Contemplating Unification Thought

by Dr. Jennifer P. Tanabe


Theory Of Original Image - Part I

As mentioned in last month's introduction to this series, the purpose of these articles is not just to present the basic position of Unification Thought, but to discuss issues raised by those who have studied it, both Unificationists and friends of the Movement. In discussing the issues, I will draw on responses given by Dr. Sang Hun Lee himself, responses made by Unificationists who graduated from the Unification Thought seminar taught by Dr. Lee and presented papers at conferences dealing with Unification Thought (ICUS, Unification Thought Symposia), suggestions made by students at Unification Theological Seminary who attended the course on Unification Thought, and of course some of my own insights.

When thinking about the comments made on the Theory of the Original Image, it appeared that they fell into two categories. There are specific questions about details of the theory, and there are also questions of a more general nature which relate to Unification Thought as a whole. Those who raise such general questions often comment that they find nothing objectionable in the details of the theory, their questions being more on the issue of its applicability. As you may guess, those who ask the detailed questions are the Unificationists, while those who focus on the applicability are our friends. Is this a case of members' inability to see the forest for the trees! In this article, I will focus on questions of the general type and issues relating to Unification Thought as a whole, and in the following article I will discuss the details of the Theory of the Original Image.

So, then, what is the nature and purpose of theory of the Original Image? Simply put, it explains the nature of God. This immediately sets off alarm bells on what basis can we know that God exists let alone know God's nature? In the first article in this series I referred to the argument Dr. Lee uses, based on the hypothetical method, to deal with the issue of God's existence.

This takes us past the first hurdle of addressing non-believers. However, it is clear to me that no logical, rational proof of God's existence, even supported by empirical data, will persuade the committed atheist human beings are notoriously good at self-justification when they are emotionally committed. The only effective way to prove God's existence is direct, personal experience of God. And Unification Thought rests on this too, for it is claimed to be the systematization of Reverend Moon's thought which is based on direct revelation from God. And, as for the issue of knowing God's nature, Dr. Lee responds that God knows Himself and God told Reverend Moon!

In His Image

So, Unification Thought begins with God. And the justification for this beginning point is simple: "Its fundamental postulate is that God has created humankind and the universe in God's own likeness. Accordingly, it holds that in God there can be found the standard for solving actual problems of the individual and society" (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.1).

"Solving actual problems," now that leads us to the next issue: can Unification Thought solve actual problems in the real world? This point was raised by Dr. Frederick Sontag at the 1990 ICUS meeting in the Committee on "Unification Thought and the Global Transformation of Consciousness." In his paper, Dr. Sontag asked several questions including: whether theory alone can produce change; whether theory can unite or does it tend to divide, and whether unity is necessary to bring about a global transformation of consciousness; and finally, whether such a transformation can actually bring us closer to salvation. As respondent, I offered the following ideas in support of the Theory of the Original Image as a basis for producing a global transformation of consciousness and bringing about human restoration.

Unification Thought begins with the attributes of God and the theory of His creation. If we know the answer to the question why something exists, we are motivated to repair it. If we only have a description of what it is in its broken state, we are not likely to do much to change it. Thus, knowledge given by scientific theories which merely describe the nature of the universe do not lead to change; however, the knowledge given by the theory of the Original Image gives us understanding of why this universe exists and why we exist, and therefore can move us to fulfill that ideal.

Knowledge of God is essential for us who live in the world and need to have the consciousness that everything is related to God. Without knowledge of God, our creator, how can we fulfill the purpose for which we are created? As Dr. Sontag pointed out, knowledge alone is not sufficient to save us from our fallen state. However, the theory of the Original Image is not just a set of rules and equations, it is knowledge of God's attributes and our relationship with God. Thus, Unification Thought brings together knowledge and God's power, and can be the basis for producing change. Dr. Sontag questioned whether theory can move people to action. Theory based on reason probably cannot; theory such as Unification Thought which is based on heart, the source of love, the strongest force in the universe, can.

Another problem that has been raised concerning the Theory of the Original Image, most recently and eloquently expressed by Dr. Michael Berenbaum at the 1992 ICUS meeting, is the discrepancy between the "celebration of creation" in Unification Thought and the reality of the fallen world we experience. Dr. Berenbaum notes that Unification Thought tells us that "We can perceive God's deity by observing His creation," and responds that "Surely, misery and suffering, evil and iniquity should make our celebration more restrained, more hesitant."

Indeed, the focus of Unification Thought is the ideal, the original plan of God's creation. This reflects its intention of providing the goal to which we should all aspire, rather than of describing the details of the current situation. In several areas, for example Ethics, it may be frustrating for the reader to have the ideal described as if it is immediately available, while the real world is so different that most people cannot even imagine the ideal as substantial reality.

Original Image

However, this should not lessen the value of the ideal. Unification Thought does recognize the fall of humankind. The ideal of God's creation and the reality of today's world do not have a single origin. Thus, as Dr. Andrew Wilson responded to Dr. Berenbaum at the 1992 ICUS, the Theory of the Original Image is "describing the nature of the God who creates, as distinct from the creation itself which has been corrupted by the human fall."

When we celebrate God's original creation we are connecting to God's feeling at the time of creation, before the fall. When we look at humankind today, or throughout history, we connect to God's feeling since the fall, and Unification Thought, in the chapter on Theory of Education, recognizes that feeling as sorrow and pain. And so, through understanding God's suffering throughout history, and His determination never to surrender to despair but to accomplish the restoration of humankind no matter how many times it may be delayed by human failures, people are moved to work toward that same goal.

A key feature of the Theory of the Original Image is the "Heart Motivation Theory" of creation. According to Unification Thought, Heart, or Shim Jung, the "emotional impulse to obtain joy through love, is the core of God's attributes. The essence of Shim Jung is "irrepressible emotional force and desire that well up from within God" (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.17). In order to fulfill this desire to give love, God created human beings and all things as objects of His love. This understanding of God's nature clarifies the reason for the creation of the ideal world described in Unification Thought, in which human beings, all things, and God Himself experience joy through love.

The fallen world we experience today, however, is clearly not this ideal world. Therefore, the Heart Motivation Theory of creation is hard to accept without an understanding of the human fall and God's heart of sorrow and pain. It is important in studying and teaching Unification Thought, to remind yourself that it deals with the ideal while acknowledging the fall and its consequences. With this perspective, the explanation of God's Heart as the motivating force of creation is a profound and inspiring realization.

As a final comment, I recall the discussion at the 1991 ICUS following Dr. Sontag's presentation. There was concern that the claim of Unification Thought to be a kind of "umbrella" theory which would bring together past philosophical and religious positions was doomed for various reasons. After some discussion, it was finally noted by one participant that, since it is clearly raining in our world, an umbrella is actually a good thing! And, my reflection on this point is that Unification Thought, the thought of Reverend Moon based on revelation received from God, is clearly the largest umbrella available, so that's the umbrella I'm going to hold on to. At least until the rain stops.


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