Mitra/Mithra

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIQ0i_1eoJ8

Mitra/Mithra From... http://www.egodeath.com/mithraism.htm

http://alexanderbard.blogspot.com/2010/09/secrecy-of-mithraeum.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=QmFxMMpHFaYC&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=mazdai...

http://www.iranica.com/articles/cosmogony-i

http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/bull_killer/

Justin Martyr LXXI: "And when those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave, do I not perceive here that the utterance of Daniel, that a stone without hands was cut out of a great mountain, has been imitated by them, and that they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah's words?"

Daniel 2:34: "While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them."

The first mentions of "Mitra" come from India and Iran. The Rig Veda is a collection of sacred Sanskrit texts composed as early as 1200 B.C. Its Hymn 66 invokes "Mitra," a protector of the law and a god of light. In Iran, Mithras continued in the same vein: the modern Farsi word for "sun" is "mehr," also the root of "Mithras." The Greek historiographer Strabo (63 B.C.-A.D. 23) corroborates this report in Book XV of his Geography, noting that the Iranians "worship the sun also, whom they call Mithras." In Hymn 10 of the Yasht, an Iranian collection of praise poems to gods dating from after 250 B.C., Ahura Mazda, the god of light, commends Mithras. He tells his disciple, Zoroaster, that Mithras respects justice and brings "down terror upon the bodies of the men who lie...to [him]."

"We pretty much know for certain he wasn't originally a sun god," says David H. Sick, chair of the Greek and Roman Studies department at Rhodes College, who uses extant literary sources to study the Iranian Mithras. He adds, "The original meaning of the god's name is 'contract', so he starts with 'contract' and, somehow, becomes the solar god. ...The reason that the contract god may become a solar god is because both contracts and the sun are related to sacrifice."

In Roman reliefs, Mithras kills a bull, an action called a tauroctony. In Indo-Iranian myths, men sacrifice cattle to please the gods. Sacrifice is an element of proper conduct in Greek mythology, which Sick argues was heavily influenced by Indo-Iranian stories. If one does not sacrifice to the gods and fulfill his part of the human-divine contract, that individual will be punished. The all-seeing sun witnesses contracts between the divine and mortal worlds and also is the master of cattle-for example, Helios's herds in Book XI of Homer's Odyssey. Though Sick maintains these cows are distinct from the bull of the tauroctony, he places great emphasis on the mythological connections that produced the Iranian Mithras and his Roman cousin.

[image]

The tauroctony scene, in which Mithras kills the bull, from Rome (Wikimedia Commons)

The 19th-century Belgian archaeologist Franz Cumont, considered the father of Mithraic studies, believed that Roman Mithras was a direct descendant of the Iranian Ahura Mazda, but modern scholars now believe Mithraism was a separate development. "There's Persian elements there [in Roman Mithraism], but where they appear in Mithraism is not the way they appear anywhere in Persian materials," says Luther Martin. Roman Mithras was a distant relative, not a direct descendant, of Indo-Iranian gods.

If Mithras was a Roman creation, why did he retain the Iranian influences, like his name and solar association? "Again, we're speculating, but the Romans, like modern Americans, were fascinated by the wisdom of the east," says Martin. The Romans had an attitude of mixed veneration and condescension for eastern knowledge, says Roger Beck, author of several books on Mithraism. Though it had conquered the east, the Greco-Roman world still saw "these civilizations [as] older and thus [having] access, particularly in physiologies, to speculation about the gods and maybe secret" knowledge, Beck says. To access these ancient secrets, perhaps the Romans mimicked eastern rites and gods.

Comments

Mithra & military politicization of mystery-religions

From...  http://www.egodeath.com/mithraism.htm#_Toc71218340

Mithraism as the military power-establishment mystery-religion,

Christianity as the anti power-establishment mystery-religion

Treating pre-Constantine Christianity as one actual mystery-religion among many, what is socio-politically distinctive about it? With Mithraism and Christianity, the mystery-religions increasingly gained a socio-religio-political-martial surface mythic storyline or purpose. Christianity was a contrarian response to Mithraism's "mystery-religion for the soldiers" that taught them heaven is a reward for the victors in battle. Christianity said no, heaven is a reward for the defeated in battle, or the noncombatants, the peaceful.

If the god of Mithraism is the high general of the victorious army, the god of Christianity is the defeated on earth rep of God, but God certainly -- and not the god claimed by Mithraism -- is true ruler of all, who is completely separate (for now). Mithraism marries worldly military victory to the divine -- like the old Old Testament religion.

The God of the OT promised military victory but, per Jack Miles' Bible-as-literature reading, failed to come through, leading to purely transcendent worship of him as remote mysterious metaphysical controller of all that happens. OT religion led to the idea of a messiah who is presently defeated militarily, yet is presently victorious spiritually like the Jews who chose suicide rather than Caesar, and will eventually be militarily victorious too.

Mithraism was the power-establishment version of the standard Hellenistic mystery-religion core engine. Christianity was the contrarian counter-version of the standard Hellenistic mystery- religion core engine.

When Jesus is declared to be the only savior, this is particularly meant to exclude Mithra as savior. Mithra is the savior of the military power-establishment and of the Rome-installed temple priests.

Regular "religious" thinking about Christianity is completely off- base in the two main ways it can be (esoteric and exoteric). Esoterically, Christianity must be treated as a genuine implementation of standard Hellenistic mystery-religions. It really is a mystery-religion. Exoterically, the story of Christianity must be read as a story about liberation from the military power establishment.

The conventional exoteric telling of the Jesus storyline focuses on the persecution of a sinless, peaceful, teacher of ethics by a handful of people ("the Jews" or "the Jewish priests") and his literalist supernatural power to resurrect and justify people into heaven after bodily death. The "Jewish high priests" were actually installed as puppets by the Roman power establishment that used religion to oppresss people. The Jewish high priests therefore *are* the Roman power establishment, and represent the religion-abusing power establishment in general.

Constantine's genius was to co-opt the anti power-establishment religion and turn it, or a version of it, into the official religion of the power establishment.

Related:

http://home.talkcity.com/SpiritCir/gracewatcher/mystery.html

Esoteric Christianity: The true history: The Greek mystery religions and their impact on Christianity

Mithridates VI or Mithradates VI Mithradates (Μιθραδάτης), from Old Persian Mithradatha, "gift of Mithra"; 134 BC-63 BC, also known as Mithradates the Great (Megas) and Eupator Dionysius, was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia (now Turkey) from about 120 BC to 63 BC. The spelling "Mithridates" is Latin; the Greek version "Mithradates" was used in the king's inscriptions and coins. Mithridates is remembered as one of Roman Republic’s most formidable and successful enemies, who engaged three of the prominent generals from the late Roman Republic in the Mithridatic Wars: Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey.

