Ecology of Consciousness: The Spirit of New Confucianism

Simone de La Tour and Kevin de La Tour
Sino-Brazilian Academic Exchange Center, Brazil
This paper addresses Confucianism’s potential contributions toward a holistic global system of
values. Holistic here connotes a metaphysical perspective that includes not only the physical
dimension but also the nonphysical dimensions, or multidimensionality. In Chinese philosophy,
this can be expressed as being (有) and nonbeing (无). In this way, “ecology of consciousness”
refers to the relationship of the consciousness (意识) or self – which enjoys a central position in
the larger ecosystem of the cosmos – not merely with nature but with multidimensionality per se.
This paradigm is considered by the authors to represent the true spirit of Chinese thought and,
more specifically, New Confucianism (现代新儒家), as seen in the proposals of its “first
generation” constituents such as Xiong Shili熊十力 (1885-1968). Much of the current trend in
Confucianism focuses upon the applicability of this ideology in the world scene. As the authors do
feel that Confucianism has an important role to play throughout the world, as well as approaching
the above-mentioned multidimensionality in this paper they address the international relevance of
Confucianism as a potential contributor to a global protocol, given its universalistic nature; they
also point out the utility of some of the key Confucian concepts in this regard. Finally, given that
this school of thought is a product of the Chinese psyche, the intranational (national) relevance of
Confucianism is considered, or the view that international Confucianism must be a reflection of
national Confucianism. On this point, the responsibility of China as a model of theoretical and
practical Confucian ideals that promote the evolution of humankind is stressed. Observations on
the status of these principles in Mainland China and suggestions for its further implementation in
its homeland are offered. As consciousness researchers, the authors intend to contribute to the
advancement of New Confucianism through international academic exchange. Participatory
research, wherein the individual is simultaneously the subject and object of research, plays a
fundamental role in consciousness research; hence the importance of personal experiences,
such as those of some of the founding members of New Confucianism.
Keywords: ecology; consciousness; parapsychism; interdimensionality; internationality; intranationality; scientific parahumanism.


Gradually waxing and waning in China over the centuries, the trajectory of Confucianism is not unlike the system of continuous change represented by
the alternating elements of yin 阴 and yang 阳. This has involved a variety of phases, including the burning of books and burial of Confucians during the
Qin dynasty (秦代, 221–206 B.C.E.), implementation of Confucianism as the official ideology in the Han dynasty (汉代, 206 B.C.E. – 220 C.E.), its decline
again at the end of the Han dynasty with the dominance of Daoism and Buddhism, the appearance of Neo-Confucianism in the Northern Song dynasty (宋
代, 960-1127), and the May Fourth Movement of 1919 with its criticism of Confucianism. Its latest resurgence, New Confucianism or Xian Dai Xin Ru Jia 现
代新儒家, is considered by many scholars to have been initiated during the early part of the twentieth century and, in later decades, to have become
more effective in the revival of the Chinese cultural identity. Although this movement’s progress was hampered in Mainland China in the second half of
the twentieth century, notably during the 1960’s and 1970’s with the Cultural Revolution, its development continued to strengthen outside of the mainland
in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. After the 1970’s, New Confucianism regained momentum in Mainland China and is now a
field of rich exchange between Chinese and Western scholars. As can be seen, the rising and falling of Confucian influence over the centuries has
mostly occurred within a largely closed society, although it also found its way to much of Asia. Today the question is with regard to Confucianism’s
international relevance as at least a partial solution to the challenges currently facing humanity, focusing on discussions concerning its potential
contributions toward a global philosophy. It would largely seem to be an issue of asking whether Confucianism: (a) will be relegated to academic debates
and panel discussions or gradually, perhaps even officially, find its way back into the schools and homes of the general populous, and especially (b) if it
will gain influence in the international community and in what form.

