Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization

By Elemér Hankiss | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FIVE
THE IMAGE OF THE WORLD

What has the Tabernacle of Moses, the shrine of
the divine, to do in our contemporary shopping
malls? It is there.

THE discussion of the symbols of centrality is continued in this chapter, focusing on the mythological dimensions of architecture. How do houses and cathedrals, or contemporary buildings such as shopping centers, organize the social space around themselves? How do they assuage fears and anxieties by generating some of the basic symbolic structures of our civilization?


THE HOUSE

Besides gardens and Gardens of Eden, buildings have always played a major role in protecting us against the forces of—and our own fears in—an alien world, making us feel that we are at home in this universe and that we live in a safe, well-ordered, meaningful universe, rather than a dangerous and fearful chaos.

Promethean and Apollonian strategies overlap in the construction of buildings. Houses have had the function of protecting human beings against the forces of both the physical and the spiritual world. They have had the role of sheltering people against the cold, the rain, the heat, wild beasts, intruders, and marauders. But they have also had to protect them against evil spirits, demons, and perilous influences; against the terror of living in an unknown, mysterious, and dangerous world. It was not

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