Cumont's hypothesis: from Persian state religion

Scholarship on Mithras begins with Franz Cumont, who published a two volume collection of source texts and images of monuments in French in 1894–1900, Textes et monuments figurés relatifs aux mystères de Mithra [french: "Texts and Illustrated Monuments Relating to the Mysteries of Mithra"].[72] An English translation of part of this work was published in 1903, with the title The Mysteries of Mithra.[73] Cumont's hypothesis, as the author summarizes it in the first 32 pages of his book, was that the Roman religion was "the Roman form of Mazdaism",[74] the Persian state religion, disseminated from the East. He identified the ancient Aryan deity who appears in Persian literature as Mithras with the Hindu god Mitra of the Vedic hymns.[75] According to Cumont, the god Mithra came to Rome "accompanied by a large representation of the Mazdean Pantheon".[76] Cumont considers that while the tradition "underwent some modification in the Occident... the alterations that it suffered were largely superficial".[77]

From... http://www.truthbeknown.com/mithra.htm

Mithra: The Pagan Christ

by Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

Mithra with Sun and Moon

(The following article is adapted from a chapter in Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, as well as excerpts from other articles, such as "The Origins of Christianity" and "The ZEITGEIST Sourcebook.")

"Both Mithras and Christ were described variously as 'the Way,' 'the Truth,' 'the Light,' 'the Life,' 'the Word,' 'the Son of God,' 'the Good Shepherd.' The Christian litany to Jesus could easily be an allegorical litany to the sun-god. Mithras is often represented as carrying a lamb on his shoulders, just as Jesus is. Midnight services were found in both religions. The virgin mother...was easily merged with the virgin mother Mary. Petra, the sacred rock of Mithraism, became Peter, the foundation of the Christian Church."

Gerald Berry, Religions of the World

"Mithra or Mitra is...worshipped as Itu (Mitra-Mitu-Itu) in every house of the Hindus in India. Itu (derivative of Mitu or Mitra) is considered as the Vegetation-deity. This Mithra or Mitra (Sun-God) is believed to be a Mediator between God and man, between the Sky and the Earth. It is said that Mithra or [the] Sun took birth in the Cave on December 25th. It is also the belief of the Christian world that Mithra or the Sun-God was born of [a] Virgin. He travelled far and wide. He has twelve satellites, which are taken as the Sun's disciples.... [The Sun's] great festivals are observed in the Winter Solstice and the Vernal EquinoxChristmas and Easter. His symbol is the Lamb...."

Swami Prajnanananda, Christ the Saviour and Christ Myth

Because of its evident relationship to Christianity, special attention needs to be paid to the Persian/Roman religion of Mithraism. The worship of the Indo-Persian god Mithra dates back centuries to millennia preceding the common era. The god is found as "Mitra" in the Indian Vedic religion, which is over 3,500 years old, by conservative estimates. When the Iranians separated from their Indian brethren, Mitra became known as "Mithra" or "Mihr," as he is also called in Persian.

Hittite and Mitanni kingdoms around 1400 BCEBy around 1500 BCE, Mitra worship had made it to the Near East, in the Indian kingdom of the Mitanni, who at that time occupied Assyria. Mitra worship, however, was known also by that time as far west as the Hittite kingdom, only a few hundred miles east of the Mediterranean, as is evidenced by the Hittite-Mitanni tablets found at Bogaz-Köy in what is now Turkey. The gods of the Mitanni included Mitra, Varuna and Indra, all found in the Vedic texts.

Mithra as Sun God

The Indian Mitra was essentially a solar deity, representing the "friendly" aspect of the sun. So too was the Persian derivative Mithra, who was a "benevolent god" and the bestower of health, wealth and food. Mithra also seems to have been looked upon as a sort of Prometheus, for the gift of fire. (Schironi, 104) His worship purified and freed the devotee from sin and disease. Eventually, Mithra became more militant, and he is best known as a warrior.

Mithra wearing a crown of sun rays; Taqwasân or Taq-e Bostan or Taq-i-Bustan, Sassanid Empire, Coronation of Ardeshir II, c. 4th cent. AD/CE (Photo: Phillipe Chavin)Like so many gods, Mithra was the light and power behind the sun. In Babylon, Mithra was identified with Shamash, the sun god, and he is also Bel, the Mesopotamian and Canaanite/ Phoenician solar deity, who is likewise Marduk, the Babylonian god who represented both the planet Jupiter and the sun. According to Pseudo-Clement of Rome's debate with Appion (Homily VI, ch. X), Mithra is also Apollo.

In time, the Persian Mithraism became infused with the more detailed astrotheology of the Babylonians and Chaldeans, and was notable for its astrology and magic; indeed, its priests or magi lent their very name to the word "magic." Included in this astrotheological development was the re-emphasis on Mithra's early Indian role as a sun god. As Francis Legge says in Forerunners and Rivals in Christianity:

The Vedic Mitra was originally the material sun itself, and the many hundreds of votive inscriptions left by the worshippers of Mithras to "the unconquered Sun Mithras," to the unconquered solar divinity (numen) Mithras, to the unconquered Sun-God (deus) Mithra, and allusions in them to priests (sacerdotes), worshippers (cultores), and temples (templum) of the same deity leave no doubt open that he was in Roman times a sun-god. (Legge, II, 240)

By the Roman legionnaires, Mithra—or Mithras, as he began to be known in the Greco-Roman world—was called "the divine Sun, the Unconquered Sun." He was said to be "Mighty in strength, mighty ruler, greatest king of gods! O Sun, lord of heaven and earth, God of Gods!" Mithra was also deemed "the mediator" between heaven and earth, a role often ascribed to the god of the sun.

An inscription by a "T. Flavius Hyginus" dating to around 80 to 100 AD/CE in Rome dedicates an altar to "Sol Invictus Mithras"—"The Unconquered Sun Mithra"—revealing the hybridization reflected in other artifacts and myths. Regarding this title, Dr. Richard L. Gordon, honorary professor of Religionsgeschichte der Antike at the University of Erfurt, Thuringen, remarks:

It is true that one...cult title...of Mithras was, or came to be, Deus Sol Invictus Mithras (but he could also be called... Deus Invictus Sol Mithras, Sol Invictus Mithras...

...Strabo, 15.3.13 (p. 732C), basing his information on a lost work, either by Posidonius (ca 135-51 BC) or by Apollodorus of Artemita (first decades of 1 cent. BC), states baldly that the Western Parthians "call the sun Mithra." The Roman cult seems to have taken this existing association and developed it in their own special way. (Gordon, "FAQ." (Emph. added.))

"Mithra is who the monuments proclaim himthe Unconquered Sun."

As concerns Mithra's identity, Mithraic scholar Dr. Roger Beck says:

Mithras...is the prime traveller, the principal actor...on the celestial stage which the tauctony [bull-slaying] defines.... He is who the monuments proclaim himthe Unconquered Sun. (Beck (2004), 274)

In an early image, Mithra is depicted as a sun disc in a chariot drawn by white horses, another solar motif that made it into the Jesus myth, in which Christ is to return on a white horse. (Rev 6:2; 19:11)

Persian sun god in quadriga sun chariot; Lundy, 177, after Lajard

Mithra in the Roman Empire

Subsequent to the military campaign of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE, Mithra became the "favorite deity" of Asia Minor. Christian writers Dr. Samuel Jackson and George W. Gilmore, editors of The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (VII, 420), remark:

It was probably at this period, 250-100 b.c., that the Mithraic system of ritual and doctrine took the form which it afterward retained. Here it came into contact with the mysteries, of which there were many varieties, among which the most notable were those of Cybele.

