How I met the Unification Movement — part 1

INTRODUCTION

Like many people throughout history I have been on a quest: a search for an understanding of ultimate reality. This has been the fundamental theme of my life. After a long, meandering journey I have found an explanation that satisfies me but is difficult to use as a guide in my life. Along the way I have come across some other philosophies of life and learned very much from them. One in particular served me as a guide for many years and set my life on a course which I can and will no longer change: the Divine Principle as taught by the late Korean religious leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

I no longer believe in the Divine Principle and Rev. Moon, who proclaimed himself with his wife Hak Ja Han as the “True Parents” of humankind, essentially the one and only Messiah. In fact I no longer believe even in the God postulated by the monotheistic religions. My idea of “God” is quite different, closer to the reality I perceive and understand. But I am no longer alone and free to pursue my quest wherever it may lead me. I have a family and a responsibility that I cannot and will not shirk. My family was begun by Rev. Moon and is inseparable from him and the movement he founded.

Here, then, is the story of my meanders.

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Chapter 1

New York City, Thursday, 6 March 1975. After a long flight over the icy wastes of Iceland and Labrador, this was Manhattan, a different world. It was after dark, on 42nd Street near Grand Central station, when I encountered what to me was a foreboding of Doomsday. The tall, dark buildings, the impression of decay given by the city’s famous potholes, and the steam rising here and there from pipes running under the streets reminded me of a haunting image I had in my mind of the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, which I expected to occur within a few years’ time.

It was a relatively warm night for this time of the year in New York. As I walked with my backpack on my back, I noticed a young man standing on the sidewalk in front of a small blackboard, alternately drawing and gesticulating rather wildly while he gave what seemed to be a lecture at the top of his voice. The funny thing was, there was no one listening.

Another young man stood a few meters away, apparently waiting for something or somebody, but he seemed to pay no attention to the first one. I looked at the blackboard but the figures the lecturer had drawn meant nothing to me. I caught the words “Last Days” in the stream of his talk, and then something about the Bible and a “Divine Principle.”

Tired as I was after the long flight, the man’s lecture seemed too arcane for me to be able to figure out what he was talking about even though his mention of the “Last Days” had intrigued me. Also, I was hoping to catch a train to Montreal rather than having to spend the night in New York. So I asked the bystander where I could find out about trains to Canada. “Sorry mate, I can’t help you there,” he said with an accent that didn’t sound American. He turned out to be an Australian who knew little more about New York than I did.

As I walked on, down Park Avenue, then over to Fifth Avenue and back up towards 42nd Street, I saw more young people giving lectures in front of blackboards set up on the sidewalks. Some of them had an audience, others did not. They all seemed to preach the same message and draw the same figures.

One of the city’s yellowcabs stopped at the curb in front of me and two well-dressed young women got out, one black, the other oriental. Both came right up to me and introduced themselves: Barbara from Guyana and Tamie from Japan. They asked me if I needed some help. I told them I was from Luxembourg and asked where I could catch a train to Montreal. Barbara said I had to go to “Penn Station” below Madison Square Garden. She told me they would take me there but could not because they had an appointment in the building in front of which we were standing.

She explained that they had to attend an important lecture about a new revelation about God and a new understanding of the Bible, and she invited me to attend if I was interested. I said I might be interested but first I had to find out about trains to Montreal, as I was hoping to catch one that same night. Barbara gave me directions to Madison Square Garden and both girls handed me their business cards, suggesting that I call them if I needed any further help.

I walked slowly down Fifth Avenue, lost in thought. Yes, this big city really conjured up the feeling that it was doomed, and the entire civilization that created it was doomed. It would all be annihilated in the nuclear war that I saw coming within a few years’ time. That holocaust had to happen — and I actually wished for it to occur. Because I felt that something was fundamentally wrong with this civilization. More than that, something was fundamentally wrong with humankind.

In my view, the earth and in fact the entire universe was a harmonious whole, like a gigantic organism within which every part played a certain role and all parts were complementary to each other. Only man did not fit into this harmonious whole. Man was like a malignant cancer that, though originating from the whole, spread uncontrollably and destroyed other parts of the organism. Man alone was going against the purpose and design of the universe, and modern human civilization represented a cancer that had grown to such proportions that it threatened to overwhelm an entire planet. It had to be destroyed. Actually, because of its inherent contradictions, it was bound to destroy itself.

But I believed there could be, there had to be, a new beginning — because the universe had brought forth humankind and it was thus meant to exist, but it clearly had somehow gone wrong. Modern civilization would be destroyed but there would be survivors in different places. Those people would have to live in nature and start anew, but they would have to avoid the original mistake that made man go in the wrong direction.

