Explorations in Unificationism edited by Theodore T. Shimmyo and David A. Carlson

Writing History and Making History: Practical Applications of Unification Thought's Theory of History by Michael L. Mickler

Unification Thought's Theory of History has both historiographical and behavioral applications. Historiographical applications refer to how one writes history. Behavioral applications refer to how one "makes" history. Expressed differently, Unification Thought's Theory of History has implications for understanding and orienting oneself in history. This paper will develop several of the theory's historiographical and behavioral applications.

Historiographical Applications

To some extent, a historiographical tradition grounded in the principles of Unification Thought (UT) already exists. The "Unification Principle" (sometimes translated as Divine Principle) contains a schematization of biblical, church, and contemporary "salvation" history. Although not encompassing the full range of social, cultural, economic, political and intellectual trends which UT's theory of history presumably would consider, the "Principle" predates UT, supplies its basic categories, and develops a lengthy narrative framework. In addition, Reverend Moon's collected speeches, now numbering over 200 volumes, contain a variety of historical applications. UT, itself, also applies the theory to particular historical circumstances in various texts as have Dr. Sang Hun Lee and other lecturers. Official statements are another medium of historiographical reflection. One of the most carefully drawn of these is "Guidelines for Members of the Unification Church in Relations with the Jewish People" (1989). Finally, UT's theory of history has stimulated some academic studies. Dr. Yoshihiko Masuda's (1991) "Secularization or Sacralization: A Discussion on Modern Human History from a Unification Thought Perspective," originally delivered and discussed at a 1990 Tokyo symposium on Unification Thought is a good example.

These attempts to apply the principles of UT to history, or alternatively to see exemplifications of the theory in historical data, all contribute to the development of what might be termed Unification historiography. Whether Unification historiography is fully consistent with UT's theory of history or whether particular historical interpretations conceptually stretch the theory is an important consideration but will not be a focus of this paper. What I will develop are some basic premises, derived from UT, which would necessarily undergird an evolving tradition of historical reflection. These premises involve broader historiographical questions related to the link between history and religion, historical causality, and universal history.

The Link Between History and Religion

In modern Western civilization and increasingly worldwide, according to Ernest Breisch (1986:371), the traditional link between religion and historiography has "snapped completely." As a result,

Religion is threatened with becoming irrelevant to interpreting history, doomed to an a historical, recurrent reliving of the sacred past by individuals while the writing of history, supported by a sophisticated methodology, remains a technical endeavor given to the reconstruction of aspects of the past. In such a situation neither religion nor history is able to master the reconciliation of the past, present, and future that in centuries past has enabled them, in conjunction with each other, to serve a public purpose and give meaning to the flow of life. (382)

UT seeks to restore this linkage. Hence, any historical writing or historiographical tradition grounded in this theory could not neglect "the religious factor" in its interpretation of events. Indeed UT's theory of history is self-consciously theocentric. Essentials of Unification Thought (1992:266), UT's most recent text, asserts, for example, that "God establishes central figures, and through them leads society in a direction in accord with the providence." God also forms the "social environment" (EUT. 266). History, itself, is understood to be "directed toward the world of God's original ideal of creation" (EUT. 260).

However, in restoring the link between history and religion, claims of God's sovereignty alone are insufficient. UT acknowledges that for a modern historiography to be credible it must be scientific. EUT (262), in fact, criticizes the Christian providential view of history for being "dismissed from the field of learning, rejected as unscientific because of its inability to specify the laws of history." It maintains that "the Unification view of History, by establishing the laws of history from a theological basis, has revived the traditional providential view of history, which has been regarded as unscientific, and has made it possible to treat the providential view as social science" (EUT. 262).

Whether or not UT's attempt to reconcile religion and modern critical historiography succeeds cannot be determined on the basis of theory alone. It awaits the emergence of a more fully developed Unificationist historiographical tradition. Nonetheless, UT's insistence on a providential perspective accompanied by scientific rigor points the way such a historiography must proceed. This is not to maintain that the theory as currently formulated is without flaw. At present, it appeals primarily to those predisposed to believe "that human history is directed toward the world of God's original ideal of creation" (EUT. 260) or "that the first human ancestors were Adam and Eve" (EUT. 262). Rather than requiring "a willing suspension of disbelief" from non-believers, UT needs to construct a stronger a priori case for Divine providence.