According to the Roman historian Plutarch (c. 46-120 AD/CE), Mithraism began to be absorbed by the Romans during Pompey's military campaign against Cilician pirates around 70 BCE. The religion eventually migrated from Asia Minor through the soldiers, many of whom had been citizens of the region, into Rome and the far reaches of the Empire. Syrian merchants brought Mithraism to the major cities, such as Alexandria, Rome and Carthage, while captives carried it to the countryside. By the third century AD/CE Mithraism and its mysteries permeated the Roman Empire and extended from India to Scotland, with abundant monuments in numerous countries amounting to over 420 Mithraic sites so far discovered.

"By the third century AD/CE Mithraism and its mysteries permeated the Roman Empire and extended from India to Scotland."

Mithra as Sol Invictus, the inscription reading From a number of discoveries, including pottery, inscriptions and temples, we know that Roman Mithraism gained a significant boost and much of its shape between 80 and 120 AD/CE, when the first artifacts of this particular cultus begin to be found at Rome. It reached a peak during the second and third centuries, before largely expiring at the end of the fourth/beginning of fifth centuries. Among its members during this period were emperors, politicians and businessmen. Indeed, before its usurpation by Christianity Mithraism enjoyed the patronage of some of the most important individuals in the Roman Empire. In the fifth century, the emperor Julian, having rejected his birth-religion of Christianity, adopted Mithraism and "introduced the practise of the worship at Constantinople." (Schaff-Herzog, VII, 423)

Modern scholarship has gone back and forth as to how much of the original Indo-Persian Mitra-Mithra cultus affected Roman Mithraism, which demonstrates a distinct development but which nonetheless follows a pattern of this earlier solar mythos and ritual. The theory of "continuity" from the Iranian to Roman Mithraism developed famously by scholar Dr. Franz Cumont in the 20th century has been largely rejected by many scholars. Yet, Plutarch himself (Life of Pompey, 24) related that followers of Mithras "continue to the present time" the "secret rites" of the Cilician pirates, "having been first instituted by them." So too does the ancient writer Porphyry (234-c. 305 AD/CE) state that the Roman Mithraists themselves believed their religion had been founded by the Persian savior Zoroaster.

Statue of Tiridates I of Armenia; André, 1687; Parc et jardins du château de Versailles (Photo: Eupator)In discussing what may have been recounted by ancient writers asserted to have written many volumes about Mithraism, such as Eubulus of Palestine and "a certain Pallas," Gordon (Journal Mithraic Studies, v. 2, 150) remarks: "Certainly Zoroaster would have figured largely; and so would the Persians and the magi." It seems that the ancients themselves did not divorce the eastern roots of Mithraism, as exemplified also by the remarks of Dio Cassius, who related that in 66 AD/CE the king of Armenia, Tiridates, visited Rome. Cassius states that the dignitary worshipped Mithra; yet, he does not indicate any distinction between the Armenian's religion and Roman Mithraism.

It is apparent from their testimony that ancient sources perceived Mithraism as having a Persian origin; hence, it would seem that any true picture of the development of Roman Mithraism must include the latter's relationship to the earlier Persian cultus, as well as its Asia Minor and Armenian offshoots. Current scholarship is summarized thus by Dr. Beck (2004; 28):

Since the 1970s, scholars of western Mithraism have generally agreed that Cumont's master narrative of east-west transfer is unsustainable; but...recent trends in the scholarship on Iranian religion, by modifying the picture of that religion prior to the birth of the western mysteries, now render a revised Cumontian scenario of east-west transfer and continuities once again viable.

In his massive anthology, Armenian and Iranian Studies, Dr. James R. Russell, professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University, essentially proves that Roman Mithraism had its origins in not only Persian or Iranian Mithraism and Zoroastrianism but also in Armenian religion, dating back centuries before the common era.

The Many Faces of Mithra

Mainstream scholarship speaks of at least three Mithras: Mitra, the Vedic god; Mithra, the Persian deity; and Mithras, the Greco-Roman mysteries The Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great, fl. 95 to 66 BCE; Aivazovskyicon. However, the Persian Mithra apparently developed differently in various places, such as in Armenia, where there appeared to be emphasis on characteristics not overtly present in Roman Mithraism but found as motifs within Christianity, including the Virgin Mother Goddess. This Armenian Mithraism is evidently a continuity of the Mithraism of Asia Minor and the Near East. This development of gods taking on different forms, shapes, colors, ethnicities and other attributes according to location, era and so on is not only quite common but also the norm. Thus, we have hundreds of gods and goddesses who are in many ways interchangeable but who have adopted various differences based on geographical and environmental factors.

Mithra and Christ

Over the centuries—in fact, from the earliest Christian times—Mithraism has been compared to Christianity, revealing numerous similarities between the two faiths' doctrines and traditions, including as concerns stories of their respective godmen. In developing this analysis, it should be kept in mind that elements from Roman, Armenian and Persian Mithraism are utilized, not as a whole ideology but as separate items that may have affected the creation of Christianity, whether directly through the mechanism of Mithraism or through another Pagan source within the Roman Empire and beyond. The evidence points to these motifs and elements being adopted into Christianity not as a whole from one source but singularly from many sources, including Mithraism.

"The evidence points to these motifs and elements being adopted into Christianity..."

Thus, the following list represents not a solidified mythos or narrative of one particular Mithra or form of the god as developed in one particular culture and era but, rather, a combination of them all for ease of reference as to any possible influences upon Christianity under the name of Mitra/Mithra/Mithras.

Mithra has the following in common with the Jesus character:

  • Mithra was born on December 25th of the virgin Anahita.
  • The babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger and attended by shepherds.
  • He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
  • He had 12 companions or "disciples."
  • He performed miracles.
  • As the "great bull of the Sun," Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
  • Mithra ascending to heaven in his solar cart, with sun symbolHe ascended to heaven.
  • Mithra was viewed as the Good Shepherd, the "Way, the Truth and the Light," the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah.
  • Mithra is omniscient, as he "hears all, sees all, knows all: none can deceive him."
  • He was identified with both the Lion and the Lamb.
  • His sacred day was Sunday, "the Lord's Day," hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
  • His religion had a eucharist or "Lord's Supper."
  • Mithra "sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers."
  • Mithraism emphasized baptism.

December 25th Birthday

The similarities between Mithraism and Christianity have included their chapels, the term "father" for priest, celibacy and, it is notoriously claimed, the December 25th birthdate. Over the centuries, apologists contending that Mithraism copied Christianity nevertheless have asserted that the December 25th birthdate was taken from Mithraism. As Sir Arthur Weigall says:

December 25th was really the date, not of the birth of Jesus, but of the sun-god Mithra. Horus, son of Isis, however, was in very early times identified with Ra, the Egyptian sun-god, and hence with Mithra...

Mithra's birthday on December 25th has been so widely claimed that the Catholic Encyclopedia ("Mithraism") remarks: "The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season."

