Unification News for
What Makes Us Human?
Jennifer P. Tanabe, Ph.D.
Just recently I read an article in the American Psychological Association Monitor entitled "Defining the trait that makes us human." My first expectation was that it would be another article on consciousness, which is often cited as the defining human characteristic. However, the trait described in this article turned out to be empathy, the ability to observe the feelings of another and take them on as your own. The psychologists involved in the research conclude that while some of the mechanisms involved in empathy appear to be more instinctive and are evidenced in several species of mammals, others appear to be restricted to human beings. For example, they note that mediated association, i.e. when people hear of about anothers tragedy or good fortune and are reminded of a similar personal experience which triggers an emotional response, and role taking, i.e. where someone puts themselves in anothers situation and imagines how they would feel, or uses what they know about the person to imagine their feelings in the situation, require cognitive abilities that are only present in humans. Interestingly, another article in the same issue discussed forgiveness, another uniquely human ability, which at least one researcher believes to be mediated by empathy. So, I thought, is empathy the key to what makes us human? And, how does Unification Thought address the issue of what makes us human?
Well, to review the Theory of Original Human Nature, Unification Thought identifies three aspects of human nature: Divine Image, Divine Character, and Position. These are further divided such that Divine Image includes united Sung Sang and Hyung Sang, harmonious Yang and Yin, and individuality; Divine Character includes Heart, Logos, and Creativity; and Position includes two relationships to others, that of subject and of object. The details of all these characteristics are discussed in my earlier article on Original Human Nature in this series. By contrast, Unification Thought Ontology explains that other beings have Divine Image and Position. Thus, Unification Thought states that human beings are unique in their Divine Character. Additionally, the Divine Image of human beings contains specifically human elements beyond those included in other beings. To summarize, then, human beings have the following attributes in comparison with other beings: additional Sung Sang and Hyung Sang and Yang and Yin elements; unique individuality; and Divine Character of Heart, Logos, and Creativity.
So, let us look in more detail at these aspects that make humans different from other beings. Regarding the Sung Sang and Hyung Sang, Unification Thought explains that human beings contain those elements found in the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms, and in addition we have the uniquely human elements of "spirit mind" and "spirit body" (Essentials of Unification Thought, p. 44-48, 93-95). In other words, human beings are unique among beings in this physical world because they also have elements that exist in the spiritual realm.
So, what are these spiritual elements? Well, the other characteristic that I mentioned at the beginning of this article that is often thought of as exclusively human is that of self-awareness or consciousness. Current artificial intelligence, whether it is the Deep Blue type that plays chess or the "microwave oven" type like Sojourner that explores Mars, as Martin Gardiner puts it, has no more awareness of what it is doing than a vacuum cleaner has that it is cleaning a rug. When it comes to animals, the problem may be a little different in that their level of self-awareness seems to cause them to view themselves differently than we do. Many people have found that ducklings imprint on the first being they see, with the result that they may follow a human being religiously as their "mother." Also, the joke in my veterinarians office, "Dogs think they are human and cats think they are God" rings true to dog and cat owners. One could conclude that the human invention of mirrors has assisted the development of our self-awareness! Actually, though, it is the level of self-awareness we have that allows us to recognize ourselves in a mirror, unlike my parakeet who is convinced he is seeing another bird.
Unification Thought explains that consciousness is a quality of all living beings, not just human beings. Unification Epistemology states that there is always a purposeful element of Sung Sang, namely consciousness, working in parallel to every physiological process, even on the level of the cell. In other words, cells are "aware" of their own structure and content. However, many actions take place simply as reflexes, i.e. without connecting to consciousness on a higher level in the brain. This means that lower levels of life function exclusively without being aware of what they are doing. Human beings, too, can operate on this level, but we usually also process information and make decisions at higher levels that are purposefully controlled by our consciousness. Consciousness, then, in Unification Thought, is an essential element of life, operating on all levels. Self-consciousness, the awareness of the whole being as a self making decisions and value judgments, however, is limited to human beings because it is a function of the spirit mind which animals do not have.
Unification Thought also explains that the spirit mind pursues truth, goodness, beauty, and love and, in the original human nature (as opposed to the depraved fallen human nature evidenced in todays society) these values would be primary. Thus, the unique nature of human Sung Sang and Hyung Sang is that human beings have eternal life after the death of their physical body (for a fuller discussion see my article entitled "Life After Death" in this series), self-consciousness, and that they seek the spiritual values of truth, goodness, beauty, and love not just the material needs of the physical world, i.e., food, clothing, shelter, and sex.
On this distinction let me note a couple of experiences I have had. When my daughter was young, still in a high chair at meal times, she took delight in using her spoon to drop food from the high chair to the floor. She would observe carefully where it landed (usually on the carpet of course!) and then take another scoop and repeat the procedure. It reminded me of my efforts in physics lab trying to determine the laws of gravity. If the spoon or plate or other such item fell down she would demand that I pick it up and return it to her, whereupon she would immediately begin the game of dropping it deliberately for me to retrieve. Funnily enough she never asked for any of the food to be returned.
