Unity In Diversity - Essays in religion by members of the faculty of the Unification Theological Seminary - Edited by Henry O. Thompson - 1984

Divine Principle and Oriental Philosophy - Hae Soo Pyun

In this presentation, I shall consider three points.

1. How I feel about the Divine Principle in relation to the Chinese philosophical tradition.

2. Whether the yin-yang principle adequately explains the creation.

3. What Chinese philosophy offers towards understanding the deeper meaning of Divine Principle.

The presence of Chinese thought in Divine Principle is thought to be quite pervasive, yet, except in one or two instances, I find it hard to identify specific parts as of Oriental origin. Christianity on the one hand, and Chinese thought on the other, have so much in common that if I adduce an example from the teachings of the Unification Church1 to show that it is of Oriental origin, someone else may easily prove that it is also to be found in other Christian teachings. We often hear members of the Church respectfully quoting the Reverend Moon: "You must become better than I, you must go beyond Christ." This, I assume, is unmistakably of Confucian origin. In Chinese Buddhism it is often said that a true Buddhist does not walk on the same Path that the Enlightened One had trodden. This belief was influenced by a Confucian maxim: "As blue is extracted from the indigo plant but becomes bluer than its source, so a disciple, learning all from his master, must surpass him." The Bible says the same thing: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believes in me, the works I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..." (John, 14:12).

This does not mean that the Oriental influence is minimal. Far from it. For our present purpose, I shall briefly explain five2 examples that I believe are found in the teachings of the Unification Church.

1. "Human nature is originally good."

Expounded by Mencius (371-289 B.C.) roughly twenty-three centuries ago, this idea has exerted a powerful influence on the Oriental mind and thought ever since. The Chinese people thought it important enough to make it the opening sentence in their favorite primer for children, San Tzu Ching (Three Character Classic): "At their birth, all men are by nature good."

Mencius elucidates what he means by the original goodness of man in terms of analogies:

a. If someone sees a small child about to fall into a well, he will not debate with himself whether or not to do something about the situation. He'll rush to the rescue of the child first, though not because he wants to be friends with the child's parents, to seek the praise of his neighbors, or to escape an evil reputation if he did nothing. For Mencius, every human being is born with the original impulse toward goodness.3

b. Mencius elsewhere uses another analogy to illustrate his point. Originally, Ox-Mountain was covered with beautiful trees, but being near a large population center, its trees had been hewn down with axes and hatchets. But the nourishment from the rain and the dew helped the mountain to sprout new buds. Then cattle came along to graze on the mountain. No wonder Ox-Mountain became so bald. When the town-folk saw how bare the mountain was, they were led to believe that it had never had any beautiful trees. Aren't there, Mencius asks, the seeds of goodness and righteousness in the heart of every man? (The expression, Shim-Jung, heartistic love, comes from Mencius.)

In other words, the fall of man may be compared to that of trees by axes and hatchets. Mencius believed that, like Ox-Mountain, man, too, has the power within himself to restore his lost or fallen human nature with some help from the environment.4

"Years ago, many Christian missionaries in China thought that Mencius' doctrine on the original goodness of man, so strongly entrenched in the minds and attitudes of the Chinese people, was one of the major stumbling blocks to their willingness to become Christians. This is no longer the case. Divine Principle has reconciled the two different views with one stroke.

2. Sometimes the Oriental influence upon the teachings of the Unification Church crops up in phrases and sentences rather than in a major theory, such as, "X must be carried out by the individual, family, society, nation and the world." This reasoning is spattered over many speeches of the Reverend Moon. To cite just one recent example, in the Founder's Address at the Seventh ICUS (International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences) in Boston, he said:

The Absolute Being's ultimate ideal of love is that the ideal individual unite with another ideal individual to form an ideal family, that the family develop into an ideal society, the society into an ideal nation, and the nations into an ideal world.5

This thought may be traced to one of the Confucian classics, Ta Hsiieh (The Great Learning):

The ancient who wished to illustrate his illustrious virtue to the world would first bring order to his own state; he who wished to bring order to his own state would first regulate his family; and he who wished to regulate his family would first cultivate himself... When he cultivates himself, his family will be regulated; when his family is regulated, his own state will be put in order; and when his own state will be put in order, there will be peace and concord throughout the world. From the Son of Heaven down to the common people, all must regard self-cultivation as the root (of social action).6

3. Another phrase that is crucial to the Unification Principle is "The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth." This may be ascribed to some Confucian influence. In Boston, I wanted to put to the test the Zen technique called Mundap (Mondo in Japanese), consisting of the shortest possible question and answer, so I asked one of our graduates, "Tell me what Divine Principle teaches -- you have only three seconds!" Startled by this question out of the blue, he could not come up with any definite answer that satisfied me or especially him. He sheepishly challenged me to offer mine, which I gave as follows: "The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and the Ideal Family."

