The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade provide an analysis of various components found within the different world religions. In this book, Eliade applies the history of religion to support his ideas because the book is regarded as a brief introduction to religion, especially those of the primitive societies. In this book, the thesis of Eliade is that religion can be understood using two concepts: the sacred and the profane where the profane entail things that are random, less important and ordinary while the sacred means the opposite.
Eliades tries to prove that sacred is different from profane and it cannot be explained in relation with the profane. At the same time, he seeks to support the idea that Christianity is the contentment of other faiths and superior to them, instead of just focusing on one in a lengthy list of religious beliefs.
While trying to prove his point of the differences between the sacred and the profane, Eliade notes that the sacred is often regarded as the real component of the world, but the non-sacred is vague with lack of a structure. This means that the sacred is the robust and rigid place from where everything leans towards, but the non-sacred is a shapeless area with no essence. One of the quotes that support his thesis is that “the profane world is typified by homogeneity and chaos and relativity” (Eliade, 1959, p. 22). He continues to argue that the sacred space is, however, is distinct, ordered and moral. This quote has some of its weaknesses and strengths. From the description, it can be deduced that no one can live in profane. It fails to provide an environment where anything can be done. The strength of the quote results from the fact that it strongly supports the aspect that nothing can start; nothing can be achieved with a prior orientation, and any adjustment suggests a fixed locus (Eliade, 1959, p. 22). Therefore, no one can find a man living an entirely profane life.
He goes further to support his thesis by stating that “the man who has made his choice in favor of a profane life never succeeds in completely doing away with religious behavior” (Eliade, 1959, p. 23). This means that he is not able to dispose of all sacred things since the profane cannot offer him a foundation for his existence or a way of living the life out. The strength of this quote is that it adds on to the previously mentioned view that profane does not offer a background for the sacred’s existence. This is because if the ultimate reality is profane, i.e., homogenous, relative, and chaotic, it cannot produce a fact that is fixed and ordered. However, the quote fails to ascertain to the idea that religion and other scared spaces which form an essential component of the observance, resulting from entirely profane world, fails to coincide with the facts of our understanding of events.
In another sentence, Eliade points out that the sacred “is the sphere of supernatural, of things extraordinary, memorable, and momentous” (Eliade, 1959, p. 99). When Eliade mentioned the sacred and the profane, he was seemingly concerned about society, and it’s different needs. The strength of this quote is that it elaborates Eliade’s analysis of the building of the sacred spaces. According to Eliade, sacred spaces cannot be built by man but based on the models of gods. Man is only imitated by the story of the universe created by deific. This is inspired by the wish to carry his promise in empirical realism and flees the relativity and illusion of profane living. It, however, does not give a conjecture that everyone is inherently religious.
My view of Eliade’s idea of religion is a skeptic one. I think that religion is just an escape route followed by the weak minded individuals who cannot face the meaningless and ambiguity of life. Religious people tend to develop the sacred world of imagination and dream to avoid the real world.
In conclusion, the Eliade provides a collection of examples to support a supernatural and theistic worldview and Christianity as well. He tends to find the difference between the sacred and the profane. I believe that religion is a path set by the weak to follow to avoid walking in the real world.
Eliade, M. (1959). The sacred and the profane: The nature of religion (Vol. 144). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.