What is the Spirit? Some Physics of Spiritual Existence

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 8, 2007 - Pages 107-124

In the West there is a perceived conflict, or at least a discontinuity, between religion and natural science. Usually when we talk of religion and science in the same breath what first comes to mind is the ongoing creation-evolution debates. Discussions of intelligent design are currently the fashion in this field. However I believe that there is a more fundamental ontological gulf between religion and natural science that divides the two more effectively than any discussion of purpose or intelligent intervention in the development of life. That discontinuity arises over understanding the nature of spiritual existence.

The western Christian philosophical tradition of spirit finds its roots in Plato’s division of existing beings into two substances, form and matter.[1]

Matter is the continuous material “stuff” of the being, and form is the intangible and non-material idea or pattern of the being. For Plato the forms exist independently of material beings in their own realm. In human beings he equates form with mind and soul, and this equation has stuck. Since then the Western concept of spirit has been wedded to that of immaterial mind. The ontological consequence of this kind of immaterial existence is that spirit can have no spatial extension or quantity. Spirit is thus undetectable, indivisible, and, from the perspective of natural science, must be devoid of energy. This leads to a conception of the human being as a dualism of immaterial mind-spirit and material body. This association is so strong that denial of this dualism is commonly taken as a rejection of religion and labeled materialism.

Natural science is assumed by many (including prominent scientists) to be fundamentally materialistic, but it is actually methodologically materialistic rather than philosophically materialistic. This is a function of the fundamental assumptions of natural science and the operation of the scientific method. In particular, the scientific method requires sound theoretical explanation combined with experimental verification that is independently repeatable. This requirement of both theory and experimental verification is the key to the power of scientific explanation, but it limits that explanation to things that can be observed either directly or indirectly from their effects on matter. Experimental verification makes natural science far better than theology or philosophy for examining physical material existence, but what about spiritual existence? The traditional conception of spirit as immaterial mind devoid of energy makes it completely undetectable by any conceivable means. Since it is devoid of energy, there is no way for it to affect material particles. So in principle science cannot even begin to address this issue. It cannot completely deny this concept of spirit, but equally cannot hope to prove it either. So religion (Christianity) and science would seem to be hopelessly divided on this point.

Into this breach steps the Divine Principle and Unification Thought, particularly the Divine Principle. In its structure of the human being, which we will examine below, Divine Principle proposes that there is a “spirit body.” In traditional thought spirit and body are mutually exclusive terms. Body, by definition, implies extension in space, quantity, and divisibility. All of which traditionally mean material physical existence. By proposing a spirit body, Divine Principle is making a radical break from traditional thought that redefines what we mean by spirit, and in the process it provides the seeds for bridging the ontological gap between religion and natural science. The goal of this work therefore is to examine what we mean by spirit body and propose a model for the nature of spiritual existence that is potentially compatible with natural science.


Spiritual Existence

According to the Divine Principle, the created cosmos consists of a spiritual realm and a physical realm created after the pattern of the human being.[2] Human beings are then seen to consist of a spiritual self and a physical self, where the spiritual self and physical self both have mind and body.[3] This gives us a fundamental structure of four components to human existence: spirit mind, physical mind, spirit body and physical body. This idea of a spirit body is significantly different to traditional Western thought that limits bodily manifestation, with its attributes of quantity, divisibility and extension in space, to the physical realm. Indeed, the Divine Principle is quite serious about the notion of a spirit body, even ascribing to it five spiritual senses with which to perceive an embodied spiritual realm. Yet after providing this basic description of the structure of the human being, Divine Principle does not subsequently develop the concepts. It does not explain the ontological meaning of a spirit body, or describe how it exists.

The situation in Unification Thought is even less helpful initially. This is because Unification Thought deals with physical existence and God. It does not directly address spiritual existence. Ontology is limited to the nature of God's existence and the physical realm, whereas spirit is only dealt with in the context of epistemological concepts.

Nevertheless, Essentials of Unification Thought has this basic description of the human being:

There are four kinds of sungsang and hyungsang in human nature. First each human being is a substantial image integrating all things. We contain in our sungsang and hyungsang not only the sungsang-hyungsang elements of the animal kingdom, plant kingdom, and mineral kingdom, but also the sungsang-hyungsang elements unique to human beings, namely the spirit mind and the spirit body. Second each person is a being of united mind and body. And fourth, each human being is a being with a dual mind consisting of a spirit mind and a physical mind.[4]

In this passage sungsang and hyungsang refer to the fundamental ontological characteristics applicable to all existing beings. These terms, sometimes translated internal character and external form respectively, most essentially refer to the mind-and-body relationship in the human being.[5] However, as this passage indicates, a human being can be viewed from several different but related perspectives, all under the general categories of sungsang and hyungsang relationship. The most important of these are different perspectives on the four-fold structure. So we can view a human being from the perspective of mind and body or from the perspective of spirit self and physical self.

While the term “spirit body” does appear in this passage, Unification Thought as a whole does not embrace the idea and essentially does not address it.[6] Rather, the fundamental structure presented by Lee seems to embody the traditional western pattern. In this view, sungsang and hyungsang, as mind (consciousness perhaps) and body, are seen as two substances. Sungsang is considered to be immaterial mind and hyungsang material body, as in Western thought’s conception of mind-spirit and matter.[7] The structure of the human being, then, reduces to the traditional two-fold dualism of mind and body, where mind derives from the relationship of the spirit mind and physical mind. For Lee the spirit mind is derived from the higher functioning of intellect, emotion, and will in the human mind, and is what comprises the spiritual part of a person.

In the human mind the faculties of intellect, emotion and will of both the spirit mind and the physical mind are unified, and intellect, emotion, and will are also unified. This union of intellect, emotion, and will is called the “spiritual apperception.” Their spiritual apperception is what makes humans spiritual beings.[8]

He does not address how we are to consider the existence of the spirit body. Again, this is because Unification Thought as it currently exists does not deal directly with spiritual existence. Recognizing that Unification Thought does not address the spiritual realm, Rev. Moon has asked that a chapter on it be added.

A number people have begun to take up the challenge and a few articles have been published. Andrew Wilson has made some interesting contributions in this area. In a paper entitled “Research into the Ontology of Spirit World and Spirit Persons in Unification Thought[9] he lays out a set of characteristics of existence in the spirit universe culled from the spiritual testimony of diverse sources (see Table 1). This set of characteristics is a particularly useful set of guidelines, as they reflect the common elements of the perception of spiritual existence derived from direct spiritual experience by people from differing religious traditions. They are not tied to one particular theological perspective.

Distilling his set of ten characteristics even further leads us to two general statements, or concepts, about the nature of spiritual existence that are of particular relevance to this work. First is that spiritual existence is an embodied existence. Human beings in the spirit universe look and act much as we do physically, and there are senses comparable to the five physical senses with which to perceive the spiritual universe. Wilson also quotes a text that ascribes matter to spiritual existence, but does not go quite that far in his own writing. The second general statement concerns the role of mind. Here the environment itself, animals, plants, travel, some forms of communication, and even the appearance of a spirit person derive from thought or consciousness. Wilson says, for example, “Flowers and trees do not grow from seeds, but are made by spirits who are trained in the art of their production.”

As we will see, these two general statements about the nature of spiritual existence are not completely mutually compatible. The second statement, revolving around thought and consciousness, is compatible with the traditional Western view of spirit as immaterial mind. However it contains elements that are difficult to reconcile with an embodied spiritual existence. Combining both statements into a coherent picture of spiritual existence, I believe, lies at the heart of understanding ontology of spiritual existence from the Unification perspective. In particular what is needed is an understanding of what an embodied spiritual existence means that is compatible with science.

Table 1: Wilson’s Ten Characteristics of Spiritual Existence


People in the spirit world live as embodied forms and carry on all major life activities.


Energy in the spirit world flows directly from God, shining as the sun of love to illuminate and govern


Spirit world is a world of thought; communication occurs through thought, and thoughts can immediately induce movement or the materialization of things.


In the spirit world form is not fixed, but is far more plastic, reflecting the spirit's inward character


Human beings and angels exist for eternity, rooted in their unchanging essence


The spirit body that forms an envelope around the spirit may be of various levels of denseness, according to the realm in which the spirit exists. In general, the spirit body is composed of elements fitting for the realm in which it dwells. There seems to be a correlation between the spirit body and the surroundings environment.


There is no multiplication in the spirit world.


Human beings are co-creators of the environment in the spirit world.


Animals, plants and inanimate objects exist, not eternally, but only insofar as there are humans who treasure them.


Due to the Fall spirit world is divided into various realms, arranged in concentric circles “above” and “below” the earth


Spiritual Body and Energy

As an initial approach, let us take the concept of a spiritual body at face value. This means that the attributes of bodies—spatial extension, quantity and divisibility—are also to be applied to spiritual existence. In other words, we are led to postulate the existence of matter in the spiritual realm, as Wilson’s work alludes to. It therefore becomes possible to be a materialist and believe in spirit, or deny mind and body dualism but still be religious. Philoso­phic­ally this has one extremely important consequence, namely that the equation of spirit with immaterial mind, locked in for more than two thousand years, is broken. This conceptual change also has important consequences for the ontological gap between science and theology. In suggesting a material aspect to spiritual existence we are getting to things that can potentially be observed experimentally, and thus in principle, though maybe not yet in practice, place investigation of the spirit realm legitimately under natural science. This closes, or at least bridges, the current ontological chasm between natural science and religion. It also allows us to extend the scientific understandings of material existence, developed throughout the history of natural science, to spiritual existence.

One of the key developments of natural science is the concept of energy. In a paper presented at the fifteenth ICUS conference Bent Elbek[10] demonstrates how energy is a unifying concept centrally present in all scientific theories. Energy is not a fundamental assumption of science or a necessary result from the operation of the scientific method, but has emerged as a central concept in the continually developing theories. Elbek traces the development of understanding energy from an initial description in mechanics through thermodynamics and on into the modern theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. Its ubiquitous presence in scientific explanation leads to the inescapable conclusion that energy is a fundamental requirement of material existence. Many would take it one step further and argue that is a fundamental requirement of any type of existence, and consequently that the absence of energy equates to the absence of being. It is from here that originates the charge that natural science is materialism.

One aspect of energy that is also constant throughout all this scientific explanation is that it is impossible to pin down exactly what energy is. Elbek points out that we have a multitude of equations describing energy in terms of something else. Thus kinetic energy is calculated from the mass and velocity of a particle, and potential energy from the position of a particle in a field. Heat is a statistical measure of the kinetic energy of the matter particles in a material, and radiational energy is the energy of particles of light called photons. We also understand, often in great detail, how one form of energy is converted into another, but we cannot define it as a “something” that exists. What we do know is that in all of its forms energy is always associated with, or is a property of, or actually is, particles of some kind. The closest to a definition of energy derives from mechanics and is taught to beginning physics students. Here energy is defined simply as a “capacity to do work.” What is usually unstated but implied is that this “capacity” is associated with, or actually is, some material body or particle.

Natural science is clear, however, about one thing that energy is not. That is, it is not a substance in its own right. Energy has no existence or meaning independent of the material body or particle that it can be calculated for. Since the time of Einstein's famous equation E = mc2 natural science has also understood that mass[11] and energy are equivalent and interchangeable. Therefore it is perfectly acceptable to say that matter is energy, or, just as importantly, that energy is matter. What we cannot do is to treat energy as a substance and say matter is made from energy. This is a subtle twist that erroneously implies that energy has some kind of prior existence independent of the material particles it is associated with. Scientifically there can be no unformed or unstructured energy that is somehow molded into matter much like the prime matter of ancient philosophy being shaped by a form. This type of thinking, combined with a belief in the spirit world, leads to nonsensical (from a natural science viewpoint) concepts such as assigning vibrational levels to energy prior to its association with particles or matter, and then considering the spirit realm to somehow have energy of a higher “vibrational level.” Treating energy as a substance in this and related ways by contemporary spiritual thought misappropriates the concept of energy.

Since material existence implies energy, adopting a spirit body with an associated material component compels us to extend the conception of energy to include the spiritual realm. However we must be careful to maintain the scientific perspective that does not treat it as a substance. In a sense energy is just energy period, whatever form it takes. What this accomplishes is to allow us to carry over into a conception of the spirit realm the scientific ideas about energy developed from the physical realm. The first conclusion is that this energy must be associated with, or actually is, some kind of particle or particles, and those particles are probably of a different type to those currently known to science.

Secondly, if energy is associated with spiritual existence, we would expect there to be some observable consequences for the physical realm. Since energy and mass are equivalent, energy in the spirit realm will have a mass equivalence, and we should expect as a minimum to see some gravitational effects in the cosmology of the physical realm. Although science does not yet explicitly recognize any such effects, there are still some profound mysteries about the physical universe that remain to be solved. In particular, normal matter that we commonly know only comprises about 5% of the energy density in the observable universe. The other 95% is divided between dark energy and dark matter. The word dark is used because physicists do not know what they are, although they can indirectly observe their effects. Dark energy is responsible for an accelerating expansion of the physical universe. It is currently thought to account for about 70% of the energy in the universe. Dark matter is required from the observed clumpiness of the universe and the observed motions of galaxies. It accounts for about 25% of the energy in the universe.

It is conceivable that large-scale cosmological effects of a spirit realm show up in these unknown constituents whose effects may be observed on normal matter. Dark matter has been studied the most of these two and for me is particularly interesting for this topic. Its distribution in the universe can be mapped by inference from the observed motions of stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters. In particular each galaxy is thought to be embedded in an “halo” or sphere of dark matter with filaments of dark matter connecting galaxies and galactic clusters to give a large scale “web” connecting all the matter in the universe (see Figure 1). Thus we are completely surrounded by dark matter, but it is invisible. There are several theories about the nature of dark matter. The most generally accepted is that it consists of some unknown type of particles that only interact with normal matter through gravity. Though by no means constituting a proof of a spirit realm, the existence of dark matter demonstrates that there is room in the scientific worldview for a spirit realm that involves energy and particles.

Figure 1: High resolution computer simulation of the distribution of dark matter in the universe. Each bright point represents a galaxy, and the galaxies are strung along filaments of dark matter like a series of pearls on a string.


Problems of Mind and Matter

Some of the fundamental understandings of energy are embodied in the laws of thermodynamics. These laws apply to all of physical existence, including living organisms. Now if we assume a spirit body and therefore a material-energetic component to spiritual existence, there is no reason to doubt that these fundamental understandings of energy should also apply. Let us review briefly the first two laws.

The first law of thermodynamics deals with the conservation of energy; it states that energy can be converted to one form or another, but cannot be created or destroyed. Consequently in a closed system, one that is energetically isolated, there must be a fixed amount of energy. It is an open question as to whether the universe is a closed system or not. Many do assume that it is closed and therefore suggest that there is a fixed amount of energy in the universe. This first law combined with the equivalence of mass and energy tells us that even material particles can be created “ex nihilo” given a sufficient input of energy. This happens in large particle accelerators where streams of particles are accelerated to near the speed of light and smashed into each other. In the collisions the kinetic energy of the colliding particles is converted into a host of other particles. Much of what we understand about the subatomic nature of matter comes from this type of experiment.

The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of the universe spontaneously tends to increase. Entropy is a measure of how much of the energy of a system is not available for conversion into work.[12] Thermodynamics is a statistical mechanics, so that although the universe as a whole tends to greater entropy, in local pockets this can be reversed if there is an input of energy from outside. Thus, since the earth is not a closed system, energy from the sun allows living systems of great complexity to emerge and develop. The ecosystems of the earth function as an interconnected web that transforms and moves energy. This is allowed as long as the increase in entropy of the sun compensates for the decrease in entropy on earth. Living beings are also continually doing work in performing actions, growth, and maintaining their existence, thus they require an ongoing intake of energy in order to maintain their life. However the total amount of energy in the universe remains the same and entropy as a whole increases. This second law is also pretty much the only way natural science can offer an explanation for the apparent directionality of time.

These two laws govern the transformation of energy and its conversion into work and apply universally, including now to an energetic spirit realm. Up to this point in our consideration of a spiritual body we have been dealing primarily with the first of the general statements of spiritual existence distilled from Wilson's work. That is recognizing spiritual existence as an embodied existence. This has led us through a logical chain of body implying matter-implying-energy-implying some kind of elementary particles, and now to the application of the laws of thermodynamics to spiritual existence. In this section we are now moving on to a consideration of the second statement that involves the role of mind or consciousness in spiritual existence.

