Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos

Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos

Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos

Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos


"By focusing on Scholem, Corbin, and Eliade, Steven Wasserstrom has brought to light many of the tacit assumptions that have informed the study of religious culture in our time. Particularly important is his attentiveness to the primary emphasis placed on the symbolic imagination in these three seminal thinkers and the impact that this orientation had on their assessment of history, politics, and ethics. Wasserstrom has produced a study that will have major implications for the way that historians of religion think about their own discipline."--Elliot R. Wolfson, New York University


… one must also learn to read books against their declared intentions.

—Gershom Scholem

THE GREATEST SCHOLARS require the closest study. During the postwar period, the critical study of religion in North America was significantly altered under the impact of the discipline known as History of Religions, especially as it was formulated by Romanian emigré comparativist Mircea Eliade (1907–1986). Eliade was one of a group of scholars of religion who met regularly at a chateau in Ascona, Switzerland. Beginning in 1933 these annual meetings, inspired by the Swiss psychotherapist Carl G. Jung, were held under the designation of Eranos. The papers presented in Ascona (often two hours or more in length) were published in a distinguished annual, the Eranos-Jahrbuch. Through this publication, and through the general eminence of participating scholars, the approach to religion that they epitomized infiltrated scholarship on religion throughout the world. These scholars were among the most influential in their fields; many of them enjoyed an international readership and broad cultural impact during the peak years of the Cold War.

Between 1949 and 1976, the generalist Mircea Eliade, the Judaist Gershom Scholem (1898–1982), and the Islamicist Henry Corbin (1907– 1978) regularly lectured at Ascona and were eventually acclaimed as being among the very most distinguished members of the Eranos group. By 1961 they were three of the five members of the so-called guardian committee of Eranos. Although all three began their careers in the 1920s and 1930s, the synthetic works they delivered at Eranos brought them each a new, vastly amplified international audience. Their lengthy annual lectures were not only printed in the Eranos-Jahrbuch, but were subsequently translated, collected, and reprinted in many forms and formats. The Bollingen Foundation, a patron of the Eranos meetings, also provided fellowships to Scholem, Corbin, and Eliade, and their major works were published by Princeton University Press's distinguished Bollingen Series.

The personal background of these three suggests, in many respects, that they emerged from what, seen retrospectively, can permissibly be characterized as a common milieu. All three were born within a decade of each other, and within a decade of the turn of the century (Scholem in . . .

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