It is significant to note the underlying metaphysical aspect of Confucianism that has continually resurfaced over time. Most recently, the early proponents
of New Confucianism have emphasized works such as the Zhongyong 《中庸》 (Doctrine of the Mean), Daxue 《大学》 (Great Learning) and Yijing 《易
经》 (Book of Changes), with its Yizhuan <易传> (“Ten Wings”). Neo-Confucianism was marked by its emphasis on these same works. And when we
inquire as to the root of Chinese thought per se, there is a general consensus that it is to be found in the Yijing, which the authors consider to be a
multidimensional work, as will be explained below. It is therefore evident that the basis of traditional Chinese thought is multidimensional in nature. The
term multidimensional, as it is used here, refers to the multiple dimensions of human existence, namely the material and nonmaterial or the intraphysical
dimension (物质维度) and the extraphysical dimension (非物质维度), as they are known in consciousness research. Consciousness research studies the
human consciousness, also regarded as one’s essence or the intelligent principle, and all of its manifestations in the various dimensions of existence. In
Chinese philosophy, the consciousness would seem to be expressed as jingshen 精神, among other terms. The consciousness (意识), however, as it is
used in consciousness research, should not be confused with the term consciousness (识) as it is portrayed, for example, by Xiong Shili 熊十力, referred
to as one of the founders of New Confucianism. In his work The New Consciousness-Only Doctrine 《新唯识论》, consciousness (识) would seem to
imply “original mind” or “the original substance of all existence.” (Chan: 764) One of the main objectives of consciousness research is the promotion of
evolution of the consciousness. The starting point for the eventual achievement of this goal is self-research. This includes scholarly research but also
necessarily involves development of personal capacities, namely those capacities which transcend the five senses, referred to by Xiong as “intuitive
faculties” and by Mou Zongsan牟宗三 (1909–95) as “intellectual intuition.” The authors consider that not only are there a great number of parallels which
can be drawn between Chinese thought and the consciousness research, but that the roots of consciousness research are actually to be found in this
selfsame ancient Chinese philosophy and have argued this position in a previous article.

In the expression “ecology of consciousness,” as it is used here, ecology thus implies more than the typical environmental definition involving the
relationship of a specific organism with its physical environment; it encompasses the relationship between the consciousness and all of the elements of
the physical as well as the extraphysical dimensions. In this sense we could postulate a para-ecological dynamic with reference to the consciousness,
which the authors consider to be the truer spirit of the New Confucianism.  The Chinese government, in its effort to promote a harmonious world, is
emphasizing the ancient Chinese holistic concept of the unity of heaven  and humanity (天人合一). Sadly, there are those contemporary scholars who,
while endorsing this concept, construe heaven (天) as nature and nothing more. In the authors’ opinion, these scholars are reducing the ancient sense
of the term tian from its more metaphysical connotation of a multidimensional cosmos. It is essential, of course, when considering the ecology of
consciousness, that the individual and society come to terms with the need for relating to nature in a manner that allows its healthy continuation, or
“sustainable development.” However, given the multidimensional nature of both the cosmic environment with which we are interconnected and
consciousness itself, we must add to this definition the dynamic of the interaction of the consciousness with the various dimensions of existence as they
are evidenced by a number of Chinese thinkers. As consciousness researchers, the authors would thus like to contribute selected observations on New
Confucianism from the perspective of consciousness research. More specifically, they wish to reinforce that, in their pursuit to contribute toward
implementation of relevant aspects of Confucianism worldwide, it is necessary to consider the roots of Chinese thought, namely the metaphysical or
multidimensional changes (易).

For the purpose of discussing the relevance of Confucianism in the contemporary world scene, this paper is divided into three sections: (1) the
interdimensional relevance of Confucianism; (2) the international relevance of Confucianism; (3) the intranational relevance of Confucianism. In the
course of this paper, the reader will note that the authors have departed from standard form in providing passages from some of the thinkers addressed;
more specifically, they have largely adopted the pattern of an English translation being followed by its original in Chinese (and not in pinyin). This has
been done for the sake of clarity, given that many of the passages quoted herein are not “popular” oft-quoted phrases, were authored in Chinese, and
the majority of the readers of this paper will undoubtedly be native Chinese-speakers or will have a command of the Chinese language.