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

John Dewey and the Unification Church; Some Points of Contact -- James Michael Lee

At first glance there seems to be a very minimal number of contact points between the philosophy of John Dewey and the Unification Church. A few molar instances could be adduced to shore up this contention. For example, John Dewey strongly maintains that there are no absolutes; everything is relative.1 This unifixing of the absolutes certainly goes against the core and spirit of the Unification Church.2 Dewey also believes that truth is determined instrumentally on the basis of what works productively for the individual or group.3 Such a belief is definitely rejected by the Unification Church.4 Dewey holds that values come about progressively by experimentation; he also comes out strongly against external authority insofar as it is external authority5 Dewey's writings are none too flattering to organized, supernaturally-based religion. In short, there seems at first blush to be very little in common between the educational philosophy of John Dewey and the Unification Church.

Scholium: The Unification Church

A word or two is in order about the way in which I conceptualize the Unification Church. By Unification Church I mean that portion of the people of God which shares and lives a particular or special type of faith, hope, and love. In this conceptualization, the Unification Church is not coextensive with the Divine Principle. In other words, the Divine Principle constitutes only one dimension -- albeit a pivotal dimension -- of the Unification Church. Further, in my conceptualization, the ecclesiasticum (and the Unification Church, like all institutional churches, does indeed have an ecclesiasticum) is not coextensive with the Unification Church. The ecclesiasticum constitutes one dimension, a dimension which existentially interacts and interpenetrates the Unification Church's ecclesia, and vice-versa.

In terms of the present little article, my conceptualization of the Unification Church means that the sources which I adduce will be drawn not only from the seminal Divine Principle, but also from the ecclesiasticum as well as from the thoughts of Church members, the affects of Church members, and the lifestyle of Church members individually and collectively.


Prior to the intrusion of the scholium, I observed that there seems at first blush to be very little in common between the philosophy of John Dewey and the Unification Church. Yet a closer examination of Dewey's writings reveals that there are quite a few points of contact between his thought and the Unification Church. Let us use Dewey's views on religion as one example. To be sure, Dewey is opposed to all specific supernaturally-oriented and institutionally-based religions. He essentially shares a Comtian view of supernaturality, a view which regards man's belief in a supernatural religion as the lowest and most primitive stage of the human quest.6 He stands against sectarianism in any form, that is to say the specific beliefs and practices of a particular church or denomination. 7 In Dewey's view, an elitist exclusivist social group like an institutional church is highly constricting to the personal and social growth not only of its members but also of the wider community as well. Dewey maintains that each person and each group must be essentially and structurally wide open for all sorts of new experiences, experiences which may reinforce or even flatly contradict presently-held beliefs, practices, and structures. The institutionalism of religion, especially when such institutionalism is both based on and directed toward the supernatural, fundamentally requires religion to be anti-human. Thus Dewey asserts that "the association of religion with the supernatural tends by its own nature to breed the dogmatic and divisive spirit." History proves this contention, Dewey forthrightly declares.8

As I have experienced the Unification Church in its worshipping / fellowshipping / ministerial / studying / here-and-now living ecclesia.9 I have been favorably impressed by the openness and by the kindly accommodation which the Church seems to have toward the person and the belief-system of others, including those with whom the Church members might disagree. Thus it appears, to me at least, that it is only natural for the Unification Church to appreciate the points of contact it might have with Deweyism and with those who hold this philosophy in greater or lesser degree. Contact enables dialogue and promotes fellowship. Such dialogue and fellowship can help prevent the Unification Church from falling prey to the all-too-frequent temptation of religious doctrinairism and insularism. In stating this, I am in no way minimizing the many basic differences in the fundamental views held by the Unification Church on the one hand and by John Dewey on the other hand. Rather, my statement is intended to highlight the fact that despite basic differences, there are still points of contact which can be made and which can be productively utilized.

Let me very briefly deal with one major point of contact between the Unification Church and John Dewey on the issue of religion.

Dewey emphasizes the importance of the religious in men's lives even though he rejects religion in its concrete specific institutionalized sense. By religious Dewey means that personally-experienced processive wholeness which constitutes one's effective and living relationship to the universe. Dewey states that the religious and the moral are the two most fundamental dimensions in all human experience and in all education. Thus it was no accident that he gave the first major address to the newly-founded Religious Education Association in 1903, an address entitled "Religious Education as Conditioned by Modern Psychology and Pedagogy"10

Dewey's emphasis on the religious and the moral as central in human experience certainly represents a major point of contact for the Unification Church. To be sure, every dimension of the Unification Church, ranging from Sun Myung Moon's deeply-felt experience of Jesus in his early days11 to seminary life to fundraising activities, has the religious and the moral at the center. To be sure, the Unification Church's religious and moral centralities are supernatural while Dewey's religious and moral centralities are nonsupernatural. Nonetheless, Dewey's conceptualization of the religious and the moral, while not being nearly as full or as rich as that of the Unification Church, still is contained within the Unification Church's conceptualization as a necessary aspect.

