The Words of the Servito Family
An Overview of Unification Thought
When I met the Unification Movement many years ago, I had just graduated from college and was not at all enthused about entering the world of working professionals. I had graduated with honors from a prominent design school in New York City, but I had seen enough of politics and the world around me that I had renounced the faith I was born into, become distrustful of the government I lived under and become quite cynical about the value of human life in general.
So when I heard the Principle, I had as many serious questions as I had interesting answers. And when I moved into the center, it was not because I believed and accepted, but rather because I needed a closer look at the movement before I could place any real faith in it. A few months into my membership, I attended a workshop and heard Unification Thought for the first time. This was a pivotal event in my life, for it clarified the ideals and goals of the movement in terms that I could make a clear commitment to. It dealt with some of the most perplexing and unresolved questions I'd encountered in my college philosophy classes. And so began my fervent interest in this less-known area of the movement -- Unification Thought.
In contrast to the religious perspective of Unificationism provided by The Principle, Unification Thought provides more of a philosophical perspective on Unification teachings. It of course reflects the religious nature of Aboji's worldview, but it nevertheless presents these views within the established categories of Western philosophy. That is, rather than discussing spiritual beings, Bible stories and theological topics like Christology and Resurrection, it is organized into philosophical topics such as epistemology, axiology, education, ethics, art and so forth.
In fact, it attempts to address every area of philosophy or to at least lay the foundations for approaches to them which are consistent with the Unification perspective.
With a scope this large, Unification Thought falls into the elevated category of being a "systematic" philosophy. In this, it is akin to a few of the great systems of philosophy in the Western tradition, the most well-known being the work of Plato and Aristotle and, more recently, the work of Kant and Hegel. Much other philosophy has more limited scope, dealing with specific, limited themes, usually taken up from the great systematic philosophers.
In my own search, I had studied not only Western philosophy, but I had also looked into and found some value in Eastern concepts of life and reality. So it was with some excitement that I found Unification Thought brought together ideas and concepts from both the Western and Eastern traditions. And it did it in a way that was not an artificial, forced grafting of fundamentally different ideas, but rather a seemingly natural and well-reasoned blending of them into a seamless, encompassing viewpoint.
Over the years, I've found that it continues to fascinate and inspire me. And on a practical level, it has served me well, providing valuable direction in my personal, social, recreational and professional life.
The purpose of Unification Thought grows out of the purpose of the movement itself. In an early source, 1 six reasons are given for the emergence of Unification Thought:
To develop a deeper understanding of the Principle
To universalize its expression (for the sake of other religions and thoughts beyond Christianity)
To provide philosophical defense for the Principle
To provide philosophical defense for existing religions (and thus promote their unity)
To present a new direction for all areas of learning
To establish clear values for practical living
As grand as each of these six statements are, in my experience, Unification Thought has the real potential of delivering on all of them. But it's not easy to explain how in a short introduction like this one. Rather, it takes some research into the material to see how effectively these purposes are addressed.
Unification Thought came about through the work of an early disciple of Aboji, one of the original 36 couples. This individual's name was Dr. Sang Hun Lee and he was uniquely qualified for the task that eventually became his life's work -- that of systematizing Aboji's thought into a coherently organized body of work in the Western philosophical tradition.
Dr. Lee's title was in medicine, however his father was a Confucian scholar and he himself was fervently interested in philosophy and the problems of life. Adding to his familiarity with Oriental philosophy, he studied Western philosophy extensively and eventually even mastered Communist theory, which he encountered in college. His efforts to free Korea and change the world as a university activist were dashed. Although he built up a medical practice in succeeding years, he continued his spiritual and intellectual search for understanding, only to reach an abyss of hopelessness, the longer he searched, seemingly futilely. In his later maturity, he ran into the Principle and, although he was Aboji's senior in years, he realized that the questions and answers posed in the Principle were what he had been looking for. And that is when he began writing Unification Thought and sharing it with other friends in the movement who were - like himself - more philosophically inclined. Dr. Lee explained that he based Unification Thought on three sources:
Specific passages within the Principle which indicated philosophical viewpoints
Sermons and other documents of Aboji's teachings
Dialog with Aboji himself, to clear up questions or pursue ideas
Aboji singled out Dr. Lee to develop a total theoretical explanation, critique and counterproposal to Communist theory and, as Dr. Lee did so, it became self-evident that the material for the counterproposal was in itself an outline of the Unification ideals of existence, humanity and society.
Aboji heard enthusiastic reports from members about this auxiliary material to the critique and counterproposal to communism and then gave his blessing to Dr. Lee to continue to develop this material. So, with Aboji's support and encouragement, Dr. Sang Hun Lee was able to compile the material to publish several books on Unification Thought over the years.
What I would like to introduce in the next installment is the actual content of Unification Thought. For your reference, the theories which the Unification Thought materials address are: The Theory of the Original Image, Ontology, the Theory of Original Human Nature, and the related theories of Epistemology, Logic, Axiology, Education, Ethics, Art, History and Methodology. Views are also expressed in related materials on Government and Economy.
I think it is very important to mention that Dr. Lee sees philosophy not as intellectual speculation for its own sake. Rather, an important function of philosophy is to shed light on the real problems of life and thereby allow the student to come to a deeper practical understanding of it. This, in turn, will enable the student to approach their own real lives in a more fulfilling and directed manner, not simply reacting to the difficulties of life by rationalizing, but rather guided into practical action -- as Aboji or other great builders are -- by a clearer vision of life's possibilities. In "Explaining Unification Thought", it is stated that the goal (of this type of study) is a unity "of heart, thought and action". In other words, thought is not its own end but rather thought -- motivated first by heart -- results in reasoned action.
You may or may not have heard of Unification Thought. That is partially because there are many brothers and sisters whose questions are fully satisfied by a study of the Principle. Indeed, understanding the Principle -- let alone embodying it -- can easily take more than a few lifetimes.
But for those who do have an interest in philosophy -- either Western, Eastern or especially in both -- I hope that you will find it as interesting, uplifting, enlightening and ultimately as useful as many in the movement have found.
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