The keris is a symbol of the male.
This is recorded in the earliest Javanese literature and is still the case today. I doubt that there is anybody who would challenge this assertion.
In Javanese culture, even numbers are feminine numbers, and uneven numbers are male numbers.
The waves in a keris must always be of an uneven number --- we can hardly have a symbol of the masculine bearing feminine characteristics.
Where keris are displayed they are correctly displayed as an uneven quantity, for this reason the traditional display racks (ploncon) used in Jawa to display keris always hold an uneven number of keris.
If we display our keris in a even quantity we are, in my opinion, exhibiting a lack of cultural sensitivity, and acting in a way that could draw anything from a quietly amused smile to harsh criticism, from people who are Javanese, or who are accustomed to Javanese mores.
Thank you for Sharing
Thank you for sharing.
Cultural etiquette in many facets of weapons collecting is I know very important. Having bought several Katana of late I have been reading a great deal on the correct way to handle and view blades in viewings and exhibitions. I am sure the community at large will benefit from this knowledge shared above as it has the possibility to be to the detriment of personal relationships and developments with others who have cultural and spiritual connections to the Keris.
A couple of questions though, by default, through the number of curves, does this display etiquette extend to all countries that Keris are found?
Is there a correct process/protocol that should be adopted when handling the Keris itself in the company of others?
I cannot speak for all countries where we find the keris, I can only speak for Jawa.
Yes, protocols do exist, but I will not get involved in explanations here, it would take too long, and is too open to misunderstanding.
In a western context, common western weapons etiquette is probably good enough. If you find you have need of Javanese etiquette, I'm sure that you will be coached by somebody on the spot before you embarrass anybody.
I have no doubt that what you say here is correct Alan, but i have seen Javanese Blawong designed specifically to hold two keris. Is there some special purpose or significance to these?
The keris in its completness is a symbol of the male - going into details we can devide again into male and female aspects.
In opposition we have the textiles as a symbol for the female princip.
This is not a special javanese concept but it is to find all over the archipelago.
But comming from an outside culture with our learned thinking and how to view things - which we will never be able to lay besides - we have to be careful with interpretations about especially believing concepts of cultures we do not belong to or better, were we not were born into.
The interpretation of uneven numbers of a javanese keris-blade as a symbol for the male princip of the keris is in my eyes or after my understanding an overinterpretation.
"The waves in a keris must always be of an uneven number --- we can hardly have a symbol of the masculine bearing feminine characteristics."
What is with the attribution of the keris-blade in general with the snake or naga, a female princip representing the underworld (female) and kept under control by the hilt which usually represent the male princip (ganesha, ancestor, raksasa, dewa, etc.).
As already said above, the system of even - uneven numbers, male - female, white - black, up -down etc. is not a specific javanese matter, it is to find all over the archipelago and represents the polaristic worldview of the cultures.
To overtake the sample with the uneven numbers of a javanese keris blade, as a symbol for the male princip, to Sumba hinggi, which is reflecting in general the female princip, would say, that the always uneven number of panels, the hinggis are devided into, would reflect the female princip - and who wants to postulate this?
In my eyes, the uneven numbers of a keris blade or the panels of a hinggi just reflect the polaristic princip. In Jawa there is a system known or discussed as moncapat lima (2+1=3; 4+1=5; 8+1=9 etc.) and its facily said based on the stucture of the old-javanese villages which where structured in the way of the 4 points of the compas and the over all standing 1 center-point (market place) so we come to 4+1=5 and so on.
This you also can reflect to the wavy keris-blade if sometimes the question comes if there are blades with even numbers. The answer is no, as you always have to ad this over all standing centre. In traditional villages there not only has been the market place but also the highest godness(es) etc. (think of western vilages, what is in the centre, the church, the pub and the market - places to pray and to meet).
The are other interprations besides just the male and female aspect, although it always will be a part of it but this will go to far here. Who is interested into it should read the assays from Rassers and the so-called "Leidener School" and the critism upon it.
Finally is to say: The system of the even and uneven numbers is not just a system of male and female but it is system of the polaristic worldview with the male and female parts as counterparts and an all overstanding central part where both other parts become one.
So far at the moment - usually I have no time - but this theme I couldn't let run without a comment.
I thank you, Guwaya, for your opinions and for expanding my intentionally simplistic comment into a broader cultural context.
If the simplistic interpretation of cultural correctness that I have put forward is an "overinterpretation", then it is an overinterpretation that is found in practice in Jawa today, and seemingly, at all times in the recorded past.
I doubt that I have ever seen any display of keris in Jawa itself, where the number of keris in a displayed group of keris was an even number.
I intended my comment as a very basic explanation of a common cultural more.
I did not intend it in any way as any sort of explanation of, nor comment upon, cultural polarities, nor the well known cultural phenomenon of duality.
However, since you have opened this subject, and since it is one in which I have some little interest, then let us not stop with the facile gloss that you have presented, but rather, let us continue to explore this subject.
You have raised a number of matters, which I will attempt to identify below; please correct me if I incorrectly state your intent.
