The Words of the Reiner Family
I joined the Unification Movement in September of 1979. This testimony deals with my experiences in joining the movement, and in the 16 following years, including several experiences that were truly life-changing. The real reason I joined is that I experienced God. I didn’t believe in God before meeting the movement. In fact, I wasn’t at all religious. But my experiences with Him have been so significant, I really feel I must share them. I truly believe those experiences were given to me not just for my sake.
It was September I979. I was a student at the College for Recording Arts in San Francisco, and a friend, Steve, had come out from Denver to visit me. He had been staying with me for about a week when one day he came home and said he had met two people who invited him to a dinner where we could meet some “musicians." I needed musicians to help on a school project, so I wanted to attend the dinner.
We kept the address, and a few weeks later I had a one week break from school. At the start of the break, we decided to attend the dinner. When we got there, I was very disappointed, because the “musicians" were really amateur, merely a gathering of average people. Then there was a lecture, given by Dr. Mose Durst, the leader of the Unification movement in the Bay Area at that time. I had no expectation that the dinner would be an ideological affair! I found myself unable to really pay attention to the lecture because it reminded me so much of a one act play I had directed a few years earlier when I was at Franconia College in New Hampshire. The play, called "Dr. Kheal," was a satirical look at anyone who attempts to explain “life.” In the play, the actor, Dr. Kheal, is the teacher, and the members of the audience are his students. Dr. Kheal writes a word on the board, like “happiness," and begins to discuss it cynically. Then he discusses another word, like "life," and so on, with the conclusion that any attempt at understanding or defining these deeper things is ludicrous.
In the view of the play, the “truth” about such questions is relative, and can never really be known. So here was Dr. Durst writing on the board words such as “happiness” and "life.” I couldn’t bear to listen, and after the lecture I just wanted to leave. Steve, to my surprise, enjoyed the lecture and even wanted to attend the weekend seminar in the mountains! He offered to pay for me too -- a nominal $20 fee to cover food and transportation. Steve was very persuasive, so we went.
During the two-day weekend workshop, I did not have a good time. I was a smoker, and no smoking was allowed at the camp. I missed smoking and wanted to go home. I didn’t really listen to the lectures for the first two days. I just waited restlessly for Sunday night, to go home.
But come Sunday, Steve surprised me again. He wanted to stay at the camp for the advanced 5-day workshop! My one free week from school and we were going to stay at this lousy camp? The thing was, I could not say “no" to Steve. He was always the most persuasive in our relationship. And he was paying (a $70 fee for the week). So I looked on the bright side. I started to get intrigued about the idea of quitting smoking, a habit that I hated. I thought what better environment than this one to try? So we stayed.
During the week, I began getting more out of the lectures. I decided the education about the Bible, which I knew almost nothing about, was valuable. I was very idealistic at the time and believed a better world was possible. I had even written songs about this. So I became gradually more interested in studying at the workshop. Also, as I continued through the week, I began to remember my motivation for wanting to do music. Naturally, I wanted to make it big, to make millions. But my ultimate goal, my secret dream even before joining, was to use that success to some day create some sort of ideal community. The lectures were starting to awaken that latent idealism within.
Finally, Thursday, the fourth day of the advanced workshop, Steve came to me and said, “Hey, Peter, do you know these guys are the Moonies? Let’s get out of here!” I didn’t know why he was so upset. He wanted a ride back to the city the next day. But I had never heard of the Moonies. In fact, the only time I had heard the word “moonie” used was when I once overheard another friend say "moonies are the friendliest people in the world." But I never knew who he meant by “moonies."
Besides, by now I was getting something out of the lectures. And I was starting to feel proud of myself for having refrained from smoking so long. I actually had the hope I could completely quit. So I said "I don’t know." This surprised Steve -- since I usually never questioned him. He expected me to just say, “OK, let’s go,” especially since, until now, I had been less enthusiastic than he about the workshop.
That night a strange thing happened. I woke up at about 2:00 a.m., and somehow I knew if I put my clothes on and went outside, I would meet Steve and tell him I would leave with him. At 2:00 a.m.! This was a fairly large camp. You can’t just “run into someone" at random, especially at 2:00 a.m. But I put my clothes on, went out, walked around in the camp for a while, and incredibly, found Steve wandering about as well! I told him "OK. I’ll leave with you tomorrow.” That was that -- I went back to bed.
The next day, Steve came and said “OK, are you ready?" I remember a voice within me say “you have everything you want here.” And I told Steve, to his dismay, “I’m not going.” Steve was dumbfounded. He tried to talk me into going with him, but I refused. I suppose I surprised myself too. In the middle of the night, I had told Steve I would leave with him, and now this sudden turnaround. Steve had no choice but to leave me at the camp. The next day, the advanced weekend workshop was to begin. It was during this weekend, September 22-23, 1979, that I first experienced God and discovered His existence.
It was raining, and we had been singing a moving song called “Precious Light.” One of the lines in the song is “a cry that comes from children dead, my heart cannot ignore.” I was thinking about all the suffering and pain in the world, and I went outside after the song for "prayer time.” Though I had never really “prayed” on my own, I began sincerely crying, thinking of the pain in the world. I knelt down in the mud, not caring that it was wet and dirty, and as I knelt there and cried, suddenly God came to me. This is a moment impossible to describe. I can only say that in that moment, I suddenly felt a wave of love fill my entire being. I was just shocked. There were no words exchanged between God and myself during this encounter, but in that moment I knew three things -- I knew God existed as a living and real being that we could all experience, I knew also that God knew all things and that I could ask Him any question and He could answer it, and I knew that this experience I was having was the most important, fulfilling experience anyone could ever have.
I realized that it was this experience that all mankind was meant to have, and that by lacking it, man lacked everything, and was hollow. This was the missing link. I discovered during this encounter that God had been close to me my whole life, every moment, sharing all my experiences with me, only I was unaware of Him, cut off from His presence and consciousness. This experience was so profound, so overwhelming, that afterward, I felt I had to dedicate my life to bringing people to this experience, so that they could not only believe in God, but actually know of His existence. Nothing was more important to me than to tell the world that God was real, because it was during this encounter that I came to understand that no man can be whole without a relationship with God.
Was I in for a rude awakening. After staying at the camp for several weeks, studying the “Principle” (Reverend Moon’s teaching, comprising his revelations from God) I went back down to the city for “witnessing." This is where we go out and invite people to our dinner program, just as I had been invited a few weeks earlier. The philosophy of the movement is that true enlightenment dictates that you must pass your enlightenment on to others. Is a wise man truly wise if he keeps his knowledge to himself? So, we “witness.”
But did people want to hear about God? Well, sadly, no. I was to discover that this is one of the most unpopular topics in the world! There is so much argument and debate, so many differing viewpoints. Yet, in my experience, there was just one God, one loving God, who wants nothing more than to give His love out to the people and make His presence known.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well great. Peter experienced it, that’s good for him. But not for me. No way... you won’t sell me.” But I’m not talking about an experience for me. I was given that experience not just for myself; It is an experience all of us are meant to have, every moment of our lives. We were originally created to be completely one with God. God was meant to dwell within each of us, to be as close to us as our mind is to our body. But due to man’s fallen condition, we have lost our connection to God.
Or perhaps you are thinking, “Well, I’m willing to believe that Peter had that experience, and that he believes it was God, but I’m not so sure. After all, the brain is a complex organ -- his experience could be some strange phenomenon we simply don’t understand." Why do we fight the fact that there is a real, living God whom we are all meant to experience and live with forever? Why do we want to deny this? We even say we “believe” in God, but we are not willing to truly know Him. Why? It reminds me of a line in the movie “Oh, God,” when John Denver’s wife says, “I believe in God, I just don’t believe He exists!" We are willing to believe in the concept or the possibility of the concept, but not the real, living Creator! The best we can do is to theorize about God’s existence.
The point is, we can never accept God simply by listening to other people’s experiences. Can you, simply by reading about my encounter, accept that it is all true? To know God, you have to experience God yourself. This can be very difficult. You have to want to try. The hardest thing is getting a person interested in trying! How close I came to not trying myself. But by some strange miracle, I did. And now I know -- there is no question about it -- God exists!
A few days after Steve left the camp, he returned to try to encourage me to leave (I later found out he had told my mother that I had been brainwashed, and I later heard mom and dad were even considering "deprogramming" me. They probably would have tried it if they had the money).
Steve told me he had a dream, in which he was in a courtroom being judged, and I was one of the judges! His interpretation was that if I stayed with the Moonies, I would become an "evil” judge (in those days, our concept of law keepers was that they were all bad.) My interpretation was that because Steve left the movement and didn’t take it seriously, his own actions would judge him. You see, one of the reasons that I stayed was that I knew if I left, it would be only out of my own selfishness. Here was a movement dedicated to serving the world, helping the world, finding and applying solutions to the world’s problems, and if I didn’t participate, what would I be doing?
