III. Traditional Ontologies and Unification Thought

The theory of God, or the theory of the origin of the universe, that is, ontology, has traditionally been held to be the basis of a philosophical system. Hence, the way one addresses problems is generally determined by one’s ontology. Let me here introduce the fundamental ideas of past ontologies, and their impact, or lack thereof, in solving actual problems.

View of God in Augustine and Thomas Aquinas
Affirming that God is spirit, Augustine asserted that God produced matter from nothing and created the world. Likewise, Thomas Aquinas inherited Aristotle’s principle of matter and form and regarded God as the supreme “pure form,” in which there is no matter. Like Augustine before him, Aquinas maintained that God created the world out of nothing.

How does such an understanding of God relate to actual problems? Since these views regard the spirit as primary and matter as secondary, there developed the tendency to deny the physical world and to attach importance only to the spiritual world. This resulted in the view that the only thing that is important is salvation in the world after death. Such a view dominated the Christian world for a long time. Nevertheless, matter is necessary in our actual life; hence, the Christian’s life has remained in a contradictory state, with one pursuing material goods in actual life while, at the same time, holding material things to be of little value in the realm of one’s faith. Consequently, with Christian theology, the solution of actual problems on earth was impossible from the beginning, since many problems of our life on earth are related to material things.

The fundamental reasons that Christian theology could not but fail in solving actual problems are: first, it regarded God as purely spiritual, matter originating from nothing; and second, it did not clarify the motivation and purpose of God’s creation.

Li-Ch’i Theory
During the Sung dynasty, the Neo-Confucianist Chou Tun-i (Chou Lien-hsi, 1017-73) asserted that the origin of the universe is the Great Ultimate (or T’ai-chi). Chang Tsai (Chang Hêng-ch’ü, 1020-77) called it the Ultimate Vacuity (or T’ai-hsu). Both spoke of Ch’i as the unity of yin and yang. Since Ch’i can generally be equated with matter, these theories were close to materialism.

In contrast, the Li-Ch’i Theory advocated by Ch’eng I (Ch’eng Ich’uan, 1033-1107) stated that all things are composed of Li and Ch’i together. This theory was perfected by Chu Hsi (1130-1200). Li was seen as an intangible substance existing behind phenomena, and Ch’i was matter. Chu Hsi asserted that Li was more essential than Ch’i, and that Li was not only the law of heaven and earth but also the law within humanity. Accordingly, he saw that the law followed by heaven and earth and the ethical law of human society are manifestations of this same Li.

In daily life based on this thought system, one strove to maintain harmony and to live in accordance with the law of heaven and earth. Eventually, people came to focus on maintaining order and observing social ethics. Moreover, since everything was attributed to law, people became prone to taking a bystander’s attitude with regard to change and/or crisis in nature and society. It became unlikely for such people to opt for a creative and active way of life leading to dominion over nature and development of society. As a result, those who lived by the Li-Ch’i theory were not able to deal effectively with actual problems. The fundamental limitation of this thought system is that the motivation and purpose for which all things appeared from the Great Ultimate or from Li-Ch’i were never clarified.

Hegel’s Absolute Spirit
According to G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), the origin of the universe is God, who is the Absolute Spirit, Logos, or Notion. Notion develops by itself through contradictions according to the dialectical form of development, i.e., the three stages of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. When Notion self-develops and achieves the level of Idea, it alienates itself (or negates itself) to become nature. Idea appears as spirit in human beings, and in human beings Idea recovers itself and, after passing through many stages of development, it finally realizes itself as the Absolute Spirit. In other words, it returns to itself (Absolute Spirit) which was/is the starting point. Thus, Hegel regarded human history as the process wherein Logos actualizes itself, and he maintained that human society, through the actualization of a rational state, would ultimately take on a rational form in which freedom would be realized to the highest degree, and human society would realize its most rational form.

In Hegel’s philosophy, the world and history are the processes of the self-actualization of Logos; therefore, human society would naturally become a rational form according to the dialectical form of development. He believed that this rational state would be actualized in Prussia. In this view, we are relegated to the status of being onlookers in the face of irrational reality, since we should entrust the actual development of society to the law of necessity.

In addition, Hegel’s view that nature is Idea, in the form of otherness, could be regarded as a type of pantheism, with which the solution of any actual problems becomes quite difficult. Hegel’s philosophy, moreover, could easily lead one into atheistic humanism or materialism. His perspective would also provide a foundation for the later rise of the Marxist theory of struggle, since it regarded contradiction as the impetus for development. In other words, Hegel’s philosophy failed to solve the actual problems of Prussian society; instead, it provided the basis for the appearance of atheistic philosophies like Marxism. All these consequences stem from the fact that Hegel regarded God as Logos, and the dialectical self-development of Logos as God’s creation.

