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The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History

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This founding work of the history of religions, first published in English in 1954, secured the North American reputation of the Romanian emigre-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-86). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures & drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade's "The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelli This founding work of the history of religions, first published in English in 1954, secured the North American reputation of the Romanian emigre-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-86). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures & drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade's "The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelligible & compelling the religious expressions & activities of a wide variety of archaic & "primitive" religious cultures. While acknowledging that a return to the "archaic" is no longer possible, Eliade passionately insists on the value of understanding this view in order to enrich our contemporary imagination of what it is to be human.


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This founding work of the history of religions, first published in English in 1954, secured the North American reputation of the Romanian emigre-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-86). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures & drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade's "The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelli This founding work of the history of religions, first published in English in 1954, secured the North American reputation of the Romanian emigre-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-86). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures & drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade's "The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelligible & compelling the religious expressions & activities of a wide variety of archaic & "primitive" religious cultures. While acknowledging that a return to the "archaic" is no longer possible, Eliade passionately insists on the value of understanding this view in order to enrich our contemporary imagination of what it is to be human.

30 review for The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Le Mythe de L'eternel Retour: Archétypes et Répetition = The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade The Eternal Return is an idea for interpreting religious behavior proposed by the historian Mircea Eliade; it is a belief expressed through behavior (sometimes implicitly, but often explicitly) that one is able to become contemporary with or return to the "mythical age"—the time when the events described in one's myths occurred. It should be distinguished from the philosophical concept of etern Le Mythe de L'eternel Retour: Archétypes et Répetition = The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade The Eternal Return is an idea for interpreting religious behavior proposed by the historian Mircea Eliade; it is a belief expressed through behavior (sometimes implicitly, but often explicitly) that one is able to become contemporary with or return to the "mythical age"—the time when the events described in one's myths occurred. It should be distinguished from the philosophical concept of eternal return. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیستم ماه آگوست سال1987میلادی عنوان: اس‍طوره‌ ب‍ازگ‍ش‍ت‌ ج‍اودان‍ه‌ - مقدمه، بر فلسفه ی تاریخ؛ نویسنده: میرجا الیاده؛ مترجم: بهمن سرکاراتی؛ تبریز؛ نیما، سال1365؛ در245ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، قطره، سال1378؛ در208ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، طهوری؛ سال1384؛ در205ص؛ شابک9646414600؛ شابک9789646414605؛ موضوع اسطوره - دین - جنبه های مذهبی تاریخ و علوم اجتماعی - کیهان شناسی از نویسندگان رومانیای تبار ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م پژوهشی است، درباره ی برخی از، جنبه های هستی شناسی کهن، و یا به عبارت ژرفتتر، درباره ی مفاهیم هستی و واقعیت؛ آنچنانکه مفاهیم مذکور را میتوان از طرز رفتار انسان، در جوامع کهن، دریافت کرد؛ جوامع کهن یا همان سنتی: هم شامل جهانی است که معمولا از آن، با صفت بدوی یاد میشود، و هم فرهنگ و تمدنهای باستانی آسیا، اروپا، و آمریکا را نیز در بر میگیرد تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 03/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 18/11/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Oakshaman

    To Transcend Profane Time It is always a joy to read a great man's greatest book- and the author himself considered this to be the most significant of all his works. He would expand the central concepts elsewhere, but it is here that they first seem to burst forth. The way he rattles out references and examples with only a line or footnote you get the feeling that he can't be bothered with detailed analysis because he is too caught up with the central ideas and is being swept along with them. It To Transcend Profane Time It is always a joy to read a great man's greatest book- and the author himself considered this to be the most significant of all his works. He would expand the central concepts elsewhere, but it is here that they first seem to burst forth. The way he rattles out references and examples with only a line or footnote you get the feeling that he can't be bothered with detailed analysis because he is too caught up with the central ideas and is being swept along with them. It is an infectious enthusiasm. The central idea here is that for traditional man (man before our brief and temporary modern epoch) no act or object was real if it did not repeat or imitate an archetype. All meaning, all reality, flowed down from above. The goal was to achieve connection through the divine center with the archetype and therefore become one with the god or hero, indeed to abolish profane time itself and be transported into the mythical moment when the original model took place. This wasn't superstitious imitation; it was becoming one with true reality. Nothing in a traditional society had any reality if it had no connection to the Divine- from buildings, cities, clothing, utensils- or your own life. The goal of life was to find the center of your being in the manner of the great heroes. Through arduous seeking and wandering through the profane and illusory earthly existence one would finally find the center and breakthrough into a life that was real, enduring, and effective. The ultimate expression of this mode of life and behavior in the West was Platonic philosophy. In reading this book I could not but wonder if this principle is not at the deepest core of every human being, and the reason why everything "modern" inevitably seems to be so cheap, meaningless, and illusory. Of course I am no academic specialist but rather "the cultivated man" that the author refers to in his foreward... If I may add one more brief observation, it seems to me that an understanding of the principles of this book are key to an understanding of what 2012 really means. One of the greatest of the cosmic cycles is coming to a close. Mundane time will give way to sacred time. The actual instant of creation comes again- chaos gives way to cosmos. Regeneration is achieved by abolishing past time and reactualizing the cosmogony.