UT also needs to be less uncritically accepting of scientific explanations and scientific mystique. Although there is a good deal of current debate over the status of history as a science, whatever scientific status it does have rests less on the existence of objective laws, theologically-derived or otherwise, than it does on the historical method. However, UT's theory of history does not touch on the question of method. Thus, scientifically as well as theologically, the theory needs to be more self-consciously critical. Still, despite certain crudities of expression and need for refinements, a UT-based historiography will be suggestive and on target to the extent that it seeks to close the gap between religion and history.

Historical Causality

Breisch (1986:381) notes, "With much of the Christian historiographical tradition rejected and historical science more certain of its ability to reconstruct the factual past than of its ability to interpret that past, grand ideologies filled the void." Whether embodied in liberalism, Marxism, fascist mystiques or developed by such post-Enlightenment thinkers as Kant, Herder, Hegel, Comte and Spencer, their usages have been typically reductionist, limiting explanations to a single theoretical law or universal rational principle. Excluding historical manifestations not in accordance with the true "causal" laws of development, these systems evolved various deterministic conceptualizations. History was deemed progressive, "inevitable," and in most cases irreversible. Unfortunately, subsequent reaction, especially among critical philosophers of history, has tended to repudiate the concept of underlying laws or principles entirely.

UT's theory of history, despite its insistence on "the law-governed nature of history" (EUT. 261) and its claim to have presented history's "true laws" (EUT. 295), potentially feeds into a multi-textured, comprehensive, non-reductionist historiography. Hans Meyercoff (1959:21-22) has noted "the modern historian operates with a plurality of laws and principles, the logical status of which is often very obscure." Thus, "instead of a coherent, unified pattern of world history, he discloses a great variety of different historical forms and patterns of culture. Instead of a single linear direction, he discovers multiple and incompatible directions in history -- or no direction at all." From this perspective, UT's view of history with its multiple, interacting laws of creation and restoration (the logical status of which is not entirely specified) is suggestive and more in line with the way historians actually proceed.

Equally significant in avoiding the reductionism which has characterized the above noted "grand ideologies" is UT's incorporation of the principle of indeterminacy and the possibility of regression. To be sure, there are determinist elements in UT. It notes, for example, that "the origin and goal of history are determined" and details "the true laws at work in history" (EUT. 262). Nonetheless, "how that goal is reached is not determined" (EUT. 262). According to UT,

Each step in the process of history is successfully completed only when people's portion of responsibility -- especially the portion of responsibility of providential central figures -- is fulfilled... Therefore, the process that history takes -- that is, whether history proceeds in a straight line or makes a detour; whether it is shortened or prolonged -- depends totally on the efforts of human beings... the process of history is undetermined and is entrusted to the people's free will. (EUT. 262-63)

Expressed differently, this means that although history operates according to laws, it is not reducible to laws. Nor would any historiography claiming to be based on UT reduce the unique, rich, and varied character of historical forms to ideology. To argue that history can be reduced to a set of laws or a single universal principle is to superficially grasp UT's theory of history and its implications for creating a historiographical tradition. The Unificationist historian must "feel" his or her way into history and thereby "bring back to life past shadows of people and movements, conflicts and victories, landscapes and physical hardships, secret passions and social forces, in their specific and unique characteristics -- instead of enshrining them in the dry-as-dust categories of philosophy" (Meyercoff 1959:10-11). In short, Unification historiography must be empathetic. It must seek to understand the "heart" of the past. Only on that foundation can unresolved historical problems be addressed.

Universal History

Due to increasingly critical standards for the acceptance of historical fact, there has been a trend in modern historiography away from universal history toward narrowly conceived topics of research. This has led to what Edward Carr (1961:14) has termed "a vast and growing mass of dry-as-dust factual histories, of minutely specialized monographs, of would be historians knowing more and more about less and less, sunk without a trace in an ocean of facts." Simultaneously, modern psychology and sociology's depiction of "secret irrational powers," perspectival biases and class interests behind the facade of reason has undercut the possibility of objective historical truth and contributed to relativism. Among religionists, this has led to a more pronounced distinction between sacred and profane history and a tendency among Church historians to focus narrowly on religious history, regarding the history of the rest of life as a secular concern properly handled by scholars acting as secular historians" (McIntyre: 398-99).