In those points dealing with the role of mind, the bodily expression of spiritual existence becomes somewhat plastic and appears to be molded by mind. Thus human thought can immediately induce movement or materialize things such as to create plants and animals, the appearance of a spirit person can change, and even the environment depends on projections of human consciousness. Let us look at a flower for example. It has no spiritual existence outside of human consciousness. Plants and trees do not propagate through seeds in the spiritual realm, so our flower must be consciously created through the action of a human mind. Yet it then does have life and a bodily existence. The flower can be picked, but does not subsequently die and decompose as it would in the physical realm, but rather just fades away and disappears. The descriptions presented by Wilson suggest that the flower is not just created out of the “stuff” around it, like molding clay. Rather the body of the flower materializes and disappears, out of or into thin “air” through the action of mind.

Our straightforward adoption of bodily existence in the spirit realm runs into trouble with this second general statement of spiritual existence. Bodily existence requires energy. If the body of the flower comes into and fades out of existence as described in Wilson’s work, then either the process creates and destroys that energy or there must be a large input and subsequent output of energy. Both possibilities run up against the first law. The first suggestion may be ruled out since energy is neither created nor destroyed. Secondly the equivalence of mass and energy suggests that enormous amounts of energy would be needed to create an embodied flower and then be released when the flower fades away.[13] This would be true even if the particles associated with spiritual existence were of very low energy (low mass). The energy requirements would be so large as to be improbable. Nuclear explosions, for example, liberate large amounts of energy, but they only convert a small fraction of the mass of the atom into kinetic energy of the resulting particles and gamma radiation. To create, or annihilate, the amount of matter in a flower involves energies far above those found in nuclear explosions. Rather than fade away quietly, the spiritual flower should explode with an enormous outpouring of energy if it disappears.

Other aspects of mental involvement in spiritual existence that Wilson mentions also run afoul of the first law. Take for instance the transportation of spirit bodies by thought; this too would involve improbable amounts of energy for a bodily existence that involves energy and particles. The second law too is challenged by this type of existence. Life in the physical realm reflects a local decrease in entropy allowed by the input of energy from the sun. That energy is transferred through the food chain eventually to human beings, who both eat and drink in order to maintain their life and the relatively low entropy of an organized bodily existence. With energy and particles in spiritual existence, the spirit body itself and the mental ordering of the environment would reflect a huge decrease in entropy. How then can we account for the overall increase in entropy required by the second law?

From the perspective of thermodynamics, the two general statements of spiritual existence distilled from Wilson’s points do not seem to be mutually compatible. An embodied spiritual existence would appear to conflict with the plasticity of spiritual existence with respect to human thought. We could, of course, invoke God to resolve the energetic problems, but I think a more fruitful approach is to reexamine the underlying definitions of body and mind that we are using. Wilson, for example, acknowledges this same tension between bodily existence and mental phenomena in the spirit realm, and he proposes a model that effectively redefines body for spiritual existence

Wilson’s Monostratic Model

Wilson’s proposal to suggest that spiritual existence is monostratic.[14] That is, it does not have the layers of structure that we find in physical bodily existence. Producing a flower in the physical realm requires many layers, both from an evolutionary perspective through time, and from a structural perspective in the moment. Structurally a flower is composed of layers of elementary particles, atoms, molecules, cells etc. If we pick that flower in the physical realm its cells no longer receive the input of energy (nutrients) they need and they die. Subsequently the flower slowly decays through the action of microbes and oxidation. The energy and matter of its existence is recycled and transformed into something else as the form that was the flower decomposes. This is possible because of the layered nature of its original existence, such that death of the flower does not also result in the loss of all the lower levels of organization of matter within it. On the other hand, a monostratic spiritual existence would behave very differently. The flower would come into existence at once. Its body would not be made of existing spiritual materials and there would not be levels of elementary particles and atoms comprising the matter of the flower. Consequently when the flower is picked and it “dies” there are no lower levels of material organization to remain, and the flower will just disappear as a whole, as a reverse process of how it was made. This is an ingenious solution to the problem, but is not without conceptual difficulties in its own right. Let us first look to see how this redefines the concept of body.

