Unification Thought’s Methodology and the Dual Characteristics

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 5, 2003 - Pages 81-92

Unification Thought, as developed by Dr. Sang Hun Lee, differs from the Divine Principle in several ways. One of the more significant ways relates to its underlying principles of development. The Divine Principle organizes the basic content of Rev. Moon’s thought and then lays it out in a mostly descriptive way. There is little attempt to analyze, compare, develop or even justify the concepts; they are simply described. Unification Thought is completely different. In Unification Thought we find many of the concepts from the Divine Principle, but they are often developed and changed somewhat. New concepts are introduced and the basic ideas are applied to the fields of systematic philosophy in ways that I do not believe are directly found in Rev. Moon’s speeches. There is also more analysis and comparison with other systems of thought, and in the various texts of Unification Thought there is clearly a progression and development of the ideas themselves.

Unification Thought is thus more than just a retelling of Rev. Moon’s thought. Understanding in what way it is different and how it was developed can point the direction to develop Unification Thought in a consistent and verifiable way, and allow critique of the existing text.


Methodology in Unification Thought

Since our concern is with the underlying principles of the development of Unification Thought, we need to look at the methodology of the text. There is, however, more than one sense of meaning of the term methodology. One sense is concerned with the principles of inquiry in a given science. That is, it is concerned with the actual methods involved in practicing the science. A second sense is related to the theoretical foundation of the methods of scientific cognition,[1] which is closer to a set of rules and postulates than to the actual practice of the science. It is in the first sense of the term, analysis of the principles of inquiry in Unification Thought, which is of primary concern in this paper.

Unification Thought does propose a methodology, called the give and receive method.[2] This method derives from the structure presented in the first chapters. That is, it has inner, outer, identity maintaining and developing structure. Unification Thought’s section on the give and receive method, however, follows an historical review of methodologies that makes it clear that it is primarily concerned with methodology in the second sense of the term. That is, it is concerned with the theoretical foundation of the methods of scientific cognition. Thus the primary examples given in the section of methodology relate to ontology, as a set of rules and postulates, and are not immediately applicable to principles of inquiry. The principles of inquiry into Unification Thought itself do not appear to be a consideration of the text.

From the perspective of uncovering the principles of inquiry into Unification Thought, we would be at a dead end were it not for one small passage. In this passage Dr. Lee makes the connection between the give and receive method and the deductive and inductive methods.

Deductive method is the method of logical development through inner give and receive action that takes place within the human mind. In contrast, inductive method is the method of examining things in the external world – therefore, it is a method based on outer give and receive action. In unification methodology, inner and outer give and receive actions take place in unity. Therefore, in unification methodology, the inductive and deductive methods are united.[3]

Although I believe Dr. Lee is here discussing the second sense of the term methodology, the inductive and deductive methods are related to principles of inquiry. Thus, we have a connection to something that can be applied to the principles of inquiry in Unification Thought, which can also be used to analyze the development of Unification Thought itself.

The give and receive method unites the deductive and inductive methods as a unity of inner and outer structure. How these two methods combine in inquiry into a field can be seen in natural science. Although natural science is often considered to be inductive by nature since it relies upon observation, the actual practice, or process of inquiry, involves both inductive and deductive methods. This can be seen in the interplay between empirical and theoretical science. Empirical science is mostly inductive, but often relies upon theory to point the direction of experiments. On the other hand theoretical science is mostly deductive, but its results must be confirmed by observation. Deduction alone does not constitute sufficient proof; neither does observation without a theoretical understanding. Thus the practice of natural science is a unification of the deductive and inductive methods, and the result is a systematic body of knowledge that is the basis for further inquiry.

Unification Thought may also be called a science. Not only because it is clear that it intends to be a systematic body of knowledge with its own methodology (second sense of the term), but also because of this inner and outer connection of deduction and induction in its practice. Thus the method of inquiry in Unification Thought, like natural science, is a process that combines logical reasoning with observable facts (what is meant here by observable facts will be discussed below in section 2). Furthermore, as a consequence of this method there are two tests for the verification of an idea corresponding to the inner and outer structure of the method: first, is the argument for the development of the idea logically sound, and second, does the idea match the observed facts.


Unification Thought as Theology

One major difference between Unification Thought and natural science is that the former assumes the existence of God and primarily deals with God and God’s relation to His creation. As a science dealing with God and God’s relationships, Unification Thought should more properly be thought of as theology rather than philosophy or natural science, though it does have connections to both. Theology deals with the science of God’s revelation of Himself, where that revelation can take several forms:

First, there is revelation through the creation, or natural revelation; this is the emphasis of the Divine Principle. In the Principle of Creation the basic ideas about God are drawn from an observation of common characteristics of all things.[4] This is an inductive approach. On the other hand, in Unification Thought correspondence with creation is seen as a verification the ideas,[5] which is more the deductive approach. In both texts the revelation of God through the creation is an essential component. Traditional Christian theology has downplayed natural revelation because it is not seen to have any salvific content, but the Divine Principle gives it its proper place. In this sense of natural revelation, natural science could also be considered to be theology.

In addition to natural revelation God also reveals himself to people in a specific way. For traditional Christianity this specific revelation comes through scripture and the person of Jesus Christ. For Unificationism we must also consider specific revelation to come though the thought of Rev. Moon.

As already stated above, the method of inquiry inherent in Unification Thought is that of an inner and outer structure of deduction and induction combining logical reasoning and observable facts. We can now understand that the content of the observable facts for the outer give-and-receive action of the method derives from revelation. Both natural revelation and special revelation need to be considered. That is, the observable facts in Unification Thought derive both from observation of the creation and from Rev. Moon’s thought. The second test of verification of an idea will thus also need to include both.


Application to Unification Thought

I believe that much of Unification Thought as it currently exists, neglecting the extensive comparisons with previous systems of thought, is thus a result of the application of logical reasoning to the content of Rev. Moon’s thought (in particular the Divine Principle) and observation of the creation. This is evident in such things as the types of subject and object,[6] the connected body,[7] even in the kinds of four-position bases.[8] Much of the later chapters too, such as those on epistemology or history are in most part developed through a logical application of the structures developed in the first chapters on Ontology and the Theory of the Original Image. Thus, just as in any science, it is possible to critique Unification Thought from a logical analysis of the structures presented and from observation of creation. This would be in accord with the inner and outer structure of the give-and-receive method applied to the method of inquiry in Unification Thought.

Let us apply this understanding of the method of inquiry and tests of verification to the specific example of the dual characteristics and their relationship, which would appear to be fundamental components of Rev. Moon’s thought. Anyone familiar with Rev Moon’s style of teaching, which mostly occurs in the form of speeches, will, however, be aware that he does not outline things in a dry systematic way. It is thus the task of those who follow to uncover the basic components and organize them in a systematic way that corresponds to existence. Fortunately much of that uncovering has been accomplished in the Divine Principle and Unification Thought itself. There is also a degree of systematization in both works (especially Unification Thought), but the systematization is not complete, and there are still unresolved issues. This is true even for such concepts as the dual characteristics.

a. Analysis of the Dual Characteristics

A fundamental insight of Rev. Moon, reflected in both the Divine Principle and Unification Thought, is that all existence is relational. The relational nature of existence is primarily demonstrated through two sets of dual characteristics, sungsang and hyungsang and yang and yin. In the Divine Principle sungsang and hyungsang are applied to relationships within a being and yang and yin are applied to relationships within and between beings. Thus, regarding the latter, we read:

Every entity possesses dual characteristics of yang (masculinity) and yin (femininity) and comes into existence only when these characteristics have formed reciprocal relationships, both within the entity and between it and other entities.[9]

The concepts of yang and yin are then developed through a discussion of male and female, and positive and negative electrically charged particles.

The Divine Principle does not clearly distinguish its usage of the terms yang and yin from traditional Chinese thought. Traditional Chinese thought also views all things as relational, but applies the terms yang and yin to all relationships. This would include relationships normally regarded as sungsang and hyungsang by the Divine Principle. Also, as Dr. Lee points out in Unification Thought, Chinese thought also sometimes regards yang or yin as substances and sometimes as attributes.[10] Furthermore, in limiting its discussion of relationship between beings to male and female and positive and negative electrically charged particles, the Divine Principle does not explain all possible kinds of relationship within the context of dual characteristics. One is left to assume that the larger significance of yang and yin in Chinese thought applies to all relationships between beings.

In The Divine Thought, Dr. Lee deals with yang and yin as attributes of an existing being’s sungsang and hyungsang. He is distancing Unification Thought from Chinese thought because, in this view, the substance of a being is never seen as yang and yin, but rather has yang and yin attributes. In its description of yang and yin, Unification Thought goes on to describe them primarily in terms of relative aspects of a single being’s sungsang and hyungsang. The relationship between convex and concave in the hyungsang is one example. Also,

As for the yang and yin characteristics of the hyungsang, these are protuberances and orifices, bulges and hollows, front and back… mountain and valley, and so forth.[11]

This passage also gives some characterizations that are not exclusively applied to a single being, but could be, such as light and dark, strong and weak, pure and impure, hot and cold, day and night, summer and winter, and heaven and earth. Yet there is no explicit definition of yang and yin in terms of a relationship between two separated beings. It follows, therefore, that the basic yang and yin relationship described in Unification Thought occurs within a single being, not between two separate beings. Furthermore, in this part of the text at least, yang and yin attributes do not appear to be attributes of the matter of a being. Rather they seem to derive from the fact of a being’s existence, giving rise to such attributes as convex and concave (shape), inside and outside, etc.

This treatment of yang and yin leads to a problem. The problem is how to deal with relationships between beings within this framework of dual characteristics, when they are defined with respect to relative aspects arising from the fact (not matter) of an individual beings existence. In order to account for this Dr. Lee does suggest that at each level there is a yang substantial being and a yin substantial being.[12] These are further identified, in a fashion similar to the Divine Principle, as male and female in living beings and as positive and negative electrically charged particles in inorganic matter. This, however, seems like a second definition of the terms yang and yin. It appears to be a throwback to the more traditional definition.

To make the connection between the two definitions Dr. Lee suggests that a male being has more yang attributes and a female more yin.[13] However, in the subsequent discussion of the creation he again basically only gives examples relative to a single being rather than describe a relationship between separate beings.[14] It is not clear from the text how attributes that derive from the fact of an individual being’s existence allow for relationship between beings.

In addition to this problem, just as in the Divine Principle, many relationships between separate beings are not accounted for in considering yang and yin between beings to be male and female or positive and negative electrical charges. In the next section of the text Dr. Lee gives a partial solution to this problem by proposing a third set of dual characteristics for created beings. This third set of dual characteristics, called principle element and subordinate element, are said to arise from the temporal and spatial nature of the world,[15] and are not found in the Original Image. This third set of dual characteristics neatly solves many of the problems with the treatment thus far in Unification Thought. It makes a complete break with traditional thought, which essentially considers all subject and object relationship to be yang and yin. At the same time it accounts for relationships not covered from the perspective of yang and yin as attributes. Also, it fits fairly well with observed patterns of relationships.

I believe that in developing the concepts yang and yin as attributes and in adding this third set of dual characteristics Dr. Lee has applied the method discussed above. That is, he has applied deductive reasoning (inner four-position base) to solve problems relative to his understanding of Rev. Moon's thought. Then this deduction is confirmed by comparison with creation (outer four-position base). Moreover his solution, to posit a third set of dual characteristics, works within the context of Unification Thought. It solidifies the break with traditional thought and supports the concept of yang and yin as attributes by attempting to account for all relationship within the context of dual characteristics. Further evidence suggesting that this third set of dual characteristics was developed through logical reasoning is that the concept does not appear in the earlier works Explaining Unification Thought and Unification Thought. In those texts this problem is not addressed, and the situation is left in a similar state to that in the Divine Principle. However, since the concept as it appears in Essentials of Unification Thought was developed by reason, it may not be the only solution to this problem. It may be critiqued from the perspective of the logic inherent in the material or from observation drawn from the creation.

b. Critique of the Dual Characteristics as Presented in Unification Thought

As shown above, Dr. Lee's treatment of the dual characteristics of yang and yin and principle element and subordinate element logically derives from the consideration of yang and yin as attributes of a being and not its substance. There are, however, a couple of weak spots in the argument. In particular there is the difficulty of moving from definitions based on an individual being to relationships between beings, and the third set of dual characteristics is not itself a perfect solution to the perceived difficulty.

In order to address the first point it is important to discuss what is meant in this context by substance. The common use of the term (also used in natural science) refers to the material of the being, whereas its philosophical use is more abstract. The philosophical usage dates to Aristotle and refers to the thing in itself as distinct from just its material part.[16] Initially Dr. Lee seems to use the term substance in the philosophical sense,[17] but in the section on ontology his treatment of yang and yin seem to imply that he is using the term in the common sense. This is because in his discussion of the hyungsang attributes of yang and yin he tries to avoid discussing attributes that are attributes of the material substance of a being.[18] Moreover, traditional Chinese thought would not have had the connotations of substance peculiar to western philosophy, but would have regarded the material substance of something as yang or yin as well as such attributes as convex and concave. The text is thus not clear on this point, but leans toward the common usage.

