Paul Tillich and Asian Religions 9783110496666, 9783110494846

This volume investigates Paul Tillich’s relationship to Asian religions and locates Tillich in a global religious contex

243 87 2MB

English Pages 252 Year 2017

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Paul Tillich and Asian Religions
Tillich’s Two Methods in Context: Some Implications for Interreligious Understanding
Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
Ultimate Reality: A Comparative Study of Kitaro Nishida’s concept of Nothingness and Paul Tillich’s concept of God
When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism
Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth
A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love: Integration with the Chinese Confucian Idea of Love
Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics
Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài
Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity
List of Contributors
Index of Names
Index of Subjects
Recommend Papers

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions
 9783110496666, 9783110494846

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions

Tillich Research

Tillich-Forschungen Recherches sur Tillich Edited by Christian Danz, Marc Dumas, Werner Schüßler, Mary Ann Stenger and Erdmann Sturm

Volume 11

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions Edited by Keith CHAN Ka-fu and William NG Yau-nang

ISBN 978-3-11-049484-6 e-ISBN (PDF) 978-3-11-049666-6 e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-049364-1 ISSN 2192-1938 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress. Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at © 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Druck und Bindung: CPI books GmbH, Leck ♾ Printed on acid-free paper Printed in Germany

Acknowledgments The nine essays (except Dr. Au’s article) collected in this volume were originally presented in an international conference “Ultimate Concern: Tillich, Buddhism, Confucianism” in 12 – 13 July, 2015 held by the Center for Sino-Christian Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong. The conference was intended to organize to memorize the 50th anniversary Paul Tillich’s death. We would like to express our gratitude to all participants whose contribution and participation are invaluable. Our gratitude is especially expressed to Professor Lauren Pfister, the director of the Center of Sino-Christian Studies, who provided his trustful supports to organize this conference, and the financial support for the publication of this volume. We also give our special gratitude to two institutions in Chinese University of Hong Kong: Center for Christian Studies and Center for the Study of Chan Buddhism and Human Civilization, for their financial support for the conference. Among the others, we would like to thank Prof. Tam Wai-lun and Prof. Lai Pan-chiu of the Chinese Universities of Hong Kong for their kind assistance in obtaining grant from the afore-mentioned two institutions. Last but not the least, we thank for Professor Werner Schüßler’s (University of Trier) recommendation of this volume to the publisher.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang Paul Tillich and Asian Religions 1 Duane OLSON Tillich’s Two Methods in Context: Some Implications for Interreligious Understanding 27 LAI Pan-chiu Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue AU Kin Ming Ultimate Reality: A Comparative Study of Kitaro Nishida’s concept of Nothingness and Paul Tillich’s concept of God 69 Ellen Y. ZHANG When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and 87 Buddhism William NG Yau-nang Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth 109 Anthony, WANG Tao A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love: Integration with the Chinese Confucian Idea of Love 137 Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


Lauren F. PFISTER Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài Fellow Pilgrims Seeking New Peace in Trembling Worlds




Table of Contents

Keith CHAN Ka-fu Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity 221 Tillich, Orthodox Theology and Confucianism List of Contributors Index of Names Index of Subjects

239 241 243

Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions 1 Introduction 1.1 Tillich and Religions Among the numerous articulations of the theological identity of Paul Tillich (1886 – 1965), such as theologian of culture, existential theologian, apologetic theologian, etc., he is seldom regarded as “theologian of religions.”¹ This negligence is partly justified by the fact that Tillich himself neither worked out a complete theory of “comparative theology” or “theology of religions” nor regarded his whole theological enterprise as inter-religious dialogue. However, we find that the concept of “religion” or “religions” had intellectual significance throughout Tillich’s life. In an intellectual biographical sketch, Tillich had examined some non-Christian religions in his early thesis on Schelling’s history of religions in 1910 and participated in a dialogue with Japanese Buddhism during the 1960’s. Many interpreters noticed that, following his intensive engagement with Japanese Buddhism during the 1960’s, Tillich himself was not only immensely personally inspired by the dialogue, but also, more importantly, his entire theological construction was somehow shaken after this encounter. Tillich’s dissatisfaction with the writing of the volume three of Systematic Theology, which was published in 1963, was not a secret. In Lai’s study on Tillich’s theology of religions, the encounter with Buddhism not only aroused Tillich’s interests in inter-religious dialogue, but also produced various unexpected theological problems he had not faced before.² Tillich had participated in Christian-Buddhist dialogue with two Zen masters: Daisetz Suzuki, in New York and Ascona (1951 and 1953); and Hisamatsu Shin-ichi in Harvard (1957), before his trip to Japan in 1960.³ After his trip,⁴ Till-

 A few exceptions are Robison B. James, Tillich and World Religions (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2003) and John J. Thatamanil, The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2006).  Pan-chiu, Lai, Towards a Trinitarian Theology of Religions: A Study of Paul Tillich’s Thought (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1991).  For the dialogue between Tillich and Hisamatsu Shin-ichi and some of his lectures on the topic of the encounter of world religions, see Tillich The Encounter of Religions and Quasi-Religions. Ed. Terence Thomas (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1970), 75 – 170. For a general analysis and interpretation of Tillich and his dialogue with Buddhism, see Marc DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-001


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

ich conducted his Bampton lectures (delivered in 1961 and published in 1963)⁵ mainly on the issues of the inter-religious encounter. After that, in 1963, volume three of Tillich’s Systematic Theology was published in which his pneumatology and eschatology were completely disclosed. Compared with his Matchette lectures on the problem of the encounters between other non-Christian religions (1958), it seems that Tillich’s early idea of the Protestant principle was enriched by his later pneumatological perspective.⁶ In addition, his last public lecture, entitled “The Significance of the History of Religions for the Systematic Theologian,” was remarkable as the preliminary reflection on the future of theology within the framework of the history of religions following the seminar with Mircea Eliade in Chicago from 1963 – 65. Though Tillich never further developed this so-called “new” theological formulation,⁷ it is undisputable that, in his later period, Tillich was fully occupied by the numerous questions about Christianity and its relationship with other world religions and quasi-religions, especially Buddhism. In this introduction, we will examine two main topics: Tillich’s theology of the history of religions and Tillich’s perspectives towards different themes in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Likewise, the reception of Tillich’s idea of ultimate concern in Asian religions, especially Confucianism and Mahayana Buddhism, will be explored. Finally, the essays included in this volume will be briefly introduced.

Boss, “Tillich in Dialogue with Japanese Buddhism: a paradigmatic illustration of his approach to inter-religious conservation,” in The Cambridge Companion to Paul Tillich, Ed. Russell Re Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 254– 272.  The documents about Tillich’s trip to Japan were later published. See Tomoaki Fukai, Ed. Paul Tillich – Journey to Japan in 1960 (Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2013).  The Bampton Lectures were published in book form as Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1963).  The title of the lecture was “The Protestant Principle and the Encounter of World Religions.” This information is from, Tillich, The Encounter of Religions and Quasi-Religions.  The question of whether Tillich delivered something “new” in his lecture “The Significance of the History of Religions for the Systematic Theologian” is open to debate. Mircea Eliade clearly believed that he had when he commented “ … In the course of that superb and moving lecture, Prof. Tillich declared that, had he time, he would write a new Systematic Theology oriented toward, and in dialogue with, the whole history of religions … At a certain moment during our joint seminar, I thought that Paul Tillich was in the process of elaborating a theology of History of Religions. But very soon I realized that his mind was working in another direction. What he was accomplishing in our unforgettable evenings was a renewal of his own Systematic Theology.” See, M. Eliade, “Paul Tillich and the History of Religions,” in The Future of Religions. Ed. J. C. Brauer (New York: Scribner’s Son, 1966), 31– 33. (Emphasies are author’s).

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


1.2 Tillich’s Theology of the History of Religions Tillich was not a religious studies scholar in the strictest sense though he “remains the unacknowledged theoretician” of the field of religious studies in the US (Jonathan Z. Smith). His early theological reflections involved trying to re-establish the relationship between the religious Gehalt and the cultural Form after WWI through the rejection of the supernatural exclusivism and naturalist inclusivism. In his spirit of remaining “on the boundary”, Tillich’s theological vision was always multi-, poly- and trans-disciplinary in nature and within it different fields of study is blurred without losing their own identities. In this section, we will discuss several important locations to illustrate the role of religions within Tillich’s theological development and try to argue that, in his later period, Tillich was on the way to a “theology of religions”, though he never completed it. In order to locate the question of religions in Tillich’s thought, we should probably start with his early essay on Schelling (1910) and his earlier articulations of the idea of theology as theonome Systematik in his System of Sciences (1923). Tillich’s first attempt to conceive the problem of the history of religion may be found in his early thesis on Schelling. Victor Nuovo notes the similarity between Tillich’s earlier articulation on Schelling’s idea of the history of religion and his last thoughts on this problem.⁸ For Tillich, Schelling neither accepted the Hegelian dialectical process of the absolute Spirit through which the absoluteness of Christianity was entitled, nor asserted the “supernatural” distinctiveness of Christian religion grounded by revelation. Schelling understood “history is essentially history of religion,” and the beginning of history is the fall of the ideas.⁹ He packaged the whole historical process under the potency of God through which the dialectical construction of the history of religion was presented. The pre-historical stages were ruled by the first potency, the mythological age was the struggle between the first and the second potency, and the final stage was anticipated with the presence of the third potency. These three stages of religious history were closely related with three potencies of God, and it seems that Tillich re-articulated this threefold structure as the three elements (sacramental, prophetic and mystical) of the “Religion of the Concrete Spirit” which was highly emphasized in his last lecture. Schelling’s Trinitarian structure of God was profoundly disclosed through the dialectical tension founded in the nature and  V. Nuovo, “Translator’s Introduction,” in Tillich, The Construction of the History of Religion in Schelling’s Positive Philosophy. Trans. Victor Nuovo (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1974), 26 – 32.  Tillich, The Construction of the History of Religion in Schelling’s Positive Philosophy. Trans. Victor Nuovo (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1974), 77.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

human consciousness. For Tillich, Schelling understood God as the perfect spirit, “he [sic] is spirit, inasmuch as he includes within himself the triad of his mode of being, and he is perfect spirit because he is free from each one of these three forms. He is nor even bound to the third.”¹⁰ It seems that Schelling, like Tillich, identified pneumatology as the unifying principle to integrate the content of history and Christ,¹¹ and to maintain the tension (balance) between the universal manifestation and the concrete particularity. Tillich asserts that, for Schelling … the third potency … refers to the Johannine testimony of the coming of the Spirit after the glorification of the Son… The unity of the universal and the individual in the Trinitarian personalities could give all three potencies a mythological character… In the idea, the antithesis of abstract universal and concrete individual is overcome … the absolute idea is the identity of the absolute universal and the absolute individual.¹²

It should be noticed that the tension of divine universal manifestation and particular disclosure was also one of the main themes of Tillich’s later theological struggle and the underlying rationale of his proposed “theology of religions.” Between 1919 and 1923 Tillich sketched a formal system of the scientific understanding of theology located within the structure of human science (Geisteswissenschaften) in particular and science (Wissenschaften) in general.¹³ According to Tillich, there are three divisions within each human science subject: philosophy (aims at clarifying the nature and characteristics of the subject), spiritual / cultural history (demonstrates the typology of historical manifestation of the subject) and systematics (normative articulation of the subject combining the previous two parts).¹⁴ Therefore, the threefold framework of “philosophy-spiritual history-systematics” formally constituted his earlier understanding of theology. However, Tillich never actualized this whole project, only partially fulfilling the task by elaborating the philosophy of religion (1923)¹⁵ and the systematics

 Ibid., 61. This understanding of God as Spirit is perfectly matched with Tillich’s later articulation of God as Living and Spirit in the volume one of Systematic Theology.  “This is the content of all of history: the work of Christ, namely, to sacrifice his natural being in order to find himself again in spirit and in truth; this is the content of history because it is the essence of Spirit.” Ibid., 111.  Ibid., 153. Emphasis ours.  Tillich, The System of the Sciences: According to Objects and Methods. Trans. Paul Wiebe (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1981).  Tillich, “On the Idea of a Theology of Culture,” What is Religion? Ed. James Luther Adams (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1973), 157.  Tillich, “The Philosophy of Religion,” What is Religion? Ed. James Luther Adams (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1973), 27– 121

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


of religion (theology) in Marburg (1925).¹⁶ Obviously, the middle part of the original planning (spiritual history) remained undeveloped in Tillich’s German period. Under his original construction, the “philosophy” element articulates the formal basic structure of the subject, religion, and the “systematics” element aims at providing the normative articulation of religious substance under the concrete standpoint. Therefore, the middle part, the history of culture/religion, is designed to bridge between the former philosophical and the latter normative dimension of theology. In early Tillich, it is clear, albeit in a subtle way, that the universal history of religions and cultures is essential in articulating a theological project in the sense that it provides the material content for a theologian to substantiate formal and normative consideration on the one hand, and that it also plays a role in balancing the universal-ontological elements (philosophy) and the revelation claims (systematics) on the other. Therefore, we can assert that the importance of the history of religions in Tillich’s theological framework was noticed from the very beginning and is clearly demonstrated in his early writings. In addition, it should be noted that we should distinguish the concept of the “history of culture/religion” in his early phase from that of his and in the last lecture. Those particular and concrete religions in the world remain unnoticed in early Tillich. The theme of the history of religion re-appears in the section on “sources” in Tillich’s first volume of Systematic Theology (1951). In rejecting all sort of heteronomic revelatory claims, Tillich emphasizes the experiential-participation elements of the biblical writers whose “participation was their response to the happenings which became revealing events through this response.”¹⁷ Interestingly, Tillich asserts that the reason why the materials contained in the Bible should be regarded as the source of theology was not based on its historical documentation but rather on the pneumatic power manifested through historical-philological exegesis. Once again, the historical findings obtained through the historical-critical method in biblical studies or church history are not Tillich’s main concern, but theologians can use all those materials freely based on their relation with the ultimate concern.¹⁸ According to Tillich, nothing should be in principle or a priori exclusive from the ultimate concern in theologizing. Positively speaking, all beings are made available to the systematic theologian through a critical and ultimate concerned way.

 Tillich, Dogmatik: Marburger Vorlesung von 1925. Herausgegeben, eingeleitet und mit Anmerkungen und Registern versehen von Werner Schüßler (Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1986).  Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume One (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), 35.  Ibid., 36.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

Returning to the history of religion Tillich mentions two distinctive reasons why a systematic theologian should take it seriously: practical and polemicalconstructive reasons. Theologians and theological thinking are always context laden and those expressions in cultural, religious and secular realms “in which he [sic] has grown up and from which he [sic] takes some content in every moment of his [sic] life, in his [sic] theological work and also outside.”¹⁹ This practical way raises the question of how and for what purpose to select the material to use. Tillich directed us to another three considerations. Firstly: A theological history of religion should interpret theologically the material produced by the investigation and analysis of the pre-religious and religious life of mankind. It should elaborate the motives and types of religious expression, showing how they follow from the nature of the religious concern and therefore necessarily appear in all religions, including Christianity in so far as it is a religion.²⁰

Secondary, “a theological history of religion also points out demonic distortions and new tendencies in the religious of the world, pointing to the Christian solution and preparing the way for the acceptance of the Christian message by the adherents of the non-Christian religions.”²¹ Lastly, “a theological history of religion should be carried through in the light of the missionary principle that the New Being in Jesus as the Christ is the answer to the question asked implicitly and explicitly by the religions of mankind.”²² For a theologian, the history of religion should be understood under the topology provided by the ontological expression of the essence of religion. This operation is analogous to the relationship between the “philosophy” elements and “spiritual history” elements in early Tillich. Also, the history of religion is polemical to provide the materials concerning the correlational matrix of existential question (questions) and the Christian message (answers). Finally, in volumes one and two of Systematic Theology, the “question-answer” correlational mechanism still functioning within a strictly Christological-orientated theology should be noted. We can conclude that the problem of the history of religion was by no means a “new” topic for Tillich, rather that the location and the function provided by the history of religion was determined by his much earlier theological construction. However, we should bear in mind that the phrase “history of religions” (plural!) as it appears in Tillich’s last lecture is essentially different from the previous, singular term he employed. The latter is concerned with the history of some par   

Ibid., 38. Ibid., 39. Ibid. Ibid.

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


ticular and concrete living religions, while the former is still an abstraction (though material based) from the presumption of the formal structure of the essence of religion. From volumes one and two to volume three of Systematic Theology, Tillich’s overall systematic construction of theology underwent a “shift” from being Christological to being pneumatologically orientated. This is not a “turn” because we find that Tillich employs the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in volume three to re-conceive and respond to the problem of Christology, which was regarded as the matrix of “universality-particularity,” created in volumes one and two. However, Tillich’s intention with regards to the role of pneumatology was definitely not only to reopen numerous questions and to carry the polemical burden as he mentioned in the “introduction” of the volume three,²³ but also extends the significance into the theology of the history of religions, as Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen mentioned.²⁴ Undoubtedly, the universality of the presence of the Holy in everything finite is highly emphasized in volume three of Tillich’s Systematic Theology. Thus, in Tillich’s last lecture, exclusive Christocentricism is absolutely rejected not because the particularity of Christological claim should be abandoned, but because it succumbs to the danger of reductionism in which the scope and the boundary of revelatory experience would be narrowed and limited within a certain sphere.²⁵ Therefore, to affirm the value of the “history of religions” is to affirm the universal revelatory experience within the human kind, although it is always received in a distorted form. Therefore, no religion, including Christianity, can claim to be the absolute, highest and final.²⁶ Likewise, Tillich starts to doubt whether one single center of the history of religions existed.²⁷ This center should

 Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume three (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 5.  Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen had noticed the relationship between Tillich’s pneumatology and his last lecture on the theology of the history of religions. He classifies the dynamic-typological theology of religions of Tillich’s “Religion of Concrete Spirit” as essentially Christocentric, but contended that it “betrays a definite pneumatological orientation.” Veli-Matti, Kärkkäinen, An Introduction to the Theology of Religions (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 231.  The particularity and universality of the theological circle presented in volume one of Tillich’s Systematic Theology should be packaged under his doctrine of the incarnated Logos, and this Christological foundation was shifted into a pneumatological presence in his volume three. See, Keith Chan, “Paul Tillich’s Understanding of Theology: A Pneumatological-Christological Perspective,” Sino-Christian Studies 20 (2015), 33 – 86.  Tillich, “The Significance of the History of Religions for the Systematic Theologian,” The Future of Religions. Ed. J. C. Brauer (New York: Scribner’s Son, 1966), 81.  Tillich said, “ … there may be – I stress this, there may be – a central event in the history of religions …” Ibid., 81.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

function as a concrete historical embodiment of the divine with universal validity in and throughout human history. In order to maintain the polar tension between universality and particularity, Tillich even pushes his hard criticism towards all types of jesusology in which the universal significance seems distorted.²⁸ Facing the validity of those historical religions, if the revelation, salvation and empowerment are interpenetrated as Tillich claims, the only way is to universalize the center (if any). That means, within Tillich’s system, the pneumatological revelatory experience is universally present and manifested as the New Being, which was historically embodied in the Jesus as the Christ. Likewise, the “universal-particular” embodiment should be coupled with theological criticism. All living religions should manifest the prophetic criticism in order to critique the distorted divine embodiments in the history of religions. In overcoming the demonization of all religions, self-criticism must always be constituted from the outside (secularity) and the inside (prophetic attack). In the process of fulfilling the inner telos and attacking the inner demonization of all religions, the identification of the concrete historical religions with the Ultimate is rejected and anticipated within the framework of pneumatology. Tillich calls this eschatological ultimate telos and universal embodiment “The Religion of the Concrete Spirit”, a designation which integrates the three dynamic elements: sacramental, prophetic and mystical. Each religion embodies these three elements to different degrees. In Tillich’s volume three of Systematic Theology, the sacramentality of the finite forms and beings is confirmed by the universal presence of the Holy Spirit, the personal mystical experience is grasped by the manifestation of the Spiritual Presence manifested in faith and love, and the prophetic self-criticism presented in the Protestant principle is transformed as the pneumatological gestalt in which form-creating and form-criticism are combined. For Tillich, all religions, including Christianity, are historically committed into the ambiguity of the religion in the quest for the self-transcendence of the spirit. From the standpoint of the dialectical union of acceptance and rejection with all the tensions and ambiguity towards other non-Christian religions presented in his Bampton lectures, in his last lecture Tillich asserts that all religions would involve the dynamic struggle for the sake of fulfilling the ultimate telos under the structure of the Religion of the Concrete Spirit.²⁹

 Ibid., 83.  Tillich, “The Significance of the History of Religions for the Systematic Theologian,” 90.

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


1.3 Tillich on Buddhist-Christian Dialogue Concerning the main points of Tillich’s conversation with Buddhism in the US and Japan, we can find an excellent summary in Marc Boss’s essay in which Boss concludes that, after the encounter with Buddhism, Tillich’s system underwent a shift which “is neither methodological nor doctrinal, but kairological.”³⁰ The question of whether Tillich intented to amend his earlier doctrinal position remains unanswered, but the inter-religious dialogue absolutely played an important role in Tillich’s later period. In the “introduction” of volume three of Systematic Theology, Tillich asserts that, Another important characteristic of the present situation is the less dramatic but increasingly significant exchange between the historical religions, dependent partly on the need for a common front against the invading secular forces and partly on the conquest of spatial distance between different religious centers. Again I must say that a Christian theology which is not able to enter into a creative dialogue with the theological thought of other religions misses a world-historical occasion and remains provincial.³¹

It seems that Tillich’s emphasis on the correlational method of “question-answer” was shifted into the consideration of religious dialogue. Other non-Christian religions share the same role as Christianity in providing not only the existential questions but also the religious answers. After immigrating to America, Tillich was becoming aware of the limitation and arrogance of philosophical and theological “provincialism” which mainly engendered from his German soil and blood.³² For him, maintaining his German heritage and remaining open to other possibilities in the context of American culture and theology was his “both-and” alternative. In his words, “America can save you from European and other provincialisms, but it does not necessarily make you provincial itself.”³³ Before the encounter with non-Christian religions, what remained in Tillich’s mind was the possibility of intra-denominational ecumenical Christian theology (e. g. Protestant and Catholic traditions, European and American theology) without reaching the consciousness of inter-religious dialogue. If the American life in a certain way saved Tillich from his European intellectual provincial-

 Marc Boss, “Tillich in dialogue with Japanese Buddhism: a paradigmatic illustration of his approach to inter-religious conversation,” 270.  Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume Three (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 6 (Emphasis ours).  Tillich, “The Conquest of Intellectual Provincialism: Europe and America,” Theology of Culture. Ed. Robert C. Kimball (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), 159 – 176.  Ibid., 160.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

ism, his authentic experience of Christian-Buddhist dialogue would probably redeem him from religious provincialism.³⁴ In this part, we try to summarize Tillich’s position on Buddhist-Christian dialogue in two main categories: ontological-mystical and ethical-social perspectives. In his Bampton’s lectures, Tillich proposes a controlling telos-metaphor as the focus of the dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism. This “intrinsic aim of existence” seems to provide a basic framework of convergence and divergence for both religions. It is interesting that, in contrast with the conception of God, salvation, history and human being, Tillich emphasizes that the eschatological symbol of the Kingdom of God and Nirvana represented both religions’ conceptions of reality. Actually, Tillich perhaps lacked of knowledge of “Pure Land Buddhism,” otherwise the contrasting eschatological symbols of both religions would be more fruitful in comparison. Returning to the problem of the Kingdom of God and Nirvana, though the former is intensively personalistic, social and political in meanings and the latter is basically ontological, both symbols articulate a negative attitude towards the existence,³⁵ (Tillich emphasizes the distinction between essence and existence). These two eschatological symbols ultimately represent the universal presence of the holy: God will be all in all (Kingdom of God) and transtemporal blessedness (Nirvana).³⁶ However, Tillich emphasizes that the underlying contracting ontologicalmystical element of the above two eschatological symbols is substantially different, Tillich emphasized. Christianity holds a kind of ontology of participation; Buddhism emphasizes on the ontology of identity. Tillich never agreed with the Buddhist perspective on the mystical union without the personal center in particular and he rejected all kinds of absolute mysticism in general. In fact, Tillich held a dialectical perspective towards mysticism. In his lecture on the history of Christian thought, Tillich warns us “do not make the mistake of identifying this (concrete) type of mysticism with the absolute or abstract mysticism in which the individual disappears in the abyss of the divine.”³⁷ This kind of warning first occurs in his early thesis on Schelling, in which Tillich tries to identify

 In 1961, Tillich clearly states that we should avoid three kinds of provincialism: Christian provincialism, theistic provincialism and “quasi-religious” provincialism. See Tillich, “Christian and Non-Christian Revelation,” (presented in Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania) The Encounter of Religions and Quasi-Religions. Ed. Terence Thomas (Lewiston/Queenston/ Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), 60 – 61.  Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1963), 40 – 41.  Ibid., 43.  Tillich, History of Christian Thought. Ed. Carl E. Braaten (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1967), 136.

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


the synthesis between the principle of identity and the guilt-consciousness separation between God and human being: “the principle of mysticism triumphs, but not in the form of mysticism, not as immediate identity, but rather as personal communion that overcomes contradiction: it is ‘the religion of the Spirit and of freedom.’”³⁸ Also, in his Systematic Theology, Tillich reminds us that the problem of mysticism “neither is there solitude or communion, because the centered self of the individual has been dissolved.”³⁹ Moreover, for Tillich, it is dangerous for mysticism to neglect the existential and historical condition of beings without the eschatological criticism.⁴⁰ Although Tillich himself had a strong appreciation of Christian mystical traditions and he personally had certain kinds of naturemystical experience, “participation not identity” is his uncompromising standpoint. Following the above demarcation between ontological participation and mystical identity, Tillich emphasized another problematic which is the character of personhood within both religions. In contrast with Buddhist ultimate formulation on the human selfhood as “formless self,” Tillich asserted that, even in a radical sense of mystical experience, Christianity was “trying to preserve in the ecstatic experience the subjects of faith and love: personality and community.”⁴¹ In the dialogue with Zen Buddhist monks, the question whether Buddhism would be in danger of annihilating the centered self in Buddhist mediation was discussed at length. For Tillich, on the one hand the personal symbolism of the divine has overlaid the suprapersonal in much of Christian thinking, but on the other hand in the official doctrine and theological background of Buddhism the personal element is almost swallowed by the suprapersonal element. We are better to leave the question of whether the Buddhist claim on the ultimate reality is personal or suprapersonal, or what the intrinsic relationship between personal and suprapersonal is within Buddhist traditions for others to judge. In fact, Tillich’s position does not appear to be quite straightforward in emphasizing the “I-Thou” relationship in Christianity. When Tillich discusses the concept of radical doubt, the object of absolute faith is “God above God.” Tillich asserts that no concrete and special content would be articulated within this

 Tillich, Mysticism and Guilt-Consciousness in Schelling’s Philosophical Development. Tr. Victor Nuovo (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1974), 125 (Emphasis ours).  Tillich, Systematic Theology Vol. Two (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 72.  See James R. Horne, “Tillich’s Rejection of Absolute Mysticism,” Journal of Religion 58 (1978), 130 – 139; Donald F. Dreisbach, “Tillich’s Ambiguous Attitude towards Mysticism,” Mystisches Erbe in Tillichs philosophischer Theologie. Eds. Gert Hummel & Doris Lax (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2000), 402– 414.  Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume Three (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 143.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

idea.⁴² Because all concrete ideas and images of the God of theism would be suspended under human radical doubt. In facing this extreme and radical painfulness situation, Tillich pointed out two alternatives, mysticism and divine-human personal relation, are in vain because personal relationship would be broken in radical doubt and the function of mysticism is also preliminary. Tillich argues that the only solution for a human being in radical doubt is to insist the God above God through absolute faith. However, the God above God is beyond the God of theism and the God of mysticism and without concrete and definite content. Because the God above God is the object of all mystical longing, but mysticism also must be transcended in order to reach him.⁴³ And the God above the God of theism is present but hidden in personalism, but personalism should be transcended because the subject-object scheme would be transcended in the God above God. Therefore, in an ultimate sense, the personal relationship with God would be transcended, and the personal element of God would also be suspended. Therefore, Tillich emphasizes the personal-communion apparatus within the Christian traditions on one hand, but on the other he asserts that the ultimate dimension of God is not personal, or rephrasing his words, God is the ultimate ground of everything personal. Furthermore, in Tillich’s mind, the Buddhist notion of identity suggests that it would be of more benefit for us to abandon the scientific-technological framework towards the nature. Buddhist compassion “is a state in which he (sic) who does not suffer under his (sic) own condition may suffer by identification with another who suffers … he suffers his suffering through identification.”⁴⁴ Comparing this with the Christian concept of agape, Tillich reminds the reader that Buddhist compassion lacks the double characteristic of “the acceptance of the unacceptable, or the movement from the highest to the lowest, and … the will to transform individual as well as social structures.”⁴⁵ As Lai observes in his lecture, this comparison is oversimplified because Tillich overlooks the element of compassion in Christian tradition, e. g. the parable of the Good Samaritans and Jesus’ compassion towards “sheep without shepherd.” And Buddhism may also have certain elements in common with Christian agape.⁴⁶ Even though

 Tillich, “God above God,” Paul Tillich. Main Works/Hauptwerke Volume 6. Ed. Gert Hummel (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1992), 418.  Tillich, The Courage to Be (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1952), 186.  Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions, 44– 45.  Ibid., 45.  Prof. LAI Pan-chiu’s lecture on “Paul Tillich and Inter-religious Dialogue” in Chinese University of Hong Kong on 8 April, 2014 (unpublished).

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


Tillich did not provide a comprehensive comparison of Christian agape and Buddhist compassion, his direction was fruitful in further developing the discussion. For Tillich, the concept of agape and the revolutionary character of the Kingdom of God would lead to a social transformation and bring about an impact on human history.⁴⁷ Even though certain conservative tendencies would be able to suppress these elements in these symbols, Tillich insists that, compared with Buddhism which emphasizes “not transformation of reality but salvation from reality,”⁴⁸ many revolutionary movements in the West are affected by the Christian idea of history. Obviously, Buddhist mysticism features a complex matrix of the affirmation of the world and the detachment from the world. Many contemporary Buddhist movements are radical enough to be more “this-worldly” and produce numerous discourses concerning social transformation. However, for Tillich, based on his insight into the relationship between religion and culture, the fundamental question concerns how Japanese democracy can find its roots in Japanese religions, i. e. Buddhism or Shintoism.⁴⁹ This open-ended question crystallizes Tillich’s profound criticism of Japanese religions and culture.

2 The reception of Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern in Asian religions Tillich was arguably one of the main Protestant theologians to be well received in East Asia, especially in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the research potentiality of his thought has never ended.⁵⁰ This is partly as a result of the strength of Tillich’s theology and philosophy which became apparent to scholars in East Asia at that time. Yet Tillich himself also contributed to this rising interest in East Asia. In his later years, Tillich was interested in Asian religion in general and Buddhism in particular. As shown before in this introduction, he had personal contact with famous Buddhist monk-scholars like Daisetz T. Suzuki and Shin’ich Hisamatsu. He was fascinated by Buddhism which is drastically different from the Abrahamic tradition. This new interest in Oriental religions eventually led  Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions, 45.  Ibid., 46.  Ibid., 47.  For a good summary of Chinese receptions of Tillich, including translations, doctoral theses and monographs from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan scholars, see Junjie YANG, “Paul Tillich und China. Ein noch zu erwartender Dialog,” Jesus of Nazareth and the New Being in History. International Yearbook for Tillich Research / Internationales Jahrbuch für die Tillich-Forschung 6 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2011), 221– 235.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

Tillich to travel to East Asia and deliver his lecture on world religions shortly before his death. Thus, taking East Asian religions into consideration and facilitating a dialogue with Christianity is, indeed, an endeavor initiated by Tillich himself. Tillich believed he was a “boundary man,” standing between the old and the new, between a tradition that emphasizes a sense of the sacred and the modern world of secularization. If one takes into consideration his engagement with East Asian religions, he would certainly agree that Tillich is a boundary man also in the sense that he attempts to facilitate communication between the West with the East. But, if Tillich’s religious idea “marches” across the boundary, then, dialogues or even mutual enrichment are the natural result. Tillich’s march was soon echoed in Asia. After WWII, East Asian society steadily recovered. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the political and social environment in East Asia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong in particular, became relatively stable and matured into a suitable environment for the reception of Western philosophy and theology. More and more students went to the West to further their study and many of them were influenced by Tillich’s thought. They helped spread Tillich’s thought in Asia after they returned to their home countries. Some of them translated Tillich’s outputs and some devoted themselves to the study of his work. Through their efforts, Tillich became something of a fashionable subject for scholars and students of philosophy and religion in East Asia at that time. Some used Tillich’s ideas to interpret Asian culture while others made comparisons between Tillich and East Asian thought. For instance, LIU Shu-hsien (1934– 2016), a representative Confucian scholar, did his doctoral dissertation on Tillich in 1966⁵¹ and Charles Wei-hsun FU (1933 – 1996)⁵² and NG Yu-kun went on to employ this concept in their discussion of comparative religion and Buddhism. Charles FU, in particular, further developed Tillich’s concept into a four-level understanding of religion.⁵³ Both similarities and differences between Tillich and Asian religions were mentioned by scholars as they employed the concept of ultimate concern in their studies.

 Liu, Shu-hsien (1966). A Critical Study of Paul Tillich’s Methodological Presuppositions. (PhD Dissertation). Southern Illinois University.  Charles Fu developed Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern into four elements of religion, namely: ultimate concern, ultimate Reality/Truth, ultimate goal and ultimate commitment. See Charles Fu (1987), “From ultimate concern to ultimate commitment: a new study of the ultimate truth in Mahayana Buddhism,” [從終極關懷到終極承諾─大乘佛教的真諦新探] in Contemporary. No. 11, 16 – 26.  Ibid.

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


Among the many ideas borrowed from and inspired by Tillich, the concept of ultimate concern is no doubt the most influential. Basically, “ultimate concern” is an umbrella term that attracts many comparative religionists. The term is not intended to be used within one single religion; rather, it seeks to cover different religions so as to provide a bridge for religious communication. Such a catch-all term forms an easy platform for the comparative study of religion. In the study of East Asian religions, the concept is a popular term in comparative works. The term “East Asian religions” refers to a wide range of religions yet, some are more influential than others. There are four major cultural elements commonly shared by peoples in the East Asian cultural circle, namely: Chinese characters, Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism and Chinese law code.⁵⁴ In terms of religion Confucianism and Mahayana Buddhism are the two defining traditions in the East Asian world and are the fundamental cultural sources that shapes the East Asian mentality. Therefore, we shall focus on Confucianism and Mahayana Buddhism in our present discussion. Tillich’s “ultimate concern” better serves Liu’s comparative intention than the traditional understanding of religion which usually adopts a theistic understanding. For example, it takes a god as the Creator of the world. Since these theistic elements are almost absent in Confucian teachings, it is thus difficult to discuss the religious dimensions of Confucianism. It is not surprising to see that Liu laments that “there is no adequate definition of religion that can apply to all the great world religions.” Defining religion as man’s belief in a higher spiritual power or powers would result in a paradox if this definition is applied to Oriental religions in general and Buddhism, in particular. Liu points out that, if such a narrow definition is applied, “Buddhism would be characterized as an ‘atheistic religion,’ which in English would almost amount to a contradiction in terms. The situation with Confucianism is even worse. Confucianism has usually been regarded as a secular moral philosophy with no religious import at all.” Tillich’s ultimate concern seemingly provides a more inclusive understanding of religion. With this new understanding of religion based upon Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern, Liu argues for the religious dimension of Confucianism.⁵⁵ Similarly, LAI Pan-chiu and NG Yun-Kun, among others, also employ Tillich’s concept in their interpretation of Buddhism and Daoism. However, Tillich’s concept has two inter-related dimensions: the anthropological and the theological. It is not as flexible and inclusive as comparative scholars take it to be. The  See Nishijima Sadao, Chūgoku kodai kokka to Higashi Ajia sekai.[中国古代国家と東アジア世 界] Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppankai, 1983.  Shu-hsien Liu, “The religious import of Confucian philosophy: Its traditional outlook and contemporary significance.” In Philosophy East and West 21 (1971), 157– 175, esp. 157.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

term consists of two words. The word “concern” refers to matter that engages a person’s attention, interest, or care. Therefore, “ultimate concern”, if we focus only on the concept of concern, is broad enough to serve as the platform for communicating different religions. Yet Tillich also tried to distinguish ultimate concern from other types of concern which he termed “proximate concern”, such as concern for wealth. While Tillich aimed to use the term for religious commitment and reality, ultimate concern does not really meet the need of any religions and its limitations become apparent when it is applied to Asian religions. Let us now to discuss how Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern has been adapted for use in this religious context, as well as examing reservations about its usefulness.

2.1 Buddhism and Ultimate Concern Liu Shu-hsien thinks that the idea of ultimate concern can help solve the problem of accepting Buddhism into the category of religion. Religion, according to a common understanding, refers to a belief in God and thus is necessarily theistic. This kind of definition of religion obviously cannot cover Buddhism which ultimately is atheistic. Therefore, Liu thinks that Tillich’s idea of ultimate concern is better in the sense that it makes room for the accommodation of different faiths. However, the very idea of ultimate, if understood as the beginning, foundation or the end, does not seem to fit well with the Buddhist orientation which usually emphasizes the process. In fact, Gautama the Buddha refused to answer the question of the beginning and end of the world. Rather, Buddha emphasized the ever-changing nature of the world governed by a set of conditions. Such an account of causal relations that produce our experience of both ourselves and the world is termed as pratitya samudpada or “dependent origination”. Moreover, people also have problems with Tillich’s own understanding of Buddhism. Tillich writes that “In the dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism two telos [the intrinsic aim of existence] formulas can be used: in Christianity the telos of everyone and everything united in the Kingdom of God; in Buddhism the telos of everything and everyone fulfilled in the Nirvana.”⁵⁶ Christians would probably have little problem accepting the unification of everyone and everything in the Kingdom of God as an/the ultimate goal. However, not all Buddhists are ready to take Nirvana as the telos.

 Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter with the World Religions, 64.

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


The fundamental idea of emptiness in Buddhism takes existence as conditioned and impermanent. When contemplating the life of different beings, Buddhism offers a special kind of cosmology of karma. In that cosmology, it teaches that beings are all trapped in a cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. Each successive life after rebirth may be better or worse, or remain more or less the same depending upon the karma – a force that results from merits or wrongdoings accumulated through previous lives. Only enlightenment can help these beings liberate from this karmaric chain. In such a cosmology, rather than the ultimate, the on-going force of karma and the liberation from it is emphasized. In fact, if “ultimate” suggests something extreme, then it is quite alien to the Buddhist tradition. It is common for Buddhists to take a “Middle Way” instead of paying attention to the extreme. If ultimate concern is taken to refer to ultimate reality, which in turn is understood as the foundation of the existence, then a crucial question for the Buddhist is whether taking emptiness as reality means accepting emptiness as the foundation of existence at the same time. Emptiness refers to the reality of non-permanence as all existence is a result of the combination of conditions which are not permanent. Emptiness is not the grounds of existence providing support for beings to exist. Rather, it is a fact we discover after careful analysis. Emptiness is not complete nothingness. Otherwise, this would be a nihilistic view contradictory to our common sense. It means that things do not exist in a manner we usually suppose they do. Nothing stands alone; everything is a tentative combination of different conditions and thus is ever-changing and nonpermanent. In this sense, emptiness is not even a solid, let alone permanent foundation for existence. Rather, it is only the reality of existence. Therefore, if emptiness is taken as the ideal of Buddhism, it is probably not the ultimate concern of the Buddhist. Let us here conclude our discussion of Buddhism. It is Confucianism, another mainstream of thought in East Asia, to which we must now turn.

2.2 Confucianism and Ultimate Concern If one takes religious faith as ultimate concern, it is in a way helpful to highlight the religious imports of Confucianism. Liu Shu-hsien has for decades accepted


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

and promoted the ideas of ultimate concern in his interpretation of Confucianism.⁵⁷ More importantly, Ivan Hon rightly notes that “the New Confucians perceive the serious spiritual crisis of modern people and stress the importance of anshen liming (attaining spiritual stability, establishing the basis, meaning and value of life) in the modern era. Liu Shu-hsian was inspired by Tillich’s attempt to redefine “religion” as “ultimate concern” (the concern about the ultimate and unconditional) and thought anshen liming must be linked with “ultimate concern” since the meaning of life and spiritual stability can only be established by finding one’s ultimate concern. Since Liu perceives transcendence to be a key element of religion, he perceives the links between spiritual crisis, anshen liming, ultimate concern, transcendence and religion. Since the New Confucians consider Heaven (tian) and the ways of Heaven (tiandao) to be the transcendent in Confucianism, they suggest that Heaven and the ways of Heaven can be the ultimate concern and means of solving the spiritual crisis of modern people by answering humans’ “quest for the ultimate reality and ultimate meaning of life.”⁵⁸ However, the New Confucian scholars seem to take the case too far in stating the distinction between God (Ultimate) and human beings and, thus, criticize the separation between God (Transcendence) and human beings. In contrast, they advocate the ideal of “Transcendence and immanent” or “immanent transcendence.” The belief in the goodness of human nature is explained as a heavenly endowment in the human. In this sense, the relationship between human and Transcendence never breaks down. Rather, they are close and intimate. Once a person fully actualizes the immanent nature of goodness within him/herself, s/he is capable of transforming from secular to sage, and thus, according to Confucian belief, participates in the creation of value with both Heaven and Earth. We do not intend to discuss this Confucian worldview as it is too complicated to do so in a short essay. Yet, it is necessary to address such a prevailing challenge from the Confucian side. God is drastically different but not separated from the human being. Otherwise, redemption, salvation and the like make no sense at all. God is love and He cares and loves human beings. Therefore, He is involved in history and never separate from and indifferent to the human world. Moreover, according to Genesis, God makes man in His image and gives him life. In comparative context, the soul in Christianity and the liangzhi (conscience)  Shu-hsien Liu, “The religious import of Confucian philosophy: Its traditional outlook and contemporary significance.” In Philosophy East and West 21 (1971), 157– 175.  Ivan Hon, “Paul Tillich’s Thoughts and the Religiousness of Confucianism,” Available at: course_on_the_Religiousness_of_Confucianism?auto=download

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


in Confucianism play a similar role at least in the sense that it is a crucial gift from and internal connection with the transcendence. Viewed from such a perspective, the New Confucian’s critique does not stand up at all.

3 The Volume Paul Tillich and Asian Religions brings together nine essays by Western and Chinese scholars who have diverse intellectual backgrounds and share an interest in the role that the thought of Paul Tillich has played in inter-religious dialogue in the 21st century. The essays in this volume do not focus on what Tillich had already considered in religious dialogue, but instead move forwards to examine the intellectual potentiality or further contribution of Paul Tillich’s ideas in different areas of inter-religious dialogue. Based on Tillich’s spirit of dialectical “acceptance and rejection”, the authors in this volume bring Tillich’s world and the Asian religious world together, and try to communicate intra- and inter-textually through the comparison and contrasting of different religious traditions. It is common for any in-depth comparison to bring out similarities and differences. There is no simple identity. This book provides thought-provoking essays that cover different aspects of Tillich’s philosophy and theology and the comparison and dialogue with East Asian religions and philosophies. This volume begins with an essay on Tillich’s “Methodological Consideration.” Tillich’s well-known correlational “question-answer” matrix was commonly regarded as the main theological operation in his Systematic Theology. Duane Olson’s essay, “Tillich’s Two Methods in Context,” reminds us that there is an another important but “hidden” method called the “metalogical method” which had been clearly adapted by Tillich in his early career, and, subtly, was presented in conjunction with his method of correlation in his later works. According to Tillich, the metalogical method consists of three elements: the abstraction of philosophy seeks to grasp the ontological structure and basic categories of reality; the “systematics” functions as a normative construction to provide a concrete norm to spiritual life situated in history; and the “history of spirit or culture” tries to construct a typology based on the dynamic elements of the basic polarity and the categories analyzed by philosophy. Olson emphasizes that this threefold structure does not only operate in Tillich’s Systematic Theology, but is also present in all his works. For the significance of the inter-religious dialogue, Olson’s essay directs our attention to Tillich’s dynamic typology method, which was closely related with his metalogical approach and constituted Tillich’s later position on the history of religions.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

We have four contributions in the area of Tillich and Buddhism. Although Tillich himself started a fruitful and insightful dialogue with Buddhism in the 1960’s, the content remains introductory and open to further investigation in numerous directions. Pan-chiu LAI’s essay, “Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue,” begins by stating that, in the comparison or dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, one of the thorniest issues is that since Buddhism is not a theistic religion and does not have a doctrine of God comparable to that of Christianity, any dialogue between the two concerning their concepts of God or gods seems to be too difficult or meaningless, if not impossible. Making a direct comparison between the Christian doctrine of God and an apparently comparable concept in Buddhism, such as Buddha or deva, may risk the danger of being too superficial or even misleading. His essay explores the significance of Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern for the comparison or dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism. Based on an analysis of Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern, including its reception and interpretation in the Chinese speaking world, this essay investigates if and how the concept is applicable to Buddhism through making reference to the concepts of Nirvana and Dharma in early Buddhism. Also, it further argues that if one takes Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern as a mediating concept, one may find it not only possible to explore the ultimate concern of Buddhism, but also meaningful (as well as fruitful) to make a comparison with Christianity. Based on this approach to Buddhist-Christian dialogue, this essay offers theological reflections on the Christian doctrine of God through dialogue with various schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism, including the Middle-Path (Mādhyamika), the Hua-yen and the Pure Land, representing three different approaches to the Buddhist ultimate concern. A common (mis)understanding of the Christian idea of God as the ultimate Being and Buddhist concept of the Ultimate as Nothingness is seriously challenged by Kin-ming AU’s comparative study on Tillich’s philosophical theology and the Buddhist philosophy of Kitaro Nishida (1870 – 1945), the founder of the Kyoto school. His essay, “Ultimate Reality: A Comparative Study of Kitaro Nishida’s concept of Nothingness and Paul Tillich’s concept of God,”⁵⁹ points out that both concept of the Ultimate are profoundly transcendental insofar as the subject-object scheme is overcome. God’s being and Ultimate Nothingness are beyond human conceptualization. However, it seems that the negative relationship between the absolute and relative nothingness does not correspond with Tillich’s immanence apparatus of God and the world. This interests in the

 The revised version published in this volume was originally published in Ching Feng, n.s. 4 (2003), 113 – 130.

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


comparative study of the Buddhist idea of emptiness and Tillich’s concept of God as being-itself is shared by Ellen Y. ZHANG’s essay, “When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism,” in which she explores the apophatic dimension of Tillich’s concept of God and its connection to his existentialist philosophy. The paper also examines Tillich’s theology of God as “not a being” in light of the Buddhist view of ontological emptiness, showing that Tillich’s apophatic way of speaking about God is more “postmodern” or “post-ontotheological” than some of Tillich’s critics have recognized. Finally, it also shows that Tillich’s quest for religiosity makes one to come to terms with the theological condition of thought in a contemporary context, therefore inspiring one to go beyond theism (or atheism), especially after the “death of God” talk, to ask how the finite opens itself up to the infinite. William Yau-nang NG’s essay, “Tillich, Lotus-birth and Asian Religions: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth as a Religious Symbol,” utilizes the concepts employed by Tillich in his understanding of religious symbolism (as discussed in his influential work Dynamics of Faith) to shed light upon our understanding of the symbol of the lotus in Asian religious traditions. This paper attempts to use a comparative religious approach to study the meaning of “lotus-birth” (i. e. a birth related to the lotus flower) as a religious symbol. The idea is that the lotus is an important religious symbol shared across different Asian cultures, as witnessed in the case of ancient Egypt, Chinese Buddhism and Daoism. The paper also shows that some special characteristics of the plant, such as its being open in the morning and closed at night, have made the plant an easy metaphor for the cycle of life and death, a symbol of the cycle’s duality of life and death. In addition, since the lotus is not contaminated even though it grows in a mud pond and its flowers have a unique fragrance, this dualistic structure can easily be used to express an idea of moving from the profane world to the sacred world, or leaving the world of the dead and gaining resurrection. This type of duality can easily acquire symbolic correlation from the characteristics of the lotus. On account of this correlation, the lotus symbol is used across different religions. Tillich believes that ultimate concern must be expressed symbolically and that symbolic language alone is capable of expressing the ultimate. This paper, however, demonstrates that on top of expressing the ultimate, the lotus in Chinese Buddhist and Daoist narratives can also be used as a means of approaching the ultimate concern. These two Chinese traditions use the symbol of the lotus as an important means of enhancing the transformation towards the ultimate concern. Therefore, the symbol is not merely a means of expression but also a means of transformation. It deals not so much with pointing beyond oneself to the ultimate but as a vehicle to the ultimate. As such, the lotus symbol, according to these religious narratives, not only discloses the new dimension of


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

an external ultimate but also at the same time unlocks the new internal potentiality which when actualized can provide a new life, either in the form of a new deity or in a new spiritual life in the Pure Land. A further group of four essays concentrate on the relationship between Tillich and Confucianism. In contrast to comparable work on Buddhism, scholarship has seldom devoted time to the study of this area.⁶⁰ The agape-eros tension proposed by Swedish Protestant theologian Anders Nygren is a key paradigm of the contemporary understanding of love in the context of Christian faith. As the implement of the God-man relationship in human affairs, eros mainly presents itself as the self-fulfilling or self-centered love proper to human nature, while agape mostly reveals itself as the self-giving or other-directed love at the supernatural level of godhead. In the traditional Catholic philosophia perennis of Thomistic theology and philosophy, St. Thomas Aquinas presents the distinction between the love of concupiscence (amor concupiscentiae) and the love of friendship (amor amicitiae), and the overarching power of agape as one of the theological virtues caritas or charity in his doctrine of love. WANG Tao’s paper, “A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love: Integration with the Chinese Confucian Idea of Love,” aims at understanding St. Thomas’s doctrine of love by the agape-eros paradigm, and compares it with Tillich’s thesis of love that unifies agape and eros. Tillich, who is generally accepted as one of the contemporary Protestant theologians who has the closest affinity with Catholicism, has an understanding of love, in its many aspects, which is consonant with St. Thomas. Furthermore, the Christian idea of love illuminates the path towards the integration with the Chinese traditional idea of love in Confucianism. Tillichian scholarship seldom concerns Tillich’s ethical theory, but we find that his ontological approach to morality comes closer to the Confucian understanding of ethics. Andrew, Tsz-wan HUNG’s essay, “Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics,” attempts to compare three aspects of Tillichian and Confucian religious ethics: religious nature, substantive content and the moral motivation of ethics. Through this comparison, the paper shows that although there exist differences in their understanding of God/Heaven and concept of love (agape/ren), the religious nature and the basic structure of the substantive content of their ethics are very similar. Both stress that the relationship between religion and morality is internal rather than external. Moral imperatives are derived from introspection of human nature which is related to the transcen-

 Exception is Kin-ming, Au, Paul Tillich and Chu Hsi: A Comparison of their views of Human Condition (New York: Peter Lang, 2002).

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


dent. Both are a kind of virtue ethics with the centrality of love, rather than utilitarianism, deontological ethics or situation ethics. Both conceive moral judgement as based on love and justice with the consideration of a particular situation using practical reason under the guidance of moral laws or rituals. However, they are very different from the perspective of moral motivation. While Confucianism stresses the significance of self-cultivation through the observance of rituals, Tillich considers that the real moral motivation arises from eros that is given as grace rather than derived from practices of moral laws or rituals. Through further investigation of their underlying concern, it argues that the Confucian perception of human nature may be too optimistic and has neglected the seriousness of human murkiness. If sinfulness is the reality of existential human beings, Tillich’s idea of grace could provide a better answer to the human predicament and a greater moral force. Lauren F. Pfister, based on a careful reading and re-translation of Zhāng Zài’s (1020 – 1077) Western Inscription and selected portions of Paul Tillich’s sermon, “The Depth of Existence”, proposes several ways to relate these two very different authors and their worldviews. First of all, the paper indicates how they are both interested in prompting the transformation of human consciousness and lifestyle through encounter with their vision of reality. Zhāng Zài offers a vision of reality shaped by a cosmo-familial relational network of things, while Paul Tillich emphasizes the “ground of all being” that is ultimately for him the vision of God. Secondly, both men are concerned about particular kinds of spirituality that will lead persons to pass through needed kinds of suffering in order to embody compassion and joy, and, ultimately, experience peace. A final question relates to how these visions of reality address matters related to existential problems in our internet age and new ways of addressing prevailing concerns related to environmental ethics. By means of Tillich’s concern for depth, the paper challenges the tendency toward superficiality induced by growing reliance on internet, and make suggestions about how to overcome this serious and significant problem. By means of reference to two elements of Zhāng Zài’s vision, the paper address new ways we can address issues within environmental ethics that may accompany a positive transformation of our attitudes toward the environing lifeworld. The last paper, contributed by Keith K.F. CHAN, begins by laying out the problematic of the religious bankrupting of the environmental crisis in which the dualistic framework, demarcation between transcendence and immanence, and a hierarchical mode of beings are deeply rooted in western cultural heritage. Chan’s essay points out the substantial resources of Tillich’s theology, Confucianism and the Orthodox teachings in addressing the environmental crisis. Through focusing on cosmology and anthropology, these three parties are pre-


Keith CHAN Ka-fu / William NG Yau-nang

senting a multi-dimensional and dynamic unity of reality and, in contracting with some current eco-centricisms, the religious role of human being is also highlighted. Under the categories “sacramentality” and “cosmic anthropology” this paper attempts to argue that cosmology and anthropology, as expressed in the Orthodox tradition, Confucianism and Paul Tillich’s work, share a similar ontological and cosmic vision, which is relational, dynamic and universal in nature. Also, these three lenses emphasize the uniqueness of the human being in the universe without committing to anthropocentrism. This paper demonstrates that a human being can be regarded as the “center” but not the “master” of the world. These three lenses find no difficulty in the assertion that a human being can be “being-in-the-world” and “being-above-the -world” at the same time. Reenchantment of the world seems for them to provide an opportunity for the renewal of human spirituality in which instrumental rationality about the world should be reconsidered in order to perceive the world as a sacrament, a gift, and a living organism instead of a huge mechanical machine. In addition, adherents of these lenses uphold an anthropocosmic vision, which emphasizes the interrelationship between human beings and nature, communication between self and community, and the mutuality between humans and God (Heaven). The essay begins by arguing that Tillich’s notion of sacramentality is ontological-universal in character and that this concept expresses the nature of the multi-dimensionality in the universe, which is based on his pneumatology. Likewise, in the Orthodox tradition, the universe is also regarded as the sacrament in which the essence of all beings is grounded in the Logos. This sacramental thinking, inspired by Christology, conceives the world as a symbol pointing to its divine Creator. In Confucian cosmogony, transcendence and immanence are interrelated within a dynamic and holistic whole in which the underlying principle of the universe is wholly embodied within the structure of the world. Secondly, it will argue that the notion of “cosmic humanity” is the key concept of these three lenses. In both Tillich’s and Orthodox teachings, the human being is regarded as a “microcosm” in which different dimensions of the universe are embraced in the human being who is understood as the highest being in Tillich’s anthropology and the priest of the cosmos in Orthodox teachings. In Confucianism, the essential part of the human being is connected with the transcendent Heaven, and the human being is mandated the duty of the creative transformation of the world by Heaven. Finally, in concluding the paper, the ecological implication of these three lenses will be explored. Despite of all these very insightful and significant discussions and reflections, there are many issues that remain untouched as Tillich has left us with a huge reservoir of knowledge that will certainly provide us with many meaningful topics to reflect upon for years to come. If this book is not the last word on the

Paul Tillich and Asian Religions


dialogue between East Asian religions and this great philosopher and theologian, it is certainly a collection of useful first words.


Tillich’s Two Methods in Context: Some Implications for Interreligious Understanding One of the most renown and important aspects of Tillich’s work is what he calls the “method of correlation.” This method was developed in his American period and forms the structure of Tillich’s three volume Systematic Theology (hereafter referred to as ST I,II,III).¹ The method of correlation is a two-fold method that, in Tillich’s words, “makes an analysis of the human situation out of which… existential questions arise, and… demonstrates that the symbols used in the Christian message are the answers to these questions.”² Thus understood, the method locates the spaces in human existence where decisive questions arise like self-affirmation in the face of finitude, wholeness in the face of estrangement, or questions about the meaning of the historical project as such. The method answers these questions with symbols from the Christian message like God, New Being, and Kingdom of God. The formation of a method rooted in this existential focus on questions and answers fit the needs of Tillich’s American context and provided a powerful platform for his theology. In the 40’s and 50’s, when Tillich developed and carried out his method, the leading protestant alternative to the method he proposed was the kerygmatic theology of Karl Barth. Famously, Barth denied that theology should begin with the human situation and its questions. It should instead speak the Christian message to the situation from above it. Barth claimed one could only even know about something like estrangement from the perspective of the revealed answer.³ Tillich thought this method was unable to show the rele-

 Systematic Theology (ST), volumes I,II,III (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951, 1957, 1963). As far as I know, the first time Tillich mentioned the method of correlation in print was in a 1947 article in the Journal of Religion: “The Problem of Theological Method,” Journal of Religion 27 (1947), 24– 26.  STI, 62.  Barth’s famous approach is articulated most clearly in what he calls the “analogy of faith” from the first volume of the Church Dogmatics, originally published in 1932 (see Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.i “The Doctrine of the Word of God,” ed’s Bromiley and Torrance (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1975), 11– 13). One of the first full-length treatments of Tillich’s ST was undertaken by one of Barth’s students, Alexander McKelway. Barth writes the introduction to McKelway’s text. Commenting on Tillich’s method, he says “[t]he problematic nature of this undertaking is obvious.” He continues his criticism in notable fashion, asking rhetorically, “[s]hould not DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-002



vance of Christianity. This was especially important to him in the modern western context where Christianity was already deeply questioned and, he thought, many of its symbols had either lost their power or were in danger of losing it. A method that analyzed the human situation and brought the Christian symbols into meaningful relationship to that situation had the potential to revitalize those symbols. The years 1939 – 1945 saw world powers, wrapped in the grip of demonic nationalism, attempt to annihilate one another in the most devastating war in the history of humanity in terms of total casualties. The war ended with the emergence of the atomic age and the east-west split of the cold war. Tillich declared the period after the war as the time of a sacred void.⁴ The longed-for kairotic moment, the time for the emergence of what he called theonomy, something he and other German intellectuals saw hopeful glimmers of in the Weimar republic of the 1920’s, was now irretrievably gone. Writing in the first volume of the ST in 1951, Tillich described the post-war context in this stark way: “It is not an exaggeration to say that today man experiences his present situation in terms of disruption, conflict, self-destruction, meaninglessness, and despair in all realms of life”.⁵ In this context, a method that deeply probed the character of human estrangement and promoted healing answers had the capacity to be extraordinarily powerful. Finally, it is also the case that Tillich had come to the US as an exile from his native Germany in 1933. In this transition, the context for Tillich’s intellectual work shifted from the German University to an American Protestant Seminary. Tillich had to make his abstract ideas concrete and meaningful to the mostly future pastors who took his classes. The development of a question and answer method no doubt helped make this possible.

the theological answers be considered as more fundamental than the philosophical questions and as essentially superior to them? If they were so considered, then the question and answer would proceed, not from a philosophically understood subject to a “divine” object, but rather from a theologically understood object (as the true Subject) to the human subject…” Karl Barth, “Introductory Report,” in Alexander McKelway, The Systematic Theology of Paul Tillich: A Review and Analysis (Richmond VA: John Knox Press, 1964), 13.  Wilhelm and Marion Pauck, Paul Tillich: His Life and Thought, volume I: Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 205 – 206.  STI, 49. Whether this description entirely fit the American context of the late 40’s and 50’s or was more apt to the continental western European context of that time remains a question. Tillich analyzes the character of contemporary despair and the anxiety of meaninglessness that gives rise to it in a more focused way in one of his most popular books from the same period, The Courage to Be (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1952), 123 – 154.

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


Other reasons that are not only contextual but also theoretical could be given for Tillich’s development and adoption of the question and answer method of correlation.⁶ The success of the method in both structuring and giving potency to his vibrant and still impactful systematic theology is evidence of the method’s viability and usefulness. By putting the method of correlation at the center of his work, and referring to it regularly throughout his work, it was perhaps inevitable that important interpretive questions would be raised about its meaning. That these questions were raised from the moment Tillich proposed his method in ST I, is seen by the fact that at the beginning of ST II, the method of correlation was one of three areas Tillich saw the need on which to make comments in the introductory section called “Restatement of Answers given in Volume I.”⁷ While significant scholarly emphasis has been given to understanding the method of correlation, much of which is important for grasping Tillich’s thought, little attention has been given to other methodological considerations in Tillich’s work. In this paper, I propose to fill this gap by focusing on a different aspect of Tillich’s method. In particular, I want to show that there is another method operating beneath and within Tillich’s method of correlation. It is my contention that a method from Tillich’s early German period, a method Tillich called the “metalogical method,” is operative in Tillich’s later system. It is my further contention that drawing explicit attention to this method illumines the structure of Tillich’s thought in important ways.⁸ Understanding this method helps clarify

 On the theoretical side, perhaps most important is the reason he emphasizes in the ST that the method of correlation puts human questions and the Christian revelation into relation while still stressing that the answers in the Christian revelation are received in the history of salvation and not constructed or derived in any narrow sense from an analysis of the questions (See ST I, 64)  STII, 13 – 16. In a book of essays from 1952 examining the first volume of Tillich’s ST, the method of correlation is extensively discussed, being mentioned in the Introduction, in six of fourteen essays, and in Tillich’s reply to the essays (The Theology of Paul Tillich, ed’s Kegley and Bretall (New York: Macmillan, 1952)).  James Luther Adams is an early interpreter in English of Tillich’s German works who analyzes and explains Tillich’s metalogical method. I agree with the sentiment he expresses about the importance of this method in Tillich’s thought: “It is more than a method for securing knowledge. It is Tillich’s characteristic and distinguishing attitude as he confronts reality in its depth and power and meaning. It is, so to speak, the correlate of his ultimate intuition into reality…” Adams does not relate this method to Tillich’s ST and the method of correlation (James Luther Adams, Paul Tillich’s Philosophy of Culture, Science and Religion, (New York: Schocken Books, 1970), 148). In “An Introduction to Paul Tillich’s Philosophical Writings,” Gunther Wenz gives a helpful, though dense, summary of the meaning of the metalogical method without developing the elements of the method in detail. He claims Tillich’s aim of creatively uniting opposites displayed in the method is “found in an analogous structure” in the ST with its method



Tillich’s approach to interreligious issues and can help raise important questions about that approach. In inaugurating this project, I point to the fact that Tillich himself, when he actually undertakes the task of correlating existential situation and Christian response in ST I, claims that he is following a method other than the method of correlation.⁹ Tillich explains that he is following a revised version of phenomenology that he labels “critical phenomenology.” His discussion of this method is brief (only two pages), and it is the only time in the ST that Tillich explains in general what he is doing when he actually examines situation and response. I will return to what he says about critical phenomenology later in the paper and relate it to the metalogical method. I point to this passage, however, as evidence that there is another complementary method at work in Tillich’s system, a method that Tillich in fact says little about. If one thinks about the claims of the method of correlation, it is not surprising that another method should be at work beneath it. As Tillich articulates it, the method of correlation is existential in meaning but also quite formal in content. Certainly it structures the major parts of the system (Reason-Revelation, Being-God, Existence-Christ, Life-Spirit, and History-Kingdom of God). It also exposes the fact that the underlying thrust of the system involves providing theological answers to existential questions. It does not, however, explain how one is to go about analyzing either the existential situation out of which questions arise or the theological answers themselves. At the beginning of ST I, Tillich discusses the formal elements that constitute the sources of systematic theology: Bible, church history, and history of religion and culture.¹⁰ He never describes the method by which they are to be analyzed. There must be some method at work telling him how to make his analysis and it is my contention that the elements of the metalogical method, developed early in his career, forms the pattern he follows.

1 The Structure of the Metalogical Method Reflecting on Tillich’s career, one of the most extraordinary things about it is that his first major published work was not a theological work per se, but a philosophical work about the totality of knowledge. Before examining religion and reof correlation but he does not elaborate on how this is the case (Gunther Wenz in Paul Tillich, Main Works, volume 1, Philosophical Writings (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1989), 16 – 17).  STI, 106 – 108.  STI, 34– 40.