Yet this contention of Mithra's birthday on December 25th or the winter solstice is disputed because there is no hard archaeological or literary evidence of the Roman Mithras specifically being named as having been born at that time. Says Dr. Alvar:

There is no evidence of any kind, not even a hint, from within the cult that this, or any other winter day, was important in the Mithraic calendar. (Alvar, 410)

In analyzing the evidence, we must keep in mind all the destruction that has taken place over the past 2,000 years—including that of many Mithraic remains and texts—as well as the fact that several of these germane parallels constituted mysteries that may or may not have been recorded in the first place or the meanings of which have been obscured.

Christ as Helios or Sol Invictus in his solar chariot; 3rd century AD/CE; Mausoleum, St. Peter's, RomeThe claim about the Roman Mithras's birth on "Christmas" is evidently based on the Calendar of Filocalus or Philocalian Calendar (c. 354 AD/CE), which mentions that December 25th represents the "Birthday of the Unconquered," understood to refer to the sun and taken to indicate Mithras as Sol Invictus. Whether it represents Mithras's birthday specifically or "merely" that of Emperor Aurelian's Sol Invictus, with whom Mithras has been identified, the Calendar also lists the day—the winter solstice birth of the sun—as that of natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae: "Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea."

Moreover, it would seem that there is more to this story, as Aurelian was the first to institute officially the winter solstice as the birthday of Sol Invictus (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) in 274 AD/CE. (Halsberghe, 158) It is contended that Aurelian's move was in response to Mithras's popularity. (Restaud, 4) One would thus wonder why the emperor would be so motivated if Mithras had nothing whatsoever to do with the sun god's traditional birthday—a disconnect that would be unusual for any solar deity.

Regardless of whether or not the artifacts of the Roman Mithras's votaries reflect the attribution of the sun god's birthday to him specifically, many in the empire did identify the mysteries icon and Sol Invictus as one, evidenced by the inscriptions of "Sol Invictus Mithras" and the many images of Mithras and the sun together, representing two sides of the same coin or each other's alter ego. Hence, the placement of Mithras's birth on this feast day of the sun is understandable and, despite the lack of concrete evidence at this date, quite plausibly was recognized in this manner in antiquity in the Roman Empire.

Persian Winter Festivals

In addition, it is clear that the ancient peoples from whom Mithraism sprang, long before it was Romanized, were very much involved in winter festivals so common among many other cultures globally. In this regard, discussing the Iranian month of Asiyadaya, which corresponds to November/December, Mithraic scholar Dr. Mary Boyce remarks:

...it is at this time of year that the Zoroastrian festival of Sada takes place, which is not only probably pre-Zoroastrian in origin, but may even go back to proto-Indo-European times. For Sada is a great open-air festival, of a kind celebrated widely among the Indo-European peoples, with the intention of strengthening the heavenly fire, the sun, in its winter decline and feebleness. Sun and fire being of profound significance in the Old Iranian religion, this is a festival which one would expect the Medes and Persians to have brought with them into their new lands... Sada is not, however, a feast in honour of the god of Fire, Atar, but is rather for the general strengthening of the creation of fire against the onslaught of winter. (Boyce (1982), 24-25)

This ancient Persian winter festival therefore celebrates the strengthening of the "fire" or sun in the face its winter decline, just as virtually every winter-solstice festivity is intended to do. Yet, as Dr. Boyce says, this "Zoroastrian" winter celebration is likely pre-Zoroastrian and even proto-Indo-European, which means it dates back far into the hoary mists of time, possibly tens of thousands of years ago. And one would indeed expect the Medes and Persians to bring this festival with them into their new lands, including the Near East, where they would eventually encounter Romans, who could hardly have missed this common solar motif celebrated worldwide in numerous ways.

"The Mithraists believed that this night is the night of the birth of Mithra, Persian god of light and truth."

Yalda greetings from an Iranian site; Mithra wearing a Phrygian cap; www.cais-soas.com/News/2007/December2007/21-12.htmThe same may be said as concerns another Persian or Zoroastrian winter celebration called "Yalda," which is the festival of the Longest Night of the Year, taking place on December 20th or the day before the solstice:

Yalda has a history as long as the Mithraism religion. The Mithraists believed that this night is the night of the birth of Mithra, Persian god of light and truth. At the morning of the longest night of the year the Mithra is born from a virgin mother....

In Zoroastrian tradition, the winter solstice with the longest night of the year was an auspicious day, and included customs intended to protect people from misfortune.... The Eve of the Yalda has great significance in the Iranian calendar. It is the eve of the birth of Mithra, the Sun God, who symbolized light, goodness and strength on earth. Shab-e Yalda is a time of joy.

Yalda is a Syriac word meaning birth. Mithra-worshippers used the term "yalda" specifically with reference to the birth of Mithra. As the longest night of the year, the Eve of Yalda (Shab-e Yalda) is also a turning point, after which the days grow longer. In ancient times it symbolized the triumph of the Sun God over the powers of darkness. ("Yalda," Wikipedia)

It is likely that this festival does indeed derive from remote antiquity, and it is evident that the ancient Persians were well aware of the winter solstice and its meaning as found in numerous other cultures: To wit, the annual "rebirth," "renewal" or "resurrection" of the sun.

"'Christmas' is the birth not of the 'son of God' but of the sun."

In the end the effect is the same: "Christmas" is the birth not of the "son of God" but of the sun. Indeed, there is much evidence—including many ancient monumental alignments—to demonstrate that this highly noticeable and cherished event of the winter solstice was celebrated beginning hundreds to thousands of years before the common era in numerous parts of the world. The observation was thus provably taken over by Christianity, not as biblical doctrine but as a later tradition in order to compete with the Pagan cults, a move we contend occurred with numerous other "Christian" motifs, including many that are in the New Testament.

Mithra the 'Rock-Born'

Mithra's genesis out of a rock, analogous to the birth in caves of a number of godsincluding Jesus in the apocryphal, non-canonical texts was followed by his adoration by shepherds, another motif that found its way into the later Christianity. Regarding the birth in caves likewise common to pre-Christian gods, and present in the early legends of Jesus, Weigall relates (50):

...the cave shown at Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus was actually a rock shrine in which the god Tammuz or Adonis was worshipped, as the early Christian father Jerome tells us; and its adoption as the scene of the birth of our Lord was one of those frequent instances of the taking over by Christians of a pagan sacred site. The propriety of this appropriation was increased by the fact that the worship of a god in a cave was commonplace in paganism: Apollo, Cybele, Demeter, Herakles, Hermes, Mithra and Poseidon were all adored in caves; Hermes, the Greek Logos, being actually born of Maia in a cave, and Mithra being "rock-born."

Mithra, born from a rock holding a dagger and a torchAs the "rock-born," Mithras was called "Theos ek Petras," or the "God from the Rock." As Weigall also relates:

Indeed, it may be that the reason of the Vatican hill at Rome being regarded as sacred to Peter, the Christian "Rock," was that it was already sacred to Mithra, for Mithraic remains have been found there.

