The Sacred and the Profane

Mircea Eliade from Romania is one of the most publically revered figures on history of religion and the philosophy of religion, even though at one point he had an interest in Garda de Fier, the Romanian fascist movement contemporary with Mussolini. Among his vast corpus of work, this treatise concerning primarily what it is that men perceive as sacred, is one of the most read and debated ones.

The point of talking about this book is that it’s the most succinct and lucid introduction to the concepts of sanctity and ritual from a neutral perspective. Theology is obsessed with the Christian material and the occultists are obsessed with whatever it is they are obsessed with at the time. Eliade, on the other hand, is remarking on the intention of ritual and temples, cosmogonical myths and how civilization deals with the problem of adjusting to time, the great destroyer, and nature/environment, the great nurturing force. It is not surprising that one finds a lot in common with the ideals of Nietzsche and Evola, such as the concept of cyclical time and eternal return. In stressing the otherness of that which is perceived as sacred, he has interesting parallels to Jungian psychology and seems to foreshadow Foucault.

I believe this book is most helpful to understanding the character of mystical and religious experience and ritual, which has a definite part in metal culture whether in the hippie-tinged early psychedelia, the archaic revivalism of black metal or death metal’s explorations of the religious-psychotic mind. Eliade’s book does have its problems such as putting forward of very generalized statements, some unclear arguments and stylistically the writing is rather bouncing. Yet it is very descriptive, luscious and inspiring. Besides being a scientist, it’s obvious that he is also fulfilling some artistic, visionary and personal aims with this study.