of Am-Tuat or Amduat
The Book of Gates
The Litany of Re
Gods and Mythology of Ancient Egypt
Ra - Re-Horakhty
Osiris - Asar
Manetho - (3rd C. BCE)
Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by Sumerians (Assyria) and Akkadians (Babylonia) in the Mesopotamia region from about 4200 years BC to approximately the 3rd century CE. Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, worshipping over two thousand different deities.
In Mesopotamia Zoroastrianism developed as an early from of monotheism. Zoroastrianism (or Mazdaism) is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra) and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran. In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil originates from Him. Thus, in Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil (druj) trying to destroy the creation of Mazda (asha), and good trying to sustain it. Mazda is not immanent in the world, and His creation is represented by the Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom the works of Ahura Mazda are evident to humanity, and through whom worship of Mazda is ultimately directed.
The Babylonian creation myth is written down in the Enûma Eliš (When in the Height), which consists of about a thousand lines written down on seven clay tablets, each holding between 115 and 170 lines of text. It was found in the Library of Ashurbanipal and the orgins are believed to trace back to roughly the 18th to 16th centuries BCE. It is centered on the supremacy of Marduk through the struggle between cosmic order and chaos, and the creation of humankind for the service of the gods. The Enûma Eliš elevates Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, above other Mesopotamian gods. In the Enûma Eliš, Marduk battles the chaos Goddess Tiamat and her evil minions. Tiamat takes the form of a gigantic snake, and Marduk battles and defeats her using an arsenal of super-weapons. After his victory Marduk is made the leader of the Gods by acclamation and he takes the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu. Marduk divides Tiamat's corpse into two portions, the upper half becoming the sky and the lower half, the earth. Marduk then creates humanity from the blood of Kingu, to be charged with the service of the gods.
The Babylonian Enûma Eliš predates the biblical account in the Book of Genesis by several hundred years and both texts in their metaphors and symbolism most likely draw from a common cultural pool to assert their theology about God.
Electronic Tools and Ancient Near Eastern Archives
The Sumerians and Akkadians - Apocrypha
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Babylonian Creational Myths - Enuma Elish
The Seven Tablets of Creation - Enuma Elish
Kidinnu, the Chaldaeans, and Babylonian astronomy
Berossus - (3rd C. BCE)
Lost Works of Berosus - Berossus
Fragments of Chaldæan History - Berossus
An Historical Treatise of the Travels of Noah Into Europe - (pseudo-)Berossus
The Cult of Mithras was a mystery religion practised in parts of the Roman Empire, mostly in Rome and Ostia, Mauretania, Britain and in the provinces along the Rhine and Danube frontier.
The Mithraic Mysteries were a mystery religion practised in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to 4th centuries CE. The name of the Persian god Mithra, adapted into Greek as Mithras, was linked to a new and distinctive imagery. In Rome Mithras became known as "Deus Sol Invictus Mithras". Romans also called the religion Mysteries of Mithras or Mysteries of the Persians; modern historians refer to it as Mithraism, or sometimes Roman Mithraism. The mysteries were popular in the Roman military, the Empire's petty bureaucracy, and from moderately successful freedmen (i.e. ex-slaves), in fact from the retainer classes, the very people who had a stake in the current sociopolitical dispensation.
