Thoughts

Why I cannot go back to my previous ‘faith’

Diary Tuesday 30 June 2020: In recent days I have thought about whether it is possible for me to return to a belief in the God of the Divine Principle and True Parents (Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han of Korea), etc. My wife and daughter remain committed to that belief. Many of my old friends, too.

I support my wife and daughter in this, of course. I know I could not pull them away from it because I have nothing else to offer them in its place.

But what about the possibility of myself returning to the fold, so to speak? Am I insisting on staying away, closing myself off, or perhaps afraid to contemplate the possibility that the Divine Principle is the Truth after all?

Am I avoiding this or figuratively running away from it – as I wanted to put it in the title of my prospective memoir “On The Run From God,” which may never end up being completed?

Well, I just have to remember what it was like when I was a supposedly fully committed believer. One of the most if not the most important missions of a believer is witnessing, proselytizing – spreading the good word and bringing others into the love of God. How did I feel doing that – even at the best of times when I was inspired by a good prayer or a great talk I heard from Rev. Moon or some other leader? How did that feel?

I’m afraid the answer is unequivocally negative no matter how deep down in my heart I dig. I always felt artificial. I could never, even once, put my heart into it. Not at all.

I always did it not because I really wanted to but because I felt obliged, pressured or otherwise duty-bound to do it.

Why was this so? The answer is simple: I did not really believe in that God and in the True Parents. I never really did. I wanted to believe. Yes, I wanted, sometimes almost desperately, to believe. But deep down I could not really believe.

Why not? I don’t know.

Before I first decided to join the Unification Church back in Barrytown, New York, in March 1975 I faced a stark choice. My goal at that time had been to put myself through an ultimate life-or-death test. I wanted to survive completely alone in the wilderness of central British Columbia for at least one year. I was not planning to go back to Europe and my family – ever.

This was because I expected a nuclear war that would destroy our modern civilization, and I believed humankind would have to start its history again or rather a new history from Stone Age. I was aware that I might die in the wilderness. In fact, when I thought deeply about it I felt my chances of survival were not very good. But I was desperate enough to try anyway, because I was totally fed up with our civilization and had concluded that I could never really fit into it, adjust to it.

I felt I had to go through a life-or-death struggle to find my true self. And I believed I had to do that in a wilderness environment so that if I survived I could become completely one with nature, like any wild animal. In a way I felt the whole of humankind had to go through something like this, and a nuclear war would start it by destroying our civilization. Humankind would have to try again from scratch and to avoid making the mistakes that led to the disastrous history we know. It was of utmost importance that we always remained totally in harmony with nature, I believed.

So I was ready – or thought I was – to face death in the wild, in the unknown, and I felt I absolutely had to do it. But then when I learned the Divine Principle and got to know those bright young members of the Unification Church I thought maybe there was an alternative, a way to avoid the destruction of our civilization by changing it into a “kingdom of heaven” that was also in harmony with the natural world.

I would also avoid having to face death in the wilderness. In a way my decision to join the church was an escape from the stark reality I had chosen to face. I was not truly convinced that Divine Principle was the ultimate truth but gradually it came to represent a lifesaver or a kind of spiritual anchor to me. However, deep down I always knew I did not really believe in it – I just wanted to believe.

This fact became starkly clear to me every time I tried to convince another person that it was the absolute Truth. I simply cannot truly believe in it.

Categories: Thoughts | Leave a comment

Father figure — and the inner voice

Erwin Franzen with fishing boat crew Tunis July 1973-Bild-15

My father took this picture of me with a fishing boat crew in Tunis in July 1973. It was the only time I went on a vacation with him alone, one of the best memories.  

Diary Tuesday 21 April 2020 [with updates 3 May and 7 May below]:

Recently I converted many old VHS-C and mini-DV videos of our family to MPG files on my computer and in doing that I saw a lot of film I had recorded 10-20 and more years ago.

I heard in the films how I talked to our children and felt very embarrassed by the impatient, even angry tone I used all too often. Then the other day I read for the first time the quote from Peggy O’Mara: “the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” It really hit home. I feel very bad about it now, but why didn’t I realize that much earlier when I could have changed it?

When I think back to my own childhood I remember my parents also often spoke that way to me and my younger brother. The four siblings who were born later were lucky, because my father especially mellowed very much after the first of our sisters joined the family. I don’t remember him beating them or even screaming at them the way he did to us from time to time. My father didn’t humiliate and belittle them as he tended to do with us elder sons. My mother did the same to us, too, though she hardly ever beat us. She mostly just followed my father’s example as he was always the dominant figure in our family.

