Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 9, 2008

Yang and Yin: Unification Thought, Science, and the Book of Changes

David Burton
Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 9, 2008

n my ongoing investigation of the relationship of natural science to Unification Thought, I have been led to consider traditional Christian ontology time and again. This has suggested to me that an unrecognized aspect of the debate between science and religion is the relationship of traditional Christian ontology to science. I believe this is more fundamental than the popular creation-evolution debates. This is because our ontology embodies our fundamental assumptions and understandings of existence that shape all of the subsequent thought. In the West our religious consciousness has been firmly shaped by the ontology contained in the traditional Christian doctrines on God and Creation. Even the language we use has been shaped by that consciousness and frames the science and religion debate as an unstated assumption by both the religious and non religious alike. These traditional doctrines are in turn derived in large part from the form and matter ontology of Plato and Aristotle. For example, the thought of Augustine and Aquinas, two pillars of traditional doctrine, can be considered to be Platonic and Aristotelian respectively.

Beginning from John Dalton’s atomic theory in the early years of the nineteenth century, modern science has shown that this Greek ontology is not physically correct. Consequently throughout the nineteenth century and continuing until today there has developed a gap between the scientific worldview and those parts of traditional Christian doctrine dealing with God and Creation. It is my contention that in his writing on Unification Thought, Dr. Sang Hun Lee also adopted the unstated ontological assumptions of this traditional doctrine, and that this differentiates Unification Thought from Divine Principle. Unification Thought as it exists is thus shaped by Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy and contains the same discontinuity with the scientific worldview that has developed with traditional doctrine in the last two hundred years.

Previously,[1] [2] I showed how the Platonic dualism of form and matter is present in the Theory of the Original Image where Logos functions as a kind of Platonic form and hyungsang as an unstructured formless matter. Logical analysis of the fundamental concepts without the Greek philosophy leads to an ontological model where sungsang in general can be seen to exist as an inner four position base of a functional aspect and an informational aspect. The inner base does not exist independently of hyungsang and gives a structure more compatible with scientific explanation. This model rejects mind-body dualism and sungsang-hyungsang dualism that also find their root in Platonic thought. In addition it leads to a novel explanation of spirit realm and spiritual existence that potentially falls within the scope of scientific investigation.

In this paper we turn to a consideration of the other pair of dual characteristics, yang and yin, in the context of the proposed ontological model. Yang and yin are found in oriental thought, particularly Chinese philosophy, and the Divine Principle regards the Book of Changes as an authoritative source of these concepts.[3] Consequently we will here examine the philosophy of the Book of Changes and compare it to Unification Thought.

However, in order to understand Lee’s treatment of yang and yin we again need to come back to traditional Christian ontology. Its concept of substances begins with Aristotle and is embodied in what Philip Clayton calls Classical Philosophical Theism (CPT). Clayton says of CPT:

Recall that for CPT everything is either a substance or the attribute of a substance, and wherever one substance is no other substance can be at the same time. Thus God had only two choices in creating the world. He could create it as a set of attributes (or “accidents”) with God as their substance -- but then the world would exist only as a manifestation of God, which would not leave room for personal substances to exist other than God (as in the pantheistic view of God’s relation to the world). Or God could create a world of really existing substances -- but then they must exist outside the divine substance. Hence there must be a “space” outside God “in” which this realm of finite substances has its being. Since in earlier centuries space (and time) was understood as an objective framework -- something like a big box “into” which events or objects might be placed -- there seemed to be no problem with God creating this box somewhere and then creating a bunch of substances ex nihilo to place into it. With this you have the creation narrative of CPT, and one still widely assumed by theologians today.[4]


Our common-sense way of thinking of the world has long since lost all touch with the substantivalist manner of speaking, and philosophers no longer appeal to it as a significant resource for resolving debates. Yet its influence on theology continues to be immense, since CPT was institutionalized into credal statements that silently presupposed it.[5]

Clayton goes on to point out that classical philosophical theism is facing a major crisis today. He gives a number of reasons for this, but of particular importance for this work is that he clearly sees it as physically incorrect. That is, natural science does not agree with the philosophical view of existence based on substances.

Lee’s treatment of yang and yin can be seen to derive from an application of this traditional concept of substances to sungsang and hyungsang. This in turn leads him to make a distinction between Unification Thought and the Book of Changes (section 3). Unification Thought is consistent in its discussion here, but in using a substantive ontology it suffers the same problems Clayton ascribes to classical philosophical theism. Extending the previously proposed model for sungsang and hyungsang to the discussion of yang and yin leads to an explanation of these concepts that is continuous with the explanation in the Book of Changes. The understanding of yang and yin can then be shown to be complementary to science rather than inherently conflict with it.

