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Spirit, Qi, and the Multitude

A Comparative Theology for the Democracy of Creation

Hyo-Dong Lee

Publication Year: 2013

We live in an increasingly global, interconnected, and interdependent world, in which various forms of systemic imbalance in power have given birth to a growing demand for genuine pluralism and democracy. As befits a world so interconnected, this book presents a comparative theological and philosophical attempt to construct new underpinnings for the idea of democracy by bringing the Western concept of spirit into dialogue with the East Asian nondualistic and nonhierarchical notion of qi. The book follows the historical adventures of the idea of qi through some of its Confucian and Daoist textual histories in East Asia, mainly Laozi, Zhu Xi, Toegye, Nongmun, and Su-un, and compares them with analogous conceptualizations of the ultimate creative and spiritual power found in the intellectual constellations of Western and/or Christian thought namely, Whitehead's Creativity, Hegel's Geist, Deleuze's chaosmos, and Catherine Keller's Tehom. The book adds to the growing body of pneumatocentric (Spirit-centered), panentheistic Christian theologies that emphasize God's liberating, equalizing, and pluralizing immanence in the cosmos. Furthermore, it injects into the theological and philosophical dialogue between the West and Confucian and Daoist East Asia, which has heretofore been dominated by the American pragmatist and process traditions, a fresh voice shaped by Hegelian, postmodern, and postcolonial thought. This enriches the ways in which the pluralistic and democratic implications of the notion of qi may be articulated. In addition, by offering a valuable introduction to some representative Korean thinkers who are largely unknown to Western scholars, the book advances the study of East Asia and Neo-Confucianism in particular. Last but not least, the book provides a model of Asian contextual theology that draws on the religious and philosophical resources of East Asia to offer a vision of pluralism and democracy. A reader interested in the conversation between the East and West in light of the global reality of political oppression, economic exploitation, and cultural marginalization will find this book informative, engaging, and enlightening

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-8


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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Prologue: A Meeting of Two Stories

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pp. 1-14

One evening in the spring of 1897 in Korea, in a tiny village of peasants southeast of what is now Seoul, the capital city, a small group of people gathered in a house—a thatched hut—to perform the customary Confucian ritual of honoring the ancestors. When the food and drink off erings were set up on a table to face the wall, where the spirits of the ...

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Introduction: A Decolonizing Asian Theology of Spirit as a Comparative Theology of Spirit-Qi

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pp. 15-41

Like many of the other tributaries to the ecumenical theology1 of world Christianity since the beginning of political decolonization in the 1950s, Asian theology has been grappling with the task of critically examining the history of Christian mission in Asia in order to decolonize the theology of the younger churches in the Asian continent from the implicit...

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1. The Psychophysical Energy of the Way in Daoist Thought

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pp. 42-61

What is psychophysical energy (氣 gi/qi)? Etymologically rooted in the words “steam,” “breath,” and “wind,” and variously translated as “material force,” “vital energy,” or “psychophysical stuff ,”1 gi/qi is an idea for worldexplanation ubiquitously found in East Asian cultures and religions and...

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2. The Psychophysical Energy of the Great Ultimate

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pp. 62-82

For the classical Confucians, the Way (道 dao) was always the “way of,” such as the way of the human world or the way of Heaven, in contrast to the Daoist conception of the Way as the origin and supreme principle of all that is.1 The classical Confucian tradition arose in what is now North China in response to the breakdown of the sociopolitical and moral order...

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3. Creativity and a Democracy of Fellow Creatures

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pp. 83-105

In his magnum opus, Process and Reality, Alfred North Whitehead names three major images of God as having come, in various combinations, to dominate the development of theistic philosophy: God as an imperial ruler, associated with the Roman Empire and its divine Caesars, and also with Islam; God as a personifi cation of moral energy—“the ruthless moralist”— ...

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4. The Great Ultimate as Primordial Manyone

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pp. 106-121

Throughout his long life, Yi Hwang (李滉 1501–1570 c.e.) of the Korean Joseon Dynasty—who is better known by his honorific name Toegye (退溪)—thought of himself as a faithful follower of Zhu Xi, whom he regarded as his intellectual and spiritual master and whose true intention he believed he followed. But even as one of the greatest and...

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5. From the Divine Idea to the Concrete Unity of the Spirit

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pp. 122-141

Hegel’s philosophical reading of the Christian narrative, or “salvation history,” as articulated in the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, advances the thesis that the trinitarian logic of the divine Idea, which grounds the history of God and brings it to its consummation in the community of the Spirit, permeates nature as the ontological condition of possibility for...

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6. Pattern and Psychophysical Energy Are Equally Actual

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pp. 142-173

I m Seong-ju (任聖周 1711–1788 c.e.), the eighteenth-century Korean thinker known by his honorifi c name Nongmun (鹿門) and widely regarded as one of the six “greats” of Korean Neo-Confucianism, is famous for his thesis, “Pattern and psychophysical energy are equally...

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7. The Chaosmos and the Great Ultimate

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pp. 174-210

In the preceding chapter, I offered an outline of what may be called a Neo-Confucian panentheism of transcendent body in which the empathetic interrelatedness of the primordial and chaotic many within the Non-Ultimate is offered as an explanation for the creative restlessness of the Great Ultimate as the heart-mind of the Way. At the same time, I left...

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8. The Democracy of Numinous Spirits

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pp. 211-244

In the late spring of 1860, aft er a year of spiritual wrestling involving an intense practice of prayer, Su-un, the founder of Donghak, heard the voice of Lord Heaven (originally the Korean 하늘님 [haneullim],1 or the classical Chinese 天主 [cheonju]). According to the conversation...

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pp. 245-256

Th e journey I have taken in this book has all along been in search of what Whitehead calls “a democracy of fellow creatures” in response to Su-un’s critique of the “spirit-less” theology of missionary Christianity. It is an attempt to decolonize Christian theology from its colonization by the logic of empire, namely, the logic of the One, so that its suppressed capacity...


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pp. 257-334


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pp. 335-352


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pp. 353-362

E-ISBN-13: 9780823255054
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823255016
Print-ISBN-10: 0823255018

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth

OCLC Number: 867740139
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Spirit, Qi, and the Multitude

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Subject Headings

  • Qi (Chinese philosophy)
  • Philosophy, Korean.
  • Philosophy, Chinese.
  • Spirit.
  • Philosophy, Modern.
  • Cosmology.
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