Mircea Eliade

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I think it will be evident to any attentive reader [of Tales of the Occult] that I wanted to relate some yogic techniques, and particularly yogic folklore, to a series of events narrated in the literary genre of a mystery story. In both novelettes ["The Secret of Dr. Honigberger" and "Nights at Serampore"] a number of important personages are real. (p. ix)

However, throughout these two tales I have carefully introduced a number of imaginary details, in order to awaken in any cautious reader suspicion concerning the authenticity of the yogic "secrets." For instance, at a certain moment the life of Dr. Honigberger is radically mythologized…. Likewise, the region around Serampore is described in such a way as to reveal its status as a mythical geography. The same observation is pertinent with regard to certain of the yogic techniques depicted: some descriptions correspond to real experiences, but others reflect more directly yogic folklore. As a matter of fact, this mélange of reality and fiction is admirably suited to the writer's central conception of "camouflage" as a dialectical moment…. But in these two stories "camouflage" is used in a paradoxical manner, for the reader has no means to decide whether the "reality" is hidden in "fiction," or the other way around, because both processes are intermingled. (pp. ix-x)

I knowingly utilized a number of clichés, for my ambition was to follow as closely as possible the popular models of the genre, while introducing into the narrative the dialectic of camouflage. But, as I already indicated, while "The Secret of Dr. Honigberger" and "Nights at Serampore" are characteristic, neither is fully representative of my littérature fantastique. In my other stories in the fantastic vein I have utilized the dialectic of camouflage in different ways…. [Besides] employing different stylistic approaches, I have repeatedly taken up the themes of "sortie du Temp," and of the alteration, or the transmutation, of space in a number of stories. A favorite technique of mine aims at the imperceptible yet gradual transmutation of a commonplace setting into a new "world," without however losing its proper, everyday, or "natural" structure and qualities…. The "parallel world" of the fantastic is indistinguishable from the given, ordinary world, but once this other world is discovered by the various characters it blurs, changes, transforms, or dislocates their lives in different ways. (pp. x-xi)

In all of [my] more recent stories, the "fantastic" elements disclose, or more precisely create, a series of "parallel worlds" which do not pretend to be "symbols" of something else. Thus, it is fruitless to read into the events and characters of the stories a hidden meaning that may illuminate certain aspects of immediate reality. Each tale creates its own proper universe, and the creation of such imaginary universes through literary means can be compared with mythical processes. (p. xii)

Mircea Eliade, in his introduction to Two Tales of the Occult, translated by William Ames Coates (translation © 1970 by Herder and Herder, Inc.; used by permission), Herder, 1970, pp. vii-xiii.

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