The normal concept of body in the physical realm involves spatial extension, divisibility, and quantity. Quantity, or the amount of the “stuff,” from a modern perspective means mass and its equivalent energy. This in turn implies some kind of material particles, as we have seen. A monostratic conception of body will of necessity still involve spatial extension, so spatial extension is included in an embodied spiritual existence unchanged. The next attribute, divisibility, is lost in this monostratic concept of body. Divisibility requires the layered structure of physical existence. For something to be divisible there must be parts to divide into that can maintain their own existence, and if there are such parts the existence is not monostratic. Consequently the monostratic flower ceases to exist when it is divided by picking and it simply fades away. This attribute of divisibility is thus completely different for Wilson's conception of a monostratic body, and is the key to the successful part of redefining body in spiritual existence that is accomplished by this model.

It is the third attribute of quantity that is the most problematic area for this monostratic model. Does the monostratic spiritual body have quantity? If we answer no then we are almost back at the beginning with spiritual existence as completely immaterial and non-energetic (and undetectable). The only difference to the traditional view of spirit would be the addition of spatial extension. In this case the ontological divide between science and religion remains firmly in place. To maintain the compatibility with science that is the goal of this work, we must answer yes, as Wilson’s work also seems to do. Consequently the monostratic spiritual body will involve energy. Though this answer is preferable, associating energy with monostratic embodiment leads us to apply the scientific understandings of energy that were described above. This in turn creates two significant problems for the model.

The first problem is that we again run up against the laws of thermodynamics. As described above, the appearance and disappearance of the body of a flower would require an apparent creation and destruction of energy or involve improbably large amounts of energy—thus running afoul of the first law of thermodynamics. Wilson’s proposal therefore runs up against the same kind of arguments that prevented us from adopting the simple conception of body derived from physical existence. The second problem is that this monostratic model implicitly deals with energy as a substance. Embodied flowers, not to mention human spirits, are relatively complicated. Wilson suggests that the complication in monostratic existence is found in the logos for the flower (or the human being).[15] However, since there are no layers of elementary particles or atoms in monostratic existence, that complicated logos must be patterned directly into something. If we have quantity (energy) then the only way to do this is to regard energy as a substance that can receive form, yet we have already shown that we cannot view energy as a substance in this way.

This second problem arises, I feel, because of the sungsang and hyungsang dualism that is found in Unification Thought. As I have shown elsewhere,[16] Unification Thought's treatment of sungsang and hyungsang as two substances is related to the concepts of form and matter found in ancient Greek philosophy. Logos corresponds to Platonic form and Original Hyungsang corresponds to a continuous prime matter. In that work I show how this continuous nature of Greek philosophy is not compatible with the discrete nature of existence derived from atomic theory and quantum mechanics. Now with Wilson’s extension of that thought in this monostratic model we can see that the Greek concepts of form and matter are also not fully compatible with scientific notions of energy and thermodynamics.

From the perspective of compatibility with natural science, Wilson’s model is therefore only a partial solution. What is needed is an alternative model that is compatible both with Wilson’s ten points and with natural science. In order to accomplish this, the model proposed here redefines what is meant by mind rather than redefining body as the monostratic model does. It then only indirectly offers an explanation for an embodied spiritual existence.

Spirit as Virtual Reality

There are several starting points for the development of this model, and I will describe the main points here. Some are derived from Unification Thought and some not. The first starting point is that to build the bridge to natural science we need a theory that can potentially be observed now or at some point in the future. That is, we should retain the notion of some kind of parti­cles and energy associated with spiritual existence. Next is the observa­tion that conscious perception in the physical realm does not always reflect the ontological reality underlying that perception. Consider, for example, watch­ing a movie. What we perceive as continuous motion on the screen is actually just a succession of still images. Our conscious mind takes the consecutive succession of 25 still images per second and transforms them into a perception of continuous motion. Thus our perception is very different from what is actually taking place. If we extend this observation to Wilson’s ten characteristics, we can acknowledge that although they undoubtedly reflect perception of the spirit realm they do not necessarily reflect its ontological reality.

