Mircea Eliade's Vision for a New Humanism

By David Cave | Go to book overview

of the ontological and moral problems associated with the Hindu practice of suttee--the burning of the widow on the husband's funeral pyre. 93 To Westerners, this practice elicits abhorrence and invites moral condemnation. Before we judge it, however, we must understand it for what it means to a husband to have his wife follow him, what it means to the widow, to other Hindus, and within Hindu history and cosmology as a whole. The meanings gained and integrated with other structurally similar symbols in other cultures will help us then to understand the archetype upon which the practice of suttee is based. As we understand suttee more broadly and deeply, we see new ways of looking at it, ways which are more reflective of the Hindu position and of the universal symbol of sacrifice.

The point is, in the interpretation of a symbol, the interpreter should constantly be interpreting and validating the meaning of the symbol. Through an ongoing dialectical interchange between the symbol's own particular expression and its expression within the larger Whole the symbol will be understood and new avenues of meaning and founts of creativity will be revealed.

The new humanism is approached in such a manner. Humans are to understand and interact in their world by placing their own symbolic positions within the purview of the larger symbolic Whole. In the terms of Joseph M. Kitagawa, one is to live out of both an "inner" and "outer" meaning. The former is the meaning one acquires in one's own particular and limited religious, cultural, societal, and political position, and the latter is in how one understands and articulates this position in light of the plurality of other orientations to meaning. 94


Notes
1.
R. K. Narayan, The Guide ( London: Penguin Books, 1958).
2.
Marino, L'Hermeneutique de Mircea Eliade, pp. 177ff.
3.
See the editors' introductory statements to the section "The Interpretation of Symbolism" in Reader in Comparative Religion: An Anthropological Approach, ed. William A. Lessa and Evon Z. Vogt 4th ed. ( New York: Harper & Row, 1979), p. 90.
4.
Mircea Eliade, "Methodological Remarks in the Study of Religious Symbolism", in The History of Religions: Essays in Methodology, ed. Mircea Eliade and Joseph M. Kitagawa ( Chicago: University of Chicago, 1959), p. 95.
5.
Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries, trans. Willard R. Trask, vol. I ( Chicago: University of Chicago, 1978), p. 3.
6.
This anthropological concept underlay Eliade's notions of "personality" and of the "new man," concepts circulating at the time amongst the young generation of the 1930s in Romania. See Ricketts, The Romanian Roots, pp. 979-80.

-57-

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Mircea Eliade's Vision for a New Humanism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • I - Introduction 3
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - The New Humanism as a Hermeneutics of a Participatory Morphology" and as a Spiritual Vision" 14
  • 3 - The Nature of the Human Condition: Humans as Symbolic 32
  • Notes 57
  • 4 - The Nature of the Human Condition: the Human as Mythic and as Homo Religiosus 65
  • Notes 94
  • 5 - The Goals of the New Humanism 103
  • Notes 157
  • 6 - The Challenges of the New Humanism 169
  • Notes 187
  • 7 - Conclusion 192
  • Bibliography 197
  • Index 211
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