BEFORE "THE SACRED" BECAME THEOLOGICAL: REREADING THE DURKHEIMIAN LEGACY WILLIAM E. PADEN We should also need to know what constitutes these sacred things.... Here we have a group of phenomena which are irreducible to any other group of phenomena.1 Emile Durkheim Critics have objected that the concept of the sacred as used in Eliadean phenomenology of religion is too theological and ontological to be appropriate for modem religious studies.2 They claim that the expression, "the sacred," refers either implicitly or explicitly to an a priori religious reality-to an object that is transcendent, mysterious, wholly other, unknowable, and which therefore is not ultimately an object for analysis. Thus the linchpin concept that once defined, unified, and inspired the history of religions field-that to some extent gave it a reason for existing-appears now to divide it into opposing camps. On the surface, the division seems to have something to do with those who would imply some religious privilege for "the sacred" and those who would like to abandon the term and its overtones. ' Durkheim, "Concerning the Definition of Religious Phenomena," in W.S.F. Pickering, Durkheim on Religion: A Selection of Readings with Bibliographies, trans. Jacqueline Redding and W.S.F. Pickering, 88.
Method & Theory in the Study of Religion – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1991
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