The Monistic Theory

by Nhân Tử Nguyễn Văn Thọ

TOC | Preface | Chapters: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19

Chapter 16

Confucianism and the Monistic Theory


Confucianism gets its name from Confucius (the Anglicized pronunciation of Kung-Fu-Tzu which means "Kung the Teacher"). It was one of the great religions that have dominated China, and its satellites, such as Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Vietnam, for more than two thousand years.

Confucius : The Teacher-Standard of All Eternity (Wan-shih shih-piao : 萬 世 師 表)

Brevity shall be the primary consideration in the life of Confucius. Suffice it to mention that he lived from 551 to 479 B.C., almost at the same time as Zoroaster in Iran, Ezekiel in Israel, Pythagoras in Greece, Lao-Tzu in China, and Buddha in India.

" The Confucian literature, as traditionally conceived, consists of the so-called Five Classics and Four Books.

"The Five Classics: Book of Rites, Book of Change, Book of History, Book of Poetry, and Spring and Autumn Annals- were, with one exception, in existence before Confucius's time. But they were edited by him and his followers, so that, in the form in which they appear, they definitely reflect a Confucian perspective.

"The exception is the Spring and Autumn Annals, a history of the Chou era from 721 to 481 B. C. which has traditionally been ascribed to Confucius himself.

"The Four Books are the more distinctively Confucian sources. Foremost among them is the Analects-disconnected sayings of Confucius that were preserved by his disciples.

"Then there are the Golden Mean and the Great Learning- expanded chapters from the Book of Rites, as interpreted by Confucius and refracted through the understanding of his early followers.

"These two books are collections of essays on basic Confucian themes, such as the Superior Man, the Nature of true manhood, the significance of ritual, of education and of music, the art of government, the moral order of the universe.

"The last of the Four Books is the Book of Mencius, containing the doctrines of a great Confucian thinker who lived two centuries after Confucius. Mencius' work comes closest, of these varied materials, to exemplifying what the West would expect in a systematic moral and religious philosophy. [1]


Confucianism and the Monistic Theory

Confucius, according to his own words, did not create a new religion, but only handed down the religion and the doctrines as practiced and taught in the remote antiquity, by ancient Chinese Holy Sovereigns.

He did not create a new line of politics but displayed only politics and regulations as applied by the emperors of ancient times.

He did not create any new convention and institution, but endeavored only to find out and to conform to natural laws.

In other words, he only fostered what is ideal, pertaining to religion, moral, and politics, and promoted what is universal, eternal and natural.

It is said in the Doctrine of the Mean: "Chung Ni handed down the doctrine of Yao and Shun, as if they had been his ancestors, and elegantly displayed the regulations of Wan and Woo, taking them as his models. Above, he harmonizes with the lines of Heaven, and below he was conformed to the water and land (Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. XX).

To find out the religious life of the ancient China, we must therefore refer ourselves to ancient Sovereigns of China, such as:

Yao (Nghiêu; 2757-2255 B.C.).

Shun (Thuấn; 2255-2205 B.C.)

Iu  (Đại Võ, 2205-2197 B.C.)

Wan  (Văn Vương; 1258?- ? B.C.)

Woo (Võ Vương; 1122- 1115 B.C.) 

We can say ancient, if we figure that the Flood occurred, according to some Christian books, at about 2400 B.C., that Abraham lived around 1800 and Moses around 1200 B.C. [2]

We must also survey a historical period spanning over almost two thousand years before Confucius.

It points out some very important religious features: Chinese people, then, believed in God, considering Him as a creator, a judge and a sovereign who rules the world through the agency of Holy Kings, named Sons of God. (Cf. Book of Poetry, and Book of History).

God was in the Heaven, but at the same time, He was very close to people, helping them, protecting them, conducting them and chastening them if necessary. It is said in the Book of Poetry:

" Revere the anger of God,

And presume not to make sport or be idle.

Revere the changing moods of God,

And presume not to drive about (at your pleasure).

Great God is intelligent,

And is with you, in all your goings.

Great God is clear seeing,

And is with you in your wanderings and indulgences." [3] 

We can also illustrate this closeness of God with people, by two other historical traits:

a). When King Woo (Võ Vương) confronted the immense army of the tyrant Shou (Trụ Vương), in the wilderness of Muh (Mục Dã), the slogan to raise his morale and the morale of his soldiers, was "GOD IS WITH YOU, have no doubts in heart". [4]

b). After the battle, Shou (Trụ Vương) fled to the "Stag Tower" (Lộc Đài) and burned himself to death. In the mean time, Woo (Võ Vương), having received the congratulations of the princes on his victory, pressed on after the tyrant. On arriving at the capital, the people were waiting outside the walls in anxious expectations, which the king relieved by sending his officers among them with the words: "Supreme God is sending down blessings". The multitude reverently saluted the king, who bowed to them in return, and hurried onto the place where the dead body of Shou (Trụ) was". [5]

Moreover, the Ancient Holy Sovereigns believed that God was really present in their soul. For them, God was really their essential and true nature and their changing phenomenal soul was only a veil or at most an expression of God. It is said in the Shoo King:

"The human Self is restless and changing

The divine Self is very recondite,

Realize purity,

Realize Oneness,

Stick to your Central Self." [6]

Thus was the profession of faith of the Holy Kings, two thousand years B. C.

Talking plainly, we say:

"Under the changing garb of our human self, there is a Divine Self, recondite indeed, but nevertheless real. It serves as our kernel, our ground, our Central Self. Recognizing this essential and divine nature, we perfect our self, purify our self, and realize oneness with this Central Self."

In other words, man's ultimate goal is to become perfect, to be united to God, recondite in his own soul, and to become an expression of God.

King Wan (Văn Vương) was so called because he was so virtuous that he was in fact considered as an expression of God. (The She King, Decade of King Wan, Ode 1, 7, p. 431).

Confucius, when his life was endangered, when he was surrounded by the people of K'wang (Khương), claimed also that his was really an expression of God, exactly as King Wan. He said: "After the death of King Wan, was not the expression (of God) conferred to me? If God has wished to let his expression perish, then I should not have got such an honor. While God does not let his expression perish, what can the people of K'wang do to me?" (Analects, IX, 5).

Commenting on Confucianism, Father Mateo Ricci, a Jesuit who came to China to preach Gospel, at the XVIIth century, has written:

"I have noted many passages (of their Scriptures) that are in favor of our faith, such as the unity of God, the immortality of the soul, the glory of the Blessed ones, etc". [7]

Father Lecomte (1655-1728) was more enthusiastic:

"The Chinese religion, seems to have conserved intact and pure, in the course of the ages, the primary truths revealed by God to the first human being. China, happier than any other country in the world, has drawn almost from the fountain-head, the holy and primary truths of its ancient religion.

"The first emperors built temples to God and it is not a small glory to China for having sacrificed to the Creator in the most ancient temple of the world. The primary piety is conserved in the people thanks to the Emperors who endeavored to maintain it, so that idolatry could not penetrate in China." [8]

But the Roman Catholic Church has condemned all these views.

The first emperors referred to, were:

Hwang Te (Hoàng Đế; 2697-2597 B. C.)

Yao (Nghiêu; 2357-2555 B.C.)

Shun (Thuấn; 2255-2205 B.C.)

Iu (Đại Võ, 2205-2197 B.C.)

Wan (Văn Vương; 1258-? B.C.)

Woo (Võ Vương; 1122-1115 B.C.) 

It is worth to note that these emperors lived before, or at least, at the period of the Biblical Flood, and much longer before Abraham (1800).

