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 Through courage, we move from withdrawn shame to assertiveness.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.

The Liberal Islam of Indonesia–Jaringan, by J.D. Meyer, mainly based on Ulil Abshar-Abdalla

Now it’s time to look at the liberal Islam of Indonesia at, also known as Jaringan Islam. What could be a better religious antidote to fanatic Muslim extremism than a faction of Islam that values reason?

Ulil Abshar-Abdalla read, “Upheaval in Islamic Thinking,” the journal of Ahmad Wahib, another Indonesian. Ahmad stated, “God is not a land forbidden to thought. God exists not in order for his existence to be un-thought. God takes shape not in order to hide from the light of the critique. He doesn’t want to be fixed in one place.” “Religion is a living organism that makes us feel enthusiasm.” Doesn’t that remind you of process theology? The Sufi go as far as to say that God created humans so he could be recognized.

The Mu’tazilah is a branch of Islam as major as the vastly better-known Sunni and Shiite. The Mu’tazilah asserts that through reason we can determine the limits of good and evil , undertake our own evolution and grow to be mature. Human reason is an active participant in interpreting the divine notions. We don’t have a brutish world; furthermore, revelation is not cruel but life-restoring.

A liberal Islam woman named Nong read the works of Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan Muslim feminist. Fatima believed the wearing of the veil nowadays simply serves the political interests of men. But long ago, the tradition was necessary because Muslim women were harassed just to both Mohammed himself. Fatima and Nong feel that this veil tradition is outdated. Fatima feels that Moslem women should simply wear modest clothes that don’t attract attention. Turkey’s founder, Attaturk, forbade the veil tradition as he wanted some distance between religion and state.

A physicist, Imanuddin Abdurrahim, asserted, “If Moslems want to progress, they can’t depend only on religious texts produced in a certain social and historical context. Social law is not static.” If you don’t install lightning rods on a mosque, natural law could hurt you.

Ulil sees the roots of Moslem fundamentalism as born from a sense of desperation and disappointment. Muslims once knew a golden age, and now they feel degraded. Political fragmentation has hurt; they’ve been left behind in science and economics. They’re spectators of injustice by the West. The Muslim fundamentalist question can be, “Has God left us out?” A pretty shocking theory, but haven’t we seen people behave in a fashion that reminds us of the football proverb, “The best defense is a strong offense”? There’s no religion for those without reason, according to Ulil.

What is a Liberal Muslim description of sin? Sin incites the twitchy and turmoil in your heart, and you don’t like other people see you do it.
So what can religion do for us when our civilization has declined? It should uplift the humanitarian dignity more than worship of a fixed object.

This paragraph comes from Muhammad Ali, not the boxer. Extremists want to see a clash, so religious leaders ordained and lay need to build dialogue. The interrelatedness of sacred texts in the three Abrahamaic religions forms a starting point. Unequal power relations make it difficult. The West appears insensitive and arrogant while the Muslim world seems insecure and defensive. Constructive criticism leads to accountability. Yet the boundary leaders, those who operate on the borders of their community by reaching out to others, need support since it’s psychologically taxing. Ali warns of biblioidolatry, when one worships a religious text taken out of its historical context.

“Ulil’s (Abshar-Abdalla) Controversial Article in English”
We’ll close our survey of the Liberal Islam of Indonesia with a summary of Ulil Abshar-Abdalla’s article in English. Ulil begins by declaring, “Islam is first and foremost a living organism, a religion that evolves in accordance with the pulse of humankind’s development. The tendency to make an unchanging monument of Islam is very prominent at present and the time has come to combat this tendency.”

Ulil fashions a very structured article, starting with four key points: (1) Islam shouldn’t be literalistic; it needs to stay in step with an ever-changing civilization. (2) Local culture must be separate from values; we’re not obligated to follow Arab culture. (3) Muslims shouldn’t view themselves as cut off from other groups. The Quran never banned interreligious marriage. People are on the same level regardless of religion. (4) Social structure needs to distinguish between political power and religious power. Religion is a private matter while the ordering of public life is through the community reaching agreement through democratic deliberation. Now isn’t it refreshing to hear a statement in favor of democracy from a Moslem thinker?

Islamic law should protect the values of “religious freedom, reason, property, the family and honor.” “How these are translated into any given historical and social context is something the Muslims must work out for themselves through “ijtihad” (intellectual endeavor).

Muhammad (Peace be unto Him.) is “a historical figure that should be the object of critical study” and “not just an always-admired mythological figure by ignoring his human qualities and possible weaknesses.” Yet still he must be a model to be followed. Muhammad’s success at Medina was a negotiation between universal values and the social constraints at Medina.

Yet all works of human creativity regardless of religion have something to offer Moslems. Value can be concealed behind the form, according to Ulil. That reminds me of problems with office politics or the tension between the establishment and avant-garde. The enemy of all religions is injustice. Justice is not just a sermon but must be realized in the rules of the game, law, and deeds, according to Ulil.
Moslems must develop the capacity to face problems rationally. Muhammad said whoever wants to overcome the problems of the world and attain happiness should do it with science. Each field has its own principles and rules, but justice is paramount. Claiming the law of God appears as laziness and a form of escapism to Ulil, as well as the reason for the decline of Islam.

Dogmatism is the most dangerous enemy of Islam because it ignores civilization as an “accumulation of achievements supported by all nations.” Dogmatism builds a wall between them and us. The truth of God is greater than the Quran. Islam is better regarded as process more than institution. The prime criteria of goodness in religion should be the benefit of humankind.

“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.