1. Yang and Yin in Divine Principle

To set the scene, let us first examine the concepts of yang and yin in Divine Principle. Exposition of the Divine Principle devotes little more than a page to its explanation of the concepts of yang and yin. The most important points are reproduced here.

Every entity possesses dual characteristics of yang (masculinity) and yin (femininity) and comes into existence only when these characteristics have formed reciprocal relationships, both within the entity and between it and other entities.[6]

Divine Principle therefore primarily regards yang and yin as masculinity and femininity, and traces this through living species multiplying and maintaining their existence though male and female beings. When applied to inanimate matter, yang and yin are seen to be reflected in positive and negative electrically charged particles.[7] In addition to these interactions between beings, yang and yin is also seen in correlative aspects of every existing being.

Every creation exists with correlative aspects: inside and outside, internal and external, front and rear, right and left, up and down, high and low, strong and weak, rising and falling, long and short, wide and narrow, east and west, north and south, etc, The reason for this is that everything is created to exist through the reciprocal relationships of dual characteristics. Thus we can understand that everything requires for its existence a reciprocal relationship between the dual characteristics of yang and yin.[8]

Divine Principle appears to identify two types of yang and yin relationships: those between separate masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) beings, and those in the correlative aspects of each existing being. As can be seen in the above quote, the correlative aspects seem to arise just from the tangible physical manifestation of an existing being rather than from any property of what the being is made of. Thus these correlative yang and yin aspects can operate within a single being, do not necessarily imply masculinity and femininity, and do not necessarily have any physical force acting between them.

In the relationship between sungsang and hyungsang and yang and yin, sungsang and hyungsang are considered more fundamental. Yang and yin are thus seen to be present within each of the more fundamental sungsang and hyungsang. Finally, the relationship between yang and yin is described in the following terms:

The relationship between yang and yin is similar to that which exists between internal nature and external form. Yang and yin thus have the following mutual relationships internal and external, cause and result, subject partner and object partner, vertical and horizontal.[9]

2. Yang and Yin in the Book of Changes

Divine Principle accepts the Book of Changes as an authoritative source for the metaphysical concepts at the root of Chinese philosophy.[10] Moreover it suggests that these concepts are in accordance with the fundamental ontological concepts of yang and yin in Divine Principle. That is there is a certain continuity of ideas in both texts. The Book of Changes considers all relationship to be derived from yang and yin; it does not separately distinguish sungsang and hyungsang as Divine Principle and Unification Thought do.[11] Examination of the content of the Book of Changes, however, reveals that the concepts of sungsang and hyungsang are in fact present in its philosophy, even though they are not separately identified or developed.

2.1. Basic Concepts

In the metaphysics of the Book of Changes yang and yin are said to arise from T’ai Chi. T’ai Chi is rendered into English as Great Ultimate in Divine Principle[12] or as Primal Beginning in the Wilhelm/Baynes edition of the Book of Changes,[13] and is seen by Divine Principle to represent God. In the diagrams of the Book of Changes yang is represented by an unbroken line ( -- -- ) and yin by a broken line ( -- -- ). Diagrams are then developed in a binary way by adding additional lines. When a second line is added through a doubling of the first there are four possibilities, or four images.[14] Finally addition of a third line gives eight possible diagrams, the eight trigrams, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Binary Development of the Trigrams

These eight trigrams are the foundation of the Book of Changes and its philosophy. Each trigram has several associated meanings that can be compared to image elements that create pictures when combined in different ways. One set of meanings attached to the trigrams is of a family with father, mother, three sons and three daughters.[15] Each trigram consists of three lines that represent a concept of the universe. The lowest line represents earth, the middle line, man, and the top line, heaven.[16] When each of these positions is doubled a diagram of six lines, or hexagram, is formed. There are sixty-four possible hexagrams, where each hexagram is considered to consist of two trigrams, an upper and lower. Though the text of the Book of Changes primarily deals with the sixty-four hexagrams, the philosophy derives in large part from two fundamental sequences of the eight trigrams (Figure 2).

The first sequence is attributed to Fû Hsî and is variously called The World of Thought (ideas, motives, wishes, and things beyond the range of the five senses), Before the World Arrangement, The Primal Arrangement, The Sequence of Earlier Heaven (or Pre-Heaven), and Fû Hsî’s Trigrams.[17] The second sequence, attributed to King Wên, is called The World of the Senses (phenomena, manifestation, things within the range of the five senses), The Inner-World Arrangement (a strange name for the arrangement that deals with outward form), The Sequence of Later Heaven, and King Wên’s Trigrams.[18] In this text I will use Pre-Heaven and Later-Heaven to denote the two sequences. Interestingly the two sequences of trigrams seem to correspond well to the Unification Thought concepts of sungsang and hyungsang, respectively.[19] These two sequences of trigrams in turn lead to two sequences of the hexagrams. Shao Yung’s circular sequence of hexagrams is based on the Pre-Heaven sequence of trigrams, and King Wên’s sequence of hexagrams is based on the Later-Heaven sequence of trigrams.[20] The text of the Book of Changes itself follows King Wên’s sequence of hexagrams.

