Tag Archives: mircea eliade

The Myth of the Eternal Return

The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History by Mircea Eliade, reviewed by Bkwyrm, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Eliade The Myth of the Eternal Return

One of my favorite authors. Eliade once said that if someone was only going to read one of his books, they ought to read this one. From the back cover: “This is an essay on mankind’s experience of history and its interpretation, beginning with a study of the traditional or mythological view, and concluding with a comparative estimate of modern historiological approaches. At a moment when modern man has brought his race almost to the point of annihilation, the historical attitude has been all but discredited. The author seeks an answer to the question: What can protect us from the terror of history?”

This isn’t witchcraft, or magic, or ritual. It’s philosophy. I find this work absolutely fascinating. Eliade was the chairman of the department of history of religions at the University of Chicago, as well as the Sewell L. Avery Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and professor in the Committee on Social Thought. He was the author of novels, short stories, and plays as well as works in the history of religions. After you’ve read this work, you ought to read “Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions,” as well as “Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy.”

The Forge and the Crucible

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structure of Alchemy by Mircea Eliade, from University of Chicago Press.

Mircea Eliade The Forge and the Crucible from University of Chicago Press

Readers should heed the word origins in the subtitle of Eliade’s monograph on alchemy. In fact, the first two-thirds of the book is given over to discussions of the religious and mythic dimensions of metallurgy in ancient and “primitive” cultures. The next few chapters perform a cross-cultural survey of alchemical traditions, moving west from China, through India and the Near East, to Europe. Eliade makes a reasonably persuasive case for the existence of similar conceptual mechanisms in the alchemy of various different societies, and he uses a presentation of Indian alchemy as a basis for explaining European alchemy.

Eranos-participant Eliade references Jung as the authority on the psychological interpretation of alchemy, and he attributes validity to Jung’s approach, but he doesn’t claim to share it–being interested in the history of religions rather than individual psychology. He also cites Julius Evola as an expositor of alchemy as a “traditional science.”

This book suffers as much as any of Eliade’s work (with the stand-out exception of The Myth of the Eternal Return, which must be hands-down the worst) from a nostalgic conception of the primitive. He insists, “Modern man is incapable of experiencing the sacred in his dealings with matter; at most he can achieve an aesthetic experience.” (143) At every turn, he identifies the objects of his greatest scholarly care and concern with an earlier, more sacralized period of human awareness. And yet he attempts to disavow it: “These considerations are no more a criticism of the modern world than they are a eulogy of other, primitive or exotic societies.” (177)

Aside from its comparativism, The Forge and the Crucible has the most to offer those who are interested in ideas of great dispensations of human consciousness, whether they are construed as magical aeons or Foulcauldian discursive epistemes. Eliade proposes that alchemical culture was a precondition for modern science and industrialization, which is poised to transform human society as dramatically as did the first introduction of agriculture. [via]

Eros and Magic in the Renaissance

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Eros and Magic in the Renaissance by Ioan P Couliano, translated by Margaret Cook, with a foreword by Mircea Eliade, from University of Chicago Press.

Ioan P Couliano Margaret Cook Mircea Eliade Eros and Magic in the Renaissance

In this invaluable treatment of its topic, Couliano exposes some of the principal rationales underlying magic in early modernity, and explains how those now-antedated forms of sorcery became incomprehensible to moderns. Read alongside D.P. Walker’s Spiritual and Demonic Magic, this book does more to illuminate traditional Western occult science than 99 percent of the historical works on the topic that have appeared since it was first published in the 1980s. [via]

The Archetype of Initiation

The Archetype of Initiation: Sacred Space, Ritual Process, and Personal Transformation, lectures and essays by Robert L Moore, edited by Max J Havlick Jr, a 2001 paperback published through Xlibris, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Robert L Moore Max J Havlick Jr The Archetype of Initiation

“This book urges contemporary healers to utilize premodern tribal principles of sacred space and ritual process long considered lost or inaccessible to modern culture. Properly prepared ‘ritual elders’ can guide people through ritual steps from (a) the challenge of a life-crisis, into (b) sacred space and time for needed reorganization, and then into (c) a newly transformed personal and social world. These steps derive from key concepts in the scholarship of Arnold van Gennep, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, and Victor Turner, reformulated with new insights from extensive field research and psychoanalytic practice.” — back cover

The Occult Mind

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Occult Mind: Magic in Theory and Practice by Christopher I. Lehrich:

Christopher I Lehrich's The Occult Mind from Cornell University Press


I’m so profoundly impressed with Lehrich’s The Occult Mind that I hardly know where to start reviewing it. Perhaps I should point out that the title (as contrasted with the borrowed subtitle Magic in Theory and Practice) is not much reflected by the contents. This book is not about psychology (“mind”), nor does the word “occult” appear in the text as a technical term, or very frequently at all. It is a book about magic as signifying the occult sciences, taking the early modern cases of Bruno, Dee, and Kircher as paradigmatic. But the operation performed throughout the book is theory (in a sense indistinguishable from the “practice” of intellectuals), and the Renaissance magi are treated as theoreticians on a comparative footing with their twentieth-century reader/successors Frances Yates, Mircea Eliade, and Claude Levi-Strauss.

Lehrich stares down and embraces the difficulties and necessities of comparativism and historicism, using these (and other) highly enigmatic and suspect figures as his points of exploration. In the process, his reflections on theory engage subjects ranging from Noh drama to tarot divination to musical composition. He does not (could hardly) claim to have delivered a new historical or comparative method, but only to have explicated his gropings towards one.

Among the book’s many other positive features, it deserves applause for harvesting theoretical perspective (and a piece of indispensable jargon) from the fiction of John Crowley. It is no casual read: prior familiarity with structuralist anthropology and Derridean deconstruction are useful, and it is hard to imagine it holding the attention of a reader unversed in any of the modern scholars with whom Lehrich enters into conversation. For those who are mentally equipped to consume it, however, it offers the nearest possible thing to proof that rather than being a history of “nonsense,” the legacy of the occult sciences is in fact a history of the sense of sense, a record of skilled attempts (however unproductive) to grapple with the very nature of meaning and its creation.

Superlative. [via]



The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.