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Eliade, Mircea

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions

John Bowker

Eliade, Mircea 


Advocate of what is called ‘history of religions’, which in his case is better seen as an attempt to discern elemental, timeless, patterns of religious life. Religion is taken to be the manifestation of ‘Being’. Symbolic forms, redolent of the sacred, are influenced by historical circumstances but are not themselves the product of history. The task is to use the comparative method to arrive at what is constant; to arrive at what goes beyond the contingencies of time.

Working with a model of the human as homo religiosus, of the human as motivated by an irreducible religious intentionality, Eliade drew most of his material from archaic cultures. Supposedly providing the most powerful evidence of the ‘morphology of the sacred’, these cultures are held to signal the contemporary need for greater ontological rootage. See also SHAMANISM.