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Mircea Eliade (1907 – 1986)


Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago.
Mircea Eliade
When the sacred manifests itself in any hierophany, there is not only a break in the homogeneity of space; there is also a revelation of an absolute reality, opposed to the nonreality of the vast surrounding expanse. The manifestation of the sacred ontologically founds the world. In the homogenous and infinite expanse, in which no point of reference is possible and hence no orientation can be established, the hierophany reveals an absolute fixed point, a center.
Eliade quotes
Man becomes aware of the sacred because it manifests itself, shows itself, as something wholly different from the profane. To designate the act of manifestation of the sacred, we have proposed the term hierophany. It is a fitting term, because it does not imply anything further; it expresses no more than is implicit in its etymological content, i.e., that something sacred shows itself to us. It could be said that the history of religions from the most primitive to the most highly developed is constituted by a great number of hierophanies, by manifestations of sacred realities. From the most elementary hierophany e.g. manifestation of the sacred in some ordinary object, a stone or a tree to the supreme hierophany (which, for a Christian, is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ) there is no solution of continuity. In each case we are confronted by the same mysterious act the manifestation of something of a wholly different order, a reality that does not belong to our world, in objects that are an integral part of our natural "profane" world.
Eliade
It is not without fear and trembling that a historian of religion approaches the problem of myth. This is not only because of that preliminary embarrassing question: what is intended by myth? It is also because the answers given depend for the most part on the documents selected.




Eliade Mircea quotes
The great cosmic illusion is a hierophany.... One is devoured by Time, not because one lives in Time, but because one believes in its reality, and therefore forgets or despises eternity.
Eliade Mircea
Psychoanalysis justifies its importance by asserting that it forces you to look to and accept reality. But what sort of reality? A reality conditioned by the materialistic and scientific ideology of psychoanalysis, that is, a historical product...
Mircea Eliade quotes
For those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality.
Mircea Eliade
A religious phenomenon will only be recognized as such if it is grasped at its own level, that is to say, if it is studied as something religious. To try to grasp the essence of such phenomenon by means of physiology, psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics, art or any other study is false; it misses the one unique and irreducible element in it the element of the sacred.
Eliade Mircea quotes
The hearer of myth, regardless of his level of culture, when he is listening to a myth, forgets, as it were, his particular situation and is projected into another world, into another universe which is no longer his poor little universe of every day. . . . The myths are true because they are sacred, because they tell him about sacred beings and events. Consequently, in reciting or listening to a myth, one resumes contact with the sacred and with reality, and in so doing one transcends the profane condition, the "historical situation." In other words one goes beyond the temporal condition and the dull self-sufficiency which is the lot of every human being simply because every human being is "ignorant" in the sense that he is identifying himself, and Reality, with his own particular situation. And ignorance is, first of all, this false identification of Reality with what each one of us appears to be or to possess.
Eliade
Like Freud and Jung and Rudolf Otto, all of whom contributed deep strands to his work, Eliade argued boldly for universals where he might more safely have argued for widely prevalent patterns. Yet many of the patterns that he identified in religions that spanned the entire globe and the whole of human history a span that no one has ever known as well as he did  inspired an entire generation of both scholars and amateurs of the study of religion, and they still prove useful as starting points for the comparative study of religion and still hold water even after the challenges posed by new data to which Eliade did not have access. His concept of hierophany, the sudden irruption of the sacred in the profane world, sacred time opening to the transcendent, resulting in radical discontinuities, has proved a far more widely applicable and heuristic term than the older, narrower term "theophany," denoting the manifestation of a god. And his argument that religious forms, particularly myths, are usefully studied in popular culture as well as in the great scriptures is a postmodern idea that he formulated long before postmodernism. He taught us that myths (and, to a great extent, rituals) retold and reenacted in the present transport the worshipper back to the world of origins, the world of events that took place in illo tempore, "in that time"; this basic idea of what he called (after Nietzsche) "the eternal return" has become a truism in the study of religion and does, I think, apply to many mythologies, though not, as Eliade claimed, to all. His ideas about the alternation and interaction of cosmos and chaos, and cyclical/mythical time and linear/historical time, the sacred and the profane, are similarly fruitful starting points for many, if not all, cultures. Above all, his insistence that it is possible to find meaningful synchronic patterns of symbolism in addition to the phenomena that are unique to each time and place--this is the foundation on which the entire field of comparative religion still stands, and Eliade laid the cornerstone.
Eliade Mircea
Eliade's interest is neither in the concept of profane experience nor in the derived concept of the sacred, but rather in the way these two are actually experienced. It is the phenomenological method that claims to describe these experiences of the sacred and the profane... When Eliade defines myth as a "true story" he is giving us a phenomenological description. For the people for whom the myth is a true story, it is not a figment of the imagination or merely a subjective belief but the perceived reality in which they live out their lives. What constitute's one's life, is the world fraught with meaning and value. It is the living perception of people. That and that alone is what is meant by phenomena.
Mircea Eliade
TRINITY. Trinitarian doctrine touches on virtually every aspect of Christian faith, theology, and piety, including Christology and pneumatology, theological epistemology (faith, revelation, theological methodology), spirituality and mystical theology, and ecelesial life (sacraments, community, ethics). This article summarizes the main lines of trinitarian doctrine without presenting detailed explanations of important ideas, persons, or terms. The doctrine of the Trinity is the summary of Christian faith in God, who out of love creates humanity for union with God, who through Jesus Christ redeems the world, and in the power of the Holy Spirit transforms and divinizes (2 Cor. 3:18). The heart of trinitarian theology is the conviction that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is involved faithfully and unalterably in covenanted relationship with the world. Christianity is not unique in believing God is "someone" rather than something," but it is unique in its belief that Christ is the personal Word of God, and that through Christ's death and resurrection into new life, "God was in Christ reconciling all things to God" (2 Cor. 5:19). Christ is not looked upon as an intermediary between God and world but as an essential agent of salvation. The Spirit poured out at Pentecost, by whom we live in Christ and are returned to God (Father), is also not a "lesser God" but one and the same God who creates and redeems us. The doctrine of the Trinity is the product of reflection on the events of redemptive history, especially the Incarnation and the sending of the Spirit.




Mircea Eliade quotes
Mircea Eliade was motivated at all times by a deep concern for the future of Western civilisation, which he saw as threatened by possible extinction. He believed it essential that we recognise and acknowledge the archaic and the Eastern contributions to man's spiritual history while there is still time to do so with good grace. Otherwise, by maintaining an attitude of contempt or superiority towards the rest of the world past and present we would bring disaster on ourselves and the world as a whole. Eliade's whole life was devoted to trying to save the world's culture by introducing it to itself. ... His disciples are legion, and to a large extent he actually created both the academic subject itself and the institutional movement which led to the founding of all the departments and professorships which now abound in the history of religions. But during his entire career one great mystery remained: what did Eliade himself believe? In Ordeal by Labyrinth he admits that he never wished to distract his readers or his students with his own personal opinions, despite his ability to appear to act as an advocate for each religion in turn as he surveyed it. Perhaps this was Eliade's finest and most fitting gift of all: the complete obliteration of his private self in the pursuit of his higher aims. How ironic it is, then, that as a result we will never be able to forget him.
Mircea Eliade
The crude product of nature, the object fashioned by the industry of man, acquire their reality, their identity, only to the extent of their participation in a transcendent reality.
Eliade quotes
The History of Religions is destined to play an important role in contemporary cultural life. This is not only because an understanding of exotic and archaic religions will significantly assist in a cultural dialogue with the representatives of such religions. It is more especially because ... the history of religions will inevitably attain to a deeper knowledge of man. It is on the basis of such knowledge that a new humanism, on a world-wide scale, could develop.
Eliade Mircea
Whereas "false stories" can be told anywhere and at any time, myths must not be recited except during a period of sacred time (usually in autumn or winter, and only at night).... This custom has survived even among peoples who have passed beyond the archaic stage of culture. Among the Turco-Mongols and the Tibetans the epic songs of the Gesar cycle can be recited only at night and in winter.
Eliade Mircea quotes
As long as you have not grasped that you have to die to grow, you are a troubled guest on the dark earth.
Mircea Eliade
The history of religions reaches down and makes contact with that which is essentially human: the relation of man to the sacred. The history of religions can play an extremely important role in the crisis we are living through. The crises of modern man are to a large extent religious ones, insofar as they are an awakening of his awareness to an absence of meaning.
Mircea Eliade quotes
It is only through the discovery of History more precisely by the awakening of the historical consciousness in Judaeo-Christianity and its propagation by Hegel and his successors it is only through the radical assimilation of the new mode of being represented by human existence in the world that myth could be left behind. But we hesitate to say that mythical thought has been abolished. As we shall soon see, it managed to survive, though radically changed (if not perfectly camouflaged). And the astonishing fact is that, more than anywhere else it survives in historiography!
Mircea Eliade
For the past fifty years at least, Western scholars have approached the study of myth from a viewpoint markedly different from, let us say, that of the nineteenth century. Unlike their predecessors, who treated myth in the usual meaning of the word, that is, as "fable," "invention," "fiction," they have accepted it as it was understood in archaic societies, where, on the contrary, "myth" means a "true story" and, beyond that, a story that is a most precious possession because it is sacred, exemplary, significant. This new semantic value given the term "myth" makes its use in contemporary parlance somewhat equivocal. Today, that is, the word is employed both in the sense of "fiction" or "illusion" and in that familiar especially to ethnologists, sociologists, and historians of religions, the sense of "sacred tradition, primordial revelation, exemplary model." ... the Greeks steadily continued to empty mythos of all religious and metaphysical value. Contrasted both with logos and, later, with historia, mythos came in the end to denote "what cannot really exist." On its side, Judaeo-Christianity put the stamp of "falsehood" and "illusion" on whatever was not justified or validated by the two Testaments.
Eliade Mircea
To believe that I could, at twenty-three, sacrifice history and culture for "the Absolute" was further proof that I had not understood India. My vocation was culture, not sainthood.


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