DAGOBERT FREY AND THE ACCESS-PLACE SCHEME

A global view on architectural principles


ALL ARCHITECTURE
IS ORGANISATION OF SPACE
BY A DEMARCATED PLACE
AND A PATH

Dagobert Frey's Theory of Architecture
discussed in the Framework of the Anthropology of Art, Architecture and Habitat

By Nold Egenter
 
 



 

INTRODUCTION




If one assumes that the renewed trend for 'globalisation' does not only mean setbacks in direction of mediaeval fundamentalisms ('Creationism', Samuel P. Huntington's 'new world order') but also a progressive cross-cultural and systematic anthropology' for our knowledge about man, then the study of Dagobert Frey with the title 'Foundations for a comparative science of the arts' (1949) might be taken as one of the most ground breaking surveys in the fields of art and architecture for the second half of the 20th century.

The subtitle programmatically focusses on space and time in the art of Afro-Eurasian advanced civilisations. Space and time in the arts? We will see, that there is much more involved than just that. What is most surprising for the moment is the wide culturo-geographical field defined by the subtitle. 'Afro-Eurasian advanced civilisations', an enormously large area of investigation. It calls for the wide horizon of an anthropology of art.

The wide outlook needs a clear system. Evidently Frey has found it. The structure of his study is very unusual. After a short introduction ('problems') four main chapters are following, giving very detailed information. Titles are very peculiar, correlated in pairs. 'Standing-subject, movement-subject', on one hand and 'demarcated place (or monument)-subject, (access-)path-subject' on the other <1>. Basically all expressions can be reduced on two contrasting pairs: Standing and movement, and monument and path. At the end a very short chapter is found, barely two pages, a summary of the results.

Each of the four main-chapters is arranged according to the same sequence of culturo-geographical units: Egypt - Near East - Greece - Occident - Eastern Europe - India - East Asia. Four times the same, filled with different materials. One thing is clear: nobody would be able to question Frey's work in regard to lacking systematic buildup. Further, the four main principles are correlated. 'Standing'- and 'movement'-subjects are related to sculptural representations of the human figure. The subjects of 'demarcated place' and 'path' are related to sacred architecture and its specific arrangements. In other words, the polar subjects represent polar or complementary conditions of the sculptural and of the architectural.

Frey develops a 'comparative science of art' stimulated by comparative linguistic research. As mentioned already there are four clearly defined types of art-expressions he wants to explore, standing and walking, demarcated place and access path. "All consideration rests on comparisons" he says "and all methodological processes of the art historian rest similarly on comparison. If we date a work of art and localise it, if we attribute it to an artist or an art school, we all proceed judging according to equality or difference."

Frey structures his method according to polar categories. A and A are compared - or A and B are compared in regard to equality or difference. Evidently we find ourselves at the basis of thinking . What is very impressive in the work of Dagobert Frey is the following. He constructs his instruments with basic terms of cognition and thus redefines them anew in terms of an anthropology of art. In the following some translated citations from Frey's introduction.

"A comparative science of the arts is focussed on the task to comparatively deal with closed ethnic art circles. Like in case of languages, as one of the most important expressions of cultural life, it tries to find out ... about relationships and mutual contacts as well as affiliations with higher circles of culture...." On the other hand, "...based on diversity and contrast their particularity, their reciprocal tension and their originality..." can be clarified. Thus, on one hand art circles are distinguished from others, and, on the other hand, changes and developments are reconstructed. At the same time "comparison presupposes something common and constant. It allows to read the differences." And further: "Inequality is only conceivable in relation to its opposite, namely, what is equal." This relational frame of 'equal' and 'unequal' is to be understood at the same time as the polar limit of the analytically judging method.

In regard to working with categories Frey maintains: "Each comparison sets predetermined categories as a frame of reference, according to which we compare." In this second aspect Frey is influenced by Wölfflin. However, Wölfflin's categories were too narrow and closely related to the technique of painting, not really relevant criteria of perception. Thus Wölfflin's study leads to rather questionable results. In contrast to this Frey induces a much more sensible system. His system of categories is basic and of enormous importance.
 
