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Asian Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Comparative Philosophy

Islam through a Confucian conceptual lens.

The Sage Learning of Liu Zhi: Islamic Thought in Confucian Terms by Sachiko Murata, William C. Chittick, Weiming Tu and Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph: Harvard University Asian Center) Liu Zhi (ca. 1670-1724) was one of the most important scholars of Islam in traditional China. His Tianfang xingli (Nature and principle in Islam), the Chinese-language text translated here, focuses on the roots or principles of Islam. It was heavily influenced by several classic texts in the Sufi tradition. Liu's approach, however, is distinguished from that of other Muslim scholars in that he addressed the basic articles of Islamic thought with Neo-Confucian terminology and categories. Besides its innate metaphysical and philosophical value, the text is invaluable for understanding how the masters of Chinese Islam straddled religious and civilizational frontiers and created harmony between two different intellectual worlds.
The introductory chapters explore both the Chinese and the Islamic intellectual traditions behind Liu's work and locate the arguments of Tianfang xingli within those systems of thought. The copious annotations to the translation explain Liu's text and draw attention to parallels, as well as differences, in Chinese-, Arabic-, and Persian-language works.

Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick are Professors in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. Tu Weiming is Harvard-Yenching Professor of Chinese History and Philosophy and of Confucian Studies at Harvard University. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University.

This book extends research Murata began with The Tao of Islam and continued, with the help of my two collaborators, in Chinese Gleams of Sufi Light. In The Tao of Islam, Murata investigated basic Muslim concepts about ultimate reality, the cosmos, and the human soul in light of the correlative thinking that is typical of the Chinese intellectual tradition and especially the Book of Changes (Yijing ). By "correlative thinking" (the term used by Joseph Needham in Science and Civilization in China), I mean the tendency to see harmony and complementary relationships among all things, conceptualized in terms like yin and yang, heaven and earth, male and female, light and dark. Benjamin Schwartz calls this typical Chinese approach to reading the world "correlative cosmology," although, he says, "correlative anthropocosmology" might be more accurate. Tu Weiming has often written about "anthropocosmism" to designate this holistic, correlative vision of Heaven, Earth, and Man. Anthropologists have pointed to diverse examples of correlative thinking in primal societies, but few scholars have bothered to point out that much of Islamic thought takes the same approach. The general trend has been to interpret Islam as another version of Semitic monotheism and to conceptualize its thinking in terms of categories derived from the modem study of Judaism and Christianity. Murata wrote The Tao of Islam to suggest that there are other, perhaps more plausible, ways to look at Islamic thought, and that these can be especially helpful in finding bridges to non-Western civilizations.

In 1995 Murata discovered sophisticated Chinese-language expressions of Islamic thought that took full advantage of the traditions of corelative thinking on both the Islamic and the Chinese sides. That led to my collaboration with Tu Weiming in exploring some of these works. My husband, William C. Chittick, was happy to join with us in our discussions and research. The first fruit of that collaboration was Chinese Gleams, in which we translated two short Chinese treatises, one by Wang Daiyu and the other by Liu Zhi t. There Murata summarized what she had learned about the unique blend of Confucianism and Islam that made its appearance in China in the seventeenth century, most notably with Wang's major work, Zhengjiao zhenquan (The real commentary on the true teaching).

Given the paucity of secondary sources at our disposal when we were working on Chinese Gleams, we had no real idea of the extent of the influence of this school on Chinese Muslim society and the tight relationships that bound its authors together. The gaping hole in the secondary literature has begun to be filled by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite's groundbreaking study, The Dao of Muhammad: A Cultural History of Muslims in Late Imperial China, which provides a wealth of information on the scholarly network and social institutions that allowed this school to flourish. Liu Zhi himself is the focus of a recent Ph.D. dissertation by James D. Frankel, who summarizes his relationship with the Muslim and Chinese contexts, looks closely at his second major work, Tianfang dianli -11441, (Rules and proprieties of Islam), and provides a thoughtful analysis of its contents and its significance for Chinese Islam. Studies of Liu have also appeared recently in Chinese and Japanese.

