The Five Virtues of Ruism (Confucianism), 仁义礼智信, by J.D. Meyer

First of all, Confucianism is a Western-imposed misnomer. We prefer to be called, “Ruists.” Let’s start with The Five Virtues. 仁义礼智信

The Five Virtues are (1) humanity, (2) appropriate-assertiveness, (3) propriety, (4) wisdom, and (5) faith. Humanity (jen) is the first virtue, and its beginning is compassion. Mencius asserted that one would rescue a child that had fallen in a well out of compassion, not the desire to advance in society. The Chinese character for jen is a person standing next to the number two, symbolizing a person in society—a simple four stroke character. The last virtue is faith (hsin), meaning the completion of the other four virtues. Integrity and trustworthiness are two synonyms for faith (hsin). The Chinese character is a person standing next to “word.”

The beginning of appropriate-assertiveness (i) is shame. Through courage, we move from withdrawn shame to assertiveness. This concept is usually translated as “righteousness.” David Nivison introduced the more accurate translation as “appropriate-assertiveness.” The beginning of propriety (li) is deference. The beginning of wisdom (chih) is distinguishing right from wrong.

Here are two more observations on the development of virtues. “Goodness without a love of learning leads to simple-mindedness,” according to Confucius. Confucius wrote, “Straightforwardness without propriety is rudeness.”

Let’s examine propriety according to the concepts of pattern-principle and vital force—an original contribution of mine. If we don’t exhibit enough pattern-principle in our expression of propriety, we are rude. On the other hand, if we don’t show enough vital force, then we’re boring. Through appropriate-assertiveness, we add to propriety.

ABSTRACT: Approaching Cognitive-Behavioral and Existential Therapy Through Neo-Confucianism (December 1984).

by Joffre Denis (JD) Meyer, B. A. Texas A&M University

Chairman of Graduate Committee: Dr. William R. Nash

The thesis is an effort to bring Neo-Confucian insights to modern cognitive- behavioral and existential therapy. The adaptability of Neo-Confucianism is illustrated through the growth-system inherent in its concepts. Frequently, Neo-Confucian sages and modern psychologists used virtually identical statements. Moreover, humanity faces the same basic issues while the particularizations vary. The importance of reason, manners, appropriate behavior and self-actualization remains constant. However, the methods of their attainment change with time. The history of the Confucian/Neo-Confucian tradition is filled with such conceptual modifications.

Neo-Confucianism is a syncretic philosophy that utilized elements of Zen, Taoism, and Legalism within Confucian teachings. This adaptation increased the sages’ ability to communicate with a wider range of people. In effect, the Neo-Confucian movement was perhaps the earliest practice of eclectic counseling. Neo-Confucianism itself has undergone development from its eleventh-century origins to the present-day scholarly journals.

The researcher does not believe the key issue in inter- disciplinary studies is whether psychology is being applied to philosophy or vice-versa. Neo-Confucianism pragmatically asserts that the true test of a philosophy rests in its ability to help the individual. Mere intellectual exercise contradicts the unity of knowledge and action.

The thesis has five chapters. The existential therapy chapter uses a predominantly Western psychology format while the cognitive-behavioral therapy chapter uses Wang Yang-ming’s Four Axiom Teaching as an outline.

The thesis also includes Neo-Confucian cognitive-moral development observations reminiscent of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stage theories. Neo-Confucianism could be described as an education in evolving from preconventional to principled reasoning. Occasional parallels are drawn between process philosophy and Neo-Confucianism as well.

There is also a chapter in which Confucian commentaries are provided to actual case studies faced by Albert Ellis and Maxie Maultsby. A Chinese glossary is provided at the end of the introduction. There are five figures in the text, two of which are summarizing models in the conclusion. (2008)



“When, How, & Why Ruism (Confucianism) Hooked Me,”3rd Edition

“When, How, & Why Ruism Hooked Me,”   By Joffre (“JD”) Meyer

The roots of how I became hooked on Ruism (Confucianism) began in the third grade with my interest in Japan—history, culture, architecture, etc. Memorizing the historical periods was like learning the geologic time table, which I’d done in first grade.

Some 15 years later, I became inspired to start research for an interdisciplinary thesis, eventually named, “Approaching Cognitive-Behavioral & Existential Therapy through Neo-Confucianism.” It was the culmination of my M.S. in Educational Psychology at Texas A&M in 1984. One afternoon, I decided to browse a couple of journals in the Texas A&M Library: Philosophy East & West and Journal of Chinese Philosophy. I found a reference to the unity of knowledge and action (chih hsing ho-i) in these journals, something I’d run across in an Ed. Psy. textbook.

I became fascinated by the Confucian Virtues from the story of rescuing the baby who fell in the well to standing by your word. That’s the beginning of jen (benevolence) to evolving to hsin (faithfulness), in case any rookies are reading this essay for the Ruist Fellowship. I showed how the virtues related to existential thought on the self-theory. A couple of my favorite teachings include that a sincere will before a convention of propriety (ch’eng-yi toward li) is needed to preserve the spirit of the ancients. That’s a great concept for change! I love David Nivison’s description of the virtue i, usually translated as “righteousness” as “appropriate-assertiveness.”

Wang Yang-ming’s Four Axiom Teaching showed parallel evolution to the cognitive-behavioral therapist, The 1st Axiom is basic human goodness. Aaron T. Beck’s method for avoiding automatic thoughts between yi (intentionality) and liang-chih (conscience). Intentionality (yi) must be paired with knowledge (chih) to make the jump from Axiom 2 to 3. Imagine a depressed person who dismisses past achievements as meaningless compared to flaws or alienation issues. That person won’t view his/her sincere authentic conscience (liang-chih) as good enough. Ko-wu is the 4th Axiom. It has been described as “investigating the principles of events” by Chu Hsi (1130-1200) and “rectifying affairs” by Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529). Perhaps ko-wu can occur when our conscience unconsciously defeats itself, but we’re willing to try. Simultaneously, we move past withdrawn shame as we evolve in appropriate-assertiveness (i) through courage.

Aside from a distinguished history prof, I had few fans of my research at the conservative college. Then I had an enlightenment (satori) experience after my Aggieland days ended, I realized that “Spontaneity as conforming to pattern-principle” (tzu-jan chi li) could be viewed as self-confidence in one’s sincerity and the goal of the unity of knowledge and action (chih hsing ho-i). I was inspired by an article from Philosophy East & West, by Frederick J. Streng too: “Three approaches to authentic existence: Christian, Confucian, & Buddhist.” The Confucian scholar studied was T’ang Chun-i. T’ang sees social harmony as the most important aspect of human existence. T’ang asserts the essence of things “is exhibited in the capacity for adaptation and creation through interaction with a changing environment.” Change is either harmonious or disharmonious.

I’ve faced many challenges and endured stumbles since my “self-confidence in sincerity enlightenment,” but the lows haven’t been as bad. Later at the University of North Texas, I proposed that li (propriety) without li (pattern-principle) is rudeness, and li (propriety) without ch’i (vital force) is boring. Meanwhile, we create new rules of li (propriety) through i (appropriate-assertiveness)!

Later, I stumbled onto Dr. Tu Wei-ming’s essay in Life Magazine (1988) in response to their question about “The Meaning of Life” that was given to 50 prominent people world-wide. Dr. Tu has been a long-time favorite author of mine in Neo-Confucianism. (Chung-ying Cheng, Wm. Theodore deBary, and David Nivison are other favorites from my thesis era). I loved how he noted that four Western thinkers had complicated but enriched issues for the modern age: Copernicus, Darwin, Marx, and Freud. Then Tu showed the process theology style of the Ruist tradition by noting that Heaven is everywhere, probably all-knowing, but not all-powerful. Without our participation, we can’t realize Heaven’s pattern-principle. At last, Ruism made it into a popular magazine. I published an analysis of Dr. Tu’s entry for “The Meaning of Life.”

I gave a sermon called, “The New Confucians,” in 2005 at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Tyler (UUFT). It drew heavily on the work of Dr. John Berthrong of Boston University. Moreover, I included Tu’s “Meaning of Life” statement. Later I submitted an edit of Wikipedia’s Boston Confucians entry, drawing on the references for my talk–but not the talk itself. Importantly, the Boston Confucian movement hails “The Western Inscription by Chang Tsai (11th Century) for its ecological concerns.

I like Tu Wei-ming’s grouping of chih hsing ho-i (Unity of knowledge and action) as unifying the existential hsin chi li ((Mind is pattern-principle) and the normative chih liang-chih (Extending authentic conscience). I’ve used it to resolve a neighborhood soap opera in assuring the good neighbor that I wouldn’t talk badly about him. Existential: He’s big and lives across the street. Normative: I’ve proven myself to be pleasant and honest unlike the bad neighbor, who later evicted!

Now we reach my modern age! For years, my Facebook description of my religious views included the disclaimer “…since the Confucian Church of Indonesia hasn’t moved to East Texas.” Remember Dr. Thomas Kang; he used to work for the Library of Congress.

I found “Friends from Afar,” a closed Facebook group and the Boston University Confucianism group in 2015. Now I get to have philosophical discussions, complete with Chinese footnotes, any time of the week. Thanks go to Bin Song and Ben Butina for starters. Bin Song publishes articles regularly on Ruism for the prestigious Huffington Post I had grown tired of the vacuous or rude (namban) churches in my hometown, vastly preferring to watch CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS twice on Sunday morning. Then I was invited to join the Ruist Fellowship in 2016 and started getting homework. Maybe now I know how Fukuzawa Yukichi of Meiji Era Japan felt when the barriers to trade with the West were lifted.