CHAPTER III. Spontaneity ( Tse-jan) .
By the fusion of the fluids of Heaven and Earth all tilings of the world are produced spontaneously, just as by the mixture of the fluids of husband and wife children are born spontaneously. Among the things thus produced, creatures with blood in their veins are sensitive of hunger and cold. Seeing that grain can be eaten, they use it as food, and discovering that silk and hemp can be worn, they take it as raiment. Some people are of opinion that Heaven produces grain for the purpose of feeding mankind, and silk and hemp to cloth them. That would be tantamount to making Heaven the farmer of man or his mulberry girl, 1 it would not be in accordance with spontaneity, therefore this opinion is very questionable and unacceptable.
Reasoning on Taoist principles we find that Heaven emits its fluid everywhere. Among the many things of this world grain dispels hunger, and silk and hemp protect from cold. For that reason man eats grain, and wears silk and hemp. That Heaven does not produce grain, silk, and hemp purposely, in order to feed and cloth mankind, follows from the fact that by calamitous changes it does not intend to reprove man. Things are produced spontaneously, and man wears and eats them; the fluid changes spontaneously, and man is frightened by it, for the usual theory is dis-heartening. Where would be spontaneity, if the heavenly signs were intentional, and where inaction?" 2
Why must we assume that Heaven acts spontaneously? Be- cause it has neither mouth nor eyes. Activity is connected with the mouth and the eyes: the mouth wishes to eat, and the eyes to see. These desires within manifest themselves without. That the mouth and the eyes are craving for something, which is considered an advantage, is due to those desires. Now, provided that the mouth and the eye do not affect things, there is nothing which they might long for, why should there be activity then?
1 Who feeds the silkworms.
2 Inaction does not mean motionlessness, but spontaneous action without any aim or purpose. It is more or less mechanical, and not inspired by a conscious spirit.
How do we know that Heaven possesses neither mouth nor eyes? From Earth. The body of the Earth is formed of earth, and earth has neither mouth nor eyes. Heaven and Earth are like husband and wife. Since the body of the Earth is not provided with a mouth or eyes, we know that Heaven has no mouth or eyes neither. Supposing that Heaven has a body, then it must be like that of the Earth, and should it be air only, this air would be like clouds and fog. How can a cloudy or nebular substance have a mouth or an eye?
Some one might argue that every movement is originally in- action. There is desire provoking the movement, and, as soon as there is motion, there is action. The movements of Heaven are similar to those of man, how could they be inactive? I reply that, when Heaven moves, it emits its fluid. Its body moves, the fluid comes forth, and things are produced. When man moves his fluid, his body moves, his fluid then comes forth, and a child is produced. Man emitting his fluid does not intend to beget a child, yet the fluid being emitted, the child is born of itself. When Heaven is moving, it does not desire to produce things thereby, but things are produced of their own accord. That is spontaneity. Letting out its fluid it does not desire to create things, but things are created of themselves. That is inaction.
But how is the fluid of Heaven, which we credit with spontaneity and inaction? It is placid, tranquil, desireless, inactive, and unbusied. Lao Tse acquired long life by it. He obtained it from Heaven. If Heaven did not possess this fluid, how could Lao Tse have obtained this nature? For it does not happen that the disciples alone speak of something, which their master never mentioned.
Perhaps this nature appeared again in Duke Huan,1 who was wont to say, "Let Kuan Chung 2 know." His attendants replied, "is it so easy to rule, if Kuan Chung is always the first and second word? " The duke rejoined, "Before I had secured the services of Kuan Chung, I was in the greatest difficulties, now, after I have got him, I find everything easy." When Duke Huan had taken Kuan Chung into his service, he left the affairs to him, entrusted him with the administration, and did not trouble any more about it. Should high Heaven, which in its exalted virtue confers the government upon an emperor, reprove man, its virtue would be inferior to that of
1 Duke Huan of Ch'i 683-641 b.c.
2 Duke Huan's famous minister. Cf. p. 176.
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Duke Huan, and the conduct of a feudatory prince surpass that of great Heaven.
