Quaker Universalist Fellowship

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Universalist Friends

The Journal of the
Quaker Universalist Fellowship
Number 38
Spring & Summer 2002

In This Issue

From the Editor

George Amoss, Jr.

From the Clerk

Richard Barnes


The Quaker-Universalist Connection
Part III

Chris Buice

Encomium for R.H. Blyth

Timothy Ferris

The Quaker Universalist Fellowship is an informal gathering of persons who cherish the spirit of universality that has always been intrinsic to the Quaker faith. We acknowledge and respect the diverse spiritual experience of those within our own meetings as well as of the human family worldwide; we are enriched by our dialogue with all who search sincerely. We affirm the unity of God's creation.

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Copies of publications are available from the address above. Statement-of-purpose leaflets are also available: single leaflet free; two or more, 10¢ each. Selected QUF publications are available on our Web site, http://www.universalistfriends.org.

QUF Editorial Policy

We are advocates of a particular approach to the spiritual life and of the importance of being open to a variety of religious perspectives. We regard Quaker universalism as a developing concept and welcome a broad range of ideas about what it is and should be. We also encourage dialogue in the form of written comments and critiques on material in Universalist Friends.

From the Editor

by George Amoss, Jr.

Quakers and Buddhists have traditionally sought to enter the paradise of innocence in this life. In his journal, George Fox recorded his gaining of that goal:

Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new … . I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me; and it was shewed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue. … But I was immediately taken up in spirit, to see into another or more steadfast state than Adam's in innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus that should never fall. … Great things did the Lord lead me into, and wonderful depths were opened unto me beyond what can by words be declared; but as people come into subjection to the Spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the word of wisdom, that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being.

According to Genesis, at the center of paradise were two trees: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Only the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden to Adam and Eve; they could have eaten from the Tree of Life. But they chose to eat from the forbidden tree, and because of that God expelled them from paradise. "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." Only innocence can exist in paradise. To prevent humans from gaining eternal life without innocence, God placed at the entrance of paradise two cherubim and a flaming sword that turned in every direction.

Two cherubim appear later in scripture as the figures on each end of the Mercy Seat, the solid gold cover of the Ark of the Covenant. Together with the Ark, the Mercy Seat resided in the darkness of the Holy of Holies. It was considered to be God's throne on earth: God spoke from "between the cherubim." On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat to obtain God's forgiveness and favor for the people. Christians have seen that as a prefiguring of the atoning self-sacrifice of the Lamb: Christ, both priest and victim, offers his blood to obtain mercy for others.

"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the [sacrificial] Lamb." In this image from Revelation, Christ sits upon the divine throne, from which, as from Eden, flows the river of life. The banishment from paradise is lifted for those who are justified—given the innocence that enables them to be just—through union with him. "Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."

But union with Christ is attained only through that perfect surrender which sacrifices one's very self. Christ had overcome evil, guilt, and death by giving himself completely; his disciples must do likewise. Whoever would die to self so that the risen Christ "came to be formed in" her—so that she became, as Fox was fond of quoting, "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone"—would share in his victory. George Fox believed that he knew that victory.

"All things were new," he wrote, describing his entry into paradise in words that echoed scripture's "new heaven and new earth…wherein dwells righteousness." Fox had passed through the flaming sword that protected paradise from incursion by evil, the cross-shaped sword that turned and flashed in the sacred space between two cherubim. He would have been aware that the Letter to the Ephesians identifies "the sword of the Spirit" with "the word of God," and he would have interpreted that as referring to the living Word, the Christ by whose Inward Light we come to know ourselves as we are, to repent our loss of innocence, and to be re-created in the divine image. "For the word of God," says the Letter to the Hebrews, "… [is] sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, … and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." In a baptism of fire and the Spirit, "Christ the Wisdom of God" had killed and immolated the "old" self that knew evil firsthand, incorporating Fox into the spiritual body of Christ, making of him "a new creation."

