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Theory: Mircea Eliade Religious man feels the need to plunge periodically into this sacred and indestructible time (Sociology 156)

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Presentation on theme: "Theory: Mircea Eliade Religious man feels the need to plunge periodically into this sacred and indestructible time (Sociology 156)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Theory: Mircea Eliade Religious man feels the need to plunge periodically into this sacred and indestructible time (Sociology 156)

2 Recap The sacred is the real, the profane is the subjective The world = organized space Hunter-gathers might have a world only as large as their valley Sacred spaces act as reference point for organizing homogenous, profane space Attacks on organized space are seen as attacks by the forces of chaos on the world 2

3 Recap The religious man sought to live as near as possible to the Center of the World.... But he wanted his own house to be at the Center and to be an imago mundi. (53) – A dwelling as sacred space, rather than a machine to live in (50) Every construction or fabrication has the cosmogony as paradigmatic model. (45) – Ordering the world = Creating the world – Ex: 1. The gods create the world out of chaos (ordering it) by planting a tree at its center. – 2. When we found a new village (organizing space) we put a pillar at its center, imitating the cosmogony. – 3. When I build a home, again organizing space, I again put a pillar at the center. – The acts of the gods are paradigmatic for creating an ordered world out of chaotic space 3

4 Sacred & Profane Time By its very nature sacred time is reversible, in the sense that, properly speaking, it is a primordial mythical time made present. –Every religious festival, any liturgical time, represents the reactualization of a sacred event – Sacred time is indefinitely recoverable, indefinitely repeatable (68-69) 4

5 Sacred Time Appears under the paradoxical aspect of a circular time, reversible and recoverable, a sort of mythical present that is periodically reintegrated by means of rites – Religious man refuses to live in what, in modern terms, is called this historical present. (70) – Unreligious man also experiences different kinds of time Monotony of work, festal times, time moving slowly or quickly But only religious man experiences intervals of time that are sacred, that have no part in the temporal duration that precedes and follows them, that have a wholly different structure and origin (69-70) 5

6 Sacred Time In archaic religions, sacred time is a mythical time, that is, a primordial time, not to be found in the historical past, an original time, in the sense that it came into existence all at once, that it was not preceded by another time, because no time could exist before the appearance of the reality narrated in the myth. (72) – Mythical time does not happen on a particular calendar date. It happens in eternity, in the realm of the gods. Actions in mythical time create the profane world. 6

7 Sacred Time For religious man of the archaic cultures, the world is renewed annually; in other words, with each new year it recovers its original sanctity, the sanctity that is possessed when it came from the Creators hands. (75) – May he continue to conquer Tiamat and shorten his days! (77) – The new year implies starting time over again at its beginning, that is, restoration of the primordial time, the pure time, that existed at the moment of creation? That is why the New Year is the occasion for purifications, for the expulsion of sins, or demons, or merely of a scapegoat. (78) – Years religiously sequential, but not continuous – Like two TV shows: one after another, but no continuity 7

8 Sacred Time The abolition of profane past time was accomplished by rituals that signified a sort of end of the world. The extinction of fires, the return of souls from the dead, social confusion of the type exemplified by the Saturnalia, erotic license, orgies, and so on, symbolized the retrogression of the cosmos into chaos. New Years Eve – Thus, all the sins of the year, everything that time had soiled and worn, was annihilated in the physical sense of the word. – Symbolically, man became contemporary with the cosmogony, he was present at the creation of the world. (78-79) 8

9 Paradigmatic Acts The persons of myth are not human beings; they are gods or culture heroes, and for this reason their gesta [deeds] constitute mysteries; for man could not know their acts if they were not revealed to him. Their acts are paradigmatic for human activity. (95, my emphasis) – The sanctified act is at once real and significant. – Understood as in imitation of the gods, mundane activities (farming, eating, sex) allow the individual to experience being, the mark of the sacred (96) In contrast, what men do on their own initiative [...] belongs to the sphere of the profane; hence it is a vain and illusory activity, and, in the last analysis, unreal. 9

10 Return to the Time of Origins Ritual recaptures the time of origins – A boat is repaired ceremonially not because it is in need of repair but because, in illo tempore, the gods showed men how to repair boats. It is a case not of an empirical operation but of a religious act, an imitatio dei. The object repaired is no longer one of the many objects that constitute the class boats but a mythical archetypethe very boat that the gods manipulated in illo tempore. (88) 10

11 Paradigmatic Acts Acting as a fully responsible human being, man imitates the paradigmatic gestures of the gods, repeats their actions (98) – He did not pray to the mythical hero for aid and favor; he identified himself with him. (99) The faithful reproduction of divine models has a twofold result: 1.) by imitating the gods, man remains in the sacred, hence in reality; 2.) by the continuous reactualization of paradigmatic divine gestures, the world is sanctified. Mens religious behavior contributes to maintaining the sanctity of the world. (99) 11

12 Desacralization of the Cosmos This perspective changes completely when the sense of the religiousness of the cosmos becomes lost. – Happens when intellectual elites detach themselves from the cycles of archaic religion, losing the sense of the sacredness of the paradigmatic acts Thus, repetition without sacredness leads to a deeply pessimistic vision of existence: – When it is no longer a vehicle for reintegrating a primordial situation, and hence for recovering the mysterious presence of the gods, that is, when it is desacralized, cyclic time becomes terrifying; it is seen as a circle forever turning on itself, repeating itself to infinity. (107) 12

13 Desacralization of the Cosmos Eliade attributes this vision to the religions of India, at least to the religious and intellectual elites – Karma (causation), reincarnation, & cyclical time (108) In the view of these religious and philosophical elites, the only hope was nonreturn-to-existence, the abolition of karma; in other words, final deliverance, implying a transcended of the cosmos. (108) 13

14 Sacralization of History It is different for the Mosaic religions: – For Judaism, time has a beginning and will have an end. The idea of cyclic time is left behind. Yahweh no longer manifests himself in cosmic [mythical] time (like the gods of other religions) but in historical time, which is irreversible. His gestures are personal interventions i history and reveal their deep meaning only for his people, the people that Yahweh had chosen. Hence, the historical event acquires a new dimension; it becomes a theophany. (110-111) Though unaddressed, Islam would have an identical relationship to history 14

15 Sacralization of History Christianity goes even further in valorizing historical time. Since God was incarnated, that is, took on a historically conditioned human existence, history acquires the possibility of being sanctified. – The illud tempus evoked by the Gospels is a clearly defined historical time, [...] but it was sanctified by the presence of Christ. Participation in the liturgy (e.g. the Eucharist) recaptures not the mythical time of origins, but a historical moment of strictly spiritual rebirth (111) Christianity arrives not at a philosophy but at a theology of history. (112) 15

16 History Desacralized Again Historical determinism arises as a decomposition product of Christianity; it accords decisive importance to the historical event (which is an idea whose origin is Christian) but to the historical event as such, that is, by denying it any possibility of revealing a transhistorical, soteriological intent. – Everything that has happened in history had to happen as it did (112) Definitively desacralized, time presents itself as a precarious and evanescent duration, leading irremediably to death. (113) – Both mythic time and the sacredness of history rejected 16

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