Mircea Eliade’s “The Sacred and the Profane”: Identifying and Solving the Human Problem of Environmental Decline

By Anne White.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In his work “The Sacred and the Profane,” Mircea Eliade identifies seven very relevant concepts pertaining to human alienation from the environment. These concepts are: the ‘sacred in its entirety’. hierophany, religious man’, sacred space, sacred time, sacred nature, and sacred self.
With no absolutes, modern man - Homo Economicus, finds himself adrift, without boundaries or deep sensitivities; this leads to actions without emotional or moral accountability because we have lost the concept of the sacred. In this secular environment we have ignored the pivotal values that archaic humans took as imperative for human and animal survival. Modern man has drifted away from ‘his’ natural environment and from the practical realities of environmental respect. As a consequence, we have rejected or forgotten the concept of sacred space. In so doing, we have become so desensitized and separated from our very roots of existence within the ecosystems that we are now proceeding to destroy it.
Applying Eliade’s concepts, Religious Studies can draw from ancient wisdom and apply deep and constructive insight into our present environmental realities. In returning to the basics of practical ‘religious’ wisdom, we can construct a bridge of understanding and appreciation. By refocusing on the concept of sacred this discipline can reconstruct and reintroduce sacred space into the sensitivities of Homo Economicus. This in no way implies a return to narrow, primitive superstition, but does argue that principles pertaining to hierophany will enable us to apply our modern knowledge to reconstructing and healing our world. This will provide life-affirming opportunities for human and non-human systems to sustain themselves in greater balance.

Keywords: Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane Environmental Decline, Environmentalism, Hierophany, Homo Religiosus, Homo Economicus, Religious Studies, Sacred Nature, Sacred Space, Sacred Self

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.107-116. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 726.089KB).

Dr. Anne White

Instructor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dr. White is an instructor in the Department of Religious Studies, at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is a published author, with over 50 research presentations and essays to her name. Dr. White also edited a collection of works written by an early twentieth century Canadian suffragist, which was published as a book. She also has a forthcoming chapter on Methodism and Entrepreneurship in a work due to be published in September 2009. Dr. White specializes in research pertaining to the development of religious movements, institutions, environmentalism, eco-theological developments and social justice issues. She is also an international conference presenter in the areas of Canadian religious history and eco-theological interpretations.


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