Chinese Spiritual and Philosophical Background
Ta Hsüeh and Chung Yung Translation and Commentary by Andrew Plaks.
The two books translated here are without a doubt two of the most concentrated repositories
of ‘spiritual’ wisdom in the world and this translation and commentary is about the
finest. The translation is readable and fluid and the commentary makes even the
most obscure passages quit clear, there are many profound suggestions for the reading
of some passages which open up the spiritual and metaphysical implications of the
text. These texts are two of the fundamental texts of Confucianism and have been
some of the most influential texts in history. These books contribute such concepts
as ‘Bright Virtue’(Mingte), ‘Center/Centrality’(Chung) and Sincerity/Integrity(Ch’eng)
to Inner Sage Tao.
Original Tao: Inward Training and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism by Harold D.
This text is the source of two concepts fundamental to Inner Sage Tao, one is ‘numinous
mind’(Shen) and the other is the Microcosm/Macrocosm connection (This text or something
like it may be the source of the Mencius microcosm/macrocosm doctrine). Roth’s
translation is lucid and readable and his commentaries and notes are useful as what
might be called a ‘horizontal’ commentary on the text, but his desire to present
the text as more homogenous than it actually is causes him to avoid what I came to
call a ‘vertical’ analysis which focuses on the different vocabularies of the chapters
and the implications for the origin of the text. Roth seems to want to represent
this text as purely a proto-Taoist work, but this can only be done at the expense
of ignoring many similarities to the Mencius, references which are not obscure and
were noted, for example, by Waley in the introduction of his translation of the Tao
te Ching, The Way and it’s Power. After much thought I had to agree with A. C. Graham
who considers the text to predate a split between the Confucian and Taoist schools(See
Disputers of the Tao, below, page 100).
Disputers of the Tao by A. C. Graham
This is one of the best books on Chinese Philosophy that I have ever read. In terms
of its combination of readability, evenhanded and judicious use of sources and of
deep insight it ranks with say, W. K. C. Guthrie’s History of Greek Philosophy, as
a monument to one man’s learning and insight. Its subtitle ‘Philosophical Argument
in Ancient China” is enough to turn anyone off with a threatening sounding snooze
factor, but don’t let this put you off it is actually a very stimulating work about
the history and development of early Chinese Philosophy from the Middle Warring States
period to the Middle Han, roughly 500 BCE to 100 BCE, which also has a great deal
to offer any thinking person with some interest in ‘the meaning of life’ and other
curious and recondite matters.
Humanity and Self-Cultivation by Tu Wei-ming
When I first read this book in 2000 I wished that I had read it twenty years earlier,
indeed had it been available earlier I would have liked to have read it in my teens
when I first started reading about Taoism. I also realized that Confucianism is
right up there with Platonism as one of the most misunderstood philosophies around.
Based on anything that I had read (admittedly, not much on Confucianism) I would
have never expected to find the type of deep mystical doctrine combined with a profound
humanism that I found in this book. I had already been calling Platonism ‘mystical
humanism’ for about twenty years and on reading this book I was able to form the
East-West synthesis which is the deep background of Inner Sage Tao. If you think
Confucianism is about patriarchal, sexist old farts keeping woman and families firmly
under their control, read this book, eyes open, scales fall off, tea, if not coffee,
is smelled and gratefully quaffed.
Transformations of the Confucian Way by John Berthrong
This is a readable and informative history of Confucianism. I particularly found
Bertrhong’s discussion of the Confucian investigation of woman’s rights in the Ming
Dynasty very interesting. Apparently the Confucian woman’s movement was squelched
by the conquering Ching dynasty, but if Confucianism could create a framework for
woman’s rights as early as the 16TH century then it must have much more spiritual
core than it is usually given credit for.