When I attended the Divine Principle seminar for the Korean community in the New York metropolitan area the most attractive idea put forth, for me, was this thunderbolt: "The Unification Church does not preach about the Kingdom of Heaven but intends to erect the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth!" The verb "to erect" (action) and the addition "on Earth" won me over on the spot. In the jargon of Zen, I thought I almost had a satori experience.

If I understand the earlier phrase, i.e., "from the individual to the family all the way to the world," then I may add that the ideal family must precede the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, which in turn must precede the Kingdom of Heaven in the beyond. This leads us to the crucial role of the "family" in Divine Principle and the Church.

4. The emphasis upon the "family" is easily the most obvious Oriental influence on the Unification Principle; no one will take it for anything else. Of all the churches and temples, only the Unification Church calls its members "sikku," family members. So it is natural for sikku to call one another brothers and sisters, or to respectfully address the founder "Father" and his spouse "Mother."

The importance of the "family" in the Church cannot be exaggerated. This is too obvious to elaborate. Confucianism teaches Five Cardinal Human Relationships: (1) parents and children; (2) husband and wife; (3) older and younger generations; (4) friend and friend; and (5) the superior and his subordinates. Three out of these five human relationships are in the family. Each relationship is called lun (Chinese) or ryun (Korean), consisting of two Chinese characters, "human" and "book-binding." In other words, these relationships when put into practice in the right way, bind one human to another, as the loose pages are bound in a book, and that which is binding is humanly "good" (human plus two), while that which puts them asunder is less than "good."

The Unification interpretation of the parent-child relationship on a God-centered foundation, as in the four-position foundation, is significant, and in my view, an enduring improvement over the Confucian lun. This puts Confucianism in an entirely different ball park. (In Confucianism I don't see a catcher wearing head gear or a chest protector.)

Section 2

I now come to the yin-yang principle, on which I will be expected to make extensive comments. In the Divine Principle Study Guide, written credit to Oriental thought is given only to this cosmological dimension of Chinese thought (Part I, p. 16).

This yin-yang principle, based on the I Ching (The Book of Changes), has gone into the Unification Theory of Creation, and textually it is the only conspicuous Oriental feature in Divine Principle. I am obliged to give to this question a great deal more space than to other Oriental elements in Divine Principle, because even a cursory examination of yin-yang philosophy requires volumes, not a few pages. It must be noted, however, that

(1) The Book of Changes is probably the most difficult, elusive, and obscure text in Chinese thought. Most of the sentences sometimes sound like "abracadabra" to most people. (2) Although it is more often quoted than other texts, it is least understood. (3) Lastly, I have expanded more time and energy on it than on any other single treatise in the Chinese tradition, yet I am least sure of my own footing.

So far, I have given a sympathetic reading of Divine Principle insofar as it is influenced by Chinese thought, and I am about to give an equally sympathetic interpretation of the yin-yang strand in it. However, my own view on the Book of Changes differs considerably from the one adopted in Divine Principle. My disagreement has little to do with the substance but a good deal, I am afraid, with the formulation, which may give rise to some logical difficulties. First, let me state my view on the Book of Changes and then proceed to some of the implications to which it may lead.

The I Ching is sometimes called Chou-I or The Book of Changes in the Chou dynasty (1111-249 B.C.). I is composed of two Chinese characters, the sun (on top) and the moon (below). The Chinese language is pictorial, and when you put these two characters next to each other, you have "light" -- the sun and the moon in unison illumine the world. In the character I, etymologically considered, the sun stands or sits on top of the moon and they appear to play "hide and seek" in the heavenly orbit. Scholars have ascribed three related but different meanings to the I.

1. Easy or Simple: The Book of Changes, difficult as it is, was considered "easy" and "simple" when compared with the more difficult and arbitrary procedure of divination used in the preceding Shang dynasty (1751-1112 B.C.) by means of boring a hole on the tortoise shell with a burning stylus.

2. Change: For the ancient Chinese whose livelihood depended on farming, what could be a more obvious and indisputable proof of "change" than the revolution of the sun (source of energy) and the moon (lunar calendar for farming) in the firmament of Heaven? I, then, means "change" -- a cyclical conception in the Book of Changes.

