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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 5. Eliade and Kabbalah


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Kabbalah in Interwar Bucharest

A survey of the main analyses of Eliade’s religious outlook would hardly discern the possibility that the young Eliade had some knowledge of Kabbalah, and even less that it might have had some formative impact on his thought. In fact, the very decision to address the topic may easily be seen as tainted by the professional specialization of the present writer, rather than by the any significance this topic held for Eliade. After all, what can be the significance of the content of this esoteric lore for a Romanian nationalist, or a Christian Orthodox believer, or a pagan, as he defined himself in various places, flowering in frivolous interwar Bucharest? Neither do his memoirs from Portugal, Paris, or Chicago mention any sustained interest in this lore. Though in the third volume of his History of Religious Ideas there are several paragraphs on Kabbalah, this is at quite a late stage of his activity, and it is almost totally dependent on the historiography and phenomenology as articulated in Gershom Scholem’s books: that is, just derivative repetitions of what any intelligent reader can find in published studies by the master of this field. Also, the theory that spending months in the company of Scholem at the Eranos conferences in Ascona, listening to his lectures and reading his studies and those of others published in several volumes of Eranos Jahrbuch over almost two decades, imparted in ← 157 | 158 → Eliade...

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