This subject is dealt with elsewhere in relation to Euro-Mediterranean and Judeo-Christian history. See EGENTER: ‘Software for a soft prehistory’ (1986) and ‘The Eternally Burning Thornbush’, both in EGENTER 1992ff. (volumes 2 and 3).
See early maps such as the Babylonian world map, the map of Hecateus (c.500BC), the map of Eratosthenes (c.285-205BC), the Ptolemiac world map (c.150BC). They all show very limited views of the world. The same can be said of world maps from the Middle Ages (Edrisi’s world map c.1154, Erbstorfer’s world map c.1284, Catalan world map 1375, world map of Fra Mauro 1457-59 [all from ENGEL 1970]).
KERSCHENSTEINER (1962) considered the ancient Greeks’ interpretation of the term ‘cosmos’ in an interesting etymological work. The Greek word depicted a balanced order of the human domain, somewhat like a well ordered military deployment. This meaning survives throughout the world in the related term ‘cosmetics’ applied to the well-kept face. Apart from this though the content of the word ‘cosmos’ has expanded greatly, following the history of space exploration.
In the European Middle Ages the formation of the Frankish and Ottoman military empires forced the papacy to legitimise the continuity of Roman centralism through a ‘spiritual’ constitution. Neoplatonism was the main foundation of this (the conflict of universals, the conflict of investiture). This process played a leading role in the formation of European religious theory, and later had a long-lasting effect in the separation of the humanities (‘spiritual sciences’ in German) from the natural sciences. The European scholastic inheritance prejudiced ethnology most severely for centuries, and also affected the study of advanced civilisations, such as Sinology and Japanology.
A few names: Vito BERTIN, Guy DEKEULENEER, Gaudenz DOMENIG, Siegfried ENDERS, Gunter NITSCHKE, Pierre and Suzanne RAMBACH, Irmtraud SCHAARSCHMIDT-RICHTER, and the author.
It is estimated that 2000 researchers from various disciplines (architecture, ethnology, history, archaeology, psychology, philosophy, aesthetics etc.) are today involved throughout the world in works relating to architecture and space. The most important institution is the ‘International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments’ (IASTE) at the University of California, Berkeley. Various publications are produced there regularly. See Bibliography (CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN RESEARCH 1989ff..). For a description of this area of research, see EGENTER 1987b.
See for instance: DOMENIG 1980, 1988; EGENTER 1980, 1992ff.; NITSCHKE 1991, 1993.
A more detailed review of BOLLNOW’s work can be found in EGENTER 1992a (English) and in EGENTER 1994c (English/German/French).
Note that ‘middle’ in English (like the German ‘Mitte’) does not necessarily imply centrality, but can also be used to denote the threshold between two domains or a point between two linear sections.
ELIADE’s works based on deductive metaphysics (hierophany) are particularly important. By describing similar ‘structures’ of sacred space in widely differing religions (middle of the world, axis mundi, eternal return to origins etc), they have allowed more comparisons between the many familiar religions. This increased comparability could also be used the other way round, if we consider these structures in terms of BOLLNOW’s space.
Particularly important in the reconstruction of ‘ethno-(pre-) historic continua’ is WERNHART’s ‘Wiener Strukturgeschichte’ (Structural history of Vienna) 1981. This does not divide the strands of history into periods according to dated sources, but rather reconstructs essential structures in an interdisciplinary fashion, starting from vital facts of ethnography, as continua or developments.
In European humanities folklore does not play a very important role, no doubt due to the influence (clearly visible when compared with Japan) of the extreme fragmentation and prejudicing of its material by pervasive Christianity. This lack of importance can also be seen in Japanology. Only since we have begun to look at Japan from a cultural-anthropological viewpoint have we become aware of the great structural-historical significance of her folkloric materials, above all in the ethno-historical area. The fact that our view of Japan, when seen according to these methods, is quite different, is examined in three hours of radio broadcasts entitled ‘Japan, the great village - China school, National History and Modern Japanese Cultural Anthropology. Notes on the History of Japanese Historical Awareness’ (EGENTER 1983a).
Similar cults can still be seen today in the border populations of China, but, unfortunately, folklore or ethno-studies are not developed in these domains (AASEN 1991). The same goes for India. There cultural research is still so concentrated on written history that rural traditions, as sources, are impossible to detect. Descriptions of agrarian worship are sought in vain. The few works mentioning, for instance, fire festivals in India, interpret the event merely in terms of the names of gods, and cite historical sets of ideas. References to reality are often only to be inferred from photographs. On the other hand, a more positive reference to Nepal is offered by Robert LEVY’s description of Bhaktapur, especially with regard to the New Year celebrations there (1990:463-500).
This is only a very limited selection. For ethnologists Japan provides rich pickings: detailed field research covering the whole country is already available to be used, examined, developed further. In addition, ethno-historical work is possible.
