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Shintoism DANIEL CLARENCE HOLTOM SHINTO draws attention to itself for various reasons. Two of them are of paramount interest. First, it calls for special scrutiny because it lies at the center of an intense nationalism. Japanese writers affirm almost unanimously that it is the main inspiration and manifestation of their national unity. For some two thousand years it has furnished an interwoven system of beliefs and ceremonies whereby the Japanese people have dramatized and supported the chief interests of their national life. In so far as Nipponism constitutes a threat to the peace of the rest of the world, Shinto must be subjected to a particular examination by all who would deal realistically with Japan. The conditions necessary either to the elimination or the redirection of some of its aspects must be made plain, for it is impossible to think of its continued existence in a world of intelligent and free men without important change. Just as Nazism and Fascism have called for special measures of control on the part of the democratic powers of the West because they are dangerous instruments of political and psychological unification, so also must Shinto be dealt with as the focus of an exclusive and in certain respects unassimilable Japanese nationalism. The directive issued on December 15, 1945, by the allied headquarters in Tokyo disestablishing Shinto from its favored position as the state religion of Japan and the emperor's renunciation of divinity that followed two weeks later set up new conditions of control over some aspects of this situation, but not over all. The sponsorship and dissemination of Shinto by government agencies and officials were prohibited. State support , by taxation or otherwise, of the shrines and their priests was terminated. All propagation of Shinto in the public schools was banned. The official use of Shinto as the chief inspiration of militarism was debarred. Forced participation in ceremonies at the shrines as a test of patriotism was annulled. Most signifi141 SHINTOISM cant of all, the traditional claim that the emperor's right to rule was a supernatural, and hence inviolable, inheritance from the ancestral gods was abandoned in favor of the understanding that it was derived from the will of the people. Over against all this, however, not a single shrine was closed. The organization of Shinto was changed but its continuity was unbroken. The operation of the cultus in fostering sentiments of loyalty and patriotism was shifted to a new basis but not destroyed. Emperor and people alike retained the right of participating as private citizens in the worship of the traditional deities. Domestic veneration before the god-shelves of the homes was untouched. Shinto was disqualified as a state religion but not abolished as a national faith. Shinto further invites consideration as the only example on earth today of an ancient tribal faith that has survived the vicissitudes of the centuries and lived on into the present as the national religion of a contemporary state. As the thoughtful Westerner takes a long look backward across the years and contemplates the dim areas out of which his own communal life has come, he may perhaps at times be impressed with the fact that the religion of his remote forebears lies scattered through the centuries as broken fragments of myth and ceremony or concealed, often almost beyond recognition, as curious folklore and legend. At times he may try to construct a picture of what the religion of his European ancestors might have looked like if it could have lived until today. He may even be tempted to wonder if his own nation might not have been stronger and richer if the old streams out of the faraway past had never dried up. Yet, in spite of occasional endeavors to quicken nationalism by the revival of old tribal rituals, this reaching back for ancient religious forms must always remain for the Occidental essentially a work of the imagination and the emotions— either the antiquarian research of a few specialists or a passing nostalgia on the part of those who after all is said and done are obliged to let the dead past bury its dead. It is to the Orient that the Westerner must turn if he wishes to find living suggestions of what his ancestral faith might have looked like had its unity never been destroyed. In Japan he will 142 DANIEL CLARENCE HOLTOM find surviving as vital social and political entities, institutions and ideas that are only ancestral memories in the Western story...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400877638
Related ISBN
9780691623238
MARC Record
OCLC
967589483
Pages
396
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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