Seven Deadly Sins AND Catholic Seven Virtues

Seven Deadly Sins AND Catholic Seven Virtues

The Worship Of Mammon

The Worship Of Mammon

English: The worship of Mammon

Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919)

The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a classification of vices (part of Christian ethics) that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct Christians concerning fallen humanity’s tendency to sin. In the currently recognized version, the sins are usually given as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

 

Catholic Seven Virtues

The Catholic Church also recognizes seven virtues, which correspond inversely to each of the seven deadly sins.

Vice Latin Virtue Latin
Lust Luxuria Chastity Castitas
Gluttony Gula Temperance Temperantia
Greed Avaritia Charity Caritas
Sloth Acedia Diligence Industria
Wrath Ira Patience Patientia
Envy Invidia Kindness Humanitas
Pride Superbia Humility Humilitas

 

Seven deadly sins – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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The Unity Of Opposite

The Unity Of Opposite

The Unity Of Opposite

Unity of opposites

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The unity of opposites was first suggested by Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC) a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher.

Philosophers had for some time been contemplating the notion of opposites. Anaximander posited that every element was an opposite, or connected to an opposite (water is cold, fire is hot). Thus, the material world was composed by some indefinite, boundless apeiron from which arose the elements (earth, air, fire, water) and pairs of opposites (hot/cold, wet/dry). There was, according to Anaximander, a continual war of opposites. Anaximenes of Miletus, a student and successor of Anaximander, replaced this indefinite, boundless arche with air, a known element with neutral properties. According to Anaximenes, there was not so much a war of opposites, as a continuum of change. Heraclitus, however, did not accept the milesian monism and replaced their underling material arche with a single, divine law of the universe, which he called Logos. The universe of Heraclitus is in constant change, but also remaining the same. That is to say, an object moves from point A to point B, thus creating a change, but the underlying law remains the same. Thus, a unity of opposites is present in the universe as difference and sameness. This is a rather broad example though. For a more detailed example we may turn to an aphorism of Heraclitus:

The road up and the road down are the same thing. (Hippolytus, Refutations 9.10.3)

This is an example of a compresent unity of opposites. For, at the same time, this slanted road has the opposite qualities of ascent and descent. According to Heraclitus, everything is in constant flux, and every changing object co-instantiates at least one pair of opposites (though not necessarily in simultaneously) and every pair of opposites is co-instantiated in at least one object. Heraclitus also uses the succession of opposites as a base for change:

Cold things grow hot, a hot thing cold, a moist thing withers, a parched thing is wetted.

As a single object persists through opposite properties, this object undergoes change.

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Modern philosophy

Unity of opposites is the central category of dialectics, and it is viewed sometimes as a metaphysical concept, a philosophical concept or a scientific concept. It defines a situation in which the existence or identity of a thing (or situation) depends on the co-existence of at least two conditions which are opposite to each other, yet dependent on each other and presupposing each other, within a field of tension.

In formal logic and mathematics, a unity or identity of opposites cannot exist (it would mean for example that 2 = -2), although it is accepted that 1 follows 0, something from nothing which is something and so dialecticians claim that it can exist in reality or in thought. If the opposites were completely balanced, the result would be stasis, but often it is implied that one of the pairs of opposites is larger, stronger or more powerful than the other, such that over time, one of the opposed conditions prevails over the other. Yet rather than ‘stasis’ the identity of opposites, there being unity within their duality, is taken to be the instance of their very manifestation, the unity between them being the essential principle of making any particular opposite in question extant as either opposing force. For example ‘upward’ cannot exist unless there is a ‘downward’, they are opposites but they co-substantiate one another, their unity is that either one exists because the opposite is necessary for the existence of the other, one manifests immediately with the other. Hot would not be hot without cold, due to there being no contrast by which to define it as ‘hot’ relative to any other condition, it would not and could not have identity whatsoever if not for its very opposite that makes the necessary prerequisite existence for the opposing condition to be. This is the oneness, unity, principle to the very existence of any opposite. Either one’s identity is the contra-posing principle itself, necessitating the other. The criteria for what is opposite is therefore something a priori (and therefore saying that -2 ≠ 2 is a refutation in logic would be considering the identification as a posteriori, and having nothing to do with a “co-instantiate” existence as the postulate of the unity of opposites necessitates.)

In his criticism of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher Hegel who tried to systematise dialectical understandings thus wrote:

The principles of the metaphysical philosophy gave rise to the belief that, when cognition lapsed into contradictions, it was a mere accidental aberration, due to some subjective mistake in argument and inference. According to Kant, however, thought has a natural tendency to issue in contradictions or antinomies, whenever it seeks to apprehend the infinite. We have in the latter part of the above paragraph referred to the philosophical importance of the antinomies of reason, and shown how the recognition of their existence helped largely to get rid of the rigid dogmatism of the metaphysic of understanding, and to direct attention to the Dialectical movement of thought. But here too Kant, as we must add, never got beyond the negative result that the thing-in-itself is unknowable, and never penetrated to the discovery of what the antinomies really and positively mean. That true and positive meaning of the antinomies is this: that every actual thing involves a coexistence of opposed elements. Consequently to know, or, in other words, to comprehend an object is equivalent to being conscious of it as a concrete unity of opposed determinations. The old metaphysic, as we have already seen, when it studied the objects of which it sought a metaphysical knowledge, went to work by applying categories abstractly and to the exclusion of their opposites. [1]

In his philosophy, Hegel ventured to describe quite a few cases of “unity of opposites”, including the concepts of Finite and Infinite, Force and Matter, Identity and Difference, Positive and Negative, Form and Content, Chance and Necessity, Cause and effect, Freedom and Necessity, Subjectivity and Objectivity, Means and Ends, Subject and Object, and Abstract and Concrete.

Coincidentia oppositorum

Coincidentia oppositorum is a Latin phrase meaning coincidence of opposites. It is a neoplatonic term attributed to 15th century German polymath Nicholas of Cusa in his essay, De Docta Ignorantia (1440). Mircea Eliade, a 20th century historian of religion, used the term extensively in his essays about myth and ritual, describing the coincidentia oppositorum as “the mythical pattern”. Psychiatrist Carl Jung, philosopher and Islamic Studies professor Henry Corbin as well as Jewish philosophers Gershom Scholem and Abraham Joshua Heschel also used the term. In alchemy, coincidentia oppositorum is a synonym for coniunctio. For example, Michael Maier stresses that the union of opposites is the aim of the alchemical work. Or, according to Paracelsus’ pupil, Gerhard Dorn, the highest grade of the alchemical coniunctio consisted in the union of the total man with the unus mundus.

The term is also used in describing a revelation of the oneness of things previously believed to be different. Such insight into the unity of things is a kind of transcendence, and is found in various mystical traditions. The idea occurs in the traditions of Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism, in German mysticism, Taoism, Zen and Sufism, among others.[citation needed]

See also

References

Craig, Edward (1998). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sociology of knowledge to Zaroastrianism. Taylor & Francis. p. 437. ISBN 0-415-16916-X.

Spirit

Spirit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For other uses, see Spirit (disambiguation).
This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (June 2009)

Theodor von Holst, Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits, c.1830

The English word spirit (from Latin spiritusbreath“) has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body. The word spirit is often used metaphysically to refer to the consciousness or personality. The notions of a person’s spirit and soul often also overlap, as both contrast with body and both are understood as surviving the bodily death in religion and occultism,[1] and “spirit” can also have the sense of “ghost“, i.e. a manifestation of the spirit of a deceased person.

The term may also refer to any incorporeal or immaterial being, such as demons or deities, in Christianity specifically the Holy Spirit (though with a capital “S”) experienced by the disciples at Pentecost.

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Etymology

The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath“, but also “spirit, soul, courage, vigor”, ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European *(s)peis. It is distinguished from Latin anima, “soul” (which nonetheless also derives from an Indo-European root meaning “to breathe”, earliest form *h2enh1 [2]). In Greek, this distinction exists between pneuma (πνευμα), “breath, motile air, spirit,” and psykhē (ψυχη), “soul”[3] (even though the latter term, ψῡχή = psykhē/psūkhē, is also from an Indo-European root meaning “to breathe”: *bhes-, zero grade *bhs- devoicing in proto-Greek to *phs-, resulting in historical-period Greek ps- in psūkhein, “to breathe”, whence psūkhē, “spirit”, “soul”[4]).

The word “spirit” came into Middle English via Old French. The distinction between soul and spirit also developed in the Abrahamic religions: Arabic nafs (نفس) opposite rúħ (روح); Hebrew neshama (נְשָׁמָה nəšâmâh) or nephesh (in Hebrew neshama comes from the root NŠM or “breath”) opposite ruach (רוּחַ rûaħ). (Note, however, that in Semitic just as in Indo-European, this dichotomy has not always been as neat historically as it has come to be taken over a long period of development: Both נֶ֫פֶשׁ (root נפשׁ) and רוּחַ (root רוח), as well as cognate words in various Semitic languages, including Arabic, also preserve meanings involving misc. air phenomena: “breath”, “wind”, and even “odour”.[5][6][7])

Metaphysical and metaphorical uses

English-speakers use the word “spirit” in two related contexts, one metaphysical and the other metaphorical.

Metaphysical contexts

In metaphysical terms, “spirit” has acquired a number of meanings:

  • An incorporeal but ubiquitous, non-quantifiable substance or energy present individually in all living things. Unlike the concept of souls (often regarded as eternal and sometimes believed to pre-exist the body) a spirit develops and grows as an integral aspect of a living being.[8] This concept of the individual spirit occurs commonly in animism. Note the distinction between this concept of spirit and that of the pre-existing or eternal soul: belief in souls occurs specifically and far less commonly, particularly in traditional societies. One might more properly term this type/aspect of spirit “life” (bios in Greek) or “aether” rather than “spirit” (pneuma in Greek).
  • A daemon sprite, or especially a ghost. People usually conceive of a ghost as a wandering spirit from a being no longer living, having survived the death of the body yet maintaining at least vestiges of mind and of consciousness.
  • In religion and spirituality, the respiration of a human has for obvious reasons become seen as strongly linked with the very occurrence of life. A similar significance has become attached to human blood. Spirit, in this sense, means the thing that separates a living body from a corpse—and usually implies intelligence, consciousness, and sentience.
  • Latter-day Saint prophet Joseph Smith Jr. taught that the concept of spirit as incorporeal or without substance was incorrect: “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes.”[9]
  • In some Native American spiritual traditions the Great Spirit or Wakan Tanka is a term for the Supreme Being.
  • Various forms of animism, such as Japan’s Shinto and African traditional religion, focus on invisible beings that represent or connect with plants, animals (sometimes called “Animal Fathers)”, or landforms (kami)[citation needed]: translators usually employ the English word “spirit” when trying to express the idea of such entities.
  • Individual spirits envisaged as interconnected with all other spirits and with “The Spirit” (singular and capitalized). This concept relates to theories of a unified spirituality, to universal consciousness and to some concepts of Deity. In this scenario all separate “spirits”, when connected, form a greater unity, the Spirit, which has an identity separate from its elements plus a consciousness and intellect greater than its elements; an ultimate, unified, non-dual awareness or force of life combining or transcending all individual units of consciousness. The experience of such a connection can become a primary basis for spiritual belief. The term spirit occurs in this sense in (to name but a few) Anthroposophy, Aurobindo, A Course In Miracles, Hegel, Ken Wilber, and Meher Baba (though in his teachings, “spirits” are only apparently separate from each other and from “The Spirit.”)[10] In this use, the term seems conceptually identical to Plotinus’sThe One” and Friedrich Schelling’sAbsolute“. Similarly, according to the panentheistic/pantheistic view, Spirit equates to essence that can manifest itself as mind/soul through any level in pantheistic hierarchy/holarchy, such as through a mind/soul of a single cell (with very primitive, elemental consciousness), or through a human or animal mind/soul (with consciousness on a level of organic synergy of an individual human/animal), or through a (superior) mind/soul with synergetically extremely complex/sophisticated consciousness of whole galaxies involving all sub-levels, all emanating (since the superior mind/soul operates non-dimensionally, or trans-dimensionally) from the one Spirit.
  • Christian theology can use the term “Spirit” to describe God, or aspects of God — as in the “Holy Spirit“, referring to a Triune God (Trinity)(cf Gospel of Matthew 28:19).
  • “Spirit” forms a central concept in pneumatology (note that pneumatology studies “pneuma” (Greek for “spirit”) not “psyche” (Greek for “soul”) — as studied in psychology).
  • Christian Science uses “Spirit” as one of the seven synonyms for God, as in: “Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love”[11]
  • Harmonism reserves the term “spirit” for those that collectively control and influence an individual from the realm of the mind.

Metaphorical usage

The metaphorical use of the term likewise groups several related meanings:

  • The loyalty and feeling of inclusion in the social history or collective essence of an institution or group, such as in school spirit or esprit de corps.
  • A closely related meaning refers to the worldview of a person, place, or time, as in “The Declaration of Independence was written in the spirit of John Locke and his notions of liberty”, or the term zeitgeist, meaning “spirit of the age”.
  • As a synonym for “vivacity” as in “She performed the piece with spirit” or “She put up a spirited defense”.
  • The underlying intention of a text as distinguished from its literal meaning, especially in law; see Letter and spirit of the law
  • As a term for alcoholic beverages.
  • In mysticism: existence in unity with Godhead. Soul may also equate with spirit, but the soul involves certain individual human consciousness, while spirit comes from beyond that. Compare the psychological teaching of Al-Ghazali.

See soul and ghost and spiritual for related discussions.

Related concepts in other languages

Similar concepts in other languages include Greek pneuma and Sanskrit akasha/atman[3] (see also prana). Some languages use a word for “spirit” often closely related (if not synonymous) to “mind“. Examples include the German Geist (related to the English word “ghost”) or the French ‘l’esprit’. English versions of the Bible most commonly translate the Hebrew word “ruach” (רוח; “wind”) as “the spirit”, whose essence is divine[12] (see Holy Spirit and ruach hakodesh). Alternatively, Hebrew texts commonly use the word nephesh. Kabbalists regard nephesh as one of the five parts of the Jewish soul, where nephesh (animal) refers to the physical being and its animal instincts. Similarly, Scandinavian languages, Baltic languages, Slavic languages and the Chinese language (qi) use the words for “breath” to express concepts similar to “the spirit”.[3]

See also

Look up spirit in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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Ages of Man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about mythological ages. For the “Seven Ages of Man” speech from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”, see All the world’s a stage.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Golden Age

The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology. Two classical authors (Hesiod and Ovid) in particular offer accounts of the successive ages of mankind, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current age of the writer, in which humans are beset by innumerable pains and evils. In the two accounts that survive from ancient Greece and Rome, this degradation of the human condition over time is indicated symbolically with metals of successively decreasing value.[citation needed]

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Hesiod’s Five Ages

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Silver Age

Virgil Solis, The Iron Age

The first extant account of the successive ages of mankind comes from the Greek poet Hesiod‘s Works and Days (lines 109-201). His list is:

  • Golden Age – The Golden Age is the only age that falls within the rule of Cronus. Molded out of the earth through the hands of Prometheus, these humans were said to live among the gods, and freely mingled with them. Peace and harmony prevailed during this age. Humans did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age but with a youthful appearance and eventually died peacefully. Their spirits live on as “guardians”. Plato in Cratylus (397 e) recounts the golden race of men who came first. He clarifies that Hesiod did not mean men literally made of gold, but good and noble. He describes these men as daemons upon the earth. Since δαίμονες (daimones) is derived from δαήμονες (daēmones, meaning knowing or wise), they are beneficent, preventing ills, and guardians of mortals.
  • Silver Age – The Silver Age and every age that follows fall within the rule of Cronus’ successor and son, Zeus. Zeus created these humans out of the ash tree. Men in the Silver age lived for one hundred years under the dominion of their mothers. They lived only a short time as grown adults, and spent that time in strife with one another. During this Age men refused to worship the gods and Zeus destroyed them for their impiety. After death, humans of this age became “blessed spirits” of the underworld.
  • Bronze Age – Men of the Bronze Age were hardened and tough, as war was their purpose and passion. Not only were their arms and tools forged of bronze, but so were their very homes. The men of this Age were undone by their own violent ways and left no named spirits; instead, they dwell in the “dank house of Hades“. This Age came to an end with the flood of Deucalion.
  • Heroic Age – The Heroic Age is the one age that does not correspond with any metal. It is also the only age that improves upon the age it follows. These humans were created from the bones of the earth (stones) through the actions of Deucalion and Pyrrha. In this period men lived with noble demigods and heroes. It was the heroes of this Age who fought at Thebes and Troy. This race of humans died and went to Elysium.
  • Iron Age – Hesiod finds himself in the Iron Age. During this age humans live an existence of toil and misery. Children dishonor their parents, brother fights with brother and the social contract between guest and host (xenia) is forgotten. During this age might makes right, and bad men use lies to be thought good. At the height of this age, humans no longer feel shame or indignation at wrongdoing; babies will be born with gray hair and the gods will have completely forsaken humanity: “there will be no help against evil.”

Ovid’s Four Ages

The Roman poet Ovid (1st century BC – 1st century AD) tells a similar myth of Four Ages in Book 1.89–150 of the Metamorphoses. His account is similar to Hesiod’s with the exception that he omits the Heroic Age.

Ovid emphasizes the justice and peace that defined the Golden Age. He adds that in this age, men did not yet know the art of navigation and therefore did not explore the larger world.

In the Silver Age, Jupiter introduces the seasons and men consequentially learn the art of agriculture and architecture.

In the Bronze Age, Ovid writes, men were prone to warfare, but not impiety.

Finally, in the Iron Age, men demarcate nations with boundaries; they learn the arts of navigation and mining; they are warlike, greedy and impious. Truth, modesty and loyalty are nowhere to be found.

Historicity of the Ages

These mythological ages are sometimes associated with historical timelines. In the chronology of Saint Jerome the Golden Age lasts ca. 1710 to 1674 BC, the Silver Age 1674 to 1628 BC, the Bronze Age 1628 to 1472 BC, the Heroic Age 1460 to 1103 BC, while Hesiod’s Iron Age was considered as still ongoing by Saint Jerome in the 4th century AD.[1]

Ages of Man in other cultures

Christian

Mesoamerican

The Aztec tradition of Five Suns also involves four previous ages. The term Five Suns in the context of creation myths, describes the doctrine of the Aztec and other Nahua peoples, supported amply by ancient texts and calendars, in which the present world was preceded by four other cycles of creation and destruction. It is primarily derived from the mythological, cosmological and eschatological beliefs and traditions of earlier cultures from central Mexico and the Mesoamerican region in general. The Late Postclassic Aztec society inherited many traditions concerning Mesoamerican creation accounts, while, however; modifying some aspects and supplying novel interpretations of their own.[2]

Hindu-Vedic

Main article: Yuga

The Hindu and Vedic writings also make reference to four ages (Yuga) termed: Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. According to the Laws of Manu these four ages total 4.32 million years. These four yugas make up a Maha Yuga, a Chatur Yuga, or a Divya Yuga. 1000 Maha Yugas taken together equals one day of Brahma or 4.32 billion years. Brahma’s night is of an equal length which is also 4.32 billion years. Taken together Brahma’s day and night are 8.64 billion years in total. Brahma lives for 36,000 “Brahma days” so his lifespan is equivalent to 311 trillion, 40 billion years. After his death there is an equivalent period of 311 trillion, 40 billion years when the Universe is unmanifest. Then a new Brahma is born and the cycle starts all over again. Taken together the life and the death of Brahma equals 622 trillion, 80 billion years. This equals one cycle out of innumerable cycles in the Vedic Universe.[citation needed]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ St. Jerome. “St. Jerome, Chronicle (2004-5). Preface of Jerome; Preface of Eusebius”. Tertullian.org. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  2. ^ Iroku, Osita; A Day in the Life of God; Chapter Seven; 2001; published by the Enlil Institute

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Myth of Ages

Seppuku

Seppuku

Seppuku

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
“Hara-kiri” and “Harakiri” redirect here. For other uses, see Harakiri (disambiguation).

