Religions that Thrive and Religions that Die

By Ronald Brown

Jacques Marion is one of those first generation Unificationists who, he told me, “dropped everything” when he met Reverend Moon and set off to spread the teachings and vision of Unificationism to the world.

He described his years as a missionary in Russia and Africa and the enthusiastic welcome the movement is receiving there. He concluded that it was in times of turmoil and trouble that people are most open to new and often radical solutions. Russia and Africa were in such states when he was there and largely remain so until today.

My conversation with Jacques and other Unificationist missionaries evoked major questions regarding how religions take root, thrive or die.

Why did Buddhism thrive in China, Korea, Japan, and South Asia, while it all but disappeared in its Indian homeland? Why did the Russians adopt Greek and not Roman Christianity, or even Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism as their national religion? Why is Evangelical Christianity sweeping the USA while mainline Christian churches are at best lingering?

In Paris this past summer, I decided to explore how Catholicism became and remains the dominant religion of France. My experience there led me to reflect on how Unificationism might fare in Africa.

The Thermes de Cluny: The latest in modern technology

In the early centuries after Christ, the Gauls swept out of the forests of northern Europe, eliminating all traces of Roman civilization in front of them. They sacked Rome in 387 B.C. but mighty Rome was not so easily humbled. Rome drove them out and back into their primeval forests. Finally, between 58 and 51 B.C. Julius Caesar conquered the barbaric Gauls and founded the city of Lutetia along the banks of the Seine River among the local Gallic tribe of the Parisii.

Little remains of the Roman town of Lutetia except for the underground ruins of the Roman Northern Baths beneath the ruins of the medieval Monastery of Cluny. Of all that remains of the ancient Roman bathhouse the most impressive and insightful was a massive marble bathtub dating from the 2nd century. According to the sign, the tub was made in Rome and brought to Lutetia to serve the ruling elite in the gigantic domed bathhouse.

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Musical Science: Pythagoras, Einstein and Divine Principle

By David Eaton

From time to time, I’ve been asked if I believe in the concept of a “cosmic chord” or a universal “chord of nature”; Klang, as it’s referred to according to Schenkerian music theory. Is there some Aeolian harmony of the spheres that evokes a secret, metaphysical understanding of the laws that govern physics and music? Imagining that cosmic vibrations exist in the universe has been a part of the mythology surrounding music for eons.

When the late singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, wrote his iconic song, “Hallelujah,” he referenced a “secret chord”:

“Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord.
That David played, and it pleased the Lord.”

Could a single chord actually please the Almighty? St. Paul in Romans 1:20 asserts:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

We understand from Divine Principle that the natural world possesses various dual characteristics that maintain their existence and develop by way of harmonious relationships: male/female, stamen/pistil, cation/anion, positive valence/negative valence, for example. Ontologically, the created world reflects the nature of God’s being and essence, and this comports with Paul’s assertion. We can extrapolate that within the Godhead there exists the harmonious union of original masculinity and original femininity, and an original positivity and an original negativity. When examining the theoretical basis of tonal music we find several prominent polar paradigms:

  • Consonant intervals/Dissonant intervals
  • Major modes/Minor modes,
  • Major chords/Minor chords
  • Tonic chord/Dominant chord
  • Primary dominant chords/Secondary dominant chords
  • Tension/Resolution
  • High pitches/Low pitches

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The 21st Century Cities in Global History

By Ronald Brown

Futurists have consistently undervalued the role of the city.  I believe the 21st century megacity will enter human history as an autonomous independent actor and exert a determining influence in world affairs.

Megacities, typically with over ten million population, have constantly increased in size and importance, and today account for 55% of global population. By 2050, this number will increase to 68% according to the UN’s World Urbanization Prospects.

After a brief historical introduction on the changing role of cities, this article describes five characteristics of the 21st century megacity: 1) demographically dynamic, 2) politically autonomous, 3) economically driven, 4) religiously vibrant, and, 5) globally networked.

The changing role of cities

Cities created the great cultures and civilizations of humanity. The rulers of Memphis in Egypt, Ur in Mesopotamia, Xi’an in China, Harappa in India, Athens, Rome, and later Paris, Mexico City, Cuzco, Timbuktu in Africa, London, and New York exploited the surrounding agricultural peoples and natural resources to create kingdoms, empires and states.

These great cities centralized the economies, founded the first writing systems and official languages, wrote law codes, established formal religions, and constructed monumental public buildings. The civilizations these cities created dominated humanity until today.

With the rise of the nation-state, upon the unification of Spain in 1492, the new cities of Madrid, London, Paris, and later New York City, Cairo, Moscow, and Beijing, replaced the cities of old as the creators and disseminators of national and eventually global cultures.

The city continued as the incubator of national cultures until the dawn of the 21st century. In his book, The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman describes the rise of a world in which globalism is replacing nationalism. Globalism, according to Friedman, is marked by the free and unimpeded flow of people, ideas, capital, cultures, languages, products, raw materials, and religions across once impermeable boarders.

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The Christ-Being in the Present Age: “Christ” Seen from the Perspective of Mithraism

By Shinji Gyoten

Reverend Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) diligently studied the Bible in his youth and the Divine Principle was written mainly for Christians in the framework of Christian theology. The Exposition of the Divine Principle has been the core textbook of the Unification Church for a long time; church leaders taught lectures based on Divine Principle and the Bible; in his early days, Rev. Moon himself spoke a great deal about Jesus and biblical stories.

However, in his latter years, Rev. Moon began to speak about God in a broader sense (e.g., the God of Night and the God of Day, in Hoon Dok Hae on April 10, 2011) and other religions beyond Christianity. One time, he referred to the Persian dynasty and said, “That was the absolute dynasty (which should have been realized on God’s side) before the human fall” (in Hoon Dok Hae on October 10, 2011).

This article rediscovers the position of True Parents in the study of comparative religion by exploring the Christ-being from the perspective of Mithraism.

In the 21st century, we have the opportunity to meet “Christ” through guidance of the Holy Spirit as Sophia, who represents the motherhood of God. However, throughout Christian history, “Christ” has been identified with Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God.

In the ancient world, such as Judea, Egypt and India before Christianity spread, “Christ” appeared on earth in the form of supernatural phenomena and incarnation of the gods. Even after Christianity expanded, in the extensive region from the Hellenistic world to central Asia where people believed in Mithraism and Manichaeism (which was influenced by Mithraism), and Buddhism, etc., “Christ” was regarded as Maitreya Bodhisattva.

In explaining the etymology of “Christ,” it is a title indicating a savior, messiah. The original word for“Christ” is the Greek “Χριστός, Christós,” which means “the anointed one” who brings salvation to humankind. This “Christ” is a translation of the Hebrew “מָשִׁיחַ” (Mašíaḥ, messiah) and originated in religious ceremonies in Judaism. However, there is a theory that “מָשִׁיחַ” (Mašíaḥ, messiah) was used in the coronation ceremony of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, while Cyrus the Great, founder of ancient Achaemenid Persia, was called “the messiah” in the Hebrew Bible. A scholar of Mithraism, Masato Tojo, points out that “Mitra was taken as a messiah (savior) and incorporated into Judaism. The word ‘Messiah’ comes from the name Mithia in the southern Iranian dialect of Mithra.”

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“Black Panther”: Theological and Moral Issues Add Impact to Film

By Kathy Winings

It’s official: “Black Panther” is now the third highest-grossing film ever in America, surpassing 1997’s “Titanic,” though it was released theatrically only in mid-February.

Even before the film opened, it enjoyed one of the most aggressive promotional campaigns in recent history and maintained first place in ticket sales for many weeks.

So when I decided to see the movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect – would it live up to the hype or would it be just another Marvel escapist movie? I was so surprised when I found the film was everything it was promised to be and more.

“Black Panther” offers more than the usual Marvel Cinematic Universe fare. It has considerable substance that speaks to our modern world. The film picks up from “Captain America: Civil War” with the return of King T’Challa, known also as the Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman), to his home country of Wakanda for his coronation as its new leader.

From this point forward, though, we begin to see what distinguishes this film from other superhero films. On one level, it offers an interesting balance of traditionalism and modernity.

We are introduced to a point of traditionalism with the coronation process that includes the right to challenge the future king in mortal combat. The example of modernity, on the other hand, is seen in the fact that Wakanda’s technological advancements are far beyond that of the rest of the world thanks to its secret natural resource – a special mineral called vibranium.

The film is built around three challenges facing the new king. Two of the challenges involve threats to T’Challa’s reign. One of these threats is in the form of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a black market arms dealer, smuggler and general nemesis to the King and to Wakanda; your classic bad guy/good guy and good and evil script.

The second challenge comes from an American-born ex-military man, Erik Stevens, a.k.a. “Killmonger,” revealed to be T’Challa’s cousin. An angry young man who was orphaned at a young age and who experienced a race-torn world, Erik (Michael B. Jordan) becomes a formidable opponent to T’Challa. More profoundly, this challenge raises theological and moral questions around the concepts of resentment and anger vs. revenge and forgiveness.

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Gun Control or Heart Control? A Great Awakening?

By David Eaton

In the aftermath of another heinous act of mass murder, this time at a high school in Parkland, Florida, there was the usual spate of hand-wringing over the question of gun laws in the United States.

For the record, I’m not fond of guns and would like to see greater prohibitions on the sale of automatic weapons. That said, it was not at all surprising to hear certain commentators reflexively cite and blame the usual suspects (the NRA, the GOP) for “America’s gun problem.”

In a discussion after the Parkland shooting, MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle asked the rhetorical question, “Is this a cultural problem?” The answer should be fairly obvious.

Our “gun control” problem is a resultant phenomenon, a symptom of a serious cultural and spiritual disorder. By all means, let’s have the debate about guns and laws, but we need to understand this is not fundamentally a “gun problem” but rather a “heart problem.”

It’s well-known that politics is downstream of culture. The Greeks understood this long ago; Plato was very perceptive when he cited musicologist Damon’s assertion that “if you change the songs of a nation soon you will change the laws.”

Politicians and our political punditry are reacting to the Parkland tragedy in the way they have for decades. Rather than examine deeper cultural concerns — family breakdown, sexual immorality, a debased entertainment industry — their focus immediately becomes political.

This is not to suggest there isn’t a law-and-order aspect in the equation. However, we already have many gun laws on the books. Both the Parkland perpetrator and Las Vegas shooter obtained their guns legally. There are as many as 100 million gun owners in the USA and most are law-abiding citizens. Most gun-related crimes in the USA are committed with illegally obtained weapons. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, yet annually leads the nation in gun-related crimes — over 4,000 cases in 2016.

A study on gun–related crime published in 2017 by the federal National Institute of Justice found that between 1993 and 2013 gun ownership increased by nearly 50%. Yet during the same period, gun homicides decreased by nearly 50%. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin pointed to the fact that in the 1950s there were far, far fewer gun laws on the books, yet the kinds of mass shootings we are seeing with disturbing frequency were almost non-existent.

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Global Warming from Mexico to Washington, D.C.

By Ronald J. Brown

The evening of October 9, 2017, I was sitting on the small balcony outside my budget hotel in Palenque, Mexico, when I first met the ancient Maya god Unen Kawiil.

I had learned to expect Mexican cataclysmic manifestations of nature from my many visits there. I experienced earthquakes strong enough to wake me out of a deep sleep, the periodic eruptions of a volcano near Mexico City, rain storms, lightning displays, hurricanes, and roaring thunder enough to make me appreciate the pagan gods who controlled them.

Mexicans are so accustomed to natural disasters and death they have created national holidays to them. The unique Mexican holiday called El Día de los Muertos, “The Day of the Dead,” stretches from October 31 to November 2 and is its most popular holiday. The residents of a death-plagued country spend an entire week honoring death.

My vacation in Mexico from September 25 to October 16 was preceded by natural disasters. On September 7, the state of Chiapas in the southernmost part of the country was rocked by an earthquake measuring 8.1, and aftershocks almost as strong for days afterwards. On September 19, another quake measuring 7.1 struck Mexico City, killing hundreds.

My rich experiences with the powers of nature well-prepared me for the arrival of the Maya god of lightning. I caught my first glimpse of Unen Kawiil announcing his arrival as he crept over the distant jungle. Like a giant, the storm marched across the fertile flat jungle, slowly approaching the base of the Chiapas Mountains and ruins of the many temples and palaces of the city of Palenque that once ruled the plains. Slowly the god crept closer and closer, each time announcing his presence with a flash of lightning from his eye.

Sent ahead to prepare his arrival was a windswept cloak of black clouds and the first pattering of raindrops. By my third glass of wine, he was hovering above, surrounding me with wailing winds, lashing rain, and most importantly, blinding bolts of lightning. It was not the rain or wind that announced the arrival of the god but rather the shattering bolts of lightning.

According to the complex mythology of the kingdom of Palenque, it was such bolts of lightning that first separated the earth from the primal sea and prepared the world for the advent of humanity some 5,319 years ago. According to Palenque inscriptions, Unen Kawiil was born in the year 3,121, only 188 years after creation according to inscriptions.

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Music as Universal Language

By David Eaton

Is music a “universal language” as Longfellow suggested? Or is this merely a platitude, easily debunked as a truism rather than an immutable “truth?”

Most of us would agree with Heinrich Heine, the noted German poet whose poems were set to music by Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn, who averred, “Where words leave off, music begins.”

Regardless of our cultural upbringing, we intuit that music possesses the unique ability to reach places in our soul and psyche in ways that words simply cannot.

Our Founder once said music is analogous to the spiritual realm in that it is invisible, vibratory and touches the heart. We all sense that music “speaks” to us and possesses the ability to convey and express emotions in powerful ways.

Though we may consider music to be a language, the way it speaks to us remains inscrutable and enigmatic. Mendelssohn, a composer whose music exhibits great lyricism and warmth, suggested music is more specific in what it expresses than words written about it could ever be.

That may be true. However, the same piece of music will often “say” different things to different people. Why this happens remains a mystery, but Albert Einstein (who played the violin and loved the music of Mozart) believed there was beauty in the mysterious, and perhaps that’s why we find the transcendent aspects of music to be so enchanting and enticing.

Music’s connection to spirituality and religious ritual can be traced to the earliest civilizations precisely due to its transcendent characteristics. The Sumerians, Chinese and Greeks held to the idea that communication with their gods and ancestors could be more easily facilitated when music worked its conscious-changing magic.

Taking their cue from the Greeks, early Christian philosophers — most notably Boetheus, Augustine and Aquinas — considered music to be a potent moral and ethical force that could either benefit or harm an individual or society due to effects on consciousness — individually and collectively. What music “said” and how it could potentially benefit society became important considerations.

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Collateral Beauty: Generated from the Midst of Chaos

By Jacob David

The last week of July was a horrible week in the political arena in our country.  The conversations that took place between some of the highest officials of our country and members of the press simply cannot be repeated to our children as the language and words used in communication left much to be desired.  I have seen plenty of animosity and hatred in the past.  But I have not heard such obscene and unacceptable language used at the highest level of the political hierarchy.

And now, we are here in this sanctuary to worship a Holy and Righteous God.  We come from such a chaotic world and we see ourselves worshipping and listening to the holy word and singing and praising a holy and loving God.  Here in this sanctuary we do have a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.  People from East and West, North and South, come together at this heavenly banquet.  And what we do here has profound significance and there is beauty in what we do.

This is deeply profound.

And here is where I find this beauty generated in the midst of chaos. Remember, Jesus was born also in a chaotic world at a time when there was so much political upheaval, movement, and migration of peoples around the world. He himself was part of a family that was moving – in that sense of the word, unsettled. He came into this world in that context.  Yet, at Christmas time, we celebrate the beauty of his coming into the world.

So, I like to think of this beauty that Jesus embodies as a collateral beauty, where there is a sense of beauty that is coming out of unexpected places, in the midst of events that were pretty chaotic.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God as a search for fine pearls, on finding one pearl of great value, and a merchant goes and sells all that he had to buy it.  A pearl is a thing of beauty (Matt. 13:45-46). It is fascinating how oysters make pearls.

Unlike diamonds and other gems, as well as gold, a pearl is the product of a living creature. It is also the result of suffering. Down in the depths of the ocean there lives a little animal encased in a shell; we call it an oyster. One day a foreign substance, a grain of sand, intrudes, and pierces its side.

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