An Inquiry into “Parallels of History”
Unificationists are, if anything, a people who take their history seriously. Reverend Moon continually spoke of divine providence in his speeches and sermons. Wolli Kangron (1966), translated into English as Divine Principle (1973) and Exposition of the Divine Principle (1996), also focuses to a large extent upon historical matters, devoting more than half its content to a comprehensive survey of salvation history.
Unificationists, likewise, are encouraged to view themselves as being responsible for “all the unaccomplished missions of past prophets and saints who were called in their time to carry the cross of restoration.”
A striking feature of Unification theology is its exposition of “parallels” in history. The basic premise is when a “central figure” fails to fulfill his or her portion of responsibility, God will set up another person in place of the former.
This applies not only to individuals but also to collectives. The Principle focuses special attention on “parallels of history” between Judaism and Christianity. It highlights six specific parallels:
- Israelite slavery in Egypt and Christian persecution under the Roman Empire;
- Israelite conquest of Canaan under the Judges and Christian conquest of Rome under the patriarchs;
- The United Kingdom under King David and the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Charlemagne;
- The Divided Kingdoms of North and South (Israel and Judah) after Solomon and the Divided Kingdoms of East and West (Germany and France) after Charlemagne’s successors;
- Jewish Captivity and Return (from Babylon) and Papal Exile and Return (from Avignon, France);
- Jewish Preparation for the Advent of the Messiah (from Malachi) and Christian Preparation for the Second Advent of the Messiah (from Luther).
The burden of this article is to suggest Judaism and Christianity exhibit parallel development because they partake of a larger pattern of history. I maintain the historical parallels are universally applicable and connect to other sacred histories as well as to secular history. My thesis is that the framework of sacred history found in the Principle contains the kernel of universal history.
In developing this argument, I follow the six-stage sequence of correspondences noted above. However, I add two additional stages related to the origin and end of history. I also alter some terminology. The parallels as explained in the Principle refer exclusively to Judeo-Christian subject matter. 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.
- Primal Innocence
History begins in a state of innocence. This is universally applicable because humankind is born into this state. The majority of people experience, or at least recollect, infancy and childhood as a time of innocence. Most are cared for by their parents and live in a more-or-less secure world. Persons in this state know nothing to the contrary.
Some are subject to traumatic shock and dysfunction early in life, experiencing muted or even non-existent childhoods. Yet it is the case that many, those whom William James termed the “once-born,” live their entire lives in the state of innocence. They experience few contradictions and feel nothing is out of order with their family, society or world. Some lead privileged, insulated existences and never experience life to the contrary. In fact, states of greater or lesser innocence and naiveté cut across all national and cultural boundaries.
The problem is that so long as a state of innocence prevails, there can be no historical development. The story of Moses is paradigmatic. Raised in the palace of Pharaoh, had he not been awakened to the sufferings of his people, he would have remained in innocence — a loyal Egyptian but not a hero of faith. Gautama Buddha, insulated by his father against all earthly pains, would have gone in the same direction had he not likewise been awakened.
- Fall from Innocence
During the second stage, people are awakened to contradictions, competing impulses and conflicts in themselves and their world. This precipitates a sense of alienation and withdrawal. Childhood is followed by adolescence. Rather than being an object of care, persons feel set upon by enemies or worse, forgotten. They may wander aimlessly for long periods, engage in wantonly self-destructive acts or fall into bondage.
Sometimes the fall from grace is due to personal transgressions as in the biblical account of Adam and Eve. On occasion, the fall from innocence is the result of chance or circumstance. The Israelites fell into slavery in Egypt because there was a Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph.” Sometimes the fall from innocence into suffering is freely chosen. This often is the case for the great saints. Buddha and Moses voluntarily left the comforts of the palace. Francis of Assisi left a life of wealth and leisure.
Those who work successfully through this stage eventually free themselves though they may have wandered aimlessly for years or survived a succession of trials. Some never escape, but give up and die. Others survive by attaching themselves to a leader who reveals a new message and philosophy of life. Mohammed is a case in point.
During this stage, groups of people reconstitute themselves and re-emerge into society. Sometimes this is very dramatic, taking the form of a collective conversion and militant conquest, as with the ancient Israelites at Sinai and in Canaan. In a more pedestrian way, “conquering the world” applies to anyone who completes an educational process or apprenticeship. Adolescent alienation gives way to the focused drive for success and achievement characteristic of young adulthood.
Marginalized individuals or groups regain a place in society. However, this does not come without struggle. Embedded groups do not easily relinquish their prerogatives, particularly to newcomers. In fact, new groups commonly encounter hostility and opposition from guardians of the existing order. Thus, the period of conquest is marked by confrontation, we/they, in-group/out-group relationships, and even military conflict. Groups tend to organize themselves in tribal fashion, usually under a powerful leader who commands loyalty.
Some groups are defeated or fail, thereby never passing beyond this stage. Others fall victim to the exhilaration of conquest, locked into permanent warrior cultures endlessly seeking opportunities for conquest. 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 become householders.
- Premature Dominion
During this stage, an emergent group gains control of a society. Typically there is a consolidation of tribal entities, the designation of a new capital, and the emergence of a sovereign. The paradigmatic experience at the individual level is when men and women marry and establish family households as a new sovereign unit.
Sovereignty, in the case of ancient Israel, took the form of a united kingdom. The 12 tribes consolidated, agreed to accept the authority of a sole ruler, and established Jerusalem. Within Christianity, the same dynamic was at work in the rise of Constantine and Charlemagne, both of whom unified diverse peoples and established new capitals. Numerous other dynastic or theocratic societies adhere to this pattern,
Presumably, new sovereignties provide for people and establish a stable foundation for continued advancement. In practice, this is rarely the case. Monarchies favor narrow ruling elites and impose increasingly oppressive systems of exploitation. As a consequence, societies lose their sense of cohesion. The results are widespread resentment, political instability, and eventually cultural regression. The same phenomenon occurs in families, especially with the onset of children. Generational gaps open, fostering instability within the family unit.
The Parallels of History from Abraham to Jesus, and from Jesus to the Second Advent, according to Divine Principle.
During this stage, fissures and breaches develop within sovereign entities. The most dramatic typically follows the death of a powerful leader whose presence held internal tensions in check. Fissures develop and rebellious sons become as despotic as their fathers, or even more so. In the end, sovereignties split, sometimes in half and oftentimes into pieces.
The history of Israel is again paradigmatic, particularly its divisions in the aftermath of King Solomon. The division of Eastern and Western Christianity after the death of Constantine, and France and Germany after Charlemagne are also illustrative. However, the universality of these divisions is easily documented in the history of civil wars and breakup of empires. Sibling rivalries and intergenerational conflict are reminders of this process at work in families.
Short of definitive breaks, sovereignties can endure with deep-seated, even institutionalized internal patterns of division, the most common being the division between the nobility and commoners. These internal divisions can perpetuate for centuries. However, they also perpetuate resentment and weaken resistance to outside threats.
- Exile and Return
During this stage, weakened and divided sovereignties become vulnerable to external attack. In extreme cases, nations or segments of nations fall prey to powerful neighbors and whole populations are taken captive or deported. In many respects, this stage re-enacts the previous fall from innocence.
Israelites weeping by the waters of Babylon and the “faithful remnant” who eventually return provide a model for this stage. Still, the same pattern, with innumerable variations, is plainly visible on the canvas of history. Exiles and returns may be literal or symbolic in the sense of reviving a lost tradition or identity. At the level of psychological experience, the parable of the prodigal son, squandering his inheritance and returning in shame but still returning, strikes a universal chord. Whether literal or psychological, voluntary or involuntary, all have strayed, been tempted, play the prodigal, and eventually seek their way home.
Not all exiles, of course, return. Many become lost to history or assume new identities. However, those who return or preserve their heritage seek to base it on more solid ground.
During this stage, groups recover and revitalize original fonts of inspiration underlying national, cultural or religious identities. Initially, reformers castigate those deemed responsible for deviations. Prophetic denunciations are followed by efforts to re-center traditions. An important difference between this stage and earlier stages of conquest or the attainment of sovereignty is the emergence of toleration. Individuals align themselves with reform on a voluntary and increasingly democratic basis. Rather than top-down, authority moves from the bottom-up exerting a broadening and stabilizing influence.
Reformation motifs are a universal characteristic of religious traditions and especially prominent in revivals of the major world faiths over the past millennium. They also figure prominently in political and cultural movements. Reformation eras are broadly reflective in orientation, 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 image not just original innocence but ultimate fulfillment.
- Ultimate Fulfillment
History ends in a state of ultimate fulfillment. This bears a great resemblance to the state of original innocence. There is perfection, purity, plenitude, freedom, spontaneity, peace, pleasure, beatitude, and immortality. However, it is a more mature version of the original state, tempered during the course of history by fires of adversity and suffering.
Visions of ultimate fulfillment abound in all traditions. Some depict it in communal terms. Others see it in psychological or spiritual terms. Universalists view ultimate fulfillment as the destiny of all people. Fundamentalists conceive of it in more narrow and exclusive terms.
Regardless of these variations, most traditions perceive a struggle at the “end of history.” It is often depicted as an apocalyptic struggle, an Armageddon between the forces of good and evil at cosmic or psychic levels. In either case, it is generally conceded that people require divine intervention to make the final transition. The problem is that traditions, even reformed traditions, tend not to recognize the time of their visitation. “World teachers” are rejected, foundations crumble, and the course of history begins anew.
Themes and motifs of universal history resonate across traditions. However, attaining common ground on specifics requires much further work. The goal is to gain a fuller understanding of humanity’s common origin, history and destiny.♦
This article is adapted from “Notes Toward a Universal History: Insights from the Unification Principle,” which appeared in the Journal of Unification Studies, Vol. 4, 2001-02.
Dr. Michael Mickler is Professor of Church History as well as Vice President for Administration at Unification Theological Seminary. His books include: Footprints of True Parents’ Providence: The United States of America (2013) and 40 Years in America: An Intimate History of the Unification Movement, 1959-1999 (2000).