Vol.2 No.1 FAS Society Newsletter, September 1977


For the Postmodernist



Note: The following is an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Shinfichi Hisamatsu which appeared under the title gTalking about Zen and Philosophyh in the magazine Sekai No.375, February 1977, published by Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo.


I = Interviewer, H = Dr. Shinfichi Hisamatsu





































































































































Listening to your talk I realized how youthful your voice sounds – youfre really full of vigor.


Yes. I tell my family that I do not die. I say that I am a formless Self, therefore I do not die. Donft seem to understand, any of them. But then again, not understanding is usual. (laughter)  In fact, death never even crosses my mind. You see, I have some work to do – the postmodernist movement. And unless this movement works out a solution, the world will not be a real one. This is the kind of thing Ifm thinking.


You have repeatedly issued warnings and appeals from the postmodernist movement to contemporary mankind. One of the focuses of your repeated warnings is that the failure of modern culture lies in the fact that rather than science and technology acting creatively for the future of mankind, the formation of the human self is under the control of science and technology. The problem is to what extent man can remain autonomous in relation to the development of science and technology. In spite of having no solution to this problem, everyone is frenetically competing in developing technology. How to deal with this is really a great problem.


Since it is such a great problem it canft be dismissed, can it? As regards this problem I would insist that the modern age has already gone to ruin. I am not saying it will go to ruin, rather, it has already actually collapsed. It is my contention that the modern era has come to its end. There may be many who claim that though the modern age may go to ruin, it has not yet reached its demise as yet. However, such a view of the current era is a shallow one, and those who have not realized that the collapse has already taken place understand the matter quite insufficiently.

There are two aspects of this collapse: phenomenological and ontological. Speaking from the phenomenological side, the most immediate problem concerning the collapse of the modern age is the problem of the nation-state. How many states are there now in the world? Counting only those participating in the United Nations there are more than one hundred and thirty. In addition, many nations have recently become independent. The total number is great. The question is whether these nation-states, large and small, including the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A., can, as a nation, cope with the various problems they are now facing. At present, all nation-states, large and small, are endowed with absolute sovereignty. The critical point is whether the nation-state, thusly endowed, can thoroughly manage the problems with which it is engaged or not. In fact, none of them can manage—not even such superpowers as the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.. In Africa, Central and South America and in the Middle and Near East there are numerous problems. It is emphatically clear that even if they want to resolve them, in actuality they cannot. Precisely the fact that the present day nation states cannot solve the many problems they are currently embracing constitutes the ruin of the modern nation. The nation-state, esteemed by modernity as the locus of supreme power, has in fact already gone to ruin. Problems unsolvable via national sovereignty lie in a heap.


When you advocated the postmodernist movement you insisted that the Nation-state be overcome. Furthermore, you said that for the world to reestablish itself on the basis of an international conception is completely useless, that rather by a transnational or supra-national conception a new world order must be designed. Although this utterance was made some twenty years ago, it even today remains in my mind as a deeply impressive proposal.


I have been considering in this way since long ago. I feel the matter has now reached the climactic point. The present structure of the nation-state has already self-destructed. We thus have to think through how the new structure is to be established. The present situation is such that, due to the difficulties involved, no one is giving this problem much consideration. Accordingly, one cannot help but saying that with regard to how the future of the world should go the situation is incredibly bleak. The failure to confront this issue is really cowardly.


The Lockheed scandal notwithstanding, business enterprise has become transnational earlier than other things. (laughter)


Yes it has, hasnft it. I have this kind of idea—something like a motto. It goes: criticize nation, abolish nation, free oneself from nation. This is an important problem at present. Though necessary, it is not sufficient to merely criticize nation. As a result of such a criticism, we must come to abolish nation. As it is still insufficient to only abolish nation we must free ourselves from it, and open up a new path. The problem is this: having criticized nation, abolished nation, freed ourselves from nation, what should then take place? Nothing other than the realization of my conception of the post-modernist world. The structure of this conception consists of three points. The first is the establishment of true philosophy and religion. Religion without philosophy is blind, philosophy without religion is an abstraction. Philosophy and religion must be essentially one. Nevertheless, at present, they are separated. Accordingly, there are many blind religions while in contemporary philosophy there is no power—merely an abstract thinking about things without any connection to action. A man like Descartes opened up the modern age. Kant, Fichte and Hegel all were creating the future. Present-day philosophy is completely lacking in this regard. There is no alternative but to say that philosophy is now barren. To speak of this barrenness may anger philosophers; nevertheless itfs a fact and their anger cannot be avoided. We must make philosophy and religion one. A concrete form of the oneness of philosophy and religion is my FAS. F constitutes the religious aspect—the awakening to formless Self is the first cardinal point of my idea. The second point lies in transcending the fatally deadlocked egoistic structure of the nation-state, and in creating a universal and unified sovereignity for all mankind. In other words, it is the transfer of sovereignity from the nation-state to all mankind. Ethical, political, economic, and cultural problems will all be involved in this. The third point is the communalization of all material and spiritual wealth by all mankind via liberating it from the national monopoly. I got this from the communist notion of distribution of wealth. However, communism is merely materialistic. The question is whether human wealth can be exhausted by materialism. In fact, it cannot. To say the least, it must contain something spiritual. As to which is more fundamental, the spiritual or the material, we must give deep thought. In any event, it is undeniable that both material and spiritual wealth are essential to man. If either of them is lacking, that which is truly human is betrayed. Material wealth and spiritual wealth: these two are indispensable. Therefore, as opposed to gcommunismh, I am using the term gcommunalismh. A communalization in both the spiritual and the material sense. Rather than a mere criticism against communism, this is my suggestion of how to go beyond it.


You have now returned to Gifu. Are the younger members taking over the task of carrying on with FAS and postmodernist movements?


The meeting of FAS society is held weekly, consisting of Zazen and discussion. Originally, its members were graduates from Kyoto University, especially from the departments of philosophy and religion. Later, students from the departments of economics, law, natural science, medicine and so forth, as well as professors and young scholars, began to participate. They also have a study meeting on a big scale every month. Recently they have advanced to a new level by realizing the fruitlessness of discussion without an aim. For unless we properly establish an aim and undertake to discuss and research how to actualize that aim, our discussion will remain forever meaningless. Up until now, most study groups have been concerned with gtoward an endh. There is scarcely a study group starting from the standpoint of the end itself. There is an approach toward the absolute, yet no approach from the absolute. Today, however, approach from the absolute is necessity. Creation must emerge from the conclusion already drawn. It is of no use whatever to still seek for a conclusion. The present is not so carefree a time. There can be no creation without a conclusion. For it is impossible to construct a house without a design. An incredibly big defect in modern logic lies precisely in its lacking a conclusion. Nowadays, the inductive method is predominant.


The predominance of the inductive method is just as you said.


The modern age may be characterized by induction. There is no deduction. There cannot, however, be a practice without the deductive method. Although the modern age is based on the inductive method, I believe the postmodernist age must be established on the basis of a deductive one. That is why I maintain a discussion without a conclusion is empty. In any event, it is essential that a conclusion be drawn. For that reason I have put forward my plan.

So much for the phenomenological delineation of the reasons for the collapse of the modern world. Speaking from the ontological side, the modern age has gone to ruin as a consequence of losing gunityh or guniversalityh as one of the two necessary conditions for existence. These two indispensable conditions are gunityh on the one hand, gmultiplicityh or gspecialityh on the other. The modern age has been characterized by gmultiplicationh or gspecializationh, and has proceeded in that direction fully expecting to carry that approach to its ultimate extreme. As a result, the meaning of gunityh has been radically changed. The medieval conception of gunityh in terms of universality or catholicity, as made manifest in the Christian notion of an all-embracing God, has been lost. In the modern age, gunityh has come to be understood as a single, completely individual unit of society which is independent of all other units. Accordingly, the current approach regards gunityh as an atom or atomic unit rather than as gunity qua universalityh. The natural outgrowth of such a tendency has been the promotion of science as the learning par excellence of the modern age. Rooted in this approach the modern age has come to lose gunity qua universalityh as one of the two indispensable conditions for existence. The implication for human existence is that modern man, thus deprived of unity, suffers from schizophrenia, a disease most characteristic of the modern era. Hence, in order to remedy the modern disease, guniversalityh is absolutely essential.

The medieval age, on the other hand, collapsed having lost gmultiplicityh or gspecialityh. Although its gunityh was a false one, that is, a gunityh without multiplicityh , the medieval period nevertheless enjoyed a gunityh in the form of a dogmatic faith in god. However, such a medieval approach to gunityh, having lost gmultiplicityh, could not help but going to ruin. gMultiplicationh and gspecializationh in the modern age have been overemphasized in order to satisfy the demand to compensate for the lack of medieval times.

As I said before, the modern age itself collapsed as a consequence of excessive gmultiplicationh. Accordingly, the method for the resurrection of the modern world lies neither in a restoration of the medieval world, which was lacking gmultiplicityh, nor in a further intensification of the approach of the modern world, which is completely devoid of gunityh. Rather it must be realized in the thoroughgoing actualization of existence itself as the nondualistic oneness of gunityh and gmultiplicityh in which gmultiplicityh is realized in gunityh and gunityh in gmultiplicityh. Herein, gunityh is the root source to which gmultiplicityh must return, while gmultiplicityh is the expression of gunityh. Thus gunityh and gmultiplicityh do not consist of a mere static relation, but rather a dynamic and creative one.

The standpoint of FAS which is being advocated here indicates precisely this dynamic and creative relation. The living reality of the post-modernist world refers to nothing other than this. In reality, the postmodernist does not signify something merely coming after modern man in the temporal sense, but rather, in an ontological sense, the creative realization of being itself in human history, whereby the two indispensable conditions for existence will be equally and thoroughgoingly fulfilled.


Translated by Masao Abe

In collaboration with Steve Antinoff


Es ist nicht genug, zu wissen, man muss auch anwenden; es ist nicht genug zu wollen, man muss auch tun.

(It is not enough to know, one must also apply; it is not enough to will, one must also act.)

Goete, aus Makariens Archiv 73