How to Meet My Ancestors: A Theory of Spirit

By David Burton

For me one of the more fascinating requests Rev. Sun Myung Moon gave to us was his request to WRIST in 1984 to develop technology to communicate with spirit world. It is not something I would ever have thought of doing myself, but after I became aware of the problem he posed, it has stayed with me throughout my spiritual life.

The possibility of such technology requires a re-envisioning of what spirit world is. From 2005, and for about seven years, I was part of an online spirit world machine (SWM) discussion group called Technician2, or T2 for short, dedicated to keeping alive the dream of building a SWM. We even began some rudimentary experimentation, which, unfortunately, did not yield any results.

What we did have was lots of discussion, and differences of opinion, but that just petered out over time because we had nothing constructive to show for our work. It was on the science that things got stuck — and are still stuck. We agreed that spirit world existed and could be communicated with, but for a SWM we needed more than that. What we lacked was an experimentally testable theory about the nature of spirit world. Without such a theory we were groping in the dark while hoping for someone in spirit world to turn the light on.

Fortunately, our group was not completely in the dark. We did receive some communication through a medium in 2009 that we should look for a digital interface and that the Internet was being developed as a SWM. These insights, combined with my own writing on Divine Principle and Unification Thought, have led to the theory I present here. I am not claiming this must be true; just that it is a possible explanation for the nature of spirit world, one I believe is compatible with science. It is fully natural and potentially amenable to experimental investigation — in other words, a theory that could be tested experimentally.

Divine Principle

My beginning point is in Divine Principle and a passage I had read, re-read, and overlooked again and again for years. I believe this passage to be one of the most important in the Principle of Creation:

When [subatomic] particles join with each other through the reciprocal relationships of their dual characteristics, they form an atom. Atoms, in turn, display either a positive or a negative valence. When the dual characteristics within one atom enter into reciprocal relationships with those in another atom, they form a molecule. Molecules formed in this manner engage in further reciprocal relationships … [EDP, p. 16]

For us today, with our contemporary scientific knowledge, this seems obvious, even perhaps old-fashioned. Yet I believe it to be the key to the whole of the Principle of Creation, and is what allows the explanation in Divine Principle to be continuous with science. Here in one paragraph is the basic understanding of existence as presented in Divine Principle. We can restate it in one sentence: existing beings are compound beings of particles in relationship. That’s it. However, the implications of this simple statement are enormous.

Consider the molecule. It is composed of atoms which are, in turn, composed of subatomic particles. So, the molecule is mostly empty space. What you have are the subatomic particles and two or three levels of give and take relationship. Extending beyond the molecule, it is engaged in further give and take relationship within larger scales of existence such that the whole of creation consists of multiple layers or levels of organization held together by relationship.

The image below is a simplified example of this from biology. Atoms combine to form molecules, molecules combine to form cells, cells combine to form tissues, tissues combine to form organs, tissues and organs combine to form the elephant, elephants combine to form the population, etc. All this is held together in an organic whole by give and take relationship.

Further, returning to the simplicity of the molecule, a molecule has chemical and physical properties distinctive to the type of molecule. These loosely correspond to internal character (sungsang) and external form (hyungsang). Where do these properties come from? The distinctive properties of the molecule are not in the atoms or the subatomic particles. The molecule’s distinctive properties arise in the relationship of the atoms. In other words, the properties of the molecule, both sungsang and hyungsang, emerge in the relationship between the atoms. This “emerging” is a characteristic feature of relational existence.

You may think, yes, but this is only the physical world, so what about the spirit world?

This brings us to something I have struggled with in Divine Principle almost since first studying it in the early 1980s. Divine Principle suggests the structure of the universe resembles that of a human being where spirit world corresponds to mind. It also suggests that in the structure of a human being our spirit self has a body.

Spirit mind, yes, but spirit body? Where did that come from? There seems no place for it. Divine Principle seems to be right on the verge of solving one of the most crucial issues that has plagued humanity since time immemorial, but it feels like one small piece is missing! Human beings have always had spiritual experiences, mediums can communicate with spirits, but the nature of spirit world itself has remained a profound mystery. Divine Principle seems to hold out the promise of resolving this but doesn’t quite seem to get there. It doesn’t clearly describe what the spirit body is.

I believe understanding the spirit body is central to developing a SWM, and that the existence of the spirit body makes such technology possible. This understanding can fully reconcile spirit with science. I may have found a possible solution to this conundrum. It still leaves many questions, but fits both science and the testimony of mediums about spiritual existence.

Insights from Unification Thought and Channeling

In the Original Image (Theory of God), Unification Thought describes an inner structure to God’s sungsang. This is the key insight. Within the sungsang of God there is an inner sungsang and an inner hyungsang. To begin to understand this inner structure, examine the process of thinking. In our mind, the inner sungsang is the functional part that does the thinking while the inner hyungsang is that which is thought about. Within Unification Thought, this inner structure is not directly applied like this to all existing beings. If we do so, however, then for the first time we have a structural place for the spirit body in our view of existence, one that is natural, not supernatural.

The image below is my adaptation of this two-stage structure to an existing being. I indicate the compound nature of sungsang and hyungsang by relationship within both the hyungsang and inner hyungsang. In a human being, our physical body would emerge in the hyungsang, and our spirit body in the inner hyungsang.

Just having a structural place for our spirit body does not yet address what that body is. Here I have taken a hint from the channeling we received. We were asked to look for a digital interface and it was suggested that the Internet was being prepared as the SWM. I have taken this as a hint about the nature of spirit world itself. If we are looking for a digital interface and the Internet, which is digital too, is being prepared as the SWM, then perhaps this reflects on the nature of the spirit world.

The Internet arises in a network of linked computers, and computers process information that is digital. Digital information has individual and countable numbers or values. Only a limited set of values are possible and they cannot be divided into different parts. Digital information for computing is analogous to the individual subatomic particles described in Divine Principle. For computers these individual numbers are 1’s and 0’s. When we look at particles, the particular values of their properties (such as their mass, electrical charge, etc.) also constitute a form of digital information. Changes to relationships between these particles would then also be a form of information processing. For example, in a chemical reaction, which changes the sungsang and hyungsang of a molecule, information would also be processed in the change.

Processing of digital information is found naturally at all levels of existence. Consequently, I feel that the inner structure of sungsang pertains to digital information storage and processing. In other words, hyungsang at its ground is particles and sungsang at its ground is digital information coded on particles. If sungsang is spirit that means each particle is half-spiritual and half-physical, and both the physical world and spirit world emerge in the relationships of one set of particles.

From this theoretical description it is not so easy to understand what it actually means for the nature of spirit world. Fortunately, recent technological advances have provided ways to visualize the meaning of this explanation. Technology allows us to see a spirit body and even construct an artificial spirit world.

My Phone as a SWM

The molecule is a relatively simple thing. There is a direct correspondence between its sungsang and hyungsang. Changing one involves changing the other. However, as objects become more complex, the increased complexity allows for much more interesting things to happen in the inner structure without changing the whole hyungsang.

My cell phone is a good example of this. It too can be described by a two-stage structure. For my phone, sungsang is the software, and hyungsang the hardware. This hardware involves particles, and the digital information of the software is coded onto some of those particles. The inner structure to sungsang becomes apparent when the phone is turned on.

My mobile phone is also a computer. It has more memory and raw processing power than my first Macintosh computer. My phone fits in my pocket, while that Mac computer took up half of the desk in my office. When the phone is turned on, it processes information. So the function of information processing would be the inner sungsang, and the information that is processed would be the inner hyungsang. This all takes place without significantly altering the hardware, and it allows all sorts of wonderful things to be done by the phone (in addition to calling people) – such as playing with dinosaurs in my living room.

I have always had a fascination for dinosaurs. When the first “Jurassic Park” movie came out, I took our then 11-year old daughter to the very first showing the night it came out. So when I discovered that there were augmented reality (AR) apps for my phone that would allow me to have a dinosaur in my house or yard, I naturally tried several of them out. Augmented reality places digital objects “in” our external physical reality, which can be viewed and interacted with in three-dimensional space on a phone or with a special headset or glasses. My dinosaur AR apps allow me to squeeze a T. Rex into my living room, or have him romp in my yard. I have included a photo of our new pet, a psittacosaurus, with our dog, Dee. Dee doesn’t seem so impressed and doesn’t want to play.

So what are we looking at? The image of the psittacosaurus is a screen capture I made of the AR dinosaur I was observing in real time “in” my front room. From the previous discussion, I hope you can now recognize the digital AR animal as a type of spirit body, and I have photographed that spirit body. Granted it is artificial and has no life of its own, but I believe it has the same kind of digital existence as every other natural spirit body. That makes my phone, just as it is now, a SWM. My phone is doing what a medium does: it is visualizing a spirit body “in” our three-dimensional space. In other words, when mediums see or hear spirit world, I believe they are experiencing a natural form of AR. Connect my phone to the Internet and a whole other world of possibilities opens up.

Welcome to the Metaverse

One of the really exciting things being developed right now is the metaverse. Facebook thought this is so important, it even changed its name to Meta. Watch the three-minute BBC News video below for an introduction to the metaverse:

The current experience of the Internet is one where you look at it on a screen. It is two-dimensional. The metaverse promises to be something experienced from within, in a three-dimensional way. It uses virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality to place you, or rather a digital representation of you — your avatar — inside a virtual space where you can interact with the avatars of other people who are anywhere on the planet. With your phone connected to the metaverse, your avatar is essentially your spirit body that exists within a whole artificial spirit world. The metaverse would have the same relationship to the network of computers that comprise the Internet as the spirit world does to the physical world. It is the digital inner structure to sungsang.

Where does the metaverse exist? We can’t ascribe a physical location to this world, and normal physical laws do not have to apply there. We could fly in the metaverse if we wanted to, change our appearance and have a tail, or create a flower from nothing. Time could run at different speeds. Days there could pass in seconds for us, or conversely, seconds there could take minutes to observe. The metaverse has characteristics mediums commonly ascribe to spiritual existence (Andrew Wilson lists some of those characteristics here). Similarly to the emergence of the physical world from particles, this computer-generated world is emergent from layers of digital information storage and processing within the computer network. Though not in the physical world, this virtual world is at the same time not separate from it either.

Now imagine a digital interface to spirit world connected to the metaverse. We would have a readymade space to interact directly with spirit people and perhaps even angels. I could literally meet my ancestors in the metaverse, invite them into my house, go and see their houses, and perhaps even play cards with them. At family gatherings when I was a kid, my family didn’t really talk to each other, but what we did do was play cards. The whole family from the youngest child to the oldest grandparent all played cards together at every family gathering we had. I hope that within my lifetime on this earth I will be able to sit down at a table with my grandkids and my grandparents for a family game of cards that bridges two worlds: spirit world and physical world together in the metaverse.

Such technology could transform the world. More than just demonstrating that spirit world exists, the metaverse holds the promise of normalizing communication with spirit world. I could meet my brother in England and my mother or father in spirit world for a weekly family chat. Integrating spirit world could become a normal part of daily life for the average person. It would completely change how we collectively look at the world. I believe this was Rev. Moon’s hope when he gave WRIST the task to build a Spirit World Machine.♦

Dr. David Burton (UTS Class of 1990) is professor of chemistry at the University of Bridgeport. He holds a Ph.D. in nuclear magnetic resonance from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. He and his wife, Kathleen, both graduated in 1990 with an M.Div. from Unification Theological Seminary, and subsequently were campus ministers for eight years at Yale University.

25 thoughts on “How to Meet My Ancestors: A Theory of Spirit

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  1. 1. David, I think that I remember you working toward spirit world as imagination. Is this post along that line?

    2. I have always taken “body” to indicate power for action. If my transitioned mother existed only as mind, could she influence me?

    3. I once heard True Father say, “Earthly world is factory; spirit world is storage.”

    4. Could your pet elephant knock on the front door? If so might your dog bark?

    1. John,

      No, not imagination; rather, virtual in the same sense that the metaverse is virtual. Dee would have gone crazy with an elephant at the front door. She passed away from cancer a couple of months after this picture unfortunately.

  2. “All this is held together in an organic whole by give and take relationship.”

    “All this is held together in an organic whole by give and receive relationship.”

    Give and receive, sounds better. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Bengt. I have gone backwards and forwards myself over this. At the moment, I prefer “give and take” because the object is not just a passive receiver. The object is an active part of the relationship. “Give and receive” for me downplays the importance and participation of the object.

  3. I love it, David, especially the development of the sungsang/hyungsang explication in the Exposition of the Divine Principle passage. I will get in touch with you about it.

  4. David,

    I wrote an article for the AU Blog a few years ago — “A Layman’s Cosmology: Speculation on the Origin of Existence and God” — speculating on the origin of existence and God.

    In it, I speculate that existence is actually eternal Original Particles and Atoms, that contain all the characteristics of God, i.e.: internal, external, plus and minus, male and female, time and space, consciousness, etc. And that for these particle making atoms to exist, they must necessarily be in harmony and not in conflict with each other, or nothing could exist. Thus, the energy involved in their interaction must be an energy of love. And, as these particles and atoms interacted and created more and more of the same, like atomic explosions, they reached a critical mass, and in the combined consciousness of that mass, God was born. Or, in the words of Rev. Sun Myung Moon,

    “…and out of this one seed of love came God. Just as you began as one seed of love from your parents. This one small seed then multiplied. So God was made from one single love cell and from this came the entire universe.” (10/21/90)

    I wonder if this in any way resonates with your notions of the DP Principle of Creation, for I too think that passage you quote in the Principle of Creation, p. 16, is key to understanding Existence, God, the spiritual world and the physical word. It ties it all together and is the place where science and spirituality and unite.

    1. Thanks, Henry,

      Yes, your idea certainly seems connected to what I write here. It also touches on the importance of emotion for the Principle of Creation. I haven’t addressed that here, but it too is an important area that needs looking at in greater depth. I hope we can find a way to include emotion in our discussion of the Principle of Creation more fully.

  5. This brings up numerous questions:

    Proficiency in the metaverse doesn’t seem highly correlated with ‘being a good person’ in the regular universe. Being able to kill people (in online games) appears to be a helpful intro to proficiency in the metaverse.

    We’re collectively creating a single metaverse, although there are currently many metaverses. Who created/designed the spirit world if it is in fact a metaverse? Are we discovering it, or are we creating it? What is the relationship between the spirit world and our metaverse?

    Why would it be any easier for spirit people to interact with us within the metaverse than via electronic channels? How come a medium can interact with the spirit world/metaverse? Why can’t we all?

    1. Thanks, Alison.

      Being in the spirit world doesn’t necessarily correlate with being good either. I have read testimony that suggests some people there kill others over and over, too.

      We have also heard there are many “realms” in spirit world just as there are several metaverses. Asking who designed spirit world is a big question because it depends on how you see God and God’s creativity. That would take a whole other article, but in brief, I believe God is a compound being of sungsang and hyungsang too. What about human creativity? Perhaps we are both discovering and creating spirit world at the same time.

      Finally, I think we all have the potential to interact with spirit world, but trauma and our state of growth mean that most don’t. My guess here is that spiritual sensitivity would develop as we pass through the completion stage of the First Blessing.

  6. For me, this brings up two proposals:

    1. Since we are the best medium for communication — spirit body and sprit mind — we could focus more on developing our five spiritual senses –> no “machine” needed

    2. Already there is a technical path…digital cameras. I have seen numerous pictures with spiritual balls or light that cannot be technically explained.


    Recently a sister shared this amazing photo from Paris of light from above at a ten-year memorial (this year) for a Japanese sister who had died in France. No one saw this until they shared photos from the event:

    1. Yes, on an individual level developing our spiritual senses as we pass through the completion stage of the growing period is probably the optimal way to go. Ultimately we probably won’t need a SWM.

      However, I don’t believe the vast majority of people would choose to do this without some major readjustment of perspective. In that regard, I see the SWM as an agent of change. That is, it could be part of driving a cultural transformation, rather than be an end goal in and of itself.

      That is a beautiful and meaningful picture, but consider how spirit world is involved with it. I have seen orb pictures over the years — we discussed them on T2. The sensitivity of sensors in digital cameras allows them to capture transient effects we can’t see with our own eyes. While spirit world may influence when a photographer takes a picture and where the camera is pointed, and maybe even can influence the physical environment in some way, the images themselves are entirely due to physics. Spirit world certainly guided the photographer and intended the meaning in the picture but the image itself is not directly of something spiritual.

      1. You said:

        “…but the image itself is not directly of something spiritual.”

        I disagree. No one present saw that light (I was told), so it was not physical. The only remaining of two choices is spiritual.

        What are spirits? In my view, beings and phenomena of light with high frequency outside the physical eyes’ realm. That frequency is “picked up” by the modern sensitive digital camera. That’s my choice of explanation. 🙂

        1. That is another possible explanation, but frequency of what? You still need something to be vibrating in order to have a frequency. Frequency does not exist by itself, so you are still talking about particles of some kind.

        2. David,

          Radio waves are electromagnetism, that is, waves for sure, not particles. Light is also electromagnetism, and called photons in physics.

          “Considered among the subatomic particles, photons are bosons, having no electric charge or rest mass and one unit of spin; they are field particles that are thought to be the carriers of the electromagnetic field.”

          So with frequency, we are moving away from material…

          I propose that somewhere in the wave spectrum we are coming into spirit world. Just a thought among many.

        3. My personal view is that the elementary particles of the Standard Model of particle physics are neither completely physical nor spiritual, but have some characteristics of both. It is in the relationship between these elementary particles that we get both sungsang and hyungsang, spirit world and physical world.

          So, as described in Divine Principle, it is relationship that is the key, not directly the elementary particles themselves. Photons “carry” electromagnetic interactions, so facilitate relationship between other particles.

          In my scheme, fields are mathematical objects that exist in the inner hyungsang, not the hyungsang.

  7. I am President, WRIST North America. Interesting and fun musings on a deep and important subject.

    I agree that there is likely more to matter than meets a physicist’s (or chemist’s) eye, but getting to the bottom of that in terms of “spirit” vs “matter” and their interaction is clearly a difficult one. The latter requires both illuminating and “objective” facts based on reproducible experiments which have been hard to come by to this time.

    Marconi, Tesla, Edison are famous men who thought radio was the pathway to enable such interaction, but even they failed to find the key to unlock that door. Nevertheless, WRIST, and I am sure many others (e.g., “Soul Phone”) including research efforts at universities, have made and/or are making attempts as we speak. Physics has been moving over time from what we can see (the stars, planets and classical mechanics) more and more to what we can’t see (electric and magnetic fields, atoms, particles, quarks, quantum fields) and it could be that spirit-matter interaction can be modeled with approaches along these lines.

    In terms of the philosophy regarding the sung-sang (SS) and hyung-sang (HS) … you may want to consider an alternative view that in going from atom to molecule, say (or for that matter, in any interaction or level of reality), the SS remains unchanging; what changes is the HS. That is, the law of structure and dynamics which we model in our laws of physics and chemistry are absolute and unchanging, while the individual interactions among things that manifest themselves as realizations of form over different interactions, different places and times is what changes.

    The difference between SS and HS is therefore the difference between “unchanging law” and “constantly changing phenomena”. The fact that we must “shift gears” from one type of modelling (QED, QCD) to another (LCAO calculations or modeling of protein manufacture or messaging at the cellular level) I think is a matter of our need to get tractable answers from models appropriate to their respective level of complexity — rather than a change in the SS or “inherent directive nature” that we are trying to approximate in our models.

    1. Thanks, Andrew.

      I am not completely sure I grasp what you are trying to get at, but it seems to me that you are trying to define sungsang in terms of the traditional concept of spirit. Traditionally, spirit is seen as indivisible, and consequently also unchanging. It is also entirely separate from matter.

      However, I believe Divine Principle is a new religious truth precisely because it presents a completely different take on this. One key concept of Divine Principle where we see this difference is in the spirit body. There is no spirit body in the traditional view. Where does the spirit body fit in your scheme?

    2. Another thought about this. Marconi, et. al., were brilliant. In their day, they were on the cutting edge of science and technology, but the concept of spirit they were working with was old. All the work in the area I have seen still begins from Western concepts of spirit, including attempts to add consciousness to quantum mechanics. It should not be surprising that they cannot make any headway. In my opinion, Divine Principle gives us a new, and very different, understanding of spirit. It points us toward a different path to anything else that is out there right now. We have a novel opportunity.

  8. More thoughts…

    From birth, we are eternal light-beings (energy) who grow through a material physical body — ours or others (returning resurrection).

    Energy has no mass, is not material, and cannot be destroyed, only transformed (physics).

  9. Quote on a reply: “There is no spirit body in the traditional view. Where does the spirit body fit in your scheme?”

    For me it’s obvious that if we have 5 spiritual senses we need a spiritual body to accommodate those senses and to create a full life in spirit world.

  10. If we do have a growing spirit body and if it does have five developing senses, then the inventors should be those who have the most highly developed senses on the “super highway”, i.e., are growing or have grown through the Perfection Stage, specifically the Only Begotten True Mother, True Children, True Grandchildren, and perhaps their spouses? Makes perfect sense (pun)? What proof do you have that any has fully developed spiritual senses? They are how old now?

    You inventors, how long have you calculated it will take you to grow where you will naturally spiritually see or hear or smell or feel (hug) or taste (kiss? lol) disembodied spirits and angels? To what age are you requesting God that you need to live to reach the Direct Dominion? On a scale of spiritual sensitivity, what number are you at today? Your spouse and kids?

    My experience with the world of spirits is that they have no better knowledge than any of us because they are as dull as us. Their science and solutions are no better than ours. One cannot differentiate the good from the evil spirits and angels, just as we cannot here on Earth. The sad tri-schism is a proof of this. So, be careful what you wish for. Unintended consequences can be devastating. What safety measures do you have in place?

  11. It’s likely that the ideal Sprit World Machine, if you will, is my very own mind and body. I have the antennae, I have the receiver, and properly tuned, I am the radio. Surely this is the most immediate and proficient scenario. I believe it could be more fruitful devoting as much effort researching and cultivating in this area as well as other fanciful notions.

  12. David,

    This is a tremendously clever analogy to help explain the metaphysics of spirit world. I agree that some instrument that can show people how to access the spirit world is absolutely essential to create the necessary paradigm shift in cultures worldwide. Only then will people begin working on their own spiritual sensitivity and also understand the real implications of moral choices we make in terms of our spiritual development and freedom. Thank you.

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