LECTURE II. Shinto, the Way of the Gods. Natural Religion.THE Japanese remained long in this state of nature, their rude guesses at the causes of things, the magical control of destiny, the confused forms of the family and the tribe continuing. Religion, too, was undeveloped, the only change being from marvel to marvel. This indeed is the ordinary state of human nature. It is content with its possessions and cherishes them, nor will it arouse itself for new and doubtful experiment. It is only the elect few, the divinely inspired genius, the prophet, the seer, who have visions of the future which become true as they are followed, but with them are the hopes of the race and its destiny. It is vain to seek the secret in environment, or in the deductions of science, for it is the extraordinary, the superhuman, the genius, the unique, which shape progress. For Japan the touch of a splendid civilisation, which was already old, aroused the nation and made it a factor in the world's history.
Sometime in the dim past, this side of the Christian era, a tribe made itself master. It came from. the south- western part of that which is now Japan, and after years, perhaps generations, of strenuous fighting, it was supreme over the centre of the country. Now for the first time west, south-west, and centre were welded into a kind of unity. Still there was much land. to be conquered, still even within the central territory were independent chieftains, and still many disputed the sway of the sovereign. Rude was the fighting, and rude was the sovereignty, without thorough-going organisation or laws, and the conquered land was small and its population sparse; but the beginning was made, and that was the important thing, from which was to come the Empire..
By the beginning of the sixth century A.D., the control of the Emperor - let us save time and call him by the title which was his only much later - was considerable, for he claimed all, property and persons, as his own.
"He had power over life and death of his subjects. He could emancipate slaves and degrade freemen into servitude. He bestowed, changed, and revoked titles of his subjects. He created his royal estates out of the possessions of private citizens, and assumed power to employ people under their separate tribal chiefs. While he was the head of a patriarchal society and his orders passed through the heads of families and quasi-families, yet his authority seemed in theory to penetrate to the child lowest in the patriarchal scale. Nor was this power limited to the Emperor alone, but seemed to extend to other members of his family.".
Thus supremacy was through conquest, and this was the fact preserved in the tradition, while against it struggled for centuries the conquered tribes and chieftains. We have here the notion of superiority which explains at once the facts and legends, for the Way of the Gods, Shinto, is the natural religion of the people reorganised and completed as myth - that is, as stories with an object, and this object is the support of the Imperial house and power. Before going into this subject, let us see the elements which made such redaction possible and indeed necessary.
Sometime after this conquest and unification of the tribes, was the introduction of Chinese literature, civilisation, and religion. In the earliest times tribes drifted across the seas and established themselves in different parts of the islands, in Idzuma in the west, in Kyushu in the south, in Yamato in the centre. They fought with the barbarians and with each other, and lost the memory of their immigration and of their contacts with other peoples. Still evidence remained of their foreign origin, as even in the earliest legends one may detect continental influence. Probably there was still occasional communication with the continent, but not yet was there an organisation or a social state capable of perpetuating the impressions. When finally one tribe became supreme and introduced the elements of unity and order, came the opportunity which new-comers from Korea improved, bringing the rudiments of Chinese enlightenment. Whatever may have been the earlier contacts, it is only these later ones which were effective, for only now was there a central government which could welcome the strangers, accept their gifts and profit by them, and give occasion to the native power of assimilation to manifest itself.
But the process was slow. We have dates which are trustworthy from the middle of the sixth century or earlier, but our first document is from the beginning of the eighth. During this long period of two hundred years the twofold process was going on: the acquaintance with continental culture, and the consolidation of the Empire. The slowness of the latter process was, in part at least, the reason for the slowness of the former. Even in the middle of the seventh century the power of the Emperor was by no means assured, for in the year 645 there was a revolution or a reformation. The Imperial house was threatened by an intrigue which almost succeeded, but, discovered in time, it was foiled by a counter-intrigue and the Empire established. Yet once and again there was rebellion, and only after these were put down did lasting peace come.
Simultaneously with this process of centralisation, and largely influential in it, was the Chinese enlightenment. It accounts in part at least for the form and for the divergence of the Japanese legends. For through it was felt the need at once for the reorganisation of the government and for its justification. Without literature, man is content with things as he finds them. They are their own excuse for being. In the actual conquest the sword and spear are the potent arguments, but upon reflection, and when alternatives are sugggested, the reason becomes active and demands satisfaction.
