“Although on the outside I was blessed with perfect good fortune, in reality my life … has been but a succession of dark and weary pessimism …” (Hagiwara quoted by Hayes, 1996, p. 34).
In the extended introduction of Sakutaro Hagiwara, we introduced the ill-fate that pervaded Sakutaro’s life. In the introduction we underlined that this ill-fate, a fate he felt succumbed to, instigated his affiliation with European nihilistic philosophy (Nietzsche, Schopenhauer) and the poems of Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarmé.
In this short article we aim to explore the way Sakutaro Hagiwara gave expression to this/his fate. It should come as no surprise that Sakutaro “saw signs” that proved his ill-fated destiny. He sought to prove his ill-fate, his destiny, … . We could even propose that he sought, by proving his fate, a valid reason for the existential despair and anxiety he experienced. In the extended introduction we also explicated that his fate is intrinsically connected with “poetic temperament”; And that being a poet for Sakutaro was in a way fated by his ill-fate.
Before formulating certain aspects on how Sakutaro saw his fate proven, we are obliged to explore the yin-yang theory. The yin-yang theory presented here is just a mere general overview of the theory and is thus only an introduction.
Yin-Yang: Chinese thought in early Japan
How did Yin-Yang end up in Japan (note 1).
The yin-yang theory came to Japan though the introduction of the Confucianism of the Han dynasties. This Han Confucianism, which was introduced to Japan in the sixth or seventh century “represented [, as implicated by the previous sentence,] more than the essential ethical teachings of Confucius and his early followers (Sources of Japanese tradition, vol. 1. p. 64)”. It represented more than the essential teachings for the simple reason that Confucianism had to battle with other philosophies for official favor. In effect Confucianism absorbed a lot from other philosophies, e.g. the Daoist and Five Elements or Ying-Yang schools and integrated the Yin-Yang theory as an integral part of its ideology.
We can see the influence in yin-yang theory easily in the record of ancient matters for example:
“Now when chaos had begun to condense, but force and form were not yet manifest, and there was nought named, nought done, who could know its shape? Nevertheless Heaven and Earth first parted, and the Three Deities performed the commencement of creation; the Passive and the Active essences then developed, and the Two Spirits became the ancestors of all things (Chamberlain, 1923, p. 4. Italics added)”.
The passive and active essences in the above citation are another way of formulating the Yin and Yang principles. But the influence of Ying-Yang theory doesn’t stop there. The prevalence of paired male and female deities as Izanagi and Izanami seem to indicate that the record of ancient matters was written with the yin and yang principles in mind. The Yin-Yang principles where also used to establish the legitimacy of the claim of Emperor Tenmu and his descendants to the throne – which may well been the main purpose of the Records of Ancient Matters. The following quotation underlines this aspect: Tengu, among other things, ‘‘held the mean between the Two Essences [yin and yang], and regulated the order of the Five Phases’’ (note 2 and see below) (Chamberlain, 1923, p. 10).
The yin-yang theory, with the Five Phases, provided a frame to explain both physical and spiritual phenomena of the universe. Han Confucianism and Yin-Yang were integrated in Japanese culture with little to no opposition. These view remained unchallenged until modern times. Other ways the theory marked the Japanese culture are for instance the choosing of lucky days by yin-yang methods; and the attention to zodiacal sign under which a person was born when arranging marriages.
(In the coming weeks, I’ll post part two, with the references. Part two consists of a short introduction to Yin-Yang theory and the way Sakutaro used it to prove his ill fate. )
Note 1. The following is chiefly based on the information found in “sources of Japanese tradition, volume 1.”
Note 2. For more information on the five phases, see sources of Japanese tradition, volume 1, pg. 67.