Eliade myth and ritual relationship

Eliade -- Chapter 1

eliade myth and ritual relationship

Mircea Eliade () was one of the twentieth century's most . time is through periodic rituals designed to restore that connection as deeply as possible . Myth and ritual are two central components of religious practice. Although myth and ritual are commonly united as parts of religion, the exact relationship .. But, again, for Eliade myth and ritual are not coextensive: the same return to the. 4 By contrast, Wach, Eliade, and van der Leeuw, as historians of . Harrison's formulation of the correlation of myth and ritual certainly followed the work of.

He periodically revives sacred time through myths and rituals in order to keep the universe in existence. In many cultures, this belief appears to be consciously held and clearly stated. From the perspective of these societies, the world "must be periodically renewed or it may perish.

The idea that the Cosmos is threatened with ruin if not annually re-created provides the inspiration for the chief festival of the California KarokHupaand Yurok tribes. In the respective languages the ceremony is called 'repair' or 'fixing' of the world, and, in English, 'New Year'. Its purpose is to re-establish or strengthen the Earth for the following year or two years. However, Eliade argues that the eternal return does not lead to "a total cultural immobility".

All that is needed is to follow his example. Similarly, there is no reason to fear settling an unknown, wild territory, because one knows what to do. Traditional man desires to escape the linear march of events, empty of any inherent value or sacrality. In Chapter 4 of The Myth of the Eternal Return entitled "The Terror of History" and in the appendix to Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, Eliade suggests that the abandonment of mythical thought and the full acceptance of linear, historical time, with its "terror", is one of the reasons for modern man 's anxieties.

Traditional societies escape this anxiety to an extent, as they refuse to completely acknowledge historical time. Eliade describes the difference between ancient and modern man's reactions to history, as well as modern man's impotence before the terror of history, as follows: And it was possible to accept them precisely because they had a metahistorical meaning [ However, in some religions, such as Buddhism and certain forms of Hinduismthe traditional cyclic view of time becomes a source of terror: The periodical resanctification of cosmic time then proves useless and without meaning.

When it is no longer a vehicle for reintegrating a primordial situation [ It survives, but in a profane form such as the myth of reincarnation. Time is no longer static, as for the Karadjeri, for whom almost every action imitates a mythical model, keeping the world constantly in the mythical age. Nor is time cyclical but sacred, as for the ancient Mesopotamians, whose ritual calendar periodically returned the world to the mythical age.

But, in Buddhism, Jainismand some forms of Hinduism, even cyclic time has become profane. The Sacred cannot be found in the mythical age; it exists outside all ages.

Thus, human fulfilment does not lie in returning to a sacred time, but in escaping from time altogether, in "a transcendence of the cosmos. Scholarly criticism[ edit ] Although immensely influential in religious studies, the ideas behind Eliade's hypothesis of the eternal return are less well accepted in anthropology and sociology.

According to the classicist G. Kirk, this is because Eliade overextends the application of his ideas: Specifically, he agrees that Australian Aborigines used myths and rituals "to bring the Dreamtime" the Australian mythical age "into the present with potent and fruitful results".

Myth is seen as an anachronistic force in this case where in many ways it does not merely hold dominion of history and stories from the past but rather influences and attains relevance in the everyday and thus in the future. It thus also is similar to the questions of whether the same way the political influences the historical, whether the historical also influences the political, such as in the case of the French Revolution which Claude Levi-Strauss brings into discussion, as will be seen later in this essay.

Ritual, the second element, in many ways has been defined using various lenses including ethical, sociological, anthropological, ethological, literary, and theological. It is in such repetitiveness that the concept of time and chronology comes into play. However, religious studies defines religion differently. From an ethological perspective, Dennis Rook as well uses the term religion in a manner where the behavior has repetition as well as a certain formality and scripted nature.

This draws attention to the fact that ritual is not merely random acts but those with particular meaning behind and significance behind the symbols involved in them, as well as involving elements of space and time.

Society attained the status of a moral community through such ritual activities Bell, Time, the third element, is seen especially by Mircea Eliade to be separated between sacred and profane time Eliade, He speaks of how time and space are both neither seen as homogenous nor continuous by religious individuals, where rituals are in many ways the markers that, in some ways, keep the divine time for the profane man Eliade, It is here that the analysis of the frameworks of correlation between myth, time and ritual in religions can begin.

