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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 8. Eliade as a Romanian Thinker


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The Privileged Status of Romania and Its Traditional Culture

In the previous chapter we have seen that Eliade’s adherence to the Iron Guard was not just a matter of a few years, since he remained unaware of the basic harm involved in a mystical movement that is both religiously fundamentalist and anti-Semitic, and paramilitary. This failure aside, Eliade remained a committed patriotic Romanian, and his acute anxiety related to the battles of the Romanian army during 1942–1943 on the Russian front is a fine expression of his deep attachment.1 However, it should be pointed out that Eliade remained attached to the Romanian people, but not so much to the Romanian state under Carol II, which he hated because of its repression of the Iron Guard, though he was nevertheless ready to serve it as a propaganda attaché.2 This adherence to Romanian ethnic or closed nationalism became, in my opinion, part and parcel of his views long after WWII. In a way, significant parts of his scholarship can be regarded as a sustained attempt to show that Romanian peasant culture is on the same level as European history “through our myths,” especially Mioriţa and Master Manole.3 ← 226 | 227 →

In a lecture delivered at the Group for Social Dialogue in Bucharest in 2002 that dealt with a comparison between Eliade and Culianu, I claimed, inter alia, that Eliade should be described as a Romanian figure,...

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