Eternal Return
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ETERNAL RETURN

The "eternal return" is an idea for interpreting religious behavior proposed by the historian Mircea Eliade; it is a belief expressed through behavior (sometimes implicitly, but often explicitly) that one is able to become contemporary with or return to the "mythical age"—the time when the events described in one's myths occurred.[1] It should be distinguished from the philosophical concept of eternal return.
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The "eternal return" is an idea for interpreting religious behavior proposed by the historian Mircea Eliade; it is a belief expressed through behavior (sometimes implicitly, but often explicitly) that one is able to become contemporary with or return to the "mythical age"—the time when the events described in one's myths occurred.[1] It should be distinguished from the philosophical concept of eternal return.
First published in English in 1954, this founding work of the history of religions secured the North American reputation of the Romanian émigré-scholar Mircea Eliade. Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures and drawing on scholarship published in no fewer than half a dozen European languages, The Myth of the Eternal Return illuminates the religious beliefs and rituals of a wide variety of archaic religious cultures. While acknowledging that a return to their practices is impossible, Eliade passionately insists on the value of understanding their views to enrich the contemporary imagination of what it is to be human. This book includes an introduction from Jonathan Z. Smith that provides essential context and encourages readers to engage in an informed way with this classic text.
This founding work of the history of religions, first published in English in 1954, secured the North American reputation of the Romanian émigré-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-1986). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures and drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade's The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelligible and compelling the religious expressions and activities of a wide variety of archaic and "primitive" religious cultures. While acknowledging that a return to the "archaic" is no longer possible, Eliade passionately insists on the value of understanding this view in order to enrich our contemporary imagination of what it is to be human. Jonathan Z. Smith's new introduction provides the contextual background to the book
This is the earliest and most important of Eliade's book on comparative religions (in his opinion). He traces through the many scripts and dogmas of the world's official and unofficial (i.e., primitive) religions the myth of the eternal return. It reminded me of the popular movie of the time called The Gods Must be Crazy in which a Coke bottle discarded from an airplane hits a Masai warrior on the head and he spends the remainder of the movie trying to return the bottle to the Gods who must have created this object of some unknown hard substance and lost it during some careless act.

Eliade points to a Seth-type of simultaneous time in which the repetition of an exemplary pattern produces a timeless stasis to the event. (He calls it "archetype" and later has to apologetically point out that his use of the word differs from Jung's more restrictive use in connection with the collective unconscious.)

The mason when he drives a stake into the ground to support the cornerstone kills the world snake by penetrating its skull and thus "centers" the building at the center of the world, just as in illo tempo. This is a latin phrase, which, when repeated as often as Eliade does, seems more natural to use than the simple English form, in the beginning.
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
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