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joints' creaking at night. On the other hand,
all great affairs of State, all national enterprises,
are similarly entrusted to the fostering care of
the deities. As for rituals, details of ceremonial,
and rules for the guidance of priests and priestesses,
they fill fifty volumes, and descend to the utmost
minutiae, the part taken by each functionary being
carefully set forth, from that of the chief cook who
laid on the fire and set the rice-pot over it, or that
of the superintendent of fisheries who fanned the
flame, to that of the priest-noble who recited the
ritual. The presentation of offerings to the tutelary
deity or to the departed spirit just enrolled among
the immortals, formed an important part of the
ceremonial, and the ritual used on the occasion
enumerated the offerings, 1 while at the same
time setting forth the grounds for paying rever-
ence to the deceased. 2 However obscure the
origin of some among the multitude of observ-

1 See Appendix, note 20. a See Appendix, note 2 1 .



ances prescribed by the sacred canon, an analysis
of the twenty-seven great rituals shows that the
main purpose of worship was to secure the bless-
ings of peace and plenty. The family on earth
associated itself by offerings and orisons with the
family in heaven. Among the whole twenty-
seven rituals * one only is designed to avert the
influence of evil spirits. It does not appear to
have entered largely into the theory of the creed
that enmities formed on this side of the grave
continued to be active in the region beyond. The
disquieting contingency was there, indeed. The
curse of a dying foe might be fulfilled by his
spirit after death, and services of exorcism were
prescribed to meet that emergency. But this
tatarl was confined to the generation responsible
for its origin. The general conception was that
of kindly spirits, from the all-father and the all-
mother to the shades of departed parents and
relatives, ready to extend useful tutelage to their
mortal descendants. The capacity to work injury
after death was explained by a theory correspond-
ing with the Occidental idea of the duality of
man's nature. Every human being possessed
a rough spirit and a gentle spirit. The former,
when stirred to intense activity by a sense of
suffering or the passion of resentment, acquired
the potentiality of a mischievous agent, acting
independently of matter, and could even assume
the shape of the sufferer or of the avenger for

1 See Appendix, note 22.



the purpose of tormenting the injurer or the
enemy. Such phenomena were not necessarily
preceded by the liberation of the divine element
from its mortal prison ; they might take place
during life, and even without the knowledge of
the person exercising the telepathic influence.
Nor were they confined to the rough spirit.
The gentle spirit also, under strongly emotional
circumstances, became capable of defying the
restraints of time and space. 1 The permanent
existence of evil gods, however, constituted an
article of the faith. Shinto did not propound to
its disciples the inscrutable problem of an omnis-
cient, omnipotent, and all-merciful deity creat-
ing beings foredoomed to eternal torture, and
licensing a Satan to ply the trade of tempter and
perverter. It adopted the simpler theory that
the malign demons were the outcome of a fault of
creation. Born of the corruption contracted by
Izanagi during his visit to the land of the shades,
these wicked spirits, who " glittered like fireflies
and were as disorderly as spring insects ; who gave
voices to rocks, tree-stumps, leaves, and the foam
of the green sea," 2 had been expelled from the
terrestrial region but not annihilated : they con-
tinued to interfere mischievously in human affairs,
and it was necessary to propitiate them with offer-
ings, music, and dancing. Their doings did not,
however, seriously perturb the even tenor of daily
life. There never was any tendency to regard

1 See Appendix, note 23. 8 See Appendix, note 24. <


the world as a battlefield of demons and angels,
as was the belief of mediaeval Europe, or to enter-
tain a Manichean belief in the frequent victories
of evil spirits.

