Biographical Facts about Mircea Eliade

Eliade was a major interpreter of religious experiences. He established religious studies’ paradigms that are kept up to these days. He developed some influential theories such as that of the hierophanies as the elements that actually constitute the basis of religion, and which can split the human perception of reality into the sacred and the profane time and space. He had some other major contributions to the study of religions, such as his famous theory on the myth of Eternal Return. This theory holds that rituals and myth are not only merely commemorations of hierophanies, they actually get involved in them.

In his literary writings, Eliade went for the autobiographical and fantasy genres. Among his best-known novels we could mention: Maitreyi (“Bengal Nights” of “La Nuit Bengali” in French), Noaptea de Sânziene (“The Forbidden Forest”), Isabel şi apele diavolului (“Isabel and the Devil’s Waters”), Novel of the Nearsighted Adolescent, plus the novellas entitled Domnişoara Christina (“Miss Christina”) and Tinereţe fără tinereţe (“Youth Without Youth”). Eliade also authored the short stories Secretul doctorului Honigberger (“The Secret of Dr. Honigberger”) and La Ţigănci (“With the Gypsy Girls”).

During his early career, Eliade was a prominent journalist and essayist. He was a follower of the far-right journalist and philosopher named Nae Ionescu; he was a member of the “Criterion” literary society. He also had the position of cultural attaché to Portugal and UK. During the 1930s, Eliade often expressed his sympathy towards a Romanian fascist and anti-Semitic political organization called “The Iron Guard.” These early political involvements became the subject of criticism towards Eliade after the 2nd World War. Despite his controversial early-life political views, Eliade was and still is highly appreciated all over the world due to his vast erudition, fine intelligence and deepness of spirit. Eliade knew very well 5 languages – Romanian, English, French, Italian and German. He could also read in Hebrew, Persian and Sanskrit.

His prodigious memory enabled him to acquire such impressive amount of knowledge. But his memory also helped him remember many childhood episodes that he referred to in some of his writings. Here is a quotation of his referring to such unusual childhood episode: “I practiced for many years [the] exercise of recapturing that epiphanic moment, and I would always find again the same plenitude. I would slip into it as into a fragment of time devoid of duration – without beginning, middle, or end. During my last years of lycée, when I struggled with profound attacks of melancholy, I still succeeded at times in returning to the golden green light of that afternoon. […] But even though the beatitude was the same, it was now impossible to bear because it aggravated my sadness too much. By this time I knew the world to which the drawing room belonged […] was a world forever lost.” Indeed, this understanding of the impossibility to return to the childhood and adolescent state of mind and experience might have inspired his myth of Eternal Return.

When the Communist regime began to show signs of taking hold of Romania, Eliade decided not to return to his native country. Thus, in 1945, he moved to France also taking his adopted daughter Giza there. Arrived there, Eliade came again into contact with Dumézil, who enabled him to recover his academic position. Following Dumézil’s recommendation, Eliade began teaching at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Practical School of High-Studies) in Paris. At that time, he is said to work even 15 hours per day. In France, Eliade married the second time to Cristinel Cotescu, a Romanian exile. There in France Eliade rallied with some Romanian expatriates including Emil Cioran and Alexandru Busuioceanu, who helped him publicize his anti-communist point of view to the eyes of the Western European readers. Eliade also got briefly involved in the publication of “Luceafarul” (“The Morning Star”), a magazine written in the Romanian language.

As a historian of religions, M. Eliade laid his accent on the concept of sacred time and space. The sacred space is, in Eliade’s vision, the center of the universe while the sacred time is a repetition of the elements from the origins of the world, the world being considered the “horizon” of a certain religious group.

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