ELIADE, Mircea

ELIADE, Mircea. Bucharest 9.3.1907 (his own, others say rather 13.3., Old Era 28.2.) — Chicago 22.4.1986. Romanian Scholar of Comparative Religion in the U.S.A. Son of Gheorghe E., a captain in the Romanian army, and Ioana Stoenescu (Jeana Vasilescu?). The father had changed his original family name, Ieremia, in honour of the writer Eliade-Radulescu. The family moved to Rîmnicu-Sărat and Cernavodă, and in 1914 back to Bucharest, where he went to school and in 1917 to Lycée Spiru-Haret. He was an intellectually active youth, especially interested in entomology, and wrote several articles about it. However, in 1925, when he came to Bucharest University, he turned from sciences to philosophy (under Nae Ionescu), alchemy, Oriental studies, and primitive religions. During his student time in 1928 he visited Rome (met Tucci) and Geneva. In the same year he completed his M.A. degree with a dissertation on Italian Renaissance philosophy from Marsilio Ficino to Giordano Bruno.

India fascinated him and on a scholarship from the Maharajah of Kassimbazar he traveled to Calcutta in the fall of 1928 in order to carry on doctoral studies on yoga under Surendranath Dasgupta. Now he also studied Indian languages (Sanskrit, Pali, Bengali, Dravidian). However, when he moved into Dasgupta’s home as his research assistant, he developed “a brief, but intense love affair with Dasgupta’s daughter Maitreyi, a liaison of which the family disapproved. Eliade soon had to leave the house and within weeks took up residence at an ashram … in Rishikesh … under the tutelage of Swami Shivananda.” This gave him an opportunity to gain deeper insight of practical yoga, but also led him to realize the importance of his Romanian heritage, and after six months’ life of asceticism he returned to Bucharest on Christmas Eve 1931.

After his military service in the antiaircraft division Eliade took a prominent part in the young intellectual life of Bucharest. He completed his Ph.D. on yoga techniques and philosophies in 1933, and was appointed an Assistant Professor of philosophy at Bucharest University, a modest and precarious position, which he used to introduce history of religions in Romania. In 1933 married to Nina Mareş (d. 1944). He was active as writer, also producing much of fiction. The war ended brutally this period of his life. In April 1940, when he was called to London as cultural attaché to the Royal Romanian Legation, he left his country without hope for its future. In 1941 he was transferred to Lisbon, where his wife died. After the Allied victory Eliade decided to remain permanently exiled. In 1945 he became visiting Professor at É.P.H.É. in Paris. He was never politically involved, but especially in the late 1930s his works reflect a far right thinking, even fascism (the Romanian Iron Guard or Legionnaire movement), but not antisemitism. He was friend and admirer of —> Evola and later of Dumézil, who did much to alleviate his stay in Paris.

In the early 1950s Eliade travelled as visiting Professor in Scandinavian, West and South European countries. In 1956 he was invited to the University of Chicago to deliver its Haskell Lectures in religion. From 1957 Professor of history of religions there and from 1962 Sewell L. Avery Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago. Hon. Dr. 1970 Loyola University, 1976 Sorbonne, 1985 George Washington University. In 1950 married Georgette Christinel Cottescu in Paris.

As a scholar of religion his critics have accused him of overgeneralization, romantic “Orientalist” approach and of a lack of empirical support, but he has also found staunch supporters. To the author of these lines he has always remained distant and unimportant and I leave to others to delve into the extensive literature about him. Among his many students in Chicago were D. Knipe and Br. Lincoln.

