The Mysteries of Mithras
The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World
By Payam Nabarz
Inner Traditions, PB, 230pp
Review by David Rankine for Avalonia
The historical importance of Mithraism in ancient Rome is well documented in such excellent works as Manfred Clauss’s “The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries” and Esme Wynne-Tyson’s “Mithras: The Fellow in the Cap”. From the second century BCE to the fifth century CE, the Roman army took Mithraism to every corner of the Roman Empire, spreading the worship of Mithras far and wide.
This work, however, whilst drawing on the most accurate and detailed information available, also moves into the realm of modern practice and the relevance of Mithraism today. After detailing the origins, history and context of ancient Mithraism, Nabarz goes on to demonstrate the many parallels between Mithraism and its usurper, Christianity. If I mention that Mithras was born of a virgin in a cave on 25th December, and was celibate and “saved” the world, then these few examples give a clear indicator of the heavy influence Mithraism had on Christianity. Not only Christianity, but other religions like Islam and Gnosticism have also been influenced by Mithraism, which also features in the Greek Magical Papyri.
Uniquely, this work breathes life into the practices of Mithraism, demonstrating its vital and dynamic nature, and the ongoing importance of the spiritual truths it was founded upon, and which are still as relevant today as they ever were. The Zoroastrian Hymns to Mithra and the goddess Anahita included as appendices are beautiful examples of the deep and incisive spirituality which informed Mithraism.
The seven (planetary) grades of Mithraism formed the ladder of development through hits mysteries. Nabarz has brought these to life with modern reconstructions drawing on the ancient sources and more contemporary magickal traditions to provide the reader with the opportunity to experience the spiritual practices and their transformational qualities for themselves.
Mankind has changed far less than people often think, and the author is to be congratulated for offering this lucid and poetic guide to the spiritual strength of Mithraism in a clear and concise practical volume. An illuminating read!