The suggestion that the two sequences of the trigrams represent sungsang and hyungsang is strengthened when considering one layer of interpretation used when consulting the Book of Changes.[21] The Later-Heaven sequence represents the phenomenal world of physical manifestation, and the Pre-Heaven sequence, the thought forms behind the physical manifestation. If the Later-Heaven sequence is laid over the Pre-Heaven sequence, then behind each trigram in Later-Heaven there is a trigram of Pre-Heaven that “shines” through the Later-Heaven trigram. Similarly, for every hexagram in Later-Heaven there is behind it a hexagram of Pre-Heaven that can be constructed from the overlapping diagrams of the trigrams. This to me is highly suggestive of the relationship between sungsang and hyungsang.

2.2. Yang and Yin

As mentioned above, arising from the Great Ultimate are the two cardinal powers or principles of yang and yin. These are the principles of light and dark, and are symbolized by the Creative (=) and the Receptive (= =). The nature of the Creative is movement, and through movement it effortlessly unites what is divided. It guides the direction of movement at the germinal stage of being. The nature of the Receptive is repose, where the simplicity that arises from pure receptivity is the germ of spatial existence.[22] These two principles are also represented in the Pre-Heaven arrangement of trigrams (Figure 2). In this diagram, diametrically opposed trigrams are the exact opposite of each other. In other words, yang and yin appear on opposite sides of the circle, and movement is linear from one side to the other.

Figure 2. The Two Arrangements of the Trigrams, Showing Direction of Movement, and the Korean Flag

The Pre-Heaven diagram represents the tension and balance of the two complementary principles moving back and forth across the circle. This is where we find the natural law that balances yang and yin. Hook says of this situation:

Because pre-heaven, in other words thought, time and the cosmic forces, is the forerunner of later heaven, it moulds all action and manifestation in physical matter. How dynamic, therefore, is the power of thought![23]

Moreover, the well known yin-yang symbol is derived from this Pre-Heaven diagram, and the Korean flag is a representation of it with the four cardinal trigrams turned slightly anticlockwise. Given that the True Parents come from Korea, this national symbol is quite appropriate.

The interaction of the Creative and the Receptive give rise to matter,[24] and insofar as these two principles enter into the phenomenon of life they are embodied as male and female.[25] In dealing with substantial beings, we move into the realm represented by the Later-Heaven arrangement of the trigrams (Figure 2). In the world of the senses, the yang and yin principles are physically manifested and, as shown in the diagram, movement is circular.[26] This diagram thus deals with actual tangible things, which appear to rotate as through a circle. The movement starts in the east with the trigram of the Arousing representing birth, and moves clockwise around the circle to the northeast with the trigram Keeping Still representing death. The physical manifestation is seen in such things as male and female, strength and weakness, top and bottom, etc. The circular movement of the diagram is seen in the circular shapes found in existing beings, such as the sun or the human head, as well as symbolically in things such as the physical changes wrought by the seasons.

Although the philosophy of the Book of Changes includes the concept of relationship between yang and yin, it is different from the concept of relationship found in Divine Principle. Divine Principle suggests that relationship occurs through a subject and object and that a direct result is circular motion. The Book of Changes rather sees a state of tension between the opposite but complementary principles. Consequently the connection between relationship and the resulting circular motion is also not clearly made.

Nevertheless, the description of the physical manifestation of the two principles in the Book of Changes is practically identical to the description of yang and yin in Divine Principle. It also includes both types of relationship described by Divine Principle; that between male and female and that between correlative aspects of a single existing being. There is one notable difference: the Book of Changes also sees good and evil as manifestations of yang and yin[27] where Divine Principle clearly does not.

In addition, between the two sequences of trigrams, the Pre-Heaven sequence is seen as yang and the Later-Heaven as yin. Thus the Book of Changes also applies the terminology of yang and yin to a relationship that would be considered sungsang and hyungsang in Divine Principle. It is the additional categories of subject-object and sungsang-hyungsang that allows Divine Principle to stand as the bridge between the metaphysical concepts of the Book of Changes and the modern understanding of matter.

3. Yang and Yin in Unification Thought

According to Divine Principle, sungsang and hyungsang are the more fundamental dual characteristics of an existing being, while yang and yin are considered to be attributes of sungsang and hyungsang. It is then right at this point that we need to introduce the concept of substances found in classical philosophical theism. Sang Hun Lee’s treatment of yang and yin can best be understood from a perspective that regards sungsang and hyungsang as classical substances and yang and yin as attributes of those substances, as in Clayton’s description of classical philosophical theism (see above). This can be discerned in how Lee regards oriental philosophy.

