We do not have ideology. We dance.

Joseph Campbell is one of my gods.  Or should that be kami….

He wrote perceptively about Shinto, describing it as a religion of awe and pointing out that it enables us to reach back to mankind’s earliest religious impulses in the face of a vast and unknowable universe.  One of his favourite anecdotes according to Bill Moyers was about an incident during a meeting of the Ninth International Congress for the History of Religions, which was held in Tokyo in 1958.  It concerned a dialogue between a Western sociologist and a Shinto priest, which he relates in his book on Japanese Mythology.

Western Sociologist:
“You know, I have now been to a number of these Shinto shrines and I have
seen quite a few rites, and I have read about it, thought about it; but you
know, I don’t get the ideology. I don’t get your theology.”

Shinto priest:
(polite, as though respecting the foreign scholar’s profound question;
pausing a while as though in thought; looking at his friend)

“We do not have ideology. We do not have theology. We dance.”

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We do not have ideology. We dance. — 4 Comments

  1. Dear John of the Rocks,
    Thank you for this wonderful quote. I was looking for it for my JCF Group here in London; two of the members are dancers and I know they’ll love it.
    This concept of Green Shinto is fascinating and comes hot on the heels of some personal research I’ve been delving into about the ordination of trees by Buddhist monks in Thailand.
    Keep up the great work. Bravo!
    Esther

    • Thank you, Esther, for the kind words, and it was great to learn of your website with those wonderful Joseph Campbell quotes, like this one: ‘Just sheer life cannot be said to have a purpose, because look at all he different purposes it has all over the place. But each incarnation, you might say, has a potentiality, and the mission of life is to live that potentiality. How do you do it? My answer is, follow your bliss. There’s something inside you that knows when you’re in the center, that knows when you’re on the beam or off the beam. And if you get off the beam to earn money, you’ve lost your life. And if you stay in the center and don’t get any money, you still have your bliss.’

    • Thank you, Ashley. By chance, I happened to look up Lord of the Dance yesterday because it has such inspiring lyrics, and found that the lyricist ‘Sydney Carter was inspired partly by Jesus, but also partly by a statue of the Hindu God Shiva as Nataraja (Shiva’s dancing pose) which sat on his desk’. The relation of Hindu to Shinto is close, so that partial inspiration suggests that it is very much relevant to the spirit of Shinto too. ‘Dance, dance, wherever you may be…’

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