Schopenhauer’s Blind Will
A. Schopenhauer (1788-1860), in opposition to Hegel’s rationalism, asserted that the essence of the world is irrational. In his view, the essence of the world is the will working blindly, without any purpose, which he called a “blind will to life” (blinder Wille zum Leben). The human being is moved by this blind will to life, and is reduced to living merely for the sake of living. Human beings thus live without any kind of satisfaction, always seeking after something. Satisfaction and happiness are merely temporary experiences; what exists more enduringly is just dissatisfaction and pain. He regarded this world essentially as a “world of pain.” What arises from the philosophy of Schopenhauer is pessimism. He advocated salvation from the world of pain through artistic contemplation and religious asceticism; nevertheless, what he actually offered was no more than a theory of escape from reality―hardly a solution to any actual problems.

The reason why Schopenhauer failed in solving actual problems is that he did not know the reality of God’s creation and His providence of salvation, and he did not realize that the world is dominated by evil.

Nietzsche’s Will to Power
In contrast to Schopenhauer, who assumed a pessimistic attitude toward life and said that the essence of the world is the blind will to life, Friedrich W. Nietzsche (1848-1900) stated that the essence of the world is a “will to power” (Wille zur Macht), and assumed an attitude of thoroughly affirming life. The will to power is the will to seek to be strong, and to control. He established the concept of the “superman” (Übermensch) as an ideal image embodying the will to power, and asserted that the human being must endure any fate and must be ready to suffer any pain which life presents in the process of striving to achieve the status of a superman. Moreover, Nietzsche radically denied Christianity and proclaimed that God was dead. He asserted that Christian morality sympathizes with the weak, denies the strong, and opposes the essence of life and is, in effect, a slave morality.

Consequently, Nietzsche’s view represents a denial of all the traditional views of value. Furthermore, his concept of the will to power led to the adoption of force as a way of solving actual problems. Hitler and Mussolini would later make use of Nietzsche’s thought as a means of maintaining their power. In short, Nietzsche also failed in solving actual problems.

Needless to say, Nietzsche’s failure is that he denied the true God. What he should have denied is only the false God. Yet, the only God he knew was the false God, and in his denial he came to deny even the true God. Hence, he was destined to fail from the beginning.

Marx’s Materialism
Based on the materialist dialectic, Karl Marx (1818-83) asserted that the essence of the world is material and that the world develops through the struggle of opposites, or contradictory elements. Social transformation, according to Marx, can not be accomplished by means of religion or justice, but only through class struggle, violently changing the material relations of production (i.e., the economic system). His revolutionary theory, based on the materialist dialectic, was another method of solving actual problems.

The human being was held to be a class-bound being, belonging either to the ruling class or to the ruled class. A person was recognized to have value as a human being only when he or she participated in revolutionary activity by joining the struggle on the side of the ruled class (i.e., the proletariat). Marx’s ideas contained no value perspective that would respect an individual’s personality as something absolute. This is why Marxists have been able, without any guilt of conscience, to carry out massive massacres of those people who were of no utility value to the revolution, or who opposed the revolution.

Today, those Communist regimes based on Marxism, have collapsed in East Europe and in Russia. The revolutionary theory based on Marx’s dialectical materialism failed completely in solving actual problems. The reasons for its failures are: first, it unconditionally denied God without knowing the true God; and second, it advocated social reform through violence, disregarding the heavenly principle that violence necessarily gives rise to violence.

Ontology of Unification Thought
As we have seen from the above discussion, the way in which one understands the origin of the universe, and the attributes of God, determines the way one understands the essence of the human being and the nature of society and history―and this will ultimately determine the method to be used in solving the actual problems of human life and society. Logically, then, achieving a correct view of God, or a correct ontology, can lead to a correct and fundamental solution to the actual problems of human life, society and history.

According to the ontology of Unification Thought, namely, the Theory of the Original Image, the core of the attributes of God is Heart. Within the Original Sungsang, centering on Heart, Inner Sungsang (i.e., intellect, emotion, and will) and Inner Hyungsang (i.e., ideas, concepts, etc.) are engaged in give and receive action, and Original Sungsang and Original Hyungsang (pre-matter) are also engaged in give and receive action. This is the way in which God exists. When purpose is established by Heart, give and receive action becomes developmental, and creation takes place.

Traditional ontologies are centered on reason, or on will, or on an idea, or on matter itself. Moreover, some traditional ontologies are monistic (asserting either that the spirit alone is substantial or that matter alone is substantial), whereas others are dualistic (asserting that spirit and matter are substances that are mutually independent from each other), and so forth. From the perspective of Unification Thought, it can be said that traditional ontologies have not fully succeeded in correctly understanding the reality of God’s attributes nor the relationships among those attributes.

On the other hand, the ontology of Unification Thought clearly and concretely explains the motivation and purpose of creation, the content of the attributes of God, and the structure among those attributes. Hence, a standard for the fundamental solution of actual problems can be established. The only need now is for the world’s leaders to understand this and to strive to live life and to guide their societies based on this standard.