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The Sacred Dichotomy (Thoughts and Comments on the Duality of Female and Male Iconography in South Asia and the Mediterranean)

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The Sacred Dichotomy (Thoughts and Comments on the Duality of Female and Male 
Iconography in South Asia and the Mediterranean)
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Item Code: IDK202
Author: Fredrick W. Bunce
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 9788124603642
Pages: 89 (88 B/W Figures)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.9" X 7.5"
weight of the book is 970 gm
Preface

I met Prof. Fredrick Bunce a couple of years ago in New Delhi at an international conference hosted by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. I had just finished my presentation, and so we carried our coffee and snacks out on to the lawn to continue our conversation on comparative aesthetics that had ensued immediately after I stepped down from the podium! I was quite impressed by the animated manner in which Prof Bunce (a senior Professor!) discussed various issues, and his intense involvement in scholarship as well as new ideas. Immediately, I recognized in him a commitment to intellectuality – quite a rare commodity in these days of commercial culture. And now he has revealed his munificence and humility by asking me to write a preface for his new book! I feel really honored to do so. Knowledge sits so lightly on Fred Bunce. His many publications are adequate proof-and now this work.

I consider The Sacred Dichotomy as a work of importance in comparative religion as well as philosophy. The author has chosen a difficult task and carried it out with rlan. It is an immense field that this small book endeavors to encompass – Hindu (Sanskritic), Buddhist, Greek, Latin and western mystical traditions; and its field of enquiry is the sacred feminine in terms of myth, imagery and symbol.

At the outset itself as turned over the pages of the manuscript I was struck by the similarity that this work would evidence in scale and scope to the work of archetypal and analytical psychologists and scholars who followed in the wake of Carl Gustav Jung-like Erich Neumann, Mircea Eliade, Robert Graves, Friedrch Heiler, H. Zimmer and Elinor W. Gadon – and show sought the roots of the sacred feminine not only in the fabric of the metaphysic but further deeper in the creative psyche of the race. In principle Bunce's work is in line with the search for archetypes; however, his is a search for differences. Sacred Dichotomy is different and its difference lies in the style in which this author gives his observations – simple, straight-forward and unambiguous, and the unprejudiced and disinterested manner of his narration. There is much more that could be said of this book, of course, but suffice it to say that Bunce manages to remain free from prejudice and bias. That is the sign of a good comparatist – being able to perceive with a matter-of-fact clarity and perspicacity. And above all, this is a reference work that seeks to gather different entries together in one volume. The umbrella concept that holds them together is the dichotomy of the male and female principles.

The western world (or more specifically the Hebraic religious traditions) has been essentially masculine and has over the centuries heaped great value on those prowess that are often used to signify the male – aggression, domination and conquest. These have been perceived as binary opposites to those that would signify the female – passivity and acceptance. As Bunce points out in this reference guide, quite a few scholars have seen this dichotomy especially within the Mediterranean and South Asia, as a result of invasion and overthrowing of early, sedentary, matriarchal cultures by the warlike patriarchal, hunter-gatherers from North and Central Eurasia. Finally, it is noteworthy that the terms referring to homo sapiens as a group are virtually6 all oriented towards patriarchy – e.g., man (generic), mankind, human, female. Even woman falls beneath this spell! Thus, the enquiry into this sacred dichotomy would take one into, not merely religion and philosophy but also into anthropology, sociology, history, psychology and archaeology. It is to the credit of this author that he cuts across disciplines effortlessly and with ease. The reader thus has an overview of a terrain that, albeit complicated, is in the end, transparent and clear.

Entries are arranged alphabetically, and concepts clarified with figures and visual texts. Iconic images like the lingam and the cross and explained with cross-cultural references, and mystical symbols like the rose and the iris clarified with classical erudition and iconic representations. At no point would the sensitive reader be burdened with unnecessary information. The format of the illuminated manuscript that the author has adopted is most suitable for this venture.

It is significant that the author is currently based in Malaysia, and has thus a locale that provides him with a different angle of view – a right place for a scholar in comparative philosophy. After all, it is important for one to keep one's feet firmly planted on earth even while gazing wildly into the far skies! East is East, and West is West – so goes Kipling's now oft-quoted verse, but, however, in The Sacred Dichotomy, Fredrick Bunce has been able to break free beyond this misunderstood façade and see into the heart of things. The roots of this dichotomy of the sexes run quite deep in time and memory indeed. And yet, we come to recognize that ancient mystical traditions were essentially women-centered and fostered a world-view that was nature-friendly, and thus, of consequence environment-friendly as well Division and dominance that emerged later (?) have significantly altered the framework of human perceptions and relationships. Perhaps it would have been an entirely different picture had the author explored deeper into the sub-cultures or little traditions that have been marginalized in the march of the great Western machine of development and human progress! Of course that would have been another book!

The Sacred Dichotomy is bound to be of interest to both the common reader in casual pursuit of information as well as the serious researcher in search of knowledge and comparative scholarship. Of course, reference compilations in this field are a-plenty, but what would mark out Bunce's work as satisfying and noteworthy are the sharp insights that he often ushers in. and that, in my view, is unique.

From the Jacket

With numerous illustrations, this work examines the dichotomy of the male and female principles in South Asian and Mediterranean religious and cultural traditions: it is a comparative study that explores the roots and nature of the dichotomy of the sexes in these traditions by delving into the sacred in terms of myth, concept, imagery and symbols. With extensive notes, it presents drawings of more than 60 symbols and concepts revolving around the male and the female principles. With sharp insights and reflecting painstaking research, it delves into the rich and complex meanings attached to the moon, sun, dark/light, phallus, rose, svastika, womb and weapons in various religions. The discussion shows the dichotomy of the sacred in all major religions, mostly the male being elevated and the female made subservient. It explains how dichotomies are all embedded within cultural icons and the dualism is often based upon a localized concept of a good and evil, or a right and wrong, polarity.

The book will be useful to all interacted in comparative religion and cultural studies.

Fredrick W. Bunce, a Ph. D. a cultural historian of international eminence, is an authority on ancient iconography and Buddhist arts. He has been honoured with prestigious awards/commendations and is listed in Who's Who in American Art and the International Biographical Dictionary, 1980. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Art, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana. He has authored the following books all published by D.K. Printowrld:

Contents

List of Figures vii
Abbreviationsix
Prefacexi
Introduction2
Adityas/Daityas (Dityas)5
Aphrodite/Venus6
Apple7
Asuras/Suras 9
Attis (he-she)10
axis mundi10
black12
chalice13
cross14
Dampati14
Dark/light14
dichotomies/dualities 14
Dyaus Pitar/Prthivi 15
female/male16
five 17
Kama/Eros17
left18
left/right20
lily/iris20
lingam20
Magna Mater21
Magnus Pater22
matrist/patrist23
moon25
mudras25
mystic female25
mystical male28
mystical union30
nude32
pearl33
phallus34
phallus as architectural symbol36
red43
right45
rose47
rose, pink48
rose, red48
rose, white49
serpent/snake51
shell, cowrie 51
spear52
sun53
svastika 54
svastika, female54
svastika, male55
three 55
two56
vase/vessel57
weapons58
white59
womb60
womb as architectural symbol60
yab64
yab-yum64
yang64
yin65
yin-yang66
yoni66
yuganaddha66
yum67
Conclusions68
Notes71
Bibliography75
Acknowledgements79
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