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PORTMANN, A., RITSEMA, R. et CORBIN, H., Eranos and its Meaning, Ascona, 1978

PORTMANN, A., RITSEMA, R. et CORBIN, H., Eranos and its Meaning, Ascona, 1978

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Published by: danielproulx2 on Feb 17, 2011
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The fame of the Eranos Conferences has grown
ne their founding by Olga Frôbe-Kapteyn more
than four decades ago. In looking to the future and in
surveying the past, we shall attempt to give some idea
of the proper domain of these conferences and to
establish their sphere of influence amidst the thought
of our time. We shall attempt to outline some of the
contemporary questions for which answers are sought
in these meetings. The general topics and those of in-dividual lectures sometimes seem at first glance to be
far removed from current issues — an impression
whose erroneousness we hope to demonstrate.
Life in our time is characterized by an alarming
proliferation of technology, and the belief is prevalent
that the attendant changes in life-style reflect a subtle
but basic change in human nature. It is therefore far
from irrelevant to call attention to those human featu-
res that tend to retain their character in the midst of 
change. These features seem to point to a distinct sub-
structure of our being that may properly be termed
ahistorical. The aspect of human nature that we have
sought to uncover has been called archaic, and it is
sometimes referred to in psychological and religious
archetypal.There is one, term which, in our opinion, should not
be used in our search for the foundations of humanity— the term «primitive», which, in the usage of some
evolutionists, has tended to acquire the derogatory
connotation of a surpassed stage of development.
This is a concept that is quite inadequate to render the
compelling and essential sameness of the varieties of 
humankind; it stems from a way of thinking which
once gave rise to the idea of an earlier, prelogical stage
of human development as opposed to the present andhigher logical one — a view which ethnologists havenow wisely abandoned.
Since the founding of Eranos the phenomenon of 
central humanness has been the focus of our contem-
plations.We hope that we have done our part to com-
bat the view that «archaic» is a terrn applicable onlyto the remote origins of man that we look back upon
most with sympathy and some respect and study
with a mere retrospective fascination. Eranos, on the
contrary, has always insisted upon the continuing pre-
sence of this original humanity. In the meetings at
Ascona there have been numerous occasions to stressthe vital presence of man's archaic side in all creativeWhen confrontations with Oriental thought and rts
ancient heritage have been offered, this has been done
to stress the permanently human elements contained
therein, and the same may be said of ethnological stu-
dies involving the world-views of ancient peoples;
such as the treatments of creation myths resting on a
ritual repetition of the events of a bygone age of 
greatness. In the light of these presentations, our pre-
sent concern with the changing face of existence dwin-
dles to a short-term phenomenon, subject to oblitera-
tion in the great rites of renewal that usher in a new
epoch, a beginning of beginnings.
Despite our concern with archaic forms of expe-
rience, it would be a mistake to think that Eranos has
given way to disillusionment and has renounced the
concept of historical development to embrace a glori-fied past. The emergence of historical forces and the
nature of their efficacy have, on the contrary, been
to the non-evolutionary world-view as a possible re-pository of lasting values, it is fully in keeping with
this concern of ours that we study also the early emer-
gence of that second way of thinking which has now
become so ubiquitous and fraught with consequences.
Eranos has never been content to play the role of aseismologist recording earth tremors that have alrea-
dy happened. Our conferences have always engagedin the reexamination of values during times of grea-
test endangerment. For this reason our lectures, whe-
ther in the humanities or the natural sciences, have
increasingly focussed on fundamental human traits,
on those constants of our nature which will continueto have meaning and to be cultivated in future times.As anthropological research penetrates ever deeperinto its field of study, the greater is the importance itassigns to those elements present since the origins of 
man — the recurring feelings, hopes, and fears thatdetermine human happiness and sorrow, even in our
Man stands before us — a creature submerged
nightly in his private world of dreams, embarking
ever anew at birth upon a new conquest of the expe-
rienceable world, building and rebuilding cosmic de-
— a creature forever destined to correlate the
colorful world of imagination with a world subject tohis intellectual grasp and reckoning.
The many Eranos lectures contributing to our un-
derstanding of life-phenomena are !lever aimed mere-
ly at being «interesting». It has always been our goalto awaken an awareness of the riches inherent in our
nature, not the least of which is our built-in equip-
ment for cognitive experience.
The phenomenon of religion and, for that matter,
the nature of the psyche appear to us to attest to a he-reditary
disposition toward experience-structuringthat is forcefully manifested within us. Who among
us, after ail, may say how great a role is played by this
hereditary faculty in the making of those world-
whereby we seek to comprise the total
Our work seeks to illustrate and comment upon therealm of origins — to show how the fate of the worldis determined, to some small extent, in each of us byvirtue of this primal vision, as manifested in the life-

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