(Historical and literary studies,
pagan, Jewish and Christian, 1968)
From the days of the Renaissance and Reformation to the present, the Mystery Religions of antiquity have engaged the attention of classical scholars and theologians alike. During what may be called the precritical stage of the study of this subject, it was commonly believed that by the Mysteries a constant succession of priests or hierophants transmitted from age to age an esoteric doctrine, better and nobler than that of the popular religion. Whether this recondite (δυσνόητος, μυστηριώδης) science had been derived originally from the hidden wisdom of India or Egypt, or from the Old Testament, or even from a primitive revelation to all mankind, was debated with characteristic disregard for historical methodology.
The first scholar who made an exhaustive and critical examination of the statements of ancient authors regarding the Mysteries was Christian August Lobeck. Although Lobeck confined his attention to the Eleusinian, the Orphic, and the Samothracian Mysteries, his monograph, published in 1829, was of the greatest importance in the inauguration of a new era in the scientific study of the subject in general. A great deal of rubbish and pseudo-learning was swept aside, and it became possible to discuss intelligently the rites and teachings of the Mysteries.