Joseph Campbell, from his book, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology . . . food for thought.

What does it mean? ~J

Joseph Campbell in his book The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology relates an interesting incident that is quite revealing. A western sociologist had been taken to every Shinto shrine in the country and became very confused by this uniquely Japanese form of worship. “He had observed the stately procession of the priests in their white vestments and black headdresses and black wooden shoes. He had heard the eerie risings of the spiritlike music, the pluckings of the koto, the alternating light and heavy drumbeats, the wind instruments and great gongs mingling with the sounds of wind and pines and sea. He had watched the heavily garbed dancers, some masked, others not, moving in dreamlike trance against intoned utterances. Then the whole thing would be over, the ritual done. But what did it mean?

Finally at a lawn party in a Japanese garden of rocks and lakes and pagodas and paths leading into unforeseen vistas, he confronted a Shinto priest with his dilemma. I’ve been to your Shinto shrines and I’ve seen quite a few of your ceremonies, he explained, but I still don’t get your ideology or your theology. The Japanese priest pondered the visiting sociologist’s question and then respectfully answered with a smile. “We do not have ideology. We do not have theology. We dance.”

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