The Indian example that Eliade takes, effectively ties together ritual, myth and time in religion, where altar erection is representative of a cosmogony. The cosmogonic myth is the establishing element of the origin of the cosmos, where the ritual reactualizes this myth and places man with relation to the sacred.

Thus two features are highlighted by Eliade, namely a the regeneration of time annually by ritual where there is a repetition and rebeginning of time as sacred time, and b the ritual participation of people in the enacting of the end of the world and its re-creation, and thus the rebirth of man and the stepping into the sacred from the profane Eliade, Thus it is of a relation between space and time within the ambit of the practices and beliefs of the religious man.

For communities, such as the Polynesians, it is stated to be the archetypal model for all creations of biological, psychological and spiritual places Eliade, Carl Jung is brought into conversation with the study of mythology in the fact that myth is studied in a manner similar to linguistic analysis, where myth itself is seen as language.

An existence open to the world is not an unconscious existence "buried in nature. The means by which its sanctification is brought about are various, but the result is always the same: Probably, in a very distant past, all of man's organs and physiological experiences, as well as all his acts, had a religious meaning. In the myth of the Australian Karadjeri the two culture heroes took a particular position to urinate, and the Karadjeri still imitate this paradigmatic gesture today.

For nonreligious man, all vital experiences--whether sex or eating, work or play--have been desacralized. This means that all these physiological acts are deprived of spiritual significance, hence deprived of their truly human dimension. But aside from this religious meaning that physiological acts receive as imitation of divine models, the organs and their functions were given religious valorization by being assimilated to the various cosmic regions and phenomena.

We have already seen a classic example--woman assimilated to the soil and to Mother Earth, the sexual act assimilated to the hierogamy Heaven-Earth and to the sowing of seed. But the number of such homologies established between man and the universe is very large.

Some of them seem to force themselves on the mind spontaneously, as, for example, the homology between the eye and the sun, or of the two eyes to sun and moon, or of the cranium to the full moon; or again, of breath to the winds, of bones to stones, of hair to grass, and so on.

But the historian of religions encounters other homologies that presuppose a more developed symbolism, a whole system of micro-macrocosmic correspondences. Of course all these homologies between the human body and the macrocosm are not documented among primitives.

Some systems of man-universe correspondences were fully elaborated only in the higher cultures India, China, the ancient Near East, Central America. Yet their point of departure is already present in archaic cultures. Primitive peoples have revealed to the investigator systems of anthropo-cosmic homologies of extraordinary complexity, which bear witness to an inexhaustible capacity for speculation.

Such is the case, for example, with the Dogon in French West Africa. We said that religious man lives in an open world and that, in addition, his existence is open to the world. This means that religious man is accessible to an infinite series of experiences that could be termed cosmic.

Such experiences are always religious, for the world is sacred. If we would understand them, we must remember that the principal physiological functions can become sacraments. Eating is a ritual, and food is variously valorized by various religions and cultures. Food stuffs are regarded as sacred, or as gifts of divinity, or as an offering to the gods of the body for example, in India.

Sexual life, as we saw, is also ritualized and hence also homologized to divine acts Heaven-Earth hierogamy. Sometimes marriage is valorized on a three fold plane--individual, social, and cosmic. For example, among the Omahas, the village is divided into two halves, respectively named Heaven and Earth. Marriages can be contracted only between the two exogamic halves, and each new marriage repeats the primordial hieros gamos, the union of Heaven and Earth. For but one example, we need only think of the prestige that sexual union as ritual acquired in Indian tantrism.

India strikingly illustrates how a physiological act can be transformed into ritual and how, when the ritualistic period has ended, the same act can be valorized as mystical technique. The husband's exclamation in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, "I am Heaven, thou art Earth," follows the transfiguration of the wife into the Vedic sacrificial altar VI, 4, 3. Sexual union maithuna is above all an integration of these two principles, cosmic nature-energy and spirit.

As a tantric text expresses it: There is no longer any question of a physiological act, there is a mystical rite; the partners are no longer human beings, they are detached and free, like the gods. The tantric texts never tire of emphasizing that a transfiguration of carnal experience occurs.

