THE BOOK WAS
CO >- DO
IDEALS OF EAST & WEST
Cambridge University Press
NEW YORK ' TORONTO
BOMBAY * CALCUTTA MADRAS
Maruzen Company Ltd
Copyrighted in the United
States of America by the
All rights reserved
IDEALS OF EAST & WEST
KENNETH SAUNDERS, LliT.D.
Author of 'A Pageant of Asia/ 'Epochs of
Buddhist History/ etc.
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
H.H. THE MAHARAJA GAEKWAR
THIS ESSAY IS
EASTERN AND WESTERN
Preface page ix
Prologue: An Evening at Ephesus xv
Chap. I. The Ethics of India .... i
II. the Chinese ... 42
III. die Japanese ... 82
IV. the Greeks . 108
V. the Hebrews . . .166
VI. Christian Ethics ..... 203
Epilogue: A Meeting at Chang-an .... 239
Index of Principal Teachers ..... 247
Index of Subjects 248
The author wishes to make the following acknowledgments for per-
mission to quote from works in copyright. In a few cases, careful
inquiry has tailed to discover the translator of a passage, and in those
cases the author offers his apology if he has omitted to make due
acknowledgment. Many short extracts in verse or prose have been
translated from the originals by the author and his students.
To Messrs T. & T. Clark for an extract from The Encyclopaedia of
Religion and Ethics.
To the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, the Jowett Copyright
Trustees and the Master of Balliol for extracts from Benjamin Jowett's
Plato and from the Oxford translation of Aristotle.
To the Oxford University Press for extracts from the Sacred Books
of the East, V. A. Smith's Asoka (Rulers of India series), H. A. Popley's
Sacred Kurral, A. W. Mair's Hesiod, and C. E. Robinson's Genius of the
To the Oxford University Press and the Y.M.C.A. Publishing
House, Calcutta, for extracts from the Heritage of India Series.
To Mr John Murray for extracts from the Wisdom of the East Series.
To Luzac & Co. for extracts from Indian Wisdom, by Monier
To the University of Chicago Press for extracts from A. W.
To the Open Court Publishing Co. for extracts from Henke's
Philosophy of Wang Yang Ming and from Creel's Sinism.
To Messrs Probsthain & Co. for extracts from the Works of Mo-Tse,
by Y. P. Mei.
To Messrs Heinemann for extracts from Chinese Literature, by H. A.
Giles, and from Japanese Literature, by W. G. Aston.
To Messrs George Routledge and Sons, Ltd. for extracts from
Dr Hu Shih's Development of Logical Method in China.
To the Cresset Press for extracts from Sansom's Japan.
To Messrs Macmillan & Co. for an extract from Oedipus Rex, by
E. D. A. Morshead.
To Messrs G. Bell & Sons for extracts from B. Rogers' translation
of Aristophanes and from J. S. Watson's translation of Xenophon.
To Messrs Longmans Green & Co. Ltd. for an extract from
Things New and Old, by Dean Inge, and for extracts from W, G.
"Men are alike in nature sundered by custom."
This little book does not aim at completeness or claim
originality. Undertaken at the suggestion of His Highness
the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda its aim is to be useful in an
age of transition, when ethical ideals, like everything else
which has come down to us, are being tried and tested.
"What is likely to elevate conduct should be perpetuated",
said the great Chinese altruist Mo-tse in the sixth century
before Christ, and there are things in the traditional ethical
systems which cannot be shaken, for they are rooted in the
nature of man, and come like that from the hand of God.
Not only in the parallels and similarities between these
great systems but in the contrasts which emerge from a
comparative study is there useful matter for thought and
conduct. For while human nature may develop along similar
lines, and the truth which each nation finds come closer
to that of other nations as each comes closer to the centre of
truth, yet we shall find a marked difference between these
ideals, each of which has been moulded and shaped by its
I have therefore given some account of the context of
each developing system as well as a brief anthology. And
in these I have sought to bring out not only the high peaks
reached by each people but the lower levels through which
they have struggled, and at which the masses have often
remained. "Not only from the garden of the cultivated
but from the common fields of the people", not only from
their great classic teachers but from proverbial wisdom
and songs. For a double process is always at work. Not
only do the fertilizing rivers pour down from the great
mountain peaks; these mountains themselves draw their
snows from the mists of the plains. So great classical teachers
have returned to the people their own popular ideals sub-
limated and purified. In our own time we have seen a Tagore
giving back in songs for the people what he has himself culled
from the people's songs. The great founders of religion, even
those supreme and sublime figures Jesus of Nazareth and
Gotama Buddha, were heard by the people gladly, because
they gave back in new and perfect form common ideals,
such as loyalty and courage and kindliness, changed, it is
true, by a new relation to the Eternal, yet familiar and
lovable. To put this in another way we must seek the roots
of Socratic wisdom in the confused ideals of Homeric bards,
and the high intuitions of Upanishad and Sutta are to be
found in germ in the parallel anthology of Vedic times. So
in China Confucius is ever drawing upon the Odes, the
ancient bardic wisdom of his people, which he makes a
source book for his principles.
It is very interesting to see how the ideals of these
teachers differ from one another. The Christian ideal of the
Suffering Servant, drawn as it is from Hebrew vision and
experience, is very different from that of the Superior Man
of Aristotle and from the Chun-tse of Confucius: yet how
closely at times it approaches the Mahatma and the bodhi-
sattva of India. The Buddha again has affinities with Jesus as
well as with Confucius and Socrates, and in the long succes-
sion of the torch-bearers of each race certain types of ethical
If East and West are to enter into real partnership these
great teachers must be understood by all men of good-
will to-day. "Men cannot work together", says Confucius,
"until they have similar principles" : or, we might add, until
they understand where their principles differ.
What does each people mean by the ideal it has evolved?
Where can one supplement the other? In the history of
civilization what matters most is the spiritual and moral core,
and we must seek to understand this central strand in the life
of the great peoples. By choosing characteristic figures and
ideals I hope I do not give a false emphasis, or suggest that
these are exclusive of one another. The process of mutual
give and take began long since, and the great peoples them-
selves are too complex for any one ideal type to satisfy them.
China, of whom Confucius is the Norm, has also produced
the great mystic anarchist Lao-tse and for two thousand
years has reverenced Sakyamuni, India's greatest son. Japan
has learnt almost everything from these three, as she is now
learning from Jesus : but all have adapted as well as adopted
the ideal built up on another soil. The samurai of Japan is a
new type rooted in Confucian ideals of loyalty and good-
form, but also learning much from Buddhist quietism, and
is to-day being transformed from the servant of the overlord
to the servant of the people. It is by such adaptation and
modification that old ideals continue to be of value, and
it is fascinating to watch the twofold process by which a
nation at once expresses its natural genius in such ideals, and
corrects and ennobles that genius by importing new teach-
ings from outside. The warlike northern peoples of Europe
have produced their own ideal of romantic courage and
hospitality and loyalty, but they have also turned wistfully
to the Sermon on the Mount with its corrective ideals of
meekness and forbearance and its passion for righteousness.
The "mild Hindu", who finds this man of the Beatitudes
akin to his own ideal of the saint, has turned with equal en-
thusiasm to the Gita with its emphasis upon the duty of the
warrior and the claims of the nation. So pacifism and civic
duty, nationalism and internationalism are seen with their
rival claims to loyalty; and this conflict is another interesting
aspect of our study. Out of it emerge certain great contrasted
leaders in India : an Asoka is seen face to face with a Kautilya
with his somewhat Macchiavellian Realpolitik; so in China
the rationalist is confronted with the mystic, the orthodox
teacher of Confucian morals with the cynic and the sceptic,
the teacher of other-worldly wisdom with the utilitarian ;
and in Japan the wise and gentle Shotoku who is her Asoka,
and from whose activities has sprung so much of the true
and beautiful in her life, finds his pietism confronted with a
whole school of Confucian humanists. Nowhere to-day is
the conflict more acute between nationalism and inter-
nationalism, militarism and pacifism, the rights of the
common people and the power of the privileged.
It is very significant to see in China how the people are
demanding intellectual leadership, and are asking "What is
philosophy?" and "Which teacher shall we follow?" This
scene is to be contrasted with that of Indian peasants adoring,
and often obeying, their Mahatma; while Japanese crowds
are looking to the Christian Kagawa for leadership in social
reform and in peaceful revolution.
The ideal type, in other words, is still the sage teacher in
China, the other-worldly saint in India, and the practical
reformer in Japan.
In the western world, which draws its ideals so largely
from Greece and Palestine, there is a curious fusion taking
place of the ideal of the seeker after scientific truth and of the
religious teacher. The walls between religion and science are
wearing thin, and there are many who are finding religious
and moral inspiration in the man of science detached and
seeking no rewards other than those of his quest for truth.
This is the Greek Ideal. Yet the Jewish type of Saint, suffering
for a great cause and identifying himself with the common
people, has still an immense appeal, and it is perhaps in these
two types that the western world is making its greatest con-
tribution to Asia, whose contemplative ideal has turned its
eyes too much from this world to the unseen, but whose
mysticism will undoubtedly reinforce that of Europe.
In making a selection from the rich material at hand I have
chosen, then, passages which reveal a conflict of ideals as well
as those which may be said to resolve this conflict, and I have
attempted to suggest that from the great age of the Bards
with their intuitive guesses at truth and their half-formulated
ideals of conduct there emerge the philosophical and re-
ligious Masters who become classic and formative for sub-
sequent ages: and following selections from these great seers
and teachers I have set proverbs and aphorisms in which their
peoples embodied the impression which they made upon
them, and the ideals which have emerged at later periods
from the impact of their lofty idealism upon the more pagan
ideals of the masses. Thus the Gita is quoted, but also
the equally popular Panchatantra, the dialogues of Plato
but also the Memorabilia of Xenophon and the satires of
Aristophanes, the prophets but also the sages and psalmists
of Israel. Nor have I hesitated to note the weakness as well
as the strength of these peoples and of their ideals.
"It is by observing man's faults that we come to realize his
virtues'*, says Confucius, and only if we realize the vice of
Greeks, the vindictiveness of Jews, the fatalism of Hindus,
and the caprice of Chinese can we realize what a Socrates,
an Isaiah, a Gotama, or a Confucius accomplished in their
immense task of correction and sublimation.
These are great and creative teachers of ethics whom all
must know. They belong to us all: and East and West must
cease from provincialism in a world now made one.
As in the West it is from Greek and Hebrew that we derive
our ethics so Asia derives hers from Indian and Chinese
teachers. With these four gifted peoples this book deals, and
with the derivative systems Christian on the one hand,
Japanese on the other.
That both these show profound and creative originality
in choosing and in remoulding is clear: and that these ideals
are now in the process of cross-fertilization and conflict.
As in the West Christianity marks a great new era so in
the East Buddhism. I have paid therefore special attention
to them and to the notes of originality in them.
To my students I am indebted for help with translations
and to others acknowledged in the text, especially to Dr
Hu Shih of China and Dr M. Anesaki of Japan. Given as Earl
Lectures at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Cali-
fornia, and at the University of London, these short chapters
on great themes depend much upon these illustrative readings.
London School of Economics
O Thou great Sculptor of the Soul of man,
In fear of whom the Jew grew wise and meek,
Thine are the Beauty and the Truth Divine
Which lured the eager footsteps of the Greek :
Thine is the Gentleness of India: Thine
Are China's Reason and her ordered plan
Of human life: the Courage of Japan
And her high Loyalty Thou canst refine
To serve mankind. May Christians also seek
To reach that lofty Way of which they speak,
That Love which transmutes pagan attitudes
To something nearer the Beatitudes.
Give us the single eye, the loving heart
To see Thy light, and in it do our part.
AN EVENING AT EPHESUS
(first century A.D.)
In the City of Ephesus there lived a Jewish merchant Mor-
decai, given to hospitality, and living at peace with his Greek
neighbours. Himself partly Hellenized, he was yet a devout
member of the Synagogue, and much interested in religious
discussion. Towards the close of the first century of our era
we find him developing a great trade in silk, as a middle-man
between the Chinese caravans and the Greek-Roman world.
To his house there gathered one evening Li-Feng, a
Chinese, his associate the Hindu Ramananda, and the Greek
Sosthenes. They began to talk of Alexander's dream of unit-
ing East and West, and Ramananda showed them a coin on
which the Macedonian posed as Zeus, thunderbolt in hand.
"To me", said his host, "that is enough to explain his failure;
but as one of our rabbis has said, 'Let thy house be a meeting
place for the wise, and drink their words with thirst'; let
me hear from you how God is thought of in your lands, and
what is the meaning of man's life. Another of our rabbis has
said, ' Upon three things the world stands, Truth, Judgment,
and Peace', and we hold that these are the gift of God." "I
suggest", said the Greek, "that our friend from China who
has travelled farthest, and whose people are the most ancient
should speak first. I have long desired to hear of Truth and
Beauty as that gifted nation see them."
"Your courtesy is as great as your hospitality, and my
poor words must be unworthy of this occasion", said Li-
Feng, "for I am but a humble follower of Truth, and much
occupied in business. Yet I concede that in our trade we
have many opportunities of learning Truth, not only in just
dealings, but in seeing with our own eyes something of other
nations. I have been travelling through the Uplands into
India, and I go on to Rome with gifts from the Emperor of
Han. Him we call the Son of Heaven, which we conceive
to be just but inscrutable. We seek to order society in accord-
ance with its will, and in accordance with reason. I under-
stand that the Emperor of the Romans claims, like Alexander,
to be a god; but we in China hold that the Emperor is a Son
of Heaven so long as he behaves in a heavenly way. He
should be as the Pole Star to his people; our loyalty is to him
as it is to our ancestors and to our parents, so long as he is a
father to us/*
"Our great Emperor Asoka claimed that he was the father
of his subjects, but he sought worship of no man; and indeed
our Indian theory is that the King is elected to do service to
the people. We have, however, another theory expressed in
the legend that the gods created and appointed kings, and
our dharma assigns to each man his sphere and his duties.
Can you give us in a sentence the whole duty of man?"
"One of the disciples of Confucius said that in duty to
others and in loyalty to self lies man's happiness, and in India
a monk of the Middle Path of the Buddha gave me as his
ideal of life this saying of his Master 'To cease from evil, to
do good, to purify the innermost heart'. This ideal and those
of peace and harmlessness are not unlike the teachings of our
great sage Lao-tse, who said that man must follow nature's
law, and that gentleness and non-resistance are the way of
wisdom and happiness. My friend and I, as we have travelled
together, have indeed found much in common. Shall we
not hear from him?"
"As I have said we too conceive of a way, the dharma,
which means Nature, but also Custom. Our life is regulated
by custom, and by v arna. This is the law which divides our
society into four great groups, each having its special duties.
According to the sastras, the Creator made the merchants
from his thighs, the ruling group from his arms and chest,
the Brahmins from his head, and the sudras from his
"Like our free men and slaves ?" asked Sosthenes.
"Or rather like our philosophers, merchants, farmers and
soldiers", said Li-Feng.
"Yes and no ; for we place the soldier high; and our lower
class, the sudras, while their duty is service, are not slaves.
But there is a deeper difference, for we believe that each is
born into the group which he has merited by his former
deeds. I, who am a trader and indeed outcasted by my
travels, may at some distant date be reborn as a warrior, or
even as a brahmin. Our view of the Unseen is that it is the
One reality, unlike all that we know, yet best described as
Truth, Consciousness and Bliss. Man reaches true happiness
when he knows that he is it, and not separate from it. 'Then
evil falls away from him, and sorrow.' The Buddhists teach
that the great enemy is Thirst or Evil Desire; and we accept
this, but our ways of overcoming it differ. They reject all
ritual and offerings to the gods, and especially animal sacri-
fices. Life is sacrosanct to them: and I, as a silk merchant,
have to take the life of countless creatures, and so I should
not be accepted as a Buddhist; nor will they acknowledge
the duty of soldiers to fight, and we maintain that no nation
can live according to these gentle ideals. Yet our religious
teachers also insist on the meditative life, and on detachment
from desire, and one of our sages, when the Macedonian
invited him to return, told him that he was too much occu-
pied with things of this world to understand Truth."
"Ah", said their host, "that was well spoken. One is the
wisdom of this world, another is the heavenly wisdom. We
Hebrews conceive this world to be but a corridor to the next.
We are but fragments of the Divine, whose Wisdom has
taught us through great tribulation that our people are to be
glorified in suffering, and are to spread His fight among the
nations, until the earth is full of His righteousness as the
waters cover the sea."
"We Greeks also believe that it is our mission to spread
the light of Truth and Beauty. Was not Socrates guided by
his daemon; and was not Alexander, the pupil of Aristotle,
inspired by a great vision of making humanity one?"
"Asoka too sought to spread the Buddha's dharma as a
bond binding all peoples. They say that his ambassadors
reached the courts of Antiochus and of Ptolemy, inviting
them to accept this way."
At these names the Jew could hardly restrain a shudder,
as he remembered the "abominations" of the Egyptians,
and the revolt of the Maccabees against the House of Antio-
chus. "It is easy", he said, "to speak of friendship between
the peoples, and of the spread of civilization from one to
another, but for us Hebrews there has sounded down the
ages the Word of Yahweh, 'Come ye out from among them'.
While we live at peace with our neighbours in this city,
there are many things in its worship and its practices which
are anathema to us "
The Chinese at this point tactfully interposed, "The
people of Han believe that as to the Chinese, 'all within the
Four Seas are brothers'; but they also have another teaching
of Confucius that there is a tatung, or a Great Brotherhood,
where men are guided by the principle ofshu, or Sympathy.
And Mo-tse went further, and taught Universal Love. He
opposed war and saw its futility as well as its unreasonable-
ness. For this he was bitterly attacked: and I am not con-
vinced. If each of the peoples is to spread its ideas and ideals
it can only be by war, as Alexander believed, or by the slow
spread of the better overcoming the good. Is there a third
"Nay", said the Hebrew, "unless it be the way of a people
carried off into captivity, to be at once the leaven and the
atonement for all nations. As the Prophet saith of the suffer-
ing nation, * Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our
iniquities'. But come, I have allowed my spirit to become
bitter within me, and there is in this city an aged Saint, by
birth a Hebrew, who as a young man joined the Sect of the
Nazarenes, and to him many are resorting; for he loves men,
and they say he is a Daniel for wisdom."
"Another Socrates'', said the Greek.
"Another Confucius?" asked the Chinese.
"Well", said the Indian, "let us by all means go and ask
him concerning the Way of Life."
After a visit to the Gymnasium the four friends crossed the
great square of Ephesus, and watched the crowds going up
to the Temple of Artemis, and coming down from the
Stadium. "How restless they are", said Mordecai, "they
come seeking Oracles, or looking for salvation in the
mysteries, or consulting wizards in the Temple. Well do
I remember the riot in this city when the makers of images,
enraged by the preaching of Paul the Christian, kept shouting
* Great is Artemis of the Ephesians ! ' It was then that the aged
John attached himself as a learner to the Sect of the Naza-
renes. Men say that he is filled with the madness of his
teacher, Saul, whom may Yahweh forgive, that in this
Joshua whom the Romans killed the Eternal Himself dwelt
" We have the teaching of Avatara, that God, who cannot
be seen or named, appears from age to age when the world
has most need of him. And indeed I have with me a copy of
our Gita, which I must show you. 'I am the eternal: I in-
carnate myself: says Krishna, 'Whoso loveth me, him I
love'. This is die way of salvation for us who are busy and
cannot spend long hours in meditation."
"It is not strange to us either", said Sosthenes, "for we
have in the mysteries a way of salvation in ecstatic devotion
to the gods, and we have conceived Hermes as the Divine
"What is logos*" asked Li-Feng.
"It means Word or Reason."
"We call it tao, the Way of Nature, I think", said Li-
Feng, "it is in listening to this voice that man attains wisdom.
4 Let the tao speak through thee, as the wind speaks through
a flute', says the poet."
" We too ", said the Hebrew, " live by the Divine Wisdom,
and indeed Philo calls it logos. I often use his prayer,
'Hasten my soul to become the abiding-place of God, pure
and holy; strong where thou art weak, wise where thou art
foolish, guided by reason where thou art wandering'."
"And I", said the Greek, "use one which is not unlike it.
It is the prayer of Socrates: * Beloved Pan, and all ye gods
who haunt this place, grant me beauty of the inward soul,
and make the outward and the inward man to be but one*.
It is by such prayers, I think, that men become good; well
has Seneca said, 'No man is good apart from God'. On this
we all seem agreed, that human goodness must be patterned
upon the Divine."
By this time they had reached the house of the Elder John,
and in the courtyard they found a company of men and
women seated about a venerable figure who seemed blind,
yet whose face was full of light. "My little children, love
one another: if ye love not one another whom ye have seen,
how can ye love God whom ye have not seen?"
"We are answered", thought the Chinese. "Here is a
sage indeed like our Mo-tse."
The Saint went on to speak of one who had dwelt among
men, full of Grace and Truth, who was the image of the
unseen beauty, in whom men can see Light and find Life.
"He has the mind of a good and true disciple of Plato",
said the Greek to himself: and the Hindu seemed to under-
stand clearly, as his face lit up, the great terms Light and Life :
"jyoti", he murmured, "amritam".
"I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. I, if I be lifted
up, will draw all men unto me", continued the Saint, and
he spoke to them of the great sacrifice of the Cross, and of
love revealed in self-forgetfulness.
As they went out into the starlight the four friends felt that
a solemn and sacred influence was with them. The Indian
was the first to break the silence.
"Love truly is the way of life* ', he said, "but how hard
"Without the grace of God", said the Jew, "it is im-
"Yet we four have found that in the quest for Truth race
is no barrier", said Sosthenes.
"If man would only live by reason", pondered the
Chinese; "yet our scholars have rejected the universal love
of Mo-tse, and we are continually at war, until our people
perish for lack of peace and leisure to till their fields."
"And ours", said Sosthenes, "are perishing of lust. It was
Hubris and Evil Desire which laid Athens low, and within
the Empire to-day slaves are the victims of lust, and prosti-
tutes haunt these very temple courts. Evil is the corruption
of the good, and in vain did Socrates seek to transmute lust
Before they left Ephesus the three travellers paid a farewell
visit to Mordecai. "We have been discussing the saintly
John", said Sosthenes, "and seeking to discover the ideal for
"Our friend from China has told me of the Princely Man
of K'ung: will you not repeat what you said last night?"
" Willingly", said the Chinese, "for our Master has given
us full details of the qualities of the Chun-tse. He is truly
benevolent and free from care: truly wise and free from de-
lusion: truly brave and free from fear."
"These are the Master's own qualities: he lived a life of
princely goodness, as a teacher who appealed to reason, yet
transmitted ancient wisdom; harmonious and sincere, he
was ever firm, but never contentious."
"What in a word were his guiding principles?" asked the
Hindu. "Li or good form was his inner rule: without this
courtesy becomes ceremonious, prudence becomes timid,
valour violent, and candour rude/'
"Your teacher reminds one of the Superior Man of Aris-
totle", said Sosthenes, "he too followed a golden mean, and
taught men to live according to reason."
"Yet it is better to be meek than proud, better to humble
oneself before the wisdom of God. In His fear is the beginning
of wisdom", said Mordecai.
"Our Lao-tse would agree", said the Chinese, "he also
spoke of three great qualities or jewels gentleness, frugality,
and humility: and his words and spirit remind me of the
Elder John, who says that his Master taught saying, 'Blessed
are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth'."
"It is a saying from our Wisdom books", said Mordecai,
"John is a true son of Israel". "And worthy to be called
a Hindu", said Ramananda, "for we too make much of
ahimsa, gentleness, and of the strength of the meek."
"He that bends himself shall be made straight, he that
humbles himself shall be saved", says Lao-tse.. . ."Is man
by nature a being of reason or of emotion? Is his nature good
or evil?" asked Li-Feng.
"Man is a shadow and vanity", said the Jew. "Yet God
has made him a little lower than the angels."
"He is by nature good", says Meng-tse; "what says the
Indian wisdom? " " 'Man is part of the universal Soul, and
must awake to his true nature. ' This is Salvation the true
man is the yogi awake to reality."
"Our Scriptures", said Mordecai, "hold that the greatest
is the servant of all, and here too the Elder John is an Israelite
"Let me be a very sweeper for humility, a doctor to the
sick, a guide to the blind, a friend to all", quoted
Ramananda. "So saith Job and we are all agreed that to
serve man is to obey God."
"Yet I dislike this emphasis on humility", said the Greek.
"That is for slaves, not for freemen. While we seek to avoid
insolence we believe in a proper pride of station and of
"I think I am with K'ung rather than with Lao-tse with
Aristotle rather than with the Buddha", said the Chinese.
" Yet Yahweh exalteth the meek and bringeth to nought
the pride of man. We Jews are like the Indians more in-
terested in the Divine Will than in human wisdom."
"For that reason it may be", said Sosthencs, "that Greeks
and Chinese have looked to Israel and to India for light
complementary to our own."
"And we of India have need of such light on man and his
work. We have lost sight of the human in our quest for the
Divine. Maybe in such brotherhood as we have enjoyed the
peoples will see new light."
THE ETHICS OF INDIA
"All other ways are not worth a fraction of love." THE BUDDHA
" Ahimsa is India's greatest glory." SIR CHARLES ELIOT
As in Judaea so in India the coming of a great heresy marks
the beginning of a new era and it is a new era in each case
for half humanity. Whether it is India, China or Japan that
we are considering, we may divide the history of Asia into
the pre-Buddhist, the Buddhist, and the post-Buddhist
As Christianity came to bring new light and life to the
West, so Buddhism came to Asia: and the modern era begins
for both when the ancient heritage is re-examined in the light
of this new Way and a synthesis is made.
In the pre-Buddhist epoch we see the Aryans becoming
Indians as they settle in the north-west, and spread slowly
east and south defending their culture against earlier settlers
and aborigines, yet gradually fusing with them, and adopting
n#ny of their ways and ideas.
Then, as the priestly caste becomes dominant, we see them
g&ter upon a more reflective stage, work out the doctrines
of karma and samsara, rebirth according to action, and
rationalize the caste-system, which had its roots in a colour-
bar and in a division of function.
This first period is from about the fourteenth century B.C.
to the sixth, when Sakyamuni the Buddha by his new em-
phasis on morals and his revolt against priestcraft ushers in a
new era of freedom and of moderation, and paves the way
for the Imperial house of the Mauryas.
Hinduism replies to the dharma or Way of the Buddha,
and in the third epoch the life of India is unified by a re-
2 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
formed dhartna, and a new fusion of the secular and the
religious is fully worked out as a social code binding on all
Hindus. From about the second century A.D. to the seventh
this creative period is at its height: but it continues to
the present time with intervals of stagnation. Barbarian
invaders, Great Moguls and the commercial West are all in-
cidents in this reformation of Hinduism which is the central
core of the Indian Renaissance as the reformation of
Christianity is of the Renaissance in Europe, and of Con-
fucianism of the Renaissance in China.
If this view is too schematic it is convenient, and accurate
enough for our purpose the study of ethics. The pre-
Buddhist era sees the ethical ideals of India develop from the
folk-ways of a nomadic people to those of settled communi-
ties; from a naive to a reasoned stage, and from a lay to a
priestly emphasis. Yet the ethic is always twofold. For the
layman there is one set of duties, for the religious there is
another: and by the beginning of the Buddhist era there is a
fairly clean-cut distinction between the duties of the various
castes and of the various stages of the individual life. This is
a distinctive note of great importance in Indian ethics: moral
ideals are relative, regulated by the sanctions of an all-
encompassing religious Norm the Web of Hindu custom.
Of the earliest settlers in the Indus Valley we have now
enough remains to know that they were not a primitive
people. Their fine brick cities, their great baths (perhaps for
ritual ablutions), their use of bronze, their many works of
art vigorous statues and seals of great beauty prove that
by the fourth millennium B.C. this part of India, the Indus
Valley, was at an advanced stage of culture. But mingling
with its higher elements are more primitive things such as
tree-worship, human-sacrifice, and phallicism, indicating
that their religious and moral ideals were in a state of transi-
tion; and something of the same sort is found when we come,
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 3
nearly 2000 years latter, to India's earliest writings, the Rig-
Veda and the Atharva-Veda. These are the hymns and charms
of an aristocratic group of nomads of Aryan stock. They are
concerned with the worship and placation of the gods, who
are themselves not fully moralized, and some of whom re-
flect only too faithfully the greed and drunkenness of an
army on the march. Yet these early invaders (who seem to
know nothing of their "Sumerian" predecessors) have their
moral standards. Distinguishing between the " straight" and
the "crooked", 1 they are brave and cheerful; they condemn
the phallic worships which they find; and they despise the
niggardliness of the merchants, who even "withhold from
the gods fitting gifts". We get glimpses of their cheerful
pastoral and agricultural life, of their rather high ideal of
marriage, of the large but vague powers of the father, and
above all, of an emerging sense of righteousness, and of sin
as separating man from his gods, thought of as closely akin
and often called ' ' Brother ' ' and * ' Father ' * as well as ' ' Friend ".
If Indra is a brawler and a drunkard, Varuna is a just god
whose forgiveness they are continually seeking. Yet it is
necessary to notice that this righteous god, who "stretches
the wide heavens like a tent" and looks in upon the guilty
conscience of his worshippers, ready to hear their claims and
to forgive, gives way to the parricide and drunkard Indra.
In other words the concept ofrita, a natural and moral order
which seems to have come with them into India (for it is
found also among their Persian cousins, and is akin to the
Greek concept of moira, harmony), has to struggle against
gods who sit loosely to it, yet are gradually brought under
its sway. Of these gods there are variously said to be thirty-
three, seventy-six and even 3300: but the lines between
them are not clearly drawn, and of many of them it is claimed
in turn that he is "first among the gods". The Aryan sense
of order, however, keeps them within their orbits, eleven of
Riju and vrijna words akin to our right and wrong. This distinction
is already made among pre-Indian Aryans.
4 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
the main deities belonging to each of the three storeys of the
As in the Homeric hymns we have to seek among the
inchoate ideas of the people for the germs of the Socratic
principles of courage, temperance, and justice, so in the Vedic
hymns we find germs of certain great moral concepts emerg-
ing. There is first the idea oftapas or heat, which comes to be
used metaphorically of the fervour of devotion, and then of
the fire of austerity, burning up evil. In the tenth book of
the Rig- Veda we meet a company of long-haired monks
wearing yellow garments, who attain fellowship with the
gods by their austerities. Here is the germ of Indian monasti-
cism. Here too is the beginning ofbhakti, passionate devotion
to a god, which was to yield some of the noblest and also some
of the most ignoble fruits. If it developed into romantic
mysticism it also degenerated into eroticism. If it is given
to-day to the Krishna of the Gita it is even more lavishly given
to the Krishna of the Purana a lewd godling.
The ideas of sacrifice and of gifts to the priests are also in
the Rig- Veda: these produce merit which man will find wait-
ing for him after death in the highest heavens. 1 From such
sources develop the master-thoughts of later India that by
asceticism and by alms man attains rebirth in the heavens:
and that devotion to a god is an even better way.
We may say then that by about 1000 B.C. India has arrived
at certain vague concepts which are to become articulate as
the age of poetry passes into that of speculation; and by this
time, when Israel was developing her ideal of a theocratic
kingdom, India begins to ask who is the One behind the
many, to demand order in the chaos of her pantheon, and
to seek an ethical concept great enough to guide the gods
themselves to truth.
She finds this first in the idea of a Creator of gods
and men, and then in the intuition of a Supreme Reality,
Brahman-Atman as at once "that from which words turn
1 R.-V. x, 14, 8.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 5
back" and "that from which evil turns back" 1 the In-
effable and the Pure. Somewhere between the ninth and the
seventh centuries B.C. we see her struggling through the
swamps of magic and ritual to the high peaks of mysticism.
The Upanishads are, almost solely, concerned with this one
reality; and the old legend that Uma, beautiful daughter of
the Himalayas, revealed it to the gods, embodies more than
a poetic idea. For it is a pictorial expression of the truth that
these forest-dwellers in her high mountain-fastnesses dis-
covered what the gods themselves had sought in vain.
The ethical ideals which spring from this monism are
characteristic of India: individuality is an illusion: hurting
others I harm myself. But there is no self and no others;
and morality is regarded sometimes as a means to the end of
mystical realization, sometimes as a hindrance. It is a ladder
which the bold climber must leave behind.
The law of karma and samsara which is hinted at in the
earlier Upanishads is the law that rebirth follows action in
exact retribution: "As a man sows so shall he reap". This
now begins to mould all thought. Two great steps were
taken in the sixth century when two reformers, both of the
Gautama clan, systematized on the one hand this law of
karma, and on the other the dharma or way of moral living
which would ensure either a good rebirth or emancipation
from the whole process. The dharma of the Gautama whom
we know as Buddha the Enlightened is one great moral
system: the dharma of his namesake and contemporary is
another. Both accept samsara as the evil to be escaped, and
karma as the way of escape : but one is orthodox, the other
heretical in his interpretation.
Karma is a concept of great ethical significance. From it
follows the teaching that salvation is not a gift of capricious
gods to erring men, but that it can be won by earnest seeking
and self-discipline. "According to his deeds and to his mystic
insight is a man born as worm or insect, as fish or bird, as lion
1 Chandogya Up. vra, 4.
6 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
or boar or serpent or tiger, as man or some higher being. '
Similarly dharma is a developed concept of rita the fitting
or orderly is the basis of the Law or Norm of conduct.
To those who would escape rebirth, goodness is defined
as "penance and fasting, gifts and purification". Our illus-
trative readings will make clear the moral qualities of the
earnest seeker; it is the glory of India that ahimsa harming
no sentient being is early found amongst them, and is one
of the essentials of the good life. It is arresting that this em-
phasis on gentleness is most characteristic of men of the
warrior-caste Krishna, Sakyamuni, Asoka. It is not weak-
ness but strength.
The dharma has as its basis a fourfold division of Hindu
society, the first in which the boy passes from the free life of
his father's home to the austere school of his guru or teacher,
the second in which he goes on to the no less disciplined life
of the householder, and the third in which he is largely de-
tached from any duty but meditation, until he is ready for a
whole-time devotion to religious truth. This is the hall-mark
of Indian ethic that it is relative to the age and to the station
Another great development of dharma is the system of
caste, which has played so great a part in Indian society, and
which is her characteristic social achievement. In an early
hymn, which is recited daily from every Vaishnavite altar,
is found the claim that the Brahmins are sprung from the
head of the primaeval man, the Kshatriyas from his chest and
arms, the Vaisyas from his thighs, and the Sudras from his
feet. 1 And soon there follows the more philosophic theory
that men are born into a caste fitting their deeds : "They who
have done well will soon be born as Brahmin or Kshatriya
or Vaisya, but they who have done ill will soon be born
as dog or hog or outcast". 2 Thus within the wheel of
transmigration moral conduct determines all; the caste-
1 The Purusa-sukta hymn of Rig- Veda.
2 Chandogya Up. v, 10, 7.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 7
system is rationalized; duties accompany privilege, and an
ethical ideal is provided for each group: the Brahmin and
Kshatriya are expected to live on a higher moral plane.
But soon, in the Brahmanas or priestly writings, Brahmin
claims are becoming so preposterous that Indian ethics are
to concern themselves for many centuries with protest and
reform. And against morality and true religion magic asserts
itself as the priests claim to be gods, and to control the world
by the power of sacrifice and the magic of mantras or charms.
The background for these claims is to be found in the settled
order of society in the holy land of the Brahmins between
Indus and Jumna, and in the passing of the old family-cult
into the exclusive keeping of the priesthood. Thus by the
beginning of the sixth century B.C. we find India passing
through a transition period in which childish cosmogonies
accompany sublime speculation, magic and mysticism strive
for the mastery, and religion seeks to control all life. But
moral principles all round the globe are also beginning to
penetrate ritual and animism, and it is of great interest to
watch the process at work. We see, for example, the
teacher in one Upanishad interpreting the rumblings of the
thunder as meaning da (damyata) self-discipline, da (datta)
charity, and da (dayadhvam) alms. This is childish enough, 1
yet towards the Vedic period thunder is still believed to be
the elephants of Indra clashing in battle with the Demon of
drought, and the new idea has some moral notes. Progress
is now rapid: as in Israel the eighth century is a great flower-
ing period in India.
In the Katha Upanishad we find Death himself revealing
to the boy who has been sacrificed to him that knowledge
of the eternal is only for the pure and self-controlled, and
that man must guide the chariot of the senses with wisdom
for his charioteer : so only will he come to the goal of his
1 Curiously enough it has attracted the mind of T. S. Eliot most
intellectual of modern poets.
8 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
journey. 1 This is a great advance from the dim Vedic con-
cept of an underworld or "world of the fathers" which
awaits the soul after death, and from the hell of the Atharva-
Veda, which is a place of darkness and torture, where those
who injure Brahmins are seen seated in rivers of blood,
eating human hair, and tortured with all the ingenuity of the
Another great advance has been made in the concept of
Thirst or Desire, trishna, as the great enemy, a thought
soon to be worked out by the Buddha, and by contem-
porary Upanishadic teachers. These early thinkers see that
egoism rather than individuality is the root of evil, and they
hold out as the ideal man the muni, or wandering friar who
has "risen above the desire for sons, for wealth and for
domination". From such "forest-dwellers" indeed many
of the Upanishads proceed, and it is noteworthy that in this
period laymen, especially of the warrior-caste, begin to play
a great part, challenging the supremacy of the Brahmins; and
that women are among the teachers and seekers whom we
meet at the courts of kings in argument and debate. It is only
by a late and deliberate forgery that an early hymn is changed
in the sense that wives are to be burned upon the funeral pyre
of their husbands, and at this early stage India knows nothing
of tabus against beef, or of unnatural practices such as child-
But we have to wait till the Gita (first century B.C. to first
century A.D.) for an articulate and systematic statement of
Hindu ethical teachings. This book, which is India's great
source-book for lay religion and ethics, faces concrete issues
raised by war and by pacifism, by "nationalism" and early
attempts at internationalism, by the conflict between the
monastic and the secular life, and especially by the competing
systems which are now to demand the attention of the
masses. It is part of the Great Epic, which is itself a fruitful
1 Katha Up. n, 7; m, 9. From this source the Greeks may have got the
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 9
field for the ethical ideals of the people, and we see the
dharma or social code emerging from their folk-ways and
customary ethics. But before this great book can be under-
stood we must look at the Buddhist and Jain reforms
and their characteristic ethical concepts, and at the great
figure of Asoka who raised the issues faced in a concrete
Salvation is the object of all alike, and India has come to a
clear sense of a connection between sin and suffering, and
between moral discipline and emancipation. Escape from
rebirth by overcoming evil this is common ground to the
great Upanishadic seers and to the heretical teachers. But
Buddhism and Jainism were distinct in what they denied as
well as in new emphases. Ahimsa harmlessness, for ex-
ample, is expressly commanded in the early Upanishads :
men are to take no life except for sacrifices. This exception
the new movements condemn, but like the Upanishads they
make much of asceticism and contemplation: without these
there is no wisdom.
The great reform movement which Sakyamuni initiated
must be understood in the light of the Upanishads as well as
of the religion of the masses. Both, in his judgment, had gone
to extremes, and his was a Middle Path between them. It
was a Middle Path between credulity and scepticism, but also
between the life of indulgence and the life of austerity. It is
thus largely an ethical reform, and the ethics of the Buddhists
have become one of the great systems of the world. But it
must not be forgotten that Buddhism was, from the be-
ginning, a religion as well as an ethic, and that it became the
vehicle for Indian culture to the Far East and to Southern
Asia. Thus while its ethical ideals are to-day more Asiatic
than Indian, and it belongs to Southern and Eastern Asia
more than to the land of its birth, yet they are in origin and
in essence the spiritual and moral ideals of India expressing
io THE ETHICS OF INDIA
themselves through her greatest son. He is in the line of
succession of her great rishis or seers, as Jesus is in the line
of the great prophets of Israel, and Socrates in that of the
sophists of Greece.
Born in 563 B.C. Sakyamuni of the Gautama family be-
longed to the north-east country of the foothills, and is
sometimes claimed as of Mongolian stock. But his language
was a dialect of what we know as Sanskrit, and his whole
setting is Indian. One hall-mark of his movement was its
call to moral earnestness. He saw that the mystic ideal of the
Upanishads was often "beyond good and evil" as the Vedic
gods were often below them, and that the masses were
perishing for lack of clear guidance. "Not of one essence are
good and evil" is one of his great sayings, and another is
"Know truth as truth and untruth as untruth". Himself of
the warrior-caste he saw that men needed a guide to action,
and himself a mystic he realized that insight depends upon
purity of life. In this lay not only the way to freedom, but
freedom itself. Thus while he accepted the doctrines of karma
and samsara act and rebirth he filled them with new moral
content, teaching that salvation was primarily liberation from
evil, and that if man was to find reality he must be guided to
right living. To lose himself he must first find himself. So he
analysed the hydra-headed monster of desire, tank a, into its
constituent parts, raga (lust), dosa (malice), moha (stupidity),
and taught that nibbana or freedom consists in the ending
of these evils as well as in escape from samsara. The arhat,
"who has cut the bonds", is accordingly the ideal man of this
early Buddhism, akin to the free man of the Stoics, and like
him seeking a kingdom of the mind. He is the old Indian
rishi fully awake to moral values: nibbana is enlightenment
and emancipation from evil: it is more ethical than its
But the Buddha himself was no stoic, in the sense of de-
tachment from the world: he had too deep a sympathy with
misguided and sorrowing humanity, and led too active a life
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 11
of preaching to be confined within this ideal. Dr Anesaki
has given the following account of him: 1
He was a mystic visionary, but he lived nearly fifty years of his
ministry in constant activities. He sometimes passed nights under
forest trees, conversing with spirits or angels, as it is told; he lived
often, in complete seclusion among the woods of Icchanangala,
or elsewhere, for weeks and months. But more significant were
his activities as the teacher and benefactor of mankind. Visiting
of sick people, itinerating in the regions attacked by pestilence,
mediation between two combatants, consolation of mothers
afflicted by loss of children these and other things are frequently
told in the Pali books. His care for health caused him to instruct
his disciples in the number of meals to be taken, or in the method
of bathing, and even in the minutiae of using the tooth-pick.
Though he himself did not go outside of India, some of his disciples
emulated his missionary spirit and went to the west and north-
west, beyond the Indus. Thus, the two sides of training self-
culture and action found a perfect union in the person of the
Buddha, but it was inevitable that there should exist differences
in the character and tendency among his disciples, as described in
the Anguttara and shown in the poems ascribed to them. 2 The
consequence is easy to see. It resulted in the division of the Sangha
into the conservative and liberal sections, and finally in the con-
trast between the ideals of arhat-ship and bodhisattva-ship. Though
these divisions were not precisely the direct results of the different
characters, we may roughly say that the former represents the
tendency to self-seclusion, while the latter is daring enough to
emphasize the sanctity of lay morality.
Thus in the Buddha's own personality monk and layman
unite, and if in the early texts we find the teaching of detach-
ment (upekha) we find also the teaching of metta (love),
and karund (sympathy).
Seeking a right understanding of him his disciples began
not only to call him "elder brother of men" and " great
1 Encycl ofRel and Ethics, "Buddhist Morality".
2 Anguttara, i, 14 (vol. i, pp. 23-6); "Thera und Theri-gatha", trans.
K. E. Neumann, Die Lieder aer Monche und Nonnen (Berlin, 1899).
12 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
monk", but also to find in the folk-lore of India stories of
self-sacrifice which seemed to fit him. After his death at
the age of eighty they remembered how he had endured
hardship, and had actually given his life by his kindliness
in accepting the hospitality of a poor blacksmith and eating
the impossible meal prepared for him. Gradually they
filled out the story, until he was said to have died "from
compassion for the world" (lokassa anukampaya). They began
also to tell of his lives in many forms, now as a hare dying to
feed a Brahmin, now as a monkey-king giving his life for
his tribe, and teaching men that it is better to preserve life
than to take it; now as a monk, hurling himself from the
cliffs to feed a hungry tigress who had no milk for her cubs.
These old stories were full of didactic material, arid they
began to preach very early from the sculptured walls of
Buddhist chapels. They are, in fact, a source-book of morals,
and India was soon to see Asoka converted from militarism
to pacifism, and to realize that the Buddha's Middle Path
was a practical way of life with lessons for the laity as well
as for the friars or mendicants of his Order.
His leaving home, his quest for truth, his toils to preach
the truth that he had found, his formation of a brotherhood
of preachers were themselves not new to India. What was
new was the moderation, the broad humanity, the tone of
authority which proceeded from an authentic experience.
Others had prayed the prayer
From the unreal to the real,
From the darkness to light,
From death to the undying.
He had found reality and light and a quality of life which he
too called amritam (ambrosia). He is described as of so shin-
ing and so serene a countenance that men immediately began
to ask what was the source of these great and luminous
qualities. His own summaries admirably express the dual
purpose of his mission: "one thing only do I teach,
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 13
sorrow and freedom from sorrow" and again "to depart
from evil, to lay hold of good, to cleanse the inner heart".
His religion existed in a word to impart the mystical ex-
perience ofnibbdna, or freedom, and to teach the path leading
to it by moral conduct. To the inner circle of his disciples he
taught the more difficult way of "the eightfold noble path",
which was to lead them from the transient to the eternal, and
from sorrow to bliss. By sorrow he meant the disharmony
of things, and by bliss that inner peace which is the goal of
all mystic search : and his eightfold path, which begins in right
views, is a ladder for the mystic, a series of moral steps, insist-
ing upon right thoughts and occupations, but culminating in
transcendental and ecstatic bliss.
Buddhism has, like Hinduism, more than one ethical ideal.
Side by side from the beginning and on through the ages
are these monastic rules and formulae and the lay ethic of
such ancient documents as the edicts of the great pacifist
ruler Asoka, written upon rocks and pillars about 250 B.C.
They are of first-hand importance as ancient and authentic
evidence to illustrate the lay passages which are embedded
in the monastic books. They emphasize filial piety and the
duties of citizens, and make it clear that not all men were
expected to be monks, but that when they did join the
Order they were to tread the more difficult way of the
dhamtna. This is epitomized in anthologies such as the
Dhammapada or "Verses of the Law ", and Buddhism is seen
to be not only a Middle Path but also a twofold path. Our
selections from these anthologies reveal an ideal severe but
not ascetic, detached yet kindly, an ideal of happiness yet not
of the pursuit of happiness; and there is no doubt that these
early monks and nuns had found unspeakable joy in breaking
from their earthly ties, or rather in exchanging them for the
spiritual ties of the new Order.
It is also clear that kings and rich men began very early to
see the value of this Order, and to make gifts of land and
buildings. Thus the insidious and unethical teaching of
14 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
" merit" crept into early Buddhism, and Buddhist monks,
like the Brahmin priests against whom the Buddha had re-
volted, began to claim that they were the "field of merit",
until even noble words like kusala (good) came to
mean "that which produces merit". As calculation enters
love departs, and the springtime of the movement passed
into its autumn, until there grew to be a strong line of cleav-
age between the ideal of the solitary seeking his own salvation,
and the servant seeking the salvation of men, and between
the laity whose duty was to support the monks, and the
monks whose one duty was to exhort the laity. This mon-
asticism and this dualism have been enemies of the Buddhist
ethic, which in its purity insists upon detachment and dis-
interestedness, upon the greatness of spiritual truth which is
bought without money and without price, and teaches that
the monk is to live in the village "like a bee visiting a flower
garden", taking nothing except his food, and harming no
man. It teaches too that spiritual truth is as pervasive as the
fragrance of jasmine, and that neither monk nor layman is
to injure others, but rather to overcome anger with kindliness,
and to return good for evil.
In the Buddha's own method of teaching there was a
Socratic irony which might at times seem harsh, but which
was surgery intended to heal, and in his own person are
combined the true arhat with the true bodhisattva. If he
is detached he is also full of compassion. A glance at our
illustrative readings or a visit to one of the great museums
will make it clear that these are complementary ideals, ex-
pressing the rhythm of solitude and service, of meditation
and labour, which we find in the Buddha as in Jesus : world-
denying they are also world-affirming. The servant of
humanity must have his periods of withdrawal from the
world, and the Buddhist practice of retreat during the rainy
season is but one example of the Buddha's recognition
of this rhythm. In fact, his monastic rules were made as
experience dictated, and it is this pragmatic quality which
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 15
gave a sense of reality to all that he did. Glorified common-
sense has a large part in all the great monastic systems. Thus
while he seems to say harsh things about women he also says
them about men. 1 For a monastic order of celibates of both
sexes has to be as a disciplined army, and sex must be
Like Ignatius Loyola, Sakyamuni was of the warrior-caste,
and he taught that men must be ready to "endure hardness'*,
and to be continually on the watch.
