Seminar on Unification Thought (Editor's Preface)

This issue of the Journal of Unification Studies presents papers from the Research Institute for the Unification of World Thought’s second Seminar on Unification Thought, which was held on the campus of the University of Bridgeport on August 18, 2001. Nearly a dozen Unificationist scholars, drawn mainly from the University of Bridgeport and the Unification Theological Seminary, shared the results of their critical research. Each paper focused on a specific chapter or topic dealt with by existing Unification Thought texts and explored new avenues for research.

Seven papers have been selected for publication out of that seminar. Avoiding the extremes of disparagement on the one hand and slavish repetition on the other, they strive for a respectful yet critical engagement with the texts of Unification Thought, the Divine Principle and Rev. Moon’s sermons. Their sole purpose is to advance the development of Unification philosophy as a system of thought that is relevant to contemporary issues and engaged with classical and modern currents of philosophy.

One theme that spans several of these essays is concern about bridging the rational and experiential aspects of knowledge, a topic explicitly developed by Keisuke Noda in the paper which leads off this issue. Particularly when it comes to knowledge of God and spiritual realities, the question of how to connect the rational construct of philosophy with human experience looms large. How, if knowledge of God is finally experiential, can unspiritual people have any confidence in the validity of a religious philosophy? Can a religious philosophy like Unification Thought bolster and sharpen people’s experience of God? Noda argues that these two ways of knowing should be viewed as complementary, rather than in opposition. He thus affirms the classical idea that personal spiritual growth is advantageous for proper reasoning.

That an inadequate philosophy can interfere with comprehension of spiritual experience is the subject of Claude Perrottet’s paper, “Prolegomena to a Philosophical Inquiry into the Spirit World.” His thesis is that there is a deeply embedded error in Western philosophy, namely the denial of true corporeality to spirit. This has created an “abyss” between theoretical notions of spirit among philosophers and theologians on the one hand, and the centuries-long tradition of spiritual experience among mystics and people gifted with psychic abilities on the other. The value of Perrottet’s essay is that it surveys the environment and lays the groundwork for systematic elucidation of a theory of the spirit world; hence its title “Prolegomena.” It is a contribution to ongoing research towards developing a philosophy of the spirit world by Unificationist thinkers the world over.

The question of religious knowledge is also the theme in Andrew Wilson’s paper, which critiques the treatment of Epistemology in existing Unification Thought texts as excessively focused on the cognition of tangible things in the external world and as lacking sufficient attention to cognition of invisible, spiritual realities. Drawing on the Divine Principle and other chapters in Unification Thought, Wilson suggests a new departure for Unification Epistemology that faces squarely what he regards as the fundamental question, “How can we know the reality of God?” or more exactly, “How can we have valid knowledge of invisible things?” He posits that the rational ground for such knowledge lies in setting human beings within a subject-object relationship, in which the aim is not to cognize an “object of cognition” but rather to fathom the being of a higher subject, who addresses us.

Critiquing the texts of Unification Thought from the standpoint of logic alone, David Burton’s essay breaks new ground. He identifies four areas where Unification ontology “is not as comprehensive or complete as it appears at first sight.” These include: 1) a possible circular argument entangling Divine Principle and Unification Thought in their discussion of God’s attributes; 2) questions about the how the “life field” or “cosmic consciousness” fits into the structure of the cosmos; 3) possible discrepancies between the Original Image and created beings regarding the “principal-subordinate” pair of dual characteristics and the “connected body”; and 4) questions about the process of creation, which seems proceed in two distinct ways. These questions point to the unfinished nature of Unification Thought and provide starting-points for the next generation of Unificationist thinkers.

In describing the nature of God, Unification Thought’s teaching of the dual characteristics promotes a balanced view of God with respect to gender. According to this teaching, God created all things in male-female pairs to reflect God’s own nature as the harmonious union of original masculinity and original femininity. Nevertheless, most Unificationists refer to God as “Father,” using masculine language. This practice is not merely a tension between theology and piety, but has roots in another strand of Rev. Moon’s thought—as elucidated in Stephen Nomura’s essay, “God as Masculine Subject Partner.” Like Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Nomura sees an asymmetrical relationship between man and woman, which he claims is grounded in their dissimilar relationships with God. The editorial board struggled over whether to publish this essay, chiefly because its advocacy of God’s masculinity was not balanced by way of consideration of God’s dual characteristics and their significance for the male-female relationship, and its neglect of any critical consideration of the abuse that might arise from such beliefs. Nevertheless, we felt the paper highlights an important strand of Rev. Moon’s current message, which should initiate a wider theological discussion, and we look forward to publishing differing points of view.

Thomas Ward’s essay is a rather personal reflection about how an intellectual schooled in the European philosophical tradition found in Unification Thought a superior answer to the problem of theodicy. Having worked on the forefront of ideological education efforts against Marxism-Leninism for many years, Ward now turns his attention to major issues in dispute between the Unificationism and the wider universe of secular thought. His contribution is to point out several areas of “conventional wisdom” that stand in the way of the acceptance of Unification teaching on the Human Fall: among them, that alienation can be overcome by the individual’s search to “find himself,” the view that the Fall was not an historical event, disbelief in the devil, denial of the destructive power of unbridled sexuality, and a pervading view of God as somehow tainted with the same evil that affects His creations. The next step would be extensive ideological research to develop adequate refutations of each of these secular doctrines.

The same ambition to develop a Unificationist theory persuasive to a wider secular audience lies behind Michael Mickler’s paper, “Towards a Universal History.” Following Dr. Lee’s admission that the providential view of history “can hardly have any persuasive power today,” he identifies as a weakness in Unification Thought’s theory of history that it describes governing laws abstracted only from the sacred histories of Judaism and Christianity. The theory needs to be complemented, Mickler argues, by the additional work of application and extended to other sacred and secular histories. He sketches eight stages in a “universal course of restoration” that can be applicable to all histories, and to the personal life-journey as well.

The Research Institute for the Unification of World Thought was founded by Rev. Moon in December 2000 in order to encourage academic research on fundamental philosophical issues in a way that is both non-sectarian and respectful of the spiritual and intellectual traditions of the world. It is located in Bridgeport, CT. The editor is grateful to the Institute for permission to publish these papers.

The JUS has regularly published articles describing and analyzing the often-difficult social environment facing religious groups, and the Unification Church in particular. While the battle for religious freedom has been won in the United States, the situation is uneven in different parts of the world. Persecution of small religious groups has lately become prevalent in Europe. Here we present a perceptive commentary by the distinguished German sociologist Dr. Erwin Scheuch. It is based on an address that he presented in Berlin in September 2000.