On the other hand, we now have a kitten, maybe at an equivalent stage of development, and she takes delight in climbing onto the coffee table and carefully extracting nuts one at a time from the bowl and pushing them onto the floor. The fun does not stop there, however. She then jumps down and pounces on them, pushing them so she can pretend to chase them, until they disappear under something from which she cant extract them. Then she gets another one and repeats the performance. Is there a difference here? Yes, I say there certainly is. The cat is merely acting on her instincts in pouncing on a moving object and patting it (as cats do when they catch a mouse or such like) to make it move some more. She is not learning about gravity, or even how to retrieve objects that have disappeared. All her activities are related to her method of acquiring food. My daughter, on the other hand, was clearly fascinated by the fact that something, presented on a plate as food, when dropped from a height fell down to the floor and she was quite happy to leave it there, in fact wanted to add to the mess. My impression was that she was engaged in pursuit of knowledge or truth about the world, in particular about the laws of the physical world. The cat, on the other hand, merely practices the skills that she would need to obtain food if I failed to feed her.
On this point of the priority of values, I would like to note that as a psychology student I carried out experiments with both animals and young children. In order to train and test animals it is standard practice to keep them hungry, to use food as rewards, and to feed them after the session is over. With infants and young children, however, the situation is very different. Can any parent imagine working with a hungry infant! Forget it. And, the best reward for infants is not food, but interesting sights or sounds, one of the best being the appearance of the mother. But, finally, even the appearance of the mother seems not to be the real motivator, but rather they seemed to be more interested in figuring out which action on their part caused the mothers face to appear, often hardly looking at the mother beyond ascertaining that she appeared. And you can give young children candies or other food as rewards, but they almost never eat them but rather gather them in a pile, thus making a new game. So, given the strange situation of the psychology lab, it seems that animals continue in their search for food, providing the experimenters with the behavior they want in order to get it, while humans, at least young ones, are entertained by the complexity of the tasks devised by the experimenters, and gather the food or even the sight of their mother as trophies rather than enjoying them as such.
Continuing with the differences between humans and other beings, there are also additional aspects of Yang and Yin. In this context let me mention that Unification Thought explains that the union of Yang and Yin in human beings is not simply the union of male and female for the purpose of reproduction, as it is with other beings. Rather, there are four points of uniqueness in the harmony of Yang and Yin in human beings: (1) husband and wife each represents one of Gods dual characteristics so that their conjugal union signifies the manifestation of God; (2) husband and wife each represents half of the universe, so that their perfected union completes the creation of the universe; (3) husband and wife each represents one half of humankind so that their unity represents the unity of humankind; and (4) husband and wife each represents half of the family so that their union signifies the perfection of the family. Thus, harmonious unity between husband and wife is equivalent to the world becoming united (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.96-97). For a fuller discussion of what these mean, see my earlier article "Original Human Nature" in this series.
Individuality is also on a higher level in human beings than other beings. In the mineral kingdom, individuality does not refer to the specific characteristics of each molecule, atom or particle, but rather to their category because these are component elements of beings of higher levels. On the lowest levels of life there is little distinction among bacteria or amoebae of the same category, whereas as we ascend to higher levels of plant and animal life individuality increases. When we reach the level of human beings, each human being is unique; our individuality is unique to each individual human being. Now, of course, we share many characteristics with our parents, ancestors, and siblings especially twins, but when we look at all three categories of appearance, behavior, and creative activity we find that no two people are ever identical. Unification Thought states that human individuality is absolute, not dependent on environmental influences, because it comes from Gods Individual Image, which is the Universal Image individualized for each unique human being (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.14-16). Thus, human beings are unique because they are unique!
Finally, then, let us look at Divine Character. As mentioned above, there are three aspects here: Heart, Logos, and Creativity. Again, these are described more fully in my previous article. Here let us look at what defines human character as distinct from other beings. Heart is "the emotional impulse to seek joy through love; it is the source of love and the core of Gods character" (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.99). Now the empathy that was mentioned at the outset of this article, suggested by psychologists as the trait that distinguishes us from other beings, is connected to the Heart element of human character. But Heart, as the source of love, is much more than empathy. Unification Thought emphasizes the importance of Heart in human character, noting that all human activities should be based on Heart in order to succeed in bringing joy. Thus, Unification Thought contends that the true human being has Heart as the core of their character, and should be described as homo amans, the loving being, rather than homo sapiens, the knowing being.
Logos is the aspect of human character that includes free will. A being of Logos is defined as one in whom free will and law are united; in other words, a person whose behavior never violates the laws of the universe, or society, out of their own free will. Now, free will has long been considered an important human trait. In religious discussions it is often the fact that God gave us free will that is held responsible for the unfortunate state of affairs in the world today. And free will is something that is lacking in artificial intelligence, at least in the non-fictional kind.
Do animals have free will? Well, when dealing with our cat I often think so! Cats have the tendency to be perverse and choose whether to respond or not. But is this the same as human free will? If we look back at the previous characteristic, namely harmony of Yang and Yin, we can find an indication of the answer. There it was noted that the harmony of Yang and Yin is more than just the physical union of husband and wife for the sake of procreation. In the case of human beings, the union of husband and wife is so much more. And, is this not the place where free will has the greatest consequence? Free sex became the way of life in much of the world in recent years, meaning that people used their free will to choose sexual partners without any responsibility to the laws or norms of society. According to Unification Thought, this affects the manifestation of God, the completion of the creation of the universe, the unity of humankind, and the perfection of the family. This is really serious! And we can see this in the vast numbers of broken marriages, unwanted pregnancies, teenage pregnancies, and general breakdown of the family that has resulted. Perhaps my cats perversity is free will on a lower, less important, level. Free will in human beings can be seen as distinct from that of other beings when we see the consequences of irresponsible choices in human life.
So, if we have free will, what guides our choices? Well, there is the conscience. However, Unification Thought points out that the conscience is insufficient to guarantee that we will live according to our original nature. The conscience guides us to do what we believe to be good, and this standard of goodness varies according to each individual. Thus, a very selfish person will regard actions that benefit himself as good, even when they do not lead to the benefit of others, or worse, lead to exploitation or harm of others. The conscience is not infallible; it must be developed through experience and education. It does, however, stand as something that distinguishes us from other beings.
Creativity is the final characteristic noted by Unification Thought that sets human beings aside from other beings. Let me just mention a couple of current approaches to creativity. Silvano Arieti, in his work Creativity: The Magic Synthesis, notes that creativity is a human prerogative. He concludes, "although creativity is by no means the only way in which the human being can grow, it is one of the most important. The growth occurs not only in the creative person but in all those who are affected by the innovation." Gil Noam, in his chapter "Reconceptualizing Maturity: The Search for Deeper Meaning" in Development and Vulnerability an Close Relationships, concludes that "creativity has become essential the basic life force. Life without it is not worth living."
These researchers both observe that creativity is an essential aspect of human character. Why? From the Unification Thought viewpoint we can understand that it is because creativity is surely the closest we can come to being like God, the Creator. Now, human creativity may indeed be a "humble counterpart" of Gods creativity, as Arieti notes, "Whereas theologians and religious people in general believe that Gods creation comes ex nihilo, from spatial and temporal nothingness, human creativity uses what is already existing and available and changes it in unpredictable ways."
Unification Thought explains that creativity has two stages, equivalent to the two-stage structure in the Original Being, God, in His creative process. It is also noted that Heart should be the center of creativity, as it is in Gods creativity. The two stages involve the formation of inner and outer four-position bases (Essentials of Unification Thought, p. 32-34, and 185). The formation of the inner four-position base is the development of a plan, idea, or design, and is equivalent to the Logos in Gods creation. The formation of the outer four-position base is the construction or substantiation of the plan, idea, or design into an actual object such as a work of art. Development of creativity, therefore, requires development both of the ability to make plans or designs, through the acquisition of knowledge and qualitative enhancement of the mind, and of the technical skills required in actualizing the designs. Thus, Unification Thought holds the position that all human beings have the potential to be creative, but that the extent to which they will actually be creative depends upon their experience and education. The fact that those people who fail to develop their creativity, or who are denied the opportunity to express it, suffer almost as if deprived of oxygen or sunlight, as Noam suggests, indicates that beyond being a distinguishing characteristic of human nature it may even be essential to our humanity.
So, let us conclude with a summary of how Unification Thought defines what makes us human: we are created to resemble God, whereas other beings are but reflections of aspects of God. How do we resemble God? Like God, we are creators: we have as an innate capacity the ability and even desire or need to create in order to experience our true human nature. We are eternal beings: our spirit continues to exist forever in the spiritual realm, which transcends space and time, just like Gods realm of existence. We are beings of Heart, or love. The ability to empathize, and even to forgive, while uniquely human indeed, are hardly sufficient to define human nature. And, interestingly, the researchers who concluded that empathy was uniquely human did so based on the cognitive abilities required in certain mechanisms of empathy. Unification Thought takes a very different view, seeing human beings as primarily beings of heart not merely superior cognitive, or intellectual, abilities. We are also beings of free will, responsibility, self-awareness, and conscience. In other words, although we are created, or resultant beings, not our own creators, nonetheless, our Creator gave us the right to choose how to make use of our abilities, how to live our lives, even whether to relate to our Creator or not. The evidence of that is apparent: have we created heaven or hell in this world? So, we are beings with so much more than any other species. How we choose to use those great qualities, abilities, etc., is up to us. We can live lower than the lowest animal, or higher than the angels. But, ultimately, the greatest difference between all other beings and us is that it is our choice; and in that sense, we become our own creators.
Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents