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MIRCEA ELIADE, A ROMANTIC SCHOLAR AND YOGI (1)

One of the most captivating personalities of the XX century was, beyond doubt, the Romanian writer Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), his works have been translated to almost every known language, and his treaties in the history of religions have strongly influenced scholars and thinkers in the whole world. Although there had been many detractors against his special understanding of spirituality, his perception of the religious and spiritual phenomenon pervades modern thought.



Eliade's books have obviously been read and studied by any kind of specialists in the field of philosophy and anthropology, but also millions of readers outside the academic circles have delighted in his style and spiritual message. Jung's theory of the archetypes was certainly a big influence in Eliade's thought; the notion developed by Jung that there is a religious function in the unconscious necessary to activate the process of individuation is clearly present in Eliades's essays. But he went further than the great Swiss psychologist; for him, humans were basically religious, he used to talk about the 'homo religious' instead of the homo sapiens; according to him, religion was a universal phenomenon which could not be reduced to logical interpretations.
         
It would not be exaggerated to say that Mircea Eliade was more influential to modern thought that Jung, for as the latter kept his views of the collective unconscious at the most strict scientific level, Eliade's unique way of writing invites his readers to participate of the spiritual experience he is explaining and describing. His style and writing techniques depend, of course, on his enormous erudition, he has an extraordinary knowledge of the history of the religions of the whole world from the Stone Age to modern times, but his secret tool is his understanding of symbols; Eliade is not afraid of making the most unusual and unexpected associations; once he finds the proper symbol to explain a religious fact, for example a ritual of fertility which involves shells and pearls, he can illustrate it with dozens of examples taken from any part of the world; we can say that Eliade uses the latent power of the symbol to provoke an epiphany in his reader. Consciously or unconsciously Eliade followed the Jungian technique of amplification which consists in expanding a dream or any other kind of situation in order to explore all its symbolic and mythic implications.

Mircea Eliade was a Pisces born in Bucharest, Romania, on March/13/1907, at 5:00 am; his prose has a Jupiter and Neptune quality, it makes his reader learn, feel and imagine new meaning of symbols, both at an intellectual and at a personal level. A good example could be his Treatise on the History of Religions, in the chapters dedicated to the Moon and the rites of fertility, Eliade connects the Moon, the cycles of water, pearls and shells with the fertility of women, he explains that for the religious mind of primitive tribes, all those aspects (shells, cycles of the Moon, etc.) are not a chain of causes or effects, but different manifestations of the same principle, the feminine.
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Mircea Eliade
March/13/1907
at 5:00 am
Bucharest, Romania

I personally feel that Eliade's prose is like flows of water running in many directions, he finds the secret correspondence through his images; this might sound vague, but the fact is that his knowledge about symbols provides him with a special sort of scientific rigour. Some critics have attacked what they call his over generalizations, but Eliade shows us that we cannot speak about symbols and spirituality without becoming deeply involved with them and affected by their meaning. For example, if we talk, read or study about Jupiter (either the planet or the god of Greek mythology), our reality is thus connected with the expansive power of Jovian symbols.

Although as a Pisces Eliade could be become disoriented and emotionally unstable, the conjunction of his Sun with Saturn provided him with a taste for discipline and perseverance. While studying Sanskrit and culture in India, he spent six months practicing yoga in the caves of the Himalayan; later on, in his life as a scholar, he never abandoned the practice; he used to say that whenever he was going through a difficult period in his life, the image of the Himalayan caves became his secret shelter. 'Yoga: Immortality and Freedom' (first published in English in 1958) is the best and most comprehensive essay on yoga written in the XX century.

One of the most complex positions of Saturn is in Pisces; at first sight, the contradiction between Neptune, ruler of Pisces and Saturn seems impossible to overcome. Whereas the dissolving waters of the sign of Neptune know no boundaries, Saturn imposes strict authority and hierarchy and structure based on limits and definitions. But Mircea Eliade found in his yoga and in his study of religions and spiritual traditions the best way to express Saturn in Pisces; I would go so far as to declare that Eliade's vision of time and reality (Saturn's main themes) is the most accurate we can found in a scientific essay.

In 'The Myth of the Eternal Return'(written in 1949), Eliade starts developing his concept of time; he explains that for the primitive or traditional mind, the Sacred is equivalent to reality, so anything that is not sacred or has not been consecrated through rituals is not real. Any kind of religious ritual takes the participant, priests and followers, to the beginning of Time (with a capital letter) when a god or an avatar taught men how to practice that ritual; hence, Reality is in the origin; this is why, in a world ruled by cycles, rituals have to be practiced at the end of the cycle (day, moth, year or years) in order to keep alive the connection with Reality. The opposition between the Sacred and the Profane (whatever is not consecrated) is a structural category in Eliade's system of thinking about spirituality.

The tribes or the cities of traditional cultures are structured by their sacred rituals by special places (mountains or trees), temples and shrines, where the gods are present. From this perspective, any event or fact that takes place out of the territory of the Sacred does not exist; outside the circle where the tribe lives under the protection of the gods there is only chaos, and the demons of chaos try constantly to destroy it and lead it into chaos, that is why rituals have to be performed at a precise moment in time and in a specific place; and these, place and time, are the point of origin. The technical formula Eliade used for these facts was the Latin expression, 'in illo tempore' which literally means: in that time (in that time when things began). (to be continued)

Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Works of Mircea Eliade)

Mircea Eliade / Bollingen Foundation


Myth of the Eternal Return

Mircea Eliade / Princeton Univ Pr


In Japanese

by xavier_astro | 2012-12-01 00:00 | 人物  

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