2015 Personality Lecture 03: Historical Perspectives - Heroic & Shamanic Initiations I Mircea Eliade

In other words, "he who knows" has at command an entirely different experience from that of the profane man. This is as much as to say that every human experience is capable of being transfigured, lived on a different, a transhuman plane.

The Indian example shows to what a degree of mystical refinement sacramentalization of the organs and of physiological life can be brought--a sacramentalization that is already amply documented on all the archaic levels of culture.

We should add that the valorization of sexuality as a means of participating in the sacred or, in India, of gaining the superhuman state of absolute freedom is not without its dangers.

eliade myth and ritual relationship

In India itself, tantrism has provided the occasion for aberrant and infamous ceremonies. In the primitive world too, ritual sexuality has been accompanied by many orgiastic forms. Nevertheless, the example still retains its suggestive value, for it reveals an experience that is no longer accessible in a desacralized society--the experience of a sanctified sexual life.

This means a that he is in communication with the gods; b that he shares in the sanctity of the world. That religious man can live only in an open world, we saw when we analyzed the structure of sacred space; man desires to dwell at a center, where there is the possibility of communicating with the gods.

His dwelling is a microcosm; and so too is his body. The homology house-body-cosmos presents itself very early. We shall dwell on this example a little, for it shows how the values of archaic religious feeling and practice can be reinterpreted by later religions and even philosophies. Indian religious thought made ample use of this traditional homology, house-cosmos-human body.

And the reason is clear: The spinal column is assimilated to the cosmic pillar skambha or to Mount Meru; the breaths are identified with the Winds; the navel or heart with the Center of the World, and so on. But homologies are also established between the human body and the entire ritual; the place of sacrifice, the sacrificial utensils and gestures are assimilated to the various physiological functions and organs. A hatha-yogic text refers to the human body as "a house with a pillar and nine doors" Goraksha Shataka, All this amounts to saying that by consciously establishing himself in the paradigmatic situation to which he is, as it were, predestined, man cosmicizes himself; in other words, he reproduces on the human scale the system of rhythmic and reciprocal conditioning influences that characterizes and constitutes a world, that, in short, defines any universe.

The homology also applies in the reverse direction; in their turn the temple or the house are regarded as a human body. The "eye" of the dome is a term that occurs in several architectural traditions.

Time, Myth and Rituals in Religion | Srivatsan Manivannan - ddttrh.info

The upper opening of an Indian tower bears, among other names, that of brahmarandhra. This term designates the opening at the top of the skull, which plays a primary role in yogico-tantric techniques and through which the soul takes flight at the moment of death. In this connection we may mention the custom of breaking the skulls of dead yogins, to facilitate the departure of the soul.

The meaning of this custom is patent: Obviously all these experiences are inaccessible to nonreligious man, not only because, for him, death has become desacralized, but also because he no longer lives in a cosmos in the proper sense of the word and is no longer aware that having a body and taking up residence in a house are equivalent to assuming an existential situation in the cosmos see below.

It is noteworthy that the mystical vocabulary of India has preserved the homology man-house and especially the assimilation of the skull to the roof or dome. The fundamental mystical experience--that is, transcending the human condition--is expressed in a twofold image, breaking the roof and flight. Buddhistic texts refer to Arhats who "fly through the air and break the roof of the palace," who, "flying by their own will, break and pass through the roof of the house and travel through the air," and so on.

But both the meanings of the Arhat's flight express a break in ontological level and passage from one mode of being to another, or, more precisely, passage from conditioned existence to an unconditioned mode of being, that is, to perfect freedom.

In the majority of archaic religions, flight signifies access to a superhuman mode of being god, magician, spirit --in the last analysis, freedom to go wherever one will, hence an appropriation of the condition of the spirit.

eliade myth and ritual relationship

For Indian thought, the Arhat who "breaks the roof of the house" and flies away through the air shows figuratively that he has transcended the cosmos and attained a paradoxical and even inconceivable mode of being, that of absolute freedom by whatever name it may be called: On the mythological plane the paradigmatic gesture of transcending the world is illustrated by Buddha proclaiming that he has "broken" the cosmic egg, the "shell of ignorance," and has obtained "the blessed, universal dignity of Buddha.

These symbolisms express primordial religious situations, but they are capable of altering their values, can be enriched with new meanings and enter increasingly complex systems of thought Man inhabits the body in the same way that he inhabits a house or the cosmos that he has himself created cf. Every lawful and permanent situation implies location in a cosmos, in a universe perfectly organized and hence imitated from the paradigmatic model, the Creation.

Inhabited territory, temple, house, body are all, as we have seen, cosmoses. But each of these cosmoses keeps an opening, however this idea may be expressed in different cultures the eye of the temple, chimney, smoke hole, brahmarandhra, etc.

In one way or another, the cosmos that one inhabits--body, house, tribal territory, the whole of this world--communicates above with a different plane that is transcendent to it. It can come about that in a noncosmic religion, such as that of India after Buddhism, the opening to the higher plane no longer represents passage from the human to the superhuman condition, but instead expresses transcendence, abolition of the cosmos, absolute freedom.

Yet the fact remains that, among symbols capable of expressing ontological breakthrough and transcendence, both Indian philosophy and Indian mysticism chose this primordial image of shattering the roof. This means that passing beyond the human condition finds figural expression in the destruction of the "house," that is, of the personal cosmos that one has chosen to inhabit. Every fixed abode in which one has settled is, on the philosophical plane, equivalent to an existential situation that one has assumed.

The image of shattering the roof signifies that one has abolished all situation, has rejected settling in the world and chosen absolute freedom, which, for Indian thought, implies annihilation of any conditioned world.

Without entering into any lengthy analysis of the values that one of our nonreligious contemporaries attributes to his body, his house, and his universe, we can already sense the vast distance that separates him from men belonging to the primitive and oriental cultures that we have been discussing.

Just as a modern man's habitation has lost its cosmological values, so too his body is without religious or spiritual significance.

In a summary formula we might say that for the nonreligious men of the modern age, the cosmos has become opaque, inert, mute; it transmits no message, it holds no cipher. The feeling of the sanctity of nature survives today in Europe chiefly among rural populations, for it is among them that a Christianity lived as a cosmic liturgy still exists. As for the Christianity of the industrial societies and especially the Christianity of intellectuals, it has long since lost the cosmic values that it still possessed in the Middle Ages.

We must add that this does not necessarily imply that urban Christianity is deteriorated or inferior, but only that the religious sense of urban populations, is gravely impoverished.

The cosmic liturgy, the mystery of nature's participation in the Christological drama, have become inaccessible to Christians living in a modern city.

Their religious experience is no longer open to the cosmos. In the last analysis, it is a strictly private experience; salvation is a problem that concerns man and his god; at most, man recognizes that he is responsible not only to God but also to history. But in these man-God-history relationships there is no place for the cosmos.

From this it would appear that, even for a genuine Christian, the world is no longer felt as the work of God. In some cultures e. We have more than once stressed the fact that all forms of cosmos--universe, temple, house, human body--have an "opening" above.

The meaning of this symbolism now becomes still clearer; the opening makes possible passage from one mode of being to another, from one existential situation to another. Passage is predestined for every cosmic existence.

Man passes from pre-life to life and finally to death, just as the mythical Ancestor passed from pre-existence to existence and the sun passes from darkness to light. We must note that this type of passage is part of a more complex system, the chief characteristics of which we examined in discussing the moon as archetype of cosmic becoming, vegetation as symbol of universal renewal, and especially the many ways of ritually repeating the cosmogony--that is, the paradigmatic passage from virtual to formal.

All these rituals and symbolisms of passage, we must add, express a particular conception of human existence: In a word, it may be said that human existence attains completion through a series of "passage rites," in short, by successive initiations. We shall discuss the meaning and function of initiation further on.

Here we will dwell for a moment on the symbolism of "passage" as religious man reads it in his familiar surroundings and his daily life--in his house, for example, in the paths that he takes to go to his work, in the bridges he crosses, and so on. This symbolism is present even in the structure of his habitation. As we saw, the upper opening signifies the ascending direction to heaven, the desire for transcendence. The threshold concentrates not only the boundary between outside and inside but also the possibility of passage from one zone to another from the profane to the sacred; cf.

But it is especially the images of the bridge and the narrow gate which suggest the idea of a dangerous passage and which, for this reason, frequently occur in initiatory and funerary rituals and mythologies. Initiation, death, mystical ecstasy, absolute knowledge, "faith" in Judaeo-Christianity--all these are equivalent to passage from one mode of being to another and bring about a veritable ontological mutation.

To suggest this paradoxical passage for it always implies a break and a transcendencethe various religious traditions have made plentiful use of the symbolism of the Perilous Bridge or the Narrow Gate. In Iranian mythology the Cinvat Bridge is traversed by the dead in their post mortem journey; it is nine lance-lengths wide for the just, but for the wicked it becomes as narrow as "the blade of a razor" Dinkart, IX, 20, 3.

Under the Cinvat Bridge lies the mouth of the deep pit of hell Videvdat, 3, 7. The mystics always pass over this bridge on their ecstatic journeys to heaven; over it, for example, passed the spirit of Arda Viraf. Paul presents a bridge "narrow as a hair" connecting our world with Paradise. The same image is found in Arabic writers and mystics; the bridge is narrower than a hair," and links the earth to the astral spheres and Paradise.

Just as in Christian traditions, sinners cannot cross it and are cast down into hell. Medieval legends tell of a "bridge under water," and of the sword bridge which the hero Lancelot has to cross barefoot and with bare hands; it is "sharper than a scythe" and is crossed in "pain and agony.

Similar descriptions are found practically all over the world. Hume, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, p. These few examples of the initiatory, funerary, and metaphysical symbolism of the bridge and the gate have shown in what way ordinary life and the "little world" that it implies--the house with its utensils, the daily routine with its acts and gestures, and so on--can be valorized on the religious and metaphysical plane.

It is his familiar everyday life that is transfigured in the experience of religious man; he finds a cipher everywhere. Even the most habitual gesture can signify a spiritual act.

The road and walking can be transfigured into religious values, for every road can symbolize the "road of life," and any walk a "pilgrimage. The house is a "nest," and, as the Pancavimsha Brahmana says XI, 15, 1the "nest" implies flocks, children, and a "home"; in a word, it symbolizes the world of the family, of society, of getting a living. Those who have chosen the Quest, the road that leads to the Center, must abandon any kind of family and social situation, any "nest," and devote themselves wholly to "walking" toward the supreme truth, which, in highly evolved religions, is synonymous with the Hidden God, the Deus absconditus.

But there is also a passage rites at birth, at marriage, at death, and it could be said that each of these cases always involves an initiation, for each of them implies a radical change in ontological and social status. When a child is born, he has only a physical existence; he is not yet recognized by his family nor accepted by the community. It is the rites performed immediately after birth that give the infant the status of a true "living person"; it is only by virtue of those rites that he is incorporated into the community of the living.

At marriage there is also a passage from one socio-religious group to another.

Eternal return (Eliade)

The young husband leaves the group of bachelors and is thenceforth part of the group of heads of families. Every marriage implies a tension and a danger and hence precipitates a crisis; this is why it is performed by a rite of passage. The Greeks called marriage telos, consecration, and the marriage ritual resembled that of the mysteries. In regard to death, the rites are all the more complex because there is not only a "natural phenomenon" life or the soul-leaving the body but also a change in both ontological and social status; the dead person has to undergo certain ordeals that concern his own destiny in the afterlife, but he must also he recognized by the community of the dead and accepted among them.

For some peoples, only ritual burial confirms death; he who is not buried according to custom is not dead. Elsewhere a death is not considered valid until after the funerary ceremonies have been performed, or until the soul of the dead person has been ritually conducted to its new dwelling in the other world and there been accepted by the community of the dead.

For nonreligious, man, birth, marriage, death are events that concern only the individual and his family; or occasionally--in the case of heads of governments or political leaders--events that have political repercussions.

Myth and ritual

In a nonreligious view of life, all these "passages" have lost their ritual character; that is, they signify no more than is visible in the concrete act of a birth, a death, or an officially recognized sexual union.

However, we must repeat that a drastically nonreligious experience of the whole of life is seldom found in the pure state, even in the most secularized societies. Possibly such a completely nonreligious experience will become commoner in a more or less distant future; for the present, it is still rare. What is found in the profane world is a radical secularization of death, marriage, and birth; but, as we shall soon see, there remain vague memories of abolished religious practices and even a nostalgia for them.

As for initiatory rituals proper, a distinction must be made between puberty initiations age group and ceremonies for entrance into a secret society. The most important difference lies in the fact that all adolescents are obliged to undergo an age initiation, whereas only a certain number of adults enter the secret societies.