Also, even with the third set of characteristics, the transition from yang and yin as relative attributes of a single being, that are not part of the material substance of the being, to yang and yin between beings is still incomplete. The application to male and female in living beings does work reasonably well, but the application to inorganic matter is still a problem. This is because yang and yin are applied to electrically charged particles in matter, and in order to deal with them as yang and yin we have to invoke the more traditional perspective that regards the material substance of a being as yang and yin. An electron, for example, is a charged particle. Its charge is an integral part of the material substance of the particle. There are also fundamental particles that have a positive charge as part of the substance of the particle. Thus to apply yang and yin to electrical charge is to move back toward the traditional definition of the terms, where the material substance of a being can be considered to be yang or yin.

Let us now turn to the third set of dual characteristics. Although it neatly solves logical problems in dealing with yang and yin as attributes within the context of the text, it is not a perfect solution. Probably the biggest problem with this solution comes in justifying the structure of the Original Image. God is wholly separate from both the spiritual and physical universes, so as such cannot be studied directly. The Divine Principle makes what I believe is the best argument in support of the understanding of God by the principle of resemblance:

Just as a work of art displays the invisible nature of its maker in a concrete form, everything in the created universe is a substantial manifestation of some quality of the Creator’s invisible divine nature. As such each stands in a relationship to God. Just as we can come to know the character of an artist through his works, so we can understand the nature of God by observing the diverse things of creation.

Let us begin by pointing out the common elements which are found universally throughout the natural world.[19]

In other words, the contents and structure of the Original Image are inductively deduced from common characteristics found in all creation. I believe this is the only plausible justification that can be given for the contents and structure of the Original Image as presented in Unification Thought. So this principle of resemblance between God and His creation is an important fundamental principle or postulate.

In developing his third set of dual characteristics, however, Dr. Lee only applies them to the creation. Here we have a set of characteristics common to all things that does not find its source in the Original Image. This breaks the principle of resemblance, which I believe should be more fundamental than the dual characteristics. There are reasons Dr. Lee does not apply this third set of characteristics to the Original Image. Primarily, it is because he is presenting a picture of a unified, indivisible, God, whereas the third set of characteristics derives from the logic required from consideration of yang and yin as attributes and the divisible, discrete, nature of the creation. This tension between an indivisible God, divisible creation, and the principle of resemblance is not clearly resolved in either the Divine Principle or Unification Thought. Personally, I believe the principle of resemblance must be the guide and that the view of the Original Image should be adjusted (see also below in the conclusion). The alternative is to undermine the foundation of both the Divine Principle and Unification Thought.

Additionally, there are possible relationships in the physical world that even this third set of characteristics does not adequately describe. Such is the gravitational attraction between two suns of equal mass, where there is no discernable principal element or subordinate element. Hence, even within the context of the text itself this third set of dual characteristics is still an incomplete explanation.

c. An Alternative Suggestion

It appears that Unification Thought runs into problems in distancing itself from the traditional concepts of yang and yin by using terminology from western philosophy. I believe the way forward is to first limit use of the term substance solely to its common (scientific) usage. Then, when looking at an existing being, we can discern two kinds of attributes: those that arise from the fact of the being’s existence, such as those described in Unification Thought, and those that are inherent to the substance of the being. Those attributes inherent to the substance of the being, such as charge, are the attributes that allow it to relate to other beings. In order to distinguish these two kinds of attributes I will call them here substantive, or intrinsic, attributes and non-substantive, or extrinsic attributes. Intrinsic attributes relate to the substance of a being, such as the mass and charge of a particle,[20] which describe the substance of the being and allow relationship between beings. Extrinsic attributes, on the other hand, are not directly related to the substance of the being itself, but rather relate to such things as the shape of the being, its top and bottom, center and periphery, convex and concave parts, etc.

In order to apply the terms yang and yin to relationships both within and between beings, the definitions of yang and yin need to include both intrinsic and extrinsic attributes. The corollary here is that, when dealing with intrinsic attributes, the substance of the being will need to be considered as yang and yin. What remains is the question about how to apply yang and yin to intrinsic attributes. Here there are two possibilities.

First, just as in the Divine Principle and Unification Thought, we can restrict them to male and female in living beings and positive and negative electrical charge in matter. This is tempting because there is then a convenient correspondence between living and non-living beings. However, this view still requires something like Dr. Lee’s third set of dual characteristics to account for all types of relationship. Moreover, matter has several kinds of intrinsic attributes. Why single out one kind of intrinsic attribute for consideration as yang and yin?[21] Alternatively, more like traditional Chinese thought, we could apply yang and yin to all relationships involving intrinsic attributes (in addition to those involving extrinsic attributes). Thus the subject in a relationship would be considered yang and the object yin. The application to electrically charged particles would then be a special case of this general rule, and the third set of dual characteristics would be unnecessary.



