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The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,522 ratings  ·  131 reviews
This founding work of the history of religions, first published in English in 1954, secured the North American reputation of the Romanian emigre-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-86). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures & drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade's "The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelli ...more
Paperback, First Princeton/Bollingen paperback printing, 195 pages
Published November 21st 1971 by Princeton University Press (first published 1949)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Le Mythe de L'eternel Retour: Archétypes et Répetition = The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade

The Eternal Return is an idea for interpreting religious behavior proposed by the historian Mircea Eliade; it is a belief expressed through behavior (sometimes implicitly, but often explicitly) that one is able to become contemporary with or return to the "mythical age"—the time when the events described in one's myths occurred. It should be distinguished from the philosophical concept of etern
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
To Transcend Profane Time

It is always a joy to read a great man's greatest book- and the author himself considered this to be the most significant of all his works. He would expand the central concepts elsewhere, but it is here that they first seem to burst forth. The way he rattles out references and examples with only a line or footnote you get the feeling that he can't be bothered with detailed analysis because he is too caught up with the central ideas and is being swept along with them. It
Oct 05, 2008 rated it liked it
eliade's central premise is that to 'archaic' man an object or act only becomes 'real' insofar as it imitates or repeats an earlier archetype. more than that: man's very experience in the stream of time is altered, shifting from the profane to the sacred, only when he duplicates an earlier archetypical event. to put into a modern context -- a christian who took a sunday off, in replication of god taking the seventh day off, would be thrust into sacred time...

eliade enters into a kind of philoso
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Many years ago i was sitting in front of an Archetype Personality, i mean a Sufi mystic or a Babaji. Baba ji told me many intricate details of my personality like a psychologist. I was young and impressionable so i believe every word literally. Baba ji advised me to write fiction, till then i never thought of writing anything. Still i don't know how to write a good story, i just fill pages. So i asked him what should i read to become a good writer. He smiled and said, you should read mythology o ...more
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book at nearly the perfect time, with a great percentage being undertaken around a Christmas/New Year holiday.

The great thing about this book is that it provides a new lens to interpret our own lives while making 'ancient' cultural practices legible, and occasionally more familiar than the relations which we nominally live under.

The primary question this book tackles is: how do we live with respect to history, the events which happen to us? This volume provides four choices:

* to re
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: bollingen-series
I found the framework idea of the Archaic thoroughly interesting, though the most valuable section of the book is in the conclusion, where Eliade discusses the consequences for societies that have abandoned the Archaic worldview.
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"Among countless stones, one stone becomes sacred - and hence instantly becomes saturated with being . . . because it commemorates a mythical act . . ." --Eliade, p. 4 ...more
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
For pre-modern man, the world is filled with suffering. It is a harsh and unforgiving place, in which disease and unpleasant deaths of various kinds are common. This world is essentially caused by history. What I mean by that is that the passage of time causes the continued existence of the world. You could argue that it's the other way around, but for our purposes, it makes no difference. The salient point is that history, time and the world are inextricably connected.

But what if history isn't
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Francis Fukuyama was a fool. More below. Eliade once again gets to the heart of the problem, the same question children have and adults somehow figure out to live with: how to deal with YOLO (You only live once). In the course of his exposition of the approach of “archaic man” he blows up a few major Christian myths (not directly, but just as the logical conclusion of what he finds, similar to Joseph Campbell), but ends up with the need for a belief in God somehow anyway. But back to Francis Fuk ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eliade's thesis is easy enough to sum up -- events in an "archaic person's" life only acquired meaning inasmuch as they emulate an archetypal example performed in mythical time by gods, heroes, whatever. Rituals, naturally, are incredibly important -- given how closely they are modeled after mythical precedenkt, they transport the practitioner to this time before time and imbue them with whatever power was present then. This, of course, leads to a primitive struggle against history; a fixed, lin ...more
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Initially sub-titled "The Philosophy of History," this staggering short read is a probe into humanities' use of time to unconsciously obliterate history, forcing us to mythologize regeneration (the "new' year) in opposition to careful structures for storing historical ideals, models and timelines. Eliade claims history's storage (in text, spoken word) is merely a facade for anyone schooled outside of the deep study of history. Instead, humans store myth and archetypes readily while remain puzzle ...more
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A founding work of the anthropology and history of religion, this book is of considerable interest to historians for Eliade's account of the perception of time in what he describes variously as "archaic" and "pre-modern" cultures. "Primitive" man does not conceive of time as linear and history as a progressive succession of unique events. Instead, "the life of archaic man (a life reduced to the repetition of archetypal acts, that is, to categories and not to events, to the unceasing rehearsal of ...more
Czarny Pies
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those wish to understand the vital role of professional sports for modern man.
Recommended to Czarny by: Simone de Beauvoir
Shelves: religion, favorites
In the myth of the Eternal Return, Eliade argues that man being afraid of the unknowns of the future refuses steadfastly to acknowledge the historical nature of time.; that is to say that it advances one-way never turning back. Primitive man found the solution to his dilemma by creating religious rites that constantly return man to his origins thus avoiding the perils of history or linear time.
Modern religion (i.e. Christianity) by having Christ exist in history and by promising an imminent, his
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
In a nutshell, this book concerns the translation of Myth as a way of mans coping with the cruel world and the events therein .To primitive man the only acts that where valid where those that mirrored the actions of the Gods and he frequently wiped his slate clean with frenzied ceremonies,so as to avoid responsibility for his transgressive acts.Modern man developed a more inclusive view of himself where by his experience was/is part of a refinement of the soul and his historic sufferings are le ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: investigators of "time"
Recommended to Erik by: Robert Neale
Shelves: religion
This book serves as a readable introduction to the work of Mircea Eliade, anthropologist of religion and one-time fascist, and to the concept of "time" as it differs between cultures. The primary distinction drawn by the author is between our modern sense of homogeneous (even isotropic, according to some physicists) time proceeding historically through cause and effect and the more common sense, historically and culturally speaking, that time is patterned and repetitive.

This book gave me some sm
Mar 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
Eliade describes and interprets various archaic notions of time and history based on his wide reading in mythology, anthropology and religion. In the latter part of the book, he comments on some modern conceptions of history, including the Christian and the Hegelian.

In his Preface, Eliade writes "I consider it the most significant of my books; and when I am asked in what order they should be read, I always recommend beginning with Cosmos and History.

The style is scholarly, dense with references
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me as an excellent and inspiring book concerning the philosophy of history, and while I was initially sceptic about the relevance of this book I quickly turned to liking it. This is, in my opinion, a must-read for everyone interested in alternative approaches to (historical) time. While the book may sometimes be a little too repetitive (the author uses lots of examples that do not necessarily contribute to the argument), there are also a lot of exciting passages and ...more
Jacob Senholt
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I had high hopes for this book before reading it, expecting to meet a more thorough examination of the idea of the 'eternal return' both in antiquity and going into modern times (with Nietzsche, the 're-enchantment' of the world etc.). Although many references were provided to numerous interesting religious ideas I lacked a more structured and comprehensible overview. Eliade seemed to get a bit lost in the many examples and digressions, leaving the main-point of his book a bit blurry. Hence the ...more
Florence Lyon
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was one of those used book shop discoveries. I found it very interesting and vindicating in a way to confirm my thoughts and perceptions about cycles, myths, rituals and history. There were A LOT of big words that required frequent use of a dictionary. It made for deep, interesting reading on those bus commutes for my life in the repetitive mundane.
Anthony Buckley
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
One of many of Eliade's books placing religious experience at the heart of religious activity. In this case, he is interested in showing how the experience of the divine constitutes the human world. ...more
Joe Iacovino
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book demands a slow, methodical reading. One should have a working knowledge of ancient mythology as well as contemporary mythology (aka, religion). Definitely worth reading.
Mohammed Hindash
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting information, the structure of the book made it more interesting.
I like the vocab used.
See original review here:

This is the 5th book that I have read for My Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

I stated at the end of my review of Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces that I hoped that this might be a good follow-up book to Campbell and I have to say that I think it was. It is certainly a different project than Campbell’s but it dovetails nicely.


Introduction to the 2005 Edition by Jonathan Z. Smith
Chap. 1: Archetypes and Rep
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mircea Eliade’s “the Myth of the Eternal Return” is, on one level, an exposition of myths that explore and illustrate the concept of cyclical time. Eliade spans the globe recounting stories that outline his thesis, which is that man who lived in “traditional”, “archaic” societies lived in a world without history/non-linear time. Instead, he posits, they lived in a world that was created anew through ritual and the absorption of profane time into the sacred through the repetition of primordial ge ...more
Jacob Aitken
Mirceau Eliade gives a fine presentation on non-biblical views of history (though he wouldn’t necessarily call it that). Ultimately, Eliade’s analysis shows why Judeo-Christian “creational” views of reality can never be harmonized with polytheistic or classical Greek (but I repeat myself) views of ontology.

At the heart of these pagan systems is “the abolition of concrete time” (Eliade 85). In this text Eliade is going to use Jungian language about archetypes, yet I don’t think he really means wh
Amal Amra-Tutuianu
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Amal by: Remus Rus
Long ago, I was trying to find a book that deals with history and religion from a philosophical
aspect. This book, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, was just the perfect
suggestion. The book is quite interesting and I learnt too many new things upon reading it.
Besides, it made me a little bit more curious about new stuff of which I heard for the first
time. The first two chapters were somehow rigid; I believe because they present the basics (Yes, basics in philosophy are tough :))
Brian Griffith
Dated and showing some Eurocentric bias of the 20th century, but still a fascinating exploration of the whole evolving world of myth and meaning creation.
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scholarly
Brilliant and thought-provoking. I encourage everyone to read.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stick with it!! The last ten pages are amazing but only because of all the pages before them. Some of those pages are pretty amazing, too.
Jonathan Hockey
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My second time reading through this and I got a lot more from it this time. If you have concerns about issues such as how man in modern secular society can cope with the lack of meaning this life presents and would like to consider other options such as reversion to past religious understandings of history of one kind or another that situated us in a meaningful historical time, that gave a sense, purpose and value to our struggles, then this book can provide you with some great suggestions. The ...more
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Romanian-born historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, professor at the University of Chicago, and one of the pre-eminent interpreters of world religion in this century. Eliade was an intensely prolific author of fiction and non-fiction alike, publishing over 1,300 pieces over 60 years. He earned international fame with LE MYTHE DE L'ÉTERNAL RETOUR (1949, The Myth of the Eternal Return) ...more

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