The first starting point within Unification Thought derives from my previous work.[17] In that work I propose a model for sungsang (mind, life and physico chemical character) that does not deal with it as a separate substance in the way that philosophy derived from Greek thought does. That model was developed from the two-stage structure of the Original Image, and suggests that sungsang in general exists as an inner four-position foundation consisting of the relationship between inner functional and inner informational aspects. Moreover, that inner relationship of sungsang does not exist independently of matter. In the human being, for example, the physical mind is patterned onto the material structure of the brain and body so cannot have independent immaterial existence. This model of sungsang as an inner base rejects mind-body dualism and some aspects of sungsang-hyungsang dualism. Though mind and body are described using two four-position foundations, the two are not separate but together are one substance. This is very different to the traditional view that regards mind and body as two separate substances.

The second starting point in Unification Thought is the very interesting concept of cosmic consciousness. Cosmic consciousness is variously described as sungsang of the universe, a life field, or a field of consciousness.[18] However it is not well defined and receives scant attention in the texts despite being of fundamental importance to existence. All cognition, for example, is said to begin from protoconsciousness at the cellular level, which in turn is itself derived from cosmic consciousness. Lee maintains a dualism of sungsang and hyungsang; hence he deals with cosmic consciousness as a separate substance. However if we reject this dualism and apply the two-stage pattern briefly described here, then we can regard cosmic consciousness as an inner four-position foundation patterned directly onto the material particles of the universe. That is, the universe as a whole has some kind of mind associated with it that is one substance with the matter of the universe. For me the observed pattern of dark matter as a cosmic three-dimensional web (see Figure 1) connecting the normal matter in the universe is particularly suggestive of this possibility.

Given this view of the universe as an embodied mind, we can support a model of the spirit realm that is like a computer-simulated virtual reality or particularly vivid mental imagery. The cosmic mind would then be function­ing somewhat like an enormous computer, and the human spirit would be more akin to a self aware program or conscious memory within the inner sungsang and inner hyungsang of that mind. That conscious program, or memory, of the human spirit would also be capable of reprogramming the local virtual environment. In other words, the perception of spirit body is illusory. It results from the mental image, program, or memory in the inner hyungsang of the cosmic mind, rather than existing as a substantial thing with independent existence. However the virtual reality itself, in fact the cosmic mind as a whole, is rooted in patterns of information laid down on material particles just as our physical mind is rooted in patterns in the material stuff of the brain. At first glance this may seem like an idea straight out of science fiction, but it resolves some of the conceptual problems in existing ideas about the nature of spirit.

The proposal does not deal with mind as completely immaterial and devoid of energy. There is potentially something to be experimentally confirmed as our scientific understanding of the universe and mind develop. So the ontological gap between science and religion can potentially be bridged by a theory derived from Unification Thought, which was one of the original intents of the work. The proposal is also consistent with the two general statements of spiritual existence distilled from Wilson’s ten points without contradicting scientific theories of energy and thermodynamics. In this model, embodied spiritual existence has been redefined to mean a conscious perception of bodily existence within a kind of virtual realm that does not exist independently of matter. Consequently, by dealing with spirit as a virtual reality, we do not run into energetic problems resulting from the observed plasticity of the spiritual environment. The energy requirements to create the mental image of a flower for example are real, and would have to be accounted for, but are insignificant in comparison to the extravagant energy requirements needed to create some kind of material body for the flower.

This proposal would also account for other aspects of spiritual existence reported by Wilson, including the lack of necessity to eat or drink, an inability to reproduce, an apparent immortality, angels, and even travel at the speed of thought. Additionally, the proposal can embrace Wilson’s monostratic model if we relocate the monostratic nature of spiritual beings to the inner four-position foundation of the cosmic mind rather than as an outer substantial existence. Finally, and interestingly enough, the proposal confirms that the epistemological approach to spirit found in Unification Thought is appropriate. This is because the proposed model allows us to retain the notion of spirit as mental phenomena; it just does not regard mind and matter as separate substances and extends mental phenomena to include the whole cosmos.


The original thrust of this work was to demonstrate how the ontological gulf between natural science and religion could be bridged by adding the concept of spirit body, and its associated material component, to an embodied spiritual existence. The intention was to move away from equating spirit with mind. Unexpectedly the concept of a spirit body could not be reconciled with reported perception of spiritual existence. If we accept Wilson’s ten points we are led almost full circle, coming back to a concept of spirit that once again revolves around mind. However it is a very different understanding of mind. The ontological problem between religion and science stems from the immaterial and consequently non-energetic notion of spirit and mind derived from the mind-body dualism of Platonic philosophy. Discarding this dualism allows a concept of mind to be derived from the structure of Unification Thought that suggests that mind and body are inseparable aspects of one existence.

