Michel Meslin

"The Sacralization of Time in the Thought of Mircea Eliade"

Abstract Curriculum Vitae


Paper Abstract

Michel Meslin shows the admirable scholarly insistence upon critical assessment which has manifested itself in those Francophone critics of Eliade who have been the most demanding and the most damning of Eliade. (I think of Daniel Dubuisson and Alexandra Laingnel-Lavastine.) Unlike these authors, however, Meslin does not concentrate upon Eliade’s past or his politics, but on his understanding of the sacralization of time. Meslin builds upon the criticism made by Raffaele Pattazzoni that “it is not the primitive mythical world that confers significance on the present moment, but rather the world hic et nunc, which furnishes the components of any representation of the world of origins, conceived of as alternative and seen in opposition to it.” Thus it is not the “the sacred” that “sacralizes” profane experience, but the latter that provides our conception and understanding of the sacred.

Not for this reason alone does Meslin disagree with Eliade’s conception of the sacralization of time. We also see in Meslin’s critique the claim that Christian eschatological time is linear. Meslin concludes that “[c]learly neither for the historian nor from an anthropological perspective does the sacralization of time as Eliade conceives it appear correct.”

Curriculum Vitae

Michel Meslin is Professor Emeritus of the History of Religions at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. He is honorary president of the Sorbonne and professor of the history of religions and of the anthropology of religion. He is head of the Research Institute for the Study of Religions. He has dedicated several works to the history of early Christianity (notably on Western Arianism) and on late paganism. His work focuses on the religious representations of ancient civilizations and on traditional religions symbols. He has published Pour une science des religions (Toward a Science of Religions, Paris: Seuil, 1973) and L’expérience humaine du divin, (Human Experience of the Divine, Paris: Cerf, 1988). More recently, he initiated the series, les Cahiers d’anthropologie religieuse, (Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, 1993).

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Bryan Rennie