When I joined the Unification Church (as it was then called) in America in 1975 I gained a new father figure: Rev. Sun Myung Moon. We, his followers, learned to regard him as the “True Father” of humankind, meaning the restored Adam of the Bible.

Diary Sunday 3 May 2020 (continued from 21 April):

I have always had an inner voice telling me I am no good, I will fail at almost everything, and I should just give up. That voice was sometimes so strong it paralyzed me.

Also, whenever I had an argument with someone there was always a voice inside me supporting that other person’s side. So I could never really be sure of anything at all. I could never completely believe in anything or trust anyone fully, and I could never have self-confidence.

At the same time I could never really fit in anywhere and was always ill at ease with myself, even when I was alone in nature. I am nearly 70 years old now and this is still mostly the same.

I was also always in silent rebellion, against any authority figure, any group to which I belonged, any environment in which I found myself, and of course most especially against God, or rather the very concept of God which I had been taught. This has not changed as I have aged. I don’t know why this is the case but I feel it has something to do with my peculiar sense of justice.

I remember discussions I had with my father when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Today I don’t recall details of any of those discussions but what remains clearly in my mind is that we disagreed on questions of justice. My father tended to support the authority of the state, the police, the military, whereas I always argued in favor of people who opposed it – rebels, dissidents and minor criminals (though never rapists and murderers).
Of course, there was always my inner voice agreeing with my father. I don’t think I ever really won any argument.

When I joined Rev. Moon’s Unification Church I tried very hard to find God and love, which somehow remained an alien concept to me even though I do believe my parents loved me. I now think I never really understood their love because to me it meant simply that I was indebted to them, which is a point they tended to over-emphasize. This caused a feeling of deep alienation in me, because it was clear I could never repay that debt.

It turned out that Rev. Moon’s love was the same, and so was God’s love the way he always explained it. We and all humankind were hopelessly indebted to God and Rev. Moon for all they had done and suffered for us fallen, sinful, faithless children.

I know Rev. Moon said many beautiful and inspiring things in his innumerable, lengthy speeches to us members of his movement. I heard many of them when I was in direct attendance in America and in recorded versions later. But what often struck me more than the good points he made were his accusations that we had failed, causing God and him and his family much grief. He always claimed credit for himself for any success achieved by our movement and blamed us for absolutely all failures.

He claimed or at least implied that he always, without fail, did his utmost best to win a victory, seemingly wanting us to believe he was perfect. This is what most of us tended to believe. He created around himself an aura of invincibility, of perfection and near-omniscience. When one of his sons died in an accident he blamed us for it because we had allegedly failed to fulfill the spiritual conditions required to protect him.

He also often threatened us with persecution by evil spirits because we failed to accomplish the very high goals he always set for us in terms of money earned by fundraising or people recruited into the movement or gathered to attend his public speeches.

Rev. Moon’s accusations, threats and frequent angry outbursts left a much deeper imprint on both my heart and mind than all the good, positive things he always spoke about God’s love and beauty. When I think about it I am sure he did say a lot more good than bad. But the good was always like ice cream – it tasted great for a moment but quickly melted away. The bad is what remained in my memory, not the details but the general impression.

The same goes for talks I heard given by many high-level lieutenants of his, all of whom I can only regard as sycophants, bootlicks.

Of course, as usual, there was always an inner voice in me mostly agreeing with what Rev. Moon said. Thus, even though his speeches often made me angry, I was still impressed and even awed at times. And I kept going back for more of the good, inspiring stuff – the “ice cream.”

I was never sure my judgment was right, so in the end I left it up to him and my leaders and also the more faithful members around me to guide me. I did go my own way again and again in the movement when my feeling of alienation became too strong. But in those cases I always just insisted on changing jobs or “missions” or places within the movement rather than leaving altogether.

This continued for 20 years until the mid-1990s when I began to gradually shed my belief in Rev. Moon as the Messiah and “True Parent,” and his teaching the Divine Principle, and finally the whole concept of God itself. The most that idea of God had ever represented to me was a good, warm but brief feeling I sometimes enjoyed in prayer. That was all. I never found God.

Today I remain connected to Rev. Moon’s movement through my family only. 

Important addendum 20200507: Over the years after I joined the Unification Church Rev. Moon came to completely overshadow my own father as a domineering figure because he seemed to have no vulnerabilities or weaknesses, unlike the man who raised me.

