What Is Unification Thought?
Unification Thought is the philosophy of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The late Dr. Sang Hun Lee, a disciple of Reverend Moon, sought to render Rev. Moon's thought in standard philosophical categories and areas. It is reported that he did this in close consultation with Reverend Moon. Dr. Lee first published his work under the title Unification Thought. Lee took great pains to ensure that Unification Thought be understood strictly as Reverend Moon's thought, but scholars also use the term to designate Dr. Lee's efforts per se. Dr. Lee's work does not exhaust Reverend Moon's thought, which continues to develop. Lee's work is helpful, however, in providing a basic philosophical outline from which to analyze the thought and teachings of Reverend Moon.
Unification Thought is meant to serve as a philosophical basis for social, political, economic, religious, and cultural activities. It was often emphasized by Dr. Lee that the thought is meant to be applied to "solving real problems."
The term unification in Unification Thought has two meanings. First, it expresses a passion for the ideal of unity and harmony. Analysis proceeds on the observation that human history from its very beginnings, at all levels from personal life to global affairs, has been chaotic, divided, and riven with conflict. There has never been a time of widespread or enduring peace, harmony, and happiness, even though these are the desire of all people. Unification Thought promotes an ideal of leading the world from its present reality of struggle and destructive conflict to one of reconciliation, peace, and harmony. Unification Thought pursues the ideal of saving humankind with a messianic zeal aimed at achieving harmonious unity on all levels of personal and social reality.
Secondly, the term unification describes the internal dynamic in the thought system itself. There is an internal unity that integrates the various sections of Unification Thought. Unification Thought encompasses theories on God, human nature, nature, ethics, art, education, knowledge, logic, method, and history. These branches of philosophy are integrated into a uniform whole by a consistent application of a number of key insights.
Even though Hegel and Marx developed philosophies that included theories of history, twentieth-century Western philosophies in the mean time have rejected the notion of philosophy as a systematic thought. Both analytic philosophy and phenomenology understand philosophy as methodology and thus do not include a theory of history as one of its components. This lack of historical perspective has severely limited their social impact. This highly methodological Western philosophy is still pervasive today.
Marxism, on the other hand, was very different. It appeared as a thought system abounding with messianic idealism and the promise to liberate human beings from oppression and suffering. Thus, ironically, despite its numerous philosophical lanunae it nevertheless had the overwhelmingly strongest social impact in the twentieth century. It could not endure, however, due to being simply errant philosophically.
Unification Thought, on the other hand, understands reality in a more comprehensive way, including in its systematic thought not merely observation of narrow aspect of material reality. It takes into account spiritual reality, is built upon theistic assumptions, and is devoted to practical change for the better.
Unification Thought starts with two assumptions: God exists and the a spirit world or life after death exists. Unlike other theistic thinkers such as Anselm, Kant, and Kierkegaard, Unification Thought does not explore possible paths towards a proof of the existence of God and the afterlife. These existential positions are presupposed. Inquiry into "proofs" regarding the existence of God are touched upon, yet a systematic attempt to answer this question is not taken up. It remains a task to be explored.
The four major concepts that constitute Unification Thought are: God, the Purpose of Creation, the Interdependence of Beings, and Give-and-Take Action.
The notion of God as Creator is the central axis of Unification Thought. At the age of sixteen, Reverend Moon experienced a dramatic encounter with God and Jesus. In that revelation, God disclosed to him his suffering heart caused by the sufferings of humankind. It is the heart of God that moved Reverend Moon to take on a Messianic role to save humankind and led him to his lifelong journey of restoring the world back to the original world of Creation. At the core of Reverend Moon's discourse lies his understanding of God's love, passion, compassion, and heart for humanity.
From the perspective of Unification Thought, harmony, peace, reconciliation, happiness, and unity are achieved only when God's heart and love are embodied by human beings and the principles of true love are practiced and applied by us. Unification culture, built on an intimate relationship God's heart, is thus called a culture of heart.
The Purpose of Creation
God created human beings as his eternal partners of love who can embody, substantialize, and share his love. Within God’s realm of heart, God and human beings co-create. Human beings have the responsibility to care for the natural environment, manage it, and establish a spring-type civilization. The realization of an eternal world of joy and happiness is God's purpose for creating the world. Accordingly, this purpose of creation precedes the existence of all beings and all human activities such as thinking, knowing, acting, creating, and universally underlies all phenomena in the world.
The purpose of creation for human beings is further articulated into three goals of life called the Three Great Blessings. These three components are the perfection (or complete maturation) of the individual, multiplication of self and lineage through having children, and dominion or stewardship over creation, the natural world and universe.
The first individual goal is to perfect one's character by inheriting God's true love and by becoming an embodiment of truth.
The second goal is to form an ideal family and to co-create the Four Realms of Heart with God. While the formation of one's family serves as a basis, the concept of family in Unification Thought is extended to the national, global, and cosmic levels of social reality. Unification Thought conceives the world (or "cosmos" if you include living being in the spiritual world) as a global family.
The third goal is to develop and exercise creativity and properly manage "creation." Hence, the care of nature and the thoughtful development of culture, society, and the environment represent the third goal.
The Interdependence of Reciprocal Beings
Love can exist only through relationships. While God is self-existent and transcendent, He created human beings as his eternal partners of love. Therefore, God and human beings are mutually interdependent. The interdependence of God and human beings has decisive effects on both of us. No matter how much love God has or even if God exists as love itself, so long as human beings are sorrowful and suffer, He will be equally sorrowful, if not more; he suffers as our eternal parent. In Unification Thought, therefore, God is absolute and relative, transcendent and historical. While God's love in itself is absolute and self-subsistent and not affected by anything else, God’s heart is affected by the heart and experience of human beings. In other words, God can be joyful or sorrowful because he is love and he loves human beings. If God was indifferent to human beings, he would neither suffer nor be joyful. It is the revealed insight of Reverend Moon that God has been sorrowful and suffering throughout human history because of how we have suffered during this time.
God and human beings are also interdependent in another sense. God's love remains hidden from the world until it manifests through human beings. The family is the basic unit where God's love manifests. God's love is substantialized through parental love towards children, conjugal love between husband and wife, children's love towards parents, and love among siblings. The three objective love displays the basic pattern through which God's love is realized in the world. The family, in Unification Thought, is the foundational unit of the world of heart, and of society, because individuals can cultivate heart and embody God's love in an interactive exchange of love among the family members symbolizing all directions. God's love, as embodied in the family, extends to all social relationships thus resulting finally in the perfected culture of heart.
The principle of the interdependence of reciprocal beings pervades all of reality. Internal character and external form in individual beings, masculinity and femininity, human beings and nature, beings in nature and the universe, even the relationship between cause and effect, all exist under this principle. This principle manifests itself in the social, political, and economical realms as the Ideals of Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity, and Universally Shared Values. These ideals are also manifested in various forms through the vision of the Unification Movement aimed at building an enduring, ideal, peaceful world.
Human existence as well as that of all creatures derive from God's love. Human beings and all creatures receive our being as a gift. Giving and receiving is in fact the very origin of the world. Likewise, in human life, parents participate in the process of giving being or life to new individuals. Each individual receives his or her being in this way. The principle of give-and-take, thus, characterizes the origin of existence, God, who in turn represents the archetype of the notion of give-and-take. In the universe, this archetype is modified in a variety of ways. From physico-chemical interactions among physical entities to human and social interactions among human beings and social entities, both active and passive interactions are conceived as give-and-take action. This dynamic applies universally to all interactive relationships.
Precedence of giving over receiving in the give-and-take action implies the spirit of serving others, and the "subject" being the initiator of love. Unification Thought expresses its essence in the motto, "living for the sake of others." The altruistic spirit of service of Unification Thought is embodied in the concept of give-and-take, and this concept underlies all service activities, all educational activities, as well as the organized movement for peace in Unificationism.
God, Human Beings, and Nature
Unification Thought sees the world as reflecting God's nature. Beings in the world resemble God's nature to varying degrees. Since human beings are God's love partners, we manifest God's nature in the highest degree and to the fullest extent. Human beings are God's substantial objects in image and other natural beings are substantial objects in symbol.
Since God is love, human beings embody and manifest God most fully. Other creatures manifest God's love only in symbolic form or pattern. It is love, but not the fullness of love. The degree to which God's love is manifest determines the hierarchical distinction between human beings and natural beings. Human beings because we are (ideally) constituted by genuine love, are entitled (in fact ideally suited) to manage and administer the natural world. The absence or distortion of love in human beings in our current state (departed from the original ideal) is that which has caused the destruction of both human society and the natural environment.
Key Ontological Principles
From Plato and Aristotle onward, the dipolar concept of form and matter has served in various forms as one of the key concepts in Western philosophy. In the tradition of Far Eastern thought, the dipolar concept of yin and yang has equally served as a central concept since antiquity. In Unification Thought, these two key concepts from the traditions of East and West are integrated within a theistic framework. Unification Thought conceives these two types of dual characteristics as the architecture through which God's love is manifested and substantialized. Human beings consisting of man and woman are understood as the substantial embodiment of these polar principles and the archetypal model of all beings in the world.
The Dual Characteristics of Internal Character and External Form
Every being is understood as the integral unity of the dual characteristics of internal character (性相, 성상, "Sungsang" in Korean) and external form (形状, 형상, "Hyungsang" in Korean). Individual human beings are seen as the unity of mind and body or spiritual and physical nature (soul and flesh). In other words, each individual exits as a spiritual-physical unit. Human experiences, therefore, are spiritual and physical simultaneously. When one sees a flower for example, one experiences meaning and values along with the sense perception. Visual images stimulate the human body and physiological changes then occur in the human body. Together with these physical phenomena, mental or spiritual aspects of the experience, such as emotional feelings, memories, values, meanings, and other associated interpretive factors constitute our experience, along with however our actions impact the spiritual world around us. Each particular experience is that of a spiritual and a psycho-somatic unity. Language is seen as the unity of sense and sounds, or written expressions. Likewise, the principle of the dual characteristics of internal character and external form applies to all beings in the world.