Mithras was "the rock," or Peter, and was also "double-faced," like Janus the keyholder, likewise a prototype for the "apostle" Peter. Hence, when Jesus is made to say (in the apparent interpolation at Matthew 16:12) that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are given to "Peter" and that the Church is to be built upon "Peter," as a representative of Rome, he is usurping the authority of Mithraism, which was precisely headquartered on what became Vatican Hill.

"Mithraic remains on Vatican Hill are found underneath the later Christian edifices, which proves the Mithra cult was there first."

By the time the Christian hierarchy prevailed in Rome, Mithra had already been a popular cult, with pope, bishops, etc., and its doctrines were well established and widespread, reflecting a certain antiquity. Mithraic remains on Vatican Hill are found underneath the later Christian edifices, a fact that proves the Mithra cult was there first. In fact, while Mithraic ruins are abundant throughout the Roman Empire, beginning in the late first century AD/CE, "The earliest church remains, found in Dura-Europos, date only from around 230 CE."

The Virgin Mother Anahita

Unlike various other rock- or cave-born gods, Mithra is not depicted in the Roman cultus as having been given birth by a mortal woman or a goddess; hence, it is claimed that he was not "born of a virgin." However, a number of writers over the centuries have asserted otherwise, including several modern Persian and Armenian scholars who are apparently reflecting an ancient tradition from Near Eastern Mithraism.

"The worship of Mithra and Anahita, the virgin mother of Mithra, was well-known in the Achaemenian period."

Sassanid king Khosrow flanked by Anahita and Ahura Mazda; 7th cent. AD/CE; Taq-e Bostan, Iran (Phillipe Chavin)For example, Dr. Badi Badiozamani says that a "person" named "Mehr" or Mithra was "born of a virgin named Nahid Anahita ('immaculate')" and that "the worship of Mithra and Anahita, the virgin mother of Mithra, was well-known in the Achaemenian period [558-330 BCE]..." (Badiozamani, 96) Philosophy professor Dr. Mohammed Ali Amir-Moezzi states: "Dans le mithraïsme, ainsi que le mazdéisme populaire, (A)Nāhīd, mère de Mithra/Mehr, est vierge"—"In Mithraism, as in popular Mazdaism, Anahid, the mother of Mithra, is a virgin." (Amir-Moezzi, 78-79) Comparing the rock birth with that of the virgin mother, Dr. Amir-Moezzi also says:

...il y a donc analogie entre le rocher, symbole d'incorruptibilité, qui donne naissance au dieu iranien et la mère de celui-ci, Anāhīd, éternellement vierge et jeune.

(...so there is analogy between the rock, a symbol of incorruptibility, giving birth to the Iranian god and the mother of that (same) one, Anahid, eternally virgin and young.)

In Mithraic Iconography and Ideology (78), Dr. Leroy A. Campbell calls Anahita the "great goddess of virgin purity," and Religious History professor Dr. Claas J. Bleeker says, "In the Avestan religion she is the typical virgin." (Bleeker (1963), 100)

One modern writer ("Mithraism and Christianity") portrays the Mithra myth thus:

According to Persian mythology, Mithras was born of a virgin given the title "Mother of God."

The Parthian princes of Armenia were all priests of Mithras, and an entire district of this land was dedicated to the Virgin Mother Anahita. Many Mithraeums, or Mithraic temples, were built in Armenia, which remained one of the last strongholds of Mithraism. The largest near-eastern Mithraeum was built in western Persia at Kangavar, dedicated to "Anahita, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Lord Mithras."

Artemis the Huntress holding two animals (lions?), Francois Vase, 6th century BCE; LouvreAnahita, also known as "Anaitis"—whose very name means "Pure" and "Untainted" and who was equated in antiquity with the virgin goddess Artemis—is certainly an Indo-Iranian goddess of some antiquity, dating back at least to the first half of the first millennium prior to the common era and enjoying "widespread popularity" around Asia Minor. Indeed, Anahita has been called "the best known divinity of the Persians" in Asia Minor. (de Jong, 268)

Moreover, concerning Mithra Schaff-Herzog says, "The Achaemenidae worshiped him as making the great triad with Ahura and Anahita." Ostensibly, this "triad" was the same as God the Father, the Virgin and Jesus, which would tend to confirm the assertion that Anahita was Mithra's virgin mother. That Anahita was closely associated with Mithra at least five centuries before the common era is evident from the equation made by Herodotus (1.131) in naming "Mitra" as the Persian counterpart of the Near and Middle Eastern goddesses Alilat and Mylitta. (de Jong, 269-270)

Moreover, Mithra's prototype, the Indian Mitra, was likewise born of a female, Aditi, the "mother of the gods," the inviolable or virgin dawn. Hence, we would expect an earlier form of Mithra also to possess this virgin-mother motif, which seems to have been lost or deliberately severed in the all-male Roman Mithraism.

Well known to scholars, the pre-Christian divine birth and virgin mother motifs are documented in the archaeological and literary records, as verified by Dr. Marguerite Rigoglioso in The Cult of the Divine Birth in Ancient Greece and Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity.

For more information, see:

Mithra Born of a Virgin Mother

Mithra and the Twelve

Mithra surrounded by the Twelve anthropomorphized signs of the Zodiac; Mithraeum of San Clemente, 3rd century AD/CEThe theme of the teaching god and "the Twelve" is found within Mithraism, as Mithra is depicted as surrounded by the 12 zodiac signs on a number of monuments and in the writings of Porphyry (4.16), for one. These 12 signs are sometimes portrayed as humans and, as they have been in the case of numerous sun gods, could be called Mithra's 12 "companions" or "disciples."

Regarding the Twelve, John M. Robertson says:

On Mithraic monuments we find representations of twelve episodes, probably corresponding to the twelve labors in the stories of Heracles, Samson and other Sun-heroes, and probably also connected with initiation.

The comparison of this common motif with Jesus and the 12 has been made on many occasions, including in an extensive study entitled, "Mithras and Christ: some iconographical similarities," by Professor A. Deman in Mithraic Studies.

Early Church Fathers on Mithraism

Mithraism was so popular in the Roman Empire and so similar in important aspects to Christianity that several Church fathers were compelled to address it, disparagingly of course. These fathers included Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Julius Firmicus Maternus and Augustine, all of whom attributed these striking correspondences to the prescient devil. In other words, anticipating Christ, the devil set about to fool the Pagans by imitating the coming messiah. In reality, the testimony of these Church fathers confirms that these various motifs, characteristics, traditions and myths predated Christianity.

"Christianity took a leaf out of the devil's book when it fixed the birth of the Saviour on the twenty-fifth of December."

Concerning this "devil did it" argument, in The Worship of Nature Sir James G. Frazer remarks:

If the Mithraic mysteries were indeed a Satanic copy of a divine original, we are driven to conclude that Christianity took a leaf out of the devil's book when it fixed the birth of the Saviour on the twenty-fifth of December; for there can be no doubt that the day in question was celebrated as the birthday of the Sun by the heathen before the Church, by an afterthought, arbitrarily transferred the Nativity of its Founder from the sixth of January to the twenty-fifth of December.

