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It is 5:30 am, and yet another sleepless night has passed. I am on a sleeping pill, but it has not kicked in. I kept thinking about my newly flared up motivations for academic writings and things I could accomplish with them. It is truly an exciting thing to think about – just not at 3 am in the morning if I ever want to fall asleep. But here I was, thinking about useless things and planning a day ahead. I even downloaded an app for an aquarium on live so I can watch the fish swimming in a coral leaf somewhere in the ocean. But it failed extraordinarily to make me fall asleep, since the app came with a loud music and I soon realized that I would have to keep looking at the screen when I want to close my eyes and fall asleep. Then the birds began chirping and the main officers came by to drop newspaper. It’s blatantly bright outside, and there is no way I can just magically fall asleep. So here I am, writing a new blog entry that has nothing to do with academic essays. Partially this activity was motivated by the fact that I have not yet uploaded any essays for the last two years of any substantial contents, and partially because the writer in me wanted to fill that void of not having written up anything creative that has originated and sprang up from within: my true voice.

 

As I was thinking about all those possible academic topics I am to accomplish, it came to me that how did I get where I am right now? (Remember, this is all conjured up in my attempt to fall asleep, so forgive me for any incoherent or way too poetical form of framing a question) Well, as I have mentioned many of you already, had I not seen the movie Titanic, I would not have been where I am right now – starting with illegitimacy with English at all. And had there been no actual tragic incident of Titanic, there would not have been a movie that came to touch me from distance (a philosophical interest cleaving in already). But this is a story I tell to people how things happened. Not necessarily why things have had to happen that way.

 

There was a girl I admired in my 10th grade. She had just moved to Hiroshima, where I used to live at that time. Little did I know, I was to move away instead of her coming in to the school I was in shortly after. She was, sort of my replacement, or vice versa. In the short period of time when I got to know her, I soon fell in love with her, and she once said to a group of us what she was looking for in a guy. I am not going to bother listing all up, but she mentioned some qualities she wished her boyfriend would have. At that time, I did not question about them. In fact, until just few hours ago, I didn’t question about it. I just accepted them as natural requests or wishlist. But then, in conjunction with my recent academic flare, I began to put them into perspective. What she said was something any girl or boy would have said – a decent set of request for a partner. You can see them everywhere now with the Internet dating sites like Tinder, OKCupid and eHarmony, etc… I suppose this trend has also camouflaged the ambiguity in this set of requests people have about each other. Think about it, these are qualities you want to have in your partner. Qualities. Ever since I heard what my crush had said at that moment in May of 1994, I kept striving for acquiring those qualities, and I still am. It’s a good thing. In many situations, I was able to become the kind of person with the kind of set of moral standards because of her. So I owe her a lot for who I am. For that I will be eternally grateful for her.

 

A man was in a cave, looking for a shelter as it was raining so hard, when he finds a girl in the same situation. He started telling her the story of his first crush and what qualities she wanted of him, and the girl said in utter wonder, “But are qualities not inherent in oneself?” The man shrugged his head, and responded, “No, they can’t be. Otherwise you are born with qualities such as sociability or good handwriting, but babies can’t have that.”

 

But can qualities something you can acquire actively or do they come to you because your environment requires you to have them? Can you will to be sociable and become sociable, or can you will to write well and have good handwriting? Maybe you can fake it once or twice, but that is not the same as possessing those qualities, like virtue. So would it not be cruel to ask for someone to have such and such a quality? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Even if my crush did have someone already in mind, and not that she was trying to change someone to have those qualities, as a result, it made me want to be a better person. Does that not count as good? I believe it does. Even though, I admit, I have not yet mastered all those qualities she wanted in her partner, I think because of her, I was able to hold onto some principles and adhere to them in times of hardship. Further, she made me want to be someone whom people want to have conversation with, and someone whom they can feel glad that they have met. Because talking to her was such fun that I wanted the same for others who may come across my way when they talk to me.

I think my morning rant is coming to an end. The sleeping pill is kicking me in, and I don’t know how long I can last. I will end with a picture of me that I discovered I could take with my iPhone today that also foreshadows, in hindsight, what I have decided to write just now. (because it seems like it’s all substance without qualities)

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inoue_enryoEnryō Inoue (井上円了) 1858-1919 was a philosopher and a pioneer of occult studies in early modernity in Japan. His views on occult, or Yōkai, was unique in that he categorized anything supernatural or superstitious as well as natural things that are simply unexplained as Yōkai. His aim in occult studies, or henceforth Yōkai studies, was to explain away the unexplained by means of reason and rationality. He divided the category of Yōkai into four segments: 1) that which cannot be explained with the present method of scientific reasoning, 2) that which can be explained as a natural phenomenon, 3) that which occurs psychologically and therefore a creation of mind due to fear or misunderstanding or prejudice, and lastly 4) that which is made up by people. He published a 8-volume book on these Yokai phenomena that exists in the world, and below is a small section he wrote on the generation and corruption of the soul as well as the status of the soul.

Because the topic at hand is interesting for the Western scholars who study on the soul, and because for reasons incomprehensible to me, Inoue’s work on metaphysics has not been translated into English, I have offered as best as I can a translation on the sections he specifically deals with such topics. For those of you who want to see the original text, from which I have translated, click here: enryo-on-the-soul

 

Chapter 7 “On the Generation and Corruption of Soul”

 

(excerpt from Yōkaigaku Kougi 妖怪学講義, or Lectures on Yōkai Phenomenon, Vol. III, Bk 6, Ch. vii, pp33-35, Enryō Inoue, translations mine.)

 

Before explaining what the soul per se is, it should be noted first and foremost on one of the most difficult problems in the ancient religions, that is to say, concerning the generation and corruption of the souls. It is often said, on the one hand, that “Souls must at all perish. For we have never heard that once a living body has died, that which is now dead has returned to life. Further, no one has yet to have examined on the existence of a soul after death. This is because the soul dies with the body.” However, such opinion is of an utmost absurdity for it is no different from the argument that when you see someone in a deep sleep, you judge him to be dead, because you have called his name but he does not respond. On the other hand, it is also said that “He who has died sometimes appears in the form of a ghost, or a certain someone has returned to life after death. These suffice to prove that the souls must not perish.” Such opinion too is of a result of a faulty reasoning due to not knowing what a soul per se is, and hence, neither side of opinions is less than credible. First of all, those who argue that souls must perish focus only on the non-existence of the souls after death, yet they do not talk or examine at all about the existence of souls in the living beings. For come to think of it, aside from whether the souls exist or not after death, our minds do not at all agree whether souls exist or not even in the living beings. Nevertheless, they say souls that have already existed in living beings must perish simultaneously at the time of death. Such an opinion is far from rational. For many things often change their shapes but do not perish. For instance, a glass full of water evaporates into steam when it is heated, yet we do not say that water per se has perished. Thus, it would be even more mysterious and the strangest thing to say that the soul that has once existed has perished all of the sudden than to say that the soul is immortal. If we say that the souls have existed in the living beings, from whence they have come from? In other words, we must investigate their origin as well by looking back into the past.

Thus, generally speaking, those who argue that souls are mortal only tell us that there are no souls after death but never stop to think from whence the souls have come in the living beings. It must be concluded that they have such narrow minds. However, on the other hand, those who argue that the souls are immortal too busy themselves with scanty explanations on reincarnation and souls manifesting as ghosts, and it is obvious that they too have no idea what they are talking about. For they say that they have proofs of having seen someone reincarnated or having seen ghosts, yet the number of ghosts seen is one or two even though millions of people have died in the past. Those particular instances far from guarantee the universality of the phenomenon. For they must first of all explain how in the world these numerous dead have never communicated to us or manifested to us. In sum, both of these opinions regarding the souls’ [im]mortality result from the fact that they are at a loss for they do not understand the nature of the souls. If we want to argue for a position clarifying what the souls as such consist of, it would be far more imperative to study the souls in the living beings than the souls after death. For all the emotions of happiness and sadness, of laughter with our mouths wide open, and of sorrow with our tearful eyes; uttering the beauty on seeing flowers, feeling pleasant on listening to the music, all these mysterious changes in behaviors are all due to the faculty of the souls. What a mysterious power souls must have and how they manifest such power! Without understanding the status of the soul in the living being, it would not be easy to understand the soul after death. For if you only speak of after death, and not before death, such an opinion would be a narrow insight and falls short to speak of the souls in general.

 


Chapter 8 “On the Immortality of the Soul”

 

(excerpt from Yōkaigaku Kougi 妖怪学講義, or Lectures on Yōkai Phenomenon, Vol. III, Bk 6, Ch. viii, pp35-36, Enryō Inoue, translations mine.)

 

In aligning with the academic reasoning of the immortality of the soul, first of all, nothing really perishes according to the law of conservation of mass and the law of conservation of energy. For it has been scientifically proven that one thing does not spontaneously occur and perish completely all of the sudden. The law of physics and the chemistry is built upon such premises. In other words, in the academic world now, that the universe conserves and maintains mass and energy is a principle to which we all adhere. However, my mind too exists as one of the things existing in this universe, hence such law of conservation must also apply to my mind as well. If the mind is nothing but energy, like materialists would argue, it sill must obey the law of conservation and it must be admitted that it never perishes. Suppose that the materialists would say that the mind is neither a thing nor energy, but rather an experience or feeling. Still then, as soon as they admit of saying that there is such a thing as a soul, whatever it is, they must deny that it does not exist. When reasoning with the conservation of mass and energy, they must necessarily say that the mind is immortal.

Second, by the latent power and apparent power of the soul, we can say that the soul active and manifests its apparent power even though it is unable to exercise its apparent power and hidden latent when dead. In this way, it is easy to see that even though the soul seems to perish when the body is dead, even though it was apparent when the body was alive, it would just mean that the soul ceases to manifest apparently in the dead body. The difference is truly in that the difference between latency and apparency of the soul. Take an example of moving your hand. The force exerted in moving your hand does not arise spontaneously. When you suddenly stop the force as to cancel moving your hand, that force does not return to nothingness. In the first case, the force is manifested apparently, but in the second example, the force still exists latent within the body. Power that is latent is only activated when a certain condition is met. Take an example of a seed of a plant, for if you plant it underneath the earth, it will come out and form a specific plant and flower, yet the same seed will remain as it is – a seed – if it is kept in the basket, away from the soil. However, the seed in the basket still possesses the power to become a plant, neither is it the case that the seed planted in the earth gets its power from outside the seed itself. Kept inside the basket, its power is latent and not apparent, whereas once it is planted in the earth its power is made apparent. It is obvious from this that the power itself existing in the seed is any different from the seed being in the basket or underneath the earth. Considered in this line of reasoning, it is natural to think that the mind becomes activated so conditioned when alive, while it conceals its power as latent when the body is dead, that is to say, the actuality of power turns back into potentiality when is it not conditioned to exercise its power.

By the two reasons raised above, it is proved how the mind [soul] is immortal. If so, then, what we need to consider is how the soul in the present and the soul in the future can be different. Yet, that is a topic for the next section.

 

 

Chapter 9: “On the Status of the Soul”

 

(excerpt from Yōkaigaku Kougi 妖怪学講義, or Lectures on Yōkai Phenomenon, Vol. III, Bk 6, Ch. ix, pp36-41, Enryō Inoue, translations mine.)

 

If the soul is to be immortal, what could be the status of the soul after death? That is a big question. When compared the soul after death to the soul in the living, the soul in the living is comprehended in the body with senses perceptions. Everything external is seen by the soul through the window of the sense perceptions, yet when dead, the mind has already departed the body, and the things cannot be seen through the same window of the sense perceptions. Therefore, the first difference between the soul after death and the soul in the living body is that while in the living it is embedded with sense perceptions, it is without sense perceptions after death. Next, the soul in the living is affected in the consciousness, but it enters into the realm of the unconsciousness after death. For instance, it is like the difference between the soul when the body is awake during daytime and when the body is asleep during nighttime, for the status of the mind is different on the one hand being conscious and on the other hand being unconscious. The soul in the living and the dead is the same as such example, which is the second difference. The third difference is that while in the living, the soul establishes a certain individual identity, yet when after death, it has no such tie to the individuality; namely, it enters into the complete equality with the sea of non-self. Judging from the above three points of difference, the soul after death is in the infinitely vast, elegantly boundless place where there is no suffering nor pleasure, no wisdom nor consciousness. Nonetheless, we have said that the soul is immortal, what difference does it make from being its dead? Even though they say there is nirvana, hell, dying with peace or salvation, such can be just a manner of speech. However, in religion, they do not only preach the immortality of the soul, but also there is the status of the soul’s being suffering or pleasant, and further in Buddhism, on what principle and reasoning can we explain the belief in the endless circle of transmigration of six posthumous worlds (Rokudōrin’ne, 六道輪廻) and the rise and fall of fate? This further requires the studies and researches on the part of scholars. To begin with, such a theory differs from the perspective of the materialists and from that of the rationalists. Yet, this is not the time to enumerate the disagreements between the two schools of thoughts. What follows below will just explain the reasons for why the soul must, even after death, maintain and continue to possess the individuality or identity.

A person’s mind-body relationship is neither that of a single relationship, although a person has one identity, nor that of a double relationship, although a person is composed of two distinct attributes; mind and body. As it were, it has neither a single nor a double relationships, and in one’s life time, every single action with regard to body and mind is acquired through perfuming[1] by means of customs and repetitions, and the more habitual it becomes, the more solidified such an action becomes so as to form as a kind of individuality. Therefore, upon death, when the soul departs body, even though the soul enters upon the sea of equality, the customs once acquired through perfuming in the past must still yet to be differentiated in the soul. Thus, that the cognition during its life time of such soul, however the body it was attached to may have died, due to the power of habit, enters into a kind of the world distinct from other souls differently perfumed goes without saying. By means of such perfuming, my own soul arises into the boundary where there is suffering and pleasantries after death. Such is the reasoning given in order to explain the cause and effect of good and evil, namely, that of Rokudōrin’ne.

Howbeit, if we escape from the self-love and attachment to selfish desire in our lifetime, develop the pure and good light, and if we die with a complete detachment from worldly business and enter upon the rational world of equality, that truly is enlightenment of Buddhist teachings. Hence, should the soul arise and sink into the boundary between suffering and pleasantry due to the individual so perfumed, it exists itself in a kind of state of quandary, but precisely by taking this quandary state as the enlightenment does the soul enter into the sea of equality. In this way, just as the Buddha enters into the enlightenment, whether the soul becomes something of an equal, indiscriminating stuff (平等無差別byoudou musabetsu) and a lone and quiet, non-perceptive entity (空寂無覚 kuujaku mukaku), it is said, “not so.” This point has been debated and argued by various religions, yet if we consider this according to Buddhism, it says that by achieving bodhisattva there exists infinite pleasure and infinite wisdom. Now how can this be, it remains to be a question. Such a question, to begin with, should not be dealt with by means of the current philosophical reasoning. In the realm of absolute, as it were, on the matter of religion, one should wait for the message from the heavens; yet still I wish to explain by means of reason, perhaps according to the perspectives of the religion, so that I may dissolve this doubt that resides within me.

