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The Sacred Trees Around GoshonaiJapan -A contribution of building ethnology to the subject of tree worship- NOLD EGENTER Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich Introduction Throughout long periods of time and in many cultures the human spirit has been preoccupied with trees Evidence of this is to be found in the many representations pictorial and textual which tell us of sacred trees trees of life and light cosmic or world trees the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden trees of everlasting life of eternal youth and so on The wide extent of symbolism centered on the tree and its long history as the focal point of ideal worlds is also reflected in the many studies and investigations on this subject The abundance of studies is due not only to the great extent of mans spiritual relationship to trees but also to modern mans attraction to the rich symbolism surrounding the tree The fantastic associations with which primitive cultures have invested something that now appears to us as a natural object are indicative of a way of thinking that in its stronger imaginative power completely overshadows our own sober objective relations And yet are we right in our ideas about this earlier power of imagination Has symbolic thinking of this kind really sprung exclusively from the spirit As suggested by the German word Einbildung inimagination might it not have been sparked off by structures of the world of things Does symbolism only seem fantastic because it derives from events of cultural history which are now lost in the depths of time In other words could it be that what we regard as specifically spiritual in mans relation to the tree is actually traceable to lost culture
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