EDER’s wide-ranging works for example, with their endless lists of theological terms linked with the mundanely concrete - always within the framework of the all-encompassing “belief” - and the resulting (and indeed intentional) lovingly condescending arrogance of his descriptions, are no longer acceptable today as serious research. For example: “kettle-hearth god” (okamasama), “room god” (oheyasama), “shelf god” (otanasama) etc. (1987:172). The systematically harmonising nature of these sacred spaces in the home has clearly eluded EDER completely. Elsewhere under the title ‘Ie’ the Japanese farmhouse is examined by the author with regard to the religious arrangements which are fundamental in determining the layout of the house (EGENTER 1991b). The same goes for the Ainu’s spatial arrangement of the house and surrounding area (EGENTER 1991a, 1994b).
KREINER (1969) refers to this layering, following Japanese folklorists, as the ‘large and small traditions’, and supports the idea through his ethno-historical methods, although he was not able to separate the layers distinctly, as he made the fundamental mistake of confusing the familiar ethnological-anthropological space and the settlement-genesis structures with the metaphysical space concept of the centralised shrine layer. He does sketch out the semantic element (o-hake), but only deals with it within conventional Shinto theology, thus leaving it on one side without theoretical examination (:110,122-126, 137).
Highly developed building styles and Chinese influenced object culture, paper, silks, writings, courtly ceremony, spatially developed theology.
Local autonomous object culture, local building techniques, oral tradition, ie. religion as bearer of information, ecstatic cults, close connections between cults and locally handed down social and territorial structures.
cf. YANAGITA’s (1975) discussion of the terms ‘matsuri’ (festival) and ‘sairei’ (celebration, ceremony).
This too forms part of the above mentioned ‘ideal research conditions’ in Japanese culture. In the absence of absolutely idealistic thought developments (Neoplatonism), there has been no total negation of Japan’s indigenous village traditions, through the advent of centralised Shinto or Buddhism, in contrast with what has happened in areas influenced by Christianity across the world. In the Japanese village the aboriginal structures are still thoroughly institutionalised, and have not, as elsewhere, degenerated into mere ‘peasant customs’.
This term follows the expression ‘sacred geography’. VIDYARTHI (1976) used the term in respect of Indian ethnology and folklore, and presumably coined it.
These are described in more detail in HAGIWARA (1965).
In a neighbouring village a documentary film was made showing the same type of festival (EGENTER 1977).
In a religio-ethnological context such phenomena were recorded and documented by Christian missionaries for centuries throughout the world as ‘fetishes’ and the like. They were generally interpreted pejoratively or in a primitive form within the eurocentric concept of religion. In religious history we know them as ‘life trees’ etc. Here they tend to be interpreted in a specific historical context (eg. Assyrian life trees). European folklore knows them as ‘maypoles’ and similar (KAPFHAMMER 1977, MANNHARDT 1963). In architectural anthropology ‘holy seats’ are classed as ‘semantic architecture’, that is as a previously little known but important class of construction forms found throughout the world having a purely semantic function (mostly without an inner room). In this wider context and in the research field of architectural anthropology see EGENTER 1986, 1987a, 1990b, 1990c 1992ff., 1994c.
As well as the author’s basic documentary works (EGENTER 1980, 1982, 1994d), several other works in various contexts are devoted to Japanese festivals in which ‘holy seats’ play a central role (EGENTER 1979, 1981a,b, 1982, 1984b, 1989a, 1989b).
A more developed type with a similar function (temporary seat of the gods) is that of the equally widespread movable shrines or ‘holy sedan chairs’ (mikoshi). They, with their strictly stereotypical religious functions, clearly take on the ritual structure based on 'fibro-constructive' symbols through the cyclical destruction of the sign of order (displacement, ecstasy, chaos) and renewal (reinstatement of order), as the god is removed from its static position (in the shrine) and is subject to dynamic types of (often wild) procession (o-watari) (cf. o-tabisho, journey place). The people themselves adapt - in both types - their behaviour to these ecstatic conditions (fights, drunkenness, night, noise etc.). With the more developed ‘sedan chairs’ (with enclosable inner space) we see the act of making sacred in the transference, usually carried out by a centrally trained priest, of the symbol of the deity (shintai) kept throughout the year in the closed shrine, to the movable shrine (mikoshi).
It can divide itself, and in concrete symbols has a ‘body’ (shintai). In conventional eurocentric classification this would be presented pejoratively, yet on the contrary, from the point of view of cultural anthropology it brings the historical constructions of European scolasticism into question (see EGENTER 1992ff. vol.3 ‘The Eternally Burning Thornbush’).
See EGENTER 1992ff. vol.1.
