Religious Studies

Eliade, phenomenology, and the sacred

a1 Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA 94709


The purpose of this article is to clarify some of the areas considered most problematic in Mircea Eliade's approach to religion. One of its principal goals is to show that Eliade's method is primarily phenomenological rather than theological, as some interpreters of his work maintain. In presenting this phenomenological interpretation of Eliade four areas of his approach are addressed: (1) the extent to which it incorporates historical method; (2) the meaning of religion as sui generis and irreducible; (3) Eliade's use of the term ‘sacred’; and (4) Eliade's hierarchalizing of religious phenomena. Eliade's departure from phenomenology to explain the causes of religious experience is also addressed.