 

REST AND MOVEMENT-
BASIC SUBJECTS OF A MORPHOLOGY OF THE HISTORY OF ART




"All iconic art is body- and space-display." Figurative art can be characterised by two conditions. On one hand it corresponds to the feeling of the body with its categories of rest and movement, and, secondly, the experience of the world as "the subjective space of movement". This space providing movement surrounds us, we can move therein, it offers goals to our movements and sets limits. These are decisive categories. Frey uses this to derive basic subjects of general validity and interprets them in the sense of Goethe as 'primordial phenomena' (Urphänomene), respectively as fundamental principles of a morphology of the history of art.

"The standing subject and the movement subject correspond to the feeling of the body as expression of rest and of the movement impulse. In analogous ways the monument or demarcated place and the path correspond to the feeling of the body in space." We have thus two basic categories - rest and movement - which are in polar relation. They manifest themselves in two empirical and polarly related domains of humans, in their feelings related to body and environmental space. In terms of art both show themselves in sculpture and in architecture expressed in polar categories as standing or walking subject or as demarcated place or access path subject.

If thus the human body and environmental space are interpreted in polar (or complementary) relations both elements on the other hand are again set into polar relations, that is to say standing and walking subject for the body, place and access path subject for the environment. The conditions can not be perceived in isolated units. "The standing subject in space corresponds to the demarcated place subject as expression of space at rest." Similarly "the topic of movement in space corresponds to the path..."
 
 

________________________________
MAN
[Body]
| |
| |
Standing Movement
_______________________________
Demarcated Place Access Path
| |
| |
[Architecture]
SPACE
___________________________

Fig. 1




"By erecting a monument within the free and unlimited formless space, I organise this space; I create a centre to which the environment is focussed. However the monument is at the same time body form and as such expression of a particular feeling of the human body. It implies interaction of the ego as a human body with space as environment. Its particular attitude already appears in the formation of the monument as a physical plastic expression."

Each element of this arrangement thus forms a psychophysical tripartite unit. Frey interprets it as 'body feeling' (Körpergefühl). It appears primarily as human body, but also as psychic feeling. On the third level it appears in a domain of abstract corporeal units, artificially set up in space, on which this natural body feeling is projected. And the same is valid for the feeling related to space in regard to built human spac which as a structural unit is tainted with the feelings gained in one's own space.

"Movement in space corresponds to the path" on which I physically or by imagination pass through space. By defining a path within the free and homogeneous space, I create it as space for movement. Again, demarcated place and path enter in an analogous relation like the 'standing and movement subject'. The demarcated place alreadycontains the path as reference point, as directional suggestion, as goal. The relative movement can be towards the demarcation or away from it or it can surround it (circumambulation).

From this the important thesis follows:

"All architecture is formation of space by arranging a demarcated place or a path."

At first sight, this sentence sounds similar like those 'all-and-nothing-sentences' we often read in studies of philosophy. At the same time, however, the statement appears with unusual ideas: 'Formation of space' - 'demarcations of place' as signs and symbols - and 'path', or 'way' in the sense of categories like 'walking', or 'movement' in general.

Suddenly we might discover that, in regard to a potential strategy of knowledge, Frey seems to pronounce a very important statement. We feel close to a type of cognition which builds up systematically from elementary units to explain higher levels of organisation, for instance in biology, with its terms, organic materials, cell, organ, etc. All what we know in biology is basically structured in this systematical ways. Does Frey with his concept of polarity in art, space and human environmental interaction hit something fundamental for our cultural concepts?

No doubt, the equation

Architecture = toposemantic monument + access-path-organisation (or -design).

is certainly one the most general statements about architecture. At the same time it is also - at least in regard to premodern architecture - one of the most important sentences that can be said about architecture. That this definition is not simple, is shown in two complementary sentences of Frey.

"Each house," says Frey, "no matter whether profane or holy, is architecturally designed path. By passing from the entrance through the sequence of spatial units space is experienced through the impulses set by the architectural design."

"But at the same time it is monument as physical form in its relation to the environment. We walk towards it or away from it."

A kind of 'relativity theory' of architecture and space. Rest and movement intermingle mutually, can form units of contradictory opposites. Historically Frey relates such arrangements to Stonehenge. There these primordial subjects were already active. "Setting up stones to form a circle with an altar stone as monument and the procession path which leads towards this as access path."

The mutual penetration of the complementary subjects appears clearly in the shift of the altar from the centre towards the wall opposite the entrance. This penetration of the categorical opposites is of great significance. But, it can not be solved on the level Frey suggets with the archaeological model of Stonehenge. In fact, the problem is a problem between horizontal and vertical polarity.

What regards the relation of vertical and horizontal organisation, Frey does not clearly separate the two types of polar organisation. "The dynamic of the influx proves as disturbance for the the central space resting purely in itself. The versatile problem of nave and central building is present here already."

However, the matter gets clear if one becomes aware, that interior space is a late condition in the framework of architectural anthropology. On the level of semantic architecture, where the relationship of a demarcated place and the corresponding access-path is primarily defined, architecture appears merely as signs in the landscape indicating the place related to rest. The human path ends in front of the sign. What is called 'beyond' in the transcendental sense is defined by the polar code immanent in the sign as attributed to the non-human, to nature, to spirits etc.. That is to say, horizontal and vertical orders are united harmoniously (s. 'access-place scheme' and 'vertical-polarity scheme').

Thus, in spite of its lack of anthropological depth, Frey's basic approach is extremely important as a platform to further developments. The categories of 'rest and movement' reflect themselves in the relationship of human body, of sculpture and architecture, as polarity of standing and walking, resp. as place and access-path.

In decribing his materials Frey uses the concept of 'polarity', but is not really its aware of its complementary structure to the full extent. His chapters in fact always describe a dominant part as a cultural characteristic. He takes complementary categories as some sort of a basic platform on which cultural options may develop. Thus, in regard to architecture, it would probably be more important to characterise what is general in all cultures: the rigid interrelation between the access-place schemes, what they express and how they are interpreted by the corresponding culture.
 
 

THE MODALITY OF TIME EXPERIENCE




Frey interprets his system not only spatially but also timewise. Standing subject and demarcated place are opposed to the walking and path subjects like 'rest' (duration) and 'movement' (change) in time. "In their mutual relationship, in the movement form of the human figure like in the case of the path: in the way it proceeds, in regard to speed and rhythm, in view of regularity or irregularity, an ethnic modality of the time experience will express itself."

Unfortunately Frey remains rather vague and fairly general in this domain. At the same time a fundamental problem emerges, namely, that Frey's method starts from the human condition towards outside. Humans can live in the present, or be oriented towards the past and this correlation implies suborders, for instance a type of subjectivity which is experienced as factual condition, as temporal field. Or, in the second case, it can be focussed on traditionalism or on time as something irretrievably lost (romanticism) or it can also be turned towards the future.

The problem of this position is shown clearly if one focusses on often discussed symbolic structural expressions like for instance the idea of 'the eternal return', or of the 'end of the world' and its 'recreation' etc.. In such expressions it is anthropologically evident that the formation of such structural concepts did not develop in the domain of feelings of one's own body or by means of other environmental experiences. They must rather be searched for in the structural, or more precisely, architectural tradition itself. In other words, the transfer may run in the opposite direction. Man abstracts certain structural principles from his routine world of daily activities and projects them on his own corporeal and spatial experiences. This is one of the most important problems in Frey's approach. He basically departs from the individual human condition. Consequently he can not explain the specific formations and interprets them as rationally inaccessible, cultural essences.

This aspect is especially clear where the modality of processes is involved in the experience of time. Frey distinguishes experiences of time, which are "directed" at a goal or are proceeding also aimlessly. Besides this he also distinguishes circling experiences. He mentions "the eternal return of the same referring to concepts of the Indian world view like the eternal circle of births" and mentions "Vico's or Nietzsche's ideas about cyclic phenomena of thought." However, if in an anthropological framework, we are aware of the global importance of cyclic time structures in pre- and para-urban agrarian societies, it looks rather narrow to relate these phenomena historico-philologically to a few special cases.
 
 


BASIC SUBJECTS, CIRCLES OF ART AND THE APOTROPHAEIC DIMENSION (EXPULSION OF SPIRITS)




Evidently Frey is influenced by the so called 'teachings of cultural circles" (Kulturkreislehre) of the culturo-historical school of ethnology (Frobenius, Graebner, Foy, P. W. Schmidt, P. W. Kopper etc.). Basically it is an attempt to introduce the historical dimension into ethnology by using Graebner's method. It was hoped to gain a cultural history of scriptless societies. We do not want to enter further into these problems. For the moment it may be enough to hint to this source, because this lets us understand on what grounds Frey as an art historian had dared to undertake such an extensive theme for his studies. The doctrine of cultural circles rests also on Leo Frobenius' teachings on culture as described in his "The origins of the African cultures" (1898). It is described as the 'ideal method'. Most important was the organicistic idea erll known in art and history according to which cultures develop like organisms (according to the sequential diagram of 'birth - development - maturity- age - death'). Important in Frobenius' approach were also the discussion on formations of the cultures called 'Kulturmorphologie', which seems to have considerably influenced Frey as art historian. Without doubt the Vienna school of ethnology will have supported his wide and cross-cultural undertaking.

We have mentioned the term "anthropology of art". But, what does art mean? Can it be described so easily in morphological terms? Frey writes: "In regard to the suggested basic subjects the comparison of these large art- and culture-circles demands... a symbolic interpretation." Art presupposes "emotional expression". It can be explored as "dispute of the ego with the environment." And further: "All art work is warding off the demonic, a liberation of the ego ... through the setting of a symbol." The symbol is "objective design" in Frey's view. At the same time he takes it as an image of the internal experience.

The 'apotropaic' as essence of art? Without doubt the 'warding off of the demonic', the 'exorcism of spirits' to gain a stable place is a plausible explanation for some early action in the sense of art. However, the ethnologically palpable root system of art contradicts Frey's corresponding explanations, which all are derived from the Eurocentric 'myth of the profaned creator genius', respectively the 'art-artist-scheme'. Art as expression of the creative ego, as document of the struggle between ego and the world, is very clearly an Eurocentric doctrine.

Unfortunately, in this context, Frey completely drops out of his anthropological role. In view of the 'basic subjects' he tries to find in Eurasian cultures explanations on the level of European 'existential philosophy' are not sufficient anymore. And, very likely Nietzsche's "primordial contradiction" is not located between the exterior reality and inner life considered demonic. Nietzsche found it in the archaic structure of Greek theatre. This type of tensions rather comes up with urban civilisation. Consequently it is not an early phenomenon in the history of culture. And further the demonic is rather a problem of the anthropology of cognition. It can be considered as an emotionally loaded perception of the extra traditional outside (or, what we call natural today) into which man is always more or less embedded by his behavioural tradition. There should be no misunderstandings. In no ways do we want to question Frey's approach. But, maybe Rilke's expression comes closer: "All art comes out of a desire for security inspired by a feeling of insecurity." This might describe fairly realistically the environmental conditions, the milieu in which art made its first steps in the framework of a very important process: human sedentarisation and self-domestication. Did art play a central and culturally creative role? For the moment, this is not the place to discuss this question.
 
 

COMPARATIVE HISTORY OF THOUGHT?




From what was outlined up to now Frey's intentions can be understood. He is not interested in reconstructing a development, a cultural evolution. And this is valid in spite of his very conscious use of fundamental human or anthropological 'categories'. We should remember 'rest and movement'. Frey strives for a "comparative history of thought" (vergleichende Geistesgeschichte). Not the historic connection of causal sequences is his goal. Frey interprets rather the tendencies of such a development in the sense of an "essential criteria beyond time considerations" (überzeitliche Wesensskriterien). He interprets "historical cultural creations as existential wholenesses" (existentielle Ganzheiten).