Our own interest in the Han Kitab has less to do with historical context than with the intellectual content of the works. Anyone interested in the significance of religious and philosophical thought for the human condition has much to learn from these books. All three of us have been working for many years on the contemporary religious and philosophical relevance of our respective specialties (Islam on one side, Confucianism on the other). At the same time, we have gaged with the teachings`of other traditions, sometimes often through undergraduate`teaching or discussion with colleagues, some- through international conferences, and recently through times aimed at dialogue between Confucian and Islamic thought. What we have found in the book translated here, Liu Zhi's Tianfang xingli (Nature and principle in Islam), is a deep interpenetration of the Confucian and Islamic traditions, without any of the syncretism (with its negative connotations) mentioned by some of the secondary literature. For Liu and others of the perspective, the "dialogue of civilizations" or the "ecumenical vision" is part of their own persons and perspective. In reading him, we have learned a great deal about the invisible harmonies that bind together two major worlds of thought.

In The Dao of Muhammad, Zvi Ben-Dor Benite shows that Liu Zhi's integrative approach to Confucian and Islamic learning guided the Islamic curriculum in China from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Among Chinese Muslims, this approach has often been called Han Kitab (Han Qitabu AAA), an expression that combines the Chinese word Han and a transliteration of the Arabic kitab, or "book," meaning "(Muslim) books written in Chinese." Those who took this approach were often called Huiru 111A, that is, Muslim literati, or Muslim scholars of Confucian learning.' Benite describes the appearance of the Han Kitab as an "unprecedented outburst of Chinese Muslim scholarship" between the 1630s and the 1730s.2 The first major book was Wang Daiyu's Zhengjiao zhenquan

(The real commentary on the true teaching), published in 1642, followed quickly by several other influential works. These books, however, did not appear in a vacuum. There was already a "far-flung network of educational institutions, teachers, and disciples," and it was through these that Islam "developed its own—distinctively Chinese Muslim—institutions, values, and ideals."

The key figure in establishing this network was Hu Dengzhou Xi (also known as Puzhao and Muhammad Ibrahim Ilyas), who died around 1597 and came to be called Taishi, the Great Teacher. After spending some years in Islamic countries, he established a rejuvenated educational system in his home county of Xianyang in Shaanxi. His new approach to Muslim education spread by means of his students to four other major centers of Islamic learning (Xian Jining, Kaifeng, and Nanjing). Although Hu Dengzhou published no books or treatises, his reorganization of Islamic education with an emphasis on the transmission of learning in the Chinese language had far-reaching results.

With the publication of Wang Daiyu's Zhengjiao zhenquan, Muslim authors began producing books that crystallized and formalized the Chinese Muslim self-perception. Another extremely influential author was Wu Zixian, (ca. 1598-1678), especially through his translation of Mirsad al- 'the& min al-mabda' which appeared in 1670. The original Persian text was written by a great Sufi shaykh, Najm al-Din Razi (d. 1256), and became one of the most influential handbooks of Islamic teachings in the Persianate world, from the Ottoman Empire through Iran, India, and Central Asia. Wu's translation became "probably the most popular text in the Chinese Muslim educational network and among its constituency. Every subsequent author, translator, and editor made reference to it."

A third major author of the period was Ma Zhu. He was educated in the Chinese classics and passed the first level of the civil-service examinations at the age of eighteen. In the year 1669, at around the age of thirty, he went to Beijing, where he undertook serious study of Islamic texts. His major book is Qingzhen zhinan in eight volumes, published in 1683; he translates the title into Arabic as al-Murshid ila 'l-ulum al-islam (The guide to the sciences of Islam). According to Benite, it was "probably the single most respected of the many works written by Chinese Muslim scholars."

Liu Zhi was born around 1670. He studied in Nanjing at a school founded by Yuan Shengzhi whose son, Yuan Ruqi took over its direction when his father died. Among the teachers at the school was Yuan's relative Liu Sanji (also called Liu Hawing), Liu Zhi's father. Liu Zhi studied with Yuan Ruqi, and he mentioned his own father's formative influence on his scholarly aspirations at the beginning of Tianfang xingli and elsewhere.

