Near‐Death Experiences, Real and Make‐Believe

Yulia Ustinova

in Caves and the Ancient Greek Mind

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548569
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720840 | DOI:
Near‐Death Experiences, Real and Make‐Believe

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The Greeks knew of at least two ways of ‘brushing with death’: near-death experiences and mystery initiations. The chapter surveys literary descriptions of passages through darkness in the visions of people who had been pronounced dead and eventually returned to life. These testimonies allude to tunnel experiences. This chapter also presents an overview of complex and richly documented cave experiences during mystery initiations (Eleusinian, Dionysiac, Orphic, Isiac, and Mithraic mysteries, some cases of male initiations). Mystery initiations as a way to overcome fear of death could be patterned to some extent by near-death experiences. Given the popularity of mystery cults, multifaceted cave experiences of numerous initiates were perhaps one of the most profound noetic sensations known to common people of the Classical world.

Keywords: near-death experience; mystery initiations; Eleusinian; Dionysiac; Orphic; Isiac; Mithraic mysteries

Chapter.  16261 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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