A Confucian Response to Kwan
LANGUAGE NOTE | Document text in Chinese; abstract in English only.
Kwan addresses near death experiences (NDEs) from different perspectives. His attitude is reasonable and humble. Basically, he indicates that scientific studies of NDE can neither prove nor falsify the existence of the soul. Given this circumstance, religious explanations cannot be excluded as unreasonable. He also rightly points out that one may not draw on NDEs to defend only one particular religious view, such as that of Christianity. This commentary essay suggests that it may also be heuristic to study NDE from a Confucian metaphysical perspective. The classical Confucian view considers the basic element of the cosmos to be qi (air/energy 氣), which is believed to be both material and spiritual at the same time. Thus, Confucianism has kept a distance from either Platonic dualism or modern materialistic reductionism. The soul under the Confucian conception includes two parts: the hun (魂the intelligent soul) and the po (魄the animal soul). When a human being dies, “the intelligent soul returns to heaven; the body and the animal soul return to the earth.” Accordingly, it is crucial for Confucians to perform ritual sacrifices to seek the union of a deceased ancestor’s soul. NDE may take place at the moment the hun and po have just separated, but are not yet far from each other.
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