Somebody might object that Duke Huan knew Kuan Chung to be a wise man, and therefore appointed him, and that but for Kuan Chung he would also have given vent to his displeasure. Meeting with men like Yao and Shun Heaven would certainly not have reprimanded people either.
I beg to reply, that, if Heaven can reprimand, it might as well purposely appoint a wise prince, select a genius like Yao and Shun, confer the imperial dignity upon him, and leave the affairs of the empire to him without taking further notice of them. Now it is different. Heaven creates very inferior princes, who have no principles, and neglect virtue, and therefore has to reprove them every now and then. Would it not be afraid of the trouble?
Ts'ao Ts'an,1 a minister of the Han, was given to wine, songs, and music, and did not care about government. When his son remonstrated with him, he gave him two hundred blows with the bamboo. At that period there was no insurrection in the empire. In Huai-yang 2 people coined counterfeit money, and the officials were powerless to check the abuse. Chi Yen 3 was prefect then. He did not destroy a single furnace, or punish a single individual. Quite indifferent, he was comfortably reclining on his couch, and the conditions of Huai-yang became well ordered again. Ts'ao Ts'an behaved himself, as though he were not a minister, and Chi Yen administered his prefecture, as if nobody were living in it. Albeit yet the empire of the Han had no troubles, and in Huai-yang the punishments could be discontinued. So perfect was the virtue of Ts'ao Ts'an, and so imposing Chi Yen's dignity. The majesty of Heaven and its virtue are quite something else than those of Ts'ao Ts'an and Chi Yen, but to affirm that Heaven entrusts an emperor with the government, and then reproves him, would amount to nothing less than that Heaven's virtue is not as exalted as that of Ts'ao Ts'an, and its majesty not as imposing as that of Chi Yen.
1 One of the counsellors and supporters of Han Kao Tsu, died 190 b.c. On his laisser faire policy vid. his biography in the Shi-chi chap. 54.
2 A State in Honan.
3 A minister of the emperor Wu Ti, like Ts'ao T'san a follower of the doctrine of inaction inculcated by Lao Tse. His policy of governing consisted in letting things alone.
When Chü Po Yü 1 was governing Wei, Tse Kung asked him through somebody, how he governed Wei. The reply was, " I govern it by not governing." — Government by not governing is inaction as a principle.
Some opponent might say that as a sequel of universal peace a plan came forth from the Yellow River, and a scroll from the Lo." 2 Without drawing no plan can be made, and without action nothing is completed. The fact that Heaven and Earth produced the plan and the scroll shows that they are active, they think. — When Chang Liang was walking on the banks of the river Sse, he met the "Yellow Stone Genius," 3 who gave him the "minister's book." 4 Heaven was supporting the Han and destroying the Ch'in, therefore he ordered a spiritual stone to change into a ghost. That a book was handed to somebody is again considered a proof of activity.
I am of opinion that all this was spontaneous, for how could Heaven take a brush and ink, and draw the plan, or write the scroll? The principle of Heaven is spontaneity, consequently the plan and the book must have been produced of themselves.
T'ang Shu Yü of Chin 5 and Ch'eng Chi Yo of Lu 6 had a character in their hands, when they were born, therefore one was called Yü, the other Yo. When Ch'ung Tse of Sung 7 was born, the characters "Duchess of Lu" were written on her palm. These letters must have been written, while the three persons were still in their mother's womb. If we say that Heaven wrote them, while they were in their mother's womb, did Heaven perhaps send a spirit with a style, a brush, and ink to engrave and write the characters
1 A disciple of Confucius, cf. Chap. XXXIII. The Taoists also claim him as one of theirs. Chuang Tse, chap. XXV, 33, informs us that "when Chü Po Yü reached his sixtieth year, he changed his opinions. What he had previously regarded as right, he now came to regard as wrong," i. e. from a Confucianist he became a Taoist, and as such upheld the principle of quietism.
