The Unification Pater-Materfamilias

By Alexa Blonner

The Paterfamilias motif has dominated world religious history.  It is most obvious in the Roman Catholic Pontiff, but the senior male as the “family” head, holding chief responsibility for carrying out householder and state religious rites and other duties, is a familiar one in most cultures.

The True Parents doctrine of the Unification faith represents a unique innovation.  It replaces the Paterfamilias with a Pater-Materfamilias.

Surprisingly, the Unification True Parents are barely mentioned in the chief Unification text, Exposition of the Divine Principle (EDP), but the concept increasingly featured in the sermons and other homilies of the founder, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, to emerge by the end of his life in 2012 as perhaps Unificationism’s most seminal and distinguishing theological principle.

The True Parents doctrine has been further refined under the leadership of Rev. Moon’s wife, Hak Ja Han.  Indeed, without this doctrine, it is unlikely Mrs. Moon would have been accepted as leader of the Unification movement following her husband’s death.

Paterfamilias

The Roman paterfamilias classically exemplifies the status of the father or male elder as the socially dominant figure. Pater, or “father,” is an Indo-European word that stems back many thousands of years. By a range of evidences, the Indo-European kinship system was patriarchal, patrilocal and patrilineal.  This patriarchalism had cosmological justification. Women were related to the raw, untamed processes of nature while men were associated with the progressive civilizing force by which nature could be tamed.  The male was thusly construed as being the more important of the two genders and deserving precedence.

Among the paterfamilias’ duties was that of priest.  It was his responsibility to faithfully and accurately execute the household religious rites. The Roman Emperor, who from imperial times was also the Pontifex Maximus, or State High Priest, was like the Paterfamilias of the Empire.  He was both the Empire’s administrative and religious caretaker.

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Filial Piety to God and True Parents

By Andrew Wilson

True Mother calls the culture of Cheon Il Guk “hyo-jeong culture.” Hyo is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese character 孝 (Chinese pronunciation xiào) meaning filial piety, and jeong (정) is a pure Korean term meaning a deep connection of heart to one another.

Dr. Thomas Selover, in a brilliant paper presented at a PWPA conference in Korea in February, described hyo as defining our vertical relationship to God and True Parents, and jeong as our abiding connection of heart to brothers and sisters horizontally, extending to all humankind. Thus, to have hyojeong is to have a mind and heart devoted to Heaven and that also connects us to everyone in our family and to our community, nation, world, and cosmos.

The two concepts hyo and jeong naturally create a world that is a perfect sphere because God and True Parents, the object of hyo, have love that is universal and impartial. True Mother said as much when she declared at the opening of the HyoJeong World Peace Foundation, “I will expand the foundation to give equal benefits to mankind, making people know the original meaning of heaven and of our Heavenly Parent.”

Thus, in loving God and True Parents with filial piety, our jeong, manifest in living for the sake of others, also becomes universal. It does not discriminate or show partiality to family, tribe, race or nation, because it is imbued with the universal love of God and True Parents.

Here I focus on the concept of filial piety. The etymology of the character hyo, 孝 is commonly described as a son, 子 (Korean ja, Chinese ) carrying an old man 老 (Korean no, Chinese lao) on his back.

Several deeper spiritual meanings of hyo have been suggested; one takes the topmost strokes as a cross, while the intersecting horizontal and diagonal strokes resemble an A-frame carrier that a man in old Korea might have used to carry a load on his back; hence the whole character depicts a son carrying the cross of the providence. Or, the topmost cross is the Chinese character for the number 10, meaning completion, which gives a similar meaning: carrying the burden of completing God’s Kingdom. Certainly this has been True Parents’ heart in attending Heavenly Parent.

What’s important to understand about filial piety is that it mainly describes an adult child taking care of his or her elderly parents. It is not to “honor your father and mother” by being an obedient child while you are young and your parents are in their prime and in command.

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Challenges to True Mother’s Leadership

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Part II of a two-part article. Part I can be read here.

By Thomas Selover

2014-04-23 15.01.09 croppedMany factors can be identified as contributing causes to the direct challenges that True Mother’s leadership has faced. Here I will focus on two elements of East Asian culture, the concept of filial piety and the Korean royal tradition.

The Problem of Filial Piety

One of the issues concerns the strength as well as the limitations of the traditional concept of filial piety (효孝). The centrality of filial piety in East Asian culture is widely recognized. Moreover, there are many passages in True Father’s teachings that emphasize the father-son relationship, particularly toward God as Heavenly Father.

A specific Confucian requirement of filial duty relevant to understanding the present controversies in the Unification movement is that a filial son should not make changes to his father’s ways for three years after the father has passed on. According to Confucius, “If for three years he makes no change from the ways of his father, he may be called filial.” Therefore, according to this tradition, it is a son’s duty not to make changes for at least three years. Thus, from a son’s point of view, objections to changes that were made during the three-year mourning period for True Father would have the backing of centuries of Confucian moral sensibility.

Filial piety is indeed a strong cultural virtue in East Asia, especially in Korea, and is good as far as it goes. But, in contrast, the classical Confucian tradition offers very little content on the husband-wife relationship. At best, the ontology of East Asian philosophy supports a concept of reciprocity between husband and wife, based on the yin-yang model, but reciprocity by itself can be emotionally cold. The Buddhist tradition also, with its emphasis on celibacy as a path of spiritual discipline, is lacking in persuasive accounts of relational love and virtue between husband and wife. The way that True Parents teach about the relationship between husband and wife, emphasizing true conjugal love as the core, is a missing ingredient in East Asian tradition.

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The Providential Significance of True Mother’s Leadership

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This is Part I of a two-part article. Part II will appear next week.

By Thomas Selover

2014-04-23 15.01.09 croppedOn September 3, 2012, the Unification Church and movement entered a new and critical phase in its development. Long foretold by sociologists of religion and new religion watchers, the seonghwa (ascension) of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification movement, was accompanied and followed by anguish, confusion and realignment on various levels.

Even a brief review of the history of major religious movements shows that, in each case, the passing of the founder occasioned a fundamental transformation of the religious movement. Those movements that successfully transformed were able to survive and develop; those that did not have disappeared. The crisis of succession, or what sociologist Max Weber termed the problem of “the routinization of charisma,” would seem to be an inevitable turning point in the history of religious movements. The Unification movement is not an exception; this crisis and transformation were unavoidable.

The Unification movement is now in a very new stage of the providence, beyond what has been charted in previous understandings of the Principle and of Rev. Moon’s teachings. Even if events after his passing had unfolded in a different way, the novelty of the situation and its challenges would have been present nonetheless. Unification sources — especially the Divine Principle books, but also True Father’s speech volumes from earlier days — do not give us a comprehensive account of this time, although they do contain insights that we need. So there is a necessity for members to pray, study, and discuss together, seriously and respectfully.

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Neo-Confucian Principle(s) in the Thought of Sun Myung Moon

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by Thomas Selover

2014-04-23 15.01.09 croppedReverend Moon was arguably one of the most influential of modern Koreans, and certainly one of the most controversial. In order to better understand his thought, it is natural and helpful to pay attention to Korean cultural influences, including Confucian and Neo-Confucian content, which have helped to shape the patterns of his thinking.

In his autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen, Rev. Moon recounts his early childhood in an environment where fervent Christian revivalism was spreading in a society deeply imbued with Confucian patterns of life and thought. He noted,

When I turned ten, my father had me attend a traditional school in our village, where an old man taught Chinese classics… At school, we read the Analects of Confucius and the works of Mencius, and we were taught Chinese characters.

Through this education, he developed a life-long love of Chinese characters, and he delighted in expounding new insights from the form of the characters. This article explores some family resemblances between Neo-Confucian thought and Unification thought in four areas, hoping to shed some intriguing light in both directions.

Li  理 as “Principle”

The first evidence of Neo-Confucian content is in the phrase “Divine Principle” or “The Principle,” used in ordinary Unification parlance as shorthand for Rev. Moon’s teachings, particularly insofar as those teachings are understood to be revelatory. Because the Divine Principle (DP) text relies on biblical quotations to advance its philosophical and theological points, it has generally been  viewed in relation to Christian theology. However, the background for many of the ideas contained in the DP book, including the title itself, can be traced to Confucian and Neo-Confucian themes instead.

In Neo-Confucian thought, li (principle) signifies the inherent principles of the natural world, as well as our human ability to understand those principles (intelligibility). For Neo-Confucian thought, li are immanent in the world of experience, rather than being primarily conceptual or formulaic.

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