The substratum of the universe and the origin of the consciousness is described as T’ai Chi[2] (太極 taikyoku) in Confucianism and Thusness, or Suchness, (真如shinnyo)[3] in Buddhism. Yet Thusness, when seen from the one side of the equality, it truly means the entity with emptiness and unconsciousness, but when seen from the discriminative side, it means the purest entity of cognition. In other words, Thusness possesses two-sidedness.

The living beings in the terrestrial world, according to the belief in the cosmogony, began as non-conscious state of being and evolved into the conscious and sentient beings, eventually acquiring intelligence[4] as human beings. However, this evolutionary state does not stop at humanity, nor does it mean at all that humanity has manifested all the enlightened attributes that the universe has yet to offer. As the more the universe evolves, the more enlightened the whole state of universe becomes. Even among the same species, the vulgar shines less and dimly, whereas the intellectuals and the scholars demonstrate so much more intelligence. Considering this as a fact, it is not difficult to imagine that there may come a time when there is intelligence that shines tens of hundreds of, or even thousands of, times more. However, this light of intelligence is wisdom of mind, and not something requiring a physical body. Therefore, it is the light emitted from within the mind. In this way, it is not unreasonable to say that this light is the bare individuality of the soul itself. Even though there is a difference between animals and humans, the light of cognizance is similar in quality, for in the case of animals the light is latent within the soul, whereas humanity leaks the light somewhat into the external world. Yet, the humans too do not emit out the light they withhold in their soul, for if they do, the amount of light would probably be near infinite. Therefore, if we have the means to emit all the light out of the soul, it would manifest as the infinite wisdom, the infinite virtue and the infinite pleasure. Speaking in this line of reasoning, the state of complete enlightenment, namely, to achieve the status of gods and Buddha one day is not al all impossible. Hence, Thusness that Buddhism talks of too should be understood as having two sides of interpretation. That is to say, on the one hand, the state of Thusness is utter emptiness, absolutely non-conscious and complete absence of suffer and pleasure, but on the other hand, within this Thusness is also hidden and late the state of infinite wisdom and the infinite tolerance, and when the soul is evolved enough it emits the light of virtue in our minds, becoming itself Thusness, that is to say, the entity of complete cognizance.

In other words, it must be known that Thusness itself possesses the passive and the active qualities.[5] If this is true, even if the state of the soul is now passively following day-by-day activities, if we see it in the active light, it is possible to suddenly shine all its wisdom latent within it, reflecting all the things past and present in the mind’s mirror, reaching the new level of virtue and enlightenment. However, in this physical world, the mind is mesmerized by the sensations from the body, so even the purest mind is surrounded by the clouds of maze and fogs of desire that no one can see through the truth. These clouds and fogs are called kleśa[6] or also known as sins. If now I cultivate good deeds and earn virtue in my body, dissipating the vulgarity once and for all, for the first time in my lifetime, the latent wisdom within my soul will transilluminate the entire universe. The original enlightenment from “Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana”[7] is manifested in such a state. However, the populace preaches in general in the negatively on both souls and the state of Thusness, and they never consider them proactively but only see them on the surface and never argues intrinsically. Arguing thus, they think that the souls after death are like dead trees and ashes, and the nirvana and the hell in the future become idealized and confused, resulting in our never doubting of their existence. However, how or if our own souls came to have consciousness has never been even clarified. What else can you call stupidity, if not this general attitude of the populace?

(Here, Inoue cites two books by Chinese authors who summarize his views so far propounded in the original Chinese and his translation of them for about a page. Because it only reiterates what he has spoken already, and because it is not his writing, I omit the part)

In sum, people do not yet know what the intrinsic light of the soul per se, yet they only see it from the negative aspect of how the soul manifests itself and do not see the proactive side of it. However, Buddhism reasons proactively when it preaches death with one’s mind at ease and achieving enlightenment. Nevertheless, on this point, we can neither offer a physical explanation nor psychological explanation, and it is in actuality a matter concerning the unknowable and the mysterious. We must then enter into the realm of such a state in thinking about it. The kind of religion I speak of opens the gate of the mysterious, and demonstrates the scenery of the realm of the absolute by means of explaining the intrinsicality of the soul according to the proactive reasoning.

 

 

 

[1] Italics mine. This is a Buddhist terminology meaning “affect” (In Japanese, 薫習;くんじゅうread as kunjuu). It explains that experiences through thought and sense-perceptions constantly affect how a person behaves and thinks, gradually coming to form the individual characteristics and hence all current actions and thoughts are the result of what that person has been behaving and thinking in the past. For example, the Consciousness-Only school of Buddhism explains thus: “The first transformation of consciousness is called storehouse in both Mahayana and Hinayana … the other consciousnesses which ‘perfume’ (affect) it and the consciousness which is perfumed arise and perish together, and the concept of perfuming is thus established. The act of enabling the seeds that lie within what is perfumed (the storehouse consciousness) to grow, as hemp plant is perfumed, is called perfuming. As soon as the seeds are produced, the consciousness which can perfume become in their turn causes whch perfume and produce seeds. The three dharmas (the seeds, the manifestations, and perfuming) turn on and on, simultaneously acting as cause and effect…” [excerpted from “A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy”, Chapter 23: Buddhist Idealism, p.p. 370-395, translated and compiled by Wing-Tsit Chan, Princeton University Press, 1963]

[2] It is a supreme ultimate state of undifferentiated, absolute and infinite potential; the oneness from which the duality of yin-yang originated.

[3] Tathātā in Sanskrit. A central concept in Mahayana Buddhism, synonymous with dharma.

[4] I translated 知光 (chikou) and 光明 (koumyou) variously as intelligence, the light, the light of intelligence, the light of cognizance, or enlightenment, depending on how it fits in the context in which it is used. In all cases, however, it appears to refer to the enlightened state of the soul (?) or that which is enlightened, or the virtue.

[5] It appears that the words used in Japanese in this context, 消極 (shoukyoku) and積極 (sekkyoku) may have various meanings present all at the same time. The former can mean passive, negative, pessimistic, latent, hidden, whereas the latter can mean active, positive, proactive, assertive, apparent, and so on.

[6] Sanskrit word for desire, or kleshas in English and煩悩 bonnou in Japanese.

[7] 『大乗起信論』Dai Jo Kishinron, particularly popularized in Kamakura New Buddhism era in Japan during the 13th century. See my paper for more on this topic at

https://isseicreekphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/the-philosophy-of-nichiren-buddhism-in-kamakura-period-mappo-and-myo-ho-renge-kyo-%e6%97%a5%e8%93%ae%e3%81%ae%e5%93%b2%e5%ad%a6%ef%bc%9a%e9%8e%8c%e5%80%89%e6%96%b0%e4%bb%8f%e6%95%99-%e6%9c%ab/

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ISIS meme

On January 19th, 2015, two Japanese journalists, Haruna Yukawa (42) and Kenji Goto (47) were taken hostage by ISIS. The extremist group demanded Japanese government to pay 200 million dollars – the same amount of money the Prime Minister Abe promised to give to aid the countries fighting against ISIS when he was visiting the Middle Eastern countries from January 16th to 20th. The demand made by ISIS appears to be a direct response to the Japanese government’s commitment to help the International communities in the fight against terrorism. ISIS demanded the ransom be paid within 72 hours in exchange for the two hostages. As Japan would not and could not succumb to the terrorists’ demand, the deadline passed and one of the hostages, Yukawa, was mercilessly executed by ISIS. This was in many ways an inevitable outcome, despite the ceaseless effort of the Japanese government to locate their whereabouts to rescue them unharmed. ISIS then made a second demand in exchange for the life of Goto, but this time they did not want money but the release of an Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, facing a death penalty in Jordan for bombing hotels in the Arab Kingdom, killing dozens of people. Having failed to make the exchange of the hostage with the terrorist, the second hostage, Goto, too was executed shortly after.

I am writing this, however, not to talk about the political underground maneuvers the Japanese government was undertaking, but rather, the Japanese public’s insensitive response to ISIS’s video message to kill the hostages and, what is more difficult to swallow, the uncanny fascination of the foreign media and the foreign public about the said Japanese response. I have heard people commenting on how clever and brave Japanese people are to respond to ISIS with the memes of the ISIS executioner, photo-shopped so he would look ridiculous and absurd, undermining the fear and apparent authority of ISIS, so as to downplay their threat. Anyone who thinks the Japanese did something the International communities failed to do in responding to ISIS, I think, is full of themselves and completely ignorant of the context as well as the socio-cultural background of the contemporary Japanese public’s mindset with regard to the international relations.

“Unfortunately, the fate of those two men has already been sealed,” says one Facebook user in the US, “there is no way that they would ever be freed by ISIS. This meme, while admittedly insensitive to the loved-ones of those two men, is a way of saying that the people of Japan will not fear ISIS and mock their attempts at terrorizing their country.”[1] Yet another user commented, “I actually think this is the most brilliant response to ISIS yet. They feed off of their ability to create memorable, terrifying images that are spread over social media. This kind of undercutting is precisely what’s necessary here.”[2] On the other hand, there are also many Westerners who share the sentiment that these photos ridiculing the execution are simply insensitive and not funny at all. But yet again, those of us who express our disapproval of what the Japanese public did are mercilessly bashed as ‘being ignorant of the Japanese culture’ and hence do not know what we are talking about. Simply because these photos are coming from Japan, this response of Japan becomes so exotic and right. Indeed, a lot of Westerners praise Japanese public for making the memes of ISIS and their executions, and when asked if they are not being insensitive themselves, their response follows more or less the exact same line as this one commenter says with confidence,

“[t]his is a way for Japanese citizens to say ‘fuck you, we will not give in to terrorism’. They’re mocking ISIS, not making light of executions. It’s a cultural difference. You all are just looking for something to be offended about. This is Japanese people trying to turn a terrible situation into a message, and we are Americans judging their response from the outside.”[3]

Whenever people argue in support of these memes, what I find everywhere is the word ‘cultural’ as the support for their claims, as if this word takes care of everything they claim and justifies anything they say. Japan has a different culture, they say. Those who criticize their way of dealing with things are simply idiots who only want to impose the Western viewpoint. We who know that there are various cultures in the world and we who know the plurality of views and accept them are the wise, the smart, the transcendent. But these people do not yet understand that the ethics does not work that way. Stoning of women to death is wrong everywhere in the word regardless of their culture. Rape has in recent years become depicted as a ‘culture’ in the West, but that certain does not make it okay. Overworking the company’s employees should not be excused just because we are talking about Japan, while maintaining that it is completely evil when done in China or in the developing countries. One’s culture does not determine a social ethics – it does not change from region to region, or from time to time. While it is true that some unethical conducts are legally accepted in various regions of the world, either explicitly or implicitly, what used to be ethically commended does not become unethical in our time. Discrimination against women, slavery, or killing of people by Samurai warriors in the past may have been accepted but was never commended except politically. It never was okay to kill with swords any by-passers, for instance. Their killing may have been justified through socio-political code of conduct, but that is NOT the same as saying these conducts were ethically sanctioned. Similarly, the appeal to ‘their culture’ simply misses the point when one is talking about ethics and humanitarian sentiments.

This, however, is not unique to the topic at hand. What is unique about the comments made by the foreign public and media alike about Japanese public is that all these people who argue either for or against this response of Japanese twitters is this: they all assume the Japanese public understands what is at stake in taking any action against ISIS or any foreign affairs. Their arguments are based upon this premise that the Japanese public knows what they are doing – after accepting this premise, both parties argue for or against the response made by the Japanese. Those who say the memes are insensitive do not understand what the Japanese public is thinking by making these memes. Those who say the memes are excellent response attribute a certain intelligence and agency to the Japanese public who created the memes. This is why they praise the Japanese public because they think the Japan made these memes in response to the offense made by ISIS. The reasoning for their support is that Japanese people responded to the fear with the laughter. I thank them for giving us a credit, but I respond to them that they should have done some research into the very Japanese culture they so fondly speak of. Thus, Kirk Spitzer from Time Magazine[4] and Adam Taylor from Washington Post[5] speak accurately when they both reach the conclusion that Japan lacks sympathy for the hostages held by ISIS. By saying, as the aforementioned social media commenter did, that “[t]his is Japanese people trying to turn a terrible situation into a message, and we are Americans judging their response from the outside,” she is also guilty of her own bias that ‘outsiders do not know what the people in other countries do’.[6] In the similar manner, NBC as well as other news media also accepts the false premise in reporting, “Japanese Twitter users are defying their country’s hostage crisis by mocking ISIS.”[7] This should be made obvious when we see how the Japanese public responded the ISIS threat by commenting that Goto and Yukawa are responsible for going to such a dangerous place in the beginning, and that “[n]either Mr. Goto nor Mr. Yukawa went to Syria upon request from the Japanese government,” and “[t]hey needed to know the possible results before going to that region,” concluding adamantly that “[t]hey are responsible.”[8] This is indeed the sentiment the majority of Japanese people unfortunately share.

Indeed, this kind of unsympathetic attitude by the Japanese public for the hostage situation also happened in 2004 when three NGO Japanese members were taken hostage by a militant group in Iraq. Since a lot of foreign media and the public alike are making assertions about the Japanese ‘culture,’ I think a little background about how the Japanese public responded to the hostage situation in the recent past would help them understand the socio-cultural mindset of the Japanese public. If you still think what happened in 2004 was due to the bravery of the Japanese and completely permissible because it is of a different culture from the Western one, you can pat yourself on the shoulder for at least being consistent.

