OF MINDS & MEN : On Universal History & The Creation of Aristocratic Men (Part II of IV)

Part I has been published on December 9, 2023 on this platform.

Part II :

Third & last quotation from Professor Huaiyu Wang’s piece on Gu Hongming (1857-1928) :

” The Aesthetic Appeal of the Gentleman and the Universal Order of Civilization.

Gu’s vision to bridge the divide between East and West ‘by joining the best with best’ stems from his deep familiarity with both classical Confucian teachings and modern Romantic ideas. As Gu sees it, ‘there is very little difference between the East of Confucius and the West of Shakespeare and Goethe’. Accordingly, ‘those who well know both, know that the best in China and in the West are in perfect harmony. Let the best of the two civilizations unite and nothing but good will follow.’ Gotelind Müller affirms that Gu’s Confucianism is the royal road to true civilization of the whole human race, which had been threatened to break into smithereens between the Scylla of A FALSE LIBERALISM and the Charybdis of MATERIALISM. Hence, ‘when dialogue is often asked for as an antidote against a clash of civilizations’, Gu’s thesis on the correspondence between the best thinkers in the East and West may well provide more solid foundation for a fruitful intercultural dialogue than today’s fairly common academic value-indifferent forms of post-modern, radically-relativistic anti-essentialism criticism’. In my view, Gu was far ahead of his time when he realized, as many cultural relativists do today, that a global order centered on the ‘signifier Civilization’ of the modern Western Powers and their self-promoting values and interests was doomed to miscarry. However, in contrast with those relativists who went to the other extreme and rejected all universal standards and principles in order to reinstall the ‘unique’ self-serving values of each culture, Gu maintained that a universal order was not only possible but also necessary although we have no guarantee as to when humankind can accomplish this. Remarkably, the universal order that Gu envisioned was not ‘a hybrid system of both worlds’ as suggested by some scholars. As a matter of fact, IN AN ARTICLE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES IN 1921, Gu made it very clear that the attempts to amalgamate Eastern and Western civilizations, such as proposed by the then Japanese prime minister, Hara Takashi, reflected an ignorance of what civilization ‘is either a true civilization or a false or, as the Japanese say, a magai make-believe civilization : there is no East or West’. But how should we understand this universal order were it to involve neither such universal principles as promulgated by the modern Western Powers nor a hybrid of Eastern and Western values ? Here, it is worthwhile to recollect Gu’s main ideas on civilization as presented in the 1921 article : ‘Uncivilized United States’. As Gu made clear, the object of his article was not to ‘abuse the American people’s as its title ‘Uncivilized United States’ might have suggested’. IT WAS RATHER TO SHOW THE TRUE MEANING OF CIVILIZATION. Because in order to ‘save civilization…the first thing you must do…is to know what civilization is.’ For Gu, THE ESSENCE OF A CIVILIZATION is not its economic and technological advancement as measured by the ‘standard of living’. It consists not even in the arts, sciences, and institutions, but in ITS ENDURING SPIRITUAL ACHIEVEMENT. Here, Gu cited Analects 17.11 where Confucius (551-479 BCE) took issue with the then prevalent tendency to take Li 礼 (Li3) & Yue 乐 (Yue4) (ritual, ceremony, forms of courtesy amd music) — the essential expressions of Chinese religion and civilization — to be a matter of ‘carrying fine jades’, ‘wearing silk dresses’ and playing musical instruments like bells and drums. Questioning the Japanese prime minister’s desire to amalgamate civilizations, Gu said that it was a gross mistake to take ‘wearing high collars, cutting the queue, building European houses, riding in motor cars and erecting statues such as one sees in the streets of Tokyo’ as ‘the whole of civilization or civilization at all’. In Gu’s view, the true meaning of civilization in classical Confucian teachings, was precisely ‘THE MAKING OF THE CIVIL PERSON.’ The spirit of civilization consisted in the ideal types of personalities who were able to realize the universal truth of humanity. Resorting to Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) and the Chinese poet Su Dongpo’s (1037-1101) interpretations, Gu stated that both Christianity and Confucianism were, first and foremost, ‘A TEMPER, A DISPOSITION.’ Likewise, ‘civilization is also, first and above all, A STATE OF MIND AND HEART : A SPIRITUAL LIFE.’ The essence of civilization ‘is not dress, house, furniture, machine, ship or gun, but GENTLENESS OF MIND AND HEART.’ The ‘chief and one aim of civilization’, therefore, is not ‘to make and teach men to be strong, but to make and teach men to be gentle.’ Accordingly, the only right and effective way to govern an empire, the Japanese shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) remarked, is expressed in the Chinese word Ci 慈 (Ci2), or ‘to have a gentle and tender heart’. The Latin ‘alma’, as in ‘alma mater’, the extreme gentle tenderness of a mother. For Gu, the development of an ideal type of humanity grounded in gentleness of mind and heart is the foundation of all true social orders. IT IS THIS SENSUS COMMUNIS OF THE HEART AS INSPIRED BY THE *SUBLIME* MORAL AND POETICAL TEMPERAMENT THAT IS TRULY UNIVERSAL. As Gu elaborated, the ‘essence and powers of all great systems of religious teachings such as Christianity and Confucianism ‘does not lie in any particular precept such as even the golden rule, much less in the collection of theories, rule of conduct and discipline.’ Rather, IT LIES IN THE PERFECT STATE OF TEMPER, SPIRIT AND MIND’. In fact, when this gentle and tender heart is absent, even the golden rule may lose its universal appeal and find itself enforced autocratically, by whoever has the greatest number of machine guns. On the other hand, when this gentleness of mind and heart obtains, even those with opposing values and opinions will tolerate, respect, and even learn from each other or at least agree to disagree, if disagreement is unavoidable. Thus, by shifting the priority from external laws and institutions to *** THE INTERNAL LAW OF THE GENTLEMAN ***, GU IDENTIFIED A NEW IDEA OF THE UNIVERSAL AS A COMMON SENSE OF RIGHT AND WRONG, PREDICATED ON OUR REFINED TEMPERAMENT AND CULTIVATED PERSONALITIES, THIS IDEA OF THE UNIVERSAL IS UNFETTERED BY THE DOGMATIC INSISTENCE ON ANY TRANSCENDENT PRINCIPLES OR HAPHAZARD MIXTURE OF EASTERN AND WESTERN VALUES. As I see it, Gu’s idea about the truth of humanity and the universal order of civilization comprise two interconnected philosophical theses. First, moral truth or rightness of moral conduct does not come from PARTIAL or MECHANICAL conformity of one’s body or intellect to some pre-established moral rules outside one’s being. Rather, it consists in THE ENACTMENT OF ONE’S WHOLE NATURE AND BEING WHEN IT S ‘FULLY DEVELOPED, PROPERLY BALANCED, AND IN A WELL-ORDERED HARMONIOUS CONDITIONS.’ Gu elaborated in Appendix B to his translation of the Zhongyong 中 庸, The Doctrine of The Mean : In order to think aright and find out what is morally right and true, we must first of all, put and keep the state of OUR WHOLE NATURE AND BEING in a proper and well-ordered condition. The more fully our whole nature and being is developed and the more perfectly it is kept in proper, well ordered and well balanced condition, the more exact, just and true will be the product of our thoughf, i.e. the nearer the idea in our mind or the product of our thought, i.e. the nearer the idea in our mind or the product of our thought approaches that which the thing we think about really is, AS IT EXISTS BY THE LAW OF ITS NATURE; and in this way brings the action which we take nearer to that which is in unison with the universal order and system of things in the Universe, in fact, what we think then is true and what we do is just. (Gu, 1906). NOW, THIS STATE OF THE PROPER ORDER AND BALANCE OF OUR WHOLE NATURE AND BEING IS THE VITAL STATE OF *ZHONG HE 中 和*(Zhong1 He2). Here, Gu takes the Chinese word ‘zhong’ to mean OUR CENTRAL INNER SELF, and thus OUR TRUE SELF. It corresponds nicely to what Arnold calls ‘the central clue in our moral being which unites us to the universal order (Arnold 1892). Gu rendered the word ‘He’ 和 (He2) which is usually translated as ‘harmonny’, as ‘moral order’. This translation makes good sense here in reference to THE APPROPRIATE EXPRESSION OF OUR EMOTIONS IN ACCORD WITH THE RITUAL AND SOCIAL DECORUM. Thus, when our whole nature and being are attuned to a well-ordered and balanced condition, when our ‘true moral being and moral order are realized, the universe then becomes a cosmos and all things attain their full growth and development (Gu 1906). Second, THE KEY TO ALL MORAL ACTION IS THE MORAL SENSE THAT INSPIRES A PERSON TO FULFILL HIS OR HER MORAL OBLIGATION AS *A FREE AGENT*, ASIDE FROM ULTERIOR MOTIVES OF PROFIT AND FEAR OF PUNISHMENT. GU IDENTIFIES THIS MORAL SENSE, THIS *** SENSE OF HONOR AND TRUTHFULNESS *** , AS THE HEART OF THE CHINESE RELIGION OF GOOD CITIZENSHIP. IT IS ESSENTIAL TO REALIZE OUR TRUE BEING. IT IS ALSO THE UNIVERSAL FOUNDATION OF ALL TRUE SOCIAL ORDERS. No society, no human organization or institution, can truly function without this sense of honor and duty. As Gu iterates in ‘The Spirit of the Chinese People’ : ‘ A society without the sense of honor in men, and without morality in its politics, cannot … be held together, or at any rate, cannot last (Gu 1922). In Gu’s view, the true foundation of such social institutions as marriage is NOT the allegedly sacred social contract sanctioned by legal or divine authority. It is NOT even the passion of love between a man and a woman. It is rather the law of the gentleman and good manners, THE SENSE OF HONOR that inspires a man and woman to recognize and respect the duty and dignity of their BEING and BELONGING TOGETHER in the same family and community. This is why Confucius says the law of the gentleman, which is the essence of moral law, ‘takes its rise’ in the relation between husband and wife, but in its outmost reaches it reigns supreme over Heaven and Earth (Gu 1922). Even for merchants and gamblers, unless all parties recognize and feel themselves bound by a BASIC MORAL SENSE TO HONOR THEIR CONTRACTS, no gambling or trade would be possible. As an old Chinese saying puts it, ‘THERE MUST BE HONOR EVEN AMONG THIEVES’. Without a minimum sense of honor and trust, it is impossible even for gangsters to work together. Thus, with no, or no adequate, sense of honor or duty, there can be no social order, for then a society can be held up only by the use of force and fraud. But a social order based on force (eg, the police or military) and fraud cannot really function, or at least not in any sustainable manner. Because it would implicate infinite snags of vicious circles : it would have to use greater and greater numbers of guns to put down other guns, and bigger and bigger lies to cover up the old lies. Such vicious circles, indeed, are characteristic of those individuals (or nations) caught in the mess of a deadlock by means of some clever dodge, contrivance, or scheme of reform, which, instead of salvaging them, only bring them ‘into a greater mess and deadlock’. In light of Confucian teachings, there is ‘ONLY ONE TRUE WAY OF ESCAPE’ from such circumstance : ‘ to get back to the evenness of your temper and your calm judgment; TO GET BACK TO YOUR TRUE SELF, or in the words of Confucius, TO FIND THE CENTRAL CLUE AND BALANCE IN YOUR MORAL BEING.’ In other words, the ultimate solution to all social and political deadlock must be a moral solution. It consists in the moral reform of one’s own being and person, which ‘must precede all and every other reform.’ It is only when a person or a nation HAS RECOVERED AND GOT HOLD OF THE TRUTH OF THEIR BEING that they will be able to ‘SEE and UNDERSTAND the true and exact state of … affairs’ and to ‘see and DO WHAT IS MORALLY JUST AND RIGHT.’ It is only then that : NOT ONLY MEN AND THINGS, BUT THE WHOLE UNIVERSE, GOVERNED AS IT IS BY THE SAME MORAL ORDER, BY THE SAME ORDER AND SYSTEM OF THINGS, WILL RESPOND AND OBEY; AND WHATEVER THINGS ARE ABOUT AND AROUND SUCH A MAN WILL AT ONCE AGAIN ARRANGE THEMSELVES INTO A HARMONIOUS AND COSMIC ORDER. (Gu 1906)’