I thought of Fox's experience recently as I gazed upon a statue of Manjusri, the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Speech (Logos, Word) and Wisdom. Manjusri holds a double-edged flaming sword, with which he cuts through and destroys the ignorance that keeps us from paradise. Like Christ, Manjusri represents that saving wisdom (prajna) which sees ourselves and the world as we really are. Manjusri is sometimes represented as an eternally-youthful child: wisdom has the child-like quality of innocence. "Unless you are changed, and become as a little child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." The flaming sword as transcendent wisdom and gate to the paradise of innocence is a point of contact between Buddhism and early Quaker Christianity.

Certainly, Buddhism and early Quakerism have deep differences. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion that tends to eschew dualism: as an ancient master wrote, "The conflict between right and wrong is a sickness of the mind." Innocence and paradise are attained in Buddhism through our inherent wisdom. Wisdom transcends conflict, cuts off selfish grasping, and frees us from the causation that had bound us to the rack called samsara, the wheel of life and death. The availability of that wisdom is not dependent on a sacrifice of propitiation or on our identification with a supernatural being: all persons naturally have the capacity for enlightenment within them.

The Buddhist, by awakening to her wisdom, sheds the illusion of a separate, enduring self—the delusion that causes selfishness—and realizes her Buddha-nature. The Quaker attains innocence by being divinized: having "died into Christ," "I live now, no longer I, but Christ lives in me." But both seek to go beyond the knowledge of good and evil (which Buddhism calls ignorance) to a new innocence by finding a new, universal identity. Both must ultimately allow wisdom to destroy the delusive self and bring forth the Buddha-mind or "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). Both are, theoretically at least, selfless and innocent after their spiritual transformation.

Add the Buddhist practice of silent meditation, and the practical similarity is even more striking. (My "On Silent Worship" touched on that topic in our spring, 1996 issue: see the QUF Web site at http://www.universalistfriends.org.) It is not surprising, then, that Quakers are studying and practicing Buddhism. An important figure in the dialogue between Buddhism and the West is the translator and commentator R. H. Blyth, whose works on Japanese poetry have been very influential. We are pleased to offer in this issue an encomium for Blyth by the best-selling author Timothy Ferris.

The study and practice of Buddhism are growing among Unitarian-Universalists as well; see, for example, the UU Buddhist Fellowship Web site at http://www.uua.org/uubf/. In his essay on similarities and differences between Unitarian-Universalists and liberal Quakers, the final installment of which is printed in this issue, Chris Buice doesn't address the Buddhist connection, but he does mention other significant areas of "common ground." We hope to continue exploring them in the future.

P.S. Our next issue will have news from the Steering Committee's recent meeting.

From the Clerk

by Richard Barnes

When someone discovers that I am a Friend, it is natural for the person to ask, "What do Friends believe?" After all, isn't that what religion is, a set of beliefs? For years I gave lengthy responses, trying to explain the history of the diversity of beliefs within the Religious Society of Friends, while my listener tuned out or turned away.

Today, I try to redirect the question from the beliefs of Friends to the spiritual practices of Friends. Compared to other Christian denominations—Episcopal, Lutheran, Catholic, Mennonite, etc.—and to the Buddhists and Unitarian-Universalists, with whom a lot of Friends find commonality, Friends do have some very unique spiritual practices. I believe that it is in these spiritual practices and not our beliefs that Friends can find their sense of identity. I would like to share with you my crib sheet that I use when people ask—

What Do Friends Believe?

Let me share with you not what Friends believe, but what Friends do. Friends do not seek uniformity in religious beliefs, but we do seek unity in discerning leadings of the Spirit. Friends do not have a creed or uniform set of beliefs, but we do have a set of unique corporate spiritual practices for discerning Divine guidance—silent meetings for worship and unprogrammed ministry, meetings for business, meetings for learning, worship sharing, clearness committees, and the personal and corporate responding to queries.

Friends' Practices of Corporate Spiritual Discernment

  • The Religious Society of Friends is a religion based on the individual and corporate spiritual search for an inward, immediate experience of the divine. (Howard Brinton)
  • Friends have (a) deep faith in divine guidance and in obedience to the "leadings" and "concerns" that spring from it, and (b) spiritual practices that enhance individual and corporate "discernment" of God's will. (Douglas Steere)

Core Principles of Friends General Conference and Western Independent Friends

  • the reality of the Inner Light
  • the universality of the Light
  • continuing revelation
  • the primacy of revelation over scripture

Personal Spiritual Practices of Discernment

  • daily periods of "retirement"
  • prayer
  • meditation
  • inspirational reading
  • lectio divina
  • journal writing
  • communing with nature
  • spirituality and the arts
  • spiritual companions
  • serving others without regard to results

Unique Corporate Spiritual Practices of Discernment

  • silent meetings for worship
  • unprogrammed vocal ministry
  • meetings for business
  • meetings for learning
  • worship sharing
  • clearness committees
  • queries for individuals, families, and meetings

Do you believe Friends can find their identity in their corporate spiritual practices and not in a set of commonly held beliefs? Please send your responses to Richard Barnes, Clerk, Route 1, Box 28-3, Millboro, VA 24460 or email quf@att.net.

In a street through which I pass every day, a blackbird whistles the same melodic phrase; the phrase is incomplete, ends abruptly, and for years I have heard him lift his voice, deliver himself of his truncated song, and stop with a satisfied air, with no need to complete his musical fragment, which I never hear without a feeling of impatience. It is thus with the true believer; accustomed as he is in the most important questions to dwell within the limits of the customary, without any curiosity about the beyond, he sings his monotonous little note without dreaming that it lacks anything—that his phrase is as clipped as his wings are, and that the narrow world of his belief is not the universe.

Jean Marie Guyau
(trans. Nahum N. Glatzer)
The Non-Religion of the Future (first published in 1897)


I read Rev. Chris Buice's "The Quaker/Unitarian-Universalist Connection," Part II, yesterday, and have to respond with thanks. I fairly squirmed in my chair with pleasure as I read of the overlap between people central to my UU background and present Quaker Universalism. Part II was fun for me because I recognized so many names (Murray, Benjamin Rush, Thomas Paine, Ballou, Mott, Channing, Parker, and others) whose lives and careers intertwined in ways I hadn't known before, and new names (Phebe Hanaford, "first ordained woman minister in a Universalist Church in New England").

A Universalist by birth (1931), a Unitarian by choice (1947), and a Quaker by convincement (1983), I found that Buice spoke to my condition and heritage in a way that illuminated linkages I had felt but not had the background to articulate. I studied American social/cultural/religious history in graduate school (American Studies, University of Minnesota) where I became acquainted with many of the spiritual leaders, social reformers, and utopian communitarians Buice mentions.

His essay, Part I (which I went back to find and read), spoke so clearly of the Quaker faith I experienced first in Davis Friends Meeting (Pacific Yearly Meeting) that I felt welcomed all over again. I am one who was convinced "experientially," as Fox and Brinton would say, finding in the silent worship a quiet and peace and center that reduced me to joyous tears one Sunday years ago and often afterward.

I have alerted my sister in Petersborough, Ontario, a minister to the Unitarian-Universalist church there, to this article. She may subscribe to Universalist Friends, I forget, but she is surely of the same heart and mind as Chris Buice.

Yours in Peace,
David Scofield Wilson
(received via e-mail)

The Quaker/Unitarian-Universalist Connection
(Part III)

by the Reverend Chris Buice

In this final section, I outline some of the differences between the Quaker Universalist and the Unitarian Universalist traditions. The first difference may be the most obvious one: Quaker Universalists worship in silence. When I first announced to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church that I was planning to study at a Quaker theology school, a member, Wade Till, came up to me and said something to the effect, "I hope we don't lose you to the Quakers." To which his wife responded, "Don't worry. Chris is too loud to be a Quaker."

Since that time, I have learned that Quakers can be pretty loud upon occasion—just not during meeting for worship. Of course, conceivably the Spirit could lead one to shout and holler during worship, but I've never seen it done. Most vocal messages in meeting are presented in such a way as not to disturb the quiet and meditative atmosphere of the worship service. The Quaker style of worship differs from the UU style of worship with our hymns, readings, and prepared sermons.