Just living my life, for me. That’s the biggest problem with this world. So many are living their lives for themselves. It’s called selfishness. Why does a couple get divorced? It starts when one or both of them start thinking about themselves, about doing things their own way. This is how we in the world have become divorced from each other. This is how the many religions, nations, cultures, and languages all developed, because historically, we have been selfish. If we are to have a better world, someone has to turn the tide of history.
My concept, even before I joined, was that I would become successful through music and that I would use my assets to build a community that would be an example of ideal living to the world. But here was that community already being built, right in front of me! If I abandoned this, I abandoned my own ideals -- not the ideals the movement gave me, but the ideals I had had even before coming. I would not be true to myself if I left.
Notice I said "already being built.” The Unification movement is not yet ideal -- far from it. But it has the Principles on which an ideal community can and will be realized. It is striving toward that goal every day. I’m not saying living for yourself is evil in and of itself. We all do it. But it’s only a part of what we should be living for. Living for yourself is only bad if that is all you live for.
Human beings have a whole purpose and a self purpose. The purpose of the whole is primary, the self purpose secondary. In the original world, your “self-purpose" is meant to be a subordinate part. If we were all living for the purpose of the whole, our self purposes would also be realized, since we are part of the whole! Think about it -- who could steal, rape, or kill in a world where everyone is concerned about and lives for the sake of the whole?
I know. This is idealism, and the older people get, the less idealistic they become. That’s because the older we are, the more we’ve seen our ideals crushed and the harder it is to believe that an ideal world can ever be. We start to think, “I give up. I don’t get appreciated; I’ll just live for myself” We teach our children, “Just look out for Number One.” We divorce, because it’s easier and quicker than working through our differences. We give up.
But I wanted to be different. I didn’t want to give up, and I didn’t want to teach my children to, either. Why? A great part of it was because I had come to know that God is real, and that He is the ultimate idealist. God originally meant for this world to be an ideal world! Think about it. From where is the definition for “ideal” derived? From the Creator. A painter has an idea, and if he realizes it, he has realized his “ideal.” The ideal world I am talking about is not “Reverend Moon’s concept of an ideal world.” Reverend Moon is asking, “What was God’s ideal for creating? Let’s realize that ideal." Jesus said, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” In other words, Jesus wanted to see God’s kingdom realized.
"On earth," Jesus said. He wanted to see the Kingdom of God realized on earth. How could we possibly be uninterested in discovering and working toward the realization of God’s ideal? We don’t need to say we are striving for the ideal world -- we can say we are striving for the natural world, the original world.
As I have mentioned, I feel certain that these experiences were not given to me only for myself, but to share with others as a testimony. If I had shared these things with others when I first joined the Unification movement, it might have been dismissed as nonsense. But now many years have passed. I’m happily married, and I have four children. I believe these facts should make my story less easily dismissed.
My next experience with God occurred after being with the movement about a month. For some reason, I was uneasy. I don’t remember the circumstances, but I just felt unhappy, depressed. A girl I was talking to suggested I clear my head by taking a run into the hills.
"Just run,” she said, "and keep running till you just can’t run anymore. Then pray." That’s exactly what I did. I ran and ran, up and up (the workshop site at Macaama Hill was built on a hillside.) I ran about 20 minutes. Finally, I was exhausted and I fell to my knees praying. Tears came to my eyes and I found myself crying loudly. In those tears, God came and comforted me. Again, the wave of love filled my being, as it had before. Then he told me he was grateful for me -- but when he said it, he didn’t just mean me, as an individual. He was grateful for all of the members of the movement, who were literally sacrificing themselves, denying themselves, going against the trend of a selfish society, and receiving persecution for it. He wanted me to go back down off the hillside and tell the members that He was grateful to them, and that they should know that deeply. This was one of the most profound experiences that taught me that my experiences with God were not at all only for me, but for all I could share them with.
A week or so later I had another experience with God, during prayer. This time I was prepared. I knew from previous experiences that God was omniscient and could answer any question. There was no question God could not answer. So I decided if I met Him again, I would ask Him “is Reverend Moon’s teaching on the Fall of Man true?” If you don’t already know, Unification Theology takes the view of the Adam and Eve story that the “fruit" symbolizes sexual love, and Adam and Eve’s eating of it without God’s permission means that the "Fall” was the premature experience of sexual love.
By premature I mean they were not ready, and as a result of this union, they were unable to be true parents to their children. They were immature parents. They were therefore unable to raise their children to spiritual maturity because they themselves had not attained it. Having no religious background, I found this teaching a bit difficult to accept (I later discovered that the interpretation is actually not so radical -- there were many rabbis of ancient times who held a similar view of the Old Testament story).
The “serpent" in the story symbolizes the archangel Lucifer, according to Unificationism. While I could accept God’s existence, it was hard to swallow the existence of angels. So I decided, "if I meet God again, I’ll ask Him if the Fall of Man teaching is true.” And what did God answer me that day when I met Him again in prayer? He said “everything you learn here is true." Well, that’s not a voice you can argue with!
I have titled these first three sections "Direct Experiences." There were many indirect experiences where I began to perceive God, working here, guiding there. Once I discovered God truly existed, I began to “see” Him in many different ways. I have been talking so far about “experiences with God" as though all of these "experiences” are somehow only supernatural, spiritual, or otherworldly. But the truth is that one can have countless experiences with God simply as a part of his natural daily activity. These experiences involve no “revelations” or visions. Nevertheless, in these early days of my church life, I did have many “supernatural” type experiences with God, and it is on those encounters that I am focusing in this section.
All of these early and most profound experiences with God occurred during tearful prayers. You can’t communicate with someone unless you speak their language. Sadly, the language of God is the language of tears. As a being with a parental heart toward humanity, He has been suffering over the plight of his children since creation. It was in those times, when I, too, felt tears because of the pain of mankind, that I could best relate and connect to God. My tears allowed me to form a common basis with Him, by which we could meet on the same “wavelength.”
An illustrative experience occurred after having been a member about six months. I was now living in one of the church houses in the San Francisco Bay area. We were watching a video called “Whatever Happened To Cambodia.” It really shows some horrible footage of what man can do to man. The segment that really got to me was when they were cutting bodies in half in order to have enough room to fit them into the mass graves. I broke into tears. I just realized how little value many of us place on human life. Communism especially, saw man only as a higher animal, so committing such atrocities was of no consequence. Watching this video, I really began crying uncontrollably, feeling God’s pain as He looks at this world and sees how far from His own ideal it has developed. And as I looked out the window at the cars rushing by, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that no one understood -- that people were just living their lives as though things were normal and OK. This was not an experience with God where there were words exchanged. It was simply a moment where I empathized deeply with His pain. It took me quite a while to stop crying.
The next experience I remember occurred on Easter, 1980 during a lecture on the life of Jesus. This occurred at the same house in the Bay area as did the previous episode. The teaching of the Divine Principle (Reverend Moon’s teaching) is very profound about the life and heart of Jesus. It teaches that he came not to die but to live and to be followed. The crucifixion was a terrible mistake, and it set God’s Providence back tremendously. Can you imagine how much closer we would be to the ideal today if instead of killing Jesus we had listened to him and followed him? Ironically, it is this commonsense teaching that has been the primary source of persecution for the Unification movement. Jesus was rejected and destroyed before he could complete his mission.
Traditional Christianity will have you believe that Jesus completed his mission by dying on the cross! It teaches that this is the reason that he came to earth in the first place. But I say absolutely not! If Jesus completed his mission by dying on the cross, why did he promise that Christ would come again? Why, in fact, did he regret having to go the way of the cross? And why, on the cross, did Jesus say: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing”? If the people were carrying out the will of God, enabling the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission, why should they be forgiven, as though they were committing a sin? This is because they were committing a sin -- a dreadful sin, by rejecting and crucifying the savior.
Tell these things to an average Christian and you will be met with tremendous opposition. The logic of Reverend Moon’s message has been met with a barrage of irrational explanations. Many conventional Christians of the world have tried anything and everything to avoid considering the possibility that he is right! Now you know the source of much of the opposition to Reverend Moon.
Today things are improving for the Unification movement. Mrs. Moon spoke recently around the world making the astounding proclamation that Reverend and Mrs. Moon are True Parents. A few years ago, a speech such as that would have been met with severe antagonism by the Christian community. But instead, the speeches are now being supported by many Christians. A profound change has developed in the relationship between the Unification Movement and conventional Christianity. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that the Christian world is now realizing that Reverend Moon is not someone they should persecute. He is, after all, working toward the things they want to see realized.
The lecture I heard on Jesus’ life that day was especially deep, perhaps because it was Easter. We had been singing beautiful songs beforehand and one in particular, called “Resurrection." But although many in the audience were crying during the talk, I for some reason was not. I felt so cold and stone-hearted. Why could I not cry for this man? Even if he had not been special, if he had had no more value than an average man, I felt I should still be able to pity him. But I could not. Then, during the prayer after the lecture, I felt so repentant and sorry that I could not cry for Jesus that I just broke into tears of shame. We had time to go outside and continue praying individually, so I went off on my own, and kept praying deeply. I was overwhelmed with shame. Finally, after praying this way for at least fifteen minutes, God came to me, filling me again with His love and presence, and said, “I forgive you.” It was not just the words, but the sense of His love that penetrated me and helped to comfort me. After several minutes, surrounded by His love, I stopped crying. After a few more minutes, I actually started laughing! And the amazing thing was that God laughed with me! I felt deeply cleansed and forgiven after this experience.
This experience occurred a few weeks afterward. We had been going out every day “witnessing” (evangelizing, meeting people on the street and inviting them to the dinner program, as explained earlier). I was very tired because our schedule was really focused. We would wake up early and go to bed late, and there was not much time for a break. That day instead of witnessing, I went upstairs to have extra rest. I was very surprised when I closed my eyes. I was looking at the Spirit World! I was having a conscious vision. I opened my eyes and shook my head. I was not asleep. Again I closed my eyes. This time I saw a spirit person approach me.
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. A person of light, beautiful light (obviously this is very difficult to describe). Waves of love were being emitted from this person. He was, for lack of a better term, “churning” out love. You may not believe in the spirit world or eternal life now, but if you have an experience like this one, you will become convinced! An experience like this moves you beyond belief to knowledge. I know the spirit world is there; I know life is eternal. I know that after we leave this physical shell we will move to another dimension, an eternal dimension, where we will live with a spirit body and a spirit mind. The Divine Principle teaching is very eye-opening with respect to the spirit world.
What I am saying here might sound quite arrogant and presumptuous. This is because we have been living in an era and an environment where the idea that the “truth” can be known is shunned. There are so many “truths” -- everyone is proclaiming that their own viewpoint is the true one. We have become so sick of it that we have decided to have no truths. This popular philosophy dictates that certain things can never be known -- among these, whether or not God exists, what the nature of God is, and why we exist. Yet I am proclaiming that there are answers to these questions! But I am not saying the answers I present are simply to be believed. I’m saying that you can experience these truths and know them.
We all have five physical senses. But we also have five spiritual senses. These senses exist but are latent within us. There is no real reason at present for us to use them in this realm, but on occasion they “open up” to people, and sometimes we hear their testimonies (see the Mountain of Transfiguration story in the Bible, for example). Naturally, God gives these experiences so we all might be convinced and live our lives not just for the physical moment, but with a sense of preparation for the eternal world.
This brings me to a series of three related experiences with God that taught me a tremendous amount -- three unique experiences through which God resurrected me from my suicidal way of thinking.
Did you know I was suicidal? Perhaps we all are to some extent. Who among us has never entertained the thought that dying might be better -- that nonexistence would be so much easier? I never tried taking my life, but I thought about it, sometimes frequently, and I actually did come close to trying, once. Life in the Unification movement can be difficult. We work hard for our goals, and the Principle emphasizes self-denial and sacrifice (as does every great religion) as a means to separate from our self-centeredness and be reborn to a new self. The life of self-denial can be difficult. In my life, pain would build up in me, becoming almost unbearable. Then I would experience God.
After joining the Unification movement in 1979 I moved to Texas to join CARP (Collegiate Association for the Research of the Principle -- the student branch of the Unification Movement). Then in 1981 I volunteered to go to Germany (since I spoke German) to help develop the student group there. During this whole time in the movement, I was working really hard. I did quite a bit of door-to-door fundraising to support our group's activities financially, and this was difficult for me. The hours were long, and I didn’t really enjoy having to ask people to buy things from me. And in those days, persecution was frequent. I was spat at, yelled at, and ridiculed almost daily. Once someone even pulled a knife on me!
Finally one day, I just broke down in tears and asked God, “How could you do this to me? How could you allow me to be born into such an evil world? How can you be a God of Love?” And this rage toward God just built and built within me as I continued praying, so I even wished I could kill God! I knew He existed, but I could not understand how He could allow my existence. Finally, in the midst of my tears of anger and frustration, God answered me. It was a meek, quiet, humble answer. He said, “I thought you’d understand.”
