Anybody, who's knowledge of Asian cults and rites is not merely based on books, but has an empirical base, having seen these cult festivals with their vital complexity, will take the Eurocentric religio-historical concept of religion as 'belief in supernatural power' as an incredible reduction. One becomes conscious to what extent Christianity has deprived the subdued societies of their own traditional and vital socio-ritual forces of identification.
The fact that ethnology and anthropology today are considered as equivalent by many, is related also to the history of anthropology. From its zoological and medical backgrounds and also from its French adventures with social positivism, anthropology was always somehow considered some sort of a retarded stepchild, banned into the cellar under the open and prestigious staircase of history. This is important because, only in the universal dimension which includes paleontology, prehistory, history and ethnology, systematic approaches can be developed, which are adequate to the 'grand questions'.
Within the high culture of Japan, that is to say in the agrarian hinterland, in 100 villages and focussed on the annually cyclic cults of the village deity, the author has produced what could be called a 'fetish-restudy'. This study was not based on religion in the conventional sense (no interviews) but was focussed pheonomenologically on spatial conditions and objective constructive facts. The study was hardly acknowledged in ethnology in spite of ethnology having universally reported about this type of objects ('fetish'). However the historian of religion from Israel, R. J. Zwi Werblowsky (1990) considered the study as a pioneering work: "Egenter teaches historians of religion to rethink their own matter of course axiomas and assumptions". I am saying the following with all modesty, merely based on scientific conviction: the study has questioned the whole ethnology of religion in regard to its theologically prejudiced method. The Japanese village Shinto studied in 100 villages shows very clearly that religion in its primary forms was ritualised territorial behavior. All the endless descriptions of primitive beliefs in the ethnology of religion were Eurocentric projections. But, what is also important here: ethnographically and ethnologically the study uses Ogburn's method of "accumulation" (Ogburn 1923, Ogburn and Nimkoff 1950). This implies that no temporal section whatever presents a homogeneous cultural unit, as ethnology has assumed until recently. Our study has presented the traditions as accumulation of heterogeneous survivals. Correspondingly, the material culture in a certain situation of the ethnographical field can be classified according to technical conditions and consequently can be dealt with in separate contexts. Similarly, under positive conditions, early conditions can be reconstructed in a highly developed high culture. Seen from this position it is surprising how quickly ethnology has resigned. In India for example, wide traditional landscapes can still be discovered. In Japan too Japanese folklore studies have produced a huge amount of materials which have not entered into the West yet and which are of great importance for ethnology. It can be used to describe a rural substrate on which - since the 8th century - the centralised state system of Japan has gradually been built up. Important parameters have not been simply imported from China, as conventional Japanology assumes. In the framework of processes that are still active today, the immanent structures of the agrarian cultures of the archipelago has doubtless influenced the high culture of Japan.
If we assume that behavioural traditions with ritual and cult as 'message' were the primary and basic prototype of what we call religion, then, the inversion of the primary factual conditions in favour of
the historistic concept of 'believed myths' and correspondingly cults derived from these historistic sources is an incredible distortion of the genetic circumstances. Evidently they have their roots in the verbalisation and written fixation of prehistorical cults in the framework of early formation of city states and then became irreversibly fixed in the European Middle Ages with the pacification of post-Roman Europe. Whether in the Middle Ages or later, it was mostly 'believed' by peoples either naive or uneducated, who had no understanding for historical methods and the relativity of temporal depth. In this perverted form of 'belief is primary' it was also imported into the discipline of ethnology. The most striking comparison can be shown in Japanology. The reader is recommended to compare my ethnographical field-research in 100 villages of central Japan as an agrarian prototype of Shinto ritualistic behaviour and corresponding ontology with the recently published 'catholic' study about Japanese cult festivals ('Matsuri', Plutschow 1997). The latter is an Eurocentric projection of the conventional style, that is of devaluating and ridiculing events from the arrogant position of occidental high religion and immaterialistic spirituality. To a great extent Plutschow's book is distorting the factual reality.
A pre-analytical cognitive system is expressed in the formal polarity of the demarcation which structurally lives on in art (light/ dark, heaven/ earth, dynamism/ statics etc.). However in two strategical points this primary cognitive system became bifurcated in the EuroWestern domain. With this bifurcation two different cognitive systems can be explained: categorically harmonious and categorically analytical cognition. With this double bifurcation we gain new insights into important culturo-historical conditions. On the other hand the image indicates the following: the European sciences are not an invention 'ex nihilo'. They are an analytical inversion of a former cognitive system which was structured in categorically polar or 'harmonious' ways (see 'presocratic thought' as transitional field from Heraclitus to Platon and Aristotle).
