God as Heavenly Parent in Rev. Moon’s Early Teachings
By Andrew Wilson
Dr. Andrew Wilson (UTS Class of 1978) is Professor of Scriptural Studies at Unification Theological Seminary. He edited World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts. And this article is adapted from the full version which appears in the Journal of Unification Studies, Vol. XVI, 2015
On January 7, 2013, weeks prior to Foundation Day, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, who since her husband’s passing on September 3, 2012, has led the Unification movement in her capacity as True Mother, declared that henceforth Unificationists should refer to God not as Heavenly Father but as Heavenly Parent.
Many members regarded this as a controversial innovation. Some objected to what they saw as unwarranted tinkering with time-honored tradition while others welcomed it as a step away from a sexist view of God.
However, the term Heavenly Parent, along with its implication that God is the Heavenly Mother as well as the Heavenly Father, was already an established feature of Reverend Moon’s theology, especially in his earliest teaching, Wolli Wonbon (1951).
Although as a rule Rev. Moon referred to God as Heavenly Father, he occasionally gave voice to the term Heavenly Parent. In the Cheon Seong Gyeong (2008), a large anthology of selections from his sermons, the term occurs more than a dozen times. For example,
That is something of a revelation about the Korean people — living with the Heavenly Parents for thousands and tens of thousands of years. (152)
By attending the Heavenly Parent, the heavenly kingdom and the heavenly ancestors, a royal domain will emerge (912)
We have not known that we have such a Heavenly Parent. (1151)
Have you shown filial piety to me as you would to your Heavenly Parents? (2225)
The Cheon Seong Gyeong (2014) includes an excerpt of a 1977 speech in which Rev. Moon refers explicitly to the two genders of Heavenly Parent, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother:
When you go to the spirit world, you will see that there is not only the Heavenly Father but also the Heavenly Mother. Can a living being come to exist without both a mother and father? … That is why the way to heaven comes through the mother as well as the father. (719)
The term occurs once in Exposition of the Divine Principle (151), even though elsewhere God is referred to as Heavenly Father. In fact, that text is equivocal about the gender(s) of God. On the one hand, it characterizes God as primarily a masculine being: “In relation to the universe, God is the subject partner having the qualities of internal nature and masculinity.” That statement would seem to imply that as created beings we should relate to God as our Heavenly Father. On the other hand, it states, “God, as the subject partner, has the dual characteristics of yang and yin in perfect harmony.” That statement can be adduced as supporting the notion that God is both genders of the Heavenly Parent.
God as the Vertical Parent
Conceiving of God as Parent is fundamental to Unification theology, in particular to its Trinitarian understanding of salvation. In its brief discussion of the Trinity, Exposition specifies that because God is a being of dual characteristics, God’s primary manifestations must be man and woman: Adam and Eve prior to the Fall, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and True Parents. (EDP, 170-172) This correspondence is strengthened in many of Rev. Moon’s sermons, where he speaks of God as the “vertical True Parent” and he and his spouse as the “horizontal True Parents.”
The description of God as the “vertical Parent” in this context occurs more than 40 times in the Cheon Seong Gyeong:
God has the qualities of both masculinity and femininity … The invisible Parent is causal, the visible parents resultant. Thus, in the position of parents, God the invisible Parent and these visible parents are to become one based on love. The latter are the horizontal parents and the former the vertical Parent (1728)
God is our real parent. How close He is to us. God as the vertical parent and True Parents as the horizontal parents together realize ideal love. (206, 1805)
The Creator is the Parent of heart centered on true love, and Adam and Eve are the horizontal physical parents. If the Heavenly Parent and earthly Parents had united and become one, and then had sons and daughters, no one born on earth would need a religion. (CSG, 96)
In other words, creation is based on resemblance, and the core resemblance in creation is between God whose essence is duality and human beings who were created male and female. This is what it means to be created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27).
The Trinitarian union of God the vertical Parent and the human True Parents is also the basis for understanding Christology — the union of the divine and the human in True Parents. Since God has two genders, no individual of one gender can incarnate the full image of God. This means Jesus as the male Messiah is not the full incarnation of God, but can be only a partial incarnation. It takes True Parents as a couple to fully embody God in the flesh. In keeping with this, Rev. Moon understood that the core of Jesus’ unfinished mission was to take a wife and establish True Parents.
In many of his late speeches, Rev. Moon referred to True Parents as the “embodiment” (shilchae) of God, literally the “substantial being” of God. Yet it should be clear from the above that the basis of their embodiment is not a simplistic identity, as if Rev. and Mrs. Moon were made of some kind of divine substance, but rather oneness in heart and love, position and authority.
Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). If so, then what kind of God do we see in True Parents? If God’s embodiment is Father and Mother together as True Parents, then the nature of God the Parent must also be as both Father and Mother.
In this regard, the Korean language is helpful because it does not normally distinguish between singular and plural. Its word for parent, or parents, is the same: bu-mo (부모), composed of the words father (bu, 부) and mother (mo, 모). In English we typically distinguish singular and plural in translation; thus when bumo refers to God, we translate in the singular: jongjeogin bumo (종적인 부모) is “vertical Parent.” When bumo refers to earthly parents, we translate in the plural; thus, cham bumo (참부모) is “True Parents.” Both “parent” and “parents” fit within the ambiguity of the Korean language. The decision of singular and plural is an artifact of English.