  3. 5 out of 5

    brian

    eliade's central premise is that to 'archaic' man an object or act only becomes 'real' insofar as it imitates or repeats an earlier archetype. more than that: man's very experience in the stream of time is altered, shifting from the profane to the sacred, only when he duplicates an earlier archetypical event. to put into a modern context -- a christian who took a sunday off, in replication of god taking the seventh day off, would be thrust into sacred time... eliade enters into a kind of philoso eliade's central premise is that to 'archaic' man an object or act only becomes 'real' insofar as it imitates or repeats an earlier archetype. more than that: man's very experience in the stream of time is altered, shifting from the profane to the sacred, only when he duplicates an earlier archetypical event. to put into a modern context -- a christian who took a sunday off, in replication of god taking the seventh day off, would be thrust into sacred time... eliade enters into a kind of philosophy of history in which he points out that 'archaic' man existed ahistorically: history, as we understand it, was non-existent; rather a series of events in the present that imitated earlier events/archetypes. the problem with 'modern' man, as eliade puts it, is that he cannot escape the "terror of history", the tremendous anxiety he feels before the recognition of history and the abandonment of a coherent structure in which all falls into place (does modern man desire a return to eternal return?). 'modern' man struggles to find a means to come to terms with the "suffering and annihilation of so many people for the simple reason that their geographical situation sets them in the pathway of history." modern religion has attempted to give meaning to suffering and historical randomness, as have many thinkers including Marx and, most notably, Hegel with his theory of the "historical moment" and "Universal Spirit". but how to accurately test this kind of stuff? in other words, how the hell can we really ever know if it was the 'tides of history' or 'the universal spirit' that put Hitler in place? we can't. eliade concludes with an imaginary dialogue between 'archaic' and 'modern' man in which they discuss who is the more free... modern man would surely chastise life as a series of repetitions as less free in that, very simply, man and/or men cannot create his own history. 'archaic' man, on the other hand, could answer that it is 'becoming more and more doubtful that modern man can make history': for either history makes itself or is made by an increasingly smaller number of people. and 'archaic' man could add that if he and his societies were trapped in history, how, then, did they evolve?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Many years ago i was sitting in front of an Archetype Personality, i mean a Sufi mystic or a Babaji. Baba ji told me many intricate details of my personality like a psychologist. I was young and impressionable so i believe every word literally. Baba ji advised me to write fiction, till then i never thought of writing anything. Still i don't know how to write a good story, i just fill pages. So i asked him what should i read to become a good writer. He smiled and said, you should read mythology o Many years ago i was sitting in front of an Archetype Personality, i mean a Sufi mystic or a Babaji. Baba ji told me many intricate details of my personality like a psychologist. I was young and impressionable so i believe every word literally. Baba ji advised me to write fiction, till then i never thought of writing anything. Still i don't know how to write a good story, i just fill pages. So i asked him what should i read to become a good writer. He smiled and said, you should read mythology or rather technical study of mythology. There was an air of mystery and Godliness surrounding Babaji, something strange, something incomprehensible. Years later i found most predictions and advices of Baba ji utterly wrong. It was a heartbreaking experience. I was tricked into believing that Baba ji possess some extrasensory, divine, incorruptible knowledge. He was just using common sense and figurative language. That air of mystery and Godliness around baba ji was just an illusion of my mind nothing more. After reading this mythology book i realized why i was fooled by the Archetype of a spiritual mentor. Or why humans always believed in myths against reality. Myths are tools designed by the primitive man to rise above our meaningless existence,to fight the random,inevitable and ruthless events of history. There was a tendency to think in terms of Archetype and categories. Every act and ritual would be meaningful only when sanctioned by Gods and divine authority or repetition of the celestial act. It was a struggle to become something above human. Any other act was meaningless of unnecessary. Perhaps Baba ji was right in recommending reading mythology for good fiction :)

  5. 4 out of 5

    John

    I read this book at nearly the perfect time, with a great percentage being undertaken around a Christmas/New Year holiday. The great thing about this book is that it provides a new lens to interpret our own lives while making 'ancient' cultural practices legible, and occasionally more familiar than the relations which we nominally live under. The primary question this book tackles is: how do we live with respect to history, the events which happen to us? This volume provides four choices: * to re I read this book at nearly the perfect time, with a great percentage being undertaken around a Christmas/New Year holiday. The great thing about this book is that it provides a new lens to interpret our own lives while making 'ancient' cultural practices legible, and occasionally more familiar than the relations which we nominally live under. The primary question this book tackles is: how do we live with respect to history, the events which happen to us? This volume provides four choices: * to relate all events to those that correspond to some archetype, such that actions recapitulate original activities of venerable figures. In ancient times it might be said that a person would grant particulars no significance, historically burying them in myth. Today, although the removal of specifics is less relentless, individuals engage in archetypical activities such as buying a home or going on vacation, administrative, accounting, and legal documents treat the particulars as though they are parameters in a set information architecture. * events correspond to the rhythm of some regular cycle for which the particulars do not matter. While ancient people had events of feasting and revelry followed by penance and reorganization, we today have a year of working and building of stocks ended with gift giving, feasting, charitable giving, shopping, and sales, followed by a clearing of stocks and an accounting of tax, the material particulars of each such season mostly economically indistinguishable despite whatever permanent ecological changes entailed. * historical events are indignities and travails suffered on the way to potential conflict and eventual permanent redemption. Without giving it too much thought, this view seems to remain a unique feature of religion. * historical events are irreversible changes to one's way of life. This fact was regarded as grand and terrible, appropriate for a book initially written in 1949 given the spectacle of economic volatility and depression, technological war, and atomic destruction. However, making my living in computers, and enjoying the fruit of communications technology and the current bounty of modern agricultural and manufacturing practices, it isn't in a state of terror or decline that I compare my life with my agriculturally-bound ancestors. This volume, given its age, did not have accessible to it a key theory about how individuals in our current period, and an ongoing basis, cope with history culturally. This theory is post-modernism. The basic argument of the kind of post-modern theory that is relevant is that we should read history critically, with an eye for absences and imbalances, that suggest issues made insignificant by the cultural standards at the time, but unfairly so by our modern standards. Doing so, we expect other readers to do so in the future, interpreting our historical moment according to standards that are not ours, offering a redemption for the forgotten in an interpretive context. This tradition gives us a new archetype, the historically redeemed ahistorical actor, that we create willfully and inevitably embody.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    "Among countless stones, one stone becomes sacred - and hence instantly becomes saturated with being . . . because it commemorates a mythical act . . ." --Eliade, p. 4 "Among countless stones, one stone becomes sacred - and hence instantly becomes saturated with being . . . because it commemorates a mythical act . . ." --Eliade, p. 4

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erick

    I found this book quite interesting, as I found the other couple of books of Eliade’s that I read interesting. I would basically categorize him as a philosopher of religion. His interpretations of religious traditions and mythology are often as compelling as Jung’s. In this book, he is discussing the role that cycles of time play in different ancient traditions, I find that topic quite fascinating. I’ve also noted how widespread the idea of cyclical history is in various religions. It is also di I found this book quite interesting, as I found the other couple of books of Eliade’s that I read interesting. I would basically categorize him as a philosopher of religion. His interpretations of religious traditions and mythology are often as compelling as Jung’s. In this book, he is discussing the role that cycles of time play in different ancient traditions, I find that topic quite fascinating. I’ve also noted how widespread the idea of cyclical history is in various religions. It is also discussed in Plato. Eliade is right that Christianity and Judaism view time differently than Eastern religions do; that doesn’t necessarily mean that the former refute the idea of cycles. What they do refute is the kind of endless history taught by Buddhism and Hinduism. In Hinduism, there is basically an eternal past and an eternal future. The cycles will go on forever without any change. In Judaism, and especially in Christianity, history has a beginning and an end. Indeed, Christianity sees history as taking part in redemption partially. Nothing like this is found in Eastern religions. They idea that there are cycles though, that often are recapitulative, is not at all denied. Biblical evidence seems to indicate support for such a reading. I’ve often wondered about cyclical cataclysms specifically. Plato talked about that, and the Bible may indicate such a thing as well. While I don’t follow astrology, I do wonder if astronomical signs may indicate cyclical cataclysms. I look forward to reading more of Eliade. He was quite perceptive and often intuited important themes in religion and mythology.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I found the framework idea of the Archaic thoroughly interesting, though the most valuable section of the book is in the conclusion, where Eliade discusses the consequences for societies that have abandoned the Archaic worldview.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Felix

    For pre-modern man, the world is filled with suffering. It is a harsh and unforgiving place, in which disease and unpleasant deaths of various kinds are common. This world is essentially caused by history. What I mean by that is that the passage of time causes the continued existence of the world. You could argue that it's the other way around, but for our purposes, it makes no difference. The salient point is that history, time and the world are inextricably connected. But what if history isn't For pre-modern man, the world is filled with suffering. It is a harsh and unforgiving place, in which disease and unpleasant deaths of various kinds are common. This world is essentially caused by history. What I mean by that is that the passage of time causes the continued existence of the world. You could argue that it's the other way around, but for our purposes, it makes no difference. The salient point is that history, time and the world are inextricably connected. But what if history isn't real? What if this world is just a product of another world that exists beyond linear time? Then all of the suffering that characterises our world isn't real. History would then just be an illusion. Without the passage of time, there would be no history, and with no history, there would be no world, and with no world, there would be no suffering. Essentially, argues Mircea Eliade, this is what many among pre-modern men believed. In this study, Eliade argues that pre-modern man made sense of the world either by envisaging a path to freedom from history, or by adopting a belief that history itself was illusory. Eliade also argues that this same thinking persists among Utopian thinkers of the modern day, particularly Marxists and Fascists (for example, see Marx's belief in 'the end of history' which will come about free association of labour has been established and the state done away with). Drawing on a broad variety different cultures, Eliade grounds this theory in Japanese beliefs, Indian beliefs, Judaeo-Christian beliefs, and secular beliefs (among many others). If you're in any way interested in religious studies, it's definitely worth a look, particularly if you're interested in the intepretation of mythology. It's a fairly easy read considering the weight of its subject matter.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Francis Fukuyama was a fool. More below. Eliade once again gets to the heart of the problem, the same question children have and adults somehow figure out to live with: how to deal with YOLO (You only live once). In the course of his exposition of the approach of “archaic man” he blows up a few major Christian myths (not directly, but just as the logical conclusion of what he finds, similar to Joseph Campbell), but ends up with the need for a belief in God somehow anyway. But back to Francis Fuk Francis Fukuyama was a fool. More below. Eliade once again gets to the heart of the problem, the same question children have and adults somehow figure out to live with: how to deal with YOLO (You only live once). In the course of his exposition of the approach of “archaic man” he blows up a few major Christian myths (not directly, but just as the logical conclusion of what he finds, similar to Joseph Campbell), but ends up with the need for a belief in God somehow anyway. But back to Francis Fukuyama. Eliade notes that a basic human need is to solve history, to escape from its inevitable irretrivability … and there you have Francis, with his triumphant "End of History" trying his bestest to help us feel like we are finally through with history, that humanity has (had, in the early 90s, anyway) finally reached the final plateau of the golden age, much like Virgil, trying to reassure the Romans that their wonderful empire would never end, after Emperor Augustus seemingly blows all prior statutes of limitations on the possible sell by date of the Empire, and that same moment, of course, is where Edward Gibbon started his master work, “The Decline and Fall of the ….” Doh!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chandler

    Eliade's thesis is easy enough to sum up -- events in an "archaic person's" life only acquired meaning inasmuch as they emulate an archetypal example performed in mythical time by gods, heroes, whatever. Rituals, naturally, are incredibly important -- given how closely they are modeled after mythical precedenkt, they transport the practitioner to this time before time and imbue them with whatever power was present then. This, of course, leads to a primitive struggle against history; a fixed, lin Eliade's thesis is easy enough to sum up -- events in an "archaic person's" life only acquired meaning inasmuch as they emulate an archetypal example performed in mythical time by gods, heroes, whatever. Rituals, naturally, are incredibly important -- given how closely they are modeled after mythical precedenkt, they transport the practitioner to this time before time and imbue them with whatever power was present then. This, of course, leads to a primitive struggle against history; a fixed, linear, unidirectional flow of time can only serve to disrupt the "eternal return" -- the cylical rejuvenation that mythical emulation grants. To back all this up, Eliade takes on with a truly break-neck pace on a survey through all sorts of ancient cultures -- Germanic, Japanese, Sumerian, Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Native American, Babylonian, Australian Aboriginal, &c. He really doesn't run out of examples at any point. My hesitancy, however, comes in that I still don't know how universal this idea can be. I have read in places (though honestly will probably not follow up on it too much) that this model of valorization simply doesn't apply in all cases (though, then again, what does?) making this more a study of specific myths in specific cultures rather than a description of a premodern psychology. My other two specific issues are with his treatment on the normalization of suffering and the monotheistic creation of history. I won't go too far into it (just read the book! it's not that long) but I think his claim of a near-universal "understanding" of suffering and its origin is a bit...bold. He spends like half a sentence making a concession regarding the Lokayata tradition but I would like to see a deeper analysis of the many, many more materialist schools of thought in the ancient world. He also makes a contrast between (many) "polytheistic" (honestly that's almost too narrow -- non-monotheistic is better) beliefs systems and monotheism, specifically ancient Judaism -- in that in the former, gods, heroes, &c. set their example in a mythical time while God actively intervenes in the present day. Thus, for the former, the profane world can only ever be valorized by that emulation of the distant past -- for a monotheist, however, a sense of theophany can be present in everyday life -- so, there's no fear of "history" separating you from the divine. I'm just not so sure I buy the division. Maybe Romans are a bit too "modern" for his analysis but they absolutely believed in their gods' intervention not just in their daily lives but in history on a grand scale, and even with the placement of the divine within profane time (Eliade makes this point regarding ancient Hebrews -- that Moses, at a definite time, at a definite place, received the Ten Commandments from God, making this a divine action in profane time -- but isn't the same true of Numa Pompilius and Egeria?). This gets somewhat cleared up with his introduction of how the concept of "faith" allows the "historical person" to deal with the terror of history. ...speaking OF...!! The final chapter of this book, "the Terror of History," is maybe the most thought-provoking and inspired Teofilo Ruiz's wonderful monograph of the same title (The Terror Of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization). I would actually suggest reading this book -- at least this chapter -- before delving into Ruiz's work just to know precisely what he's responding to. Regardless of these aforementioned issues, the book really is a stunning display of his research and will give a deep insight into archaic systems of myth and belief. I strongly recommend it to anyone with any interest in mythology or historical consciousness.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Initially sub-titled "The Philosophy of History," this staggering short read is a probe into humanities' use of time to unconsciously obliterate history, forcing us to mythologize regeneration (the "new' year) in opposition to careful structures for storing historical ideals, models and timelines. Eliade claims history's storage (in text, spoken word) is merely a facade for anyone schooled outside of the deep study of history. Instead, humans store myth and archetypes readily while remain puzzle Initially sub-titled "The Philosophy of History," this staggering short read is a probe into humanities' use of time to unconsciously obliterate history, forcing us to mythologize regeneration (the "new' year) in opposition to careful structures for storing historical ideals, models and timelines. Eliade claims history's storage (in text, spoken word) is merely a facade for anyone schooled outside of the deep study of history. Instead, humans store myth and archetypes readily while remain puzzled by facts, perceptions and movements of ideas across centuries. Time is both proof and the operant system to debase the past. Eliade claims actual figures are subsumed in archetypes, readily available to the living to employ as rhetorical answers to present conditions or problems. "Facts" become mutable by needs or desire. A must-read for historians. Examples across early civilization (Sumer-Akkad, Altraic, Babylonian, Greek, Roman) describe the inscribing of myth and the forgotten proofs of real events. Eliade offers real-time examples as well to support his hypothesis. Why do humans desire the myth? Because it supports the archetype more readily. Cosmology, with its designed centers (Rome, Jerusalem) initially AND eventually overtakes history by owning language's mythical structures and sources.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This book serves as a readable introduction to the work of Mircea Eliade, anthropologist of religion and one-time fascist, and to the concept of "time" as it differs between cultures. The primary distinction drawn by the author is between our modern sense of homogeneous (even isotropic, according to some physicists) time proceeding historically through cause and effect and the more common sense, historically and culturally speaking, that time is patterned and repetitive. This book gave me some sm This book serves as a readable introduction to the work of Mircea Eliade, anthropologist of religion and one-time fascist, and to the concept of "time" as it differs between cultures. The primary distinction drawn by the author is between our modern sense of homogeneous (even isotropic, according to some physicists) time proceeding historically through cause and effect and the more common sense, historically and culturally speaking, that time is patterned and repetitive. This book gave me some small insight into the causal assumptions behind the I Ching and the Bible. It did not much discuss the vagaries of our own lived times, but it certainly spoke to the fact that we don't really experience time as homogeneous. This in turn helped me appreciate the more traditional notions of time represented in the book and to reflect about how the physical sciences have alienated us from our lived experience. I read this book for a class at Union Theological Seminary--probably Neale's "Religious Symbol" course.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Varad

    A founding work of the anthropology and history of religion, this book is of considerable interest to historians for Eliade's account of the perception of time in what he describes variously as "archaic" and "pre-modern" cultures. "Primitive" man does not conceive of time as linear and history as a progressive succession of unique events. Instead, "the life of archaic man (a life reduced to the repetition of archetypal acts, that is, to categories and not to events, to the unceasing rehearsal of A founding work of the anthropology and history of religion, this book is of considerable interest to historians for Eliade's account of the perception of time in what he describes variously as "archaic" and "pre-modern" cultures. "Primitive" man does not conceive of time as linear and history as a progressive succession of unique events. Instead, "the life of archaic man (a life reduced to the repetition of archetypal acts, that is, to categories and not to events, to the unceasing rehearsal of the same primordial myths, although it takes place in time, does not bear the burden of time, does not record time's irreversibility; in other words, completely ignores what is especially characteristic and decisive in a consciousness of time." The members of primitive culture, therefore, having no sense of history, live "in a continual present" (86). There is no change, no movement, no history, no time. All happenings are recurrences of events recorded in myth; consequently they happened in a primordial, irretrievable past and are simultaneously still happening now. This view, obviously, is the antithesis of the modern view in which time flows irretrievably into an ever-changing future, and history is a continuum of discrete events which are unique and specific. As an account of primitive cultures, it has likely been superseded. Eliade's own strictures against modern man's historicity are not nearly as persuasive now as they were when written in the wake of hte horrors of the 1940s. But as a depiction of a rival understanding of the nature of time and history, it remains compelling. Published Friday, 15 June 2012

  15. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    In the myth of the Eternal Return, Eliade argues that man being afraid of the unknowns of the future refuses steadfastly to acknowledge the historical nature of time.; that is to say that it advances one-way never turning back. Primitive man found the solution to his dilemma by creating religious rites that constantly return man to his origins thus avoiding the perils of history or linear time. Modern religion (i.e. Christianity) by having Christ exist in history and by promising an imminent, his In the myth of the Eternal Return, Eliade argues that man being afraid of the unknowns of the future refuses steadfastly to acknowledge the historical nature of time.; that is to say that it advances one-way never turning back. Primitive man found the solution to his dilemma by creating religious rites that constantly return man to his origins thus avoiding the perils of history or linear time. Modern religion (i.e. Christianity) by having Christ exist in history and by promising an imminent, historical end to the world thus fails to deliver to man the comfort of the eternal return to the sources offered by primitive religion. Thus modern man is condemned to live in fear or anxiety. Eliade's theory if nothing else explains the diminishing attendance at many traditional Christian churches and the steadily growing obsession with professional sports which offer all the comforts of primitive religion. Being highly ritualized and highly predictable they perpetually bring man back to his sources. The outcome is identical every year. A championship team is declared at the end of the season that will emerge at the beginning of the next season without its victory laurels but as simply another team competing on equal terms with the others in the league. Because every championship is identical to the founding the championship, the current championship is always the most important. Thus man lives perpetually at the centre of an unchanging time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    In a nutshell, this book concerns the translation of Myth as a way of mans coping with the cruel world and the events therein .To primitive man the only acts that where valid where those that mirrored the actions of the Gods and he frequently wiped his slate clean with frenzied ceremonies,so as to avoid responsibility for his transgressive acts.Modern man developed a more inclusive view of himself where by his experience was/is part of a refinement of the soul and his historic sufferings are le In a nutshell, this book concerns the translation of Myth as a way of mans coping with the cruel world and the events therein .To primitive man the only acts that where valid where those that mirrored the actions of the Gods and he frequently wiped his slate clean with frenzied ceremonies,so as to avoid responsibility for his transgressive acts.Modern man developed a more inclusive view of himself where by his experience was/is part of a refinement of the soul and his historic sufferings are lessons on the road to his perfection. The development of these systems is determined by the examination of beliefs sourced from a wide range of ancient texts which when cross referenced form a generalised archaic ontology.The text contains an excessive amount of references and the main points/theories are repeated numerous times, but the length of the book and the information contained within make it quite tolerable for the non-academic to read.The final chapter is particularly illuminating as to the predicament of modern man in respect of his autonomy in a world where history is made by a minority.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Eliade describes and interprets various archaic notions of time and history based on his wide reading in mythology, anthropology and religion. In the latter part of the book, he comments on some modern conceptions of history, including the Christian and the Hegelian. In his Preface, Eliade writes "I consider it the most significant of my books; and when I am asked in what order they should be read, I always recommend beginning with Cosmos and History. The style is scholarly, dense with references Eliade describes and interprets various archaic notions of time and history based on his wide reading in mythology, anthropology and religion. In the latter part of the book, he comments on some modern conceptions of history, including the Christian and the Hegelian. In his Preface, Eliade writes "I consider it the most significant of my books; and when I am asked in what order they should be read, I always recommend beginning with Cosmos and History. The style is scholarly, dense with references to other texts both ancient and contemporary to Eliade, and yet accessible as Eliade writes clearly and substantiates his argument with many examples. Acquired 1987 The Word, Montreal, Quebec

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christiaan

    This book was recommended to me as an excellent and inspiring book concerning the philosophy of history, and while I was initially sceptic about the relevance of this book I quickly turned to liking it. This is, in my opinion, a must-read for everyone interested in alternative approaches to (historical) time. While the book may sometimes be a little too repetitive (the author uses lots of examples that do not necessarily contribute to the argument), there are also a lot of exciting passages and This book was recommended to me as an excellent and inspiring book concerning the philosophy of history, and while I was initially sceptic about the relevance of this book I quickly turned to liking it. This is, in my opinion, a must-read for everyone interested in alternative approaches to (historical) time. While the book may sometimes be a little too repetitive (the author uses lots of examples that do not necessarily contribute to the argument), there are also a lot of exciting passages and the final (more speculative) chapter contains a bold attack on the Western historical/historicist time that is written in an almost poetic style.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Senholt

    I had high hopes for this book before reading it, expecting to meet a more thorough examination of the idea of the 'eternal return' both in antiquity and going into modern times (with Nietzsche, the 're-enchantment' of the world etc.). Although many references were provided to numerous interesting religious ideas I lacked a more structured and comprehensible overview. Eliade seemed to get a bit lost in the many examples and digressions, leaving the main-point of his book a bit blurry. Hence the I had high hopes for this book before reading it, expecting to meet a more thorough examination of the idea of the 'eternal return' both in antiquity and going into modern times (with Nietzsche, the 're-enchantment' of the world etc.). Although many references were provided to numerous interesting religious ideas I lacked a more structured and comprehensible overview. Eliade seemed to get a bit lost in the many examples and digressions, leaving the main-point of his book a bit blurry. Hence the 3 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Florence Lyon

    This was one of those used book shop discoveries. I found it very interesting and vindicating in a way to confirm my thoughts and perceptions about cycles, myths, rituals and history. There were A LOT of big words that required frequent use of a dictionary. It made for deep, interesting reading on those bus commutes for my life in the repetitive mundane.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Buckley

    One of many of Eliade's books placing religious experience at the heart of religious activity. In this case, he is interested in showing how the experience of the divine constitutes the human world. One of many of Eliade's books placing religious experience at the heart of religious activity. In this case, he is interested in showing how the experience of the divine constitutes the human world.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joe Iacovino

    This book demands a slow, methodical reading. One should have a working knowledge of ancient mythology as well as contemporary mythology (aka, religion). Definitely worth reading.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed Hindash

