Shifting Identities – Creating Change
Ontological Conversion: A Description and Analysis of Two Case Studies from Tertullian’s De Baptismo and Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis
Abstract: Marshall proposes a new way to conceive conversion even in the cases where we have no first-hand attests. He suggests that the concept of “ontological conversion” provides a fruitful entry into the issue of agency in conversion because it defines the religious group and its ideology as central agents in the conversion process.
This essay1 considers the possibility of conversion in Iamblichus’ De mysteriis and compares posited features of conversion to those drawn from Tertullian’s De baptismo.2
Many previous models of conversion have addressed the issue of passivity or activity in the individual’s conversion. From an earlier dominant scholarly point of view, a group acted upon the passive converts by brainwashing them, taking their individuality away and making them unable to choose any other option than to join the cult. Today, however, most scholars have abandoned the view on the converts as passive objects and regard them instead as active seekers.3
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