Mircea Eliade was born in 1907 in Bucharest, the son of an army officer. He lived in India from 1928-1932, after which he obtained a doctorate in philosophy with a thesis on yoga, and taught at the University of Bucharest for seven years. During the war he was a cultural attaché in London and Lisbon, and from 1945 taught at the École des haut études in Paris and several other European universities. In 1957 he took up the chair of history of religion at the University of Chicago, a post that he held until his death in 1986. His extensive body of work includes studies of religion and the religious experience that remain influential, such as The Sacred and the Profane, and numerous works of literature, including The Forbidden Forest, Bengal Nights and Youth without Youth, both of which were adapted for the screen.
Early in his life, Eliade was a journalist and essayist, a disciple of Romanian far-right philosopher and journalist Nae Ionescu, and a member of the literary society Criterion. In the 1940s, he served as cultural attaché to the United Kingdom and Portugal. Several times during the late 1930s, Eliade publicly expressed his support for the Iron Guard, a fascist and antisemitic political organization. His political involvement at the time, as well as his other far right connections, were frequently criticised after World War II.
Noted for his vast erudition, Eliade had fluent command of five languages (Romanian, French, German, Italian, and English) and a reading knowledge of three others (Hebrew, Persian, and Sanskrit). He was elected a posthumous member of the Romanian Academy.
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