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A History of Religious Ideas 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries

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Les trois tomes de l' "Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses" - "De l'âge de la pierre aux mystères d'Eleusis" (1975), "De Gautama Bouddha au triomphe du christianisme" (1978) et "De Mahomet à l'âge des Réformes" (1983) - représentent une œuvre irremplaçable. L'érudition et la puissance intellectuelle synthétique de Mircea Eliade apportent au lecteur une vision d Les trois tomes de l' "Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses" - "De l'âge de la pierre aux mystères d'Eleusis" (1975), "De Gautama Bouddha au triomphe du christianisme" (1978) et "De Mahomet à l'âge des Réformes" (1983) - représentent une œuvre irremplaçable. L'érudition et la puissance intellectuelle synthétique de Mircea Eliade apportent au lecteur une vision des religions qui fait apparaître à la fois "l'unité fondamentale des phénomènes religieux et l'inépuisable nouveauté de leurs expressions" selon sa formule. Le tome I nous conduit des premiers comportements magico-religieux des hommes préhistoriques à l'épanouissement du culte de Dionysos, à travers les religions mésopotamiennes et de l'Egypte ancienne, la religion d'Israël, la religion des Indos-Européens, les religions de l'Inde avant Bouddha, la religion grecque et la religion iranienne.


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Les trois tomes de l' "Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses" - "De l'âge de la pierre aux mystères d'Eleusis" (1975), "De Gautama Bouddha au triomphe du christianisme" (1978) et "De Mahomet à l'âge des Réformes" (1983) - représentent une œuvre irremplaçable. L'érudition et la puissance intellectuelle synthétique de Mircea Eliade apportent au lecteur une vision d Les trois tomes de l' "Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses" - "De l'âge de la pierre aux mystères d'Eleusis" (1975), "De Gautama Bouddha au triomphe du christianisme" (1978) et "De Mahomet à l'âge des Réformes" (1983) - représentent une œuvre irremplaçable. L'érudition et la puissance intellectuelle synthétique de Mircea Eliade apportent au lecteur une vision des religions qui fait apparaître à la fois "l'unité fondamentale des phénomènes religieux et l'inépuisable nouveauté de leurs expressions" selon sa formule. Le tome I nous conduit des premiers comportements magico-religieux des hommes préhistoriques à l'épanouissement du culte de Dionysos, à travers les religions mésopotamiennes et de l'Egypte ancienne, la religion d'Israël, la religion des Indos-Européens, les religions de l'Inde avant Bouddha, la religion grecque et la religion iranienne.

30 review for A History of Religious Ideas 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jan van Leent

    In volume I of “A History of Religious Ideas”, Mircea Eliade opens on page 5 with explanation of a ritual of “mystical solidarity” from the Stone Age, that I have not read anywhere else. In this ritual hunter-gatherers see the blood of the prey as similar in every respect to their blood; and by killing the prey they identify themselves with their prey for two reasons. They seek redemption for the sin of killing their prey, and they identify with their prey to maintain their unique system of surv In volume I of “A History of Religious Ideas”, Mircea Eliade opens on page 5 with explanation of a ritual of “mystical solidarity” from the Stone Age, that I have not read anywhere else. In this ritual hunter-gatherers see the blood of the prey as similar in every respect to their blood; and by killing the prey they identify themselves with their prey for two reasons. They seek redemption for the sin of killing their prey, and they identify with their prey to maintain their unique system of survival for both hunter and prey. This ritual – altered, revalorised and camouflaged – is still within our modern society. This paragraph shed a different light on the many kinds of charity that captains of industry perform in the later part of their life. This first volume continues with an abundance of religious developments of mankind in the Indo-European society until the Dionysiac festivals. A must read to get an overview of the religious ideas with one remark: ideas unknown to me are covered in depth, but religious ideas that I have studied before, are described more superficial; but this remark says more about me as a reader than about the content of the book. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barnaby Thieme

    Eliade's fabulous three-volume history of religions is essential reading for any serious scholar of comparative religions. His range of knowledge and research is enormous. This collection has been my frequent companion for lo these many years. Eliade's fabulous three-volume history of religions is essential reading for any serious scholar of comparative religions. His range of knowledge and research is enormous. This collection has been my frequent companion for lo these many years.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Eliade is THE seminal thinker of the 20th century on comparative religions. This is his master reference. Anyone serious about comparative religions should not be without this three volume work.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    This is my the beginning of my attempt to read Jordan Peterson’s list of 15 books he considers central to his intellectual development, as posted on his website. I recently discovered Jordan Peterson through a recommended Youtube video after watching Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk on the moral divide between liberals and conservatives. I had heard of Jordan Peterson before in the form of a book recommendation for Maps of Meaning, but at the time, my naive religiosity made me think reading such a book This is my the beginning of my attempt to read Jordan Peterson’s list of 15 books he considers central to his intellectual development, as posted on his website. I recently discovered Jordan Peterson through a recommended Youtube video after watching Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk on the moral divide between liberals and conservatives. I had heard of Jordan Peterson before in the form of a book recommendation for Maps of Meaning, but at the time, my naive religiosity made me think reading such a book would likely turn me into an atheist. My Mormonism was a closed system that didn’t allow for any outside inputs. I like to think my faith is a little more stable now, and that I can deal with real intellectual challenges. In fact, Peterson puts a trigger warning when he introduces these twelve books. He states: These are the most terrifying books I have encountered. In the lecture I included with this post, I discuss the suffering inextricably associated with life, attributing some of it to tragedy, the consequence of human limitation, and the remainder to evil, the conscious and malevolent attempt to worsen Being. I suggest that human beings can tolerate tragedy– even triumph over it, if they are guided by truth– but that evil is far more insidious, subtle and damaging force. Peterson takes a very conservative view of human nature: in one of the first videos I watched by him, he comments how it’s a miracle that all these students were assembled in this classroom and weren’t actively tearing each other from limb to limb. Humans should be mostly defined by their limitations, and not by “limitless potential.” Pulling up one of my favorite books here in Jerry Z. Muller’s Conservatism: Anthology of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the Present: Conservatives typically contend that human moral imperfection leads men to act badly when they act upon uncontrolled impulses, and that they require the restraints and constraints imposed by institutions as a limit upon subjective impulse. Conservatives thus are skeptical of attempts at “liberation”: they maintain that liberals over-value freedom and autonomy, and that liberals fail to consider the social conditions that make autonomous individuals possible and freedom desirable. I chose to read this book first, as I am very much interested in religious ideas and religious history. I also thought that the three follows sounded like a challenge, and I was in the mood for one. Eliade’s History of Religious Ideas is an expansive work, if the three volumes didn’t tip you off.The first volume doesn’t even get you to 0 AD. The first 50 pages or so haven’t even gotten to historical religion, dealing with prehistoric evidence of religion and ritual. When we enter history, we read about ancient Egypt, Canaan, India, Greece, Iran, and Israel. The book is very dense reading, introducing religious vocabulary at an extraordinary rate. It can be very difficult to absorb it all (and sometimes to stay awake). I particularly struggled with the chapters on the Vedic gods and India, because it was most foreign to me. On the other side of the coin, the chapters on the Greek religion and Israel were the easiest, as I already some a working knowledge. Skepticism when historic record is sparse When it comes to reconstructing the religion of prehistoric man, I lean towards skepticism. Eliade sometimes ran on with a lot of “it is probable”s and sometimes it sounded a little hand-wavey. In fact, Eliade seems to lean exactly in the opposite direction. He states: Certain scholars have preferred to say nothing about the ideas and beliefs of Paleanthropians, instead of reconstructing them by the help of comparisons with the hunting civilizations. This radical methodological position is not without its dangers. To leave an immense part of the history of the human mind a blank runs the risk of encouraging the idea that during all those millennia the activity of the mind was confined to the preservation and transmission of technology. Such an opinion is not only erroneous, it is fatal to a knowledge of man. I am fine with developing theories, as long as they are recognized as theories. I feel that for the most part, Eliade doesn’t overstate the evidence, often acknowledging a lack of consensus in the field, and offering alternate theories. As an aside, I lean more towards Chesterton’s approach towards prehistoric man as outlined in his book Everlasting Man. It isn’t as scholarly as Eliade’s approach persay, but I think it keeps things in perspective: Science is weak about these prehistoric things in a way that has hardly been noticed. The science whose modern marvels we all admire succeeds by incessantly adding to its data. In all practical inventions, in most natural discoveries, it can always increase evidence by experiment. But it cannot experiment in making men; or even in watching to see what the first men make. An inventor can advance step by step in the construction of an aeroplane, even if he is only experimenting with sticks and scraps of metal in his own back-yard. But he cannot watch the Missing Link evolving in his own back-yard. If he has made a mistake in his calculations, the aeroplane will correct it by crashing to the ground. But if he has made a mistake about the arboreal habitat of his ancestor, he cannot see his arboreal ancestor falling off the tree. He cannot keep a cave-man like a cat in the back-yard and watch him to see whether he does really practice cannibalism or carry off his mate on the principles of marriage by capture. He cannot keep a tribe of primitive men like a pack of hounds and notice how far they are influenced by the herd instinct. If he sees a particular bird behave in a particular way, he can get other birds and see if they behave in that way; but if he finds a skull, or the scrap of a skull, in the hollow of a hill, he cannot multiply it into a vision of the valley of dry bones. In dealing with a past that has almost entirely perished, he can only go by evidence and not by experiment. And there is hardly enough evidence to be even evidential. Thus while most science moves in a sort of curve, being constantly corrected by new evidence, this science flies off into space in a straight line uncorrected by anything. But the habit of forming conclusions, as they can really be formed in more fruitful fields, is so fixed in the scientific mind that it cannot resist talking like this. It talks about the idea suggested by one scrap of bone as if it were something like the aeroplane which is constructed at last out of whole scrapheaps of scraps of metal. The trouble with the professor of the prehistoric is that he cannot scrap his scrap. The marvellous and triumphant aeroplane is made out of a hundred mistakes. The student of origins can only make one mistake and stick to it. Comparative religion and religious syncretism Perhaps what makes this a “dangerous” book to Peterson to the point where he would warn his readers, is that it challenges traditionally held beliefs. One such idea is the idea of religious syncretism, that religious truth wasn’t revealed in one glorious moment to man, and that it accrued over time, often from different traditions. The idea of the resurrection wasn’t built in to Judaism or Christianity, but originated from the Zoroastrians. Israelites weren’t always monotheists. If you think in this way, it could potentially crush your paradigm of religion. As a Mormon, I will admit to such fears– hence my apprehension at initially reading Peterson’s book. But I also feel that Mormonism has some built-in wiggle room that other traditions may lack. For instance, Mormonism’s concepts of cycles of dispensations and apostasies. Mormons quite literally believe that religion was indeed revealed to man in one glorious moment, starting with Adam. Adam was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, was baptized, thousands of years before Christ was born. Any historical shadows or resemblances to Christianity are a result of this fact. To quote one of our sacred texts, the book of Abraham, Pharaoh is one example of a separate religious tradition preserving the form of ur-Christianity: Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations in the days of the first patriarchal reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to his priesthood. Hugh Nibley, the great Mormon scholar of comparative religion, used these resemblances to great effect, and some would say he sometimes went over the top. I read his book Temple and Cosmos, where he pretty much reconstructs the Latter-Day Saint temple ceremony through the use of ancient texts from the Near East. Hugh Nibley said: Latter-day Saints believe that their temple ordinances are as old as the human race and represent a primordial revealed religion that has passed through alternate phases of apostasy and restoration which have left the world littered with the scattered fragments of the original structure, some more and some less recognizable, but all badly damaged and out of proper context… I remember when I was serving as a missionary in Germany when we were teaching a Muslim student, my companion made the argument that Muhammed was likely a true prophet, but he either fell or later his followers succumbed to apostasy (and if you go back far enough on lds.org, you can find Hugh Nibley comparing Mormonism to Islam right in the Church’s publication, the Ensign!) Perhaps less known to mainstream Mormons is the idea that Joseph Smith himself was a religious syncretizer. We like to think he got all his revelataions directly from God, but that wasn’t exactly what he himself claimed. He was eclectic. I particularly like this passage from Terryl Givens’ Wrestling with the Angel: Joseph Smith said late in his ministry, “If the Presbyterians have any truth, embrace that. If the Baptists and Methodists have truth, embrace that too. Get all the good in the world if you want to come out a pure Mormon.” Elsewhere, he called it “the first and fundamental principle of our holy religion” to be free “to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another.” Smith was always pushing in the direction of expansive addition rather than contracting reduction: “we don’t ask any people to throw away any good they have got we only ask them to Come & get more.” This catalog of his liberal statements on religious truth suggests that Smith’s prophetic practice was neither the unstudied and erratic plagiarism of his caricaturists nor always the epiphany-driven receipt of “vertical revelation” imputed to him by his devoted followers. Many modern Mormons imagine a relatively linear process of doctrinal development in the church’s early years, with Smith revealing each new doctrine to the church in orderly sequence. Smith, however, viewed himself as both revelator and inspired synthesist, pulling truths not only from heaven but also from his culture, his background, and his contemporaries, as we shall see. It’s not that Smith’s attempt to reconstitute a perfect theology happened to be impaired by his humanity; his vision of prophets as flawed and fallible vessels, and of restoration as an untidy and imperfect process involving many sources, varying degrees of inspiration, and stops and starts, was itself a theological proposition with him. God’s authorship of the work of restoration was only evident if the vehicle of that restoration was conspicuously flawed like himself. In a revelation as much about striking self-disclosure as God-disclosure, he wrote of the Lord saying to him that “unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.” 87 On another occasion he insisted, “A Prophet is not always a Prophet, only when he is acting as such.” Smith believed himself to be an oracle of God, subject to moments of heavenly encounter and the pure flow of inspiration. But he also was insatiably eclectic in his borrowings and adaptations, with an adventuresome mind, prone to speculation and fully comfortable with the trial and error of intellectual effort. I left reading the book feeling much more informed on the history of many other religious traditions, and wanting to read even more. I want to find a more in-depth book on Zoroastrianism, especially from the perspective of a believer. I may put off reading the second volume for a while, because it is such dense stuff! But I look forward to hearing Eliad’s thoughts on Christianity proper.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Lønn Hammer

    I actually started and got halfway through this tome last year, but, as it is a heavy read, I put it on hold til yesterday. Picking it up again now, I immediately recognized just how good it is, and, with a burst of inspiration, plowed through the rest in a couple of sittings. Eliade manages to simultaneously write with breadth and meticulous detail, two qualities that takes a non fiction book and makes it into a pageturner. That, in combination with his enormous vocabulary and his continous coi I actually started and got halfway through this tome last year, but, as it is a heavy read, I put it on hold til yesterday. Picking it up again now, I immediately recognized just how good it is, and, with a burst of inspiration, plowed through the rest in a couple of sittings. Eliade manages to simultaneously write with breadth and meticulous detail, two qualities that takes a non fiction book and makes it into a pageturner. That, in combination with his enormous vocabulary and his continous coinage of new terminology, turns hard work into pleasure for the reader. However, I would advice against attempting this if one lacks a decent amount of contextual knowledge already, as it is pretty dense still. Scholars have critiqued his approach on empirical grounds, which simply is a ridiculous objection to this paradigmatic work. Eliade manages to integrate across a very broad range of ideas, while doing the scholarly virtuous thing and providing sources for all his claims. For those interested in the development and evolution of religious thought and behaviour, this is essential reading. One feels, quite literally, an expansion of the mind while reading, as you start to recognize just how brilliant of an angle Eliade chose. In addition to being a work of history, it does a better job on being philosophy of religion than the philosophy department does. I will probably need to rest and regain some energy before starting on the 2nd volume tho, but I do look forward to it. Mircea Eliade is a truly integral thinker and the translation is wonderfully done.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jake Maguire