Here, at the end of the third and last quotation from Professor Huaiyu Wang, is the perfect place for returning to the Muses. I left them after having adumbrated EUTERPE, URANIA and TERPSICHORE. Beyond arithmetics & geometry, the Divine Ladies rule over the Numbers by presiding respectively over Music, Astronomy and Dance. I left them before going deeper into their Domain because it was a good metaphorical way to illustrate that Numbers are only the introductory layer of the Estate of Beauty and there is the mortal risk to be stuck there if we don’t advance further into the lessons offered graciously by the 9 Muses. Numbers are the right expressions for the divine HARMONIC PROPORTIONS and as such should be enthusiastically studied but there are higher types of Harmonies taught by the 9 Muses. POLYHYMNIA is deeply absorbed into the Timeless religious hymns. ERATO offers lyric poetry (enthusiasm, God within, expressed in words) and erotic poetry, bodily love as the first step to higher loves; let’s not forget that the Greek language makes the distinction between eros, filios and agape. CALLIOPE is teaching eloquence, the epic (‘epos’ meaning good) poetry celebrating the heroes and the virtuous men, also Literature, Sciences & Arts. And at the center of their estate, MELPOMENE inspires authors wrting tragedies, THALIA those writing comedies, idyllic poetry too and CLIO favoring with enthusiasm Justice as the end goal of Universal History notwithstanding History in real flesh & blood alternating regularly between tragedies and farces.

I promised at the beginning of my article to write about Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) amd John Dewey (1859-1952). On a second thought, I prefer staying with the noble Philosophers and not wasting my time with them. Suffice it to know that Bertrand Russell promoted a true education for the upper class (at least what he was capable of imagining as a true education …) and only a training for being obedient, following adequately practical instructions, learning a trade and being contented for everyone else. John Dewey fancied that doing things manually and remembering the sequences of the various operations (simple and complex) without theoretical contemplation and without deeply going through the ascending stages of the epistemological Journey would be enough for reaching to true learning. I don’t feel any drive for exploring further their mental cesspool for now.

After the 9 Muses, reminding everyone at this point of Plato’s teachings using the metaphor of the Charioteer (explained in The Republic & The Phaedrus dialogues) as the general structure of the Mind is appropriate because it is primarily the absence of SUPERIOR EMOTIONS which explains why History in blood & flesh alternates so obstinately between tragedies and farces rather than racing resolutely toward the end goal of Universal History that the Chinese Classical Tradition calls 大 一 统 (Da4 Yi1 Tong3) meaning THE GREAT UNION. The Union of the Cosmological Order and the Human Order. The Union of the Upper Trigram & the Lower Trigram. The Union of Episteme & Doxa. ** THE GREAT UNION OF JUSTICE & POWER **, the dazzling end goal of Universal History.

THRASYMACHUS, the archetypical plutocratic man, a man living at the second stage of the epistemological growth out of six, appearing in Plato’s Republic, said overbearingly that ‘Justice is the advantage of the powerful; in three simple words : MIGHT IS RIGHT.

The Great Union means : MIGHT SERVING RIGHT.

In our time, President Xi Jinping of China gave to the Timeless Idea called 大 一 统 ( Da4 Yi1 Tong3/The Great Union) a contemporary equivalent expression : ‘ The Human Community with a Shared Future’; 人 类 命 运 共 同 体 in Chinese characters and in pin-yin transliteration : Ren2 Lei4 Ming4 Yun4 Gong4 Tong2 Ti3.

Epistemologically speaking, the collective historical Journey from ‘MIGHT IS RIGHT’ to ‘MIGHT SERVING RIGHT’ is the Journey from the PLUTOCRATIC MIND which is motivated by profit, wealth and power for their own sake and not as mere tools of power for higher purposes to the ARISTOCRATIC MIND, motivated by justice, honor, glory, discovery, inventivity, creativity and playful exploration. Hence the title ‘OF MINDS & MEN : ON UNIVERSAL HISTORY & THE CREATION OF ARISTOCRATIC MEN. When Lyndon Larouche Jr (1922-2019) offered the idea that ‘Genius can be taught’, I say the same thing with the expression ‘The creation of aristocratic men’.

In Plato’s metaphor for the general structure of the Mind, the Chariot is the body, also actions. The Black Horse embodies the elementary instincts including the primary impressions coming from the senses-perceptions and THE INFERIOR EMOTIONS (greed including lust, anger, impulsivity, envy, jealousy, anxiety, fear, cravenness, etc.), the White Horse incarnates THE SUPERIOR EMOTIONS (filial piety, piety toward the gods, loyalty, friendliness, gratitude, temperance, compassion, etc.). The responsibility not to allow the inferior emotions to be overwhelming and of nourishing the superior emotions belongs to the Charioteer. The Charioteer is driving guided by Reason and by AXIOLOGICALLY (The Timelessness Reality) being receptive to the Timeless Forms of *Beauty*, **Goodness** and ***Truth*** corresponding EPISTEMOLOGICALLY to *DIANOIA* (Dia/through & Noia/Ideas) meaning the Journey through the Domain pf the 9 Muses, **DIALEKTIKON**, playful exploration and ***THEORIA***, pure contemplation of the Timeless Forms. POLITICALLY (The Time Dimension), this gives birth respectively to the *TRUE TIMOCRATIC MAN*, the **ARISTOCRATIC MAN**, the ***PHILOSOPHER-KING***. That’s what I mean when using the expression ‘The axio-epistemo-political Triangle’.


TEMPUS/Truth,Goodness,Beauty : KAIROS/Journey to Truth,Goodness,Beauty : CHRONOS (Myths, Facts)

BEING/Timelessness : epistemological OVERTURE/integrating Timelessness & Time : BECOMING/Time

Let’s not forget the fundamental parallel Plato made in one of the dialogues he wrote, The Republic, between the structure of a man’s Mind & the structure of a City. In Greek, the dialogue is named ‘Politeia’ and the exact meaning of ‘Politeia’ is ‘Constitution’. THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CITY is the direct image, the direct reflection of THE CONSTITUTION OF THE MINDS of its people, especially the constitution of the Minds of the members of its ruling class. Plato proposed 6 basic types of Mind, matching the 6 ascending stages of the epistemological growth. I want to mention a type of Mind which can be labeled as ‘0’ corresponding to the ochlocratic man. The Greek word ‘okhlos’ means the ‘crowd’, so ochlocracy is the power of the crowd, the mob rule. It also means the Mind completely fragmented, with no center, utterly disorganized. It’s not a surprise that Plato did not start his epistemological map with the ochlocratic ‘Mind’ because it is hopeless. With no mental center of gravity, it’s not possible to advance epistemologically.

Plato offered the same epistemological map, using different words, than Confucius’ Hexagram.

Part III of this piece will be published in about a week.

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