On April 8th, 2004, two freelance activists and one photojournalist were kidnapped by a militant group in Iraq, who sent a video message to the Japanese government, showing the kidnapped with knives held to their throats. The captors demanded that the Japanese government withdraw its troops from their humanitarian mission in Iraq. Although they were released unharmed after a week of captivity through the mediations from the Islamic clerics and the International communities, the released victims were severely judged for their irresponsible behaviors and were unwelcome in Japan. Heavy criticisms followed, blaming their faults for deliberately going to a dangerous place under the slogan, ‘self-responsibility’, jiko-sekinin. When this incident happened in 2004, I was in Japan, teaching at a cram school. As I finish teaching at the cram school, I would usually catch a train home after 11 pm, where a lot of college students as well as salarymen are seen on the train. Only a day or two days after the video was released from the militant group in Iraq, I started to overhear everyone talking about the situation and how the government should respond to the terrorist threat. What I kept hearing from the general public on the train still infuriates me whenever I remember it. Two middle-aged men were talking to each other loudly enough for the others around them could hear them. “It is stupid,” one man started, “that they [the captured] should go to Iraq. It’s completely their fault and they should take their own responsibility [jiko-sekinin].” The other man excitedly responded in agreement and in anger, “why should the Japanese government do anything to save them? They are at fault for putting us in the precarious situation! Young people should think thrice before acting selfishly.” These two men kept complaining about how idiotic the young people are and how they should get killed at that instant so the government would not have to worry about it anymore. In the next few days, I asked around to my friends and acquaintances about the hostage situation, and not a single person responded that the captured individuals were at fault and “although it would be nice if they could be saved, they are causing so much trouble” and it is simply not worth the risk to save them. The conversation always ended with the question, “seriously, why did they even have to go to Iraq? They are so stupid.” It is bad enough that the Japanese public had technically abandoned them while victims’ lives were still at stake, it did not end there. The Japanese media as well as the government also rejoiced in unison that the captured brought this on themselves and they should take jiko-sekinin. Indeed, after the victims were released and rescued back to Japan, then Prime Minister of Japan, Koizumi Junichirou, told the media that “these [the rescued] people should be more considerate of the others,” and should not leave the country. As can be gathered from what the public and the government kept saying, when the three victims returned to Japan, they were severely criticized and literally no one welcomed them back to Japan. Even during the week of this hostage situation, the family members of the captured were constantly harassed, and they received countless number of letters telling them “because of your child, Japan is now in danger,” and “why don’t they just die there in Iraq already?” In fact, the family members received continuous threats and hate mails while their kids were held captive that they had to take shelter under the police protection! “You got what you deserve!” said a sign that greeted them at the airport.[9] Similarly, the Japanese government spokesman, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda commented on the rescued, “[p]eople who go there say they do so on their own responsibility, but they should think about how much trouble they cause when something like this happens,” expressing the sentiment the majority of Japanese public shared, “I wish they would use a little more common sense.”[10] He further added, “if you go to a dangerous place like that, your loss of life is your responsibility. You have to be prepared for something like that.”[11] According to Adam Taylor from Washington Post, a psychiatrist who treated the rescued hostage told the New York Times that “their stress levels back home in Japan probably were worse than they had been while kidnapped in Iraq.”[12] The tragically inhumane response by the Japanese towards the rescued victims did not end here, however. The Japanese government, in addition to bashing the victims for lacking the common sense, billed their family for the airfare home and other related cost in rescuing them – a sum total of more than $6000 each![13]

As you may see, the Japanese public’s attitude towards the hostage situation in the past was a cold one. Looking at the recent ISIS hostage situation with this social background, I am sure the readers will begin to wonder if what the Japanese public did with the insensitive memes was actually a response to ISIS at all. In fact, it is easier to think that the memes were directed at those Japanese captured rather than at ISIS. Let us now take a look at some Japanese twitter comments, instead of those comments made by English speakers on the Internet. Indeed, the Japanese-language social media have been nothing but unsympathetic toward the hostage situation. “They needed to know the possible results before going to that region, especially now. They are responsible,” says one Twitter, while another reprimands Goto and Yukawa for going to Syria ignoring the government’s warnings.[14] What should jump at you when you see these responses from the Japanese public is that the Japanese public is angry at the victims rather than the captors. ‘Of course this was going to happen,’ the Japanese criticizes, ‘there are some dangerous people out there, and by going to Syria, they were asking for it.’ Notice the similarity of the argument in the North America when women get raped – the North American public would say, ‘of course you get raped wearing clothes like that, it is your fault!’ The Japanese public’s response to ISIS, to me, is nothing different from this kind of argument. It is the victims’ fault. They brought it upon themselves. Shame on them. It is not difficult to see in the society whose mindset is so detached from solidarity that hostages “tend to be hard to raise sympathy amongst people, especially anonymous Internet users, and instead the are forced to become a subject of online mockery.”[15] I hope I have shown that the Japanese public had no interest in responding to ISIS but were only annoyed with the hostages and found the opportunity to mock them on the video clip sent by ISIS. For, as is obvious from the comment made by Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, the general public in Japan is illiterate in the International political affairs. Holding an hour press conference, Junko repeatedly equated the Islamic people or religion with ISIS itself, and showed no sign of understanding the issue at stake. Rightfully, a Syrian reporter present at the press conference asked her at the end if she was aware that there is a difference between the extremism and the Islamic religion or people, Junko apologetically responded, “I am sorry, but I was not aware that there are any different.”[16] In my private conversation on Facebook with a friend on how insensitive the memes made by the Japanese public were, I pointed out that the Japanese public is not at all concerned about the hostages, nor are they aware of the current affairs. He responded, however, along with other foreign public, “[b]y reducing ISIS’s self- presentations to banal video-game type images the Japanese memes take away their exoticism. The Japanese public doesn’t need to have been literate about Islam for me to make this argument.” This, I think, is missing the point. Because my argument precisely is that the Japanese public is not making an argument at all. Again, they are mocking the hostages and not ISIS. This is what the foreign media and the public alike do not seem to understand. “Although many people are criticizing ‘ISIS Crappy Collage Grand Prix’ as imprudent,” one Japanese Twitter commented, “ISIS, who uploaded a video clip just because they want to kill people, are even more imprudent.”[17] Comments like this are swarming all over in Japanese-language social media. That this is not isolated incident or a misrepresentation of the Japanese sentiment should be clear from what has been written. It is perhaps natural that they do not, for who could possibly think that the Japanese public is mocking the hostages in the situation like this? But again, by assuming that the Japanese would not make fun of their own citizens, and by assuming that people naturally would be upset about their own people being taken hostage, they are once again guilty of, what I may call, enlightened cultural relativism. Cultural relativism condemns those who speak of what is right and wrong solely according to their own cultural standards. So, a cultural relativist would argue that there is no objective standard to rely on to make a judgment about morals or etiquettes of another culture. So a cultural relativist would acknowledge a certain practice such as slurping of noodles as culturally appropriate and passes no judgment on it even though it is seen as inappropriate in his own culture. While it seems to show respect for other cultures, a cultural relativist faces a more difficult problem when the issue at hand is stoning of women to death or mutilation of female genitalia that are culturally still practiced in various parts of the world. Because these are cultural practices, a cultural relativist must accept them as culturally correct and has no authority to interfere with such practice. This is what I meant at the beginning that the appeal to the culture misses the point when we are talking about humanitarian sentiments. But then, there are other, recently emerging groups of intellectuals who claim to have an emic understanding of issues, and thereby argue with authority that some cultural practices are beyond our comprehension yet they must be coherent in their own cultures and hence are correct, while condemning other cultural practices as outright wrong from emic perspective. These groups of people, i.e. enlightened cultural relativists, claim to argue from inside the said cultural framework as if they themselves are positioned in the culture (which is why they can claim an emic perspective), and while acknowledging, as cultural relativists do, different standards in cultures, they exert their own interpretations of the culture as someone who understands the cultural system they are speaking of. In this way, they can argue that mutilation of genitalia is wrong because presumably a lot of people in the said culture too would feel the same way as the enlightened cultural relativists themselves do. Similarly, they can argue that slurping of noodles is acceptable because although as the outsiders of the culture, it is inappropriate but their emic perspective assures them that it is culturally appropriate and reach the conclusion that it must be acceptable. What gives them the authority is their confidence that they have understood the culture inside out. This is why they are enlightened – they believe they understand the cultural relativism and having understood it, they go on to make an argument about cultural practices. The problem, however, is that these people are not anthropologists or ethnologists. They do not literally go into the said culture and live for years to understand the cultural presuppositions and implications. The way they get their ‘emic’ perspectives is through imagining themselves as positioned in the said culture and from there draw an inference. In the case of the Japanese public’s response to ISIS, the group of enlightened cultural relativists once again interpreted the memes, and immediately concluded that the Japanese public must be attacking and mocking ISIS, rather than the hostages. Their emic perspective would tell them that if they had been positioned in the Japanese society and made these memes, they would most certainly be mocking ISIS, hence there must be some coherent meanings even to this apparently insensitive response to ISIS. Now that they are arguing from the Japanese perspective on the situation, they do not imagine themselves as ignorant individuals but attribute to themselves intelligence and agency. Supposing that there is intelligence and “common sense”, they argue, the Japanese people must be making a rational argument. The argument they come up with that the Japanese are responding to the fear with laughter. What an exotic means of responding to a terrorizing organization! This is such a sophisticated argument the Japanese have contrived! Creating the memes, collaging with game characters? This is truly Japanese! ‘This must be it,’ the enlightened cultural relativists would say, ‘this is the Japanese response.’ We have decoded the cultural mystery! Whoever says the otherwise is ignorant and does not care to understand the cultural perspective, for we know what we are talking about.

Sadly, this seems to be the general attitude from the foreign media, as the French radio program also rejoiced in the sentiment, “En ce sens, les Japanais aussi sont Charlie.”[18] While the dialogue of the enlightened cultural relativists walked on its own, the Japanese public cared not at all about whatever the foreign media was reporting. Many Japanese Twitters in fact commented and wondered why the foreign media are praising the Japanese for the memes, which come from the website equivalent of Reddit in the North America. This is why no Japanese media are taking up on the issue, and why in fact, the Japanese commentators and analysts are criticizing, as I am, the level of insensitivity displayed by the Japanese public.[19] It is only the foreign media like France Inter in France, Global Mail in UK and NBC News in America that seem to interpret the absence of intent in Japanese public’s mind as the meaningful, well-contrived strategy against the terrorist organizations.

[1] http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/japanese-social-media-users-are-protesting-isis-with-memes#.fsY162xmJ, accessed on February 12th, 2015. See the comment by Jeannie Cerda.

[2] A conversation had on my Facebook. Accessed January 24th, 2015.

[3] http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/japanese-social-media-users-are-protesting-isis-with-memes#.lq9jXMN0r, accessed on February 12th, 2015. Italics mine. See the comment by Sarah Stuchbery.

[4] http://time.com/3680492/japan-isis-hostages/ accessed February 15th, 2015.

[5] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/20/japan-and-hostages-a-nagging-feeling-that-its-their-fault/ accessed February 15th, 2015.

[6] http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/japanese-social-media-users-are-protesting-isis-with-memes#.morm0rG8D, accessed February 15th, 2015. See the comment by Sarah Stuchbery.

[7] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/japanese-twitter-users-mock-isis-internet-meme-n291591, accessed February 15th, 2015.

[8] http://time.com/3680492/japan-isis-hostages/ accessed February 15th, 2015.

[9] Adam Taylor, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/20/japan-and-hostages-a-nagging-feeling-that-its-their-fault/, accessed on February 15th, 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] NBCnews. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4843265/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/freed-japanese-hostages-billed/#.VOKDPznvzdQ, accessed on February 16th, 2015.

[12] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/20/japan-and-hostages-a-nagging-feeling-that-its-their-fault/, accessed on February 15th, 2015.

[13] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4843265/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/freed-japanese-hostages-billed/#.VOKDPznvzdQ, accessed on February 16th, 2015.

[14] Kirk Spitzer, “Why Japan Lacks Sympathy for the Hostages Held by ISIS” in http://time.com/3680492/japan-isis-hostages/, accessed on February 15th.

[15] http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/isis-crappy-collage-grand-prix, accessed on February 15th, 2015.

[16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XECVIcKp0Fs

[17] France Inter, http://www.franceinter.fr/blog-net-plus-ultra-photoshop-contre-les-djihadistes, accessed on February 16th, 2015.

[18] France Inter, http://www.franceinter.fr/blog-net-plus-ultra-photoshop-contre-les-djihadistes, accessed on February 16th, 2015. “In this point, the Japanese are also Charlie,” referring to the recent Charlie Hebdo attack in France.

[19] http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2142303045830159601, accessed on February 16th, 2015.

