Top critical review
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on December 15, 2010
Warning: This book seriously misrepresents aspects of the Mystery cults it claims to elucidate.
Pg. 47-48: "There is also the importance of Persephone at Eleusis. She is Queen of the Underworld... We have already seen in the Introduction that the references to a happy afterlife do not imply that the Eleusinian Mysteries were explicitly concerned with the afterlife... We can also see that the Queen of the Underworld had little to do with the Mysteries either."
WHAT...!!?? The Queen of the Underworld, abducted by Hades (Death), had little to do with the afterlife or the Eleusinian Mysteries...??? Please read the 'Homeric Hymn to Demeter' for yourself, and explore the amazing iconography on the 4-foot tall vase in the New York Metropolitan Museum.
Pg. 161: "Isis was at times accompanied not by Osiris but by the god Sarapis. Scholars debate the origins of Sarapis, whose name is derived from Apis, a god who took the form of a bull..."
HUHHH...?!!! The name Serapis comes from Osir-Apis, with Osiris, the Egyptian king of the dead (equivalent to the Greek Hades), incarnating as the oracular bull Apis. Serapis was the Greek amalgam of Osiris and Hades, and his 3-headed dog Cerberus also guarded the gate to the afterlife, as shown on coins of the Roman emperors Trajan, Hadrian (see 'customer images'), Caracalla, etc. In other words, Serapis = Osiris = Hades (Pluto).
The hero Heracles was said to have been initiated at Eleusis before his trip to the underworld to bring back the 3-headed hellhound Cerberus. Why would Heracles need the Eleusinian Mysteries for his trip to the world beyond unless they were "explicitly concerned with the afterlife?"
And why would a book on the "Mystery Cults of the Ancient World" fail to mention that Heracles, the great hero and inspiration of the ancient world, was initiated in the Mysteries of Eleusis, a ritual that was open to ALL who spoke Greek over hundreds of years, and later to ALL citizens of the Roman Empire?
The answer to this puzzling question pops up on pg. 208:
"Christian rituals are referred to as 'mysteria' because, like everything else to do with Christianity, they were once secret, known only to God and hinted at by the prophets in the Hebrew Bible, but later revealed to all through Jesus. Indeed, by revealing God's mysteries to all, Christ is doing the opposite of what would be expected from those involved in mystery cults."
There we have it. Bowden's Christian bias reveals his evangelical agenda (stripping the pagan Mysteries of any relevant spiritual value), which of course negates any possible claim to scholarly objectivity.
But still, nice pictures.