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Mystery Religions

(2,001 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph
1. Term Mystery religions are secret cults of the ancient Greco-Roman world that offered initiates an experience other than that of the official religions. The mysteries center on a time of sacred events, a festival related to fertility in the yearly cycle and involving rites aimed at the common welfare. Cultic formulas are used, and the eyes are closed (Gk. myō) with a view to experiencing what takes place in the dark. The participants enter into direct bodily and spiritual relations of sympathy with certain suffering deities whose divine fate is the …

Mother Goddesses

(1,638 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph
1. History In a special way the mother is a figure in whom people see great power. The result in religion has been the worship of mother goddesses. 1.1. Early Paleolithic and Ancient Greece Already in the European and Near Eastern Early Paleolithic (40,000–25,000 b.c.), the ability to give life found expression in many female figures with heavily emphasized sexual features, as well as in snake and bird deities (Serpent; Sexuality). By 6000 b.c. we find the Anatolian Great Mother, or Magna Mater. In the early Greek period we find her in the form of a female deity worshiped prim…

Myth, Mythology

(2,517 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph
1. Forms 1.1. Term Various definitions of myth are offered, depending on whether myth is viewed as a lack of truth from the standpoint of rationality (Enlightenment) or whether it is regarded as a lost center over against an unredeemable claim of reason and scholarship. Romanticism resulted in research into mythology. Myth was first explained in terms of experienced forces of nature and misuse of language. Examination of complexes of myth made possible a reconstruction of the history of individual m…

Hellenistic-Roman Religion

(2,841 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph
1. Basis in Hellenism after Alexander The Hellenistic-Roman period embraces many centuries. “Hellenistic” is used for the time from the conquests and alliances of Alexander the Great (336–323 b.c.) to the incorporating of the last great Hellenistic state into the Roman empire, namely, the seizure of Egypt by Augustus in 31 b.c. “Roman” is used for the time when Rome, Italy, and the western provinces adopted Greek and Near Eastern ideas and practices, and on to the final stages of antiquity. For all th…

Henotheism

(381 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph
“Henotheism” (or “kathenotheism”) refers to veneration of a single god as the true deity (God). It is a relative monotheism that does not rule out the existence of other gods (Polytheism) and that finds cultic expression in the subjective monolatry of individual deities, which in turn may emerge as supreme. Inspired by the distinction made by F. W. J. von Schelling (1775–1854) between henotheism (Gk. heis, henos, “one”) and monotheism (Gk. monos, “only”), Orientalist Max Müller (1823–1900) developed the concept, pointing out that the singer of the Vedas, invoking…

Initiation Rites

(2,721 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph | Fischer, Balthasar
1. Religious 1.1. Term Deriving from Lat. initium, the term “initiation” denotes the ceremony of joining a mystery fellowship. Initium means “entry”; its use in the plural became linked with the concept of the sacred or holy (Sacred and Profane), which had much the same sense as “mysteries” had in late antiquity. At the same time, in a play on words, the Greek teletē for initiation into the mysteries came to be associated with teleutaō (finish, die). In an extension of usage the term then denoted v…

Dependency

(1,090 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph | Crouter, Richard
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Philosophy of Religion I. Religious Studies Embracing Romanticism, F.M. Müller in his Einleitung in die Religionswissenschaft (21876, 16; ET: Introduction to the Science of Religion, 1899) defined religion as “a yearning for the infinite” and quoted F.D.E. Schleiermacher: “Religion consists in our consciousness of absolute dependence” (M. Müller, Vorlesungen über den Ursprung ¶ und die Entwickelung der Religion, 1980, 19; ET: Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion). Schleiermacher's sugges…

Mysticism

(7,149 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph | zur Mühlen, Karl-Heinz
1. History of Religion 1.1. Definition in Religion 1.1.1. General Definition The word “mysticism” has an etymological link to Gk. myō, myeō, mystērion (shut [eyes, mouth], initiate [into the mysteries], mystery), words connoting absorption, esotericism, faith, and relation to the hidden ground of being. A general definition of the term might be “an individual, emotional sense of identification with no specific expressible content in which language points beyond itself to an experience of something that can be …

Enlightenment (Spiritual)

(1,584 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph | Mühling-Schlapkohl, Markus | Marquardt, Manfred | Mürmel, Heinz
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Philosophy of Religion – III. Christian Theology – IV. Buddhism I. Religious Studies Verbalizing the internal light (Symbols/Symbol theory) of the mysteries and mysticism, enlightenment denotes salvific knowledge that comes through sudden ineffable existential experience. Interreligious contacts (reception of ancient conceptions of enlightenment in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; modern encount…

Creation

(7,608 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph | Crenshaw, James L. | Horn, Friedrich Wilhelm | Editors, The | Frey, Christofer
1. In the History of Religion 1.1. Perspectives on Creation Philosophy and natural science trace the origin of the world and humanity back to impersonal, law-governed causes. Religion, however, finds a suprahuman plan behind life and its foundations. In addition to the elementary language of confession (Confession of Faith), reflection on creation also can draw on philosophical and scientific argumentation, which makes use of elements and general concepts familiar from the world around us. It may also use the language of myth, which presents creation ¶ in the story of a one-time,…