Gender in Western Philosophy and Unification Thought

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 7, 2006 - Pages 23-50

Next to the issue of humankind’s relationship to God as the invisible origin and creator, our existence as male and female beings, men and women, is the one most emphasized in the Unificationist tradition. These two issues are continually stressed in Rev. Moon’s speeches as the most fundamental of all relationships. The vertical parent-child connection between God and humankind is described as the ‘center of the universe,”[1] but it can only be maintained and multiplied through the horizontal relationship between husband and wife.

In present-day society, on the other hand, this theme is dealt with in the general context of gender studies, which include many considerations other than marriage and family life. I will thus try to show how gender studies and Unification Thought[2] are relevant to each other. In the first part of this paper, I will discuss traditional views of gender roles and briefly evaluate them form the perspective of Unification Thought. In the second part, I will focus more on Unification Thought’s original contribution to the discourse on gender, towards a possible reconciliation of the traditional viewpoints.



Men and women have always looked at each other with a degree of fascination that can hardly be found anywhere else (the issues of power, the afterlife, and money come to mind as possible contenders). The opposite sex is perceived to be almost as alien as a different species,[3] and yet (at least potentially) so intimate as to be part of one’s own self.

Yet, curiously, the Western philosophical tradition has had a really hard time grasping the fullness of the masculine-feminine interaction. It is well known that it has, instead, focused its analysis of the human condition on the abstract individual and the mind-body issue. In doing so, it has generally applied what some have called the view of sex (gender) neutrality, i.e., the choice to ignore, often implicitly, whatever differences there are between men and women.

Still, as contemporary Catholic philosopher Prudence Allen shows, the philosophical investigation of human beings as male or female has not been as irrelevant in the history of western thought as generally assumed. The evidence she carefully collected further shows that there is an amazing overlap between the various approaches of past philosophers and those of contemporary feminists and specialists of gender studies. In two long volumes on The Concept of Woman,[4] she notes that the topic has in fact been discussed since the days of the pre-Socratics, and her review of historical opinions until the year 1500 covers nearly 2000 pages. Most of the great philosophers of the past, including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, did include sections on the nature and role of men vs. women in their systems, though not very prominently.

Allen articulates her survey and study into three main categories that cover the limited number of ways in which sexual identity and gender roles can be perceived.[5] She identifies them as: sex unity (men and women are equal and not significantly different), sex polarity (men are different from women and superior to them, or the opposite, called reverse sex polarity), and sex complementarity (men and women are significantly different but of equal value). I have already mentioned a fourth category, sex neutrality, which doesn’t deny the significance of male/female differences, as sex unity does, but chooses to ignore them. Sex neutrality looks very similar to sex unity, but historically it has rather belonged to sex polarity, as we will see.

The most important conclusion of Allen’s investigation is that we are not confronted with a feminist outlook opposing a traditionally patriarchal outlook, but that we rather have three different traditional ways of perceiving men-women issues confronted by three corresponding ways in which feminism responds to them. These attitudes and reactions are largely determined by the way human nature is understood in general terms, in addition to often prejudiced perceptions of the two genders.

In this first part of my paper, I will now try to show how these views (particularly the second one) have not only been largely unfair to women; they have also been incapable of accounting for the fullness of human nature. Two key obstacles appear to have been: (1) an understanding of the human psyche in almost exclusively intellectual terms, and (2) the heavily conflict-oriented perception of the male-female interaction. Often, the two have played into each other’s hands, so to speak. Historically, the fear of emotions experienced as disturbing has undoubtedly contributed to the escape into the realm of reason alone, and a one-sided intellectual approach has often been perceived as depriving women of their real identity.


Sex Unity (Unisex) Theory

The first theory, that of sex unity (also called unisex) was introduced by Plato. According to the sex unity theory, men and women do not only have the same value; in spite of their obvious differences, they are essentially the same (identical) on the level that really matters. For Plato, as we know, that level is the soul. The eternal soul has nothing to do with our body. It is immaterial and its primary quality is to be rational. True philosophers are those who develop their rational soul, and it does not matter if they are men or women. Plato even believed that the same soul can live in a man’s body and in a woman’s body at different times (through reincarnation). Thus, Plato was one of the rare philosophers who had female disciples. But at the same time, he believed that in every other aspect women were inferior to men.

With the partial exception of Aristotle, ancient philosophers have no systematic body of doctrine on this topic. Comments reflecting the mere prejudice of the times can be found alongside reflection based on observation, and even there, the conclusions will often vary depending on the level that is being discussed (ontological, epistemological, ethical, social, etc.) in any particular writing. Accordingly, as Allen has noted, Plato himself is far from consistent in his sex unity approach. However, I must say that I find a remarkable logic in his apparently paradoxical statements, notably in the Phaedo and the Republic. It is worth considering them in some detail.

In the Republic,[6] Plato makes the rather amazing statement that women, just as men, are fit to be become guardians of the state as long as their soul achieves the required level of training and maturity. Since the soul is a sexless entity merely imprisoned in a male or female body, this makes perfect sense from his perspective. Plato then goes on to say that, accordingly, women will have to perform military duties and exercise naked in the stadium alongside the men. He admits that they will, overall, be at a slight disadvantage and even suggests that a soul might be embodied as a woman because of mistakes made in an earlier life as a man. But, in his view, effort can make up for this inferiority.

Plato’s open-minded inclusiveness, remarkable for his time, is based on his idealistic outlook and not on any appreciation of the female gender. Femininity—and masculinity as well—belong to the realm of the body and its emotions and have no ultimate value for him. For practical purposes, in the world of senses, males are superior. In the Phaedo, when Socrates is about to die, his wife Xanthippe is said to utter a cry “as women will.”[7] A little later, the women of his family are summarily dismissed after receiving “a few directions in the presence of Crito,” after which “he returned to us [the male disciples].”[8]> Yet, had she become one of the disciples, Xanthippe could quite conceivably have been included. Being a woman, she was simply less likely to make that step, and indeed she did not. The passage from the Phaedo thus doesn’t really contradict Plato’s sex unity view as expressed in the Republic. Socrates’ wife was excluded because she was not a disciple, not because she was a woman.

In spite of the above, as noted by Marcuse (and others), it is in Plato’s Symposium that we find “the clearest celebration of the sexual origin and substance of the spiritual relations.”[9] In other words, the female-male interaction does have its place in Plato’s philosophy. But, formally at least, that position is subordinate and does not pertain to the ultimate realm of ideas.

As for Jesus’ well-known statement that after our bodily death, in resurrection, we will not marry but be like angels,[10] i.e., sexless, it entirely reflects Plato’s understanding, or at least it is perfectly compatible with it. In conclusion, this position stresses equality at the expense of identity.