I felt that those survivors had to become completely one with nature, one with the spirit of the whole, the essence of the universe. And they should never ask the question “why?” To me, this was the root of all the problems. We had to attune our hearts and minds to the harmonious whole of the universe without ever asking why things were the way they were and why we were what we were. Asking “why?” somehow meant that we separated ourselves mentally from the whole — and that was what caused humankind to go astray.

Our ancestors in Stone Age had made this mistake, and the survivors of the expected nuclear holocaust would have to go back to Stone Age to try again. I was on my way to Stone Age. I was planning to go to a remote area in the wilds of British Columbia and to try to live in nature on my own, ridding myself gradually of all the implements of civilization that I carried with me to help me get over the initial shock.

I felt that if I could survive like this for a year or so, then I was ready to become one of the survivors of the nuclear war to come — and perhaps even a leader of a new humankind. I was 24 years old and I believed the nuclear war would come in 1979, which was four years away. After spending at least a year in British Columbia, I wanted to make my way down to Patagonia, where I would wait for the holocaust to begin. The reason why I had chosen Patagonia was that I felt there would be less nuclear fallout over the southern hemisphere because most worth-while targets for nuclear strikes were in the north.

In front of Madison Square Garden I saw two blackboards like the ones I had encountered before. Several people were standing around either listening to two preachers who were lecturing about the Last Days or talking to others.

I watched the scene for a moment and then looked for the passage to the train station below the building. Just as I started moving toward the entrance an Oriental lady in her 30s approached me and asked if I was interested in science or religion. I said I was interested in both. She gave me a flyer and told me the people lecturing about the Last Days were speaking about a new revelation that could bring science and religion together for the sake of world peace.

The idea sounded good to me, and when she told me a little more about it I realized it must be the same revelation the Guyanese lady Barbara had mentioned a little earlier. I asked where she was from and it turned out she was Japanese, and her name was Noriko. I gave her my name and told her I had just arrived from my country Luxembourg but wanted to take a train to Montreal that evening or early next morning.

She said she hoped I could find the time to listen to a special lecture about the new revelation, which she called the Divine Principle, before I took off for Montreal. The lecture was going to be held in a building across Fifth Avenue from the New York Public Library, exactly the place where I had met Barbara and Tamie earlier.

I said I was interested but I needed to get information about trains to Montreal and to buy a ticket first. Noriko called a tall young man standing nearby and asked him if he could show me where to find what I wanted. The man introduced himself as Bill. He took me down to Penn Station, where I bought a train ticket to Montreal.

A little later Bill disappeared briefly and then returned driving a big Dodge van. Noriko and I got in and we drove to the building near the library on 5th Avenue, picking up a few other people along the way.

I don’t remember any detail but we entered a hall full of people, with a man in front who had just begun to give a lecture. From time to time he drew figures and symbols on a large board facing the crowd.

He explained about how God’s nature is reflected in everything through the dualities of internal character and external form, and positive and negative charges or male and female genders.

He said God was like a parent to us humans, whom He created in order to share his love. But, as told in the Bible, when the first humans fell away from their Parent He had to let them go their own way because He did not want to interfere with their freedom of choice. In order to win them back to His side He guided leaders He chose among them to set conditions that would ultimately prepare the way for a Messiah, a person who perfectly embodied God’s love.

This Messiah would have to find a perfect bride together with whom he would become the “True Parents” in reflection of God’s dual nature and lead humankind back to Him. The Messiah was Jesus Christ, but the people did not follow him, so he could not find a bride and had to sacrifice his life to become a spiritual guide and inspiration to the world.

Jesus’s followers the Christians then became the people through whom God worked to fulfill His providence to bring a Messiah who could become the “True Parents” of humankind. The Last Days prophesied in the Bible was the time when a new Messiah would appear with a new understanding of God’s truth, and this time was upon us. ….. 

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My idea of God in a nutshell

I believe God is everything and everything is God. God is universal consciousness, universal memory. We humans, collectively, are a spearhead of the evolution of universal consciousness, and each one of us is a facet of God’s character. There may or may not be other such spearheads in other parts of the universe. Time is the accumulation of memories in universal consciousness. Time appears to flow in one direction because memories cannot be erased from universal consciousness. I do not believe we as individual human beings are eternal in any way except that we continue existing as memories in universal consciousness. Upon final separation from our physical bodies our individual spirit or consciousness dissolves back into the whole from which it came and of which it always remained a part. It can be said that God grows through us, changes and learns through us until we may be superseded by a higher intelligence. God is not good or evil in itself but through us God is both. God cannot change our world except through us…

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Target Iran

This is the first time I post a link to an article on another site but I think the subject is important enough and is of great concern to me as I am totally opposed to the US empire’s wars and overseas military bases (in fact I would like to see a world without any military forces at all — though I know humankind is not mature enough for that):

Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran

 

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Fighting the Good Fight – or not …

 

The News World New York City April 29, 1977 edition

Our New York newspaper in April 1977

The following is excerpted and adapted from an entry in my diary for 4 July 2010:

… I have connected with many mostly American church members [= the Unification Church / Movement founded by the late Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon] on Facebook. Some are old colleagues from my time in the USA (1975-1982).

It is almost frightening to see how fanatic and narrow-minded most of them are [in a political sense only; I know the vast majority are really good people in other ways] — from my point of view. When I was in the US, especially during the time (end-1976-1982) I was with the News World (New York daily newspaper launched by members of that church/movement — a forerunner of the Washington Times) and Free Press International, we had the feeling that we were in a war against communism. It was an intense ideological conflict from our point of view, whose seriousness and dangers most people outside our political community within the church failed to understand/appreciate.

 

We needed allies, like-minded people who were also movers and shakers in the political world of the USA, and in other countries, too. The USA was — to us — by far the most important country in the world, and we had to save her from the decadence and depravity that the leftists and communists propagated and encouraged in order to weaken and finally conquer her. America had to become the world’s greatest power by being both morally superior and much better armed and motivated — politically and militarily — than any potential foe or group of foes.

 

And there were always foes: evil empires (Reagan was our hero as president — even though Moon was jailed for a year and a half on his watch, for tax evasion), terrorists, etc. There was a sense of moral superiority, but our morality did not extend to the point where we would have disapproved of mass murder as long as those murdered were — or could be labeled as —  communists or leftists. It was thus quite alright for the US to have bombed Vietnam with napalm and Agent Orange or for Argentine, Chilean and Colombian generals to massacre thousands of suspected leftists and sympathizers. It was fine for death squads to torture and murder thousands in places like Colombia, Brazil or El Salvador — and many others — as long as the death squads could be somehow labeled pro-USA (mostly meaning fascist/oligarchist) and their victims leftist.

 

I was never enthusiastic about this but mostly played along, because, after all, I believed in Moon, his church, his mission and the importance of the USA in fulfilling this mission.

 

Today, of course, I stand more or less at 180 degrees to all that.

 

I feel the church has played a very nefarious political role in the USA by going to bed with narrow-minded, fanatic nationalist, elitist/oligarchic and militaristic politicians, and doing its utmost to promote causes such as those of the worst fascists. The idea from the church’s and also Moon’s point of view — of course — was always that those were people who were on God’s side in the larger scheme of things. They were people who had power, who could perhaps be won over to completely support the work of Moon — the Messiah — and ultimately turn the whole country around so that Moon would be recognized for who he really was. The USA would become — so the American members (we) hoped — the first country to officially recognize and follow the “king of kings.”

 

Today, I see on Facebook and elsewhere that American members seem not to have changed at all — not to have learned anything new at all. They are still fighting an intense ideological fight against the political “left” [and socialism  / communism] and the Islamic (primarily) “terrorists” [real and imagined] — and they still believe the USA is not armed well enough — both ideologically/morally and militarily — to fight its enemies.

 

What I don’t understand is how powerful this — to me, mythical, but to them very real — Satan and his legions still are. I thought Moon had conquered and subdued him [according to his own words], and Moon’s sons in spirit world were completely turning that realm upside down. How come, then, that this so-called Satan and his minions still have so much power that the world continues to be the mess it is — and spirit world seems in no better shape?

 

I have my own answer, of course, and I don’t believe in a spirit world as the Moonies describe it at all. To me, God has created and always played both sides, and we humans are very much part of both sides — “good” and “evil,” just as we are part of God [in essence I believe we humans, collectively, are a spearhead of God’s own evolving consciousness, which grows through us — although as individuals we are just temporary existences and will dissolve back into the whole when our bodies die].

 

The so-called “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” in the Bible — that very name says it all: to God, originally, there was no good or evil, there was no moral sense. God himself or rather itself (to take away the gender) only “discovered” a sense of “good” and “evil” through us humans. He/she/it “discovered” how useful (from its own larger perspective) and — yes — exciting it could be to divide us between “good” and “evil.” 

