Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Golden Rule: Confucius

ABOUT FORTY-FIVE HUNDRED MILES AND FIVE HUNDRED YEARS from Christ's teaching his disciples that the Golden Rule was a synopsis of the law and the prophets in his Sermon the Mount (Matt. 7:12), and only marginally less distant from the time the great Rabbi Hillel responded to the impudent Gentile who asked that the Torah be explained to him while on one foot, that the whole Torah is nothing but the principle "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow," Shabbat 31a, "the rest is commentary, go and learn," and three hundred years before the negative and Aramaic equivalent of that rule wended its way into the Aramaic Book of Tobit, "See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another," Tob. 4:15, the great Chinese sage Kǒng Qiū (孔丘) (551-479 B.C.), whom we in the West know as Confucius, taught his disciples the same great rule as an elemental part of his virtue ethic. Confucius was not taught this law by Moses or the Prophets; it was a law that he read in his own heart, that he strove to apply to his own life, and that he passed on to his disciples. The International Theological Commission, in its Searching for a Universal Ethic: A New Look at the Natural Law, had this to say regarding non-Christian moral conceptions: "According to the Christian faith, these traditions of wisdom, notwithstanding their limits and sometimes their errors, display a reflection of the divine wisdom which operates in the hearts of men. They deserve attention and respect, and they are able to have great value as preparations for the reception of the Gospel." I.1, No. 12.


The earliest mention of the Golden Rule in Confucianism is in the Analects, or the Lún Yǔ (论语 or 論語) The Analects, an anthology of Confucian teachings written by the disciples of the sage Confucius over a thirty to fifty years period, was probably written somewhere between 475 and 221 B.C. The Confucian version of the Golden Rule, which is nothing more than an elaboration of the virtue of shù (or shu) (恕), is a central feature of those Confucian teachings, and so it is found in various places in that work. The notion of shù is not only important in Confucius's teachings, but it displayed a remarkable continuity, holding a central role in Confucianism and neo-Confucianism as these doctrines developed over almost two millenia from Confucius to Mencius (371-289 B.C.) to Chu Hsi (Zhū​ Xī​) (1130-1200 A.D.) and beyond. According to Jeffrey Wattles, the Golden Rule plays a tripartite role in Confucianism: it is the means to virtue, it is a symbol of the end of all virtue, and it is a central thread in Confucianism as it developed over many centuries from a simple ethical and social virtue-building teaching without reference to the Absolute, to an ethical doctrine tied to the metaphysical, other-worldly relationship with the Taiji (太极 or 太極), the "Supreme Ultimate." As may be expected from the attention given to the Golden Rule by Confucian doctrine, this notion has been developed in a remarkable manner, and it allows us great insight into this concept which is one tied to the natural moral law.

We turn to Analects 15.23 for the mention of the Golden Rule. Confucius tries to answer his disciple Zi Gong's request for a single word by which he can live his life, a request that Confucius grants by telling him that that single word may be said to be shù (恕). The translation of shù is problematic, as it is a word with no English equivalent, and so it is variously and inadequately translated as "consideration," "reciprocity," "empathy," "altruism," even "forgiveness," among other words.

子貢問曰、有一言、而可以終身行之者乎。子曰、其恕乎、己所不欲、勿施於 人

Tzŭ Kung asked,
"Is there a word with which to act in accordance throughout a lifetime?"
Confucius said,
"It is 'consideration' [shù]. What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others."
Analects, 15.23.

As mentioned before quoting this analect, the word shù is difficult to encapsulate in one word (we adopted the word "consideration" as its translation), but Confucius clearly equates it with the Golden Rule in its negative expression: What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others. This is shù. It is clearly a relational virtue, one that is only present in a communio between persons. In Buberian terms, shù is something that requires both an I and a Thou.

