Re: Is the Swastika evidence of a common origin?

Dan Moore (
22 Jan 1997 16:22:30 GMT

In article <>, says...

>First, I take no responsibility for the original distribution of the post
>to which I responded on one of the religion groups. Second, I don't
>expect agnostic types to believe everything I believe, but at the same
>time I expect them to hold to their position of agnosticism, which is one
>of "not knowning." If they are also scientific, they will be willing to
>consider all alternatives and not make absolute dogmatic statements.

No dogmatic statements were made. Evidence was requested. An agnostic,
in recognizing his/her lack of surity, will request supporting evidence
for assertions so that the agnostic can evaluate the assertion. Agnostics
do not claim "it is impossible to know" they claim "I don't know".

>Third, an agnostic or even an atheist should be able to understand the
>elements of artistic symbolism without having to believe in what it
>symbolizes. The absurd argument about the baby Buddha having literal
>chest hairs is the equivalent of saying that Renaissance painters and the
>devout believers who observed their paintings really believed that saints
>went around with metal rings suspended over their heads or that angels
>have human bodies to which are attached bird's wings, sans the muscles
>necessary to operate them. Or for that matter you could argue that
>geometricians believe that lines are material and have thickness, because
>they draw them so in their geomoetry books.

No, the discussion was not about iconigraphy. If one views a tanka, one
expects that symbols pointing to higher meaning will be used and that the
symbols are not to be taken literally. The baby Buddha with chest hair was
mentioned as a folk belief not an iconic device. The difference is that
by presenting this idea as a folk belief it is expected that there will
be people out there who are looking for this sign. By evoking iconigraphy
you have changed the nature of the subject from a belief to a symbol.

>Finally, I would point out that I myself, though not being a Buddhist,
>offered a possible explanation of the Buddhist use of the swastika in the
>way indicated. It seems to me that the highly touted openminedness of
>some "agnostic and scientific types" is highly exagerated.
>And Steve Pridgeon -- of whom I might well ask, why was he (as well as
>you) cross-posting to a religious newsgroup? -- comes across not as an
>agnostic but as a dogmatic materialist. The subject was one of the
>history of a symbol and its meaning.

No, the discussion was of the physical entity of the swastika and its
prevalence as a symbol. The discussion may have drifted toward meanings
applied to the symbol but primarily it was a discussion of the symbol itself.
The original suggestion was that the use of the swastika, regardless of
meaning applied, might be an indication of common origin. The simplicity
of the symbol and its repeatability suggests, to me anyway, that no
common origin could be extracted from the widespread use of the swastika.

If far flung cultures appied the same meaning to the swastika that might
be cause for speculation that these cultures were in contact with each
other. For example, finding that Spaniards and Philipinos both viewed
the cross as a symbol of death and resurrection would tend to support
the belief that these cultures were in contact. This is due to the
complex nature of the shared meaning. If each culture used a circle with
radiating lines as a symbol for "sun" the connection would less apparant
as the symbol and meaning are both simple. Likewise the sharing of a complex
symbol a simple meaning might indicate cultural contact.

>Even the most materialistic historian
>would grant the legitimacy of considering what other people thought of
>such symbols in ancient and modern times. Only a materialist who is
>terribly insecure in his world view would take umbrage at a discussion
>like this. And a true agnostic would take seriously his position that he
>does not know.

I don't see where this point applies to the current discussion.

>Well different strokes for different folks, but in this marketplace of
>ideas it is not always possible to avoid offending some people.
>Gerry Palo Denver, Colorado

Dan Moore