Terms used in Mircea Eliade's
The Sacred and the Profane,
The Nature of Religion

Mircea Eliade uses many terms in and from several languages in his classic book, The Sacred and the Profane [Harvest/HBJ, 1959], which applied Rudolf Otto's theory of numinosity to a variety of religious phenomena. It deals with aspects of religion and thus is really rather narrower than the title, "The Nature of Religion," might suggest. Here is a selection of his vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to students (who no longer have routinely taken Classical languages like Latin and Greek, let alone Arabic). This is based on a shorter list compiled by my colleagues Lisa Raskind and Gunar Freibergs at Los Angeles Valley College. Words used as foreign words are in italics, English words and coinages are not.

ab initiofrom the beginning (Latin)
ab origineat/from the beginning (Latin)
aiones, aevaeons, ages (Greek & Latin)
anthropo-cosmichuman-universal (Greek)
anthropophagyeating people, cannibalism (Greek)
autochthonyorgin or birth in the land itself (Greek)
axis mundicenter of the world, cosmic pillar (Latin)
ciphera code (cf. decipher)
coincidentia oppositorumcoincidence of opposites (Latin)
conjugalhaving to do with marriage, especially the sexual relationship of marriage
consecrate/sanctifyritually render sacred
cosmogonythe mythic creation (birth) of the world (Greek)
cosmologicalhaving to do with the universe, its structure
demiurge("people's worker") a creator deity or a subordinate, non-ultimate creator deity or being (Greek, from Plato's Timaeus)
desacralizerender or become unsacred (/profane)
epiphanyappearance, manifestation of anything, but especially something divine, as of the infant Jesus on January 6 (Greek)
existentiala subjective sense of reality or existence, having to do with Existentialism
fecundatorone who makes someone/thing else fertile (Latin)
ganz anderewholly other (German)
gestaexploits, deeds (Latin)
Hellenisticthe history, civilization, etc. of the Greek states and rulers from Alexander the Great (d. 323 BC) to the Roman conquest of Egypt (30 BC)
hic et nunchere and now (Latin)
hierogamysacred marriage (Greek)
hierophanyappearance of the sacred (Greek)
historicismthe unfolding of history interpreted to reveal the meaning of human life, reality, good and evil, etc. and to provide a (relativistic) standard for value judgments
homogeneousthe same everywhere or throughout (Greek)
homologousalike or parallel in function or origin (Greek)
homo religiosusreligious man (Latin)
hydrogenybirth from water (Greek)
illud tempusthat time (Latin)
imago mundiimage, model, microcosm of the world (Latin)
imitatio deiin imitation of the gods/God (Latin)
immolateburn up, cremate
in aeternumin eternity (Latin)
incommensurabilitywhen two quantities, ideas, values, etc. cannot be interpreted or compared in terms of each other or in terms of anything else
in illo temporein that time (Latin)
in principioin the beginning -- the first words of the Vulgate Bible (Latin)
in statu nascendiin the process of being born (Latin)
irruptionbreaking into (compare "eruption")
macrocosma large image, model, or counterpart (Greek)
maraboutNorth African dervish/mystic/ holy man (Arabic)
microcosma small image, model, or counterpart, corresponding to the macroscosm (Greek)
numenthe might of a deity, majesty, divinity (Latin), especially as interpreted by Rudolf Otto
ontologythe theory of existence or reality (Greek)
ontologicalhaving to do with existence or reality (Greek)
ontophanyappearance of Being (Greek)
orbis terrarumthe circle of the lands (Latin)
paradigmaticin the manner of an authoritative example (Greek)
Parmenideanhaving to do with Being/existence (Parmenides)
parthenogenesisvirgin birth (Greek)
phenomenologythe description of appearances/phenomena/facts (Greek)
plenitudefullness (Latin plenum)
post mortemafter death, sometimes a synonym for "autopsy" (Latin)
retrogressionmovement backwards
sacralitysacredness (Latin sacer)
sacralizerender of become sacred
siderealhaving to do with the stars (Latin sidus)
soteriologicalhaving to do with salvation or a savior (Greek, sôtêr)
tellurianhaving to do with the earth (Latin tellus)
templumspace, place, sacred place, temple (Latin)
terra matermother earth (Latin)
transmundanebeyond the world (Latin)
theophanyappearance of the divine, gods, or God (Greek)
uranianhaving to do with the sky/heaven (Uranus in Latin, from Ouranos in Greek)
valencedegree of value or power
valorizationattribute or endow with value
Weltanschauungidea of the world, world view (German)
zigguratSumerian/Babylonian temple pyramid

Philosophy of Religion


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Copyright (c) 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved