Tag Archives: Mircea Eliade

Practices of Ethnic Separatism – Tudor

Practices of Separatism

(Excerpt from “The Philosophy of Identity”)

By Lucian Tudor


Introductory Note: The following text is an excerpt from a larger essay titled “The Philosophy of Identity: Ethnicity, Culture, and Race in Identitarian Thought.” While this discussion of types of separatism can stand on its own, we believe it is important for readers to have some awareness of the context in order to not have misunderstandings. In earlier parts of “The Philosophy of Identity,” Lucian Tudor discussed the forms and importance of ethno-cultural identity, the necessity of having ethno-cultural groups live in distinct areas in order to maintain their cultural integrity and traditionality (thus rejecting “multiculturalism” and the “melting pot”), and why doing so is not in and of itself “racist” or “xenophobic.”

It is important to realize, in this regard, that the term “separatism” here is used in a very general sense, referring to any form of systematic or structural separation of ethnic and racial groups. It does not necessarily imply any form cultural or ethnic isolationism, for Tudor had already discussed the importance of inter-cultural dialogue and contact, and we can add to that also that foreigners visiting one’s country and having areas of inter-ethnic contact are acceptable as well. What really counts in the case of separatism is that there is no massive mixing which will threaten the existence of distinct ethno-cultural groups, that the various ethno-cultural groups have their own territory to exist in – which is the exact opposite of the Western-style multicultural system.

Finally, we can say that Tudor’s discussion of types of separatism is useful in understanding why the New Right rejects old-fashioned nationalism in favor of the imperial or federalistic model of separatism. While nationalists claim that their model is the only valid way to maintain ethno-cultural integrity, there have been many successful examples of the imperial-federalist model throughout history where multiple ethnic groups lived in the same country in relative harmony or were able to cooperate. Even in the present day, one can see successful examples of multi-ethnic states using the ethno-federalist or ethno-regionalist (also communitarian in many localities) structure in Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Russia, and China. – Daniel Macek (Editor of the “New European Conservative”)


1. The Class and Caste System

Evidently, racial and ethnic separatism has taken on a variety of forms throughout history. The first and commonly recognized form of separatism is the creation of a class or caste system, where a social order composed of multiple races or ethnic groups separates the population into different classes or castes. Belonging to a class or caste is determined in such societies by racial, ethnic, or cultural background. Class systems based only on ethnocultural background can be seen frequently in history wherever one people conquers others, although of course it should not be assumed here that conquest necessarily results in a hierarchical class system.

A class or caste structure of racial separation, likewise being typically the result of conquest, can be seen in Greco-Roman civilization, in certain ancient Near Eastern civilizations (such as Egypt or Persia), and in many parts of Central and South America after European colonization. Similar systems have also been developed in apartheid states during and after the Colonial Era. [38] Such class or caste systems are often seen as being essentially negative because they involve domination and the subjugation of one or more races by another. However, they also had the positive effect of preserving the racial types which have formed, even after miscegenation (the new, mixed racial types; mulattos and mestizos), due to the fact that they discouraged race mixing by class separation.

It should also be mentioned here that another very well-known example of a caste system which included racial separation into its principles is the one established in ancient India. However, in the case of India, it is interesting to note that Alain Daniélou has argued that its caste system cannot be seen as “racist” (involving unfair subjugation), but rather that it is a natural and just racial ordering; thus the racial aspect of the Indian caste system is not racist because, unlike racist systems, it is not based on subjugation and supremacism but on a harmonious and organized coexistence which involves separation.[39]

2. Nationalism

Another form of separatism is what is commonly recognized as ethnic “nationalism,” which has its primary basis in ethnocultural identity, although it is often accompanied by racial identity where interracial contact exists. Nationalism is defined, in the most simple terms, as the belief that ethnic groups or nationalities (in the cultural sense) are the key category of human beings and that they should live under their own independent states. It implies complete and total separation of ethnic groups into separate nations. Nationalism is often associated with ethnic chauvinism, inter-ethnic hostility, imperialism, and irredentism, although it is important to remember that there have been certain select forms of nationalism throughout history that were not at all chauvinistic and imperialistic, so it is erroneous to assume that it always takes on these negative features.

Concerning the issue of “ethno-nationalism,” one must be careful to distinguish between “racial nationalism,” on the one hand, and actual ethnic nationalism, in which race plays a role but in which it is not the primary element. For some theories of racial nationalism, the biological race is seen as the foundation of the nation, and any ethnocultural factors are regarded as being mere emanations of the race or as being secondary and unimportant when compared with the racial factor (thus it commits the biological reductionist or determinist error; more specifically, it can be said to be racial reductionist). [40] Ethnic nationalism in the proper sense, on the other hand, regards the ethnocultural factor as primary, but still acknowledges that the ethnic group’s identity is linked to race to some extent, and that thus the racial type must be maintained if the ethnos is to survive.[41]

However, we should note that “nationalism” is a problematic term because it has been defined in different and sometimes contradictory ways. In one, very generic sense, nationalism means simply the desire of a people to live separately from others, under its own state and by rule of leaders of its own ethnic background—in essence, a basic ethnic separatism and desire for independence. In this sense, nationalism is a very ancient idea and practice, since all across history one can find many cases where a people of one particular ethnic background desired to be independent from the rule of another different people and fought for this independence.

This is not, however, the way nationalism is always defined, and aside from the fact that it is sometimes defined as being necessarily chauvinistic, it is also often defined in a certain manner that makes it particularly an early modern phenomenon.

In particular, many Identitarian (or New Right) as well as Traditionalist authors have defined nationalism as a form of state in which the “nation” is politically or culturally absolutized, at the expense of smaller local or regional cultural differences, and regarding other nations as completely foreign and of lesser value. This form of “nationalism” is exemplified by the Jacobin nation-state and form of sovereignty (since the French Revolution was a key force in initiating the rise of this state form), and is identified by the elimination of sub-ethnic differences within its borders and the regard for differences with other peoples or nationalities as absolute. Naturally, this form of nationalism has the consequence of creating hostility and conflict between nations because of these ideological and political features. [42] Thus, Benoist, in a statement which summarizes the Identitarian position on this matter, rejects nationalism and proposes in its place a view which reconciles patriotism with the idea of a right to difference: “The identity of others is no longer in principle a threat to mine. I am ready to defend my identity because this defense is a general principle, whose legitimacy I also recognize for others. In other words, if I defend my ‘tribe,’ it is also because I am ready to defend those of others.” [43]

3. Traditionalist Imperial Federalism

The Perennial Traditionalists propose a form of ethnic separatism based on the model of the traditional imperial state, which has manifested itself numerous times across history, including well-known examples such as the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Russian Empire. In the imperial system, peoples and ethnic groups (“nationalities”) are generally organized in a federation in which each people lives in its own region within the empire. The traditional empire is therefore incompatible with nationalism because it is organized as a supranational federalistic union with a central spiritual authority.

Furthermore, the empire in the traditional sense must not be assumed to be imperialistic, for the traditional empire unified peoples without destroying their particular cultures and ethnic characters. [44] According to Evola,

The scheme of an empire in a true and organic sense (which must clearly be distinguished from every imperialism, a phenomenon that should be regarded as a deplorable extension of nationalism) . . . safeguarded the principles of both unity and multiplicity. In this world, individual States have the character of partial organic units, gravitating around . . . a principle of unity, authority, and sovereignty of a different nature from that which is proper to each particular State . . . due to its super-ordained nature, would be such as to leave wide room for nationalities according to their natural and historical individuality. [45]

In the imperial state, which Evola asserts is the true traditional model of the state, ethnic or national groups are thus separated federally; different peoples live under the same state and serve the same ultimate monarchical authority, but they live in separate parts of the kingdom or empire. To quote one of his key works: “The Middle Ages [and also certain ancient civilizations] knew nationalities but not nationalisms. Nationality is a natural factor that encompasses a certain group of common elementary characteristics that are retained both in the hierarchical differentiation and in the hierarchical participation, which they do not oppose.” [46]

It is worth noting that many Perennial Traditionalist authors such as Julius Evola and Frithjof Schuon reject nationalism as an anomaly—a deviation from valid state forms—not only because they are proponents of the imperial model, but also because they regard ethnicity and race (in the biological sense) as secondary qualities in human beings. [47] That is to say, although they are still acknowledged as having some level of importance, they are insignificant when compared to the values of religious type, elitism, aristocracy, or caste (in its spiritual sense; the racial aspect is still acknowledged but regarded as secondary). Furthermore, Evola has argued that “the notions of nation, fatherland, and people, despite their romantic and idealistic halo, essentially belong to the naturalistic and biological plane and not the political one; they lead back to the ‘maternal’ and physical dimension of a given collectivity.” [48]

However, it should be noted here that many ethnically and racially conscious authors have argued that some conservative scholars have pointed out that race, nationality, and people were regarded in many ancient and traditional societies as possessing a character which surpassed the material plane. According to the studies of conservative scholars of religion such as Mircea Eliade, the religious view of archaic and traditional societies often endowed ethnicity and culture with a spiritual (in the religious sense), mythical, and transcendent dimension. [49] Thus, the traditional view in general cannot be confined to that of well-known Traditionalists such as Evola, Guénon, or Schuon.

4. Identitarian Separatism

The New Right and the Identitarian movement is influenced by Perennial Traditionalist thought, especially in regards to the idea of empire in the traditional sense; Identitarians, for the most part, also support the idea of a federalist empire as their primary model of the state and of ethnic separatism. However, there are a number of key differences between the two groups. First, Identitarians naturally regard the depreciation of ethnic identity by certain Traditionalists such as Evola to be an error. Identitarianism regards ethnic, racial, and cultural identity to be an important part of human existence, not only on the material plane (which is not as demeaned by them to the extent we see among Traditionalists), but also—in accord with Eliade and other conservative religious scholars—on the mythical and spiritual plane.[50]

Of course, there are various other philosophical issues on which there are disagreements—particularly in regards to religious doctrine, the structure and form of polity, and the importance of feminine values—but this is no place to discuss those in depth. [51] The most important point of disagreement which we must recognize here is with the particular construction of the imperial federalist state, which becomes evident when we look at the details of the Identitarian ideal in this regard.

The concept of federalism in Identitarian thought proposes the idea of a federation or confederation which is based upon the principle of subsidiarity, whereby decision-making power is granted to the lowest authorities. In this system, local and regional political structures hold the power that is due to them, while the central authority rules primarily when decisions affecting the whole state must be made. This form of state and sovereignty “implies plurality, autonomy, and the interlacing of levels of power and authority.” [52] Of course, the Traditionalist concept of the empire also involves the practices of subsidiarity and allowing decisions to be made at lower levels. However, for Traditionalists, subsidiarity is more limited in practice, and their concept of sovereignty leads them to assert the importance of the ultimate authority of the sovereign (the central ruler) far more.

The Identitarian conception of the federal state is accompanied by the juridical element of the “right of the peoples.” Hence the fact that, according to this conception, ethnocultural groups of all levels and types have the right to live with freedom and separately from others in different states and territories in the federation. Thus, while the traditional imperial state is used as a reference for the ideal political organization of peoples, in this scheme it is also accepted that “each nation or region, in conserving its freedom, has the right to leave the Federation at any moment.” [53] Furthermore, the Identitarian vision of the empire can also be said to be a “democratic empire” because it involves practicing what is known as organic democracy.


[38] On the matter of historical examples, see Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity and Elav-Feldon, Isaac, and Ziegler, The Origins of Racism in the West. On the race-based caste and class systems in Central and South America, one classic mainstream resource is Magnus Mörner, Race Mixture in the History of Latin America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967).

[39] See Alain Daniélou, India: A Civilization of Differences. The Ancient Tradition of Universal Tolerance (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2003). On race in the Indian caste system, see also the preface to Arvind Sharma, Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

[40] See, for example, the commentaries on race and biological breed in William Gayley Simpson, Which Way Western Man? (Costa Mesa, CA: Noontide Press, 1986).

[41] For a commentary on this matter, see for example Tomislav Sunic, “Culture: The Missing Link in Euro-American Nationalism,” The Occidental Observer, July 20, 2009, http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2009/07/sunic-euro-american-nationalism/.

[42] See Alain de Benoist, “Nationalism: Phenomenology and Critique,” Counter-Currents Publishing, May 16, 2012, http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/05/nationalism-phenomenology-and-critique; Michael O’Meara, New Culture, New Right, 228ff.; Edgar Julius Jung, “People, Race, Reich,” in Europa: German Conservative Foreign Policy 1870–1940, ed. and trans. Alexander Jacob (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002). See also the overview of Evola’s position in the chapter “Nations, Nationalism, Empire and Europe” in Paul Furlong, Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2011).

[43] Benoist, “Nationalism.”

[44] See Alain de Benoist, “The Idea of Empire,” Telos, no. 98–99 (December 1993): 81–98.

[45] Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002), 277.

[46] Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World, 338–39.

[47] See Frithjof Schuon, Castes and Races (Bedfont, Middlesex, UK: Perennial Books, 1982).

[48] Evola, Men Among the Ruins, 127.

[49] See for example Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 1987); The Myth of the Eternal Return (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005); Myth and Reality (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1998). Other scholars who could be mentioned in this regard are Georges Dumézil, Rudolf Otto, Gilbert Durand, and Alexander Dugin.

[50] See for example Alain de Benoist, On Being a Pagan (Atlanta: Ultra, 2004), and the entry “Paganism” in Faye, Why We Fight, 205ff. Of course, it should be noted here that not all Identitarians are pagans; there are, in fact, many Christians with similar views among the Identitarians. Furthermore, many Identitarians recognize that Christianity and paganism can in fact be reconciled; they are not necessarily in complete conflict. These facts have been pointed out, for example, in the discussion of the New Right’s position on religion in Rodrigo Agulló, Disidencia Perfecta: La Nueva Derecha y la batalla de las ideas (Barcelona and Madrid: Áltera, 2011). In this regard, we can also mention that there have been historical examples of pagan ideas and values being reconciled with Christianity, as has been shown in many scholars’ works, including Eliade’s.

[51] For an in-depth critique from the Identitarian perspective of Radical Traditionalist thought, specifically that of Julius Evola, see especially Alain de Benoist, “Julius Evola, Reaccionario Radical y Metafísico Comprometido: Análisis crítico de su pensamiento político,” Elementos: Revista de Metapolítica para una Civilización Europea, no. 16 (June 2011): 25ff. http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n__16. In this analytical work, Benoist establishes that he agrees with some of Evola’s ideas, such as his critique of nationalism, the support of the imperial idea, the basic anti-egalitarian idea, and certain ethical principles. However, Benoist also criticizes and rejects a number of other ideas and attitudes in Evola’s thought, including many (although not all) of his metaphysical and religious principles, his rigid elitism, his contempt for social and popular principles, his rejection of the value of collective identities (such as ethnicity), his lack of true organicism and rejection of the value of community solidarity (in the anti-individualist sense), and his hostility to feminine values. (Benoist, like other Identitarians, advocates a gender differentialism, as opposed to Evola’s position, which can truly be described as sexist.) Benoist acknowledges Evola as an intellectual worthy of study, but emphasizes that his thought must be examined critically.

[52] Alain de Benoist, “What is Sovereignty?,” Telos, no. 116 (Summer 1999): 114. Benoist has also explicated his views on these matters in “The Idea of Empire” and “The First Federalist: Johannes Althusius,” Telos, no. 118 (Winter 2000): 25–58. Other notable studies of sovereignty and federalism from the Identitarian perspective can be found in the following works: the entries “Empire” and “Sovereignty” in Faye, Why We Fight, 130–32 and 247; the chapter “Imperium” in O’Meara, New Culture, New Right; the articles in Sebastian J. Lorenz, ed., Elementos: Revista de Metapolítica para una Civilización Europea, no. 37, “Federalismo Poliárquico Neoalthusiano” (November 2012). http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n__37_federalismo.

[53] Faye, Why We Fight, 131.



Excerpt from: Tudor, Lucian. “The Philosophy of Identity: Ethnicity, Culture, and Race in Identitarian Thought.” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Fall 2014), pp. 99-106. This essay was also republished in Lucian Tudor’s book, From the German Conservative Revolution to the New Right: A Collection of Essays on Identitarian Philosophy (Santiago, Chile: Círculo de Investigaciones PanCriollistas, 2015).

See also: The other excerpts from Lucian Tudor’s essay titled “Identity and Politics: Organic Democracy” and “The Vision of a Multipolar World.”



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Marx, Moses & the Pagans in the Secular City – Sunic

Marx, Moses, and the Pagans in the Secular City

By Tomislav Sunic


With the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity, the period of pagan Europe began to approach its end. During the next millennium the entire European continent came under the sway of the Gospel-sometimes by peaceful persuasion, frequently by forceful conversion. Those who were yesterday the persecuted of the ancient Rome became, in turn, the persecutors of the Christian Rome. Those who were previously bemoaning their fate at the hands of Nero, Diocletian, or Caligula did not hesitate to apply “creative” violence against infidel pagans. Although violence was nominally prohibited by the Christian texts, it was fully used against those who did not fit into the category of God’s “chosen children.” During the reign of Constantine, the persecution against the pagans took the proportions “in a fashion analogous to that whereby the old faiths had formerly persecuted the new, but in an even fiercer spirit.” By the edict of A.D. 346, followed ten years later by the edict of Milan, pagan temples and the worship of pagan deities came to be stigmatized as magnum crimen. The death penalty was inflicted upon all those found guilty of participating in ancient sacrifices or worshipping pagan idols. “With Theodosius, the administration embarked upon a systematic effort to abolish the various surviving forms of paganism through the disestablishment, disen-dowment, and proscription of surviving cults.”(1) The period of the dark ages began.

Christian and inter-Christian violence, ad majorem dei gloriam, did not let up until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Along with Gothic spires of breathtaking beauty, the Christian authorities built pyres that swallowed nameless thousands. Seen in hindsight, Christian intolerance against heretics, Jews, and pagans may be compared to the twentieth-century Bolshevik intolerance against class opponents in Russia and Eastern Europe-with one exception: it lasted longer. During the twilight of imperial Rome, Christian fanaticism prompted the pagan philosopher Celsus to write: “They [Christians] will not argue about what they believe-they always bring in their, `Do not examine, but believe’. . .” Obedience, prayer, and the avoidance of critical thinking were held by Christians as the most expedient tools to eternal bliss. Celsus described Christians as individuals prone to factionalism and a primitive way of thinking, who, in addition, demonstrate a remarkable disdain for life.(2) A similar tone against Christians was used in the nineteenth century by Friedrich Nietzsche who, in his virulent style, depicted Christians as individuals capable of displaying both self-hatred and hatred towards others, i.e., “hatred against those who think differently, and the will to persecute.”(3) Undoubtedly, early Christians must have genuinely believed that the end of history loomed large on the horizon and, with their historical optimism, as well as their violence against the “infidels,” they probably deserved the name of the Bolsheviks of antiquity.

As suggested by many authors, the break-up of the Roman Empire did not result only from the onslaught of barbarians, but because Rome was already “ruined from within by Christian sects, conscientious objectors, enemies of the official cult, the persecuted, persecutors, criminal elements of all sorts, and total chaos.” Paradoxically, even the Jewish God Yahveh was to experience a sinister fate: “he would be converted, he would become Roman, cosmopolitan, ecumenical, gentile, goyim, globalist, and finally anti-Semite. “(!)(4) It is no wonder that, in the following centuries, Christian churches in Europe had difficulties in trying to reconcile their universalist vocation with the rise of nationalist extremism.

Pagan Residues in the Secular City

Although Christianity gradually removed the last vestiges of Roman polytheism, it also substituted itself as the legitimate heir of Rome. Indeed, Christianity did not cancel out paganism in its entirety; it inherited from Rome many features that it had previously scorned as anti-Christian. The official pagan cults were dead but pagan spirit remained indomitable, and for centuries it kept resurfacing in astounding forms and in multiple fashions: during the period of Renaissance, during Romanticism, before the Second World War, and today, when Christian Churches increasingly recognize that their secular sheep are straying away from their lone shepherds. Finally, ethnic folklore seems to be a prime example of the survival of paganism, although in the secular city folklore has been largely reduced to a perishable commodity of culinary or tourist attraction. (5) Over the centuries, ethnic folklore has been subject to transformations, adaptations, and the demands and constraint of its own epoch; yet it has continued to carry its original archetype of a tribal founding myth. Just as paganism has always remained stronger in the villages, so has folklore traditionally been best protected among the peasant classes in Europe. In the early nineteenth century, folklore began to play a decisive role in shaping national consciousness of European peoples, i.e., “in a community anxious to have its own origins and based on a history that is more often reconstructed than real.”(6)

The pagan content was removed, but the pagan structure remained pretty much the same. Under the mantle and aura of Christian saints, Christianity soon created its own pantheon of deities. Moreover, even the message of Christ adopted its special meaning according to place, historical epoch, and genius loci of each European people. In Portugal, Catholicism manifests itself differently than in Mozambique; and rural Poles continue to worship many of the same ancient Slavic deities that are carefully interwoven into the Roman Catholic liturgy. All over contemporary Europe, the erasable imprint of polytheist beliefs continues to surface. The Yule celebration represents one of the most glaring examples of the tenacity of pagan residues. (7) Furthermore, many former pagan temples and sites of worship have been turned into sacred places of the Catholic Church. Lourdes in France, Medjugorje in Croatia, sacred rivers, or mountains, do they not all point to the imprint of pre-Christian pagan Europe? The cult of mother goddess, once upon a time intensely practiced by Celts, particularly near rivers, can be still observed today in France where many small chapels are built near fountains and sources of water. (8) And finally, who could dispute the fact that we are all brain children of pagan Greeks and Latins? Thinkers, such as Virgil, Tacitus, Heraclitus are as modern today as they were during the dawn of European civilization.

Modern Pagan Conservatives

There is ample evidence that pagan sensibility can flourish in the social sciences, literature, and arts, not just as a form of exotic narrative but also as a mental framework and a tool of conceptual analysis. Numerous names come to mind when we discuss the revival of Indo-European polytheism. In the first half of the twentieth century, pagan thinkers usually appeared under the mask of those who styled themselves as “revolutionary conservatives,” “aristocratic nihilist,” “elitists”- in short all those who did not wish to substitute Marx for Jesus, but who rejected both Marx and Jesus.(9) Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger in philosophy, Carl Gustav Jung in psychology, Georges Dumézil and Mircea Eliade in anthropology, Vilfredo Pareto and Oswald Spengler in political science, let alone dozens of poets such as Ezra Pound or Charles Baudelaire-these are just some of the names that can be associated with the legacy of pagan conservatism. All these individuals had in common the will to surpass the legacy of Christian Europe, and all of them yearned to include in their spiritual baggage the world of pre-Christian Celts, Slavs, and Germans.

In the age that is heavily laced with the Biblical message, many modern pagan thinkers, for their criticism of Biblical monotheism, have been attacked and stigmatized either as unrepentant atheists or as spiritual standard-bearers of fascism. Particularly Nietzsche, Heidegger, and more recently Alain de Benoist came under attack for allegedly espousing the philosophy which, for their contemporary detractors, recalled the earlier national socialist attempts to “de-christianize” and “repaganize” Germany. These appear as unwarranted attacks. Jean Markale observes that “Naziism and Stalinism were, in a sense, also religions because of the acts that they triggered. They were also religions insofar as they implied a certain Gospel, in an etymological sense of the word . . . Real paganism, by contrast, is always oriented towards the realm of sublimation. Paganism cannot be in the service of temporal power.”(11) Paganism appears more a form of sensibility than a given political credo, and with the exhaustion of Christianity, one should not rule out its renewed flourishing in Europe.

Paganism Against the Monotheist Desert

Two thousand years of Judeo-Christian monotheism has left its mark on the Western civilization. In view of this, it should not come as a surprise that glorification of paganism, as well as the criticism of the Bible and Judeo-Christian ethics-especially when they come from the right wing spectrum of society-are unlikely to gain popularity in the secular city. It suffices to look at American society where attacks against Judeo-Christian principles are frequently looked at with suspicion, and where the Bible and the Biblical myth of god’s “chosen people” still play a significant role in the American constitutional dogma. (12) Although the secular city has by now become indifferent to the Judeo-Christian theology, principles that derive from Judeo-Christian ethics, such as “peace,” “love,” and “universal brotherhood,” are still showing healthy signs of life. In the secular city many liberal and socialist thinkers, while abandoning the belief in Judeo-Christian theology, have not deemed it wise to abandon the ethics taught by the Bible.

Whatever one may think about the seemingly obsolete, dangerous, or even derogatory connotation of the term “European paganism,” it is important to note that this connotation is largely due to the historical and political influence of Christianity. Etymologically, paganism is related to the beliefs and rituals that were in usage in European villages and countryside. But paganism, in its modern version, may connote also a certain sensibility and a “way of life” that remains irreconcilable with Judeo-Christian monotheism. To some extent European peoples continue to be “pagans” because their national memory, their geographic roots, and, above all, their ethnic allegiances-which often contain allusions to ancient myths, fairy tales, and forms of folklore bear peculiar marks of pre-Christian themes. Even the modern resurgence of separatism and regionalism in Europe appears as an offshoot of pagan residues. As Markale observes, “the dictatorship of Christian ideology has not silenced those ancient customs; it has only suppressed them into the shadow of the unconscious” (13). The fact that all of Europe is today swept by growing nationalism bears witness to the permanency of the pagan sense of tribal historical memory.

In European culture, polytheistic beliefs began to dwindle with the consolidation of Christianity. In the centuries to come, the European system of explanation, whether in theology or, later on, in sociology, politics, or history gradually came under the sway of Judeo-Christian outlook of the world. David Miller observes that Judeo-Christian monotheism considerably altered the Europeans’ approach to the social sciences as well as to the overall perception of the world. In view of these changes, who can reassure us about our own objectivity, especially when we try to understand the pagan world with the goggles of the postmodern Judeo-Christian man? It is no wonder that when paganism was removed from Europe the perceptual and epistemological disruptions in sciences also followed suit. Consequently, with the consolidation of the Judeo-Christian belief, the world and the world phenomena came under the sway of the fixed concepts and categories governed by the logic of “either-or,” “true or false,” and “good or evil,” with seldom any shadings in between. The question, however, arises whether in the secular city-a city replete with intricate choices and complex social differences that stubbornly refuse all categorizations-this approach remains desirable.(13) It is doubtful that Judeo-Christian monotheism can continue to offer a valid solution for the understanding of the increasingly complex social reality that modern man faces in the secular city. Moreover, the subsequent export of Judeo-Christian values to the antipodes of the world caused similar disruptions, yielding results opposite from those originally espoused by the Westerners, and triggering virulent hatred among non-Western populations. Some authors have quite persuasively written that Christian ecumenism, often championed as the “white man’s Christian burden,” has been one of the main purveyors of imperialism, colonialism, and racism in the Third World.(14)

In the modern secular city, the century-long and pervasive influence of Christianity has significantly contributed to the view that each glorification of paganism, or, for that matter, the nostalgia of the Greco-Roman order, is outright strange or at best irreconcilable with contemporary society. Recently, however, Thomas Molnar, a Catholic philosopher who seems to be sympathetic to the cultural revival of paganism, noted that modern adherents of neo-paganism are more ambitious than their predecessors. Molnar writes that the aim of pagan revival does not have to mean the return to the worship of ancient European deities; rather, it expresses a need to forge another civilization or, better yet, a modernized version of the “scientific and cultural Hellenism” that was once a common reference for all European peoples. And with visible sympathy for the polytheistic endeavors of some modern pagan conservatives, Molnar adds: “The issue is not how to conquer the planet but rather how to promote an oikumena of the peoples and civilizations that have rediscovered their origins. The assumption goes that the domination of stateless ideologies, notably the ideology of American liberalism and Soviet socialism, would come to an end. One believes in rehabilitated paganism in order to restore to peoples their genuine identity that existed before monotheist corruption.”(15)

Such a candid view by a Catholic may also shed some light on the extent of disillusionment among Christians in their secular cities. The secularized world full of affluence and richness does not seem to have stifled the spiritual needs of man. How else to explain that throngs of European and American youngsters prefer to trek to pagan Indian ashrams rather than to their own sacred sites obscured by Judeo-Christian monotheism?

Anxious to dispel the myth of pagan “backwardness,” and in an effort to redefine European paganism in the spirit of modern times, the contemporary protagonists of paganism have gone to great lengths to present its meaning in a more attractive and scholarly fashion. One of their most outspoken figures, Alain de Benoist, summarizes the modern meaning of paganism in the following words:

Neo-paganism, if there is such a thing as neo-paganism, is not a phenomenon of a sect, as some of its adversaries, but also some of the groups and chapels, sometimes well-intentioned, sometimes awkward, frequently funny and completely marginal, imagine … What worries us today, at least according to the idea which we have about it, is less the disappearance of paganism but rather its resurgence under primitive and puerile form, affiliated to that “second religion,” which Spengler justifiably depicted as characteristic of cultures in decline, and of which Julius Evola writes that they “correspond generally to a phenomenon of evasion, alienation, confused compensation, without any serious repercussion on reality. (16)

Paganism, as a profusion of bizarre cults and sects, is not something modern pagan thinkers have in mind. A century ago, pagan philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had already observed in Der Antichrist that, when a nation becomes too degenerate or too uprooted, it must place its energy into various forms of Oriental cults, and simultaneously “it must change its own God” (979). Today, Nietzsche’s words sound more prophetic than ever. Gripped by decadence and rampant hedonism, the masses from the secular city are looking for the vicarious evasion in the presence of Indian gurus or amidst a host of Oriental prophets. But beyond this Western semblance of transcendence, and behind the Westerners’ self-hatred accompanied by puerile infatuation with Oriental mascots, there is more than just a transitory weariness with Christian monotheism. When modern cults indulge in the discovery of perverted paganism, they also may be in search of the sacred that was driven underground by the dominating Judeo-Christian discourse.

From Monotheist Desert to Communist Anthropology

Has monotheism introduced into Europe an alien “anthropology” responsible for the spread of egalitarian mass society and the rise of totalitarianism, as some pagan thinkers seem to suggest? Some authors appear to support this thesis, arguing that the roots of tyranny do not lie in Athens or Sparta, but are traceable, instead, to Jerusalem. In a dialogue with Molnar, de Benoist suggests that monotheism upholds the idea of only one absolute truth; it is a system where the notion of the enemy is associated with the evil, and where the enemy must be physically exterminated (cf. Deut. 13). In short, observes de Benoist, Judeo-Christian universalism, two thousand years ago, set the stage for the rise of modern egalitarian aberrations and their modern secular offshoots, including communism.

That there are totalitarian regimes “without God,” is quite obvious, the Soviet Union for example. These regimes, nonetheless, are the “inheritors” of the Christian thought in the sense as Carl Schmitt demonstrated that the majority of modern political principles are secularized theological principles. They bring down to earth a structure of exclusion; the police of the soul yield its place to the police of the state; the ideological wars follow up to the religious wars.(17)

Similar observations were echoed earlier by the philosopher Louis Rougier as well as by the political scientist Vilfredo Pareto, both of whom represented the “old guard” of pagan thinkers and whose philosophical researches were directed toward the rehabilitation of European political polytheism. Both Rougier and Pareto are in agreement that Judaism and its perverted form, Christianity, introduced into the European conceptual framework an alien type of reasoning that leads to wishful thinking, utopianism, and the ravings about the static future.(18) Similar to Latter-day Marxists, early Christian belief in egalitarianism must have had a tremendous impact on the deprived masses of northern Africa and Rome, insofar as it promised equality for the “wretched of the earth,” for odium generis humani, and all the proles of the world. Commenting on Christian proto-communists, Rougier recalls that Christianity came very early under the influence of both the Iranian dualism and the eschatological visions of the Jewish apocalypses. Accordingly, Jews and, later on, Christians adopted the belief that the good who presently suffer would be rewarded in the future. In the secular city, the same theme was later interwoven into modern socialist doctrines that promised secular paradise. “There are two empires juxtaposed in the space,” writes Rougier, “one governed by God and his angels, the other by Satan and Belial.” The consequences of this largely dualistic vision of the world resulted, over a period of time, in Christian-Marxist projection of their political enemies as always wrong, as opposed to Christian-Marxist attitude considered right. For Rougier, the Greco-Roman intolerance could never assume such total and absolute proportions of religious exclusion; the intolerance towards Christians, Jews, and other sects was sporadic, aiming at certain religious customs deemed contrary to Roman customary law (such as circumcision, human sacrifices, sexual and religious orgies). (19)

By cutting themselves from European polytheistic roots, and by accepting Christianity, Europeans gradually began to adhere to the vision of the world that emphasized the equality of souls, and the importance of spreading God’s gospel to all peoples, regardless of creed, race, or language (Paul, Galatians 3:28). In the centuries to come, these egalitarian cycles, in secularized forms, entered first the consciousness of Western man and, after that, entire humankind. Alain de Benoist writes:

According to the classical process of the development and degradation of cycles, the egalitarian theme has entered our culture from the stage of the myth (equality before God), to the stage of ideology (equality before people); after that, it has passed to the stage of “scientific pretension” (affirmation of the egalitarian fact). In short, from Christianity to democracy, and after that to socialism and Marxism. The most serious reproach which one can formulate against Christianity is that it has inaugurated this egalitarian cycle by introducing into European thought a revolutionary anthropology, with universalist and totalitarian character. (20)

One could probably argue that Judeo-Christian monotheism, as much as it implies universalism and egalitarianism, also suggests religious exclusiveness that directly emanates from the belief in one undisputed truth. The consequence of the Christian belief in theological oneness-e.g., that there is only one God, and therefore only one truth-has naturally led, over the centuries, to Christian temptation to obliterate or downplay all other truths and values. One can argue that when one sect proclaims its religion as the key to the riddle of the universe and if, in addition, this sect claims to have universal aspirations, the belief in equality and the suppression of all human differences will follow suit. Accordingly, Christian intolerance toward “infidels” could always be justified as a legitimate response against those who departed from the belief in Yahveh’s truth. Hence, the concept of Christian “false humility” toward other confessions, a concept that is particularly obvious in regard to Christian attitude toward Jews. Although almost identical in their worship of one god, Christians could never quite reconcile themselves to the fact that they also had to worship the deity of those whom they abhorred in the first place as a deicide people. Moreover, whereas Christianity always has been a universalist religion, accessible to everybody in all corners of the world, Judaism has remained an ethnic religion of only the Jewish people. (21) As de Benoist writes, Judaism sanctions its own nationalism, as opposed to nationalism of the Christians which is constantly belied by the Christian universalist principles. In view of this, “Christian anti-Semitism,” writes de Benoist, “can justifiably be described as a neurosis.” Might it be that the definite disappearance of anti-Semitism, as well as virulent inter-ethnic hatred, presupposes first the recantation of the Christian belief in universalism?

Pagan Notion of the Sacred

To the critics who argue that polytheism is a thing of the prehistoric and primitive mind incompatible with modern societies, one could respond that paganism is not necessarily a return to “paradise lost” or a nostalgia for the restoration of the Greco-Roman order. For pagan conservatives, to pledge allegiance to “paganism” means to rekindle Europe’s historical origins, as well as to revive some sacred aspects of life that existed in Europe prior to the rise of Christianity. One could also add that, as far as the alleged supremacy or modernity of Judeo-Christianity over the backwardness of Indo-European polytheism is concerned, Judeo-Christian religions, in terms of their modernity, are no less backward than pagan religions. To emphasize this point de Benoist writes:

Just as it was yesterday a grotesque spectacle to see the “pagan idols” denounced by Christian missionaries, who were themselves enamored of their own bric-a bracs, so it is somewhat ridiculous to see the (European) “past” denounced by those who never tire of praising Judeo-Christian continuity, and who refer us to the example of “always modern” Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, and other proto-historic Beduins. (22)

According to some pagan thinkers, Judeo-Christian rationalization of historical time has precluded the projection of one’s own national past and, in so doing, it has significantly contributed to the “desertification” of the world. In the last century, Ernest Renan observed that Judaism is oblivious of the notion of the sacred, because the “desert itself is monotheistic.”(23) In a similar tone, Alain de Benoist in L’éclipse, while quoting Harvey Cox’s The Secular City, writes that the loss of the sacred, which is causing today the “disenchantment” of the modern polity, resulted as the legitimate consequence of the Biblical renunciation of history. First, the disenchantment of nature had started with the Creation; the desacralization of politics with the Exodus; and the deconsecration of values with the Alliance of Sinai, especially after the interdiction of idols (129). Continuing with similar analyses, Mircea Eliade, an author himself influenced by pagan world, adds that Judaic resentment of pagan idolatry stems from the ultra-rational character of Mosaic laws that rationalize all aspects of life by means of a myriad of prescriptions, laws, and interdictions:

Desacralization of the Nature, devaluation of cultural activity, in short, the violent and total rejection of cosmic religion, and above all the decisive importance conferred upon spiritual regeneration by the definite return of Yahveh, was the prophets’ response to historical crises menacing the two Jewish kingdoms. (24)

Some might object that Catholicism has its own form of the sacred and that, unlike some other forms of Judeo-Christian beliefs, it displays its own spiritual transcendence. But there are reasons to believe that the Catholic concept of the sacred does not emerge sui generis, but rather as a substratum of the Christian amalgam with paganism. As de Benoist notes, Christianity owes its manifestation of the sacred (holy sites, pilgrimages, Christmas festivities, and the pantheon of saints) to the indomitable undercurrent of pagan and polytheistic sensibility. Therefore, it seems that the pagan revival today represents less a normative religion, in the Christian sense of the word, than a certain spiritual equipment that stands in contrast to the religion of Jews and Christians. Consequently, as some pagan thinkers suggest, the possible replacement of the monotheistic vision of the world by the polytheistic vision of the world could mean not just the “return of gods” but the return of the plurality of social values as well.

Courage, personal honor, and spiritual and physical self-surpassment are often cited as the most important virtues of paganism. In contrast to Christian and Marxian utopian optimism, paganism emphasizes the profound sense of the tragic, the tragi0c-as seen in Greek tragedies-that sustains man in his Promethean plight and that makes his life worth living. (25) It is the pagan sense of the tragic that can explain man’s destiny-destiny, which for old Indo-Europeans “triggered action, endeavor, and self-surpassment. (26) Hans Günther summarizes this point in the following words:

Indo-European religiosity is not rooted in any kind of fear, neither in fear of deity nor in fear of death. The words of the Latter-day Roman poet, that fear first created the Gods (Statius, Thebais, 3:661: primus in orbe fecit deos timor), cannot be applied to the true forms of Indo-European religiosity, for wherever it has unfolded freely, the “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs, Solomon 9, 10; Psalm 11, 30) has proved neither the beginning of belief nor of wisdom. (27)

Some have suggested that the greatest civilizations are those that have shown a strong sense of the tragic and that have had no fear of death.(28) In the pagan concept of the tragic, man is encouraged to take responsibility before history because man is the only one who gives history a meaning. Commenting on Nietzsche, Giorgio Locchi writes that, in pagan cosmogony, man alone is considered a forger of his own destiny (faber suae fortunea), exempt from biblical or historical determinism, “divine grace,” or economic and material constraints.(29) Paganism stresses a heroic attitude toward life as opposed to the Christian attitude of culpability and fear toward life. Sigrid Hunke writes of the essentialization of life, since both life and death have the same essence and are always contained in both. The life, which at any moment is face-to-death and with-death, renders the future permanent in each instant, and life becomes eternal by acquiring an inscrutable profundity, and by assuming the value of eternity.

For Hunke, along with other authors of pagan sensibility, in order to restore these pagan virtues in the secular city, man must first abandon the dualistic logic of religious and social exclusion, “a logic which has been responsible for extremism not only among individuals, but also among parties and peoples, and which, starting out from Europe, has disseminated into the world this dualistic split that has acquired planetary proportions.”(30) To achieve this ambitious goal, Western man must first rethink the meaning of history.

The Terror of History

Modern pagans remind us that Judeo-Christian monotheism has substantially altered man’s attitude toward history. By assigning history a specific goal, Judeo-Christianity has devalued all past events, except those that display the sign of Yahveh’s theophany. Undoubtedly, Yahveh does admit that man may have a history, but only insofar as history is bestowed with an assigned goal, a certain goal, and a specific goal. Should man, however, continue to cling to the concept of history that evokes collective memory of his tribe or people, he runs the risk of provoking Yahveh’s anger. For Jews, Christians, as well as Marxists, historicity is not the real essence of man; the real essence of man is beyond history. One could observe that the Judeo-Christian concept of the end of history correlates well with modern egalitarian and pacifist doctrines that inspire themselves, often unknowingly, with the Biblical proverb: “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid” (Isa. 11:6). De Benoist notes in L’éclipse that, unlike the pagan concept of history that involves organic solidarity and communal ties, the monotheistic concept of history creates divisions. Accordingly, Yahveh must forbid “mixtures” between the present and the past, between people and the divine, between Israel and the goyim (31). Christians, of course, will reject Jewish exclusiveness-as their century-long religious proselytism amply demonstrates-but they will, nonetheless, retain their own brand of exclusiveness against “infidel” Moslems, pagans, and other “false believers.”

Contrary to the Judeo-Christian dogma that asserts that historical time starts from one unique father, in European paganism there are no traces of the beginning of the time; instead, historical time is seen as a perpetual recommencement, the “eternal return” emanating from multiple and different fathers. In pagan cosmogony, as de Benoist writes, time is the reflection of the non-linear or spheric conception of history, a conception in which the past, the present, and the future are not perceived as stretches of cosmic time irrevocably cut off from each other, or following each other on the single line. Instead, present, past, and future are perceived as dimensions of actuality (L’éclipse 131). In pagan cosmogony, it is incumbent to each people to assign itself a role in history, which in practice means that there cannot be self-appointed peoples occupying the central stage in history. Similarly, just as it is erroneous to speak about one truth, it is equally wrong to maintain that entire humanity must pursue the same and unique historical direction, as proposed by Judeo-Christian universalism and its secular fall-out “global democracy.”

The Judeo-Christian concept of history suggests that the flow of historical time is monolinear and, therefore, limited by its significance and meaning. Henceforth, for Jews and Christians, history can be apprehended only as a totality governed by a sense of ultimate end and historical fulfillment. History for both Jews and Christians appears at best parenthetical, at worst an ugly episode or a “vale of tears,” which one of these days must be erased from earth and transcended by paradise.

Furthermore, Judeo-Christian monotheism excludes the possibility of historical return or “recommencement”; history has to unfold in a predetermined way by making its way toward a final goal. In the modern secular city, the idea of Christian finality will be transposed into a myth of a finite “classless” society, or the apolitical and ahistorical liberal consumer society. Here is how de Benoist sees it in L’éclipse:

Legitimization by the future that replaces legitimization of the immemorial times authorizes all uprootedness, all emancipations” regarding the adherence in its original form. This utopian future that replaces a mythic past is incidentally always the generator of deceptions, because the best that it announces must constantly be put off to a later date. Temporality is no longer a founding element of the deployment of the being who tries to grasp the game of the world temporality is pursued from one goal, reached from one end; expectation and no longer communion. To submit globally the historical becoming to an obligatory meaning means in fact to shut history in the reign of objectivity, which reduces choices, orientations and projects. (155-56)

Only the future can enable Jews and Christians to “rectify” the past. Only the future assumes the value of redemption. Henceforth, historical time for Jews and Christians is no longer reversible; from now on each historical occurrence acquires the meaning of divine providence, of “God’s” finger, or theophany. In the secular city, this line of monolinear thinking will give birth to the “religion” of progress and the belief in boundless economic growth. Did not Moses receive the Laws at a certain place and during a certain time, and did not Jesus later preach, perform miracles, and was he not crucified at a specifically recorded time and place? Did not the end of history begin for Communists with the Bolshevik Revolution, and for liberals with the American century? These “divine” interventions in human history are never again to be repeated. Eliade summarizes this point in the following words:

Under the “pressure of history” and supported by the prophetic and Messianic experience, a new interpretation of historical events dawns among the children of Israel. Without finally renouncing the traditional concept of archetypes and repetitions, Israel attempts to “save” historical events by regarding them as active presences of Yahveh. . . . Messianism gives them a new value, especially by abolishing their [historical events] possibility of repetition ad infinitum. When the Messiah comes, the world will be saved once and for all and history will cease to exist.(31)

Directly commanded by the will of Yahweh, history henceforth functions as a series of events, with each event becoming irrevocable and irreversible. History is not only discarded, but also fought against. Pierre Chaunu, a contemporary French historian, observes that “the rejection of history is a temptation of those civilizations that have emerged out of Judeo-Christianity. “(32) In a similar tone, Michel Maffesoli writes that totalitarianism occurs in those countries that are hostile to history, and he adds: “We enter now into the reign of finality propitious to political eschatology whose outcome is Christianity and its profane forms, liberalism and Marxism.”(33)

The foregoing observations might need some comments. If one accepts the idea of the end of history, as proposed by monotheists, Marxists, and liberals, to what extent, then, can the entire historical suffering be explained? How is it possible, from liberal and Marxist points of view, to “redeem” past oppressions, collective sufferings, deportations, and humiliations that have filled up history? Suffice it to say that this enigma only underscores the difficulty regarding the concept of distributive justice in the egalitarian secular city. If a truly egalitarian society miraculously emerges, it will be, inevitably, a society of the elect-of those who, as Eliade noted, managed to escape the pressure of history by simply being born at a right time, at a right place, and in a right country. Paul Tillich noted, some time ago, that such equality would result in immense historical inequality, since it would exclude those who, during their life time, lived in unequal society, or-if one can borrow Arthur Koestler’s words-who perished with a “shrug of eternity.” (34) These quotes from Koestler and Eliade illustrate the difficulties of modern salutary ideologies that try to “arrest” time and create a secular paradise. Would it not be better in times of great crisis to borrow the pagan notion of cyclical history? This seems to be the case with some East European peoples who, in times of crisis or catastrophes, frequently resort to popular folklore and myths that help them, in an almost cathartic manner, better to cope with their predicament. Locchi writes:

The new beginning of history is feasible. There is no such thing as historical truth. If historical truth truly existed then there would be no history. Historical truth must time and again be obtained; it must always be translated into action. And this is exactly-for us-the meaning of history. (35)

We might conclude that for Christians it is Christ who defines the value of a human being, for a Jew it is Judaism that gauges someone’s “choseness,” and for Marx it is not the quality of man that defines the class, but rather the quality of the class that defines man. One thus becomes “elect” by virtue of his affiliation to his class or his religious belief.

Pagans or, Monotheists: Who is More Tolerant?

As observed, Yahveh, similar to his future secular successors, in the capacity of the single truth-maker, is opposed to the presence of other gods and other values. As a reductionist, whatever exists beyond his fold must be either punished or destroyed. One can observe that, throughout history, the monotheistic true believers have been encouraged, in the name of “higher” historic truths, to punish those who strayed away from Yahveh’s assigned direction. Walter Scott writes:

In many instances the Mosaic law of retaliation, an “eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” was invoked by the Israelites to justify the atrocities which they visited upon their fallen enemies … The history of the Israelite campaigns shows that the Hebrews were most often the aggressors. (36)

Thus, in the name of historical truth, the ancient Hebrews could justify the slaughtering of Canaanite pagans, and in the name of Christian revelation, Christian states legitimized wars against infidel heretics, Jews, and pagans. It would be imprecise, however, in this context to downplay the pagan violence. The Greek destruction of the city of Troy, the Roman destruction of Carthage, clearly point to the frequently total and bloody nature of wars conducted by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Yet, it is also important to stress that seldom do we find among the ancients the self-righteous attitude toward their victories that accompanied Christian and Jewish military victories. Seldom, if ever, did the Romans or the Greeks attempt, after the military destruction of their opponents, to convert them to their own deities. By contrast, both the Gospel and the Old Testament are interspersed with acts of self-congratulatory justice that will, in turn, justify “redeeming” violence against opponents. Similarly, in the modern secular city, to wage war for democracy has become a particularly nefarious means for erasing all different polities that refuse the “theology” of global progress and that shun the credo of “global democracy.” To underscore this point, Pierre Gripari writes that Judaism, Christianity, and their secular offshoots Naziism, socialism, and liberalism, are barbarian doctrines that cannot have their place in the modern world (60).

By contrast, notes de Benoist, a system that recognizes an unlimited number of gods acknowledges also the plurality of cults offered in their honor, and above all, the plurality of customs, political and social systems, and conceptions of the world of which these gods are sublime expressions.(37) It follows from this that pagans, or believers in polytheism, are considerably less inclined to intolerance. Their relative tolerance is primarily attributed to the acceptance of the notion of the “excluded third” (“der ausgeschlossene Dritte”), as well as the rejection of Judeo-Christian dualism.

To underscore pagan relative tolerance, it is worth mentioning the attitude of Indo-European pagans toward their opponents during military confrontation. Jean Haudry remarks that war for pagans was conducted according to strict regulations; war was declared according to the rituals that beseeched first the help of gods and asked for their anger against the adversary. The conduct of war was subject to well-defined rules and consequently, “the victory consisted of breaking the resistance, and not necessarily of destroying the adversary” (161). In view of the fact that Judeo-Christianity does not permit relative truths, or different and contradictory truths, it will frequently adopt the policy of total war toward its opponents. Eliade writes that the “intolerance and fanaticism characteristic of the prophets and missionaries of the three monotheistic religions, have their model and justification in the example of Yahveh.”(38)

How does the monotheist intolerance transpire in the purportedly tolerant secular city? What are the secular consequences of Judeo-Christian monotheism in our epoch? In contemporary systems, it is the opposite, the undecided – i.e., those who have not taken sides, and those who refuse modern political eschatologies – that become the targets of ostracism or persecution: those who today question the utility of the ideology of “human rights,” globalism, or equality. Those, in short, who reject the liberal and communist credo.

In conclusion, one could say that, in the very beginning of its development, Judeo-Christian monotheism set out to demystify and desacralize the pagan world by slowly supplanting ancient pagan beliefs with the reign of the Judaic Law. During this century-long process, Christianity gradually removed all pagan vestiges that co-existed with it. The ongoing process of desacralization and the “Entzauberung” of life and politics appear to have resulted not from Europeans’ chance departure from Christianity, but rather from the gradual disappearance of the pagan notion of the sacred that coexisted for a long time with Christianity. The paradox of our century is that the Western world is saturated with Judeo-Christian mentality at the moment when churches and synagogues are virtually empty.


1. Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture (New York: Oxford UP, 1957), 254-55, 329.
2. T. R. Glover, The Conflict of Religion in the Early Roman Empire (1909; Boston: Beacon, 1960), 242, 254, passim.
3. Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Antichrist, in Nietzsches Werke (Salzburg/Stuttgart: Verlag “Das Berlgand-Buch,” 1952), 983, para. 21.
4. Pierre Gripari, L’histoire du méchant dieu (Lausanne: L’Age d’Homme, 1987), 101-2.
5. Michel Marmin, “Les Piegès du folklore’,” in La Cause des peuples (Paris: édition Le Labyrinthe, 1982), 39-44.
6. Nicole Belmont, Paroles paiennes (Paris: édition Imago, 1986), 160-61.
7. Alain de Benoist, Noël, Les Cahiers européens (Paris: Institut de documentations et d’études européens, 1988).
8. Jean Markale, et al., “Mythes et lieux christianisés,” L’Europe paienne (Paris: Seghers, 1980), 133.

9. About European revolutionary conservatives, see the seminal work by Armin Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland, 1919-1933 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1972). See also Tomislav Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (New York: Peter Lang, 1990).
10. See notably the works by Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts (München: Hoheneichen Verlag, 1933). Also worth noting is the name of Wilhelm Hauer, Deutscher Gottschau (Stuttgart: Karl Gutbrod, 1934), who significantly popularized Indo-European mythology among national socialists; on pages 240-54 Hauer discusses the difference between Judeo-Christian Semitic beliefs and European paganism.
11. Jean Markale, “Aujourd’hui, l’esprit païen?” in L’Europe paienne (Paris: Seghers, 1980), 15. The book contains pieces on Slavic, Celtic, Latin, and Greco-Roman paganism.
12. Milton Konvitz, Judaism and the American Idea (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1978), 71. Jerol S. Auerbach, “Liberalism and the Hebrew Prophets,” in Commentary 84:2 (1987):58. Compare with Ben Zion Bokser in “Democratic Aspirations in Talmudic Judaism,” in Judaism and Human Rights, ed. Milton Konvitz (New York: Norton, 1972): “The Talmud ordained with great emphasis that every person charged with the violation of some law be given a fair trial and before the law all were to be scrupulously equal, whether a king or a pauper” (146). Ernst Troeltsch, Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen and Gruppen (1922; Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1965), 768; also the passage “Naturrechtlicher and liberaler Character des freikirchlichen Neucalvinismus,” (762-72). Compare with Georg Jellinek, Die Erklärung der Menschen-und Bürgerrechte (Leipzig: Duncker and Humblot, 1904): “(t)he idea to establish legally the unalienable, inherent and sacred rights of individuals, is not of political, but religious origins” (46). Also Werner Sombart, Die Juden and das Wirtschaftsleben (Leipzig: Verlag Duncker and Humblot, 1911): “Americanism is to a great extent distilled Judaism (“geronnene Judentum”)” (44).
13. David Miller, The New Polytheism (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 7, passim.
14. Serge Latouche, L’occidentalisation du monde (Paris: La Découverte, 1988).
15. Thomas Molnar, “La tentation paienne,” Contrepoint 38 (1981):53.
16. Alain de Benoist, Comment peut-on etre païen? (Paris: Albin Michel, 1981), 25.
17. Alain de Benoist, L’éclipse du sacré (Paris: La Table ronde, 1986), 233; see also the chapter, “De la sécularisation,” 198-207. Also Carl Schmitt, Die politische Theologie (München and Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1922), 35-46: “(a)ll salient concepts in modern political science are secularized theological concepts” (36).
18. Gerard Walter, Les origines du communisme (Paris: Payot, 1931): “Les sources judaiques de la doctrine communiste chrétienne” (13-65). Compare with Vilfredo Pareto, Les systèmes socialistes (Paris: Marcel Girard, 1926): “Les systèmes métaphy-siques-communistes” (2:2-45). Louis Rougier, La mystique démocratique, ses origines ses illusions (Paris: éd. Albatros, 1983), 184. See in its entirety the passage, “Le judaisme et la révolution sociale,” 184-187.
19. Louis Rougier, Celse contre les chrétiens (Paris: Copernic, 1977), 67, 89. Also, Sanford Lakoff, “Christianity and Equality,” in Equality, ed. J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapaman (New York: Atherton, 1967), 128-30.
20. Alain de Benoist, “L’Eglise, L’Europe et le Sacré,” in Pour une renaissance culturelle (Paris: Copernic, 1979), 202.
21. Louis Rougier, Celse, 88.

22. Comment peut-on être païen?, 170, 26. De Benoist has been at odds with the so-called neo-conservative “nouveaux philosophes,” who attacked his paganism on the grounds that it was a tool of intellectual anti-Semitism, racism, and totalitarianism. In his response, de Benoist levels the same criticism against the “nouveaux philo-sophes.” See “Monothéisme-polythéisme: le grand debat,” Le Figaro Magazine, 28 April 1979, 83: “Like Horkheimer, like Ernest Bloch, like Levinas, like René Girard, what B. H. Lévy desires is less `audacity,’ less ideal, less politics, less power, less of the State, less of history. What he expects is the accomplishment of history, the end of all adversity (the adversity to which corresponds the Hegelian Gegenständlichkeit), disincarnate justice, the universal peace, the disappearance of frontiers, the birth of a homogenous society . . .”
23. Ernest Renan, Histoire générale des langues sémitiques (Paris: Imprimerie Impériale, 1853), 6.
24. Mircae Eliade, Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses (Paris: Payot, 1976), 1:369, passim.
25. Jean-Marie Domenach, Le retour du tragique (Paris: édition du Seuil, 1967), 44-45.
26. Jean Haudry, Les Indo-Européens (Paris: PUF, 1981), 68.
27. Hans. K. Günther, The Religious Attitude of Indo-Europeans, trans. Vivian Bird and Roger Pearson (London: Clair Press, 1966), 21.
28. Alain de Benoist and Pierre Vial, La Mort (Paris: ed. Le Labyrinthe, 1983), 15.
29. Giorgio Locchi, “L’histoire,” Nouvelle Ecole 27/28 (1975):183-90.
30. Sigrid Hunke, La vraie religion de l’Europe, trans. Claudine Glot and Jean-Louis Pesteil (Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1985), 253, 274. The book was first published under the title Europas eigene Religion: Der Glaube der Ketzer (Bergisch Gladbach: Gustav Lubbe, 1980).
31. Mircae Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1965), 106-7.
32. Pierre Chaunu, Histoire et foi (Paris: Edition France-Empire, 1980), quoted by de Benoist, Comment peut-on être païen? 109.
33. Michel Maffesoli, La violence totalitaire (Paris: PUF, 1979), 228-29.
34. See Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now (New York: Scribner’s, 1963), 41, passim. “Shrug of eternity” are the last words Arthur Koestler uses in his novel Darkness at Noon (New York: Modern Library, 1941), 267.
35. Georgio Locchi, et al., “Über den Sinn der Geschichte,” Das unvergängliche Erbe (Tübingen: Grabert Verlag, 1981), 223.
36. Walter Scott, A New Look at Biblical Crime (New York: Dorset Press, 1979), 59.
37. Comment peut-on être païen? 157-58.
38. Mircea Eliade, Histoire des croyances, 1:194.



Sunic, Tomislav. “Marx, Moses, and the Pagans in the Secular City.” CLIO: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter 1995). Text retrieved from: <http://home.alphalink.com.au/~radnat/tomsunic/sunic2.html >.

Note: This essay was also republished in Tomislav Sunic’s Postmortem Report: Cultural Examinations from Postmodernity – Collected Essays (Shamley Green, UK: The Paligenesis Project, 2010).


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Structure of Myths – Eliade

The Structure of Myths

By Mircea Eliade

For the past fifty years at least, Western scholars have approached the study of myth from a viewpoint markedly different from, let us say, that of the nineteenth century. Unlike their predecessors, who treated myth in the usual meaning of the word, that is, as “fable,” “invention,” “fiction,” they have accepted it as it was understood in archaic societies, where, on the contrary, “myth” means a “true story” and, beyond that, a story that is a most precious possession because it is sacred, exemplary, significant. This new semantic value given the term “myth” makes its use in contemporary parlance somewhat equivocal. Today, that is, the word is employed both in the sense of “fiction” or “illusion” and in that familiar especially to ethnologists, sociologists, and historians of religions, the sense of “sacred tradition, primordial revelation, exemplary model.”

The history of the different meanings given to the word “myth” in the antique and Christian worlds will be treated later . . .. Everyone knows that from the time of Xenophanes (ca. 565-470)—who was the first to criticize and reject the “mythological” expressions of the divinity employed by Homer and Hesiod—the Greeks steadily continued to empty mythos of all religious and metaphysical value. Contrasted both with logos and, later, with historia, mythos came in the end to denote “what cannot really exist.” On its side, Judaeo-Christianity put the stamp of “falsehood” and “illusion” on whatever was not justified or validated by the two Testaments.

It is not in this sense—the most usual one in contemporary parlance—that we understand “myth.” More precisely, it is not the intellectual stage or the historical moment when myth became a “fiction” that interests us. Our study will deal primarily with those societies in which myth is—or was until very recently—”living,” in the sense that it supplies models for human behavior and, by that very fact, gives meaning and value to life. To understand the structure and function of myths in these traditional societies not only serves to clarify a stage in the history of human thought but also helps us to understand a category of our contemporaries.

To give only one example—that of the “cargo cults” of Oceania—it would be difficult to interpret this whole series of isolated activities without reference to their justification by myths. These prophetic and millennialist cults announce the imminence of a fabulous age of plenty and happiness. The natives will again be the masters in their islands, and they will no longer work, for the dead will return in magnificent ships laden with goods like the giant cargoes that the whites receive in their ports. It is for this reason that most of the “cargo cults” demand that, while all domestic animals and tools are to be destroyed, huge warehouses are to be built in which to store the goods brought by the dead. One movement prophesies Christ’s arrival on a loaded freighter; another looks for the coming of “America.” A new paradisal era will begin and members of the cult will become immortal. Some cults also involve orgiastic acts, for the taboos and customs sanctioned by tradition will lose their reason for existence and give place to absolute freedom. Now, all these actions and beliefs are explained by the myth of the destruction of the World, followed by a new Creation and the establishment of the Golden Age. (We shall return to this myth later.)

Similar phenomena occurred in the Congo when the country became independent in 1960. In some villages the inhabitants tore the roofs off their huts to give passage to the gold coins that their ancestors were to rain down. Elsewhere everything was allowed to go to rack and ruin except the roads to the cemetery, by which the ancestors would make their way to the village. Even the orgiastic excesses had a meaning, for, according to the myth, from the dawn of the New Age all women would belong to all men.

In all probability phenomena of this kind will become more and more uncommon. We may suppose that “mythical behavior” will disappear as a result of the former colonies’ acquiring political independence. But what is to happen in a more or less distant future will not help us to understand what has just happened. What we most need is to grasp the meaning of these strange forms of behavior, to understand the cause and the justification for these excesses. For to understand them is to see them as human phenomena, phenomena of culture, creations of the human spirit, not as a pathological outbreak of instinctual behavior, bestiality, or sheer childishness. There is no other alternative. Either we do our utmost to deny, minimize, or forget these excesses, taking them as isolated examples of “savagery” that will vanish completely as soon as the tribes have been “civilized,” or we make the necessary effort to understand the mythical antecedents that explain and justify such excesses and give them a religious value. This latter approach is, we feel, the only one that even deserves consideration. It is only from a historico-religious viewpoint that these and similar forms of behavior can be seen as what they are–cultural phenomena–and lose their character of aberrant childishness of instinct run wild.

Value of “primitive mythologies”

All of the great Mediterranean and Asiatic religions have mythologies. But it is better not to begin the study of myth from the starting point of, say, Greek or Egyptian or Indian mythology. Most of the Greek myths were recounted, and hence modified, adjusted, systematized, by Hesiod and Homer, by the rhapsodes and the mythographers. The mythological traditions of the Near East and of India have been sedulously reinterpreted and elaborated by their theologians and ritualists. This is not to say, of course, that (1) these Great Mythologies have lost their “mythical substance” and are only “literature or that (2) the mythological traditions of archaic societies were not rehandled by priests and bards. Just like the Great Mythologies that were finally transmitted as written texts, the “primitive” mythologies, discovered by the earliest travelers, missionaries, and ethnographers in the “oral” stage, have a “history.” In other words, they have been transformed and enriched in the course of the ages under the influence of higher culrtures or through the creative genius of exceptionally gifted individuals.

Nevertheless, it is better to begin by studying myth in traditional and archaic societies, reserving for later consideration the mythologies of people who have played an important role in history. The reason is that, despite modifications in the course of time, the ‘myths of “primitives” still reflect a primordial condition. Then, too, in “primitive” societies myths are still living, still establish and justify all human conduct and activity. The role and function of these myths can still (or could until very recently) be minutely observed and described by ethnologists. In the case of each myth, as of each ritual, it has been possible to question the natives and to learn, at least partially, the significance that they accord to it. Obviously, these “living documents,” recorded in the course of investigations conducted on the spot, do not solve all our difficulties. But they have the not inconsiderable advantage of helping us to pose the problem in the right way, that is, to set myth in its original socioreligious context.

Attempt at a definition of myth

It would be hard to find a definition of myth that would be acceptable to all scholars and at the same time intelligible to nonspecialists. Then, too, is it even possible to find one definition that will cover all the types and functions of myths in all traditional and archaic societies? Myth is an extremely complex cultural reality, which can be approached and interpreted from various and complementary viewpoints.

Speaking for myself, the definition that seems least inadequate because most embracing is this: Myth narrates a sacred history; it relates an event that took place in primordial Time, the fabled time of the “beginnings.” In other words myth tells how, through the deeds of Supernatural Beings, a reality came into existence, be it the whole of reality, the Cosmos, or only a fragment of reality–an island, a species of plant, a particular kind of human behavior, an institution. Myth, then, is always an account of a “creation”; it relates how something was produced, began to be. Myth tells only of that which really happened, which manifested itself completely. The actors in myths are Supernatural Beings. They are known primarily by what they did in the transcendent times of the “beginnings.” hence myths disclose their creative activity and reveal the sacredness (or simply the “supernaturalness”) of their works. In short, myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic breakthroughs of the sacred (or the “supernatural”) into the World. It is this sudden breakthrough of the sacred that really establishes the World and makes it what it is today. Furthermore, it is as a result of the intervention of Supernatural Beings that man himself is what he is today, a mortal, sexed, and cultural being.

We shall later have occasion to enlarge upon and refine these few preliminary indications, but at this point it is necessary to emphasize a fact that we consider essential: the myth is regarded as a sacred story, and hence a “true history,” because it always deals with realities. The cosmogonic myth is “true” because the existence of the World is there to prove it; the myth of the origin of death is equally true because man’s mortality proves it, and so on.

Because myth relates the gesta of supernatural Beings and the manifestation of their sacred powers, it becomes the exemplary model for all significant human activities. When the missionary and ethnologist C. Strehlow asked the Australian Arunta why they performed certain ceremonies, the answer was always: “Because the ancestors so commanded it.” [C. Strehlow. Die Aranda-und-Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien, vol. III, pi; Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, La mythologie primitive (Paris, 1935), p. 123. See also T.G.H. Strehlow, Aranda Traditions (Melbourne University Press, 1947), p. 6.] The Kai of New Guinea refused to change their way of living and working, and they explained: “It was thus that the Nemu (the Mythical Ancestors) did, and we do likewise.” [C. Keysser, quoted by Richard Thurnwald, Die Eingeborenen Australiens und der Südseeinseln (=Religionsgeschichtliches Lesebuch, 8, Tübingen, 1927: p. 28.] Asked the reason for a particular detail in a ceremony, a Navaho chanter answered: “Because the Holy People did it that way in the first place.” [Clyde Kluckhohn, “Myths and Rituals: A General Theory,” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 35 (1942), p. 66. Cf. Ibid. for other examples.] We find exactly the same justification in the prayer that accompanies a primitive Tibetan ritual: “As it has been handed down from the beginning of earth’s creation, so must we sacrifice. . . . As our ancestors in ancient times did—so do we now.” [Matthias Hermanns, The Indo-Tibetans (Bombay, 1954), pp. 66ff.] The same justification is alleged by the Hindu theologians and ritualists. “We must do what the gods did in the beginning” (Satapatha Brahmana, VII, 2, 1, 4). “Thus the gods did; thus men do” (Taittiriya Brahmana, I, 5, 9, 4). [See M. Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return (New York, 1954), pp. 21 ff.]

As we have shown elsewhere [Ibid.,pp 27f.], even the profane behavior and activities of man have their models in the deed of the Supernatural Beings. Among the Navahos “women are required to sit with their legs under them and to one side, men with their legs crossed in front of them, because it is said that in the beginning Changing Woman and the Monster Slayer sat in these positions. [Clyde Kluckholn, op. cit., quoting W.W. Hill, The Agricultural and Hunting Methods of the Navaho Indians (New Haven, 1938), p. 179.] According to the mythical traditions of an Australian tribe, the Karadjeri, all their customs and indeed all their behavior, were established in “dream Time” by two supernatural Beings, the Bagadjimbiri (for example, the way to cook a certain cereal or to hunt an animal with a stick, the particular position to be taken when urinating, and so on). [Cf. M. Eliade, Myths, Dreams and Mysteries (New York, 1960), pp. 191 ff.]

There is no need to add further examples. As we showed in The Myth of the Eternal Return, and as will become still clearer later; the foremost function of myth is to reveal the exemplary models for all human rites and all significant human activities—diet or marriage, work or education, art or wisdom. This idea is of no little importance for understanding the man of archaic and traditional societies; and we shall return to it later.

“True stories” and “false stories”

We may add that in societies where myth is still alive the natives carefully distinguish myths—”true stories”—from fables or tales, which they call “false stories.” The Pawnee “differentiate ‘true stories’ from ‘false stories,’ and include among the ‘true’ stories in the first place all those which deal with the beginnings of the world; in these the actors are divine beings, supernatural, heavenly, or astral. Next come those tales which relate the marvellous adventures of the national hero, a youth of humble birth who became the saviour of his people, freeing them from monsters, delivering them from famine and other disasters, and performing other noble and beneficent deeds. Last come the stories which have to do with the world of the medicine-men and explain how such-and-such a sorcerer got his superhuman powers, how such-and-such an association of shamans originated, and so on. The ‘false’ stories are those which tell of the far from edifying adventures and exploits of Coyote, the prairie-wolf. Thus in the ‘true’ stories we have to deal with the holy and the supernatural, while the ‘false’ ones on the other hand are of profane content, for Coyote is extremely popular in this and other North American mythologies in the character of a trickster, deceiver, sleight-of-hand expert and accomplished rogue. [R. Petrazzoni, Essays on the History of Religions (Leiden, 1954), pp. 11-12. Cf. Also Werner Müller, Die Religionen der Waldlandindianer Noramerikasi (Berlin, 1956), p. 42.]

Similarly, the Cherokee distinguish between sacred myths (cosmogony, creation of the stars, origin of death) and profane stories, which explain, for example, certain anatomical or physiological peculiarities of animals. The same distinction is found in Africa. The Herero consider the stories that relate the beginnings of the different groups of the tribe “true” because they report facts that really took place, while the more or less humorous tales have no foundation. As for the natives of Togo, they look on their origin myths as “absolutely real.” [R. Petrazzoni, op. cit.: p.13.]

This is why myths cannot be related without regard to circumstances. Among many tribes they are not recited before women or children, that is, before the uninitiated. Usually the old teachers communicate the myths to the neophytes during their period of isolation in the bush, and this forms part of their initiation. R. Piddington says of the Karadjeri: “the sacred myths that women may not know are concerned principally with the cosmogony and especially with the institution of the initiation ceremonies. [R. Piddington, quoted by Lévy-Bruhl, p. 115. On initiation ceremonies, cf. Eliade, Birth and Rebirth (New York, 1958).]

Whereas “false stories” can be told anywhere and at any time, myths must not be recited except during a period of sacred time (usually in autumn or winter, and only at night). [See examples in R. Pettrazzoni, op. cit., p. 14, n. 15.] This custom has survived even among peoples who have passed beyond the archaic stage of culture. Among the Turco-Mongols and the Tibetans the epic songs of the Gesar cycle can be recited only at night and in winter. “The recitation is assimilated to a powerful charm. It helps to obtain all sorts of advantages, particularly success in hunting and war. . . . Before the recitation begins, a space is prepared by being powdered with roasted barley flour. The audience sit around it. The bard recites the epic for several days. They say that in former times the hoofprints of Gesar’s horse appeared in the prepared space. Hence the recitation brought the real presence of the hero. [R.A. Stein, Recherches sur l’épopée et le barde au Tibet (Paris, 1959), pp. 318-319.]

What myths reveal

This distinction made by natives between “true stories” and “false stories” is significant. Both categories of narratives present “histories,” that is, relate a series of events that took place in a distant and fabulous past. Although the actors in myths are usually Gods and Supernatural Beings, while those in tales are heroes or miraculous animals, all the actors share the common trait that they do not belong to the everyday world. Nevertheless, the natives have felt that the two kinds of “stories” are basically different. For everything that the myths relate concerns them directly, while the tales and fables refer to events that, even when they have caused changes in the World (cf. The anatomical or physiological peculiarities of certain animals), have not altered the human condition as such. [Of course, what is considered a “true story” in one tribe can become a “false story” in a neighboring tribe. “Demythicization” is a process that is already documented in the archaic stags of culture. What is important is the fact that “primitives” are always aware of the difference between myths (“true stories”) and tales or legends (“false stories”). Cf. Appendix I (“Myths and Fairy Tales”).]

Myths, that is, narrate not only the origin of the World, of animals, of plants, and of man, but also all the primordial events in consequence of which man became what he is today—mortal, sexed, organized in a society, obliged to work in order to live, and working in accordance with certain rules. If the World exists, it is because supernatural Beings exercised creative powers in the “beginning.” But after the cosmogony and the creation of man other events occurred, and man as he is today is the direct result of those mythical events, he is constituted by those events. He is mortal because something happened in illo tempore. If that thing had not happened, man would not be mortal—he would have gone on existing indefinitely, like rocks; or he might have changed his skin periodically like snakes, and hence would have been able to renew his life, that is, begin it over again indefinitely. But the myth of the origin of death narrates what happened in illo tempore, and, in telling the incident, explains why man is mortal.

Similarly, a certain tribe live by fishing—because in mystical times a Supernatural Being taught their ancestors to catch and cook fish. The myth tells the story of the first fishery, and, in so doing, at once reveals a superhuman act, teaches men how to perform it, and, finally, explains why this particular tribe must procure their food in this way.

It would be easy to multiply examples. But those already given show why, for archaic man, myth is a matter of primary importance, while tales and fables are not. Myth teaches him the primordial “stories” that have constituted him existentially; and everything connected with his existence and his legitimate mode of existence in the Cosmos concerns him directly.

We shall presently see what consequences this peculiar conception had for the behavior of archaic man. We may note that, just as modern man considers himself to be constituted by History, the man of the archaic societies declares that he is the result of a certain number of mythical events. Neither regards himself as “given,” “made” once and for all, as, for example, a tool is made once and for all. A modern man might reason as follows: I am what I am today because a certain number of things have happened to me, but those things were possible only because agriculture was discovered some eight to nine thousand years ago and because urban civilizations developed in the ancient Near East, because Alexander the Great conquered Asia and Augustus founded the Roman empire, because Galileo and Newton revolutionized the conception of the universe, thus opening the way to scientific discoveries and laying the groundwork for the rise of industrial civilization, because the French revolution occurred and the ideas of freedom, democracy, and social justice shook the Western world to its foundations after the Napoleonic wars—and so on.

Similarly, a “primitive” could say: I am what I am today because a series of events occurred before I existed. But he would at once have to add: events that took place in mythical times and therefore make up a sacred history because the actors in the drama are not men but Supernatural Beings. In addition, while a modern man, though regarding himself as the result of the course of Universal History, does not feel obliged to know the whole of it, the man of the archaic societies is not only obliged to remember mythical history but also to re-enact a large part of it periodically. It is here that we find the greatest difference between the man of the archaic societies and modern man: the irreversibility of events, which is the characteristic trait of History for the latter, is not a fact to the former

Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453 and the Bastille fell on July 14, 1789. Those events are irreversible. To be sure, July 14th having become the national holiday of the French Republic, the taking of the Bastille is commemorated annually, but the historical event itself is not reenacted. [Cf. Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, pp. 30 ff.] For the man of the archaic societies, on the contrary, what happened Ab origine can be repeated by the power of rites. For him, then, the essential thing is to know the myths. It is essential not only because the myths provide him with an explanation of the World and his own mode of being in the World, but above all because, by recollecting the myths, by re-enacting them, he is able to repeat what the gods, the Heroes, or the Ancestors did ab origine. To know the myths is to learn the secret of the origin of things. In other words, one learns not only how things came into existence but also where to find them and how to make them reappear when they disappear.

What “knowing the myths” means

Australian totemic myths usually consist in a rather monotonous narrative of peregrinations by mythical ancestors or totemic animals. They tell how, in the “Dream Time” (alcheringa)—that is, in mythical time—these Supernatural Beings made their appearance on earth and set out on long journeys, stopping now and again to change the landscape or to produce certain animals and plants, and finally vanished underground. but knowledge of these myths is essential for the life of the Australians. The myths teach them how to repeat the creative acts of the Supernatural Beings, and hence how to ensure the multiplication of such-and-such an animal or plant.

These myths are told to the neophytes during their initiation. Or rather, they are “performed,” that is, re-enacted. “When the youths go through the various initiation ceremonies [their instructors] perform a series of ceremonies before them; these, though carried out exactly like those of the cult proper—except for certain characteristic particulars—do not aim at the multiplication and growth of the totem in question but are simply intended to show those who are to be raised, or have just been raised, to the rank of men the way to perform these cult rituals.” [C. Strehlow, op. Cit., vol. III, pp. 1-2; L. Lévy-Bruhl, op. Cit. P. 123. On puberty initiations in Australia, cf. Birth and Rebirth, pp. 4 ff.]

We see, then, that the “story” narrated by the myth constitutes a “knowledge” which is esoteric, not only because it is secret and is handed on during the course of an initiation but also because the “knowledge” is accompanied by a magico-religious power. For knowing the origin of an object, an animal, a plant, and so on is equivalent to acquiring a magical power over them by which they can be controlled, multiplied, or reproduced at will. Erland Nordenskiöld has reported some particularly suggestive examples from the Cuna Indians. According to their beliefs, the lucky hunter is the one who knows the origin of the game. And if certain animals can be tamed, it is because the magicians know the secret of their creation. Similarly, you can hold red-hot iron or grasp a poisonous snake if you know the origin of fire and snakes. Nordenskiöld writes that “in one Cuna village, Tientiki, there is a fourteen-year-old boy who can step into fire unharmed simply because he knows the charm of the creation of fire. Perez often saw people grasp red-hot iron and others tame snakes.” [E. Nordenskiöld, “Faiserus de miracles et voyante chez les Indiens Cuna,” Revista del Instituto de Etnologia (Tucumán), vol. II (1932); p. 464; Lévy-Bruhl, op. cit., p. 119.]

This is a quite widespread belief, not connected with any particular type of culture. In Timor, for example, when a rice field sprouts, someone who knows the mythical traditions concerning rice goes to the spot. “He spends the night there is the plantation hut, reciting the legends that explain how man came to possess rice [origin myth]. . . . Those who do this are not priests. [A.C. Kruyt, quoted by Lévy-Bruhl , op. cit., p. 119.] Reciting its origin myth compels the rice to come up as fine and vigorous and thick as it was when it appeared for the first time. The officiant does not remind it of how it was created in order to “instruct” it, to teach it how it should behave. He magically compels it to go back to the beginning, that is, to repeat its exemplary creation.

The Kalevala relates that the old Väinämöinen cut himself badly while building a boat. Then “he began to weave charms in the manner of all magic healers. He chanted the birth of the cause of his wound, but he could not remember the words that told of the beginning of iron, those very words which might heal the gap ripped open by the blue steel blade.” Finally, after seeking the help of other magicians, Väinämöinen cried: “I now remember the origin of iron! And he began the tale as follows: Air is the first of mothers. Water is the eldest of brothers, fire the second and iron the youngest of the three. Ukko, the great Creator, separated earth from water and drew soil into marine lands, but iron was yet unborn. Then he rubbed his palms together upon his left knee. Thus were born three nature maidens to be the mothers of iron.” [Aili Kolehmainen Johnson, Kalevala. A Prose translation from the Finnish (Hancock, Mich., 1950), pp. 53 ff.] It should be noted that, in this example, the myth of the origin of iron forms part of the cosmogonic myth and, in a sense, continues it. This is an extremely important and specific characteristic of origin myths, and we shall study it in the next chapter.

The idea that a remedy does not act unless its origin is known is extremely widespread. To quote Erland Nordenskiöld again: “Every magical chant must be preceded by an incantation telling the origin of the remedy used, otherwise it does not act. . . . For the remedy or the healing chant to have its effect, it is necessary to know the origin of the plant, the manner in which the first woman gave birth to it.” [E. Nordenskiöld, “La conception de l’âme chez les Indiens Cuna de l’Ishtme de Panama,” Journal des Américanistes, N.S., vol. 24 (1932), pp. 5-30, 14.] In the Na-khi ritual chants published by J.F. Rock it is expressly stated: “If one does not relate . . . the origin of the medicine, to slander it is not proper.” [J.F. Rock, Na-khi Nāga Cult and related ceremonies (Rome, 1952), Vol. II, p. 474.] Or: “Unless its origin is related one should not speak about it.” [Ibid, vol. II, p. 487.]

We shall see in the following chapter that, as in the Väinämöinen myth given above, the origin of remedies is closely connected with the history of the origin of the World. It should be noted, however, that this is only part of a general conception, which may be formulated as follows: A rite cannot be performed unless its “origin” is known, that is, the myth that tells how it was performed for the first time. During the funeral service the Na-khi shaman chants.

Now we will escort the deceased and again experience bitterness;
We will again dance and suppress the demons.
If it is not told whence the dance originated
One must not speak about it.
Unless one know the origin of the dance.
One cannot dare.

[J.F. Rock, Zhi-mä funeral ceremony of the Na-Khi (Vienna Mödling, 1955), p. 87.]

This is curiously reminiscent of what the Uitoto told Preuss: “Those are the words (myths) of our father, his very words. Thanks to those words we dance, and there would be no dance if he had not given them to us.” [K.T. Preuss, Religion und Mythologie der Uitoto, vols. I-II (Göttingen, 1921-23), p. 625.]

In most cases it is not enough to know the origin myth, one must recite it; this, in a sense, is a proclamation of one’s knowledge, displays it. But this is not all. He who recites or performs the origin myth is thereby steeped in the sacred atmosphere in which these miraculous events took place. The mythical time of origins is a “strong” time because it was transfigured by the active, creative presence of the Supernatural Beings. By reciting the myths one reconstitutes that fabulous time and hence in some sort becomes “contemporary” with the events described, one is in the presence of the gods or Heroes. As a summary formula we might say that by “living” the myths one emerges from profane, chronological time and enters a time that is of a different quality, a “sacred” Time at once primordial and indefinitely recoverable. This function of myth, which we have emphasized in our Myth of the Eternal Return (especially pp. 35 ff.), will appear more clearly in the course of the following analyses.

Structure and function of myths

These few preliminary remarks are enough to indicate certain characteristic qualities of myth. In general it can be said that myth, as experienced by archaic societies, (1) constitutes the History of the acts of the Supernaturals; (2) that this History is considered to be absolutely true (because it is concerned with realities) and sacred (because it is the work of the Supernaturals); (3) that myth is always related to a “creation,” it tells how something came into existence, or how a pattern of behavior, an institution, a manner of working were established; this is why myths constitute the paradigms for all significant human acts; (4) that by knowing the myth one knows the “origin” of things and hence can control and manipulate them at will; this is not an “external,” “abstract” knowledge but a knowledge that one “experiences” ritually, either by ceremonially recounting the myth or by performing the ritual for which it is the justification; (5) that in one way or another one “lives” the myth, in the sense that one is seized by the sacred, exalting power of the events recollected or re-enacted.

“Living” a myth, then, implies a genuinely “religious” experience, since it differs from the ordinary experience of everyday life. The “religiousness” of this experience is due to the fact that one re-enacts fabulous, exalting, significant events, one again witnesses the creative deeds of the Supernaturals; one ceases to exist in the everyday world and enters a transfigured, auroral world impregnated with the Supernaturals’ presence. What is involved is not a commemoration of mythical events but a reiteration of them. The protagonists of the myth are made present; one becomes their contemporary. This also implies that one is no longer living in chronological time, but in the primordial Time, the Time when the event first took place. This is why we can use the term the “strong time” of myth; it is the prodigious, “sacred” time when something new, strong, and significant was manifested. To re-experience that time, to re-enact it as often as possible, to witness again the spectacle of the divine works, to meet with the Supernaturals and relearn their creative lesson is the desire that runs like a pattern through all the ritual reiterations of myths. In short, myths reveal that the World, man, and life have a supernatural origin and history, and that this history is significant, precious, and exemplary.

I cannot conclude this chapter better than by quoting the classic passages in which Bronislav Malinowski undertook to show the nature and function of myth in primitive societies. “Studied alive, myth . . . is not an explanation in satisfaction of a scientific interest, but a narrative resurrection of a primeval reality, told in satisfaction of deep religious wants, moral cravings, social submissions, assertions, even practical requirements. Myth fulfills in primitive culture an indispensable function: it expresses, enhances and codifies belief; it safeguards and enforces morality; it vouches for the efficiency of ritual and contains practical rules for the guidance of man. Myth is thus a vital ingredient of human civilization; it is not an idle tale, but a hard-worked active force; it is not an intellectual explanation or an artistic imagery, but a pragmatic charter of primitive faith and moral wisdom. . . . These stories . . . are to the natives a statement of a primeval, greater, and more relevant reality, by which the present life, facts and activities of mankind are determined, the knowledge of which supplies man with the motive for ritual and moral actions, as well as with indications as to how to perform them. [B. Malinowski. Myth in Primitive Psychology (1926; reprinted in Magic, Science and Religion [1948; reissued 1992 by Waveland Press, Inc., Prospect Heights, Illinois] pp. 101, 108.)]


Excerpt from: Eliade, Mircea. Myth and Reality. New York: Harper & Row, 1963, pp. 1-20.

Note: See also the Key Excerpts from The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircea Eliade: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/sacred-profane-eliade/ >.


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Eliade’s Religious Thought – Durac

Mircea Eliade: The hermeneutics of the religious phenomenon

By Livia Durac

“The only purpose of existence is to find a meaning for existence.” (Mircea Eliade)

General Considerations

On February 28th, 1907 in the capital of Romania was born the man who was going to become the worldwide-known scientist and writer whose Renaissance-like personality has built the background of his becoming. When we speak of Mircea Eliade we think of the historian of religions, the Orientalist, the ethnologist, the sociologist, the folklorist, the essay, short story, novel and memoirs author, the playwright Mircea Eliade, if we are to stop at enumerating the defining dimensions of his monumental activity. He became an outstanding specialist in the history of religions in 1925-1926, an obviously early stage of his life for such a bold enterprise; topics such as orthodoxy, Taoism, Buddhism, Orphism, Tantrism have been a concern even since before the “Indian experience” that systematized and deepened his knowledge. For this great Romanian thinker, the history of religions is a complete discipline, which he places in the foreground of cultural life; linguistics, literature, etymology, ethnology, the philosophy of history, esthetics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, all combine in harmony, synchronically, to complete the field of the history of religions.

From his concerns with the field of the history of religions could not miss the “working” coordinates necessary to the specialist in the mentioned field. Therefore, the historian of religions must recompose, first of all, the history of religious forms, and only afterwards develop the social, political and cultural context of each of these forms. Without exaggerated claims, we can state that the historian of religions is, from certain points of view, an anticipator in the field, since he observes the results of the research of Orientalists and ethnographers, as the great Asian religions or the religions of people without a writing system represent important sources for the culture of humanity. Religious phenomenology must be placed outside the sphere of the specialist’s concerns with the history of religions, and we refer to the phenomenology of the sacred, and respectively with enlarging the research sphere from the known important religions to archaic religions.

Another significant specific element that characterizes a historian of religions is the fact that he has to place the religious phenomenon within the spiritual field, identifying that “something” that the religious act denotes as trans-historic. This clearly refers to hermeneutic research that consists, on the one hand, in the understanding of the message by the religious person, a witness to the hierophantic experience, and on the other hand in the message that the religious person transmits to modern world. Explaining the encounters of man with the sacred, starting from pre-history until present – as a way of solving the requirements promoted by contemporary history – the cultural and spiritual invigoration of the peoples of Australia, Africa and Asia, all are included in the subject field of the history of religions.

The Hermeneutic Perspective of the Renewal of the Religious Phenomenon

In a work published in Paris in 1971, Mircea Eliade tells us that the religious phenomenon should use complete hermeneutics. He considers necessary for the activity of the historian of religions to be based on both the phenomenological and the hermeneutical approach: “Concerned with, and often overwhelmed by collecting, publishing and analyzing religious data, a work without any doubt both urgent an indispensable, scientists have often forgotten to study their meaning. But this data is the expression of varied religious experiences; in a final analysis, they represent positions and situations assumed by man during his history. Whether he likes it or not, the historian of religions has not completed his work after having retraced the history of a religious form or after having determined its sociological, economical or political context. Apart from all these, he must understand his own meaning – in other words – identify and clarify the situations and positions that made possible his appearance or triumph in a specific moment of his history”. [i] The fact that the author adopts such explicit positions places him in favor of a unitary approach, and within this frame, phenomenology fulfills one of the most important functions.

The author believes in the necessity of renewing the religious phenomenon from a hermeneutical perspective; although he does not minimize any of the scientific fields accessory to religion, acknowledging the applicability of each of them, Eliade states however that, irrespective of the nature of the information provided by one or another of these fields, it cannot account for the religious phenomenon as a whole. Therefore, a hermeneutic of the religious phenomenon would be characterized mainly by the fact that, by studying the variety of religious aspects, the discipline of religions must identify the universal religious configurations whose action frame is represented by unique facts. It is necessary to mention that Eliade’s attempt to present the morphology of the sacred takes place beyond the religious phenomenon. Considering the efforts to grasp and understand meanings, Mircea Eliade’s exegesis intensifies, including the forms characterized by permanence and constancy, brought “to light” through myths and symbols. Eliade’s hermeneutics acquires a creative dimension as it allows speaking of a structure of the forms of religious expression; this poses the problem of presenting the stages in the individual’s trans-conscience, which “exhales” forms of religious expression. Actually, we can speak of a tremendous interest of the author in seeing and knowing homo religiosus. Starting with the Paleolithic until nowadays, symbols have offered to the religious person – who has lived the sacred dimension of his existence during all this time – an openness towards the trans-historical world, connecting him with the transcendent dimension. Moreover, Eliade considers that myth is a universal phenomenon on which reality is structured, detailing – at the same time – the existence of supernatural creatures.

Eliade faces the individual, as a subject of the religious experience, with the object of this experience, a context in which he speaks of hierophany or the manifestation of the sacred. The place of encounter of the religious person with the sacred is directly determined (conditioned) by the behavior of the religious persons themselves.

Julien Ries noted that all hierophany is based on three important elements: the natural object, placed (and mentioned) in its normal context; the invisible reality that forms the presented contents; the mediator, which is nothing else but the object consecrated through a new dimension, the sacred. [ii]

“1) The sacred is qualitatively different from the profane, however it can appear anytime anyhow in the profane world, with the power to transform any cosmic object into a paradox through hierophany (meaning that the object stops being itself as a cosmic object, but still remains apparently unchanged);

2) This dialectics of the sacred is valid for all religions, not only for the so-called “primitive forms”. This dialectics is verified both in the “worship” of stones and trees and in the scientific view on Indian metamorphoses or in the supreme mystery of incarnation;

3) Purely elementary hierophanies are impossible to find (…), they are combined with religious forms considered, from the evolutionary perspective, superior (Supreme Beings, moral laws, mythologies, etc.);

4) We can find everywhere, even outside these superior religious forms, a system in which elementary hierophanies are ordered.”[iii]

Douglas Allen believes that Mircea Eliade’s methodology is characterized by two essential ideas: “the dialectics of the sacred and the profane and the dominant character of symbolism or of symbolic structures.”[iv]

In his paper Introduction to the phenomenon of religion, the Spanish author J. Martin Velasco, referring to what is called interpretation, from the point of view of the analysis of the religious phenomenon, considers that a structure cannot be conceived if it is not evaluated, interpreted – and especially – understood from the inside. Therefore, phenomenological research has, implicitly, a hermeneutic component or dimension. Together with renown representatives such as J. Wach and G. Van der Leeuw, Eliade will contribute to enriching this approach: considering himself both a historian and a phenomenology researcher of religions, we can speak of a combination of the two perspectives, which defines the originality of his contribution to a fascinating field such as that of religions.

The Primordial Dimension of the Sacred in the Becoming of the
Human Being

The approach of religious phenomenology is, in its essence, a meditation as well as a reference to the idea of the time factor. We will find this meditation on time specific to Eliade in most of the work of the Romanian scientist, as the holistic reach o the meanings of the religious depends on it. Indeed, we can say that the problem of time dominates Eliade’s creations.

As we will demonstrate later, human objects and actions can represent hierophanies (ontophanies); what we wish to mention here is that not only they can acquire such an attribute, but also even space and time receive the valences of the sacred. For the man in archaic cultures, space is not homogenous, as it is the case for the space in which the modern scientific man lives, meaning that certain areas of this space differ from one another from a qualitative point of view. Sacred spaces exist and, therefore, there also exist significant non-sacred amorphous spaces, lacking structure and consistency. Moreover, this lack of spatial homogeneity determines the religious person to experience an opposition between the sacred, unique, real space, with a significant existence, and the completing amorphous ambient around it: “We will see to what extent the discovery, that is, the revelation of the sacred space has existential value for the religious person: nothing can start without a prior orientation, and any orientation implies setting a fixed point. This is why the religious persons strive to set themselves at «the Center of the world».”[v] The condition for us to be able to live in a world must be created, “and no world can be born in the «chaos» of homogeneity and relativity of the profane space. Discovering or designing a fixed point – «the Center» – means Creating the World.”[vi]

The phenomenological premise according to which the sacred is irreducible characterizes the work of Mircea Eliade, for whom the sacred imposes itself both as an explanatory principle of religion and as an absolute concept of a unique ontology, which we can also find in the religious act, irrespective of its nature: “But it is maybe too late to look for another word, and «religion» can still be a useful term, with the condition that we always remember that it does not necessarily imply the belief in a God or in spirits, but it refers to the experience of the sacred and is therefore related to the ideas of being, sense and truth.”[vii] Speaking in terms of the position of the sacred as an ontological basis, Eliade explains: “Through the exception of the sacred, the human spirit has apprehended the difference between what proves to be real, strong, rich and significant, and what does not have these qualities, that is, the chaotic and dangerous flow of things, their random and meaningless appearances and disappearances.”[viii]

All this leads to the idea that, if in the becoming of the human being, there is something with a primordial character, that “something” is, without a doubt, the appearance of the sacred; therefore, the sacred proves to be an immense force and its act, its manifestation, is included in the term hierophany. Actually, the evolution of the history of religions – from the most rudimentary to the most advanced ones – is made up of a large sum of hierophanies, that is, of manifestations of the sacred reality.

In this entire frame, what would be the role of phenomenology? Julien Ries offers a possible explanation according to which this role is played in understanding the religious structures and phenomena, in interpreting the meaning of each hierophany, as well as in extracting the revealed meaning and the religious sense.[ix] Anything that existed or still exists can be a receiver of the sacred: “After all, we do not know if there is anything – object, gesture, physiological function or game, etc. – that has never been transformed into hierophany, somewhere, during the history of mankind.”[x]

In the conception of Eliade, religious imaginary is wide open for any object of the cosmos or of human life, with the necessary and only condition that, during its evolution, it had been transformed into hierophany.

The religious person can become, systematically, contemporary with the gods, through myths and rituals; this occurs if the person is able to update the primordial Time when the divine works took place. We must remember that this rhythmical return to the sacred Time of origins does not represent a refuse of the concrete world, as it is neither an escape from dreams and imagination but, on the contrary, it is what Mircea Eliade pointed out as an essential characteristic of man in primitive and archaic societies, using the phrase ontological obsession.

If we start from the basic idea that everything comes down to an archetypal model, which appears in different avatars, the natural consequence is to compare these manifestations of the sacred. Hence we witness the creation of a structure based on this exact comparison as well as on the common elements with a repetitive character. For Eliade, structure is not the final consequence in the analysis of the religious fact; it is formed based on this comparison and is prior to the meaning that results from it. The meaning of hierophanies in the world has a transhistorical character; that is why, for the Romanian scientist, the primary role is played by meaning, which transcends time and history seen as an existential level of man, as well as a structure. Therefore, we can say that everything starts from historic facts, which are manifestations with a much deeper significance than a simple common apparition. We must also mention that history does not contradict the idea of reversibility, as the comparative approach sends us to very different moments from a chronological perspective. If we were to analyze the “consequences” of such a fact, we could state that the methodological dimension is actually manifested in a scenario of a real spiritual adventure. The ability to decipher a hierophany is beyond history, acquiring – in the case of Mircea Eliade – connotations that surpass habitual research. We should remember that the problematic of time is immanently related to the system of deciphering the meaning of all religious phenomena. In other words, meaning is – as the author himself explains – beyond time, and not in the actual historical time. In what concerns the historian of religions, this is just a starting point, and not a final result.

The aspiration of integration in the origin time is perfectly comparable to the aspiration of recovering a strong, ideal and ingenuous world, the world of illo tempore. Therefore, religious imagination is inspired from the thirst of being, from the ontological dominant of the archaic man, which determines the latter to sanctify religiously the entire universe, modeling its structure and symbolic consistency in a strict relation with the personal ontological need and to a re-dimensioning of space and time. But man does not ontologically sanctify only the universe, but equally himself, or some of his fellows.

Myth, a Connection between Present and Primordial Time

A good knowledge of myths and hence an exemplary accomplishment of rituals places the religious person at the beginning of time. The function of myth is of enthronement, as it makes a connection between the present and the primordial time, showing how present behavior should reanimate the primordial event. As Julien Ries pertinently states, Mircea Eliade “has truly renewed the study of myth”[xi].

Trying to define myth, Eliade says: “From my point of view, the definition that seems the least imperfect, since it is the broadest, is the following: myth tells a sacred story; it speaks about an event that took place in the primordial time, a fabulous time of the «beginning». In other words, myth tells about how, thanks to the actions of supernatural beings, a reality was born, either a complete reality, the Cosmos, or mere fragments: an island, a vegetal species, a human behavior, an institution. Therefore, it is always the story of a «birth»: we are told how something was produced, how it started to exist. Myth only tells about what has been completed. The characters of myths are supernatural beings. They are known especially because of what they did in the prestigious time of the «beginning». Consequently, myths present their creative activity and the sacred (not only «supernatural») character of their work. Actually, myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic bursts of the sacred (or supernatural) into the world. This very burst of the sacred is in fact the basis of the world and makes it what it looks like today. What is more: precisely as a result of the interventions of supernatural beings, man is what he is today, a mortal sexed and cultural being.”[xii]

The universe is compared to an aging organism that loses its vitality and becomes senile; this is the moment that demands destruction in order to be able to be born again as a young vigorous world. In this context we can point out the idea of a cyclic time previously mentioned by Eliade and related to other aspects that characterize archaic thought.

A significant part is played in this context by the ritual of initiation, which consists in the experience of death (be it that of the shaman or of the individual arrived at puberty, an experience followed by that of the rebirth at a new higher ontological level. For boys (and sometimes even for girls), puberty rituals presuppose completing an initiating period; this implies assuming death and requires the presence of signs that indicate the fact that they are dead: they live inside a forest, which is by definition a land of death and darkness, they paint their bodies using colors specific to corpses, or they are not allowed to speak or use their hands to eat, and in winter time they are willingly forgotten by their friends and families. Death is followed by rebirth at a new higher level. What is the role of this complex process, and especially why must the individual tend towards completing the initiation process, towards its end? Because, during initiation, the beginner has the chance to discover myths, respectively the sacred history of the world and of the community he lives in, of the origin of institutions and behaviors, discovers names of gods, and sometimes his own secret name.

An important result of the efforts made by the Romanian scientist in the direction of “perfecting” the field of the history of religions is to be found at the highest point of his career, between 1976-1983, when the author published in Paris, in three volumes, the work entitled Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses (The History of Religious Beliefs and Ideas). It represents a synthesis of the main actions of the religious person, starting from pre-history until present, and its incontestable originality resides precisely in its approach and in the perspectives it offers. Dedicated to the analysis of what represents the fundamental unit of religious phenomena, Mircea Eliade draws the reader’s attention to the infinite indivisibility of the expressions included in them. The famous historian of religion suggests a new mentality that explains the message based on the sacred and perceived through symbols and myths, and following this “path” he gets to the understanding of the religious person.

Mircea Eliade is the only historian of religions of his predecessors who wrote a history of religious ideas and beliefs. What differentiates him from the rest is that he makes a distinction between a history analysis lacking a generalizing perspective and a history of religious ideas, although we should remember that he was once criticized for being an anti-historian. The Romanian scientist, unlike his predecessors in the field, used a more detailed approach of history and therefore of time, far from satisfied with their being placed in parentheses and considering that this way he has fulfilled his complex mission. Eliade considers that it is not at all normal for the time when religious phenomena appeared to be ignored; on the contrary, the identification of the structures and meanings specific to religion requires them to be correctly placed in time and space. Adrian Marino’s work Hermeneutica lui Mircea Eliade (The Hermeneutics of Mircea Eliade) includes a very detailed analysis of Mircea Eliade’s relation to history. A. Marino stresses the hermeneutic character of Eliade’s approach, placing him on the orbit of the best known hermeneutic scientists.


As it happens with any representative name in a field, Eliade could not have stayed in the readers’ “reserve”. They have always existed and definitely will always exist; in the end nobody denies their value and usefulness. All in all, with criticisms and appreciations, Mircea Eliade’s work is one of reference for the science of religions, and his contribution to investigating the religious imaginary is – without a doubt – remarkable. We mention only Gilbert Durand, who, discussing the exceptional personality of the Romanian scientist, compared him to Henry Corbin: “The difficulty of historicist explanations of the sacred determined in the first years of our century an entire flow of «phenomenological» analyses of the sacred (that is, sticking to «the thing itself », to the object specific to homo religiosus). To this trend belong two of the main restorers of the role of imagery in religious apparitions / «hierophanies» in human thought: the Romanian Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) and the French Henry Corbin (1903-1978). [xiii]


1. Allen, Douglas, L’analise phénoménologique de l’experience religieuse in Les Cahiers de l’Herne – Mircea Eliade, Editions de l’Herne, Paris, 1978.
2. Durand, Gilbert, Aventurile imaginii. Imaginatia simbolica. Imaginarul, Nemira Publishing House, Bucharest, 1999.
3. Eliade, Mircea, Tratat de istorie a religiilor, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1992.
4. Eliade, Mircea, Nostalgia originilor, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1994.
5. Eliade, Mircea, Le sacré et le profan, Gallimard, 1996.
6. Eliade, Mircea, Tratat de istorie a religiilor, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1992.
7. Eliade, Mircea, Aspecte ale mitului, Univers Publishing House, Bucharest, 1978.
8. Ries, Julien, Sacrul în istoria religioasa a omenirii, Polirom Publishing House, Iasi, 2000.
9. Ries, Julien, Histoire de religions, phénoménologie et herméneutique, in Les Cahiers de l’Herne Mircea Eliade, Editions de l’Herne, Paris, 1978.


i Mircea Eliade, Nostalgia originilor, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1994 p.14
ii Julien Ries, Histoire de religions, phénoménologie et herméneutique, in Les Cahiers de l’Herne Mircea Eliade, Editions de l’Herne, Paris, 1978.
iii Mircea Eliade, Tratat de istorie a religiilor, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1992, p.46.
iv Douglas Allen, L’analise phénoménologique de l’experience religieuse in Les Cahiers de l’Herne – Mircea Eliade, Editions de l’Herne, Paris, 1978, p.128
v Mircea Eliade, Le sacré et le profan, Ed.Gallimard, 1996, p.31.
vi Mircea Eliade, quoted work, p.63.
vii Mircea Eliade, Tratat de istorie a religiilor, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1992, p.5.
viii Mircea Eliade, quoted work, p.6.
ix Julien Ries, quoted work
x Mircea Eliade, quoted work, p.25
xi Julien Ries, Sacrul în istoria religioasa a omenirii, Polirom Publishing House, Iasi, 2000, p.65
xii Mircea Eliade, Aspecte ale mitului, Univers Publishing House, Bucharest, 1978, p.5-6
xiii Gilbert Durand, Aventurile imaginii. Imaginatia simbolica. Imaginarul, Publishing House, Bucharest, 1999, p.172



Durac, Livia. “Mircea Eliade: The hermeneutics of the religious phenomenon.” Lecture delivered to the 4th International Conference on the Human Being in Contemporary in Philosophy, held at Volgograd, 28-31 May 2007. The original PDF file was found at: <http://volgograd2007.goldenideashome.com/2%20Papers/Durac%20Livia%20p%202.pdf >.

Note: On Eliade’s thought, see also “Mircea Eliade: An Appreciation” by David J. Levy and “Excerpts from The Sacred and the Profane” by Mircea Eliade.


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Mircea Eliade: An Appreciation – Levy

Mircea Eliade: An Appreciation

by David J. Levy


The work of Mircea Eliade has found a ready audience among thinking conservatives ever since it began to be widely known in the 1950’s. It may seem strange that a current of thought rooted as self-consciously as conservatism in the distinctive religious and cultural heritage of the West should be so stimulated by the writings of this student of oriental and archaic religions. To understand the reasons for this is to grasp not only the meaning of Eliade’s work in the context of our present cultural plight but an important point about any coherent conservative philosophy. Let me label that point, the postulate of permanence. It may be expressed as follows: that coherent conservatism rests on the belief that what is permanent in the human condition, that is to say in human nature and in the enveloping reality in which we participate, is more significant for political philosophy than what changes. Eliade’s lifelong vocation has been to grasp and communicate the meaning of the symbols, rites and myths of cultures remote from our own. His insistence that these cultural expressions can and must be understood as an integral part of the human response to the mysteries of existence strikes a responsive chord in the conservative consciousness; just as the conservative emphasis on the unchanging character of man’s nature and status in the order of being finds a ready echo in Eliade’s work. For underlying the stress which he places upon the abiding truth to be discovered in the symbols of oriental and archaic, or non-literate, religions is the recognition that there is an order of being which persists through history – an order to which man responds through the creation of symbols allowing him to discover and express the meaning of his existence. Eliade’s voluminous writings and wide-ranging scholarship introduce the reader to unfamiliar facets of this process. Yet the shock of unfamiliarity is only the prelude to recognition. Exploration prepares the way for anamnesis in that the encounter with an apparently exotic world of thought and beliefs can restore awareness of truths that have slipped from Western consciousness. This is an integral part of Eliade’s purpose. As he conceives it, the history of religions, of which he is our foremost practitioner, is both a journey into strange territory and a long path home. The encounter with other, religiously centered cultures is meant to reawaken us to the spiritual sources of our own.

Eliade is a Romanian, born in Bucharest in 1907. After graduating from Bucharest University in 1928 he was awarded a scholarship by the Maharajah of Kasimbazar which allowed him to spend the next four years studying in India. This period of immersion in Hindu culture was enormously important for the development of the young scholar’s thought. In his experience of Indian life and religion lies the source of Eliade’s belief that the central meaning of religion is to be found in man’s effort to transcend his status as a historical being subject to change and decay and reach a realm of changeless perfection. “It is difficult,” Eliade writes, “to imagine how the human mind could function without the conviction that there is something irreducibly real in the world, and it is impossible to imagine how consciousness could arise without conferring meaning on man’s drives and experience.. . Through the experience .of the sacred, the human mind grasped the difference between that which reveals itself as real, powerful, rich and meaningful, and that which does not i.e. the chaotic and dangerous flux of things, their fortuitous, meaningless appearances and disappearances.”[1] In Hinduism Eliade first saw something that he later found to be true of all religion – that the achievement of meaning in human existence and the experience of the sacred are intimately linked. Homo religiosus of whatever tradition catches and clings to intimations of the sacred in the profane course of events. What this means is not that the consciousness of religious man rejects the conditions of human existence as unworthy of his true spiritual nature, as the Gnostics would have us believe, but that he sees the world as itself symbolic, a universal cipher of a reality beyond. This according to Eliade is at the heart of every religious world view.

When he returned to Romania in 1932, Eliade found that his years in India   him a new capacity to sympathize with the popular the peasantry of his native land.Practices and beliefs that had earlier puzzled and even embarrassed him took on a fresh significance. He now understood, the religious function of the  icons so characteristic of Orthodoxy: “Before my stay in India,” he recalls, “I was rather disturbed by the fetishistic side of such an action, and I thought that ‘true religion’ was first of all contemplation and meditation, like any Christian who sees himself as an enlightened believer. But when I saw the extraordinary importance of symbolism for the Indian people, I realized that until then I had very much underestimated the existential scope of symbol and image.”[2] The power of the symbol, as object of veneration,to open the mind to awareness of the sacred was one of the most important lessons that Eliade learned in India.Another was the value of spiritual disciplines. For during his stay he not only learned Sanscrit and studied Hindu thought but spent some time practicing Yoga in the Himalayas under the noted master Swami Shivananda.

Yoga was the subject of the doctoral dissertation which Eliade presented in 1933. In the same year his first novel Maitreyi was published to great acclaim. The young university teacher became instantaneously a well-known figure on the Romanian cultural scene. Indeed, among his fellow countrymen his reputation as a novelist and teller of tales has always been at least as great as his name for scholarship. When a Festschrift, Myths and Symbols, was published in his honor in 1969 most of the Romanian contributors chose to write about his literary works which are, even now, scarcely known in the English speaking world.[3] In this they echoed Eliade’s own judgment of their importance. Reading his journal, it is clear that at times the demands of scholarship have seemed an almost intolerable distraction from the pursuit of his vocation as a novelist. Nor is this altogether surprising. Eliade comes from a culture in which the scholar, the poet, and the novelist were often one and the same. He sees the novel as a literary form occupying an essential place in modern Western consciousness. The novel is, we might say, the present incarnation of fable and, as such, a privileged ground for the survival of mythical themes and symbols which retain a compelling power over the human psyche. Eliade’s sense of the living force of symbol informs his literary no less than his scholarly work.

With the French publication of his book on Yoga in 1936 Eliade began to acquire an international reputation. In 1940 he was appointed cultural attaché to the Romanian legation in London, being transferred to Lisbon the next year. The years surrounding the war provide the setting for Eliade’s most ambitious novel The Forbidden Forest. It is a long book, almost six hundred pages in English translation, whose scope and manner invite comparison with Proust. Through the life of his central character, Stefan Viziru, Eliade explores a theme which is never far from his mind – man’s quest for an escape from time and “the terror of history.” The rise of Romanian fascism, the disastrous war against the Soviet Union and the subsequent communist invasion and takeover of the country form the terrifying backdrop to this epic of spiritual survival. Stefan Viziru is caught in the tragic rush of events and yet, as Virgil Nemoianu puts it, somehow distanced from them by his will “to capture or recapture a secret experience of ‘totality’ which partakes equally of an absolute love and of a revelation of the sacred in the profane. Ultimately this amounts to a stepping outside Time, which the individual has to attempt, not only for the sake of his personal redemption, but also as a matter of national concern: Romanians can survive only by boycotting History… , by evading its crushing hostility to them through some decisive ontological withdrawal.”

Nemoianu’s reference to Romanian history is appropriate. There is in every authentic thinker, every true philosopher or lover of wisdom, an intimate relationship between the challenge of life and the path of reflection. In Eliade’s case, the consciousness of Romania as a nation more often the victim than the maker of its destiny played an important, if largely covert part in the development of his thought, especially his opposition to every intellectual system that tries to identify ultimate reality with the course of history. If it was the Indian experience that formed Eliade’s conception of religion as man’s effort to achieve contact with an absolute reality beyond the ravages of time, then it was his consciousness of himself as a Romanian that opened his mind to such a view in the first place and later confirmed its truth in the harsh experience of personal exile and national defeat. Eliade knows as well as anyone that history cannot be ignored – the finger on the trigger is as real as the life it takes – and yet there is, he insists, something more, a realm of being revealed only in religious experience.

Since Eliade is sometimes accused of regarding history as unimportant it is worth quoting a passage in which he makes his position clear: “The expressions ‘history’ and ‘historic’ can occasion much confusion; they indicate, on the one hand, all that is concrete and authentic in a given human existence, as opposed to the unauthentic existence constituted by evasions and automatisms of every kind. On the other hand, in the various historicist and existentialist currents of thought, ‘history’ and ‘historic’ seem to imply that human existence is authentic only insofar as it is reduced to the awakened consciousness of its historic moment. It is to the latter, the ‘totalitarian’ meaning of history that I am referring when I take issue against ‘historicisms’. . . the authenticity of an existence cannot be limited to the consciousness of its own historicity.”[4] Eliade speaks of love, anxiety, melancholy and joy as fundamental experiences which together constitute the integral man “who neither denies himself to his historic moment, nor consents to be identified with it.” Historicism, as Eliade describes it, is mistaken because it identifies man’s essence with historical existence and does not see that history determines neither the nature of reality nor the consciousness which responds to it. Fundamental experiences of consciousness, love and anxiety, melancholy and joy, happen in history but they are not historically relative. Rather they represent permanent forms of human response. They are the precondition and not the product of history. While existing in the historical stream man never loses touch with that which is beyond history and it is the peculiar function of religious symbolism to express this relationship to the ground of his being – the ultimate reality that makes him what he is and gives meaning to his existence. Religious man, Eliade suggests, does not deny the truth of experience but seeks to grasp its covert meaning. Awareness of the sacred, the “wholly other” which may paradoxically manifest itself in the most familiar item of experience, is a matter of spiritual growth and not sensual atrophy. What Eliade calls “the dialectic of the sacred’ is the process by which a being or event becomes the cipher or symbol of something beyond without ceasing to be itself. Employing the vocabulary of Hinduism, Maya, the divine play or cosmic illusion of the passing world, is simultaneously Brahman, the sign of the absolute. As the Chandogya Upanishad put it, for the religious man, “Verily, this whole world is Brahman, from which he comes forth, without which he will be dissolved and in which he breathes. Tranquil, he should meditate on it.” Was Henri Bergson saying anything other when he declared in a lecture that enthralled the young Jacques Maritain: “it is in the absolute that we live and move and have our being”? As Eliade frequently points out, while the terms of religious discourse vary from place to place and time to time, the reality which they try to express is everywhere the same. The dialectic of the sacred expresses the mystery of the manifestation of eternal Being in time. It is small wonder if the effort to express it seems at times to break the bounds of what can be said. The inadequacy of expression to experience in the sphere of religion is a fact of life and quite beyond repair. We see through a glass darkly or not at all.

Eliade did not return to Romania after the war. He lived at first in Paris and then, since 1956, in Chicago where he succeeded Joachim Wach as Professor of the History of Religions. America is now his home but his sense of exile remains, giving a unique. personal tone to his continuing meditation on the meaning of religious experience in the frequently distressing course of life. This personal note comes out most clearly in the journal which Eliade kept between 1945 and 1969, a portion of which appeared in English translation under the title No Souvenirs. It is a work of the greatest interest to anyone wishing to understand the driving force behind his work, which is found in his belief in the enduring existential relevance of the material he studies. No Souvenirs records Eliade’s meetings with many of the significant figures in contemporary culture but, more than that, it provides a chronicle of his spiritual Odyssey through the postwar years. Eliade interprets his own fate and that of his nation in the light of his unequalled acquaintance with parallels and archetypes drawn from the full range of human experience. The tragic but not hopeless history of one man and people becomes exemplary for the understanding of permanent features of man’s being in the world.

“Every exile,” he wrote in 1960, “is a Ulysses traveling toward Ithaca. Every real existence reproduces the Odyssey. The path toward Ithaca, toward the center. I had known all that for a long time. What I have just discovered is that the chance to become a new Ulysses is given to any exile whatsoever (precisely because he has been condemned by the gods, that is, by the ‘powers’ which decide historical, earthly destinies). But to realize this, the exile must be capable of penetrating the hidden meaning of his wanderings, and understanding them as a long series of initiation trials (willed by the gods) and so many obstacles on the path which brings him back to the hearth (toward the center). That means: seeing signs, hidden meanings, symbols, in the sufferings, the depressions, the dry periods in everyday life. Seeing them and reading them even if they aren’t there; if one sees them one can build a structure and read a message in the formless flow of things and the monotonous flux of historical facts.”[5] Behind this passage lies a whole philosophy of man, a philosophical anthropology which stresses the need to find meaning in existence while resolutely facing the fact that there is no reassurance to be found in the temporal order of events. In other words, Eliade introduces his readers to the dimension of meaning conveyed by ancient myth while rejecting the specifically modern, historicist myth, the superstition of “progress” and “the meaning of history” which identifies temporal succession with ontological and ethical order. The experience of the historical disasters of the twentieth century has already done much to undermine this view and Eliade believes that we are now more likely than were our grandparents to understand the Weltanschauung of men for whom history was no freeway to redemption but a time of trial and terror. Indeed, he suggests that it is only insofar as we are able to do this that we will avoid the cultural despair typical of recent Western thought and art.

But how can this be done? The cultures of other times and places exist for us as complexes of symbols whose meaning is not transparent but demands interpretation. The theory and practice of interpretation – hermeneutics as it is often called – thus lies at the center of the history of religions as it must in every area where the works of man are the object of study. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur points out that Eliade’s approach to symbols stands in stark contrast to the hermeneutics of suspicion as practiced by Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. While the latter, each in his fashion, aim to demystify symbolic expression in order to expose the harsh and unacceptable reality that lies beneath – class interest, the will to power, and infantile sexuality respectively – Eliade conceives his task in terms of the recollection of meaning, the deciphering of the truth of being embodied in the symbol and culturally maintained in myths and rituals: “Symbolic thinking,” he writes, “…is consubstantial with human existence, it comes before language and discursive reason. The symbol reveals certain aspects of reality – the deepest aspects – which defy other means of knowledge. Images, symbols and myths are not irresponsible creations of the psyche; they respond to a need and fulfill a function, that of bringing to light the most hidden modalities of being.”[6]

This tendency to treat symbols as coded truths rather than irresponsible fantasies or indices of cultural immaturity is characteristic not only of Eliade’s work but of much of the most fruitful scholarship in the humanities. Eric Voegelin, for instance, speaks of an equivalence between experience and symbols, meaning the way in which a certain type of symbol appears in history as a response to certain identifiable circumstances. Eliade for his part says: “The greatest claim to merit of the history of religions is precisely its effort to decipher in a ‘fact,’ conditioned as it is by the historical moment and cultural style of its epoch, the existential situation that made it possible.”[7] To understand the meaning of a particular myth or rite involves setting it in its context. The specific insight of men like Eliade and Voegelin is that there is more to this context than the transient or merely historical. Whatever the course of events that an individual or group endures, the structure of existence remains the same. Birth, copulation and death, the fact of coming into being and passing away, must be faced in a way consistent with the no less universal need of the psyche to see life as possessing a certain meaning or order.

In Eliade’s case the attempt to recollect and communicate the truths expressed in the symbolism of archaic and oriental religions leads him to reject many of the assumptions of previous scholars. Explicitly or not, most of his predecessors in the field have approached the data with minds conditioned by belief in the self-evident superiority of modem Western thought forms. Eliade’s opposition to historicism and sensitivity to the coherence of non-Western world views produces a radical questioning of all such complacency. Referring to the author of The Golden Bough, he writes: “Where a Frazer could see nothing but ‘superstition,’ a metaphysic was already implicit, even though it was expressed by a pattern of symbols rather than by the interplay of concepts: a metaphysic – that is, a whole and coherent conception of Reality, not a series of instinctive gestures ruled by the same fundamental ‘reaction of the human animal in confrontation with Nature.’”[8]

Eliade calls the implicit metaphysic of religious symbolism “archaic ontology.” However this is in one sense a misleading phrase, for the conception of reality involved is not confined to the religious universe of archaic, or non-literate, peoples. Rather, it is the living core of the religious view of the world as such, one which neither Indian speculation nor Judaeo-Christian revelation definitively transcend. Archaic ontology embodies the effort to express awareness of an ultimate reality beyond history and change. There is nothing intellectually primitive about it. When the intelligible essence of myth, rite and symbol is grasped what we find is not a shoddy tissue of superstition but a creative interpretation of human existence as participation in universal, cosmological order. Simply put, the fundamental problem which man faces is how he may interpret his existence as meaningful in spite of the disasters that befall him in life. Somehow the order to which the psyche aspires must be matched to the experienced nature of the cosmos. As Eliade puts it, the terror of history must be overcome, for history tears the fabric of meaning by bringing everything to oblivion.

Insofar as there is a historical dimension to archaic ontology it is a “sacred history.” Sacred history, in the form of myth, recounts the origins of the cosmos or any part of it. It tells how the world was made as it is by the gods and of the exemplary deeds of mythical heroes. Through myth man accounts for his own existence and nature as well as that of the cosmos. Myths tell him what he is and why. They “preserve and transmit the paradigms, the exemplary models, for all responsible activities in which men engage. By virtue of these paradigmatic models revealed to men in mythical times, the Cosmos and society are periodically regenerated.”[9] Myth recounts origins, in illo tempore, and this mythical time can be reactualized through the ritual repetition of archetypal gestures and events. To recollect or repeat is to reactualize a time when everything was new and uncorrupted. It is to participate in the renewal of the world through repetition of the original act of creation by which the order of the cosmos was brought out of chaos. This theme of the regeneration of the world is difficult for the modem Westerner to grasp. The image of the arrow of time which expresses the irreversibility of the historical moment is deeply etched in our consciousness. Nevertheless it is not impossible to understand the significance which the repetition of archetypal events and gestures has for archaic man. Our own ceremonies and celebrations – Christmas, Passover, or Thanksgiving for instance – recall culturally or spiritually significant events, while in at least one case, the celebration of Holy Communion, what is involved is nothing less than the reactualization of an event which, in terms of historical time alone, belongs irredeemably to the past. The sacred time of the Mass and the ever presence of Christ’s sacrifice within it testifies to a continuity between Christianity and the most profound conceptions of archaic ontology.

Eliade’s analysis of archaic ontology in The Myth of the Eternal Return is remarkably successful as an attempt to communicate the meaning of ancient myth and ritual to the modern reader. The universality of the ontology he discovers, as well as the possibility of making it comprehensible to his audience, is rooted in the unity of man as a symbol making animal and the permanence of the fundamental cosmic structures to which the human mind responds. From the conjunction of the two – the creative meeting of psyche and cosmos – there is born a coherent interpretation of existence which, to a unique extent, provides man with answers to the questions that trouble him most deeply. The symbols of religion reveal a continuity between the structures of human existence and those of the cosmos. In doing isolation in a cold and heartless universe, to see himself as a partner in a world that manifests order. When archaic man interprets his life and destiny by analogy with the repetitive and cyclical rhythms of nature he lays claim to a unity between psychic and cosmic reality that assuages the fear of oblivion. He is never far from death but he knows that when the moon vanishes from the sky the darkness is only a prelude to its return. The barren surface of the winter landscape is no more than a mask before the promise of spring renewal. As part of the cosmos, archaic man sees his life as participating in the same rhythms. No end is final. No merely historical disaster is more than moment in a process which renews and restores. “The religious symbols which point to the structures of life… unveil the miraculous, inexplicable side of life, and at the same time the sacramental dimensions of human existence. ‘Deciphered’ in the light of religious symbols, human life reveals a hidden side: it comes from ‘another part,’ from far off; it is ‘divine’ in the sense that it is the work of the gods or of supernatural beings.”[10] Thus religious symbols do not only bind the structures of psyche and cosmos in a tight web of meaning but also serve to link the limited space of experienced reality with the mysterious unknown out of which it emerges and into which it passes. What happened in illo tempore provides the mind with sufficient reason for the world we know.

Eliade believes that the history of religions can provide the foundation for a new humanism. The reflection of the West upon its own past, the core of traditional humanism, must be supplemented with a dialogue between East and West and a widening of the historical and anthropological horizon to include archaic cultures. “More than any other humanistic discipline,” he claims, “… history of religions can open the way to a philosophical anthropology. For the sacred is a universal dimension and… the beginnings of culture are rooted in religious experiences and beliefs. Furthermore, even after they are radically secularized, such cultural creations as social institutions, technology, moral ideas, arts, etc., cannot be understood correctly if one does not know their original religious matrix, which they tacitly criticized, modified, or rejected on becoming what they are now: secular cultural values. Thus, the historian of religions is in a position to grasp the permanence of what has been called man’s specific existential situation of ‘being in the world,’ for the experience of the sacred is its correlate. In fact, man’s becoming aware of his own mode of being and assuming his presence in the world constitute a ‘religious’ experience.”[ 11]

This emphasis upon the discovery of the religious dimension as original to and formative of man’s discovery of the truth of his being is certainly a major reason for Eliade’s appeal to conservatives. Even among those whose thought is not anchored in Christian or Jewish belief there is a natural affinity for a religious conception of the unchanging conditions of human existence. At the same time the breadth of Eliade’s horizon, his incorporation of the widest possible range of data, poses a special challenge. The symbols we encounter are strange and do not yield their meaning easily. As Ricoeur puts it, “Le symbole donne à penser”: symbolism invites thought, the symbol provokes philosophical reflection which extracts a meaning not visible to the initial glance. If appreciation of the permanence of the human condition is a central feature of any coherent conservative philosophy we can learn as much from other cultures as from our own past. To do this, however, we must first learn to decipher the symbols in which the men of other times and places have articulated their response to the tensions of existence. The sympathy which Mircea Eliade has brought to this task makes him a model for us all.


[1] Mircea Eliade: The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), p. 1.

[2] Encounter, Vol. LIV, No. 3 (March 1980).

[3] The University of Notre Dame has recently, published English translations of two of Eliade’s novels. These are The Forbidden Forest (1978) and The Old Man and the Bureaucrats (1979).

[4] Mircea Eliade: Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism (London: Harvill Press, 1961), pp. 171-2.

[5] Mircea Eliade: No Souvenirs (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978). pp. 84-5.

[6] 1mages and Symbols, p. 12.

[7] Mircea Eliade: “Methodological Remarks on the Study of Religious Symbolism,” in The History of Religions, edited by Mircea Eliade and Joseph M. Kitagawa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), p. 88.

[8] Images and Symbols. p. 176.

[9] The Myth of the Eternal Return or Cosmos and History (Princeton University Press, 1954). p. xiv.

[10] “Methodological Remarks etc.” loc.cit., p. 98.

[11] The Quest, p. 9.



Levy, David J. “Mircea Eliade: An Appreciation.” Modern Age, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Spring 1981), pp. 155-161. Retrieved from: <http://www.mmisi.org/ma/25_02/levy.pdf >.

Note: We also recommend to our readers the key excerpts from Mircea Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane, made available on our site along with some information on further reading: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/sacred-profane-eliade/ >.



Filed under New European Conservative

La Nueva Derecha Europea en Español (The European New Right in Spanish)

La Nueva Derecha Europea en Español

(The European New Right in Spanish)

Note in English: Due to the fact that the Spanish is one of the most important languages (along with French, Italian, and German) in which many key works of the European New Right have been published, we have created this page to bring attention to some of the more significant Spanish-language resources on the European New Right which are available on the Internet and which we have chosen to republish on our website. These include certain selected issues of Sebastian J. Lorenz’s online journal Elementos which we have deemed to be the most important, along with Alain de Benoist’s and Charles Champetier’s “Manifesto of the New Right” (Spanish version).

Aquí vamos a poner en conocimiento de los recursos más importantes en el idioma español para el pensamiento de la Nueva Derecha Europea. El recurso más importante es la revista de Sebastián J. Lorenz: Elementos: Revista de Metapolítica para una Civilización Europea, que se ha anunciado y publicado en línea en su sitio web: <http://elementosdemetapolitica.blogspot.com.es/ >. Hemos seleccionado y publicado en nuestra página web lo que hemos considerado que son los números más esenciales de esta revista en lo que respecta a las ideas de la Nueva Derecha. En el espacio a continuación vamos a enumerar y enlace en el espacio por debajo de estos números de Elementos y sus contenidos, junto con el manifiesto de Alain de Benoist y Charles Champetier.

Aquí también queremos mencionar los libros más importantes de la Nueva Derecha en español que están disponibles en formato impreso: Alain de Benoist, ¿Es un Problema la Democracia? (Barcelona: Nueva República, 2013); Benoist, La Nueva Derecha: Una respuesta clara, profunda e inteligente (Barcelona : Planeta, 1982); Alain de Benoist, Guillaume Faye, & Carlos Pinedo Cestafe, Las Ideas de la “Nueva Derecha”: Una respuesta al colonialismo cultural (Barcelona: Nuevo Arte Thor, 1986); Guillaume Faye, Pierre Freson, & Robert Steuckers, Pequeño Léxico del Partisano Europeo (Molins de Rei, Barcelona: Nueva República, 2012); Tomislav Sunic, Homo Americanus: Hijo de la Era Postmoderna (Barcelona: Ediciones Nueva Republica, 2008); Dominique Venner, Europa y su Destino: De ayer a mañana (Barcelona: Áltera, 2010); Rodrigo Agulló, Disidencia Perfecta: La Nueva Derecha y la batalla de las ideas (Barcelona & Madrid: Altera, 2011); Jesús J. Sebastián Lorente (ed.), Alain de Benoist: Elogio de la disidencia (Tarragona: Ediciones Fides, 2015).


Manifiesto: La Nueva Derecha del año 2000 por Alain de Benoist y Charles Champetier

(Nota: Este libro también fue publicado en forma impresa como: Manifiesto para un renacimiento europeo [Mollet del Vallès, Barcelona: GRECE, 2000])


ELEMENTOS Nº 15 – “Moeller van den Bruck: Conservadurismo Revolucionario”  (publicado 1 Junio 2011)


Arthur Moeller van den Bruck y la Nouvelle Droite, por Sebastian J. Lorenz

Moeller van den Bruck: un rebelde conservador, por Luca Leonello Rimbotti

Moeller van den Bruck: ¿un “precursor póstumo”?, por Denis Goedel

Moeller y Dostoievski, por Robert Steuckers

Moeller y la Kulturpessimismus de Weimar, por Ferran Gallego

Moeller y los Jungkonservativen, por Erik Norling

Moeller y Spengler, por Ernesto Milá

Moeller y la Konservative Revolution, por Keith Bullivant

Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, por Alain de Benoist


ELEMENTOS Nº 16 – “Un Diálogo Contra la Modernidad: Julius Evola y Alain de Benoist”  (publicado 9 Junio 2011)


Julius Evola, por Alain de Benoist

Posmodernidad y antimodernidad: Alain de Benoist y Julius Evola, por Marcos Ghio

Julius Evola, reaccionario radical y metafísico comprometido. Análisis crítico del pensamiento político de Julius Evola, por Alain de Benoist

Evola y la crítica de la modernidad, por Luisa Bonesio

La recepción internacional de Rebelión contra el mundo moderno, por Giovanni Monastra

Rebelión contra el mundo moderno, por Julius Evola


ELEMENTOS Nº 24 – “Europeismo Identitario”  (publicado 25 Mayo 2012)


Hacia el reencuentro de Europa: Lo que piensa la Nueva Derecha, por Diego L. Sanromán

Europa a la búsqueda de su identidad, por Isidro J. Palacios

La cuestión europea: Bases ideológicas de la Nueva Derecha, por Carlos Pinedo Cestafe

Europa: la memoria del futuro, por Alain de Benoist

Una cierta idea de Europa. El debate sobre la construcción europea, por Rodrigo Agulló

La memoria en herencia: Europa y su destino, por Dominique Venner

Siglo XXI: Europa, un árbol en la tempestad, por Guillaume Faye

La identidad europea, por Enrique Ravello

Europa: no es herencia sino misión futura, por Giorgio Locchi

El proyecto de la Gran Europa, por Alexander Dugin

¿Unión Europea o Gran Espacio?, por J. Molina


ELEMENTOS Nº 26 – “Economía Orgánica. Una Alternativa a la Economía de Mercado” (publicado 11 Junio 2012)


Salir de la Economía, por Rodrigo Agulló

La Economía no es el Destino, por Guillaume Faye

La Economía Orgánica en la Nueva Derecha, por Carlos Pinedo

Adam Müller: la Economía Orgánica como vivienca romántica, por Luis Fernando Torres

Friedrich List: Sistema Nacional de Economía Política, ¿proteccionismo?, por Arturo C. Meyer, Carlos Gómez y Jurgen Schuldt

Crear la Economía Orgánica, por A.L. Arrigoni

El principio de reciprocidad en los cambios, por Alberto Buela

¿Homo oeconomicus o idiota moral?, por Ramón Alcoberro

Por una Economía Mundial de dos velocidades, por Guillaume Faye

La Economía Local contra la Economía Global, por Edward Goldsmith

Dictadura de la economía y sociedad mercantilista, por Stefano Vaj

Crisis económica: aproximación a un modelo económico alternativo, por Juan P. Viñuela

La crítica de la Economía de Mercado de Karl Polanyi, por Arturo Lahera Sánchez

Por la independencia económica europea, por Guillaume Faye

¿Decrecimiento o barbarie?, por Serge Latouche

Decrecimiento: hacia un nuevo paradigma económico, por Luis Picazo Casariego

La Economía del Bien Común: un modelo económico alternativo, por Christian Felber

Charles Champetier: por una subversión de la lógica economicista, por Diego L. Sanromán


ELEMENTOS Nº 28 – “Contra el Liberalismo: El Principal Enemigo” (publicado 29 junio 2012)


El liberalismo, enemigo principal, por Alain de Benoist y Charles Champetier

El liberalismo en las ideas de la “Nueva Derecha”, por Carlos Pinedo Cestafe

Liberalismo, por Francis Parker Yockey

Frente al Peligro de la Hegemonía Liberal, por Marco Tarchi

La esencia del neoliberalismo, por Pierre Bourdieu

El error del liberalismo, por Alain de Benoist

Liberalismo y Democracia: Paradojas y Rompecabezas, por Joseph Margolis

El liberalismo y las identidades, por Eduardo Arroyo

Dinámica histórica del Liberalismo: del mercado total al Estado total, por Tomislav Sunic

Neoliberalismo: la lucha de todos contra todos, por Pierre Bourdieu

La impostura liberal, por Adriano Scianca

Una crítica liberal del liberalismo, por Adrián Fernández Martín

Leo Strauss y su crítica al liberalismo, por Alberto Buela

Charles Taylor: una crítica comunitaria al liberalismo político, por Carlos Donoso Pacheco

El liberalismo norteamericano y sus críticos: Rawls, Taylor, Sandel, Walzer, por Chantal Mouffe

La crítica comunitaria a la moral liberal, por Renato Cristi


ELEMENTOS Nº 31 – “Armin Mohler y la “Konservative Revolution” Alemana” (publicado 12 Agosto 2012)


El movimiento de la Revolución Conservadora, por Robert Steuckers

La herencia del movimiento de la “Revolución Conservadora” en Europa, por Ian B. Warren

La Revolución Conservadora, por Keith Bullivant

La crisis de la democracia en Weimar:Oposición ideológica de la Revolución

Conservadora,por José Ramón Díez Espinosa

La Revolución Conservadora en Alemania, por Marqués de Valdeiglesias

Ideas para Europa: la Revolución Conservadora, por Luca Leonello Rimbotti

Revolución Conservadora y nacionalsocialismo, por Andrea Virga

Evola y la Revolución Conservadora, por Giano Accame

La Konservative Revolution como doctrina de la decadencia de Alemania, por Miguel Ángel Simón

La influencia de Armin Mohler sobre la cosmovision de la Nueva Derecha, por Robert Steuckers

De la «Konservative Revolution» a la «Nouvelle Droite»: ¿apropiación o rehabilitación?, por Sebastian J. Lorenz

La Revolución Conservadora y la cuestión de las minorías nacionales, por Xoxé M. Núzez Seixas

El sinsentido de la Revolución Conservadora Historia de la idea, nacionalismo y habitus, por Henning Eichberg

Índice de los autores de la «Konservative Revolution”, según Armin Mohler


ELEMENTOS Nº 32 – “Imperio: Orden Especial y Espiritual” (publicado 11 septiembre 2012)


La idea de Imperio, por Alain de Benoist

Translatio Imperii: del Imperio a la Unión, por Peter Sloterdijk

¿Hacia un modelo neoimperialista? Gran espacio e Imperio en Carl Schmitt, por Alessandro Campi

¿Europa imperial?, por Rodrigo Agulló

Imperialismo pagano, por Julius Evola

El concepto de Imperio en el Derecho internacional, por Carl Schmitt

Nación e Imperio, por Giorgio Locchi

El Imperium a la luz de la Tradición, por Eduard Alcántara

Imperio sin Imperator, por Celso Sánchez Capdequí

Imperio: Constitución y Autoridad imperial, por Michael Hardt y Antonio Negri

La teoría posmoderna del Imperio, por Alan Rush

El Imperium espiritual de Europa: de Ortega a Sloterdijk, por Sebastian J. Lorenz


ELEMENTOS N° 37 – “Federalismo Poliárquico Neoalthusiano” (publicado 28 Noviembre 2012)


El primer federalista. Johannes Althusius, por Alain de Benoist

Carl Schmitt y el Federalismo, por Luis María Bandieri

Nacionalismo, Democracia y Federalismo, por Ramón Máiz

Europa federal y el principio de subsidiariedad, por Rodrigo Agulló

España, ¿federación o autodeterminación?, por Sebastian J. Lorenz

Plurinacionalidad, Federalismo y Derecho de Autodeterminación, por Jaime Pastor

El federalismo pluralista. Del federalismo nacional al federalismo plurinacional, por Miquel Caminal

Federalismo plurinacional, por Ramón Máiz

Estado federal y Confederación de Estados, por Max Sercq

De la Confederación a la Federación. Reflexiones sobre la finalidad de la integración europea, por Joschka Fischer

Federalismo versus Imperialismo, por Juan Beneyto

Europa. De imperio a federación, por Josep M. Colomer

Entrevistas imaginarias con el Presidente de Europa y el Jefe del Gobierno europeo


ELEMENTOS Nº 39 – “Una Crítica Metapolítica de la Democracia: De Carl Schmitt a Alain de Benoist, Vol. I” (publicado 23 Enero 2013)


Democracia, el problema

Democracia representativa y democracia participativa, por Alain de Benoist

La crítica de la democracia, por Felipe Giménez Pérez

La democracia: Un análisis a partir de los críticos, por Eva Garrell Zulueta

La crítica decisionista de Carl Schmitt a la democracia liberal, por Antonella Attili

Rectificación metapolítica de la democracia, por Primo Siena

La crítica de Nietzsche a la Democracia  en Humano, demasiado humano, por Diego Felipe Paredes

Teoría democrática: Joseph Schumpeter y la síntesis moderna, por Godofredo Vidal de la Rosa

La crisis de la Democracia, por Marcel Gauchet

Democracia morbosa. Variaciones sobre un tema de Ortega, por Ignacio Sánchez Cámara

La democracia capitalista como forma extrema del totalitarismo. Entrevista con Philip Allot, por Irene Hernández Velasco

Sobre Nietzsche contra la democracia, de Nicolás González Varela, por Salvador López Arnal

La Democracia como Nematología. Sobre El fundamentalismo democrático, de Gustavo Bueno, por Íñigo Ongay de Felipe


ELEMENTOS Nº 40 – “Antonio Gramsci y el Poder Cultural. Por un Gramscismo de Derecha” (publicado 11 Febrero 2013)


El gramscismo de derecha, por Marcos Ghio

Antonio Gramsci, marxista independiente, por Alain de Benoist

La estrategia metapolítica de la Nueva Derecha, por Carlos Pinedo

Un gramcismo de derechas. La Nueva derecha y la batalla de las ideas, por Rodrigo Agulló

El Poder Cultural, por Alain de Benoist

Gramsci, la revolución cultural y la estrategia para Occidente, por Ricardo Miguel Flore

El concepto de hegemonia en Gramsci, por Luciano Grupp

Gramsci y la sociología del conocimiento,por Salvador Orlando Alfaro

Antonio Gramsci: orientaciones, por Daniel Campione

Cómo Ganar la Guerra de las Ideas: Lecciones de la Derecha Gramsciana Neoliberal, por Susan George


ELEMENTOS Nº 41 – “Una Crítica Metapolítica de la Democracia: De Carl Schmitt a Alain de Benoist, Vol. II” (publicado 18 Febrero 2013)


Democracia antigua y “Democracia” moderna, por Alain de Benoist

¿Es eterna la democracia liberal? Algunas opiniones al respecto,por Pedro Carlos González Cuevas

La democracia según la Escuela de Frankfurt y Carl Schmitt: ¿Opuestos y complementarios?, por Emmanuel Brugaletta

Carl Schmitt y René Capitant. Parlamentarismo y Democracia, por Xavier Marchand

La democracia federalista, por Sergio Fernández Riquelme

Tres modelos de democracia. Sobre el concepto de una política deliberativa, por Jürgen Habermas

Carl Schmitt y la paradoja de la democracia liberal, por Chantal Mouffe

Elitismo y Democracia: de Pareto a Schumpeter, por Mercedes Carreras

Democracia como sistema, democracia como ideología, por Pelayo García Sierra

Filósofos para una nueva democracia, por Braulio García Jaén

¿Hacia un nueva democracia? Habermas y Schmitt, por Ellen Kennedy

El invierno de la democracia, por Guy Hermet

Los enemigos de la democracia: la dictadura neoliberal, por Eduardo Álvarez Puga

Democracia sin demócratas, de Marcos Roitman, por Josep Pradas


ELEMENTOS N° 43 – “La Causa de los Pueblos: Etnicidad e Identidad” (publicado 18 Marzo 2013)


La causa de los pueblos, por Isidro Juan Palacios

El etnocidio contra los pueblos: Mecánica y consecuencias del neo-colonialismo cultural, por José Javier Esparza

Etnopluralismo: las ideas de la Nueva Derecha, por Carlos Pinedo

El Arraigo por Alain de Benoist

La Europa de las etnias: nuestro único futuro posible, por Olegario de las Eras

La cuestión étnica: Aproximación a los conceptos de grupo étnico, identidad étnica, etnicidad y relaciones interétnicas, por Maria Cristina Bari

Visiones de la etnicidad, por Manuel Ángel Río Ruiz

Sobre la identidad de los pueblos, por Luis Villoro

La etnicidad y sus formas: aproximación a un modelo complejo de la pertenencia étnica, por Eduardo Terrén

El problema del etnocentrismo en el debate antropológico entre Clifford Geertz, Richard Rorty y Lévi-Strauss, por Rafael Aguilera Portales

La negación de la realidad étnica, por Guillaume Faye

Etnicidad y nacionalismo, por Isidoro Moreno Navarro

Etnicidad sin garantías: contribuciones de Stuart Hall, por Eduardo Restrepo

Etnia y etnicidad: dos categorías en construcción, por Carlos Ramiro Bravo Molina


ELEMENTOS N° 47 – “Elogio de la Diferencia. Diferencialismo versus Racismo” (publicado 28 Mayo 2013)


Identidad y diferencia, por Alain de Benoist

Sobre racismo y antirracismo. Entrevista a Alain de Benoist, por Peter Krause

Diferencialismo contra racismo. Sobre los orígenes modernos del racismo, por Gilbert Destrées

El racismo. Génesis y desarrollo de una ideología de la Modernidad, por Carlos Caballero Jurado

Hacia un concepto convencional de raza, por Sebastian J. Lorenz

Nihilismo Racial, por Richard McCulloch

El antirracismo como religión de Estado, por Guillaume Faye

Un asunto tenebroso: el problema del racismo en la Nueva Derecha, por Diego Luis Sanromán

El racismo como ideología política. El discurso anti-inmigración de la Nueva Derecha, por José Luis Solana Ruiz

Sobre viejos y nuevos racismos. Las ideas de la Nueva Derecha, por Rodrigo Agulló


ELEMENTOS Nº 54 – “La Falsa Ideología de los Derechos Humanos” (publicado 30 Agosto 2013)


Más allá de los Derechos Humanos. Defender las Libertades, por Alain de Benoist

Reflexiones en torno a los Derechos Humanos, por Charles Champetier

El Derecho de los Hombres, por Guillaume Faye

Derechos Humanos: una ideología para la mundialización, por Rodrigo Agulló

En torno a la Doctrina de los Derechos Humanos, por Erwin Robertson

¿Derechos del hombre?, por Adriano Scianca

¿Son universales los Derechos Humanos?, por François Julien

Los Derechos Humanos  como derechos de propiedad, por Murray Rothbard

La religión de los Derechos Humanos, por Guillaume Faye

Derechos comunes y Derechos personales en Ortega y Gasset, por Alejandro de Haro Honrubia

Derechos Humanos: disyuntiva de nuestro tiempo, por Alberto Buela


ELEMENTOS Nº 61 – “La Condición Femenina. ¿Feminismo o Feminidad?” (publicado 28 Noviembre 2013)


Visión ontológico-teológica de lo masculino y lo femenino, por Leonardo Boff

El ser oculto de la cultura femenina en la obra de Georg Simmel, por Josetxo Beriain

El feminismo de la diferencia, por Marta Colorado López, Liliana Arango Palacio, Sofía Fernández Fuente

La condición femenina, por Alain de Benoist

La mujer objeto de la dominación masculina, por Pierre Bourdieu

Feminidad versus Feminismo, por Cesáreo Marítimo

Afirmando las diferencias. El feminismo de Nietzsche, por Elvira Burgos Díaz

La mujer como madre y la mujer como amante, por Julius Evola

El “recelo feminista” a proposito del ensayo La dominacion masculina de

Pierre Bourdieu, por Yuliuva Hernández García

Friedrich Nietzsche y Sigmund Freud: una subversión feminista, por Eva Parrondo Coppel

Hombres y mujeres. Un análisis desde la teoría de la polaridad, por Raúl Martínez Ibars

Identidad femenina y humanización del mundo, por Rodrigo Guerra
Simmel y la cultura femenina, por Raquel Osborne

La nueva feminidad, Entrevista a Annalinde Nightwind

El hombre no es un enemigo a batir, Entrevista con Elisabeth Badinter


ELEMENTOS Nº 64 – “El Eterno Retorno de Mircea Eliade”  (publicado 20 Marzo 2014)


Bibliografía comentada de Mircea Eliade, por José Antonio Hernández García

Antropología y religión en el pensamiento de Mircea Eliade, por Pedro Gómez García

Mircea Eliade y el ideal del hombre universal, por Ioan Petru Culianu

Mircea Eliade y la Revolución Conservadora en Rumanía, por Claudio Mutti

Paisaje espiritual de Mircea Eliade, por Sergio Fritz Roa

Ingenieros de almas. Cioran, Elíade y la Guardia de Hierro, por Luis de León Barga

La experiencia de lo sagrado según Mircea Eliade, por François Chirpaz

Muerte y religión en Mircea Eliade, por Margarita Ossorio Menéndez

El paradigma del mito-ontológico de Mircea Eliade y su significación metodológica, por Nataly Nikonovich

Eliade y la antropología, por José Antonio González Alcantud

Mircea Eliade: hombre histórico, hombre mítico, por Hugo Basile

Mircea Eliade: un parsifal extraviado, por Enrico Montarani

Las huellas de la ideología en el pensamiento antropológico. El caso de

Mircea Eliade, por Pedro Jesús Pérez Zafrilla

Mircea Eliade, el novelista, por Constantin Sorin Catrinescu


ELEMENTOS Nº 70 – “Alexander Dugin y la Cuarta Teoría Política: La Nueva Derecha Rusa Eurasiática” (publicado 29 Mayo 2014)


Alexander Dugin: la Nueva Derecha rusa, entre el Neo-Eurasianismo y la Cuarta Teoría Política, por Jesús J. Sebastián

Más allá del liberalismo: hacia la Cuarta Teoría Política, por Alexander Dugin

Necesidad de la Cuarta Teoría Política, por Leonid Savin

La Cuarta Teoría Política y la “Otra Europa”, por Natella Speranskaya

El Liberalismo y la Guerra Rusia-Occidente, por Alexander Dugin

Alexander Dugin, o cuando la metafísica y la política se unen, por Sergio Fritz

La Cuarta Teoría Política, entrevista a Natella Speranskaya, por Claudio Mutti

El quinto estado: una réplica a Alexander Dugin, por Marcos Ghio

La Tercera Teoría Política. Una crítica a la Cuarta Teoría Política, por Michael O’Meara

La gran guerra de los continentes. Geopolítica y fuerzas ocultas de la historia, por Alexander Dugin

La globalización para bien de los pueblos. Perspectivas de la nueva teoría política, por Leonid Savin

Alianza Global Revolucionaria, entrevista a Natella Speranskaya

Contribución a la teoría actual de la protesta radical, por Geidar Dzhemal

El proyecto de la Gran Europa. Un esbozo geopolítico para un futuro mundo multipolar, por Alexander Dugin

Rusia, clave de bóveda del sistema multipolar, por Tiberio Graziani

La dinámica ideológica en Rusia y los cambios del curso de su política exterior, por Alexander Dugin

Un Estado étnico para Rusia. El fracaso del proyecto multicultural, por Vladimir Putin

Reportaje sobre Dugin (revista alemana Zuerst!), por Manuel Ochsenreiter

Dugin: de la Unión Nacional-Bolchevique al Partido Euroasiático, por Xavier Casals Meseguer


ELEMENTOS Nº 79 – “Contra Occidente: Salir del Sistema Occidental” (publicado 29 Agosto 2014)


Occidente debe ser olvidado, por Alain de Benoist

Occidente como decadencia, por Carlos Pinedo

¿Existe todavía el mundo occidental?, por Immanuel Wallerstein

¿Qué es Occidente?, por Juan Pablo Vitali

Romper con la civilización occidental, por Guillaume Faye

Sobre Nietzsche y el masoquismo occidental, por Carlos Javier Blanco Martín

Hispanoamérica contra Occidente, por Alberto Buela

El paradigma occidental, por H.C.F. Mansilla

El decadentismo occidental, por Jesús J. Sebastián

Critica del sistema occidental, por Guillaume Faye

¿El ascenso de Occidente?, por Immanuel Wallerstein

René Guénon, ¿profeta del fin de Occidente?, por Antonio Martínez

Más allá de Oriente y Occidente, por María Teresa Román López

Civilización y hegemonía de Occidente, por Jaime Parra

Apogeo y decadencia de Occidente, por Mario Vargas Llosa
Europa vs. Occidente, por Claudi Finzi

Occidente contra Occidente. Brecha intelectual francesa, por José Andrés Fernández Leost

Civilización e Ideología occidentales, por Guillaume Faye

Occidente como destino. Una lectura weberiana, por Jacobo Muñoz


ELEMENTOS Nº 82 – “El Debate sobre el Paganismo de la Nueva Derecha (Vol. 1)” (publicado 11 Octubre 2014)


¿Cómo se puede ser pagano? (I), por Alain de Benoist

La cuestión religiosa y la Nueva Derecha, por José Javier Esparza

¿Qué aliento sagrado puede salvarnos? Carta abierta a José Javier Esparza, por Javier Ruiz Portella

La tentación pagana, por Thomas Molnar

Paganismo, la nueva religión europea, por Guillaume Faye

¿Qué religión para Europa? La polémica del neopaganismo, por Rodrigo Agulló

La Derecha pagana, por Tomislav Sunic

Monoteísmo versus Politeísmo, por Alain de Benoist

El paganismo: religión de la vida terrenal, por José Vicente Pascual

La religión en las sociedades occidentales, por Alain de Benoist

El paganismo de Hamsun y Lawrence, por Robert Steuckers

El eclipse de lo sagrado, ¿o el sagrado eclipse?, por Paul Gottfried

La reacción contra la modernidad y la secularización del cristianismo, por Adolfo Galeano Ofm

El Paganismo como concepción del Mundo, por Ramón Bau

Contra Dawkins: qué esconden sus preferencias por el politeísmo, por Javier del Arco

Politeísmo versus monoteísmo: el desarrollo de la crítica a la religión cristiana en la obra de Friedrich Nietzsche, por Herbert Fre

El origen de la Navidad. Las raíces paganas de una fiesta cristiana, por Alfredo Martorell


ELEMENTOS Nº 83 – “El Debate sobre el Paganismo de la Nueva Derecha (Vol. 2)” (publicado 11 Octubre 2014)


¿Cómo se puede ser pagano? (II), por Alain de Benoist

Lo sagrado en la cultura europea, por Carlos Martínez-Cava

Marx, Moisés y los Paganos en la Ciudad Secular, por Tomislav Sunic

Dioses y titanes: entrevista con Guillaume Faye sobre el paganismo, por Christopher Gérard

¿Es preciso ser cristiano? La Derecha tradicional, por José Javier Esparza

La religión de Europa, por Alain de Benoist

¿Qué religión para Europa?, por Diego L. Sanromán

Entre el paganismo y la derecha radical, por Stéphane François

Europa: pagana y cristiana, por Juan Pablo Vitali

Humanismo profano y neopaganismo moderno, por Arnaud Imatz

Del politeísmo al monoteísmo: los riesgos de los fundamentalismos, por Juan Antonio Estrada

El Frente Nacional de Marine Le Pen y la derecha pagana, por Fernando José Vaquero Oroquieta

La cuestión del paganismo. Entrevista a Alain de Benoist, por Charles Champetier

Paganismo y nihilismo, por Daniel Aragón Ortiz

El neopaganismo pessoano, por Antonio López Martín

El nuevo paganismo ¿triunfo del ilusionismo?, por José Miguel Odero

Paganismo y Cristianismo, por Eduard Alcántara


ELEMENTOS Nº 84 – Julien Freund: Lo Político en Esencia (publicado 31 Octubre 2014)


Julien Freund: una introducción, por Juan Carlos Corbetta

Julien Freund, un politique para nuestro tiempo, por Jerónimo Molina

Julien Freund y la impolítica, por Alain de Benoist

Evocación de Julien Freund, por Günter Maschke

Julien Freund, por Dalmacio Negro Pavón

Conflicto, política y polemología en el pensamiento de Julien Freund, por Jerónimo Molina

Julien Freund, analista político: contextos y perspectivas de interpretación, por Juan C. Valderrama Abenza

Lo público y la libertad en el pensamiento de Julien Freund, por Cristián Rojas González

El realismo político. A propósito de La esencia de lo político, de Julien Freund, por Felipe Giménez Pérez

Julien Freund. Del Realismo Político al Maquiavelismo, por Jerónimo Molina

Situación polémica y terceros en Schmitt y Freund, por Jorge Giraldo Ramírez

Orden y situación política en Julien Freund, por Juan C. Valderrama Abenza

Las nociones de mando y obediencia en la teoría política de Julien Freund, por Jerónimo Molina

Julien  Freund: la paz como medio de la política, por José Romero Serrano

Julien Freund: entre liberalismo y conservadurismo, por Sébastien de la Touanne


Otros Ensayos:

“Alain de Benoist y su crítica del capitalismo” por Carlos Javier Blanco Martín

“La Nueva Derecha Criolla” por Francisco Albanese


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Sacred & Profane – Eliade

Key Excerpts from The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircea Eliade


The extraordinary interest aroused all over the world by Rudolf Otto’s Das Heilige (The Sacred), published in 1917, still persists. Its success was certainly due to the author’s new and original point of view. Instead of studying the ideas of God and religion, Otto undertook to analyze the modalities of the religious experience. Gifted with great psychological subtlety, and thoroughly prepared by his twofold training as theologian and historian of religions, he succeeded in determining the content and specific characteristics of religious experience. Passing over the rational and speculative side of religion, he concentrated chiefly on its irrational aspect. For Otto had read Luther and had understood what the “living God” meant to a believer. It was not the God of the philosophers – of Erasmus, for example; it was not an idea, an abstract notion, a mere moral allegory. It was a terrible power, manifested in the divine wrath.

In Das Heilige Otto sets himself to discover the characteristics of this frightening and irrational experience. He finds the feeling of terror before the sacred, before the awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum), the majesty (majestas) that emanates an overwhelming superiority of power; he finds religious fear before the fascinating mystery (mysterium fascinans) in which perfect fullness of being flowers. Otto characterizes all these experiences as numinous (from Latin numen, god), for they are induced by the revelation of an aspect of divine power. The numinous presents itself as something wholly other” (ganz andere), something basically and totally different. It is like nothing human or cosmic; confronted with it, man senses his profound nothingness, feels that he is only a creature, or, in the words in which Abraham addressed the Lord, is “but dust and ashes” (Genesis, 18, 27).

The sacred always manifests itself as a reality of a wholly different order from “natural” realities. It is true that language naively expresses the tremendum, or the majestas, or the mysterium fascinans by terms borrowed from the world of nature or from man’s secular mental life. But we know that this analogical terminology is due precisely to human inability to express the ganz andere; all that goes beyond man’s natural experience, language is reduced to suggesting by terms taken from that experience.

After forty years, Otto’s analyses have not lost their value; readers of this book will profit by reading and reflecting on them. But in the following pages we adopt a different perspective. We propose to present the phenomenon of the sacred in all its complexity, and not only in so far as it is irrational. What will concern us is not the relation between the rational and nonrational elements of religion but the sacred in its entirety. The first possible definition of the sacred is that it is the opposite of the profane. The aim of the following pages is to illustrate and define this opposition between sacred and profane.

When the Sacred Manifests Itself

Man becomes aware of the sacred because it itself, shows itself, as something wholly different

from the profane. To designate the act of manifestation of the sacred, we have proposed the term hierophany. It is a fitting term, because it does not imply further; it expresses no more than is implicit in its etymological content, i.e., that something sacred shows itself to us. [Note: Cf. Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, New York, Sheed & Ward, 1958, pp. 7 ff. Cited hereafter as Patterns.] It could be said that the history of religions – from the most primitive to the most highly developed – is constituted by a great number of hierophanies, by manifestations of sacred realities. From the most elementary hierophany – e.g., manifestation of the sacred in some ordinary object, a stone or a tree-to the supreme hierophany (which, for a Christian, is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ) there is no solution of continuity. In each case we are confronted by the same mysterious act-the manifestation of something of a wholly different order, a reality that does not belong to our world, in objects that are an integral part of our natural “profane” world.

The modern Occidental experiences a certain uneasiness before many manifestations of the sacred. He finds it difficult to accept the fact that, for many human beings, the sacred can be manifested in stones or trees, for example. But as we shall soon see, what is involved is not a veneration of the stone in itself, a cult of the tree in itself. The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree; they are worshiped precisely because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but the sacred, the ganz andere.

It is impossible to overemphasize the paradox represented by every hierophany, even the most elementary. By manifesting the sacred, any object becomes something else, yet it continues to remain itself, for it continues to participate in its surrounding cosmic milieu. A sacred stone remains a stone; apparently (or, more precisely, from the profane point of view), nothing distinguishes it from all other stones. But for those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into a supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality. The, cosmos in its entirety can become a hierophany.

The man of the archaic societies tends to live as much as possible in the sacred or in close proximity to consecrated objects. The tendency is perfectly understandable, because, for primitives as for the man of all pre-modern societies, the sacred is equivalent to a power, and, in the last analysis, to reality. The sacred is saturated with being. Sacred power means reality and at the same time enduringness and efficacity. The polarity sacred profane is often expressed as an opposition between real and unreal or pseudoreal. (Naturally, we must not expect to find the archaic languages in possession of this philosophical terminology, real-unreal, etc.; but we find the thing). Thus it is easy to understand that religious man deeply desires to be, to participate in reality, to be saturated with power.

Two Modes of Being in the World

The reader will very soon realize that sacred and profane are two modes of being in the world, two existential situations assumed by man in the course of his history. These modes of being in the world are not of concern only to the history of religions or to sociology; they are not the object only of historical, sociological, or ethnological study. In the last analysis, the sacred and profane modes of being depend upon the different positions that man has conquered in the cosmos; hence they are of concern both to the philosopher and to anyone seeking to discover the possible dimensions of human existence.

It is for this reason that, though he is a historian of religions, the author of this book proposes not to confine himself only to the perspective of his particular science. The man of the traditional societies is admittedly a homo religiosus, but his behavior forms part of the general behavior of mankind and hence is of concern to philosophical anthropology, to phenomenology, to psychology….

The Sacred and History

Our primary concern is to present the specific dimensions of religious experience, to bring out the differences between it and profane experience of the world. I shall not dwell on the variations that religious experience of the world has undergone in the course of time. It is obvious, for example, that the symbolisms and cults of Mother Earth, of human and agricultural fertility, of the sacrality of woman, and the like, could not develop and constitute a complex religious system except through the discovery of agriculture; it is equally obvious that a preagricultural society, devoted to hunting, could not feel the sacrality of Mother Earth in the same way or with the same intensity. Hence there are differences in religious experience explained by differences in economy, culture, and social organization-in short, by history. Nevertheless, between the nomadic hunters and the sedentary cultivators there is a similarity in behavior that seems to us infinitely more important than their differences: both live in a sacralized cosmos, both share in a cosmic sacrality manifested equally in the animal world and in the vegetable world. We need only compare their existential situations with that of a man of the modern societies, living in a desacralized cosmos, and we shall immediately be aware of all that separates him from them. At the same time we realize the validity of comparisons between religious facts pertaining to different cultures; all these facts arise from a single type of behavior, that of homo religiosus….

Homogeneity of Space and Hierophany

For religious man, space is not homogeneous; he experiences interruptions, breaks in it; some parts of’ space are qualitatively different from others. “Draw not nigh hither,” says the Lord to Moses; “put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus, 3, 5). There is, then, a sacred space, and hence a strong, significant space; there are other spaces that are not sacred and so are without structure or consistency, amorphous. Nor is this all. For religious man, this spatial nonhomogeneity finds expression in the experience of an opposition between space’ that is sacred-the only real and real-ly existing space and all other space, the formless expanse surrounding it.

It must be said at once that the religious experience of the nonhomogeneity of space is a primordial experience, homologizable to a founding of the world. It is not a matter of theoretical speculation, but of a primary religious experience that precedes all reflection on the world. For it is the break effected in space that allows the world to be constituted, because it reveals the fixed point, the central axis for all future orientation. When the sacred manifests itself in any hierophany, there is not only a break in the homogeneity of space; there is also revelation of an absolute reality, opposed to the nonreality of the vast surrounding expanse. The manifestation of the sacred ontologically founds the world. In the homogeneous and infinite expanse, in which no point of reference is possible and hence no orientation can be established, the hierophany reveals an absolute fixed point, a center.

So it is clear to what a degree the discovery-that is, the revelation – of a sacred space possesses existential value for religious man; for nothing can begin, nothing can be done, without a previous orientation-and any orientation implies acquiring a fixed point. It is for this reason that religious man has always sought to fix his abode at the “center of the world.” If the world is to be lived in, it must be founded – and no world can come to birth in the chaos of the homogeneity and relativity of profane space. The discovery or projection of a fixed point – the center – is equivalent to the creation of the world; and we shall soon give some examples that will unmistakably show the cosmogonic value of the ritual orientation and construction of sacred space.

For profane experience, on the contrary, space is homogeneous and neutral; no break qualitatively differentiates the various parts of its mass. Geometrical space can be cut and delimited in any direction; but no qualitative differentiation and, hence, no orientation are given by virtue of its inherent structure. We need only remember how a classical geometrician defines space. Naturally, we must not confuse the concept of homogeneous and neutral geometrical space with the experience of profane space, which is in direct contrast to the experience of sacred space and which alone concerns our investigation. The concept of homogeneous space and the history of the concept (for it has been part of the common stock of philosophical and scientific thought since antiquity) are a wholly different problem, up which we shall not enter here. What matters for our purpose is the experience of space known to nonreligious man, that is, to a man who rejects the sacrality of the world, who accepts only a profane existence, divested of all religious presuppositions.

It must be added at once that such a profane existence is never found in the pure state. To whatever degree he may have desacralized the world, the man who has made his choice in favor of profane life never succeeds in completely doing away with religious behavior. This will become clearer as we proceed; it will appear that even the most desacralized existence still preserves traces of a religious valorization of the world.

But for the moment we will set aside this aspect of the problem and confine ourselves to comparing the two experiences in question-that of sacred space and that of profane space. The implications of the former experience have already been pointed out. Revelation of a sacred space makes it possible to obtain a fixed point and hence to acquire orientation in the chaos of homogeneity, to “found the world” and to live in a real sense. The profane experience, on the contrary, maintains the homogeneity and hence the relativity of space. No true orientation is now possible, for the fixed point no longer enjoys a unique ontological status; it appears and disappears in accordance with the needs of the day. Properly speaking, there is no longer any world, there are only fragments of a shattered universe, an amorphous mass consisting of an infinite number of more or less neutral places in which man moves, governed and driven by the obligations of an existence incorporated into an industrial society.

Yet this experience of profane space still includes values that to some extent recall the nonhomogeneity peculiar to the religious experience of space. There are, for example, privileged places, qualitatively different from all others-a man’s birthplace, or the scenes of his first love, or certain places in the first foreign city he visited in youth. Even for the most frankly nonreligious man, all these places still retain an exceptional, a unique quality; they are the “holy places” of his private universe, as if it were in such spots that he had received the revelation of a reality other than that in which he participates through his ordinary daily life….

Theophanies and Signs

To exemplify the nonhomogeneity of space as experienced by nonreligious man, we may turn to any religion. We will choose an example that is accessible to everyone a church in a modern city. For a believer, the church shares in a different space from the street in which it stands. The door that opens on the interior of the church actually signifies a solution of continuity. The threshold that separates the two spaces also indicates the distance between two modes of being, the profane and the religious. The threshold is the limit, the boundary, the frontier that distinguishes and opposes two worlds-and at the same time the paradoxical place where those worlds communicate, where passage from the profane to the sacred world becomes possible.

A similar ritual function falls to the threshold of the human habitation, and it is for this reason that the threshold is an object of great importance. Numerous rites accompany passing the domestic threshold-a bow, a prostration, a pious touch of the hand, and so on. The threshold has its guardians-gods and spirits who forbid entrance both to human enemies and to demons and the powers of pestilence. It is on the threshold that sacrifices to the guardian divinities are offered. Here too certain palaeo-oriental cultures (Babylon, Egypt, Israel) situated the judgment place. The threshold, the door show the solution of continuity in space immediately and concretely; hence their great religious importance, for they are symbols and at the same time vehicles of passage from the one space to the other.

What has been said will make it clear why the church shares in an entirely different space from the buildings that surround it. Within the sacred precincts the profane world is transcended. On the most archaic levels of culture this possibility of transcendence is expressed by various images of an opening; here, in the sacred enclosure, communication with the gods is made possible; hence there must be a door to the world above, by which the gods can descend to earth and man can symbolically ascend to heaven. We shall soon see that this was the case in many religions; properly speaking, the temple constitutes an opening in the upward direction and ensures communication with the world of the gods.

Every sacred space implies a hierophany, an irruption of the sacred that results in detaching a territory from the surrounding cosmic milieu and making it qualitatively different….

Often there is no need for a theophany or hierophany properly speaking; some sign suffices to indicate the sacredness of a place. “According to the legend, the marabout who founded El-Hamel at the end of the sixteenth century stopped to spend the night near a spring and planted his stick in the ground. The next morning, when he went for it to resume his journey, he found that it had taken root and that buds had sprouted on it. He considered this a sign of God’s will and settled in that place.”[Note: René Basset, in Revue des Traditions Populaires, XXII, 1907, p. 287.] In such cases the sign, fraught with religious meaning, introduces an absolute element and puts an end to relativity and confusion. Something that does not belong to this world has manifested itself apodictically and in so doing has indicated an orientation or determined a course of conduct.

When no sign manifests itself, it is provoked. For example, a sort of evocation is performed with the help of animals; it is they who show what place is fit to receive the sanctuary or the village. This amounts to an evocation of sacred forms or figures for the immediate Purpose of establishing an orientation in the homogeneity of space. A sign is asked, to put an end to the tension and anxiety caused by relativity and disorientation. In short, to reveal an absolute point of support. For example, a wild animal is hunted, and the sanctuary is built at the place where it is killed. Or a domestic animal-such as a bull-is turned loose; some days later it is searched for and sacrificed at the place where it is found. Later the altar will be raised there and the village will be built around the altar. In all these cases, the sacrality of a place is revealed by animals. This is as much as to say that men are not free to choose the sacred site, that they only seek for it and find it by the help of mysterious signs.

These few examples have shown the different means by which religious man receives the revelation of a sacred place. In each case the hierophany has annulled the homogeneity of space and revealed a fixed point. But since religious man cannot live except in an atmosphere impregnated with the sacred, we must expect to find a large number of techniques for consecrating space. As we saw, the sacred is pre-eminently the real, at once power, efficacity, the source of life and fecundity. Religious man’s desire to live in the sacred is in fact equivalent to his desire to take up his abode in objective reality, not to let himself be paralyzed by the never-ceasing relativity of purely subjective experiences, to live in a real and effective world, and not in an illusion. This behavior is documented on every plane of religious man’s existence, but it is particularly evident in his desire to move about only in a sanctified world, that is, in a sacred space. This is the reason for the elaboration of techniques of orientation which, properly speaking, are techniques for the construction of sacred space. But we must not suppose that human work is in question here, that it is through his own efforts that man can consecrate a space. In reality the ritual by which he constructs a sacred space is efficacious in the measure in which it reproduces the work of the gods. But the better to understand the need for ritual construction of a sacred space, we must dwell a little on the traditional concept of the “world”; it will then be apparent that for religious man every world is a sacred world.

Chaos and Cosmos

One of the outstanding characteristics of traditional societies is the opposition that they assume between their inhabited territory and the unknown and indeterminate space that surrounds it. The former is the world (more precisely, our world), the cosmos; everything outside it is no longer a cosmos but a sort of “other world,” a foreign, chaotic space, peopled by ghosts, demons, “foreigners” (who are assimilated to demons and the souls of the dead). At first sight this cleavage in space appears to be due to the opposition between an inhabited and organized – hence cosmicized – territory and the unknown space that extends beyond its frontiers; on one side there is a cosmos, on the other a chaos. But we shall see that if every inhabited territory is a cosmos, this is precisely because it was first consecrated, because, in one way or another, it is the work of the gods or is in communication with the world of the gods. The world (that is, our world) is a universe within which the sacred has already manifested itself, in which, consequently, the break-through from plane to plane has become possible and repeatable. It is not difficult to see why the religious moment implies the cosmogonic moment. The sacred reveals absolute reality and at the same time makes orientation possible; hence it founds the world in the sense that it fixes the limits and establishes the order of the world….

An unknown, foreign, and unoccupied territory (which often means, “unoccupied by our people”) still shares in the fluid and larval modality of chaos. By occupying it and, above all, by settling in it, man symbolically transforms it into a cosmos through a ritual repetition of the cosmogony. What is to become “our world” must first be “created,” and every creation has a paradigmatic model – the creation of the universe by the gods. When the Scandinavian colonists took possession of Iceland (land-náma) and cleared it, they regarded the enterprise neither as an original undertaking nor as human and profane work. For them, their labor was only repetition of a primordial act, the transformation of chaos into cosmos by the divine act of creation. When they tilled the desert soil, they were in fact repeating the act of the gods who had organized chaos by giving it a structure, forms, and norms.[Note: Cf. Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, New York, Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series XLVI, 1954, pp. 11 ff. Cited hereafter as Myth.]

Whether it is a case of clearing uncultivated ground or of conquering and occupying a territory already inhabited by “other” human beings, ritual taking possession must always repeat the cosmogony. For in the view of archaic societies everything that is not “our world” is not yet a world. A territory can be made ours only by creating it anew, that is, by consecrating it….

Consecration of a Place = Repetition of the Cosmogony

It must be understood that the cosmicization of unknown territories is always a consecration; to organize a space is to repeat the paradigmatic work of the gods….

Life is not possible without an opening toward the transcendent; in other words, human beings cannot live in chaos. Once contact with the transcendent is lost, existence in the world ceases to be possible….

To settle in a territory is, in the last analysis, equivalent to consecrating it. When settlement is not temporary, as among the nomads, but permanent, as among sedentary peoples, it implies a vital decision that involves the existence of the entire community. Establishment in a particular place, organizing it, inhabiting it, are acts that presuppose an existential choice – the choice of the universe that one is prepared to assume by “creating” it. Now, this universe is always the replica of the paradigmatic universe created and inhabited by the gods; hence it shares in the sanctity of the gods’ work….

The Center of the World

The cry of the Kwakiutl neophyte, “I am at the Center of the World!” at once reveals one of the deepest meanings of sacred space. Where the break-through from plane to plane has been effected by a hierophany, there too an opening has been made, either upward (the divine world) or downward (the underworld, the world of the dead). The three cosmic levels – earth, heaven, underworld – have been put in communication. As we just saw, this communication is sometimes expressed through the image of a universal pillar, axis mundi, which at once connects and supports heaven and earth and whose base is fixed in the world below (the infernal regions). Such a cosmic pillar can be only at the very center of the universe, for the whole of the habitable world extends around it. Here, then, we have a sequence of religious conceptions and cosmological images that are inseparably connected and form a system that may be called the “system of the world” prevalent in traditional societies: (a) a sacred place constitutes a break in the homogeneity of space; (b) this break is symbolized by an opening by which passage from one cosmic region to another is made possible (from heaven to earth and vice versa; from earth to the underworld) ; (c) communication with heaven is expressed by one or another of certain images, all of which refer to the axis mundi: pillar (cf. the universalis columna) , ladder (cf. Jacob’s ladder), mountain, tree, vine, etc. ; (d) around this cosmic axis lies the world (= our world), hence the axis is located “in the middle,” at the “navel of the earth”; it is the Center of the World….

We shall begin with an example that has the advantage of immediately showing not only the consistency but also the complexity of this type of symbolism – the cosmic mountain….

According to Islamic tradition, the highest place on earth is the ka’aba, because “the Pole Star bears witness that it faces the center of Heaven.”‘ For Christians, it is Golgotha that is on the summit of the cosmic mountain. All these beliefs express the same feeling, which is profoundly religious: “our world is holy ground because it is the place nearest to heaven, because from here, from our abode, it is possible to reach heaven; hence our world is a high place. In cosmological terms, this religious conception is expressed by the projection of the favored territory which is “ours” onto the summit of the cosmic mountain….

This same symbolism of the center explains other series of cosmological images and religious beliefs. Among these the most important are: (a) holy sites and sanctuaries are believed to be situated at the center of the world; (b) temples are replicas of the cosmic mountain and hence constitute the pre-eminent “link” between earth and heaven; (c) the foundations of temples descend deep into the lower regions….

“Our World” is Always Situated at the Center

From all that has been said, it follows that the true world is always in the middle, at the Center, for it is here that there is a break in plane and hence communication among the three cosmic zones. Whatever the extent of the territory involved, the cosmos that it represents is always perfect. An entire country (e.g., Palestine), a city (Jerusalem), a sanctuary (the Temple in Jerusalem), all equally well present an imago mundi. Treating of the symbolism of the Temple, Flavius Josephus wrote that the court represented the sea (i.e., the lower regions), the Holy Place represented earth, and the Holy of Holies heaven (Ant. Jud., 111, 7, 7). It is clear, then, that both the imago mundi and the Center are repeated in the inhabited world. Palestine, Jerusalem, and the Temple severally and concurrently represent the image of the universe and the Center of the World. This multiplicity of centers and this reiteration of the image of the world on smaller and smaller scales constitute one of the specific characteristics of traditional societies.

To us, it seems an inescapable conclusion that the religious man sought to live as near as possible to the Center of the World. He knew that his country lay at the midpoint of the earth; he knew too that his city constituted the navel of the universe, and, above all, that the temple or the palace were veritably Centers of the World. But he also wanted his own house to be at the Center and to be an imago mundi….

In short, whatever the dimensions of the space with which he is familiar and in which he regards himself as situated – his country, his city, his village, his house – religious man feels the need always to exist in a total and organized world, in a cosmos.

A universe comes to birth from its center; it spreads out from a central point that is, as it were, its navel. It is in this way that, according to the Rig Veda (X, 149), the universe was born and developed – from a core, a central point….

1t follows that every construction or fabrication has the cosmogony as paradigmatic model. The creation of the world becomes the archetype of every creative human gesture, whatever its plane of reference may be….


Since “our world” is a cosmos, any attack from without threatens to turn it into chaos. And as “our world” was founded by imitating the paradigmatic work of the gods, the cosmogony, so the enemies who attack it are assimilated to the enemies of the gods, the demons, and especially to the archdemon, the primordial dragon conquered by the gods at the beginning of time. An attack on “our world” is equivalent to an act of revenge by the mythical dragon, who rebels against the work of the gods, the cosmos, and struggles to annihilate it. “Our” enemies belong to the powers of chaos. Any destruction of a city is equivalent to a retrogression to chaos. Any victory over the attackers reiterates the paradigmatic victory of the gods over the dragon (that is, over chaos)….

Some Conclusions

….There is no need to dwell on the truism that, since the religious life of humanity is realized in history, its expressions are inevitably conditioned by the variety of historical moments and cultural styles. But for our purpose it is not the infinite variety of the religious experiences of space that concerns us but, on the contrary, their elements of unity. Pointing out the contrast between the behavior of nonreligious man with respect to the space in which he lives and the behavior of religious man in respect to sacred space is enough to make the difference in structure between the two attitudes clearly apparent.

If we should attempt to summarize the result of the descriptions that have been presented in this chapter, we could say that the experience of sacred space makes possible the “founding of the world”: where the sacred manifests itself in space, the real unveils itself, the world comes into existence. But the irruption of the sacred does not only project a fixed point into the formless fluidity of profane space, a center into chaos; it also effects a break in plane, that is, it opens communication between the cosmic planes (between earth and heaven) and makes possible ontological passage from one mode of being to another. It is such a break in the heterogeneity of profane space that creates the center through which communication with the transmundane is established, that, consequently, founds the world, for the center renders orientation possible. Hence the manifestation of the sacred in space has a cosmological valence; every spatial hierophany or consecration of a space is equivalent to a cosmogony. The first conclusion we might draw would be: the world becomes apprehensible as world, as cosmos, in the measure in which it reveals itself as a sacred world.

Every world is the work of the gods, for it was either created directly by the gods or was consecrated, hence cosmicized, by men ritually reactualizing the paradigmatic act of Creation. This is as much as to say that religious man can live only in a sacred world, because it is only in such a world that he participates in being, that he has a real existence. This religious need expresses an unquenchable ontological thirst. Religious man thirsts for being. His terror of the chaos that surrounds his inhabited world corresponds to his terror of nothingness. The unknown space that extends beyond his world – an uncosmicized because unconsecrated space, a mere amorphous extent into which no orientation has yet been projected, and hence in which no structure has yet arisen – for religious man, this profane space represents absolute nonbeing. If, by some evil chance, he strays into it, he feels emptied of his ontic substance, as if he were dissolving in Chaos, and he finally dies.

This ontological thirst is manifested in many ways. ‘In the realm of sacred space which we are now considering, its most striking manifestation is religious man’s will to take his stand at the very heart of the real, at the Center of the World – that is, exactly where the cosmos came into existence and began to spread out toward the four horizons, and where, too, there is the possibility of communication with the gods; in short, precisely where he is closest to the gods. We have seen that the symbolism of the center is the formative principle not only of countries, cities, temples, and palaces but also of the humblest human dwelling, be it the tent of a nomad hunter, the shepherd’s yurt, or the house of the sedentary cultivator. This is as much as to say that every religious man places himself at the Center of the World and by the same token at the very source of absolute reality, as close as possible to the opening that ensures him communication with the gods.

But since to settle somewhere, to inhabit a space, is equivalent to repeating the cosmogony and hence to imitating the work of the gods, it follows that, for religious man, every existential decision to situate himself in space in fact constitutes a religious decision. By assuming the responsibility of creating the world that he has chosen to inhabit, he not only cosmicizes chaos but also sanctifies his little cosmos by making it like the world of the gods. Religious man’s profound nostalgia is to inhabit a “divine world,” is his desire that his house shall be like the house of the gods, as it was later represented in temples and sanctuaries. In short, this religious nostalgia the desire to live in a pure and holy cosmos, as it was in the beginning, when it came fresh from the Creator’s hands.

The experience of sacred time will make it possible for religious man periodically to experience the cosmos it was in principio, that is, at the mythical moment of Creation.



Excerpts from: Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orlando: Harcourt, 1987), pp. 8-65.

Note: The Sacred and the Profane is Mircea Eliade’s most important introductory book to a deeper understanding of religion and has been translated into a large number of other languages. Also notable in this regard are Eliade’s books: The Myth of the Eternal Return (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), Myths, Dreams and Mysteries: the Encounter between Contemporary Faiths and Archaic Realities (New York & Evanston: Harper & Row, 1975), and The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). For a record of all works by Mircea Eliade in various languages, see the World Catalogue: <http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3AMircea+Eliade > (lists of translations of Eliade’s works are also oftentimes recorded in bibliographies in their respective languages).

Additional note: See also the overviews of Mircea Eliade’s religious philosophy in “Mircea Eliade: An Appreciation” by David J. Levy and “Mircea Eliade: The hermeneutics of the religious phenomenon” by Livia Durac.

In the Spanish language, commentaries and resources on Eliade can be found in Sebastian J. Lorenz’s Elementos, N° 64, “El Eterno Retorno de Mircea Eliade” (Marzo 2014), <http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n___64._mircea_eliade >. (We have made Elementos N° 64 available for download on our site: Elementos No. 64).



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