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The Japanese Spirit
written by "Okakura, Yoshisaburo, 1868-1936"
...all when the night of Death spreads its dark folds over our mortal mind! But ask a modern Japanese of ordinary education in the broad daylight of life, if he believes in a God in the Christian sense; or in Buddha as the creator; or in the Shinto deities; or else in any other personal agency or agencies, as originating and presiding over the universe; and you would immediately get an answer in the negative in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. Do you ask why? First, because our school education throughout its whole course has, ever since its re-establishment thirty-five years ago, been altogether free from any teaching of a denominational nature. The ethical foundations necessary for the building up of character are imparted through an adequate commentary on the moral sayings and maxims derived mostly from Chinese classics. Secondly, because the little knowledge about natural science which we obtain at school seems to make it impossible to anchor our rational selves on anything other than an impersonal law. Thirdly, because we do not see any convincing reason why morals should be based on the teaching of a special denomination, in face of the fact that we can be upright and brave without the help of a creed with a God or deities at its other end. So, for the average mind of the educated Japanese something like modern scientific agnosticism, with a strong tendency towards the materialistic monism of recent times, is just what pleases and satisfies it most. If not so definitely thought out, and if expressed with much less learned terminology, the thought among our educated classes as regards supernatural agencies has during the past three centuries been much the same. The Confucian warning against meddling with things supernatural, the atheistic views and hermit-like conduct of the adherents of Laoism, and the higher Buddhism, all contributed towards the consolidation of this mental attitude with a conscious or unconscious belief in th...

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