    Very interesting information, the structure of the book made it more interesting. I like the vocab used.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    See original review here: http://marklindner.info/blog/2012/01/... This is the 5th book that I have read for My Two-Thirds Book Challenge. I stated at the end of my review of Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces that I hoped that this might be a good follow-up book to Campbell and I have to say that I think it was. It is certainly a different project than Campbell’s but it dovetails nicely. Contents: Introduction to the 2005 Edition by Jonathan Z. Smith Foreword Preface Chap. 1: Archetypes and Rep See original review here: http://marklindner.info/blog/2012/01/... This is the 5th book that I have read for My Two-Thirds Book Challenge. I stated at the end of my review of Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces that I hoped that this might be a good follow-up book to Campbell and I have to say that I think it was. It is certainly a different project than Campbell’s but it dovetails nicely. Contents: Introduction to the 2005 Edition by Jonathan Z. Smith Foreword Preface Chap. 1: Archetypes and Repetition § The Problem § Celestial Archetypes of Territories, Temples, and Cities § The Symbolism of the Center § Repetition of the Cosmogony § Divine Models of Rituals § Archetypes of Profane Activities § Myths and History Chap. 2: The Regeneration of Time § Year, New Year, Cosmogony § Periodicity of the Creation § Continuous Regeneration of Time Chap. 3: Misfortune and History § Normality of Suffering § History Regarded as Theophany § Cosmic Cycles and History § Destiny and History Ch. 4: The Terror of History § Survival of the Myth of Eternal Return § The Difficulties of Historicism § Freedom and History § Despair or Faith Bibliography Index This is a fairly complicated book but I found it in no way tiresome to read, as I often did Campbell. Is it more “true” than Campbell? I don’t think we can ever know that but most of it is certainly plausible. My biggest concern, as it is in many areas, is can we really get into the head of archaic man? So many things were so different then than how they are, or have been for a good while, for any of us that can read (or could have written) this book. The gist is a comparison of how primitive or archaic humans viewed history versus how historical man views history. For archaic human, Eliade claims, everything that mattered—that had meaning—was a repeat of an archetype of some previous event or action in ‘primordial’ time, and that these things were endlessly repeated as the world was, in fact, repeatedly re-created anew. “The essential theme of my investigation bears on the image of himself formed by the man of the archaic societies and on the place he assumes in the Cosmos. The chief difference between the man of the archaic and traditional societies and the man of the modern societies with their strong imprint of Judaeo-Christianity lies in the fact that the former feels himself indissolubly connected with the Cosmos, whereas the latter insists that he is connected only with History. …” xxvii-xxviii “The reader will remember that they [traditional civilizations] defended themselves against it [history], either by periodically abolishing it through repetition of the cosmogony and a periodic regeneration of time or by giving historical events a metahistorical meaning, a meaning that was not only consoling but was above all coherent, that is, capable of being fitted into a well-consolidated system in which the cosmos and man’s existence had each its raison d’être.” 142 The Hebrews, with their faith in Yahweh and their interpretation of events being a manifestation of His will, gave us ‘history.’ This view evolves over time, eventually leading to historicism. “Thus, for the first time, the [Hebrew] prophets placed a value on history, succeeded in transcending the traditional vision of the cycle (the conception that ensure all things will be repeated forever), and discovered a one-way time. This discovery was not to be immediately and fully accepted by the consciousness of the entire Jewish people, and the ancient conceptions were still long to survive.” 104 “It may, then, be said with truth that the Hebrews were the first to discover the meaning of history as the epiphany of God, and this conception, as we should expect, was taken up and amplified by Christianity. We may even ask ourselves if monotheism, based upon the direct and personal revelation of the divinity, does not necessarily entail the “salvation” of time, its value within the frame of history.” 104 “From the seventeenth century on, linearism and the progressivistic conception of history assert themselves more and more, inaugurating faith in an infinite progress, a faith already proclaimed by Leibniz, predominant in the century of “enlightenment,” and popularized in the nineteenth century by the triumph of the ideas of the evolutionists. We must wait until our own century to see the beginnings of certain new reactions against this historical linearism and a certain revival of interest in the theory of cycles; …” 145-46 The problem for modern man is one of existentialism, although that term is never used. It is, though, described in the text in places. “For our purpose, only one question concerns us: How can the “terror of history” be tolerated from the viewpoint of historicism? Justification of a historical event by the simple fact that it is a historical event, in other words, by the simple fact that it “happened that way,” will not go far toward freeing humanity from the terror that the event inspires.” 150 What is interesting, and Eliade points towards it even in 1949, is that there is a nostalgia, a return even, towards the archaic view of history. “Some pages earlier, we noted various recent orientations that tend to reconfer value upon the myth of cyclical periodicity, even the myth of eternal return. … …, it is worth noting that the work of two of the most significant writers of our day–T. S. Eliot and James Joyce–is saturated with nostalgia for the myth of eternal repetition and, in the last analysis, for the abolition of time.” 153 I think this kind of thinking is also reflected in the current interest in the Mayan calendar and 2012, in various forms of magical thinking like that involved in the Singularity, and other views and ideas floating around in early 21st-century consumer culture. I would really love to have Eliade’s take on this. Eliade’s analysis leads him to claim that Christianity is the answer modern man has arrived at to combat the “terror of history.” “But we are able to observe here and now that such a position [historicist] affords a shelter from the terror of history only insofar as it postulates the existence at least of the Universal Spirit. What consolation should we find in knowing that the sufferings of millions of men have made possible the revelation of a limitary situation of the human condition if, beyond that limitary situation, there should be only nothingness?” 159-60 “In this respect, Christianity incontestibly proves to be the religion of “fallen man”: and this to the extent which modern man is irremediably identified with history and progress, and to which history and progress are a fall, both implying the final abandonment of the paradise of archetypes and repetition.” 162 Personally, this leaves me unsatisfied. I am not sure that this is simply an objective (or as objective as possible) analysis or whether it is the answer Eliade wanted. Throughout most of the book, and even in the final clause above [the final sentence of the book], he seems to be more positively drawn towards the archaic human view than that of the modern, historical human. I wonder whether the existential crisis is not simply overstated here, as it is in many places. Or perhaps it was more of a crisis when this book was written; it was certainly more of a ‘movement’ then than now. Perhaps 21st-century humans, at least those of us living our lives in our blogs and on twitter and so on, are simply too busy to feel the ‘crisis’ as deeply. Something from the foreword which I fully agree would be a good thing: “Our chief intent has been to set forth certain governing lines of force in the speculative field of archaic societies. It seemed to us that a simple presentation of this field would not be without interest, especially for the philosopher accustomed to finding his problems and the mean of solving them in the texts of classic philosophy or in the spiritual history of the West. With us, it is an old conviction that Western philosophy is dangerously close to “provincializing” itself … by its obstinate refusal to recognize any “situations” except those of the man of the historical civilizations, in defiance of the experience of “primitive” man, of man as a member of the traditional societies. … Better yet: that the cardinal problems of metaphysics could be renewed through a knowledge of archaic ontology.” xxiv There are some interesting comments in a couple of places regarding the views of the elites (particularly the educated/intellectual elite) vs. the common person that I found intriguing, and that speak to related issues of today. I imagine that I will revisit this work in the future. I am not entirely sure I understood everything Eliade claims; in fact, I know I didn’t. Another read might not fully solve that issue but it would help immensely I imagine. And I do think some interesting work on current culture could be done with the framework he has outlined here. Recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Mircea Eliade’s “the Myth of the Eternal Return” is, on one level, an exposition of myths that explore and illustrate the concept of cyclical time. Eliade spans the globe recounting stories that outline his thesis, which is that man who lived in “traditional”, “archaic” societies lived in a world without history/non-linear time. Instead, he posits, they lived in a world that was created anew through ritual and the absorption of profane time into the sacred through the repetition of primordial ge Mircea Eliade’s “the Myth of the Eternal Return” is, on one level, an exposition of myths that explore and illustrate the concept of cyclical time. Eliade spans the globe recounting stories that outline his thesis, which is that man who lived in “traditional”, “archaic” societies lived in a world without history/non-linear time. Instead, he posits, they lived in a world that was created anew through ritual and the absorption of profane time into the sacred through the repetition of primordial gestures. “...[A]ll the important acts of life were revealed ab origine by gods or heroes. Men only repeat these exemplary and paradigmatic gestures ad infinitum.” (32). This in turn allowed “archaic” man live in a cyclic, instead of linear timeline, where purification of evils was possible through religious cleansing: “...[T]he man of the archaic civilizations can be proud of his mode of existence, which allows him to be free and to create. He is free to be no longer what he was, free to annul his own history though periodic abolition of time and collective regeneration. This freedom in respect to his own history--which, for the modern [man], is not only irreversible but constitutes human existence--cannot be claimed by the man who wills to be historical. We know that the archaic and traditional societies granted freedom each year to begin a new, “pure” existence, with virgin possibilities.” (57) On another level, beyond the academics, is the personal. I found it impossible to read “The Myth of Eternal Return” without reflecting on when it was written. Originally published in France in 1949, it was presumably written in the years directly following the end of World War II. Though the majority of the book is given over to the illustration of non-linear time, the ending is dedicated to the present. In the final chapter, entitled “The Terror of History”, Eliade explores what is left for humankind, spiritually, when we are confronted with an extraordinarily awful event, like, for example, World War II, without a mythology that would enable us to purify the world: “What consolation should we find in knowing that the suffering of millions of men have made possible the revelation of a limitary situations of the human condition of, beyond that limitary situation, there should be only nothingness?...If, for historical tragedies to be excused, it suffices that they should be regarded as the means by which man has been enabled to know the limit of human resistance, such an excuse can in no way make man less haunted by the terror of history.” (160). So much of “Myth...” is given over to recounting various rituals and stories of “archaic” society, that at times I became bogged down by the scholastic. As a non-academic reader, I felt that there was a deficit of philosophizing in favor of illustration of the same point from a wide variety of angles. This is an oxymoron on my part given that Eliade was a distinguished professor of religion, not a philosopher. Yet what good is the academic if it fails to propel forth new ideas and works? Eliade doesn’t necessarily fail in either of these, but they feel paltry compared with how much he mulches through in order to say what feels like the same thing repeatedly. Only in the last chapter does he cut loose of example giving and venture forth onto his own ideas. In the end, what I felt like I got most out of “Myth...” was how much we are all a prisoner of the time in which we live. For all that Elide writes of far flung cultures and times, ghosts of his time follow him throughout this particular work. I’m not sure if this is as present in Eliade’s other books, but in this case, academia feels akin to escapism at times, and rationalization of the horror of World War II at others. His conclusion: “...[T]he man who has left the horizon of archetypes and repetition can no longer defend himself against [the] terror [of history] except through the idea of God. In fact, it is only by presupposing the existence of God that he conquers, on the one hand, freedom, and, on the other hand, the certainty that historical tragedies have a transhistorical meaning, even if that meaning is not always visible for humanity in its present condition. Any other situation of modern man leads, in the end, to despair. It is a despair provoked not by his own human existentiality, but by his presence in a historical universe in which almost the whole of mankind lives prey to a continual terror (Even if not always conscious of it). In this respects, Christianity incontestably proves to be the religion of “fallen man”: and this to the extent to which modern man is irremediably identified with history and progress, and to which history and progress are a fall, both implying the final abandonment of the paradise of archetypes and repetition.” (162)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    Dated and showing some Eurocentric bias of the 20th century, but still a fascinating exploration of the whole evolving world of myth and meaning creation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    Mirceau Eliade gives a fine presentation on non-biblical views of history (though he wouldn’t necessarily call it that). Ultimately, Eliade’s analysis shows why Judeo-Christian “creational” views of reality can never be harmonized with polytheistic or classical Greek (but I repeat myself) views of ontology. At the heart of these pagan systems is “the abolition of concrete time” (Eliade 85). In this text Eliade is going to use Jungian language about archetypes, yet I don’t think he really means wh Mirceau Eliade gives a fine presentation on non-biblical views of history (though he wouldn’t necessarily call it that). Ultimately, Eliade’s analysis shows why Judeo-Christian “creational” views of reality can never be harmonized with polytheistic or classical Greek (but I repeat myself) views of ontology. At the heart of these pagan systems is “the abolition of concrete time” (Eliade 85). In this text Eliade is going to use Jungian language about archetypes, yet I don’t think he really means what Jung means. These archetypes are patterns in which man is to live his life. Man’s philosophy cannot be divorced from his liturgical acts (no matter how degenerate). As a Christian, we can say that these archetypes are similar to the stoichea that St Paul warned against. We are not controlled by lunar cycles and season. That is the Old Creation. We live in the New Creation. Archetypes and Repetition Original ontology: revealed by a conscious repetition of paradigmatic gestures (Eliade 5). Reality is a function of the imitation of a celestial archetype. Participation in the symbolism of the Center. Rituals materialize a meaning. Celestial archetypes of territories, temples, and cities. Similar to the Platonic tradition, each thing has a “double” aspect (6). This means that temples and cities have divine prototypes (1 Chronicles 28:19; Ex. 25:9, 40). Menok: a celestial but concrete state (Eliade 7 n6). The Symbolism of the Center This usually involves: The sacred mountain where heaven and earth meet--the center of the world (12). Every temple or palace is an extension of the sacred mountain and becomes a center. The center is an “axis of the world” and is the meeting place between heaven and hell. Liturgy: Repetition of the Creation moment. Serpent symbolizes chaos (19). Center: attaining center is equivalent from moving from illusion to reality. Marriage: union of heaven and earth (24). Restoration of integral wholeness. Dance: always imitates an archetypal gesture (28). Problem of time: any repetition of an archetypal gesture suspends profane time and moves man into mythical time (36). Regeneration of Time The New Year feasts point back to a repetition of a cosmogenic act (52). Deluge: creation reverts to chaos; fusion of all forms (59). This is actually what an orgy is, which is precisely the liturgical function of these philosophies. Eliade notes the “symmetry between the dissolution of the ‘form’ (here the seed) in the soil and that of social forms in the orgiastic chaos (69). In more monistic systems like Hinduism, there is the desire for the “primordial unity [that] existed before the Creation” (78). As in Gnosticism, creation = fall. As in Greek philosophy, distinction = dialectically violent negation. Eliade then connects these to various strands of Greek philosophy (Heraclitus Fragment 26B; Zeno, etc). Put simply, the Greeks wanted an ontology “uncontaminated by time and becoming (89). Eliade has an excellent section on Hindu cycles. This is more relevant today as some in the Alt Right are seeking Dugin’s philosophy of the Kali Yuga. Which is ironic: many of the so-called “white nationalists” are embracing Hindu metaphysics (note: Dugin is not a white nationalist). This is a “metaphysical depreciation of history, which….provokes an erosion of all forms by exhausting their ontologic substance” (115). That is a one sentence summary of the entire book. Criticisms In the midst of a fine survey of Canaanite ontology, Eliade collapses Yahwism into it, noting “marriage, sexual license….were so many moments of an extensive ceremonial system” (61). This is the complete opposite of Yahwism. It is a good description of Plato’s communal wives, but it is the antithesis of Hebrew ethics.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amal Amra-Tutuianu

    Long ago, I was trying to find a book that deals with history and religion from a philosophical aspect. This book, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, was just the perfect suggestion. The book is quite interesting and I learnt too many new things upon reading it. Besides, it made me a little bit more curious about new stuff of which I heard for the first time. The first two chapters were somehow rigid; I believe because they present the basics (Yes, basics in philosophy are tough :)) Long ago, I was trying to find a book that deals with history and religion from a philosophical aspect. This book, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, was just the perfect suggestion. The book is quite interesting and I learnt too many new things upon reading it. Besides, it made me a little bit more curious about new stuff of which I heard for the first time. The first two chapters were somehow rigid; I believe because they present the basics (Yes, basics in philosophy are tough :)) and are preparing for the other coming two chapters. The language is so very sophisticated for my current self (with the hope this will change in the future!) The topics discussed in the third and last chapter were quite interesting and contemporary as well. I liked how Eliade presents the topic of suffering and tolerance and the comparison he strikes between the different topics he introduces. When reading the section about tolerance and justification of suffering, I immediately recalled what Hanna Arendt has to say about forgiveness. As long as the process of an action is not fully controllable by us, the doer and sufferer, we may forgive as a way of showing we do have some sort of control over the process of an action. The same applies here, the individual has almost no control over the historical act, and only by trying to accept and justify this destiny (indicating he has forgiven the one in control) that he would be somehow a participant in the historical act. I am very grateful for being introduced to such a book. It was not simple to stick with this book, but very pleased I managed to. I will be looking forward to reading his second book: The Sacred and The Profane. One last thing, I have too much pride because the well-known Mircea Eliade is a Romanian philosopher :)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Fairweather

    The most striking points this book makes are made in this order—(1) that the distinct aspect of archaic man is his seeking to suppress the terror of history through the repetition of rituals which allow the performer(s) to inhabit an archetypal and timeless space modeled off of the act of creation itself. And that (2) Christianity, with its aspect of faith and messianism, is the only way of becoming historical, yet simultaneously seeking to overcome time *through the vehicle of time itself.* Some The most striking points this book makes are made in this order—(1) that the distinct aspect of archaic man is his seeking to suppress the terror of history through the repetition of rituals which allow the performer(s) to inhabit an archetypal and timeless space modeled off of the act of creation itself. And that (2) Christianity, with its aspect of faith and messianism, is the only way of becoming historical, yet simultaneously seeking to overcome time *through the vehicle of time itself.* Some terms must be defined to fully appreciate these two points at the heart of this book. What *is* history, after all? Eliade defines it as the irreversibility of the event—a personal, unarchetypical recollection of events which are unforeseeable and possess an autonomous value within themselves alone. Events, I suppose, could be understood as “spontaneous” in this light. Historical man, then, is he who voluntarily and consciously creates history. Now, archaic man fled from this understanding of the world as a series of successive, unique events. The archaic mode is, instead, achieved by ritual customs whose intellectual space exists within an eternal present. This requires the death of the individual and the death of humanity as necessary, so that it may be reborn again at regular intervals and the archetype reinforced. This is what achieves eternal return, an ontology uncontaminated by time or becoming—time, which renders not existence, but appearance possible. That time is that mark of the world of appearances rather than reality changes with Abrahamic monotheism. In monotheism, revelation takes place within time—it is the future which regenerates time. Prophets reveal God as a personality who constantly intervenes in history. This is, perhaps, why the Abrahamic God disdains sacrifice, the attempt to abolish time in imitation of the primordial act. Faith, then, becomes the new religious dimension—in the story of Abraham and Isaac, Eliade says, “God reveals himself as personal, as a ‘totally distinct’ existence that ordains, bestows, demands, without any rational (i.e., general foreseeable) justification, and for which all is possible. This new religious dimension renders ‘faith’ possible in the Judaeo-Christian sense.” Yet its messaianic character remains anti-historical, in that the abolishment of history remains the goal of the monotheistic process. We cannot go back to the archaic worldview. Thus, Christianity, with its aspect of faith, is, then, the only way out of despair—the only religion which “fallen man” may adopt. Faith is further defined by Eliade as the emancipation of natural law and the highest freedom that man can imagine—Eliade defines this as the freedom to intervene in the ontological constitution of the universe. Faith is, then, a creative freedom. Toward the conclusion of the book, Eliade insists, “[...] it is only by presupposing the existence of God that he conquers, on the one hand, freedom and, on the other hand, the certainty that historical tragedies have a transhistorical meaning, even if that meaning is not always visible for humanity in its present condition. Any other situation of modern man leads, in the end, to despair.” There’s a great deal of truth to this. To be perfectly honest I’d not expected to enjoy this book so much, for the first half, with its copious references to ancient and/or primitive cultural practices, had the “feel” of an Evola book… who Eliade had kind words for, it should be said. But Eliade’s honesty about the inability to return to the archaic viewpoint is refreshing, as is his understanding of monotheism. Though monotheism’s conception of truth is revealed in time, it still, nevertheless, seeks to abolish time just as the archaic viewpoint before it. Especially considering its brevity, gives you plenty to mull over. As for me, most of my thoughts go toward relating Eliade’s ideas with Aeneas as “historical man” since I am in the middle of studying the ‘Aeneid,’ whose author situates archaic themes within history. But my wandering thoughts on that subject are probably not especially important for this little entry…

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mephistopheles

    Brilliant and thought-provoking. I encourage everyone to read.

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