A second difference is that Unitarian Universalists have paid clergy. Cynthia Grant Tucker in her book The Prophetic Sisterhood gives this as one of the reasons why it was hard to establish Universalist churches in communities with Quaker heritage between 1880 and 1930. There was not a tradition of supporting paid clergy to lead congregations. Therefore Universalist Churches did not grow.

Oddly enough, today there are Quaker Meetings with paid clergy. George Fox would no doubt roll over in his grave if informed of this. Fox never tired of denouncing hireling ministers, whom he saw as preaching for economic rather than spiritual reasons. However, the Quaker meetings that have hired paid ministers tend to be the more conservative Quaker meetings. One could say that a contemporary Unitarian Universalist Church has the theology of a liberal Quaker meeting and the worship style of a conservative Quaker meeting. Liberal Quakers and UUs hold similar views of religion but different views on worship.

A third difference between Quakers and UUs is found in congregational decision-making. Unlike Unitarian Universalists, Quakers don't vote on congregational issues. They govern by consensus. Every member of a meeting must be in agreement on a decision. At the end of a discussion on an issue, the clerk of the meeting will ask the question, "Are all hearts clear?" If everyone nods or gives an assent, then a decision has been made. If someone says he or she feels unclear then the discussion will continue. Sometimes this makes for a very, very, very, long meeting. But Quakers feel this is the best process to discern the proper course of action. Quakers seek to solve problems peacefully. Seeking consensus is part of the process of finding the most peaceful way to resolve conflict.

Of course, as with all groups there can be moments of hostility in a business meeting, although this hostility is sometimes concealed in Quakerly efforts to be diplomatic in their speech. As one Quaker told me, "The Quaker phrase for `That's the stupidest idea I ever heard' is `That idea would never have occurred to me.'" And yet consensus can be powerful. Some UUs say that if you adopt the consensus model then nothing ever gets done, yet the Quakers did start the only denominational service committee to win the Nobel Peace Prize, did start countless educational institutions from nursery schools through college. I don't think there is a valid argument that Quakers have "done nothing" because they use consensus.

And yet UUs love to vote. As a student at Earlham School of Religion, I more than once made the mistake of suggesting we vote on something. Old habits die hard. As a UU at a Quaker school I was often asked to explain the difference between Unitarian Universalists and Quakers. And this area of consensus was one of the main things I stressed. I sometimes responded by telling this joke. A group of Unitarian Universalists have a disagreement about theology, so they go to God to see if God can help them resolve their theological differences. But there is a line. At the front of the line are a Jew and a Muslim, and they ask, "God, will the Jews and the Muslims ever learn to live together in peace in the Middle East?" God replies, "Yes, but not in your lifetime." The next folks in line are a Protestant and a Catholic, and they ask, "God, will the Protestants and the Catholics ever learn to live together in peace in Northern Ireland?" God replies, "Yes, but not in your lifetime." Finally, the group of Unitarian Universalists comes forward and asks, "God, will the all the Unitarian Universalists ever be able to agree on theology?" And God replies, "Yes, but not in my lifetime." This is another way of saying that Quakers believe in consensus while the phrase "Unitarian Universalist consensus" comes very near to a contradiction in terms.

That leads me to another Quaker and Universalist connection. The Quaker Oats Company was actually begun by a Universalist named Ferdinand Schumacher, who got rich selling oatmeal to soldiers during the Civil War. No doubt Quakers who strictly adhered to the peace testimony would have disapproved of this connection to the war machine. I do not know Schumacher's motivations for naming the company as he did. I do know that it was a common practice for companies to put the name "Quaker" in their title because Quakers were respected for honesty in business dealings. We see that today with things like Quaker State motor oil.

Universalists, on the other hand, were widely distrusted. It was assumed that since they did not believe in eternal damnation in hell they had no incentive to be good. In some states, Universalists were not allowed to serve on juries or testify in court because they had no incentive to be honest. So if Universalists couldn't be trusted to speak in court, then there is no telling what they might do to your oatmeal—poison it or something. The name Universalist Oats wouldn't have been a good marketing device, so we have Quaker Oats instead. This is only my conjecture. But it does illustrate some of the differences about how both Quakers and Universalists were perceived by the public in the 19th century.

And that leads me to my final thought about differences between Unitarian Universalists and Quaker Universalists. For early Universalists, the central idea of their theology was that all souls would finally be reconciled with God and each other. God was our parent, and a parent does not punish a child forever. The purpose of punishment is to help children learn from their mistakes. Ultimately, the history of humanity would have a happy ending. A God of Love would not be defeated.

In the end, there would be harmony of all souls with each other and with God. The goal of the universe was not division and separation, but reunion and reconciliation.

Quaker Universalists have had a different emphasis. There is "that of God" in everyone. Salvation comes through obedience to the inner light. That light is available to people of all faiths. Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Buddhist all have equal access to the holy light that shines within. And yet not everyone chooses to heed the light. Salvation, however one may define it (and there are many ways to think about salvation), is always a possibility, but it is not a foreordained conclusion. You are free. You may choose disobedience to the light and thus find yourself alienated from your neighbor and your God. Quaker Universalists would agree with the Catholic thinker Thomas Merton when he said, "The gates of hell are locked from the inside." And the implication of Quaker Universalism is that some people may very well choose to stay locked inside their own alienation, blocking out the still small voice and refusing to turn the key and liberate themselves from hell and hopelessness. As you can see, one movement places emphasis on the unfailing love of God while the other stresses the role that humans must play in their own salvation.

Having made these comments about differences, let me end by stressing similarities between our movements. Recently someone forwarded me via e-mail the address for a website named "What Do You Believe?" At that website, you can take a quiz, and then the all-knowing computer will tell you what you believe. The computer comes up with a list of religions that closely parallel the beliefs you express in the survey. Out of curiosity I filled out the survey, and I got a perfect score for the category of Liberal Quaker. My next highest score was for Unitarian Universalist. Of course, I would probably get a different score if the computer were here today and could see how I listened to the Spirit and came to this meeting with a carefully prepared talk. Then the computer would know for sure I was a Unitarian Universalist.

But I am a UU drawn to exploring the common ground our movement shares with Quakers. Quakers and Unitarian Universalists have real differences, but I like the words Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend in 1813. Jefferson wrote, "I believe with the Quaker preacher that he who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ."

It is my hope that Quakers and Unitarian Universalists will continue to find common ground. As I prepared for this talk, people contacted me to tell me how their UU fellowship shares a building with the Quakers and sometimes they have a joint Sunday School. I have learned more about how the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and Friends Service Committee have cooperated, and how the Washington Office has cooperated with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. I have talked with UUs who attend Quaker meetings and Quakers who attend UU meetings. I think there are some powerful possibilities in continuing to learn from each other. I hope our traditions continue to find common ground and work together for the common good.

And so let me leave you with a couple of thoughts. As we walk with each other, let us "walk in the light." Let us seek the divine light than shines in the depth of every woman, child and man. There is an old Quaker song which goes:

There's a light that was shining when the world began
a light that shines in the heart of everyman
a light that shines in the Turk and the Jew
a light that shines, Friend, in me and you.

Or as John Murray might have said it, "You may have only a small light, but uncover it and let it shine, use it to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere. Do not preach so as to deepen their despair. Give them not hell but hope and courage. Preach the kindness and everlasting love of God." Amen.

__________________________ Chris Buice is a Unitarian Universalist minister and graduate of the Earlham School of Religion. Parts I and II of his talk appeared in previous issues of Universalist Friends.

Encomium for R. H. Blyth

by Timothy Ferris

Seventeen years ago a friend did me a favor that I shall never forget, by presenting me with a copy of R. H. Blyth's Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics, published by Hokuseido Press. Actually, she dropped off a whole box of books, and worthy books they were, but when I picked up Blyth, and started reading, I kept reading it, to the exclusion of all else. Then I went out and got his other book—the five-volume Zen and Zen Classics, the four-volume Haiku (one volume for each season), the two-volume A History of Haiku—and read them, too, and have been reading them ever since. Seldom have I encountered books that were so much fun, and that made so much sense.