Shù is a one-word synopsis of the Golden Rule. The concept is self-referent, analogous, and other-regarding. It is other-regarding in that it clearly places other human beings within the scope of its vision. It is analogous, in that it extends one thing to another, the self to the other. It is self-referent, in that in analogizes from the self, and so requires self-knowledge, introspection, the Delphic gnothi seauton, Know yourself. It is thus both intrinsic and extrinsic, in that it both requires us to look within, and to look without. We use our own selves as a mirror, a reflective analogy for understanding what it is that others may find offensive, and, in so doing, we arrive at our standard of behavior. Christians are exhorted to cultivate the attitude in themselves that was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). Confucius exhorts his disciples to cultivate the attitude of shù, which is not entirely inconsistent. It may be said that Jesus, who gave his life in sacrifice to man, personified this Confucian virtue. Swas made flesh in Christ Jesus.

The Golden Rule, which is nothing other than
shù, must be understood with the Confucian notion of virtue generally. The notion is not an abstract concept, but it is one highly concrete, albeit one that is nevertheless exceptionless or absolute. Wattles, 16-17. Shù, and likewise the Golden Rule which it encapsulates, has to be understood within the entirety of the Confucian ethical corpus. In fact, in Confucian teaching the notion of shù is inextricably linked with a companion virtue, zhōng (or chung) (忠). Again, the word zhōng, like the word shù, has no English equivalent, but it has often been translated "loyalty," "dedication," or "fidelity." In theAnalects, Tsêng Tzŭ, the disciple of Confucius, explains the Confucian teaching that the virtue of shù is connected to the notion of zhōng (or chung) (忠):

子曰、參乎、吾道一以貫之。曾子曰、唯。子 出、門人問 曰、何謂也。曾子曰、夫子之道、忠恕而已矣

Confucius said,
Ts'an, the way I follow has one unifying principle."
Tsêng Tzŭ said, "Yes."
After Confucius departed, his disciples asked,
"What did he mean?"
Tsêng Tzŭ said,
"The way of the Master is simply loyalty [zhōng] and consideration [shù]."
Analects, 4.15. The one unifying principle, or, as it is often referred to, the "one thread" throughout the entire Confucian ethic, is the single compound thread of zhōng and shù. Shù cannot exist without zhōng, and zhōng cannot exist without shù. In other words, the Golden Rule requires dedication, fidelity, loyalty, habitual cultivation of regard for others, by a habitual cultivation and introspection of self, so that it becomes a matter less of imposition than of spontaneity. One recalls here the parallel with St. John Chrysostom's remarkable phrase regarding the Golden Rule in his thirteenth Sermon Against Statues: "Many words . . . are not necessary, nor laws of great length, nor a diversity of instruction. Let your own will be the law. [Non opus est multis sermonibus, inquit, neque prolixis legibus, nec varia doctrina: voluntas tua sit lex. Οὐ χρεία πολλῶν λόγων, φησὶν, οὐδὲ μακροτέρων νόμων, οὐδὲ διδασκαλίας ποικίλης· τὸ θέλημά σου γενέσθω νόμος.] PG, 49.139-40 (XIII.7)

Further insight into the notions of zhōng and shù may be derived from a study of the Chinese ideogrammatic behind these compound Han characters for these virtues or principles. The Chinese words zhōng and shù are composed of a combination of two characters apiece, an upper and a lower character. The interesting aspect is that they share the same lower character, while only their upper characters are different.

The bottom character of both
zhōng and shù is the character for xīn (or hsin) (心), a broad concept which means mind or heart. The breadth of the notion of xīn is perhaps intimated by the Confucian Mencius's speaking of the heart of compassion, the heart of shame, the heart of courtesy and modesty, the the heart of right and wrong. (Mencius, 2A6) Obviously, the notion of xīn is more complex than a Humean theory of natural impulse, where the intellect is subservient to passion, or some denuded notion of human morality associated with a Kantian reinen praktischen Vernunft, or pure practical reason, where the passions are entirely neglected and duty only virtuous if not enjoyed. While it welcomes the heart, it does not exclude the role of the mind, and so would reject Pascal's notion that the heart has reasons of its own separate and apart of reason. Just like the Catholic Church insists on Faith and Reason, Nature and Supernature, so a Confucian, in his use of the word xīn, would be insisting on the unity of both Mind and Heart.

The upper character for zhōng, 中, also known as zhōng, means "center," while the upper character for shù, 如, , means "like or as." Etymologically, then, zhōng "suggests that the mind or heart, the xīn, is centered," while shù "implies sympathy with the feelings and thoughts of another person, being of like mind and heart," or xīn. Wattles, 17.

In his book on the Golden Rule, Jeffrey Wattles, following the lead of David Nivison, suggests that this combination of zhōng and shù refer to the upper and lower movements of the Golden Rule. That is, the combination of these two virtues is required because in Confucius's view, all have a place in social structures that are hierarchical at least in part, and so acting in accord with the Golden Rule requires adaptation depending upon whether one is acting in reference to a superior, where duty is chief, or in reference to a subordinate, where the exercise of authority or power may be involved. [One may remember here, Peter Abelard's discussion on the Golden Rule and the difficulty of applying it to those in authority in the twentieth problem of his Problemata Heloissae.] Thus zhōng applies to the Golden Rule in reference to a superior (calling for fidelity, loyalty, dedication), wheras shù is in reference to a subordinate, and would demand that one be not overly rigorous in one's demands upon them, and so putting oneself in their place. When dealing with social equals, both virtues blend into one. Wattles, 17-18.

The inculcation of this dual virtue of zhōng and shù is not natural in the sense that it is impulsive or automatic; rather, it requires an intentional effort, a sedulous discipline, to cultivate it as the principal rule of actions. The Analects disclose the short dialogue between Tzŭ Kung and Confucius on just this very natural intransigence to zhōng and shù that exists within us, and must be overcome:


Tzŭ Kung said, "I do not wish to be imposed upon by others, nor do I wish to impose upon others."
Confucius said, "T'sŭ, that you have not attained."
Analects, 5.11. In the Confucian 3rd century text, Doctrine of the Mean, the Zhōng Yōng (中庸), zhōng and shù are said to be not far from the way or dào (), but it requires cultivation. And if cultivated, the Golden Rule places us upon the right path, the dào.

Dedication (zhōng) and consideration (shù) are not far from the path (dào).
Doctrine of the Mean, No. 12. When one has both zhōng and shù one is not far from the path or dào. The Confucian emphasis on habitual consideration informs both its notion of the supreme virtue, jen or rén (仁), and the internal activities relating to the exercise and inculcation of that virtue, what is known as p'i.

As Herbert Fingarette explains this concept:
One key word here is p'i, a word used with some frequency in the Analects. Although it is rendered in bi-lingual dictionaries by the English "to compare," the important features of its use in the Analects to which I would direct attention are these: First, p'i in the Analects is always a "comparison" of likenesses, not differences. Hence "analogy" is an appropriate term. Second, the comparison is expressed in terms of imagery, of persons, situations, or activities, not in terms of abstract traits. Hence p'i is characteristic of Confucius' way of teaching . . . It contrasts sharply with the method of abstract analysis . . . Shu, in turn, is a specific kind of p'i. To be able from what is close--i.e., oneself--to grasp analogy with the other person, and in that light to treat him as you would be treated--that is shu.
(quoted in David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames, Thinking Through Confucius (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), 287-88.)

One of the supreme virtues of Confucianism is that of jen or rén The Chinese character for rén (仁) depicts a man between heaven and earth, mediating between the two as it were. Alternatively, one may view it is a composite of two characters, one meaning man or person (rén , ), the other meaning the number two (ér,). Wattles, 195 n. 13. Again, one confronts the impossibility of translating this concept adequately with one English word. Variously, terms such as "cohumanity," "humanity," "humaneness," "benevolence," "kindness," or even "love," have been used as approximations for rén. But whatever its precise meaning, the relationship between rén and shù is indisputable. Wattles states: "How is the virtue of cohumanity [rén] expressed, and what is the best path to it? The golden rule is a prominent answer to both questions." Wattles, 18. The linkage between rén and shù is found in the Analects:
子貢曰、如有博施於民、而能濟眾、何如、可謂仁乎。子曰、何事於仁、必也聖乎、堯舜其猶病諸。夫仁者、己欲立而立 人、己欲達而達人。能近取譬、可謂仁之方也已

Tzŭ Kung said,
"If the people are provided for extensively, and helped, what would you say? Can it be considered cohumanity [rén]?
Confucius said,
"What has it to do with cohu
manity [rén]? Surely it is sagacious. Even Yao and Shun [ancient emperors revered by Confucius] found it difficult. As to the man, who practices cohumanity [rén], he establishes for others what he wishes for established for imself. He brings others to reach where he wishes to reach himself. The ability to extend from self to others can be considered the direction towards cohumanity [rén]."
Analects, 6.28. The issue is also broached in Analects 12.2:


Chung Kung asked about cohumanity [rén].
Confucius said, "It is, when beyond your door, you conduct yourself as if meeting with a great guest; to employ the people as if you were assisting at a great sacrifice; what you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others; to have no murmuring against you in the country, and none in the family."
Chung Kung said, "Yung [alternative name for Chung Kung], though I am not quick, may I put into practice this lesson."
Analects, 12.2. In Analects 12.2, therefore, the Golden Rule, and thus shù, is directly made part of the virtue of rén. The virtue of rén relates to all those beyond one's door, and it requires that we consider those we encounter, even the alien and the stranger, as an important guest. It further requires us to handle those in our employ with reverence, as if participating at a great sacrifice. It requires, in sum, the application of the Golden Rule: shù, and we have seen how inextricably intertwined with shù is the requirement that it be made habitual, connatural or spontaneous, through intense but prudent cultivation. The entire teaching is succinctly stated by Mencius: "Be considerate [shù], and you will find that this is the shortest way to cohumanity [rén]." Wattles, 19 (quoting Mencius, 7A4).

It follows that the Confucian emphasis on the Golden Rule and the concomitant requirement that we study "what is near to ourselves," so that we may be able to "extend self to others" has resulted in a well-developed doctrine of moral empathy. Wattles attempts to aggregate the various notions of this in his book on the Golden Rule, and there are some very beautiful images of what such an ethic requires. It goes beyond the mere imagination of oneself in the other's circumstance, and putting oneself in their place. It requires a virtual revolution of the mind and the heart, a cultivation both rational and of fellow-feeling. Perhaps the most vivid image of it is in the
The Great Learning, the Dà Xué (大学 or 大學) one of the traditional "Four Books" of Confucianism, which provides that one should regard another with the same solicitude, and the same connaturality and spontaneity, as a mother to her infant. Wattles, 19. It requires a transferrance of the heart from things that do not warrant it, to our fellow man. So Mencius advised a king who had compassion for his pet ox, but not his people: "[T]ake this very heart here and apply it to what is over there." Wattles, 20 (quoting Mencius, 1A7) That temporal thing we love most, if it is not our fellow man, that desire ought to be translated to the proper object.