From this theoretical starting point, combined with Unification Thought’s two-stage structure and the concept of cosmic consciousness, we are led to the proposed model. Admittedly this requires physics beyond what we currently know about the physical universe, but dark matter and dark energy show that our current understanding is incomplete. Although we set out to redefine body for spiritual existence, the end result was to redefine mind and leave the traditional understanding of body intact and firmly welded to material existence. Mind, rather, becomes a material mind involving matter and energy, just as in the physical human being, and the spirit realm then becomes the thought processes of a universal mind that Unification Thought terms cosmic consciousness.

The spirit realm is thus a virtual reality comparable to mental images or a computer-simulated virtual environment, and the embodied spiritual existence reported from spiritual experience is a perception of bodily existence comparable to our perception of bodily existence while dreaming. Nevertheless human spirits would have fully conscious participation in this virtual world even to the point of consciously affecting their virtual surroundings.

The final question to address is the relationship between this cosmic mind and God. Unification Thought hints that cosmic consciousness is in fact God's consciousness.[19] From the perspective of the structure of the thought this is probably the simplest thing to do, but from a theological perspective this would be tending toward pantheism. This would be especially true of the two-stage model of existence used here, where mind and body are one substance not two. Theologically we deal with both spiritual and physical realms as created realms. Cosmic consciousness should therefore be a created object to God, especially if it is one substance with material particles, and God should stand outside of both spiritual and physical existence.



[1] Claude Perrottet, “Conceptual Roadblocks to an Understanding of Spiritual Reality in the Western Philosophical Tradition,” in Unity of Sciences and Unification Thought: Proceedings of the 15th International Symposium on Unification Thought, Moscow, November 2003.

[2] Exposition of the Divine Principle (Seoul: Sung Hwa Publishing, 1996), p. 45.

[3] Ibid., pp. 47 - 51.

[4] Sang Hun Lee, Essentials of Unification Thought (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 1992), p. 93. Interestingly in the newer and more comprehensive New Essentials of Unification Thought (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 2005), the reference to the spirit body has been dropped from the equivalent passage.

[5] Exposition of the Divine Principle, p. 17.

[6] In the New Essentials of Unification Thought, spirit body is mentioned only once in the chapters on the Original Image, Ontology, Human Nature, and Epistemology.

[7] New Essentials of Unification Thought, p. 34. In this text Sang Hun Lee clarifies what had not been explicitly stated in previous texts; namely that he regards sungsang and hyungsang as two substances. This is true even for the Original Image, but in the Original Image they are seen as deriving from a single unified source.

[8] Ibid., p. 90.

[9] Andrew Wilson, “Research into the Ontology of Spirit World and Spirit Persons in Unification Thought,” Journal of Unification Studies 5 (2003): 145-174.

[10] Bent Elbek, “The Evolution of the Concept of Energy and its Role in Systems of Increasing Complexity,” in Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, Washington, D.C., 27-30 November 1986.

[11] Mass is a measure of the amount of matter. Yet, for example, most of the mass of a proton or neutron does not come from the mass of their constituent quarks, but rather from the kinetic and potential energy of the interactions between the quarks mediated by the strong nuclear interaction.

[12] Entropy is more commonly described as a measure of the disorder in a system, but since we are dealing with energy this definition seemed more appropriate. Work at its simplest is force multiplied by the distance the force acts through.

[13] Since we are talking about energy this is a simplification that does not address the issue that particles are actually created as particle-antiparticle pairs. Consideration of this aspect of particle physics actually makes the situation worse for our initial suggestion of a taking bodily existence in the spirit realm at face value.

[14] Wilson, “Ontology,” p. 152.

[15] Wilson, “Ontology,” p. 153.

[16] David Burton, “What is the Matter? Understandings of Matter in Unification Thought and Modern Physics,” Journal of Unification Studies 6 (2004-05):143-159.

[17] Ibid., 153-157.

[18] New Essentials of Unification Thought, pp. 129-130, 162 and 431.

[19] Ibid., p. 431.