Liu's importance in the Han Kitab can hardly be overestimated. We are inclined to think that he is the most profound and subtle author of the whole -school, although we will have to reserve final judgment until the many books written by its authors have been studied and analyzed. Benite calls Liu "the most systematic and prolific author of the scholarly network.

His work symbolizes the culmination of Chinese Muslim literary productivity over the course of the previous century, and he himself represents the maturation of the educational network and stands as one of its finest products. . . . Liu can be considered the quintessential Chinese Muslim scholar in that he existed at the center—chronological, dynastic, and geographic—of the Chinese Muslim educational system. . . . As the son of a teacher and the disciple of a major teacher, Liu's network of filiation brought him into contact with all the major teachers and scholarly figures of his time. Finally, his location in Nanjing put him at the hub of scholarly activity in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Liu's last major book, a biography of the prophet Muhammad called Tianfang zhisheng shilu (The true record of the utmost sage of Islam), provides autobiographical remarks that help us imagine him as a dedicated scholar with little inclination to involve himself in society. His family and friends did not honor him, because he refused to earn a living. He traveled all over China to visit libraries and find books. In 1721, a visit to the birthplace of Confucius in Shandong province inspired him to begin his biography of the Prophet. Not satisfied with the initial results, he set off again to visit libraries. In Hunan he discovered a text on the Prophet's life better than any he had seen before. He returned to Nanjing and completed the book at the beginning of 1724. During the three years it took him to compose this biography, he traveled several thousand li (a unit of measurement equal to about one-third of a mile), changed his dwelling place ten times, and even read while traveling in a cart or mounted on a beast.

Liu tells us that he entered the path of learning at the age of fifteen. He must already have had some education, and he no doubt had in mind the sort of learning that Confucius meant when he said, "From fifteen, I set my heart on learning, from thirty I stood firm" (Analects 2.4). Liu related that he had spent eight years on the Confucian classics, six on the Islamic classics, three on the Buddhist canon, and more than a year on Daoism.8 He then went on to read "137 Western books," which Benite, among others, argues would have been products of the Jesuit influx into China; Matteo Ricci, after all, was centered in Nanjing.

In his quest for knowledge, Liu read thousands of volumes; he claimed to have composed hundreds of volumes but published only a tenth of them. He considered his three major books to be a trilogy. He completed the text translated here, Tianfang xingli (Nature and principle in Islam), in 1704. It focuses on what is commonly called in Arabic usul al-din, the "roots" or "principles" of the religion. These are the foundational articles of Islamic faith; typically there are said to be three: tawhid, or the assertion of God's unity; prophecy (nubuwwa); and the Return to God (ma'ad), that is, eschatology or "the last things" in a broad sense. Liu's approach, like that of the Huiru in general, is distinguished from that of other Muslim scholars in that he addressed the basic articles of Islamic thought with Confucian terminology and categories.

Liu's second book, Tianfang dianli (Rules and proprieties of Islam), appeared in 1710. If his first book focuses on roots and principles, this book addresses branches and applications (furl!' al-din). In other words, Tianfang xingli deals with the Islamic world-view, and Tianfang dianli with the practices that make it possible for people to bring themselves into conformity with that worldview. Alone among the titles of the Han Kitab, this book was included in the Siku quanshu, the largest compilation of books in Chinese history, initiated by the emperor in 1772.10 James Frankel argues that this specific book caught the attention of the Confucian elite precisely because it focused on propriety or ritual (li), the basis of Confucian activity both public and private and the source of social harmony and stability.'

In Islam, ritual practices as well as individual social rules and regulations are typically explained in the science of fiqh, or "jurisprudence." Liu's book, however, does not read like a typical manual of jurisprudence—far from it, in fact—because his discussions of issues are much more general and theoretical than is usually the case. He described the major Islamic practices, but it would not be possible on the basis of his comments, for example, to perform the daily prayers. He left detailed explication of elementary Islamic learning to teachers in the mosques. He was much more concerned with arguing that the Islamic proprieties and rituals coincide with the teachings of the ancient Chinese sages, and he even claimed that the Islamic forms preserve the original purity of those teachings. Thus he wrote in the introduction:

What is recorded in the books of Islam (tianfang) is no different from what is in the Confucian canon. Observing and practicing the proprieties of Islam is like observing and practicing the teachings of the ancient sages and kings.

