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Eliade argues that religion is based on a sharp distinction between the sacred (God, gods, mythical ancestors, etc.) and the profane. According to Eliade, for traditional man, myths describe "breakthroughs of the sacred (or the 'supernatural') into the World"—that is, hierophanies.
In the hierophanies recorded in myth, the sacred appears in the form of ideal models (the actions and commandments of gods, heroes, etc.). By manifesting itself as an ideal model, the sacred gives the world value, direction, and purpose: "The manifestation of the sacred, ontologically founds the world." According to this view, all things need to imitate or conform to the sacred models established by hierophanies, in order to have true reality: things "acquire their reality, their identity, only to the extent of their participation in a transcendent reality."
- Eliade, Mircea. 1972. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. xiii
- Eliade, Mircea. 1958. Patterns in Comparative Religion. New York: Sheed & Ward. p. 1.
- Eliade, Mircea. 1963. Myth and Reality, translated by W. R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row. p. 6.
- Eliade, Mircea. 1961. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, translated by W. R. Trask. New York: Harper Torchbooks. p. 21.
- Eliade, Mircea. 1959. Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return. New York: Harper Torchbooks. p. 5.
- Francesco Diego Tosto, La letteratura e il sacro, three volumes. (2009-2011), Esi, Naples.