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


ligious knowledge he sought to show their place in the totality of knowledge in his 1923 work, The System of the Sciences According to Objects and Methods (hereafter referred to as SS). The title of the work itself shows how important reflection on method was to Tillich. In the introduction, he argues, “[t]he methods by which knowledge grasps objects correspond to these objects themselves. Therefore, the most important task of the system of the sciences is to determine the relation between methods and objects.”¹¹ It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine these relations as Tillich understands them for all sciences. What is important is that in this 1923 work Tillich first explains in detail the metalogical method as the method appropriate to what he calls the sciences of spirit (Geisteswissenschaften). A further explanation of this method is given in his 1925 work, The Philosophy of Religion (hereafter referred to as PR). I draw on both texts to explain this early method. As stated in Tillich’s quote above, every method must correspond to its object. One could not grasp the expressive meaning of a piece of music by applying abstract mathematical formulas to it, just as one could not grasp the speed of an object falling to earth by gravitational pull through listening to the expressive sound the object makes as it moves through the air. Tillich presents the metalogical method of his early work as appropriate to the life of spirit, or to human life understood in the particular way that he articulates. For Tillich, spirit is the most complex object to grasp in the world of objects because spirit is a self-determining reality, or that being which, in full self-consciousness, is freed from the immediacy of mere subjection to already given laws in its grasping and shaping of reality. As Tillich says, “The presupposition of the realization of spirit is… the complete separation of an existent from the immediate subjection to its finite form.”¹² Rather than immediate subjection to law, spirit is determined by the demand for valid norms by and in which it lives. This giving of norms to itself constitutes the distinctive life of spirit, and this life is referred to by Tillich with the general term “meaning.” Spiritual life is life in meanings, whether those meanings are in knowledge, art, legal forms, communal relations, or religion.

 The System of the Sciences according to Objects and Methods, (SS) translated by Paul Wiebe (London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1981), 31. I use Wiebe’s English translation when giving references and quotes. The German Text is available in Gesammelte Werke, Band I (Stuttgart: Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1959) 109 – 293.  SS, 138.



For Tillich, spiritual life in meaning always presupposes an awareness of some unconditioned meaning.¹³ At the same time, spirit never lives its life in any completed realization of meaning. There is and never will be a time when complete knowledge is attained, artistic production finished, or a stable and entirely just social order established. Emerging in and through each realization of meaning is not only an awareness of the unconditioned meaning but the demand for what Tillich calls the “unconditioned form” (or alternately, sometimes, simply the demand for the “universal”). This is a demand for the unconditioned meaning as a completed unity of meaning.¹⁴ Tillich presents this demand as the driving element from the subjective side of spiritual life in meaning. Spirit seeks a completed unity of meaning, an unconditioned form. This unity, however, is an ideal that does not exist.¹⁵ Instead, spirit lives its ongoing, vital and vibrant life within norms that are concrete realizations of the universal that emerge from this demand. These concrete realizations emerge in the historical process, which is understood in a complex way as that through which spirit is always already influenced, that in which spirit stands, and that to which spirit contributes and shapes in its ongoing life. In Tillich’s vision, the creation of spiritual meanings does not occur against a hostile or indifferent reality. Instead, they are the highest fulfillment of being. In Tillich’s often-used phrase, spiritual norms are “meaning-fulfillments” (Sinnerfullung) because they bring the meaning of being to fulfillment.¹⁶ The deepest meaning of reality comes to expression in the ongoing historical process by which spirit gives itself norms of meaning. Underlying Tillich’s interpretation of spirit and presupposed in the idea of meaning-fulfillment is a fundamental vision of reality articulated in these two early works. Most basically it involves the polar tension between two major metaphysical principles. These principles are difficult to interpret because Tillich presents them with rich nuances of meaning and in a variety of ways in the different texts; still, they pulsate through both texts. In Tillich’s vision, reality is filled with the creative tension between structure and dynamic depth, or between form and gehalt (typically translated as “import”) in German.¹⁷ In SS, Tillich ex-

 Philosophy of Religion (PR), in What is Religion? translated by James Luther Adams (NY, Evanston and London: Harper and Row, 1969), 57. I follow Adams’ English translation when giving references and quotes. The German text is available in Paul Tillich, Main Works, volume 4, Writings in the Philosophy of Religion (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter and Co., 1987), 117– 170.  PR, 58 – 59.  SS, 144.  PR, 52.  PR, 58.

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


presses this as the tension between “thinking” and “being.” While he uses this terminology, Tillich makes it clear that by “thinking,” he means more than reflection. It is in fact the principle of form within reality.¹⁸ While it is more than reflection, it comes to expression in reflection or in the attempt of spirit to grasp being. In its drive to grasp being, thinking is determined by the unconditioned form and seeks to subsume being completely into an exhaustive system of form. Being is both grasped by and effective in every form, even while it resists ever becoming completely subsumed under form. It is an infinite and inexhaustible depth and richness, an import, that is present in every form but is never completely subject to form.¹⁹ Tillich recognizes that a method corresponding to this vision must both give credence to form and to the dynamic depth within reality. In establishing his method, he contrasts it with methods that miss one or the other side of this structure, critiquing a purely logical (or formal-rational) approach to reality and a purely a-logical (or dynamically irrational) approach to reality.²⁰ The purely logical approach seeks to understand spirit through a completed unity of meaning, a directedness which Tillich affirms. However, it proceeds to articulate the relation of spirit to being as involving a set of static formal categories by which spirit grasps being. Here, perhaps most exemplary in Tillich’s mind, though he never mentions it, is Kant’s list in the first critique of categories of the understanding. This approach overlooks the dynamic reality in the life of spirit by which spirit actively gives itself norms in meaning-fulfillment. The other alternative is the a-logical approach, which involves giving up any hope for a unity of form and casting oneself into the stream of new creations in the spiritual process.²¹ This approach grasps the dynamism of spiritual life but in giving up on form it ultimately cedes the spiritual process to randomness or chaos. Tillich’s metalogical method attempts to embrace both form, which he explains is the logical part, and dynamic depth, which he explains is the metalogical part, in the dynamic spiritual process of norm-giving.²² The metalogical method that Tillich describes has three parts. The ultimate goal of this method is to give a concrete norm to spiritual life situated in history. The concrete norm is an individual expression or realization of the universal. Under its demand for form, spirit must give this norm in a systematic or organized way that connects the elements of meaning. Tillich calls this part of the     

SS, 40. SS, 34– 37. SS, 39 – 41 This is expressed most clearly in PR as what Tillich calls the “pragmatic” method (48 – 49). SS, 39; PR, 50.



method “systematics.”²³ However, no one can leap straight-away to systematics and the articulation of a norm. Spirit is both in history, influenced and shaped by current norms or current concrete realizations of the universal, and determined by the demand for an unconditioned form. Under this demand it needs to achieve some critical relation to the norms under which it stands. If not, says Tillich, the giving of a norm would merely be the re-presenting of available norms. It would be a “historical self-presentation” or “confession.”²⁴ The first part, then, required by the metalogical method must involve a philosophical abstraction of basic categories and principles. In particular, says Tillich, this abstraction must reach to the principles of dynamic tension that constitute spiritual life itself: form and gehalt, or structure and dynamic depth. Tillich calls them the “elements of meaning itself…” and describes them as “the universal tension-rich principle upon which [the metalogical method] can erect the system of spirit as such.”²⁵ This abstraction must also include an articulation of formal categories and functions through which spiritual life realizes itself, like the functions of science, art, law, community, and religion. It must be shown at this level of abstraction how the dynamic elements in tension that constitute reality are effective within the different categories and functions. Because it is an abstract endeavor that seeks to grasp the ontological structure and basic categories of reality, Tillich calls this first part of the method “philosophy.”²⁶ Between the abstraction of philosophy and the construction of a concrete norm, or systematics, stands a mediating element. Since spirit is in the historical process where it is shaped by norms even while it is also norm-giving, it must turn to the spiritual norm-giving occurring in history. Tillich says, “History is the arena of creative fulfillments of meaning; new creations can be born only from history.”²⁷ The abstract dynamic polarities and categories grasped by philosophy should be able to be shown or displayed in their distinctive forms as part of the historical process. Of course, this never means showing the unconditioned form. It means showing particular realizations of the universal in the historical process. Tillich calls this second part of his method the “history of spirit.”²⁸ The task of the history of spirit is to construct a typology based on the dynamic elements of the basic polarity and the categories analyzed by philosophy.

     

SS, 170 – 173. SS, 172. SS, 163. SS, 159 – 164. SS, 167. SS, 167– 170.

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


As such, the history of spirit is distinguished from the empirical science of history because it is not primarily concerned with things like chronology, or all of the variables of a historical context, or historical causality. It looks to history for meaning-fulfilling types, or particular realizations of the abstract dynamic elements. In particular, as Tillich says, it shows the way in which the dynamic polar elements abstracted by philosophy are realized in some one-sided way. As such, it “presents the material to the doctrine of norms for its normative decision.”²⁹ One-sided realizations do not bring meaning to its fullest expression and the history of spirit both shows how this is the case and opens systematics to see new possibilities of meaning.³⁰ Tillich summarizes the three elements of the metalogical method in this way in SS: Thus we have the coordinates of all arrangement in the human sciences: on the one side, the function of meaning with the inner tension between its elements; on the other side, the norm of meaning as the ideal synthesis of the elements in tension; in between, the spiritual types as attempts to attain the norm – types that are sometimes determined by one element, sometimes by the other. A phenomenon is understood (in the sense of the human sciences) when it is arranged within these coordinates.³¹

 SS, 168.  It should be clear from this brief presentation of the history of spirit that a series of difficulties arise from it. Let me focus on two questions in particular. 1) What is the scope of the analysis in this part of the method? Presumably every spiritual period (and sub-period) in every culture (and sub-culture) in human history is open to this analysis. How can one legitimately limit the analysis and yet know that one has covered enough of the historical process to aid the systematic decision? 2) How does one account for the immediate spiritual/historical context that forms the person doing the systematics in what is theoretically a universal examination of spiritual history? Certainly this immediate context must set limits not only epistemologically (what the person sees as one-sided developments must be determined by that person’s formation in a historical stream in some sense), but also in terms of the options for normative systematics. While one could certainly examine other historical and cultural realizations, one could only hope to shape the particular spiritual context in which one lives, and so one’s own concrete reality or tradition invariably has the weightiest significance for the person constructing the norm. In fact, Tillich gives little information about the first question regarding the legitimate scope of the analysis. He acknowledges the epistemological limits exposed in the second question while also stressing that the stream in which the systematizer stands invariably has the greatest significance in the construction of the history of spirit. The meaning of the examination of other historical realizations is presumably part of the unconditioned demand for a totality of knowledge and for what those realizations may tell one about one’s situation both positively and negatively. In other words, it is to help the directing of norm-giving that is part of systematics.  SS, 169.



2 The Metalogical Method in the Systematic Theology It is my claim that the three elements of the metalogical method are at work in Tillich’s later ST. This claim is complicated by several factors. One significant factor is the sheer scope and different object of the ST. Tillich’s two early works on the sciences and the philosophy of religion together are significantly less than half the size of the ST. Much of Tillich’s concern in the larger work on the sciences involved examining the fields of knowledge and the methods appropriate to them. These are not areas of direct concern in the ST, while the ST takes up major areas of concern not engaged by the early works. Certainly Tillich grew and matured in his thinking and more sources entered into his later work than were available to him in the early 1920’s. In the Philosophy of Religion, Tillich took up the first two of the three parts he articulated for the metalogical method for Christian thought: philosophy of religion and the spiritual history of religion. Presumably, having achieved these two parts of the method, he was in a position to write a full-blown systematics. The complications of history got in the way, including his coming to America, having to learn a new language, and make his ideas known in a new context. The first volume of his ST came out 26 years after the German philosophy of religion with a different foundational method explicitly articulated in it. While Tillich wrote about the philosophy of religion in the American context, he never dedicated an entire volume to it as he did in his early German period. Everything he had done previously in his text on the philosophy of religion presumably now had to be taken up into this new English version of systematics. Despite these complications, the metalogical method can be seen in the ST. My contention is that the first two elements of the method (philosophy and history of spirit) can be seen most clearly for religious thought in what could be called the mediating sections of the method of correlation.³² At one point in the Introduction to the ST, in explaining the structure of the system, Tillich claims, “[t]he method of correlation requires that every part of the system should include one section in which the question is developed by an analysis of human

 I appreciate Robison James pointing out these sections in his work Tillich and World Religions: Encountering Other Faiths Today (Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2003, 62). My delineation of the sections varies only slightly from his. James has also been someone who has kept alive the idea that the metalogical method is at work in Tillich’s ST. He gave an unpublished talk on this topic at the meeting of the North American Paul Tillich Society in San Diego, CA, on November 21, 2014.

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


existence and existence generally, and one section in which the theological answer is given on the basis of the sources, the medium, and the norm of systematic theology.”³³ In the following paragraph, he expands on this structure: “[o]ne could think of a section which mediates between the two main sections by interpreting historical, sociological, and psychological materials in the light of both the existential questions and the theological answers.” He claims that in this section, he is not seeking to understand these sources of systematic theology on their own terms or in their own contexts but “in terms of their significance for the systematic solution [and so] they belong to the theological answer and do not constitute a section of their own.”³⁴ To clarify, in Tillich’s method of correlation, the first structural part ultimately raises an existential question by analyzing some aspect of reality.³⁵ This method then shows how a theological symbol responds to this question. However, as Tillich states, there is another mediating analysis on the answer side of the equation. It interprets the sources of systematic theology in light of both questions and answers but for the sake of the systematic answer. It is in these sections that one can see most clearly the philosophy and history of spirit sections of the metalogical method. It is the case, however, that because Tillich is explicitly doing systematics, there are times when his analysis at this level involves reference to the systematic norm. The five sections in which Tillich gives this mediating analysis are: I:106 – 147, 211– 235; II:78 – 96; III:111– 161, 348 – 361. In each section, there is a phenomenological analysis of some religious reality. They are in order: revelation, God, religious self-salvation, spiritual presence and religious history.³⁶ Each reality is  ST I, 66.  ST I, 66.  Clearly this analysis has to be determined by method. Whether and to what extent one can delineate the parts of the metalogical method operating at this stage is an enormous question that this paper cannot engage. I limit my examination to the explicitly religious parts of the text and so to the metalogical method as applied to religious questions. However, the following can be said. Certainly the method of correlation always begins with an abstract analysis of tension-filled principles, categories and functions. In other words, it always begins with what Tillich called philosophy in the metalogical method. The formation of these abstractions is made through constant reference to other thinkers and historical movements that are presented as embodying one side of the polarity Tillich presents. This analysis follows the first two parts of the metalogical method even if it does not do so in clearly specified categories.  It is to be noted that in volume II, and in the last correlation in volume III, the mediating analysis occurs in the “question” part of the correlation rather than the “answer” part. In volume II, this appears to be because the answer, “Jesus as the Christ,” is concrete and Tillich is concerned with addressing the details of biblical scholarship about that claim in the answer section. Alternate modes of salvation are part of the question. It is not clear to me why the analysis of religious history in volume III is on the question side rather than the answer side.



understood through a dynamic polarity. This analysis constitutes the first element of the metalogical method that Tillich called “philosophy.” It articulates the basic principles of the phenomenon on the basis of a fundamental polarity. The five sections also contain an analysis of the history of spirit that is disclosed and understood through the polarity: I:137– 144, I:218 – 235; II:80 – 88; III:141– 144, 350 – 361. In Tillich’s analysis, the history of spirit operates from a typology that displays one-sided realizations of the polarity and provides material to be brought to fulfillment in the systematic norm. This analysis constitutes the second element of the metalogical method that Tillich called “history of spirit.” Because Tillich is doing systematics, the norm is introduced from the beginning as the commitment of someone belonging to the theological circle. Tillich presents different articulations of the norm as bringing the elements of the polarity to fulfillment in a completed realization. In other words, the “answer” side of the question-answer format Tillich states as the method of correlation does not just involve the resolution of the existential question (though in fact it does that: God is the source of courage in the face of anxiety; New Being overcomes estrangement, etc.). On the answer side is the articulation of the norm that fulfills a theoretical demand as laid out by the analysis of the polarity and the one-sided realizations of the history of spirit. I develop one example of how the metalogical method operates in Tillich’s system from the section on “God” in the “Being and God” correlation. Tillich begins the section with a phenomenological/philosophical analysis of God as the source of ultimate concern and he develops the categories of holiness connected with the idea of God.³⁷ He then moves to a major section where he incorporates material from the history of religion. The polarity with which he works in this section is what he describes as “the ultimate element and the concrete element in the idea of God.”³⁸ This is the polarity articulated in his early work as it appears in the religious realm between form and gehalt or structure and dynamic depth. Tillich summarizes the way this polarity operates in the history of religion, indicating both one-sided realizations that are part of the history of spirit and the norm that brings the tension to constructive fulfillment. The following quote summarizes both directions: “The general outline of the typological analysis of the history of religion follows from the tension of the elements in the idea of God. The concreteness of man’s ultimate concern drives him toward polytheistic structures; the reaction

 ST I, 211– 218.  ST I, 219

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


of the absolute element against these drives him toward monotheistic structures; and the need for a balance between the concrete and the absolute drives him toward trinitarian structures.”³⁹ Tillich proceeds to an extensive section of one-sided realizations of the idea of God. This constitutes the second section of the metalogical method, the history of spirit.⁴⁰ He then shows their mediation in the trinitarian idea of God, which is the final normative section of the metalogical method. ⁴¹

3 The Significance of the Metalogical Method It is my contention that understanding the interlocking parts of the metalogical method is important for understanding Tillich’s thought. I show how this is the case by focusing first on how this method clarifies internal aspects of Tillich’s thought and then speak about the implications for Tillich’s religious thought more broadly.

3.1 The Metalogical Method: Internal Clarification of Tillich’s Thought My claim has been that the metalogical method is present though hidden in the ST. Tillich himself never claims to be following the metalogical method nor does he articulate the distinctive elements of this method and call it something else. The only claim he makes in the text is that he is following “critical phenomenology.” The phenomenological part, he says, involves a description of religious phenomena for the sake of external clarity and internal consistency. The critical part involves selecting a norm by which the description is done.⁴² While each of these comes close to the philosophy and systematics parts of the metalogical method, Tillich never mentions the history of spirit section of the method. He also does not systematically connect the descriptions of phenomenology with the articulation of a norm by means of the mediating history of spirit section, though in fact he follows this pattern. It is not clear to me why Tillich is not more precise about the method he is following in the ST. At times he seems to be moving through the material piece   


I, 221. I, 222– 228. I, 228 – 230. I, 106 – 108.



meal. For example, when he develops the typology of God in the being and God correlation mentioned above, he simply introduces the idea of a typology, explains why it is important, and then proceeds to do it. Again, its systematic role is never clarified. My only suggestion about a reason for the lack of methodological clarity is that he wanted the existential meaning of his system expressed by the method of correlation to be clearly in the forefront in articulating the meaning of his system. Because he wanted his system to be understood as a Christian response to the existential situation, his discussion of method in any extensive sense was limited to the method of correlation.⁴³ My contention is that too narrow a focus on the method of correlation can obscure what Tillich is doing in the ST. Certainly sensitive interpreters of Tillich have shown that Tillich is neither asking questions nor giving answers in any simple-minded way with the method of correlation.⁴⁴ An analysis of the existential situation is always ontological for Tillich. It always involves philosophy and Tillich can and should be both examined and critiqued on the basis of the philosophical presentations of reason, being, existence, life and history he gives in the question part of the ST. At the same time, overlooking the elements of the metalogical method can obscure what Tillich is doing especially in the “answer” sections of the ST. The metalogical method shows that Tillich is not just presenting answers to questions derived from philosophical/existential analysis. He is also doing philosophy and religious history of spirit in these sections. The religious reality itself is understood on the basis of fundamental polarities. Onesided realizations of these polarities are articulated in the history of spirit. This material is then used by systematics to give a norm that brings the polarity to fulfillment. Put differently, the presence of the metalogical method in the mediating sections to which I point above shows that there is not only philosophy in Tillich’s ST, but philosophy of religion and a religious history of spirit that forms the the-

 The larger project suggested by this paper but not undertaken in it is to disclose the precise relation of the method of correlation that structures the ST with the metalogical method that is embedded within the ST.  I list only two important examples. Robert Scharlemann interprets the method of correlation as a profound attempt by Tillich to resolve the problem emerging in modernity with awareness of the historicity of human knowing. This new awareness requires a corrective interplay of philosophical reflection and religious response expressed in the method of correlation (Robert Scharlemann, Reflection and Doubt in the Thought of Paul Tillich (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969), vii–xx). Langdon Gilkey embeds the method of correlation more formally in Tillich’s understanding of the need philosophy and religion have for each other. Without philosophy, religion is blind; but without religion, philosophy cannot grasp its own ground (Gilkey on Tillich (Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1990), 66 – 78).

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


oretical background for his normative theological constructions. The philosophy of religion and religious history of spirit are done from within the theological circle because the purpose of the text is a systematic theology for the church. Still, insofar as they are present within the text, in principle, they should also be open for philosophical examination and critique. Tillich, the great mediator who lived “on the boundary” between philosophy and theology would not want it any other way. Knowing the elements of the metalogical method allows one to see more clearly what Tillich is doing in the text and recognize the elements of philosophy of religion and religious history of spirit within it. While my analysis in this paper has been limited to showing the presence of the metalogical method in certain parts of the ST, I believe it would be possible to go a step further and make the stronger claim that the elements of the metalogical method constitute a kind of Tillichean pattern of thinking in general, a pattern that is present in all his work. Clearly that kind of effort is beyond the scope of this paper. Let me just point out, however, that one of Tillich’s most popular texts on religion, the Dynamics of Faith, clearly has all the elements of the metalogical method present in it.⁴⁵ Faith is analyzed and its major categories articulated on the basis of the polarity of structure and dynamic depth. Tillich displays the types of faith on the basis of this tension as one-sided realizations in history. His argument takes place from the perspective of a Christian norm that he never attempts to hide, even though the text is not a work of systematics but philosophy of religion. He articulates the formal outlines of this norm in its validity as bringing the tension of the religious polarity to its most complete fulfillment.

3.2 The Metalogical Method: Interreligious Questions While Tillich presents the metalogical method as the generic method for all the human sciences, I have limited my analysis of it to its operation in Tillich’s religious thought. In this regard, I think it is important to call attention to the fact that while his own ideas had a history, Tillich was the first great Christian theologian of the west who authentically tried to incorporate the history of religions into his systematic theology. Understanding the metalogical method is important because it shows how he attempted to do this. The articulation of a polarity along with the categories relevant to grasping that polarity in the religious sphere made possible a dynamic typology by which he sought to show the directions of spiritual history. With this, he rejected the Hegelian attempt to show a

 Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper and Row, 1957).



strict chronological unfolding of the absolute even while he affirmed the emergence in the historical process of unique breakthroughs in a wide variety of directions that he was able to understand and interpret in his typological religious history of spirit. Throughout his career, in multiple texts, Tillich presented his religious typology with only slight variations.⁴⁶ Sacramentalism forms the basis of the religious direction. It is transcended without the critique of form by mysticism, while the religio-moral direction provides a direct critique of form in its demand for the universality of justice. This critique has the possibility of becoming radical and dissolving the religious direction into a completely autonomous situation. In an important way this dynamic typology stands in the center of Tillich’s philosophical grasp of religion. Given this fact, it is perhaps surprising that Tillich expresses some dissatisfaction with it in the final lecture of his life.⁴⁷ Only a great thinker could say he is dissatisfied with his approach without explaining why and then go on to repeat that very approach in a unique and indelible form! It is difficult to know what his dissatisfaction was and certainly even more difficult to imagine critiquing, transforming, and going beyond his typology. I will not attempt that here. However, I do want to make a suggestion about what I regard as the most valuable part of his typology and ask whether it can be contextualized in such a way to raise some questions about its possible limitations. A constant refrain from Tillich when he presents his religious typology is that sacramentalism must be critiqued because it expresses what is unconditioned through some object but the unconditioned is not an object. This critique is the basis of the dynamics structurally present within the typology. When the critique of form occurs, those imbued with the sacramental substance can harden the sacramental object and mistake it for the unconditioned itself. This is the danger of idolatry, heteronomy, or in Tillich’s vivid term “demonization.” Its opposite danger is “profanization” or the attempt to eradicate religion for a purely secular situation. It seems to me that these vivid categories of demonization and profanization have had and continue to have significant explanatory power in the American context. The category of demonization helps explain the so-called battle between science and religion that has a deep and ongoing history in US cultural and re It first appears in PR in 1925 (88 – 97). The same major categories are re-stated in the last lecture of his life in 1965 (“The Significance of the History of Religion for the Systematic Theologian,” in The Future of Religions (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 86 – 89.  “The Significance of the History of Religion for the Systematic Theologian,” in The Future of Religions (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 86.

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


ligious life. It clarifies elements of the culture wars, like the tendency of the religious right to sanctify a particular political and economic system while denying the religious critique and transformations of the feminist movement and the movement for gay rights. On the other side, it exposes the danger or the tendency of left-leaning religious movements and organizations to become purely secular and lose their explicitly religious substance. I would argue further that these categories have renewed global application in the post September 11, 2001 context. A new type of demonization has arisen with the reality of western globalization entering Muslim contexts that have not had a chance to undergo the social and political transformations allowing autonomous thinking and acting, including religious critique. We see a renewed ultimate concern take hold of those calling for an Islamic State with a Caliph where a strict version of Islamic law would be rigidly enforced. Following the demand for ultimate sacrifice, at least some of those gripped by this ultimate concern are willing to engage in methods like suicide bombings and beheadings that horrify the rest of the world. I could multiply examples about the explanatory power of these categories. At the same time, it strikes me that at least in my understanding of the categories they work best when applied to monotheistic contexts.⁴⁸ This makes sense because the connection between demonization and monotheism is easy to show. If there is one God, and one ultimate and final revelation, then it is a short step to absolutizing that revelation, whatever it is. What is not clear to me is whether these categories, and with it Tillich’s typology as he unfolds it, is broad enough to explain in any deep or powerful way the dynamics of non-monotheistic contexts. I say this with considerable reticence, with admission that I am not an expert in eastern traditions, and in recognition that late in his life Tillich in fact engaged with eastern traditions in ways that he had not done previously. He travelled to Japan in 1960, visited Zen Buddhist sites, and engaged in dialogue with a Zen master. His analysis of Buddhism in Japan in Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions has a freshness and profundity to it that cannot be denied.⁴⁹ Late in his life he taught seminars at

 I am not as confident as Mary Ann Stenger about the universal applicability of Tillich’s criteria of final revelation to all religions. By Tillich’s own analysis, mysticism proceeds under a different dynamic than ethical monotheism. A religion in which mysticism is predominant would presumably have a different criteria of what it regarded as final revelation (Mary Ann Stenger and Ronald Stone, Dialogues of Paul Tillich, (Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2002), 10 – 12)  Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 53 – 75.



the University of Chicago with Mircea Eliade on the history of religions. From these seminars we see him speculating on re-thinking his ST with the world religions more explicitly in the forefront.⁵⁰ Clearly Tillich was opening to non-western religions in a new and profound way at the end of his life. We do not see the full flowering of that opening because Tillich died as it was taking place. In this light, looking over his career, when Tillich approaches eastern religions through the metalogical method, they serve as one-sided examples of his ultimate goal of norm-giving and, at times his approach can at least appear simplistic. I think we can see examples of this in his approach to mysticism. At times he appears to regard all mysticism, eastern and western, under a single type. He often does not account for broader contextual realities that are relevant between east and west, like multiple lives versus a single life and universal karma versus the universal God of justice as the moral background. He does not account for the many internal debates about the nature and character of mystical experience.⁵¹ Having said this, I note that in the final volume of the ST, Tillich reminds the reader of telling caveats that are built into the typology of the metalogical method. Tillich argues for the validity of his typological approach on the basis of “the identity of the dimension of spirit in every articulate being with whom communication is possible.”⁵² He continues, however, saying, “[t]he Christian theologian can understand Eastern mysticism only to the degree in which he has experienced the mystical element in Christianity. But since the dominance or subordination of one of the elements changes the whole structure, even this limited way of understanding by participation can be deceptive. The following statements must be read with this in mind.”⁵³ This suggests his own awareness that the interpretation he gives of Eastern mysticism contains layers of profundity and nuances he may not have plumbed adequately. Deeper still, it suggests his awareness of some limits in principle to the capacity of a person from one tradition to plumb the depths of other traditions with completeness and accuracy. This provides the basis for a Tillichean openness to the importance and value of ongoing East-West religious dialogue. Given the context for this conference, I cannot help but note the fruitful possibilities emerging anew for this dialogue with the opening of China to the West. It is with great appreciation that I have

 “The Significance of the History of Religion for the Systematic Theologian,” in The Future of Religions (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 91.  Examples I have in mind include his initial presentation of the typology in PR 89 – 91; and also ST I, 140; Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), 69 – 71  ST III, 141.  ST III, 141.

Tillich’s Two Methods in Context


learned about the efforts by Hong Kong scholars and institutions to be the gateway for such dialogue. My hope is that it will only increase and deepen in the future.

LAI Pan-chiu

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue¹ If God is understood as that which concerns man [sic] ultimately, early Buddhism has a concept of God just as certainly as does Vedanta Hinduism.²

1 Introduction The concept of God, which plays a pivotal role in Christian faith, seems to be entirely absent in Buddhism. The fact that Buddhism lacks a directly comparable concept of God appears to be an important barrier to be overcome in the dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity. This essay aims to explore if and how Paul Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern can serve as an alternative mediating concept to God and may facilitate better the Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Unlike the formal study exploring the contribution of Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern for comparative theology in general,³ this essay will focus on the comparison and/or dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity. To begin with, this essay will sketch the meaning(s) of ultimate concern in Tillich’s thought, including its reception in North America and China. It will then examine whether and how this concept is applicable to Buddhism, including not only early Buddhism, but also various branches of Mahayana Buddhism, such as the schools of Middle-Path, Hua-yen and Pure Land. Lastly, it will explore the significance of this concept for Buddhist-Christian dialogue by reflecting critically on the Christian understandings of God through comparison with the various Buddhist approaches to ultimate concern.

 The research work presented in this essay was supported by a research grant received from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (project No.: CUHK14405214).  Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology (London: SCM, 1978), 1: 220.  Ou Jiangming (=Au Kin-ming), “Tillich’s Idea of Ultimate Concern and Its Contribution to Comparative Theology 蒂利希的「終極關懷」理念對比較神學的貢獻,” in: Dilixi yu Han yu shen xue 蒂利希與漢語神學 [Tillich and Sino-Christian Theology], edited by Chen Jiafu (= Keith Chan Ka-fu) (Hong Kong: Logos & Pneuma Press, 2006), 373 – 386. DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-003


LAI Pan-chiu

2 Ultimate Concern in Tillich In Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Jonathan Z. Smith, one of the leading scholars of Religious Studies, based on his review of the development of Religious Studies as an academic discipline in North America, acknowledges that “Tillich remains the unacknowledged theoretician of our enterprise.” Smith further points out that Tillich’s foremost contribution lies probably in his concept of ultimate concern, which provided the support to the study of religions from an anthropological rather than theological perspective and thus the justification for the academic study of religion(s) in public universities in North America.⁴ However, as Smith points out, Most of the strategic appeals to and discussions of Tillich’s formulation ‘ultimate concern’ lack attention to Tillich’s cautions and strictures regarding an inappropriate object of ‘concern,’ one that he labels ‘idolatrous,’ one that he appeals to the ‘Protestant Principle’ to check. ⁵

In other words, there are two aspects to Tillich’s concept of ultimate conern. One is the anthropological aspect which makes the concept applicable to other religions or the religious phenomenon in general. The other aspect is the theological which requires that the object of ultimate concern must be really or absolutely ultimate. According to Smith’s observation, the popular reception of Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern reflects merely the anthropological aspect of his concept, and disregards, knowingly or unknowingly, the theological aspect. In fact, a similar reception of Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern can be found in the Chinese speaking world. The expression “zhong ji guan huai”, which is a popular translation of “ultimate concern”, is widely used nowadays in Chinese publications.⁶ It also appears as a keyword in the titles of books or series of books, including a book on Tillich’s thought.⁷ Some Chinese scholars affirm the importance of this concept for the discussion related to religion, and even make use of this concept

 Jonathan Z. Smith, “Tillich[’s] Remains,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78 (2010), 1139 – 1170.  Smith, “Tillich[’s] Remains”, 1148 – 1149.  Using the Chinese expression “zhong ji guan huai” 終極關懷 as the keyword to search the Chinese websites through “google” and “google scholar”, 705,000 and 14,200 entries were found respectively (logon 19 June 2015).  Wang Min王珉, Zhong ji guan huai : Dilixi si xiang yin lun 終極關懷:蒂里希思想引論 [Ultimate Concern: Introduction to the Thought of Paul Tillich] (Beijing : Xin hua chu ban she, 2000).

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


to interpret Confucianism and / or Buddhism. For example, Liu Shu-hsien (Liu Shuxian), who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Tillich in 1966,⁸ makes references to Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern when addressing the issues concerning if and in what sense Confucianism can be regarded as a religion.⁹ Some Buddhist scholars also use “ultimate concern” as the key concept to expound the basic doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism without formally mentioning Tillich’s name.¹⁰ A more explicit reference to Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern is made by Charles Wei-hsun Fu (1933 – 1996) who employs this concept to interpret Mahayana Buddhism.¹¹ Fu suggests that the concept of ultimate concern is a meta-religious concept with academic significance, and can facilitate the dialogue and exchange among religions, including that between Buddhism and Christianity. However, Fu also argues that these significances were not known or expected by Tillich himself because the original intention of Tillich’s proposing this concept was to save traditional Christian theology from crisis and to protect Christian faith by affirming that Christianity was the religion with the most universal validity.¹² Fu’s comment seems to overlook the fact that when Tillich mentioned this concept in his Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (1951), he might have already noticed that this concept of ultimate concern should be applicable to other religions, including Buddhism as well as Hinduism.¹³ In this sense, Tillich himself was not unaware of the meta-religious implications of the concept, even though Tillich did have his own theological agenda when proposing the concept. If Tillich had the chance to response to his Chinese audience, he might query their neglect of the theological aspect of the concept, rather than their application of the concept to Confucianism and Buddhism.

 For Liu’s interpretation of Tillich, see: Shu-hsien Liu, “A Critique of Paul Tillich’s Doctrine of God and Christology from an Oriental Perspective,” in: Religious Issues and Interreligious Dialogue, edited by Charles wei-hsun Fu and Gerhard E. Spiegler (New York: Greenwood, 1989), 511– 532.  For the influence of Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern on Liu’s own thought, see: Yao Caigang 姚才剛, Zhong ji xin yang yu duo yuan jia zhi de rong tong: Liu Shuxian xin ru xue si xiang yan jiu 終極信仰與多元價值的融通:劉述先新儒學思想硏究 [Communication between Ultimate Faith and Plurality of Value: Study of Liu Shuxian’s New Confucianism] (Chengdu: Ba Shu shu she, 2003), 176 – 209.  Wang Luping 王路平, Da sheng Fo xue yu zhong ji guan huai 大乘佛學與終極關懷 [Mahayana Buddhism and Ultimate Concern] (Chengdu: Ba Shu shu she, 2000).  Fu Weixun 傅偉勳, Cong chuang zao de quan shi xue dao da sheng Fo xue 從創造的詮釋學到 大乘佛學 [From Creative Hermeneutics to Mahayana Buddhism] (Taipei: Dong da tu shu gong si, 1990), 189 – 208, esp. 193 – 198.  Fu Weixun, Cong chuang zao de quan shi xue dao da sheng Fo xue, 193 – 194.  See the quotation at the beginning of this essay.


LAI Pan-chiu

While the neglect of the theological aspect of the concept of ultimate concern in North American is noticed by Jonathan Smith, the one-sided-ness of the reception of Tillich’s concept in China is pointed out by He Guanghu. In his editorial introduction to the Collected Works of Paul Tillich in Chinese, He Guanghu comments that many Chinese scholars translated “ultimate concern” into “zhong ji guan huai” (終極關懷), but this translation is misleading for it focuses merely on the subjective aspect, and fails to cover the objective aspect of “ultimate concern”.¹⁴ In order to counter this one-sided interpretation of Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern, He Guanghu prefers to translate it into “zhong ji guan qie” (終極關切).¹⁵ Both Smith and He Gaunghu are quite right in pointing out that there are two important aspects to Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern and the popular interpretation or reception of the concept tends to ignore the theological or objective aspect, which concerns the ultimacy of the “object” of ultimate concern. In Tillich’s Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, he affirms on the one hand that “the word ‘concern’ points to the ‘existential’ character of religious experience”, but he also admits on the other hand that ultimate concern is the abstract translation of the Great Commandment (Mk 12:29) and in this sense it carries certain ultimate, absolute and even exclusive character to the extent that “it excludes all other concerns from ultimate significance”. So, “ultimate concern” refers not only to what ultimately concerns the human being subjectively, but also objectively or ontologically “that which determines our being or not-being”.¹⁶ In other words, apart from affirming that both Christians and non-Christians may have their respective ultimate concern, one has to examine whether the object of one’s “ultimate” concern is really ultimate or not. As a Christian theologian, Tillich assumes that only God is ultimate and should be the only proper “object” of ultimate concern; and if one takes something non-ultimate as ultimate, it is nothing but idolatry. Similarly, in his explanation of faith in terms of “being ultimately concerned”, Tillich particularly warns against the danger of taking the

 In Chinese, the word huai 懷 consists of two parts, and the left half is derived from xin心 and may thus associate with a human subject or person. The Chinese statement “X guan huai Y”, X usually is a “person” (either a human subject, or a group of human persons, or a social organization) “who” cares or takes care of Y. In English, the statement “X concerns Y” may simply mean that X relates to and/or may affect Y, and does not necessarily imply that X is a “person.”  See: He Guanghu 何光滬, “bian zhe qian yan 編者前言 [Editor’s Preface],” in: Dilixi xuan ji 蒂里希選集 [Collected Works of Paul Tillich], edited by He Guanghu (Shanghai: Shanghai san lian shu dian, 1999), I:14– 17.  Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, I:11– 14.

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


nation as one’s ultimate concern.¹⁷ In his dialogue with students, when discussing the concept of ultimate concern, Tillich refers to both the subjective side of ultimate concern, including not only the intellectual but also the emotional elements, and the objective side of ultimate concern. ¹⁸ Based on this brief sketch of the twofold meaning of ultimate concern in Tillich’s thought, we are going to examine whether Buddhism has ultimate concern in both the subjective and objective senses of the word. In other words, what we are going to explore is not only what Buddhists concern most or ultimately, but more importantly the Buddhist understandings of the ultimate reality. In fact, many dialogical or comparative studies use “ultimate reality” instead of “God” when Buddhism is involved.¹⁹ With this understanding, the next issue to be addressed is: what is the ultimate reality in Buddhism? According to Alfred North Whitehead (1861– 1947), in contrast to Christianity, which has always been a religion seeking a metaphysic, Buddhism is a metaphysic generating religion.²⁰ This contrast between Buddhism and Christianity may help to highlight the relative distinction between the two religious traditions with regard to their respective relationship with metaphysics, but it may not reflect adequately the rather complicated relationship between Buddhism as a religion and its metaphysics or views of ultimate reality. As we shall see, Buddhism is not simply a religion derived from a particular view of ultimate reality. Rather, it developed various schools with their respective understandings of ultimate reality, especially after encountering the indigenous philosophical schools in East Asia.

 Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper, 1958), 1– 2.  Paul Tillich, Ultimate Concern: Dialogues with Students, edited by D. Mackenzie Brown (London: SCM Press, 1965), 11– 15.  For examples, the articles in: Buddhist-Christian Studies 8 (1988), 51– 109; Buddhist-Christian Studies 9 (1989), 127– 229; Sallie B. King and Paul O. Ingram (eds.), The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialogues in Honor of Frederick J. Streng (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1999), 65 – 104; Robert Cummings Neville (ed.), Ultimate Realities: A Volume in the Comparative Religious Ideas Projects (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), esp. 125 – 150; and, Perry Schmidt-Leukel (ed.), Buddhist and Christianity in Dialogue (Norwich: SCM, 2005), 87– 147. See also: Au Kin-ming, “Ultimate Reality: A Comparative Study of Kitarō Nishida’s Concept of Nothingness and Paul Tillich’s Concept of God,” Ching Feng, n.s. 4.2 (2003), 113 – 130.  A. N. Whitehead, Religion in the Making (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), 39 – 40.


LAI Pan-chiu

3 Ultimate Concern and Early Buddhism Siddhārtha Gautama, who is also known as the Buddha (literally means the awakened one) or Śākyamuni (literally means the sage of Śākyas clan), was primarily a religious seeker of liberation from the suffering or pain (duḥkha) of the endless cycle of samsara, rather than a professional philosopher enjoying mere metaphysical speculation. In Majjhima Nikāya, one of the famous Buddhist sūtras, the Buddha kept silence in front of certain metaphysical questions, including: whether the world is eternal or not; whether the world is spatially finite or infinite; whether the soul (jīva) is identical with the body or not; and, whether the perfectly enlightened person (Tathāgata) exists after death or not. According to the Buddha’s explanation, he would not answer these speculative “metaphysical” questions which have no bearing on one’s liberation.²¹ In spite of this apparently disinterested attitude towards metaphysical questions, metaphysics remains very important for Buddhism because Buddhism assumes that one’s spiritual liberation depends mainly on one’s view of the ultimate reality. According to Buddhism, our sufferings, especially those derived from greed, hatred and delusion, are caused by ignorance or incorrect view of the reality. In order to be liberated from suffering, one has to attain a correct view of the true nature of reality or the ultimate state of reality. This correct vision of ultimate reality was attained by the Buddha. In his enlightenment, the Buddha acquired a non-discriminative wisdom which can see the reality just as it is (yathā-bhūtadarśana). In short, what the Buddha attained and taught is this correct view of ultimate reality, and the way to attain this correct view of the ultimate reality. There are two Buddhist concepts which may be considered as functionally equivalents to “ultimate concern” or “ultimate reality” in Buddhism. One is nirvana (Nirvāṇa) and the other Dharma. Nirvana is considered by some scholars as the ultimate reality in Buddhism because it is described as unborn, un-become, un-made, and un-created in some Buddhist sūtras. It is also identified as the end of samsara, and entering into nirvana means the liberation from samsara – the endless process of death and rebirth. In fact, in his dialogue with Buddhism, Tillich also takes Nirvana as the telos of Buddhism and compares it with the Christian concept of Kingdom of God.²² However, as an ultimate state of liberation a

 For a comparative theological reflection on the Buddha’s silence on these questions, see: Raimundo Pamikkar, The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha, translated from the Italian by Robert R. Barr (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1989).  Paul Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions (New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1964), 63 – 66.

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


human being may attain, “nirvana” may be able to express the subjective side of ultimate concern, but whether it also can express adequately the ultimate reality of Buddhism remains disputable. Some Mahāyāna Buddhist schools, as we are going to see, might refuse to take nirvana as the ultimate concern, and prefer to declare that nirvana is samsara and vice versa. Furthermore, as Wilfred Cantwell Smith (1916 – 2000) argues, though many Western scholars were particularly attracted to the concept of Nirvana rather than Dharma, most Buddhists would take the Dharma as divine as well as the centre of the Buddha’s teaching.²³ The concept of “Dharma” / “dharma” had been employed to refer to the ultimate reality before the rise of Buddhism. The root of the word “dharma” literally means “that which upholds or supports”. Ontologically speaking, “dharmas” may refer to all the existences or entities, and “Dharma” the way how things (dharmas) exist. The same term “Dharma” may refer to the way society should be organized as well as to the moral and religious obligations should be performed. For example, the “Hindus” might call their “religion”, their way of living or what they practise or worship, the Sanātana Dharma (the eternal way) rather than “Hinduism”, a term coined by the Westerners. Similarly, in Buddhism, the same word of “Dharma” refers ontologically to how the individual entities (dharmas) exist, and the same word may refer also religiously the Buddhist Dharma – the Buddhist way of religious liberation or in more concrete terms the teaching or practice of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, the supreme vision or Enlightenment attained by Gautama Buddha was understood primarily in terms of the Dharma of dependent arising or dependent co-arising (pratītyasamutpāda), which is also the true nature of reality or existence. This view of reality affirms that the existence of a particular entity depends on various causes and conditions. An entity comes into existence, only when all the relevant necessary and sufficient causes and conditions coincide. Otherwise, this entity will cease to exist. According to this view of reality, there are ever changing phenomena or existences, without any eternal or unchanging substance. Unlike Brahmanism, which affirms an immutable, independent, indestructible, and eternal substance or self (ātman) underlying the ever-changing appearance, Buddhism proclaims a doctrine of no-self or not-self (anātman) that there is no unchanging substance or eternal soul underlying the cycle of samsara. The Buddhist doctrine of anātman is basically a soteriological strategy which, without denying the conventional existence of personality with consciousness and action, refutes the attachment to an eternal

 Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Faith and Belief (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 24.


LAI Pan-chiu

soul.²⁴ While Brahmanism affirms that spiritual liberation lies at the realization of the identity between the eternal ātman and the eternal cosmic Brahman, Buddhism counters that suffering will arise and continue, if one holds the incorrect view of reality which assumes the existence of permanent soul and negates the dependence or inter-dependence of all existences. In other words, if one understands the nature of existence as dependent origination, one may then cease to cling to anything temporal and thus attain spiritual liberation. It is thus quite clear that the Buddhist understanding of ultimate reality is closely related to its way of salvation. It is important to clarify that Buddhism understands the Dharma as the universal principle embodied in all the dharmas rather than a metaphysical entity existing alongside with or separate from the ordinary dhamars. In other words, there is no independent and isolated noumenon (Dharma) apart from the phenomena (dharmas). The Dharma is immanent in all dharmas, though it also transcends the dhamars – in the sense that while different dharmas incessantly come into existence and / or cease to exist, the Dharma, as the way in which the dharmas exist, remains. It is believed that no matter whether the historical Gautama Buddha arose or not, the Dharma remains. Gautama Buddha is simply a person who discovered the Dharma and taught people the way to realize this Dharma. In Buddhism, the Dharma refers not only to a metaphysical principle which affirms the dependent origination of all things, but also the way of liberation to be derived from or in line with this view of ultimate reality. As the ultimate truth or reality, the Dharma is what concerns us ultimately – determining our “to be or not to be”, and our ultimate destiny depends on our understanding and practice of the Dharma. Based on this understanding, the Dharma can be regarded as the ultimate concern in Buddhism because the Dharma includes both the subjective (what the Buddhists concern ultimately) and objective (what determines/concerns our being ultimately) senses of ultimate concern in Buddhism. Based on the above sketch of early Buddhism, we may find that Tillich is quite perceptive in pointing out that if God is understood in terms of ultimate concern, early Buddhism has a concept of God. In fact, the Buddhist understanding of the relationship between Dharma and dharmas is also quite similar to Tillich’s understanding of the relationship between God and beings that all finite beings participate in God as the ground of being, ground of the structure of being, or Being-Itself, which is not a being, not even the greatest or highest

 See for details: Steven Collins, Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravāda Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); also, Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvāṇa in Early Buddhism (Surrey: Curzon Press, 1995).

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


being, existing alongside with other creatures or beings.²⁵ However, Tillich’s taking nirvana instead of Dharma as the controlling symbol of Buddhism for comparison purposes may not reflect adequately the ultimate concern in early Buddhism.

4 Ultimate Concern and the Middle Path School Following the tradition of early Buddhism, the School of Mādhyamika (literally means middle path) offers a different interpretation of the Dharma of dependent co-arising. This Mādhyamika approach to the Dharma is succinctly summarized in Nāgārjuna (ca. 150 – 250 CE)’s famous Stanzas on the Middle (Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, 24:18), We state that whatever is dependent arising, that is emptiness. That is dependent upon convention. That itself is the middle path.²⁶

This stanza attempts to interpret the Dharma of dependent arising in terms of “emptiness” (Śūnyatā). It affirms that everything is contingent or dependent arising, and that underlying the ever-changing process of becoming or dependent arising, there is no static and unchanging substance or self-nature (svabhāva). In other words, “emptiness” means primarily “without self-nature”, but not “without existence”. Instead of denying the contingent existence of all dharmas, this School affirms that one can experience the dharmas as “dependent upon convention” or “conventional designation” (prajñapti). This School suggests that the concept of emptiness applies to not only all entities, and the five aggregates (skandas), which are supposed to be the five basic elements constituting individual entities, but also the concept of “emptiness” itself, which is characterized as “dependent upon convention” rather than a metaphysical substance with self-nature. In other words, “emptiness” is basically a conceptual tool for the radical rejection of the idea of self-nature or substance as the objective reference of human language.

 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, I:235 – 238. For further discussion, see: Jeffrey Small, God as the Ground of Being: Tillich and Buddhism in Dialogue (Köln: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2009).  See: David J. Kalupahana, Nāgārjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 339.


LAI Pan-chiu

This does not mean abandoning the use of human language entirely. Instead, the School continues to employ the apparently contradictory terms such as “being” (dependent arising / conventional designation) and “non-being” (emptiness / without self-nature) to characterize all dharmas. The use of language is thus therapeutic, aiming to eliminate our false views of the ultimate reality, rather than to describe the ultimate reality in a concrete, direct, and positive way. In line with this position, Nāgārjuna’s Stanzas on the Middle (24:8 – 10) proposes a two-truth theory as follow: The teaching of the doctrine by the Buddhas is based upon two truths: truth relating to worldly convention and truth in terms of ultimate fruit. Those who do not understand the distinction between these two truths do not understand the profound truth embodied in the Buddha’s message. Without relying upon convention, the ultimate fruit is not taught. Without understanding the ultimate fruit, freedom is not attained.²⁷

The Middle Path School affirms that the ultimate truth (paramārtha-sat) cannot be fully grasped by human words and concepts, which belong to the realm of worldly convention, but one can and has to use conventional language in order to help people to understand the ultimate truth. Although neither “being” nor “non-being” alone is adequate to express the whole or ultimate truth, one may use these apparently contradictory concepts of “being” and “non-being” in a dialectical or complementary way to indicate or signify in a negative or indirect way the ultimate reality, which cannot be described or captured in language. ²⁸ Underlying the seemingly philosophical orientation of the Middle Path School is its concern for a proper understanding of salvation. Against the view pejoratively termed “Hinayana” (literally means small vehicle) which was stereotyped by the Mahayanists (literally means great vehicle) as taking individual’s liberation from samsara as the ultimate concern, Nāgārjuna makes use of the concept of emptiness and the dialectical use of language in order to refute the dualistic thinking underlying the “Hinayana” view of salvation and to advance the view that there is no distinction between samsara and nirvana.²⁹ In other words, the Mahayana view advocated by Nāgārjuna queries not only whether

 See Kalupahana, Nāgārjuna, 331– 333.  See: Lai Pan-chiu, “Buddhist-Christian Complementarity in the Perspective of Quantum Physics,” Studies in Interreligious Dialogue 12 (2002), 148 – 164.  For an explanation of Nāgārjuna’s position on nirvana and samsara, see: Kristin Johnston Largen, What Christians Can Learn from Buddhism: Rethinking Salvation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 95 – 129, especially 105 – 108.

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


there is any eternal, unchanging independent autonomous soul or substance in the sentient beings to be saved in isolation from the other sentient beings and even apart from the world, but also whether Nirvana should be taken as one’s ultimate concern at all. The “Hinayana” view of nirvana is reminiscent of the individualistic and other–worldly view of salvation associated with some Christian churches, and the Mahayana critique of the Hinayana view deserves to be reflected theologically.³⁰ Similar to Mahayana Buddhism, Tillich affirms not only the limitation of human language in describing the ultimate reality, he also shares similar critique of an individualistic and other-worldly interpretation of hope in isolated from the world. In Tillich’s own words, Participation in the eternal is not given to the separated individual. It is given to him [or her] in unity with all others, with mankind [humankind], with everything living, with everything that has being and is rooted in the divine ground of being. … Certainly, if we could only hope each for himself [or herself], it would be a poor and foolish hope. Eternity is the ground and aim of every being, for God shall be all in all. Amen.³¹

5 Ultimate Concern and Hua-yen Buddhism Apart from the Middle Path School, which tends to adopt a via negativa approach to the ultimate reality, some other schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism endeavor to express the Buddhist view of ultimate reality in a more positive way. For example, some schools of Chinese Mahāyāna Buddhism further developed the doctrine of Tathāgatagarbha, which literally means the embryo (garbha) of the “thus-come / go” (tathāgata, referring to the Buddha), into their respective doctrines of Buddha-nature (fo xing). Some of these schools affirm that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature and will attain Buddhahood eventually, and thus the ultimate state of reality is equivalent to the eventual universal realization of Buddha-nature of all sentient beings. According to this view, the ultimate reality can thus be explained in terms of Buddha-nature. The transcendent ultimate reality, no matter whether it is called Dharma or Buddha-nature, is entirely immanent in every existence. Each of the ordinary existences is an embodiment (if not incarnation) of the ultimate reality. This understanding of ultimate reality can be illus-

 For a Christian reflection on the Buddhist doctrine of salvation, see: Largen, What Christians Can Learn from Buddhism, 130 – 160.  Tillich, “The Right to Hope”, in Theology of Peace, edited and introduced by Ronald H. Stone (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1990), 190.


LAI Pan-chiu

trated through the case of Hua-yen / Huayan (Avataṃsaka) School of Chinese Buddhism. According to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, the Buddha attained the vision of the true nature or ultimate state of reality in his Enlightenment, and he attempted to put into words the vision of the reality he attained in the supreme meditation. Although what the Buddha perceived in his enlightenment is equivalent to the true nature of reality or the ultimate reality, and this vision of ultimate reality can be realized only in mystical experience and not to be described concretely, directly or literally in language, the sūtra uses various metaphors to express it. The best known metaphor employed in the sutra is the Jewel Net of Indra. According to an ancient Indian mythology, Indra, the god of thunder-belt, is foremost among all deities. In Indra’s celestial palace, there is a net infinite in all dimensions with jewels infinite in number. The surface of each single jewel endlessly reflects the glitter of all other jewels, and the reflections of other jewels in this single one vary according to their respective positions. The Hua-yen School attempts to explain this vision of ultimate reality in more philosophical terms such as “non-obstruction between events” (shi shi wu ai), “mutual identity and interpenetration” (xiang qi xiang ru) and “one-inall, all-in-one” (yi ji yi qie, yi qie ji yi). According to the Hua-yen School, the cosmos as a whole can thus be understood as self-causing, non-hierarchical and without a center.³² The cosmos, which is without boundary, consists of infinite number of existents or events. Each of these existents is empty in nature and without an everlasting self-nature, and in this sense all entities or events are equal and essentially the same. However, all these entities have their own relative positions which differentiate each of them from the others. Furthermore, these myriad events mutually participate in each other without confusion or loss of individual identity. It can thus be said that what the theory of “non-obstruction between events” aims to affirm is that all phenomena, though diverse from each other, form a network of interpenetration without obstruction and confusion, in which each of the events participates in all others and all events participate in every single event.³³ Apparently, this emphasis on the inter-dependence and even mutual penetration of all things is very much in line with the ecological vision. In fact, the relevance of Hua-yen philosophy to environmental philosophy has been ex-

 Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), 1– 25.  Paul Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations (London: Routledge, Second Edition 2009), 129 – 148, esp. 135– 6.

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


plored by contemporary scholars.³⁴ Unlike Christianity, which seems to uphold an absolute distinction between human and non-human being through the concept of image of God and personhood, Buddhism affirms instead the continuity, togetherness as well as oneness of all beings. As a result, Buddhism advocates an ethics based on universal compassion towards all lives and even all beings, rather than an anthropocentric ethics which ignores the value and well-being of non-human beings. Furthermore, the Buddhist affirmation of the value of each individual and the essential equality of all sentient beings does not lead to individualism because it is balanced and complemented by the affirmation of their radical relatedness. Hua-yen Buddhism exemplifies a Buddhist approach to ultimate reality significantly different from that of the School of Middle Path. Whereas the key concept in the Middle-Path School is emptiness, the key word for the ultimate concern of Hua-yen Buddhism is arguably Buddha-nature. For Hua-yen Buddhism, the ultimate reality is Buddha-nature, and the ultimate aim of religious practice is the universal attainment or realization of Buddha-nature. In his dialogue with Buddhism, Tillich suggests that Christianity can and should learn from Buddhism and develop a profound compassion towards the suffering of other forms of life through expanding its understanding of the Kingdom of God. In reverse, Tillich has certain reservations on whether Buddhism can learn from Christianity and incorporate the personal, social and political dimensions into Nirvana.³⁵ Tillich might have under-estimated the potential of Buddhism in this aspect, for he might have overlooked the messianic movements in Buddhism and might not have been able to foresee the contemporary interpretation of Pure Land offered by Humanistic Buddhism. Otherwise, he might have found that there were many rooms for further comparison and dialogue between the Christian interpretation of Kingdom of God and Buddhist interpretation of Pure Land.³⁶ However, Tillich remains quite perceptive in pointing out that Bud-

 Francis H. Cook, “The Jewel Net of Indra,” in Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy, edited by J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), 213 – 229; David Landies Barnhill, “Relational Holism: Hua-yen Buddhism and Deep Ecology,” in Deep Ecology and World Religions: New Essays on Sacred Ground, edited by David Landis Barnhill and Roger S. Gottlieb (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), 81– 85, 91– 92.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, III:357.  Pan-chiu Lai, “The Kingdom of God and the Pure Land: A Dialogical Study of Eschatology and Praxis,” Ching Feng n.s. 7 (2006), 183 – 210; further revised and published as “Kingdom of God in Tillich and Pure Land in Mahayana Buddhism,” in: Internationales Jahrbuch für die Tillich-Forschung Band 5/2009, edited by Christian Danz, Werner Schlüssler und Erdmann Sturm (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2010), 151– 172.


LAI Pan-chiu

dhist-Christian dialogue may benefit the Christian reflection on the relationship between humankind and nature.³⁷

6 Ultimate Concern and Pure Land Buddhism Whereas Hua-yen Buddhism might conceive the ultimate reality mainly in nonpersonal terms, e. g. “event” in “non-obstruction between events”, Pure Land Buddhism tends to express its ultimate concern in personal categories. Gautama Buddha became an object of adoration and worship soon after his death. The devotion to the Buddha became popular, especially during and after the reign of Asoka (c.268 – 239 BCE). Many pagodas (stūpas) were built in order to memorize and honour the Buddha. Many Jātaka tales about the previous lives of the Buddha became wide circulated and also inscribed on the pagodas.³⁸ The “being” of Buddha, including the Buddha’s eternity, perfection, omniscience, etc., became topics of doctrinal debates in Buddhism.³⁹ The rise of Mahāyāna Buddhism further intensified the worship of Buddha and complicated the doctrinal discussion on Buddhahood. It is because according to Mahāyāna Buddhism, there are many Buddhas as well as bodhisattvas, and Gautama Buddha is merely one of them.⁴⁰ Given the seeming plurality of Buddha(s), a doctrine of Trikāya, which literally means three bodies (kāyas) was developed in Mahāyāna Buddhism and became particularly important in Pure Land Buddhism. The three bodies are: (1) the Dharma Body (Dharmakāya), referring to the formless, inconceivable, indescribable and without boundary “body” of the Buddha; (2) the appearance body (Nirṃānakāya), referring the sensible form of the Buddha’s body manifested in time and space, especially the physical and mundane body of Gautama Buddha; and, (3) the bliss body (Saṃbhogakāya), referring the celestial and blissful body of the Buddhas or bodhisattvas such as Amitābha (A-mi-to-fo in Chinese; Amida in Japanese) and Avalokiteśvara (Kuan-yin in Chinese, Kannon in Japanese), capable of interacting with sentient beings. As James L. Fredericks highlights, both Nirṃānakāya and Saṃbhogakāya are skillful means (upāya) of

 See: Pan-chiu Lai, “Paul Tillich and Ecological Theology,” The Journal of Religion 79 (1999), 233 – 249.  Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 77– 81.  See further: Paul J. Griffiths, On Being Buddha: The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994).  Paul Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism, 209 – 266.

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


the Dharmakāya, and are generated in order to address the needs and limitations of sentient beings.⁴¹ According to the Mahāyāna understanding of skillful means, which suggests that, due to the Buddha’s or bodhisattva’s wisdom and compassion, in order to save the sentient beings of various inclinations and levels of understanding, the Buddha or bodhisattva may skillfully employ different means appropriate to different kinds of sentient beings in order to save every one.⁴² Since the inclinations and capacities of understanding of the sentient beings may differ dramatically from case to case, there should be many forms of skillful means. That is the reason why there should be many bodhisattvas, especially various bliss bodies, offering divergent and even opposite ways of salvation, including the path of reliance on self-power and the path of reliance on otherpower. This concept of Dharma-Body, which may be associated with the characteristics of pure, eternal, etc., appears to contradict to the doctrine of “emptiness” and to come closer to the theistic and personalistic concepts of the Holy Father or the divine Godhead in Christian theology. However, it is important to note that the concept of Dharma-Body can be found also in some texts of the Middle Path School, in which the Dharma-Body is equivalent to emptiness or ultimate truth.⁴³ In other words, in line with the doctrines of dependent arising and emptiness, it is possible to understand Dharmakāya itself also in terms of emptiness. The ultimate concern in the Pure Land School can be interpreted objectively in terms of Dharmakāya or Trikāya, and subjectively as the faith towards the bodhisattva(s) or longing for rebirth to one of the pure lands established by the bodhisattvas. With its doctrines of Three-Body and skillful means, Pure Land Buddhism may affirm the plurality of the divine manifestations, without denying the unity of the ultimate reality. It is not very sure if Tillich might have been aware of this aspect of Buddhism, when he commented that “it is obvious that in Mahayana Buddhism the Buddha-Spirit appears in many manifestations of a personal character, making a non-mystical, often very primitive relation to a divine figure possible.”⁴⁴ However, he did not further elaborate on this.

 James L. Fredericks, “Primordial Vow: Reflections on the Holy Trinity in Light of Dialogue with Pure Land Buddhism,” in: The Cambridge Companion to the Trinity, edited by Peter C. Phan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 325 – 343, esp. 330 – 333.  See: Michael Pye, Skilful Means: A Concept in Mahayana Buddhism (London: Duckworth, 1978); and, John W. Schroeder, Skillful Means: The Heart of Buddhist Compassion (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001).  Paul Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism, 176 – 189.  Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions, 67.


LAI Pan-chiu

7 Theological Reflections Based on the discussion above, one may find that Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern is not only applicable to Buddhism in general, but also various schools of Buddhism. Furthermore, these schools exhibit different approaches to ultimate concern and may provoke various reflections on Christian theology, and some of them were preliminarily explored by Tillich. Considered from the subjective side, it is very easy to think about the Buddhist ultimate concern in terms of salvation, liberation, or nirvana, which seems to be the ultimate concern of most Buddhists. But if one considers it from the objective side, one may focus on the Buddhist view of ultimate reality and the related concepts of Dharma, emptiness, Buddha nature, Dharmakāya, etc. These two aspects are closely related in Buddhism, but the following discussion will focus more on the objective side, namely the Buddhist view of ultimate reality, for two practical reasons. The first one is to counter the imbalance leaning towards the subjective interpretation of ultimate concern. The second one is that the present author published rather recently an article on reflecting the Christian doctrine of salvation through comparison with Mahayana Buddhism,⁴⁵ and thus would like to focus more on the reflection of the Christian doctrine of God in this essay.

7.1 Metaphysics and Ultimate Reality The first obvious question to be derived from the Buddhist philosophical conceptions of the ultimate reality for theological reflection may be: Is it possible to express the Christian understanding of ultimate reality in these Buddhist concepts? The traditional Christian doctrines adopted various concepts from Greek philosophy, including ousia, hypostasis, etc., and there have been many theological queries on the inadequacy of the Greek categories for Christian theology. The Buddhist emphasis that all things are ever-changing and inter-dependent may seem to be in square opposition to the mainstream of Greek philosophy, excepting perhaps the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus (c.535 BC – 475 BC), who was famous for his saying that “You can’t step into the same river twice.” The Buddhist way of thinking, especially the replacement of “substance” with “emptiness” or “being” with “becoming” as the fundamental category, signifies its  Pan-chiu Lai, “Reconsidering the Christian Understanding of Universal Salvation in Mahayana Buddhist Perspective,” Ching Feng, n.s. 12 (2013), 19 – 42.

