By Ronald Brown
“Deep history” is the deeply-rooted impulse that drives a nation, shapes the identities of peoples, and determines its present activities and future goals.
For many nations, some mythical past shaped this impulse while for new nations it is still being created. Here, I apply “deep history” to mean those primal characteristics of a people that defy the tumult of the centuries, remain immutable to individual leadership, and determine the destiny of a people.
This theory slowly evolved during my five years of university study in Jerusalem (1971-76), many visits thereafter, and most recently, my trip to the Holy Land last August.
Examples of deep history
The challenges of nationalism, socialism, communism, and Western-style separation of church and state have done little to undermine the fundamental and deeply-rooted Muslim belief that the goal of the religion is to create an Islamic state. The current global crusade to defeat so-called “Islamist ideology” is fated to failure. Muslim dedication to an Islamic state is as deeply-rooted in the faith and resistant to the vicissitudes of history as the resurrection of Jesus is in Christianity.
Western colonial expansion into North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, the 1924 abolition of the caliphate, and 1948 Jewish occupation of Palestine resulted in a rebirth of Islamic deep history. The Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and al-Qaida rejected Western nationalism, socialism, communism, secularism, and separation of church and state to reunite the shattered body of the Islamic umma and restore the caliphate.
China likewise is permeated with the idea that the Confucian social, economic and political order is universally applicable, and that its destiny is to spread this model worldwide. Even during the “Century of Humiliation,” when it was at the mercy of Western imperial powers, China remained firm in the belief of its divine destiny.
Political scientist Francis Fukuyama greeted the fall of Soviet Marxism in his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. The Soviet Empire would finally join the rest of the planet in embracing parliamentary democracy, capitalism, and the rule of law. But by 2000, Russian deep history reared its head from the rubble of the collapsed Soviet Empire and Vladimir Putin resumed Russia’s imperial march as the Third Rome.
American history is also inspired by the deeply-rooted belief in American exceptionalism. This identity is so embedded in the national identity that even during the darkest days of its history, most Americans remained convinced theirs was a nation unlike any other, that the American political, economic, moral, and legal system is exceptional and universally applicable, and that America is truly a city on a hill, a light unto the nations.
TIME magazine founder Henry Luce hailed the 20th century as “The American Century.” American exceptionalism had sustained the nation in its expansion across the continent to the Pacific Ocean, the annexed half of Mexico, victory in two World Wars, and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. But, defeat in the Vietnam War, the challenge of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the unification of Europe, and today, the economic rivalry with China challenge the continued validity of American exceptionalism. When candidate Donald Trump vowed to “Make America Great Again,” he was simply restating a deep faith in the universal American mission.
The State of Israel in 1971
I first arrived in Israel in July 1971 at the high point of what I term the Third Jewish Kingdom. The 1967 Six Day War had expanded Israel from the conquered Golan Heights to Egypt’s Suez Canal and Israelis talked about taking Jordan, southern Lebanon, and even Damascus. Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem was absorbed into Israeli-occupied West Jerusalem and declared the indivisible capital of the state. Giant wall maps of the Israeli Kingdom decorated the airport and arriving American and European Jews kissed the tarmac and wept.
Since the destruction of the Second Jewish Kingdom by the Romans in 70 AD, Jews had recited the Passover prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Isaiah prophesied the return of the Jews to their homeland and the figure of the Messiah entered Judaism as the person who would achieve this miraculous return. Throughout Jewish history, the faithful undertook numerous attempts to reestablish this kingdom but only through the intervention of Great Britain, the United States, and the United Nations in 1948 was a Jewish state finally established in part of historic Palestine. Even in the darkest days of Jewish survival in the Diaspora, Jewish deep history continued to inspire the people. One day they would return to their Promised Land and rebuild their City of Zion.
In addition to returning to their homeland and rebuilding their sacred city, Israelis revived the long-dead Hebrew language as a national language, built Tel Aviv, founded Hebrew University, and joined the United Nations. Finally, in 1967, Israel expanded the boundaries of the nation. The hope of the Passover prayer and the project of Theodore Herzl had become a reality.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War
With the seizure of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, Jewish deep history had been fulfilled. Prime Minister Golda Meir’s prophetic statement that there is no such people as the Palestinians had become a reality.
Three years of peacefully living and studying in Israel came to an abrupt halt on the morning of October 6, 1973. I woke to a mad banging on doors, and screaming and yelling in the halls of my student residence on Prophet’s Street in downtown West Jerusalem, as Christian and Muslim students fled the city. The Egyptian army had crossed the Suez Canal and the Syrians had retaken the Golan Heights. Only massive American intervention and military aid enabled the Israelis to regroup and push back the invaders. In the aftermath of near defeat, public and political pressure forced Golda Meir to resign in March 1974. Depression and crisis replaced the euphoria that had greeted the miraculous Israeli defeat of the Arab World and its Soviet backers in 1967.
I remained in Jerusalem until I had finished my M.A. in history in October 1976 and then continued my education in Geneva, Switzerland, where I spent the next seven years. I returned to Israel shortly after the Israeli right turned to Menachem Begin in 1977 to restore the nation’s belief in its deep history. I came again in July 1979 after Prime Minister Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords that provided for Israel to withdraw from and evacuate the Sinai Peninsula. I visited Yamit, the largest Israeli settlement in Sinai in April 1982, and witnessed the dismantling of this colony and transfer of its Jewish population back to Israel proper.