2 Vid. Chap. XXII.
3 Huang Shih, cf. Chap. XXX.
4 From this mysterious book Chang Liang is believed to have derived his plans consolidating the power of the Han dynasty.
5 Tang Shu, the younger prince of T'ang, was a son of King Wu Wang and younger brother of King Ch'eng (1115-1078). He became the founder of the princely house of Chin. Cf. Shi-chi chap. 39 p. Iv where the character of his palm is likewise referred to.
6 Ch'eng Chi was a younger son of Duke Huan of Lu (711-693). We read in the Shi-chi chap. 33 p. 13v the story of his having been born with the character Yo in his hand.
7A daughter of Duke Wu of Sung (765-747 b.c.) who became married to Duke Hui of Lu. Cf. Chap. XXH.
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on their bodies? The spontaneity of these processes seems dubious, and is difficult to understand. Externally there seemed to be activity, but as a matter of fact, there was spontaneity internally. Thus the Grand Annalist recording the story of the yellow stone, has his doubts, but cannot find the truth. 1 Viscount Chien of Chao 2 had a dream that he was ascending to heaven. There he saw a lad by the side of the Ruler of Heaven. When he went out sub- sequently, he perceived a young man in the street, who was the one whom he had seen previously in his dream by the side of the Ruler of Heaven. This must be regarded as a lucky augury the future flourishing of the Chao State, as the transmission of of the book by the "yellow stone" was a sign of the rise of the Han dynasty. That the supernatural fluid becomes a ghost, and that the ghost is shaped like a man, is spontaneous, and not the work of anybody. When plants and trees grow, their flowers and leaves are onion green and have crooked and broken veins like ornaments If Heaven is credited with having written the above mentioned characters, does it make these flowers and leaves also?
In the State of Sung a man carved a mulberry-leaf of wood, and it took him three years to complete it. Confucius said "If the Earth required three years to complete one leaf, few plants would have leaves." 3 According to this dictum of Confucius the leaves of plants grow spontaneously, and for that reason they can grow simultaneously. If Heaven made them, their growth would be as much delayed as the carving of the mulberry-leaf by the man of the Sung State.
Let us look at the hair and feathers of animals and birds, and their various colours. Can they all have been made? If so, animals and birds would never be quite finished. In spring we see the plants growing, and in autumn we see them full-grown. Can Heaven and Earth have done this, or do things grow spontaneously? If we may say that Heaven and Earth have done it, they must have used hands for the purpose. Do Heaven and Earth possess many thousand or many ten thousand hands to produce thousands and ten thousands of things at the same time?
1 In his remarks added to the biography of Chang Liang (Shi-chi chap. 55 p. 13) Ssi Ma Ch'ien says that many scholars deny the existence of ghosts, but that the story of the yellow stone is very strange.
2 Cf. Chap. XVII.
3 We find this same story in Lieh Tse VIII, 2 and in Hual Nan Tse XX, 2, but both authors ascribe the words put in the mouth of Confucius here to Lieh Tse. Huai Nan Tse makes the mulberry-leaf to be made of ivory, Lieh Tse, of jade.
The things between Heaven and Earth are like a child in his mother's womb. After ten months pregnancy the mother gives birth to the child. Are his nose, his mouth, his ears, his hair, his eyes, his skin with down, the arteries, the fat, the bones, the joints, the nails, and the teeth grown of themselves in the womb, or has the mother made them?
Why is a dummy never called a man? Because it has a nose, a mouth, ears, and eyes, but not a spontaneous nature. Wu Ti was very fond of his consort Wang, When she had died, he pondered, whether he could not see her figure again. The Taoists made an artificial figure of the lady. 1 When it was ready, it passed through the palace gate. Wu Ti greatly alarmed rose to meet her, but, all of a sudden, she was not seen any more. Since it was not a real, spontaneous being, but a semblance, artificially made by jugglers, it became diffuse at first sight, dispersed, and vanished. Everything that has been made does not last long, like the image of the em- press, which appeared only for a short while.
