Confucius

Confucius was not a religious founder or even a religious teacher; possibly not even a religious man.  He was not an atheist; he was apparently what we call an agnostic.  But the really vital point is that it is utterly irrelevant to talk about his religion at all. It is like talking of theology as the first thing in the story of how Rowland Hill established the postal system or Baden Powell organised the Boy Scouts.  Confucius was not there to bring a message from heaven to humanity, but to organise China; and he must have organised it exceedingly well.  It follows that he dealt much with morals; but he bound them up strictly with manners. The peculiarity of his scheme and of his country, in which it contrasts with its great pendant the system of Christendom, is that he insisted on perpetuating an external life with all its forms, that outward continuity might preserve internal peace. Anyone who knows how much habit has to do with health, of mind as well as body, will see the truth in his idea. But he will also see that the ancestor-worship and the reverence for the Sacred Emperor were habits and not creeds.  It is unfair to the great Confucius to say he was a religious founder. It is even unfair to him to say he was not a religious founder. It is as unfair as going out of one’s way to say that Jeremy Bentham was not a Christian martyr.

The Everlasting Man (1925).

Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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