He was also an artist in words, and his parables, though
lacking the brevity and picturesqueness of those of Jesus, are
often unforgettable. They embody both ethical and mystical
teaching. Drawn from the life of village, or jungle, or court,
they are in fact a form of fiction which was to find its most
artistic expression in the great romance, "the Questions of
King Menander", where an Indian sage answers, often in
parabolic form, the questions of a Greek king. In this great
work, which belongs to the first century B.C., we see that
Buddhism was tending on the one hand to become more
negative as it became more scholastic, and to become more
monastic in the process. But side by side we see it in such
books as the Lotus Scripture meeting the needs of the masses
with its gracious figures of compassion, its promise of
paradise to all the faithful, and its brilliant parables of the
divine physician, and of the kind father disciplining his
Reading these later books we see how the early contrasts
become more marked, until Buddhism begins to reflect
the one or the other. Thus the Lotus Scripture opens the
doors of paradise to women, to outcasts and to others whom
the more austere Path of the Elders would not recognize.
We see too that the old meditation-hall develops into a
cathedral, the relic-shrine into an altar, and the Buddha into
a god upon the altar; and as corporate worship develops the
walls of these cathedrals are decorated with magnificent
1 Itivuttaka, i.e. obiter dicta of the Buddha.
16 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
frescoes illustrating the contrast between the transient and
the eternal, and setting forth the glory of self-sacrifice
as well as the splendours of paradise. Compassion and
innocence are the great lessons of these paintings, and
they reveal a Buddhism of mystical piety as well as moral
From what does this great development grow? Germs of
it are in the early emphasis upon compassion: "all other
means to enlightenment are not worth one fraction of the
way of love", says an early anthology, and even the scholas-
tic southern commentator, Buddha-ghosa, sums up the
Buddha-legend in the words "more than the ocean has he
shed of his blood, more than the stars has he given of his
eyes". There is an attempt on the part of some to insist that
the spirit of service is to confine itself within the Order: "let
the monk wait upon his sick companion, and he is serving
me", says one very touching passage, in which the master
finds his sick disciple lying in misery and loneliness on a bed
of sickness. Indeed many monks insisted that to do anything
other than preach was to miss the true meaning of their
Order, so that the words "service" and "self-sacrifice" are
not to be read in their western or Christian connotation. The
Indian saint, whether Buddhist or Hindu, is, like the lotus
undefiled by the mud in which it lives, unwetted by the
water, and good works may entangle him no less than bad
Yet Buddhism does teach universal benevolence, and is
contrasted by so critical and learned a scholar as E. W.
Hopkins with its rivals in India in these striking words:
"knowledge is wisdom to the Brahmin: asceticism is wisdom
to the Jain: purity and love is the first wisdom of the Bud-
dhist ". I For the Buddha embodied love and purity in a long
life of friendliness and sincerity, which led rich and poor, man
and woman, the simple and the learned, the sinner and the
saint to find in his Order a new and creative movement. And
1 Religions of India t p. 306.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 17
so great was his insight that they call him "eye of the world"
as well as its "great elder brother" and "wise physician".
He is arhat but also bodhisattva. The qualities of the bod-
hisattva called paramitas are liberality, morality, forbear-
ance, rapt contemplation, and transcendental wisdom and
after the introduction of the decimal system (fourth century),
they were increased by the addition of five others intuitive
knowledge, strength, resolution, skill in teaching, and com-
passion. These are not very different from the qualities of the
arhat ; but the emphasis is upon liberality and compassion
rather than upon stoic endurance and strength.
These great qualities were exemplified in the Buddha's
life, and nobly embodied in his death.
Contrasting and comparing his death with that of Socrates
and with that of Jesus, we shall see much which separates as
well as much which unites these great teachers. The dying
Socrates leaves as a last request to his friends that they shall
punish his sons if they seem to care more for riches than for
virtue, and if they seem something in their own eyes when
they are nothing. He assures them that he has done no evil,
and will never do what he knows to be wrong, that he can
do no other than he has done, and that death after all is no
great ill. "But, my friends, I think that it is a much harder
thing to escape from wickedness than from death; for
wickedness is swifter than death, and I who am old and slow
have been overtaken by the slower: and my accusers who
are clever and swift have been overtaken by the swifter
He assures them that the sign of God which he has been
wont to receive at critical moments has not been manifest
during his trial, and that for this reason he believes that what
has befallen him is gain and not loss; and he ends with the
words "And now the time has come for us to go hence, I to
die and you to live. Whether life or death is better God
knows and he alone".
In this calm resignation to the will of God Socrates is akin
18 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
to Jesus, who is reported to have said, "Into thy hands I
commend my spirit", and to have prayed "Thy will be
done". In his friendly attitude to his accusers and judges he
is akin to the spirit in which Jesus prayed "Father forgive
them for they know not what they do". Both preferred
death to compromise, and both refused to acknowledge that
they had done wrong, for both were illumined by an inner
light which spoke with divine authority.
The dying Sakyamuni shows the same calmness in the face
of death, the same consideration for his friends, and the same
sense of having accomplished his work. But there was at
this time in India no concept of a supreme God whose will
men were to obey; and the Buddha turns the thought of his
disciples rather to the transiency of tilings, to the inevitable-
ness of death, and to the task of working out their own salva-
tion. If the concern of Socrates was with Truth, and that of
Jesus with Divine Love, that of the Buddha was with the
dharma or Nature of things, and each has become classical
for humanity by his selfless devotion to his high quest. In
each quest is developed a characteristic ethic of which the
notes are: for the Greek, beauty; for the Christian, selfless
service; for the Buddhist, self-control.
These are three great Ways, not mutually exclusive, but
each having its distinctive quality and its own type of saint-
hood. It may well be that each has for the modern world
abiding ideals and fresh inspiration. None of these three
great teachers is outmoded, and few indeed have even sought
to live at these heights.
For the post-Buddhist ethic of India our best sources are the
Great Epics. In them the secular and the religious, the lofty
and the mundane morality of India are preserved and popular-
ized. They are the sources from which at well-side and camp-
fire as well as in temple-courts the masses derive their ideal
of the hero, the devoted wife, the ascetic and the worldly-
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 19
wise. And in the great chapter of the Mahabharata known
as the Bhagavad-gita an unknown author of genius has
summed up the religious and moral ideals of his people in
Not only is this little book an epitome of the recognized
systems of Hindu religion in the making, it also reveals the
great influence of Buddhism upon Indian ideals. The scene
is laid upon the classic field of Kurukshetra, the plain near
Delhi where so many battles have been fought. Arjuna, an
epic hero, is seated in his chariot with the God Krishna
beside him. In the no-man's land between the two armies
engaged in civil war, Arjuna makes a magnificent statement
of the pacifist position which India had seen so well exempli-
fied in Asoka. His horror at civil strife is met by Krishna's
argument that this is a righteous war, that pity is in reality
weakness, that the soul is indestructible, and that it is after all
only bodies which are killed. But the ethical core of his
teaching is that there is nothing better for a warrior than
righteous war ; for a man is born in the warrior-caste to do
his caste-duty, and this may be done in a detached spirit,
and as a religious exercise. "Hold equal pleasure and pain,
loss and gain, victory and defeat, and gird thyself for the
battle. So shalt thou be without sin Thy concern must
be with action, not with its fruits. . . . He who forsakes desire
and goes detached through life, with no thought of I or
mine, attains to peace."
So the battle changes from the material to the spiritual
sphere, and as in Buddhism, Desire is seen as the great enemy,
with its threefold division of lust, anger and greed. " These
are the three gates of hell", and over against them is the gate
There are many admirable summaries of the Hindu ethic
in this book, which is a living inspiration to millions. The
ideals of duty, of detachment, of desirelessness, spring from
devotion to the Lord, who is himself the prototype and the
embodiment of these qualities. And in this book, bhakti,
20 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
whose roots go back to the Vedic hymns, finds its finest
expression. It is a whole-hearted love of God, free from
that erotic tendency which weakens much later Hinduism.
"Whatsoever thou doest, do it unto me Even if he is a
great sinner who worships me with sincere devotion, count
Here also is set forth the idea of the yogi "still as a lamp
in a windless place". Even in the midst of battle he is to
concentrate his mind and to control his senses, freeing himself
from fear and from passion. And like Plato and the earlier
Upanishads, Krishna teaches that Reason must be man's
charioteer, controlling the horses of sense.
Like the Buddha he makes much of ahitnsa (non-injury) ;
and it is remarkable that in a book which deals so much
with the duties of the warrior, these milder qualities, re-
nunciation, compassion, simplicity, and humility are set side
by side with fearlessness, energy and courage. If a Gandhi
draws his teachings of non-violence from the Gita so do the
anarchists. As in Russia to-day we see Plato divided against
himself as the ideals of the Republic wage war upon the
mysticism of earlier dialogues, much of which has entered
into Eastern Christianity, so in India we see the Gita at war
with itself, as anarchy dismisses the gentler teachings and
justifies murder by claiming that it is done with detachment.
In the Western world, too, the pacifism of the Sermon on
the Mount, which has so much attracted the leaders of Asia,
is far from having overcome the warlike spirit of much
It is remarkable that the best expression of pacifism in the
Gita is put into the mouth of a layman, and that it is the god
Krishna who dismisses it as unnatural and unmanly, using
every argument of religion to dispel it. This is, in effect, a
reply of the Hindu nation to the experiments of Asoka and
other pacifists, and to Buddhism in general, which had under-
mined the caste-system. It is also a restatement of the monist
position which the Buddha had attacked, and nowhere in
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 21
literature is there a finer expression of pantheism, which is
here made as ethical as it can be made.
The Gita is the layman's Upanishad, and the Indian
source-book for ethics. Each caste is given its appointed
tasks, and all systems are quoted in support of the main
arguments of duty done with singleness of eye and sincere
attachment to the god.
If the religious ideal of India is the yogi, aloof, benevolent,
detached, serene in mystic contemplation, the Gita seeks to
bring this spirit to earth and to attach it to the busy life of
men. From such sources it has seeped into homely wisdom
and proverbial saying.
If India has lapsed into eroticism on the one hand and into
other-worldly detachment on the other, the Krishna of the
Gita and the Buddha of the Pah texts have called her continu-
ally to return to balance and to sanity. Her great glory is that
she has not only praised ahimsa but practised it, and if like
the rest of mankind she sometimes quotes Scripture to justify
evil, her conscience is now sensitized by the teaching and
example of her Mahatiha who is pouring new wine into
the old bottles, and making what was negative and passive
positive and active. His cardinal principles, Truth, Purity,
Love, are rooted in the teachings of Jesus as of the Upani-
shadic rishis, and linked with a prophetic passion for social
righteousness worthy of a Hebrew prophet. Is he not her
" suffering servant"?
There have been lawgivers as well as prophets in India, such
as Manu, whose code belongs in its present form to the first
five centuries of our era. Originally representing the customs
of the Brahmins it has become binding on Hindu society, for
it sets forth not only rules for religious observance but also
for the administration of justice, and regulates domestic life
in all its details. A Hindu is, in fact, one who observes this
dharma, and the ethical life of India in the classic period
22 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
is mirrored in the Great Epics. Here, too, the hand of
Brahmin editors can be clearly traced, and their influence
through these immense poems has been incalculable. The
Mahabharata, which is more than twenty times as long as
the Aeneid, deals with vast civil wars in North and Mid-
India. The Ramayana, which is much shorter, deals with the
advance of the Aryans into the south. If the earlier epic
tells us of the Lunar race of the middle country, the latter
deals with the Solar people of the west and sets before us
Sita, the ideal wife, and Rama her husband, the ideal warrior
of India. Their adventures and their alliance with the
monkey-people of the south are favourite themes of art
and song. Whether these are actual tribes of men or not
they are represented as animals, not the grotesque ape of our
western humour, but man's prototype and friend. To help
Rama they build bridges and go on embassies, showing a
loyalty and intelligence which often put their human brothers
India has also her science of politics, and in Kautilya
she has her early Machiavelli. During the Guptan era
natural science too made great strides. We know that
Indian astronomy was already far advanced when the Greeks
arrived, and that India learned from the invader a new
system. It was Indian astronomy which passed on to Europe
in the Middle Ages in Arab translations
In medicine, both Hindus and Buddhists made consider-
able advance, the former practising dissection of animals and
demonstrating operations upon wax figures. If doctors in
India to-day are largely Muslims this is because of the
Mohammedan conquest which destroyed the older schools,
and also because of a growing system of tabus against
handling diseased or dead bodies.
In music India has exerted a great influence, not only
upon the West but upon Asia, where its quarter-tones and
subtle harmonies can be found everywhere, as they may be
found in Spain and other countries where the Arabs carried
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 23
them. As in everything else in India, there is here an intimate
relation between nature and art. The ragas or modes of
Indian music correspond to the six seasons of the year, and
each has raginis, variations appropriate to the day and hour
and season. As Rajput painting deals with the legends of
the gods and with the dharma of India's daily life, so her
music is intimately concerned with both. And as the Indian
artist painted for a small coterie of connoisseurs, so the
Indian musician with his stringed instruments, flutes and
drums was content with chamber-concerts for the elect,
or with the small audiences which gathered about village
wells and in the shade of banyans. To such audiences court
musicians on the one hand and wandering minstrels on the
other have sung from time immemorial of the loves of
Krishna or of the heroic deeds of Rama. They were India's
popular teachers of morality.
The caste-system helped to maintain the skill of the guilds,
handing on traditional crafts and training apprentices. It is
still possible, in spite of the industrial age with its mass pro-
duction, aniline dyes, and ruthless competition, to watch the
weavers of Benares and the shawl-makers of Kashmir at
work on crafts which have survived the vicissitudes of 2000
years. The caste-system has indeed been a conservative force
for good as well as for evil, and in the mediaeval Hindu city
with its streets of the silver- and goldsmiths, of the brocade-
makers and the s^n'-sellers there survives an epitome of the
Middle Ages which reveals excellent city-planning and an
ordered social life. At the centre is the great temple, and
about it lies the city in concentric squares, where each guild
pursues its calling. In such achievements and in the self-
supporting village with its panchayat or Council of Five, we
may find typical achievements of Aryan and of Dravidian
India, and in the south Hinduism takes on its most luxuriant
and devotional expression. This has its characteristic ethical
notes humility before the irresistible grace of God, love as
passionate to men, a sacramental interpretation of secular life.
24 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
And in Tiruvalur of the third century A.D. Dravidian India
has its own poetic Manu.
Perhaps the chief conflict which is now agitating India is the
rebellion of morals against religion. As a distinguished
Brahmin has said, "We must make war upon the priests",
and such evil practices as child-marriage, while they are very
far from universal, are strongly entrenched in the Scriptures.
India, in fact, like the rest of the world, has been harmed as
well as helped by religion, and its canonization is a graver
menace to her than to the rest of us, until she too lays hold
upon the free spirit of truth. To this Mr Gandhi calls her,
reminding her that there is no God higher than truth,
and that the human values are the divine. A devotee of
Hinduism, he is also a heretic, who while reforming Hinduism
sees that there are eternal truths in the old faith, and especially
in the Gita, which fit the needs of the new India. These are
devotion to the Godhead, and to duty, detachment in doing
it, and victory over Desire, the arch-enemy. But as he him-
self frankly and fully confesses, he has found much inspiration
in his colossal task of remaking the soul of a nation from
such Christian writers as Tolstoy, and from the New Testa-
ment, as well as from missionaries. It is indeed clear that his
God is more like Christ than Krishna, and it is significant that
he prefers to call himself sudra, that is, servant, and that
his people continually refer to him as the most Christlike
figure of our times.
In accepting Christ as bhagavan, many Indians are already
making a great contribution to the enrichment of the Christian
ethic, and to the proper understanding of the Son of Man.
India's gentleness is, in fact, not that of defeat, but that of
victory ; and it has largely won over the British people to a
recognition of her natural aspirations. Nor must we forget
that if Gandhi is the champion of her starving masses, he is
also the spearhead of a vast race-movement in which
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 25
Asiatic peoples are making their claim to enter into full
partnership with the West. The keynote of Mr Gandhi's
fivefold programme is indeed partnership, and in his very
practical idealism there is little with which the Christian
cannot fully sympathize. If there remain strange practices
and attitudes like the veneration of the cow (who eats her
way through the impoverished fields of India at the expense
of humanity), and if his wholehearted acceptance of the
caste-system may seem to us reactionary, yet he is, and will
remain, a Hindu, sure that his usefulness to India is con-
ditional upon his doing so. "Desert not your dharma for that
of another" is an Indian axiom.
Indian acceptance of the fundamental law of karma has its
weakness: personality is merged in the mass and its nerve
is too often cut a fatalistic attitude being very usual. And
the pantheistic soil of India is not good for those virtues
most valued in the more individualist West energy, initia-
tive, and determination to harness nature in the service of
men. Every Hindu frankly confesses that in social service
the West has set a new and creative standard : and many
own that even ahimsa and detachment need the control
of logic and a sane scale of values. Can India retain her
gentleness and add energy, preserve her devotion to God in
serving men, practise detachment in acquiring zeal? If so she
can help to cure us of the worship of the machine, and can
work out with us a more humane order of society.
THE SOUL OF INDIA
I. FROM THE RIG-VEDA
(about 1000 B.C.)
(a) Funeral Hymn
From the dead hand I take the bow he wielded,
To gain for us dominion, might, and glory.
Thou there, we here, rich in heroic offspring,
Will vanquish all assaults of every foeman.
26 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
Approach the bosom of the earth, thy r mother,
This earth extending far and most propitious:
Young, soft as wool to bounteous givers, may she
Preserve thee from the lap of dissolution.
Open wide, O earth, press not heavily on him,
Be easy of approach, hail him with kindly aid ;
As with a robe a mother hides
Her son, so shroud this man, O earth.
Adapted from the translation by Arthur A. Macdonell.
(b) The Dice
Downward they fall, then nimbly leaping upward,
They overpower the man with hands, though handless.
Cast on the board like magic bits of charcoal,
Though cold themselves, they burn the heart to ashes.
It pains a gambler when he sees a woman,
Another's wife, and their well-ordered household:
He yokes these brown steeds early in the morning,
And, when the fire is low, sinks down, an outcast.
"Play not with dice, but cultivate thy cornfield;
Rejoice in thy goods, deeming them abundant:
There are thy cows, there is thy wife, O gambler/'
This counsel Savitri the kindly gives me.
(c) The Beginnings ofBhakti
All my thoughts praise Indra, seeking bliss, longing for him:
wives embrace a fair young bridegroom they embrace him
divine giver of gifts.
II. FROM THE ARTHARVA-VEDA
Charm for Luck
Oh dice, give play that profit brings,
Like cows that yield abundant milk :
Attach me to a streak of gain,
As with a string the bow is bound.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 27
III. FROM THE AlTAREYA BRAHMANA
(about 600 B.C.)
On the Importance of Having a Son
In him a father pays a debt
And reaches immortality,
When he beholds the countenance
Of a son born to him alive.
Than all the joy which living things
In waters feel, in earth and fire,
The happiness that in his son
A father feels is greater far.
At all rimes fathers by a son
Much darkness, too, have passed beyond:
In him the father's self is born,
He wafts him to the other shore.
Food is man's life and clothes afford protection,
Gold gives him beauty, marriages bring cattle;
His wife's a friend, his daughter causes pity:
A son is like a light in highest heaven.
IV. FROM THE UPANISHADS
(a) Rebirth follows Action
Considering sacrifice and good works as best, these fools know
no higher good, and having enjoyed their reward in the height
of heaven, gained by good works, they enter again this world
or a lower one.
But those who practise penance and faith in the forest, tranquil,
wise, and living on alms, depart free from passion. . . to where
that Immortal dwells whose nature is imperishable.
Let a Brahmin, after he has examined all these worlds which
are gained by works, acquire freedom from all desires. Nothing
that is eternal (not made) can be gained by what is not eternal
Mundaka Up. I, 2 (adapted from the Sacred Books of the East).
28 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
(b) What is Needed for Salvation
The right the true penance self-restraint tranquillity
the fires of sacrifice hospitality to guests dudes and begetting
children all these, and the practice of the Veda.
Taittirya Up. I, 19. Ibid.
(c) The Four Asrams and Ahimsa
He who has learnt the Veda from a family of Gurus in accord-
ance with the Dharma, and has come into his own home as
householder shall remember what he has learnt by repeating it at
regular seasons in some sacred spot. He who has begotten virtu-
ous sons and fixed his mind upon the one reality, who hurts no
living thing (except for sacrifice) : he who so acts throughout his
days shall be no more born, but reach the Brahma world.
Chandogya Up. vm, 15. Ibid.
V. FROM BUDDHISM
00 The Ideal IJf^ojfjhe Monk
O joy! We live in bliss: amongst men of hate, hating none.
Let us indeed dwell among them without hatred.
O Joy! In bliss we dwell; healthy amidst the ailing. Let us
indeed dwell amongst them in perfect health.
Yea in very bliss we dwell: free from care amidst the careworn.
Let us indeed dwell amongst them without care.
In bliss we dwell possessing nothing : let us dwell feeding upon
joy like the shining ones in their splendour.
The victor breeds enmity; the conquered sleeps in sorrow.
Regardless of either victory or defeat the calm man dwells in
There is no fire like lust; no luck so bad as hate. There is no
sorrow like existence: no bliss greater than Nirvana (rest).
Hunger is the greatest ill: existence is the greatest sorrow. Sure
knowledge of this is Nirvana, highest bliss.
Health is the greatest boon; content is the greatest wealth; a
loyal friend is the truest kinsman; Nirvana is the Supreme Bliss.
Having tasted the joy of solitude and of serenity, a man is freed
from sorrow and from sin, and tastes the nectar of piety.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 29
Good is the vision of the Noble; good is their company. He
may be always happy who escapes the sight of fools.
He who consorts with fools knows lasting grief. Grievous is the
company of fools, as that of enemies; glad is the company of the
wise, as that of kinsfolk.
Therefore do thou consort with the wise, the sage, the learned,
the noble ones who shun not the yoke of duty : follow in the wake
of such a one, the wise and prudent, as the moon follows the path
of the stars.
(from The Buddha s Way of Virtue. Wisdom of the East Scries).
(b) The Layman s Way to Bliss
Thus have I heard:
Once when the Blessed One was at Jetavana in Anathapindika's
Park, as night came on, a beautiful deva (god) drew near, light-
ing up the whole place with his presence. He greeted the Blessed
One, and then standing on one side, addressed him in these
"What countless men and deities,
Desiring Bliss, have sought to find
Come tell me, Master, what it is
That brings most blessing to mankind.'
To whom the sage made answer:
"To shun the fool, to court the wise,
This is the highest Paradise:
Pay ye respect where it is due,
So will true blessing wait on you:
Seek a fit place and there remain,
Striving self-knowledge to attain:
If in past lives you've stored up merit,
The fruits thereof you'll now inherit:
Let wisdom, skill, and discipline,
And gracious kindly words be thine :
Tend parents, cherish wife and child,
Pursue a blameless life and mild:
30 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
Live thou devout, give ample alms,
Protect thy kin from life's alarms.
Do good, shun ill, and still beware
Of the red wine's insidious snare:
So do thou persevere in good:
This is the true Beatitude :
Be humble, with thy lot content,
Grateful and ever reverent:
Study the Law of Righteousness,
This is the path that leads to Bliss.
Be patient thou, the Saints frequent
And ponder still their argument:
The Noble Truths, the life austere
And chaste that brings Nirvana here: 1
The life from eightfold bond secure, 2
The life of peace that crowns the pure:
This is the Highest Bliss to find,
This the chief blessing of mankind."
(c) A Buddhist St Anthony
Fragrant with sandal-wood and garlanded,
A girl was dancing gaily in the street
With softest strains of flute accompanied.
I chanced upon my begging round to meet
1 Nirvana in this world is the calm and serene state of mind of the
Arhat, wholly detached from the things of time and space.
z From eightfold bond. The eight attachments are: sorrow and joy,
fame and contumely, wealth and poverty, gain and loss. If a man is
moved by none of these things, he is a happy man.
Another very popular summary of Buddhist ethics is found in the
*' Eschew all sin;
Good deeds begin;
Cleanse every thought;
Thus Buddhas taught' 1 .
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 31
The harlot, as she plied her shameful trade :
"O Snare by Mara set, licentious jade' '
My gorge arose my mind was free!
The Dharma's work behold in me,
Fruit of the Sage's husbandry !
This poem provides an instructive contrast between Christian and
Buddhist ethics. An Egyptian hermit of the Early Christian Church also
met a dancing-girl plying her shameful trade. He burst into tears, ex-
claiming, "Alas! that she should be at such pains to please men in her
sinful vocation: whilst we in our holy calling use so little diligence to
The Buddhist saint is disgusted, but rejoices that he himself is not
tempted. The Christian saint weeps that the children of this world are
more zealous than the children of light.
From The Heart of Buddhism: Heritage of India.
ASOKA'S EDICT XIII
(d) True Conquest
His Sacred Majesty desires that all animate beings should have
security, self-control, peace of mind, and joyousness.
This is the chief conquest in the opinion of His Sacred
Majesty the conquest of the Law of Piety.
Let all joy be found in effort, because that avails for both this
world and the next.
Delight is found in the conquests made by the Law. The de-
light, however, is only a small matter : His Sacred Majesty regards
as bearing much fruit only that which concerns the other world.
After the translation by V. A. Smith.
(e) The Rewards of Faith
All are destined to Buddhahood
If men build stupas in brick or clay even if they pile up heaps
of dust in mountain or forest with devotion:
If little children, as they play, make mounds of sand in honour
of the Jinas. . .all these enter into Enlightenment.
If on painted walls they set out figures of the Blessed Ones well
and truly painted or cause painters to portray them such too
become partakers of Enlightenment.
All, even boys who in sport have made images of iron or wood
32 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
or sounded cymbals and drums, or sung melodies to the Blessed
Ones all these become Buddhas in this world
Even they who offer a single flower. . .or join the palms in
worship but once, or make but one bow before a stupa, or cry
once, "Glory to the Buddha" with wandering mind even such
enter into Enlightenment.
Yet the Monk has still his place
Let the monk live apart and pure, doing his dunes : let him shun
kings and princes.
Let him hold no converse with courtier, or outcaste, with
drunkard or heretic:
Let him pay no court to the proud, but rather to the dis-
Let him shun Jains and giggling chattering nuns, and lay-
sisters who are incontinent. . .matrons and maids. ..butchers,
panders, dancers, fencers, wrestlers and all such folk.
Let him preach to women, but not jest with them.
Saddharma-pundarlka Sutra, 47-8
(from Lotuses of the Mahay ana, translated by
K. J. Saunders. Wisdom of the East Series).
Faith is the guide, the womb, the guardian, the begetter and
the cherisher of all virtues.
Expelling lust, bridging the stream, Faith shows to us the City
Faith is the calm of pure thought: rooted in honour, freed from
Faith is the foot on which we go to find great treasure, the hand
with which we grasp happiness.
Faith gives gladness even in self-denial. Faith gives delight in
the Law of the Victor.
Faith gives the pre-eminence in knowledge of virtue: it guides
and crowns the Buddha with victory.
Faith is a power unto keenness and clearness of morality, keep-
ing the five great qualities from extinction.
Unconquerable by passion, Faith seeks out the noble traits of
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 33
Unattached to carnal joys, delivered from evil, Faith is the
truest and only joy.
Faith goes beyond the realm of Mara, and reveals the way to
Faith is the seed and root of virtues, Faith nourishes the tree of
Wisdom, Faith increases the joys of knowledge.
Faith it is which reveals the Victorious Ones.
They who put faith in Buddha leave not the Way of Virtue. . .
They who put faith in the Dharma thirst after knowledge of the
Victorious Ones, and aspire to their incomparable traits
They who put Faith in the Sangha. . .will never fall from the
strength of the true way.
Ratnalka Dharani (after Bendall and Rouse). Ibid.
(g) Servants Above Good and Evil
When disease is rife these high ones become medicine for
healing and for happiness of men.
When famine is abroad they become food and drink; dis-
pelling hunger and thirst, they preach the Law to all.
In rime of war they are intent upon compassion, and persuade
millions to do no hurt.
Impartial in the midst of strife, they smile upon reconciliation
these mighty Bodhisattvas.
Whatsoever hells there be thither they set their faces for good
In the worlds of animals they are known preaching the Law;
therefore are they called Guides.
Amongst those sunk in sensual pleasures they disport them-
selves: where men sit in meditation they meditate: they destroy
Mara and leave him no entry. As a lotus exists not in fire, even
so they show, by meditation, that there is no lust. Yea, as courtesans
they entice men, and catching them with the hook and bait of
lust establish them in Buddha wisdom.
For the good of the world they become all things to all men.
Vimalakirtinidesa Sutra, 325-6 (c. third century A.D.). Ibid.
34 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
VI. A SOUTH INDIAN MORALIST
(Tiruvalur, second to fourth centuries A.D.)
Is there a bolt that can avail to shut up love?
The trickling tears of loving eyes would tell it out.
All for themselves the loveless spend;
The loving e'en their bones for others give.
The link of soul and body, say the wise,
Is but the fruit of man's own link with love.
Love doth the trait of tenderness beget;
That, too, begets true friendship's priceless worth.
The bliss of earth and heav'n the blessed gain,
The learned say, is rooted in a loving life.
The foolish say, "Love helps the good alone";
But surely 'tis a help 'gainst evil too.
As the sun's heat burns up all boneless things,
So virtue doth burn up all loveless things.
To live the home-life with a loveless heart
Is like a withered tree flowering in barren sand.
To those who lack the inward means of love
What use is there in any outward means?
The living soul subsists in love;
The loveless are but skin and bone.
Translated by H. A. Popley. The Sacred Kurd.
He lives home-life who stands in Virtue's path,
And helps the orders three in their good paths.
He lives true home-life who's a help
To the lost, the poor and to the dead.
Pitris, gods, kin, one's guests and self
To serve these five is duty chief.
Ne'er shall be lack of offspring in his house,
Who fearing ill, gives ere he enjoys.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 35
If in the home true love and Virtue dwell,
Home-life is full of grace and fruit.
If home-life's lived always in Virtue's way,
What good is there in leaving house and home?
He, who lives home-life worthily,
Shall first among all striven be.
Home-life, that helps the saints and swerves from
Endures more trials than lonely hermit-life.
Home-life itself is Virtue's way;
The other, too, is good, if men no fault can find.
He, who lives home-life worthily on earth,
Will win a place 'mong gods who dwell in heaven.
VII. FROM THE GITA
If one with devotion offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water,
that offering made with devotion I accept from the striving soul.
Whatever thou doest, or eatest, or sacrificest, or givcst, what-
ever thy austerity, O son of Kunti, do that as dedicated to me.
Thus from the fruits of good and evil shalt thou be released,
from the bonds of action; with thy self trained by the Yoga of
renunciation thou shalt be freed and come to me.
Better is one's own duty without seeking reward than the
duty of another however well done. Better is death in doing
one's duty. That of another is full of peril.
(c) Desire the Enemy
It is desire, it is wrath, that is the voracious one, the wicked.
Know thou that in this world there is the great enemy, as a flame
hidden in a cloud of smoke, as a mirror dulled with dirt, as the
embryo in its wrappings, so is this world enveloped by desire.
36 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
(d) A Summary of Ideals
Worship of the gods, of the twice-born, of teachers and wise
ones, purity and uprightness, celibacy and non-injury these are
called the austerity of the body.
Speech which does not agitate but is true, pleasant and useful
this and the study of the Scriptures is called the austerity of speech.
Kindliness of mind, gentleness, silence, self-control and inward
purity these are the austerity of the mind.
From The Song of the Lord, translated by
E. J. Thomas. Wisdom of the East Series.
VIII. From KAUTILYA'S ARTHASASTRA
The King's most religious duty is preparedness: His truest
sacrifice is duty. Accessibility is his almsgiving and consecration.
In the happiness of his people lies his happiness in their well-
Princes, like crabs, have a notorious habit of devouring their
begetter. Let the King tend them well !
(b) Spies, lust and cupidity
A woman, in the guise of a religious much esteemed at court,
may approach the chief ministers one by one whispering "The
Queen has fallen in love with you: all is set for you to come to
her chamber: and much wealth will also be yours" !
IX. POPULAR MORALITY
(a) The Lawgiver Manu
A wooden elephant, an antelope
Of leather, and a Brahmin without knowledge
These are three things that only bear a name.
Who searches eagerly for truth will find
The knowledge hidden in his teacher's mind.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 37
With pain the mother to her child gives birth,
With pain the father rears him; as he grows
He heaps up cares and troubles for them both;
Incurring thus a debt he ne'er can pay,
Though he should strive through centuries of time.
Think constantly, O son, how thou mayest please
Thy father, mother, teacher these obey.
By deep devotion seek thy debt to pay.
This is thy highest duty and religion.
From poison thou mayest take the food of life,
The purest gold from lumps of impure earth,
Examples of good conduct from a foe,
Sweet speech and gentleness from e'en a child,
Something from all; from men of low degree
Lessons of wisdom, if thou humble be.
11, 238, 239.
E'en as a driver checks his restive steeds,
Do thou, if thou art wise, restrain thy passions,
Which, running wild, will hurry thee away.
"I am alone": but there resides within thec
A Being who inspects thine every act
Knows all thy goodness and thy wickedness.
vin, 85, 91.
Daily perform thine own appointed work
Unweariedly; and to obtain a friend
A sure companion in the future world
Collect a store of virtue like the ants
Who garner up their treasures into heaps;
For neither father, mother, wife nor son,
Nor kinsman, will remain beside thee then,
When thou art passing to that other home
Thy virtue will thine only comrade be.
iv, 238, 239.
38 THE ETHICS OF INDIA
Be courteous to thy guest who visits thee;
Offer a seat, bed, water, food enough,
According to thy substance, courteously;
Naught taking for thyself till he be served;
Homage to guests brings wealth, fame, life, and heaven.
m, 106; iv, 29.
In childhood must a father guard his daughter ;
In youth the husband shields his wife; in age
A mother is protected by her sons
Ne'er should a woman lean upon herself.
v, 148; ix, 3.
A faithful wife who wishes to attain
The heaven of her lord, must serve him here
As if he were a god, and ne'er do aught
To pain him, whatsoever be his state,
Ana even though devoid of every virtue.
v, 154, 156.
The Lord of all in pity to our needs
Created kings, to rule and guard us here;
Without a king this world would rock with fear.
A king, e'en though a child, must not be treated
As if he were a mortal; rather is he
A god in human shape.
That king is equally unjust who frees
The guilty or condemns the innocent.
The wicked he must treat like thorny weeds,
They must be rooted out with active arm;
The good and virtuous let him shield from harm.
ix, 252, 253.
He who by firmness gains the mastery
Over his words, his mind, and his whole body,
Is justly called a triple-governor.
Exerting thus a threefold self-command.
Towards himself and every living creature,
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 39
Subduing lust and wrath, he may aspire
To that perfection which the good desire.
(b) The Rdmayana
Truth, justice, and nobility of rank
Are centred in the King; he is mother,
Father, benefactor of his subjects.
n, Ixvii, 35.
Whatever the work a man performs,
The most effective aid to its completion
The most prolific source of true success
Is energy without despondency.
v, xii, ii.
He has wealth who has strength of intellect;
He has wealth who has depth of erudition;
He has wealth who has nobleness of birth;
He has wealth who has relatives and friends ;
He has wealth who is thought a very hero;
He has wealth who is rich in every virtue.
vi, Ixxxiii, 35, 36.
(c) The Mahabharata
Thou thinkest: I am single and alone
Perceiving not the great eternal Sage
Who dwells within thy breast. Whatever wrong
Is done by thee, He sees and notes it all.
A wife is half the man, his truest friend,
Source of his virtue, pleasure, wealth the root
Whence springs the line of his posterity.
Conquer a man who never gives by gifts;
Subdue untruthful men by truthfulness;
Vanquish an angry man by gentleness;
And overcome the evil man by goodness.
to THE ETHICS OF INDIA
Triple restraint of thought and word and deed,
Strict vow of silence, coil of matted hair,
Close shaven head, garments of skin or bark,
Keeping of fasts, ablutions, maintenance
Of sacrificial fires, a hermit's life,
Emaciation these are all in vain,
Unless the inward soul be free from stain.
To injure none by thought or word or deed,
To give to others, and be kind to all
This is the constant duty of the good.
High-minded men delight in doing good,
Without a thought of their own interest;
When they confer a benefit on others.
After Monier Williams. Indian Wisdom.
X. PROVERBIAL WISDOM
(a) Dame Fortune
Not for kings the craven quibble
"Fortune takes as fortune gave'*:
Do thou treat her as a master,
And she'll be thy willing slave.
Passion will be slave or mistress;
Yield and she will lay you low,
Be her master and she'll lead you
Where dame Fortune bids you go.
(c) The Family
Let the family hold together,
Though it be both poor and small,
Leave the rice and husk uncovered
And it will not grow at all.
(d) A Son
Food for man's life and dothes for his protection,
Gold for adornment, marriage for enrichment,
A wife for distraction, a daughter for affliction,
A Son alone is as the Sun in its perfection.
The Sage Narada to King Harischandra,
c. ninth century B.C.
THE ETHICS OF INDIA 41
(e) When Silence is Golden
Needlebeak, an interfering bird, is admonished by a monkey:
If you are wise and court success,
On busier men yourself don't press,
Nor speak to gamblers who have lost
Or hunters who have missed the scent
Or you will soon be sorrow-tossed!
The bird refuses this advice and the monkeys wring its neck
their leader continuing :
Wood that is stiff cannot be bent
Nor is hard stone by razor dressed,
So seek not, friends, a fool to teach,
Silence is wiser than the wisest speech.
Panchatantra written in prose with verse summaries for the
instruction of princes about the first century A.D.
Translated by A. W. Ryder.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
"A great man is in harmony with Heaven and Earth." Shu Ching
The Chinese are in many things the Greeks of Asia. If the
nerve of Greek culture is the quest for beauty and truth, that
of the Chinese is the search for harmony, and for right and
reasonable social relations. The foundations of Chinese
society are to be found in two different civilizations, that of
the Shang or Eastern people, and that of the Chou who
came from the West and conquered them towards the
end of the twelfth century B.C. Thus Chinese civilization
in its present form has its beginnings at about the same
period in history as that of India, Greece and Judaea, and
light is thrown upon it, as upon them, by ancient poetry and
by archaeology. We have the Odes, which were collected
by Confucius in the sixth century B.C., many of which go
back at least six centuries before his time, to tell us of early
Chou ideals, and deposits of inscribed bones to tell us much
of the primitive religion of the Shang. From these sources
we learn that what we may call Sinism, that is, the religious
civilization of Ancient China, was a fusion of the ancestor-
worsliip of the Shang and their practice of divination, with
the theistic beliefs of the Chou, whose Odes are concerned
with the worship of Shang-ti or Hao-T'ien, God or Heaven
conceived as mighty and just. In other words, Sinism is
akin to other early civilized cults in blending belief in a god
of moral character with the older, more superstitious cult of
the dead, and of divination.
But while the Hebrews allowed the "fear of Yahweh" 1
gradually to banish these superstitions, the Chinese, with a
1 This is a poor translation: "love for Yahweh" is nearer the meaning
of the Hebrew.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 43
characteristic spirit of compromise, allowed the two to go
on side by side, and built up a pantheon in which ancestors
and the forces of nature were given their due place. Dr Hu
Shih, who finds the essence of the Chinese spirit in humanism
and rationalism, yet recognizes how great a place super-
stition has played in their history:
The importance of divination in the history of Chinese civili-
zation cannot be over-estimated. As far as we know, the earliest
writings in China were those engraven on the Oracular bones. . .
regarding the subject for divination, the date, and the reading of
the Oracular answer. This was the beginning of writing, of
chronology, of history and of literature. This, too, marked the
beginning of literary education and of an intellectual class. For
the tremendous importance attached to divination and worship
and the difficulty in deciphering the mysterious signs on the bones
and mastering the art of ideographical writing, all these gave rise
to a class. . .especially trained for performing such duties. These
were the priests and priestesses, the interpreters of the gods and
the teachers of men... the custodians of knowledge. It was
natural that the office of the Imperial Historian was always con-
nected with the state priesthood. Moreover, since astrology early
became a part of the science of divination, the priests were the
first readers of the secrets of the heavens, the keepers and reformers
of the calendar, and the fathers of astronomy. They were the first
scientists and the first philosophers and, insofar as the object of
divination was to guide state action and human conduct, they
were also the first moral philosophers who sought to understand
the will of the gods for the warning and guidance of men. 1
We may follow this clear and systematic thinker in
dividing Chinese history into three main periods :
I. The Sinitic Age, which begins with the Shang Dynasty
in the second millennium B.C., and continues to A.D. 300,
when the triumph of Buddhism brought profound changes.
II. The Buddhist Era, from the fourth to the twelfth cen-
1 Symposium of Chinese Culture, pp. 28 and 29, published by the
Institute of Pacific Relations, Shanghai.
44 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
HI. The Chinese Renaissance, which begins with the
triumph of Neo-Confucianism, and lasts to the present day.
Within the first period comes the great and classical age
of Chou (1122-255 B.C.), when the foundations were laid
upon which all Chinese civilization was to be built. The
second period follows the era of Han (206 B.C.-A.D. 221),
another epoch in Chinese civilization when the Confucian
systems were reorganized, and when Buddhism began to
make its characteristic contribution. It includes the artistic
and literary efflorescence of the Chinese spirit under the
influence of Buddhism, and of the invigorating blood of
barbarian invaders. This is the T'ang Era (A.D. 618-907)
when China reached its greatest achievements in art and
poetry. The third period begins with the enlightenment
of Sung (A.D. 960-1280), and is marked by a great develop-
ment of printing, and the publication of vast encyclo-
paedias, histories and anthologies. It is essentially the
reassertion of rationalism and humanism against the
mysticism and transcendentalism of Buddhists, and the
magic of Taoists: but its leading scholars absorbed much
Indian philosophy, and Buddhism in fact triumphed in
The great teachers of the Chou Dynasty are all concerned
with the tao, or Way of life, some finding it in the spon-
taneity of nature, others in her orderliness. And, as in India,
some found grounds for Theism and Mysticism in her work-
ings, and some for Atheism and Rationalism. Some em-
phasized the Divine Way, some the Human. The concept is
of central importance in the study of China. The character
for tao is made up of two others one meaning "to go",
the other "leader". It means then, norm, way, standard,
law of nature, nature itself. "Do not violate tao to win the
favour of men", says the Shu Ching, which attributes the
saying to the great ruler Yu: "To revere tao is to win the
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 45
favour of Heaven". 1 Behind and above Heaven and shangti
(the Ruler) is the cosmic order like the rita of Vedic India
and the moira of Homeric Greece which the gods themselves
It cannot be too much emphasized that Chinese ethics are
rooted in this concept, which is itself the outgrowth of early
folk-ways. Having learned, perhaps after long wanderings,
the values of an ordered social life the early Chinese read the
lessons of nature, and attributed to the cosmos itself a Norm
or Order in sympathy with human endeavour and to be
followed in their further progress. "The tao", says the
first Taoist, "is that by which the highest man guides the
people." 3 As in India and Greece men and nature are one
cosmos and must work in harmony. Li (propriety) and
h'u (harmony) are with wu-wei (spontaneity) keywords
to this early cosmic sociology: "The former refers to the
body of mores according to which it was necessary to live in
order to win social approval and prosperity, and to avoid
disturbing the order of the cosmos (conceived as including
men on very intimate terms). The second is very often used
to denote that harmonious state of nature which was the
normal and beneficial thing Men must follow the customs
of the group in order to maintain both social and cosmic
harmony". 3 The third, wu-wei, is the way of natural and
spontaneous conduct. Man is essentially nature's child: let
him be natural.
This was exactly the view of the early Greeks, and it per-
sists in China to the present day. Natural disasters are re-
garded as the result of unnatural conduct. The cosmic order
is the tao, and ancient China saw in it a dualism of male and
female, heaven and earth, north and south, light and dark-
ness yang and yin. When these opposites are in harmony
all goes well. "The people being at ease, yin and yang are
1 Shu Ching, pp. 55, 183.
2 Kwan-tsc in the seventh century B.C.
3 Creel, Sinism, p. 13.
46 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
in harmony, and when they harmonize all things grow and
develop. ... When they are at variance calamities occur",
says the Shu Ching. 1
Early Chinese rituals were fertility-cults like the corn-
dances of New Mexico which ended in sexual intercourse;
and these, M. Granet maintains with good reason, are the
origin of the yang and yin philosophy of opposites. Thus
literally in the harmonies of dance and song and in the mating
of men and women the rhythm of nature expresses itself, and
the tao finds embodiment. So good and bad are defined in
terms of harmony with nature. To follow the tao is for
ruler and people the way to prosperity and peace. "A great
man is in harmony with Heaven and Earth", says the Shu
Ching, and the conservative K'ung Fu-tse (Confucius) no
less than the rebel Lao-tse makes the tao fundamental in his
teachings. All goes well if men follow the tao all goes
wrong if they desert it. "The tao of Heaven is Truth: to
attain truth is the tao of Men." 2
In this the great teachers agree: they differ as to methods
of embodying the tao. As Sakyamuni takes the word
dharma and fills it with new meaning, so Lao-tse and
Confucius take tao a much older concept and seek to
make it the basis of new ways of life for the men of their day.
Theirs was a time of decay and disillusionment, and the
three great teachers of this age, Confucius, Lao-tse and
Mo-tse, are best understood, as Dr Hu Shih has pointed out,
in their relation alike to the old Sinism and to the critical and
sceptical spirit of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. "The
world had fallen into decay truth had faded away. Evil
doctrines and deeds of violence were rife. Unnatural acts
regicide and parricide were done. Confucius was afraid."
So wrote Meng-tse (Mencius) in describing the dark
days of the decline of Chou. This great Dynasty had set a
model of a state well-ordered, and of families modelling
1 n, 192, 16.
2 "Doctrine of the Mean", xx, 18.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 4?
themselves upon the royal house, which, in its turn, repre-
sented tao the cosmic order, and worshipped Shang-ti as
Lord of Heaven. Filial piety had originated in ancestor-
worship, but had gradually taken so important a place that
Confucius and his school were to make it the foundation of
their system. It is clear that they idealized the past, for the
Odes show us that there was very early in China a resentment
of the extravagance and callousness of rulers, and also much
questioning of Heaven. Our illustrative readings make it
clear that side by side in folk-songs and early lyrics went
the old cosmic religion and the spirit of revolt. To Con-
fucius (551-478 B.C.) the way of reform was the way of
ancient wisdom. "I am a transmitter/' he said, "not an
His contemporary, Lao-tse, represents an attitude of revolt,
alike against the old religion and against the formalism of the
court and of the walled city. Among his sayings is an echo
of the sceptical note in the Odes, and he interprets the tao as
the unchangeable and primaeval Mother of the Universe.
Man's Wisdom is to embody its spontaneity in human
society, and this principle ofwu-ivei has played a great part
in Chinese political thought. It has often been interpreted as
laissez-faire, for certain emperors discovered that the people
prospered in proportion to the inaction of their rulers; and
Lao-tse is reported to have said, "Govern a great country as
you cook a little fish [i.e. don't over-do it]". He believed
that the ideal society was that in which men lived simply,
according to nature, and that the spontaneous life was the
beautiful life. There is, indeed, in the little "Tao-te-Ching", 1
a book of sayings attributed to this great master, much that
reminds us of the Sermon on the Mount, its pacifism and
meekness as well as its mysticism and poetry. Was either
intended as a set of principles for rulers? Is not Lao-tse a
Much more orthodox was Confucius, who sought a
1 "A ridiculous little book", says Dr H. Giles of this masterpiece.
48 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
social ethic to reform his people, and as an official for many
years endeavoured to persuade the state of Lu to " return to
ancient wisdom". A disciple has left us this tribute:
While reading the works of K'ung Fu-tse, I have always fancied
I could see the man as he was in life ; and when I went to Shantung
I actually beheld his carriage, his robes, and the material parts of
his ceremonial usages. There were his descendants practising the
old rites in their ancestral home, and I lingered on, unable to tear
myself away. Many are the princes and prophets that the world
has seen in its rime, glorious in life, forgotten in death. But K'ung,
though only a humble member of the cotton-clothed masses,
remains among us for many generations. He is the model for such
as would be wise. By all, from the Son of Heaven down to the
meanest student, the supremacy of his principles is fully and
freely admitted. He may indeed be pronounced the divinest of
In the Analects, a collection of his sayings, we get many
vivid glimpses of him at his Socratic task: and his descrip-
tion of the gentleman, Chun-tse, is a picture of himself.
"He sorrows not nor shows fear. If there is no guilt in him
why should he either grieve or fear?" If the Man of the
Beatitudes gives us a clear picture of the Christian, the yogi
of the Hindu, and the bodhisattva of the Buddhist ideal, the
Chun-tse is the ideal of the Chinese. He is the princely man
of Chinese society, and his roots are in the principles ofjen
(sometimes translated benevolence, but better humanity)
and chung (loyalty). The first is the sum-total of those
qualities which make up a perfect man, and when a disciple
asked Confucius what it meant, he replied, "To love one's
fellow man". 2 "Jen", he says in another place, "means to
be a true man" ; for he believed that man is by nature good,
and that by disciplining himself he can grow to princely
stature. Akin to jen is the ideal of shu, or generosity, and
when asked for a rule of life, Confucius is said to have summed
1 H. A. Giles, Chinese Literature, pp. 103 fF.
2 Analects, xn, 22.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 49
up his teachings under the head shu, "not to do to others
what you would not that they should do to you". In fact
the Confucian ethic may almost be summed up in the words,
"Loyalty to self and generosity to others". Confucius, when
told that Lao-tse was teaching men to love their enemies,
said drily, "Return good for good, and justice for in-
justice"; for he was, after all, concerned with an ethic for
the state, and he could not reach the romantic heights of his
great contemporary, who was anarchist as well as mystic.
"To-day", he is reported to have said after an interview with
Lao-tse, "I have seen the dragon, and who can follow his
footprints in the air? " This was in 518 B.C. when as a young
man he was for a time a disciple of the Old Master.
He too realized that people were not to be drilled by laws
and regulated by punishments, yet could be led by virtue and
given a pattern of good form (//), till they should have a
trained conscience and become good. 1 The people in fact
need a pattern : ' ' If the ruler is good the people will be good " . 2
And to help in this reform he not only served the state of Lu
and its weak prince in several official capacities, but wrote a
summary of Chou history, The Annals of Spring and Autumn,
which is dry reading, but notable for its accurate use of
words, and its moral judgments. Failing to reform a perverse
age and a sensual prince and realizing that "rotten wood
cannot be carved", the great reformer turned to teaching,
and, like Jesus, Socrates and Sakyamuni, entrusted everything
to a band of disciples. To them he taught by example and by
precept lessons which have become almost too binding upon
the Far East.
Confucius was at once a man of his age and the norm or
type of the Chinese: reasonable, precise, humorous and a
little formal. He is perhaps more typical than Lao-tse, the
detached and sceptical critic of the man of affairs, but China
has sterilized much of her best effort by canonizing Con-
1 Analects, n, 3.
2 Ibid, xvi, 2.
50 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
fucius, and has too often missed the affinities between him
and Lao-tse in her age-long strife of words.
These two great teachers have much in common a
certain calm and humorous detachment, an authority which
appeals to reason, an ideal of self-control and even of
asceticism in the pursuit of truth.
"Living on coarse rice and water, my elbow for a pillow,
I can yet be merry ", says Confucius, a Chinese Epicurus:
"Preserve simplicity, conserve inner beauty, curb self-will,
limit desires", says Lao-tse, a Chinese Zeno. They too turn
away from an evil world.
"Ill-gotten gains and honours are a wandering cloud ",
says Confucius: "There is no calamity like ambition", says
Lao-tse, "the root of honour is humility".
Confucius, in fact, while he is the ideal Chun-tse or sage,
comes near to being a saint after the pattern of Lao-tse:
"Benevolent, wise, courageous" that is the Confucian
ideal: "Frugal, gentle, humble" that is the Laoist.
Lao-tse in his turn fulfils the ideal of Confucius : for he too
is reasonable and wise and kindly. Both too are critics of the
existing order. But their diagnosis differs: "Too many laws
and prohibitions", says Lao-tse: "Too great laxity", says
Let us look at the saint of Lao-tse:
He teaches not by words but by acts:
He acts but seeks no reward:
He works out perfection, seeking no credit:
His preoccupation is with the inner life:
He puts away excess, and egoism, and softness:
Honour and dishonour are alike to him:
All are his children.
The three jewels of Lao-tse are akin to the three car-
dinal virtues of Confucius. But they have a more quietist
tinge, and Lao-tse is much more a rebel against the classical
religion, which was sacrificing freedom to form and the
people to the officials. It is to the honour of China that
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 51
poets like Li Po and humanists like Hsun-tse have voiced
the cry of the poor, to her dishonour that they have been
voices crying in the wilderness. One great voice is that of
the altruist Mo-tse, who saw where Confucian reason was
leading his people.
It was a note of universal love which Mo-tse made central
in his teachings. Representing the conservatives who clung
to the old worship of Shang-ti, Mo-tse attempted to purify
it and to widen its applications. His date is about 470-390
B.C., and he opposed the orthodox Confucians as being
agnostic and determinist. " We can know God, and we must
base our conduct upon his moral character. His will is love,
universal and without distinction: war is against his nature
and nothing will work except love." His critic, Mencius,
accorded to him this magnificent tribute. "Mo-tse loved all
men, and was ready to wear himself out for humanity. For
in a long life of service he endured hardship and opposition
in his ministry of reconciliation." 1 Mo-tse also opposed the
code of li or propriety, now becoming a burden, and as a
champion of the poor protested against expensive cere-
monies such as funerals.
In his monotheism and his ethical ideals Mo-tse is like a
Hebrew prophet; and has been almost ignored until now,
when Christian ideals have awakened China to the ideal of
the love of God and man. In his pacifism he agrees with
Lao-tse, and in his doctrine of universal love he shows a
reasoned and balanced ethic, and makes a pragmatic appeal
The great ideal of Mo-tse was "impartial love for all".
He insisted that this mutual love was to be expressed in such
a way as to be of actual benefit to one's fellows. All his great
principles, of which there are ten, result from the application
of this ideal to various questions. The first five of these prin-
ciples embody the main theses of his doctrine, and are dis-
cussed in his writings under the following headings :
1 Mencius, Book vn, i, 26.
52 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
The importance of promoting men of character to public
The importance of securing a unified method of public
Love for all without distinction;
Opposition to taking the initiative in war;
Economy in public expenditure.
These are ideas already familiar to Confucian China. The last
five are heretical, containing attacks on Confucianism, which
led to his ostracism. They are :
Economy in funeral rites;
True obedience to the Will of Heaven ;
The Existence of Spirits;
Opposition to ceremonial Music;
Emphasis on Free-will.
He endeavours to trace all the confusion, crime, and oppres-
sion of his time to one root selfishness or lack of mutual
love: and in this he agrees with Jesus and with Sakyamuni as
well as with Lao-tse.
Mo-tse's lode-star is "the will of Heaven", and this is "to
love all people everywhere "; but there is a sturdy note of
hard work as well as of logic which keeps him from senti-
mentality. His economic views we should label socialism,
and his altruism we should dismiss as a vain dream so far
is our world from having outlived the ancients.
Our illustrative readings will throw light upon the
essential teachings of these great founders who were fol-
lowed by distinguished disciples for many centuries, and
whose teachings are indeed the core of Chinese civilization.
To the fourth century belongs Chuang-tse, who developed
the anarchism and naturalism of Lao-tse until it became a
sceptical fatalism. Man can do nothing except submit to
destiny; and Chuang-tse, true to his teaching, refused official
appointments, and poked fun at the Confucians and at the
futility of the court. Nor did he hesitate to attack Confucius
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 53
by name. The Confucians in turn accused him of being so
absorbed in his mystical naturism as to forget man. If
Chuang-tse represents the mystical and world-denying
element in China many others were busy with humanism:
they never forgot man however much they neglected men;
and the following dialogue is typical of the unceasing dis-
cussion which engaged their best minds and which continues
unabated. It is a classical passage:
Kaou-tse said: "Man's nature is like the willow; righteousness
is like a cup or bowl. Fashioning benevolence and righteousness
out of man's nature is like making cups and bowls from the
Mencius replied: "Can you, leaving untouched the nature of
the willow, make of it cups and bowls? You must do violence to
the willow, before you can make cups and bowls of it; (on your
principles) you must in the same way do violence and injury to
humanity in order to fashion from it benevolence and righteous-
ness. Your words alas would certainly lead all men on to reckon
benevolence and righteousness to be calamities".
Kaou-tse said: "Nature is like water whirling round (a corner).
Open a passage for it to the east and it will flow to the east; open
a passage for it to the west and it will flow to the west. Man's
nature is indifferent to good and evil, just as water is indifferent
to the east and west".
Mencius replied: "Water indeed (will flow) indifferently to
the east or west ; but will it flow indifferently up or down? The
tendency of man's nature to good is like the tendency of water to
flow downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good,
(just as) all water flows downwards. Now, by striking water and
causing it to leap up, you may make it go over your forehead,
and, by damming it and leading it, you may force it up a hill:
but are such movements according to the nature of water? It is
the force applied which causes them. When men are made to do
what is not good, their nature is dealt with in this way".
In Hsun-tse and his followers China found a new voice
urging her "to domesticate and regulate Nature, instead of
praising her and meditating upon her". This little-under-
stood teacher of the fourth century B.C. is of great import-
54 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
ance. He sought to divorce Confucianism from its cosmic
sanctions. Calamities are due not to man's conduct, but to
natural causes: and prosperity is the reward of industry.
Pacifism pays, not because it is an expression of the tao, but
because a good ruler would not antagonize people. Such a
ruler rules not by mandate of Heaven but by consent of the
Men are not by nature good as the Confucians teach, but
evil: nurture must correct nature, as man must control
its forces. But too much is made of li (good-form) and
of i (righteousness). Man must be educated, not put into
a strait-waistcoat. The old morality has indeed become a
bed of Procrustes, and the old cosmic philosophy is neither
useful nor true.
A radical empiricist, Hsun-tse met with much opposition :
yet he is a splendid example of Chinese rationalism. There
have indeed been, in the long history of Chinese social ethics,
many teachers like the great Wang-an-shih, who believed
that man must use the resources of nature, and that human
salvation lay largely in better conditions. But the continual
emphasis upon a literary education, and the insistence that
only by this channel could the public service be entered, have
turned China away from material progress; and the coming
of the Buddhists with their emphasis upon the monastic life
and upon transcendental experience and the joys of Paradise
have further separated China from scientific achievement.
Having invented printing from movable type, she used it
for printing the classics; and having invented the marine
compass, she went on believing that outlying parts of the
world were barbarian, and not worth her attention.
Yet to India she turned eager eyes, and the Buddhist Era
is a time in which much secular civilization accompanied the
new religion. Into the dim, flat, sad world of Han China,
where men were given over to fatalism and necromancy,
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 5 5
came these teachers of the Middle Path of the Buddha,
and Dr Hu Shih, who is no great admirer of other-worldly
religion, has well said, " Buddhism came with irresistible
force... it broke down the fatalism of Confucianism and
Taoism. . .and brought home to the Chinese the idea of the
indestructibility of the soul". As in the weary world of
Rome Christian missionaries began to tell of a life beyond
the grave, and of a power unto salvation in this world, so
these Indian missionaries called men not only to the Paradise
of the Buddhas, but to an ordered and sane ethic in this life.
And though they were bitterly opposed by Confucian
scholars as teaching celibacy, and so encouraging unfilial
conduct, they replied that they made up for it by looking
after the departed soul through orderly stages in the next
world. And they compelled first Taoist and then Confucian
scholars to come to terms with them.
It is interesting to trace the stages by which China adapts
the new religion. Staggered at first by its very complexity
and by the grandeur of its metaphysic (Han Era), she pro-
ceeds to simplify and to fit it next to Taoist ideas (T'ang) ;
and lastly wins a complete victory over it by rethinking Con-
fucianism in its light (Sung).
That is, I think, a true, if schematic, account of what
happened; but some critics would say that it was rather
Buddhism conquering first one fastness of the Chinese soul,
then another. And some go so far as to call this the domina-
tion of Buddhism and the sterilization of China. 1
In either case it is true to say that Buddhism was gradually
adapted to fit the Chinese. It, too, began to make much of
returning to nature and of the joys of simplicity, and to adapt
itself to the needs of secular life until what had been an other-
worldly, even a world-denying, mysticism became a mighty
force for making men more efficient as leaders in the world-
affirming and utilitarian life of the Chinese and Japanese
peoples. Chan-Buddhism is, in effect, a Chinese modification
1 Rg. Messrs Wu Chi-hui and Hu Shih. See Chinas own Critics.
56 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
of the old meditation, to set free intuition and to mature
What Buddhism did for art and for philosophy, there is
no space even to suggest here. What it did in the field of
ethics is our concern. Bringing a new and impressive story
of a great personality deified as "God above all gods", it
laid emphasis on God and man in a new relationship of love
and adoration : it called attention to the destiny of man after
death, and by its other-worldliness emphasized the import-
ance of morality in this life. Compassion, gentleness,
purity these were new notes in China, and the bodhisattva
ideal is a very different one from that of the Chun-tse.
If filial piety, good-form and loyalty to family and ruler
are the keynote of the older ethic they were now to be
harmonized with the new: Chinese and Indian ideals were
to be blended in Asia, as Greek and Hebrew were to be
blended in the West. In both hemispheres in fact a God-
centred ethic was meeting with a man-centred ethic: the
one largely world-denying, the other world-affirming : the
one "mystical", the other "practical". And the challenge
of the more religious group to the more secular group was
in each case that the ethical traits of the other-worldly are
full of value to the world. The Buddhists claim in China to
teach a more practical filial piety than the Confucians, a
more practical mysticism than the Taoists, and a better
philosophy than either. The Christians, accused of lack of
natural affection and of loyalty to the state, show that they
"out-live" as well as "out-think" the Greek world. Both
Christians and Buddhists claim to have the key to life in a
Master who is man and also God whose qualities are the
Divine attributes of Justice, Wisdom and Mercy: and both
are able to demonstrate in saintly lives of service the practical
values of their idealism.
During the second period of Chinese history these schools
Laoist, Confucian and Buddhist lived side by side, some-
times in conflict, sometimes in mutual tolerance. For the
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 57
Buddhist missionaries adopted a wise policy of conciliation,
and the Chinese are by nature and by heritage tolerant. There
is a marked tendency to fusion, and it is very clear that, as
in the T'ang Era Laoism and Buddhism were blent in zen
or intuitive enlightenment, so in the third great period of
Chinese religious development, the Sung Era, Confucian and
Buddhist ideals were fused. The leading Neo-Confucians
were men like Chu Hsi (1129-1200), who re-interpreted
classical Confucianism in the light of Indian philosophy.
Seeking to combine reverence with intellectual develop-
ment, he and Cheng-I turned the mind of China into a
Middle Path between superstition and scepticism, and in their
emphasis upon intuition as the reward of hard study they
learnt much from the Buddhists.
The following are typical maxims of Chu Hsi (1130-
We need not talk about empty and far-away things; if we
would know the reality of Tao, we must seek it within our own
Each has within him the principle of right : this we call Tao,
the road along which we ought to walk.
Love itself is the original substance of love; Reverence is love
in graceful expression; Righteousness is love in judgment; and
Wisdom is love in discriminating. 1
But Chu Hsi is not only a moralist. He is in effect the
subtlest metaphysical mind of China the architect of the
only system of philosophy she has produced; a synthesis of
Indian quietism and Chinese rationalism. His aim is to
account for the world and man: and he begins with non-
being (wu-ki), a potential cosmos, and with the Absolute
(tai-ki) Pure Being "nearer to the transcendental God of
Saint Thomas than to the Brahman of the Vedantist ". It is in
effect spirit "everywhere, most exalted, most excellent. . .
conscious soul, self-conscious, conscious of its workings".
Now for the first time China develops a systematic
1 Translated by J. B. Bruce.
58 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
philosophy: a philosophy of spirit and matter. Li (spirit)
moulds matter (&/) "it is as it were the master of the
house, the host who abides while the guests come and go".
It liberates energy-in-matter: it is thus the creative power
immanent in this Cosmos which is "a reflex and an
emanation of the Absolute".
"Like the moon which lights up the night: one with the
sky it spreads its gentle radiance on waves and lakes, and is
reflected in their surface yet it is one indivisible, and keeps
its own identity."
So the tai-ki is at once the Source of all, the Soul of all
akin to the Wisdom of the Hebrew, and the logos of the
And if it is akin to the dharma of India, it is also akin to
the tao of China. Like both it leads on to a doctrine of love:
and Chu Hsi does not hesitate to bid his emperor meet a
great drought (1179) by putting the army to work at agri-
culture: "You will then have more harvests and fewer mer-
cenaries". Nor did the philosopher hesitate to attack Court
intrigues : and for his boldness was exiled by Kuang-tsung.
This was the fate, too, of the great statesman, poet, and artist
Su Tung-po (1036-1101), who used his exile to good pur-
pose draining the marshes and widening the canals of
Hang-chow, and saving the people in a flood at Soo-chow.
The disgust of such men with politics is one note of Chinese
ethics, but the old activism of Yu and the early rulers revives
in the men of Sung : even those who took opposite sides
Wang-an-shih who persecuted Su Tung-po, Sze-ma-kuang
who attacked Wang-an-shih are in their various ways men
who believe that the country must be ruled in the interests
of the people, and that man can control the forces of nature.
And in its intellectual activity the Sung Age is one of
intense vigour, when zen concentration contributes to
worldly success, and stimulates artist and poet to a new in-
sight and a new love of nature.
Yet Chinese critics of great insight and ability see in the
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 59
Neo-Confucianism of Sung a victory for Buddhism in
paralysing the real mind of China rationalist and humanist
with its other-worldly mysticism.
When we turn from ideals to practice and from the sages
to the masses, we see that China is not yet the citadel of
reason. If self-control is inculcated, it is often lost in the flood
of passion: if reason holds sway, it is often dethroned: and
as the impartial student reads the long story of China's
evolution, he will see that with many noble qualities she
has stagnated and degenerated after each period of progress
and vigour: that without constant accessions of barbarian
blood she has allowed her vis inertiae and her detached
aloofness to ruin what her strong men have achieved.
"A strong man builds a city: a weak woman lays it low",
is a classical rationalization : but who has given concubines
and eunuchs their power to destroy? In the last analysis, it
is their own sensuality and cruelty, their own low estimate
of women. Their other enemies are, as Hu Shih says,
ignorance and corruption in high places: and another critic
in the same volume 1 gives a striking estimate of their strength
Mr Lin Yu-tang names as the chief qualities of his people
sobriety, simplicity, love of nature, patience, indifference,
old-roguishness, fecundity, industry, love of family life,
cheerfulness and sensuality! They are, he maintains, all
passive all typical of an old people with an old culture.
"They can all be included under the term mellowness, sug-
gestive of calm and passive strength rather than youthful
vigour and romance", and his comments on three out-
standing qualities are especially illuminating. "I believe that
the quality of patience is developed largely through the family
system, indifference is largely due to lack of legal protection,
and old-roguishness is due, for lack of a better word, to a
1 Chinas own Critics.
60 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
Taoistic view of life". He believes that the Chinese is by
nature more Taoist than he is by nurture Confucian and
that these qualities of patience and detachment have been
produced by "the deep, slow, very wearing effect on cha-
racter of the joint family" on the one hand, and by the
"absence of legal protection for personal rights" on the
other a form of self-protection developed "as the tortoise
develops its shell".
Chinese history is in some ways parallel to that of the
Greeks. Both peoples inherit an older culture and develop
a classic civilization with a succession of notable thinkers who
influence their whole future. If their Socrates is Confucius
and their Protagoras Lao-tse, they have also their scientific
humanists like Thales and Anaxagoras, and they owe much
to an imported mysticism akin to that of Pythagoras.
As with the Greeks, too, individualism and rivalry defeat
early attempts at federation, and while there is a parallel
quest for harmony and reason, there is also a constant struggle
against them of superstition and a persecution of innovators,
who are judged by outworn codes and crushed by the dead
hand of tradition.
But China's men of science make no great or consistent
progress as do those of Greece, and barbarians, while they are
civilized by Chinese culture as Rome by Greece, are more
continually at the gates. These three enemies individualism,
classicism and invading hordes trouble the long history of
China, and though, like Greece, she develops an upper class
of scholars and a measure of social democracy through
education, she is almost to the present the milch-cow of
dynasties founded by strong rulers and petering out through
their own sensuality and superstition. In aesthetic achieve-
ment she is the peer of Greece, and in sculpture, bronze-
casting and landscape painting has had no rival: yet in drama
and other forms of literature, most will agree that a day of
Athens is worth a "cycle of Cathay ". Perhaps her chief glory
is in merchants of a unique integrity and in a sturdy peasantry
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 61
undaunted by famine, flood, and evil men. Of them a
missionary of fifty years' experience has lately said: "Their
enemies. . .fear them for their virtues rather than for their
vices" and a recent novel, 'The Good Earth', has made
the West familiar with their simple, uncomplaining heroism
and stoic endurance.
China's scholars, too, are often men of industry, courage
and integrity, devoted to the service of their country; yet in
their special field of moral philosophy their age-long logo-
machies as to action and knowledge, and as to man's essential
nature do not give the impression of profound insight or
sanity. Not till some thirty years before the Christian Era
does a Chinese thinker appear, to insist that man is by nature
neither good, as the orthodox maintain, nor evil as Hsun-tse
insists, but of mixed qualities, until environment moulds his
character. To this teacher Yang-hsiung China has paid scant
heed, and her sages have too often failed to see the real issue
in their squabbles. Her great teacher Mo-tse she has ignored
till now, chiefly because he objected to expensive funerals!
And in general she has shown more aptitude for making
numerical lists than for building systems of thought. She
has made great inventions, but not carried them further, and
has not yet fully synthesized her Sinitic and her Buddhist
heritage. She is, in fact, tending to reject both.
Is the true Chinese a rationalist or a mystic? If both are
present in him has his national story been that of rationalism
misled by mystics like Lao-tse and the Buddha, or of ro-
mantic mysticism racked on the procrustean bed of a
The answer is " Neither". He has been a man desiring to
believe in the cosmic philosophy of the traditional Sinism
and intending to be guided by reason. But as the harmony
has been jangled by famine and flood and misrule he has
sought refuge in necromancy and other superstitions, and
has revolted against an imposed and artificial morality. If
he has been the model son and subject he has also been the
62 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
rebel, and if he has been law-abiding he has also had wild
bursts of anarchy. Women and eunuchs have ruled the Sons
of Heaven, and a smug provincialism has prevented the
Middle Kingdom from learning from the outside world,
and so being mistress in her own house. If there is a
prouder type than the Brahmin it is the Mandarin, and
China's sorrows are largely of her own making. But if
China is true to her great minds, yet not their slave, she may
adopt what is best in Western civilization and yet maintain
a strong emphasis upon older values. Her essential social
democracy should fit her for political reconstruction, and
her innate pacifism should keep her from the blunder of
militarism. Much provoked, she is yet richly blessed, and
her position as a great and largely self-supporting people in
a land of great fertility and in the North an invigorating
climate will make her future secure. In village and guild her
life goes on largely undisturbed, and here is the real China.
Meantime her intellectual leaders are renewing ancient
logomachies, 1 but also taking stock in order to put their
national house in order. One of them is supported in his
caustic and realistic interpretation of her history by Dr Hu
Shih, who quotes him as follows: 2
Mr Wu Chih-Hui, the veteran thinker of contemporary China,
once gave this summary interpretation of the cultural history of
"The ancient Chinese were characteristically simple farmers.
They were not an imaginative people and were incapable of
establishing religious systems. They prayed and worshipped
fetishes as their descendants have been doing to this day. They
worked hard and were contented with their lot.
4 'It was only after the rise of several great sages from their
midst, such as Confucius and Mencius, that they were em-
boldened to become an urban people. And they succeeded in
1 E.g. Is "Knowledge hard action easy" with Sun Yat Sen or are
"both difficult" with Hu Shih; or is the old philosophy that "Knowledge
is easy, action hard" true after all? 2 Chinas own Critics.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 63
founding States and Empires. But this life never suited the wishes
of the vast majority of the agricultural population who only
wanted good crops and no governmental interference. Probably
out of respect for this class, the Confucianist thinkers, too, had
to preach the blissfulness of contentment and joyous acceptance
"Before the age of Buddhism, Chinese society was a combina-
tion of the farmer and the country squire. The Taoist philosophers
Lao-Tze and Chuang-Tze represented the laissez-faire psychology
of the farmer, while Confucianism expressed the more active
political desires of the country squire.
"But the introduction of Buddhism from India created a new
atmosphere. It gave China a religion. At first, the Chinese
Buddhists merely interpreted the Indian religion in terms of the
nihilistic philosophy of Lao-Tze and Chuang-Tze, and the new
religion only furnished fresh material for leisurely and harmless
gossip. It had not yet acquired for itself the element of govern-
"As time went on, however, Confucianist thought became
unconsciously influenced by the religion of India. The Con-
fucianists of Sung, and Chu Hsi (d. 1200 A.D.) in particular,
unwittingly incorporated much of Buddhism into their new
interpretation of Confucius and Mencius, and they succeeded in
remaking the political principles of the country squires of old.
The harmless gossip of ancient farmers and their rustic philo-
sophers sitting on their faggot piles and sunning their backs in the
wintry sun, now became the authoritative codes of morals and
' Buddhism was a religion which teaches man to forsake this
world and prepare for life in the other world. But, when Chu
Hsi and his co-workers unconsciously adopted this religion of
the other world and super-imposed its ideas upon the moral and
political codes for life in this real world then the new codes
became terrors and made Chinese society a tragedy. How lifeless
has Chinese society become since the twelfth and thirteenth
Upon this summary Dr Hu Shih makes this comment:
The. . .history of the last fifteen centuries represented China's
long struggle to free herself from the conquest and domina-
64 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
tion of Buddhism This emancipation has never been fully
achieved. . . , Buddhism has transformed the Chinese conception
of many of the fundamental values. . . . While most painstaking
in its care for the life of an ant or a mosquito it regards human life
as not worth living. , . . Another revolution was in the conception
of the family which had formed such an important part of
This is putting the cart before the horse. China has in
fact habitually frustrated men who sought to rouse her to
action, from Han Fci in the second century B.C. and his master,
the First Emperor, to Wan Yang Ming, in the sixteenth,
and to Sun Yat Sen in the twentieth. A glance at our illus-
trative readings will reveal this double core of Chinese
thought akin to that of Greece, from Thales on through the
many centuries of scientific thought on the one hand, and
from Pythagoras on down through Plato on the other.
China has her Laoists and her Confucians, her mystics
and her humanists, her pragmatists and her idealists, and to
them she has added the imported Indian metaphysic of
transcendental moralism and monasticism. But her Con-
fucian minds have dominated her history, and Confucius is
still her master.
The critics are right in insisting that Buddhist monasticism
weakened family life wrong in idealizing the Confucian
ethic, which in practice gives woman a low place. It is
essentially patriarchal, and Hu Shih is surely unfair in attri-
buting such horrors as foot-binding to Buddhism. In Burma
a very typical Buddhist land women are freer than any-
where else in Asia : and in Japan, whose Confucian leaders
have lowered the status of women, no such barbarism can
be found; yet Japan is much more strongly Buddhist than
The critics are right, too, in accusing Buddhism of loosen-
ing Chinese roots in "the good earth" and of strengthening
their other-worldliness. But no Buddhist was ever more
mystical than Lao-tse, more other-worldly than Chuang-
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 65
tse, and the monasteries have been largely recruited from
famine orphans whom neither the good earth nor the joint-
family has provided for.
The Buddhist would reply, quite fairly, that what China
needed most in the Han Era they supplied a middle path
between the too-mystical and the too-rationalist, as between
the too-sceptical and the too-credulous.
Are Lieh-tse and Chuang-tse on the one hand or Hsun-tse
and Han Fei on the other better guides to sane and moral
living? And if Buddhism is pessimistic, it is not so pessi-
mistic as Han Confucianism. It may also claim that its
attack on tanha (lust, malice, and ignorance) is what China
has needed to reinforce her resistance to her own pet
And the Christian will not fail to see that in his Master's
Person and teachings China is offered a better social and
individual ethic, and a more constraining motive.
Of all China's own teachers the neglected Mo-tse is the
greatest and the most Christlike in example and teaching.
He would say of our distracted age what he said of his
own: "A world which condemns a petty wrong and praises
the greatest of crimes war knows no true distinction
between right and wrong".
THE SOUL OF CHINA
I. FROM ANCIENT WISDOM
Man is the heart and mind of Heaven and Earth the visible
embodiment of the five elements. He lives enjoying all flavours,
distinguishing all notes, clad in all colours.
A great man is in harmony with Heaven and Earth.
66 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
(i) God punishes the wayward
The people of Miao abandoned reason. . .killing the inno-
cent. . . .
The Lord on High was angry : and misfortune befell them.
They could not escape punishment;
They perished from the earth.
(ii) From the Code of the Tenth Century B.C.
Let both parties be heard by the Judges. Let them consider
whether the crime merits one of the five punishments or one of
the five fines. If not, let them declare it an involuntary mis-
demeanour.. . .Let them beware of doing so from wrong
motives such as fear, or favour, or for disgrace or for bribes. . . .
Branding is one punishment for a thousand crimes. Amputation
of the nose is another. Amputation of the foot is one for five
hundred, castration for three hundred, death for two hundred
As to ransom from each from six hundred ounces of copper
for escape from branding to six thousand for escape from the
II. FROM LAO-TSE
(sixth century B.C.)
(a) The Tao and Te
Pervading all is this Great Way !
Behold It on thy right and left!
From It proceeds whatever exists,
It gives all life and spurns them not.
Yet when Its task is duly done,
It makes no boast of sovran ty;
All things It loves and cherishes,
Yet claims no lordship over them.
In smallest things It may be found,
As in the greatest: all return
To It; yet know not this Great Way
As Lord and Guardian of their life.
Hence is the Sage by It empowered
Humbling himself he groweth strong :
To him the world for rest resorts,
And findeth peace who holds this Way.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 67
When naturalness is obliterated, there is " benevolence" and
"righteousness". When "wisdom" and "knowledge" appear,
there is great hypocrisy. When natural relations do not harmon-
ize, there is "filial piety" and "parental devotion". When a
nation is in disorder and misrule, there is "loyalty" and "allegi-
ance". Therefore, "Abandon wisdom, put away sagacity....
Abandon benevolence, put away justice Abandon smartness,
give up greed...". ^ ^
The more restrictions and prohibitions there are in the world,
the poorer grow the people. The more inventions and weapons
the people have, the more troubled is the State. The more cunning
and skill man has, the more startling events will happen. The
more laws and mandates are enacted, the more there will be
thieves and robbers. Therefore the wise man says: I practise non-
action, and the people of themselves reform. I love quietude, and
the people of themselves become righteous. I initiate no policy,
and the people of themselves become rich. I desire nothing, and
the people of themselves become simple.
(c) The Pacifism of Lao-tse
He who seeks to rule men in harmony with Tao will not subdue
the empire by force of arms. Such action brings retribution.
Weapons however handsome are instruments of ill-omen
and hateful to all things. Who has the Tao will leave them
alone. . . they are not the instruments of the princely man. Peace
and tranquillity are what he prizes.... He who rejoices in the
slaughter of men is not fit for rule.
(d) The Saint of Lao-tse
This is the way of heaven, which benefits and harms not.
This is the way of the Sage, in whose acts there is no element of
The Sage embraces humanity and is a teacher of all under the
heavens. He is free from self-display, and so he shines abroad;
free from self-assertion and so he is distinguished: free from self-
glorification and so he must be worthy. Free from self-exaltation
68 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
he rises superior. As he does not strive there is no one in the world
who can strive with him.
He who acts destroys: he who grasps loses: therefore the Sage
does not act nor grasp.
The Sage attends to the inner and not to the outer: he puts
away the objective and holds to the subjective.
Living in the world he is careful lest his heart be soured by the
world. The people fix their gaze upon him and listen for his
words. He looks upon all as his children.
(e] Lao-tse s own Graces
I have three precious things which I cherish and prize. The first
is gentleness, the second is frugality, the third is humility.
Be gentle and you may be bold, be frugal and you may be
liberal; avoid putting yourself above others and you may become
He who humbles himself shall be saved. He who bends shall
be made straight.
He who is empty shall be filled.
(a) The Princely Man of Confucius
(after L. Giles)
The princely man has three virtues, which I cannot claim for
myself. He is truly benevolent and free from care: truly wise and
free from delusion: truly brave and free from fear.
"These", said Tse Kung, "are our Master's own qualities/'
The princely man is modest in his speech, liberal in perform-
He is firm but not quarrelsome, sociable but not clannish.
He pays special attention to nine points, striving to see clearly,
to hear distinctly, to look kindly: respectful in his bearing, careful
in his speech, earnest in business: when in doubt he is careful to
seek advice; when in anger he thinks of the consequences; when
offered opportunities of gain he is mindful only of duty.
He makes the sense of duty the ground of his character, blends
with it a sense of harmony, manifests it in a spirit of unselfishness,
and perfects it by the addition of sincerity and truth.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 69
The Master said, "It is not easy to find a man who has learned
for three years without coming to be good".
The Master said, " There being instruction there will be no
distinction of classes".
(b) Other Moral Teachings
Tse-kung asked saying, "Is there one word which may serve
as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not
Shu such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not
do to others".
Chung-kung asked about perfect virtue. The Master said, "It
is, when you go abroad, to behave to every one, as if you were
receiving a great guest ; to employ the people as if you were
assisting at a great sacrifice; not to do to others as you would not
wish done to yourself; to have no murmuring against you in the
country and none in the family".
Hsiao: Filial Piety
The Master said, "When a man's father is alive, look at the
bent of his will ; when his father is dead, look at his conduct. If
for three years he does not alter from the way of his father, he
may be called filial".
The Master said, "A youth, when at home, should be filial,
and abroad, respectful to his elders".
i, vi, a.
Mang-E asked what filial piety was. The Master said, " It is not
Fan Che asked, "What did you mean?" The Master replied,
"That parents, when alive, should be served according to pro-
priety; and that when dead, they should be buried according to
propriety; and that they should be sacrificed to according to
n, v, i, 3.
70 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
The Master said, "In regard to the aged, give them rest; in
regard to friends, show them sincerity ; in regard to the young,
treat them tenderly ".
v, xxv, 4.
To be a prince is difficult.
XHI, xv, 2 a.
The Master said, "To rule over a country of a thousand
chariots, there must be reverent attention to business, and sin-
cerity; economy in expenditure, and love for the people ; and the
employment of them at the proper seasons".
The Master said, " When a prince's personal conduct is correct,
his government is effective without the issuing of orders. If his
personal conduct is not correct, he may issue orders, but they will
not be obeyed".
The Master said, "To govern means to rectify. If you lead on
the people with correctness, who will dare not to be correct?"
(d) The Ideal Curriculum
The Master's frequent themes of discourse were the Odes,
the Book of History, and the maintenance of the Rules of good
form. On all these he frequently discoursed.
The Master said, "My children, why do you not study the
Book of Poetry?
"The Odes serve to stimulate the mind.
"They may be used for purposes of self-contemplation.
"They teach the art of sociability.
"They show how to regulate feelings of resentment.
"From them one learns the more immediate duty of serving
one's father, and the remoter one of serving one's prince".
ix, xvii, 1-7.
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 71
The Master said, "In the Book of Poetry are three hundred
pieces, but the design of them all may be embraced in that one
sentence 'Have no depraved thoughts'".
The Master said, "It is by the Odes that the mind is aroused".
The Odes stimulate, music polishes, rules of morality discipline.
viii, viii, i.
The Master said, "Though a man may be able to recite the
three hundred Odes, yet if, when intrusted with a government
post, he knows not how to act, or if, when sent to any quarter
on a mission, he cannot give his replies unassisted, notwithstanding
the extent of his learning, of what practical use is it?"
(a) Mo-tse opposes Fatalism and teaches Theism
There are some men who hold that there is fate. Why do they
not try to look into the facts of the wise rulers of the past? When
King Cheh (1818-1784 B.C.) had ruined the kingdom, King Tang
(1783-1753 B.C.) took over the kingdom and again restored it to
order and prosperity. When King Chou (1154-1123 B.C.) had
again brought the kingdom to ruin, King Wu took it over and
restored it once more to order and peace. The same kingdom and
the same people found peace and prosperity under a Tang or a
Wu, and disorder and ruin under a Cheh or a Chou. How can
one say that things are predetermined?. . .If all the people were
unified in the Son of Heaven, and not in Heaven itself, then there
might yet be calamities.
The Will of Heaven is to me what the compasses and the try-
square are to the artisan. The artisan judges all circles and squares
by his compasses and try-square, saying "That which agrees with
my standard is right, and that which does not is wrong". Now
there are teachers in our age who write numberless books and
make numberless speeches, persuading all classes of men from the
prince to the student. But they are all far from true love and
righteousness. I know it is so, because I have found the best
standard whereby to judge them.
72 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
(b) The True Altruist
Seeing his friend hungry he feeds him; cold he clothes him;
sick he cherishes him and nurses him; dead he gives him burial.
Partiality is to be replaced by universality Now when
everyone regards the states of others as he regards his own, who
would attack the other's state? Others are regarded like one's self.
When everyone regards the houses of others as he regards his
own, who would disturb the other's house?. . .Now, when the
states and cities do not attack and seize each other and when the
clans and individuals do not disturb and harm one another is
this a calamity or a benefit to the world? Of course it is a benefit.
When we come to think about the several benefits in regard to
their cause, how have they arisen? Have they arisen out of hate
of others and injuring others? Of course we should say no. We
should say that they have arisen out of love of others and bene-
fiting others. If we should classify one by one all those who love
others and benefit others, should we find them to be partial or
universal? Of course we should say they are universal. Now,
since universal love is the cause of the major benefits of the world,
therefore Mo-tse proclaims universal love to be right.
After Y. P. Mei. Works of Mo-tse.
V. THE GOODNESS OF HUMAN NATURE
(fourth century B.C.)
Man's impulse is to do good, for his nature is good. That he
does not do good is not the fault of his natural faculty. A feeling
of sympathy everybody has; a feeling of shame everybody has;
a feeling of deference everybody has ; a sense of discrimination
everybody has. The feeling of sympathy is humaneness (Jen) ; the
feeling of shame is justice (i) ; the feeling of deference is pro-
priety (/*); and the sense of discrimination is intelligence (chi).
Humaneness, sense of justice, propriety, and intelligence are not
what is moulded into us from without. They are inherent in us,
only men are not conscious of them. . . .
Therefore, a man without a feeling of sympathy is not human;
a man without a feeling of shame is not human; a man without
a feeling of deference is not human; a man without a sense of
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 73
discrimination is not human. The feeling of sympathy is the
starting-point of humaneness; the feeling of shame is the starting-
point of justice; the feeling of deference is the starting-point of
VI. CHUANG-TSE'S SCEPTICISM
Chuang-tse one day saw an empty skull, bleached yet pre-
serving its shape. Striking it with his riding whip, he said,
"Wert thou once some ambitious citizen whose inordinate
yearnings brought him to this pass? some statesman who
plunged his country in ruin, and perished in the fray? some
wretch who left behind him a legacy of shame? some beggar
who died in the pangs of hunger and cold? Or didst thou reach
this state by the natural course of old age?"
When he had finished speaking, he took the skull, and placing
it under his head as a pillow, went to sleep. In the night, he
dreamed that the skull appeared to him, and said, "You speak
well, sir; but all you say has reference to the life of mortals, and
to mortal troubles. In death there are none of these. Would you
like to hear about death?"
Chuang-tse having replied in the affirmative, the skull began :
" In death, there is no sovereign above, and no subject below. The
workings of the four seasons are unknown. Our existences are
bounded only by eternity. The happiness of a king among men
cannot exceed that which I enjoy".
Chuang-tse, however, was not convinced, and said, " Were I
to prevail upon God to allow your body to be born again, and
your bones and flesh to be renewed, so that you could return to
your parents, to your wife, and to the friends of your youth
would you be willing?"
At this, the skull opened its eyes wide and knitted its brows and
said, "How should I cast aside happiness greater than that of a
king, and mingle once again in the toils and troubles of mor-
74 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
The Grand Augur, in his ceremonial robes, approached the
shambles and thus addressed the pigs:
"How can you object to die? I shall fatten you for three
months. I shall discipline myself for ten days and fast for three.
I shall strew fine grass, and place you bodily upon a carved
sacrificial dish. Does not this satisfy you?"
Then speaking from the pigs' point of view, he continued,
4 'It is better perhaps after all to live on bran and escape the
"But then", added he, speaking from his own point of view,
"to enjoy honour when alive one would readily die on a war-
shield or in the headsman's basket."
So he rejected the pigs' point of view and adopted his own
point of view. In what sense then was he different from the pigs?
Translated by H. A. Giles.
VII. LATER CONFUCIANS
(a) Tseng-tse on Filial Piety
This body is inherited from our parents. How dare we act
irreverently with this inheritance of our parents? Therefore, to
live carelessly is a sin against filial duty, so is disloyalty to our
princes, so is dishonesty in official duty, so is faithlessness to our
friends, and so is lack of courage on the battlefield. Failure in any
of these five duties will disgrace one's parents. Dare we act
Translated by Hu Shih.
(6) An Early Utilitarian
(Hsun-tse, third century B.C.)
You glorify Nature and meditate on her:
Why not domesticate her and regulate her?
You obey Nature and sing her praise :
Why not control her course and use it?
You look on the seasons with reverence and await them:
Why not respond to them by seasonly activities?
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 75
You depend on things and marvel at them:
Why not unfold your own ability and transform them?
You meditate on what makes a thing a thing :
Why not so order things that you may not waste them?
You vainly seek the cause of things:
Why not appropriate and enjoy what they produce?
Therefore, I say: " To neglect man and speculate about Nature
Is to misunderstand the facts of the universe".
(c) Han Fei on Government
(second century B.C.)
A wise man does not expect to follow ancient ways nor to
set up principles for all time. He studies the conditions of his age
and then devises means to meet them.
When laws are adjusted to the times there is good government.
Subtle speculation is no business of the people... the actual
need is common-sense.
(d) Progress not Evolution (Hsun-ching)
Such progress as man has made is not the result of blind force,
automatic in its action. It has come from conscious effort and
(e) Business Men
(Chen-tzu-ang, A.D. 656-98)
These business men to vaunt their skill are wont,
Yet they are children in philosophy.
They boast of cunning in chicanery,
To the end of life itself they give no thought.
What should they know of that Master of Mystery
Who saw the world reflected in a bowl,
Till soaring clear of earth and sky his soul
On wings of change achieved Changelessness?
76 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
(/) The Cost of War
(Chien-fun, A.D. 879)
The hills and riverbanks of this fair land
You soldiers turn into a battlefield.
How shall the villagers beneath your hand
Make them grow hay, or even fuel yield?
Let me not hear one vain ambitious word
Of titles or promotion to be got.
To make a reputation for a single lord
Ten thousand poor men die and rot.
(g) A Blanket for the Poor
(Po-chui, ninth century A.D.)
What can I do to help the cold and poor?
No use to warm a single shivering wretch.
Would I'd a rug ten thousand feet or more
To cover all the city at a stretch.
VIII. CONFUCIAN CRITICISM OF THE BUDDHISTS
A Petition ofHan-yu
(addressed to Hsien-tsung, 820 A.D.)
The religion of Fo is barbarous and unknown to antiquity. It
was brought in in an age of decadence and when the T'ang
Dynasty was founded by Kao-tsu he considered exterminating
it. Alas ! His ministers, unskilled in the wisdom of the ancients,
dissuaded him. I am furious when I think that this salutary
step was not taken And you, Sire, a clear-sighted, wise and
scholarly ruler the like of whom we have not seen for long you
at your accession forbad the building of new temples or the
making of novices. Alas! Your orders were not carried out:
And now, what do we hear? Can it be that you have ordered
that a bone-relic of Fo be brought in state? Maybe you do it
not yourself believing to make a show for the people. But they
in their ignorance will think you believe. Their rustics will say
" See the Son of Heaven, how he honours Buddha and shall not
we?" They will burn camphor on their scalps and scorch their
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 77
fingers with incense. They'll throng the temples and cart their
goods to the monks to get redemption and salvation from dangers
to come!. . .These things ruin our morals and make us ridiculous
in the eyes of strangers. For after all it is a barbarian we honour
who could not speak our tongue, who knew nothing of the
Sages, who disregarded filial piety. And you allow a dry-bone, a
dirty bit of his corpse to be presented to your Majesty!. . .
Ah, have it sent, I beg, to the headsman that he may throw it
into the fire, and get rid of this root of calamity. So will you pre-
serve your people from seduction and error. And if the Buddha
learns of it and can act well I take the responsibility: let him
take vengeance on me.
After H. A. Giles.
IX. NEO-CONFUCIAN REALISM
Chu Hsi (1130-1200)
We need not talk about empty and far-away things; if we
would know the reality of Tao we must seek it within our own
Each one has within it the principle of right, what we call Tao,
the road along which we ought to walk.
The means by which we all may day by day banish human
desire and return to Divine Law lie within our reach, and to use
them is our duty.
The one thing we must realize is that we must use our earnest
effort and master it, get rid of its excesses, and restore the Mean.
Virtue is the practice of Moral Law.
Virtue is what is received into the heart. Before serving one's
parents and following one's elder brother, already to possess a
perfectly filial and fraternal mind: this is what is termed Virtue.
Love itself is the original substance of love; Reverence is love
in graceful expression; Righteousness is love in judgment; and
Wisdom is love in discriminating.
Sincerity is the principle of reality. It is to be the same whether
before men's faces or behind their backs.
To be devoid of anything false is spontaneous Sincerity; to
allow no self-deception is Sincerity acquired by effort.
78 THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
X. PRAGMATISM AND INTUITION
Wang Yang Ming (1472-1529)
There are no crises and problems beyond those of passion and
change. Are not pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy passions of
men? Seeing, hearing, talking, working, wealth and honour,
poverty and lowliness, sorrow and difficulty, death and life, all
are vicissitudes of life. All are included in the passions and feelings
of men. These need only to be in a state of perfect equilibrium
and harmony, which, in turn, depends upon being watchful over
Pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy are in their natural condition
in the state of equilibrium and harmony. As soon as the in-
dividual adds a little of his own ideas, he oversteps and fails to
maintain the state of equilibrium and harmony. This implies
selfishness. In subduing oneself, one must clear out selfish desire
completely, so that not a bit is left. If a little is left, all sorts of evil
will be induced to make their entrance.
If a person unceasingly applies himself truly and earnestly, he
will daily better comprehend the subtle essence of the moral
principles of the mind, as well as the subtlety of selfish desires. If
he does not use his efforts in controlling himself, he will con-
tinually talk and yet never comprehend the meaning of moral
principles or of selfish desire.
That the sage is a sage is due solely to the fact that his mind is
completely dominated by heaven-given principles, and not
hampered by passion.
The great defect of students is to be found in love of fame.
Education means learning to expel passion and harbour natural
The little intuitive knowledge of good you have is your own
standard. If your thoughts are right it is aware of it, and if they
are wrong it also knows. You must not blind it nor impose upon
it, but must truly follow its lead.
If you leave your daily affairs in order to devote yourself to
study, it will be in vain.
To be a sage, a man need only love and desire virtue as men
love and desire beautiful colours; he need only despise and shun
evil as one despises and avoids an evil odour.
The great disease of mankind is all expressed in the word nao
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 79
(meaning "pride" or "haughtiness"). The proud son certainly
is not filial, nor the haughty minister loyal, nor the proud father
loving, nor the proud friend sincere. The reason why Hsiang and
Tan Chu both were degenerate was their pride. Sirs, you should
appreciate that the mind of man is ab initio natural. It is dis-
criminating, clear and without the least spot of selfishness.
Selfishness should not be cherished in one's breast, for its presence
engenders pride. The many good characteristics of the sages of
most ancient times were due to a selfless mind. Being selfless,
they were naturally humble. Humility is the foundation of all
virtue; pride is the chief of vices.
No one who really has knowledge fails to practise it. Know-
ledge without practice should be interpreted as lack of know-
ledge. Sages and virtuous men teach men to know how to act,
because they wish them to return to nature. They do not tell
them merely to reflect and let this suffice.
Knowledge is the beginning of practice; doing is the com-
pletion of knowing.
Translated by F. G. Henkc.
XL A BUDDHIST APOLOGY
The Monk's Family
Thy mother is the true Wisdom:
Thy father is skill in teaching :
Thy kin are all beings everywhere:
Thy home is in the Void of Nirvana:
Thy wife is joy, thy daughter love,
Thy son truth a household indeed
Which doth not bind thee to the Wheel of Life.
Ta-Hsien, an eighth-century monk of Korea.
XII. CHINESE HUMOUR
(after H. A. Giles)
(a) A Tactful Host
A guest at dinner sat on and on and showed no sign of leaving.
So the host said :
"Do you see that bird? I'll cut down the tree and catch it, and
we'll eat it together/*
8o THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE
"Good," said the guest, "but I fancy the bird will have flown
"No, no," said the host, "it is a very stupid bird: it doesn't
know when it's rime to go."
(b) A Less Tactful Guest
A guest at dinner when all the bowls had been emptied said to
"Could we not have the candles lit?"
"A bit early, isn't it?" said the host.
"Well, at any rate we can see nothing on the table."
(c) A Good Mathematician
A wealthy man said to a miser:
"Til give you a thousand pieces of silver if you'll let me beat
you to death."
"Make it five hundred and you can half kill me!" said the
After H. A. Giles.
If a boy is born with fingers like a girl he will make a living
If a girl is bom with a face like a boy her dignity will be un-
For a person to be large and yet not a fool here is a real
Parents can do without children, but children can't do without
There are loving parents, but no loving children.
