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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Learn to stand in awe of the Unseen


Chinese accounts sound as if based upon profound principles, and one fancies that they must be right, while the Japanese accounts sound shallow and utterly unfounded in reason. But the former are lies while the latter are the truth, so that as time goes on and thought attains greater accuracy, the erroneous nature of these falsehoods becomes even more apparent whale the true tradition remains intact. In modern times, men from countries lying far off in the West have voyaged all round the seas as their inclinations prompted them, and have ascertained the actual shape of the earth. They have discovered that the earth is round and that the sun and the moon revolve round it in a vertical direction, and it may thus be conjectured how full of errors are all the ancient Chinese accounts, and how impossible it is to believe anything that professes to be determined a priori. But when we come to compare our ancient traditions as to the origin of a thing in the midst of space and its subsequent development, with what has been ascertained to be the actual shape of the earth, we find that there is not the slightest error, and this result confirms the truth of our ancient traditions. But although accurate discoveries made by the men of the Far West as to the actual shape of the earth and its position in space infinitely surpass the theories of the Chinese, still that is only a matter of calculation. There are many other things actually known to exist which cannot be solved by that means; and
still less is it possible to solve the question of how the earth, sun, and moon came to assume their form. Probably those countries possess theories of their own, but whatever they may be, they can but be guesses after the event, and probably resemble the Indian and the Chinese theories.

"The most fearful crimes which a man commits go unpunished by society so long as they are undiscovered, but they draw down on him the hatred of the invisible gods. The attainment of happiness by performing good acts is regulated by the same law. Even if the gods do not punish secret sins by the usual penalties of law, they inflict diseases, misfortunes, short life, and extermination of the race. Never mind the praise or blame of fellow men, but act so that you need not be ashamed before the gods of the Unseen. If you desire to practise true virtue, learn to stand in awe of the Unseen, and that will prevent you from doing wrong. Make a vow to the god who rules over the Unseen and cultivate the conscience implanted in you, and then you will never wander from the way. You cannot hope to live more than one hundred years in the most favourable circumstances, but as you will go to the unseen realm of Okuninushi after death and be subject to his rule, learn betimes to bow down before heaven. The spirits of the dead continue to exist in the unseen world which is everywhere about us, and they all become gods of varying character and degrees of influence. Some reside in temples built in their honour; others hover near their tombs, and they continue to render service to their princes, parents, wives, and children as when in their body. [Hirata Atsutane.]"*

*The above extracts are all taken from Sir Ernest Satow's Revival of Pure Shinto in the appendix to Vol. III. of the "Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan."

The great loyalist of the eleventh century, Kitabatake Chikafusa, had fully demonstrated the divine title of the sovereigns of Japan, but his work reached only a narrow circle of readers, and his arguments were not re-enforced by the sentiment of the era. Very different was the case in the days of the four literati quoted above. The arrogant and intolerant demeanour of Japanese students of Chinese philosophy who elevated the Middle Kingdom on a pedestal far above the head of their own country, gradually provoked bitter resentment among patriotic Japanese, thus lending collateral strength to the movement which took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in favour of reversion to the customs and canons of old times.

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