CHIKURO HIROIKE AND FELIX ADLER: Secularization, Morality and Education in Japan and the United States c. 1875-c. 1935.
The fate of "character," and so of character education, in modern America will appear very different depending on which of these stances one adopts. Either the undermining of traditional moral authority in the later 19th century meant that "character" was now set free to flourish in a world of individual self-responsibility, or it simply exposed it to the forces of disintegration and neglect (ignoring, for the moment, the possibility that these outcomes could be combined in equal or unequal measure). Either way, though, secularization flowed from modernization, as J. D. Hunter, who is aligned with the pessimists here, accepts when arguing that
as the American economy began to shift from a focus on industrial production to one of mass consumption in the early decades of the twentieth century, the psychological and ethical requirements placed upon an individual began to change as well. With growing abundance, more emphasis could be placed upon accumulation, leisure, and the cultivation of personal preferences. While the word "character" did not disappear, an alternative vision of the self emerged. This vision was captured by the word "personality".... The concept of personality reflected a self no longer defined by austerity but by emancipation for the purposes of expression, fulfillment, and gratification. (Hunter, 2000, p. 7)
Even if the emphasis on consumption rather than production may be somewhat contentious (Henry Ford, for example, created the former to enable the latter) the general point here may be allowed to stand; modernization, with secularization in its wake, is the villain (or the hero) of the piece.
Yet care is needed when transitioning to the world beyond the Unite States, for the conceptual thickets of modernization and secularization are no longer quite so dense and unvarying as once they appeared; Wohlrab-Sahr and Burchardt (2012), for example, note that the classical theory of modernization has yielded place, in part at least, to the notion of "multiple modernities," with inevitable consequences for
the theory of secularization, which assumed that the worldwide spread of the concepts of the nation state, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, the liberal market economy, and rational science would give rise to a similar model of social organization in which religion would be largely confined to the private domain. (p. 876)
This trend toward recognizing "multiple secularities" has created the opportunity for comparative studies such as the recent one on religious education policy in the U.S. and Australia by Damon Mayrl, who contends that while both societies had much in common, America "moved to exclude religious exercises from the public schools while maintaining its barriers against direct funding for religious schools, [whereas] Australia moved in the opposite direction" (2016, p. 16).
Japan, too, has a hue all its own in this regard. As Mark Mullins (2012) argues, "the process of secularization in Japan has a distinctive pattern of its own" (p. 62), such that even today "it would be premature to consider secularization as a fait accompli as far as Japanese society is concerned" (p. 80). He goes on to make the general point that modernization "may lead to secularization--the decline of some religious beliefs, practices, or institutions--but at the same time it may reinvigorate others and even create an environment in which new forms of religion can flourish" (p. 63), and as evidence cites how, in the years after the Meiji restoration,
Buddhism lost the state patronage it had enjoyed during the Tokugawa period and a new form of Shinto was created to provide the foundation for a new political order. Here we see both the secularization of established Buddhism--including the loss of power and prestige of priests, and destruction of properties--and the sacralization process at work in the development of State Shinto. (p. 65)
In evaluating the impact of secularization on matters moral (including character education) in different societies, then, we must keep one eye on some basic commonalities and the other on the nuances of locality. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, perceptive and well-intentioned individuals in very different societies faced markedly similar challenges in terms of rapid economic, social and cultural change. This explains how they could share profound fears for the moral health of their own countries and therefore for the character of their people, and how their responses, too, might display many common features. But local circumstances should not be ignored, since they often meant that these responses were colored somewhat differently. To illustrate this point, we will focus here on two near-contemporaries, one Japanese, the other American, who, while widely separated in terms of geography and unknown to one another personally, grappled with the challenges of secularization in many of the same ways. The individuals in question are Chikuro Hiroike (1866-1938), the founder of moralogy, and Felix Adler (1851-1933), who created the "ethical culture" movement in the United States (formally organized as the American Ethical Union [AEU]). Their stories are of more than merely historical interest; the ethical philosophies and the organizations that they created in response to the demands of their times have survived to the present day and so, in consequence, have their approaches to the promotion of moral behavior, not least through the education of the young.
The starting point of any analysis of the similarities between Adler and Hiroike must be the fact that both men believed that they were living through an era of moral crisis. They saw themselves and their societies as besieged by the ethical dangers created by radical and sustained economic change and the concomitant advance of materialism throughout the industrializing world. Both Adler and Hiroike came to feel that, in the face of these daunting challenges, the traditional defenders of the ethical were proving to be increasingly ineffective. Adler made his convictions in the matter very clear in his founding address to the New York Society for Ethical Culture on May 15, 1876, during which he warned his listeners in urgent tones about the character of their age and the moral challenges that it posed.
Its railways, its printing presses, its increased comforts and refined luxuries--all these are undeniable facts, and yet it is true none the less, that great and unexpected evils have followed in the train of our successes, and that the moral improvement of the nations and their individual components has not kept pace with the march of intellect and the advance of industry. Before the assaults of criticism many ancient strongholds of faith have given way, and doubt is fast spreading even into circles where its expression is forbidden. Morality, long accustomed to the watchful tutelage of faith, finds this connection loosened or severed, while no new protector has arisen to champion her rights, no new instruments been created to enforce her lessons among the people. As a consequence we behold a general laxness in regard to obligations the most sacred and dear. An anxious unrest, a fierce craving desire for gain has taken possession of the commercial world, and in instances no longer rare the most precious and permanent goods of human life have been madly sacrificed in the interests of momentary enrichment. (Adler, 1876, para. 3). (2)
According to Chikuro Hiroike, the same trend was also apparent in Japan in the wake of the forcible "opening up" of the country in the second half of the 19th century.
After the Meiji Restoration [of 1868], in their hurry to import the material civilization of the West, Japanese people formed an entirely materialistic image of Europe and America, hastily coming to the conclusion that no one there believed in God.... The newly educated in particular--teachers of all kinds in schools, government officials and others--rejected, for some time at least, Buddha and God alike. (C. Hiroike 2002, III, p. 96)
The results of this in terms of morality had been quick to manifest themselves, Hiroike believed, especially amongst those who gained wealth and power as Japan followed the U.S. model in modernizing its economy. "Selfish capitalists... wielded their weapons shamelessly, with ostentation on the one hand, plotting the undue expansion of their enterprises, and monopoly on the other, arbitrarily oppressing small businesses. This has created vices within and conflicts without" (C. Hiroike, 2002, I, p. 6). Such immorality could not but meet with a response among those who lost out, and for the victims of injustice Hiroike had much sympathy. "It may have been necessary for workers out of sheer need to protect their lives to cope with arrogant capitalists by forming serious-minded labor unions and going through deliberate discussion for the development of the industry. It must indeed be inevitable for workers... to follow the beaten track" (C. Hiroike, 2002, II, p. 62). The likely outcome, though, was class conflict, quite possibly leading to revolution, a prospect that appalled Hiroike, especially in light of the sufferings of the peoples of the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik coup of 1917. He was convinced that
the results of a social or national revolution bring no happiness to any individual of any class. This fact can be clearly recognized in the state of affairs after the French Revolution. What is happening to each class in various countries of the world after such revolutions in the twentieth century gives rise to more terror in our hearts. (C. Hiroike, 2002, II, p. 83)
Nor could one look to traditional religious organizations to take the lead in warding off the kind of looming disaster that would ensue if people failed to consider the defense of morality as a common concern, and so refused to take effective action to safeguard it. For Hiroike too, religious organizations were of little or no avail here: they were too divided among themselves to join forces in any cause, no matter how important; too self-preoccupied to consider the broader picture of the interests of society or indeed humankind; and too anti-scientific for their arguments to carry conviction in the modern era. Their collective failure in all these areas meant that they had degenerated to the point where they could no longer act as the vanguard of the forces of moral concern.
Even if the founder of a religion or the founder of a sect might have been righteous, certain ordinary religionists would often misunderstand or pervert the spirit of the founder, seduce the public, use their religion for profit, and consequently corrupt society, until in the modern world, both in the East and the West, many thinking people came to regard all religion as worthless. (C. Hiroike, 2002, I, p. 74)
As we have already seen, Adler's viewpoint on the matter was in many respects the same. He was particularly severe on the internecine disputes that he believed had undermined the moral authority of traditional religions, arguing in his 1876 address that
For more than 3,000 years men have quarreled concerning the formulas of their faith. The earth has been drenched with blood shed in this cause, the face of day darkened with the blackness of the crimes perpetrated in its name. There have been no direr wars than religious wars, no bitterer hates than religious hates, no fiendish cruelty like religious cruelty; no baser baseness than religious baseness. (1876, para. 14)
Given the loss of authority on the part of traditional religions, how could the negative impact of economic change on the moral climate of the times best be counteracted? For both Felix Adler and Chikuro Hiroike, the only solution was the reinvigoration of morality by a new force, one that would make itself felt in terms of both practice and theory, in action as well as in doctrine.
Adler began with the practical. The New York Society for Ethical Culture that he founded embarked on a program of good works in its immediate environs that addressed many of the social problems of the times that also preoccupied Chikuro Hiroike. Adler set up the first free kindergarten in the city, and the second in the country, in 1877, "offering a free preschool education for predominantly immigrant families in New York's working class neighborhoods" (AEU, n.d.). Three years later the project was expanded with the addition of elementary grades and renamed The Workingman's School. It became the Ethical Culture School in 1895 and added a secondary program. Such educational initiatives were intended primarily to improve the lot of the disadvantaged, and with the same aim in mind the New York Society decided to set up the Tenement House Building Society in 1886, with the aim of providing accommodation in an expensive and overcrowded city for the poor, the elderly and orphans. It also attempted to improve health conditions by setting up the District Nursing Service in 1877, by creating the Mothers' Society to Study Child Nature, and by helping with the foundation of the Visiting and Teaching Guild for Crippled Children in 1889. In addition to such collective endeavors, individual members of the Society were encouraged to engage in a wide variety of voluntary activities (AEU, n.d.).
