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laws of right: the influence of the departed upon the affairs of earth: the action of what we can only regard as a personal Providence, whose counsel is executed by the earthly king.

The ceremonial institutions which were based upon these early beliefs have been continued to the present time, even if the beliefs themselves have lost much of their power. Two of these, the imperial worship of Shang-tî, and the general worship of ancestors, present most impressively, and as it were under the form of a primæval tradition, two conceptions which as yet we have not mastered in their Christian fulfilment, the solidarity and the continuity of the race. The Chinese are commonly held to be a prosaic people. They have at least preserved in these national customs a vivid expression of the most far-reaching fellowship of men in the present and through all time. In the one the nation is gathered up and finds unity in its head, and so appears before its unseen Lord: in the other the family is realised as one through all the stages of succession; and few thoughts are grander than that which holds that the achievements of a great man extend the privileges of his nobility to his ancestors (comp. Luke i. 72). It is no doubt true that the practical effects of these venerable


worship of Ancestors.


observances fall far below their true conception. The text of the imperial prayers is not accessible. The solemnities of ancestral worship degenerate into forms. Still the institutions themselves have a meaning for us. They come to us as a message from a patriarchal age, declaring what man reaches out to and what by himself he cannot obtain. As we look on them with true human sympathy we seem to see a dim shadow of Melchizedek moving among his people.

These primitive religious conceptions form the background to the characteristic teaching of Laotzŭ and Confucius in which as we have seen the religious tendency of China towards order finds characteristic and complementary expression.

(b) Taouism.

The Tâo-tih King-the Book of Tâo and Virtue-represents an independent and characteristic form of speculation which constantly recurs in the spiritual history of men (Buddhism, Gnosticism, Quietism). There is no reason to think that the teaching was derived from any foreign source. The book-which is about twice as long as the Sermon on the Mount-recognises the old faith and specially the worship of ancestors; but it gives a philosophic view of being and not a 9

W. G. L.

religious system. The interpretation of the keyword Tâo is difficult and complex. Literally it means way,' and suggests that there is an archetypal idea of the whole sum of things and of each part (§ 39). It has no name (§§ 25, 32, 41). In itself it represents the indeterminate, the absolute, the unconditioned; in relation to things observed it is the law of being; in relation to action it is as conceived, the right way, and as realised, virtue. It has no beauty to look at but in use it is inexhaustible (§ 35).

The thought of Tâo defines the sense of unity in things which we feel directly and do not reach by reasoning (§ 62); and our business is to discern the relation of the world, life, conduct to Tâo, for the true order of things in space any time is through, according to, unto Tâo. Such a conception admits no reference to will or design: will implies resistance and design implies succession; but Tâo is.

We can see the fulfilment of Tâo in 'Nature.' The elements and forces of Nature' fulfil their parts spontaneously, yielding themselves to an inspiring power (§§ 64, 29, 32, 37, 62). So for men and each man there is a true ruling idea to which perfect submission is due (comp. Hebr. vi. 1 þepóμeða); but we are always substituting for this our own self-chosen aims and ways. The


Corruption of Taouism.


wise man however has no private aim (§§ 13, 51, 77). He is empty (§§ 11, 15): he knows his ignorance (§ 20): he does nothing (§§ 2, 29, 43, 56-7, 63): he is free in the sense that (as the stone falls) he fulfils the law of his being. Perfect freedom is, he knows, identical with perfect obedience. He will not strive (S$ 66, 68, 73). His strength is in humility (§§ 8, 9, 22). He becomes a little child (S$ 10, 28). But while the effects of all violence (as war, conquest, capital punishment) are transitory (§ 23), there is strength in weakness (§§ 76, 78). Hence it follows that the results of artificial progress—material and intellectual-are full of peril (§§ 3, 12, 80; 48, 65, 71); and through this comes at last the fall of states (SS 17, 18).

Such a system contained no Gospel for the poor. It appealed to the self-reliance of the solitary thinker. At the same time its insistence on the existence of one essence in all things (§ 28), and on the permanence and safety of the sage (§ 50) gave occasion to the acceptance and development of gross superstitions in regard to charms and divinations, so that at present Taouism is in China the most debased type of religion, though it is said to have retained more of its original form in Corea. It is difficult to trace the history of its decline, which offers striking resemblances

to that of Neo-Platonism. This was largely influenced by the permanent introduction of Buddhism into China in the first century (A.D. 65). Lao-tzu was assimilated to Buddha. Images were made of three Taouist Holy Ones. The doctrine of future punishment became a powerful engine in the hands of the priests. Ancestral worship was no longer a fellowship of the family, but a service of fear for the averting of evil. Subordinate Gods were multiplied as representatives of the powers of nature and charged with the interests of human life. Even within the last half century the God of war (Kwan-tî) has been made equal to Confucius. And though these are not properly Taouist deities their temples are in charge of Taouist priests.

While this practical degeneration of Taouism as a religious system proceeded, the moral teaching of Taouism still retained wide influence; and 'The book of rewards and punishments,' a collection of moral aphorisms of great beauty, is said to be at present the most popular religious book in China.

(c) Confucianism.

The system of Lao-tzů, though it was a necessary philosophical embodiment of the fundamental Chinese conception of an absolute order of

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