Worshippers of Mithras had a complex system of seven grades of initiation, with ritual meals. Initiates called themselves syndexioi, those "united by the handshake". Mithraism's original, archetypal sacred space was thought to be a cave. They met in underground temples called a Mithraeum and resembling a cave, which survive in large numbers across the Roman Empire. When possible, the Mithraeum was constructed within or below an existing building. Mithraea were designed with raised platforms on either side of a central aisle to serve as banqueting couches for the cult meal or banquet. The cult appears to have had its epicentre in Rome. The Romans themselves regarded the mysteries as having Persian or Zoroastrian sources. Porphyry of Tyre (234-ca. 305 CE) in his On the Cave of the Nymphs in the Thirteenth Book of the Odyssey describes aspects of Mithraism. Franz Cumont (1868-1947 CE) discribes Mithraism in his work The Mysteries Of Mithra (1903)
In every Mithraeum the centrepiece was a representation of Mithras killing a sacred bull; the so-called tauroctony. The second most important scene after the tauroctony in Mithraic art is the so-called banquet scene. The banquet scene features Mithras and the Sun god banqueting on the hide of the slaughtered bull. The principal act of Mithraism was the cult meal, celebrated both as an actual feast by the initiates reclining opposite each other on the platforms which served as banqueting couches and as a ritual re-enactment of the feast of Mithras and the Sun god celebrated on the hide of a bull freshly slain by Mithras. The intent of the Mithraists was to "induct the initiate into a mystery of the descent of souls and their exit back out again". It was for this ritual purpose that the Mithraists made their sacred space cave-like, for the cave is "the symbol of the universe", into which the soul enters for mortal existence and quits for immortality. Accordingly to Porphyry the Mithraeum is designed and furnished with "cosmic symbols appropriately arranged" so as to be an authentic microcosm. Mithraism was an astral religion. The perceivable heavens and the celestial bodies (sun, moon, the other five planets, stars) all played a part in the mysteries - the sun necessarily a very large part, since Mithras himself was the Sun god. Astral symbolism (e.g. representations of the zodiac) was liberally deployed on the sculpted and painted monuments and in the design of the Mithraeum in order to render it a true likeness of the cosmos "for induction into the mystery of the descent of souls and their exit back out again". Furthermore, each of the seven grades of the hierarchy was "under the tutelage of" one of the seven planets. The Mithraic grades were: Raven (Corax, messenger like Mercury), Bride (Nymphus, Venus), Soldier (Miles, Mars), Lion (Leo, Jupiter), Persian (Perses, Moon), Courier of the Sun (Heliodromus, Sun) and Father (Pater, Saturn). The highest of the grades in the Mithraic cult, is the deputy on earth of the god himself and is therefore portrayed clothed like Mithras. He is Father to his initiates, who call themselves fraters, brothers, and guards over the interests of his community (defensor). The three lowest grades of Mithraism were considered to be 'attendants' while the higher grades were the true 'participants' (of the cult meals). In addition to the bull-killing and the banquet, the scene of Mithras' birth is manifestly important. Mithras is shown rising upright from a rock, not as a baby but in the prime of youth, with extended arms holding torch and sword. The rock identified as Petra Genetrix ("the rock that gives birth") is his mother. The Mithraic New Year and the birthday of Mithras was on December 25, but the Mithraic Mysteries had no public ceremonies of its own. The festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti however, held on 25 December by the Romans, was a general festival of the Sun.
The Chaldaean Magi
The Mysteries Of Mithra - Franz Cumont (1903)
Ugaritic religion centered on the chief god, Ilu or El, the "father of mankind", "the creator of the creation". The Court of El or Ilu was referred to as the 'lhm. The most important of the great gods was Hadad, the king of Heaven, Athirat or Asherah, Yam (Sea, the god of the primordial chaos, tempests, and mass-destruction) and Mot (Death).
The Ugarit culturel was at its political, religious and economic height around the 12th century BCE and thus its period of greatness corresponds with the entry of Israel into Canaan. The Canaanite-Ugaritic predated and influenced the jewish religion and the religion of Israel emerged from the Canaanite-Ugaritic religion. Some of the most important ideas contained in the Old Testament are derived form the Canaanite-Ugaritic culture and religion. El was the chief god at Ugarit. Yet El is also the name of God used in many of the Psalms for Yahweh. These Psalms were most likely originally Ugaritic or Canaanite hymns to El which were adopted by the Israelites. The Hebrews adopted the titles of the Canaanite gods (e.g. El Shaddai, El Elyon, and El Berith) and attributed them to Yahweh in the process of assimilation..
