Themes in Mircea Eliade's "The Sacred and the Profane"

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Mircea Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane analyzes a wide variety of components that are found within various world religions. Eliade uses the history of religion to support his ideas as the the book itself is a brief introduction to religion as a whole, particulary the religions of primitive societies. Nonetheless, when looking to the past one can see that mankind’s desire to associate itself with the sacred has been occuring for thousands of years. From temples to passages of intiation, religious man is a unique microcosm that follows and repeats the structure of the religious macrocosm, the creation of the cosmos. One can conclude that Eliade views religion as the “paradigmatic solution for every existential crisis.” (p210) and furthermore, the solution that bridges the gap between this world and another, giving meaning and purpose to the profane existential life of mankind. From this standpoint, it can be determined that the belief of the sacred, specifically the paradigmatic making of the cosmos, does indeed set the framework for religious life in this world via sacred space, time, and experiences.

Space according to Eliade, can either be heterogeneous or homogenous. For the profane nonreligious man, it is obviously an endless homogenous plane with little meaning but for the religious man, it proves to be a sacred heterogeneous plane. Sacred space is founded on the idea of the cosmos emerging from the primordial chaos via the power of the gods. Religious man’s need to be in an “organized world” (p44) facilitates this notion of the cosmos being created and the establishing of sacred spaces to worship gods. Along with this, the desire to be at a specific part of the world sees humans choosing to be closer to their gods from the area which they believe the world was created, the center. Sacred spaces take shape from there, representing some form of identification to the gods and the heavens. Temples, altars, churches and similar structures are built to serve...
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