Chikuro Hiroike has no such organization through which to work until much later in life, and his early days were spent in a largely rural environment rather than a major urban center like New York. Nonetheless, from an early age he was as concerned as Adler to help those in need as Japan faced up to the task of engaging with the outside world and learning how to absorb its pressures after more than two centuries of isolation. For Hiroike, as for Adler, education was key, as is evident in from his early endeavors in the area around Nakatsu, in Kyushu, the westernmost island of Japan where he was born and where he began his working life as a teacher. In 1886, a year after being appointed to his first post at Katada Primary School, he set up a night school for rural children who were too busy with farming chores to attend classes during the day. The same motive lay behind his involvement with setting up the Nakatsu Summary School after moving to the town's primary school in 1888. But raising educational standards also meant improving the lot of teachers, and so Hiroike was the driving force behind the creation in 1889 of the Oita Prefectural Teachers' Benefit Association, among whose objectives were "the payment of benefits to accident-victim and low-income teachers as well as the surviving families of deceased teachers" (M. Hiroike, 2005, p. 69).
His concern for others went well beyond education, though. As well as personal acts of charity to needy and deserving individuals, Hiroike was also active in relief efforts in response to local disasters, such as the severe floods of 1889 in eastern Kyushu and the devastating 1892 fire at Kimimiyanaga. His moves to Kyoto in 1892, and subsequently to Tokyo in 1895, to work as a scholar as well as an educator, marked no break in his charitable work. He made frequent financial contributions to organizations like the Chuai-kai (Society of Love and Devotion) and the Fukuden-kai (Society of the Field of Good Fortune), as well as making donations to help those affected by natural calamities. The growing status that accompanied his rise as a scholar meant that he was also invited to serve on the boards of various charities, including the Chuai-kai and the Nihon Kaiin Ekisaikai (Japan Seamen's Welfare Association).
The impulse to charity clearly evident in both Hiroike and Felix Adler led them to formulate and expound a philosophy that would explain and encode it. Both men were scholars and pedagogues, and so published widely on subjects connected with morality as they defined the concept. Adler enjoyed a successful academic career, first at Cornell University, and then from 1902 at Columbia University as professor of political and social ethics. A select list of his books illustrates his concern with these subjects in their widest forms; Creed and Deed: A Series of Discourses (1880), The Moral Instruction of Children (1892), The Religion of Duty (1905), and An Ethical Philosophy of Life: Presented in its Main Outlines (1918). In the case of Chikuro Hiroike, while the nature of his scholarly career meant that his publications focused primarily on the past, the preoccupation with morality evident in his first publication, a textbook for the teaching of morals in primary schools that appeared in 1888, and can also be detected in works such as his 1892 history of the town of Nakatsu in Kyushu, his 1908 study of the shrines of Ise, and his 1915 survey of Far Eastern law, before it was allowed complete rein in his magnum opus, whose title is rendered in English as Towards Supreme Morality: An Attempt to Establish the New Science of Moralogy (1928).
As well as producing major academic works, both Hiroike and Adler were also involved in a variety of other scholarly projects intended to publicize their message more widely. Both, for example, were behind the appearance of in-house journals that would act as a focus for the discussion of their doctrines. In Adler's case this was the Ethical Record, which first appeared in 1888. It was subsequently renamed, becoming first the International Journal of Ethics and then, in 1938, simply Ethics, allowing it to claim to be "the oldest continually published philosophical journal in the English language" (Singer, 1988, p. 444). For his part, Hiroike oversaw the publication of the first issue of the Dotoku Kagaku Kenkyusho Kiyo (Proceedings of the Institute of Moralogy) in 1931.
Lecturing and the organizing of conferences were other ways of spreading the word. Hiroike was a prolific and popular speaker to audiences both scholarly and lay; from 1910 onwards he made numerous visits to factories to talk to workers about labor issues and their connection to morality, but he was equally at home addressing listeners from the worlds of academia, government, business and the military at meetings sponsored by the Kiitsu Kyokai (Society for Unification) on more general topics, such as the "precedence of duty" (M. Hiroike, 2005, pp. 352-357). The Association for Ethical Culture, formed in 1889 as a federation of various Societies For Ethical Culture across the United States and with Adler as its guiding spirit, was equally appreciative of the way in which lectures could be a conduit for enlightenment. The work of the AEU spread to Britain in the 1890s through the agency of Stanton Coit, who set up the West London Ethical Society and then, in 1896, the Union of Ethical Societies that would eventually transform itself into the British Humanist Association. Although it was the Moral Education League of London that was primarily responsible for arranging the first international moral education congress, held in London in 1908, the British connections of the AEU meant that it too was closely involved in this and subsequent events. Adler himself was a donor and one of the American members of the Congress's International Executive Council (the patrons of the event included the Minister of Education of Japan), and important roles in it were played by Ethical Society figures like Frederick James Gould. The Congress went on to meet a further five times (1912, 1922, 1926, 1930 and 1934) in a variety of European cities.
The scope of their activities indicates that both Hiroike and Adler were intent on ensuring that their views reached the widest audience possible, rather than being confined to academia. This was evident, too, in the way they characterized their ideas as scientific in nature, since science aspired to the universal, transcending all boundaries of nation, culture, and creed. The close connection of Adler's 'ethical culture' movement with the world of science can be seen very clearly in, for example, the life of Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who led the Manhattan Project that produced the world's first atomic weapons during the Second World War. Oppenheimer was very much a product of the "ethical culture" movement and its founding father; Felix Adler himself had officiated at the marriage of Oppenheimer's parents, who were prominent members of the New York Society for Ethical Culture (his father served as a trustee of the Society between 1907 and 1915), and the precocious young Oppenheimer received his formative education at the city's Ethical Culture Society School. As Oppenheimer's biographers note, the philosophy in which he was raised, both at home and in school, fitted him very well for his chosen career.
The Oppenheimers of New York belonged to no synagogue. Without rejecting their Jewishness they chose to shape their identity within a uniquely American offshoot of Judaism--the Ethical Culture Society--that celebrated rationalism and a progressive brand of secular humanism.... As its name suggests, ethical culture was not a religion but a way of life that promoted social justice over self-aggrandizement. It... valued independent enquiry, empirical exploration and the freethinking mind--in short, the values of science. (Bird & Sherwin, 2006, Chap. 1, para. 3-4)
In similar fashion, Chikuro Hiroike stressed repeatedly that his creation, moralogy, was a science, both in its nature and in its power to convince each and every individual on the planet of its truth. It could not possibly be a religion, since that would inevitably limit its appeal and deny it the power to reveal and prove the validity of universal truths. Hence claims such as the following, that the teachings of moralogy amounted to a law of nature that was, we might say, as fundamental and inescapable as gravity.
The principle that the human being must follow the law of nature lies not only in the teachings of the sages but is also supported by modern scientific study, such as in the theory of evolution by Darwin, climatology, geography, physiography, biology, genetics, anthropology, zoology, botany and mineralogy, and by all kinds of historical and sociological facts. It is a clear and definite fact, therefore, that if human beings do not follow the universal law of nature they are not able to sustain their lives and perfect their own evolution. (C. Hiroike, 2002, I, p. 3) (3)
The methods and the findings of modern science were indispensable, Hiroike believed, if he were to succeed in his attempt to fill the void created by the inadequacies of traditional religious organizations and convince people to recognize, and abide by, the basic tenets of morality. So it was that "moralogy intends to demonstrate scientifically and rationally the effects of moral practice by utilizing the fruits of these branches of science which have recently made remarkable progress" (C. Hiroike, 2002, I, p. 84). The prize to be gained could not be greater.
If we succeed... in demonstrating scientifically the effectiveness of moral practice, and in applying the principles to practical cases, and then in increasing the happiness of those who practice morality, I believe that the value of moral practice will be acknowledged socially; and this will shed new light upon the chaos in modern thought, and succeed in bringing forth world peace and happiness for mankind. (C. Hiroike, 2002, I, pp. 67-68).
But for both Adler and Hiroike to reach the point where they were able to found a movement of their own that embodied a rational, scientific spirit, there first had to be a decisive personal break with traditional religious organizations. In Adler's case this occurred early in life. Born in Hesse, in modern-day Germany), he moved with his family to New York at the age of six when his father, an important figure in Reform Judaism, became a rabbi in the city. After completing his education in Germany in 1873, the young Felix returned to New York, where his views on religion meant that he did not succeed his father as a rabbi, as presumably had been intended. While, as Bird and Sherwin note, the New York Society for Ethical Culture retained strong links to the city's Jewish community, Adler categorically rejected sectarianism when setting up the society. Its doors would be open to all, as he was at pains to stress in his inaugural address; "Deed, not creed" was to be the society's watchword.
The freedom of thought is a sacred right of every individual man, and diversity will continue to increase with the progress, refinement, and differentiation of the human intellect. But if difference be inevitable, nay, welcome in thought, there is a sphere in which unanimity and fellowship are above all things needful. Believe or disbelieve as ye list--we shall at all times respect every honest conviction. But be one with us where there is nothing to divide--in action. Diversity in the creed, unanimity in the deed! This is that practical religion from which none dissents. This is that platform broad enough and solid enough to receive the worshiper and the "infidel." This is that common ground where we may all grasp hands as brothers, united in mankind's common cause. (Adler, 1876, para. 14)
Somewhat later in life Chikuro Hiroike also had to sever his connection to a religious organization that had played a very significant role in forming his outlook on the world. In Hiroike's case, the organization was Tenrikyo, a movement founded in 1838 that was formally recognized as a sect of Shintoism some 70 years later. Hiroike's interest in the history and validity of Shinto beliefs resulted in the appearance of his major study of the shrines of Ise, the spiritual home of Shintoism, in 1907. The following year he was appointed a lecturer at Jingukogakkan in Ise itself and found himself confirmed in the belief that the sects of Shintoism, which had been formally distinguished from state Shintoism by the government in its 1885 Order for the Separation of Shinto Priests and Teaching Staff, had much of value to offer in matters of ethics. By October 1909 he had come to class himself as a believer in Tenrikyo and underwent what has been described as a 'serious spiritual awakening' as well as participating in the sect's activities, both ceremonial and practical (the latter including the healing of the sick by prayer). His involvement grew further in January of 1913 when he began to work as an educational adviser at the sect's headquarters. This led naturally to his appointment as the principal of Tenri Middle School in the same year.
He held the post for less than 2 years. In January of 1915 he put forward radical proposals for the reform of the sect's methods and the revision of its teachings, which met with considerable hostility. The wave of criticism mounted so high that by early April demands for his resignation as principal could not be resisted, and by the end of the month he was gone. It was not a breach that he had deliberately sought, but while he continued to speak of Tenrikyo in friendly and respectful terms, his association with it was effectively over. Hiroike now found himself free to pursue a new direction and utilize his own methods to advance the interests of morality, albeit with almost nothing in the way of the material or spiritual support that Adler had enjoyed in New York when he set out on a similar quest nearly 40 years earlier.
Even though both Adler and Hiroike had distanced themselves from membership of any religious organization, they still had to define the relationship between the movements they were to found and such organizations. Their approaches to this problem appear, at first glance anyway, quite similar; while those with particular religious affiliations were more than welcome to participate in the activities of moralogy and "ethical culture," they would need to accept that these movements were not religions and so could not allow their work to be disrupted by the disputes that bedeviled religious organizations. Adler outlined these conditions with complete clarity in his 1876 founding address.
The exercises of our meeting are to be simple and devoid of all ceremonial and formalism. They are to consist of a lecture mainly, and, as a pleasing and grateful auxiliary, of music to elevate the heart and give rest to the feelings. The object of the lectures shall be twofold: First, to illustrate the history of human aspirations, its monitions and its examples; to trace the origin of many of those errors of the past whose poisonous tendrils still cling to the life of the present.... Second, it will be the object of the lecturers to set forth a standard of duty, to discuss our practical duties in the practical present, to make clear the responsibilities which our nature as moral beings imposes upon us in view of the political and social evils of our age, and also to dwell upon those high and tender consolations which the modern view of life does not fail to offer us even in the midst of anguish and affliction. Do not fear, friends, that a priestly office after a new fashion will be thus introduced. (Adler, 1876, para. 12)
Those whose beliefs were sectarian in nature would need to check them at the door before entering the meeting hall. Only by so doing would they be able to focus on what unified rather than divided the new community, which was indispensable if they were to enter together onto the "common ground where we may all grasp hands as brothers, united in mankind's common cause" (Adler, 1876, para. 14). Adler went so far as to claim that such conduct alone could be considered to encompass the true nature, purpose and fulfillment of the religious impulse present in all of humankind.
The Hebrew prophets said of old, to serve Jehovah is to make your hearts pure and your hands clean from corruption, to help the suffering, to raise the oppressed. Jesus of Nazareth said that he came to comfort the weary and heavy-laden. The Philosopher affirms that the true service of religion is the unselfish service of the common weal. There is no difference among them all. There is no difference in the law. But so long have they quarreled concerning the origin of law that the law itself has fallen more and more into abeyance. For indeed, as it is easier to say. "I do not believe," and have done with it, so also it is easier to say, "I believe," and thus to bribe one's way into heaven, as it were, than to fulfill nobly our human duties with all the daily struggle and sacrifice which they involve. "The proposition is peace!" Peace to the warring sects and their clamors, peace also of heart and mind unto us--that peace which is the fruition of purest and highest liberty. (Adler, 1876, para. 14)
Much of this would have been more than acceptable to Chikuro Hiroike. He too had no intention of founding a religious movement, but neither did he intend to exclude those who were members of one. His purposes were different and posed no threat to individuals or groups of any religious persuasion.
In moralogy and supreme morality the method of study is scientific... and the method of propagation is educational instead of depending on blind faith... I have no intention at all of rejecting religion. I pray, therefore, that people concerned with religion, both at home and abroad, will open their hearts to these teachings of the sages expounded in moralogy, improve their own religious organizations, and endeavor with us for the realization of the true security, peace and happiness of humankind. My position is educational, and only aims at human security, peace and happiness. Nothing is further from my intention than building enormous headquarters for ourselves in order to deprive religious groups of their followers. (C. Hiroike, 2002, I, p. 95) (4)
But those who did wish to pursue an association with moralogy would find that its teachings transcended all sectarianism and so would inevitably have the effect of guiding all religious groups back to the proper principle that should undergird the entire structure of their activities. That principle was universal, not fragmentary in nature, and concerned itself with the welfare every member of humankind, not an isolated few. For, Hiroike argued, it had been scientifically proven that all human communities of any description are governed by the same laws.
The group is formed, united, maintained and developed by morality. Happiness for all of the members is produced by morality, and maintained and developed by morality. What I mean by religion and education that agree with the principles of sociology, therefore, are the means of infusing such knowledge as is accompanied by morality and religious faith based on morality, and are not individualistic in nature. If a religion, a sect of a religion, a church or a temple merely endeavors earnestly for its own prosperity, it is acting neither in accord with the constitutive principle of society nor in accord with the principle of civilization. (C. Hiroike, 2002, pp. 438-439)
Moralogy, then, just like 'ethical culture', would seek to achieve reconciliation between religious sects by revealing what they should hold in common, and so would end by bringing about peace amongst them.
The key to achieving this, and much more that would be of benefit to the world, was that as many people as possible should be convinced of the central role that morality should play in all human affairs. Possessed of this belief, people would be inoculated against the evils of the times, especially materialism and selfishness, and could then regulate their conduct by ethical standards alone. When it came to defining the nature and necessity of moral behavior, the approaches of Adler and Hiroike overlapped to a considerable degree. For both men, it had to involve an understanding of what Hiroike termed "moral causality." Adler outlined his conception of this when explaining how someone teaching morality to the young should emphasize the importance of truth-telling by pointing out the results of taking the opposite course.
Explain to your pupils the consequences of falsehood: the loss of the confidence of our fellow men, which is the immediate and palpable result of being detected in a lie; the injuries inflicted on others; the loosening of the bonds of mutual trust in society at large; the loss of self-respect on the part of the liar; the fatal necessity of multiplying lies, of inventing new falsehoods to make good the first, etc. A vast amount of good can be done in this way by stimulating the moral nature, by enabling the scholar (5) to detect the finer shades of right and wrong, helping him to trace temptation to its source, and erecting in his mind barriers against evil-doing, founded on a realizing sense of its consequences. (Adler, 1892, p. 14)
Hiroike, too, was at pains to stress the indissoluble connection between cause and effect, between action and result, in terms of human behavior, though he chose to lay stress on convincing people of the positive outcomes of behaving morally as well as of the negatives that flowed from immorality.
According to a moral precept prevailing since ancient times in various countries of the world, it has been maintained that man should practice morality, and the method is to control one's own interests, and to promote others' interests first. The precept implies, of course, that the practice of morality is ultimately beneficial to those who practice it; and this is also empirically true. Because of the imperfections of moral instruction, however, there have been many people whose practice of morality was fruitless. Consequently, the majority of people today are suspicious of the correspondence between moral practice and happiness. (C. Hiroike, 2002, I, p. 67)
Removing this popular suspicion by demonstrating the truth of moral causality "scientifically," and especially the advantages that would flow from behaving morally, was therefore a very important goal for Hiroike. The impact of such a demonstration on an individual's conduct could be magnified by urging the use of another procedure, "self-examination," and this too was something that appealed to Adler when he came to discuss how best to persuade the young to follow the path of morality.
I should point out to them the most frequent motives that lead to lying, so that, by being warned against the causes, they may the more readily escape the evil consequences. For example, cowardice is one cause of lying. By making the pupil ashamed of cowardice, we can often cure him of the tendency to falsehood. A redundant imagination is another cause of lying, envy is another cause, selfishness in all its forms is a principal cause, etc. I should say to the moral teacher: Direct your pupil's attention to the various dangerous tendencies in his nature, which tempt him into the ways of falsehood. (Adler, 1892, para. 14)
For Hiroike, an honest exercise in introspection leading to self-criticism was also very valuable. He had come to realize the value of this after pondering the significance of an ancient Japanese myth that told how the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, has concealed herself in a cave after being mistreated by her brother (C. Hiroike, 2002, II, p. 451). The lesson that Hiroike chose to draw from this story was that one should not blame others for the suffering one receives at their hands, but rather take responsibility for their misconduct and ascribe it to one's own shortcomings. For Hiroike, self-examination was therefore most likely to be triggered by particular reverses in one's life rather than being the more general kind of exercise recommended by Adler, but the practical results in terms of conduct had certain similarities.
Everything that has been said to this point about the resemblances between Felix Adler and Chikuro Hiroike has avoided two related and fundamental questions. What, for each man, was the nature of morality? And from where, ultimately, did it derive? Adler would probably have been happy to accept Hiroike's assertion noted above that, in respect of morality, "the method is to control one's own interests, and to promote others' interests first." He might just as readily have concurred with Hiroike's insistence that the virtue of "benevolence" played a dominant in morality. But when we ask what moral acts actually represented for both men, differences begin to emerge, though they may appear to be only subtle at first. But these initial divergences, these small cracks, widen eventually into an unbridgeable chasm.
We can begin here by recalling Adler's words about moral causality. The negative results of immoral behavior were, for him, essentially predictable and social in nature. For Hiroike, the matter was far less straightforward, as he warned when discussing a case in which life appeared to have bestowed its rewards on someone who was completely undeserving.
1. The causal relationship is not very simple.
2. Fortunes are not the result of only one generation's performance.
3. The effects of causality may not be determined in a short time (C. Hiroike, 2002, II, p. 392). (6)
The workings of moral causality, then, defy easy prediction, and this can only be explained and accepted if one believes that because something is at work that transcends the merely human. This is even more the case when we move on to explore what Hiroike understood by the word "benevolence" which, it turns out, is divine rather than secular in nature.
Hiroike's approach to the whole question of moral behavior had a dual aspect. It integrated, so he claimed, theory and practice, which were distinct in nature.