Canaan and Ancient Israel
Canaanite/Ugaritic Mythology FAQ
Illu or El
Asherah, the Tree of Life and the Menorah : Continuity of a Goddess symbol in Judaism?
Hadad or Ba'al - god of Storm and Rain
The Baal Epic
The Baal Epic
Yaw - god of Rivers and Sea
Mot - god of Death
Ugarit and the Bible
Canaanite Gods Mentioned in the Bible
The Goddess in Judaism
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts
Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel
Seasonal Festivals of the Greeks and Romans
Greek mythology deals with the belief and myths of the Ancient Greeks concerning their gods and heroes, their rituals and their view on the nature of the world and its creation. Greek mythology and religion was polytheistic in its nature, although another (philosophical) view on the ultimate cause or basic principle of reality and truth (beauty) emerged. Plato (424/423-348/347 BCE) and Aristotle (384 BC/322 BCE) formulated a view on divinity. For Plato, the divine principle was a transcendent "One" (endelécheia, Latin: uno), while for Aristotle it was an immanent "Being" (entelécheia or "being-at-work-staying-the-same", Latin: ente). From the Hellenistic point of view, theology is also a part of physics. Human beings and their cognitive faculties are natural parts of a natural world. They are organic and functional parts, interconnected with the other parts of the large whole which the universe is.
The Theogony ("the birth of the gods") is a poem by Hesiod (8th-7th century BCE) describing the origins and genealogies of the gods of the ancient Greeks. The Timaeus is one of Plato's dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the creation of the world, the nature of the physical world and human beings.
In the Greek creation myth the twelve Olympic Gods come into being after the creation of the world itself and the evils of life are not caused by man itself (e.g. the Pauline Semitic/Indo-European concept of original sin in Christianity), but by games played by the Gods with man and among the Gods themselves. The Greek gods are reflections of man and have their good an bad sides. Besides the Greek creation myth, Greek philosophy, starting with Thales of Miletus (ca. 624-ca. 546 BCE) started the tradition of speculation on the origing of the world in contrast to the narrative myth of the origin of the world, which laid the foundations for the Western philosophical and scientific approach to reality and dealing with the basic philosophical and theological questions of the Universe and Man.
In the beginning there was an empty darkness and Chaos, meaning unfilled expanse. Chaos refers to the formless or void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in the Greek creation myths, more specifically the initial "gap" created by the original separation of heaven and earth. Primal Chaos was sometimes said to be the true foundation of reality, particularly by philosophers such as Heraclitus (ca. 535-ca. 475 BCE). It was also probably what Aristotle (384 BC-322 BCE) had in mind when he developed the concept of Prima Materia in his attempt to combine Platonism with Presocraticism and Atomism. Chaos exised from the beginning together with Nyx, Erebus and Tartarus. Besides Chaos, there existed other Protogenoi at the dawn of the universe ("first born" or "primeval" and are a group of deities whose births are coterminous with the beginning of the universe: Erebus (Darkness) - male and Nyx (Night) - female, who gave birth to Aether (Light, clearness) - male and Hemera (Day, brightness) - female. Nyx, the daughter of Chaos, a bird with black wings laid an egg in Erebus, the world egg or cosmic egg, and for ages she sat upon this egg. Finally life began to stir in the egg and out of it rose Eros, the god of love. Current cosmological models maintain that 13.7 billion years ago, the entire mass of the universe was compressed into a gravitational singularity, from which it expanded to its current state (following the Big Bang), the so-called cosmic egg. The jesuit physicist Georges Lemaître (1894-1966 BCE) proposed in 1927 that the cosmos originated from what he called the primeval atom: L'Hypothèse de l'atome primitif (1946).
cosmogony had a "Womb of Darkness" in which the Wind lay a Cosmic Egg whence Eros
or Phanes (older Orphic tradition)
was hatched, who set the universe in motion.
