Mysteries of Dionysios with Peter Mark Adams

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'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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Review of Adam's book Mystai

Damon Zacharias Lycourinos


Quote:To instruct the reader further on the nature and function of the Dionysian Mysteries, Adams offers a rudimentary presentation on the structure and performance of the Mysteries in antiquity as secret and voluntary ‘higher rites of initiation’ providing a theurgic admittance to a specific deity. This initiation proceeded from the act of myesis (rite of purification) to cast away all miasma, leading to the orgia or telete (initiatory rite itself) to become epoptai (‘those who have seen’). Adams also provides a refreshing perspective on the significance of the Korybantic dance in the Dionysian Mysteries as a rite of purification stressing how important ritual purity was for the participants, and also draws a connection to the archaic magical practitioners attending the rites of the Great Mother known as Korybantes, and elsewhere as Kabeiroi, Dactyloi, and Telchines. Here Adams, like Jake Stratton-Kent, highlights the primordial foundations of chthonic and goetic origins of Greek magic and the Mysteries in antiquity. This is further reinforced with references to the initiates’ experience of undergoing Mystery rites, such as Apuleius, where one experiences death-like descent into the underworld followed by rebirth and ascent to the celestial realms to bear witness to an epiphany of the gods. In the endeavour to phenomenologically investigate this initiatory pattern Adams claims that this serves a technical purpose which the reader should refer to when introduced to the author’s understanding of the nature, structure, and purpose of the Villa of the Mysteries:

Quote:The cycle of descent and ascent is triggered by the collapse of the energetic supports of the persona, giving rise to feelings of deathlike dread; for it is only then that the source of one’s life energy – which is also the universal life energy – opens and surges to illuminate one’s awareness. (p. 28)

According to Adams, the key to the ritualisation of the participant to become a bakkhe, or one who has undergone the Dionysian Mysteries, is to consider the “psycho-energetic exfoliation of the intersubjective space” (p. 30) as providing a spatium for the purpose of the Mystery rite. In the Dionysian Mysteries the key to higher initiation, which Adams discusses with brief references to Hesiod, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Euripides, and segments of Dionysian myth, was the company of worshippers’ performance of the dithyramb involving a combination of hymn, choral dance, singing, and musical accompaniment, and the stellar chorus implicating the role of the Muses in the Dionysian Mysteries. In particular, and possibly under the spell of Alkistis Dimech, specific attention is drawn to the embodied transformation generated by the practice of dance that leads to sense of loss of bounded selfhood imaginatively and energetically exposing the dancing initiate to the energies of the symbolic structure of the rite. For the dithyramb this practice was defined by a threefold movement of strophe, antistrophe, and epode – movement counter clockwise, clockwise, and standing still.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell



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