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Now in paperback!
Luther H. Martin, The Mind of Mithraists: Historical and Cognitive Studies in the Roman Cult of Mithras (Bloomsbury, 2014).
The Roman cult of Mithras was the most widely-dispersed and densely-distributed cult throughout the expanse of the Roman Empire from the end of the first until the fourth century AD, rivaling the early growth and development of Christianity during the same period. As its membership was largely drawn from the ranks of the military, its spread, but not its popularity is attributable largely to military deployments and re-deployments. Although mithraists left behind no written archival evidence, there is an abundance of iconographic finds. The only characteristic common to all Mithraic temples were the fundamental architecture of their design, and the cult image of Mithras slaying a bull. How were these two features so faithfully transmitted through the Empire by a non-centralized, non-hierarchical religious movement? The Minds of Mithraists: Historical and Cognitive Studies in the Roman Cult of Mithras addresses these questions as well as the relationship of Mithraism to Christianity, explanations of the significance of the tauroctony and of the rituals enacted in the mithraea, and explanations for the spread of Mithraism (and for its resistance in a few places).
The unifying theme throughout is an investigation of the “mind” of those engaged in the cult practices of this widespread ancient religion. These investigations represent traditional historical methods as well as more recent studies employing the insights of the cognitive sciences, demonstrating that cognitive historiography is a valuable methodological tool.
Along with Pascal Boyer and Armin W. Geertz, NAASR co-founder Luther H. Martin is one of the editors of a new journal, the Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion.
Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion is the official journal of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion (IACSR). The Association was founded in 2006 and since then has sponsored a number of international collaborative projects and biennial conferences. A subscription to the journal is included in membership.
The cognitive science of religion is a burgeoning field that finds itself in the center of cross-disciplinary research. Cognition is understood in a variety of ways from bottom-up to top-down models and theories. New insights into cognition, culture and religion are being discovered, new ways of doing research are being established and new methodologies and technologies are being used in the cognitive science of religion. The number of scholars and scientists working in this exciting field are expanding exponentially, and the journal provides a cutting-edge publication channel for this field.
You can find more information at the publisher’s website here.
Deep History, Secular Theory: Historical and Scientific Studies of Religion, by Luther H. Martin (Walter De Gruyter, 2010), is a collection of essays from one of NAASR’s founders over the last couple of decades. From the description:
Over the course of his career, Luther H. Martin has primarily produced articles rather than monographs. This approach to publication has given him the opportunity to experiment with different methodological approaches to an academic study of religion, with updates to and different interpretations of his field of historical specialization, namely Hellenistic religions, the subject of his only monograph (1987). The contents of this collected volume represent Martin’s shift from comparative studies, to socio-political studies, to scientific studies of religion, and especially to the cognitive science of religion. He currently considers the latter to be the most viable approach for a scientific study of religion within the academic context of a modern research university. The twenty-five contributions collected in this volume are selected from over one hundred essays, articles, and book chapters published over a long and industrious career and are representative of Martin’s work over the past two decades.