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Home » 7. Concepts and Doctrines » Research on Shinto
Para-scientific, Psychical or Occult Research on Shinto
An area of Shintō research which is not recognized as a scientific approach based on empiricism or rationality. There are numerous branches of this form of investigation, but they can be grouped in two representative categories. The first category (1) of these is associated with recent research coming out of psychical research and para-psychological research. The second (2) category is a "para-archaeological" school that seeks to explain the roots of the Japanese people and the Imperial house, which forms the center of Japanese society, as well as to clarify the origins of early Shintō. Rather than surveying religious practices found at shrines, psychical research on Shintō typically focuses on the seemingly paranormal abilities of shamanistic practitioners such as miko and ascetic devotees (shugyōsha). Studies from the para-archaeological school claim the legitimacy of "ancient" documents that are commonly regarded as latter-day forgeries, such as the Uetsufumi, Hotsuma tsutae, Fuji miyashita monjo, Takeuchi monjo and others. Proponents of this school, which could also be labeled "pseudo-ancient Shintō research," assert that these texts predate Kojiki and Nihon shoki, and put forth sweeping, ahistorical conclusions that depend on a combination of disparate fragments of information and physical evidence. While category (1) also discusses other religious traditions, category (2) features a discourse that asserts the special nature of Japan and Shintō as its exclusive and indigenous faith.
       There are some who claim works such as Hirata Atsutane's Katsugorō saiseikibun and Sendō torakichi monogatari as antecedents of category (1), yet the real origins of psychical research on Shintō lie in the introduction of western occultism and Theosophy to Japan in the late Meiji era (circa 1905-1910), theories that from that time have been used to expound upon Japanese Buddhist and Shintō phenomena. Throughout the Taisho and early Showa periods, these theories contributed to the development of psychical research, promoted in large part by Asano Wasaburō, and the spread of belief in psychokinesis and "thoughtography" (nensha ), primarily influenced by the work of Fukurai Tomokichi. These investigations of the spirit realm were carried out through the actions of spiritual mediums and clairvoyants. Asano in particular revealed Shintō characteristics in his psychical explorations, apparent in his works such as Futatsu no kaiki na shinreigenshō (Two Mysterious Spiritual Phenomena) and Kozakurahime monogatari (Tale of the Little Cherry-blossom Princess), in which he compiled tales of spiritual miracles. References to Shintō (or the indigenous beliefs of Japan) were also increasingly prevalent in the educational activities of the Japanese Society for Psychical Research (Shinrei Kagaku Kenkyūkai), founded by Asano, and its related periodicals. Asano's Shinreigaku yori nihon shintō wo miru (Japan's Shintō Seen from the Perspective of Psychical Research), written in his later years, is a compact volume that fulfills the promise of its title in giving an account of Shintō from a spiritualistic perspective.
       Proponents of category (2) engage in investigations of the origins and ancestry of the Japanese people, language, Shintō and the Imperial house. These inquiries extend far beyond the scope of conventional research on Japanese antiquity and the history of migration of cultures into the Japanese archipelago. Some para-archaeological practitioners claim that the early Japanese and the Imperial family are direct recipients of the cultures of ancient Greece, historical Judaism, Sumer or ancient India. Other extremists have put forth theories of reverse cultural propagation, claiming Japan as the cradle of all human civilization. Older examples of proponents of category (2) include Kimura Takatarō, who theorized that Japan and ancient Greece shared the same origins, as well as Oyabe Zenichirō, Sakai Katsuisa and Kawamorita Eiji who held various theories on the homologous origins of the Japanese and Jewish peoples. In recent years these ideas have been recycled, and other nationalistic theories on the ancient foundations of Japanese civilization have also been put forth. Comparisons of passages drawn from the Shinsen shōjiroku and ancient Indian texts have been used to claim the identity of Japan's Takamanohara and India's Deccan Plateau, and petroglyphs, "newly discovered" in Japan in the modern period, have been claimed as ancient Sumerian stone inscriptions. Almost all of these theories have been proposed by amateur enthusiasts or researchers working outside mainstream academia. Academic professionals have largely ignored these theories.

—Tsushiro Hirofumi
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
4-10-28 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8440, Japan
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