The abduction of modernity

By Henry C K Liu, Asia Times, 9 July 2003 to 12 August 2003

Part 1: The race toward barbarism

The United States defines its global “war on terrorism” as a defensive effort to protect its way of life, beyond attacks from enemies with alien cultural and religious motives, to attacks from those who reject modernity itself. This definition is derived from the views of historian Bernard Lewis, a scholar of Islamic culture at Princeton University, who traces Islamic opposition to the West beyond hostility to specific interests or actions or policies or even countries, to rejection of Western civilization for what it is. To Lewis, Western civilization stands for modernity. This anti-modernity attitude, he warns, is what lends support to the ready use of terror by Islamic fundamentalists.

Samuel Huntington in his The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order argues that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War will bring neither peace nor worldwide acceptance of liberal democracy. Huntington rejects Francis Fukuyama's prematurely optimistic “end of history” theme that the collapse of communism means Western civilization is destined to spread as people elsewhere seek the benefits of technology, wealth, and personal freedom it offers. Instead, because technology has been reserved for exploitation, wealth obscenely maldistributed, and freedom selectively denied to the powerless, narrow ideological conflict will transform into conflicts among people with different religions, values, ethnicities, and historical memories. These cultural factors define civilizations. Nations will increasingly base alliances on common civilization rather than common ideology; and wars will tend to occur along the fault lines between major civilizations.

Huntington points out that embracing materialist science, industrial production, technical education, rootless urbanization, and capitalistic trade does not mean the rest of the world will embrace the culture of the West. On the contrary, he argues that economic growth is likely to increase the aspiration for cultural sovereignty, breeding a new commitment to the values, customs, traditions, and religions of native cultures. The struggle is not capitalism against communism, but backward civilization against modern civilization.

The fault in both these views is the assumption that modernity is an exclusive characteristic of the West. On the surface, such views appear self-evident, since science and technology have been the enabling factors behind Western ascendance and dominance. But the “modern world” can be viewed as a brief aberration on the long path of human destiny, a brief period of a few centuries when narcissistic Western thinkers mistake technological development as moral progress in human civilization. Many barbaric notions, racism being the most obvious, appear under the label of modernity, rationalized by a barbaric doctrine of pseudo-science. The West takes advantage of the overwhelming power it has derived from its barbaric values to set itself up as a superior civilization. The West views its technical prowess as a predatory license for intolerance of the values and traditions of other advanced cultures.

Chinese civilization has weathered successive occupation by barbaric invaders, all of whom as rulers saw fit to adopt Chinese civilization for their own benefit and contributed to the further development of the culture they had invaded and subsequently adopted. The history of the West's interaction with the rest of the world has been culturally evangelistic, to suppress and encroach on unfamiliar cultures Westerners arbitrarily deem inferior, often based on self-satisfied ignorance. Until confronted by Western imperialism, China might have faced military conquests, but Chinese civilization had never been under attack. Barbaric invaders came to gain access to Chinese culture, not to destroy it. The West is unique in its destructive ethnocentricity. Under the domination of the West, Chinese or other non-Western intellectuals who do not speak or read Western languages are considered illiterate and ignorant, while Western “scholars”, including the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who do not speak or read Chinese or other non-Western languages have written erudite books on Chinese and other non-Western culture.

Gunpowder was invented around the 4th century in China by Taoist alchemist Ko Hong while seeking an elixir for immortality. It is the height of Taoist irony that the search for an elixir for immortality only yields a substance that ends life abruptly. Gunpowder would not be used in warfare in China until the 10th century, first in incendiary rockets called feihuo (flying fire), forerunner of today's intercontinental ballistic missiles. Explosive grenades would first be employed by armies of the Song Dynasty in 1161 against Jurchens (Nuzhen), ancestors of modern-day Manchurians.

In Chinese dynastic culture, the use of firearms in war was considered cowardly and therefore not exploited by honorable warriors of self-respect. Firearms would not develop in dynastic China, not because of the absence of know-how, but because their use had been culturally circumscribed as not being appropriate for true warriors.

In the history of human progress, willful rejection of many technological inventions is traceable to cultural preference. This is the basis for concluding that the technological militarism of the West is of barbaric roots and that a civilization built on military power remains barbaric, the reverse of modernity, notwithstanding the guise of technology.

The oldest picture in the world of a gun and a grenade is on a painted silk banner found at Dunhuang, dating to the mid-10th century, that came to be in the possession of Musee Guimet in Paris in modern times. The museum on Place d’Iena was founded by French industrialist Emile Guimet, a 19th-century Asian-art collector from Lyon. On the silk banner, demons of Mara the Temptress, an evil goddess, are shown trying to harm the meditating Buddha and to distract him from his pursuit of enlightenment, with a proto-gun in the form of a fire lance and a proto-grenade in the form of a palm-size fire-bomb. The fact that these weapons are shown to be used only by evil demons illustrates the distasteful attitude of the ancient Chinese toward firearms.

Crossbows, known in Chinese as nu, have a shorter range than double-curved longbows and are slower in firing. But they became devastatingly accurate after a grid sight to guide their aim was invented 23 centuries ago by Prince Liu Chong of the imperial house of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).

Crossbows were first used 28 centuries ago in the Spring and Autumn Period (Chunqiu 770-481 BC) when their employment in the hands of the infantry neutralized the traditional superiority of war chariots. The use of crossbows thus changed the rules of warfare and the balance of power in the political landscape of ancient China, favoring those states with large sheren (commoner) infantry forces over those with powerful chariot-owning militant guizu (aristocrats).

The earliest unification of China by the Legalist Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), whose unifying ruler was an antagonist of fragmented aristocratic feudalism, was not independent of the geopolitical impact of crossbow technology.

History records that in 209 BC, the Second Emperor (Er Shi, reigned 209-207 BC) of the Qin Dynasty, son of the unifying Qin Origin Emperor (Qin Shihuangdi, reigned 246-210 BC), who fought 26 years of continuous war to unify all under the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), which subsequently lasted only 14 years before collapsing, kept a crossbow regiment of 50,000 archers.

Han Dynasty historian Sima Qian, author of the classic Records of the Historian (Shi Ji), wrote in 108 BC that a member of the Han royalty, the prince of Liang Xiao (Liang Xiao Wang), was in charge of an arsenal with several hundred thousand crossbows in 157 BC.

Two working crossbows from China, dating from the 11th century AD, one capable of repeat firing, came to be in the modern-day collection of the Simon Archery Foundation in Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester, England.

Most triggers and sights used in crossbows in China were manufactured by master craftsmen who signed their metal products with inscribed marks and dates. Shen Gua (1031-94), renowned Bei Song Dynasty (Northern Song 960-1127) scientist cum historian on Chinese science and technology, referred to his frustration over his inability to date accurately an 11th-century excavation, upon finding on a crossbow mechanism the inscription “stock by Yu Shih and bow by Chang Rou”, but with no accompanying dates.

Even in 10th century BC, production of crossbows in China had already involved a sophisticated system of separation of manufacturing of parts and mass assembly of final products.

Crossbows were last used in war in China by the Qing Dynasty army in 1900, with tragic inadequacy, against the invading armies of eight allied European powers with more deadly firearms.

The ancient Greeks employed crossbows successfully at Syracuse in 397 BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire, crossbows reappeared in Europe only after the 10th century. They were used at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by William the Conqueror.

The Second Lateran Council of 1139 condemned crossbows, together with usury, simony, clerical marriage and concubinage. Their use was banned under the anathema of the Church, except for use against infidels. The ban on crossbows was a position of moral righteousness yet to be taken by Christendom in modern times on the use of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.

Richard, Coeur de Lion (1157-1199), mostly absentee king of England (1189-99) and less-than-successful hero of the Crusades, took many crossbows on his Third Crusade in 1190. Hernando Cortes (1485-1547), Spanish conquistador, used the crossbow as one of his main weapons in subjugating Mexico in the 16th century.

In medieval warfare, the rules of European chivalry required, as those of dynastic Chinese martial arts did, that honorable combat be personal and bodily. Arrows were considered cowardly by medieval Europeans, as firearms were by dynastic Chinese up to the 19th century. The use of bows and arrows was stooped to only by those outside of the socio-military establishment, the likes of outlawed English yeomen of the 12th century, such as Robin Hood and his chief archer, Little John, legendary folk heroes of English ballads. Another famous 13th-century archer was the legendary Swiss patriot William Tell, whose story would be made popular by Friedrich von Schiller's drama and later by Gioacchino Antonio Rossini's popular opera.

European knights, when prepared to suffer calculated losses, were able to survive slow-firing enemy crossbows with limited range. In sufficient numbers, the horsemen were able to decimate in full gallop an unprotected line of much-despised enemy crossbow-men. However, they were not able to overcome fast-firing longbows with long range.

Two millennia after the invention of crossbows in China, the Battle of Crecy of the Hundred Years' War, which took place on August 26, 1346, first demonstrated the effectiveness of Edward III's English archers, composed mostly of newly recruited, socially shunned yeomen with longbows, against the respectable armored French knights of Philip VI.

Similarly, the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415, decisively confirmed the obsolescence of hitherto invincible French aristocratic knights on horseback. In opposition, English yeomen, commoner foot-soldiers, members of a class unappreciated by their social betters in their home society, applied with glory in war a despised killing tool designed for illegal poaching in peace. Armed with a fresh military application of ignoble longbow technology, the socially inferior English yeomen in the form of simple unarmored infantry-archers, proved their battlefield supremacy to the socially superior French aristocrats in the form of powerfully armored mounted knights.

The Battle of Agincourt marked the end of the age of chivalry and announced the obsolescence of its stylized methods of warfare. It also heralded the beginning of a period in which the sovereign would look for military support from the gentry of his realm rather than traditionally from the aristocracy. This gave rise to the resulting political implication that henceforth war would have to be fought for national purpose or religious conviction rather than for settling private feuds among royalties.

In William Shakespeare's Henry V, the central scene of which features the Battle of Agincourt, the most glorious in English history, King Henry addresses his yeomen soldiers in a famous nationalistic exultation:

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot;
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry! England and Saint George!’

After the battle scene, Shakespeare (1564-1616) has King Henry recount the French dead:

The names of those their nobles that lie dead:
Charles Delabreth, High Constable of France;
The Master of the Cross-bows, Lord Rambures …

In ancient Chinese warfare, the code of honorable martial conduct required that combat be personal, bodily and frontal. Combatants were organized according to rank, as per all other social activities in a class-conscious and rigidly hierarchical society. Jiangjun (generals) were pitted against jiangjun, captains against captains and foot soldiers against foot soldiers. Social segregation was reflected in the proverb: “Earthenware does not deserve collision with porcelain.”

Expertise in corporeal martial skill was so highly prized that jiangjun were frequently expected to engage personally in one-on-one combat with their opposing counterparts. Battles were sometimes won or lost depending on the outcome of high-ranking personal duels under the watchful eyes of troops on each side. By Tang time in the 7th century, however, the cult of martial chivalry in which individual valor determined the outcome of battles already had become only a legend of the past. Firepower was still considered cowardly. And the use of firearms was not acceptable to proud warriors as respectable members of the social elite. Until influenced in modern times by popular Hollywood films on the American Wild West, Chinese children playing war would prefer swordfights to gunfights.

Gunpowder remained unknown in the West until the late 10th century. However, Europeans abandoned outmoded rules of chivalry after the Middle Ages and enthusiastically incorporated firearms and artillery into the lexicon of their military arts after the late 15th century. In contrast, thanks to the Confucian aversion to technological progress, Chinese military planners did not modernize their martial code, basing foreign policy on the principle of civilized benevolence. They continued to suppress development of firearms as immoral and dishonorable up to the 19th century, much to China's misfortune.

As a result, European armies arrived in China in the 19th century with superior firearms. They consistently and repeatedly scored decisive victories with their small but better-armed expeditionary forces over the numerically superior yet technologically backward, sword-wielding Chinese army of the decrepit Qing Dynasty (1636-1911).

China's most influential revolutionary, Mao Zedong, proclaimed in modern times his famous dictum: “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.” He was in fact condemning the obsolete values of Confucianism (ru jia) as much as stating a truism in barbaric modern realpolitik.

Confucian ethics notwithstanding, morality and honor failed to save China from Western imperialism, because morality and honor require observation from both opponents. It was not a clash of civilizations, but a clash between civilization and barbarism. Militarism is a race toward barbarism camouflaged by technology as modernity.

The Boxers Uprising of 1900, the Chinese name for which is Yihetuan (Righteous Harmony Brigade), was an extremist xenophobic movement. It was encouraged as a chauvinistic instrument for domestic politics by the decrepit court of the Qing Dynasty, dominated by the self-indulging, reactionary Dowager Empress (Cixi Taihou, 1838-1908). The Boxer Uprising was used by the Dowager Empress as a populist counterweight to abort the budding “100 Days” elitist reform movement of 1869, led by conservative reformist Kang Youwei (1858-1927) around the young monarch, the weak Emperor Guangxu (reigned 1875-98), belatedly and defensively advocating modernization for China.

The members of Yihetuan, in a burst of chauvinistic frenzy, rejected the use of modern and therefore foreign firearms in favor of traditional broadswords. They relied on protection against enemy bullets from Taoist amulets, their faith in which would remain unshaken in the face of undeniable empirical evidence provided by hundreds of thousands of falling comrades shot by Western gunfire. The term Boxer would be coined by bewildered Europeans whose modern pragmatism would fill them with a superficial superiority complex, justified on narrow grounds, over an ancient culture that stubbornly clung to the irrational power of faith, in defiance of reason.

Historians often trace the source of national predicaments to particular decisions made by leaders based on personal character, rather than to structural conditions of institutions. This convenient emphasis on personal political errors at the expense of deterministic institutional structure tends to nurture speculations that with wiser decisions, a socio-economic-political order trapped inside an obsolete institutional system would not necessarily be doomed to collapse under the strain of its own contradictions. Such speculations are hard to verify, since it can be argued that bad political decisions by faulty leaders are not independent of a nation's institutional defects. The penchant of the sole remaining superpower to resort to overwhelming force against those not willing to bend to its will may well be an institutional march from modernity back toward barbarism.

Ironically, the Boxers Uprising so discredited the public image of the stubbornly reactionary Qing court that, within a decade after its outbreak, the democratic revolution of Dr Sun Yat-sen succeeded in 1911 in overthrowing the three-century-old Qing Dynasty, despite the effective reactionary suppression of progressive monarchist reform efforts in the dynasty's last phase, or perhaps because of it. Extremist reactionaries, in their eagerness to be gravediggers for progressive reformers, usually become instead unwitting midwives for revolutionary radicals. The Taoist concept of the curative potential of even deadly poison was again demonstrated by the pathetic phenomenon of the Boxers Uprising.

Thus a case can be made that extreme fundamentalist opposition to the West may be the midwife for modernization of Islamic civilization. The capitalistic West nurtured and used Islamic fundamentalism as an antidote against communism in the oil regions of the Middle East during the Cold War, the same way it had nurtured and used fascism during the Great Depression. The antidote proves to be more lethal to the capitalistic West.

Western military prowess, with its arsenal of smart bombs and weapons of mass destruction ready for deployment to impose its will on others, is not a march toward modernity, but a retreat toward barbarism. A civilization built on militarization of the peace remains a barbaric civilization. What Western militarism has done is to abduct modernity as synonymous with Western civilization, depriving human civilization of an evolving process of cultural diversity. The effect of this abduction of modernity had been profound and comprehensive.

The West is not the only guilty party in history, only the most recent. Chinese civilization during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) took a great step forward toward forging a unified nation and culture, but in the process lost much of the richness of its ancient, local traditions and rendered many details of its fragmented past incomprehensible to posterity. Universality and standardization, ingredients of progress, are mortal enemies of particularity and variety, components of tradition. Human civilization deserves a richer vision of modernity than that offered by the West. Until modernization is divorced from Westernization, non-Western civilizations will continue to resist modernization.

Tu Weiming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy and director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute at Harvard University, wrote: “Hegel, [Karl] Marx and Max Weber all shared the ethos that, despite all its shortcomings, the modern West informed by the Enlightenment mentality was the only arena where the true difference for the rest of the world could be made. Confucian East Asia, Islamic Middle East, Hindu India, or Buddhist Southeast Asia was on the receiving end of this process. Eventually, modernization as homogenization would make cultural diversity inoperative, if not totally meaningless. It was inconceivable that Confucianism or, for that matter, any other non-Western spiritual traditions could exert a shaping influence on the modernizing process. The development from tradition to modernity was irreversible and inevitable.”

Tu suggests that, in the global context, what some of the most brilliant minds in the modern West assumed to be self-evidently true turned out to be parochial. In the rest of the world and, arguably, in Western Europe and North America, the anticipated clear transition from tradition to modernity never occurred. As a norm, traditions continue to make their presence in modernity and, indeed, the modernizing process itself is constantly shaped by a variety of cultural forms rooted in distinct traditions. The recognition of the relevance of radical otherness to one's own self-understanding of the 18th century seems more applicable to the current situation in the global community than the inattention to any challenges to the modern Western mindset of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. For example, the outstanding Enlightenment thinkers such as Francois Arouet de Voltaire, Gottfried Leibniz and Jean Jacques Rousseau took China as their major reference society and Confucianism as their major reference culture. It seems that toward the 21st century, the openness of the 18th century, as contrasted with the exclusivity of the 19th century, may provide a better guide for the dialogue of civilizations.

According to Professor Tu, in light of the ill-conceived hypothesis of the “coming clash of civilizations, the need for civilizational dialogues and for exploring a global ethic is more compelling. Among the Enlightenment values advocated by the French Revolution, fraternity, the functional equivalent of community, has received scant attention among modern political theorists. The preoccupation with fixing the relationship between the individual and the state since [John] Locke's treatises on government is, of course, not the full picture of modern political thought; but it is undeniable that communities, notably the family, have been ignored as irrelevant in the mainstream of Western political discourse.”

In Tu's view, East Asian modernity under the influence of Confucian traditions suggests an alternative model to Western modernism:

(1) Government leadership in a market economy is not only necessary but is also desirable. The doctrine that government is a necessary evil and that the market in itself can provide an “invisible hand” for ordering society is antithetical to modern experience in either the West or the East. A government that is responsive to public needs, responsible for the welfare of the people and accountable to society at large is vitally important for the creation and maintenance of order.

(2) Although law is essential as the minimum requirement for social stability, “organic solidarity” can only result from the implementation of humane rites of interaction. The civilized mode of conduct can never be communicated through coercion. Exemplary teaching as a standard of inspiration invites voluntary participation. Law alone cannot generate a sense of shame to guide civilized behavior. It is the ritual act that encourages people to live up to their own aspirations.

(3) Family as the basic unit of society is the locus from which the core values are transmitted. The dyadic relationships within the family, differentiated by age, gender, authority, status, and hierarchy, provide a richly textured natural environment for learning the proper way of being human. The principle of reciprocity, as a two-way traffic of human interaction, defines all forms of human-relatedness in the family. Age and gender, potentially two of the most serious gaps in the primordial environment of the human habitat, are brought into a continuous flow of intimate sentiments of human care.

(4) Civil society flourishes not because it is an autonomous arena above the family and beyond the state. Its inner strength lies in its dynamic interplay between family and state. The image of the family as a microcosm of the state and the ideal of the state as an enlargement of the family indicate that family stability is vitally important for the body politic and a vitally important function of the state is to ensure organic solidarity of the family. Civil society provides a variety of mediating cultural institutions that allow for a fruitful articulation between family and state. The dynamic interplay between the private and public enables the civil society to offer diverse and enriching resources for human flourishing.

(5) Education ought to be the civil religion of society. The primary purpose of education is character-building. Intent on the cultivation of the full person, schools should emphasize ethical as well as cognitive intelligence. Schools should teach the art of accumulating “social capital” through communication. In addition to the acquisition of knowledge and skills, schooling must be congenial to the development of cultural competence and appreciation of spiritual values.

(6) Since self-cultivation is the root for the regulation of family, governance of state, and peace under heaven, the quality of life of a particular society depends on the level of self-cultivation of its members. A society that encourages self-cultivation as a necessary condition for human flourishing is a society that cherishes virtue-centered political leadership, mutual exhortation as a communal way of self-realization, the value of the family as the proper home for learning to be human, civility as the normal pattern of human interaction and, education as character-building.

Tu acknowledges that it is far-fetched to suggest that these societal ideals are fully realized in East Asia. Actually, East Asian societies often exhibit behaviors and attitudes just the opposite of the supposed salient features of Confucian modernity indicate. Indeed, having been humiliated by imperialism and colonialism for decades, the rise of East Asia, on the surface at least, blatantly displays some of the most negative aspects of Western modernism with a vengeance: exploitation, mercantilism, consumerism, materialism, greed, egoism and brutal competitiveness.

Nevertheless, as the first non-Western region to become modernized, the cultural implications of the rise of “Confucian” East Asia are far-reaching. The modern West as informed by the Enlightenment mentality provided the initial impetus for worldwide social transformation. The historical reasons that prompted the modernizing process in Western Europe and North America are not necessarily structural components of modernity. Surely, Enlightenment values such as instrumental rationality, liberty, rights consciousness, due process of law, privacy and individualism are all universalizable modern values. However, as the Confucian example suggests, “Asian values” such as sympathy, distributive justice, duty-consciousness, ritual, public-spiritedness and group orientation are also universalizable modern values. Just as the former ought to be incorporated into East Asian modernity, the latter may turn out to be a critical and timely reference for the American way of life.