Heavenly Parent in Wolli Wonbon
Reverend Moon’s first manuscript of the Divine Principle is titled Wolli Wonbon (원리원본) or The Original Text of the Divine Principle. He began writing Wolli Wonbon at the end of April 1951 and completed the text on May 10, 1952.
Despite the historical importance of this work, to date it has not been published, either in Korean or in English. Difficulties in understanding its condensed and complex thought, as well as deciphering the script which in some places is faded and in other places covered with corrections, has made the publication of Wolli Wonbon a forbidding task.
The Unification Theological Seminary library was able to obtain a photocopy of the original manuscript, written in Rev. Moon’s own handwriting and consisting of some 695 pages. We also obtained a photocopy of the handwritten copy made by Won Pil Kim. Efforts to transcribe and translate these manuscripts began in 2003 and are ongoing.
It is evident that Wolli Wonbon is not merely an early draft of Exposition of the Divine Principle but a far greater work. Much of it is concerned with the Principle of Creation, or as it phrases it, “the Principle of the Ideal.”
Wolli Wonbon spends nearly 20 pages discussing universal prime energy, in contrast to Exposition which devotes only one paragraph to its description and less than a page to explaining its action. Another topic elucidated in great detail is the Principle of the Object Partner, which Exposition condenses into one short paragraph about the Three Object Purpose. Then there are scientific topics, including evolution, gravitation, electricity, and magnetism. Also, and a propos our topic, there is considerable emphasis on the genders within God and God’s position as Heavenly Parent — Heavenly Mother as well as Heavenly Father.
The God of Two Genders
Wolli Wonbon, in its treatment of God, discusses the dual characteristics of masculinity and femininity, which it calls the two “genders” of God. There is no mention of God as having the dual characteristics of Internal Character (sungsang) and External Form (hyungsang). That God is a being of dual genders is a major theme from the very outset.
Human beings were created in separate genders, divided from God’s dual genders, so that they can unite in perfect love and dwell in joy:
When God created human beings, He expressed Himself by dividing His genders — male and female, or yang and yin. God created them this way to have them dwell in perfection through their give-and-receive action with each other. (26)
When a man and a woman give and receive such love in oneness of heart and body, then in heaven the genders of God’s love — masculine and feminine — completely manifest the form of God’s Principle of Creation. That is when God can finally bestow His infinite love upon human beings as He has purposed. (31-32)
A page from Wolli Wonbon, handwritten by Rev. Moon in 1951.
God as Heavenly Parent—Heavenly Father and Mother
In Wolli Wonbon, the God of dual genders relates to human beings as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. People’s ignorance about the Mother aspect of God has prevented humankind from manifesting God’s ideal. Accordingly, coming to know God as both Father and Mother is an important starting point moving forward towards the world that God originally purposed for humankind:
Our original Father is the Eternal Father. He is looking for us because He loves us. When we come to know this Being and attend Him as our Father, and likewise when we know this Being and attend Her as our Mother, that is the time when the ideal of recreation will commence on earth. We must know when this time is. We must have the experience of finding our Father and Mother once and for all. (55-56)
Wolli Wonbon laments that humankind’s insensibility to God as both our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother has been a source of tremendous pain and bitterness to God. It stakes out Rev. Moon’s mission and responsibility to resolve this problem:
We human beings must know why throughout human history we have related to God only as our Father and not as our Mother. We have not even thought about why God had to become the Father, but not the Mother. Further, we have not even considered that the fundamental meaning of God is as our Parent — our Father and Mother. How can we even fathom the pain and bitterness of God the Father, who has had to face such children? Human beings have endured all manner of suffering throughout history, yet still they do not grasp this fundamental issue, which is at the root of their difficulties. What a tragedy!
God must be inaugurated as the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Only then can we begin the ideal family as God’s children… The one who will have to realize this ideal on earth is the Lord of the Second Advent. (278)
This last statement speaks directly to the Enthronement Ceremony for the Kingship of God, which True Parents held on January 13, 2001. At that ceremony, two white thrones were employed, representing Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Fifty years earlier in Wolli Wonbon, Rev. Moon already envisioned such a ceremony, bringing God into His/Her complete manifestation on earth as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.
Wolli Wonbon is explicit in stating that the Christian concept of God only as Heavenly Father is incomplete. Yet even though God would wish that humankind knew Him/Her as Heavenly Mother as well as Heavenly Father, that concept could not really emerge into human consciousness until the establishment of True Mother on earth. The following passage speaks to this effort:
God’s earnest desire is to realize this purpose, the completion of the Origin. Therefore, to this day He is seeking for the Mother. There must be a Mother from Heaven as well as a Father from Heaven, because there are earthly fathers and mothers. Only when the Mother from Heaven is established can God become the Original Being and can the earth become the second being, His object partner. This is in accord with what God revealed in the Bible, that the earth is a shadow of heaven (Heb. 8:5). Yet it is here on earth that the entire Principle must be fulfilled. (633)
The record of Rev. Moon’s usage of the term Heavenly Parent to refer to God is well attested in his words and in his theology. In particular, Wolli Wonbon, which he wrote at the very beginning of his ministry, provides a comprehensive explanation of his core theology of God as both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.♦