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鬼            Having spoken of the scientific attitude in pre-modern Japan through the eyes of Ninja, who supposedly possessed supra human knowledge of the human behavior and natural medicine, it is now time to delve further into the Buddhist conception of how the world operated. In the first part of my research, I discussed the ways in which a particular group of war specialists in Japan developed their own system of scientific knowledge, prior to the Western contact, and thus making it distinctly Japanese. This group of war specialists, Ninja, studied extensively on human behavior and psychology but my studies have shown that they had poor understanding of medicine and lacked the interest as well as the philosophical rigor in discovering the causes of illness, which in turn led them to essentially rely on nothing but the placebo effect in curing sickness. Hence, in this second part of my research into the history and philosophy of science and medicine in pre-modern Japan, I will look at the broader perspective on medical theory and attitudes towards illness amongst the monastic doctors as well as the commoners prior to the importation of the Western science. In particular, my interest is in the etiology of various types of sickness and how people in Japan dealt with the symptoms. It is of course not possible to speak of purely Japanese practice, since Chinese influence is everywhere seen. However, my study will show that Japanese Buddhist philosophy nevertheless developed distinct features unique to Japan, perhaps as a result of the synthesis of the Buddhism with the Japanese native religion of Shintoism. It is in this context that I will be discussing about the medical philosophy proper to Japan, which must have existed in order to account for sickness and beliefs unique to the culture that were not found in the continent. In this article, I will focus on the supernatural yet real causes of illness according to the Shinto-Buddhist philosophy. In pre-modern period Japan, the causes of illness were explained in terms of Traditional Chinese medical philosophy, Taoism, and Buddhist medical theory. For example, Chigi智顗(538-597), the founder of Tien T’ai school and the author of Makashikan, a widely studied book exploring etiology, asserted that there were six major causes of illness. They are 1) the imbalance of four elements, 2) excessive eating and drinking, 3) lifestyle related diseases, 4) daimon, 5) evil spirits, and 6) deeds in the previous life.[1] Of these, the first three are natural causes and thereby can be treated with the medical knowledge. On the other hand, the latter three are supernatural causes and cannot be treated except spiritually, i.e. one must follow the path of the Buddha. I will focus in particular on the daimon and evil spirits in the field of medical thought in pre-modern Japan, and unveil the familiar concepts of Oni and Yokai in light of medical context in the history of Japan, analyzing the ways in which these supernatural forces came into the medical philosophy in the Japanese monastic medicine. This paper will be divided into three parts, preceded by a brief preliminary remark. First, I will examine what Oni, Yokai and evil spirits are, what their attributes include and what they have to do with the causes of illness. This part will be a socio-historical exposition, and as such, I will mention several prominent figures in the history of Yokai monsters and discuss about the stories told of them. These figures include: Kappa, Zashiki Warashi, Tsukumo-gami, Tenjo-Name, Uji no Hashihime, Shuten-Doji, Onryou as Evil Spirits. I will begin with laying out the socio-cultural belief that the different demons were said to cause different illnesses, and each illness was attributed to a task-oriented deity or a spirit. The second part is a philosophical exposition, in which a detailed analysis on the Buddhist doctrines that were introduced to Japan during the Heian Period in the beginning of the 9th century are examined, which set the stage for the intellectuals of the time to explain these phenomena in terms of the Buddhist doctrines of Consciousnesses, which later became interfused with the native Shinto beliefs and Chinese Ying-Yang theory of medicine, creating Japan’s own philosophical system called Onmyoudo. However, Onmyoudo is more concerned with the natural science as in concoction of medicine or regulae for the dietary recommendations. Since my aim in this paper is to explain the supernatural aspect of the causation of illnesses, I will postpone the analysis of the Onmyoudo as the philosophical system, and I shall only focus on the Buddhist philosophy of Consciousnesses. In the last part of this paper, having reflected upon the socio-cultural beliefs about the causes of illness and having examined the philosophical framework of the time, I will offer an interpretation of the causes of illness, as synthesized version of the two, and conclude that what has usually been considered as distinct fields of study, i.e. socio-anthropology of evil spirits and the philosophy of Buddhism, are in fact deeply related to one another and the ontology of Yokai and evil spirits cannot be fully explained without having an recourse to the fundamental system of Buddhist philosophy. For it has been written and explained that the demons and evil spirits were thought of as causes of illness in Japanese literature, and everyone in Japan knows that demons and evil spirits would bring misfortunes and sickness, but it appears that no one actually has talked about this in light of philosophical reflections but only as a historical fact. People have taken for granted that these demons and evil spirits existed and then discussed about what they would and could do. But upon reflecting on the contemporary philosophy, it seems the beliefs in the demons and particular monsters are rooted in the conception of consciousness as the cosmic force in the Buddhist literature. Furthermore, such demonstration of Yokai phenomena and Buddhist philosophy as a unified framework that constitutes a holistic intellectual system would show how Japanese medical philosophy did not show any interests in the qualitative-quantitative dichotomous way of conceiving the medicine and nature as in the West, and hence no such thing as a ‘scientific revolution’ (dissatisfaction with the way things were explained) came into the scene.   Preliminary Remarks: Defining the Yokai monsters800px-Hyakki_Yako   According to the most widely read medical treatise written by Chigi, Makashikan, of the late 6th century, some of the main causes of illness include demons and evil spirits as well as the deeds done in the past life. In Japan, demons as well as evil spirits are said to belong to the larger category of what is called Yokai. Yokai is written with the kanji characters that mean attractive, bewitching, suspicious 妖and 怪mysterious, creepy. It may be translated as monsters, demons or sometimes as goblins or evil spirits. In this way, Yokai may be said to include all of these supernatural entities, though as we will see, some have acquired distinct attributes and popularity that they may be better expressed as Oni, Onryou or simply as evil spirits in general. These entities are said to enter from outside into the body from the five sense and torment people either physically or spiritually.[2] One medical treatise of the time lists the causes of illness as due to the deeds done in the previous life, blasphemy against Buddha, gods of pestilence or fierce gods and departed souls as well as spirits of fox and Yokai monsters.[3] And this same treatise recommends recitation of sutras and exorcism as well as performing an Onmyo ceremonial rituals. In particular, chanting and reciting sutra were said to have the definitive effect in curing illness, so much so that the 13th century monk, Mujuu 無住 (1227-1312), spoke that “even if you make a mistake reciting the sutra, as long as you believe in it, it has the power to cure even malaria,” suggesting that the placebo effect is a large factor in treatment.[4] Hence, the same monk argued that “it is better to transcribe sutras and read them, hence accumulating good deeds, than to pay money to doctors who do not know anything about medicine. In fact, those quack doctors would not only be able to cure the illness but also make it worse.”[5] Furthermore, yet another treatise specifically refers to the 15 types of demons that are task oriented and how each of them spreads particular illness and makes children sick.[6] Seeing in this light, Yokai may be said to be beings that possess supranatural powers and cause phenomena or experiences in us that are inexplicable according to the modern science. These phenomena or experiences not only refer to the spirits that cause illness and misfortunes but also came to refer to the experiences of simply having seen an animals that talk, encountered with aliens or been in a haunted house. These so-called Yokai phenomena are oftentimes dismissed in our modern society as being unscientific or superstitions, i.e. that which is contrary to the scientific thinking. But by the scientific reasoning is simply meant that a particular experience or an instance of phenomenon to be quantified and measured, and yields the same outcome upon repeated experiments. If regularity and quantifiable phenomenon are what is lacking in classifying Yokai as a scientific phenomenon, then Yokai are not scientific phenomena. But that does not mean Yokai beliefs are at the same time unreasonable or irrational. Just as many of us believe in ghosts or in karmic forces, these beliefs do nevertheless affect us and shape our understanding of the world as a cosmic entity. Further, the fact that these beliefs are held by rational people suggests that there is a rational explanation for why they believe in what they do. Just as people who believed in the existence of witches and feared them as imminent danger in Europe not too long ago in history for which there is a rational explanation, there must have been a similar mindset or a framework that allowed people to believe in the existence of Yokai monsters as well as ghosts and demons in the past. Just because we cannot explain them with our science, it does not mean that the people living in a different place and time did not know what they were doing. It is my aim in this essay to shed light on the philosophical framework and sociological mindset of the period in history that we seem to dismiss as irrational and nonsensical, and explain that what seems unreal or unscientific to us does indeed have a sophisticated theoretical justification that warranted them rationality for their belief.

Part I: Yokai, Oni and Evil Spirits

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  As has been mentioned, I will first introduce some Yokai monsters and what they are said to do. There are a countless number of Yokai monsters in the history of Japanese folklore, and it is neither possible nor necessary to discuss all of them for the purpose of this essay. I will here pick some of the major and minor Yokai monsters for analysis rather arbitrarily; namely, Kappa, Zashiki-Warashi, Tsukumo-gami, Tenjo-Name, and Rokuro-Kubi. In the Koshinto belief (the Ancient Way of the Gods), the souls were found in everything. Resulting from this animistic worldview was the belief that things either animate or inanimate, after having been used or lived for a long time, would become holy and be elevated to the status of the gods. These old things that become gods are then called “Tsukumogami” and they may bring you fortune or cause you harm, depending on how you have treated them. As it will be seen, gods in Shintoism are rather like deified spirits in that while they can be worshipped as guardian gods, they can be feared as ill-disposed gods as well. This appears to be the general trend in describing Yokai monsters, i.e. as those gods that have been neglected and forgotten, causing misfortunes to people so people would notice their presence once again so that they can worship them. This is why the Yokai scholar, Kazuhiko Komatsu, describes Yokai as the deities that are not worshipped and gods as the deities that are worshipped.[7] Some examples of these Tsukumogami may include the one-eyed one-footed umbrella and the human shaped cat. The former is said to sneak up on humans and lick them with its large oily tongue,[8] while the latter is more pernicious in that it feeds on humans.[9] Yet another Yokai, Zashiki-Warashi has an appearance of human child, usually aged from 3 to 15. It can take either gender, and when it is a boy it wears a black traditional kimono, and when it is a girl it wears a red padded sleeves kimono jacket. They are heard playing in the tatami room or in the hallway by themselves usually during the nighttime, and when you go to the room where the child’s voice is coming from, you find nothing but the toys and footprints. In recent years, there have been reports that an employee in a building, when working until late at night, heard children’s voices and footsteps from upstairs, and when she went up to see who were there, she only found old toys on the floor and no one else in the building. This Yokai, however, is said to bring fortune to the household in which it resides, and when Zashiki-Warashi leaves the house, the house becomes poor. SekienTenjonameToriyama Sekien, the ukiyo-e artist, in the 18th century depicted yet another Yokai that lives in an old house and leaves stains on the ceiling. This Yokai, Tenjo-Name, appears when there is no one in the room and licks the ceiling to leave marks and disappears.[10] One cannot help but wondering what it wants to do. But probably, some of the most popular Yokai in the popular folklore are Rokuro-Kubi and Kappa. Rokuro-Kubi is usually a female, whose neck stretches or comes off completely to attack people at night and suck their blood. It often comes off completely when she is asleep, and if the body is moved to elsewhere while the head is detached, the head cannot find its way back to the body and goes missing.[11] Kappa too is a Yokai that has a weakness. Kappa is often translated into English as a water imp. It is shaped like a human child and sometimes depicted with scales on its body. Its body is greenish and has a plate on its head. The plate is always wet with water and if it should dry out or gets broken, Kappa loses its power or dies. It has a small beak, a shell, and its hands are web-like. Its arms are connected in the body, and if you pull out one, the other one comes with it. It likes cucumbers and sumo wrestling. This is why we call sushi rolls with cucumbers, “Kappa-maki”. Kappa is usually said to take kids into the water and drown them. [12] So parents in Japan would often tell their kids not to go near the water.Kappa_water_imp_1836 When looking at these Yokai figures, one would immediately see that there are no universally shared characteristics in what they do. Not only is their ontological status ambiguous but also their social functions are obscure at best. Where do they come from? Do they generate from species to species? They must, if these witness accounts across centuries are to be trusted. Or perhaps they are immortal and the same individual keeps appearing throughout the history. One cannot help but asking what sort of purpose, if any, it serves to live for centuries by licking the ceilings of houses or playing with old toys, when there are video games and smartphones available. Indeed, the only social function they play seems to be that they frighten people. But why do they? The answer to this question may be found in more specific Yokai that has its root in Buddhism. For Yokai, after all, are a Shinto belief combined with Buddhist philosophy, which gives the intellectual framework for the native deities to thrive in accordance with the Buddhist teachings. Without understanding the Buddhist origin of the spirits, it is not possible to understand the reason for Yokai’s continuing presence in Japanese intellectual history. I will now examine Oni and evil spirits as causes of illness. Oni is often translated as demons in English, but more strictly speaking, Oni has the same connotation as the Greek word for gods, i.e. daimon. Its essential characteristics do not involve goodness or badness, but only that of powerfulness. Daimons can be good or bad depending upon how we interpret their actions. This is the notion of Oni we have in Japan, for sometimes Oni are seen as harbingers of wealth and fortune. I will deem this notion of Oni as only subjectively true, and according to the Buddhist tradition, Oni are to be always feared as “dreadful supernatural beings emerging from the abyss of Buddhist hell to terrify wicked mortals [and] their grotesque and savage demeanor and form [should] instill instant fear” in us.[13] Further, Oni are described as at one time one-eyed giant who sucks the human’s vital energy and devours humans, or at another time as having one or two horns protruding from their scalps, as having the third eye in the center of the forehead, and as wearing a loincloth of fresh tiger skin.[14] Above all, the most common attributes of Oni are their cannibalistic nature and their ability to transform themselves into anything.[15] It is indeed the Yokai with utmost negative association. In fact, we can see that a lot of illnesses were attributed to the gatherings of Oni from antiquity. For example, in the “Explanation of the Dharani Teachings on the Guardian Gods of the Children” (仏説護諸童子陀羅尼経所説)[16] written in the 6th century, fifteen different Oni were described that are said to make kids sick. These Oni appear as various animals or demon-gods and possess the children. For instance, one Oni takes the shape of a snake, and makes a child belch incessantly as to suffocate him. Another Oni appears as a lion and makes a child vomit. And yet another appears as a bird-like man and causes the possessed kid’s shoulders to shake. The other symptoms caused by the Oni’s possession include baby colic, diarrhea, high fever, dizziness, foaming in the mouth and crunching fists and so on. There were also Oni that spread epidemics, and depressions or mental illness too were attributed to the Oni’s doings. In the 15th century, various studies were conducted in order to identify which Oni is responsible for which illness or epidemics.[17] Although Oni were oftentimes depicted as having some kind of physical appearances, they were often depicted as such simply to render them visibility. For example, in Onmyoudo, Oni referred specifically to the immaterial evil spirits that caused human infirmity. Their invisibility was, in fact, a predominant feature of Oni in their very early stage and it was their invisibility that made them dreadful to us, because there was no way of defending ourselves against what we could not see.[18] Insofar as the Oni refer to the immaterial evil spirits, there does not seem to be much difference between Oni and Ma, which is the evil spirits proper that is listed as the distinct cause of illness from Oni in Makashikan.[19] What is different indeed lies not in their supposed appearances, but in the way in which they affect human health. For Oni enters into the body from the five senses to those who wish ill of others and try to do evil deeds and physically torment them, whereas the evil spirits proper will corrupt apperception and strip away the wisdom to attain Buddhahood. Further, they stir up the ill will in people and destroy the good deeds.[20] In other words, Oni cause physical harm to people, whereas Ma causes spiritual harm. Moreover, whereas Oni choose to cause harm to those who are harmful to the others, Ma will come into people’s body when in the midst of their training as soon as they allow a room for accepting any desires by thinking of impure thoughts.[21] They are on a spiritual, psychological level, attached to the clothes people desire or food people take in, and they enter into one’s body when he gladly accepts those desires and is taken in by them. So according to this tradition, vengeful spirits and ghosts who cause harm to people or who scare them cannot be classified as evil spirits but rather Oni or more broadly as Yokai, for they do not impinge upon people’s effort to attain Buddhahood. Nevertheless, both Oni and Ma are treatable by the Buddhist purification methods, and this is why exorcisms were often recommended in addition to the recitation of Buddhist sutras.epidemic oni We now know what we mean by Yokai, Oni and evil spirits – we also know that they affect us in various different ways. Some seem to exist to scare us and make us recognize the gods who have long been neglected, while others are there to keep an eye on who amongst us have ill intentions and desires to harm others. Yet others try to hinder us from attaining Buddhahood, luring us with material goods and pleasures of life. What I want to focus on now is precisely what happens in us when these external enemies come to affect us. In order to understand why we see Yokai monsters around us, we will need to understand the mechanisms of how Oni are said to attack us. This is because Oni appears to be more closely connected with us than many of the Yokai monsters, for as we have seen, although some Yokai come to hunt us, either with the rolling head that sucks human blood or by abducting kids into the abyss of the water late at night, but many of them are relatively harmless and mind their own businesses. The head of Rokuro-Kubi is not conscious of attacking any particular persons but only subconsciously aware of its actions. This is why a manservant at a certain temple asked the monk in one morning, ‘Has my head come to visit last night?’ The monk responded that a person’s head came to his chest as he slept, and he grabbed it and threw it out. The manservant replied that he had a habit of losing his head and asked that for fear of not causing the monk more trouble, he would like to take a leave.[22] Kappa, too, does not go out of his way to drown children but captures only those who come near the water after dark. Oni, on the other hand, seeks out people with malicious intent, and possesses them to make them sick or severely injure them. From this, I argue that Yokai monsters are rather like variations of Oni – distant relatives, as it were. Just like Oni, Yokai too were feared as vindictive spirits, as we see from some of the older accounts of spiritual Yokai in Shoku-Nihongi 続日本紀 (797) and Makura no Soushi 枕草子in Heian period.[23] But after the Heian period, Oni came to dominate the role of vengeful spirits and Yokai came to be set aside to refer to some innocuous yet mysterious phenomena that could not be attributed to the sheer negativity portrayed in Oni. This is probably because Oni is a Buddhist concept that came to Japan along with the Chinese philosophy, whereas Yokai developed out of a native Shinto concept of animism and only shares the qualitative similarity with Oni. With the spread of Onmyoudo in Heian period, Oni came to symbolize the fearful and the illness, and Yokai phenomena were confined to the rather minor role of Tsukumogami and the other mysterious events. It was only during the Edo period that, with the gradual disappearance of strong belief in Onmyoudo, the concept of Oni deep rooted in such doctrine too came to be dismantled, and what was left were the mysterious but rather innocuous phenomena supposedly attributed to the shapeless Yokai and invisible spirits. Because the core beliefs about Yokai as the fearful spirits were passed onto Oni, and Oni played in large part the role of spreading illness, understanding the cause and the essence of Oni would necessarily clarify what the intellectual basis for the belief and acceptance of such entity. For this, we will now look at the development in Chinese Buddhist philosophy on consciousness, which were largely studied in Japan. In particular, I will focus on the two Buddhist schools that had a tremendous influence on the later development of Buddhism in Japan that I believe would help shed light on the rational acceptance of supernatural entities as the agents of illness.     Part II: Buddhist Philosophy of Consciousness摩訶止観   The first school I discuss is called the Consciousness-Only School, which represented the major development of Mahayana philosophy in India, and this school prepares the way for understanding the T’ien T’ai School, which was introduced to Japan by Saicho in 806. As was mentioned earlier, T’ien T’ai School was established by Chigi in the 6th century in China, and one of his most-studied treatises on Buddhist practice, Makashikan, or the Great Concentration and Insight, lists Oni and Evil Spirits as the causes of illness. T’ien T’ai philosophy is best known for its idea of three thousand worlds immanent in a single instant of thought. What this means, however, is best illustrated with the understanding of dharmas and differing levels of Truth. And the understanding of consciousness in Buddhist philosophy, I believe, will also explain the roles played by Oni and evil spirits as the causes of illness in Japanese society. The central doctrine of the Consciousness-Only School is that of eight Consciousnesses. According to this school, the mind or the consciousness is divided into eight functions and consists of the five sense-consciousnesses of touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell; one sense-center consciousness that organizes sense data and forms conceptions of objects; one though-center consciousness, which wills and reasons on a self-centered basis, and one store-house consciousness (alaya). These Consciousnesses are in perpetual change, involving threefold transformation. The first of which happens at the storehouse consciousness, where the ‘seeds’ or effects of good and evil deeds, which exist from time immemorial are stored, that become the energy to produce the external manifestation such as ideas and images of things existing.[24] This consciousness brings these seeds into manifestation spontaneously through contacts with the other consciousnsses. Although it itself is indifferent to its associations, the storehouse consciousness is constantly affected and perfumed or influenced by incoming perceptions and cognitions by these external manifestations. In this way, “the three dharmas (the seeds, manifestations and perfuming) turn on and on, simultaneously acting as cause and effect.”[25] This transformation in the storehouse consciousness is not external nor does it come to an end, and is thought to be a perpetual transformation from time immemorial. There was never a time at which there was no consciousness nor will the consciousness remain the same at any point in time. Indeed, the Consciousness-Only School argues that there has always been consciousness transforming without interruption and explains that it is like a violent torrent and “the basis of the constructions in the four realms which form the substance of existence, the five stages of transmigration, and the four kinds of living beings, and its nature is so firm that it holds the seeds without losing them,” and as the violent torrent continues for a long time, “some sentient beings will float and others will sink.”[26] This is important, as it means the four realms of substance (Earth, Water, Air, and Fire), the five stages of transmigration (the hells, those of ghosts, animals, human beings and heavenly beings) and the four kinds of living beings (those produced from the womb, from eggs, from moisture and through metamorphosis) are all combined in this consciousness and they constantly influence, or perfume, each other to produce manifestations. The second transformation of consciousness involves the thought-center consciousness, and perpetually takes the storehouse consciousness as an object and is always accompanied by the four evil defilements of self-delusion, self-view, self-conceit and self-love. In the first transformation, we saw the storehouse consciousness as pure consciousness itself with perceptions flowing in and out and producing something while the consciousness itself remained indifferent to any of the seeds, manifestations and perfuming. But here at the second transformation, we see the emergence of self in consciousness. As soon as one cognizes oneself as a thinking subject, self-view exists, which is the belief that exists, “erroneously imagining certain dharmas to be the self that are not the self.”[27] At the same time, self-delusion, or ignorance and lack of understanding of the character of the self emerge. Where there was the principle of non-self in the storehouse consciousness, now self-conceit gives rise to doubt about the possibility of non-self. It produces a sense of pride in the self in feeling of superiority and self-love develops a deep attachment to what is clung to as the self. Through this perpetual transformation, the sentient beings are bound to the cycle of life and death, and the “four defilements constantly arise and pollute the inner minds and cause the six other transforming consciousnesses to be continuously defiled.”[28] The third transformation of consciousness consists of the last six Consciousnesses all together. They are the Consciousnesses of touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste with the binding sense-center consciousness, and they discriminate the spheres of objects. Because their job is to discriminate sphere of objects only, it is important to note that they too are neither good nor evil in themselves. The difference between the common five Consciousnesses and the sense-center consciousness is that whereas the each of the five has its own sphere of objects, the sense-center consciousness takes the external world as a whole as its object. What is interesting is that while all three transformations take place at the same time and influence each other, and therefore are governed by cause and effect, each transformation is hierarchically organized in that without the thought-center consciousness, there is no grasping of an idea of any external manifestation. Nor would there be any conceptual activity and identification of the self independently of the external world had there been no storehouse consciousness. It all depends on the alaya and it is only through the root consciousness of alaya, can the five sense Consciousnesses manifest themselves in accordance with various causes.[29] Because all depends upon the storehouse consciousness, it is argued that everything is consciousness only and inseparable from consciousness. The word “only”, the Treatise explains, is intended not to deny however that “there are mental qualities, dharmas and so forth inseparable from consciousness.”[30] Further, what follows from this is that because dharmas and manifestations are not separated from minds, sentient beings become pure or impure in accordance with the mind. This is again explained and supported in the Four Wisdoms of bodhisattvas that the contradictory Consciousnesses are but characters, meaning the same thing perceived by ghosts, human beings and deities appear differently to them in accordance with their past deeds. If there was an external sphere as actually existing, how could this be possible? Such is only possible if consciousness takes non-being as its object. Indeed, “he who has realized the freedom and the ease of mind can change and transform earth into gold without fail according to his desires[, but] if there really was an external sphere, how can these transformations be possible?”[31] Here, the Treatise uses an instance in alchemy to support the view that there really is not an external world independently of our consciousness and argues that an apparent transmutation of base metals into precious ones is nothing but a manifestation caused by mental qualities. Although external spheres are apprehended by the consciousness, its externality is still erroneously formed and created by the sense-center consciousness, and these objective spheres that are immediately apprehended are in fact the perceived portions of the Consciousnesses themselves. It is only in this sense that we say they exist externally. But because we know that the colour and so forth that the sense-center consciousness conceives as external and real are erroneously imagined to be existent, we say also that they are nonexistent.[32] In this way, the Consciousness-Only School steers “far away from the two extremes of holding that dharmas are real (although they have no nature of their own) or holding that dharmas are unreal (although they function as causes and effects),” and establishes the Middle Path, which the school holds it to be the correct view.[33] Only through this Middle Path can we differentiate the three kinds of dharmas, avoids being deceived by the worldly existence and discern what has the real existence. For when we know the Middle Path, we can immediately see what is conceived by the vast imagination through juxtapositions of external manifestations, such as horns of a rabbit and unicorns, and recognize that these are purely illusory, being qualities of the mind, and have only false existence.[34] Similarly, those dharmas that depend on others for productions, such as capsizing of the boat in the sea, have purely temporary and dependent existence, and hence have no nature of their own.[35] So the school holds that only the reality that transcends all specific characters and represents Thusness has the true existence and is the Ultimate Reality. Such reality is only realizable “when through discipline and enlightenment the pure seeds in the storehouse consciousness are cultivated and the impure aspect of the storehouse is overcome.”[36] It is only when one is not enlightened does one see horns of a rabbit, a unicorn or a walking umbrella that are purely illusory and therefore have only false existence. Further, some beings may be said to depend on each other for their existence, such as the capsizing of a boat. Suppose a boat was capsized in the sea. And further suppose that this was caused by the successive waves hitting the boat. In this case, the chief condition of the wave is the combination of the wind and water in the sea in such a way that produced a wave. This wave is further followed by succeeding waves enough to capsize the boat. There is the chief constitutive condition, which is wind and water; the immediate condition, which is the following waves; the objective condition, which is the boat on the water; and the upheaving condition, which is the last wave that brings all conditions to the climax, i.e. upsets the boat. This series of event is apparently caused and as a result the boat is capsized, but its causes only have dependent and thus temporary existence, for the capsizing of the boat cannot happen unless all causes are present at the same time. The process of enlightenment resembles that of being in a dream. For, just as we do not know that we are in a dream while sleeping, we do not become aware of the fact that the sphere of objects are unreal before we reach the state of true awakening, and we would be perpetually in the midst of a dream.[37] Having examined the Consciousness-Only School, I will now look at the philosophy of T’ien T’ai School. In the Consciousness-Only School, the Middle Path is identified with Thusness that transcends all specific characters and hence it attempts to arrive at the middle ground between realism and nihilism. T’ien T’ai philosophy, on the other hand, aims to synthesize the both realms in which transcendence (noumenon) and immanence (phenomenon) are harmonized, producing the perfect harmony of the Three Levels of Truth: the Truth of Emptiness, the Temporary Truth, and the Truth of the Mean. The first two levels of truth have already been discussed; namely, that all dharmas are empty because they have no nature of their own but depend on causes for their production (the Truth of Emptiness) and that the dharmas are nonetheless produced and do possess temporary and dependent existence (the Temporary Truth).[38] The third level of Truth is the combination of the first two, that is, it is the very nature of dharmas that they are both empty and temporary (the Truth of the Mean). By not taking on the middle ground between the emptiness and temporary truth, as the Consciousness-Only School did, but rather combining the two into its philosophical system, T’ien T’ai School was able to include all that there is, without making any distinctions between the external manifestations that are qualities of the mind and the internal activities of the pure consciousness in which the production of seeds and perfuming the manifestations perpetually took place. In this way, T’ien T’ai School achieved what is called the three thousand worlds of immanent in an instance of thought. In the realm of the Temporary Truth, there exists ten realms: Buddhas, bodhisattvas, Buddha-for-themselves, direct disciples of the Buddha, heavenly beings, spirits, human beings, departed beings, beasts, and deprived men. In each of these realm involves the other realms as well. So in the realm of Buddha, all the other realms are included, and in the realm of heavenly beings, all the other realms are included, and so on, making it one hundred realms. Each of these realms in turn possesses the ten characters of Thusness: character, nature, substance, energy, activity, cause, condition, effect, retribution, and being ultimate from beginning to end. Each of these then possesses living beings, of space and of aggregates (matter, sensation, thought, disposition, and consciousness), which resulting in the three thousand worlds and the totality of manifested reality.[39] It is the world as the totality of all the worlds. All these realms are so interpenetrated that they are said to be immanent in a single instant of thought. These are not produced by any mind, nor are they included in an instant of though, but rather “all the possible worlds are so much identified that they are involved in every moment of thought.” Unlike the Consciousness-Only School, where the world is the consciousness itself, in T’ien T’ai philosophy, all phenomena are manifestations of the Mind and each manifestation is the Mind in its totality.[40] As has been mentioned, because this philosophy involves all, and since everything involves everything else, it implies the doctrine of universal salvation. All beings possess Buddha-nature and are therefore capable of salvation. And this salvation is achieved through the method of concentration and insight, or Makashikan. Namely, by recognizing the three levels of Truth just discussed.

III: The Etiology of Illness by Supernatural Entities

oni We have seen that Yokai, Oni and evil spirits are said to cause fear and illness. We have also seen what the Buddhist philosophy teaches us this world really is. It is nothing but the consciousness, and the apparent external phenomena are but mental qualities and manifestations of one’s own mind. It is how the mind perceives the floating manifestations arising from imagination. The kinds of manifestation one sees, then, differ from person to person, as the Four Wisdoms of the Consciousness-Only School explains. What we see with our consciousness is dictated by what we do and what we eat. If there is an imbalance in our constituent elements, we become deluded and fall into an easy prey by Oni. Our weakened body will not resist the intrusion of various daimons and the very fact that we become ill serves as a warning and a reminder that we need to be more mindful of our dietary restriction. Similarly, we become sick due to the deeds we did in our previous life, for the soul of such individual is tainted, and the manifestations of the consciousness too will become muddied with malignant seeds. Indeed, illness was such an essentially feature of what it is to be a human that many monks conceived the state of illness as dharma, and taught that one should use the illness as the object of our consciousness and observe it with the wisdom arising from the immobile faith. It is the times of illness, he argued, when one attains enlightenment. Through such means, then, one should discover the reasons as well as the meanings that such illness has brought to him, and search for the treatment, and attain enlightenment by experiencing the entire process as the totality.[41] So Chigi as well as other monks often perceived illness as an opportunity to reflect oneself and the others around him, and this attitude was known as “Byousoku-Bosatsu” 病即菩薩, or the attainment of Buddhahood in sickness.[42] Especially amongst the T’ien T’ai monks in Japan, they preferred to consult with Mahā-prajñāpāramitā-śāstra 大智度論, authored by Nāgārjuna 龍樹, and argued that illness are either caused by the past deeds or by kleshas, i.e. worldly desires.[43] In both physical and spiritual illness, the true cause is said to be in the kleshas煩悩. Once kleshas get activated, it will cause imbalance in the body and bring disharmony in the life rhythm, causing one to be sick. The treatment, therefore, is to actually recognize what is causing the kleshas, and avoid having an attachment arising from the imagination, and further to understand that everything is in a state of flux and nothing is absolute. Things in this world exist as dependent on one another and constantly changing. When you understand this, you will recover from illness.[44] Similarly, Komatsu argues that when a person does something bad, he starts feeling guilty and becomes convinced anyone may harm him because of what he did. This sense of insecurity and fear in turn cultivate the Yokai in his mind. In other words, it is this very fear he feels himself that causes him to fall ill, while attributing the cause for his illness to the evil spirits of the other people.[45] When looked at this way, it is natural to perceive Buddha as the wise doctor and sutra as the medicine, as they were often spoken of as such. Monks then offer the words of Buddha by prescribing the patients the spells or citation of sutras. Indeed, there is an account of medical practice in Japan given by a Jesuit missionary in the 16th century, which reads that   In Japan , when you become sick, a doctor comes and takes the pulse, perform an acupuncture on stomach, back and arms. Although they do not perform bloodletting, they follow dietary restrictions that are contrary to out customs, and take in medicine. They also pray to Buddha and gods, make others observe dharma, have monks read them sutras, and call in exorcists who can perform sorcery.[46]   These monks whose job it is to exorcise were called Genza験者. How this was performed was that they would summon the protector daimons, who then would enter into the sick person. These protector daimons would chase away the Yokai or evil spirits that possessed the sick, which in turn is transferred to another body called Yorimashi憑座. Yorimashi are persons or objects capable of attracting spirits, giving them the physical space to occupy. Once this is done, the protector daimon would once again chase away the evil spirits from Yorimashi to complete the exorcism.[47] There is, of course, this problem of where the spirits would go afterwards. This is not really explained, but granting that all phenomena are mental qualities, evil spirits thrive well in sick person’s mind most comfortably. But once transferred to the healthy subject, the mind of Yorimashi is presumably strong and resistant, so the evil spirits will be driven away from such a subject relatively easily. Once separated from a subject, they lose the consciousness in which they inhere, and disappear into Emptiness. Yokai then are the mental manifestations of one’s own kleshas and how one deals with the external world as such. This is why there are a countless number of different kinds of Yokai and none seems to appear in bulk but always individually – i.e. those who are chased after by Rokuro-Kubi are not on the same night attacked by Kappa and see Tenjou-Name when he comes home. And when many Yokai are depicted, they always appear simultaneously with the other types of Yokai monsters, as in Hyakki Yagyou 百鬼夜行, or Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, throughout Japanese history. In this case, they do not attack specific individuals but walk around at night perhaps representing the kleshas of the phenomenal world. In the case of Oni, however, is rather different, for they represent the evil deeds in the generality. This is why they all share the generic features and they all exist for one purpose, i.e. to cause physical harm to those with malicious intent in order to prevent them from attaining the Buddhahood. Evil spirits further differ from both Yokai and Oni in that Yokai and Oni may appear to ordinary people but evil spirits are normally reserved for those monks who are about to attain Buddhahood but fell prey to the worldly desires in the midst of their training, as we have seen from the account given by Chigi in Makashikan.[48] In this respect, evil spirits may be more pernicious, for they also prey on the Buddhist monks, or those who learn to attain Buddhahood. Perhaps, these evil spirits are so persistent in nature that even with the exorcism using Yorimashi, they may remain independently of anyone’s mind, and it may possess a consciousness of its own. Such evil spirits may materialize and bring about misfortunes of natural disasters, as in the case of the vengeful spirit of Sugawara no Michizane (845-903). Michizane’s vengeful spirit is a famous example of Onryou 怨霊 causing a catastrophic damage to the Heian capital in the 10th century. Michizane, a skilled statesman and a poet, was disgraced, demoted and sent to an exile by jealous Fujiwara leaders. Soon after he died in exile in Kyushu in 903, the Palace at the capital was struck by lightening, and “week after week the capital was drenched by rainstorms and shaken by thunderbolts,” followed by “the violent death of prominent men and the constant outbreak of fires.”[49] These misfortunes continued successively and were of such a magnitude that it was attributed to the vengeful spirit of Michizane. Even after restoring him to the office and ranks he had held during his lifetime and all his official documents sentencing him to exile were destroyed, the calamities continued. In 942, finally an oracle was decreed that a shrine should be erected, where Michizane was to be worshipped as a deity. The calamities finally stopped, and this shrine, Kitano Tenmangu, is still popularly visited by the Japanese in Kyoto to this day, and he was given a title as Tenjin, the Heavenly Deity, in 986.[50] This is a case where the carrier of the evil spirit was never exorcised, nor was he a practicing Buddhist, but not having been exorcised, one could imagine that such a wrathful spirit may grow on to discharge its negative energy until it rested on the shrine which was built to calm the anger of the spirit. Here, I am merely offering a possible interpretation of how such vengeful spirits of aristocrats in the absence of subjects to inhere in could have caused destructions and political instability. But this explanation also well accords with the Shinto belief that daimons become gods when worshipped and become Yokai when neglected. In fact, we do see quite often that evil spirits appear from time to time after the death of the subjects throughout literature and history. It appears that this happens when the grudge of the living subject is so strong that the manifestation of malicious mental qualities becomes attached to this world and somewhat materialized sometimes as Oni and Onryou. Such spirits remain in the phenomenal world and frequently visit specific individuals. Thus Komatsu also argues that while jealousy and irrational emotions residing in the unconsciousness may be restrained by the codes of ethics ordinarily, when opportunities arise, Yokai that lives in this unconsciousness breaks out its boundary and tries to control people. This uncontrollable emotion can oftentimes hurt people and become dangerous to other people as well. It starts with hatred or jealousy, which grows into the demonic will when unrestrained, and then to demonic activity, which finally leads to making the subject a demon with an appearance of demon.[51] This is best evidenced by the story of the princess under the Uji Bridge 宇治の橋姫. There are various versions of this story, but one that appears in the Tale of Heike 平家物語 tells a story of a certain princess who was overly jealous of another woman. She visited the altar of the gods in Kibune and asked the deity to turn her into a demon so she could kill the other woman. She was given an oracle telling her to change her appearance and go to the riverbank at Uji. So she went, having tied up her hair into five sections and shaped them into five horns. She also painted her face in red ink, put an iron tripod on her head and held three torches in her mouth. She sat and submerged herself in water at the riverbank. After twenty-one days, she turned into a living Oni and went out abducting and killing people whom she had grudge against.[52] This theme of abduction by Oni is a common narrative in the ancient writings. Shuten-Doji 酒呑童子, the Oni said to be the master of all other Oni, too abducted people in the capital and fed on the flesh and blood of the abducted. In most cases, the abduction occurs as a result of cheating and betrayal, a blasphemy against Buddhist teachings. In the case of Shuten-Doji too, the young daughter of the retired emperor’s councilor was abducted because the councilor “failed to keep a promise to Kannon when [he] sought her blessing for the birth of the child,” and the diviner who figured out her whereabouts advised the councilor to appeal to Kannon with the appropriate prayers in order to get his daughter back, and it was only with the aid of the deities and Buddha that Shuten-Doji was defeated.[53] 酒呑童子2

IV: Conclusion

  In this paper, I have explained the socio-historical origin of the spirits and Yokai phenomena as well as the Buddhist origin of Oni and evil spirits and how they are said to affect us and make us sick, i.e. by failing to observe the Buddhist teachings and turning away from enlightenment. However, it seems after the Edo period, these supernatural entities gradually came to walk on their own, as it were, and Yokai as effects of the manifestation of consciousness remained and were depicted, clothed with material appearance. These entities seem to have lost their philosophical justification for their existence and instead obtained independent reality in modern day Japan. While their existence continues to both amuse and frighten us, I think it is also important to understand that these entities posed immanent danger for the people in the past with good reasons. In Buddhism, it is said that there are four kinds of beings: those produced from wombs, from eggs, from moisture and through metamorphosis. What does it mean for something to come to be through metamorphosis? Clearly, this refers to the manifestations of the consciousness of the Buddhist philosophy. In this sense, although they do not generate from species to species in the natural means of generation, Yokai and other super natural beings are certainly granted their being-hood in this world. They are not merely imaginary beings but they too are the members of the “one thousand worlds” of immanence in a single instant of thought. Hokusai_rokurokubiThat is why the long neck of Rokuro-Kubi was also explained in terms of ectoplasm, where the soul is said to escape from the body and becomes materialized, and it was believed that the neck is connected with the body through a spiritual thread. Buddhist philosophy also explains the regularity of the phenomena by means of the characters of dharmas and their seeds. For it does seem strange that we have many accounts of the same Yokai with the said characteristics from time to time if all these phenomena are merely attributable to the distinct and individual consciousness. But such problem is easily dissolved by appealing to the doctrine of the causality in Consciousness-Only School that regularity is simply characters of dharmas and as such involves the process of mutual cause and effect, i.e. perfuming. In this process, “certain seeds regularly perfume in a certain way, and therefore people with similar seeds in them are perfumed in the same way.”[54] The way this manifests in our world, again, is the kleshas. Certain conditions also must meet, as in the case of the Four Causes mentioned earlier with the capsizing of a boat example. In order to see Kappa, for instance, one must be situated in such and such an environment that manifestations are perfumed in the similar way so as to have a reason to fear such creature. Further, one must be near a pond or a river, and not in the center of downtown or in a bathroom stall in an old school. These are all preconditions that influence the seeds in certain ways. So, it is futile to say, as Komatsu warns us perhaps jokingly, that in order to avoid getting attacked by Yokai spirits, one must simply avoid encountering one.[55] Nor is it possible to follow his advice not to go outside at night because at the moment when we decide to go outside, our consciousness is not yet properly warned that no effort can be made to change the course of perfuming. However, it is possible to avoid going to places where they cause you to feel fearful, such as graveyards or abandoned buildings, because the perfuming of the manifestations is not the same as a soft-determinism. Suppose I am at home in the evening, and realize that I need to get some milk at the store. Although it is not possible to change the desire to go out to buy the milk, I can decide not to take the route that makes me go through the graveyard or the route that leads me into a dark alley just because it is a shortcut to the store. Similarly, once I find myself in an abandoned building, I can either stay or leave the area at will because essentially it is my own consciousness that shapes the external manifestations and the internal activities of perfuming in bringing about a particular course of action. At the same time, precisely because it is our own consciousness that determines the phenomena and the activity of the soul, it is even possible for anyone who holds grudge against someone or jealous of someone to send out, without his knowing, the vengeful spirits of his own or even of his pets to those he has in mind, and direct these spirits to possess them to make them ill or cause them misfortunes. [56] If the Buddhist philosophy teaches anything about prevention and treatment of the illness, it is that we should never be so attached to the material world and worldly desires that we would feel the need to cling onto the present, but rather be unattached to the mundane world and, like Buddha, we should be like the lotus flower floating on the water.[57] For “if the mind is attached to something, it is bound to it and cannot be emancipated from birth and old age, sickness and death, sorrow and grief, and suffering and distress.”[58] Suuhi_Nekomata Shunkosai_Hokuei_Obake Enshin_Kasa-obake   [1] Taku Shinmura, Medical History in Japanese Buddhism 日本仏教の医療史, 34-36. [2] Taku Shinmura, 36-37. [3] 『日本霊異記』、『今昔物語集』cited in Shinmura, 30. [4] Shinmura, 15. [5] Mujuu paraphrased in Shinmura, 20. [6] 『仏説護諸童子陀羅尼経所説』mentioned in Shinmura, 30. [7] Kazuhiko Komatsu, Yokai-gaku Shinko 妖怪学新考, 17. [8] http://yokai.com/karakasakozou/ [9] http://yokai.com/nekomata/, http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/猫又#cite_note-12 [10] Kazuhiko Komatsu, 62. [11] http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ろくろ首 [12] http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/河童 [13] Noriko T. Reider, Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present, 1, 3. [14] Ibid., 7. [15] Ibid. 27-35. [16] Translation mine. See, http://www.suttaworld.org/Collection_of_Buddhist/taisho_tripitaka/pdf/menu/19index.htm for the original text, and for the rough description of its content in Japanese, http://i80000.com/japanese/html/cyber/sub_cyber_1_list.asp?Page=44&Search=&SearchString= (accessed Jan. 21st 2015) [17] See Shinmura, 31. The documents published in 1473 and in 1480 are mentioned as evidence of this. [18] Reider, 13. [19] Again, see Shinmura, 36. [20] Ibid. [21] Ibid. [22] http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ろくろ首 (accessed on Jan. 22nd, 2015) [23] http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/妖怪 (accessed on Jan. 22nd, 2015) [24] Translated by Wing-Tsit Chan. “Buddhist Idealism: Hsuan-Tsang of the Consciousness-Only School” in A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, 371. [25] Ibid., 380f. [26] Ibid., 382. [27] Ibid., 383. [28] Ibid. [29] Ibid., 385. See 15., “Sometimes the senses manifest themselves together, and sometimes not, just as waves manifest themselves depending on water conditions.” [30] Ibid., 386. [31] Ibid., 388. [32] Ibid., 390. [33] Ibid., 387. [34] Ibid., 372. [35] Ibid., 372f. wind and water making a wave, succession of waves, a boat in the sea, capsizing the boat… [36] Ibid., 373. [37] [38] Ibid., “The T’ien T’ai Philosophy of Perfect Harmony,” 396. [39] Ibid., 396f. [40] Ibid., 397. [41] Shinmura, 11. [42] Ibid. [43] Ibid., 37. [44] Ibid., 37f. [45] Komatsu, Yokaigaku Shinko, 44f. [46] Ibid., quoted from Shinmura, 19. Translation mine. [47] Ibid, 14. [48] Ibid., see 34. [49] Geroge Sansom, A History of Japan to 1334, 215. [50] Ibid., 215f. [51] Komatsu, Yokaigaku Shinko, 44. [52] Ibid., 180. See also Reider, Japanese Demon Lore, 54. [53] Reider, 186f. [54] Sourcebook of Chinese Philosopy, [55] Komastu, 45. [56] Ibid., 205. [57] Sourcebook, 367f [58] Ibid.

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Oni Utamaro Having spoken of the scientific attitude in pre-modern Japan through the eyes of Ninja, who supposedly possessed supra human knowledge of the human behavior and natural medicine, it is now time to delve further into the Buddhist conception of how the world operated. In the first part of my research, I discussed the ways in which a particular group of war specialists in Japan developed their own system of scientific knowledge, prior to the Western contact, and thus making it distinctly Japanese. This group of war specialists, Ninja, studied extensively on human behavior and psychology but my studies have shown that they had poor understanding of medicine and lacked the interest as well as the philosophical rigor in discovering the causes of illness, which in turn led them to essentially rely on nothing but the placebo effect in curing sickness. Hence, in this second part of my research into the history and philosophy of science and medicine in pre-modern Japan, I will look at the broader perspective on medical theory and attitudes towards illness amongst the monastic doctors as well as the commoners prior to the importation of the Western science. In particular, my interest is in the etiology of various types of sickness and how people in Japan dealt with the symptoms. It is of course not possible to speak of purely Japanese practice, since Chinese influence is everywhere seen. However, my study will show that Japanese Buddhist philosophy nevertheless developed distinct features unique to Japan, perhaps as a result of the synthesis of the Buddhism with the Japanese native religion of Shintoism. It is in this context that I will be discussing about the medical philosophy proper to Japan, which must have existed in order to account for sickness and beliefs unique to the culture that were not found in the continent. In this article, I will focus on the supernatural yet real causes of illness according to the Shinto-Buddhist philosophy. Indeed, in the pre-modern period Japan, the causes of illness were explained in terms of the Traditional Chinese medical philosophy, Taoism, and Buddhist medical theory. According to one such view heralded by the etiology explained in the most widely studied book, Makashikan, written in the 6th century by the founder of Tien Tai school, Chigi (538-597), the major causes of illness were six in number. They are 1) the imbalance of four elements, 2) excessive eating and drinking, 3) lifestyle related diseases, 4) daimon, 5) evil spirits, and 6) deeds in the previous life.[1] Of these, the first three are natural causes and thereby can be treated with the medical knowledge. On the other hand, the latter three are supernatural causes and cannot be treated except spiritually, i.e. one must follow the path of the Buddha. I will focus in particular on the daimon and evil spirits in the field of medical thought in pre-modern Japan. I will unveil the familiar concepts of Oni and Yokai in light of medical context in the history of Japan, and analyze the ways in which these supernatural forces came into the medical philosophy in the Japanese monastic medicine. [1] Taku Shinmura, Medical History in Japanese Buddhism, 34-36.

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During the medieval period, both the Arabic and the Scholastic philosophers tackled the account of generation and that of substantial change, advancing various interpretations drawn from the texts of Aristotle. In this section, I will 1) lay out the accounts offered by Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas and Suarez in order to better understand the philosophical background against which Sennert was competing, and then 2) raise some issues these views present with regard to the roles played by the formal causation in each case. In doing so, I will first give a short summary of Aristotle’s own account on the generation of beings, i.e. composite substances.

Aristotle argued that there are three ways in which one can speak of generation of substances: generation can be natural, artificial or spontaneous. In all three cases, he maintains, the producer and the product must be the same in form. This does not mean that the form in question must be numerically the same, but it suffices that it is the same in type, i.e. the form of parent is numerically different but the same type of form with the form the offspring will have. So for instance, in the case of the generation of a human being, the producer (the male) have the same form as the product (the offspring), but the latter shares the same form in a different piece of matter that is provided by the female. That the producer must share the same form with the product is commonly referred to as the Synonymy Principle. This principle holds in the other cases of generation, though Aristotle struggles to offer a coherent explanation. In the case of artificial generation, for instance, it is rather difficult to accept that the form in question is the same in type as spoken of in the case of natural generation. For in making a statue, a sculptor does not pass onto the matter the form as the parent passes it onto the matter through semen. Aristotle thinks, however, the principle sufficiently holds insofar as the form in the sculptor’s mind is the cause of the material realization of that form in the bronze as a statue.[1] In the case of spontaneous generation, this principle is even harder to defend, for there is no producer that realizes the product to begin with! Yet, Aristotle wants to say that the principle holds at least partially, and hence is satisfied, because the matter out of which things come to be spontaneously already contains a part of the final product.[2] In the Metaphysics, Aristotle uses an example of spontaneous recovery from illness as a type of spontaneous generation insofar as it generates health where health was previously absent.[3] For normally, health is restored by the intervention of a doctor, who plays the role of the producer of health, it so sometimes happens, says Aristotle, that the body can spontaneously warm itself up, hence bringing an equilibrium in the bodily humour, which then restores the balance disturbed. In this spontaneous recovery of health, the agent that brings about such recovery is the heat in the body. This heat in the body, therefore, is a part of the final product, i.e. health, and since the agent is a part of the final product, some sort of partial sameness also exists between the product of spontaneous recovery, i.e. health in the agent, and what produces it, i.e. heat in the body.[4] However, even in this case, such a spontaneous recovery must presuppose a pre-existing producer as a composite substance, and such “spontaneous generation” as recovery of health in the agent seems to be nothing but an accidental generation. First, because generation must be a product of a composite of form and matter, but in the case of spontaneous recovery, there is no composite of form and matter coming into being, and second, such change as recovery of health happens in an already existing composite being, i.e. substance. Whatever happens to that being internally would not make any substantial change in its being. These then are problems that are left unanswered by Aristotle, and any new account must be able to ameliorate these issues.

Nonetheless, the medieval philosophers continued on holding the Synonymy Principle as the defining feature of the account of generation, but focused on the role form plays rather than the matter, for form alone seems to be responsible for making a specific matter distinct from any other. The Aristotelians reasoned that in the generation of substances, if the producer and the product are the same in form, it must be that form is what individuates matter, directs and orients the coming into being of sensible substances. In this way, they appealed to the pre-existence of form in the producer to explain why the generated product shares the characteristics the producer has. In a way, generation is seen as a process consisting in the transmission of a form from the producer to the product.[5] Simply put, the coming into being of composite substances is nothing but acquisition of a form of a certain kind, and the role form plays in generation is equated with the role of forming the internal structure and organization of sensible objects.

 

canon of medicineFor Avicenna, substantial generation does not occur gradually, but happens all at once. Nevertheless, there are several substantial changes occurring before the seed can become an animal or a full-fledged human being. For Avicenna, substantial changes happen when sufficient amount of accidental changes, i.e. qualitative change, prepare the way for the substance to change. John McGinns gives a clear analysis of Avicenna’s generative account. Citing passages from Avicenna’s Book of Animals, McGinns explains that Avicenna conceives at least four substantial changes in the form-matter composite before an animal is generated. The initial stage involves “the churning of the semen”, which Avicenna equates it with the “actuality of the formal power”. Second, the blood clot manifests in the uterine wall; the first substantial change in the generative process. Third, this blood clot (or zygote) is replaced by yet another new substance, i.e. embryo, which leads to the generation of the heart, primary organs, blood vessels and limbs. Lastly, the animal is formed, which is yet a different substance. In this way, these changes from semen to animal take place through a series of discrete substantial changes, even though a number of gradual qualitative changes do occur, preparing the way for each discontinuous leap between substantial changes.[6] The matter, then, undergoes a substantial change only when a sufficient number of gradual accidental changes have occurred in the said matter, acquiring a new substantial form fit for the specific state of the matter. McGinns likens this process to an example of handling clay, for he says that clay is receptive at first to a number of different shapes and forms, but as soon as it is exposed to the sun, “to the degree that the Sun affects the clay and hardens it, the clay becomes less pliable and so becomes less receptive to the number of forms that the craftsman can impose upon it.”[7] The clay here is the material, i.e. menstrual blood, and the craftsman is the form, i.e. male semen. The form the craftsman imposes upon the matter is equivalent to the formative power in the male semen, i.e. efficient cause. Here, it is significant to note that, according to this analogy, Avicenna conceives of the formative power to be already in the form, that is to say, the form carries with it the power to affect the matter. This is striking in comparison with the efficient cause as an external agent, putting forth the form into the matter to work with, as it was the case with Aristotle’s account of generation. For Avicenna, clearly, the formative power, or the efficient cause, is in the form itself, i.e. semen. And this formative power gradually alters the semen qualitatively “up to the point that the seminal form is displaced and it becomes a blood clot,” continuing to develop like this “up to the point that [the developing thing] receives the form of life,” or the new substantial form.[8]

 

Averroes, however, takes a radically different approach to the account of substantial change in that for him, only a material agent can act upon matter and thus transform it in such a way as to produce another material being.[9] In order for there to be any substantial change, matter must be acted upon so as to be modified in order to bring about a coming into being of a composite substance. Nothing incorporeal can act upon the matter, so an agent that interacts with matter and is able to effect the required changes in matter must itself be material and possesses corporeal parts as well as active qualities.[10] Further, for Averroes, matter already contains a form that is potentially present in it, and generation is explained through the agent’s actualizing the potentiality, i.e. receptivity, for form in the matter. In other words, generation is nothing but the coinciding of such an emergence of the receptivity for form in matter with the transmission of an external form into the matter. So the agent, in transmitting the external formal principle, at the same time, extracts the receptivity for that form in matter. In this way, matter also plays somewhat an active role of accepting the new form, for if the matter remained absolutely the same with only the potentiality/passivity all through the generation, generation would just mean a production of a new form rather than the constitution of a new composite.[11] So for Averroes, matter too also undergoes transformation in the process of generation so that it is not simply a new form being imposed upon the existing material substratum but a new substance both in form and matter comes into being.[12] So in this way, Averroes fulfills the Synonymy Principle in that for him as well, both the producer and the product must possess the same form in type, but what is different from the predecessors’ account is that Averroes also takes this Synonymy Principle further and maintain that both the producer and the product have not only the form but also the material part with which the preexisting matter can be interacted. Again, this is due to his general principle that only matter can act upon matter in such a way to generate another material being, and if form does not have any corporeal part, it cannot modify the said matter at all. So whatever generates a new substance must be already be a composite of form and matter. Now, this may work well with the standard, natural generation, since forms are communicated to the matter through the seed, containing a natural power capable of transforming matter so as to bring about a full fledged individual of a certain species, but how does this work in the case of spontaneous generation where there is no prior composite being acting on the material substratum? Averroes wants to say something analogous with the natural generation happens in the cases where animal and plants are generated without seed.[13] In spontaneous generation, Averroes argues, animals and plants can come out of the matter without seed by receiving the formative power directly from the heavenly bodies, insofar as the heavenly bodies are themselves material beings.[14] This means that, even though the heavenly bodies do not have determinate bodily parts, since they operate through heat, which is a primary quality of bodies, the operation of the formative powers by the heavenly bodies still satisfy both the Synonymy Principle and Averroes’ general principle that only matter can modify matter.[15]

 

Although Aquinas argues also for the primacy of the composite substance of form and matter, he denies that there are forms latent in the matter, and he maintains the matter as material substratum is pure potentiality. Matter cannot pre-contain forms to be actualized afterwards, for then the form would reveal a state of actuality only of the matter, and matter would be the real subject of the form![16] Aquinas, thus, rejects both the theory of multiple hidden actual forms (latitatio formarum) in matter and the theory of inchoate forms (inchoatio formarum) that Averroes held, i.e. a theory that the acquisition of a form by matter is nothing but the bringing of the potentiality of matter into act.[17] Aquinas reasons that unless forms come to matter externally rather than emerging from within the matter, there would not be a true generation and a substantial generation, but only an accidental change in the predicate of the matter as the subject. So for him, animals as well as human beings do not pre-contain the form of an animal or of a human being, but the matter or the embryo comes to be such a state that it can acquire a fit form through changes in the matter. For the matter to come to be such a state a form of a human being, i.e. rational soul, the formative power in the semen needs to modify the matter so it forms organs suitable for living beings. Once this has been done, the matter appropriately so organized, i.e. equipped with organs, can receive a form by triggering, as it were, the actualization of the potency of the matter. This formative power is not to be confused with the soul itself, for Aquinas does not want to associate the formative power of the semen with the functionality of the souls. What the formative power does is simply organize the matter in such a way that once the soul is received, the soul can perform its functions using those organs. So the formative power is a sort of a vital operation at the moment of conception, and it is a corporeal power passed on to by the agent, which forms the matter into an organically structured stuff so it can begin to digest food if there were a soul in it. Once this digestive organs have been formed, the vegetative soul comes to be, and does its own functions of digesting, etc… The formative power, however, does not cease to be, but still keeps forming the organs to make the matter like itself, i.e. the source of itself or in this case the male semen. The formative power is indeed, what Amerini calls, “a program” for material development that “expressly tasked to structure the matter of a given body.”[18] Once the organs appropriate for sensation have been formed, the sensitive soul takes place of the vegetative soul, subsuming the powers of vegetative soul under itself. It is probably more proper to conceive of this process as transformation of an inferior soul into a superior one, an upgrade. When the organs can afford to perform more tasks, the soul too develops into a more adequate form fit for that specific matter. In this way, Aquinas avoids admitting the plurality of forms latent in the matter, yet manages to explain the various stages of biological development. Unlike Avicenna’s account, Aquinas’ account does not involve a number of distinct leaps of substantial generation in order for the semen to fully develop into an embryo, and then into an animal, but Aquinas admits a substantial generation only once at the moment of ensoulment, i.e. the union between the vegetative soul and the matter properly organized. After the vegetative soul takes its root in the matter, the soul develops into the higher soul, and throughout this entire generative process, the formative power, or the program, keeps forming the organs until it finishes its task of structuring the body.

Since Aquinas also attributes the formative power to material agent, it may be conjectured that it is some sort of vital heat that does the formation of the organs. Understood in this way, spontaneous generation is explained similarly to the account offered by Averroes that it is due to the celestial bodies providing the heat, acting upon the putrefied matter.[19]

Franciscus_Suarez,_S.I._(1548-1617)Francisco Suarez (1548-1617), on the other hand, equates rational soul with the substantial form. Aquinas avoided conflating the two (soul and substantial form) precisely because he did not want to imply that the soul, which is the efficient cause and functions with the organs, is the same as the formative power, which is merely a forming principle, i.e. its task is merely to form organs so that the soul can take on and performs its functions using the organs so organized by the formative power. It is here in Suarez that we see the Aristotle’s analogy in explaining substantial generation of artificial things and natural things starts to break apart completely. For Aristotle had argued that, in the artificial generation, the form in the sculptor’s mind is the material realization of that form in the bronze as a statue. The form in this came in the mind of the sculptor only does the formation of the material, but in forming a statue of a person, for instance, the hand so formed does not need to function as a hand. If the sculptor were to make the heart and other primary organs in making the statue, these organs either do not need to function as they would in living human body. So the formative principle, i.e. the guideline in forming a body into a specific manner, in statue-making does not involve functionality of the organs, and just as Aquinas outlines, the formative principle must be distinct from the efficient cause, which would be the sculptor in the example of the statue-making. But clearly, this cannot be the case when one is dealing with the natural generation, for in natural generation, as soon as the organs are formed, they function. In fact, even as they are being formed, they show signs of activity. It appears as though this forming principle in the case of natural generation is equipped with the active principle that is doing the forming! This point is significant, for it is true to say that the artist as the efficacious cause is necessary for the form in his mind to be expressed in the matter so as to produce an informed matter, and without the efficacious agent being present, the production halts and no further information on the matter is possible. However, with the natural generation, once the efficacious, external agent passes on to the matter a seed or semen (the corporeal matter in form that carries with it a program or structure to be actualized and realized in matter), the efficacious agent who produced such seed is no longer necessary for the rest of the formation to take place. The production, in other words, does not halt even with the absence of the external agent. The seed takes on the task of the efficacious agent at the moment of conception, as it were, and it itself performs all the functions attributed to the efficacious agent. In light of this, it is easy to see why Suarez identified the form with the rational soul. For if the forming power that also functions with the organs so formed is not the soul, what really is a soul? Is it not the case that plants are said to nurture when they are equipped with the vegetative soul? Is it not the case that animals sense and move about only in virtue of them having the sensitive soul? If so, then, it must follow that soul is that which performs all these functions attributed to the forming principle. And since the forming principle functions, i.e. is efficacious, the forming principle is not really the formal cause but an efficient cause of natural generation. Indeed, this is the path Suarez takes. For Suarez, the composite being is generated out of the matter by the efficient cause, and as a result of the matter being so organized, the new form of the composite as the substantial form of that specific composite appears. In this way, as Helen Hattab argued, the explanatory burden of accounting for natural generation and substantial change is shifted onto the efficient and material causes from the formal cause. The substantial form is now posterior to the generation of the form-matter composite, and the formal causality is reduced to a mode of the union of the substantial form to matter.[20] Since the formal causality is just a mode of union “between an already existing substantial form and an already existing matter,” it is neither the formal causality nor the material causality that performs the organic functions, but rather, it is the emergent substantial form, at least in the case of animals and plants, that is the source of efficacious causation.

Suarez argues further that the human substantial form as the rational soul is essentially different from the other types of substantial forms, i.e., material substantial forms. These material substantial forms are educed out of the matter, rather than created out of nothing by God, and hence they cannot survive the material death.[21] These material substantial forms too are still united by the formal causality, i.e. the union, but because they are educed from and attached to matter, they do not properly come to be out of nothing, and what was considered as a substantial generation for Aristotle and Aquinas was reduced to the status of accidental change happening within the same subject, just like the example of Aristotle on the generation of health in a body. So for Suarez, whereas the human substantial form is created by God ex nihilo, the material substantial forms emerge out of the prime matter, and hence they do not count as a substantial generation, but only as an accidental generation.[22]

I agree with Helen Hattab that Suarez’s redefinition of the substantial form as an incomplete substance, which together with the matter makes one per se composite substance, his attribution of the efficient causality to the seed separate from the generator, and the reduction of formal causality to mode of the union of the substantial form and matter made it conceptual ground for which a new corpuscular mechanistic worldview to take roots. But I find it a little hard to believe Suarez was solely responsible for the transition from the Scholastic philosophy into the mechanical philosophy, as well as the devaluation of formal causality to the efficient causality. In fact, I believe it is somewhat too much a leap for us to come to Descartes and proclaim with him the dispensability of the formal causality after Suarez. For even Suarez utilized, in a much weakened manner, the distinction between formal causality and the other causalities. Without the formal causality, even for Suarez, it would be impossible to have the substantial form attached and united to the matter appropriate. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine why Descartes, who had had a difficulty in explaining the mind-body union could discard such a convenient cause as formal causality. In what follows, I will attempt to elucidate more in detail the general attitudes towards the use of Aristotelian causality in the beginning of the 17th century. In discussing the case of Daniel Sennert (1572-1637) and his account of causality in natural generation, I hope to show that all the groundwork for the new mechanical philosophy to take place has been laid out, and our understanding of the devaluation of formal causality, the conflation of it with the efficient causality and finally getting rid of the formal causality altogether in Descartes will be made more accessible.

[1] 1032a32-b6

[2] Gabriele Galluzzo, The Medieval Reception of Book Zeta of Aristotle’s Metaphysics: Aristotle’s Ontology and the Middle Ages – The Tradition of Met., Book Zeta, 96.

[3]

[4] Galluzzo, 98.

[5] Ibid., 182.

[6] John McGinns, Avicenna, 239.

[7] Ibid., 240-241.

[8] Ibid., 241-242.

[9] Galluzzo, 188.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 187.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 198.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Fabrizio Amerini, Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life, 23.

[17] Ibid., 24

[18] Ibid., 16.

[19] See Aquinas, Summa Theologiae Book I, Q45. Reply to Obj. 3, where he says “For the [spontaneous] generation of imperfect animals, a universal agent suffices, and this is to be found in the celestial power to which they are assimilated, not in species, but according to a kind of analogy.  Nor is it necessary to say that their forms are created by a separate agent.”

 

[20] Helen Hattab, “Suarez’s Last Stand for the Substantial Form” in The Philosophy of Francisco Suarez, 101-118.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

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René_Descartes_i_samtal_med_Sveriges_drottning,_Kristina

Actions and passions play a significant role in Descartes’ conception of the union between mind and body. Having explained to Princess Elizabeth that to conceive of the mind-body union is nothing but to conceive the mind as material and to Mersenne that the fact that the mind cannot be imagined does not render the union any less conceivable, Descartes moves onto illustrate the account of emotion and how the passions of the soul are the result of this very union. In the letter to Chanut, he gives a more detailed description of how the soul is inclined to unite with the body by appealing to the four passions the soul possesses prior to its attachment to the body. According to this account, the soul feels desire for the body, and when the body is well nourished and in a good condition, the soul attaches itself to the body through the reciprocation of love, and remains attached to it. In this paper, I aim to explore the role of the passions in the mind-body union and try to make sense, given his philosophical system, what it is that keeps the soul united to the body, thus making an individual rather than accepting the view some of his contemporaries held that the mind can migrate one body to another at its will.[1] In doing so, I will primarily focus on the intellectual passions Descartes discusses, and draw attention to the duality of the passions and its explanatory role in understanding what a human individual may be.

Descartes begins The Passions of the Soul with an assertion that what is a passion in the soul is an action in the body.[2] He gives a definition, following the common usage of the term, that we call “a ‘passion’ with regard to the subject to which it happens and an ‘action’ with regard to that which makes it happen.”[3] So when external objects stimulate our senses, they act upon our body and these stimuli become actions that act upon the soul, which receives them as passions. Passions, then, are nothing but the soul’s reactions against external influences. In this way, the soul does not initiate movement in the body or impart heat to the body but reacts only as a recipient, just as a sponge bounces back up when you push it with a finger in it. This well accords with his view that it is a mistake to think that the body dies when the soul leaves it, but rather “the soul takes its leave when we die only because this heat ceases and the organs which bring about bodily movement decay.”[4] This is an important to point to note, since it suggests that it is not the soul that makes something alive, but rather it is the arrangement of the organs and the cessation of their functions that make the soul leave the body. This is why Descartes is able to say without contradiction that animals do not possess souls, for a living animal can be without a soul as an infant in the womb is. For he says “it is not credible that the soul was put into the body at a time when the body was not in a good condition,” it follows that there was a time in which the human body was not united with the soul.[5] Further, because the body is not in a good condition when “there [are] nearby some matter suitable for food” and “[t]he soul, uniting itself willingly to that new matter,” would have felt sadness had there been no food, it is unlikely that the soul would attach itself to the body simultaneously, as it were, as soon as the body comes into being. It is Descartes’ own contention that the soul would not unite with a body unless it first perceives “some present or absent good, which it judges to be fitting for itself… and the good in question as forming two parts of a single whole,” thereby causing the sensation of love in the soul.[6] We are told that love was caused before birth only by suitable nourishment. But if this judgment that the soul makes of the perceived object as good is love, and if it is this love that urges the will of the soul to either desire to be united with it or feel sadness for the recognition that it is not feasible to attain it, these ‘four passions’[7] as Descartes calls them must have been present prior to the union. Indeed, not being united with the body, he explains, the soul possesses only so many intellectual sensations, one of which is love that unites the soul and the body in a reciprocal manner.[8] So it is not the specific body that individuates the human beings from one another, but rather it is the soul’s choosing specific body as desirable to be united with itself. This conclusion that the soul can have the will guided by these ‘passions’ can be deduced from a number of passages in his letter to Chanut, for he says that the will of the soul, whose movement is constituted by love, joy, sadness or desire, could exist in the soul even if it had no body, “in so far as they are rational thoughts and not passions.”[9] Here, he is making a distinction between feelings such as love caused by the passions and sensations that are perceived intellectually. But a problem arises: did he not say that there are passions in the pure soul prior to the union, namely, love, joy, sadness and desire? How is it possible for the body-less soul to have passions, which we have seen are none other than reactions to the external influence? Or are these passions different from simple passions? For he clearly thinks love, desire, joy and sadness are passions that the soul could possess without the body and that “the only ones we had before our birth.”[10] There are two kinds of will, Descartes tells us. One consists of the actions that terminate in the body, and the other consists of the actions of the soul that terminate in the soul itself.[11] The first kind is the type of will that is constituted by the passions such as love and joy, while the second kind is the intellectual will that we have “as when we will to love God or, generally speaking, to apply our mind to some objects which is not material.”[12] So clearly, when he talks about the will of the soul that is constituted by love prior to birth, wanting to be united with body, he is not talking about the intellectual will, as such a will desires a material body. On this account, Deborah Brown seems to accept Descartes’ claim and argue with him that “[i]nsofar as it is not dependent upon any movement of the spirits, however, rational love is not a passion and could exist in a disembodied mind.”[13] But how the soul can have intellectual love for a material body without depending upon any movement of the animal spirits is left unanswered, and she moves on to say that the rational love can accompany sensuous love as long as it is united with the body.[14] While she thinks it “perfectly understandable” that an object is necessary to account for a passion and affirms that “[t]he will is blind without an object,” she does not seem to be concerned with Descartes’ claim that the soul feels the rational love for the body and desires to be united with it, which is rather sensuous than rational according to the Descartes’ definition.[15] Descartes, however, endeavors to take care of such worry in offering an account of perception that is both an action and passion. Perceptions, he explains, can be called either actions of the soul or passions with respect to the soul. When the soul loves something rationally, and consequently will to be joined with it “as forming two parts of a single whole,” while the act of willing is the action proper with respect to the soul, “the perception of such willing may be said to be a passion in the soul.”[16] This perception, he tells us, is really one and the same thing as will, and because “names are always determined by whatever is most noble, we do not normally call it a ‘passion’, but solely an ‘action.’”[17] So we do call perceptions actions then. Nevertheless, he quickly reminds us, all our perceptions are, strictly speaking, passions with respect to our soul, and hence we use the term ‘passion’ to signify only perceptions that refer to the soul itself. However, he then concludes that perceptions are passions insofar as they are caused by animal spirits, “maintained and strengthened by some movement of the spirits,” and in that respect differ from volitions or will which are caused by the soul itself.[18] But animals spirits must of necessity material.[19] So the soul without a body cannot have such spirits. So the difference between passions from volitions consists solely on this: their originating causes are different – passions are caused by the agitation of the spirits and volitions or actions of the soul are caused by the soul itself.

Here we are given a different account of the passions, for earlier he says that all perceptions are passions of the soul, and now he says that perceptions can be actions if they are caused by the soul itself. To understand better what may be going on here, we need to have a clearer view on Descartes’ view on will and perception. It would be a mistake to think of the will as having a cause solely in the soul. In fact, he never says that will originates in the soul, but only that will terminates in the soul or in the body.[20] Is it, then, possible that will can originate in the body? It is unlikely, since will is the activity of the soul. Here the nature of perception will better aid us, for perceptions have a rather opposite aspect from will in that perceptions originate either in the soul or in the body, but does not terminate in either.[21] So what happens here is that we first have the perceptions of some object either from the soul or from the body, and once the soul judges this perceived object as good, then the soul wills either to desire or not to desire for the perceived object. So while the perception may come from the soul, as in when judging something to be beautiful, depending on whether the object of such beauty is material or not, the will can result in the actions that terminate in the body. For example, if we perceive an apple (a physical object) as beauty, then the soul may will to pursue it in order to obtain it, but not for the sake of eating it (for it if were for the sake of eating it, it would result in the material pursuit) but for the sake of obtaining it. It is in this sense that Descartes speaks of the will as intellectual, as when “our merely willing to walk has the consequence that our legs move an we walk.”[22] This is made no more obvious in the passage where Descartes illuminates us with the examples on how “our well-being depends principally on internal emotions which are produced in the soul only by the soul itself,” providing us with the ways in which these intellectual emotions are different from the passions of the soul.[23] To illustrate the point clearly, he gives us two situations where the difference between the intellectual emotions and sensuous emotions is acute. “[w]hen a husband mourns his dead wife,” Descartes recounts, “it sometimes happens that he would be sorry to see her brought back to life again,” because, however he may feel torn by the sadness aroused in him by the display of the funeral and by the loss of the person whose company he was so accustomed that it may be that some remnants of love or of pity for her occur in his imagination, drawing genuine tears from his eyes, he cannot help but feel “at the same time a secret joy in his innermost soul, and the emotion of this joy has such power that the concomitant sadness and tears can do nothing to diminish its force.”[24] In what way this ‘secret joy in his innermost soul’ differs from sensuous joy caused by the actions of the body is described by Susan James that if the joy is the result of “an involuntary memory of his wife’s complaining, together with his realization that he will never have to humour her again,” it is a passion proper caused by the pineal gland, and would be distinguished from the intellectual joy originating in the soul alone. Rather, for this ‘secret joy’ to be an intellectual one, it needs to be the result of “a judgment based on a reflective assessment of his marriage” and hence needs to stand at one step removed from the bodily events.[25] I venture to disagree with her reading, for even such an assessment of his marriage must involve experiential referent, i.e. his actual marriage from experience. Further, if we look at the second example Descartes gives immediately after the funeral display example, even though at first glance, he seems to be talking about a completely different, and more relatable, example about the nature of intellectual joy. For he tells us of any feelings that are aroused by reading an adventure book or seeing a play acted out on a stage as a cause for an intellectual joy, since even when we feel overwhelmed by sadness in reading a protagonist die in a book, or feel terror in seeing a play, we nonetheless “have pleasure in feeling them aroused in us,” and such pleasure “may readily originate in sadness as in any of the other passions.”[26] This second example is about a joy that you feel in feeling various emotions, that is to say, you feel joy by virtue of having these passions, however sad you may be feeling. The funeral example, however, can be seen as a joy that you have only upon reflection on the experience. It is then a joy that can be felt only in retrospect. I do not believe that is what Descartes has in mind, and in fact, I believe the two examples he lists are meant to be read in tandem. Just as the second example about the joy you feel in feeling the passions, I believe the first example illustrates the same point in the more forcible way. In the funeral example, he brings out some of the most traumatic experience one could ever have, i.e. the death of a loved one. In such situations, the passions he feels of sadness are so extreme that there is no way one could feel a sensuous joy. But even in such extraneous circumstances, one cannot help but feel a ‘secret joy’ in the very act of feeling these acute passions that “the concomitant sadness and tears can do nothing to diminish its force.”[27] In this way, Descartes clearly illustrates the bifurcation of joy as an action in one sense – perceiving of the passions – and as a passion in another – sadness from the death of the loved one and excitement from reading of a book.

Having seen now how intellectual love and joy are to be conceived of in relation to the roles will and perception play, the problem raised at the beginning as to how the soul is said to possess intellectual love without it being united with the body which gives rise to agitations of the animal spirits, i.e. passions, in the soul becomes easier to grasp. For even though the soul perceives the body that is material as good and wills to be united with it, it is not the kind of love that terminates in the body – the soul does not desire the body for its materiality but it is the very union with such a body that the soul loves, and it is this very recognition of the union that makes the soul feel joy. In other words, the soul loves the very thought of being united with the body it perceives as good and agreeable to itself. This explains also why the soul is united to a particular body as opposed to another body elsewhere, for the very constitution of various bodies gives the soul an option to choose from as to which body is so constituted that it agrees with the soul in particular. Perhaps this still does not explain whether soul is individuated prior to the union, but from what Descartes tells Princess Elizabeth about how to properly conceive of the mind and body as well as their union, it seems blatantly obvious that we cannot think of the soul in terms of divisibility that is a principal attribute of body substance and not of mind substance. He also writes to Mersenne in July of 1644 that there is no wonder in our inability to imagine what the soul is like, for “our imagination is capable of representing only objects of sense-perception,” the soul cannot be represented by a corporeal image.[28] As for the reciprocity of intellectual love between the soul and the body, it is perhaps explained in the similar vein as I did above about how it is possible for the body-less soul to have intellectual love for the body. Simply, it is not the body that the soul desires but rather the union with that specific body that agrees with the soul that it loves. Being united with the body, the body reciprocates love by simply being agreeable to the soul. Hence, so long as the body remains to be in the functioning condition, the soul remains united with it, explaining why the soul is united with the body for as long as it does.


[1] See Louis de la Forge, Traité de l’esprit de l’homme (1664) for instance.

[2] Descartes, The Passions of the Souls, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes.

[3] Ibid, art. 1.

[4] Ibid., 5.

[5] Descartes, to Chanut, 1 February 1647.

[6] Ibid.

[7] These are love, joy, sadness and desire.

[8] It is certainly unclear what it means for the body to reciprocate the love of the soul, but it will be made clearer once I have elucidated my main thesis.

[9] Descartes, To Chanut, 1 February 1647. (italics mine)

[10] Ibid.

[11] Passions of the Soul, 18.

[12] Ibid. italics mine.

[13] Deborah J. Brown, “Wonder ad Love” in Descartes and the Passionate Mind, 147.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., 149.

[16] Ibid., 19.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., 29.

[20] The Passions of the Soul, 18.

[21] Ibid., 19.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Passions of the Soul, 147.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Susan James, Passions and Actions: the emotions in Seventeenth Century Philosophy, 198.

[26] Passions of the Soul, 147.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Descartes to Mersenne, July 1644.

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