Publications: Popular books on India, etc.: Intr’o manăstire din Himalaya. Bucharest 1932 (In a Himalayan monastery); India. Bucharest 1934; Alchimia Asiatică. Bucharest. 1934; Şantier. Bucharest 1935 (Work in Progress). Novels: Isabel şi Apele Diavolului. Bucharest. 1930 (Isabel and the devil’s Waters); Maitreyi. Bucharest 1933, 6th ed. 1946, tr. in German; Intoarcerea din Rai. Bucharest 1934 (Return from Paradise); Huliganii. Bucharest 1935 (The Hooligans); Nuntă in Cer. Bucharest 1938 (Marriage in Heaven). Fantastic novels: Lumina ce se stinge. Bucharest 1934 (The Light That Fails); Domnişoara Christina. Bucharest 1936 (Mademoiselle Chr.); Şarpele. Bucharest 1937 (The Snake). Transl. in English: Two Tales of the Occult. 1970; Mitul reintegrării. 1942 (The myth of reincarnation); Insula lui Euthanasius. 1942 (Island of E.); Salazar şi revoluţia din Portugalia. 1942. The novel La forêt interdite. 1955, English The Forbidden Forest. 1978. In the 1930s edited works of the philosopher Nae Ionescu and of —> B. P. Haşdeu.

– Diss. publ. as Yoga. Essai sur les origines de la mystique indienne. 9+346 p. Bucharest 1936; Techniques du Yoga. P. 1948; fully revised Le Yoga. Immortalité et liberté. P. 1954, English transl. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. 1958; German Yoga. Unsterblichkeit und Freiheit. 515 p. Zürich & St. 1960.

Metallurgy, Magic and Alchemy. 47 p. Cahiers de Zalmoxis 1. P. & Bucharest 1938; Forgerons et alchimistes. 214 p. P. 1956, English The Forge and the Crucible. L. & N.Y. 1962.

– “Le problème du chamanisme”, RHR 131, 1946, 5-52.

– Techniques du Yoga. 266 p. La Montagne Sainte-Geneviève 8. P. 1948.

Traité d’histoire des religions. P. 1949, rev. ed. 393 p. P. 1964, English transl. Patterns in Comparative Religion. N.Y. & L. 1958.

Le mythe de l’éternel retour. 254 p. Les Essais 34. P. 1949, English Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return. Transl. by W. R. Trask. 195 p. Bollingen Series 46. N.Y. & L. 1954.

– Le chamanisme et les techniques archaïques de l’extase. 448 p. P. 1951, 2nd ed. 201 p. 1968, English Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy. N.Y. & L. 1964.

– Images et symboles. 238 p. Les Essais 40. P. 1952, English Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism. N.Y. & L. 1961.

– Mythes, Rêves et Mystères. 305 p. Les Essais 84. P. 1957, English Myths, Dreams and Mysteries. 1960.

– Das Heilige und das Profane. 160 p. Hamburg 1957, English The Sacred and the Profane. Transl. by W. Trask. 256 p. N.Y. 1959; Aspects du mythe. 250 p. P. 1963.

Birth and Rebirth: The Religious Meaning of Initiation in Human Culture. Transl. by W. Trask. 175 p. N.Y. 1958.

– Naissances mystiques. Essai sur quelques types d’initiation. 275 p. Les Essais 92. P. 1959.

– Méphistophélès et l’androgyne. 273 p. Les Essais 103. P. 1962, English Mephistopheles and the Androgyne: Studies in Religious Myth and Symbol. 223 p. N.Y. 1965.

– Patañjali et le Yoga. 192 p. Maîtres spirituels 27. P. 1962.

– The Two and the One. 224 p. 1965 (French 1962).

– The Quest. History and Meaning in Religion. 9+180 p. Chicago – L. 1969.

De Zalmoxis à Gengis-Khan. Études comparatives sur les religions et le folklore de la Dacie et de l’Europe Orientale. 252 p. P. 1970 (mostly old articles republ.).

The History of Religious Ideas. 1-2. Chicago 1976-78.

Occultism, Witchcraft and cultural Fashions. Essays in comparative religions. 148 p. Chicago – L. 1976; Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses. 2. De Gautama Bouddha au triomphe du christianisme. 519 p. Bibliothèque historique. P. 1978.

Myths, Rites, Symbols: A Mircea Eliade Reader. Ed. by W. C. Beane & W. G. Doty. 1-2. 28+465 p. N.Y. 1976.