The dual characteristics of internal character and external form are manifest as the duality of spirituality and economy, religion or values and science, and spiritual world and the corporeal world. From matters of personal life to global affairs, this principle allows us to see phenomena from the viewpoint of polarity in harmony. Just like human beings are the interactive unit of spirit and body, phenomena also have both spiritual/mental/value aspects and physical/bodily aspects. Unification Thought also conceives this duality as that between internal and external, invisible and visible.
In human life, however, there exists at present serious conflict between the spiritual and the physical aspects. Physical, or lust desire dominates the spiritual desire for values. Physical desires or lust often dominates all human affairs from the individual to society and the world. The power of the physical realm overwhelms that of the spiritual. In order to restore the original order between the spiritual and the physical (or the mind and body), the individual has to be empowered by becoming the embodiment of true love and society has to be empowered through the development of the culture of heart. Unification Thought sees the restoration of true love as the key for restoring the original unity of the spiritual and the physical, or the mind and body, both in individuals and in society.
The Dual Characteristics of Yin and Yang
Additionally, beings also come to exist, and phenomena take place, through a second principle of duality, the principle of the dual characteristics of yin and yang. Human beings exist in pairs as men and women. This interdependent duality or polarity of man and woman is the archetype of yin and yang. As described above, human beings are the fullest and most complete manifestation of God. The harmonious love between man and woman most fully reveals this principle. When a man and a woman become fully matured by embodying God's love, the conjugal love between them manifests God's love on both the spiritual and material plane. Furthermore, God's radical creative power fully participates thus creating the possibility of completely new life. The sexuality of human beings is originally the channel through which God's love works as the power to produce new beings. In this sense, sexual activity is meant in the original ideal of creation to be as or more fully a spiritual activity as it is physical.
Just as in the case of man and woman, the principle of yin and yang also determines how beings in the natural world come to exist. The duality of male and female, as well as that of positive and negative electric charges, are the manifestation of this same principle in nature.
Like Far Eastern yin-yang philosophy, Unification Thought conceives the polar articulation of being in cases such as high and low, up and down, convex and concave, light and shadow, movement and tranquility, dynamic and static, as a manifestation of the yin-yang principle. In Unification Thought, the duality of man and woman is the archetype of the substantial realization of this principle in the world. This principle is primarily meant to realize God's love, the always delightful and at times passionate harmonization of complementary opposites. Although all yin and yang relationships in the world do not necessarily manifest love in an explicit form, they display harmony, which is one of the essential characteristics of love. The principle of yin and yang is the principle of harmony.
Architecture of Unification Thought
Unification Thought divides its key theories into basic philosophical areas. These theories are integrally unified as an organic whole, thereby presenting a holistic perspective. Analyses, developments, studies and applications of ideas in Unification Thought are still being developed. At this point Unification literature represents only the most basic summary of Reverend Moon’s thought. Almost all areas have yet to be explored adequately.
Since philosophy was developed and shaped in particular forms bound by constraints of each world view, these traditional categories cannot always encompass the full scope and all the ideas in Unification Thought. There are numerous insights in Unification Thought that challenge the traditional categories, outlook, orientation, and conceptual constraints of philosophy.
- Printed material is available for the following areas:
- Expositions on theoretical issues: Unification Ontology, Unification Epistemology, Unification Logic, Unification Methodology.
- Expositions on practical issues: Unification Ethics, Unification Theory of Education, Unification Theory of Art.
- Expositions on intermediary issues: Theory of the Original Human Nature
Unification Thought Textbooks in English:
- Research Institute for the Integration of World Thought, An Introduction to the Thought of Sun Myung Moon: Unification Thought and VOC Theory, New York: HSA-UWC, 2003. ISBN 193116617X (Abbreviated edition from the original Korean text)
- Unification Thought Institute. Essentials of Unification Thought: Head-Wing Thought. Tokyo: UTI, 2002. (Older text based upon Dr. Sang Hun Lee’s lectures on Unification Thought. Essentials of Unification Thought Retrieved April 8, 2008.)
- Unification Thought Institute-Japan, New Essentials of Unification Thought: Head-Wing Thought, Tokyo: UTI-Japan, 2005.
Reverend Moon’s prayers:
- Prayers of Reverend Sun Myung Moon Retrieved April 8, 2008. (Prayers are good resources in understanding the view of God in Unification Thought)
Links to Reverend Moon’s speeches:
- Reverend Moon Speeches Retrieved April 8, 2008.
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