I have always (well... since I learned about it last year...) liked Geertz's definition (1973?) of culture as a trans-generational, intersubjective symbol system. It opens up so many avenues of research.
But, to be honest, my education into the craft of anthropology so far (I'm not even halfway through) hasn't really given me a decent enough background to properly pursue those lines of research. That's why I joined this group.
By the way, Nold, I can't download your paper for some reason. Maybe you could upload it as a file? (See below the text box, left of the 'Add Reply' button.)
It´s a very interesting paper. So... is this right? - The signs and symbols as means of expression/ communication of the immaterial reality and that by taking the form of acts, images, words, sounds, etc., as a whole form the culture.
"It´s a very interesting paper. So... is this right? - The signs and symbols as means of expression/ communication of the immaterial reality and that by taking the form of acts, images, words, sounds, etc., as a whole form the culture."
As you know, objects like this produced in the framework of sacred rites often considered as sacred or representing local deities and the like, were classified originally as 'fetishes' and the like in the framework of primitive religion. In this sense, as a source material they are documented through centuries in many traditional societies all over the globe. In other words: we have an important source material of profound anthropological values.
Japan is one of very few places in the world which had very limited influence of Western cultures and, particularly, of Christianisation. Japanese Shinto religion thus has preserved very ancient traditional traits. I think its still vital agrarian villages have preserved a lot of systematic characteristics which were basically developed in Neolithic times and later refined, under Chinese influence, but not fundamentally changed.
In regard to their conventional consideration in the framework of religion, I came to research them with quite a different angle of view. I was interested in them in regard to aspects of construction and their function within habitat-space. Evidently they became quite different things! In general I consider them as "semantic" architecture. In regard to the settlement, village or hamlet, they are a cyclically reproduced copy of the demarcation made by the village founder, thus representing the whole village territory and the act of the founder from which his local "hegemony" is derived. This primary aspect already is highly complex and allows us to reconstruct many traits of social developments, social hierarchy etc.. Second, there is an elementary aesthetic element, categorical polarity, which I have tried to demonstrate in the paper. This second aspect too leads to many criteria which can be used to explain cultural developments, e.g. aspects of cognitive anthropology (the tree example with crown and trunk), or philosophical concepts of the specific and the general (the aesthetical structure allowing to see all forms as generalized unit). Third, it had a model function for all kinds of pragmatic or explicitly aesthetic "creations". It can consequently be seen as a fundamental element in the framework of an anthropology of aesthetics.
Further it is a semiotic element within the factual habitat. All (40'000?) villages in Japan are basically arranged according to this pattern: access path - gate - village main street with commoners' houses and rice fields - upper end of village, founder's house - gate - sacred grounds with this sign (later replaced by Shinto-shrines) - sacred woods (not entered by humans) in general in mountainous area.
In the narrower sense it marks a place. It is a topo-semantic sign. But, since it is made of ephemeral fibrous materials (reed, straw, bamboo) it would not keep in time. It is therefore periodically rebuilt by the local cult organization, the elderly male representants of the early settler families, the descendants of the village founder. In this sense it might look back on a very long history, a thing the archaeologists never thought about.
Finally each sign is considered the temporary seat of a deity, or, formerly representing a permanent deity. I think this sacred character is a secondary acquisition due to the tremendous importance such territorial systems had gained in Neolithic times, creating the basic conditions for sedentary life and agricultural production on the village territory. In Japanese the world for deity is 'kami', which means also above, which, I think, primarily alludes to the polar structure of the symbol. And in some villages the representant of the village-founderhouse is the highest priest of the village, priest meaning in fact "owner of the deity" ('kannushi', from kami-nushi, nushi = owner).
In fact, my approach is very modest. What I can say is that conventionally this type of phenomenon was mistreated. It was devalued from a highly questionable position of defending a concept of Western religion merely based on early texts, in fact based on early civilisational state formations, so called 'theocracies'. What I found in my particular research of 100 villages - in reference to all the important research that had been done by Japanese ethnography, in particular by the Yanagita Kunio-school - is highly contradictive to this conventional Western classification and negative evaluation.
In my concept these periodically reformed signs and symbols are highly important "cultural treasures" which allow to critically question cultural theories of the West as being based on widely fictious early historical texts showing no continuity into the traditional human behavior of proto- and prehistory, using fictive space concepts (macro-cosmic "genesis" instead of meso- or microcosmic human 'creations', that is local settlement foundations [of which I have a very explicit Babylonian text]) in which the deities made of reed [still on the terrestric level] were the territorial demarcations!
I think anthropology has a great vacuum here, having used the religio-political value system of the churches to build up their evolutionary theories with concepts of primitive religion (fetishism and the like) instead of using objective approaches in the study of these traditional survivals of Neolithic territorial settlement systems, which - in my view - laid the basic strata of culture with a highly complex system of territorial organization, which evidently produced things which later civilizations used to build up their early centralized city state systems and their social hierarchies, not to speak of "monumentalized" art and architecture (like the Egyptian temple using fibrous columns hewed in stone), and, in fact also its early political systems, the "theocracies" which today we call religion!
The root DBR and its many derivations occur over 2,500 times in the Old Testament and uses 110 different English words to translate this one Hebrew word (Abarim publications.) It is, by far, the most used root (first in Genesis 12:4) IMO this root word is from a clan of ancient people that domesticated the bee. Hive symbology (my word) occurs at the very core of this cultural heritage. The story of Deborah (bee) tells how an Oracle (DBR) convinced various tribes to come together to defeat a looming threat. To do this, common cultural symbols were combined to communicate through speech the concept of looming danger and plan ahead for its alleviation. The miraculous appearance of honey was thought to fall from the sky and was a gift from god. Bringing forth of the honey used the same language as "Word of God" (DBR).
The inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies used the same word (DBR.) It’s interesting to note that the inside of the Star of David is a hexagram, the early Christian churches were hexagram shaped and the honeycomb is made of hexagram cells. Beekeepers must be very careful and not introduce foreign organisms into hive. Hive collapse is a common and mysterious event. Even modern man has not fully solved this problem. The purity laws proscribed by priests entering the DBR/Inner Sanctum were quite specific. This priest must live 12 cubits from anyone else (and be downwind.) He must not have a discharge or come in contact with anyone that has a discharge within 7 days. He must bathe and then not touch any other part of his body with his hands. If he touches anything at all, he must wash his hands before he enters the inner sanctum. The man dedicated to entering the DBR would need to be supported because ritual purity requires intense effort and concentration. As a culture was built around the DBR, common symbols were deployed to build language required for the cooperative effort. Keeping the priest pure would have been an enormous expenditure of resources.
Thank you for reading this post. As you can see, I am neither a writer nor an anthropologist. However, I have had a passionate interest in this subject for many, many years.