When the sun sets, the moon appears; when the moon is down, the sun rises. The sun and the moon alternate, and thus, light is produced. When cold departs, heat arrives; when heat goes away, cold comes. Cold and hot seasons alternate, and thus, the year completes itself.7

These are instances or illustrations of the dynamic processes of change in nature. But for the Chinese thinkers, change is not to be confused with "flux," patternless flow of events, because four seasons come and go-with -- regularity, the sun and the moon play "hide and seek" with regularity or according to determinable "rules of the game."

Hence, "change" ultimately points beyond itself, it implies predictable "patterns," laws, "principles," "regularities," etc., in a scientific sense.

3. Permanence, therefore, signifies non-change, permanence. The sun and the moon, four seasons come and go, but they all come and go always in accordance with the eternal, unchanging laws of nature. The laws of change, of which the revolution of the sun and the moon is an instance, are not themselves subject to change. These laws are also called I.

Let's pause for a moment and examine carefully what we have discussed.

(1) I in the second sense of change refers to the visible world. We daily can see the sun and the moon in their tireless traversing on the heavenly orbit; we "feel" the comings and goings of four seasons. We enjoy the flowers in spring and multi-colored leaves in the fall. (2) But in the third sense of permanence, the laws that govern and regulate these processes of change in the universe are invisible to us. If you throw a stone up in the air, it will fall -- an instance of change. Spinoza's stone would say it is falling of its own free will. A stone that speaks the language of the I Ching will admit reluctantly: "I'm falling but I'm obeying the law of gravity. That's all." The law of gravitation is not subject to change, nor is it visible to us.

(3) According to the Book of Changes, we seek to know the invisible through the visible, as in Divine Principle we desire to know the nature of God through His creation. (4) In the etymology of I, we already have the germs of yang (sun) and yin (moon). According to the Book of Changes, yin and yang are invoked as universal principles to explain the fact of change. In other words, when they interact with each other -- male and female principles -- change takes place. Within the framework of yin-yang philosophy, there would be no change without the interaction between these complementary opposites, yin and yang.

After there are Heaven (this symbolizes Male, Father, or yang principle) and Earth (Female, Mother, yin principle), there comes into being individual things. After individual things come into existence, there are interactions between the two complementary opposites, male and female. After there are male and female, there is the relationship between husband and wife; after the relationship exists between husband and wife, there is the relationship between parents and children...8

But where and how did Heaven and Earth themselves come from? When the yin-yang principles are employed to answer this inconvenient question, they go beyond the implication of the fact of change and propose to tackle the problem of the origin of all things. Here, however, the Chinese philosophical tradition suddenly becomes a little less eloquent and more reticent. It says: There was the beginningless Beginning, the Primeval Beginning as it were, sometimes called Tai Chi (Korean, Taeguk or Wu Chi (Korean, Muguk).

One (Wu Chi) begets Tai Chi, which in turn gives birth to two (yin and yang); they in turn, bring forth four, and then ten thousand things. If pressed harder, the J Ching and Chinese thinkers like Lao Tzu, who quotes from the / Ching, would spell out their own version of the Cosmological Argument, which ultimately depends on the impossibility of the actual infinity in the causal nexus or change of beings. This chain must stop somewhere, must come to an end, must go back to the First Member, the Uncaused Cause; a watch cannot be nor can be conceived without a Watchmaker.

Now, I have explained very cursorily the meanings of yin-yang principles in the hope of throwing some light on Divine Principle's theory of God and His creation. I cannot at this moment determine to what extent this yin-yang business is essential or indispensable to Unificationism's interpretation of the creation and its Creator, God. As the text stands, its presence appears important, but its formulation, as applied to the nature of God, may lead to some logical dilemmas. For the moment, I'll consider Mr. Young Whi Kim's statement or formulation of the yin-yang as it stands in the Divine Principle Study Guide:

Oriental Philosophy understands God as a being who only has the dual characteristics of Positivity (yang) and negativity (yin). It does not know that God is a being of Sung-Sang and Hyung-Sang, which are more fundamental than Positivity and Negativity. By having Sung-Sang and Hyung-Sang, God becomes the God of will, feeling, heart, and character.9

Two questions come to my mind:

1. Invisibility of God: On page 12 of the Study Guide, under the heading of "5. The Relationship between Sung-Sang (Internal character) and Hyung-Sang (External form)," we find:

Sung Sang -- Hyung Sang
Invisible – Visible
Internal – External
Vertical – Horizontal
Cause – Effect
Subject -- Object

However, on page 15 of the same Study Guide, we have God, Invisible Subject, represented by a large circle within which we find both Sung-Sang (invisible) and Hyung-Sang (visible attribute). This formulation requires a considerable dialectical ingenuity to keep God invisible. If the Study Guide identifies God with the visible world -- I doubt that this is its intention, this horn of dilemma is just as painful -- there would be no difference between the Creator and Creation; the distinction between Cause and Effect, Subject and Object would be specious. If it takes the other horn of the dilemma, God's Hyung-Sang (visible attribute) must be re-defined or radically modified to insure God's invisibility.