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


break with the substantialist way of thinking pre-dominant in Greek philosophy. It is thus quite reasonable to expect that Buddhism may be able to provide some relational concepts which may be used by Christianity for the articulation of a more relational doctrine of God. In fact, this alternative has been explored by some contemporary scholars. For example, John P. Keenan proposes to articulate the Christian doctrine of God and Christology with the conceptual resources from Mahāyāna Buddhism which may be a better alternative to the substantialist framework of Greek philosophy.⁴⁶ Another example is the attempt to use Huayen philosophy to articulate the doctrine of mutual co-inherence (perichōrēsis) of the divine persons of the Trinity, without assuming the independent existence of divine substance apart from the three divine persons.⁴⁷ The Buddhist relational conception of the ultimate concern seems to be more adequate than the Greek substantialist concept when expressing the relationality of the Christian understanding of God. However, there is an important issue to be considered carefully before adopting the Buddhist concept for the Christian doctrine of God.

7.2 Relationality of Ultimate Reality In the dynamic and relational view of reality advocated by Buddhism, the socalled ultimate reality is the prime example or exemplary embodiment of the metaphysical principle of dependent arising. Christianity has no difficulty in accepting that all things are dependent, relational, impermanent, conditioned, etc. However, excepting perhaps process theology, Christian theology tends to take God as the exceptional case to this general principle, and to highlight the divine transcendence through emphasizing the distinction and even separation between God and the world. The doctrine of divine freedom or sovereignty also seems to minimize or even deny the influence of creatures on God. This makes the Christian doctrine of God quite different from the Buddhist emphasis on relationality, which includes not only the relationality among the finite existences, but also the relationality between the ultimate reality and finite existences. In the contemporary dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, there are many studies comparing the Buddhist concept of emptiness and the Christian doctrine of Trinity. One of the most discussed attempts was made by Masao

 John P. Keenan, The Meaning of Christ: A Mahāyāna Theology (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1989).  Lai Pan-chiu, “Doctrine of the Trinity, Christology and Hua-yen Buddhism,” Ching Feng n.s. 5 (2004), 203 – 225.


LAI Pan-chiu

Abe (1915 – 2006). Following the Kyoto school’s interpretation of Absolute Nothingness which is interpreted as beyond the relative distinction between being and non-being (or nothingness), Abe proposes that there can be fruitful dialogue on the Buddhist understanding of dynamic emptiness and the Christian understanding of divine kenosis, which refers , according to Abe, not only to Christ emptying himself, but also to the even more fundamental kenosis of God – a total self-abnegation of God or Godhead. This notion of God’s self-emptying means that “God’s infinite unrelatedness has no priority over relatedness with the other and that God’s self-emptying is dynamically identical with God’s abiding and finite fullness.”⁴⁸ Abe’s dynamic interpretation of ultimate reality and identification of the divine emptiness with the finite fullness are in line with the Heart Sūtra’s emphasis on the non-duality of form and emptiness that “form does not differ from emptiness, and emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is empty, and emptiness itself is form.”⁴⁹ This interpretation of the kenotic God and comparison with the Absolute Nothingness in Buddhism provoked a lot of discussion among scholars of Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity.⁵⁰ Abe’s interpretation of the relationality of the ultimate reality is reminiscent of the formula articulated by Karl Rahner (1904 – 1984) that “the ‘economic’ Trinity is the ‘immanent’ Trinity the ‘immanent’ trinity is the ‘economic’ Trinity.”⁵¹ However, the complete identification between the immanent trinity and the economic Trinity caused certain concerns in the Christian theological circle concerning whether this might neglect the divine mystery and restrict the divine freedom.⁵² It is interesting to note that Abe’s discourses on absolute nothingness were developed, to a certain extent, in critical response to Tillich’s dynamic view of the divine reality in terms of the dialectics between being and non-being. It is

 Masao Abe, “Kenosis and Emptiness,” in: Buddhist Emptiness and Christian Trinity, edited by Roger Corless and Paul F. Knitter (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), 5 – 25, esp. 18.  See: John P. Keenan and Linda K. Keenan, I Am / No Self: A Christian Commentary on the Heart Sūtra (Leuven: Peeters, 2011) for a Christian interpretation of the Heart Sūtra in comparison with the Fourth Gospel.  See: Christopher Ives (ed.), Divine Emptiness and Historical Fullness: A Buddhist Jewish Christian Conversation with Masao Abe (Valle Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1995); John B. Cobb, Jr. and Christopher Ives (eds.), The Emptying God: A Buddhist-Jewish-Christian Conversation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990).  Karl Rahner, The Trinity, translated by Joseph Donceel (Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Burns & Oates, 1970), 22.  See: Paul D. Molnar, Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity: In Dialogue with Karl Barth and Contemporary Theology (London: T & T Clark, 2002).

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


thus not absolutely necessary to adopt the Buddhist terminology in order to articulate a relational and dynamic understanding of God. Furthermore, as I argue elsewhere, Tillich’s articulation is not necessarily inferior to that of Abe.⁵³

7.3 Personality of Ultimate Reality Although Tillich makes use of some seemingly non-personal categories of being and non-being in his doctrine of God or his doctrine of God the Father – to be more precise, this does not imply the rejection of the divine personhood. As Tillich points out, whereas Christianity tends to characterize the ultimate reality in personal categories, Buddhism seems to prefer those non-personal or trans-personal categories.⁵⁴ However, it is important to note that for Tillich, the personal and non-personal categories are not mutually exclusive. He says, The God who is a being is transcended by the God who is being itself, the ground and abyss of every being. And the God who is a person is transcended by the God who is the PersonItself, the ground and abyss of every persona. … This means being and person are not contradictory concepts. Being includes personal being; it does not deny it. The ground of being is the ground of personal being, not its negation.⁵⁵

Tillich’s view seems to be in line with the dialectical view of divine reality championed by John Macquarrie (1919 – 2007), who proposes a dialectical theism in order to correct the “mistakes” of classical theism, which describes God in a primarily one-sidedly way, e. g. stressing the divine transcendence at the expense of the divine immanence. ⁵⁶ According to this Dialectical Theism, the personal / impersonal is of the dialectics within the divine coincidentia oppositorum rather than a contradiction to be dismissed, and we can and must use the language of personality to speak of God who transcends the concept of “personality”.⁵⁷ Buddhism, especially Pure Land Buddhism, does not deny the applicability of the concept of person to the ultimate reality, though the Buddhist tradition as

 Lai Pan-chiu, “Being and Non-being: Paul Tillich, Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, and SinoChristian Theology 存有與非有:蒂利希、耶佛對話與漢語神學,” Logos & Pneuma 道風 43 (2015), 29 – 50 (in Chinese with abstract in English).  Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions, 65 – 66.  Paul Tillich, Biblical Religion and the Search for Ultimate Reality (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1955), 82– 83.  John Macquarrie, In Search of Deity: An Essay in Dialectical Theism (London: SCM Press, 1984), 14.  Macquarrie, In Search of Deity, 242– 244.


LAI Pan-chiu

a whole does not take the category of “person” as ultimate or fundamental to our understanding of ultimate reality. As the approach adopted by the Middle Path School may imply, the personal and transpersonal categories can be used skillfully, including in dialectical, paradoxical or even complementary ways, in order to help people to have a proper understanding or vision of the ultimate reality. The Buddhist approach to language and ultimate reality may thus challenge Christian theology to rethink not only if the personal and impersonal categories are compatible when applied to the ultimate reality, but also whether and in what sense the concept of “person” (together with the related concepts of “Father” and “Son”) is merely metaphor or conceptual model for the ultimate reality or God.

7.4 Plurality and Oneness of God The similarities between Pure Land Buddhism, especially Shin Buddhism, and the Christian, especially Protestant, doctrine of grace alone (sola gratia) as well as faith alone (sola fide), have attracted the attention of many Christian theologians, including Karl Barth (1886 – 1968), and raise the issue as to whether and in what sense “salvation by grace through faith” is unique to Christianity.⁵⁸ However, for the Christian doctrine of God, the most important issue remains the divine incarnation(s) and the related issue of the divine oneness and plurality. In comparison with Christianity, which highlights the centrality of Christ within the Trinitarian framework, the Buddhist doctrine of Three-bodies and the related concept of skillful means tend to emphasize more the plurality of divine manifestations or revelations without denying the divine unity. With regard to the concept of skillful means, Christianity has a comparable concept of divine accommodation, which suggests that God may use some inadequate concepts and words, which are appropriate for the level of human understanding but do not correspond with the truth or reality, in order to communicate with human beings who may not have the ability to comprehend the ultimate truth yet.⁵⁹ The question to be derived from this is: Is it necessary to limit the divine accommodation to the incarnation of the divine Word? Given the Christian maxim that God wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) and the diversity of human cultures and capacities for truth,  Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 135 – 162.  Stephen D. Benin, The Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian Thought (Albany: State Univesity of New York Press, 1993).

Tillich’s Concept of Ultimate Concern and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue


it should be possible and desirable for Christian theology to affirm, without denying the unity of divine economy, some sort of plurality of revelations or divine activities. Christian theology may perhaps rethink whether and in what sense the economy of the Triune God is Christocentric, and take more serious the universality and diversity of the work(s) or manifestation(s) of the Holy Spirit, which can also be characterized as “empty”, “formless”, and “blows wherever it pleases” (John 3:8). Though Tillich himself did not explicitly develop a Trinitarian theology of religions along this line, his reckoning with these related issues remains useful as a reference.⁶⁰

8 Concluding Remarks Tillich’s concept of ultimate concern can provide a useful concept to interpret Buddhism in general and various particular schools of Buddhism. These interpretations may offer many interesting and important issues for the dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity. In various respects, Tillich’s thought can further enrich the dialogue on these issues. We may find that half a century after his death, Tillich’s thought remains in different ways very relevant to the contemporary dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity.⁶¹

 See further: Pan-chiu Lai, Towards a Trinitarian Theology of Religions: A Study of Paul Tillich’s Thought (Kampen: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1994).  This essay is developed from my articles previously published in Chinese and German respectively. See: Pan-chiu Lai, “Reflecting on the Christian Doctrine of God through Buddhism: Via Paul Tillich’s ‘Ultimate Concern’ 從佛教反思基督宗教上帝觀:取道保羅‧蒂利希的「終極 關切」,” Fujen Religious Studies 輔仁宗教研究 26 (Spring 2013), 91– 119 (in Chinese with abstract in English); and “Die letztgültige Realität im chinesischen Buddhismus und die christliche Gotteslehre,” in: Gott und Götter in der Welt der Religionen, edited by Markus Mühling (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014), 219 – 249.

AU Kin Ming

Ultimate Reality: A Comparative Study of Kitaro Nishida’s concept of Nothingness and Paul Tillich’s concept of God The dialogue between Zen Buddhism and Christianity is necessary for the development of mutual understanding between East and West. In the East, Zen Buddhism “is one of the products of the Chinese mind after its contact with Indian thought, which was introduced into China in the first century A.D. through the medium of Buddhist teachings.”¹ It integrates Taoist teachings and Buddhist speculations in the practical side of Chinese daily life. Through their practicalmindedness, the Chinese people have taken greatly to Zen Buddhism. In Japan, Zen Buddhism has even more influence. It entered internally into every phase of the cultural life of Japanese people. On the other side, Christianity, in the West, has shaped the Western Culture. We cannot comprehend the development of Western Culture without understand the Christian tradition. Before the trip to Japan in 1960, Tillich had already encountered with two Zen masters, Daisetz Suzuki in New York and Ascona and Shin’ichi Hisamatsu in Harvard. Suzuki was taught at Columbia University from 1520 – 1957, while Tillich was teaching at Union. Tillich encountered with Hisamatsu while Hisamatsu was a visiting professor at Harvard University in 1957. Through those encounters, not only did Tillich have the deeper understanding of Zen Buddhism tradition, but also, as Marc Boss depicts, realized a central point of disagreement, which is Zen’s “nonduality” and his idea of “participation.”² However, after his visit of Japan, Tillich claims that even though they are two different religions, they still have the same interest in the ultimate. Tillich characterizes two types of telos, “telos of everyone and everything united in the Kingdom of God” in Christianity and “telos of everything and everyone fulfilled in the Nirvana in Bud-

 Daisetz T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 2010), 3.  Marc Boss, “Tillich in dialogue with Japanese Buddhism: a paradigmatic illustration of his approach to inter-religious conversation,” in The Cambridge Companion to Paul Tillich, ed. By Russell Ro Manning (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 257. DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-004


AU Kin Ming

dhism”³ in his lecture, entitled “A Christian-Buddhist Conversation.” This characterization indicates two contrasted approaches to the depth of two religions, the ultimate. In Christianity, the ultimate is symbolized in personal categories as Kingdom of God, and in Buddhism in transpersonal categories as Nirvana.⁴ To continue the dialogue between Tillich and Zen Buddhism, Kitaro Nishida (1870 – 1945), the founder of the Kyoto school and the one who spent over thirty years evolving an original philosophical position centering upon the idea of absolute Nothingness and other Buddhist ideas, is chosen as the dialogue partner for Tillich. To make the dialogue effective and fruitful, we have to clarify differences between two religions. Therefore, in this chapter, instead of discussing the entire doctrinal structure of each religion, I try to explore the core category, namely, ultimate reality, in both religious traditions. In his comparative religious ideas project, Robert Cummings Neville tries to define ultimate reality as “that which is most important to religious life because of the nature of reality.”⁵ In this statement, we can say that the kind of quantity or unity claimed to be ultimate is what is most important for human life as such. Ultimate reality is most important for religions because ontological ultimate reality is the object of ultimate religious concern. In addition, what is identified as most important to religious life is not functions solely of subjective whim or arbitrary preference but of what the religious cultures take to be the nature of the case. Finally, what is most important to religious life is related with how the religious traditions say people should respond.⁶ For both Nishida and Tillich, ultimate reality has obtained a clear conceptual expression in their thought. Ultimate reality for Nishida is the Zen notion of Nothingness, which is the system of self-awareness. It underlies human consciousness and makes human knowledge possible. Correspondingly, ultimate reality, for Tillich, is the Christian God, who is the name for that which concerns human ultimately. What Tillich means is that any concern that is truly ultimate is concern towards God. Here, I will show the significant areas of similarity and difference between Nishida’s Nothingness and Tillich’s concept of God.

 Paul Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), 64.  Ibid., 65 – 66.  Robert C. Neville, ed., Ultimate Realities: A Volume in the Comparative Religious Ideas Project (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), 151.  Ibid., 151– 3.

Ultimate Reality


1 Nishida’ concept of Nothingness 1.1 The logic of topos In his philosophical thinking, Nishida’s concept of nothingness can be properly understood only with reference to his idea of topos (place). What is topos? The topos is the medium in and by which the individual entity and the universal become paradoxically identical with one another. Whatever exists in the world exist in terms of the paradoxical unity of the individual entity and the universal. Human knowledge becomes possible through such paradoxical unity.⁷ What Nishida is trying to say here is the relationship between the individual entity and the universal. According to Aristotle, universals are what belong to an individual entity as its qualities. For instance, the universals such as color, form, size, weight, and so on constitute various qualities of an individual entity; and these universals can exist only on the strength of an individual entity, for it alone has ontic reality. An individual entity thus contains and unifies various qualities in itself. In Aristotle’s thought the universal is thus determined by an individual entity. In his hypokeimenon, Aristotle denotes the unchanging substratum of all changing qualities. He defines substance as the subject that cannot become predicate. In the formation of judgment, S is P, S, which indicates an individual entity, is always a subject and never a predicate of something else. However, Nishida is not satisfied with Aristotle’s view. He argues that “in order for the individual as the grammatical subject (Substance) to be known, there must exist that which encompasses it, the place in which it lies, and that this place must be sought in the plane of the “transcendent predicate,” not in the direction of the logical subject.”⁸ According to Nishida, our knowledge about particulars is possible only because a universal concept thus contains particulars and determines itself as particulars. In the formation of judgment, S is P, S denotes a particular, and P a universal concept. The knowledge of a particular is possible only because P contains S and determines itself in the form of S. However, if S is taken to mean an individual entity, S is no longer containable in a universal concept. For the characteristics peculiar to an individual entity escape the determination of a universal concept. But if an individual entity is entirely

 “Topos” in Nishida’s thought, is entirely unobjectifiable and nonsubstantial Absolute Nothingness, which embraces and takes everything as its self-determination. See Masao Abe, “Nishida’s Philosophy of ‘Place,’” International Philosophical Quarterly 28 (1988), 355 – 371.  Masao Abe, “The Logic of Absolute Nothingness: As Expounded by Nishida Kitaro” Eastern Buddhist 28 (1995), 168.


AU Kin Ming

outside a universal concept, the knowledge of an individual entity cannot be acquired.⁹ Therefore, Nishida contends that “a particular lying in the place of a universal. He viewed a particular as that which lies within a universal and a universal as the place within which the particular lies.”¹⁰ In other words, the knowledge of an individual entity cannot be acquired unless an individual entity is somehow determined by the universal. In this case, the universal is no longer the “ordinary” universal. It must break through and transcend the generic concept. Nishida designates it as “the plane of the transcendental predicate.” The plane of the transcendental predicate thus transcends the generic concept in its depth, and includes both an individual entity and the universal concept in itself. The transcendent predicate which is immanent in and transcendent to both an individual entity and a universal concept unifies them in itself. Since the basic characteristics of the transcendent predicate consists in its being a place for an individual entity and universal concept, Nishida calls it “the topos.” As the medium, the topos must be immanent in both the individual entity and the universal; otherwise, it would be entirely unrelated to them, and therefore could not be their medium, either. Such a medium, for Nishida, cannot be less than the absolute, which is “contradictory self-identity.” This implies that two contradictories, namely, the individual entity and the universal, become identical in the topos, and the identity so attained is the self-identity of the topos itself. This signifies that the topos is self-mediating and remains self-identical even in its subject-object-duality. According to Nishida, since the topos is identical with the absolute, the absolute lies in the depth of human consciousness as the topos, that is, the plane of the transcendent predicate, which contains both an individual entity and a universal concept in itself, and constantly unifies these two contradictories. Human knowledge is possible on account of such self-activity of the absolute. Here Nishida grounds his epistemology not in S, namely, an individual entity, but in P, namely, the universal, or the transcendent ground of consciousness. His philosophy, therefore, has been characterized as “a logic of predicate.”¹¹ As the transcendent ground of consciousness, the absolute is a system of self-awareness. For Nishida, self-awareness means to see the self in the self;

 Nishida Kitaro, “The Logic of Topos and the Religious Worldview,” translated by Yusa Michiko, Eastern Buddhist 19 (1986), 8 – 9.  Abe, “The Logic of Absolute Nothingness,” 169.  See. Masao Abe, “Nishida’s Philosophy of ‘Place,’” 355 – 371.

Ultimate Reality


the reflecting self sees the reflected self in the self.¹² Knowledge is ultimately grounded in such self-awareness of the absolute. Thus the distinct nature of the absolute as the topos is manifested in its continuous activity of self-awareness; and self-awareness is possible only by means of intuition. “Intuition is present at the depth of our self-awareness.”¹³ To say that self-awareness constitutes the essential nature of the absolute is therefore to say that intuition forms the distinctive character of the absolute. When the opposition of subject and object is transcended and the true topos is reached, there emerges an intuition which see itself. In seeing itself the absolute sees not only an individual entity but also a universal concept, for both are posited by the absolute in itself.¹⁴ This is what Nishida calls action-intuition. “Through the activity of ‘knowing,’ the self transcends itself and stands outside itself. Conversely, the thing [the object of thinking] becomes the self and determines the self. The activity of knowing is established in the contradictory self-identity of the knower and the known. … Action-ituition is not a kind of Kantian intellectual intuition, … action-intutition sees things from the standpoint of that self which transcends the self-conscious self.”¹⁵

1.2 The Transcendence of Nothingness As functioning at the base of the topos, intuition, for Nishida, is necessarily related to “Nothingness” because the topos transcends the universal concept. Nothingness is that it is contentless in terms of both form and matter. The topos of Nothingness which unifies form and matter in itself infinitely transcends them. The topos of Nothingness is neither form nor matter; it is Nothingness. For instance, the universal concept of color (i. e., form) is the concept of being because it refers to the quality of a red flower (i. e., an individual entity or matter) which actually exists in the world. To say that the topos of Nothingness infinitely transcends a universal concept is to say that it cannot be conceptualized in terms of what is in the world. Therefore, Nothingness signifies epistemologically what cannot be conceptualized, and ontologically what is not, and both are inseparably united with one another. But it is important to bear in mind that the transcendence of the topos does not imply the exclusion of concept and being. Rather, the  Nishida Kitaro, “The Logic of Topos and the Religious Worldview: Part II,” translated by Yusa Michiko, Eastern Buddhist 20 (1987), 84.  Ibid., 84– 5.  Ibid., 84.  Ibid., 84– 5.


AU Kin Ming

topos includes them in its transcendence-immanence dialectic. Thus, the “contentless-ness” of topos does not mean unconsciousness or a-conciousness but trans-consciousness.¹⁶ In addition, Nothingness is that the topos is “thinking Subject.” The thinkers are always thinking something other than themselves; that is, they are never the object of thought. The thinking Subject is the starting point of thought, but never the terminus of thought, and therefore the topos as the thinking Subject cannot be mentally visualized, that is, cannot be conceptualized. Whenever the topos is conceptualized, it ceased to be the thinking Subject. This is true regardless of whether the topos is conceptualized in mythological terms or metaphysical terms. According to Nishida, the absolute cannot be grasped by means of any conceptual tool. It is immediate to our experience. In other words, the absolute is directly experienced through an intuition, which is operating in the self-conscious activity of the thinking Subject. To seek ultimate reality in the thinking Subject means to seek it in the transcend ground of human consciousness. Therefore, figuratively speaking, ultimate reality resembles consciousness more than an entity.¹⁷ If the topos is contentless in terms of both form and matter, it is evident that the topos as ultimate reality, even if it is sought in the transcendent ground of consciousness, goes beyond the antinomy of idealism and realism. In short, ultimate reality is neither “Substance” nor “Idea” but “Nothingness.” Therefore, an individual entity and a universal concept become paradoxically identical with one another in the topos of Nothingness. This implies that “being” and “meaning” become identical with one another in the topos of Nothingness. For instance, in the statement, “The flower is red,” “is” is the copula of judgment and the verb of existence at the same time. For Nishida, the world of value is identical with the world of reality; the world of meaning identical with the world of facts.¹⁸

1.3 The Absolute and the Relative of Nothingness Religiously speaking, the contentless-ness” of the topos of Nothingness denotes the self-negation of the absolute. The absolute completely empties itself; it gives up its claims to being. The self-negation of the absolute is the necessary condi-

 Ibid., 86.  Ibid.  Nishida, “The Logic of Topos and the Religious Worldview,” 14– 5.

Ultimate Reality


tion of all beings because only what is not can be the ground of what is. Therefore, self-negation forms the essential nature of God. “It is said that God created the world out of love. God’s absolute love must be essential to him as his absolute self-negation; it is not an pous ad extra.”¹⁹ Moreover, in the immanence and transcendence of the absolute, the absolute not only confronts but also contains the relative; the absolute not only transcends but also dwells in the relative. And the immanent aspect of the absolute represents the more essential quality of the absolute. The immanence of the absolute, together with its self-negation, symbolizes the love of the absolute. “Certainly, the absolute transcends the relative, but that which merely transcends the relative is not anything but merely nothing. … Certainly if the absolute stands in opposition to something in an objective way, it is relative and not absolute.”²⁰ The true absolute must contain absolute self-negation within itself. Thus, the absolute is not only confronts the relative but the absolute as well. In addition, Nothingness is seen in reference to the negation and affirmation of the human self. When the human self as a relative being confronts the absolute, it necessarily encounters the negation of the self, namely, eternal death. Death signifies that the relative faces the absolute. “When the relative faces the absolute, it is the death of the relative. It means that the relative become nothing.”²¹ But the absolute not only confronts but also contains the relative. When the human self is contained by the absolute, the negation of the self is immediately turned into the affirmation of the self. “The self faces absolute nothing means that the self faces itself self-contradictorily. What stands against the self is that which negates the self; that which negates the self must share the same roots with the self. What is utterly unrelated to the self cannot negate it.”²² In this regard, the absolute is real only if it can enter into a relationship with the relative. The true absolute is the absolute only when it is capable of turning itself into the relative. Conversely, the relative, which is totally unrelated with the absolute, is inconceivable. Therefore, the absolute and the relative are inseparably united with each other, and hence they are indispensable to each other. Nishida describes such a relationship in Buddhist terms: “where there is Buddha, there are sentient beings, and where there are sentient beings, there is Buddha.”²³ This signifies that the absolute requires the relative as much as the relative requires the absolute.     

Ibid., 20 – 1. Ibid., 19. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 27.


AU Kin Ming

Finally, with the above understanding, Nishida’s logic of topos can be characterized as a “logic of relation” because the topos primarily denotes a medium. If a medium possesses its own contents, it cannot mediate others as what they are. Or in the other words, a medium can mediate others only because it is devoid of its own contents. Thus the logic of relation is the logic of Nothingness.

2 Paul Tillich’s Concept of God as Being-Itself In his Ultimate Concern: Tillich in Dialogue, Tillich rephrases “ultimate concern” as “taking something with ultimate seriousness, unconditional seriousness.”²⁴ What make us taking with unconditional seriousness? For Tillich, any concern that is truly ultimate is concern towards God. In order to understanding his concept of God, we need to understand his discussion on the relationship between being and nonbeing, and essence and existence.

2.1 Being and Nonbeing Arthur Cochrane points out the correlation of the three key terms in Tillich’s ontology: being, nonbeing, being-itself. There are three pairs of correlation in Tillich’s system, such that there is a dialectical relationship between being and nonbeing in human beings, a dialectical relationship between Being-itself and nonbeing in God, and a dialectic relationship between humans as finite beings and God as Being-itself. “All three are interdependent and interpenetrable. Being reveals nonbeing and nonbeing reveals being. Together they reveal being-itself and at the same time being-itself (God) reveals finite being.”²⁵ According to Tillich, nonbeing is the threat to finite being. “Being, limited by nonbeing, is finitude. Nonbeing appears as the ‘not yet’ of being and as the ‘no more’ of being.”²⁶ Every finite being is mixed with nonbeing that “it is being in process of coming from and going toward nonbeing.”²⁷ In this sense, nonbeing is a part of being.

 Paul Tillich, Ultimate Concern: Tillich in Dialogue, ed. D. Mackenzie Brown (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 7.  Arthur Cochrane, The Existentialists and God (Dubuque, Iowa: The University of Dubuque Press, 1954), 78  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 189.  Ibid.

Ultimate Reality


Furthermore, Tillich avers that “nonbeing is literally nothing except in relation to being. Being precedes nonbeing in ontological validity, as the word ‘nonbeing’ itself indicates.”²⁸ What Tillich means by nonbeing here is dialectical nonbeing (me on).²⁹ In this dialectical aspect, humans participate in nonbeing; nonbeing displays a definite ontological status. As Tillich states, “there can be no world unless there is a dialectical participation of nonbeing in being.”³⁰ Nonbeing, as Tillich discusses it, is not an entity or event; instead, it is present in every act of being. In utilizing their finite freedom, humans constantly encounter, gain, and are rebuffed by the limits of their selves. “It is a continuous venture, a pushing forward and encountering other beings, constellations, and laws, a being thrown back and starting again.”³¹ The relationship between this ontological analysis and human existence will be described in the essential and existential nature of the human being.

2.2 Essential and Existential Nature Tillich depicts the “state” of essential nature by positing the potential aspect of essential nature. The essential nature does not exist in actual space or time. It does not actually exist; rather it exists in a potential sense. In his Systematic Theology, Tillich gives a long definition for the concept of essence. He writes: Essence can mean the nature of a thing without any valuation of it, it can mean the universals which characterize a thing, it can mean the ideas in which existing things participate, it can mean the norm by which a thing must be judged, it can mean the original goodness of everything created, and it can mean the patterns of all things in the divine mind. The basic ambiguity, however, lies in the oscillation of the meaning between an empirical and valuating sense. Essence as the nature of a thing, or as the quality in which a thing participates, has one character. Essence as that from which being has “fallen,” the true and undistorted nature of things, has another character. In the second case essence is the basis of value judgments, while in the first case essence is a logical ideal to be reached by abstraction or intuition without the interference of valuations.³²

 Ibid.  Tillich uses Plato’s idea of ouk on (absolute nothing) and me on (relative nothing) to elucidate the concept of nonbeing. And here Tillich indicates the relative nothing of our finitude. See Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 187– 188.  Ibid., 187.  Ibid., 664.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 202– 3.


AU Kin Ming

Here Tillich acknowledges two types of essence. When essence is understood as the nature of a thing or as the quality or a universal in which things participate, then essence is used in its empirical or logical sense. When essence is understood as that from which being has “fallen,” the true and undistorted nature of things, then essence is used in its valuational sense. Generally speaking, Tillich’s concept of essence refers to the nature and the potentialities of all members of a species, or of an individual. Essence, in some sense, is potentiality. It makes a thing what it is (ousia). Both essence and ousia are identified with potentiality.³³ Furthermore, in his discussion of existence, Tillich states that “existence can mean the possibility of finding a thing within the whole of being. It can mean the actuality of what is potential in the realm of essences, it can mean the ‘fallen world,’ and it can mean a type of thinking which is aware of its existential conditions or which rejects essence entirely. Again, an unavoidable ambiguity justifies the use of this one word in these different senses. Whatever exists, that is, ‘stands out’ of mere potentiality, is more than it is in the state of mere potentiality and less than it could be in the power of its essential nature.”³⁴ Clearly, Tillich denotes essence as the realm of potentiality and existence as the actualization of or standing out from this potentiality.³⁵ However, even in the state of existence, essence is not completely lost. “The essential nature of man is present in all states of his development, although in existential distortion.”³⁶ In comparison with Plato’s position, Tillich states that “existence is the loss of true essentiality. It is not a complete loss, for man still stands in his potential or essential being. He remembers it, and, through his remembrance, he participates in the true and the good. He stands in and out of the essential realm.”³⁷ The distinction between essence and existence is the distinction between potential and actual being. In standing out of potentiality or essential being, the actuality of existential being is the distortion of essence. That is to say, human beings are responsible for this distortion through the exercise of their finite freedom. The actuality of existential being is cut off or separated from the power and ground of being. In existence we, as finite beings, are aware both of our belonging to and separation from the infinite. Since the essential being is not complete-

 Thatcher, The Ontology of Paul Tillich, p. 103. Also Thatcher indicates that Plato’s eidos, idea or form, influences Tillich’s concept of essence; and Hegel’s essence obviously has some affinities with Tillich’s. See Thatcher, The Ontology of Paul Tillich, 100.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 203.  Dreisbach, Symbols and Salvation, 78.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 33.  Ibid., 22.

Ultimate Reality


ly lost in existence, our essential natures are always hidden yet shine through the existential distortion.³⁸ Moreover, Tillich refers to two types of nonbeing in order to explain the ontological status of essence. “Ouk on is the ‘nothing’ which has no relation at all to being; me on is the ‘nothing’ which has a dialectical relation to being. The Platonic school identified me on with that which does not yet have being but which can become being if it is united with essences or ideas.”³⁹ Continuously, Tillich says, “as potential being, it is in the state of relative nonbeing, it is not-yet-being. But it is not nothing. Potentiality is the state of real possibility, that is, it is more than a logical possibility. Potentiality is the power of being which, metaphorically speaking, has not yet realized its power. This power of being is still latent; it has not yet become manifest.”⁴⁰ Essence here means “not-yet-being,” not absolute nonbeing (ouk on). It does not exist; rather it potentially exists. It participates in God; and its reality is in the divine mind. It is not separated from God’s being⁴¹ In the Christian view, as Tillich contends, existence is the fulfillment of creation and the actualized expression of God’s creativity. But at the same time the split between created goodness and distorted existence must be stressed. “The distinction between essence and existence, which religiously speaking is the distinction between the created and the actual world, is the backbone of the whole body of theological thought.”⁴² Essential being includes nonbeing, but is not disrupted or split. Existential being, however, is split, disrupted, and threatened by nonbeing.⁴³

 See John P. Newport, Paul Tillich (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984), 68. In this argument, Arthur Cochrane questions how we can affirm that the creature is good if nonbeing belongs within being, if we participate in being and nonbeing, and if anxiety is an ontological quality of our nature. See Cochrane, The Existentialists and God, 81. And also Reinhold Niebuhr raises the similar question in “Biblical Thought and Ontological Speculation” in The Theology of Paul Tillich, eds. Charles W. Kegley and Robert W. Bretall (New York: the Macmillan Company, 1964), 216 – 227. Tillich replies that first, although the actualization of creation and the beginning of the fall are logically different, they are ontologically the same; and second, the fall is the work of finite freedom universally and no one can avoid it. See Tillich, “Reply” in The Theology of Paul Tillich, eds. Charles W. Kegley and Robert W. Bretall, 342– 343.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 188.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 20.  Ibid.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 204.  See Alexander McKelway, The Systematic Theology of Paul Tillich (New York: A Delta Book, 1966), 112– 3.


AU Kin Ming

According to Tillich, every human being is born with this “essential” potentiality. However, once self-consciousness is developed, humans no longer remain in this “dreaming innocence;” instead, they are actual existence. In this passage from “dreaming innocence” of essential being to existential being, Tillich states that “in the difficult steps of transition from potentiality to actuality, an awakening takes place. Experience, responsibility, and guilt are acquired, and the state of dreaming innocence is lost.”⁴⁴ There are two criteria for the transition from human essential nature to existential nature. First, actuality can be designated as awakening in this transition from potentiality to actuality; and second, this awakening is comprised of an assumption of experience, responsibility, and guilt. This is also what Tillich calls estrangement. Estrangement is existence. It is a fall, which is “the passage from essence to existence.”⁴⁵ In other words, in our existence, we are “estranged from the ground of our being, from other beings and from ourselves.”⁴⁶ In our human sense, human essential nature is a potential nature. It is an unactualized level of being. Once there is the act of existing, of taking an actual being, there is the actualization of the potentialities. But in this process of actualization potentialities are deleted. Hence, existence is a distortion, a falling away from essential possibilities. So to be a human being is to be in continual tension between essence and existence, between what is and what could be.⁴⁷

2.3 God as Being-Itself In his Love, Power and Justice, Tillich contends that “God is the basic and universal symbol for what concerns us ultimately. As being itself, he is ultimate reality, the really real, the ground and abyss of everything that is real.”⁴⁸ Now, the question is what Tillich means by God as being-itself.⁴⁹ For Tillich, the fundamental doctrine of God is that God is not a being alongside others. God is not even the  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 34.  Gilkey, Gilkey on Tillich, 123.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 44. See also Gilkey, Gilkey on Tillich, 122 – 126.  See Donald Dreisbach, “Essence, Existence, and the Fall: Paul Tillich’s Analysis of Existence,” Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980), 521– 538.  Tillich, Love, Peace, and Justice, 109.  Adrian Thatcher contends that Tillich’s concept of God as Being-itself can be literal due to its ontological implication, but it is also symbolical due to the infinite mystery of God. See Thatcher, The Ontology of Paul Tillich, 37– 40. See also Robert C. Coburn, “God, Revelation, and Religious Truth: Some Themes and Problems in the Theology of Paul Tillich,” Faith and Philosophy 13 (1996), 3 – 33.

Ultimate Reality


highest being. “If God is a being, he is subject to the categories of finitude, especially to space and substance.”⁵⁰ God is extrinsic to finite being. The best understanding of God is God as being-itself. God is neither alongside things nor above them. As Tillich avers, “Being-itself cannot have a beginning and an end. Otherwise it would have arisen out of nonbeing. . . . Being is the beginning without a beginning, the end without an end. It is its own beginning, the end, the initial power of everything that is.”⁵¹ To say God is being-itself is to say God is prior to the split between essential and existential being. God as being-itself “is beyond the contrast of essential and existential being.”⁵² God cannot be the universal essence because God is not the unity and totality of finitude potentialities.⁵³ God cannot even be identified with existence. For God is not a being. If God exists as a being, God’s existence does not fulfil God’s essential potentialities.⁵⁴ Therefore, “God is being-itself, not a being.” Rather, God is the ground of things. Furthermore, Tillich explains the power of God in existence. The power of being, for Tillich, is “another way of expressing the same thing in a circumscribing phrase.”⁵⁵ God as the power of being is the power of resisting and conquering nonbeing. “Therefore, instead of saying that God is first of all being-itself, it is possible to say that he is the power of being in everything and above everything, the infinite power of being.”⁵⁶ As the power of being, Tillich claims, “God transcends every being and also the totality of beings―the world.”⁵⁷ This power is so inexhaustible and limitless that being-itself infinitely transcends every finite being. The power of being emphasizes the infinite power, inexhaustibility, and creativity of being-itself. “The power of being is the divine omnipotence. It is unfathomed creativity of God, for it is by this power that beings are created and sustained in being.”⁵⁸ What Tillich means here is that the power of being is in everything and, at the same time, above everything. In other words, God is being present in all existence, while at the same time, transcending all existence.

 Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol 1, 235.  Ibid., 189.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid., 236.  Ibid.  Ibid., 237.  Lewis S.Ford, “Tillich’s Tergiversations towards the power of being,” Scottish Journal of Theology 28 (1975), 325.


AU Kin Ming

Regarding the concept of the power of being, Tillich contends that God is not a static absolute. Rather, “the power of being” symbolizes God as the living God and has the meaning of dynamics, moving, and impelling symbolically. In this regard, God is not only being-itself but also the living God. However, God as the living God is a symbol taken from human finite being. In this respect, the living God may be understood in terms of the structure of being as it appears in human life,⁵⁹ because “God lives in so far as he is the ground of life.”⁶⁰ That is to say, as Tillich puts it, “God must be approached cognitively through the structural elements of being-itself. These elements make him a living God, a God who can be man’s ultimate concern. They enable us to use symbols which we are certain point to the ground of reality.”⁶¹ In the structure of being, there are three pairs of the ontological elements, individualization and participation, dynamics and forms, and freedom and destiny. In the polarity of individualization and participation, God can be called “the absolute individual” as well as “the absolute participant.” In fact, there is no separation between individualization and participation in God. “This can only mean that both individualization and participation are rooted in the ground of the divine life and that God is equally near to each of them while transcending them both.”⁶² Therefore, God cannot be a person as God cannot be a being; and God’s participation does not mean that something alongside of God with which God has to do.⁶³ “God participates in everything that is. … But the divine participation creates that in which it participates.”⁶⁴ With regard to the polarity of dynamics and form, it is a mistake to declare that God is the pure form in which everything potential is actual. To say God is the pure form is to neglect the dynamic element in God. As Tillich points out, “The divine creativity, God’s participation in history, his outgoing character, are based on this dynamic element.”⁶⁵ Without the dynamic element, God would be a “fixed result,” actus purus, pure actuality without potentiality. “The God who is actus purus is not the living God.”⁶⁶ In the polarity of dynamics and form, potentiality and actuality is always in perfect balance within the di-

 Alexander J. McKelway, The Systematic Theology of Paul Tillich: A Review and Analysis (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1964), 125.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 242.  Ibid., 238.  Ibid., 245.  McKelway, The Systematic Theology of Paul Tillich: A review and Analysis, 126.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 245.  Ibid., 246.  Ibid.

Ultimate Reality


vine life. Symbolically, the element of form in the dynamics-form polarity is applied to the divine life. God as life expresses the actualization of God’s potentialities. But still, there is no distinction between potentiality and actuality in God. Therefore, those elements can be merely applied to God symbolically. In the third polarity, divine life is free and yet has a destiny. God is free because God is not a being and has aseity, God is a se, self-derived. “There is no ground prior to him which could condition his freedom; neither chaos nor nonbeing has power to limit or resist him.”⁶⁷ Therefore, God is free. But how can God be said to have destiny? How can it be possible? “It is possible, provided the connotation of a destiny—determining power above God is avoided and provided one adds that God is his own destiny and that in God freedom and destiny are one.”⁶⁸ Further, “if we say that God is his own destiny, we point both to the infinite mystery of being and to the participation of God in becoming and in history.”⁶⁹ Since God has no separation of individualization and participation, of potentiality and actualization, and of destiny and freedom, God as the living God is to be understood symbolically and beyond any distinction whatsoever. “For God is not timeless nor changeless but the ‘moving-permanent,’ the ‘changeless-changing’ ground of change.”⁷⁰ Therefore, in order to protect the transcendence of God, humans have access to God in a relationship symbolically. As Tillich claims, “As the God, with whom I have a person-to-person encounter. He is the subject of all the symbolic statements in which I express my ultimate concern. Everything we say about being-itself, the ground and abyss of being, must be symbolic.”⁷¹ In addition, although humans objectify God, God is not an object among other objects. Instead, God transcends the subject-object relationship. Therefore, humans cannot speak of God because language itself is limited by the subjectobject cleavage.⁷² The only possibility for overcoming the ambiguities and the subject-object scheme is the Spirit-created symbol.⁷³ Unlike a sign, a symbol is not created by the individual. It points beyond itself to the Ultimate from

 Ibid., 248.  Ibid., 248 – 9.  Ibid., 249.  Gilkey, Gilkey on Tillich, 108.  Tillich, Love, Justice, and Peace, 109; “Man’s ultimate concern must be expressed symbolically, because symbolic language alone is able to express the ultimate.” Paul Tillich, The Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1958), 41.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, 253.  Ibid., 254.


AU Kin Ming

which it is generated. As Tillich contends, “Religious symbols are double-edged. They are directed toward the infinite which they symbolize and toward the finite through which they symbolize it.”⁷⁴ Thus, religious symbols, which point to the divine, can be judged only on the accuracy with which they express that to which they point. That is to say, “a religious symbol possesses some truth if it adequately expresses the correlation of revelation in which some person stands. A religious symbol is true if it adequately expresses the correlation of some person with final revelation.”⁷⁵

3 Comparisons First of all, the basic agreement between Tillich and Nishida on “Ultimate Reality” is that it is the transcendent ground of being. In Tillich’s thought, God as Being-Itself is beyond the disruption of essence and existence, God cannot be said to exist in the ontic sense. Therefore “God does not exist” does not imply the non-existence of God, but the transcendence of God. Similarly, by the topos of Nothingness which is identical with the absolute, Nishida shows the transcendence of the absolute. With this understanding, both of them maintain that God or the absolute cannot be conceptualized. According to Tillich, God is not an object among other object. Instead, God transcends the subject-object relationship. Therefore, Tillich uses one nonsymbolic statement about God, namely, Being-Itself. Correspondingly, Nishida denies any conceptualization. Nothingness is not a concept; it is only a pointer to that which is not conceptualizable. Thus, Nishida is more rigorous in his symbolism than Tillich. Nishida firmly believers that since the absolute is the thinking Subject, the absolute can be intuited only in the way that the self is intuited by the self. However, it is worth to note that while Tillich conceives God as Being-Itself is the transcendent ground of being, Nishida views the absolute primarily as a system of self-self-awareness, that is, the transcendent ground of consciousness. It may be said that Tillich seeks God externally as the ground of being, while Nishida seeks the absolute internally as the ground of consciousness. Relatively speaking, one may conclude that Tillich’s concept of God is more realistic than that of Nishida, and Nishida’s concept of the absolute is more idealistic than that of Tillich.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 240. Donald F. Dreisbach indicates that there are some critics who have remarked that Tillich paid no attention to the distinction between the symbolic and the ontological. See Dreisbach, Symbols and Salvation, 131.  Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 240.

Ultimate Reality


Secondly, both Tillich and Nishida are acutely aware of the dialectical unity of the transcendence and immanence of God or Nothingness. Although Tillich’s concept of God as Being-Itself is the transcendent ground of being, Tillich also lays a special emphasis on the immanence of God. His idea of Being-Itself presupposes the immanence of God. By using the other symbol God as the power of being, Tillich contends that God is the living God and has the meaning of dynamics, moving, and impelling symbolically. Similarly, Nishida concerns not only the transcendence of the Nothingness but also its immanence. In the immanent aspect, the absolute dwells in the relative; and together with its self-negation, it symbolizes the love of the absolute. However, the transcendence of God is stressed more in Tillich, while the immanence of the Nothingness receives more attention in Nishida. This difference of emphasis has a significant effect upon their formulations of the relationship of God and humans. As a necessary consequence of his emphasis on the transcendence of God, Tillich reaches the conclusion that God and humans are distinct from each other. On the other hand, Nishida arrives at the conclusion that the absolute and the relative are inseparable from each other both epistemologically and ontologically.⁷⁶ Finally, despite the similarities of the concept of nothingness and of God, the concept of Nothingness, for Nishida, has to be understood in the relationship between the absolute and the relative. Nishida assert that the absolute confronts relative beings as their negation. The absolute transcends the relative only by negating the relative. Thus in Nishida’s thought the negation of the relative is a necessary condition for the transcendence of the absolute. However, we cannot find such an idea in Tillich. For him God is the ground of being rather than the negation of being; God’s transcendence does not require the negation of being. In addition, the idea of me on (nonbeing), for Tillich, is denoted as potentiality. In so far as humans are not yet what they should be, that is, they have not yet actualized their potentiality, they are nonbeing; but in so far as they participates in the power of being, they are beings; therefore, humans are being and nonbeing at the same time. Accordingly, the idea of absolute nonbeing (ouk on) is not applicable to existing beings. This idea of me on is incompatible with Nishida’s concept of Nothingness. For Nishida, nonbeing which is contained in being as potentiality is not true nonbeing; true nonbeing [i. e., Nothingness] must contain being within itself.

 Nishida, “The Logic of Topos and the Religious Worldview,” 19 – 21.


AU Kin Ming

4 Conclusion Ultimate reality is conceived in both ontological and anthropological terms. Ontologically, ultimate reality as the transcendent ground of being, which is most important to our religious life, is expressed by some religious symbols in different traditions. Anthropologically, some religious symbols express ultimate reality as an experience, which is therefore an extraordinary state, a state so extraordinary that it is described as ultimate by the person in it.⁷⁷ In other words, the anthropological track of inquiry is that ultimate reality is “what is most important to people when it comes to defining their identity and existence.”⁷⁸ In this paper, both Nishida’s Zen notion of Nothingness and Tillich’s concept of God are basically discussed on the ontological level. If ultimate reality can be discussed in three modes of religion, which are classified as philosophical, practical, and mythical,⁷⁹ this paper is focused upon the philosophical one. It is the understanding of the abstract systems of thought. Through the conceptual understanding of some religious symbols, we can communicate with the understanding to others. Despite the idea of Nishida’s Nothingness and Tillich’s God are come from two different religious traditions, it seems they are not incommensurable even thought they have different types of language. In fact, through the comparison of the conceptual understanding of some religious symbols, one religious tradition can receive stimulation from other religion. It is also significant that in Nishida’s final essay entitled “The Logic of Topos and a Religious World-View,” he discusses his own religious view in the form of a dialogue with Christianity.

 Robert C. Neville, ed., Ultimate Realities: A Volume in the Comparative Religious Ideas Project, 165 – 6.  Robert C. Neville, Ultimates: philosophical theology (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2013), 27.  Ultimate Realities: A Volume in the Comparative Religious Ideas Project, 10.

Ellen Y. ZHANG

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism “We could not even think of ‘being’ without a double negation: being must be thought of as the negation of the negation of being.” (Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, 179)

Paul Tillich’s systematic theology is often perceived as one that has pushed the boundaries between onto-theology, negative theology (or apophatic theology), and existential thought. This boundary crossing makes Tillich, to a certain degree, a good candidate from the post-Enlightenment Christian tradition to dialogue with Buddhism. In fact, Tillich considers himself to be a “boundary thinker,” trespassing between different locations, contexts, disciplines, and cultures.¹ His work Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions is a product initiated by his previous encounters with Japanese scholars and Japanese religions, Buddhism in particular, in the early 1960s of the last century. Rather than focusing on his notion of inter-religious dialogue, this paper will explore the apophatic dimension of Tillich’s concept of God and its connection to his existentialist philosophy. At the same time, the paper will also examine Tillich’s theology of God as “not a being” in light of the Buddhist view of ontological emptiness, showing that Tillich’s rather apophatic way of speaking about God is more “postmodern” or “post-onto-theological” than some of Tillich’s critics have recognized.

1 The Ground of Being: A Theology beyond Ontology Some Tillich scholars have suggested that the language of “the ground of being” or “God above God” in Tillich’s systematic theology is a secularized theological concept that intends to serve as a rhetorical way to “rekindle theological appetite in readers who were dissatisfied with theism but who still recognized areas of ultimate concern” (Clayton, 2000, 506). This, perhaps, is true especially when we compare the language adopted in Tillich’s Systematic Theology with that in

 The word “boundary” has an existential implication for Tillich. In his book, On the Boundary: An Autobiographical Sketch, Tillich claims that “the boundary is the best place for acquiring knowledge” (Collins; London, 1967), 13. DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-005


Ellen Y. ZHANG

Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics and will easily recognize a significant difference between a “theology of culture” and a theology demanded by and for the “insiders.” Nevertheless, when Tillich denies that God exists, or that God is a being by identifying God with being-itself, it is more than a rhetorical concern or apologetic gesture, since he is somehow speaking about God in a language of mystical ontology which can be traced back from to German mysticism (Meister Eckhart, for example) through the thought of Jacob Boehme, Friedrich Schelling, and Martin Heidegger. Tillich’s understanding of Christian theology and its connection to modern cultures are demonstrated through a liminal posture that has blurred various boundary lines which, in turn, facilities his aim to address the existential concern of life in a much broader sense. Quite different from Jean-Luc Marion, a contemporary French phenomenologist philosopher and a post-onto-theologian (whose rejection of God as being is made via replacing ontology with phenomenology), Tillich still works within the metaphysical tradition since his perspective of theology remains deeply indebted to the tradition.² Whereas theology for Marion must be separated from ontology through a deconstruction of philosophical idols (i. e., to be) in order to see God as God, theology for Tillich has to be operated both within ontology and beyond ontology at the same time.³ On the one hand, Tillich insists that the core of philosophy should be the ontological question, that is, the question of what it means to be, and this ontological question (i. e., concerning existence) is intrinsically connected to theological question (i. e., concerning essence). On the other hand, Tillich has acknowledged the limit of ontological quest as well as the restraint of ontological language. Nevertheless, Tillich maintains that there is no need in doing theology by escaping from the concepts of metaphysics in order to shake or challenge metaphysics. In other words, Tillich employs ontological language and the analysis of being to show the limit of ontological language and onto-theology. At the same time, Tillich seeks to retrieve the question of being and ontological categories to show the problem of defining “Being” as a  Traditionally, ontology has been concerned with asking questions about entities. Tillich distinguishes four levels of ontological concepts: (1) the basic ontological structure; (2) the “elements” constituting that structure; (3) the being which are the conditions of existence; and (4) the categories of being and knowing. But at the same time, Tillich thinks that it can be wrong to think merely about Being, or the ground of being in light of the categories of being.  In his work God without Being – Hors-Texte (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995) JeanLuc Marion advances a controversial argument for a God free of all categories of Being. Taking a phenomenological and postmodern stance, Marion challenges a fundamental premise of both metaphysics and neo-Thomastic theology: That God, before all else, must be. Instead, Marion argues that God is love before He is being. That is to say, love precedes being. This is why Marion insists on crossing out the word “being” in the description of God.

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


proper noun in an absolute fashion. In a nutshell, Tillich’s position is to identify God with “the ground of Being” for the sake of keeping God away from an entity of specific being, the category of ontic existence as a being among others that is prefigured in our perception of the phenomenal world. It should be noted that “onto-theology,” much like the term “postmodern”, has become an increasing slippery word. Martin Heidegger claims that metaphysics is inevitably and necessarily onto-theological.⁴ For Heidegger the history of Western metaphysics is characterized by combining theology with ontology within the parameter of onto-theology insofar as it seeks to locate and delineate the underlying essence and structure of being and the ultimate cause or foundation – the highest or ultimate Being – from which contingent beings or entities in the reality derive their ontic constitution. According to Heidegger, “ontical” signifies concrete, specific realities, whereas “ontological” signifies deeper underlying structures of reality. Tillich seems to maintain this ontic/ontological position as well when he speaks of the difference between ontological essence and ontic existence. The ontic/ontological difference made by Tillich lead to the debate among Tillich scholars regarding whether or not Tillich’s onto-theology has created a tension between God’s separation from the subject-object structure with God’s participation in the human world and human awareness of the Divine participation, or between the ultimate and “concreteness in the living God” (Ogden, 2007, 97– 101).⁵ According to Kevin Hart’s analysis, the onto-theological project is an enterprise in which “God is defined in terms of being: (1) as the h i g h e s t being, endowed with every reality, (2) as the o r i g i n a l being, underived from anything else, and (3) as the b e i n g of all beings, the ground of all that is.” (Hart, 2000, 76 – 78). Obviously, the concept of an ontological “ground” is a crucial one in Tillich’s ontology and his understanding of God as being-itself which, no doubt, keeps a foundational metaphysical edifice, that is, God as the ground of being. However, what should be pointed out is that at the same time Tillich

 For Heidegger, the history of metaphysics and ontology is the “forgetting” of being qua being, i.e., of being itself as “that which determines beings as beings.” In Being and Time, Heidegger explicates the notion of Destruktion, a concept further radicalized in Jacques Derrida’s project of “deconstruction” as a very specific type of reading and writing against the history of Western ontology as a “metaphysics of presence.” For a detailed examination of Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics and ontology, one can take a look of the book Heidegger on Ontotheology: Technology and the Politics of Education (London: Cambridge University Press, 2005) by Lain Thomson.  For details, see the book The Presence of God in the World: A Contribution to Postmodern Christology (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2007) by Steven G. Ogden.


Ellen Y. ZHANG

articulates a certain degree of difference from the ontological tradition by removing God from the category of ontic existence as a being among others in the totality of beings. Tillich says, “It would be a great victory for Christian apologetics if the words ‘God’ and ‘existence’ were very definitely separated,” and “God is being-itself, not a being (Tillich, 1951, Vol.1: 205, 235, 237).” “The being of God is being-itself. The being of God cannot be understood as the existence of a being alongside others or above others. … Whenever infinite or unconditional power and meaning are attributed to the highest being, it has ceased to be a being and has become being-itself” (Tillich, 1951, Vol.1: 235). Here, Tillich’s theology seems to have recourse to God as the one who is un-founded or founded in and through being-itself, as the ground of beings. It is upon the dynamic interaction of being-itself and being that Tillich talks about the divine revelation and the possible transformation of a “New Being,” as indicated in the following structure:

The transformation from being to New Being, according to Tillich, requires the transformation from reason to revelation when being is interacted with God as being-itself via the transcendent power, so is the human history and the ultimate concern of individual beings. Although Tillich speaks of the relationship between humanity and God, the finite and the infinite, he sometimes is ambivalent toward the concept of “being” or “existence,” and quite cautious about using the binary terms such as being/Being, and existence/Essence in a traditional way. Rather than seeing existence as simply predetermined by essence, Tillich emphasizes a paradoxical relation between existence (to which non-being belongs) and essence as an unconditioned power of being.⁶ Meanwhile, essence, says Tillich,

 It should be pointed out that unlike most Existentialist philosophers (particularly atheistic thinkers such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre), Tillich maintains that “essence” precedes “existence”. For example, he describes essence as something that “precedes actual existence,” and that “It has no time; it precedes temporality, and it is suprahistorical” (Tillich, 1957, Vol. 2:33). At the same time, existentialism, according Tillich, merely explains what it means to exist, but it

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


is also within existence despite that it is unassailable by the conscious mind or pure reason. What is intriguing about Tillich’s theology is that he is not only ambivalent toward the concept of “being” or “existence,” he sometimes even adopts an apophatic way of speaking about God that is more often used in negative theology.⁷ For example, Tillich states, “In the respect God is neither alongside with things nor even ‘above them’; he is nearer to them than they are to themselves. He is their creative ground, here and now, and always and everywhere” (Tillich, 1957, Vol. 2:7). For Tillich then, the problem of seeing God as a being is to objectify God as an epistemic entity, and in order to avoid doing so, God should be seen as being-itself that is the source of everything, and yet not another being that stands over-against the subject and of which the subject has a corresponding concept. To put otherwise, God is transcendent, undetermined by human reasoning, and yet related to everything that is, including the subject’s own consciousness, as the power that overcomes non-being (i. e., the loss of meaning) and makes it be. Thus Tillich calls God the “unconditioned,” an important term since it points to that which cannot be determined by the mind and the utterance of the mind, as it transcends the polarity of subject-object structure. Apophatic theology or theology via negativa – such as the works of Meister Eckhart – has a long-standing history in the Christian theology although it had been somehow marginalized in scholarship until the invigorating interest in the past few decades. In contrast to conceptualizing/naming God in terms of being as a starting point, apophatic theology, as a species of negative theology, begins by denying all descriptions and attributes as predicated of God. Negative theology attempts to describe the nature of God by focusing on what God is not rather than on what God is. “Being that cannot be predicted or conceived in advance appears as blind facticity as factum brutum because it is determined by reason in a purely negative fashion, as its other” (Clayton, 2000, 154). Apophatic theology is based on the view that language is incapable of speaking of God due to the nature of “pure transcendence” of the divine, and that God is described as infinite unsayable and unsignifyable. Michael Sells sees the negativity in negative

offers no answers to the fundamental questions implied in existence, although it is an element necessary for the formulation of the question  The basic method of negative theology or theology via negativa can be described as replacing traditional positive statements about what God is with negative statements about what God is not. Instead of saying that God is One, God should be described as not existing as multiple entities. Michael A. Sells uses the phrase “speaking away” to characterize the mode of discourse of negative theology. See his work Mystical Languages of Unsaying (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994).


Ellen Y. ZHANG

theology as a form of speech that constantly denies itself out of an argument that every statement about God falls short and needs correction (Sells, 1994, 2). John Thatmanil is one of scholars who have paid an attention to the apophatic dimension in Tillich theology, a neglected perspective of Tillich studies for years. Thatmanil elucidates his observation in The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicamen in part by showing how Tillich’s characterization of God as the ground of being is often misread as foundational metaphysics or as a representative of “Western logocentrism” (Thatamanil, 2006, 95). For Thatmanil, such reading ignores the fact that Tillich does not treat God as the edifice of pure being unquestionably. In The Courage to Be, for example, Tillich contends, “We could not even think of ‘being’ without a double negation: being must be thought of as the negation of the negation of being” (Tillich, 1952, 179). In his article “Tillich’s Appropriation of Meister Eckhart – an Appreciative Critique”, John Dourley also argues that German mystics such as Eckhart “could serve Tillich in this concern because Eckhart’s mystical experience culminates in a state of identity with the divine in that apophatic moment of shared nothingness. In this moment all distinction between the divine and the human is dissolved and with it any possibility of relating to the divine as the Other or an Other over against the human subject” (Dourley, 2005, 19). However, in mainstream theology, God is still talked about as if God were an existing entity. This is why Tillich critiques such kind of language, claiming that if God is perceived as a being, or an individual entity, it implies that the category of substance to refer to things in the world is being applied to God (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:235). For Tillich, God cannot exist w i t h i n the totality of beings. Rather God can only be the very g r o u n d of such a totality, and as such any attempt to construct arguments for the existence of God as a Being within the totality of beings contradict the very idea of God as “both the concept of existence and the method of arguing to a conclusion are inadequate for the idea of God” as the ground of being (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:204). To say God in terms of being is to reduce the Otherness of God to the sameness of human reasoning. To follow this line of thinking, one can tell that when Tillich maintains that “the being of God is being-itself,” he does not mean to understand God as a being alongside or above others (beings) but rather implies a qualitative difference: “Whenever infinite or unconditional power and meaning are attributed to the highest being, it has ceased to be a being and has become being-itself” (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:235). Thus Tillich denied that God exists, or that God is a being, in order to preserve the notion of God’s aseity which refers to the property by which a being exists in and of itself, from itself, or exists as so-and-such of and from itself. In traditional Christology, for God to be “a se” (i. e., from or by oneself) means God is neither derived from nor dependent upon anything, in-

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


cluding the natural order. As such God cannot be construed as a Being among beings but as the very ground of being or as Being-itself (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:235). Meanwhile, it should be pointed out that Tillich’s idea of being above beings is more than pre-metaphysical or symbolical way to speak of divinity; rather he uses the concept to address existential issues such as desire, fear, and human finitude. Tillich describes his theology as a response to “the totality of man’s creative self-interpretation in a particular period.” As such Tillich still hopes to come up with a theory of God which can avoid theological controversies by negation but at the same time can be both regulative and constitutive by affirmation. “God is the answer to the question implied in being,” writes Tillich (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:1 6 3 ) . This “ground of being cannot be found within the totality of beings” but is rather the depth from which those beings…derive their ontico-ontological constitution (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:205). Here Tillich makes a distinction between a being and being in itself in terms of ontological structure, the purpose of which is to reject the notion that God as an existing being that is simply “there” as a presence. According to Tillich, such understanding of God as being is problematic since it is based on an epistemic distinction between the subject and the object known. Once one has given up the notion of being and ceases to look at God as an entity one will see theology as well as one’s relation to God in a totally different way. In fact, the God beyond God or Being above being is by no means a kind of not-so-traditional language.⁸ The double negation (i. e., the negation of the negation of being) suggests a notion of God that is neither being nor non-being which characterizes the discourse of negative theology. When Tillich claims that God is above being and that He is being-itself beyond essence and existence, he is using apophatic language to avoid reducing God to an entity or an object to be conceptualized and comprehended, as human reasoning is always tied up and bound within a relative indetermination. The consequence of this Beingabove-being talk in his systematic theology leads to a conscious interplay between the cataphatic (the language of being) and the apophatic (the negation of the language of being), and the discursive and the symbolic in Tillich systematic theology.⁹ Although ontological concepts of being or being-in-itself are al-

 Søren Kierkegaard perhaps represents a new understanding of Christian theology when he argues, in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript, that the traditional proofs of God’s existence are prima facie unconvincing: they presuppose that God is an object like any other object that is susceptible to scientific analysis.  It is quite obvious that Tillich has acknowledged two streams in the Thomist tradition: the Augustinian on the one hand, in which God’s existence is necessitated by God’s essence, and


Ellen Y. ZHANG

ways a priori in Tillich’s system, they do not constitute “a static and unchangeable” meanings (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:166). The question then is weather ontological concepts are pre-supposed in experience and constitute the structure of experience itself or experience always exceeds them as a phenomenal excess. This problem exists for Tillich if he needs to resolve some intrinsic differences between onto-theology and existentialist philosophy. In his theological work, Tillich writes, “Theology deals with what concerns us inescapably, ultimately, unconditionally. It deals with it not as far as it is [philosophy], but as far as it is for us” (Clayton, 1987, 280). In other words, theology is not merely a discourse on the transcendent nature of God, it is also a discourse on each individual human being who has all kinds of existential anxiety in the world, but seeks a way to configure the limit of human finitude and the un-limit of the divine power so as to fulfill his or her “ultimate concern.”