At a combined conference of the ‘German Folklore Society’, the ‘Austrian Ethnological Society’ and the ‘Vienna Anthropological Society’, the methods were sketched out as ‘structural ergology’ in relation to Levi-Strauss’s ‘structuralism’, and summarised in three expressions: ‘bifurcation of European knowledge’, ‘polarity and dualism’ and ‘structure and model’ (see EGENTER 1983b).
This means, in cultural anthropology, a cognitive system diametrically opposed to scientific analysis, one which does not definitively separate conflicting categories, but places them in intentionally harmonious unities. Such a system can be found in numerous cultures, for instance ancient Egypt, with Heraclitus, in the European Middle Ages (coincidentia oppositorum), but also in China (Yin-Yang), Japan (wa, inyo) and India (Sri Yantra). In the West these systems are classed as ‘mystic’ or ‘pre-logical’, because they are based on the formula 1=2, which is naturally absolutely incompatible with analytical thought (1≠2 [one is not equal to two]). A philosophical historical representation of these correlations is found in EGENTER 1990a, see also EGENTER 1992ff. vol.3: ‘The origins of science and the suppression of the harmony of art’.
Note that ‘duality’ and ‘trinity’ are basic theological or philosophical terms in many religions and cultures.
In some of the villages studied (eg. Goshonai) artificial trees are constructed as ‘holy seats’. In various works this phenomenon is associated with the cultural anthropological question of the cognitive pattern of semantic architecture or of the ‘holy seats’ studied. Has man succeeded in perceptively (and in its symbolic meaning) extracting the natural shape of the tree from nature as an analogy for his territorial religious markers? (see EGENTER 1980: 144-150, EGENTER 1981b)
In comparative religion LUDWIG (1983) and WERBLOWSKY (1990) have spoken positively of this method in book reviews: “EGENTER’s presentation and discussion is invaluable, not only because of the abundance of his source materials, the thorough analyses and daring hypotheses, but also because he teaches religious historians to rethink their own axioms and assumptions which they have been taking for granted” (WERBLOWSKY 1990). See also BLÜMMEL 1984 and KNECHT 1982.
The ‘religious’ classification of such ideas destroys their true facts. Analytical thought can only be understood with difficulty: the traditional cognitive system lays emphasis on relationships, on harmony. The unknown (non-culture, the unnatural in the western sense) is restricted by the known (culture). The reconciliation of opposing domains implies harmony. Failure to observe the harmonious conditions existing between cultured and non-cultured domains may lead to chaos. NB. we are today beginning, on a higher level, to understand such ways of thinking!
This elementary relationship between taboo forest of the gods and levelled worship area, with the shrine standing at the border between the two, is also still preserved in most later shrine structures in the cultivated plains.
Based on Dagobert FREY’s (1949) research into the sacred architecture of Afro-Eurasian advanced civilisations. FREY showed in his basic work that sacred monuments with corresponding means of access can be seen as far apart as the Mediterranean and China and Japan, forming a polarised unity. For polarised harmonious space as demonstrated in the Japanese home see EGENTER 1991b. On the subject of ‘festivals on an axis’ see EGENTER 1993.
DOMENIG (1988) interpreted the text with reference to local geography and landscape as a legend of land acquisition. We are more interested here however in the ethnologically revealed complex of settlement-genesis symbols and functions.
Usually ‘small shrine’. DOMENIG (1988) interprets it as ‘monument’ (from ‘shirushi’, sign). cf. also HARADA (1961a).
cf. KREINER’s (1969) summary of the Japanese dozoku discussions (:36).
Elsewhere this model is presented in a cultural anthropological generalised form in its global connection with rock art (EGENTER 1994a).
HARADA’s idealised model of the original village (1960) is called into question by this highly explicative settlement-genesis model.
The historically based modern world, thinking in terms of linear progress, has difficulties in understanding cyclical societies. ‘Ecstasy’ in its widest sense, that quite other life in which the arduous norms of everyday existence dissolve, is projected in a straight line as a utopia sometime in the future (and often turns out to be unsatisfactory). In the cyclical society, the antithesis to the norm is to a large extent in-built (most valued ecstasy in worship). This is the main reason why prehistoric agrarian societies have developed only slowly.
Unfamiliar Japan! MIYAZAKI collected under the title “Wara” [no bunka] (1985) two volumes of material from Japanese folklore, which also mentions, from the secular angle, the wealth of objects created from fibrous materials (shoes, clothing, headgear, gadgets, nets, means of transport). The rich local differentiations and the regional autonomy of the production methods clearly demonstrate that we are dealing with a tradition which has its roots in pre-history. Such facts must have eluded archaeology due to its basic definition (remains of durable materials!).
The cycle of renewal appears, in the case of the Ise shrines, to have been transferred to the large scale of the whole construction from the village structures. Most impressive in Ise are the shrine structures with their staggered axial systems. They correspond to the ‘access-place’ schema described. It is to be presumed that the position of the Ise shrine in central Japan seen from the then familiar South in relation to the still wild North did not occur by chance.