The Taoist school argues on spontaneity, but it does not know how to substantiate its cause by evidence. Therefore their theory of spontaneity has not yet found credence. However, in spite of spontaneity there may be activity for a while in support of it. Ploughing, tilling, weeding, and sowing in Spring are human actions. But as soon as the grain has entered the soil, it begins growing by day and night. Man can do nothing for it, or if he does, he spoils the thing.
A man of Sung was sorry that his sprouts were not high enough, therefore he pulled them out, but, on the following day, they were dry, and died. He who wishes to do what is spontaneous, is on a par with this man of Sung.
The following question may be raised: — " Man is born from Heaven and Earth. Since Heaven and Earth are inactive, man who has received the fluid of Heaven, ought to be inactive likewise, wherefore does he act nevertheless? "
For the following reason. A man with the highest, purest, and fullest virtue has been endowed with a large quantity of the heavenly fluid, therefore he can follow the example of Heaven, and be spontaneous and inactive like it. He who has received but a small quota of the fluid, does not live in accordance with righteousness and virtue, and does not resemble Heaven and Earth.
1 The apparition of the lady was evoked by the court magician Shao Weng in 121 B.C. (Cf. Shi-chi chap. 28 p. 23.)
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Hence he is called unlike, which means that he does not resemble Heaven and Earth. Not resembling Heaven and Earth he cannot be accounted a wise man or a sage. Therefore he is active.
Heaven and Earth are the furnace, and the creating is the melting process. How can all be wise, since the fluid of which they are formed is not the same? Huang and Lao were truly wise. Huang is Huang Ti, and Lao is Lao Tse. Huang and Lao's conduct was such, that their bodies were in a state of quietude and indifference. Their government consisted in inaction. They took care of their persons, and behaved with reverence, hence Yin and Yang were in harmony. They did not long for action, and things were produced of themselves; they did not think of creating anything, and things were completed spontaneously.
The Yi-king says that Huang Ti, Yao, and Shun let their robes fall, and the empire was governed. 1 That they let their robes fall means that their robes fell down, and that they folded their arms, doing nothing. Confucius said, " Grand indeed was Yao as a sovereign! Heaven alone is great, and Yao alone emulated it!" 2 and, " How imposing was the way in which Shun and Yü swayed the empire, but did not much care for it." 3 The Duke of Chou makes the remark that the supreme ruler enjoyed his ease. 4 By the supreme ruler Shun and Yü are meant. 5
Shun and Yü took over the peaceful government, which they continued, appointing wise men and men of talent. They respected themselves, and did no work themselves, and the empire was governed. Shun and Yü received the peaceful government from Yao. Yao imitated Heaven; he did not do meritorious deeds or strive for a name, and reforms, for which nothing was done, were com- pleted of themselves. Hence it was said, " Excellent indeed," but the people did not find the right name for it. Those aged 50 years were beating clods of earth together on their land, but they did not understand Yao's virtue, because the reforms were spontaneous.
The Yi-king says, " The great man equals Heaven and Earth in virtue." " Huang Ti, Yao, and Shun were such great men. Their
1 Yi-king, Chi-ts'e II (Legge's transl. p. 383).
2 Analects VIII, 19.
3 Analects VIII, 18.
4 Shu-king, To-shih, Pt.V, Bk. XIV, 5 (Legge Vol. Ill, Pt. II, p. 455).
5 All other commentators take the " supreme ruler " as a synonym for God, and I think that they are right, and that Wang Ch'ung's interpretation is forced for the purpose of supporting his theory.
6 Cf. p. 128.
virtue was on a level with that of Heaven and Earth, therefore they knew inaction. The principle of Heaven is inaction. Accordingly in spring it does not do the germinating, in summer the grooving, in autumn the ripening, or in winter the hiding of the seeds. When the Yang fluid comes forth spontaneously, plants will germinate and grow of themselves, and, when the Yin fluid rises, they ripen and disappear of their own accord.
