Paganism is often described as a superstitious culture with idol worship and bloody sacrifice led by philosophers. On the contrary, Pagan spirituality was the product of a highly developed culture that expressed itself through the mystical “Mystery religions” that spread to the whole known world of that time.
Each Mystery tradition had exoteric “Outer Mysteries”, consisting of myths, which were common knowledge, and rituals open to everybody. But, in addition there were also esoteric “Inner Mysteries”, which consisted of sacred secrets only revealed to the initiates after a long period of formation, a process that brought them personal transformation and spiritual enlightenment. The spiritual masters of the Inner Mysteries were philosophers, more mystics and miracle-workers that dry academics.
At the heart of the Mysteries were myths about a dying and resurrecting godman known by many names such as Osiris in Egypt, Dionysus in Greece, Attis in Asia Minor, Adonis in Syria, Bacchus in Italy and Mithras in Persia. However, all of these godmen are the same mythical beings. Already in the 5th century BC, philosophers did not take the stories of the gods and goddesses literally, but only as allegories of human spiritual experience or as a symbolic language that encodes the mystical teachings of the Inner Mysteries. These myths have been adapted over time and by the different cultures, but they remained fundamentally the same.