If nature at large be designated as the macrocosm, then human nature is the microcosm, and for Wang human nature was the human mind. He was taking recreation at Nanch'en, when one of his friends pointed to the flowers and trees on a cliff and said, "You say that there is nothing under Heaven outside the mind. What relation exists between my mind and those flowers and trees on the high mountain, which blossom and drop of themselves?" Wang replied: "When you cease regarding these flowers, they become quiet with your mind. When you see them, their colors at once become clear. From this you can know that these flowers are not external to your mind." This is undisguised idealism, in which the microcosm creates as truly as does the macrocosm. In the great all-pervading unity of nature the most differentiated, highly specialized portion is the human mind. It manifests the only creative ability that man can really know. Wang said again and again that it is ab initio law, that it is the embodiment of the principles of Heaven. Thus its very essence is natural law; but not in any partial, superficial sense. There are no other principles operative anywhere, for the mind is so all-embracing that it has no internal and external.
The influence of this point of view upon Wang's ethical theory and practise was profound. He held that it is not necessary to go to the classic literature to get a knowledge of fundamental ethical principles, for the human mind has these principles within itself. Intuitive knowledge of good is to be identified with moral principles. He who would have accurate information regarding right and wrong can get it from the intuitive faculty. The highest good consists in developing it to the utmost. It is to the details of right and wrong and to changing circumstances as compasses and squares are to squares and circles, and measure to length and breadth.
Wang is to-day read extensively by Chinese students, and will probably influence the Chinese as much as he has the Japenese. He has the advantage over many other rationalizing and socializing forces of the present day in that his point of view is a direct product of the Chinese mind and therefore strikes a sympathetic chord in the mind of the Chinese scholars. As a rationalizing and socializing factor in the development of Chinese morals it exhibits the following doctrines:
- Wang Yang-ming, "Philosophy," Book III., p. 61 f.