Carrello vuoto

logo cultural cannibals

The Japan we fail to see - animism
Lunedì, 31 Luglio 2017 14:59

The Japan we fail to see - animism

To understand ancestor worship you have to start from animism, which is its direct cause and its necessary background.

There are different opinions on what exactly animism is, but the way I understand more than a religion it is a way of seeing the world.

Animism consists in believing that you can understand the world through introspection rather than observation. To find solutions, you therefore look inside and not outside. This may sound like a form of mysticism, but it’s the opposite. The simplest way to interpret the world is intuition, and that is what animism uses.

To an animist human beings are the center of the universe. Everything is concrete and belongs to this world, even what you cannot see. In other words, the spiritual world - including the soul - is concrete and is basically the same in nature and the material world. A soul gets hungry, needs to sleep, walks and gets tired after walking, and so forth.

The spiritual world is a facet of the material world. There is no other world. Many people think of animism as primitive. The Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, and most of the Far East is animistic. I will let you decide if these peoples can be defined primitive or not.

Animists therefore believe like us there is a part of the human experience that is invisible. Like us, they believe it cannot be experienced directly. Unlike us, they believe it's basically the same in nature as the concrete world.

This way you thinking has astonishing consequences. In Japan, for example, among them is the Imperial house, which is not at all what you think but something so unlike anything you know that I cannot tell you exactly what it is right now. I have to explain a number of things first. The most important one is the causal relationship between animism and ancestor worship.

What happens when somebody dies? The Christian believes that the soul goes to paradise, becomes a pure spirit and never comes back. It no longer needs or desires anything of the world we know.

To an animist, all death is is the loss of a body. We are all know how the human mind rebels at the idea of death. To animists, death does not exist because they trust this innate feeling. They believe that a dead person remains where the body died. It retains its character, habits, tastes, weaknesses and strengths. It needs shelter, food, rest and companionship like before. It doesn't have the means to take care of itself, though, because without the body it cannot work. At the same time, having entered the realm of spirits, it now has the powers that pertain to spirits.

It follows that the dead have both reasons - discomfort and envy among them - and means to hurt the living. The Chinese and the Koreans solve the problem by keeping the dead at bay and devising ways to keep them out of the house.

The door of the traditional Chinese house was sometimes protected by a spirit screen (see photo, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons).

The Koreans bury the dead up on a mountain, where the soul can see the landscape and stay away.

The Japanese, as usual, do the opposite and bring the dead right inside the house, something the Chinese find horrific. The Japanese feed them every morning, talk to them, they consider them an active part of the family.

The next time we'll see the astonishing consequences for society as a whole of ancestor worship, an institution that leaves its mark on everything it touches.


cover kamakura m 170x254

Kamakura an Historical Guide

Francesco Baldessari

This book is actually two books rolled into one. The first is indeed a step-by-step guide to Kamakura, the legendary capital of Japan’s first shogunate. The author, who has lived in Japan almost 37 years, will take you on a visit to 28 of his favorite temples and shrines.The second book, in providing the context necessary to understand Kamakura, becomes an extremely up-to-date introduction to the part of Japan that is immortal. The country’s history, religions, traditional art and architecture explained differently.Beneath both books lies a single idea. You can understand neither Japan, nor Kamakura if you do not know about a great catastrophe, the wave of brutal anti-Buddhist violence that hit full-force the whole country from 1868 to 1871, destroying forever much of its cultural heritage and countless lives, only to be almost completely forgotten in the aftermath.

L'ebook in numeri:
ISBN: 9788898750344

pdf-logo Download an excerpt of the ebook

Letto 253 volte
Francesco Baldessari

See Francesco Baldessari's books at this link

Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo.

Informazioni aggiuntive

Articoli correlati (da tag)

Lascia un commento

Assicurati di aver digitato tutte le informazioni richieste, evidenziate da un asterisco (*). Non è consentito codice HTML.

Su questo sito usiamo i cookies. Navigando, li accetti.