In talking to Unification Church members, especially past and present seminarians, I have found that these individuals do indeed make the religious and moral dimension a major point of contact with those non-Unificationists whom they encounter. Some of these non-Unificationists were never attracted to a supernaturally-oriented and institutionally-based religiousness or morality. Others of these non-Unificationists left one or another supernaturally-oriented and institutionally-based religion because these individuals came to believe that there was insufficient religiousness and morality (in John Dewey's sense) present and active in these religions. From what the Unification Church members tell me, they frequently use a particular non-Unificationists Deweyistic deep sense of religious and moral centrality as the initial and indeed abiding axis around which to build a relationship and then to evangelize.

Very early in my career, before the mellowing influence of Vatican II, I taught in a small insular New England Catholic girls' college run by nuns. In the summers the college ran a very modest graduate program in which most of the students were nuns. I would frequently suggest to these nun-students that as Christians, their first and paramount concern was not to convert everyone to Catholicism, but to assist each individual to become a more religious person and to wholeheartedly serve God according to the exigencies of his own personality. Surprisingly for those pre-Vatican II days, many of the nun-students did not become upset at what might initially seem to be heresy or at least Catholicism of a suspicious sort. John Dewey's notion of the religious has something similar to say to the Unification Church as I said to those nun-students many years ago. Some persons most likely can serve God best by not becoming members of the Unification Church, and by remaining in the processive religious situation in which they presently find themselves. God meets and greets and works with persons according to the developmental state of each individual's personality. So it seems to me that in his evangelization endeavors, a Unification Church member would serve God and persons best not by trying to convert everyone to Unificationism, but by attempting first to help the individual to learn how God speaks personally to him, and then to assist him to be further empowered to authentically respond to that present revelation.12

Science and the Religious

A second major point of contact between John Dewey and the Unification Church is that of the relationship of science and the religious. Though Dewey asserts that the religious cannot be found in religion, and the Unification Church maintains that religion is the highest embodiment of the religious, nonetheless both agree that the relationship of science to religion is of paramount importance in today's world.

In Dewey's view, the term "science" refers not only to natural science but to social science as well. While he devotes considerable attention in his writings to natural science, nonetheless he is even more concerned with social science. Though natural science and social science both aim at controlling the world for human benefit, nonetheless both kinds of science are autonomous and not simply dimensions of the selfsame science. 13

The spectacular progress of science in the past few centuries, Dewey declares, has spawned a crisis between science and the religious. Dewey puts it this way:

The crisis is due, it is asserted, to the incompatibility between the conclusions of natural science about the world in which we live and the realm of higher values, of ideal and spiritual qualities, which get no support from natural science. The new science, it is said, has stripped the world of the qualities which made it beautiful and congenial to men; has deprived nature of all aspiration toward ends, all preference for accomplishing good, and presented nature to us as a scene of indifferent physical particles acting according to mathematical and mechanical laws.14

Dewey believes that the clash between science and the religious is a productive one for the religious because the procedures and rationale of modern science open up fundamentally new avenues for the religious. The religious went as far as it could in ancient and medieval times precisely because it was inextricably linked, more than its devotees realized, to a primitive and outmoded science. With the onset of modern scientific experimental procedure and empirically-verified conclusions, the religious has become freed from the bondage brought on by a relatively impoverished view of the world. (Science and the religious both represent explorations and interpretations of reality). Modern science substitutes experimental procedure for blind authority, data for objects, and verified truths for mere speculative opinions.15 Such a substitution enables the religious to be based on and interpenetrated with that which is real, and as a result bestows a wholesomeness and an enriched form of qualitative experience on the religious. Science enables individuals to accurately ascertain those human wants and needs which are genuinely religious and productively human. The truly religious and genuinely moral must satisfy scientific conditions because the truly religious and the genuinely moral must be grounded in what is demonstrably real.16

For Dewey, then, the religious is most real and most fecund when it is tethered to and directed toward this world. It is here that modern science has its critical role to play, since science gives us reliable knowledge and productive interpretation of this world.17

The religious is at bottom a process, a procedure, as Dewey sees it. The religious is a special way in which an individual interprets, feels, and lives his experiences. Thus the contribution which science makes to the religious is not just in the area of empirically-verified conclusions but even more importantly in the area of procedure. This is a central point in Dewey's philosophy. For Dewey, the scientific procedure also constitutes the way in which an individual thinks -- and the general way in which an individual thinks is axial to the way an individual thinks religiously and acts religiously. In a celebrated passage Dewey describes the five stages of thinking -- stages which are always present but not necessarily in the order given below.

1. Suggestions, in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;

2. An intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity that has been felt directly experienced into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;

3. The use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis, to initiate and guide observation and other operations in the collection of factual material;

4. the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition reasoning, in the sense in which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference; and

5. Testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action.18

Though limitations of space prevent a thorough or even adequate explanation of this seminal passage, three points are worth briefly mentioning. First, thinking productively about the religious must begin with and always work through a personally-experienced and personally-felt difficulty. If the religious does not become a recurring problem for the person, then any thinking about the religious will most likely be superficial and purely cerebral (as opposed to personal). Second, religious truth must be sought not by means of an authoritative external statement or set of authoritative external statements, but rather as a fruitful hypothesis to be pursued. Only in the freedom and tentativeness generated by hypothetical thinking (as opposed to authoritative thinking) can there eventuate an open and genuine solution to the problem. Third, the truth of any proposition and experience can only be ascertained by careful empirical experimentation in conjunction with the guiding hypothesis. Any a priori truth simply lacks empirical verification and so is only an opinion.