This was a very profound moment. I had heard God’s voice frequently when I first joined, but at this point I hadn’t heard Him directly for more than two years. And in this statement to me was contained a great deal of inner meaning. God was saying to me, “I believed in you. I trusted you. I thought you would be wise enough to understand the Principle. That is why I allowed your existence and birth. I thought you would understand my heart, my predicament, and help me to change this awful world." And in that moment of communion with God, I felt I did understand Him, and I felt sorry for being angry.
You see, the Principle explains why God allowed the Fall of Man. It explains why God, instead of destroying the universe after the fall, allowed man to continue his existence, in spite of the suffering God knew both man and He himself would have to endure. Even before God created the universe, He already knew there would be a possibility for man to fall away from Him. But for true love to exist between God and man, the possibility of disobeying God had to exist. It was God’s hope that man would listen to Him, and obey Him (this is represented in the Bible by God’s commandment "Thou shalt not eat of the fruit...") but man had to have the freedom to decide to follow God by his own will. For this freedom to exist, there had to exist a choice. By choosing goodness out of love for God, man would come to be bonded together with God by the power of true love. This is the only way true love could ever come to exist between God and man.
So in this tearful moment, I realized God had no choice. He needed help to change the world. He hoped I would understand.
This comprehension of God’s predicament lasted within me for about a year and a half. In October 1982, I was “blessed" (this is the Unification Church term for marriage) in Korea. The blessing was a wonderful experience for me, a truly liberating experience. I feel that until I had a wife, I was actually only half a being. She made me whole, and I was very inspired. What’s more, I thought she was beautiful!
Yes, I was "matched” by Reverend Moon. We all stood up in a line, men on one side, women on the other, and he walked down the line and selected couples whom he felt would complement each other. Our church emphasizes international, interracial marriage, as a vehicle to world peace. And I came to Korea wanting an international marriage. If we are to grow spiritually in this world, we really need to broaden our horizons. The great majority of married people today are couples of the same nation, skin color, and personality. Reverend Moon likes to match couples who are opposites, not just by race or nation, but in character as well. When two very different people are brought into harmony, much beauty can result.
He pulled me out of the line and brought me to Myung Hwa, smiling. Then we went out of the room, and talked about whether or not to accept the matching. I had already decided to accept the matching, no matter who I was given, for theological reasons. In the matching and blessing ceremonies, Unificationists feel that Reverend Moon is a representative of God.
Myung Hwa also accepted the match. My next two weeks in Korea were bliss. I was now 24 years old, and now I was literally in “heaven,” having been given outright permission to become this woman’s husband. And then the rug was pulled out from under me. I was asked to separate from her for at least three and a half years. This is known as the “separation condition” in our church. I had known it would come -- I just didn‘t know how hard it would be. I tried to understand it, tried desperately for the whole period. Precisely because it was so difficult to do, I sought a way to rationalize this separation period.
There are many ways to comprehend the separation condition. It is essentially an act of self denial. Fallen man is dominated by his physical desires. We tend to put spiritual attainment in a subordinate position to material attainment. “For what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?,” Jesus asked. Yet this is the way too many people live. The Unification Church emphasizes self denial as a means to spiritual growth. This is meant to allow the spirit to transcend the body. We fast to overcome the body’s strong desire for food, and we stay away from the opposite sex for a “conditional" period of time to overcome sexual lust. Many people interrelate and marry not because of true love but simply because they are sexually attracted to each other. Physical attraction is the driving force, and in fact the efforts people make to themselves externally beautiful are astounding. But sadly, internal beauty is neglected. The separation period is a chance to purify the mind, to seek out the higher value in one's spouse, and to build commitment and true love. It sounds nice in theory, but in practice it is very challenging!
The separation condition is, like everything else in our church, completely voluntary. Also, different groups of people are advised to fulfill different degrees of separation. At recent marriages, separations lasted only forty days in most cases. Some older couples are not asked to separate at all. It seems that as our movement develops, the burden of sacrifice is lessened for newcomers. There is a parable of Jesus about workers hired in the morning who have to work more than those hired in the evening, but they get equal pay. My separation lasted four years.
In retrospect, I am proud of what I achieved with this. As I mentioned earlier, Unification theology teaches (and I believe) that the Fall of Man occurred when Adam and Eve entered into a premature sexual union with each other, a union not yet allowed by God. I feel that following Reverend Moon's advice and abstaining for this period helped reverse the effects of the Fall in my life, and that I progressed a great deal spiritually. I feel that the profound experiences with God I am discussing here were a direct result of the separation period. But it was the most difficult period in my church life.