1-The News World 19771218

The News World in December 1977

1-Noticias Del Mundo 19820611

Our Spanish sister newspaper launched in 1980 – Noticias Del Mundo

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A collection of postcards I sent to family from abroad and other souvenirs

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My Facebook album “Souvenirs

1973-01-04 Mecca and the nearby tent city of Mina (stayed there 2 weeks +)

1973-01-04 Mecca and the nearby tent city of Mina (stayed there 2 weeks +). The bottom right photo actually shows Jebel Arafat, a few kilometers past Mina, the site of a high point during the pilgrimage.

 

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About my first journey to Japan, across Siberia, in 1979

1-trans-siberian-rail-ticket-stub-october-1979-c

(Stub of main portion of my Oct. 1979 trans-Siberian ticket – Moscow to Khabarovsk; 8,531 kilometers.)

I traveled across the southern part of Siberia on the trans-Siberian train in October 1979 during Soviet times — from Yaroslavski station in Moscow to Khabarovsk, where all foreigners had to get off to spend a night, and then from Khabarovsk to Nakhodka east of Vladivostok. I loved the Lake Baykal area most, where the train passes a stone’s throw from the lake shore near Slyudyanka, with the snow-capped Sayan Mountains on the Mongolian border to the south. Beautiful. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post under the links to “Photos:” for more on my impression of Soviet Russia during that 9-day journey across the vast land).

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The trans-Siberian was part of my first trip to Japan. It took me exactly two weeks to get from Luxembourg to Yokohama, from 6 to 20 October 1979 — 11 days on trains. I was ushered to Japan on the Soviet Morflot passenger ship Baikal by the remnant of Supertyphoon Tip, which a few days earlier had been the largest and most intense tropical cyclone ever measured (it’s described in Wikipedia and in a 1998 report I have from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

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We left Nakhodka about midday on 17 October 1979, crossed the Sea of Japan (or Eastern Sea), then passed through Tsugaru Strait between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido before turning south off the Pacific side of Honshu, headed for Yokohama. The weather was really beautiful and the sea was calm until some time after we passed Hakodate on Hokkaido Island in the afternoon of 18 October, entering the Pacific Ocean. The sky darkened, the sea got rough — I got seasick fairly quickly — and soon all passengers were asked to go below deck because the ship’s crew was going to lock all hatches. No passenger was allowed on deck any more. The captain’s announcement did not say anything about us heading into a big storm but it was obvious from the rocking and creaking of the boat that something like that was afoot.

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Not long after that I spent about 24 hours passing back and forth between the bed in my cabin and the toilet across the corridor, my body seemingly turning inside out from extreme seasickness. Around midnight of the 19th the storm eased up, and the Baikal steamed at full speed towards Yokohama Bay, which we finally entered around 6 a.m. on the morning of the 20th. The Baikal’s nice sunroof aft on deck was almost completely chewed up, as if a giant had bitten off pieces of it.

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A Japanese coastguard or customs boat pulled up alongside and officers came on board the Baikal to check our passports.

When I first got down to the pier at Yokohama I suddenly felt very dizzy and for a moment, inadvertantly, I rocked back and forth to keep my balance as if the ground under my feet was like the boat in the typhoon…

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(This is how I remember the trip, 35 years later — it’s a little blurry now)

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About photographs, or lack thereof ….

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Nowadays I regret very much that it took me very long to realize it would be a good idea to buy a camera and take pictures during my travels. My father always had a camera and took a lot of photos, and he also shot quite a bit of film of our family with a small wind-up 8-mm Yashica camera that he bought at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. Despite this it didn’t occur to me that I should get a camera of my own to take along on my travels.

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I did buy a cheap Polaroid camera shortly after I arrived in New York City in March 1975 and took a few pictures in Central Park that I still have — nothing very interesting. In 1982, again in New York, I took a few more pictures in the Chinatown area with another Polaroid. 

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I finally bought my first 35-mm camera in 1984 during a short trip to Luxembourg to renew my passport while I was living in Cyprus. It was a Yashica, fixed-focus — very simple and cheap. But I took a lot of good pictures with it in Cyprus, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Japan — where I bought an Olympus OM-10 with a 35-70 lens at Camera-No-Doi in Tokyo in 1987. This Olympus served me well in Japan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and Luxembourg, though I never learned how to use all its features. Since 2003 I have been using digital cameras, including a Fujifilm Finepix S2950 that I got for my 60th birthday in early 2011 — nothing fancy but I’m quite happy with it, though still shooting mostly on automatic…..

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Here are links to my posts on my travels, and to some of my photo albums:

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https://erwinlux.com/2009/08/30/under-fire-in-afghanistan-some-time-ago/

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https://erwinlux.com/2005/07/11/my-first-journeys/

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Here is a bit more on my pilgrimage to Mecca in 1972-1973, etc.: 

https://erwinlux.com/2010/04/30/afghanistan-saudi-arabia-pakistan-my-story-1970s-80s/ 

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https://erwinlux.com/2005/10/20/journeys-spiritual-and-physical-since-1975/

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https://erwinlux.com/2006/12/09/memory-of-california-thanksgiving-1975/

 

My last trip into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, in 1987

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Photos: 

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/erwinlux

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miscellaneous albums

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On my 9 days in Soviet Russia (8-17 October 1979)

From an email to a friend:

About my first trip to Japan, I was not pressed for time and thought it would be more interesting to go by train and boat (rather than flying). Also, I wanted to see with my own eyes what the Soviet Union looked like. At the time, in New York, I worked for a Moonie (=followers of the late Korean Christian sect leader Sun Myung Moon) anti-communist newspaper where all of us regarded the USSR as the big enemy, the ‘evil empire.’ I was on my way via Japan to Bangkok/Thailand, where I wanted to work as correspondent for that newspaper.
At the time also, the leader of our religious movement Sun Myung Moon himself kept saying he wanted to go to Moscow to hold a ‘freedom rally’ in Red Square, and all of us Moonies were supposed to prepare for that (it meant the liberation of the USSR). I was quite skeptical of his chances of doing that but I wanted to get my own impression of the country first.
Well, on the train in West Germany headed for Moscow I met a man who was a Communist Party official from Tselinograd, Khazakh SSR. He spoke German and we talked quite a bit all the way to Moscow, which took 2 days. Later, I corresponded with him for a number of years until his wife wrote back to me one day in 1999 that he had died.
I was surprised to find that the undercarriage of the whole train had to be changed at Brest on the Polish-Soviet border, a process that took a couple of hours. It was, of course, because the rail gauge is different – wider – on the Soviet side.
I thought, well, if the Soviets launched a major offensive against western Europe, as us anti-communists feared, they would face a problem bringing enough supplies from the hinterland to their troops on the front line if every train from their country was held up at Brest and other places like that. They would represent bottlenecks. Road and air transport wouldn’t be enough for the logistical job required. Also, those places would make valuable targets for air strikes from the west.
I didn’t see how the wheels were changed because a Soviet border guard took me off the train when he found a book (supposedly) of Khrushchev’s memoirs in English in my luggage. I was kept waiting for awhile in an office at the border and was asked to sign a paper agreeing that I could not take that book into the USSR and in effect allowing them to confiscate it. They asked a few questions but were generally polite. I actually had a lot of other stuff in my luggage that I had reason to be more worried about than that book, but they didn’t check very thoroughly at all.
In Moscow I once walked into a sort of cafeteria for local workers, listened closely to how the other customers ordered bread, sausage and beer in Russian, and ordered the same in Russian (at the time I still ate meat). I didn’t feel that anybody noticed I was a foreigner.
The country looked poor and generally quite shabby to me, not at all like a great superpower. There were other incidents during the trip and especially in Khabarovsk where I did things normally forbidden but nothing happened and I didn’t have the impression that I was being watched very closely. Near Novosibirsk I saw roughly 3 dozen armored personnel carriers on a train in a shunting yard, and when I heard a few months later in Bangkok that the Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan I thought those vehicles I had seen in Siberia might have belonged to a contingent getting ready to move down to Uzbekistan in preparation for the invasion.
A few years later, of course, I would come under artillery, mortar, tank and rocket fire from some of those Soviet forces and their Afghan allies in Afghanistan myself – and see a lot of destroyed Soviet APCs, tanks, field guns, etc. – and also many dud bombs lying around (yes, many failed to explode, probably because of the negligence [or even deliberate sabotage] of disgruntled workers in Soviet munitions and other factories, producing mostly shoddy goods).
Really, no, to me the Soviet Union didn’t look like a big military power threatening the west, though it took some time for that realization to sink in.
Already at the end of 1976 in New York I had read the book La Chute Finale by the French demographer Emmanuel Todd, predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union as a result of worsening economic problems, discrepancies between
the Russian heartland and the vassal states, etc. – and I had written a commentary about it (under a pseudonym) that appeared in our paper The News World in early 1977. (I still have a clipping of that commentary, one of the first pieces I wrote that appeared in print). 

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More on God

Above Satpara Lake Baltistan late December 1987

… More about my idea of “God” (see post below on death and here about my view of God  ): I believe God, this one spirit or universal consciousness has basically divided itself into innumerable small parts by bringing about (in whatever way) what we regard as the physical universe with all the individual consciousnesses within it, each tied to a body of some kind or another.

We are really all one ― each one of us living beings and inanimate things is a part of this God ― but through our bodies we have the illusion of being separate from one another. When the bodies of us living beings fall away we return to where we came from and become one again completely with God ― the universal spirit. It is only the short-lived body of ours which makes us feel separate.

I cannot think of another way in which the world could be “just.” No concept of heaven and hell and good and evil that I have known would ever satisfy my sense of justice. For years I thought (the late Korean Rev. Sun Myung) Moon’s Divine Principle had the answers but I have concluded that it doesn’t. It is no better than some other ideas that do not satisfy me at all.

God is absolutely responsible for everything that happens in the universe — from the greatest, most beautiful thing or event to the most horrible monstrosity or atrocity — but we all share that responsibility because we are all part of God. God as a whole has thrived on the differences and divisions among us that lead to conflict — especially in us humans, the spearheads of the evolution of his consciousness in this world — and on both the good and the evil things we have been doing to each other in our bodies, which make us feel separate. But his/our consciousness is evolving. God is learning with us, through us.

In our primitive days, when we were totally unable to understand the reality of our ultimate oneness, God gave us myths including the Bible and all the scriptures, which were propagated by people inspired by “Him” (or “Her,” “It”) to awe us and make us fear, and to herd us together as groups and make us fight each other for his own pleasure. To explain this: I believe the deepest parts of our nature are the emotions, which we share with God, our source. Yes, I believe God has the same emotions, though from a universal perspective, since his “body” is the entire universe.

Now, I think, the time may be coming when those myths are no longer useful. It is time that we humans outgrow them and look for the truth behind and beyond them. Most of all I hope we can truly become aware of the reality of our original and ultimate oneness.

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Life After Death

I have thought about the concept of a spirit world. Do I believe there is a world of spirit where we/our souls go after we die? Do I believe we have a spiritual body in which our soul/spirit resides for eternity and which resembles our physical body as it is when we are young and healthy? — No, I do not believe this! — This does not mean that I believe it is impossible.

I think that when we die – when our physical body dies and decays – our spirit dissolves in the ocean of universal consciousness, which is what God is to me. However, there remains a residue of a memory within God – a memory of us as we were when we were alive. As I have written before (see below about time and here about my view of God ), I believe time – the “flow” of time – is really an accumulation of memory or memories within God. It expands ad infinitum, which is probably also why our universe seems to expand. When we die, then, the memory of our life remains as part of this ever-growing universal memory. In this way we will continue to exist – but we cannot create new things or learn or grow because we will no longer be conscious as a separate entity. We will be fully assimilated or merged into the whole whence we came, a grain of salt dissolved in the ocean – still salt and still contributing our specific flavor to the ocean – at least to the tiny part of it that we have been able to influence during our lives – but no longer a separate entity and no longer able to expand our influence.

I may be wrong, of course, but it would be very hard if not impossible for me to return to a belief in a spirit world like that described by Unificationists and others such as Swedenborg.

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From a post I wrote in 2008 (elsewhere):

Time – an accumulation of memory in universal consciousness; not entropy

Recently I read an article by a scientist who proposed that the “flow” or “arrow” of time is basically the growth of entropy, including decay. When you pour milk into a cup of coffee, for example, it would be extremely difficult to go back and separate the milk from the coffee. The same applies if you try to rebuild an organism that has completely decayed.
I propose a different explanation, though I don’t have the scientific knowledge to back it up: the direction of the “flow” of time is determined by the accumulation of memory in universal consciousness. Everything is memory / universally stored  information, which keeps increasing with the passage of time and can never decrease (otherwise time would “flow” backwards). Even the mysterious dark energy and dark matter that seem to fill our universe may be a store of memory. We carry the memory of our ancestors within us – even though we are mostly not aware of it. Memory is the imprint that everything leaves on universal consciousness or god (see my posts about god/universal consciousness below). – Unlike the scientist who believes the flow of time is the growth of entropy, I believe that entropy is only something like a side effect – it is inevitable and it always distorts or degrades memory to some extent, but it is not a dominant aspect of reality.

