Hermeneutics and The Shape of the Future - Edited by Frank K. Flinn

Society and Ethics in Unificationism -- Lloyd Eby

This paper has two parts: The first part is a brief presentation of the Unification view of society. The second is an exploration of the implications of that view for a theory of ethics.

Part I. The Unification View of Society

In order to understand the concept of society in Unificationism, we should see how it is expressed in the three sections of Divine Principle: the Principle of Creation, the Fall of Man, and the Principle of Restoration.

A. Society and the Principle of Creation

According to the Unification Principle of Creation, both entities and the relationships which allow them to exist are foundational. The basic notions in which the structure of Creation are expressed, such as bi-polarity, give and take, origin-division-union, and the four position foundation1 are notions which simultaneously describe entities and the relationships between them. Therefore, in Unificationism, relationships are not derived from entities and entities are not derived from relationships. Both are foundational.

By society I mean the relationships between entities. In Unification thought even an individual is made up of a relationship between interacting dual characteristics of internal character and external form, along with a central or originating point which centers and directs the activity. Internal character and external form are inseparable, and their relationship is necessary for the existence of the individual. In Unification thought, then, an individual is a kind of society.

Unification theory holds that God created in order to have an object for his/her love and in order to have that object respond to God and share co-creativity with God. The relationship of God to mankind is the relationship of father-and-mother to children. The first human society was composed of God and Adam and Eve. Man and woman together form an essential and necessarily interacting social unit. An individual person is incomplete alone: human characteristics are fully expressed in man and woman together. This unit is the encapsulation of the Divine image.

God's will and desire for mankind and creation is expressed in the Three Great Blessings (Gen. 1:28, to be fruitful, to multiply and fill the earth, and to subdue it and have dominion). The fulfillment of each of these Blessings requires a social interaction.

The First Blessing deals with social interaction between individual persons and God. This involves growth to maturity through proper interaction between internal character (mind) and external form (body), centered on God and God's ideal, so that the individual forms a completed or mature relationship with God. Such an individual becomes a divine person, the visible temple of God.

The Second Blessing involves a marriage relationship between a mature woman and a mature man, giving birth to children. Such a family perpetuates the divine lineage. Love, centered on the Divine heart, is the basis of all family and human relationships. In such a divine family, the basic love relationships can be learned and expressed, and these can form a basis for other relationships outside the family. If the Second Blessing were carried out, it would result, in successive generations, in the creation of a divine worldwide society.

The Third Blessing concerns the interaction between the human race and the rest of the created order. Harmony between humankind and the natural order requires that the interaction be centered on God's will and purpose. The creation exists for the benefit and enjoyment of mankind. Hunger, poverty, waste, physical misery, pollution and all the other economic and ecological woes are the result of sin, and would not exist if the Third Blessing were realized, centered on God's heart and ideal. Rewarding work, occupation, and creativity are necessary parts of the divine plan for fulfilling the Third Blessing. This fulfillment must be a social one. Only through harmonious give and take among people and between people and the natural order can greed, selfishness, misappropriation, unemployment, misemployment and other such ills be avoided.

In the Unification view, since the Three Blessings existed from the beginning, society is natural and organic, existing from the beginning. It is not a contract, but something each person is naturally born into, and something that must be fulfilled and developed. It exists for each person's benefit. There is not individual fulfillment apart from society and social fulfillment, but also there is no society apart from the individuals that constitute it and no social fulfillment apart from the fulfillment of each individual.

B. Society and the Fall of Man

In the Unification view, give-and-take relations naturally lead to the creation of new being of higher order; some of these new creations are trivial but others are not. The most important give-and-take relation is the sexual one. Since the original Adam and Eve were immature, God foresaw that they would be susceptible to improper love relationships, with the natural consequences of such relations. The warning against eating the fruit meant specifically that they were not to enter into any sexual relation until they were perfected enough to do so. Sex changes things between people; although this is often denied it is nevertheless true. Sex is the sign and mechanism whereby parentage is transmitted. The original sin, therefore, was not an individual act; only a couple can perform this act.

God's desire is that his/her perfect parentage be passed on perfectly to human children, and that this continue from parents to children for endless generations. If the sexual union were set up immaturely, apart from God's Blessing, then the perfect parentage could not be passed on and the union with God would be lost. In a sexual union with God's Blessing, the interchange between the partners would enrich each one, but without God's Blessing there is diminishment. The commandment was therefore a warning against the possibility of improper sex and its consequences. Nevertheless the original couple ignored the warning (largely because of the action of the angel), and suffered the predicted consequences. To be sure, they disobeyed God, but the important factor is not so much the disobedience, but the improper relationships and what those relationships produced. In the Unification view, therefore, fallen man does not so much need forgiveness ofdisobedience as he/she needs liberation from the consequences of improper relationships, or sin.

