Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1907-1986) At the time of his death, Eliade was Sewell L. Avery Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School, to which he had come from his native Romania as Visiting Professor in 1956.

The crowning achievement of Eliade's scholarly work appeared posthumously; he is Editor-in-Chief of the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Religions , published by Macmillan in 1987.

According to one biographer (Olson 1992), Eliade

interpreted his own life as a paradox: an attempt to live in history and beyond it; to be involved in current events yet withdrawn from them; to be Rumanian and live in a foreign land; to be a literary figure and a scholar of religion.

Among the myriad insights offered in the more than 150 scholarly books and novels Eliade has written is a paradoxical intertwining of the sacred and the profane (also the title of one of his most important books, a development upon a fundamental notion of Émile Durkheim). Rather than dichotomous categories, Eliade argues that these two concepts are modes of being that are embedded in a singular human experience. One discerns the manifestations of the sacred within ordinary human objects, myths, and rituals. Moreover, this discernment emerges from the cosmos and comes to the individual as a form of revelation (heirophany): "Something sacred shows itself to us."

See also Religious Studies

Jerry Koch


M. Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (New York: Harcourt, 1959)

C. Olson, The Theology and Philosophy of Eliade (New York: St. Martin's, 1992).

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