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Miscellaneous photos

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Dangerous bus ride on Pakistan’s Karakoram Highway in winter -January 1988

 

Men in Khaplu village end Dec. 1987

By Erwin Franzen
correspondent
(for the Middle East Times weekly, based in Cyprus in the 1980s.)

( My editor insisted that I use a somewhat impersonal style in this
article and did not allow me to write it up as a personal experience,
which, of course, it was. I wrote this after returning to Islamabad from a
two-week trip to Baltistan in January 1988. This is the unedited
version)

ISLAMABAD — In the winter, when the weather is bad in the mountains,
taking a bus on Pakistan’s perilous Karakoram Highway (KKH) can be every
bit as exciting as a game of Russian Roulette.

There is nothing like a rough ride of four and a half hours on the
back of a four—wheel-drive pickup truck on a bitterly cold winter
morning for the traveller to appreciate the awe-inspiring grandeur and
desolation of the Karakoram mountain range, which contains the greatest
concentration of high peaks anywhere and is regarded by geologists as
one of the most unstable but also most fascinating features on the
earth’s surface.

Along the 100-kilometre dirt road through the wild gorges of the
Shyok  and Indus rivers from Khaplu to Skardu in Baltistan one cannot
help feeling that the enormous bleak rock faces, the jagged,
snow-covered peaks poking into the clouds, the eerily frozen waterfalls,
the huge boulders strewn all around and the vast scree slopes must
belong to some distant uninhabitable planet but not to this earth. All
of this spells danger. Under a gloomy, leaden sky, with the sun’s rays
unable to break through thick clouds that hide the high mountain tops,
there appears to be a veiled threat of impending disaster.

From Skardu, a small town in a wide, sand-covered valley at 2,300
metres, the road continues along the Indus River through dangerous
gorges for about 500 kilometres before turning east away from the river
on its way to  Rawalpindi. If one travels on a public bus, this trip on
the KKH has to be made in two stages. It involves a seven-hour journey
from Skardu to Gilgit followed by a gruelling sixteen-hour trip to
Rawalpindi on a different bus.

For four days from the end of 1987 until the first day of 1988 heavy
clouds hung above Skardu Valley and hid the many 5,000-metre mountain
peaks  surrounding it on all sides. As the small airport in the valley
had no radar, all flights were cancelled. The sky looked as though there
was worse weather to come, so it seemed that there was no choice but to
court disaster and take the bus.

Everyone in the packed, gaily-painted bus appeared to be in good
mood  when the journey began on the first day of the new year. The
gloomy  atmosphere  outside did not affect the passengers for a long
time as the bus sped on the asphalt road to the western end of the
valley, then moved slowly over a narrow suspension bridge across the
Indus and entered the gorge.

Compared with the  bleakness of the grey, brown and black tones of
the massive rock formations on its sides, the river was a pleasant
sparkling green colour — almost inviting save for the fact that it was
at times separated from the road by several hundred metres of sheer
cliffs.

For most of the way the road appeared in good condition except for
only  one or two spots where part of its foundation had collapsed and
plunged down the precipice into the Indus far below, leaving a gaping
hole. The driver was quite agile and avoided such death traps easily. At
least two small bridges spanning gaping chasms above raging tributaries
of the Indus appeared rather dilapidated. The driver accelerated,
apparently anxious to cross the bridges before they collapsed.

Some eighty kilometres before Gilgit a number of boulders the size of
large  cars had broken off from a gigantic rock formation that hung
threateningly above the road. The road was hopelessly blocked. A
maintenance crew was already at work preparing the area for blasting.

A little farther west, high above the road on a steep scree slope
that  seemed to stretch endlessly into the sky, two local shepherds
herded their sheep and goats down as quickly as they could. The workers
had signalled to them to come down because the blasting might make the
scree come alive and cause a huge landslide. The shepherds wore roughly
cut pieces of goatskin wrapped around their feet and ankles in lieu of
shoes. They could perfectly well have fit into a Stone Age setting, with
nothing on their bodies to show that they lived in the 20th century.

Luckily for the travellers, the three heavy blasts that were required
to break up the boulders did not bring down any more rocks although
cracks  appeared  in some huge slabs that hung precariously above the
road. A lone bulldozer took  more than two hours to push the debris over
the edge into the Indus. Darkness fell soon after the road was cleared.

The bulldozer then headed west on the narrow road at a snail’s pace,
and  the bus driver had no choice but to follow at the same speed for
some time. The driver quickly became irritated. He tried to pass the
bulldozer several times but there was not enough space.