Bauform als Zeichen und Symbol. Nicht-domestikales Bauen im Japanischen Volkskult. Zürich: Publikation im Rahmen der Ausstellung 'Göttersitz und Menschenhaus' an der ETH Zürich.
Affen-Architekten, Umriss 2, 2-9; English version: Ape Architects - The 'Primordial Hut' of architectural theory and the nest-building behaviour of the higher apes. See on CD 'IMPLOSION, or in the 'Internet with the following URL:
Architectural Anthropology - Semantic and Symbolic Architecture. An architectural ethnological survey into hundred villages of central Japan. Editions Structura Mundi, Lausanne.
Semantic architecture and the interpretation of prehistoric rock art: An ethno-(pre-)historical approach. In: Semiotica - Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies. 100-2/4 1994, p. 201-266
Der ewig brennende Dornbusch. Die Struktur der Theokratie im Alten Orient und das scholastische Trauma Europas. Ansätze zu einer ägypto-judäo-christlichen Religions- Anthropologie. Editions Structura Mundi, Lausanne;
English version: The eternally burning Thorn Bush - The Structure of Theocracy and the Euro-Western scholastic Trauma. Towards and Egypto-Judaeo-Christian Anthropology of Religion and Theology. See on CD 'IMPLOSION, or in the 'Internet with the following URL:
The Deep Structure of Architecture: Constructivity and Human Evolution. In: Mari-Jose Amerlinck (ed.): Architectural Anthropology. Greenwood Publishing Group, Bergin & Garvey Westport
Agrarhinduism: The Maharashtra Holi Pole Survey. See on CD 'IMPLOSION' ('Research in India), or in the Internet with the following URL:
EMBER, Carol R. and Melvin EMBER,
Anthropology (7th ed.; 1st 1993) Prentice-Hall International, Englewood Cliffs
GLAZIER, Stephen D. (ed.)
Anthropology of religion: a handbook. Westport, Connecticut [etc.]: Greenwood Press
Der Götterglaube im alten Aegypten / Hermann Kees
Siebente, unveränd. Aufl.; Berlin : Akademie-Verlag, cop. 1997
Kosmos: quellenkritische Untersuchungen zu den Vorsokratikern. Beck, München
Ordered universes: approaches to the anthropology of religion; Boulder [etc.], Westview Press
KLASS, Morton , und WEISGRAU Maxine,
Across the boundaries of belief: contemporary issues in the anthropology of religion.
Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press
KNORR, Karin D.,
Anthropologie und Ethnomethodologie: Eine theoretische und methodische Herausforderung. In Schmied-Kowarzik W. und Stagl J. (ed.) Grundfragen der Ethnologie. Dietrich Reimer Verlag Berlin
A reader in the anthropology of religion. Malden, Mass.; Blackwell Publishers, 2002
MÜHLMANN, Wilhelm E.
Geschichte der Anthropologie, 2., verb. & erw. Aufl., Athenäum, Frankfurt a.M. :
OGBURN, W. F.
Social change with respect to culture and original naure. New York
OGBURN, W. F. and NIMKOFF, M. F.
Sociology, 2nd ed. Boston
PLUTSCHOW, Herbert E.
Matsuri: the festivals of Japan; with annot. plate section by P. G. O'Neill ;Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library.
Die Philosophie der Antike 1, Von Thales bis Demokrit. Geschichte der Philosophie Herausgegeben von W. Röd, Band I; Becksche Verlagsbuchhandlung, München
Aspekte der Kunstethnologie. Beiträge zum Problem der Universalität von Kunst. Berlin
Philosophische Überlegungen zum Verstehen fremder Kulturen und zu einer Theorie der menschlichen Kultur. In: Schmied-Kowarzik W. und Stagl J. (ed.): Grundfragen der Ethnologie, Beiträge zur gegenwärtigen Theorien-Diskussion; Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin
STEWARD, Julian H.,
Theory of Culture Change. Univ. of Illinois Press, Urbana
WERBLOWSKY, R. J. Zwi,
Bookreview (on Egenter 1980 and 1994 [English version]). In: Numen, International Review for the History of Religions, Vol. 37, 1990:128/129
WERNHART, K. R.
Kulturgeschichte und Ethnohistorie als Strukturgeschichte. In: Schmied-Kowarzik W. und Stagl J. (ed.): Grundfragen der Ethnologie, Beiträge zur gegenwärtigen Theorien-Diskussion, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin
Die babylonmische Weltschöpfung. In: Der Alte Orient und die Bibel. Leipzig, Pfeiffer
YERKES, R. M
The Great Apes. New Haven, Yale University Press
Back to part 2, part 1
Back to Introduction