Bernard Faure's previous works are well known as guides to some of the more elusive aspects of the Chinese tradition of Chan Buddhism and its outgrowth, Japanese Zen. Continuing his efforts to look at Chan/Zen with a full array of postmodernist critical techniques, Faure now probes the "imaginaire, " or mental universe, of the Buddhist Soto Zen master Keizan Jokin (1268-1325). Although Faure's new book may be read at one level as an intellectual biography, Keizan is portrayed here less as an original thinker than as a representative of his culture and an example of the paradoxes of the Soto school. The Chan/Zen doctrine that he avowed was allegedly reasonable and demythologizing, but he lived in a psychological world that was just as imbued with the marvelous as was that of his contemporary Dante Alighieri.
Drawing on his own dreams to demonstrate that he possessed the magical authority that he felt to reside also in icons and relics, Keizan strove to use these "visions of power" to buttress his influence as a patriarch. To reveal the historical, institutional, ritual, and visionary elements in Keizan's life and thought and to compare these to Soto doctrine, Faure draws on largely neglected texts, particularly the "Record of Tokoku" (a chronicle that begins with Keizan's account of the origins of the first of the monasteries that he established) and the "kirigami," or secret initiation documents.
"In Visions of Power, Faure once again demonstrates his superb command of original sources as well as an innovative methodology that constantly probes uncharted territory and boldly overturns the prevailing assumptions of the orthodox view of a 'pure' iconoclastic Zen tradition... [This book] is eminently successful in carving out a distinct yet complementary agenda in content, method, and approach."--Steven Heine, Monumenta Nipponica "[Faure's] account of Keizan is a convincing conquest of historical vision, and opens up the exciting prospect of similar treatment for a whole gallery of figures from the Buddhist past."--Joseph S. O'Leary, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies "Faure ... has reconstructed the study of Zen as a religion to the point that scholars of religion generally should begin turning to this field to find what they would not expect: a rich tradition of icons, rituals, myths, and magic power. This volume is the best place for them to start."--James H. Foard, The Journal of Religion