Spirit, Qi, and the Multitude: A Comparative Theology for the Democracy of Creation

Spirit, Qi, and the Multitude: A Comparative Theology for the Democracy of Creation

HYO-DONG LEE
Loye Ashton
John J. Thatamanil
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 376
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x05td
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    Spirit, Qi, and the Multitude: A Comparative Theology for the Democracy of Creation
    Book Description:

    We live in an increasingly global, interconnected, and interdependent world, in which various forms of systemic imbalance in power have given birth to a growing demand for genuine pluralism and democracy. As befits a world so interconnected, this book presents a comparative theological and philosophical attempt to construct new underpinnings for the idea of democracy by bringing the Western concept of spirit into dialogue with the East Asian nondualistic and nonhierarchical notion of qi. The book follows the historical adventures of the idea of qi through some of its Confucian and Daoist textual histories in East Asia, mainly Laozi, Zhu Xi, Toegye, Nongmun, and Su-un, and compares them with analogous conceptualizations of the ultimate creative and spiritual power found in the intellectual constellations of Western and/or Christian thought namely, Whitehead's Creativity, Hegel's Geist, Deleuze's chaosmos, and Catherine Keller's Tehom. The book adds to the growing body of pneumatocentric (Spirit-centered), panentheistic Christian theologies that emphasize God's liberating, equalizing, and pluralizing immanence in the cosmos. Furthermore, it injects into the theological and philosophical dialogue between the West and Confucian and Daoist East Asia, which has heretofore been dominated by the American pragmatist and process traditions, a fresh voice shaped by Hegelian, postmodern, and postcolonial thought. This enriches the ways in which the pluralistic and democratic implications of the notion of qi may be articulated. In addition, by offering a valuable introduction to some representative Korean thinkers who are largely unknown to Western scholars, the book advances the study of East Asia and Neo-Confucianism in particular. Last but not least, the book provides a model of Asian contextual theology that draws on the religious and philosophical resources of East Asia to offer a vision of pluralism and democracy. A reader interested in the conversation between the East and West in light of the global reality of political oppression, economic exploitation, and cultural marginalization will find this book informative, engaging, and enlightening

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5505-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Prologue: A MEETING OF TWO STORIES
    (pp. 1-14)

    One evening in the spring of 1897 in Korea, in a tiny village of peasants southeast of what is now Seoul, the capital city, a small group of people gathered in a house—a thatched hut—to perform the customary Confucian ritual of honoring the ancestors. When the food and drink offerings were set up on a table to face the wall, where the spirits of the ancestors were supposed to take a seat, the spiritual leader of the group, seventy-one-year-old Choe Si-hyeong (崔時亨 1827–1898 c.e.) whose honorific name was Haewol (海月), asked the group to reverse the table...

  5. Introduction: A DECOLONIZING ASIAN THEOLOGY OF SPIRIT AS A COMPARATIVE THEOLOGY OF SPIRIT-QI
    (pp. 15-41)

    Like many of the other tributaries to the ecumenical theology¹ of world Christianity since the beginning of political decolonization in the 1950s, Asian theology has been grappling with the task of critically examining the history of Christian mission in Asia in order to decolonize the theology of the younger churches in the Asian continent from the implicit and explicit hegemonic control historically exercised by the theology of the Anglo-European churches in the North Atlantic world. With this task in view, like its African and Latin American counterparts, Asian theology has tackled the two intertwined issues of cultural indigenization—or “inculturation”...

  6. 1 The Psychophysical Energy of the Way in Daoist Thought
    (pp. 42-61)

    What is psychophysical energy (氣gi/qi)? Etymologically rooted in the words “steam,” “breath,” and “wind,” and variously translated as “material force,” “vital energy,” or “psychophysical stuff,”¹gi/qiis an idea for world-explanation ubiquitously found in East Asian cultures and religions and philosophically developed in the two great traditions of Daoism and Confucianism.² Perhaps owing to its metaphoric roots in the animistic indigenous cultures of preclassical East Asia,³gi/qiin its original meaning encompasses both nonphysical and physical, mind and body, macrocosmic and microcosmic, and sacred and secular. In that sense, it is similar to the Semiticruachand the Greek...

  7. 2 The Psychophysical Energy of the Great Ultimate: A NEO-CONFUCIAN ADVENTURE OF THE IDEA IN ZHU XI
    (pp. 62-82)

    For the classical Confucians, the Way (道dao) was always the “way of,” such as the way of the human world or the way of Heaven, in contrast to the Daoist conception of the Way as the origin and supreme principle of all that is.¹ The classical Confucian tradition arose in what is now North China in response to the breakdown of the sociopolitical and moral order that had been claimed to be patterned after the way of Heaven, namely the order of the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 b.c.e.).² The Zhou dynasty had replaced the high god of the preceding...

  8. 3 Creativity and a Democracy of Fellow Creatures: THE CHALLENGE OF WHITEHEAD’S RADICAL ONTOLOGICAL PLURALISM
    (pp. 83-105)

    In his magnum opus,Process and Reality, Alfred North Whitehead names three major images of God as having come, in various combinations, to dominate the development of theistic philosophy: God as an imperial ruler, associated with the Roman Empire and its divine Caesars, and also with Islam; God as a personification of moral energy—“the ruthless moralist”—as with the Hebrew prophets; and God as an ultimate philosophical principle, as found in Aristotle with his notion of the Unmoved Mover, and also in Indian thought.¹ Regardless of whether this threefold scheme of historical interpretation does justice to all the religious...

  9. 4 The Great Ultimate as Primordial Manyone: THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF TOEGYE’S NEO-CONFUCIAN “HETERODOXY”
    (pp. 106-121)

    Throughout his long life, Yi Hwang (李滉 1501–1570 c.e.) of the Korean Joseon Dynasty—who is better known by his honorific name Toegye (退溪)—thought of himself as a faithful follower of Zhu Xi, whom he regarded as his intellectual and spiritual master and whose true intention he believed he followed. But even as one of the greatest and most influential figures within the dominant Cheng-Zhu school of Neo-Confucianism, he had an idiosyncratic way of reading Zhu Xi that made him deviate considerably from his master’s thought. His primary concern revolved around the issue of self-cultivation, particularly the question...

  10. 5 From the Divine Idea to the Concrete Unity of the Spirit: HEGEL’S SHAPES OF FREEDOM AND THE DOMINATION OF NATURE
    (pp. 122-141)

    Hegel’s philosophical reading of the Christian narrative, or “salvation history,” as articulated in theLectures on the Philosophy of Religion, advances the thesis that the trinitarian logic of the divine Idea, which grounds the history of God and brings it to its consummation in the community of the Spirit, permeates nature as the ontological condition of possibility for all that exists and gives rise in history to a communal pattern of human life characterized by its universal reach and the freedom in unity of its members as knowing and willing subjects. The key to understanding this reading of the Christian...

  11. 6 Pattern and Psychophysical Energy Are Equally Actual: THE EMPATHETIC PLURISINGULARITY OF THE GREAT ULTIMATE IN NONGMUN’S THOUGHT
    (pp. 142-173)

    Im Seong-ju (任聖周 1711–1788 c.e.), the eighteenth-century Korean thinker known by his honorific name Nongmun (鹿門) and widely regarded as one of the six “greats” of Korean Neo-Confucianism, is famous for his thesis, “Pattern and psychophysical energy are equally actual [理氣同實ligi dongsil].” Nongmun developed this symmetrical conception of the pattern-psychophysical energy relation within the context of the early eighteenth-century debate among Korean Neo-Confucians, called thehorak(湖洛) debate, which centered on the issue of whether human nature was identical to the natures of other thing-events and the related question of whether the heart-mind in its original state was...

  12. 7 The Chaosmos and the Great Ultimate: A NEO-CONFUCIAN TRINITY IN CONVERSATION WITH DELEUZE AND KELLER
    (pp. 174-210)

    In the preceding chapter, I offered an outline of what may be called a Neo-Confucian panentheism of transcendent body in which the empathetic interrelatedness of the primordial and chaotic many within the Non-Ultimate is offered as an explanation for the creative restlessness of the Great Ultimate as the heart-mind of the Way. At the same time, I left two questions unanswered or only preliminarily explored there: (1) By what “mechanism” (機gi/ji) does the empathetic relational makeup of the indeterminate and chaotic multiplicity give rise to the creative urge toward order and harmony characterizing the Great Ultimate? (2) Further, and more...

  13. 8 The Democracy of Numinous Spirits: THE PANENTHEISM OF “SUBALTERN” ULTIMATE ENERGY IN DONGHAK
    (pp. 211-244)

    In the late spring of 1860, after a year of spiritual wrestling involving an intense practice of prayer, Su-un, the founder of Donghak, heard the voice of Lord Heaven (originally the Korean 하늘님 [haneullim],¹ or the classical Chinese 天主 [cheonju]). According to the conversation recorded in the earliest Donghak scripture,Dong-gyeong daejeon(東經大全 The complete scriptures of Eastern Learning) andYongdam yusa(龍潭諭詞 The instructional songs from the Dragon Pond),² Lord Heaven told Su-un not to fear but to receive his³ teachings, and that he was the one whom people called by the name of Lord on High (上帝sangje),...

  14. Epilogue: THE SPIRIT-QI OF THE MULTITUDE UNDER THE CROSS OF EMPIRE
    (pp. 245-256)

    The journey I have taken in this book has all along been in search of what Whitehead calls “a democracy of fellow creatures” in response to Su-un’s critique of the “spirit-less” theology of missionary Christianity. It is an attempt to decolonize Christian theology from its colonization by the logic of empire, namely, the logic of the One, so that its suppressed capacity forchaophiliacould be released. It is an endeavor to come up with a pneumatocentric conception of God that resists and subverts the hierarchical binaries of one and many, ideal and material, mind and body, spirit and nature,...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 257-334)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 335-352)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 353-362)