Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mircea Eliade's fascism

One of the more disturbing things that I learned late in my career as a graduate student in religion was about the early fascist activities of one of the great 20th century figures in the study of religion, Mircea Eliade. As an article in the New Republic (by Joseph Frank) which has just been posted on line says: "Mircea Eliade, the much-admired historian of religion ... was chairman of the department of religion at the University of Chicago from 1957 until his death in 1986. Eliade had been a strong supporter of the Iron Guard movement, the Romanian equivalent of the Italian fascists and the German Nazis, but he attempted throughout his later career to conceal and deny his affiliation with its ideas and his service in the pro-Axis Romanian government of Marshal Ion Antonescu during the war."

In the mid-1930s he began to support the Iron Guard openly: "In 1936 he began openly to support the Iron Guard; but his aim was 'to provide its ideology with a more solid philosophical foundation.' One is reminded of Heidegger's attempt to provide Hitlerism with what the philosopher considered a worthier intellectual grounding. Eliade carries on a continual battle against the ideas of the Enlightenment and traces the degeneration of Romania to its attempt to adopt such alien notions: 'Being a foreign importation, the democratic regime concerns itself with matters that are not specifically Romanian--abstractions like the rights of man, the rights of minorities, and the liberty of conscience.' Far better a dictatorship like that of Mussolini, which is always preferable to a democracy because, if the latter goes to pieces, it will 'inevitably slide toward the left' and thus toward communism."

In 1938, the Iron Guard movement was suppressed in Romania, and Eliade left the country, to become the Romanian cultural attache in London. He was then transferred to Portugal, and spent four years in Lisbon, full of admiration for the dictatorship of Salazar.

Eliade never repented of his fascist involvements, although he concealed them after the war. He kept a notebook throughout the war that is now in the University of Chicago library.
It is an astonishing document, revealing a self-adulation merging on megalomania and a fervent commitment to the triumph of Hitler, Mussolini, and Antonescu over the "Anglo-Bolsheviks." Comparing himself with Goethe, whose genius he admired, Eliade concludes: "My intellectual horizons are vaster." Despite the consolation of such reflections, he was terribly depressed by the course of the war. After the defeat of the Germans and their Romanian allies at Stalingrad (which he called "a tragedy"), followed by the invasion of North Africa and the British victory over Rommel, Eliade was upset to such an extent that he notes: "Insomnias, nightmares, depression."

For him, the triumph of the Allies meant "the abandonment of Europe to the Asiatic hordes." Even though Jews were being slaughtered right and left in his homeland, not to mention elsewhere--and Eliade's diplomatic position kept him perfectly well informed--not a word about any such events appears in his pages. As the handwriting on the wall became more and more legible, he resolved not to return home, but to take another tack. "I have decided to 'penetrate' Europe more deeply and with more determination than I have done until now," he writes. Several months later, he sees himself operating as "a Trojan horse within the scientific arena," whose aim was "scientifically to validate the metaphysical significance of prehistoric life." This is exactly how he behaved after Antonescu was overthrown and he was discharged from his position at the Romanian embassy. He had influential scholarly connections in Paris, particularly the cultural historian Georges Dumézil, and he used this influence as well as others to obtain temporary teaching appointments. He had begun to write his Treatise on the History of Religions in 1944 and his influential The Myth of the Eternal Return a year later; both appeared in French in the immediate postwar years, and launched Eliade on his way to international fame and a permanent post in Chicago.
In my undergraduate and graduate classes in religion we were assigned books by Eliade, including The Myth of the Eternal Return, and I was always disturbed by his treatment of Judaism - which was not openly anti-semitic but nonetheless did not cast Judaism in a very favorable light.

Joseph Frank analyzes this quite astutely:
Nothing blatantly anti-Semitic can be found in Eliade's postwar writings, but the prejudice is transposed into a much more scholarly key in his theory of religion. One of the cornerstones of his doctrine was that archaic man lived in a world of cyclical time, whose recurrences were marked by festivals of one kind or another in which "sacred time," the time of religious experience, was re-created. The modern world has largely lost this ability to relive "sacred time" because the Hebrews (as Eliade now calls them) broke with the cyclical time of "the eternal return" by linking God with linear time. "The Hebrews," he writes, "were the first to discover the significance of history as the epiphany of God," and this discovery of history ultimately led to all the ills of the modern world. Daniel Dubuisson, a French analyst of Eliade's views on mythology, concludes that this summary notion of history "especially invents a new accusation against the Jews, that of an ontological crime, a capital crime and without doubt unpardonable." Eliade thus remained true to himself in this erudite disguise during his later years, when his worldwide fame reached its apogee and his death was mourned with sanctimonious reverence.
Once this information about Eliade started to come out (I think I first read about his history in an earlier article in TNR in August of 1991), there was at least one session at the AAR discussing him. I certainly hope that his books are no longer a mainstay of undergraduate religion courses. I actually threw out some of his books that I owned - I didn't want anyone else to be exposed to his dubious ideas on the history of religion.


Links to more interesting articles on Eliade and Fascism:

Politics of the Sacred: Eliade, Bataille and the Fascination of Fascism
Between the two World Wars, the rise of the fascist politico-religious movements proved a fateful return of the ‘collective effervescence’ that Emile Durkheim had placed at the core of the sacred. This article analyses the conception of the sacred in the work of two scholars, Mircea Eliade and Georges Bataille, who both responded to this phenomenon in their work. Their theories are scrutinized with an eye to their political implications: What political commitments underlie their theories? Do the theories contribute to the understanding of the fateful amalgam of religion and politics? It is demonstrated how, despite some important similarities, the two develop radically differing interpretations of the sacred. Eliade occults the political background as well as the violent ramifications of his idealized view of the sacred. Bataille, in his turn, does not shun a certain complicity with forces that fascism exploited, a complicity that does not correspond bit by bit with his overt statements of commitment. Still, from his writing emerges a dynamic conception of the sacred, undersood as a fundamentally ambiguous force, that helps to grasp the—also political—uses, abuses, as well a certain useless residue of the sacred.
The Politics of Myth: A Study of C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell, by Robert Ellwood (1999)
Examines the political views implicit in the mythological theories of three of the most widely read popularizers of myth in the twentieth century, C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell. 
The Politics of Myth examines the political views implicit in the mythological theories of three of the most widely read popularizers of myth in the twentieth century, C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell. All three had intellectual roots in the anti-modern pessimism and romanticism that also helped give rise to European fascism, and all three have been accused of fascist and anti-Semitic sentiments. At the same time, they themselves tended toward individualistic views of the power of myth, believing that the world of ancient myth contained resources that could be of immense help to people baffled by the ambiguities and superficiality of modern life. 
Robert Ellwood details the life and thought of each mythologist and the intellectual and spiritual worlds within which they worked. He reviews the damaging charges that have been made about their politics, taking them seriously while endeavoring to put them in the context of the individual's entire career and lifetime contribution. Above all, he seeks to extract from their published work the view of the political world that seems most congruent with it.
An interesting interview with Norman Manea that touches on Eliade and Mihail Sebastian, The Great Work and the Compromised Man.
I want to broaden the scope a little and ask about the many intellectual figures that you name in your work, people who made terrible, unforgivable compromises. I’m thinking of the young Mircea Eliade, of Emil Cioran, of Constantin Noica, and under communism, of Paul Georgescu, “the flying elephant.” Do you think the work can stand independent of the writer? Or is aesthetic merit undermined by ideological compromise?

The work can and should stand independently, in my opinion. There are cases when the work still has merit, despite the shortcomings of its writer. Human beings are not perfect, and there is something redeeming in the human being who, imperfect as he or she is, nevertheless struggles for a perfect work and creates a masterpiece. In my opinion, this redeems the flawed person a little bit. I think that the work should be judged for itself, and the defects of the writer should never be ignored. We can think of the writer as a teaching example. He or she can help us understand difficult periods in human history; what the writer has to say should be dealt with, it should be debated. The great work and the compromised man are a human contradiction, and I am always for contradictions. They’re more interesting than coherences. Of course, sometimes, it’s very difficult to separate one from the other.


  1. Have you seen this:

  2. No, I had not. It's repulsive.

  3. 40 years ago I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. I had heard of Eliade from my roommates who were "into" such things. I even read a few pages of the Myth of Eternal Return. He had little contact with undergraduates, but one night he did give a lecture at the Hillel Foundation (the Jewish religious and cultural institution on many campuses worldwide), which I dutifully attended with the said roomates.

    I remember very little about the lecture or his theories, other than that they made little sense to me, but I am quite sure that during my years at Chicago, no one ever mentioned Eliade's fascist past.

    Of course the fact is that in the aftermath of the Great War (WWI), the vast majority of European Intellectuals gave up on liberalism (classical liberalism not the modern American watered down socialist theory that caries the same name) and embraced theories and movements that grew out of the theories of Sorel, including Bolshevism, Fascisim and Nazism.

    For some reason it was condsidered impolite to publicly discuss the backgrounds of the survivors who washed onto our shores. Eliade got a free pass, and so did Hannah Arendt, who had started out as Heidegger's girl friend.

  4. Hey Rebecca,

    I don't think that Eliade's work has been tossed out yet.

    I remember Jon Levenson discussing his fascist past, but I never knew any specifics about it myself.

    You know, given the cyclical holiday schedule in Judaism, that whole line of thought in Eliade never made sense to me in Eliade's work.

    I think what is more true is that there is a tension between cyclical time and linear time and both are represented. That's the tension, for instance, that is picked up by Hegel when he describes the dialectic of religion.

    In any case, the "scientific validation [of] the metaphysical significance of prehistoric life" seems like such an arcane point for a Trojan Horse strategy at least in this day and age, given that there is no big disillusionment any more with the myth of indefinite progress. No one thinks it will stop wars or make us better, but we do think it will make life better. As far as I can tell, this fatalistic pessimism is no longer endemic in the University; and perhaps it was always a European proclivity in any case. So I don't think that Eliade succeeded.

    Though the pre-war atmosphere at the University of Bucharest in that TNR article you linked does make me think of Paris in the present day, unfortunately, with Jews needing police protection at some events.

  5. Have you really read Eliade's work ?!

  6. Hi
    Could someone please post the reference in NR that the article about Eliade was in ?

  7. Hey Robert
    We were at the same talk !
    What class were you in at UC
    I was in the class of 70.

  8. Did you know that fundamentalist Christians--especially in the 1980s--were taught to believe that all rock music was associated with satanism and then instructed to throw out their rock records and tapes, vowing never to listen to it again. Then there were the massive book burnings in Nazi Germany, all on ideological grounds. What's the point of not being a Nazi and not being a fundamentalist if one acts just like one. I, for one, hope Eliade continues to be read, along with his critics. To read only his critics would be anathema to education. To not read him at all would be to become ignorant of one's own field. Oh, right. The postmodern politics of anti-classicism don't care about diverse knowledge. They only care that the old is bad and the new is good.

  9. re Eliade. Saul Bellow taught at the U of Chicago and was aware of Eliade's past. He wrote him into one of his later novels (Ravelstein?). Of course, it was an unflattering portrait just like Frank's article which is full of errors. Read Joachim Martillo's response to Frank's article in the comments box under the on-line version. Maybe Martillo is going by "Thors Provani" there, his Philip K. Dick inspired nome de plume. I don't recall, but I do recall Martillo (who is Jewish) pointing out to Frank the 48 years of "Judeo-Bolshevik" terror which followed that country's five years of fascism. Eliade was one of the greatest religious scholars of the 20th century. His chair in the Dept. of Comparative Religions (which he started and which was the first of it's kind in America) was to be taken over by Ioan Chulianu, a young Romanian double Ph.d from the Sorbonne. He was shot dead in a men's room on the Chicago campus by an unknown assassin with a single bullet. The Frank article and recent books about Eliade's brief association with the Romanian Legionary movement are smear jobs. In fact, much of the received history of Romania in WWII in the West has been a smear job written, for the most part, by ex-Communist "refugees" brought here by the state department.

    1. I'm sorry, but this is so not true. Mihail Sebastian's diary is definitely not a a smear job written by the communists and it shows beyond doubt just how deep were Eliade's antisemitic views. Also, Eliade may have been an erudite but his outspoken disdain for a methodical and systematic approach to the history of religion disqualify him as a scholar in the modern sense of the word.

  10. Eliade's non-scientific work is beautiful, yet it is very tied to his 'scientific' views. If I deduct his `categorical` view - political position, his concern over a more linear, temporal view of God is something I can understand. I feel the same.

    I would definitely toss any book from a man that wrote, say " The Serpant".
    I would say, be more forgiving. Do not be so temporal in your judgment.

  11. Many intellectuals and others supported fascism when it first appeared. Remember we weren't in their shoes, we have the benefit of hindsight. Hitler consulted, for example, with leaders of the American eugenics movement, which was huge around the turn of the century. It was then regarded as science. This resulted in the sterilization 0f 62,000 "unfit" Americans. There is much hidden history, even history as recent as WWII. Those who supported fascism saw it a bulwark against communism, atheism and chaos.

  12. Many intellectuals and others also opposed fascism *at the time*. Don't be fooled by the idea that we in the present know so much more than people in the past and that our ethics are better than theirs. Many people at the time recognized the evils of fascism and Nazism. A recent book, "Hitlerland," is about Americans in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, especially journalists, and demonstrates that while some were taken in by the Nazi lies about the true nature of the Nazi regime, many saw through the lies and reported what was really going on (like William Shirer).

    And supporting fascism because it was supposedly a bulwark against communism, atheism, and chaos - how well did that turn out? Tens of millions were killed in Europe during the second world war, which was started by Germany. Why think that fascism was any better than communism? It wasn't, and Nazi Germany was more aggressive than Communist Russia.

    1. 'Nazi Germany was more aggressive than Communist Russia'
      Whenever I see such arguments I cannot help but wonder how exactly people reach them and why so often discussions about totalitarian regimes (and/ or their supporters) end up in someone showing more support for one over the other, or lessening the evils of either of the two. Yes,the Nazi regime triggered the war, which does not mean that communist Russia was any less brutal in its actions (before, during or for the many decades after the war) or that it did not take full advantage of the war that was going on. Have a look at what was going on in Soviet Russia in the 1920s, long before it can be said that the Russian government was reacting to the fascist threat (I include here a simple, wiki link, but it's a telling example I think:
      Having said that, it's sad that Eliade never had enough courage to condemn his earlier views in public; I find it interesting to read that the author of the blog and other commentators find that anti-Jewish sentiment can be actually read between the lines in his work, and I'd be sincerely very interested to know more about this (I was aware of his views during his youth, but always thought he probably regretted them, like other Romanian intellectuals in his generation - see Emil Cioran); it would change matters for me personally to see arguments that he did not completely lose these views at a later stage.
      To throw his work to the garbage might however be too abrupt; in any case, I'd align with a previous commentator and argue that its' work should definitely be taken together with the critics.

    2. I'm certainly not a supporter of the Communist regime, and don't wish to lessen the evil of either regime. The Nazi regime did not just "trigger the war" - it deliberately started it in 1939 and then invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. The Soviet regime was evil, but it did not seek to kill all the Jews within its borders.

      I think Eliade's anti-Jewish sentiment can be seen in his book "The Myth of Eternal Return" in his depiction of Judaism. Go take a look at it and see what you think. It's not blatant but he certainly traffics in well-worn Christian anti-Jewish stereotypes of Judaism.

  13. I think that you should not concider this the final truth of the story about Eliade being a fascist mystic. This man proclaimed the humanism in the upcoming century. I don't see how a man with such believes can support such a movement. Than again, i had been astounded with the anti-semitic views of my friends, who i concidered really open-minded. Still i don't think that Eliade should be dissed so easily.

  14. Amazing how people cannot face up to the facts on Eliade's fascism. What is it about his noxious comments on the defeat of the Axis Armies to the Allies that is so hard to understand. Either Eliade supported the Iron Guard or he didn't. He did, it is on record.

    It is worth remarking though that Eliade also won fame for his Shamanism: Archaic Techniques in Ecstasy. It is considered the first fairly comprehensive overview of world-wide shamanism, and its dynamics, first published in the early '50s when he was in Paris. I have a copy and it is an impressive work, although of course our knowledge of shamanism has advanced since then. There is very little on Judaism there as you would expect, yet what little there is, is actually positive. In occult and parapsychological circles,Eliade is far better known for his Shamanism book than his writings on religion as a whole.

    Eliade is actually no worse, and of course no better, than many of today's intellectuals, where horrible anti-Semitism is disturbingly fashionable, it's just that its guise and garb have changed...

    This is not to defend Eliade at all, he was a fascist plain and simple. Just that such fascism among prominent intellectuals is hardly isolated to the past, only the jargon changes. As far as Eliade's writings on religion are concerned, his writings on Judaism cannot be taken seriously, but that doesn't mean we should dismiss the rest. Hardly. I actually recommend his Shamanism for one, it is a masterpiece, even as our ideas here have obviously evolved over the more recent decades.

  15. First of all, Eliade was a fascist, at least for a long period of his life. Fascism is a morally repulsive ideology and, from my point of view, there's nothing to argue about that.

    On the other hand, Eliade is also one of my favourite thinkers, I think his work is wide, complex and serious enough to let the reader make her own choices. I've read every essay of Eliade that is published in Spanish, and I frankly don't consider that his work is anti-semitic. Judaism is treated with great respect and interest in his History of religious ideas and in The myth of Eternal return he atributes to judeochristianism the invention of linear time and of the modern concept of history, but he in any moment postulates that this new conception of time is worse from a moral point of view.

    Anyway, if Eliade's philofascism causes you moral issues go and throw his books away. Then go back to your bookshelves; have any Plato's dialogues? Plato was an enemy of democracy, a classist and a racist, you might have to throw away those too. Of course, as someone mentioned, Heidegger doesn't have a space there either. What about Oscar Wilde? Theres evidence of him having hired the services of young teenanger working class prostitutes, this one goes away too. Forget about Celine novels, he also was an anti-semitic. Dali, fascist. Daniel Defoe, racist and radical rightist. Rudyard Kipling, colonialist. Jung, close to nazism. Schopenhauer, extremely sexist, and in general an awfull person. Nietzsche, xenophobic. Even Marx has antisemitic quotes (a curious paradox). Etcetera.

    Is by understanding how other people think, how you will develope your own free thinking and moral. Throwing their books away will only make you more ignorant.

    P.s. sorry for my English, it's not my mother tongue.

    1. While there's no need in throwing any books away I still think there's a big difference between Celine, Plato and the rest of the lot you mentioned and Mircea Eliade. They stood by their views and defended them in the open. Eliade was openly fascist only under a pro-nazi regime, then, as he started to build a career in the US, he made efforts to conceal his past while maintaining his views. Moreover, there is some pretty strong evidence suggesting that he had a hidden agenda to promote his ideas in the form of 'historical' analysis. Readers need and have the right to be informed about that.

  16. Thank you, Senor Tejon - this is a very interesting response to my post. I agree about Plato - he certainly was an enemy of democracy. On the other hand, I wouldn't throw away his books. Actually, Marx wrote an entire antisemitic essay on the Jews, where he identified the god of the Jews as money.

    As for Eliade - I'll have to look at the book in more detail, but The Myth of Eternal Return does not portray Judaism in a very accurate way. There is no such religion as "Judeochristianism," at least from the Jewish point of view. Judaism and Christianity are not the same.

  17. Thank you for an informative discussion - very helpful. I too Thank you Senor Tejon.

  18. This is very interesting; thanks. I've been reading Eliade's fiction, or literature fantastique, recently and I think it's wonderful stuff. I was extremely disappointed to learn of his fascist leanings; I've lost all respect for the man. But his books are still amazing, and I can't help but recommend them to people. It's kind of an internal struggle. But, at the end of the day, crazy people often say brilliant things -- and brilliant people often say crazy things. Question everything and consider your sources. Cheers from Long Beach.

  19. You need to look at the history of the period. Eliade sadly made a youthful mistake...however it needs to be put in an historical context. Eliade was an Orthodox Christian and was well aware of the fact the Bolsheviks were burning churches, and killing priests. Priests like Paval Florensky were imprisoned in the Gulags where as many as 40 million would die. He feared communism and atheist Marxism...and took a wrong defense.

    1. The history of the period is the rise of fascism, Nazism, and the Holocaust. Eliade did not make a "mistake" - he chose to support the reactionary fascism which led to the deaths of tens of millions of people in WWII. He worked on the same side as the Nazis. How does being an Orthodox Christian justify taking the fascist side? Why would opposing communism require him to participate in an antisemitic movement?

  20. "Why would opposing communism require him to participate in an antisemitic movement?" Romanian's raised in the Orthodox Christian tradition opposed "Judeo-Masonic Bolshevism" which they rightly recognized was an autochthonous threat to the culture of their country.

  21. The only reason I permitted your comment to be published was in order to point out how you are spreading antisemitic falsehoods. There is no such thing as "Judeo-Masonic Bolshevism." Some Jews are members of Masonic lodges, but there is no conspiracy between them. Neither Judaism nor Masonism has anything to do with Bolshevism. The Nazis pretended that something named "Judeo-Bolshevism" existed in the Soviet Union, and used that pretext to murder as many Soviet Jews as they possibly could, including my grandfather's uncle and his wife. Why are you using Nazi terminology?

    How could this imaginary entity pose any threat to Orthodox Christians in Rumania before and during WWII?


    1. Such discussions are very difficult today because the terminology is too fraught with ideology to be useful anymore. Fascism, Communism, Capitalism … What do they really mean, especially in the multitude of different social contexts?

      "Eliade had been a strong supporter of the Iron Guard movement, the Romanian equivalent of the Italian fascists and the German Nazis, but he attempted throughout his later career to conceal and deny his affiliation with its ideas …”

      You seem to be presenting this as a simple right/wrong, good vs evil duality. The devil is in the details, and you cannot do the subject any justice without first recognizing the virtues of the opposing viewpoint. I would encourage you then to give greater consideration to the basis of his sympathies. The potential problems with something like the Iron Guard wasn’t lost on Eliade, any more than it was lost on Heidegger what "worthy intellectual grounding" is. These extreme views didn't emerge out of a social vacuum.

      Nor did Hitler. Everyone has heard of Hitler’s concentration camps. But how many have heard of of Operation Keelhaul, the Bleiburg Massacre or the untold, tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands by some estimates) of rapes committed by the Allied troops at the end of the war? Who ever talks of the tens of millions of others killed in the same war, including gypsies, Polish and Yugoslavian civilians and Russian POWs, many of whom were brutally slaughtered, many buried in mass graves? Most emphasize Hitler’s role in all this while maintaining that the League of Nations, Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill, as well as prominent industrial/financial interests had nothing to do with it. Everyone has heard of the Holocaust, but who knows about Operation Paperclip? Hitler has been cast as the proverbial lone gunman here, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, such as Edwin Black’s, "War Against the Weak,” which enjoyed the assistance and support of "more than fifty researchers in fifteen cities in four countries assisted by scores of archivists and librarians at more than one hundred institutions," showing on no uncertain terms;

      "the sad truth of how the scientific rationales that drove killer doctors at Auschwitz were first concocted on Long Island at the Carnegie Institution's eugenic enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor" . . .

      "millions were murdered in Europe precisely because they found themselves labeled lesser forms of life, unworthy of existence - a classification created in the publications and academic research rooms of the Carnegie Institution, verified by the research grants of the Rockefeller Foundation, validated by leading scholars from the best Ivy League universities, and financed by the special efforts of the Harriman railroad fortune.”

      We are far better off to leave religious and sociopolitical terminology out of such discussions. They are distractionary. What is behind them all - bar none - is power.

    2. I'm not interested in "recognizing the virtues of the opposing viewpoint" when that viewpoint is fascism or Nazism. The Nazis killed six million Jews, along with many other innocent victims (such as three million Soviet prisoners of war, about 15,000 homosexual men, hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti, many foreign workers who were forcibly brought to Germany and forced to work as slaves, three million non-Jewish Poles, etc.)

      And it's simply a straw man to say that no one speaks of the various crimes you mention, for example the many rapes of German women by the victorious Russian troops.

      As for Edwin Black's research - he's quite right, but that does not obviate the crimes committed by the Nazi regime using the eugenic ideas partially developed in the United States.

      And who are these "prominent industrial/financial interests" that you mention, carefully without mentioning any names? Do you mean the numerous German companies that used slave labor? If so, just come out with it.

      And who today maintains that Hitler alone was guilty of the Holocaust and the other crimes of the Nazi regime? If you think about it for a moment it's obviously a ridiculous idea. There were many Germans who participated in the crimes of the regime, and many more who knew about them. (Not to speak of collaborators from other nations).

      You're engaging in these arguments to avoid having to admit the evil of fascism and Nazism, as is clear from your third paragraph, where you ask me to "admit the virtues of the opposing viewpoint." Sorry, there's no reason I have to do that.

      If you slip into open antisemitic remarks in any response you might make, I will delete them.

    3. Several of the industrial interests were mentioned in the quotes from Edwin Black (Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Harriman). I did leave one big one out - banking interests, which we’ll get back to in a moment. Check it out. Meanwhile, I allude to Black’s further mention that;

      "the Nazi principle of Nordic superiority was not hatched in the Third Reich but on Long Island decades earlier and then actively transplanted to Germany.”

      as well as his naming other entities involved;

      “ … Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Stanford University, the American Medical Association, Margaret Sanger, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert Yerkes, Woodrow Wilson, the American Museum of Natural History, the American Genetic Association and a sweeping array of government agencies from the obscure Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics to the U.S. State Department."

      By the way, the same Edwin Black wrote an article published in George Mason University's History News Network accusing IBM advocates of systematic censorship of IBM's role in the Holocaust.

      World war is very profitable prominent industrial interests. At both the Library of Congress in Washington and the National Archives at the University of Maryland (many of which were only declassified a decade or so ago) there is documentation showing Bush family ties to the financial architects of Nazism, Brown Brothers Harriman, and Union Banking Corporation (whose assets were seized by the United States government on October 20, 1942 during World War II under the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act) and Fritz Thyssen, owner of the largest steel and coal company in Germany. And let’s not leave out Bush family ties to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC), based in mineral rich Silesia on the German-Polish border, and the use of Nazi slave labour from the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Perhaps you recall the civil action brought against the Bush family (by two former slave laborers at Auschwitz) when G.W. was running for re-election?

      And it is true that relatively few people speak of the crimes I mentioned. Very few talk about, much less admit to, the many tens of thousands of rapes committed by the Allied Troops after the war had ended. Why? Precious few talk about, or even know of, Keelhaul, Bleiberg, or Operation Paperclip, the latter of which ought to drive the point home, if nothing else does, that the Nazis had friends on high, way on high. Why is the average citizen unaware of this? And why is there such a strong tendency to deny it even upon being presented with overwhelming evidence? You say I’m trying to avoid admitting the evil of fascism and Nazism? Good heavens, why would I do that? I have no sympathy for these world views. But I am equally deficient in any sympathy for giving perpetrators, the most powerful sort at that, a free pass. I used the term "lone gunman” only to illustrate the fact that Hitler bears a disproportionate share of the burden here, while others get a free pass. Obviously I did not mean to infer no one else participated, and you know that.

      As John Denson has shown, the League of Nations set the stage for Hitler’s rise to power over a decade in advance at Versaille. (see - “The Six Months that Changed the World”) The truth is that the wealthy industrialists at the time wanted war, and they saw to it that they got it. Of course, no one likes to talk about that. It’s much easier to gin up a redemption myth to lay over whereby by some sort of intrinsic evil just springs up out of thin air for no apparent reason. So yes, there is a reason you have to understand the virtues of the opposing view, at least insofar as understanding is the goal. You cannot understand this important issue, or any other, without understanding the socioeconomic and geopolitical milieus from which they emerge. The inclusion of the role of the wealthy industrialists involved here is absolutely vital to this discussion.

  22. First of all, allow me to apologise for my english.
    Well, this is just a thought and maybe it doesn't have anything to do with the article, this is just a comment for one of the responses that I have read.
    I know that judeochristianim isn't a religion, but many people talk about it as a concept that has build the think of the west world; more that the thought, the way that the occidental people conceive the world, because it is attached to the culture. If we remit to the sacred books we see that they have the same begining, but follow diferent paths later. It is clear that the differents paths that the religions have take had made them very different, judaism isn't the same as the christianism, and both of them also has a lot of variants.

    1. Thank you, Lina - your English is perfectly clear. I think it is also very curious that people talk about Judeo-Christianity, because as you say, it's not a religion. Judaism and Christianity have obvious historical links (the American scholar of religion, Alan Segal, called them sibling religions) and they share scripture (the Old Testament for Christians, the Tanakh for Jews), although they interpret it differently. In the first few centuries after Christ, there were some Jewish-Christian groups (either Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and son of God while still retaining Jewish practices, or originally Gentile groups that accepted Christ and also thought it was necessary to obey Jewish law), but history was not kind to them.

  23. Interesting, I had never heard of this before. I can certainly sympathize with your concern here. And I do believe you are on firm ground in your contention that Eliade was a fascist sympathizer. At the same time I feel it’s important to point out that fascism was a quite popular idea back then. There was no association with the Holocaust as there is today, as the Holocaust had not yet occurred. Because that negative association did not exist then, fascism was looked upon quite differently. I feel then that we must view those who embraced fascism then very differently than we do anyone embracing it today.

    The antisemitism label is a tougher one to get to stick. I feel that more evidence is warranted. Based on what I know about Eliade’s work, I think he most likely mischaracterized (at least in today’s vernacular) the prevailing global interests (banking interests, primarily) as “Jews,” only because there happened to be a large number of Jews in that field. That’s his mistake, but I do not believe he had it in for Jewish people for any other reason than that. Many people also, for better or worse, associated them with certain (increasingly global) powers and with communism. For better or worse, many felt such powers were a threat to personal freedom and national sovereignty. Such people, and Eliade too, may have been wrong, but I don’t feel this is tantamount to antisemitism, at least not anything close to the sort of antisemitism I have borne witness to.

    1. Another interesting tenet to Eliade are the reasons his output was such social dynamite. Eliade made no bones about what he was critical of, and it comes through very lucidly in his analyses of and distinctions between the sacred and the profane. This theme comes up again and again in his work, and not only in his book, The Sacred and the Profane. Take the following from The Forge and the Crucible, for example;

      "Modern Man is incapable of experiencing the sacred in his dealings with matter; at most he can achieve an aesthetic experience.”


      "This is what happened after the discovery of agriculture and especially after the crystalization of the earliest urban civilizations in the ancient Near East. From that moment all human culture, however strange and remote, was doomed to undergo the consequences of the historic events which were taking place at the ‘centre’. These consequences sometimes became manifest thousands of years later, but they could not in any way be avoided; they were part of the historic fatality. With the discovery of husbandry it is possible to say that man was destined to become an agricultural being or at any rate to suffer the influences of all subsequent discoveries and innovations which agriculture made possible: domestication of animals, urban civilization, miliary organization, empire, imperialism, mass wars, etc. In other words, all mankind became involved in the activities of some of its members.”

      Such observations are bound to create a stir. We must also remember too that he was not just another professor with distinguished service. He was one of the world's foremost interpreters of spiritual myths and symbolism. He edited The Encyclopedia of Religion, widely considered to be an indispensable resource and the definitive work in the field of religious studies. He directed the chair of the university within the faculty’s divinity school, a chair that was named after him even while he was still living. He was wooed by universities all over America. In fact, he was once offered the Schweitzer chair, New York’s most prestigious academic award, (entailing a huge salary, double his own, unlimited travel, research funds, research assistants …) which he turned down. He received his own special bill, passed through Congress, signed by President Eisenhower, indicating that his presence in the US was actually a matter of national security, a type of bill typically reserved only for important scientific discovery.

      So this just doesn’t seem like an individual with an irrational, festering prejudice, like the sort of individual that would dislike any group for no reason, or someone who would keep his reasons to himself. On the contrary, he would likely have pointed out the exact source of his disease. And to the best of my knowledge, he made no such analysis.

    2. Joe, I think you should read an article that I posted from the New Yorker - Mihail Sebastian, who was a friend of Eliade's before WWII in Rumania, provides plenty of evidence for Eliade's antisemitism. When Eliade came to the US, he didn't mention anything about his activities in Rumania before the war and for the Rumanian government during the war (he was an attache at the London embassy and then in Portugal). He didn't mention his antisemitic writings, nor did he ever recant them.

      As for whether the evils of fascism were known at the time - it was abundantly clear in Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Rumania, that fascist regimes were not democratic, that they persecuted their enemies and killed them or put them into concentration camps, that they were frequently antisemitic (this wasn't true of the Italian fascist regime until the late 1930s). Plenty of people opposed fascism before the Holocaust and tried to persuade others of the evils of fascism (including Mihail Sebastian).

      As as for antisemitism - the ideas you mention, that accuse Jews of running all the banks and wanting to take over the world - they are the classical accusations of conspiratory antisemitism, found both on the right (e.g., the Nazis) and on the left (Soviet antisemitism at its heigh during the end of Stalin's reign).

    3. I think fascism was, and still is, just an extreme, far right reaction which, for most, just seeks to protect personal freedom and/or national sovereignty. I mean look at what’s going on in America as we speak. How does a man as unqualified as Trump assume such a position of power? Most of the people who support him are just overreacting out of frustration with our political realities, in an attempt to maintain their perceived freedoms. I think a large percentage of people actually find themselves with this sensibility. I feel it’s an overreaction, it’s irrational, but not evil. I know many good people who support Trump, just as many good people supported Hitler. But I do not believe these are evil people. I really don’t.

      Interesting stuff from Sebastian. That’s seems fair enough to call this evidence, to some degree anyway. Still, there are certainly better forms of evidence. It is always nice to hear it "straight from the horses mouth," so to speak. I do have to wonder if Sebastian recorded the information in his diary accurately. And didn’t they have some sort of falling out? It is certainly possible, if he was sore with Eliade for whatever reason, that he may have altered the diary in a disparaging way. Obviously I do not know one way or the other, but it’s certainly possible.

      Consequently, I feel I need to look at other information too, for other reasons to help me to form my opinion. I cannot draw conclusions based on this alone, all the more for a scholar of Eliade’s stature who contributed so much to the study of religion. It seems to me it would be very, very difficult for anyone to achieve what he did whilst being plagued by such an irrational, festering sensibility like antisemitism. And if he did carry such a sensibility, I believe he was of the character to own up to it, to figure it out and elucidate the precise nature of his concerns. That’s what he did so well, after all.

    4. I don't see how you could see fascism as protecting personal freedom or even national sovereignty. The fascist regimes that I named in my previous comment all crushed dissent, sent people to prison or concentration camp who opposed their rule (for example, the communists and socialists sent to Dachau when Hitler first came to power), and they all persecuted Jews. Let's take fascist Poland for an example (Nazi Germany is obvious, but all the other European fascist regimes between the wars were or became antisemitic). Fascist Poland didn't try to exterminate Jews, but it tried to restrict Jews' ability to make a living, and Jewish students in the universities were forced to sit on their own benches in classrooms and they were unmercifully harassed by their fellow students. How is any of these "protecting personal freedom"?

      The fascist regimes were not interested in just settling behind their own borders (which I guess you call "protecting national sovereignty") - they were interested in expanding their borders and if possible acquiring colonial possessions. See, for example, the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1936.

      As I have written before, Eliade did not own up to his antisemitism after the war - he did not recant his previous beliefs, although he was no longer involved in a fascist, antisemitic movement.

      Being a bigot, a racist, an antisemite, or a misogynist is no bar to creating great works of art or scholarship. Some examples - Richard Wagner, T.S. Eliot.

    5. I agree that fascism has never served any good cause, personal freedom, national sovereignty or any other. But as with any far right ideology (e.g.; Trump, Hitler …) it is presented that way by dictatorial regimes to gain political support. In short, fascism is a sort of trojan horse. The ostensible goals bear little resemblance to the ulterior motives.

      If Eliade was antisemitic, he did not own up to it after the war, which makes one wonder how much truth is in the allegations or, to be sure, if the nature of his sensibilities was perhaps different from the many who have been outwardly antisemitic, the sorts who were actually proud of it. I feel it’s very important to make that distinction here.

      While, I agree that having racist sensibilities is no bar to creating great works of art, I’m not so sure that holds true in scholarship, at least not all forms of scholarship. We must remember, in Eliade, we have someone whose primary focus was religious and spiritual in nature, and someone who was a the very pinnacle of his discipline. It seems that someone who would be writing things like;

      “In short, the Western alchemist, in his laboratory, like his Indian or Chinese colleague, worked upon himself - upon his psychophysiological life as well as on his moral and spiritual experience.”

      has to be treated very, very differently than the garden variety antisemite who shouts his hatred from the proverbial rooftops. Eliade’s own output is what needs to looked at most closely here, and it could scarcely be more at odds with a fetish such as antisemitism. While there have been plenty of people of great achievement who were antisemitic, I can’t think of another scholar of religious studies, one of any significant stature (much less anywhere near an Eliade) who harbored a sensibility so inimical to his very passion.

  24. First of all, I disagree with calling the Iron Guard "Fascist". This is something that all the West does, not only you, but let me start my comment with why I think this is wrong. Fascism is Italian, it's atheistic and it worships the state. Romania's Legionarism is another fish food entirely. It was the only mass far-right movement in Europe with a mystically-religious accent. In this, it differed from Fascism more than Nazism does, but it still gets generically called "Fascist", which I really think it does not do justice to the uniqueness of the movement.

    Thus, as a historian of religions, wouldn't it be natural for Eliade to be attracted to it, due to its heavy emphasis on religion?

    Also, I don't know why, but you seem to think that antisemitism was the only thing the Iron Guard was about. That is wrong, you've got the wrong Romanian party. There was, indeed, a Romanian political party that was all about antisemitism, even having a swastika as its logo. But it wasn't the Guard, in fact the paramilitary wing of this antisemitic party frequently had gang wars with the Guard. The truth is that the Iron Guard had at least two very legitimate causes: the fight against corruption, and the fight against Communism. And Jews turned out to be the common denominator of both: they had money so they could bribe the corrupt Romanian officials, and they were pro-Communist - by proportion to their numbers - much more than the Romanians. It's unfortunate that it came to all what happened, but initially the two main goals of the Iron Guard were very legitimate: crush corruption, crush Communism.

    One more thing that needs to be taken into account, is that Eliade joined Codreanu's Iron Guard, not Sima's. After Codreanu was killed on the orders of the King on 30 November 1938, the leadership of the movement was taken by Horia Sima. It is important to note that, under Codreanu, the Guard killed but 11 people, all of them being high-profile targets and none of them being Jews. On the contrary, Codreanu put great emphasis on discipline and never allowed something as barbarous as what the Guard under Sima ended up doing to happen. He also filtered carefully those who wanted to join the Guard, unlike Sima who unconditionally opened the doors for any dubious young violent hothead. It was Sima's guard who committed the massacres of 1940-1941, not Codreanu's, and Eliade joined largely because of Codreanu.

    So you see, Eliade joined the Guard because of its religious character and because it fought Communism, which Eliade and all the Guard for that matter were right to dread. Antisemitism is an unfortunate side effect of this, but by no means the driving factor.

    1. Excellent description. I agree 90 percent...I would just a few facts wich I know from a few books and my grandfather who fought during the war. I also would like to underline that associating antisemitism and pushing Eliade s image a bit in the Nazy area...just a bit, so it is easier to is fantasy. Quite lefty I might add. I would like to congratulate you even. Please send me a mail, I would like to talk more with you about that chapter of history and especially Eliade.
      Here is mine:


    2. Tudor Tomescu - associating Eliade with antisemitism is not a "fantasy" - there is clear evidence for it. And is being "lefty" an insult? Or is it simply that opposing antisemitism is "lefty"?

  25. For Jews antisemitism is much worse than an "unfortunate side effect," especially the murderous antisemitism of the Nazis. You're excusing antisemitism by blaming Jews for both capitalism (having enough money to bribe government officials) and communism, which is logically impossible, since they are opposed to one another. And clearly, you couldn't care less about Jews, since you view antisemitism merely as an "unfortunate side effect" - one which resulted in the deaths of 380,000 to 400,000 Jews at the hands of the Nazis and the collaborating Rumanian regime under the control of Antonescu. Any further antisemitic nonsense from you will be deleted.

  26. I rejected a book of Mircea Eliade's because of his out dated views of prehistory... I'm notJewish so I did not look at his odd views on religion... but he was so out of date it is really a disgrace that he was accepted by Chicago University... still they were out of date too post WWll