While it is obvious that the Unification Church does not subscribe to all of Dewey's views on the relation of science and the religious, still there do exists major points of contact. These major points of contact are useful not only in the evangelization efforts of Church members, but also in expanding vertically and horizontally19 the life of the Unification Church in general and the meaning of the Divine Principle in particular.

Like Dewey, the Unification Church believes that the reconciliation of science and religion constitutes a particularly pivotal area of modern times. The annual science conference sponsored by the Church is an eloquent affirmation of Unificationism's commitment to this reconciliation. The Divine Principle's "Introduction" asserts that the mission of the new truth will be "to present the eternal truth that religion has pursued and the external truth searched for by science under one unified theme."20 O that other Christian religions would adopt such a similar and prophetic view of the intimate relation of science and religion! The unification of religion and science is central to Sun Myung Moon's religious view of reality, a view which is radicated in the reciprocal dynamic unity of Sung Sang (internal character) and Hyung Sang (external form). Of course, Sung Sang and Hyung Sang stand in opposition to Dewey's monism. Still, Dewey would applaud the Unification Church's tendency (while differing with its specifics) to see the religious (and the irreligious) dimension of the world and the worldly dimension of the religious.21

It seems to me that in the fruitful seeds of its Sung Sang and Hyung Sang theology/philosophy/psychology/cosmology, the Unification Church might further explore the way in which religion and indeed the Unification Church is itself scientific and proceeds scientifically. I suspect that

John Dewey might advise this course of action; at the very least I suspect he would countenance it. Furthermore, it seems to me that the Unification Church could profit from John Dewey's recognition that science is social science as well as natural science. One gets the distinct impression that social science is neglected to a certain extent in the thought and concern of Unificationists when they deal with the reconciliation of science and religion. If the twentieth century has been the age of natural science, the twenty-first century in all probability will be the age of social science. The Unificationists would be well advised not to miss the import of this likely eventuality.

There seems to be a major point of contact between Dewey's stress on the empirical verification of truth in action and the living doctrine of the Unification Church. To be sure, Church members have told me on innumerable occasions over the years that there is heavy emphasis in their movement on empirically-verified results. For example, members have told me that even though the Church leadership does not smile with especial warmth on the Oakland procedures of evangelizing because these procedures are not in accord with the culturally-conditioned pedagogical practices used in Korea in the early days of the movement, nonetheless the Church leadership has not moved against the Oakland procedures because these practices have produced beneficial empirically-verified results. Church members have also told me that the worthwhileness of activities such as Home Church, Ocean Ministry, Protracted Intensive Workshops and the like are all ultimately judged in terms of the empirically-verified degree to which they yield desired results. Indeed, the truth of the Unification Church itself seems to many members to be verified on the basis not just of the converts it is winning but also on the basis of the beneficial religious effects which this conversion and its aftereffects have on the lives of the converts.22 The Divine Principle is replete with empirical verifiers.23 Thus, for example, the Divine Principle judges that John the Baptist failed in his mission of strengthening the Lord's path because the Divine Principle interprets the empirical evidence presented in the Bible as suggesting that John shirked his sacred duty of following Jesus.24 There is even a sense in which the Unification Church empirically verifies that the Divine Principle is a verbal formulation of divine inspiration.25 Narratives of the deep spiritual life of Sun Myung Moon, accounts of the profound religious effects which his captivity and post-captivity ministry had on various persons, and the deep religious results which the Divine Principle has had on the lives of Unificationist converts -- all these and other empirical supports are adduced to verify the contention made by Moon and the Church that the Divine Principle is an authentic verbal formulation of divine inspiration.

Another major point of contact between Dewey and the Unification Church is the notion of the religious as directed to this world. While the Divine Principle unmistakably indicates that a Unificationist should live fully in the invisible substantial world, it also teaches that the same Unificationist should dwell fully in the visible substantial world.26 To be sure, the Unification Church has been criticized by unfriendly voices as living too successfully in the visible substantial world -- effective fishing ventures, skillful real estate dealings in the nation's largest city, a well-constructed newspaper venture, a herbal import company, a fast-food restaurant, and the like.

Yet another major point of contact between the philosophy of John Dewey and the Unification Church is the view of the religious as process. The Unification conceptualization of the religious in the world is a highly processive one, beginning with creation and moving slowly but inexorably toward the second coming and the final restoration. Dewey regards natural science and social science as revealing the structure and coloration of process. The Unification Church, it seems to me, could profit considerably from Dewey's view without having to embrace this view in the total and particular way in which Dewey does. Science for Dewey is not an accumulation of facts. Rather science is above all a set of procedures, a method for interpreting reality and for constructing a fruitful life for self and for others. Science is not a collection of conclusions; it is the way or method of constructing human endeavor so that conclusions are reached as a result of the process.27

In both the Divine Principle and in everyday Unification living, the Church places considerable verbal emphasis on process and on coming to grips with the scientific structure of process.28 Yet it seems to me that the Church has only begun to scratch the surface of its efforts in exploring the scientific structure and operation of process. Let me illustrate this point by giving an example of some of the Unification Church's efforts to date in the religious education process. By religious education I mean those instructional and guidance processes which deliberatively facilitate desired religious outcomes in people, e.g. conversion experiences, evangelistic outcomes, and the like. By and large the Unification Church still uses the religious education principles (cognitive structures) and practices (operations explained by cognitive structures) employed in the early Korean days of the movement. I am not aware of any major serious scientific effort within the Church to satisfactorily explain and systematically test the structure and operation of this Korean religious educational process as used either in Korean or in non-Korean settings. Sometimes the Korean process-paradigm is looked at and slightly modified, but generally not from a serious and careful scientific perspective. Johnny Sonneborn, for example, reports that Ken Sudo once operated a training program designed to devise and implement new procedures for more effective religious education in an evangelistic mode.29 However, from what I can learn, Sudo's admirable efforts, together with the piecemeal efforts by Unificationists here and there, typically are not intentionally grounded in a careful detailed analysis of the social-scientific structure of the teaching-learning process. Nor does a sizeable portion of the Church seem very interested in learning or operationalizing the scientific structure and functions of the teaching-learning process (e.g. evangelization activities) in order to better understand and significantly improve its all-important religious education ministry. Members greatly enjoy recounting their personal experiences about what they perceptually regard as successful religious education processes; often these members adduce personalistic hip-pocket data rather than scientific evidence to support their feelings of effectiveness. Only rarely have I found that these members are interested in deeply exploring the scientific structure of their perceived successes, or in painstakingly working to put their future religious education processes on a sound scientific footing.

To those Unificationists who might object to my gentle criticism in the previous paragraph on the grounds that it is unwritten Unificationist bad form to provide anything but the most positive reinforcement, including frequent undeserved personal praise, I must reply that give and take constitutes one of the cardinal principles of the Unification religion. Furthermore, Proverbs 13:24 states that a person freely chastises those whom he loves. A person who does not truly love others will not take the time or the effort -- or the subsequent opposition -- to chastise them.

What does Deweyism (or neo-Deweyism) have to offer the Unification Church in terms of helping the Church unify social science and its religious education activities in such a manner that these activities are thereby rendered optimally effective? Several suggestions come to mind. First, establish a central research and training facility for the social-scientific analysis of the process of religious education in its various forms. This facility comprises two parts, namely research and training. In the research area, the effort of the staff would be directed toward careful social-scientific analysis of the structure and operations of religious education endeavor. This analysis could then be interfaced with Unification thought (e.g. Divine Principle), Unification affect (e.g. the feeling dimension of the Unification prayer life), and Unification lifestyle, so as to bring an added dimension to the social-scientific analysis of the religious education act. In the training sector of the facility, attention would be given to intensive development and preparation of Unificationists highly skilled in religious education processes. Second, establish regional bands of educational process consultants to assist state and local Unificationists in becoming more educationally successful. These process consultants would be trained at the Church's national research and training facility, and then move about a designated region systematically upgrading the efforts of Unificationist religious educators (CARP workers, State Leaders, etc.) on the pedagogical firing line. Third, establish and publicize national conferences devoted to the social-scientific exploration of the religious education process. The Unification Church sponsors an annual conference on science and religion, as well as several national theology conferences. The major seminary sponsors and hosts its own theology conferences. In order to place social-scientific thinking about the religious education process at the heart of the Unification movement, both the Church and the seminary should establish religious education conferences of a scope and stature comparable with their theological conferences. Fourth, send on a representative portion of seminary graduates for doctoral studies in the social-scientific dimension of religious education. At present I know of only one student who ever was sent on for doctoral studies in this area. Fifth, place religious education in the seminary more at the center and more in an integrational matrix than is presently the case. At present, those courses offered in the social-scientific basis and operation of religious education are, in the perceptions of most students with whom I have talked over the years, closer to the periphery than to the center of the seminary's educational endeavor. Also, religious education does not seem to presently serve as the integrational matrix for the seminary curriculum, even though the diploma awarded to successful graduates is a religious education one. The theoretical understanding of the Church's essential religious education mission, and the practical success of the Church's religious education efforts could be significantly enhanced by making religious education more central and more integrational in the curriculum and the perceptions of the students.

Reconstruction Through Education That Is Religious

A third major point of contact between John Dewey and the Unification Church is their common emphasis on reconstruction that is religious. This reconstruction embraces both the person and society.

A leitmotif, and quite possibly the leitmotif of Dewey's thought is that of reconstruction. This theme runs constantly throughout Dewey's major writings, minor articles, speeches, and other activities. Thus Dewey is an unabashed Utopian: he wishes to make a better world, one in which the religious and the moral hold sway. The task of philosophy, in Dewey's view, is not to engage in idle speculation for speculation's sake. Rather the task of philosophy is to illumine human action in a dialogical manner so as to more effectively enable the reconstruction of persons and of society. Dewey's whole system of philosophy can only be appreciated if it is viewed as a philosophy of reconstruction.30

For Dewey, reconstruction is no superadditum to experience. Nor is reconstruction an end external to experience or a goal extrinsic to human functioning. Rather, reconstruction lies at the very essence of the processing person. This point can be succinctly illustrated by examining one of man's most basic processes, namely that of learning. Dewey asserts that learning is fundamentally an ongoing personal reconstruction of experience. When a person is learning, he is reconstructing his knowledge and his experiential world because he is acquiring new data and new interpretations in such a manner that his former data and interpretations are slightly or greatly changed (reconstructed) in the process. Each act of learning is thus an act of personal reconstruction. Learning is the process in which various data and explanations are reconnected and reconstructed from their former anchorages and placed into newer and larger wholes.31 Man's reconstruction in and through learning is the reason why he does not become bogged down in the particular sense data or the cognitive facts which he experiences, but is able to reconstructively combine and re-form these data and facts into new personally-held views.32 "There is no intellectual growth without some reconstruction, some remaking, of impulses and desires in the form in which they first show themselves," writes Dewey33

