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Glance on the New Essay of the Eternal Center [1]


I am now going to give you a quick glance on my ‘New Essay on the Eternal Center’ essay focused on the rehabilitation of the ‘Golden Mean’ of Tzeu-seu, grandson of Confucius.

I like to approach this philosophical problem with a poetical mind — because I am not a philosopher — to repeat after Tzeu-seu his ideas, and to present them to you, veiled in the starry and colorful apprearance of modern language, perfumed and crowned with all my best feelings, as a token of my admiration for you.

First of all I would like to change the ancient title ‘The Golden Mean’ into a more picturesque one: ‘The Eternal Center’.

I think this new title will correspond better to the etymological meaning of the original title and will frame better the ideas of Tzeu-seu.

You will see in few minutes that the ‘Tchoung-young’, the ‘Eternal Center’ of Tzeu-seu can be considered as the Bhagavad-Gita of Confucianism.

In fact, while in the Book of Changes, the ancient philosophers made their fictitious universe bloom on the petals of their odd and even symbols, proceeded to the fairy creation of all beings by the binary mitosis and inquired about all the laws of relativity that govern all the couples of forces, of movements: ‘expansion-concentration, dispersion-union, discharge-recharge, dissolution-cohesion, expense-reserve’, that is to say, of all back and forth movements, of all cycles, of all continuous and harmonious and reversible transformations of an initial energy. In the Eternal Center the author liked to trace us a divine way which leads us through all the vicissitudes of a well conceived and harmonious life to the Eternal Center, immutable Origin and ‘Telegoal’ of the man.

This book can be considered as the finest work of Confucianism, in which the author had only in view the cream, the best elements of the school, already very familiar with all the linguistical, philosophical and metaphysical subtleties, whose energy has been canalized carefully into the self-fulfillment, whose soul has been sensibilized to beauty, refined and exalted by calligraphy, paintings and music.

Therefore, the style becomes so ethereal, so concise, so elaborate that one is sweetly caressed by the delicacy of its suggestions and by the soft murmur of its musical phrases.

The style is so sober, so tenuous in the beginning, swells more and more, embraces periodical lengths, expands itself to espouse the infinite and vanishes finally into the silence of the imponderable perfection of God.

Everything is so well conceived, so well measured to be understood, between the lines, only by men of high culture.

Therefore, the enclosure is transparent to one, obscure or opaque to other at the point of becoming a scandal, a nonsense for the mass, a sweet philosophy of nonchalance to many, but also and specially a hint which teaches the way of perfection to some selected disciples.

The book begins very suggestively by ‘The Divine Will’ and ends eloquently with the infinite silence of the imponderable perfection of God.

The book gives us then the A (Alpha) and the W (Omega) of the divine way considered as a perfect circle when the two ends of perfection will rejoin each other after passing through all the shades, the accents, the poetry, the music of a couple rotating in perfect harmony, and through all the seasons of life, in turn active, in turn, contemplative, according to the modulation of the law of changes and relativity.

Let the author speak for one minute:

«The divine will is our Nature, to follow our Nature is the divine way; to cultivate this divine way is called instruction. This divine way is indissolubly linked to us; A separation - even for a twinkle - is a nonsense, because then it does not deserve its denomination.

«Therefore, the religious man should fear the Invisible, should honour the Imperceptible, because nothing is more patent than the Invisible, more obvious than the Imperceptible. Therefore, the religious man should be very cautious when he is alone.”

How these words are imbued of spirituality, of dignity, of devotion and of magnitude.

The ontological problem of human nature, of Man is condensed into this charming equation: God’s Will ( 天 命 ) = Nature ( ).

The Word of God is, therefore, the breath of life, is therefore the original Nature of Humanity, nature of Perfection and of Purity without blending, like a water of life of cristal color, just springing from the divine source, each drop of which will be a seed of a future immortality arbor, will become a model of perfection, a voice of a friendly conscience which murmurs silently in the fathomless bottom of our soul to teach us silently the poetry, the music, and all the secrets of the ‘Alchemy of the Immortality’.

The Author aimed to advise us to go upstream back to this source, to this original nature.

It is that divine expression, that divine perfection that Word without words, that we should find out in our lifetime.

The Author suggests us to resort to instruction, to find this divine life.

He revealed us ingeniously that this divine way is attached to our feet. What a paradox, what a humour, what an irony! We are tempted to say so.

But the paradox ceases as by incantation, if we refer to this verse of the Book of Changes:

«The divine life has two phases: one phase of shadow (Inn) and one phase of light (Yang). It would be nice that you will be engaged in this way, but if you could go through this way, you would reach the perfection, you would realize your Nature.» (Book of Changes, Appended judgment, chap. IV, verse 2)

一 陰 一 陽 之 謂 道. 繼 之 者 善 也. 成 之 者 性 也.

If we consider the Eternal Center as the Light and the Spirit, the phase of shadow would be the phase of the going away, of expansion, of exteriorisation, of superficialisation, of opacification, of materialisation, of extroversion, of alienation, of engagement - engagement into the society, into the service of the temporal and of the material, of the sensual, of the physical, intellectual and sentimental blooming, the rambling phase to research distractions, adventures and the terrestrial living.

This first phase is the childhood and the youth of life which corresponds to the initial current, expansive and prolific of the nature where the Spring and the Summer decorate themselves with buds, foliage and flowers and which dictates to birds of the sky to leave their nests to fly away sallying, feeding themselves, enjoying themselves in some unknown corners of the sky...

But gradually shadow gives up the path to light -- gradually, insensibly the Autumn of the life vibrates its harp of wind and of birds, and we enter into the second phase of the life in changing our plans, our views, our delectation, our direction.

We will sing the same melody but backward and on a higher gamut; It is something like changing the keyboard and the rythm to avoid the monotony of the song - now it is time to go back home, now it is the phase of interiorisation, of progressive concentration, of introversion, of deepening, of progressive recollection, the phase of spiritual recuperation after the prodigality of the youth, phase of ‘The research of the lost time of Proust’ which could be done thanks to all the diastases of our past experiences, of our meditations, of our reflections, thanks to the ethics, the aesthetics, thanks to the final touch of a divine spark, we can go back to our original perfection, to become again the expression of God, the symbol of God.

While the first phase was characterized by men attracted out of them, the second phase should be conceived as a spiritual coiling back. It will be a phase of disengagement, of liberation from links, chains and burden which become more and more strangling, more and more crushing, to consecrate himself to his own spiritual realization. The life so conceived will be a perpetual change to find out the final identification with the Being, an existence always on the quest of the Life, of the total and eternal Life.

Such a life would be a Gerundive instead of a Participle, a ‘to be done’, not ‘done’ one, a recreation, a continuous expansion and not a chlorosis, a decay, a pining away of life.

The ‘My will be done’ will be echoed by the ‘Thy will has been done’ in the indicible hapiness of the reunion, in a cadre of immaculate snow glittering proudly somewhere in the sensible world still drowsy from the recent hibernation, among the music of buds which begin to sing the renovation on branches still stiff from the cold, and among the warbling of birds which are now palpitating of Spring and of the new life.

The initial contrast - caused by the initial misunderstanding, aggraved by the progressive distance on the first phase of life, but more and more decreased and gradually changed into a harmonious cooperation in the second phase of the temporal life, is now melted into the final melody, the final synthesis and symbiosis for Eternity.

The tears at birth day give place to the smile at death time. And the curtains of our eyelids drop for ever, yielding the mundane scences to other actors, still stiff and unnatural in their manner, and in their expression.

To refind this center of Perfection, there is taught elsewhere in the High Study, that we should make efforts of concentration, of meditation, that we should go from simplification to simplification to reach the final sublimation, that is, goining up through the chain of causes to the First Cause which can only be Spirit and Light.

Reaching this final step, we can put our finger on the ‘Spiritual Form’ of things which was before mobile, diffused, unknown, unrecognizable, through the enchantment of refractions, diffractions, dispersions, deformations and interferences which happen through many layers of space and time, we then realize the mystery of Latence-Manifestation, of Silence-Word, of Supreme Being and his expression the Thought, of Supreme Being and Symbols, of Thought and Word, of Word and Words, of the One an the Manifold.

Then, in admiration, in love, and in veneration, these Chinese authors seek to realize themselves to aim to the union with the One, the Absolute (T’ai-chi 太 極).

So, in the philosophical standpoint, Confucianism tried to detect the One behind the Multiple, to find the Total through the details, the Reality behind symbols, the Absolute behind the relativities, the Immutabilitiy behind all the variations, the Word behind words, phrases, books and collections of books, the Person out of persons, Life behind all its manifestations, the true identity of Man after all the possible identifications.

Equipped with faith and knowledge, these rare Chinese philosophers walked in the path of God. They sought and found God and the Kingdom of God hidden in their soul. Therefore, they are very confident, very happy in spite of their material poverty.

Upward, they climed the Holy Hill, beginning their way by clumsy steps; then more and more alert, more and more living, they became expert in climbing. They were so convinced that with energy, study and action combined, they could compete with their masters.

It is also remarkable that in the Book of Eternal Center the author described eloquently all the blessings that God reserves to his Chosens almost as in the Bible.

It is very impressive when we consider that in this period of history, no communication was possible and the secrets of each nation were well kept by many barriers of mountains, of seas, and of languages.

In studying all the great Chinese thinkers, I was struck by their faith and their spirituality as if the divine presence transpirates through their expression, through their thoughts and their scriptures, and by realizing that they used the same mystical language as other mystics of all ages and nations.

How beatiful it is to consider after them, the life as a grandiose melody beginning and finishing with one Note of perfection after passing through all the richness of voices, movements, rhythms, and poetry.

The book of Eternal Center recalls me the music in the Poems of Kabir of Tagore, the living words of Ramakrishna, the warmness of Bodhidharma, the melody of the Bhagavad-Gita.

It recalls me also the song of the Psalmist:

O Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle

Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness

And speaketh the truth in his heart.

                                           (Psalm, XV)

And the beautiful words of Paul:

For God, who commanded the light to shine

out of darkness, hath shined in our heart...

                                           (Corinthians, II 4-6)

How beautiful and consolatory it will be if we can find our center of gravity in these times of storm and war. And in summary, I would wish that every man will cooperate to exalt all the moral and spiritual values and that every man will build on this Eternal Center and this Socle of Perfection all his buildings to the happiness of the Humanity.


[1] Dành cho các thính giả người Anh, hôm Phát Giải Thưởng Văn Chương Tinh Việt Văn Đoàn Lecomte du Noüy.

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