Mircea Eliade: The Sacred & The Profane

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Eliade pages on this site:
The Sacred & The Profane - Summaries:
Introduction  | 1 Sacred Space  | 2 Sacred Time3 Sacred Nature4 Sacred Self
Comment:  1 Criticisms2 Eliade's Sacred

This page summarises Mircea Eliade's The Sacred & The Profane (1957), the Introduction. The numbers in square brackets link to criticisms.

INTRODUCTION

Eliade starts by positioning his study relative to Rudolf Otto's The Idea of the Holy (1917). Otto had examined the sacred as an irrational experience, but Eliade will be concerned with what he calls the sacred in its entirety [p 10].

He offers an initial definition of the sacred as the opposite of the profane [p 10] and goes on to explain what he means by this in terms of the concept of hierophany. This is the manifestation of something of a wholly different order [p 11], Otto's ganz andere [wholly other], in the ordinary profane world. [1]

Fundamental to Eliade's explanation is his idea of religious man. This is man of all pre-modern societies [p 12], for whom anything in nature could be the subject of religious experience, as being sacred: stones, trees, whatever.

Religious man tried to live in the presence of the sacred because he desired access to the ultimate reality and to the power (enduringness and efficacity [p 12]) of the sacred.

Eliade proposes to show how religious man differed from the non-religious man of modern societies, who lives in a desacralised cosmos [p 13] [2]. But he is not going to attempt to explain how the transition from religious to non-religious man came about historically. [3]
(c) John C Durham, 2003

Eliade pages on this site:
The Sacred & The Profane - Summaries:
Introduction  | 1 Sacred Space  | 2 Sacred Time3 Sacred Nature4 Sacred Self
Comment:  1 Criticisms2 Eliade's Sacred