Matthew Gano wrote:
I wonder too, how much influence Confucianism has on Shinto and if that is what some people might be seeing. I know Buddhism has had quite a bit of influence and there are very similar concepts such as that of yin and yang which pervade much of eastern philosophy. Are similar inclusions perhaps why some say what you said regarding that hierarchy of paradigms?
Hierarchy, yep. That is the name of the game in Japanese history.
Confucianism, or more properly Neo-Confucianism of the Ming, was very influential on Shinto during the Tokugawa period. A similar pattern obtained earlier. From about 1200-1600 (the Kamakura/Muromachi period) the succesive Shogunates promoted Ryobu Shinto as a means of regularizing Shinto practice within Buddhist monastic institutions, and thus registering all people with a Buddhist temple or monastery. This identified potential rival sources of power and was used to control the population. The monasteries, particularly the mountain monasteries, then became quite independent as sources of power in their own right. They played near king-maker roles by the time of the Warring States period, just prior to the Edo (Tokugawa period). Nobunaga destroyed all the yamabushi monasteries and he, and Ieyasu Tokuagawa then imported Neo-Confucianism (which had already in some respects syncretized many Buddhist elements within it).
NeoConfucianism then formed an institutional bulwark of the Tokugawa shogunate in a centralized manner, as distinguished from the more disperesed institutional framework among the Buddhist temple, which had fulfilled the same role under the Ryobu Shinto system. Shinto shrines then adopted a role of ritual support of Neo-Confucian ideals, all controlled from the Edo Shogunate in a tightly disciplined scheme of appointments. This continued until the restoration of the Meiji Emperor. State Shinto was then cultivated to repalce the Neo-Confucian order so strongly associated with the Shogunate, and the Kokugaku (national studies) attempted to "purify Shinto of these "foreign elements." An impossible task, as you will surely imagine.
O-Sensei was raised in this period and reacted strongly against it by experimienting with the Omoto community, itself a reactive hodge-podge (along with the other "new religions, viciously suppressed by the Japanese state) which presented blenderized ideas generally opposed to and subversive of the pyramidal ideology of the Emperor cult.
The result, in many areas of the Kokugaku endeavor, is very much the ideological dog's breakfast that is seen in the same period in European political thought. That simultaneously gave us the national imperialism, the invented German king, the invented Italian king, and in a similar pattern of adhoc ideological reactions, anarchism, socialism, communism, and, eventually fascism and Nazism.