About a year after being blessed in marriage in Korea and having to leave Myung Hwa behind, the pain had built up in my heart once again to the point of "overload". Once again, I was asking God the question, "How could you allow me to exist? How could you allow me to suffer like this?” I was angry, upset, struggling with my loneliness and missing Myung Hwa. The breaking point came during a fundraising trip in Austria.
Many of my spiritual experiences manifested during or as a result of fundraising door-to-door. I think the reason is that when you hear “no" so many times in one day, when you experience so much rejection, you get on God’s wavelength, and you can meet Him. It is He, after all, who for so many thousands of years has been rejected by mankind!
On this particular day being rejected over and over again, together with the drudgery of climbing staircases in apartment buildings all day long knocking on doors, together with the pain and loneliness I felt because the one who I wanted to love so much was a million miles away in Korea, caused me at some point to just burst into tears and pray. “How,” I repeated over and over again, “How could you let me exist?" I wanted so much to die that day -- I wished so deeply that God would take away not only my physical life but my spiritual one as well, to leave me in the peaceful bliss of nonexistence. “So you thought I would understand? Well, I don’t. I don’t!” And then the answer came.
He said, meekly, “Can you forgive me?” This was a very profound moment for me. I had always heard only that we must seek God’s forgiveness. Have you ever heard anyone say that we must forgive God? Why, after all, should we forgive God, unless God has done wrong? But by definition, God can do no wrong, because He is pure and perfect goodness. How can we be in a position to forgive Him?
But God wasn’t asking me to forgive Him because He had sinned, or committed evil, or done wrong. He was asking me to forgive Him because He was sorry that He had to ask me to work in this mission. He was like an old man, who could not fight the war because He had no arms and legs. “Forgive me, my son, because I must ask you to fight this war for me.” That is what He was saying, but with such deep sorrow in His heart -- pain far, far greater than my own!
And when I felt that, I could not but say, “Yes, Father, of course I can forgive you. Don’t ask me to forgive you. That doesn’t make sense. Of course I will do it.” And once again I was on track, and once again I understood why I existed, and why I had to go this way.
There was yet to be a third and final related experience, the final revelation that would teach me how to deal with suicidal thoughts forever, the experience that would ultimately lead me to begin to truly appreciate life.
In 1983 I came back to America, and for one year worked with CARP IOWC (International One World Crusade), a traveling group. We would travel to various campuses around the country for two weeks at a time and witness. After a time, I began struggling again. Why did God give me this bride and then take her away from me? I told God, “I don’t understand, and I don’t forgive you!" I was angry, enraged. I was cursing God. I was not like Job in the Bible, who refused to curse God no matter what his suffering. I was much weaker. I hated God for bringing me here, for making me suffer like this. And I wanted to die, more than anything else. I really would have done it that day. I would not have been afraid to kill myself. This is the closest I ever came to doing that. There was only one problem -- I knew I could only die physically, but that I would still be alive (and in a state of emotional torment) spiritually. I wanted God to remove my eternal life, to end my existence forever. I hated life. I could not stand living, not one bit.
After a period of tearful prayer, a prayer of rage, the answer came: “If you were happy, you would not want to die, would you?" This silenced me. “No,” I had to answer, “if I were truly happy, I certainly would not want to die.” And God said, “That is what I am trying to teach you (to be happy).”
This revelation has stuck with me ever since, and will stay with me forever. These words have changed my life. From that day, I understood that my desire to "non-exist" was really a desire to change, from unhappiness to happiness. The person I wanted to kill was my unhappy self. A person who wants to commit suicide is really a person who has a strong desire to change, and wants very much to be happy. Naturally, if we were happy, we would never want to die.
How was God trying to teach me to be happy? The answer to that has been forthcoming ever since the revelation. I have discovered bits and pieces of the answer here and there, as I continue down this path of life. In 1984, my mission changed to full-time fundraising. I was asked to lead a team of fundraisers in California. Around the same time, Myung Hwa came to America. Seeing her again was wonderful, but my bliss was short-lived. The separation condition was still in effect. We were both determined to see it through, having understood its logic and accepted its value theologically and spiritually. So again, I had to leave her. And again, after a few months of fundraising and traveling, I fell into frustration, anger and unhappiness.
One effort God made to guide me to happiness was to clearly explain a major part of the cause of my unhappiness. This came in a revelation from a spiritual being (Jesus, perhaps?) -- not from God directly, but it was nevertheless a divine message.
Don’t ask me how I know if a message is coming from God directly or from a spiritual being. I just know -- when I am having the experience. It’s as if you know if it’s Joe speaking to you, or Cathy. There are unique characteristics. But they cannot be explained, only experienced. We have spiritual senses as human beings, and we can differentiate between spirits just as we can differentiate between physical people.
In this revelation, I was taught one of the big reasons I was unhappy. Again, I was fundraising, and I was feeling down and out. “I wish I had never been created,” I accused God. But then the revelation “if you were happy, you wouldn’t wish that" came ringing back in my ears. “But I’m not happy,” I cried. “You said you were trying to show me the road to happiness... well, where is it?”
After several minutes of crying in prayer, the answer came. A spirit addressed me: “You don’t love yourself.” It was true. I hated myself, and I hated my life. In that moment, I hated everything. “And the reason you hate yourself," the spirit said, “is because as you were growing up, you were taught to believe you’re no good -- by many different sources -- parents, friends, teachers." It’s not that these people were constantly badgering me, calling me no good. But I simply did not receive the love a person needs in order to be spiritually healthy. I’m not accusing anyone with this. How could others love me truly if they themselves had not received enough true love?
The problem, I learned from this spiritual experience, was that I believed these messages of inadequacy. So, as many do, I grew up with a tremendous lack of self-confidence. “These were false teachings,” the spirit continued, “from [inadequate] teachers. But now the true teachers are here, and you must believe in what they say about you even more strongly than the false self-image you were given." It was now time for me to hear and believe the true teaching about myself and my true value. It was now time for me to reverse my false self-image. It was time for a new beginning, time to be reborn, substantially.
In 1986, I was asked to work with CARP in Boulder, Colorado. Soon after, Myung Hwa joined me there, and we ended the separation condition and began our married life. A year later, in 1987, I was asked to start CARP at the University of Oregon in Eugene. We had our first daughter, Jieun, there in October. In 1988, we moved to Portland, Oregon, where I established and directed CARP at Portland State University. There Hyundo, our first son, was born, in June of 1989. It was at this time that I finished my Bachelor’s degree, in conjunction with a TESL (Teach English as a Second Language) Certificate. After receiving the degree, Dr. Seuk, the national director of CARP, asked me to attend the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, New York. I had always wanted to attend, so in August of 1991, we made the cross country journey to New York. Myung Hwa was pregnant with our second son, Seungdo, at the time. He was to be born in New York that October, after I had already begun my studies at the seminary.
Financially, I was unable to continue the life of a full-time student. With three children and no income, our debts were mounting. I decided to take time off from the seminary and took a full-time job with a church company, Hudson River Inlay, in January of 1992. That is where I was throughout 1994, the year my second daughter, Sun Hwa, was born (in August), and I am working with Hudson River Inlay as I write this.
My life since starting my family and having children may seem much more external and mundane when compared to those days of spiritual experiences, inspirations, and direct revelations. But in reality, my life today is far richer than it ever was. Having followed this way of life now for many years, I can honestly say that God is a reality in my daily life. I rarely have “supernatural” experiences with God these days. When I first joined the Unification movement, I had many experiences of the “invisible" God. Perhaps that was appropriate. But now, my experiences are more with the “visible” God. This is especially because I now have children of my own. I experience God’s heart every day -- not supernaturally, but substantially -- as I work to raise my children. This I believe, was God’s original plan -- that as we grow older we would grow naturally to be closer to God.
Especially the experience of having children of our own allows us to experience most directly and substantially what it must be like to have God's parental love.
Once, in an interview, Reverend Moon was asked, “Are you the messiah?” Reverend Moon answered, “Yes...” And then pointing to the reporters one by one added, “and so are you, and you, and you..."Do you think Jesus would have been happy to have a few more messiahs working with him? I think it would have made his job a great deal easier."
In reality, we should all be messiahs, helping each other in this challenging world to resurrect our spirits and advance forward. Recently, Reverend Moon proclaimed each church member a “tribal messiah.” That is, we are to take responsibility for our relatives. It is in an attempt to fulfill this responsibility that this testimony is devoted.
(Editor's note: Since the time that Peter wrote this testimony, he and his wife were blessed with a fifth child, daughter Jisun, who arrived in 1999).