Part 2: That old time religion

From the fall of the Roman Empire to the 15th century, Islam was the dominant civilization outside of China. The Islamic world of this period was more advanced, with greater wealth and a higher level of culture than the Christian West. Islamic scholars preserved the texts of the ancient Greek philosophers and scientists by translating them into Arabic and Latin, which Renaissance scholars emerging from the Dark Ages relied on for sources and scholarship on antiquity. Arabs made path-breaking advances in mathematics, astronomy, medicine and philosophy, and transmitted to the West much of what they had learned from China. The West through the interpretation of Arab eyes rediscovered much of Western antiquity.

Mohammed the Prophet entered Mecca in AD 630 and established Islamic rule. The growing forces of Muslim, 121 years from that date, after having conquered Spain, North Africa, Egypt, Persia and much of Byzantium, decisively defeated the Tang Chinese army in 751 at the famous Battle of Talas, between modern-day Tashkent and Lake Balkhash. The Arab victory was aided by a branch of Muslim Tujue (Turkic) tribes known as Karluks, who launched a surprised attack on Tang forces from the rear. The Battle of Talas halted Chinese expansion into Central Asia.

The Chinese refer to Arabs as Dashi, from the Syrian word Tayi or the Persian word T’cyk. The Arabs conquered Samarkand in the 8th century. For five centuries thereafter, Samarkand flourished under the Omayyad Arabs as a trade center between Baghdad and Changan, the capital of dynastic China, until advances in sea transport in the 13th century finally rendered the Silk Route economically obsolete. Chinese prisoners captured by Arab forces at the Battle of Talas in 751 eventually introduced the art of paper-making to Arab lands and subsequently to Europe, but only after Arab paper-makers, jealously guarding the secret from Europeans for five more centuries, had sold paper to Europe at handsome profits in the interim. A process to make paper from vegetable fiber had first been invented by Cailun in China during the Han Dynasty in 105. The first paper mill outside of China was established by Arabs in Samarkand six-and-a-half centuries later in 751. The invention of paper greatly facilitated the development of language, graphic arts and culture, first in China, then in the Arab world, and then in the West.

The scientific and industrial revolutions vastly increased the wealth and power of the West from the middle of the 19th century. After the defeat of the Islamic Ottoman Empire in World War I, the Middle East was taken over by European powers and broken up into colonies and protectorates. Today, despite decolonization, nationalism and oil riches, this region remains poor and underdeveloped, not because modernity bypassed it, but because modernity arrived in the form of neo-colonialism. Westernization in these lands has produced miserable results, forcing the Islamic world to the conclusion that the solution may be a renewal of the Islamic faith that reigned in the days of their former greatness. The West derides this view as a rejection of modernity, notwithstanding historical evidence of the Arab world having embraced science and technology at a time when the best minds in the West were still prisoners of the flat-Earth doctrine.

The clash-of-civilizations theme exaggerates unity in outlook, values, ideas, and loyalties among people who share the common history and culture that define a civilization. Modern wars have been fought mostly within Western civilization, while easy imperialistic conquests have been the order of the day between Western and non-Western civilizations. Samuel P Huntington wrote: “The central characteristics of the West, those which distinguish it from other civilizations, antedate the modernization of the West.” Thus the modernization of other civilizations is not in conflict with rejection of Westernization. The scholar Bernard Lewis, in seeing hatred of modernity as the main driving force in the wider context of Islamic terrorism, is confusing modernity with Western culture.

The rejection of modernity occurs in every nation and civilization. The history of the West, dominated by the rise of Christianity, is strewn with wars of resistance against modernity. The history of Christianity, the main thread of Western history, is a continuing saga against modernity. The US “war on terrorism” itself is a continuation of this resistance in its emphasis on force rather than understanding. By abducting the concept of modernity as a monopoly of the West, Western scholars obstruct true modernity in a diverse world. Modernity is defined by the West as a collection of Western values arbitrarily deemed universal—the secular culture of circular rationality, materialist science, alienating individualism, technical innovation, amoral legalism, selective democracy and exploitative capitalism that Western imperialism has spread worldwide in different forms and to varying degrees. Religious fundamentalism is currently enjoying unprecedented influence over secular politics within the United States, as exemplified by President George W Bush's proclamation that God, not the US constitution, told him to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. While the separation of church and state is still a governing tenet in the US, separation of religion and politics is non-existent.

Modernity, a new version of Rudyard Kipling's “white man's burden” of old-fashioned imperialism, has been brought to the world by neo-imperialism, to disarm resistance to Western neo-imperialist encroachment. Opposition to exploitative policies and actions of the imperialist West is dismissed as irrational hatred of modernity. Kipling (1865-1936) confused Western materialist advancement with moral superiority, as measured by a standard based on virtue. Kipling's romantic portrayal of the model Englishman as brave, honorable, conscientious and self-reliant, while popularly accepted in the English-speaking West, would be generally rejected in the East by those with direct exposure to the breed as being still unwashed of animalistic instincts. The idealized image would be recognized as being a wishful manifestation based on Kipling's apologetic colonial mentality toward his social betters in his home society. It is also a compensation for Kipling's own inferiority complex derived from his love-hate relationship with the richness of Indian culture, to which he was attracted but which he was unable to appreciate fully because of his deep-rooted racial prejudice as a product of Western culture.

The “white man's burden” is a world view for justifying imperialism. The term is the name of an 1899 poem by Kipling, the sentiments of which give insight into this world view.

The first verse of the Kipling poem reads:

Take up the White Man's burden -
Send forth the best ye breed -
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild -
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

In this view, non-European cultures are seen as childlike and devilish, with people of European descent having a sacred and selfless obligation to dominate them in perpetuity for their own good and salvation.

The poem was originally published in a popular US magazine (McClure's). It was written specifically to address US isolationist sentiments after the Spanish-American War in 1898, from which the United States would emerge as a world power of consequence. Kipling wrote this poem specifically to help sway popular opinion in the US, so that a “friendly” Western power would hold the strategically important Philippines after the collapse of the Spanish empire in Southeast Asia.

The view and the term by now are widely regarded as racist. Nevertheless, it served the purpose of allowing colonization to proceed in the context of US anti-colonialism self-image and to legitimize historical racism in the United States.

The colonial powers relied on the excuse of “civilizing” indigenous peoples to rationalize colonialism. Archeological findings in South Africa were suppressed for fear that the existence of sophisticated urban culture in southern Africa prior to European colonization would pose a threat to the argument that white rule was necessary to “civilize” the region.

The term “white man's burden” is sometimes used in the present time to describe double standards toward those of European descent because of perceived responsibility or culpability for historical wrongs. It is the main moral argument for affirmative action in the United States. Increasingly vocal demands are heard from the black community and the nations of indigenous people in the US for an official apology and a program of restitution to address such historical wrongs perpetrated by one people on others.

Cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting the culture and language of one national civilization in another for the purpose of political and social control. This can take the form of active, formal policy, such as in education and job opportunities, or a general attitude of superiority complex.

Empires throughout history have been established using war and physical compulsion. In the long term, the invading population tended to become absorbed into the dominant local culture, or acquire its attributes indirectly. Cultural imperialism reverses this trend by imposing an alien culture on the conquered. One of the early examples of cultural imperialism was the extinction of the Etruscan culture and language caused by the imperial policies of the Romans.

The Greek culture built gymnasiums, theaters and public baths in places that its adherents conquered, such as ancient Judea, where Greek cultural imperialism sparked a popular revolt, with the effect that the subject populations became immersed in the conquering culture. The spread of the koine (common) Greek language was another large factor in this immersion.

The prayer-book rebellion of 1549, when the English state sought to suppress non-English languages with the English-language Book of Common Prayer, is another example. In replacing Latin with English, and under the guise of suppressing Catholicism, English was in effect imposed as the language of the Anglican Church as a dominant societal institution. Though people in many areas of Cornwall did not speak or understand English at the time, the Cornish language fell into disuse as a result. The Cornish people protested against the imposition of an English prayer book, resulting in large numbers of protesters being massacred by the king's army, their leaders executed and the people suffering harsh reprisals.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the dominant English establishment attempted to eliminate all non-English languages within the British Isles (such as Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic) by outlawing them or otherwise marginalizing their speakers. Many other languages had almost or totally been wiped out, including Cornish and Manx. “Cultural imperialism” is a term first applied to the British Empire, with its many measures to impose the conquering culture on the conquered. These ranged from pound-sterling hegemony, to the preferred social status given the game of cricket and English dress codes, to mandatory use and teaching of English, further to establish Britain's control on nations and territories within the empire. Language imperialism is the basic element in cultural imperialism. The discriminatory practice of proper elocution is a component of in-group cultural imperialism.

As exploration of the Americas increased, European nations including Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal all raced to claim territory in hopes of generating increased economic wealth for themselves. In these new colonies, the European conquerors imposed their languages and cultures on lands whose indigenous population was too large or too established to annihilate. The same took place in Africa and Asia. The record of US policy and abuse of native Americans is atrocious, going beyond cultural imperialism to genocide.

During the late 18th, the 19th and the early 20th centuries, the Swedish government continually repressed the Saami culture. Repression took numerous forms, such as banning the Saami language and by forceful removal of many cultural artifacts, such as the magic drums of the naajds (Saami shamans). Most of the drums have not to date been returned. Even as late as the 1960s the Sweden-Finnish people of the Torne Valley had their native Finnish dialect banned from use in schools and public records.

Cultural imperialism since World War II has primarily been connected with the US. Most countries outside the United States view the pervasive US cultural export through business and popular culture as threatening to their traditional ways of life or moral values. Some countries, including France and Canada, have adopted official policies that actively oppose “Americanization”. Representatives of al-Qaeda stated that their attacks on US interests were motivated in part by a reaction to perceived US cultural imperialism.

Edward Said of Columbia University, one of the pioneers of post-colonial studies, has written extensively on the subject of cultural imperialism. His work highlights the misconceived assumptions about cultures and societies and is influenced by Michel Foucault's concepts of discourse and power. Foucault views the intellectual's role as no longer to place himself somewhat ahead and to the side in order to express the stifled truth of the collectivity. Rather, it is to struggle against the forms of power that transform him into its object and instrument in the sphere of knowledge, truth, consciousness, and discourse. In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional and not totalizing. This is a struggle against power, a struggle aimed at revealing and undermining power where it is most invisible and insidious. It is not to awaken consciousness that we struggle but to sap power, to take power; it is an activity conducted alongside those who struggle for power, and not their illumination. Colonialism, the political theory governing imperialism, is based on a belief that the mores of the colonizer are superior to those of the colonized on the basis on power. This colonial mentality explains why former colonies such as Hong Kong cling to the myth of the superiority of their colonial culture.

According to Said, the Orient signifies a system of representations framed by political forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and Western Empire. The Orient exists for the West, and is constructed by and in relation to the West. Orientalism refers to the study of Near and Far Eastern societies and cultures, generally by Westerners. It is a mirror image of what are inferior and alien (”Other”) to the West. Although this term had been abandoned as archaic by the late 20th century, Said argues that the term should be redefined to apply to any current study of such societies to correct current accounts of the Middle East, India, China, and elsewhere that reflects long-held Western biases. The discourse and visual imagery of Orientalism are laced with notions of power and superiority, formulated initially to facilitate a colonizing mission on the part of the West and perpetuated through a wide variety of discourses and policies.

Critical theorists regard Orientalism as part of an effort to justify colonialism through the concept of the “white man's burden”, and to wield the sword of modernity against allegedly “backward” civilizations. A critical theory is an account of morality that is sensitive to the historically contingent nature of the culture that spawned it: by adopting a hypothetical stance toward their own traditions and on this basis grasping their own cultural relativity, participants in the formation of a critical theory take a questioning stance toward their own practices while nonetheless avoiding the paralysis of moral relativism. The current coercive application of the Western concept of democracy, rule of law, individual freedom and market fundamentalism as universal truth is a legitimate target of critical theory.

Promoters of this Western version of modernity see its birth in the West through a radical transformation of its past. The West of the Middle Ages, built around a world view of Christian Scholasticism, was a society of religious philosophy, feudal law, and an agricultural economy. Out of this past, the Renaissance and Enlightenment produced a substantially new mentality of science, individualism, industrial capitalism and imperialism. The cultural foundation of this new mentality is that reason, not revelation, is the instrument of knowledge and arbiter of truth; that science, not religion, leads to truth about nature and life; that the pursuit of happiness in this life, not the quest for spiritual fulfillment, or suffering in preparation for the next, is the cardinal purpose of existence; that reason can and should be used to increase human control through economic and technological progress; that the individual person is an end in him/herself with the capacity to direct his/her own life, not a communal member of society with a prescribed social role; that individuals should be encouraged to indulge in inalienable rights to freedom of thought, speech, and action; that religious belief should be a private affair rather than a collective awareness, that intolerance is a social disease, and that church and state should be kept separate.

As the West grows stronger, tolerance of other cultures and of those within the West itself who refuse to participate is viewed increasingly as a sign of weakness. Domination takes on sophisticated, less visible forms. National sovereignty is pushed aside in the name of replacing command economies with markets, warfare with trade, and rule by king or commissar with token democracy. To resist neo-imperialism is to resist modernity. This view justifies the new empire of the sole superpower, self-proclaimed inheritor of Western civilization.

Yet this view of modernity misreads history. Thomas Aquinas (1225-71) benefited intellectually from his exposure to translations of works of Aristotle from Greek into Latin by Arab scholars to whose world view he became much indebted. He also profited intellectually from the rise of universities in Europe during 12th and 13th centuries, notably the University of Bologna (1088), known for its studies in law, the University of Padua (founded by dissidents from Bologna), the University of Paris, and Oxford University, all founded as centers of learning in theology, not science. In this new intellectual milieu in Europe, Aquinas applied Aristotelian syllogism as interpreted by Arab minds to medieval mysticism of revelation. His Summa Theologica (1267-73) was a systematic exposition of theology on rational philosophical principles worked out by the ancient Greeks as modified by Arab precision and algebra, which pioneered the use of variables in problem-solving in logic.

Up to that time, while Scholasticism, as advanced by St Augustine (354-430), would vindicate reason in theology, it would carefully differentiate between theology and philosophy. It would do so by confining theology, proceeding from faith, to investigations of revealed truths, while it would limit philosophy, based on reason, from concern with truths that transcended reason. Revealed truth would be proclaimed as discoverable only through faith.

The 13th century was a critical point in Christian thought regarding the relationship between faith and reason. The intellectual community in Christendom at that time was torn between claims of followers of Averroes (1126-98), Arabian philosopher from Cordoba in Spain, and claims of followers of St Augustine, troubled youth turned zealous convert, founder of Christian theology and spokesman for Christian mysticism.

Efforts of followers of Averroes in the 13th century to separate absolutely faith from truth clashed with the traditional claim of truth being exclusively a matter of faith. Such a claim had been made for the past nine centuries by followers of St Augustine, whose contribution to the evolution of Christianity was considered second only to that of St Paul, apostle to Gentiles and the greatest missionary apostle. Paul laid down the relentless approach of Western evangelism by applying to his missionary zeal the same vigor and intolerance he showed toward the persecution of Christians before his epiphany on the road to Damascus.

Averroes, Latin name for Abu-al-Walid Ibn Rushd, whose commentaries on Aristotle would remain influential for four centuries until the Renaissance, attempted to circumscribe the separate limits of faith and reason. He asserted that both could process truths and that the two separate realms need not be reconciled because they are not in conflict. Siger de Brabant of the University of Paris, leader of the Averroists, claimed in 1260 that it should be possible, as a matter of veracity, and tolerable, as a license in intellectual soundness, for a concept to be true in reason but false in faith or visa versa.

The doctrines of the Averroists, which include denying the immortality of the individual soul and upholding the eternity of matter, ended up being officially condemned by the Catholic Church.

St Thomas Aquinas, nicknamed Dumb Ox because of his slow and deliberate manner of speech, brilliant father of Neo-Scholasticism, aiming to resolve the dispute between Averroists and Augustinians, would hold that reason and faith constitute two harmonious realms in which the truth of faith complements that of reason, both being gifts of God, but reason having an autonomy of its own. The existence of God could therefore be discovered through reason, with the grace of God.

The theological significance of this momentous claim by Thomas Aquinas cannot be over-emphasized. It would save Christianity from falling into irrelevance in the Age of Reason, sometimes referred to as the Enlightenment, and preserve tolerance for faith among rational thinkers in the scientific world. The Thomist claim remained unchallenged for five centuries until David Hume (1711-86) pointed out in his Inquiry into Human Understanding that since the conclusion of a valid inference could contain no information not found in the premise, there could be no valid conclusion from observed to unobserved phenomena.

Hume let the logic air out of the Thomist natural-theology balloon, and in the process showed that even general laws of science could not be logically justified beyond their own limits, perhaps even including his own sweeping conclusion. Hume, the empiricist, would logically determine that logic is circular and goes nowhere: a classic position of Taoist skepticism.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) emancipated man's command of knowledge from Humean skepticism. In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant emphasized the contribution of the knower to knowledge. While acknowledging that the three great issues of metaphysics—God, freedom and immortality—could not be logically determined, he asserted that their essence is a necessary presupposition. In his subsequent publications, Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and Critique of Judgement (1790), Kant asserted as a moral law his famous categorical imperative requiring moral actions to be unconditionally and universally binding to absolute goodwill. Goodwill is singularly absent in imperialism, classic or neo.

Notwithstanding the enlightened breakthroughs of English Protestant empiricists such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and David Hume, and perhaps in reaction to them, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Aeterni Patris in 1879. It declared Scholasticism, as modified by Thomas Aquinas, to be official Catholic philosophy. Unwittingly, Scholasticism legitimized the independence of secular politics from Church control. If reason and faith constitute two harmonious realms in which the truth of faith complements that of reason, both being gifts of God, but reason having an autonomy of its own, then politics and religion can also belong to separate realms in which morality of religion complements virtue in politics, but politics having an autonomy of its own. It provided the theological rationalization for the separation of church and state.

Thus when Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and prolific author of great influence, wrote: “An all-out offensive, a jihad, should be waged against modernity so that … moral rearmament could take place. The ultimate objective is to re-establish the Kingdom of Allah upon earth,” he was rejecting not modernity but the modernity of the West. Qutb was not preaching for suffering in preparation for the next life as Western scholars such as Bernard Lewis allege, he wanted his civilization back and he wanted it now.

Qutb did not write out of ignorance of the West. His fundamentalism was formed during the two years he spent in the United States, which seemed to him “a disastrous combination of avid materialism and egoistic individualism”. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59), while admiring the energy and versatility of Americans, also thought they were too intent on making money and would be condemned to a commercial culture. In Tocqueville's opinion, Americans' notion of equality was derived from their “general equality of condition” rather than from moral commitment and that their equality might eventually be endangered by the domination of a new industrial class. Mawlana Abu’l-A’la Mawdudi (1903-79), the founder of the fundamentalist Jama’at-i Islami in India and Pakistan, was also militantly opposed to individualism. In an Islamic state, he wrote, “no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private”.

Modern Asia cannot be fully understood without a thorough awareness of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Western influence, from Christianity to liberalism to Marxism, has only been an ill-fitted costume over an ancient culture deeply rooted in Confucian values, Buddhist enlightenment mercy and Taoist paradox. Feudal culture in China has aspects of what modern political science would label fascist, socialist, democratic and anarchist. As a socio-political system, feudalism is inherently authoritarian and totalitarian. However, since feudal cultural ideals have always been meticulously nurtured by Confucianism to be congruent with the political regime, social control, while pervasive, is seldom consciously felt as oppression by the general public. Or, more accurately, social oppression—both vertical, such as sovereign to subject, and horizontal, such as gender prejudice—is considered natural for lack of an accepted alternative vision. Concepts such as equality, individuality, privacy, personal freedom and democracy are deemed antisocial, and only longed for by the deranged-of-mind, such as radical Taoists. This was true in large measure up to modern times when radical Taoists were transformed into radical political and cultural dissidents.

Buddhism (Fo Jiao) first appeared in China officially in AD 65. Some evidence suggests that it might have been imported to China from India as early as 2 BC. Since its introduction, Buddhism has permeated Chinese society and its economic life, despite periodic suppression by the state. It had affected the customs of all levels of society by the time of the Tang Dynasty some six centuries after its introduction. Buddhist temples, monasteries and shrines had been established in every part of the empire. The services of sengs (Buddhist monks) became indispensable for all social events, performing religious ceremonies for funerals and weddings, blessings for newborns, administering temples for the faithful and attending family shrines for the elite. Sengs functioned as preachers, teachers, scribes, artists and even doctors. Often they would become top advisors to the huangdi (emperor), and many sengs would even become powerful political figures both at court and at the local level.

The name Buddha (Fo) is a Sanskrit word meaning Enlightened One. It is the appellation conferred by the faithful on Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC), who came from the southern foothills of the Himalayas.

Buddhism originated at the end of 5th century BC in the valley of the middle Ganges in India. The religious sect first rose as a plebeian reaction to claims of spiritual and social supremacy by Hindu Brahman priests who were the ruling elite of the Indian caste system. Since that time, Buddhism has spread across political, social and ethnic boundaries as one of the three great religions of the world, the other two being Christianity and Islam.

Curiously, acceptance of Buddhism remained sporadic in India, its birthplace. The incorporation of Buddha by Hinduism as the ninth incarnation (avatar) of its god, Vishnu, seriously adulterated the autonomous uniqueness of Buddhism in India. The Muslim invasion of India from the 11th century gradually but effectively obliterated remaining Buddhist communities there. Similarly, Christianity remains a minority religion in the Middle East, its holy place of origin.

