MirceaEliade’s essay titled Time and Eternityin Indian Thought addressed the significant aspects and functions of Indianmyths and their even more substantial influence on civilizations, religions,and time itself. He begins by explaining two different dimensions of time: “Sacred(mystical) Time,” the duration in which we project ourselves into a space andre-actualize a myth, as it were, the sacred time regarding the occurrence ofsaid events and “Profane (historical) Time,” the individual, chronological,continuous, and irreversible time that is our everyday, desacralized existence.The process of imitating and re-actualizing mythical events eliminates theelements of profane time, allowing both the narrator and listener tosuccessfully distinguish the archaic world from our modern societies, and fromthere, determine our own sense of ultimate reality. He writes, however, thatalthough this elimination of the elements of the profane time occurs, whennarrating or listening to a myth, one still remains in contact with both thesacred and reality, and therefore, are not limited to the bounds of theirprofane conditions.
In this sense, myths are true, because they are sacred. Unlikethe profane times, myths are timeless, as they occur in a moment withoutduration, indicating their infinite significance. They breach time itself andits surrounding world, allowing access to the sacred Great Time, as Mircea puts(Eliade, 1954). Therefore, thesemyths create a vision of infinite time, of the ever-going cycle of creation anddestruction, of the eternal return, as an instrument of knowledge and a meansof liberation. Mirceacontinues to argue that in the perspective of Great Time, all existence isprecarious, evanescent, illusory; existence in time is ontologicallynonexistence, unreality.
He explains that the process of transcending profane time,to recover the mythical Great Time, is equivalent to a revelation of ultimatereality—which is a strictly metaphysical reality, accessible only through mythsand symbols. “We must never forget that such forms are ‘true’ only on their ownplane of reference, and are ontologically devoid of substance” (Eliade, 1954). It is important to notethat all the images, passages, myths, and other examples that Mircea mentionedaim to express not only the reoccurring paradoxical theme of evading time butalso the process from ignorance to enlightenment. Firstly, the cosmic egg, thelighting flash, and the seven steps of the Buddha, all suggest the abolition oftime and thus enlightenment by crossing over the dimensions. Secondly, themotionless Sun at the zenith, the end of the fluidity of the states ofconsciousness, and the total cessation of respiration in the practice of Yoga,all refer to an inconceivable situation. Lastly, the contradictory image of the”favourable moment,” a temporal fragment transfigured into an “instant ofillumination” (Eliade, 1954).
Whilehis essay was chockfull with passages, myths, and many more that were used topersuade the reader of his ideas, Mircea specifically uses symbols andanalogies evident in Sanskrit and Indian myths to further compel his arguments.For example, his analogies connecting the four yugas to our modern society,allow a deeper persuasive context to his writings. Additionally, he comparesand connects both the Buddhism and Jainism heterodoxies, using them to furthersupport the idea that we all will begin the same existence over again, billionsof times, always enduring the same endless suffering. Lastly, he uses symbols, suchas the seven steps of Buddha and the cosmic egg to describe the reversibilityof time and to further support the idea that the continuous fluidity of time isadequate to make every “form” that is manifested in time not only perishablebut also ontologically unreal (Eliade, 1954). Ultimately, alongwith his captivating writing style and intensive use of evidence, Mircea’s useof literary strategies, such as analogies and symbols, further help drive hisarguments and make his points ever much so compelling to readers. Fromreading his essay, it is clear that Mircea has a passion for analyzingreligions, making inferences and connections for both past and presentconditions. As he puts it, “For ignorance is primarily that falseidentification of the real with what each one among use seems to be or seems topossess” (Eliade, 1954).
This could indicatethat he himself, being so knowledgeable in religious dimensions, possesses askill that ultimately influences his work and what he believes is correct.Therefore, his agreement with many ideas, philosophies, techniques, symbols,and interpretations of time in the Indian myths, along with his incrediblydescriptive explanations, suggest its significant influence in his writing andwork.