Michiaki Okuyama

"Camouflage and Epiphany: The Discovery of the Sacred in Mircea Eliade and Őe Kenzaburő"

Abstract Curriculum Vitae


In his preface to his massive A History of Religious Ideas, vol. 1, Mircea Eliade announces that he will deal with the camouflage of the "sacred," or rather, the identification of the "sacred" with the "profane," in the final chapter of the work. A careful look at his use of the term "camouflage" in connection with the dialectic between the sacred and the profane shows that he applied it to any number of examples of "myths in the modern world" to indicate that myths and symbols have not lost their vitality even in the modern world. Again, when we listen to Eliade speaking of the relationship between his scholarly writings and his literary ones, we find a preoccupation with the problem of the "camouflage of miracle in history." To the extent that Eliade was engaged in "camouflaging miracle" in his novels, we are drawn to ask whether his scholarly works might not have taken over the novelist's prerogative of reading miracle into historical fact.

The coincide of Eliade's idea of "hierophany" as an "epiphany of the sacred" with that of the "camouflage of the sacred" suggests a comparison with the contemporary Japanese novelist and Nobel laureate, Őe Kenzaburő (1935- ). Őe had read Eliade carefully and was influenced by his ideas in the course of trying to integrate the experiences of his own life with his own vocation as a writer. The crucial idea, it is suggested here, was the recognition of his son as an "ephipany" of the "indestructibility of human existence." The present essay looks at two of his novels to draw the connection and reconsider the problem posed by Eliade's work.

Curriculum Vitae

Assistant Professor at Nanzan University and Permanent Research Fellow at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture (Nagoya, Japan). After finishing his doctoral work at the Department of Religious Studies in Tokyo University, he did research work from 1996 to 1998, at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, Emory University, and Princeton University. He has translated into Japanese a number of works related to Eliade, including Eliade/Couliano's Dictionnaire der religions (Tokyo: Serika Shobő, 1994), and Geschichte der religiösen Ideen III/2 (co-translator, Tokyo: Chikuma Shobő, 1998). His own doctoral dissertation has just been published (in Japanese) as Comparison, History, and Interpretation in Eliade's Study of Religion (Tokyo: Tősui Shobő, 2000).

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