Date of Award

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Philip P. Arnold


ahistorical, crypto-theologian, freedom, Mircea Eliade

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


This project grows out of my dissatisfaction with a number of popular critiques against Mircea Eliade’s approach to religious phenomena, in particular the charges along the lines that his academic writings are crypto-theological, ahistorical, and fascist. The set of questions I ask are as follows: Does Eliade assume the existence of a transcendent, autonomous entity in his explanation of religion, as his critics claim? Is “ahistorical” accurate to capture Eliade’s sense of the relationship between religious phenomena and history? Why does Eliade not take advantage of the more “historical” or “scientific” tools of analysis of his time, such as Marxism and the like?

Through close examination of Eliade's works, especially the two foundational pieces, The Myth of the Eternal Return, or Cosmos and History and Patterns in Comparative Religion, and the newly published diary, The Portugal Journal, I argue that Eliade writes about the sacred consistently as an element of human experience rather than an autonomous existence outside experience. Secondly, I argue that Eliade does not dismiss the political origins or manipulation of religion, but highlights the dynamic encounter between humans and natural phenomena in its origin. In terms of the general relationship between religion and history, Eliade seems to have a Weberian sense of elective affinity. Thirdly, I argue that Eliade downplays the "scientific" theories of his time in his interpretation of religious phenomena, because he perceived an intrinsic opposition in them to the spiritual freedom that he desperately struggled for to defend himself from personal and historical disasters of WWII. Eliade's fundamental pragmatic position with regards to religion emerges from these discussions.


Open Access



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