One half of the shell rose into the air and became the sky and the other became the Earth. Eros named the sky
Uranus and the Earth he named
Then (heavenly) Eros made them fall in love.
Uranus and Gaia had many children together and eventually they had grandchildren. Some of their children become afraid of the power of
their children. The titan Kronus,
in an effort to protect himself, swallowed his children when they were still infants. However, his wife
hid their youngest child. She gave him a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he swallowed, thinking it was his son.
Once the child, Zeus, had reached manhood his mother instructed him on how to trick his father to give up his brothers and sisters. Once this was accomplished the children fought a mighty war against their father. After much fighting the younger generation won. With Zeus as their leader, they began to furnish Gaia with life and Uranus with stars. The Orphic cosmogony with its several generations of gods is a modification of the more widespread 'Kingship in Heaven' tradition found in Hesiod (between 750 and 650 BCE), in which kingship passes down through multiple generations of gods.
Soon the Earth lacked only two things: man and animals. Zeus summoned his sons Prometheus (fore-thought) and Epimetheus (after-thought). He told them to go to Earth and create men and animals and give them each a gift. Prometheus set to work forming men in the image of the gods and Epimetheus worked on the animals. Man was made from divine seed and to stand erect with his eyes directed toward heaven and the stars, unlike other animals who hang their heads and gaze toward the ground. Man was made a mortal god, a union between a divine soul and a mortal body. As Epimetheus worked he gave each animal he created one of the gifts. After Epimetheus had completed his work Prometheus finally finished making men. However when he went to see what gift to give man Epimetheus shamefacedly informed him that he had foolishly used all the gifts. Distressed, Prometheus decided he had to give man fire, even though gods were the only ones meant to have access to it. As the sun god Helios (later Apollo) rode out into the world the next morning Prometheus took some of the fire and brought it back to man. He taught his creation how to take care of it and then left them. When Zeus discovered Prometheus' deed he became furious. He ordered his son to be chained to a mountain in Tartaros and for a vulture to peck out his liver every day till eternity. Then Zeus began to devise a punishment for mankind.
Another of his sons created a woman of great beauty, Pandora.
Each of the gods gave her a gift.
Zeus' present was curiosity and a box
which he ordered her never to open. Then he presented her to Epimetheus as a wife. Pandora's life
with Epimetheus was happy except for her intense longing to open the box. She was convinced that because the gods and goddesses had
showered so many glorious gifts upon her that this one would also be wonderful. One day when Epimetheus was gone she opened the box.
Out of the box flew all of the horrors which plague the world today - pain, sickness, envy, greed. Upon hearing Pandora's screams
Epimetheus rushed home and fastened the lid shut, but all of the evils had already escaped.
Later that night they heard a voice coming from the box saying, "Let me out. I am hope." Pandora and Epimetheus released her and she
flew out into the world to give hope to humankind.
The story of Prometheus in Greek mythology is sometimes linked to the story of Lucifer, the fallen angel, in Christianity. The name Lucifer also means "light-bearer" (from the Latin "lucem ferre"). It was the name given to the dawn appearance of the planet Venus, which heralds daylight. For this meaning, English generally uses the names "Morning Star" or "Day Star".