In the shrines there were no images. The
only object exposed to invite the adoration of the
worshipper was a mirror, the "spirit substitute"
which the Goddess of Light gave to be to her
descendants a representative of her presence in
their midst. Often the place of the mirror is
taken by a pillow for the repose of the guardian
deity or by some other " spirit substitute," for the
mirror, being the special symbol of the Goddess
of Light, is not placed in shrines dedicated to local
divinities (uji-gami\. Two objects are always
openly associated with a Shinto shrine, the go-hei
and the torii. The latter, as its name indicates, 1
was originally designed to typify a perch for
birds. In Shinto traditions it is associated with
the eclipse of the Sun Goddess. Outside the cave
into which the goddess had retreated, cocks, col-
lected by the gods, were set crowing to create
the impression that even without the rising of the
orb of day morn had dawned. Barn-door fowls
thus found a place among the offerings to the
goddess through all time, and the torii typified the
fact. Its degradation in later ages to the rank of
a gate is an error for which its shape is doubtless
responsible, but it may generally be seen in its
true role beside the little shrines of Inari, 2 where

1 See Appendix, note 25. 2 See Appendix, note 26.



the peasant prays. The go~hei, or sacred offering,
takes the form of a wand supporting a pendant
of paper zigzags. It represents the coarse cloth
and fine cloth that always appeared among the
offerings. From symbolising the concrete devo-
tion of the worshipper and its abstract acceptance
by the deity, the go-hei became, by an easily con-
ceived transition, an evidence of the favouring
presence of the worshipped spirit, and in that
character acquired powers of inspiration the ex-
ercise of which has been made the basis of a
theory of esoteric Shinto}-

From what has already been said about the
" rough spirit " and the " gentle spirit," the
reader will not be surprised to find in Shinto prac-
tices a repetition of the phenomenon that has puz-
zled so many minds, from the days of Njal and
hisforspan to those of Charcot and second sight.
The aura epileptica blew in the old Japan and
still blows in the new, as it has blown among all
nations in all ages. Before Shinto shrines one
may constantly see examples of what some folks
call " mountain-moving faith," and others more
prosaically regard as an abnormal mood produced
by concentrated attention and abeyance of the
will, namely, unconscious cerebration, taking
the form of a hypnotic trance with telepathic
capabilities, wonderful and inscrutable to vulgar
minds. These " spirit-possessions " find their
prototype in the phrensy of the goddess that

1 Se'e Appendix, note 27.



danced before the cave of the Sun Deity, and in
the oracle-uttering mood of the Empress Jingo.
Sometimes this idea that the spirits of the deified
may be induced to obey the summons of their
earthly relatives is played with by mercenary
charlatans, as was and is the case in Europe ;
sometimes it appears to be capable of exciting
a nervous ecstasy during which the body becomes
insensible to pain. It is unnecessary to dwell
upon these things. They have their counterpart
everywhere, and can scarcely be regarded as dis-
tinctive of Shinto.

A contention often advanced is that Shinto has
no code of morals and does not concern itself
about a future state. As to the former argument,
it may be pointed out that the intuitive system
of morality receives its fullest recognition when
ethical sanctions are not coded. If man derives
the first principles of his duties from intuition ;
if he be so constituted that the notion of right
carries with it a sense of obligation, then a sched-
ule of rules and regulations for the direction of
every-day conduct becomes not only superfluous
but illogical. That was the moral basis of Shinto.
If the feet were kept steadfast in the path of
truth, the guardianship of the Gods was assured
even without praying for it. 1 The all-creator
took care, when he fashioned man, that a knowl-
edge of good and evil should be an integral part
of the structure. Unless such a knowledge be

1 Sfee Ap'pendix, note z8.



assumed, man becomes inferior to the animals,
all of which have a guiding instinct. To have
acquired the conviction that there is no ethical
system to be learned and practised, is to have
acquired the method of acting as the gods act.
For the rest, precept is far inferior to example.
The former suggests itself only when the latter
is absent. Show a man a record of noble deeds
actually performed, and he will burn with a
desire to emulate them, whereas a statement of
the principles of courage and loyalty will leave
him comparatively unmoved. The gods are not
to be importuned with prolix prayers, or asked
to condone crimes knowingly committed. The
petitions of humanity are wafted by the wind to
the plain of high heaven : " I say, with awe,
deign to bless me by correcting the unwilling
faults which, seen and heard by you, I have com-
mitted ; by blowing off and clearing away the
calamities which evil gods might inflict ; by
causing me to live long * like the hard and lasting
rock, and by repeating to the gods of heavenly
origin and to the gods of earthly origin the peti-
tions which I present every day, along with your
breath, that they may hear with the sharp-eared-
ness of the forth-galloping colt." 2 Such was
the morning prayer to the Spirit of the Wind.
Apart from the satisfaction of well-doing, uniform
obedience to the dictates of conscience brought
its reward. It is true that the rule did not always

1 See Appendix, note 29. 2 See Appendix, note 30.



hold ; the evil sometimes prospered while the
good experienced misfortunes. That was be-
cause the " Spirits of Crookedness " were occa-
sionally able to defy the " Spirits of Benevolence."
But, on the whole, the hatred of the " Invisible
Gods" 1 was assured to wrong-doers. "The
deities bestow blessings and happiness on him
that practises virtue as effectually as though they
appeared before us bearing treasures. And even
if the virtuous do not obtain material recompense,
they enjoy exemption from disease, good fortune,
and longevity, and their descendants prosper.
Pay no attention to the praise or blame of fellow-
men, but act so that you need not be ashamed
before the Gods of the Unseen. If you desire to
practise true virtue, learn to stand in awe of the
Unseen, and that will prevent you from doing
wrong. Make a vow to the God that rules
over the Unseen, and cultivate the conscience
implanted in you, and thus you will never wan-
der from the Way." 2

But if virtue might be expected to bring some
recompense in this world, fear of eternal punish-
ment did not reinforce the prompting of con-
science, nor did hope of reward beyond the grave
constitute a dominant incentive to well-doing.
An under-world did, indeed, find a place in the
system. The "August Creator" descended to it
in search of his spouse after her demise in travail
of fire. The God of the Sea, weary of banish-

1 See Appendix, note 31. 3 See Appendix, note 32.

I2 4


ment from the heavenly plains, would fain have
gone to his mother beneath the earth. The
efficacy of the "Sacred Jewel" consisted in
holding back the believer from the road to the
region of the dead. But this under-world was
not connected with any idea of merciless tortures
inflicted on the damned through endless ages.
It was simply the place of darkness, the moon,
according to some; the depths of the ocean, ac-
cording to others. The finite was not followed
by an infinite aftermath of misery. The worship
of the beloved and revered dead precluded all
idea of their condemnation to everlasting tor-
ment, just as it necessarily included the concep-
tion of the soul's immortality. Rituals were not
read nor offerings piled up to victims of annihila-
tion. Those that passed the portals still lived, a
large, a more potential, a deathless life, waiting
to be joined by those they had preceded. Within
every man was something of the god, and though,
after death, one obtained higher place than an-
other in the divine hierarchy, all were sure of
apotheosis. 1 The issue of human enterprises, the
distribution of fortune's favours, were considered
to be under the control of the tutelary deities,
the ancestral spirits, but men were themselves en-
dowed with capacity for distinguishing between
good and evil, and with strength to follow their
judgment so tenaciously as to qualify for fellow-
ship with the denizens of high heaven. At the

1 See Appendix, note 33.

I2 5


same time error was theoretically avoidable and
should therefore have been practically unpardon-
able. But sins might be expiated or forgiven.
The sovereign occupied the position of the
nation's high-priest. Twice annually he cele-
brated the great festival of general purification by
which the people were purged of offences and
pollutions and saved from consequent calamities.
Every family also kept within the Kami-dana an
amulet consisting of pieces of the sacred wand
used at these festivals, the possession of the token
being supposed to ward off the effects of evil-
doing. 1

Of the cleanliness that this creed inculcated
much might be written ; of the lustrations that
preceded every sacred rite ; of the shrinking
from every source of pollution and contamina-
tion; of the simplicity of every ceremonial
apparatus; of the unvaried rusticity observed in
the architecture of the shrines, and of the un-
sculptured, unornamented purity of the timber
used in their construction. Indeed this phase of
Shinto had a dehumanising influence. Excessive
dread of contamination led to violations of a far
higher duty : the sick were not duly tended, and
the maimed or diseased were often thrust out to
die. Charity was a virtue scarcely suggested by
the Shinto cosmogony, and not inculcated by the
rituals or ceremonials of the creed. Kindness to
animals received isolated recognition, 2 but "the

1 See Appendix, note 34. 2 See Appendix, note 35.



golden rule " was not written between the lines
of any prayer or any legend.