Rules and Proprieties is divided into twenty chapters. The first provides an overview of Islamic theoretical teachings on divine unity, the creation of human beings, the role of prophets, and the specific function of Muhammad; then it reviews the practical teachings that are the main subject of the book, including the Five Pillars of Islam and the Five Relationships (much discussed in Confucianism). Chapters 2 and 3 explain the Islamic concept of "Real Ruler," that is, God, and its difference from foundational notions of Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Chapter 4 explains the meaning of the first Pillar, the Shahadah or "witnessing," which is the verbal attestation that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is God's messenger. Chapter 5 speaks generally about the "Five Endeavors," that is, the five basic practices of Islam, the indispensable means for achieving union with heaven.

Chapters 6 through 8 explain the four endeavors after the Shahadah: the daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, the alms tax, and the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. Chapter 9 addresses the ritual slaughter of animals; its prominence in the book suggests that it was one of the practices that non-Muslim Chinese found strange. Chapters 10-13 explain the Five Relationships: husband and wife are the root of giving birth, father and son the root of honor and humility, superior and subject the root of governing by the Dao, elder brother and younger brother the root of affection and love, and friends the root of perfecting virtue. Chapters 14 through 17 address the necessity of the "four constants"—dwelling place, property, clothes, and food—and the proper way to deal with them. Chapter 18 describes various sorts of congregational prayer and the benefits of joint rather than private worship. Chapter 19 is dedicated to marriage, and Chapter 20 to funerals.

Liu's third major book is his life of the Prophet, Tianfang zhisheng shilu, which was completed in 1724. Although modeled on Islamic sources, especially a Persian translation of a work by Muhammad ibn Masud Kazaruni (d. 1357),14 it is colored throughout by Liu's attempts to bring out the heavenly nature of the Utmost Sage. The book was partially translated by Isaac Mason in 1921 and published under the title The Arabian Prophet, and some historians have opined that it is Liu's most important book. The most accessible of his three major compositions, it provides a quasi-mythic account of Muhammad's life designed to elicit the awe and respect due the foremost among the sages.

In the introduction to this third member of what Frankel calls the "Tianfang Trilogy," Liu explained that the three books together form a unity. Tianfang xingli clarifies the Way (dao Tianfang dianli explains the teaching (jiao it), and Tianfang zhisheng shilu exposes the profound origin of the teaching and the Way. By "teaching," he meant the practical instructions of the religion; the Way is the Way of Heaven that underlies the practical instructions; and "profound origin" refers to the wondrous embodiment of both teaching and Way in Muhammad.

Frankel, in his study of Tianfang dianli, has a long chapter discussing the relationship between jiao and Dao, teaching and Way, both in the Chinese tradition and in the Han Kitab. He looks closely at Ding Peng T who was trained as a Confucian literatus and spoke of "our Islam" and "our Confucianism" and who was cited by Liu in Tianfang dianli. Frankel points out that in the Chinese tradition, "Dao is the abstract, absolute and theoretical underpinning of Jiao; and Jiao is the concrete, relative and practical vehicle whereby Dao is manifested in the world.' By means of the teaching, the Sage bridges the gap between the Way of Heaven and the Way of Man.

In speaking of the Tianfang Trilogy, Liu said: "These three books are three and at the same time one. They are like stepping up the stairs, going into the hall, and then entering into the inner chamber." He was alluding to a passage in which Confucius says, concerning his well-known disciple Zilu, that he "has ascended the hall but has not yet entered the inner chamber" (Analects 11.14). Although Liu did not develop this analogy, the manner in which the three texts cover the gamut of traditional Islamic learning is fairly clear. He had in view a tripartite depiction of the Islamic tradition commonly found in Arabic and Persian texts (and explained under Diagram 4.6; see pp. 450-51). Ascending the stairs corresponds to practice, going into the hall is the ongoing process of transformation achieved by understanding the teachings and deepening the practice, and entering the inner chamber designates the goal of practice and teaching, which is reunion with the Origin.

These three stages accord with the traditional triad of Shariah (the revealed law), Tariqah (the path to God), and Haqiqah (the Reality, God himself), which are explained in detail later. Whether Muslim authors use these three or other terms, they commonly view their tradition as having three ascending stages: practice, or engagement of the body; faith, or engagement of the heart and mind; and perfection, or transformation of the soul and reintegration into the One. All three stages are seen as essential to the tradition; hence, as Liu put it, "the three are three and at the same time one."

The unified purpose of Liu's trilogy is indicated in the titles, since each begins with tianfang, "heavenly square" or "heavenly direction." The word originally seems to have been used to refer to the Kaaba, the cube-like sanctuary in Mecca, which marks for all Muslims the direction toward which they face in performing the daily prayers (the qibla). By extension, it came to be applied to Mecca it- self, to Arabia, and to the whole tradition. It is in the last sense that Liu uses tianfang in the titles of his trilogy. These might be translated as "Principles of Islam," "Practices of Islam," and "The Sage Embodiment of Islam." The first explains the Tariqah in a broad sense as the realm of faith, understanding, and the awakening of the heart. The second describes the Shariah as the practices that complement faith and apply it to everyday life and ritual. The third describes the Haqiqah as embodied in the virtues, character traits, worthy activities, and wondrous realizations of the Supreme Sage, the person whose Sunnah (habit, wont, virtuous model) is imitated by all Muslims. All three books address what Liu called at the beginning of the text translated here tianfang xue "Islamic learning."

Liu developed the argument in Tianfang xingli in three stages. Chapter 1 of the Root Classic summarizes the whole book. Chapters 2-5 of the Root Classic expand on the first chapter. The third part consists of five volumes, each with twelve diagrams and text explaining the first and second stages:

The structure of the book suggests that Liu expected students to begin by memorizing the Root Classic, as they would any "classic" text.2 The next step would be to investigate the meaning of the memorized text with the help of the diagrams and commentary, under the guidance of a teacher. Eventually they would become familiar with a broad range of Islamic and Confucian teachings on the Real Substance, nature and principle, heaven and earth, the Mandate, the ten thousand things, and the human situation. They would then be able to recall most of the details simply by reviewing the Root Classic or by reciting its first chapter.

Certainly the popularity of the book over a period of two centuries had much to do with its pedagogical usefulness. Nur al-Haqq said as much in his brief explanation of why he chose to translate the Root Classic into Arabic. According to Nur, the eloquence of Liu's Chinese is unmatched by any other Muslim scholar. Letting hyperbole get the best of him, he then exclaimed: "By God, were Muhammad not the Seal [of prophethood], Liu Zhi would have been a prophet in China." Moreover, Tianfang xingli is the best of all Muslim books on the "realities" (haqa'iq, plural of haqiqa), that is, the truths understood by those who achieve realization and attain to the Haqiqah:

I saw that among the books about the realities, this is the clearest in meaning, the most concise in words, and the most beautiful in arrangement. Despite its explanations, there is nothing extraneous or tiresome, and despite its concision, it explains perfectly everything in the two worlds. I commanded my followers to memorize it. However, some of its meanings were obscure for them. Because of their affection for Arabic, I elucidated it. Then, in order to increase its benefits, I explained it. I named it The Five Subtleties, because it is arranged in five chapters.

Chapter 1

The gist of the first chapter, and hence of the whole book, can be seen in Diagram 0.6, "The Macrocosm's Following in the Circle of Creation and Transformation." This is a version of what Ibn al-`Arabi and others call "the circle of existence" (da'irat al-wujud), made up of the descending and ascending arcs. Although the two arcs are not clearly differentiated in Liu's circle, Mir al-Haqq knew perfectly well that this was the issue, and his version of the diagram (see Fig. 1) makes it obvious. He gives the diagram the title "The Circle of Creation," makes a slight change in the orientation of the individual circles, adds a vertical, bisecting line, and names the two sides "the Descending Arc" and "the Ascending Arc."

The Circle of Existence illustrated in Diagram 0.6 with its two arcs is the organizing scheme of the book. The Descending Arc is what Liu called "the Former Heaven," and the Ascending Arc "the Latter Heaven" (as he makes explicit in Diagram 4.3, a much more complete version of the whole picture). That the two Heavens are at issue is clear from Diagrams 0.2 and 0.3, which together provide a more detailed statement of the stages of creation.

Diagram 0.2 depicts "the sequence of the transformation of principles in the Former Heaven" by showing the Descending Arc in six levels, from the Real Substance down to its lowest point, the Vast Sediment. The first three levels represent the Divine Reality or "the Divine Presence," that is, God's Essence, attributes, and acts. Substance is the Real in itself without regard to anything else, Function the Real inasmuch as it can be understood in relation to others, and Act the divine activity that brings others into existence.

The second set of three levels in Diagram 0.2 represents the World of Sovereignty. First is the level of the Mandate, second the level of the Mandate's differentiation into natures and principles, and finally the furthest descent of the circle of existence into a realm that makes possible the appearance of visible things. Muslim philosophers often call this third level "universal hyle" or "prime matter."

Diagram 0.3 illustrates "the sequence of the transformation of forms in the Latter Heaven" and depicts the Ascending Arc, again in six stages. The original vital-energy at the top of the diagram is none other than the Vast Sediment mentioned in Diagram 0.2 (as is made explicit in Diagram 0.6). The next three levels—image, form, and stuff—represent stages of increasing complexity that give rise to the World of Images. Only at the stage of the images themselves, called "wood/metal" in Diagram 0.6, do minerals and plants appear as bodily things. Then come the living kinds, that is, animals, including human beings.

If Diagram 0.6 differentiates human beings from other living things, this is because it takes into account their cosmic function, the fact that only they can complete the Circle of Existence by returning to the Origin. This final return to Unity is indicated schematically by the empty circle of Diagram 0.10, "The Undifferentiated Transformation of Heaven and Humans." This is the culmination of the circle of creative transformation, or the achievement of the station of Complete Substance and Great Function.

Chapter 2

The second chapter of the Root Classic discusses the qualities and characteristics that become manifest in humans and things, that is, the ten thousand beings of the World of Images. The basic point is that the World of Images makes manifest the natures and principles concealed in the World of Principles; in a mysterious way, the images are none other than the principles. As Liu puts it at the very end of the chapter, "Observe the forms and discriminate the meanings,/ look at the images and awaken to the principles—/ The Former Heaven and the Latter Heaven/are on one thread, nothing more" (RC 2:87-90).

The expression "one thread" derives from the Analects. It was typically interpreted to mean an underlying unity that ties together all of reality. Liu wanted to say that all things disclose their invisible natures and principles, which are in the last analysis nothing but the functions and acts of the Real Substance.

In Chapter 2 Liu delineated the general characteristics of the principles as understood in terms of their images. None of the ten diagrams of the Root Classic illustrate this chapter, but its structure can be seen when we look at the topics discussed under the twelve diagrams pertaining to Volume 2. Diagrams 2.1 and 2.2 review the fourteen levels of nature depicted in Diagram 1.6, from the nature of the Utmost Sage (the Muhammadan Spirit) down to that of the Vast Sediment. Following Razi, Liu explained that the Ascribed Spirit overflows to produce, level by level, all the spirits of humans and things. The fourteen levels are ranked on the basis of the intensity with which they manifest the functions of the Real Substance, that is, the attributes of God.

Diagram 2.3 explains the fourteen levels of principle in terms of their "forms and vessels," which are the images that make them manifest in the Latter Heaven. Diagram 2.4 reveals the hidden characteristics and qualities of these same levels. Diagram 2.5 stresses the unity of principle and image. Diagrams 2.6 to 2.11 provide detailed descriptions of the qualities and characteristics that appear in the major phenomena of the macrocosm—the heavens and their revolutions, the four agents (elements) and four seasons, the climes of the earth, and atmospheric events. Diagram 2.12 reminds us that all these natures, principles, images, forms, and vessels are strung on One Thread or, as Ibn al-`Arabi's followers often put it, are unified by the Oneness of Existence (wandat al-wujud).

Chapter 3

Chapters 1 and 2 describe the macrocosm in terms of its overall structure from Origin to Return along with the sorts of humans and things that appear within it. Chapters 3 and 4 turn to the bodily and spiritual makeup of the human microcosm and the necessity of learning, cultivation, and practice for the achievement of awakening.

The relationship between microcosm and macrocosm can be seen by comparing Diagram 0.6, "The Macrocosm's Following in the Circle of Creation and Transformation," with Diagram 0.7, "The Microcosm's Original Beginning and Final Return." Diagrams 0.4 and 0.5 break up Diagram 0.7 into two stages, just as Diagrams 0.2 and 0.3 divide Diagram 0.6 into two.

Diagram 0.7 provides the overall scheme of Chapter 3 and depicts the microcosm as a circle from Origin to Return. Diagrams 0.4 and 0.5 comprise eleven of the twelve levels of Diagram 0.7, the first showing six stages of the development of the embryo in the womb, and the second six stages from infancy to perfection. The final stage of Diagram 0.4, "the spiritually living," is identical with the first stage of Diagram 0.5, "hardness and firmness" (as can be seen in Diagram 0.7).

Diagram 0.4 corresponds to the Former Heaven in the macrocosm (Diagram 0.2). The movement is from the invisible and unified toward the visible and differentiated, that is, from the "seed" in the womb to the developed child. Diagram 0.5, which is the microcosmic analogue of the Latter Heaven (Diagram 0.3), maps out the developmental stages of the invisible powers inside the human being—growth, awareness, self-consciousness, and full awakening, the last of which is identity with the Nature of Continuity, that is, the level of Complete Substance and Great Function.

Chapter 4

Having discussed the unfolding of the stages of nature, Liu turned to the specific characteristics of the microcosm that make it possible for people to engage in self-cultivation. He provided an overview of the path to perfection, discussed the trials that people face in their quest, and finally described the return to the Real. Since none of the Root Classic's diagrams pertain to this chapter, we summarize it in terms of Volume 4.

Diagrams 4.1 and 4.2 address the nature of the heart and the virtues that it needs to actualize. Diagram 4.3 reviews the relationship between the Former and the Latter Heavens and explains that human perfection means reaching the pinnacle of the Arc of Ascent, which is none other than the return to the origin of the Arc of Descent. Diagram 4.4 describes the Human Ultimate, the person who has achieved the reunion of the two Heavens, in terms of the symbolism of the famous Light Verse of the Koran. Diagram 4.5 describes the cosmic function of human beings and the manner in which they can re-establish the harmony of the creative flow.

Diagram 4.6 turns to a description of the sage practice that can lead to the goal, and 4.7`describes the four basic sorts of human being in terms of the degree to which they follow or ignore this practice. Diagrams 4.8-4.10 detail various sorts of obstacles that block the path to perfection. Diagram 4.11 describes the three transformations—of body, heart, and nature—that need to be achieved, and 4.12 depicts the return to the Real that is the goal of cultivation.

Chapter 5

The final chapter of the Root Classic looks again at the whole picture, but with a view toward the union of heaven, earth, and the ten thousand things that is achieved through human perfection. It is summarized by Diagrams 0.8, 0.9, and 0.10.

Diagram 0.8 illustrates the basic structure of the universe. The divine unity appears as three Ones that give rise to the entire cosmos: the Real One in itself; the Numerical One, which becomes manifest as the myriad ones that are the multiple things; and the Embodied One, which is the sage through whom the universe becomes aware of its origin and return. Diagram 0.9 shows that the Three Ones and the cosmos are in fact the differentiation of a single reality. Diagram 0.10 depicts the levels once they are reintegrated into the One from which they arose, an integration that is achieved when the sage forms one body with heaven, earth, and the ten thousand things.


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