Contemporary Feminism

Today’s feminism has taken up the view of sex unity, but in a completely different context. Some feminists have tried to show that, after all, men and women are not really that different or different at all, even in their physical performance (except for childbearing—a big exception!). Differences in areas such as sports are explained as culturally conditioned. In other words, women have been trained to be weaker than men because this is how society has wanted them to be.[11] There is evidence to show that this position has at least limited merits, but this is not our point here. In some way, the feminine condition is equated with weakness and inferiority, and rejected. This particular feminist outlook corresponds to what Michel Foucault had in mind when he said that feminism, as early as the 19th century, was a “movement of de-sexualization,” a refusal by women to be pinned down to their sex by a rigid assignation.[12]

Most interestingly, this feminist position affirms sex unity based on the body – the exact opposite from Plato’s position. But, as in Plato’s case, one of the key consequences is a claim that women should be able to serve in the military on the same footing as men.

The Viewpoint of Unification Thought

In Unification Thought, the universe, including humans, is seen as possessing two sets of dual characteristics existing in harmonious and complementary oneness: first, mind and body or internal nature and external form;[13] next, male and female (yang and yin).[14] The first set is seen as primary, the second set as secondary: our most fundamental identity is as a human being; next comes the fact that, inevitably, we are either man or woman.

To some degree, this is compatible with Plato’s sex unity theory: the most fundamental human identity is not specifically male or female. But one cannot exist without the other. Though being human comes prior[15] to being a man or a woman, it cannot be conceived apart from being determined as either male or female. Second, the mind, as well as the body, carries the male and female character. Thus, Plato’s idea of a sexless human soul is incompatible with Unification Thought theory. It still reveals Plato’s greatness in being the first to isolate the soul as a separate, eternal entity in his system, but more importantly, here, it is also symptomatic of the problem-ridden legacy of his dualism that undervalues both emotions and physical existence.


Sex Polarity Theory

The second view to appear historically with any consistency was first articulated by Aristotle and is diametrically opposite to Plato’s sex unity view. Allen calls it sex polarity,[16] the view that there indeed is a significant difference in the sense that man is superior and woman inferior. Aristotle was interested in plain reality and not in the world of ideas. His views on woman’s nature are very conventional and down to earth. They correspond to what has been the standard understanding in most places and at most times. Aristotle gave it the final stamp of his authority in the late middle ages, notably via Aquinas.[17]

Aristotle has been most systematic, most influential, and most consistently wrong in at least some of his assessments (in this case). His statements on the medical aspect of reproduction ignore correct insights made by pre-Socratics centuries before him. Furthermore, with his genius for systematizing philosophical thinking, he built an enduring foundation for the views that infuriate even moderate defenders of women’s rights today (and all of my students). But he has at least one merit even in this context. By creating four overall categories under which the respective qualities of men and women could be compared he introduced an essential question. In what respect are men and women equal or unequal?

Aristotle distinguishes four levels or categories. I have briefly summarized them below:[18]

1. Metaphysical Principle (what is our ultimate nature?)

The female is the contrary of the male

  • Man represents form [Heaven], woman represents matter [Earth]
  • Man is active, woman is passive
  • Man is hotter, woman is colder


2. Natural Principle

The female is a deformed male (Aquinas: a ‘misbegotten’ [occasionatus] male)

  • Man has seed, woman has no seed; she is little more than an incubator (compare this to the otherwise common glorification of motherhood)
  • Male is the prime type creation, woman is a deviation/derivative
  • Males achieve a greater perfection later; woman reach a lesser perfection sooner


3. Epistemological Principle (the perspective of understanding and knowledge)

Woman has a lesser rational faculty than man

  • Man has more rational control over his soul than woman does
  • Man’s wisdom allows him to make rational deductions; woman’s reason is enough for her to accept true opinions


4. Ethical Principle

Woman has a lesser measure of virtue than man

  • Man naturally rules, woman obeys
  • Man is naturally superior, woman inferior
  • A virtuous man speaks publicly, a virtuous woman keeps silent


The way they are expressed, these criteria leave no doubt about the fact that they are meant to indicate inferiority in value on the part of woman. In short, identity is stressed at the expense of equality. However, this viewpoint not only has a merit over sex unity in that it attempts to offer a realistic view of differences; it also hints at the possibility of a view where difference in position would replace difference in value.

Contemporary Feminism

Modern feminism, on the other hand, has often presented women as the more loving and caring gender, as opposed to men, seen as ambitious and ruthlessly performance-oriented. This and similar views have been called reverse sex polarity: women are superior and men are inferior—not in terms of power, but morally. Contemporary feminists like Gloria Steinem or Carol Gilligan give a definition of what men should be like that only emphasizes female traits. By this measurement, men will always lag behind women. You could say that this is the law of karma.

The Viewpoint of Unification Thought

The view that one gender is superior to the other in value is contrary to Unification Thought. Additionally, the ways in which man or woman have been seen as superior to the other in specific ways are often based on ignorance and prejudice. In the Unification Thought perspective, the gender-specific differences predispose men and women to assume different overall positions relative to one another, which will be discussed in the second part of this paper. Also, the idea that there are differences, including those that imply superiority and inferiority on specific points, is accepted as reasonable. The issue then becomes a matter of judgment.

For instance, the notion that females are more caring and nurturing than males seems to be widely accepted in the West and even in other cultures.[19] Historically, that may very well have been true in many cases. But if women are seen to be naturally caring in a world dominated by males naturally exercising an abstract and heartless sense of justice filled with rules and directions, such a view would be clearly contrary to the Unification Thought perspective. But this ethical theme can just as well be treated in a different way, by trying to distinguish between a typically male way and a typically female way of showing equal concern. This would be quite acceptable to Unification Thought and it also leads us to the next type.


Sex Complementarity

This is probably the most appealing view to most of us today. It takes into account both the obvious differences between man and woman and the fact that there is no justification for concluding that one is superior to the other or more valuable. It satisfies our sense of justice, but also our sense or realism. There are some problems, though, as we will see.

This view was introduced with considerable boldness by Hildegard von Bingen, who was roughly a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas and spent much of her life as the abbess of a monastery near Frankfurt, Germany. She has recently been rediscovered and become a darling of the New Age movement. She is appreciated for her nutritional advice, her expertise with herbs, her poems and music, her spiritual visions, her holistic outlook on life and, of course, doing all this as a woman in the middle ages. She is not only the first, but also the only thinker in the West to have presented a systematic defense of the sex complementarity position. According to Allen,

Hildegard of Bingen emerged as the first philosopher to articulate a complete theory of sex complementarity. Although some previous Christian philosophers, such as Augustine, Boethius, and Anselm, had defended sex complementarity in certain isolated categories… Hildegard was the first to develop rationale for this theory across all four categories of the concept of women in relation to man. For this reason, Hildegard is rightly considered as the foundress of the sex complementarity position.[20]

Here is a brief summary of Hildegard’s positions:

  • God is both masculine and feminine (this is definitely not a traditional view, but it has become quite common in feminist theology today).
  • Men and women reflect this nature in their identity, both in soul and in body (this offers a justification of sex complementarity: if woman as well as men reflect one aspect of the divine nature, they are both different and equal; their natures both originate in God).
  • Men and women both have within themselves masculine and feminine elements (this is also a fairly common understanding today, and it also corresponds to insights of the oriental thought of yin and yang)
  • Unlike thinkers such as Aristotle, who saw male qualities as superior to female ones (e.g., rational vs. irrational), Hildegard saw that the two had complementary characteristics: male qualities (strength, courage, justice) and female ones (mercy, penance, grace) are morally equal.


Hildegard believed that human beings reflect the masculine and feminine nature of God in their spirit as well as in their body. In that respect, it is significant that Hildegard was not only an accomplished intellectual, she was first and foremost a spiritual person who claimed to have received most of her insights from spiritual experiences (and the observation of nature). That alone made her less likely to see men and women in terms of intellectual abstractions, as philosophers usually have. St. John Chrysostom[21] came to very similar conclusions through his experiences in pastoral care, changing from a firm sex polarity view and defense of virginity. He therefore became known as the great apologist of Christian marriage. In the 18th century, Emanuel Swedenborg added another dimension: husband and wife remain united even when the pass on to the other world.[22] Thus, quite naturally, the sex complementarity view leads from general considerations on the nature and mutual relationship of women and men to that of marriage as the culmination of their relationship.

The view of sex complementarity indeed seems to make obvious sense: different but equal, and needing each other. Still, it is not that self-evident. If one considers that men are best at performing lofty tasks, while women are best at cleaning the house, saying that they are “different but equal” won’t mean much. The question is then to define how man and woman are different (beyond the obvious) and why their different qualities make them of equal value.

As Prudence Allen has correctly observed, the sex (or gender) complementarity view is particularly vulnerable, as it depends on a delicate balance and can easily degenerate into one of the other views. “The reason for this potential for disintegration comes from the difficulty in remaining in the fundamental tension generated by holding simultaneously to the two main premises of the theory: equal dignity and significant differentiation.”[23] In other words, if too much emphasis is put on equality, we reach a situation where the very qualities that make a woman or a man are negated (unisex), as we have seen, for example, with Plato. On the other hand, if there is an exclusive emphasis on the differences between the genders and their equality disappears in the background, we again have sex polarity. This will also happen if equality between man and woman is asserted, but not clearly defined or justified.

In conclusion, identity and equality are both stressed in sex complementarity. One objection that has been made is that they are stressed at the expense of autonomy, or the free choice of one’s identity, since complementarity implies that men and women are bound to specific gender traits.

Contemporary Feminism

Even academic writings on men-women issues tend to be polemical in nature because of the emotions involved and they tend to lean, even slightly, towards one or the other form of polarity. The sex complementarity view in many ways has the same destiny as all peacemakers – eventually they will be appreciated and praised, but in the meantime they are attacked by all sides. In particular, some feel uncomfortable at the idea that, equal as they may be, men and women are here seen as bound to a distinctly male or female nature. For this reason maybe, while some feminist theologians have attempted to revise the patriarchal image of God in the sense of male and female Supreme Being, others have rejected that idea in favor of the image of an undifferentiated being transcending gender identity altogether.[24]

For similar reasons, some have rejected the emphasis on marriage that seems to derive naturally from the complementarity position. In their essay, The Myth of the Complete Person,[25] Mary Ann and Joseph Barnhart insist that “the myth of personal wholeness drains away energy that is needed for the pursuit of more realistic expectations and freedom; and second, that the myth of completeness is a remythologized dogma having disguised religious roots and overtones.” And further: “A more realistic view of marriage requires that we rid ourselves of the myth of completeness through a conjugal partner, for to be human is to be incomplete.” Here, the clash is between the notions of design and destiny implied by the complementarity view, and that of a totally free personal choice.

The Viewpoint of Unification Thought

Unification Thought is in full agreement with Hildegard’s views as expressed above.[26] However, the relevance of her explanations goes beyond a simple compatibility. These views include several observations that play a key role in Unification Thought and will be discussed in the second part of this paper. At the same time, this will be the place to consider whether, nevertheless, there are questions that can only be solved by going beyond these views.

What Hildegard had in her time is the firm foundation of a belief system that included God as ultimate reference. Though her particular conclusion (God is both male and female) was not generally shared, it does have a biblical foundation in Genesis (in his image… male and female[27]). A few centuries later, that absolute reference was lost in philosophical discourse. By returning to the use of such a frame of reference, Unification Thought innovates and the question will be its justification for doing so, which is a topic in itself.


Sex Neutrality

We have just discussed the three main ways of looking at the relationship between man and woman. But, as in the case of the three musketeers, the three are actually four. And the fourth, who was added to the three sometime along the way, became the dominant figure. In gender theory, a fourth theory, that of sex neutrality, silently took its place alongside the classic three and eventually dominated the landscape almost completely until the 1960s. Allen’s position on this is corroborated by a wealth of evidence.

With the emergence of modernism, the emphasis on reason alone led to the abandonment of the Aristotelian-Aquinian sex polarity at least in theoretical thought. The replacement was sex neutrality. Unlike sex unity, that position does not specify how and why man and woman are essentially identical, thus equal. By just ignoring the difference, it leaves the door much more open to assumptions on what the neutral “human nature” actually is.

The sex neutrality attitude generally rests on the assumption that both men and women represent the “human being,” but that men do so more eminently than women. Reasoning and the higher spheres of the mind were considered to be essentially man’s domain, and what applies to man also applies, by extension and to some degree, to woman. She is the same, simply less so.

Contemporary Feminism

This issue has been taken up by contemporary feminism. As expressed by Sandra Harding, “a persistent feminist concern has been with the modern coding of neutrality as masculine.” [28] In other words, when considering the nature of a “standard” human being, i.e., what makes us human regardless of sex, our culture actually visualizes a masculine being. Women are then considered as derivative, in comparison with that supposedly neutral being that is actually masculine. So-called gender feminism today does the same thing with a reverse hidden bias.[29] But the main result of sex neutrality is that gender-related questions have been largely left out of the philosophical debate.

At least since the 1960s, of course, gender issues have become a very prominent concern in today’s culture, but not so much on a philosophical level (if for no other reason, because the golden age of systematic philosophy belongs to the past). Gender issues are usually approached from a cultural, social, human rights, and even theological perspective, often with a strong polemical overtone. Of course, philosophical discussions are not entirely absent. But as Russian scholar Nina Yulina writes in a 1992 article, really convincing results of a feminist look at philosophical issues are yet to emerge.[30] For this to happen, she lists two necessary conditions: the emergence of a new paradigm and that of seminal figures.

The Viewpoint of Unification Thought

Descartes’ cogito and Kant’s fascination with intellectual intuition are symbolic of the nearly exclusive focus on reason that accompanies the sex-neutrality frame of mind. But even more recent philosophies, including most existentialist philosophers, speak of the dread or angst that people feel for being “thrown into this world” in a sexually undifferentiated way. In L’Etre et le Néant, Sartre, who himself deals extensively with sexuality, makes the following observation: Sexuality is usually described as a “contingent modality of psychic life…” “This is why existential philosophies have not believed it necessary to concern themselves with sexuality. Heidegger, in particular, does not make the slightest allusion to it in his existential analytic with the results that his ‘Dasein’ appears to us as asexual.”[31]

The need to grow out of this kind of asexual perspective is one of Unification Thought’s priorities. Still, sex neutrality is acceptable when it merely removes the male / female connotation from its considerations in specific cases. Even though the male and female characteristics are omnipresent in the universe, this does not mean that every situation and every issue should be viewed in terms of gender differences. In many life situations, most actually, individuals act and are looked upon maybe not as neutral beings, but in terms of their underlying humanity, rather than in terms of the male or female coloring that they bring into the picture.

Most articles of law in most contemporary countries do just that. Except for some legal issues that do require a distinction along gender lines (e.g., the custody of children in case of divorce and generally everything that directly relates to the male-female interaction), the law considers all parties in sex neutral terms, and it is justified to do so. Articles of law that, for example, consider the murder of a man to be worse as that of a woman, are rightly considered contrary to human rights, because they deny equal value to man and woman. And the judge’s gender does not affect the validity of a verdict.

Another case of justified sex neutrality can be found in the many situations where men and women find themselves involved not in terms of their gender, but in terms of their function and responsibility. In that case, according to Unification Thought, the relationship is that between a principal element (the boss) and a subordinate element (the employee), where it doesn’t matter whether one or the other is male or female.[32] On a practical level, this leaves many questions open, questions that will have to be discussed elsewhere.


The Unification Thought Perspective on Sex and Gender

What is the position of Unification Thought in the discussion of sex and gender according to the above typology, and how does its new system of thought offer an innovative contribution of its own? It has not been easy to immediately answer either question. What follows is in no way meant to be a comprehensive overview and it will inevitably remain on the level of conceptual clarification. It will not include too many excursions into the realm of practical applications and consequences, something that would very much deserve to be discussed separately.

Unification Thought and Unificationism in general put a great emphasis on the men-women relationship in terms of marriage and family life. The more basic issue of how man and woman relate to each other in general terms receives less emphasis. Man and woman are described by using the yin and yang symbolism in ways that are generally compatible with Eastern thought. Western thought is not taken into consideration or discussed on this topic in existing texts (contrary to traditional philosophical issues like ontology, ethics or epistemology). This is not surprising when one considers how little attention men-women issues have received in the western philosophical debate. And, of course, Unification Thought does not take into consideration any of the developments that have originated with the feminist movement, since the primary texts of Unification Thought (and the Divine Principle) predate the feminism of the sixties and seventies.[33] New Essentials of Unification Thought published in 2005[34] partly compensates for this in an Appendix that offers a brief discussion of feminism.

On the other hand, Rev. Moon has made numerous references to the phenomenon in his speeches in an often not very politically correct way. His followers are used to hearing him say that American women are “bossy” and dominant, and that men in the USA are often reduced to the role of their servants. In contrast, Rev. Moon stresses the fundamental correctness of the traditional Confucianist family structure of Korea and the value of clear positions in human relationships. At the same time, he has been equally persistent in encouraging developments that go very much in the sense of some feminist views, in particular emphasizing women’s superiority as peacemakers in ways reminiscent of gender feminism.[35] The origin of this dual perspective, I believe, is to be found in Unification Thought theory itself.

1. The Dual Orientation of Unification Thought

In my eyes, the genius of Unification Thought is that it combines directional and relational thinking, i.e., it emphasizes both direction or position, and the correlative relationship between complementary elements of equal status and value. The first factor is compatible with hierarchical structure and order (normative thinking), the second with democratic rights and freedom. The first can be found in sex or gender polarity, even if in a deformed way; the second is at the center of the idea of sex complementarity. Properly applied, the first can introduce a redeeming element in the generally unfair view of sex polarity, and through this it can provide a necessary link between this view and that of sex complementarity.

Before an attempt can be made to offer a synthesis between these two views, the notion of equality and some related notions have to be considered from a Unificationist perspective. Then, the notions of yin and yang, so central to the entire debate, will be examined in some detail. Finally, some properly theological reflection will be needed, because in Unificationism the dual natures of the masculine and feminine are seen as rooted in the Original Being, God.

2. Position and Equality

In discussing the concept of equality, Paul Tillich concludes that the ancient Greek notion of equality was based on the idea of natural right, which in turn was based on reason: “Humans are equal in their rational character. Empirically, they are unequal.”[36] This excellently sums up what we have said above about Plato and the sex unity view. In contrast, Tillich continues, the religious notion of equality is based on a divine judgment that is arbitrary. Nevertheless, he says, there is something similar between the two: “There is a point in human beings that gives God the incentive to consider them as equal.”[37] For Unification Thought, that point is the capacity to produce and experience joy by giving and receiving genuine love.[38] New Essentials of Unification Thought calls it an equality of joy, personality, and gratitude. It is noteworthy that, in this new text, a short section on equality from the perspective of feminist claims has been added. These claims are acknowledged as legitimate from a human rights perspective. In the terminology of gender studies, the claims of equity feminism are considered valid. At the same time, full equality of position is seen as neither possible nor desirable. E.g., it makes no sense for man to claim a share in the experience of motherhood.

A key notion emphasized in Unification Thought and related to position is that of subject and object (a somewhat misleading translation from the Korean original). Subject partner and object partner have been suggested as more appropriate terms, because they stress that both sides participate in the relationship as equal partners and that the word “object” does not imply any idea of objectification (as in sex object). In any case, the core idea is that give-and-take action, the mutual exchange of love and energy and the basic law of the universe, always takes place between two partners, one being overall in the initiating position (the subject), the other being in the position of responding (the object). The resulting unity, in which both elements share equality in value, is the focus of the entire process.

3. Intellect and Heart

The notion of equality in love leads straight into the core of Unification Thought’s vision and it can also easily lead outside the scope of the present essay. But it is not possible to properly understand Unification Thought’s perspective on men-women relationships without at least partly introducing the notion of Heart in that context. Heart, as the irrepressible “emotional impulse to create joy through love”[39] means the most fundamental quality of the Original Being (God), an element that underlies all the others, including the attributes of sungsang / hyungsang and yang / yin, both in God and human beings. It is expressed through the joint action of intellect, emotion, and will. Thus, views that uniquely emphasize the rational aspect of human nature or see reality as essentially rational fail to grasp reality, and that of course applies to interaction between men and women. Heart also implies direction (the realization of love) and freedom (once love is realized).

