Chung Chin Hong

"Mircea Eliade's Creative Hermeneutics and
the Dialectic of the Sacred and the Profane"

Abstract Curriculum Vitae


This paper poses two questions on Eliade:
First, how does he define the object of religious studies? Many have criticized his concept of the sacred or of hierophany as so ambiguous that he regards religion not only as an objective reality but also as a phenomenon of subjective consciousness. But if one scrutinizes Eliade's dialectic of the sacred and the profane, the criticism is proven to be wrong. This is due to two facts: that he presupposes human as homo religiosus; and that this is experienced in the world of human life. Thus, the question should not be 'what is religion?' but 'what is called religion?' The concern should be turned from metaphysics to experience itself. What is important, therefore, is not what he says about the conscious system of religious studies but how he changes the scheme of the question itself. What can be thought the object of Eliade is a world-constructing object, the object of a creative subjectivity.

If the first question is on Eliade's epistemology, the second is on his hermeneutics. As the sacred was interchangeable with hierophany in his epistemology, hierophany is now interchangeable with symbol in his hermeneutics. This shows Eliade's hermeneutics is deeply based on traditional phenomenology. The process of his hermeneutic discouse is not greatly different from the structure of phenomenological hermeneutics. In addition, his attitude is strongly criticized as being anti-historical. But such a criticism is due to the misconception of structure and phenomenon, sacred and profane. And this misconception is the result of ignoring the fact that what Elade calls free variation is not imaginative variation but actual variation, and the fact that encoding of symbolic meaning or assessment of symbol is done on the basis of existence. What should be understood is the creativity of Eliade's hermeneutics.

In this respect, Eliade's hermeneutics is more than phenomenological hermeneutics. It can be mapped as follows: He unfolds a new phenomenology different from traditional phenomenology by overlapping epistemology and praxiology through phenomenology and hermeneutics based on history and structure, hierophany and symbol, model and paradigm. It may be called the surplus of phenomenology. The very surplus is Eliade's contribution to religious studies and is still appropriate for students of religion.

Curriculum Vitae

Born November 23, 1937

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