On religious archetype

24 02 2010

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What seems more reliable is the tendency of every “historical form” to approximate as nearly as possible to its archetype, even when it has been realised at a secondary or insignificant level: this can be verified everywhere in the religious history of humanity. Any local goddess tends to become the Great Goddess; any village anywhere is the “Centre of the World.” and any wizard whatever pretends, at the height of his ritual, to be the Universal Sovereign. It is this same tendency towards the archetype, towards the restoration of the perfect form- of which any myth or rite or divinity is only a variant, and often a rather pale one- that makes the history of religions possible… [O]nce it is realised… the religious form tends to disengage itself from its condition in time and space and to become universal, to return to the archetype. And, finally, the “imperialism” of the victorious religious forms is also explainable by this tendency of every hierophany or theophany to become everything- that is, to sum up in itself all manifestations of the holy, to incorporate all the immense morphology of the sacred.

-Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism