Reading the chapter on Confucius, I came across the most remarkable passage, attributed to the sage. It is a passage that from the ground up, instructs a nation to be a nation of highest virtue. What it all seems to come down to, according to Confucius, is knowledge. Why is the question for knowledge so vitally important? Because
The ancients who wished to illustrate the highest virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their own states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, the first cultivated their own selves. Wishing to cultivate their own selves, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.
Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their own selves were cultivated. Their own selves being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole empire was made tranquil and happy.
Is this a recipe for success if I’ve ever heard one? Imagine how, for instance, this applies to us today. Would anyone consider our current state of affairs tranquil and happy? So we look to our leaders and ask are we being rightly governed? And so forth and so on down the line until we get to the investigation of things. Are we learning enough? Are we exploring enough? Not just our world but our history, our culture and our selves? There is a natural order to the progression of investigation up and up through our selves, our family, our government to tranquility and happiness. I think Confucius was on to something here.