As compensation for Israel’s “loss of the Sinai,” President Carter gave Israel great leeway in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Under Begin and later prime ministers, a massive transfer of Israelis to these areas, driving out Palestinians who had lived for generations in East Jerusalem, ensued to make place for settlers. Ruthless suppression of the occupied Palestinians followed to convince them Israel was here to stay.
Five years of living in Israel and many visits thereafter, most recently last summer, convinced me that Jewish deep history is the most powerful and determining factor in understanding the current reality of the State of Israel. The frenzied Israeli flag-waving, Hatikvah singing, West Bank settlement building, virtual annexation of East Jerusalem, Hebrew language name changing, apartheid legal system, and declarations of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the state, confront visitors at every moment.
However, lurking beneath and viciously challenging this deep history is reality. Jewish historical reality is dominated by the acute realization that nothing lasts forever. The brief time of prosperity in Egypt under Joseph ended with enslavement. Under Joshua, the Hebrews conquered the Land of Canaan, exterminated the original inhabitants, unified the 12 tribes under King Saul, David seized Jerusalem, and Solomon built the First Temple.
Again, this era of glory fell into ruins with the Babylonian conquest and exile. In turn, the Romans brought down the Second Kingdom and Second Temple in 70 AD. Often lengthy golden ages emerged in Egypt, Babylon, Muslim Spain, Poland, and Germany, all of which emerged, thrived and fell. Today constitutes still another transitory Jewish Golden Age, but according to the dictates of historical reality, this too will pass.
No one dares ask when the current Third Kingdom will fall, but silently my Israeli friends, former classmates at Hebrew University, and acquaintances are laying firm plans for its fall. Every Israeli lusts after a “real” passport that will guarantee them refuge in the USA, Canada, Germany, or Argentina. My wealthy friends maintain Swiss bank accounts while the less affluent settle for ones in Cyprus.
Lurking in their minds but never stated is the realization that, like the First Kingdom founded by kings Saul, David, and Solomon, so too the Third Jewish Kingdom will no doubt fall. Five millennia of experience have firmly proven the reality, “Nothing lasts forever.”
Reality confronting deep history
The conflict between the reality and deep history of a people today is being dramatically played out on the battlefield of the British Brexit campaign. Notions of empire, the “White Man’s Burden,” and Britain’s prominent place in global history saturate British deep history. Unfortunately, the end of the empire, the decline of the nation as a major power, and its membership in the European Union have seriously undermined this global mission. What happens when reality clashes with deep history? In the case of Britain, it is national paralysis and worse, national rage.
National rage is consuming Israel today. After half a century, the state still has no internationally recognized borders or capital city. The Arab and Muslim worlds still refuse to recognize it (except Egypt and Jordan). Six million Palestinian refugees still clamor for their right of return. In spite of immigration, apartheid laws, settlement building, and ethnic cleansing, Palestinians now outnumber Jews in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israelis flee the country in droves making New York City the second largest Israeli city after Tel Aviv.
A depiction of Chinese nationalists demonstrating against Japan.
Every time I took a Palestinian bus from East Jerusalem to visit friends in Bethlehem, Ramallah, or Jericho, the hideous separation wall confirmed my impression that Israelis are consumed by fear that the Third Jewish Kingdom will follow the First and Second into ruin. In Jerusalem, Israelis blot out reality in prayer at the Second Temple Wall, in Tel Aviv they bury their fears in discos and bars, in Haifa they smother their fears in work, and in West Bank settlements they banish Palestinian reality behind high concrete walls.
In the 21st century, the long-established peoples of the world are rediscovering their deep histories and fashioning a new century in these images. Are nations and peoples slaves to their deep history? Is the USA fated to cling to its ideal of American exceptionalism to its dying breath? Can Russia abandon its quest of global domination as the Third Rome? Can Britain finally accept the reality it is no longer a global empire and preserve membership in a united Europe? Are nations able to transcend their deep histories and move to a new stage of human evolution?
No political or religious leader dares ignore the power exerted by the deep histories of the major actors on the world stage today. On a recent visit to Shanghai, a group of students asked me not if, but when the United States would attack China. Is American exceptionalism fated to conflict with Confucian moral superiority?
Deep history and Unificationism
One group that attempts to liberate the peoples of the world from their seemingly deterministic enslavement to their respective deep histories is the Unification Movement founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Beginning his ministry in the midst of the Cold War, itself driven by deep histories, Rev. Moon expounded a global spiritual and political vision. Shaped on the battlefield of a divided Korean Peninsula, the new movement elaborated concrete and spiritual instruments that sought to transcend all racial, spiritual, economic, ideological, and spiritual barriers between humanity.
The Unification Movement is a “movement” (not a religion) that seeks to unite the diverse faiths and peoples of the planet. Rather than converting individuals from one to another faith, the Unification Movement treats each of the historic faith communities as “training grounds” where distinctive aspects of religion are explored, refined and developed. When united these individual contributions will result in one common path.