In the Book of Changes the physical manifestation of yang and yin represented by the Later-Heaven sequence of trigrams leads to masculine and feminine beings as well as to the correlative aspects of existing beings. Taken at face value, this would seem to correlate well with the explanation given in Divine Principle. On the contrary, Lee is careful to distinguish Unification Thought from the philosophy of the Book of Changes. In Essentials of Unification Thought he writes:

Oriental philosophy contains ambiguous and unclear points in its conception of yang and yin. Sometimes it deals with yang and yin as substances; other times as attributes. For instance, such substances as the sun, the male being, and the mountains, as well as such qualities as bright, hot, and high, are described as yang; such substances as the moon, female beings, and valleys, as well as such qualities as dark, cold, and low, are described as yin.[28]

He then distances Unification Thought from oriental philosophy by stating that Unification Thought regards yang and yin as solely as attributes not substances.[29] In the newest text, New Essentials of Unification Thought, the corresponding passage is not quite so clear about the distinction between the Book of Changes and Unification Thought.[30] However this text is very clear about the use of substantive ontology, and is the first text where Lee directly states that he is dealing with sungsang and hyungsang as substances:

Every created being, including human beings, is the united being of sungsang and hyungsang. In other words, in a created being sungsang and hyungsang are components of that individual (substance). Moreover, sungsang and hyungsang themselves each have the character of substance… in the created world sungsang and hyungsang have the character of substance, while yang and yin are the attributes of sungsang and hyungsang.[31]

Lee acknowledges that in traditional philosophy the communication between substances has been problematic. He resolves it in the following way:

Sungsang consists primarily of mental elements, but there is some element of energy in it as well… Likewise, hyungsang is made of energy, but there is some mental element included in it. Thus sungsang and hyungsang are not totally heterogeneous… In the created world, sungsang and hyungsang are manifested as the elements of spirit and matter.[32]

If we understand sungsang and hyungsang as substances, it is evident that yang and yin cannot possibly be substances as well. This is required, because sungsang and hyungsang are the more fundamental and two substances cannot occupy the same place at the same time. Moreover if yang and yin were substances we could not account for the correlative aspects of yang and yin within one existing being. Therefore yang and yin must be attributes in this substantive ontology. However, a consequence of applying a substantive ontology in this way is that there cannot be any inherently yang or yin beings; otherwise they would be substances too. That is, yang and yin can only be defined with respect to the correlative aspects of existing beings. When we look at the chapter on ontology we can see this is exactly what Lee has done. In his ontology he describes yang and yin as correlative aspects of both sungsang and hyungsang.

In animals, plants, and minerals there are yang and yin in the sungsang as well as yang and yin in the hyungsang. Animals sometimes behave actively and sometimes do not. Plants sometimes grow and sometimes they wither; sometimes plants open their flowers, and sometimes they close them; trees grow upward into the sky and their roots grow downward into the soil. In minerals, physicochemical functions sometimes proceed intensely and other times do not. These are yang and yin characteristics of the sungsang. As for yang and yin characteristics of the hyungsang, these include protuberances and orifices, high and low, front and back, light and dark, hard and soft, dynamic and static,, pure and impure, hot and cold, day and night, summer and winter, heaven and earth, mountain and valley, and so forth. This is how we can understand yang and yin in the sungsang and hyungsang of the individual truth being.[33]

With respect to hyungsang protuberances and orifices, for example, are correlative aspects in that they arise from the physical manifestation of the being rather than from what it is made of. Similarly day and night, or summer and winter, are correlative aspects since they arise from the physical manifestation of the relationship between the sun and the earth rather than directly from the “stuff” of the sun and the earth themselves. With respect to sungsang it can be seen that Lee refers to the activity of the functional aspect of sungsang as being active or inactive. This activity says nothing of the informational content of sungsang, so says nothing about the “stuff” of the being.[34]

If yang and yin are defined solely from correlative aspects of existing beings how then can we account for masculine and feminine beings? To deal with this, Lee goes on to suggest that at each level of existing beings there is a yang substantial being and a yin substantial being.[35] These are further identified, in a similar fashion to Divine Principle, as male and female in living beings and as positive and negative electrically charged particles in inorganic matter. At first glance this seems like a second definition of the terms, since it appears to deal with yang and yin beings similarly to Divine Principle and the Book of Changes. However, in order to maintain the assertion that yang and yin are not substances, Lee suggests that a male being has more yang attributes and a female more yin.[36] In this view, a yang substantial being is yang because it has more yang correlative aspects than yin, and vice versa for a yin substantial being.