2 Emptiness: Neither Being nor Non-Being As a non-theistic religion, Buddhism denies the notion of a supranatural deity (a term used by Tillich in his systematic theology) who creates the universe and human beings ex nihilo. Nevertheless, what is interesting about Buddhism, from a post-ontotheological point of view, is that it demonstrates both (theo‐)ontological and anti-ontological dimensions if one looks at Buddhist doctrines throughout history, as one sees the complexity of Christian theology.¹⁰ For example, Bernard Faure, who studies the history of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism from post-structuralism, unhesitatingly locates the mainstream of Ch’an Buddhism within onto-theology and logocentrism.¹¹ Nevertheless, no one would deny the existence of anti-metaphysical or even deconstructing elements in Buddhism, especially in Nāgārjuna’s Mādhyamika in India and China, as well as Ch’an Buddhism in China. Emptiness (śūnyata) is, perhaps, the most important concept yet at the same time the most contested one in Buddhism in general and Madhyāmika (Middle

the Aristotelian on the other hand, where God’s essence and existence are viewed and named identical.  In recent years, there are some scholarly studies (although they are piecemeal) with regard to a comparative study between Christian mysticism and Eastern religions (including Buddhism). For example, Meister Eckhart: An Asian Perspective (Louvain: Peeters Press, 2007) by Hee-Sung Keel.  For a detailed discussion on this argument, see Faure’s book Chan Insights and Oversights. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


Way) philosophy in particular. Before speaking of the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness, we need to look at the doctrine of the twofold truth in the Buddhist teaching. One cannot talk about Buddhism without discussing the doctrine of the twofold truth. They are the conventional truth (samvr·tisatya) and the ultimate truth (paramārthasatya). In Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (henceforth MMK), a work by Nāgārjuna (ca. 150−250 CE) which offers a systematic analysis of all important philosophical issues in the second century CE., it states that all things in the world are devoid of self-nature (svabhāva) in the sense of being dependently or causally (pratītya) originating (samutpāda). Emptiness (śūnya) as such should not be understood as nothing or non-being or something that have exhausted all theories and views.¹² Nāgārjuna is also worry about the tendency in various Buddhist schools to misunderstand emptiness, so he gives a warning in the MMK: “The feeble-minded are destroyed by the misunderstood doctrine of śūnyatā, as by snake ineptly seized or some secret knowledge wrongly applied… We interpret pratītya-samutpāda (dependently originating) as śūnyatā (emptiness). Sūnyatā is a guiding, not a cognitive notion, presupposing the everyday. (MMK 12:8; 24:11). The doctrine of emptiness points to a critique of “being” in that “no things whatever exist, at any time or place, having risen by themselves, from another, from both or without cause. …since there is no specifiable difference whatever between them” (MMK 25:19). To put it otherwise, nothing can be said to possess of an inherent self-nature (svabhāva) since its “being” is dependent on something else. Secondly, the doctrine of emptiness indicates the idea that emptiness itself is not a cognitive concept since the true nature of all things is beyond conceptual schemes. According to Nāgārjuna, any concept-splitting effort in terms of being and non-being has to be erased and negated, and as such there is a nondual relationship between emptiness (śūnya) and non-emptiness (aśūnya) ultimately in the realm of enlightenment.¹³ To explicates the view above, Nāgārjuna employs the “four levels of twofold truth” in the format of fourfold negation, known as the method of tetralemma or “four points of argumentation” that presents the “four possibles” (catuskoika) to

 Nāgārjuna was the founder of the Madhyāmika (Middle Way) school and the systematizer of the doctrines of Māhayāna Buddhism. He has been considered to be one of the greatest thinkers of India, and his philosophy the central philosophy of Buddhism.  The concept of emptiness is a very complicated one. The first meaning of emptiness is called “emptiness of essence,” which means that phenomena [that we experience] have no inherent nature by themselves.” The second is called “emptiness in the context of Buddha Nature,” which sees emptiness as endowed with qualities of awakened mind like wisdom, bliss, compassion, clarity, and courage.


Ellen Y. ZHANG

show propositional possibility: (1) X is Y, (2) X is not-Y, (3) X is both Y and Not-Y, and (4) X is neither Y nor not-Y.” The method of tetralemma can be illustrated by the single negation and the double negation as follows: 1. The single negation

2. The double negation

The method of tetralemma is also adopted by Jizang (吉藏 Chi-tsang, 549 – 623 CE), the systematizers of the Sanlun School 三論宗, also known as The ThreeTreatises School or the Chinese Madhyāmika School. In both single and double negations, being and non-being as two conceptual entities are not ones with substantial references. Namely, they are nothing but provisional concepts wherein there is no identity, nor difference. The same thing can be applied to the two entities with regard to two truths that are subject to a process of negation as well. Both the conventional truth and the ultimate truth here belong to the category of “teaching method” i. e., (a skillful and pedagogical means) rather than “ontological truth” (a determinative or absolute thesis).¹⁴ Accordingly, the fourfold negation can be rendered as follows:

 At several occasions, Jizang speaks of a difference between a “teaching method” (jiaomen 教 門) or a “teaching truth” (jiaoli 教理) and a determinative “ontological truth” (jingli 境理). This distinction leads to Jizang’s argument on twofold truth in terms of a verbal teaching (yuejiao 約 教) and a fixed principle (yueli 約理). Hence, the twofold truth is also expressed by Jizang as truth-as-instruction (jiaodi 教諦) and truth-as-viewpoint (yudi 於諦). See Jizang, Tasheng xuanlun. T.45, 1853, 15, a 17.

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


As indicated above, each level from one to three involves the twofold truth, that is, the conventional and the ultimate, as well as a conjunction and a disjunction. The fourth level indicates that the language of “two” (i. e., the twofold truth in terms of C and U) at the first three levels of discourses should be perceived as different levels of the conventional or conceptual truth. The ultimate one at the fourth level, in contrast to the first three, is “beyond” any discursive discourse, that is, the discourse in which the fabrications of being and non-being, and the conventional and the ultimate cannot be avoided. In other words, emptiness, in fact, is beyond being and non-being. What is called “the ultimate truth”, as shown above, cannot be put into words and concepts, and as such it ends with fourfold negation which points to the level of “speech-forgetting and thinking-terminating,” also known as


Ellen Y. ZHANG

the level of “sacred silence.” This is an apophatic gesture in Buddhism.¹⁵ Why such kind of negation is needed for the Buddhist doctrine according to Nāgārjuna? It is interesting to see that Nāgārjuna has been viewed by many (even within the Buddhist tradition) as being too nihilistic for he prefers to the use of the nonaffirming negation. For him, the method of negation as a linguistic construct, does not, however, lend to affirmation-qua-negation since Nāgārjuna insists that any affirmation pointing to conceptual fixation and determination should be relinquished since there is no conceptual doctrine about the real or the ultimate.¹⁶ In this sense, emptiness cannot be seen as a form of ontological affirmation in a negative gesture. At the ultimate level, there is “no-doctrine-about-thereal” or “no-doctrine-about-the-ultimate.” In other words, the onto-theological framework in either being or non-being does not have a domain that is proper to itself, and as such it has to reject its own determinacy. No doubt, Nāgārjuna’s position makes sense only when we locate his argument back to the context of the Buddhist debates on the doctrinal meanings of nirvāna, śūnyatā, enlightenment, the Buddha-nature (in Chinese Māhayāna Buddhism), as well as other metaphysical issues the Buddha intends to avoid in his early teaching. That is to say, the self-deconstructive nature of Nāgārjuna’s negation should be seen as a reaction to the onto-theological stance within Buddhism in his time. Although the “historical Buddha” told his disciples that “Let the dharma be your guide,” the dharma was soon canonized and dogmatized instead of a guide. To use the Buddha’s well-known analogy, a raft that can be used for someone to cross the river should not to be carried around on the back afterward. The historical accounts of Buddhism show us that Buddha’s teachings on enlightenment became more and more dogmatic when Buddhism was more established and institutionalized. Thus the reaction to this transformation was the development of Māhayāna Buddhism, “a revolution as important to Buddhism as the Protestant reformation for Christianity.”¹⁷ Nevertheless, Nāgār-

 In “The Non-duality of Speech and Silence: A comparative Analysis of Jizang’s Thought on Language and Beyond,” Chien-hsing Ho pays a particular attention to the notion of “sacred silence,” contending that there are two kinds of “silence” in Jizang’s method of negation, that is, silence or non-speech as a peculiar form of expression that implies the interdependence between speech and silence, and silence as a way to indicate ineffability. Ho also speaks of these two kinds of silence in terms of silence-qua- teaching and silence-qua-principle. See Ho’s essay in Dao: A Journal Comparative Philosophy, Vol. 11, 2012, 13.  In Buddhism, the duality between human existence and enlightenment (Nirvana) is transcended by viewing all of reality as dependently arising and impermanent, in which no fixed essence or reality can be applied to either oneself or the universe.  See David Loy, “The Deconstruction of Buddhism” in Derrida and Negative Theology. Edited by Harold Coward and Toby Foshay. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 227– 254.

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


juna’s apophatic gesture in a manner of neither…nor (or negative theology) puts himself in a difficult situation: he must either keep deconstructing what he has affirmed or keep his mouth shut.¹⁸ In Māhayānic Buddhism in China (中國大乘學), Fang Dongmei (Thomé H. Fong 方東美) observes that Nāgārjuna’s negation turns out to be a form of “critical philosophy” although it is meant to be a form of “speculative philosophy” (Fang, 1986, 309). The critical dimension that Fang speaks of is characterized by Nāgārjuna and later by Jizang in China in their methods of negating all kinds of views that lend to a dualistic way of thinking: This world vs. the other world, delusion vs. enlightenment, the conventional vs. the ultimate, and samsāra vs. nirvana. Fang’s use of “critical philosophy” is helpful to understand the Buddhist approach to twofold truth since the primary task of critical philosophy is criticism through negation rather than justification of knowledge. As things-deconstructed, emptiness is always an open entity, or concept sous rapture (under erasure). Thus, it does not assert itself as an absolute principle as what it has said, but what kind of effects it may evoke by the said or the unsaid. The Buddhist negativity implies the argument that negation of other viewpoints cannot be recuperated by a pure affirmation in its absolute sense, since there is always a conceptual overflow (excess) that remains undefined and unfixed. Perhaps, one can say this is the Buddhist version of “theology of the infinite” in a Tillichian term). Nevertheless, Chinese Ch’an/Zen Buddhism, which follows the basic spirit of Nāgārjuna and Jizang, has to deal with the problem of too much negativity by supplementing negation with affirmative language exemplified by expressions such as the Buddha-nature, the Buddha mind, the ordinary mind, and etc.

In his another work (as the editor) Healing Deconstruction: Postmodern Thought in Buddhism and Christianity (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996), Loy argues that comparative studies of Buddhism and Christianity create an alternative way to look at the human existence.  Does emptiness denote a skeptical position about all knowledge-claims or suggest a different kind of knowledge that is beyond a conceptually constructed existence or knowledge? Or, is the Madhyāmika negativity simply a way of negation that has no position in itself? These questions are characterized by what can be viewed as a debate on essentialism-vs.-nihilism in Buddhism. For a detail discussion on this issue, one can see Andrew P. Tuck, Comparative Philosophy and the Philosophy of Scholarship. (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).


Ellen Y. ZHANG

3 Being, Non-Being and Post-Onto-logical Theology When we look at how Māhayāna Buddhists use “no-doctrine-about-the-real” or “no-doctrine-about-the-ultimate” to indicate the ultimate truth and the true nature of things (suchness, tathatā), the apophatic tone implied in emptiness is quite similar to that in Tillich’s notion of the-God-beyond-God since both see the limit of the ultimate to be articulated and interpreted in a discourse through metaphysical concepts. For Buddhists, the limit of the philosophical discourse can be supplemented by other kinds of discourses such as the symbolic, the analogical, the poetic, the paradoxical, and more importantly, meditative silence, whereas for Tillich the limit of the metaphysical discourse could be avoided through a more open onto-theological system by allowing something more “ecstatically transcendent” that can eventually overcome the limit of philosophical discourse. Instead of crossing out the word “Being” as what Marion does, Tillich maintains the word Being, but at the same time attempts to move beyond metaphysical categorization. Thus he writes, “Being remains the content, the mystery, and the eternal aporia of thinking” (Tillich, 1957, Vol. 2:11). Yet for Tillich, God’s ineffability has nothing to do with vagueness, nor with something that leads away from the concrete. To the contrary, it leads back to history itself, to the existence of human condition. If borrowing the notion of twofold truth from Buddhism, we may say that Tillich’s onto-theological arguments operate at the level of the conventional truth while his the-God-beyond-God talk operates at the level of the ultimate truth. It is between the dynamic interaction of the two where Tillich talks about the divine revelation and the possible transformation of a “New Being.” Nevertheless, Tillich is more on the side of cataphatic with regard to the conventional truth (if the Buddhist term could be borrowed here) and discursive discourse. For Tillich it is the “method of correlation” in his systematic theology by which the discourse of philosophy concerning existence interacts with the discourse of theology concerning Christ: reason and revelation, being and God, existence and transcendence/God, finite and infinite, life and Spirit, history and Kingdom of God, and so on. The discourse of philosophy seeks an identity between the logos of reality whereas the discourse of theology locates logos “where that which concerns him ultimately is manifest . . . not the universal logos but the Logos who became flesh,’ that is, the logos manifesting itself in a particular historical event” (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:23). Contra Buddhism, Tillich’s theology maintains that God as the [personified] Other who nevertheless involves in human history with visible presence and activity. In addition, the Bud-

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


dhist doctrine of śūnyatā (emptiness) as pratītya-samutpāda (dependently originating) cannot fit the Christian theology about God as “the o r i g i n a l being, underived from anything else,” that is, a self-caused cause. In his book Indiscretion: Finitude and the Naming of God, Thomas A. Carlson explicates pre-modern apophatic approaches to God in light of postmodern approaches to the mystery of human subjectivity. He applies a negative theology to an apophatic anthropology, contending that Christian mystics have approached the problem of the ineffable by using “negative” language as grammatical negation or the symbolic language of “darkness” as way to express the infinite. In line with this observation, we should say that Tillich is by no means submitting himself to the method of negativity. His use of the word “abyss” does not point to exactly the same connotation of God suggested by Christian mystics. Moreover, compared with most Christian mystics, Tillich has a much higher view of human reason (as well as faith) to ask ontological questions and the answer to the question that can be partially found within humanity itself, since, as Tillich sees it, human beings “experience directly and immediately the structure of being and its elements (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:169). After all, it is the language of being that bears the mark of Tillich’s discourse on both philosophy and theology, although Tillich refuses to identify the question of being with the question of God. Further, on Tillich’s account, the language of being is way to overcome the anxiety of non-being, that is, existential anguish. That being said, Tillich’s concept of God beyond God or Being above being still puts into the question concerning the onto-theological framework in that whether or not onto-theology is able to come to closure in its own articulation. It should be pointed out that the “ground” of being for Tillich is not the same as a transcendental-signified as he maintains that even being itself includes nonbeing, and that God is both the richness of the ground of being and the dynamic, chaotic abyss of being. By his rejection of God as a being in the totality of being either highest or original, Tillich is careful to avoid any insinuation that God, despite his nature as the ground of being, functions as causa sui free from all potentiality. This is an intriguing argument in Tillich’s theology as it contains the notion that God is A and non-A simultaneously. In the early stage of BuddhistChristian dialogue during 1980s, Japanese scholar Mao Abe employs the concept kenosis (emptying) in the Christian tradition, holding that “both God and śūnyatā function in a similarly paradoxical fashion: God/śūnyatā is not God/ śūnyatā, and because God/śūnyatā does not affirm itself as God/śūnyatā, God/ śūnyatā is really God/ śūnyatā” (Loy, 1996, 8). One of the frequently used phrases in Tillich’s theology is “abyss without ground.” Does the word “abyss” here refer to the total absence of a ground or a need for the foundation of existence? The very idea that God is both ground and abyss suggests something quite unconven-


Ellen Y. ZHANG

tional. The concept of “abyss without ground” does not function to establish familiar language about God; instead it only functions in symbolic realm in terms of theological formulations. More importantly, when Tillich speaks of God as both ground (foundation) and abyss (a lack of foundation), he relates the divine to his understanding of the existential reality, indicating that one needs to account for “the abysmal element” or “under-tow” of the divine. God is the depth of being and reality, and “depth” here also denotes a strong sense of contingency, and even uncertainty, ambiguity and indeterminacy. This is quite a radical theological view but not uncommon from an Existentialist perspective.¹⁹ For Tillich, there is always a reality that is paradoxical, dialectical, and indeterminate.²⁰ Meanwhile, for Tillich it is the finitude of humanity that drives us to the question of the transcendent and ultimate. Rather than appropriating being qua being in an abstract manner, human beings break through the restrictions by experiencing the dynamic, the dialectic, and creative elements in a specific cultural condition as well as experiencing the identity between what is contingent and what is eternal. In Tillich’s theology, both the formless void and the ordered structure of reality are contained in God for “the ground is not only an abyss in which every form disappears; it also is the source from which every form emerges” (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:158). Therefore, holding ground and abyss together will “prevent the dynamics in God from being transformed into pure actuality” (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:246). Moreover, this abysmal side of divinity can never be named as such, it “cannot be thought as something that is; nor can it be thought as something that is not” (Tillich, 1951, Vol. 1:179). This apopahtic argument is made very clear in the second part of Systematic Theology and other works that have a more Existentialist bent. It is noteworthy here that when Tillich talks about God as “being in itself” and being transformed into “pure actuality,” he is worry about the potential theological fixation and dogmas which can undermine the dynamic nature of the divine. Despite his commitment to onto-theology, Tillich also wants to go across the boundary. For him, God is the divine

 Throughout his writings Tillich addresses various existential ideas: immediate and personal experience; finitude; estrangement; loneliness; anxiety, guilt; despair; reconciliation. These concepts can be considered both objectively and existentially, as will be shown below. Tillich also references various philosophers that he locates in the existential tradition, such as Schelling, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Heidegger, and Bultmann.  Here, Tillich insists that all finite reality is open to mutual interdependence or dialectical interrelatedness. In other words, the very fact of human finitude points to the openness of a conditioned being. This idea, to a certain degree, resembles the Buddhist notion of dependently originating of all reality. Both imply the condition of human existence.

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


Aporia, the mystery of the world. In contemporary discourse, aporia represents “a dead-end to a line of thought which calls for the mediation of new ideas or perhaps the reformulation of the question asked” (Hawley, 2000, 45). Meanwhile, Tillich develops a tightly structured argument in which God as Being-itself also indicates a non-dualistic polarity: God is beyond essence and existence, subject and object, and finitude and infinity. Thus, God, as Being-itself, infinitely transcends everything that is, even though everything that is grounded on God. Tillich appreciates the idea held by Christian mystics in terms of an inner search for transcendence wherein there is the ultimate identity of subject and object, and of what is immanent and what is transcendent – something, as Tillich puts it in The Theology of Culture: “The Augustinian tradition can rightly be called mystical, if mysticism is defined as the experience of the identity of subject and object in relation to Being itself. In terms of our ideas of stranger and estrangement, Meister Eckhart says: ‘There is between God and the soul neither strangeness nor remoteness, therefore the soul is not only equal with God but it is … the same that He is.’ This is, of course, a paradoxical statement, as Eckhart and all mystics knew; for in order to state the identity, an element of non-identity must be presupposed. This proved to be the dynamic and critical point in ontological approaches.” (Tillich, 1959, 15). Metaphysically speaking, oneness or unity presupposes the notion of two, but ultimately arrives at an idea of oneness. With regard to theological language, Tillich’s God above God suggests a notion of the ultimate which is unnameable, and the ineffable. For Nāgārjuna, “emptiness” as ineffable suchness points to the ultimate One (albeit in its negative form) which is devoid of any designation. It seems that there are some similarities between the Buddhist notion of emptiness and Tillich’s idea of God as Being-itself, because they both signify the Ultimate in an apophatic manner. Dourley rightly points out that “Tillich’s sustained insistence on the necessity of moving beyond subject/object categories in an adequate experience and expression of the divine/human relationship” has a strong affinity with the Christian apophatic tradition and that his sympathetic view toward mysticism is demonstrated also in his encounter with Hisamatsu Shin’ichi (久松真一), a Japanese philosopher and Zen Buddhist scholar, in 1957 (Dourley, 2000, 18), as both suggest the problematic of conceptual determinacy in approaching the ultimate reality. In this respect, we have to admit that there is a post-onto-theological dimension in Tillich’s systematic theology, particularly when he accepts some premises in negative theology which, as Hart puts it, “cannot lead us silently into the immediate presence of a deity regarded as res cogitans. Its function is otherwise: it reminds us that God escapes all programmes, even the many subtle ones devel-


Ellen Y. ZHANG

oped by philosophers and theologians. God is possible, says the positive theologian, meaning that the divine is revealed if only we would see. … God is impossible, says the negative theologian, meaning that God always exceeds the concept of God. Each theology claims priority: without negative theology God talk would decay into idolatry, yet without positive theology, there would be no God talk in the first place. It is a permanent task of religious thought to keep the negative and positive in play, to demonstrate that the impossible is not in contradiction with the possible” (Hart, 2000, 278). Charles Winquist claims that “Tillich is not a postmodern theologian. He clearly works within the onto-theological tradition” (Winquist, 1994, 56). PostTillichians (i. e., postmodernist and process theologians), such as John Caputo and David Ray Griffin, unquestionably have reservations with Tillich’s obsession with the “ground” or “being” instead of the “un-ground” or “event” may neglect the dynamic and dialectic aspect of Tillich’s thought despite his confinement to the argument of being.²¹ Yet such kind of view may overlook the complexity of Tillich’s theological position. Huggins has observed, “Tillich’s thought is a helpful, perhaps surprising, aid in this respect, representing a position that inhabits the language and categories of metaphysics and ontology while still acknowledging their internal tensions. As such, Tillich does not represent the pinnacle of modern, post-Enlightenment arrogance but instead prefigures post-onto-theological thought even while he remains embedded in modernity” (Huggins, 2012, 27). As Tillich stresses, the goal of negation in terms of the God above God is to separate God from the static duality of being and non-being. In this sense, negation implies affirmation, and apophasis harbors cataphasis. Therefore, one should not be surprising to see Tillich’s argument that human existence (being) is conditioned by the ground of being (God). To translate this idea into a Buddhist term, Tillich’s idea could be understood as human existence being devoid of its self-nature, that is, “essence” since it is “dependently arising” through the “essence” of divinity. The question is then how can one create the meaning of existence if it has an a priori meaning? Jean Paul Sartre, an existentialist par excellence, maintains that a person is the sum total of his or her action/choice in life, but Tillich needs to qualify this statement because it gives no room whatsoever for humanity’s participation in the divine power. Tillich is fully aware of the limits of the ontological arguments, yet he insists that it is important for philosophy and theology to acknowledge the conditioned and the un-

 David Ray Griffin, for example, argues that Tillich’s doctrine of God is still problematic because it cannot do justice to divine agency due to the fact that it is ultimately semi-deistic that demands a conceptual transcendence.

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


conditional elements in the structure of human reason and the reality of free choice. Nevertheless, Tillich agrees with Sartre that non-being exists only on the surface of being in that there must be something before one experiences the lack of it. For Tillich, it is not unusual for one to be in a boundary situation where he/she has to make a choice at certain moment, and the structures of freedom cannot be avoided. Tillich also agrees with Sartre in terms of the reality of human finitude, but the former emphasizes more “the substance of religion as the thrust of the eternal into finitude,” holding that “If a community gives general recognition to a confessional foundation whose meaning transcends subjective belief or doubt, it will hold together even while allowing room for tendencies toward doubt, criticism, and uncertainty” (Tillich, 1967, 32)²² It is not difficult to acknowledge that Tillich’s concept of non-being or emptiness is different from that in the Buddhist tradition. First of all, the Buddhist idea of emptiness should not be taken as a “no-reality” doctrine, as Māhayāna Buddhism clearly confirms the existence of the reality, but only denies non-dependently originating things in reality. Furthermore, for the Buddhist, emptiness is not just a nonbeing or nothingness, but beyond being and nonbeing. That is to say, emptiness is neither being or nonbeing, nor both being and nonbeing, nor neither being nor nonbeing. Tillich, however, relates nonbeing (as a psychological problem) to an ontology of anxiety in that nonbeing strives toward being when “anxiety strives to become fear (Tillich, 1952, 39). He also claims that nonbeing the negation of every concept. Here, for Tillich then, non-being means “nothingness”, “zero”, and “loss of meaning.” Nevertheless, Tillich also contends that nonbeing is a part of being, just as destruction is a part of creation: “The vitality that can stand the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning” (Tillich, 1952, 42). This sounds very close to the existentialist position of Sartre who perceives nothingness as a kind of force that impedes each object’s existence. Thus, the Buddhist notion of emptiness is that “negative” (e. g., “the terror of nothingness”) as expressed by existentialists. But compared to Buddhism, Tillich is much more ‘positive” about having acquired universals which liberate all human beings from bondage to concrete [suffering] situations, that is, estrangement.

 This argument also has a lot to do with Tillich’s concern for religious dogmatism which, says Tillich, “comes into being when an historical religion is cloaked with the unconditional validity of the divine, as when a book, person, community, institution, or doctrine claims absolute authority and demands the submission of every other reality. … The demonic is something finite and limited which has been invested with the stature of the infinite.” See Tillich, On the Boundary, 40.


Ellen Y. ZHANG

In the 21st century, many people believe that contemporary philosophers or even theologians have to dismiss the idea of theistic God and pot instead for a secular humanism.²³ Tillich’s idea of God as the ground of being instead of a being tells us how contemporary theologians in the post-Enlightenment age continue to wrestle with the problem of God and to make proposals for understanding the divine in order to deal with new existential issues of humanity. Although Tillich submits the idea that doing away with the residue of onto-(theo)-logy may miss the point, he is willing to go across the boundary to seek the new possibility to understand the relationship between the human existence and the divine essence. Tillich’s quest makes one to come to terms with the theological condition of thought in a contemporary context, which inspires one to go beyond theism (or atheism), especially after the “death of God” talk, to ask how the finite opens itself up for the infinite.

4 Works Cited: Carlson, Thomas A. 1999. Indiscretion: Finitude and the Naming of God. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Clayton, Philip. 2000. The Problem of God in Modern Thought. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Clayton, John. 1987. “Introducing Paul Tillich’s Writings in the Philosophy of Religion,” Paul Tillich. Main Works / hauptwerke Volume 4: Writings in the Philosophy of Religion. Berlin: de Gruyter. Dourley, John. 2005. “Tillich’s Appropriation of Meister Eckhart – an Appreciative Critique,” Revista Eletrônica Correlatio n. 7. Fang, Dongmei. 1986. Zhongguo Dashengxue, (Māhayānic Buddhism in China), 2nd edition. Taibei 臺北:Liming Culture Enterprise, Limited 黎明文化事業公司. Faure, Bernard. 1996. Chan Insights and Oversights. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996). Hart, Kevin. 2000. The Trespass of the Sign: Deconstruction, Theology, and Philosophy. New York: Fordham University Press. Hawley, John C. (ed). 2000. Divine Aporia: Postmodern Conversations about the Other. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press. Ho, Chien-hsing. “The Non-duality of Speech and Silence: A comparative Analysis of Jizang’s Thought on Language and Beyond,” Dao: A Comparative Philosophy, Vol. 11, 2012, 1 – 19. Huggins, J. Blake. 2012. “Tillich and Ontotheology: On the Fidelity of Betrayal,” Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, no. 3. Jizang. Dasheng Xuanlun 大乘玄論 (Profound Exposition of Māhayāna). T. vol. 45. no. 1853.

 For example, as a moral realist, Iris Murdock claims, “We need a theology which can continue without God…In this time of deep change, it seems better to drop to drop the word ‘God’”. See Murdock, Metaphysics as a Guide to Moral, 511, 469.

When the Ground of Being Encounters Emptiness: Tillich and Buddhism


Loy, David. 1992. “The Deconstruction of Buddhism” in Derrida and Negative Theology. Harold Coward and Toby Foshay (eds). (Albany: State University of New York Press. Loy, David (ed.). 1996. Healing Deconstruction: Postmodern Thought in Buddhism and Christianity. Atlanta: Scholars Press. Marion, Jean-Luc. 1995. God without Being – Hors-Texte. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Murdock, Iris. 1993. Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. New York: Penguin. Ogden, Steven G. 2007. The Presence of God in the World: A Contribution to Postmodern Christology. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. Olson, Duane. 2004. Quodlibet Journal. Volume 6, Number 3, July – September. Sells, Michael. 1994. Mystical Languages of Unsaying. Chicago: University of Chicago. Thatamanil, John J. 2006. The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament, Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Tillich, Paul. 1951 – 1963. Systematic Theology. Vol. I – III, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Tillich, Paul. 1952. The Courage to Be. New Haven: Yale University. Tillich, Paul. 1959. The Theology of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press. Tillich, Paul. 1967. On the Boundary: An Autobiographical Sketch. London: Collins. Tuck, Andrew P. 1990. Comparative Philosophy and the Philosophy of Scholarship. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press. Winquist, Charles. 1994. Desiring Theology. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

William NG Yau-nang

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth 1 Introduction The significance of the symbolical expression of religious facts and ideas has been confirmed by the comparative study of religions. Religious symbols are believed to be among the most important means of representing, relating to and communicating with one’s ultimate concern. What a religious symbol is and how it works are issues that can be studied from different perspectives and disciplines such as philosophy, literature, psychological analysis, theology, etc. Adopting a theological and philosophical perspective, Paul Tillich provides insightful thoughts on the relationship between religious symbols and ultimate concern in his widely read and extremely influential work Dynamics of Faith. ¹ Many aspects of Tillich’s thought have been examined in detail. However, his concept of religious symbol is one of the very few areas that has yet to be fully explored.² This study makes use of his insight into religious symbol to interpret the symbol of the lotus in Asian religions. Moreover, Tillich is an openminded scholar and he does not limit himself to Christianity, but rather he dialogues with other religious traditions.³ The present study utilizes the concepts employed by Tillich in his understanding of religious symbolism to shed light upon our understanding of the symbol of the lotus in Asian religious traditions. Traditional studies have placed their emphasis upon the lotus in general; the current study, however, focuses on the idea of lotus-birth (蓮生) which is crucial to the understanding of Asian cultures.

 Paul Tillich, “Symbols of Faith” in Dynamics of Faith, (N.Y.: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1958), 41– 54. Tillich’s understanding of religious symbolism is also expressed in another paper entitled “The Nature of Religious Language” in his Theology of Culture, (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1964), 53 – 67.  There are only a few studies on this topic. See William L. Rowe, Religious Symbols and God: A Philosophical Study of Tillich’s Theology (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1968). Donald Dreisbach, Symbols and Salvation: Paul Tillich’s Doctrine of Religious Symbols and his Interpretation of the Symbols of the Christian Tradition (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1993).  Paul Tillich, Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994). Paul Tillich, The Encounter of Religions and Quasi-Religions. Edited by Terence Thomas (Ontario, Canada: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1990). DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-006


William NG Yau-nang

The Chinese language retains many terms related to lotus-birth in everyday usage, for example Lianshengguizi (連生貴子), an idiom expressing the idea of continuously giving birth to noble sons. Since the Chinese characters for lotus (蓮) and continuation (連) have the same pronunciation, the former is often used as a substitute for the latter. As a result, on visual expression the lotus flower is often used to denote the meaning of continuous and uninterrupted. The Chinese New Year painting for Lianshengguizi is a good example of such use. Often included in the painting are elements such as a lotus flower, children, a reed pipe wind instrument called a sheng (笙) and fish. Together they express the meaning of giving birth to noble sons continuously. As for the musical instrument sheng, it denotes the meaning of giving birth for the character bears the same pronunciation as the character for birth (sheng, 生). Lotus-birth is also a common motif in traditional Chinese folk crafts and it often appears on jade carving, decoration on clothing or even ornaments for the home. It is clear that the lotus is one of the most commonly-used symbolic plants in Chinese civilization. It is also worthwhile to note the close relationship between the lotus and religion in traditional Chinese culture. With regard to religion, it is natural for Chinese people to think of Buddhism when the lotus is mentioned.⁴ M. Eliade pointed out many years ago that within the Buddhism tradition the lotus symbolizes changes that come with different times or eras. In recent years, Professor S. Prasopchigchana from the University of Calcutta in India and Burapha University in Thailand agrees that Buddhist symbolism developed by continuously assimilating and integrating non-Buddhist values, thus accepting countless fundamental ideas of the Indian traditional religious ideas and rituals.⁵ However, the lotus is not a symbol unique to the Buddhist religion.⁶ William E. Ward, in his research on the meaning of the lotus symbol in Buddhist art and

 In Chinese Buddhist temples, it is very common to find a lotus pond and the image and scripture of the Buddha and bodhisattva are usually depicted as either sitting or standing on a lotus flower. For a brief introduction to the lotus as a symbolic representation in Buddhism, see Sarunya Prasopchigchana, “Symbolic Representation in Buddhism”, 100 – 111, esp. 103 – 104. Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche (蓮花生大士) in Tibetan Buddhism relates directly to the legend of being reborn from the lotus.  Sarunya Prasopchigchana, “Symbolic Representation in Buddhism”, International Journal on Humanistic Ideology 4 (2011), 101– 111, esp. 103 – 104.  See J. C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), 100 – 102. Moe, “Symbol of the Lotus.” GnosticWarriorcom. March 6, 2013. Online: June 29, 2015. Available at: Rikel Kandeler and Wolfram R. Ullrich, “Symbolism of Plants: Examples from European-Mediterranean Cul-

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


philosophy, says in summary that: “to the oriental and especially the Buddhist, the lotus flower is sacred and its blossom is filled with meaning. For the occidental, this flower of the water contains little more than satisfying beauty”.⁷ According to Ward, lotus flowers often possess important religious meaning to the oriental nations; I agree with this observation. In addition, academia has already noticed that the lotus is an important religious symbol that spans the oriental world,⁸ and even influences some branches of Christianity.⁹ As the lotus has extensive symbolism and exists across different religions, we have good reason to employ a comparative approach to study the different aspects of this common religious symbol. For the sake of focus, the current study attempts to use a comparative religious approach to study the meaning of “lotus-birth” as a religious symbol.¹⁰ The so-called “lotus-birth”, put simply, means abirth related to the lotus flower. However, it can have different specific meanings, including birth in a lotus, birth from a lotus or even birth by means of a lotus, etc. Through this study, this paper attempts to complete the following tasks: 1. Outline Tillich’s main ideas of religious symbol. 2. Discuss the symbol of “lotus-birth” across different Asian religions. 3. Explore this religious symbol through the study of visual image combined with relevant myths, legends and religious narratives.

ture Presented with Biology and History of Art,” in Journal of Experimental Botany 60 (2009), 2461– 2464.  William E. Ward, “The Lotus Symbol: Its Meaning in Buddhist Art and Philosophy,” in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 11 (1952), 135 – 146.  See J. C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols. (N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 1978), 100 – 102. Pedram Rezania, “Symbol of Lotus in Ancient World,” in Life Science Journal 8 (2011), 309 – 312.  Chan, Kim-kwong, “Lotus and Swastika in Assyrian Church in China: Buddhist Legacy for Aryan Heritage? In Ching Feng, n.s. 10.1– 2 (2010 – 2011), 27– 43.  I have initiated my first research on the “Lotus Children” in 2009. Cf: p761– 11– 01.shtm In November, 2014, I invited three papers related to the theme of lotus-birth children in the “Hermeneutics and Praxis: International Conference on Religions in Northwestern China”. A cooperative research proposal was announced during the conference to join hands with representatives from the Dunhuang Institute to study this theme. This announcement received responses in the local academic circle. Li Meixian presented on the topic, “From Religion to Folk Art: Lotus, Lotus-birth and Lotus Children [從宗教到民俗 – 蓮花·蓮花化生化生童子·蓮花 童子]” in the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Buddhist Art Lecture Series 2015: New Vision in the Research of Silk Road Buddhist Art at Hong Kong University on 14 June, 2015. In Li’s presentation, the Egyptian side of the story was presented together with that of Chinese culture in general and Chinese Buddhism in particular. However, little was said about Daoism and Hinduism.



William NG Yau-nang

Sort out the different patterns through studying religious narratives. Due to space limitations, this paper will focus on ancient Egypt and Chinese Buddhism and Daoism.

Before exploring the idea of lotus-birth in Eastern religions, we should provide a brief summary of Tillich’s idea of religious symbol.

2 Tillich’s Idea of Religious Symbol 2.1 Symbol and the Ultimate In his Dynamics of Faith, Tillich highlights a total of six important characteristics of symbol,¹¹ but it is the first four that are most relevant to our present study.¹² Tillich sets out his main idea regarding the link between religious symbolism and ultimate concern explicitly in the opening paragraph of his “The Meaning of Symbol” by stating that “Man’s ultimate concern must be expressed symbolically, because symbolic language alone is able to express the ultimate.”¹³ We will proceed with our discussion after we go through Tillich’s main points on symbols so as to provide inspiration for further the interpretation of Asian religious narrative.

2.2 Symbol and Sign In order to bring out the uniqueness of symbol, Tillich compares the similarity and differences between symbol and sign. He thinks that “Symbols have one characteristic in common with signs; they point beyond themselves to something else.”¹⁴ Tillich believes that both sign and symbol point to something else be-

 Paul Tillich, “Symbols of Faith” in Dynamics of Faith, 41– 54. Tillich also mentions these six characteristics in another paper entitled “The Nature of Religious Language” in his Theology of Culture, 53 – 67.  The fifth point asserted that “symbols cannot be produced intentionally—this is the fifth characteristic. They grow out of the individual or collective unconscious and cannot function without being accepted by the unconscious dimension of our being.” Quotation in 43. “The sixth and last characteristic of the symbol is a consequence of the fact that symbols cannot be invented. Like living beings, they grow and they die.” Quotation in 43.  Paul Tillich, “Symbols of Faith,” 41.  Paul Tillich, “Symbols of Faith”, 41– 42.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


yond themselves, yet the two differ in whether they participate in the reality of that to which they point. The concept of participation is explained through the example of a national flag. Tillich states that “the flag participates in the power and dignity of the nation for which it stands. Therefore, it cannot be replaced except after an historic catastrophe that changes the reality of the nation which it symbolizes. An attack on the flag is felt as an attack on majesty of the group in which it is acknowledged. Such an attack is considered blasphemy.”¹⁵

2.3 Symbol and Transformation The third and fourth characteristics Tillich mentions refer to the transformative dimension of symbol. In his own words, “The symbol’s fourth characteristic not only opens up dimensions and elements of reality which otherwise would remain unapproachable but also unlocks dimensions and elements of our soul which correspond to the dimensions and elements of reality.”¹⁶

2.4 A Summary of Tillich’s Idea In short, Tillich makes four inspiring points related to the current theme. First, both symbols and signs point beyond themselves to something else; they signify something other than themselves.¹⁷ Second, Tillich claims that the basic difference between signs and symbols is that only symbols participate in the reality of that to which they point. William Rowe criticizes the ambiguity of this expression and proposes what he thinks is a more fruitful means of understanding Tillich’s idea. He thinks the difference lies in the way human beings treat the symbol, as people “respond to, feel toward, and treat the symbol in ways essentially similar to the ways we respond to, feel toward, and treat that for which the symbol stands.” Following this line of interpretation, the national flag cited as an example in Tillich’s text “participates in the nation in the sense that it share in the dignity we attribute to the nation.” Symbols participate in the reality that is symbolized “in the sense that human beings feel toward and treat” the former in the

 Paul Tillich, “Symbols of Faith”, 42.  See Paul Tillich, “Symbols of Faith”, 42– 43.  William Rowe provides an analysis from the angel of analytic philosophy and concludes that Tillich’s expression is unclear. See his Religious Symbols and God: A Philosophical Study of Tillich’s Theology, esp. 102– 105.


William NG Yau-nang

same way they do the latter.¹⁸ Third, symbols open up new dimensions of reality. Fourth, symbols unlock dimensions and elements of our soul. Instead of pursuing an abstract philosophical argument, I will seek to employ Tillich’s idea in interpreting the symbol of the lotus so as to determine whether Tillich’s idea applies or not. Before further reflecting upon this issue, let us first proceed to study the ancient Egyptian religion, Daoism and Buddhism respectively in the following three sections.

3 Lotus in Ancient Egyptian religion 3.1 Lotus and the Near East Joseph Campell writes in The Mask of God that: We find a particular style that is Chinese, yet an art that was already long developed in the nuclear Near East; for the interest in divination in Mesopotamia was obsessive. And just as in the patterns of the myths, so in this of the fathoming of the will of the heaven by auspices, it was especially with Sumer that the early Chinese connections appear to have been particularly close.¹⁹

According to Campell, the earliest Chinese myths owe their origins to both Mesopotamia and Northeast Asia. From the former, the Chinese brought in the myth of the ten kings and from the latter, myths of shamanism. Campell’s judgment of these two types of myth are not the concern of this paper, but his work serves as a useful reminder ofthe importance of looking beyond the geographical boundary of China in interpreting ancient Chinese myths and symbols. It seems to me that any serious study of the symbol of lotus should not miss the Near East, and it is Egypt that we must turn to first.²⁰

 William Rowe, Religious Symbols and God: A Philosophical Study of Tillich’s Theology, esp. 112– 113.  Joseph Campell, “Chinese Mythology,” in his The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology (N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1976), 371– 460; Quotation in 402.  I am awared of the fact that the symbol of lotus can also be found in ancient Assyrian religions, Hinduism etc. I plan to continue this line of enquiry in the next stage of the study of “lotus-birth”.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


3.2 Lotus and Ancient Egypt Research into religions in the Near East has shown that it is not difficult to find peoples using lotus as an important religious symbol. Robert A. Armour has collected Egyptian mythologies and presented them fluently in modern English. In his book Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt, he comes straight to the point:²¹ The myths of the lotus, a prominent Egyptian symbol from the ancient period down to modern times, are characteristic of the mythology of this ancient culture…The theme of the lotus myth takes its place among the major subjects of Egyptian mythology: creation, daily renewal, rejuvenation of the soul-and politics.

In fact, I would say that it is not hard to see that the lotus has a prominent position in ancient Egyptian religion. In order to better understand its use as a symbol, it is necessary to look at the lotus-related religious narratives. The ancient Egyptian civilization was born out of the River Nile, and the people found religious symbols in their local surroundings For example, Upper Egypt used the lotus, while the Lower Egypt used the papyrus. Both plants are clearly related to the Nile River. In Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, Prof. R. T. Rundle Clark mentions that:²² Like the Indians, the Egyptians sometimes symbolized the appearance of the great Life Spirit out of the water as a lotus – a water-lily – rising and opening its flower. The petals bent back to reveal the rising God of Light and Movement. In Plate 10 the soul is emerging, reborn, from the interior of the flower. By the side are buds in various stages of growth. Sometimes the flowers disclose a young child, the morning sun. The lotus is itself a form of the High God and is mythical in that there must have been a belief that the origins of life could be expressed in terms of a flower symbol. There is, however, another version, based on the way water-lily flowers blossom in the rays of the morning sun. They open to give up their scent to the Sun God.

Clark’s statements provide a general picture of the use of lotus-birth mythology in ancient Egypt. However, we know that the ancient Egyptian religion was very complex and there were a lot of changes and variations; the relationships between the gods and their importance altered during different dynasties.²³

 Robert A. Armour, Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt (Cairo and N.Y.: American University in Cairo Press, 2001), 1– 2.  R. T. Rundle Clark, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt (N.Y.: Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1959). Reprinted 1991, 239.  For example, Re changed a lot in the period of the New Kingdom. Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, “Through his fusion with Atum, Re had taken the place of a national god, to which


William NG Yau-nang

3.3 Lotus Birth Mythology in Ancient Egypt This paper does not intend to carry out a detailed examination of these issues, but rather only to outline several crucial meanings of the lotus-birth mythologies in Egyptian religion.

3.3.1 Creation of the world: One of the ancient Egyptian myths stated that there was a cosmic lotus in ancient times. In this myth, a limitless dark sea exists at the beginning of time. From the surface of the sea emerges a lotus bud. It is luminous and fragrant as it rises. With the opening of the bud there emerges the light of the world and the sweet perfume of the morning air.²⁴ This is a story the ancient Egyptians used to explain the origin of world.

3.3.2 The Lotus Origin of God: In another ancient Egyptian myth, the lotus represents Ra (also pronounced as Re). Lotus blooms emerge from the black water each day, just as the sun breaks through the darkness and lights up the earth. Beginning in the days of the Old Kingdom, many Egyptians believed that the lotus was the soul of Ra. This lotus flower was regarded as a god, known as Nefertum.²⁵ Strictly speaking, the lotus he was entitled, in this highly revered ennead.” See Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, Egypt: People, Gods, Pharaohs. (L. A.: Taschen, 2002), p. 178. In fact, Erik Hornung concluded in his Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many that “the nature and appearance of Egyptian gods are inimical to any closed, final, or univalent definition. We see them develop in history, and we see them leading a constantly changing life of their own. What a god is cannot be defined.” Quotation in his Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many. John Baines trans. (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1982), p. 258.  R. T. Rundle Clark, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt (N.Y.: Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1959). Reprinted 1991, 66 – 67.  George Hart, Egyptian Myths: The Legendary Past (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990). Hart writes “The imagery of the lotus flower seems to have been employed by the priests of Heliopolis to help explain the birth of the sun god Atum. Out of Nu emerged a lotus, together with the primeval mound, from which the sun god, still self-developed, rose as a child. The lotus itself was later identified with the god Nefertum (worshipped at Memphis); as a result there are spells in the Book of Dead to transform the deceased into Nefertum because he is the ‘lotus at the nose of the sun god’.” Quotation in p. 16. For a brief introduction to Nefertum, see the entry on Nefertum in Donald B. Redford ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2, (Ox-

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


flower is not itself the sun god, but represents a different stage in his incarnation. Ancient Egyptians believed that Ra traveled on a boat, going out early each day and coming back late. He was incarnated as different people and creatures at different times of the day: not only as a young person, a middle-aged person, and an old person, but he also as a ram at night, and then the next morning he would take the boat and go out again.²⁶

3.3.3 The Lotus Child and the Creation of Human Beings: From the beginning period, Nefertum was related to the birth of a little boy from a lotus, and this lotus-born boy was called Atum. The tears of this boy were believed to be the origin of human beings²⁷. Nefertum was born from the lotus flower; therefore, he already has the sanctity of the lotus. In artistic representations, Nefertum is commonly depicted anthropomorphically as a god wearing a lotus blossom on his head.²⁸. The association with the primeval creation myths also led to the depiction of Nefertum as a child seated on a lotus blossom or as a head emerging from a lotus, as demonstrated by the painted wooden statues found in the tomb of Tutankhamun (1334 BC to 1325 BC or 1323 BC).²⁹

ford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 524– 516. Helck, Wolfgang und Otto, Eberhard. Lexikon der Ägyptologie. (Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz, Band IV, 1980), pp. 378 – 379.  Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen depict the journey of Re as follows: “At night, Re travels through the kingdom of dead. Here, planets row the divine barque over the primeval water Nun, which flow through the underworld. When the barque approaches it becomes light, the dead awake and cheer him, for the sun heralds regeneration and rebirth for them even more strongly than the fertility god Osiris.” See Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, Egypt: People, Gods, Pharaohs (L.A.: Taschen, 2002), quotation in 175.  There are different myths explaining the origin of life and human being. One tells that human beings came from the god swallowing his own semen after masturbation. Another tells a story of making people from clay. For the former, see J. Zandee, “The Birth-Giving Creator God in Ancient Egypt,” in Alan B. Lloyd ed. Studies in Pharaonic Religion and Society in Honor of J. Gwyn Griffiths (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1992), 179. For the latter, see Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2000). It is also important to note that there is no evidence to show that Nefertum is a god of creation, though lotus is of importance in the understanding of the creation of world. See Helck, Wolfgang und Otto, Eberhard. Lexikon der Ägyptologie. (Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz), Band IV, 1980, pp. 378-379.  George Hart, Egyptian Myths: The Legendary Past, 16.  See The Complete Tutankhamun (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990), 66. Figure 8. See also Richard Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (London: Thames and Hudson, 2003), 134– 135.


William NG Yau-nang

3.3.4 The Cycle of Life and Death: Ancient Egyptians also explained the cycle of life and death using the lotus as a symbol. In the evening the water lily closes its blossom and draws the bud far under the surface of the water. In the morning the sun’s rays draw it to the surface again, where it opens to full bloom. This cycle of opening and closing not only echoes the change from day to night, but also led tothe association of the flower with the sun³⁰. At the same time, the lotus symbolizes the process of death and resurrection. Therefore, the myths surrounding lotus-birth also include the meaning of resurrection after death.³¹

3.3.5 Communication of Spiritual Energy: People offered lotuses to the gods as gifts and the fragrance was believed to have the power to cure certain types of pain for gods and the deceased. At the same time, it was also the means by which people drew power from the gods. The action of sniffing the lotus was the ritual by which the power of the lotus (sun god) could be obtained. In fact, due to the importance of the sweet perfume, not only are such images found frequently in ancient Egyptian art, but scholars even think that Nefertum was the Lord of Nose.³² In the Pyramid Texts, Nefertum is called “the lotus blossom which is before the nose of Re” (PT 266).³³ He was often thought of as the youthful god of the lotus blossom and because this association, he is also referred to as the god of perfumes³⁴. Of course, to obtain the power of the sun god is rebirth; that is, to share the power of the sun god.

 Robert A. Armour writes that “At evening the water lily closes its blossom and draws the bud far under the surface of the water, so far that it cannot be reached even by hand. In the morning the sun’s rays draw it to the surface again, where it opens to full bloom. This cycle caused early Egyptians to associate the flower with the coming of the sun.” See his, Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt, 1.  Therefore, there is a spell that the deceased used to transform himself into a lotus flower. “The flower is a symbol of rebirth since it came anew out of the depths each morning.” See Robert A. Armour, Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt, 1.  Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, Egypt: People, Gods, Pharaohs, 131.  See Pyramid Text Online (  See Richard Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (London: Thames and Hudson, 2003), 133.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


3.4 The above briefly presents the meaning of lotus-birth in ancient Egyptian religion, which can be summarized as follows: The lotus is a very common and widespread plant in Egypt, and this plant often appears in Egyptian mythologies. The lotus is a manifestation of a god or it gives birth to a god who at the same time is related to the creation of the human beings. The opening and closing of the lotus during the day and night also symbolizes the creation and rebirth of life. In addition, the lotus is a tool for the transferal of spiritual energy. It takes part in the ultimate concern as a mean of transferring spiritual energy.

4 Lotus-birth in Folk Daoism 4.1 Nuo Zha In Daoism, with respect to the process of life creation, the most important concept is the idea of Qi-transformation. Lao Zi, a representative thinker of classical Daoism said “The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things.” This process in which all things are created can be seen as an evolution or development of Dao. Although there are different interpretations of this passage, one important traditional view in religious Daoism is that all things are produced through the transformation of Qi. Dao is a unique force which generates Yin and Yang, two opposing and complementary forces. The Yin and Yang are two forms of Qi (force) and they interact harmoniously to produce the third element and in like manner, all things are produced.³⁵ The Daoist idea of Qi-transformation takes a different form in folk religious narratives. For instance, Nuo Zha, the Third Prince (哪吒三太子), was reincarnated with lotus flower. According to the Chinese legend, the process of the change between life and death was closely related to the lotus. Nuo Zha slayed the third son of the Dragon King and killed the servant of the Stone Goddess. He was then forced to kill himself by carving up his own flesh and dismembering his bones, returning them to his parents in repayment for the debt of his birth. Deprived of his body, Nuo Zha’s soul wandered until he was brought back to life with the

 An important discussion on the Chinese view of creation or lack of creation mythology can be found in N. J. Girardot, “The Problem of Creation Mythology in the Study of Chinese Religion,” in History of Religions 15 (1976), 289 – 318.


William NG Yau-nang

help of Immortal Tai Yi (太乙真人), who used lotus flower, lotus leafs, lotus roots and “golden elixir” ( 金丹 Jindan) to bring him back.³⁶ This story features in a popular work of Daoist fiction, Feng Shen Yan Yi, which describes the miraculous act of Immortal Taiyi as follows:³⁷ He ordered Golden Haze Lad, “Go to the lotus pond and pick two lotus flowers and three lotus leaves for me at once!” Golden Haze had brought the flowers and leaves and placed them on the floor. Fairy Primordial pulled all the petals off and arranged them in three piles: top, middle and bottom. Then he broke the stems into 300 pieces to represent the 300 bones. Finally, he put a lotus leaf on each of the three groups of lotus petals to represent heaven, earth and man. When this was done, he placed a grain of golden elixir in the center and worked his own vital energies into them. Then he grasped Nezha’s soul and threw it into the petals, leaves and stems. “What are you waiting for, Nezha? Look, you’re a man already,” he cried. There was a tremendous bang, and a boy leapt up before Fairy Primordial. He was young and dashing, with a handsome white face, red lips, shining eyes and a sturdy body sixteen feet tall. Nezha, now reincarnated from lotus flowers, kowtowed to Fairy Primordial in gratitude.”

In the Compendium of Information on the Gods of the Three Religions, a work on the Chinese pantheon, the story of Nuo Zha is recounted as follows:³⁸ Nazha was originally a Dalou immortal serving the Jade Emperor. He was six zhang tall (almost 20 metres) and crowned by a golden wheel (halo). He had three heads, nine eyes and eight arms. When he exhaled dark-green vapor, stepped on a rock, held the spell of order, and yelled aloud, clouds gathered and rain poured down; the heaven trembled and the earth quaked. Since there were many demon kings on earth, the Jade Emperor mandated him to descend to the mundane world. He was incarnated as the son of the Pagoda-bearing Heavenly King Li Jing. His mother was Madame Suzhi, who had given birth to the eldest son Junzha, the second son Muzha. The Commander [Nazha] was the third son…. The Commander cut his own flesh and bones and returned to his father. His soul then went to seek help from the Buddha. As he could subdue demons, the Buddha broke the lotus bud

 See Tony Allan, “The Childhood of Nezha,” in Tony Allan and Charles Phillips, Land of the Dragon: Chinese Myth. (London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 1999), 120 – 122.  Translated by Gu Zhizhong. Creation of the Gods (封神演義) (Beijing: New World Press, 1992), 158.  Anon.(Yuan). Edited ca. A.D. 1592. Compendium of Information on the Gods of the Three Religions. [三教搜神大全] 7 Juans Tibetan edition of the Ming Dynasty in Wang Qiugui (王秋桂) and Li Fengmou (李豐楙) ed. Collected Material on Chinese Popular Faith [中國民間信仰資料彙編] (Taibei: Taiwan Student Book Store, 1989) English translation adapted from Cheng, Christina Miu Bing. In Search of Folk Humour: The Rebellious Cult of Nezha (Hong Kong: Great Mountain Culture, 2009), 26 – 27. The same story also appears in Journey to the West with the work of resurrection done not by Immortal Tai Yi but by the Buddha.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


to form his bones, the rhizome to from his flesh, the stalk to form his calves, leaves to be used as his clothes. He was thus reincarnated

According to this work, which was officially included in the Daoist Canon compiled during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), Nuo Zha was regarded as a Daoist immortal and was also classified as a subordinate of the Daoist Jade Emperor. In other words, this lotus-rebirth narrative appeared in the formal Daoist Canon and was not confined to novels. However, I would like to point out that the practice of using materials from the lotus to recreate life does not seem to be consistent with the tradition of Daoism. The content of cutting off one’s own flesh and dissecting one’s own bones in Nuo Zha’s story appears to be extremely alien to the Chinese tradition, heavily influenced by Confucianism, which emphasizes filial duties. Confucianism teaches not to do harm to one’s own “body, hair and skin”, let alone going to the extremes of committing suicide in such a cruel and bloody manner. The Dao De Jing talks about creation as the process of on-going generation of the Dao. L. Kohn, in explaining the Daoist idea of creation and decline, provides a picture of this as a cosmological progress: “at the root of creation of Dao rested in deep chaos. Next, it evolved into the One, a concentrated state cosmic unity that is full of creative potential and often describe in Yijing terms as the Great Ultimate (Taiji). The One then brought forth the next level of existence, “the Three” (yin-yang combined), from which the myriad beings came forth. From original oneness, the world thus continued to move into ever greater states of distinction and differentiation.”³⁹ It is especially clear that one major Daoist tradition understands the cosmological process of “creation” in terms of the continuous movement or transformation of Qi (一氣轉生). A quick check with Kristofer Schipper and Franciscus Verellen’s The Taoist Canon reveals no special referent to the employment of the lotus in inducing reincarnation in texts on external alchemy (外丹) and inner alchemy(內丹). Consequently, it seems that it is necessary to reexamine the religious identity of Nuo Zha to determine his relationship with Daoism. Now let us look in detail at the rebirth of Nuo Zha. Modern research into Nuo Zha overlooks the process of the transformation which involves three parts: Nuo Zha, who was saved; Tai Yi Zhen Ren, who saved Nuo Zha; and the ritual used to save Nuo Zha. The following passage analyses the process from the perspective of Immortal Tai Yi and the rituals for being reborn from the lotus.

 Livia Kohn, Introducing Daoism (London and N.Y.: Routledge, 2009), 25.


William NG Yau-nang

4.2 Immortal Tai Yi Who is Immortal Tai Yi? The Immortal is usually depicted in artistic impressions with elements including the lotus and the lion. For example, in the wall painting found in the Palace of Eternal Bliss (永樂宮) in Shanxi Province (built during the Yuan Dynasty) the Immortal is depicted with a lotus to his left. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Immortal was depicted on silk velvet paper with his left foot stepping on a lotus. In the case of statues, the Immortal usually sits on a nine-headed lion or a base of lotus flower. However, these artistic depictions of the Immortal are not enough to explain Nuo Zha’s rebirth from the lotus. According to the Great Teaching of the Supreme Purity of Lingbao, the Taiyi Heavenly Lord of Salvation from Misery is the manifestation of the primordial Spirit. He belongs to the remote decedent of the Primordial Lord in the High. His spiritual ranking and status is, thus, not a result of cultivation but a natural outcome of this primordial divine origin. Put differently, Immortal Tai Yi is not a supernatural being transformed from the earthly world through cultivation. Rather, he is a directly responsive body of the original Purity or one of the manifestations of the primordial force.⁴⁰ Since Immortal Tai Yi is a responsive manifestation of the Dao, the coming into being of the Immortal himself has nothing to do with the lotus. In particular, Tai Yi has nothing to do with being reborn from the lotus. The Daoist scriptures mentionTai Yi sitting on a lotus, but there is no record or image of him being reborn from the lotus.⁴¹

4.3 Immortal Tai Yi and the Resurrection of Nuo Zha We will further investigate whether, despite the Daoist origins of Tai Yi bearing no relationship to the myth of being born from the lotus, the magic he uses to save Nuo Zha has any relationship with that same myth. I believe there is no positive evidence in the existing literature to support this relationship. According to Professor Xiao Dengfu, Tai Yi has three main tasks: to guide people to the Pure Land in the East; to save human pain and suffering; andto recommend souls for removal from hell.  See Ning Quanzhen and Wang Qizhen ed. Great Teaching of the Shangqing and Lingbao [上清 靈寶大法], Chapter 10.「太一救苦天尊,乃始青一炁,元始分形…天尊非修證品位,真人蓋元 始上帝之苗裔,玄炁神化之分形也,治青玄左府。」  See Liu Ke (劉科), “A Study of the Image of the Heavenly Reverence of Pain Relieving, Taiyi” (太乙救苦天尊圖像研究), in Journal for the Study of Religions(宗教學研究), in Vol. 1, 2014.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


The methods used by Immortal Tai Yi to ease pain and suffering were described in Daoist scriptures during six dynasties, and include two major types. The first dealt with the salvation of those already dead and the second dealt with the spiritual preparation of followers before they passed away. Tai Yi, according to the Daoist Canon, used a willow sprinkler to remove pain and diseases. To save the souls of the dead, he put up banners and altars, lit incense, and chanted scripture. After the Tang and Sung dynasties, the rituals became more complicated.⁴² As for saving the souls of the dead from hell, this included breaking into the hell, erecting altars, lighting the lamps, setting up banners, and chanting scripture. For those who died violent deaths or from chronic illnesses, he also uses “Heavenly Doctor” to cure their bodies and souls, and then uses other practices to help them be reborn. This includes the employment of water and fire to purify the souls before leading them to heaven. This is known as the dual-purification of water and fire and the achievement of Authenticity after changing into a deity [shuihuo liandu, xianhua dengzhen 水火交煉,仙化登真]. But such a Daoist religious practice is totally different from being reborn by means of the lotus, as mentioned in Nuo Zha’s legend. Let us compare the two ways of rebirth employed by Tai Yi: A) Tai Yi saved Nuo Zha: Took lotus leaves and put on the ground, to form head, body and limbs → broke the lotus stems into 300 pieces to be used as bones→ put the golden Dan in the middle → used magic to fix the wandering soul of Nuo Zha → looked at the lotus, pushed and shouted. B) Tai Yi saved the souls of the dead: set up banners → set up altars → lit the incense and lamps -> chanted the scriptures -> used yellow flower water to clean the dead → used fire paste to burn the ghost materials → invited the gods to lead them to heaven. These two soul-saving rituals for the dead conducted by Immortal Tai Yi can both be found in the official Daoist Canon compiled during the Ming Dynasty and they are completely different. Nevertheless, one must be reminded that Nuo Zha is no ordinary dead soul: he is a god from Heaven. This special identity may justify a different method for saving his soul. But a quick check with the Daoist Canon shows nothing else resembling the lotus ritual that Nuo Zha went through. From the limited information available, we can temporarily de-

 Later Daoist texts like the Miraculous Canon of Upper Order on Limitless People Saving of the Lingbao. [靈寶無量度人上品妙經] includes in the ritual elements like the fixation of the wandering soul and the purifying process of water and fire.


William NG Yau-nang

duce that the theory of being reborn from the lotus has its origins outside of Daoism.

5 Lotus birth myth of Chinese Buddhism The previous section mentioned that in the part of the Daoist Canon compiled during the Ming Dynasty, Nuo Zha is regarded as a Upper Daoist immortal (daluo shenxian 大羅神仙). But if one looks to sources outside the Daoist Canon, it is not difficult to discover the Buddhist origins of Nuo Zha.⁴³

5.1 Nuo Zha as a Buddhist Deity Su Che (蘇轍, 1039-1112), a poet of the Song Dynasty, wrote a poem about Nuo Zha:⁴⁴ The Heavenly King of the North had an obstreperous son, He only knew to worship the Buddha but did not respect his father. As the Buddha knew that his stubborn nature was difficult to teach, He gave a precious pagoda to his father and asked him to raise it in his left hand. When the son saw the Buddha [on the pagoda his father held] he bowed, As if he paid respect to his father.

In this poem the Heavenly King of the North, who is a protective deity in Buddhism, is mentioned. It is therefore clear that in Su Che’s mind Nuo Zha is a Buddhist deity. If we look at other literature from the Tang and Sung Dynasties, we see that Nuo Zha is again described as having the identity of a Buddhist protective deity. For example, in 988 Zan Ning (919 – 1001) wrote in his Song Biographies of Eminent Monks that: During the era of Zhenguan [627– 649, early Tang dynasty], when the monk Xuan Lu walked on a path in Ximing Monastery at night, he slipped off a step. There was something holding him. Though he had missed one flight, he did not fall and get hurt. He looked around carefully and saw a young man. Xuan asked, “Who is here at midnight?” The young man said,

 Liu Tsun-yan, “The Story of Vaisravana and Nata”in his Buddhist and Taoist Influences on Chinese Novels, (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1962), 217– 242.  Su Che, Collection of Luancheng(欒城集), Vol. 3, Chapter 1. The poem in Chinese reads as:北 方天王有狂子,只知拜佛不拜父。佛知其愚難教語,寶塔令父左手舉。兒來見佛頭輒俯,且與 拜父略相似. English translation adopted from Cheng, Christina Miu Bing. In Search of Folk Humour: The Rebellious Cult of Nezha, 22.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


“I am not an ordinary mortal. I am Nazha, son of the Heavenly King Vaisravana. As guardian of Buddhism, I have protected monks for a long time.⁴⁵

Similar records can be found about a hundred year earlier in Zheng Qi’s(鄭棨 861-874) work which includes the following story about the monk Xuan Lu: Monk Xuan Lu was excessively attentive and endurable, often walked at night. He fell from a step. Suddenly, he felt somebody supporting his feet. Xuan Lu looked around and found a youngster. Xuan Lu asked ‘Who are you lad? Why are you here at midnight?’ The young man replied, ‘I am not an ordinary mortal, I am Prince Nazha, son of King Vaisravana. As guardian of Buddhism, I have protected monks for a long time.⁴⁶

Whether the monk Xuan Lu (宣律) really experienced the mystical encounter described above, we have no way of knowing. But one thing is for sure: There are records dating from the 9th and 10th centuries which refer to Nuo Zha as a deity who protects the Sangha. In other words, Nuo Zha was considered as a Buddhist deity at that time. We also know from these religious narratives that this young god is related to Pishamen Heavenly King (毘沙門天王). The term “Pishamen” is the Chinese translation from the Sanskrit “Vaisrvana” and Vaisrvana is one of the four Heavenly Kings. Despite the Indian origin of these four deities, they together play the role of protective deities of the Buddhist temple in China. Vaisrvana is the Heavenly King in the North and is the head of the Yakshas, who are strong and brave genii according to the Buddhist legend. Although we are now clear about the Buddhist origin of Vaisrvana, we need to determine the origins of Nuo Zha. During the Tang Dynasty monk Amogha

 See Zan Ning, Song Gaoshengzhuan (宋高僧傳), in SKCS (景印文淵閣四庫全書) (Taibei: Commercial Press, 1986), Vol. 1052, 185. Chinese text reads as “貞觀中……〔宣律〕於西明寺夜行道, 足跌,前階有物扶持,履空無害,熟顧視之,乃少年也。宣遽問:何人中夜在此?少年曰:某 非常人,即毘沙門天王之子那吒也,護法之故,擁護和尚時之久矣。” English translation adapted from Cheng, Christina Miu Bing. In Search of Folk Humour: The Rebellious Cult of Nezha, 17– 18.  Zheng Qi (鄭棨), Kaitian Chuanxinji (開天傳信記 Faithful Records for Transmission of the Periods of Kaiyuan and Tianbao), in SKCS, Vol. 1042. 宣律精苦之甚,常夜行道,臨階墜墮, 忽覺有人奉承其足,宣律顧視之,乃少年也。宣律遽問:「弟子何人,中夜在此?」少年曰: 「某非常人,即毗沙王之子,那吒太子也。護法之故,擁護和尚久矣。」English translation adopted with modification from Cheng, Christina Miu Bing. In Search of Folk Humour: The Rebellious Cult of Nezha, 16.


