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This review is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

THE PEOPLED SYMBOL James Dougherty, The Fivesquare City: The City in the Religious Imagination (University of Notre Dame Press) £7.80

There is so much to admire in James Dougherty's brief but substantial book that it would sound dismissive to call it neat. Yet there is a certain neatness in the way the author's survey of the recurrent yet changing symbolism of the city-from the temple-centred cities of the ancient Near East to the 'unreal city' of The Waste Land and the electronically coordinated metropolis feared and preached against by Gabriel Marcel and Jacques Ellul -leads him to properly theological conclusions concerning the role of the church in the present and future city.

The neatness of the underlying argument can be brought out easily enough by juxtaposing the very end of the book with Dougherty's treatment of the sacred geography of the ancient city in the first chapter. The ancients conceived their cities as microcosms, earthly reflections of enduring cosmic order. At the centre of the city stood the temple, the meeting point of heavenly and earthly order, the seat of the god and the place of communication with a higher realm. Following Mircea Eliade, Dougherty argues that this notion of the 'centre' as the point at which the sacred irrupts into worldly space and time is essential to the religious imagination. Yet the spatial metaphor of a sacred geography centred upon a particular place is no longer adequate. Judaism and Christianity have done their work. The cosmos has been demythologised. The recurrent epiphanies of the gods of city and field, the Marduks and Baals, have been displaced ...


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