Engaging the Mythical: The Dialectic of the Hierophany
as the Grammar of the Human Mind
Devasia M. Antony
Hindu College, University of Delhi
In this paper my aim is to engage the mythical by exploring phenomenologically the dialectic of the hierophany the mythical entails and my contention is that it incarnates the very grammar of the human mind. After a brief prefatory remark on the nature of the Greek mythos as distinguished from the Greek logos as well as the relation of the mythical to the religious narrative of the homo religiosus, I venture to engage the mythical and to lay bare its conceptual structure by analyzing the hermeneutical method employed by the celebrated scholar of religion Mircea Eliade. The method employed by Eliade can be characterized as the site of history and phenomenology within the hermeneutic tradition. For Eliade, the primordial word that helps the inquirer to come to grips with the meaning and significance of religious symbols is ‘hierophany’, which in a fundamental sense is the revelatory paradoxical coming together of the sacred and the profane, the being and the non-being, the absolute and the relative, and the eternal and the becoming. In other words, the realm of the hierophanic rests on the dialectic of the sacred and the profane which is very fundamental to any religious narrative. To attest this, Eliade emphasizes the mythological departure from chaos to cosmos as evidenced by the cosmogonic myths. Notwithstanding the critique given by Jonathan Z. Smith and Donald Wiebe which I discuss briefly, I end the paper by showing that the dialectic of the hierophany which Eliade discovers by employing the given phenomenological method can justifiably be qualified as the grammar of the human mind.