By Mircea Eliade

By Cory Ruda

Eliade’s Main Goal 
 “…to present the phenomenon of the sacred in all its complexity, and not only in so far as it is irrational. What will concern us is not the relation between the rational and nonrational elements of religion, but the sacred in its entirety.” (p300)

 Main fact Eliade makes throughout: No object or action has value by simply existing or being created; it only eventually earns a value and, in doing so, becomes –real- because they somehow participate in a grander reality.  Eg., a rock is just a rock, but can reveal itself to be sacred because it is what man is not, incompressible, invulnerable, etc.  Other rocks become sacred and “real” because they take part in a special, holy event, such as being the resting place of ancestors in India, or because a holy person rested on them, etc.

 Actions can earn their place of importance as well, by echoing and being recreations of actions done by gods, heroes and other archetypes of the past, and only in doing so become sacred and important themselves.  These acts are repeated because they were consecrated in the beginning (or in illo tempore, ab origine, meaning “in those days.”)  The archaic man is one who does nothing original, but only recreates acts which we done by god-men or the like in the past. It is a conscious repetition on paradigm acts.

 Much of the world in which we exist (cities, mountains we climbs, rivers we have navigated, etc.) have an extraterrestrial archetype, and exist as the actions we replicate do, corresponding to mythical models.  Places such as uncultivated lands, unknown seas, and deserts filled with “monsters” do not, and thus exist without an archetype.  These places are referred to as a collective “chaos,” and connect, existing in the formlessness of preCreation.


 To be taken out of this form, and as such happens with all newly possessed territory, rites are performed which symbolically repeat the act of Creation.  This could be planting a flag, or erecting a altar could be repeating the act.  Settlement in a new, uncultivated land is equivalent to an act of Creation.

An Important Chart 
 1) The Sacred Mountain- Where heaven and earth meet - is situated at the center of the world.  2) Every temple or palace- and, by extension, every sacred city of royal residence – is a Sacred Mountain, thus becoming a center.  3) Being an axis mundi, the sacred city or temple is regarded as the meeting point of heaven, earth, and hell.

 sacred. All symbols of  The Center is the zone of the
“absolute reality”, such as The Fountain of Youth, and the fountain of eternal life, are at the center.  The road leading to the Center is a “difficult road,” and is a rite of passage, which moves one from the profane to the sacred.  By following the road and reaching the Center, one attains a new, real, and lasting life.


 Nothing can endure without animation of a soul, given from a sacrifice.  The origination of the sacrifice occurred during the foundation of the world.  To ensure protection and lasting of any construct, a repetition of the divine creation must occur.  Whenever this occurs, concrete time, as we know it, is projected and plotted into “mythical time,” joining with the time of the beginning of the world ab origine.


Keep in mind, every act which has a definite meaning participates someway with the sacred. Otherwise, they are probably sins, and don’t matter.


 Due to this, men have a tendency towards becoming archetypal and paradigmatic.  One this occurs, man finds who he truly is.  Ironically, this means that, once a man is no longer himself and forfeits his “chaos” life, he becomes who he really is.


 This also means that, as far as the archetype continuation goes, all men step outside of the time we understand and step back into the time where his original “act gestures” occurred. The only time that exists that hasn’t existed before is the sin committed, and the evil of “history” as we know it.  Thus, “if we pay no attention to it, time does not exist; furthermore, where is becomes perceptible – because of man’s sins, i.e., when man departs from the archetype and falls into duration-time can be annulled.


 Thus, a religious man, through repeating the gestures of another, will live forever in the atemporal present.

Ref. 
 Mercia Eliade’s The Nature of Religion, from The Hacket Readings in Philosophy, by Tim A. Robinson.

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