Evolution Of The Japanese, Social And Psychic
by Sidney L. Gulick
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Yet this is by no means true of all. No nation, with such a continuous history as Japan has had, would fail to develop a class capable of considerable introspection. In Japan introspection received early and powerful impetus from the religion of Buddha. It came with a philosophy of life based on prolonged and profound introspection. It commanded each man who would know more than the symbols, who desired, like Buddha, to attain the great enlightenment and thus become a Tathagata, a Blessed one, a Buddha, an Enlightened one, to know and conquer himself. The emphasis laid by thoughtful Buddhism on the need of self-knowledge, in order to self-suppression, is well recognized by all careful students. Advocates of Oriental "impersonality" are not one whit behind others in recognizing it. In this connection we can hardly do better than quote a few of Mr. Lowell's happy descriptions of the teaching of philosophic Buddhism.

"This life, it says, is but a chain of sorrows.... These desires that urge us on are really causes of all our woe. We think they are ourselves. We are mistaken. They are all illusion.... This personality, this sense of self, is a cruel deception.... Realize once the true soul behind it, devoid of attributes ... an invisible part of the great impersonal soul of nature, then ... will you have found happiness in the blissful quiescence of Nirvana" [p. 186]. "In desire alone lies all the ill. Quench the desire, and the deeds [sins of the flesh] will die of inanition. Get rid, then, said Buddha, of these passions, these strivings, for the sake of self. As a man becomes conscious that he himself is something distinct from his body, so if he reflect and ponder, he will come to see that in like manner, his appetites, ambitions, hopes, are really extrinsic to the spirit proper.... Behind desire, behind even the will, lies the soul, the same for all men, one with the soul of the universe. When he has once realized this eternal truth, the man has entered Nirvana.... It [Nirvana] is simply the recognition of the eternal oneness of the two [the individual and the universal soul]" [p. 189].

Accepting this description of philosophic Buddhism as fairly accurate, it is plain that the attainment of this consciousness of the unity of the individual self with the universal is the result, according to Buddha, and also according to the advocates of "impersonality," of a highly developed consciousness of self. It is not a simple state of undifferentiated mind, but a complex and derivative one—absolutely incomprehensible to a primitive people. The means for this suppression of self depends entirely on the development of the consciousness of self. The self is the means for casting out the self, and it is done by that introspection which ultimately leads to the realization of the unity. If, then, Japanese Buddhism seeks to suppress the self, this very effort is the most conclusive proof we could demand of the possession by this people of a highly developed consciousness of self.

It is one of the boasts of Buddhism that a man's saviour is himself; no other helper, human or divine, can do aught for him. Those who reject Christianity in Christian lands are quite apt to praise Buddhism for this rejection of all external help. They urge that by the very nature of the case salvation is no external thing; each one must work out his own salvation. It cannot be given by another. Salvation through an external Christ who lived 1900 years ago is an impossibility. Such a criticism of Christianity shows real misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine and method of salvation. Yet the point to which attention is here directed is not the correctness or incorrectness of these characterizations of Christianity, but rather to the fact that "ji-riki," salvation through self-exertion, which is the boast of Buddhism, is but another proof of the essentially self-conscious character of Buddhism. It aims at Nirvana, it is true, at self-suppression, but it depends on the attainment of clear self-consciousness in the first place, and then on prolonged self-exertion for the attainment of that end. In proportion as Buddhism is esoteric is it self-conscious.

Such being the nature of Buddhism, we naturally ask whether or not it is calculated to develop strongly personalized men and women. If consciousness of self is the main element of personality, we must pronounce Buddhism a highly personal rather than impersonal religion, as is commonly stated. But a religion of the Buddhistic type, which casts contempt on the self, and seeks its annihilation as the only means of salvation, has ever tended to destroy personality; it has made men hermits and pessimists; it has drawn them out of the great current of active life, and thus has severed them from their fellow-men. But a prime condition of developed personalities is largeness and intensity of life, and constant intercourse with mankind. Personality is developed in the society of persons, not in the company of trees and stones. Buddhism, which runs either to gross and superstitious polytheism on its popular side or to pessimistic introspection on its philosophical side, may possibly, by a stretch of the term, be called "impersonal" in the sense that it does not help in the production of strong, rounded personality among its votaries, but not in the sense that it does not produce self-consciousness. Buddhism, therefore, cannot be accurately described in terms of personality or impersonality.

We would do well in this connection to ponder the fact that although Buddhism in its higher forms does certainly develop consciousness of self, it does not attribute to that self any worth. In consequence of this, it never has modified, and however long it might be allowed to run its course, never could modify, the general social order in the direction of individualism. This is one reason why the whole Orient has maintained to modern times its communal nature, in spite of its high development in so many ways, even in introspection and self-consciousness.

This failure of Buddhism is all the more striking when we stop to consider how easy and, to us, natural an inference it would have been to pass from the perception of the essential unity between the separate self and the universal soul, to the assertion of the supreme worth of that separate soul because of the fact of that unity. But Buddhism never seems to have made that inference. Its compassion on animals and even insects depended on its doctrine of the transmigration of souls, not on its doctrine of universal soul unity. Its mercy was shown to animals in certain whimsical ways, but the universal lack of sympathy for suffering man, man who could suffer the most exquisite pains, exposed the shallowness of its solicitude about destroying life. The whole influence of Buddhism on the social order was not conducive to the development of personality in the Orient. The so-called impersonal influence of Buddhism upon the Eastern peoples, then, is not due to its failure to recognize the separateness of the human self, on the one hand, nor to its emphasis on the universal unity subsisting between the separate finite self and the infinite soul, on the other; but only on its failure to see the infinite worth of the individual; and in consequence of this failure, its inability to modify the general social order by the introduction of individualism.

The asserted "impersonal" characteristic of Buddhism and of the Orient, therefore, I am not willing to call "impersonality"; for it is a very defective description, a real misnomer. I think no single term can truly describe the characteristic under consideration. As regards the general social order, the so-called impersonal characteristic is its communal nature; as regards the popular religious thought, whether of Shintoism or Buddhism, its so-called impersonality is its simple, artless objectivity; as regards philosophic Buddhism its so-called impersonality is its morbid introspective self-consciousness, leading to the desire and effort to annihilate the separateness of the self. These are different characteristics and cannot be described by any single term. So far as there are in Japan genuine altruism, real suppression of selfish desires, and real possession of kindly feelings for others and desires to help them, and so far as these qualities arise through a sense of the essential unity of the human race and of the unity of the human with the divine soul, this is not "impersonality"—but a form of highly developed personality—not infra-personality, but true personality.

We have noted that although esoteric Buddhism developed a highly accentuated consciousness of self, it attributed no value to that self. This failure will not appear strange if we consider the historical reasons for it. Indeed, the failure was inevitable. Neither the social order nor the method of introspective thought suggested it. Both served, on the contrary, absolutely to preclude the idea.

When introspective thought began in India the social order was already far beyond the undifferentiated communal life of the tribal stage. Castes were universal and fixed. The warp and woof of daily life and of thought were filled with the distinctions of castes and ranks. Man's worth was conceived to be not in himself, but in his rank or caste. The actual life of the people, therefore, did not furnish to speculative thought the slightest suggestion of the worth of man as man. It was a positive hindrance to the rise of such an idea.

Equally opposed to the rise of this idea was the method of that introspective thought which discovered the fact of the self. It was a method of abstraction; it denied as part of the real self everything that could be thought of as separate; every changing phase or expression of the self could not be the real self, it was argued, because, if a part of the real self, how could it sometimes be and again not be? Feeling cannot be a part of the real self, for sometimes I feel and sometimes I do not. Any particular desire cannot be a part of my real self, for sometimes I have it and sometimes I do not. A similar argument was applied to every objective thing. In the famous "Questions of King Melinda," the argument as to the real chariot is expanded at length; the wheels are not the chariot; the spokes are not the chariot; the seat is not the chariot; the tongue is not the chariot; the axle is not the chariot; and so, taking up each individual part of the chariot, the assertion is made that it is not the chariot. But if the chariot is not in any of its parts, then they are not essential parts of the chariot. So of the soul—the self; it does not consist of its various qualities or attributes or powers; hence they are not essential elements of the self. The real self exists apart from them.

Now is it not evident that such a method of introspection deprives the conception of self of all possible value? It is nothing but a bare intellectual abstraction. To say that this self is a part of the universal self is no relief,—brings no possible worth to the separate self,—for the conception of the universal soul has been arrived at by a similar process of thought. It, too, is nothing but a bare abstraction, deprived of all qualities and attributes and powers. I can see no distinction between the absolute universal soul of Brahmanism and Buddhism, and the Absolute Nothing of Hegel.[CX]

Both are the farthest possible abstraction that the mind can make. The Absolute Soul of Buddhism, the Atman of Brahmanism, and Hegel's Nothing are the farthest possible remove from the Christian's conception of God. The former is the utter emptiness of being; the latter the perfect fullness of being and completeness of quality. The finite emptiness receives and can receive no richness of life or increase in value by its consciousness of unity with the infinite emptiness; whereas the finite limited soul receives in the Christian view an infinite wealth and value by reason of the consciousness of its unity with the divine infinite fullness. The usual method of stating the difference between the Christian conception of God and the Hindu conception of the root of all being is that the one is personal and the other impersonal. But these terms are inadequate. Rather say the one is perfectly personal and the other perfectly abstract. Impersonality, even in its strictest meaning, i.e., without "conscious separate existence as an intelligent and voluntary being," only partially expresses the conception of Buddhism. The full conception rejects not only personality, but also every other quality; the ultimate and the absolute of Buddhism—we may not even call it being—is the absolutely abstract.

With regard, then, to the conception of the separate self and of the supreme self, the Buddhistic view may be called "impersonal," not in the sense that it lacks the consciousness of a separate self; not in the sense that it emphasizes the universal unity—nay, the identity of all the separate abstract selves and the infinite abstract self; but in the sense that all the qualities and characteristics of human beings, such as consciousness, thought, emotion, volition, and even being itself, are rejected as unreal. The view is certainly "impersonal," but it is much more. My objection to the description of Buddhism as "impersonal," then, is not because the word is too strong, but because it is too weak; it does not sufficiently characterize its real nature. It is as much below materialism, as materialism is below monotheism. Such a scheme of thought concerning the universe necessarily reacts on those whom it possesses, to destroy what sense they may have of the value of human personality; that which we hold to be man's glory is broken into fragments and thrown away.

But this does not constitute the whole of the difficulty. This method of introspective thought necessarily resulted in the doctrine of Illusion. Nothing is what it seems to be. The reality of the chariot is other than it appears. So too with the self and everything we see or think. The ignoant are perfectly under the spell of the illusion and cannot escape it. The deluded mind creates for itself the world of being, with all its woes and evils. The great enlightenment is the discovery of this fact and the power it gives to escape the illusion and to see that the world is nothing but illusion. To see that the illusion is an illusion destroys it as such. It is then no longer an illusion, but only a passing shadow. We cannot now stop to see how pessimism, the doctrine of self-salvation, and the nature of that salvation through contemplation and asceticism and withdrawal from active life, all inevitably follow from such a course of thought. That which here needs emphasis is that all this thinking renders it still more impossible to think of the self as having any intrinsic worth. On-the contrary, the self is the source of evil, of illusion. The great aim of Buddhism is necessarily to get rid of the self, with all its illusions and pains and disappointments.

Is it now clear why Buddhism failed to reach the idea of the worth of the individual self? It was due to the nature of the social order, and the nature of its introspective and speculative thinking. Lacking, therefore, the conception of individual worth, we see clearly why it failed, even after centuries of opportunity, to secure individualism in the social order and a general development of personality either as an idea or as a fact among any of the peoples to which it has gone. It is not only a fact of history, but we have seen that it could not have been otherwise. The very nature of its conception of self and, in consequence, the nature of its conception of salvation absolutely prohibited it.[CY]

We have thus far confined our view entirely to philosophic Buddhism. It is important, therefore, to state again that very few of the Japanese people outside of the priesthood have any such ideas with regard to the abstract nature of the individual, of the absolute self, and of their mutual relations as I have just described. These ideas are a part of esoteric Buddhism, the secret truth, which is an essential part of the great enlightenment, but far too profound for the vulgar multitudes. The vast majority, even of the priesthood, I am told, do not get far enough to be taught these views. The sweep of such conceptions, therefore, is very limited. That they are held, however, by the leaders, that they are the views of the most learned expounders and the most advanced students of Buddhism serves to explain why Buddhism has never been, and can never become, a power in reorganizing society in the direction of individualism.

Popular Buddhism contains many elements alien to philosophic Buddhism. For a full study of the subject of this chapter we need to ask whether popular Buddhism tended to produce "impersonality," and if so, in what sense. The doctrine of "ingwa,"[CZ] with its consequences on character, demands fresh attention at this point. According to this doctrine every event of this life, even the minutest, is the result of one's conduct in a previous life, and is unalterably fixed by inflexible law. "Ingwa" is the crude idea of fate held by all primitive peoples, stated in somewhat philosophic and scientific form. It became a central element in the thought of Oriental peoples. Each man is born into his caste and class by a law over which neither he nor his parents have any control, and for which they are without responsibility. The misfortunes of life, and the good fortunes as well, come by the same impartial, inflexible laws. By this system of thought moral responsibility is practically removed from the individual's shoulders. This doctrine is held in Japan far more widely than the philosophic doctrine of the self, and is correspondingly baleful.

This system of thought, when applied to the details of life, means that individual choice and will, and their effect in determining both external life and internal character have been practically lost sight of. As a sociological fact the origin of this conception is not difficult to understand. The primitive freedom of the individual in the early communal order of the tribe became increasingly restricted with the multiplication and development of the Hindu peoples; each class of society became increasingly specialized. Finally the individual had no choice whatever left him, because of the extreme rigidity of the communal order. As a matter of fact, the individual choice and will was allowed no play whatever in any important matter. Good sense saw that where no freedom is, there moral responsibility cannot be. All one's life is predetermined by the powers that be. Thus we again see how vital a relation the social order bears to the innermost thinking and belief of a people.

Still further. Once let the idea be firmly grounded in an individual that he has no freedom of belief, of choice, or of act, and in the vast majority of cases, as a matter of fact, he will have none. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." "According to your faith be it unto you." This doctrine of individual freedom is one of those that cannot be forced on a man who does not choose to believe it. In a true sense, it is my belief that I am free that makes me free. As Prof. James well says, the doctrine of the freedom of the will cannot be rammed down any man's intellectual throat, for that very act would abridge his real freedom. Man's real freedom is proved by his freedom to reject even the doctrine of his freedom. But so long as he rejects it, his freedom is only potential. Because of his belief in his bondage he is in bondage. Now this doctrine of fate has been the warp and woof of the thinking of the bulk of the Japanese people in their efforts to explain all the vicissitudes of life. Not only, therefore, has it failed to stimulate the volitional element of the psychic nature, but in the psychology of the Orient little if any attention has been given to this faculty. Oriental psychology practically knows nothing of personality because it has failed to note one of its central elements, the freedom of the will. The individual, therefore, has not been appealed to to exercise his free moral choice, one of the highest prerogatives of his nature. Moral responsibility has not been laid on his individual shoulders. A method of moral appeal fitted to develop the deepest element of his personality has thus been precluded.

It thus resulted that although philosophic Buddhism developed a high degree of self-consciousness, yet because it failed to discover personal freedom it did not deliver popular Buddhism from its grinding doctrine of fate, rather it fastened this incubus of social progress more firmly upon it. Philosophic and popular Buddhism alike thus threw athwart the course of human and social evolution the tremendous obstacle of fatalism, which the Orient has never discovered a way either to surmount or evade. Buddhism teaches the impotence of the individual will; it destroys the sense of moral responsibility; it thus fails to understand the real nature of man, his glory and power and even his divinity, which the West sums up in the term personality. In this sense, then, the influence of Buddhism and the condition of the Orient may be called "impersonal," but it is the impersonality of a defective religious psychology, and of communalism in the social order. Whether it is right to call this feature of Japan "impersonality," I leave with the reader to judge.

We draw this chapter to a close with a renewed conception of the inadequacy of the "impersonal" theory to explain Japanese religious and social phenomena. Further considerations, however, still merit attention ere we leave this subject.



Regret as we sometimes must the illogicalness of the human mind, yet it is a providential characteristic of our as yet defective nature; for thanks to it few men or nations carry out to their complete logical results erroneous opinions and metaphysical speculations. Common sense in Japan has served more or less as an antidote for Buddhistic poison. The blighting curse of logical Buddhism has been considerably relieved by various circumstances. Let us now consider some of the ways in which the personality-destroying characteristics of Buddhism have been lessened by other ideas and influences.

First of all there is the distinction, so often noted, between esoteric and popular Buddhism. Esoteric Buddhism was content to allow popular Buddhism a place and even to invent ways for the salvation of the ignorant multitudes who could not see the real nature of the self. Resort was had to the use of magic prayers and symbols and idols. These were bad enough, but they did not bear so hard on the development of personality as did esoteric Buddhism.

The doctrine of the transmigration of the soul was likewise a relief from the pressure of philosophic Buddhism, for, according to this doctrine, the individual soul continues to live its separate life, to maintain its independent identity through infinite ages, while passing through the ten worlds of existence, from nethermost hell to highest heaven; and the particular world into which it is born after each death is determined by the moral character of its life in the immediately preceding stage. By this doctrine, then, a practical appeal is made to the common man to exert his will, to assert his personality, and so far forth it was calculated to undo a part of the mischief done by the paralyzing doctrine of fate and illusion.

But a more important relief from the blight of Buddhistic doctrine was afforded by its own practice. At the very time that it declared the worthlessness of the self and the impotence of the will, it declared that salvation can come only from the self, by the most determined exercise of the will. What more convincing evidence of powerful, though distorted, wills could be asked than that furnished by Oriental asceticism? Nothing in the West exceeds it. As an idea, then, Buddhism interfered with the development of the conception of personality; but by its practice it helped powerfully to develop it as a fact in certain phases of activity. The stoicism of the Japanese is one phase of developed personality. It shows the presence of a powerful, disciplined will keeping the body in control, so that it gives no sign of the thoughts and emotions going on in the mind, however fierce they may be.

That in Japan, however, which has interfered most powerfully with the spread and dominance of Buddhism has been the practical and prosaic Confucian ethics. Apparently, Confucius never speculated. Metaphysics and introspection alike had no charm for him. He was concerned with conduct. His developed doctrine demanded of all men obedience to the law of the five relations. In spite, therefore, of the fact that he said nothing about individuality and personality, his system laid real emphasis on personality and demanded its continuous activity. In all of his teachings the idea of personality in the full and proper sense of this word is always implicit, and sometimes is quite distinct.

The many strong and noble characters which glorify the feudal era are the product of Japonicized Confucianism, "Bushido," and bear powerful witness to its practical emphasis on personality. The loyalty, filial piety, courage, rectitude, honor, self-control, and suicide which it taught, defective though we must pronounce them from certain points of view, were yet very lofty and noble, and depended for their realization on the development of personality.

Advocates of the "impersonal" interpretation of the Orient have much to say about pantheism. They assert the difficulty of conveying to the Oriental mind the idea of the personality of the Supreme Being. Although some form of pantheism is doubtless the belief of the learned, the evidence that a personal conception of deity is widespread among the people seems so manifest that I need hardly do more than call attention to it. This belief has helped to neutralize the paralyzing tendency of Buddhist fatalistic pantheism.

Shinto is personal from first to last. Every one of its myriads of gods is a personal being, many of them deified men.

The most popular are the souls of men who became famous for some particularly noble, brave, or admirable deed. Hero-worship is nothing if not personal. Furthermore, in its doctrine of "San-shin-ittai," "three gods, one body," it curiously suggests the doctrine of the Trinity.

Popular Buddhism holds an equally personal conception of deity. The objects of its worship are personifications of various qualities. "Kwannon," the goddess of mercy; "Jizo," the guardian of travelers and children; "Emma O," "King of Hell," who punishes sinners; "Fudo Sama," "The Immovable One," are all personifications of the various attributes of deity and are worshiped as separate gods, each being represented by a uniform type of idol. It is a curious fact that Buddhism, which started out with such a lofty rejection of deity, finally fell to the worship of idols, whereas Shinto, which is peculiarly the worship of personality, has never stooped to its representation in wood or stone.

Confucianism, however, surpasses all in its intimations of the personality of the Supreme Being. Although it never formulated this doctrine in a single term, nor definitely stated it as a tenet of religion, yet the entire ethical and religious thinking of the classically educated Japanese is shot through with the idea. Consider the Chinese expression "Jo-Tei," which the Christians of Japan freely use for God; it means literally "Supreme Emperor," and refers to the supreme ruler of the universe; he is here conceived in the form of a human ruler having of course human, that is to say, personal, attributes. A phrase often heard on the lips of the Japanese is:

"Aoide Ten ni hajizu; fushite Chi ni hajizu."

"Without self-reproach, whether looking up to Heaven, or down to Earth."

This phrase has reference to the consciousness of one's life and conduct, such that he is neither ashamed to look up in the face of Heaven nor to look about him in the presence of man. Paul expressed this same idea when he wrote "having a conscience void of offense to God and to man." Or take another phrase:

"Ten-mo kwaikwai so ni shite morasazu."

"Heaven's net is broad as earth; and though its meshes are large, none can escape it." This is constantly used to illustrate the certainty that Heaven punishes the wicked.

"Ten ni kuchi ari; kabe ni mimi ari."

"Heaven has a mouth and even the wall has ears," signifies that all one does is known to the ruler of heaven and earth. Another still more striking saying ascribing knowledge to Heaven is the "Yoshin no Shichi," "the four knowings of Yoshin." This sage was a Chinaman of the second century A.D. Approached with a large bribe and urged to accept it with the assurance that no one would know it, he replied, "Heaven knows it; Earth knows it; you know it; and I know it. How say you that none will know it?" This famous saying condemning bribery is well known in Japan. The references to "Heaven" as knowing, seeing, doing, sympathizing, willing, and always identifying the activity of "Heaven" with the noblest and loftiest ideals of man, are frequent in Chinese and Japanese literature. The personality of God is thus a doctrine clearly foreshadowed in the Orient. It is one of those great truths of religion which the Orient has already received, but which in a large measure lies dormant because of its incomplete expression. The advent of the fully expressed teaching of this truth, freed from all vagueness and ambiguity, is a capital illustration of the way in which Christianity comes to Japan to fulfill rather than to destroy; it brings that fructifying element that stirs the older and more or less imperfectly expressed truths into new life, and gives them adequate modes of expression. But the point to which I am here calling attention is the fact that the idea of the personality of the Supreme Being is not so utterly alien to Oriental thought as some would have us think. Even though there is no single word with which conveniently to translate the term, the idea is perfectly distinct to any Japanese to whom its meaning is explained.

The statement is widely made that because the Japanese language has no term for "personality" the people are lacking in the idea; that consequently they have difficulty in grasping it even when presented to them, and that as a further consequence they are not to be criticised for their hesitancy in accepting the doctrine of the "Personality of God." It must be admitted that if "personality" is to be defined in the various ambiguous and contradictory ways in which we have seen it defined by advocates of Oriental "impersonality" much can be said in defense of their hesitancy. Indeed, no thinking Christian of the Occident for a moment accepts it. But if "personality" is defined in the way here presented, which I judge to be the usage of thoughtful Christendom, then their hesitancy cannot be so defended. It is doubtless true that there is in Japanese no single word corresponding to our term "personality." But that is likewise true of multitudes of other terms. The only significance of this fact is that Oriental philosophy has not followed in exactly the same lines as the Occidental. As a matter of fact I have not found the idea of personality to be a difficult one to convey to the Japanese, if clear definitions are used. The Japanese language has, as we have seen, many words referring to the individuality, to the self of manhood; it merely lacks the general abstract term, "personality." This is, however, in keeping with the general characteristics of the language. Abstract terms are, compared with English, relatively rare. Yet with the new civilization they are being coined and introduced. Furthermore, the English term "personality" is readily used by the great majority of educated Christians just as they use such words as "life," "power," "success," "patriotism," and "Christianity."

In the summer of 1898, with the Rev. C.A. Clark I was invited to speak on the "Outlines of Christianity" in a school for Buddhist priests. At the close of our thirty-minute addresses, a young man arose and spoke for fifty minutes, outlining the Buddhist system of thought; his address consisted of an exposition of the law of cause and effect; he also stated some of the reasons why the Christian conception of God and the universe seemed to him utterly unsatisfactory; the objections raised were those now current in Japan—such, for example, as that if God really were the creator of the universe, why are some men rich and some poor, some high-born and some low-born. He also asked the question who made God? In a two-minute reply I stated that his objections showed that he did not understand the Christian's position; and I asked in turn what was the origin of the law of cause and effect. The following day the chief priest, the head of the school and its most highly educated instructor, dined with us. We of course talked of the various aspects of Christian and Buddhist doctrine. Finally he asked me how I would answer the question as to who created God, and as to the origin of the law of cause and effect. I explained as clearly as I could the Christian view of God, in his personality and as being the original and only source of all existence, whether of physical or of human nature. He seemed to drink it all in and expressed his satisfaction at the close in the words, "Taihen ni man zoku shimashita," "That is exceedingly satisfactory"; these words he repeated several times. This is not my first personal proof of the fact that the idea of personality is not alien or incomprehensible to the Orient, nor even to a Buddhist priest, steeped in Buddhist speculation, provided the idea is clearly stated.

Before bringing to a close this discussion of the problem of personality in Japan, it would seem desirable to trace the history of the development of Japanese personality. In view of all that has now been said, and not forgetting what was said as to the principles of National Evolution,[DA] this may be done in a paragraph.

The amalgamation of tribes, the development of large clans, and finally the establishment of the nation, with world-wide relations, has reacted on the individual members of the people, giving them larger and richer lives. This constitutes one important element of personal development. The subordination of individual will to that of the group, the desire and effort to live for the advantage, not of the individual self, but of the group, whether family, tribe, clan, nation, or the world, is not a limitation of personality. On the contrary, it is its expansion and development. Shinto and Japonicized Confucianism contributed powerful motives to this subordination, and thus to this personal development. These were attended, however, by serious limitations in that they confined their attention to the upper and ruling classes. The development of personality was thus extremely limited. Buddhism contributed to the development of Japanese personality in so far as it taught Japanese the marvels revealed by introspection and self-victory. Its contribution, however, was seriously hampered by defects already sufficiently emphasized. Japan has developed personality to a high degree in a few and to a relatively low degree in the many. The problem confronting New Japan is the development of a high degree of personality among the masses. This is to be accomplished by the introduction of an individualistic social order.

One further topic demands our attention in closing. What is the nature of personal heredity? Is it biological and inherent, or, like all the characteristics of the Japanese people thus far studied, is personality transmitted by social heredity? Distinguishing between intrinsic or inherent personality,[DB] which constitutes the original endowment differentiating man from animal, and extrinsic or acquired personality, which consists of the various forms in which the inherent personality has manifested itself in the different races of men and the different ages of "history, it is safe to say that the latter is transmitted according to the laws of association or social heredity. Intrinsic personality can be inherited only by lineal offspring, passing from father to son. Extrinsic personality may fail to be inherited by lineal descendants and may be inherited by others than lineal descendants. It is transmitted and determined by social inheritance. Yet it is through personality that the individual may break away from the dominant currents of the social order, and become thus the means for the transformation of that order. The secret of social progress lies in personality. In proportion as the social order is fitted, accordingly, widely to develop high-grade personality,[DC] is its own progress rapid and safe.

Does acquired personality react on intrinsic personality? This is the problem of "the inheritance of acquired characteristics." Into this problem I do not enter further than to note that in so far as newly developed personal traits produce transformations of body and brain transmittable from parent to offspring by the bare fact of parentage, in that degree does acquired pass over into intrinsic personality and thereby become intrinsic. In regard to the degree in which acquired has passed over into intrinsic personality, thus differentiating the leading races of mankind, we contend that it is practically non-existent. The phenomena of personality characterizing the chief races of men are due, not to intrinsic, but to acquired personality; in other words they are the products of the respective social orders and are transmitted from generation to generation by social rather than by biological heredity.



Fully to comprehend the genius and history of Japan and her social order, we need to gain a still more thorough insight into the various conceptions of the universe that have influenced the people. What have been their views as to the nature of the ultimate reality lying behind all phenomena? What as to the relation of mankind to that Ultimate Reality? And what has been the relation of these world-views to the social order? To prepare the way for our final answer to these questions, we confine ourselves in this chapter to a study of the inner nature of the Buddhist world-view.

Since the Buddhist conception of the Ultimate Reality and of the universe is one of the three important types of world-views dominating the human mind, a type too that is hardly known in Western lands, in order to set it forth in terms intelligible to the Occidental and the Christian, it will be necessary in expounding it to contrast it with the two remaining types; namely, the Greek and the Christian. As already pointed out, according to the Buddhistic conception, the Ultimate is a thoroughgoing Abstraction. All the elements of personality are denied. It is perfectly passionless, perfectly thoughtless, and perfectly motionless. It has neither feeling, idea, nor will. As a consequence, the phenomena of the universe are wholly unrelated to it; all that is, is only illusion; it has no reality of being. Human beings who think the world real, and who think even themselves real, are under the spell. This illusion is the great misery and source of pain. Salvation is the discovery of the illusion; and this discovery is the victory over it; for no one fears the lion's skin, however much he may fear the lion. This discovery secures the dropping back from the little, limited, individual self-line, into the infinite passionless, thoughtless, and motionless existence of the absolute being, Nirvana.

The Ancient Greek and not a little modern thought, conceived of the Ultimate as a thorough-going intellectualism. One aspect of personality was perceived and emphasized. God was conceived as a thinker, as one who contemplates the universe. He does not create matter, nor force, nor does he rule them. They are eternal and real, and subject to fate. God simply observes. He is absolute reason. The Greek view is thus essentially dualistic. Sin, from the Greek point of view, is merely ignorance, and salvation the attainment of knowledge.

In vital and vitalizing contrast to both the Buddhist and Greek conceptions is the Judaeo-Christian. To the Christian the Ultimate is a thoroughgoing personality. To him the central element in God is will, guided by reason and controlled by love and righteousness. God creates and rules everything. There is nothing that is not wholly subject to him. There is no dualism for the Christian, nor any illusion. Sin is an act of human will, not an illusion nor a failure of intellect. Salvation is the correction of the will, which comes about through a "new birth."

The elemental difference, then, between these three conceptions of the Ultimate is that in Buddhism the effort to rationalize and ethicize the universe of experience is abandoned as a hopeless task; the world entirely and completely resists the rational and ethical process. The universe is pronounced completely irrational and non-moral. Change is branded as illusion. There is no room for progress in philosophic, thoroughgoing Buddhism.

In the Greek view the universe is subject in part to the rationalizing process; but only in part. The effort at ethicization is entirely futile. The Greek view, equally with the Buddhistic, is at a loss to understand change. It does not brand it as unreal, but change produced by man is branded as a departure from nature. Greeks and Hindus alike have no philosophy of history. In the Christian view the universe is completely subject to the rational and ethical process. God is creator of all that is and it is necessarily good. God is an active will and He is, therefore, still in the process of creating; hence change, evolution, is justified and understood. History is rational and has a philosophy. Evolution and revelation have their place at the very heart of the universe. Hence it is that science, philosophy, and history, in a word a high-grade civilization, finds its intellectual justification, its foundation, its primary postulates, its possibility, only in a land permeated with the Christian idea of God.

In the Buddhistic conception God is an abstract vacuity; in the Greek, a static intellect; in the Christian, a dynamic will. As is the conception of God, so is the conception and character of man. The two are so intimately interdependent that it is useless at this time to discuss which is the cause and which the result. They are doubtless the two aspects of the same movement of thought. The following differences are necessary characteristics of the three religions:

The Buddhist seeks salvation through the attainment of vacuity—Nirvana—in order to escape from the world in which he says there is no reason and no morality. The Greek seeks salvation through the activity of the intellect; all that is needful to salvation is knowledge of the truth. The Christian seeks salvation through the activity of the will; this is secured through the new birth. The Buddhist leaves each man to save himself from his illusion by the discovery that it is an illusion. The Greek relies on intellectual education, on philosophy—the Christian recreates the will. The Buddhist and Greek gods make no effort to help the lost man. The Christian God is dominated by love; He is therefore a missionary God, sending even His only begotten Son to reconcile and win the world of sinning, willful children back to Himself.

In Buddhism salvation is won only by the few and after ages of toil and ceaseless re-births. In the Greek plan only the philosopher who comes to full understanding can attain salvation. In the Christian plan salvation is for all, for all are sons of God, in fact, and may through Christ become so in consciousness. In the Buddhistic plan the hopeless masses resort to magic and keep on with their idolatry and countless gross superstitions. In the Greek plan the hopeless resort to the "mysteries" for the attainment of salvation. In the Christian plan there are no hopeless masses, for all may gain the regenerated will and become conscious sons of God.

The Buddhist mind gave up all effort to grasp or even to understand reality. The Greek mind thought it could arrive at reality through the intellect. But two thousand years of philosophic study and evolution drove philosophy into the absurd positions of absolute subjective idealism on the one hand and sensationalism and absolute materialism on the other. The Christian mind lays emphasis on the will and accordingly is alone able to reach reality, a reality justifiable alike to the reason and to the heart. For will is the creative faculty in man as well as in God. As God through His will creates reality, so man through his will first comes to know reality. Mere intellect can never pass over from thought to being. Being can be known as a reality only through the will.

In consequence of the above-stated methods of thought, the Buddhist was of necessity a pessimist; the Greek only less so; while the Jew and the Christian could alone be thoroughgoing optimists. The Buddhist ever asserts the is-not; the Greek, the is; while the Jew and Christian demand the ought-to be, as the supreme thing. Hence flows the perennial life of the Christian civilization.

Those races and civilizations whose highest and deepest conception of the ultimate is that of mere reason, no less than those races and civilizations whose highest and deepest conception of reality is that of an abstract emptiness, must be landed in an unreal world, must arrive at irrational results, for they have not taken into account the most vital element of thought and life. Such races and civilizations cannot rise to the highest levels of which man is capable; they must of necessity give way to those races and that civilization which build on larger and more complete foundations, which worship Will, Human and Divine, and seek for its larger development both in self and in all mankind.

But I must not pause to trace the contrasts further. Enough has been said to show the source of Occidental belief in the infinite worth of man. In almost diametrical contrast to the Buddhist conception, according to the Christian view, man is a real being, living in a real world, involved in a real intellectual problem, fighting a real battle, on whose issue hang momentous, nay, infinite results. So great is man's value, not only to himself, but also to God, his Father, that the Father himself suffers with him in his sin, and for him, to save him from his sin. The question will be asked how widely the Buddhistic interpretation of the universe has spread in Japan. The doctrine of illusion became pretty general. We may doubt, however, whether the rationale of the philosophy was very generally understood. One Sutra, read by all Japanese sects, is taught to all who would become acquainted with the essentials of Buddhist doctrine. It is so short that I give it in full.[DD]


"Adoration to the Omniscient. The venerable Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara performing his study in the deep Pragna-paramita [perfection of Wisdom] thought thus: There are the five Skandhas, and these he considered as by their nature empty [phenomenal]. O Sariputra, he said, form here is emptiness, and emptiness indeed is form. Emptiness is not different from form, and form is not different from emptiness. What is form that is emptiness, what is emptiness that is form. The same applies to perception, name, conception, and knowledge.

"Here, O Sariputra, all things have the character of emptiness; they have no beginning, no end, they are faultless and not faultless, they are not imperfect and not perfect. Therefore, O Sariputra, in this emptiness there is no form, no perception, no name, no concepts, no knowledge. No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind. No form, sound, smell, taste, touch, objects.... There is no knowledge, no ignorance, no destruction of knowledge, no destruction of ignorance, etc., there is no decay and death, no destruction of decay and death; there are not the four truths, viz., that there is pain, the origin of pain, stopping of pain, and the path to it. There is no knowledge, no obtaining of Nirvana.

"A man who has approached the Pragna-paramita of the Bodhisattva dwells enveloped in consciousness. But when the envelop of consciousness has been annihilated, then he becomes free of all fear, beyond the reach of change, enjoying final Nirvana. All Buddhas of the past, present, and future, after approaching the Pragna-paramita, have awakened to the highest perfect knowledge.

"Therefore one ought to know the great verse of the Pragna-paramita, the verse of the great wisdom, the unsurpassed verse, the peerless verse, which appeases all pain; it is truth because it is not false; the verse proclaimed in the Pragna-paramita: 'O wisdom, gone, gone, gone, to the other shore, landed at the other shore, Shava.'

"Thus ends the heart of the Pragna-paramita."

A study of this condensed and widely read Buddhist Sutra will convince anyone that the ultimate conceptions of the universe and of the final reality, are as described above. However popular Buddhism might differ from this, it would be the belief of the thoughtless masses, to whom the rational and ethical problems are of no significance or concern, and who contribute nothing to the development of thought or of the social order. Those nobler and more earnestly inquiring souls whose energy and spiritual longing might have been used for the benefit of the masses, were shunted off on a side track that led only into the desert of atomistic individualism, abandonment of society, ecstatic contemplation, and absolute pessimism. The Buddhist theory of the universe and method of thought denied all intelligible reality, and necessitated the conclusion that the universe of experience is neither rational nor ethical. The common beliefs of the unreflective and uninitiated masses in the ultimate rationality and morality of the universe were felt to have no foundation either in religion or philosophy and were accordingly pronounced mere illusions.



Our study of Japanese religion and religious life thus far has been almost, if not exclusively, from the individualistic standpoint. An adequate statement, however, cannot be made from this standpoint alone, for religion through its mighty sanctions exerts a powerful influence on the entire communal life. Indeed, the leading characteristic of primitive religions is their communal nature. The science of religion shows how late in human history is the rise of individualistic religions.

In the present chapter we propose to study Japanese religious history from the communal standpoint. This will lead us to study her present religious problem and the nature of the religion required to solve it.

The real nature of the religious life of Japan has been and still is predominantly communal. Individualism has had a place, but, as we have repeatedly seen, only a minor place in forming the nation. From the communo-individualistic standpoint, in the study of Japan's religious and social evolution, not only can we see clearly that the three religions of Japan are real religions, but we can also understand the nature of the relations of these three religions to each other and the reasons why they have had such relations. Japanese religious history and its main phenomena become luminous in the light of communo-individualistic social principles.

Shinto, the primitive religion of Japan, corresponded well with the needs of primitive times, when the development of strong communal life was the prime problem and necessity. It furnished the religious sanctions for the social order in its customs of worshiping not only the gods, but also the Emperor and ancestors. It gave the highest possible justification of the national social order in its deification of the supreme ruler. Shinto was so completely communal in its nature that the individual aspect of religion was utterly ignored. It developed no specific moral code, no eschatological and soteriological systems, no comprehensive view of nature or of the gods. These deficiencies, however, are no proofs that it was not a religion in the proper sense of the term. The real question is, did it furnish any supra-mundane, supra-legal, supra-communal sanctions both for the conduct of the individual in his social relations and for the fact and the right of the social order. Of this there can be no doubt. Those who deny it the name of a religion do so because they judge religion only from the point of view of a highly developed individualistic religion.

In view of this undoubted fact, it is a strange commentary on the failure of Shinto leaders to realize the real function of the faith they profess that they have sought and obtained from the government the right to be considered and classified no longer as a religion, but only as a society for preserving the memories and shrines of the ancestors of the race. Thus has modern Shinto, so far as it is organized and has a mouth with which to speak, following the abdicating proclivities of the ancient social order, excommunicated itself from its religious heritage, aspiring to be nothing more than a gate-keeper of cemeteries.

The sources of the power of the Shinto sanctions lies in the nature of its conception of the universe. Although it attempted no interpretation of the universe as a whole, it conceived of the origin of the country and people of Japan as due to the direct creative energy of the gods. Japan was accordingly conceived as a divine land and the people a divine people. The Emperor was thought to have descended in direct line from the gods and thus to be a visible representative of the gods to the people, and to possess divine power and authority with which to rule the people. Whenever Japanese came into contact with foreign peoples, it was natural to consider them outside of the divine providence, aliens, whose presence in the divine land was more or less of a pollution. This world-view was well calculated to develop a spirit of submissive obedience and loyal adherence to the hereditary rulers of the land, and of fierce antagonism to foreigners. This view constituted the moral foundation for the social order, the intellectual framework within which the state developed. Paternal feudalism was the natural, if not the necessary, accompaniment of this world-view. Even to this day the scholars of the land see no other ground on which to found Imperial authority, no other basis for ethics and religion, than the divine descent of the Emperor.[DE]

The Shinto world-view, conceiving of men as direct offspring of the gods, has in it potentially the doctrine of the divine nature of all men, and their consequent infinite worth. Shinto never developed this truth, however. It did not discover the momentous implications of its view. Failing to discover them, it failed to introduce into the social order that moral inspiration, that social leaven which would have gradually produced the individualistic social order.

No attempt has been made either in ancient or modern times to square this Shinto world-view with advancing knowledge of the world, particularly with the modern scientific conception of the universe. Anthropology, ethnology, and the doctrine of evolution both cosmic and human, are all destructive of the primitive Shinto world-view. It would not be difficult to show, however, that in this world-view exists a profound element of truth. The Shinto world-conception needs to be expanded to take the universe and all races of men into its view; and to see that Japan is not alone the object of divine solicitude, but that all races likewise owe their origin to that same divine power, and that even though the Emperor is not more directly the offspring of the gods than are all men, yet in the providence of Him who ruleth the affairs of men, the Emperor is in fact the visible representative of authority and power for the people over whom he reigns. With this expansion and the consequences that flow from it, the world-view that has cradled Old Japan will come into accord with the scientific Christian world-view, and become fitted to be the foundation for the new and individualistic social order, now arising in Japan, granting full liberty of thought and action, knowing that only so can truth come out of error, and assured that truth is the only ground of permanent welfare.

Throughout the centuries including the present era of Meiji, it is the Shinto religion that has provided and that still provides religious sanctions for the social order—even for the new social order that has come in from the West. It is the belief of the people in the divine descent of the Emperor, and his consequent divine right, that to-day unifies the nation and causes it to accept so readily the new social order; desired by him, they raise no questions, make no opposition, even though in some respects it brings them trouble and anxiety.

Our study of Buddhism has brought to light its extremely individualistic nature, and its lack of asocial ideal. Its world-view we have sufficiently examined in the preceding chapter. We are told that when Buddhism came to Japan it made little headway until it adopted the Shinto deities into its theogony. What does this mean? That only on condition of accepting the Shinto sanctions for the communal order of society was it able to commend itself to the people at large. And Buddhism had no difficulty in fulfilling this condition, because it had no ideal order of society to present and no religious sanctions for any kind of social order; in this respect Buddhism had no ground for conflict with Shinto. Shinto had the field to itself; and Buddhism was perfectly at liberty to adopt, or at least to allow, any social order that might present itself. Furthermore, by its doctrines of incarnation and transmigration, according to which noble souls might appear and reappear in different worlds and different lands, Buddhism could identify Shinto deities with its own deities of Hindu origin, asserting their pre-incarnation. Having accepted the Shinto deities, ideals, and sanctions for the social order, Buddhism became not only tolerable to the people, but also exceedingly popular.

The Shinto-Buddhistic was in truth a new religion, each of the old religions supplying an essential element.

One real reason, beside its accommodation to Shintoism, why Buddhism was so popular was that it brought an indispensable element into the national life. For the first time emphasis began to be laid on the individual. Introspection and deliberate meditation were brought into play. Arts demanding individual skill were fostered. A gorgeous ritual, elaborate architecture, complex religious organism, letters and literature, all gave play to individual activity and development whether in manual, in mental, or in aesthetic lines. The hitherto cramped and primitive life of the Japanese responded to these appeals and opportunities with profound joy. The upper classes especially felt themselves growing in richness and fullness of life. They felt the stimulus in many directions. The reason, then, why Buddhism flourished so mightily, and at the same time caused the nation to bloom, was because it helped develop the individual. The reason, on the other hand, why it failed to carry the nation on from its first bloom into full fruitage was because it failed to develop individualism in the social order. Its religious individualism was, as we have seen, in reality defective. It was abstract and one-sided. It did not discover the whole of the individual. It did not know anything of personality, either human or divine. It accordingly could not recognize the individual's worth, but only his separateness and his weakness. It taught an abstract impoverished idea of self, and made, as the whole aim of the salvation it offered, the final annihilation of all separateness of this individual self. We can now see that its individualism was essentially defective in that it poured contempt on the self, and that if its individualizing salvation were consistently carried out, it was not only no help to the social order, but a positive injury to it. Its individualism was of a nature which could not become an integral part of any social order.

This character led to another inevitable difficulty. Although Buddhism ostensibly adopted Shinto deities and the Shinto sanctions for the social order, it could not wholeheartedly accept the sanctions nor take the deities into full and legitimate partnership. It found no place in its circle of doctrine to teach the important tenets of Shintoism.

It left them to survive or perish as chance would have it. In proportion as Buddhism absorbed the life and love of the people, Shinto fell into decay and with it its sanctions. Then came the centuries of civil war during which Imperial power and authority sank to a minimum, and Japan's ignominy and disorder reached their maximum. What the land now needed was the re-introduction, first, of social order, even though it must be by the hand of a dictator, and second, the development of religious sanctions for the order that should be established. The first was secured by those three great generals of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, the Taiko Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. "The first conceived the idea of centralizing all the authority of the state in a single person; the second, who has been called the Napoleon of Japan, actually put the idea into practice," but died before consolidating his work; the third, by his unsurpassed skill as a diplomat and administrator, carried the idea completely out, arranging the details of the new order so that, without special military genius or power on the part of his successors, the order maintained itself for 250 years.

Yet it is doubtful if this long maintenance of the social order introduced by Ieyasu would have been possible had he not found ready to hand a system of essentially religious sanctions for the social order he had established by force. Confucianism had lain for a thousand years a dormant germ, receiving some study from learned men, but having no special relation to the education of the day or to the political problems that became each century more pressing. In the Confucian doctrines of loyalty to ruler and piety to parents, a doctrine sanctioned by Heaven and by the customs of all the ancients, Ieyasu, with the insight of a master mind, found just the sanctions he desired. He had the Confucian classics printed—it is said for the first time in Japan—"and the whole intellect of the country became molded by Confucian ideas." The classics, edited with diacritical marks for Japanese students, "formed the chief vehicle of every boy's education." These were interpreted by learned Chinese commentators. The intelligence of the land drank of this stream as the European mind refreshed itself with the classic waters of the Renaissance. The Japanese were weary of Buddhistic puerilities and transcendental doctrines that led nowhere. They demanded sanctions for the moral life and the social order; in response to this need Buddhism gave them Nirvana—absolute mental and moral vacuity. Confucianism gave them principles whose working and whose results they could see and understand. Its sanctions appealed both to the imagination and to the reason, antiquity and learning and piety being all in their favor. The sanctions were also seen to be wholly independent of puerile superstitions and foolish fears. The Confucian ideals and sanctions, moreover, coincided with the essential elements of the old Shinto world-view and sanctions. In a true sense, the doctrines of Confucius were but the elaborated and succinctly stated implications of their primitive faith. Confucianism, therefore, swept the land. It was accepted as the groundwork and authority for the most flourishing feudal order the world has ever seen. Japan bloomed again.[DF]

This difference, however, is to be noted between the Shinto ideal social order and the Confucian, or rather that development of Confucian ethics and civics which arose during the Tokugawa Shogunate; Shinto appears to have been, properly speaking, nationalistic, while feudal Confucianism was tribal. Although in Confucian theory the supreme loyalty may have been due the Emperor, in point of fact it was shown to the local daimyo. Confucian ethics was communal and might easily have turned in the direction of national communalism; it would then have coincided completely with Shinto in this respect. But for various reasons it did not so turn, but developed an intensely local, a tribal communalism, and pushed loyalty to the Emperor as a vital reality entirely into the background. This was one of the defects of feudal Confucianism which finally led to its own overthrow. Shinto, as we have seen, had long been pushed aside by Buddhism and was practically forgotten by the people. The zeal for Confucian doctrine brought, therefore, no immediate revival to the Shinto cultus, although it did revive the essential elements of the old communal religion. We might say that the old religion was revived under a new name; having a new name and a new body, the real and vital connection between the two was not recognized. We thus discern how the religious history of Japan was not a series of cataclysms or of disconnected leaps in the dark, but an orderly development, one step naturally following the next, as the sun follows the dawn. The different stages of Japan's religious progress have received different names, because due to specific stimuli brought from abroad; the religious life itself, however, has been a continuous development.

Another difference between Shinto and Confucianism as it existed in Japan should not escape our attention, namely, in regard to their respective world-views. Shinto was confessedly a religion; it frankly believed in gods, whom it worshiped and on whose help it relied. Confucianism, or to use the Japanese name, Bushido, was confessedly agnostic. It did not assume to understand the universe, as Buddhism assumed. Nor did it admit the practical existence of gods or their power in this world, as Shinto believed. It maintained that, "if only the heart follows the way of truth, the gods will protect one even though he does not pray." It laid stress on practical moralities, regardless of their philosophical presumptions, into which it would not probe. When pressed it would ascribe all to "Heaven," and, as we have seen, it had many implications that would lead the inquiring mind to a belief in the personal nature of "Heaven." Had it developed these implications, Bushido would have become a genuine religion. It was indeed a system of ethics touched with emotion, it was religious, but it failed to become the religion it might have become because it insisted on its agnosticism and refused to worship the highest and best it knew.

It is interesting to observe that the ideals and sanctions of Confucianism produced effects which proved its ruin. They did this in two ways; first, by developing the prolonged peace necessary for a high grade of scholarship which, turning its attention to ancient history, discovered that the Shogunate was assuming powers not in accord with the primitive practice nor in accord with the theory of the divine descent of the Imperial house. Imperialistic patriots arose, whose aim was to overthrow the Shogunate and restore the Emperor. They felt that, doing this, they were right; that is to say, they became inspired by the Shinto sanctions for a national life. They thus discovered the defect of the disjointed feudal system sanctioned by feudal Confucianism. The second cause of its undoing grew out of the first. The scholarship which led the patriots against the usurper in political life led them also against all foreign innovations such as Buddhism and Confucianism, which they scorned as modern and anti-imperial. The Shinto cultus thus received a powerful revival. With the overthrow of the Shogunate in 1868 Confucianism naturally went with it, and for a time Shinto was the state religion. But its poverty in every line, except the communal sanctions, caused it in a short time to lose its place.

The two causes just assigned for the fall of Bushido, however, could hardly have wrought its ruin had it been more than a utilitarian and agnostic system of morality, calculated to maintain the social ascendency of a small fraction of the nation. As a religion, Bushido would have secured a conservative power enabling it to survive, by adapting itself to a changed social order. As it was, Bushido was snuffed out by a single breath of the breeze that began to blow from foreign lands. As an ethical system it has conferred a blessing on Japan that should never be forgotten. But its identification with a class and a clan social order rendered it too narrow for the national and international life into which the nation was forced by circumstances beyond its control, and its agnostic utilitarianism did not provide it with sufficient moral power to cope with the problems of the new individualistic age that had suddenly burst upon it. In all Japan there remains to the present day only one of those old Confucian schools with its temple to Confucius. All the rest have fallen into ruins or have been used for other purposes, while the gold-covered statues of the once deified teacher have been sold to curio-dealers or for their bullion value. In the worship of Confucius, Bushido almost became a religion, but it worshiped the teacher instead of the Creator, maintaining its agnosticism as to the Creator, as to "Heaven," to the end, and thus lapsed from the path of religious evolution.

This brings us down to modern times—into the seventies. Already in the sixties Japan had discovered herself in a totally new environment. She found that foreign nations had made great progress in every direction since she shut them out two hundred and fifty years before. She discovered her helplessness, she discovered, too, that the social order of Western peoples was totally distinct from hers. These discoveries served to break down all the remaining sanctions for her particular type of social order—Confucianistic feudalism. The whole nation was eager to know the political systems of the West. So long as the Shinto ideal of nationalism was not interfered with, the nation was free to adopt any new social order. Japan's political and commercial intercourse being with England and America, the social order of the Anglo-Saxon had the greatest influence on the Japanese mind. Japan accordingly has become predominantly Anglo-Saxon in its social ideas. Much has been made of the fact that the new social order has come in so easily; that the people have gained rights without fighting for them; and this has been attributed to the peculiarity of Japanese human nature. This is an error. The real reason for the ease with which the individualistic Anglo-Saxon social order has been introduced has been the collapse of the sanctions for the Confucian order. No one had any ground of duty on which to stand and fight. The national mind was open to any newcomer that might have appeared. I am referring, of course, to the thinking classes. All the rest, accustomed to submissive obedience, never thought of any other course than to accept the will of superiors.

Furthermore, the new social order in one important respect fell in with and helped to re-establish the old Shinto ideal, that, namely, of nationalism. In the treaty negotiations, the West would deal with no intermediaries, only with the responsible national head. Western ideals, too, demanded a strong national unity. In this respect, then, the foreign ideals and foreign social order were powerful influences in building up the new patriotism, in re-enforcing the old Shinto social sanctions.

Thus has Japan come to the parting of the ways. What Japan needs to-day is a religion satisfying the intellect as to its world-view, and thus justifying the sanctions it holds out. These must be neither exclusively communal, like those of Shinto, nor exclusively individual, like those of Buddhism. While maintaining at their full value the sanctions for the social life, it must add thereto the sanctions for the individual. It must not look upon the individual as a being whose salvation depends on his being isolated from, taken out of the community, as Buddhism did and does, nor yet as a mere fraction of the community, as Confucianism did, but as a complete, imperishable unit of infinite worth, necessarily living a double life, partly inseparable from the social order and partly superior to it. This religion must provide not only sanctions, but ideals, for a perfect social order in which, while the most complex organization of society shall be possible, the freedom and the high development of the individual's personality shall also be secured.

The fulfillment of such conditions would at first thought seem to be impossible. How can a religion give sanctions which at the very time that they authorize the fullest development and organization of society, apparently making society its chief end, also assume the fullest liberty and development of the individual, making him and his salvation its chief end? Are not these ends incompatible? What has been said already along this general line of thought has prepared us to see that they are not. The great, though unconscious, need of the ages, and the unconscious effort of all religious evolution has been the development of just such a religion. As the "cake" of social custom was at first the great need for, and afterwards the great obstacle in the way of, social evolution, so the sanctions of a communal religion were at first the great need for, and afterwards the great obstacle in the way of, religious evolution and of personal development. Through its sanctions religion is the most powerful of all the factors of the higher human evolution, either helping it onward or holding it back.

Has, then, any religion secured such a dual development as we have just seen to be necessary? As a matter of fact, one and only one has done so, Christianity. This religion clearly attains and maintains the apparently impossible combination of individualism and communalism by the nature of its conception of the method of individual salvation. Its communalism is guaranteed by, because it rests on, its individualism. At the very moment that it pronounces the individual of inestimable worth,—a son of God,—it commands him to show that sonship by loving all God's other sons, and by serving them to the extent of self-sacrifice, and of death if need be. Its communalism is thus inseparable from its individualism and its individualism from its communalism.

Christian individualism embraces and includes thoroughgoing communalism. True and full Christians are the most devoted patriots. As the acorn sends forth far-reaching; roots into the soil for moisture and nourishment, and a mighty trunk and spreading branches upward for air and sunlight, so the seed of Christian life develops in two directions, individualism as the root and communalism as the beautiful tree. They are not contradictory, but supplementary principles. While his own final gain is a real aim of the individual, it is only a part of his aim; he also desires and labors for the gain of all; and even the individual gain, he well knows, can be secured only through the communal principle, through service to his fellow-men. His own welfare, whether temporal or eternal, is inseparably bound up with that of his fellows.

The Christian religion finds the sanctions for any and every social order that history knows, in the fact that all physical and social laws and organisms are part of the divine plan. Because any particular social order is the association of imperfect men and women, it must be more or less imperfect. But the Christian, even while he is seeking to reform the social order and to bring it up to his ideal, must be loyal to it. And for this loyalty to fellow-men and to God, the highest conceivable sanctions are held out, namely, an endless and infinite life of conscious, joyous fellowship with souls made perfect in the Kingdom of God, and with God himself.

A comprehensive study, therefore, of the real nature and the true function of religion in relation to man's development, whether individual or communal, shows that Christianity fulfills the conditions. A comparative study would show that, of all the existing religions, Christianity alone does this. It alone combines in perfect proportion the individual and the communal elements, and the requisite sanctions.

An expansion of communal religion is taking place in modern times. The community now arising is international in scope, interracial and universal in character. Cultivated men and women the world around are beginning to talk of national rights and national duties. Europe is thought to be justified in suppressing the slave trade and its accompanying horrors in Africa, and condemned for not preventing the Turk from carrying on his wholesale slaughter of innocent Armenians. The Spaniard is despised and condemned for his prolonged inhumanities in Cuba and the Philippines, and the American is approved in warring for humanity and justified in interfering with Spain's sovereignty. The conscience of the world is beginning to discover that no nation, though sovereign, has an absolute right over its people. Right is only measured by righteousness. International righteousness, duty and rights, regardless of military power, are coming to the forefront of the thinking of advanced nations.

Looked at closely, and studied in its implications, what is this but a developing form of communal religion? No nation is conceived as existing apart; each exists as but one fraction of the world-wide community; in its relations it has both rights and duties. Does this not mean that appeal has been made from the communal sanctions of might to the supra-communal sanctions of right? We do not simply ask what do other nations think of this or that national act, but what is right, in view of the whole order of the nature which has brought man into being and set him in families and nations. In other words, national rights and duties are felt to flow from the supra-mundane source, God the Creator of heaven and earth and all that in them is. The sanctions for national rights and duties are religious sanctions and rest on a religious world-view.

Now the point, of interest for us is the fact that Japan has entered into this universal community and is feeling the sanctions of this universal communal religion. The international rights and duties of Japan are a theme of frequent discourse and conversation. Japan stoutly maintained that the war with China was a "gi-sen," a righteous war, waged primarily for the sake of Korea. Many a Japanese waxes indignant over the cruelty of the Turk, the savage barbarity of the Spaniard, and the impotence and supineness of England and Europe. I have already spoken of the young man who became so indignant at England's compelling China to take Indian opium, that he proposed to go to England to preach an anti-opium crusade. Japan is beginning to enter into the larger communal life of the world, although, of course, she has as yet little perception of its varied implications.

Many a student of New Japan perceives that she is abandoning her old religious conceptions, and that many moral and social evils are entering the land, who yet does not see that the wide acceptance of some new religion by the people is important for the maintenance of the nation. Some earnest Japanese thinkers are beginning to realize that religion is, indeed, needful to steady the national life, but they fail to see that Christianity alone fulfills the condition. Many are saying that a religion scientifically constructed must be manufactured especially for Japan.

The reason why individualistic religion takes such an important part in the higher evolution of man is, in a word, because the religious sanctions are so much more powerful than all others, either legal or social. For the legal sanctions are chiefly negative; they are also partial and uncertain, and easily evaded by the selfish individual. The social sanctions, too, are often far from just or impartial or wise. Furthermore, the rise of individualism in the social order secures privacy for the individual, and so far forth removes him from the restraints and stimuli of the social sanctions. It is the religious sanctions alone that follow the man in every waking moment. Not one of all his acts escapes the eye of the religious judgment. He is his own judge, and he cannot escape bearing witness against himself.

Now, it is manifest that where superior beings and man's relation to these and the corresponding religious sanctions are defectively conceived, as, for instance, quite apart either from the individual or the communal life, they are valueless to the higher evolution of man and have little interest for the student of social evolution. In proportion, however, as man advances in intellectual grasp of religious truths and in susceptibility to the moral ideas and religious sanctions they provide, conceiving of morality and religion as inseparable parts of the same system, the more powerfully does religion enter into and promote man's higher evolution. An individualistic social order demands the religious sanctions more imperatively than a communal social order; for, in proportion as it is individualistic, the social order is weak in compelling, through the legal and social sanctions alone, the communal or altruistic activity of the individual. Altruistic spirit and action, however, are essential to the maintenance even of that individualistic order. The more highly society develops, therefore, the more religious must each member of the society become.

The same truth may be stated from another standpoint. The higher man develops, the more impatient he becomes with illogical reasonings and defective conceptions; he thus becomes increasingly skeptical in regard to current traditional religions with their crude, primitive ideas; he is accordingly increasingly freed from the restraints they impose. But unless he finds some new religious sanctions for the communal life, for social conduct, and for the individual life,—ideals and sanctions that command his assent and direct his life,—he will drop back into a thoroughgoing atomic, individualistic, selfish life, which can be only a hindrance to the higher development both of society and of the individual. In order that men advancing in intellectual ability may remain useful members of society, they must remain subject to those ideals and sanctions which will actually secure social conduct. While disregarding the chaff of primitive religious superstitions and ceremonials man must retain the wheat; he must feel the force of the religious spirit in a deeper and profounder, because more personal way than did his ancestors. Increasing intellectual power and knowledge must be balanced by increasing individual experience of the religious motives and spirit. This is the reason why each advancing age should study afresh the whole religious problem, and state in the terms of its own experience the prominent and permanent religious truths of all the ages and the sanctions that flow from them. Hence it is that a religion only traditional and ceremonial is quite unfitted for a developing life.

Japan is no exception to the general laws of human evolution. As her intellectual abilities increase, the forms of her old religious life will become increasingly unacceptable to the people at large. If, in rejecting the obsolete forms of religious thought, she rejects religion and its sanctions altogether, atomistic individualism can be the only result, and with it wide moral corruption will eat out the vitality of the national life.

That Christianity alone, of all the religions of the world, fulfills the conditions will not need many words to prove. As a matter of fact Christianity alone has succeeded in surviving the criticism of the nineteenth century. In Christendom, all religions but Christianity have perished. This is a mere matter of fact. As for the reason, Christianity alone gives complete intellectually satisfactory sanctions for both the communal and the individualistic principles of social progress. Christianity, as we have sufficiently shown, has both principles not unrelated to each other, but vitally interrelated. For these reasons it is safe to maintain not only that Japan needs to find a new religion, but that the religion must be Christianity in substance, whatever be the name given it.

The Japanese have been described as essentially irreligious in nature. We have seen how defective such a description is. But have we not now traced one root of this seeming characteristic of New Japan? The old religious conceptions have been largely outgrown by the educated. They have come to the conclusion that the old religious forms constitute the whole of religion, and that consequently they are unworthy of attention. The spirit of New Japan is indifferent to religion; but this is not due to an inherently non-religious or irreligious nature, but to the empty externalism and shallow puerilities of the only religions they know. How can they be zealous for them or recognize any authority in them? Those few Japanese who have come within the influence of the larger conception of religion brought to Japan by Christianity are showing a religious zeal and power supporting the contention that the generally asserted lack of a religious nature is only apparent and temporary. Preaching the right set of ideas, those which appeal to the national sense of communal needs, by supplying the demand for sanctions for the social order; ideas which appeal to intellects molded by modern thought, by supplying such an intellectual understanding of the universe as justifies the various supra-communal sanctions; and ideas which appeal to the heart, by supplying the personal demand of each individual for a larger life, for intercourse with the Father of all Spirits and for strength for the prolonged battle of life—preach these and kindred ideas, and the Japanese will again become as conspicuously a religious people as they were when Buddhism came to Japan a thousand years ago.[DG]

But if the real nature of a full and perfect religion is to save not only the individual, providing sanctions for his conduct, but also to justify the social order, and to provide sanctions that shall secure its maintenance, any religion which fails to have both characteristics can hardly claim the name universal. We have seen that Buddhism lacks one of these elements. In my judgment it is not properly universal. So long as it exists in or goes to a land already provided with other religions securing the social order, it may continue to thrive. But, on the one hand, it can never become the exclusive religion of any land for it cannot do without and therefore it cannot depose the other religions; and, on the other hand, it must give way before the stronger religion which has both the individual and communal elements combined. Buddhism, therefore, lacks a vital characteristic of a universal religion. It may better be called a non-local, or an international religion. We now see another reason why Buddhism, although found in many Oriental lands, has never annihilated any of the pre-existing religions, but has only added one more to the many varieties already existing. It is so in Thibet, in China, in Burmah, and in Japan. And in India, its home, it has utterly died out.

Many of the efforts made by students of comparative religion to classify the various religions, seem to the writer defective through lack of the perception that social and religious evolution are vitally connected. From this point of view, the classification of religions as communal, individual, and communo-individual, would seem to be the best.



We have now passed in rather detailed review the emotional, aesthetic, intellectual, moral, and religious characteristics of the Japanese race. We have, furthermore, given considerable attention to the problem of personality. We have tried to understand the relation of each characteristic to the Japanese feudal system and social order.

The reader will perhaps feel some dissatisfaction with the results of this study. "Are there, then," he may say, "no distinctive Japanese psychical characteristics by which this Eastern race is radically differentiated from those of the Occident?" "Are there no peculiar features of an Oriental, mental and moral, which infallibly and always distinguish him from an Occidental?" The reply to this question given in the preceding chapters of this work is negative. For the sake, however, of the reader who may not yet be thoroughly satisfied, it may be well to examine this problem a little further, analyzing some of the current characterizations of the Orient.

That Oriental and Occidental peoples are each possessed of certain unique psychic characteristics, sharply and completely differentiating them from each other, is the opinion of scientific sociologists as well as of more popular writers. An Occidental entering the Orient is well-nigh overwhelmed with amusement and surprise at the antipodal characteristics of the two civilizations. Every visible expression of Oriental civilization, every mode of thought, art, architecture; conceptions of God, man, and nature; pronunciation and structure of the language—all seem utterly different from their corresponding elements in the West. Furthermore, as he visits one Oriental country after another, although he discovers differences between Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, and Hindus, yet he is impressed with a strange, a baffling similarity.

The tourist naturally concludes that the unity characterizing the Orient is fundamental; that Oriental civilization is due to Oriental race brain, and Occidental civilization is due to Occidental race brain.

This impression and this conclusion of the tourist are not, however, limited to him. The "old resident" in the East becomes increasingly convinced with every added year that an Oriental is a different kind of human being from a Westerner. As he becomes accustomed to the externals of the Oriental civilization, he forgets its comical aspects, he even comes to appreciate many of its conveniences. But in proportion as he becomes familiar with its languages, its modes of thought and feeling, its business methods, its politics, its literature, its amusements, does he increasingly realize the gulf set between an Oriental and an Occidental. The inner life of the spirit of an Oriental would be utterly inane, spiritless to the average Occidental. The "old resident" accordingly knows from long experience what the tourist only guesses from a hasty glance, that the characteristic differences distinguishing the peoples of the East and the West are racial and ineradicable. An Oriental is an Oriental, and that is the ultimate, only thoroughgoing explanation of his nature.

The conception of the tourist and the "old resident" crops up in nearly every article and book touching on Far Eastern peoples. Whatever the point of remark or criticism, if it strikes the writer as different from the custom of Occidentals, it is laid to the account of Orientalism.

This conception, however, of distinguishing Oriental characteristics, is not confined to popular writers and unscientific persons. Even professed and eminent sociologists advocate it. Prof. Le Bon, in his sophistic volume on the "Psychology of Peoples," advocates it strenuously. A few quotations from this interesting work may not be out of place.

"The object of this work is to describe the psychological characteristics which constitute the soul of races, and to show how the history of a people and its civilization is determined by these characteristics."[DH] "The point that has remained most clearly fixed in mind, after long journeys through the most varied countries, is that each people possesses a mental constitution as unaltering as its anatomical characteristics, a constitution which is the source of its sentiments, thoughts, institutions, beliefs, and arts."[DI]

"The life of a people, its institutions, beliefs, and arts, are but the visible expression of its invisible soul. For a people to transform its institutions, beliefs, and arts it must first transform its soul."[DJ]

"Each race possesses a constitution as unvarying as its anatomical constitution. There seems to be no doubt that the former corresponds to a certain special structure of the brain."[DK]

"A negro or a Japanese may easily take a university degree or become a lawyer; the sort of varnish he thus acquires is, however, quite superficial and has no influence on his mental constitution. What no education can give him, because they are created by heredity alone, are the forms of thought, the logic, and above all the character of the Western man."[DL]

"Cross-breeding constitutes the only infallible means at our disposal of transforming in a fundamental manner the character of a people, heredity being the only force powerful enough to contend with heredity. Cross-breeding allows of the creation of a new race, possessing new physical and psychological characteristics."[DM]

Such, then, being the opinion of travelers, residents, and professional sociologists, it is not to be lightly rejected. Nor has it been lightly rejected by the writer. For years he agreed with this view, but repeated study of the problem has convinced him of the fallacy of both the conception and the argument, and has brought him to the position maintained in this work.

The characteristics differentiating Occidental and

Oriental peoples and civilizations are undoubtedly great. But they are differences of social evolution and rest on social, not on biological heredity. Anatomical differences are natal, racial, and necessary. Not so with social characteristics and differences. These are acquired by each individual chiefly after birth, and depend on social environment which determines the education from infancy upward. Furthermore, an entire nation or race, if subjected to the right social environment, may profoundly transform its institutions, beliefs, and arts, which in turn transform what Prof. Le Bon and kindred writers call the invisible "race soul." Racial activity produces race character, for "Function produces organism." I cannot agree with these writers in the view that the race soul is a given fixed entity. Social psychogenesis is a present and a progressive process. Japan is a capital illustration of it. In the development of races and civilizations involution is as continuous a process as evolution. Evolution is, indeed, only one-half of the process. Without involution, evolution is incomprehensible. And involution is the more interesting half, as it is the more significant. In modern discussion much that passes by the name of evolution is, in reality, a discussion of involution.

The attentive reader will have discovered that the real point of the discussion of Japanese characteristics given in the preceding chapters has been on the point of involution. How have these characteristics arisen? has been our ever-recurring question. The answer has invariably tried to show their relation to the social order. In this way we have traversed a large number of leading characteristics of the Japanese. We have seen how they arose, and also how they are now being transformed by the new Occidentalized social order. We have seen that not one of the characteristics examined is inherent, that is, due to brain structure, to biological heredity. We have concluded, therefore, that the psychical characteristics which differentiate races are all but wholly social.

It is incumbent on advocates of the biological view to point out in detail the distinguishing inherent traits of the Orient. Let them also catalogue the essential psychic characteristics of Occidentals. Such an attempt is seldom made. And when it is made it is singularly unconvincing. Although Prof. Le Bon states that the mental constitution of races is as distinctive and unaltering as their anatomical characteristics, he fails to tell us what they are. This is a vital omission. If the differences are as distinct as he asserts, it would seem to be an easy matter to describe them. Whatever the clothing adopted, it is an easy matter for one to distinguish a European from an Asiatic, an Englishman from an Italian, a Japanese from a Korean, a Chinaman from a Hindu. The anatomical characteristics of races are clear and easily described. If the psychic characteristics are equally distinct, why do not they who assert this distinctness describe and catalogue these differences?

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse