Posts Tagged ‘Enryō Inoue’

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


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