In this course on East Asian Religions and Ecology, we're moving in the second week to an introduction and overview to Confucianism, to build on what we've done in the first week. We're going to go to: what is Confucian spirituality? But first we want to review the sense that it was a political system, it has ethical teachings, it has social norms, it's a humanistic philosophy, and it's a religious worldview. Among the world's religious teachings, Confucianism has the distinction of being the tradition that is least understood as having religious or spiritual aspects. Part of the complexity of the problem regarding the religious nature of Confucianism lies in sorting out a series of interlocking questions. As we have explored, foremost among them, is how one defines Confucianism. As political, ethical, social, humanistic, or as a religious worldview. We acknowledge all of these features as being part of Confucianism. However, we are here to explore Confucianism. not necessarily as a religion per se, but as a religious worldview with distinctive spiritual dimensions. We're refraining from using the term religion to describe Confucianism, as religion tends to be associated with formal institutional structures. And most often with characteristics of Western religions such as theism, personal salvation, natural and supernatural dichotomies. The term religion may thus obscure, rather than clarify, the distinctive religious and spiritual dimensions of Confucianism. If we take Western definitions of religion, we come to Paul Tillich, one of the great Protestant theologians at Union Seminary in New York, and he spoke about religion as dealing with ultimate concern. Another great theologian was Frederick Streng, who spoke of ultimate transformation. Now, these terms can be helpful to us. While one could utilize certain Western definitions of religion, to illustrate the Confucianism is a religion, these definitions may however, limit the understanding of the nature of Confucian spirituality. For example, we can draw on these definitions of Tillich and Streng. Both of these broad definitions are applicable to Confucianism. For Confucians then, ultimate concern in Confucianism is evident about hearing the will of heaven. When a person is responding to this will of heaven that's discovered in one's heavenly endowed nature, and manifest in temporal affairs. Ultimate transformation, on the other hand, involves modes of self cultivation which are intellectual, spiritual, and moral. The goal here is to become more fully human, namely more deeply empathetic, and more comprehensively compassionate. Ultimate transformation leads one towards sagehood. Still, this attainment is within the phenomenal world, not apart from it, and for the benefit of the larger society, not for one's salvation alone. That is key to Confucianism. This distinguishes a Confucian religious worldview from Western forms of religion. Therefore, instead of claiming Confucianism as a religion, we are suggesting that Confucianism manifests a religious worldview in its cosmological orientation. This cosmological orientation is realized in this way. The connection of the microcosm of the self to the macrocosm of the universe, through various spiritual practices. These include communitarian ethics, self transformation, and ritual relatedness. In other words, how do we get from the microcosm of the self to this macrocosm? We need ethics, we need self transformation, and we need ritual relatedness. A religious worldview is that which gives humans a comprehensive and defining orientation to ultimate concerns. Spirituality is that which provides expression for the deep yearnings of the human, for relatedness to these ultimate concerns. While a religious worldview may be assumed as part of a given set of cultural ideas and practices into which one is born, spirituality is the vehicle of attainment of these ideas. The Confucian religious worldview, then, is distinguished by its cosmological context, which humans complete the triad of heaven and earth. Confucian spirituality requires discipline and practice along with spontaneity and creativity. Confucian spirituality establishes different ethical responsibilities for specific human relations. Deepens subjectivity in its methods of self cultivation, and celebrates the communion of cosmic and human forces in its ritual connections. It aims to situate human creativity amidst concentric circles of interdependent creativity, from the person to the larger human universe. One way to appreciate the distinctiveness of the Confucian religious worldview and its spiritual expressions, is to observe broad characteristics of religions with a common geographical place of origin. In this spirit, it is significant to note that the flowering of the world's religions, which took place in the sixth century Before the Common Era. Namely this Axial Age, a term that was used by Karl Jaspers, a German Philosopher. So this Axial Age, in the western part of Asia, we see this as West Asia, and East Asia, and South Asia. There arose Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In South Asia, at the same time Hinduism, and Jainism, and Buddhism began to be shaped. And in East Asia, Confucianism and Daoism. This is a remarkable flourishing of ideas of philosophies, of theologies, of religious sensibilities. So this characteristic of these three major centers of origins, of West Asia, South Asia, and East Asia. We can speak of West Asia. The first, can be described as prophetic and historically based religions. The second, South Asia, can be seen as mystical religions, and religions of liberation. The third, East Asia, can be understood as religious worldviews of cosmic and social harmony. It is precisely the interaction of the cosmic and social that underlies the spiritual dynamics of Confucianism. And now we turn to the dimensions of Confucian spirituality. This cosmic orientation we speak about as anthropocosmic a term first used by Mircea Eliade, a historian of religion at the University of Chicago, and picked up by Tu Weiming, the human is a person within a cosmic reality. The second characteristic is communitarian ethics, where virtue and response between people and nature is crucial. So communitarian ethics, not individual ethics. And the Junzi, or the noble person, is the one who realizes these ethics. Self transformation means that the person becomes noble, becomes one in service to the larger society. And finally ritual relatednessi is where the individual, social, political, natural, and cosmic all come together. The cosmological orientation, then of Confucianism, provides a holistic context for its spiritual dimensions of what we've just described, communitarian ethics, self-transformation, ritual practices. The integrating impetus of these spiritual practices can be described as celebrating the generativity and creativity of the cosmos in the midst of changing daily affairs. These three forms of spirituality are interrelated, and they set in motion patterns of relational resonance between humans and the ever expanding interconnected circles of life. The cosmological orientation of the Confucian religious worldview has been described as encompassing a continuity of being between all life forms, without a radical break between the divine and human worlds. Heaven, earth, and humans are part of a continuous worldview that's organic, holistic, and dynamic. Tu Weiming has described this as anthropocosmic, to describe this integral relationship. The flow of life and energy is seen in ch'i, material force or vital energy, which unifies the plant, animal, and human worlds, and pervades all the elements of reality. There's no division between matter and energy here. The identification then of the microcosm and the macrocosm in Confucian thought, is a distinguishing feature of its cosmological orientation. Humans are connected to one another and the larger cosmological order, through an elaborate system of communitarian ethics. The five relations of society are marked by virtues of mutual exchange, along with differentiated respect. Reciprocity is a key to Confucian ethics, and the means by which Confucian societies develop this communitarian basis. So they can become bonded as a fiduciary community. Moreover, the cultivation of virtue in individuals is the basis for this interconnection of self society and the cosmos. As P.J. Ivanhoe, a Confucian scholar, observes, the activation of virtue evokes response. This is the mutual dynamic of virtue, or kindness, and response, and it was thought to be in the very nature of things. Some early thinkers seem to believe it operated with the regularity and force of gravity. You see, in the human and in the natural world. In all of this, Confucian spirituality, aims at moral transformation of the human, so that individuals can realize their full personhood. Each person receives a heavenly endowed nature, and thus the potential for full authenticity or even sagehood is ever present. Nonetheless, to become a noble person, Junzi is an achievement of continual self examination, rigorous discipline, and the cultivation of virtue. This process of spiritual self transformation, is a communal act, as Tu Weiming describes it. It's not an individual spiritual path aimed at personal salvation, it's rather an ongoing process of rectification. So as to cultivate one's luminous virtue. The act of inner cultivation implies reflecting on the constituents of daily experience, and bringing that experience into accord with the insights of the sages. The ultimate goal of such self cultivation is the realization of sagehood, namely the attainment of one's cosmological being. Attainment of one's cosmological being, means that humans must be attentive to one another, responsive to the needs of society, and attuned to the natural world through rituals which establish patterns of relatedness. In the Confucian context, there were rituals performed at official state ceremonies as well as rituals that Confucian temples. However, the primary emphasis of ritual, in the Confucian tradition, was not liturgical ceremonies connected with places of worship, as in the Western religions. But rituals involved in daily interchanges, and rites of passage, intended to smooth and elevate human relations. For the early Confucian thinker, Junzi, rituals are seen as vehicles for expressing the range and depth of human emotion in appropriate context and in an adequate manner. Rituals thus become a means of affirming the emotional dimension of human life. Moreover, they link humans to one another, and to the other key dimensions of reality. The political order, nature to seasonal cycles, and the cosmos itself, thus, Confucian rituals are seen to be in consonance with the creativity of the cosmic order. Confucian spirituality then might be seen as a means of integrating oneself into the larger patterns of life embedded in society. P.J. Ivanhoe describes this effort succinctly, when he observes that the Confucians believed that a transformation of the self fulfilled a larger design inherent in the universe itself, which the cultivated person could come to discern, and that a peaceful and flourishing society could only arise and be sustained, by realizing this grand design. Cultivating the self in order to take one's place in this universal scheme, describes the central task of life. This is the basis then, of Confucianism as a religious ecology and a religious cosmology.