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Confucius - The Doctrine, Of The Mean On Truth

TRUTH is the law of God. Acquired truth is the Law of man. He who intuitively apprehends truth is one who, without effort, hits what is right, and without thinking understands what he wants to know; whose Life is easily and naturally in harmony with the moral law. Such a one is what we call a saint or a man of divine nature. He who acquires truth is one who finds out what is good and holds fast to it.

In order to acquire truth, it is necessary to obtain a wide and extensive knowledge of what has been said and done in the world; critically to inquire into it; carefully to ponder over it; clearly to sift it; and earnestly to carry it out.


TRUTH means the realization of our being; and moral law means the Law of our being. Truth is the beginning and end (the substance) of existence. Without truth there is no existence. It is for this reason that the moral man values truth.

Truth is not only the realization of our own being: it is that by which things outside of us have an existence. The realization of our being is moral sense. The realization of things outside of us is intellect. These, moral sense and intellect, are the powers and faculties of our being. They combine the inner and subjective and outer or objective use of the power of the mind. Therefore with truth everything done is right.


THUS absolute truth is indestructible. Being indestructible, it is eternal. Being eternal it is self-existent. Being self-existent, it is infinite. Being infinite it is vast and deep. Being vast and deep it is transcendental and intelligent.

It is because it is vast and deep that it contains all existence. It is because it is transcendental and intelligent that it embraces all existence. It is because it is infinite and eternal that it fills all existence.

In vastness and depth it is like the Earth. In transcendental intelligence it is like Heaven. Infinite and eternal, it is Infinitude itself.

Such being the nature of absolute truth, it manifests itself without being evident; it produces effects without action; it accomplishes its ends without being conscious.


THE intelligence which comes from the direct apprehension of truth is intuition. The apprehension of truth which comes from the exercise of intelligence is the result of education. Where there is truth, there is intelligence; where there is intelligence, there is truth.


IT is only he, in the world, who possesses absolute truth who can get to the bottom of the Law of his being. He who is able to get to the bottom of the law of his being will be able to get to the bottom of the Law of being of other men. He who is able to get to the bottom of the law of being of men will be able to get to the bottom of the laws of physical nature. He who is able to get to the bottom of the laws of physical nature will be able to influence the forces of creation of the Universe. He who can influence the forces of creation of the Universe is one with the Powers of the Universe.


THE next order of the process of man's mind is to attain to the apprehension of a particular branch of knowledge. In every particular branch of knowledge there is truth. Where there is truth, there is substance. Where there is substance, there is reality. Where there is reality, there is intelligence Where there is intelligence, there is power. Where there is power there is influence. Where there is influence, there is creative power.

It is only he who possesses absolute truth in the world who can create.


IT is an attribute of the possession of absolute truth to be able to foreknow. When a nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure to be lucky omens. When a nation or family is about to perish, there are sure to be signs and prodigies. These things manifest themselves in the instruments of divination and in the agitation of the human body. When happiness or calamity is about to come, it can be known beforehand. When it is good, it can be known beforehand. When it is evil, it can also be known beforehand.

Therefore he who possesses absolute truth is Like a spiritual being.


I KNOW now why there is no real moral life. The wise mistake moral law for something higher than what it really is; and the foolish do not know enough what moral law really is. I know now why the moral law is not understood. The noble natures want to live too high, high above their moral ordinary self; and ignoble natures do not live high enough, i.e., not up to their moral ordinary true self.

The life of the moral man is an exemplification of the universal moral order. The life of the vulgar person, on the other hand, is a contradiction of the universal moral order.

The moral law is a law from whose operation we cannot for one instant in our existence escape. A law from which we may escape is not the moral Law. Wherefore it is that the moral man watches diligently over what his eyes cannot see and is in fear and awe of what his ears cannot hear. There is nothing more evident than that which cannot be seen by the eyes and nothing more palpable than that which cannot be perceived by the senses. Wherefore the moral man watches diligently over his secret thoughts.

Every system of moral laws must be based upon man's own consciousness. It must be verified by the common experience of men. Examined into by comparing it with the teachings of acknowledged great and wise men of the past, there must be no divergence. Applying it to the operations and processes of nature in the physical universe, there must be no contradiction. Confronted with the spiritual powers of the universe a man must be able to maintain it without any doubt. He must be prepared to wait a hundred generations after him for the coming of a man of perfect divine nature to confirm it without any misgiving.


