Mircea Eliade, the Romanian who told the Westerners about spirituality



Mircea Eliade was an exceptional Romanian thinker and writer, with a significant influence all over the world.
He made known yoga and oriental spirituality at a significant level at that time and at the theoretical level in the west.

A philosopher and historian of religions, Eliade has been a professor at the University of Chicago since 1957, holder of the Sewell L. Avery Chair since 1962, naturalized american citizen in 1966, honored with the title of Distinguished Service Professor.
Author of 30 scientific volumes, literary works and philosophical essays translated into 18 languages and of about 1200 articles and reviews with an extremely varied topic, very well documented.
The complete work of Mircea Eliade would occupy over 80 volumes, without taking into account his intimate diaries and unpublished manuscripts.


Mircea Eliade was born on February 28th (old style) 1907 in Bucharest and died april 22, 1986 in Chicago.

Born in Bucharest, he was the son of Gheorghe Eliade.

The family moved between Tecuci and Bucharest, as a last resort, settling in the capital in 1914 and purchased a house on Melodiei Street, near Rosetti Square, where Mircea Eliade lived until late in his teens.

After completing primary education at the school on Mântuleasa Street, Eliade becomes a student of the Spiru Haret College, being a colleague of Constantin Noica.
He became interested in the natural sciences and chemistry, as well as in the occult.
Despite his father, who was worried about jeopardizing his poor eyesight, Eliade reads passionately.
One of your favorite authors is Honoré de Balzac.
Eliade is introduced to the short stories of Giovanni Papini and the social-anthropological studies of James George Frazer.

His interest in the two writers led him to learn Italian and English; in particular he began to study Persian and Hebrew.
He is interested in philosophy and studies the works of Vasile Conta, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, reads works of history and especially Nicolae Iorga and B.P. Hasdeu. His first work was published in 1921 “The Enemy of the SilkWorm” followed by “How I Found the Philosopher’s Stone”.
Four years later, Eliade finished work on his debut volume, an autobiographical volume, “The Novel of the Myopic Teenager”.

Mircea Eliade had a serious philosophical formation since Romania. After a difficult puberty of intense solitary study, beginning in 1925 the teenager is almost unanimously recognized as the “head of his generation”. The novel Gaudeamus, finished in 1928, part two of The Myopic Teenager’s Novel, contains interesting autobiographical information about his first encounter with his future professor of logic and metaphysics, Nae Ionescu, who would have a decisive influence on his career. Recognizing the talent and knowledge of Mircea Eliade, Nae Ionescu gave him a job in the editorial office of the Cuvântul newspaper. Although the opinions of posterity are divided, Nae Ionescu had the undeniable merit of having supported young talents like Mihail Sebastian.

Italian influence

Wanting to broaden his intellectual horizon beyond the French culture, then dominant in Romania, Eliade learns Italian and on the occasion of some trips to Italy he personally meets Giovanni Papini and Vittorio Macchioro, who had publications in the field of the history of religions. An indiscretion of the young Eliade, who published an interview with Macchioro, mentioning some of his bitter remarks about Mussolini’s regime, caused him inconvenience. In 1929 he got his bachelor’s degree with a thesis on Italian philosophy during the Renaissance.

India’s secret

After the Italian culture, Indian philosophy becomes the second passion of Mircea Eliade. Obtaining a private scholarship, he began to study Sanskrit and Yoga with Surendranath Dasgupta, in Calcutta. Back in Bucharest, he got his PhD in philosophy with a dissertation on Yoga. In 1933, the novel Maitreyi, based on experience in India and autobiographical data, gained great popularity. Between 1932 and 1943 he published several volumes of literary prose, essays and scientific works.

About his novel Maitreyi

Few works in world literature deal with the same facts in the vision of two writers who were, at the same time, their protagonists. For us, the Romanians, Mircea Eliade’s novel Maitreyi was, for generations, a real delight. However, few know that the prototype of the main character of the book really lived, until 1990, in the land of the Vedas and the Upanishads. She was the daughter of Surendranath Dasgupta, the greatest Indian philosopher, and her name was Maitreyi Devi. The young Mircea Eliade was, when he met her, 23 years old, and she was 16. The teenager wrote lyrics, appreciated by Rabindranath Tagore, and would become a well-known Indian poet. The meeting between Maitreyi Devi and our renowned Sanskritologist, Sergiu Al. George, in Calcutta in 1972, “triggered” the writing of a new book.

The disturbing love story of the ’30s thus received a masterful retort from her heroine herself, Maitreyi (in the book, Amrita), after 42 years.

The response-novel “Love does not die”, “It never dies”, first written in Bengali, was translated and published in English in 1976. We immerse ourselves, during reading, in the Indian landscape and mentality, with its wonderful world of myths, rituals and symbols. The backbone of this book, however, is the story with authenticity and, I would say, with genius of the greatest wonder of the world: the establishment of the feeling of love, the happiness of shared love, and its breakup.

Mircea and Amrita (from Love does not die), as well as Allan and Maitreyi (from “Maitreyi”), can sit next to the immortal couples Paul and Virginia, Tristan and Isolda, Romeo and Juliet. Love does not die (1976), although the book published so far in Bengali, English, German and Romanian, does not yet have the planetary notoriety of the novel “Maitreyi” (1933). But it triumphantly advances along the same path of universe consecration.

Eliade and the Romanian far right

Since the mid-30s, Eliade has embraced the ideology of the Legionary Movement, in which he becomes a well-known activist. This was manifested in several articles that he wrote for various publications, including the official newspaper of the Movement, “The Annunciation”, but also through the electoral campaign for the elections of December 1937. Eliade later distanced himself from this attitude, but he always avoided referring to this critical period in his youth. While writing anti-Semitic articles he took a stand against the expatriation of great Jewish intellectuals and maintained his friendship with Jews like Michael Sebastian. Certain exegetes of his work have commented on the fact that Eliade, in fact, never dissented from the legionary ideology, preferring to deny later that he was the author of some of the articles that bore his signature and that some ideas of mystical-totalitarian or anti-Semitic invoice would be found in his scientific works. As for the literary work, Iphigenia seems to be an allegory of Codreanu’s death.

Years of maturity

Starting with 1957, Mircea Eliade settled in Chicago, as a professor of comparative history of religions at “Loyola” University. His reputation grows with each year and with each new work appeared, he becomes a member of illustrious institutions, receives several doctorates honoris causa.

As a historian of religions, Mircea Eliade emphasized the concept of sacred space and time. Sacred space is in Eliade’s conception the center of the universe, while sacred time is a repetition of the elements at the origin of the world, the world considered as the “horizon” of a particular religious group. In this conception the archaic human beings were oriented in time and space, the modern ones would be disoriented. But even in modern man there would be a hidden, subconscious dimension, governed by the secret presence of profound religious symbols. The Department of The History of Religions at the University of Chicago is named after him, as evidence of his vast contribution to specialized literature in this field. At the department was followed by his assistant, Ioan Petru Culianu, another Romanian scholar of international stature. In the last years of his life, despite serious health problems, he continued to remain engaged with the same unique, limitless curiosity and enthusiasm. Mircea Eliade died at the age of 79, on April 22, 1986, in Chicago.

Eliade, the artist

His literary work and a fresco of existential problems in the era he lived. Return from Heaven (1934) and The Hooligans (1935) are semifantastic novels in which Eliade accepts the existence of an extrasensory reality. Man is in search of his own hidden forces, he is the instrument of these forces that he cannot control. This personal philosophy is expressed by Mircea Eliade both in memorable short stories, such as La țigănci (1959), and in the novel The Night of Sânziene (1971).

Scientific works

* Yoga: Essai sur les origines de la indienne mystique (1936)
* Babylonian cosmology and alchemy (1937)
* Comments on the legend of the craftsman Manole (1943)
* Traité d’histoire des religions (1949)
* Le Sacré et le Profane (1956)
* Aspects du mythe (1963)
* Le mythe de l’éternel retour (1969)
* Le Chamanisme et les Techniques archaïques de l’extase (1974)


* Maitreyi (1933)
* Return from Heaven (1934)
* Hooligans (1935)
* Miss Christina (1936)
* Wedding in Heaven (1938)
* On Mântuleasa Street (1968)
* La țigănci (1969)
* Night of Sânziene (1971)
* The Old Man and the Bureaucrat (1974)
* The novel of the myopic teenager

Works published in Romanian

* The novel of the myopic teenager, written in 1927, published by Mircea Handoca only in 1989, current edition, Humanitas, 2004
* Gaudeamus, 1929 current edition, Humanitas, 2004
* Isabel și apele diavolului, 1929, current edition, Humanitas, 2003
* Soliloqués, 1932
* Maitreyi, 1933, Indian novel
* Oceanography, 1934,
* Return from Heaven, 1934, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Lumina ce se stinge, 1934, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Asian Alchemy, 1935 full text in the anthology The Road to the Center, Universe, 1991
* India, 1934, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Notebooks maharajahului, 1934, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Hooligans, 1935, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Şantier, Roman indirect, 1935, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Miss Christina, 1936 current edition humanitas, 2003
* Babylonian Cosmology and Alchemy, 1937 full text in the anthology The Road to the Center, Universe, 1991
* The Serpent, 1937
* Fragmentarium, 1938
* Wedding in heaven, 1938
* The Secret of Dr. Honigberger, 1940, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Nights at Serampore, 1940 current edition Humanitas, 2003
* The Myth of Reintegration, 1942
* Salazar and the revolution in Portugal, 1942
* Portuguese Diary, written in 1942, edited 2006
* The Island of Euthanasius, 1943, current edition Humanitas, 2003
* Commentaries on The Legend of the Craftsman Manole, 1943 in the anthology The Road to the Center, Universe, 1991
* Pe strada Mântuleasa, 1968, current edition Humanitas, 2004
* Noaptea de Sânziene, 1971
* In the Courtyard at Dionysus, 1977, current edition Humanitas, 2004
* Youth without Youth, Nineteen Roses, 1980, current edition Humanitas, 2004

Papers published in foreign languages

* Os Romenos, latinos do Oriente, 1943, Despre români, latinii orientului, apare în limba portugueseă
* Yoga, 1936, appears simultaneously in French and Romanian
* Techniques of Yoga, 1948
* Yoga. Nemurire și libertate, 1954
* Făurari și alchimiști, 1956
* Tratat de istorie a religiilor, 1949, ed. second, 1966
* The Myth of the Eternal Return, 1949
* Shamanism and the techniques of ecstasy, 1951
* Images and Symbols, 1952
* Nativities and rebirths, 1958
* Mephistopheles and the Androgyne, 1962
* From Zalmoxis to Genghis Khan, 1970
* Myths, dreams, mysteries, 1957
* History of religious beliefs and ideas, 1976-1983
* Briser le toit de la maison, 1986
* The Quest (title of the French version is La Nostalgie des Origines), 1969

Memorial works

* Diary, two volumes (the Romanian version was restored by Mircea Handoca starting directly from the manuscript)
* Memoirs, two volumes, 1991 (his autobiography)
* Portuguese Diary and Other Writings, Humanitas, 2006
* Labyrinth attempt, ed. I, Dacia, 2000, ed. II, Humanitas, 2006.

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