Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sacred Time

From Mircea Eliade's 'The Sacred and the Profane, The Nature of Religion':

Profane Duration and Sacred Time

For religious man, time too, like space, is neither homogeneous nor continuous. On the one hand, there are the intervals of a sacred time, the time of the festivals (by far the greater part of which are periodical); on the other there is profane time, ordinary temporal duration, in which acts without religious meaning have their setting. Between these two kinds of time there is, of course, solution of continuity; but by means of rites religious man can pass without danger from ordinary temporal duration to sacred time.

One essential difference between these two qualities of time strikes us immediately: by its very nature sacred time is reversible in the sense that, properly speaking, it is a primordial mythical time made present. Every religious festival, any liturgical time, represents the reactualization of a sacred event that took place in a mythical past, "in the beginning". Religious participation in a festival implies emerging from ordinary temporal duration and reintegration of the mythical time reactualized by the festival itself.

Hence sacred time is indefinitely recoverable, indefinitely repeatable. From one point of view it could be said that it does not "pass", that it does not constitute an irreversible duration. It is an ontological, Parmenidean time; it always remains equal to itself, it neither changes nor is exhausted.

With each periodical festival, the participants find the same sacred time - the same that had been manifested in the festival of the previous year or in the festival of a century earlier; it is the time that was created and sanctified by the gods at the period of their gesta, of which the festival is precisely a reactualization. In other words the participants in the festival meet in it the first appearance of sacred time, as it appeared ab origine, in illo tempore.

Page 68, Sacred Time and Myths

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