The Good Samaritan, by Vincent Van Gogh

One final thing may be mentioned. One would expect that any ethical teachings that are framed in terms of a Golden Rule would tend toward universality, though, as we shall see, the universal tendency can be stymied by culture or positive religious belief, such as it was in the context of the early Greeks, where qualitative differences were made between the Greek and the barbarian, the free man and the slave, and as it is in traditional or fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, where there is one morality for the Dar al Harb (دار الحرب) and another for the Dar al Islam ( دار الإسلا). But this was not the case with Confucian teaching, and as it developed across the centuries it became cosmopolitan and global in its ideal. It had the seeds of universality at the beginning: "All within the four seas," that is everywhere, "are his brothers" the disciple Tzŭ Hsia admonished his fellow disciple Szŭ Ma Niu, who understood brotherhood in too literal, and therefore restrictive, a fashion. Analects, 12.5. The notion progressively expanded during the course of Confucianism so that the neo-Confucian Wang Yangming (1472-1529 A.D.) was able to say that the wise man "regards all the people of the world as his brothers and children." Wattles, 22 (quoting Wang Yangmin's Instructions for Practical Living, I.142.118). Such an ethic strives to be universal, though it yet may confront social, cultural, or accidental conditions that prevent it from expressing itself in an ideal way.

Unquestionably, the Confucian ethic of the brotherhood of man was not founded, like the analogous Jewish or Christian idea, upon all men sharing of the image and likeness of God or all men being children of the one creating God.
[A]t no point in Confucian concept of humankind did the affirmation arise that Heaven is our father and that all men and women are brothers and sisters--and that this realization is the foundation for the replete practice of the golden rule. The Confucian concept of humankind as one family was derived initially not from the faith in a heavenly Parent but from golden ruling comparing, extending to others the consideration that the agent had for his or her own family.
Wattles, 26. That all is true, as far as it goes. But the Confucian ethic does not contradict the Judaeo-Christian notion of the brotherhood of all men arising from a common Father God, though it would seem more focused on the so-called "second tablet" of the Ten Commandments, or the Second Commandment of Christ. But what is truly fascinating is the importation of the well-developed notions of zhōng (loyalty) and consideration (shù) when applied by Chu Hsi in relation to the Supreme Absolute:
Zhōng means 'facing the Lord in Heaven' all day long. . . . Zhōng is the Way of Heaven, shù is the Way of Man. Zhōng means the absence of error; shù is how we put zhōng into practice. Zhōng is t'i (essence or "substance"); shù is yung ("function"). The one is the "great root"; the other is the realized Way.
Wattles, 196 n. 47 (quoting various provisions of Chu Hsi). Here, there seems to have developed both vertical and horizontal notions of zhōng and shù, and this must without question change the tenor of the notion of rén. With Chu Hsi, we are reaching asymptotically, as it were, the limit the other side of which requires that Voegelinian "leap in being" achieved by the revelation of Yahweh to the Jew, and by courtesy of the Jew, the Christian, and, indeed, all men of good will. The Jew and the Christian love their brothers, in whom they see the image of the God they love. The Confucian comes very close to loving an image of God as a result of loving their brother. The achievement of Confucius and his disciples, uninformed by any divine Revelation, is a testament of the law written in the heart of man, and the Golden Rule which the Fathers of the Church have taught is fundamental part and parcel of the natural moral law. It is "testimony of the existence of a patrimony of common moral values shared among all men." Searching for a Universal Ethic (International Theological Commission), I.1, No. 12.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

Note: Herein, Wattles refers to Jeffrey Wattles, The Golden Rule (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

1 comment:

  1. Until a hundred years ago, there was no such thing as "Judeo-Christian". That term is of recent invention. It was mentioned in this post and in earlier posts. It is about creating "pluralism" itself in the midst of Christendom. Nobody in nineteen hundred years used that term.

    If you read the ancient canons of the Church, it forbids "judiazing" the faith. Using the term "Judeo-" before Christianity is false, misleading and is judiazing the faith. Christianity does not need to be, nor should be preceded by the word "Judeo".

    There is nothing traditional, customary nor righteous in the use of that term. No Eastern Orthodox use that term, nor Roman Catholics. It is a term of subversion, and deconstructionism. It is a term of Liberals. It is for Liberal Christians. There is no pluralism in the Church. Christianity is Christianity.