Articles From the December 1994 Unification News


On The Improvement Of The Self

I noted as I thumbed through last month's Unification News that a great number of articles were dealing with the healing and/or improvement of the self. John Williams, Camas Lamond, something about finances, Dan Fefferman's workshop, etc. At this time members such as Richard Cohen, Beatrix Steeghs, David Fastiggi and Ellen Goldstein are attracting a good deal of attention and appreciation for their work in this area.

This is reflecting a trend in our society, in fact. I read an interview with the actor Michael Douglas, in which he explained that his period at a recovery and healing center in Arizona was not indicative of a serious problem, but that simply he had gone for twenty years without therapy, and it was high time to obtain some. Pity the billions of individuals who went to their graves not only never receiving therapy, but never realizing their need for it!

It seems to me we can categorize types of therapy and self-healing approaches.

1. Substance addiction-oriented: I want to separate myself from drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, or dependency-relationships.

2. Relationship-oriented: I want to make friends, learn to communicate my feelings, learn how to say no, learn how to lead, etc.

3. Healing-oriented: I want to work out my phobias, inhibitions, neuroses; I want to find myself and love myself for who I find myself to be, to be a true man or true woman, etc.

4. Healing family relations and sexuality: I want to be able to have a fulfilling sexual life according to the proper orientation, to have a successful marriage, to resolve my relationship with my parents, etc.

5. Improvement or success-oriented: I want to be a success make more money, manage my time better, identify and fulfill my goals, etc.

These therapies share the presupposition that the answer lies within, that each person has the truth within, at least the truth as it applies to oneself, and, in relationship to the self, there is no higher truth than one's own. Even the success-oriented therapies tell us that we each have the power within ourselves. There is no heteronymous authority; no god above the self which dictates how "I" am to be or what "I" am to do. In our general society, this is considered a secularist alternative to traditional religious life, because traditionally the answers to these questions came from God.

The Protestant Heritage

As a student of American church history, I can see that this approach to life is the current stage of a trend within Protestantism which has developed over the centuries, and which has moved beyond the context of Christianity. Martin Luther, by his break from Rome, decisively brought the focus of authority over religious life to the individual conscience. Although he subjected the conscience to the service of Christ, it was the Christ as defined by the conscience within the guidelines of the Bible.

This left a great deal of room for individuals to find their own truth, and religious sects proliferated. The Quakers called people to the Christ within, overturning even biblical and church authority. Famous early American separatist Roger Williams declared that he and his wife constituted the only true church. Emersonian Transcendentalism rejected Christianity and found Christ within nature and the liberated self.

By the latter nineteenth-century, Christians working with the scientific assumptions of Darwinism determined that God is immanent in history, which is to say immanent in the human mind and accomplishments of civilization. The next step, called "new thought", integrated this open-ended Christianity with the Theosophy and various other strands of spiritualism and esoteric studies introduced in the context of the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893, and the ground was set for Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalytic movement of the twentieth century. But it was all implicit in Martin Luther's placement of the individual conscience as the supreme authority.

Of course, Luther and his society strongly believed in God; hence the authority of the conscience was implicitly in relation to God. However, a world in which many question the existence of God leaves the conscience as authority unto itself.

Thus, there is an ideological foundation to the healing solution, and the ideology is Protestant individualism. There are a lot of fine aspects to Protestant individualism, such as the high valuation of individual responsibility and self-reliance. There are other not-so- laudable aspects: social alienation, family breakdown, free sex. These normally attend the direct implication of Luther's stance: that I will decide my own destiny, or vocation, in front of God.

Now, the healing approach emphasizes that it is on-ideological (and thus asserts that it is non-judgmental), that whatever you desire to do or to be, therapy will help you find it and accomplish it. In other words, therapy is a tool. However, I believe that it can be argued that healing is not just teaching means, but that the ideological substratum, the individualistic presuppositions which give rise to the entire approach, influences the determination of ends and goals themselves. The very placement of the individual self at the center, called to make all decisions, has made the fundamental decision for the individual already, whether or not the client realizes it.

Therapy deals with the deepest emotions and passions of human life: one's relationship with one's parents, spouse, body and soul. These are arenas of life which are beyond reach of reason and conscientious judgment. They do not submit easily to, well, to therapy. To simply set forth the proposition that the individual is the final end, or even the complete beginning, is to send the ship of healing in a specific direction. No matter how far one travels along that course, one is building upon this individualistic foundation.

Westerners, Americans in particular, follow the way of individualism by instinct; this is the result of our Protestant foundation and this foundation has shaped every religious tradition which came to these shores, be it Catholicism, Islam, Judaism or Buddhism. This American way of life, certainly not a bad one in light of historical alternatives, Reverend Moon likes to call "brotherism", because it is a social fabric bereft of parents, in which brothers and sisters must work things out for themselves. However, brotherism is a temporary view of life; it must be surpassed by, and give way to, parentism.

What is Parentism?

Parentism is distinct from brotherism, as parents are distinct from brothers. Consider, for example, the relationship between Joseph and his brothers, compared to that between him and his father, Jacob. Parentism means placing one's parents in the subject position, and ordering the relationship of the children within the context of parents. The parents attend the grandparents, the children attend the parents. Everything moves upward, in terms of age, even as biologically it moves downward. Everything moves backwards in time, even as time moves forward. As Reverend Moon once put it, little children love nothing more than hearing tales of the past from their grandparents. This is the heavenly order of things, through which God can work and create an ideal society.

Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world. The approximations of parentism practiced historically west, east, south and north failed. Here I am thinking of the expansion of fallen world tribalism embodied in monarchism, fascism and communism, all ideologies which placed authority into the hands of the few who assumed veritable parental authority, without the consent of and true love for the people. Breaking from this bad tradition, the west moved to the transitional stage of brotherism by establishing democratic government. The other regions of the world are following.

Reverend and Mrs. Moon are now reconstructing or restoring ideal parentism. Of course, they are not everyone's parents literally, and the blood line bonds which relate all humanity are pretty worthless. Therefore, this re-constitution of the human race is a difficult process, involving restitution, or indemnity. Part of the indemnity involves us practicing, or trying to practice, parentism conditionally, or symbolically. Ultimately this system will be completely decentralized and localized, because everyone has parents, and all parents have parental rights. But since Reverend and Mrs. Moon are the first to have established the right of parentship under God, we are in the position to inherit this divine right from or through them.

Within the Unification Church life of restoration, one's Abel figure stands as an elder sibling representing one's parents. Through unity with this person, which we call the foundation of substance, the real parents can come, which we call receiving the Messiah. Even then, the Messiah/True Parents, are not my physical parents, but are standing in a conditional position. The important point, however, is that they are physical and historical, not spiritual. God, Jesus, Buddha, all religious figures throughout history have stood in spiritual relationship with us, which left no guard against physical hanky- panky.

For the time being, this may not be a practical or "successful" way to live in the short or medium run, or even in one's entire life on earth. But I believe, ideologically, that it is the right thing to do for the sake of God's providence, even rejecting more reasonable or apparently rewarding possibilities. What the Unification Church is trying to develop in the west is the vertical instinct of filial piety for parents as the ruling paradigm for society. Perhaps we are overdoing it, allowing the pendulum to swing too far in the vertical direction. That may well be the case; so be it. I don't expect we will be able to strike the perfect balance of brotherism and parentism, but we'd rather err on the side of parentism.

I believe in this ineffable ideal: that God works in the mind through the parental love/parental position, and that in the ideal the child will naturally be object to the parent in perfect freedom. As far as practical results go, I think this will work out fine. When the parent directs A, the child will become one with A. He will simply invest effort in the accomplishment of A, and not immediately examine B, C, D and E as the context to evaluate A. If B happens to be a better way, then through acting upon A, B will appear, naturally. How? The parents, or those in position to advise them, will recognize it to be so. Or, through the give and take of parent and child centering on A, both will recognize the preferability of B.

The difference between brotherism and parentism is that one brother does not know what is best for another brother. Hence the appeal: "you decide," and at best I will help to learn how to decide. This is the premise of therapy: I will assist you in opening up your mind to find your self, your value, your true potential, etc. The parents do know what is best for the child, because the parents are what is best for the child. Now, the parents may not tell the child what is best when the child asks; hence, the parents too may say, "you decide." But the parents know what the right decision is; the brother does not. This is because parental love is the greatest, true love, and true love grants the right of participation, ownership and living together. Brotherly love is secondary; it is the spin-off, the reflection, of parental love. Brothers participate, share and live together only through the love of the parents.

Home Schooling

After writing this, I was inspired to read an article on home schooling which concluded with a point expressing this same wisdom from a different perspective. (Leon Podles, "No Place Like Home", Touchstone 7:4, Fall 1994, pp. 8-13. The reference is to David Guterson, Family Matters: Why Home Schooling Makes Sense. ) After explaining how parents can teach the religious traditions to their children at home, the author, Leon Podles, continues:

"But the chief religious role of home schooling is not in imparting instruction. The family is the social structure that cultivates pietas, and that binds, religare, generation to generation. We desire to spend time with those we love, so that we can get to know them and help them in an intelligent fashion. Teaching, as David Guterson says, `is an act of love before it is anything else.' . . . He insists that it is not a sacrifice to spend your time with your children, with those to whom you have given existence and whom you love more than anyone in the world. . . .

"Much may be made of a child if, like Johnson's Scot, he is caught early enough. But what will catch him? A parent's love, which created him and called him into being from nothingness, and that surrounds him every hour of the day, that studies his needs and desires, and tries to help him grow into a being that expresses a unique idea, an idea which Christians know exists in the mind of God . . .

"Both socialism and capitalism tend to view human beings as ciphers who can be manipulated in the service of economic efficiency. Capitalism is better at creating wealth, but at what cost? First fathers were taken away from their children, more than primitive societies ever had done. Now mothers are being taken away from their children, and the children turned over to strangers. A child must learn that he is loved if he is to have a chance to know, by analogy, what God's love is, attentive and ever present yet giving us freedom to grow, confident in us, easily pleased, never really satisfied, until we grow up to the full stature of his sons."

Podles has realized and expressed the essential genius of home schooling, that it bonds parents and children, naturally passing on the invisible "vertical" heart of tradition, and the heart of the grandfather of us all, God. With this strong vertical tradition established, horizontal (social) stability and peace will not be far behind. Home schooling is not just an educational movement; it is a peace movement.


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