The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Lifeby Richard Wilhelm

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  • The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life by Richard WilhelmReview by: A. K. CoomaraswamyJournal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Sep., 1933), pp. 303-305Published by: American Oriental SocietyStable URL: .Accessed: 12/06/2014 16:10

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  • Coomaraswamy, The Meaning of Meaning, etc. 303

    response to the conditions existing at the moment of action. In the same way Shylock has undeniable justice on his side when he demands a pound of Bassanio's flesh; and yet he is in the wrong, and Portia finds a way out in accordance with i. The doctrine of Mencius cannot be called "immoral ": it is only when a man breaks his word for private advantage, and not with respect to gen- eral truth, that he can be called " untrue ".

    The fascinating problems raised by the two volumes reviewed cannot be further discussed here. It may only be added, with reference to the remark "provincialism is dangerous" (Mencius . . ., p. xiv), that the vast Indian literature on logic and meaning has been entirely ignored: we recommend to the authors a study at least of such works as the KRvya Prak~a and S&hitya Darpana; and Stcherbatsky's Buddhist Logic (" a logic, but it is not Aristo- telian. It is epistemological, but not IKantian. There is a widely spread prejudice that positive philosophy is to be found only in Europe. . . . We are on the eve of a reform ", ibid. I, xii).

    The Secret of the Golden Flower: a Chinese Book of Life. Trans- lated by RICHARDi WILHELM, with a commentary by C. G. JUNG. London: KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRtBNER & CO., 1932. Pp. 151, with 10 illustrations.

    This is a treatise on Chinese yoga. The late Professor Wilhelm, to whom Jung pays affectionate tribute, translates from the point of view of the student primarily interested in the meaning of the text; like Mencius, he understands that "wisdom" can only be evaluated as " skill ". The ideology of the text throughout can be closely paralleled in the Upanisads: for example, " the circula- tion of the Light . . . according to its own law " (p. 57) corres- ponds to the spiritual cosmology of Chandogya Up. III, 1-11. Hun and p'o, respectively yang and yin, male and female principles, correspond to Purusa and Prakrti, and are rendered animus and anima (animus is understood by Jung quite differently), and represent the light upward tending and dark downward tending, celestial and chthonic, souls in one and the same individual. These principles are opposed; if the anima prevails, that affirmation or externalization (pravrtti) tends to an ultimate disintegration of the personality, which is " made by things into a thing ", cf.


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  • 304 Reviews of Books

    Brhadiranyaka Up. I, 4, 16. But " if it has been possible during life to set going the 'backward-flowing' movement (Skt. nivrtti, nihsarana) of the life-forces" (Skt. praznih), if the animus pre- vails, "then a release from external things takes place, the ego becomes " a god, deus, shen " (Skt. deva). As explained on p. 18, Taoism has in view to preserve this divine status, rather than to accomplish what Eckhart calls the last death of the soul or drown- ing, the Buddhist parinirvdna anupadisesa, without residual exis- tential elements. The Golden Flower is the elixir of life, Skt. amrta, living waters in a spiritual sense, viz. that by which not the body, but the ultimately detached consciousness maintains itself as a " god ". Such an immortality represents an integration of the personality which is not " natural ", but must be achieved by every individual for himself. As pointed out by Jung, p. 124, this notion of the " timelessness of the detached consciousness is in harmony with the religious thought of all times and with that of the overwhelming majority of mankind . . . (and) anyone who does not think this way would stand outside the human order, and would, therefore, be suffering from a disturbance in his psychic equilibrium ". From an Indian point of view, the greater part of the actual text may be described as designed to aid, guide, and warn the sincere practitioner of yoga.

    Jung, not without justice, contrasts (p. 77) Wilhelm's approach with that of " scientific" scholarship, not in that Wilhelm is senti- mental or inaccurate, but in that he treats the inner content of his subject seriously. We Western scholars, says Jung, are accustomed to hide our hearts "under the cloak of scientific understanding. We do it partly because of the miserable vanitg des savants, which fears and rejects with horror any sign of living sympathy, and partly because an understanding that reaches the feelings might allow contact with the foreign spirit to become a serious experience ". He points out that Wilhelm has not in this way allowed the mean- ing of his text " to be shelved by any one of the special sciences ". Unfortunately, however, that is just what Jung himself has done, who confesses that he does " not understand the utter unworldliness of a text like this," even though he sees " the earth-born quality and sincerity of Chinese thought " (pp. 79, 80) ; worse still " To under- stand metaphysically is impossible; it can only be done psycho- logically ", i. e. by transposition into the terms of his own " special

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  • Coomaraswamy, The Secret of the Golden Flower 305

    science ". This, in commentary on a Taoist text, can only amount to saying that it is incomprehensible, Taoism and yoga being precisely metaphysical systems and methods, not kinds of psycho- therapy; Jung's explanations, however admirable in themselves, thus represent a Taoism in which the Tao is left out.

    Jung's repeated warnings against an " aesthetic or intellectual flirtation " of European minds with Oriental thought and method are in the main extremely well taken; to imitate Oriental methods would be a kind of Chinoiserie, "a case of the right means in the hands of the wrong men." On the other hand, he points out that that which may be a dangerous infection, may also become a heal- ing remedy, " to hear the simple language of Wilhelm, the messen- ger from China, is a real blessing . . . it carries to us the delicate perfume of the Golden Flower. Penetrating gently, it has set in the soil of Europe a tender seedling, for us a new presentiment of life and Meaning." Indeed, " The picture of the East he has given us, free as it was from ulterior motive and any trace of violence, could never have been created in such completeness by Wilhelm, had he not been able to let the European in himself slip into the background. . . . Wilhelm fulfilled his mission in every sense of the word."

    In the present edition, mandala is consistently misprinted mcandala. What a manddla nrithya (nrtya), p. 97, may be I can- not say, unless perhaps the dance alluded to is the risa mandala. The title of Bdhme's XL Questions of the Soule is misprinted "' For the Questions of the Soule ", p. 97, note 2.

    The Story of Kdlaka: Texts, history, legends, and miniature paint- ings of the Jain hagiographical work the Kaldakaccryakatha. By W. NORMAN BROWN. Freer Gallery of Art Oriental Series, No. 1. Washington: SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, 1933. Pp. viii + 149, with 15 plates, 5 in full color.

    This most admirable monograph combines two connected lines of study, offering on the one hand critical editions and translations of various versions of the Kdiakdcarya legend, and on the other summarizing and coordinating all that is known of the history of Jaina, Gujar5th, or as the author prefers to say, Western Indian, miniature painting. The reviewer cannot contribute to the criti-

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