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 the sciences to philosophy (under Nae Ionescu), alchemy, Oriental studies, and primitive religions. During his student time he visited Rome and, in 1928, Genève. 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 his 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, a liaison of which the family disapproved. Eliade soon quit 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. In 1933 married to Nina Mareş. Wrote also 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. In the early 1950s he travelled as a visiting Professor 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.
The question of his ideological position during the WW II must be commented. Also criticism of his ideas.
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; 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. Novel La forêt interdite. 1955, English The Forbidden Forest. 1978. In the 1930s edited works of the philosopher Nae Ionescu and of —> B. P. Hasdeu.
– 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.
– founded and edited Zalmoxis, a journal of Oriental and religious studies, 1938–. From 1961 senior editor of the journal History of Religions.
– 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 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.
– 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: *David Cave, M.E.’s vision for a New Humanism. 10+218 p. N.Y. 1993; 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.
*M. Grigor & M.L. Ricketts (ed.), Encounters with M.E. / Întâlniri cu M.E. Cluj-Napocka 2005.