With this view something important falls. As "creations" cultures cannot be derived, in their "uniqueness" they are "something inexplicable". Thus, Frey's "comparative history of thought" should demonstrate "fundamentally the heterogeneity of a cultural phenomenon in contrast to all other cultural phenomena." Here again Frey sounds fairly non-anthropological, particularly with the following rather puzzling sentence. "Any art oeuvre as mental creation" gains absolute value by being measured with an "ultimate and absolute value scale of humaneness." This humaneness is not meant in an anthropological sense, but ultimately metaphysical. Quasi-theologically it somehow parallels God's role in the history of creation.

With this we are at a decisive point of this study. We have mentioned it above, hinting to Frey's relatively simple comparative method, based essentially on a fundamental categorical system of rest and movement. It is focussed on the human body in space under very elementary human conditions. One could also say: anthropological criteria are taken into consideration. However, when the problem of meaning is discussed, rather non-anthropological concepts are introduced, concepts which are deeply embedded in Eurocentric historisms.

Aside from their critical content, these remarks might open the view on another approach, definitely anthropological. We will have to check the elementary characteristics in regard to intercultural analogies. Not the differentiating standpoint is seen in the foreground, the question is rather what is similar, what suggests equality or near equality. Frey's elementary categories and principles are used to examine his various cultural circles in regard to analogies.

Surprisingly his study assumes new dimensions. It suddenly turns into a cross-culturally comparative study of architectural anthropology which tells us very interesting things. In very different cultures ontologically high-grade edifices like pyramids, mastabas, temples, churches, cathedrals reveal considerable analogies. We find impressive similarities in regard to the polar coordination of architectural elements with place character and others with path character. A quite daring hypothesis emerges: Throughout the whole Afro-Eurasian cultural area we find sacred buildings which are designed according to horizontal and vertical polar concepts relating static and dynamic parts to form contrasting units. We call these schemes:
1) Horizontal polarity scheme (or access-place-scheme)
2) Vertical polarity scheme

In the following we will shortly pass through Dagobert Frey's seven cultural circles commenting his approaches and his insights. We will then add our own interpretation hinting to horizontal and vertical polarities resp. to the schemes mentioned above.

Frey's order was slightly changed. Place and path subject were treated separately in his book. We condensed the polar components of rest and movement and discuss them always within the same cultural circle, to demonstrate their relationships more clearly. It seems, that with this small rearrangement of Frey's comparative method an important point for the explanation of art can be made. As we mentioned already above, we will focus mainly on the architectural program, thus neglecting to some extent Frey's studies of the 'standing and walking-subject'.

The rearrangement can be justified like in the following. Frey departs primarily from the human being and corresponding spatial feelings. The actually found forms are derived from the mental dimension of humans. Man and his body feeling related to standing and walking is primary in this concept, man and environment and their relation to architecture are secondary.

This is conceived entirely different in the framework of the 'anthropology of habitat and architecture ' (AHA). In this concept, all cultural circles surveyed by Frey look back on a temporally much deeper tradition of architecture. Routined constructive behaviour of hominids and hominoids might be about 22 million years old (Miocene apes; subhuman architecture). In this framework not man himself, but essentially the dialog with his architectural forms, taken as models, would have led to the development of such mental structures. Man would have perceived such models for a long time, eventually projected them on analogous natural forms ('discovery of nature' and brain development), but the abstract ideal conception would have to be seen as the result of very long processes.
 
