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Book: The Complexity of Conversion

Chapter: Conversion in Mystery Religions? Theory Meets Mysteries and Conversion

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.40234


This essay significantly redescribes and retheorizes mystery religions, religion, and conversion. The concepts of conversion and mystery religions are problematized through redescriptive theorizing of religion. Focusing on Apuleius/Lucius’s ‘conversion’ in The Golden Ass, and the cases of Late Roman aristocrats’ initiations into mysteries, this essay argues that ‘conversion’ is not an applicable term to use for entry into mystery cult group membership; and second, that perhaps it is best to abandon the term conversion, even for Christianity and Judaism. What is conventionally thought to be indicated by ‘conversion,’ are normal processes of social formation and identity maintenance.

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