40 Years in America

In Search of the Origin of the Universe

The Pantanal: "The mountains, rivers and jungles hearken back to the original state of creation, the Garden of Eden."

It would be mistaken to imply that the movementís only recourse during times of difficulty was to turn inward or that it found sustenance solely in the world of the spirit. It also found a great deal of renewal in the world of nature. Here, again, the movementís experience was rooted in the formative experiences of Rev. Moon. Raised in the countryside, he exhibited an absorbing fascination with the natural world from his earliest years. Not unlike others who have laid claim to original revelation, many of his most important religious experiences, including his initial call and inspiration for innovations in his ministry, occurred while praying or meditating in isolated, often desolate settings. However, nature was not simply a backdrop for religious experience. It also was a teacher, providing object lessons in beauty, immensity, mystery and "genuine love." The creation, of course, also witnessed to the Creator.

In addition to this, the natural order had a prophetic edge. That is, it exposed the distortions of human culture and personality and pointed the way toward more authentic existence. Rev. Moon was particularly interested to penetrate through the veil of human artificiality to the primal truths of nature. For him, the natural world taught "a more fundamental kind of knowledge" than school or even religion, which, itself, was destined to be superseded by more natural ways of living and by the primacy of what he termed "original human nature." The Kingdom of God on earth was nothing other than the original human way of life. It began with an original couple and extended to an original family, society, nation, world and cosmos. These were ongoing themes in Rev. Moonís thought and ministry. However, under the impress of the Completed Testament Age and given the worldís continued misunderstanding, themes of original creation and of a restored Garden of Eden, even if only on a limited scale, came to the fore in unprecedented ways during the 1990s.

Rev. Moonís understanding that the world had entered a new historical epoch, the Completed Testament Age, which rendered all previous religious expressions, including that of the Unification Church, obsolete, provided the underpinning for what was a dizzying array of initiatives during the decade. Essentially, Rev. Moon began recreating the movement in a way that broke from previous religious antecedents. The progression of proclamations and declarations were an effort to re-start the movement and, indeed, history from a new set of principles and axioms. The intention to recreate things from scratch or what Rev. Moon referred to as the "zero point," also lay behind the displacement of The Divine Principle by a new sacred canon of Hoon Dok Hae volumes. The Divine Principle in numerous ways was beholden to the Old and New Testaments and was understood to lead believers only to the portals of the Kingdom. Humankind needed Rev. Moonís original words, preferably in their original language, in order to reconstitute themselves.

Rev. Moon also began to develop several distinctive themes based upon his understanding of original human nature. One of these was that of human conscience. In a speech entitled, "Let Us Find Our True Self," he encouraged congregants to recite with him, "Conscience exists ahead of parents, conscience exists before the teacher, conscience exists ahead of God." Conscience, according to Rev. Moon, followed "the standard of the original mind" and transcended religious authority. Human sexuality or what he termed "absolute sex" was a second important emphasis. During the 1990s, he spoke with increasing frankness in both informal and public talks about the proper use of the sexual organs, peppering his remarks with examples drawn from the natural world. A third theme which he developed toward the end of the decade was that of "Jemi," roughly translated as "hobby-culture." Rev. Moonís position was that human beings, by nature, were meant to engage in activities for which they felt the utmost interest and excitement. That was how he approached life, and he encouraged members to follow his example.

It would have been best if the worldís people could have affirmed these teachings en masse. However, this appeared unlikely at least in the short term. As a consequence, Rev. Moon continued to work most directly with members and, in particular, with the movementís leadership. His style of education was to have leaders join him in increasingly primitive natural settings for physical challenges and expeditions, usually involving fishing. The Hudson River was a major training ground during the 1970s. Tuna fishing off Gloucester, Massachusetts was a focus in the 1980s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kodiak, Alaska emerged as the primary training ground. Rev. Moon was fascinated by what he termed the "way of salmon," and noted that the Alaska frontier bred a truer breed of American. Having gone as far north as possible, Rev. Moon proceeded in a southerly direction for the remainder of the decade. During 1993-94, he educated members on the grounds of a huge ranch purchased in Texas. After 1995, the focus shifted to the primitive inland regions of Brazil.

The progression was not simply geographical. It also involved a shift of perspective. In Kodiak, although the movement had substantial business holdings including fishing trawlers and a fish processing plant, it was not expected that leaders who traveled to North Garden, as the movementís central residence was called, came for any other reason than for training. Their primary missions lay elsewhere. This situation changed to some degree with the purchase of the Texas farm. There, the educational program was conceptualized in more comprehensive and idealistic, even utopian terms. Rev. Moon expressed his heartache and determination to address the problem of world hunger in his position as a True Parent. The Texas farm was to become a place to educate people in agricultural techniques. Rev. Moon envisioned as many as 500 people from 60 nations receiving such training and instructed every blessed couple to serve on the farm for 40 days a year. There was to be fishing, farming, factories, mobile homes, a deer ranch, and an ostrich farm. The property was to be divided so that different regions of the world would be represented. However, these plans were never consummated. Instead the movement relocated the locus of its activity to South America where land was incomparably cheaper and where it launched into a full blown communitarian venture.

In late 1999, The New York Times International stated that having "been rebuffed in the United States" and "facing financial difficulty in his native South Korea," Rev. Moon was "seeking to reinvent himself...in the South American heartland." The Times may have correctly stated several partial truths. The movement, indeed, was not as successful as it wanted to be in North America. Its Korea-based corporations also faced difficulties at the decadeís end. It also was true that Rev. Moon and the movement were, to some extent, reinventing themselves in South America. However, to suggest there was a causal relationship among these separate lines of development was misleading. Rev. Moon had been actively pursuing opportunities in the South American interior since 1992 and made the decision to make South America a focal point of his work by 1995, significantly prior to what the Times described as his recent "disenchantment" with the U.S and long before the Asian monetary crisis hit Korea. The real reason for the movementís investment in South America had much more to do with Rev. Moonís sense of immediate providential necessities.

In fact, Rev. Moon was pursuing two separate providences simultaneously in the Americas. The first was a public providence. It took shape in accordance with his grand vision for the two continents. In particular, the inability of the two Koreas to reunite following the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994, which Rev. Moon viewed as a realistic possibility and, hence, a providential failure, opened a new providence in the Americas. The underlying assumption of this providence was that the unity of North and South America would, in ways not precisely specified, contribute to the reunification of Korea. In 1995, Rev. Moon undertook an ambitious speaking tour of twenty-three Latin American nations which included audiences with eight heads of state. In these speeches and meetings, he emphasized the regionís "stunning, and abundant, potential." In his words,

There are seemingly unlimited natural resources, and the human energies have hardly begun to be tapped. Latin America is a rich, peaceful, natural paradise of grandiose mountains and virgin lands. The mountains, rivers and jungles hearken back to the original state of creation, the Garden of Eden.

Contemplating "the glory-filled days that await Latin America in the 21st century," he counseled leaders to "not follow the footsteps of the developed nations," blindly repeating "environmental errors" and falling into selfish materialism.

The purpose of these talks was not to bash the U.S. and other developed countries. Rather, the vision was for North-South unity, the first step of which would be in the sphere of religion. Thus, in December 1995, the movement sponsored a major conference in Montevideo, Uruguay entitled, "Christian Ecumenism in the Americas: Toward One Christian Family Under God." Rev. Moonís hope was to spark unity talks and eventually reunification between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Then, in September 1996, the movement launched Tiempos Del Mundo, a Buenos Aires-based extension of The Washington Times. It was to open as a weekly first, expand to a daily and eventually grow via satellite and additional technology into a hemispheric newspaper. Former U.S. President George Bush spoke at the inaugural banquet. There, he lauded The Washington Times as "an independent voice" that had brought "sanity to Washington, D.C." Never once, he stated in a direct reference to Rev. Moon, had "the man with the vision" interfered with the newspaperís operation. Still, there was a significant amount of opposition to the new venture.

Still, the realities of what the movement actually was capable of accomplishing on a macro level in South America or on behalf of North-South unification were more than sobering. Among centrist South American leaders, there was moderate interest in Rev. Moon and the movement as a source of investment revenue. On this basis, Rev. Moon could gain access to top-level leadership and even heads of state as demonstrated during his 1995 speaking tour. However, there was less receptivity among politicians to the movementís religious vision. In addition, politicians in South America, no less than politicians elsewhere, were sensitive to pressure from the movementís opponents. On the left, there was lingering resentment over the movementís activities during the cold war, in particular, what progressives viewed as its support of repressive right-wing regimes. On the right, especially among conservative Catholics, there was staunch opposition against the movement as a heretical sect. In this regard, Rev. Moonís prophetic testimony during his 1995 speaking tour that Mary had failed and that Jesus should have married was hardly calculated to win supporters among the continentís Catholic majority. In fact, the only unprecedented show of unity between Catholics and Protestants during the late 1990s was in their occasional unified opposition to Rev. Moon and the movement. The movementís media outreach had potential, but it was a long-term venture and would take years to develop.

Simultaneously with its macro-level efforts, the movement conducted a micro-level providence. The assumption here was that if the leaders of North and South America, or elsewhere, could not respond to the movementís vision of unification, they would have to be shown a working model. Originally, Rev. Moonís plan was that governments of the Mercosur customs union (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile) would donate contiguous lands for development "as a model for an ideal, international and interracial nation and world." However, when they did not step forward sufficiently, the movement, itself, began purchasing vast tracts of land in the South American interior. At the micro-level, there were more opportunities for immediate results, and in early 1995, the movement established New Hope Farm outside the town of Jardim (pop. 21,000) in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sol as the centerpiece of its efforts. Mato Grosso do Sol was in the Brazilian outback, a land of "two million people and twenty-million cows" according to its governor, and Jardim was in the neediest part of the state. Nevertheless, members viewed the land largely, though not entirely, through the eyes of faith. Dr. Tyler Hendricks, who visited New Hope Farm in early 1996 and whose commentaries in the Unification News helped shape American membersí perceptions, wrote of mud, leaking tents, mosquitoes, and a fishing partner who was stung by a sting ray. He concluded that New Hope Farm, at its current stage of development was "ground zero for the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth." Still, it was "infinite in potential based upon a spiritual vision." As he put it,

There are millions of empty square miles between Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Campo Grande [Mato Grosso do Solís capital city]. They are verdant, luxuriant plains and hills and valleys. They await the loving and strong hands of the true owner who can make them abundant for the sake of a hungry world. I confront my Yankee prejudices and my "north of the equator" prejudices. The world needs pioneers, not just of new technologies of matter but new technologies of the heart.

In a companion piece on the "Development and Potential of New Hope Farm," Dr. Hendricks waxed more visionary,

The footpaths between the tents someday will be major thoroughfares of a great city. The daily life of the pioneers will be remembered like that of the Pilgrims in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. This was the vision that God gave me as I dried out my mud-soaked shoes and made my way to the shower room. Seeds planted by suffering have the deepest roots.

Movement leaders acknowledged that the region "was impoverished, devastated of its natural forest, its rivers ruined, and with a fauna and flora being compromised daily in the process of clearing the jungle for the purpose of ranching." They also acknowledged an illiterate population of about 65 percent, a high level of unemployment, collective pessimism, high interest rates, expensive and slow transportation, and a tendency of land to become swampy or flooded. At the same time, they regarded it as significant that Jardim, which in Portuguese meant "Garden," was geographically located in the center of the South American continent, just a two-hour plane ride from numerous major cities. Project New Hope Director, Rev. Yoon Sang Kim expressed "the ambition of becoming within seven or eight years an example of progress, beauty and happiness for the whole world and then to collaborate and encourage development in all Latin America and the world."

There were clear indications that these were not just words and that the movement meant business. One indication was the appointment of Rev. Yang Soon Kim as project Director. He had managed movement projects at Chung Pyung Lake, Cheju Island to the South of Korea, and had for the past two years been project director at the Texas farm. A second was the assignment of the entire Unification Theological Seminary graduating class of 1996, some fifty students, to the New Hope Farm Project. They assisted in construction and were assigned as missionaries to thirty-three towns within a 200-kilometer radius of Jardim. Since there was no hospital in the vicinity, Rev. Moon donated new ambulances and sent a medical team to each of these towns. Another indication of seriousness was continued construction and the continuous purchase of properties. The project employed some 300 outside workers and one member suggested that a better name for New Hope Farm would be "New Hope Construction Site." A bridge was completed across one of the two adjoining rivers in May 1998, making the project much more accessible, and a large Temple and Educational Center with a seating capacity for more than 1,200 was dedicated the following July. There were dormitory apartments for 600, a large dining facility with upstairs lecture halls, and an envisioned university complex consisting of six buildings, each with six large classrooms.

With this infrastructure in place, Rev. Moon dedicated the newly completed Temple as an "Educational Center for Ideal Families and World Peace" and called upon blessed couples worldwide to participate in forty-day workshops. There was some initial confusion about the relationship between the forty-day workshops at Chung Pyung Lake, Korea, which were still ongoing, and the new series which had started in Jardim. Rev. Joong Hyun Pak explained to the American membership that the purpose Chung Pyung Lake was to cleanse sins, like cleaning a dirty bottle. The purpose of New Hope Farm was "to fill the bottle with new wine." He also noted that while the teacher at Chung Pyung Lake was Dae Mo Nim, the teachers at New Hope Farm were True Parents themselves. Chung Pyung Lake, he said, "brings us to the top of the growth stage," but New Hope Farm was "training for the Completion stage, until we reach Direct Dominion ... [where] husband and wife can learn from each other and God directly." Completion of the Jardim workshop also conferred upon participating families the opportunity to have their photo taken with True Parents, to be entered into True Parentsí Eternal Family Register, and for couples to bless their own children.

Rev. Moon engages participants in an intimate moment at New Hope Farm, Uruguay.

Despite these incentives, American families were slow to respond. At the first forty-day workshop, there were over 300 Japanese families, 300 Korean families, and a small American contingent of 11 families. This led to a push for more attendance. Rev. Moon, on visiting the U.S., asked for shows of hands by couples who had attended the Ideal Family Workshop, and movement publications ran a series of articles under such titles as "Joining the Family of True Parents," "Oh Glorious Eden, Jardim of Delight," "Jardim, The Abundant Life for Unificationists," and "Swimming in the Sovereignty." The combination of pushes and pulls had an effect, but the passage of time which enabled families to put aside the several thousand dollars or more expense money, the approach of summer vacation season in the Northern hemisphere, and positive word-of-mouth reports from those who returned were equally important. The late spring, summer and early fall months of 1999 were peak travel seasons, and hundreds of American and European families made their way to Jardim. In fact, New Hope Farm was bursting at its seams. Members converted the school buildings into barracks-like sleeping quarters and day-care facilities, arranged complex logistic schedules for the service-learning and pilgrimage portions of the workshop, and virtually fished out the nearby rivers. The workshop schedule lacked the intensity of Chung Pyung Lake, and organizers placed more of a premium on personal and family reflection. Couples were encouraged to hold hands when strolling, and afternoons were mostly free for "hobby-life." For many, and especially for those who wrote about the experience, New Hope Farm or New Hope East Garden, as it had been renamed, was a Garden of Eden.

For Rev. Moon, it was something else. Having explored all of the back rivers in the area, New Hope Farm was more of a base of operations, a first-stage experience and stepping stone for forays into wilder and yet more primitive regions. During the second half of 1997, he explored the upper reaches of the Paraguay and Amazon Rivers. The Paraguay River was understood to divide the continent east and west and the Amazon north and south, but their sources were only four kilometers apart. Rev. Moon envisioned the area being preserved as a "place of encounter where God, people and all things meet in a New Eden." He further envisioned representatives of 185 nations settling along the banks of the two rivers. This was no idle speculation. In July 1997, he set out by boat on the Paraguay River. According to a travel companion,

Every 50 kilometers, we set out a sign numbered on a stick .... It was not easy to do that, because it is swampy ground covered with growth, and we had to clear the area; walking through the water and getting bitten by bees and ants. We set 63 signposts along the Paraguay River.

Rev. Moon did the same along the Amazon, although given the vast stretches of river to be covered, he adopted a different strategy, flying to different sites, renting boats, and exploring the river. Rev. Moon expressed admiration for the small villages and villagers who were viewed as "pristine Adamic families." The same companion noted that "It was so hot and steamy" and "we all got blisters on our mouths" but that despite his exhaustion and the unbearable heat, Rev. Moon "continued to push us, saying that this is where we can build the Garden of Eden."

The stake-setting expedition also was no idle exercise as Rev. Moon began buying up properties along the Paraguay River. He was especially fascinated by the Pantanal which was regarded as the worldís largest wetland, extending over 200,000 square kilometers. While "regular" members visited New Hope Farm, he called the movementís National Messiahs, husbands only, further north to Fuerte Olimpo where they took part in a forty-day workshop under more challenging and primitive conditions. Rev. Moon remarked that fish were the only creatures that did not partake of the flood judgment at the time of Noah and in this respect were still part of the original creation. He asked all National Messiahs to exercise dominion over the fish world by catching requisite totals of South American fish with such romantic sounding names as bacu, poga, dorado and pintado. As one National Messiah wrote,

Every day we rose at five and soon after had breakfast and went out to the river by boat. It was very hot and we wanted to bathe in the water. But we could not because piranhas would come. Itís a big problem! Also there are problems with ants. One national messiah became very sick from an ant bite. Itís a dangerous place. There are all these problems, but Father just says, "Ah, the purity of nature!"

The Pantanal was all things to Rev. Moon. He said he chose to work there because it was the least developed place on earth, and, hence, closest to the original creation. However, it also was a swamp. The Paraguay River had little downward slope, so it was prone to flooding which created the massive wetland. If the Kingdom of Heaven were to begin from there, it was to begin from a swamp. In this respect, heaven and hell were in close proximity to one another. Rev. Moon spoke admiringly of the alligators that swallowed their prey whole, not bothering about feathers, bones, gristle, or dirt, and it was in this environment that he prayed for the criminals of history, hoping to similarly digest their wrongdoings. Based on these struggles and victories, he set up the "holy ground of holy grounds" not far from the Hotel Americano, a clapboard structure on wooden pillars, upriver from Fuerte Olimpo on July 27, 1999. This, he explained, was not conditionally claimed land, but land completely separated from the fallen world, the first foundation of Godís blessed nation. Now, he said, the movement could begin to build up a new Eden.

The Pantanal, too, was a stepping stone. Still ahead lay the sprawling Amazon, the lungs of the world. At decadeís end, it wasnít clear whether Mato Grosso do Sol, Jardim, the Pantanal, the Amazon or some other locale would be the primary site for the movementís nation-building if that indeed was Rev. Moonís intent. However, what was clear is that the movement was locked into its permanent quest to reclaim Eden and that this would provide the impetus for further forward development.

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