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Rites and Symbols of Initiation:
Organizing data from cultures the world over, Mircea Eliade, one of the preeminent interpreters of world religion in the twentieth century, lays out the basic patterns of initiation: group puberty rites, entrance into secret cults, shamanic instruction, individual visions, and heroic rites of passage. The vast information assembled here transcends usual scholarship. Eliade always affirms the greater experience in all initiation the indissoluble tie between humans and the cosmos of gods, spirits, animals, ancestors, and nature. As Michael Meade writes in his foreword, Eliade fervently worked at keeping the doors of perception open to the world of sacred symbols and creative ritual. Through his insistence that we are each the necessary inheritors of a vast sacred heritage, he has acted as a spiritual elder and distant mentor to me and many students of myth and ritual. Like an archeologist of symbols, he has unearthed, preserved, and found new meanings in the rites of our ancestors. [via]