Regarding the various similarities between Mithra and Christ, as well as the defenses of the Church fathers, the author of The Existence of Christ Disproved remarks:

Justin Martyr, Church FatherAugustine, Firmicus, Justin, Tertullian, and others, having perceived the exact resemblance between the religion of Christ and the religion of Mithra, did, with an impertinence only to be equalled by its outrageous absurdity, insist that the devil, jealous and malignant, induced the Persians to establish a religion the exact image of Christianity that was to be—for these worthy saints and sinners of the church could not deny that the worship of Mithra preceded that of Christso that, to get out of the ditch, they summoned the devil to their aid, and with the most astonishing assurance, thus accounted for the striking similarity between the Persian and the Christian religion, the worship of Mithra and the worship of Christ; a mode of getting rid of a difficulty that is at once so stupid and absurd, that it would be almost equally stupid and absurd seriously to refute it.

"It is good practice to steer clear of all information provided by Christian writers: they are not 'sources,' they are violent apologists."

In response to a question about Tertullian's discussion of the purported Mithraic forehead mark,  Dr. Richard Gordon says:

In general, in studying Mithras, and the other Greco-oriental mystery cults, it is good practice to steer clear of all information provided by Christian writers: they are not "sources," they are violent apologists, and one does best not to believe a word they say, however tempting it is to supplement our ignorance with such stuff. (Gordon, "FAQ")

He also cautions about speculation concerning Mithraism and states that "there is practically no limit to the fantasies of scholars," an interesting admission about the hallowed halls of academia.

Priority: Mithraism or Christianity?

It is obvious from the remarks of the Church fathers and from the literary and archaeological record that Mithraism in some form preceded Christianity by centuries. The fact is that there is no Christian archaeological evidence earlier than the earliest Roman Mithraic archaeological evidence and that the preponderance of evidence points to Christianity being formulated during the second century, not based on a "historical" personage of the early first century. As one important example, the canonical gospels as we have them do not show up clearly in the literary record until the end of the second century.

Mithra's pre-Christian roots are attested in the Vedic and Avestan texts, as well as by historians such as Herodotus (1.131) and Xenophon (Cyrop. viii. 5, 53 and c. iv. 24), among others. Nor is it likely that the Roman Mithras is not essentially the same as the Indian sun god Mitra and the Persian, Armenian and Phrygian Mithra in his major attributes, as well as some of his most pertinent rites.

Moreover, it is erroneously asserted that because Mithraism was a "mystery cult" it did not leave any written record. In reality, much evidence of Mithra worship has been destroyed, including not only monuments, iconography and other artifacts, but also numerous books by ancient authors. The existence of written evidence is indicated by the Egyptian cloth "manuscript" from the first century BCE called, "Mummy Funerary Inscription of the Priest of Mithras, Ornouphios, Son fo Artemis" or MS 247.

Egyptian Mithra inscription on cloth; 1st century BCE; The Schøyen Collection, www.schoyencollection.com/religionsExtinct2.html

As previously noted, two of the ancient writers on Mithraism are Pallas, and Eubulus, the latter of whom, according to Jerome (Against Jovinianus, 2.14; Schaff 397), "wrote the history of Mithras in many volumes." Discussing Eubulus and Pallas, Porphyry too related that there were "several elaborate treatises setting forth the religion of Mithra." The writings of the early Church fathers themselves provide much evidence as to what Mithraism was all about, as do the archaeological artifacts stretching from India to Scotland.

These many written volumes doubtlessly contained much interesting information that was damaging to Christianity, such as the important correspondences between the "lives" of Mithra and Jesus, as well as identical symbols such as the cross, and rites such as baptism and the eucharist. In fact, Mithraism was so similar to Christianity that it gave fits to the early Church fathers, as it does to this day to apologists, who attempt both to deny the similarities and yet to claim that these (non-existent) correspondences were plagiarized by Mithraism from Christianity.

"Regardless of attempts to make Mithraism the plagiarist of Christianity, the fact will remain that Mithraism was first."

Nevertheless, the god Mithra was revered for centuries prior to the Christian era, and the germane elements of Mithraism are known to have preceded Christianity by hundreds to thousands of years. Thus, regardless of attempts to make Mithraism the plagiarist of Christianity, the fact will remain that Mithraism was first, well established in the West decades before Christianity had any significant influence.

For more information and citations, see The Christ Conspiracy, Suns of God, "Origins of Christianity," "The ZEITGEIST Sourcebook" and The Christ Myth Anthology.

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From...http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/mysteries.html

THE THEORY that modern Freemasonry is in some sense a direct descendant from the ancient Mysteries has held a peculiar attraction for Masonic writers this long time, and the end is not yet, for the world is rife with men who argue about the matter up and down endless pages of print. It is a most difficult subject to write about, so that the more one learns about it the less he is inclined to ventilate any opinions of his own. The subject covers so much ground and in such tangled jungles that almost any grand generalization is pretty sure to be either wrong or useless. Even Gould, who is usually one of the soundest and carefullest of generalizers, gets pretty badly mixed up on the subject.

For present purposes it has seemed to me wise to attention to one only of the Mysteries, letting it stand as a type of the rest, and I have chosen for that purpose MITHRAISM, one of the greatest and one of most interesting, as well as one possessing as many parallelisms with Freemasonry as any of the others.

I - HOW MITHRA CAME TO BE A FIRST-CLASS GOD

Way back in the beginning of things, so we may learn from the Avesta, Mithra was the young god of the sky lights that appeared just before sunrise and lingered after the sun had set. To him was attributed patronship of the virtues of truth, life-giving, and youthful strength and joy. Such qualities attracted many worshippers in whose eyes Mithra grew from more to more until finally he became a great god in his own right and almost equal to the sun god himself. "Youth will be served," even a youthful god; and Zoroastrianism, which began by giving Mithra a very subordinate place, came at last to exalt him to the right hand of the awful Ormuzd, who had rolled up within himself all the attributes of all gods whatsoever.

When the Persians conquered the Babylonians, who worshipped the stars in a most thoroughgoing manner, Mithra got himself placed at the very center of star worshipping cults, and won such strength for himself that when the Persian Empire went to pieces and everything fell into the melting pot with it, Mithra was able to hold his own identity, and emerged from the struggle at the head of a religion of his own. He was a young god full of vigour and overflowing with spirits, capable of teaching his followers the arts of victory, and such things appealed mightily to the bellicose Iranian tribesmen who never ceased to worship him in one form or another until they became so soundly converted to Mohammedanism centuries afterwards. Even then they did not abandon him altogether but after the inevitable manner of converts rebuilt him into Allah and into Mohammed, so that even today one will find pieces of Mithra scattered about here and there in what the Mohammedans call their theology.


After the collapse of the Persian Empire, Phrygia, where so many religions were manufactured at one time or another, took Mithra up and built a cult about him. They gave him his Phrygian cap which one always sees on his statues, and they incorporated in his rites the use of the dreadful "taurobolium," which was a baptism in the blood of a healthy young bull. In the course of time this gory ceremony became the very center and climax of the Mithraic ritual, and made a profound impression on the hordes of poor slaves and ignorant men who flocked into the mithrea, as the Mithraic houses of worship were called.

Mithra was never able to make his way into Greece (the same thing could be said of Egypt, where the competition among religions was very severe) but it happened that he borrowed something from Greek art. Some unknown Greek sculptor, one of the shining geniuses of his nation, made a statue of Mithra that served ever afterwards as the orthodox likeness of the god, who was depicted as a youth of overflowing vitality, his mantle thrown back, a Phrygian cap on his head, and slaying a bull. For hundreds of years this statue was to all devout Mithraists what the crucifix now is to Roman Catholics. This likeness did much to open Mithra's path toward the west, for until this his images had been hideous in the distorted and repellant manner so characteristic of Oriental religious sculpture. The Oriental people, among whom Mithra was born, were always capable of gloomy grandeur and of religious terror, but of beauty they had scarcely a touch; it remained for the Greeks to recommend Mithra to men of good taste.

After the Macedonian conquests, so it is believed, the cult of Mithra became crystallized; it got its orthodox theology, its church system, its philosophy, its dramas and rites, its picture of the universe and of the grand cataclysmic end of all things in a terrific day of judgment. Many things had been built into it. There were exciting ceremonies for the multitudes; much mysticism for the devout; a great machinery of salvation for the timid; a program of militant activity for men of valour; and a lofty ethic for the superior classes. Mithraism had a history, traditions, sacred books, and a vast momentum from the worship of millions and millions among remote and scattered tribes. Thus accoutered and equipped, the young god and his religion were prepared to enter the more complex and sophisticated world known as the Roman Empire.

II - HOW MITHRA FOUND HIS WAY TO ROME

When Mithridates Eupator - he who hated the Romans with a virulency like that of Hannibal, and who waged war on them three or four times - was utterly destroyed in 66 B.C. and his kingdom of Pontus was given over to the dogs, the scattered fragments of his armies took refuge among the outlaws and pirates of Cilicia and carried with them everywhere the rites and doctrines of Mithraism. Afterwards the soldiers of the Republic of Tarsus, which these outlaws organized, went pillaging and fighting all round the Mediterranean, and carried the cult with them everywhere. It was in this unpromising manner that Mithra made his entrance into the Roman world. The most ancient of all inscriptions is one made by a freedman of the Flavians at about this time.

In the course of time Mithra won to his service a very different and much more efficient army of missionaries. Syrian merchants went back and forth across the Roman world like shuttles in a loom, and carried the new cult with them wherever they went. Slaves and freedmen became addicts and loyal supporters. Government officials, especially those belonging to the lowlier ranks, set up altars at every opportunity. But the greatest of all the propagandists were the soldiers of the various Roman armies. Mithra, who was believed to love the sight of glittering swords and flying banners, appealed irresistibly to soldiers, and they in turn were as loyal to him as to any commander on the field. The time came when almost every Roman camp possessed its mithreum.

Mithra began down next to the ground but the time came when he gathered behind him the great ones of the earth. Antoninus Pius, father-in-law of Marcus Aurelius, erected a Mithraic temple at Ostia, seaport of the city of Rome. With the exception of Marcus Aurelius and possibly one or two others all the pagan emperors after Antaninus were devotees of the god, especially Julian, who was more or less addle-pated and willing to take up with anything to stave off the growing power of Christianity. The early Church Fathers nicknamed Julian "The Apostate"; the slur was not altogether just because the young man had never been a Christian under his skin.

Why did all these great fellows, along with the philosophers and literary men who obediently followed suit, take up the worship of a foreign god, imported from amidst the much hated Syrians, when there were so many other gods of home manufacture so close at hand? Why did they take to a religion that had been made fashionable by slaves and cutthroats? The answer is easy to discover. Mithra was peculiarly fond of rulers and of the mighty of the earth. His priests declared that the god himself stood at the right hand of emperors both on and off the throne. It was these priests who invented the good old doctrine of the divine right of kings. The more Mithra was worshipped by the masses, the more complete was the imperial control of those masses, therefore it was good business policy for the emperors to give Mithra all the assistance they could. There came a time when every Emperor was pictured by the artists with a halo about his head; that halo had originally belonged to Mithra. It represented the outstanding splendour of the young and vigorous sun. After the Roman emperors passed away the popes and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church took up the custom; they are still in the habit of showing their saints be-haloed.

Mithraism spread up and down the world with amazing rapidity. All along the coast of northern Africa and even in the recesses of the Sahara; through the Pillars of Hercules to England and up into Scotland; across the channel into Germany and the north countries; and down into the great lands along the Danube, he everywhere made his way. London was at one time a great center of his worship. The greatest number of mithrea were built in Germany. Ernest Renan once said that if ever Christianity had become smitten by a fatal malady Mithraism might very easily: have become the established and official religion of the whole Western World. Men might now be saying prayers to Mithra, and have their children baptised in bull's blood.

There is not here space to describe in what manner the cult became modified, by its successful spread across the Roman Empire. It was modified, of course, and in many ways profoundly, and it in turn modified everything with which it came into contact.

Here is a brief epitome of the evolution of this Mystery. It began at a remote time among primitive Iranian tribesmen. It picked up a body of doctrine from the Babylonian star worshippers, who created that strange thing known as astrology. It became a mystery, equipped with powerful rites, in the Asia Minor countries. It received a decent outward appearance at the hand of Greek artists and philosophers; and it finally became a world religion among the Romans. Mithraism reached its apogee in the second century; it went the way of all flesh in the fourth century; and flickered out entirely in the fifth century, except that bits of its wreckage were salvaged and used by a few new cults, such as those of the various forms of Manicheeism.

III - THE MITHRAIC THEORY OF THINGS

After overthrowing its hated rival, the early Christian Church so completely destroyed everything having to do with Mithraism that there have remained behind but few fragments to bear witness to a once victorious religion. What little is accurately known will be found all duly set down and correctly interpreted in the works of the learned Dr. Franz Cumont, whose books on the subject so aroused the ire of the present Roman Catholic Hierarchy that they placed them on the Index, and warned the faithful away from his chapters of history. Today, as in Mithra's time, superstitions and empty doctrines have a sorry time when confronted with known facts.

The pious Mithraist believed that back of the stupendous scheme of things was a great and unknowable deity, Ozmiuzd by name, and that Mithra was his son. A soul destined for its prison house of flesh left the presence of Ormuzd, descended by the gates of Cancer, passed through the spheres of the seven planets and in each of these picked up some function or faculty for use on the earth. After its term here the soul was prepared by sacraments and discipline for its re-ascent after death. Upon its return journey it underwent a great ordeal of judgment before Mithra. Leaving something behind it in each of the planetary spheres it finally passed back through the gates of Capricorn to ecstatic union with the great Source of all. Also there was an eternal hell, and those who had proved unfaithful to Mithra were sent there. Countless deons, devils and other invisible monsters raged about everywhere over the earth tempting souls, and presided over the tortures in the pit. Through it all the planets continued to exercise good or evil influence over the human being, according as his fates might chance to fall out on high, a thing imbedded in the cult from its old Babylonian days. 

The life of a Mithraist was understood as a long battle in which, with Mithra's help, he did war against the principles and powers of evil. In the beginning of his life of faith he was purified by baptism, and through all his days received strength through sacraments and sacred meals. Sunday was set aside as a holy day, and the twenty-fifth of December began a season of jubilant celebration. Mithraic priests were organized in orders, and were deemed to have supernatural power to some extent or other.

