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Mircea Eliade - Theosophia Perennis

Mircea Eliade - Theosophia Perennis

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Review: Some Notes on "Theosophia Perennis": Ananda K. Coomaraswamy andHenry Corbin
Reviewed Work(s):
Coomaraswamy
by Roger LipseyMircea Eliade
 History of Religions
, Vol. 19, No. 2. (Nov., 1979), pp. 167-176.
 History of Religions
is currently published by The University of Chicago Press.Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/about/terms.html. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtainedprior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content inthe JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/journals/ucpress.html.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.The JSTOR Archive is a trusted digital repository providing for long-term preservation and access to leading academic journals and scholarly literature from around the world. The Archive is supported by libraries, scholarly societies, publishers,and foundations. It is an initiative of JSTOR, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to help the scholarly community takeadvantage of advances in technology. For more information regarding JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.http://www.jstor.orgThu Nov 29 06:51:36 2007
 
SOMENOTES
ON
Theosophia perennis:
ANANDA
K.
COOMARASWAMY
AND
HENRYCORBIN
Coomaraswamy.
Vol.
1:
Selected Papers: Traditional Art and Symbolism.
Vol.
2:
Selected Papers: Metaphysics.
Vol. 3:
His Life and Work.
Editedby ROGER IPSEY.Bollidgen Series, no.
89.
Princeton,
N.J.:
PrincetonUniversity Press,
1977.
Pp.
xxxviii
+
544; xxvi
+
435; xvi
+
304, illus-trations.
Dr. Roger Lipsey is to be congratulated for this three-volume
summa,
sumptuously published by the Princeton University Press. Ananda
K.
Coomaraswamy was a prolific writer, and in the last fifteen years of hislife a rather difficult one. He liked to contribute to less known orobscure periodicals in India, Portugal, France, Rumania, and Czecho-slovakia. Moreover, although well known as a historian of Indian artand as an orientalist, Coomaraswamy scattered his numberless articlesin journals devoted to medieval studies
(Speculum),
the history ofscience
(Isis),
modern languages
(Papers of Modern Languages Associa-tion),
literary criticism
(Criterion),
history of religions
(Review ofReligion; Zalmoxis: Revue des ktudes religieuses),
hermetism
(&udestraditionnelles),
or pathological psychology
(Psychiatry).
One is temptedto think that Coomaraswamy purposely multiplied the obstacles inthe path of his most faithful readers. He eventually decided to collecthis papers, but he published only one volume
(Figures of Speech orFigures of Thought)
and that one rather late-in
1946,
one yearbefore his death. Most of his latest and most significant essays werealmost impossible to consult outside the large American university
0
1979
by The University of Chicago.
0018-2710/80/1902-0004$00.95
167 
 
Review
Article
libraries; some of them were literally inaccessib1e.l Consequently, formore than a quarter of a century Coomaraswamy was absent from theconfrontation and debates of the "living culture."Although Coomaraswamy built up his reputation with his firstbooks-Mediaeval Sinhalese Art (1908), Arts and Crafts ofIndia andCeylon (1913), and especially Rajput Painting (1916)-and becameincreasingly known and respected among the orientalists and thehistorians of culture after 1917 (when he was appointed Keeper of theDepartment of Indian Art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts), heenjoyed only once being an "auteur
B
succ&s,"and it was for a wrongreason. In 1922 Madeleine Rolland brought out the French translationof The Dance ofShiva with a long and enthusiastic preface by RomainR~lland.~he great prestige of the author of Jean Cristophe made thiscollection of essays a best seller, and La Danse de Shiva was warmlydiscussed in all European literary weeklies from Lisbon and Rome toAthens, Bucharest, and Warsaw. By that time (1922-25), however,most of these essays scarcely represented Coomaraswamy's new ideasand interests.Lipsey's well-documented and brilliantly written biography, the firstto appear in any language, presents in detail the different social andcultural milieux in which Ananda Coomaraswamy evolved, from hisfirst official position as a geologist in Ceylon (1902-5) until his settlingin Newton, near Boston (193247).
It
is a fascinating story, which aidsin understanding the development and characteristictraitsbf coomaras-wamy's oeu~re.~or our purpose, it suffices to say that one can dis-tinguish three important phases in Coomaraswamy's intellectualbiography. The first, one is marked by his research into the history ofIndian art and handicrafts and his interpretation of their functions and
meaning^.^
Of course, Coomaraswamy's interest in Indian art lasteduntil the end of his life, but the hermeneutical method was progressivelydeepened. In what we may call the second stage one notices
a
growingfamiliarity with some problems of the history of religions, especiallythe symbolism of chtonian fertility represented by the Magna Mater,
To quote only one example: his stimulating and very learned monograph,"SvayamBtmnL: Janua Coeli"
(Zalmsis
2
[1939; actually 19401: 3-51), printed inBucharest during my absence and disfigured by a great number of misprints, wasavailable in only fifteen offprints sent by me from Paris in 1945. The entire editionof
Zalmods,
vol.
2,
was burned up in Bucharest. The original, correct text of
Svayamdtynlu?.
appeared for the first time in
Coomaraswamy,
2:465-520 (unlessotherwise stated, references are to this work).
a
The sad story of the editorial preparation of
Selected Papers
is discretely told
-
by Roger Lipsey (3: v
ff.)
See my article, "Ananda Coomaraswamy,"
Relristafunda.tiilor regale
4 (1937):183-89, re~rintedn
Insula lui Euthananius
(Bucharest, 1943),
pp.
265-75.see alsb the stimulating review by one of i3)oomaraswamy's diiciples: SchuylerCamman, "Remembering Again,"
Parabola
3, no. 2 (May 1978): 8P91.One must keep in mind Coomaraswamy's relations with the Indian Nationalistmovements and the influences of William Morris and of the Tagore Circle inCalcutta, (see vol. 3, chaps.
5,
7, 9, 17).
168

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