 

1
EGYPT
 
 

Demarcated place subject (Mal-Motiv)<1>




We mentioned before Freys tendency to emphasise dominant traits as cultural characteristics and to neglect polarity, treating it often rather as secondary. In the section devoted to Egypt above all the pyramids are discussed as 'demarcated place subject' (Mal-Motiv). Much more in details, Frey explores the Egyptian temples under the 'acces-path subject' (Weg Motiv). He does not emphasise the polar or complementary relationship of place and path in the sense of coincidence of opposing categories in the same unit, but he definitely and apriori emphasises the dominant category, that is to say the 'place character' in the case of the pyramid and the 'path character' in the case of the temple. Evidently, this interpretation distorts the factual categorical relationships involved in the buildings. With its considerable underground grave chambers the pyramid stands for the monumental immortalisation of the king. But in the factually celebrated cult of the dead processions played an important role and emphasised the pyramids and the tombs as the complementary end of an access path. For the outer geometric form of the pyramid too very likely it is not so much the spiritual invention of an "absolute 'Gestalt' far off from nature and life" that counts, but rather the tremendously developed monumental building tradition which - as suggested by Walter Andrae and his archaeological sources - might have had its predynastic prototypes in the primitive sacred huts constructed with reed and other plant materials.
 
 

Access path subject




Similarly, we can not consider the path subject as dominant in Ancient Egypt, or, as Spengler formulates it, as primordial symbol of ancient Egyptian culture. Of course Frey is aware of the close connection between grave temples (example: king Sahu Re, at Abusir) and the temples devoted to deities (example: Neuse Re, near Abusir) with an obelisk as sun symbol and final point of the procession path. He points to the long galleries and halls, which in the grave of Sethos I. lead to the grave chamber . The same basic idea appears extended into the most powerful dimensions in the large temples of the New Empire in Karnak and Luxor, with their Sphinx-alleys, gigantic pylons, huge courts and column halls, an impressive arrangement which is repeated several times along the straight path axis, leading finally to the Adyton with the image of the deity. Frey essentially describes the way with its rising levels of the ground surface and the gradual lowering height of the ceiling towards the inner sanctuary. "In the case of the temple devoted to deities as well as in the case of the grave temple the real sanctuary is not the centre of the temple but its end." (L. Curtius) "It is the greatest and most consistent attempt towards an architectural 'spatialisation' of the continuous course of time as the human fate." However the factual situation can probably be seen in much simplified ways and consequent in the polar categorical sense. On the primary level of a settlement related cosmology the perception of 'transcendence is geographically limited, can be defined as 'environmental' (Kerschensteiner 1962). Transcendence starts where human paths are at their ends, indicated by the ontologically important sign of 'onece', whether magically or holy, whether traditionally or historically founded.

Both, Frey as well as Curtius deal with the temple as if it were 'designed' and built in one homogeneous process. Evidently this is not the case. It was built and extended over quite some time. The fore courts are later additions. The columns are not homogeneous, there are considerable differences in form. They must be understood as contributions of heterogeneous settlement units owing tributes to the imperial court and its theocratic constitution, the temple.

The inner sanctuary, the most important cult marker, can be clearly recognised as the reminiscence of a reed hut. Pylons too show their origins rooted in reed architecture. They are monumentalised. Fibroconstructive architecture metabolised into durable materials. The columns too were originally plant bundles. Some of them can be recognised very clearly as composed of papyrus or lotus plants.

Walter Andrae has presented numerous finds showing small reed-temples from predynastic times. They clearly indicate how the Egyptian temple developed in the framework of cyclic cults focussed on the renewal of fibrous village sanctuaries as part of a pre-monumental fibrous material culture. Monumental size and material permanence were new categories of the new social hierarchy. Pharaonism, its eternity cult and its anthropomorphous consciousness of power superseded an earlier stratum. But the reed-reminiscences as 'survivals' clearly show that there were earlier times where the main sanctuary was cyclically renewed as a village sanctuary and local place marker. In short, from its fibrous origins the Egyptian temple has been a polar system of a demarcated place and an access path, a polar unit of cyclic cults (renewal) and processions. As such the sanctuary had protective effects already on the predynastic level of agrarian village cultures. Very likely its effective protection against hostile human intruders and the polarly symbolic structure of its parts made it ontologically valuable. Later, in abstracted script systems this value was considered as 'holy'.

Curtius says:"in this temple plan rather than a place for rest, a path for procession is designed." Evidently this Eurocentric comparison is not adequate.
 
 

2
NEAR EAST

Demarcated place subject




The same problem appears in the section on the Near East. In its centre is the Zikkurat, a type of high temple, situated on a hill artificially heaped up. "Already in the earliest times of the Sumerians, in one of their earliest cities, at Uruk, such temple hills can be demonstrated archaeologically and how from the Dschemdet Naser level they develop into the high reaching temple towers in late Babylonian times in the 6th century B.C.."

Here too Frey emphasises the monument, as Zikkurat, with its high temples. The basic idea, he thinks, is the holy mountain, the 'mountain in the centre of the world' as a divine seat. He refers to parallels in other cultures, for instance Greek culture (Mount Olympus, Parnassus), or the throne of the gods in the Atlas, or the Sinai in the case of the Jews, or, in Indian culture, the Himalayan mountains.

In contrast to the Egyptian pyramids, Frey says, the spiritual centre of the Zikkurat is at its top in the high temple, the dwelling of the deity.

Here too the monument is perceived in relatively isolated ways and as a fairly evolved form. The holy mountain, as sacred centre of the world, as seat of a deity, as a location of particular cults. The holy mountain has gained importance for the history of religions mainly through Mircea Eliade's writings. He interpreted it as 'axis mundi', as cosmic axis which unites heaven and earth, in fact a culturally very evolved phenomenon. The 'holy mountain' stands in a long line of development, which must be reconstructed anthropologically.

In the framework of settlement anthropology, the natural holy mountain appears as a very late cultural interpretation of a natural condition. In the early civilisations or states natural holy mountains became important due to their size, form and impressing dimensions. Only on the level of early city-empires, as part of larger territorial units, they gain their meaning.

Their precursors seem to have been artificial holy mountains. This is suggested by 'sacred' territorial markers called 'yama', mountain, which are widespread in Japanese Shinto cults (see Egenter 1984 on Mount Fuji in Japan). Very likely the interpretation of the natural mountain as holy mountain develops with the demarcation of settlements located at the foot of mountains. The initial demarcation of the settlement at its upper end implies the immediate mountain part as wilderness polarly opposed to the human domain. Later this part might have become extended, the whole mountain became considered as holy.

Further, as we have already mentioned above, Frey considers the mountain temple different from the pyramid in regard to its most important point. "In contrast to the pyramid the spiritual centre is found in the high temple on top of the Zikkurat. It is the dwelling or the house of the deity." This too is very likely a highly questionable interpretation. It is more plausible that the whole mountain is dedicated to the deity (vertical polarity scheme). <2>

The tower of Babylon too followed a polar scheme according to which the king with throne and night camp declared himself as divine being.

As an illustration Frey refers to a similar example in East Asia, the scaled pyramid of Phimeanakas in the centre of the city Angkor Thom. According to a report of the year 1296 it was covered with gold. On the uppermost terrace of this pyramid the king nightly performed a mystical union with the spirit of a 9-headed snake who appeared in the 'gestalt' of a woman. She was considered the ruler of the land of the whole kingdom. Frey interprets this as "cosmically magic symbolism" which is questionable from the spatial level. The example is rather to be understood from agrarian conditions. In an earlier work focussed on Shinto cults related to settlement deities (ujigami) we have hinted to the cultic meaning of multi-headed snakes in traditional agrarian territorial cults. Biheadedness of snakes evidently showed to be a formal result of double ended ropes. The snakes were part of the fibrous demarcation system and had developed from sacred ropes. (Egenter 1994 : 63, 129-131, 168, 169, 226-231).

Again: we must emphasise that the natural mountain in the framework of macrocosmic allusions is a rather late idea. It must be related to early urban and imperial cultures. Like in the case of Akhenaton in Ancient Egypt, in certain transitional domains, vertical axial systems were extensively related to macrocosmic dimensions. But in the case of Akhenaton this was too early. His 'macrocosmic revolution' failed. His enemies returned into the order of the former world, ruled by 'microcosmic' principles.

Interesting is Frey's reference to the apparition-temple at the foot of the divine mountain with the primordial subject of entrance. Here too this can be explained more clearly by referring to the architectural tradition itself. The cult mountain is basically an extended place marker combined with its precursors, altar or temple.

At the foot of the mountain this is emphasised with a temple which functions as entrance. In this context Frey plausibly emphasises the cultic dimension, the procession of priests towards the sacred heights. Evidently it is the cultic behaviour which teaches us the ontology, not 'belief'.

Considered a primordial category in modern religion, 'belief' is in fact a very late phenomenon. It becomes relevant if written texts, as abstracted descriptions of cults, dominate a religion, the cultic dimension with its physical conditions on traditional topological as well as social levels getting secondary or lost.

Further, Frey's discussion of the steps towards heaven, the heaven's ladder subject is problematic. The written sources are not clear and contradictory. He argues from the position of a modern mind presupposing universal dimensions for the term 'cosmos'. He is not aware that the relation of heaven and earth corresponds to a spatio- perceptional evolution. We have to be conscious of this per-/conceptional expansion if we deal with cultural history or anthropology (Bollnow 1963).

In this sense Frey's description of the Babylonian astral religion is without doubts far from plausible. It is a retroprojection of evolved concepts. The cosmic idea of planets turning around the sun and the eternal circular movement of the universe around the highest divine principle is considered to be the symbolic expression of the rite. But, this is clearly an Eurocentric post-scholastic construction. It has not much to do with ancient Babylon. <3>
 
 

Access path subject




In this subsection of the Near Eastern cultural circle Frey shows the Babylonian-Assyrian palaces with a quite different principle of organisation. Dominant longitudinal axes were avoided as well as large halls in right angles. However, this is not really convincing in the case presented by Frey. The longitudinal spaces are definitely present and characterised by the altar at the opposite of the entrance. The only difference consists in the fact that the entrance is not in the wall opposite the altar but immediately adjacent in the longitudinal wall.

Further Frey's description of the festival path of Babylon too, as a circular procession, as a symbol of eternal return and in contrast to Egyptian linear procession paths, is not convincing. Essential in this festival is the permanent Aesagila, the main temple in which the association of the gods occurs, and the transition of this static condition into a dynamic phase. The toposemantic function of the gods is temporarily 'dissolved' by the ritual procession, by the movement on water and by travelling to the desert, the antithesis of habitat. Later the procession brings the gods back through the Ishtargate and to the main sanctuary in the city. From there the individual godly figures were again brought to their hereditary temples.

According to Frey exit and final point are only transit stations in what he considers as circular movements. This interpretation is highly questionable. The cult implies the cyclical re-institution of the deities, their toposemantic, locally constitutional and polar categorically harmonious functions. To enable this, their 'stable place character' is dissolved by the procession on a boat and on water as well, to emphasise their dislocation from their habitual and fixed places. This has very little to do with ideas about the world of the dead etc. which Frey projects from outside. Rather the factual content of the new year's festival is devoted to the cyclic renewal of the territorial demarcation.

The dynamic interpretation of the monumentalised deities is a substitute for the primary cyclic conditions. In the original fibroconstructive stage the deities of the past period were destroyed and the new ones reconstructed with new materials for the coming period. In the new monumental system the polar relation of the fixed place throughout the year and the dynamic interpretation of the system during the festival is the basic structure, the contrasting unit of the static phase and the temporary ek-static condition.

Frey mixes two different ritual concepts, namely processions on one hand, with the dynamic interpretation of divine figures, dissolution of their static conditions at their place through processions and their static reinstitution and, on the other hand a completely different phenomenon, the circumambulation of a sanctuary. The latter is a ritual which essentially promises the stabilisation of the sacred place.

Processions of the described type very likely developed from cults related to cyclic renewal after demarcations had become monumentalised in the framework of the spatial extension of early empires. <4>
 
 


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