As a core component of the Unification worldview, Heart is a notion that needs to be explained and justified beyond these few lines. So does the Unification Thought teaching about a spiritual reality that transcends both the material reality and that of mere ideas. For the purpose of this paper, their brief description will at least offer an incentive for further reflection. I will now consider some particular aspects of yin and yang in Unification Thought, as they represent the relationship between the masculine and feminine.

4. Yang and Yin in Unification Thought

The section on yang and yin in Unification Thought’s chapter on the Theory of the Original Image[40] states that there is an apparently small but significant difference between the notions of yang and yin in Eastern thought and in Unification Thought. In short, in Eastern thought, yang and yin are sometimes seen as substances (e.g., the sun is yang), sometimes as attributes, though the relational nature of the two is generally recognized (something is yang or yin only in relation to another thing that is more or less yang or yin). Unification Thought speaks of the ambiguity of Eastern thought. In Unification Thought, on the other hand, yang and yin are clearly considered attributes and not entities.

Thus, in Eastern philosophy, there are many instances where man is equated with yang and woman with yin. In Unification Thought, however, man is called a substantial being with yang nature, and woman is called a substantial being with yin nature. On the surface, the way Eastern philosophy considers man and woman and the way Unification Thought does may appear similar, but they are actually entirely different. In Unification Thought, man and woman both possess sungsang and hyungsang characteristics, as well as yang and yin characteristics, but only on the sungsang level are man and woman qualitatively different in terms of yang and yin. Man’s yang and yin nature is a “masculine” type of yang and yin, and woman’s yang and yin nature is a “feminine” type of yang and yin. Thus, man, carrying both a yang and yin nature, is a yang-type united body of sungsang and hyungsang, while woman, likewise carrying both a yang and yin nature, is a yin-type united body of sungsang and hyungsang. Simply stated, man can be considered as a substantial yang being and woman as a substantial yin being.

On the level of hyungsang, the difference between man and woman is a quantitative difference of yang and yin. Indeed, on the level of hyungsang (the body) both man and woman have yang elements as well as yin elements, but man has more yang elements and woman has more yin elements.[41]

Rather than discussing the complexities of Eastern thought or the above evaluation, I will try to highlight the contribution of Unification Thought.

Like all prime things, masculinity and femininity are difficult if not impossible to define, except in the form of analogy. Contemporary psychology comes to a similar conclusion.[42] Yin yang thought has been given as an example of correlative thinking using associations between clusters of concepts or images (analogy) rather than the notion of rational causation.[43] In yin /yang thought, the analogy is that of the sunny (yang) and shady (yin) side of the mountain. Diagrams like the one found on p. 131 of New Essentials try to clarify what is involved in these two terms. Unfortunately, at first sight at least, they are not very helpful, as they maintain some of the ambiguity of traditional yin yang philosophy. When good memory, pleasantness, and joy (yang) are compared to forgetfulness, unpleasantness, and sorrow (yin), the impression that the two also have something to do with good and evil is maintained, even if that is not the desired outcome. In particular, analogies involving light and darkness, as in the original sunny and shady side of the hill, carry a feeling of imbalance between the two, though everyone knows that night is as inevitable and necessary as daytime.[44] A more careful or “updated” choice of words could perhaps improve the outcome, but what is needed is certainly not a cover-up.

Two comments can be made in this regard. Not only is night the necessary counterpart of day and darkness that of light. They are also more than the mere absence or lack of their opposite. Night is not just missing daytime. It has its own quality and atmosphere. The hollow nature of the valley makes it fertile and, if anything, more useful to life than the protruding nature of the mountain. Even the capacity to forget is more than the inability to remember. It is the necessary capacity not to keep everything in mind all the time and thus be overwhelmed by unneeded data. And winter is needed for living organisms to recover. Unification Thought also uses terms such as active/passive, subject/object, and initiating/responsive that show the correlative nature between two essential elements. Although it is easy to construe them in a way that makes yin appear as derivative or even suggests a deficiency, to do so would certainly be a misunderstanding. If yin is part of God’s Original Image, it can hardly be derivative or the mark of deficiency. Yin is not to yang what non-being is to being in Western ontologies.

Next, as has been explained, yang and yin are relative attributes of existing entities, and not entities themselves. The way they manifest themselves varies considerably depending on the level of development of the particular entity that is considered. In humans, they take on the role of masculinity and femininity where they both reach their full dimension much more visibly than in matters of memory and the like.

Most interestingly, in the above passage, masculine and feminine appear in the expressions “masculine” and “feminine” type yang and yin respectively. It almost appears as if masculinity and femininity were something different from either yin or yang. Later, however, masculine being is again equated with “yang-type united body” and “substantial yang being.” In the chapter on Ontology of Essentials, there is further elaboration on this theme, particularly the notion of qualitative difference on the level of sungsang (mind). It is again worth quoting:

In contrast, the difference between man and woman with regard to the Sungsang (i.e., intellect, emotion, and will) is a qualitative difference. As explained earlier, both man and woman have yang and yin in the intellect, yang and yin in the emotion, and yang and yin in the will. There are, however, qualitative differences between man and woman with regard to yang and yin. For example, men and women are different in their expression of joy, which is a yang aspect of emotion, and they are also different in their expression of sorrow, which is a yin aspect of emotion. Figuratively speaking, this difference can be compared to that of vocal music. In the high vocal ranges, tenor (male) and soprano (female) correspond to yang; in the low vocal ranges, bass (male) and alto (female) correspond to yin. In each of these cases, there is a qualitative difference. As shown through this comparison, the difference between yang and yin in the Sungsang is a qualitative difference, and therefore, masculinity appears in man and femininity appears in woman.[45]

It is easy to see that in the analogy of, e.g., male tenor and female soprano there is also a paradoxical quantitative difference (sopranos are quantitatively higher than male tenors, at least most of the time). The main implication, however, is that there is a different ‘feeling’ to the two, an essential qualitative difference between what, in that case, is a male yang and a female yang. I am not able here to go much further in this analysis, except for one important (though tentatively formulated) conclusion. Human femininity and masculinity (the sungsang aspect is fully developed in the human mind or spirit only) are products of yang-yin interaction but cannot merely be reduced to either yin or yang. They are intrinsic qualities that cannot be reduced to anything else and can only be described and intuitively perceived. They most definitely cannot be reduced to each other in the sense of one being a variation or deviation of the other.

Even more importantly, in Unification Thought, yang and yin are seen not as primary attributes (let alone entities) but as secondary attributes of the primary attributes of sungsang and hyungsang (in short, mind and body). Thus, as we have seen above, neither man nor woman is entirely defined by their male or female status. They are human first. This view has the potential to reconcile the obvious need to acknowledge the specific identities of man and woman, which account for the richness of their being, and the refusal to have either man or woman pinned down to the limitations of their particular sex or gender.

To this, Unification Thought adds a theological consideration that is, at the same time, a fundamental element of its philosophical construct: God, the Original Being, has the attributes of yang and of yin. One would expect this to lead to a self-evident culmination of the sex complementarity view, along the lines of Hildegard’s thought. And, to some degree, that is the case. But the notion of God as the “Heavenly Father,” also included in Unification doctrine, stands in a paradoxical tension to it.

