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Reflection Paper

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Reading the material from Chapter I of the Anthology, several of the articles really stood out for me. I have long been interested in religion and its co-existence with nature and the universe. On that basis I have chosen one such article to clarify and discuss here, The Sacredness of Nature and Cosmic Religion by Mircea Eliade. Mircea Eliade's viewpoints have come under heavy scrutiny because of a suspected leaning towards fascism. But for this reading, I kept his possible political leanings aside and just concentrated on his article.

Eliade is of the view that nature is never really natural, it is always fraught with some religious notion. Eliade starts his survey with the sky, claiming that our experience of it is necessarily religious, because when we contemplate it, the sky appears to us as 'wholly other'. For example, he states that the infinite height of the sky suggests transcendance. Many religions had their supreme god dwelling in the sky, with a name that reflected that. In some cases, celestial gods came to be transformed into storm gods and the like: the creator of the cosmos revealing himself not only through the immensity of the sky, but also through the awesomeness of storms.

For Eliade, an important consideration concerning supreme gods associated with the sky is that, once they had created the cosmos, they had, according to many religions, withdrawn, leaving successors to complete creation on earth. This concept of a "remote god," did not figure in normal religious observance, though he might be called on in extremity, when all else had failed. Eliade links the withdrawal of the creator sky gods with the coming of agriculture. Religious man became more concerned with things like fertility and therefore focused on relevant deities. For example, Eliade interprets the relations of the ancient Hebrews with Yahweh in the light of the remote god phenomenon. In times of plenty, the Hebrews worshipped Baal, Astarte etc, the fertility gods of their neighbors. But in critical moments, they turned back to Yahweh, the creator. Gods of fertility etc made life flourish in normal times, but only the creator of the cosmos could deal with problems threatening the Hebrews' whole world.

On a similar note, the excerpt in the chapter from Carl Jung's Mandalas is a fascinating read. Mandala is the Sanskrit word for "circle." For Jung, mandalas are "vessels" into which we project our psyche, a symbol of wholeness, completeness, and perfection. It is then returned to us as a way of restoration. He recognized that archetypes from many cultures were seen in this spontaneous expression of the unconscious. Circles are universally associated with meditation, healing and prayer.

The most important archetype of all is the self. The self is the ultimate unity of the personality and is symbolized by the circle, and the Mandala figures that Jung was fond of painting. A Mandala is a drawing that is used in meditation because it tends to draw your focus back to the center, and it can be as simple as a geometric figure or as complicated as a stained glass window. The one personification that represented self really well was the Buddha; he who people believed achieved perfection. But Jung felt that perfection of the personality is only truly achieved

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