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Mircea Eliade

From Magic to Myth


Moshe Idel

Mircea Eliade: From Magic to Myth addresses a series of topics that have been neglected in scholarship. First and foremost, the book looks at the early Romanian background of some of Eliade’s ideas, especially his magical universe, which took on a more mythical nature with his arrival in the West. Other chapters deal with Eliade’s attitude toward Judaism, which is crucial for his phenomenology of religion, and the influences of Kabbalah on his early work. Later chapters address his association with the Romanian extreme right movement known as the Iron Guard and the reverberation of some of the images in the post-war Eliade as well as with the status of Romanian culture in his eyes after World War II. The volume concludes by assessing the impact of Eliade’s personal experiences on the manner in which he presented religion. The book will be useful in classes in the history of religion and the history of Eastern European intellectuals.
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Chapter 1. Camouflaged Sacred in Eliade’s Self-Perception, Literature, and Scholarship


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This theme constitutes the key to all the writings of my maturity.


The present chapter deals with a major aspect of Eliade’s opus, the camouflage of the sacred, a principle that informs his creative imagination as it emerges from many of his written documents. Our discussions below will have little to do with him as a person or as a political man, despite the content of some of the quotes adduced below. Though this topic was dealt with in his disparate types of writings—religious, political, historical, literary, and personal—there is a shared assumption that appears early and underlies some of them: the sacred camouflages itself within the profane, and as such, it is largely unrecognizable. In order to reach a higher form of existence, one should be able to recognize those hidden revelations, which are sometimes expressed by signs. When this recognition takes place, because of the initiative of either the human person or the sacred, Eliade speaks about hierophany, kratophany, and ontophany, and less about the more theologically oriented theophany. This is the main religious ethos of Eliade himself and of some of the protagonists of his literature, and finally of religion as a spiritual phenomenon, as envisaged by him as a scholar. Penetrating beneath the surface of “banal” existence in order to encounter the “real,” understanding one’s destiny, and teaching this imperative to decode to ← 30 | 31...

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