Unificationism undermines the grip of deep histories on humanity by emphasizing that humans at one time lived in a world where such deep histories did not exist. Rev. Moon described this world as the “original homeland” of humanity. The goal of the Unification Movement did once exist here on earth and remains a realizable human aspiration today. He said, “The heavenly world is the original homeland to which we are to go. Today, we are exiles from our original homeland and live a fallen life. But our fate is to return there.”
For Unificationists, the various deep histories that have animated humanity since time immemorial are not only signs of the fallen state of humankind but barriers against the restoration of the original homeland. Rev. Moon maintained that the struggle to overcome racism, sexism, ideologies, classism, nationalism, and religious divisions will not be easy. “We cannot, however, enter there by ourselves, so God has to set up a path in the course of history so people can go in,” he insisted.
Central to this “path” is bringing together hierarchies, clergy, and members of the many different religions of the planet. Rev. Moon clarified that God created so many different religions “to be training grounds” to make a path for every people, culture, custom, and tradition. Religions polish people to be qualified to enter the original homeland. Because of humankind’s many different cultural backgrounds, God sought and set the standard of comparison and has been leading the way toward one unified religious world. The many organizations Rev. Moon founded are instrumental in transcending the deep histories that have divided religions.
The highly publicized international mass marriage blessings are another central step in the “path” elaborated by Rev. Moon. Marriages between historically antagonistic groups, such as Israelis and Muslims, Jews and Germans, blacks and whites, and Japanese and Koreans, force the participants to transcend their respective deep histories in the quest of a new world and new humanity.
Will the Unification Movement have more success than any of the scores of such quests in history to return humanity to its ancient Garden of Eden? In order to succeed, Unificationism will need to rise above the deep histories that I have described.♦
Dr. Ronald J. Brown is a professor of history, political science and ethnic studies at Touro College, and teaches courses in world religions at Unification Theological Seminary. A docent at the New York Historical Society with degrees from Harvard Divinity School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the University of Geneva, he is author of A Religious History of Flushing, Queens; Into the Soul of African-American Harlem; and How New York Became the Empire City.
Graphic at top: A depiction of Israeli soldiers praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
You write “a group of students asked me not if, but when the United States would attack China. Is American exceptionalism fated to conflict with Confucian moral superiority?”
What is the real background to this question? Is there a real likelihood that such an attack might happen? Isn’t the student’s question likely based more on Communist propaganda as it is on “deep history”?
American exceptionalism has many definitions and variants, but should be distinguished — in some variants — from manifest destiny.
American exceptionalism may have nothing to do with expansionist ambitions. For example, the Republicans of the late 1850s opposed the manifest destiny espoused by Democrats, who sought not only to spread west to the Pacific but also annex Cuba and even Mexico in the name of slavery expansion.
For Republicans, what was exceptional about the American Project was not expansion but a commitment to principled self-government.
What was exceptional about America was that there was nothing exceptional about America except a commitment to an ideal grounded in natural law, or what we could call an educated conscience.
In other words, perhaps Unificationism is not the only hope and not the only means by which the world will avoid self-immolation.
American exceptionalism is tied to the American doctrine of manifest destiny. From 13 small colonies along the Atlantic coast, the new nation spread across the continent, to the Pacific (Hawaii and Alaska), then, in the early 20th century, to the Philippines, and under JFK to space (the New Frontier). The USA has been convinced that its political and economic system is universally valid and it is manifest destiny to spread this ideology worldwide. Making the world safe for democracy, the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere today can be considered expressions of this destiny.
China argues that the USA brooks no rivals. When Germany got too strong, when Japan sought to carve out its own colonial empire in the Pacific, the USA destroyed them. When the USSR sought to rival the USA, we brought it down. Today as Islam seeks to restore its former greatness, the USA declared war against “terrorism,” “radical” Islam, or Islam in short.
This response by Dr. Brown is an ill-informed view of American exceptionalism, manifest destiny or how they may or may not play out in American geopolitics. It’s an agenda-driven response rather than a reason-driven one.
America attempts to seed democracy for a very simple and pragmatic reason: democracies don’t attack America. It attempts to seed American-style market economies for another pragmatic reason: market economies trade with America via common rules. Taken together, pluralistic polities and market economies create and sustain freedom and prosperity demonstrably better than any extant alternative and thus create in other nations no incentive to present a threat to America. This is all America has ever cared about. How America deals with non-threats in terms of politics or trade is a different issue more related to human nature than anything else.
American exceptionalism and manifest destiny don’t particularly figure into the above at all as a matter of national policy or national will, though it certainly likely does in the minds of some subset of individuals.
Dr. Brown and Peter,
Peter’s points are most significant to the role of America. An understanding of Unificationism, based on Divine Principle and Rev. Moon’s speeches, shows that God developed America to be the new Second Israel and to lead the world to freedom and God-centered values that are the internal content of American exceptionalism.
If one looks at all religions as equal in role and historic significance, then we miss the providential message Father Moon gave that can be found in many speeches. “During the two thousand years since the cross, God, in the background of history, has walked a suffering path…. Through this course, he prepared the United States of America to serve as the nation of the Second Israel….[T]he United States’ mission is to bring harmony and unity to Christianity as soon as possible, and, in the twenty-first century, to fulfill the responsibility that had been the Roman Empire’s…This is not simply the words of Rev.Moon. This is Heaven’s decree.” (“A Providential View of the Pacific Rim in the Light of God’s Will,” Messages of Peace, FFWPU, pp. 193-94)
Therefore, Judeo-Christianity is the basis of Divine Principle and American exceptionalism that has the role to unite world Christianity (HSA-UWC) and to lead in teaching the other world religions this providential message that brings new knowledge to all faiths. Through this new knowledge, Divine Principle, all faiths can transcend their sectarianism and fallen practices to find their “original nature.”
Thank you, Donna, for expressing this idea better than I could.
Peter in his above comments discusses American manifest destiny. Donna adds that Unificationism endorsed this American view of its own history. “God developed America to be the new Second Israel and to lead the world to freedom and God-centered values that are the internal content of American exceptionalism.”
If you read Peter’s comments more closely, he says that “American Exceptionalism should be distinquished from Manifest Destiny.” Therefore, I responded to only the internal content of American exceptionalism, not manifest destiny as your comments wrongly assert “that Unificationism endorsed this American view of its own history [manifest destiny].”
I think China might best be redefined since Mao’s time. Last year at the National People’s Congress in Beijing, which is defined as being Marxist-Leninist, the current philosophical status of China was made quite clear. It is purely communist and as such was specifically set on course to dismantle religions in that gathering. That status and intent is embedded into the communist philosophy in any case from the outset and China as a communist state was already working dillegently towards closing down spiritual groups and religions. However since the Congress of 2018 the dismantling of religion has become intense. One could cite Falun Gong, the destruction of Christian churches and the massive program of building reeducation camps for the Muslims in the west. These camps can and do hold huge ammounts of people and incorporate torture to achieve their ends.
CAUSA had an effective program to transform communism and address the problems in the Western value system in the past, but I am not aware of any such thing of significance these days. Moreover, America is currently in some conflict with herself and seemingly is not clear about what China is or is not. It is not Confucian, but it is Marxist-Leninist by its definition.
That category places Marxism firmly into the fabric of Chinese culture though Leninism, which is defined more as the economic theories of a Marxist state, has had to transition because of its failures in its theory and in its application. But still we have radical Marxism rather than Confucianism. Likewise, we have an America which demonstrates problems with its “Western value system,” so I think challenges right now are quite substantial.
In his prescient book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1993), Samuel P. Huntington predicted that “the dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance and Sinic assertiveness.” China has certainly taken a very assertive stance with regard to both its geopolitical and domestic, anti-religious policies. Moreover, in recent decades the more extremist elements within Islam have demonstrated the most inhumane intolerance of those whom they view to be enemies of the Islamic faith. ISIS even considered Hamas to be “infidels” due to Hamas’ attempt to gain legitimacy via the United Nations — a decidedly Western invention. (See Graeme Wood’s essay, “What ISIS Really Wants” in The Atlantic, March 2015).
As Derek Dey mentions in his response to Dr. Brown’s essay, the West (and America in particular) has seemingly lost its way in terms of the values and virtues that once defined its “value system;” values and virtues that are the progeny of Judeo-Christian doctrine. Whether due to “arrogance” as Huntington observed, or moral confusion, or an outright attack on its Judeo-Christian patrimony by the postmodern anti-essentialists, America (and the West) lost its way and now must find its way out of the moral malaise that has become so pervasive. It was bracing to hear President Viktor Orban of Hungary vigorously defend his country’s Christian heritage in front of the EU Parliament in September 2018, stating that Hungarians are “devoted to the Christian values of Europe.”
A significant aspect of the ministry of Rev. and Mrs. Moon has been their effort to rekindle — or “restore,” in Divine Principle terminology — the essence of the Judeo-Christian traditions in the United States and the West. That particular “deep history” goes back about 4,000 years to Abraham. It was the foundational history upon which God sent Jesus, and according to Divine Principle, it remains the foundational history of God’s dispensation, and its central narrative of “living for the sake of others” is perhaps the best antidote to the arrogance, intolerance and assertiveness that Huntington referenced.
Derek Dey’s query about a CAUSA-type initiative is important. As our founders have stated, education and culture are vital elements in creating a culture of peace. I would like to see such an initiative developed.
In order to succeed, Unificationism will need to rise above the deep histories that you have described. But before that, it has to be successfully applied to help it rise above its own recent history (hopefully not yet so deep) of division and sectarianism, and with this prove its efficiency in fulfilling the mission contained in its name.
Thank you for this interesting article. Coincidentally, just before seeing your article I read this one dealing with radicalization. It seems to be dealing with a similar idea to your deep history, but puts it in terms of sacred values and sacralization, which, despite the terminology, can be secular too. The outcomes look similar. It also suggests a way forward through reducing isolation and reversing marginalization of those at risk.
I agree with you that Rev. Moon’s ideas would correspond to transcending the various deep histories, but I would suggest that the Unification movement itself has not done so. It has become another religion, and has replaced the traditional deep histories with its own version — maybe three versions if you count the different factions.
Rev. Moon declared the end of restoration before he passed away, which for me most essentially represents transcending the past, and bringing religion itself to an end. However, we Unificationists mostly continue on with our own deep history as if nothing has changed. If we are truly to realize Rev. Moon’s vision we now need to also transcend our own deep history in order to move forward.
Finally, one point that struck me. While you mention Muslim deep history, or Confucian, or American, you omit the Christian version that suggests the whole world needs to become Christian. Unificationism in its current form is very similar in this regard.
I agree that Christianity has its own deep history. It has a form of manifest destiny that preaches the eventual victory of Christianity over all other religions. I experienced this very strongly on my recent trip to Ethiopia where I visited several evangelical churches. Unlike the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose deep history is survival in a hostile world, the evangelicals are hell- (heaven-) bent on waging spiritual warfare against Islam and converting the world.
Again, Dr. Brown, I find these interpretations not altogether correct and unjustly condemnatory of American Christianity. Contrary to your assertion about “evangelical warfare,” it has been the rise of ISIS and radical Islam that has persecuted and murdered thousands of Christians and non-Muslims in these present times. It is radical Islam in the world and in America that seeks to exterminate Christian tradition, values and freedoms. It has even committed genocide of Christians in the Middle East. Spiritual warfare is also a lot different than physical beheadings, murder and torture. Most faiths that proselytize engage in spiritual challenge, witnessing and persuasion.
I see manifest destiny as the driving force behind American history from the days of the Puritans until today. It is the national faith, the national drive, that continues to inspire and drive the nation.
“Unlike the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose deep history is survival in a hostile world…”
If evangelicals are hell-bent on “proselytizing” by words I hardly find that any comparison at all to the Islamic version in which the Ethiopian church has been long-mired.
I deeply regret Dr. Brown’s support of revisionist history by claiming that there was a “1948 Jewish occupation of Palestine.”
Since before the Bible was canonized, Jews have continuously lived in Israel. An army of Jews didn’t suddenly arrive in Israel to drive out the native occupants in 1948. When the British carved Palestine out of the conquered Ottoman Empire after World War I, there were native occupants of many religions in British Palestine including Christians, Sunni Muslims, Druze, Circassian Muslims, and Jews.
When the British left in 1948, there was no “1948 Jewish occupation of Palestine.” Rather, in 1948 the United Nations divided British Palestine into two nations, Israel and Jordan.
I can’t imagine that Professor Brown doesn’t know this. So why claim that in 1948 there was a Jewish occupation of Palestine?
Thank you, Gary, for calling out this misinterpretation of history and lack of a providential view of history in the article.
I appreciate Dr. Brown’s essay and his effort to bring the concept of a “deep history” into our discussion. However, I have a feeling “deep history” still needs to be defined in the context of our discussion if we want to make a good use of this notion [“Deep history” is an academic term for the distant past of the human species. Dr. Brown defines his use of this term in his second paragraph, which has a similarity with “national narrative,” an all-encompassing ethnically or politically-based story that unites a whole nation. – Ed.].
There are many schools among historians and several “philosophies of history”, but I never came across the concept of “deep history”. Some people like to see remote causes, or metaphysical causes “behind” a historical fact. Other people might object and point out that, often, the depth of history is precisely the opposite.
I want to make clear: Some people tend to see any event as if it had been already written and could be explained “deeply”. Others may contend that any event is deeply unpredictable, and that some very strange factors are at play. Gandhi’s salt march in 1930 was something so new, so unpredictable, and this is also how history changes.
In the absence of a clear cause, the mysteries of history are often as deep as the laws and principles.
We say that Charlemagne’s coronation in 800 had a deep providential meaning. We say this because we are eager to see the action of God, how much He had prepared for this moment. But what still puzzles me is, “Why did it fail, then?” The Principle is not very deep there and just says that the times were not ripe, there was not enough foundation. But why exactly?
Rev. Yohan Lee, who recently ascended, tried to give additional explanations about the backstage circumstances behind central figures of history. Even Father went much more “deeply” than the Divine Principle in explaining Jesus’ mission. He revealed scores of details on Jesus’ childhood, family, etc., which shed a completely new light even on John the Baptist’s failure.
So, what is “deep” in “deep history”?
As an element of comparison, we may think of the so-called “depth psychology” used to contrast Freudian psychoanalysis of the unconscious with traditional psychology of “character”, based on the conscious. We all experienced that we sometimes have a superficial view of our own biography. Something may happen that reveals that the history of our simple life was much deeper than we thought.
I now live in Korea and notice that, in this country, my view of my own life is so much deeper than in my own nation of France. But why exactly? Even for me, it is mysterious. Some people have exactly the opposite experience, being in Korea.
In the Exposition of the Divine Principle, we have several attempts to introduce elements of a “deep history”. Let me quote a few and explain why they may cause some problems:
1. Spiritual history, much deeper than economic, social and political history
In Eschatology, we say that the history of civilizations reveals the Providence of God. The reader is invited to see the permanent factor of religious beliefs through centuries, whereas the more superficial elements (political regime, social structures) were changing. This permanent factor can be seen as the deep core of the civilization. In a way, this is very true. But you may see “depth” from a completely different point of view. We need to understand also why people have been so unsatisfied with their systems.
In the Principle, I also like the explanation of the Reformation. People were indeed Christian, and for them, it simply meant “Catholicism”. At one moment, Catholicism appeared as an empty structure, and Protestantism was seen as both more simple and much deeper. The depth here, was not caused by keeping structures, but by breaking them and creating something new.
Yet, if we compare the history of Catholicism and Protestantism, which has had the deepest influence? As a Unificationist, I would need answers. My own church was once very deep and the daily life as a Unificationist was so profound. How can we go back to a deep history, with a feeling that we are truly impacting the world? At one moment, we shall have to translate all our spiritual scriptures into political, social and economic projects. Otherwise, we shall never go deep. We shall be one of the churches which are commenting history, not doing it.
Sometimes, our hoondokhae can be very shallow if we cannot discuss and see how to put this into practice. What we need therefore is to return to our very deep spiritual roots but with much better applications of the Principle.
2. The law of indemnity and providential time identity
Our Principle invites us to see repetitive patterns, which account for the parallels of history. For many members, indemnity was for long “the deep thing”. We sometimes believe that suffering is often deeper than “happiness”. Some religious minds are inclined to see “joy” as not so deep. A movement like us was excellent at shedding tears in the beginning. But our real Gospel is about giving joy to God. Here, we have been more discrete.
If the whole world was asking all Unificationists to show the deep God of joy, would we be able to do it? I was impressed by Praise at the Nassau Coliseum and glad to see the joy expressed by Christian choirs. But when shall we present a Unificationist culture with a deep and profound sense of joy, so that people have no longer nostalgia of the past world?
Actually, our movement has the mission of creating the new history, the eternal history of goodness, where indemnity is no longer necessary. It is a paradox that, sometimes, we feel that our movement was deeper before. It is my view that we remain by far the deepest movement on the earth. But we need a paradigm shift, where the essence of religious life is not indemnity (tangam) but devotion (jeongseong). Yet, our communities are sometimes less inspired by kingdom-building than by finger-pointing the “actual problems”. We say that free sex is very bad, but when people ask us what we really mean by Absolute Sex, we often fail to teach the newest part of it, which goes far beyond purity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. The deep meaning of Blessed families has not yet influenced history, and even in our movement, we struggle to experience “ideal marriage”, and “ideal family”. Sometimes, it is simply because we don’t give deep attention to the history of our couples after the ceremony is over.
3. Providential views behind wars. Do we have a deep view of peace?
The Principle provides excellent views on the providential causes and consequences of world wars. We are very good at explaining why and how the war of all against all, or “absolute war,” takes place
However, the Principle itself does not contain a real deep philosophy of peace. Father gave peace messages. Yet, we are still lacking a comprehensive, all encompassing theory of universal peace. We have some pieces of the puzzle of course.
Probably, we would need to have the real deep conviction that our generation was born, not only to bring an end to the old world, but to build the new one. We are born to be the peacemakers, but we don’t exactly know how to do that.
Personally, I believe that Heavenly Tribal Messiahship is the major highway. When we are more and more successful, I do believe that we shall build the “very deep history” where we give the greatest joy to God and time is never lost to suffering and indemnity. But I still lack many elements of understanding, it is just a creed.
Thank you again, Dr. Brown, for introducing “deep history”, a good topic.
Thanks for your comments. Of course I am not an authority on Unification teaching, so your comments were very helpful. “So, what is “deep” in “deep history?” you ask.
I coined this term to describe personalities of nations and groups. Of course, as an American, my views are deeply influenced by the American experience of manifest destiny. Most Americans, not just Trump Republicans, believe that the USA is different from other countries. We have a “deep” destiny to expand, conquer, spread. Outer space exploration was inspired by the JFK term, the New Frontier. Jewish deep history is to keep control of their Holy Land but know full well that the present Jewish state is number #3 and will not last. This is the reality of Jewish history. How is the USA responding to a new rival — China? Is the USA destined to destroy China as it did Germany, Japan, and the USSR? The USA has no choice but to confront China and maintain its deep belief in its own unique destiny to expand and dominate. The Statue of Liberty faces the world, not America.
I find your interpretations to be distorting the facts as well as the understanding of America’s role in the providence. America was attacked at Pearl Harbor by Japan. America was at that point defending itself from Japan. America’s intentions were not to “destroy Japan” nor did it “destroy the USSR” as your condemnatory views of America assert. America also did not set out to “destroy Germany” but to defeat totalitarian Hitler and Nazism from taking over Russia, Europe and ultimately the world.
Thank you, Dr. Brown, for your thought-provoking article and especially Laurent for your perceptive comments.
It seems to me that Dr. Brown has hit on the fundamental spirit of our times, namely a return to traditional national and religious identities as a reaction to the global identities, whether democratic or communist, that fired the human imagination through much of the 20th century. Today the Unification movement that arose as a champion of a global ideal still carries on, as difficult as it may be, amid the headwinds of resurgent national and religious deep histories.
Rev. Moon sought to cement a foundation of global unity through intercultural Blessings. Yet at the same time, members are linked to the national narratives of the lands of their birth. Some American members champion American exceptionalism as a centerpiece of God’s providence, while some Koreans see their nation as the Fatherland whose culture and values will one day prevail everywhere. Identification with national deep histories is inevitable and perhaps necessary if our movement is going to be the bridge to mediate all of them.
As to Unificationism itself, its deep history is the history of Israel and Christianity, from Adam to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus as laid out in Divine Principle. But focusing on that history brought mixed results, as most Christians saw only heresy. It appears that these days, the movement is doing better in places like Africa and Nepal where there is minimal intersection between its deep history and that of the mission nations. Without the baggage of being the Lord of the Second Advent, True Mother has been warmly welcomed in many lands. Even the newest scriptural text, the Chambumo Gyeong, downplays the Judeo-Christian roots of Unificationism while lifting up True Parents’ universal identity as the new Adam and Eve.
Moreover, Rev. Moon prophesied the end of religion and the era when people will be guided by conscience towards a world transcending the old religious and cultural identities that have caused so much war and conflict. Not because religion is bad or invalid, but because with the coming of True Parents and the expansion of their realm of Blessing, the purpose of religions has been fulfilled. If this is not merely a dream, and if God is really moving the world in this direction, then we would have to conclude that the current resurgence of national and religious identity is but a passing phase.
Will the contemporary turn to national and religious identity be a lasting trend or a blip in the arc of history that is moving towards world unity? We should factor in the global internet and global economy, which by creating realities of cross-cultural knowledge, multinational institutions and human relationships spanning nations, cannot be stuffed back in a bottle. Moreover, we should not gainsay True Parents’ victory and its deep consequences for future history. These give me optimism that the current period of identity politics will give way to something better.
Thanks a lot, Dr. Wilson, for these points. Reading your contribution, I understood more deeply what bothers me (a little bit) in the notion of “deep history”. I agree that we need one, and I also believe that our True Parents have offered to us the most comprehensive deep history.
The need of a vision for the deep future
What would bother me would be the idea of the Messiah who just restores the broken past.
The Messiah is the redeemer of all our past mistakes.
But most of all, after we have seen the Bridegroom’s face, our hearts will seek the deepest future.
The Messiah comes to unveil and write the “new future”, and Father’s speech “the new future of Christianity” was an address to the American people, because America has been the nation which could write the history of the future, whereas other nations are specialized in past history.
Americans tend to be more interested by the deep future than by the deep history. Father wanted to give a message of vision to American Christians, rather than to more traditional Christians. He expected the Christians of the new world to pioneer the future of humankind with him.
What the Messiah mostly writes is the future, the “unchartered path”, as the success of the Introduction of the Principle of restoration. The Messiah reveals what is to come, the depth of the newness.
Let us write the deep future
The deep messianic future is very different from the “perfect future” of futurology. It is not based on prediction and algorithmic calculations. The Messiah may not say much about what the planet earth will have become in 2050. He tells us what the ideal human life with God will forever be. He gives us a taste of the eternal deep future with God.
Having said this, I am again so grateful to Dr. Brown. He always brings topics which I find very interesting, especially when I cannot agree with him. I feel that you always ask very good questions.
I would like to suggest that our Unificationist scholars write a book called “The Deep Future”.
I am thrilled that you volunteered to write a book called “The Deep Future”.
Deep history is a powerful concept. It is what people are willing to give their lives for. Most religions no longer have any deep religions. The Jewish dedication to reestablishing a state and the Muslim commitment to restoring the umma and caliphate are two examples. China is also driven by its deep history of its moral and social superiority over the rest of the world.
I really don’t see much of deep history in Unificationism. I think Rev. Moon was going in that direction but it hasn’t really taken firm root yet. The Unification Movement seems to be going off in every which direction at this current time.
Laurent and Dr. Wilson,
Some of Dr. Wilson’s comments are his interpretations that may not be altogether correct.
Most recently, True Mother, Bishop Kim and President Dunkley affirmed the Christian orientation of Divine Principle and the need to see ourselves as part of the Greater Christian Awakening in America to unite Christianity as the providential leader at this time. Also, Chambumo Gyeong does have passages of real emphasis on the importance of Christianity.
Unfortunately, since there is still a lack of universal providential success in the world, much evil still dominates many countries. What Dr. Brown predicts as the future Islamic dominance of the “caliphate” in the world, that he sees no end to, is proof we cannot rest easy in a post-Christian, relativistic pluralism in which Islamic movements will aggressively attempt to snuff out freedoms of speech and continue to oppress Christian values, communities and the Godly value of women as co-equal partners in the KOH, which was proclaimed by Father Moon a number of times in his East Garden talks and his speeches.
Thank you, Laurent. I resonate completely with your thought that True Parents come to do more than restore the broken past; they come to create a new future. Yet as you say, the future is uncharted category, as most of True Parents’ efforts up to the surrender of Lucifer in 1999 were to restore and cleanse the past.
What will be the shape of the new future that is coming to birth on the foundation of True Parents’ victory? Will it be a Christian future founded on American exceptionalism as the place where in the 18th century God established a new world as a “city on a hill”? Will it be an Asian culture molded on the timeless Korean (and Chinese) virtue of filial piety? Or will it come to birth in “heavenly Africa”? True Parents have sent out feelers in so many different directions. They encourage every nation to draw upon their best traditions and contribute them to the whole. To Bishop Kim they speak of a “greater Christian awakening,” as Donna writes. To my friends in the Chinese People’s Federation for World Peace, they speak of the Confucian teaching of filial piety as the universal principle for world civilization that should be taught to the whole world. Meanwhile, God is telling me that the new future will feature gender balance and a much greater role for women and the wisdom that God pours into them.
If the future is to be all these things, then we truly need to keep an open heart and open mind to listen to people of every nation and religion, learn the lessons of their “deep histories,” and yet not cling to any of them. We need to reject the hateful and intolerant impulses that can be found buried in all the world’s deep histories as the remnants of Satan’s past wounds, while sharing the best qualities that God has implanted in them. As long as we keep the heart of a parent, we should be able to discern the good, while having the patience to bear with their growing pains.
It occurs to me once again that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a man of the deep present and deep future. A few hours before he was assassinated, he gave his “final speech” (“I’ve been to the mountaintop”). The Memphis address offers us a “panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now”, starting like this:
“Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, ‘Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?’ I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.”
Dr. King would have liked to live at the great turning points of the deep history, yet he concludes:
“Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy. Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding. Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: ‘We want to be free.'”
For all of us, the best time is now, the golden age of liberating and blessing our ancestors, organizing our tribes after Blessing our 430. The rest, as our descendants will say when they visit the Cheonbowon Genealogy Center (the grand opening is in a few days), and see our names, was history.
But the eternal history of our lives which will be recorded forever, is our immediate and long-term future. Let us make our first bold steps into the deep future.
One of the fundamental questions I address in my article is what happens when the deep history of a people comes into confrontation with a contradictory reality.
For example with President Trump, I see a desire to return to the post-WW II era when “American was Great.” During those golden decades American seemed to have almost fulfilled its dream of dominating the world in the name of freedom, democracy, and prosperity with little or no opposition. The USSR was the only major threat, but Americans remained convinced that American exceptionalism would win and the country would realize our deeply-rooted dream of manifest destiny. However, the fall of the USSR did not result in “The End of History” as Francis Fukuyama prophesied, but rather Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” in which the USA was but one player. Our vision frustrated, the President capitalized on the anger many Americans felt that our dream was slipping from our hands.
The same with Israel. Its deep history of capturing the Land of Canaan and living in peace and happiness is confronted by reality. The Third Kingdom of today is probably fated to be destroyed as the First and Second were. The flag waving in public, settlement building, and wall construction are frantic attempts to stave off what Israelis and Jews fully realize to be inevitable.
This struggle between deep history and reality is present in many other places. The BJP in India, Putin in Russia, Brexit, and the rise of China are all examples of the conflict between what peoples see as their national destinies (deep histories) and the realities of the present world. This is what makes the present so fascinating to me as a historian and so dangerous to the world as a citizen.
I have had first-hand experience living in the former USSR and as an institute researcher on communism. What your comments do not acknowledge is the deep suffering of the people in the former USSR under communism. America, as both Ronald Reagan and Rev. Moon said, wanted to help defeat communism, a totalitarian system that incurred millions of deaths in Soviet concentration camps and purges of people under Stalin. The motivation of America, as well as Rev. Moon, was to alleviate suffering and oppression, not to dominate them. I see a world of difference in this explanation from yours. In fact, Rev. Moon instructed his 1983 UTS graduates to go out in the world for the purpose of “defeating Satan and Communism.” (SMM, UTS Commencement address and prayer, Barrytown, NY, 1983)
There is merit to the “deep history” concept but it’s limited and lost in the article and author’s replies.
All reality is contradictory to delusional human beings, from the personal to the global level. Our delusional nature has been discussed since the human race learned language. To talk about “deep history” as something unique in this regard is to ignore the actual reality human beings navigate which, for Americans in this discussion, involves far more than ethnic or national belief. Insisting the average American has anything invested in some sort of global hegemony and that people voted for Trump because they were frustrated they couldn’t be king of the world under a Democrat ignores the individual for a dubious, imagined collective where the sort of political consciousness Marx preached holds sway. Collectivism is a prism through which people like to view things, but it routinely fails to account for the mass of human behavior. “Deep history,” which has some merit, is taken to illogical extremes as a magic wand to explain everything bad in pursuit of something else entirely. Is Tibetan “deep history” the reason they irrationally reject Chinese Communism, seek to reinstate their Dali Lama, and consider their Buddhism a superior way of life? It must be if it is for Jews…sauce for the gander, and all that.
The “present” has always been dangerous to people, now or 10,000 years ago makes no difference. National and ethnic history and fantasy has always been a tool to motivate people who don’t do much thinking for themselves, yet it is still only one tool among many for it. Such dreams as American exceptionalism and manifest destiny might play a part in the average citizen’s worldview, yet there are many competing dreams, ideals, fantasies, and realities that also play a part, and quite often a bigger part than “deep history” as the central driver in how societies express themselves on a national and global level.
I apologize to our readers, as I would have liked to delve a little deeper into the founders’ thinking on foreign policy. The validity of our understanding of the American Revolution is critical to our understanding of modernity as a whole.
I only have the opportunity to reemphasize that missing the difference between American exceptionalism and manifest destiny means misunderstanding the American project from the time of John Winthrop to Ronald Reagan.