William NG Yau-nang

translated into Chinese the Tantric work The Ceremonies in the Worship of the Vaisravana. In this work, it is mentioned that:⁴⁷ Following the Buddhist mandate, the third son Nazha was requested to attend the Heavenly King [Vaisravana] and carry the padoga……The Heavenly King’s second son, Dujian, often led the heavenly troops to protect the boundary of the country, and the third son, Prince Nazha, often carried the pagoda and attended the Heavenly King.

It is noteworthy that the name Nuo Zha appears in this Tantric text. Since the name Nuo Zha was translated from a Buddhist text imported to China it would therefore not be unreasonable to assert that the deity was not a Chinese creation. Rather, the young deity came from India bearing his name in Sanskrit both as Nalakuvara and Nalakubala. Nalakuvara, in the Buddhist legend, is a good deity who protects Buddhism, the King and his officials. Consequently, I think that Nuo Zha originates from India and the Chinese adopted this deity through Buddhism.

5.2 Nuo Zha and his Special Kind of Lotus-Rebirth Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings are usually subject to endless rebirths in each of the Six Realms of existence. It is common practice that Buddhist followers are encouraged to observe the precepts, practice meditation, and seek wisdom, all in the attempt to attain enlightenment and emancipation. But people are usually attached to living in the earthy world, with its woeful samsaric nature. That is why it is not easy to rely upon their own power to attain emancipation. The school of Pure Land Buddhism addresses exactly the limitation of self-power. It emphasizes the complete reliance on Amitabha’s power of deliverance to the world of Pure Land. It is important to note that Pure Land is to be reached with Amitabga’s guided lotus vehicle, which is also what one will live in to cultivate continually after arriving the Pure Land. But lotus-birth has a deeper meaning: it involves a spiritual transformation, rather than just sitting on a lotus waiting to be reborn. This leads us to the discussion of the different kinds of birth in Buddhism. Traditional Buddhism recognizes four kinds of birth, known as catur-yoni, the four ways of birth (四生). They are:

 See Ceremonies in the Worship of the Vaisravana (毘沙門儀軌) T. Vol. 21, Chapter 1, 228. English translation adopted with modifications from Cheng, Christina Miu Bing. In Search of Folk Humour: The Rebellious Cult of Nezha, 15.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


(1) birth from the womb, as in the case of mammals; (2) birth from eggs, as in the case of birds; (3) birth from dampness (or moisture)—the way worms were thought to be generated; and (4) birth by transformation, that is, birth without the womb, eggs, or dampness, as in the cases of deities and beings born into one of the Naraka (Buddhist hells). Comparing and contrasting these four methods of birth, we can see that being reborn from the lotus is very special indeed. Imagine being inside the wombs of our mothers. It is hot, humid, and both the mother and the child need to undergo pain and suffering before and after birth, shedding tears and bleeding along the way. This is why traditional Buddhists show more gratitude for the pain of the mother and refer to birthdays as the “suffering day of the mother”. Such an “incarnation” in lotus does not involve lust or bloodshed, and is thus a unique form of the origin of life. It is clean and purified in the sense that it does not involve blood or sweat, and is even full of blessings. Being born from the lotus symbolizes this kind of sacred transformation. The lotus is unstained, even though it grows in dirty mud. The lotus that leaves the dirty mud and blossoms symbolizes cleanliness, away from earthly world of defilement, and reaches the world of the Pure Land. As mentioned earlier, being born from the lotus is a special method of which is far removed from the ordinary mortal birth. Rather, reborn people begin a life of cultivation and transformation in the lotus in the Sacred Pond, leaving behind not just the old physical body but also all those bad attachments to the earthly world. If we use this to understand the myth of Nuo Zha, then it is not difficult to see the special processes and changes he has undergone. Nuo Zha was a lively, even a little bit wild, child. He had a bad temper and loved trouble, and rebelled against his father. But later, he changed to become a force of justice, helping to eliminate the demons. He commanded the military, and was a good protective deity. This is almost the deity version of a taming experience. Nuo Zha was deprived of his old physical body and his personality and spiritual cultivation changed for the better. We may sense a taste of parentalism or an extreme illustration of the monster parent in the East. However, to avoid the danger of overinterpretation, we may at least say that the rebirth of Nuo Zha from the lotus denotes the Buddhist symbol for drastic transformation in not just personality but also for the advancement of one’s spiritual achievement.


William NG Yau-nang

In fact, according to Amitayur-buddhanusmrti Sutra, being reborn from the lotus is one of the stages for becoming Buddha.⁴⁸ People ask for assistance and guidance from Amitabha to get to the Pure Land. Amitabha has merciful force, so he helps everyone who wants to get to the Pure Land. Since everybody’s conditions (standards and abilities) are different, people are divided into nine categories when they are being re-born. This is done according to the way their karmas have developed, in the same way that students are sent to different universities according to their grades in high school. After they are admitted to university, everybody needs to work hard for graduation. This is like relying on power from Amitabha to be reborn in the Pure Land: people still need to practice hard in order achieve enlightenment. On murals depicting the Pure Land in Dunhuang, we see lotus-born children (蓮生童子). There are different ways to be reborn from the lotus. Some need to further their cultivation inside the lotus in the pond of Pure Land, and their entire bodies are placed inside of a particular lotus. Some are more advance in their practice of Buddhism, and their heads have emerged from the lotus. Those who have attained even higher grades have crawled out from the lotus, and are swimming in the Pond of the Eight Merits (bagongdeshui 八功德水). Then there are those who have attained higher levels still, and they have left the water and gonet to worship the Buddha. These artistic depictions in the mural are, in fact, expressing the idea that after being reborn from the lotus and transforming to the Pure Land, there is still a need to continue one’s spiritual cultivation. Children of different shapes and forms are being used to represent the different stages of spiritual practice.

6 Comparison and Reflection 6.1 Different Kinds of Lotus and Different Religious Interpretations As we have seen above, the lotus appears in different regions in Asia and has been used as a religious symbol by different Asian civilizations. The common theme amongst them is the idea that the lotus symbolizes the creation and rebirth of life. When we speak of rebirth, it means death followed by resurrection. Whether in the ancient Egyptian religion, Daosim, or Chinese Buddhism, the

 Julian F. Pas, Visions of Sukhavati: Shan-tao’s Commentary on the Kuan Wu-Liang-shou-Fo Ching (N.Y.: SUNY, 1995).

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


lotus is used as a symbol of rebirth. This study suggests that in these Eastern religious narratives, the lotus and life are closely related. The lotus can denote rebirth after death or symbolize the process of life creation. Lotus creation and lotus rebirth: In the ancient Egyptian religious narrative, an important god was created by being reborn from the lotus. Neither Buddhism nor Daoism has any identitical narratives on life creation or world creation. Buddhism does mention Buddhas and bodhisattvas sitting or standing on lotus in different sutras. In Pure Land School and popular Buddhism, there is the belief of Buddhist practictioners sitting on the lotus to go to the Pure Land after they ended this life, and there is a narrative for being reborn from the lotus in the Pure Land. Daoist literature does not contain legends of life creation similar to those of the ancient Egyptians, but the narratives of Nuo Zha being reborn show that the lotus is imagined to be the material condition without which rebirth cannot be possible. Therefore, all three religions have lotus narratives that contain elements of life creation and rebirth. In order to understand the differences in the use of lotus as a religious symbol in the three religions, we should pay attention to the variety of lotus being used. ‘Lotus’ is a very loose term which commonly refers to two easily confused plants. The modern plant taxonomy system classifies what we usually call the lotus into the genus of Nelumbo which is often confused with water-lilies (Nymphaea, in particular Nymphaea caerulea, sometimes called the blue lotus). In fact, lotuses and water-lilies are unrelated and do not belong to the same family. Rather, they are members of two different orders, Nymphaeales and Proteales. We have water-lilies in Egypt and the Near East, while in India and Far Eastern countries like Korea, China and Japan the lotus is very common. They are similar in appearance but their differences are obvious as well. The leaves of the waterlily are attached to the surface of the water, it has are no seed pods or seeds, no lotus roots, and it blossoms all year round. On the other hand, the leaves of the lotus protrude from the water, it has seed pods as well as seeds and lotus roots, and it blossoms only in summer. When they developed their religious narratives, the ancient Egyptians were actually observing water-lilies and naturally were not be thinking about lotus seeds and lotus roots. The lotus can, however, be found in both China and India, and it was therefore easy for those countries to integrate different parts of the lotus into their respective narratives. For example, in order to accommodate not yet enlightened minds in the Buddhist Pure Land whilst silumtaneously keeping the world of Pure Land clean, they would be moved to the lotus seed to further practice Buddhism. The lotus fetus (蓮胎), that is the seed pod, is employed to signify the insular place to which followers can immigrate in their afterlives so as to continue their spiritual cultivation in the Pure Land. The seed


William NG Yau-nang

pod and the flower in the Pure Land sutra is seen as the new home of the dead whose karma has not been completely cleaned and enlightened. In the legend of Nuo Zha in the Daoist tradition, lotus leaves and lotus roots are mentioned in connection with his resurrection, and it is obvious that these Daoist texts were using the lotus not water-lilies as the object of birth and rebirth. On the contrary, the religious narratives found in Egypt made use of the water-lily only. There is no mention of thelotus seed pod and root. Consequently, this paper concludes that the different kinds of lotus used by different peoples in these three areas have contributed to the differences in their religious narratives.

6.2 Transformation: Physical and/or Spiritual In some religious narratives, the lotus is purely used as a means of transformation by which the spiritual part leaves the physical body. That is to say, transformation is related to the spirit but not the flesh. For example, in Pure Land Buddhism when some people go to the Pure Land, they will leave behind their physical bodies. This type of transformation uses the spirit not the body, and may be different from what the Daoist think of as rebirth from the lotus. The aforementioned narrative concerning Nuo Zha emphasizes the use of materials derived from the lotus when conducting the ritual for rebirth. Hence, in this narrative, different parts of the lotus became elements to be used in the process of Nuo Zha’s own rebirth. Parts such as the leaves, roots etc. correspond to different parts of the human body. Transformation of life is completed upon the use of spells and rituals, making use of the materials provided by the lotus as the physical elements of the transformation. Thus, the Daoist concept of rebirth from the lotus uses a combination of spirit and body. It is different from the Buddhist concept which uses only the spirit without the body. In ancient Egyptian religion, the lotus symbolizes the sun god. At the same time, the opening and closing of the lotus on a daily basis represents the sun god travelling between the world of the living and the world of dead every day.⁴⁹ But when the lotus is used as a symbol of the resurrection of the spirit of the dead, it becomes a means by which spiritual energy can be acquired. Smelling the perfume of the lotus is one of the means of getting spiritual power. As a result, the ancient Egyptian uses the lotus to support the gods, and they hold the lotus in their hands to acquire power. Thus, the lotus is an important physical material to

 See Robert Hart, “The Underworld Journey of the Sun God,” in his Egyptian Myths (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990), 50 – 61.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


purify and cleanse the religious lives of people. However, the lotus was not a tool to be used in place of the physical body for rebirth. The ancient Egyptian believes that the body must be retained in order for resurrection to happen. Thus, this type of spiritual body in general shares the same image as the soul. This view point shows that if the Buddhist lotus is purely spiritual without the body, and the Daoist lotus is an integration of spirit and the body, then the ancient Egyptian religion lies somewhere in between.

6.3 Religious Symbol: Expression and/or Transformation Tillich believes that symbol is a major means through which to express ultimate concern. Through the study of the lotus-birth as a religious symbol, we can make some comments on Tillich’s observations. Firstly, the lotus is used in religious narratives related to birth or rebirth in these three traditions. The lotus is employed to signify the ultimate concern, the sun god, in ancient Egypt. Therefore, Tillich is right to say that symbol points beyond to a reality for which it stands. However, instead of expressing the ultimate concern in Chinese Buddhism and Daoism, the lotus can also be used as a means of approaching that ultimate concern. If we take ultimate concern as a stage of cultivation or a whole range of deities, these two Chinese traditions employ the symbol of the lotus as an important means of enhancing a transformation towards the ultimate concern. Therefore, the symbol is not merely a means of expressing the inexpressible but also a means of transformation towards the assessable ultimate concern. Moreover, according to one ancient Egyptian religious narrative, the fragrance of the lotus represents the power of God, and therefore smelling the lotus is the same as receiving power from God and transmitting a curing effect to the God. The lotus not only signifies power in the sense of representation, it can also be the actual container or transmitter of magical power. Similarly, in the narrative of Nuo Zha, the lotus provides the materials for resurrection. The lotus is not merely the symbol that signifies the transformative power, it is part of the whole process of resurrection. Different parts of the lotus actually work together to form the new body of Nuo Zha. Therefore, the lotus not only signifies the reality, it also takes part in the reality of the body by becoming part of that body. Such a process reflects the principle of correlation which can be explained in anthropological terms. Sir James George Frazer (1854– 1941), one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology, studied the similarities among magical and religious beliefs around the world. Frazer classifies magic into two categories, sympathetic and contagious magic. The latter rests upon the belief that things that were once connected are linked and capable of affecting their


William NG Yau-nang

supposedly related objects. The former rests upon the belief that “like affects like”, or that one can communicate characteristics of one object to a similar object.⁵⁰ Seen from Frazer’s perspective, the special role of the lotus rests in its capacity to turn into real flesh and bone and this capacity also employs the “like affects like” principle. Based on this understanding, I think that Tillich captures a very important dimension of religious symbolism.⁵¹ In Pure Land Buddhism, rebirth is achieved mainly through travelling to the Pure Land on a lotus, and thus the lotus is a means of transportation. The dead who are in the process of being reborn reside in the lotus of the Pure Land. Therefore, the lotus also symbolizes the ultimate liberation from attachment to the earthly world, and at the same time is an important container to guide people to the world of Pure Land. When discussing the element of religious symbolism, Tillich draws attention to sacrament. Tillich thinks that the Lord’s supper is symbolic but can be more than symbolic. He states that “The sacramental is nothing else than some reality becoming the bearer of the Holy in a special way and under special circumstances… In the real sense of symbol, the sacramental materials are symbols. But if the symbol is used as only symbol (i. e. only signs), then of course the sacramental materials are more than this.”⁵² If we bear the risk of taking Tillich’s idea out of the context, we may employ such an idea in interpreting lotus-birth. The lotus is symbolic. However, in the narratives of transformation in both the cases of Nuo Zha and the followers of Pure Land Buddhism, the lotus is not just symbolic, it is part of the sacrament of divine transformation empowered by either Tai Yi or the Buddha and enhanced by material basis provided by the plant.

 See Frazer, James, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. (N.Y.: MacMillan, 1947).  Rowe is right in criticizing the ambiguity of Tillich’s expression of participation and offers his understanding. Symbols, according to Rowe, participate in the reality that is symbolized “in the sense that human beings feel toward and treat” the former in the same way they do to the latter. However, I think Rowe has offered a demythologized explanation while Tillich refers to what believers actually believe. This may be a difference partly resulting from taking an outsider or insider approach.  Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, 64– 65.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


7 Concluding Remarks This paper has attempted to put forward the idea that the lotus is an important religious symbol shared across different Asian cultures, as witnessed in the cases of ancient Egypt, Chinese Buddhism and Daoism.⁵³ The paper has also shown that some special characteristics of the plant, such as its being open in the morning and closed at night, have made the plant an easy metaphor for the cycle of life and death, a symbol of the duality of life and death. In addition, since the lotus is not contaminated even though it grows in a mud pond and the flowers have a unique fragrance, this dualistic structure can easily be used to express an idea of crossing the boundary of the profane world to the sacred world, or crossing the boundary world of the dead and gaining resurrection. This type of “cross-boundary duality” can easily acquire symbolic correlation from the characteristics of the lotus. On account of this correlation, the lotus symbol is used across different religions. But this paper has also shown that it is important to note that different types of lotus bear influence upon the narratives of religious symbols in different geographical locations. The water-lily has neither seed pod nor lotus root and, naturally, in the ancient Egyptian narratives, these two parts of the plant are never mentioned. However, different parts of the lotus are used in Buddhist and Daoist narratives as discussed. Tillich thinks that symbol is the only means through which to express the ultimate. This paper, however, has shown that on top of expressing the ultimate, the lotus in Chinese Buddhist and Daoist narratives can also be used as a means of approaching the ultimate concern. These two Chinese traditions employ the symbol of the lotus as an important means of enhancing a transformation towards the ultimate concern. Therefore, the symbol is not merely a means of expression but also a means of transformation. It deals not so much with pointing beyond oneself to the ultimate but as a vehicle to the ultimate. And as such, the lotus symbol, according to these religious narratives, not just discloses a new dimension of an external ultimate but at the same time unlocks the new internal potentiality which when actualized can provide a new life, either in the form of a new deity or in a new spiritual life in the Pure Land.

 My follow up research will include Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. In fact Alan Hunter has proposed a world-wide web of diffuse religiosity deeply embedded in large parts of the Eurasian continent. See Alan Hunter, “An Early World-Wide Web Religions of Eurasia” in Ching Feng, n.s. 10.1– 2 (2010 – 2011), 7– 26.


William NG Yau-nang

8 Bibliography Allan, Tony, and Charles Phillips (1999). Land of the Dragon: Chinese Myth. Amsterdam: Time-Life Books. Anon. (Yuan), edited ca. A.D, 1592, Compendium of Information on the Gods of the Three Religions. [三教搜神大全] 7 Juans, Tibetan edition of the Ming Dynasty in Wang Qiugui (王秋桂) and Li Fengmou(李豐楙) ed. Collected Material on Chinese Popular Faiths [中國 民間信仰資料彙編](Taibei: Taiwan Student Book Store,1989). Anon. Miraculous Canon of Upper Order on Limitless People Saving of the Lingbao. [靈寶無 量度人上品妙經], in Zhengtong Daozang [正統道藏] Taibei: Xinwenfeng chubangongsi, 1985 – 1988. Anon., Ceremonies in the Worship of the Vaisravana (毘沙門儀軌) T. Vol. 21. Armour, Robert A. (2001). Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt. Cairo and N.Y.: American University in Cairo Press. Campell, Joseph (1976). “Chinese Mythology,” in his The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology. N.Y.: Penguin Books, 371 – 460. Casson, Lionel (1996). Ancient Egypt. Amsterdam: Time-Life International. Chan, Kim-kwong (2010). “Lotus and Swastika in Assyrian Church in China: Buddhist Legacy for Aryan Heritage? In Ching Feng, N.S., 10.1 – 2, 27 – 43. Cheng, Christina Miu Bing (2009). In Search of Folk Humour: The Rebellious Cult of Nezha. Hong Kong: Great Mountain Culture. Clark, R. T. Rundle (1959). Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt. N.Y.: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1991. Cooper, J. C. (1978). An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols. London: Thames and Hudson, 100 – 102. De Beauclair, Inez (1962). “The Place of the Sun Myth in the Evaluation of Chinese Mythology.” Academia Sinica Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology 13, 123 – 132. Dreisbach, Donald (1993), Symbols and Salvation: Paul Tillich’s Doctrine of Religious Symbols and his Interpretation of the Symbols of the Christian Tradition. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. Girardot, N. J. (1976). “The Problem of Creation Mythology in the Study of Chinese Religion.” History of Religions 15, 289 – 318. Gómez, Luis O. Trans. (1996). Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light: Sanskrit and Chinese Versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutras. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Hagen, Rose, Rainer Hagen, Penelope Hesleden, and Ingrid Taylor (2002). Egypt: People, Gods, Pharaohs. Köln: Taschen. Hagen, Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen (2002). Egypt: People, Gods, Pharaohs. L.A.: Taschen. Hart, George (1990). Egyptian Myths: The Legendary Past. Austin: University of Texas Press. Huang, Zhengwu (2016, 黃正務), “Weijun fodao liangjia huasheng sixiang rongtongjichu” [The foundation of fusion of the idea of transformation in Buddhism and Daoism in the Weijin period 魏晉佛道兩家化生思想的融通基礎], in William Ng ed. Duoduo Liansheng [朵朵蓮生The Blossoming of Lotus: Collected Essays on the True Buddha School]. Taipei: Liberal Arts Press, 168 – 203. Hunter, Alan (2011). “An Early World-Wide Web Religions of Eurasia.” Ching Feng 10, 7 – 26.

Tillich and Asian Religious Symbol: A Comparative Study of Lotus-birth


Jiang, Ruanxiang, Guan Peisheng and Deng Shiliang (江潤祥、關培生、鄧仕樑, 2000) ed. Zhongyi Wenxuan [Selection of Chinese Medical Essays 中醫文選], Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press. Kandeler, Rikel and Wolfram R. Ullrich (2009). “Symbolism of Plants: Examples from European-Mediterranean Culture Presented with Biology and History of Art,” in Journal of Experimental Botany 60, 2461 – 2464. Kohn, Livia (2009). Introducing Daoism. London and N.Y.: Routledge. Leng, Li and Fan Li (冷立, 范力1990) ed. Zhongguo shenxian daquan [ Complete Biographies of Chinese Immortals中國神仙大全], Shenyang: Liaoning Renmin. Liu Ke (2014). “A Study of the Image of the Heavenly Reverence of Pain Relieving, Taiyi” (太乙 救苦天尊圖像研究), in Journal for the Study of Religions(宗教學研究), in Vol. 1. Liu Tsun-yan (1962). “The Story of Vaisravana and Nata”in his Buddhist and Taoist Influences on Chinese Novels. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Māhir Ṭāhā, Maḥmūd (2001). Queen Nefertari: The Most Beautiful of Them. Egypt: Ministry of Culture. Pao, Kan, Sou-Shen Chi and Derk Bodde (1942). “Some Chinese Tales of The Supernatural.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 6, 338 – 357. Prasopchigchana, Sarunya (2011). “Symbolic Representation in Buddhism”, International Journal on Humanistic Ideology 4, 101 – 111, esp. 103 – 104. Reeves, Nicholas (1990). The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, the Tomb, the Royal Treasure. London: Thames and Hudson. Rezania,Pedram (2011). “Symbol of Lotus in Ancient World,” in Life Science Journal, 8, 309 – 312. Rowe, William L. (1968). Religious Symbols and God: A Philosophical Study of Tillich’s Theology. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Schipper, Kristofer Marinus (1993). The Taoist body. Berkeley: University of California Press. Seleem, Ramses (2001). The Illustrated Egyptian Book of the Dead: A New Translation with Commentary. New York: Sterling. Shaw, Ian (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Snellgrove, David L. (2006). Religion as history, Religion as Myth. Bangkok, Thailand: Orchid Press. Stevens, Keith G. (2001). Chinese Mythological Gods. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tillich, Paul (1958). Dynamics of Faith. N.Y.: Harper& Row. Tillich, Paul (1959). Theology of culture. New York: Oxford, 1964. Tillich, Paul (1963). Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions. New York: Columbia University Press. Tillich, Paul (1990). The Encounter of Religions and Quasi- Religions. New York: Edwin Mellen. Wang Qiugui and Li Fengmou eds. (1989). Collected Material on Chinese Popular Faith [中國 民間信仰資料彙編]. Taibei: Taiwan Student Book Store. Wang, Zhaoxiang (王兆祥, 1992) ed. Zhongguo Shenxianzhuan [Biographies of Chinese Immortals 中國神仙傳]. Taiyuan: Shanxi Renmin. Ward, William E. (1952). “The Lotus Symbol: Its Meaning in Buddhist Art and Philosophy,” in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 11, 135 – 146. Wieger, Leon (1988). Philosophy and Religion in China, Edited by Derek Bryce. Felinfach, Lampeter: Llanerch Enterprises.


William NG Yau-nang

Wilkinson, Richard (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson. Xu, Hao (徐昊, 5/2013) “Lun Guaijidi Tutengshen Chungbai [On the Worship of Totem Deities in Ancient Egypt論古埃及的圖騰神崇拜], in Changshu Ligongxueyuan xuebao [常熟理工 學院學報], No. 3. 93 – 96. Xu, Zhonglin, translated Gu Zhizhong(1992). Creation of the Gods(封神演義). Beijing: New World Press. Zan Ning (1986). Song Gaoshengzhuan (宋高僧傳), in SKCS (景印文淵閣四庫全書). Taibei: Commercial Press, Vol. 1052. Zandee, J. (1992). “The Birth-Giving Creator God in Ancient Egypt,” in Alan B. Lloyd ed. Studies in Pharaonic Religion and Society in Honor of J. Gwyn Griffiths. London: Egypt Exploration Society. Zheng Qi (鄭棨). Kaitian Chuanxinji (開天傳信記 Faithful Records for Transmission in the Periods of Kaiyuan and Tianbao), in SKCS, Vol. 1042.

9 Online materials Budge, E. A. Wallis. The Book of the Dead–the Papyrus of Ani. Online June 29, 2015. Available at: G. Maspero.History of Egypt. Edited by A. H. Sayce.Volume I., Part B. Chapter II, London: The Grolier Society Publishers. Online June 29, 2015. Available at: files/19400/19400-h/v1b.htm#image-0048 “The Great God Herishef – Lord of the Lotus and Lord of the Blood; Osiris’ Ploy to Humiliate Set; The Punishment of Osiris’ Hubris; and Other Things You Mightn’t Have Known.” Shadows of the Sun. April 10, 2013. Online June 29, 2015. Available at: “Symbol of the Lotus.” GnosticWarriorcom. March 6, 2013. Online June 29, 2015. Available at:

Anthony, WANG Tao

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love: Integration with the Chinese Confucian Idea of Love¹ Contemporary studies on the idea of love in the Christian context are more developed within the tension of the Agape-Eros paradigm, which is expounded by Swedish contemporary Lutheran theologian Anders Nygren in his magnum opus Agape and Eros (Den kristna Kärlekstanken genom tiderna: Eros och Agape, 1930) as the eros motif from Platonic philosophy and the agape motif as being established by Pauline Theology and latterly reasserted by Martin Luther. Furthermore, the distinction and union of these two dimensions of love are also reconfirmed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his first encyclical letter Deus caritas est. Concerning the God-man relationship on the one hand, according to Nygren, eros is the self-fulfilling love of man’s ascending desire, while agape is the self-giving love of God’s descending compassion; on the other hand, with regard to their application to the world, eros represents itself as the self-fulfilling or egocentric love proper to human nature, while agape characterizes the self-giving or other-directed love in supernatural profundity.² Adopting the agape-eros paradigm to comprehend the relationship between appetite-satisfied self-fulfillment from within through seeking ultimate reality of beauty and goodness and self-giving sacrifice for others by God’s grace from without, is the key to decode the profound mystery of the human phenomena of love. In St. Thomas Aquinas’s Theo-philosophic system, which was once the official Philosophia Perennis of Catholicism, the eros-agape paradigm was used to understand the idea of love by integrating Greek humanism and Christian faith. In St. Thomas’s doctrine of love, the distinction between the love of friendship and the love of concupiscence is presented, so is the overarching power of agape or caritas the theological virtue above both love kinds. Whether and to

 The part of this article was published in Chinese as〈聖托馬斯與蒂利希愛觀之比較研究:聖 愛-慾愛和友愛的視角〉,《道風:基督教文化評論》(Logos & Pneuma Chinese Journal of Theology),第四十三期(2015/秋),頁117– 150。 Here firstly please let me send my wholehearted gratitude to Fr. David P. Doran for his generous proofreading assistance.  Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros, translated by Philip S. Watson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 210. DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-007


Anthony, WANG Tao

what extent the love of friendship and the love of concupiscence reveal the operation of agape and eros will be the main content of the article. The aforesaid understanding of love by St. Thomas, though takes on a different structure, has consonance in many aspects with Paul Tillich’s idea of love that highlights the union of agape and eros. In the sprouting dialogues between Christianity and other Asian religious traditions, the Christian understanding of love, as we have engaged, may find its way to be integrated with the Chinese traditional wisdom, especially Confucianism.

1 Agape-Eros vs. Amor amicitiae – Amor concupiscentiae Linguistically, St. Thomas cannot directly take his discussion on love from the Greek meaning of “love”. Nygren offers a typical example to illustrate this situation, namely St. Thomas’s commentary of Pseudo-Dionysius’s De divinis nominibus. Nygren writes, On the basis of his text, Thomas quite innocently discusses the question how far we can use, in the same sense and with equal right, the two words ‘dilectio’ and ‘amor’ to describe God’s nature; and he never suspects that behind the ‘dilectio’ and ‘amor’ of the translation are concealed the ἀγάπη and ἔρως of the original. So he comments on Dionysius’ great effort to bring the two love-motifs to terms, without ever knowing what the difficulty is which his author seeks to overcome. He never saw that the problem is not only how far we can say with the New Testament: ‘God is Agape,’ but also how far we are justified in saying with Neoplatonism: ‘God is Eros,’ with all that implies.³

Precisely because of this, Nygren writes merely a few words on St. Thomas’s doctrine of love in his Agape and Eros. He emphasizes that St. Thomas does not truly discover the question caused by the tension between agape and eros mainly because the Doctor Angelicus cannot substantially detach himself from St. Augustine’s fundamental position that “all love is acquisitive”. They both overshadow the tension between agape and eros and their rich meaning by using a single Latin word caritas to signify the reality of love, accordingly ascribing all forms of love to egocentric self-love (amor sui), the pursuit of the goodness (bonum) for the self subject to the eudemonistic ethics. Thus both happiness (eudemonia/felicitas) proposed by Greek humanism and the beatitude (beatitudo) prom-

 Ibid., 667. For St. Thomas’s commentary to Dionysus, see: Ibid., 652– 653.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


ised by Christian faith finally serve the realization of the self.⁴ The Church tradition since St. Augustine asserts whether to use (uti) God or the neighbor as the means to the end, or to enjoy (frui) Him or him as the end itself, which is ultimately nothing but “for our own sake”.⁵ Nygren calls the mediaeval prevailing idea of love “caritas-synthesis”. He believes that it attempts to integrate the Christian agape-motif into the erosmotif of Greek humanism. Although the synthesis has the orientation of God’s agape towards grace and beatitude, it is characterized by eros as a whole and weakens or even rules out the Christian “Copernican” revolution from anthropocentrism proper to eros to Theocentric agape. As a result, the profundity and purity of Christ’s agape is dispelled. Accordingly, the way St. Thomas asserts “in the same sense and with equal right, the two words ‘dilectio’ and ‘amor’ to describe God’s nature” linguistically keeps distance from the Greek differentiation of agape/eros.⁶ Seemingly, St. Thomas markedly deprives his thoughts of acuity and profundity owing to the fact that “in default of direct contact with the Greek sources for the Agape or the Eros outlook, the modificatory influence which each of these two motifs exercised upon the other was generally unperceived”.⁷ Then the question is how to dissociate the inner tension like agapeeros from the so-called mediaeval caritas-Synthesis in Nygren’s sense.

 See: Ibid, 642– 645.  However, St. Augustine’s uti does not have the same meaning of “utility” in utilitarianism. The Latin word uti has a richer meaning including “to enjoy the friendship of anyone; to be familiar or intimate with, to associate with a person”. See: Michael S. Sherwin, “Aquinas, Augustine, and the Medieval Scholastic Crisis concerning Charity,” in Michael Dauphinais, Barry David and Matthew Levering (eds.), Aquinas the Augustinian (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007), 182. As such uti contains the love of friendship. Thus frui or enjoyment has theological implications. St. Augustine defines caritas as “affection of the mind which aims at the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor in subordination to God”. See: St. Augustine, De doctrina christiana, III-10, 16.  St. Thomas indicates that there are four words to signify “love”, including the general name amor and delectio “expressed by way of act or passion”—delectio is the love implying a rational choice beforehand; amicitia is “like a habit”; and a certain perfection of love caritas or charity. See: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 26, a. 3. As far as caritas is concerned, in the Chinese version of Summa Theologiae published in Taiwan, caritas is translated as “ai’de” (virtue of love) or “ren’ai” (love of Ren). The former is based on St. Thomas’s consideration that the core of Christianity is “faith, hope and love” and love is one of the “theological virtues” (virtutes theologicae), a kind of infused virtue obtained from God’s sanctifying grace. The latter gives the meaning of God’s agape by using the Confucian term “Ren” benevolence or humanity. In this article, the virtue of love or charity, signifying the Spiritual Presence of grace, is the synonym of agape.  Nygren, Agape and Eros, p. 667. For St. Thomas’s commentary to Dionysus, see: Ibid., 652– 653.


Anthony, WANG Tao

St. Thomas never investigates love by using the agape-eros paradigm, but directly adopts his mentor Aristotle’s ethical legacy and distinguishes amor concupiscentiae from amor amicitiae under the general name of love “amor”. For him, the love of concupiscence is the love for “goodness”, while the love of friendship or the love of benevolence (amor benevolentiae) is the love for “man himself”. “Hence the movement of love has a twofold tendency: towards the good which a man wishes to someone (to himself or to another) and towards that to which he wishes some good.”⁸ These two sorts of love are in different levels to the extent that the love of concupiscence is inferior due to its object’s being outside of the beloved. St. Thomas says, Now the members of this division are related as primary and secondary: since that which is loved with the love of friendship is loved simply and for itself (simpliciter); whereas that which is loved with the love of concupiscence, is loved, not simply and for itself (secundum quid), but for something else. For just as that which has existence, is a being simply, while that which exists in another is a relative being; so, because good is convertible with being, the good, which itself has goodness, is good simply; but that which is another’s good, is a relative good. Consequently the love with which a thing is loved, that it may have some good, is love simply; while the love, with which a thing is loved, that it may be another’s good, is relative love.⁹

From St. Thomas’s categorization of love, we still cannot simply find out the tension between agape and eros discovered by Nygren based on the distinctiveness of Christian faith and the greatness of Greek humanism. The lover’s spontaneous and purely godlike conduct “for others” requires the supernatural nourishing. Thus besides the love of concupiscence and the love of friendship, St. Thomas underlines one of the theological virtues—caritas or charity, which initiates from without (God’s supernatural sanctifying grace) and is infused within (man’s receiving grace). Caritas, namely agape characterizes Christian faith by transforming and elevating human nature along with the love characterized by that nature towards the perfection and excellence (virtue) at a much higher level. Thereby it becomes a new form of natural virtue and infuses the power of Christian faith into the natural life so that the inter-personal union of love at a higher level can be realized through the reciprocal communication between God and man. This kind of supernaturally infused virtue, first and foremost, presents itself in the form of friendly love in the God-man relationship. It pos-

 ST, I-II, q. 26, a. 4.  ST, I-II, q. 26, a. 4.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


sesses benevolence (cum benevolentia) and highlights mutuality; therefore, agape is “being a friend with God” (amicitia hominis ad Deum).¹⁰ …Since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication…. The love which is based on this communication, is charity: wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God.¹¹

Virtue “founded upon the fellowship of everlasting happiness” is “not of natural, but of gratuitous gifts”.¹²In St. Thomas’s idea of love, the love of friendship is pivotal in the sense that it does not merely characterize the love relation between God and man, but also implements agape among neighbors¹³ as well. It shows itself as a clear-cut inter-personal love, which will be expounded later. Certainly, as the fundamental modality of human mentality, self-fulfillment for the self and self-givingness for others, along with the tension between them within love, belonging to the ontological characteristic of human being, are most profound in the conduct of love. Is St. Thomas’s amor concupiscentiae equal to Greek eros, and is amor amicitiae as the manifestation of agape/charity identified with agape the exemplar in Pauline-Lutheran Theology concluded by Nygren? In other words, on the whole, can St. Thomas’s paradigm of amor concupiscentiae/amor amicitiae develop the same understanding of love comparing with Nygren’s mode of agape-eros? Mattison III points out that although St. Thomas and Nygren use different terms and have different answers, in the sense, they ad-

 ST, II-II, q. 23, a. 1. Meanwhile, the most subversive value of charity in Christianity, namely “the love for enemy”, is properly based on the love of friendship. St. Thomas says, “Friendship extends to a person in two ways: first in respect of himself, and in this way friendship never extends but to one’s friends: secondly, it extends to someone in respect of another, as, when a man has friendship for a certain person, for his sake he loves all belonging to him, be they children, servants, or connected with him in any way. On deed so much do we love our friends, that for their sake we love all who belong to them, even if they hurt or hate us; so that, in this way, the friendship of charity extends even to our enemies, whom we love out of charity in relation to God, to Whom the friendship of charity is chiefly directed. …The friendship that is based on the virtuous is directed to none but a virtuous man as the principal person, but for his sake we love those who belong to him, even though they be not virtuous: in this way charity, which above all is friendship based on the virtuous, extends to sinners, whom, out of charity, we love for God’s sake.” ST, II-II, q. 23, a. 1, ad. 2– 3.  ST, II-II, q. 23, a. 1.  ST, II-II, q. 24, a. 2.  St. Thomas indicates that the neighbor is “nigh to us, both as to the natural image of God, and as to the capacity for glory”, in the Bible we say words like “neighbor”, “brother” or “friend” to “express the same affinity”. See: ST, II-II, q. 44, a. 7.


Anthony, WANG Tao

dress the same question—“how are love of self and love of others properly related?”¹⁴ Put in another way, how to treat the relation between self-fulfillment for the self and self-givingness for others, are they inconsistent or consistent with each other? Briefly, the question remains whether Greek eros should separate from or unite with Christian agape.¹⁵ Here we don’t intend to emphasize that St. Thomas’s paradigm of the love of concupiscence/ the love of friendship is equivalent to Nygren’s paradigm of agape/eros motif, rather, they do have certain distinctions. The love of friendship can originate from human nature so that the self-givingness for others can be the supreme form of natural virtue proportionate to human nature without the infused assistance of the presence of grace.¹⁶ By contrast, the love of concupiscence in St. Thomas’s sense is less thematic and schematized than Nygren’s proposal and it generally presents human longing and seeking for the good. Nevertheless, both agendas reach the deep core of human phenomena of love to a large extent, and discover the creative transformation and elevation of human love by the God-man communication under the dominant power of Christian faith. Mattison III suggests that the agape-eros distinction famously depicted by Nygren in the twentieth century and readdressed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is indeed a distinction regarding movements of love akin to its mediaeval Thomistic counterpart.¹⁷ He writes, However, it would be inaccurate to say that what Thomas means by love of friendship Nygren refers to as agape. Likewise, it is inaccurate to say that what Thomas means by love of concupiscence (amor concupiscentiae) Nygren refers to as eros. Their difference in understanding the relationship between the two entails a difference in how each understands both sides of the distinction. Because of this difference, Thomas’ work on love of concupiscence and love of friendship can inform contemporary debate on agape and eros.¹⁸

 William C. Mattison III, “Movement of Love: A Thomistic Perspective on Agape and Eros,” Journal of Moral Theology 1 (2012), 33.  For this problem, see: Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love (Beijing: Religious Culture Press, 2009); Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Catholic Love in the Tradition of Christian Spirituality (Hong Kong: Centre for Catholic Studies in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2009).  For the discussion on pagan (non-Christian) virtue proportionate to human nature without the assistance of God’s grace from without, and the supreme form of that virtue—altruism, see: Wang Tao, “Reflection on Pagan Virtues: A Philosophical Study on St. Thomas Aquinas’s Virtue Theory,” Sino-Christian Studies: An International Journal of Bible, Theology & Philosophy, 19 (2015), 75 – 110.Wang Tao Anthony, “St. Thomas Aquinas’s Theory of Pagan Virtues: A Pilgrimage towards the Infused Cardinal Virtues,” Jaarboek 2014 – 2015 Thomas Instituut te Utrecht Jaargang 34, Tilburg (Netherlands): Thomas Instituut te Utrecht (Universiteit van Tilburg), 27– 65.  Mattison III, “Movement of Love,” 43.  Ibid., 46.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


In his article “Movements of Love: A Thomistic Perspective on Eros and Agape”, Mattison III repeatedly uses “akin to” to compare Nygren’s eros as the basic motif within St. Thomas’s love of concupiscence, and the agape motif with the love of friendship. He highlights the kindred distinction that the two thinkers have made. The difference between them, however, lies in that Nygren ascribes friendly love philia to the eros motif, while St. Thomas aligns it with agape.¹⁹

2 St. Thomas: Amor amicitiae and Amor concupiscentiae From St. Thomas’s definition “towards him to whom he wishes good”, we notice that the love of friendship emphasizes that the ultimate end of love is the person itself—generated from a person and completed in the fulfillment of another person. Aristotle has elaborated philia (friendship) as one of the virtues in a fifth of his Nicomachean Ethics. However, it is also the Aristotelian feature that considers philia as an important virtue beyond the four cardinal virtues. Philia takes on the strong characteristic of belonging to personhood, because “of the love of lifeless objects we do not use the word ‘friendship’”, for there is no reciprocity in love of the lifeless and the goodwill (eunoia) to it is nothing but exploitation.²⁰ Aristotle categorizes philia into three kinds: love of each other for the sake of utility, love of each other for the sake of pleasure, and love of each other for themselves. Philia for utility is not true love and philia for pleasure is partially true love for its mutuality, while the last kind is truly permanent philia—the love of friendship as virtue.²¹ Aristotle expands the implication of friendly love beyond the narrow sense, namely affection simply between friends. It presents in many aspects of communal life including consanguine, conjugal, king-subject, fellowship, Godman relationship, etc.²² All these relationship of philia are all happen in community and show their vivid characteristic of person—the relationship between one person and another “for the sake of the friend himself”. This can educe the ontological understanding of love which elevates love as a type in specific circumstance to love as a quality or fundamental movement taking place in equal and intimate interpersonal relations. The love of friendship becomes a fundamental movement within each and every human act of love and provides the

   

Ibid., p. 52. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, VIII-2, 1155b28 – 31. EN, VIII-3, VIII-6, 1158a19 – 23. See: EN, VIII-11, 12.


Anthony, WANG Tao

personal dimension for love so that the love for both the self and others (including the Holy Other) can be sustained by the characteristic of personhood furnished by philia. Friendly relations with one’s neighbors, and the marks by which friendships are defined, seem to have proceeded from a man’s relations to himself. For men think a friend is one who wishes and does what is good, or seems so, for the sake of his friend, or one who wishes his friend to exist and live, for his sake. … And others think a friend is one who lives with and has the same tastes as another, or one who grieves and rejoices with his friend. … It is by some one of these characteristics that friendship too is defined. Now each of these is true of the good man’s relation to himself. … And therefore he wishes for himself what is good and what seems so, and does it (for it is characteristic of the good man to exert himself for the good), and does so for his own sake (for he does it for the sake of the intellectual element in him, which is thought to be the man himself). …Therefore, since each of these characteristics belongs to the good man in relation to himself, and he is related to his friend as to himself (for his friend is another self), friendship too is thought to be one of these attributes, and those who have these attributes to be friends.²³

In like manner, St. Thomas underscores the personal characteristic of the virtue of charity. Charity is proper to man who possesses personhood and presents itself between persons, “all friendship is based on some fellowship in life; since “nothing is so proper to friendship as to live together. … Now irrational creatures can have no fellowship in human life which is regulated by reason”, for “charity is based on the fellowship of everlasting happiness, to which the irrational creature cannot attain”, hence “friendship with irrational creatures is impossible, except metaphorically speaking”.²⁴ St. Thomas treats the interpersonal relationship in community by Aristotle’s virtue of philia and breaks through the individual practice for excellence towards the goodness of the community, which shares the “beatitude” with the self so as to transcend the egocentrism to “for the sake of others”. Aristotle also particularly emphasizes that philia is the greatest of external goods.²⁵ In his philosophy, ethics is the branch of the greater agenda of politics which indicates the differentia of human being. The happiest life is the contemplation and promotion of the bonum commune of all the members in community. As a result, the political life as another dimension of the happiest life is shaped. The role to bridge the moral perfection of individual and the well-being of community should be undertaken by philia. Thus philia obtains the transcendent value beyond the self moving towards the love of others. For Aristotle, phi EN, IX-4, 1166a1– 34.  ST, II-II, q. 25, a. 3. It can also be extended to the current trend of ecological ethics. It appeals, metaphorically, for mankind to “love…the world” by being a friend with Mother Nature.  EN, IX-9, 1169b10 – 11.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


lia may be said to bear the divine orientation as the driving force and bridge to eu-demonia, being regarded as good by god. For St. Thomas, however, this divine orientation becomes the bond between God and man. Nevertheless, for Nygren, although St. Thomas attempts to undo the tension between Greek eros motif and Christian agape motif by the notion of philia, it is doomed to failure because philia can neither deliver the meaning of Christian agape nor dissolve the egocentrism in St. Thomas’s doctrine of love. Nygren underlines that inasmuch as St. Thomas adopts Aristotle’s philia, he agrees that philia ultimately derives from self-love; the friend is nobody but another self. “For even if I love my friend for his own sake, I still only love what is for myself a ‘bonum’.” Thus “all love goes back ultimately to self-love and that man can only love what is for myself a ‘bonum’.”²⁶ Accordingly, Christian agapic love “that seeketh not its own” cannot find its refuge in St. Thomas’s doctrine of love. Therefore, in the eyes of theologians like Nygren who highlight the other-oriented love introduced by Christianity, either charity or philia manifesting the virtue of charity, as it were, by no means changes the fact that the mediaeval idea of love presents it as egocentric and acquisitive eros. It simply “consists in the sublimation of acquisitive love or self-love into pure love of God”, while the only thing Christian faith provides is that which directs this love towards the immobile ultimacy that is God. The form and efficiency of the love remain the natural and egocentric self-love. Therefore, due to the fact that “mediaeval Theology was clearly aware of the difficulty of achieving a pure love for God, a love that seeketh not its own, on this basis”, it “succeeded in producing a doctrine of love moralistic in the extreme”, nevertheless this others-oriented unselfish love that seeks not its own interest, however, is “as remote as possible from the Agapelove Christianity”²⁷ This moralistic idea of love may breed a hatred of human nature and a hypocritical legalism, and affect the profound understanding of the nature of agape as the essence of Christianity, namely agape as the infused grace from without being the supernatural foundation of the ontological structure of the human being. According to Nygren, self-givingness or even self-sacrifice for others is also for the satisfaction of self-seeking appetite or self-fulfillment. It seems that mediaeval agape/caritas by nature is hard to be integrated into Nygren’s agape-eros paradigm. As we know, St. Thomas always follows Aristotle’s position (magis consonum intentioni Aristotelis) in his philosophical speculation. The Aristotelian argument

 Nygren, Agape and Eros, 645.  Ibid., 650 – 651.


Anthony, WANG Tao

that “the friend is another self”²⁸ apparently assigns the friend to the category of the self and considers the love of friendship as yet the extension of egocentric eros accordingly. Is the love of friendship the variation of egocentrism or the total transcendence of the domain of the self? St. Thomas answers in the following way, Now love being twofold, viz. love of concupiscence and love of friendship; each of these arises from a kind of apprehension of the oneness of the thing loved with the lover. For when we love a thing, by desiring it, we apprehend it as belonging to our well-being. In like manner when a man loves another with the love of friendship, he wills good to him, just as he wills good to himself: wherefore he apprehends him as his other self, in so far, to wit, as he wills good to him as to himself. Hence a friend is called a man’s ‘other self’.²⁹

From this point of view, the love of friendship wills the beloved to obtain “good to him as to himself” rather than to become merely the good of the lover. The final aim is the personal other rather than the impersonal good that eros always pursues. As the infusion of God’s grace into human nature, charity exalts and transforms the human natural virtues into the theological virtues—the supernatural virtues that can be presented in human self-love as well. St. Thomas differentiates a threefold relationship between self-love and charity: self-love being “contrary to charity when a man places his end in the love of his own good”; self-love being distinct from but not contrary to charity “when a man loves himself from the point of view of his own good, yet not so as to place his end in this his own good”, such as the love “by reason of usefulness, consanguinity, or some other human consideration”; self-love being “included in charity when a man loves himself for the sake of God and in God”.³⁰ St. Thomas underscores that the effect of love is inherently ecstasy (extasis) which means “to be placed outside (the lover) himself” both in his apprehensive power and appetitive power. Love directly produces ecstasy in the appetitive power “when that power is borne towards something else, so that it goes forth out from itself, as it were”. By contrast, the ecstasy caused by the love of friendship is unqualified (simpliciter), while that caused by the love of concupiscence is qualified (secundum quid). As an appetite for the good, love seeks to enjoy the extrinsic good that the lover has not apart from the good that he has. But a man “seeks to have this extrinsic good for himself” in the love of concupiscence, thus

 EN, IX-9, 1170b9.  ST, I-II, q. 28, a. 1.  ST, II-II, q. 19, a. 6.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


“this movement remains finally within him”; while in the love of friendship, his “affection goes out from itself simply” because “he wishes and does good to his friend, by caring and providing for him, for his sake”.³¹ In the end, for St. Thomas, the essential difference between the love of concupiscence and the love of friendship is that the former leads to the impersonal good while the latter finally rests on the person itself. St. Thomas locates God as the ultimate end of love “for the sake of God”. He softens the egocentricity of eros by true love of friendship “outside of self” and avoids the deviation of the beloved due to the unduly abstractness of the impersonal object of the love of concupiscence—from “for the sake of the beloved person” to “for the good of the beloved” and then proceeding to “for the sake of the acquisition of that good simply for the lover himself”. The love of friendship for others is by no means the love of concupiscence for self-interest under a disguise; founded on self-love, it bears transcendent orientation and ultimate concern in the power of charity and is immune from the ambiguity that probably causes egocentrism. It is the love of the self and the love of others accordingly. The self-love in ambiguity is the real “selfishness” and two substantially different concepts. As the fundamental ethical category of selfness, self-love always acts as the basis and initiation of love in daily ethics. Self-love and selfishness are essentially distinctive in the sense that the latter is closed, possessive and calculative in personal interest while the former is open, appreciating and affirmative to the universal value and dignity of person as a person so that the ‘Universal-I’ can be approached.³²

For others is not based on self-interest but self-love; it is the unity of love (unitas affectus) formed by both sides of love. In the sense, Aristotle regards the other as “another self”. The common ground of self-love and the love of friendship is personal love (moreover, the love of friendship is inter-personal love). Self-love is not impersonal love while the egocentrism characteristic of self-interest is impersonal affection because it leads ultimately to impersonal goodness—the shifting proximate goodness and individual goodness deficient in certainty. Gallagher suggests that St. Thomas has not presented the so-called “Copernican Revolution” from egocentric self-fulfillment to Theocentric self-givingness in Nygren’s sense, however, he has shown no conceptual difficulty in this shift in his theory. For St. Thomas, there is a continuity between (natural) self-love and other-oriented love (for the sake of others themselves). They are essentially complementary

 ST, I-II, q. 28, a. 3.  Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love, 45, footnote 1.


Anthony, WANG Tao

in the sense that self-love can realize in the love for others. Nevertheless, Nygren believes that St. Thomas practically reduces self-giving agape to egocentric eros accordingly, and the latter directly presents itself as self-love.³³ St. Thomas stresses the fundamental position of self-love. For the diverse intensity of charity in the love of self and the love for neighbor, the former is stronger than the latter. He writes, …Properly speaking, a man is not a friend to himself, but something more than a friend, since friendship implies union, …whereas a man is one with himself which is more than being united to another. Hence, just as unity (unitas) is the principle of union (unio), so the love with which a man loves himself is the form and root of friendship. For if we have friendship with others it is because we do unto them as we do unto ourselves.³⁴

So does God Himself accordingly. His love is the unity of self-love and the love for others, however, self-love is “necessary and natural”, whereas the love for others “is according to a certain befittingness (secundum convenientiam quandam)” and voluntary.³⁵ Hence when the biblical “double commandment of love” of “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, it indicates that love is founded and molded on self-love. It is on this account that St. Thomas explains Aristotle’s position in the Nicomachean Ethics—“friendly relations with one’s neighbors, and the marks by which friendships are defined, seem to have proceeded from a man’s relations to himself.”³⁶ Human self-love in the sense of St. Thomas is to love “the reasoning mind” or “inward man” rather than “sensitive and corporeal nature” or “outward man”.³⁷ Man can love himself by reason of his being a partaker of the principle of good on which the charity is founded, that is, God Himself.³⁸ Meanwhile, the body partakes of the beatitude whereby to see God. “Although our bodies are unable to enjoy God by knowing and loving Him, yet by the works which we do through the body, we are able to attain to the perfect knowledge of God.”³⁹ The human body can partake of overflowing happiness and become the object of love, “the subject of charity is the rational mind that can be capable of obtaining

 David M. Gallagher, “Thomas Aquinas on Self-Love as the Basis for Love of Others,” Acta Philosophica 8 (1999), 23 – 44.  ST, II-II, q. 25, a. 4.  St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, I, q. 82.  EN, IX-4, 1166a1– 2.  ST, II-II, q. 25, a. 7. Moreover, St. Thomas suggests that every man loves himself in respect to his substance and nature, or his self-preservation of man.  ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 4.  ST, II-II, q. 25, a. 5, ad. 2.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


happiness, to which the body does not reach directly, but only by a kind of overflow”.⁴⁰ Man loves his neighbor by reason of his fellowship with him in God the reality of truth and goodness, founded on the affective union with God.⁴¹ Although our body is nearer to our soul than our neighbor, “as regards the participation of happiness, our neighbor’s soul is more closely associated with our own soul, than even our own body is”,⁴² because “fellowship in the full participation of happiness which is the reason for loving one’s neighbor, is a greater reason for loving, than the participation of happiness by way of overflow, which is the reason for loving one’s own body”.⁴³ In this way, according to St. Thomas’s order of love, the love of God is the first principle of all kinds of love; secondly, self-love of the “inward man” that partakes of the goodness of God’s creation, thirdly, friendly love for the neighbor in the communion of God’s beatitude; and lastly, the lower level self-love for the body as “outward man”. All the kinds of love above are the manifestation of charity proper to God’s beatitude. For St. Thomas, they all express themselves as inter-personal philia. St. Thomas’s definition of agape/caritas (charity) as a friendly love, amaicitia, “marks the culmination of over a hundred years of scholastic reflection on the nature of charity”.⁴⁴ However, the complexity of the question lies in that even though St. Thomas’s agape manifested as the love of friendship theologizes Aristotelian philia based on human nature, the love of friendship itself remains not purely agapic but still contains the love of concupiscence, and thus agape removes nothing concerning human natural appetite for the outside good. The complexity is not only reflected in that the love of friendship can imperfectly present itself as the love of concupiscence, but also that the love of friendship manifests itself in another worldly theological virtue, namely hope (spes), which also comprises the love of concupiscence with theological implication. By this complexity, St. Thomas’s doctrine of love highlights somewhat the union of agape and eros, while they separate from each other in Nygren’s schematic motif research method. In his scientific Theology agenda of Protestant conservatism, Nygren detaches both kinds of love from the real existence of man and considers them as merely abstract motifs.⁴⁵ Therefore, in St. Thomas’s theo-

 ST, II-II, q. 25, a.12, ad. 2.  ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 4.  ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 5, ad. 2.  ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 5.  Sherwin, “Aquinas, Augustine, and the Medieval Scholastic Crisis concerning Charity,” 199 – 200.  For Nygren’s theory to separate agape-eros and his motif research method, see: Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love.


Anthony, WANG Tao

ry, philia as the general term of inter-personal relationships consists in three hierarchical levels: philia simply for self (false), philia for mutual utility and pleasure (imperfect), and philia for the good of the others as “another self” (perfect). Both of the former two essentially aligns to the love of concupiscence while the last one is philia “the love of friendship” in the specific sense, namely the truest and most perfect friendship. Even the last one also contains the implication of the love of concupiscence, as mentioned above. Sherwin underscores the inseparability of the love of concupiscence and the love of friendship in St. Thomas’s doctrine of love as well, suggesting, The love proper to friendship (amor amicitiae) is the act of willing good to the beloved. This willing, however, must also be oriented toward the good we will for our friend and, thus, entails as an integral component an amor concupiscentiae for the good we will for him. This, in Aquinas’s view, is the essence of the love of friendship.⁴⁶

Sherwin further sums up two fundamental features of St. Thomas’s love of friendship, first is mutual benevolence, namely reciprocal love (mutua inhaesio)—“inasmuch as friends return love for love, and both desire and do good things for one another.”⁴⁷ Both sides of the love of friendship require “a certain union of affections”, therefore, benevolence or goodwill is “a simple act of the will, whereby we wish a person well”, it presupposes no union of the affections with him and merely is “a beginning of friendship” rather than the love of friendship itself.⁴⁸ Second is communion in goodness (communicatio in bono) of both sides in the love of friendship.⁴⁹ In this way, the personal characteristic presented in the love of friendship and the impersonal characteristic of the goodness that the love of concupiscence seeks, manifest in the form of union in the love of friendship. It especially embodies within the tension between the two theological virtues: charity in friendship with God and hope for union with God. In faith, hope and love three theological virtues proposed by St. Thomas, love occupies the highest position as the form of faith, while hope is considered as the theological virtue similar to the love of concupiscence. …Charity makes us adhere to God for His own sake, uniting our minds to God by the emotion of love. On the other hand, hope and faith make man adhere to God as to a principle wherefrom certain things accrue to us. Now we derive from God both knowledge of truth

 Sherwin, “Aquinas, Augustine, and the Medieval Scholastic Crisis concerning Charity,” 198.  ST, I-II, q. 28, a. 2.  ST, II-II, q. 27, a. 2.  Sherwin, “Aquinas, Augustine, and the Medieval Scholastic Crisis concerning Charity,” 200 – 201.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


and the attainment of perfect goodness. Accordingly faith makes us adhere to God, as the source whence we derive the knowledge of truth, since we believe that what God tells us is true: while hope makes us adhere to God, as the source whence we derive perfect goodness, i. e. in so far as, by hope, we trust to the Divine assistance for obtaining happiness.⁵⁰

Apparently, charity converts man to God unconditionally with love; faith converts man by the truth of God; while hope converts man by God’s promise of perfection and eternal happiness. Hope is an egocentric appetite in its own right characteristic of acquiring benefit; it is also an appetite (appetitus) for goodness, …Hope and all movements of the appetite flow from love. …Now there is a perfect, and an imperfect love. Perfect love is that whereby a man is loved in himself, as when someone wishes a person some good for his own sake; thus a man loves his friend. Imperfect love is that whereby a man love something, not for its own sake, but that he may obtain that good for himself; thus a man loves what he desires. The first love of God pertains to charity, which adheres to God for His own sake; while hope pertains to the second love, since he that hopes, intends to obtain possession of something for himself.⁵¹

Sherwin points out that unlike Augustine who emphasizes the otherworldly happiness thus underestimating charity as the proper act of benevolent goodwill, St. Thomas underscores that charity is not only the promise of otherworldly union with God but also in another aspect the hope of that promise of grace right in this world.⁵² Hence charity possesses the love of friendship and the love of concupiscence twofold dimensions through hope. As Mattison III says, in the sense of St. Thomas, the love of friendship and the love of concupiscence are two distinct movements presented at the core of all love, and they can and do coexist. The reason is that St. Thomas’s metaphysics confirms that the good of the self and the good of others can both find their common fulfillment in God; they are neither rivals nor mutually exclusive. Rather, the love of concupiscence for the self and the love of friendship for others (including the Holy Other) complement each other. Love orients towards the person itself through the good of persons.⁵³ Mattision III underlines that in St. Thomas’s theory, the love of friendship corresponds to charity, which is the reality of love that obtains God’s beatific vision (visio beatifica), and the love of concupiscence corresponds to the potential-

 ST, II-II, q. 17, a. 6.  ST, II-II, q. 17, a. 8.  Sherwin, “Aquinas, Augustine, and the Medieval Scholastic Crisis concerning Charity,” 203 – 204.  Mattison III, “Movement of Love,” 39 – 40.


Anthony, WANG Tao

ity of love when that vision is not yet acquired in this world, namely the appetite to the ultimate reality of beauty and goodness that hope is. He writes, Thomas employs a love of friendship/love of concupiscence distinction to distinguish between movements of love. They are distinct movements that are in principle—and at times in reality—separable. Yet Thomas is also clear they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, from the very basic level of human passion, to the graced life of charity informed hope, these movements of love operate in concert. …Thus it is reasonable to assume that both of these movements of love are operative in all different venues.⁵⁴

Mattison III suggests to regard all kinds of “love” as diverse movements of a single reality in different venues,⁵⁵ who happens to hold the same point of view with contemporary Protestant theologian Paul Tillich. In contrast, scholars like Nygren incline to count philia or the love of friendship as a type of love in a specific venue, namely the “affection between friends” in ordinary daily life. They subsume it under the eros motif so that it serves as the expression of the love for the self in concrete circumstances. “He (Nygren) seems to recognize that friend-friendship is a certain type of relationship with people, rather than a movement present in varying types of relationships. …Philia is ultimately about self-love and therefore ‘covered’ by eros in Nygren’s two fundamental motifs.”⁵⁶ Tillich highlights the personal quality of the love of friendship by which the impersonal feature of eros can be complemented, while St. Thomas tends to subsume the love of friendship into the domain of agape/charity although it still relates to eros inseparably. To discuss the idea of love in the context of Christian faith by the agape-eros paradigm, we also have to figure out how to integrate philia as an important Greek expression of love into that context. Although the first encyclical letter by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Deus caritas est reconfirms the agape-eros paradigm to understand love, he never mentions the problem of philia in the letter. On this point, Cardinal Dulles indicates, “Perhaps, at some future time, Benedict will supplement Deus Caritas Est with a deeper examination of friendship”.⁵⁷ However, St. Thomas, whose name is not referred to in aforesaid letter, underlines philia and the love of friendship as its perfect form by his twofold distinction of love.⁵⁸ Moreover, it is also the critical opportunity to enrich the meaning

 Ibid., 42.  See: Ibid., 31– 60.  Ibid., “Movement of Love,” 49.  Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., “Love, the Pope, and C.S. Lewis,” First Things 169 (2007), 23.  Though Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI never mentions St. Thomas in name in his first encyclical letter, he refers to St. Thomas’s idea of love. He writes, “The two notions (agape and eros)

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


of love by fitting philia into the agape-eros paradigm. Fortunately, Protestant theologian Paul Tillich achieves so in his so-called “interactive quadri-qualitative structure of love”.

3 Paul Tillich: Union of Agape-Eros Tillich’s ontological definition of love as “the reunion of the estranged rather than the union of the strange”⁵⁹ alters the traditional understanding of love by regarding it as a single reality characterized by a few qualifications of love rather than the combination of multiple types of love. “There are not types but qualifications of love, since the different qualities are present, by efficiency or deficiency, in every act of love.”⁶⁰ This position is in consonance with the aforementioned method that treats all kinds of “love” as a single reality manifested as diverse movements in different venues when Mattison III refers to St. Thomas’s doctrine of love.⁶¹ The qualifications of love consist of epithymia (libido), eros and philia proper to human nature, and agape introduced by Christian faith. Tillich says, Agape as the self-transcending element of love is not separated from the other elements that usually are described as epithymia—the libido quality of love, philia—the friendship quality of love, and eros—the mystical quality of love. In all of them what we have called ‘the urge toward the reunion of the separated’ is effective, and all of them stand under the judgment of agape. For love is one, even if one of its qualities predominates. None of the qualities is ever completely absent.⁶²

The four qualifications of love interact with each other in concrete circumstances and form the so-called “interactive quadri-qualitative structure of love”.⁶³ Tillich differentiates the unifying reality of love in natural and supernatural planes in

are often contrasted as ‘ascending’ love and ‘descending’ love. There are other, similar classifications, such as the distinction between possessive love (amor concupiscentiae) and oblative love (amor concupiscentiae/amor benevolentiae), to which is sometimes also added love that seeks its own advantage.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 7. Benedict obviously agrees with St. Thomas’s twofold distinction of amor with the distinction of agape-eros.  Paul Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice: Ontological Analyses and Ethical Applications (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 25.  Ibid., 5.  See: Mattison III, “Movement of Love,” 31– 60.  Paul Tillich, Morality and Beyond (London: Routledge, 1963), 40.  For the interactive quadri-qualitative structure of love, see: Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love.