    Make sure you have a really good dictionary on hand, but other than that this book is a really wonderful resource.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patil Balian

    first book i read of Eliade, looking forward to read the rest. As a point of departure, Mircea considers that cosmogonies, belief systems are reflections of existential circumstances. e.g the agricultural revolution was paralleled by a spiritual revolution where ideas of death and rebirth inspired by the cycles of nature became prominent. the book mostly studies the religions of the bronze age empires. the book makes evident that these religions in different time periods shared a common blueprint first book i read of Eliade, looking forward to read the rest. As a point of departure, Mircea considers that cosmogonies, belief systems are reflections of existential circumstances. e.g the agricultural revolution was paralleled by a spiritual revolution where ideas of death and rebirth inspired by the cycles of nature became prominent. the book mostly studies the religions of the bronze age empires. the book makes evident that these religions in different time periods shared a common blueprint in their creation stories, the nature of the gods and their ordeals. they underwent a lot of metamorphosis from one culture to the other but the core remained the same. the main reason why i wanted to read the book was to see his insights about the neolithic belief systems and rituals. i wished he were still alive so he could update it under the light of current archeological finds such as Gobekli Tepe.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    This is an unit of the spiritual history of the whole humanity...Actualy, it is a complex course of History of Religions... Compulsory!

  9. 4 out of 5

    د. المقدم

    What an amazing journey that was..

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zvonimir

    The jaw dropping immensity of it all.

  11. 4 out of 5

    M.

    Despite his reductionism -such as "Adam was a hermaphrodite"-, Mircea Eliade can be very systematic and this is helpful when studying religious systems one is not familiar with, such as that of Hinduism or Zoroastrianism. I've heard this kind of stuff helps agnostics to realize there is an inner logic to religion, but to stay just here, for me, is kind of stepping on a thresold and never entering. It could be a good beginning so as long as it doesn't lead to a rationalization such as "there are Despite his reductionism -such as "Adam was a hermaphrodite"-, Mircea Eliade can be very systematic and this is helpful when studying religious systems one is not familiar with, such as that of Hinduism or Zoroastrianism. I've heard this kind of stuff helps agnostics to realize there is an inner logic to religion, but to stay just here, for me, is kind of stepping on a thresold and never entering. It could be a good beginning so as long as it doesn't lead to a rationalization such as "there are similar myths and ideas everywhere, I just worship one god less than you" that are commonly heard in the mouths of New Atheists.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Noah S.

    So, Eliade presents just about as encyclopedic a knowledge as any man who ever lived of the history of religion. His attitudes are somewhat dated, he insists on seeing ethnic groups as single entities which can have a collective “genius” somehow defined by their whole society. He is never overtly offensive, but once one begins lumping together ethnic groups based on perceived shared characteristics, one always comes within easy spitting distance of bigotry. That aside, he is amazingly adept at s So, Eliade presents just about as encyclopedic a knowledge as any man who ever lived of the history of religion. His attitudes are somewhat dated, he insists on seeing ethnic groups as single entities which can have a collective “genius” somehow defined by their whole society. He is never overtly offensive, but once one begins lumping together ethnic groups based on perceived shared characteristics, one always comes within easy spitting distance of bigotry. That aside, he is amazingly adept at seeing connections between the roles of apparently distinct mythological entities from widely separated times and places. He never so much as says that there are certain ideas and concepts that we hold in common by nature of our common humanity, but his ability to notice the similar functions and patterns of similar concepts strongly implies that we, as humans, conceive of gods, heroes and myths that confirm to a somewhat consistent conceptualization of the universe. The only disappointment is the lack of discussion of religions in the Americas, Australia, China, Japan, Polynesia, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. I am not certain if some or all of these regions are touched upon in the other volumes. It seems unlikely that Eliade could discuss that quantity of information in the same detail as he discusses the religions he did survey in this book. I do not even know if he had the same level of expertise in those religions as he did in the web of religions from Europe, the Western Asia, Siberia, the Indian Sub-Continent and the Iranian Plateau. I strongly suspect that the religions he chose were chosen because of how strongly intertwined the religions and cultures of Western Eurasia and Northern Africa became from the ancient era until the early modern period. Still, it would be interesting to see what Eliade made of Aztec religion, Shintoism or some of the other things neglected in this work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christian Irigaray

