A mystery religion is any religion with an arcanum, or secret wisdom. In a mystery religion, an inner core of beliefs, practices, and the religion's true nature, are revealed only to those who have been initiated into its secrets. (The ancient Greek term μυστήρια (mysteria) means "initiation", notably in the context of the Eleusinian Mysteries.) Ancient mystery religions of the eastern Mediterranean area generally focused on mythic figures who had descended into Hades and returned or who otherwise exemplified death and rebirth, such as Bacchus, Orpheus, Osiris, and Tammuz.

Mystery religions are often characterized by their promise of individual eternal salvation for their initiates, and/or an encounter with the divine.

Mystery religions tend historically to be geographically limited as to the majority of their core practitioners. This has changed somewhat with modern improvements in transportation and communication.

Early Christians[]

In the language of some early Christians (followers of Gnosticism), the mysteries were those religious teachings that were carefully guarded from the knowledge of the profane. An example is the Secret Gospel of Mark, which was preserved from profane view in Alexandria, and is now known only through chance references in a letter of Clement of Alexandria. The Gospel of Thomas purports to express mysteries that were confided by Jesus to Thomas alone, and the traditions of some early Gnostic Christians were based on esoteric information available only to initiates.

It has been suggested that Christianity had its origin in a mystery of initiates. According to this view, Christianity began as a Jewish adaptation of Greek mystery religion, and that Paul developed Christianity in another, more public, Hellenized direction, ultimately more acceptable to mainstream Roman culture.

In perhaps a less controversial view, early Christian practices, the vestiges of which still remain in the language of the Catholic Mass, tend to point to an earlier, mystery tradition. The Mass itself is referred to as a mystery, and those who were not initiated were "dismissed," something that exists to this day in the Christian Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes of the liturgy of the Mass that "Liturical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ." (Paragraph 1074). [1]

Other religious forms[]

The other general forms of religions are the "revealed religion" and "natural religion". The public revelations embodied in a written scripture are characteristic of any "revealed religion". The seasonally shared public cult practices are characteristic of a natural theology which has a developed mythology but no single orthodoxy. do...

Examples of current mystery religions[]

Non-mystic mystery religions[]

Unlike most mystery religions, the following religions do not promote individual mysticism, and instead concentrate on written teachings, which are sometimes progressively revealed to initiates

  • The Rosicrucian Order

Other mystery religions[]

Wikipedia Look up Mystery religion in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Mystery religions of the ancient Mediterranean area were usually devoted to gods of death and rebirth. These myths are so reminiscent of Christ's passion and resurrection that early Christian writers, and modern ones, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, believed them to reflect divine reality, albeit imperfectly.[1]

  • The Eleusinian Mysteries
  • Minoian Worship (of Minos)
  • The Cult of Orpheus
  • The Cult of Adonis
  • The Cult of Attis (in its original form, but see also Modern Gallae)
  • The Cult of Dionysus
  • The Cult of Isis
  • The Cult of Osiris
  • The Cult of Tammuz
  • Druidry
  • Manichaeism
  • Mithraism


  • Frazer, James G. (1957). The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. London: Macmillan & Co.
  • Kirk, G.S. (1970). Myth: Its Meaning and Function in Ancient and Other Cultures. Cambridge/Berkeley.
  • Dodds, E.R. (1968). The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley.