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The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion [Paperback]

Mircea Eliade
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2001 Harvest Book

A highly original and scholarly work on spirituality by noted historian Mircea Eliade


In The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade observes that while contemporary people believe their world is entirely profane, or secular, they still at times find themselves connected unconsciously to the memory of something sacred. It's this premise that both drives Eliade's exhaustive exploration of the sacred—as it has manifested in space, time, nature and the cosmos, and life itself—and buttresses his expansive view of the human experience.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ontological Nature of Religion Sept. 13 2003
By zonaras
_The Sacred and the Profane_ by Mircea Eliade is a work that examines (or attempts to examine) the ontological meaning of religion and religious experience. It is an excellent, if highly abstract work that tries to explain what it means to actually be. Religious experience is that of knowledge of the sacred and the meanings attached to it. The sacred distinguishes itself from the profane by what Eliade terms a "hierophany" or manifestation of the sacred. The sacred indicates a break in profane existence, both in space and time. Space becomes sacred when it has a meaning above and beyond itself, and time becomes sacred when it hearkens back to man's primordial beginnings, rooted in myth. It symbolizes death and rebirth. _The Sacred and the Profane_ covers foundation ceremonies, ritual sacrifices, the "axis mundi", New Year's celebrations, the polarity between sun and moon, masculine and feminine, rites of initiation (such as baptism and its parallels in other religions), and modern man's fall into an almost completely profane world. Eliade, who was affiliated with a pro-fascist revolutionary group (whose slogan was "long live death!") in his native Romania, is hoping toward some type of spiritual revival. Religious man, contrary to modernist doctrines, actually looks for the deeper value in mere existential being, rooted in something above and beyond himself, the true nature of Reality. In the conclusion of _The Sacred and the Profane_ Eliade ponders why religion has fallen away in the West today. Religious man looked toward a hypothetical Golden Age, Garden of Eden, Elysian Fields, Paradise, etc, as something which had existed in the mythical past and to which fallen humanity would someday return. This consciousness has been lost from modern man, and Eliade considers this question to be beyond the realm of pure history, and perhaps a thing to be investigated by "even theologians."
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Traditional and the Modern May 27 2002
In the "Sacred and the Profane", Mircea Eliade describes two fundamentally different modes of experience: the traditional and the modern. Traditional man or "homo religious" is open to experiencing the world as sacred. Modern man however, is closed to these kinds of experiences. For him the world is experienced only as profane. It is the burden of the book to show in what these fundamentally opposed experiences consist. Traditional man often expresses this opposition as real vs. unreal or pseudoreal and he seeks as much as possible to live his life within the sacred, to saturate himself in reality.According to Eliade the sacred becomes known to man because it manifests itself as different from the profane world. This manifestation of the sacred Eliade calls "hierophany". For Eliade this is a fundamental concept in the study of the sacred and his book returns to it again and again.

The "Sacred and the Profane" is divided into four chapters dealing with space, time, nature, and man. To these is appended a "Chronological Survey Of the History of Religions as a Branch of Knowledge."
In CHAPTER ONE Eliade explores the "variety of religious experiences of space". Modern man tends to experience all space as the same. He has mathematsized space, homogenizing it by reducing every space to the equivalent of so many units of measurement. What differences there are between places are usually due only to experiences an individual associates with a place not the place itself, e.g. my birthplace, the place I fell in love, etc.
But religious man does not experience space in this way. For him some space is qualitatively different. It is sacred, therefore strong and meaningful. Other space is profane, chaotic, and meaningless.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What Is the Sacred? Dec 10 2001
This is a fundamental text for religious scholarship and for living an examined life.
Eliade wastes no time trying to explain or define the experience of the sacred in terms of other disciplines (for instance, the sacred as psychological experience (Campbell) or the sacred as sociological phenomenon (Burkert)). Instead, he examines the sacred as sacred.
Eliade shows how sacred space and sacred time are supremely REAL space and time, permanent and eternal in opposition to the fluid space and time of the profane world. Homo religiosus re-enacts the primordial deeds of the gods in his rites and, indeed (unlike modern man), in all his acts, because only those primordial acts are truly real. Likewise, irruptions of sacred phenomena into profane space create sacred space, space which is created, which is eternal, which is real.
Read this book before undertaking any serious study of comparative religion. Read this book along with other classics about thought. Read this book and consider your own experience of the sacred. But whatever you do, read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Characterizing the Numinous March 10 2001
That the phenomenon of religious experience brooks no debate whatsoever. Eliade examines characteristics of this phenomenology, contrasting what humankind has experienced for tens of thousands of years with modern, stripped-down, rationalized religion. If nothing else, this book demonstrates what "modern" religions lack. The price they have paid in order to become modern deprives them of the underlying phenomena which have always empowered spiritual experience as a meaningful force in the past.
The chief point of the book is "to show in what ways religious man attempts to remain as long as possible in a sacred universe, and hence what his total experience of life proves to be in comparison with the experience of the man without religious feeling, of the man who lives, or wishes to live, in a desacralized world."
Eliade begins with hierophany, the event of the sacred manifesting itself to us, the experience of a different order of reality entering human experience. He presents the idea of sacred space, describing how the only "real" space is sacred, surrounded by a formless expanse. Sacred space becomes the point of reference for all other spaces. He finds that people inhabit a midland, between the outer chaos and the inner sacred, which is renewed by sacred ritual and practice. By consecrating a place in the profane world, cosmogony is recapitulated and the sacred made accessible. This becomes the center of the primitive world. Ritual takes place in this sacred space, and becomes a way of participating in the sacred cosmos while reinvigorating the profane world.
Next, Eliade considers sacred time and mythology. While "profane time" is linear, sacred time returns to the beginning, when things were more "real" than they are now.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sacred and Profane
Years ago, I was assigned this book in one of my university classes. I number it in my most memorable and personally influential works that I have ever read. Read more
Published on April 22 2008 by Tami Brady
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacred?Profane?
This a very interresting book for anyone interrested in religion and the structure that sustaines time . Read more
Published on July 29 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars This is IT!
Eliade was among the first to realize that our world is in danger. Because our science advances the world but in the same time demolishes it. Read more
Published on March 12 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise, Insightful
Before Huston Smith, Mircea Eliade was probably THE writer on religion. His writings are deep and beautiful, exploring what is profane and what is sacred particularly through the... Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2001 by Robert Kall
3.0 out of 5 stars What Twentieth Century can understand from religion
If you are interested in modern religious studies this book might be a must. But if you have a sincere, non-scholarly interest in religion, you might better try something like... Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it...short book, big font - plus the "meaning of life."
I first discovered this book in college and it has become one of the most influential pieces of writing in my life. Read more
Published on July 28 2000 by sandychoi20@hotmail.com
5.0 out of 5 stars THE comparitive- religions primer
This eminently readable introduction to cross-cultural religious studies is one of the gems of my personal library. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic book for the library.
Wonderful academic study that left me thirsting for a fundamental revelation. Well written but without the emotive force of "The Autobiography of Jesus of Nazareth and the... Read more
Published on Feb. 2 1998
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