It was believed that Mithra had once come to earth in order to organize the faithful into the army of Ormuzd. He did battle with the Spirit of all Evil in a cave, the Evil taking the form of a bull. Mithra overcame his adversary and then returned to his place on high as the leader of the forces of righteousness, and the judge of all the dead. All Mithraic ceremonies centered about the bull slaying episode.

The ancient Church Fathers saw so many points of resemblance between this cult and Christianity that many of them accepted the theory that Mithraism was a counterfeit religion devised by Satan to lead souls astray. Time has proved them to be wrong in this because at bottom Mithraism was as different from Christianity as night from day.

IV - IN WHAT WAY MITHRAISM WAS LIKE FREEMASONRY

Masonic writers have often professed to see many points of resemblance between Mithraism and Freemasonry. Albert Pike once declared that Freemasonry is the modern heir of the Ancient Mysteries. It is a dictum with which I have never been able to agree. There are similarities between our Fraternity and the old Mystery Cults, but most of them are of a superficial character, and have to do with externals of rite or, organization, and not with inward content. When Sir Samuel Dill described Mithraism as "a sacred Freemasonry" he used that name in a very loose sense.

Nevertheless, the resemblances are often startling. Men only were admitted to membership in the cult. "Among the hundreds of inscriptions that have come down to us, not one mentions either a priestess, a woman initiate, or even a donatress." In this the mithrea differed from the collegia, which latter, though they almost never admitted women as members, never hesitated to accept help or money from them. Membership in Mithraism was as democratic as it is with us, perhaps more so; slaves were freely admitted and often held positions of trust, as also did the freedmen of whom there were such multitudes in the latter centuries of the empire.

Membership was usually divided into seven grades, each of which had its own appropriate symbolical ceremonies. Initiation was the crowning experience of every worshipper. He was attired symbolically, took vows, passed through many baptisms, and in the higher grades ate sacred meals with his fellows. The great event of the initiate's experiences was the taurobolium, already described. It was deemed very efficacious, and was supposed to unite the worshipper with Mithra himself. A dramatic representation of a dying and a rising again was at the head of all these ceremonies. A tablet showing in bas relief Mithra's killing of the bull stood at the end of every mithreum.

This, mithreum, as the meeting place, or lodge, was called, was usually cavern shaped, to represent the cave in which the god had his struggle. There were benches or shelves along the side, and on these side lines the members sat. Each mithreum had its own officers, its president, trustees, standing committees, treasurer, and so forth, and there were higher degrees granting special privileges to the few. Charity and Relief were universally practised and one Mithraist hailed another as "brother." The Mithraic "lodge" was kept small, and new lodges were developed as a result of "swarming off" when membership grew too large.

Manicheeism, as I have already said, sprang fr the ashes of Mithraism, and St. Augustine, who did so much to give shape to the Roman Catholic church and theology was for many years an ardent Manichee, an through him many traces of the old Persian creed found their way into Christianity. Out of Manicheeism, or out of what was finally left of it, came Paulicianism, and out of Paulicianism came many strong medieval cults - the Patari, the Waldenses, the Hugenots, and countless other such developments. Through these various channels echoes of the old Mithraism persisted over Europe, and it may very well be, as has often been alleged, that there are faint traces of the ancient cult to be found here and there in our own ceremonies or symbolisms. Such theories are necessarily vague and hard to prove, and anyway the thing is not of sufficient importance to argue about. If we have three or four symbols that originated in the worship of Mithra, so much the better for Mithra!

After all is said and done the Ancient Mysteries were among the finest things developed in the Roman world. They stood for equality in a savagely aristocratic and class-riddled society; they offered centers of refuge to the poor and the despised among a people little given to charity and who didn't believe a man should love his neighbour; and in a large historical way they left behind them methods of human organization, ideals and principles and hopes which yet remain in the world for our use and profit. It a man wishes to do so, he may say that what Freemasonry is among us, the Ancient Mysteries were to the people of the Roman world, but it would be a difficult thing for any man to establish the fact that Freemasonry has directly descended from those great cults.

[Note: Kipling, who has never wearied of handling themes concerned with Freemasonry, often writes of Mithraism. See in especial his Puck of Pook's Hill, page 173 of the 1911 edition, for the stirring Song to Mithras.]

WORKS CONSULTED IN PREPARING THIS ARTICLE 

The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry, Vol. II, Waite. The Book of Acts, Expositor's Bible. Mystery Religions and the New Testament, Sheldon. Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, Sir Samuel Dill. The Works of Franz Cumont. Le Culte de Mithra, Gasquet. On Isis and Osiris, Plutarch. Life of Pompey, Plutarch. Annals, Tacitus. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Mythrasliturgie, Dielitch. De Corona, Tertullion. History of France, Vol. V, Vol. VI, Vol. VII, Duruy. Neoplatonism, Bigg. Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, Sir Samuel Dill. Menippus, Lucian. Thebaid, Statius. See bibliography in Hasting's Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VIII, p. 752. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. III, p. 109; Vol. IV, p. 32; Vol. XIII, p. 90. The History of Freemasonry, Vol. I, Gould.

Mackey's Encyclopedia-(Revised Edition):
Allah, 46, Babylon, 89. Egyptian Mysteries, 232-233. Egyptian Priests, Initiations of the, 234. Gnostics, 300-301. Legend, 433. Manichaeans, 462. Mithras, Mysteries of, 485-487. Mohammed, 488. Mysteries, Ancient, 497-500. Mystery, 500. Myth, 501. Myth, Historical, 501. Mythical History, 501. Mythology, 501. Myth, Philosophical, 501. Ormuzd, 539. Persia, 558 Pike, Albert, 563. Roman Colleges of Artificers, 630-634. 

THE BUILDER:
Vol. 1, 1915. - Symbolism, The Hiramic Legend, and the Master's Word, p. 285; Symbolism in Mythology, p. 296.
Vol. II, 1916. - Masonry and the Mysteries, p. 19; The Mysteries of Mithra, p. 94; The Dionysiacs, p. 220; The Mithra Again, p. 254; The Ritual of Ancient Egypt, p. 285; The Dionysiaes, p. 287.
Vol. III, 1917. - The Secret Key, p. 158; Mithraism, p. 252; Vol. IV, 1918. - The Ancient Mysteries, p. 223.
Vol. V, 1919. - The Ancient Mysteries Again, p. 25; The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites, pp. 143, 172; The Mystery of Masonry, p. 189; The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites, pp. 218, 240.
Vol. VI, 1920. - A Bird's-Eye View of Masonic History, p. 236.
Vol. VII, 1921. - Whence Came Freemasonry, p. 90; Books on the Mysteries of Isis, Mithras and Eleusis, p. 205.
Vol. VIII, 1922. - A Mediating Theory, p. 318; Christianity and the Mystery Religions, p. 322.

One could say that if Christianity had been stopped in its growth by some mortal defect the world would have become Mithratist.
see also
http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=mithras_and_c...

21 Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 40: "if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan, ) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown."