Notes Toward a Universal History: Insights from the Unification Principle - Michael L. Mickler
How to convey the historical insights embedded within the Unification Principle is a crucial question. To this point, the Theory of History as developed by Dr. Sang Hun Lee in various texts of Unification Thought has been the chief vehicle for communicating these insights to scholarly audiences. Dr. Lee understood his task to be one of philosophical systematization. Nevertheless, Unification Thought seeks to validate the Unification Theory of History by describing it as "scientific." It argues that Unification Thought offers the "true laws at work in history," and the chapters on history in Dr. Lee's several texts describe these laws. They contrast them with the "pseudo-laws" of the materialist view of history. Dr. Lee also undergirds his treatment with a number of a priori theological assumptions. For example, Unification Thought regards "the human fall as the origin of history" and maintained that the course of history would be "fulfilled under God's providence." (FUT, 299)1 Thus, Dr. Lee's approach in elaborating the Unification view of history incorporates scientific, polemical, and theological components.
However, the question arises as to whether the approach advanced by Unification Thought is the most effective or only way to present the Unification view of history. In fact, there are difficulties with each of its major components. To start, there are sharp differences of opinion within the philosophical community as to whether or to what extent history can properly be considered a science. Similar ambiguities and a lack of consensus characterize opinions regarding materialist and idealist views of history. In addition, because Marxism as the particular materialist perspective opposed by Dr. Lee has passed from the scene arguments against it are rendered somewhat antequarian. Widespread debate and disagreement also accompany a priori theological assumptions of the sort annunciated in Unification Thought. Even Dr. Lee admits that the providential view is "indeed mysterious and can hardly have any persuasive power today." (FUT, 336)
Each of the component parts of Dr. Lee's approach and especially the debates surrounding them are important and should be pursued. However, they are ongoing and to this point have been inconclusive. It is questionable, therefore, whether the Unification view of history is well served by buttressing it upon positions about which there is a limited consensus.
In this respect, it is preferable not to get caught up in the quagmire of science or pseudo-science. The Unification view of history is necessarily empirical and objective but need not be described as "scientific" in the sense of being governed by immutable laws. The Principle clearly discerns an overall pattern in history and mechanisms underlying historical change. But this is a long way from claiming scientific certitude. In fact, claims such as these sidetrack and quite possibly discredit discussion. Rather than pursue scientific validation, which afforded more status and mystique in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than now, it would be better to maintain, as most historians do, that history has a logic different from that of philosophy or science. Engaging history on its own terms will do more to advance the Unification view than efforts to establish it as a science.
Unification Thought's polemical approach in relation to competing systems, especially Marxism, also needs to be re-evaluated. To some extent, it conveys an embattled Cold War mentality. With the collapse of the Soviet empire, it might be that Unification Thought could mine some of the rich historical resources within the Marxist intellectual tradition and its varied revisionist streams. In general, the Unification view of history needs to highlight strengths and points of continuity with other historical perspectives if only to balance its present emphasis on other systems' weaknesses and differences. Rather than a sectarian exclusivity, insisting on its own "true image" of the past and future, Unification Thought needs to cultivate a view of history as a common inheritance and a common enterprise of all humankind. This requires openness to insights from whatever quarter or discipline they might originate.
Unification Thought obviously has a significant commitment to a view of history rooted in "Godism." (FUT, 296) Its theistic qua Christian foundations, affirming Adam and Eve as the first human ancestors, the human fall as the origin of history, re-creation through the Word (Logos), God's "dispensation to restore sinful people," and "providential central figures" would appear to be non-negotiable. Nevertheless, these core affirmations are foreign to vast numbers of non-religious persons and adherents of non-Christian faiths. Therefore, it needs to be questioned whether they are helpful in explicating the Unification view of history. This is not to argue that history has no meaning, purpose, direction or goal. However, claims as to the significance of historical events need to be discovered within the historical process rather than imposed as revelatory content from without. The Unification view of history, to be viable, needs to work inductively rather than deductively. It needs to proceed from common experience rather than from special revelation.
Dr. Lee defines Unification Thought as a “philosophical systematization of Reverend Sun Myung Moon's teachings.” (FUT, 3) In the Theory of History, he abstracts ideas from the Providence of Restoration in the Unification Principle2 such as indemnity, foundations of faith and substance, the "division of the ages" or dispensationalism, periods in providential history and providential parallels.3 The Principle applies these concepts to God's salvific work in history. In essence, it elaborates a sacred history centering upon the "central" histories of Judaism and Christianity. Based on this, Dr. Lee extracts 14 governing laws which he organizes under the categories, “Laws of Creation” and “Laws of Restoration.” But it is important to recognize that Dr. Lee's work is that of abstraction, not application. He does no history writing and makes no effort to apply the "true laws at work in history" to additional historical circumstances.
The major methodological premise of this paper is that Dr. Lee's work of abstraction needs to be complemented by additional work of application in order to extend the horizons and enhance the persuasiveness of Unification historiography. The paper begins the process, as yet not pursued, of applying the framework of sacred history found in the Unification Principle to a wider range of human experience. Though necessarily tentative and provisional, it utilizes insights from the Principle as the foundation for a universal history.4
1. The period of Israelite slavery in Egypt and the period of Christian persecution by the Roman Empire;
2. The period Judges and the period of Christian Churches under the Patriarchal System;
3. The period of the Israelite United Kingdom and the period of the Christian Empire;
4. The period of the Divided Kingdoms of North and South and the period of Divided Kingdoms of East and West;
5. The period of Jewish Captivity and Return and the period of Papal Exile and Return;
6. The period of Preparation for the Advent of the Messiah and the period of Preparation for the Second Advent of the Messiah.6
These historical parallels have elicited a mixed response, even within the Unification tradition. One stream of commentary has focused upon proofs of their validity. In this vein, one well-known Unification lecturer calculated permissible "margin-of-error" percentages between the time periods in each parallel.7 The Principle, itself, offers an elaborate numerological explanation based on the numbers "12", "4", "21", and "40" to account for the parallels. On the other hand, critical commentary has focused on factual errors or alleged inaccuracies of historical interpretation in the parallels. Some have attempted to rectify these. Others have argued that mistakes in historical particulars or even a single error undermines the entire structure.8
Unfortunately, excessive preoccupation with the proofs and historical particulars has obscured the larger significance of the sequence and its wider application. Commentary to this point has missed the proverbial forest for the trees. The reason why the histories of Israel and Christianity exhibit a parallel development is because they both partake of a larger pattern or depth dimension in history. The Principle refers to this pattern of historical development as the "Providence of Restoration.” This paper holds that the Providence of Restoration is universally applicable and that it connects to other sacred histories as well as to secular history. Simply stated, it maintains that the framework of sacred history found in the Principle contains the kernel of a universal history.
In order to make the transition from sacred to universal history, it is necessary to accept several premises. First, it needs to be accepted that the specific parallels enumerated in the Providence of Restoration represent developmental stages. In other words, they need to be understood as part of a maturation process or learning curve common to all traditions. Second, it needs to be understood that progression through these stages is not automatic. There are specific developmental tasks to be accomplished at each level that presuppose advancement to the next stage. Regressions, fixation within a single stage, breakdown, or even the demise of traditions are ever-present possibilities. In fact, unlike most developmental paradigms, regression is built into the model. Third, it needs to be accepted that the developmental stages pertain not only to human collectives but to every individual. In other words, each person recapitulates the universal course of restoration in his or her own life. The Principle refers to this phenomenon as "The History of the Providence of Restoration and I.”9 This adds a depth psychological dimension to historical processes.
Apart from these premises, an additional assumption about the nature of historical restoration needs to be accepted. Restoration, if it is to be accepted as the fundamental motif of history, implies that things are not quite right, that there has been some deviation from the way things ought to be, and that things need to be set right. There will be differences of opinion as to why things are not right, how things are meant to be, and the way in which things need to be set right. However, these differences are secondary to a universal pattern of historical development referred to by the Principle as the Providence of Restoration. Some individuals and traditions may participate more superficially or peripherally in this course. Others participate more centrally. But whether one participates passively or actively, consciously or unconsciously, the universal course of restoration includes everyone. The innermost core of this pattern, according to the Principle, is exemplified in the Bible, but it includes all people, traditions, and human collectivities.
Having stated the basic thesis and several operating assumptions, it remains to lay out the model. In general, I follow the six-stage sequence of correspondences noted above. However, I add two additional stages related to the origin and end of history. Strictly speaking, these additional stages are pre- and post-historical since they are not subject to historical investigation or verification. Nevertheless, common understandings about history's origin and destination supply much of the motive force for historical development and thereby factor into historical processes. I also alter some terminology. The parallels as explained in the Principle refer exclusively to Judeo-Christian subject matter. However, this developmental model utilizes a more inclusive nomenclature so that the stages may be more universally applicable. The following sections lay out the eight stages.
Obviously, some persons are subject to traumatic shock and disfunctionality early in life, experiencing muted or even non-existent childhoods. However, it is also the case that many, possibly a large class of persons whom William James termed the "once-born," live their entire lives in this state of innocence. They experience few contradictions and feel nothing is wrong with their family, their society or the world. Some persons lead highly privileged, insulated existences and never experience life to be otherwise. It is a truism in certain quarters of the world that Americans have never experienced real suffering and are therefore innocent. In fact, states of greater or lesser innocence and naiveté cut across all national and cultural boundaries. Ironically, characteristics of innocence may typify the more established, mainstream groupings whose ways of thinking and doing tend to be unquestioned, part of the taken-for-granted fabric of their respective social orders.
The problem is that as long as one remains in a state of innocence, one does not advance beyond the first stage in the universal course of restoration. The reason for this is simple. If one is largely contented and does not experience acutely felt tensions or contradictions, there is little incentive for forward movement or development. The story of Moses in the Hebrew Bible is paradigmatic of this. According to the Torah, he was raised in the palace of Pharaoh. All of his needs were fulfilled, and it is conceivable that had he not been awakened to the sufferings of his people, he could have remained in innocence—a loyal Egyptian but not a hero of faith. Gautama Buddha, insulated by his father against all earthly pains, could have gone in the same direction had he not likewise been awakened. Examples of this sort could be multiplied at every level across all societies. However, awakenings do not come easily. They are preceded by periods of prolonged suffering.
Sometimes the fall from grace is due to personal transgressions. This is the case in the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. Instances of human culpability and tragic falls resulting from character flaws or susceptibility to temptation can be multiplied through the ages. Other times, the fall from innocence into bondage is due to circumstances or fate as was the case in the Biblical account of the Israelites in Egypt. There simply arose a Pharaoh who "knew not Joseph." And sometimes the fall from innocence is freely chosen. This is commonly the case for many of the great saints. Buddha and Moses both voluntarily left the comforts of the palace. Francis of Assisi left a life of wealth and leisure. Others beyond number have left the certainties of family and career, abandoned the "world" and sought solidarity with the poor and dispossessed.
Those who work themselves successfully through this stage eventually free themselves from bondage though they may have wandered aimlessly for years or survived a succession of difficult trials. Some never escape, but give up and die. Others survive and find hope by attaching themselves to a leader who transforms alienation and cultural drift into esprit de corps. The leader commonly dons the prophet's mantle, speaking with an air of authority, often revealing a new message and new philosophy of life. Moses, again, is a case in point. Mohammed is another example. There are innumerable examples of leaders and prophets including those in our own day. Some have proved to be liberators, leading the way to personal transformation and social regeneration. Others, in mobilizing discontent, have proved to be some of history's worst criminals. Regardless of the outcome, the prophet popularizes unrest but also provokes resistance to his or her emerging movement.
Typically during this stage, formerly marginalized individuals or groups regain a place in society and a degree of acceptance. However, this does not come without a struggle. Established groups do not easily relinguish their prerogatives, particularly to newcomers or those whom they regard as a disorganized rabble. In fact, new movements commonly encounter hostility and opposition from guardians of the existing order. Thus, the period of conquest is marked by confrontation, clear we/they, in-group/out-group divisions, and often, military conflict. Groups tend to organize themselves in tribal fashion along blood or ethnic lines, usually under a powerful warrior lord or caste that commands loyalty.
Some groups are defeated or fail, thereby never passing beyond this stage. Other groups fall victim to the exhilaration of conquest, becoming permanently locked into a warrior culture. Endlessly seeking opportunities for fresh conquest, such groups take a variety of forms. They are crack salespeople who lack any managerial capacity, evangelist soul-winners who can't organize churches, revolutionaries who lack the ability to govern, or Don Juans who can't sustain permanent relationships. Examples of these groups are legion. They include the Hyksos of the Old Egypt, the Parthians of ancient Persia, Attila the Hun and his hordes, the Scandinavian Norsemen, and the Mongols of Genghis Khan. They blaze forth for a generation or more but either splinter into pieces or merge with the populations they formerly conquered, thereby losing their identity. However, under the right conditions, warriors can become householders.
Sovereignty, in the case of ancient Israel, took the form of a united kingdom. The twelve tribes consolidated together and agreed to accept the authority of a single king: first Saul, then David who established Jerusalem as the capital, and finally Solomon. Taxes, continued conquest and trade supported the kings and their expanding court. Within Christianity, one can see this dynamic at work in the rise of Constantine and Charlemagne, both of whom unified diverse peoples, set up new capitals, and sought to solidify their gains. One could cite numerous other examples ranging from Islamic theocracies to the formerly colonized but newly independent nations of Africa.
Presumably, these new soverignities would provide for their people, establishing a stable foundation for continued advancement. However, this has rarely proved to be the case. Monarchies, especially new monarchies, have instead tended to provide for narrow ruling elites and impose increasingly oppressive systems of taxation. As a consequence, the nation loses the strong sense of community that had been nurtured during the previous formative stages. Rather than stability, this fosters widespread resentment, political instability, and eventually cultural regression. The same phenomenon commonly occurs in families, especially with the onset of children.. Parents forget their childhood and adolescence experiences and expect their offspring to conform to adult standards. As a result, they foster resentment and instability within the family unit.
The history of Israel is once again paradigmatic in this process, particularly its divisions in the aftermath of the Davidic and Solomonic monarchies. The division of Eastern and Western Christianity after the death of Constantine and the division of France and Germany after Charlemagne also are illustrative of the process. However, the universality of such divisions is easily documented in the history of civil wars and the breakup of empires. In our own day, the demise and splintering of the Soviet Union and its satellites is equally instructive. Generational gaps and sibling rivalries are reminders to us of this process at work in our personal lives.
Short of definitive breaks, soverignties can endure with deep-seated, even institutionalized internal patterns of division. The most common example of this is the division between the nobility who inherit a degree of royal perogatives and commoners. These sorts of internal divisions can perpetuate for centuries. However, they also perpetuate resentments and weaken a soverign nation's resistence to outside influence.
The biblical accounts of the Israelities weeping by the waters of Babylon resisting assimilation, and the "faithful remnant" who eventually return, provide the model course for this stage. Still, the same pattern, with innumerable variations, is plainly visible on the canvas of history. America, as a land of immigrants peopled with "little" Italys, Polands, Germanys and more recently Chinatowns, Japantowns and Koreatowns, has long been the home of huddled masses and displaced peoples. The African-American experience is especially rich in allusions to themes of exile and return. At the level of psychological experience, the parable of the prodigal son, squandering his inheritance away from home and returning in shame, but still returning, strikes a universal chord. Whether literal or psychological, voluntary or involuntary, everyone has strayed, been tempted play the prodigal, and eventually sought their way home. It also commonly typifies the disengagement of offspring from families.
Not all exiles, of course, return. Many, perhaps most, become lost to history or assume new identities. However, those who are able to return or preserve their heritage generally look to base it upon a more solid footing.
Reformation motifs are a universal characteristic of religious traditions and have been especially prominent in revivals of the major world faiths over the past millennium. They also figure prominently in political and cultural movements. The reformation stage taken within the context of the individual's life cycle refers a post-householder phase, after the children have been raised and the peak of one's career development has passed. At this stage of life individuals might consider a career change connected less to needs than to desires. Somtimes there may be a renunciate phase. However, this is a broadly reflective period, tolerant, and marked by the re-integration of life experience.
A problematic tendency of the reformation stage is to be fixated on a supposed "golden age" in the past. The challenge is to remain forward-looking. In order to meet this challenge, individuals and traditions need to have an image not just of original innocence but of ultimate fulfillment.
Visions of ultimate fulfillment abound but vary in all traditions. Some depict it in socio-political terms. More mystical traditions see it in psychological or spiritual terms, as in depictions of nirvana. Universalist traditions see ultimate fullment as the destiny of all people. Other traditions conceive of it in more narrow and exclusive terms as involving only the elect. Another variation has to do with the finality and permanence of ultimate fulfillment. Some traditions, particularly those in which there is a "last" or "final" judgement, depict it in terms of an eternal heaven and hell. Other traditions build in probationary states or periods and the possibility of advancement. Cosmically-oriented, cyclical traditions tend to see ultimate fulfillment as a recurrent phenomenon to be succeeded by disarray and repitition of the whole sequence.
Regardless of these variations, most traditions perceive a struggle at the "end of history." In some, it is depicted as an apocalyptic struggle, an Armageddon between the forces of good and evil. Others view it as an internal breakthrough. In either case, it is generally conceded that people need assistance or that a divinely appointed or inspired personage is necessary to help make the final transition into the era of fulfillment. The problem is that traditions, even reformed traditions, tend not to recognize the time of their visitation. "World teachers" are rejected, traditions crumble, and course of restoration begins again.
- References are to Sang Hun Lee, Fundamentals of Unification Thought (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 1991).
- Dr. Lee uses the term "Unification Principle" rather than "Divine Principle" when referring to Rev. Moon's core theological teachings. He regards this as a more exact translation from the Korean.
- See Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1996).
- The movement from sacred to universal history is not without precedent. In the course of writing The City of God, a magisterial theology of history, Augustine of Hippo suggested to a colleague that he utilize the theological insights contained within his work to write a world history.
- The Principle refers to the specific repetition of a historical pattern as "providential time identity." See Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1973), 373-76.
- In this listing, I have combined certain of the period titles from Divine Principle (1973), 408-24 and Exposition of the Divine Principle (1996), 315-28.
- See Ken Sudo, 120-Day Lectures (1976).
- This was the position taken by hired "deprogrammers" who captured Unification members and attempted to divest them of their beliefs, mainly during the 1970s.
- See Exposition of the Divine Principle, 187-88. There are obvious affinities between the theory of recapitulation elaborated in the Principle and the views of early the Christian theologians Irenaeus and Augustine. There are also marked similarities to modern genetic/evolutionary theory.