FORCE of character is a wonderful thing. Wherefore the man with the true force of moral character is one who is easy and accommodating and yet without weakness or indiscrimination. How unflinchingly firm he is in his strength! He is independent without any bias. When there is moral social order in the, country, if he enters. public Life he does not change from what he was when in retirement. When there is no moral social order in the country he holds on his way, without changing even unto death. How unflinchingly firm is he in his strength :

THERE TO THE MORAL LAW THERE are men who seek for some abstruse, meaning in religion and philosophy and live a life singular in order that they may leave a name to posterity. This is what I never would do. There are again good men who try to live in conformity 'with the moral law, but who, when they have gone halfway, throw it up. I never could give it up.

Lastly, there are truly more men who unconsciously live a life in entire harmony with the universal moral order and who Live unknown to the world and unnoticed of men without any concern. It is only men of holy, divine natures who are capable of this.


THE moral law is to be found everywhere, and yet it is a secret. The simple intelligence of ordinary men and women of the people may understand something of the moral Law; but in its utmost reaches there is something which even the holiest and wisest of men cannot understand.

The ignoble natures of ordinary men and women of the people may be able to carry out the moral law; but in its utmost reaches even the wisest and holiest of men cannot live up to it.


GREAT as the Universe is, the man with the infinite moral nature in him is never satisfied.

For there is nothing so great but the mind of the moral man can conceive of something still greater which nothing in the world can hold. There is nothing so small but the mind of moral man can conceive of something still smaller which nothing in the universe can split. The Book of Songs says : "The hawk soars to the heavens above and fishes dive to the depths below.' That is to say, there is no place in the highest heavens above nor in the deepest waters below where the moral Law does not reign.

The moral Law takes its rise in the relation between men and women; but in its utmost reaches it reigns supreme over heaven and earth.


THE moral law is not something away from the actuality of human Life. When men take up something away from the actuality of human Life as the moral Law, that is not the moral law. When a man carries out the principles of conscientiousness and reciprocity he is not far from the moral Law. What you do not wish others should do unto you, do not do unto them.


THERE are four things in the moral life of a man not one of which I have been able to carry out in my life. To serve my father as I would expect my son to serve me: that I have not been able to do. To serve my sovereign as I would expect a minister under me to serve me : that I have not been able to do. To act toward my elder brother as I would expect my younger brother to act toward me : that I have not been able to do. To be the first to behave toward friends as I would expect them to behave toward me : that I have not been able to do.


IN the discharge of the ordinary duties of life and in the exercise of care in ordinary conversation, whenever there is shortcoming, never fail to strive for improvement, and when there is much to be said, always say Less than what is necessary; words having respect to actions and actions having respect to words. Is it not just this thorough genuineness and absence of pretense which characterizes the moral man?


THE moral man conforms himself to his life circumstances; he does not desire anything outside of his position. Finding himself in a position of wealth and honor, he lives as becomes one living a position of wealth and honor. Finding himself in a position of poverty and humble circumstances he Lives as becomes one living in a position of poverty and humble circumstances. Finding himself in uncivilized countries, he lives as becomes one Living in uncivilized countries.

Finding himself in circumstances of danger and difficulty, he acts according to what is required of a man under such circumstances.

In one word, the moral man can find himself in no situation in life in which he is not master of himself.

In a high position he does not domineer over his subordinates. In a subordinate position he does not court the favors of his superiors. He puts in order his own personal conduct and seeks nothing from others; hence he has no complaint to make. He complains not against God nor rails against man.

Thus it is that the moral man lives out the even tenor of his Life, calmly waiting for the appointment of God, whereas the vulgar person takes to dangerous courses, expecting the uncertain chances of luck.


IN the practice of archery we have something resembling the principle in a man's moral life. When the archer misses the center of the target he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure within himself.


THE moral life of man may be likened to traveling to a distant place: one must start from the nearest stage. It may also be likened to ascending a height: one must begin from the lowest step. The Book of Songs says:

" When wives and children and their sires are one, 'Tis like the harp and lute in unison.

When brothers live in concord and at peace

The strain of harmony shall never cease. The lamp of happy union lights the home,

And bright days follow when the children come."


THE moral laws form one system with the laws by which Heaven and Earth support and contain, overshadow and canopy all things. These moral laws form the same system with the Laws by which the seasons succeed each other and the sun and moon appear with the alternations of day and night. It is this same system of Laws by which all created things are produced and develop themselves each in its order and system without injuring one another; by which the operations of nature take their course without conflict and confusion, the Lesser forces flowing every-where Like river currents, while the great forces of creation go silently and steadily on.

It is this one system running through all that makes the Universe so impressively great.


IT is only the man with the most perfect divine moral nature who is able to combine in himself quickness of apprehension, intelligence, insight, and understanding: qualities necessary for the exercise of command; magnanimity, generosity, benignity, and gentleness: qualities necessary for the exercise of patience; originality, energy, strength of character, and determination: qualities necessary for the exercise of endurance; dignity, noble seriousness, order, and regularity: qualities necessary for the exercise of self-respect; grace, method, delicacy, and lucidity : qualities necessary for the exercise of critical judgment.

Thus all embracing and vast is the nature of such a man. Profound it is and inexhaustible, like a living spring of water, ever running out with life and vitality. All-embracing and vast, it is like Heaven. Profound and inexhaustible, it is like the abyss.

As soon as such a man shall make his appearance in the world, all people shall reverence him. Whatever he says, all people will believe it. Whatever he does, all people will be pleased with it. Thus his name and fame will spread and fill all the civilized world, extending even to savage countries. Wherever ships and carriages reach; wherever the labor and enterprise of man penetrate; wherever the heavens overshadow and the earth sustains; wherever sun and moon shine; wherever frost and dew fall, all who have life and breath will honor him. Therefore we may say, "He is the equal of -God."

When calamities or blessings are about to befall, the good or the evil will surely before-known to him. He, therefore, who is possessed of the completest sincerity, is like a spirit.


THE power of spiritual forces in the Universe how active it is everywhere! Invisible to the eyes and impalpable to the senses, it is inherent in all things, and nothing can escape its operation.

It is a fact that there are these forces which make men in all countries fast and purify themselves, and with solemnity of dress institute services of sacrifice and religious worship. Like the rush of mighty waters, the presence of unseen Powers is felt, sometimes above us, sometimes around us.

The ordinance of God is what we call the law of our being. To fulfill the law of our being is what we call the moral law. The moral law when reduced to a system is what we call religion.

Confucius remarked: "There was the emperor Shun. He was perhaps what may be considered a truly great intellect. Shun had a natural curiosity of mind, and he Loved to inquire into near facts literally, "near words," meaning here ordinary topics of conversation in everyday life]. He Looked upon evil merely as something negative; and he recognized only what was good as having a positive existence. Taking the two extremes of negative and positive, he applied the mean between the two extremes: in his judgment, employment, and dealings with people.

"This was characteristic of Shun's great intellect."


SOME men are born with the knowledge of these moral qualities; some acquire it as the result of education; some acquire it as the result of hard experience. But when the knowledge is acquired, it comes to one and the same thing. Some exercise these moral qualities naturally and easily; some because they find it advantageous to do so; some with effort and difficulty. But when the achievement is made, it comes to one and the same thing.

When the passions, such as joy, anger, grief, and pleasure, have not awakened, that is our true self or moral being. When these passions awaken and each and all attain due measure and degree, that is the moral order. Our true self or moral being is the great reality {lit, "great root "} of existence, and moral order is the universal law in the world.

When true moral being and moral order are realized, the universe then becomes a cosmos and all things attain their full growth and development.


BY attending to the cleanliness and purity of his person and to the propriety and dignity of his dress, and in every word and act permitting nothing which is contrary to good taste and decency, that is how one puts in order his personal conduct.


A MAN who is foolish, and yet is fond of using his own judgment; who is in humble circuit stances, and yet is fond of assuming authority; who, while living m the present age, reverts to the ways of antiquity, such a man is one who will bring calamity upon himself.


THE life of the moral man is plain and yet not unattractive; it is simple and yet full of grace; it is easy and yet methodical. He knows that accomplishment of great things consists in doing small things well. He knows that great effects are produced by small causes. He knows the evidence and reality of what cannot be perceived by the senses. Thus he is enabled to enter into the world of ideas and morals.

A man may be able to renounce the possession of kingdoms and empire, be able to spurn the honors and emoluments of office, be able to trample upon bare, naked weapons ; with all that he shall not be able to find the central clue in his moral being.

Men all say," We are wise" ; but when driven forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, there is not one who knows how to find a way of escape. Men all say, "We are wise"; but in finding the true central clue and balance in their moral being (i.e., their normal, ordinary, true self) and following the line of conduct which is in accordance with it, they are not able to keep it for a round month.

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