Tea and Universal Sympathy

tea-ceremonyIt has been suggested that there is a particular similarity between Herthelan culture in general (and Novaryan culture in particular) and the traditional culture of Japan. This piece offers some thoughts on this connexion based on the “structural assumptions” of the Japanese language.

Let us take a very simple example, and you will see that the same principle applies to a lot of Japanese constructions.

I like tea = Watashi wa ocha ga suki desu

The two sentences are equivalent, but the Japanese, if I understand correctly, actually means “In relation to me, tea takes the action of being liked”.

Now this is a very important difference. The Western form places the emphasis on the personal human ego as the active entity.

According to West-Telluri philosophy, this is simply correct. To like something is an “action” taken by the liker, not by the thing liked.

Most Modern Japanese would presumably, if asked, take this view too, being steeped in the modern Western rationalist perspective. But their language says something else, and I suspect their real thinking contains elements of both perspectives.

So what are the perspectives, and how far are they “Eastern” or “Western” in an absolute sense?

Without getting too deeply into the “background theory”, let me explain briefly that modern West-Telluria’s rationalist perspective is not “the Western outlook” but a “heresy” base on the legitimate Western outlook.

So in many respects traditional West-Telluria, even as late as the Middle Ages, thinks more like the Tellurian East than does modern Western Telluria.

In Sai Herthe there was no Rationalist Heresy, but the legitimate characteristics of the West, were still, in subtler ways, “carried too far” in the modern era: which is why Westrenne Herthelans tend to regard Estrennes as their spiritual superiors.

(This is almost the exact opposite of the “inferiority complex” that the Tellurian East feels in relation to the Tellurian West and the corresponding “superiority complex” of the Tellurian West).

Getting back to our tea:

The Western formulation puts maid at the centre. Maid is the “subject”, tea is the “object”. It is egoic. In terms of religion, it develops into the will-centred faith of Christianity, with an emphasis on sin (that is, faults of the individual and collective will). This perspective also exists in Sai Herthe, particularly in the West.

See this page on the Filianic understanding of “original sin” and its differences and similarities with the Christian concept.

When it is taken to excess this outlook leads to the cultural “malpractice” of individualism (which, in the late Iron Age has happened in both Westrenne Sai Herthe and Telluria) and when taken even further leads to the outright heresies of rationalism and humanism (as has happened in West Telluria, but not Westrenne Sai Herthe)

The Japanese formulation – that tea does the action of being liked in relation to a particular person – expresses a quite different perspective, and one that is much closer to the Novaryan (and generally Estrenne) outlook. It is a view that modern West Tellurians would be likely to categorize – rather misleadingly – as “animist”.

According to this view maid is not the sole experiencing center. The quality of amity exists not only in maid but in the tea itself – indeed more importantly in the tea.

Tea is one of the ten thousand things of cosmic manifestation that each express (insofar as they approach perfection) small aspects of the Divine Totality.

Between those aspects of the Divine Whole, and the individual being that constitutes “oneself” (which is really another aspect of the Divine Whole, but in some senses more separated from Her – by her sin or her ignorance, depending on perspective – and in other senses closer to Her, being made in Her image) – between those two aspects of the Divine whole exists an Affinity.

That Affinity is seen in the West from the egoic perspective and in the East from the perspective of the Totality of which an external object may act as the representative.

That is the fundamental reason for the two ways of expressing the liking of tea. And of course similar considerations will apply with many other linguistic formulae.

I have expressed all this in very Deanic terms, of course, because I am a Deanist. But the second of these two outlooks is exactly that of much of the Herthelan East – and in Novarya tends to be that tempered with a certain amount of the Westrenne outlook.

Thus it is very close – in broadly analogous terms, not in cultural specifics, and of course excluding the various errors induced by the adoption of West-Tellurian rationalism – to the position of modern Japan.


I was talking to Minami-chei about this rather old discussion and oddly enough I found an interesting sidelight on it the next day. Minami-chei said that the Korean expression for liking tea (or anything else) was exactly equivalent to the japanese, but that she (as a mother-tongue Korean speaker) had never thought of its literal meaning as I have portrayed it (although she agreed that this is the literal meaning).

Now I would not expect the literal meaning to be consciously uppermost in the mind of a modern-educated person from Japan or Korea, but I do suggest that it is in the deep structures of the traditional thought of Japanese and Koreans. I was interested, therefore, to read this in The Japanese Today by Professor Edwin Reischauer:

The word “individualism” (kojin shuji) itself has always been of ill repute in Japan. It suggests to the Japanese selfishness rather than personal responsibility… For a while students used the term “subjectivity” (shutaisei) in the sense of one’s being the active subject rather than the passive object of one’s life.

Now this is surely very interesting. The very grammatical term is used. The whole point of our tea sentence is that the tea is the active subject, taking the action of being-liked. And it is from this precise structure of life that the Westernising student wishes to escape. Japanese tends to relieve the individual of the burden of subjectivity, while Western languages – like the cultures – stress it as a positive value.

As a Novaryan I am often told that I am, by West Tellurian standards “unnaturally passive”. I tend to wait to be led, although when I am sure of a principle I can be forceful and even unbending.

Some of this may be my age and my own nature, but I would say that Herthelans – and particularly Novaryans – tend to be “passive” in the sense of looking for the “right” thing to do and expecting a consensus of some sort. It doesn’t mean we are followers rather than leaders (we couldn’t all be could we?) but rather that in our natural habitat we live by a Norm, or thamë both in society as a whole and then reflectively in any group within it. There tends to be a “way things are done” rather than a “way I do things”.

One is either following that way or administering it – and if one is administering it one is still following it. Being a “passive subject” sounds negative from the Western – or the Westernised – Tellurian point of view. From a Novaryan perspective it is reassuring. It is the surety of following the right way rather than having to invent a way for oneself that will probably be wrong. Ultimately, it is the sense of acting in harmony with the universe and its Creatrix rather than against it. Of treading the steps of the Cosmic Dance laid down from eternity rather than ambling in one’s own random fashion.