Body in Mithraic Initiations: Authority, hierarchy, and human physiology in religious rituals



Year of publication 2014
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description This paper, situated in the newly established discipline of cognitive historiography, tries to demonstrate the promise of various new trends in the cognitive science of religion which abandon the purely mentalistic attitude to human cognition and supplement it with theories seeing human cognition as embodied and extended to environment. It is theoretically grounded in recent research into effects of bodily positions on human physiological processes and perception of ourselves and others with respect to expressions of social dominance/submission. This new knowledge gathered predominantly in experimental research is tested on the historical material, specifically on the well-known frescoes of Mithraic initiations preserved on the side benches of the Capua Vetere mithraeum in Campania. It is argued that knowledge generated by the research on embodied cognition can provided some important insights and thus contribute to better understanding of some ritual practices of the Roman cult of Mithras.
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