Unification News for August 1996


On Love, Maya, and the Goodness of This World

uViews, August 1996

The origin of human life, at least in terms of our experience, is man- woman love. It is the root of life, and it originates in God. It is the goal of life, and it is our permanent obsession. Through it, as the eastern religions tell us, the cycle of birth and death, of life on this earth, is perpetuated.

The eastern religions saw life on earth as nothing but suffering, and this world as a world of illusion, of maya, of non-reality. Hence, they viewed the love which brings us into this world as evil, or, at least, the result of ignoble passions, ignorance and self-deception. Freedom meant liberation from this evil, illusory love, thus liberaion from the "cycle of birth and death."

There are western religions which tend to share this view. The Latter Day Saints, for example, teach that we are born into this world for the purpose of perfecting ourselves by struggling with and overcoming evil. Like the eastern religions, the Mormons believe that moral evil is a quality inherent to the natural, physical order, and that salvation is not attainable in this world, but comes through transcendence of this world.

These are similar to, and directly or indirectly derived from, a version of Platonism. Plato taught that this world consists of physical derivations of the ideal forms. These ideal forms are, Christian Plotonists explained, the ideas within the mind of God. The forms in themselves are perfect. But by virtue of their coming into physical existence, these forms lose their perfection. They are flawed due to the incorrigible intracability of matter. Matter is a problem. For example, there is no perfect circle in this world; all circles are approximations of the form of the perfect circle, which exists in its perfection within God alone, within the world of pure form.

Hence, for Platonists, mathematics offers a window on the divine, because we can work with the idea of a perfect circle through mathematics. Of greater consequence are the ideal forms of truth, goodness and beauty, or of justice, freedom and love. There is the ideal of truth, but in this world there is no perfect truth. These forms simply cannot be realized in the physical world, according to Platonic thought, because of the brute intractability of matter. Thus, the materiality of our existence makes absolute beauty, goodness, justice, peace and love impossible. This world is necessarily imperfect.

This kind of thinking affected Christianity, through people such as the apostle Paul, who tended to view the body as inherently evil, and longed to be free of the "thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan." While Paul maintained connection to the Holy Spirit enough to affirm the goodness of this world (such as his view that the creation is "groaning in travail, awaiting the revealing of the sons of God), some took Paul's thinking the wrong way, and these people were called Gnostics.

For Gnostics, the physical world is a world of evil and ignorance. Who is responsible for this world? Whoever created this world was a clumsy, perhaps even evil, God. Well, it is the God of the Old Testament who is responsible for this physical world, according to the Bible. Hence, the God of the Israel was an evil God. On this basis, Gnostics such as Marcion, or the Manicheeans, rejected the Old Testament and much of the New Testament as well. It was a great victory for Christianity to lay claim to the Old Testament as the revelation of the one true God, and to exalt the one God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as also the God of Jesus Christ. This doctrine, we see, was not a "given" at the outset of the Christian story.

Gnostics exhibited another interesting characteristic. First, they boasted that through their hidden teachings, one could ascend, step by step, to perfection, to total liberation from the material realm. Hence they usually prescribed severe ascesticism, fasting, celibacy, and so forth, in order to break the chains of the body. Yet at the same time, Gnostics often engaged in complete hedonism, free sex, self-indulgence in food and drink. They did this in order to display their confidence in their freedom from those things. They proved, to a fault, that they were not legalists (captives of the Old Testament law, or any law). Theirs was not a salvation by works. They were liberated people.

It appears to me characteristic of spirit-led groups to simultaneously boast of perfection, to claim that they partake of a higher grace than the rest of us, and to practice a more severe, sacrificial life than those of the religious tradition which they are rejecting, and then from that lofty perch to abandon all sexual morality.

We can gain a Principle perspective on this through the Resurrection chapter, which explains how those who are highly evolved, relatively speaking, reach the "line of the fall," and then succumb to the temptation which Satan offered Adam and Eve. This is why institutional religions are hesitant to follow those who rise up now and again, on their own, claiming higher revelations or greater righteousness than those around them, greater in particular than the humdrum church leadership. Such people, in the name of revelations and righteousness, dissociate from the religious leadership which they judge to be fallen or to have compromised with the "world." In all too many cases, the final outcome of the more-spiritual and more-righteous-than-thou is sexual immorality.

This stands in marked contrast to Christianity, which proclaims the goodness of this world, and that the problem of sin lies not with the order of creation, but with the failure of human beings. This is one essential truth which, of all new religions, the Unification Church establishes with greatest integrity and finality. The Principle of Creation stands forever, and the Principle of Restoration is simply the Principle of Creation applied to the project of re-creation of what was lost by the human fall. The providence of God is exactly to restore the original Three Blessings given Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Christ is the original ancestor. This is a dramatic affirmation of the two thousand years of Christian thought and sacrifice.

Those Christians who reject this teaching will inevitably follow the way of Gnosticism. These tendencies are at work in the mainstream now, through the teaching, for example, that "Jesus is God" (a rejection of the Old Testament), that God will destroy the world in an apocalypse (a denial of the eternality of the created order), and the confusion within Christianity regarding sexual morality.

Taking the view that sexuality is evil, or at least is less than the highest ideal of love, stands, with greatest significance, the Roman Curia. Roman Catholic teachings hold that the sacrament of marriage is a temporary one, and that the love of the celibate for Christ is the higher love. This sounds good, until you consider that it means that the preferred way of life is celibacy, and, since what removes you from the love of God is evil, thus sexuality is a relative lesser good, which is to say a relative evil. Paul said marriage is not much more than a recepticle for the uncontrollable testicle. Celibacy is a qualification for channeling the grace of God. Mary was, after all, a virgin. Sex, after all, defiles the womb.

On the side that sexuality is an unqualified good stands everyone who is against Rome. Among them are those advocating gay rights, pre- marital and extra-marital sex, homosexual marriage, the ordination of homosexuals, birth control (read: sex deregulation), abortion-on- demand, divorce-on-demand. Such people deride the church as repressive, inhumane, homophobic and, worst of all, patriarchal.

Christianity, as it now stands, cannot resolve this complex issue, as its roots lie in biblical contradications. For instance, Jesus taught that marriage is the will of God, and yet that men should make themselves eunuchs for the sake of God's Kingdom (Matt 19). By the grace of God, by the invocation of mystery and faith, Christianity has tread the waters between Scilla and Charibdis for 2,000 years. But, as St. Peter tells us, God's grace lapses at the time of the second coming (1 Peter 1:5). This helps explain the sudden collapse of traditional family morality within the Christian world.


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