4 September 2012 | Draft
Enstoning in Memorials and Monuments
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Annex 4 of Fivefold Clustering of Ways of Being Stoned: Imagination, Promise, Rocks, Memorials, Petrification (2012)
"Stone" is used metaphorically and otherwise in a quite disparate range of contexts. These nevertheless offer an elusive implication of connectivity which merits exploration, as attempted here -- especially given the associated sense of concreteness.
This offers an alternative understanding of the frameworks of belief systems, their articulation, and the problematic relationships between them -- exemplified by the communication processes in any gathering in which multiple themes are evoked and challenged from a variety of perspectives -- and to relatively little avail. Use of "stoned" as a provocative mnemonic device is then arguably appropriate through the distraction it offers, whether through use of drugs by individuals, or collective dependence on oil as a drug.
The argument is developed in the main paper in the light of five ways of clustering "being stoned", each summarized in a separate annex:
The "rock cluster" (Annex 3) can be understood as intermediate between the earlier "potential cluster" (Annex 2) and the deliberate embodiment of its articulation into configurations of stone -- as characteristic of this "memorial cluster". The "rock cluster" is therefore distinct in that the focus is on singular "rocks", even though many may be employed (as in "stoning"). Any singular architectural use -- as with foundation stones -- anticipates the configuration and construction characteristic of this "memorial cluster". Given their function in relation to (collective) memory, the constructs may be variously designed to impress, even deliberately to evoke awe to that end.
Sacred sites and ritual settings: As variously implied above, stones have long been a focus of ritual, possibly as a culmination of pilgrimage:
- Standing stones and Stone circles: These are variously understood as the sites of ancient ceremonies of which variants may continue to be celebrated by groups holding neo-pagan beliefs
- Sacred mountains: These are central to certain religions and are the subjects of many legends, variously central to cultural identity (cf. Mount Olympus; Mount Sinai; Mount Gerizim, Israel; Mount Athos, Greece; Mount Taranaki, New Zealand; Mount Fuji, Japan; Mount Koya-san, Japan; Mount Kailash, Tibet; Uluru, Australia; Arunachala, Tamil Nadu)
- Sacred site: Standing stones, stone circles and sacred mountains may be considered fundamental to the cultural identity of certain traditional groups. Historically more recent equivalents typically take the form of holy shrines, variously framed by stone (cf. Holiest sites in Islam (Shia), Holiest sites in Islam (Sunni), Shrines to the Virgin Mary).
- Temples, mosques, cathedrals, synagogues: These constructs in stone may be considered historically more recent embodiments of what was previously especially associated with unworked stone in a natural setting.
Institutional construction: The various forms of "potential" (as noted above) tend to be embodied in architectural structures ("in stone") following their definitive articulation (metaphorically "written in stone"):
- Institutional secretariats, faculty buildings, and the like: Especially as "heritage buildings" these may well be understood as memorials to old inspirations and dreams -- if not to old problem and programme formulations. Some may deliberately take their architectural inspiration from the temples of Greece and Rome.
- Libraries: Within such structures the conservation of collective memory is more explicit -- especially as exemplified by monastery libraries, university libraries, national libraries, and the system of presidential libraries, or other commemorative collections.
In addition to those considered above, considerable importance can be attached to physical, virtual or notional constructs which enable "re-collection" and "re-membering", especially collectively and over extended periods of time (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory, 1980; Pointers to the Pathology of Collective Memory, 1980; Minding the Future: thought experiment on presenting new information, 1980).
- Commemorative constructs in stone:
- Cairns: A man-made pile (or stack) of stones found worldwide in uplands, on moorland, on mountain tops, near waterways and on sea cliffs. Cairns may be painted or otherwise decorated, e.g. for increased visibility or for religious reasons. Since prehistory, they have been built as landmarks, sepulchral monuments, or used for defensive, hunting, ceremonial, astronomical and other purposes. It may be the custom of passers-by to add stones to the cairn in memory of their presence there.
- Tablets: The early use of stone tablets is associated by some religions with the inscription of fundamental principles. The term is also understood metaphorically in that context, notably as a transitional (tabular) configuration of insights in the mind of deity prior to their inscription in tablets of stone.
- tables / Moses / mountain
- tablets ... intellectual copyright ****
- Stelae, pillars and columns:
Content otherwise associated with tablets may be inscribed on these structures.
- Stele of Hammurabi: This was the means of promulgating the Code of Hammurabi (1772 BC). It consists of 282 laws -- in 44 columns and 28 paragraphs -- with scaled punishments (graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man) enshrining a presumption of innocence, much appreciated as the earliest articulation of human rights (cf. From Hammurabi to the Patriot Act: a history of human rights, Random History, 2010). Curiously, by comparison, the declaration promulgated by the Earth Summit of 2012 (The Future We Want), consists of 283 paragraphs, now widely criticized (cf. George Monbiot, Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphs of fluff, The Guardian, 22 June 2012)]. Babylon, where the Code was elaborated, has now been reduced to rubble. Neither original nor copy exists in the region, currently under threat of further "stoning" in defence of human rights and fundamental values..
- Pillars of Ashoka: These are a series of individual columns dispersed throughout the northern Indian subcontinent, and erected by Ashoka (3rd century BC). They are inscribed with the 33 Edicts of Ashoka. regarding the Buddhist concept of Natural Law (dhamma).
- Columns: Individual columns are typically used as a means of commemorating victories or other historical events (cf. Alexander Column, Russia; Nelson's Column, UK; Tajan's Column, Italy; Iron Pillar, India)
- Cenotaphs: Reminiscent in form of pillars and columns, these structures are "empty tombs" in commemoration of individuals or groups interred elsewhere. Many date from the ancient times, whilst others have been constructed as a focal point for ceremonies commemorating the dead of recent wars. Tragically, from a perspective of collective memory, whilst these structures may well be inscribed with the phrase Lest We Forget (from the Ode of Remembrance), they can also be considered significant for the forgetfullness that they encourage by reinforcing selective memory -- suggesting a complementary inscription of the form: Lest We Remember. This perspective is especially relevant to the descendants of those variously massacred -- typically indigenous peoples -- by the military regularly honoured by cenotaphs. There are few memorials to those so massacred.
- Stelae: More generally, these may include standing stones (as mentioned above), pillars of some form, gravestones, or tablets -- whether inscribed or not. As with cairns, they may be used as boundary markers. Stelae have been the principal medium of stone inscription in China.
- Statues: Notably as built on commission to commemorate a historical event, or the life of an influential person.
- Configurations of stelae and pillars: In their earliest form these are the circles constructed of natural stone (mentioned above) of which the megalithic henges are best known (cf Stonehenge, etc). Configurations of worked columns (circles or paired in colonnades and colonnaded pathways) have long been basic to the construction of palaces and temples, with significance variously attributed, or not, to individual columns in the configuration (cf. the two pillars of Freemasonry).
- Notional pillars: Explicit metaphorical use is made of "pillar" as indicative of a principle, with a set of such pillars then indicative of a set of principles fundamental to conceptual and institutional organization. The problematic consequences of simplistic configuration of such pillars is discussed separately (Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008).
- Spires: These are tapering conical or pyramidal structures on the top of a building, most notably the temples of various religions. They are recognized as having two symbolic functions: to proclaim strength (typically martial power; to reach up toward the skies (effectively offering an association with inspiration). With respect to the purposes of this argument, it could be argued that radio towers supporting antennas for telecommunications and broadcasting, have superseded the two functions of "spires" through their current capacity to "stone" their audiences with propaganda and music. The argument could be developed with respect to the implications of the global configuration of such modern day "spires" through which edicts are now promulgated.
