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The "Nostalgia for Paradise" in Mircea Eliade’s quest for Homo Religiosus Jochim, Christian

Abstract

This thesis examines Mircea Eliade's treatment of the problem of religion and modernity. It shows how his effort to grasp the meaning of religion for modern man is a hermeneutical procedure which opposes reductionism and is essentially humanistic. It demonstrates that he aims to awaken the religious sensitivity of his contemporaries through a study of premodern religious behavior that avoids the clichés and categories of the Western rationalist tradition, This demonstration divides his thought into four areas; first, his polemic against reductionism, second, his non-reductionistic method of interpreting religious phenomena, third, his description of homo religiosus by reference to transhistorical structures, and, fourth, his plan to change modern spirituality through a recovery of archaic religious awareness. The point of this thesis is to underline a certain nostalgia for the life of archaic man in Eliade's hermeneutics, but not an unhealthy one. It is a nostalgia for the origins of man's present situation, the essential condition which precedes actual human existence. It discloses itself in Eliade's quest for homo religiosus, which does not aim to return modern man to a mode of being lived in objective archaic history, but rather seeks to initiate him into a new spiritual awareness through the rediscovery of the archaic modality in himself. This rediscovery is the starting point for a new humanism, a philosophical anthropology that can grasp the unity of the species at its highest level, which is, for Eliade, the religious level. His hermeneutics is thus a spiritual exercise itself, of which the "nostalgia for paradise" is a constituent element. An examination of this fact reveals the nature of Eliade's approach to the problem of religion and modernity, and contributes greatly to an understanding of his thought as a whole.

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