Illustration from “Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs”, by J. M. W. Silver, Illustrated by Native Drawings, Reproduced in Facsimile by Means of Chromolithography, published in London in 1867.

Seppuku with ritual attire and second (staged)

Warrior about to perform seppuku

Seppuku (切腹?, “stomach-cutting”) is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was either used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies (and likely suffer torture), or as a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed serious offenses, or performed for other reasons that had brought shame to them. The ceremonial disembowelment, which is usually part of a more elaborate ritual and performed in front of spectators, consists of plunging a short blade, traditionally a tantō, into the abdomen and moving the blade from left to right in a slicing motion.[1]

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Vocabulary and etymology

Seppuku is also known as harakiri (腹切り, “cutting the belly”), a term more widely familiar outside Japan, and which is written with the same kanji as seppuku, but in reverse order with an okurigana. In Japanese, the more formal seppuku, a Chinese on’yomi reading, is typically used in writing, while harakiri, a native kun’yomi reading, is used in speech. Ross notes,

“It is commonly pointed out that hara-kiri is a vulgarism, but this is a misunderstanding. Hara-kiri is a Japanese reading or Kun-yomi of the characters; as it became customary to prefer Chinese readings in official announcements, only the term seppuku was ever used in writing. So hara-kiri is a spoken term and seppuku a written term for the same act.”[2]

The practice of committing seppuku at the death of one’s master, known as oibara (追腹 or 追い腹, the kun’yomi or Japanese reading) or tsuifuku (追腹, the on’yomi or Chinese reading), follows a similar ritual.

The word jigai (自害?) means “suicide” in Japanese. The usual modern word for suicide is jisatsu (自殺?). In some popular western texts, such as martial arts magazines, the term is associated with suicide of samurai wives.[3] The term was introduced into English by Lafcadio Hearn in his Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation,[4] an understanding which has since been translated into Japanese.[5] Joshua S. Mostow notes that Hearn misunderstood the term jigai to be the female equivalent of seppuku.[6]

Overview

The first recorded act of seppuku was performed by Minamoto no Yorimasa during the Battle of Uji in the year 1180.[7] Seppuku eventually became a key part of bushido, the code of the samurai warriors; it was used by warriors to avoid falling into enemy hands, and to attenuate shame and avoid possible torture. Samurai could also be ordered by their daimyo (feudal lords) to carry out seppuku. Later, disgraced warriors were sometimes allowed to carry out seppuku rather than be executed in the normal manner. The most common form of seppuku for men was composed of the cutting of the abdomen, and when the samurai was finished, he stretched out his neck for an assistant to decapitate him. Since the main point of the act was to restore or protect one’s honor as a warrior, those who did not belong to the samurai caste were never ordered or expected to carry out seppuku. Samurai generally could carry out the act only with permission.

Sometimes a daimyo was called upon to perform seppuku as the basis of a peace agreement. This would weaken the defeated clan so that resistance would effectively cease. Toyotomi Hideyoshi used an enemy’s suicide in this way on several occasions, the most dramatic of which effectively ended a dynasty of daimyo. When the Hōjō were defeated at Odawara in 1590, Hideyoshi insisted on the suicide of the retired daimyo Hōjō Ujimasa, and the exile of his son Ujinao; with this act of suicide, the most powerful daimyo family in eastern Japan was put to an end.

A tantō prepared for seppuku

Ritual

In time, carrying out seppuku came to involve a detailed ritual. This was usually performed in front of spectators if it was a planned seppuku, not one performed on a battlefield. A samurai was bathed, dressed in white robes, and fed his favorite meal. When he had finished, his instrument was placed on his plate. Dressed ceremonially, with his sword placed in front of him and sometimes seated on special cloths, the warrior would prepare for death by writing a death poem.

General Akashi Gidayu preparing to carry out Seppuku after losing a battle for his master in 1582. He had just written his death poem, which is also visible in the upper right corner. By Tsukioka Yoshitoshi around 1890.

With his selected attendant (kaishakunin, his second) standing by, he would open his kimono (robe), take up his tantō (knife) or wakizashi (short sword)—which the samurai held by the blade with a portion of cloth wrapped around so that it would not cut his hand and cause him to lose his grip—and plunge it into his abdomen, making a left-to-right cut. The kaishakunin would then perform kaishaku, a cut in which the warrior was decapitated. The maneuver should be done in the manners of dakikubi (lit. “embraced head”), in which way a slight band of flesh is left attaching the head to the body, so that it be hung in front as if embraced. Because of the precision necessary for such a maneuver, the second was a skilled swordsman. The principal and the kaishakunin agreed in advance when the latter was to make his cut. Usually dakikubi would occur as soon as the dagger was plunged into the abdomen. The process became so highly ritualised that as soon as the samurai reached for his blade the kaishakunin would strike. Eventually even the blade became unnecessary and the samurai could reach for something symbolic like a fan and this would trigger the killing stroke from his second. The fan was likely used when the samurai was too old to use the blade, or in situations where it was too dangerous to give him a weapon in such circumstances.[8]

This elaborate ritual evolved after seppuku had ceased being mainly a battlefield or wartime practice and became a para-judicial institution.

The second was usually, but not always, a friend. If a defeated warrior had fought honorably and well, an opponent who wanted to salute his bravery would volunteer to act as his second.

In the Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo wrote:

From ages past it has been considered an ill-omen by samurai to be requested as kaishaku. The reason for this is that one gains no fame even if the job is well done. Further, if one should blunder, it becomes a lifetime disgrace. In the practice of past times, there were instances when the head flew off. It was said that it was best to cut leaving a little skin remaining so that it did not fly off in the direction of the verifying officials.

A specialized form of seppuku in feudal times was known as kanshi (諫死, “remonstration death/death of understanding”), in which a retainer would commit suicide in protest of a lord’s decision. The retainer would make one deep, horizontal cut into his stomach, then quickly bandage the wound. After this, the person would then appear before his lord, give a speech in which he announced the protest of the lord’s action, then reveal his mortal wound. This is not to be confused with funshi (憤死, indignation death), which is any suicide made to state dissatisfaction or protest. A fictional variation of kanshi was the act of kagebara (陰腹, “shadow stomach”) in Japanese theater, in which the protagonist, at the end of the play, would announce to the audience that he had committed an act similar to kanshi, a predetermined slash to the stomach followed by a tight field dressing, and then perish, bringing about a dramatic end.[citation needed]

Some samurai chose to perform a considerably more taxing form of seppuku known as jūmonji giri (十文字切り, “cross-shaped cut”), in which there is no kaishakunin to put a quick end to the samurai’s suffering. It involves a second and more painful vertical cut on the belly. A samurai performing jumonji giri was expected to bear his suffering quietly until perishing from loss of blood, passing away with his hands over his face.[citation needed]

Female ritual suicide

Women have their own ritual suicide, Jigai. Here, the wife of Onodera Junai, one of the Forty-seven Ronin, prepares for her suicide; note the legs tied together, a female feature of seppuku to ensure a “decent” posture in death

Female ritual suicide known as Jigai was practiced by the wives of samurai who have committed seppuku or brought dishonor.

Some females belonging to samurai families committed suicide by cutting the arteries of the neck with one stroke, using a knife such as a tantō or kaiken. The main purpose was to achieve a quick and certain death in order to avoid capture. Women were carefully taught jigaki as a child. Before committing suicide, a woman would often tie her knees together so her body would be found in a dignified pose, despite the convulsions of death. Jigaki, however, does not refer exclusively to this particular mode of suicide. Jigai was often done to preserve one’s honor if a military defeat was imminent, so as to prevent rape. Invading armies would often enter homes to find the lady of the house seated alone, facing away from the door. On approaching her, they would find that she had ended her life long before they reached her.

History

Stephen R. Turnbull provides extensive evidence for the practice of female ritual suicide, notably of samurai wives, in pre-modern Japan. One of the largest mass suicides was the 25 April 1185 final defeat of Taira Tomomori establishing Minamoto power.[9] The wife of Onodera Junai, one of the Forty-seven Ronin, is a notable example of a wife following by suicide the seppuku (disemboweling) of a samurai husband.[10] A large number of honour suicides marked the defeat of the Aizu clan in the Boshin War of 1869, leading into the Meiji era. For example in the family of Saigō Tanomo, who survived, a total of twenty-two female honour suicides are recorded among one extended family.[11]

Religious and social context

Voluntary death by drowning was a common form of ritual or honour suicide. The religious context of thirty-three Jōdo Shinshū adherents at the funeral of Abbot Jitsunyo in 1525 was faith in Amida and belief in afterlife in the Pure Land, but male seppuku did not have a specifically religious context.[12] By way of contrast, the religious beliefs of Hosokawa Gracia, the Christian wife of daimyo Hosokawa Yusai, prevented her from committing suicide.[13]

In literature and film

The expected honour-suicide of the samurai wife is also frequently referenced in Japanese literature and film, such as in Humanity and Paper Balloons[14] and Rashomon.[15]

Terminology

The word jigai (自害?) means “suicide” in Japanese. The usual modern word for suicide is jisatsu (自殺?). Related words include jiketsu (自決?), jijin (自尽?) and jijin (自刃?).[16] In some popular western texts, such as martial arts magazines, the term is associated with suicide of samurai wives.[17] The term was introduced into English by Lafcadio Hearn in his Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation,[18] an understanding which has since been translated into Japanese and Hearn seen through Japanese eyes.[19] Joshua S. Mostow notes that Hearn misunderstood the term jigai to be the female equivalent of seppuku.[20] Mostow’s context is analysis of Giacomo Puccini‘s Madame Butterfly and the original Cio-Cio San story by John Luther Long. Though both Long’s story and Puccini’s opera predate Hearn’s use of the term jigai, the term has been used in relation to western japonisme.[21]

Seppuku as capital punishment

While the voluntary seppuku described above is the best known form, in practice the most common form of seppuku was obligatory seppuku, used as a form of capital punishment for disgraced samurai, especially for those who committed a serious offense such as unprovoked murder, rape, robbery, corruption, or treason. The samurai were generally told of their offense in full and given a set time to commit seppuku, usually before sunset on a given day. On occasion, if the sentenced individuals were uncooperative or outright refused to end their own lives, it was not unheard of for them to be restrained and the seppuku carried out by an executioner, or for the actual execution to be carried out instead by decapitation while retaining only the trappings of seppuku; even the short sword laid out in front of the offender could be replaced with a fan. Unlike voluntary seppuku, seppuku carried out as capital punishment did not necessarily absolve, or pardon, the offender’s family of the crime. Depending on the severity of the crime, half or all property of the condemned could be confiscated, and the family stripped of rank, sold into long-term servitude, or executed.

European witness

The first recorded time a European saw formal seppuku was the “Sakai Incident” of 1868. On February 15, eleven French sailors of the Dupleix entered a Japanese town called Sakai without official permission. Their presence caused panic among the residents. Security forces were dispatched to turn the sailors back to their ship, but a fight broke out and the sailors were shot dead. Upon the protest of the French representative, financial compensation was paid and those responsible were sentenced to death. The French captain was present to observe the execution. As each samurai committed ritual disembowelment, the violent act shocked the captain, and he requested a pardon, due to which nine of the samurai were spared. This incident was dramatised in a famous short story, Sakai Jiken, by Mori Ōgai.

In the 1860s, the British Ambassador to Japan, Algernon Freeman-Mitford (Lord Redesdale) lived within sight of Sengaku-ji where the Forty-seven Ronin are buried. In his book Tales of Old Japan, he describes a man who had come to the graves to kill himself:

I will add one anecdote to show the sanctity which is attached to the graves of the Forty-seven. In the month of September 1868, a certain man came to pray before the grave of Oishi Chikara. Having finished his prayers, he deliberately performed hara-kiri, and, the belly wound not being mortal, dispatched himself by cutting his throat. Upon his person were found papers setting forth that, being a Ronin and without means of earning a living, he had petitioned to be allowed to enter the clan of the Prince of Choshiu, which he looked upon as the noblest clan in the realm; his petition having been refused, nothing remained for him but to die, for to be a Ronin was hateful to him, and he would serve no other master than the Prince of Choshiu: what more fitting place could he find in which to put an end to his life than the graveyard of these Braves? This happened at about two hundred yards’ distance from my house, and when I saw the spot an hour or two later, the ground was all bespattered with blood, and disturbed by the death-struggles of the man.

Mitford also describes his friend’s eyewitness account of a Seppuku:

There are many stories on record of extraordinary heroism being displayed in the harakiri. The case of a young fellow, only twenty years old, of the Choshiu clan, which was told me the other day by an eye-witness, deserves mention as a marvellous instance of determination. Not content with giving himself the one necessary cut, he slashed himself thrice horizontally and twice vertically. Then he stabbed himself in the throat until the dirk protruded on the other side, with its sharp edge to the front; setting his teeth in one supreme effort, he drove the knife forward with both hands through his throat, and fell dead.

During the Meiji Restoration, the Tokugawa Shogun’s aide committed Seppuku:

One more story and I have done. During the revolution, when the Taikun (Supreme Commander), beaten on every side, fled ignominiously to Yedo, he is said to have determined to fight no more, but to yield everything. A member of his second council went to him and said, “Sir, the only way for you now to retrieve the honour of the family of Tokugawa is to disembowel yourself; and to prove to you that I am sincere and disinterested in what I say, I am here ready to disembowel myself with you.” The Taikun flew into a great rage, saying that he would listen to no such nonsense, and left the room. His faithful retainer, to prove his honesty, retired to another part of the castle, and solemnly performed the harakiri.

In his book Tales of Old Japan, Mitford describes witnessing a hara-kiri:[22]

“As a corollary to the above elaborate statement of the ceremonies proper to be observed at the harakiri, I may here describe an instance of such an execution which I was sent officially to witness. The condemned man was Taki Zenzaburo, an officer of the Prince of Bizen, who gave the order to fire upon the foreign settlement at Hyōgo in the month of February 1868,—an attack to which I have alluded in the preamble to the story of the Eta Maiden and the Hatamoto. Up to that time no foreigner had witnessed such an execution, which was rather looked upon as a traveller’s fable. The ceremony, which was ordered by the Mikado himself, took place at 10:30 at night in the temple of Seifukuji, the headquarters of the Satsuma troops at Hiogo. A witness was sent from each of the foreign legations. We were seven foreigners in all. After another profound obeisance, Taki Zenzaburo, in a voice which betrayed just so much emotion and hesitation as might be expected from a man who is making a painful confession, but with no sign of either in his face or manner, spoke as follows:

I, and I alone, unwarrantably gave the order to fire on the foreigners at Kobe, and again as they tried to escape. For this crime I disembowel myself, and I beg you who are present to do me the honour of witnessing the act.

Bowing once more, the speaker allowed his upper garments to slip down to his girdle, and remained naked to the waist. Carefully, according to custom, he tucked his sleeves under his knees to prevent himself from falling backwards; for a noble Japanese gentleman should die falling forwards. Deliberately, with a steady hand, he took the dirk that lay before him; he looked at it wistfully, almost affectionately; for a moment he seemed to collect his thoughts for the last time, and then stabbing himself deeply below the waist on the left-hand side, he drew the dirk slowly across to the right side, and, turning it in the wound, gave a slight cut upwards. During this sickeningly painful operation he never moved a muscle of his face. When he drew out the dirk, he leaned forward and stretched out his neck; an expression of pain for the first time crossed his face, but he uttered no sound. At that moment the kaishaku, who, still crouching by his side, had been keenly watching his every movement, sprang to his feet, poised his sword for a second in the air; there was a flash, a heavy, ugly thud, a crashing fall; with one blow the head had been severed from the body.

A dead silence followed, broken only by the hideous noise of the blood throbbing out of the inert heap before us, which but a moment before had been a brave and chivalrous man. It was horrible.

The kaishaku made a low bow, wiped his sword with a piece of rice paper which he had ready for the purpose, and retired from the raised floor; and the stained dirk was solemnly borne away, a bloody proof of the execution. The two representatives of the Mikado then left their places, and, crossing over to where the foreign witnesses sat, called us to witness that the sentence of death upon Taki Zenzaburo had been faithfully carried out. The ceremony being at an end, we left the temple. The ceremony, to which the place and the hour gave an additional solemnity, was characterized throughout by that extreme dignity and punctiliousness which are the distinctive marks of the proceedings of Japanese gentlemen of rank; and it is important to note this fact, because it carries with it the conviction that the dead man was indeed the officer who had committed the crime, and no substitute. While profoundly impressed by the terrible scene it was impossible at the same time not to be filled with admiration of the firm and manly bearing of the sufferer, and of the nerve with which the kaishaku performed his last duty to his master.

Seppuku in modern Japan

Seppuku as judicial punishment was abolished in 1873, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, but voluntary seppuku did not completely die out. Dozens of people are known to have committed seppuku since then, including some military men who committed suicide in 1895 as a protest against the return of a conquered territory to China;[citation needed] by General Nogi and his wife on the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912; and by numerous soldiers and civilians who chose to die rather than surrender at the end of World War II. This behavior had been widely praised by propaganda, which made much of a soldier captured in the Shanghai Incident (1932) who returned to the site of his capture to commit seppuku.[23]

In 1970, famed author Yukio Mishima and one of his followers committed public seppuku at the Japan Self-Defense Forces headquarters after an unsuccessful attempt to incite the armed forces to stage a coup d’état. Mishima committed seppuku in the office of General Kanetoshi Mashita. His second, a 25-year-old named Masakatsu Morita, tried three times to ritually behead Mishima but failed; his head was finally severed by Hiroyasu Koga. Morita then attempted to commit seppuku himself. Although his own cuts were too shallow to be fatal, he gave the signal and he too was beheaded by Koga.[24]

Notable cases

This list is in chronological order.

See also

Endless Knot

Endless Knot

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Not to be confused with The Endless Not.
“The Eternal Knot” redirects here. For the 2001 classical album, see Adiemus IV: The Eternal Knot.

One common form of the Endless Knot

More decorative

More complex form seen on ca. 400 year old Chinese lacquerware dish.

The endless knot or eternal knot (Sanskrit: Shrivatsa; Tibetan Dpal be’u) is a symbolic knot and one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols. It is an important cultural marker in places significantly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism such as Tibet, Mongolia, Tuva, Kalmykia, and Buryatia. It is also sometimes found in Chinese art and used in Chinese knots.

Contents

Interpretations

The endless knot has been described as “an ancient symbol representing the interweaving of the Spiritual path, the flowing of Time and Movement within That Which is Eternal. All existence, it says, is bound by time and change, yet ultimately rests serenely within the Divine and the Eternal.”[citation needed] Various interpretations of the symbol are:

Endless knots in other cultures

See 7₄ knot for decorations or symbols in other cultures which are topologically equivalent to the interlaced form of the simplest version of the Buddhist endless knot.[1]

See also