Moralogy being a science, its aim may be said to be achieved by the intellectual study and understanding of its principles. Supreme morality, on the other hand, being an essential means of character formation, requires not only understanding but definitely the practice of supreme morality itself. (C. Hiroike, 2002, II, p. 147)
The upper story of this building, supreme morality, was constructed of material extracted from the lives and teachings of five of the sages of ancient times; Socrates of Greece, Jesus Christ of Judea, Sakyamuni [Buddha] of India, Confucius of China and the Japanese deity mentioned above, Amaterasu Omikami (Hiroike refrained from adding Muhammad to this list since he had been unable to study his teachings and achievements in sufficient depth). In their lives and teaching they all exhibited the core virtue of selflessness that expressed itself in action as true benevolence, a concern for the welfare of others that amounted to care for all of humankind. But even the sages could not be regarded as the ultimate source or exemplars of the highest of moral qualities. Instead,
the sages necessarily believed in the only one fundamental God of the universe, obeyed the will of that God and neither held nor insisted on any selfish opinion, ism, hope or desire. God's will here refers to the law of nature which is congruous with the principle of existence, the development and the enjoyment of security and happiness for mankind.... All the sages of the world possessed, as human beings, such virtues as benevolence, tolerance, benignity, uprightness, courtesy, temperance, complaisance, and strove to realize such principles as that of human enlightenment and salvation, without thinking of their own interests at all, but resigning themselves to providence... [the] sages were frequently inspired with revelations... they possessed the spirit of benevolence, which is an impartial love for all things, and, under whatever circumstances reflecting upon themselves, never laid blame on others... they were principally engaged in the true understanding of the divine spirit. (C. Hiroike, 2002, II, 148-149)
And as the sages did, so should those who wished to understand and practice the supreme morality that was the natural outgrowth and fulfillment of moralogy. Thus was entailed, inescapably, a belief in God. Here Hiroike drew a sharp distinction between religion and religious organizations. The former was essential to the leading a moral life, the latter far from so.
So meager is the general understanding of the God, especially in Japan, that many people mistake belief in God for something exclusive to religious organizations... [but] God is known to humankind alone.... It will be clear that God is no monopoly of the organized religions but is the common source of politics, laws, morality and religion. We can accordingly believe in God, following the sages' teachings and lead moral lives without recourse to any religion. (C. Hiroike, 2002, III, pp. 108-109) (7)
The contrast with Felix Adler could not be more marked here. For Adler, religion and religious organizations were effectively synonymous, and a belief in God was no requirement for those who wished to immerse themselves in "ethical culture," though it was not a barrier either; as Adler himself said of the movement that he created, it "is religious to those who are religiously minded, and merely ethical to those who are not so minded" (quoted in Chuman, 2004, para. 6). (8) Ambiguity on such a key issue he saw as unimportant, even in fact as a strength. Yet a condition for those wishing to participate in his movement was that before entering an ethical culture meeting, they should not merely check their particular religious affiliations at the door, but effectively suspend their entire belief in God too. For...
We propose to entirely exclude prayer and every form of ritual. Thus shall we avoid even the appearance of interfering with those to whom prayer and ritual, as a mode of expressing religious sentiment, are dear. And on the other hand we shall be just to those who have ceased to regard them as satisfactory and dispensed with them in their own persons. Freely do I own to this purpose of reconciliation, and candidly do I confess that it is my dearest object to exalt the present movement above the strife of contending sects and parties, and at once to occupy that common ground where we may all meet, believers and unbelievers, for purposes in themselves lofty and unquestioned by any. (Adler, 1876, para. 13)
The ambition here was at least as lofty as the purposes that were supposed to resolve, or at least to mask, the tension between belief and unbelief. What resulted can probably best be described as an uneasy truce, given the utterly fundamental nature of the problem. Nor was Adler exactly an impartial umpire in the matter. He was a secularist at heart, at pains to divorce the human impulse to ethical behavior from anything that could be construed as a belief in the divine. So among the original aims of the New York Society for Ethical Culture was an unequivocal commitment "To teach that the moral law has an immediate authority not contingent on the truth of religious beliefs or of philosophical theories" (Baltimore Ethical Society, n.d., para. 2).
In terms of personal faith, Adler can perhaps best be classed as an agnostic, since he attempted to rebut the charge of being an outright atheist, (9) and the movement that he founded clearly bore the stamp of his own indifference to the divine. That could never be said of Chikuro Hiroike. Indeed moralogy, his legacy to the world, was born out of an intense spiritual crisis that was deeply religious in nature. In December 1912 he suffered a break-down in health that brought him to the brink of death. Prayer, a one-sided dialogue with the divine, had long been a recourse of his, especially when confronted with difficulty. It assumed an overwhelming importance at this moment. As he himself recounted in his Memoirs, he vowed, if spared from death, to commit himself to an endeavor that was to lead directly to the creation of moralogy, and on which he embarked in earnest in 1915 after his break with Tenrikyo.
[December 1912] Suffering from such a serious illness, I will not live much longer. If God loans me one more year, however, I will write down the truth not heretofore available, based on the true precepts the various sages of the world wrote in regard to human salvation. If God loans me more time, I will dedicate all my academic achievements, honors and social status to God and make a living sacrifice of myself.  I had promised God earlier, however, when I had fallen very ill, that I would build a foundation for the salvation of humankind and eternal peace in the world. I cannot break my promise now.... Hence, from a state of pennilessness I must establish a foundation for my great enterprise of human salvation and world peace. For this reason, the only way I have left is to erase the self completely, enter the mind of God, and embody His benevolence according to the divine laws. (Hiroike, M., 2005, pp. 310, 321) (10)
It was out of this twinning of bitter personal experience with a search for the ultimate source of moral conduct that moralogy was born, and it is this, more than anything else, that distinguishes it from its contemporary, and apparent sibling, ethical culture.
