The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History (Bollingen Series (General))
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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 émigré-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-1986). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures and drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade's The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelligible and compelling the religious expressions and activities of a wide variety of archaic and "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. Jonathan Z. Smith's new introduction provides the contextual background to the book and presents a critical outline of Eliade's argument in a way that encourages readers to engage in an informed conversation with this classic text.
reality which is extrahuman. Archetypes of Profane Activities TO SUMMARIZE, we might say that the archaic world knows nothing of “profane” activities: every act which has a definite meaning—hunting, fishing, agriculture; games, conflicts, sexuality,—in some way participates in the sacred. As we shall see more clearly later, the only profane activities are those which have no mythical meaning, that is, which lack exemplary models. Thus we may say that every responsible activity in pursuit
example, not only exactly reproduces the initial sacrifice revealed by a god ab origine, at the beginning of time, it also takes place at that same primordial mythical moment; in other words, every sacrifice repeats the initial sacrifice and coincides with it. All sacrifices are performed at the same mythical instant of the beginning; through the paradox of rite, profane time and duration are suspended. And the same holds true for all repetitions, i.e., all imitations of archetypes; through such
example, the Council of Auxerre in 590. 50 On the cosmological significance of the orgy, see Ch. II. 51 A. M. Hocart, Le Progrès de l’homme (French trans., Paris, 1935), pp. 188 ff., 319 ff.; cf. also W. C. MacLeod, The Origin and History of Politics (New York, 1931), pp. 217 ff. 52 Cf. his Mythes et dieux des Germains (Paris, 1939), pp. 99 ff., and his Horace et les Curiaces (Paris, 1942), pp. 126 ff. 53 Dumézil, Ouranós-Váruṇa (Paris, 1934), pp. 42, 62. 54 Cf. Moret’s classic studies of
at least in certain aspects, becoming one with cosmogony—the eschaton of the ghost-dance religion reactualized the mythical illud tempus of Paradise, of primordial plenitude.42 Continuous Regeneration of Time THE HETEROGENEOUS nature of the material reviewed in the preceding pages need cause the reader no uneasiness. We have no intention of drawing any sort of ethnographic conclusion from this rapid exposition. Our sole aim has been a summary phenomenological analysis of these periodic
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