PREFACETHE writer has been mindful of the announcement of the Committee that it is formed "for the purpose of instituting popular courses in the History of Religion," and he has attempted, therefore, in brief compass, to set forth for the general public the results of the scientific study of the Religious of Japan. His specific object is to exhibit the continuity and the development of the religious life of the people.
Modern research shows at once the unity and the variety of religious experience in different ages and lands. There is unity, since men's minds respond in like fashion to the influences which are common to humanity. Given similar surroundings, - physical, economic, social, political - and the race reveals its oneness by the similarity of its response. Yet circumstances are never quite alike, and, besides, there is the incalculable factor of individual genius, so that there is a wide diversity in the expression of this response. The two factors must ever be kept in view, that the diversity be not forgotten in the unity, nor the unity be obscured by the details of the diversity.
Japan offers a field for study which has peculiar advantages. Its history is comparatively brief, and the successive moments in its development are well marked. By the aid of historical criticism, the primitive rites and beliefs can be discerned. These were rapidly supplanted or transformed by the introduction of an alien civilisation - a process which can be traced step by step. The imported system, however, did not remain foreign, but was modified at every point by the genius and needs of the people. Especially instructive is the influence of the rise and development of the feudal system. Finally, in our day, new factors of peculiar potency are introduced, with results which can be understood as yet only in part. Nevertheless, through all, there has been a continuity so marked that "The Development of Religion in Japan" expresses the fundamental fact more truly than does the title suggested in the beginning - "The Religions of Japan."
The lecturer has sought to keep this topic in mind at whatever sacrifice of novelty in details, the result being not so much an exhibition of facts, independently ascertained, as a study in religious development. Philosophy, however, must hold fast to facts, for they must determine theory instead of being fitted to preconceived schemes, however fascinating. A sufficient exhibition of facts is made, therefore, with references to the sources, to enable the student to submit this study to independent criticism.
G. W. K.
THE UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, NEW YORK, August 11, 1906.
[NOTE: In the quotations from Confucius, the translations of Ernest Faber and James Legge have been constantly consulted - and freely used.]