Unification Thought has been developed in accordance with a methodology that involves a two-stage structure of give-and-receive action, where there is an inner stage of logical deduction and an outer stage of observation of facts. The observable facts derive from revelation in creation and in Rev. Moon’s thought.[22] Unification Thought is a science in this respect. It intends to be a logical systematic system of thought based on observation and deduction. As a science dealing with God, Unification Thought is, strictly speaking, a theology. Moreover, as a science, it should be analyzed from the perspective of the method of its development, and it can be developed according to that method.

Corresponding to the two-stage process of the method there are two components to the analysis: an analysis of the logic and comparison with observation. For the content of Rev. Moon’s thought we have to rely on the Divine Principle and Unification Thought itself. However, The Divine Principle is more descriptive, and in comparison with Unification Thought it is possible to pick out areas in Unification Thought developed through logical deduction, such as the third set of dual characteristics.

Analysis of the dual characteristics of yang and yin as described in Unification Thought demonstrates how the concepts were logically developed from their consideration as attributes, as distinct from the substance, of a being. It also demonstrates the need for the third set of dual characteristics within the context of the text. However the analysis also shows there is a weakness in the logical development from an individual being to separate beings, and comparison with creation demonstrates that the third set of dual characteristics is not a completely satisfactory solution.

If we limit the meaning of the term substance to its common usage, then from observation of creation two kinds of attributes of a being are apparent: those inherent to the substance of the being itself—intrinsic attributes—that allow the being to interact with other beings, and those that arise from the fact of the being’s existence—extrinsic attributes. Recognizing these two kinds of attributes allows the dual characteristics of yang and yin to be applied to relationship both within and between beings. Moreover, I prefer the mapping that applies the terms to all horizontal subject and object relationships. Then yang and yin type relationships may be considered horizontal, and sungsang and hyungsang relationships may be considered vertical. In this view, the third set of dual characteristics proposed by Dr. Lee would not be necessary, since all relationship between beings is accounted for.

This solution does not, however, resolve the problems for the concept of the Original Image posed by the third set of dual characteristics. Just as the third set of dual characteristics derives from the divisible, discrete nature of creation, intrinsic attributes also require division between beings. Thus in order to maintain the principle of resemblance, concepts of division and composition of parts needs to be added to the Original Image.[23] The discussion of structure in the Original Image implicitly does this already. Thus even if Dr. Lee’s third set of dual characteristics is retained, it should be applied to the Original Image with the following understanding drawn from Unification Thought:

This, however, does not mean that in actuality there is spatial expansion or temporal order (i.e., structure) within God. In truth, the Original Image exists in absolute oneness both from the perspective of time and from the perspective of space.[24]

It is to be hoped that these and other issues can be resolved by further discussion.



[1] “Methodology,” Dictionary of Philosophy, eds. and trans. Murad Saifulin and Richard R. Dixon (New York: International Publishers, 1984), p. 268.

[2] Sang Hun Lee, Essentials of Unification Thought (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 1992), pp. 403-10.

[3] Ibid., p. 407.

[4] Exposition of the Divine Principle (Seoul: Sung Hwa Publishing Co., 1996), p. 16.

[5] Lee, Essentials, p. 41.

[6] Ibid. p. 54-60.

[7] Ibid., p. 66.

[8] Ibid., pp. 29-31.

[9] Exposition, p. 16.

[10] Lee, Essentials, p. 12.

[11] Ibid., p. 49.

[12] Ibid., p. 50.

[13] Ibid., p. 50.

[14] Ibid., pp. 50 - 51.

[15] Ibid., p. 51.

[16] In this sense substance is not a property of a being, or anything that could be said about it. As such it is capable of independent existence and is the part of the being in which its properties inhere. This view is not compatible with the understanding of modern science.

[17] Lee, Essentials, p. 12.

[18] Ibid., p. 49.

[19] Exposition, p. 16.

[20] Natural science recognizes four intrinsic attributes of subatomic particles: mass, charge, spin and color. These would be hyungsang attributes. We would probably have to postulate sungsang intrinsic attributes and those that apply to the spiritual universe.

[21] There are considerations of mass in subject and object relationships in the physical universe that also do not favor limiting yang and yin to electrical charge in matter.

[22] In principle the observable facts could also be recorded history, art, or any body of knowledge that is a record of God’s work through humanity.

[23] I believe a possible way forward here is to regard all relationships between separate beings to be actually taking place within a larger entity.

[24] Lee, Essentials, p. 35.