1)--- female aspects to be found in the keris
2)--- textiles as a female attribute
3)--- commonality of cultural traits throughout the Indonesian Archipelago
4)--- interpretation of the characteristics of a culture
5)--- misinterpretation (overinterpretation) of male symbolism attached to the uneven number of waves in a keris blade
6)--- this interpretation, which I quote in its entirety:- "What is with the attribution of the keris-blade in general with the snake or naga, a female princip representing the underworld (female) and kept under control by the hilt which usually represent the male princip (ganesha, ancestor, raksasa, dewa, etc.)."
7)--- symbolism of the hinggi of Sumba (man's shoulder cloth, ikat)
8)--- the philosophy of cosmic balance
I complement you upon your ability to have been able to raise such a broad range of matters within such a small area of text, however, since most of us will perhaps not be particularly familiar with some of the matters that you have brought to our attention, I do hope that you can find time to expand upon these matters.
Of the matters that I have identified above, I personally find #6 to be of considerable interest, and I would be most interested to read your argument in support of this assertion.
Could you please oblige?
David, regarding these double blawongs.
The blawong actually has its roots as a wall decoration, not as something used to display keris. You can still sometimes see the old blawongs in village houses that are just a picture of a wayang character, or some other significant thing, hung as probably a protective device.
At some point, keris with particularly protective qualities began to be placed on these picture boards.
I have a number of old blawongs, the oldest probably dating to the second half of the 19th century, none of these old blawongs have been made specifically to hold keris, but have had holes to accept a cord to hold a keris put into them, seemingly, as an after-thought.
It seems to me that these double blawongs, and blawongs made to accept tombak and pedang and other things in all sorts of combinations, are a comparatively recent development and are a purely commercial production, intended only as wall displays.
We could theorise about the place of the double blawong:-
as Guwaya has pointed out, Javanese thought and culture is permeated by the concept of duality;
within a Javanese house, parts of the house can be identified as male, parts as female;
sometimes keris will be found in pairs, one male, one female, usually as a patrem;
if the keris is hung on the wall as a protective device, and that keris has a paired mate, then if the full protective effect is to take place, it can only take place within the presence of the pair, rather than only one of the pair;
because of the duality of the house, and the duality of paired keris, there is no contradiction in this, as the keris have been put together not as a displayed item, but as protective device, and protective effect flows from the concept of duality.
I repeat:- theorization.
I have never heard this, nor read it, nor even considered the question, but if we want to play cultural guessing games, I'm as willing as the next to float unsupported ideas.
Just don't hold me to them.
We can have discussion, we can have theory, we can have assertion, and we can have fact.
The above is neither assertion, nor fact.
Fact must be supported by evidence or logical argument.
Assertion must be something that the asserter truly believes to his own satisfaction.
What I have given you is theory as a part of discussion.
But I'll also give you an assertion:- double blawongs were produced to provide a marketable commodity to be purchased by people to whom Javanese cultural mores did not apply.
Thank you for an interesting explanation. What about kerises that are attributed as female or a patrem, if it have luk why do you think it still have odd numbered luks? Or is it a female keris or a patrem must be a straight one? Does a straight keris portrays both gender etc?
About the symbolism of this thread:
There is a book "Der javanische "Keris" : Funktion und sozio-religiose Symbolik by Wolfgang Spielmann" written in german language that i think would be very interesting (but i don't know this language)
About this book : there are any Forum friend that has some news about a future english version of the work? :confused:
Yes, i would agree that these double blawongs are being made commercially with the intent for display. However you stated earlier:
If we display our keris in a even quantity we are, in my opinion, exhibiting a lack of cultural sensitivity, and acting in a way that could draw anything from a quietly amused smile to harsh criticism, from people who are Javanese, or who are accustomed to Javanese mores.
For me this begs the question, why then would Javanese people who are accustom to Javanese mores create such a display piece for the commercial market? It seems unlikely that they were being swamped with requests from foreigners who don't know any better for double blawongs. So would you say then that possibly the idea for these is born out of a more ritual concept of being intended as a protective display for the home, meant for an esoteric pairing of two keris? Otherwise i don't understand why Javanese people would get the idea to commercial produce these in the first place.
Photos below borrowed from Adni. :)
David, let me try to explain the idea of "Jawa".
If you look at a map you will see an island that is identified as Jawa (or Java) as a part of Indonesia.
But to traditional Javanese people, this island is not The Land of Jawa. Jawa to the Javanese is the place where the Javanese language is spoken, and the core area of this is Central Jawa, in the localities under the influence of the Karatons of Surakarta and Jogjakarta.
Within this Land of Jawa there are people from many different ethnic backgrounds, there are people who identify themselves as Arab, Indian, European, Chinese, Balinese, Madurese. There are Javanese people who, although Javanese, pay lip service only to Javanese cultural mores, and seem to think of themselves as Indonesians, rather Javanese. There are Javanese people who are very rigorous in their devotion to Islam, or to Christianity or Buddhism, and the tenets of their faith prevent them from acting in ways that are not in accord with their religious beliefs.
Then there are people who identify themselves first and foremost as Javanese.However, just because they do identify as Javanese does not necessarily mean that they understand or practice every principle of being Javanese. They may recognise a principle if reminded of it, but the reality of every day life no longer requires that they practice those principles on a day to day basis.
To this demographic that I have outlined above we can add all those people who live outside the Land of Jawa, and we then have the demographic from which the buyers of keris are drawn.
A trader will sell anything that his customers will buy. If a buyer wants something, it is a trader headed for bankruptcy who does not ensure that he makes every effort to provide what the buyer wants.
David, you have asked:- "--- why then would Javanese people who are accustom to Javanese mores create such a display piece for the commercial market?---"
I feel that if you consider what I have written above, you will have the answer to your question.
The truly Javanese people whom I know and who have a number of keris, do not ever place those keris on public display. A man may have many keris, and he may think of himself as a keris collector, but his collection will not be on display.It might be necessary to visit that man several times before he will allow you to see one of his keris. My daughter's brother-in-law is a collector of keris, and he is a Javanese who follows Javanese philosophy. He keeps his keris in a locked wooden cupboard in a particular room of his house that is not open to visitors. Because I'm family, I have been into this room and I have seen and handled his collection, but not even a friend will normally be permitted into this room, and that friend will only only see one or two keris at any one time, which will be brought into the front visitors area for him to see.
Empu Suparman had a display of 7 keris in his front visitors room. They were keris that he himself had made. His three personal keris were kept in a locked cupboard in a private room and were never seen by anybody except very close friends or family.
In a village situation a family may have a keris that is considered to have certain protective powers. From time to time that keris may be placed in a public area of the house, it may be hung high on a wall, and if the family also has a blawong, it may be hung on the blawong, but it is unlikely that it will be a permanent fixture in that public position.
I could go on all day quoting similar examples, but it is probably sufficient to say that to a person who truly subscribes to Javanese philosophy and standards, it is anathema to place his personal keris on public display.
But the bulk of people who are members of this discussion group are not traditional Javanese. Yes, there are members here who are ethnic Javanese, but I rather doubt that many of those people are hardcore traditional Javanese.
So possibly we need to ask ourselves if it really matters to us how we keep, store, display and treat our keris.
If a collector in New York or Sydney or Amsterdam has a primary focus on the physical object and only a more or less general interest in the attendant culture, he can probably display his keris in any way he wishes.
However, if his involvement in keris study is perhaps a little deeper, he may wish to follow at least some of the basic principles of traditional Javanese society and culture.
David has just raised a question that I have answered that probably requires a little further explanation.
Guwaya has also commented in respect of the principle of numerical assignment on the basis of gender :- "--- interpretation of uneven numbers of a javanese keris-blade as a symbol for the male princip of the keris is in my eyes or after my understanding an overinterpretation---"
The modern keris made its appearance in Jawa at a time when the dominant philosophy and religious system in Jawa was Hindu. Thus, although the keris is beyond doubt a product of Javanese thought, it is Javanese thought under the influence of Hindu culture.
Hindu culture cannot be understood in the absence of an understanding of numerology and astrology. These are basic principles in the organization of Hindu society. Thus, if we are to understand the nature of the keris at the time of its development to the modern form, we need to understand it within the parameters of Hindu culture in Jawa. This understanding necessarily involves an understanding of Hindu principles of numerology in their Javanese context.
It also involves an understanding of duality as this applies within Hindu and Javanese thought.
The keris can be understood in a purely numerological context, but with Hindu numerology the interpretation of the numbers involved requires an understanding of the basic matrix governing the thing that is to be evaluated.
In the case of the keris, we have an object that is undeniably a symbol of the male, but an object that in some circumstances can be a symbol of the family, community or society.
In its incarnation as a male symbol it requires assessment within a purely male matrix, but in its assessment as family symbol, that matrix alters, as it does for assessment as a community or society symbol.
For example, keris waves in a Javanese keris normally range between 1 and 13. The numbers from 3 to 9 are undeniably male numbers, however, when we come to the compound numbers of 11 and 13, these can be interpreted as either 1 + 1 and 1 + 3, or 2 and 4. The number 1 can be read as an absolute, thus representative of the divine, or it can be read as male. The way the interpretation is applied is dependent upon the factors influencing the interpretation.
If we consider the nature of the numbers from 1 to 5, we will see that there is an overwhelming spiritual tone to a reading, however, when we move beyond 5 we find that there is a tendency to move towards the material.
Thus, although the primary interpretation of gender assignment to the keris must always be male, a much deeper knowledge of applicable factors may introduce elements of the female as a part of the male. In Hindu thought no man is complete in the absence of a woman, no woman is complete in the absence of a man:- the two together make the whole, and that whole forms the basis for the fabric of society.
Thus, consideration of the keris itself, that is, the blade, must always be within the male matrix, however, when that blade gains a hilt and a scabbard we are looking at the addition of things which contribute to completeness, and the complete keris is thus able to considered within a matrix that incorporates the female element, just as family and society incorporate the female element.
The above attempt at explanation is an extremely simplistic one, but I have tried to keep it within parameters that I hope will be easily understood.
Rasdan, my interest is primarily in origin of the keris, as such I look at the keris from the viewpoint of the keris at the time of its appearance in its modern form.
In any culture, time alters perception.
Javanese and all other cultures as we see them today and in the immediate past, are not the same, nor do they have the same standards, that they may have had at some time in the past.
In the year 2010 we are 200 years in advance of the time when Raffles observed that the keris in Jawa had become similar in its place in society to the small sword in Europe in the middle of the previous century.
You have asked:-
"---What about kerises that are attributed as female or a patrem, if it have luk why do you think it still have odd numbered luks? Or is it a female keris or a patrem must be a straight one? Does a straight keris portrays both gender etc?---"
To answer this question we need to first know the time, place and reason for some women to be permitted to carry keris.
We know that in Bali in comparatively recent times it was not at all unusual for a woman to stab herself in the heart with a family or borrowed keris before throwing herself upon her husband's funeral pyre. This also occurred during the puputans, and in olden times women would commit suicide, sometimes by stabbing, rather than be taken captive by invading soldiers.
Consider this within the Hindu framework:- a woman cannot have an existence in the absence of her male counterpart, be that woman wife or concubine. Philosophically she has no alternative but to leave society at the same time as her husband.
I doubt that we can answer the question of when and why women were first permitted to carry keris, but what we do know is that the women who carry patrem are usually members of a Kraton hierarchy. It could be theorized that the keris is symbolic of intention to commit suicide in the event of the death of her husband, or of her honour being put under threat.
In a case where a patrem has a waved blade, I believe that we can have confidence that this blade was made at a time subsequent to general understanding of the principles governing correct fabrication of a keris blade.
In other words, whoever made it got it wrong.
Regarding Wolfgang Spielman's doctoral thesis.
This has been reviewed and mentioned in David van Duuren's bibliography.
My understanding of this review is that Dr. Spielman has provided a comprehensive, scientific and tightly organised over-view of the keris, which Dr. van Duuren rates as "---deserves to be included with the best general inroductions to the Javanese keris---"
Dr. van Duuren goes on to say:- "--- the author does not develop a personal viewpoint;rather, the value of his work lies in the way it ties facts into fiction and vice versa.---"
Wolfgang Spielman's work is a good general introduction which incorporates information to be found in other already published works.
There is nothing new in his work. As I was told by one very highly respected student of the keris who has German as his second language:- "you will not find anything in this work that has not already been treated elsewhere."
In other words, nothing new, but the content is very well presented.
Alan G. Maisey:
It is true that the "modern keris made its appearance in Jawa at a time when the dominant philosophy and religious system in Jawa was Hindu. Thus, although the keris is beyond doubt a product of Javanese thought, it is Javanese thought under the influence of Hindu culture."
But even if we have to see the context with the hinduistic culture we shouldn't forget the 'old-jawanese' cultural elements. Those indigenious based cultural elements I for myself attribute more importance to then to those of a culture which came later and met upon an already existing own culture and was in some way adapted into this already existing thinkings. The balinese hinduism is a woderfull sample herefore.
If somebody is interested into the keris he naturaly has to understand the hinduistic culture but in my eyes more so about the old-jawanese elements as this is the basis. You can compare it somehow with the todays wayang performances with those some years ago. Nowadays you will often find islamic elements integrated into the stories and Hardionagoro once spoke to me in that direction: "we have to accept the influences of these islamic elements into thejawanese traditional art, otherwise we will loose the control over it competly".
Before I continue I would like to clear the two terms od DUALISM and POLARISM, as polarism is often confounded with dualism.
DUALISM means to build mutually exclusive opposites (yes - no; black - white; top - bottom etc.).
POLARISM bears not only two conditions but three, with a neutral centre between two mutually dependent poles. The polarism you can say closes the dualism and is an implement for the understanding of the world.
Under this aspect the jawanese culture doesn't follow the concept of duality, it follows the concept of polarism which implies the duality - but is a difference.
If you see the jawanese culture (or the keris in as one representant of this culture) it is of great importance to display the polaristic aspect and it is impossible to see isolated just one of these two opposites as they need each other and only together they build an entire. (There is the upperworld and the underworld and between those two is the middle world with the humans who have to arrange their life in that way that not one of the opposites become stronger than the otherone. Both sides have to be kept in balance, to keep the middleworld in harmony).
This concept you will find in in every part of the traditional jawanese culture (and not only the jawanese), and it is very clear if special elements of the material culture are attributed to one of the opposite sides (weapons = male - textiles = female) and going into the details you will find it inside one item of material culture again. The combination of both opposites then again become the symbol of the totality, of the over all standing and everything unifying entirety.
If anybody is looking or real interested into the symbolik of the material cultural object of the keris I only can warn to see it to much under the aspect of indian influence - more important, in my eyes, are the old-jawanese aspects as far as they can be still researched. But even if they cannot be researched or requested again it is better to leave a questionmark than to force an answer in a hinduistic direction because it is easier to receive information - otherise we run into a situation what Hardionagoro meant when he said: "we have to accept the islamic influence in the jawanese art but we ghave to watch it critically, if we don't, the influence will still go on but without any chance for us to react."
THE JAWANESE KERIS IS NOT INDIA - elements (a lot) are adapted, but it is not all, although many western like to reduce it to this theme, possibly because it is easy as you can reduce your researches upon literature studies.
Under this, my personal view, I can hardly find an interpretation which attributes the uneven numbers of luk to the male princip of the keris. I am aware about the fact that in some literature is postulated that the term keris from the Jawanese is used for the keris in its completness as well as just for the blade. For myself I don't have any proof of the correctness of this statement and it must be allowed to doubt it.
I am always afraid of overinterpretations brought into mostly from members of an outside culture. Unfortunately it is getting more and more difficult to receive serious research results about such questions - if it is not already too late.
I cannot see any weapon, whereever, which is called sword, dagger, keris etc. without a handle. Blades are generally called what they are, sword blade, knife blade, keris blade or better "wilah". Hence, regarding the theme of symbolism of the keris it would possibly better to take a keris pesi iras as we here better can see an clearify the concept of opposite pairs and tho over all standing concept of polarism.
I think that this is a theme going much to far for a platform like here as it is so complex and you could fill a complete semester or more of studying such questions.
Taking a keris pesi iras is a good way to introduce this polaristic concept as we have the blade (snake = female and the hilt = representing an ancestor or anthropomorphic figure = male). Both controll via the theoretical concept of the polarism each other and finally build the entirety.
The main thing is to understand or let us better say to try to understand the importance of the polaristic aspect and organisation of the traditional jawanese and south-east-asian world view in genral. We western educated and grown up people are to fast gliding into the thinking of a "black- and white" sheme. South-east asia with its completely different religious believing system - which besides is much much older than judaism, christianity or islam - is completely different, different in thinking, different in acting etc. and I for myself, I really hope and wish that it will survive.
Already here I apologize myself for the closer future if answering late - but I have to feed my wife and myself and I am "sibuk with cari uang."
Alan G. Maisey:
Literature - we had this theme already. To Spielmann's thesis:
1. It is no doctaral thesis - it is an MA-Thesis and it is also mentioned in the Encyklopedi and other scientific written works.
2. Literature and new ideas is always to be seen when the book or paper was written or published and in context with the knowledge standard at that time. Spielmann's thesis was researched in the mid until the end 80's and by that time the literature situation was different - Harsrinuksmo's 1st edition of the Enciklopadi was not yet published. There was Solyom, Frey and the other essays. Double sided copies in copy-shops were not yet possible.
3. The aim behind this work was for the first part to give an introduction "what is a keris". If by that time somebody would visit a n ethnographic museum and would have seen a keris and then later would search literatur to know "what is a keris?, he would not find any systematic book which explains it. So the first half or two third are systematic organisations of collected information of articels etc.
4. The last 3rd part handles with theoretical conceptes - already difficult for many german native speekers to read and understand and I really doubt that your "highly respected student of the keris with German as his second language" is able to understand the text - or, he didn't read it because to difficlt.
5. The book was never published in another language but interesting is for somebody who goes to Leiden in Holland - there you will find the original book and not just the small paperback - a bit different, but if somebody looks for new informations I only see one possibility - go yourself to Jawa and other places and research! Or pay for it, that somebody does the researches! We had this theme already.
Facit: No new informations but an excellent sample how serious literature should be written. Every statement you can proof via citates. I whised somebody nowadays would create such a serious book, than all this for me boaring picture books with many not proofable statements. Kerner is the best example how literature not should be written. (Besides - I didn't forget you and the statistic of Kerner - give me some time please).
I am not so sure that taking the keris iras as an example for this discussion makes that much sense since it is the exception to the rule and the great majority of keris have separate gonjo. In the case of a separte gonjo if we are to discuss it in regards to polarity the gonjo seems the obvious female part that is pierced by the pesi of the wilah. The pesi is an intrinsic part the wilah as a whole. So if i break this down to polarity the blade=male, the gonjo=female. I have heard the hilt described as the head of the keris before, but no necessarily as the male principle. What about hilts that depict female form? They are less common, but certainly exist. The so-called "durga" hilt comes to mind immediately.
You keep saying that the wilah=female, but i don't see anything other than your own personal assertion to this. What do you base this on other than your own personal view? You are the very first person, indonesian or otherwise, in my years of discussion about keris to suggest this. I have spent a great deal of time studying the symbolism of the snake (and naga) in cultures throughout the world. It too has a dualistic (male/female) character and nature. Snakes have been seen as symbolic of the great divine mother in some cultures. But due to it's very physical nature it is most often related to the male principle. So i am open to your interpretation, but i think you thesis needs more than your own personal assertion to carry any real weight.
As for seeing Javanese culture as Hindu and therefore Indian, i don't believe that is what Alan was suggesting at all. Certainly just as the Javanese have shaped Islam to the Javanese cultural model, they did the same with the Hindu religion. This does not mean, however, that we can have a full understanding of the synthesis without also understanding the concepts that the Hindu culture brought to Jawa.
I thank you Guwaya for taking time from your extremely busy schedule to provide a response to my simplistic and limited comments in respect of the understanding of the keris from the numerological aspect.
I thank you most sincerely for providing your explanation of the term "polarism" .
