An Inquiry into “Parallels of History”


By Michael Mickler

Michael_MicklerUnificationists 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:

  1. Israelite slavery in Egypt and Christian persecution under the Roman Empire;
  2. Israelite conquest of Canaan under the Judges and Christian conquest of Rome under the patriarchs;
  3. The United Kingdom under King David and the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Charlemagne;
  4. 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;
  5. Jewish Captivity and Return (from Babylon) and Papal Exile and Return (from Avignon, France);
  6. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Conquest

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.

  1. 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.3759085

The Parallels of History from Abraham to Jesus, and from Jesus to the Second Advent, according to Divine Principle.

  1. Division

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Reformation

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.

  1. 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).

12 thoughts on “An Inquiry into “Parallels of History”

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  1. True Father said before transitioning to the Spirit World that he and True Mother had “accomplished everything.” That being the case, then the “Parallels of History” and their goals must have themselves been fulfilled since True Parents had achieved their purpose while on the earth together. So for all intents and purposes, any study based on the “Parallels of History” is now becoming increasingly ancient history and an intellectual exercise that holds little contemporary relevance in the new Age of Cheon Il Guk.

  2. Thank you for this very interesting essay. We still have to do a lot of explaining to this world at large, even though we live in the era after the beginning of heaven. I find this article helpful to lead people to this enormous and surprising conclusion.

  3. This article is valuable for many members because it sheds light on our understanding of Divine Principle by challenging and decoding one of the central theses. Many members were convinced of DP by its historical parallels section. I (and many will) appreciate your honest, fair and sincere approach to examine the truthfulness of DP.

  4. Michael “Joachim” Mickler has distinguished himself yet again as a leading Unificationist thinker. The honorific, “Joachim,” is granted him to draw attention to Joachim of Fiore (ca. 1135-1202) who first, more than any other, set the cognitive mind of Western intellectuals for this kind of rationalization of history. The Joachite tradition has remained in full force these 800 years, from Peter John Olivi to Sun Myung Moon — we seem unable to resist the temptation to divide up history into arbitrary chunks and see paralles from age to age (Joachim called this hermeneutical principle “concordia”).

    Michael’s version — a fine one — is revised by way of introduction of psychological-sociological terminology (“age of innocence,” “fall from innocence,” applied to individuals and to whole-culture). He has, in the time-honored fashion, seven stages with a trans-mundane, trans-temporal eighth (the Day of Resurrection, the descent of Heavenly Jerusalem). All perfectly classical and within the tradition.

    The problem lies in the problem of interpretive subjectivity vs. phenomenal objectivity: The Joachims keep promising us the fulfillment of the penultimate stage, but it keeps never quite getting here. Rev. Moon has died (God bless him!), and his faithful followers are in eschatological disarray. What’s next? Does Bro. Michael’s system answer that existential question? Isn’t it most likely that unforgiving history will roll blindly onward, leaving us and our systems in the dust? Which makes more stubborn atheists of us, pain or history?

  5. I’d like to compliment Dr. Mickler for his analysis and suggestion that there are universal patterns in human history. We are better aware of “natural laws” in the physical universe, but I think there are also “natural social laws” and that societies have stages of development just like individuals go through stages of development as outlined in developmental psychology. There was a very interesting book, Morphology of the Folktale, written in the early 20th century by Vladimir Propp, a Russian, that outlines many recurring themes in folktales that relate to stages of development, and he also argued that these were universal, based on the lifecycles of individuals and the needs of society.

    One suggestion to Dr. Mickler is that some of these stages (like division) need not happen, at least so dramatically as Jewish and Christian history, if the society doesn’t “fall” when it reaches certain stages. “Falling” sets things backwards and prolongs a “providence” (or social development phase). So just as children with good parents can reach maturity by, say age 30, many people end up 70 or 80 without becoming fully emotionally and mentally mature. In other words, patterns that Dr. Mickler outlines might seem universal in fallen society, but not all of these stages are necessary stages.

    I think if we are to do further work on “The Parallels of History” that this is an excellent approach to take.

  6. Recently on a service trip to Nepal I realized how unpopular Christianity is there, and people have no knowledge of the good Judeo-Christian heritage at all. Yet many people are very devotional and pure in mind. I hope that soon a similar history of six parallels can be researched so that the multitudes of people in the Hindu culture can also have more access to the Divine Principle and potentially more Blessing and less suffering.

  7. The Principle’s “theory of history” embodies a philosophical position known as structuralism. It assumes there are not only laws/principles which govern historical development but also an underlying structure or scaffolding upon which history rests. Scholars have argued the presence of deep structures in other disciplines such as anthropology (Levi-Strauss), mythology (Joseph Campbell) and psychology (Carl Jung). Existentialism, deconstruction, and postmodernism represent the opposite pole, i.e., that existence is absurd or meaningless and that whatever meaning exists is imposed by human beings.

    Structuralism and anti-structuralism function like thesis and anti-thesis. Anti-structuralism has a legitimate function in highlighting biases and errors in structural models. However, its orientation is critical rather than constructive and ultimately self-defeating. Warren Lewis, my dear elder brother and original mentor, identifies with anti-structuralism, saying, “Isn’t it most likely that unforgiving history will roll blindly onward, leaving us and our systems in the dust,” thereby making us “more stubborn atheists” (Warren, I know there are few more ardent theists than you).

    The task, in my view, is to generate a self-correcting structural model. Gordon Anderson suggests that the Principle’s stages be augmented by an “acceleration” principle, i.e., those persons with good upbringing can bypass certain stages, notably negative or regressive ones such as “division.” He also adds a helpful qualifier in stating the patterns “might seem universal in fallen society” but are not inherently necessary. These are constructive ideas. Grandpa David S.C. Kim, a mentor to us all, described Unificationism as “organized disorganization” and “disorganized organization.” That insight sums up the Unification approach to history as well as any.

  8. Well, Mike, I presume from this analysis we can see the future of our movement’s development. Hopefully, Gordon’s idea will pay off with wise individuals provoking a leap to the conclusion.

    As for structuralism in history, I studied a lot of that and wrote about it in my book (and UTS thesis) Cain and Abel: A Spiritual Analysis of American Race Hate. I’d have to say that any theory of history needs to remember that the only real element that underlies human history is human beings exercising their will — influenced by God, Satan, the vast individuals in spirit world, or whatever notwithstanding.

  9. Chris, you make a very interesting point. What if we plot the history of our movement according to the parallels model? I see it looking like this:

    • 1920-1960 – the first 40 years of True Father’s life parallels Israelite slavery in Egypt and Christian persecution under the Roman Empire.
    • 1960-2000 – the next 40 years of development, i.e., the emergence of a global movement under blessed families, parallels the Israelite Conquest of Canaan under the Judges and Christian conquest of the Roman Empire under the patriarchs.
    • 2000-2012 – the next twelve years which includes the coronation of God’s kingship and proclamation of Cheon Il Guk parallels the Israelite United Kingdom and the Christian Empire.
    • Post 2012-? – a period of division following True Father’s passing parallels the Israelite Divided Kingdoms of North and South and the Christian Kingdoms of East and West.

    If Unificationists accept these parallels, some will question whether the Unification movement has passed from a unified monarchic period into a period of division. If division is conceded, there is a question of how long it will persist. There is also a question of whether a period of division will be succeeded by periods of Exile and Return, Reformation, and Ultimate Fulfillment.

  10. There are parallels in history but there don’t have to be. When individuals have certain “bad habits and attitudes” and they find themselves in a challenging situation, they act in a predictable way, making the same “bad” decisions and maintaining the same “bad” pattern of behaviour. Sometimes one sees this in people who have serial marriages — they get to the same “crisis” point and divorce. Still, it is possible for a person to reflect, notice that there has been such a pattern, repent, and when they find themselves in a similar situation choose not to repeat the same mistake but respond differently. Hence the usefulness of marriage counselling. This the point of freedom and responsibility. And the point is that the Unification understanding of history is not deterministic or predestined.

    The same happens on a national level too. When Solomon died it was not inevitable that the kingdom divide. Had Rehaboam responded more wisely to Jeraboam and the 10 northern tribes then the kingdom could have stayed together and there would have been a much broader and deeper foundation to receive the messiah. Indeed it is conceivable that Israel 2,000 years ago might have been an independent nation which would have made everything easier for the messiah. When Muhammad died, the Muslim community split into what later became known as the Shia and Sunni. Again it wasn’t inevitable or desirable. It was a challenging time but the main actors could have made different choices.

    Restoration occurs when individuals, communities and nations find themselves in a similar situation to people in the past and instead of repeating the same fallen history choose to do it differently and break the pattern of history. So the history parallels are the story of people finding themselves in a similar position to their forefathers and making the same mistake. So not God’s providence but Satan’s providence.

    When Sun Myung Moon died, his family and the movement faced the same challenges and temptations to split as did post-Solomon Israel, Christians at various times and Muslims. If they or we had managed to overcome this temptation, followed our original nature instead of our fallen nature, decided to “agree to disagree” and acknowledged that love, family and friendship are more important than religion, belief, allegiance, etc., then we could have restored the mistakes of the past and stayed together. Instead faced with these challenges the family and movement are merely repeating, not restoring, the mistakes of the past.

    If you want to apply the history parallels to our failing movement this is how it works:

    1920-1960 – 40 years: (400 years) Slavery and persecution when Father went through the wringer
    1961-2000 – 40 years: (400 years) Judges, Patriarchs when the movement grew and flourished
    2001-2013 – 12 years: (120) United kingdom following coronation ceremonies
    2014-2054 – 40 years (400) Division of the family and movement with one section to be wiped out. Destruction of Korea?

    The whole point of 2020 is that the family, and movement, have 7 years to get their act together and restore their failures by practising the natural subjugation of Satan as exemplified in far more difficult circumstances by Jacob and Joseph and being reconciled.

  11. Thanks to Dr. Mickler for this thought provoking piece. It reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to work on: a fleshing out of the 400 year “preparation for the messiah” period in OT history. DP devotes an entire chapter to the 400-year preparation in the NTA, but the OT parallel receives short shrift. The reason is obvious: this period is not dealt with in the OT itself but requires research into secondary sources such as the intertestamental literature on historians such as Josephus. Equivalent NTA sources were readily available to the authors of DP, but apparently not for the OTA. I hope to create an article to begin filling in this gap and wish to thank Dr. Mickler again for reminding me of the need.

    1. Thanks, Dan. You’re right. DP offers a useful periodization of the 400-year preparation for the LSA but no OT parallel. In fact, the LSA preparation accords quite well with the way historians categorize modern history, i.e., Religious Reformation (1517-1648), Struggle of Religion and Ideologies (1648-1789) and Maturation of Politics, Economy and Ideology (1789-1918) ending with the Great World Wars. What would the OT parallels be? DP clearly equates Religious Reformation with the “last” prophet Malachi. I’d suggest the Catholic-Protestant divide parallels priestly Temple-cult party with the emergent, de-centralized scribal and Pharisaic (i.e., Protestant) parties in Judaism. The struggle between the Enlightenment and Pietism in the modern age is clearly paralleled by the Hellenistic-Hebraic division in the earlier period. The maturation of politics, economy and ideology into state systems may be more difficult. Probably you can build off the Maccabee revolt and establishment of the Jewish state on the Abel end and perhaps the Herod-inspired Roman creation on the Cain side. Then the world war parallels? I suggest the Roman defeat of Egypt first (Octavian 31 BCE victory at Actium over Marc Anthony/Cleopatra) and then Persia (29 BCE) might suffice as Rome subdued Israel’s two historic oppressors. Good luck in filling the gap!

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