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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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Eliade’s Life

Mircea Eliade’s life1 can be divided into two major parts from the temporal point of view: the Romanian part, 1907–1944, and the extra-Romanian one, the “exile” years 1944–1986. Most of the former period was spent in Romania—with the exception of three years in India—and then in London and Lisbon between late 1940 and late 1944. During this period most of what he wrote, quite precociously—literature, journalistic and scholarly—was done in Romanian and intended for a Romanian audience, though he aspired to a much more international audience. It is a vast literature, which started in the prodigious high school years, and it includes several novels, hundreds of feuilletons printed in daily newspapers, monographs, and collections of studies. A few of his writings in this period were done in other languages; especially noteworthy was his book on Yoga, based on his Ph.D. thesis submitted in 1933 at the University of Bucharest, which was translated and published in French in 1936, and some feuilletons in Italian and Portuguese. Eliade was then a famous and prolific Romanian author of several novels and innumerable journalistic feuilletons, and an emerging and promising scholar of religion, but he was also thought of quite widely as the leader of the 1927 generation, namely, of the young Romanians who were destined, according to their self-perception, to create a vibrant ← 1 | 2 → and vital new Romanian culture, related to the new geographical-political situation generated by the emergence of...

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