Discussing the true meaning of Confucius in an ancient academy in China

First the discussion, then some discussion of this ancient academy..


Tuesday, August (18), 2010

Host asks: do you believe this Confucius stuff?



There are many kinds of Confucius stuff. It is like Buddhism or Taoism or Christianity or Islam – there are many many varieties, some very good and some very bad.


Host: like Chinese food?


Me: yes, exactly.

What I really believe most fundamentally… I think of it as German existentialism.

Those are very fancy words, but what they mean is actually very simple.  Basically, they just mean –

here I am,  I see things and feel things, and I try to understand what I see and feel and what happens when I do things. And that is my starting point, the feelings and sensations and doing things first, and the words and theories all come later.

Next after that starting part are two very basic tools I use to help me in understanding my experience.

One is mathematics, and the other is the mirror. These are very basic. They are universal.

If  anything in Confucius or Christianity or Islam is firmly rooted in these foundations, they can be very good. If not, they can become very crazy and even very dangerous.

I first learned about Confucius (in a real way) from one of my best friends in high school, a guy named Chen (Hsiung-Hsiao Chen?). He said just three things about Confucius.


First, Confucius said you should always try to tell the real truth to yourself.

Second, he would ask: “Who are you? Who are you really?”


And third he would ask,”Where are your blind spots?”

If believing in Confucius means these three things, you can say I believe it. They are all important and fundamental. For example, asking “who are you” means we should use the mirror….

All of this was what I came to understand by the end of high school. But later I grew older and learned

That was the end of the brief conversation, but more should be said.

The concept of “telling the truth to yourself” is basically the same as the specific concept of SANITY

which is a key part of my theory of human intelligence, discussed in my web page and in my 2009

paper in Neural  Networks.  Some Confucians call this “integrity.” Humans are born halfway  between the mouse level of intelligence and the full symbolic/semiotic level of intelligence. Cultivating sanity or integrity means humans  learning to emulate that next highest level of intelligence. Now we can understand more clearly and more precisely what this means – but it is basically what Confucius said,

when he described this basic principle.  It is natural for humans to try to cultivate this higher level,

because it lets us be more effective in what we really want to work for, whatever it is. But we can learn to cultivate it more effectively when we have help of understanding and guidance from others who understand it, just as we can learn better in many areas with the help of understanding and other people.

The blind spots I just wondered about in high school. It is good to always wonder about blind spots, since all we humans have very important blind spots. Wondering about them helps us be alert and overcome them. For myself, I was willfully blind about things like qi and collective intelligence and special powers of the mind, until March 1967, when personal experience became too strong to ignore, and I became more open-minded and scientific about it. That is another story, discussed in bits

and pieces on my web site. Here in China, I see some signs of others who have taken a serious focused attempt to really understand such things, like Meng Tzu and the founder of Ch’an Buddhism and

a few others…  but still I have a lot to learn about them.

In general, maybe I am further along than others in understanding. Also pretty unique in

turning the wheel, in the realm of qi and ideas. But in seeing… I see more than 99%, but that

is not really enough, and some others may see better..All for now.


Best of luck to us all…


Context ********************************************************

The ancient academy was the Yuelu Academy, the “Thousand Year Academy”

across the street from Hunan University in Changsha, ancient capital of Hunan Province area in China.

We held this conversation over lunch or dinner and the Fenglin Hotel (maple forest hotel),

just a few blocks as the crow flies from the Yuelu Academy. We were in the hotel with the ICIC convention led by Dr. Deshuang Huang (the host), who also arranged contacts with Hunan University people and a visit to Yuelu Academy and Hunan University.

At Yuelu Academy, we saw Mao Tse Tung’s dorm room, and the lecture room where Zhu Xi gave his lectures long ago, under edicts from emperors praising his style of Confucianism and a declaration that this southern v ersion is the right one. Many people say that Zhu Xi is third only after Confucius and Meng Tzu (Mencius) themselves, and far more recent, but I have heard from others who cast doubt on its profoundity. Mao went there after graduating form Changsha’s old downtown teacher’s college (“normal university”), in preparation to enter Hunan University, but he found other things to do somehow…


Was in China August 2 to August 22. Got back late August 22. No jet lag at all, even last night.