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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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Final Remarks


Eliade’s Shift in Scholarship

What happened in this field of the study of religion with the emergence of Eliade’s scholarship in European languages was no less than a paradigm shift, from a field dominated by a monotheistic propensity, coupled by a Hegelian vision, to one that takes much more into consideration Hindu thought and primitive or archaic religion, filtered as they were by Hindu concepts such as Brahman, atman, and maya, and by Orthodox Christianity. Confronting the developmental understandings of humanity and religion, both the general one in the form taken by Hegel and Hegelians and the one in the scholarship of religion as found in James Frazer’s opus, Eliade was more concerned with turning his gaze to the past and to origins rather than to the future or the end. Eliade did so in order to retrieve some allegedly repressed forms of religion, which were presented as resisting the addition of later layers. This is the case with his paying attention to the pre-Arian culture in India that impacted the Yoga techniques, the premonotheistic religion among the Israelites, and the Romanian pre-Latin and pre-Christian Dacian religion, which were integrated in what he called cosmic Christianity. These examples seem to me quite important since they constitute a pattern that tries to illustrate the vitality of neglected cultures among which Eliade finds a common denominator, and that common denominator ← 241 | 242 → serves as raw material for building up his archaic pre-Socratic metaphysics, and his claim of its...

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