|[a] Amends RL|
|[b] Brisk RL|
There I go again, I thought. I need to take a walk, clear my head, and return to Geil's preface with a sense of fairness and an understanding of the author's context. He was not a sinologist, and was not trained in social theory. I needed to get over it. It was up to me to see what Geil could teach me about the five sacred mountains of China. I went for a brisk constitutional, thought about Geil's unparalleled accomplishments (unlike Granet, he had traveled to all five mountains, taken photographs, and written the only volume ever penned by a Western writer on the topic). I was ready to return to the fold, and—for now at least—to be rather more analytical in my systematic reading and a good deal less syntopical. It was a chilly late-October morning, and I returned to the house ready for a third cup of coffee, the warmth of the living room couch, and two furry felines. Geil was welcome in my home again, and I opened The Sacred 5 of China to the place where I had started my pilgrimage detour.
But now it was William Edgar Geil's turn to be mean.
Somehow, I had skipped a paragraph between his descriptions of the "5 Yo" (this is rendered today as yue—嶽;岳) and his literary journey into the origins of pilgrimage. How could I have missed it, except to go off on my little Granetian rant about ecstatic religiosity? Now that I considered it, I was more than a little surprised.
|[c] Nasty RL|
In the far later days, when Buddhism entered China, the new religion
not only sought lodgement on these 5 venerable hills, as the cuckoo
lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, it also hallowed more hills of its
own. But the exotic character of this religion becomes clear in that it
consecrates only 4 peaks. With the shrines of the intruding faith we have
nothing to do; our pilgrimage is to the ancient and autochthonous 5.
That seemed quite uncharitable, but I kept my powder dry. Maybe he just meant that the five mountains are sometimes called "Daoist mountains." Like Geil, I find this characterization a little problematic, since, as he himself states, these mountains predated any kind of sectarianism, and could far more properly be called "cosmological" mountains. Maybe he just got a little carried away, and failed briefly to turn the other interpretive cheek as he characterized Buddhism as an "intruding" faith that sought to lay its eggs in others' nests.
|[d] Sanctity RL|
Like the cuckoo.
I briefly considered taking another walk. I had already had too much coffee. I decided to open wide the doors of benefiting doubt and move on. Geil was building to his conclusion, and was more-or-less speaking of the mountains' sanctity from time immemorial rather than of the division of more "modern" faiths. He takes one more jab at the "foreign" religion before making his deeper points about the antiquity of the sacred hills. For Geil, Buddhism is just a little mango peel, easily removed, but something bigger has been going on since long before people could write.
So with the Sacred Mountains of China. There is a thin rind of Buddhism
on some of them, easily peeled away. Then comes the more sustantial
fruit, of which we have much to say. But even this is not the essence; at
the core we find something far older than all Lao Tzu invented or that
was invented for him, than all Confucius gathered up, something of the
more ancient religion. These mountains were not made famous by the
Taoists; they had an immemorial flavour of sanctity about them. Men
believed in mountain spirits, in currents of influence ascending and
descending, in hill spectres, before any thinker thought to codify or
rationalise these beliefs.
|[e] Autochthonous RL|
I did not have to reopen the book to check. I remembered clearly the care with which Granet had treated early Chinese thought, as well as the layered traditions of Daoism and Confucianism. He was off-handed with regard to Buddhism, and to the extent of appearing....how can I put it?...somewhat rude. I started to wonder whether Geil could have read Granet's 1922 book after all. It was untranslated back then (called La religion des Chinois), and I was not sure about Geil's French language abilities. Had he at least talked with someone who knew Granet's work? This was intriguing, and—in what has continued as "yo-yo" fashion for three years now—I was again more favorably disposed to his work. There was something significant to be said about his characterization of these mountains and their social-religious origins—predating everything.
They instinctively offered sacrifices to the gods of the range and the
peaks, especially when about to cross or scale them, long before the
chief minister of Yao was appointed President of the Mountains, or
the Emperor undertook to offer on the altar of the Earth at the summer
solsctice. They had their superstitions as to the preparation needful, in
the way of fasting and purification, that they might climb the passes,
before any corps of priests organised temples and laid out highways.
Exhausted by the mere five pages of Geil's preface, I took a last deep breath and pressed on to the concluding paragraph.
Accidental 6e Accidental 6f Accidental 6g Accidental 6h
|[f] Concluding RL|
 William Edgar Geil, The Sacred 5 of China (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1926), xvi.
 Geil, Sacred 5, xix.
Geil, William Edgar. The Sacred 5 of China. New York: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1926.