Kanishka, an ardent patron of Buddhism, was king of the Kushan Empire, which dominated northern India during the 2nd century AD. He was also known in history as the sponsor of a Greco-Buddhist style of sculpture, labeled by art historians as the Gandhara school, typified by curly-haired seated Buddha statues, which became the dominant Buddhist art form in East Asia. A gilded bronze Buddha of the Gandhara school is on display at the Harvard Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. More significant, Kanishka was instrumental in introducing Buddhism into Central Asia, whence it spread first to China, then Korea and finally Japan.

The branch of Buddhism that diffused into East Asia would take on different characteristics from the early sects of Buddha's own time. It would come to be known as Mahayana (Dasheng, meaning major vehicle), the scripture of which is written in classical Sanskrit, distinguishing itself from the older Hinayana (Xiaosheng, meaning minor vehicle), the scripture of which is written in a vernacular dialect (Prakrit) known as Pali. Hinayana Buddhism, remaining closer to ancient Buddhism, is practiced widely in Southeast Asia today.

The Sermon of the Turning of the Wheel of the Law, delivered by Buddha at Sarnath around 500 BC, elucidates the secret of a happy life by means of the Four Exalted Truths:

Truth I: Existence encompasses sorrow.
Truth II: Sorrow emanates from desire.
Truth III: Sorrow subsides when desire wanes.
Truth IV: Desire can be alleviated by following the Gracious Eight-Spectrum Path.

This Gracious Eight-Spectrum Path consists of:

Spectrum 1: Virtuous conviction.
Spectrum 2: Virtuous resolution: to renounce sensual pleasure, to harm no living creatures and ultimately to achieve salvation.
Spectrum 3: Virtuous speech.
Spectrum 4: Virtuous conduct.
Spectrum 5: Virtuous involvement.
Spectrum 6: Virtuous effort: to keep the mind free from evil and devoted to good.
Spectrum 7: Virtuous contemplation.
Spectrum 8: Virtuous meditation: to achieve an awareness of internal selflessness and external detachment.

Buddhist concerns are more ethical than metaphysical, focusing on human suffering, which is considered as inherent in life itself. Suffering can be dispelled only by abandoning desires such as ambition, selfishness, envy and greed. This approach to life is the diametrical opposite of the Western concept of modernity.

Detachment is key. Buddhists take vows against killing, stealing, falsehood, unchasteness and intoxication. They practice self-confession and try to live austere, ascetic lives with the objective of achieving nirvana, a state of blissful detachment that, when attained permanently, known as pari-nirvana, brings an end to the otherwise never-ending cycle of earth-bound rebirths through transmigration of the soul. The Four Exalted Truths of Buddhism have helped devotees deal with the tribulations of life. The Third Exalted Truth, sorrow subsides when desire wanes, has application to modern market economy. A basic Buddhist tenet: the secret of happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you get. So much for the concept of the pursuit of happiness in Western modernity. For the Buddhist idea of happiness, if you have to pursue it, you have lost it.

The reasons for China's popular embrace of Buddhism are complex and have been subject to constant reassessment. One commonly acknowledged reason is that Buddhism, while of foreign origin, shares commonality with both Taoist and Confucian concepts that are indigenous to Chinese culture. The passive side of Buddhism is Taoism, which practices contemplation and promotes self-awareness. And the active side of Buddhism is Confucianism, which advocates respect for authority and submission to propriety. Furthermore, Buddhism has provided, as it has evolved in China, elaborate, colorful ceremonies welcomed by one aspect of the collective Chinese character, hitherto suppressed through centuries of Confucian social restraint and Taoist self-denial.

Most of all, Buddhism fills a void left by traditional ancient Chinese religious concepts, which are centered rigidly around the trinity: 1) Heaven (Tian)—God. 2) Son of Heaven (Tianzi)—Emperor (sovereign). 3) The Hundred Surnames (Baixing)—People.

Heaven (Tian) is the abstract symbol of all things supernatural and authoritative, much like the manner in which the imperial court is referred to as the authoritative and decision-making body of the secular empire. God, a term that has no exact equivalent in the language of polytheistic Chinese culture, has its closest translation as Tiandi (King in Heaven), who is the highest god. Heaven as a realm is believed to be inhabited by a clan of gods and spirits (shen-gui), with hierarchical ranks, headed by Tiandi, similar to the Greek hierarchical community of gods headed by Zeus.

The secular huangdi (emperor) is the Son of Heaven (Tianzi), and the people, known as the Hundred Surnames (Baixing), are wards of huangdi. The people do not enjoy the privilege of directly communicating with Heaven, the domain of gods headed by Tiandi. The people's duty is to pay homage to the Son of Heaven, who alone possesses the privilege of communicating with and thanksgiving to Heaven. The most solemn ritual in Chinese feudal culture is the fengshan rites. It is a ritual that confers Heaven's abdication of authority on secular affairs in favor of huangdi.

Thus religion in China, before the arrival of Buddhism, had merely been a spiritual subsystem of the secular world. It was a spiritual extension of the rigid hierarchy of the ancient Chinese socio-political realm. Buddhism provided a previously unavailable outlet of direct religious expression for the common people. It introduced participatory religious experience into Chinese society. Whereas, in the context of the rigid Confucian social structure, Taoism (Dao Jia) provides the Chinese people with introverted individual spiritual freedom, Buddhism provides them with extroverted collective spiritual liberation, independent of communal hierarchy. Taoism allows the individual to contemplate privately, freeing him from the mental tyranny of an all-controlling culture, while Buddhism allows the people to worship independently, freeing them from the pervasive control of a rigid secular socio-political hierarchy.

Religion in China has a different meaning than in the West. The term “religion” in the Chinese language is composed of two characters: zong-jiao, literally meaning “ancestral teaching”. Until the spread of Buddhism, religious experience for the Chinese people had been limited to reverence toward the spirits of their departed ancestors. Buddhism provided the average devotee with direct access to God without requiring a denial of reverence for ancestral spirits. Until the introduction of Christianity, the Chinese were not required by religion to deny the spirituality of their ancestors. This demand for the rejection of ancestor worship was a key obstacle preventing Christianity from becoming a major religion in China. Incidentally, even in Christian theology, “God” is translated in Chinese as Shangdi, meaning “The King Above”. It is a celestial echo of the supreme ruler in the secular political system.

From its beginning, Buddhism took on an anti-establishment posture, which it moderated as it developed in China but never totally abandoned. Traditionally, in the early part of an emperor's reign, as soon as his rule was firmly established, he would perform the elaborate and formal fengshan rites. These Confucian rites of theocratic feudalism involve the paying of tribute by Tianzi (Son of Heaven) as huangdi (emperor), on behalf of his baixing, namely the people, to Tian (Heaven) where the head god Tiandi (King in Heaven) reigns. Through the fengshan rites, the huangdi received tribute and accepted loyalty pledges from his vassal lords on behalf of their many minions and subjects throughout the empire. Anyone besides the huangdi performing religious rites directly to Heaven would be committing forbidden acts tantamount to treasonous usurpation. Buddhism broke the monopolistic hold of the huangdi on religious celebration and opened it to all for the taking. Little wonder Buddhism spread like wildflowers.

By breaking down the hierarchical religious monopoly implied by Confucian fengshan rites, Buddhism in its early history in China unwittingly contributed to the crumbling of the foundation of a feudal hierarchy already in decline. Buddhism's populist theology bolstered the emergence of a secular structure in the form of a centrally managed empire, replacing autonomous local authority. In this new secular structure individuals could participate more freely in social functions, unrestricted by traditional local hierarchy.

The Buddhist notion of nirvana runs parallel to the concept of the Mandate of Heaven (Tianming). Ironically, by claiming that a state of nirvana could be earned through religious devotion by any deserving member of society, it implies that the Mandate of Heaven can also be earned by any deserving hero. Thus Buddhism invited periodic and recurring suppression from paranoid emperors who felt obliged to adopt anti-subversive measures against Buddhism, in order to defend the imperial claim on the Mandate of Heaven from challenges by ambitious members of the aristocracy who were Buddhist devotees.

While Buddhism serves as the fountainhead of the idea of open access for all to spiritual salvation, such universal access is dependent on the grace of detachment as exemplified by Buddha. This idea is akin to the detached central authority in an empire structure with the grace of a distant emperor who is less involved with the details of daily living of his subjects. It is less akin to the archaic hierarchical feudalism of autonomous local lords who control every detail of the lives of his fief. Thus Buddhism facilitated its own growth at the same time that it provided the philosophical justification for the flowering of a distant centralized political order in a complex, multi-dimensional society. The development of such a benign centralized political structure, first budding in imperial China in the 5th century, gathered unstoppable momentum around the 7th century.

The Buddhist concept of universal open access to nirvana had socio-political implications. It helped shift politics from being a contest among competing feudal lords refereed by an arbitrating huangdi to the beginning of an empirewide power struggle based on class interests. Since people were no longer dependent on their feudal lords for achieving the state of nirvana, they no longer felt inseparably bound to their lords in secular life. Gradually, merchants in the service of a particular feudal lord found stronger common interest with other merchants in the service of competing lords than their traditional commitment to clannish feudal loyalty. Before long, the same became true for farmers, scholars, artisans and other tradesmen. And with the tacit encouragement of expanding central power, people began to look to the huangdi as a higher authority to champion universal justice and to protect their separate class interests. They also looked to Buddhism to enhance the moral posture of class solidarity against the Confucian demand for absolute hierarchical loyalty toward their local lords. Thus the spread of Buddhism ushered in an age of strong central imperial authority on top of traditional feudalism with local autonomy. Through the spread of Buddhism, an empirewide standard now overshadowed fragmented local autonomy on basic issues of proper human relationship, justice and social order.

Simultaneously, however, Buddhist insistence on a clear separation of ecclesiastical authority from secular control caused constant conflict between the central authority of the dragon throne and independent-minded Buddhist fundamentalists. This conflict was exploited by freewheeling members of guizu (the aristocracy) for secular political purposes, particularly those in the south, where greater physical distance from the capital translated into greater local autonomy.

The intellectual role of Buddhist institutions grew increasingly significant and pervasive in Chinese culture. Sengs (Buddhist monks) of various sects, in addition to their religious undertakings, took to routinely writing philosophy, conducting schools and keeping libraries. The independence of Buddhist teaching from forbidding Confucian scholasticism was an important factor in Buddhism's popular flowering in China. Buddhist curricula were admittedly overburdened with time-consuming, mind-boggling theological studies, but the discipline acquired from such study methods more than compensated for the heavy investment in time and effort. Excellence in exegesis requires scholarship, research methodology, creative logic and secular evidential verification, qualities that learned sengs cultivated. Buddhist seng-scholars soon dominated the fields of mathematics, alchemy, medicine, astronomy and engineering. Buddhist impact on Chinese philosophy was fundamental, introducing new concepts, abstract terms and new words for the description and manipulation of previously unfathomable ideas. Buddhism's influence in Chinese art, architecture and literature was undeniably crucial. Such influence in Tang helped liberate Chinese culture from Confucianism's stultifying repression, particularly on new and creative ideas, much as Western scientific methods would 12 centuries later.

In literature, Buddhist sutras (fojing), which were more widely circulated and popularly read than abstruse and elitist Confucian classics, paved the way for other new and lengthy secular literary works, and prepared the reading public for acceptance of mixing prose with verse, for handling of multi-dimensional themes and, ultimately, for the birth of new literary genres such as the novel and drama.

Buddhist understanding of history and of the art of statecraft challenged the staid monopoly of orthodox Confucianism on politics. And Buddhists were increasingly recognized for relative objectivity in their judgment of history and for innovative originality in their approach to secular problems. In both military strategy and political theory, Buddhist intellectual contributions played major roles in a fragmented China's quest for reunification. In return, Buddhism flourished under those rulers, such as those of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), who were wise enough to employ universally potent Buddhist ideas and apply them to political advantage, let alone exploiting ready-made, broad-based support of mushrooming Buddhist communities all over the fragmented political landscape.

The development of China's culture, politics and spirit cannot be fully understood without taking into account the influence of Buddhism since its importation around 2 BC. From the 5th century AD on, Buddhists both contributed to, and in turn were affected by, the historic polarization in China during the era of North-South Dynasties (Nan-Bei Chao 420-589), a period spanning the late phase of Six Dynasties (Liu Chao 220-589) that emerged after the fall of the glorious Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) four centuries previously. Buddhism adapted itself during this period in the south to a society characterized by the independence of a transplanted guizu (aristocracy), with large estates of client groups. Its ecclesiastical structure developed into a network of loosely connected, but individually autonomous, monasteries.

It was therefore not surprising that the great southern seng (Buddhist monk) Huiyun (334-416) wrote an anti-Confucian essay titled “Treatise on the Exemption of Religious Institutions from Monarchial Authority” (Shamen bujing Wangzhi Lun). Written in 404, the treatise asserted the independence of religion from secular control. It was among the earliest intellectual treatises on the principle of separation of church and state.

During the era of North-South Dynasties, traditional central political authority in the north forced Buddhism to seek support from the ruling sovereign, who tended to be the sole source of secular favors. For example, with transparent motive and shrewd purpose, Seng Fakuo (died 420) of the Bei Wei Dynasty (Northern Wei 386-534), leader of the Buddhist clergy in the north, claimed Emperor Daowu (reigned 386-409) as the living reincarnation of Buddha. Seng Fakuo was bestowed high secular titles during his life, culminating with a hereditary rank of lord.

Buddhists of 7th-century China sought favoritism from the secular state at the same time they asserted their independence and separation from traditional imperial institutions by calling for Buddhist exemption from taxation, military service and the long arm of secular law. This inherently contradictory posture still would not have brought the wrath of the dragon throne on Buddhists if they had not been simultaneously engaged in secular factional intrigues and class politics.

Furthermore, growing abuse of religious privileges and laxity in monastic discipline inevitably forced the dragon throne to adopt intrusive measures of control on theology, and secular supervision of ecclesiastic establishments. Also, proliferation of clerical ordination and monasterial founding, much of which was less than legitimate if not outright fraudulent, began to deprive the state of much-needed manpower and tax revenue. The removal from the economy of large tracts of prime land that would be donated outright, or under formulas of deferred giving, or sometimes through fraudulent, tax-evading schemes, caused serious economic imbalance in many areas. The sanctuary provided by Buddhist monasteries to the lawless, to tax evaders and conscript dodgers, as well as to political dissidents, also threatened the totalitarian authority of the dragon throne and security interests of the secular order.

The huge expense of Buddhist temple construction, the costly maintenance of an ever-expanding clergy population and its associated lay communities and the drain on the scarce supply of metal caused by the casting of ever larger and larger Buddhist statues and bells interfered with the secular state's own increasingly ambitious plans for domestic capital construction and for arms production needed by foreign conquest.

The growing economic power of Buddhist monasteries, often the main socio-economic institutions in many regions, also had destabilizing political implications. While Buddhism was repeatedly sponsored by secular authorities for political purposes, official anti-Buddhist pogroms, known as shatai (ecclesiastical cleansing), systematically recurred throughout the long history of China. This continued up to the Christian-supported 1911 Democratic Revolution that established the Nationalist Republic, not to mention the subsequent Marxist-Leninist People's Republic, particularly during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.

The distressing phenomenon of shatai became even more complex when other issues, such as xenophobia, backlash from social reform, and preventive suppression of political revolts mingled with traditional socio-political pressure for curbing Buddhist expansion into the secular world. State persecution and state sponsorship of religion proved always to be two sides of the same evil coin.

Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1984), Swedish sociologist-economist, in his 1944 definitive study The American Dilemma, for which he received the 1974 Nobel Prize for Economics, having declared the “Negro” problem in the United States to be inextricably entwined with the democratic functioning of American society, went on to produce a 1976 study of Southeast Asia: The Asian Dilemma. In it he identified Buddhist acceptance of suffering as the prime cause for economic underdevelopment in the region. Myrdal's conclusion would appear valid superficially, given the coincidence of an indisputable existence of conditions of poverty in the region at the time of his study and the pervasive influence of Buddhism in Southeast Asian culture, until the question is asked as to why, whereas Buddhism has dominated Southeast Asia for more than a millennium, pervasive poverty in the region only made its appearance after the arrival of Western imperialism in the 19th century.

Marxists and nationalists, many of both professing no love for Buddhism, suggested that Myrdal had been influenced in his convenient conclusion by his eagerness to deflect responsibility for the sorry state of affairs in the region from the legacy of Western imperialism. As theological apologists tried to rationalize social misery with an accommodating theology to capture the appreciation of the secular polity, Myrdal, social scientist, tried to blame indigenous religion for the sins of secular geopolitics.

That which Western scholars identify as the process of modernity appears to have occurred in China's history more than once.

Part 3: Rule of law vs Confucianism

The rule of law has been touted frequently by Western scholars as a central aspect of modernity. According to that measure of periodization, since the rule of law was the basis of the first unification of China in the 2nd century BC, modernity occurred 23 centuries ago in China.

Researchers have pointed out that at the end of the 17th century, while the Chinese empire often appeared in English literature as a metaphor for “tyranny”, such as in the works of Daniel Defoe, best known for his 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, it was also at times praised for its legal code long established on ideals of order, morality, and good government, such as in the work of Lady Mary Chudleigh, to the more uniform perception of China's legal system at the turn of the century, when George Henry Mason published The Punishments of China (1801). Michel Foucault's analytical approach to history highlights the limitations of European efforts to comprehend China's moral, juridical and legal structures.

The promulgation of a new edition of law, known as the Tang Code of Perpetual Splendor (Tang Yonghui Lu), in the 10th lunar month in the fourth year of the reign of Perpetual Splendor (Yonghui) of the Tang Dynasty, in AD 653, was in reality just an update effort, based on the original Tang Code (Tang Lu), which in turn was based on the Sui Code (Sui Lu), which had initially been compiled 73 years earlier by the late founding Civil Emperor (Wendi) of the preceding Sui Dynasty and updated ever since by every succeeding sovereign. But the Tang Code of Perpetual Splendor is singled out by history, mostly because of its definitive comprehensiveness.

The original Tang Code was promulgated 29 years earlier, in 624, by the founding High Grand Emperor (Gaozu) of the Tang Dynasty. It would become in modern times the earliest fully preserved legal code in the history of Chinese law. It was endowed with a commentary, known as Tanglu Shuyi, incorporated in 653, the fourth year of the reign of Perpetual Splendor, as part of the Tang Code of Perpetual Splendor.

The Tang Code was based on the Code of Northern Zhou (Bei Zhou Lu, 557-581), promulgated 89 years earlier in 564, which was in turn based on the earlier, less comprehensive and less elaborate Code of Cao Wei (Cao Wei Lu, 220-265) and the Code of Western Jin (Xi Jin Lu, 265-317) promulgated almost four centuries earlier in 268.

Western perception on the alleged underdevelopment of law in Chinese civilization is based on both factual ignorance and cultural bias. Chinese dismissal of the rule of law is not a rejection of modernity, but a rejection of primitiveness. Confucian attitude places low reliance on law and punishment for maintaining social order. Evidence of this can be found in the Aspiration (Zhi) section of the 200-volume Old Book on Tang (Jiu Tang Shu), a magnum opus of Tang historiography. The history classic was compiled under official supervision in 945 during the Late Jin Dynasty (Hou Jin, 936-946) of the era of Five Generations (Wudai, 907-960), some three centuries after the actual events. A single chapter on Punishment and Law (Xingfa) places last after seven chapters on Rites (Liyi), after which come four chapters on Music (Yinyue), three chapters on Calendar (Li), two on Astronomy and Astrology (Tianwen), one on Physics (Wuheng), four on Geography (Dili), three on Hierarchy of Office (Zhiguan), one on Carriages and Costume (Yufu), two on Sutras and Books (Jingji), two on Commodities (Chihuo) and finally comes a single chapter Punishment and Law, in that order.

The Confucian Code of Rites (Liji) is expected to be the controlling document on civilized behavior, not law. In the Confucian world view, rule of law is applied only to those who have fallen beyond the bounds of civilized behavior. Civilized people are expected to observe proper rites. Only social outcasts are expected to have their actions controlled by law. Thus the rule of law is considered a state of barbaric primitiveness, prior to achieving the civilized state of voluntary observation of proper rites. What is legal is not necessarily moral or just.

Under the supervision of Tang Confucian minister Fang Xuanling, 500 sections of ancient laws were compiled into 12 volumes in the Tang Code, titled:

Vol 1: Term and Examples (Mingli)
Vol 2: Security and Forbiddance (Weijin)
Vol 3: Office and Hierarchy (Zhizhi)
Vol 4: Domestic Matters and Marriage (Huhun)
Vol 5: Stables and Storage (Jiuku)
Vol 6: Impeachment and Promotion (Shanxing)
Vol 7: Thievery and Robbery (Zeidao)
Vol 8: Contest and Litigation (Dousong)
Vol 9: Deceit and Falsehood (Zhawei)
Vol 10: Miscellaneous Regulation (Zalu)
Vol 11: Arrest and Escape (Buwang)
Vol 12: Judgment and Imprisonment (Duanyu)

The Tang Code lists five forms of corporal punishment:

1. Flogging (Chi)
2. Caning (Zhang)
3. Imprisonment (Tu)
4. Exile (Liu)
5. Death (Si)

Leniency is applied to Eight Considerations (Bayi):

1. Blood relation
2. Motive for the crime
3. Virtue of the culprit
4. Ability of the culprit
5. Past merits
6. Nobility status
7. Friendship
8. Diligent character

Criminals above age 90 and those under age seven received only suspended sentences. For others, sentences could be redeemed by cash payments. A death sentence was worth 120 catties of copper coins (1 catty = 1.33 pounds). Officials were entitled to discounts on sentences on private civil offenses: those of Fifth Ranks and above were entitled to a reduction of two years; those of ninth rank and above were entitled to one year; but for public crimes, an additional year was added to the sentence for all officials.

Exempt from leniency are 10 Categories of Wickedness (Shiwu): 1. Conspiratorial sedition (moufan) 2. Conspiratorial grand rebellion (moudani) 3. Conspiratorial insubordination (moupan) 4. Conspiratorial vicious rebelliousness (moueni) 5. Immorality (budao) 6. Disrespectfulness (bujing) 7. Deficiency in filial virtue (buxiao) 8. Antisocial behavior (bulu) 9. Unrighteousness and disloyalty (buyi) 10. Instigation of internal chaos (neiluan)

The Chinese term for “law” is fa-lu. The word fa means “method”. The word lu means “standard”. In other words, law is a methodical standard for behavior in society. A musical instrument with resonant tubes that form the basis of musical scales, the Chinese equivalent of the tuning fork, is also called lu. In law, the word lu implies a standard scale for measuring social behavior of civilized men.

The first comprehensive code of law in China had been compiled by the Origin Qin Emperor (Qin Shihuangdi, reigned 246-210 BC), unifier of China. Known as the Qin Code (Qin Lu), it was a political instrument as well as a legal one. It was the legislative manifestation of a Legalist political vision. It aimed at instituting uniform rules for prescribing appropriate social behavior in a newly unified social order. It sought to substitute fragmented traditional local practices, left from the ancient regime of privileged aristocratic lineages. It tried to dismantle Confucian exemptions accorded to special relationships based on social hierarchies and clan connections.

The pervasive growth of new institutions in the unifying Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) was the result of objective needs of a rising civilization. Among these new institutions was a unified legal system of impartial rewards and punishments according to well-promulgated and clearly defined codes of prescribed behavior. The law was enforced through the practice of lianzuo (linked seats), a form of social control by imposing criminal liability on the perpetrator's clan members, associates and friends. Qin culture heralded the later emergence of a professional shidafu (literati-bureaucrat) based on meritocracy. It also introduced a uniform system of weights, measures and monetary instruments and it established standard trade practices for the smooth operation of a unified economic system for the whole empire. The effect of Qin Legalist governance on Chinese political culture pushed Chinese civilization a great step forward toward forging an unified nation and culture, but in the process lost much of the richness of its ancient, local traditions and rendered many details of its fragmented past incomprehensible to posterity.

In the first half of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), the Han imperial government adopted the Legalist policies of the Qin Dynasty it had replaced. It systemically expanded its power over tribal guizu by wholesale adaptation of Legalist political structure from the brief (15 years) but consequential reign of the preceding Qin Dynasty. Gradually, with persistent advice from Confucian ministers, in obsessive quest for dependable political loyalty to the Han dynastic house, Legalist policies of equal justice for all were abandoned in favor of Confucian tendencies of formalized exemptions from law, cemented with special relationships (guanxi) based on social positions and kinship. The Tang Code, promulgated in AD 624, institutionalized this Confucian trend by codifying it. It would lay the foundation for a hierarchal social structure that would generate a political culture that would resist the proposition that all men are created equal to mean similarity. In Confucian culture, civilized man is created as closely connected individuals to form building blocks of society. It is the universality of man that celebrates individualism, not the Western notion of alienation as individualism.

Elaborately varied degrees of punishment are accorded by the Tang Code to the same crime committed by persons of different social stations, just as Confucian rites ascribe varying lengths of mourning periods to the survivors of the deceased of various social ranks. According to Confucian logic, if the treatment for death, the most universal of fates, is not socially equal, why should it be for the treatment for crime? William Blake (1757-1827), born 23 centuries after Confucius (551-479 BC), would epitomize the problem of legal fairness in search for true justice, by his famous pronouncement: “One law for the lion and the ox is oppression.” Confucians are not against the concept of equal justice for all; they merely have a sophisticated notion of the true meaning of justice.

In Chinese history, the entrenched political feudal order relies on the philosophical concepts of Confucianism (Ru Jia). The rising agricultural capitalistic order draws on the ideology of Legalism (Fa Jia). These two philosophical postures, Confucianism and Legalism, in turn construct alternative and opposing moral contexts, each providing rationalization for the ultimate triumph of its respective sponsoring social order.

The struggle between these two competing social orders has been going on, with alternating periods of triumph for each side, since the Legalist Qin Dynasty first united China in 221 BC, after 26 years of unification war. The effect of this struggle was still visible in the politics of contemporary China, particularly during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution of 1966-78, when the Gang of Four promoted Legalist concepts to attack the existing order, accusing it of being Confucian in philosophy and counterrevolutionary in ideology. To the extent that “left” and “right” convey meaningful images in modern political nomenclature, Taoism (Dao Jia) would be to the left of Confucianism as Legalism would be to the right.

Modern Legalists in China, such as the so-called Gang of Four, were the New Left, whose totalitarian zeal to promote social justice converged, in style if not in essence, with the New Right, or neo-conservatives of the West, in its reliance on authoritarian zeal to defend individualism. Thus the notion that modernity is a Western phenomenon is highly problematic.

The flowering of Chinese philosophy in the 5th century BC was not accidental. By that time, after the political disintegration of the ancient Xi Zhou Dynasty (Western Zhou, 1027-771 BC), Chinese society was at a crossroads in its historical development. Thus an eager market emerged for various rival philosophical underpinnings to rationalize a wide range of different, competing social systems. The likes of Confucius were crisscrossing the fragmented political landscape of petty independent kingdoms, seeking fame and fortune by hawking their moral precepts and political programs to ambitious and opportunistic monarchs.

Traditionally, members of the Chinese guizu (the aristocracy) were descendants of hero warriors who provided meritorious service to the founder of a dynasty. Relatives of huangdi (the emperor), provided they remained in political good graces, also became aristocrats by birthright, although technically they were members of huangzu (the imperial clan). The emperor lived in constant fear of this guizu class, more than he feared the peasants, for guizu members had the means and political ambition for successful coups. Peasant uprisings in Chinese history have been rare, only seven uprisings in 4,000 years of recorded history up to the modern time. Moreover, these uprisings have tended to aim at local abuse of power rather than at central authority. Aristocratic coups, on the other hand, have been countless and frequent.

In four millennia, Chinese history recorded 559 emperors. Approximately one-third of them suffered violent deaths from aristocratic plots, while none had been executed by rebelling peasants.

The political function of the emperor was to keep peace and order among contentious nobles and to protect peasants from aristocratic abuse. This was the basic rationale of government as sovereign. A sovereign, whether an emperor or a president, without the loyal support of peasants, euphemistically referred to as the Mandate of Heaven (Tianming), would soon find himself victim of a palace coup or aristocratic revolt. This is the socialist root of all governments. The neo-liberal claim of the proper role of government as ensuring a free market is a capitalist cooptation of government.

The Code of Rites (Liji), the ritual compendium as defined by Confucius, circumscribed acceptable personal behavior for all in a hierarchical society. It established rules of appropriate socio-political conduct required in a feudal civilization. Unfortunately, ingrained conditioning by conservative Confucian teaching inevitably caused members of the aristocratic class to degenerate in time from truly superior stock into mediocre and decadent seekers of unearned privileges. Such degeneration was brought about by the nature of their privileged life and the false security derived from a Confucian superiority complex. Although the process might sometimes take centuries to take shape, some dynasties would crumble within decades through the unchecked excesses of their ruling classes.

Confucianism, by promoting unquestioning loyalty toward authority, encouraged the powerful to abuse their power, despite Confucianism's reliance on ritual morality as a mandate for power. Confucianism is therefore inescapably the victim of its own success, as Taoists are fond of pointing out.

Generally, those who feel they can achieve their political objectives without violence would support the Code of Rites. While those whose political objectives are beyond the reach of non-violent, moral persuasion would dismiss it as a tool of oppression. Often, those who attacked the Code of Rites during their rise to power would find it expedient to promote, after achieving power, the very code they belittled before, since they soon realized that the Code of Rites was the most effective governing tool for a sitting ruler.

To counter hostile tendencies toward feudal values and to ensure allegiance to the feudal system, keju (civil examinations), while providing equal opportunity to all talented, were designed to test candidates on their knowledge of a syllabus of Confucian doctrines contained in the Five Classics (Wujing). Confucian ethics were designed to buttress the terms of traditional social contract. They aimed to reduce potential for violent conflict between the arrived and the arriving. They aimed to channel the powerful energy of the arriving into a constructive force for social renewal. Confucian ethics aimed to forge in perpetuity a continuing non-violent dialectic eclecticism, to borrow a Hegelian term for the benefit of Western comprehension.

The violent overthrow of the government, a criminal offense in the United States, is a moral sin in Confucian ethics. It is therefore natural that budding revolutionaries should attack Confucian ethics as reactionary, and that those already in power should tirelessly promote Confucian ethics as the only proper code of behavior for a self-renewing, civilized socio-political order. In Chinese politics, Confucianism is based on a theory of rule by self-restraint. It advocates the sacredness of hierarchy and the virtue of loyalty. It is opposed by Legalism, which subscribes to a theory of rule by universal law and impartial enforcement. Again, the Western claim that the rule of law is a unique foundation of modernity peculiar to the West is historically unsubstantiated.

Although Buddhists have their own disagreements with Legalist concepts, particularly on the issue of mercy, which they value as a virtue while Legalists detest it as the root of corruption, such disagreements are muted by Buddhist appreciation of Legalist opposition to both Confucianism and Taoism, ideological nemeses of Buddhism (Fo Jiao). Above all, Buddhists need for their own protection Legalism's opposition to selective religious persecution. Legalism, enemy of Buddhism's enemies, is selected by Buddhists as a convenient ally.

Legalism places importance on three aspects. The first is shi (authority), which is based on the legitimacy of the ruler and the doctrinal orthodoxy of his policies. The second is shu (skill) in manipulative exercise of power, and the third is fa (law), which, once publicly proclaimed, should govern universally without exceptions. These three aspects Legalists consider as three pillars of a well-governed society. If the rule of law is a characteristic of modernity, then modernity arrived in China in 3rd century BC.

According to Confucian political theory, the essential political function of all subjects is to serve the emperor, not personally, but as sovereign, who is the sole legitimate personification of the political order and sovereign of the political realm. Legalists argue that while all powers emanate by right from the Son of Heaven, the proper execution of these powers can take place only within an impartial system of law. While people should be taught their ritual responsibilities, they should at the same time be held responsible by law not only for each person's individual acts but also for one another's conducts, as an extensive form of social control within a good community. Therefore, punishment should be meted out to not only the culprit, but also to his relatives, friends, associates and neighbors, for negligence of their ritual duties in constraining the culprit. This is natural for a society in which the individual is inseparable from community.

Efficiency of government and equal justice for all are cardinal rules of good politics. Legalists believe that administration of the state should be entrusted to officials appointed according to merit, rather than to hereditary nobles or literati with irrelevant scholarship. Even granting validity to the extravagant Taoist claim that ideas, however radical, are inherently civilized and noble, Legalists insist that when ideas are transformed into unbridled action, terror, evil, vulgarity and destruction emerge. Freedom of thought must be balanced by rule of law to restrain the corruption of ideas by action.

Whereas being well versed in Confucianism bound the shidafu class culturally as faithful captives to the imperial system, such rigid mentality ironically also rendered its subscribers indifferent to objective problem-solving. Thus Confucianism, by its very nature, would ensure eventual breakdown of the established order, at which point Legalism would gain ascendancy for a period, to put in place new policies and laws that would be more responsive to objective conditions. But Confucians took comfort in the fact that, in time, the new establishment that Legalists put in charge would discover the utilitarian advantage of Confucianism to the ruling elite. And the cycle of conservative consolidation would start once again. Generally, periods of stability and steady decay would last longer than intervals of violent renewal through Legalist reform, so that Confucianism would become more ingrained after each cycle. Western capitalism is in essence a feudal system, supported by a legal system that legitimizes property rights and class distinction based on private capital ownership. In contemporary Chinese political nomenclature, the proletariat is defined not merely as workers, but the property-less class.

This perpetual, cyclical development proves to the Taoist mind that indeed “life goes in circles”. It is an astute observation made by the ancient sage Laozi, father of Taoism, who lived during the 6th century BC and who was the alleged ancestor of the Tang imperial clan of 7th century AD.

The so-called Gang of Four promoted Legalist politics in China in the 1970s. They used Marxist orthodox doctrine, reinforced by the Maoist personality cult, as shi (influence), Communist party discipline as shu (skill) for exercising power, and dictatorial rule as fa (laws) to be obeyed with no exceptions allowed for tradition, ancient customs or special relationships and with little regard for human conditions. Legalists yearn for a perfectly administered state, even if the price is the unhappiness of its citizens. They seek an inviolable system of impartial justice, without extenuating allowances, even at the expense of the innocent. When a priori truth appears threatened by fidelity in logic, Confucians predictably always rely on faithful loyalty to tradition as a final argument.

Confucius, the quintessential conservative, the most influential philosopher in Chinese culture, admired the idealized society of the ancient Xi Zhou Dynasty, when men purportedly lived in harmony under sage rulers.

The fact that the Zhou Dynasty had been a feudal society based on slavery did not concern Confucius. To the idealist Confucius, hierarchical stations in human society were natural and symbiotic. If everyone would contentedly do his duty according to his particular station in society, and with an accepting state of mind known as anfen, then all men would benefit as social life meliorates toward an ideal state of high civilization.

To Confucius, the lot of a slave in a good society was preferable to that of a lord in a society marked by chaos and uncivilized immorality. Violent social changes would only create chaos, which would bring decay and destruction to all, lords and slaves alike. Such violent changes would kill the patient in the process of fighting the disease. Confucius apparently never sought the opinion of any slave on this matter.

Like Plato, Confucius conceived a world in which the timeless ideal of morality constitutes the perfect reality, of which the material world is but a flawed reflection.

The Zhou people, according to Confucius—in stark contrast to historical fact—aspired to be truthful, wise, good and righteous. They allegedly observed meticulously their social ritual obligation (li) and with clear understanding of the moral content of such rites. Confucius never explained why the Zhou people failed so miserably in their noble aspirations, or the cause of their eventual fall from civilized grace.

In the Confucian world view, men have degenerated since the fall of the Zhou Dynasty. As a result of barbarian invasions of Chinese society and of natural atrophy, social order has broken down. But, being fundamentally good, men can be salvaged through education, the key to which is moral examples, emanating from the top, because the wisest in an ideal society would naturally rise to the top. And they have a responsibility to teach the rest of society by the examples of their moral behavior.

Chinese audiences always enjoy hearing that greatness in Chinese culture is indigenous while decadence is solely the influence of foreign barbarians. Collective self-criticism, unlike xenophobia, has never been a favorite Chinese preoccupation. Chinese narcissism differs from Western narcissism in that superiority is based not on physical power but on social benevolence. From the Chinese historical perspective, the defeat of civilized Athens at the hand of militant Sparta set the entire Western civilization on the wrong footing. It represented the triumph of barbarism from which the West has never recovered.

The Zhou people that Confucius idolized traced their ancestry to the mythical deity Houji, god of agriculture. This genealogical claim had no factual basis in history. Rather, it had been invented by the Zhou people to mask their barbaric origin as compared with the superior culture of the preceding Shang Dynasty (1600-1028 BC), which they had conquered and whose culture they had appropriated, just as the Romans invented Aeneas, mythical Trojan hero, son of Anchises and Venus, as father of their lineage to give themselves an ancestor as cultured and ancient as those of the more sophisticated Greeks. The Tang imperial house was at least humble enough to coopt only Laozi, a real historical figure rather than a god.

The historic figure responsible for the flowering of Zhou culture was Ji Dan, Duke of Zhou, known reverently as Zhougong in Chinese. Zhougong was the third-ranking brother of the founding Martial King (Wuwang, 1027-1025 BC) of the Zhou Dynasty. The Martial King claimed to be a 17th-generation descendant of the god Houji, who allegedly gave the Chinese people the gift of agriculture. In Chinese politics, appropriation of mythical celebrities as direct ancestors of political rulers started long before the claim by the Tang imperial house on Laozi, founder of Taoism.

Zhougong introduced to Chinese politics the practice of hereditary monarchy based on the principle of primogeniture. He put an end to the ancient tribal custom of the Shang Dynasty of crowning the next younger brother of a deceased king.

In defiance of established tradition, after the death of the Martial King (Wuwang) of the Zhou Dynasty in 1025 BC, Zhougong, third-ranking brother, arranged to usurp the dragon throne for his nephew, Cheng Wang, 12-year-old son of the deceased Martial King. The move bypassed Zhougong's older, second-ranking brother, Ji Guanxu, the legitimate traditional heir according to ancient tribal custom. Ji Guanxu rebelled in protest to defend his legitimate right to succeed his deceased older brother. But he was defeated and killed in battle by Zhougong.

Hereditary monarchy based on the principle of primogeniture as established by Zhougong has since been viewed by historians as the institution that launched modern political statehood out of primitive tribal nationhood. It has been credited with having fundamentally advanced Chinese civilization. Modernity began with the nation-state, and in China that transition occurred more than a millennium before the birth of Christ.

Having acted as regent for seven years on behalf of Cheng Wang (1024-1005 BC), his under-aged nephew king, the fratricidal Zhougong returned political power, some would say involuntarily, to the fully grown Cheng Wang. The descendants of Cheng Wang upheld hereditary monarchy in the Zhou Dynasty for three more centuries and firmly established primogeniture as an unquestioned tradition in Chinese political culture.

Zhougong gave Chinese civilization the Five Rites and the Six Categories of Music, which form the basis of civilization. Confucian idealism manifests human destiny in a civilization rooted in morality as defined by the Code of Rites, without which man would revert back to the state of wild beasts. Zhougong was credited with having established feudalism as a socio-political order during his short regency of only seven years. He institutionalized it with an elaborate system of Five Rites (Wuli) that has survived the passage of time.

The Five Rites are:

1. Rites governing social relationships
2. Rites governing behavioral codes
3. Rites governing codes of dress
4. Rites governing marriage
5. Rites governing burial practices

He also established Six Categories of Music (Liuluo) for all ritual occasions, giving formal ceremonial expression to social hierarchy. Confucius revered Zhougong as the father of formal Chinese feudal culture. The son of Zhougong, by the name of Ji Baqin, had been bestowed the First Lord of the State of Lu by Cheng Wang (1024-1005 BC), second-generation ruler of the Zhou dynasty who owed his dragon throne to Zhougong, his third-ranking uncle. Five centuries later, the State of Lu became the adopted home of Confucius, who had been born in the State of Song.

However, the pragmatic descendants of Zhougong in the State of Lu did not find appealing the revivalist advice of Confucius, even when such advice had been derived from the purported wisdom of Zhougong, their illustrious ancestor. Confucius, as an old sage, had to peddle his moralist ideas in other neighboring states for a meager living. In despair, Confucius, the frustrated rambling philosopher, was recorded to have lamented in resignation: “It has been too long since I last visited Zhougong in my dreams.”

The essential idea underlying the political thinking in Confucian philosophy is that fallen men require the control of repressive institutions to restore their innate potential for goodness. According to Confucius, civilization is the inherent purpose of human life, not conquest. To advance civilization is the responsibility of the wise and the cultured, both individually and collectively. Enlightened individuals should teach ignorant individuals. Cultured nations should bring civilization to savage tribes.

A superior ruler should cultivate qualities of a virtuous man. His virtue would then influence his ministers around him. They in turn would be examples to others of lower ranks, until all men in the realm are permeated with noble, moral aptitude. The same principle of trickle-down morality would apply to relations between strong and weak nations and between advanced and developing cultures and economies.

Rudyard Kipling's notion of “the white man's burden” would be Confucian in principle, provided that one agrees with his interpretation of the “superiority” of the white man's culture. Modern Confucians would consider Kipling (1865-1936) as having confused Western material progress with moral superiority, as measured by a standard based on virtue.

Confucius would have thoroughly approved of the ideas put forth by Plato (427-347 BC) in the Republic, in which a philosopher king rules an ideal kingdom where all classes happily go about performing their prescribed separate socio-economic functions.

Taoists would comment that if only life were so neat and simple, there would be no need for philosophy.

Confucian ideas have aspects that are similar to Christian beliefs, only down side up. Christ taught the pleasure-seeking and power-craving Greco-Roman world to love the weak and imitate the poor, whose souls were proclaimed as pure. Confucius taught the materialistic Chinese to admire the virtuous and respect the highly placed, whose characters were presumed to be moral.

The word ren, a Chinese term for human virtue, means “proper human relationship”. Without exact equivalent in English, the word ren is composed by combining the ideogram “man” with the numeral 2, a concept necessitated by the plurality of mankind and the quest for proper interpersonal relationship. It is comparable to the Greek concept of humanity and the Christian notion of divine love, the very foundation of Christianity.

Without exact equivalent in English, the word ren is composed by combining the ideogram “man” with the numeral 2, a concept necessitated by the plurality of mankind and the quest for proper interpersonal relationship. It is comparable to the Greek concept of humanity and the Christian notion of divine love, the very foundation of Christianity.

Confucius' well-known admonition, “Do not unto others that which you not wish to have done to yourself,” has been frequently compared with Christ's teaching, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Both lead to the same end, but from opposite directions. Confucius was less intrusively interfering but, of course, unlike Christ, he had the benefit of having met Laozi, founder of Taoism and consummate proponent of benign non-interference. A close parallel was proclaimed by Hillel (30 BC-AD 10), celebrated Jewish scholar and president of the Sanhedrin, in his famous maxim: “Do not unto others that which is hateful unto thee.”