Learning is a process of personal reconstruction because it involves the whole processing person. Learning is not just passive experiencing. Learning is also active experiencing such as that which occurs in both overt and nonovert activity. As Dewey once remarked, "We cannot speak of an idea and its expression; the expression is more than a mode of conveying an already formed idea; it is part and parcel of its formation."34

Commenting on this and a related passage from Dewey, Melvin Baker writes: "This means that just as act and ideal or technique and content are interacting elements, each reconstructing the other, so too are these two kinds of images reconstructing each other in imagination. This permits the extension of experience beyond the bounds of present sensibilities; it is growing intelligence. "35

Reconstruction is essential to making the individual and society more religious because reconstruction lies at the heart of productive personal development and societal growth, according to Dewey. Thus he contends that true religiousness, like true faith, is the processive and progressive reorganization and reconstruction of reality in such a fashion that ennobling moral values and ideals are experimentally fashioned and empirically tested. Without ongoing essential reconstruction, the religious will in all likelihood be transmogrified into fixed doctrinal apparatus which limits human growth and impedes the flowering of the religious.36 For Dewey, ultimate moral motives are nothing more and nothing less than social intelligence,37 an intelligence which is quintessentially reconstructive.38

In Dewey's view, the process and goal of genuine and fecund reconstruction must be grounded in science and proceed along scientific lines. Any reconstructionist effort which is not scientific in foundation and practice will surely fail, because no genuine reconstruction of humanity or morality is possible without a thorough scientific foundation and process. Conversely, the nature and operations of science are themselves fundamentally reconstructive; a nonreconstructive science is only a self-enclosed isolated entity devoid of any significance, fruitfulness, and life. If reconstructionism is to flourish, the contextual, living, and institutional conditions into which it enters and which determine its human and religious consequences must be subjected to that kind of serious and systematic inquiry worthy of being designated scientific.39

If people are to be re-formed and/or to re-form others, then they must first re-construct themselves and/or others. For Dewey, the content and goal of philosophy is to reform and reconstruct persons and society. To be a philosopher, to be a religious person, is to be a reformer, that is to say a reconstructionist. Verbally and existentially, reform and reconstruction are very close indeed.40

Dewey looks to educational endeavor, especially focused intentional education as it exists in the school, as a prime engine and dynamic locus for effecting personal and societal reconstruction. For Dewey, the school is an ideal educational society precisely because it is, or at least should be, a living laboratory for democratic living. Like a genuine laboratory, the school should feature firsthand experiences and experimentation which are constantly imbued with the scientific spirit and constantly subjected to scientific test.41 The school, that living social laboratory, enables each learner to continuously and experimentally reconstruct his own personal value system and his own individual way of encountering reality. The school is, above all, a social group where students as a social group learn to share their selves, their ideals, and their experiences in order to individually and collectively reconstruct their own society as well as external society. 42 The school curriculum should properly arise from the pressing personal problems and social concerns of the learners individually and collectively. In order to do this, the curriculum must change its axis from inert subject matter to living human experience. "Hence", Dewey writes, there exists "the need of reinstating into experience the subject-matter of the studies, or branches of learning. It must be restored to the experience from which it is abstracted. It needs to be psychologized; turned over, translated into the immediate and individual experiencing within which it has its origin and significance."43 The teacher's pedagogical method is student-centered in that it seeks to help the student engage in an ongoing reconstruction of his experiencing by engaging in the scientific process of thinking discussed earlier in this essay44 In Dewey's own words:

It thus becomes the office of the educator to select those things within the range of existing experience that have the same promise and potentiality of presenting new problems which by stimulating new ways of observation and judgment will expand the area of further experience. He must constantly regard what is already won not as a fixed possession but as an agency and instrumentality for opening new fields which make new demands upon existing powers of observation and of intelligent use of memory. Connectedness in growth must be his constant watchword.45

It is apparent from my analysis of some of Dewey's views on reconstruction through education that certain of his concepts are not in keeping with the living teachings of the Unification Church. For example, in neither word nor deed does the Church subscribe to the process of education as one of reconstructing a student's basic moral and religious values through experimentation. However, there are a great many major points of contact between Dewey and the Unification Church on reconstruction in general and reconstruction through education in particular.

Reconstruction is a central truth and axial fact in the Unification Church. The Unification Church typically calls reconstruction by another name, namely restoration. There is a process of restoration and a goal of restoration all within the general providence of restoration. This restoration pertains to both the history of the world and the history of each individual person. The history of the world can only be truly viewed, in the Unificationist way of thinking, as an ongoing reconstruction, an ongoing restoration. Reconstruction and restoration are part and parcel of the same process.46 Furthermore, the history of each individual can be most fruitfully viewed as a process and a product of reconstruction or restoration. A person's religious conversion to the Unification Church is regarded as a major reconstructional axis in the member's life, an axis which enhances the possibility of authentic restoration. Indeed, the Unificationists conceptualize salvation not as being justified unto God, but as restored unto an ongoing reconstruction or perfecting of self with and unto God. Statements of three Unificationists on this matter will reinforce the point I am making. Jonathan Wells remarks: "So salvation -- actually we tend not to use this word in Unification theology; we talk more about restoration -- becomes the work of the Holy Spirit through my physical body here on earth."47 Tirza Shilgi observes as follows: "I think there is an essential difference between what we in the Unification Church define as the goal of salvation and the understanding of the goal of salvation in evangelical Christianity, in that we see the goal of salvation as being perfected man, whereas the Evangelicals would define their goal of salvation as forgiveness of sin."48 Franz Feige puts the whole reconstructionist tone, coloration, and axis of restoration in clear perspective when he states:

Salvation is a process of restoration. Hence, it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Christianity or with our movement. It can work in everyone's life; even an atheist can participate in the process of restoration, even though he doesn't know it, through paying indemnity. What is indemnity? If something has lost its original status or position, for example a stone has fallen down, then that can be restored by bringing the stone back to its original position. Paying indemnity means paying back, reversing. The energy that I put into getting the stone back into position is called indemnity. Through indemnity I am able to restore... Now, restoration in the Unification Church is not just entering into a relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but involves being engrafted into the second advent family. This engrafting is both spiritual and physical.49

Unification Church members with whom I have conversed over the years explicitly or implicitly affirm that the convert work and evangelization work in which they are actively engaged are important aspects of helping to restore the world. Of course, conversion is a major form of personal and social reconstruction. It is a reconstruction of the way in which a person thinks, feels, and lives. V Bailey Gillespie, an astute student of religious conversion, regards this phenomenon as a process of reconstructing oneself in order to gain integrity and completeness50 -- what the Unificationists would call restoration to the path of perfection.51

Though the Unification Church would not go as far as Dewey in making science virtually the sole basis for the moral and religious reconstruction of the world, still the Church does indeed place science in an axial and central place in the restoration for which it is striving. Here, then, we have another important point of contact between Dewey and the Unification Church. In the Unification perspective, science and religion are in each other as Hyung Sang and Sung Sang.52 In the restoration of the world, science and religion have both indispensable and intertwining roles to play. The leadership of the Unification Church seems deeply aware of this. For example, the rallies at which Sun Myung Moon spoke were typically orchestrated in a manner which deliberatively embodied the finest in social-scientific theory and research. The rank-and-file Unificationist pays a great deal of lip service to the unification of science and religion both in the forging of the restoration and as the fruit of the restoration. The lack of existential appreciation of the structure and operations of science on the part of so many Unificationists -- a failure which can only delay and impede the coming of the restoration according to Unificationist thought -- must be regarded simply as a lag between belief and action, a lag which has been the bane of virtually every religion. (Such a lag, I should note parenthetically, is also characteristic of Dewey-based educational reform.)

The place and shape of education in reconstructing the world represents one of the most fertile major points of contact between John Dewey and the Unification Church. In Dewey's view, the highest form and most fruitful area for doing philosophy and doing religion is the educational endeavor. Education is purposive experience and so is capable of producing optimal growth. Education, then, is the process and the product of living, a living which is soaked with the moral and the religious.53 The school typically represents the ideal and most effective form of education because the school provides that special environment in which education can best take place. In the school, facts which were torn away from their original place in one's overall experience are rearranged with reference to some general organizing principle, an organizing principle which grows out of and is in harmony with both the logical and psychological conditions of subject matter and learning.54 Schooling is not discontinuous with wider educational endeavor; rather, schooling is a more purposeful way of approaching educational endeavor, a way which uses as its starting point the needs and interests and modes of expression acquired in wider educational activity.

Crucial to John Dewey's vision of schooling is his conceptualization of the school as a laboratory. In Dewey's view, the school is a laboratory for democracy in which students could learn in a first-hand immediate way. In Dewey's view, the reason why so many schools fail to properly educate their students unto growth is because what is given in school is second-handed and mediated through symbols rather than experienced in firsthand manner.55 Effective schooling is a laboratory in which the students test in terms of their personal educational value the varieties of experiences and subject matters available. Effective schooling is also carefully planned and executed and evaluated by a teacher who is well trained for the pedagogical task and who tethers every phase of his pedagogical activity to scientific structures and operations.

The Unification Church can meaningfully contact Dewey's views of education on most of the areas mentioned above. From my own conversations with the Unification Church leadership, successful major workshop leaders like David Hose, and rank-and-file Unificationists engaged in a variety of apostolates, there seems to be enormous stress placed on education by the Church. To be sure, the schooling sector of educational endeavor seems more highly valued by the Unification Church than almost any other religion. An uninformed outsider visiting either the World Mission Center in New York City or the Church headquarters might come away with the impression that church life consists in an endless series of workshops.

As far as their social-scientific knowledge and skills permit, the workshop leaders strive to make this school experience a laboratory for Unification living. A wide variety of cognitive, affective, psychomotor, verbal, nonverbal, and lifestyle elements are programmed into the workshop/laboratory experience to make it as personally religious and meaningful to the learners as possible. If perhaps many of the workshop leaders (especially the weekday-night ones and the short weekend ones) are not too proficient in the social-scientific structure and operations of the workshop as laboratory, nonetheless the commitment on their part and on the part of the leadership of the workshop as laboratory is very clear and very strong. Unificationists could learn much from Dewey on how to make their laboratories for enriched Unification living more effective. I have little doubt that such an awakening will occur, because in my experience I have found the members of the Unification Church very open to new ways of looking at things and doing things, especially things which they regard as having a ready and demonstrable payoff either in terms of attracting new recruits to the Church or in terms of spiritually enriching the lives of the members.


In 1897 John Dewey published one of his most personal and most passionate statements, My Pedagogic Creed. The last affirmation of My Pedagogic Creed is:

I believe that in this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.56

There are probably not too many Unificationists alive who could write a sentence more in harmony with Unificationism than this one. Surely this sentence, like most of the affirmations made in My Pedagogic Creed, suggest many major points of productive contact between John Dewey and the Unification Church.


1. On this point, see Henry W Stuart, "Dewey's Ethical Theory," in Paul Arthur Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of John Dewey, 2nd edition (NY: Tudor, 1951), pp. 293-333.

2. See, for example, Divine Principle, 5th ed. (NY: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1977), pp. 46-52. As a non-Unificationist, a nonexegete of the Divine Principle, and a nonhermeneuticist of the Divine Principle, I would like to make two observations about the use of this document. First, a more intelligent, more in-depth, and more helpful use of the Divine Principle would be greatly facilitated if Church officials subsidized both in finances and in personnel the development of a concordance to the Divine Principle in its present form or in any future form it might take. Concordances of the Bible such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Nelson's Complete Concordance have been of inestimable assistance not only to Biblical Scholars but also to serious laypersons and clergy who wish to use the Bible fruitfully. Indeed, there are even some Protestant Bibles which have a mini-concordance right in the Bible itself for the use of laymen and clergy who read such an edition. The onset of computer technology makes the development of a complete concordance of the Divine Principle relatively easy compared to the painstaking handwork of pre-computer days. Second, a more intelligent, more in-depth, and more helpful use of the Divine Principle would be facilitated if Church officials preferable in consultation with Sun Myung Moon, divided the Divine Principle in its present or possible future form into chapters and verses as is the case with the Bible. Such a procedure would also assist-international scholarly and nonscholarly use of the Divine Principle, since people in diverse lands would thereby know precisely which text is being cited by a person from a different country.

3. John Dewey and James H. Tufts, Ethics, revised ed. (NY: Holt, 1921), pp. 364-367.

4. Divine Principle, pp. 25-27.

5. Thus Dewey remarks: "Men still want the crutch of dogma, of beliefs fixed by authority, to relieve them of the trouble of thinking and the responsibility of directing their activity by thought. They tend to confine their own thinking to a consideration of which one among the rival systems of dogma they will accept." John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York: Macmillan, 1916), p. 394.

6. Dewey, A Common Faith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), pp. 29-57.

7. Ibid., pp. 7-10.

8. Dewey "Experience, Knowledge, and Value: A Rejoinder," in Schilpp, The Philosophy of John Dewey, p. 595, italics deleted.

9. In my experience, the studying aspect of Unification life, at least in its Barrytown seminary, seems to be less developed and less wholeheartedly embraced by the members than the other aspects of its ecclesial life which I mention in the body of the text. The Korean leadership of the Church appears to be enthusiastically supportive of deep and painstaking scholarly activity for each member in proportion to that particular member's ability. However, among the seminary students at least, the idealized role model which they have somehow taken seems by and large to be that of activist-student rather than scholar-student.

10. Dewey, "Religious Education as Conditioned by Modern Psychology and Pedagogy," in Dewey, The Middle Works, Volume 3, edited by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, II.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1977), pp. 210-215.

11. Thomas Carter and Linda Corrigan, "Life of Sun Myung Moon from 1920 to 1960," unpublished manuscript, 1979, p. 3.

12. Though I am in no way a specialist in Unificationist theology or learned in other aspects of Unification thought, there does appear to be at least one passage in the Divine Principle which seems somewhat in accord with what I have written in this paragraph. "The spirit men who in their lifetime did not believe in any religion but lived conscientiously, also come again at permitted times in order to obtain the benefit of resurrection through the second coming". (Divine Principle, p. 190, lines 10-12). Also another contextually-related passage states: "... the spirit men who believed in religions other than Christianity while on earth will have to come again, like the spirit men of Paradise, in order to receive the same benefit of resurrection through the Second Advent, though the time of their visitation may differ according to their spiritual positions" (Divine Principle, p. 180, line 30; p. 181, line 2). An ecclesiastically-approved commentary on the Divine Principle has this to say: "...although people capable of spiritual communication communicate with the same spirit world, since the spiritual level, circumstances, and individual character are different in each spiritually open person, the level of the spirit world with which they communicate and the contents of the revelations they receive differ from one another" (Outline of The Principle, Level 4 [New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1980], p. 82). (See also ibid., pp. 33-37).

13. See Dewey, "Social Science and Social Control," in New Republic, LXVII (July 29, 1931), pp. 276-277 I should note in this connection that some social scientists have vitiated their procedures and conclusions by attempting to slavishly pattern their work on natural science.

14. Dewey, The Quest for Certainty (New York: Minton, Balch, 1929), p. 40.

15. Ibid., pp. 98-139.

16. Dewey, Logical Conditions of a Scientific Treatment of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1903).

17. On this point, see Hans Reichenbach, "Dewey's Theory of Science," in Schilpp, The Philosophy of John Dewey, pp. 159-160.

18. Dewey, How We Think (Boston: Heath, 1933), p. 107

19. My choice of these two adverbs here is deliberate, and is intended to intersect with the vertical and horizontal relationships discussed in the Divine Principle and by Unification Church members.

20. "Introduction" in Divine Principle, p. 10.

21. Dewey, naturally, would reject the dichotomy of world and religious. For him as a monist, the world is religious and religious is the world. However, in contrast to most Christian theologies which have set the world over and against religion, Dewey would be sympathetic to the Unification Church's tendency to see world and religion as unified dimensions of the same reality -- the same "new truth."

22. This theme runs throughout the testimony of converts as recorded in Richard Quebedeaux and Rodney Sawatsky, Evangelical-Unification Dialogue (NY: Rose of Sharon, 1979).

23. The Bible, too, is full of empirical verifiers of all sorts. The most famous New Testament passage in this connection is Mt. 7:20 ("By their fruits you shall know them"). The miracles which Jesus performed can be viewed as empirical verifiers of his message.

24. Divine Principle, pp. 343-348.

25. I am not altogether pleased with my use of the term "divine inspiration" as this term might unintentionally evoke controversies in Protestant and Catholic circles about the nature and object of divine inspiration. My point in using this term is to indicate that for the Unification Church, the revelations which Sun Myung Moon experienced are claimed to be of divine origin. To be sure, the Unification Church seems to understand the Divine Principle as one incomplete verbal formulation of Sun Myung Moon's revelations. The Divine Principle is regarded as one formulation because it might well be that Moon might redictate another version of the same revelations that covered in the Divine Principle. This document is regarded as an incomplete verbal formulation because it only includes some of the content which Sun Myung Moon says he received in his encounters with God. Speaking as a fervent religionist, I can only hope that Moon does dictate more of the contents of his revelations in addition to the Divine Principle. New documents will not only enrich the Unification Church, but also will act as a fertile source of theological speculation and religious activity among non-Unificationist religions.

26. Divine Principle, pp. 57-64.

27. Dewey, Essays in Experimental Logic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1916), pp. 13-18.

28. I would expect that despite molar differences on some basic issues, Unificationists would greatly enjoy and profit from continuing major dialogue with process philosophers and theologians, not only those from the Whiteheadian tradition but also those from the Teilhardian tradition as well.

29. Johnny Sonneborn, "Statement," in Quebedeaux and Sawatsky, Evangelical-Unification Dialogue, p. 91.

30. Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy, enlarged edition (Boston: Beacon, 1948), pp. v-viii.

31. Dewey sets the stage for his later and richer formulations of this basic principle in "Psychology" in John Dewey, The Early Works, Volume 2, edited by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, II.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967), pp. 83-89.

32. See Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy, pp. 77-102.

33. Dewey, Experience and Education (NY: Macmillan, 1938), p. 74.

34. Dewey, "Imagination and Expression," in Kindergarten Magazine, IX (September, 1896), p. 63.

35. Melvin C. Baker, Foundations of John Dewey's Educational Theory (NY: King's Crown, 1955), p. 21.

36. Dewey, A Common Faith, pp. 26-28.

37. Dewey, Moral Principles in Education (NY: Greenwood, 1959), p. 43.

38. Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy, pp. 161-186.

39. Ibid., pp. xxiii-xxix.

40. Ibid., p. xii.

41. On these points, see Dewey, The School and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1900).

42. Dewey, Democracy and Education (NY: Macmillan, 1916), pp. 81-178.

43. Dewey, "The Child and the Curriculum," in Dewey, The Middle Works, Vol. 2, p. 285.

44. Dewey, Democracy and Education, pp. 193-211.

45. Dewey, Experience and Education, p. 90.

46. An official Church commentary on the Divine Principle, with the accompaniment of attractive and illuminating charts and diagrams of diverse sorts, devotes considerable space to the interpretation of world history from the viewpoint of the dispensation for and in restoration. See Outline of the Principle, Level 4, pp. 101-115.

47 Jonathan Wells, "Statement," in Quebedeaux and Sawatsky, Evangelical-Unification Dialogue, p. 294. Insertion of the words "reconstructive and reconstructing" before the word "work" in Wells' statement would bring his point more to salience, I believe.

48. Tirza Shilgi, "Statement," in ibid. Again, to heighten the salience of Shilgi's remark with respect to the point I am making in this paragraph, the word "reconstructed" could fruitfully be substituted for her word "perfected".

49. Franz Feige, "Statement," in ibid., p. 298.

50. V Bailey Gillespie, Religious Conversion and Personal Identity (Birmingham, Al: Religious Education Press, 1979), pp. 44-123.

51. In view of the Unification Church's heavy emphasis on convert making and convert preserving, I am ceaselessly amazed by how few Unificationist members seem to be scientifically knowledgeable in the psychology and pedagogy of religious conversion.

52. Outline of the Principle, Level 4, pp. 6-14.

53. Dewey, Democracy and Education, pp. 49-62.

54. Dewey, The Child and the Curriculum, pp. 273-276.

55. Dewey, Democracy and Education, pp. 271-274.

56. Dewey, "My Pedagogic Creed," in Dewey, The Early Works, Vol. 5, p. 95. 

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library