Unification News for August 2003

The Origin of Conflict and Suffering

Volume Two, Part One

In the "Principle of Creation," God's ideal for our world was presented. There it was explained that God originally created man to see His own nature expressed in a tangible, visible being, with whom He could share a give and take of love. He thus created men and women who were intended to grow to perfection, form families and establish with God and each other the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

We donít have to look very far to realize that this ideal has not been realized. We have experienced what is perhaps the most violent century in all of history. Images of Dachau and Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the Gulag, homeless boat people and starving Cambodians, remind us dramatically of how far we are from anything resembling a truly human society.

Beyond these global catastrophes, there are the far too frequent sufferings of individuals and families. As families many suffer from conflict where there should be harmony and from resentment where we want there to be love. As individuals we often find ourselves struggling against ourselves, torn by inner conflict. We can all identify with apostle Paulís lament:

I can will what is right but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Romans 7:18)

Or even with the embattled comic strip character Pogoís discovery: "I have found the enemy -- and he is us!"

It is no wonder that most religious scriptures contend that there is an infinite gulf between God and men.

According to the Jewish Talmud, two rabbinical schools prominent just before the time of Jesus debated over whether it would have been better if man had never been created, in the light of his subsequent sins and tribulations. After two and a half years of argument, the majority of rabbis voted with the famed Rabbi Hillel that the creation of man was a tragedy!

Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, the gap between the ideal and the real has been explained by the story, the first parents of humankind disobeyed God, separating themselves from Him and also bringing about the separation of all their future descendants from Him. This separation from God has caused further separations between people and within the individual heart of each person. Today we are separated from God, from ourselves and from others, and thus it may be said that we live in a state of sin.

Myth or History?

In the twentieth century the idea of a human Fall has encountered no little skepticism. The issues raised by Charles Darwin have had a particularly significant influence on scholarly and popular literature and have widely affected modern thinking concerning human beginnings.

Also, rather than think that the Genesis account of the Fall represents any particular event in history, a number of modern thinkers prefer to interpret it as a description of an inner process shared in by all men. The well-known psychologist Rollo May, for example, believed the Eden story describes the coming of age of every individual, involving an inevitable loss of innocence and the painful dawning of self-awareness symbolized by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Influenced by the insights of such men, today we question ideas of a first man and woman, forbidden fruits and original sin. Perhaps with others we recognize that interpretations such as Mayís seem inadequate to addressing such problems as the contradiction between a God of goodness and love and a chaotic world of suffering. By the same token, we may believe with many scholars that Darwinís theories do not exclude the possibility of divine guidance in the process of evolution. Nevertheless, we still are not content with traditional interpretations of the Fall of man. We need something new.

Any new insight into the Genesis story must incorporate the strengths and address the shortcomings of both traditional and modern interpretations. At the same time, it should point to a solution for remedying the effects of the Fall, thereby offering the hope that Godís original ideal might yet be fulfilled. Happily, for many people these needs are met in the Divine Principle explanation of the Fall.

Tales of Origins

Before we discuss the Divine Principle understanding of the Genesis story, let us note that all cultures have provided us with conceptions of the origins of evil, many of which display a remarkable similarity.

In Egyptian tales, for example, we hear of a lost golden age, of death caused by the "ancestress of women," and of a serpent. In Greek heritage, the woman Pandoraís curiosity allowed evils and woes to escape into the world. Indian legend teaches that Brahma was tempted by Siva into thinking that a blossom from the Tree of Knowledge would give him immortality.

The significance of these stories is not that they are literal recordings of events. They are legends that perhaps can be viewed as reflections of vague racial memories which share common themes because they reflect something that actually did happen. In the revealed story Genesis, we have perhaps the fullest indication of what that "something" is.

As you read the material in the upcoming months you may discover familiar ideas that gain your immediate understanding. In the alternative, you may meet ideas that are so new and different that they take some getting used to. Such reactions are normal, for the Divine Principle view of the Fall will lead you on unfamiliar terrain.

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