[JAPANESE BUDDHISM AND CHRISTIANITY]
[Lucifer, Vol. IV, No. 19, March, 1889, pp. 80-82]
History repeats itself. The rise and triumph of Christianity and its general spread in the West were due originally to a purely political exigency. While remaining to his death a devoted heathen, Constantine enforced the creed of the Nazarene sect upon his army and people, and made of it a state religion. The fall and decadence of Christianity will be due, as Karmic effect, to the same cause, and Christian constitutional Sovereigns will have perhaps at no distant day to make away with priests and Churches for the same political reasons as those which guided the wily Constantine. The hands of the great Law of Retribution is already at work. How low the fundamental idea that underlies the teachings of Christ has now fallen is instanced in what is going on at the present moment in Japan. Christianity is advocated there, not because of its ethics, not because it is regarded as the one revealed religion, or even the best; but the conversion—in this case perversion, surely—of a whole nation is contemplated simply as a trade commodity, the price paid for the right of standing in the same rank as the European nations. It is by such a suicidal step that this misguided and truly benighted, though clever and good, people hope to reach the same level of civilization as we have attained. That they would reach at the same time all the moral degradation of our centres of civilization does not seem to have entered their dazed minds. The real motive that
prompts some of their leaders is confessed with praiseworthy sincerity by some Japanese literati and publicists, and the slap on the face of Christianity is received by the servants of Christ with rapturous joy. “Is it advisable to embrace the religion of Europe and America?” ask some politicians. It is, answer the greatest Materialists of Japan. The whole question is in a nutshell, and we find it stated in a small paragraph of a daily:
Those connected with the movement say that Christian dogmas are a bitter pill to swallow, but advise that it be swallowed promptly for the sake of the aftereffects. Mr. Fukuzawa, a well-known writer, urges this course, although he says he takes no personal interest whatever in religion, and knows nothing of the teaching of Christianity; but he sees that it is the creed of the most highly civilized nations. To him religion is only a garment, to be put on or taken off at pleasure, but he thinks it prudent that Japan should wear the same dress as her neighbours, with whom she desires to stand well. Professor Toyama, of the Imperial University, has published a work to support this view. He holds that Chinese ethics must be replaced by Christian ethics, and that the benefits to be derived from the introduction of Christianity are: (1) The improvement of music; (2) union of sentiment and feeling, leading to harmonious co-operation; and (3) the furnishing a medium of intercourse between men and women.
Oh, poor purblind Japs! But:—
Mr. Kato, the late President of the Imperial University who says that religion is not needed for the educated, and confesses his dislike to all religions equally, urges the introduction of religious teaching into the Government schools, on the ground that the unlearned in Japan have had their faith in old moral standards shaken, and that there is now a serious lack of moral sentiment among the masses. Among the replies to this is one by a Mr. Sugiura, who is described as “a diligent student of Western philosophy for many years.” He speaks of the specially marked lack of religious feeling and sentiment in his countrymen: The Japanese, he says, have no taste for religion whatever, and it is impossible that they should ever become a religious people. The youth of Japan, he argues, being free from the thraldom of creeds, and free to act according to reason, are so far in advance of Europeans, and instead of talking about adopting a foreign religion Japanese should go abroad and preach their religion of reason to foreign countries. Other writers urge the same views.
The second proposition is an improved notion and we hope it will pass. The voyage of our President to Japan may yet become fruitful of events and help in this later
amendment. In the matter of ethics and common morality, European nations are undeniably below the level, not only of Japan, but of India and every other uncivilized country. It is a boast of Church and civilization that Christian grace has softened the hearts of men and reformed barbarous customs. Facts and centuries of experience prove this to be a boast truly, and nothing else. Ideal Christianity or the Gnosticism of a Marcion or Valentinus would have softened the rude customs of barbarous ages and have been an improvement of the inner man, such as he was during the period of the decadence of Rome. Church Christianity, however, helped by the fatal law of reversion to original types, caused only the outward bearing of the physical man to assume a more polished and therefore less sincere demeanour than shown by the barbarian of old; and civilization, while putting on the mask of Christian humility, has led the European nations back to all the moral dissolution, sensuality, crime, and cruelty of the polished Roman, but to none of the virtues of the rude Spartan. Outward leprosy has disappeared from the surface to work the more actively inwardly. The combination of pagan* rites and metaphysical ideas (now transformed into the Church dogmas and symbolism) with Gnostic Christianity euhemerized, has justified fully the wisdom of the reply to the disciples of John the Baptist, namely, that “neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out.” The pagan bottles of the Churches have broken, and shown their true origin thereby; and the wine of Christ is running out and spilling as fast as it can. Christianity has now become purely geographical; and the worst animal, bestial instincts in man seem to strengthen with every new step we take in civilization. Let us, then, have the Japs come to Europe by all means, and preach to it Buddhist morality. Any ism is better than all the licentiousness of the centuries of Caligula, Nero, and Messalina under the mask of mock Christianity and cant—that sickening Pecksniffianism of our modern day!
* Vide article “The Roots of Ritualism in Church and Masonry.”