Religious dimensions of confucianism: Cosmology and cultivation

Philosophy East and West 48 (1):5-45 (1998)
Using the terms "cosmology" and "cultivation," the religious nature of Confucianism is explored, beginning with a discussion of the ambiguity surrounding Confucianism and its political uses, which often obscure its religious dimensions. It is also assumed that categories of Western theology such as immanence and transcendence are not adequate to describe Confucianism as religious. In this spirit, it is suggested that beyond political distortions or theoretical interpretations, Confucianism has religious dimensions that need to be explored further. The interaction of the microcosm of the self with the macrocosm of the universe is a central dialectic for establishing inner and outer harmony. Thus, cultivating oneself, responding morally to the social and political order, and resonating with the patterns in nature are at the heart of Confucian religiosity. This is illustrated by two examplars of the Japanese Neo-Confucian tradition: Yamazaki Ansai (1618-1682) and Kaibara Ekken (1630-1714)
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