In terms of their point of origin, then, Chikuro Hiroike and Felix Adler had much in common, and for a stage of their life journeys, their paths ran roughly in parallel. Both believed themselves to be called to the task of safeguarding the fortunes of morality in an age of unprecedented change, and both were convinced that the weaknesses of traditional religious organizations left them with no alternative but to found their own movements. They adopted many of the same strategies to try to promote moral conduct in society at large, in particular availing themselves of what they took to be the methods of science, which enjoyed ever-increasing prestige as the 19th century advanced. For both of them education, and particularly the instruction of the young, was of key importance (an extended comparison of Adler's 1892 work on The Moral Instruction of Children and Hiroike's 1888 primer, A New Textbook for Morals in Primary Schools might be illuminating here, not least from the viewpoint of character education). In all these various ways, then, the commonalities of secularization transcended culture.
But when faced with a critical choice, whether to create a purely secular ethics or one that found its ultimate source in religious belief, Hiroike and Adler parted company, and decisively so. How far this was the result of individual traits of character in each man, and how far it was the product of differences in their environments is, of course, a nice question. Certainly, by virtue of upbringing and culture, Hiroike was far more respectful of traditional authority than Adler, and his championing of moral causality owed much to the strength of the Buddhist beliefs that permeated his society. At the same time, it is clear that in the conduct of his own life he was far more intensely religious than Adler, and that this was a key feature of his unique essence. For a variety of reasons, then, Hiroike's legacy in terms of ethical philosophy (and therefore his enduring contribution to moral endeavor and character education) is far less marked by the impact of secularization than is that of Adler. (11)
(1.) According to Hunter (2000), following Sussman, "The term 'character'... achieved its greatest currency in America in the 19th century. It was frequently associated with words like 'honor,' 'reputation,' 'integrity,' 'manners,' 'golden deeds,' 'duty,' 'citizenship,' and, not least, 'manhood.' Character was always related to an explicitly moral standard of conduct, oriented toward work, building, expanding, achieving, and sacrifice on behalf of a larger good--all those 'producer values' embraced within Max Weber's famous phrase, 'the Protestant ethic' " (p. 7).
(2.) Hiroike was equally aware of the Janus-faced nature of economic progress. "Mass-production by machinery or the establishment of various cooperative associations to develop businesses no doubt provided a firm basis for modern civilization. Such enterprises, however, including industry and commerce designed only to pursue profit, excluding any moral consideration, are extremely harmful to the happiness of the state and people in general" (C. Hiroike, 2002, III, p. 18).
(3.) Compare also Hiroike (2002, I, p. 92). For a more detailed account of Hiroike's views on this topic, see Luff (2003).
(4.) Compre Adler's contention that "The principle of unsectarian moral instruction... is neither irreligious nor antireligious. In fact... it rests on purely educational grounds" (1892, p. 3).
(5.) It may be worth pointing out that the word "scholar" here denotes a schoolchild rather than an adult.
(6.) For a fuller treatment of this subject, see Luff (2007).
(7.) More on this topic may be found in Luff (2012).
(8.) This means that ethical culture passes one of Owen Chadwick's chief litmus tests for an agency of secularization, since it provided a forum for "devout men to meet undevout men in society and to honor them for their sincerity instead of condemning them for their lack of faith" (1990, p. 37).
(9.) In a lecture to the New York Society April 6, 1879, published subsequently, Adler claimed that "the charge of Atheism as directed against this Society is false," but prefaced this by attempting to demolish all of the arguments in favor of theism, concluding that if Atheism means the denial of a being conceived by superstitious mortals in the image of themselves, a "big man" above the clouds, then the sooner we accept Atheism the better." He went on to argue, though, that "if Atheism means the assertion of the rule of chance, the denial of the transcendent importance of morality, the blasphemy against the Ideal, then there is no system from which we so deeply, so utterly revolt as this." He concluded with a "confession of faith." "I believe in the supreme excellence of righteousness; I believe that the law of righteousness will triumph in the universe over all evil; I believe that the law of righteousness is the sanctification of human life, and I believe that in furthering and fulfilling that law I also am hallowed in the service of the unknown God" (Adler, 1879, pp. 17-19). How any of his listeners who were affiliated with traditional religious organizations, "superstitious mortals" as they were, were supposed to make common cause with him after this dismissive account of their beliefs is not very clear.
(10.) For a discussion of the significance of this episode, see Luff (2010).
(11.) Indeed, the impact of secularization on Adler's movement only increased with time, which brings us back to John Dewey, with whom we began. Hoelscher (2015) argues that "one of the various social movements Dewey influenced was ethical culture." He cites two authorities to support his contention. "According to Professor Joe Chuman, a longtime ethical culture leader, although Dewey was never a member of the movement, "his influence on it was transformative." He continues: "Under the pressure of Dewey instrumentalism" during the first third of the 20th century, "and in response to the influx into ethical culture of newly arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe, who brought with them commitments to socialism and Marxism, ethical culture increasingly moved into the humanist camp" ("Toward a Humanist Politic," in Toward a New Political Humanism, 2004). As Steven Rockefeller relates, in the years after its founder's death ethical culture "came to function as a kind of religious humanist fellowship founded upon Dewey's philosophy" (John Dewey: Religious Faith and Democratic Humanism, 1991). Hence the term "ethical humanism," which eventually came into regular use as a synonym for ethical culture" (para. 11).
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Peter A. Luff
* Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Peter A. Luff, firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Author:||Luff, Peter A.|
|Publication:||Journal of Character Education|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
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