Eternal Recommencing

In religion as in magic periodicity means, above all, the endless use of a mythical time brought again to the present day. All rituals have the property of happening now, at this moment. The time that saw the event, repeated or commented on by some ritual, is made present, “represented”, if we can say so, no matter how old in time it is imagined.

clepsidra The sufferings of Crist, his death and resurrection are not just commemorated during the religious service in the Holy Week, but they are actually happening, then, in front of the eyes of believers.

And a true Christian must feel contemporary with those transhistorical events because, repeating themselves, theophane time becomes present to him.

The beliefs in a cyclical time, in an eternal return, in dsstroying the Universe and humanity as the preface of a new Universe and a new  “regenerated” humanity, all these beliefs attest, fist of all, the faith and hope of a periodic regeneration of time elapsed, of history.

In fact, that cycle is a Big Year, to resume a very familiar term in Greek-Oriental terminology. The Big Year began with a Creation and ended with Chaos, that is, by a complete merger of all elements. What interests us here, above all, is the hope in a total regeneration of time, obvious hope in all myths and doctrines involving cosmic cycles.

We meet in man at all levels the same desire to suppress the profane time and to live in sacred time. Moreover, we are in front of a desire and an expectation to regenerate time in its totality, that is, to be able to live “humanely”, “historicaly” in eternity by transfiguring time in the eternal moment.

This nostalgia of eternity is similar to paradise nostalgia. The desire to live permanently and spontaneously in a sacred space corresponds to the desire to live forever in eternity, due to the repetition of the archetypal gestures.

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The repetition of the archetypes highlights the paradoxical desire to achieve an ideal form (archetypal) in the very state of human existence, to find us in time without enduring the burden, that is, without suffering its irreversibility.

Such a desire cannot be interpreted as a “spiritualist” one, because the terrestrial existence with everything that it implies would be devalued to the benefit of the spirituality detached from the world. On the contrary, what we could call the nostalgia of eternity proves that man aspires to a concrete and believes that getting this paradise is possible here on the earth and now, at the present moment.

In this sense archaic myths and rituals about sacred space and time can be considered nostalgic memories of a terrestrial paradise and of some kind of  “experimental” eternity that man thinks he can get.

from Mircea Eliade, Tratat de istoria religiilor

 

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