I do not know this as an English word, and I must admit it did confuse me. Polarity I know, but although I have consulted a number of references, I could not find polarism. Your explanation has clarified your interpretation of this term. Thank you.
In general, I can find very little with which to disagree in your response to my comments.
I chose to introduce the Hindu theme because it is valid, as we know from the early literature, and I do agree that this Hindu influence must be understood within a Javanese context, as I have already stated.
We seem to be of like mind when it comes to the acknowledgement that cultural mores change over time, as they must, for any culture that rejects change soon becomes a dead culture. As Panembahan Hardjonagoro (Alm.) pointed out to you, new influences which affect a culture must be taken in and by the process of syncretism absorbed into the body of the existing culture, only by this process can the core values of the existing culture be preserved. Javanese culture is well known for its long and continued use of the syncretic process, and this is the prime reason for its continued vitality.
I do find your rejection of the principle of dualism as applicable to Javanese culture and society rather interesting. Just as I find your use of the term "polarism" interesting. I tend to believe that you may have some rather unique ideas about Javanese culture and society, and I would be interested in hearing more of these ideas. I think I recognise what you are attempting to come to terms with by use of the concept (as you express it) of polarism. I do not yet know if I like this approach or not. My feeling is that there is no difference between us in our positions, but perhaps a difference in expression of those positions.
The keris is not India --- who will argue with you? I myself destroyed this idea more than 10 years ago.
Textiles : weapons ? yes, we know that.
Distrust of cultural interpretations from those not born into a culture? A recurrent theme and one that is as easily supported as it is destroyed. Very often the cultural interpretations from those born into a culture are as defective as the interpretations from those who have come from outside the culture. It is quality of the research and understanding that counts, and this is not dependent upon place of birth.
As you remark, this discussion is becoming far too diverse for this venue, and I can only agree with you. The problem here is that in order to provide a small foundation for people with a very limited understanding of the ideas and concepts at play in respect of a cultural icon like the keris, we need to introduce a very small amount of material that by its extremely limited nature is open to criticism by anybody with even a smattering of understanding of the subject matter. What I wrote on the numerological interpretation of the keris was intended to provide just sufficient information so that those with limited understanding could begin to have some comprehension of the complexity of the matter with which we are dealing, and perhaps, if their interest was sufficiently aroused to begin some further research for themselves.
But now I think it is time to consider your most interesting comments of all:-
"--- I can hardly find an interpretation which attributes the uneven numbers of luk to the male princip of the keris.---"
I find this to be a revealing statement, and I do hope that in time to come you will find the evidence you currently need.
"--- Hence, regarding the theme of symbolism of the keris it would possibly better to take a keris pesi iras as we here better can see an clearify the concept of opposite pairs and tho over all standing concept of polarism.---"
This sentence I simply do not understand. Please accept my apologies for my mental incapacity.
"--- Taking a keris pesi iras is a good way to introduce this polaristic concept as we have the blade (snake = female and the hilt = representing an ancestor or anthropomorphic figure = male). Both controll via the theoretical concept of the polarism each other and finally build the entirety.---"
This statement is fascinating to say the least, and I am certain I would enjoy immensely a reading of your argument in support of these ideas.
Just as a matter of interest, do you consider the keris as symbolic of snakes in general, or of serpents, or of nagas? Do you differentiate between these three groups? Or, do you consider the keris as representative of a particular entity? How do you understand the idea of "naga", as it applies to Javanese Hindu thought?
I like your style Guwaya: much of what you have set forth is quite close to my own understanding of perhaps 40 years ago.
Again I thank you Guwaya for your comments in respect of Spielman's thesis.
Let me make it very clear that I have no opinion regarding this thesis. I have not read it, I cannot read it, and I can only go on the reports of those who have read it. I have summarised these reports and I thank you again for delivering virtually the same opinion of Spielman's work as the opinions I have already received.
My "highly respected student of the keris" is in fact a Dutchman, and although German is one of his second languages, I have the assurance of German native speakers that he is fluent in this language. I regret that I am unable to name this man, but perhaps it is sufficient to say that he is a man in his sixties, an academic, and an ethnologist. It is his business to understand the writings of those in his field.It is clear that since he has delivered the same opinion of Spielman's writings as you have yourself, that he apparently did understand what was written.
It should also be noted that his praise for Spielman's presentation is equally as high as your own.
Taken from " KRISSES, A critical bibliography,David van Duuren", herewith is the complete review of :-
Der javanische "Keris": Funktion und sozio-religiose Symbolik.
(Mundus Reihe Ethnologie, Band 41). Bonn:Holos, 1991.
This published edition of a doctoral thesis, which the author had originally delivered at a Cologne university, deserves to be included with the best general introductions to the Javanese keris. Spielmann has managed to include and concisely review each and every imaginable significant and interesting aspect of the kris. He presents a scientific argument , tightly and systematically arranged . It consists of two large chapters; the first is about the details and symbolism of the kris's ornamental elements
(Detaildarstellung und Symbolik der Verzierungselements"-p.25-92), the second is devoted to its function ( Funktion der Kris'-p.93-141).
These include a selective yet viable survey from the existing literature, complemented by many drawings (taken from the sources in question). Admittedly the author does not develop a personal viewpoint; rather, the value of his work lies in the way it ties facts into fiction and vice versa. In the final section the structuralist models created by the 'School of Leyden' experts and in particular by Rassers, are subjected to critical investigation and consequently deemed overly mathematical and abstract. Preliminary to writing his thesis Spielmann had conducted researches in several German and Dutch museums; in Holland he had also studied the large private collections of A. Th. Alkema and J. van Daalen.
In Guwaya's post # 15 he has provided an explanation of the terms "dualism" and "polarism", and has then gone on to base his ensuing argument upon these definitions.
I have given considerable thought to this, and have finally come to the decision that a little more attention needs to be given to these two concepts.
The concept of dualism can have many applications, philosophical, religious, societal, to name a few. If we apply the term dualism to a culture , we are referring to the philosophical concepts that govern the way in which that culture is organized. The doctrine of dualism holds that reality consists of two basic principles in opposition that account for all in existence. However, there are many ways in which to understand the principle of dualism, so, when we seek to apply the term to some particular entity, we need to be quite careful in our choice of the philosophical basis of selection. In other words, we cannot apply the type of dualism that is correct for the understanding of oranges to an apple: we need to select the correct form of dualism to use if we wish to have an understanding of the apple.
The concept of dualism in a culture is not unique to Javanese culture, but over many years the objective study of this culture has caused many professionals in the fields of anthropology and sociology to apply the description of "dualism" to Javanese culture. In fact, it is difficult to find a text dealing with Javanese society and culture that does not at some point introduce the concept of it being a dualistic society.
Guwaya has defined dualism as:- "DUALISM means to build mutually exclusive opposites (yes - no; black - white; top - bottom etc.)."
This is arguably an accurate definition as far as it goes. However, this view of dualism is essentially a Western construct, and it cannot be applied to the concept of dualism as it operates within Javanese society and its dominant culture.
The way in which we need to consider dualism within the Javanese context is more closely aligned to way in which this concept operates according to the philosophy of the Tao. As an example, consider the yin-yang symbol:- this is a circle with a waved line dividing it in half, one half is white, one half is black; within each of those halves, one white, one black, is a small circle of the opposite colour, a black circle in the white half, a white circle within the black half.
The way this is to be understood is that these two opposites exist together in a harmonic relationship, and each carries in itself a part of the other and has the capacity to change into the other. The whole idea of Eastern dualism is concerned with harmony and balance, it is not concerned with two opposites in constant and immutable conflict with each other. The yin-yang concept permeates Eastern thought and is a graphic representation of the natural order of things. Everything is a manifestation of one force, the Tao, but for there to be a recognizable reality there needs to be distinction, thus we have the opposing elements of darkness and light, being and not being, male and female, and so on, but each of these opposites is dependent upon the other:- in the absence of something known as "darkness", there can be no "light"; each pair of opposites operates in a reciprocal way so that each of the pair gives and receives.
Quite simply, dualism in Javanese society and culture does not involve "mutually exclusive opposites"; exactly the reverse is the case:- it involves mutually reciprocal opposites, opposites which depend upon each other for their existence.
This is quite different to the concept of dualism that Guwaya has defined, and which is much more closely aligned with the Western idea of constant opposition. The Western idea is concerned with a dynamic in opposition : the Eastern idea is concerned with a dynamic in harmony.
When we understand the way in which Javanese duality needs to be approached, that is, from an Eastern, rather than a Western philosophical foundation, then there is no need to introduce this other term of "polarization", which in this context is, I must admit, a very new usage of the word for me, but which seems to try to express the Eastern understanding of duality.
Alan G. Maisey.
I see, that I am completly misinterpretated or misunderstood. My definition of dualism was not thought to be understood as you declared it here - and definitely this little definition does not reflect my thinking. The opposite is the case and this I tried to explain with the true concept of POLARISM (with a 3rd factor arranging the harmony between 2 poles) and I wanted to show in my further statements the mistakly use of the term DAUALITY. I wanted to show that the far easter system is not a duality system but a polarity system: GOOD - balance/harmony (manusia) - BAD ; UPPERWORLD - MIDDLEWORLD (manusia looking for/balance/harmony between upper- and underworld) - UNDERWORLD.
I tried to explain that the term dualism (especially for eastern countries is often misundestood). I SAID NOTHING ELSE THAN YOU NOW Do HERE. And then I came to the term Polarism which involves exactly these aspects of eastern thinking as you described it. I did nothing esle than try to express that the basis of eastern culture is not a duality system but a polarity system (not 2 stages but 3). Upperworld - Underworld and beetween the middleworld looking to to arrange the harmony, the balance between the two poles. EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAY HERE and I apologize if I am not be able to bring this over - the consequence for myself is, that I will from now on stay away from such a discussion.
If you already didn't understand that in fact I exactly told the same as you did here and just take out of the whole statement my few words trying to show up the difference between DUALISM and POLARISM in a short explaining of thes terms, than I failed in my further try of explanation of these subject and before I will be attributed with statements I never did and never were meant in that way i prefer to keep quiet. Who else will understand it - and people very fast attribute a wrong housenumber to somebody. (Maybe you should read again what I have written further on after this try of clearing of terms - in the text in its completeness is the essence and not in a little fracture part, and I still hope you will understand what I wrote. It is nearly a shock for me what you like to interpretate into my words - completely wrong and it is very frustating that nothing of what I wrote came over in its right meaning!
My approval for the time you took - but sorry, exactly the oposite what you read in my lines I wanted to show.
Guwaya, please calm down.
You are not under attack.
I am very aware that you are writing in a language that is not your native language, and that the concepts you are attempting to explain are difficult concepts to explain even if we use our own native language.
As I said in an earlier post:- My feeling is that there is no difference between us in our positions, but perhaps a difference in expression of those positions.
You have chosen to express your point of view by use of the term "polarism", which for me is a strange word, and in spite of my searching --- and I might add, a couple of phone calls to people who should know this word in this context --- I am unable to find this word in any relevant context. However, what you describe as polarism , I understand as fitting within the parameters of the Taoist philosophy of dualism.
You understand the system as representing "polarism" . I, and any other source I am familiar with, understand the same system as a form of duality. There is no difference in the understandings, only in your choice of words to describe that understanding.
The one line explanation of dualism that you provided carried with it the danger of misunderstanding, simply because it was dualism explained from a simplistic Western point of view, rather than from a point of view relevant to the culture under discussion.
You have not been misinterpreted or misunderstood, at least not by me, but by your use of the concept of "polarism" you have moved outside the normal terms of reference that we apply to these ideas.
I have attempted to rectify the record.
So just take a deep breath, calm down, and try to realize that I'm on your side. You're not under attack, you're not being challenged, you're not misunderstood. What I am attempting to do is make your position defensible and to encourage you to expand upon your ideas.
Your vision appears to be quite unique in its nature, and I am certain that not only I, but many others would greatly appreciate your continued participation in this discussion.
Alan G. Maisey:
I thank you for your clearance and your words and I apologize myself in bringing such great confusion with using the term POLARISM. In the hurry I wrote I just translated the term from my language into English - same possibly with the term DUALISM.
Probably in English its use is DUALITY and POLARITY. It was a graet discussion in the Ethnolgy in the late 80's and if you ask your duch keris-expert who is an Ethnologist and I am sure as a dutch person fluent in German and English, he will know what is meant as especially the so-called "Leidener School" and especially van Baal had to do with it.
So POLARity might be the right word and is to understand in that way that eastern cultures are in western litertur falsely described as dualily (dualistic) systems but they are not. They are polarity (polaristic) system with the most impotant 3rd factor, (the middle between thes two poles), namely the search for harmony between the opposite side of the duality system.
This search or arranging of harmony between these two oposite duality poles bring these poles into a balance so that people can live in harmony and the poles become a unity. This 3rs most important factor - the arrangement of balance and harmony makes the difference of the concept of polarity and duality, althoug duality is the basic pre-condition for the concept of the polarity system - between what otherwise you would arange balance or harmony.
Sorry for my great mistake of using the term polarism and dualism - it is very important for me that especially the understanding of this two terms and their differences comes over.
So finally again: the 3rd factor, the arrangment of harmony, the search for the balance between two oposite poles, is the concept of south-east and east asian cultures, and this is - and I hope, I am not mistaken again - well known under the theoretical concept of POLARITY (hope this term is right know - it would possibly a help if you could ask your friend in the Netherlands).
I am aware about the fact that older generations have some trouble with the term of Polarity and its definition or meaning as they are used to the term Duality.
I really hope, that my intension and understanding of south-east asian and east asian cultures become clear and are not mistakenly reduced to the western definition of Duality. In fact the term Polarity was created because of the western infiltrated interpretation of the term Duality, wrongly attributed to the social-religious concpts of south-east asian and east asian cultures.
Thanks for your response, Guwaya.
I think we've cleared up this matter of semantics now.
I believe that we are on the same page, hold similar if not precisely the same views, and are in agreement that Javanese culture cannot be understood within a Western framework.
I can understand how the word "polarity" may be applied as descriptive of the nature of Javanese and some other societies, but I will need to think about this over time before I will be willing to abandon the Taoist model of duality as the framework within which I evaluate this society.My enquiries to date seem to indicate that although this term of polarity in this application may have some currency in some parts of academia, it is not yet in general usage worldwide.Since this Forum is not based in academia, and since most its members, myself included, are not academics, I feel that there is no compulsion for us to use either the term "polarity", or "duality" to describe the nature of Javanese society and culture, provided that we have a clear understanding of this nature.
I do agree with you that to the term "duality" can very easily be misunderstood, in the absence of an understanding that the term "duality" by itself does not have any descriptive quality, it merely indicates a condition. There are many forms and models of duality, and to be descriptive of the condition the term needs to be qualified. Your use of the term "polarity" seems to avoid this need for qualification --- unless of course academia has determined that we now have various models of polarity.
May we now move on to some of the questions that have been raised in the previous posts?
Perhaps you may feel inclined to address either David's, or my questions that have been put to you in posts # 17 and # 18 ?
classic display/store 2?
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