This position is largely incompatible with UT which emphasizes the need to reintegrate the Christian qua religious view with a commitment to the life and history of the world as a whole. EUT (294) asserts that human history is "not just 'providential history'. it is the history of the providence of restoration through which man and the world are to be restored." UT openly criticizes the Christian Providential view for having "been dismissed from the field of learning" and expresses confidence that the Unification view of history "has made it possible to treat the providential view as social science" (EUT. 262). At the same time, UT praises broadly synoptic works, such as Toynbee's which are understood as being preparatory for the appearance of its own view (EUT. 292).

Although UT "presents the laws of creation and the laws of restoration as the true laws at work in history" (EUT. 295), it has yet to generate anything approaching a universal history. This, however, may only be a matter of time. The International Religious Foundation (IRF) recently unveiled its World Scripture (Wilson, 1991). Even more recently, the International Cultural Foundation (ICF), a sister foundation of IRF (and the sponsoring organization of this conference,) announced plans to publish a new encyclopedia as "a complete exposition of knowledge based upon the perspective of Unification Thought" (see Wilson, 1992). A logical third pillar after its World Scripture and encyclopedia, both directed by Dr. Andrew Wilson, might be a world history, consummating, in line with UT guiding principles, the never fully realized Cambridge History of the World initially undertaken by Lord Acton in 1896. Perhaps this will be Dr. Wilson's next task!

Behavioral Applications

Attributing behavioral correlates to UT's theory of history, or any theory of history, is a much more difficult and hazardous undertaking than extrapolating historiographical principles. This, in fact, underlay my difficulty with Professor Hans Martin Sass's (1991) paper on "The Meaning and Purpose of History" presented at the 18th International Conference of the Unity of the Sciences. Professor Sass maintained that in addition to shaping worldview and communicating moral principles, "orientational" histories predetermine actions. Thus, "theories and meanings in history" must be judged "by their outcomes for peace, love and the effect on natures and cultures" (14).I questioned the ease and directness with which Professor Sass saw various historical views incarnating themselves in human activity and suggested that a host of forces intervened between theories of history and their embodiments in social structure. However, I did acknowledge that one's sense of the past offers abundant resources for coping with present contingencies (Mickler, 1991).

The complexities involved in directly linking concepts of history to action as well as the likelihood of a single historical conceptualization buttressing markedly different social and political agendas depending on circumstances and needs are evident in behavioral applications of UT. UT and its theory of history, for example, potentially legitimates radical, liberal and traditionalist behaviors. Although it is difficult to be definitive, I will consider each of these orientations in turn.

Radical Orientations

The potential of UT in undergirding radical, even revolutionary behavior expresses itself in two stages. The first stage involves de-legitimating competing systems. This is evident all through UT. In the theory of history, we see general claims that "none" of the various views of history presented by scholars have been able to "grasp the whole aspect," "present a true image of the future," or "offer appropriate solutions to actual problems." (EUT. 259) There also are specific critiques of "representative traditional view[s]," especially the providential and materialist views (EUT. 285-98). The primary thrust of UT's overview of traditional views is polemical with emphasis on "various weak points in each of them" (EUT. 285).

The second stage requires the exclusive legitimation of one's own theory. UT does this primarily by grounding its system in revelation and in "preparation for the coming of the Messiah" (EUT. 281). Thus, although it is asserted that UT's theory of history solves technical historical problems like "circular" versus "linear" movement and "determinism" versus "non-determinism" (EUT. 291-92), far more potent is the claim to have elaborated "the true laws at work in history" (EUT. 262). Explaining Unification Thought, an earlier edition of UT, claimed that the cutting edge of human history as embodied in competing Hebraic and Hellenistic streams had "spread to the Far East" and that "their confrontation is most pronounced on the Korean Peninsula, which, therefore, becomes the providential focal point for their unification and the birthplace of the new culture" (324). The most recent explication refers to UT as "Godism" or "the thought that has God's truth and love as its nucleus." It subsequently refers to UT as "the thought of God" (EUT. iv).

The thrust of these views is, as I have suggested radical and revolutionary. Like any revolutionary orientation, the aim is to devalue and ultimately displace rivals, thereby gaining a measure of ideological and cultural hegemony. Although fostering genuinely creative insights, this thrust has imparted an exclusivist, sectarian tone to certain Unificationists and fostered behaviors resulting in widespread public perceptions of the movement as being disruptive and dangerous. In some cases, a heady sense of "knowing how God operates" and "being of the elect" has legitimated high pressure recruitment, socialization, organizational and business practices. Radical orientations and behaviors, however, typically emerge during a movement's early stages, functioning to maintain a fledgling group's boundaries and identity over against outsiders. This appears to be the case in Unificationism. Though UT's theory of history contains undeniably radical elements, it also embodies important countervailing tendencies.

Liberal Orientations

UT's non-violent methodology of inducing social change and its future vision of a voluntarist, just and egalitarian world order undergird a liberal, even progressive socio-cultural agenda. Unequivocally opposed to revolutionary ideologies such as Marxism whose historical laws are described as "pseudo laws, fabricated subjectively only to support class struggle and violent revolution" (Exploring Unification Thought: 282), UT, nonetheless, maintains a dynamic view of history, acknowledges that entrenched rule tends to be tyrannical, and recognizes the necessity of historical struggle (EUT. 281 -85). However, its philosophy of social change is recognizably Gandhian. Based upon the "law of indemnity," or sacrificial suffering, UT suggests that by willingly enduring unmerited "persecution," righteous people win popular support, "isolate the leader of the evil side," and thereby turn history (EUT. 283). In less dramatic instances, UT holds that there are always creative alternatives to open conflict.

EUT emphasizes the importance of "having a clear vision for a future society" but is not overly specific beyond asserting that human history has been "directed toward the world of God's original ideal of creation" (260). However, it is possible to determine from the text and correlate readings several essential requisites for the new world order. First, it must be voluntarist. UT stresses an inviolate realm of human freedom and responsibility with which no one, "not even God" can interfere (EUT: 270). Hence, no ultimate order ever can be imposed. It must be freely chosen. Second, it must be just. EUT notes that so long as there exists unresolved historical conflicts or resentment, "there can be no true peace on earth" (278). Finally, the ideal future society must be egalitarian. Although this point is not developed at length in UT, Dr. Lee writes eloquently in The End of Communism (1985) of "a society of co-existence, co-prosperity and co-righteousness, i.e., a society of tricoism" (167). Likewise the Unification Principle advocates "the principle of coexistence, co-prosperity and common-cause" as opposed to an arrangement in which privileged elites monopolize benefits and wealth (Divine Principle: 445).

These thrusts are liberal and progressive. As with liberal orientations generally, UT's case rests ultimately on moral suasion and a confidence in humankind's ability to choose the good. It also rests on the willingness to withstand opposition. These supports lend a prophetic, visionary cast to Unificationism. Reverend Moon, in particular, has faced violent opposition and imprisonment in a variety of settings: first, under fascist Japan; second, under North Korean totalitarian and South Korean "strong man" regimes; and more recently, at the hands of the U.S. government. Nonetheless, unlike many of today's "politically correct" breed Unification "liberals" engage an increasingly diverse cast of allies, both "left" and "right" as movement initiatives in Russia, China and even North Korea currently demonstrate. Although viewed as self-serving by some, Unificationism funds an innumerable array of organizations and projects such as the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, the Assembly of the World's Religions, the International Highway Project and the International Federation for World Peace, all of which it perceives as contributing to the betterment of humankind. Liberal orientations and behavior obviously dominate the expansionist stages of social movements. This also seems to be the case with Unificationism. Nonetheless, although UT's theory of history has an unmistakable egalitarian thrust, it possesses an important counterbalancing feature.