The original sin was a social act. As Divine Principle explains, Satan seduced Eve who in turn seduced Adam. In these acts, Satan took over part of the position of father for the human race. This false fatherhood has disrupted the fulfillment of the Three Great Blessings. Proper give-and-take between mind and body in individuals, between husband and wife and parents and children in the family, between segments of the larger society, and between mankind and the natural order has been lost.

Because of the fall, there have been no historical examples of perfection of any of the Three Great Blessings (except that Jesus fulfilled the First Blessing). Existing families will not serve as satisfactory models of the divine ideal, nor will any existing human social, economic, political, or ecological arrangement serve as a paradigm for the divine order. These can only be properly constituted when the process of solving sin, called the Principle of Restoration in Unification terminology, has been completed. This process requires the coming of the Messiah.

Sin, in its essence, is social. This does not mean that there is no individual sin, but it does trace the root of sin to improper social interaction. Even if we say sin originated in improper desire, this would not have been consequential without the improper social interaction. So a social act is at the root of sin, and the solution of sin must necessarily be social, that is it must involve interaction between, and not just within, individuals.

C. Society and the Principle of Restoration

Because of the fall, all the ideals embodied in the Three Great Blessings were lost. Instead, a spurious approximation of the relationships contained in the Three Great Blessings has been established, centering at least partly on Satan. In order that restoration be accomplished it is necessary that the Messiah come. The Messiah is a new man, born of the Godly, and not of the Satanic lineage. His task is to carry out what Adam and Eve failed to accomplish. To do this, he must fulfill the Three Great Blessings, which means that he must grow to maturity (First Blessing), and then restore a bride in the position of Eve. The Messiah and his bride must together then establish a divine family, and their family then will become the messianic unit (Second Blessing). This family must provide a model for both harmonious inter-human relations and harmonious human interactions with the natural order (Third Blessing). Finally, the messianic family must provide salvation for all people by uniting all of humankind with the messianic family (i.e., rebirth into the divine lineage).

It is God's task to send the Messiah. But it is the task of fallen people to restore conditionally what was lost in the fall by making amends through indemnification. In order to do this, two fundamental indemnity conditions or processes must be carried out. Divine Principle calls them the Foundation of Faith and the Foundation of Substance.

The foundation of faith represents restoration of faith in God and the give-and-take relationship with God. To accomplish this, the central individual (or family, tribe, nation) must have some object or rite or belief in which he/she holds faith for some period of time. During this period of time the faith will be tested to ascertain whether it is genuine. The foundation of faith is a relational concept. It requires that the relation between the central figure and the object of faith, and the central figure and God be maintained. This foundation of faith is a sign of restoration of the human race's relation with God (restoring the first consequence of the fall), and it is a prerequisite of restoration.

The foundation of substance represents a restoration of a second consequence of the fall. This is the disruption of human relationships. In addition to struggles with others, we also have a struggle within ourselves between our good and evil natures. Conditional restoration of these relationships requires the conditional separation into a relatively good side (Abel side) and a relatively evil side (Cain side), and the winning of the more evil side to the better side. Accomplishment of this division and reunification is called the foundation of substance. In Unification theory, this is often called the Cain/Abel problem because those individuals represented the first attempt by God to erect a foundation of substance.

It is necessary to note that although Abel represented the relatively good side and Cain the relatively evil side, both were fallen men (hence evil), but both were putative sons of God (hence good). Both sides are mixed. In Unification theory, no one is wholly right or wholly wrong, but only relatively more right or wrong. When a unification is made after a Cain/Abel division, with the good prevailing, then a foundation of substance is laid and a divine blessing can be given. If there is no unification, or if the relatively evil side prevails, then there is no foundation of substance and the divine blessing is lost, until a new attempt at proper unification succeeds.

Society, in all the possible meanings of that term, is an arena of restoration in Unificationism. Restoration encompasses the individual, the family, the larger society, the nation, international relationships, and ultimately the whole world. Salvation is a societal affair. There is no salvation of the individual apart from the larger society, and no social salvation without the salvation of all individuals.

Part II. Towards a New Paradigm for Ethics and Social Theory

In this part of my paper I want to propose a new paradigm for normative ethics, a paradigm based on Unification theory. Along the way to the new paradigm, I will examine two important received paradigms, one from Western social theory and the other from the Orient. I will try to show that neither of these received theories by itself will serve as an adequate paradigm for normative ethics.