– Founded and edited Zalmoxis, a journal of Oriental and religious studies, 1938–42. From 1961 senior editor of the journal History of Religions.

– Editor-in-chief: Encyclopedia of Religion. 16 Vols. N. Y. & L. 1987.

– Articles and reviews in Numen, RHR, etc.

Amintiri. 1. Mansarda. Madrid 1966, English transl. Autobiography. Vol. 1. 1907–1937. Journey East, Journey West. 335 p. Chicago 1981, 2. 1937-1960. Exile’s Odyssey. 248 p. Chicago 1988; No Souvenirs: Journal, 1957–1969. 14+343 p. N.Y. 1977.

Sources: S. N. Ionesco, Who Was Who in 20th century Romania. N.Y. 1994; *J.M. Kitagawa & W.D. O’Flaherty & F.E. Reynolds, Hist. of Rel. 26, 1986, 1-99; G. Widengren, Numen 14, 1967, 165f.; Current Biography Yearbook 1985, 108-111; tititudorancea.com with photo; *Wikipedia, long article with two photos and several further references.

Four articles on Eliade between 1931-45 in Junginger (ed.), The Study of Religion under the Impact of Fascism. Numen Book Series 117. Leiden 2008, (302-314 by C. Grottanelli, 325-332 by F. Ṭurcanu, 333-363 by E. Ciurtin, 397-418 by I. Keul; Seven articles on Eliade by D. Allen, Br. Rennie, M. Gardaz, M.L. Ricketts, R. Chlup, N. Spineto & M. Calinescu, Religion 38, 2008, 319-381 (issue 4)

*David Cave, M.E.’s vision for a New Humanism. 10+218 p. N.Y. 1993; Die Mitte der Welt. Aufsätze zu Mircea Eliade. Edited by H.P. Duerr. 377 p. Frankfurt 1984; *D. Dubuisson, Mythologies du XX e siècle (Dumézil, Lévi-Strauss, Éliade). 348 p. Racines et modèles. Lille 1993; *M. Grigor & M.L. Ricketts (ed.), Encounters with M.E. / Întâlniri cu M.E. Cluj-Napocka 2005; *Cl. Guggenbühl, M.E. and Surendranath Dasgupta. The History of their Encounter. Zürich 2008; *Cl. Le Manchec, “Mircea Eliade, le chamanisme et la littérature”, RHR 208, 1991, 27-48; *A. Marino, L’Herméneutique de M.E. 424 p. Les Essais 214. P. 1981; *H. Müller, Der frühe M.E. Sein rumänischer Hintergrund und die Anfänge seiner universalistischen Religionsphilosophie. Münster 2004; A. Paus, “The secret nostalgia of Mircea Eliade for paradise: Observations on the method of the ‘history of religions’”, Religion 19, 1989, 137-149; *J. Pierre, M.E., le jour et la nuit. Entre la littérature et la science. 376 p. Québec 1989; *Bryan S. Rennie, Reconstructing Eliade. Making sense of religion. 293 p. Albany, NY 1996; *Br. Rennie, M.E.: A Critical Reader. 8+448 p. London-Oakville 2006; Br. Rennie (ed.), The International Eliade. Albany NY 2007 (with selected bibliography and many further references); *M.L. Ricketts, “In defence of Eliade. Toward bridging the communications gap between anthropology and the history of religions”, Religion 3, 1973, 13-34; K. Rudolph, “M.E. and the ‘history’ of religions”, Religion 19, 1989, 101-127; *F. Ţurcanu, M.E.. Le prisonnier de l’histoire. P. 2003; R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, “In nostro tempore: On M.E.”, Religion 19, 1989, 129-136; and much more.

*H. Pernet, Correspondance avec Mircea Eliade, 1961-1986. 286 p. Religions en perspective 25. Geneva 2012; *N. Spineto, M.E., Raffaele Pettazzoni. L’histoire des religions a-t-elle un sens? Correspondance 1926-1959. P. 1994.

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