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The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion

4.3 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156792011
ISBN-10: 015679201X
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

In a book of great originality and scholarship, a noted historian of religion traces manifestations of the sacred from primitive to modern times, in terms of space, time, nature and the cosmos, and life itself. The Sacred and the Profane serves as an excellent introduction to the history of religion, but its perspective also encompasses philosophical anthropology, phenomenology, and psychology. It will be of concern to anyone seeking to discover the potential dimensions of human existence.

About the Author

Mircea Eliade founded the modern study of the history of religions and wrote many books, including Essential Sacred Writings from Around the World and The Sacred and the Profane.

Ioan P. Couliano was the professional heir to Mircea Eliade and the author of Out of This World and The Tree of Gnosis.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (October 23, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015679201X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156792011
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
This eminently readable introduction to cross-cultural religious studies is one of the gems of my personal library. Eliade does not believe that "primitive" means "simple-minded" or "outmoded", hence, his discussions of "primitive" religious ideas are sympathetic and penetrating. The final section of the book skewers "modern" humanity's pretensions to having transcended the sacred. The appendix contains a succinct and iluminating chronology of the development of "history of religions" studies. If you always thought (along with most of the rest of the world) that "myth" simply meant "old superstition" or "false story"' this book has a few surprises in store for you. Just read it!
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