From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- "All known religious beliefs, whether simple or complex, present one common characteristic : they presuppose a classification of all the things, real and ideal, of which men think, into two classes or opposed groups, generally designated by two distinct terms which are translated well enough by the words profane and sacred (profane, sacré). This division of the world into two domains, the one containing all that is sacred, the other all that is profane, is the distinctive trait of religious thought. --The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), tr. Joseph Ward Swain
In Durkheim's theory, the sacred represented the interests of the group, especially unity, which were embodied in sacred group symbols, or totems. The profane, on the other hand, involved mundane individual concerns. Durkheim explicitly stated that the dichotomy sacred/profane was not equivalent to good/evil. The sacred could be good or evil, and the profane could be either as well.
Durkheim's claim of the universality of this dichotomy for all religions/cults has been criticized by scholars like British anthropologist Jack Goody. Goody also noted that "many societies have no words that translate as sacred or profane and that ultimately, just like the distinction between natural and supernatural, it was very much a product of European religious thought rather than a universally applicable criterion."
- Venus Caelestis and Venus Naturalis
- Grotesque body
- Mircea Eliade
- Sacred and Profane Love (Oil painting, by Titian)
- Social control