5. The Theological Dimension

a) God as both masculine and feminine

The first chapter of Unification Thought texts is entitled Theory of the Original Image and describes the essential attributes of the Divine Being: sungsang (internal character, the antecedent of the human mind) and hyungsang (external form, the antecedent of the human body), as well as yang and yin, the antecedents of masculinity and femininity. If men and women and the entire cosmos made up of yin and yang elements reflect an original being and creator (God) who embodies the dual characteristics of masculinity and femininity, it becomes impossible to deny equal value to both. This was quite precisely the understanding of Hildegard.

b) Heaven and Earth: God as the masculine subject partner

But Unification Thought and Rev. Moon’s own statements also relate to a long tradition of thought, in both east and west, that sees man and woman in terms of the analogy of Heaven and Earth, God and the universe, spirit and body. In Christian thought, Jesus is the bridegroom and humankind the bride. Vladimir Solovyov, a major 19th century Russian philosopher, who considers the complete human person to be the union of man and woman and is generally thought to glorify femininity, is nevertheless criticized by feminists because he sees God as the masculine He that is central, femininity being represented by Wisdom (Sophia) or the World Soul, much along the lines of ancient wisdom literature.[46] What we have here is a combination of complementarity, both elements being essential to each other, and polarity, because they stand in a vertical relationship where one has clear precedence over the other.[47]

Similarly, Unification Thought sees the relationship between God and humankind as that between sungsang and hyungsang, humankind and creation as a whole being an outward manifestation of God as the internal, invisible being. The most recent text, New Essentials of Unification Thought, includes an appendix on some of Rev. Moon’s key recent teachings. In the section entitled “Significance of the Four Great Realms of Heart and the Three Great Kingships,”[48] Sang Hun Lee states that the relationship between husband and wife is “like that between God and the created world.” He further clarifies that the relationship between husband and wife “is that of subject and object, in the sense of sungsang and hyungsang.” Man, then seems to have a natural affinity with sungsang and woman with hyungsang. This reflects the often-heard assertion that woman, notably through child-bearing, is earth-bound when compared to man.

This indeed introduces an element of vertical hierarchy into what is essentially a horizontal relationship between two equals, man and woman. In an article entirely dedicated to this question[49] and based essentially on recent speeches by Rev. Moon, Steven Nomura goes even further, indicating that God was the “masculine subject partner” even before creation, [50] i.e., that he was masculine before the world existed as a female counterpart, a statement that can also be found in the Divine Principle.[51] Accordingly, following a well-established tradition, Rev. Moon always addresses God as Heavenly Father.[52]

In his most recent public speech, though, Rev. Moon also refers to God as our “Parent”[53] and, even more significantly, he calls God the “True Father and True Mother” of humankind.[54] In the same vein, and in the same context as the preceding statements, New Essentials affirms that in prayer God may equally be called Mother or Father.[55] The confrontation between such opposing statements could be continued indefinitely, the outcome of any search being chiefly determined by the kind of statements one is looking for.

As a primary source of spiritual guidance, Rev. Moon cannot be expected to explicitly discuss how each of his particular statement fits with the others, though he often does so. What is more surprising is that the systematic explanations of Unification Thought texts do not make an attempt to show how apparently conflicting statements found practically on the same page are to be logically reconciled. As it turns out, I believe that such an explanation would precisely offer the link between sex complementarity and sex polarity announced earlier.

c) Heaven and Earth in the unique perspective of Unification Thought

The Heaven and Earth comparison sheds a pejorative light on women in a context where Earth and the notions associated to it, such as that of flesh, are devalued as compared to God and the world of spirit. This is not the case in Unification Thought, where Heaven, standing for origin, naturally calls for its complement Earth, standing for fulfillment. If anything, Earth could even be seen as the more substantial partner, Heaven appearing as a discarnate element devoid of real substance, much along the lines of materialism. By the same token, women are often glorified for their role in motherhood, as opposed to the aloof and unessential role of fathers. Unification Thought, however, stresses the essential value of both.

Even though the perfection of the Original Being, God, is unequivocally affirmed (unlike in Hegel’s philosophy or Process theology), Rev. Moon will often say that, in a sense, God will not be complete until his human partner has reached perfection and oneness with him. Though God is and has been perfect alone throughout eternity, he feels the irresistible impulse to share his being with an object of his love. Only through give-and-take with a partner of equal value can he experience the joy of love. The created world, or Earth, may thus not be an original being like God, but it is intentionally pre-existing in God’s heart and only its actual appearance means fulfillment for God. Additionally, as reported by Nomura, Rev. Moon has on occasion stated that God can be considered to have the equivalent of a male sexual organ. But Rev. Moon very often stresses that the wife is the owner of her husband’s sexual organ, and vice versa. As a result, the understanding should be that God’s “organ” belongs to his Heavenly Bride, not to him—whatever practical sense one can make of this expression. It is thus impossible to make a case for male supremacy out of such statements.

It is also important to note that in the entire discussion so far, man and woman have been discussed in terms of their originally intended nature and not in terms of the deformed identities they have taken on in human society. Discussing this here would require the import of a specific theological debate that cannot find its place in this paper. But an important implication must be noted. From the Unificationist perspective, the way man has traditionally stood in a dominant position over woman does not express a genuine masculine nature. Man even has to find his way back to original masculinity by going through woman (this is similar to Peter Abelard’s understanding that women are inferior to man in nature, but superior in response to grace). The important conclusion here is that patriarchy, in its traditional meaning at least, seems quiet inappropriate to describe the man-woman relationship.

We can now attempt to approach the biggest conceptual difficulty, that of explaining the male nature of an Original Being that represents the quintessential unity of masculinity and femininity. If maleness is defined as a yang nature that is outgoing and active, while femaleness corresponds to responsiveness and receptiveness, it is difficult to imagine how God could be symbolized as anything but a male being. But, at the same time, God will naturally be drawn towards the appearance of a partner of love that can similarly be symbolized as a feminine being, Creation and its central element, humankind.

In humankind, the ultimate “target” of God’s love, the being that most fully reflects God’s love and beauty is woman, the essential yin being, while man is in a position to express God’s initiating love to her. Man and woman are thus in a position of absolute equality and their goal is to fully embody love, but the process that leads to this result is a dynamic one that follows a clear direction. Initially, man (Adam) thus stands in God’s position, while woman (Eve) stands in the position of “God’s wife.”[56] Once man and woman come together in perfection, they can stand as horizontal True Parents, and at last, through them God can stand as the vertical True Parent, or True Father and True Mother.[57]

6. Complementary Polarity

If Unification Thought is guilty of anything in the eyes of feminism, it is therefore that it affirms clear, distinct basic (starting) positions for man and woman, and defines these in terms of subject and object. It is not in any way that the two are unequal in value, nor is it that their stated equality is not well supported by its theoretical framework. Rev. Moon may say that a wife can only be happy and secure when “revolving” around her husband,” but in the same speech he also says that without his wife he would be nothing[58] and he increasingly stresses the equal status of his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon.

