The Myth of Eternal Return (Eliade)

Mirceau Eliade gives a fine presentation on non-biblical views of history (though he wouldn’t necessarily call it that).  Ultimately, Eliade’s analysis shows why Judeo-Christian “creational” views of reality can never be harmonized with polytheistic or classical Greek (but I repeat myself) views of ontology.

At the heart of these pagan systems is “the abolition of concrete time” (Eliade 85). In this text Eliade is going to use Jungian language about archetypes, yet I don’t think he really means what Jung means.  These archetypes are patterns in which man is to live his life. Man’s philosophy cannot be divorced from his liturgical acts (no matter how degenerate). As a Christian, we can say that these archetypes are similar to the stoichea that St Paul warned against.  We are not controlled by lunar cycles and season. That is the Old Creation. We live in the New Creation.

Archetypes and Repetition

Original ontology: revealed by a conscious repetition of paradigmatic gestures (Eliade 5).

  1. Reality is a function of the imitation of a celestial archetype.
  2. Participation in the symbolism of the Center.
  3. Rituals materialize a meaning.

The Symbolism of the Center

This usually involves:

  1. The sacred mountain where heaven and earth meet–the center of the world (12).
  2. Every temple or palace is an extension of the sacred mountain and becomes a center.
  3. The center is an “axis of the world” and is the meeting place between heaven and hell.  

Liturgy:  Repetition of the Creation moment.

Serpent symbolizes chaos (19).

Regeneration of Time

The New Year feasts point back to a repetition of a cosmogenic act (52).

Deluge: creation reverts to chaos; fusion of all forms (59).  This is actually what an orgy is, which is precisely the liturgical function of these philosophies.  Eliade notes the “symmetry between the dissolution of the ‘form’ (here the seed) in the soil and that of social forms in the orgiastic chaos (69).

In more monistic systems like Hinduism, there is the desire for the “primordial unity [that] existed before the Creation” (78).  As in Gnosticism, creation = fall. As in Greek philosophy, distinction = dialectically violent negation. Eliade then connects these to various strands of Greek philosophy (Heraclitus Fragment 26B; Zeno, etc). Put simply, the Greeks wanted an ontology “uncontaminated by time and becoming (89).

Eliade has an excellent section on Hindu cycles.  This is more relevant today as some in the Alt Right are seeking Dugin’s philosophy of the Kali Yuga.  Which is ironic: many of the so-called “white nationalists” are embracing Hindu metaphysics (note: Dugin is not a white nationalist).  This is a “metaphysical depreciation of history, which….provokes an erosion of all forms by exhausting their ontologic substance” (115).  That is a one sentence summary of the entire book.

Criticisms

In the midst of a fine survey of Canaanite ontology, Eliade collapses Yahwism into it, noting “marriage, sexual license….were so many moments of an extensive ceremonial system” (61).  This is the complete opposite of Yahwism. It is a good description of Plato’s communal wives, but it is the antithesis of Hebrew ethics.

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