This explanation is not completely satisfactory. Consider, for example, two living cells, say cheek cells, one from a man and one from a woman. Both cells have the same shape and constituent organelles. Under an optical microscope you could not tell them apart. Neither contains more yang or yin correlative aspects than the other, yet one cell is definitely male and the other definitely female. Now let us compare neutral atoms of metal elements with neutral atoms of non-metal elements. In this case neither type of atom has an electrical charge or more yang or yin correlative aspects than the other; both are electrically neutral and spherical. Yet the metals may be considered yang and the non-metals yin. Clearly there is something more involved here than is apparent from the explanation in Unification Thought.

Similar to the situation with respect to sungsang and hyungsang, I believe the difficulty here is again the assumption of a Greek ontology, which Lee inherited from traditional Western thought. The difference between the treatment of yang and yin in Unification Thought and that in Divine Principle (and the Book of Changes) is the use of an ontology of substances. Moreover, science shows such ontology to be physically incorrect. Therefore let us proceed by removing the classical Western ontology of substances from our consideration of the concepts of yang and yin. The immediate consequence of doing this is that the objection to inherently yang or inherently yin beings is removed since we no longer have to deal with them as substances. Thus, a being can be inherently yang or yin and still allow these characteristics to be attributes of the beings’ sungsang and hyungsang. This in turn means that we do not have to restrict our definition of the terms yang and yin to correlative aspects only.

4. Insights from the Book of Changes

As we have seen, the fundamental philosophy of the Book of Changes is represented in the two sequences of the trigrams. The Pre-Heaven sequence shows the division of yang and yin as well as the tension and balance between the two. Their movements favor one then the other and back again. The Later-Heaven sequence deals with the physical manifestation of yang and yin and circular movement. The discussion of yang and yin in Divine Principle is primarily concerned with existing beings, and as such represents the Later-Heaven sequence of the trigrams. However, the Pre-Heaven sequence of trigrams also offers insights into the concepts of yang and yin, especially since we can regard the Pre-Heaven sequence as corresponding to sungsang.

It is in the Pre-Heaven sequence that we most clearly see the action of yang and yin, their tension and balance, and their fundamental nature. Where the nature of the creative (yang) is movement to unite and provide the seed for guiding development, and the nature of the receptive (yin) is the pure receptivity that lies at the origin of new existence. Since the Pre-Heaven sequence corresponds to sungsang, at first glance this description of yang and yin seems to be in reasonable accord with Unification Thought’s explanation of the active or passive function of sungsang. However the meaning contained in the Book of Changes is deeper than just a consideration of the function of sungsang; it is describing the very nature of sungsang as creative or receptive and thus also refers to its informational content.

In order to understand this distinction clearly in the context of Unification Thought, let us consider its two-stage ontological model that regards sungsang as an inner base. This two-stage structure is described first for the Original Image and then applied to all existing beings, such that sungsang in general exists as an inner four-position base consisting of a inner functional part (inner sungsang) and an inner informational part (inner hyungsang).[37] There is, then, the potential for three different types of yang and yin attributes: yang and yin attributes of the inner sungsang, yang and yin attributes of the inner hyungsang, and yang and yin attributes of the [outer] hyungsang. When we make this distinction, we notice that Unification Thought’s description of the yang and yin attributes of the sungsang refer primarily to attributes of the inner sungsang -- the functional part of sungsang. That is, they refer to the intellect, emotion and will in the mind.[38] On the other hand, the Book of Changes’ description of the nature of yang and yin refers mainly to the inner hyungsang, as the informational part of sungsang. When the description from the Book of Changes is applied to the inner hyungsang, it leads to the classification of a being as inherently yang or inherently yin.

To illustrate this, let us return to the examples of the cells and atoms used above. When we compare male and female cells their correlative aspects are essentially identical. Where they differ is in their DNA. There is a clear difference between the DNA of men and women. Now since the information coded in the DNA represents the informational part of the inner hyungsang of life, we can see that this is the source of the distinction between two otherwise similar cells. The cells of a man are distinctly male, and the cells of a woman are distinctly female. Although cells in both men and women manifest both yang and yin characteristics and are practically indistinguishable in every other way, they are still clearly either male or female in their inner hyungsang. Thus men and women are inherently male or female beings primarily because of their sungsang (inner hyungsang), not because they have a preponderance of yang or yin correlative aspects. The correlative aspects follow from the attributes of the sungsang and, as we have seen for atoms, there is not necessarily a preponderance of one or the other. Moreover, taking the Pre-Heaven sequence of trigrams as representing the balance of yang and yin in the sungsang suggests that the concept of female is present in the male sungsang and vice versa. Information about women is present in the sungsang of men, and information about men is present in the sungsang of women.