One may desert one's father tho' he be a magistrate but not
one's mother tho' she be a beggar.
The gate of charity is easy to open, but difficult to close.
At a distance men are judged by what they wear: nearer home
by what they are.
The man whose face is stout and tough
At feasts will always get enough :
But he whose face is mild and thin
Can't get a look or a chop-stick in!
THE ETHICS OF THE CHINESE 81
Clouds pass but the rains remain.
He who cannot sleep finds his bed badly made.
The water that bears the ship is the same that engulfs it.
Stir not a fire with a sword.
To pretend to satisfy one's desires by possession is like putting
DUt a fire with straw.
In clothes we value novelty : in men old age.
You can't strip two skins off one cow.
A hair's breadth at the bow is a mile beside the butt.
No needle has two sharp points.
The pleasure of doing good is the only one that will not wear
To look at a plum is not to quench one's thirst.
Better return home and make a net than go down to the river
ind desire to get fishes.
If the current is not rapid the fish do not jump.
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
"Reflect Truth as a mirror: Be clean within and without."
If the Chinese are the Greeks of Asia in their love of reason and
harmony the Japanese are also Greek in their eagerness for
novelty, in their love of beauty, in their bravery and de-
votion to the State, and in their identification of its service
with religion. In these and other ways they are very-
Athenian. In stoic endurance and asceticism they are Spartan.
In their quickness to assimilate other cultures, in their utili-
tarianism, in their readiness for discipline, they are more
like the Romans, versatile rather than profound, apt rather
than original. Indeed it is the Chinese who have civilized
the Japanese, as it was the Greeks who gave culture to
Rome, and the Chinese are Athenian in their strong aestheti-
cism as well as in their sense of harmony and proportion.
Buddhism, which came bringing with it much Indian
culture, has done for both Chinese and Japanese much of
what Christianity did for the Greek and Roman world,
bringing it new hope and a clearer image of the Divine.
The long process of the ethical development of Japan falls
then naturally into three periods: as in India and China, it is
the coming of Buddhism which divides the archaic from the
modern. For Buddhism has had a strange power of stimu-
lating new life, and in the end of calling out opposition to its
The first or Archaic Period ends in the seventh century of
our era and goes back into the mists of legend and folk-lore,
in which it is hard to distinguish fact. There remain, indeed,
very few authentic deposits from these early days burial
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 83
objects which imply a cult of the dead, and the slow infiltra-
tion of Chinese and Korean culture; and for the rest, legends
and snatches of ancient song and ritual prayer. The first
impression we get is of a people naively joyous, rejoicing
in the beauty of their country, and using religion to control
fire and pestilence and to secure good harvests. They do
not clearly distinguish yet between ritual and moral
purity, and this comes out clearly in the service of national
purification, reproduced as our first illustrative reading.
Here it will be noted that when the official clan set up
floral offerings and recite the words of the liturgy all offences
are purged away, and the gods are brought in to carry them
bodily into the open spaces of the ocean, and in other ways
to destroy them. We find that as in other early religions
the presence of death and corruption, of sex-acts and child-
birth, bring uncleanness, which can be removed by ab-
lutions and ritual, and we see that not only is there the
nucleus of a priesthood in the official reciters of these
liturgies, 1 but that the drama which has played so great a
part in Japanese life begins in certain ritual dances of the
gods and of their priests. Official diviners and regulators
of religious observances were gradually organized as be or
If we find in these early rituals the beginnings of the love
of the beautiful and of the clean, we find also gratitude to
gods and rulers.
A nature worship, of which the mainspring is appreciation
rather than fear is not to be dismissed as base and fetishistic
animism, and much that is kindly and gracious in the life of the
Japanese to-day can be traced to those sentiments which caused
their remote ancestors to ascribe Divinity not only to the power-
ful and awe-inspiring, such as the sun and the moon and the
tempest, or to the useful, such as the well and the cooking pot,
1 The Nakatomi were a family of liturgists: the Urube diviners.
2 The Imibe were a guild of abstainers from things tabu, imi meaning
tabu, be meaning guild.
84 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
but also to the lovely and pleasant, such as the rocks and streams,
the trees and flowers. The worship of such objects has its counter-
part in that delicate sensibility to the beauties of nature which is
one of the most endearing characteristics of the modern Japanese. 1
Coming from less lovely lands the uplands of Asia or the
islands of Polynesia they rejoiced in the beauty of their new
fatherland, its winding valleys, its white sandy beaches, its
gnarled pine trees, and above all the cherry blossoms and the
snow-capped volcano, itself a god. Coming in small groups
and pushing their way up narrow valleys they were welded
into a nation which has one essential culture.
The earliest Chinese records 2 describe these islanders as
not without moral qualities such as honesty and regard for
law, and speak of the ceremonial dignity of the higher ranks
of society, and of the industry and chastity of the women.
The following early song gives us a pleasant picture of family
devotion in high places. It is attributed to the Emperor Ojin
in the third century A.D., and the occasion is his discovery
that his own son is in love with the " long-haired maid"
whom he himself desires.
Lo! my son!
On the moor, garlic to gather,
Garlic to gather,
On the way as I went,
Pleasing of perfume
Was the orange in flower.
Its branches beneath
Men had all plundered,
Its branches above
Birds perching had withered:
Midway its branches
Held in their hiding
A blushing maiden.
Lo ! my son, for thee
Let her burst into blossom. 3
1 G. B. Sansom, Japan, p. 45.
2 Dating from the third century A.D.
3 W. G. Aston, Japanese Literature, p. 8.
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 85
Here is early evidence of that strong family loyalty which
was to develop into the devotion of the samurai to their
Lord and of the people to their Emperor. It has been often
said that the Japanese claim to be too moral to need a very
elaborate religion or code of ethics. "Fear the gods, honour
the throne" this is enough for a people naturally good. Yet
they soon began to take with eager hands religious and ethical
ideals from the mainland, and of these they have made a new
synthesis. Adopting much before they really understood it
they have slowly adapted it to their national needs. In this
process is the chief interest of their history: and in their eighth
century chronicles, Kojiki and Nihongi, it is difficult to
discover how much has been read back into earlier days
from these imported cultures.
But in their purification rituals 1 there is much of great
antiquity, and the offences (tsumi) mentioned reveal a
mingling of ritual and moral ideas.
The sins of the god Susa-no-wo are, as Sansom has pointed
out, just those "most abhorrent to an agricultural com-
munity". As the early Hebrews cursed "him who removed
his neighbour's landmark", so this unruly god is taken as a
type of antisocial sinner, who breaks down divisions between
rice-fields, sows tares in them, and diverts the water for
Human sinners are such as desecrate the grave or the home,
and the main idea of evil is pollution. These early concepts
persist in Japan.
"At the core of all Shinto ceremonial is the idea of purity,
and at the core of all Shinto beliefs is the idea of fertility." 2
Coming into these mountainous islands the invaders of
mainland and of Polynesian stock have to work hard to
produce enough food, and their religion is much concerned
with this primary need. Inari the rice-god is still the
most ubiquitous of their gods, and phallic worships go on at
harvest time. All early religion in Japan is in fact Nature-
1 Illustrative Reading i.
2 Sansom, op. tit. p. 52.
86 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
worship, and the chief families, while they claimed descent
from the gods, only learnt ancestor-worship from the Chinese.
"Making your god into an ancestor" is the Japanese way:
" making your ancestor into a god" the way of the Chinese.
Purification was much emphasized in worship, and exor-
cism as well as ablutions played a part in it. A system of fines
for ritual as well as for moral offences was early instituted,
and with the coming of Chinese and Korean influence
clearer distinctions were made.
Before the coming of these cultures the Japanese had
achieved a fair measure of unity and an aesthetic sentiment
which have been twin forces in their ethical life. And
the very difficulties of cultivating their mountain-slopes in
terraces and of irrigating them called out the qualities we
still admire in a sturdy peasantry. As to their leaders their
eager adaptation of higher civilizations reveals remarkable
gifts, and their genius for simplification begins to be early
manifest. If the prehistoric era lasts till about the fourth
century A.D. that of adoption and naturalization of Chinese
culture occupies the fifth to the eighth. During these cen-
turies attempts are made to achieve centralization of authority
and state ownership of land, but the inveterate clan spirit
asserts itself and for nearly a thousand years powerful families,
Fujiwara, Taira, Mimamoto, overshadow the throne, and
the Divine Emperor is a puppet of Regent (kwampaku) and
of Generalissimo (shogun).
Confucianism filtered into Japan from about the beginning
of the Christian Era, and Korean tutors were imported by
the Emperor Ojin in the early fourth century.
Buddhism was introduced officially by the Prince Regent
Shotoku, and the Japanese look upon him as the true founder
of their civilization. Born in 543, he died in 621, mourned
by all as an incarnation of the goddess of mercy. His code
is an ingenious blend of Buddhist and Confucian ideas,
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 87
adapted to the needs of his people. Here the filial piety of
China is emphasized, but with the new meaning of loyalty
to the throne ; and harmony between ruler and people and
between class and class is taught. The Chinese theory of king-
ship is outlined, and officials are reminded of their duty of
consulting one another, of working hard, and of keeping
faith with inferiors. All this is good Confucian teaching, and
for the rest the code is like the edicts of Asoka in moral
maxims condemning envy, anger and other faults of the spirit,
and commending good faith, obedience, benevolence and
Hidden in these apparently harmless exhortations. . .is a new
view of the State, for while they exact obedience from inferiors
to superiors, they insist equally upon the duties of superiors to
inferiors, and, what is most significant of all they enunciate very
clearly the theory of a centralized state in which the ultimate
power resides in the emperor, 1
The code does, in fact, lay down that "The sovereign is
master of the whole country".
Of how variously these sovereigns played their part there
is no space to speak. Some were powerful leaders, devoted
to the interests of the people, others were little better than
puppets in the hands of masterful ministers. In the edict of
one of the greatest of them, the Emperor Shomu, we have
a fine devotion to the Buddha and a gratitude to the gods,
which may be studied in our second illustrative reading.
Here we see that the Emperor claims to be a god who ex-
presses his gratitude to the unseen, and his devotion not only
to monks and nuns and other religious, but to the aged and
the poor, scholars and peasants.
Buddhism had already done much to develop the native
aestheticism of the Japanese, and their sense of awe, wonder
and gratitude, and though it was for some centuries an
aristocratic cult, and though its monasteries became the
feudal castles of proud and overbearing abbots, yet it held
1 Sansom, op. cit. p. 72.
88 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
up before the people the ideals of compassion and of medita-
tion. These the Japanese adapted, so far as they could be
adapted, to fit their feudal society. Meditation, which was
meant by the Buddha to turn men's minds away from this
transient world and to breed a spirit of forbearance and piety,
became a technique for soldiers and feudal lords. Like
Christianity in the Western world, this other-worldly re-
ligion was made the basis, in the early middle ages of Japan,
for a new chivalry. It also greatly encouraged the arts, which
the founder had ignored, or condemned; and it has never
very seriously interfered with the pleasure-loving and even
licentious ways of the people. It has rather provided an
asylum for those who desired to retreat from an evil world
emperors among them.
Confucianism too played a very different part in Japan
from anything Confucius could have foreseen. Its teachings
of loyalty were eagerly adapted to the glorification of
warriors and feudal chieftains, who took precedence of
scholars and philosophers. But in spite of this adaptation the
Chinese ethic, with its insistence upon propriety and cere-
mony, became a Procrustean bed for Japan. Aston, to whom
all students of Japan owe so much, tells how a leading Japa-
nese statesman once pointed to a group of artificially stunted
trees and said, "That is what Chinese culture has done for
Japan". For the third period in the development of Japanese
ethics is the period of Neo-Confucianism, and it has been a
curse as well as a blessing.
If to Confucius Japan owes much of her educational,
political and social institutions, and the systematic teaching
of ethics, she owes also much stunting and sterilization.
The period of Buddhist ascendancy lasted until about the
eleventh century. During this time a notable role was played
by women, who, in spite of the monastic ethic of Bud-
dhism, were eminent in public life and in letters. As novelists
in particular they played an eminent part, and it was only
gradually that the Confucian concept of woman as the meek
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 89
and patient servant of man could find a place in Japanese
life. When it had its full sway it did untold harm.
Women, often man's superior, became his plaything and
domestic bliss was replaced by the lures of geisha aesthetic
rather than intellectual hetairai. As to the life of the poor,
they were almost entirely at the mercy of the upper classes,
and even Buddhist monasteries had large groups of slaves in
their service. As in China, we hear the cry of the poor and
especially of those called up for military service: "the
misery of a soldier is like that of a slave". And the contrast
between the elaborate life of the Court and that of the
people becomes marked as early simplicity gives place to
the elaborate imported culture of the ninth and tenth cen-
turies. As the great monasteries grew in power and the
great families waged war upon one another, the poor had
no appeal against oppression.
With the third period of Japanese life we see the emergence
of a new concept of society, and a popularization of religion.
Not only is salvation made easier and offered to the common
people, but great and saintly figures begin to express in their
own lives the divine compassion. Honen (1139-1212), who
preached the compassion of the Buddha Amida, and his will-
ingness to accept all who called upon him, said on his death-
bed, " There is my monument, wherever the worship of
Amida is practised, be it only in the thatched hut of a fisher-
man". His disciple, Shinran (1173-1262), went even further
in this popularization, and his hymns became known to the
masses. In the rugged Nichiren (1222-1282), son of a
fisherman, Japan found a prophet who warned her of im-
pending disaster and called upon her to forsake false
worships and corrupt practices. In these men she has her
Wesleys and her Luther. Art now begins to reflect the life
of every day, instead of that of Courts and Paradises, and
with the extension of printing, which had been known in
90 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
Japan for some four centuries, the spread of learning
among the people encouraged these tendencies. And the
development of the theatre and of the long epic novel and
scrolls of biography are also important factors in giving
to them not only the lessons of religion, but the leaven of
new and more democratic ideas.
But the feudal system was to survive to modern times,
with the worship of the Emperor as its central pillar and
loyalty to the overlord as its most characteristic note.
Bushido, or the "Way of the Soldier", developed as an
unwritten and semi-articulate code of chivalry, and the
samurai, "servants", who bound themselves to Spartan sim-
plicity in revolt against licence and luxury, were the leaven
of mediaeval society. Despising money they endured hard-
ness, practised meditation and contemplated the transiency
of life, yet vowed themselves to loyal service and cheerfully
laid down life itself for their overlord.
The middle ages of Japan were, like our own, ages of
violence tempered with chivalry, and of military insolence
tempered with other-worldliness and stoicism.
Zen Buddhism, which insists on quietness and meditation,
on simplicity and candour, did much to refine and to deepen
the spirit of loyalty and courage. And Bushido, or the "Way
of the Warrior", was an unwritten code binding unto death.
The samurai were loyal to their daimio or overlord, and
harikiri, or suicide by disembowelling, was the last expres-
sion of their devotion to a lord whose cause had been de-
feated or whose honour smirched. As each daimio was in
effect a small sovereign and was usually at war with a rival
overlord there were continual duels in which a spirit of
"recollectedness", of spiritual tension, was as much a duty
as courage and stoical endurance.
Thus an other-worldly spirit, derived from the monks
of Buddhism, laid hold of men of the world, and a gentle
melancholy chastened their worldly ambitions, a sense of the
transiency and futility of life.
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 91
If the Japanese are like the Greeks they combine Athenian
with Spartan qualities, the zest of life, the quick response
to beauty with hardihood and stoic detachment. To both
Buddhism made its contribution, and in the Kamakura
epoch (1200-1400) we may watch the polarization of these
qualities, the aesthetic and gentle elements concentrating at
Kyoto, the austere and rugged at Kamakura, each rather
despising the other, as Athens and Sparta contemned one
another in ancient Greece. The same separatism in fact long
tore Japan into warring states, warring cities and even mon-
astic houses engaged in internecine strife, and all keeping up
the myth of the theocratic state and the Divine Emperor.
Which is the truer Japanese symbol, the cherry-tree with
its frail and exquisite beauty, or the gnarled and evergreen
pine? The answer is "Both": and all through her stirring
history there has been an alternation of these moods, or a
synthesis of them. The warrior writes a delicate poem as he
goes into battle: the aesthete throws off his languishing
mood and stands revealed as a very lion for ferocity and
courage. Then having done some ruthless deed retires to a
monastery and undergoes lifelong penance. Until lately
there has been no concept of the warrior as making war on
evil or poverty or lawlessness. The strength as well as the
weakness of his loyalties has been their narrow range and
With the Restoration loyalty has taken a nobler form, and
if the Japanese have " taken opportunities of falling into
temptation" in the pursuit of their "manifest destiny" this
is one of many lessons taught them by Christendom. Yet
the core of their imperialism is still loyalty, and the army
itself is full of idealism. The leaven of the kingdom of God
is at work in Japan.
The virtues most natural to the Japanese and most ad-
mired by them are those which the late Emperor used to
92 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
commend to his soldiers by precept and example: loyalty,
courage, courtesy, faithfulness to duty, and simplicity of life.
It is clear that here is a character akin to that of the Christian.
But when one visits the shrine of General Nogi, a famous
exemplar of this samurai spirit, it becomes immediately
evident that these are flowers upon a different stock: for he
and his devoted wife killed themselves to accompany their
Emperor into the world of spirits, and all Japan applauded.
Hideyoshi's maxims are full of a fine spirit of courage,
resignation and steadfastness, and his letters reveal courage,
devotion to his wife and to his young son coupled with a
frank acknowledgment of his concubine, whom he asks his
wife to send to him.
It is perhaps here that Christianity is working the greatest
change in Japan. The enthusiasm of Western admirers is best
balanced by a study of what the Japanese themselves have
to say; and in their leading social reformers the old samurai
spirit is seen sublimated and deepened. In such men as
Toyohiko Kagawa and Commissioner Imamura and their
colleagues are found loyalty to the Kingdom of God:
courage in fighting entrenched evil: courtesy even to
profiteers and panders, and a faithfulness and simplicity
which are Franciscan rather than Spartan. If Francis Xavier
is the inspiration of their faithfulness, Francis of Assisi is the
pattern of their joyous simplicity. These are mighty names
in Japan, which perhaps has not yet clearly seen that these
are the samurai of Christ, and which has a strange habit of
worshipping the disciple, rather than the Master.
The following summary was recently given by Dr Ka-
gawa, novelist and social reformer, to his Chinese friends.
He is an eminent authority also in social theory, and if his
statement may seem coloured by the enthusiasm of the con-
vert and the propagandist it is one that is accepted, perhaps
with a few changes of emphasis, by Buddhist as by Western
observers. For "the great tree of Buddhism was rotten at
the core", says Dr Anesaki, and the ethic of Confucius had
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 93
made much of family duties and little of woman's place in
Now what is the difference between Buddhism and Taoism,
and Christianity in Japan? Christianity has produced seven great
changes in Japan:
I. Home Life has changed.
(a) Concubinage is dying out. In former days concubinage
was a common thing. I myself am the son of a concubine,
though my father registered me in the legitimate registration.
Now not a single one of the present cabinet ministers keeps a
concubine. Why? Because Christian teaching got the victory
over the system of polygamy.
(b) Prostitution we have had a long struggle against this evil,
and that of the licensed quarters, of which we have five hundred
and forty-five. Within the last three years we have been victori-
ous, mosdy by the efforts of Christians, to pass bills for the gradual
abolition of the licensed quarters in seven of the forty-six different
prefectures and capital districts. In still another province,
Saitama Ken, the system was completely abolished and the prosti-
tutes given their freedom at the end of last year. This effort for
purity in life is a victory for Christianity.
(c) The Divorce Rate is decreasing. Forty years ago, out of
every thousand marriages there were four hundred and thirty
divorces. Now there are only a hundred and seven, as compared
to about two hundred in New York. Why? By reason of
Christianity. This is one of the great victories of Christianity in
Japan. Though its numbers are small, Christianity has won this
great victory of purity in home life.
(d) Respect for children. In Japan children were not respected
until after Christianity came. Then respect for children came with
it. The fifth day of the fifth month is Boys' Day. We have the
big carp flying in the air. This is children's day, and all the towns
and villages everywhere commemorate it. We must reduce in-
fant mortality, and care for the children we have so many
associations now for children, imitating Christian institutions.
(e) Respect for women. Even to-day in Japan women have
small dishes and are allowed to eat very litde. But after Chris-
tianity came respect for women grew astonishingly. That in-
volves respect for home life, and leads on to respect for labour.
94 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
There is an interesting relation between these two things, respect
for women and respect for labour. In old Japan the only honour-
able word for wife was "okusama", which means "the lady
behind". It implied that a wife, to be held in honour, must be
idle all the time. This was actually the case in the old days, but
since Christianity came, women have been educated and re-
spected, and the invidious distinction between honourable wives
and working women has been abolished.
II. Respect for labour. In Japan and in the Orient, in general,
labourers and manual workers were not respected in former days,
but when Christianity came, labour began to be respected. Ten
years ago it was not yet so. I wrote an essay that year called
"Worship of the Labourers" and was fined a hundred yen. But
now we have gotten the victory. Jesus the Carpenter has gotten
III. Since Christianity came, the great achievement is the
democratic movement democracy in home life, democracy in
occupation. For instance, we have the outcaste system. In Japan
we have no slaves, but the slaves of former days were treated as
outcastes. When Christianity came the outcastes disappeared.
Inside the Christian church many weddings are now going on
with outcastes. We don't even pronounce the word. In the slums
of Kobe my chief work was with the outcastes. I also had contact
with them later in the Peasant Movement. We persuaded the
Peasant Movement to permit the outcaste group to join them.
IV. Parliamentary Rule. Mr Nakashima the first, and
Kenkichi Kataoka the second, presiding officers of the Japanese
Parliament, were Christians, earnest Christians, the latter having
once been president of Doshisha University. The democratic
movement was from the beginning led by Christians, both
nationally and locally.
V. Respect for life. There is a great deal of suicide in Japan,
fourteen thousand cases annually, but since Christianity came
there has been care for would-be suicides, and prevention of this
evil. Mr Jo in Kobe has cared for thousands of girls who tried to
VI. Respect forformerly despised occupations. Injapan butchers
were treated as outcastes, and fertilizer dealers were looked down
upon. Christianity teaches respect for occupations, because
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 95
Christianity teaches love for the poor and respect for all honest
VII. Philanthropy. Now the Buddhists are imitating us, but
Christians started and managed such philanthropic work as that
for lepers, the insane, orphans, for tne aged, reformatories for
ex-convicts, work which represents love for sinners, and the
temperance and prohibition movement which was organized
first by Mr Ando, a Christian.
In this fashion the ethical teaching of Jesus Christ, centred in
the Cross, is a glorious success in Japan. You cannot deny the
Christian victory in Japan. And I know Christianity will win.
Though the Christian victory in the economic circle may be very
slow I know it will win in China. Because it has won in Japan it
will win in China.
But great as has been the contribution of Christianity in
ennobling Japanese family life it has an even greater task in
sublimating the many noble qualities of this gifted people.
European observers are agreed from Kaempfer the Dutch
writer of the seventeenth century, a very acute mind, to
Lord Elgin in the modern period, who found himself "as
much astounded by the social and moral condition of Japan
as he was by its material beauty". "A perfectly paternal
Government: a perfectly filial people: a community entirely
self-supporting: peace within and without: no want: no
ill-will between classes. This is what I find in Japan in the
year 1858 after two hundred years' exclusion of foreign trade
and intercourse/' Can the Japanese of the twentieth century
beat their own record of the nineteenth? Their problems are
so much more complex and their temptations so much
greater that they are in fact in need of a new ideal. In
partnership with the neighbours to whom they owe so much
lies the path of victory. This involves sacrifice : as Kagawa
says "In the Cross we shall triumph".
96 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
THE SOUL OF JAPAN
I. GREAT RITUAL OF PURIFICATION
(seventh century A.D. but containing much older matter)
Give ear, all ye Imperial Princes, Ministers of State, and high
functionaries, who are here assembled, and hearken to the great
purification by which at this interlune of the sixth month are
purged and washed away all sins which may have been com-
mitted by Imperial officials and attendants whether they wear
the scarf (women) or the shoulder strap (stewards) ; whether they
bear on their back the bow, or gird on them the sword.
Of yore, our Imperial ancestors who dwell in the plain of high
heaven, summoned to an assembly the eight hundred myriads of
deities, and held divine counsel with them. And they gave com-
mand, saying, "Let our August Grandchild hold serene rule over
the land of fair rice-ears the fertile reed-plain". But in the land
thus delivered to him there were savage deities. These they
chastised with a divine chastisement, and expelled with a divine
expulsion. Moreover, the rocks, trees, and leaves of grass which
had the power of speech, were silenced. Then they despatched
him downward from his celestial, everlasting throne, cleaving as
he went with an awful way-cleaving the many-piled clouds of
heaven. Here at the middle point or the land entrusted to him,
in Yamato, the High Sun Land, the August Grandchild established
his peaceful rule and built a fair palace, basing deep on the nether-
most rock the massy pillars, and upraising to high heaven the
timbers of the roof wherewithal to shelter him from sun and sky.
Now, of the various offences to be committed by the celestial
race destined more and more to people this land of peaceful rule,
some are of heaven and others of earth. Heavenly offences 1 are
the breaking down of divisions between rice-fields, filling up of
water-courses, removing water-pipes, flaying alive, flaying back-
wards Earthly offences are the cutting of living bodies, the
cutting of dead bodies, leprosy, incest, calamities from creeping
things, from the high gods and from high birds, killing of cattle,
1 So called because committed first by the god Susa-no-wo in
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 9?
Whensoever these offences are committed, for committed they
will be, let the great Nakatomi clip heavenly twigs at the top and
clip them at the bottom, making thereof a complete array of one
thousand stands for offerings. Having trimmed rushes of heaven
at the top and trimmed them at the bottom, let them split them
into a manifold brush. Then let them recite this great liturgy.
When they do so, the gods of heaven, thrusting open the
adamantine doors of heaven and cleaving the many-piled clouds
of heaven with an awful way-cleaving, will approach and lend
ear. The gods of earth, ascending to the tops of the high mountains
and the tops of the low mountains, sweeping aside the mists of
the high mountains and the mists of the low mountains, will
approach and lend ear.
Then shall no offences remain unpurged, from the court of the
august child of the gods even to the remotest ends of the realm.
As the many-piled clouds of heaven are scattered at the breath of
the Wind Gods ; as the morning breezes and the evening breezes
disperse the morning vapours and the evening vapours ; as a huge
ship moored in a great harbour, casting off its stern moorings,
casting off its bow moorings, drives forth into the vast ocean; as
yonder thick brushwood is smitten and cleared away by the sharp
sickle forged in the fire so shall all offences be swept utterly
away. To purge and purify them, let the goddess Seoritsu-hime,
who dwells in the rapids of the swift stream whose cataracts
tumble headlong from the high mountains and from the low
mountains, bear them out into the great sea plain. There let the
goddess Haya-akitsu-hime, who dwells in the myriad ways of
the tides of the raging sea, and in the myriad meeting places of
the rides of the myriad sea paths, swallow them up, and let the
god Ibukido Nushi (the master of the spurring-out place), who
dwells in Ibukido, spurt them out away to the nether region.
Then let the goddess Haya-sasura-hime, who dwells in the nether
region, dissolve and destroy them.
They are now destroyed, and all, from the servants of the Im-
perial court down to the people in the four quarters of the realm,
are from this day forth void of offence.
Attend, all of you, with ears pricked up to the plain of high
heaven, to this great purification by which, on the interlune of
the sixth month as the sun goes down, your offences are purged
and purified. After Aston. Japanese Literature .
98 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
II. FROM THE LAWS OF Koioxu 1
(a) Rules for Officials
When you proceed to your posts, prepare registers of all free
subjects of the State and of the people under control of others,
whether great or small. Take account also of the acreage of culti-
vated land. As to the profit arising from the gardens and ponds,
the water and land, deal with them in common with the people.
Moreover, it is not competent for the provincial governors, while
in their provinces, to decide criminal cases, nor are they permitted
by accepting bribes to bring the people to poverty and misery
On all, from the rank of Hangwan downward, who accept bribes
a fine shall be imposed of double the amount, and they shall
eventually be punished criminally according to the greater or less
heinousness of the case.
Nine men are allowed as attendants on the chief governor, seven
on an assistant, and five on a secretary. If this limit is exceeded,
and they are accompanied by a greater number, both chief and
followers shall be punished criminally.
(b) Regulations on Burial Customs
Let small stones be used for the tombs of all from the rank of
Prince down to that of Shochi, and let white cloth be used for the
hangings. . . .
When a man dies, there have been cases of people sacrificing
themselves by strangulation, or of strangling others by way of
sacrifice, or of compelling the dead man's horse to be sacrificed,
or of burying valuables in the graves in honour of the dead, or of
cutting the hair, and stabbing the thighs and pronouncing an
eulogy on the dead. Let all such old customs be entirely dis-
A certain book says: "No gold or silver, no silk brocades, and
no coloured stuffs are to be buried". Again it is said: "From the
ministers of all ranks down to the common people, it is not
allowed to use gold or silver ". Shall there be any cases of this
decree being disregarded and these prohibitions infringed, the
relations shall surely receive punishment.
1 After M. Anesaki.
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 99
III. FROM THE EDICT OF SnoMU 1
(eighth century A.D.)
If there be any of our number who are unkind to parents, or
neglectful or disobedient, we will not conceal it or condone it,
but will report it
We shall require children to respect their parents, servants to
obey their masters, husbands and wives and brothers and sisters
to live together in harmony, and the younger people to revere
and to cherish their elders Each kumi (group of five house-
holds) shall carefully watch over the conduct of its members, so
as to prevent wrongdoing.
If any member of a kumi, whether farmer, merchant, or artizan,
is lazy, and does not attend properly to his business, the ban-
gashira (chief officer) will advise him, warn him, and lead him
into better ways. If the person does not listen to this advice, and
becomes angry and obstinate, he is to be reported to the toshiyori
When men who are quarrelsome and who like to indulge in
late hours away from home will not listen to admonition, we will
report them. If any other kumi neglects to do this, it will be part
of our duty to do it for them. . . .
All those who quarrel with their relatives, and refuse to listen
to their good advice, or disobey their parents, or are unkind to
their fellow-villagers, shall be reported (to the village officers)
Dancing, wrestling, and other public shows shall be forbidden.
Singing- and dancing-girls and prostitutes shall not be allowed to
remain a single night in the mura (village).
Quarrels among the people shall be forbidden. In case of dis-
pute the matter shall be reported. If this is not done, all parties
jhall be indiscriminately punished
Speaking disgraceful things of another man, or publicly posting
^im as a bad man, even if he is so, is forbidden.
Filial piety and faithful service to a master should be a matter
)f course ; but when there is any one who is especially faithful and
liligent in these things, we promise to report him... for re-
:ommendation to the government. . . .
As members of a kumi we will cultivate friendly feeling even
nore than with our relatives, and will promote each other's
1 G. B. Sansom. Op. tit.
zoo THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
happiness, as well as share each other's griefs. If there is an un-
principled or lawless person in a kumi, we will all share the
responsibility for him.
The above are samples of the moral regulations only: there
were even more minute regulations about other duties for
When a fire occurs, the people shall immediately hasten to the
spot, each bringing a bucketful of water, and shall endeavour,
under direction of the officers, to put the fire out Those who
absent themselves shall be deemed culpable.
When a stranger comes to reside here, enquiries shall be made
as to the mura whence he came, and a surety shall be furnished
by him. . . . No traveller shall lodge, even for a single night, in a
house other than a public inn.
News of robberies and night attacks shall be given by the ring-
ing of bells or otherwise; and all who hear shall join in pursuit,
until the offender is taken. Any one wilfully refraining, shall, on
investigation, be punished.
IV. A NINTH CENTURY PROCLAMATION 1
Hearken ye all to the Word of the Sovereign Prince of Yamato
that is a Manifest God, saying :
A report has been made to Us that in the East of this land which
We rule from the throne of Heavenly Sun Succession, Gold has
Now We, considering that of all the various Laws the Great
Word of Buddha is the most excellent for protecting the State,
did desire to place the Great Scripture called Saisho-kyo, and
images of Roshana Buddha in all the various countries under Our
rule, so that by praying to the Gods that dwell in Heaven and the
Gods that dwell in Earth, and by worshipping the reigns (sic) of
our Distant Sovereign Ancestors, whose names are to be spoken
with awe, We might guide and lead the people and serve with
such a heart that Evil would cease and Good arise, and Peril would
change and become Peace indeed. But people doubted and
thought this could not be, and We Ourself grieved because We
thought there would not be enough Gold. Yet now the Three
Treasures have vouchsafed this excellent and divine Great Sign
1 G. B. Sansom. Op. cit.
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 101
of the Word, and We think that this is a thing manifested by the
guidance and grace of the Gods that dwell in Heaven and the Gods
that dwell on Earth and likewise by the love and kindness of the
August Sovereign Spirits,
Therefore We have joyfully received it and reverently re-
ceived it, and not knowing whether to go forward or backward,
night and day We have humbly reflected, thinking that whereas
such a thing might come to pass in the reign of a King wise in the
cherishing and soothing of the people, We are indeed ashamed
and overcome with thankfulness because it has been manifested
in Our time, who are unworthy and unskilled.
Shall We alone, therefore, receive this Great and Precious
Sign? Nay, it is right that We should humbly receive it and
accept it in rejoicing together with Our people. And inasmuch
as We, even as a God, do so consider, We will cherish and
reward them All and We will add words to the name of this
To all the Gods, beginning with the Shrine (s) of the Great
God(s) We will present rice-lands, and to all their Wardens We
make gifts. To the temples We will allow land to cultivate and
to all monks and nuns We pay homage and make gifts. Newly-
built temples which can become public temples We make into
public temples. To some among the Keepers of the August Tombs
We will make gifts. Further, in those places where are (the tombs
of) subjects who have excelled in serving the Realm and guarding
the State, We will set up monuments which as long as Heaven
and Earth endure shall not be dishonoured or defiled by men.
And as to the children of those of Our subjects who have served
us as Ministers, according to the manner of their service their sons
have been rewarded but their daughters are not rewarded. But
are men alone to bear their fathers' names, and women not to be
called thereby? We consider that it is right for them to serve to-
gether side by side. We reward you therefore, so that, neither
mistaking nor neglecting the teachings imparted by your fathers
that you might become as they desired nor letting their house
decay, you may serve the Sovereign Court.
102 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
We will reward aged persons, and We will grant favour to
poor persons. In the case of persons of filial piety We will grant
exemptions and bestow rice-lands.
We will pardon criminals and We will reward (scribes?) and
We will reward also those who found the Gold, and the
Governor of the province of Michinoku and the officials of the
District, and (all) down to the peasants. All the peasants of the
Realm We will cherish and love.
V. ETHICS OF LATER SHINTO
(twelfth century [?] After Aston, "Shinto")
If ye deserve our aid put away pride.
Even a hair of pride shuts you out
As it were a vast cloud.
Oracle of the God of Kasuga.
(b) Inner Rectitude
If that which is within be not bright
It is vain to pray for that which is without.
Oracle of Tatsuta.
All ye who come seeking the attainment of desire
Pray with hearts purified from falsehood:
Reflecting truth as a mirror
Be ye clean within and without.
Oracle of the God Tetnman-Tenji.
(d) Purity of Heart
To keep the heart uncontaminated, that is God:
Like unto heaven it is a gift of earth to men.
Revelation to the Emperor Seiwa.
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 103
It is the upright heart of all men
Which is one with the Most High,
In heaven and upon earth itself
The false and crooked have no place.
Revelation to a Prince.
(/) Compassion 1
ye who worship here be filled with Compassion
For beggars and lepers even for ants and crickets.
Whoso extends his pity and charity
Will have his life immeasurably prolonged.
VI. THE CONFESSION OF SHINRAN
Though I seek refuge in the True Faith
Yet is my heart not sincere:
Deceit and untruth are in my flesh,
And in my soul is no clear light.
Too strong for me is the evil of my heart;
My soul is full of the poison of serpents,
Even my righteous deeds are tainted with it,
And must be called the works of lies.
There is no compassion in my soul
The good of men is not dear in my eyes,
And I am impotent in right-doing :
Did I not find refuge in His Grace
1 should die the death of the shameless.
After S. Yamabe. Wisdom of the East Series.
VII. THE FAITH OF NICHIREN IN EXILE
Is it not by forging and firing that the rough iron is tempered
into a sharp sword ? Are not rebuffs and persecutions a refining
1 Hachiman is God of War, and this passage suggests Buddhist
influence All these oracles reveal mainland ideas.
104 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
In exile I may burn away accumulated sins. The world is full
of faithless men, and such men rule our land to-day....
It is said "The protection of the gods is for them who are
strong and prepared". The scripture is a sharp sword, and yet it
is useless unless we use it aright. Be strong, and discipline your
minds. Be steadfast in the faith.
(After M. Anesaki.)
VIII. IDEALS OF THE POETS
Serving our Sovran-Lord at sea,
Leave we our bodies to its waves :
Serve we our sovran too by land,
Leaving them on the bloody heath.
Rejoice to die in our dread Sovran's cause
Nor backward cast a lingering glance.
(b) Resignation and Disloyalty
(A deserted wife speaks)
My breaking heart I lament not,
But bow to Destiny.
But thou hast broken solemn Vows :
The Gods absolve and pity thee.
(c) Sic transit
(An archbishop on his promotion)
Unfit to rule in an evil world,
With its false pomp and pride;
O might I find a humble hut
Far up the lonely mountain-side
And there in monkish black abide.
The first poem is from the Mannyo-shu or " Collection of a
Myriad Leaves", belonging to the eighth century: the other two
are from the thirteenth-century Hyaku-nin-shu or "Verses of a
Hundred Poets". These and other versions are by the present
author unless otherwise acknowledged.
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 105
IX. HIDEYOSHI'S MAXIMS AND MORALS
(a) From a scroll kept at Nikko
Life is like a long journey with a heavy pack. Let thy pace be
slow and sure. Stumble not. Know that hardship is man's
natural lot and there is no place for grumbling or despair. When
vaulting ambition rears itself remember days of adversity. For-
bearance is the root of quietness and steadfastness. Look on wrath
as thine enemy. If thou knowest only victory, woe unto thee,
ill fortune awaits thee. Blame thyself not others.
(b) From a letter to his ivife about his concubine Yodo
We have the enemy like birds in a cage and are in no danger.
Pray set your mind at rest.
I long for the young Lord my son, but must not yield for the
sake of the future.
I am looking after my health and even having moxa (cautery).
I am telling the daimy5 they may send for their wives, and I
want Yodo. Please make arrangements for her journey, and tell
her that next to you she is my favourite.
From G. B. Sansom. JapHri.
X. ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE IN THE
They are well and firmly ruled, united and peaceful: schooled
to give due worship to the Gods, due obedience to the laws, due
submission to their overlords, due love and consideration to their
neighbours. Civil, kindly, courageous and virtuous they excel
all nations in art and industry. Possessed of an excellent territory,
enriched by trade and commerce, at home they are abundantly
provided with all the necessities of life.
106 THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE
XL IMPERIAL AIMS
(From the Coronation Rescript of 1928)
It is Our resolve to promote, within, the education and ad-
vancement of our people, moral and material that there may be
harmony and contentment, power and prosperity, and, without,
to cultivate friendly relations with all peoples, that the peace of
the world and the welfare of humanity may be assured. We call
on You, Our beloved Subjects, to be of one mind, and forgetting
selfish aims in the public service, to work with one accord, to
help Us attain our Ideals:
So may we in some measure add to the illustrious traditions,
and with good conscience face the Heavenly Spirits, of Our
XII. PROVERBS OF JAPAN
Though you lock the door ever so securely trouble will find a
Even in a village of eight there's generally a patriot to be found.
The second word makes the fray.
In the house where the samisen is played all day long there will
be little rice in the larder.
All colours are the same to a blind man.
It's no use cutting a stick when the fight is over.
Virtue carries a lean purse.
A bad daughter-in-law is worse than a thousand devils.
Crafty eyes and loose lips were never modelled on the face of
He who hunts two hares, leaves one and loses the other.
If there are two fires in one room, both will smoke.
He who buys what he needs not, sells what he needs.
If every day was a sunny day who would not wish for rain?
It is difficult to be strong and not be rash.
It's generally the wickedest man who knows the nearest path
to the shrine.
When all men praised the peacock for his beautiful tail, the
birds cried out with one consent, "Look at his legs! and what a
THE ETHICS OF THE JAPANESE 107
Make your plans for the year at the beginning; correct your
wife from the first day.
A lie has no legs, but scandalous wings.
Never follow on the heels of a sorrow or it may turn back.
Game is cheaper in the market, but sweeter in the field.
Valiancy and boastfulness never buckle on the same sword.
Avoid three things a snake, a smooth-tongued man, and a
If you pray to a Buddha, pray to one only.
If a man steals gold he's put in prison; if he steals a land he's
A perfect vase never came from a bad potter's wheel.
The bosoms of the wise are the tombs of secrets.
The tongue of woman is her sword, which never rusts.
A good rat will not eat the grain near its own hole.
Fall seven times, stand up the eighth time.
Cold tea and cold rice are bearable; but cold looks and cold
words are unendurable.
The heron's a saint when there are no fish about.
The bird that offers itself to the net is fair game to the fowler.
Learning without wisdom is a load of books on an ass's back.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
"Man is the measure of all things." PROTAGORAS
For the study of the ethical ideals of the Greeks the historical
background may be simplified as follows. After the fall of
the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations there came a dark
age, during which feudal aristocracies took the place of the
earlier monarchies. During these centuries, the tenth and
the ninth B.C., the Aegean peoples were strengthened by
successive invasions of northern groups. This movement
continued for the next two centuries, and it is during this
period of discovery and adventure that the city-states are
developed, independent, yet bound together by a common
religion, and a growing sentiment of cultural unity. All
Greeks for instance went to the sacred places, many of which
were identical with those of the earlier civilizations, such as
Delphi and Olympia. Here and elsewhere great religious
festivals were held, including athletic and musical contests
open only to Greeks, and these played a great part in build-
ing up a national patriotism, side by side with that of the
During the seventh and sixth centuries powerful tyrants
began to take the place of hereditary clan-chiefs, and these
men did much for the prosperity and for the culture of their
cities, till by the end of the sixth century Greek art reaches
one great stage in its development, and early philosophy is
eagerly pursuing its quest, while new political experiments
are being tried, and new forms of literature developed.
In the fifth century Greece is threatened by the great
empire of Persia in the east and by Carthage in the west.
Within the city-states the tyrants have in many cases been
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 109
overthrown, and democracies established. There is a strong
sense of individualism and independence which has its value,
but which prevents union against common foes. The
victories of Marathon (490 B.C.), Salamis (480), Plataea
(479), decided the fate of Greece, as of Persia, and were
followed by a golden age which we know as the Age of
Pericles. The second half of the fifth century was indeed the
climax for the second period of Greek civilization, as the end
of the sixth was that of the first period. Athens became the
head of the confederacy of Delos, and in 446 a thirty-year
peace was signed between her and the peoples of Pelopon-
nesus; but in 431 began a long war in which Sparta Was
victorious and the Athenian dream of an empire was at an
end. This is the time of great dramatists like Euripides and
Aristophanes, of the historianThucydides and the philosopher
Socrates, the ideal man of the ancient world: a time of in-
dividualism and of questioning. Many of its questions are
still unanswered, but the inspiration of its great teachers is
still a mighty force.
During the fourth century Thebes assumed the leadership,
and local jealousies continued until the Macedonians under
Philip (359-336 B.C.) and Alexander (336-323 B.C.) con-
quered the whole of Greece, and the Hellenistic Age was
ushered in. The inspiration of Greek thought was thus
carried far afield. Through his tutor Aristotle Alexander is
the pupil of Socrates and of Euripides, who gave content to
his dream of uniting East and West.
During this period of about seven centuries, the Greeks
developed their characteristic ideals, the love of knowledge,
the spirit of inquiry, the genius for mathematics and for
philosophical speculation. They also developed the civic
ideal so admirably described by Thucydides, an ideal of
loyalty and patriotism within narrow limits, and the personal
ideals of temperance, justice and harmony which were to
become classical for subsequent ages.
no THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
As in India, so in Greece, archaeology is revealing ancient
civilizations long buried. Apparently the lonians of Homeric
times were as little aware of what lay beneath them and
behind them, the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures of the
third and second millennia B.C., as their cousins the Aryan
invaders of India of the older civilizations of the Indus
Valley. We cannot doubt that in each case the invaders
learned from their predecessors some concepts of tfie gods
and of their images, 1 and some folk-ways in which were the
germs of new moral ideals. Yet the great past is but a dim
background, and our study begins with the Homeric poems
of the Greeks, as it begins with the Vedic hymns of the early
Indians. Both collections belong to about 1000 B.C., and
both embody much earlier material. Both are in fact an-
thologies of poetry recited first at the camp-fire, and later at
the courts of chieftains. These collections are a notable
source-book for the ideals of the laymen of those early ages,
all the more valuable for their naivete and for the blending
of the high and noble with the ignoble and crude. As early
India distinguishes between straight and crooked so early
Greece between dikaios, true to oneself, and adikos, untrue
or simply right or straight and wrong or crooked. 2 In both
there is a sense of joy in the adventure of the invaders who
are in love with their new fatherland and believe that the
gods are on their side in the struggle to possess and master it.
These gods are of heroic stature, yet often less moral than
their worshippers just, but also unjust, punishing evil, but
also committing it. If an Indra is a drunkard and a parricide
Zeus the mighty Ruler of Mount Olympus no less reflects
the character of an Ionic warrior chief, and for many centuries
the poets and philosophers of the Greeks are to seek to
1 In India and Greece alike a primitive mother-goddess is taken over
by the invader, as well as phallic symbols and fertility rituals.
2 Gradually the idea emerges that adikia is untruth falsity to one's
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS in
moralize their gods, and often to suffer for their con-
In the Homeric poems themselves there is a dim feeling
after a higher ideal, and it may well be that they represent
the fusion of a higher and a lower stage of religious develop-
ment. There emerges, for instance, behind and above the
immortals, the concept of moira (Fate), usually thought of
as impersonal, sometimes embodied in the will of a god. It
is like the rita of the Rig- Veda and unlike it: for there is no
one god who is consistently moral like Varuna, to be its
guardian and embodiment. It is the ultimate Power, a moral
Order. There is emerging too a sense that men are responsible
for their own sufferings. "How vainly do mortal men
blame us gods", says Zeus, "for to us they trace evil, where-
as in the blindness of their heart they bring sorrow on them-
selves, beyond what is ordained." 1 This is undoubtedly an
early passage, and the idea is taken up in later books that it
is not Fate nor the Gods, but man's own sin which brings
evil upon him. 2 In this the Greeks are in advance of their
contemporaries in Israel.
The men of these early poems have the good qualities of
an early civilization hospitality, loyalty, courage, gener-
osity; and in these we can trace the roots of those great
virtues which the Greeks have given to mankind in their
most articulate and harmonious form. Yet the heroes of the
epics are crafty as well as generous, moral cowards at times
as well as physically brave, and family honour, to which they
are sensitive, is often sullied. They belong to a time of tran-
sition and unsettlement. The demoralization due to a long
war may be one cause of the confusion, but these mixed
qualities belong also to modern men. And it is easy to find
parallels in modern Greece to the cosmopolitan and crafty
Odysseus, and to the simpler and more honest Achilles. And
if we cannot admire the chief actors in the Odyssey, "the sly
cattish wife, the cold-blooded egoist Odysseus, and die
1 Odyssey, I, 32fF. * Ibid, xxn,
ii2 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
priggish son" as its latest translator says, yet on the whole
the Homeric Age is one of a robust morality; its heroes are
good friends and bad enemies. 1 For the rest we can discover
the germ of that moderation in word and in deed which was
to develop into the balance or harmony (metron) of later
Greek ideals; and there are also the twin-concepts of nemesis,
righteous indignation against the violation of social bonds,
and aides, a sense of fitness respect for the respect of the
respectworthy, as we might translate it. So hubris, its
opposite, is wilful disrespect for social or religious duty. But
these are symbols impossible to translate in an age with such
different views of God and man. How, for instance, shall
we render sophrosyne, 2 that sense of sobriety and modesty
and discretion which is also here in germ, and which is soon
to develop into another cardinal virtue? So it is with arete,
all-round perfection or excellence, whether in war or in
peace; for the good man must be a good fighter, loyal to
home and country and friends, and a remorseless enemy. 3
Our idea of Virtue has changed as that of the Greeks them-
selves was to change, and the word itself has no longer the
meaning of manliness suggested by its original form and
its Latin equivalent.