When we irrigate garden land with water drawn from wells or drained from ponds, plants germinate and grow also, but, when showers of rain come down, the stalks, leaves, and roots are all abundantly soaked. Natural moisture is much more copious than artificial irrigation from wells and ponds. Thus inactive action brings the greatest results. By not seeking it, merit is acquired, and by not affecting it, fame is obtained. Rain-showers, merit, and fame are something great, yet Heaven and Earth do not work for them. When the fluid harmonises, rain gathers spontaneously.
The literati in speaking of the relation of husband and wife establish similarities with Heaven and Earth. For husband and wife they find similarities with Heaven and Earth, but in so far as they are unable to make use of the relation of husband and wife, when discussing the nature of Heaven and Earth, they show a regrettable lack of acumen.
Heaven expands above, and Earth below. When the fluid from below rises, and the fluid on high descends, all things are created in the middle. While they are growing, it is not necessary that Heaven should still care for them, just as the father does not know the embryo, after it is in the mother's womb. Things grow spontaneously, and the child is formed of itself. Heaven and Earth, and father and mother can take no further cognisance of it. But after birth, the way of man is instruction and teaching, the way of Heaven, inaction and yielding to nature. Therefore Heaven al- lows the fish to swim in the rivers, and the wild beasts to roam in the mountains, following their natural propensities. It does not drive the fish up the hills, or the wild beasts into the water. Why? Because that would be an outrage upon their nature, and a complete disregard of what suits them. The people resemble fish and beasts. High virtue governs them as easily, as one fries small fish, and as Heaven and Earth would act.
Shang Yang 1 changed the laws of Ch'in wishing to acquire extraordinary merit. He did not hear the advice of Chao Liang,
1 Cf. p. 171 Note 2.
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consequently he incurred the horrible penalty of being torn asunder by carts. If the virtue be poor, and the desires many, prince and minister hate one another. The Taoists possess real virtue: — the inferiors agree with the superiors, and the superiors are at peace with their inferiors. Being genuinely ignorant, they do nothing, and there is no reason, why they should be reproved. This is what they call a well balanced government. Prince and minister forget one another in governing, the fish forget each other in the water, 1 and so do the beasts in the forests, and men in life. That is Heaven.
Confucius said to Yen Yuan, '' When I deferred to you, I did not think of it, and when you deferred to me, you likewise did not think of it." 2 Although Confucius was like a prince, and Yen Yuan like a minister, he could not make up his mind to reprimand Yen Yuan, how much less would Lao Tse have been able to do so, if we consider him as a prince and Wên Tse 3 as his minister? Lao Tse and Wen Tse were like Heaven and Earth.
Generous wine tastes sweet. When those who drink it, become drunk, they do not know each other. Bad wine is sour and bitter. Hosts and guests knit the brows. Now, reprimands are a proof of the badness of one's principles. 4 To say that Heaven reprimands would be like pretending that Heaven's excellence is inferior to that of generous wine.
Ceremonies originate from a want of loyalty and good faith, and are the beginning of confusion.5 On that score people find fault with one another, which leads to reproof. At the time of the Three Rulers people were sitting down self-satisfied, and walking about at perfect ease. Sometimes they took themselves for horses, and sometimes for oxen. Virtuous actions were out of the question, and the people were dull and beclouded. Knowledge and wisdom did not yet make their appearance. Originally, there happened no calamities or catastrophes either, or, if they did, they were not denoted as reprimands. Why? Because at that time people were feeble-minded, and did not restrain or reproach one another.
1 The fish forget each other in the rivers and hikes," says Huai Nan Tse II, 4r.
2 Both were in a state of blissful forgetfulness and purposelessness. The passage is quoted from Huai Nan Tse XI, 5r.
3 A Taoist philosopher, disciple of Lao Tse.
4 Reprimands tell against the system by which they are required, perfect virtue pervading the universe necessitates no recriminations, for all are filled with it as with generous wine.
