Response to The Analects
Confucius never mentions spirits or a supernatural world in the Analects; he says that someone who does not understand living on earth could never grasp anything beyond it. Nevertheless, the existence of an omnipotent, all-good, orderly deity would fit perfectly into his philosophy. This being would unite Confucius’s concepts of the Decree of Heaven, Destiny, and man’s duty to respect authority and would explain the origin of these things and the world itself.
In Chinese philosophy, Heaven is the force which orders the universe, to live in harmony with it, man must follow its Decree, a transcendent moral code. Destiny measures men’s lives and determines what happens to them. The deity could combine the two. Just as men follow the Decree of Heaven because it is intrinsically good and is the way men should live, so they could follow the deity because its goodness deserves admiration, and it created men for the purpose of living in harmony. Because the deity is all-powerful, it could set the course of men’s lives and change their environment however he chooses. What it gives, it could take away.
Respect for one’s betters is central to Confucius’s ethical system. The deity would be both the oldest and most powerful being in the universe and the father of everyone. It would provide a transcendental basis for filial piety.
Confucius’s philosophy can provide men great happiness. However, it cannot explain its origin or its fundamental reason for being. The omnipotent deity would fulfill this need because it would be a self-sufficient first cause of the universe. It would give Confucianism metaphysical grounding without diluting its ethical teaching.