Creation of the world
The Eleusinian Mysteries of Antiquity
Chthonic - Mysteries
Samothrace temple complex
Hesiod - (ca. 700 BCE)
Works by Hesiod - Hesiod
Theogony - Hesiod
Pythagoras - (c.580-500 BCE)
The Symbols of Pythagoras
Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans
The pentagram - Pythagoras
Epitome Theologiae Pythagoricae - John Opsopaus
Apollonius of Tyana - (ca. 1 BCE-ca. 100 CE)
Apollonius of Tyana - (ca. 1 BCE-ca. 100 CE)
Lucius Flavius Philostratus - (ca.170-ca.247 CE)
The Life of Apollonius - Flavius Philostratus
Orphism is the teachings of an ancient Greek philosophical cult which exerted great influence on Greek culture, and later on Western mysticism and occultism. It began in the sixth century BCE, and is attributed to the mythical Orpheus. The chief teachings are of reincarnation, a Greek version of Karma. Humans, according to Orphism, were descendants from the bodies of Titans; the enemies of Zeus, who were killed by Zeus in retaliation for killing Dionysos. So humans contain in their nature the element of Titans, the evil, and the element of Dionysos, the good. Thus the soul is imprisoned in the human body and it has to be freed from it. But death is not liberation since the soul will go through a series of reincarnations, the ultimate liberation is available only through the initiation into Orphic mysteries and asceticism. Animals, according to Orphism, were not to be killed or eaten, the good were to be rewarded while the evil were to be punished in Nether World, and teachings of self-denial and seriousness in religious matters. Apollo was the kindered god who demanded purification and righteousness.
Orphicism had a history of the universe which had a World-Egg of Chronos (Time) and Ananke (Necessity). Together Chronos and Ananke surrounded the primal egg of solid matter and so brought about the creation of the ordered universe. The first king of the gods was Protogonus or Phanes. The older wife of Chronos Nyx (Night) called him Protogenus. As she created nighttime, he created daytime. He also created the method of creation by mingling elements. Phanes was made the ruler of the deities and passed the sceptre to Nyx. Anonther Orphic tradition stated that Nyx later gave the sceptre to her son Uranus before it passed to the titan Kronus and then to Zeus, who retained it (see also the Derveni papyrus). Zeus had decided that his son Dionysus would rule the world, which his wife Hera strongly opposed to. She made the Titans kill and eat the child, but they were killed by Zeus lightning and turned to ash. Because the Titans hadn't eaten the child's heart yet Zeus gave it to Semele, who gave birth to a new Dionysus. Dionysus was a god who died in order to be reborn. Out of the ashes of the Titans the human kind was born, and so every human has both a divine and an evil nature.
Orpheus - Orphicism
Protogonus or Phanes - Orphicism
The Theogonies - Orphicism
Orphica Holodemiurgia vel Conditus Universi Orphicus
Roman religion evolved through the influence of the Greek mythology and contained both original Roman elements as Greek influences (syncretism). Most of the Roman gods and goddesses were a blend of several religious influences. Many were introduced via the Greek colonies of southern Italy. Many also had their roots in old religions of the Etruscans or Latin tribes. Since Roman religion was not founded on some core belief which ruled out other religions, foreign religions found it relatively easy to establish themselves in the imperial capital itself.
The Romans had a practical attitude to religion, as to most things, which perhaps explains why they themselves had difficulty in taking to the idea of a single, all-seeing, all-powerful god. Roman religion was based on a mixture of fragmented rituals, taboos, superstitions, and traditions which they collected over the years from a number of sources. Religion for the Romans was less a spiritual experience than a contractual relationship between mankind and the forces which were believed to control people's existence and well-being. The result of such religious attitudes were two things: a state cult, the significant influence on political and military events of which outlasted the republic, and a private concern, in which the head of the family oversaw the domestic rituals and prayers in the same way as the representatives of the people performed the public ceremonials. The Pontifex Maximus was the head of Roman state religion, then much of its organization rested with four religious colleges, whose members were appointed for life and , with a few exceptions, were selected among distinguished politicians. The highest of these bodies was the Pontifical College, which consisted of the rex sacrorum, pontifices, flamines and the vestal virgins. As circumstances and people's view of the world changed, individuals whose personal religious needs remained unsatisfied turned increasingly during the first century CE to the mysteries, which were of Greek origin, and to the cults of the east such as Mithraism, Judaism and Christianity.
The Life of Numa Pompilius
Roman Pantheon - FAQ
Deus Sol Invictus - Dies Natalis Solis Invicti
The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism - Franz Cumont
The demise of paganism
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