With respect to atoms, the major difference between metal atoms and non-metal atoms is their relative ability to lose or gain electrons. Metal atoms tend to lose electrons to form positively charged ions, like the male giving of the seed in the Creative, whereas non-metal atoms tend to gain electrons to form negatively charged ions, like the female in the Receptive. Thus, following the classifications in the Book of Changes, the inherent nature of metal atoms (not ions) is yang and that of non-metal atoms (not ions) is yin. In the application of the standard model to atoms, the differences between metal atoms and non-metal atoms lie in the operation of the electromagnetic interaction within the atom; this in turn depends on the number of protons in the nucleus. In a previous discussion of physico-chemical character,[39] this was associated with the informational content of the inner hyungsang. Once again, beings are inherently yang or yin depending on the information in the inner hyungsang.

The relationship between the two sequences of trigrams in the Book of Changes demonstrates very well the relationship between yang and yin in the sungsang and its physical manifestation in the hyungsang. Yang and yin in the inner hyungsang lead to the physical manifestation of inherently yang or yin beings in addition to the physical manifestation of the correlative aspects of existing beings. This accounts for both types of yang and yin relationship found in Divine Principle. There is therefore continuity between explanation in the Book of Changes and Unification Thought if we regard sungsang as an inner base.

5. Yang and Yin, Matter and Science[40]

The modern scientific understanding of matter and the structure of the physical universe that emerged over the last two hundred years is firmly connected to the Western tradition of looking at the “stuff” of something, its matter. Normal matter is composed of three fundamental particles which relate through three physical interactions.[41] Each of the interactions is associated with some property of the particles. Thus the strong nuclear interaction relates to a color charge in quarks, the electromagnetic interaction is related to the electrical charge and spin of particles, and gravity to the mass of the particles. The electromagnetic interaction is the only one of these interactions that operates through a pair structure. The strong interaction has a threefold charge and gravity just mass. How then can the scientific understanding of matter and its interactions be connected to the concepts of yang and yin?

There are two key starting points here. One is the different types of yang and yin in the proposed two-stage structure of existing beings. The other is an insight derived from the Book of Changes where yang and yin do not directly refer to the stuff of what things are made of. The concepts of yang and yin in the Book of Changes were developed centuries before the modern understanding of matter began to be developed. I believe this traditional concept of yang and yin says nothing about what the stuff of a being is, but rather just how the parts relate. There is no clearly defined concept of matter as there is in Western thought. Things exist and manifest as yang or yin beings and correlative aspects without regard to what they are made of. The two great principles of yang and yin are at their root principles of light and dark, the Creative and the Receptive. A being is yang because of its giving of the seed in the Creative, or is yin because of its receptivity in the Receptive. Yang and yin can also be seen within a being, in its correlative aspects such as convex and concave, high and low, etc.

The plus and minus of yang and yin in the Book of Changes thus does not directly correspond to any property of the matter itself, such as electrical charge. The association of yang and yin with the plus and minus of electrical charge is a much later Westernization of the concept, that I would argue is not in accord with the underlying philosophy of the Book of Changes. The proposed three-stage structure can bridge the gap here to an understanding of matter, but it demonstrates a significantly more complex relationship to the electromagnetic interaction than a direct correlation with charge.

5.1 Yang and Yin of Hyungsang

A being’s hyungsang pertains to its physical manifestation. A being can be seen to be yang because of its giving in the Creative or yin because of its receptivity in the Receptive. Thus male living beings give the seed (Creative) and female beings receive it (Receptive). It is these relative physical actions that lead to the classification of the being. In chemistry, metal atoms and nucleophiles give of their electrons and acids give of their protons, so they can be said to be yang. Non-metals and electrophiles accept electrons and bases accept protons, so these can be said to be yin. Additionally, the physical manifestation leads to correlative aspects in the being such as is displayed in the being’s circular motion.

One important result of the give-and-take action of a subject and object is that the resulting union has circular motion. We can discern circular and spiral motion wherever we look in the universe. For physical systems the center of the resulting circular motion is the center of mass of the union. We can thus discern correlative yang and yin aspects in the circular motion of the system, with the center of mass as yang and the periphery as yin, in addition to the other correlative aspects that arise from the physical manifestation of the system. In the solar system, for example, the yang center of mass lies in the sun and the yin rotating periphery would be the planets. If two or more relating beings have a similar mass the yang center of the resulting circular motion does not have to lie within one of the relating beings and all the beings would be yin.

These yang and yin designations from physical manifestation do not depend directly on the electrical charge of the being. The pair structure of chemistry does, of course, derive from the dual polarity of the electromagnetic interaction, but the designation of a being as yang or yin does not directly relate to the electrical charge of the being itself. Moreover when looking at the correlative yang and yin of circular motion, we are also able to connect to concepts of mass and gravity in descriptions of the physical manifestation of circular motion. The designations of yang and yin from the physical manifestation of a being may not be identical to scientific explanation, but they are rather complementary to scientific explanation.