The Book of Changes might be able to hint at a possible way out. It would identify Wu Chi with God's Original Sung-Sang and Divine Law (I in the third sense; governance of all things in the universe or God's invisible Act) with God's Original Hyung-Sang (still invisible, as the law of gravity is invisible to us).

If this assumption be correct, then its implications are very simple yet lead to no dilemma. Oriental philosophy could understand Sung-Sang and Hyung-Sang, but in the case of God, Uncaused Cause, Sung-Sang and Hyung-Sang are co-extensive and identical -- they are one, indivisible and invisible. In the language of Western philosophy, God's Being and God's Act are one and the same thing. For our limited understanding due to the Fall of Man, we need this conceptual distinction between Sung-Sang and Hyung-Sang when we talk about God. God is One -- in Him, Subject and Object are not two but one, the dichotomy between External and Internal does not hold, Cause and Effect are One. For God, then, His Original Hyung Sang,10 Divine Law that operates in the universe, operates invisibly through the forces of yin and yang and at the same time, He is One. The Logical consequence of this argument is that to speak of yin and yang as applied to God is to make a distinction between Subject and Object in God, which is contradictory to affirm.

2. Eternal, Unchangeable Nature of God: As I have already indicated, the distinction between yin and yang does not hold in the case of God, only in the case of his creation. One inescapable implication of this position is that God being One and without parts, without yin and yang or agencies of change, He is subject to no change. In his speech at the 1976 Washington Monument rally, Rev. Moon spoke of one eternal, unchanging God who loves us all. So I take it that this is the position of Unification Theology.

a. If God's Original Hyung-Sang be identified with Divine Law, which is invisible to us as well as eternal, of which the Law of Gravity constitutes but a small part, then there would be nothing in His nature that is subject to any modification, change or mutation.

b. Should God contain yin and yang, forces through which God's Hyung-Sang operates invisibly to effect the creation and operation of His creation, then God, insofar as He is composed of yin and yang, would Himself be subject to change.

The question boils down to this: The Study Guide formulation must steer clear between the Scylla of the concept of changeable and changing God composed of yin and yang and the Charybdis of the concept of unchanging and unchangeable God with no yin-yang forces or agencies of change as part of His being.

a. If God is eternal and changeless, the rest of the Divine Principle stands.

b. If God, with yin and yang agencies of change, is subject to change, then the logical implications for the rest of Divine Principle are far reaching, indeed. Theories of indemnity, of responsibility of man, of restoration or salvation, and many other key notions must be radically modified beyond recognition. The formulation adopted in the Study Guide and the Divine Principle must face this horn of the dilemma. For change always implies that X, the subject of change, goes from state A to state B, such that A and B are different. For instance, the indemnity that we have in mind to pay may be good enough at stage A or B to earn our salvation or to restore our fallen nature, but it may carry a different price tag -- due to spiraling inflation as at present -- at C, D... ad infinitum. We may not be able to catch up with the changing God at all. We may not be able to determine precisely where God is now or in the foreseeable future -- at D, or O or G.

Section 3

I now come to the last part of this paper: whether Chinese philosophy has anything to offer to help us to understand Divine Principle. It is not my intention to Orientalize Divine Principle, but only to Orientalize my own approach to it.

In the Founder's address at the Boston ICUS, Rev. Moon stressed practice or praxis more than a mere cerebral exercise. He said, "Absolute values then must be pursued not through knowledge but through love."11 This point has been reiterated countless times. At the first faculty meeting of 1978, a message from Rev. Moon came to Barrytown from across the Atlantic Ocean: "Things taught at the UTS are too theoretical..." This fatherly rebuke, if you call it that, I took personally in good part. I should like to have Chinese philosophy illustrate what I surmise Rev. Moon might have meant.

As you must have noticed, I have attempted to understand Divine Principle from the standpoint of Chinese philosophy, but I might as well own at this point that my own understanding of Chinese thought has been considerably influenced in the last two years or so by Divine Principle.12 I should like now to present this feedback to amplify what I judge to be the long term implications of Rev. Moon's fatherly remarks.

No matter what scholars, both East and West, think or say about the Chinese philosophical tradition, one historical, economic, and social fact cannot be ignored: the overwhelming majority of the Far Eastern peoples had been farmers until recent times, generation upon generation, and this fact has colored the content and the manner of their thinking. To a hard-nosed pragmatist like a farmer, an idea must be a seed that bears fruit, for fruits are "practical." In one sense, then, Divine Principle, too, must serve as a seed that with proper care should bear fruits: the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and the Ideal Family.