Some authors are overlooked because their subject is overlooked. The opposite, I suspect, is more nearly the case with Blyth. So many books have been published in English about Zen, and about its relationship to literature and art and finance and sex and self-esteem, that Blyth's works have to some extent been buried, like the first-fallen leaves of autumn. But Blyth's sensibility has little to do with New Age yearnings for self-improvement or nonchallenging enlightenment, or with romantic idealizations of the exotic East, or, for that matter, with the notion that Zen Buddhism is nice or sweet or friendly. His books are vinegar among these seductive perfumes. Where they are vague, he is specific; where they are obscurantist, he is clear. Wry, ironic, commonsensical, pessimistic, and rigorously nonmetaphysical, Blyth eschews all pieties, including those that tend to elevate one's esteem for Zen itself.

Blyth writes that:

Zen is the essence of Christianity, of Buddhism, of culture, of all that is good in the daily life of ordinary people. But that does not mean that we are not to smash it flat if we get the slightest opportunity.

Impatient with the love of the mystical that enchants priests and poetasters, Blyth insisted that Zen is a wholly human invention, as useful and unpretentious as a hoe. "Comparisons are odious," he writes, "but odiousness is one of the qualities—almost the chief quality—of the universe. Zen means not choosing, not praising or blaming, not liking or loathing—so they say. But real Zen means choosing, praising, blaming, liking, loathing—humourously." Nor did he ever fall victim to that fatal weakness of so many devotees of Zen and its antecedent, the myth of the supernatural:

Levitation was common in Kyozan's life. He shows no surprise at it. Most of such bird-men seem to have come from India. Hot air rises.

Though Blyth was a great teacher, he was sharply skeptical of the very act of teaching. "All teaching," he wrote—in words that ought to be engraved over the entrance of every school—"must be more or less malicious."

About the life of Reginald Blyth I know little, except that he was English, was living in Japan when war broke out, was incarcerated as a prisoner of war and later taught in Japanese universities, and died in 1964. He was extraordinarily well-read (as well read as, say, Borges), wore his learning lightly and was a respected translator of haiku. Having learned from Blyth's books for years, I should like, as one writer to another, to pay him two specific compliments—though he would have said that was two too many.

The first is that he has an eye for a good story. He could recount an anecdote with a skill equal to that of the great American Zen master Groucho Marx. Here is Blyth debunking sentiment:

Nansen was asked by a monk, "Where will the master be gone to in a hundred years' time?" Nansen said, "I'll be a water-colored ox." The monk said, "May I follow you or not?" Nansen said, "Well, if you do, bring a mouthful of grass with you."

Offering advice:

I was once riding with Mr. Warner, who saved Kyoto from bombing. He said that he was thinking of becoming a Roman Catholic. I said to him, "Mr. Warner, don't believe in anything which you have to defend."

Recounting the death of Fuke, "the most eccentric of all the Zen monks":

Stretching out his hand [Fuke said], "Give me some money!"

My second comment is that Blyth ranks with Einstein as one of the freest men who ever lived. In a brief autobiographical essay, written in 1948 for a student newspaper, he permitted himself a brief expression of his sense of liberty:

The aim of life, its only aim, is to be free. Free of what? Free to do what? Only to be free, that is all. Free through ourselves, free to be sad, to be in pain; free to grow old and die. That is what our soul desires, and this freedom it must have; and shall have.

If the many worlds that we live in today are, as we may optimistically suppose, destined to merge into something more like one world, this unification will come about, I suspect, not so much because computers or communications or finance draw the various cultures together, but because each comes to see that the others have something of inestimable value to offer. What Blyth has done (and that is not all that he has done) is to show us a slice of what Japanese thought has to offer us—not cars or TV sets but the earned wisdom of the human condition:

The more we suffer, intelligently, the deeper our life. Buddha said that life is suffering, and taught us how to avoid both. This was wrong. Deep suffering is deep life... Nirvana is often taken as a condition of supreme joy. But it is also that of supreme sadness. The point anyway is not the joy or sadness, but the supremeness.

Timothy Ferris, the author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way and nine other books, is currently emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His "Encomium for R. H. Blyth" was first published in The Nation in April, 1990. It is reprinted here by kind permission of the author.

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