Mircea Eliade: Shamanism, traditionalism and the ideology of the archaic


The article examines the possible reason that prompted known religious studies scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), who never considered himself a student of shamanism and 'tribal' people, to write his classic Le Chamanisme et les techniques archaïques de l'extase (1951). It is suggested that, for Eliade whose mindset was heavily saturated with the philosophy of traditionalism, it was a logical step to embark on that project. Traditionalism sprang up as a cultural and ideological movement among European right-wing intellectuals in the 1920s and the 1930s. It brought together people who were suspicious of Western civilization and many of whom dived into the occult and esotericism. Traditionalists were fixated on the search for humanity's 'archaic' and 'original' spiritual roots, which they frequently located in pre-Christian beliefs and myths. The article also discusses the way writers and social scholars responded to Eliade's impressionistic study, as well as how Eliade's vision of shamanism inspired numerous spiritual seekers in the West in the 1960s and the 1970s and how eventually, with the ascent of postmodernism, his view of shamanism as the universal primordial religion of humanity became the object of severe criticism.

Publication Title

Siberian Historical Research