A military officer ran up on the road from behind the bus and knocked
on the driver’s side window. The two exchanged some angry words. The
driver had been ordered to pull the bus up to the edge of the precipice
to allow a military truck to pass. He did so but complained bitterly.
Then the officer also ordered the bulldozer to get out of the way at the
next spot where this was possible.

The military truck sped on ahead, followed quickly by the bus, whose
driver appeared very angry and nervous all of a sudden. He was
determined to pass the military truck, which was already moving quite
fast on this perilous road with rock walls or scree slopes to the right
and a gaping black chasm to the left where in many places parts of the
asphalt had broken off and plunged down into the gorge. The bus driver
used his ear-shattering horn and flashed his lights wildly to drive his
message home to the soldiers.

Finally, they let him pass. But they stayed close behind and flashed
their lights as well, irritating the bus driver even more. His antics
behind the steering wheel became increasingly wild and on several
occasions the bus very nearly went over the edge of the cliff. Two
passengers sitting in the front abreast of the driver angrily warned him
to slow down. Others anxiously mumbled prayers. The angry warnings
seemed to madden the driver even more, and some  other passengers urged
everyone to calm down. The atmosphere in the bus became increasingly
tense, laden with a strange mixture of anger and naked fear.

Suddenly, there was another bus in front and the angry driver of the
first bus flashed his lights to signal that he wanted to pass. The bus
in front slowed down but stayed in the middle of the road for some time.
When it finally allowed the first bus to pass its driver was fuming. To
make matters still worse, the other bus also stayed close behind and
flashed its lights. Many passengers on the first bus were terrified but
no one dared to approach the driver for fear of  distracting him in this
extremely dangerous situation.

After what appeared to be an eternity, the valley widened and the bus
stopped at a petrol station. When the bus left the station after
refuelling, a  teenage boy sat down on an improvised seat next to the
driver and this seemed to calm the man down. Later, he let the boy drive
the rest of the way to Gilgit. Although the boy’s driving was somewhat
unsteady from lack of experience, the passengers were relieved that the
bus was now moving more slowly and carefully.

Next morning, another bus with a few foreigners among the many
passengers left Gilgit on the long journey to Rawalpindi. The driver was
a man of about 50, clearly very experienced and skilful. But on this
trip the road was in very bad condition — and the weather turned worse.

There were scores of spots on the way where rocks of all sizes had
fallen from above and very nearly blocked the road. Often the space left
between the bigger boulders and the edge of the precipice was just
barely wide enough to allow the bus to pass.

Again and again, the bus lurched sideways as it moved slowly over
very uneven terrain past big boulders. Some terrified passengers, who
saw the gaping  abyss come up from below their windows as the heavy
vehicle seemed close to the point of rolling over, leaned into the aisle
and looked the other way.

At one point, some rocks rolled away from under the wheels of the bus
at  the edge of the broken road and the driver had to quickly steer the
vehicle towards a big pile of boulders away from the precipice. The
boulders tore into the side of the bus, causing minor damage, but
passengers later congratulated the driver on his presence of mind.

After a seemingly endless series of similar incidents, the passengers
felt relieved when the bus crossed a bridge on the Indus, hoping that
the worst was over. But then, shortly before dark, it began to rain.

Water is both a boon and a bane in the mountains. Local villagers
need it for drinking, cooking, washing and irrigation but it also
inevitably brings down boulders and mud, and it causes the landslides
that so often obstruct the KKH.

The bus drove on into the night on the wet road, dodging many more
fresh rockfalls. In one area, the going was slow over a stretch of at
least 20 kilometres where many landslides had completely blocked the
KKH for over two weeks in October. The road was still badly scarred and
the piles of debris on one side did not allow two vehicles to pass each
other along most of this stretch.

After the bus finally crossed the last bridge over the Indus and
headed out of the gorge, the driver stepped on the accelerator. As the
road was still dangerous, some passengers became concerned that the bus
was moving too fast. An Australian woman expressed her worries to a
Pakistani passenger who translated for the driver.

After more than 12 hours on the KKH the driver was clearly becoming tired
and it seemed that he was accelerating because he was afraid to fall
asleep. There were a few more hair-raising moments when the driver
nearly seemed to lose control of the bus in dangerous curves. But he
finally stopped and allowed a younger colleague to drive the rest of the
way to Rawalpindi.

It is by braving such a danger-filled winter journey on the KKH that
one can learn to appreciate the remarkable feat that the building of
this road represented. One can also easily understand how the KKH
claimed at least 500 lives during the 20-odd years of its construction
and many hundreds more in the last eight years since it was opened.

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