Anthony, WANG Tao

the way that eros unites philia and seeks a reunion with the estranged by the driving force of human desire in epithymia on the one hand; on the other hand, God’s agape cuts into the qualifications of love in the daily natural (inauthentic) life by supernatural grace in the form of the Spiritual Presence from without, and participates in and thus heals the ambiguity (inauthenticity) brought about by the self-centeredness of life so that the natural life can be led to the transcendent unity of unambiguous (authentic) life and becomes the depth of love or the authenticity of love by uniting, judging and transforming the natural qualities of love.⁶⁴ For Tillich, the eros quality is essentially the craving for the beauty of nature, the beauty and truth in culture, and the pursuit of the mystical union as the source of beauty and truth.⁶⁵ Thus the eros quality performs as the trans-personal pole towards abstract beauty and truth, while philia quality, the interdependent and indivisible counterpart of eros as the personal pole, highlights the familiarity and equality between the lover and the beloved. He who cannot relate himself as an “I” to a personal other “thou” “cannot relate himself to the true and the good and to the ground of being in which they are rooted”.⁶⁶ Tillich continues, “philia is dependent on eros. Concepts like participation and communion point to the eros quality in every philia relation” because the interpersonal relationship in philia also manifests “the desire to unite with a power of being”. The power of being radiates the possibilities and realities of truth, beauty and goodness in individuality. Furthermore, “both eros and philia are not only united in the individual relation. They are also united in the communion of social groups”.⁶⁷ St. Thomas’s love of friendship, being transformed and elevated by sanctifying grace, manifests the relationship not only between the self and others in natural life, but also between man and God, along with the relationship between neighbors. In the above-mentioned threefold personal relationship, the love of friendship being unified with the love of concupiscence and pointing to the person without the absence of impersonal goodness, discovers the fundamental characteristic of love as the human conduct of his being and essence, namely the interpersonal unity and the common striving for the ultimate reality of truth and goodness. St. Thomas suggests the participation of the love of friendship in general circumstances, which means its objects is not confined to the  Tillich, Love, Power and Justice, 33; Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 137.  Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice, 30.  Ibid., 31.  Ibid., 31– 32.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


“friend” in the common sense. Instead, he regards the love of friendship as one of the fundamental movements of love and therefore in consonance with Tillich’s interactive quadri-qualitative structure of love. The latter, however, more thoroughly juxtaposes philia with agape and eros and internalizes it as a fundamental movement or qualification of the unifying reality that love is, namely the personal feature towards the other person, whereas this love quality still rests on the distinction between the ambiguity of human inauthentic existence and the unambiguous authentic life thanks to the presence of God’s grace. The Philia quality guarantees the personal feature of love by avoiding the impersonal moralistic legalism and instrumentalism brought about by superficial altruism. Nevertheless, Tillich suggests that even philia itself has ambiguity such as the negative phenomenon of preferential love and impassive symbiotic relation as Erich Fromm describes, which impedes the realization of the authenticity of love. Only under the healing power of agape can philia be elevated and transformed into equal respect among persons and the interpersonal sympathy in the order of love.⁶⁸ As we have mentioned above, St. Thomas also differentiates philia as the love of friendship that preserves friendship when the lover “wish[es] his friend some good” even though it is “based on usefulness or pleasure”, and the love of friendship that “loses the character to true friendship (deficit a ratione verea amicitiae)” since the lover “refers this good further to his own pleasure or use” so as to be connected with love of concupiscence.⁶⁹ This distinction is obviously derived from Aristotle. In comparison to Tillich, St. Thomas more briefly distinguishes the true love of friendship and the false one (in ambiguity). Moreover, for him, preferential love (especially in blood ties) is the natural and normal form fulfilled by agape rather than the ambiguity subject to condemnation; it rightly forms the order of love, as shown in the following part. In Tillich’s union of love, four qualities interact with each other to preserve the rich dynamic and meaning of love. In agape-eros as the foundation, agape heals the ambiguity of human natural existence by its supernatural power from without and rectifies other qualities of love through transforming and elevating them. Conversely, eros (including eros, philia and epithymia three fundamental qualities proper to human nature) characteristic of human natural existence acts on agape, so that it “provides the latter with the richness of existence so that agape can be integrated into the existential circumstances to acquire the concrete expression and elaborate its real transforming dominance rather than

 Ibid., 118 – 119.  ST, I-II, q. 26, a. 4, ad. 3.


Anthony, WANG Tao

being ossified as the lifeless abstract moral imperative and principle”.⁷⁰ Through this “interactivity” agape elevates eros and eros reifies agape. For Protestant theologians like Tillich, however, when we adopt the language related to eros to make agape concrete, it is explicit that such language is nothing but the symbolization of the divine love. For instance, when philia quality is introduced in the discourse of agape, disciples as “friends of God” are merely signified “in a metaphorical symbolic way, for there is no equality between God and man”.⁷¹ In the doctrine of St. Thomas, the union of the love of friendship and the love of concupiscence is primarily the concurrence of the person and the impersonal good in the act of love; while their union at best is characterized by the implication of the love of concupiscence remaining in hope after being transformed by the infusion of the theological virtues. For St. Thomas, “to be friends with God” is the interpersonal relationship between man and God; the love of friendship doesn’t underscore equality but rather mutuality and communion. Tillich is close to St. Thomas on self-love. He suggests that human self-love is molded by the Trinitarian God. Trinity directly points to the divine self-love and indirectly leads to human self-love in an analogical way. Taking on the love among three persons, God’s self-love operates as the fulfillment of love as the reunion of the estranged in divinity. Human self-love suffers from ambiguity as well; it may descend to a negative egoism without the healing power of agape. Tillich writes, This makes it possible also to apply the term agape to the love wherein man loves himself, that is, himself as the eternal image in the divine life. Man can have the other forms of love toward himself, such as simple self-affirmation, libido, friendship, and eros. None of these forms is evil as such. But they become evil where they are not under the criterion of selflove in the sense of agape. Where this criterion is lacking, proper self-love becomes false self-love, namely, a selfishness which is always connected with self-contempt and selfhate. The distinction between these two contradictory forms of self-love is extremely important. The one is an image of the divine self-love; the other contradicts the divine self-love.⁷²

For both St. Thomas and Tillich likewise, the extreme form of self-givingness, namely self-sacrifice for the sake of others also suffers from ambiguity, which stands in radical opposition to Nygren’s position. Nygren particularly emphasizes the essential difference between self-giving agape and self-fulfilling eros by proposing a Pauline Theology as the exemplar of agape, i. e. “Christian love must be ready…to sacrifice even its ‘spiritual’ advantages and privileges, if

 Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love, 118.  Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. I (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), 281.  Ibid., 282.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


need be, in the service of its neighbor”. This is exemplified by the biblical verse in Romans, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”. (Rom 9: 3)⁷³ For Nygren, the greatest distinction between agape and eros is that the former is Theocentric while the latter egocentric. The transformation of self-giving agape for others (for God’s sake) from eros is counted by him as the “Copernican revolution” that “transvalues” the ancient values, which is completed by the Theology of Martin Luther which attempts to restore the Pauline Theology.⁷⁴ Nevertheless, self-giving sacrifice chiefly refers to the physical aspect; while in the spiritual aspect the personal benefit should be preserved as far as possible for St. Thomas. St. Thomas clarifies the problem concerning Romans 9: 3 by underlining that to love neighbor is not more meritorious than to love God because to love neighbor is eventually for the sake of God. The Apostle Paul speaks like that “in a state of unbelief, so that we should not imitate him in this respect”. Precisely, this statement shows the absolute priority of loving God because the Apostle Paul “wished to be deprived for a time of the Divine fruition which pertains to love of one self, in order that God might be honored in his neighbor, which pertains to the love of God”.⁷⁵ A man ought to sacrifice for one’s neighbor and bear bodily injury, but the reason should be that “in so doing he loves himself more as regards his spiritual mind, because it pertains to the perfection of virtue, which is a good of the mind”, in spiritual aspect, “man ought not to suffer injury by sinning, in order to free his neighbor from sin”. ⁷⁶ St. Thomas continues, Wherefore just as unity surpasses union, the fact that man himself has a share of the Divine good, is a more potent reason for loving than that another should be a partner with him in that share. …A man ought not to give way to any evil of sin, which counteracts his share of happiness, not even that he may free his neighbor from sin.⁷⁷

Therefore, St. Thomas doesn’t sacrifice the personal spiritual advantage especially in loving God due to God Himself being the ultimate end and guarantee of the love for others. In other words, as the “being towards God”, man should decide whether to sacrifice by the criteria whether it is “for the sake of God” rather than simply for the sake of the neighbor lest he would sacrifice the principle of faith instead. The sacrifice of the “being toward God” is by no means unconditional

    

Nygren, Agape and Eros, 131– 132. Ibid., 681 ff. ST, II-II, q. 27, a. 8, ad. 1. ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 4, ad. 2. ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 4.


Anthony, WANG Tao

and absolute, no matter of the soul that can see God directly or the body that can partake of overflowing happiness indirectly. All kinds of self-sacrifice should always be faithful to the nature of the “being toward God”, which is the self-assertion in its own right. In short, self-sacrifice should take the spiritual advantage, namely the principle of faith as the “bottom line”. Self-sacrifice is not the unconditional moral imperative at all. Tillich likewise questions the ambiguity of self-sacrifice. For him, although the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ for human beings stands as the perfect example of love, the imitation of Christ by this unexceptionally suffers from ambiguity as all the modalities proper to human nature. Tillich believes that notwithstanding the sacrifice is a continuous moral demand in moral life, “every sacrifice is a moral risk and that hidden motives may even make a seemingly heroic sacrifice questionable”. One of the risks is “the decision whether to sacrifice the real for the possible of the possible for the real”. The tragedy of self-sacrifice is to sacrifice for the unworthy, or the sacrifice itself no benefit for both the victim and for whom he is sacrificed. Even if the self that is sacrificed is worthy, whether the one for whom he is sacrificed accepts the worth of that sacrifice is doubtful. “The cause which receives it (sacrifice) may be evil, or the person for whom it is offered may use it for selfish exploitation.” Therefore, self-sacrifice is not an unambiguous good act on which an easy conscience can rely.⁷⁸ The self-sacrifice for the neighbor suffers the similar ambiguity as St. Thomas suggests, what it brings may not be self-fulfillment—the acquisition of goodness due to the fact that it denies the possibility to actualize the potentiality of life. Meanwhile, self-sacrifice may not be the fulfillment of others because the fulfillment of others may be the connivance at the evildoings. Thus it should not be advocated as the imitation of Christ. Tillich points out that, however, as the self-giving or selfsacrificial love, agape contains the transcendent spiritual value to remove the aforesaid ambiguity and tragic character under the healing power of the Spiritual Presence of God’s grace so that the unambiguous significance can be recovered, that is, the acceptance of the finitude of human individual and species, namely the fact that their potentiality is not possible to be completely actualized. In every religious sacrifice, finite man deprives himself of a power of being which seems to be his but which is not his in an absolute sense, as he acknowledges by the sacrifice; it is his only because it is given to him and, therefore, not ultimately his, and the acknowledgement of this situation is the sacrifice. Such an understanding of the sacrifice excludes the

 Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, 43 – 44.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


humanistic ideal of the all-round personality in which every human potentiality is actualized.⁷⁹

The acceptance of human finitude is the recognition of the uninterrupted unity of man with God, so to speak, man sacrifices the autonomous potentiality of selffulfillment to obtain the “self-fulfillment under Theonomy” from God.⁸⁰ In the sense, whether for St. Thomas or for Tillich, the significance of self-sacrifice is to justify the self-affirmation of the human being by loving God and relying on God as the ultimate foundation.

4 Integration with the Chinese Confucian Idea of Love In literal terms the Confucian love of humanity (Ren) underscores the personal relationship, and is similar to St. Thomas’s and Tillich’s emphases of the personal quality of love. The love of Ren focuses more on the level of human nature based on the “loving relatives”, and practically engages the multi-dimensional inter-personal relationship in earthly life. In addition, it also operates at the supernatural level, aiming to reach the spiritual plane of Heaven and Earth by its ambition for the universal love towards all people and creatures. The Confucian idea of love covers all aspects of inter-personal relations and forms the hierarchical order radiated from the blood-tied relation. Characterized by prominent preferential love, it introduces an ethics which is usually labeled as “blood kinship ethics” or consanguinitism.⁸¹ Apparently, the idea of love proposed by the Christian faith seems to be characterized by caritas infused by God’s grace and its super-consanguineous universal love. In the comparison between Christian love and Confucian love, scholars can fall into the duality of unconditional super-consanguineous universal love and preferential love based on blood bond, and consider this typological mode as the basic paradigm for correlative studies. This paradigm both overshadows the universal concern of the

 Ibid., 271.  Ibid., 270 – 271.  In the Warring States period, another prominent school other than Confucianism, namely Mohism, proposes universal love (jian’ai) and fails to engage the interpersonal relations by way of distinction (the mutual inhibition for the sake of self-interest). It particularly denies the Confucian love of Ren and believes that it is provincial in comparison to universal love, “Love of Ren is merely partial love (ti’ai)” (Mo Tzu, Canon I).


Anthony, WANG Tao

Confucian love in its “spiritual plane of Heaven and Earth”, and neglects the preferential ordo amoris presented in the Christian idea of love. The former can be found in the thought of the Neo-Confucian master Wang Yang-Ming in Ming Dynasty; while the latter position can be represented by both St. Thomas’s and Tillich’s philosophy of love. In the controversy on “mutual concealment of wrong doing among family members” proceeded within Chinese academia in recent years, scholars come to take sides, on the one hand supporting the Confucian consanguinitism by emphasizing that the consanguineous affection or love is the fundamental principle extended to the universal love of Ren in the way that “treats with respect the elders in my family, and then extends that respect to include the elders in other families; and treats with tenderness the young in my own family, and then extends that tenderness to include the young in other families”.⁸² This consanguineous affection shapes a special interpersonal bond called “blood kinship” in the deep cultural-psychological structure and social life, and impacts on the development of natural individuality and sociality of man as a whole,⁸³ so that “it brings out the serious negative effect” and “furnishes the breeding ground for the corruption that puts some affection of a particular group over the general collective benefit”.⁸⁴ Nevertheless, the love of Ren which takes filial piety as the core, as a kind of preferential love, if “benefits one’s relatives unrightfully at the expense of others”, will fall into “a deep paradox” of “negating humane love (love of Ren) by its sole source—filial piety” and bring about the opposite effect to the extending of love.⁸⁵ On the other hand, some scholars suggest  Mencius, King Hui of Liang I.  See: Liu Qingping, “Filiality versus Sociality and Individuality: On Confucianism as ‘Consanguinitism’”, Philosophy East & West 53 (2003), 234– 250. In this article, Liu insists that the contradictory relations among individuality (moral “i” realized through the culture), sociality (“I” of humanity realized through the extending of the love of Ren) and filial piety (consanguineous love) causes the unsolvable paradox of Confucianism.  Liu Qingping, “On Blood Kinship Characteristics in Confucius-Mencius Confucianism,” in Guo Qiyong (ed.), A Collection of Contentions about Confucian Ethics: Focusing on the Mutual Concealment among Family Members, 853 – 887; Liu Qingping, “Virtue or Corruption? Analysis on Two Cases of King Shun in Mencius,” Guo Qiyong (ed.), A Collection of Contentions about Confucian Ethics, 895.  Liu Qingping, “May We Harm Fellow Humans for the Sake of Kinship Love?: A Response to Critics”, Dao 7 (2008), 311. Liu indicates that the Confucius-Mencius Confucianism prefers filial piety to Ren, so it “falls into the deep paradox that it attempts to achieve Ren by filial piety as the foundation on the one hand, and to defend filial piety at the cost of Ren on the other. Thereby it brings out a series of grave negative effects in real life such as the breeding of corruption, the suppression of social morality, the contempt of legality and the neglect of human rights, etc.” See: Liu Qingping, “Re-address the Issue of Confucius-Mencius Confucianism and Corrup-

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


that Confucian ethics remains the contextual one and presents the manifestation of the universalism of “humanity (ren) being to love others” in the particular of the “father being affectionate and son being pious”.⁸⁶ The Confucian preferential love of Ren is the love that considers the particularity of the loved based on the distinction of all the things; it “shows our universal love according to the different situations of different objects in different ways”.⁸⁷ Confucian ethics regards nothing but the consanguineous affection of “loving relatives” as the “starting point” for the fulfillment of the Confucian moral idea from which the extending of love is realized. However, it by no means constrains itself within this framework by considering consanguineous kinship love as the supreme criterion and ultimate end.⁸⁸ Obviously, the distinction of two fundamental positions lies in the origin of the love of Ren. Neither the consanguineous love that the former supposes nor the latter’s universal love overcomes its one-sidedness. Furthermore, the cognitive modes of the Confucian idea of love and the Christian idea of love both will probably simplify the issues in question. In Ming Dynasty, the famous Neo-Confucian master Wang Yang-Ming suggests that “the human mind and the myriad things form one body”. Human innate knowledge⁸⁹ is the substance of the universe through which man and those “things without spirit” such as plants and trees and tiles and stones enter into one another and flourish the universe as a whole “sharing the same material force”. Wang says,

tion: Deliberating with Mr. Guo Qiyong,” in Guo Qiyong (ed.), A Collection of Contentions about Confucian Ethics, 920.  Guo Qiyong, “Also on “Son’s Cover-up for Father” Deliberating with Mr. Liu Qingping,” in Guo Qiyong (ed.), A Collection of Contentions about Confucian Ethics, 12– 20.  Huang Yong, “Confucian Ren and Global Ethic: With Special Reference to Christian Critique on Confucianism,” in Guo Qiyong (ed.), A Collection of Contentions about Confucian Ethics, 807– 810.  Guo Qiyong, ‘Filial Piety: The Root of Morality or the Source of Corruption?: Is Confucian Ethics a ‘Consanguinism’?”, Dao 6 (2007), 35.  The core concept of Wang Yang-Ming “the innate knowledge” possesses the same meaning in Chinese as the English term “conscience” or especially the Greek word “synderesis” (in St. Thomas’s sense) as “liang zhi”. Both concepts have the epistemological meaning as well as the ethical meaning as shown in some European languages such as French and Italian. For conscience and synderesis, see: Wang Tao, “Reflection on Pagan Virtues: A Philosophical Study on St. Thomas Aquinas’s Virtue Theory,” 114– 116; Wang Tao Anthony, “St. Thomas Aquinas’s Theory of Pagan Virtues: A Pilgrimage towards the Infused Cardinal Virtues,” 37– 39; Wang Tao, “St. Thomas Aquinas on Connaturality: With Special Reference to Synderesis,” Universitas: Monthly Review of Philosophy and Culture, No. 512 (2017/1), 134– 138.


Anthony, WANG Tao

The innate knowledge of man is the same as that of plants and trees, tiles and stones. Without the innate knowledge inherent in man, there cannot be plants and trees, tiles and stones. This is not true of them only. Even Heaven and Earth cannot exist without the innate knowledge that is inherent in man. For at bottom Heaven, Earth, the myriad things, and man form one body. The point at which this unity manifests in its most refined and excellent form is the clear intelligence of the human mind. Wind, rain, dew, thunder, sun and moon, stars, animals and plants, mountains and rivers, earth and stones are essentially of one body with man. It is for this reason that such things as medicine and minerals can heal diseases. Since they share the same material force, they enter into one another.⁹⁰

Under the original substance of the mind as the highest good and “the spirit of creation” that the innate knowledge is, the love relation among all the things takes shape. Wang writes, The great man regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body. He regards the world as one family and the country as one person. As to those who make a cleavage between objects and distinguish between the self and others, they are small men. That the great man can regard Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things as one body is not because he deliberately wants to do so, but because it is natural to the humane nature of his mind that he do so. Forming one body with Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things is no different. Only he himself makes it small. Therefore, when he sees a child about to fall into a well, he cannot help a feeling of alarm and commiseration. This shows that his humanity (ren) forms one body with the child. It may be objected that the child belongs to the same species. Again, when he observes the pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be slaughtered, he cannot help feeling an ‘inability to bear’ their suffering. This shows that his humanity forms one body with birds and animals. It may be objected that birds and animals are sentient beings as he is. But when he sees plants broken and destroyed, he cannot help a feeling of pity. This shows that his humanity forms one body with plants. It may be said that plants are living things as he is. Yet even when he sees tiles and stones shattered and crushed, he cannot help a feeling of regret. This shows that his humanity forms one body with tiles and stones. This means that even the mind of the small man necessarily has the humanity that forms one body with all. Such a mind is rooted in his Heaven-endowed nature, and is naturally intelligent, clear, and not beclouded. For this reason it is called the ‘clear character’.⁹¹

Nevertheless, Wang emphasizes the order of love characterized by the distinction of “relative importance” due to the complicated relations among all the things. He says,

 Wang Yang-Ming, “Conversations Recorded by Huang Xing-Zeng” (“Huang Xing-Zeng Lu”), in Instructions for Practical Living (Zhuan Xi Lu).  Wang Yang-Ming, Inquiry on the Great Leaning (Da Xue Wen).

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


“It is because of principles that there necessarily is relative importance. Take for example the body, which is one. If we use the hands and the feet to protect the head, does that mean that we especially treat them as less important? Because of their principles this is what should be done. We love both plants and animals, and yet we can tolerate feeding animals with plants. We love both animals and men, and yet we can tolerate butchering animals to feed our parents, provide for religious sacrifices, and entertain guests. We love both parents and strangers. But suppose here are a small basket of rice and a platter of soup. With them one will survive and without them one will die. Since not both our parents and the stranger can be saved by this meager food, we will prefer to save our parents instead of the stranger. This we can tolerate. We can tolerate all these because by principle these should be done. As to the relationship between ourselves and our parents there cannot be any distinction of this or that or of greater or lesser importance. For being humane to all people and feeling love for all comes from this affection toward parents. If in this relationship we can tolerate any relative importance, then anything can be tolerated. What the Great Leaning calls relative importance means that according to innate knowledge there is a natural order which should not be skipped over. This is called righteousness. To follow this order is called propriety. To understand this order is called wisdom. And to follow this order from beginning to end is called faithfulness.”⁹²

Wang establishes the Confucian order of love according to the distinction of relative importance in the natural order. This order puts “ourselves” and “our parents” as the primary objects of the love that “we cannot tolerate”. Therefore, he regards the consanguineous affection as the natural foundation for the extending of the love of Ren, and still considers it as “the starting point of the human mind’s spirit of life” of the universal love of Ren, which regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body. As Wang has written, …If there is no sprout, how can there be the trunk, branches, or leaves? The tree can sprout because there is the root beneath. With the root the plant will grow. Without it, the plant will die, for without the root, how can it sprout? The love between father and son and between elder and younger brothers is the starting point of the human mind’s spirit of life, just like the sprout of the tree. From here it is extended to humaneness to all people and love to all things. It is just like the growth of the trunk, branches, and leaves. Mo Tzu’s universal love makes no distinction in human relations and regards one’s own father, son, elder brother, or younger brother as being the same as a passer-by. That means that Mo Tzu’s universal love has no starting point. It does not sprout. We therefore know that it has no root and that it is not a process of unceasing production and reproduction. How can it be called humanity? Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity. This means that the principle of humanity grows from within.⁹³

 Wang Yang-Ming, “Conversations Recorded by Huang Xing-Zeng” (“Huang Xing-Zeng Lu”), in Instructions for Practical Living (Zhuan Xi Lu).  Wang Yang-Ming, “Conversations Recorded by Lu Cheng” (“Lu Cheng Lu”), in Instructions for Practical Living (Zhuan Xi Lu).


Anthony, WANG Tao

Comparatively, the Christian idea of love as a super-consanguineous ethics introduces the brand-new love relation that is impartial and even free of blood-tie. In fact, “the natural foundations of love” such as consanguineous affection and reciprocity are never neglected in Christian tradition. From St. Thomas’s thought, which used to be the official doctrine of Catholic Church, we can find not only the promotion of the consanguineous love but also the distinct hierarchical ordering of love. Under the influence of human nature, as Confucianism sets up the ordo amoris based on the preferential love, Christian tradition likewise has not ruled out the preferentiality of love. The agapic love flourishing by God’s grace, far from destroying the love proper to human nature that eros⁹⁴ is, fulfills eros in the deeper and more tensional level instead. The ordo amoris obtained by the union of agape and eros gives a love ethics a rich and realistic (contextual) sense. Firstly, St. Thomas underlines that God’s love towards creation has no distinction in essence; however, it is preferential in intensity up to the goodness and existential situation of the beloved. Thus “God loves more the better things…that God’s loving one thing more than another is nothing else than His willing for that thing a greater good”.⁹⁵ Accordingly, God’s love of grace towards all things forms a hierarchical order. For St. Thomas, the degrees of love within the hierarchy may be measured from the similarity to God to the extent that “the more like to God, the more is it to be loved” on the one hand, and the relation between the lover and the beloved in the sense that “a man loves more that which is more closely connected with him” on the other hand. ⁹⁶ This point of view has already radically denied the general idea that Christian love is universal love without preferentiality. In St. Thomas’s ordo amoris, self-love is the central one from which the extending of love proceeds. As we have mentioned, self-love as unitas “is the form and root of friendship” which emphasizes the unio of the neighbors in God’s goodness. There is, however, an order among neighbors. Due to the fact that the inclination of grace (the affective intensity of caritas) befits the nature of the thing, “the person who loves, it must need be that the affection of love increases in proportion to the nearness to one or the other of those principles”.⁹⁷

 The eros discussed in my monograph Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love focuses on natural love in a metaphysical sense, while here the physical-biological sense of it is underlined, namely the love close to a natural instinct based on the genetic similarity.  ST, I, q. 20, a. 4.  ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 9.  ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 6.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


St. Thomas insists that the intensity of love is decided by whether the beloved is more close to God thus obtaining more goodness, namely the natural condition of the beloved himself (the degree of goodness) on the one hand, and whether the lover and the beloved are more close to each other, especially in the most intimate special relationship as the natural bond of the consanguineous affection.⁹⁸ St. Thomas particularly highlights that this kind of love possesses “more ways” than the love “out of charity or caritas”. Therefore, “out of charity both eliciting and commanding, we love in more ways those who are more nearly connected with us,” including those who are akin or connected with us, or those who are fellow-countrymen.⁹⁹ Although St. Thomas has not crystallized the consanguineous love from the dimensions of Christian love summarized in the double commandment of Christian love, he reserves the space for it in his theory of ordo amoris. ¹⁰⁰ For him, the intensity and stability of love chiefly depends on consanguineous affection and fellowship for mutual benefit. Therefore, the more that through which the lover is one with the one he loves is greater, the more is the love intense. For we love those whom the origin of birth joins to us, or the way of life, or something of the sort, more than those whom the community of human nature alone joins to us. Again, the more the source of the union is intimate to the lover, by so much the stronger becomes the love. Hence, at times, the love arising from some passion becomes more intense than the love that is of natural origin or from some habit; but it passes more easily.¹⁰¹

 St. Thomas admits the blood-tied relation; he believes that “consanguinity” is “persons descending from the same common ancestor”. The blood-tied relation or consanguinity “is a certain propinquity based on the natural communication by the act of procreation whereby nature is propagated”. There are mainly three lines of consanguinity, namely the “descending” line of father to son, the “ascending” line of son to father, and the “collateral” line of the mutual relation among brothers. See: ST, Suppl., q. 54, a. 1, 2.  ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 7.  St. Thomas explicitly promotes the virtue of pietas. Pietas denotes that we render faithful service and give homage to firstly God, and secondly our parents (kindred) and our country (fellow-citizens and friends). He implies that religion and piety are not opposed to the other. “…The worship due to God includes the worship due to our parents as a particular. …The term piety extends also to the divine worship.” ST, II-II, q. 101, a. 1. Hence, “if the worship of one’s parents take one away from the worship of God it would no longer be an act of piety to pay worship to one’s parents to the prejudice of God.” Likewise, “If, however, by paying the services due to our parents, we are not withdrawn from the service of God, then will it be an act of piety, and there will be no need to set piety aside for the sake of religion.” ST, II-II, q. 101, a. 4.  St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, I, q. 91.


Anthony, WANG Tao

St. Thomas stresses the love relation based on the existential foundation of substance, which is solid, intensive and internal. While this love bonded with human substantial existence is primarily characterized by the consanguinity in a biological sense. St. Thomas insists that since the intensity of love depends on the bond of the lover and the beloved, we should measure the love towards different people according to different types of bonds, and in like manner, we should compare types of love according to the comparison of diverse bonds. Thereby, for St. Thomas, “If however we compare union with union, it is evident that the union arising from natural origin is prior to, and more stable than, all others, because it is something affecting the very substance. …Therefore the friendship of kindred is more stable”.¹⁰² Accordingly, the special bond of the blood-tied relation is more preferred. We have found in St. Thomas’s philosophy of love that the love ethics of Christianity can neither be simply labelled as an altruism that does not care about self-interest, nor even a kind of universal love that is impartial, nor a self-giving love that is unilateral and non-reciprocal, it properly does not reject the dimension of self-fulfillment and presents the hierarchical order along with reciprocal communion. Christian ethics is not the super-consanguineous affection merely characterized by agape or caritas of supernatural grace, but proposes that agapic grace operates in all dimensions of moral life upon the natural condition of human beings and forms a union with human nature and fulfills it. It is found in the ethical engagement of consanguineous relations and affections; thus Christian love ethics by no means denies the dimension of a blood-tied relationship. Although Christian love possesses universality, it also shows preferentiality based on the natural condition of the love object and the natural distinction of the relations between the subject and object of love. It takes the shape founded on consanguinity and radiated outwards according to the order of love in human ethical life within which grace and nature forge a union. Accordingly, Christian ethics aggregates the depth of love in theory and consolidates a concrete starting point in practice.¹⁰³

For Tillich, the philia quality of love embraced by eros or human natural love¹⁰⁴, is characterized by the preferential love in one of its ambiguities, he says, The ambiguities of the philia quality of love appeared already in its first description as person-to-person love between equals. However large the group of equals may be, the philia

 ST, II-II, q. 26, a. 8.  Wang Tao & Lai Pan-Chiu, “Altruism in Christian, Confucian and Evolutionary Perspectives,” Sino-Christian Studies: An International Journal of Bible, Theology & Philosophy 15 (2013/6), 201– 202.  Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, 240.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


quality of love establishes preferential love. Some are preferred, the majority is excluded. This is obvious not only in intimate relations as family and friendship, but also in the innumerable forms of sympathetic person-to-person encounters. The implicit or explicit rejection of all those who are not admitted to such a preferential relation is negative compulsion and can be as cruel as any compulsion. But such a rejection of others is tragically unavoidable. Nobody can escape the necessity to exercise it.¹⁰⁵

Although Tillich considers that the preferentiality of philia or friendly love negatively presents the ambiguity of human natural love without the purification of supernatural infusion, he still points out the acceptability of that love. He believes that even though philia shows a preference of friendship it does not negate the personhood of others and does not exclude all of them. As the love quality of the personal pole, philia affirms everyone as a person to be loved.¹⁰⁶ Then agape, as the Spiritual Presence, “does not deny the preferential love of the philia quality, but it purifies it from a subpersonal bondage, and it elevates the preferential love into universal love”. Tillich continues, “Agape cuts through the separation of equals and unequals, of sympathy and antipathy, of friendship and indifference, of desire and disgust. It needs no sympathy in order to love; it loves what it has rejected in terms of philia. Agape loves in everybody and through everybody loves itself”.¹⁰⁷ It is actually an extending of philia with the assistance of divine force. The starting point of this extending of love must be the most intimate relationship for Tillich, namely the consanguineous affection and other close relations of friendly love. Tillich insists that there is no conflict between agape and philia while there is tension within them in the dynamic process towards the unambiguous life of the transcendent union. They conflict with each other “only in the estrangement of ambiguous life”.¹⁰⁸ Tillich, as well as St. Thomas, suggests that grace does not destroy nature but fulfills it. He says, “agape, in the Spiritual Community, is not only itself united with the other qualities of love; it also creates unity among them.”¹⁰⁹ Accordingly, in philia’s case, agape endorses the preferential love based on the consanguineous affection; it furthermore extends philia towards the love of those outside kindred and intimate relations, thus transforming the preferential consanguineous love into the universal one. Therefore, Wang Yang-Ming’s Confucian ethics and Christian ethics of St. Thomas and Tillich both emphasize the universality of love and endorse acts     

Paul Tillich, Love, Power and Justice, 118 – 119. Ibid., 119. Ibid. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, 156 – 157. Ibid., 157.


Anthony, WANG Tao

of love in conformity with some order or distinction. In both cases the consanguineous affection takes the important position in the hierarchical order. Universal love is not unique to Christianity; while the “loving relatives” is by no means the domain of Confucianism. The assertion that “the man practicing the love of Ren regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body” establishes the love of a human towards all things other than that of the blood bond. Thus we can say, Confucianism and Christianity cannot be superficially distinguished as consanguinitism and super-consangunitism as two distinctive types because they both incorporated consanguinity and super-consanguinity. The difference lies in that the Confucian formulation of consanguinity is more clear and distinct; while Christianity is more down-to-earth in its super-consanguineous ethics.¹¹⁰

Consanguinity is the critical characteristics of human nature on which the Confucian idea of love takes its departure and which Christianity emphasizes. Although Christianity has not specifically focused on this dimension of love, from the detailed analyses of the natural love relative to God’s supernatural love, be it the differentiation of amor amicitiae/amor concupiscientiae of St. Thomas along with the transformative power of caritas, or Tillich’s “interactive quadri-qualitative structure of love” that forges the union of natural epithymia, eros, philia and supernatural agape, we can find the inclusiveness of the Christian idea of love and the tension of the natural-supernatural powers hidden within it. When constructing love-centered ethics, both Confucianism and Christianity have to be concerned with the ethical situation proper to the human natural condition. Thus the blood-tied relationship or affection as the bond characterizing human nature naturally becomes the foundation for multiple relationships that need to be settled by ethics. The order of universal love extended from this very foundation also offers an opportunity for dialogue and communion between two great cultural-belief systems. From the perspective of Christianity, Christian grace of agape can realize the union with human natural eros in metaphysical plane,¹¹¹ they can also form the union in the physical plane (the consanguineous affection based on the genetic similarity in biological sense can

 Wang Tao & Lai Pan-Chiu, “Altruism in Christian, Confucian and Evolutionary Perspectives,” 208.  For the union of Christian agape and eros in the metaphysical plane mainly proposed by Tillich, see: Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love; while for the union of agape and eros in the tradition of Catholic spirituality, and the similar viewpoint reiterated by the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his encyclical letter Deus caritas est, see: Wang Tao, Agape and Eros: Catholic Love in the Tradition of Christian Spirituality.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


be subsumed into the physical plane of eros) so that the mutual fulfillment is achieved. In the rich tradition of Christian faith, we have sufficiently confirmed this point from different perspectives.¹¹² Furthermore, for the aforesaid understanding of self-giving or self-sacrificial love, St. Thomas and Tillich can also provide important resources for a reflection on Confucianism which always advocates “to give up one’s life for righteousness”¹¹³ or “to kill oneself for the fulfillment of humanity (Ren)”¹¹⁴ so that the ambiguity of the “blind devotion to one’s lord and parents” or “fake piety and loyalty” can be overcome. In conclusion, the integration of Confucianism and Christianity will be a great academic task with many possibilities, while the great Christian thinkers such as St. Thomas from the Catholic Church and Paul Tillich from the Protestant tradition may well be an indispensable reservoir of wisdom.

5 Conclusion Being a Protestant Lutheran theologian, Tillich is famous of his affinity with Catholic Theology,¹¹⁵ particularly his well-known concept “Catholic substance”, The Protestant principle is an expression of the conquest of religion by the Spiritual Presence and consequently an expression of the victory over the ambiguities of religion, its profanization, and its demonization. …The Protestant principle which is a manifestation of the prophetic Spirit is not restricted to the churches of the Reformation or to any other church; it transcends every particular church, being an expression of the Spiritual Community. … [Nevertheless,] it alone is not enough; it needs the ‘Catholic substance,’ the concrete embodiment of the Spiritual Presence; but it is the criterion…of such embodiment.¹¹⁶

Hence as the Spiritual Presence, agape must reify itself in human nature by erosunity of natural qualities of love so that the interactive union of agape-eros could

 See: Wang Tao & Lai Pan-Chiu, “Altruism in Christian, Confucian and Evolutionary Perspectives,” 183 – 214. For the extending reflection of the eco-ethics, please see: Wang Tao & Lai Pan-Chiu, “Reconsidering St. Thomas’s Ecological Ethics,” Universitas: Monthly Review of Philosophy and Culture, No. 438(2010/11), 155 – 173.  Mencius, Gaozi I.  Analects of Confucius, King Ling of Wei.  For the affinity of Tillich’s Theology with Catholicism, see: Raymond F. Bulman and Frederick J. Parrella (eds.), Paul Tillich: A New Catholic Assessment (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1964); Thomas A. O’Meara and Celestin D. Weisser (eds.), Paul Tillich in Catholic Thought (Dubuque: The Priory Press, 1964).  Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, 245.


Anthony, WANG Tao

be informed in human existence. As a result, the ambiguity of human nature can be transformed and elevated to the transcendent unity of unambiguous life towards the authentic existence by the healing power of agape. Therefore, Tillich’s Theology has an affinity with Catholicism in four areas including sacramentality, metaphysics, culture and mysticism which underscore the realization of the Godman communion through concrete reification.¹¹⁷ Lamm culls from Tillich’s term “Catholic substance” three characteristics, firstly the sacramental world view, “because the divine transcendence is defined in terms of immanence, God is immediately present in and through the finite. Everything finite, therefore, because it participates in the divine, has the potential to be a sacrament, a bearer of the holy”; secondly, the immediate awareness of God; thirdly is properly the ontology of love, “to be living means to be in essential relation with self and with other”, namely “the reunion of the estranged”.¹¹⁸ The union of the love of concupiscence and the love of friendship by St. Thomas is established by the connection between the theological virtues charity (agape) and hope (with the characteristic of the love of concupiscence). Charity is characterized by the communion of man and God, while hope represents the worldly aspiration and expectation of the eschatological union with God; both of them have the distinctive orientation of Theology. By contrast, Tillich emphasizes that agape cuts into natural but inauthentic human existence in the form of Spiritual Presence of God’s grace and rectifies the ambiguity of the estranged nature apart from the divine reality characterized by the unity of eros qualities of love (epithymia, eros and philia) in order to bring it into the transcendent unity of unambiguous authentic life. This state of life is the restoration of human essence at the higher level called essentialization by Tillich. Obviously, this approach is quite philosophical. The consistent position of St. Thomas’s Theology and philosophy is that “grace never destroys nature but fulfills it”. The core of Christian faith, viz. agape or charity is the disposition (dispositio) infused by God’s supernatural grace¹¹⁹ and leading man to his perfection and excellence. Like the acquired virtue proportionate to human nature and cultivated through repetitive habituation, it disposes as good habit (habitus bonus) to be internalized and becomes the sec-

 Thomas F. O’Meara, “Paul Tillich in Catholic Thought: The Past and the Future,” in Raymond F. Bulman and Frederick J. Parrella (eds.), Paul Tillich: A New Catholic Assessment, 14 ff.  Julia A. Lamm, “‘Catholic Substance’ Revisited: Reversals of Expectations in Tillich’s Doctrine of God,” in Raymond F. Bulman and Frederick J. Parrella (eds.), Paul Tillich: A New Catholic Assessment, 50 – 52.  St. Thomas and Tillich alike identify agape with the Holy Spirit and emphasize that love is the proper name of the Holy Spirt in the sense of the person. ST, I, q. 37, a. 1.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


ond nature of man. Charity is “a virtue, for, since charity attains God, it unites us to God”.¹²⁰ The typical acquired virtues, namely four cardinal virtues—prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice become the so-called infused cardinal virtues by the transformation and elevation of the theological virtues faith, hope and charity among which charity is the core. Having charity as the form and the acquired virtues as the matter, the infused cardinal virtues reach the new higher supernatural dimension for the pursuit of perfection and excellence by overcoming the imperfection of human natural virtues and achieve the true perfection (perfectum simpliciter). Tillich and St. Thomas are in consonance with each other in the approach, despite the slight difference that Tillich underlines more the healing of the ambiguity of human nature by agape, while St. Thomas primarily inclines to affirm the authenticity of human natural virtues disposed towards the perfection and excellence although they are not perfect simply.¹²¹ In respective contexts of scholarship, both St. Thomas and Tillich are counted as open-minded thinkers. They hold the positive approach to the interactive communion between grace and nature, Theology and philosophy, which makes their Theology and philosophy stand in opposition to relatively conservative Protestant theologians like Nygren, especially in the understanding of love. We can clearly find out that in the argument above. All sorts of elements contained in the idea of love proper to human nature, whether the love of concupiscence and the love of friendship according to St. Thomas, or more detailed and complicated threefold natural love qualities subsumed under eros, namely epithymia, philia and eros in the sense of Tillich, are substantially transformed and elevated in the new foundation and depth—agape or charity that Christian faith furnishes in the Spiritual community. The community is determined by the interpersonal relationship between the self and others (including the Holy Other); it underscores the interpersonal communion and takes it as ultimate foundation of the being of man. Dodds analyses God’s love towards man in the perspective of God’s suffering for mankind by St. Thomas’s position, he says, When we love someone most deeply—when we love a person not as a mere possession (amor concupiscentiae), nor even as another self (amor amicitiae), but as part of our very selves (quasi aliquid nostri)—we are not said to experience a suffering in ourselves distinct

 ST, II-II, q. 23, a. 3.  For the discussion of the human acquired natural virtue and the infused supernatural virtue, see: Wang Tao, “Reflection on Pagan Virtues: A Philosophical Study on St. Thomas Aquinas’s Virtue Theory”; Wang Tao Anthony, “St. Thomas Aquinas’s Theory of Pagan Virtues: A Pilgrimage towards the Infused Cardinal Virtues”.


Anthony, WANG Tao

from the suffering of that person. Rather, we so identify ourselves with that person in their suffering as to suffer in them ‘as in our own wounds.’ In a similar way, God in his love for us ‘does not have compassion on us except on account of love, insofar as he loves us as something of himself (tanquam aliquid sui).’¹²²

This love is to consider both sides of love as a unity and underlines interpersonal reciprocity and communion. Tillich points out that the supreme form of love preserves the individual who is both the subject and the object of love, “in the loving person-to-person relationship Christianity manifests its superiority to any other religious tradition”.¹²³

6 Bibliography Aquinas, Thomas St.. Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by C. I. Litzinger O.P., Notre Dame: Dumb Ox Books, 1993. Aquinas, Thomas, St.. Summa Theologiae (Latin-English version). Translation by the fathers of the English Dominican province. Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by David Ross & Lesley Brown. Cambridge University press, 2009. Black, Peter. “The Broken Wings of Eros: Christian Ethics and the Denial of Desire,” Theological Studies 64 (2003), 106 – 126. Bulman, Raymond F. and Frederick J. Parrella (eds.). Paul Tillich: A New Catholic Assessment. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1964. Chan Wing-Tsit (trans.). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963. Dodds, Michael J. “Thomas Aquinas, Human Suffering, and the Unchanging God of Love.” Theological Studies 52 (1991), 330 – 344. Dulles, Cardinal Avery, S.J. “Love, the Pope, and C.S. Lewis,” First Things 169 (2007), 20 – 24. Dulles, Cardinal Avery, S.J., “Love, the Pope, and C. S. Lewis,” First Things 169 (2007), 20 – 24. Gallagher, David M. “Thomas Aquinas on Self-Love as the Basis for Love of Others,” Acta Philosophica 8 (1999), 23 – 44. Guo Qiyong. ‘Filial Piety: The Root of Morality or the Source of Corruption?: Is Confucian Ethics a ‘Consanguinism’?” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 6 (2007), 21 – 37. Koons, Robert C. “Eros and Agape Revisited: Reconciling Classical Eudaemonism with Christian Love?” in Paul De Hart and Carson Halloway (eds.). Reason, Revelation, and the Civic Order: Political Philosophy and the Claims of Faith. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 2014.

 Michael J. Dodds, “Thomas Aquinas, Human Suffering, and the Unchanging God of Love,” Theological Studies 52 (1991), 339 – 340.  Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice, 27.

A Comparative Study of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Paul Tillich’s Ideas of Love


Lepojärvi, Jason. “Does Eros Seek Happiness? A Critical Analysis of C. S. Lewis’s Reply to Anders Nygren.” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 53, 208 – 224. Liu Qingping. “Confucianism and Corruption: An Analysis of Shun’s Two Actions Described in Mencius.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 6 (2007), 1 – 19. Liu Qingping. “Filiality versus Sociality and Individuality: On Confucianism as ‘Consanguinitism’.” Philosophy East & West 53 (2003), 234 – 250. Liu Qingping. “May We Harm Fellow Humans for the Sake of Kinship Love?: A Response to Critics.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 7 (2008), 307 – 316. Mattison, William C. III. “Movement of Love: A Thomistic Perspective on Agape and Eros,” Journal of Moral Theology 1 (2012), 31 – 60. McCarthy, Margaret Harper. “Agape, the Revelation of Love and Its Appeal to the Heart: A Comment on Deus Caritas Est in Light of John Paul II’s Category of ‘Elementary Experience’.” in Livio Melina and Carl A. Anderson (eds.). The Way of Love: Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006, 107 – 122. Nygren, Anders. Agape and Eros. Translated by Philip S. Watson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. O’Meara, Thomas A. and Celestin D. Weisser (eds.). Paul Tillich in Catholic Thought. Dubuque: The Priory Press, 1964. Orsuto, Donna Lynn. “The Harmony of Love: ‘Idem velle atque idem nolle’.” in Livio Melina and Carl A. Anderson (eds.). The Way of Love: Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006, 277 – 286. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. “Deus Caritas est.” Jan. 25th, 2006. Prieto, Antonio. “Eros and Agape: The Unique Dynamics of Love.” in Livio Melina and Carl A. Anderson (eds.). The Way of Love: Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006, 212 – 226. Schindler, D. C. “The Redemption of Eros: Philosophical Reflections on Benedict XVI’s First Encyclical,” Communio 33 (2006), 375 – 399. Sherwin, Michael S., O.P. “Aquinas, Augustine, and the Medieval Scholastic Crisis concerning Charity.” in Michael Dauphinais, Barry David and Matthew Levering (eds.). Aquinas the Augustinian. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007, 181 – 204. Tillich, Paul. Love, Power and Justice: Ontological Analyses and Ethical Applications. New York: Oxford University Press, 1954. Tillich, Paul. Morality and Beyond. London: Routledge, 1963. Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology (3 Vols.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951 – 1963. Wang Tao Anthony. “St. Thomas Aquinas’s Theory of Pagan Virtues: A Pilgrimage towards the Infused Cardinal Virtues.” Jaarboek 2014 – 2015 Thomas Instituut te Utrecht Jaargang 34. Tilburg (Netherlands): Thomas Instituut te Utrecht (Universiteit van Tilburg), 27 – 65. Wang Yangming. Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings by Wang Yang-Ming. Translated by Chan Wing-Tsit. New York/London: Columbia University Press, 1963. 郭齊勇編。《儒家倫理爭鳴集:以“親親互隱”爲中心》。武漢:湖北教育出版社,2004年。 墨翟著,高亨校詮。《墨經校詮》。北京:中華書局,1962年。


Anthony, WANG Tao

聖多瑪斯·阿奎納著,呂穆迪譯述。《論真原》、《論萬物》、《論萬事》、《論奧理》 (《駁異大全》)。台北市:台灣商務印書館,2010年。 聖多瑪斯·阿奎納著,周克勤等譯。《神學大全》(十九冊)。台南市:碧岳學社/高雄市: 中華道明會,2008年。 王濤、賴品超合撰。〈從基督宗教、儒家及演化論看利他主義〉。《漢語基督教學術論評》。 第十五期(2013/6),頁183 – 214。 王濤、賴品超合撰。〈再思聖多瑪斯的生態倫理〉。《哲學與文化》,No. 438(2010/11), 頁155 – 173。 王濤著。《聖愛與慾愛:保羅·蒂利希的愛觀》。北京:宗教文化出版社,2009年。 王濤著。《聖愛與慾愛:靈修傳統中的天主教愛觀》。香港:香港中文大學天主教研究中心, 2009年。 王濤撰。〈反思異教德性:聖多瑪斯•亞奎納德性理論研究〉。《漢語基督教學術論評》。第 十九期(2015),頁105 – 140。 王濤撰。〈聖多瑪斯·亞奎納論自然性向:兼論良知〉。《哲學與文化》,No. 512 (2017/1),頁123 – 140。 王陽明著,吳光、錢明、董平、姚延福編校。《王陽明全書》(兩卷本),上海:上海古籍出 版社,1992年。 亞里士多德著,苗力田譯。《尼各馬科倫理學》。北京:中國人民大學出版社,2003年。 虞格仁著,薛耕南等譯。《歷代基督教愛觀的研究:愛佳泊與愛樂實》(全二冊)。香港:中 華信義會書報部/瑞典教會中國差會董事部,1950 – 52年。

Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics¹ 1 Introduction In recent years, China has emerged as a major global political and economic power. The rapidly increasing interaction between China and the West makes the cultural and religious exchanges between the two become inevitable and even necessary. In particular, with the revival of Confucianism in the late twentieth century in China, the dialogue between Christianity and Confucianism has attracted attention in China as well as in Western society. Paul Tillich’s religious thought has played a significant role in facilitating Christian-Confucian dialogue. For instance, Tillich’s definition of religion as ‘grasped by an ultimate concern’ has inspired contemporary Confucians, such as Liu Shu-hsien and Tu Weiming, in their arguments of religiosity of Confucianism and its relation to Christianity.² However, the comparisons between Tillich’s theology and Confucianism have mainly focused on their religiosity; the comparisons between their ethics are still strangely neglected.³ This paper attempts to compare Tillich and Confucians in regard to their religious ethics.⁴ The comparison will be conducted from three perspectives. I will compare the aspects of their religious nature, their sub This article is partially supported by a grant from the College of Professional and Continuing Education, an affiliate of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. I would also like to thank Lauren F. Pfister, LAI Pan Chiu and NG Y. N. William for their helpful comments on earlier version of this article.  Liu Shu-hsien, “The Religious Import of Confucian Philosophy: Its Traditional Outlook and Contemporary Significance,” Philosophy East and West 21 (1971), 157– 175; Tu Wei-ming, An Insight of Chung-yung (English-Chinese Version) (People’s Publishing House, 2008).  Paul Tillich and Chu Hsi by Au Kin Ming is the only work I know on the comparison between Tillich and Confucian ethics. Au Kin Ming, Paul Tillich and Chu Hsi: a Comparison of their Views of Human Condition (New York: Peter Lang, 2002).  According to Mark Taylor, Tillich, in his earlier writing, System of Science, defines ethics as the ‘the science of ethos’, which is similar to his ‘theory of culture’. However, in his later book, Love, Power and Justice and Morality and Beyond, Tillich has changed his definition of ethics to accommodate a widely accepted view in academies. He claims, ‘Ethics is the science of man’s moral existence’ (LPJ, 72). In this paper, I will follow the definition of ethics and morality defined in Morality and Beyond. See Mark Lewis Taylor, “Tillich’s Ethics between Politics and Ontology,” In The Cambridge Companion to Paul Tillich, ed. Russell Re Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 193 – 6. DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-008


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

stantive content and moral motivation of their ethics. I will show that despite the existence of differences between their understanding of God/Heaven, and love (agape/ren), the basic structures of their religious ethics are similar. Their relation of religion and morality are both internal rather than external, and the feature of their religious ethics can be defined as centrality of love. However, the aspects of their moral motivations are very different. While Confucianism stresses the importance of self-cultivation by observance of rituals, Tillich stresses that ritual observance is not enough. The real moral motivation comes from eros, that is given as grace irrelevant to human merit. I think that the difference does bring a challenge to Confucians’ optimistic perception of human nature.

2 Tillich’s Religious Ethics 2.1 Religious nature of Tillich’s ethics For Tillich, moral imperatives are inevitably religious because they are unconditional. This understanding involves Tillich’s definition of concepts of unconditionality, religion and morality. The unconditionality, for Tillich, refers to the form of moral imperative; it is purely ‘ought to be’ of the moral demand. It is similar to the concept of categorical imperative in Kantian ethics (MB, 23). Religion, for Tillich, means ‘the self-transcendence of the spirit toward what is ultimate and unconditioned in being and meaning’ (MB, 18), or ‘the state of being grasped by the power of being-itself’ (CB, 172), or ‘grasped by an ultimate concern, by an infinite interest, by something one takes unconditionally seriously’ (MB, 30). The aim of morality (eudaimonia), for Tillich, is to become what one essentially and therefore potentially is, that is, ‘a person within a community of persons’ (MB, 19). Tillich uses Aristotelian wording ‘eudaimonia’ to show that ethics aims at ‘fulfillment [of human being] with divine help, and consequent happiness’ (MB, 29). Thus, Tillich’s ethics is classified as ‘a self-realization ethics’.⁵ So why are moral imperatives unconditional? Tillich answers that moral imperatives come from our experience of the ‘infinite value of every human soul in the view of the Eternal’ (MB, 24). As moral imperatives are based on our awareness of the infinite value of a person which is the ultimate concern of humanity, it is inevi-

 John J. Carey, Paulus, Then & Now: A Study of Paul Tillich’s Theological World and the Continuing Relevance of his Work (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2002), 110.

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


tably unconditional as well as religious. Furthermore, with such concept of religion, Tillich argues that, it could be compatible with secular ethics (MB, 30).⁶ One of the significant features of Tillich’s religious ethics is theonomy, which goes beyond secular autonomy and heteronomy (ST III, 266 – 7). Tillich rejects the dichotomy of philosophical and theological ethics because it would lead to ‘schizophrenic position of “double truth”’ (ST III, 267). For Tillich, the problem of independent philosophical autonomy, such as Kantian or Humean ethics, is not that one follows the law of reason in his living. The law of reason is a universal structure of reality amongst human being; it is an essential element of human morality. There is no problem with the law of reason. Rather, the problem lies in the separation of reason from its religious dimension. These autonomous theorists fail to acknowledge that their theories inevitably depend on certain traditions which express ultimate concerns (ST III, 267). Therefore, although Tillich’s thought is a kind of existential theology, he rejects the motto of existential ethics by Sartre, ‘existence precedes essence’. For Tillich, moral imperatives are based on the natural law given by God. As Tillich states, ‘in autonomy one follows the natural law of God implanted in our own being’ (HCT, 323), but if autonomy is separated from its divine ground, it is simply a humanistic empty critical thought (HCT, 534). Tillich also criticizes the idea of heteronomy for its being something, theological or secular, that goes against the will of our essential created goodness. As he states, ‘Heteronomy imposes an alien law, religious or secular, on man’s mind. It disregards the logos structure of mind and world. It destroys the honesty of truth and the dignity of the moral personality. It undermines creative freedom and the humanity of man’ (ProtE, 46). Heteronomy is immoral because it violates the idea of self-realization of the person as a person and moves towards the fragmentation of the self. It would disorganize the centredness of human being by the control of desires, fears and anxieties (MB, 20). For Tillich, theonomous ethics is not about obeying the external moral commands given by scared text; rather it is autonomous under the Spiritual Presence (ST III, 268). For Tillich, ‘Will of God’ is not an external will imposed upon us by a tyrant who is alien to our essential nature. Rather, it is manifested in ‘our essential being with all its potentialities, our created nature declared as “very good” by God’ (MB, 24). Morality is rooted in our essential being which is related to God as the ground and power of being. And the goal of Tillich’s theonomous  Indeed, Tillich’s definition of religion is so broad that it includes not only religions other than Christianity, but also certain secular forms of faith. See Mary Ann Stenger, “Faith (and Religion),” In The Cambridge Companion to Paul Tillich, edited by Russell Re Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 91.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

ethics is to actualize our inner, created and essential nature (MB, 20); it is autonomy with the awareness of its divine ground (HCT, 323). Thus, Tillich stresses that the relation between religion and morality is internal rather than external. The experience of the infinite value of human being is not an external restriction of self-destruction; rather it is from ‘the silent voice of our own being which denies us the right to self-destruction. It is the awareness of our belonging to a dimension that transcends our own finite freedom and our ability or to negate ourselves’ (MB, 25). Tillich further states ‘the religious dimension, source, and motivation are implicit in all morality… Morality does not depend on any concrete religion; it is religious in its very essence’ (MB, 64).

2.2 The substantive content of Tillich’s ethics In order to transcend ‘both graceless moralism and normless relativism’ (MB, 14), Tillich stresses that the moral sources must contain both absolute and relative elements, so that it is universally valid and adaptable to the social changes. The problem is that our actual being is not the true essential being. We are estranged from our essential being so that we have experienced moral imperative as commending law. Such estrangement is heard in the voice of conscience against the self. In order to respond to our existential estrangement, Tillich argues for ‘love under the dominance of agape’ as the religious source of moral demand (MB, 42), because as the ultimate moral principle, love is always the same, while its embodiment can be different with the power of spirit in the particular situation. As he states, ‘Love, agape, offers a principle of ethics that maintains an eternal, unchangeable element, but makes its realization dependent on continuous acts of a creative intuition’ (MB, 80). ‘Love alone can transform itself according to the concrete demands of every individual and social situation without losing its eternity and dignity and unconditional validity. Love can adapt itself to every phase of a changing world’ (MB, 88 – 9).

Tillich stresses that love is not simply an emotion, and we should not define love in terms of its emotional side; rather we should focus on its ontological side. Love aims at the reunion of the separated; it is antagonistic to estrangement (ST II, 47). Love is actualized in life which unites the tension between individualization and participation. ‘God is love. And, since God is being-itself, one must say that being-itself is love’ (ST I, 279). For Tillich, love always involves four qualities: libidio or epithymia (the drive towards self-fulfilment), philia (the drive towards unity of equals), eros (the mys-

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


tical qualities of love, the drive towards bearer of values, for instance, the beauty in nature and the truth in culture) (MB, 40; ST I, 280, LPJ, 30) and agape (divine love). None of these qualities would be completely absent (MB, 40). For Tillich, while agape transcends the other three qualities of love, it cannot be separated from them. For instance, agape without libido and eros would make compassion merely detached obedience of the law of love. Agape towards the ultimate reality without eros would also make our commitment to God based on fear or obedience rather than love. What is important is the domination of agape over philia, libido and eros. Indeed, agape, libidio, philia and eros are mutually embedded.⁷ Agape is ‘love cutting into love’ (LPJ, 33); it transforms other qualities of love from their ‘tragic perversion and frustration, the self-centeredness which contradicts the return to the unity’.⁸ Agape is the ‘ultimate principle of morality’ (MB, 5). It ‘“points to the transcendent source of the content of the moral imperative” and unifies our actual nature with our essential beings’ (MB, 5). Agape characterizes God’s divine love towards humans. It seeks to reach humans universally and unconditionally. It ‘accepts the other in spite of resistance. It suffers and forgives. It seeks the personal fulfilment of the other’ (ST I, 280). Tillich further illustrates his love ethics with its relation to the idea of justice. He argues that justice demands us to ‘acknowledge every potential person as a person’ (MB, 38). However, he rejects utilitarianism and deontological ethics as principles of justice. On the one hand, he criticizes Kantian deontological justice, which focuses on the formulation of external acts as too detached and with cool objectivity (MB, 38). Although they can show direction to humans, they are too remote from reality. ‘They do not represent principles comprehensive enough to embrace all periods and creative enough to bring new embodiments of themselves. They are not eternal enough to be ultimate principles and not temporal enough to fit a changing world’ (MB, 87– 8). In short, these principles cannot maintain their validity once liberal society has collapsed. On the other hand, he also criticizes utilitarianism as having too much emphasis on calculation, which makes moral imperative no longer unconditional (SA, 94). Instead, Tillich argues that justice should be combined with love so that other persons are ac-

 Their mutually embeddedness is shown in Tillich’s description of the relationship between libido, philia, eros and agape’, such as ‘eros quality in philia’, ‘philia quality in eros’ (LPJ, 31), ‘philia and eros in agape’ and ‘eros in agape, and agape in eros’ (MB, 40), and ‘in libido, elements of eros, philia, and agape are present, as libido is present in them’ (MB, 41), etc.  Paul Tillich, “Being and Love,” in Moral Principles of Action: Man’s Ethical Imperative ed. Ruth Nanda Anshen (New York: Harper and Row, 1952), 672, cited from Michael F. Drummy, “Theonomy and Biology: Tillich’s Ontology of Love as the Basis for an Environmental Ethics,” Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology 4 (2000), 70.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

knowledged as persons, not as detached, but as involved in which mutual participation and reunion is implied (MB, 38). Justice with love can be a response to graceless moralism, as well as normless relativism (MB, 5). Through its integration with love, justice can become ‘creative justice’ (Sedaqah) as asserted in the Old Testament (MB, 39). Creative justice, for Tillich, is the form of reuniting love which aims at reunion of beings (LPJ, 71). It demands that ‘he be accepted who is unacceptable in terms of proportional justice. In accepting him into the unity of forgiveness, love exposes both the acknowledged break with justice on his side with all its implicit consequences and the claim inherent in him to be declared just and to be made just by reunion’ (LPJ, 86). However, for Tillich, agape in the New Testament is ‘the fulfilment of the creative justice of the Old Testament. Its highest expression is self-sacrifice for him who is loved and with whom in this way a profound union is created’ (SA, 108). As Mark Lewis Taylor states, in Tillich’s ethics, ‘Love is an import-conveying and uniting power for society’s interest in community. In comparison, although justice is essential, love remains primary; justice is a ‘secondary and derived principle’, and love is the ‘creative and basic principle’ (MB, 94). Alongside love and justice, Tillich argues for wisdom as the third consideration in moral judgment.⁹ For Tillich, wisdom, represented by scripture, is personified and has a position beside God, directing people in their daily life.¹⁰ There are two senses of wisdom. First, it denotes principles of wisdom which is shown in the religious moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount. Second, it means a kind of practical wisdom by which one makes a moral judgment by weighing up risks in light of the particular situation. Tillich asserts that we are living in a historical period of rapid change and development. In the face of such social change, Tillich has examined static-supranaturalistic ethics, dynamic-naturalistic ethics and rationalistic-progressive ethics. He criticizes these theories for being unable to respond to the demand of ethics appropriately in changing situations. Tillich, instead, offers an ethics that is the combination of agape as ultimate principle and the idea of kairos. Kairos, for Tillich, is the critical historical moment in which ‘something new, eternally important, manifests itself in temporal forms, in the potentialities and tasks of a special period’ (MB, 89). With the idea of changing kairos, the embodiment of justice may demand a transformation and a new realization with the principle of love implied (MB, 92).

 Paul Tillich, “Ethical Principles of Moral Action,” In Being and Doing: Paul Tillich as Ethicist, ed. John Carey (Macon, Ga.: Mercer, 1987), 216.  Mark Lewis Taylor, “Tillich’s Ethics between Politics and Ontology,” 204.

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


In short, the central thesis of Tillich’s religious ethics is to love under the dominance of agape integrated with justice acknowledging every human being as a potentially authentic person, being guided by the divine-human wisdom shown in the moral laws, being aware of Kairos, its concrete situation, and acting courageously based on these moral principles.