- Silicon: Given the argument with respect to "rock", there is a curious irony to the fact that silicon is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, and the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust. However it rarely occurs in pure form in nature. The irony lies in its fundamental role in semiconductor fabrication of integrated circuits on which the current knowledge-based society is so dependent. Given the fundamental role of those circuits in computer memory, it can be readily argued that what was previously and variously inscribed "in stone", continues to be inscribed "in stone" in its high-tech purified form. It could even be argued that a civilization dependent on the storage of information is well and truly one that is "stoned" to an ever increasing degree. The argument can be taken further with the mind uploading aspirations of some, whereby a copy of the conscious mind is made from a brain into computer memory, probably silicon based. Being stoned out of one's mind?
- Memory devices: Memory aids are notably associated with the traditional method of loci by which what is to be remembered is mentally associated with specific physical locations.
Beyond the metaphorical use of foundation stone, keystone, gemstones, and the like, "stones" may also
be intimately associated with knowledge and wisdom in their most integrative and elusive sense:
- Philosopher's stone:
is a legendary alchemical substance said to be capable of turning base metals (lead, for example) into gold (chrysopoeia) or silver. It was also sometimes believed to be an elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and possibly for achieving immortality. For many centuries, it was the most sought-after goal in Western alchemy. The philosopher's stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosopher's stone were known as the Magnum Opus.
Alchemical authors sometimes suggest that the stone's descriptors are metaphorical. It is called a stone, not because it is like a stone. The appearance is expressed geometrically in Michael Maier's Atalanta Fugiens. Make of a man and woman a circle; then a quadrangle; out of the this a triangle; make again a circle, and you will have the Stone of the Wise. Thus is made the stone, which thou canst not discover, unless you, through diligence, learn to understand this geometrical teaching
First framed as the "sorceror's stone", the philosopher 's stone has been given imaginative significance in the popular work of J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Soceror's Stone, 1997; subsequently retitled as Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, 1997) *** Angelicall Stone
- Pearl of wisdom: As a curious consequence of being "stoned", the pearl is of central significance in a number of cultures. In China, one of the patterns of the classical dragon dance involves the movement "dragon chasing the pearl" -- indicative of the continually pursuit of wisdom by the serpentine dragon, itself indicative of the force and mystery of life. The dragon moves in a wave-like pattern achieved by the co-ordinated swinging of each section in succession. The pearl is central to the Christian Parable of Pearl in which it is indicative of the great value of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:45-46). The Pearl of Great Price (Mormonism) forms part of the standard works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Bodhi stones: These are mythical stones mentioned in Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. It is said that eight stones was carved from the black rock of Mt. Meru (a sacred mountain in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology) and that each stone was given to eight elders of eight villages to protect the world from its powers. The story tells that once these stones were given to an elder, the elder became enlightened and righteous.
A remarkable articulation of relevance to this argument is offered by Jing Wang (The Story of Stone: Intertextuality, Ancient Chinese Stone Lore, and the Stone Symbolism in Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, and The Journey to the West. 2000). In a section on the problematic of contradiction and constraint:
It is on the ground of the stone tablet's deeply ingrained historical obligations of remembering, and particularly of inscribing the past, that it serves as a potent sign of historical consciousness, and in this sense alone can it be seen as the mirror-image of the "stone of three lifetimes".... And yet this is not simply a past whose meaning is exhausted because it is sealed off as passé. On the contrary, it is an enigmatized past that demands to be deciphered and, in a paradoxical way, re-created. It is in this particular shade of meaning of the mythology of the past... that we can perceive the subtle folkloric presence of the inscribed stone in the metaphor.... only when the past is seen as an oracular riddle does it have to be remembered, decoded, and then brought to account for the present (p. 192)
In this study of three of the most familiar texts in the Chinese tradition -- all concerning stones endowed with magical properties, the author Jing Wang develops a reconstruction of ancient Chinese stone lore.
Bringing together Chinese myth, religion, folklore, art, and literature, this book is the first in any language to amass the sources of stone myth and stone lore in Chinese culture. Uniting classical Chinese studies with contemporary Western theoretical concerns, Wang examines these stone narratives by analyzing intertextuality within Chinese traditions.