Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066


Volume 7, No. 2 Fall 2012

Philosophy, Religion, and Hermeneutics


Index and Editors' Introduction


Introduction to Tama in Japanese Myth With Reply to my Critics
Tomoko Iwasawa | Reitaku University, Japan

The main thesis of this book is that relationship between the human and the divine manifested in Japanese myth is best understood by way of the symbolism of tama, and that this concept of tama discloses the hidden structure of the Kojiki, the oldest existing text of Japanese myth. This thesis challenges the prevailing notion that kami is the key to understanding the Japanese conception of divinity as well as the Japanese human-divine relationship. Western scholars have frequently criticized the Japanese concept of kami as being inconsistent, complicated, or ambiguous. This criticism, however, occurs by failing to appreciate the central role of tama in Japanese religious experience.

Keywords: Myth, Japanese; phenomenological hermeneutics; comparative philosophy of religion; re-mythologizing; the Kojiki; the Nihon Shoki; tama.


Commentary on Iwasawa's Tama in Japanese Myth
Michael Palencia-Roth | University of Illinois

For Iwasawa, Tama (spirit, soul, creative life force), more than Kami (deity, god), is at the heart of Japanese religion and spirituality. Yet Shinto shrines emphasize kami,barely mentioning tama,if at all. Also, conceptions of kami have become contaminated by Western notions of a moral God transcending his creation. Tama, therefore, is better suited to describe Japanese spirituality, especially as it derives from the ancient Kojiki and, as "the vital force that motives whatever comes into being," is more primal than kami. This groundbreaking study, which utilizes Western hermeneutics and phenomenology (Ricoeur, Bultmann, and Jaspers), will probably be controversial both for what it says about Japan and about Western religious consciousness.

Keywords: Tama; Kami; hermeneutics; phenomenology; Ricoeur, Paul; Gadamer, Hans-Georg; Bultmann, Rudolf; Jaspers, Karl.


Review of Tomoko Iwasawa's Tama in Japanese Myth
Fabio Rambelli | University of California, Santa Barbara

This is an important and innovative study on Shinto thought, away from received approaches emphasizing indigenousness and nationalistic tendencies. In a bold move, Iwasawa decides to shift her concern away from the concept of deity (kami), and writes that emphasis on kami is influenced by Western theistic discourses of religion assuming "the existence of a transcendent, moral law-giver, who is the source and foundation of an ethics of prohibition, condemnation, and forgiveness."

Keywords: Shinto; Mythology, Japanese; the Kojiki; Motoori, Norinaga; Hirata, Atsutane; religion, Japanese; tama; kami; hermeneutics.


Demythologizing and Remythologizing Tama
Purushottama Bilimoria| University of California, Berkeley; The University of Melbourne, Australia; Deakin University, Australia

The study quite effectively deploys the methodology of exegetical and phenomenological hermeneutics, derived in main here from Karl Jaspers, Paul Ricoeur, and Rudolph Bultmann—in particular, the programmatic of mythologizing, demythologizing, and re-mythologizing as argued by these authors in the context of human-divine relationship; the insights are then applied toward revisioning the relationship between myth and religion, in early-to-late Japanese religious history.

Keywords: Japan; tama; kami; the Kojiki; Jaspers, Karl; Motoori, Norinaga; Hirata, Atsutane; Iwasawa, Tomoko; mythology.


Remarks on Melancholy and the Otherness of God
Alina Feld | Hofstra University

The history of the hermeneutics of melancholy is the history of deepening and maturing of self-consciousness. Indeed, how would consciousness become visible to itself, or gage its own process of maturing if not in the mode of relating to its dark side and suffering? Becoming aware of its fragility and vulnerability while acknowledging the indelible mystery of existence and the demise of all the supports of literally understood mythological systems and metaphors that have been our props until Hegel's patripassionism and Nietzsche's declaration fulfilled by Altizer and the death of God theology has called forth a new moment in the evolution of consciousness. Global consciousness, or as Leahy calls it, thinking now occurring, the consciousness necessary for the creation of a new world, is the last moment of that destiny, the new moment of the totaliter aliter, apocalyptic consciousness. The present book is the recapitulation of this destiny before a new chapter begins.

Keywords: melancholy; depression; acedia; profound boredom; ennui; black humor; Saturn; mortal sin; subjectivity; time; apocalypse; nonbeing; otherness of God (or God's Other); patripassionism; death of God theology.


A Note on Feld's Remarks on Melancholy and the Otherness of God
Tom Rockmore | Duquesne University

Feld's recent study of melancholy is doubly remarkable, as one of the very few treatments of this phenomenon in detail, and as an excellent example of the application of philosophical sophistication to concrete human themes. It is frequent to encounter forms of humanism that turn on an interest in human being in the abstract. This is, on the contrary, a careful, detailed, informed, useful study of concrete human existence.

Keywords: Melancholy; acedia; happiness; unhappiness; depression.


Alina N. Feld's Melancholy and the Otherness of God
Thomas J.J. Altizer | State University of New York at Stony Brook

If melancholy is a taste of God's Other, as Feld argues in the philosophical tradition of Kierkegaard, then it is also a taste of apocalypse as well as the ground of transfiguration and redemption. What is the meaning of postmodern depression? Does it manifest God's Other? Or a new universal Body of God, no longer namable as God's? Feld's book is an invitation to think these questions further.

Keywords: Western interiority; postmodern depression; apocalypse; redemption; darkness of God; God's Other; damnation; predestination; horror religiosus; transfiguration.


Theology as Therapy—Reflections on Alina N. Feld's Melancholy and the Otherness of God
Michael L. Raposa | Lehigh University

Alina Feld's remarkable philosophical and theological exploration of the breadth and depth of human melancholy supplies invaluable resources for future scholarly conversation, not only in the field of philosophical theology, but also among psychologists and psychotherapists. Her psychoanalytic treatment of melancholy might fruitfully be compared with some of the insights generated by contemporary cognitive behavioral theorists studying depression. Moreover, by complementing her hermeneutical approach with Charles Peirce's semiotic perspective, it becomes possible to understand melancholy both as an interpretative response to the human situation and as itself an important sign demanding interpretation.

Keywords: Peirce, Charles; melancholy; semiosis; Beck, Aaron; cognitive therapy.


The God of the Existentialist Philosophers: Fate, Freedom, and the Mystery
David P. Nichols | Saginaw Valley State University

The following essay traces the influence of apophatic mysticism among prominent existentialist philosophers. I compare three post-war texts: Jaspers' Von der Wahrheit, Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism, and Heidegger's Letter on Humanism. In the immediate aftermath of WWII, all three philosophers offer ways of thinking about historical transformation coupled with the responsibilities that human beings have for letting another historical beginning take root. Jaspers and Heidegger are comfortable with a considerable amount of God-talk about deliverance, salvation, withdrawal, healing, and the holy. Sartre promotes a humanistic approach to existentialism, which dismisses God on the basis of being a creator who determines our essence in advance. This illustrates Sartre's unwillingness to explore more sophisticated possibilities for thinking about the divine, especially the "unknown God" motif informing the philosophies of Jaspers and Heidegger. Moreover, the failure of Sartre's particular humanism stems from his inability to successfully place the human being within the world in such a way as to be its guest. While Sartre settles for a rather shallow appraisal of religious claims reminiscent of Enlightenment skepticism, Jaspers and Heidegger find a way to let the history of Being unfold through and from religious life.

Keywords: Existentialism; Heidegger, Martin; Jaspers, Karl; Sartre, Jean-Paul; mysticism; humanism; apophatic; atheism.

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Humanity under Test—Comments on the God of Sartre, Heidegger, and Jaspers
Chung-ying Cheng | University of Hawai'i, Manoa

The comments here are positive responses to David Nichols' essay on the notions of the divine in Jaspers, Sartre, and Heidegger. In recognizing the insights of Nichols' analysis and his exposition of these three existentialist philosophers with regard to their views on the divine, this critique also reflects upon and explores some tacit implications of their existential thoughts, and concludes with daring and innovative remarks from within a Chinese philosophical point of view, namely it raises the question whether these thoughts in fact show that humanity is under test, not just under stress.

Keywords: God; soteriological; apophatic; Existenz; dao; tian.


The God Question
Catharina Stenqvist | Lunds Universitet, Sweden

The essay focuses on the apophatic tradition, Western metaphysics, and the unknown God. It presents Jaspers' thoughts on transcendence as an eye-opener. To take the issue of the unknown God, two philosophers are highlighted, David Hume and Simone Weil. For Hume the concept of the unknown God presents the problem of how might anything that is unknown have any moral influence on human beings? Simone Weil tries to combine the personal and the impersonal aspect of God, that is God is both known and unknown.

Keywords: Apophatic; Hume, David; Jaspers, Karl; life-view; Weil, Simone; via negativa; via positiva.

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Comments on David Nichols' The God of the Existentialist Philosopher
Purushottama Bilimoria | University of California, Berkeley; The University of Melbourne, Australia; Deakin University, Australia

The paper offers a critical reflection on David Nichols' treatment of the God of Existentialists, and it takes as its starting point Jaspers' pronouncement that at the root of existentialism is a mystery of Being–the missing God–that runs deeper than our conventional categories of theism, atheism, or agnosticism. The discussion turns on Heidegger's worry whether transcendence is comprehensible without any specific reference to God? What might be meant by "transcendence" is the unfettered pursuit of the question of being and the quest for freedom and authenticity of be-ing. And argument is developed that this exclusion still leaves room for philosophical reflection upon the religious, a notion of divinity sans Transcendental Being wholly in the experience of beings "as beings," and "propositional faith." Nichols' claim is congruent with Existentialism's attempt to find a ground from within the human being as the contextual whole through which the world appears. This claim is contrasted against Sartre's radically contrary view on the nothingness of all being.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Heidegger, Martin; Nichols, David; Sartre, Jean-Paul; Being; God; transcendence; nothingness; religion; existentialism; faith.

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Pascal BrucknerGuilt in Western Consciousness: With Perspectives from Karl Jaspers and Viktor Frankl
Troy Bruner| Camas Institute, Spokane, Washington

This essay investigates Pascal Bruckner's thesis that Anglo-Europeans suffer from a guilt consciousness based on the West's history of exploitation, aggression, and oppression. It is explained that while some of his ideas have merit, he overgeneralizes his criticisms of modern and postmodern philosophies, particularly existentialism. In support of this observation, the author describes Karl Jaspers' and Viktor Frankl's appraisal of the concept of collective guilt. There is a brief description of the relevance of the topic to the practice of existential psychology.

Keywords: Bruckner, Pascal; guilt; guilt consciousness; existentialism; existential analysis; Frankl, Viktor; Jaspers, Karl.

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Founding Editors
Alan M. Olson
Helmut Wautischer

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