In the metaphysical standpoint, Confucianism, through the agency of the I Ching (D¡ch Kinh), sustained that everything is rooted in God and has sprung out from God.

After multifarious changes and mutations through time and space, after a long dialectical and cyclical movement of expansion and contraction, of extroversion and introversion aimed at its fulfillment, everything will return to God as its original soul.

This is called the theory of Cyclical change (Tian di xun huan zhong er fu shi: Thiên Địa Tuần Hoàn, Chung Nhi Phục Thủy).

God is then the quintessence of everything, and the unifying principle of the universe. He is transcendent, at the same time immanent in everything. The phenomenal world consequently is only various expressions of this essential Being, exactly as the eight trigrams or the sixty four hexagrams are various expressions of the Wu Chi (Vô Cực) or T'ai chi (Thái Cực).

For Confucius, God, and the perfection of God, is in the Center of everything. The aim of our study is to find out this Center, this Kernel. It is said in the beginning of the Great Learning: "What the Great Learning teaches is to brighten the mirror of the Conscience; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest perfection. The point where to rest being known, the object of the pursuit is then determined; and that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end.

"Things have their roots and their branches. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to Religion.

"The ancients who wished to let their Conscience shine throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own States. Wishing to order well their States, they first regulate their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivate their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectify their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thought, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the Discovery of the Kernel of everything.

The Kernel of everything being discovered, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. There thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their States were rightly governed. Their states being rightly regulated, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.

"From the Son of God down to the mass of the people all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides." (Cf. J. Legge, The Great Learning, p. 358-359).

The Kernel of everything is also called The Eternal Center (Trung Dung), The Center and Equilibrium (Trung Chính), the Supreme Summit (Thái Cực), the One (Nhất), or The Eternal Religion (Trung Đạo). Names can vary, but the Idea remain the same.

This idea of God as origin, sustainer and indweller of the universe and of the human soul is similarly expressed many times in the Upanishads.

According to the Indian Upanishads, The Great Self or Person is the eternal axis which keeps the universe in being. He is God who controls the world from within, the ground on which all existence is woven. [9]

Applied to man, this cosmic view helps to solve the enigma of the human sphinx.

Instead of being composed of body and soul as sustained by Christian theology, man according to Confucianism, is tripartite. He has: A divine Self (Sing, Tính) or spiritual Self. A psychological or human Self (Sin, Tâm). A corporeal or material self (K'io, Xác)

He is then a real microcosm reflecting the macrocosm. This tripartite conception of man, denied by Christian theology, is however amazingly contained in the Old, as well as, in the New Testament.

In the Bible, Spirit and Soul are referred to as two different entities. The Spirit is designated by the term Ruah in Hebrew, Pneuma in Greek and Spiritus in Latin. The Soul is designated by Nephesh in Hebrew, Psyche in Greek and Anima in Latin.

This tripartite conception of man is clearly referred to by St Paul in 1 Thessalonians, 5, 25. "May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thess. 5, 23). In The Epistle to Hebrews, St Paul considered Spirit and Soul as two different entities. He said: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any edge sword, piercing to the division of soul (Psyche) and Spirit (Pneuma). (Hebrews, 4, 12)

Freud, on his own, has also recognized three factors in man behavior: The Id or the animal self, The Ego, The Superego.

The Superego can be compared with the Spirit. It is also what Carl Jung has called the Collective Unconscious, and William James has called the Mystical or Cosmic Consciousness.

Now, if we put aside our corporeal body, that everyone can easily experience, we realize that the master-key to unlock the mysteries not only of Confucianism, but also of all great religion in the world, is the "Spirit and Soul Theory".

a)- According to Confucianism, the Spirit or our true nature (Sing; Tính), is in fact divine. It is the "Divine Spark" (Ming te; Minh Đức) referred to in the Great Learning; the Nature (Sing; Tính) referred to in the Doctrine of the Mean. Mencius sustained therefore that this Nature is truly good. [10]

It is also nothing else than our Moral Conscience, where all the moral laws are written by God.

The Book of Poetry said:

"God is giving birth to the multitude of the people,

To every faculty and relationship annexed its law.

The people possess this normal nature,

And they consequently love its normal virtue" [11] 

The Doctrine of the Mean sustained that the model of perfection is not to be far-fetched. It can be found in our own Spiritual Self. [12] "Therefore, the superior man governs man according to their nature, with what is proper to them, and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops". [13]

This assertion reminds us of one similar passage in the Deuteronomy, where God, after giving the Ten Commandments to Israel, has said: "For these commandments which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say: Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither it is beyond the sea, that you should say: Who will go over the sea, for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is in your mouth, and in your heart, so that you can do it!" (Deuteronomy, 30, 11-14)

That also reminds us of one passage of Jeremiah: "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after these days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts..." (Jeremiah, 31, 33)

b). On the other hand, the soul or our Ego is human, and consequently imperfect. It should be educated, chastened and harnessed to become perfect. Our soul can be dissipated easily by external agents. This is what Confucianism called the loss of the soul. Mencius complained that people are losing their soul and do not know how to seek for it. He said: "When men's fowls and dogs are lost, they know how to seek for them again, but they lose their soul and don't know how to seek for it. The great end of learning is nothing else but to seek for the lost soul. (Mencius, VI, I. 11)

The true religion, for a Confucian, is then the quest for this Divine Self, the gradual realization of this Divine Self. Mencius said: "All things are already complete in us. A conversion inward for self-fulfillment will give us a highest pleasure" (The work of Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, Chap. 4).

Conversion is then man's turning back to his truest nature. Wang-Yang-Ming (Vương Dương Minh), another Confucian philosopher of a later period (1472-1529) sustained the same view. "Every man, said he, has an inborn Divine mind, which is our Spiritual Self, namely our moral Conscience. The moral Conscience is the same in the sage and in the fool. The difference resides in that the sage keeps the conscience clear and fulfill himself according to its directives, while the fool obscures it and neglects its suggestions". [14]

The SPIRIT-SOUL Theory can be proved by the teachings of any great religion.

Buddhism has the Buddha-Nature (Dharmakaya) and the Illusory Ego.

The Quran accepts also a threefold state of man: The Physical State or Nafs-Ammara. The Moral State or Nafs-Lawwama. The Spiritual State or Nafs-Mutmainnah. [15]

Taoism has the Tao and the Human Soul.

St Paul referred to a Psychical Body, and a Spiritual Body in his first Corinthians (I. Cor. 12, 44).

Ancient Greek philosophers distinguished the "Nus" or Divine Mind from the "Psyche" or the Soul.

Hinduism has the Atman and the Individual Soul theory. In the Chandogya Upanishad, The Atman is referred to as "this Soul of mine within the heart is smaller than a grain of rice, or a barley-corn, or a mustard-seed, or a grain of millet, or the kernel of a grain of millet; this Soul of mine within the heart is greater than the earth, greater than the atmosphere, greater than the sky, greater than these worlds. Containing all worlds, containing all desires, containing all odors, containing all tastes, encompassing this whole world, the unspeaking, the unconcerned-this is the Soul of mine within the heart, this is Brahma. Into him I shall enter on departing hence. If one would believe this, he would have no more doubt." (The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Robert Ernest Hume, I988, Printed in India, 3, 14.)

To illustrate these two parts radically different but at the same time merged together, Tagore resorts to "the dewdrop and the sun-ray" parable.

The dew-drop complains to the sun: "I am longing for you, but never I dare nourish the hope to serve you. I am to little to attract you, O almighty God, and in all my life I will be tearful! The sun replies: "I am illuminating the immense sky, but I do take care of the small dew-drop. I will be a light ray, and will overwhelm Thee, and thy life will be a world of brightness. (Nguyễn Đăng Thục, Lịch Sử Triết Học Đông Phương, III, p. 10)

We can sum up these preceding ideas as follows:

God is not far from man. He is very close to man, not only close, but resides in fact in the innermost of the human soul.

The true human nature partakes to the nature of God.

Human nature, as well as human destiny, is then sublime. 

The insight of the relationship between God and man helps Confucius to understand the true destiny of man.

According to Confucius, man should use his life for self-perfecting in order to reach the highest state of perfection, rendering him worthy to be united to God. At the same time, he should also help other people to cultivate themselves and to perfect themselves.

"Consequently, the basic concern is no longer the struggle for life, for the precarious requisites of continued physical existence, it is instead the quest for the good life, for the finest moral and spiritual realization of which man is capable under the complex condition that a civilized society confronts". [16]

It is said in the beginning of the Doctrine of the Mean:

"What God has conferred, is called the Nature,

The realization of this Nature is called Religion.

The illustration of this Religion, is called Instruction.

This Religion may not be severed from us even for an instant.

If it could be severed, it would not be the Religion." 

And a little bit further:

"Our Central Self or Moral Being is the great basis of existence, and harmony or moral order is the universal law in the world. When our true Central Self and harmony are realized, the universe then become a cosmos and all things attain their full growth and development." [17]

Chu hsi (Chu Hi), commenting on this first chapter of the Doctrine of the Mean, has said: "This religion is to be traced to its origin, to God, and is unchangeable, while the substance of it is provided in our self and may not be departed from...The learner should direct his thoughts inward and by searching in himself, there find these truths so that he might put aside all outward temptations appealing to his selfishness, and fill up the measure of the goodness which is natural to him ". [18]

A true Confucian, believing that God is immanent and present in his soul, will behave himself always very properly. "Going out of home, he is reverent as if he has to welcome a distinguished guest; in dealing with people he is respectful as if he is performing a ritual ceremony." [19] Alone, he is furthermore careful and reverent, venerating Him who is invisible, fearing Him who is inaudible, but from Whose view nothing is left unsighted. [20]

The quest for the Divine is then at the same time, the quest for self-fulfillment.

God, being immanent in our soul, the model of perfection is also contained in our innermost self.

Consequently, the Great Learning consists of discovering this divine nature; the noblest duty of man is to rekindle this Divine Spark latent in him.

The self-fulfillment should be rooted in this transcendental discovery, because only the discovery of one's own divine nature can truly help man to transform himself and fulfill himself completely.

Translated into Christian language, it means that the Kingdom of God is not far, it is already within us (Mat. 3,2.- Luke 17,21)

This knowledge and this fulfillment begins from the innermost of an eminent man and will irradiate and propagate themselves to other people, from the family, to the nation, from the nation to the world, for the benefit of the whole mankind.

The essential rule of conduct of a superior man is the imitation of God. (The I Ching, Chien hexagram, the Image.)

Now if perfection is the lot of God; the attainment of perfection is the lot of man. [21]

It is rather amazing to note that five hundred years later, Jesus Christ has taught to humanity the same lesson:

"You therefore, said he, must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect". (Mat. 4, 48)

According to the Doctrine of the Mean, Goodness, Knowledge and Energy are three cardinal virtues leading to perfection. [22]

It is said in the Doctrine of the Mean:

"He who desires to attain to perfection, is he who chooses what is good, and firmly holds it fast.

" To this attainment, there are requisite the extensive study of what is good, accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the clear discrimination of it, and the earnest practice of it.

"The superior man, while there is anything he has not studied or while in what he studied there is anything he cannot understand, will not intermit his labor.

"While there is anything he has not inquired about, or anything in what he has inquired about which he does not know, he will not intermit his labor.

"While there is anything which he has not reflected on, or anything in what he has reflected on, which he does not apprehend, he will not intermit his labor.

"While there is anything which he has not discriminated, or his discrimination is not clear, he will not intermit his labor. if there is anything which he has not practiced or his practice fails in earnestness, he will not intermit his labor.

"If another man succeed by one effort, he will use a hundred efforts. If another man succeed by ten efforts, he will use a thousand.

"Let a man proceed in this way, and though dull, he will surely become intelligent, though weak, he will surely become strong" . [23]

We realize, then, that to increase our goodness we should fulfill all our duties required by our stations in life and apply the Golden Rule towards other people; that to increase our intelligence, we should keep on inquiring, studying, and thinking through all our life, and that to increase our will power, we should have the sense of emulation and strain after a perfect life.

The religious life starts, then, from the reverent feeling of the presence of God in man's soul, develops itself through the progressive blooming of all our potentialities and ends in the complete union with God.

James Legge in his commentaries of the Doctrine of the Mean, has written: "Between the first and the last chapters, there is a correspondence, and each of them may be considered as a summary of the whole treatise. The difference between them is that in the first, a commandment is made with the mention of God as the conferrer of man's nature; while in this the progress of man in virtue is traced step by step till the last, it is equal to that of God. [24]

According to the Great Learning, our life should be devoted to rekindle the divine spark in our self, to renovate people and to tend towards the highest excellence (The Great Learning, Chap. 1)

We are advised by Confucius to study the Book of Poetry to know how to enjoy and appreciate all the beauties revealed by nature and men.

We should study the Rites, to know all the natural laws and good procedures embodied in good manners and ceremonials.

We should study Music so that we can harmonize ourselves with other people and with the cosmos. (Confucian Analects, VIII, 9)

Understanding that though apparently petty and humble, man has in fact a very noble destiny, that man can have a good life here and that God is always present in the human soul to direct man through the voice of the conscience, Confucius felt himself overwhelmed with joy. He said: "If man in the morning hear the true religion, he may die in the evening without regret." (Analects, IV, 8).

Fortified by his faith, he could also say: "With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow, I have still joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me a floating cloud." (Analects, VII, 15).

Only this religious faith could explain why even being in the distress, in the wilderness between Chan (Trần) and Ts'ai (Sái) regions, Confucius could take his lute and sing to it (Lin Yutang, the Wisdom of Confucius, p. 81), and why he could spend many years in propagating the new faith without fluctuations.

His activities remind us of Romain Rolland's saying: "I feel in me a strong faith, I should share this faith to whom in need. I will make a revelation to my people, I will be a pioneer. No matter if the world will destroy me or pierce me. May I only rekindle this faith in others and in me. [25]

To cultivate one's soul in order to be united to God is also the ultimate goal of all religions.

This ultimate goal can be forsaken by the followers of religions, but it is nonetheless, treasured in their sacred Scriptures.

In John's Gospel, Jesus Christ has prayed many times for this oneness with God not only for him but for all. [26]

It is said in the Quran: "And if my servants ask thee concerning Me, tell them that I am very near them. I listen to the supplications of supplicators, therefore they ought to seek my union with prayers and believe in me, so that proceeding aright they may arrive at fulfillment. " [27]

And again: "Verily we are God's and verily to Him shall we return." [28]

Tagore has said: "The Infinite for its self-expression comes down into the manifoldness of the finite and the finite for its self-realization must rise into the unity of the Infinite. Then only is the cycle of the truth complete. (Creative Unity) [29]

The Buddha has taught people how to forsake the illusory Ego and to realize the Reality, how to sprung from the Temporal into the Eternal, from the Phenomenal which is Samsara into the Noumenal which is Nirvana.

Buddhism too has been a stumbling-block to Western religious thinkers; for Buddhism is undoubtedly a religion, and in its primitive form it is undoubtedly atheistic, at least in the sense that we normally understand the world. But though the Buddhist Scriptures lay such tremendous emphasis on the impermanence of all things, there are passages enough to show that over against this ever-changing world the Buddha saw something that did not change, over against Prakriti he saw Purusa though he would not have formulated this thus. [30]

He calls it "deathlessness, peace, the unchanging state of Nirvana, or more clearly, he says: "There is, monks, an unborn, not become, not made, uncompounded. If there was not such a state of unborn, not become, not made, uncompounded, no escape could be shown here, for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded, therefore an escape can be shown for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded." [31]

Taoism  has also fostered this unitive life and sustained that the union with God was the highest religious form in the Antiquity. [32]

Confucius realizing this common aim of humanity, has exclaimed: "In nature, all things return to their common source, and are distributing along different paths; through one action, the fruit of a hundred thoughts are realized." [33]

In brief, for Confucius,, our life should be ordained spiritually, morally, physically, individually and socially so that we can realize human perfection.

For that, we should have a sound idea about our true nature. We should be convinced of our eminent destiny. We should be enthusiastic and persevering in our quest for our self-fulfillment and the divine life. We should obey all nature laws, and should develop all our potentialities. We should cultivate not only our spirit and our soul but also our mind, our body, our environment so that everything will become perfect.

We can never emphasize enough that, for Confucianism, the norm of perfection is already in the inmost of our soul. If we desire to work for our own perfecting, we have only to act in conformity with this internal norm, which is our moral conscience. According to Wang Yang Ming (1472-1529), the Perfect Ones are perfect only because they obey this celestial norm and get rid of all human passions.

Now if we desire to imitate the Perfect Ones, we have only to eliminate all our selfish passions and to maintain in us the celestial norm.

"Later generations do not know that to become perfect, they have only to apply themselves to this celestial norm. On the contrary, they seek perfection only in knowledge and capacities, believing that the Perfect Ones know everything, can do marvelous things, and that one should acquire each of the numerous knowledges and capacities of the Perfect Ones. So one forsakes the celestial norm, namely, the Moral conscience, one exhausts oneself to investigate books, to scrutinize institutions, to compare the vestiges of the Perfect Ones. As results, the more our knowledge becomes widened, the more human desires are increased; the more our capacities are increased, the more the celestial norm is obnubilated..." [34]

Confucianism recognizes two ideal types of man: The gentleman or superior man and the Saint.

The Superior Man or the Gentleman is he who takes care of his spirit and his soul.(Mencius, VI, Pt. I. Chapt. 15)

He knows his high destiny. (Analects XX, 3)

He has high aspirations. (Analects XIV, 24)

He endeavors to cultivate himself. (Analects XV, 17, 20; Doctrine of the Mean chap. XIV & XX)

He likes to tread on the path of virtue rather than on that of profit. (Analectd IV, 6 & XV, 9)

He is intelligent, adaptable, eager to learn. (Analects VI, 25 & IV 10. Doctrine of the Mean, XX)

He prefers action to words. (Analects XV, 23. V, 11- XII, 15)

He is always composed, serene, and satisfied (Analects, IV, 1. VII, 36) 

Mencius has portrayed the Superior Man by these words: "To dwell in the wide house of the world, to stand in the correct seat of the world and to walk in the great path of the world; when he obtains his desire for office, to practice his principles for the good of the people; and when that desire is disappointed, to practice them alone; to be above the power of riches and honors to make dissipated; of poverty and mean condition to make swerve from principle; and of power and force to make bend: These characteristics constitute the great man." [35]

The Book of Poetry has also praised the Superior Man as follows:

'Look at those recesses,

In the banks of the Ke,

With these green bamboos,

So fresh and luxuriant!

There is our elegant prince,

As from the knife and the file,

As from the chisel and the polishes!

How grave is he and dignified!

How commanding and distinguished!

Our elegant and distinguished prince,

Never can be forgotten. [36]

Above the Superior Man is the Saint, the ideal man, the achieved type of perfection.

The Saint acts always in conformity with his moral nature. His intelligence perceived without effort the inmost cause of everything; he will experience no difficulties at tending towards the goodness and at staying firmly in the path of righteousness, order and duty. The Saint is in fact the personification of God. [37]

Therefore, man should develop all his potentialities. An individual cultivates himself to become a superior man, and then a sage, and then a saint. A Saint takes God as his model, a sage take a Saint as his model, a superior man will imitate a sage, and an individual will imitate a superior man.

Personal cultivation begins with learning. It is with good reason that the Lun Yu (Luận Ngử) opens with the following saying of the Master: "To learn and to relearn again, isn't it a great pleasure?" Reminiscing about his own lifelong course of cultivation, Confucius identified the starting point thus: "At 15, I set my heart on learning; at 30 I was firmly established; at 40 I had no more doubts; at 50 I knew the will of God; at 60 I was ready to listen to it; at 70 I could follow my heart's desire without transgressing what was right. "Education, teachers, and even books have always been accorded great respect and attention in China. Confucius was the great professional teacher of China, and he is revered as the "Supreme Sage and Foremost Teacher".

When properly understood and pursued, however, learning goes hand in hand with practice. The famous "golden rule" pronounced by Confucius came in answer to an inquiry by a pupil concerning conduct. The dialogue runs as follows:

Tzu Kung (Tử Cống) asked: "Is there any one work that can serve as principle for the conduct of life." Confucius said: "Perhaps the word 'reciprocity': "Do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you." (Analects XV, 23)

In addition to learning and practice, personal cultivation requires reflection, or meditation. In the Lun Yu there is recorded the remark by one of Confucius' immediate disciple, "I daily examine myself on three points" (honesty in business transactions, sincerity in relations with friends and mastery and practice of teachers' instructions). Later, Mencius said: 'He who has exhaustively search his mind, knows his nature. Knowing his nature, he knows God." [38]

It would be a failure on our part, if we would not deal with the Confucian political theory, because Confucius has never rested only in the improvement of the individual.

"The kingdom of world brought to a state of tranquillity was the great object which he delighted to think of; that it might be brought about as easily as "one can look upon the palm of his hand" was the dream which it pleased to him to indulge.

"He held that there was in men an adaptation and readiness to be governed which only needed to be taken advantage of in the proper way. There must be right administrators, but given those, and "the growth of government would be rapid, just as vegetation is rapid in the earth..." [39]

"This readiness to be governed arose according to Confucius from the duties of universal obligation, or those between sovereign and minister, between father and son, between husband and wife, between elder brother and younger, and those belonging to the intercourse of friends.

"Men as they are born into the world, and grow up in it, find themselves existing in those relations. They are the appointments of Heaven. And each relation has its reciprocal obligations, the recognition of which is proper to the Heaven-conferred nature. It only needs that the sacredness of the relations be maintained, and the duties belonging to them faithfully discharged, and the "happy tranquillity will prevail all under heaven..." [40] "With these ideas of the relations of society, Confucius dwelt much on the necessity of personal correctness of characters on the part of those in authority, in order to secure the right fulfillment of the duties implied in them. This is one grand peculiarity of his teaching...

Confucius said: "To govern is to set things right. If you begin by setting yourself right, who will dare to deviate from the right?" "Chi K'ang (Quí Khang Tử) asked about government and Confucius replied: "To govern means to rectify. If you lead on the people with correctness, who dares not to be correct?" (Analects, XII, 17).

" Chi K'ang (Quí Khang Tử) distressed about the number of thieves in the State, inquired of Confucius about how to do away with them. Confucius said "If you, Sir, were not covetous, though you should reward them to do it, they would not steal." (Analects, XII, 18).

"Chi k'ang asked about government, saying: "What do you say to killing of unprincipled for the good of the principled? Confucius replied: "Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good and the people will be good. (Analects, XII, 19).

"The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend, when the wind blows across it." (Analects, XII, 19).

As to the institutions of government, Confucius endeavored to foster the Theocracy, promoted by the ancient Sovereigns.

Theocracy is an ancient form of government in which God is supposed to rule over all the people, through the agency of a Holy Sovereign, called Son of God. In Theocracy, the king is God's vicar on earth; he is king at the same time pontiff, and is the mediator between God and men.

He should be then perfect, because he is really the Son of God, conducting people to perfection by his teaching and his life.

He should select wise, virtuous and capable ministers to help him governing people.

The government should aim to take care of all people, to foster prosperity and happiness, to instruct people and LEAD THEM GRADUALLY TO A PERFECT AND HOLY LIFE.

The Great Political Charter of Ancient China, now three thousand years old, was reported to be inspired by God, to the Great Iu (2205-2197). [41]

It contains nine chapters. We sum up them as follows:

1). The Ruler should know the properties of the elements in order to help all the people to live properly.

2). The Ruler should know how to cultivate himself, to fulfill himself, to become intelligent, competent, majestic, wise and saintly.

3). The Ruler should know how to govern his subjects. For this purpose, he should fulfill eight duties:

1. Provide food to people.

2. Secure commodities for people.

3. Foster religious duties of people.

4. Secure the comfort of people dwellings.

5. Teach people all their moral duties.

6. Deter them from evil by a good organization of Justice.

7. Regulate festive ceremonies and social intercourse for people.

8. Secure the well-being of the State by having an efficient army. 

4). The Ruler should be informed about the movement of the celestial bodies, the rhythm of the seasons. He should establish an accurate calendar in order to harmonize the works of his subjects with the cosmic and seasonal changes.

5). The Ruler should be a living example of perfection and a spiritual guide as well as a temporal guide for all his people.

6). The Ruler should govern with correctness and straightforwardness. But he should also know how to rule or strongly or mildly according to circumstances, and people.

7). If the Ruler has doubts about any great matter, he must consult with his own intelligence; consult with the nobles and officers; consult with God through the agency of divination.

8). The Ruler should consider all the natural calamities as warnings of God concerning his defective behavior or his defective government and amend consequently.

9). The Ruler should consider the happiness and extremities of the nation as reflecting faithfully his own attainments and defects in reference to people. In fact, a good government will result in prosperity, healthiness and high moral standard in the nation. A bad government will result in calamities, illness and high frequencies of delinquencies in the nation.

In brief, love, cooperation, trustfulness, respect for human dignity are the framework of this ideal Theocracy.

"The celebrated passage in the Li Chi (Lễ Ký), sometimes referred to as the Confucian Utopia, begins with the following pronouncements: "When the age of the Great Tao prevailed, the world was a community of all people. Men of virtue and talent were upheld and mutual confidence and goodwill were cultivated."(Li Chi - Lễ Ký, Li Yun - Lễ Vận)

James Legge has summarized the ancient Chinese creed and the ancient Chinese Theocracy as follows:

"The name by which God was designated was the Ruler, and the Supreme Ruler, denoting emphatically his personality, supremacy, and unity... By God, kings were supposed to reign, and princes were required to decree justice.

"All were under law to Him; and bound to obey His will. Even on the inferior people, He has conferred a moral sense, compliance with which would show their nature invariably right. All powers that be are from Him. He raises one to the throne and put down another. The business of Kings is to rule in righteousness and benevolence, so that the people may be happy and good. They are to be an example to all in authority, and to the multitudes under them. Their highest achievement is to cause the people tranquillity to pursue the course which their moral nature would indicate and approve.

When they are doing wrong, God admonishes them by judgments, storms, famine, and other calamities. If they persist in evil, sentence goes for against them. The dominion is taken from them, and given to others more worthy of it."  [42]

Thorton in his History of China, observes: "In my excited surprise and probably incredulity, to state that the Golden Rule of our Savior: "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you", which Mr. Locke designates as "the most unshaken rule of morality, and foundation of all social virtue" had been inculcated by Confucius, almost in the same words, four centuries before." [43]

I quote again James Legge : "But I must now leave the sages. I hope I have not done him injustice. The more I have studied his characters and opinions, the more highly have I come to regard him. He was a very great man, and his influence has been on the whole a great benefit to the Chinese, while his teachings suggest important lessons to ourselves who profess to belong to the school of Christ." [44]

Confucian Mysticism

Up to now, no one has talked about Confucian mysticism. Confucius can be called a mystic, but when he speak about himself, he is very brief, and use very humble terms.

The highest Confucian mystics, mentioned by Confucius and Mencius, were Yao (Nghiêu; 2357-2255 BC), Shun (Thuấn; 2255-2205 BC), Iu (Đại Võ; 2205-2197), King Wan (Văn Vương; 1258-? BC), and Woo (Võ Vương; 1122-1115 BC). (The works of Mencius VII, part 2, 38)

The life of these Holy Sovereigns is described in the Shoo King, or the Book of Historical Documents (Kinh Thư, and in the She King, or the Book of Poetry (Kinh Thi).

We know that in these ancient times, people endeavored to become perfect and to be united to God, and believed that God was very close to everyone.

In the Great battle in the wilderness on Muh, that confronted the troops of Woo, and those of the tyrant Show, to galvanize the faith of the King in God, the Grand Master Shang Foo (Trọng Phụ) thus said to King Wu (Võ Vương):

"The troops of Yin-Shang (Ân Thương)

Were collected like a forest,

And marshalled in the wilderness of Muh.

We rose [to the crisis];-

'GOD IS WITH YOU,' [said Shang-Foo to the King],


The wilderness of Muh (Mục Dã spread out extensive;

Bright shone the chariot of sandal;

The teams of bays, black-maned and white-bellied, galloped along;

The grand-master Shang-fu (Trọng Phụ)

Was like an eagle on the wing,

Assisting King Woo (Võ Vương),

Who at one onset smote the great Shang (Thương).

That morning's encounter was followed by a clear bright [day].[45] 

At this ancient time, people believed that God illumined their heart, to show them the way of wisdom, so that they could have the same virtue of God. It is said in the She king:

The illustration of illustrious [virtue] is required below,

And the dread majesty is on high. [46]

At this period, The Holy Sovereigns believes that God descends in their heart. Therefore, they never relaxed in the maintenance of their virtues. It is said in the She King: 

Full of harmony was he in his palace;

Full of reverence in his ancestral temple.

Out of sight he still felt as under inspection,

Unweariedly he maintained [his virtue]. [47]

 King Wan has attained a high degree of perfection, and became an expression of God, therefore he was named King Wan. Wan means in fact expression. It is written in the She king:

'The doings of High heaven,

Have neither sound nor smell,

Take your pattern from King Wan,

And the myriad regions will repose confidence in you.' [48]

 At this time, people believed that following the way of their ancestors was following the true religion of God, and the true filial piety.

It is written in the She King:

Ever think of your ancestor,

Cultivating your virtue,

Always striving to accord with the will [of Heaven].

So shall you be seeking for much happiness.

Before Yin lost the multitudes,

[Its kings] were the assessors of God.

Look to Yin as a beacon,

The great appointment is not easily [preserved]. [49]

 It is said also:

This King Wan,

Watchfully and reverently,

With entire intelligence served God,

And so secured the great blessing.

His virtue was without deflection;

And in consequence he received [the allegiance of] The States from all quarters. [50]

 At this time, all the great people liked to live in conformity to God's will. This is called leading a holy life. In brief, at this time, people understand already what is mysticism, and what does it mean by Union with God. Confucius rarely says that he is a mystic, that he has realized Union with God, except only one time, when his life was endangered, when he was surrounded by the people of K'wang. Then he declared himself an expression of God, exactly as King Wan. He said: "After the death of King Wan, was not the expression [of God] conferred to me? If God had wished to led his expression perish, then I should not have such an honor. While God does not let his expression perish, what can the people of K'wang do to me?"  [51]

Mencius called mystics men who practiced the Doctrine of the Mean, that I have retranslated as The Eternal Center. In this book, Confucianists pretend that mystics followed the natural path of perfection, written by God in the hearts of all people. Mencius added that only in about 500 years, can one find a Mystic. He gave us also a list of Chinese Mystics in the last chapter of his book. (J. Legge, The Works of Mencius, pp. 501-502)

To become a mystic, we must believe that the nature of man is good. The Goodness of man is proclaimed by Confucius, and especially by Mencius.

In the beginning of the Doctrine of the Mean, It is said: "What God has ordered us to realize is called The Nature. An accordance with the Nature is called Religion. The regulation of this Religion is called Instruction. The Religion cannot be left even for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be the Religion." So the true Religion is to follow our own Nature, and the injunctions of our nature are written in our conscience.

For Confucius, the true religion springs forth from the inmost of our heart. It is said in the Doctrine of the Mean: "The religion of the superior man is rooted in himself, and sufficient attestation of it is given by the masses of the people. He examines them by comparison with those of the three kings, and finds them without mistake. He sets them up before heaven and earth, and finds nothing in them contrary to their mode of operation. He presents himself with them before spiritual beings, and no doubt about them arise. He is prepared to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, and has no misgivings..." (Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. XXX, 3).

Mencius is categorical in affirming that the nature of man is good. "The tendency of man's nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good, just as all water flows downwards." (J. Legge, The works of Mencius, Book VI, Part I, 2, p. 395).

It is said in the Shoo king:

The Human Self is restless and changing,

The Divine Self is very recondite.

Realize purity, Realize Oneness,

Stick to your Central Self.

(J. Legge, The Shoo King, The Counsels of the Great Wu, 15 p. 61. Translation of the Author)

In that case, man has two hearts, or two minds: A Carnal mind or Human self, full of passions, and a Divine Self, or a Spiritual Mind very simple, and pure. It is our Central Self, which gears us in our way to perfection.

To find out this Central Self in our self is the beginning of our Mystical way. It can be also called Illumination, or Conversion, or rebirth of the Spirit. To orient our self from our Carnal mind to our Spiritual mind is to tread on the Celestial pathway.

To get rid our self of our Carnal Mind, is to become a Saint.

The whole human pathway is then cyclical, half of it is called Human life; another half is termed Divine Life. The first half is dominated by extroversion, the second half is dominated by introversion or introspection. The middle of our life is then around 35, or 36 years.

It is said in the I Ching: "One Yin and One Yang is called Religion, if you can follow this path, it is good. If you can follow this path up to its end, you will realize your Nature. (The I Ching, The Great Treatise I, chapter 5, 1.)

Confucius also said: "My religion is that of an all-pervading unity... Tsang (Trang Tử) said: The religion of our master is to realize perfection in our heart, and to render other people similar to us" (Analects, Book IV, 15)

Confucius has get rid of his carnal mind. It is said in the Analects: "There were four things from which the Master was entirely free: He has no foregone conclusions, no arbitrary predetermination, no obstinacy and no egoism. (J. Legge, Analects, Book IX, 4, p. 217)

We must repeat that the Doctrine of the Mean is the book that teaches people the Mystical Way. In its first chapter, a commencement is made with the mention of God as the conferror of man's nature, while in its last chapter, the progress of man in virtue is traced, step by step, till at last it is equal to that of God. "A Saint, or Confucius, can be compared to heaven and earth, in their supporting and containing, their overshadowing and curtaining all things; he may be compared to the four seasons in their alternating progress, and to the sun and moon in their successive shinings." [52]

We finds also that in the period of Sung (960-1279), there is a philosopher, called Lu chiu Yuan (Lục Tượng Sơn; 1139-1192) who taught a monistic system of the mind which was the legislator of the universe. He was also a mystic.

Convinced that "Truth is nothing other than the mind and the mind nothing other than the truth" and that "the Six Classics are but footnotes of my mind," Lu chiu Yuan did not emphasize book learning and did not write a single book himself. Condemning the method of extension of knowledge through investigation of things, he believed that spiritual cultivation consisted of contemplation - looking inward into one's own mind - and sudden enlightenment. [53]

In presenting Confucianism, I try to give all its main characteristics, but I can not be exhaustive. I didn't give the lectors its evolution through the ages, because I realize that people don't understand Confucius' ideas yet, so I endeavor to emphasize some aspects of Confucianism, such as its relationship to God, its way of understanding man, its way to govern man, so that man can have a virtuous life.

I like Confucianism because it does not have an organized body of clergy.

In Confucianism, man can find God inside himself, and needs no help from any clergy.

It does not have any external cult for God, and tries only to live according to the injunctions of the moral conscience. (J. Legge, The Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. I, 2,3. Analects XII, 4)

In our study, I have lead you in the profundity of the mind, pretending that only there, you can find the source of your life, and the mainstream of all your energy. God is there, and all the highest motivation of men spring forth also from there.

In my study of Confucianism, I have devised two diagrams, one depicting the soul of an ordinary man, and the other depicting the soul of a saint.

In the first diagram, The Xing (Tính Đạo Tâm) of man, or the Divine Self of man is represented by the Sun. It is perfect in itself and contains in perfection all the four cardinal virtues: The Principle of Benevolence (Nhân), the Principle of Righteousness (Nghĩa), the Principle of Propriety (Lễ), and the Principle of Knowledge (Trí).

The Xin (Nhân Tâm) or the Human Self, is represented by the Moon. It has in itself the Feeling of commiseration (Trắc Ẩn) derived from the principle of Benevolence, the Feeling of Shame and Dislike (Tư Ố), derived from the principle of Righteousness, the Feeling of Modesty and Complaisance (Từ Nhượng), derived from the principle of Propriety, the Feeling of Approving and Disapproving (Thị Phi) derived from the principle of Knowledge. Exactly as the moon receives its rays from the sun, The Xin (Tâm) receives all their feelings from the Xing (Tính). These feelings are then imperfect and inadequate. 

The Divine Self and The Human Self


Đạo Tâm: Divine Self

Tính: Nature

Nhân: Principle of Benevolence

Lễ: Principle of Propriety

Nghĩa: Principle of Righteousness

Trí: Principle of Knowledge

Nhân Tâm: Human Self

Trắc Ẩn: Feeling of Commiseration

Tư Ố: Feeling of Shame and Dislike

Từ Nhượng: Feeling of Modesty and Complaisance

Thị Phi: Feeling of Approving and Disapproving


Physical Duty, Psychological Duty and Spiritual Duty


Thiên :


Trung Dung Chi Đạo:

The Religion of The Principle of the Mean

Đạo Tâm :

Divine Self

Chí Thành, Chí Thiện:

Driving up to perfection

Tính, Thành:

Nature, Divine Self

Suất Tính (Theo tiếng Lương Tâm):

To follow our own Nature or Conscience


Principle of Benevolence

Khử Nhân Dục:

Conquer our passions


Principle of Knowledge


In reverence to the Godhead within us

Thiên Đạo:

Spiritual Duty

Hàm Dưỡng:

To keep our mind clean

Nhân Đạo:

Psychological Duty

Tồn Thiên Lý:

To keep all the celestial norms

Địa Đạo:

Physical Duty

Nhân Tâm:

Human Self

Now if we go to the second diagram, we see immediately that we must change the direction of our lives. We must go now from our Xin back to our Xing, to realize our Divine Self. We must then make a Conversion. This Conversion can be called also the Rebirth of the Spirit. This change in the sense of our life can be also called the Introversion Way or the Instrospective Way. We can see now that the way of a plain man is diametrically opposed to that of a saint. The one is extrovert, the other is introvert. We can say that all saints are introvert. (J. Legge, The Works of Mencius, Book II, chap. 6, pp. 201- 205)

We learn also from Confucius a great lesson that, without effort, we cannot realize anything good. Furthermore, being a human being, and living in this immense and beautiful world, we cannot lead a lazy life, but we should strive to something more beautiful, and more useful

We should find out in our self our divine nature, and try to realize it in our life. This Divine Nature is the Tai Chi (Thái Cực), or the Ens Realissimum or The Xing (Tính). [54]

We should find out all the natural laws that govern all the aspect of our life, physically, physiologically, mentally, spiritually (J. Legge, the She King, Decade of Tang, Ching min, p. 541.)

We should obey all the natural laws that help us to bloom all our potentialities. (J. Legge, The She King, Odes of Pin, Fah ko, p. 240)

We should become poets, always living with nice ideas, with nice dispositions of our soul, knowing how to find out and to enjoy all the natural beauties.

We must know how to live in harmony with the cosmos, with every man, and everything. (Analects VIII, 9)

We should be responsible for everything good or bad, happening in our life, and in the life of our nation. If all of us live properly, and cooperate with each other, our political and economical life will be prosperous; if not, we will live miserably.

Confucius teaches us that we have three kinds of duty:

1). Physical duty (Địa Đạo, Vật Đạo): We must improve our environment, our material life.

2). Psychological duty (ren tao, Nhân Đạo): We should live properly, and behave properly with each other.

3). Spiritual duty (Tian dao, Thiên Đạo): We should cultivate our spirit, progressing to perfection, and live in union with God. (R. Wilhelm, the Yi Jing, Ta Chuan, The Great Treatise, Chapter X, 1, pp. 351-322

But now, as people do not yet evolve enough to follow the spiritual duties, therefore Confucius is very brief about it. (Analects III, 12)

In short, we don't find in Confucianism, any superstition. It teaches us only what is natural, what is true. (J. Legge, the Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. XI).

Since the XVIIth century, Confucianism has been attacked, by Catholic missionaries who tried to present it as atheistic, and recently by Mao-tse-Tung who likes to supplant it.

Missionaries came in China at the beginning of the XVIIth century, and were full of prejudices against Chinese people. They regarded them contemptuously, and considered them an inferior race.

"They (the missionaries) despite the "yellow races" of the Orient; tried to convert these inferior beings and, at the same time, told each other, in print, and even told them to their face, that they were so brutish, so contemptible, that they were hardly worth converting. "Chinese civilization" wrote a distinguished missionary priest in the middle of the 19th century, "is a monstrosity, not only anti-Christian, but anti-human..." The religions of the Chinese are monstrous, absurd, the most ridiculous in the world. "One does not find humanity, he concluded, among the people of the Orient, but only "monkeydom." [55]

"The Chinese, being by nature inferior to the European, will always be inferior as a Christian." [56]

"All the missionaries will love the Chinese for the love of God and for the sake of their soul; we will devote our self to them, on supernatural principles; but friendship!; that is impossible." [57]

Missionaries sustained that Confucianism is atheistic, that Confucius himself was damned, with all other Chinese ancestors who were all atheists and idolaters.

"In his twenty first question, Navarette asked if Gentiles, i.e. non Christian Chinese who live a respectable life (non nimis laxe, sed aliqualiter modeste viventes) could be saved?

"Some missionaries" he said, meaning the Jesuits, have denied this proposition". The Holy Office replied: "Those who teach that these Gentiles are not punished with eternal suffering contradict the Holy Scriptures". Answering the 22th question, the Holy Office affirmed that Infidels dying without baptism, or without having had a real desire for baptism, were damned". [58] "The priest of the Foreign Missionary Society announced that "Confucius was damned to eternal flames." The Holy Office replied: "Allowing for what has been said, it is forbidden to say that Confucius is saved."...

Navarette however, reinforced in his opinions by these decisions, declared, five years later, that since "Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pliny, Seneca, etc, were irretrievably damned, how much more Confucius, who was not worthy to kiss their feet." [59]

In sum, the missionaries' strategy can be resumed as follows:

a). Admission of some compromise, showing some respect to Confucian morale, agreeing that T'i, or Shang T'i. or T'ien means God, accepting the ancestral cults of Chinese people. This is the way of Jesuits but is rejected by the Roman Catholic church.

b). No compromise at all. Destroy Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, as perverting religions and promulgate the Catholic faith. This is the policy of all the other missionaries. The Roman Catholic Church follows this view. [60]

As for Mao-Tse-Toung, he taxed Confucianism of feudalism, and tried to supplant it in China.

"The victory of Communism in 1949 and the Cultural Revolution of 1966, have meant a break with tradition that is far more profound than anything that has happened in China since the unification by the Ch'in (Tan) dynasty in 221 BC. Confucianism, whether as a state cult or as an organized system of belief, is now a thing of the past in its homeland, though it still has professed adherents in the latter sense on Taiwan and elsewhere outside the Chinese People Republic (e.g. among Chinese living in Southern Asia and North America.) [61]

Communist rule in China has put an end to all free inquiry and established Karl Marx's system of dialectical materialism as the state philosophy.

Today, most of us have a more enlightened view of China, and yet some misconceptions remain. The key to understand China lies in the ability to focus on key problems rather than in the memorization of endless data.

Today, also, Chinese studies are pursued by many students in many universities in the West. The cultural interest behind this development may be traced to such modern philosophers as John Dewey and Bertrand Russell, Ernest Francisco Fenelossa (an American Orientalist), and Esra Pound, poet and translator of Confucian Classics. [62]

Confucian Classics are translated in French and English by many scholars such as P. Regis, Zottoli, Leon Wieger, Seraphin Couvreur, J. Legge, Richard Wilhelm. Such interest means that Confucianism can never be destroyed, because it tries to discover all the natural laws or Li that are behind all human behaviour.

[1] Edwin A. Burtt, Man Seeks the Divine, p. 160.

[2] Flood dates about 2400 B.C. (Cf. Henry. H. Halley, Pocket Bible Handbook, p. 33).

[3] J. Legge, The She King, Decade of Shang Min, Pan 8, p. 503.

[4] James Legge, The She King, Decade of King Wan, Ode II, p. 436.

[5] James Legge, The Shoo King, p. 308, notes.

[6] Cf. James Legge, The Shoo King, The Counsels of the Great Wu, 15.

Gaubil says:- 'The heart of man is full of shoals (ecueils); the heart of Taou is simple and thin '; and adds in a note:'The heart of man is here opposed to that of Tao. The discourse is of two hearts,- one engaged in passions, the other simple and very pure. Tao express the right reason. It is very natural to think that the ideas of a God, pure, simple and Lord of men, is the source of these worlds.'

J. Legge, The Shoo King, The Counsels of the Great Yu, p. 61, see note.

[7] Translated from French, Henry Bernard Maitre, Sagesse chinoise et Philosophie Chretienne, p. 103)

[8] Translated from French, Henri Bernard Maitre, Sagesse Chinoise et Philosophie Chretienne, p. 133. Nouveaux memoires du P. Lecomte, parus en 1696.

[9] Chandogya Upa. 3. 14. 3-4. Brhdaranyaka Up. 2.5. 14-15 and 3.8 and 6-8)

[10] The Works of Mencius, Book VI, Pt 1, Chap. 2.

[11] J. Legge, The She King, Decade of Tang, VI, Ching Min, 1, p. 541.

[12] The Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. 13.

[13] The Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. 13.

[14] Trần Trọng Kim, Nho Giáo II, p. 265.

[15] Harmat Ahmah, The Philosophy of the Teaching of Islam, 1959, p. 19.

[16] Edwin A. Burtt, Man Seeks the Divine, p. 160.

[17] James Legge, The Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 1. And Lin Yu Tang, The Wisdom of Confucius, New York, 1938, p. 108, 129f, 125f.

[18] J. Legge, The Doctrine of the Mean, chap. I, p. 385.

[19] Confucian Analects, XII, 2.

[20] The Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. 1.

[21] The Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. XX.

[22] Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. XX, 8.

[23] J. Legge, The Doctrine of the Mean, Chap. X, 19, 20. p. 413f.

[24] The Chinese Classics Vol. 1 & 2, Prolegomena, p. 54.)

[25] Nguyễn Nam Châu, Sứ Mạng Văn Nghệ, p. 9)

[26] John, 1: 11, 21, 22, 10, 30; 13, 20.

[27] Quran, Al-Baqara, verse 187.

Harrat Almad, The Philosophy of the Teaching of Islam, p. 121.

[28] Quran, Al Baqara verses 156-158.

[29] Nguyễn Đăng Thục, Lịch Sử Triết Học Đông Phương, II, 9.

[30] Suttamipata, 204: Apud Conze, Buddhist Texts through the Ages, p. 93.

[31] Udana, 80-81, ibidem p. 95: apud R. C. Zaehner, Mysticism Sacred and Profane, p. 126.

Le Nirvana et le Samsara sont aussi l'un a l'autre, comme l'eau et les vagues. Nirvana c'est l'etre (et la buddheite) dans l'etat de permanence. Samsara c'est l'etre (et la buddheite) dans l'état d'impermanence. Le Nirvana c'est l'eau; le Samsara c'est la houle. Le Nie-p'an c'est l'etre absolu le reste Cheng-Seu est l'apparence. Dans l'ocean du Nie-p'an permanent, nous sommes des rides impermanentes. Sortir de l'impermanence pour entrer dans la permanence, c'est Kie-t'ouo, la delivrance.

Leon Wieger, Histoire des Croyances religieuses et des Opinions philosophiques en Chine depuis l'origine jusqu'a nos jours, 1922, p. 549.

[32] Tao Te King, p. 64.

[33] Wilhelm, The I Ching, Commentaries on the Appended Judgments, p. 362.

[34] Wang Tch'ang Tche, La philosophie morale de Wang Yang Ming, p. 54f.

[35] J. Legge, The Works of Mencius, Book III, Pt. II, chap. 2.

[36] The Great Learning, III, 4

J. Legge, The She King I V. Ode I, stand 1.

[37] Stanislas le Grall, Le Philosophe Tchou-Hi, sa doctrine, son influence. Chap. Le Saint.

[38] Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979, Vol. 4. p. 1098, under the title: Confucianism.

[39] J. Legge, The Chinese Classics, Vol. I & II, Prolegomena, p. 102.

[40] J. Legge, The Chinese Classics, Vo. I & II, Prolegomena, p. 102.

[41] J. Legge, The Shoo King, The Great Plan, p. 320f.

[42] J. Legge, The Shoo King or the Book of Historical Documents, Prolegomena. p. 193.

[43] Thornton, History of China, vol., p. 209. James Legge, The Chinese Classics, Vol. 1 & 2, Prolegomena, p. 109.

[44] J. Legge, The Chinese Classics, Prolegomena, p. 111.

[45] J. Legge, The She King, Decade of King Wan, Book one, Ode two, 7 & 8, pp. 435-436.

[46] J. Legge, The She King, Decade of the King Wan, p. 432.

[47] J. Legge, The She King, Decade of King Wan, Sze chae, p. 446.

[48] J. Legge, The She King, Decade of King Wan, p. 431.

[49] J. Legge, The She King, Decade of King Wan, p. 431.

[50] J. Legge, The She King, p. 433.

[51] Analects, IX, 5.

[52] Cf. Richard Wilhelm, The I Ching, Book III, the Commentaries, d) 11, p. 382. – J. Legge, The Doctrine of the Mean, Scope and Value, Prolegomena, p. 53.

[53] Encyclopaedia Britannica,1979, Vol. 4, p. 1096, under the title Confucianism.

[54] Thọ Văn Nguyễn, The Doctrine of the Mean, p. 165, note 1.

La Realite infinie est le substrat de toute possibilité, le fondement universel. Si toutes les négations sont des limites, aucune chose n'est possible que par une autre chose qu'elle suppose, sauf l'ens realissimum. (Kant, Oeuvres T. 17, 478. and Lucien Golmann, La communauté humaine et l'univers chez Kant, p. 50.

Nous trouvons chez Kant un très grand nombre d'expressions pour designer l'inconditionné: Le Supra Sensible, le Souverain Bien, la Totalité, l'Universitas, le Nouméné, la Chose en Soi, l'Intellect Archétype, la Volonté Sainte, l'Entendement Intuitif ou Createur. (Ibidem. 137)

[55] Malcolm Hay, Failure in the Far East, p. 167.

[56] Malcolm Hay, Failure in the Far-East, p. 168.

Methode de l'Apostolat moderne, Hongkong, 1911, p. 800.

[57] Malcolm Hay, Failures in the Far-East, p. 168.

[58] Malcolm Hay, Failure in the Far-East, pp. 128-129.

[59] Malcolm Hay, Failure in the Far-East, pp. 128, 104, and 129.

[60] Les Jesuites avaient entrepris cette Evangelisation sur une échelle cyclopedienne et s'étaient dressés contre les autres missions catholiques, franciscaines, capucines et dominicaines, qui toutes croyaient en la politique de la table rase cad en l'absence totale de compromis avec les cultures et modes de pensées de l'étranger. Selon cette doctrine opposée à celle des Jésuites, les missions chrétiennes devaient tenter de convertir les masses et détruire de fond en comble les civilisations paiennes...

Amaury de Riencourt, L'Ame de la Chine, p. 230.

...Des lors, les Jésuites se sentirent sur un terrain assez solide pour tenter un syncrétisme grandiose, par lequel ils auraient voulu fusionner la morale confucianiste avec le catholicisme romain. Ils élaborèrent donc un plan audacieux, préconisant l' établissement d'une Eglise Chinoise autonome avec ses propres rites chinois et ils le proposaient au Vatican. La première decision du Pape Innocent X, prise en 1645, fut défavorable aux Jésuites, et une dernière bulle papale condamna leur action en 1742, avec une precision mortelle.

Amaury de Riencourt, L'Ame de la Chine, pp. 226-227.

[61] Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979, Vol. IV, page 1103, under the Article: History of Confucianism.

[62] Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979, Vol. 4, p. 1099.

TOC | Preface | Chapters: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19