5 This argument is quite Taoist.
Later generations have gradually declined: — superiors and inferiors recriminate, and calamitous events continually happen. Hence the hypothesis of reprimands has been developed. The Heaven of to- day is the Heaven of old, and it is not the case that the Heaven of old was benign, whereas now Heaven is harsh. The hypothesis of reprimands has been put forward at present, as a surmise made by men from their own feelings.
Declarations and oaths do not reach up to the Five Emperors, agreements and covenants to the Three Rulers, and the giving of hostages to the Five Princes. 1 The more people's virtue declined, the more faith began to fail them. In their guile and treachery they broke treaties, and were deaf to admonitions. Treaties and admonitions being of no avail, they reproached one another, and if no change was brought about by these reproaches, they took up arms, and fought, till one was exterminated. Consequently reprimands point to a state of decay and disorder. Therefore it appears very dubious that Heaven should make reprimands.
Those who believe in reprimands, refer to human ways as a proof. Among men a sovereign reprimands his minister, and high Heaven reprimands the sovereign. It does so by means of calamitous events, they say. However, among men it also happens that the minister remonstrates with his sovereign. When Heaven reprimands an emperor by visiting him with calamities, and the latter wishes at that time to remonstrate with high Heaven, how can he do it? If they say that Heaven's virtue is so perfect, that man cannot remonstrate with it, then Heaven possessed of such virtue, ought likewise to keep quiet, and ought not to reprimand. When the sovereign of Wan Shih did wrong, the latter did not say a word, but at table he did not eat, which showed his perfection. An excellent man can remain silent, and august Heaven with his sublime virtue should reprimand? Heaven does not act, therefore it does not speak. The disasters, which so frequently occur, are the work of the spontaneous fluid.
Heaven and Earth cannot act, nor do they possess any know- ledge. When there is a cold in the stomach, it aches. This is not caused by man, but the spontaneous working of the fluid. The space between Heaven and Earth is like that between the back and the stomach. 2
1 The five leading feudal princes during the later Chou epoch, to wit: — Duke Huan of Ch'i D.b.c. 643, Duke Wen of Chin D.b.c. 628, Duke Hsiang of Sung D.b.c. 687, King Chuang of Ch'i D.b.c. 591, and Duke Mu of Ch'in D.b.c. 621.
2 And it is likewise filled with the spontaneous fluid.
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If Heaven is regarded as the author of every calamity, are all abnormities, great and small, complicated and simple, caused by Heaven also? A cow may give birth to a horse, and on a cherry- tree a plum may grow. Docs, according to the theory under discussion, the spirit of Heaven enter the belly of the cow to create the horse, or stick a plum upon a cherry-tree?
Lao 1 said, " The Master said," " Having no official employment, I acquired many arts," and he said, " When I was young, my condition was low, and therefore I acquired my ability in many things, but they were mean matters." 2 What is low in people, such as ability and skilfulness, is not practised by the great ones. How could Heaven, which is so majestic and sublime, choose to bring about catastrophes with a view to reprimanding people?
Moreover, auspicious and inauspicious events are like the flushed colour appearing on the face. Man cannot produce it, the colour comes out of itself. Heaven and Earth are like the human body, the transformation of their fluid, like the flushed colour. How can Heaven and Earth cause the sudden change of their fluid, since man cannot produce the flushed colour? The change of the fluid is spontaneous, it appears of itself, as the colour comes out of itself. The soothsayers rely on this, when they foretell the future.
Heat and cold, reprimands, phenomenal changes, and attraction, all these four errors have already been treated. 3 Reprimands are more contrary to the ways of Heaven than anything else, therefore I have discussed them twice, explaining where the difficulties in the way of the two antagonistic views lie. The one is in accordance with human affairs, but does not fall in with Taoism, the other agrees with Taoism, but is not in harmony with human affairs. But though opposed to the belief of the Confucianists, it corresponds to the ideas of Huang Ti and Lao Tse.
1 Ch'in Chang, styled Tse K'ai, a disciple of Confucius.
2 Analects IX, 6.
3 In the preceding chapters of the Lun-hêng.