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Deux mythes et le sauvetage d’un philosophe-chaman [Two myths and the salvation of a philosopher-shaman]

Liliana Danciu

Abstract


The Forbidden Forest by Mircea Eliade is a “total novel,” whose complexity is evident on every page through the variety of suggestions, metaphors and symbols, of intertextual and mythological references. In this study, I will mostly discuss the penultimate chapter of this novel where the death of Biriș, the rational and sceptical philosopher, at the beginning a follower of the philosophy of Kierkegaard, is presented. In this troubling episode, I identified the presence of two myths whose unconscious actor this rational spirit currently anchored in history became. The myth—an exemplary story about foundation—seeks his Chosen One and finds him in the opposite of an intellectual, an “unbeliever,” just as Jesus chose his most bitter enemy, Paul of Tarsus, to become his faithful apostle. But the gnostic and religious philosopher also needs to believe in self-salvation from the clutches of the demon of fear and cowardice, and impending death, surrounded by friend-interrogators (Mihai Duma), by a compassionate executioner (Bîrsan), and demonic monks (Bursuc). The healing function of the story is lost in this world of suspicion, where Biriș is surrounded by masks, which disguise their true role. The myth of the sacrifice of Christ acquires a double saving power, because Biriș saves himself and redeems his torturers, too. By converting nocturnal stories into a sacred ritual of story, the destiny of Scheherazade, the heroine of One Thousand and One Nights, is saved from the banality of a simple literary character, because “the story in the story” provokes the human being to descend into the abyss and to live by the symbol. In the company of his interrogators—human aspects of demons—the frightened philosopher becomes the image of a Thracian Orpheus, trying in vain to “tame” the human beasts by his wise Logos. By the Logos, Biriș fails to rescue his torturers and himself from their own bestiality, but at the level of his “trance-conscious”—where Eliade speaks in his scientific work—he mystically lives a symbolic and mysterious superposition between the stages of the sacrifice of the shepherd in “Miorița” and those of the sacrifice of Christ. This intelligent, subtle and erudite intellectual lives deeply rooted in history with the consciousness of the presence of death in all intimate structures of life, a mentality specific to Western conception. In the last moments of his life, Biriș is converted to the sacred mystery of the Great Passing. Homo sapiens becomes Homo religiosus, the mysterious veil of Maya rises and the exit of the labyrinth is a certainty. The two myths which I take into account are the Orphic myth about the healing word and the mixture of the mioritic and the Christ myth of salvation through sacrifice.


Keywords


myth; salvation; sacrifice; ritual; philosopher; sacred/profane

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.25159/1996-7330/2423