As to truth and justice, here again new ideals are
emerging: "I hate him like Hell who hides one thing in his
mind and says another with his tongue", cries Achilles; but
lying was very common; and we do not gather that the
early Greeks were taught to speak the truth as were their
cousins the Persians. The very fact that Herodotus tells us
that lying was held to be the most disgraceful thing in the
world among the Persians suggests that the emphasis was
not so strong among his own people. Yet part of the moral
reformation of the Greeks lay in their gradually awakening
sense that the crafty Odysseus was not altogether admirable,
1 "In his wrath the Homeric hero is a savage", says Dr A. C. Pearson.
2 In the Charmides Plato fails to define it.
3 Cf. //. xxn, 62; OJ. vm, 528.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 113
and Plato laid the axe to the root of much error in the ancient
religion and morals when he insisted that " truth is the be-
ginning of every good thing, both in gods and in men". 1
We remember that St Paul, like Asoka, had to insist that
"truth must be spoken", and we are still far from realizing
this ideal. The world still practises the proverb in Aeschylus,
"gain is sweet though it be got by lies".
It is impossible and even a little ridiculous to seek an
ordered ethic in these early poems, nor need we suppose that
Homer really admired his "blameless " Aegisthus, a murderer.
He is content to sing of a spontaneous and vigorous age in
which women are more honoured than in later Greece, and
slaves and children are kindly treated. A wonderful direct-
ness and simplicity mark the thought and the speech of
Homeric times, and these are qualities which were to lead
the Greeks far in the quest of truth and beauty. Already
their passionate love of the fatherland is preparing them for
its twin-loyalty that love of Hellenism or of the Greek
spirit, which is just this love of the True and the Beautiful.
Homeric Greece is gathering the spiritual forces for an
amazing efflorescence. If there is no intimate connection yet
between religion and ethics, the germ is present in that
hubris (Insolence) is seen to be the root of evil, and is op-
posed to sebas (Reverence). The gods will reward the one
and punish the other, for from Insolence spring the calami-
ties which overwhelm men and countries.
This is worked out in Hesiod's Works and Days written in
the seventh century to admonish his brother Perses for oust-
ing him from his heritage; and with Hesiod Greece enters
upon a more articulate, if more commonplace, ethical ideal.
With him we pass from the rich tapestry of heroic times to
the homespun of everyday life. War had done its worst,
and life was no longer as spontaneous and cheerful as in the
heroic days. From the courts of princes we have passed to
the dry and barren countryside of Boeotia, and the life of the
1 Laws, v, 730.
ii4 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
common people is hard. Men are corrupt and nature
grudging. The poet administers a homely remedy:
It is not work that is shameful, but idleness:
Be not a drone, but love seemly work:
Before virtue the Gods have set the goal of sweat and toil:
Long and steep is the road, and rough at the first, but when the
top is reached it becomes easier to the feet. 1
Here Hesiod reaches true poety, as well as sound morality.
His praise of justice, too, is noteworthy; she is Zeus' own
child, and has his ear, aided by a thousand spies, and though
"she may delay her coming she comes surely to punish evil"
Men have entered upon the Iron Era which followed several
others : that of Gold, when they dwelt in unity; that of Silver,
when they waxed so insolent and careless that they were
wiped out by Zeus, and were followed by savages of the
Bronze Race, who in turn gave place to the Heroes who died
in the war against Thebes, and are dwelling now in the Is-
lands of the Blest. This Iron Race is one of mixed good and
evil, for hubris is again mounting the throne, and aidos is
fading away once more from earth. One of die oft-recurring
cliches of the Greeks is that * ' man must think man's thoughts
in temperance and sanity.
As in the Homeric Age the sanctity of the oath and the
duty of hospitality to the stranger have in them germs of
greater things, so the insistence here upon righteous conduct
and hard work reveals a more reflective stage.
But we find in Hesiod also many of the superstitions and
tabus of the countryside belief in omens and lucky days,
and in the interdependence of prosperity and piety. This dies
hard even in a disillusioned age. Side by side went on die old
Chthonic rituals of fertility, and new orgies in honour of the
Phrygian Dionysus god of vegetation and wine, and these
let loose a spirit of carnival very different from the modera-
tion of the civic cults which continued Homeric worship.
1 Works and Days.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 115
Such was the Panathenaia, when a new robe was presented
to the goddess, and officials recited Homeric hymns. The
Pan-Hellenic games brought the city-states together and
fostered national sentiment. Zeus and Apollo belong to all
alike, and a clash of loyalties begins between the city and the
country as a whole. At this time too the Sophists begin to
distinguish between laws human and divine, and even to
suggest that custom rather than necessity is the basis of
morals. They found different attitudes to the same thing in
Sparta and in Athens, and a growing tendency to criticize.
Thus Spartans accuse Athenians of pampering not only
themselves but their slaves, and before long Athens is to
make great claims as representing the ideal State. Ideals of
virtue are in the making.
Dikaiosyne is conceived as civic justice and discipline.
While Sparta made much of this Athens boasted of greater
freedom and spontaneity, and this is still more, as in ancient
China, a gift of the countryside.
We should note also that even in Homeric times there is
a great difference between the man controlled by the mores
of small communities like Achilles, and the cosmopolitan
port-dweller Odysseus. This distinction may still be fairly
made and it has apparently been continuous. If we knew
more we should probably be more cautious in generaliza-
Yet for the sake of clarity we may schematize the cultural
as we have the general history of the Greeks : all the great
thinkers are seeking truth, goodness and beauty, but as the
emphasis differs three great lines of torch-bearers are seen
threading their way amongst the crowds and down the
First are the men of science seeking the truth about the
universe, men of analytical mind, from Thales on for nearly
a thousand years ; next come those of intuitive or poetic
genius seeking the unseen beauty, from the first rhapsodists
or bards down to the great tragedian Euripides; and some-
ii6 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
rimes mingling with these two processions, sometimes
distinct, are the moral teachers seeking goodness and defining
the good life.
The lay-folk from statesman and ruler to citizen and helot
are more or less affected by this long search, and in the drama
and the laws much of this idealism filters down among the
masses, and is crystallized in proverb and aphorism. An
early pessimism for instance coins such phrases as "Better
not to be born"; and an early fatalism makes man bow to the
Thus the gnomic utterances of the Seven Wise Men reveal
increasing depth and a closer union between religion and
morality. But morals are of slow growth, and there is still
in Greece as in Palestine and India confusion between moral
and ritual cleanness, and confused ideals of the nature of men
and gods. But in all three countries the problem of pain and
suffering is becoming acute, and men are seeking to probe
below the surface of things to ultimate reality.
If in contemporary Israel it is the prophets who vindicate
God's righteousness and set up a high moral ideal for men,
it is the early poets and philosophers who are the first torch-
bearers of Greece. The drama which is to play so great
a part in moral education begins in the cult of Dionysus,
and in that Orphic religion which seems to have come in
from Thrace, and to have brought with it another view
of man's nature, and of God as dwelling in all things. Like
Vishnu in India, Zeus is conceived by such groups not as
the Ruler of Olympus but as "the beginning and the end,
male and female, the breath of life, the pillar of the earth and
sky, the lightning flash and the light of sun and moon".
Man is of the earth earthy, yet also of heaven heavenly. He
is spirit which is to be freed from the entangling flesh, as in
the Indian sankhya, or it will go on forever transmigrating
from body to body. To free it the right food must be eaten.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 117
and the right ritual observed; but oaths must also be kept,
and life is sacrosanct. These ideas were developed by such
teachers as the Ionian Pythagoras, who about 530 B.C.
gathered a band of disciples in South Italy, teaching that man
is intermediate between gods and animals, capable of a love
of wisdom and so assimilable to Godhead.
As in India so in the Greek world philosophy begins with
teaching salvation, and the disciples of Pythagoras are much
like those of his contemporary Sakyamuni. Like them these
wandering teachers accepted the doctrine of rebirth, but
sought to moralize it, and to find salvation from it in a moral
way of life. Meditation, silence and obedience are enjoined
upon both companies in their quest for Wisdom. And for
both groups man is free, and can find his highest happiness
in goodness. Greece, like India, is travailing to bring forth
a new and more inward concept of truth and beauty. She
is also, in pioneers like Thales and his disciples at Miletus,
laying the foundations of scientific investigation. Here are
the twin roots of her culture.
And as in contemporary India there is in the early thought
of the Greeks a na'ive mingling of science and poetry: "all
things are made of water" says Thales, but also "all things
are made of gods".
Slowly there emerges the metaphysical concept of the
One behind the Many, the Abiding amidst the Changing,
and in such figures as Heracleitus Greece produces another
interesting parallel to Sakyamuni. Both insist that all things
are a flux of becoming, and oppose older and more static
views of the world. Both teach that in man's character is his
destiny. Both lived in an age of rapid change, and must be
understood in the light of these changes political, social and
religious. And as in contemporary China men were busy
discussing amidst so much that was transitional the true
nature of reality, of goodness, of human nature and of political
institutions. These questions were far from academic, and if
the Sophists got a bad name it was because they were popu-
ii8 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
larizers who appKed knowledge to practice, and lived on
The city-dwellers pass during the sixth century from mon-
archy to oligarchy and tyranny is at an end. In Solon we
reach constitutional rule. He was appointed by general con-
sent; but he had to defend his efforts on behalf of the poor,
and under Peisistratus there was a revival of tyranny. But the
spirit of democracy triumphed, and Solon's constitutional
government became the norm for Athens.
Their own more settled life calls out higher moral stand-
ards in the light of which they criticize the gods of Homer,
and defeat at the hands of the Persians makes them question
old dogmas and axioms, and look to the roots of trouble in
themselves. In Xenophanes, rhapsodist and wandering
teacher, such criticism finds an early voice, and a very
Homer and Hesiod, he teaches, had led men into theft and
cheating and adultery: gods must not be conceived in human
But "beneath the ruins of the temple which he destroyed
he found another and an older sanctuary", says Gomperz:
" there is one above all others whose thoughts are not men's
thoughts nor his form mortal". 1
Xenophanes was also a pioneer in natural science, even
collecting fossils and deducing from them an evolutionary
theory of the earth's crust, and this he applies to moral
Man too must advance to maturity not by sudden flashes
of revelation, but by steady effort and orderly stages. He
reminds us of Hsun-tse in China and of Thomas Huxley in the
modern world. "He was at once a sower and a reaper. With
one hand he sowed the seed from which a stately tree was
to rise in the forest of Greek speculation: with the other
hand he sharpened the axe which was to fell not that tree
alone but many another mighty trunk." 2
1 Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, E.T., p. 160. 2 Ibid. p. 164.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 119
It was a new era which was at hand the dawn of a new
unity and of a new inwardness in religion and ethics.
The gnomic sayings are symbols and summaries of this
new spirit. The aphorism " Nothing in excess" sounds a key-
note; and another saying "Know thyself", written with it on
the shrines of Apollo at Delphi, reveals a new inwardness in
religious and moral thought. Pindar (522-442 B.C.) em-
phasizes sophrosyne and develops the old doctrine that in-
solence is the child of excess and the parent of pain. He also
fosters the growing ideal of the aristocrat the kaloskagathos
which was to dominate later ages. It may be compared
with the Chinese ideal of the scholar, Chun-tse, and con-
veniently studied in Aristotle. As the athletic contests grew
in popularity physical beauty became a craze, and education
in Greece as in China was based on music, athletics and
literary studies. The gentleman proud and noble was the
ideal, and arete (all-round excellence) was the goal.
In 538 B.C. public competitions in producing "tragedies"
were set up by Peisistratus of Athens, and with them a new
educational medium of far-reaching power was developed.
If the Greek gentleman, like his peer in China, was educated
at the expense of the masses he gave back much in the form
of the theatre. It began a revolution in thought, and was to
educate the people in history and in theology. But the
change was of slow growth. Even Pindar feels that "Heaven
is brass", and that man cannot know the " Way of Destiny " ;
but he can steer a middle path, and drink "the sweet hope
which lies in piety and justice": looking for a happier re-
birth and ultimate deliverance. But Pindar's successors, the
great dramatists, more truly express the new era: Aeschylus,
orthodox and pious, who yet voices the questions of an age
of doubt and sadness: Euripides, rebel and individualist who
uses old myths to embody realistic modern interpretations,
and to voice urgent moral problems such as that "of the
wronged wife and the broken home": and Sophocles who
"standing midway between his rivals in point of actual time,
120 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
represents also a kind of mean between their literary
qualities" and religious attitudes. His characters are ideal
types, and have been compared to the statues of his con-
temporary Pheidias. "His poetry is to that of Aeschylus as
the chiselled delicacy of the Ionic temple beside the rugged
grandeur of the Doric." 1 And if Euripides is not so classically
perfect as either he is more realistic and "modern" which
is another way of saying more rebellious. All three must be
seen in their historic setting.
Pious acceptance of the justice of Heaven was for a time
easy. Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.) who fought at Marathon,
Salamis and Plataea had learned in these heroic days that
there is a law of righteousness working out in human affairs.
Punishment is linked with sin, not because Zeus is capricious,
but because he is just; man must beware of evil company
and of those false steps which give a foothold to Fate, and
bring a dread harvest of sorrow. Acted at religious festivals,
the great tragedies of this age are full of religious and
ethical teaching. Zeus is not only all-seeing and all-
powerful, but the most perfect of beings. Though his will is
hard to trace, yet it shines at times through the darkness, and
men can dimly discern a mighty purpose as the divine will,
without effort and tireless, works out its plan.
The essence of sin is as of old Insolence, which "bursts into
blossom and yields its harvest, Delusion, bearing tearful
fruit", and the dread harvest may be reaped by whole
families, for men are bound together in the bundle of life.
Yet there are unplumbed depths of mystery. If in the victory
over Xerxes men can read Heaven's doom upon overween-
ing pride, there is much suffering that remains unexplained.
In the Persae Aeschylus vindicates the justice of Zeus but
in the Prometheus, which has been compared with the "Book
of Job", the problem of undeserved suffering is frankly
faced. "These are the two protests of the ancient world
against divine oppression." For if Job is innocent so is
1 C. E. Robinson, The Genius of the Greek Drama, p. 9.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 121
Prometheus, whose only sin is that "he loved mortals over-
much". He is, in fact, the ideal type of the Athenian
courageous and determined, but also gentle and compassion-
ate "moved by a chivalrous, a romantic impulse to redress
the wrongs of the world tender as well as magnanimous". 1
Aeschylus gives us other great types of archaic and rugged
power, and is as robust as Ezekiel in proclaiming that suffer-
ing is not inherited but earned.
I alone of men will still maintain
A doctrine new that sin's the root
And sinners are the natural fruit,
As Pride engenders Pride again ;
But then ancestral Righteousness
Begets fair sons their kin to bless. 2
It is not that "the parents have eaten sour fruit and the
children's teeth are set on edge" to use Ezekiel's caustic
rendering of an older teaching but that the bad have bad
children; and this is offset by the doctrine, equally untrue,
that the good beget good ones. Theology still clouds ob-
If Aeschylus excites and thrills us with the unsolved
problem of these dread calamities, he leaves us with a con-
viction that even if it seems to halt "justice is guiding all
things to their goal",3 and his successor, Sophocles (497-
405 B.C.), seeks to bring us back to harmony and peace by
contemplation of the divine splendour. A gentle and lovable
character, he sees that in piety, discretion and reverence
lies the root of goodness; and he sets forth the view that to
obey Heaven is to be "sinless in word and deed, governed
by the sure laws which rule on high". God is tempering and
purifying man in the fires of suffering: and, recognizing that
the world and its glory are passing, man must learn to be
kind as well as just; there is a Divine Law above all human
laws, and it is better to obey God than man. Zeus rules in
1 S. H. Butcher, Harvard Lectures, p. 20.
1 Agamemnon, 749. 3 Agamemnon, 773.
122 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
Heaven and sees all things. Men must have courage to
endure. Through suffering life can be made glorious, and
human society may yet embody the divine will.
In the Antigone he raises the question of the conflict of
human and divine laws, of love and duty, of the struggle
between conscience and the state. Creon, misled by too
great patriotism, breaks the human and divine law by re-
fusing burial to Polynices. Antigone obeys God rather than
man, and suffers the penalty, her lover, Creon's son,
dying on her tomb: and "the Chamber of Love is the
House of the Dead". 1 The poet himself speaks most clearly
in the aged Oedipus, whose serenity in suffering is the
promise of release in Heaven. 2 This note of resignation
reflects the chastened mood of Athens plunged from the
heights of victory, and from the buoyant mood of the
Periclean age into shame and despair.
in the brief half-century after Salamis she had achieved
glorious things in politics, art and architecture, and now de-
feated, first by Sparta and then by Macedon, she was to
achieve yet greater things in thought. Euripides (485-
407 B.C.) was, like Socrates and Plato, the teacher of a
saddened and sobered people, driven to seek higher things
than worldly success. But the cost was great. If Sophocles
in gentle melancholy cries
Best beyond all reckoning it is not to be born,'*
Euripides says bluntly
Greet the newborn child with dirges,
Sing paeans o'er the body freed by death.
As in India reflection breeds melancholy, and Euripides
has seen the transiency of human achievement, defeat
abroad and fratricidal war are followed by revolution at
home; the rich grow fat at the expense of the poor, and
standards of morality waver. Euripides sounds a sturdy
1 Antigone, see Illustrative Reading ix.
2 Oed. Col 3 Qed. Col 1225.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 123
protest against Sophocles' serene piety. Against the older
Nothing is wrong that Heaven commands,
we have the defiance of Euripides
If gods do ill they are no gods. 1
The mouthpiece of a higher religion Euripides is also the
voice of a new humanism, with its interest in the poor and
the slave, and its blending of high emotion and calm reason.
His heroic figures the magnanimous Theseus, the chaste
Hippolytus, Alcestis perfect wife and mother are at once
ideal and real, more modern than the archaic forms of
Aeschylus, more god-like than the gods. Euripides finds
Justice not in some heavenly judgment-seat, but on earth
beside us and around us, if we have but eyes to see it. 2 No
ancient writer is being more eagerly read to-day, for his
problems are ours; and the Western world is turning, as
Asia turned 2000 years ago, to this concept of an inner justice
working out a causal sequence.
Side by side with the poets were scientific and moral
thinkers : amongst whom an honoured place must be given
to Anaxagoras (480-430? B.C.) who took the philosophy of
Miletus to Athens and taught that Mind (nous) is the motive
power behind things material. A friend of Pericles he bade
him "overcome those terrors which the phenomena of the
skies raise in all who are ignorant of their causes' ',3 and was
finally banished from Athens, for teaching that the sun is a
red-hot ball of matter. To him, as to Euripides, Socrates owes
an early impetus to think out the meaning of the world
(469-399 B.C.). He is her grandest figure, greatest of the
Sophists, heir of the tragedians, teacher of us all. A "Siren
1 Sophocles, fr. 247. Euripides, fr. 292.
z See Illustrative Reading x.
3 Plutarch, Life of Pericles.
124 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
spirit lodged in the shell of a Silenus", as Alcibiades de-
scribed him, we see this humble son of an artisan sculptor
fighting with distinction as a soldier, and receiving his call
in a strange trance in camp at Potidaea. Twenty-four hours
he remained silent, and then, like Saul of Tarsus, "was not
disobedient to the heavenly vision". Hailed by the oracle
as the wisest man of his day, he chose to interpret this to
mean that he at any rate was conscious of his ignorance,
and became to the gifted men of his day a physician of souls.
Humble, yet confident, poor, yet making many rich,
passionate yet pure, he was indeed an alchemist, transmuting
the brass of unnatural vice, by this time almost universal,
into the pure gold of friendship, and leading his young
disciples by parable and dialogue and ironic dilemma to
wisdom and truth. Unlike his contemporaries he took no
fees, and was content to endure hardness throughout his
life, and to die for his convictions. He believed that when
men once hear the voice of reason they will become good
and wise, and as a teacher he sought to implant a wisdom by
which the whole personality might be brought into harmony.
Led by his own "daemon" and by a more positive sense of
mission, he belongs to the company of those mystics who
have made nous, or intuition, their guiding-star, and have
found the root of their own authority in that inner ex-
perience of the soul, which is the eye of heavenly truth.
Like Sakyamuni, he sought to foster this inner wisdom,
believing that "no one is deliberately evil", but that men
need a new scale of values and a moral tonic.
Like Jesus he began with a call to "a change of mind", and
like Confucius he insisted on accurate definition of terms,
and refused to solve for his pupils the problems which they
could work out for themselves. Making them examine
words and principles he pricked the bubble of their conceit,
and showed them with great patience and with ironic
humour that wisdom begins in a recognition of one's un-
wisdom. This process he found "not unpleasant"; and his
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 125
disciples, even the dissolute Alcibiades, were made to feel
that they were "neglecting the needs of the soul", till "their
hearts leapt within them" as he limned the heavenly beauty.
By his talk "of pack-asses and smiths, of shoe-makers and
carters" he leads them on from the familiar things about
them, and lures them from "the idols of the cave" to the
true, the beautiful and the good. The story of his last days,
told by Plato with exquisite reticence, is one of the great
scenes in history.
The sublimity of the life of Socrates is indeed nobly
matched by the grandeur of his death. "He was at all times
a marvel of good cheer and content", says Xenophon. "No
one within the memory of man, as all admit, ever met death
more nobly," 1 "Such", says Plato, "was the death of our
friend, the best man that I have known, the wisest and most
just." 2 He was the homely yet sublime incarnation of his own
ideal of courage and of the disinterested search after truth.
That he was a great thinker is clear. Notable schools
sprang out of his teachings, for in him was a complex blend
of the clear head and the great heart, of emotion and will,
of reasoning and intuition, of enthusiasm and logic. He
blent much that was best in the Pythagorean school of
ecstatic religion with that scientific quest for truth which
marks the Greek spirit at its best. These are the twin roots of
Greek philosophy. Socrates seems to have identified the
soul, psyche, which meant various things to his contempor-
aries 3, with the self, or personality, to have called men to
its cultivation, and to have taught that reverence for it
which is one sure foundation of ethics. By his reverent
attitude to men he made them reverend, and taught them
to revere the good in others. That he forgave the judges who
condemned him is the fulfilling of his own teaching. "It
is wrong to requite injustice with injustice, or to do evil to
1 Memorabilia, iv 8. 2. 2 Phaedo, ii8s.
3 E.g. Breath of life, divine spark in man: cf. Atman in India. Like
Sakyamuni he moralized and humanized the older mystical monism.
126 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
any man, whatever he may have caused us to suffer/' 1 In
this he is a pupil of Euripides, and like him stood for a more
humane and universal religion, as against the exclusive and
narrow loyalties of Athens and of the cult of Athena. For
these two were really one, and the persecution of such men
as Anaxagoras and Socrates was due to political as well as
By the range of his vision and the depth of his sympathies
Socrates illumines many perennial problems, and until the
advent of Jesus he remained the highest type of manhood in
the Western world. Besides him we may set his great
disciple Plato, who, if he has not created much of the Socrates
we know, has given perfect literary expression to his ideals
of beauty and truth. Former teachers had seen the world as
a transient expression of the unseen and eternal. Plato de-
velops this idealism, which has greatly influenced Christian
thought and will continue to do so. God, he teaches,
is the universal Mind and the Author of the phenomenal
world; this he makes after a divine pattern, and man's soul
must be modelled on divine beauty, for this world is the
image of the invisible. When St Paul says that "the things
that are unseen are eternal and the things that are seen are
temporal"j he is giving perfect form to this Platonism, in
which Greek religion and ethics find their noblest expression.
We do not forget that Athens sometimes persecuted her
prophets and banished her men of science, but in the end
she capitulated to thought's demand for freedom and pur-
sued the high quest of a philosophy which seeks to lead men
from the unreal to the real, from the transient to the eternal,
and from the false to the true. To this end are devoted the
noble allegories and dialogues of Plato, who sees Reason as
a charioteer driving the horses of Sense, the soul as finding
immortality in goodness, and the pervading Mind in whom
we live and move and have our being as the source of all
beauty, and the inspiration of all goodness.
1 Crito, 49 c.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 127
Plato was young when Socrates taught in Athens, and to
youth the beloved teacher gave of his best. After his death
Plato wandered far afield, to Egypt and to Sicily, where like
Confucius he sought to guide a state by instructing a ruler.
And like the Duke of Lu Dionysius resented the presence of
the Sage, who had learned how sorely a state needs such
guidance, and whose faith in democracy had been destroyed
by the chaos at Athens. 1 Like Confucius Plato was a very
practical idealist, whose pursuit of truth had as its object the
Setting up of a model state. And noble as are the shorter
Dialogues many are so much concerned with platonic love
that the mind of our day turns more readily to his longer
works the Republic and the Laws, which embody his mature
thought, and lead to more definite conclusions.
If the Symposium is the greatest prose masterpiece in all
literature its main theme is homosexual love, and we see the
world of Athens amazed at the continence of Socrates in
refusing the advances of Alcibiades.
We must, of course, remember that this wonderful little
work is an apology: Socrates, who was in fact constantly
falling in love with beautiful boys, has been accused of
corrupting them. Here Plato presents him as he was
susceptible but pure, and brilliantly sublimating the love of
physical to that of spiritual beauty. In fact he firmly grasps
the nettle as our moralists usually do not and turns it by
the magic of his own pure spirit into a very lovely flower.
Even the grotesque theories of Aristophanes have in them
a recognition of a psychic fact: this Socrates is seen making
into a way of purity and a path to God. In other words, as
a great teacher, he is sublimating and not repressing, and
himself homosexual in temperament, is able to achieve
not only innocence but moral sublimity in his friendships
with the young men of this and other dialogues.
1 See Illustrative Reading vi (c).
128 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
Plato, too, takes things as he finds them: living in an age
of transition and of degeneration he seeks to build a new city
of God; and in being true to his vision, and to the facts, he
illuminates many of our own pressing problems.
His search, like that of the Hebrew prophets, is for right-
eousness an ordered life in which each shall play the part
for which he is fit.
"He was trying at once to uproot and to resettle. So that
he is in some respects the greatest of revolutionaries, in
others the greatest of reactionaries."
If Socrates laid the foundations of a sound morality, and
urged men to realize the divine nature within them, the
Republic concerns itself with the practical problems of
eugenics, of property, of intelligent government: and if the
idealism of Plato has inspired the Russian church, the
Republic inspires the Soviet in their persecution of that
church. For Plato was a communist as well as a mystic, and
shrank from no radical measure which might produce " good
and nobler guardians" or city-fathers, "at once gentle and
high-spirited", "philosophical and strong". And his
Utopia is grounded in a profound knowledge of psychology
and of human needs.
Plato's psychology has affinities with that of St Paul and
with that of the Gita. It is indeed possible that all three are
historically related the Indian system influencing the Greek,
and the Greek being familiar to St Paul.
If St Paul conceives of man as Body, Soul and Spirit, Plato
sees him as Body, Soul and Mind (HOMJ); and if the Gita
compares man's Reason to a charioteer driving the horses of
Sense, Plato uses the same simile, seeing the horse of appe-
tite as restive and vicious, that of spirited vigour as responsive
and amenable to Reason. Corresponding to this tripartite
psychology we have the three cardinal virtues, Courage
(andreia), Temperance (sophrosyne) and Uprightness (dikaio-
syne}\ and corresponding to them the three Orders in the
Ideal City Soldiers, Traders, and Rulers, and the three stages
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 129
in Education. Music and other arts come first to attune and
harmonize the soul to the good and beautiful. Gymnastics
come next to discipline the horse of appetite, and Mathe-
matics to complete the process by training the Reason to
pierce below the surface of things to the Unseen and Real.
Man's soul, and society at large, must be harmonized by
obedience to Reason: this is Wisdom.
So Righteousness is to be reached by man this is the goal
of education, and man comes thus into communion with
God. Here Plato and St Paul are again in close agreement. " In
both thinkers", says Dean Inge, "personality is, in a sense,
transcended in the highest life of Communion." 1 And for
both "Love is the great hierophant of the divine mysteries ". 2
With Confucius too the curriculum of Plato is in close
agreement,3 and for him, as for India, bhakti Love of the
Divine is at once inspiration and reward of the moral life :
but other ways are offered to men. And the classes of society
are seen to correspond to certain natural temperaments
imaginative and intellectual, practical and energetic, dull and
servile. If slavery is tolerated by such men as Plato and
Aristotle it is because it was not only inevitable, but seemed
a natural consequence of men's varying capacities. As in
India the Sudra is one "reborn to be a Sudra", so too in
Greece transmigration is called in to explain the facts.
St Paul himself had to accept the institution, though he saw
that "in Christ" it could not perpetuate itself. Plato's
thought is also seen moving away from it: death is to be
preferred to slavery, and if it is accepted in the Republic, it is
ignored in the Laws.4
Slaves in Athens were well treated, and were better off
1 The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought, p. 14.
3 "The Odes rouse the mind, morals mould the will, music adds
polish", say the Analects.
4 A similar growth in Plato's thought leads him in the latter to reject
the nationalization of children which he advocates in the former.
130 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
than the helots or serfs of Sparta, and a quickened conscience
is seen in Euripides' plea on their behalf: and as abuses grew
worse so did this plea become more insistent, till in the noble
protest of Dio Chrysostom we see at once how vile and how
noble Greeks could be. Without apologizing for them we
can say with truth that the Light which dawned in Palestine
is slowly making the sky of the Graeco-Roman world bright,
and men like the author of the Hymn of Cleanthes are calling
Zeus " Father of all men".
Side by side with the poets and religious teachers of Greece
is a long succession of scientific thinkers. They too have fed
the moral life of mankind, and in many of them the scientific
and the ethical are nobly blended.
We have glanced at Xenophanes a complex figure of this
kind and from Thales (c. 583 B.C.) on down through
Anaximander (c. 546 B.C.), Anaxagoras and Heracleitus to
Aristotle and his successors Greece had a long line of men
truly scientific, with whom philosophy is also a passion. If
it starts with Pythagoras it starts no less with Thales : for the
Greeks meant by philosophy "speculation upon all time and
all existence'', 1 "a serious endeavour to understand this world
and man having for its chief aim the discovery of the right
way of life and the conversion of man to it". 2 Among the
torch-bearers of Greece there are men of science as well as
poets: men of affairs as well as teachers: historians, doctors
and other laymen.
If in their lives Socrates and Plato revealed the beauty of
holiness, the Greek ideal of simplicity and depth of courage
and courtesy, of fearless seeking and of direct speech is nobly
embodied also in men of affairs like Pericles, doctors like
Hippocrates, historians like Thucydides. Of Pericles a con-
temporary wrote: "His sons died in the bloom of youth
1 Plato's Republic, 486 a.
2 Dr J. Burnet in The Legacy of Greece.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 131
within a week of each other and he bore it without re-
pining and maintained his serenity unbroken. . .so that all
who saw him bear his sorrow so stoutly recognized that
Pericles was a nobler man than they". If Prometheus is an
ideal figure Pericles is the ideal realized on the difficult stage
of city politics.
Thucydides in the long dreariness of exile worked with
the detached and objective spirit of the ideal historian, and
Hippocrates has ever been the ideal doctor ; of him it has
been well said:
In beauty and dignity that figure is beyond praise. Perhaps
gaining in stateliness what he loses in clearness, Hippocrates will
ever remain the type of the perfect physician. Learned, ob-
servant, humane, with a profound reverence for the claims of his
patients, but an overmastering desire that his experience shall
benefit others, orderly and calm, disturbed only by anxiety to
record his knowledge for the use of his brother physicians and for
the relief of suffering, grave, thoughtful and reticent, pure of
mind and master of his passions, this is no overdrawn picture of
the Father of Medicine as he appeared to his contemporaries and
successors. It is a figure of character and virtue which has had an
ethical value to medical men of all ages comparable only to the
influence exerted on their followers by the founders of the great
Though the " Oath of Hippocrates" belongs to a much later
phase of morality its attribution to him is noteworthy. Com-
pared with such figures Aristotle's formal description of the
"noble-minded "pales. It is a type of gentleman, as has been
well said, that may be met with in a novel by Disraeli and
nowhere else, and we cannot leave this brief survey of Greek
ethics without noting their aristocratic nature and the fact
that these gentlemen of Athens were supported by a slave
population as the Spartans throve on the work of helots or
serfs. We remember that one of the greatest of the Stoic
writers, Epictetus, was himself a slave maimed by the lawless
1 Charles Singer in The Legacy of Greece, p. 212.
132 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
cruelty which society allowed, that such writers as Horace
take it for granted that slaves may be killed for a whim, and
that the Greeks who followed Alexander the Great were
amazed that this cruel institution was not found in India.
Yet in the days of Athenian greatness slaves were well
treated, and a growing sense of human rights animates the
tragedies. If Plato has to face facts, and to admit slavery,
Aristotle's defence of it, as justified under certain conditions
and fitting certain types, reveals a conscience not at ease.
After the fall of Athens, the institution grew steadily worse,
and such protests as that of Dio Chrysostom in the second
century A.D. were all too rare; men admired Socrates rather
than followed him.
Yet in the ideals of the Greeks is rooted much that is
best in our western civilization, and when we turn to the study
of Christian ethics we shall see how much of the Platonic
tradition lived on and entered into the new and creative life
of the Church. That this life was a new thing will also become
clear, and the new life demanded a new vocabulary as it
fulfilled, by filling with new meaning, the Greek ideal of
beauty and the Hebrew ideal of holiness.
How far has the man of the Beatitudes outstripped the
gentleman of Aristotle in inward as well as outward nobility !
Yet Aristotle himself is far grander than his ideal. He lived
in the latter half of the fourth century B.C., and was philosopher
and also man of science. If Socrates discoursed of the Divine
Beauty and of the human virtues of Temperance, Courage,
and Justice, and if Plato embodied this idealism in practical
schemes of education and government Aristotle brought to
bear the orderly and systematic process of his architectonic
genius upon all knowledge.
As pupil of Plato and as tutor of Alexander the Great he
had leisure and inspiration to acquire encyclopaedic know-
ledge, and in 335 B.C. he opened the School of the Lyceum
at Athens. The Peripatetic System which he instituted is like
that of the Indian Guru informal yet thorough and is a
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 133
development of that of Socrates. In general Aristotle agrees
with Plato, but allows no objective existence to the Ideas,
and develops a more formal system of ethics. They are
agreed that Happiness is the chief good, but there are divers
definitions of Happiness. The chief good for man, says
Aristotle, consists in the full realization and perfection of
his life "rounded and complete".
Virtue for Aristotle consists in the Golden Mean, or
Middle Path between extremes. Truthfulness lies between
boasting and self-depreciation: courage between rashness
and cowardice. And like Plato he conceives of an ideal state
in which these virtues can best flourish, for man is a "po-
litical animal" and can only come to fruition in an ordered
society. A biologist as well as a moralist, he is the father of
the social sciences.
But the contrast between these ideals of the master-minds
of Greece and the actual state of society is poignant, and
Greek thought also begins to suffer a decline.
For an estimate of this process we may get much from the
eminent moralist and satirist Aristophanes. Indecent as much
of his humour is most of it is concerned in attacking men
and sentiments which he held dangerous to the state. Greek
morality is increasingly orthodox, and the good citizen is the
conformist. The Athenian jury which condemned Socrates
was probably quite sincere, and Aristophanes is as sincere in
his unjust parodies not only of his greatest fellow-citizen but
of Euripides, a much greater poet and moralist than him-
self, and a teacher of Socrates.
It is clear that Aristophanes was concerned at the decay
of morale. To understand this rapid degeneration we must
remember the political chaos which resulted from the
rivalry of the city-states, and the moral decline which allowed
them to fritter away in local feuds the resources of men and
money which might have resisted foreign dominance.
"Discord, their old hereditary failing, rendered it impossible
for Greeks to be independent in foreign relations or to be
134 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
united and settled at home". 1 "No argument was cogent
enough", says Thucydides, "and no pledge solemn enough
to reconcile opponents."
The same causes, in other words, which led to the down-
fall of Athens laid all Greece low envy, covetousness and
social injustice where magnanimity and co-operation be-
tween city and city and between the classes in the cities would
have made a strong and united Greece, loyal to a common
culture. Yet in the long run the break-up of Greece led to
the opening up of a new world, and of wider horizons: and
Greece, like Judaea, was brought into contact with the
East and enabled to spread its characteristic culture far afield,
"By the side of the old famed centres of learning in the
mother-country of Hellas, new centres arose, suited by
position, inhabitants and peculiar circumstances to unite the
culture of East and West, and to fuse into one homo-
geneous mass the intellectual forces of different races." 2
There was no city wise enough to embody the ideas of
Plato or the politics of Aristotle, and their successors are men
disillusioned with the world and offering men ways of
escape to an inner kingdom of the soul: they are also men of
less restricted loyalties and class-prejudices. Such were the
Sceptics, the Epicureans and the Stoics physicians of the
soul in a sick world. " Stoic apathy, Epicurean self-content-
ment and Sceptic imperturbability, were the doctrines which
suited the political helplessness of the age", 3 says Zeller.
These schools are agreed in two fundamental points, in
subordinating theory to practice, and in the peculiar cha-
racter of their practical philosophy. As teachers of Ethics
then they are of great importance, and there are universal
notes in all these schools. Like Sakyamuni the Stoics insist
1 Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics, E.T., p. 13.
2 Ibid. p. 14.
3 Ibid. p. 19.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 135
that the moral life is the way of emancipation to truth, and
consists in bringing all action into conformity with the laws
of the universe. Like Socrates they argue that virtue is
identical with right knowledge.
Zeno, a Semite, influenced perhaps by Indian ideas, is a
very arresting figure, disciplined, ascetic, and blunt of
speech. This first of the Stoics was noted also for prophetic
fire and earnestness which make him at once dogmatic and
paradoxical, at once rationalist and man of faith. Above
all he gave a moral tonic to a sceptical age. Few trusted,
and most dreaded, the unknown. Few again were continent,
and the old aids to moral living were gone. Like Sakyamuni
in a similar setting, Zeno offered men salvation from fear and
To give men, passion-driven and afraid, a refuge and
freedom, this was the task to which he bent his great energy
and zeal. To the will he launched his appeal: there is a
large part of man's life which he can control his own inner
disposition: in all else he can acquiesce. There is a sovereign
Reason guiding the world. Like Lao-tse Zeno taught men
to put themselves in harmony with nature, which is both
reasonable and good. This is the part of wisdom, to fulfil
one's own true nature. As Hindus express it, man's dhartna
is to obey the universal dharma.
So Zeno carried on the Platonic tradition: let reason drive
the chariot, and control passion and fear. Let the wise man
serve his fellows and build up a kingdom of peace within and
of justice without; let him be benevolent to all, attached to
Early Buddhism is Indian stoicism. Like Sakyamuni these
teachers rejected metaphysical subtleties. Like him they could
only bid men enthrone reason and subdue the irrational:
but, also like him, they appealed to faith in a reasonable uni-
verse. They were satisfied that man can work out his own
Aristo, pupil of Zeno, insists that the sole business of man
136 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
is to be virtuous, the sole use of words is to cleanse the soul.
Man must put aside logic-chopping and vain speculation and
confine himself to discussion of good and evil, wisdom and
folly. For Zeno understanding is the root of virtue; for
Aristo it is knowledge of good and evil; for Cleanthes it is
strength of mind. But these are all names for that "know-
ledge" which guides men to practical goodness.
Intelligence is knowledge of good, bad and indifferent:
bravery knowing how to choose the good and reject the
bad: justice knowing how to give each man his due. Like
Sakyamuni too the Stoics see in ignorance man's great
enemy, and in detachment his victory over desire. True
riches consist in being independent of wants, and true
freedom consists in self-control.
If the Buddhist monk is to shine like a god amongst men
the Stoic is to be compared to Zeus amongst the gods. But
men are unhappy, because everywhere they are wicked; they
prefer to live at lower levels, knowing the higher.
But, said Epicurus, man can and should be happy: pain is
the one great evil. Let him pursue pleasure and avoid pain
and in ataraxia 1 find repose of mind, the highest pleasure.
The highest good is intelligence, and it alone can produce
a complete and rounded life. Virtue is not to be pursued for
its own sake, but as a means to happiness. It makes men
happy by freeing them from fear and anxiety, which are the
offspring of vice.
The same claims were advanced by Epicurus on behalf
of his wise man as the Stoics had urged on behalf of theirs.
Not only does he attribute to him control over pain, in
nothing inferior to Stoic insensibility, but he endeavours
himself to describe the wise man's life as perfect and satis-
factory in itself. While not free from emotion, and in
particular susceptible to the higher feelings of the soul such
as compassion, the wise man finds his philosophic activity
in no way impaired. Without despising enjoyment, he
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 137
is altogether master of his desires, and knows how to restrain
them by intelligence, so that they never exercise a harmful
influence on life. He alone has an unwavering certainty of
conviction; he alone knows how to do the right thing in the
right way; he alone, as Metrodorus observes, knows how to
be thankful. Epicurus promises his pupils that, by carefully
observing his teaching, they will dwell as gods among men;
so little can destiny influence them, that he calls them happy
in all circumstances. Happiness may, indeed, depend on
certain external conditions; it may even be allowed that the
disposition to happiness is not found in every nature, nor in
every person; but, when it is found, its stability is sure, nor
can time affect its duration. For wisdom so Epicurus and
the Stoics alike believed is indestructible, and the wise
man's happiness can never be increased by time. A life,
therefore, bounded by time can be quite as complete as one
not so bounded.
Different as are the principles and the tone of the systems
of the Stoics and the Epicureans, one and the same tendency
may yet be traced in both the tendency which character-
izes all the post-Aristotelian philosophers the desire to
place man in a position of absolute independence by emanci-
pating him from connection with the external world, and by
awakening in him the consciousness of the infinite freedom
If Platonism gave to Christianity a philosophy, these schools
prepared the way for the Christian law of love. Stoic self-
discipline came to fruition in Christian self-sacrifice, and the
"athlete of Zeus" became the "soldier of Christ". The social
ethic too of these teachers of a new universalism helped to
lay wide and deep foundations for the City of God.
Such then in brief outline is the story of Greek ideals. Their
practice, like that of us all, fell far short. Yet there were
honest men in the Homeric Age, and hard workers in that
of Hesiod, and many contemporaries of the great tragedians
and philosophers to whom they did not appeal in vain: the
138 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
eulogy of Thucydides upon Athens is no doubt a true picture
of what the Athenians aspired to be, and the epitaph on
Sparta's soldiers is well deserved. Yet slavery and sodomy
grew worse: even the austere Epicurus urges that paederasty
be not overdone, and Alexander is amazed that slavery is not
found in India. The impossibility of the task set to Reason
in conquering selfishness and lust prepared the way for the
victory of Love.
But there are many types in ancient Greece: and of the
typical Athenian we get a better idea perhaps from Aristotle
than from Plato, better still perhaps from Xenophon,
Thucydides and the dramatists. A man of family loyalties
he yet kept his wife and daughters in seclusion, and held that
"she is best among women of whom least is heard whether
of praise or blame". "Every good and decent man loves and
cherishes his woman", says Achilles; but for later Greeks
woman and passion must both be kept in their place: and if
for child-bearing the Athenian had a wife, for intelligent
conversation he had a mistress and for romance a fair youth.
Yet modesty in speech and demeanour was expected, and
if the Greek does not reach purity of mind and tolerates
grossness of speech, he has a strong sense of family propriety,
and Athenian women consider the athletic amazons of
Sparta as shameless just as missionary ladies in Japan are
aghast at Japanese nudism. So Spartan women, essentially
pure, would reply that the nude is seen, not looked at, and
that secrecy breeds evil.
This battle is still being waged.
As to slaves, the Athenian agreed that theirs was an evil
state, but had one or two, and treated them well, and the
Spartan jeered at him for pampering them and himself. And
as there are women in the tragedies in whom are noble
qualities, and of whom men speak with tenderness and
chivalry, so there are devoted slaves in Homer and in
And if he was not without family loyalty, the Greek had
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 139
a real and whole-hearted patriotism based on a sense of
common interests, on customary sentiment and capable
on occasion of turning into bitter hostility and disillusion-
ment. As to other virtues arete is the noun of agathos, and
a man was expected to "be good" to "do well" what-
ever he undertook; to be modest and sane, to respect the
gods and himself, to be objective about his own good looks,
good station and good qualities, to be a good friend and a
Like the Chinese he was judged by his "propriety" in
meeting the varied relations of life, but his morality was es-
sentially self-regarding, and "unselfishness was not a virtue".
As to a sense of sin, this could not be strong until the gods
were moralized, and then with Aeschylus and Euripides it
develops along lines similar to those of the Hebrew prophets,
but with less sense that it is man's own nature, and more that
it is an outside fate that is at work in the process of punish-
ment. It is more like the determinism of some moderns, and
there is room neither for personal blame nor for Divine
Grace. Man is to avoid hubris, or the inevitable chain of
cause and effect will fasten on him. Even to Plato, error
is the cause of sin, and wisdom can be taught: and none of
the Greeks had the strong sense of the Jew that sin is deliber-
ate rebellion against Divine Love; it is curious that a people
who made so much of human friendship did not develop a
more personal sense of the Divine Friend and of His right to
look in upon the darkened soul.
Nor does Hellas develop the sense of compassion and for-
giveness as a duty, though in Euripides and Socrates there
are noble expressions of that divine quality which Judaea
achieved through so much pain.
Greek morality, in a word, is robust and objective rather
than inward and spiritual. * ' Man is the measure of all things
and so fails of the stature he might have reached by making
God his Norm. Devotion to the mean and to moderation led
too often to mediocrity and monotony.
140 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
THE SOUL OF GREECE
All strangers and beggars are from Zeus.
Odyssey vi, 207.
(b) Divine Justice
Antinous, 'twas foully done to strike a hapless wanderer. If
there be a God in heaven thou wilt come to a bad end. For verily
the gods, in the guise of strangers from afar, visit the cities of men,
and note both their violent and their righteous deeds.
Odyssey xvn, 483.
(c) Wifely Honour
Do thou, Diana, wing thy shaft,
And send me joyful down to death,
To seek my Lord among the warriors slain
Ere second nuptials shall my vows profane.
Hard though the task my vengeance I suppress:
Whoso reveres the gods the gods will bless.
Therefore, Achilles, rule thy proud spirit; neither is it right to
be ruthless. Even the gods can bend; though theirs is greater
majesty and might. With incense and reverent vows and libation
and burnt-offering men move their hearts, and by prayer, when
they have done evil and sinned. Prayers of penitence are indeed
daughters of mighty Zeus; halting, wrinkled and squint-eyed, he
sets them to dog the steps of Ate. For she is strong and swift, and
far outstrips all prayers, and goes before them over all the earth
making men fan; and prayers follow to assuage the evil. Now
whosoever reverences Zeus' daughters when they draw near, him
they greatly bless, and hear his plea; but when one denies them
and stiffly refuses, they depart and entreat Zeus son of Kronos
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 141
that Ate may come upon such an one, that he may be made to
pay the penalty. Nay, Achilles, look thou to it that thou yield
to the daughters of Zeus the reverence that bends the hearts of all
good men and true.
Iliad, ix, 496.
(/) Zeus the Adulterer woos his wife
Then Zeus, gatherer of clouds, answered her and said: . . /'Come
let us take our pleasure in the bed of love. For never before did
love of goddess or mortal so mightily invade and master my
heart. Not when I loved the wife of Ixion, who bore Pirithoos,
peer of gods in counsel, nor when I loved slim-ankled Danae,
daughter of Akrisios, who bore Perseus, most famed of men, nor
when I loved the daughter of Phoinix, who bore me Minos and
godlike Rhadamanthys; nay, nor even when I loved Semele, nor
Alkmene in Thebes, and begot Herakles, a child stout of heart,
(but Semele bore Dionysos, a joy to men) ; nay, nor when I loved
the fair-tressed queen, Demeter, nor far-famed Leto, nay, nor
thy very self, as now I love thee, and sweet desire possesses me".
Iliad, xw, 312.
(g) Magnanimity and the master-prig Menelaos
But Menelaos arose among them, sore at heart, very angry
with Antilochos; and the herald set the staff in his hand, and called
for silence among the Argives; then spake that godlike man:
"Antilochos, who once wert wise, what is this thou hast done?
Thou hast shamed my skill and made my horses fail, thrusting
in front thy sorry hacks. Come now, ye chiefs and counsellors
of the Argives, give just judgment between us".
Then answered wise Antilochos: "Bear with me now, for I
am younger than thou, King Menelaos, and thou art my better.
Thou knowest the faults of a youth, for his mind is hasty and his
counsel shallow. So suffer me, and I will give to thee the mare
I have taken. Yea, if thou shouldst ask some other greater thing
from my house, I were fain to give it thee, rather than fall for ever
from my place in thy heart, O fosterling of Zeus, and become a
sinner against the gods".
Thus spake great-hearted Nestor's son, and brought the mare,
and gave her to Menelaos. And his heart was glad as when the
142 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
dew comes upon the ripening ears of harvest, when the fields are
abristle. So glad was thy soul within thee Menelaos. And he
spake unto Antilochos winged words: "Antilochos, now will I
put away mine anger against thee, for till now thou wert in
nothing flighty or light-minded; though now thy reason was
overcome by youthfulness. Another rime be loth to outwit
better men. Not easily should another of the Achaians have per-
suaded me, but thou hast suffered and toiled much, thou and thy
brave father and brother, for my sake; therefore will I hear thy
prayer, and will even give thee the mare, though she is mine, that
these also may know that my heart was never overweening or
Iliad % xxin, 566-611.
(a) Mans Part
Do thou lay this to heart pursue justice and eschew violence.
For tliis is the law of Zeus: that fish and fowl and beast shall prey
upon one another, having no just laws: but to men he hath given
the better part to do justly and to prosper.
Works and Days, 274. Translated by A. W. Mair.
Foolish Perses, I speak to thee for thy good. Unto wickedness
men attain easily and in crowds: smooth is the way, and her
dwelling is very near. But the immortal gods have ordained
much sweat upon the path to virtue: long and steep is the way,
and rough at first; but when a man has reached the height,
thereafter the hard road is easy. . . .
When men mete out justice to the stranger and to their own
folk and turn not aside, then do they flourish as a tree in blossom.
. . .But the Immortals are close at hand, to observe all oppressors,
and such as pervert justice and defy heaven.
(b) Heaven sees All
Know then the dire truth: it is not given to men to foil the
justice of all-seeing heaven.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 143
(c) Prometheus and Pandora
For the gods have hidden away die bread of man's life; if it
were not so, a day's work might easily have won thee store
enough to live idle for a year; the rudder might be hung up in
the smoke, and the labour of oxen and patient mules be as
(a) What is Man?
He who wins fresh glory in his tender youth, soars high in
hope. Achievement worthy of a man lends wings to lift his mind
above sordid cares.
In a little while the delight of man rises to its height; and in a
little while it falls to the ground, shaken by adverse fate.
Creature of a day, what is a man? what is he not? Man is the
dream of a shadow.
Only, when a gleam of sunshine comes as a gift from heaven,
a light rests upon him and life is smooth.
(b) Gods and Men are of One Kindred
Of one kindred, one only, are men and gods, and of one
mother do we draw our breath; but in power we are utterly
divided: man is a thing of nought, but for the gods the bronze
floor of heaven stands ever as a seat unshaken.
Yet we bear some likeness to the Immortals, in greatness of
spirit as in bodily form; although we know not when, from day
to day or in the night watches, it is fated that we should end our
(a) Religiosity and Sin
If it were not to Dionysus that they made procession and sang
the phallic hymn, it were a very shameless deed. But Hades is the
same as Dionysus, in whose honour they rave and keep the feast.
In vain they purify themselves defiling themselves with
blood; as if a man who had trodden in mud should wash his feet
144 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
It is not good for men to get all they wish. It is sickness that
makes health pleasant; evil, good; hunger, plenty; weariness,
Storm-tossed by troubles, O my soul,
Cleave to the rudder of thy self-control :
And to the lances of impetuous foes
A front undaunted, calm, do thou oppose.
Thine not to boast when victory crowns thy brow;
Thine not to grieve when adverse winds do blow:
Rejoice in joyous things; be moderate in grief:
The changing rides of Fortune bring relief.
(a) Devotion to Athens
Such was the end of these men; they were worthy of Athens,
and the living need not covet a more heroic spirit, though they
pray for a happier end. The worth of such a spirit is not to be
expressed. Anyone might discourse to you forever about the
advantage of a brave defence; that you know already. But in-
stead of listening to him I would have you day by day fix your
eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with
love for her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her
glory, reflect that this empire has been won by men who knew
their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of con-
flict had the fear of shame ever before them; and who, if they
failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to
their country, but freely gave their lives to her the fairest
oblation they could lay at her feet. The sacrifice which all made
was repaid to each; for they received again a praise which ages
not, and the noblest of sepulchres. I speak not of that in which
their bodies lie, but of that in which their fame lives on pro-
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 145
claimed always and on every meet occasion in word and deed.
For the earth itself is the tomb of famous men; not only are they
commemorated by columns and inscriptions at home, but abroad
too there lives on an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on
stone, but in the fleshy tablets of men's hearts. Make them your
example, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to
be happiness, weigh not too nicely the perils of war, . . .
(b) The Spirit of Athens
My first theme shall be our ancestors. It is only right on such
an occasion as this to pay this respect to their memory. For they
and their children inhabited this land in unbroken succession up
to the present day; and through their valour bequeathed us a
heritage of freedom. While great honour is due to them, our
fathers deserve yet greater. For in addition to the inheritance
they received, they have passed on to us this empire of ours,
which they won after great toil. And this we, who are now in the
full vigour of life, have improved in most respects, and have made
our city self-sufficient as regards both peace and war. The military
achievements by which each thing was acquired, and the fervour
with which we and our fathers repelled the foreign and Greek
invader, I do not wish to dwell upon in detail, as you are as well
acquainted with them as I am. But I will outline the principles
which have brought us our prosperity, the policy and practice
which have brought us our power, and then pass on to the eulogy ;
and I think all this will be not inappropriate, and that the throng
of citizens and foreigners may listen to it with advantage.
For in our system of government we do not imitate the in-
stitutions of neighbouring states: we rather ourselves provide an
example than follow the example of others. Our constitution is
a rule of the many, not of the few, and so is classed as a democracy.
All here have equal rights before the law in their private quarrels,
while as regards personal claims for recognition, men are chosen
for public office not on account of their rank, but for their
true worth. Moreover poverty and obscurity of birth provide
no obstacles to a man who is able to benefit the city. Our attitude
towards public affairs is above all liberal in respect of that mutual
suspicion so often felt in the daily round of life; for we bear no
grudge against a neighbour, if he does as he likes, nor do we put
146 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
on a sullen expression which may be harmless, but is annoying if
noticed. But in spite of this freedom from restraint in our public
behaviour we observe the laws most carefully; we never disobey
magistrates, or any of the laws, paying particular attention to
those dealing with protection for the injured, and those unwritten
ones whose infringements bring acknowledged disgrace.
Our minds, moreover, are suitably provided with adequate
relaxation from their labours. For we have evolved a cycle of
athletic meetings and religious festivals extending over the whole
year, and we pride ourselves on the tasteful decoration of our
homes. The pleasure thus derived gives us ample opportunity for
forgetting our daily misfortunes. But such is the importance of
our city that the produce of every land pours in upon us, so that
it is our fortune and privilege to receive with equal enjoyment
the produce of other lands and of our own.
To pass on to our preparations for war: these also differ widely
from the enemy's in the following respects. Our city is open to
all, and we never pass alien acts to prevent anyone from dis-
covering any information the disclosure of which might be useful
to an enemy; for we put our trust not so much in preparation
and deception as in our own stout hearts when we really come to
grips. As for military training: the Spartans, while they are still
young, subject themselves to an arduous discipline in the quest of
valour. But we, though we allow ourselves much more freedom
in our daily lives, nevertheless face dangers quite as great as
theirs; and I can prove this statement. The Lacedaemonians never
make an expedition into Attica by themselves, but with a full
muster of allies; but when we invade the neighbouring states,
though they are fighting on their own ground and for their
own allies, we usually have little difficulty in overcoming them.
Moreover, the full strength of our forces no enemy has yet en-
countered, because of our preoccupation with the fleet and our
numerous expeditions by land; but if any enemy has a battle with
some part of our force, whether victorious or unsuccessful he
maintains that he encountered our full strength. And surely, if
we choose to face danger with a light heart rather than with
strenuous preparation, and with bravery arising from habit rather
than from discipline, we are the gainers; for we undergo no
arduous training beforehand for the dangers which are to come,
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 147
but when we actually face them, we show ourselves just as fearless
as those who have practised assiduously. But it is not only in
these matters that our state is worthy of admiration.
We love beauty without extravagance and study wisdom with-
out loss of manliness. Wealth in our eyes paves the way not to the
vanity of words but rather to the certainty of action. Disgrace
lies not in the fact of poverty, but in the absence of desire to cast
it off. Although these domestic affairs absorb much of our time,
we pay assiduous attention to our politics, and among all the
calls of business we are well versed in the art of statecraft. For in
our eyes alone the recluse is not merely an apathetic spectator, but
a sluggard and an incubus. We can either criticize others' pro-
posals or formulate our own; since to us discussion is no obstacle
to action, but action without discussion can have no possible
chance of success. For herein lies our gain, that we bring to the
battle not only an unequalled courage, but also the advantage of
previous debate. The courage of our enemies is born of ignor-
ance, while all their forethought breeds is fear. But of all brave
men they deserve to be thought the bravest who clearly know
every pleasure and every pain awaiting them, and yet unflinch-
ingly face the perils of their chosen task. From a moral point of
view also we differ from the majority. For it is not in the re-
ceiving of kindness but in the giving of it that we make our
friends. Since the man who confers a favour is a firmer friend in
that he preserves the gratitude due to him by continued kindness
to his debtor. But the debtor's friendship will lose its zest in that
he realises that his services are given not in generosity but in the
repayment of a debt. Since we alone give help without con-
sidering the profit to be reaped, but feeling the confidence that
In short I would assert that collectively our city is an example
to Greece, while individually I think that our citizens are endowed
with a versatility of temperament which adapts itself with the
utmost grace to the many sides of their life. And that this is no
idle boast, but a true rendering of the facts, our empire itself, the
acquisition of which is due to these talents of ours, will testify.
For this city alone, when put to the test, surpasses its reputation,
and alone arouses no resentment in the foe that she defeats; and
in her subjects no criticism of her right to rule them. Of our
148 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
power there is ample and clear evidence. We shall remain the
marvel not only of the present but of all future generations. (For
what need have we of a Homer or of any other poet whose song
will give men temporary satisfaction, though the true facts will
destroy the impression they gain from it?) There is no land which
we have not forced to become a highway for our enterprise; no
country in which we have not planted eternal memorials of
both the benefits and injuries we have done. Such then is the
city of which these men brooked not to be deprived; for such a
city they laid down their lives on the field of battle ; and for
such a city every one of you who remain should be content to
Wherefore you, the parents of those whom we commemorate
here, and whom I see now before me, I do not commiserate so
much as I would encourage. Indeed you realise Fortune's many-
sided gifts. Most fortunate are those who meet the noblest fate, as
is their death, as is your grief; and who taste alike during their
life of sorrow and of joy. For it is hard, I know, to forget the loss
of those whose memory each moment of another's joy recalls,
that joy which you yourselves once shared. For it is no great
grief to forfeit a blessing never tasted, but to lose what had grown
dear by use. And these who still hope to bear children, should
thus console their grief. For they will lose all bitter thoughts of
the dead in the birth of further sons, while the city will reap a
twofold gain, in the maintenance both of its population and of its
security. For how can they, who have no sons to stake in war,
take a full and honest share in our deliberations? But you, whose
prime is past, may reflect that the greater portion of your life was
fortunate, and that what remains is brief, and may find solace in
their glory. For only love of honour grows not old, and in the
evening of one's years it is this and not merely hoarded gold, as
some men say, which gives one greatest pleasure.
Before you, sons and brothers of the dead, a mighty struggle
looms, and hard will be the way, however brave your heart, not
to be thought indeed their equals, but to fall a little short.
While a man still lives, he must encounter the jealousy of rivals,
but when he is no more, then ungrudging admiration is accorded
him. Now, if I must needs say a word to their widows about a
woman's part, it shall be brief. For the greatest glory that you
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 149
can achieve is never to disgrace your sex, and least of all, whether
for good or ill, should your name be spoken among men.
The Funeral Speech of Pericles, Thucydides, H, 35-46.
Translated by Mr C. E. Robinson's Division at Winchester.
(c) The Downfall of Athens
The source of these troubles was the spirit of self-aggrandize-
ment and ambition, to which competition gave a keener edge.
Political leaders adopted high-sounding catchwords " demo-
cratic equality for the masses*' or "the superior qualities of birth
and breeding"; and the commonwealth became a prey to its
self-styled champions. In the struggle for supremacy they shrank
from no form of villany; and worst of all was the revenge which
they took upon opponents, recognizing no restraint of patriotism
or justice, but following the dictates of a selfish opportunism. A
savage sentence or high-handed coup d'etat were the normal in-
struments of satisfying their party spite; and any specious phrase
was good enough to cloak the meanness of their disreputable
methods. As for the neutral he received short shrift at the hands
of both factions, who either resented his non-cooperation or
grudged him immunity from the perils which they themselves
ran. Thus the class war led to a complete moral break-down
throughout the Greek world. Sincerity, one of the chief elements
in idealism, was laughed out of existence ; and a spirit of suspicious
antagonism prevailed. Conciliation could find no basis, seeing
that pledges had lost their validity and oaths their sanction. Men
relied solely upon a despairing resolve to take nothing for granted
and security was sought by precautionary measures, not by
mutual trust. Inferior intelligences usually had the best of it; for
consciousness of their own inadequacy and the dread lest an
opponent's quicker wits or superior powers of speech would
enable him to get his blow in first, inclined them to ruthless
action; whereas the abler men, presuming upon their own power
to anticipate a danger and entertaining the theorist's disdain for
practical measures, were too often caught napping with fatal
Thucydides, nr, 82, Translated by C. E. Robinson.
150 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
(a) On the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae
Stranger, unto the men of Sparta tell
That here, obedient to their laws, we fell.
(b) On the Athenian Dead at Plataea
If the best merit be to lose life well,
To us beyond all else that fortune came:
In war to give Greece liberty, we fell,
Heirs of all time's imperishable fame.
(c) Virtue's Dwelling-place
Virtue delights her home to keep,
Say the wise men of olden rime,
High on a rugged rocky steep,
Which man to-day may hardly climb.
And there a pure bright shining band,
Her ministers around her stand.
No mortal man may ever look
That form divine, august to see,
Until with patient toil he brook
The sweat of mental agony;
This all must do to reach that goal,
The perfect manhood of the soul.
Prometheus' gifts to Mankind
List then to mortals' troubles,
How, fools aforetime, I have made them wise.
And masters of their wits This will I show
Not to belittle man, but setting forth
The benefaction of my many bounties
Who, having eyes, saw to no purpose, hearing
Perceived not, but like to phantom dreams
Long time confounded all things in a maze.
Houses brick-fashioned they knew not for warmth,
Nor timber-craft, but, as 'twere pigmy ants,
Dwelt pent in sunless crannies. Tokens none
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 151
Knew they of winter nor of flowery spring-time
Nor fruitful autumn, but without discernment
Did all, till I revealed the stars' uprisings
And all their settings undeterminate.
Number of marvels chief I did disclose
And letters linked in words, memory,
The Muses' mother, author of all arts.
Dumb creatures first I harnessed, to the yoke
Enslaving them; and, that he might relieve
Mankind of their chief toil, to cars I set
The bridled steed, pride of the rich man's pomp.
The mariner's craft storm-tossed, canvas-winged
None but myself devised. Such were the shifts
Which to my sorrow I contrived for man ;
But for myself no wisdom can discover
Whereby to rid me of my present pains.. . .
Prometheus Vinctus. Translated by C. E. Robinson.
(a) On Love, in Conflict with Duty
Thou, love, art the victor dividing the spoils,
No mortal escapeth thy madness, thy toils :
In the heart of a maiden thy vigil is set
On the waves of the ocean, on hillsides, thou'rt met;
In the hut of the neat-herd thou spreadest thy net.
By thee are corrupted the just and the right,
To thy will thou bendest them. Ay, to thy spite ;
Unnatural conflict of son and of sire,
Thou kindlest, till duty gives place to desire
And the love-light leaps up in the eyes of the bride :
Aphrodite in triumph laughs loud and in pride.
But pity ungoverned sweeps over my heart,
And the fount of my tears unrestrained doth start
As I see the bride pass to the grim marriage-bed:
And the chamber of love is the house of the dead.
152 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
(b) On Law
But if a man in word or deed
Walks o'er-informed with pride and might,
By fear of justice undeterred,
Scorning the seats of deity,
111 doom, to that man drawing nigh,
His ill-starred arrogance requite!
Unless toward his proper gain
With uncorrupted hand he strain,
Unless he loathe all filthiness.
If with lewd hands he touch the grace of holiness !
Henceforth if such things be, no mortal evermore
Can from his life repel
The darts of heaven, and boast that foiled they fell:
If he who walks such ways
Deserve man's honour and his praise,
Wherefore with holy dance should I the Gods adore?
Oedipus Rex. Translated by E. D. A. Morshead.
Think you that sins leap up to heaven aloft
On wings, and then that on Jove's red-leaved tablets
Someone doth write them, and Jove looks at them
In judging mortals? Not the whole broad heaven,
If Jove should write our sins, would be enough,
Nor he suffice to punish them. But Justice
Is here, is somewhere near us; do but look.
J. A. Symonds.
(b) Tabus and Morals
The goddess' sophistries I repudiate,
Who, if a man touch blood or some poor corpse,
Or woman after childbirth, will deny
Her altar as unclean, yet doth delight
Herself in altars reeking with the mess
Of human sacrifice. This too I reprobate
That Leto, bride of Zeus, mothered such foolishness.
This feast of Tantalus I call a monstrous lie.
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 153
For how should gods delight in flesh of babes?
It is this people, murderers filled with hate,
Who on the goddess foist their loathsome crime.
In the high gods is no unrighteousness.
Iphigenia in Tauris, 380-91. Translated by C. E. Robinson.
(c) A Wronged Wife
Home and father then
I did forswear to cross the seas with thee,
More fickle-fond than wise. For all of which
I am betrayed and treacherously supplanted
By this new charmer. O hand of mine that oft
Was clasped in his, O lips that he hath kissed,
Vain, vain your pledges, promise turned to dust
Yet soft; I'll speak him fair as friend to friend
That he may show the baser. Tell me, prithee,
Where should I turn me? To father? or to kin,
That for thy sake I quitted? Foes they are
That one time were my friends, and for that exchange
I have won, good lack, the envy of the world.
O mine's a precious pattern of a husband,
Who'ld ruin the woman rescued him from death,
And a pretty tale he'll have to tell his mistress,
That his wife and bairns are beggars. Mighty God,
Why hast thou given us tokens manifest
Whereby to sift the sterling and the counterfeit
Of precious metals; but in man has set
No stamp or visible sign to mark the rogue?
Medea, 483-519. Translated by C. E. Robinson.
The Old Education and the New
To hear them prepare of the Discipline rare which flourished in
Athens of yore
When Honour and Truth were in fashion with youth and
sobriety bloomed on our shore ;
First of all the old rule was preserved in our school that "boys
should be seen and not heard";
And then to the home of the Harpist would come decorous in
action and words
154 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
All the lads of one town, though the snow peppered down, in
spite of all wind and all weather:
And they sung an old song as they paced it along, not shambling
with thighs glued together,
"O the dread shout of War how it peals from afar" or "Pallas
the Stormer adore",
To some manly old air all simple and bare which their fathers had
You may take it from me and I think you'll agree that these are
the precepts which taught
The heroes of old to be hardy and bold and the Men who at
Marathon fought !
But now must the lad from his boyhood be clad in a Man's all-
So that, oft as the Panathenaea returns, I feel myself ready to
When the dancers go by with their shields to their thigh, not
caring for Pallas a jot.
You therefore, young man, choose me while you can; cast in
with my method your lot,
And then you shall learn the forum to spurn and from dissolute
baths to abstain
And fashions impure and shameful abjure, and scorners repel
And rise from your chair if an elder be there, and respectfully give
him your place
And with love and with fear your parents revere and shrink from
the brand of Disgrace,
And deep in your breast be the Image imprest of Modesty simple
Clouds, 961 sqq. Translated by B. B. Rogers.
He was to me what I have tried to say:
So devout and pious that he would do nothing against the will
So just and fair that he did no trifling injury to any living thing;
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 155
So disciplined and temperate that he never chose the sweet instead
of the bitter;
So wise and prudent that he made no mistake in choosing the
Nor did he need guidance for his judgment, so unfailing was he
Able in reasoning and defining moral issues, he was able also to
To cross-examine them and convict them of error, that he might
lead them in the path of virtue and of true nobility.
He seemed in all this the very embodiment of human perfection
Those who thought that they had good natural abilities, but
despised instruction, he endeavoured to convince that minds
which show most natural power have most need of education,
pointing out to them that horses of the best breed, which are
high-spirited and stubborn, become, if they are broken when
young, most useful and valuable, but if they are left unbroken,
remain quite unmanageable and worthless; and that hounds of
the best blood, able to endure toil and eager to attack beasts,
prove, if they are well trained, most serviceable for the chase, and
every way excellent, but, if untrained, are useless, rabid, and
unruly. ... In like manner he showed that men of the best natural
endowments, possessed of the greatest strength of mind, and
most energetic in executing what they undertake, become, if
well disciplined and instructed in what they ought to do, most
estimable characters, and most beneficent to society (as they then
performed most numerous and important services), but that, if
uninstructed, and left in ignorance, they proved utterly worthless
and mischievous; for that, not knowing what line of conduct they
ought to pursue, they often entered upon evil courses and, being
haughty and impetuous, were difficult to be restrained or turned
from their purpose, and thus occasioned very many and great
evils. . . . But those who prided themselves on their wealth, and
thought that they required no education, but imagined that their
riches would suffice to effect whatever they desired, and to gain
them honour from mankind, he tried to reduce to reason by
saying that the man was a fool who thought that he could dis-
tinguish the good and the evil in life without instruction and that
156 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
he also was a fool who, though he could not distinguish them,
thought that he would procure whatever he wished and effect
whatever was for his interest, by means of his wealth.
Memorabilia, Bk iv, i. Translated by the Rev. J. S. Watson.
(a) Beauty is of Heaven
I hold that if a thing is lovely it is so only because it shares in
the Ideal Loveliness If you tell me that this or that is fair be-
cause of its colour or form I ignore all that: it only muddles me!
But to this I cling, simply and naively, foolishly you may think,
that naught makes a thing lovely but the presence of the Lovely
and their partnership On the mode of this relationship I insist
not merely that the Lovely are made so by the Ideal Loveliness.
(b) God is Holy
Evil, Theodorus, can never cease; there must always
remain something which is opposed to the good. Having no
place among the gods in heaven, evil must hover round and
haunt this earthly sphere. Wherefore we ought to flee from earth
to heaven as soon as we can; for to fly away is to become like
God, so far as this is possible; and to become like him is to
become holy, just, and wise God is never in any way un-
righteous he is perfect righteousness; and he who is the most
righteous is most like him. . . . To know this is true wisdom and
virtue; and ignorance of this is manifest folly and vice.
(c) God the Creator is Good not Jealous
Hard task it is to find the Maker and Father of this world: and
having found him 'twere impossible to declare him to all. . . .
Let us declare for what purpose this world of becoming was
framed by its Creator.
He was good: and in the good there is no jealousy. So being
without jealousy he wished that all things should be created in
his likeness.. . .Desiring that all things should be good and that
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 157
no evil should exist, he took all things visible not in a state of
rest but of morion without plan or harmony and brought order
out of disorder deeming this to be far better And taking
thought he saw that in the visible world the irrational cannot be
fairer than the rational. . .and that reason cannot dwell save in
that which has a living soul. So he put reason in soul and soul
in body, that this work might be in accord with nature the
loveliest and the best. So then we may say that in the providence
of God this world came into being a living creature lodging a
(d) The Idea of Good
Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of
knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea
of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of
truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge;
beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right
in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either, and,
as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to
be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere,
science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the
good; the good has a place of honour yet higher.
What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the
author of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for
you surely cannot mean to say that pleasure is the good?
God forbid, I replied; but may I ask you to consider the image
in another point of view?
In what point of view?
You would say, would you not, that the sun is not only the
author of visibility in all visible things, but of generation and
nourishment and growth, though he himself is not generation?
In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author
of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence,
and yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity
Republic, Bk vj.
158 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
(e) Good and Evil
I hold that the term "evil" comprises everything that destroys
and corrupts, and the term " good' everything that preserves and
benefits Again, do you maintain that everything has its own
evil, and its own good? Do you say, for example, that the eyes
are liable to the evil of ophthalmia, the entire body to disease,
corn to mildew, timber to rot, copper and iron to rust, or, in
other words, that almost everything is liable to some connatural
evil and malady? . . . And is it not the case that whenever an object
is attacked by one of these maladies, it is impaired, and, in the end,
completely broken up and destroyed by it?. . .Hence everything
is destroyed by its own connatural evil and vice; otherwise, if it
be not destroyed by this, there is nothing else that can corrupt it.
For that which is good will never destroy anything, nor yet that
which is neither good nor evil If, then, we can find among
existing things one which is liable to a particular evil, which can
indeed mar it but cannot break it up or destroy it, shall we not
be at once certain that a thing so constituted can never perish?
Republic, Bk x.
(/) The True Philosophy
When I was a young man, I had a passionate desire for the
wisdom which is called physical science. I thought it a splendid
tiling to know the causes of everything; why a thing comes into
being, and why it perishes, and why it exists. I was always
worrying myself with such questions as, "Do living creatures
take a definite form, as some persons say, from the fermentation
of heat and cold?" "Is it the blood, or the air, or fire by which
we think? " " Or is it none of these, but the brain which gives the
senses of hearing and sight and smell, and do memory and opinion
come from these, and knowledge from memory and opinion
when in a state of quiescence?"
But one day I listened to a man who said that he was reading
from a book of Anaxagoras, which affirmed that it is Mind which
orders and is the cause of all things. I was delighted with this
theory; it seemed to me to be right that Mind should be the cause
of all things, and I thought to myself, "If this is so, then Mind
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 159
will order and arrange each thing in the best possible way.
I never thought that, when he said that things are ordered by
Mind, he would introduce any reason for their being as they are,
except that they are best so. I thought that he would assign a
cause to each thing, and a cause to the universe, and then would
go on to explain to me what was best for each thing, and what
was the common good of all. I would not have sold my hopes
for a great deal. I seized the books very eagerly, and read them
as fast as I could, in order that I might know what is best and
what is worse.
All my splendid hopes were dashed to the ground, my friend,
for as I went on reading I found that the writer made no use of
Mind at all, and that he assigned no causes for the order of things.
His causes were air, and ether, and water, and many other
strange things If it were said that without bones and muscles
and the other parts of my body I could not have carried my
resolutions into effect, that would be true. But to say that they
are the cause of what I do, and that in this way I am acting by
Mind, and not from choice of what is best, would be a very loose
and careless way of talking. . . . And so one man surrounds the
earth with a vortex, and makes the heavens sustain it. Another
represents the earth as a flat kneading-trough, and supports it on
a basis of air. But they never think of looking for a power which
is involved in these things being disposed as it is best for them to
be, nor do they think that such a power has any divine strength;
they expect to find an Atlas who is stronger and more immortal
and abler to hold the world together, and they never for a
moment imagine that it is the binding force of good which really
binds and holds things together. I would most gladly learn the
nature of that kind of cause from any man. But I wholly failed
either to discover it myself, or to learn it from anyone else.
Do you agree with me that the prime of life may be reasonably
reckoned at a period of twenty years for a woman, and thirty for
a man? Where do you place those years? I should make it a rule
for a woman to bear children to the state from her twentieth to
her fortieth year; and for a man, after getting over the sharpest
160 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
burst in the race of life, thenceforward to beget children to the
state until he is fifty-five years old If then a man who is either
above or under this age shall meddle with the business of be-
getting children for the commonwealth, we shall declare his act
to be an offence against religion and justice; inasmuch as he is
raising up a child for the state, who, should detection be avoided,
instead of having been begotten under the sanction of those
sacrifices, and prayers, which are to be offered up at every
marriage ceremonial, by priests and priestesses, and the whole
city, to the effect that children to be born may ever be more
virtuous and more useful than their virtuous and useful parents,
will have been conceived under cover of darkness by the aid of
dire incontinence. You are right. The same law will hold,
should a man, who is still of an age to be a father, meddle with a
woman, who is also of the proper age, without the introduction
of the magistrate, we shall accuse him of raising up to the state
an illegitimate, unsponsored, and unhallowed child.
Republic, Bk v.
(h) The True Beauty
But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty the divine
beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with
the pollutions of mortality, and all the colours and vanities of
human life thither looking, and holding converse with the true
beauty, divine and simple, and bringing into being and educating
true creations of virtue and not idols only? Do you not see that
in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eyes of the
mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty,
but realities; for he has hold, not of an image but of a reality, and
bringing forth and educating true virtue to become the friend of
God and be immortal if mortal man may.
(i) Socrates faces Death
But you too, my friends, must be cheerful in the face of death
and keep in mind this one truth, that no harm can come to a good
man either in life or death, for the gods do not forget him; and
my present fate is not without its purpose; indeed, it is clear to
me that it was better for me to die now and leave my work. That
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is why the sign has not come to hold me back, and I at any rate
bear no grudge against those who have brought this charge
against me, and sentenced me to death. And yet this was not
their intention in accusing and condemning me; they thought
they were doing me harm, and for this they deserve blame. One
thing, however, I do ask of you; when my sons grow up, punish
them, my friends, and worry them just as I have worried you, if
they seem to you to be caring for money or anything else more
than for goodness; and if they think they are something when
they are nothing, scold them, as I have scolded you, for not
spending their energy on the right things and for thinking they
are something when they are worth nothing. If you do this, both
I and my sons will have received just treatment at your hands.
But now it is rime to go, I to die and you to live; which of us
goes to the better thing no one knows but God.. , .
(a) On the Nature of Happiness
If, then, among the forms of virtuous activity, war and politics,
although they stand out as pre-eminent in nobility and grandeur,
are yet. . .directed towards a further end, instead of being
desired for their own sakes, while the activity of reason, on
the other hand, when it is speculative appears to be superior in
serious worth, to aim at no end beyond itself, and to contain a
pleasure which is peculiar to it and so enhances the activity ; and
if self-sufficiency, leisuredness and such freedom from weariness
as is possible to humanity, together with all the other attributes
of felicity, are found to go with this activity; then, perfect well-
being for man will he in this, provided it be granted a complete
span of life; for nothing that belongs to well-being is incomplete.
Such a life as this, however, is higher than the measure of
humanity; not in virtue of his humanity will man lead this life,
but in virtue of something within him that is divine; and by as
much as this something is superior to his composite nature, by
so much is its activity superior to the rest of virtue. If, then,
Reason is divine in comparison with man, so is the life of Reason
divine in comparison with human life. We ought not to listen to
162 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
those who exhort man to keep man's thoughts . . . but, so far as
may be, to achieve immortality and do what man may to live
according to the highest thing that is in him; for little though it
be in bulk, in power and worth it is far above all the rest.
(b) On Plato
In immediate succession to the Pythagorean and Eleatic philo-
sophies came the work of Plato. In many respects his views coin-
cided with these; in some respects, however, he is independent
of the Italians. For in early youth he became a student of Cratylus
and of the school of Heracleitus,and accepted from them the view
that the objects of sense are in eternal flux, and that of these, there-
fore, there can be no absolute knowledge. Then came Socrates,
who busied himself only with questions of morals, and not at all
with the world of physics. But in his ethical inquiries his search
was ever for universals, and he was the first to set his mind to the
discovery of definitions. Plato, following him in this, came to the
conclusion that these universals could not belong to the things of
sense, which were ever changing, but to some other kind of
existences. Thus he came to conceive of universals as forms or
ideas of real existences, by reference to which, and in consequence
of analogies to which, the tilings of sense in every case received
their names, and became thinkable objects.
Metaphysics, A, 6.
(c) The Noble-minded Man
He does not run into trifling dangers, nor is he fond of
danger, because he honours few things; but he will face great
dangers, and when he is in danger he is unsparing of his life,
knowing that there are conditions on which life is not worth
having. And he is the sort of man to confer benefits, but he is
ashamed of receiving them; for the one is the mark of a superior,
the other of an inferior .... It is a mark of the proud man to
ask for nothing or scarcely anything, but to give help readily,
and to be dignified towards people who enjoy high position
and good fortune, but unassuming towards those of the middle
class; for it is a difficult and lofty thing to be superior to the
former, but easy to be so to the latter He must be open in
his hate and in his love and must speak and act openly; for he
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 163
is free of speech because he is contemptuous, and he is given
to telling the truth, except when he speaks in irony to the
vulgar. He must be unable to make his life revolve round
another, unless it be a friend; for this is slavish nor is he
given to admiration, for nothing to him is great. Nor is he
mindful of wrongs, for it is the part of a proud man to over-
look them. . .nor is he a gossip.
Further a slow step is thought proper to the proud man, a
deep voice, and a level utterance.
Nichomachean Ethics, iv, 3. (Oxford translation.)
(a) Epicurus no Epicure
For my own part when my meal is bread and water, or some-
times when I indulge myself and add a little cheese, I find full
satisfaction and defy those pleasures which the ignorant and
sensual mob delight in, ... and if I have rye-bread and boiled
barley and water I think my table so well furnished as to dare
dispute happiness with Zeus himself. Sobriety makes us superior
to the threats of Fortune.
(b) Epicurus no Epicurean
When we say that Pleasure is ... the chief good we are very far
from understanding those pleasures which are so much admired,
courted and pursued by men wallowing in luxury... but
only this not to be pained in body nor perturbed in mind. . . .
While nature is our guide whatever we do must conduce only
XVI. IN LATER GREEK THOUGHT
(a) Dio Chrysostom
(after E. Be van)
We must not shrink from speaking out about prostitution, or
be shy of it as if it were a matter of doubt. No one, we say, . . .
should have any thing to do with this traffic which submits the
bodies of slaves, girls and also boys, to infamous treatment. There
164 THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS
in the highways and in the very presence of magistrates, by
civic hall and temple, in the very midst of holy things they use
the bodies of aliens or of Greeks who once were free for vilest
purposes. . . . Having no reverence for Zeus the family god, nor
for Hera, goddess of Marriage Let no ruler or lawgiver permit
or sanction profits of this kind. And if he find himself face to face
with old customs "a disease that has grown scaly with time"
let him not leave it untreated or uncorrected, but let him search
out what can be done to mitigate and cure the evil. For evil does
not stagnate, but moves and grows in filth if it be not checked.
All men are created honourable, companions in honour, by the
creator: all bear the same signs and symbols of their first claim to
honour: all are endowed with Reason, and can feel the gulf set
between the lovely and the base.
The Honour of Slaves, Oration vn, 132-8.
(b) Hippocratic Oath
(about first century A.D.)
I swear by Apollo the healer, and Asclepius, and Hygieia, and
All-heal (Panacea) and all the gods and goddesses. . . that, accord-
ing to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this
stipulation to reckon him who taught me this Art as dear to me
as those who bore me. . .to look upon his offspring as my own
brothers, and to teach them this Art, if they would learn it, with-
out fee or stipulation. By precept, lecture, and all other modes of
instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons,
and those of my teacher, and to disciples bound by stipulation
and oath according to the Law of Medicine, but to none other.
I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my
ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients,
and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will
give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any
such counsel; nor will I aid a woman to produce abortion. With
purity and holiness I will pass my life and practise my Art
Into whatever houses I enter, I will go there tor the benefit of the
sick, and will abstain from every act of mischief and corruption;
and above all from seduction. . . . Whatever in my professional
practice or even not in connection with it I see or hear in the
THE ETHICS OF THE GREEKS 165
lives of men which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not
divulge, deeming that on such matters we should be silent.
While I keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me
to enjoy life and the practice of Art, always respected among
men, but should I break or violate this Oath, may the reverse be
XVII. Greek Pessimism from Theognis to Palladas
Of all things not to be born into the world is best, nor to see
the beams of the keen sun; but being born, as swiftly as may
be to pass the gates of Hades, and lie under a heavy heap of
Theognis, c. 500 B.C.
I was not, I came to be; I was, I am not; that is all; and who
shall say more; I shall not be.
All is laughter and all is dust, and all is nothing; for out of
unreason is all that is.
Naked I came on earth and naked I depart under earth: why do I
vainly labour, seeing the naked end.
Palladas, c. 350 A.D.
XVIII. LATER STOICISM
From M. Aurelius
Death is release from the importunities of sense, the tyranny of
passion, the errors of the mind, the slavery of the body. . . .
Be cheerful, and independent of the help or company of
men, or of that rest and tranquillity which one owes to others.
Better is it to be straight in one's own nature than to be rectified
by others.... Him that offends instruct with love and meekness,
showing him his fault. If thou succeed not, blame thyself.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
"The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom."
PSALMS AND PROVERBS
The Semites probably came from regions still inhabited by
their Arab successors around the Arabian and Persian
Gulfs and about 3000 B.C. a group of them conquered the
kingdoms of Sumer and Akkad, and set up a dynasty in
Babylon. That they reached a high morality is clear from the
Code of Hammurabi of about 2100 B.C., and to this era be-
longs the second great Semitic victory, that of the Canaan-
ites over the Ammoritcs. The third culminates about the
fourteenth century B.C. in the Hebrew occupation of Canaan,
which had long been under the suzerainty of great empires,
first Babylon and then Egypt. If the Code of Hammurabi
tells us of the moral ideals of these early Semites the Tel-el-
Amarna Tablets tell us of communication between the Kings
of Canaan and their great overlords, and give us a picture of
endless petty quarrels, and of growing fear of the Nomads or
Bedawin of whom the Hebrews are a part. Letters written
at the time of the Egyptian monotheist and idealist Akhnaton
speak of "Habiru" who are over-running South Canaan.
They are seen against a background of superstitious
polytheism and necromancy, of "high-places" with phallic
worships and human sacrifice. Excavations suggest that
the Canaanites also practised ancestor-worship and offered
food to departed spirits, and we cannot suppose that their
ethical ideals or practice were highly developed. The
Hebrews were to learn much, both good and bad, from these
earlier invaders: they were saved from complete contamina-
tion by their exclusive veneration for the transcendent God
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 167
whom they conceived as having a covenant with them. This
is not a Semitic idea in general. It belongs to the Hebrews in
particular, and is the source of their greatness. That a group
of nomads living precariously among great empires should
have clung to this faith and should have developed it into a
religion for humanity, is one of the sublimest and strangest
facts in history.
That they were intolerant and often vindictive is the defect
of their virtue : they must at all costs keep themselves un-
contaminated by pagan cults and "abominations".
But their story is not one of complete success in this, nor
of a steady progress in religion and ethics. They follow a
zigzag path and, though their history as we have it is written
to prove God's covenant relationship and their preparation
for a spiritual mission, it frankly tells of their many failures,
and it often reads back later ideals and ideas into primitive
times. The story of their wanderings is written as they settle
to an agricultural life, and is edited by several groups with
The Bible as a whole is not history in any modern sense.
The history of the Hebrews may be divided for our purpose
into the Prophetic Period (eighth to sixth century B.C.) and
the periods which precede and follow it. During the first era,
from the fourteenth century to the eighth, they came, as we
saw above, in various waves of immigration into Canaan,
settled down and divided into Northern and Southern King-
doms. One group of them had escaped in the thirteenth
century from Egypt and adopting Yahweh (the god of the
Kenites of Sinai) saw in him their Saviour. He was a local
deity and, though far from moral, was gradually to become
"the God of the whole earth", the "high and holy One that
inhabited! eternity". On the foundations laid by Moses in
interpreting this God and in formulating his moral require-
168 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
ments is reared the grand structure of Hebraism, and much
that is noblest in our heritage.
But for many centuries Yahweh remains a tribal God,
inciting his people to spoil the Egyptians, to annihilate the
Amalekites, and to keep themselves apart from their neigh-
bours. "A peculiar people" they are to impose the "fear
of Yahweh" upon their enemies, and to guard it as their
most precious possession. And in their amazing story there
was much to inspire awe as well as wonder, love as well as
Those who had escaped from the Egyptian captivity gave
their new God to the other Hebrew settlers, and as they passed
from a nomadic to a settled life the legends and stories of
their fathers told at many a camp-fire, and by many a well-
side, were edited and made into edifying history. Yahweh
was made the inspirer of some of their worst deeds, and as
their own morals improved they sought to rationalize the
barbarous acts of old by giving them a religious sanction.
Yahweh was above good and evil, and men were to admire
and to fear, even where their conscience forbade them to
To this period belong the nuclei of two groups of books
edited in this spirit: Judges, Samuel, and I Kings form the
first group, and are our sources for the ethical ideals of the
nomads, but they contain later material; and the Old Testa-
ment as a whole is the product of much editing and re-
During their migrations the Hebrews are represented as
little better than those whom they despise. In fact the bulk
of these earlier books might be conceived as writings to
celebrate the grace of Yahweh in favouring such an im-
moral crew were it not for the fact that Yahweh's own
morals are no better. He is deceitful and vengeful, sending
evil spirits to divide men, and to tempt them to murder, 1
and he is made the sanction for blood-vengeance of the most
1 Cf. Judges ix; i Samuel xvi, 15.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 169
ruthless kind. 1 Here is religion of a primitive type, which
the improving morality of the Hebrews is soon to outgrow.
Meantime they are themselves at a crude patriarchal stage,
often using women as chattels, 2 and practising polygamy: they
make holocausts of their captives 3 or concubines: 4 they
enslave whole populations, and they regard the resentment
of their victims as proofs of moral obliquity and false
religious beliefs. This point of view lives on very tenaciously.
Down to the time of David and Solomon this primitive
morality persists, and the first prophetic figures are them-
selves the mouthpiece of a confused religious and ethical
ideal, and non-Israelites are still outside the pale.
Against this dark background shine the protest of Nathan
at David's murder and adultery, and David's own contri-
tion: 5 the magnanimity of Saul, 6 and Jonathan's unselfish
friendship? a noble substitute for the older blood-feud. A
growing sense of justice, and of moral requirements in the
priesthood, is revealed in the dramatic story of Eli's sons 8 and
in the judgments of David and Solomon judges as well as
kings with absolute power.
As the Hebrews compare this theocratic kingdom of the
eleventh century with their earlier lawlessness they say truly:
"In those days. . .every man did what was right in his own
eyes ".9 In a word a growing moral sensitiveness is revealed
as the nomadic stage is passed, and the Hebrews settle in
Canaan; the abominations of the local cults, which sometimes
invade their own religion, more usually cause them to guard
it and to reform it: and to become more "jealous" for
This "jealousy", or zeal so hard for people of non-
1 i Samuel xxv, 58.
2 Cf. the appalling story in Judges xix.
3 Judges ix, 45. 4 Judges xxi.
5 2 Samuel xi and xii. 6 i Samuel xi.
7 i Samuel xviii. 8 i Samuel xx, 6, 25.
9 Judges xxi, 25.
i?o THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
Semitic heritage to understand has many noble aspects, and
if its iconoclasm and hatred of foes went to extreme lengths
it is important to remember that this small nation was "a
petty clan of highlanders. . .pushed to and fro by the two
contending dynasts of the ancient world and at last crushed
between them": * and that "if they had not been particular-
istic and pugnacious we should never have heard of them or
of the Kingdom of God".
I quote these words from a friendly critic, and yet I cannot
shirk the conviction that the Jews have deserved much of
the persecution that has come their way. Their belief in a
covenant relation peculiar to themselves has made them and
their legatees proud and exclusive.
The Indian reader will, however, appreciate to the full
their true devotion, a passionate bhakti at the heart of this
jealousy. Yir-ath-Adonai usually rendered the "fear of the
Lord" is its developed form, and the phrase is as difficult
to translate as sophrosyne\ with this too it has affinities. It
is the attitude of devoted loyalty, of fear of losing God's
presence, of circumspection in serving Him, of awe rather
For the Jew it is the beginning and the end of wisdom, as
sophrosyne is for the Greek and bhakti for the Indian de-
votee. It is the true genius of Israel and inspires its one art,
that of rapt poetic diction. God, who has chosen them, is
speaking to their prophets, and has a loving purpose in
moulding them into a nation: they stand before him in
amazed contemplation of his mercy and majesty, and slowly
the sense dawns that One so loving and so great has wider
purposes and a less exclusive love.
When they adopted such Babylonian myths as those of
the Creation and the Flood they must have reflected upon
the genius of their Semitic predecessors, and on the other
hand while they borrowed much of the Canaanite cultus
they were moved to set Yahweh as a God of War over
1 A. Nairne, The Faith of the Old Testament.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 171
against the local Baalim and their fertility rites; and even
when they assimilated much they were able to reject more.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah expresses Hebrew con-
demnation of the perversions of sex common in such wor-
ships, and these seem nevertheless to have invaded their own
cultus. 1 So Saul after attacking necromancy, himself falls a
victim to it. 2
The protest of these books against the Canaanite cults is
evidently that of later editors rather than of the Israelites of
the Early Kingdom.
It is a fascinating but difficult task to discover the morality
of this age of transition; and it is becoming clear that some
very important elements of Jewish religion and ethics belong
to the older groups of Semites, Babylonian and Canaanite.
This is probably true of the Sabbath, destined to become a
central pillar of Judaism.
It is also true of the kindlier spirit of the Early Codes
which belong to an agricultural civilization. The Code of
Hammurabi remains to suggest the good influences of the
surrounding peoples and to prove how one-sided is the
Hebrew version of their own moral superiority. If they are
to become a light to the Gentiles they are now lighting their
torches at Gentile shrines.
The second group of pre-prophetic books accordingly shows
advance in ethical content. In their present form these works
Genesis, Exodus, and the four other books at the beginning
of our Bible have clearly been edited several times, and the
so-called J and E recensions3 can be distinguished as docu-
ments of early prophetic days i.e. of about the eighth
century B.C. The ethical ideals they embody may fairly be
1 i Kings xiv, 23-4. a i Samuel xxviii.
3 I.e. the versions using Jehovah and Elohim respectively as the name
of God. There are also later recensions: D, that of the Deuteronomic
reform, P, that of the later priestly school, and the eclectic work of
i?2 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
compared with those of the Homeric and Vedic hymns. All
contain earlier matter, and all were recited to tell of heroic
days and of the doings of the gods.
Yahweh is in some ways less moral than Zeus, and
much less moral than Varuna, and religion is still more con-
cerned with ritual observance than with righteousness. There
is among the Hebrews no concept such as rita in India or
moira in Greece, by which the conduct of God and man is
to be judged. Yahweh is the author of both the moral and
the religious law. This is soon to be a source of immense
strength to the Hebrews: it is at present still a weakness, for
Yahweh is represented as the author of much evil. He
" hardens Pharaoh's heart " and then overwhelms him for its
hardness: he "sends a lying spirit" into the prophets of Ahab's
court, and in due course overwhelms them and him: he is
still a bloodthirsty tribal god. And these attributes are very
slowly sublimated into righteous anger against evil, and
stern justice tempered with patience and mercy.
As for the men of this age they sail have a low idea of
women and practise polygamy: yet great honour is given
to Miriam as to Deboran in an earlier, and to Ruth in a
later age. Fraud is common: Abraham passes off his wife as
a sister, and allows Pharaoh to take her. Jacob is at times a
smooth rogue. But there are sublime elements in these sagas
which are full of beauty and pathos, and of abiding moral
value: and in their present form they are works written to
preach and to teach a kind of philosophy of history with
many morals woven into its narrative.
It is these elements and the sense that Yahweh is leading
them on to greater things which begin to justify the Hebrew
claim to be a chosen people. The general level of their con-
duct does not sustain the claim. But they read back into their
past some sense of justice and mercy: thus the aged Jacob
is made to deprecate the savage wrath of his sons Levi and
Simeon, who had destroyed a city to avenge their sister. 1
1 Cf. Genesis xlix, 5-7.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 173
For the rest we may hope that these books will be in-
creasingly studied by anthropologists, who will throw much
light on their sanctions and tabus. And to such uses they
should largely be confined. A set of documents which tell
of the swift vengeance of Heaven on a man who touches
the ark in seeking to save it, and admire a man who
gives his daughter to be ravished by a mob to save a guest
cannot be used for edification.
Nor is the ruling idea that prosperity is the proof of God's
approval and the reward of righteousness any longer
salubrious: it never was true, except in a very limited sense,
and it has encouraged much hypocrisy.
The one valuable element which these books contribute
to ethics and it is of mixed value is that Yahweh is a great
and powerful god who has a great destiny for his people.
This idea grew and developed with the growth of the
Hebrews who are soon to produce the greatest documents
of ethical monotheism in the ancient world. It is because of
gleams of this pure gold that we treasure the earlier books;
they shine at times in a very crude matrix.
And as it has taken a catastrophe on a world-wide scale
to bring our world to a sense of its unity, so it was not till the
threat of Assyria loomed on the horizon that Israel awoke
out of a smug tribalism.
"By shattering the tribes Assyria shattered the tribal theory
of religion. The field was cleared of the many : there was
room for the One. . .there was a great chance. . .for a god
with a character", says George Adam Smith. 1
And, we may add, there was urgent need for a prophetic
voice to call the nations to heed the signs of the times. They
were all at the dawn of a new era.
Within the two little kingdoms also there was grave need
1 G. A. Smith, The Twelve Prophets, p. 54.
174 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
In the codes of law which belong to this period we find a
higher ethical standard than we should expect from the
narratives in which they are imbedded, and we can trace the
growth of a settled people in customary morals as well as
in the attempt to embody these in legislation.
But the settled life had its dangers as well as its advantages.
There was so much corruption in the local cults, and so much
temptation to materialism as they acquired wealth and
" waxed fat", that there was always work for the reformer;
and prophetism begins with the clarion call of Samuel to
yield to Yahweh obedience rather than sacrifice. By
establishing the kingdom Samuel gave Israel a new unity
and kept her from absorption by her neighbours. After
Moses he is the founder of the nation a Theocratic King-
dom and while some elements of later prophetism may
have been read back into his words and deeds he may safely
be called the founder of the prophetic line. He is a figure of
Aeschylean grandeur transitional between the old grim
nomadic order of wars of annihilation and the new and
better day of settled and peaceful progress.
Some of his sayings may voice the ethic of a later age
but there is ample evidence of an awakening conscience in
Israel of which these grand pictures are the embodiment,
and from this great beginning on to Elijah and Elisha the
true prophets are seen at war with the false, and the corrupt
Ahab and Jezebel are confronted with Yahweh's wrath at
the worship of Baal and the corruption of Israel. Elisha
while he tolerates calf-worship denounces the slaughter of
prisoners of war 1 and here we see one great moral advance.
Another is seen in the conviction that David's hands are
too blood-stained to allow him to build the temple, and in
a growing sense that righteousness is better in God's sight
than ritual. The struggle finds a dramatic climax in the
1 2 Kings vi, 21-3.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 175
rugged shepherd Amos who hurls his challenge at corrupt
priests, unjust judges and cruel leaders. "Let judgment roll
on as waters, and righteousness as an unfailing stream" 1 is
his warning to a corrupt nation. So begin the awakening
of the eighth century and the work of the prophetic
The leaders of this strange company, men differing from
one another in social rank, in education and in genius, are
Amos (7603.0.), Hosea (750 B.C.), Isaiah (740-700 B.C.),
Micah (724-680 B.C.), and all voice the demand of God for
social justice. That they accomplished one of the greatest
revolutions in human thought is clear, and that all were
called by some vision or conversion to a deeper under-
standing of Yahweh's righteousness and love, and set up
with unfailing courage new standards of justice. From the
clear fountain-head of their vision of God there are still
flowing mighty streams of idealism: and the prophets are the
main justification for the Hebrew claim to be a chosen
people. But they were often persecuted and seldom obeyed.
Their monotheism and ethical ideals are foreshadowed in
the Codes of Law, 2 in which the current morality of the
Hebrews at the close of the pre-prophetic period is summed
up, with perhaps some later editing.
That they had departed very far from even these laws is
made clear by the denunciations of the shepherd of Tekoa.
He is a champion of the poor, and finds in the Northern
Kingdom oppression and callous disregard: they "trample
upon the needy and exterminate the poor of the land". 3
The money ground out of the people they spend on luxury
and debauch: 4 justice they pervert until "they know not
how to do right",5 and look blasphemously to a Day of
1 Amos v, 24.
2 Exodus xx, xxiii, xxxiv, contain these codes agricultural ideals
blent with the spirit of eighth-century prophetism.
3 Amos viii, 4; cf. Exodus xxii, 21-7.
4 Amos iii, 12; iv, I. 5 Amos iii, 10.
i?6 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
Yahweh, which will set their foot upon the neck of their
But God is also the God of the peoples of Moab and
Philistia, and the nations whom they hope to subdue: He
calls upon all "to do justice and to love mercy". Israel in
particular, as God's chosen, must be righteous, and ritual is
no substitute for morality. This Amos makes at once the
essence of true religion, and the condition of Yahweh's
favour: and the rich are not to suppose that their wealth will
cover up their sin. "You only have I known. . .therefore I
will punish you for all your iniquities." 1 "Ye have built
houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them: Ye
have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink the
wine/' 2 For the Day of Yahweh is at hand a day of sifting
and testing, of famine and captivity unless they repent,
and are saved. 3
Nowhere in history is there a more picturesque figure than
this rugged countryman, who sees clearly with his desert eyes
the corruption of the evil city, and nowhere is there grander
poetry than in his denunciations. His successor Hosea goes
deeper into the Holy Place of the Divine Nature, and into
the mysteries of human sin and suffering. If there is fire in
the eyes of Amos there are tears in those of Hosea whose
own love for an erring wife reveals to him the unplumbed
depths of the Divine compassion.
He too denounces corruption and harlotry and oppression,
bids Israel "sow righteousness and reap the fruit of piety":
and pronounces woe upon the guilty nation. 4 But he is
himself an Israelite, whereas Amos was from the Southern
Kingdom; the doom is more imminent, and his sense of the
pain at the heart of God is more acute. "When Israel was
a child I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. . . .
I drew him with. . .cords of love How shall I give him
1 Amos iii, 2. 2 Amos v, n.
3 Amos ix. 4 Hosea x.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 177
up?" 1 So mercy and justice blend in this new vision of a
sorrowful God, and a new note is struck in ethics as in re-
ligion. It is the Divine as it is the human prerogative to
pardon: and in suffering man can draw near to God. But
Hosea has nothing of the wide outlook of Amos: he is a
townsman seeking to lead Israel back to the old God of the
nomads : whereas Amos is a nomad turned into a seer of a
new international God, and Isaiah is his true successor.
Isaiah 2 saw the doom pronounced by his predecessors. He
saw the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. and the invasion of Judah
by Sennacherib twenty years later. As Amos tells of Judg-
ment, and Hosea of Love, so Isaiah goes on to proclaim
The account of his vision^ is a classic expression of the
mystical experience, and of the call to prophecy: it is a vision
of God's might and of His holiness, and also of human need.
Personal sin and national sins come home to the visionary:
"I am a man of unclean lips, and I live in the midst of a people
of unclean lips", he protests, but is sent forth to call Israel to
repentance. Of what are they to repent? Of a false cult and
of social iniquity.
Your new moons and your set feasts
My soul abhors : they are an abomination. . . .
Cease to do evil: learn to do good:
Judge the fatherless plead for the widow. 4
These are the themes of his first " Oracle": like Amos and
Hosea he is a champion of the poor and a scourge of the
rich and corrupt. The great prophets are in fact one in their
main ethical ideals, and in their picture of God. Righteous-
ness alone, they teach, can satisfy him, and the poor and
1 Hosea xi.
2 The Book of Isaiah is complex: "a kind of gospel of Isaiah a record
of the prophet's life and teaching combined with a good deal of later
theology, all composed into a book by the post-exilic scholars", says
3 Isaiah vi. 4 Isaiah i, 14, 17.
i?8 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
oppressed are his special care. The alien too, who had been
considered outside the pale, is also his; and the thought
grows, from Amos to Hosea, and from Hosea to Isaiah, that
God is not only justice, but mercy: and from Amos to
Isaiah that He is God not only of Israel but of all nations.
Our illustrative readings will make it clear that there is a
progressive revelation here from die inexorable justice of
the God of Amos to the inexhaustible love of the God of
Hosea, and from the God of a nation to the God of
The greatest of the prophets thus summarizes their teaching,
"Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all
thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength "
and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". "These are
the two great commandments ; on them hang all the law and
the prophets. " x Here Jesus is quoting the first commandment
from the Deuteronomic Code. 2 Written perhaps during the
corrupt reign of Manasseh in the middle of the seventh
century, and " disco vered" in the Temple, the Book of
Deuteronomy wrought a great reform in Israel. It is, in
effect, a compromise between the new and revolutionary
teachings of the prophets and the old religion. There is much
in it that is of universal application, and it renews the plea of
Amos against ruthlessness, 3 but there is also much that is
purely local, and that Jesus rejected.
But we must remember the position of any legislator who
sought to apply to a stiff-necked nation the high ideals of
the prophets, and much was accomplished. The book reveals
the bitter opposition of the people, and we know that they
refused to listen, and that in 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar de-
stroyed the temple, and carried off the upper classes and the
priests to Babylon. This calamity led to a growing sense that
1 Mark xii, 29-30; cf. Matthew xxii, 37-40.
2 Deuteronomy vi, 4, 5.
3 Amos i, 3, n, 15; Deuteronomy xx, 19.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 179
the individual mattered: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die",
says Ezekiel, prophet and priest, and though there were
many that believed that Israel would one day triumph over
its enemies, the more thoughtful and spiritual began to realize
that Israel's domain was in the realm of the spirit a kingdom
of God in the hearts of men, rather than a theocratic kingdom
among the great empires. The post-prophetic teachers of
Israel are in this like the post-Socratic teachers of Hellas.
Their national sorrows also called out their sense of
solidarity, and raised anew the question "For what is Yah-
weh preparing the nation?" The sublime answer is given
in the Servant Songs attributed to a later Isaiah. He is a
great lyrical poet, and they are the crowning achievement of
Hebrew prophecy, matchless in their terse and dramatic
diction. God, they teach, is putting upon His people the
burden of the world's sin : He is calling them to a mission
not of conquest, but of redemption. It was many centuries
before any Hebrew prophet dared to take up this unpopular
tale and then it was to be fulfilled in unexpected ways.
From now on Hebrew prophecy begins to lose its high
It is impossible, in the space at our disposal, to trace the
long story, and it is in effect largely one of degeneration. For
while there are prophets who continue the great tradition,
yet even Ezekiel turns from preaching repentance and
righteousness to pathetic pictures of the restoration of Judah
and the rebuilding of the Temple. The second Isaiah also is
obsessed with this hope, and the prophets seem to be seeking
to comfort Israel rather than to reform it, until prophecy
ends in an anti-climax and the triumph of the priest is com-
plete. Yet to this later period belong most of the Psalms 1
which remain unchallenged as the expression of the
soul's waiting upon God. While they are essentially Jewish
the songs of Israelites at worship they belong to all man-
1 The Psalter while it contains earlier hymns is "The Hymn-book of
the Second Temple".
i8o THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
kind: and the very fact that they express doubt as well as
faith, hate as well as love, reveals them as very human docu-
ments. The psalmists like the prophets are men tried in the
furnace of affliction, and like them they are often in revolt
against ritual and official dogmas, such as that of the guilt of
the sufferer. We are as it were "listening in" at the prayers
and confessions of men who love God, yet rebel against the
cruelties of their lot; or of others whose serene trust is un-
shaken, and whose one delight is in the Commandments of
their God; or of still others who cry out in deep repentance,
and recognize that separation from God is the one unbearable
punishment. "I may truly name this book", says Calvin,
"the anatomy of all parts of the soul", and we may add of
the soul of the religious everywhere.
The Psalter is in fact the most universal of books of
devotion, and for our purpose is the more valuable as a
revelation all unconscious of the moral ideals of Israel in
the post-prophetic period. It contrasts the just with the
wicked, the wise man with the fool: the former are those
who trust in God and fear him, the latter are those who
deny God and have no sense of retribution. Man is of the
earth and "altogether vanity", yet God has put all things
under his feet, and though all are liars and none do good, yet
the pious are men of a humble spirit, and in doing their duty
to God and man are refreshed by the waters of the Divine
Mercy. God vindicates His own and punishes the ungodly
and righteousness is itself their reward.
More consciously ethical and didactic are the "Proverbs",
which like the Psalter is a post-exilic compilation with older
material, and which also reveals the accepted morality of the
people at large. Here and in Ecclesiasticus we find the
ethic of Judaism in the third century B.C. shrewd maxims
and wise saws rather than lofty ideals. Yet the basic idea is
the same in religion is the true wisdom, and the only sure
reward. Filial piety, respect for the aged, kindliness to all,
industry and sobriety, frugality and caution these are the
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 181
moral qualities most admired. It is a pragmatic and utili-
tarian ethic which the wise inculcate and they do not
hesitate to appeal to the motive of book-keeping.
Yet their constant praise of wisdom and of righteousness
above all of the fear of Yahweh make these books true
treasuries of religion: "They have enough confidence in
human nature to believe that it will respond to the best in life
that is presented, and they sincerely believe that they have
And if later Judaism has lost its prophetic fire and its
radiant sense of the triumph of God's justice, we must
remember that post-exilic religious leaders preserved pro-
phetic ideals by thus embodying them: if they somewhat
sterilized them they also protected them from evaporating
into vague idealism.
Ezekiel is the Father of Judaism and its narrow and ex-
clusive outlook is in as strange contrast to the catholicity of
the second Isaiah as its ritualism and legalism are to the " pure
religion and undefiled" of Micah. But post-exilic Judaism
has many glories such as the magnificent universality of Ruth
the Moabitess and of Jonah, spiritual heirs of the eighth-
In the fear of Yahweh is the beginning and, one might also
say, the end of Hebrew wisdom. Jealousy for the Law of
Yahweh is the inspiration of many of the prophets, and also
the explanation of much that is intolerant and even unethical
in Hebrew morality. If its fine flower is the passion for
righteousness and the love of the poor taught by the great
prophets, and if its ethical monotheism was right in being
intolerant of base cults and false prophets, yet there is a spirit
of vindictiveness which these prophets sought in vain to
sublimate, and against which Jesus set his face. If unnatural
vice is the besetting sin of the Greek, this spirit of vengeful-
ness is the besetting sin of Israel. Her earliest poetry is
182 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
darkened by it: Deborah 1 praises Jael for a deed of foul
treachery to a guest: the "Song of the Bow" 2 gloats over
the long-drawn-out slaughter of the enemy. Samuel an-
nounces Yahweh's punishment upon Saul for sparing even
the cattle of the Amalekites ; and some of the noblest psalms,
belonging to a much later day when Israel is chastened
by suffering, can only be sung by a modern congregation if
they either completely forget the meaning of the words or
else allegorize them. Even the Book of Deuteronomy,
which embodies much of the moral teaching of the great
prophets, lays down the lex talionis "an eye for an eye and a
tooth for a tooth" which Jesus rejected, and it lays it down
clearly with the intention of putting some bounds to the
vindictiveness of Israel. Of later books that of Esther is a
classic of race-hatred, and the sufferings of the Hebrews have
been largely due to this vice. If Jews are persecuted to-day
it is partly because their intellectuals have preached class-
war. But this passion against oppressors is also a cry for
Justice from Amos to Karl Marx; and is blent often with a
true sense of religious values. The earliest hymn pronounces
a blessing on "them that love Yahweh", and the very Baby-
lonian psalm which blesses the man that shall dash little
children against the stones is full of yearning for the City of
Hebrew religion and ethics do not in fact present a picture
either of unity or of steady progress. They rise to great
heights and fall to great depths, and progress follows a zigzag
path. Reaching its noblest expression some five centuries
after the Egyptian captivity with the great prophets of the
eighth century, Judaism gradually sinks again as ritual over-
shadows righteousness, and prophecy degenerates into
apocalyptic. Yet this gifted race, when its spiritual life
seemed almost at its lowest ebb, continued to contain a
remnant of pious and gentle souls who protested against
narrowness and legalism, and "who expected the consolation
1 Judges v, 24-31. 2 2 Samuel i.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 183
of Israel" and the vindication of Yahweh. And it is Israel's
greatest triumph that she produced her greatest son when
the Gentile world also was most in need of a moral
The long history of the Hebrew race may be compared
with that of the Indians in its preoccupation with religion
and in its search for a nobler ethic. Through many failures
and much suffering it evolved an ideal of social righteousness
which is still a living inspiration, and learnt the meaning of
God's Holiness. Through its own sufferings it came to under-
stand his love and to envisage itself as his suffering servant.
And even at lower levels its psalms of worship which ex-
press the longing of the masses, and its proverbial wisdom
have won an unchallenged place in the world's religious
The Semitic peoples have been little interested, on the
other hand, in the world of art and science, and have made
no supremely great contribution to man's secular life. They
have left nothing to compare with Greek architecture, or
Chinese landscape painting, no great tradition of scientific
thought like that of Greece, and they seem to have
ignored Babylonian astronomy. Though we are told that
Joseph and Moses learnt the wisdom of the Egyptians there
is no evidence of it, and the Jewish abhorrence of alien cults
is enough to explain their aloofness from sciences which
were connected with priests and temples. Even in later ages
what Arab and Jewish scholars have achieved has been largely
as middle-men, handing on Greek and Indian civilization,
and even when fully exposed to that Greek culture which
the Romans took with eager hands, the Jew was too con-
scious of the " abomination of desolation" which Hellenism
sought to impose. If the Jew was a barbarian to the Greek,
the Greek was an idolater to the Jew. Keeping their sense
of the holiness of Yahweh, they kept also their sense of
At such great cost was won their growth in ethical
184 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
idealism 1 and in an idea of God only surpassed by that of
Jesus: "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil". 2 Their
social ethic develops side by side with the idea of Yahweh,
or indeed often in advance of it. It emerges from the savage
tribalism of a nomad people, alleviated by laws of hospi-
tality and tribal solidarity, to become the recognition of a
brotherhood of nations far in advance of our present
That it was peculiarly difficult for them to reach this ideal
their records show, and secular history also makes clear.
Their story begins with a long and cruel captivity and
goes on through ages of wandering and uncertainty, con-
tinuing all down the ages in oppression and outrage. Yet
all through this stern discipline they have kept a sense of
mission and a hope for the good time coming. If Aeschy-
lus learnt through the bitter days which followed the Age of
Pericles that "to suffer is to learn", how much more did
Hosea and Jeremiah discover that "whom God loves he
chastens". The greatest literary masterpiece of the Jews, the
Book of Job, which may indeed be compared with a Greek
tragedy and especially with the Prometheus, rings with this
faith in the Unseen: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust
Him". This sense of God's reality and nearness and this belief
that He is guiding and refining His people through suffering,
are Israel's great gifts to mankind.
And just in proportion as the Jews came into contact with
the world about them, did their own culture draw back into
itself. The Babylonian and Persian captivities brought them
into very close contact with highly civilized peoples: but
they seem to have learnt little more from Babylon and Persia
than they did from Egypt. Ezra is their second Moses, and
he returned from Persia to Jerusalem while Athens was at the
height of its glory: he knew of "Javan", Ionia or Greece, as
1 For an excellent summary, see J. M. P. Smith's Morals of the Hebrews,
2 Habakkuk i, 13.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 185
among the peoples "who have not heard of the fame of
Yahweh", and he devoted himself to the task of moulding
a new theocracy. As a Jewish writer has said of his people,
"Knowledge of God was their conception of wisdom; service
of God their conception of virtue; their poetry was the ex-
pression of the yearning of the soul for God; history was a
religious drama in which God was the protagonist judging
the nations with righteousness. The conception of God was
their philosophy they did not require any other". 1
"Their main values are justice and pity, charitableness and
lovingkindness." 2 Chesed is the latter, zedakan the former,
and in studying those ideals we get to the real core of Hebrew
ethics. They are the moral qualities of Yahweh which He
imparts to his people if they wait upon him.
The comparison between Jew and Greek has often been
attempted, and nowhere better summarized than in the
Thus the sharp contrasts of the sculptor's plan
Showed the two primal paths our race has trod,
Hellas the nurse of man complete as man,
Judaea pregnant with the living God.
If Judaea is the mother-country of the soul, Greece is the
mother-country of the mind and if the Jew is to love
God with all his soul, the Greek is to pursue truth with all
his mind. These are parallel quests, and both lead to the goal
of personality, and to him who is Love and Light, and who
bade men know God as well as love him.
The by-products of these quests are of immense significance
to the ethical life of mankind. The passion for social justice
of the Jew, his sense of a purpose in individual and national
life, his code of personal purity and integrity these com-
1 N. Bentwich, Hellenism, pp. 20-21.
2 C. G. Montefiore, The Old Testament and After.
i86 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
plement and enrich the more systematic ethic of Hellas, her
moderation and self-control, her fearless search for truth, her
faith in reason, her pursuit of wisdom, her passion for
These are the treasures of our Western heritage, and Chris-
tianity is the heir of both Jew and Greek. Its ethic while it
simplifies also deepens that of Greece, and by centring its
interest in the Kingdom of God gives to human personality
an inspiration and a motive which harmonizes the self-
regarding with the altruistic, the individual with the social,
the world-affirming with the world-denying which tem-
pers liberty with law, and idealism with duty.
If Hellas sought Beauty and Judaea Righteousness, Christ
calls men to the Beauty of Holiness and the Joy of Service.
If the watchword of the Greek was Freedom and that of the
Jew Obedience, Christ offers an allegiance "whose service
is perfect freedom".
By making life Christo-centric he unites the God-centred
life of Palestine with the man-centred life of Greece : and
the Church soon found it a matter of experience that in him
is neither Jew nor Greek; for in him the two great Cultures
met and blent.
If our Western world has failed to appropriate its heri-
tage it yet knows the rock from which it is hewn, and when
Asia admires its application of science to life, its philanthropies,
its search for social justice, it can only say with all sincerity
"Not unto us, but unto our Lord be the glory given".
So when, as is more usual, Asia taunts us with being far
from Christian we can but reply "Help us to enter into our
inheritance". In the Person of Jesus it is centred.
But the legacy of Israel must not be conceived as purely
religious. Their theocratic ideal has had an immense in-
fluence on Europe often for good. Their belief in a purpose-
ful creation and in progress in social justice are still a living
inspiration, and it may well be that recent achievements of
Jews in science and philosophy are the promise that the
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 187
imaginative genius which for so long devoted itself to
religion is being set free under more favourable social and
political conditions to illuminate other fields. So in art and
music, the old tabus being removed, we may see the sen-
suous and poetic genius of Israel turning to other creative
achievement. For if the Hebrew is not like the Greek in
aesthetic appreciation his scriptures show him to be an artist
in words. Seeking truth he often discovered beauty: while
the Greek, seeking beauty, sometimes missed truth.
And if the Jew has lacked the power to analyse, to ex-
amine and to compare, so important in scientific work, he
has shown intuition and a genius for discovering unity which
are no less important.
But the Jew is content to be judged by his religious and
ethical ideals. Here he contributes a basis for the secular
achievements of mankind. Seeking God he discovered man
more fully than even the Greek who fixing his mind upon
man evolves ideals less fully human.
Truth, Beauty, Goodness these alone are real; and only
in an Ideal Person can they be harmoniously blended.
THE SOUL OF ISRAEL
I. HOSPITALITY AND VENGEANCE
Blessed above women shall Jael be,
The wife of Heber the Kenite,
Blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
He asked water, and she gave him milk;
She brought him butter in a lordly dish.
She put her hand to the nail,
And her right hand to the workmen's hammer;
And with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote through his
Yea, she pierced and struck through his temples.
At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay:
188 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
At her feet he bowed, he fell:
Where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
Through the window she looked forth, and cried,
The mother of Sisera cried through the lattice,
Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
Her wise ladies answered her,
Yea, she returned answer to herself,
Have they not found, have they not divided the spoil?
A damsel, two damsels to every man;
To Sisera a spoil of divers colours,
A spoil of divers colours of embroidery,
Of divers colours of embroidery on both sides.
So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord :
But let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in
Judges v, 24-31.
II. MAGNANIMITY AND EGOISM
Joseph and his Brethren
Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood
by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And
there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known
unto his brethren. And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians heard,
and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his brethren,
I am Joseph ; doth my father yet live ? And his brethren could not
answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph
said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they
came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold
into Egypt. And now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves,
that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to pre-
serve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land:
and there are yet five years, in the which there shall be neither
plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve
you a remnant in the earth, and to save you alive by a great de-
liverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God:
and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his
house, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Haste ye, and go up
to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 189
hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not:
and thou shah dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shah be near
unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and
thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: and there will
I nourish thee; for there are yet five years of famine; lest thou
come to poverty, thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast.
And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Ben-
jamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. And ye shall
tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have
seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither.
Genesis xlv, 1-13.
HI. THE IDEALS OF A SETTLED COMMUNITY
Nathan s Rebuke of David
And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him,
and said unto him, There were two men in one city ; the one rich,
and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and
herds: but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb,
which he had bought and nourished up : and it grew up together
with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own morsel, and
drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as
a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and
he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress
for the wayfaring man that was come unto him, but took the
poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to
him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man;
and he said to Nathan, As the Lord livcth, the man that hath done
this is worthy to die: and he shall restore the lamb fourfold,
because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the
Lord, the God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I
delivered thee out of the hand of Saul ; and I gave thee thy master's
house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the
house of Israel and of Judah.. . . Wherefore hast thou despised the
word of the Lord, to do that which is evil in his sight? thou hast
smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife
to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children
2 Samuel xii, 1-9.
190 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
IV. THE COMMANDMENTS
And God spake all these words, saying,
I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor the likeness
of any form that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down
thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a
jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,
upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate
me ; and shewing mercy unto thousands, of them that love me
and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;. . .
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou
labour, and do all thy work : but the seventh day is a sabbath unto
the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long
upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt do no murder.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not
covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maid-
servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.
Exodus xx, 1-17.
V. THE EARLIER PROPHETS: PRE-EXILIC IDEALS
(a) Amos: God's Wrath against Evil
Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for
four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they
have sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes :
that pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and
turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go
unto the same maid, to profane my holy name: and they lay
themselves down beside every altar upon clothes taken in pledge,
and in the house of their God they drink the wine of such as
have been fined. . .. , ft
Amos u, 6-8.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 191
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your
solemn assemblies. Yea, though ye offer me your burnt offerings
and meal offerings, I will not accept them Take thou away
from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody
of thy viols. But let judgement roll down as waters, and righteous-
ness as a mighty stream.
Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the
God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye say. Hate the evil, and love
the good, and establish judgement in the gate: it may be that the
Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious unto the remnant of
v, 14, 15.
Hear this, O ye that would swallow up the needy, and cause
the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the new moon be
gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set
forth wheat? making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and
dealing falsely with balances of deceit.
viii, 4, 5-
(b) Hosea: God's Love of an Erring People
Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord
hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there
is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. There
is nought but swearing and breaking faith, and killing, and stealing,
and committing adultery; they break out, and blood toucheth
Hosea iv, i, 2.
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I
do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the
dew that goeth early away. Therefore have I hewed them by the
prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy
judgements are as the light that goeth forth. For I desire mercy,
and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt
192 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
(c) Isaiah: God's Judgment of the Nations and his
Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto
the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose
is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am
full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and
I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats.
Isaiah i, 10, n.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings
from before mine eyes; cease to do evil: learn to do well; seek
judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though
your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.. . .If ye be
willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.
Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every
one loveth gifts, and folio weth after rewards: they judge not the
fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they
may follow strong drink; that tarry late into the night, till wine
inflame them ! And the harp and the lute, the tabret and the pipe,
and wine, are in their feasts : but they regard not the work of the
Lord, neither have they considered the operation of his hands.
Therefore my people are gone into captivity, for lack of know-
ledge : and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude
are parched with thirst.
A Great Deliverer
And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and
a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit: and the spirit of the Lord
shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the
spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the
fear of the Lord; and his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord:
and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 193
after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge
the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and
he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the
breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall
be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
Isaiah xi, 1-5.
(d) Micah : God's Moral Requirements
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself
before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offer-
ings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with
thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I
give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for
the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to
love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Micah vi, 6-8.
VI. THE SECOND LAW
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither
shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall
be put to death for his own sin.
Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of the stranger, nor of the
fatherless ; nor take the widow's raiment in pledge.
Deuteronomy xxiv, 16, 17.
When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God thou shalt
not be slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it
of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to
vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips
thou shalt observe and do ; according as thou hast vowed unto the
Lord thy God a freewill offering, which thou hast promised with
At the end of every three years thou shalt bring forth all the
tithe of thine increase in the same year, and shalt lay it up within
thy gates: and the Levite, because he hath no portion nor in-
heritance with thee, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the
194 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and
xiv, 28, 29.
A man shall not take his father's wife, and shall not uncover his
When thou drawest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then
proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of
peace,. . . then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein
shall become tributary And if it will make no peace with thee,
. . . then thou shalt besiege it : ... thou shah smite every male
thereof. . . but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle,
and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take
for a prey unto thyself.
VII. LATER PROPHETS
In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten
sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every
one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour
grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.
Jeremiah xxxi, 29, 30.
But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, and
hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes
to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neigh-
bour's wife, neither hath come near to a woman in her separation ;
and hath not wronged any, but hath restored to the debtor his
pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to
the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; he that
hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase,
that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true
judgement between man and man, hath walked in my statutes, and
hath kept my judgements, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely
live, saith the Lord God.
Ezekiel xviii, 5-9.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 195
(c) A Later Isaiah 1 : The Source of Life
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? the everlasting
God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not,
neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding. He
giveth power to the faint; and to him that hath no might he in-
creaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and
the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the
Lord shall renew their strength ; they shall mount up with wings
as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and
notmt - Isaiah xl, 28-31.
(d] The Servant
Behold my servant, whom I uphold ; my chosen, in whom my
soul delighteth: I have put my spirit upon him; he shall bring
forth judgement to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor
cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he
not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring
forth judgement in truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till
he have set judgement in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his
Iaw * Isaiah xlii, 1-4.
VIII. PSALMS AND PROVERBS
(a) The Righteous Man and the Ungodly
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor standeth in the way of sinners,
Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
And in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water,
That bringeth forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also doth not wither;
And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The wicked are not so ;
But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
1 The student is advised to read and re-read all Isaiah xl to Ixvi.
196 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgement,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:
But the way of the wicked shall perish.
Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle?
Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness,
And speaketh truth in his heart.
He that slandereth not with his tongue,
Nor doeth evil to his friend,
Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised ;
But he honoureth them that fear the Lord.
He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
He that putteth not out his money to usury,
Nor taketh reward against the innocent.
He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
As Dean Inge says, here is the ideal of the English
(b) Psalms of Penitence
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness
According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions:
And my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
And done that which is evil in thy sight:
That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest,
And be clear when thou judges t. . . .
Hide thy face from my sins,
And blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence ;
And take not thy holy spirit from me.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 197
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation:
And uphold me with a free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways;
And sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my
And my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips;
And my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou delightest not in sacrifice; else would I give it:
Thou hast no pleasure in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Psalm li, 1-4, 9-17,
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice :
Let thine ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,
Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee,
That thou mayest be feared.
1 wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait,
And in his word do I hope.
My soul looketh for the Lord,
More than watchmen look for the morning ;
Yea, more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with die Lord there is mercy,
And with him is plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.
(c) Maxims of the Sages
For in the memory of virtue is immortality:
Because it is recognised both before God and before men.
When it is present, men imitate it;
And they long after it when it is departed:
198 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
And throughout all time it marcheth crowned in triumph,
Victorious in the strife for the prizes that are undefiled
But a righteous man, though he die before his rime, shall be at rest.
(For honourable old age is not that which standeth in length of
Nor is its measure given by number of years:
But understanding is gray hairs unto men,
And an unspotted life is ripe old age.)
Being found well-pleasing unto God he was beloved of him,
And while living among sinners he was translated:
He was caught away, lest wickedness should change his under-
Being made perfect in a little while, he fulfilled long years;
For his soul was pleasing unto the Lord.
The Wisdom of Solomon iv, i, 2, 7-11, 13, 14.
In thy youth thou hast not gathered,
And how shouldest thou find in thine old age?
How beautiful a thing is judgement for gray hairs,
And for elders to know counsel!
How beautiful is the wisdom of old men,
And thought and counsel to men that are in honour !
Much experience is the crown of old men;
And their glorying is the fear of the Lord
A shamefast woman is grace upon grace;
And there is no price worthy of a continent soul.
As the sun when it ariseth in the highest places of the Lord,
So is the beauty of a good wife in the ordering of a man's house.
As the lamp that shineth upon the holy candlestick,
So is the beauty of the face in ripe age.
Ecclesiasricus xxv, 3-6; xxvi, 15-17.
My son, attend to my words ;
Incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes ;
Keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
For out of it are the issues of life.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 199
Put away from thee a froward mouth,
And perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on,
And let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Make level the path of thy feet,
And let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left:
Remove thy foot from evil.
Proverbs iv, 20-7.
(d) Friendship and Wise Counsel
A faithful friend is a strong defence ;
And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.
There is nothing that can be taken in exchange for a faithful friend ;
And his excellency is beyond price.
A faithful friend is a medicine of life;
And they that fear the Lord shall find him.
He that feareth the Lord directeth his friendship aright;
For as he is, so is his neighbour also
My son, if thou wilt, thou shalt be instructed;
And if thou wilt yield thy soul, thou shalt be pfudent.
If thou love to hear, thou shalt receive ;
And if thou incline thine ear, thou shalt be wise.
Stand thou in the multitude of the elders;
And whoso is wise, cleave thou unto him.
Be willing to listen to every godly discourse;
And let not the proverbs of understanding escape thee.
If thou seest a man of understanding, get thee berimes unto him,
And let thy foot wear out the steps of his doors.
Let thy mind dwell upon the ordinances of the Lord,
And meditate continually in his commandments:
He shall establish thine heart,
And thy desire of wisdom shall be given unto thee.
Ecclesiasticus vi, 14-17, 32-7.
(e) Wisdom Human and Divine
Doth not wisdom cry,
And understanding put forth her voice?
In the top of high places by the way,
Where the paths meet, she standeth;
200 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
Beside the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the coming in at the doors, she crieth aloud:
Unto you, O men, I call;
And my voice is to the sons of men.
ye simple, understand subtilty;
And, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
Hear, for I will speak excellent things;
And the opening of my lips shall be right things.
For my mouth shall utter truth;
And wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness;
There is nothing crooked or perverse in them.
They are all plain to him that understandeth,
And right to them that find knowledge.
Receive my instruction, and not silver;
And knowledge rather than choice gold.
For wisdom is better than rubies;
And all the things that may be desired are not to be compared
I, wisdom, have made subtilty my dwelling,
And find out knowledge and discretion.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil:
Pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way,
And the froward mouth, do I hate.
Counsel is mine, and sound knowledge:
1 am understanding ; I have might.
By me kings reign,
And princes decree justice.
By me princes rule,
And nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
I love them that love me;
And those that seek me diligently shall find me.
Riches and honour are with me;
Yea, durable riches and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold;
And my revenue than choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
In the midst of the paths of judgement:
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance,
And that I may fill their treasuries. Proverbs viii, 1-21.
THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS 201
(/) Jb remembers his Youth
Whence then cometh wisdom?
And where is the place of understanding?
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living,
And kept close from the fowls of the air.
Destruction and Death say,
We have heard a rumour thereof with our ears.
God understandeth the way thereof,
And he knoweth the place thereof.
For he looketh to the ends of the earth,
And seeth under the whole heaven;
To make a weight for the wind ;
Yea, he meteth out the waters by measure.
When he made a decree for the rain,
And a way for the lightning of the thunder:
Then did he see it, and declare it;
He established it, yea, and searched it out.
And unto man he said,
Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
And to depart from evil is understanding
Oh that I were as in the months of old,
As in the days when God watched over me ;
When his lamp shined upon my head,
And by his light I walked through darkness;
As I was in the ripeness of my days,
When the secret of God was upon my tent;
When the Almighty was yet with me,
And my children were about me;. . .
For when the ear heard me, then it blessed me ;
And when the eye saw me, it gave witness unto me:
Because I delivered the poor that cried,
The fatherless also, that had none to help him.
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me:
And I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me:
My justice was as a robe and a diadem.
I was eyes to the blind,
And feet was I to the lame.
202 THE ETHICS OF THE HEBREWS
I was a father to the needy:
And the cause of him that I knew not I searched out.
And I brake the jaws of the unrighteous,
And plucked the prey out of his teeth.
Job xxviii, 20-8; xxix, 2-5, 11-17.
IX. LATER PESSIMISM AND FAITH
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity. . .and much
study is a weariness of the flesh.
This is the end of the matter;. . .fear God, and keep his com-
mandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall
bring every work into judgement, with every hidden thing,
whether it be good or whether it be evil.
Ecclesiastes xii, 8-14.
"Love is the fulfilling of the Law." ST PAUL
"If this is blent with heroism it is irresistible." AKBAR
While the originality of Jesus was sublime and creative it
is equally true that the preparation for Christianity is to be
found not only in the religion of Israel but in the wider
Graeco-Roman world of his time. The genius of Alexander
of Macedon had planted Greek and Jewish colonies far afield,
and his successors carried on this policy, till there were
Hellenistic settlements from Macedonia to India. Greek was
the common language, and the Jews themselves were every-
where, at home as well as abroad, brought face to face with
a culture superior to their own in all but religion.
At home they were saved from complete Hellenization by
their belief that they were the chosen people: abroad
whither they had been carried in wave after wave of im-
perialism and by their own instinct for trade they were
scattered in an unbroken chain, says an early Christian
writer, from North Africa to India. In these lands they still
Philo could boast that Jerusalem had become "the capital
not of one nation but of all"; and Isaiah's prophecy, "My
house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples" was to this
extent fulfilled, that millions came up to the Temple every
year. These far-flung Jewish colonies offered a soul to the
decadent and pessimistic Hellenism of these countries. Their
mixed populations "had a varnish of high culture: but below
the varnish a motley mixture of primitive superstition,
barbarous fears. . .coarse passions, and crude ideas and be-
liefs, springing out of the old Eastern cults, marred the
204 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
Hellenic conception of life". 1 To such the synagogue offered
a lofty view of God, and an uncompromising ethic well
suited by its social emphasis to lift society to much higher
levels. The Jew alone looked forward with hope to a better
day. But he could not tolerate the Emperor-cult or the easy
eclecticism of these cities ; he maintained his tabus ; and his
success as a merchant, to say nothing of his lack of Greek
polish, made him too unpopular to be a good missionary.
Yet even so, "proselytes" and "God-fearers" were numer-
ous, and Judaism, as we see in St Paul's missions, did much
to open the door to Christianity.
If Israel as a whole resisted "paganism", yet intellectual
Jews at cities like Alexandria were learning to dress Judaism
in Greek guise, and assimilating more than they knew from
Greek philosophy and from Stoic ethics. Their pantheism
corrected the rigid monotheism of Israel, and their uni-
versalism deepened its sense of a religious society of all
earnest souls devoted to "the God of the whole earth".
If Judaism with its authoritative "Thus saith the Lord"
and its uncompromising morality was one possible refuge
for the disillusioned and world-weary masses, Stoicism with
its call to "Love all men and to obey God" was another.
The third and most eagerly welcomed was the mystery-
cults. But that of Mithras alone had a high ethic, and we
need only notice here their influence in helping the
marriage of East and West, and in setting the stage for the
Christianity won the ancient world largely as a mystery-
religion, and in Pauline and Johannine thought we see
abundant proof of the influence of these cults as well as of
Hebrew Prophetism, Platonism, and Stoicism.
While Jesus himself seems to have been influenced only
by the first of these, he belongs to a world in which all were
potent influences. And in seeking to interpret him to it, his
followers used whatever categories they found handy and
1 N. Bentwich, Hellenism, pp. 55-6.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 205
apt to their task. For us the title Son of Man is the best and
truest: it will long survive such Jewish terms as Messiah and
such Greek concepts as Logos. These are the categories which
lay ready to the mind of the Early Church; but they are both
inadequate, and it is certain that if Jesus used the former
he would have been puzzled by the latter. An urgent yet
difficult task of criticism is to distinguish between his own
thought about himself and that of the Church which pro-
duced the theological tracts known as the Four Gospels.
They are all written to establish the claims which Christian
experience led men to make on his behalf: and it is likely
that the one title which really represents his mind is Son of
Man. In any case this is for modern men the best foundation
for a true Christology: and the best vindication of the title
"Son of Man" may be found in the universality of the ethic
of Jesus, and in his unique personality. Not only do all
Christians accept his ideals and him as the Ideal, but
humanity at its best everywhere; and "Son of Man" may
well mean True Man, or Representative Man, though it is
often used in a conflicting sense of die Messiah in triumph.
This universality is found in the great parables and in the
teachings of Jesus collected in the Sermon on the Mount.
"The Sermon on the Mount competes on almost equal terms
with the Gita for my allegiance", says Mahatma Gandhi.
"Here is the foundation for the new society", says
Kagawa, the Japanese St Francis, like Gandhi a mystic and a
"I am attracted to the Sermon on the Mount, because it
reinforces our Chinese pacifism", says Hu Shih, leader in the
Chinese Renaissance, a humanist and a rationalist who dis-
trusts mysticism, and seems not to recognize that the ethic
of the Sermon is rooted in it.
So we find civilized humanity united in acceptance of
the Lord's Prayer as the model for intelligent communion
with God, so profound and comprehensive are its simple
clauses, so universal its aspirations. Humanity accepts
206 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
this Prayer if it does not use it, and the Sermon on the
Mount if it does not practise it. It is beginning to be clear
that some who do not call themselves by the name of Chris-
tian are nearer to these ideals than the proud and aggressive
peoples who are included under the name "Christendom",
yet are still largely pagan, refusing to subordinate their
nationalism, or their pride of race to that ideal Kingdom of
God which is central alike in the Prayer and the Sermon.
This is the essence of the social ethic of the Gospel, as the
essence of its individual ethic is in the Golden Rule, and of
its theology in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Utterly
opposed to these principles of love and freedom is most of
our organized life. Yet there is a distinctive Christian civili-
zation, marked by justice and freedom hardly won^tid by
kindliness, honesty, and good-temper. And while the saints
are few their lives have a fragrance that is also distinctive, and
that is more easily recognized than described or analysed.
Nor is there lacking a great company, which no man can
number, of lives touched by the Spirit of Christ to finer
issues and to a more balanced and harmonious goodness
than is found outside Christianity. That it is this which
attracts them, Asiatics agree with magnanimity and un-
animity. Christ they reverence: Christianity they respect:
Christians they admire. Christendom, which is paganism with
a veneer of Christianity, they have come to detest. If race-
prejudice and legalism are the besetting sins of the Hebrew
people, these have also entered into Christendom, a large
part of which finds more inspiration in the Old Testament
than in the New, and in the Law than in the Prophets. To
these faults Christian nations have added hypocrisy, at which
their Master directed his shrewdest blows. Some, for ex-
ample, talk habitually as if the Kingdom of God had arrived
within their own borders, and nowhere else. They are, as
Galsworthy says, "particularly sensitive to moral obliquity
in others ". The Christian, on the other hand, is "to cast out
the beam that is in his own eye, before he can see clearly to
cast out the mote from his brother's eye": or, as Pascal put
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 207
it, "He is to be lenient to the faults of others, severe to his
own". "He is loved", says Confucius, "who sees his own
weakness and the strength of others." The double standards
which pervade the Western world one ethic for the poor,
another for the rich, one for women, another for men, one
for the black man, another for the white are far indeed
from the "single eye" and the forbearing love of the Sermon
on the Mount. We who are bidden to be as loving as God
are as unloving as sin, and the Sermon is rather an epitome
of our ideals than a summary of our practice.
It is probably a collection of the Sayings of Jesus, spoken
at different times and intended to embody principles rather
than laws, to impart a spirit rather than a code. It is the
Charte^of a spiritual kingdom, but the citizens are children
of the Ruler. We know that Jesus began his public career by
preaching from a text of the prophet Isaiah which deals with
social righteousness, and that he went about teaching "Re-
pent ye, for the Kingdom of God is at hand". Repentance
(metanoia) means a change of heart or mind, a new attitude
towards God, a new scale of values : and the Kingdom of
God means the reign of God in men's hearts. "The Kingdom
of God is within you", says Jesus. From this deep source
flow both the individual and the social ethic of the Gospel.
It is in effect a new synthesis of Hebrew ideals; but a
modern Hebrew writer of profound insight and sympathy
has noted as new and formative elements in the Ethic of
Jesus "a certain fire and enthusiasm", "a note of passionate
idealism, and heroism", "a forth-going activity". 1 And in
comparing the Hebrew chesed, lovingkindness, with the
Christian agape he says frankly that the Christian ideal is
something more forth-going and venturesome, more eager
and pastoral than the Hebrew. "It need not be contended
that Proverbs xxv, 21 is a full equivalent of Matthew v, 44-5,
but it is surely a big step upon the way." 2
1 C. G. Montefiore, The Old Testament and After, passim.
* Ibid. p. 195. "If thine enemy hunger feed him": "Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you".
208 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
This seems to me true at once to the values of the two
ideals, and to the facts of history. Jesus claims to fulfil the
ideals of Israel the Law as well as the Prophets to pene-
trate to their inner soul, to fill them with new meaning,
to reunite them in a better balance, to bring out of the ancient
treasury things new and old, to pour new wine into the old
wine-skins. In doing this he is inaugurating a new scale of
values and a new era.
On this great theme Dean Inge has lately spoken weighty
What Nietzsche calls the "transvaluation of all values" may
certainly be applied to the Gospel, as compared with the standards
of what the New Testament calls the world, that is (as Bishop
Gore defines it), human society as it organizes itself apart from
God. The Christian standard of values is not so very different from
the best that has been taught by Buddha, Socrates, and other non-
Christian Saints. But we may perhaps mention as characteristic
of Christian morality the emphasis on the will rather than on the
intellect or feeling; the strongly theocentric direction of the whole;
the insistence on motive rather than on overt action; the appeal
to heroic devotion and loyalty, awakened by genuine love to
God and man; humility, arising from the consciousness that we
"have nothing that we did not receive"; kindliness in judging
others, and a strong desire to help them; and a deeper inner life
in the presence of God, filling the heart with joy and peace.
And above all, Christianity finds the new world in a supra-
sensible, spiritual kingdom. God is not viewed from the stand-
point of the world, but the world from the standpoint of God.
We have to be redeemed into citizenship of this new world, re-
deemed by "grace" which on the human side means self-con-
secration. Each soul, Christianity teaches, has a real history, an
ethical drama, in comparison with which all external events sink
into insignificance. " What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the
whole world and lose his own soul?" The individual drama is a
re-enactmeminlitde of the drama of the redemption of humanity :
of which the sacrament is the life, death, and resurrection of
Christ, who, as it was said by an ancient Father, recapitulates in
Himself the whole series of human lives. So in Christianity per-
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 209
sonal experience, and a divine philosophy are inextricably
blended. The inner world of the Christian is a relationship of
spirit to spirit, not a wholly "other" world, but the deepest
meaning and reality of this world.
Eternity has become incarnate in time, and is already the
atmosphere which the spiritual man breathes. I do not think that
you will find this conception of spirituality, at once radical,
militant, and triumphant, in any other religion or philosophy. All
this, and much more of the same kind, may be found in the New
Testament. It is a type quite distinct and easily recognizable.
You might find it worth while to take some of the new Christian
words faith, hope, love, joy, peace, humility, power, life, and
with the help of the New Testament think out what they meant
in the first century. They will take you to the heart of the Gospel
It is clear that Jesus worshipped and preached the God of the
Jews, whom they also called Father, and whose kingdom
they awaited. But he was more critical of the Scriptures,
which they had sterilized by canonization: he saw more
clearly than they the contradictions involved, and he called
men to a higher and more consistent view of God, and there-
fore to a more harmonious and more heroic life. Once they
recognize that God is Love, they must adopt a new standard
of values, and a new spirit in human relations.
If Jesus followed the prophets the official leaders of Israel
had largely ceased to do so, and if he accepted the spirit of
the Law they were enslaved to its letter. When he claimed
"to fulfil the law and the prophets" he was in fact claiming
to fill them with new meaning, to make them more spiritual
and less legal, more human and therefore more divine; and
he left to his followers all down the ages to work out for
themselves the implications and the detailed application of
his great principles of love and justice and purity. The ethic
1 Dean Inge, Things New and Old, pp. 50-1, Longmans, Green and Co.
210 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
of the New Testament is the ethic of the Early Church: its
principles are our heritage. Its detailed application cannot
bind us: yet there are great and eternal principles clearly set
forth, independent of changing conditions. Like him we
are to seek the spirit and to interpret the letter which is at
best a symbol, and which may too easily become a fetish.
As the Synoptic Gospels give us a fairly consistent portrait
of Jesus which is borne out by St Paul's references to his love,
humility, generosity, and self-sacrifice, so from the New
Testament as a whole we get a consistent account of the
ethical principles which were accepted as the ideals of the
Early Church. Intimately related to the ideals of the He-
brew Prophets, they yet strike a note of profound originality.
The Man of the Beatitudes is like the Hebrew Saint in his
meekness before God, and his acceptance of the Divine Will,
but he goes much farther in the spirit of forgiveness, in
"turning the other cheek", and "overcoming evil with
good". In the range of his love he is to be "perfect as God is
perfect", making no exceptions.
When Jesus preached the Parable of the Good Samaritan
it was in answer to the question, "Who is my neighbour?"
and his contrast of the friendly Samaritan with the callous
Jews gave deep offence to his hearers. This aspect of his
teachings is summed up in the experience of St Paul, that in
Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free,
neither male nor female", "for all are children of God by
faith in Christ". 1
And as the ethic of Jesus is original in the width of its
sweep and in its uncompromising application, so it is original
in the inwardness of its emphasis upon motive. An act is to
be judged by the spirit of the doer, a foul thought is itself
adultery, hatred is itself murder and Jesus makes it clear
that for this reason legalism and true religion are opposed
to one another. While he does not reject the idea of re-
wards and punishments, he makes much of the spirit of
1 Galatians iii, 26-8.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 211
detachment, of the single eye and the uncalculating spirit.
The very yearning for righteousness and for purity is the
promise of its own satisfaction; and these spiritual rewards
are contrasted in the Sermon on the Mount with those worldly
rewards which hypocrites seek. 1 As St Paul puts it, "Love
is the fulfilling of the law", and Jesus himself accepts the sum-
mary of prophetic religion love of God is the first and great
commandment, and akin to it is the second, love of man.
If the Man of the Beatitudes is a paradox in a worldly
society, he is the strong useful man in one which is
heavenly-minded. But he is not to await such a society: he
is to help to inaugurate it, to be leaven and salt in the com-
munity in which he lives, to be uncompromising yet friendly,
pungent yet not pro vocative. The ethic of the Sermon is then
at once individual and social: it is the ethic for the child of
God, but also for the citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Another note of originality is its intimate blending of
religion and morality. God is revealed and served in a loving
society. A good neighbour to all who need his help, regard-
ing it as more blessed to give than to receive, going the second
half mile in an ungrudging spirit, giving freely to all who ask,
yet hiding his almsgiving, and making no parade of virtue,
the Christian is to be a peacemaker and also a pacifist,
"turning the other cheek" and "forgiving until seventy
times seven". And if it be objected that this is exaggerated
romanticism, the reply is that Jesus lived out his own high
and difficult ideals and that his moral grandeur in death
converted Stephen, whose magnanimity in turn won to the
Way of the Cross the great missionary and thinker, Saul of
Tarsus, who knew the lofty ideals of the Stoics and of Plato,
and now saw them incarnate. Saul perhaps read for himself
Pilate's inscription in Aramaic and Greek "This is the King
of the Jews" upon the Cross, and he slowly made up his
mind that here was the Kingly Man of the two traditions at
1 Matthew vi, 16-18.
212 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
This is surely the unique thing in Christianity that its
Founder showed men how a Son of God should live, and after
several generations the Church can make him say, "I if I
be lifted up will draw all men to me". For magnanimity is
a magnet; as Akbar said, " Forgiveness is the way to be truly
a King, and if this spirit is blent with heroism it is irresistible ".
The evangelists tell us that Jesus at the end of a short
ministry of preaching and healing in which he won men
by his friendliness, spontaneity and sincerity "set his face
to go to Jerusalem" and there, still obedient to the heavenly
vision of suffering love, revealed God's own character in
the great drama of Calvary.
In doing this he gave men not only an example but a
dramatization of God's refusal to compromise with evil, and
let loose new and creative powers of redemption.
"The character of an ethical revelation depends largely
on the proportional value given to various duties and above
all on the dynamic energy to carry them out", says Dean
Inge. 1 And all are agreed that in the harmonious balance of
his personality Jesus is at once norm and inspiration. That
he won a great victory over sin and death, and that God
manifested revelations of him to vindicate his ideal kingdom
of hope, faith and love is the foundation of the Church.
"All things were made new", and the ideal world was seen
to be the real the unseen the eternal.
In devotion to this victorious Christ, and in mystical union
with one another " in him" these early groups worked out a
new and dynamic way of life. In this they see a continuation
of the work of their Master, and looking back they remem-
ber the magic of his friendly presence. A tax-collector
despised and hated by his fellow-countrymen and victims as
a traitor and a profiteer finds this kingly stranger seeking
him out and inviting himself to supper: and the miracle of
1 Christian Ethics, p. 40.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 213
conversion is worked: Zacchaeus becomes an honest man,
restoring fourfold and giving half the profits of his profession
to the poor. That this is the occasion for the searching
parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector is suggested by
Luke, who was interested in giving the Gospel to the pagan
world. It expresses the same sentiment as the Sermon on the
Mount the primary place of humility.
Similarly when Samaritans hear of the bold teaching of
another parable they are assured that salvation is for all good
and kind men, and the Parable of the Last Judgment makes
this very emphatic: men are there saved by their kindness.
This is Jesus' own method of salvation. In him a harlot finds
one who will neither use nor abuse her, but meets her with
the friendly simplicity of the pure in heart, and she is herself
made pure. Children crowd around him because he likes
and understands them; and he makes them the pattern of the
heavenly-minded eager, unsophisticated, trustful, teachable
This childlike charm in Jesus becomes "the grace" of
the Early Church, just as his great intellect calls them to
"bring all things into subjection to the mind of Christ",
and his radiant sense of God's nearness and his trust in
God's purposes impart themselves as "joy and peace in
If the historic Jesus did not speak so much about joy as the
Johannine Christ he radiated it more, and if he spoke less
about love he was much more truly its incarnation. If he
did not (and how could he?) make the stupendous claims
of this Logos-Christ, he made so deep an impression that no
other current term was deep and sublime enough to fit him.
He gave new value to God himself, and men said, "Here
at last we see the eternal Father in his unique (or only) Son".
This impression is one of a balance and harmony of
qualities usually separate and often opposed: humility with
confidence, romanticism with sanity, other-worldliness with
a very practical grasp of affairs and a very shrewd insight into
214 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
character, purity with geniality, uncompromising devotion
to truth with tolerance, sympathy with fearless demands upon
heroism, righteousness with love, intensity with humour.
The male and the female, the Eastern and the Western, the
Jew and the Greek meet in this Son of Man, until in the
experience he engenders these barriers are done away.
Fierce denunciation and apocalyptic vision are not of a
piece with this balance and sanity. But a persecuted Church
remembering his prophetic and dynamic qualities reads back
into his life ideas from its own fury and despair: he was
certainly no mild dreamer but a man of genius and volcanic
power, of deep emotion combined with strong will and
commanding intellect. But he could not preach God's un-
failing love and the next moment announce his fury and
Both schools the apocalyptic and the ethical miss
something essential in their hero : as do all one-sided attempts
to label him, pathetic in their zeal to claim him for their
own. We must contrive to keep an even keel, and to recog-
nize the half-truths in these pictures: he was a great ethical
teacher: he was a titan among minnows: he still is. And
each succeeding school throws some light on his complex
While we cannot fully recapture the historic Jesus we, who
refuse to believe either in a dead Christ or in a resurrected
body, must seek the mind of Christ on our own problems.
His emphasis on personal values, on unselfish ideals, on truth
and justice and mercy, on the supremacy of spirit, these
belong to mankind and to the ages.
Hindu gentleness, Chinese patience and reason, Japanese
discipline and loyalty have much in them that is Christlike,
and we await the light to be shed on Jesus by other gifted
Asiatics who shall follow a Gandhi, a Sundar Singh and a
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 215
Nor do we lack confidence that Jesus will come fully into
his own. His romanticism and mysticism have already
"massive historic vindication". The Way of Jesus, which
is the way of unflinching love, already works the miracle
of changing aliens and persecutors into imitators and martyrs.
And the saint is the Christlike man, whose spirit is that of
the bodhisattva and the Mahatma, the servant and saint
of India, of a Socrates as of a Moses, of the meek and
righteous " Servant of Yahweh" whom Jesus knew in the
Scriptures of his people.
The influence of the servant-poems of Isaiah upon him is
evident. He rejected in favour of this ideal that of the
Messianic King, and lived out literally its identification of
the saint with his sinning nation. If Isaiah saw Israel playing
the part of a suffering servant among the nations, Jesus called
the individual Christian to suffer for righteousness' sake, and
himself accepted the ideal, embodying it in his own life and
And as the source of his own ethic was his radiant sense of
a God of unchangeable and redemptive love, 1 so the Early
Church saw in his life and death "the express image of the
Father", and the Fourth Gospel even makes him declare
"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father".
The Epistles are full of references to "the grace of our
Lord Jesus", his kindliness and loving spirit, and the most
theological of his followers, the great missionary Paul and
the mystic John of Ephesus, are the most emphatic in sum-
ming up the whole Christian ethic as Love. St Paul's great
hymn 2 is in effect a summary of the life of Christ, and
St John's brief sermon "Little children love one another",
is accepted by the Christian Church as a brief summary of
the spirit of the new evangel.
St Paul extends the gospel of the Divine Love in Christ to
the Gentiles, and St John rethinks it in terms suitable to the
1 See the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Illustrative Reading v.
2 i Corinthians xiii. See p. 233.
2i6 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
Greek mind; and so the Son of Man, the "Good Shepherd
laying down his life for the sheep", becomes "the Second
Adam", the cosmic man bringing in a new order of creation,
the Divine Logos or Creative Word of the Father. For
St Paul the central ideal is faith unto righteousness. For St John
it is knowledge of Christ unto eternal life, 1 and the ethic of
the New Testament fulfils that of the Old. Here are the
righteousness of the Hebrew Prophets, the beauty of holiness
of the Greek-Hebrew world, the truth for which the Greek
had sought, the way which the Prophets of Israel had yearned
after, and the life which is now given more abundantly to
both gifted races.
We have noted that in the long quest of the historic Jesus,
some have found in him mainly an apocalyptic teacher,
others mainly a teacher of ethics. Some again insist in seeing
in him a nationalist leader, while others interpret him as
rejecting the national aspirations of his people. Some
again attribute to him teachings of a socialist nature, and, in
time of war innumerable pulpits are found referring to his
action in cleansing the Temple, and to his righteous indig-
nation as a vindication of the war-spirit. Dean Inge, who
rightly and characteristically objects to men calling Jesus the
Founder of Socialism, wrongly, and also characteristically,
calls him the Father of Eugenics. All are in turn paying
homage to this simple yet complex teacher, who used the
parabolic form and avoided any legislative dicta.
"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to
God the things that are God's." " Who made me a ruler and
i judge? " Such were his replies, when men sought to make
trim pronounce upon specific cases. He preferred rather to
[ay down those principles of love and justice which can be
expressed in the Golden Rule; and the danger of basing
egislative action on texts is poignantly illustrated by the
1 John xx, 31.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 217
present conflict between conscience and law in the matter
of marriage. The whole institution is now at stake, and
Christianity must apply the mind of its Master to rethinking
much that was once unquestioned. Here religion and ethics
are too often divorced, and men and women tied together
who ought to be separated. This is but one example of the
fallacy of canonizing texts! Here is no place for legalism:
the whole question of sex-relations is being changed by new
economic factors and by new moral insights. Isolated texts
are of no use. Let us seek the great central principles of Jesus.
He accepts the Jewish view of man as made in God's image;
and holds that his nature is spiritual, satisfied only in creation
and communion. To these man must subordinate his
passions, or rather by this spirit he must sublimate them.
The Christian ethic is rooted in respect for personality and
in love of God and men who are of one ultimate nature,
however far separated by sin.
What bearing has this on the question of sex-morality?
It implies that men and women cannot lightly enter upon
the sacramental task of creation, nor, when conditions are
right and spiritual communion demands its physical fruition,
It insists that men and women are persons, ends in them-
selves, and that sin consists in using them as means. This
carries us far on the way to a solution of such problems as
are raised by the new sex-morality as well as by industrial-
ism, imperialism and exploitation of all kinds. If the person
is of more value than the institution, if man is to be valued
more than the machine, if the worker is to be a partner in
industry, and if profits are to be of less importance than
service, it is clear that nothing short of a Christian revolution
"Ye cannot serve God and mammon": "What shall a
man give in exchange for his soul?" "Inasmuch as ye have
done it to one of the least of these ye have done it unto
me", are sayings of Jesus which pierce deep into the hidden
218 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
roots of our troubles. And the social emphasis of his ethic
condemns our individualism, with its aberrations in mono-
poly, nationalism, militarism and imperialism closely re-
But we are not to make Jesus a Jew of the first century
legislate for our twentieth-century problems. He supplies
a spirit, but no detailed remedies. How could he even en-
visage the problems of the industrial era, and supply a Code
to suit the totally different world it has produced?
We cannot even understand many of his ethical para-
doxes because we do not know in what particular circum-
stances they were uttered. But his general principles, "Make
the tree good", "A rotten tree can't bear good fruit",
"Love God and your neighbour", "If ye forgive not men,
neither will God forgive you", are of searching nature. And
like the Buddha he saw that the permanent enemies of man-
kind are fear and self-will. These kill man's love of God and
men: that love must be allowed to kill them. Otherwise we
shall have war in the economic and every other sense.
And modern psychology will agree with both teachers
that until man faces his real enemies within, his vision is
distorted to see enemies without.
The Sermon on the Mount is an exposition of such truths.
"Be done with fear, for God is your Father; be done with
hate, for His sons are your brothers", is Canon Streeter's
summary. 1 But I cannot accept his dictum that the Buddhist
differs from the Christian salvation in this that to one the
fraud is the universe, to the other it is himself. Buddhism,
like Christianity, sees man as the key to the universe : it too
teaches that the mastery is for him who can put away
evil and do good. Abhaya, the banishing of fear, tanha-
kkhaya, the killing of egoism, are also Buddhist objectives,
and the method of conquest is also through faith in the
teacher, acceptance of his views, and following his way of
1 "The Buddha and the Christ", Bampton Lectures, 1932.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 219
That Sakyamuni offered a double path we have seen, and
the majority of Christians hold that their Master, too, had
one heroic call for the saints, and another more prosaic path
of homely duty for the rank and file. The Apostolic Church
certainly insists on a variety of vocations, and this emphasis
we must recapture, telling men everywhere that in doing
their own work well they are finding God and working
with him. Here the Gita reinforces the Gospel, and in its
insistence on detachment it is also a noble ally. The Church
of Christ, which owes so much to Hellas and to Judaea, need
not refuse such reinforcement from India and China.
Like Sakyamuni Jesus saw that selfishness is the root of all
evil, and taught the spirit of service. "He that would be
greatest, let him be the servant of all/' "He that loseth his
fife shall save it." Such are his ringing challenges to the
standards of the world, and the experience of the Early Church
is their vindication. "These men have turned the world up-
side down", is the unwilling testimony of their enemies, for
the new leaven was at work, and the ethic of the Epistles is
the spontaneous expression of a new and creative spirit:
purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, are "fruits of the
Spirit", and peace and joy are inward manifestations of the
Preaching the resurrection of Christ, the Apostles believed
that the ideal world of Jesus, the world of faith and hope and
love, had been vindicated by an act of creative power; and
if they were deluded by the belief that his second coming
was imminent, this view soon gave place to the doctrine of
the continual coming of the Holy Spirit and of his con-
temporary activities among men. It is this which has given
fidelity to the Church, with all her failures and her dreary
legalism. She has found that when she has sought first the
Kingdom of God and his righteousness, when she has tried
to recapture the teachings of her Founder and sought to do
the will of God as he revealed it, there have been times of
renewed life and of the manifest fruits of the Spirit in new
220 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
strivings after social justice. And when individual members
of the Church have surrendered to the claims of their Master
with whole-hearted devotion, they have established a new
type of sainthood. In them is the true apostolic succession,
says Dean Inge. Akin to the Just Man of the Hebrews in
their obedience to God, to the yogi of the Hindu in their
rapt contemplation of the Godhead, and to the bodhisattva
of the Buddhist in their humble spirit of service and self-
sacrifice, they are most akin to their own Master. When we
seek to express the strength of a Francis of Assisi, or of a
Wesley, it is the word "Christlike" which springs to our
lips, and in the imitation of Christ, as well as in the worship
of him lies the essence of Christian discipleship. The fact that
Asia too is testing men by reference to Jesus is another proof
of his universality.
In Japan Kagawa prophet of the Kingdom of God is
showing Asia how to reconcile the rights of the indi-
vidual with his call to lose himself in the cause of the new
society: Christianity is at once world-denying and world-
affirming, at once self-surrender and self-realization.
But it has no ready-made solution of the unsolved pro-
blems of the race. Its exponents are divided upon the vexed
questions of pacifism, of sex, of property, of the use of
leisure, of the motive of gain, of usury, of what are the
legitimate channels for the fighting spirit inherent in man.
While Jesus offers us the great principles of love and service,
of the worth of the individual, of the beauty of purity, of
the grievousness of self-will and of sin, and while he sets
before men an Ideal Kingdom of brotherhood and reveals
in the Cross the way of victory, yet he is no casuist, and to
each age is left the task of applying these principles, and of
incarnating this spirit. He was no moralist, and still more no
We are in process of revolt against many of the solutions
found by our fathers, and uneasy about the Church: and
some of us see clearly that if its Romanization "petrified" it,
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 221
the emergence of Protestantism fostered not only the evil
leaven of nationalism but also the anarchy of individualism.
We are in the position meantime of those who must
worship in a church that is being rebuilt about their ears;
we must live by such light as we can get from any source;
we must use terms which are in process of redefinition;
and adhere to principles even while shedding inhibitions
and tabus. Meantime he can be sure of being "modern"
and useful who works in the spirit of Jesus to build up the
Kingdom of God, and who recognizes with Gandhi that
"there is no God higher than Truth". His kingdom is in
fact the incarnation of truth, of peace, purity, and partner-
These are things not easy to define. "What is Truth?"
It is war upon all falsity and unreality : so peace means making
war upon the spirit of war and cutting its complex roots; and
purity is a much more searching thing than mere correctness
in sex-relations. One of the pressing tasks of our age is the
purification of Christianity itself, and its resimplification.
For most men cannot see the wood for the trees, and the true
fundamentals are lost in the very complexity of its forms
If Christianity is the heir of the best in Hebraism and Hellen-
ism the Christian Church has also borrowed many of the
worst elements of Judaism and Paganism. No impartial
student of history will deny that she has been more intolerant
and cruel than the Jew, more proud and imperious than the
Roman. And if Athens persecuted its best men so has the
Church, which is still very largely obscurantist and legalist,
timid where it should be brave, obstinate where it should be
docile, prosaic where it should be poetical, and figurative
where it should be literal. If it falls short of the love of its
Founder and lives for itself rather than for humanity, it is
also full of those fears which he sought to cast out. It needs
222 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
to remind itself that its Founder was a layman, and that
priestcraft is as alien to his spirit as is the superstition so
dear to the priestly heart. Men are still asking for bread, and
being given a stone.
But though the Church has indeed fallen far short of her
Lord and of the apostles, no serious student will maintain
that men had done better to return to Hellenism or Judaism.
The "regalvanized paganism" 1 of Julian is a proof of the
impossibility of such revivals of a dead past, and the sterility
of Unitarianism should warn us that even a Christo-centric
prophetism is not enough. With all her faults the Church
has sought to express the Lordship of Christ, and these faults
have been the defects of her virtues. The persecution of
heretics, however appalling, has been due to a mistaken zeal
for Christ. So have the hideous excesses of austerity. This
is the exaggeration of ascesis, and all higher religion insists
upon discipline, and upon the sacrifice of lower to higher
values. The very imperialism of Rome is an attempt to bring
all things into subjection to Christ; "Caesaro-papism" is in
effect a mistaken form of theocracy. And on the other hand
the schisms which rend the Body of Christ are an exaggerated
expression of the inalienable right of private judgment.
Authority on the one hand, experience and the inner light
on the other, both need the controlling sanity of Christ.
Apart from his spirit there is no safety in either, and no
salvation for any of us. We must accept the stark fact that
there is no infallible authority anywhere, and that we^are
left face to face with a Christ of our own, and must make
our own Christology.
The only sure way of reformation is to recover the mind
of Christ, under the guidance of God's spirit, and then to
bring all things, our idea of God and man, into subjection to
this Lord of Thought. His is the ministry of reconciliation
and the middle path of sanity. In returning to him the
Church continually gains new wisdom and power. She
1 See Dr Inge's Christian Ethics.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 223
ceases to be his Bride, or even his Imperium, and becomes
once more the communion of saints, a Company of Jesus
disciplined yet free, definite yet tolerant, pungent but not
provocative, much in love with the Master, but with a robust
and temperate flame. World-denying in refusing the
standards of the world, she will be world-affirming in work-
ing tor the true Kingdom of God among men. Accepting
the right and the duty of private judgment, and guided by
the inner light she will yet hold that there is constraining
authority in the mind of Christ as it is revealed by the Spirit
from age to age. The elements only are in the Gospels : and
the picture must be completed from those who have been
most Christlike. The source of their power is the life hidden
with Christ in God: this is the root from which Christian
morality must spring. From Stephen and Saul of Tarsus to
Fox, Wesley, and Newman, this is the secret of their good-
ness. Like their Master they were not primarily teachers of
morals: "If Christianity was morals then Socrates was the
Saviour", says William Blake. And there is a difference
between these followers of Christ and this greatest of the
Greeks. They remind us that Christianity is still in the mak-
ing, and that its ethic could no more be once and for all
delivered to the saints than the full implications of its
Master's life and death. Each age that is faithful will get
new light upon the meaning of Christ, and will seek to
recapture him by a more and more searching study of the
doeuments and of the milieu of the Early Church, and by a
more and more courageous attempt to live by his Light, to
know his Mind and to do his Will. And as Christianity meets
the great ethnic faiths it will be illuminated by the long suc-
cession of their torch-bearers until he stands revealed as Son
of Man indeed a true picture of the God of all the peoples
of the earth, one family under one Christlike God.
If Christian and non-Christian unite in solving our press-
ing problems and outdo one another in the noble emulation
of love, there is no doubt of the issue: we shall all join in a
224 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
humble confession, "Thou hast the words of Eternal Life",
"Thou art the Way and the Truth and the Life".
As to the spirit in which to meet these grave problems we
may adapt the noble words of Stephen Hawes:
For knighthood is not in the feats of warre,
As for to fight in quarrel right or wrong,
But in a cause which truth can not defarre;
He ought himself for to make sure and strong,
Justice to keep mixt with mercy among;
And no quarrel a knight ought to take
But for a truth, or for true beauty's sake.
Christianity is the brightest expression of the chivalric
temper: it is the true moral equivalent for war.
In war upon war and oppression, in romantic yet realistic
pursuit of truth and purity, in redemption of society from
selfishness and greed the spirit of Jesus will yet find its
THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY
I. THE BEATITUDES
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for
they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness'
sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when
men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner
of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding
glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they
the prophets which were before you.
St Matthew v, 3-12.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 225
II. THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT: OTHER
Bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use
you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the
other; and from him that taketh away thy cloke withhold not thy
coat also. Give to every one that asketh thee ; and of him that
taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that
men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye
love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners
love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do
good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank
have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much.
But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never de-
spairing ; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of
the Most High : for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Be
ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful. And judge not, and
ye shall not be judged : and condemn not, and ye shall not be con-
demned: release, and ye shall be released: give, and it shall be
given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together,
running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what
measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.
And he spake also a parable unto them, Can the blind guide the
blind? shall they not both fall into a pit? The disciple is not above
his master: but every one when he is perfected shall be as his
master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's
eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or
how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me cast out the
mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the
beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the
beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast
out the mote that is in thy brother's eye. For there is no good tree
that bringeth forth corrupt fruit; nor again a corrupt tree that
bringeth forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit.
For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush
gather they grapes. The good man out of the good treasure of his
heart bringeth forth that which is good; and the evil man out of
the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the
abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
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And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which
I say? Every one that cometh unto me, and heareth my words,
and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like : he is like a
man building a house, who digged and went deep, and laid a
foundation upon the rock: and when a flood arose, the stream
brake against that house, and could not shake it: because it had
been well builded. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a
man that built a house upon the earth without a foundation;
against which the stream brake, and straightway it fell in; and the
ruin of that house was great.
St Luke vi, 28-49.
III. Two TYPES OF MIGHTY WORKS: PUTTING
FIRST THINGS FIRST
At that season Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn-
fields ; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck ears
of corn, and to eat. But the Pharisees, when they saw it, said unto
him, Behold, thy disciples do that which it is not lawful to do
upon the sabbath. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what
David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with
him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shew-
bread, which it was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them
that were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read
in the law, how that on the sabbath day the priests in the temple
profane the sabbath, and are guiltless? But I say unto you, that
one greater than the temple is here. But if ye had known what
this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have
condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the
And he departed thence, and went into their synagogue: and
behold, a man having a withered hand. And they asked him,
saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? that they might
accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be of
you, that shall have one sheep, and if this fall into a pit on the
sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much
then is a man of more value than a sheep! Wherefore it is lawful
to do good on the sabbath day. Then saith he to the man, Stretch
forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored
whole, as the other. But the Pharisees went out, and took counsel
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against him, how they might destroy him. And Jesus perceiving
it withdrew from thence.
St Matthew xii, 1-15.
IV. THE HUMANITY OF JESUS
And he entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold,
a man called by name Zacchaeus ; and he was a chief publican, and
he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could
not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. And he ran
on before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for
he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he
looked up, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come
down; for to-day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste,
and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw
it, they all murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man
that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord,
Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I
have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold.
And Jesus said unto him, To-day is salvation come to this house,
forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man
came to seek and to save that which was lost.
St Luke xix, i-ro.
V. PARABLES OF JESUS
Now all the publicans and sinners were drawing near unto him
to hear him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes murmured,
saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
And he spake unto them this parable, saying, What man of you,
having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not
leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which
is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it
on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he call-
eth together his friends and his neighbours, saying unto them,
Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say
unto you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one
sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous
persons, which need no repentance.
Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece,
doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently
228 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
until she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth to-
gether her friends and neighbours, saying, Rejoice with me, for
I have found the piece which I had lost. Even so, I say unto you,
there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner
And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger ot
them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of thy sub-
stance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together,
and took his journey into a far country; and there he wasted his
substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there
arose a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in
want. And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of
that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And
he would fain have been filled with the husks that the swine did
eat: and no man gave unto him. But when he came to himself
he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread
enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise
and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned
against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be
called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he
arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his
father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and
fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father,
I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more
worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants,
Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a
ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring the fatted calf,
and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry: for this my son was
dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they
began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he
came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.
And he called to him one of the servants, and inquired what these
things might be. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come;
and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received
him safe and sound. But he was angry, and would not go in : and
his father came out, and intreated him. But he answered and said
to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never
transgressed a commandment of thine: and yet thou never gavest
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 229
me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but when
this thy son came, which hath devoured thy living with harlots,
thou killedst for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son,
thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine. But it was
meet to make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead,
and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Aad he said also unto the disciples, There was a certain rich
man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him
that he was wasting his goods. And he called him, and said unto
him, What is this that I hear of thee? render the account of thy
stewardship ; for thou canst be no longer steward. And the steward
said within himself, What shall I do, seeing that my lord taketh
away the stewardship from me? I have not strength to dig; to
beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am
put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
And calling to him each one of his lord's debtors, he said to the
first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, A
hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bond,
and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then said he to another, And
how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures of
wheat. He saith unto him, Take thy bond, and write fourscore.
And his lord commended the unrighteous steward because he
had done wisely: for the sons of this world are for their own
generation wiser than the sons of the light. And I say unto you,
Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of un-
righteousness ; that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into
the eternal tabernacles. He that is faithful in a very little is faithful
also in much: and he that is unrighteous in a very little is unright-
eous also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the
unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true
riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's,
who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve
two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other;
or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve
God and mammon.
And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these
things; and they scoffed at him. And he said unto them, Ye are
they that justify yourselves in the sight of men; but God knoweth
your hearts: for that which is exalted among men is an abomina-
230 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
tion in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until
John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is
preached, and every man entereth violently into it. But it is
easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the
law to fall. Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth
another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth one that is
put away from a husband committeth adultery.
Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple
and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: and a certain beggar
named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be
fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table; yea, even
the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the
beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into
Abraham's bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried.
And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth
Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and
said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that
he may dip the rip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for
I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember
that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus
in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted, and
thou art in anguish. And beside all this, between us and you there
is a great gulf fixed, that they which would pass from hence to
you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence
to us. And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou would-
est send him to my father's house; for I have five brethren; that
he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of
torment. But Abraham saith,They have Moses and the prophets ;
let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if
one go to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto
him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they
be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.
And he said unto his disciples, It is impossible but that occasions
of stumbling should come : but woe unto him, through whom
they come ! It were well for him if a millstone were hanged about
his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he
should cause one of these little ones to stumble. Take heed to
yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, for-
give him. And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 231
seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And
the Lord said, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye would
say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou
planted in the sea; and it would have obeyed you. But who is
there of you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will
say unto him, when he is come in from the field, Come straight-
way and sit down to meat; and will not rather say unto him,
Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me,
till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and
drink? Doth he thank the servant because he did the things that
were commanded? Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all
the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable
servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do.
St Luke xv-xvii, 10.
VI. THE SPIRIT OF THE APOSTLES
But there stood up one in the council, a Pharisee, named
Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in honour of all the people, and
commanded to put the men forth a little while. And he said unto
them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves as touching these
men, what ye are about to do. For before these days rose up
Theudas, giving himself out to be somebody; to whom a number
of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain;
and all, as many as obeyed him, were dispersed, and came to
nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the
enrolment, and drew away some of the people after him: he also
perished; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered abroad.
And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them
alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be over-
thrown : but if it is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them ;
lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God. And to
him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles unto
them, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name
of Jesus, and let them go. They therefore departed from the
presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy
to suffer dishonour for the Name. And every day, in the temple
232 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the
Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was
multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against
the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily
ministration. And the twelve called the multitude of the disciples
unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should forsake the word
of God, and serve tables. Look ye out therefore, brethren, from
among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of
wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will
continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word.
And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose
Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and
Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas
a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles: and
when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
And the word of God increased ; and the number of the disciples
multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the
priests were obedient to the faith.
And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders
and signs among the people. But there arose certain of them that
were of the synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines, and
of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia
and Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to
withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. Then
they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak
blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they
stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came
upon him, and seized him, and brought him into the council, and
set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak
words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him
say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall
change the customs which Moses delivered unto us. And all that
sat in the council, fastening their eyes on him, saw his face as it had
been the face of an angel.
Acts v, 34-vi, 15.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 233
VII. Sx PAUL'S ETHICAL IDEALS
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not
love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if
I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all know-
ledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have
not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the
poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it
profiteth me nothing. Love sufFereth long, and is kind; love en-
vieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not
behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked,
taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but
rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but
whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether
there be tongues, they shall cease ; whether there be knowledge,
it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in
part: but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part
shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt
as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I
have put away childish things . For now we see in a mirror, darkly ;
but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know
even as also I have been known. But now abideth faith, hope,
love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
i Corinthians xiii.
For even as we have many members in one body, and all the
members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one
body in Christ, and severally members one of another. And
having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us,
whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion
of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or
he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his ex-
horting : he that give th, let him do it with liberality ; he that rule th,
with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let
love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to
234 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
that which is good. In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned
one to another; in honour preferring one another; in diligence
not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope;
patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer; communi-
cating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality. Bless
them that persecute you; bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them
that rejoice ; weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one
toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but con-
descend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own con-
ceits. Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things
honourable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in
you lieth, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, be-
loved, but give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance
belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if
thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for
in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not
overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans xii, 4-21.
For ye, brethren, were called for freedom; only use not your
freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants
one to another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even
in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite
and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one
But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of
the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that
ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the
Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are
manifest, which are these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions,
divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such
like: of the which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you,
that they which practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom
of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsufFer-
ing, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance:
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 235
against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus
have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.
Galatians v, 13-25.
Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one
with his neighbour: lor we are members one of another. Be ye
angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more:
but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing that
is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need.
Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is
good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to
them that hear. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom
ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and
wrath, and anger, and clamour, and railing, be put away from
you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-
hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave
Ephesians iv, 25-32.
Lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man
with his doings, and have put on the new man, which is being
renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created
him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and un-
circumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ
is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of
compassion, kindness, -humility, meekness, longsuflfering ; for-
bearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have
a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also
do ye: and above all these things put on love, which is the bond
Colossians iii, 9-14.
236 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
(/) The Mind of Christ
If there is therefore any comfort in Christ, if any consolation
of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and
compassions, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be of the same mind,
having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing
nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness
of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking
each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things
of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an
equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a
servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in
fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even
unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly
exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every
name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things
in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that
every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory
of God the Father.
Philippians ii, i-ii.
VIII. JOHANNINE MEDITATIONS
(a) The Vine and the Branches
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every
branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every
branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more
fruit. Already ye are clean because of the word which I have
spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch can-
not bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can
ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches : He
that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for
apart from me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is
cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and
cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me,
and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall
be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear
much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples. Even as the Father
hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. If ye
CHRISTIAN ETHICS 237
keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I
have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be fulfilled. This is my commandment,
that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love
hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you.
No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not
what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things
that I heard from my Father I have made known unto you. Ye
did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye
should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide: that
whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it
you. These things I command you, that ye may love one another.
If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it
hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own :
but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the
world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that
I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they per-
secuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word,
they will keep yours also.
St John xv, 1-20.
(b) The Transient World and the Abiding Truth
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the
darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in
the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he
that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the dark-
ness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness
hath blinded his eyes,
I write unto you, my little children, because your sins are for-
given you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because
ye know him which is from the beginning. I write unto you,
young men, because ye have overcome the evil one. I have
written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father. I
have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is
from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, be-
cause ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye
have overcome the evil one. Love not the world, neither the
238 CHRISTIAN ETHICS
things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love
of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of
the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life, is not
of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away,
and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth
i John ii, 9-17.
A MEETING AT CHANG-AN
(Ninth century A.D.)
In the City of Chang-an, beautiful with its many towers and
wide ways, and crowded with busy throngs, there met, early
in the ninth century, four men from distant lands, a Nestor-
ian bishop, a Muslim trader, a Zoroastrian priest and a
Japanese monk, Kukai, who had been sent by his Emperor
to study Chinese, and who was eager to learn also from these
representatives of other faiths and other lands.
The Mohammedan trader, Abou-Zeid, had refused the rice-
wine which was offered him on entering, and at supper he
scorned the succulent pork beloved of the Chinese; and this
led to a friendly discussion.
"We hold", said the Nestorian bishop, "that nothing
that enters into a man from without can defile him."
"My people in Japan", said their host, "hold that such
things as the sex-act and the presence of death bring con-
tagion; indeed our palaces must be rebuilt every time a
new Emperor comes to the throne; the old religion is largely
concerned with ceremonial purity and ablutions and the
exorcizing of evil spirits."
"We who follow Zarathrustra", said the Zoroastrian,
"also believe that dead bodies and menstruous women are
an abomination: yet we hold that evil is of the will. Good
thoughts, good words, good deeds, these are mansions
through which the soul passes to infinite light. As to wine,
we drink it, but not to excess some of our writers make
much of its invigorating qualities and as to food, while we
seek to avoid harming animals, we eat what is necessary of
"We", said their host, "are taugjht that even snakes are
our little brothers, and that we must take no life."
"There we differ," said the Persian, "indeed we gain
merit by destroying noxious creatures, as by preserving
useful ones. Our law is based, I think, largely on ideas of
health and sanity. We worship fire as the great purifier, and
we burn our dead."
Abou-Zeid who had remained silent, annoyed by the
comments of his friends, now took up the tale. "The
Prophet, upon whom be peace, taught us that in submission
to Allah, who alone is God, is man's happiness and duty. He
taught us kindness to parents and relatives, hospitality to the
poor and the traveller, charity and justice to all." 1 So saying,
he turned towards the setting sun, and prostrated himself
with his back to his friends. The Persian explained that it was
the custom in Mohammedan lands to turn towards Mecca in
prayer seven times a day, and that the Prophet also taught
almsgiving and fasting. "Our books", he added, "teach us
to keep the fast of continence, and to worship God in his
symbols fire and the sun."
"We", said their host, "would rather meditate upon the
setting sun, in whom we may see a vision of the Buddha of
the Western Paradise; and indeed the Chen-yan sect makes
the great Sun Buddha its object of worship. It is the most
profound of the schools. As for alms and fasting, we too
"We Christians also think of God as Light, and practise
almsgiving, fasting and prayer."
"On your Prophet too be peace ", said Abou-Zeid, turning
again towards them; "may the Compassionate and the
Almighty look upon us all in the Day of Judgment."
"I, too," said Kukai, "follow one who is compassionate
and who looks down upon men and their sorrows. Let us
hear from our friend the Bishop why his view of these
things makes him eager to teach his way among the Chinese,
this most ancient and civilized of the nations."
"Let us go and see our monument, put up in the reign of
the great ruler T'ai-tsung, nearly 200 years ago. It was he
who welcomed our people, and said that their way was at
once reasonable and pacific. Thus he commended it to his
people, and our temples are called 'Houses of Joy'."
As they stood before the great tablet and read its brief
summary of the Christian Religion, they agreed that there
was room for this teaching. "There is indeed room for all
who help good in the war against evil", said the Persian.
"There is but one God, and Mohammed is his Prophet",
said the man of Islam.
"There are many paths to the mountain top, but one
summit", said the Japanese. "You teach us here of a God
dying for men, and we have many stories of the Bodhisattva
giving his life for others."
"Nay, but God cannot suffer", said Abou-Zeid, "it was
some apparition that the Romans slew. We honour your
Prophet, and Miriam, blessed above women."
" We, too, but we will not call her the Mother of God, as
"No woman could be that; they are the playthings of
men", said the Mohammedan.
"They are indeed snares of the Evil One", said the
"Woman is mother and wife, and we accord her great
honour", said the Persian.
"In Christ there is neither male nor female": said the
Bishop, "and here in China I find there have been many
notable women, not only good wives and mothers, such as
those of K'ung-tse and Meng-tse of whom the Chinese
make much, but Empresses and scholars."
"Yes," said the Japanese, "I hear on all sides a proverb,
'Kwanyin in every household'. It seems to refer not only to
the goddess of compassion, but to the mother as an embodi-
ment of her spirit. But the Chinese have also an ancient
saying: 'A great man builds a city, a little woman lays it
low'. Their influence has indeed been bad as well as good in
"They are made for men's enjoyment", said the Moham-
medan. "We are taught that if we die in battle we shall
possess many houris in Paradise."
" We", said the Japanese with a smile, "are promised that
in Paradise there will be no women."
"Yet the Chinese speak of the Queen of Heaven," said
the Bishop, "and the Mother of Jesus could hardly be shut
out. What have your prophets to say as to children?"
"They are ours to do with what we will," said Abou-
Zeid, "yet the Prophet, on whom be peace, said, 'Let not
poverty lead you to kill your children. . . '. And again: 'Be
ye merciful to the orphan. Did Allah not find thee an orphan,
and make thee his guest?'" 1
"As for us", said the Persian, "we are told that a holy
woman is one who is obedient to her husband, and is rich in
good thoughts, good words and good deeds ; and that parents
must honour their children, as children must honour their
parents. 'The married man', says Ahura Mazda, 'is far
above the celibate : he who has children is far above the child-
less man.' 2 We regard it as a sin to be unmarried."
"Well," said Abou-Zeid, "there is no calamity like
women; yet we men desire children to continue our line."
"And to teach us many lessons," said the Bishop, "for of
such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Unless ye become as little
children ye cannot enter it."
"Well, for my part," said the Buddhist, "I am persuaded
that it is better to be grown up and to reach wisdom; and
that it is more blessed to avoid both wife and child. The
Sutra says, 'Better be tied to a tiger than to wife and child':
but we are all agreed that we owe much to our parents, and
we Buddhists are taught that we must serve them in old age
in the ways in which they served us as children. Here in
1 Koran xvii, xciii.
2 Vol. IV. 4.7.
China the whole religion of the people centres in filial piety.
They even tell the story of the old man of seventy who
played bear to amuse his mother and father of ninety, re-
membering that they had so played to amuse him; and we
and the Chinese worship our benefactors of old."
"As to that," said Abou-Zeid, "Allah alone must be
"I agree", said the Bishop. "You and I both have the
commandment, 'Thou shalt not bow down nor worship
any graven image'. Yet there is more of reverence than
worship in this cult; we must change it, not destroy it.
In gratitude to God and to the great dead there is a nerve of
At this the face of the Japanese lit up. "Our oldest prayers
are songs of gratitude, and our people believe that reverence
is wisdom. I hope that we may have another meeting of this
kind, and I thank you for your company."
As the sun set Abou-Zeid prostrated himself once more
towards the West, and as he arose looked lovingly at the
fine characters and decorative scrolls of the Forest of Tablets:
"Truly the Chinese excel us all in these arts", he said.
"And in reverence for the dead", said Kukai. "Shall we
not meet to-morrow at the Monastery of Hiuen Chang? The
Abbot will, I am sure, show us the library brought with so
much toil from India."
As they set out next morning they talked of the great
pilgrim who had brought back so much from India. "He
who brings his toils to a successful end, is he not one who
scorns what most men prize, and prizes what most men
scorn? We are all united, are we not, in believing in this
quest for Wisdom and for Bliss?"
They were greeted with eager courtesy by the aged Abbot.
"How pleasant are these visits", he said. "In the name of the
Master of the Law I bid you welcome." And after the usual
greetings and ceremonial tea-drinking he took them rever-
ently into the library, and showed them the manuscripts
brought back by the great traveller. "Here in this ancient
city the memory of the Master of the Law abides for ever.
We love to remember him in the Monastery of Nalanda,
teaching and learning from the Indians, and we read and re-
read the story of the many perils through which he passed,
and of his constancy and courage."
"How much do we also owe him", said Kukai. "More
even than to the great T'ai-tsung. Greater even than the
mighty conqueror is the religious teacher. The true conquest
is the conquest of piety, as an Indian ruler said.'*
"The gift of truth is indeed the greatest of gifts," said the
Bishop, "but T'ai-tsung was more than a conqueror. It was
he who welcomed the exchange of truth, and who sought to
make religion a great power for peace and order. When I
visited his tomb, and saw the great horses which guard it, it
seemed to me they were symbols of strength used in service.
This is what our Master teaches, that the meek those
who are humble towards Heaven are strong upon earth."
"Such was our Prince Shotoku. Like Asoka in India and
T'ai-tsung here in China, he built a strong state upon the
foundation of justice and tenderness. He taught that all men
are the children of the Buddha."
"In my travels in India", said the Persian, "I saw two in-
scriptions of the great Asoka, and was struck with his spirit
of tolerance, and with his interest in other peoples to whom
he sent embassies. His Hall of a Thousand Pillars is a copy of
that of our Bangs at Persepolis. And it is said he atoned for
making war by doing good deeds, and by setting up build-
ings at the sacred spots."
"I like to think of the Master of the Law visiting these holy
places," said Kukai, "the birthplace of the Blessed One, and
'the Deer Park where he first preached, and his Burial-mound.
There rest his ashes, but he is in Nirvana, and speaks from
a heavenly Vulture Peak, bidding men be of good cheer.
Truly this body is a nest of corruption: but Nirvana is an
Island of Bliss."
"Is it a place?" asked Abou-Zeid.
"It is the abode of Virtue, but there are also many Para-
dises. In one dwells Maitreya, who will be the next Buddha
"And how", asked the Persian, "shall one attain to Bliss ?
Is it not by the way of goodness? Paradise is for us the Abode
of Good Mind and Hell is the House of Evil."
"Yes, indeed, happy is he who dwells on earth and has
conquered Tanha, the evil in his heart: he goes straightway
to Eternal Bliss. Some say he is already in Nirvana."
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God",
said the Bishop. "To know God is to have Eternal Life."
Blessed is he who doeth the will of Allah ' ' , said Abou-Zeid.
"All men desire Paradise, but the way is as a narrow razor
blade", said the Persian. "And as there are four mansions of
Heaven so are there four abodes of Hell."
"Narrow is the way and strait the gate", said the Bishop,
"that leads to eternal Life, and few there be that find it."
"'Yet all may attain, for all are the children of the
Buddha', says the Lotus Scripture": "yet men travel by
different paths to the mountain top."
"Upon earth", said Abou-Zeid, "there are many differ-
ences. The pious and the just are not the same as the impious
and unjust, and in worldly matters it is also true. The
Chinese excel us all in painting and writing, and the Greeks
"To each his gift, and to each his Paradise", said Kukai.
"Yes, there are differences of gift, and there are qualities
of reward", said the Nestorian.
"If no one can paint like Ku-kai-chih, or sing like the
Hebrew Psalmist, or make statues like Praxiteles, so it is in
religion. When the Great Master appears, the lesser masters
"True," said Kukai, "the Chinese have said about our
religion that the little witch trembles before the big witch.
They are finding that it has brought many things of great
value. That is why they honour men like Fa-Hian and
Hiuen Chang, and the Indian missionaries before them. Yet
it has had many obstacles to overcome, and there is still much
"We too find that the good is the enemy of the best, but
I think of the Nazarene as the friend of men, above all of
great and good men like K'ung and Sakyamuni."
"Yet you preach to their followers and seek to turn them
to your way, do you not?" asked the Persian.
"Yes, the good must give way to the excellent."
"Excellent in what?"
"Above all in love. This is the more excellent way."
"So saith the Blessed One", said the Chinese Abbot who
had been listening intently, for they spoke in Chinese in his
honour. "All other ways are not worth a tithe of the way
"Love for what?" insisted the Persian.
"Love for God the Father of all men, and love for all men,
his children", said the Nestorian.
"That is theory", said Abou-Zeid. "Can you practise it?
All in Islam are truly brothers."
"All within the Four Seas are brothers here in China,
yet the poor are much oppressed and there are many wars
with other peoples", said the Bishop. "You and I", he said,
turning to Kukai, "at any rate believe that all men every-
where are brothers. That is the ideal which shines afar off
like the snowy mountains, and it is hard to reach. May he
be our guide who has blazed the path." Then turning to the
Abbot he said, " We thank you, sir, for your courtesy, and we
shall think of your Master of the Law as one who climbed not
only the peaks of Himalaya, but the more difficult heights
INDEX OF PRINCIPAL TEACHERS
Aeschylus, 120, 121
Amos, 175-8, 190
Aristotle, x, 131-4, 138, 161, 162
Asoka, xi, i, 9, 12, 13, 20, 31, 87, 244
Chuang-tse, 52, 53, 65, 73
Chu-hsi, 57, 63
Confucius (K'ung Fu-tse), x, 47-5O,
63, 64, 68, 86, 88, 124, 127, 129,
Epicurus, 136-8, 162
Euripides, 122, 123, 139
Ezra, 184, 185
Gandhi, 24, 25, 205, 221
Heracleitus, 117, 143
Hesiod, 113, 114, 118, 142
Hideyoshi, 92, 105
Homer, no, 113, 114, 118, 140-2
Hosea, 175-7, 191
Hsun-tse, 53, 54, 74
Isaiah, 175, 177, 179, 192, 195, 207,
Jesus Christ, 17, 18, 24, 49, 124, 126,
129, 182, 186, 203-31
John, St, 204, 213, 236-8
Kagawa, xii, 92, 95, 205, 220
K'ung Fu-tse, see Confucius
Lao-tse, 47-52, 64, 66-8, 135
Mencius (Meng-tse), 53, 62, 63, 72
Micah, 175, 181, 193
Moses, 167, 184, 215
Mo-tse, ix, xviii, 46, 51, 52, 61, 65,
Paul, St, xviii, 126, 128, 129, 211,
Plato, 20, 64, 126-9, 138, 139, 156-61
Psalter and Proverbs, 179, 180, 195-
200, 207, 245
Pythagoras, 60, 64, 117
Sakyamuni, xi, i, 9, 10, 15, 18, 46,
Samuel, 174, 182
Socrates, xx, xxi, 17, 18, 49, 123-8,
Xenophon, xiii, 125, 138, 154
Zeno, 135, see Stoicism
INDEX OF SUBJECTS
Ahimsa (gentleness), xxii, 6, 9, 20,
21, 28, 51, 67, 76, 207, 210
Asceticism, 4, 13, 15, 28, 32, 65, 101,
Bhakti, 4, 19, 26, 35, 129, (love of
the divine) 170,215
Brahminism, 6, 7, 21, 62
Buddhism (in China), 44, 54-9, 64,
(in Japan), 82, 86, 87, 89, 90, 92
Burial, 100, 122, 161
Caste, 6, 23, 94
Determinism, xiii, in
Dharma, xvi, i, 9, 46, 58
Filial Piety, 47, 55, 69,74
Future Life, 8, 55
Golden Mean, 133, 139
Homosexuality, 124, 127, 138, 171
Hospitality, 38, 72, 140
Hubris, xxi, 112, 114, 120, 139
Justice, 21, no, 175, 216
Karma, 5, 10, 25
Marriage and Sex, 8, 24, 59, 62, 64,
83,88,89,93, H3, 138, 169, 172,
Monotheism, 51, 166, 167, 203
Nature-Worship, 2, 83, 85
Necromancy, 166, 171
Neo-Confucianism, 57, 77, 88
Nirvana, 28, 30, 244
Pessimism, 65, 164, 202
Philanthropy, 51, 95, 178, 182, 186,
187, 210, 225
Polytheism, 3, 166
Re-incarnation, i, 5, 6, 27
Samurai, xi, 90
Selfishness, 52, 69, 79, 139, 210, 211,
Sermon on the Mount, 20, 47, 205
Sex, see Marriage
Shinto, 85, Ancestor-worship, 86,
Slavery, 89, 129, 132, 138
Stoicism, 10, 91, 135, 136, 165, 204
Suicide, 92, 94
Tao, 44-7, 57, 58, 77
Theocracy, 169, 174, 185, 222
Yogi (equanimity), 20, 144
CAMBRIDGE: PRINTED BY WALTER LEWIS, M.A., AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS