A research programme entangled in fascination and politics
If we read the continuation of the quote from Allen above we also now see Eliade’s research programme fully exposed:
Indeed, such a level of ontological analysis will reveal that only by experiencing the symbolic structures of the sacred, only by renewing ourselves through new revalorizations or religious symbolism, can modern Western humans beings overcome their terror of historyâ and their existential anxiety and live truly meaningful existenceâ (Allen 2001)
We are presented with the purpose of the science of religion. By excavating the sacred -through for instance yoga exercises and their accompanying mystical experiences – we moderns would re-discover the deepest meaning of our existence. And 20 century man was according to Eliade indeed suffering under the conditions of modernity. It is apparent from a range of Eliade’s writings that he regretted this malaise of modernity: human alienation, anxiety and sense of meaninglessness. Sociologists like Weber, Tonnies and Durkheim shared this diagnosis, but they would not have shared Eliade’s medicine. Our nihilism and our profane lifestyle, according to Eliade, had to be overcome by radical cultural and spiritual renewal. Here he sounds very similar to his Neo-Vedantic gurus and friends in late colonial India. In this view, this is where the study of religion – and yoga practice – helps us and provides us with a liberating sense of transcendence and freedom. It is within this overall symbolic sign system that Eliade gave meaning to yoga so explicitly expressed in the Foreword to his legendary work on yoga. In this way he constructed a new hybrid modernist yoga discourse -yoga as medicine for the unease and debility of modernity.
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