continued, part 2



The critical objections raised here against the conventional European humanities and their problematic projections on Asia research are supported  by the settlement anthropological studies of the author. They are based on the anthropology of space developed by O. F. Bollnow (1963) and on field research, respectively on studies of toposemantic territorial demarcations in Japanese agrarian, urban and imperial Shinto. The main focus of these studies corresponds to what conventional history of religion had outlined very superficially in theological terms and with the tendency to universally primitivise it against higher forms of religion: what can be called the "life tree complex". Japan is an ideal case to study this type of surviving traditions because of its roughly 200 years of isolation (relatively low degree of Christianisation). Consequently, this phenomenon of demarcation was researched in all details in various regions and subjected to an objective settlement anthropological program. Finally it is described as a pre-written type of local constitution which uses a 'toposemantic fibroconstructive' object tradition in the framework of a (pre-linear) cyclic temporal system.

This universally valid concept has turned out to be fruitful  in various cultures. Very similar demarcation practices could be documented not only ethnologically, but also historically and archaeologically. In Asia (India, Japan, China) as well as in  Europe (Irminsul, maypoles in folklore), archaeologically in the Ancient Near East (Ishtar sign) and Egypt (Djed pillar). The corresponding "territorio-socio-semantic" and "spatio-structuro-symbolic"conditions too are very similar. Other developments produced further on these basic dispositions are also cross-culturally comparable, e.g. social hierarchy based on settlement foundation ("settlement core complex"). The method, however, to work in different cultures with objective parameters  and focussed on settlement anthropology  does not meet positive reactions within the conventional domain of Asian studies because their apparatus is still fixed on the system of conventional disciplines and individual cultural units.

Egyptology: from mythology to settlement anthropology

The example of Egyptology is extremely important here. In the thirties Egyptology has made an important change by decisively turning away from the mythological interpretation of early history as practised in the 19th century (Brugsch). Many researchers started to work with anthropological methods (Maspero, Meyer, Sethe). The imperial cult system was now interpreted as a spatially extended development from village and regional cults (Hermann Kees 1956). With this new approach the term religion shifted into the history of law. Not belief was considered primary anymore, but the cult bound to a locality and its tradition. The deity became a legal title. Thus, Egyptian religion can be understood as a development of a primary locally bound, cultically supported  constitution which developed into a spatially extended imperial constitution. Note that this basically territorio-legal character is definitely also valid for the Old Testament, but the perspective is suppressed by Christian theology for evident reasons. Consequently, these new methods of Egyptology do not find their way into the present humanities.

Sinology and the Ming t'ang hut

Already in the thirties of the last century, Marcel Granet, in the domain of sinology has  considered the Ming t'ang hut as a festival and calendar hut (semantic architecture). He judged it responsible for very early and basic concepts in China. But not only that, Granet also considered the Dao concept important for the early land organisation (-> heroic epos of the Great Yü). The Ming t'ang hut is thus not only - as a nuclear element of the cult system and calendar - the highest and ultimate law, it is also the basic and most central metaphor for the whole country and for the corresponding orders of the king or heaven's son. And last but not least in the framework of early land distribution, it is the prototype and very likely the origin of the Dao itself, the cognitive concept which strongly characterised China's object-related structure of thought over thousands of years (inanalogy to the similar Yin Yang system). It is an ingenuous cognitive concept which works with the complementary units of opposed categories, for instance of movement and rest.

We should therefore not  think a priori that Asia research is endlessly complicated. In fact this is our own cultural problem. We are not able to filter out the Eurocentric historic conditions in our approaches. They are structurally and methodologically at the basis of our  knowledge. Thus,  in the case of Daoism or YinYang thought, we anthropologically and philosophically discover a cognitive principle of  a tremendous capacity, which -negatively - delimits itself against disharmonies and - positively - creates tensions with complementary harmonies. And at the same time,  through these tensions of contradictory units, an immensely rich metaphoric system is developed which fascinates us so much as "the entirely different" in Asian cultures.

India: the Holi cult pillars of the Konkanregion of Maharashtra

We have recently concluded a survey of about 100 villages of the Konkan region in Mahrashtra in our research institute in India  <13>. It clearly shows that in about 1600 agrarian settlements of the regional toposemantic cult systems (with semantic architecture) have been preserved traditionally, evidently from pre-vedic times. The results of this survey emphatically indicate that in Indology too, anthropological conditions of settlements were neglected, merely historically supported extreme idealisations were favoured which misrepresent and distort ancient texts considerably. Indian anthropology remained focused on the 'tribals'. Folkore studies are hardly developed. In cooperation with Western ethnology and cultural anthropology fieldwork research into Indian cult traditions will have a great importance in future Indology.

