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. 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 ME 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 he visited Rome and, in 1928, 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 ME 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. 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 ME 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 he 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. In 1950 married Georgette Christinel Cottescu. 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. Bucureşti 1932 (In a Himalayan monastery); India. Buc. 1934; Alchimia Asiatică. Buc. 1934; Şantier. Buc. 1935 (Work in Progress). Novels: Isabel şi Apele Diavolului. Buc. 1930 (Isabel and the devil’s Waters); Maitreyi. Buc. 1933, 6th ed. 1946, tr. in German; Intoarcerea din Rai. Buc. 1934 (Return from Paradise); Huliganii. Buc. 1935 (The Hooligans); Nuntă in Cer. Buc. 1938 (Marriage in Heaven). Fantastic novels: Lumina ce se stinge. Buc. 1934 (The Light That Fails); Domnişoara Christina. Buc. 1936 (Mademoiselle Chr.); Şarpele. Buc. 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. 1936; Techniques du Yoga. 1948; fully revised Le Yoga. 1954, English transl. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. 1958; German Yoga. Unsterblichkeit und Freiheit. 515 p. Zürich & St. 1960.
– Metallurgy, Magic and Alchemy. P. & Bucharest 1938; Forgerons et alchimistes. P. 1956, English The Forge and the Crucible. L. & N.Y. 1962.
– Traité d’histoire des religions. P. 1949, English transl. Patterns in Comparative Religion. N.Y. & L. 1958; Le mythe de l’éternel retour. P. 1949, English Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return. N.Y. & L. 1954; Le chamanisme. P. 1951, English Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy. N.Y. & L. 1964; Images et symboles. P. 1952, English Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism. N.Y. & L. 1961; Mythes, Rêves et Mystères. 1957, English Myths, Dreams and Mysteries. 1960; Das Heilige und das Profane. 1957, English The Sacred and the Profane. 1959; Aspects du mythe. 250 p. P. 1963.
– Birth and Rebirth: The Religious Meaning of Initiation in Human Culture. 1958; Mephistopheles and the Androgyne: Studies in Religious Myth and Symbol. 1962; The Two and the One. 1965; The Quest: History and Meaning in Religions. 1969.
– The History of Religious Ideas. 1-2. 1976-78; with J. M. Kitagawa: History of Religions: Essays in Methodology. 1959; Myths, Rites, Symbols: A Mircea Eliade Reader. 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 in Numen, etc.
– Amintiri: I. Mansarda. Madrid 1966, English transl. Autobiography. Vol. I. 1907–1937. Journey East, Journey West. 1981; No Souvenirs: Journal, 1957–1969. 1973.
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; *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); *David Cave, M.E.’s vision for a New Humanism. 10+218 p. N.Y. 1993; *M. Grigor & M.L. Ricketts (ed.), Encounters with M.E. / Întâlniri cu M.E. Cluj-Napocka 2005; *H. Müller, Der frühe ME. Sein rumänischer Hintergrund und die Anfänge seiner universalistischen Religionsphilosophie. Münster 2004; Br. Rennie (ed.), The International Eliade. Albany NY 2007 (with selected bibliography and many further references); *F. Ţurcanu, ME. Le prisonnier de l’histoire. P. 2003.
*N. Spineto, M.E., Raffaele Pettazzoni. L’histoire des religions a-t-elle un sens? Correspondance 1926-1959. P. 1994.
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