MIRCEA ELIADE: »On the one hand, the peoples of Asia have recently reentered the history; on the other, the so-called primitive peoples are preparing to make their appearance on the horizon of greater history (that is, they are seeking to become active subjects of history instead of its passive objects, as they have been hitherto). But if the peoples of the West are no longer the only ones to 'make' history, their spiritual and cultural values will no longer enjoy the privileged place, to say nothing of the unquestioned authority, that they enjoyed some generations ago. These values are now being analyzed, compared, and judged by non-Westerners. On their side, Westerners are being increasingly led to study, reflect on, and understand the spiritualities of Asia and the archaic world. These discoveries and contacts must be extended through dialogues. But to be genuine and fruitful, a dialogue cannot be limited to empirical and utilitarian language. A true dialogue must deal with the central values in the cultures of the participants. Now, to understand these values rightly, it is necessary to know their religious sources. For, as we know, non-European cultures, both oriental and primitive, are still nourished by a rich religious soil.
This is why we believe that the history of religions is destined to play an important role in contemporary cultural life. This is not only because an understanding of exotic and archaic religions will significantly assist in a cultural dialogue with the representatives of such religions. It is more especially because, by attempting to understand the existential situations expressed by the documents he is studying, the historian of religions will inevitably attain to a deeper knowledge of man. It is on the basis of such a knowledge that a new humanism, on a world-wide scale, could develop. We may even ask if the history of religions cannot make a contribution of prime importance to its formation. For, on the one hand, the historical and comparative study of religions embraces all the cultural forms so far known, both the ethnological cultures and those that have played a major role in history; on the other hand, by studying the religious expressions of a culture, the scholar approaches it from within, and not merely in its sociological, economic, and political contexts. In the last analysis, the historian of religions is destined to elucidate a large number of situations unfamiliar to the man of the West. It is through an understanding of such unfamiliar, 'exotic' situations that cultural provincialism is transcended.
But more is involved than a widening of the horizon, a quantitative, static increase in our 'knowledge of man'. It is the meeting with the 'others' – with human beings belonging to various types of archaic and exotic societies – that is culturally stimulating and fertile. It is the personal experience of this unique hermeneutics that is creative. (...) It is not beyond possibility that the discoveries and »encounters« made possible by the progress of the history of religions may have repercussions comparable to those of certain famous discoveries in the past of Western culture.«
MIRCEA ELIADE: »There are, above all, urgent rectifications to bring to so many clichés still encumbering contemporary culture, for example, Feuerbach's and Marx's celebrated interpretations of religion as alienation. As one knows, Feuerbach and Marx proclaimed that religion estranges man from the earth, prevents him from becoming completely human, and so on. But, even if this were correct, such a critique of religion could be applied only to late forms of religiosity such as those of post-Vedic India or of Judeo-Christianity - that is, religions in which the element of 'other-worldness' plays an important role. Alienation and estrangement of man from the earth are unknown, and, moreover, inconceivable, in all religions of the cosmic type, 'primitive' as well as oriental; in this case (that is to say, in the overwhelming majority of religions known to history), the religious life consists exactly in exalting the solidarity of man with life and nature.«
Fra THE QUEST. HISTORY AND MEANING IN RELIGION, 1969