The part assigned to woman, however, and
the value attached to female virtue distinguish
Shinto from other Oriental cults or creeds, espe-
cially from the patriarchal system of the Chinese,
with which it is often confounded. In China a
girl child being disqualified to conduct ancestral
worship, her birth is counted a misfortune and
the preservation of her life a burden. In Shinto
the principal objects of national adoration, the
deities worshipped at the grand shrines of
Ise, are the Sun Goddess and the Goddess of
Food. Among the attributes assigned to the
former, in addition to her prime functions, are
those of selecting the guests or frequenters of the
Emperor's abode; of correcting and softening
discontent and unruliness ; of keeping the male
and female attendants in order ; of preventing
princes, councillors, and functionaries from in-
dulging their independent inclinations. At the
foundation and construction of sacred buildings,
young virgins cleared and levelled the ground,
dug holes for the corner posts, took the axe and
made the first cut in the trees to be felled for
timber. A priestess was the central figure in the
great Ceremony of Purification at the Kasuga
temple ; a young girl cleaned the shrine ; women
and girls on horseback moved in the procession ;
after the sacrificial vessels and chests of offerings
followed carriages containing some of the Em-



peror's female attendants. Even the wind was
under the control of a female deity as well as a
male; for to the disciples of Shinto the wind did
not present itself as a fierce, turbulent agent of
nature, but rather as an ether filling the space be-
tween earth and sky, the ladder by which spirits
ascended to heaven. When Susano-o, expelled
from the company of the gods, repaired to
earth, his first exploit was to save a maiden from
an eight-headed dragon which, year by year, had
devoured one of her seven sisters. It was to a
priest-princess that the Emperor Sujin entrusted
the sacred mirror and sword after a divine revela-
tion that they must no longer be kept in his own
palace ; it was by her niece, the subsequent de-
pository of the insignia, that the site of the Ise
shrine was chosen. Virgin priestesses danced in
honour of the gods of each locality, and the birth
of three maidens from the fragments of the " Im-
petuous Male Deity's " sword was held to prove
the purity of his intentions. From the earliest
times, legendary or historical, the sovereign was
surrounded by a number of females, and down to
the reign of the present Emperor's immediate
predecessor, women alone were admitted to the
Imperial presence, in accordance with the belief
that, among the eight tutelary deities of the
Mikado, one represented the female influence
surrounding the Throne and imparting a gentle
smoothness to the ruler's relations with the ruled.
The high rank accorded to woman in the


Yib ot nua erft nl baoelq bns bieod : noqu bariotetia i ti bseneab v'f!3JOioflf si Jnsrmeg or!? 19?

.gnfnoii eaves saaooiq aic.7'


After the garment is thoroughly cleansed it is stretched upon a board and placed In the sun to dry.

This process saves ironing.

Shinto system, the important functions assigned
to her, and the value attaching to virginal purity,
are thus amply proved. But while the beauty
of virginity was recognised, no merit attached
to celibacy. The maidens engaged in the ser-
vice of the gods must preserve their chastity dur-
ing the period of ministration, but after they had
quitted the priesthood, no obstacle stood in the
way of their marriage. Neither do we find any
direct or indirect inculcation of the principle of
monogamy. On the contrary, the chief of the
terrestrial deities when, by a display of pity to an
animal, he had won the hand of a princess for
whose love he was his brothers' rival, made her
his second wife, and, moreover, became the father
of many children by other women.

Shinto traditions offer no distinct precedent for
a custom characteristic of the educated Japanese
in all ages ; the custom of resorting to suicide as
an honourable exit from a humiliating or hope-
less situation. One incident, indeed, may pos-
sibly be quoted as the prototype of the practice.
The son of the chief terrestrial deity, when he
decided to abandon his right of succession in
favour of the delegates of heaven, trod on the
edge of his boat so as to overturn it, and with
his hands crossed behind his back in token of
submission, disappeared, abdicated and killed
himself, in simpler language. There is no war-
rant for assuming, however, that the example of
the deity had any influence in establishing the



Japanese habit of anticipating surrender by sui-
cide. If a creed which divests death of all ter-
rors by representing it as a prelude to apotheosis
ought to have helped to make suicide easy, it
should also have tended to impart to death the
character of emancipation from the body's thral-
dom, whereas the history of the Japanese people
does not show that escape from life ever pre-
sented itself seriously to cultured minds as eutha-
nasia, a means of eluding the pangs of disease or
preventing the dotage of age. Japan never had
a Seneca or a Hegesias. A man did not abandon
life because he counted the loss a blessing or a
boon, or because he regarded the grave as a
place of rest. When existence became an in-
tolerable punishment, the victim of destitution
or cruelty sometimes chose the last road to free-
dom, and it was a common habit of lovers, when
all hope of union in life had disappeared, to die
in each other's arms. 1 Doubtless, also, during
the long centuries of warfare described in pre-
vious chapters, a certain indifference to death
must have been educated by the constant necessity
of inflicting it, and, as in Rome before the time
of Domitian, so in Japan before the Meiji era
(1867), suicide secured a political offender against
an ignominious fate and the confiscation of his
goods. But the influence of Shinto in this mat-
ter does not appear to have been appreciable, ex-
cept in so far as it taught that death was only

1 See Appendix, note 36.



apotheosis ; a passage from the visible world to
the invisible region of revered spirits.

Here the question presents itself whether Shinto
should be regarded as a creed indigenous to Japan
or as an importation from abroad. Japan owed
so much to China in early days that the borrow-
ing of a creed would not have greatly increased
the debt or seriously shocked any patriotic in-
stinct. It has already been shown that plausible
grounds exist for attributing the bases of Japanese
mythology to Chinese traditions, and the post-
humous names of prehistoric Mikados to foreign
sources. On the other hand, any attempt to dif-
ferentiate native from alien is hampered by the
constant difficulty of discerning whether the
things adopted were actually Chinese systems or
merely Chinese methods of systemisation. A man
taught to write after he reaches adult years is
not unlikely to take the rules of literary composi-
tion and even the terminology of his teachers, as
well as their script, though the thoughts he sets
down may be his own. That certainly was often
the case with the Japanese, and it becomes neces-
sary to look very closely before finally distin-
guishing the indigenous from the exotic. Thus
Confucianism, a system of ethics widely em-
braced by the educated classes in Japan, has been
credited with supplying some of the central ideas
of Shinto, and the theory is superficially plausible.
But there had existed in China for centuries
before the days of Confucius a belief in a supreme


power and in the existence of some special chan-
nel of communication between that power and
the ruler of the State, so that the latter acted as
mediator for his subjects. The relation between
the Emperor of Japan and the Sun Goddess finds
here an analogy. Confucius, however, would
have set aside the Shinto cosmogony as something
wholly beyond the range of rational speculation.
He recognised the power of an impersonal
heaven, but he limited his moral horizon to
things visible and temporal, and his recorded con-
duct could not possibly be reconciled with the
Shinto faith in the direction of nature's courses
and of human fortunes by a hierarchy of deities.
That man should devote himself earnestly to the
duties due to men, and, while respecting spiritual
beings, should keep aloof from them, that was
the Chinese sage's definition of wisdom. He did
not, as is frequently supposed, institute the wor-
ship of ancestors : it had existed in China for
centuries before his time. He did not even di-
rectly inculcate the propriety of such a practice.
As to a future state, he declined to predicate any-
thing about the world beyond the grave. He did
not even commit himself to an admission that
sentient existence might be continued after
death. Life was a mystery in his eyes ; death
equally inscrutable. In the vague possibilities of
numbers and diagrams he vainly sought an expla-
nation of the phenomena of the physical uni-
verse, and the sole outcome of his cosmical



studies was a discovery that if the span of his
life permitted fifty years' uninterrupted groping
among the pages of the Book of Changes (Tih
King], he might hope to reach the truth. In
one important respect his philosophy corresponded
with Shinto : it was inductive. The rule of life
for men in all their relations was to be found
within themselves : heaven had conferred on
every human being a moral sense, compliance
with which would keep him always in the right
path. He did not recognise, however, that con-
sideration for woman and her chivalrous treat-
ment should be catalogued among the promptings
of conscience. With the high place assigned to
woman in the Shinto cosmogony and the Shinto
ceremonials, he would have been absolutely un-
sympathetic. Confucianism, in short, was pure
secularism. Faithful followers of the Chinese

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 5) → online text (page 8 of 16)