By observing rites of Five Relationships, each individual would clearly understand his social role, and each would voluntarily behave according to proper observance of rites that meticulously define such relationships. No reasonable man would challenge the propriety of the Five Relationships (Wulun). It is the most immutable fixation of cultural correctness in Chinese consciousness.

The Five Relationships (Wulun) governed by Confucian rites are those of:

1. Sovereign to subject
2. Parent to child
3. Elder to younger brother
4. Husband to wife
5. Friend to friend

These relationships form the basic social structure of Chinese society. Each component in the relationships assumes ritual obligations and responsibility to the others at the same time he or she enjoys privileges and due consideration accorded by the other components.

Confucius would consider heretical the ideas of Jean Jacques Rousseau (1721-28), who would assert two millennia after Confucius that man is good by nature but is corrupted by civilization.

Confucius would argue that without a Code of Rites (Liji) for governing human behavior, as embedded in the ritual compendium defined by him based on the ideas of Zhougong, human beings would be no better than animals, which Confucius regarded with contempt. Love of animals, a Buddhist notion, is an alien concept to Confucians, who proudly display their species prejudice.

Confucius acknowledged man to be benign by nature but, in opposition to Rousseau, he saw man's goodness only as an innate potential and not as an inevitable characteristic. To Confucius, man's destiny lies in his effort to elevate himself from savagery toward civilization in order to fulfill his potential for good.

The ideal state rests on a stable society over which a virtuous and benevolent sovereign/emperor rules by moral persuasion based on a Code of Rites rather than by law. Justice would emerge from a timeless morality that governs social behavior. Man would be orderly out of self-respect for his own moral character rather than from fear of punishment prescribed by law. A competent and loyal literati-bureaucracy (shidafu) faithful to a just political order would run the government according to moral principles rather than following rigid legalistic rules devoid of moral content. The behavior of the sovereign is proscribed by the Code of Rites. Nostalgic of the idealized feudal system that purportedly had existed before the Spring and Autumn Period (Chunqiu, 770-481 BC) in which he lived, Confucius yearned for the restoration of the ancient Zhou socio-political culture that existed two-and-a-half centuries before his time. He dismissed the objectively different contemporary social realities of his own time as merely symptoms of chaotic degeneration. Confucius abhorred social atrophy and political anarchy. He strove incessantly to fit the real and imperfect world into the straitjacket of his idealized moral image. Confucianism, by placing blind faith on a causal connection between virtue and power, would remain the main cultural obstacle to China's periodic attempts to evolve from a society governed by men into a society governed by law. The danger of Confucianism lies not in its aim to endow the virtuous with power, but in its tendency to label the powerful as virtuous. This is a problem that cannot be solved by the rule of law, since law is generally used by the powerful to control the weak.

Mencius claimed that the Mandate of Heaven was conditioned on virtuous rule. Mencius (Meng-tzu, 371-288 BC), prolific apologist for Confucius, the equivalent embodiment of St Paul and Thomas Aquinas in Confucianism, though not venerated until the 11th century AD during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), greatly contributed to the survival and acceptance of the ideas of Confucius. But Mencius went further. He argued that a ruler's authority is derived from the Mandate of Heaven (Tianming), that such mandate is not perpetual or automatic and that it depends on good governance worthy of a virtuous sovereign.

The concept of a Mandate of Heaven as proposed by Mencius is in fact a challenge to the concept of the divine right of absolute monarchs. The Mandate of Heaven can be lost through the immoral behavior of the ruler, or failings in his responsibility for the welfare of the people, in which case Heaven will grant another, more moral individual a new mandate to found a new dynasty. Loyalty will inspire loyalty. Betrayal will beget betrayal. A sovereign unworthy of his subjects will be rejected by them. Such is the will of Heaven (Tian).

Arthurian legend in medieval lore derived from Celtic myths a Western version of the Chinese Mandate of Heaven. Arthur, illegitimate son of Uther Pendragon, king of Britain, having been raised incognito, was proclaimed king after successfully withdrawing Excalibur, a magic sword embedded in stone allegedly removable only by a true king. Arthur ruled a happy kingdom as a noble king and fair warrior by reigning over a round table of knights in his court at Camelot. But his kingdom lapsed into famine and calamity when he became morally wounded by his abuse of kingly powers. To cure Arthur's festering moral wound, his knights embarked on a quest for the Holy Grail, identified by Christians as the chalice of the Last Supper brought to England by St Joseph of Arimathea.

Mencius' political outlook of imperative heavenly mandate profoundly influences Chinese historiography, the art of official historical recording. It tends to equate ephemeral reigns with immorality. And it associates protracted reigns with good government. It is a hypothesis that, in reality, is neither true nor inevitable.

It is necessary to point out that Mencius did not condone revolutions, however justified by immorality of the ruling political authority or injustice in the contemporary social system. He merely used threat of replacement of one ruler with another more enlightened to curb behavioral excesses of despotism. To Mencius, political immorality was always incidental but never structural. As such, he was a reformist rather than a revolutionary.

Nicolo Machiavelli, in 1512, 18 centuries after Mencius, wrote The Prince, which pioneered modern Western political thought by making medieval disputes of legitimacy irrelevant. He detached politics from all pretensions of theology and morality, firmly establishing it as a purely secular activity and opening the door for modern Western political science. Religious thinkers and moral philosophers would charge that Macchiavelli glorified evil and legitimized despotism. Legalists of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), who preceded publication of The Prince by 17 centuries, would have celebrated Machiavelli as a champion of truth.

Mencius, an apologist for Confucian ethics, was Machiavellian in his political strategy in that he deduced a virtuous reign as the most effective form of power politics. He advocated a utilitarian theory of morality in politics. A similar view to that of Mencius was advocated by Thomas Hobbes almost two millennia later. Hobbes set down the logic of modern absolutism in his book Leviathan (1651). It was published two years after the execution of Charles I, who had been found royally guilty of the high crime of treason by Oliver Cromwell's regicidal Rump Parliament in commonwealth England. Hobbes, while denying all subjects any moral right to resist the sovereign, subscribed to the fall of a sovereign as the utilitarian result of the sovereign's own failure in his prescribed royal obligations.

Revolts are immoral and illegal, unless they are successful revolutions, in which case the legitimacy of the new regime becomes unquestionable. In application to theology, God is the successful devil; or conversely the devil is a fallen god. It is pure Confucian-Mencian logic. As Taoists have pointed out, there are many Confucians who evade the debate on the existence of God, but it is hard to find one who does not find the devil everywhere, particularly in politics.

Confucius, during his lifetime, was ambivalent about the religious needs of the populace. “Respect the spirits and gods to keep them distant,” he advised. He also declined a request to elucidate on the supernatural after-life by saying: “Not even knowing yet all there is to know about life, how can one have any knowledge of death?” It was classic evasion.

Confucianism is in fact a secular, anti-religious force, at least in its philosophical constitution. It downgrades other-worldly metaphysics while it cherishes secular utility. It equates holiness with human virtue rather than with godly divinity. According to Confucius, man's salvation lies in his morality rather than his piety. Confucian precepts assert that man's incentive for moral behavior is rooted in his quest for respect from his peers rather than for love from God. This morality abstraction finds its behavioral manifestation through a Code of Rites that defines proper roles and obligations of each individual within a rigidly hierarchical social structure. Confucians are guided by a spiritual satisfaction derived from winning immortal respect from posterity rather than by the promise of everlasting paradise after God's judgment. They put their faith in meticulous observance of secular rites, as opposed to Buddhists, who worship through divine rituals of faith. Confucians tolerate God only if belief in his existence would strengthen man's morality.

Without denying the existence of the supernatural, Confucians assert its irrelevance in this secular world. Since existence of God is predicated on its belief by man, Confucianism, in advocating man's reliance of his own morality, indirectly denies the existence of God by denying its necessity. To preserve social order, Confucianism instead places emphasis on prescribed human behavior within the context of rigid social relationships through the observance of rituals.

As righteousness precludes tolerance and morality permits no mercy, therein lie the oppressive roots of Confucianism. Most religions instill in their adherents fear of a God who is nevertheless forgiving. Confucianism, more a socio-political philosophy than a religion, distinguishes itself by preaching required observation of an inviolable Code of Rites, the secular ritual compendium as defined by Confucius, in which tolerance is considered as decadence and mercy as weakness. Whereas Legalism advocates equality under the law without mercy, Confucianism, though equally merciless, allows varying standards of social behavior in accordance with varying ritual stations. However, such ritual allowances are not to be construed as tolerance for human frailty, for which Confucianism has little use.

St Augustine (354-430), who was born 905 years after Confucius, in systematizing Christian thought defended the doctrines of original sin and the fall of man. He thus reaffirmed the necessity of God's grace for man's salvation, and further formulated the Church's authority as the sole guarantor of Christian faith. The importance of Augustine's contribution to cognition by Europeans of their need for Christianity and to their acceptance of the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church can be appreciated by contrasting his affirmative theological ideas to the anti-religious precepts of Confucius.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who was born 2,275 years after Confucius, developed the theme of “Transcendental Dialectic” in his Critic of Pure Reason (1781). Kant asserted that all theoretical attempts to know things inherently, which he called “nounena”, beyond observable “phenomena”, are bound to fail. Kant showed that the three great problems of metaphysics—God, free will and immortality—are insoluble by speculative thought, and their existence can neither be confirmed nor denied on theoretical grounds, nor can it be rationally demonstrated.

In this respect, Kantian rationalism lies parallel to Confucian spiritual utilitarianism, though each proceeds from opposite premises. Confucius allowed belief in God only as a morality tool. Rationally, Kant declared that the limits of reason only render proof elusive, they do not necessarily negate belief in the existence of God.

Kant went on to claim in his moral philosophy of categorical imperative that existence of morality requires belief in existence of God, free will and immortality, in contrast to the agnostic claims of Confucius.

Buddhism, in its emphasis on a next life through rebirth after God's judgment, resurrected the necessity of God to the Chinese people. Mercy is all in Buddhist doctrine. Buddhist influence put a human face on an otherwise austere Confucian culture. At the same time, Buddhist mercy tended to invite lawlessness in secular society, while Buddhist insistence on God's judgment on a person's secular behavior encroached on the sovereign/emperor's claim of totalitarian authority.

Similar to Confucian-Mencian logic that revolts are immoral and illegal, unless they are successful revolutions in which case the legitimacy of the new regime becomes unquestionable, John Locke in 1680 wrote Two Treaties of Government, which was not published until 10 years later, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, as a justification of a triumphant revolution. According to Locke, men contract to form political regimes to better protect individual rights of life, liberty and estate. Civil power to make laws and police power to execute such laws adequately are granted to government by the governed for the public good. Only when government betrays society's trust may the governed legitimately refuse obedience to government, namely when government invades the inviolable rights of individuals and their civil institutions and degenerates from a government of law to despotism. An unjust king provides the justification for his own overthrow.

Locke, like Mencius two millennia before him, identified passive consent of the governed as a prerequisite of legitimacy for the sovereign. Confucius would insist that consent of the governed is inherent in the Mandate of Heaven for a virtuous sovereign, a divine right conditioned by virtue. In that respect, it differs from unconditional divine right claimed by Louis XIV of France. However, the concept of a Mandate of Heaven has one similarity with the concept of divine right. According to Confucius, just rule is required as a ritual requisite for a moral ruler, rather than a calculated requirement for political survival. Similarly, the Sun King would view good kingship as a character of greatness rather than as a compromise for winning popular support.

Both Hobbes and Locke based their empiricist notions of political legitimacy not on theological or historical arguments, but on inductive theories of human nature and rational rules of social contract. Confucius based his moralist notion of political legitimacy on historical idealism derived from an idealized view of a perfect, hierarchical human society governed by rites.

For Taoists, followers of Laozi, man-made order is arbitrary by definition, and therefore it is always oppressive. Self-governing anarchy would be the preferred ideal society. The only effective way to fight the inevitably oppressive establishment would be to refuse to participate on its terms, thus depriving the establishment of its strategic advantage.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976), towering giant in modern Chinese history, with apt insights on Taoist doctrines, advocated a strategy for defeating a corrupt enemy of superior military strength through guerrilla warfare. The strategy is summed up by the following pronouncement: “You fight yours [ni-da ni-de]; I fight mine [wo-da wo-de].”

The strategy ordains that, to be effective, guerrilla forces should avoid frontal engagement with stronger and better equipped government regular army. Instead, they should employ unconventional strategies that would exploit advantages inherent in smaller, weaker irregular guerrilla forces, such as ease of movement, invisibility and flexible logistics. Such strategies would include ambushes and harassment raids that would challenge the prestige and undermine the morale of regular forces of the corrupt government. Such actions would expose to popular perception the helplessness of the immoral establishment, despite its superficial massive power, the paper tiger, as Mao would call it. Thus such strategies would weaken the materially-stronger but morally weaker enemy for an eventual coup de grace by popular forces of good.

Depriving an immoral enemy's regular army of offensive targets is the first step in a strategy of wearing down a corrupt enemy of superior force. It is classic Taoist roushu (flexible methods). Informed of conceptual differences of key schools of Chinese philosophy, one can understand why historiographers in China have always been Confucian. Despite repeat, periodic draconian measures undertaken by Legalist reformers, ranging from the unifying Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), during whose reign Confucian scholars were persecuted by being buried alive and their books burned publicly, and up to the Legalist period of the so-called Gang of Four in modern times, when Confucian ideas were vilified and suppressed, Confucianism survives and flourishes, often resurrected by its former attackers from both the left and the right, for the victor's own purposes, once power has been secured.

Feudalism in China takes the form of a centralized federalism of autonomous local lords in which the authority of the sovereign is symbiotically bound to, but clearly separated from, the authority of the local lords. Unless the local lords abuse their local authority, the emperor's authority over them, while all-inclusive in theory, would not extend beyond federal matters in practice, particularly if the emperor's rule is to remain moral within its ritual bounds. In that sense, the Chinese empire was fundamentally different than the predatory empires of Western imperialism.

Confucianism, through the Code of Rites, seeks to govern the behavior and obligation of each person, each social class and each socio-political unit in society. Its purpose is to facilitate the smooth functioning and the perpetuation of the feudal system. Therefore, the power of the sovereign/emperor, though politically absolute, is not free from the constraints of behavior deemed proper by Confucian values for a moral sovereign, just as the authority of the local lords is similarly constrained. Issues of constitutionality in the US political milieu become issues of proper rites and befitting morality in Chinese dynastic or even contemporary politics.

Confucian values, because they have been designed to preserve the existing feudal system, unavoidably would run into conflict with contemporary ideas reflective of new emerging social conditions. It is in the context of its inherent hostility toward progress and its penchant for obsolete nostalgia that Confucian values, rather than feudalism itself, become culturally oppressive and socially damaging. When Chinese revolutionaries throughout history, and particularly in the late 18th and early 19th century, would rebel against the cultural oppression of reactionary Confucianism, they would simplistically and conveniently link it synonymously with political feudalism. These revolutionaries would succeed in dismantling the formal governmental structure of political feudalism because it is the more visible target. Their success is due also to the terminal decadence of the decrepit governmental machinery of dying dynasties, such as the ruling house of the three-century-old, dying Qing Dynasty (1583-1911). Unfortunately, these triumphant revolutionaries in politics remained largely ineffective in remolding Confucian dominance in feudal culture, even among the progressive intelligentsia.

Almost a century after the fall of the feudal Qing Dynasty house in 1911, after countless movements of reform and revolution, ranging from Western moderate democratic liberalism to extremist Bolshevik radicalism, China would have yet to find an workable alternative to the feudal political culture that would be intrinsically sympathetic to its social traditions. Chinese revolutions, including the modern revolution that began in 1911, through its various metamorphoses over the span of almost four millennia, in overthrowing successive political regimes of transplanted feudalism, repeatedly killed successive infected patients in the form of virulent governments. But they failed repeatedly to sterilize the infectious virus of Confucianism in its feudal political culture.

The modern destruction of political feudalism produce administrative chaos and social instability in China until the founding of the People's Republic in 1949. But Confucianism still appeared alive and well as cultural feudalism, even under Communist rule. It continued to instill its victims with an instinctive hostility toward new ideas, especially if they were of foreign origin. Confucianism adhered to an ideological rigidity that amounted to blindness to objective problem-solving. Almost a century of recurring cycles of modernization movements, either Nationalist or Marxist, did not manage even a slight dent in the all-controlling precepts of Confucianism in the Chinese mind. Worse, these movements often mistook Westernization as modernization, moving toward militant barbarism as the new civilization.

In fact, in 1928, when the Chinese Communist Party attempted to introduce a soviet system of government by elected councils in areas of northern China under its control, many of the peasants earnestly thought a new “Soviet” dynasty was being founded by a new emperor by the name of So Viet.

During the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution of 1966, the debate between Confucianism and Legalism was resurrected as allegorical dialogue for contemporary political struggle. At the dawn of the 21st century, Confucianism remained alive and well under both governments on Chinese soil on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, regardless of political ideology. Modern China was still a society in search of an emperor figure and a country governed by feudal relationships, but devoid of a compatible political vehicle that could turn these tenacious, traditional social instincts toward constructive purposes, instead of allowing them to manifest themselves as practices of corruption. The Western notion of rule of law has little to contribute to that search.

General Douglas MacArthur presented post-World War II Japan, which has been seminally influenced by Chinese culture for 14 centuries, with the greatest gift a victor in war has ever presented the vanquished: the retention of its secularized emperor, despite the Japanese emperor's less-than-benign role in planning the war and in condoning war crimes. Thus MacArthur, in preserving a traditional cultural milieu in which democratic political processes could be adopted without the danger of a socio-cultural vacuum, laid the socio-political foundation for Japan as a postwar economic power. There is logic in observing that the aggressive expansion of Japan would not have occurred had the Meiji Restoration not adopted Western modernization as a path to power. It was Japan's aping of British imperialism that launched it toward its militarism that led to its role in World War II. Of the three great revolutions in modern history—the French, the Chinese and the Russian—each overthrew feudal monarchial systems to introduce idealized Western democratic alternatives that would have difficulty holding the country together without periods of terror. The French and Russian Revolutions both made the fundamental and tragic error of revolutionary regicide and suffered decades of social and political dislocation as a result, with little if any socio-political benefit in return. In France, it would not even prevent eventual restoration imposed externally by foreign victors. The Chinese revolution in 1911 was not plagued by regicide, but it prematurely dismantled political feudalism before it had a chance to develop a workable alternative, plunging the country into decades of warlord rule.

Worse still, it left largely undisturbed a Confucian culture while it demolished its political vehicle. The result was that eight decades after the fall the last dynastic house, the culture-bound nation would still be groping for an appropriate and workable political system, regardless of ideology. Mao Zedong understood this problem and tried to combat it by launching the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution in 1966. But even after a decade of enormous social upheaval, tragic personal sufferings, fundamental economic dislocation and unparalleled diplomatic isolation, the Cultural Revolution would achieve little except serious damage to the nation's physical and socio-economic infrastructure, to the prestige of the Chinese Communist Party, not to mention the loss of popular support, and total bankruptcy of revolutionary zeal among even loyal party cadres.

It would be unrealistic to expect the revival of imperial monarchy in modern China. Once a political institution is overthrown, all the king's men cannot put it together again. Yet the modern political system in China, despite its revolutionary clothing and radical rhetoric, is still fundamentally feudal, both in the manner in which power is distributed and in its administrative structure. When it comes to succession politics, a process more orderly than the hereditary feudal tradition of primogeniture will have to be developed in China.

History has shown that the West can offer little to the non-Western world beyond rationalization of oppression and technologies of exploitation. If after four centuries of Western modernity the world is still beset with violence, hunger, exploitation and weapons of mass destruction on an unprecedented scale, it follows that its Mandate of Heaven is in jeopardy.

Part 4: Taoism and modernity

To Taoists, modernity is a meaningless concept because truth is timeless and life goes in circles. In post-modern thinking in the West, much of the awareness that Taoists have entertained for centuries is just now surfacing. Even in military strategy, Sun Tzu's On the Art of War (Sunzi Bingfa), an ancient Taoist military treatise (500 BC), is now much in vogue in this modern age of weapons of mass destruction and remote-controlled precision bombs.

Historians are uncertain of the historical facts regarding Laozi, founder of Taoism. The name itself casts doubt on Laozi's identity. Ad verbum, it simply means “old sage”. Colloquially, the term laozi in modern Chinese has come to mean an arrogant version of “yours truly”. The earliest documented information on Laozi appears in the classic Records of the Historian (Shi Ji), written by historian Sima Qian in 108 BC during the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). It describes Laozi as a person named Li Er (born around 604 BC) who worked as a librarian in the court of the State of Eastern Zhou (Dong Zhou) during the Spring and Autumn Period (Chunqiu, 770-481 BC).

Laozi was reported to have met only once the young Confucius (Kongfuzi, 551-479 BC), who was 53 years his junior. If intellectual exchanges took place at that celebrated meeting, Confucius had to be at least in his late 20s, thus placing Laozi in his 80s when the two sages purportedly met. Confucius did not become widely known until 500 BC at the age of 51, which would put Laozi's age at 104 if they met as two intellectual celebrities. No wonder the pundit was called “old sage”.

Laozi is generally accepted as author of the Classic of the Virtuous Path (Daode Jing), although evidence has been uncovered to suggest that it was actually written by others long after his time, albeit based on ideas ascribed to him. The Book of Virtuous Path is written in a style that is both cryptic and enigmatic. The true meanings of its messages are difficult to elucidate definitively. Its main attraction lies in the requirement of active reader participation for receiving the full benefit of its mystic insights. Each reading solicits new levels of insights from the reader depending on his or her experience, mood, mental alertness and preoccupation. It asks questions rather than provides answers. It is a book of revelation with an effect similar to what the Bible has on devoted Christians.

Zhuangzhou, a Zhou Dynasty skeptic and mystic who lived in 4th century BC, in his classic Zhuangzi expounded on many of Laozi's doctrines with original insight, ingenious construct, incisive witticism and delightful charm. Drawing on Taoist concepts, Zhuangzhou opposed and ridiculed the moral utilitarianism of Confucius.

Tao or Dao, a Chinese word meaning “way” or “path”, delineates an enlightened perception of the mysterious ways of life. The path of life is revealed professedly only through spontaneous insights and creative breakthroughs. The alternating, self-renewing and circular phenomenon of nature such as day following night following day is an illuminating Taoist paradigm. The life-regenerating cycle of the seasons is another example. Taoists believe all in life to be inseparably interrelated. Taoists consider conventional wisdom illusionary. They point out that concepts are merely cognitive extremes of a consciousness continuum. Extremes exist only as contrasting points to give distinctive meanings to the unthinking, but in truth, these extremes are inseparable interdependent polarities. There can be no life without death, no goodness without evil and no happiness without tragedy. Light shines only in darkness. We only know something has been forgotten after we remember it. There is no modernity without tradition. Behind this dualistic illusion, a unifying, primary principle of life endures. It is called Tao.

To Taoists, the essence of life can be appreciated by observing the flow of water. The word “alive” (huo) in the Chinese language is composed of the root sign representing “water” (shui) and the modifying sign representing “tongue” (she), suggesting that flowing speech is the essence of living. Water, that fluid substance with no shape of its own, is capable of assuming the most intricate shapes of its containers. Any substance with a rigid form becomes prisoner to that form, unable to adopt to changing surroundings. Humans, whose lives are subject to infinite constraints, should attempt to adopt the flexibility of water to accommodate the intricate dimensions of the containers of life. Water, always taking the path of least resistance and most natural flow, seeking rest at the lowest point, preserving a level surface over irregular bottoms, overcoming stubborn obstacles, smoothing rough surfaces and rounding sharp edges of hard materials, provides a Taoist model for an enlightened man's approach to life's imperfections. In moderate amounts, water is a life-giving substance. In excessive amounts, it can be cataclysmic and it can drown life. Like water, life reacts violently and becomes destructive when forced. It can be peaceful and good when guided gently.

According to Taoist precept, roushu (flexible method) is an approach to be preferred over violent confrontation, which tends to be self-defeating and counterproductive. Meditation and calm contemplation are the means to spiritual liberation. They are the true instruments to man's salvation from obsessive fixations and from illusionary and distracting agitations of the physical senses. To attain without effort is nature's way. To attain with forced effort is an unenlightened man's folly which will always be self-defeating. Judo, the Japanese art of physical combat that seeks to turn the opponent's own strength against himself, is derived from a Tang Taoist fighting style called roushu. The US “war on terror” has yet to understand the effectiveness of roushu, and until it does, it will remain self-defeating. Force produces counterforce. The use of fear as a deterrence operates like a concentric mirror, reflecting fear back on the point of initial radiation.

Every action reduces the range of one's options. Not taking premature or unnecessary actions keeps all of one's options open, so that the most appropriate action remains available. Actions always elicit reactions. Each action taken provokes reactions from all quarters that, taken together, are always more powerful than the precipitous action itself. It is the ultimate definition of the inescapable law of unintended consequences.

To follow the dao (path) of life is to go with the natural flow of life and to avoid going against it. The ethical theories of Taoism lean toward passive resistance, believing that evil, by definition, will ultimately destroy even itself without undue interference.

Yet it would be a mistake to regard Taoism as fatalistic and pessimistic, instead of the ultimate sophistication in optimism that it is. Controlled quantities of the bad can be good. Excessive amounts of the good can be bad. Poison kills. But when handled properly, it can cure diseases. Without poison, there can be no medicine. To employ poison to attack poison is a Taoist principle, which is validated in modern medical the practice of vaccination, the use of antibiotics and chemotherapy treatments.

Only by not applying effort can one achieve that state in which nothing is not attainable effortlessly (wu-wei ze wu-suo-bu-wei). Every Taoist knows this famous Taoist assertion, although none can fully explain it. Translated, it reads literally: Only by avoiding effort can one achieve that state in which nothing is not attainable effortlessly. This well-known Taoist assertion, the inherent paradox of which defies logic, is still effortlessly driving modern students of Chinese philosophy insane.

A person's role in modern economic life, when observed with detached insight, illustrates the truth of the famous Taoist dilemma of aiming to be effortless.

Before one chooses a profession, one has the option of a wide range of endeavors with which to satisfy one's interest and to enable one to be useful in life. One can become a philosopher, an artist, a politician, a teacher, a scientist, a lawyer, a doctor, etc. As soon as one decides to be a lawyer, for example, then one can no longer afford to spend much time on other fields of endeavor, thus greatly narrowing one's options. If, in order to be the best in one's field, one devotes all of one's time and effort to the study of law and nothing else, one ends up being ignorant of other aspects of life. One can therefore end up aimlessly as a useless expert. Thus the exclusive study of law may neutralize one's original purpose which is to lead a useful life by promoting justice. For a specialization to be truly useful, it needs to be defined so inclusively that excessive specialization itself becomes a pitfall to avoid. The corollary: the desire for one's objective will block one's attainment of it. This is so because the distracting impact of one's desire will obscure one's focus on the objective itself.

It is better not to act unless and until one is certain such action will not foreclose other options, rendering one paralyzed. But fear of action is paralysis itself. Unenlightened persons seek fame and fortune to achieve happiness, only to find that through obsessive seeking of fame and fortune, they destroy the very chance for happiness. They mistakenly regard fame and fortune, superficial trappings of happiness, as happiness itself. They slave after fame and fortune without realizing that it is that very slavery that will rob them of their happiness. Incidentally, “happiness” in the Chinese language is expressed by the term kuai-huo, which literally means “fast-living”.

It is a Taoist axiom that intellectual scholarship and analytical logic can only serve to dissect and categorize information. Knowledge, different from information, is achieved only through knowing. Ultimately, only intuitive understanding can provide wisdom. Truth, while elusive, exists. But it is obscured by search, because purposeful search will inevitably mislead the searcher from truth. By focusing on the purpose, the searcher can only find what he is looking for. How does one know what questions to ask about truth if one does not know what the elusive answers should be? Conversely, if one knows already what the answers should be, why does one need to ask questions? Lewis Carroll's Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) would unknowingly be a Taoist.

Taoists believe that the dao (path) of life, since it eludes taxonomic definition and intellectual pursuit, can only be intuitively experienced through mystic meditation, by special breathing exercises and sexual techniques to enhance the mind and harmonize the body. They believe that these mind-purifying undertakings, coupled with an ascetic lifestyle and lean diet, would also serve to prolong life. Taoist philosophy is referred to as Xuanxue, literally “mystic learning”.

Taoists consider the duty of a ruler to be that of protecting with minimal interference his subjects from harm, often from themselves, thus avoiding the overriding injury that excessive intervention would bring. A truly wise ruler should act in the way nature's unseen hand gently protects the good, the definition of which is complex and philosophical. The word “governance” (zhi) in Chinese is composed of the root sign of “water” (shui) and the modifying sign of “platform” (tai), suggesting that to govern is similar to preserving stability of a floating platform on water. Excessive and unbalanced interference, even when motivated by good intention, does not always produce good results. Periodic, mild famines may be considered good in the long run because the people will learn lessons from them on the need for grain storage. Excessive prosperity may be considered bad because it leads to wasteful consumption with environmental and spiritual pollution that eventually will destroy the good life. Present-day economists would come to appreciate the desirability of sustainable balanced moderate economic growth over the alternative of fluctuating booms and busts.

Taoists consider Confucian reliance on the Code of Rites (Liji) to guide socio-political behavior as oppressive and self-defeating. The Code of Rites is the ritual compendium as defined by Confucius to prescribe proper individual behavior in a hierarchical society. Taoists regard blind Confucian penchant for moralistic coercion as misguided. Such coercion neglects the true power of roushu (flexible method). Taoists think that ultimately, great success always leads to great failure because each successful stage makes the next stage more difficult until, by definition, failure inevitably results. To Taoists, the assertion that nothing succeeds like success is false. In truth, nothing fails like success. Success is always the root of future failure.

Since the only way to avoid the trap of life's vicious circle is to limit one's ambition, why not eliminate ambition entirely? Would that not ensure success in life? But a little ambition is a good thing. Total elimination, even of undesirables, is an extreme solution, and it is therefore self-defeating. Besides, the paradox is that eliminating all goals is itself a goal, thus guaranteeing built-in failure. An example of this is the futility of a compulsive organizer who makes a list of ways to relax. From the traveler's point of view, no matter how many times he changes direction, he always ends up where he is heading. Life is a prison from which one can escape only if one does not try to escape. It is the desire to escape that makes a place a prison, and the desire to return that makes it a home. Home is not where one is, it is where one wants to return.

Taoism as religion is generally regarded by intellectuals as a corruption of its essence as philosophy. Having evolved originally from a mystic search for truth, Taoism has gradually degenerated into practices of secular alchemy aiming to achieve the transformation of commonplace metals into gold, and to discover cures for diseases and formulae for longevity and secrets to immortality.

The historical justification for this censorious view of Taoism as religion gone awry comes from Taoist movements such as the Yellow Turbans Disturbance (Huangjin Huo). It is so labeled by the contemptuous Confucian establishment. Beginning around AD 170, shortly before the final collapse of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), roaming bands of disaffected peasants mounted a decade-long disruption of the peace in the provinces. Eventually, in AD 184, exploiting aggravating dislocations caused by floods along lower Yellow River (Huanghe), a messianic mass movement of social revolution developed in areas between modern-day Shandong and Henan provinces.

Historians call the movement the Yellow Turbans Peasant Rebellion (Huangjin Minbian) because its peasant members identified themselves by wearing yellow turbans around their heads. It was the first major peasant revolt in Chinese history. The leader of the rebellion was Zhang Jiao, chief patriarch of the Taoist sect of the Way of Celestial Peace (Taiping Dao). Zhang Jiao had been an unsuccessful candidate in keju (public examinations) for officialdom. While gathering herbal medicine in the mountainous wilderness, he allegedly met an old sage named the South China Ancient Sage (Nanhua Laoxian) from whom he received the three-volume Celestial Peace Methods (Taiping Yaoshe). A talented propagandist and messianic faith-healer, Zhang Jiao proclaimed himself pope of a new religion based on a synthesis of Huangdi (Yellow Emperor), primeval mythical sovereign, and a deified Laozi, founder of Taoism.

Huangdi is the ritual appellation adopted by the first monarch in Chinese history, a man named Gongsun, allegedly born on the celestial star Xuanyuan. Legend has it that Huangdi established the first kingdom in history at Youxiong, around Zhengzhou in modern-day Henan province. During his reign, language, costume, architecture, money, measure, medicine and music were professedly invented.

All Chinese consider themselves descendants of Huangdi. Huang (yellow) is the color of ripe wheat. The concept of “yellow” commands a mythical meaning in Chinese culture, signifying regality, prosperity and civilization, all symbolized by the color of golden harvest.

The Yellow Turbans, with a theocratic organization of more than 500,000 zealous cadres leading an army of 360,000 at the height of its influence in AD 184, were ruled with supreme power by Zhang Jiao and his two brothers. The three brothers, as the Trinity of Lords of Heaven, Earth and Men respectively, were supported by a hierarchy of militarized clergy. Communal living was practiced with regular public confessions, mass participation in spiritual trances and orgiastic ceremonies in which men and women engaged in prolonged kisses to “balance their vital vapor (luoji)”. Diseases were considered consequences of sin and were believed to be curable by healing amulets applied to affected parts of the body and therapeutic charms worn around the neck or waist.

The Yellow Turbans Rebellion was finally suppressed by renegade army commanders of the falling Han Dynasty who became independent warlords and who kept China fragmented for three more centuries, after AD 220, before Yang Jian reunited the country by founding the Sui Dynasty in 581.

Near Luoyang, 65 kilometers southeast, in Songshan, epicenter of Chinese Buddhist geo-cosmology, is situated the legendary Shaolin Si (Young Forest Temple). Shaolin Si (aka Shaolin Temple) is the birthplace of Chan Buddhism and the epic cradle of Chinese martial arts. The warring skills of the sengs of Shaolin Si have been famous since the 4th century AD. Even in modern times, tourists from the world over flock to this monastery to visit this center of wushu, the martial art known popularly as gongfu (commonly referred to in English as “kung fu”). Shaolinquan (Shaolin-style Boxing) is the illustrious style of martial arts that traces its origin to Shaolin Si at the time of its founding. Shaolin Si was founded by an Indian prince of Persian-Samarkand roots named Boddhidharma (Da’mo in Chinese) during the Bei Wei Dynasty (Northern Wei, 386-534) in the 4th century. Boddhidharma was the founder of a sect (zong) of Buddhism known as Chan, later known as Zen Buddhism in Japan and the West.

Chan is a Chinese transfiguration of the Sanskrit word dhyana, meaning “contemplation for truth”, while Zen is its Japanese pronunciation and Yoga is its equivalent in Sanskrit. Chan precepts assert that intellectual effort, good work, performance of rituals and other traditional Buddhist practices are not only of little inherent merit but also are often hindrances to the quest for true insight into the enlightened meaning of reality. Spiritual salvation can only be found by introspective inquiries into one's inner soul. Purity surpasses all.

After its import to China from India, Chan Buddhism in Tang China derived an anti-scholastic, anti-textual and anti-exegetical bias from the mystic teachings of Taoism (Dao Jia xuanxue).

Shortly after his death, Boddhidharma was reportedly seen in person at Mount Cong (Congling) of Songshan by Song Yun, an official of the court of Bei Wei. The disciples of Bodhidharma excavated their master's grave after the miraculous incident, only to find his discarded burial clothes sans body. Something similar happened to a man named Jesus. Ascension to heaven for the pure of soul while alive is an ancient notion in Taoist concepts, although ascension after death is more a Christian notion than a Taoist one. The Virgin Mary is declared by Pope Pius XII's 1950 bull Munificentissimus Deus, as an article of faith, to have been “assumed” directly into heaven in the body. Imperial Prince Jin, a Taoist holy prince, the pious son of Emperor Lin of the ancient Zhou Dynasty (1027-256 BC) who ruled from 571-546 BC, was reported to have ascended to heaven before death, riding a white crane.

Chan (Zen) teaching stresses spontaneous oral instructions, Socratic in style, through the use of mystical paradoxes to reach beyond the rigid limits of deductive logic. It also derives from Taoist mystical teaching a love of nature and a preference for the rustic, ascetic life. Simplicity and purity are the highest goals of Chan spiritual attainment. The key concept in Chan philosophy is xu (void). Voidness is the fullest attainment from existence. Nothingness is all and all is nothingness: the ultimate nihilism.

Chan Buddhism in time split into the Northern and Southern sects, headed respectively by Chenxiu and Hui’neng. Chenxiu and Hui’neng were both disciples of the late Master Hongren, the fifth patriarch after the founder of Chan Buddhism, Boddhidharma (Da’mo) of Songshan. When quizzed by the late Master Hongren at his deathbed, in a test to select the master's successor, about the extent of their respective enlightenment, Chenxiu, the master's protege, proclaimed that his enlightenment was comparable to the sacred banyan tree and his heart was as calm as an alter mirror. To his fellow monk's flowery assertion of having attained an immaculate state of xu, Hui’neng dispassionately proclaimed the famous counter-remark: “Fundamentally, there is no significance in the banyan tree; and there is no magic in a mirror. To be truly enlightened, these material things ought to have no meaning.”

After the death of Master Hongren in 647, Chenxiu went south to Jingzhou, in modern-day Hubei province, leaving their master's legacy at Xiaolin Si in Songshan to his more enlightened fellow seng (Buddhist monk). But Hui’neng, in keeping with true enlightenment, elected to retire farther south with his counter-culture sect to Shaozhou, in modern-day Hunan province, to shun the undesirable pollution of unsolicited celebrity, thus becoming known as the Southern Sect (Nanzong). Headed by Chenxiu, the Northern Sect (Beizong), so named because Hui’neng's sect had gone farther south, placed emphasis on teachings and gradual, incremental enlightenment.

By contrast, the Southern Sect, headed by Hui’neng, places emphasis on inspiration rather than teaching, and emphasizes insightful flashes in place of gradual understanding for attaining enlightenment. The Southern Sect spread widely in subsequent centuries without organized evangelism.

After Hui’neng, master of the Southern Sect (Nanzong), settled at Shao Mountain in Shaozhou, legend has it that all the wild tigers and leopards, which previously had roamed the wilderness and menaced the nearby population, miraculously disappeared, causing his reputation of holiness to spread. Modern-day wildlife preservationists would not have found Hui’neng's achievements admirable.

Chenxiu repeatedly invited Hui’neng to court, but the Master of the Southern Sect, true to his Chan (Zen) principles, declined each time. Chenxiu finally wrote personally to Hui’neng to implore him to come to court, but Hui’neng continued to decline steadfastly and is reported to have said dispassionately to the messenger sent by Chenxiu: “My form is ugly. When the northern soil sees it, I am afraid no respect for my methods would be forthcoming. Besides, my master felt that the Southern Sect and I are of the same destiny. It should be not altered.” Hui’neng died without ever going north.

The Southern Sect of Hui’neng flourished in succeeding centuries while the Northern Sect of Chenxiu, despite imperial sponsorship, withered into a minor, esoteric cult. The history of these two sects illustrates that glory is ephemeral while enlightenment endures.

Hui’neng's Southern Sect was later divided into Qingyuan (Pure Spring) and Nanyue (South Mount) movements. The Qingyuan movement evolved into three branches, Cao’dong (Cave of Cao), Yunmen (Gate of Cloud) and Fayan (Method's Eye). The Nanyue movement further evolved into two branches: Linji (Reach Charity) and Weiyang (Active Respect).

Chan (Zen) Buddhism was introduced to Japan by Japanese monks who had visited China, particularly Eisai (1141-1215), who brought back the Linji sect (Rinzai in Japanese) in 1191, and his disciple Dogen (1200-53), who imported the Cao’dong sect (Soto in Japanese) in 1277.

In Japan, Zen emphasis on personal character and discipline, combined with commitment on worldly activism, became the spiritual ideals of the medieval Samurai class. Zen monasteries such as those in Kyoto and Kamakura became religious, intellectual and artistic centers. Zen Buddhism was suppressed in Japan after the Meiji Restoration (1867-68), when nationalistic Shinto religious movements were officially encouraged. Nevertheless, Zen Buddhism remains the most popular Buddhist sect in Japan today.

US General Douglas MacArthur compelled Japanese Emperor Hirohito to disavow divinity in the historic 1946 New Year rescript, temporarily dismantling the fundamental foundation of state Shintoism. The deification traditionally implied in the title of Heaven Emperor (Tianhuang), in use since the 7th century by all Japanese monarchs, and the same title originally used by the High Heritage Emperor (Gaozong) of the Tang Dynasty of China, is now forsaken, though the use of the title itself is preserved. To many traditional Japanese, despite intellectual disavowal, the Heaven Emperor is still a godly figure, as the title literally suggests.

MacArthur also forbade occupied Japan to use public funds for the support of state Shintoism, which had been identified with Japanese militarism. In less than a decade after the defeat of Japan by the Allies, Shintoism experienced a revival in Japan, particularly in right-wing politics, while Rinzai Zen (Linji Chan in Chinese) gained considerable following in the United States after World War II, largely because of the devotion of returning Americans favorably exposed to the ascetic sect.

Chan Buddhism became influential in China only after the 10th century, together with the other popular Buddhist movement known as the Pure Land (Jingtu) sect, which practiced the invocation of the name of Amita Buddha (Amituofo) as an expression of the acceptance of fate and the rejection of futile secular anxiety. Amita Buddha (Amituofo) was the supreme master of a class of Mahayana deities who supposedly resided in the Western Paradise known as Jingtu (Pure Land). Along with other Mahayana sects, the Jingtu sect believed that any individual, if he or she devoted his or her life to doing good, could become a Boddhisattva, a deity worshipped in Mahayana Buddhism who, having achieved enlightenment, compassionately refrains from entering nirvana in order to save others.

However, the Jingtu sect, with branches named Shandao (Good Way, Jodo in Japanese) and Ci’min (Merciful Union, Shin in Japanese), promised a heavenly salvation in Jingtu, the Western Paradise of Amita Buddha, for the devotee of unshakable faith, which supersedes good works in importance. The true believer could even eat meat, indulge in sexual pleasure and maintain secular families without compromising his holiness, a practice condoned by the Japanese Shin sect for its priests in modern times.

While in its most vigorous form, Jingtu Buddhism encompasses the ultra-sophistication of the Taoist concept of the necessary function of temptation, the absence of which negates the possibility of virtue, it is also a concept most vulnerable to unprincipled abuse by those less than vigorous in piety and by outright charlatans. For while the ordeal of temptation may provide the opportunity to manifest commitment to holiness, the surrender to temptation itself cannot be proof of having achieved holiness.

Feodor Dostoyevsky (1812-81) asserted in a fearful warning: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” To that, Jingtu Buddhists would respond: “Only if God exists everything is permitted.” Voltaire was right when he said that if God does not exist, man (both Dostoyevsky and the Jingtu Buddhists) would have to invent him.

The atheists' denial of the existence of God, maintained with equal disregard for rationality as their believer opponents, is not as dangerous as their corollary claim of God's irrelevance. Atheists would suffer the penalty of being the sure loser of Pascal's wager.

Blaise Pascal (1632-62), French mathematician, scientist, founder of the theory of probability, and religious philosopher, was an anti-Jesuit Jansenite who, following Antoine Arnauld of the Sorbonne, ran afoul of the Church for his controversial predestinarianism. Pascal argued that while the inadequacy of reason cannot resolve questions of divinity, it is safer to bet on the possibility of the existence of God, because the penalty for error would be minor and the reward of being right would be infinite. Believing in a non-existent God would do us no harm, and believing in an existent God would grant us the grace of heaven. Conversely, denying a non-existing God would win us nothing, while denying an existent God would land us in hell. Pascal offered the world a perfect hedge.

One could argue, however, that believing in something not true is not harmless, and God, being omnipotent and all-knowing, would sympathize with an intelligent man's honest obligation to reject blind faith, and would discount a calculating faith based on opportunism. So a Cartesian doubt appears an intelligent option for an unknowable question. It led Rene Descartes (1596-1650) to his famous conclusion, cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), which proves the existence of the thinking mind but leaves the question of God not satisfactorily answered. Descartes inverted claim made three centuries earlier by Thomas Aquinas that the experience of God is implied by the general facts of the universe, by claiming that these facts could not be known without a knowledge of God.

The less-than-satisfactory assertions of both Aquinas and Descartes issued an invitation two centuries later to agnosticism, a term coined by Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95), English biologist and educator. Aspects of agnosticism are in fact classic Taoist prepositions, certainly the parts concerning doubts, if not the parts placing faith in rational inquiry and scientific methods. Thomas Huxley, grandfather of Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) of Brave New World fame, doubted all things not immediately open to logical analysis and scientific verification, and held up truth as an ideal state, scientific methods as the tools of truth and evolution as the fruit of truth. Ironically, Aldous, the grandson of Thomas, after three generations of conspicuous Huxleyan scientific piety, wrote an earth-shaking novel on the horrors and futility of scientific progress. The Taoist notion of life going in full circles is once again demonstrated in the Huxley saga.

Confucian scholars throughout the ages remained ambivalent toward Chan Buddhism. Liu Zongyuan (773-819), the neo-Confucian author of a classic apology for feudalism titled Discourse on Feudalism (Fengjian Lun), composed a famous poem titled “Studying Chan Sutra” (Du Chan Jing), expressing his skepticism of Chan mysticism and his admiration for Taoist enlightenment (inadequately translated by this writer):

Drawing from a well to rinse cold chattering teeth,
With a pure heart casting off secular trappings;
Leisurely holding the Buddhist sutra,
Pacing from the east den while studying.

The fundamental truth not being understood,
Absurd claims become society's pursuits;
Wishing for depth from past writings,
Can nature be affected by memorizing?

The garden of the Taoist is placid,
Green moss links verdant bamboo;
The sun pierces through the morning mist,
The green firs appear coated with ointment,
Insipidly hard to verbalize,
Sanguine perception replenishes a heart self-gratified.

Taoist enlightenment is the diametrical opposite of the West's notion of enlightenment as presented during the Age of Reason, also known as the Age of Enlightenment, hailed by Western scholars as the root of modernity.

Part V: The Enlightenment and modernity

The Enlightenment, generally accepted as the flowering of modernity in the West from its Renaissance roots, is a periodization in history. Periodization, a complex problem in history, is the attempt to categorize or divide historical time, mentality or events into discrete named blocks. History is in fact continuous, and so all systems of periodization are to some extent arbitrary. History does not end as long as the human species survives. Those who proclaim the end of history are predicting the death of civilization, not the victory of neo-liberalism as heaven on Earth. Imperialism and neo-imperialism, operating with cultural hegemony, are a cancer the invasive growth of which will kill the world as a living organism.

It is nevertheless useful to segment history so that the past can provide lessons to the present by being conceptually organized and significant changes over time articulated. Different peoples and cultures have different histories, and so will need different models of periodization. Periodizing labels constantly change and are subject to redefinition as contemporary perceptions change. A historian may claim that there is no such thing as modernity, or the Enlightenment or the Renaissance, or the Nuclear Age, while others will defend the concept. Modernity, as currently constituted in the West, can also be viewed as a relapse of civilization toward barbarism through advanced technology.

Many periodizing concepts apply only in specific conditions, but they are often mistaken as universal generalities. Some have a cultural usage (such the Romantic period, the Age of Reason or the Age of Science or the Space Age), others refer to historical events (the Age of Imperialism, the Depression Years or the New Deal era) and others are defined by decimal numbering systems (the 1960s, the 16th century).

In chronology, an era is a period reckoned from an artificially fixed point in time, as before or after the birth of Christ: BC for Before Christ and AD for Anno Domini (year of the Lord). There are less known but also significant points in historical time beside the birth of Christ. The alleged creation of the world in Jewish mythical history is equivalent to 3761 BC, and in Byzantine history, the creation date was 5508 BC. The founding of the city of Rome took place in 753 BC, with subsequent years marked AUD for ad urbe condita (from the founding of the city). The hijira marks the migration of the Prophet Mohammed to Medina from Mecca in AD 622. Abbreviated AH, it is the starting timepost for all Muslims.

The division between AD and BC defines history according to the birth of one man, whose divinity is far from universally accepted. Only about 33 percent of the world's population are Christians. The most far-reaching date anomaly is the late setting of the beginning of the Christian era by the Roman monk-scholar Dionysius Exiguous (died circa AD 545), thus putting the historical birth of Christ at 4 BC, four years before the calendar birth year of Christ. The year AD 2000 marks two chronological events in the Western calendar: a new millennium and a new century. Its celebration marks the global dominance of Western culture in the 20th century. The new millennium is merely year 4398 in Chinese lunar calendar—a non-event.

The French revolutionary calendar changed the names of the months to remove all reminders of despotic traditions, such as August, named after the Roman emperor Augustus, July, named after Julius Caesar, and March (mars in French), named after the Roman god of war. It made all months 30 days equally to emphasize equality and rationality. The names for the months in the new calendar were invented hastily, by revolutionary dramatist Philippe Fabre d’Eglantine (1755-94), George Jacques Danton's talented secretary who would be tragically guillotined at the prime age of 39, a mere five years after the storming of the Bastille, the popular uprising that launched the French Revolution. The 12 30-day months added up to 360 days; the remaining five days of the year, called sans-culottides, after the name given to the members of the lower classes not wearing fancy culottes (breeches), were to be feast days for the laboring class, called Virtue, Genius, Labor, Reason and Rewards.

The French revolutionary calendar rejected the year of the birth of Christ as the first Anno Domini. It replaced the seven-day week, viewed by revolutionary zealots as an obsolete Christian relic, with the metric 10-day decade, unwittingly causing a counterrevolutionary, regressive reduction in the number of days of rest for the working populace from four to three in a month. The overall purpose was to remove from the cultural consciousness all Christian events such as Christmas, Easter, All Saints Day, the Sabbath, etc, as part of a program to replace Christianity with a Cult of Reason. The French revolutionary calendar remained in effect until the Thermidorian Reaction, a period of political revisionism, of vulgar extravagance in social manners, of greed and scandal and of merveilleuses, women known for their underdressed overdressing in public. The Thermidorian Reaction was marked by the growth of corruption, inflationary speculation and manipulative profiteering, suspension of populist economic regulations, topped with a wholesale repeal of de-Christianization practices.

The Thermidorian Reaction is so named because it came after the coup d’etat of 9 Thermidor, Year III of the Republic (July 27, 1794), that brought down Maximilien Robespierre (1758-94), thus ending the Reign of Terror, and brought to power a convenient coalition of the conservative old bourgeoisie and the boisterous parvenus and nouveaux riches, which would deliver the French nation, another five years later, to a military dictator in the person of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Still other periodizations are derived from influential or talismanic individuals (the Victorian era, the Elizabethan era, the Napoleonic era or the Mao era). Some of these usages are geographically specific. This is especially true of periodizing labels derived from individuals or ruling elites, such as the Jacksonian era in the United States, or the Meiji era in Japan, or the Merovingian period in France. Cultural terms may also have a limited reach. Thus the concept of the Romantic period may be meaningless outside of Europe and of Europe-influenced cultures.

Yet the term “modernity” takes on universal characteristics that spring from Western cultural hegemony. In recent times, modernity has again been abducted as a war cry to perpetuate the domination by the capitalist West of the rest of the world. Previously, the Renaissance claimed modernity as a justification against secular power of the Church, the bourgeoisie claimed modernity as a justification against absolute monarchism, and the socialist revolutions claimed modernity as justification against capitalism. All these claims were associated with social progress. But the current abduction of modernity by the capitalistic West represents the first time in history when reaction is claimed as modernity and barbarism as progress. The law of the jungle is celebrated as competitive market fundamentalism, and the doctrine of “might is right” permeates modern diplomacy, replacing morality and legitimacy.

Periodizing terms are often tools of cultural hegemony with negative connotation for oppressed cultures and positive connotation for the hegemonic culture. Thus there is the Age of Monarchy in the West but the Age of Asiatic and Oriental Tyrants in Asia and the Middle East. The Victorian era, which is known for sexual repression, racism, class conflict and exploitation, and imperialism, is hailed in the West as the age of propriety, industrialization and capitalism. Other labels such as “Renaissance” have positive characteristics as compared with “Medieval”, despite that fact that historians have suggested that unlike the Middle Ages, the Renaissance failed to develop significant lasting social institutions.

The French term “Renaissance”—meaning “rebirth” though in the English-speaking world it is commonly known by its French name—was created by Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304-74), an Italian humanist poet whose famous vernacular poem inspired by his love for Laura transcended medieval asceticism into individual expression of emotion. The term refers to the cultural changes that occurred in Italy as a reaction to Italian conditions of the time, which began around the quattrocento (15th century) and culminated in what is termed the High Renaissance, at around 1500. Many Western historians regard the Renaissance as the beginning of modernity. Yet, the basic institutions, the great framework of collective purpose and action by which the West continues to operate far into the present time, all originated in the Middle Ages. Parliaments, for example, were medieval feudal institutions. The Magna Carta was signed by King John of England in 1215.

The Renaissance, also known as the Age of Humanism, was a period of secularization of Western civilization. The Renaissance Church became a secular institution in this period, shedding its spiritual roots, with insatiable greed for material wealth and temporal power. The Italian Renaissance produced little of what could be considered great ideas or institutions by which men living in society could be held together in harmony. Indeed, the greatest of all Europeans institutions, the Roman Church, in which Europeans had lived for centuries, fell into neglect under Renaissance popes, whose fall from spiritual grace sparked the Reformation.

Nor did the Renaissance produce any effectual political institutions. Unlike the medieval agricultural towns of France that developed gradually, the trading towns of Italy prospered abruptly as trade converged on the Mediterranean. The sudden riches from trade held in private hands required a new culture separate from the medieval communal spirit to rationalize its acceptability. As merchants made obscene fortunes from trade and banking, they diverted social criticism by sponsoring art, to glorify their worldly sins with beauty. Successful bankers lent money to popes, kings and princes, and with the profits they gained political control of Italian trading towns to turn them into despotic city-states. They employed mercenaries in the form of condottieri, private captains of armed bands, who contracted with opposing city-states to carry on warfare, sometime even changing sides during hostility for a better price. As they forgot about things that money could not buy, they glorified the power of money in a philosophy of humanism and despotism.

The most notable example was the Medici clan of Florence. Giovanni (died 1429) founded the banking fortune that enabled his son Cosimo de’ Medici (1389-1464) to become the de facto ruler of Florence through populist politics. Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92), used his great wealth to govern as a connoisseur and lavish benefactor of art and letters. Tuscany became a duchy of which Medici men were hereditary grand dukes until the clan died out in 1753. The clan furnished two popes and numerous cardinals to the Church, and two Medici women became queens of France. It was the first time in history when money led to political significance rather than the reverse. Italian politics degenerated into a tangled web of subterfuge and conspiracy, making no pretense to legitimacy, to represent any moral idea or to further any social good.

The Renaissance idea of virtu (to be man) had little to do with the medieval idea of virtue. Virtu describes the quality of being a man in the sense of demonstrating individual human powers as expressed in the arts, in war and statecraft. It is the root of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche's hero and the rationale of fascism. This concept applies dominantly to the visual arts, referring to the work of Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. It also applies to the emergence of capitalism, private banking, provincial despotism and materialistic secularism. It celebrated the specific differences in man in contrast to the medieval concept of the common generality of man. The discovery of the rules of perspective and detailed anatomy in drawing allowed painters to locate humanity in specific contexts rather than symbolic generality of abstract truth. In Leonardo's The Last Supper, Christ and his disciples were portrayed as a group of men each having distinct individual personalities.

The Renaissance was a movement of the non-aristocratic elite minority, exclusive in spirit in contrast to the medieval notion of community. Renaissance individualism was the privilege of a dazzling few. The Italian humanists were lay writers, instead of clerics or court scribes. “Humanism” is a name given to the literary movement of the Italian Renaissance. The pomposity of the humanists was mocked by the populace in their own time. The humanists were in awe of antiquity, a peculiar preoccupation for modernists. They tried to dress, talk, and comport themselves like Roman nobles. They disdained writing in Italian as Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio had done. They dismissed even medieval Latin as barbaric and corrupt, and reverted to the style of the excessively flowery language of the schoolbook Latin of Cicero (106-43 BC), the great Roman orator whose famous First Oration Against Catiline skillfully condemned Catiline as a conspirator based on hearsay testimony obtained from Catiline's mistress. Cicero, despite his rhetorical eloquence, remained unable to substantiate his legal authority to execute Catiline's five associates, thus subjecting himself to exile subsequently for having put to death Roman citizens without due process of law.

The Humanist movement did not survive the test of time, the exception being Lorenzo Valla (1407-57), who showed conclusively from the language used in the document that the Donation of Constantine, on which the papacy based it temporal claims, could not have been written in Constantine's time and so was a forgery. The discovery was welcomed by the Italian Renaissance city-state despots who were eager to undermine the legitimacy of the papacy's temporal power.

The Renaissance invented the idea of the “gentleman”, later emulated by the British elite. Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1520) wrote Book of the Courtier, liberating Europeans from their uncouth manners of publicly spitting, belching, blowing their noses on their sleeves, snatching food with their bare hands and general bawling and sulking openly with little inhibition. According to Castiglione, a courtier should cultivate graceful manners in society and poised approaches toward his equals, converse with facility, be proficient in sports and arms, be an expert dancer with appreciation for music and poetry and be gallant to the fair sex. He should know Latin and Greek as a sign of good education and be familiar with literary trends but not too engrossed. In sum, it was a promotion of dilettantism, which as transformed into the English gentleman of the Oxbridge variety became what many identified as the mentality that contributed to the demise of the British Empire. It was also the mentality of much of the British-trained Third World elite. This mentality left the post-colonial independent nations with a poverty of political and economic leadership after the fall of the British Empire, from India to the Middle East, from Africa to Asia. Such mentality has kept the former colonies from cultural and economic revitalization from the wounds of colonialism.

Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince (1513) was Europe's first secular treatise on politics, devoid of concern for morality, legitimacy or justice, issues that rulers have since learned to manipulate to rationalize their political interests. He described the barbaric chaos of 16th-century Italy as universal modern reality. Ironically, this perspective deprived Italy of the development of institutions, such as the nation-state, in which men can act in concert for a larger purpose. In a new age of rising national monarchies, the city-states of Italy could not compete without the protection of the spiritual and temporal power of the Church, against which Renaissance Italy itself played a central role in weakening. In 1494, a French army crossed the Alps and Italy became the bone of contention between France and Spain. In 1527, a horde of undisciplined Spanish and German mercenaries sacked Rome, killing thousands in an orgy of rape and looting, imprisoned the pope and mockingly paraded cardinals facing backward on mules in the streets. Never had Rome experienced anything so horrible and degrading, not even from the barbaric Goths of the 5th century.

The term “Middle Ages” also derived from Petrarch, who was comparing his own period to the Ancient or Classical world, seeing his time as a time of rebirth after a dark intermediate period, the Middle Ages. The idea that the Middle Ages were a “middle” phase between two other large-scale periodizing concepts—Ancient and Modern—still persists. Smaller periodizing concepts such as Dark Ages occur within it. Both “Dark Ages” and “Middle Ages” still have negative connotations—the latter especially in its Latin form “medieval”. However, other terms, such as “Gothic” as in Gothic architecture, used to refer to a style typical of the High Middle Ages, have largely lost the negative connotations they initially had, only to acquire others. Critics derisively called the French Physiocrats of the French Enlightenment “economists” because they concerned themselves with materialistic issues.

The Gothic and the Baroque were both named during subsequent stylistic periods when the preceding style had become unpopular. The word “Gothic” was applied as a pejorative term to all things Northern European and, hence, barbarian, by Italian writers during the 15th and 16th centuries. The word baroque was used first in late 18th century French to depict the irregular natural pearl shape and later an architectural style perceived to be boisterously irregular and larger than life, in comparison with the highly restrained regularity of Neoclassical architecture. Subsequently, these terms have become purely descriptive, and have largely lost negative connotations. However, the term “Baroque” as applied to art (for example Peter Paul Rubens) refers to a much earlier historical period than when applied to music (George Frideric Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach). This reflects the difference between stylistic histories internal to an art form and the external chronological history beyond it.

Gothic construction, most identifiable in popular culture by the flying buttress, is the technological response to the medieval pious aspiration toward light and height transformed into ecclesiastical architecture. The boisterous Baroque was the awe-inspiring instrument of the Counter-reformation, sponsored by the Jesuits, defenders of the True Faith. Baroque architecture was the propaganda vehicle of the Jesuits in their counter-reformation campaign and the dramatic stage of the Inquisition. It spread quickly to all Roman Catholic countries. King Louis XIV of France later coopted the propaganda effectiveness of the Baroque and the stately legitimacy of Classicism to enshrine the stature of absolute monarchy. Modern architecture rose from the hopes of social democratic ideals stemming from the collapse, in the aftermath of World War I, of the European monarchies and their attendant social and esthetic values as constituted in the system of court-sponsored academies. While the cultured public welcomed the new artistic philosophy, official suppression of the Modern Movement by both Nazi Germany and the post-Lenin Soviet Union forced its migration to the United States, where it was coopted into the service of corporate capitalism after being sanitized of most of its social-democratic program, the way modernity is now being abducted to serve the current “war on terrorism”.

The entire Renaissance was supported by a political ideology that is of dubious acceptability by contemporary standards. Despotism was a boon to Italian Renaissance art and architecture. A case can be made to condemn the Italian Renaissance as a movement of courtly pretension and elitist taste prescribed by theme, content and form to the questionable needs of secular potentates and ecclesiastical mania. The noblest social art, one can argue, is that which the contribution of multitudes create for themselves as a common gift of glory, such as the Gothic cathedrals and the temples of ancient Greece. By contrast, Vladimir Tatlin's monument for the Third International was an attempt to unite artistic expression with the new socialist ideal as the Eiffel Tower did for industrialization. The Productivist Group maintained in its polemic that material and intellectual production were of the same order. Leftist artists devoted their energy to making propaganda for the new Soviet government by painting the surfaces of all means of transport with revolutionary images to be viewed in remote corners of the collapsing czarist empire. Constructivism declared all-out war on bourgeois art. Alas, the revolutionary movement met its demise not from bourgeois resistance, but from internal doctrinal inquisition. Much of Constructivist esthetic creativity was subsequently coopted by bourgeois society. Modernity is socialism, but the term has been abducted by bourgeois capitalism since the end of the Cold War.

In many cases, those living through a period are unable to identify themselves as belonging to the “period” historians may later assign to them. This is partly because they are unable to predict the future, and so will not be able to tell whether they are at the beginning, middle or end of a period. Another reason may be that their own sense of historical development may be determined by religions or ideologies that differ from those used by later historians. We may well be living in the dawning of the age of socialism, free from the false starts of the past century, and ushered in finally by the self-destructive excesses of capitalism run amok.

It is important to recognize the difference between self-defined historical periods and those which are later defined by historians. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a general belief that culture, politics and history were entering a new era—that the new century would also be a new “era” in human development. This belief in progress had been largely abandoned by the end of the century with the triumph of militant reaction crowned by a proclamation of the end of history. Yet just as the Catholic Counter-Reformation failed to arrest the spread of the Reformation, the capitalist reaction against the socialist revolutionary movement since 1848 is faced with the option of including socialist programs in the capitalist system or the replacement of capitalism by socialism. Democracy is not the exclusive tool of the bourgeoisie. Just as the bourgeoisie used democracy and the rebellious power of the working class to pressure the aristocracy, the working class will use democracy to remove the bourgeoisie from controlling the fate of the human race.

“The Enlightenment” is a periodization term that applies to the mainstream of thought of 18th century Europe. The scientific and intellectual developments of the 17th century fostered the belief in natural laws and universal order and the confidence in reason which spread to influence 18th century society in Europe. These development were typified by the discoveries of Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the rationalism of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) and Pierre Bayle (1647-1700), the pantheism of Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) that equates god with the forces and natural laws of the universe and the empiricism of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and John Locke (1632-1704). A rational and scientific approach to religious, social, political and economic issues promoted a secular view of the world and a general sense of progress and perfectibility.

The proponents of the Enlightenment were of one mind on certain basic attitudes, and sought to discover and act on universally valid principles governing humanity, nature and society. They attacked spiritual and scientific authority, dogmatism, intolerance, censorship and economic and social constraints. They considered the state the proper and rational instrument of progress. In England, Lockean theories of learning by sense perception were carried forward by David Hume (1711-16). The philosophical view of rational man in harmony with the universe set the climate for the “laissez-faire” economics of Adam Smith (1723-90) and for the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) of the greatest good for the greatest number. Historical writing gained secular detachment in the work of Edward Gibbon (1737-94). In Germany, the universities became centers of the Enlightenment (Aufklarung). Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86) set forth a doctrine of rational process; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-81), whom Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) credited as having placed the young poet in the true path, advanced a natural religion of morality; J G Herder (1744-1803) developed a philosophy of cultural nationalism. The supreme importance of the individual formed the basis of the ethics of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). The movement received strong support of the rising bourgeoisie and vigorous opposition from the high clergy and the nobility.

The strongest claim by the West on modernity is derived from ideas and concepts generally grouped under the category of the Enlightenment. These are ideas that were developed during the half a century preceding the French Revolution, between 1740 and 1789, known in history as the Age of Enlightenment. It was at the time that the idea of progress gained popular acceptance in the West. It was a time when Europeans emerged from a long twilight, from which the past was considered barbaric and dark. This was the age of enlightened thinkers, known as philosophes, and enlightened despots.

The idea of the Enlightenment was drawn from earlier sources, carried over from the old philosophy of natural law, which held that right depends on a universal reason, not on local conditions or on the will or perspective of any person or group. It carried over, from the intellectual revolution of the previous century, the ideas of Bacon and Locke, Descartes and Newton, Bayle and Spinoza. It was antagonistic and skeptical toward tradition, confident in the powers of science and places faith firmly in the regularity of nature. It most serious shortcoming was the assumption that European values derived from European experience were universal truth and that such truth gave license to world dominance: the rest of the world, to escape domination and exploitation, must adopt Western ways of militarism and exploitation. The modernization of Japan was a perfect example of this trend.

The philosophes of the Enlightenment were mostly popularizers, in an age when the great books were not read by the public. They reworded the ideas of past civilizations in ways that held the interest of the growing reading public. These philosophes were primarily men of letters, exemplified by Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), who made fortunes and gained fame with his writings. They differed from intellectuals of the past who were mostly proteges of aristocratic or royal patrons or clerics in the Church.

The emergence of a literate middle class made such freelancers possible. Naturally, as most writers who enjoy popularity write what their audiences like to hear, what economist John Galbraith calls “conventional wisdom”, the Enlightenment authors mostly wrote to enhance the political and economic interests of the bourgeoisie. Most of the works produced during this period focused on the catalogue and organization of information, made entertaining with wit and lightness. This was the age of the salon literati, of clever one-upmanship and satire, full of innuendos and sly digs, particularly insider jokes understood only by the enlightened few. Voltaire attacked European society by making fun not of the French, but by stereotyping the Persians, the Iroquois and the Chinese.

Frederick the Great of Prussia was regarded as an eminent philosophe through his friendship with Voltaire, whose style he emulated, as was Catherine the Great of Russia (1762-96). While Maria Teresa of Austria (1740-80) was not a philosophe on account of her piety, her son Joseph, brother of the ill-fated Marie-Antoinette of France (1755-93), worked hard to become one, as a patron of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In England, Bishop Warburton (1698-1779) tried to become one by claiming that the Church of England as a social institution was exactly what pure reason would have invented. Edward Gibbon (1737-94), whose Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire summarized the millennium following the birth of Christ as “the triumph of barbarism and religion”, much as the centuries after the Renaissance are summarized today as the triumph of capitalistic democracy over socialist revolutions as a religious truth. Gibbon was counted as a philosophe for his secular outlook.

Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84) was not considered a philosophe. He was fascinated by the supernatural, adhered to the established church, deflated pretentious authors, even declared Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) “bad men” who should be sent to the plantations in America.

The Enlightenment was in essence French, a product of sophisticated Parisian salons run by the likes of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, lubricated by the liberal flow of French champagne. Denis Diderot (1713-84) was not only a card-carrying philosophe, his Encyclopedie was described as a “reasoned dictionary” written by a distinguished list of other philosophes who went on to enjoy the awesome rank of Encyclopedists. Another group of philosophes was the Physiocrats, whom critics derisively called “economists” who concerned themselves with fiscal and monetary reform, with measures to increase the national wealth of France. Among the Physiocrats were Francois Quesnay (1694-1774), physician to Louis XV (1715-74), and Dupont de Nemour (1739-1817), whose descendants became the US industrial/chemical Dupont family.

The three giants of the philosophes were Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu (1533-92), a landed aristocrat, was a defender of his class interest. Among his associates was the Count of Boulainvilliers (1658-1722), who held that French nobility was descended from a superior Germanic race, a view that contributed to the emergence of racism in the West.

In his The Spirit of Laws (1748), Montesquieu developed two principal ideas. One was that forms of government varied according to climate and circumstances, for example that despotism was suited more to large empires in hot climates and that democracy only would work in small city-states. Thus democracy is inconsistent with the idea of empire. The other idea was the separation and balance of powers. In France, he believed that power should be divided between the king and a number of “intermediate bodies”—parliaments, provincial estates, organized nobility, chartered towns, and even the church. It was natural for Montesquieu, a judge in parliament, a provincial and a landed nobleman, and reasonable for him to recognize the position of the bourgeoisie of the towns, but as for the Church he observed that while he took no stock in its teachings, he thought is useful as an offset to undue centralization of government. Montesquieu admired the unwritten English constitution as he understood it, not for its democratic qualities but in believing that England carried over, more successfully than any other European country, the feudal liberties of the Middle Ages. To Montesquieu, government should be a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, a term representing the interests of the bourgeoisie, not the general population and definitely not workers and peasants.

The ideas of Montesquieu were well known to the drafters of the US constitution, who, because the United States at that time had no history of social institutions besides slavery, distorted the meaning of democracy and the separation of powers as defined by Montesquieu to create a political structure peculiarly suited only to US conditions. Those who now claim that the US version of democracy is a heritage of the Enlightenment universally suited for all humankind have been highly selective in their understanding of history.

Strictly speaking, the modern world arrived in the 18th and 19th centuries with the transfer of power from the aristocracy and the absolutist kings (Louis XIV in France and James I in England) to the upper middle classes—the elite bourgeoisie. The upper middle classes were represented by constitutional assemblies, legislatures, and parliaments, which took power away from the kings and aristocrats by violent revolutions or by reform legislation: England (1688, 1830s), the United States (1776), France (1789, 1830, 1848, 1870), Canada (1840s and 1850s), and Germany (1848, 1918). Japan embarked on a deliberate program of “modernization” in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The shift of power was accompanied by the Industrial Revolution and liberal, or free-enterprise, economic theory (laissez faire), the economic counterpart of the middle-class political revolutions. Critiques of this modern, elitist middle-class, democratic, and laissez-faire industrial system emerged at various points in the 19th century, most notably in Marxist and other socialist movements. Although these movements of the working people were critical of the upper-middle-class entrepreneurs who led the 18th century and early 19th century “modern” revolutions, Marxists and other socialists remained modern in most of their assumptions. Thorough-going critique of the modern world view and its rational-scientific outlook, its rationally organized economic production system, and its rationally centralized bureaucratic politics did not emerge until the late 19th century and early 20th century. Such critique came at first only from philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), scientists such as Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), and artists and writers. Only in the late 20th century did such postmodern critique become widespread. For most people in the 1980s, in Europe and North America and increasingly around the world, modern ways of life dominated, although intellectuals had been attacking or reinterpreting modern views for some time.

One way to understand Western modernity is to look at countervailing social, political and religious manifestations. As anthropologists, sociologists and historians have studied the “traditional village societies” that survived in a few remote areas of Europe and in non-Western cultures, they have learned much about the nature of the modern Western world view. The very name “traditional society” focuses on what is perhaps the most important single aspect. “Modern” means “now”—a world view focusing on the now, on the latest, on the newest and the most dominant. A traditional society takes “handed down” things (Latin tradita) as its starting point and modifies them slowly even as it tries to be faithful to the inherited ideas and customs. A modern world view implicitly assumes the superiority of the latest and newest as liberating and expansive, and almost invariably scorns the old-fashioned as constrictive and oppressive. The confrontation of the non-Western world with the ascending West that turned out to be aggressively intrusive, and the rationalization of victimization as a deserved fate of not being modern, has affected the development of the non-Western world, particularly the ancient cultures found in China, India and the Middle East. It forced these cultures to reject age-old values that had evolved from centuries of struggle toward harmony to adopt the new barbarism of domination, militarism and racism to survive.

The clearest example is Japan, the thoroughly “modern” Asian power. The Meiji era (1868-1912), a period historians identify as the beginning of modern Japan, marks the reign of the Meiji emperor during which Japan was “modernized” and rose to world power status on a path that eventually brought it the detonation of two atomic bombs. The Meiji Restoration ended the more than 250-year-old feudalistic Tokugawa shogunate. In 1868, 14-year-old Mutsuhito succeeded his father, the Emperor Komei, taking the title Meiji, meaning ironically “enlightened rule”. Considering that the economic structure and production of the country was then roughly equivalent to Elizabethan England, to have become a world power in such a short amount of time is widely regarded as remarkable progress. This process was closely guided and heavily subsidized by the Meiji government, enhancing the power of the great zaibatsu, firms such as Mitsubishi. Hand in hand, the zaibatsu and government developed the modern nation, borrowing technology and cultural concepts from the West, copying the British Empire of the Victorian age, much the same way Japan did from Tang China in nation-building in the 7th century. Kyoto was a scaled-down replica of the Tang capital, Changan. Japanese mercantilist policies gradually took control of much of Asia's markets for manufactures, beginning with textiles. The economic structure became mercantilist, importing raw materials and exporting finished products—a reflection of Japan's relative poverty in raw materials, a condition similar to those found in England.

Japan's defeat of China in Korea in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) established it not as an Asian power, but as a Western power in Asia infatuated with Western racist values, which generated much anti-Japanese sentiment throughout Asia. Japan's breakthrough as an international power came with its victory against Europeanized Russia in Manchuria in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Allied with Britain since 1902 against Czarist Russian expansionism in Asia, Japan joined the Allies in World War I, seizing German-held territory in China and the Pacific in the process, but otherwise remained largely out of the conflict. After the war, a weakened Europe left a greater share in international markets to the United States and Japan, both of which emerged greatly strengthened, setting them on a path of conflict that ended in Pearl Harbor. Japanese competition made great inroads into hitherto European-dominated markets in Asia, not only in China, but also even in European colonies such as British India and Dutch Indonesia.

Japan emerged from the Tokugawa-Meiji transition as the first industrialized nation in Asia. Domestic commercial activities and limited foreign trade had met the demands for material culture in the Tokugawa period, but the modernized Meiji era had radically different requirements. From the onset, the Meiji rulers embraced the concept of a market economy and adopted British and American forms of free-enterprise capitalism. The private sector—in a nation blessed with an abundance of aggressive entrepreneurs—welcomed such change. Trade in the Confucian culture that formed Japan ranked below prostitution in social esteem. Luckily for the merchant class, trade was rescued from traditional social scorn through its role in national survival. Similar evolution is currently taking place in China, with results that are controversial at best.

Economic reforms included a unified modern currency based on the yen, banking, commercial and tax laws, stock exchanges, and a communications network. Establishment of a modern institutional framework conducive to an advanced capitalist economy took time but was put in place by the 1890s. By this time, the government had largely relinquished direct control of the modernization process, primarily for budgetary reasons. Many of the former daimyo, whose pensions had been paid in a lump sum, benefited greatly through investments they made in emerging industries. Those who had been informally involved in foreign trade before the Meiji Restoration also flourished. Old bakufu-serving firms that clung to their traditional ways failed in the new business environment.

The establishment of the bakufu by Minamoto Yoritomo was the single most transforming event of early Japan. The bakufu, or “tent government” (because soldiers lived in tents), was more or less a military government. It primarily functioned as a separate government concerned principally with military and police matters. The emperor's government in Kyoto continued to function as before: the court still appointed civil governors, collected taxes, and exercised complete control in the area surrounding the capital.

The real power of the state, however, became more concentrated in the hands of the Kamakura shogun. The word shogun is a Chinese term for “general”. Minamoto Yoritomo demanded the title Sei i tai shogun, “barbarian-conquering great general”, when he defeated the Taira. The shogun, and the military government beneath him, really did not control much of Japan. For all practical purposes, the provinces of Japan were independent even though local lords (daimyo) who swore allegiance to the shogun.

The shogunate, however, did not remain in Minamoto clan hands for very long. When Yoritomo died in 1199, his widow, from the clan of the Hojo, usurped power from the Minamoto clan. She was a Buddhist nun, so she became known as the “Nun Shogun”. She displaced the son who had inherited from his father and installed another son, who was soon assassinated. From that point onward, the Hojo clan ruled the bakufu while the Minamoto clan nominally occupied the position of shogun. The relationship between the bakufu and the imperial government had never been very friendly; in 1221, the imperial court led an uprising against the bakufu, but failed. By this point, however, the ideology of loyalty had become fully ingrained in the bakufu structure; the imperial court had little success persuading people to break that loyalty.

The defining moment for the Kamakura bakufu was the unsuccessful invasion of Japan by the Mongol Chinese. In 1258, Kublai Khan conquered the Korean Peninsula and in 1266, he declared himself emperor of China and established the Yuan Dynasty. In 1266, representatives of the Yuan court came to Japan and demanded submission to Chinese rule. The imperial court was terrified, but the Hojo clan decided to stand its ground and sent the representatives home. In 1274, the Yuan emperor sent a vast fleet to invade Japan but it was destroyed by a hurricane—the Japanese called this fortunate hurricane kamikaze, or “wind from the gods”. Again in 1281, China launched the largest amphibious assault in the history of the ancient and medieval worlds. The Chinese army was a terrifying invasion force. But the Hojo clan managed to keep the Chinese from landing by building a vast seawall against the invaders. Another hurricane again sank the Chinese fleet.

The bakufu might have saved Japan from Chinese invasion, but they could not survive the modernization program of the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji government was initially involved in economic modernization, providing a number of “model factories” to facilitate the transition to the modern period. After the first two decades of the Meiji period, the industrial economy expanded rapidly until about 1920 with inputs of advanced Western technology and large private investments. Stimulated by wars and through cautious economic planning, Japan emerged from World War I as a major industrial nation. Its mercantilist path led it to the quest of empire in the British fashion. After World War II, General Douglas MacArthur turned Japan into an export dynamo in the service of the United States in the context of the Cold War. This role became obsolete after the end of the Cold War. The current economic crisis in Japan is rooted in issues much deeper than Western economists have identified.

Europeans outside of Italy were much less conscious of any sudden break with the Middle Ages. Medieval intellectual interests persisted in the continuing founding of universities, which the Italian humanists regarded as pedantic centers of scholastic learning. Between 1386 and 1506, no fewer than 14 universities were founded in Germany, while no new university was founded in Italy in the 15th century. At one of the new German universities, at Wittenburg, founded in 1502, Marin Luther (1484-1546) launched the Reformation against the Renaissance Church. The Scholastic philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) laid the foundation of European thought by calling for exactness and disciplined thinking, and above all made Christendom safe for reason with his doctrine that faith could not be endangered by reason. In contrast, at about the same time, Islamic authorities ruled that valid interpretation of the Koran had ended with the Four Great Doctors of early Islam. “The gate was closed” was an Islamic saying, and with it centuries of brilliant Arabic thought withered away gradually. It is the greatest irony in intellectual history, since it had been Arabic learning on ancient Greek culture that helped Christian scholars rediscover Aristotelian syllogism.

The Holy Roman Empire was proclaimed in AD 962, five decades after the German magnates elected a king in 911, who also assumed the title of Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire was in theory coterminous with Latin Christendom, and endowed with a special mission of defending and extending the true faith. The Holy Roman Emperor was never able to consolidate his political domain as did the kings of France and England, because the magnates of Germany allied themselves with the papacy in Rome to preserve their feudal liberties from the emperor.

In the mid-15th century, a group of kings in Europe, known in history as the New Monarchs, succeeded in laying the foundation for nation-states. The new monarchs offered the institution of monarchy as a guarantee of law and order, against aristocratic abuse of the bourgeoisie and the peasants who were willing to pay taxes to the king in return for peace and protection, and to let the king dominate parliament which had proved to be a stronghold of the aristocracy. The new monarchies broke down the mass of inherited feudal “common law” through which the rights of the feudal classes were entrenched, by reinstituting Roman law, which was actively studied in the new universities. These new monarchs proclaimed themselves as sovereigns and required their subjects to address them as “Your Majesty.” According to lex regia in Roman law, the sovereign incorporates the will and the welfare of the people in his person, and upholds the principle of salus populi suprema lex (the welfare of the people is the highest law). The sovereign can make law, enact it by his own authority regardless of past customs or historical liberties by the principle of quo principi placuit legis habet vigorem (what pleases the prince has the force of law).

The New Monarchy came to England with the dynasty of the Tudors, whose first king, Henry VII (1485-1509), put an end to the War of the Roses, which had greatly decimated the English baronial families. In France, the New Monarchy was represented by Louis XI (1461-83) and his successors. Louis XI maintained a regular royal army, no longer dependent on aristocratic support for maintaining peace and waging war. The French king acquired much greater authority to raise taxes without parliament consent than the English Tudors. The Estate General met only once in the reign of Louis XI, and on that occasion requested the king to govern without them in the future. Over the First Estate, the Church, the French kings asserted extensive powers.

The Pragmatic Sanction of 1438 gave the Gallic Church much independence from Rome. In 1516, King Francis I reached an agreement with Pope Leo X, the Concordat of Bologna, rescinding the Pragmatic Sanction, by dividing the independence with Rome receiving the “innates” or money income from French ecclesiastics, the king appointed the bishops and abbots. The fact that the French monarchy controlled the Gallic church was the main reason why France never turned Protestant.

The New Monarchy came to Spain through facilities offered by the Church, since the kingdom of Spain did not exist before that. The Spanish were the most tolerant of all Europeans, with Christians, Muslims and Jews living in harmony. As the New Monarchy in Spain followed a religious bent, achieving unification through the Church, national feelings fused with Catholicity. With the Christian conquest of Granada, Moors and Jews were expelled. The Inquisition hunted down Moriscos (Christians with Moorish background) and Maranos (Christians of Jewish background). A decree in 1492 expelling Jews followed their expulsion from England in 1290 and from France in 1306. Jews were not allowed to return to England until the mid-17th century and to France until after the French Revolution. The Sephardic Jews from Spain went mostly to the Near and Middle East. The Jews who left England and France went mostly to Germany, the great center of Ashkenazic Jewry of the Middle Ages. Driven from Germany in the 14th century, they concentrated in Poland until the Holocaust of the 1940s.

Ideas of the New Monarchy were also at work in the Holy Roman Empire in Germany, with the difference that the estates in the other new monarchies took the form of princely states, duchies, margraviats, bishoprics and abbacies in Germany. The emperor became an elective office by seven Electors. In 1356, the Archduke of Austria, a Hapsburg, was elected emperor. The Hapsburgs remained the principal power in Europe, until after the Thirty Years' War, which ended in 1648.

Protestantism, as espoused by Martin Luther (1483-1546), was revolutionary because its doctrines held not merely that abuses in the Church must be reformed but that the Roman Church itself, even if perfect by its own ideals, was wrong in principle. Protestants aimed not to restore the medieval Church from Renaissance abuses, but to overthrow it and replace it with a church founded on principles drawn from the Bible. Such principles should not be decreed by the Church but by the individual believer's conscience.

This attitude against central authority was music to the German princes, who responded positively to Luther's invitation to the state to assume control of religion. Protestantism became entwined with social and political revolution. Charles V, as Holy Roman Emperor, was obliged to defend the faith because only within a Catholic world did the Holy Roman Empire have any meaning. The princely states within the empire saw the emperor's effort to suppress Luther as a threat to their own freedom. The imperial free states and the dynastic states of northern Germany insisted on ius reformandi, the right to determine their own religion. They became Lutheran and secularized (ie, confiscated) church properties to enrich the secular sovereigns.

Thus Luther, in placing theological protest under the protection of secular power politics, exploited the political aspirations of budding German principalities in the 16th century. In return, he conveniently provided the German princes with a theological basis for political secession from the theocratic Holy Roman Empire.

Luther exploited the political aspirations of German princes to be independent of the Holy Roman Emperor to bolster his theological revolt from the Roman Catholic Church. But he came to denounce peasant rebellions when the peasants rebelled against the Protestant German princes. He did so even though such peasant uprisings against the German princes claimed inspiration from the same theological ideas of the Reformation that had motivated the revolt against the Holy Roman Emperor by the same German princes for independence. Such radical ideas had been advocated by Luther. However, even Luther's professed personal sympathy for peasant demands for improved treatment from their oppressive princes did not persuade him to endorse peasant uprisings.

In fact, Luther could be considered a Stalinist. Or more accurately, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (1879-1953) would in fact fit the definition of a Lutheran diehard, at least in revolutionary strategy if not in ideological essence. Like Luther, Stalin suppressed populist radicalism to preserve institutional revolution, and glorified the state as the sole legitimate expeditor of revolutionary ideology.

Early Protestantism, like Stalinism, became more oppressive and intolerant than the system it replaced. Ironically, puritanical Protestant ethics celebrating the virtues of thrift, industry, sobriety and responsibility, were identified by many sociologists as the driving force centuries later behind the success of modern capitalism and industrialized economy. Particularly, ethics as espoused by Calvinism, which in its extreme advocated subordination of the state to the church, diverging from Luther's view of the state to which the church is subordinate, was ironically credited as the spirit behind the emergence of the modern Western industrial state. In that sense, the post-Cold War Islamic theocratic states are Calvinist in principle.

[Publisher's note: I was unable to locate the next part on imperialism and modernity.]