NOTE 1: I am not saying this out of the air. Somehow I am myself this ethnologist who went to a far off island. As I said before, I have been living 10 years in Japan doing research into Japanese culture. Main topic: 'semantic architecture' in the framework of traditional agrarian Shinto cult-festivals all over the Japanese archipelago. Consequently, I have a fairly clear knowledge about the dynamics or evolution of Japanese culture. And on the other hand I am confronted with the way Japanology interpretes this Japanese situation. In many ways there are very clear Eurocentric projections. For instance the research I did in the villages. At those times, in the 60ies, Japanology was dominantly studied historically. Many Japanologists of those times had only been relatively shortly in the country but knew its history in general and maybe well in some special domain. Nobody would consider Japanese traditions in the context of ethnology or cultural anthropology. Traditions in Japan were studied as Japanese folklore, which was very well developped in Japan, which, however, in Japanology was not very attractive, since folklore studies had a rather low prestige in the West. Shinto religion was explained on the basis of historical sources.Basic were the Japanese myths in early imperial chronicles. I was one among the first who went out into the hinterland to do research. One goal of this was also to better understand the traditional roots of Shintoism in the agrarian villages. It was evident. Once one understands the cults practiced annually in the villages today one can understand the early history and the myths quite differently as a territorial conflict between local constitutions and the then new imperial constitution superseding regional units, the so called 'kuni' in early Japan. What appears verbally abstracted in the ancient texts, the deities, are not purely spiritual beings in the villages, on the contrary, they are the local traditional territorial protectors and they are physically present. They are the toposemantic demarcations representative of these territories, or, what we called "semantic architecture".Only if one accepts this condition, the cults make sense.
This is a real methodological conflict. I have been working 4 years in the field studying 100 villages acribically into all details. The publication got some excellent comments. Claude Levy-Strauss: "an important study"; Mircea Eliade: "a very important work". There was also an excellent review in Numen (1990, VOL 37, p.128/129) by the well known historian of religions R. J. Zwi Werblowsky: "Egenter teaches historians of religion to re-think their own matter of course axiomas and assumptions". In 1993 Josef Kreiner, then professor of Japanology in Bonn asked me for a contribution to the 'Jahrbuch für Japanologie' with the topic Sacred Space in Japan. Among others my contribution contained a photograph of the Holy World-Pillar of the Japanese Empire (Shin no mi-hashira) which is found in a sacred hut under the Shrines in Ise. Kreiner thought that this photo should not be published, an attitude which went against my own understanding of science. It proved that the object of my studies was not just an object of 'primitive' religion but was represented in the imperial sanctuary as well. So the paper was not published in japanology. But it is accessible in the Internet in our site (URL see below). In 2003 I found a paper written by a student of Kreiner and signed with Kreiners name. It used my materials including photographs, combining them with another type of sacred symbols (o-hake). Methodologically the paper was a regress back to the Eurocentric historism. It used the conventional method giving priority to history. Among others it cited a Duden-type of Lexicon under the relevant deity 'ujigami' then covering both types of sacred symbols with Kreiners Euro-theological interpretation of the event: it assumes that spirits of deities descend from heavens at the time of the festivals, taking seat in these primitively built symbols for the time of the festival, then, after destruction of the symbols, returning back to heavens. Of course this evidently volontary distorsion of factual research results is daily routine in the humanities and in particular in theological matters. The absolutly spiritual is still of fundamental importance for the political power of various history-based religious systems. To clarify theological fictions with empirically founded theocratic or territorio-political theories still provokes theo-logical controversies.
NOTE 2: It may be important here to note that we work with a primary concept of cognition which we call 'categorical polarity'. In various cultural situations this type of cognition was important, often as a survival of former conditions in a transitional field where it is dissolved into another type of perception. Heraclitus for instance in early presocratic thought, is a good example. Presocratic thought becomes a field of transition between the Ancient Near East and Egypt and classical Greece. Analytic thought appears first idealised with Plato, then it was developed into its empirical side by Aristotle. The schizoid dissection lasts up until today. Descartes used it further to free the material world from the holiness of being created, in particular anatomy and medecine, a reason why it is so advanced (in contrast to the humanities, which remained 'medievalistically' retarded in many ways! Nietzsche was aware of this tension but was not conscious of its function as a primordial cognition and characterised it as his art concept of the Appollinian and Dionysian forces.