5.2 Yang and Yin of Sungsang

In the two-stage structure sungsang exists as an inner base of an inner sungsang and an inner hyungsang, and also relates to a triple structure.[42] Mind has intellect, emotion and will, and the triple color charge of the strong nuclear interaction can be associated with the inner base of an atom.[43] The three aspects of the inner sungsang are the functional aspects and can be either active (yang) or at rest (yin) with respect to processing the information of the inner hyungsang. We are dealing with a unity of two and three in the sungsang which, interestingly enough shows some correspondence to the trigrams of the Book of Changes.

The number of protons in the nucleus of the atom is responsible for the properties of the atom, and consequently for its overall yang or yin designation in the hyungsang manifestation. This is related to the information in the inner hyungsang of the atom. Protons and neutrons are each formed from three quarks. Protons have two up quarks and one down; neutrons have one up quark and two down. If we associate the up quark, which also has a fractional positive charge, with a yang line in the trigram, and associate the down quark, which has a fractional negative charge, with a yin line, then protons and neutrons can be represented by the eight trigrams (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Relationship between Protons, Neutrons, and the Trigrams

With the physical manifestation of the hyungsang, and now our two-plus-three structure of the sungsang, we have shown how yang and yin can be connected to the physical interactions important for matter.

The use of trigrams in relation to the inner hyungsang can be taken one step further, to living systems. In living systems, the informational content of the inner hyungsang is primarily stored in the DNA in the nucleus of the cell. Now we are moving from an essentially point-like, zero-dimensional storage of information in the atom to a one-dimensional storage of information in the linear code of DNA. In the genes it is the sequence of four bases (guanine, adenine, cytosine, and thymine) that code for the sequence of amino acids in proteins when that information is copied into RNA. Interestingly it is a codon of three bases in the RNA that codes for a particular amino acid in the primary structure of a protein. The code in DNA is therefore a triplet code of four possibilities giving sixty-four possible codons in RNA.

The connection of this genetic code to the trigrams arises when we consider how the trigrams are constructed from the coin or yarrow stalk methods of consulting the Book of Changes.[44] In both methods the trigrams and hexagrams are constructed from the bottom up one line at a time. The coins, or stalks, give four possible numbers -- 6, 7, 8, or 9 -- for each particular line in the diagram. The 7 and 9 are yang and the 6 and 8 are yin,[45]but the 6 and 9 give marked (or moving) lines that have special significance in interpretation. So now we have trigrams with three lines of four possibilities. This gives sixty-four possible trigrams, just like the sixty-four codons, and we could in principle associate each codon with one of these new trigrams.

By analogy, we can also make some predictions for the inner hyungsang of mind. Moving from atoms to cells was a move that saw an increase by one in the dimensionality of the stored information. We moved from essentially zero-dimensional points to a one-dimensional, linear DNA. The move also saw the triplet code increase from three lines of two possibilities to three lines of four possibilities, though all four possibilities are still just variations on yang and yin. Both of these changes allow for a massive increase in the potential meanings encoded. By extension, we might expect the informational storage of mind to extend to a two dimensional surface and involve a triplet code of eight possibilities giving 512 basic codes or trigrams.[46] Though there is no experimental evidence for such a triplet code of mind, it is known that surface area is important in brain function. This is why the cerebral cortex is folded as it is. The folding increases the ratio of the surface area to the volume. Also from Unification Thought we do know that the number three is associated with mind in the context of intellect, emotion, and will.

6. Conclusion

The ontology of classical Greek philosophy, such as found in Western philosophical theism and concepts such as mind-body dualism, is presupposed by the very language we use in describing religious concepts in the West. In explanations of the ontological concepts of Divine Principle it is easy to use that language in attempting to make the concepts understandable to a wider audience. I believe this happens throughout the Unification movement, such as in descriptions of the need to develop mind and body unity, and, as shown here, in the ontology of Unification Thought. However, presupposing an ontology based in Greek philosophy brings with it a history of interpretation that I believe somewhat distorts the meaning of the fundamental ontological categories found in Divine Principle. Furthermore, it creates a gap with scientific explanation.

In the West, science arose in large part from the Christian philosophical tradition that also considers the matter part of material existence. This was part and parcel of adopting the ontology of Plato and Aristotle. Though giving birth to science, these Christian doctrines on God and Creation have not changed to keep pace with the developments in science over the last two hundred years. In fact, modern science overturns the ontology of Plato and Aristotle. Consequently a gap developed between traditional Christian ontology and natural science that has yet to be filled, and which resulted in a perceived conflict between them.

Chinese traditional philosophy, on the other hand, such as found in the Book of Changes, does not directly look at matter itself. Rather it looks at the relationships that develop from the manifestation of existing beings. The “stuff” of existence is not really considered. Consequently there is no overlapping area of explanation with science. Thus, though there is no direct conflict with science, there is also no direct connection with it either. So there is also a gap between traditional Chinese thought and science.

Both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions seem incomplete. In order to show the unity between science and religion what is needed is a new ontology. I think that this is part of the purpose of Unification Thought. That is, it can fill the gap between traditional thought, both Eastern and Western, and science. Consequently in my writing I have been trying to strip away classical Western ontology from the meaning of the fundamental ontological categories and then look for the resulting implications. This process lead to the proposed model of sungsang as an inner base inseparable from hyungsang, a new view of spirit realm, and, in this paper, to an understanding of three different types of yang and yin characteristics in an existing being. The proposed two-stage structure can serve as a bridge between Unification Thought, the Book of Changes, and science.


[1] David Burton, “What is the Matter? Understandings of Matter in Unification Thought and Modern Physics,” Journal of Unification Studies 6 (2004-2005):143-159.

[2] David Burton, “What is the Spirit? Some Physics of Spiritual Existence,” Journal of Unification Studies 8 (2007): 107-124.

[3] Exposition of the Divine Principle (Seoul: Sung Hwa Publishing Co., 1996), 20.

[4] Philip Clayton, “The Case for Christian Panentheism,” Dialog 37 (Summer 1998): 201-208.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Exposition of the Divine Principle, 16.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 16-17.

[9] Ibid., 19.

[10] Ibid., 20-21.

[11] Divine Principle thus suggests that the Book of Changes fails to recognize a personal God.

[12] Exposition of the Divine Principle, 20.

[13] The I Ching, 3rd ed., trans. Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes (New York: Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1967; repr., London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1968), 298. Though there are newer translations of The Book of Changes I have found this version to be the most complete in relation to the underlying philosophy.

[14] Ibid., 319.

[15] This is comparable to the eight members of Noah’s family; Noah, his wife and three sons with their wives.

[16] Ibid., 265.

[17] Diana ffarington Hook, The I Ching and You (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1973), 50.

[18] Ibid.

[19] These sequences are also the source of concepts of pair structure and circular motion.

[20] Diana ffarington Hook, The I Ching and Mankind (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1975), 58-62.

[21] Hook, I Ching and You, 49-55.

[22] The I Ching, 286.

[23] Hook, I Ching and Mankind, 13.

[24] The I Ching, 344.

[25] Ibid., 285.

[26] The five states of change (water, fire, wood, metal and earth), sometimes called five elements, are associated with this world of senses sequence of trigrams. Since they are not immediately relevant to our discussion of basic concepts they have not been included in this work.

[27] Hook, I Ching and Mankind, 12.

[28] Sang Hun Lee, Essentials of Unification Thought (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 1992), 12.

[29] Ibid., 12 -13.

[30] Sang Hun Lee, New Essentials of Unification Thought (Tokyo: Kogensha, 2006), 13.

[31] Ibid. 14-15.

[32] Ibid., 10.

[33] Ibid., 111. It is interesting that in this passage heaven and earth are included as yang and yin. Heaven and earth are important concepts for The Book of Changes and are also represented by the Creative and the Receptive. Their relative functions in The Book of Changes are more reminiscent of sungsang and hyungsang than yang and yin, such as in the relationship of natural law with existing beings. I would rather associate heaven in The Book of Changes with cosmic consciousness in Unification Thought.

[34] Recall that in the proposed two-stage structure sungsang is an inner base of a functional aspect and an informational aspect.

[35] Ibid., 111.

[36] Ibid., 50.

[37] Burton, “What is the Matter,” 153-158.

[38] Lee, New Essentials, 15.

[39] Burton, “What is the Matter,” 153-156. [40] The treatment of yang and yin here is somewhat different to that presented in a shorter discussion in a previous work (David Burton, “Unification Thought’s Methodology and the Dual Characteristics,” Journal of Unification Studies 5 (2003): 81-92). In that previous work yang and yin were not considered in the context of the proposed two-stage structure and the Book of Changes, thus leading to a slightly different explanation.

[41] The standard model of particle physics actually includes twelve matter particles and their corresponding antiparticles, but normal atoms are formed from only three of those particles; up and down quarks and the electron. There are also understood to be four physical interactions, but the weak nuclear interaction is responsible for radioactive decay and does not function to hold the particles together.

[42] Burton, “What is the Matter,” 153-156.

[43] Ibid.

[44] The I Ching, 721-724.

[45] In general, odd numbers are yang and even numbers are yin.

[46] An alternative possibility is to regard the new dimension as doubling the trigrams to give hexagrams. We would then be dealing with six lines of four possibilities giving 4096 basic codes. 

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