Mircea Eliade : making sense of religion
Rennie, Bryan Stephenson
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This work argues that an interpretation of Eliade's thought as systematic, coherent, and finally rational is fully consistent with his writings. His thought is systematic in that the terms it utilises are inter-definable, although their relations are never explicitly clarified. Within this interpretation his thought is coherent and defensible. Particularly, it does not make unwarranted ontological assumptions but, through his a priori, taxonomic identification of the sacred with that which is apprehended as the real, defers to actual religious phenomena. That said, Eliade's method cannot be assimilated to phenomenology in any strict philosophical sense.The resultant understanding of religion is well-defined and eminently practical for the study and teaching of the varied religious beliefs of our contemporary world. It makes sense of religion in three ways; firstly it presents as coherent religious expressions of the human existential situation; secondly it seeks to increase the (recognition of) meaning, significance, and relevance of such expressions; and thirdly it attempts to provide direction (Fr. sens) for scholars of religion in our efforts to interpret the data of religious phenomena.Part one provides a concept-by-concept analysis of the terms of Eliade's understanding of religion, concluding with some observations on the implications of that understanding for the study of implicitly religious behaviour. Part two inspects and attempts to defend against the various criticisms which have been levelled against Eliade by other scholars in the field of the academic study of religion. It concludes with some observations on the significance of this interpretation for methodology in that study of a human phenomenon.