Asian Relationalism is theoretically incompatible with the European Rationalism

Let us once more refer to Richard Wilhelm's idealised I Ging. In the West we are deeply imprinted by analytical thought, neoplatonical idealisation of scholasticism and other structural principles of our own cultural history. Consequently it is very difficult to understand the strongly empirical and materially represented relationalism of Asia. It is incompatible, even antithetical in regard to our analytical rational system.

But those who manage to understand the term polarity (or complementarity) in its aesthetical, ontological and social implications, also in its corresponding material expressions as art, as religion, or as philosophy, as settlement organisation and also in regard to social structural conditions, particularly also as autonomous formation in the context of semantic architecture, will discover very quickly that Asia in all its most heterogeneous formations follows a very simple principle, in fact polarity. Yin and Yang are polarity. The Daoistic postulate that all what is living and spiritual, is necessarily part of a mobile category, is polarity. Polarity is able to mediate between very different objects. The polar structure of things provides analogies which express harmonious relations if possible and thus - quite different to the Western analytical thought of isolated facts - create a world of the "unity (or at least similarity) of all things in the universe"  which reaches from micro- to macrocosm. As we said above, it is this contra-platonical, empirical richness of metaphorical thought and images which makes Asian cultures so fascinating.


Whether cultural research in general or Asia sciences in particular,  all these domains basically raise the anthropological question: who is man, what kind of ideas has he developed, and how does he live in a specific environment, in a particular culture, in a specifically developed milieu?

Settlement anthropology is not just cross-culturally comparative, it reconstructs also in terms of evolutionary theory. Scientifically this means overcoming the rationalistically defining retroprojections from the endless manifold of the present. Evolution implies always an extremely reduced amount of initial conditions. If we manage to properly reconstruct such an evolutionary process, then, an evolutionary theory may gain highest plausibility.

Correspondingly we can say: what we need, in fact, is an objectively working anthropology. An anthropology which could be used in many different cultures. Focussed on reliable criteria it would research comparatively and essentially focussed on similar things, not on a priori differences,  for instance on aspects of settlement behaviour. If in this way we could show, in the framework of Asia research for instance, that basic structures of human thought  had developed essentially in parallel with cross-culturally very similar spatial organisation of settlement, then for human research, we would obtain a quite new approach towards cultural anthropology in the sense of settlement anthropology.

Now, the Asian thought tradition, in particular that of China, in which continuous thought structures can be documented over approximately 5000 years, have preserved a great continuity compared with the Euro-Mediterranean history of cognition and thought. Relational thought structures intended for harmonies of the Yin Yang type can be traced throughout the whole Chinese history, essentially until today, at least until the beginning of the last century.

In contrast to this Asian history of cognition and thought, the Western history is characterised  by great changes. There is not any direct continuity from the ancient high cultures in the Ancient Near East and in Ancient Egypt, except maybe in the theocratical structure of religions. Particularly the so-called "Discovery of Sciences" (Snell) by the Greeks, has produced entirely different forms of thought in Europe and in the West. The Platonic resp. Neoplatonic idealism is the essential basis of Christian scholasticism. The Aristotelian School too had some impacts on it in a second phase. It has, however - antithetically in regard to Platonism - become the more important basis of Humanism, of the empirical sciences and of enlightenment.

In the European humanities the origins of Greek philosophy is usually interpreted in the historically narrow sense. It is taken as something entirely new, something which is attributed to the genius of the Greeks. Naturally the Attic flourishing time of Greek philosophy has its strongly speculative and preparatory phase in the fragmented pre-Socratic phase. But this too remains essentially historical.

Now let us go back to the hypothesis gained in Asia, namely that in early agrarian settlement systems (very likely already during Neolithic times, certainly in the Metal ages, and doubtless also  in historical times in rural areas) basically harmonious structural concepts of cognition were developed, which are similar like the complementary or polar cognitive systems  of the YinYang (or Dao) type.