Naturally the Chinese civilisation so impressed the Japanese that it was eagerly adopted. It was the civilisation of the whole world, of all lands within the range of vision, of a truly immemorial antiquity and of overwhelming completeness and splendour. Worshippers of the "superior," it is not surprising that the Japanese adored and adopted it.
After the revolution of 645, for example, society was remodelled; departments of government, ranks of officers, codes of law-the whole range of institutions, remodelled or for the first instituted. It was a marvellous transformation and to be compared only with the great movement in our day, which has so interested and astonished the nations. But great as were the innovations, and wholesale as were the importations, yet there was from the beginning adaptation. And this we see, both in the theory of the government and in the effect of that theory upon religion, for political theory produced Shinto.
But there were other influences at work. The Chinese civilisation had not only an elaborate theory of government, but a cosmogony, and a philosophy, and a history. It knew how the heavens and the earth were formed out of chaos, though, like all the East, it knew no absolute beginning, and it had its conception of the world as now existing, and in addition a history which, beginning with myth and fable, came down to historic times in unbroken sequence. To all this the Japanese intellect responded, but was not overwhelmed by it, and as the Chinese theories did not fit the insular conditions, nor the native traditions the exigencies of the Imperial house, menaced by many foes, it summoned to its aid the religious emotions and reshaped the legends to suit its needs..
The Chinese power was based theoretically on virtue. It is a remarkable theory, akin to that of the Hebrews, though widely different in form and fashion. At the briefest, we return to it in our fifth lecture, it is this: the principle of Heaven and Earth is virtue.
By it were all things formed, and through it all things have their substance. It is place, relationship to others, the order of a series, which gives meaning, and value, and substance. Order is Heaven's only law, and according to it is the cosmos. Without it is chaos, and all which is evil. It follows that position is more important than personality. A man is for the sake of society, the family, his fellows, the Empire. Hence in the ideal state there is nothing evil, for all is in order. Now in the family the father is the pivot, and in the state the Emperor. He rules not by power, but by virtue, for if he does not fulfil the duties of his office, ipso facto he is a usurper. Thus Mencius declared, when asked as to the driving of Ch'ou from his throne: "The offender of benevolence is a robber and the offender of righteousness is a ruffian. A ruffianly robber is a mere fellow. I have heard that Wu killed a fellow, Ch'ou, not that he killed a king.".
The theory finds its immortal embodiment in the illustrious Sage Kings Yao and Shun, who held their position, not by conquest or by inheritance, but by the supremacy of their virtue. The officials, too, are graded by their virtues, so that immaculate wisdom and righteousness are first, and invincible stupidity last; then even stupidity loses its viciousness, and all are virtuous, though few are wise..
Such was the theory in the books, and of its historic contradictions Japanese students were in ignorance. But such were not the facts in Japan, nor could they be fitted to such a theory. Here, as we have seen, the bare fact was conquest, and the succession was in the family, though the family was still loosely organised and the succession irregular. Such, also, was the tradition, for the stories of the past by no means invested even the greatest of the Emperors with superhuman virtues, though it freely accorded them superhuman powers, nor did the Emperors assume any control over the beliefs or the morals of their subjects, the tradition and the religion being essentially nonmoral, the worship and the supremacy of non-moral power.
Had the people been at peace, without factions or disputes, possibly in time the Chinese fiction might have been taken seriously, and the theoretical basis of the state have been found in an ethical philosophy. But the people were not at peace, nor was the basis of the Imperial power, or the position of the lesser chiefs secure. The'claimants were many, and their pretensions extreme. It was necessary, therefore, that a basis should be found which should be at once recognised by all, and in terms understood by the nation. Finally, did we need more, when Chinese civilisation came to Japan, it was Buddhism, which had nothing to say of polity, and not the more profound portions of the Confucian system, which engaged the attention of the thoughtful.
The effect upon religion is apparent. Legend and tradition were transformed into myth - that is, they were retold with a purpose, and religion was supplied with a theology. It is a momentous transition, and in it are hidden all the possibilities of the race. Man becomes reflective, and instead of the crude evidence of his senses, he is to place theory; instead of the confusion of chance, he is to place order. He ceases to be naïve, and takes the first step in the development of philosophy, science, and theology. It is inevitable that his first attempts shall take on the form of the last-named discipline.
