Renate Rodila Professor Nick Newell Rels 2001 17 September 2012 Eliade on Baptism Eliade believes in a sacred space that is connected to the creation of the cosmos from chaos. Through these beliefs Eliade would see baptism as a ritual symbolizing the original act of creation by God. Eliade claims that for religious man and non-religious man a sacred space exists. For religious man the sacred space is not homogenous and divided between the real existing space and the entire formless expanse surrounding it (Eliade 20).
For non-religious man, places such as a man’s birthplace can be considered unique and sacred to them (Eliade 24). Religious man separates space between cosmos and chaos. The cosmos is the inhabited world and the chaos is the unknown space outside the world (Eliade 29). Eliade then describes the axis mundi as a vertical feature seen as the center of the world. This center is labeled as a pole, pillar or tree that links the heaven, the earth, and the underworld (Eliade 36).
The imago mundi is defined as the cosmos on the ground divided into four regions with the axis mundi as the central point (Eliade 45). The religious man wants to be in a place closest to the gods and can do this by physically living in a location near the axis mundi or by experiencing the cosmos as it was first created. In the book of Matthew and Romans the use of baptism in the Christian world is explained. Matthew 3 tells the story of how baptism started with Jesus going to the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist.
The moment Jesus was baptized the heavens opened up and he saw a dove as the spirit of god (Bible, Matthew 3:16). He also heard a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Bible, Matthew 3:17). Eliade would refer to the Jordan River in Jerusalem as a sacred space for the Christian community. The heavens opening at this spot makes it an axis mundi because it is a place where the communication from earth to the heavens was exposed.
Eliade acknowledges in his writing that Jerusalem is a sacred and holy place in the Judaeo- Christian Traditions (Eliade 44-45). This is the location where Jesus was baptized because of how sacred it was there. In Romans 6 baptism is told to be a way that man can be reborn into a new life free of sin. Baptism make the man become one with the body of Christ and through him become alive to god (Bible, Romans 6:10-11). Then back to Matthew in chapter 28 Jesus told his disciples to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus can also be considered an axis mundi because he is the connection to the cosmic levels. So by being baptized and becoming one with Jesus a person is able to get closer to God. Being baptized serves as a symbol of the rebirth of the world. Eliade says, “The experience of sacred time will make it possible for religious man periodically to experience the cosmos as it was…at the mythical moment of creation” (Eliade 65). Man needs to experience the creation of the cosmos and for Christians that is through baptism.
When someone is baptized that person is submerged in water and the taken back out. The water can be seen as the formless expanse of chaos and emergence from water symbolized creation and birth, whereas on the other hand, immersion in water meant the loss of form and symbolized a return to the situation prior to creation, and death prior to rebirth. To sum it up Eliade would consider the aquatic symbolism of baptism as a way to get closer to God and spiritually reliving the creation of the cosmos.
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