2.2.1 Is Tillich’s ethics situation ethics? Some scholars argue that Tillich’s ethics is a kind of situation ethics.¹¹ Joseph Fletcher, for instance, cites from Tillich’s Systematic Theology: Volume 1, ‘The law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law; it is absolute because it concerns everything concrete’ to support his situation ethics.¹² For Fletcher, ‘Situation ethics… goes part of the way with Scriptural law by accepting revelation as the source of the norm while rejecting all “revealed” norms or laws but the one command – to love God in the neighbour’.¹³ One important issue here is, what is the position of moral law in Tillich’s ethics? Is Tillich’s ethics a situation ethics as claimed by Fletcher? According to situation ethics by Fletcher, love exclusively is always good; love is the only norm, and the end of the most loving result can justify the means.¹⁴ Fletcher defines agape as ‘goodwill at work in partnership with reason’ in seeking ‘the neighbour’s best interest with a careful eye to all the factors in the situation’.¹⁵ Fletcher’s definition of agape is what Tillich’s criticizes as too much emphasis on calculation. Tillich rejects calculation in helping others. Therefore, he asserts the importance of libido in agape, as he states ‘The libido element in love prevents agape from becoming a rational calculation of how to give the best possible help to others’ (MB, 41– 2). Regardless of their difference in the definition of agape, I think, while Tillich can agree with Fletcher that love is above laws in serving morality, he still could not agree that love is the only norm

 John Carey categorizes Tillich’s ethics as situation ethics by referring to Joseph Fletcher’s ethical theory. Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality, introduction by James F. Childress (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster Press, 1997), 33 – 4; Joseph Fletcher, “Tillich and Ethics: The Negation of Law,” Pastoral Psychology 19 (1968), 33 – 40; John J. Carey, Paulus, Then & Now: A Study of Paul Tillich’s Theological World and the Continuing Relevance of his Work (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2002), 110.  Fletcher, Situation Ethics, 10.  Fletcher, Situation Ethics, 26.  Fletcher, Situation Ethics, 57, 69, 120.  Fletcher, Situation Ethics, 69.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

which can justify any kinds of means. I think that to argue Tillich’s ethics as ‘the negation of law’ is to interpret Tillich’s text out of context. This has understated Tillich’s attitude towards moral laws and has neglected Tillich’s other writings on ethics. For Tillich, moral laws represent divine-human wisdom of the past about human predicament. They are the integration of accumulated experience and revelatory vision. Although they are not unconditionally valid, they are still valuable because they provide guidance for human actions in most concrete situations, and relieve people from taking on the unbearable burden of making innumerable ultimate decisions on their own (MB, 44, 93). Indeed, without laws and institutions, ethics can never become an actual power either (MB, 94). However, if moral laws are taken as eternal law applied legalistically to different circumstances, as happened in the early Middle Ages or in modern capitalist transition, these laws can become ‘bad ideologies used for the maintenance of decaying institutions and powers’ (MB, 88 – 89). Therefore, Tillich states, ‘the tables of laws, which are commandments of the divine-human wisdom of all generations, are gifts of grace, although they can become destructive when elevated to absolute validity and substituted for agape and its power to listen to the voice of the “now”’ (MB, 45). However, Tillich’s relativization of moral laws seems to provide support for Fletcher’s claim of Tillich being a situation ethicist. Fletcher cites Tillich’s My Search for Absolutes to support this claim: ‘Let us suppose that a student comes to me faced with a difficult moral decision. In counseling him I don’t quote the Ten Commandments, or the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, or any other law, not even a law of general humanistic ethics. Instead, I tell him to find out what the command of agape in his situation is, and then decide for it even if traditions and conventions stand against his decision.’¹⁶ In this citation, moral laws seem to have no position in moral judgment in Tillich’s ethics. However, we have to notice that right after these sentences, Tillich continues to write, ‘However, I must add a warning as well and tell him that if he does so, he risks tragedy. Moral commandments are the wisdom of the past as it has been embodied in laws and traditions, and anyone who does not follow them risks tragedy’ (SA, 110).

 Fletcher, “Tillich and Ethics: The Negation of Law,” 36 cited from Matthew L. Weaver, Religious Internationalism: The Ethics of War and Peace in the Thought of Paul Tillich (Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2010), 275.

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


There is ambiguity with Tillich’s wording ‘tragedy’ here. When Tillich discussed that one would risk tragedy in violating moral laws as wisdom of the past, it is not clear what kind of tragedy he is talking about. Indeed, when Tillich describes moral law as wisdom which is simply an advice, and is not absolute, it is also not clear how it is related to the unconditional imperative such as love and justice. First, in terms of tragedy, there can be two senses: hurting oneself alone or hurting others (the self may be included as well). This can be easily categorized as private morality and public morality. However, what Tillich says about tragedy should not be understood merely as the result of violating private morality. This is because what moral laws demand, such as forbidding killing, stealing, dishonesty and coveting, are obviously not simply about oneself; rather they involve the prohibition of hurting others. Thus, moral laws obviously involve issues of love and justice. So in what sense do moral laws represent the wisdom of the past? We can say that the wisdom of moral laws, for Tillich, lies in its particular embodiment of love and justice based on the concrete situations of the past. With such understanding, moral laws, for Tillich, inevitably involve the moral imperatives of love and justice. As Tillich states, ‘The principle of wisdom [shown in moral law] certainly are largely valid. They are so valid that opposition against them is a great risk; they guide our moral conscience’.¹⁷ Although they are not absolute as principles of love, they are still very important in the guidance of one’s actions of love and justice that one should never easily omit. Thus, I would argue that the significance of moral laws in Tillich’s ethics is much higher than what Fletcher’s situation ethics perceive. Indeed, Fletcher’s definition of situation ethics seems to be overbroad. He has categorized lots of famous theologians with very different backgrounds as situation ethicists.¹⁸ Basically, most moral theorists, from different theoretical backgrounds, would also agree that moral judgment must consider the concrete situation in their application of moral principles. To categorize Tillich’s ethics as situation ethics simply by highlighting his emphasis on consideration of situations does not help us to grasp the aspiration of Tillich’s ethics. Thus, instead of categorizing it as situation ethics, I would argue that Tillich’s ethics is a kind of virtue ethics. Virtue ethics basically involves three elements: eudaimonia as telos, virtues and practical wisdom. As discussed above, the nature of Tillich’s ethics is teleological. He rejects defining justice in terms of abstract principles or maximizing utilities. Although Tillich never explains his moral imperative in  Tillich, “Ethical Principles of Moral Action,” 217.  For example, ‘Brunner, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Niels Søe, Bultmann… H. R. Niebuhr, Joseph Sittler, James Gustafson, Paul Lehmann, Gordon Kaufman, Charles West… Tillich’ are all categorized as situation ethicists. See Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics, 33 – 4.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

terms of virtues, his elaboration of love, justice, wisdom, and courage focus on one’s moral attitude and dispositions rather than formulating abstract principles. Although he does not reject moral rules, he emphasizes making moral judgments according to moral principles by using practical wisdom in particular situations. Thus, I would argue that Tillich’s ethics is indeed a kind of virtue ethics.

2.3 Moral Motivation in Tillich’s ethics Regarding the motivation of morality, Tillich argues that moral laws cannot provide motivation. Originally, moral laws belonged to humans, and they are consistent with human nature. However, they have become laws to us because we have estranged from structural laws of our essential nature. If we did not attempt to break through it, they would not become commanding laws (MB, 48). Tillich rather argues that the real moral motivating power comes from eros, that is our love of God or love of the good. Eros is a divine-human power which ‘drives toward reunion with things and persons in their essential goodness and with the good itself’ (MB, 60). Thus, morality is a platform for humans along the way to participation in the divine life, and Tillich calls it ‘the transmoral motivation of morality’ (MB, 60). However, according to Tillich, eros cannot be generated by the will, but rather by appealing to Paul, Augustine and Luther, eros is given as a divine gift, as grace which is independent of human merit as long as humans are ready to receive it (MB, 60). Tillich states, grace ‘create[s] a state of reunion in which cleavage between our true and our actual being overcome’; it is also a healing power that ‘overcome[s] the split between what we essentially are and what we actually are’ (MB, 62). Another characteristic of grace is forgiveness (MB, 63), that is ‘the power to accept the unacceptable person’ which is also the power of ‘healing the person who is mortally sick’ (MB, 14). Based on psychotherapeutic experience, Tillich argues that acceptance is a more effective element than commanding laws in moral motivation; it has also changed the healer-patient relationship to an Ithou relationship rather than a subject-object relationship (MB, 50).

3 Confucian Religious ethics 3.1 Religious nature of Confucian ethics To follow Tillich’s definition of religion, we may argue that Confucian ethics is also grasped by Confucian understandings of ultimate concern; both of them af-

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


firm the religiousness of Confucian ethics.¹⁹ In the Shang dynasty, there is the idea of heavenly King (Di, 帝), a supreme personal god. In the Western Zhou period, it becomes the idea of Heaven (Tian, 天), also a supreme personal god, who governs the world. At that time, Heaven was not only a creator and a sustainer, but also functioned as the revealer of morality, and as the judge in responding to human acts.²⁰ Basically, Confucius has inherited the idea of Heaven from Zhou.²¹ While Heaven remains the object of pious veneration, Confucius further developed its moral dimension. For instance, Confucius argues that his moral virtues were created by Heaven (Analects 7:23).²² Furthermore, he developed the idea of ‘decrees of Heaven’ or ‘mandate of Heaven’ (tianming, 天命) by transferring the meaning of Heaven as ‘fate’ (ming, 命) into ‘mission’ (ming, 命).²³ Indeed, as Liu Shu-hsien states, there is a double meaning of the Chinese word ‘ming’.²⁴ On the one hand, it refers to fate, something that predetermines one’s life, that the superior man cannot control, and which he has to accept however bad it is. On the other, it also refers to the call from Heaven to live according to the Way. These two meanings can be mutually reinforced. This implies that a superior man (junzi, 君子)²⁵ is called to live according to the Way notwithstanding in an adverse environment. In other words, the superior man attends his destiny through the life according to the Way in the adverse environment. And thus, Tu Wei-ming argues, ‘the Confucian idea of ming’ which refers to the mandate of Heaven, ‘is so laden with ethicoreligious implications’.²⁶ One of the greatest achievements of Confucius’ life-long learning is to know the mandate of Heaven (Analects 3:4). For Confucius, the superior man would recognize and stand in awe of the mandate of Heaven, and would therefore be

 Liu, “The Religious Import of Confucian Philosophy,” 157; Tui Wei-ming, An Insight of Chungyung (English-Chinese Version) (People’s Publishing House, 2008). Fu Pei-jung (傅佩榮), Exploration of Theory of Tian of Confucianism, (Chinese book) 《儒道天論發微》 (Taipei: Linking Publishing, 2010), 126.  Fu Pei-jung, “Tian (T’ien): Heaven,” in Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy, edited by A. S. Cua (Routledge, 2003), 1459 – 60.  Fu, Exploration of Theory of Tian of Confucianism, 105 – 6.  Unless stated otherwise, all translations of The Analects and The Mencius and Great Learning are taken from James Legge’s translations. James Legge (trans.), The Works of Mencius, 2nd edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895).  “命” in Analects can have two meanings: 1. Fate (命運); 2. Mandate and mission (命令、使 命).  Liu, “The Religious Import of Confucian Philosophy,” 162.  There are different translations of junzi (君子), such as a superior man, a moral person, a gentlemen and a profound person.  Tu Wei-ming, An Insight of Chung-yung, 234


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

respectful to other great persons and be reverent towards the words of sages (Analects 16:8, 20:3). “Without recognizing the ordinances of Heaven, it is impossible to be a superior man” (Analects 20:3). On the contrary, a villain (xiaoren, 小 人) would not know the mandate of Heaven; s/he would therefore be disrespectful of great persons and laugh at words spoken by sages. Indeed, the relation between religion and morality has been summarized in three definitional statements in The Doctrine of The Mean, ‘What Heaven (Tian, 天) imparts to man is called human nature. To follow our nature is called the Way (Tao, 道). Cultivating the Way is called education’ (Doctrine of the Mean 1).²⁷

The Way (Tao, 道) means the proper way of human morality and politics. The above statements emphasize that the Way is expressed through our moral nature which is heavenly endowed. ‘The Way cannot be separated from us for a moment’ (Doctrine of the Mean 1). The way of human being and the way of nature are correlated with each other, and therefore education is to cultivate the Way (Tao, 道). Although the characteristic of the Confucian idea of Heaven is very different from Tillich’s idea of God, the basic structure of their religious nature of ethics is similar in several aspects. Similar to Tillich, Confucians attempt to establish a religious/Heavenly based universal moral imperative. As long as one can develop one’s moral potential given by God/Heaven, one can not only achieve self-realization, but also fulfil the human nature which is endowed by God/Heaven and benefits human communities. Both Tillich’s and Confucians’ religious ethics also reject the idea of moral autonomy, that is, to separate the moral reason from its religious dimension. As Zisi states in the Doctrine of the Mean, ‘Wishing to cultivate his personal life, he must not fail to serve his parents. Wishing to serve his parents, he must not fail to know man. Wishing to know man, he must not fail to know Heaven’. For Confucians, knowing Heaven is the necessary condition of moral self-cultivation (Doctrine of the Mean 20). Confucian ethics also rejects the idea of heteronomy. For Confucians, human beings by nature share the reality of Heaven. All our bodily organs with their functions belong to our Heaven-conferred nature. Thus, we have to know Heaven, to discover the moral truth, within ourselves. ‘A man must be a sage before he can satisfy the design of his bodily organization’ (Mencius 7A: 38). Therefore, Confucians stress that ‘the superior man is watchful over himself when he is alone’ (Doctrine of the Mean 1). As Liu Shu-hsien states, to be moral is to realize  Unless stated otherwise, all translations of Doctrine of the Mean are taken from Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 97– 114.

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


‘to the full what everybody has in himself’.²⁸ We cannot become moral if we act according to the external law that is alien to human nature. Thus, Confucian religious ethics is based on the mutuality of Heaven and human beings which allows us to perceive ‘the transcendent as immanent’.²⁹ Thus, similar to Tillich’s theonomy, the relation of religion and morality is internal rather than external in Confucian ethics. For Confucians, morality is rooted in human moral nature which is Heavenly endowed. One is called to achieve self-realization by developing one’s inner moral character manifested with all its potentialities given by Heaven. Moral demands are derived from introspection of human nature which is connected with the transcendent. Thus, Confucian religious ethics can also be called a kind of ouranomy, that is, autonomy with the foundation of Heaven (ouranós).³⁰ In the following, I will try to elaborate Confucian ethics in terms of Mencius’ four cardinal virtues.

3.2 Substantive Content of Confucian Ethics 3.2.1 Ren 仁 The basic feature of Confucian ethics is the centrality of ren. Ren has three meanings. The basic meaning is love and benevolence (Analects 12:22). The other two meanings are perfect virtue and humanity (Doctrine of the Mean 20). It shows that the basic idea of ren is to be an authentic human being with perfect virtue that is to love others. With the feature of these triple meanings, Ren is unequivocally the most fundamental virtues of Confucian ethics. It is also the cardinal symbol in Confucianism. The problem is how to exercise and manifest this perfect love of humanity. In Analects, Confucius relates the idea of ren to that of shu, the ethics of reciprocity (Analects 12:2). Passively, shu is the same as the Western golden rule, that is, ‘What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’ (Analects 15:24). Actively, it demands us to develop and enlarge others like we develop and enlarge ourselves. In other passages, Confucius also stresses that if one wants to be ren, one must also be able to exercise other virtues, such as prudence (Analects 12:3), reverence (Analects 13:19), firmness and endurance (Analects 13:27), courage (Analects 14:4), and ‘gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity,  Liu, “The Religious Import of Confucian Philosophy,” 163.  Tu, An Insight of Chung-yung, 122.  Ouranós (οὐρανός) is a Greek word, which means Heaven. In the New Testament, it is shown in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 3:2) which is equivalent to the Kingdom of God.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

earnestness, and kindness’ (Analects 17:6). Thus, it is obvious that the meaning of ren is more than benevolent. It is the integration of all these virtues in the eyes of Confucius. It is similar to Aristotle’s eudaimonia, which explains why Confucius sees ren as human perfect virtue and the ultimate manifestation of true humanity. If one can achieve ren, all of the vices, such as ‘the love of superiority, boasting, resentments, and covetousness’ would be repressed (Analects 14:1). According to Confucius, the basic way to achieve ren is to be self-disciplined and to return to ritual and propriety (li). As Confucius states, ‘To subdue one’s self and return to propriety (li), is perfect virtue (ren). If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety (li), all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue (ren) to him’. (Analects 12:1). If human beings are deprived of ren, ritual and music would have nothing to do with humans (Analects 3:3). By the same token, if human beings are deprived of ren, other characters, such as wisdom or courage, would no longer be truly human virtues. For instance, a wise person without ren could be cunning; courage without ren could be cruelty. Thus, ren is not simply a virtue itself; it is also a constitutive virtue. It provides an ontological foundation for Confucian ethics. It constitutes a person as a virtuous person. It also constitutes all those moral traits as virtues. Furthermore, while we can imagine a person possessing other virtues, such as wisdom or courage, without being ren, it is inconceivable that a person of ren (renzhe, 仁者), a truly virtuous person, does not embody other virtues. This explains why ren is given the centrality in Confucian ethics. Although the definition of Confucian ren is different from Tillich’s agape, we can see that there are still similarities between Tillich’s and Confucian ethics in their centrality of love.³¹ Both perceive agape and ren with its basic meaning as love; both conceive of love as the highest moral good, and as the primary feature of their religious ethics. Both Tillich and Confucians identify agape and ren as a kind of metaphysical reality which is identical to the character of God/Heaven, and as an ontological foundation of ethics, which is distinguished from love

 The nature of Confucian ren is partial; it stresses loving one’s family members first and then extends such love towards all humans. However, Christian agape is a kind of universal and impartial love towards all humans. Furthermore, while Tillich is very positive towards libidio, philia and eros, Confucians tend to be cautious about the ideas of libidio and eros. As I am going to discuss below, for Confucians, too many desires would impede one’s self-cultivation. Tillich’s lifestyle as close to open marriage would also be conceived as violating ritual and propriety by Confucianism. I think the comparison between Tillich’s love and Confucian ren should be further investigated and will be mutually enlightened. However, I cannot go into details about the differences between Confucian ren and Christian agape here.

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


as simply a feeling.³² Both see agape and ren as constitutive good which confers meaning to other moral principles and virtues, and as the ultimate manifestation of human goodness.

3.2.2 Yi 義 Another important virtue mentioned in Analects is righteousness (yi, 義). The basic meaning of yi is right. Although we cannot find the definition of yi in Analects, we can find a little in other Confucian writings. For instance, in Mencius, yi means one’s ‘straight path’ or ‘right path’ (Mencius 4A:10). In the Doctrine of the Mean, yi is defined as appropriateness (Doctrine of the Mean 20). Basically, it denotes the standard of human behaviour. As Confucius states, ‘The superior man, in the world, does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow’ (Analects 4:10). Unlike Rawls or Kant, Confucians have not offered a formula or abstract principle to discern what righteousness is. Rather, Confucians usually discuss the idea of righteousness (yi) based on particular situations. Whether how a person acts is right or appropriate depends on rituals (li) and agents’ judgment with practical reason.³³ One distinctive feature in both Analects and Mencius is that righteousness (yi) is usually discussed in contrast to profits (li, 利). Confucius condemns making profit in an unrighteousness way (Analects 7:16). Confucius does not consider profit as evil. However, he repeatedly stresses that we have to think about righteousness when the opportunity to make a profit appears (Analects 16:10, 19:1). Mencius stresses the priority of righteousness over making profits in politics and individual conduct. Profit, in Mencius, seems to be something bad and incompatible with righteousness. Obviously, what Mencius, as well as Confucius, are concerned about is one’s moral motive of action rather than whether one should make any profit. For Mencius, one should replace profit making with righteousness as a motive of action. In short, righteousness (yi) seems to denote proper action and proper attitude towards humans. One distinctive feature of Mencius is the union of love (ren) with righteousness (yi). Similar to Tillich, Mencius has coined the terms love (ren) and righteousness (yi) together, which have become two most essential interrelated virtues  Chan Wing-Tsit, “The Evolution of the Confucian Concept Jên,” Philosophy East and West 4 (1955), 306; Tu Wei-ming, “The Creative Tension between Jên and Li,” Philosophy East and West 18 (1968), 33.  Antonio. S. Cua, “Yi (I) and Li: Rightness and Rites,” In Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy, ed. Antonio. S. Cua (New York: Routledge, 2003), 842.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

of Confucian ethics. In opposing Gaozi’s distinction between love (ren) as interior and righteousness (yi) as exterior, Mencius, in his discussion of four sprouts, stresses that love (ren) and righteousness (yi) are both immanent in human nature, resulting from the beginning of human heart/mind (xin, 心). As a superior man (junzi, 君子), Confucius argues that one should substantialize oneself with righteousness (yi) and express righteousness according to rituals (li) (Analect 15:18). Mencius also argues, ‘Benevolence (ren) is man’s mind, and righteousness (yi) is man’s path’ (Mencius 6A: 11). Synthesizing all these, we may argue that while righteousness (yi) is derived from love (ren), the way of exercising love (ren) is righteousness (yi) according to rituals (li) and practical wisdom (zhi, 智). Similar to Tillich, Confucians reject to define righteousness (yi) as a kind of abstract principle or basic formula. Both stress that we have to define righteousness (yi) in terms of love (agape/ren). It shows that righteousness (yi) by Confucians, as well as by Tillich, are a kind of virtue rather than an abstract moral principle perceived by certain liberal philosophers. Unlike Tillich, the reason why Mencius connects love (ren) and righteousness (yi), as well as rites (li) and wisdom (zhi) together as four sprouts which are immanent in human nature is to argue for natural goodness of humanity rather than to fight against the merciless moralism as Tillich does. However, these two underlying concerns are not mutually exclusive. They are compatible and can indeed be mutually complementary.

3.2.3 Li 禮 In Confucianism, li (禮) means both rituals and propriety. First, it refers to a set of rituals and social conduct originating from the Zhou dynasty. Its aim is to provide guidance for sacrificial ceremonies and the five Confucian relationships (wulun, 五倫), that is, the relationships of ruler-subject, father-son, brotherbrother, husband-wife, and friend-friend. Basically, Confucius’ ideal world is to revive the ritual (li) and music (yue, 樂) culture of the Zhou dynasty by giving it a new ethical foundation; and the new foundation is the idea of ren. Therefore, when his student Yan Yuen asked him about how to be truly virtuous (ren), Confucius’ reply is not to look, listen, speak or move which is contrary to rituals (li) (Analects 12.1). Second, li also refers to the character of propriety. Mencius stresses that virtue of propriety would give us a sense of respect (Mencius 6A:6, 4B:28) and modesty (Mencius 2A:6) towards others. For Mencius, the distinctive feature of superior men is that they preserve love (ren) and rituals (li) in their heart; therefore, they can constantly love and respect others (Mencius 4B:28).

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


Although the sense of propriety cannot be separated from the observance of rituals, Confucians stress that there is always certain flexibility of ritual practice in actual life (Analects, 9:4). One should critically evaluate the rituals endorsed by society rather than follow them blindly. If the situation changes, the rituals should be changed accordingly in order to better embody its values (Analects 9:3, 15:11).³⁴ As Joseph Chan states, ‘Confucians often emphasize the importance of discretion (quan, 權), flexibility (wugu, 毋固), and timeliness (shi, 時) in making moral decisions in particular circumstance.’³⁵ For instance, Confucius praised the retirement of Yu Zhong and Yi Yi as acting ‘according to the exigency of the times’ (quan 權) (Analects 18:8). Mencius also notes that although rescuing one’s drowning sister-in-law would violate the ritual prohibition of psychical touch between an unmarried man and woman, it is still justified in such exigent circumstances (Mencius 4A:17). However, discerning when to make moral discretion and to violate rites appropriately is a matter of wisdom.

3.2.4 Zhi 智 Wisdom (zhi) is another important virtue of man. Zhi means both knowledge and wisdom. For Chinese, knowledge and wisdom cannot be separated. Thus, zhi involves knowing the moral truth, which includes ren, righteousness and propriety. It also involves the ability to distinguish individuals’ virtuous character (Analects 12:22), the ability to discern the time and to integrate concerns of different values (Mencius 5B:1), and knowing how to act properly in particular situations with appropriate motivation (Mencius 5A:9). Thus, it is similar to Aristotelian practical wisdom (phronēsis). In short, while, for Tillich, wisdom consists of both practical wisdom and principles of moral laws, for Confucians, the practical aspect of li in Confucianism includes both observance of rituals and moral laws; and zhi means practical wisdom only. In spite of the differences of categorization between Tillich’s and Confucian ethics, both of them stress making moral judgments by practical reason in particular circumstances under the guidance of moral laws. Both li in Confucianism and moral laws in Tillich’s ethics are considered an expression of love (ren) and righteousness (yi), as a kind of wisdom of the past derived from an accumulated experience with transcendent vision. With their centrality of love, the

 Joseph Chan, “Confucian attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism,” in Confucian Political Ethics, ed. Daniel Bell (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2008), 122.  Chan, “Confucian attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism,” 120.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

interrelation of the idea of love and justice, and their religious foundation, I argue that the basic structure of Tillich’s religious ethics is very similar to that of Confucianism. Despite the existence of differences in their definition of love and details of their moral laws, both are a kind of virtue ethics; and both can be mutually enriched in future comparative studies.

3.3 Moral Motivation in Confucian ethics The greatest difference between Tillich’s and Confucian ethics is the aspect of moral motivation. Confucians do not accept the idea of grace; rather they emphasize the significance of self-cultivation (xiuji, 修己) by observance of rituals in order to embody the virtues throughout the kingdom (Great Learning, 2). Confucian self-cultivation involves two elements: nourishing our body (xiushen, 修 身) and rectifying our mind (zhengxin, 正心). Our bodies consist of five sense organs, offering us five sensual experiences: vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Confucians emphasize nourishing our bodily senses through the Six Arts (liuyi, 六藝): rituals, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy and mathematics. It is not simply to do exercise and to maintain health; rather it is to aestheticize human life through the practice of rituals (li) and music (yue, 樂). These practices are helpful to the cultivation of one’s disposition, thinking and emotion-controlling.³⁶ The aim is to attend the civilized mode of conduct by ritualization of the body, and to express virtues through bodily actions.³⁷ According to the Great Learning, if one wishes to rectify one’s heart, one has to extend one’s knowledge by the investigation of things and then be sincere in one’s thoughts. For Mencius, the aim of self-cultivation is to achieve the unperturbed mind/heart (budongxin, 不動心) (3B2). This means that one can remain steadfast in being ren, no matter whether the environment favours one’s desire to exercise benevolent governance or not. In order to achieve the unperturbed mind/heart, one has to nourish one’s passion-nature (qi, 氣). For Mencius, every-

 Tu Wei-ming, “Confucian humanist learning in the four related perspectives of body, mind, soul and spirit” (Chinese Article) 「從身、心、靈、神四層次看儒家的人學」, in Tu Wei-ming Collections, Book V, ed. Guo Qiyong, Zheng Wenlong bian, (《杜維明文集》卷五,郭齊勇、鄭 文龍主編), (China: Wuhan chu ban she, 2002), 331.  Tu, Wei-ming, “Chinese Philosophy: a Synoptic View,” in A Companion to World Philosophies, ed. Eliot Deutsch and Ron Bontekoe (Blackwell Publishing, 2004), Blackwell Reference Online. 09 October 2013

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


one is given passion-nature (qi) in their mind by Heaven as a defining feature of being human. Mencius indeed calls this passion-nature ‘vast, flowing passionnature’ (haoranzhiqi, 浩然之氣) (Mencius, 2A:2) which is great and strong and never subjected to external control. Our passion-nature (qi) gives energy to the person and is responsible for our emotions. It results from the accumulation of righteous deeds and reasoning. Mencius states, ‘If one nourishes it with uprightness and does not injure it, it will fill the space between Heaven and earth’ (Mencius, 2A:2). Another important element in nourishing one’s passion-nature (qi) is asceticism. For Mencius, while our passion-nature (qi) affects our bodily action and emotions, our bodily desire can also affect our passion-nature (qi). If one has too many desires, one can hardly preserve their passion-nature (qi) in their heart. However, if one has only a few desires and is clean in mind/heart, even if their passion-nature (qi) leaks out in certain instances, the amount of leaking would be little. Therefore, Mencius states, ‘when Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies. Men for the most part err, and are afterwards able to reform’ (Mencius, 6B:15). In short, Confucian self-cultivation would involve both nourishing our body and our mind, because, for Confucians, body and mind are intimately related. Furthermore, for Confucians, the self, others and Heaven are also interconnected. According to the Great Learning, once a person has achieved self-cultivation, his/her family is well regulated, and then the state is rightly governed, so finally, ‘the whole kingdom [is] made tranquil and happy’ (Great Learning, 2). For Mencius, if one can exhaust one’s mind/heart, one can know his nature. ‘Knowing his nature, he knows Heaven. To preserve one’s mental constitution, and nourish one’s nature, is the way to serve Heaven’ (Mencius 7A: 1).

3.4 Rituals, Asceticism and Grace Confucians’ emphasis on the observance of rituals and asceticism in moral selfcultivation is worthy of further investigation in light of Tillich’s ethics. Tillich admits that rituals, as institutionalized commanding laws, can provide certain power to produce moral actions. However, such actions are simply out of habits or threats. These are methods of compromises rather than true nature of morality (MB, 55). Obviously, Confucianism emphasizes that one should act according to one’s inner dispositions; therefore Confucians would reject moral actions moti-


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

vated by external forces, such as threats or coercions, except with the consideration of their bad influence on others. However, according to Aristotle, ‘moral virtue comes about as a result of habit’.³⁸ Does this mean that Confucian virtuous cultivation by observance of rituals is simply a method of compromises, as criticized by Tillich? I think that it depends on what kind of habits Tillich is talking about. We have to distinguish virtuous habits from stubborn mechanistic habits. While virtuous habits are a kind of moral disposition derived from the accumulation of reflective virtuous acts, stubborn mechanistic habits are qualities difficult to change by which humans act automatically and unreflectively; they are unfavourable to moral cultivation. I think that what Tillich rejects is stubborn mechanistic habits rather than virtuous habits. As stated above, for Confucianism, rituals are the expression of love (ren) and righteousness (yi). Confucian self-cultivation aims at the formation of virtuous habits by both nourishing the body and rectifying the mind. Thus, Confucian self-cultivation would not be subjected to Tillich’s criticism of method of compromise which violates the true nature of morality. Indeed, Tillich’s attitude towards rituals is not fully negative. Ritual language, for Tillich, functions symbolically which opens up deeper levels of human soul and the Ultimate Reality. However, there is always the danger of turning rituals into idols, as a way of salvation. In observing rituals, it usually involves certain elements of asceticism. Tillich finds that asceticism is a necessary element in the process of life and acts of moral self-realization. It sets limits to the endlessness of libido so that people come to accept their finitude (ST II, 82). However, asceticism may also involve dangers. In Tillich’s ethics, there are two kinds of asceticism: ontological asceticism and disciplinary asceticism. According to Tillich, ontological asceticism attempts to attain salvation by completely denying one’s finite reality (ST II, 82– 3). This is a kind of distortion of human nature. Although we should never neglect the significance of libido, eros and philia in ethics, if, sometimes, libido has overwhelmed agape with the power of eros and philia by which humans are running wild and the centred persons are destroyed, self-resistance and asceticism in the name of agape, for Tillich, are perceived as necessary. Tillich calls this kind of asceticism ‘disciplinary’ asceticism which is good because ‘it is affirmed by agape’ (MB, 41). Thus, I believe that Tillich would welcome Confucian self-cultivation by reflective observance of rituals as a way of moral education and formation of virtues. However, observance of rituals, for Tillich, is not enough to motivate moral behaviour. As discussed

 Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, II:1, 1103a, trans. David Ross (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 23.

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


above, the real moral motivating power, for Tillich, comes from eros, that is our love of God or love of the good. And eros cannot be generated by the will; rather it is given as grace which is independent of human merit. And the problem is that many Confucian scholars reject the Christian idea of grace. Indeed, in Christian theology, there are two kinds of grace: common grace and special grace (MB, 61). While common grace refers to God’s creation and providence towards all humans, special grace refers to God’s salvation given towards those who are elected. I think that what Confucians reject is the idea of special grace rather than common grace; and one of the reasons for the rejection is that theoretically, the Christian idea of special grace is based on the doctrine of sin, as estrangement from its essential being and from the Ultimate Reality in Tillich’s thought. Nevertheless, Confucians stress the unity of man and Heaven; they cannot accept the idea of human estrangement from Heaven, as Tu Weiming states, ‘it is inconceivable in Chung-yung’s [Doctrine of the Mean] view that man can be alienated from Heaven in any essential way. An integral part of Heaven’s creative process… endows man with the “centrality” (the most refined quality) of the universe… the relationship between Heaven and man is not that of creator and creature but one of mutual fidelity… and the only way for man to know Heaven is to penetrate deeply into his own ground of being.’³⁹

Confucians perceive humanity as ontologically self-sufficient in becoming a fully realized human being, so that one can ‘rectif[y] himself and seeks nothing from others’ (Doctrine of the Mean 14). With such understanding of the self and Heaven, Confucians generally reject the idea of grace as power of assistance from the external. However, Confucian perception of ontological self-sufficiency of human nature may be too optimistic. According to Zhang Hao, a Chinese liberal scholar, throughout the historical development of Confucianism, there exists the sense of murkiness of human motivation at the same time with the idea of natural human goodness in the Confucian tradition. For instance, Xunzi stresses that human nature is bad. However, Xunzi did not play a significant role in the development of Confucian tradition. Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism also had some deep reflection of human murkiness. Nevertheless, the sense of murkiness of Confucianism was always overshadowed by its optimism. Despite the existence of murky consciousness, Confucians resisted giving it full play or resisted facing the problem directly because of the insistence of original Confucian belief in natural human goodness. For this

 Tu, An Insight of Chung-yung, 8.


Andrew Tsz Wan HUNG

reason, Chinese tradition can hardly develop the idea of separation and balance of powers, and the idea of democracy.⁴⁰ Indeed, Tu Wei-ming also admits that the sense human murkiness of Freudian psychology is what Confucianism lacks. It is a challenge which Confucianism has to deal with in the face of modernization.⁴¹ In recent decades, a few contemporary Confucian scholars have attempted to develop a theory of Confucian democracy in order to respond to the challenge from Western modernity. If Zhang Hao’s criticism and Tu Wei-ming’s reflection of Confucianism are right, I think that Confucians need to take the challenge from the Christian doctrine of sin seriously. I think that affirming the distinctive feature of human beings as endowed by Heaven does not necessarily reject the idea that human beings are alienated from their essential beings to a certain extent. It seems that to endorse the idea of human estrangement does not necessarily violate the fundamental teaching of Confucianism. As Tillich states, ‘Estrangement presupposes original oneness’ (LPJ, 25). Tillich’s idea of sin does not contradict Confucian essential unity of humans and Heaven. If what Tillich says about human estrangement and divine grace is right, Tillich’s agapian ethics seems to provide a better answer to human predicament. In particular, in the aspect of forgiving and accepting those who are unacceptable, the Christian idea of grace does provide an incomparable force in human moral motivation.

4 Abbreviations HCT

A History of Christian Thought, ed. Carl Braaten (New York: Harper & Row, 1968). LPJ Love, Power and Justice: Ontological Analysis and Ethical Applications (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954). MB Morality and Beyond. Repr. Forw. William Schweiker (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995). ProtE The Protestant Era, ed. James Luther Adams (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1957). SA My Search for Absolutes (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1967). ST I Systematic Theology, vol. I (London: SCM Press, 1951). ST II Systematic Theology, vol. II (London: SCM Press, 1957).  Zhang Hao (張灝), Consciousness of Murkiness and Democratic Tradition, (Chinese Book) 《幽暗意識與民主傳統》 (Taipei: Linking Publishing, 1989), 19 – 33.  Tu, Wei-ming, Modern Spirit and Confucian Tradition, (Chinese Book) 《現代精神與儒家傳 統》(Beijing: Joint Publishing co.), 430.

Paul Tillich and Classical Confucianism on Religious Ethics


ST III Systematic Theology, vol. III (London: SCM Press, 1963). SS The System of the Sciences According to Objects and Methods, trans. Paul Wiebe. (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press), 1981.


Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài Fellow Pilgrims Seeking New Peace in Trembling Worlds

Though I have employed Tillich’s exploration of “ultimate concern” and its connection with an “ultimate subject” for many years at Hong Kong Baptist University in my teaching about the nature of religious commitments within the broader framework of religious studies,¹ it was only in 2013 that I realized that there were a number of similarities between some aspects of Tillich’s ethics and that of the “broad love” (bóài 博愛) tradition advocated by Zhāng Zài 張載 (1020 – 1077). That initial exploration led to the production of a study developing some of the shared features of their ethical and meta-ethical commitments, as scholars stretching the boundaries of the traditions to which they adhered.² As a result, both Tillich and Zhāng Zài were criticized as living “on the margins” of the Christian and Ruist (“Confucian”) traditions with which they respectively identified.³ Already by that time I was drawn to explore short pieces that have proven to be among the most influential of their works: in Tillich’s case, his sermon on “The Depth of Existence”, and in Zhāng’s case, one small part of the last chapter in a famous volume of his works, that portion referred to as the Western Inscription (Xīmíng 西銘). Both are short pieces appearing in much larger works: Tillich’s in a major collection of his sermons,⁴ and Zhāng Zài in his longest work entitled Zhèng Mēng 正蒙 or Correcting Delusions. ⁵ Tillich’s sermons in many

 As I have learned since then, there were a good number of scholars in the ambit of religious studies within Hong Kong who were employing Tillich’s work in similar ways with various traditions, including Pan Chiu Lai in relationship to Ruism (“Confucianism”) and Buddhism, and Keith Ka Fu Chan as a Christian theologian working in Chinese contexts. Works by both Lai and Chan are found here in this volume.  The term “adhesion” and its related verb and noun – “to adhere” and “adherence” – was employed in this sense of “taking part in a tradition” by Paul Ricoeur (1913 – 2005) in his posthumously published work, Living Up To Death, trans. David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 62, 69, and 72.  That study written by this author is entitled “Beyond Moral and Religious Conventionalities: Comparative Metaethical and Ethical Reflections on Zhang Zai (1020 – 1077) and Paul Tillich (1886 – 1965)” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41 (December 2014): 632– 650.  That sermon appears as the seventh among twenty-two sermons in Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations (New York: Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1948), 52– 63.  In my previous study I rendered the title as Correcting Ignorance, but the second term mēng is a harsher and more critical word, and so I have changed the title here to reflect that intention on DOI 10.1515/9783110496666-009



ways made his more technical and difficult philosophical and theological concepts accessible to a very wide Anglophone readership; he himself wrote about this contrast, claiming that his sermons provided helpful access to “practical” and “existential implications” of his more technical philosophical theology.⁶ In the case of Zhāng Zài’s Western Inscription, it is not inappropriate to assert that this work became far more well known as an independent text in its own right, even though it actually appeared in its first published form as the initial part of the seventeenth and last chapter of the larger volume, Correcting Delusions. ⁷ In my own case, these two texts have continued to excite my reflections about other aspects within them that are becoming more and more prominent to me: first of all, their shared awareness of the need for humans to experience and understand transformation, or what I have referred to elsewhere as the “transformative dimension”;⁸ secondly, the unusual qualities of the spiritual dimension in both writings, though they come from very different cultural traditions and historical periods. Nevertheless, I discovered that very few of my colleagues, much less students and other interested persons, even among some who specialize in contemporary Christian theology or in the study of Ruist (“Confucian”) traditions, had ever read both of these works. For this reason, then, I have provided selections from English versions of both of these works in the two appendices attached to the end of this article, so that readers might have direct access to the passages I have chosen to explore in the balance of this study.⁹ My intention, then, is to develop the themes of transformation and spirituality as they are revealed in how both men conceived of ways to attain peace

the part of Zhāng Zài. As far as I know at this point in time, there is one full rendering of this work produced by a team of German sinologists in German, but still no complete rendering in English or any other language that I am aware of at this time (even though there may well be works in Japanese, Korean, and Russian, for example). See Michael Friedrich, Michael Lackner, and Friedrich Reimann, trans. and comm., Chang Tsai: Rechtes Anflichten/Cheng-meng (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1996).  Claims made in the preface to Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, i.  This is explicitly underscored in Friedrich, Lackner and Reimann, Chang Tsai: Rechtes Auflichten, 252.  Consult Lauren F. Pfister, “Philosophical Explorations of the Transformative Dimension in Chinese Culture,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 35 (2008), 663 – 682.  Here I would simply want to leave a note about the texts found in the appendixes. The version of Zhāng Zài’s work is a new English rendering of most of the text based upon my own studies of available Chinese, English and German texts and related secondary literature, while the selections from Tillich’s sermons are directly copied from his published version of the sermon without any amendment.

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


and joy within a very changeable world. Subsequently, I intend to reflect on their claims and apply them briefly to two current problems of our age: the particular malady of the superficiality accompanying the emergence of the age of internet access with its potentially negative impact on our abilities to comprehend these two profound themes, and questions related to the reconceptualization of the environing lifewords in which we dwell for the sake of a robust Ruist-Christian synthetic form of environmental ethics.

1 Some Unexpected Stimuli for New Comparisons During and after my preparations for the previous study, I became aware that the English translations of the Western Inscription were rendered within the limited framework of a first person singular existential approach to the whole text, initiated by the rendering produced by Wing-tsit Chan in the early 1960s in his seminal work, A Source Book of Chinese Philosophy. ¹⁰ Since then there has been also other renderings provided in English¹¹ and German,¹² but most of them have followed this first person singular existential interpretation to Zhāng Zài’s seminal work. Notably, the German rendering produced in 1996 by the team of Michael Friedrich, Michael Lackner and Friedrich Reimann adopted an alternative approach, using the first person plural in most cases where the pronoun wú 吾 appeared.¹³ Reading through their German translation, I felt the profound difference, and realized that in ancient and formal Chinese language, the Chinese ideograph for the first person can indeed serve as either a singular or plural pronoun.¹⁴ Even more significantly for me, I felt that Friedrich, Lackner and Reimann had realized that from the very first line of the Western

 Chan’s rendering of the Western Inscription in this work is found in Wing-tsit Chan, trans. and ed., A Source Book of Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 497– 498.  See also the version produced in Justin Tiwald and Bryan W. Van Norden, trans. and eds., Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to 20th Century (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2014), 134– 136.  See footnote #5 above for details about the German version.  Consult Friedrich, Lackner, and Reimann, Rechtes Auflichten/Cheng-meng, 132– 133.  As underscored in the first denotation listed for this Chinese character in The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary [Chinese-English Edition] produced in Beijing in 2002 by the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2017, right column. After indicating that it is a word used only in formal documents, it defines the term in English succinctly as “I or me; we or us; …”



Inscription (“Qián [乾] is called father and Kūn [坤] is called mother”), the whole text was not about what Zhāng Zài himself conceived for himself alone, but was a new familiarly familial vision of the whole cosmos, and so reconceived all humans and other beings as belonging together in a communal setting. It was a kind of Ruist cosmopolis, but something even more intimate and familial in character, where each wise person and sage is completely aware that they are, in fact, a “citizen of the universe” or kosmopolitēs κοσμοπολίτης (to borrow suitable phrases from the ancient Greek and Roman Stoics).¹⁵ So significant were its claims, and influential in its ethical provocations, that it was included as the second of ten diagrams dealing with whole person cultivation in the Korean Ruist traditions of the 16th century.¹⁶ Contemporary German sinologists have cited its republications in forty four different forms, indicating its continuing legacy across dynastic changes and extending to the last decades of the 20th century.¹⁷ Yet even in spite of these influences, Zhāng Zài’s ethical claims were considered by some to be too generous and even destructive of a more restrictive form of hierarchical ethical values that privileged nuclear family and extended family relationships among all other relationships.¹⁸ In all these ways I sensed that Zhāng Zài was reaching into a profound level of what Tillich has referred to as the “Ground of Being”, and was aware of the dynamic tensions that arose in seeking the “depth” of that experience in personal, communal, environing lifeworlds, and the cosmos/universe (however it was conceived). As a consequence, then, and upon reading and rereading both texts, I found some new concerns to address related to how these two unusual intellectuals developed their understand This comparison in and of itself is worth a much more lengthy study, but I leave this note for suggestions in that realm. For depictions of the ancient Greek conception of the “citizen of the universe”, see Malcolm Schofield, The Stoic Idea of the City (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999), 64, 77, and 143. The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, conceived of the “world as a city” (where the term kosmos here is rendered as “world”), described in Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, trans. Michael Chase (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 42– 43). See also passages referring to the cosmos as being like a polis in the Greek-English bilingual text of Aurelius’ so-called Meditations, given the original title of “To Himself” (tōn eis eauton ΤΩΝ ΕΙΣ ΕΑΥΤΟΝ). Consult C. R. Haines, trans. and ed., Marcus Aurelius (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1930), especially sections 4: 3 – 4, 10: 15 and 12: 36 found on 67– 73, 274– 275, and 340 – 341 respectively.  See a full monograph study of these ten diagrams within 16th Century Korean Ruism in Michael C. Kalton, trans., ed., and comm., To Become a Sage: The Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T-oegye (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).  Consult Friedrich, Lackner, and Reimann, Chang Tsai: Rechtes Auflichten, 290 – 309.  As documented in Lee Junghwan, “Counterbalancing Egalitarian Benevolence: A History of Interpretations of Zhang Zai’s Western Inscription in Song China and Joseon Korea”, The Review of Korean Studies 13 (2010), 117– 149.

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


ing of transformation and spirituality, particularly as they challenged a tendency to “remain on the surface”¹⁹ and avoid the painfulness that is involved in encountering experience in its broadest reaches. These aspects of Zhāng Zài’s unusual text and their claims parallel to some degree – but admittedly under very different political, historical and cultural conditions – the intense intellectual and spiritual struggles in Tillich’s life. Those struggles ultimately led to oppressive Nazi political decisions that brought Tillich’s burgeoning intellectual career to an abrupt end in the early 1930s, and forced him to consider new possibilities of what was essentially a life as an intellectual refugee in the USA. We will not go further into any other details here, since Tillich’s experiences of persecution have been explored extensively by others.²⁰ The realization that is important for us here is that both men’s ways of reconceiving reality were rooted in their concrete experiences of personal and communal suffering. Before exploring the conceptualizations of transformation and spirituality within these two selected readings culled from Tillich’s sermon, “The Depth of Existence”, and Zhāng Zài’s Western Inscription, it is worthwhile noting a number of stylistic and communicative strategic features of these texts that appear in both texts and deserve our consideration. Both men initiated these seminal works with quotations from classical sources that they deeply reverenced. Zhāng Zài’s initial two sentences were abbreviated statements drawn from the third appendix, Shuō guà (說卦),²¹ within the socalled “Ten Wings” that make up the Great Commentary to The Book of Changes. ²² Notably, Zhāng dropped references to “heaven” and “earth” in relationship to the two divinatory symbols, so that the familial metaphors of “fa-

 A phrase drawn from Tillich’s sermon, “The Depth of Existence”. Please consult Appendix II.  Find a standard account of Tillich’s life journey in Wilhelm and Marion Pauck, Paul Tillich: His Life and Thought (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989). A summary of Tillich’s experiences in Germany before he left for the USA, and his later experiences during WWII and subsequently, have been provided in Pfister, “Beyond Moral and Religious Conventionalities”.  What James Legge rendered into English as “Treatise of Remarks on the Trigrams”. See James Legge, English trans., Qín Yǐng 秦穎, Chinese trans., Qín Yǐng 秦穎 and Qín Suì 秦穗, eds., Zhōu Yì 周易 / Book of Changes (Chángshā: Húnán Publishers, 1993), 341.  Found in Legge and Qín Yǐng, trans., Zhōu Yì 周易 / Book of Changes, 346 – 347, what is referred to in this version as “Chapter X. 14.” This follows Legge’s original numbering system found in his version of the Yìjīng, but it appears as Appendix V (and not the third chapter or appendix). Consult James Legge, trans. and comm., The Yî King (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1882), 429.



ther” and “mother” were highlighted.²³ This set the tone for what Chung-ying Cheng has referred to as “the most organismic Confucian vision of the human station in the cosmos and human society and government” since the period of the Han dynasty (that is, more than a thousand years earlier).²⁴ More explicitly, it created a vision of a “familially extended intimacy with all things”, and did so not by breaking down previous Ruist ethical norms, but highlighting in a densely packed text of just over 250 characters teachings from notable Ruist canonical and esteemed writings, revealing what Zhāng Zài was convinced would be the consciousness, compassion, and ethically driven practices of a true Ruist sage.²⁵ For his part, Tillich initiated his sermon as he did for the vast majority of his sermon texts with quotations from the Bible.²⁶ Here, however, he cited more than one text, something quite unusual;²⁷ both were single verses, one from the New  Here there is a quandary within Wing-tsit Chan’s influential English rendering, because instead of using the names of the hexagrams, he simply replaced them by “Heaven” and “Earth” (including the capitalization of the first letters of each word). Part of the problem is that this drastically narrows down the symbolic connotations of these two symbols, and for English readers leaves no direct reference at all to The Book of Changes, a tome of extreme value in Zhāng Zài’s scholarship. In the paragraph following this quotation and relying on Legge’s renderings, the commentarial text illustrates the extent of the symbolic breadth of both of these terms: “Qian suggests the idea of heaven; of a circle, of a ruler; of a father; of jade; of metal; of cold/ of ice; of deep red; of a good horse; of an old horse; of a thin horse; of a piebald horse; and of the fruit of trees. Kun suggests the idea of the earth; of a mother; of cloth; of a caldron; of parsimony; of a turning lathe; of a young heifer; of a large wagon; of what is variegated; of a multitude; and of a handle and support. Among soils it denotes what is black.” Quoted from Legge and Qín Yǐng, trans., Zhōu Yì 周易 / Book of Changes, 347  Quoting from Chung-ying Cheng, “Zhang Zai” in Antonio S. Cua, ed., Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 2003), 868.  Described in Pfister, “Reverence for Life and Living with Reverence in the 21st Century: Meditations by a Ruified Christian,” in Yearbook of Chinese Theology 2015, ed by Paulos Z. Huang (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 27– 52 and “Beyond Moral and Religious Conventionalities”, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41 (Dec. 2014): 641– 643. In the annotated German version of this seminal text by Zhāng Zài, there are 61 glosses or quotations identified from fourteen canonical and classical Chinese texts. For further details and their significance, see Friedrich, Lackner and Reimann, Chang Tsai: Rechtes Auflichten, 132– 133, and Pfister, “Beyond Moral and Religious Conventionalities”, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41 (Dec. 2014): 632– 650, endnote 34.  Only two of the 22 sermons presented in The Shaking of the Foundations did not begin with the quotation of one or more biblical passages. This suggests the profound significance of the Bible for Tillich in his role as a Christian preacher.  Only three sermons out of the 22 texts found within this collection of sermons had two quotations, two started with three quotations, and the very last one astoundingly cited eight passages in sequence, with some narrative descriptions in between some of those eight passages. Altogether, then, there were only six out of 22 sermons that had more than one biblical passage at the meditative focus announced at the beginning of the sermon.

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


Testament book of 1 Corinthians, and the other from the Hebrew Psalms. Again, this was quite unusual, because Tillich in the same collection of sermons normally cited a single passage that could be very long;²⁸ rarely did he settle for only a single verse.²⁹ Yet here, in both cases, there were the verbal touchstones – the “deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2: 10) and “the depths” (Psalm 130: 1) – that Tillich intended to explore in great detail and with reference to the many degrees of the profundity that human experiences can contain. Unlike Zhāng Zài, then, Tillich was purposefully elaborating and exploring at some length the meaning of these seminal passages, while Zhāng Zài, as an encourager of the youth of his day, sought to portray in a rhetorically succinct and brilliant fashion the heart-mind of the Ruist sage. Rather than elaborate his immensely influential and much debated concept of “ultimate concern”, a phrase also found in this sermon,³⁰ Tillich adopted another approach, using a metaphysical approach to deity, referring to “God” by means of the phrases “the deepest ground of our being” and “the ground of history”.³¹ Here we appear to have a more easily construed conceptual bridge to Zhāng Zài’s cosmo-familial vision of reality. I will argue here that both men are pursuing what we may call the onto-hermeneutic foundation for reality, a foundation that can provide some surprisingly practical suggestions for our contemporary world. These include ethical extensions into the virtual realities that have been seeking dominance within the early 21st century by means of our technically-infused lived environments, and implications for a renewed vision of environmental ethics that overcomes some current deliberative problems within scientific and philosophical debates related to the values of ecological systems. Nevertheless, both men also realized that this transformation of our commonly accepted lifeworlds would necessarily involve existential and relational challenges that could not, and must not, avoid concrete experiences of suffering. Ironically, perhaps, but more likely in the paradoxical modes that both men realized was part and parcel of the transformations their new visions of reality inherently embraced, both men argued that when any one adopted such a trans-

 At the beginning of thirteen of those sermons published in The Shaking of the Foundations, Tillich cited only one passage, but those passages were sometimes as long as a whole chapter of the Bible.  Only once among all those sermons did Tillich only refer to a single biblical verse; even in the sermon we are reviewing, there were two verses, though both were single verses.  Find the term cited in Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, 57. An earlier work developing the idea of “ultimate concern” at the end of Tillich’s life is D. Mackenzie Brown, ed., Ultimate Concern: Tillich in Dialogue (New York: Harper and Row, 1965).  Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, 57 and 59.



formed vision of reality and its attendant practices in relationships to humans in need and other beings within our environing lifeworlds, we can reach a new kind of peace, an unconquerable level of joy, that would not be otherwise possible to experience. The former relates to the understanding of transformation that both men underscored within their vision of reality, and the latter reveals their particular spiritual horizons as unusual and creative intellectuals working within the classical and contemporary Christian or Ruist traditions of their different eras.

2 Visions of Transformation in these Two Texts of Zhāng Zài and Tillich There is no question that Zhāng Zài’s vision of “transformation” (huà 化) was deeply influenced by his studies of the Yìjīng 易經, The Book of Changes. ³² As we have already noted earlier, his employment of the names of the first two hexagrams of that divinatory work, and then their association with parenthood as “father” and “mother” respectively, as found in the third of the ten traditional commentaries to the divinatory text, solidly affirm Zhāng’s Ruist symbolic orientation and his new cosmo-ethical or onto-ethic vision. But what remains to be understood is the transformations he advocates and the role of transformation itself in the midst of his cosmo-familial vision of reality. We find his single reference to this concept in the sentence, “Knowing transformation, then we can excel in handling [our parents’] affairs.”³³ Ultimately, human relationships as well as human ties to the environing world from the angle of the sage’s powers within the universe, as Zhāng Zài understood them to be portrayed in classical Ruist canonical literature, are inherently transformative. This is argued explicitly in the 22nd chapter of the New Text of The State of

 A text that has developed this thematic interest in Zhāng Zài’s thought, in a manner that we will not seek to replicate here, is Hú Yuánlíng 胡元玲, Zhāng Zài Yìxué yǔ Dàoxué: yǐ Héngjú Yìshuō jí Zhèngmēng wéi zhǔ zhī Tántǎo 張載易學與道學: 以《橫渠易說》及《正蒙》為主之 探討 [Zhāng Zài’s Learning from The Book of Changes and the Dao Learning Movement: A Discussion based upon Mr. Héngjú’s Theory of Changes and Correcting Delusions] (Taipei: Student Bookstore, 2004).  This is embedded in what Friedrich, Lackner and Reimann consider to be the third major section of the Western Inscription, intimately linked to Zhāng’s discourse on the filial duty of the sagely person. Though I do not disagree with this assessment, I want to highlight the dynamic transformative context of the universe that such a person would experience. Consult, Friedrich, Lackner and Reimann, Chang Tsai: Rechtes Auflichten, 255 – 256.

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


Equilibrium and Harmony (Zhōngyōng 中庸),³⁴ and so is particularly important for us to reconsider in the light of what might be seen (and had been seen by some of his contemporaries and later critics) as an illegitimate account of the nature of the Ruist vision of reality.³⁵ Infact, however, Zhāng Zài should be seen as highlighting what is the transformative horizon and the nature of the transformative powers working within the very heart of the sage’s heart-mind. These claims are portrayed in the 19th century English of James Legge as follows:³⁶ It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can give its full development to his nature. Able to give its full development to his own nature, he can do the same to the nature of other men. Able to give its full development to the nature of other men, he can give their full development to the nature of animals and things. Able to give their full development to the natures of creatures and things, he can assist the transforming and nourishing powers (huàyù 化育) of Heaven and Earth. Able to assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth, he may with Heaven and Earth form a ternion (yǔ tiān dì cān 與天地參).

This same passage is offered by Andrew Plaks in any even more bold English rendering, presented in the form that it is published:³⁷ None but those who have attained the highest degree of integral wholeness in the entire world have the capacity fully to realize their inborn nature. One who is able fully to realize this inborn nature can thereby bring to full realization the nature of other people; One who is able to bring to full realization the nature of others is thereby able to bring to full realization the nature of all existing things; One who is able to bring to full realization the nature of all existing things can partake thereby in the transformative and generative processes of Heaven and Earth. He who can partake in the transformative and generative processes of

 That is, the text as reordered by Zhū Xī 朱熹 (1130 – 1200) and different from the Old Text found as a chapter in the Lǐji 禮記, The Record of Rites. For a more thorough account of this distinction and its significance, consult Ian Johnston and Wang Ping, trans. and comm., Daxue and Zhongyong: Bilingual Edition (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2012).  The following citations comes from two renderings of this same passage, but revealing the varying ways James Legge (1815 – 1897) and our contemporary, the Israeli sinologist, Andrew Plaks, has rendered the passage into English.  James Legge, trans. and comm., The Chinese Classics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893), Volume 1, 415 – 416. Chinese terms and transcriptions are added by this author.  Andrew Plaks, trans. and comm., Ta Hsüeh and Chung Yung (The Highest Order of Cultivation and On the Practice of the Mean) (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 44.



Heaven and Earth can stand, by virtue of this capacity, as a third term between them in the cosmic continuum.

What we need to understand is the person who is claimed to be the most authentic and perfectly fulfilled, one having achieved, in Plaks’ perceptive phrase appearing in this passage as “the highest degree of integral wholeness,” is the Ruist sage. This is the standard of human excellence that Zhāng Zài placed before his students and his Ruist scholarly colleagues. Such a person is intimately related to not only human persons, but also all things in the universe. But what is the nature of the transformation and nurturance that the sage is able to achieve? It comes in fulfilling the nature of all things in the midst of their own transformations, and so bringing not only fulfillment within each of their own existential conditions, but also interrelating them to the highest powers within the phenomenal universe. For Zhāng, then, this onto-generative hermeneutic vision of a cosmo-familial vision involves not only the ontic and ontological fulfillment of all involved, starting with the sage and then expanding its powers into all that exists, but also transforming the character of their relationship. It is in this precise context that Zhāng Zài links ontological transformation to the highest form of intimate relational fulfillment (zhì xiào 至孝), notably employing the same superlative adjective found in the description of the person with “the highest degree of integral wholeness” (zhì chéng 至誠). Tillich adds to this vision of humans’ relationship to the “Ground of Being” an additional twist that is remarkably similar to the creative and not-necessarilyforeseeable changes within a constantly changing universe. The wisdom of all ages and of all continents speaks about the road to our depth. It has been described in innumerably different ways…. They have found that they were not what they believed themselves to be, even after a deeper level had appeared to them below the vanishing surface. That deeper level itself became surface, when a still deeper level was discovered, this happening again and again, as long as their very lives, as long as they kept on the road to their depth….

This ongoing process of continual transformation of oneself and one’s vision of reality is not an infinitely unending process, but it is a changing, disruptive, and creative reorganization of all that is around us. It will, ultimately, come to encounter the “deepest level”, the place where “the ground of our being” is encountered in all its profundity. Notably, however, Tillich points out a kind of dialectical movement within the process of various kinds of spiritual transformations; it is not merely a processural growth such as in the physical transformations of things, but a more dynamic realization that once one has reached a certain level of understanding and sympathy, that level becomes the

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


starting point for a further transformation. It becomes a new “surface” that requires the further probing into the “depths”, until one reaches the “deepest level”, a level that Tillich identifies with the “Ground of Being”. Where Tillich portrays these transformative steps toward what we should refer to as the “ultimate subject”, his indication of how these transformations take place do not have the hierarchical ordering of transformative steps found in The State of Equilibrium and Harmony, as already revealed above, but I do sense that he could understand his own claims within the Ruist framework. Where Tillich and Zhāng Zài differ here is within the telos of their transformations. Other Ruist scholars of Zhāng Zài’s age and subsequent periods would go to other works, such as Zhōu Dūnyí’s 周敦頤 (1017– 1073) Explanation of the Supreme Ultimate Diagram (Tàijítú shuō 太極圖說) ,³⁸ to identify the telos or ultimate goal of their universe, where the ultimate ground is potentially symbolized in the Wújí 無極 symbol, an empty circle representing the “Ultimateless”.³⁹ Nevertheless, both recognize the critical importance of understanding the nature of transformations, in order that the door to a spiritual renewal that has profound implications for persons and all living things might be realized.

3 Understandings of Spirituality in these Two Texts of Tillich and Zhāng Zài Without question, Tillich’s purpose in writing and presenting his sermon on “The Experience of Depth” was to promote a new spiritual sensitivity among his Christian hearers and readers within personal, communal, and global (“world”) realms of experience. He thoroughly believed that once they encountered the Trinitarian Lord as the “the deepest ground of our being”, there would be a divine work initiated to change and enliven new levels of spiritual, relational, and righteous transformations within Christian circles. While this is undoubtedly the case, Tillich’s appeal sought to go far beyond the limits of the Christian communities he explicitly addressed through his sermons, and to reach out through his theology of culture approach to all those who might also be on the way spiritually, but

 For a summary description of this document, see Don J. Wyatt, “Taijitu shuo太極圖說 (Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate Explained)” in Xinzhong Yao, ed., RoutledgeCurzon Encyclopedia of Confucianism, Volume 2: O – Z (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 593.  Consult Todd Cameron Thacker, “Wuji 無極 (Non-Ultimate)” in Yao, RoutledgeCurzon Encyclopedia of Confucianism, Volume 2: O – Z, 662.



not expressing those spiritual dynamics within the symbolic universe of Christian faith. For this reason, he was very direct, as already seen in the quotation cited previously, in claiming that “the wisdom of all ages and of all continents speaks about the road to our depth.” Here is the justification for a thorough going comparative religious and comparative philosophical exploration of Tillich’s claims. He explicitly also indicates that the sources for this wisdom involved those from spheres that included Christians and other religious people, but did not exclude those who were not Christians or those considered to be not even religious: “mystics and priests, poets and philosophers, simple people and educated people” all could know and pass on this wisdom. For Tillich in this post-WWII context, the profundity of these spiritual transformations would come as a result of “confession, lonely self-scrutiny, internal or external catastrophes, prayer, [and] contemplation”, and they would push persons to a new level of compassion and sympathy for persons and living things within their environing world. It was precisely because of that painful readjustment to the broader experiences of hurting living persons, animals, and things, also within their communal expression and what we could now also call their ecological systems, that a new level of joy could be obtained. As he put it at the end of his sermon, “The moment in which we reach the last depth of our lives is the moment in which we can experience the joy that has eternity within it … for in the depth is truth; and in the depth is hope; and in the depth is joy.” Such a personally experienced sense of joy attained through the sufferings necessarily involved in physical, relational and spiritual transformations resounds firmly with the expectations of Zhāng Zài’s cosmo-familial vision. How Zhāng referred to that dimension of spirituality was not in reference to “joy”, but by means of the image of “peace” or “equanimity”. What makes this assertion all the more profound is that it is clearly not just an acceptance of one’s mortality, a condition that a Marxist materialist might expect,⁴⁰ but a sense of fulfillment because of having completed the tasks and realized the will of one’s cosmic parents, Qián 乾 and Kūn 坤. Zhāng Zài’s monistic universe made up of vital energy (qì 氣) is not at all a typical materialist’s worldview, nor is it easily aligned to the Marxist revolutionary’s dialectical materialism, because it recognizes the subtleties of the spiritual (shén 神) in a number of its expressions that would not fit into any simple materialism. Within the larger work of Correcting Delusions, Zhāng Zài carries on discussions about the roles of spi An interpretive position that can be followed within the introductory essay written by the Chinese Marxist philosopher, Zhāng Dàinián 張岱年 (1909 – 2004), for The Complete Works of Zhāng Zài. See Zhāng Zài, Zhāng Zài jí《張載集》, ed. and annot. Zhāng Xīshēn 張錫深 (Běijīng 北京: Zhōnghuá Shūjú中華書局, 2006).

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


rits in general (guǐshén 鬼神), employs the metaphysical term pattern-principle (lǐ 理), elaborates about the reality of the polarity of human spirits at a person’s death (hún 魂 and pò 魄), and offers a non-reductionistic account of the nature and function of sacrifices (di 褅).⁴¹ In addition, Zhāng Zài has an understanding of transformations within the environing lifeworld and the cosmo-familial universe that is more dynamic and multiform than a reductionistic economic model fueled by Marxist philosophical categories. In this light, then, there is a need to reconsider once again the spiritual dimensions of the Western Inscription. So, then, it is right for us to ask if we find echoes of all these spiritual factors within the Western Inscription. In this regard, we have some direct statements that portray suggestively the spiritual orientation of this Sòng Ruist scholar:⁴² Plumbing the depths of the spiritual, then we can excel in continuing to embody [our parents’] will… To serve according to situation while alive, [then] when [we are] gone, [we will] experience peace.

Zhāng goes further than simply asserting the positive spiritual concerns of his view of reality. Because other persons had not extended familial intimacy to the elderly and the young around them, there had been a loss of communal virtue that was nothing more than a rebellion, hurting not only those persons, but also one’s own character, and the goal of a virtuous sagely life. His words are not minced: “To reject [these needy ones] is to rebel against virtue, so that we bring harm to human cultivation, and act like thieves. To support evil is to negate cleverness…. To do nothing shameful even in the most private places is to be guileless.” In spite of ways some contemporary Marxist Chinese philosophers have sought to minimize the spiritual dimension within Zhāng Zài’s vision, in fact, it is precisely within these ethical exhortations and the grand sympathy that motivates them that we see Ruist spirituality embodied.

 Find details about all these matters in Pfister, “Beyond Moral and Religious Conventionalities: Comparative Metaethical and Ethical Reflections on Zhang Zai (1020 – 1077) and Paul Tillich (1886 – 1965)”, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Vol. 41. Annual Supplement (December 2014), 632– 650.  Find this in Appendix I in the context of the whole piece.



4 Seeking New Peace in the Midst of our Trembling World: Further Meditations When we consider again the breadth and depth of the visions of reality offered to us by the Sòng Dynasty Ruist, Zhāng Zài, and the 20th century Christian theologian, Paul Tillich, it strikes me that they portray visions that stem from a “highly educated and articulate personality”, persons who “carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage” that they represented.⁴³ Yet now we are in an age that one playwright, Richard Foreman, typified as a “paper-thin world” created by the web-surfing superficiality of the technological environment that is making us become more like our insensitive computers, and less like the exemplary persons of cultured traditions. We are being emptied, Foreman laments, of our “inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance” by the conveniences and “informationism” that characterizes the internet technological environment and its temptations.⁴⁴ In the same place Forman adds, perceptively, that we human netizens are being transmogrified into “pancake people – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.” Following his cues, I have grown more and more concerned about university educators’ advocacy of “computerized education”, when it appears that we are in fact creating “crepe characters” out of our students, because they are less and less willing to read, and also gradually, at least some of them, unable to read wisely or with suitable comprehension.⁴⁵ Yet, if there is one thing our so-called “digitially-aged” university students (who are too attached to their mobile portals) tend to avoid, it is the suffering that accompanies meditative reflection, deep and repeated reading of classical texts, memorization of profound literature, and thoughtfully constructed arguments that carry conviction with their expression. I believe that the portrayal of the “depths” and the radically transformed vision of a cosmo-familial reality check could do our students, and ourselves,

 Citations taken from Nicolas Carr, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2008), 227.  Citing Foreman’s works from Carr, The Big Switch, 227. An earlier volume that addressed a similar concern, but did so with majestic breadth, is Quentin J. Schulz, Habits of the HighTech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002). Schultz employed the term “informationism” to typify the excessive desire for information that has now also spilled over into forms of compulsive / obsessive addiction to the internet.  A shocking study of these kind of problems is found in Ferris Jabr, “Why the Brain Prefers Paper”, Scientific American 309 (2013), 48 – 53.

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


much good. We need to consider the adoption of taking “internet Sabbaths”, experiencing more “disconnectopia”⁴⁶ (during the quinti-centennial of Thomas More’s tome, Utopia). In these ways we can rediscover the joys of intimate face-to-face relationships and the wonders of non-human living things that can help us properly frame our internet usage within a virtuous form of life that is far more compassionate, sensitive, and wise. That would necessitate a dipping beneath the surface of our techno-superficialities, and touching what is profoundly living within us, within our families, and within our communities, in ways that are becoming sadly too seldom realized in our own age. Tillich’s exhortations ring soundly to me in this realm, and Zhāng Zài’s sagely vision of a “broad love” ethic could serve as a palliative to our work-aholic habits that are beginning to bring deterioration to our cultured life-worlds and most intimate relationships. This all comes about because we are stimulated more and more by technical convenience and online chatter than by disciplined management of time and deeply confirming forms of relational trust. Can Zhāng Zài’s cosmo-familial vision of reality, bound up with Tillich’s concern for “the world” (whether or not it is strictly planetary or not is not at all clear), offer any insights for the recent and on-going debates among ecologically-minded scientists and philosophers related to caring for our environing world?⁴⁷ I have recently worked on an attempt to reinvest new values within our “familially familiar environing lifeworlds” on the basis of an earlier and less articulate understanding of Zhāng Zài’s Western Inscription. ⁴⁸ Instead of repeating those much longer arguments, I would prefer focusing on matters related to arguments that posit the “intrinsic” or “priceless” value of various dimensions of “Nature”, and so opposing those who argue only from “instrumental values”, while supporting values including “aesthetic”, “ecological/ecosystem services”, “medical”, “recreational”, “educational”, “scientific”, and “spiritual” values.⁴⁹ The main problem with the arguments that rely on the “intrinsic value” of “Na-

 Neologisms accompanied by immensely useful advice as found in the last chapter of William Powers’ seminal book, Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building Good Life in the Digital Age (New York: HarperCollins Pub., 2010), 223 – 233.  Here I would like to thank Prof. Alexandra Cook, Dr. Michael Brownnutt, Dr. Bayden D. Russell, and Dr. Tim Bonebrake for their stimulating discussions on these matters during the time I was preparing this paper.  As argued in Lauren F. Pfister, “Reverence for Life and Living in Reverence in the 21st Century: Meditations of a Ruified Christian”, Yearbook of Chinese Theology 2015, ed. by Paulos Z. Huang (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 27– 52.  Citing details from an article jointly authored by James Justus, Mark Colyvan, Helen Regan and Lynn Maguire, “Buying into Conservation: Intrinsic versus Instrumental Value”, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24 (2008), 187– 191.



ture” is that they do not provide any easy way to discern how anyone would make discerning judgments about hierarchies of pragmatic approaches to resolving multi-layered or diversified ecological problems precisely because everyone then simply seeks immediate support. So, for example, where one scientist argues against the “market-oriented mechanisms” that might support conservation, because they are not normally nurturing sustainable attitudes supporting eco-friendly projects reviewed by policy makers or voters in a particular locale where democratic procedures are employed to determine certain major policy decisions. Instead, his claims that “Nature”, or “chunks of Nature” or even “pieces of Nature” are all “priceless”, or of “infinite” value, and carry “intrinsic value,” stifle any further debate or evaluation. If everything everywhere has the same intrinsic value within the natural realm, then no practical judgment can be made on that basis.⁵⁰ Two alternative responses from Zhāng Zài’s Western Inscription that still appear to support the intrinsic value of the environing lifeworld, but offer hierarchies of importance within them, may be able to provide some new angles for reconsideration, and consequently deal also with policy decisions that require some justification and discernment at many levels of social life and political policy. First of all, Zhāng Zài appears to place what could be referred to as “Heaven” and “Earth” in the highest category, and would support it with his sense of the “highest expression of filial piety” (zhì xiào 至孝). In other words, human beings who are enfranchised or empowered to make these ethical judgments should first consider the largest category, at least with regard to the planetary environment, as of the highest value. In other words, this resolves the classical problem in environmental ethics of the “problem of the commons”: because no one “owns” the whole Earth, or the whole of the planetary “Heavens”, therefore, no one takes any responsibility for the whole of it. From Zhāng Zài’s perspective, this would be the destruction of the highest expression of filial piety, and so should be taken on as the highest priority. This, at the very least, is a good beginning, so that then subordinate levels of ecosystems, and other concerns such as biodiversity in particular locales, could then take up their rightful place within the value hierarchy (whether by debate, by further arguments linking them to the sustainability of the Earth per se, or by pragmatic procedures that will allow all factors to be addressed, but on the basis of a step by step approach worked out in agreement with all stakeholders through systematically arranged discussions.

 See this dilemma as it is expressed unself-consciously by Douglas J. McCauley in “Selling Out on Nature”, Nature 443 (2006), 27– 28.

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


The second issue that comes to mind is the fact that Zhāng Zài’s Western Inscription would not permit us to make the “subjective / objective” divide between human beings and “Nature” in any absolute manner. It seems that Zhāng’s account would require us to ask other kinds of scientific questions even about our bodies. How much of what I count to be “my” body is actually not associated with my genetic identity, and includes water, e-coli, minerals, and other matters that are part and parcel of the lifeworld in which I am embedded? If that is the case, then should we reconceive our arguments always with the understanding that we are not talking about something merely “external” to us, but rather something that is intimately bound up with many levels of my personal, our communal, and perhaps also even other larger realms of human experience? How would this change the value of “instrumental arguments” by including an additional existential element that involves human identity and its sustainability? I find these suggestions intriguing, but am not able at this point in time to go beyond a more piecemeal concern for “living in reverence” within the environing lifeworld in which I and others around me in Hong Kong are living. Perhaps there is some hope, however, that something greater within our age is about to take place, because of the representatives of 175 countries who took steps to support the Paris Climate Agreement at the end of April 2016. This being the case, perhaps we should write up a 21st century version of our own “Inscription”, based on the worldviews we hold dearest, and see if we might be able to voice the wise understanding of environing transformations, and the deep concerns of spiritual responsibility, that Zhāng Zài was able to express for his own Ruist traditions.⁵¹

 This was written before the election of Mr. Donald Trump as the President of the USA in November 2016, and so may have to be revised if Mr. Trump insists with his regime to cancel the US’s part in that agreement. Nevertheless, the following suggestion is still worth considering.



5 APPENDIX I A New Rendering of Zhang Zai’s (1020 – 1077) Western Inscription (Xīmíng 西銘)⁵² Qián [乾] is called father and Kūn [坤] is called mother. We, such minuscule things here, are intimately bound up with them. Therefore, what fills Heaven and Earth constitutes our concrete presence; what governs Heaven and Earth is our nature. The people are our siblings, and other things, our companions. A great ruler is the eldest son of our parents; [the ruler’s] great ministers are our family’s counselors. Because we honor those elevated in years, we care for the elderly among us all; because we are compassionate to the orphaned and weak, we nurture the young children among us all. Sagacity harmonizes [our parents’] virtues; nobility embodies [our parents’] excellences. All those under the heavens who are exhausted, decrepit, worn out, or ill, or who are brother-less, childless, widowers, or widowed, are our [siblings] who are in distress and have no one to turn to. To protect them all in a timely manner gives wings to our roles as children; to rejoice and not be overcome by worries is the purest form of filial virtue. To reject [these needy ones] is to rebel against virtue, so that we bring harm to humane cultivation, so act like thieves. To support evil is to negate cleverness, but those who realize [these actions] within their own lives are indeed exemplary. Knowing transformation, then we can excel in handling [our parents’] affairs; plumbing the depths of the spiritual, then we can excel in continuing to embody [our parents’] will. To do nothing shameful even in the most private places is to be guileless; to sustain [our] heart-mind and nurture [our] nature is to avoid laziness…. Wealth and privilege, blessing and flouring, these will greatly enhance our lives; poverty and penury, heart-felt concerns and familial needs will refine us, like polished jade, so that you all can reach fulfillment. To serve according to situations while alive, [then] when [we are] gone, [we will] experience peace.

 Paragraph divisions in this English version differ from the standard Chinese original as well as most of those found in other English and German texts that I have had access to. These are matters of interpretive emphasis that should be considered by readers.

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


6 APPENDIX II Selections from Paul Tillich’s Sermon, “The Depth of Existence”⁵³ “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” (Psalm 130:1)

“The words ‘deep’ and ‘depth’ are used in our daily life, in poetry and philosophy, in the Bible, and in many other religious documents, to indicate a spiritual attitude, although the words themselves are taken from a spatial experience. Depth is a dimension of space; yet at the same time it is a symbol for a spiritual quality. Most of our religious symbols have this character, reminding us of our finitude and our bondage to things that are visible. We are and we remain sensuous beings even when we deal with spiritual things. There is, on the other hand, a great wisdom in our language. It is the embodiment of innumerable experiences of the past. It is not by chance alone that we use certain visible symbols and do not use others. Therefore, it is often useful to find the reasons for the choices of the collective mind of former generations. It may become of ultimate significance to us, when we see what is implied in the use of terms like ‘deep’, ‘depth’, and ‘profound’, for the expression of our spiritual life. It may give us the impulse to strive for our own depth. … “… [W]e should look at ourselves and at the opinions we take for granted. And we should see what there is in these things of prejudice, derived from our individual preferences and social surroundings. We should be shocked to notice how little of our spiritual world is deeper than the surface, how little would be able to withstand a serious blow. Something terribly tragic happens in all periods of man’s spiritual life: truths, once deep and powerful, discovered by the greatest geniuses through profound suffering and incredible labor, become shallow and superficial when used in daily discussion. How can and how does this tragedy occur? It can and does unavoidably occur, because there can be no depth without the way to the depth. Truth without the way to truth is dead; if it still be used, it contributes only to the surface of things. Look at the student who knows the content of the hundred most important books of world history, and yet whose

 Quoting from Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948), 52– 63 in passim.



spiritual life remains as shallow as it ever was, or perhaps becomes even more superficial. And then look at an uneducated worker who performs a mechanical task day by day, but who suddenly asks himself: ‘What does it mean, that I do this work? What does it mean for my life? What is the meaning of my life?’ Because he asks these questions, that man is on the way into depth, whereas the other man, the student of history, dwells on the surface among petrified bodies, brought out of the depth by some spiritual earthquake of the past. The simple worker may grasp truth, even though he cannot answer his questions; the learned scholar may possess no truth, even though he knows all the truths of the past. … “The wisdom of all ages and of all continents speaks about the road to our depth. It has been described in innumerably different ways. But all those who have been concerned – mystics and priests, poets and philosophers, simple people and educated people – with that road through confession, lonely self-scrutiny, internal or external catastrophes, prayer, contemplation, have witnessed to the same experience. They have found that they were not what they believed themselves to be, even after a deeper level had appeared to them below the vanishing surface. That deeper level itself became surface, when a still deeper level was discovered, this happening again and again, as long as their very lives, as long as they kept on the road to their depth. … “We have considered the depth of the world and the depth of our souls. But we are only in a world through a community of men. And we can discover our souls only through the mirror of those who look at us. There is no depth of life without the depth of the common life. We usually live in history as much on the surface as we live our individual lives. We understand our historical existence as it appears to us, and not as it really is. The stream of daily news, the waves of daily propaganda, and the tides of conventions and sensationalism keep our minds occupied. The noise of these shallow waters prevents us from listening to the sounds out of the depth, to the sounds of what really happens in the ground of our social structure, in the longing hearts of the masses, and in the struggling minds of those who are sensitive to historical changes. Our ears are as deaf to the cries out of the social depth as they are to the cried out of the depth of our souls. We leave the bleeding victims of our social system as alone, after we have hurt them without hearing their cries in the noise of our daily lives, as we do our own bleeding souls. We believed once that we were living in a period of unavoidable progress to a better humanity. But in the depth of our social structure the forces of destruction had already gathered strength. It once seemed as if human reason had conquered nature and history. But this was surface only; and in the depth of our community the rebellion against the surface had already begun. We produced ever better and ever more perfect

Paul Tillich and Zhāng Zài


tools and means for the life of mankind. But in the depth they had already turned into means and tools for man’s self-destruction. … “Our attempt to avoid the road which leads to … a depth of suffering and our use of pretexts to avoid it are natural. One of the methods, and a very superficial one, is the assertion that deep things are sophisticated things, unintelligible to an uneducated mind. But the mark of real depth is its simplicity. If you should say, “This is too profound for me; I cannot grasp it”, you are self-deceptive. For you ought to know that nothing of real importance is too profound for anyone. It is not because it is too profound, but rather because it is too uncomfortable, that you shy away from the truth. Let us not confuse the sophisticated things with the deep things of life. The sophisticated things do not concern us ultimately and it does not matter whether we understand them or not. But the deep things must concern us always, because it matters infinitely whether we are grasped by them or not. … “There is no excuse which permits us to avoid the depth of truth, the only way to which lies through the depth of suffering. Whether the suffering comes from outside and we take it upon ourselves as the road to the depth, or whether it be chosen voluntarily as the only way to deep things; whether it be the way of humility, or the way of revolution; whether the Cross be internal, or whether it be external, the road runs contrary to the way we formerly lived and thought. That is why Isaiah praises Israel, the Servant of God, in the depths of its suffering; and why Jesus calls those blessed who are in the depth of sorrow and persecution, of hunger and thirst in both body and spirit; and why He demands the loss of our lives for the sake of our lives. … “Eternal joy is the end of the ways of God. This is the message of all religions. The Kingdom of God is peace and joy. This is the message of Christianity. But eternal joy is not to be reached by living on the surface. It is rather attained by breaking through the surface, by penetrating the deep things of ourselves, of our world, and of God. The moment in which we reach the last depth of our lives is the moment in which we can experience the joy that has eternity within it, the hope that cannot be destroyed, and the truth on which life and death are built. For in the depth is truth; and in the depth is hope; and in the depth is joy.”



7 Relevant Bibliography: Chang Tsai (1996). Rechtes Auflichten / Cheng-meng. Herausgegeben, übersetzt und kommentiert von Michael Friedrich, Michael Lackner and Friedrich Reimann. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag. Kalton, Michael C., trans., ed., comm. (1988). To Become a Sage: The Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T’oigye. New York: Columbia University Press. Lee, Junghwan (2010). “Counterbalancing Egalitarian Benevolence: A History of Interpretations of Zhang Zai’s Western Inscription in Song China and Joseon Korea.” In The Review of Korean Studies 1 (2010), 117 – 149. Lin Lechang 林樂昌, ed. and comp. (2012) Zhengmeng hejiao jishi 正蒙合校集釋. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局. Two volumes. Vol. 2, 881 – 915. Patt-Shamir, Galia (2012). “Filial Piety, Vital Power, and a Moral Sense of Immortality in Zhang Zai’s Philosophy.” In Dao Vol. 11 (2012), 223 – 239. Tiwald, Justin and Bryan W. Van Norden (2014). Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to 20th Century. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co. Inc. (134 – 136) Van Norden, Bryan W. (2006). The Western Inscription by Zhang Zai. Obtained online, accessed 11 April 2016.

Keith CHAN Ka-fu

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity Tillich, Orthodox Theology and Confucianism

1 Introduction Both Judeo-Christian traditions and western philosophical traditions are commonly criticized for anthropocentrism and dualism, which are regarded as issues central to the global environmental crisis. However, western dualistic conceptuality, with its demarcation between transcendence and immanence, and a hierarchical mode of thinking are now being challenged by movements, such as radical eco-egalitarianism, ecofeminism, the deep ecological movement, and posthumanism. From these perspectives, the emergence of secularization results in the divine absence from the world, and promotes a scientific-technological mindset which consolidates human rationality and subjectivity, and which deepens the western ecological crisis. Recently, attempts to explore the ecological implications in different religious traditions have brought balance to the above highly generalized picture. These studies insist that religion should not be regarded as bankruptcy in dealing with the environmental crisis, but rather that it provides fruitful and promising resources for us to re-think the ecological question from a different angle. In this context, the east-west religious-ecological dialogue establishes a platform in which different religious traditions try to articulate the inter- and intra-textual readings of the other (as well as their own) in order to explore numerous potentialities and possibilities for ecological thinking. Under the categories, “sacramentality” and “cosmic anthropology,” this paper attempts to argue that cosmology and anthropology, expressed in the Orthodox tradition, Confucianism and Paul Tillich’s work, share a similar ontological and cosmic vision which is relational, dynamic and universal in nature. Also, these three lenses emphasize the uniqueness of the human being in the universe without committing to anthropocentrism. This paper will demonstrate that a human being can be regarded as the “center” but not the “master” of the world. These three lenses find no difficulty in the assertion that a human being can be “being-in-the-world” and “being-above-the -world” at the same time. Thirdly, re-enchantment of the world seems for them to provide an opporDOI 10.1515/9783110496666-010


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

tunity for the renewal of human spirituality in which instrumental rationality about the world should be reconsidered in order to perceive the world as a sacrament, a gift, and a living organism instead of a huge mechanical machine. Also, adherents of these lenses uphold an anthropocosmic vision which emphasizes the interrelationship between human beings and nature, communication between self and community, and the mutuality between humans and God (Heaven). I will firstly argue that Tillich’s notion of sacramentality is ontological-universal in character and that this concept expresses the nature of the multidimensionality in the universe which is based on his pneumatology. Likewise, in the Orthodox tradition, the universe is also regarded as the sacrament in which the essence of all beings is grounded in the Logos. This sacramental thinking, inspired by Christology, conceives the world as a symbol pointing to its divine Creator. In Confucian cosmogony, transcendence and immanence are interrelated within a dynamic and holistic whole in which the underlying principle of the universe is wholly embodied within the structure of the world. Secondly, I will argue that the notion of the “cosmic humanity” is the key concept of these three lenses. In both Tillich’s and Orthodox teachings, the human being is regarded as a “microcosm” in which different dimensions of the universe are embraced in the human being who is understood as the highest being in Tillich’s anthropology and the priest of the cosmos in Orthodox teachings. In Confucianism, the essential part of the human being is connected with the transcendent Heaven, and the human being is mandated the duty of the creative transformation of the world by the Heaven. Finally, in concluding the paper, the ecological implication of these three lenses will be explored.

2 Christian Sacramentality and Confucian Cosmogony:¹ 2.1 Paul Tillich’s Pneumatological Perspective In his volume three of Systematic Theology, Tillich expressed a dynamic and unifying perspective towards a multi-dimensional understanding of life. For him, the concept of “life” embraces different “dimensions” in which the interplay be-

 It should be noted that the understanding of the meaning of sacrament or sacramentality in the Catholic churches has undergone a developmental and changing history; see Mathai Kadavil, The World as Sacrament: Sacramentality of Creation from the Perspectives of Leonardo Boff, Alexander Schmemann and Saint Ephrem (Leuven: Peeters, 2005).

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


tween potentiality and actuality is intertwined. Therefore, nothing should be reduced as “thing” only. As he emphasized, “no thing in nature is merely a thing.”² Nature is viewed neither as the scientific-technological object nor the magical substance, but is to be perceived theologically as “the finite expression of the infinite ground of all things.”³ Tillich’s “infra Lutheranum” background allows him to adopt the mutual indwelling of the two natures of Jesus Christ in whom the presence of infinite in everything finite is theologically possible; in addition, Schelling’s idealist philosophy of nature provided him with the ground of the philosophical identity between human and nature. Based on his understanding of the ontological-universal structure of being-itself, God is the ground and the power of beings. Every being is grounded in the innermost part of the God’s being. Therefore, all objects or events become a medium functioning as a sacramentality in which the transcendent is perceived to be present.⁴ In his early essay, “Nature and Sacrament,” Tillich outlined some more common conceptions of nature: magical-sacramental, rational-objective, vitalistic, and symbolic-romantic. The magical-sacramental view of nature considers everything to be filled “with a sort of material energy which gives to things and to parts of things, even to the body and the parts of the body, a sacral power.” ⁵ However, that there has never been a merely magical relation to nature is most impressively and consistently expressed by mathematical physics and the technical control of nature. In the vitalistic philosophy of nature, everything, the whole world-process, is envisaged as an expression of life, and an immediate power of being is attributed to things. In this philosophy “nature recovers its power again, but it is a power without meaning; and power without meaning is ultimately impotent.”⁶ “The symbolic-romantic interpretation of nature attempts to give back to nature its qualitative character, its depth, its meaningfulness, by interpreting nature as a symbol of the spirit. The power of things is the power of soul or spirit in them.”⁷ This view provides rich possibilities for interpretation but, again, it is not a sufficient view: this view “is very little aware of the real structure of nature. It gives us the creations of an arbitrary imagination. The quantitative, calculable “nature” of physics is certainly not overcome by it;

 Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume Three (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 34.  Tillich, “Autobiographical Reflection,” The Theology of Paul Tillich, eds. Charles Kegley & Robert Bretall (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1956), 4.  Tillich, “Nature and Sacrament,” The Protestant Era (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948), 108.  Ibid., 100.  Ibid.  Ibid.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

only subjective imagination has been added.” ⁸ All these fail in some crucial way to bridge the dualism of matter and spirit/ mind with reality. Tillich proposed a “new realism” in which power and meaning are found within physical nature and historical reality, not superimposed upon them. “The power and meaning of nature must be sought within and through its objective physical structures. Power and physical character, meaning and objective structure, are not separated in nature. We cannot accept the word of mathematical science as the last world about nature, although we do not thereby deny that it is the first word.”⁹ Significantly, according to Tillich, “the power of nature must be found in a sphere prior to the cleavage of our world into subjectivity and objectivity. Life originates on a level, which is “deeper” than the Cartesian duality of cogitation and extensio. (“thought” and “extension”)¹⁰ Tillich expressed, If nature is interpreted in this realistic and, at the same time, historical way, natural objects can become bearers of transcendent power and meaning, they can become sacramental elements … Nature, by being brought into the context of the history of salvation, is liberated from its ambiguity. Its demonic quality is conquered in the new being in Christ. Nature is not the enemy of salvation; it does not have to be controlled in scientific, technical, and moral terms to be deprived of any inherent power, in order to serve the “Kingdom of God,” … nature is a bearer and an object of salvation.¹¹

Although Tillich emphasized that the character or quality of nature itself is closely related with the sacred power it symbolizes, those qualities are only to be considered as the bearer of a sacred power. Therefore, the quality of the natural object is the necessary but not sufficient condition for becoming a sacrament. In his volume one of Systematic Theology, based on the universal-ontological understanding of being-itself, Tillich insisted that nothing is excluded from the participation in the ultimate ground of beings, and nothing is qualified and worthy in itself to represent the ultimate concern. This is the reason why the whole reality has become a medium of revelation but never identified with the divine.¹² The power and meaning of nature are disclosed through, but not in, objective physical structure. Tillich emphasized that the subjective and objective approach towards the understanding of nature is not sufficient. In this context, Tillich tend-

 Ibid., 101.  Ibid., 101– 102  Ibid., 102.  Ibid., 102– 103.  Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume One (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951), 118.

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


ed to accept nature as embodying a kind of symbolic character in revealing something ultimate. For Tillich, the whole theology of sacramentality relies on a theology of symbol in which the sacramental material is not only a sign, but also stands for a symbol that participates in what it signifies and is intrinsically related to what it expresses.¹³ The theology of symbol is closely related with his notion of selftranscending realism (gläubiger Realismus). As Tillich noted, “self-transcending realism is a universal attitude toward reality. It is neither a merely theoretical view of the world, nor a practical discipline for life … it is a basic attitude in every realm of life, expressing itself in the shaping of every realm.”¹⁴ This type of realism confirms the concrete form of nature as the embodiment of spiritual power and meaning. Following Tillich’s “Form-Inhalt-Gehalt” framework of theology of culture, the spiritual Gehalt reveals its power and meaning through natural forms and structures. Tillich insisted, “the new realism was not interested in the natural forms of things for their own sake, but for their power of expressing the profounder levels and the universal significances of things.”¹⁵ Through the given natural forms, this realism functions as symbolic embodiment and “tries to point to the spiritual meaning of the real by using its given form.”¹⁶ For this reason Tillich rejected both the Catholic idea of transubstantiation, which transforms a symbol into a thing to be handled, and the reformed tradition of the sign character of the sacramental symbol.¹⁷ Considering the Catholic side, nature as symbol representing spiritual power is not functioning as “opus operatum” in order to receive objective grace from the divine power and, considering the reformed side, it is also not a sign for the faith community to remember the divine saving event. In sum, nature as symbol participates in the power of what it symbolizes, and therefore, it can be a medium of the Spirit.¹⁸ In Tillich’s early demonstration of sacramental thinking, Christology and soteriology are linked with the power of a sacramental bearer. In order to attack magical and mythological usage, the Protestant tradition needs to bring nature into the context of the history of salvation so that the demonic quality of nature is conquered in the New Being in Jesus Christ.¹⁹ “Any sacramental reality within

 Tillich, 123.  Tillich,  Ibid.  Ibid.  Tillich,  Ibid.  Tillich,

Systematic Theology Volume Three (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963), “Realism and Faith,” The Protestant Era, 67.

Systematic Theology Volume Three, 123. “Nature and Sacrament,” The Protestant Era, 102– 103.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

the framework of Christology and of Protestantism must be related to the New Being in Christ.”²⁰ For Tillich, the New Being created by Jesus as the Christ is the new creation universe. Moreover, in his Christology, the essential Godmanhood manifesting within the existential and historical conditions is interpreted not merely as a religious personality, but as a basic divine sacramental reality.²¹ Cosmic Christ as the New Being also represents the paradoxical character of the divine symbol in which “the absolute side of the final revelation, that in it which is unconditional and unchangeable, involves the complete transparency and the complete self-sacrifice of the medium in which it appears.”²² However, the above Christological orientation shifted into a pneumatological perspective in volume three of Systematic Theology. In that work, Tillich tried to develop the doctrine of pneumatology in order to answer numerous criticisms on one hand, and to re-articulate his theological perspectives in the light of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit on the other.²³ Though Tillich emphasized that the divine spirit is essentially correlated with the human spirit, it does not exclude the Spiritual Presence indwelling into the whole multi-dimensional unity of life. Given the rejection of dualistic and supernaturalist reduction, spiritual power and meaning manifests as the “dimension of the ultimate” or “the dimension of depth.”²⁴ Likewise, the universality of the Spiritual Presence is the expression of the radical effective embodiment of personal and historical events. Therefore, for Tillich, we have no reason to adopt the narrow sense of the concept of “sacramental” in which some particular objects and acts are qualified as the medium for the experience of divine spirit in a faith community, but, rather, Tillich enlarged the sense to cover everything in which the Spiritual Presence has been experienced.²⁵ The spiritual community “is free to appropriate all symbols which are adequate and which possess symbolic power.”²⁶ In traditional Christianity, word and sacrament come together. For Tillich, under the impact of Spiritual

 Ibid., 109.  Tillich, “The Author’s Introduction,” The Protestant Era, xxiii.  Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume one (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951), 151. Italics are mine.  For the interplay between Christology and pneumatology in the development of Tillich’s theology, see my article, “Paul Tillich’s Understanding of Theology: A Pneumatological Christological Perspective,” Sino-Christian Studies: An International Journal of Bible, Theology & Philosophy 20 (2015), 33 – 86.  Tillich, Systematic Theology volume three, 113.  Ibid., 121. Italics are mine.  Ibid., 123. Italics are mine.

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


Presence, all human spoken word and the biblical written word are the mediators of the Spirit.

2.2 Orthodox Cosmic Liturgy²⁷ If Tillich’s final articulation of the divine presence in the finite were located into his pneumatological sacramentality, the Orthodox understanding of the world as sacrament would heavily rely on Christology. According to Fr. Alexander Schmemann (1921– 1983), a Russian Orthodox priest, the elements of the Eucharist reveal something really fundamental about the world in which we go about our daily lives.²⁸ The “ultimate” meaning of the matter used in a sacrament could better be regarded as matter unveiled to reveal something about the divine. This “sacramental quality” is entailed in Orthodox teaching about the world as a sacramental cosmology.²⁹ In the doctrine of creation and salvation, Orthodox teaching insists that the original beauty of the created world is the reflection of the glory of the Creator; there is an ontological linkage between the Creator and the creature. The whole world is understood as an icon to symbolize the divine. Also, the cosmic fall points to the suffering of all things. Human and Earth are bound together into an integrated whole under the economy of God’s saving activity. Greek Patristic thought originally articulated the above ontological correspondence between the Creator and the created in which the concept of logoi shares with, and is created by, the divine Logos. The Patristic theologians, such as Origen, adopted the Stoics’ idea of spermatikos logos, which rejected the materialistic understanding of God, and emphasizes divine Logos is present in all things. Likewise, Origen combined the transcendence of the Platonic archetype with the immanent presence of the Stoic spermatikoi logoi as the differentiated articulation of the single divine Logos who is also the divine Wisdom.³⁰ To perceive the logoi in the created world is in the act known as theōria physikē, which translates roughly as natural contemplation, through self-denial and

 The term, cosmic liturgy, is borrowed by Hans Urs von Balthasar’s book title, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe according to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003),  Alexander Schmemann, The World as Sacrament (London: Darton, Longman &Todd, 1965).  Elizabeth Theokritoff, Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology (NY: ST. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009), 181– 182.  David Bradshaw, “The Logoi of beings in Greek Patristic Thought,” Towards an Ecology of Transformation: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation. Eds. John Chryssavgis & Bruce V. Foltz (NY: Fordham University Press, 2013), 9 – 13.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

other related virtues such as forgiveness, obedience and charity. In St. Dionysius the Areopagite, nature is more like theophany because the whole reality points beyond itself to its divine source. It seems that the liturgical understanding about the sensible world offers a mystical contemplation of the unity of the world and God. This theological climax was found in later Greek Father, St. Maximus the Confessor (ca. 580 – 662); he clearly believed the sensible world to be a kind of cosmic liturgy. He argued that all the logoi of beings subsist as one in an incomprehensible simplicity. The divine Logos has possessed all the logoi of particular beings from all eternity, and they are gathered together in Christ. Therefore, “the one Logos is many logoi” expresses the uncreated within the created according ultimately to God’s plan.³¹ For Maximus the Confessor, created beings participate in God through the logoi, through this dynamism is lacking in Plato’s idea of Forms. The whole cosmos is moving towards the fulfillment, which is the ultimate union with God. The logoi of beings may be obscured but not be distorted. As he said, “nothing that is natural is opposed to God.”³² Maximus the Confessor insists that human contemplation of the logoi of the created beings to be a mode of communication with the divine Logos leading to mystical union with God. According to Alexei Nesteruk, this communicating mode is a kind of “spiritual vision of reality in which the ontological roots of things and beings have their grounds beyond the world.”³³ This spiritual orientation towards the created world is to contemplate all sensible creation in its oneness through finding that all the logoi of sensible things can be united in one divine Logos, which constitutes the principle of creation.³⁴ Because the created logoi is originally and finally linked with the LogosChrist, it follows that the ontological status of the whole creation is Christologically based. Therefore, the doctrine of logoi is not merely a doctrine of metaphysical principle in a cosmological sense, but it is also a multidimensional doctrine bearing on the whole divine economy of creation and redemption.³⁵ In the teachings of Maximus the Confessor, the cosmic Logos is incarnated into a threefold

 Ibid., 18 – 19. See also, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe according to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 154– 157.  Andrew Louth, “Man and Cosmos in St. Maximus the Confessor,” Towards an Ecology of Transformation: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation, 62– 63.  Alexei V. Nesteruk, Light from the East: Theology, Science, and the Eastern Orthodox Tradition (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 25.  Ibid., 26.  Torstein Theodor Tollefsen, The Christocentric Cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 66 – 67.

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


presence: historical person, Jesus; scripture; and also in the whole reality.³⁶ “The incarnation thus gave expression to the cosmic importance of Christ, for through the differentiation of things and their logoi, in which Christ the Logos is present, one can contemplate their unity in the one Logos of God and through them ascend with the incarnate Christ to the Father.”³⁷ Likewise, the uncreated and created, the spiritual and the material, the sensible and the nonsensible, are united and bound into the truth and the grace of God who leads the whole of creation finds its ultimate fulfillment through the human contemplation and practice. This Orthodox idea of the cosmic liturgy provides the re-enchantment of the world without committing to the charge of pantheism. The Orthodox theology upholds the doctrine of “difference in unity” in which the mystery of the God and the world are maintained even thought they constitute a kind of sacramental reality.

2.3 The Confucian Cosmogony Generally speaking, the western dualistic conceptuality is not found in the Chinese holistic and organic world view; instead, the poles of transcendence and immanence integrate within each other to construct a more dynamic and developmental cosmic whole. The genuine Chinese cosmogony is that of an organismic process, meaning that all of the parts of the entire cosmos belong to one organic whole and that they all interact as participants in one spontaneously selfgenerating life process.³⁸ According to TU Weiming, continuity, wholeness and dynamism are the three characters of the Chinese vision of the cosmos. The reality is regarded as a huge continuum in which nothing is outside of it. In rejecting dualistic thinking, nature is perceived under holistic thinking, and the whole reality is not static in a sense that vitality and dynamism always perform in a process-oriented way. In Neo-Confucianism, the dynamic ordering pattern (li) and the vital energies (qi) emanate from the ultimate Great (taiji). The latter performs as the basic structure and function of the cosmos and it penetrates into the former. Therefore, the ultimate principle of the universe is the ultimate One and it differentiates itself into the diverse structures and patterns in order to form dif-

 Ibid.  Alexei V. Nesteruk, Light from the East: Theology, Science, and the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, 27.  Weiming Tu, “The Continuity of Being: Chinese Visions of Nature,” Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy. Ed. J.Baird Callicott (NY: State University of New York Press, 1989), 67– 78.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

ferent beings. In this context, the transcendent principle and the immanent forms are not dualistic but functions as polar interaction. This philosophy of Qi becomes the focus in Zhang Zai’s philosophy. Qi functions as the cosmic force to unite everything in the universe, and it is embodied into the human mind to embrace the pluralist and diverse conditions in everything into an integral whole.³⁹ Nature is a relational whole in which human life and the rhythms of nature that sustain life in both its biological needs and socio-cultural expressions operate together. Everything in nature is interdependent, interrelated, dynamic and transformational. Nature, therefore, is inherently valuable and morally good. Value lies in the ongoing transformation and productivity of nature. TU Weiming asserted that Confucian ontology is regarded as the continuity of being in which all modalities of being are organically connected.⁴⁰ Spiritual and material realms are co-related under the vital force. All beings, whether living or non-living, consist of this vital force. Without the concept of a creator God and the Christian idea of creation out of nothing, Confucian thought emphasizes a spontaneously selfgenerating life process within which all beings, human and non-human, are integral parts of an organic continuum.⁴¹ Under this way of thinking, human and nature share the same cosmic creative force, so that a kind of kinship relationship develops between them.

3 Cosmic Anthropology: Microcosms, Mediator and the Great Man 3.1 Human Being as Microcosms: Tillich For Tillich, human beings are not merely one of the creatures among other living creatures. In a Heideggerian sense, only human beings can be aware of the structure of the being. The uniqueness of the human being is not based on supremacy among all living beings, or that the human being is regarded as animal rationale in an Aristotelian sense. For Tillich, the notion, human, means that the one is aware of the finitude and potential infinity.⁴² His doctrine of Imago Dei points

 See Jung-Yeup Kim, Zhang Zai’s Philosophy of Qi: A Practical Understanding (Lexington Books, 2015).  Weiming Tu, “The Continuity of Being: Chinese Visions of Nature,” in Ibid., 70.  Ibid, 72.  Tillich, Systematic Theology volume one, 258.

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


out that, in the human being, the ontological elements are complete and are united on a creature basis, on one hand, and, on the other hand, are united with God as the creative ground.⁴³ The above double ontological structures constitute, firstly, the human being as the mediator between the divine and all other beings. Tillich adopted a classical notion that the human being is the microcosm ⁴⁴ because all dimensions – inorganic, organic, psychic, spiritual and historical – are all present and actualized in the human being.⁴⁵ Secondly, the ontological structure of the human being is analogous to the divine Logos that means the ground of being mandates the telos of a human being. Based on this anthropological understanding, the fulfillment of the created purposiveness of creation is dependent on the actualization of human finite freedom. No other beings are constructed and required to fulfill the above mandate. We would say that the role of the human being is a co-creator (Philip Hefner’s phrase),⁴⁶ “God is primarily and essentially creative; man is secondarily and existentially creative.”⁴⁷ In Tillich’s volume three of Systematic Theology, his anthropology is well constructed within the whole being of the universe. Against the metaphor of “levels,” Tillich prefers the imagery of “dimensions” to describe the different intersecting of all kinds of zoe, rather than bio-sphere only. The choice reflects the dislocating of the hierarchical matrix and centering on the blurring and mixing of the organic flow of different dimensions of life. All dimensions – inorganic, organic, psychic, spiritual and historical – cross their boundaries without losing their own identities. The multi-dimensionality of life “describes the difference of the realms of being in such a way that there cannot be mutual interference; depth does not interfere with breadth, since all dimensions meet in the same point. They cross without disturbing each other; there is no conflict between dimensions … these conflicts are not denied, but they are not derived from the hierarchy of levels; they are the consequences of the ambiguity of all life processes.”⁴⁸ The interpenetration and fusion within poly- and trans- dimensionality constitutes an interactive, dynamic and vitalist vision of the realities. The basic idea of Tillich’s dynamic vision of all life forms is that all dimensions

 Ibid., 259.  The concept, microcosms, originally comes from the Greek antiquity and it can be traced back to pre-Socratic times, and later was adopted and enriched by Greek Orthodox fathers, later on it can be found in the Renaissance philosophy and the German philosophy as well.  Ibid., 260.  P. Hefner, The Human Factor (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).  Tillich, Systematic Theology volume one, 256.  Tillich, Systematic Theology volume three, 15.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

are real but not always in actual status. Therefore, for Tillich, when someone encounters someone / something, it means that the one who encounters is the mixture of all dimensions, but some dimensions are in a potential stage, and some are in an actual stage. Even in the so-called inorganic realm, all other dimensions are potentially present. “In this sense one speaks of the vegetable realm or the animal realm or the historical realm. In all of them, all dimensions are potentially present, and some of them are actualized.”⁴⁹ For Tillich, the interplay of potentiality and actuality insists that there is no any metaphysical and transcendental core in any realms or dimensions. This non-essentialist approach of Tillich’s idea allows the ontological blurring of spirituality, humanity, animality and materiality.⁵⁰ The above multi-dimensionality of all species presupposes a certain kind of evolutionary understanding. Tillich emphasized that the condition of the actualization of one dimension is that other previous dimensions have been actualized. Therefore, “the dimension of spirit would remain potential without the actualization of the organic.” The continuum within different dimensions expresses that there is no possibility of a clear-cut mechanism to allocate human “exceptionalism.” Therefore, although Tillich maintained that the human being is ontologically the highest being, he did not commit to an anthropocentric understanding.

3.2 Man as Mediator of the Cosmos: Orthodox Anthropology According to Lars Thunberg, the idea of a human being as a microcosm can be traced back to Nemesius of Emessa.⁵¹ Actually, the tradition of “human being as microcosm” has a long history deeply rooted in the Orthodox tradition. This divine task of being human is based on God’s creation plan in which the human being is located in an intermediary position in order to carry out the act through which all the created beings can gather together. That is the reason why a human being is the one combined with two oppositions; it implies that the vocation of

 Ibid., 16  For Tillich’s view on animality, see my paper, “Tillich on Animality.” (In process).  Man as microcosm in Nemesius is interpreted as seeing the external universe reflected in man as in a mirror, and also emphasizes that all tensions created by the opposite and dualistic entities are reconciled in man. See Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator. The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor (Illinois: Open Court, 1995), 136.

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


being human should function as an image of the whole cosmos.⁵² St. Symeon the New Theologian, based on the Scripture and the anthropology of the Orthodox tradition, emphasized that all levels of existence belonging to the various forms in the created world are to be found in human beings. The physiology of a human being has a direct relationship to Orthodox cosmology.⁵³ Firstly, the whole universe is ontologically connected with the created structure of the human being. That means, the completeness of the human manifests in a unified psychosomatic whole in which matter and spirit are formed together; it formulates the role of humanity as the bridge and point of contact for the whole of creation.⁵⁴ Secondly, the image of God in human does not mean that the human being is the master of other beings, but that human being are called to preserve and to fulfill the right orientation of the dynamism within the whole creation. The human being is placed in the world as the priest is standing between the world and God.⁵⁵ St. Maximus the Confessor insisted that the human being is regarded as a microcosm (small universe) and the world as makranthropos (a man enlarged). This double and parallel constitution is mutually connected and united. The analogy between the world and the man should be transformed into a unity. Human being as mediator is attributed the task of unification of the universe.⁵⁶ For him, the incarnation of Christ is not the secondary measure caused by the fall, but in fact God wills Himself to be incarnated to be a real man in whom the perfection and fulfillment of the full task of mediation is anticipated.⁵⁷According to Lars Thunberg, for Maximus the Confessor, Christology is the key to open the linkage between anthropology and cosmology.⁵⁸ His Christological anthropology and cosmology locates humans as the center of the created universe and also does justice to the cosmic implications of Christ’s position and work of reconciliation.⁵⁹ It is well known that, in the Orthodox tradition, incarnation and deification forms a mutually hermeneutical circle. For Maximus the Confessor,

 Lars Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos. The Vision of St. Maximus the Confessor (NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), 73.  Anestis G. Keselopoulos, Man and the Environment. A Study of St Symeon the New Theologian (NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001), 42.  Ibid., 45.  Ibid.  Lars Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos. The Vision of St. Maximus the Confessor, 74.  Ibid.  Aidan Nichols O.P., Byzantine Gospel: Maximus the Confessor in Modern Scholarship (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993), 158 – 195.  Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator. The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, 142.


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

human being as macrocosm, who unites in himself / herself all that is differentiated without the expense of its integrity. The work of unification and mediation is the result of the human relationship with God in the doctrine of creation, and its eschatological fulfillment and actualization are interpreted as the union with God (deification), which is ultimately grounded, by the Logos-incarnated. (Incarnation)⁶⁰ Therefore, it is no problem for Maximus the Confessor to talk about the divinization of the human being in a sense that “He remains wholly man in soul and body in nature, and becomes wholly God in body and soul by grace and by the unparalleled divine radiance of blessed glory.”⁶¹

3.3 Great Man in Confucianism Human beings are not treated as the masters of the universe in Confucianism, because all beings in the world are included within the cosmic moral order. As Chang Tsai’s (Zhang Zai, 1020 – 1077) Western Inscription noted,⁶² this cosmic moral order constitutes the basic ontological structural relationship between humans and other beings. Using the metaphor of kinship order, all beings in the world are arranged into an orderly relational structure. Humans are the sons / daughters of Heaven and Earth, and other non-human beings are regarded as our companions. It seems that, in Confucianism, “human beings are organically connected with rocks, trees and animals.”⁶³ In this sense, we can state that it is no problem for Confucianism to agree with the anti-anthropocentric approach of environmental ethics, that human and non-human beings should each have intrinsic value, because they are equal in the sense that all are subject to the transformative influence of Heaven and Earth. However, Confucianism rejects certain kinds of eco-egalitarianism, which assume that an equal moral status is shared by human beings and other non-

 Ibid. For the excellent study on the concept of deification in the Orthodox tradition, see Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). For the study on Maximus the Confessor, see 262– 295.  Quoted by Elena Vishnevskaya, “Divinization and Spiritual Progress in Maximus the Confessor,” Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology. Eds. Stephen Finlan & Vladimr Kharlamov (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2006), 137.  “Heaven is my father and earth is my mother, and even such a small creature as I find an intimate place in their midst. Therefore that which fills the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe I consider as my nature. All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions.” Wing-tsit Chan, trans. and ed., Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 497.  Weiming Tu, “The Continuity of Being: Chinese Visions of Nature,” in Ibid., 113.

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


human beings. In the Doctrine of the Mean, Heaven decrees human nature on the assumption that humankind receives, at least in potential, this mandate of Heaven in its highest excellence. Therefore, among the creatures in the cosmos, human beings are assumed to be the most sentient beings and the mandate that comes from Heaven establishes the ideal moral process and ideal personality as grounded in sincerity (Cheng, 誠).⁶⁴ In the Doctrine of Mean, the word “sincerity” is not only regarded as a human moral quality, being trustworthy to other people and oneself, but is also treated as an ethical ontological substance of Heaven and Earth. “Sincerity is a way of Heaven. To think how to be sincere is the way of man.”⁶⁵ To be sincere is identical with developing and cultivating the potentiality of others. The Confucian ideal moral person is a person who can fully actualize the inner goodness mandated by Heaven, and then also cultivate others’ inner goodness in order to fulfill the ultimate self-cultivating ends in union with Heaven and Earth. Based on the unity of human beings and non-human beings, Confucianism finds no difficulty in asserting the intrinsic value of all beings. However, under the above analysis, “Heaven-Human-Earth” consists of the organic and holistic worldview in which human beings should play a unique role: transformation of the moral potentiality of other beings in the world. In this sense, the Confucian tradition insists that the centrality of the human being in the cosmos is by virtue of cultivating and transforming the other. The unity of “HeavenHuman-Earth” is best illustrated in Wang Yangming (1472– 1529)’s Inquiry on the Great Learning. ⁶⁶ In the text, Wang emphasized that the Confucian “Great  “Only those who are absolutely sincere can fully develop their nature. If they can fully develop their nature, they can then fully develop the nature of others. If they can fully develop the nature of others, they can then fully develop the nature of things. If they can fully develop the nature of things, they can then assist in the transforming and nourishing process of Heaven and Earth, they can thus form a trinity with Heaven and Earth.” Wing-tsit Chan, Source Book, 108.  Wing-tsit Chan, Source Book, 7.  “The great man regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body. He regards the world as one family and the country as one person … That the great man can regarded Heaven, Earth and the myriad things as one body is not because he deliberately wants to do so, but because it is natural to the humane nature of his mind that he do so. Forming one body with Heaven, Earth and the myriad things is not only true of the great man. Even the mind of the small man is no different. Only he himself makes it small. Therefore when he sees a child about to fall into a well, he cannot help a feeling of alarm and commiseration. This shows that his humanity (jen) forms one body with the child. It may be objected that the child belongs to the same species. Again, when he observes the pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be slaughtered, he cannot help feeling an “inability to bear” their suffering. This shows that his humanity forms one body with birds and animals. It may be objected that birds and animals are sentient beings as he is. But when he sees plants broken and de-


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

Man” does not mean super-human, but a person who transforms and cultivates himself / herself to be an authentic person who, ontologically united with transcendent Heaven and immanent Earth on the one hand, and constituting a unifying body with other species on the other, is full of passion and compassion towards other beings that are also regarded as the creation of the Heaven and Earth. The concept of unity with other beings into a body upholds the intrinsic value of other beings; however, this does not mean that Confucianism will agree with eco-egalitarianism, which insists that all beings have equal value with others. The idea of the “degree of love” will insist that, in Confucianism, though non-human beings are the objects of moral compassion, the human social order has ontological and moral priority over the animal world.⁶⁷

4 Environmental ethics: Tillich, Orthodox Theology and Confucianism Recently, several studies have attempted to articulate the linkage between Orthodox traditions and ecology.⁶⁸ The sacramental cosmology presented by Orthodox tradition views the world not as an entity for human manipulation and domination, but as an icon or a sacrament embodied within, symbolizing the divine on the one hand, and creation, is regarded as a gift offered by God on the other. stroyed, he cannot help … feeling … pity. This shows that his humanity forms one body with plants. It may be said that plants are living things as he is. Yet, even when he sees tiles and stones shattered and crushed, he cannot help … feeling … regret. This means that even the mind of the small man necessarily has the humanity that forms one body with all. Such a mind is rooted in his Heaven-endowed nature, and is naturally intelligent, clear and not beclouded. For this reason it is called ‘clear character.’” Wing-tsit Chan trans., A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 659 – 660.  For the question of how Confucianism’ views on animals, see Keith Ka-fu, Chan & Stephen Palmquist, “A Confucian-Kantian Response to Environmental Eco-Centrism on Animal Equality,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 2016 volume 43, issue 3 – 4 (forthcoming).  Fr. Bartholomew I (1940–, he is well known as Green Patriarch) is undoubtedly an important figure of Orthodox tradition to deal with the ecological problem. See, Cosmic Grace and Humble Prayer. The Ecological Vision of the Green Patriarch Bartholomew I. Ed. John Chryssavgis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003). Recently, some environmentalists start to be aware of the ecological contribution of the Orthodox tradition, and to cooperative with Orthodox theologians to explore the ecological significance. For their contributions see Towards an Ecology of Transformation: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation. Eds. John Chryssavgis & Bruce V. Foltz (NY: Fordham University Press, 2013), and Sacred Commerce: A Conversation on Environment, Ethics, and Innovation.Eds. John Chryssavgis & Michele L. Goldsmith (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2014).

Pneumatological Sacramentality and Cosmic Humanity


Therefore, the role of the universe is twofold: one is the mirror of the divine glory; the other is the object of thanks-giving towards God.⁶⁹ Nature as a whole is regarded as a symbolic system that is full of dynamic diversity in unity under the logoi created by God. As a symbol, nature participates and points to the divine. It does not commit to the idolatry of nature. Nature is never identified itself with the divine. However, through the richness and diversity of nature, we can see the glory and the presence of God. Following that line, Tillich’s idea of the presence of Holy Spirit is embodied universally within the multi-dimensional unity of life; the pan-sacramentality provides the room for Tillich to embrace the idea of the cosmic liturgy of Orthodox traditions. Also, in Confucianism, the dynamic and unifying vision of the universe constitutes the principle of “unity in difference” in which all the diverse realities are sharing the “one fundamental principle.” Confucian ethics encourages us to expand our human heart to love the other beings in the world. Concerning anthropology, Orthodox traditions locate the man as the mediator between the God and the world. Comparing the stewardship of human beings with environmental thinking, the priest / mediator of the creation emphasized in Orthodox traditions highlights the religious role of human beings in treating the world as an offering gift to the Creator instead of adopting a “manager” metaphor in the concept of “stewardship” which tends to re-locate the subject-object relationship. For Orthodox traditions, an ecological problem is treated as a spiritual problem in the modern world. It implies that the authentic human role among other creatures has been distorted and abused. Following this line, Tillich also highlighted the human being as the “highest” being in the ontological sense, though this does not imply that he / she is the perfect one. Based on the universal fall of man and nature, the ambiguous character of all beings are all suffering with an alienated existential condition. For Tillich, man as macrocosm represents the ethical and religious tasks that man should fulfill. For Tillich, under the impact of Spiritual Presence, the divine love, agape, is manifested. The agape manifests its power through the ontological structure of all beings, to bind all beings into a unified whole. Because the ontological structure of love is the reunion of the separated, the Spiritual agape transforms the human eros to embrace the universe. Compared with the Orthodox traditions and Confucianism, the love-quality of human being is also manifested in the role of man as the companion of other beings in the world. Human beings and other beings are fragile and are sharing the suffering of the world. In

 Elizabeth Theokritoff, Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology (NY: ST. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009).


Keith CHAN Ka-fu

order to love and to be loved, the Orthodox tradition emphasis the beauty of the cosmos, which is viewed by the transformed spirituality. That is why the ecological richness contained in the Orthodox theology is heavily found in Christian asceticism in which the greatest love for the beauty of creation is mentioned and human beings are purified by God’s grace to “see” (theoria) the extraordinary depths of the universe (theosis).⁷⁰

 Bruce V. Foltz, “Traces of Divine Fragrance, Droplets of Divine Love: On the Beauty of Visible Creation,” Towards an Ecology of Transformation: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation, 328 – 331.

List of Contributors Kin-ming Au (Ph.D, Boston University) is professor of religious studies at Minzu University of China. His publication includes, Paul Tillich and Chu Hsi: A Comparsion of their views of Human Condition (NY: Peter Lang, 2002) and has written numerous articles on Tillich, interreligious dialogue, and comparative theology. Keith, Chan Ka-fu (Ph.D, Chinese University of Hong Kong) is currently a lecturer in the Department of Religion and Philosophy, Hong Kong Baptist University. His research interests include: Modern and Contemporary Theology, Religion and environmental ethics and continental philosophy of religion. He is finishing a monograph on Paul Tillich’s ecological pneumatology. Andrew T. W. Hung (Ph.D, Hong Kong Baptist University) teaches political philosophy at the Division of Humanities, Design and Social Sciences at Hong Kong Community College, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research centres on Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas, Western and Chinese political philosophy, and Christian moral political theory. His recent publications include “Habermas and Taylor on Religious Reasoning in a Liberal Democracy” published in The European Legacy, “Sandel, Michael (1953 – )” and “Huntington, Samuel P. (1927 – 2008),” International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences; and “Tu Wei-Ming and Charles Taylor on Embodied Moral Reasoning,” Philosophy, Culture, and Traditions. Pan-chiu Lai (Ph.D., King’s College London) is Professor of Religious Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests include: modern Christian thought, Chinese Christian theology, and interreligious dialogue. William NG Yau-nang (Ph.D, University of Toronto) received his PhD on comparative religious philosophy at the University of Toronto. He works on contemporary Confucianism and Buddhism and is currently an associate professor of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University. He has published Comparative Horizon: Discourses on Contemporary Philosophy in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Penetrating into Hundred Schools of Thought: A Study of Lao Sze-kwang and et al. The Blossoming of Lotus: Collected Essays on the True Buddha School (Liberal Arts Press, 2016), Whole-person Education: Sino-Western Dialogue (National Taiwan Normal University Press, 2017), Whose Utopia? Reflections and Dialogues in Five Hundred Years (National Taiwan Normal University Press, 2017). He is one of four translators of Wing-tsit Chan, Sources Book of Chinese Philosophy and the co-translator of Julia Ching, Confucianism and Christianity. He is the currently the associate Head of Department and also the Vice-President of the Academy of Chinese Buddhism. Duane Olson (Ph.D, University of Iowa) is Professor of Religion at McKendree University. He is active in the North American Paul Tillich Society, serving in the past as a board member and President.


List of Contributors

Lauren F. Pfister (Ph.D, University of Hawai’i at Manoa) is a Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University. He serves as the Director of the Centre for Sino-Christian Studies, a Founding Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities, and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy. Anthony, Wang Tao (Ph.D, Chinese University of Hong Kong) is a Professor of Philosophy at Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy, Hong Kong, aggregated to the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome. He also serves as the research fellow of Yuan Dao Study Society in Hong Kong. He has published Agape and Eros: Paul Tillich’s Christian Theological Idea of Love (Beijing, 2009), Agape and Eros: Catholic Love in the Tradition of Christian Spirituality (Hong Kong, 2009). His new monograph Natural and Supernatural: The Ethical Inquiry into St. Thomas Aquinas (Beijing/Hong Kong/Taiwan, 2018) is forthcoming. Ellen Y. Zhang (Ph.D., Rice University) is currently an associate professor of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University. She is also a research fellow at the Centre of Applied Ethics, HKBU, and editor-in-chief for the International Journal of Chinese and Comparative Philosophy of Medicine. Her research projects are related to Chinese philosophy, ethics, and comparative studies.

Index of Names Anders Nygren

22, 137

Charles Wei-hsun FU Daisetz T. Suzuki HE Guanghu


13, 69


Nāgārjuna, Jizang

55 f., 94 f., 98 f., 103

Paul Tillich 1 f., 7, 12 – 14, 18 – 20, 22 – 24, 28 – 30, 32, 36, 40, 43, 47 – 52, 55, 60, 65, 67, 69 f., 76, 78 – 80, 82 f., 87, 109, 112 f., 132, 137 f., 142, 147, 149, 152 – 154, 156, 164, 166 – 170, 175 – 177, 179 – 182, 199 f., 203, 211, 217, 221 – 223, 226

Jean-Luc Marion 88 Jonathan Z. SMITH 3, 48

Robert C Neville

Karl Barth 27, 66, Immanuel Kant 33, 73, 176, 177, 179, 189 Georg Hegel 3, 41, 78, Mircea Eliade Kitaro Nishida 20, 69 f.

St. Augustine 138 f. St. Dionysius the Areopagite 228 St. Maximus the Confessor 228, 233 St. Thomas Aquinas 22, 137, 139, 142, 148, 161, 165, 171

LIU Shu-hsien

Wang Yang-ming 160, 161, 162, 163, 167, 235, Wing-tsit Chan 186, 201, 204, 234 – 236


Martin Heidegger 88 f. Masao ABE 64, 65, 71, 72, 101, Meister Eckhart 88, 91 f., 94, 103 Michael Friedrich 200 f. Michael Lackner 200 f.

70, 86

Zhang Zai (Chang Tsai) 230, 234

199, 202, 204, 216,

Index of Subjects Agape (caritas) 12 f., 22, 137 – 143, 145, 147 – 149, 152 – 158, 164, 166 – 171, 176, 178 – 182, 188 – 190, 194, 237 apophasis, 104, Being-itself 21, 76, 80 – 83, 88 – 93, 103, 176, 178, 223 f. Christianity 2 f., 6 – 14, 16, 18, 20, 28, 43 f., 47, 49, 51 f., 59, 61, 63 – 67, 69 f., 86 f., 98 f., 109, 111, 138 f., 141, 145, 166, 168 f., 172, 175, 177, 219, 226 Confucianism 2, 15, 17 – 19, 22 – 24, 49, 121, 138, 159 – 161, 164, 168 f., 175 f., 185, 187 f., 190 – 196, 199, 209, 221 f., 229, 234 – 237 Correlation 19, 21, 27, 29 f., 36 – 38, 40, 76, 84, 100, 131, 133 Cosmopolis 202 Dharma

20, 52 – 57, 60 – 62, 98

emptiness 17, 21, 55 f., 59, 61 – 64, 87, 94 f., 97 – 101, 103, 105 Environmental ethics 23, 179, 201, 205, 214, 234, 236 Eros 22 f., 137 – 143, 145 – 149, 152 – 157, 164, 166, 168 – 171, 176, 178 f., 184, 188, 194 f., 237 existentialism 90 Gehalt 3, 32, 34, 38, 225 God 1, 3 f., 10 – 13, 16, 18, 20 – 24, 27, 30, 37 – 40, 43 f., 47, 49 – 52, 54 f., 57 – 59, 62 – 67, 69 f., 75 f., 79 – 94, 100 – 104, 106, 109, 113 – 120, 123, 125, 129 – 131, 137 – 143, 145 – 151, 154 – 159, 164 f., 168, 170 – 172, 176 – 181, 184 – 188, 195, 205, 217, 219, 222 – 224, 227 – 234, 236 – 238 Great man 162, 230, 234 – 236 Hua-yen Buddhism Internet

57 – 60, 63

23, 201, 212

Lotus-birth 21, 109 – 112, 114 – 116, 118 f., 126, 131 f. Love 8, 11, 18, 22 f., 75, 80, 83, 85, 88, 137 – 172, 175 f., 178 – 181, 183 f., 187 – 192, 194 – 196, 199, 213, 236 – 238 Mādhyamika 20, 55, 94 Māhayāna Buddhism 95, 98, 105 Metalogical 19, 29 – 31, 33 – 41, 44 Microcosms 230 f. Moral Cultivation 194 Nefertum 116 – 118 Nonbeing 76 f., 79, 81, 83, 85, 105 Nothingness 17, 20, 51, 64, 69 – 76, 84 – 86, 92, 105 onto-theology

87 – 89, 94, 101 f.

Peace 23, 57, 80, 83, 182, 199 f., 206, 210 f., 216, 219 Phenomenology 30, 39, 88 Philia 143 – 145, 149 f., 152 – 156, 166 – 168, 170 f., 178 f., 188, 194 Pure Land Buddhism 10, 60 f., 65 f., 126, 130, 132 Qi (vital energies) 192 f., 229 f.

50, 58, 119, 121, 125,

Religious Ethics 22, 175 – 177, 181, 184, 186 – 188, 192 Sacrament (sacramentality) 24, 132, 170, 222 – 227, 236 Sciences 3 f., 31, 35 f., 41, 197 sincerity (Cheng, 誠) 187, 207, 235 Spirit, pneumatology 3 f., 7 f., 11, 19, 30 – 42, 44, 61, 67, 83, 99 f., 115, 122, 130 f., 161 – 163, 169 f., 176, 178, 192, 196, 210, 217, 219, 223 – 227, 232 f., 237 Spirituality 23 f., 142, 168, 200, 203, 209 – 211, 222, 232, 238


Index of Subjects

Symbol 10, 13, 21, 24, 27 f., 37, 55, 78, 80, 82 – 86, 109 – 116, 118, 127 – 133, 187, 203 f., 209, 217, 222 f., 225 f., 237 the ground of being 21, 54 f., 65, 84 f., 87 – 90, 92, 101, 104, 106, 154, 231 Topos 71 – 74, 76, 84 – 86 Transformation 13, 21, 23 f., 43, 90, 98, 100, 119, 121, 126 f., 130 – 133, 142, 157, 171, 180, 200, 203, 205 f., 208 – 211, 215 f., 222, 227 f., 230, 235 f., 238 Typology 4, 19, 34, 38, 40 – 44

Ultimate Concern 2, 5, 13 – 18, 20 f., 38, 43, 47 – 57, 59 – 63, 67, 76, 82 f., 87, 90, 94, 109, 112, 119, 131, 133, 147, 175 – 177, 184, 199, 205, 224 Ultimate reality 11, 14, 17 f., 20, 51 – 54, 56 – 66, 69 f., 74, 80, 84, 86, 103, 137, 152, 154, 179, 194 f. Virtue ethics

23, 183 f., 192