Before addressing the question of a new ethical paradigm, we must address the deeper and more fundamental question of whether any normative ethical theory is at all possible, and on what basis. This question arises because twentieth-century writers on ethics in the Anglo-American world have attacked the very foundations of normative ethics, and many of them have concluded that some form of relativism is inescapable.

The claim that relativism is inescapable has its roots in ontological and epistemological questions or problems. Ever since David Hume showed that there is (or seems to be anyway) a gap between saying "X is such and such" and "I (or you or all of us) ought to do (of not do) X" people have remarked that there is a gap between is and ought. For example, suppose it is true that adultery is injurious to social order. How does it follow from that that I (or you or anyone) ought not commit adultery? It does not follow logically unless there is something that joins together the claim that something is the case and the claim that one therefore ought or ought not do it.

This question is too complex to be answered here or answered simply, but there is, I believe, a basis in Unificationism for answering these foundational questions. It is in the Unification claim that human beings indeed have an essence and purpose qua human, and that they are inherently related to God and to other people. These relations are not derived but are natural and inherent; they are part of basic human ontology. Because of this, humans have responsibility-for themselves, for other people, for the natural world, and for God. If this is so, then factual claims do entail normative judgments; from the fact that such and such is the case, it follows that I ought to do so and so, because of my inherent nature and purpose and responsibility, as a being related to God, to others, and to the natural world.

Much more needs to be said on this question, and in particular the details need to be made explicit. But let this be sufficient for now.

In the history of Western thought, numerous ethical theories have been proposed, and these theories could be classified in various ways: teleological vs. deontological theories, individual vs. collectivist theories, theistic vs. atheistic theories, normative vs. non-normative theories, and so on. For my purposes here, it will be useful to take the paramount Western theory to be the social-contract view or paradigm. This view or paradigm is the one I take to be most embodied in American public social and political life and affairs. This does not mean that there are no other ethical views that are operative in Western thought or in American affairs, but that this contractual view is dominant, at least in theory. In addition, this contractual view operates in business relations between employers and employees, buyers and sellers, and so on.

In the Western democratic-contract paradigm the underlying ontology is individualistic. The basic units are individuals (substances) having an essence. Relations are derived entities; they are not ontologically basic. We might call this the telephone-line theory of relations; relations are like the wires connecting telephone poles together; the wires depend on the poles for subsistence, but the poles do not depend on the wires. If the poles are taken, the wires cannot be suspended, but take away the wires and nothing happens to the poles.

In the Western contract-view, a person is primarily an individual, and society is a derived entity. For Socrates, the first question was a person's knowing himself and possessing the virtues; society followed as something made up of people. For Aristotle, although a person is inherently part of a polis, virtue is primarily a property of individuals. In Hobbes and Machiavelli, man's standing over against or apart from other men is explicit; in Machiavelli the Prince stands against the people and in Hobbes everyone stands against everyone else. Democratic theory sees people as individuals who contract with each other to make a state of polis. This contract may be either explicit (as in the Jamestown or Mayflower Compacts or the U.S. Constitution) or implicit, as in English Common Law.

We can contrast this contract view with a paradigm that operates in Oriental, Confucian-influenced cultures. The Oriental paradigm is a hierarchical, family-based one, derived from or allied with Confucianism. In this paradigm, hierarchy is seen as natural and normal, and relations between a person and other people, especially family and ancestral relations, are often considered to be more important or more real than individuals. Ancestral and familial tradition is paramount.

In this view other social relations are similar to or modeled on the familial paradigm. For example, in a school the teacher is respected as having a parental role and authority. In a business, a president is regarded as a father; the company, as a family; co-workers, as brothers and sisters; and the department head, as an older brother. A similar principle applies in politics: "A ruler should govern his people like a father cares for his children. Ruler and ruled must be bound together by unbreakable ties of paternal love and filial respect if the nation is to remain strong and healthy."2

When we consider the Western social-contract paradigm and the Oriental hierarchical paradigm each from the point of view of the other, we discover that each has certain implicit criticisms and even perhaps a refutation of the other.

From the Oriental view one could criticize the Western contract-view in this fashion. It is too individualistic because people are in fact not isolated units. Western ethical theories almost never give any satisfactory account of the birth and maturation process; they speak instead as if each person were an isolated adult, able to get along more or less by himself or herself. The Western rejection of innate relationship in favor of unrestricted individualism has encouraged people to feel that their first responsibility is to themselves rather than to others. This has led to the breakdown of families, and to disrespect for other kinds of social obligations. The Western contract paradigm can have negative implications for economic life: if each person is primarily an isolated individual, then there is no reason for each person not to want for himself/herself whatever economic benefits are available rather than being concerned with the economic situation of the society as a whole. The Western social-contract paradigm tends toward political and economic anarchy.

From the Western point of view one could offer criticisms of the Oriental paradigm as well. The Oriental view keeps people in a perpetual state of dependence on the parent or superior, so that people do not become individuals capable of operating on their own. Loyalty and honor are such important virtues in Oriental society that people are highly motivated to be untruthful in order to remain loyal or to "save face." Because of "face," a superior cannot admit weakness or wrongdoing to an inferior. The Oriental model tends toward totalitarianism because there is nothing to keep the superior from misusing power and influence. It is not an accident that few significant natural science or agricultural or technological innovations have come from the Orient (except since WWII as a result of westernization). In order for those innovations to take place, persons must have ideas and plans that they are willing to pursue against ancestors and tradition; the Orient puts so much emphasis on family and societal and ancestral tradition, however, that people are prevented from breaking out of tradition for purposes of innovation. Oriental societies tend to have a low regard for the lives and rights of individual persons. Most of these societies also devalue women and, as a result, tend to mistreat them.

More could be said about the defects of each model, but perhaps this is sufficient. From what has been said, it is clear, I hope that each of these paradigms has significant defects and cannot serve without substantial modification as an adequate paradigm for ethics or social theory.

It is my contention, however, that it is possible to derive from Unificationism a foundation for an adequate ethics, an ethics that incorporates the best parts of the Oriental-Confucian and the Western-contract paradigms, without falling into the problems to which either leads by itself.

In my view, an adequate ethics must attend to all three of the Three Great Blessings, so that we can say that whatever promotes fulfillment of the Three Great Blessings is ethically good, and whatever detracts from this is ethically bad. In order to do this, we need to go beyond the existing Unification thought texts,3 because the discussion of ethics in those texts confines itself almost exclusively to family ethics. In this, these texts are too closely tied to the Oriental paradigm. Discussions of the First and Third Blessings are not sufficiently developed, and business, social and public ethics are treated as simple extensions of family ethics.

The Oriental paradigm itself is primarily a paradigm for familial and social life. It neglects the First Blessing, i.e., proper individuation and individual maturation, so that the individual can be an embodiment of God. The Western-contract paradigm is correct in maintaining that mature persons must be individuated and must be distinct from other individuals and their families and ancestors, and must find themselves and operate in society and with other persons as mature individuals.

When we consider the roles of nation-states in their relationships with one another, the most useful model is a democratic one; nations are sovereign entities and relate with one another on that basis. Today it is primarily the Communist nations that retain colonial powers. The non-communist states relate to one another more or less as mature individuals relate with one another. Insofar as they fail to do so, it is a sign of immaturity and insufficient (ideological) development.

Mature individuals also exist, however, in natural relationships with one another. The Western-contract view is deficient because it fails to recognize this point. Therefore the Oriental insistence on relationship is an important reminder that even mature individuals are not isolated individuals: they are members of families, societies, and so on. The Western-contract view, then, does not sufficiently stress the importance of the Second Blessing.

Both the Oriental and Western paradigms neglect crucial aspects of the question of humankind's relationship with the natural order. Nowadays many people would want to argue that issues such as environmental pollution, misappropriation of natural resources, the treatment of animals, and so on, are ethical issues. If we include the Third Blessing, then these issues do indeed become ethical issues.

In summary, I suggest that aspects of both the Oriental-Confucian and Western-contract paradigms need to be adopted in order to arrive at an adequate paradigm for ethics and social theory, and that the way to do this is to see the fulfillment of all three of the Three Great Blessings as the foundation of ethics. Existing Unification thought texts do not in m y view sufficiently address this question because they are too much wedded to the Confucian paradigm, but Unification theory contains a foundation for a more adequate ethical view. What I have said here by no means exhausts this question, but I offer it as a step toward an adequate paradigm.


1 For an explanation of these concepts see Divine Principle (New York: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973).

2 Young Oon Kim, Faiths of the Far East, Vol. Ill of her World Religions (New York: Golden Gate, 1976), p. 128.

3 The standard texts in Unification thought are Unification Thought (New York: Unification Thought Institute, 1978) and Explaining Unification Thought (New York: Unification Thought Institute, 1981). Both of these books were primarily written by Mr. Sang Hun Lee. The treatment of ethics in the second volume does not go beyond the first volume in such a way as to alleviate the problems I am dealing with in this essay. 

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