VOLUME 7 ISSUE 2 FALL 2021

3 8 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 7 - 2 Fa l l 2 0 2 1 noting Confucianism. Because Confucianism is a practical re - ligion that enhances spirituality in one’s own experience and promotes the completion of the Self in the existential life. Confucianism can provide essential guidelines for spiritual well-being and self-cultivation to those who have reached old age in terms of spirituality. And it is expected to function as a religion that encourages them to discover the meaning of their existence and the purpose of life to become elevated human beings [2]. The purpose of this study is to elucidate these religious and spiritual functions of Confucianism, further it will suggest the spiritual model to be pursued in old age from Confucian- ism and reveal that the Confucian cultivation theory can give meaningful help to the lives of the elderly. For this, first, this study is aimed at redefying the meaning of old age based on Confucianism. That is, it defines old age as a significant peri - od of gaining infinite growth and achieving the completion of spirituality but not just as a period of bodily decrepitude. Second, the study focuses on the issues of spirituality and transcendence of the elderly in relation to Confucian meta- physics of life and clarifies the ultimate concern of old age in Confucianism. Third, the study is expected to be meaningful in that it can introduce the spiritual cultivation theory of Confucianism, which is still unfamiliar to the West. But more than that, this study hopes to contribute to facilitating dia- logue and cooperation between various religious traditions to create better conditions for human life. In other words, it aims to contribute to the dialogue of spiritual experience be- tween various religions (Dojčár 2019, 36; Gálik 2021, 2). To this end, this study will deal with Korean Confucian texts containing various statements about aging and transcen- dence and adopt the theory of gerotranscendence as a com - parative method. For this, I will explore how the gerotrans - cendence theory can be interlinked and differentiated with Confucianism that entails spiritual characteristics. Second, I will investigate how Korean Neo-Confucianists attain eman - cipated innocence and immerse themselves in self-cultiva- tion after retirement. It will shed a light on the two ways of self-cultivation, keeping reverence in tranquility to return to one’s essence and discover the cosmic meaning of the Self, and embodying the truth in the sage’s classics based on the numerous life experiences and transforming into a cosmic Self. And finally, it will consider the metaphysics of life in Confucianism, and how Confucians have reached cosmic uni- ty and faced a decent death in the state of moral transcen - dence. 2 The Meaning of Aging Some studies of gerontology even seem to regard old age as having no particular significance. For instance, disengage - ment theory argues that as people age, they withdraw from previous roles or activities. Disengagement theory argues that stimulating older adults with activities and social inter- actions would go against the natural development and result in dissatisfaction with life (Bruyneel, Marcoen and Soenens 2005, 2). In opposition to this argument, however, the activity theory regards a successful old life as participating in social production youthfully and claims that the elderly should con- tinue to work the same as they did in middle age (Bengtson, Burgess and Parrott 1997, S76). Two theories seem to be ar- guing against each other, but in fact they both are based on the same perception. Because neither theory has a distinct meaning or value of old age, nor does it have a particular role to play in old age. But is there really nothing that one can do in old age? The theory of gerotranscendence proposed by Tornstam disagrees with them. He challenges the performance orientation of Western societies, with its associated contempt for weakness, inefficiency, and dependency. His gerotranscendence theory highlights continued change and development in old life, in- cluding a re-definition of reality (Yount 2009, 82). That is, the gerotranscendence theory implies that human development does not end in middle-age but is a process that continues into old age (Tornstam 1996, 144). The characteristic of the theory of gerotranscendence is, in a nutshell, a shift in meta-perspective, materialistic and ra - tional vision to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normal - ly followed by an increase in life satisfaction (Tornstam 1989, 60). According to Tornstam, gerotranscendence is regarded as the final stage in a possible natural progression towards maturation and wisdom and describes a development involv - ing new understandings of the Self, relationships to others, and fundamental existential questions. (Tornstam 1997a, 118). The theoretical concept of gerotranscendence has three levels of age-related ontological change: the cosmic level, the level of Self, and the level of social and individual rela- tionships. The cosmic level is, first, about the feeling of cosmic com - munion with the spirit of the universe, and a redefinition of time, space, life, and death. It is possible that seniors can per- ceive themselves as a part of a cosmic flow of energy (Torn - stam 1989, 60). At this stage, seniors understand newly what life and death mean and reduce concerns with one’s impend -

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