    These compilations on the History of Religions around the world are great and very easy to read. They are a must for anyone interested in the subject of comparative religion and mythology and the discovery of the psychological archetypes that are universally found around the world and in all ages. A History of Religious Ideas is written in a very friendly manner and exposes the universal principles of religion in the history of humanity. We will add as a notice that we encountered the 4th volume These compilations on the History of Religions around the world are great and very easy to read. They are a must for anyone interested in the subject of comparative religion and mythology and the discovery of the psychological archetypes that are universally found around the world and in all ages. A History of Religious Ideas is written in a very friendly manner and exposes the universal principles of religion in the history of humanity. We will add as a notice that we encountered the 4th volume to this set. The 3rd Volume of this series ends with section 318 which deals with Tibetan Religions. The 4th volume which is originally Geschite der religiosen Ideen, III/2 (and that we have the Spanish translation) goes from Chapter XL to L and continues the 3 Vol. series with the section number of 319. The 4th part of this series deals with religion in Center-America, Taoism, Indonesia, Oceania, Australia, West Africa, East and Central Africa, South American Shamanism, North American Sioux-Oglala religion, Japanese religion, and the secularization in Europe until our times. It seems the original work of Eliade was 440 sections of which the 3 volumes cover 318. There is also the work that is an extension of this compendium which is titled From Primitives to Zen: A Thematic Sourcebook on the History of Religions. These works revolutionize the way we see religion. Eliade, with a historical worldview of religion shows us the reality of "homo religiosus" as Eliade says.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andreea-Cristina

    I was always fascinated by the way Eliade writes his mind and this book amazed me as well. Ever since I’ve discovered him, through the mysterious “ Domnisoara Christina”, I wished that I could read, at least one time, every single one of his novels. I confess, reading this book takes a lot of time and , at first, is not easy to understand, but if you are at least a little interested in this subject, I advise you to save this book for future reading. Gradually, everything will become clearer and I was always fascinated by the way Eliade writes his mind and this book amazed me as well. Ever since I’ve discovered him, through the mysterious “ Domnisoara Christina”, I wished that I could read, at least one time, every single one of his novels. I confess, reading this book takes a lot of time and , at first, is not easy to understand, but if you are at least a little interested in this subject, I advise you to save this book for future reading. Gradually, everything will become clearer and clearer.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan Jackson

    A seminal book on how early religion emerged.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eugenia

    Not an easy read obviously, dictionary and wikipedia are a must during reading. The book was really interesting when I managed to understand what was being said there.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yassin Fares

    One of The most important books I have ever read

  18. 4 out of 5

    Claudiu

    This is the first part of the book when it comes to the study of religions, and it reviews the very old religions (before Christ) and even covers findings from the stone age at the beginning of the book. Even though the entire set of 3 volumes might seem like a lot, you quickly realize that the author only offers a summary and points out the most important things on every religion. For more information, the reader can investigate more through his huge bibliography and notes (I think it makes out This is the first part of the book when it comes to the study of religions, and it reviews the very old religions (before Christ) and even covers findings from the stone age at the beginning of the book. Even though the entire set of 3 volumes might seem like a lot, you quickly realize that the author only offers a summary and points out the most important things on every religion. For more information, the reader can investigate more through his huge bibliography and notes (I think it makes out about 20% of the book). After reading this you realize what a massive undertaking is to study this type of field. Some interesting quotes: - concerning the link between the gods and the agrarian year cycle: [...] Anath meets with Mot. She seizes him, and "with a blade she cuts him; with the winnowing basket she winnows him; with fire she roasts him; with the mill she crushes him; in the fields she sows him, and the birds eat him." Anath performs a sort of ritual murder, treating Mot like an ear of grain. [...] We may wonder if it is not precisely because of this type of agrarian death that Mot will later return to life. - about the Vedic rituals: The most important and most celebrated Vedic ritual was the "horse sacrifice" [...] ceremonies were spaced out over a year, during which the stallion was left at liberty with a hundred other horses. Four hundred young men were on guard to keep it from approaching the mares. [...] Finally, the stallion, which henceforth incarnated the god Prajapati ready to sacrifice himself, was suffocated. The four queens, each accompanied by a hundred female attendants, walked around the body, and the principal wife lay down beside it; covered with a cloak, she simulated sexual union. During this time the priests and the women exchanged obscene pleasantries. As soon as the queen rose, the horse and the other victims were cut up. The third day included other rituals, and finally the honorariums (daksina) were distributed to the priests; they also received the four queens or their attendants. - the similar motive between the Noah's Ark in Christianity and the mythology of Yima in Zoroastrianism: Ahura Mazda warns Yima that a winter three years long will destroy all life on earth; he then asks Yima to build an enclosure (vara) in which he will save the best of men and the germs of all the animal species. The vara was imagined as an underground dwelling, for neither sun, moon, nor stars shine there. This was not an easy or light read, but it was worth it to see how many things religions have in common. Looking forward to reading the next volumes.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abe Aamidor

    A breathtaking whirlwind through religions and civilizations you might never have known about; the author makes one common denominator clear, though. They're all about, a, gods of harvest and bounty and, b, about the chances for life after death. Well, none of that is new, except that the author documents this in virtually every ancient and long-forgotten religion. I guess the common denominator is us - it's what we humans value most. The language in the text is full of jargon that I presume onl A breathtaking whirlwind through religions and civilizations you might never have known about; the author makes one common denominator clear, though. They're all about, a, gods of harvest and bounty and, b, about the chances for life after death. Well, none of that is new, except that the author documents this in virtually every ancient and long-forgotten religion. I guess the common denominator is us - it's what we humans value most. The language in the text is full of jargon that I presume only theologians and academics use, so keep a dictionary or smart phone handy to look up words. Author often references other scholars without identifying who they are - again, there's a presumption that the reader is learned, as well. Still, the writing style is clear enough and the main points come across well. If you've like Karen Armstrong's writing on monotheism, consider this the text you need to go beyond (or before) the rise of monotheism.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    I read it out of curiosity, to see how religious thinking evolve and what similarities they have. It was a good and interesting book, but some religions where hard to relate to or understand, making it a more tedious reading. On the other hand, Egyptian, Greek and Judeo religion were more relatable and enjoyable. It’s my bad, not the book’s, but be warned!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela Hassan

    A great journey through the early development of religions. I started this book in an effort to understand modern Christianism, and I am reading the Bible also. Not being a scholar, I found it readable and relatively easy to follow. It helped me to put many ideas in an historical context. Great and mandatory work on history of religions. Im starting volume 2 now.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sally Smith

    This is a Tome! Not light reading at all. Some of the stuff is a little different now with all the discoveries of the decades since it was written (esp. part 1), but still a great, detailed overview. Respectful to all religions. Notes and index work perfectly on Kindle -- no scrolling back and forth. Shame vol. 2 &3 are so ridiculously priced.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Valeriy

    I just finished to read the 1st volume, even though I do not regret the time spent on reading, I should tell that I was not much impressed. It seems that Mircea Eliade lacks the talent of storytelling. He certainly have an 'encyclopedic knowledge' on the subject but he fails to make a fine readable 'product' out of it. Anyway, I will continue with the 2nd volume... I just finished to read the 1st volume, even though I do not regret the time spent on reading, I should tell that I was not much impressed. It seems that Mircea Eliade lacks the talent of storytelling. He certainly have an 'encyclopedic knowledge' on the subject but he fails to make a fine readable 'product' out of it. Anyway, I will continue with the 2nd volume...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Daniela Calota

    complex and well documented. Seeing the big picture and choosing always what resonates with you, forming critical thinking and bringing knowledge about the spiritual complexity of human beings, their common interests and ideologies.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An excellent and detailed study (with copious notations) of the early history of religion. An essential read for those interested in the area. An enjoyable book, the first in a trilogy which I'll have to track down in the future. An excellent and detailed study (with copious notations) of the early history of religion. An essential read for those interested in the area. An enjoyable book, the first in a trilogy which I'll have to track down in the future.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maria Nedelcu

    The book provides so many details about the beliefs of ancient people, but it is hard to follow (many names, connections and adnotations).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Minäpäminä

    Amazing. Extremely concise but always well written, lucid and beautiful. A definite candidate for my desert island book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Soren Kerk

    excellent - though a slog

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeta Mocanu

    Absolutely amazing ❤️ this book is filling up gaps I wasn't even conscious about ! Hard enough read because of the high volume of information but it's definitely worth the effort . Absolutely amazing ❤️ this book is filling up gaps I wasn't even conscious about ! Hard enough read because of the high volume of information but it's definitely worth the effort .

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vlad Ardelean

    Read it ~15 years ago, was awesome, but don't remember much Read it ~15 years ago, was awesome, but don't remember much

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