The image of a circular motion, or revolution, finds a good illustration in the instance of a dancing couple, or even better that of an ice-skating couple. The pair does not evolve in an even-handed way. The male dancer is the central pole providing support and stability but, unless he is Fred Astaire, everyone looks at the woman’s elegant movements, not at him. Eventually, though, the lasting impression is created by their unity where positions melt away. Similarly, this is how Rev. Moon describes the result of the successful union between a man and a woman: “When they [husband and wife] are united in love and united with each other, there is no distinction of subject and object. They become one body.”[59] And: “The whole universe [in spirit world] will look like a man and a woman combined.”[60] Unification Thought, however, does not consider human individuals to be male or female elements to be absorbed into a higher unit, the couple or family. In its perspective, individual achievement and maturity are an essential and lasting requirement.

As a result of this dual approach, one could perhaps speak of complementary polarity to describe the position of Unification Thought. The notion of equal value is maintained and even reinforced by a clear vision of fulfillment, but the misleading symmetry suggested even by the yin and yang symbol is replaced by polarity,[61] suggesting a north pole and a south pole of clearly distinct positions and, beyond that image as well, the idea of asymme­try as the source of movement. The advantage over the simple position of sex complementarity is that equal value between man and woman is not merely stated. There is a real attempt to explain it in its genesis and achievement.

The process leading husband and wife to reach such a level of harmony and unity through love and mutual respect is an issue that would deserve to be examined in detail elsewhere. It would also be necessary to discuss how man and woman’s actual nature correspond to the positions assigned to them in the framework of unification thought. Other open questions include the ways in which the Unification movement is struggling with the implementation of the very guidelines offered by the worldview of its founder. More generally, the way male and female identity should or should not be a factor in human activities beyond family relations will have to be addressed repeatedly if any satisfactory conclusion is to be reached.



[1] Sun Myung Moon, “God’s Ideal Family: The Model for World Peace,” Universal Peace Federation, 2005, p. 2. This speech also appears as “God’s Ideal Family and the Kingdom of the Peaceful, Ideal World” (2006).

[2] Unification Thought here means the systematic elaboration of Rev. Moon’s philosophy as expressed in various books and documents initially published under the direction of Dr. Sang Hun Lee. These publications were prepared in close cooperation with Rev. Moon himself and it is assumed here that they express his views unless specifically indicated, though they have obvious shortcomings. Other sources, including Rev. Moon’s direct words, have also been considered, but each type of source has its own limitations. Rev. Moon’s words to his close followers can be expected to most actually reflect his intimate thoughts but, leaving aside the issue of unreliable transcription and faulty translation, Rev. Moon often speaks in short, cryptic statements and unfinished sentences, with barely audible asides, and this is also the case with his most important explanations. This inevitably calls for interpretation based on understanding. The public speeches are carefully written and edited, but it can legitimately be argued that they only contain what Rev. Moon feels needs to be said at a particular time to a very wide audience. The Divine Principle is an essential historical document, but it lacks sophistication in its philosophical analysis and Rev. Moon himself has acknowledged that it is incomplete. Additionally, biblical quotes used in this work are often included with obvious apologetic intent and not based on a scholarly evaluation. For instance, Paul’ words on the issue of men, women and the family are introduced to show biblical support for the views of the Divine Principle. But in the contemporary discussion on gender, the point has often been made that on this question, Paul represents a regression compared to Jesus’ own teachings, and it has even been suggested that the words attributed to Paul are not really his own and have been inserted under his name by proponents of patriarchy to lend credence to their reactionary views. Consequently, it should be clear that no printed source per se can be taken as absolute and that personal judgment is always needed.

[3] When discussing gender terminology in his lectures on anthropology, Kant actually refers to humankind as genus, and man and woman as two species. Die philosophischen Hauptvorlesungen Immanuel Kants (München: Rösl & Cie., 1924), p. 332.

[4] Prudence Allen, The Concept of Woman. The Aristotelian Revolution (750 BC – 1250 AD) (Montréal: Eden Press, 1985); The Concept of Woman, vol II: The Early Humanist Revolution (1250 – 1500) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2002). This section is largely based on reflection and research undertaken in preparation for a University of Bridgeport course entitled “Men, Women, Issues”, which was built around the typology developed by Allen.

[5] When Prudence Allen wrote the first volume of her Concept of Woman in 1985, she used the terms of sex unity, sex polarity, and so on. In the second volume, published fifteen years later, in 2000, she uses gender unity, gender polarity, and so on. She justifies the change in terminology by explaining that the second volume covers a more advanced period of history where cultural identity had developed sufficiently to require the use of gender, rather than sex. Another explanation would be that, in the meantime, she had felt compelled to use the more “appropriate” terminology. However, she makes it clear that, for her, sex and gender are inseparably linked, and she makes a good point: if one considers that sex and gender are two separate entities, this implies that one considers the human person to be split right in the middle, between a mind and a body that have nothing to do with each other. Most of us would refuse to take such a position.

[6] Republic, 19 (445b-457b)

[7] Phaedo, 2 (59c-70c)

[8] Ibid., (115a-118a)

[9] Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966 [1955]), pp. 210-11.

[10] Matthew 22:30.

[11] Ruth Hubbard, The Politics of Women’s Biology. (Rutgers: 1990). Quoted in Jonathan S. Petrikin, ed., Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1995), pp. 40-47.

[12] Michel Foucault, “The Confession of the Flesh” in: Power/Knowledge [Pouvoir-Savoir]. Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977 (Colin Gordon, ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980).

[13] Sungsang and hyungsang in Korean.

[14] Yang and eum in Korean.

[15] Logically and in terms of importance.

[16] Polarity as in polarization, and not in the sense of a complementary relationship as in Unification Thought terminology.

[17] As Christian philosophers, Albert the Great and Aquinas slightly modified Aristotle’s view by adding that in God’s eyes, as spiritual beings in need of grace, man and woman were equal, in spite of their natural inequality. Even Aristotle, though, did not have the aggressively negative attitude towards women that his theoretical conclusions might suggest. Other medieval thinkers and church fathers have had a much more radical view, seeing women as the instrument of the devil (sexual temptation).

[18] Adapted from Prudence Allen.

[19] Susan Golombo and Robyn Fivush, Gender Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 61.

[20] Prudence Allen, The Concept of Woman I, p. 292.

[21] Patriarch of Constantinople, 5th century CE.

[22] Significantly, these three great apologists of Christian marriage remained unmarried, the first two for religious reasons, and the third for personal ones. Even for Hildegard, the natural union of man and woman could be replaced a spiritual union of a higher order in voluntary celibacy. On the other hand, Rev. Moon unambiguously refers to the sexual union of a man and his wife as the central point for the realization of True Love, the point where God, man and woman meet, and the foundation for the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. He even insists on the supreme value of the sexual organs.

[23] The Concept of Woman II, p. 18.

[24] E.g. Rosemary Radford Reuther, “The Female Nature of God,” Concilium 143 (1981), in Gary E. Kessler, ed., Philosophy of Religion: Toward a Global Perspective (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1999), pp. 82-87.

[25] Joseph E. Barnhart and Mary Ann Barnhart, “The Myth of the Complete Person,” in: Feminism and Philosophy, Mary Vertterling-Braggin, Frederick A. Elliston and Jane English, eds., (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littelfield, 1981). The title of this essay refers to the myth introduced by Aristophanes at the beginning of Plato’s Symposium, that males and females used to be united into one being and, since being split into two individuals, they have been yearning to be reunited with their counterpart).

[26] See Research Institute for the Unification of World Thought, An Introduction to the Thought of Sun Myung Moon: Unification Thought and V.O.C. Theory (New York: HSA-UWC, 2003), p. 61.

[27] Genesis 1:27.

[28] Sandra G. Harding, “Gender and Science,” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philo­sophy (London: Routledge, 1998), vol. 3, p. 865.

[29] An ironical byproduct of sex neutrality is that, if anything, the female gender has come to be better defined than the male gender that remains identified with the neutral gray of generic humanity. Prudence Allen’s book is really about gender identity for both sexes, but her approach is through woman, not man. More generally, today, in the discussion on gender, man comes to be defined in comparison to woman.

[30] Nina S. Yulina, “The Feminist Revision of Philosophy: Potentials and Prospects,” Philosophy East & West 42/2 (April 1992): 249ff.

[31] Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, An Essay in Phenomenological Onto­logy [L’Etre et le Néant: Paris: Gallimard, 1943] (Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1977), p. 359.

[32] New Essentials of Unification Thought, Head-Wing Thought (Tokyo: UTI, 2005), pp. 143ff.

[33] As a sole exception, one could mention the elimination of sexist terminology in recent translations of Korean documents.

[34] Based on the Korean original published in 1993. It was the last text published by Sang Hun Lee before his passing.

[35] The Women’s Federation for World Peace came into existence as a result. Beyond this, Rev. Moon keeps reminding husbands that their way back to God is through their wives. This, admittedly, refers to the role women and men are expected to play in working to recreate the original ideal of God’s creation, rather than to the original ideal itself. But, after all, this is the background of the entire debate on gender roles.

[36] Paul Tillich, Berliner Vorlesungen I (1919-1920). Ergänzungs- und Nachlass­bände zu den gesammelten Werken von Paul Tillich. Band XII (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2000), p. 134. My translation. Tillich does not specifically discuss the equality between men and women in this context.

[37] Ibid, p. 135.

[38] Introduction, pp. 84-85; New Essentials, pp. 308-312 (chapter on Ethics).

[39] Introduction, p. 29.

[40] Introduction, pp. 27-28; Essentials of Unification Thought: The Head-Wing Thought (Tokyo: UTI, 1992), pp. 11-14.

[41] Introduction, pp. 27-28.

[42] “It is perhaps surprising that the two gender-related terms psychologists seem to have the most difficulty in defining are those commonly used in everyday conversation – masculinity and femininity. In fact, the concepts of masculinity and femininity have been described as among the muddiest in the psychologist’s vocabulary.” Golombo and Fivush, ibid., p. 5.

[43] David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames, “Chinese philosophy,” in E. Craig, ed., Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1998). Retrieved from

[44] It is of course well known that in yin and yang philosophy, yin has not necessarily been considered inferior to yang, quite to the contrary. In martial arts, for instance, yin is often considered to be the more efficient way, and ultimately more powerful. There is also a lot of room for elaboration on the way women have used their relative weakness in front of men as a strength. In the work cited in Note 3, Kant (a bachelor, like most philosophers) discusses that issue with delightful humor. A variation on this theme can be found in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, were the mother says at one point that the husband is the head of the family, but the wife is the neck. When man is straightforwardly identified with yang and woman with yin, a sense of inequality nevertheless remains.

[45] Essentials, p. 50.

[46] V. Solovyov (1988), quoted in: Olga Voronina, “The Philosophy of Sex and Gender in Russia,” presented at the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Boston, Massachusetts, August 10-15, 1998. Available at: Papers/Gend/GendVoro.htm.

[47] Another feminist justification for rejecting the sexist implications of the Heaven and Earth symbolism can be found in: Lois Ann Lorentzen & Heather Raton, “Ecofeminism: an Overview.” FORE (Forum on Religion and Ecology), Harvard University Center for the Environment, 2005. Available at:

[48] New Essentials, p. 563 ff.

[49] Steven K. Nomura, “God as Masculine Subject Partner,” Journal of Unification Studies IV (2001-02), pp. 57-71.

[50] Strictly speaking, the notion of God as “subject partner” at a time when there was no one he could be a partner of is nonsensical. This is an unfortunate side effect of the English translation, where partner has been added to subject and object to highlight the fact that both are active partners in a mutual relationship. The Korean term 주체 (主體) previously translated as simply “subject” literally means something like “sovereign entity” and is related to the word “lord.” It can stand by itself, though it is intentionally aimed at an object partner (or simply object), for which the Korean expression 대상 (對象) has the connotation of “reflection” or “reciprocation,” something that cannot possibly stand by itself.

[51] Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1996), p. 19.

[52] Based on the Unificationist notion of God’s dual male and female nature, some Unificationists have come to address God as “our Heavenly Father and Mother.” Whether this is appropriate or not, there is at least no known precedent in Rev. Moon’s personal tradition.

[53] The Korean word for parent quite literally means father and mother.

[54] “God’s Ideal Family, The Model for World Peace,” p. 4.

[55] New Essentials, p. 556.

[56] Interestingly, this is reflected in the two different biblical accounts of the creation of humankind in Genesis, one account speaking of Adam and Eve being created together as complementary beings, the other indicating that Eve was created out of Adam’s rib. For a discussion of theological consequences in a feminist context, see: Nancy Tuana, The Less Noble Sex: Scientific, Religious, and Philosophical Conceptions of Woman's Nature (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993).

[57] The content and terminology included in this paragraph can be found in various speeches by Rev. Moon, including “God’s Ideal Family,” noted above.

[58] Sun Myung Moon, “The Joining of Heaven, Earth and Man.” March 15, 1992, Belvedere, New York. Available at:

[59] Sun Myung Moon, The Completed Testament Age and the Ideal Kingdom (New York: HSA-UWC, 1997), p. 295.

[60] Ibid., p. 295 [Korean 207:98]

[61] Even though it is used to describe the classic sex polarity position, the term polarity per se has nothing wrong with it. It could just as well be used to describe complementarity.