Expanding Religious Studies: The Obsolences of the Sacred/Secular Framework for Pagan, Earthen, and Indigenous Religion. Part 2: Rethinking the Concept of ‘Religion’ and ‘Maturi’ as a New Scheme


  • Mikirou Zitukawa Himeji-Dokkyo University
  • Michael York Bath Spa University




sacred, religion, secular, paganism


The present article discusses indigenous views concerning religion as part of a contemporary trend that wishes to expand understanding of religious phenomena and be more inclusive of nature worship and Pagan orientations that are otherwise excluded when the sacred is strictly dichotomized from the secular, the profane or the ordinary. Although there are phenomena that are classified academically as ‘religion’, our initial question asks whether an appropriate framework is actually established by the concept. This question is vitally pertinent for the study of nature worship and contemporary Western forms of Paganism as bona fide religious expressions. On the legal front alone, new religious movements often face huge hurdles when it comes to gaining recognition, legitimacy, and their benefits. The academic study of spiritual orientations that counter the already established world religions is part of this expanding arena of potential debate and innovation. In the preceding paper (Part 1) we suggested a new schema of i (yi) and ke (ké) in mutual conversion as a substitution for the ‘sacred secular’ polarity that many authors regard as fundamental to the very concept of religion. In Part 1, however, we assumed the concept of religion as a known premise. The present paper represents an attempt to reconsider the concept and its application range through situations in which the word ‘religion’ is actually used—hopefully to develop a more flexible usage that is more inclusive of traditional, vernacular, and emerging religio-spiritual practices. The i-ke principle previously presented was not proposed as a framework for these phenomena but simply to show the methodological inadequacy involved with any a priori assumption concerning universal concepts. Inevitably, humanity’s cultural limitations and divisions make any refined and intelligent concept partial and prejudiced. Ethnocentrism can result when efforts to be objective and universal employ limited notions. Despite the irony involved, a better method might be located through the reverse exploitation: applying indigenous concepts that are already themselves understood as partial and prejudiced to wider areas and diverse traditions while remaining aware of their limitations and unfairness. Cultural bias does not necessarily or inevitably indicate inadequate public and academic considerations. Indeed, researchers might profitably recognize a dependence upon their own traditions as long as they do not insist upon the superiority and universality of their culture. The application of indigenous concepts need not be restricted to their host cultural regions. For example, interpreting ‘religious’ events in India with European cultural concepts, or those of Japan with African ones, are to be encouraged if exclusiveness or dogmatism are avoided and restricting conditions of indigenous nature are not forgotten. Such a methodology affords the possibility of effectively comparing multiple types of culture. When researchers survey the world from their own cultural perspectives while permitting and encouraging others operating in different traditions to do the same, plural interpretations and explanations of the same phenomenon are likely to emerge. Along with Paul Feyerabend there is no reason to grant unique authority to any inviolate presiding criteria.1 Encompassing a range of different theoretical positions for purposes of comparison is the foundation for a true respect of the diversity of cultural traditions. The proposal of the ‘i-ke mutuality’ is intended to provide an example of indigenous and pluralistic methodology. In the present paper, we attempt a similar analysis concerning the usage of religion as a word or concept.

Author Biographies

Mikirou Zitukawa, Himeji-Dokkyo University

Mikirou Zitukawa of Himeji-Dokkyo University, Japan, studies indigenous world views and engages in psycho philosophical research about the condition of being. He is the author of Kokoro-magi (In Search of Mind, 1991) and Sisousi no nakano Rinshousinrigaku (Clinical Psychology in the History of Thought, 2004) as well as numerous papers.

Michael York, Bath Spa University

Michael York is retired from Bath Spa University College, where he directed the Sophia Centre for Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. His books include The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age (1995) and Pagan Theology (2002).


Andou, Atuko. Myoukounin Okaru: A Light in Muturezima. Kyoto: Houzoukan. 1991

Feyerabend, Paul. Farewell to Reason. London: Verso, 1987.

Sakurada, Katunori. Religions of the Sea. Tokyo: Tankousha, 1970.

Yanagida, Kunio. Maturi in Japan. Toyko: Koubundou, 1942.

Zitukawa, Mikirou, and Michael York. “Expanding Religious Studies: The Obsolesence of the Sacred/Secular Framework for Pagan, Earthen and Indigenous Religion.” The Pomegranate 9 (2007) 78-97. doi:10.1558/pome.v9i1.78



How to Cite

Zitukawa, M., & York, M. (2009). Expanding Religious Studies: The Obsolences of the Sacred/Secular Framework for Pagan, Earthen, and Indigenous Religion. Part 2: Rethinking the Concept of ‘Religion’ and ‘Maturi’ as a New Scheme. Pomegranate, 10(2), 256–277. https://doi.org/10.1558/pome.v10i2.256