The Sacred and the Profane Analysis To be sacred, by definition, is to be worthy of religious veneration; not secular or profane. To be profane is not to be concerned with religion or religious purposes; not holy because unconsecrated, impure, or defiled; serving to debase or defile what is holy; to treat something sacred with contempt. (Merriam Webster) “The first possible definition of sacred is that it is the opposite of the profane. “(10) “The Sacred and the Profane” by Eliade is a monograph that attempts to define the meaning of life for the religious (sacred) and the nonreligious (profane) man.
Eliade further breaks up religious and nonreligious man into primitive and modern, and irrational and rational. For the religious man, “the sacred is saturated with being. “(12) Sacred power is permanent, effective reality. That which is not sacred is profane, and if the sacred is defined as reality, then the profane is unreal. Nonreligious man has adopted a profane existence. He has taken all that is sacred out of his life. “Man of modern societies [is] living in a desacralized cosmos. (17) This tells us that the nonreligious man is further assigned as modern, and the religious man is thereby defined as rimitive. The sacred manifests itself in our world; it does this by showing itself as different modalities using the natural structure of the world. Religious man has believed the sacred to present itself to him, through celestial, aquatic, and earthly expressions. Symbolically, it is through nature that the sacred transcends itself to the supernatural. “The revelations of cosmic sacrality are in some sort primordial revelations. (138) The experiences of the profane space and the experiences of the sacred space are in an exact contradiction to each other. For religious man, space is not all the same. For him, space that is different is sacred; it is a break and therefore holds strong, symbolic meaning. This is because sacred space is the only place where things are real. All space around it holds no meaning. For the nonreligious man, all space is neutral. It can be cut up any way, and nothing is constituted as more or less significant. This is because he accepts the profane existence.
Because the world ofa religious man is all broken up, it is possible for him to obtain a fixed point. The fixed point is important, because without it there is no beginning; without a beginning nothing can be done. Having a fixed, point establishes world order. This allows religious man to live in a real sense, even in the presence of chaos. For this same reason nonreligious man is incapable of doing so. His profane world cannot find a fixed point; all space is homogenous, thus no orientation. When speaking of sacred place in accordance to religious man, it is important to keep in mind a threshold.
For it is the threshold that comes between the profane and the religious man’s place of worship, other wise known as the sacred. It is the door that separates these two modes of being. The temple, or place of worship, constructs a celestial opening romising communication with the gods. This threshold also symbolizes a break that allows one to pass from one cosmic region to another: the divine world, the underworld, and the earth, with the earth is situated in the middle. This “door” to the transcendental can be found in the center of the universe.
The universe created by man is a paradigm of the gods’ creation. It is in the middle where all worlds are free sacred, thus an overabundance of reality. Because there is an infinite amount of sacred space within the world, there are an uncountable number of breaks that allow or limitless opportunities to communicate with the transcendent. The world comes into existence where the sacred manifests itself. (63) It is at the fixed point of sacred irruption that communication can take place between the transcendental and religious man. It is through this orientation that all forms of life may begin.
The world is further divided into cosmos and chaos. The cosmos is our world inhabited by man. It is formless and at a constant state of fluidity. Any consecrated space can be dubbed as part of the cosmos. The cosmos was created during the cosmogony. The cosmogony was the first manifestation of the sacred. It was the primordial reality. “Cosmogony serves as the paradigmatic model for every creation. “(81) Outside of the cosmos is a foreign, unknown space that corresponds with the underworld. For religious man, it is represented as “absolute nonbeing”??”chaos. 64) No world can begin in the center of chaos. This is because chaos is disorganized and holds no fixed limits. The lack of limits denies it a beginning. Human beings cannot live in chaos, but man can easily transform chaos into cosmos by settling in the chaos. “To settle in the chaos is… equivalent to consecrating it. “(34) For the religious man, life is omposed of two kinds of time??”sacred and profane. Sacred time works eternally and cyclically. It is always renewing and repeating itself; it takes religious man back to the cosmogony every year.
It relives through all liturgical periods and all religious festivals. Sacred time represents the “reactualization” of the mythical past when the world first came into existence. Religious man usually celebrates sacred time annually, and the new year represents a new beginning. Every year is annually brought back to its original consecration. The past year’s sins are obliterated and eligious man may start the year anew. The profane time is free of religious meaning. Nonreligious man lives in the historical present. He experiences no breaks in time.
For him, time is continually recurrent. His life constitutes of bereft, self-centered activity. As opposed to a life formed by sacred history??”like the religious man??”his life is built around human history. Nonreligious man accepts life’s relativity: that a lifetime begins with birth and ends with death. This is a feat religious man fails to accept. Religious man tries to hold on to the sacred universe for as long as he can. For him, “Death does not put a final end to life. Death is but another modality to human existence. “(148) Dying is essential.
It allows the religious man to transcend into new spiritual existence. It is “the supreme initiation”(196) Another prevalent topic in Eliade’s monograph is myth. Myth reveal sacred primordial events of the gods to men. Myth are reality belonging to the sacred sphere. “It relates the creative activity of the gods, unveils the sacredness in their work. “(97) They exemplify the reality of existence. The religious man, in turn, imitates the gods by using myth as aradigmatic guidelines for life, so he may remain closer to reality.
Eliade also discusses the natures of both religious and nonreligious man. “For the primitive any act is never Just physiological. “(14) Almost all things are a sacrament (food, work, sex). It is impossible for religious man to live in a world devoid of the sacred. If he cannot find a sacred space, he will do anything to declare a place as sacred. The sacred is the only place where things are real. It is the only place where religious man is being. untruthful life composed of a string of personal experiences.
The biggest fear for eligious man is to live in a world destitute the of sacred, “[the] terror of nothingness. “(64) Eliade’s denounces that there is no such thing as a purely profane existence. This is because, in reality, the is no completely nonreligious man. Although he has chosen the profane life, he cannot completely rid himself of all religious conduct. “Even the most desacralized existence still preserves traces of religious valorization of the world. “(23) Without religious man, there is no nonreligious man, for he is the descendent. Yet by understanding religious man, “he succeeds in living the