Sunday, June 08, 2008


Despite its importance for an understanding of the religious phenomenon, we shall not here discuss the problem of "hominization." It is sufficient to recall that the vertical posture already marks a transcending of the condition typical of the primates. Uprightness cannot be maintained except in a state of wakefulness. It is because of man's vertical posture that space is organized in a structure inaccessible to the prehominians: in four horizontal directions radiating from an "up"-"down" central axis. In other words space can be organized around the human body as extending forward, backward, to right, to left, upward, and downward. It is from this original and originating experience-feeling oneself "thrown" into the middle of an apparently limitless, unknown and threatening extension-that the different methods of 'orientatio' are developed; for it is impossible to survive for any length of time in the vertigo brought on by disorientation. This experience of space oriented around a "center" explains the importance of the paradigmatic divisions and distributions of territories, agglomerations, and habitations and their cosmological symbolism.

-Mircea Eliade ("A History of Religious Ideas: Volume One, From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries," pg. 3)


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