What is surprising: it is not difficult to transfer this hypothesis to ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian conditions. On the level of architecture and art as well as in the domain of the cult (temple as monumental incrustation of the deity's  'procession' and 'place') as well as related to the politico-spatial order (upper and lower Egypt) cognitive structures of the polar type  can be clearly recognised. The universe is interpreted as "what is and what is not", that is consisting of two complementary parts, resp. a whole. Primordial time is the time "before two things originated in this country" (coffin-text). The primordial gods are of male sex, at the same time female. The geographical worldview is structured into earth (male) and heavens (female). Egypt consists of the "two countries" (above, below).Titles of kings, insignia and imperial gods are related to the "two countries". Polarity is particularly important in theology: it allows the formation of couples of deities which are not belonging together (syntheses), as well as to separate deities into pairs. In the legends, in the traditions regarding the so called "world creation" polarities are uncountable, be it as sexual polarity of primary deities or as separation of heaven and earth (Geb, Nut). The coordination of these different universal creations related to different towns and cities (Hermupolis, Heilopolis, Memphis) and their systems of government, their relations to primordial hills, to certain cult traditions and to animal and plant world of Ancient Egypt, as well as their genealogical functions, show very clearly that settlement related constitutional systems are involved, as Hermann Kees (1956) clearly showed. We can thus say with some justification that our hypothesis found in Asia has some validity in the ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian cultures.

1) Based on primary agrarian village cultures the sedentary systems of Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East developed cognitive and formative structural principles which are basic for the early high cultures in these cultural domains.
2) These cognitive and formative structures are of the polar-harmonious type (similar like Daoism and Yin Yang concepts in Asia;  see also Heraclitus etc.).
3) They are  clearly expressed in the framework of the hierarchical constitutional system of ancient Egypt (see H. Kees:  local-, regional- and imperial cults).

Now, let us have a look at the beginnings of European thought in Greece referring to these postulates. The following points are important:
1) The so called pre-Socratic philosophy of the Greeks starts in a narrow contact zone between the Near East (Ionian coast, Persian road; important are also the extended trips of many Greek authors to Ancient Egypt and Near East).
2) Most fragments of pre-Socratic philosophers are essentially speculations related to constitutions of the Ancient Near East and Egypt.
3) Argumentations based on polar harmonious structures are frequent, particularly in the case of Heracles. However, the polar type is increasingly ousted by analytical questioning.


Consequently, the so called pre-Socratic philosophy can be understood to a great extent as a 'transitional field'. Ancient Near Eastern constitutions accessible in textual or verbal form were discussed speculatively (so called 'cosmologists', 'natural philosophers'). Finally the whole domain is systematised by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Plato and Aristotle analytically dissolve Heraclitus' polar categorical harmonies still rooted in the ancient Near East. Plato postulates his teachings of ideas, Aristotle emphasises his empirically rational system.

In this perspective, conventional statements of the history of philosophy become absurd, for instance: "Our European thought begins with the Greeks and since then it is taken as the only and unique form of thought whatsoever." Or: "Only the Greeks have created what we call thinking: the human soul, the human mind, they have been discovered by them." (Bruno Snell, Die Entdeckung des Geistes, ["the discovery of the spiritual/mind] 1948).

Evidently this new system could not free itself from its polar or complementary preconditions. Just at its beginning two basically different systematic parts were created. On one hand the new analytical system was used to exclude materia from the previously polar relation. Materia was considered as an inferior 'concretisation' of an a priori existing and absolutely pure world of ideas. On the other hand, using the same analytical instrument, the other counter-world was defined, the one which is related empirically to the material world.

This means: the so called division into 'spiritual sciences' (or, humanities) and 'natural sciences' is precisely programmed here already. Plato and Aristotle lived between 400 and 300 B.C.. What is strongly characteristic of our European or Western thought in the sense of a split into 'spiritual' and 'natural' sciences was already programmed well over 2300 years ago.

This act of programming can now be understood in quite new ways in view of its historical backgrounds. Plato and Aristotle were strongly conditioned by the tradition in which they found themselves. Their contrary positions can at the same time be interpreted in complementary ways. Plato's concept of ideas reflects the indefinite category of the 'eidolon', the primordial model of the agrarian settlement order. Aristotle, on the contrary, rather takes its empirically definite function as his basis (God as 'immovable' mover). Plato and Aristotle, the gigantic programmers of those times were at the same time themselves programmed by tradition!

In other words, a new concept of man becomes visible. In contrast to the common image of 'man the discoverer', 'man and progress', there is a contrasting vision: he remains a prisoner of his traditions. In spite of seemingly tremendous changes, continuities are preserved. We become aware of guiding lines, which show where thoughts come from. And, in fact, the combinations can be traced through the whole domain of European thought: a never ending combination of absolute dualisms paired with relational domains dominantly structured in polarities. Up to Hegel, with few exceptions, European thought remains centered on some sort of 'axis mundi' and its 'environment' defined by few historic parameters. Heaven and Earth, God, the most general ideal, man and his beliefs, the corresponding structure of life and society. The great secret might surprisingly be space. All the great philosophers projecting their thoughts on the spatially large of their time, a concept into which they were educated, thus remaining unaware of the fact that this world, if considered in regard to man, 'once upon a time' must have been very small. The new formula: perceptionally, the world evolved from villages.

This insight changes our relation to science. Science is thus not an ingenious discovery anymore, an invention out of nothing. Science appears  now related to development. Plato and Aristotle are only two  important representatives of an evolutionary process: the spatial perceptional extension related to the expansion of early imperial constitutions. An ancient cognitive and conceptual system is transformed, interpreted differently. Its poles are changed. The categorically polar system of "above AND below", of "movement AND rest" changes into the categorically isolated "above OR below", into "movement OR rest", a thought system which makes judgements, produces categorically isolated facts.

Naturally this insight questions science. Analytical science now enters into dialogue with its 'precursor', the anthropologically relevant cognitive system of polarity. Are Plato's teachings of ideas pure speculation? We would have to question many things in Europe and the West! And how about Aristotle? Is empirical science - with all its negative side effects - maybe lethal for mankind in the long run? This is a potential we only gradually start to become aware of today.

In other words: Asia and its lucid and deep-reaching thought tradition might become a basic field of cognitive research. New questions arise like the following: Is polar thought more human than analysis? What did we pay in the West for science, what do we pay today, where does it lead us to? Does science distort the world? For instance in religion, by the projection of wrong ideals which cover up the  human responsibility for human actions? Or, the other way round, by confronting man with an endless world of isolated facts which nobody manages to control? Do the natural sciences mislead man?


With such questions we are again at our basic topic on which we focussed at the beginning: the structural problems of natural and 'spiritual' sciences. We said  that the natural sciences can develop and expand freely  whereas the 'spiritual' sciences are limited Euro-ethically. Using the method of settlement anthropology we showed an objective and scientific way to do cultural research. It could free itself from these Eurocentric limitations and gain objective insights into human cultural developments. The focus would be cross culturally on the 'evolution of sedentary characteristics'.

Today we are aware that in prehistory the security of space was a decisive factor, that territorial demarcation and safeguarding the environment  prepared those systems which we call religion with their deities, temples, cults and rites. Later verbalisations and script fixations of such cults have greatly abstracted from  their factual conditions and objective topos-relations, and with the expansion of spatial perception the primary local systems became extensively interpreted and also manipulable. Sequences of centralised imperial cults and in particular fictions of the platonic type and later the research results of astronomy and physics extended these cult systems into the endless space dimensions of the universe. Finally its primary implications were extrapolated  over the whole globe.

Thus, we are able to perceive comparable settlement developments in very different cultures, and, at the same time, in the sense of a cognitive anthropology, we are aware of very similar and fundamental systems of perception and conception. This means that suddenly we can understand seemingly very different urban or high culture-phenomena from very similar basic levels.

Thus, the 'spiritual' sciences move closer to the natural sciences. It is not, as Dilthey thought, history in the datable sense, which defines culture, but much more a global evolution with its progressive elements on one hand and  at the same time also with its conservative or retarded lines. Not the conventional dated slices are relevant anymore to tell us about history, but, rather a complex rope-like structure of thematically defined evolutionary strings. It is now conceivable that an objective settlement anthropology  gains much more realistic ideas about man as a cultural being, cross-culturally, and globally. Maybe in this way the humanities will come out of their ivory tower and tell the so-called natural sciences, including technology and the 'market', who mankind really is and what he really needs. Cultural research could in this way have  impacts on production which  is expanding today merely based on profit motives. And with this we are also back at the main theme of the congress. Market and efficiency! Not the market would dictate human needs, but anthropological relevance would structure the market.

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