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Mircea Eliade’s Understanding of Religion and Eastern Christian Thought

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This article introduces Mircea Eliade. His biography and his understanding of religion are outlined and the possibly formative influence of Eastern Orthodoxy is considered, as are recent publications on the issue. His early essays present Orthodoxy as a mystical religion in which, without some experience of the sacred, profane existence is seen as meaningless and he later identified this same basic schema in all religion. Orthodox theologians Vladimir Lossky and Dumitru Stăniloae are inspected for similarities to Eliade. Ten consonances between Eliade’s thought and Orthodox theology are considered. However, dissonances are also noted, and for every potential Orthodox source of Eliade’s theories there is another equally credible source, causing a controversy over the formative influences of his Romanian youth as opposed to his later Indian experience. It is suggested that Eliade gained insight from Orthodoxy, but that this was brought to consciousness by his sojourn in India. Theology in the form of categorical propositions is present in the Eastern Church but exists alongside other equally important expressions in the visual, dramatic, and narrative arts. The Eastern Church as a multi-media performative theater prepared Eliade to apprehend religion as inducing perceptions of the “really real”—creative poesis exercising a practical influence on its audience’s cognitions. Orthodoxy is a tradition in which categorical propositions had never come to dominate the expression of the sacred, and Eliade wrote from a vantage point on the border, not only between East and West, but also between the scholar and the artist.

Affiliations: 1: Westminster College,


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