Traditionalist Orientations

The possibility of UT legitimating traditionalist, even reactionary behaviors is evident in the theory's latent anti-intellectualism and in its strongly hierarchical conception of social reality. The latent anti-intellectual strand expresses itself in the theory's insistence on the "cash value" of philosophy (that it solve "real" problems), in its inadequate characterizations of existing views of history, and in a questionable scientism. UT's preoccupation with practicality undoubtedly stems from its effort to counter Marxism but runs the risk of confounding philosophy with ideology and politicizing theoretical issues. Its treatment of existing views of history (most dismissed in the matter of a few lines) runs the risk of furthering an illusion of having not only "solved" but also "settled" perennial questions. Finally, an elaboration of the law-governed nature of history" (EUT. 261-62) which fails to define what precisely is meant by the term "law," tends less toward science than toward scientism.

UT's strongly hierarchical conception of social reality is evident in several "laws of creation" which extrapolate the neo-Confucian concepts "Yang and Yin" (EUT. 263). The "law of correlativity," for example, refers not only to "principal" and "subordinate" elements within beings but also to "principal and subordinate individual beings" (EUT. 263). According to this law, "The first requirement for a society to develop is that correlative elements... of subject and object must form a reciprocal relationship in every field such as culture, politics, economy and science" (FUT. 263). Government and the people, in particular, "must form a relationship of subject and object for the purpose of the nation's prosperity" (FUT. 301). The "law of dominion by the center" reinforces the idea that "[t]he leaders are the subject, and the masses of people are the object" (EUT: 264). UT repeatedly emphasizes that this "give-and-receive action" must be harmonious, "never oppositional or inflictive" (EUT. 263).

The thrust of these views is traditionalist and if improperly applied, reactionary. As with traditionalist orientations generally, the ethos is protectionist and preservationist. This outlook, at times, has tended to reinforce dogmatic and authoritarian proclivities of some Unificationists. Rather than utilize UT to open up philosophical investigation, the dogmatic school has emphasized closure, asserting with evangelical certitude that the system has solved all problems. Similarly, although appropriate application of subject-object relations have led to manifestly self-sacrificial and caring behaviors on the part of designated "subjects," interpretation, other Unificationist leaders have made use of the concept to stifle dissent and facilitate hierarchical prerogatives. Traditionalist orientations and behaviors come to the fore during routinization and institutionalization phases of social movement development. They typically consolidate advances by closing off avenues of ideological and organizational deviance.

These, then, are three markedly different social and political orientations which derive from UT's theory of history. Although one could become dominant, it is more likely that each of the three orientations described-radical, liberal and traditionalist-will factor into the movement's historical tradition. Stated differently, Unificationism cannot be authentic minus its rootedness in revelation, its commitment to social justice and its neo-Confucian family ethic. UT's theory of history is a rich theoretical construct because it provides resources for a wide range of practical applications.


Breisch, Ernest. 1986. "Historiography." In the Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 6.

Edited by Marcea Eliade. New York: Macmillan, 370-83. Carr, Edward Hallett. 1961. What is History. New York: Random House. Divine Principle. 1977. New York: HSA-UWC. Essentials of Unification Thought. 1992. Seoul: Unification Thought Institute. Explaining Unification Thought. 1981. New York: Unification Thought Institute. "Guidelines for Members of the Unification Church in Relations with the Jewish

People." 1989. New York: HSA-UWC. Lee, Sang Hun. 1985. The End of Communism. New York: Unification Thought Institute.

Masuda, Yoshihiko. 1991. "Secularization or Sacralization: A Discussion on Modern History from a Unification Thought Perspective." In The Establishment of a New Culture and Unification Thought. Proceedings of the Seventh International Symposium on Unification Thought. Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute.

Mclntyre, CT. 1986. "History: Christian Views." In the Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 6. Edited by Mircea Eliade. New York: Macmillan, 394-99.

Meyercoff, Hans. 1959. The Philosophy of History in Our Time. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Mickler, Michael. 1991. "Discussant Response." To Hans Martin Sass's "The Meaning and Purpose of History." Presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences. Seoul, Korea.

Sass, Hans Martin. 1991. "The Meaning and Purpose of History." Paper presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences. Seoul, Korea.

Wilson, Andrew. 1992. ICF Encyclopedia Project. New York: 1CF., ed. 1991. World Scripture. New York: Paragon. 

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