Here are some excerpts about The Mysteries at Eleusis (pre 376 CE) from "The Jesus Mysteries" by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy.
Its quite a long quote but I found it interesting, especially since death and rebirth rituals as well as confession were used by my LGAT (Quest-seminars) and the idea of "becoming the godman" is practised at Impact Trainings.
I've highlighted (bold) the interesting parts for people in a rush :)
Unlike the traditional rituals of the official state religions, which were designed to aid social cohesion, the Mysteries were an [b:edb9c6a003]individualistic form of spirituality [/b:edb9c6a003]which offered mystical visions and personal enlightenment. Initiates underwent [b:edb9c6a003]a secret process of initiation which profoundly transformed their state of consciousness...[/b:edb9c6a003]
Plotinus describes the initiate [b:edb9c6a003]transcending his limited sense of himself as a separate ego[/b:edb9c6a003] and experience mystical union with God:
'As if borne away, or possessed by a god, he attains to solitude in untroubled stillness, nowhere deflected in his being and unbusied with self, utterly at rest... He does not converse with statue or image but with Godhead itself. And this is no object of vision, but another mode of seeing, a detachment from self, a simplificatin and[b:edb9c6a003] surrender of self[/b:edb9c6a003], a yearning for contact, and [b:edb9c6a003]a stillness and meditation directed towards transformation[/b:edb9c6a003]. Whoever sees himself in this way has attained likeness to God, let him abandon himself and find the end of his journeying.'
No wonder the initiate Sopatros poetically mused, 'I came out of the Mystery Hall feeling like [b:edb9c6a003]a stranger to myself'[/b:edb9c6a003]...
The Greek mysteries celebrated at Eleusis in honour of the Great Mother goddess and the godman Dionysus were the most famous of all the Mystery cults. The sanctualy of Eleusis was finally destroyed by bands of fanatical Christina monks in 396 CE...
Each year some 30 000 Athenian citizens embarked on a 30 kilometre barefoot pilgrimage to the sacred sit of Eleusis...For days they would have been preparing for this important religious even by [b:edb9c6a003]fasting, [/b:edb9c6a003]offering sacrificies and and under-going [b:edb9c6a003]ritual purification[/b:edb9c6a003]. As those about to be initiated danced along the 'Sacred Way' to Eleusis, accompanied by the frenzied beat of cymbals and tambourines, they were [b:edb9c6a003]accosted by masked men who abused and insulted them, while others beat them with sticks...[/b:edb9c6a003]After ritual naked bathing in the sea and other purification ceremonies the crowd reached the great doors of the Telesterion, a huge purpose-built initiation hall. Only the chosen few who were already initiated or about to be initiated into the secret Mysteries could enter here...
[b:edb9c6a003]All initiates were sworn to secrecy [/b:edb9c6a003]and held the Mysteries so sacred that they kept this oath. From large numbers of hints and clues, however, we know that they [b:edb9c6a003]witnessed a sublime theatricaql spectacle. The were awed by sounds and dazzled by lights. [/b:edb9c6a003] The were bathed in the blaze of a huge fire and trembled to the nerve-shattering reverberations of a mighty gong. [b:edb9c6a003]The Hierophant, the high priest of the mysteries, was quite literally a 'showman' [/b:edb9c6a003]who orchestrated a terrifyingly transformative reenactment of sacred myth. He himself was dressed as the central character - the godman Dionysus.
A modern scholar (S. Angus 1925) writes:
'A Mystery Religion was thus a divine drama which portrayed before the wondering eyes of the privileged observers the story of the struggles, sufferings, and victory a patron deity, the travail of nature in which life ultimately triumphs over death, and joy is born of pain. [b:edb9c6a003]The whole ritual of the mysteries aimed especially at quickening the emotional life. No means of exciting the emotions was neglected[/b:edb9c6a003] in the passion-play, either by way of inducing careful predispositions or of supplying external stimulus. [b:edb9c6a003]Tense mental anticipations heightened by a period of abstinence, hushed silences, imposing processions and elaborate pageantry, music loud and violent or soft and enthralling, delirious dances,[/b:edb9c6a003] the drinking of spirituous liquors, physical macerations, alternations of dense darkness and dazzling light, the sight of gorgeous ceremonial vestments, the handling of holy emblems, [b:edb9c6a003]auto-suggestion and the prompting of the Hierophant - these many secrets of emotional exaltation were in vogue.'...[/b:edb9c6a003]
...the initiates were not a passive audience. They were participants who shared in the passion of the godman whose death and rebirth symbolically represented the death and spiritual rebirth of each one of them....
By witnessing the awesome tragedy of Dionysus, the initiates at Eleusis shared in his suffering, death and resurrection, and so [b:edb9c6a003]experienced a spiritual purification known as 'catharsis'...[/b:edb9c6a003]
[b:edb9c6a003]Through understanding the allegorical mythi of the Mystery godman, initiates could become aware that, like Osiris-Dionysus, they were also 'God made flesh'. They too were immortal spirit trapped within a physical body. [/b:edb9c6a003] Through sharing in the death of Osiris-Dionysus [b:edb9c6a003]initiates symbolically 'died' to their lower earthly nature. [/b:edb9c6a003] Through sharing in his resurrection they were spiritually reborn and experienced their eternal and divine essence.
The Mysteries did not offer religious dogmas to simply be believed, but a myth to be entered into. [b:edb9c6a003]Initiation was not about learning something, but about experiencing an altered state of awareness.[/b:edb9c6a003] Plutarch, a pagan high priest, confesses that [b:edb9c6a003]those who had been initiated could produce no proof of the beliefs that they acquired...[/b:edb9c6a003]
Proclus talks of the Mysteries as evoking a 'sympathy of the soul with the ritual in a way that is unintelligible to us and divine, so that some of the initiates are stricken with panic, being filled with divine awe; others assimilate themselves to the holy symbols, leave their own identity, become at home with the gods, and experience divine possession...'
Initiates into the mysteries were required to purify themselves by making a public confession of all their failings and misdeeds. In the Mysteries of Eleusis, [b:edb9c6a003]the priest asked the initiate to confess the worst deed that he had ever committed in his life.[/b:edb9c6a003]
So there it is. Large Group Awareness Training in the year 360 CE.
But how reliable is this account?
The author, Timothy Freke, runs Large Group Awareness Trainings called "Lucid Living". :shock:
A quick glance through the webpages reveals the usual format of a packed weekend, with experiential techniques, special language and the ubiquitous destruction of reality and personal boundaries:
Lucid living is a state of super-clarity in which it becomes obvious that, although we appear to be separate individuals, in reality we are one awareness which is dreaming itself to be everyone and everything. Lucid living is a beautiful experience of communion and compassion into which we dissolve when we see through the illusion of separateness and realise that all is one.
The testimonials are familiar to anyone "initiated" :roll: or educated in The Way of The Lgat:
* Everyone in the group was transformed.
* Our time with you and the group was one of, if not the most, important three days of our lives.
* Lots of “head knowledge” has become “heart knowledge” and I can move forward in my life confident and free. The atmosphere has been love, tangible love that transforms. I wish I had known this years ago! Thanks for the WAKE UP!
So... its difficult to tell how much of the book is spin to support the seminars or whether the seminars exist to support the book and the beliefs!
An interesting point is that The Mysteries initiations caused people to "lose their identities" and experience "divine possession" - which in the modern world is known as psychosis, an often-reported side-effect of LGATs.
Its a pity the book doesn't explain whether the initiates were all men, and if so what happened to their relationships with their wives when they became "enlightened" - or were couples encouraged to attend together.
It would also be interesting to know who these priests were and what kind of power they had in society at the time, but that's not covered in the book.
Thanks upsidedown for the advice to look back further in history!