But what does the word "practical" signify in the Chinese tradition? The etymological meaning of "practical" is a picture of the kernel of a fruit stone. Fruits are delicious, nourishing, and practical, when you eat them. But in a second and higher sense, the kernel of the fruit stone is said to be more practical -- more than one fruit you have eaten. However, the seed does not normally bear the ideal fruits without proper and loving care by man. In other words, the "practical" implies, on the third and still higher level the practical know-how, and requires "blood, sweat, and toil" to bring the original seed to its complete fruition.

The Church has the seed; it has the land to till, the world; it also has the people to work on it. Yet do they really have the know-how? Maybe we are here to find something along this line and share it with others.

But what does the so-called know-how involve? In what does it consist? What does it boil down to?

The venerable Chinese philosophical tradition teaches that things thought and things done must go hand in hand. To this end-in-view, theory and practice must be engaged in a yin-yang dialogue. According to one fundamental principle of yin-yang philosophy, there is no such thing as pure yin or pure yang. Yang contains a little of yin and vice versa. Male has a tiny amount of female hormone, female a little of male hormone. Theory seeks to ask practical questions, while practice learns to question theory on a new and higher theoretical level. There is, then, nothing in theory that does not issue in practical consequences. There is always something in praxis that further clarifies theory from deeper understanding.

You may ask now what this yin-yang dialogue is supposed to lead to. In other words, what does the unity of theory and practice consist in? If I understand correctly some ramifications of Rev. Moon's remarks, he may very well mean that we must learn to transmute the "practical" brass into the "concrete" gold, the "practical" on the fourth and still higher level. The know-how must map out the highway step by step, and post road signs on it, toward the end-in-view. In the case of Divine Principle, it means, first, the Ideal Family and then the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Many fruitful steps have been taken since the founding of the Unification Church. Some of these steps have been the paying of costly indemnities, indemnity being a necessary condition for restoration. But indemnity in itself, indemnity as a concept or theory is empty. Its true meaning comes only through intelligent praxis. To accept this praxis may turn out to be part of the indemnity package.

Let me suggest one step as part of this indemnity: I don't know how close we are -- how many more steps we must take -- to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. For this end, we must first have the Ideal Family full of heavenly soldiers called sikku. The good old Confucius seems to hit the mark, so let me close my own discussion with one of his less appreciated aphorisms: In the Ideal Family, "people near are happy, and then people far away wish to come and join."13


1. In this paper, the "teachings of the Unification Church" is used to include Divine Principle, The Way of God's Will, Rev. Moon's speeches to the public or to the family members. Sometimes, I use "Unification Principle" to denote the same.

2. There could be more than these. In certain cases, any comparison may be misleading. For instance, the theory of indemnity is related to the Buddhist doctrines of Karma. Yet it is a moot question whether the former is influenced by, let alone derived from, the latter.

3. Mencius, Book II, Part I, Chapter 6.

4. Ibid., Book VI, Part I, Chapter 8.

5. Moon, Sun Myung, "The Re-Evaluation of Existing Values and the Search for Absolute Values," Nov. 24, 1978, p. 2, last paragraph.

6. Confucius, The Great Learning, 3rd paragraph.

7. I Ching, "The Great Commentary," Part II, Chapter 5.

8. Ibid., "Sequence" to the 31st Hexagram, Hsien.

9. Divine Principle Study Guide, p. 16. Sung-sang and Hyung-sang are very ingenious concepts in Divine Principle. They have no equivalents in Oriental or Western Philosophy. However, in Oriental Philosophy, yin and yang are applied to "creation" but never to "God," "Heaven," etc. In this respect I beg to differ with Mr. Kim's position on this question.

10. Some contemporary theologians argue that they cannot "experience" God, so they remain atheistic or at best agnostic theologians. In this newly suggested formulation, our answer to these skeptical theologians is very simple and clear. We experience, and more important, we cannot but experience, God's Hyung-Sang, but not his Sung-Sang. Without this "partial" experience of God, partially due to the Fall of Man, our experience of anything -- experiencing natural phenomena, for instance -- would become completely unintelligible 'gobbledygook.' However, we must admit that our experience and hence, our knowledge of God's Hyung-Sang is not perfect in the sense of being complete and whole.

11. Moon, Op. cit., page 3.

12. I consider what follows to be the most important part of this paper. I must admit that Part 2 of this paper is an instance of a "cerebral exercise."

13. Confucius, Analects, XIII, 16. 

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