For with the beginnings of theory man does not invent his facts; he takes them as he finds them. That, too, is inevitable. He is not a liar, nor a builder of romances, but, on the whole, true to his facts as he sees them. Now his facts have to do with the marvellous, the "superior," the divine. It is the marvel of power which impresses him, and which he remembers, and it is the marvel which he worships. So, too, he asks in his childlike way after the beginnings, and comes at once upon stories of gods and demons. The only thing new is theory, and conscious explanation, and system. So that the inventions are limited to certain places, where facts fail, as even our scientists tell us what must be beyond the range of possible experimentation. But the invention of the early writer is, like his facts, naïve and easily detected. As early as the sixth century recorders were appointed, and in A.D. 620 something in the fashion of annals was prepared, but they were lost or burned, or purposely destroyed. In part, perhaps, they were embodied in later writings. The next attempt was long after the revolution, for in 681 the reigning Emperor, Temmu, commanded that the "Accounts of the Emperors," "together with various matters of antiquity," be written, but this also was not completed, or is lost, or was unsatisfactory, for, later, the same Emperor commanded a man of extraordinary memory to learn the ancient annals, and from his lips, in 711, was taken down the material which, reduced to written form, constitutes the first of all Japanese books, and one of the most important of our sources. Eight years later, its writer, in conjunction with others, prepared a second work, covering in part the same ground, and adding two hundred years of history, from the end of the fifth to the end of the seventh centuries A.D., giving variants of much value, and in part modifying and transforming the early simplicity under the influence of Chinese critical and philosophical theory. Now this man, in his introduction to the Records of Ancient Matters, our oldest source, states clearly the principle which led to its production. It is that we may know the "origin of deities and the establishment of men" - that is, an account of the beginnings of the world and of the Empire. He further tells us that the Emperor, who in 681 commanded the preparation of the annals, said: "I hear that the chronicles of emperors, likewise the original words in the possession of the various families, deviate from the exact truth, and are mostly amplified by empty falsehoods. If at the present time these imperfections are not amended, ere many years shall elapse the great basis of the country, the grand foundation of the monarchy, will be destroyed." And further, the compiler tells us that he "made a careful choice." Thus in this so-called "Bible of the Japanese" we have a work written with a definite purpose, the correction of false claims and the establishment of the monarchy, while in a secondary way we are to be given the origin of the universe itself. There is no pretence of a religious motive, nor of setting forth a moral code, but, in accordance with Chinese precedents, Japan, too, shall have a cosmology, a national history, and an account of the fashion in which the Imperial house obtained its power. The Chinese influence in the second book mentioned, written eight years later, has always been recognised, but the book now under consideration has been thought by some to be a simple record of traditions collected without other ends in view. But manifestly this was not the case; it was Chinese philosophy which suggested the notion of an ordered account of the beginnings of heaven and earth, and Chinese history which impelled the collection of the national annals, and Chinese political theory which necessitated a theoretical justification for the government. It is only in the light of this manifest "tendency" that the meaning of the book itself, and of Shinto, can be understood. The preface of the Kojiki is written in Chinese, but the body of the book is in mingled archaic Japanese and Chinese. The Nihongi, on the contrary, is wholly in Chinese, but it is not on that account more completely under Chinese influence.
In the Kojiki it is true we are not troubled by the direct intrusion of the Chinese philosophy, with its positive and negative elements, its separation of heaven and earth because of the divergent, heavier and lighter, substances in their formation, for we begin at once with the deities. Yet these latter are as evidently late inventions, formed because things must have a beginning, after man has come in contact with thorough-going cosmogonies. Thus first are placed in the Plain of High Heaven, when the Heaven and the Earth began, the Deity Master-of-the-August-Centre-of-Heaven, next the High-August-Producing-Wondrous-Deity, next the Divine-Producing-Wondrous-Deity (Ame-no-mi-nakanushi-no-Kami, Taka-mi-musu-hi-no-Kami, Kami-musubi-no-Kami). They were born and died. Then from a thing like unto a reed shoot, when the earth was young and, like unto floating oil, was drifting about medusalike, were born two more heavenly deities, who also died and left neither descendants nor story; and then two more with the same want of history, and finally five couples with the last of whom the myth begins.. These deities without father or mother, or length of days, or any achievements, are created from the felt need of a beginning, thus belonging to the realm of invention, as their names also, indicate - Deity Mud-earth Lord and Deity Mud-earth Lady, Germ Integrating Deity, and Life Integrating Deity, Deity Elder Lord of the Great Place, and Deity Elder Lady of the Great Place, Deity Perfect Exterior, and Deity Oh Venerable Lady; and finally, with the opening of the mythology, the Deity Male Who Invites, and the Deity Female Who Invites (Izanagi-no-Kami and Izanami-no-Kami), the last names framed to explain the beginnings of courtship and marriage. But first of the cosmogony, for these two at the command of the heavenly deities stood on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, pushed down the jewelled spear, which had been given them, stirred up the brine beneath till it went curdle-curdle (koworo-koworo), and drew the spear up, the brine which dripped from it piling up and forming the island called "Self-Curdling" (Onogoro.). Descending, they erect a pillar and a hall, and then begins their courtship. Circling the island, when they meet she exclaims, "O beautiful and amiable youth!" and he responds, "O beautiful and amiable maiden!" This institutes their courtship, and after marriage, which is without ceremony, or negotiations or capture, are born the islands, the plains, the elements, and the forces of nature. Their first child was a failure, and the second, the island of Awa (Foam), also, because Izanami spoke first on their meeting, as is discovered by the heavenly deities by divination, and therefore the courtship is repeated and Izanagi first makes the exclamation, "Ah! What a fair and lovely maiden!" and then after her response the work of the creation prospers. The geography known by the middle of the seventh century is given in detail, the various islands of the archipelago, the great central country of Yamato. After the geography is complete come deities which are objects and forces of nature, Deity Rock Earth Prince, Heavenly Blowing Male, Youth of the Wind Breath the Great Male, the Spring, the Summer, the Autumn, Foam Calm, Foam Waves, Bubble Calm, Bubble Waves, Wind, and Trees, and Mountains, and Moors, and Passes, and Food, and Fire. The total number of islands begotten was fourteen, and of other deities thirty-five. The artificial nature of the construction is apparent, not only from this brief enumeration but from the names of the deities, which are in large part taken from the objects, the story and circumstances of the myth being invented to explain its meaning. So far then the nature of the story is clear, a myth to explain the beginnings of marriage, and the birth, in human fashion, of islands, and mountains, and rocks, and trees, and elements, - all ætiological, with perhaps only the Bridge of Heaven, the courtship, and the stories of the marriage of the nature of true legend.
Izanami dies and goes to Hades, whereat Izanagi kills the Fire Prince, whose birth had caused her death, with his sword, and from the blood which drops from his blade are born more deities, Rock-Splitter, and Root- Splitter, and Rock-Possessor, and Swift Gods, and Snapping Gods, eight in all, the origin of each, given with exactness, from the blood which stuck to the point, the upper part, and the hilt of the sword and flying off bespattered the rocks. This tendency to arrange in groups appears repeatedly in the narrative, as, for example, from the body of the slain Fire Prince were born deities of the mountains, eight deities in all. There follows the tale already narrated of the visit to Hades, and the discovery of the decaying body of Izanami, with maggots swarming, and eight thundergods born in her body and dwelling there. She sends her messengers after Izanagi who flees, and finally escapes as we have seen, and blocks behind him the Even Pass of Hades. This whole story is full of reminiscences, and shows signs of its contact with other mythologies and legends long since forgotten. From the purification of Izanagi are born many other gods, and among them the Sun, the Moon, and the violent deity, who is given dominion over Hades, but instead remains to trouble heaven and the inhabitants of earth. His wicked doings occupy the larger part of the next sections, and then, at last, begins the history of the earthly rulers. With the stories of Sun, Moon, and Susa-no-o- no-Mikoto, the cosmogony ceases, and there follow the stories of the emperors, and of the leading families, the two divisions being indeed connected in uninterrupted sequence, though diverse in motive and material. Between the two are a series of ancient legends, loosely connected, some of them without bearing upon either cosmogony or succession, and put in here because they were in the traditions and must be disposed of. Then follows the highly supernatural story of the first Emperor Jimmu, who was given the throne by the gods of high heaven, and invested by the Sun-goddess with sword and mirror and spear. With the help of the gods he slowly possesses the land, starting from the south-west, Kyushu, receiving the submission of Idzumo, and finally settling himself in Yamato, which should be henceforth the centre of the story, but in fact occupies a subordinate place. From this time on, the narrative follows the succession, with many fables and a suggestion or two of history. For the most part nothing is known of the rulers but their names and places, and when the dull genealogies are made interesting with stories it is still of gods, and marvels, and heroes, the history as mythological as the cosmogony, and the mythology as trustworthy as the history. Genealogies of the emperors and of the great families continue, until at last, say in the middle of the fifth century, we come to the appointment of recorders and the beginnings of sober history..
This political motive, the theoretical establishment of the Imperial regime, saved Shinto from extinction. Otherwise it would have disappeared in Buddhism, and its kami would have lost their identity as they came to be regarded as incarnations of Buddha. But the theory was too valuable to be put aside. The Emperor ruled by divine right, not only by divine decree issued when the supreme Sun-goddess cried " Who shall rule for us the land below?" but also by descent, the divine blood flowing through his veins, and thus by an identity of nature since he too is a god. He held too the sword and the mirror - the insignia of his divine investiture..
With this process went hand in hand his isolation. Time had been when he had mingled with the people and had shared their fortunes, but now he was surrounded with mysterious splendour, and removed, as befitted a god, from his people. With this transformation too the control of affairs more and more slipped from his hands into the grasp of men who had to do with the realities of empire and people, divinity and exaltation being separated from power and rule.
Shinto entered its second stage. Among the people it was supplanted by Buddhism, which in its rites, temples, and images offered things concrete and tangible so that the native cult remained as court ceremonial and ritual, demanding neither understanding nor faith. Even the emperors were the adherents of Buddhism, and some of them abdicated their imperial rank and divine dignity and entered monasteries as seekers of salvation.
Shinto had secondary objects, among others the settlement of disputes between great families, and the organisation of a quasi hierarchy. Families claiming descent from the gods were in charge of sacred places, and a few temples were built. But the duties were nominal, and the religious influence nothing. The theology even now was meagre; possibly its whole content can be summed up in the phrase, "Fear the gods and obey the Emperor," and the notion that the land, its people, and especially the ruler, are divine.
No attempt was made to instruct the people in the legends or in the ritual. The priests were laymen, with an hereditary interest in the shrine, while Buddhism supplied theology and Confucianism ethics.
As was natural, the complete form of Shinto is given in the prayers, Norito, used at court. In them the Emperor appears as the high-priest of the people. As the Emperor of China twice a year worshipped Heaven and Earth, so did the Emperor of Japan inter. vene between the gods and his people. The prayers are wholly from the Imperial point of view, and are compared, by a recent writer, in their form to Imperial rescripts. All things are regarded as the property of the Emperor, the land, the people, and their possessions. For their sakes he implores the deities of Heaven and Earth, the hills, the plains, and the elements, that evil may be averted and good restored. For the people he makes offerings, feasts and clothes and horses. Himself not present, he designates his representatives, who stand in his place and minister in his stead. With the gods of nature are combined the Imperial ancestors, and, under the influence of China, the conception of their spirits, gone yet present, dependent on the living yet effective for weal or woe, comes to take a prominent part. For the story of the Kojiki is the marriage of the worship of nature to that of the worship of the Imperial house. The Emperor is called "Incarnate God," yet in like fashion Korean princes are recognised as "Sons of God." In the Kojiki there is no hint of prayer to the ancestors of the Emperors, nor of their worship. In the Nihongi both appear, but only at a late date. The worship of ancestors, then, even of the Imperial family, is not of the original religion of Japan, which is nature worship. It is through the Chinese influence that Shinto is formed and the worship of the spirits of the dead introduced. But this remains strictly subordinate, the ruling idea being the divinity of Japan and of the Emperor, its representative.
Shinto, serving its purpose as a form of court ceremonial and as a theory of the "divine right" of the Emperor, remained, besides, only as a part of the religion of the Buddhas, as superstitions among the common people, and as fairy tales told to children. There were not wanting, also, scholars enamoured of antiquity, who explained the legends according to more modern systems of thought.
The Nihongi itself is the first illustration of this tendency. The philosophy of the Chinese was accepted, and its principles appended to the national cosmology. Thus its beginning is, "Anciently, before Heaven and Earth separated and the Negative and Positive Essences parted," while Heaven is credited with directing affairs, and Chinese speeches are put into the mouth of the early Japanese sovereigns. This combination of theology and science was only the precursor of others, which harmonised Shinto with the teachings of the Shin-gon Buddhists, or with the mysteries of the Book of Changes, or with the philosophy of Chu Hi. But none of these systems had wide influence, though the Nihongi, with its Chinese language and concessions to Chinese philosophy, remained the chief authority, supplanting the Kojiki in scholarly esteem.
With the revival of learning under the House of Tokugawa, there came a new interest in ancient affairs. A school arose which attempted to free Shinto from its accretions and to restore it to its ancient purity. It flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and its writings illustrate the development and adaptation of religious systems. Nor were they without effect upon the national development.
These writers violently reject the adaptation of the tradition to foreign systems, and they have little difficulty in showing the hollowness of the Nihongi's adoption of Chinese phrases. These are "philosophic terms utterly unknown to the ancient Japanese, and are the inventions of ignorant men who, instead of accepting with faith the true traditions which have been handed from the beginning of time, endeavour to discover explanations for what man with his limited intelligence can never comprehend." The criticism is entirely justified, for the Nihongi was a crude attempt to accomplish the most difficult of intellectual tasks, the restatement of traditions in the terms of an alien philosophy. "Pure Shinto," however, was only at the beginning of its labours when the Chinese accretions had been removed, for the ancient stories, left without philosophical explanation, are difficult of understanding and belief, as the defenders of the Chinese philosophy were quick to point out. Thus the traditions pretend to tell the story of the immense periods which preceded the introduction of writing, giving dates which were invented probably for political ends. The contents, too, are as improbable as the story of their handing down is impossible. For the sun in heaven is a goddess, while yet before her birth it is apparent that there were light, and plants, and houses, and fields, and all the varied forms of life. Yet, if she were really the sun, all must have been in total darkness. Nor did the word "kami" mean god at all, but it was simply a term of honour, and many other arguments of equal cogency were urged. How, then, shall these traditions be given forth as the actual truth of the origin of heaven and earth?
The answer is as convincing as could be expected:
Tradition is better than written records, as we use even now the spoken word in matters of especial delicacy, and men's memories were better in ancient times, when they had not learned to rely upon writing. Further, these difficulties in the contents are upon the surface and "would strike even a child's intelligence. The critic need not make so much fuss about the point, as if it were entirely a discovery of his own. The very inconsistency is proof of the authority of the record, for who would have gone out of his way to invent a story so apparently ridiculous and incredible?".Thus the difficulties of the narrative become its strength, and in all points the apologist is able to turn the argument against his assailant. Is it pointed out that the Japanese are not of great antiquity, and therefore not the special children of the gods, it is argued that the child of slow and late development is often the flower of the family, most cherished and most intelligent. Is it shown that the early records have no ethical teaching, the statement is accepted, and it is urged that only people like the Chinese, who are naturally depraved, need ethics, whereas the divine Japanese without teaching followed their naturally good instincts, and that only on the introduction of Chinese morals did evil develop. Finally, to complete the account of Shinto apologetics, when the great struggle between tradition and science emerges, the argument rises to its heights:
Many miracles occurred in the age of the gods, the truth of which was not disputed until men were taught by the Chinese philosophy to analyse the acts of the gods by the aid of their feeble intelligence. The reason assigned for disbelieving in miracles is that they cannot be explained, but in fact, although the age of the gods has passed away, wondrous miracles surround us on all sides. For example, there is the position of the earth itself, equally miraculous whether we describe the globe as resting on something or nothing, and beyond all possibility of explanation are the common facts of existence, seeing, hearing, walking, the flight of birds and insects, the blossoming of plants and trees, the power of rats and weasels to see in the dark. How absurd to take them for granted, and at the same time disbelieve in the miracles of the Divine Age. . . . The accounts given in other countries, whether by Buddhism or Chinese philosophy, of the form of the heavens and earthand the manner in which they came into existence, are all of them inventions of men, who exercised all their ingenuity over the problem, and inferred that such things must actually be the case. As for the Indian account, it is only nonsense fit to deceive women and children, and I do not think it worthy of refutation. The Chinese theories, on the other hand, are based on profound philosophical speculations, and sound extremely plausible, but what they call the absolute and infinite, the positive and negative essences, the eight diagrams, and the five elements are not real existences, but are fictitious names invented by the philosophers and freely applied in every direction. They say that the whole universe was produced by agencies, and that nothing exists which is independent of them. But all these statements are nonsense.
"The principles which animate the universe are beyond the power of analysis, nor can they be fathomed by the human intelligence, and all statements founded upon pretended explanations of them are to be rejected. All that man can think out and know is limited by the powers of sight, feeling, and calculation, and what goes beyond these powers cannot be known by any amount of thinking.
"How is it then possible for men who were born hundreds and thousands of myriads of years after the origin of the universe, to know how it originated and the successive steps by which it assumed its present form? Our country, owing to the facts that it was begotten by the two gods Izanagi and Izanami, was the birthplace of Amaterasu-oho-mi-kami, and is ruled by her Sublime Descendants for ever and ever, as long as the universe shall endure, is infinitely superior to other countries, whose chief and head it is; its people are honest and upright of heart, and are not given to useless theorising and falsehoods like other nations, and thus it possesses correct and true information with regard to the origin of the universe. This information has descended to us unaltered from the age of the gods, and unmixed, even in the slightest degree, with unsupported notions of individuals. This indeed is the genuine and true tradition. The Chinese accounts sound as if based on profound principles, and one fancies that they must be right, while the Japanese accounts sound shallow and utterly unfounded in reason. But the former are lies, while the latter are the truth, so that, as time goes on and thought attains greater accuracy, the erroneous nature of these falsehoods becomes ever more apparent, while the true tradition remains intact. My reason for this observation is that in modern times men from countries lying far off in the west have voyaged all round the seas as their inclination prompted them, and have ascertained the actual shape of the earth. They have discovered that the earth is round, and that the sun and moon revolve round it in a vertical direction, and it may thus be conjectured how full of errors are all the ancient Chinese accounts, and how impossible it is to believe anything that professes to be determined a priori. But when we come to compare our ancient traditions, as to the origination of a thing in the midst of space and its subsequent development, with what has been ascertained to be the actual shape of the earth, we find that there is not the slightest error, and this result confirms the truth of our ancient traditions. But although accurate discoveries made by the men of the Far West as to the actual shape of the earth and its position in space infinitely surpass the theories of the Chinese, still that is only a matter of calculation, and there are many other things actually known to exist which cannot be solved by that means; and still less is it possible to solve the question of how the earth, sun, and moon came to assume their form. Probably those countries possess theories of their own, but whatever they may be, they can be but guesses after the event, and probably resemble the Indian and Chinese theories.".
The positive teaching of the new school can be more briefly summarised. It would merit the praise bestowed by Plato on the Athenians for its unreserved hatred of the barbarian nature. Japan is the country of the gods and its people their direct descendants. Thus they differ not in degree but in kind from others. By divine right the Emperor should reign over all the earth, and the fleets of the foreigners should bring him tribute. Nor does his rule depend upon his own virtue or wisdom, but solely upon his divine descent. Hence no misconduct on his part can absolve his people from obedience, as he is not responsible to them nor obliged to render a reason for anything he does. As the son of the Sun-goddess his mind is in perfect harmony of thought and feeling with hers. He does not seek out new inventions, but rules in accordance with precedents which date from the age of the gods, and if he is ever in doubt he has resort to divination, which reveals to him the mind of the great goddess. "In this way the age of the gods and the present age are not two ages but one."
As thus the Emperor rules over men, so do the gods over all. "Every event in the universe is the act of the gods. They direct the changes of the seasons, the wind, the rain, the good and bad fortune of states and of individual men. Some of the gods are good and others are bad, and their acts partake of their own natures."
As the Emperor "worshipped the gods of heaven and earth, so his people prayed to the good gods in order to obtain blessings, and performed rites in honour of the bad gods, in order to avert their displeasure. If they committed crimes or defiled themselves, they employed the usual methods of purification taught them by their own hearts. As there are bad as well as good gods, it is necessary to propitiate them with offerings of agreeable food, playing the harp, blowing the flute, singing and dancing, and whatever else is likely to put them in a good humour. . . . The most fearful crimes which a man commits go unpunished by society so long as they are undiscovered, but they draw down on him the hatred of the invisible gods. The attainment of happiness by performing good acts is regulated by the same law. Even if the gods do not punish secret sins by the usual penalties of the law, such as strangulation, decapitation, and transfixion on the cross, they inflict diseases, misfortunes, short life, and extermination of the race. Sometimes they even cause a clue to be given by which a secret crime is made known to the authorities who have power to punish. The gods bestow happiness and blessings on those who practise good, as effectually as if they were to manifest themselves to our sight and give treasures, and even if the good do not obtain material rewards, they enjoy exemption from disease, good luck, and long life and prosperity is granted to their descendants. Never mind the praise or blame of fellow-men, but act so that you need not be ashamed before the gods of the Unseen. If you desire to practise true virtue, learn to stand in awe of the Unseen, and that will prevent you from doing wrong. Make a vow to the god who rules over the Unseen, and cultivate the conscience (ma-go-koro) implanted in you, and then you will never wander from the way. You cannot hope to live more than a hundred years under the most favourable circumstances, but as you will go to the Unseen Realm of Oho-kuni-nushi after death, and be subject to his rule, learn betimes to bow down before him."With this developed theology, as unlike the traditions of the Kojiki as its cosmology is unlike the modern view of the world, with which these writers would feign reconcile it, are directions for daily prayers and rites, for the religion is to be no longer exclusively for the priests or for the court but for all.
This systematising of Shinto never attained influence. It remained the possession of a little group of scholars interested in antiquity. But in a different way it none the less accomplished much, for it called attention to the Emperor, and possibly aided in his restoration to control in the reformation of 1867-68. .
With the overthrow of the Shogunate, Buddhism was disestablished and Shinto put in the place of honour. But as a system its day was long past and it could not maintain itself. Its importance in the government rapidly diminished, and in 1877 its position was that of a subordinate bureau, and finally a decree was issued declaring it to be merely a convenient scheme of governmental ceremonies, thus putting it once more back into its old place.
Yet Shinto is more than a code of ceremonies, for in a true sense it embodies the religion of the people. Its stories of the gods are little more than fairy tales; the laborious works of the great scholars who attempted to maintain its inerrant truthfulness, their exegesis, apologetics, and reconciliations, merely encumber the shelves of antiquarian scholars; but, none the less, perhaps all the more, Shinto holds large place in the people's hearts. Its professed upholders and expounders, as so often happens, fastened upon its accidents and exalted its foolishness. In their zeal for the letter they obscured the spirit, since to make Shinto texts the basis for a modern theory of life is impossible. The legends, cosmology, and pseudo-history are not the religion, and its power is not in dogmas nor in forms of worship; it is a spirit, the spirit of Old Japan, Yamato-damashii..
The essential fact in Shinto is the religious patriotism of the people. To them Japan is a divine land, and their devotion expresses itself in loyalty to the Emperor. With this loyalty combines a faith in the continued existence of the heroes of the past, and their inspiration of the nation in its toils and aspirations. The Emperor is not a god, in our modern sense, nor is the land an abode of supernatural beings, but, true to the ancient meaning, "divine" signifies superior, worshipful, that to which one bows in adoration and gives himself in consecrated service. The belief in the continued power and inspiration of the spirits of the past, though taken over from the Chinese, has become essential, yet rests on no argument and is embodied in no dogma. It has no clear vision of a heaven or hell, or of any state of rewards and punishments. In emotional content it can scarcely be distinguished from our Western reverence for the saintly and heroic dead, while its influence on the living is akin to the patriotic feelings excited by our recognition of a precious inheritance in the patriots of ages past. Thus Shinto is witness to an abiding reality. Though its forms perish, its substance remains beyond the reach of hostile criticism and argument. If its doctrine be vague, and its emotions with difficulty described, this is because it belongs to those powerful feelings which are only partly differentiated, and in this it remains true representative of primitive religion, of the simple feelings which persist, their interpretation being restated with man's progress in knowledge. Shinto will survive - not in its dates, nor its genealogies, nor its theory of the descent of its sovereign from Ame-terasu-no-Mikoto, nor in its legends and cosmology, but in the affections of the people, their trust in the national powers and destiny, and their confidence that there is a something more than their present strength and wisdom which directs and aids and on which they may rely. The "something more" may receive new names, but the faith will abide while Japan works out a future greater and more glorious than the fabled Age of the Gods.