Categories: Thoughts | Leave a comment

Leader or Follower?

At our Shinto wedding ceremony Takaharu Miyazaki Japan 1987

Diary Thursday 16 April 2020: A little self-reflection:

It is said there are leader types and follower types among humans. When I think about which of these two categories would apply to myself I feel I belong to the follower types. This is because, when I look at my life, my past, I find I was rarely self-motivated and had little ambition.

I always looked to others for inspiration and stimulation – even in my marriage. In the 32 years I have been living with my wife I have mostly relied on her as a guide and motivator. I almost never took charge of our family, mainly because I never really felt I knew what was right for our lives together and for our children.

I have tended to be confused and easily sidetracked, never sure of myself. So in many ways I have always depended on others for guidance, inspiration and motivation. But there was always a problem: I was never a good follower, simply because I needed solitude very much. It’s a dilemma since, not being self-motivated I could not really live all by myself. Yet I was unable to fully adapt to being part of a group either. I always hated crowds, and in any kind of group I was always at least a silent rebel. I needed leadership but I could never follow a leader for long.

In our marriage my wife and I have worked out a modus vivendi in which I defer to her for most decisions about our family but she gives me enough space and time for my own pursuits. This agreement took many struggles over many years to come to fruition, and it’s still not quite stable.

We were total strangers who couldn’t even really talk to each other when we were matched by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Seoul in October 1982. He blessed us in a 6,000-couple mass wedding just 4 days later. After this we didn’t see each other for close to 4 years as she worked in Japan and I in Cyprus. During this time we wrote to each other but we always depended on others to translate our letters. I tried to call her on the phone once 3 years after our church wedding, but we could not talk at all because it was just too difficult.

In 1986 we spent one week together in my parents’ house in Luxembourg – in separate rooms. Then in 1987 I went to Japan for one month and traveled with her to different places, always staying in separate rooms. We also visited her family. We got legally married in her hometown in southern Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island and also held a Shinto wedding ceremony in a nearby temple.

I met her two older brothers and their families, and other relatives. Her parents were long gone. Her father had left the family and broke off contact when she was just 5 and her mother died a year before we first met in Seoul.

She and I finally started our family in Tokyo in April 1988, 5½ years after our church wedding. We later lived together in Greece, where our first son was born, then in Egypt and Cyprus before settling down in Luxembourg in October 1991.

Rev. Moon was the one who brought us together and launched us on this path to create a family. We were both followers of his movement – then known as the Unification Church. I had joined in the USA in March 1975 and my wife in Japan in October 1979, which just happened to be the time of my first visit to her country – not knowing her, of course.
(see About my first journey to Japan, across Siberia, in 1979
and On my first Far East trip and on God )

I still do feel grateful to the since-deceased Rev. Moon and the movement he began for having made our family possible. My wife continues to be a loyal follower of his movement, now led by his widow Hak Ja Han.

I was always racked with doubt about him, about God and about the Divine Principle, the teaching that had inspired me to join his church. By the late 1990s I had mentally separated from Rev. Moon and even the whole concept of a God postulated by the monotheistic religions.

My wife and I went through some struggles over this until we agreed that for our children’s sake I would continue to go through the motions as if I was still a believer and would refrain from criticizing Rev. Moon, the church, its leaders and their idea of God.

I have since drifted further and further away from the ‘meme’ of the God of religions. Inspired by many ideas in books I have read and discussions on the Internet I followed I have put together an alternative view of a God that satisfies my desire to have an understanding of what ultimate reality might be. (see Escape from God …? )

I needed such an alternative idea because I wanted to escape, in a way, to get away from the strong pull of the ‘meme’ of God that kept me in thrall for so long. As I am not a leader type I cannot inspire anyone else with my idea, least of all my wife ….

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Leave a comment

The time I went crazy

My parents — 1984

Diary Friday 10 April 2020:

I don’t remember how I said goodbye forever to my parents, my family. All I know is that I really meant it.

I don’t remember my mother’s tears but I know she cried. Her oldest son, the first of her six children, was crazy. That is most likely what my whole family thought at this time. But they knew they could not stop me, dissuade me from my crazy ideas.

During the last months of 1974 and the early part of 1975 I behaved ever more strangely. I kept talking about a coming nuclear war that would leave our civilization in ruins and wipe out most of humankind. What was even worse was that I actually wished for it to happen. I felt it was both inevitable and necessary.

Sometime in 1974 I had read Jack London’s book ‘The Call of the Wild,’ about a dog who took to the wilderness of Canada’s Yukon Territory. I had also heard a lot about ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth’ by Hal Lindsey, though I never read that book. These stories undoubtedly influenced my thinking.

By 1974 I had shed any vestige of belief in the triune God of the Catholics with whom I grew up and also the Allah of the Muslims whom I had encountered in the Middle East.

I believed in nature, in a kind of pantheism. Human civilization defiled our planet. It was like a cancer that gradually overwhelmed the Earth. It had to be destroyed so nature could recover. Our civilization would annihilate itself in a nuclear war, and bands of human survivors would roam parts of the Earth living a new Stone Age. I wanted to be part of these, perhaps even a leader.

I don’t remember how this thought came to my mind but I believed the nuclear war would devastate the world in 1979.

At first I wanted to travel to western Canada and live in the woods there, awaiting the holocaust. But an American friend pointed out to me that the southern hemisphere was more likely to escape total destruction since most nuclear targets were in the north.

I changed my plan and decided to travel eventually to Patagonia. The Canadian woods remained my first destination, though, because I felt a strong attraction to them, perhaps inspired by ‘The Call of the Wild.’ I also believed I had to pass a survival test before heading to my final destination in Patagonia.

So my plan was to try to survive for at least a year more or less in a Stone Age setting in western Canada, and then head south to Argentina. I didn’t give any thought to how I could accomplish that feat, crossing all the countries on the way after basically becoming a Stone Age man.

Thinking back today I feel I really was crazy.

My last job in my home country Luxembourg was as a van driver delivering refrigerators, washing machines and TV sets to households throughout the tiny nation ….

(continued here:  How I met the Unification Movement — part 1

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Leave a comment

My view of the Unification Church / Movement

Barrytown International Training Center NY-USA 19750524-cropped

Unification Church’s Barrytown training center & theological seminary – mid-1970s

[posted 20191124 — addendum below 20191125]
I joined the movement in Barrytown, upstate New York (on the Hudson River northeast of Kingston) in March 1975. After about 8 months I left the movement temporarily because I wanted to travel and collect my thoughts independently, without being influenced by other members. I hitch-hiked from Washington DC to California. After some unusual experiences (Memory of California Thanksgiving 1975) I ended up in Berkeley and decided to visit a local church center, as I had promised my fellow acolytes on the East Coast, but couldn’t find one. Near the University of California campus in Berkeley I met two young men who said they belonged to a group of students calling itself the Creative Community Project, and they invited me to a free Thanksgiving dinner.

As I had lost almost all my possessions in a robbery earlier that day and was short of money I was happy to take them up on it. At the dinner I found out the Creative Community Project was the Unification Church by another name. I joined again, only 16 days after leaving Washington DC….

I remember the first time I saw Rev. Sun Myung Moon himself, the founder of the movement who had developed its core teaching, the Divine Pinciple, and whom we members regarded as the Messiah — the Christ of the Last Days. It was in Barrytown, in the spring of 1975. He spoke to us at length. To me he seemed very arrogant and mercurial, very fond of exercising power over others. I did not feel drawn to him at all. But I told myself, as I had been taught in the church, that it was my own sinful, fallen nature that made me see him like that, similar to the way the Pharisees saw Jesus.

I liked most of the teachings of the church because they clarified a lot of things that troubled me in the world and in the Bible. They seemed very logical and plausible, and I felt the world would certainly be a much better place if all people lived according to them. Most of the fellow members and leaders I dealt with also seemed like really kind, unselfish and yet very intelligent and capable people. Today I continue to feel that way about the majority of the members I have met, although I have long ago given up my belief in the Divine Principle and even the God it describes (Category: Thoughts).

About Moon himself there were always ups and downs in my feelings, depending on what he said and how he said it in the many long speeches he gave which I attended. There were times when I felt he seemed really kind, gentle and funny but at other times he appeared like an extremely arrogant, power-hungry yet petty dictator.

My closest encounter with him came in a big hall at the Little Angels School in Seoul, South Korea on 10 October 1982. There were hundreds or even thousands of members in the hall, women on one side and men on the other. We were there to be matched for a planned mass wedding of 6,000 couples four days later. Moon walked between the rows and picked men and women from the crowd seemingly at random to match them up as couples.

At one point he asked through his interpreter, whom he always used even though he spoke English, for western men who wanted to be matched with oriental women to come forward. I stood up together with perhaps a few hundred other men and moved closer to him. He matched several of our group with oriental women on the other side. Then he came and reached over the shoulder of another member who stood in front of me, took me gently by the chin and asked in English (to my surprise) why I volunteered to be matched to an oriental woman. I said I thought it would be more interesting and I could learn more that way. Then he asked my nationality and what my “mission” was in the church (at the time I was preparing to join other members in Cyprus where we were going to start the Middle East Times weekly newspaper), and I answered.

He nodded and took me a short distance along a row of mostly Japanese women members, then stopped in front of one of them and pointed to her. She got up, stood next to me and we were sent off to discuss our match. Later, after we agreed to accept the arrangement, we returned to the hall and bowed to him to indicate our assent.

This was my only direct contact with Moon.

…………….

From a comment I wrote in early 2000:

“… I wonder how many members or ex-members would say, as Mike says here, that they were sort of in love with SMM (Sun Myung Moon). I, for one, didn’t feel good about him the very first time I saw him (that was in Barrytown in the early spring of 1975).

This changed a bit later, and there were times when I thought he seemed like a deep-hearted, loving person one moment only to become an ogre the next, based on what he said and how he said it, and sometimes he was very amusing, too. He was always very mercurial. I/we were told the impression that he was so fickle came from my/our own fallen nature, etc. — and I was ready to believe that. But he lost me more and more with his boundless arrogance and self-glorification in speech after speech, claiming credit for just about everything under the sun …. 

I stayed in the church, I think, more because of the good that I saw in many loving members than because of him or anyone in his family. I have always wished I could fully return the love and support I was given by many members in different places and at different times in the church — and that has always been a major reason for continuing to support the movement as a whole. DP [Divine Principle, the teaching] had something to do with it, too, until I started looking at it from a bit of a distance, so to speak, and found more and more holes in it.

Anyway, I really wonder how many members, especially male members — since it’s obviously harder for us — are “in love” with SMM the way Mike says he is (SMM himself has, of course, said many times that that is the way our relationship with the “messiah” is supposed to be)….”

——

From a message to a friend in June 2000:

“…. I must admit that I found a lot of good ideas in the DP and in Moon’s speeches and actions, apart from all the garbage, and those I want to keep and put into practice as much as I can. As far as Moon the man is concerned, however, by wanting to be everything and trying to grab all the credit and all the glory he has made himself irrelevant in my eyes. He has become almost like the antithesis of all the good he once taught. He is finished. …..”

Diary Sunday 10 November 2019:

Today I want to write down some more thoughts on religion, belief and philosophy.

I have heard and read many speeches by Rev. Moon (Sun Myung) over the years I followed him, and during that period he inspired me very much at times. There were also times when something he said or did angered me because I felt it was self-serving, self-glorifying, condescending, arrogant, hypocritical and also harmful. I also detected some exaggeration and signs of ignorance on certain subjects in his talks.

The fact that he never made a serious effort to learn English properly and to speak it also put me off. He lived in the USA for so many years but insisted on speaking to us only in his native Korean, using a translator to put it into English. He always claimed to be a world citizen yet he clung to his Korean ways and expected the world to come to him.

Yes, he claimed to be “the messiah,” “the True Parent,” but he also said he was walking “in the shoes of a servant,” and “sacrificing” himself for the world. He traveled a lot and spoke a lot at many lavish events around the world, spending huge amounts of money earned by his followers for him, and contributing a lot to world pollution in very many ways.

I also didn’t like the fact that even in his speeches to members he always wore suits and ties, expensive western clothes, even though he spoke only in Korean. He also expected us male members to wear ties, which I always hated, or at least his subordinates insisted in his name that we wear them.

By the mid-1990s I came to feel Moon had totally run out of ideas and had nothing new to say. His speeches sounded like a broken record. This is also my impression of his widow Hak Ja Han Moon nowadays. She keeps harping on the theme of herself being “the only begotten daughter,” born in the providential (how?) year of 1943, but she has absolutely nothing new to say. She sounds even more like a broken record than he did during the twilight of his life.

Today I find nothing at all inspiring in the talks by Hak Ja Han or any of their children, all of whom do at least speak English, unlike their parents. They are all broken records.

I find it amazing that so many people still follow and listen to them, but perhaps this is primarily a reflection of the sad, spiritually impoverished state of the world today, where appearances mean everything. People are attracted to lavish, spectacular events, which is almost all the Moon movement has to offer these days — or at least those seem to be what inspires people the most.

To me those events are just a terrible waste of money and human and other resources contributing greatly to mental (spiritual) and physical pollution.

I must say I find a lot more inspiration in talks by Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev by his real name), the Indian Yogi, these days than in anything coming out of the “Mooniverse.” I don’t accept or agree with everything Sadhguru says and does by any means, but I find he has a lot more interesting and inspiring things to say than I have heard from Rev. and Mrs. Moon and their children at least since the 1990s.

I cannot and don’t want to try to pull my family away from the Moons, though, because I have nothing to offer them to fill the void such a move would produce, and also because it would cause too much anxiety and antagonism between us, I feel. I ony wish for them to be as happy as they can be, and if following the Moons mostly accomplishes that I am fine with it.

***

Diary Tuesday 12 November 2019:

I’ve reread and thought about my last entry here of 10 November, and I feel I should qualify some of what I wrote on the Moons to better reflect the truth.

My feelings about Rev. Moon were always mixed during my time as a follower but I did believe in him as the Messiah and as the True Parents with his wife Hak Ja Han. I wanted to hear what he had to say because his speeches were often quite inspirational to me even though they tended to be too long.

There were, of course, also many statements in them that I really disliked because they sounded self-aggrandizing, arrogant or hypocritical to me. Sometimes, too, I feared his angry outbursts, as if they were coming from God Him(/Her…)self.

In some ways I did regard Rev. Moon as an earthly expression of God. Through what I learned in Rev. Moon’s church I also came to believe in a spiritual world hidden from our view but whose denizens, our ancestors, could strongly influence us and haunt our dreams. And I believed in the existence of evil separate from God, although I never really managed to accept the reality of angels or of a fallen angelic being we called Satan.

I was really impressed when I first heard Rev. Moon’s teaching The Divine Principle in New York City back in March 1975 and later during workshops in Barrytown upstate. Several months later, near the end of 1975, I was again impressed by the way the workshop teachers in Boonville/California explained the same ideas in a different style.

I always had unresolved and ultimately unresolvable questions about The Divine Principle and many of Rev. Moon’s additional explanations given in his speeches.

Often, when I had serious doubts I would pray and repent to God, which usually made me feel good for a short while. Then I would cast my doubts and misgivings aside, telling myself the world would be a much bleaker, more terrifying place for me if I hadn’t found Rev. Moon. I did express my doubts and ill feelings in writing in my diaries, though, because I believed that was a way to relieve them.

It was not until the mid-1990s when I finally started to question not only Rev. Moon and his teachings but the whole concept of God’s nature itself, as taught by the monotheistic religions….

Addendum Monday 25 November 2019:

Over the last 7 years since Moon died I have followed the sayings and doings of his widow Hak Ja Han. I must say honestly she doesn’t seem very bright to me at all. Her speeches are utterly tedious, and to me they sound quite superficial apart from being repetitious.

She wants to continue the work started by Moon to build the “Cheon Il Guk,” the “Heavenly Kingdom” on earth. Moon died before the date he himself had chosen as the official founding day of this “Cheon Il Guk,” which fell in February 2013.

Just as Moon always lived amidst a crowd of sycophants, so does Hak Ja Han. They make her feel she is the most important and the greatest human being not only on earth but in all of history and in the “cosmos.” They have drafted a constitution for that “Heavenly Kingdom,” and there is an academy to form and train a rudimentary police force and army, it seems. I must admit I know very little about the efforts that have been made in this direction.

The main elements of the formation of the “Heavenly Kingdom,” however, seem to be what is called the “Heavenly Tribal Messiahs.” This is something Rev. Moon himself began and which his widow continues to emphasize. Every Unification “blessed” family (blessed by the Moons) is supposed to bring together a “tribe” of at least 430 families, as their “Messiah.” These will then also be blessed and likewise become “Heavenly Tribal Messiahs.” The idea is that, ultimately, this will create one world family “under God,” in practice meaning under Hak Ja Han and her prospective successors — though she and her husband would forever stand as the one and only “True Parents of Heaven and Earth and Humankind.”

Under her and her close associates’ leadership the movement organizes huge gatherings in many countries around the world during which thousands of couples are “blessed” to become “Heavenly Tribal Messiahs.” There are also many conferences in which scholars and religious leaders from all backgrounds discuss ways to resolve the great problems of our world and to reform the existing order aiming to bring about a hopefully more peaceful and equitable society. I am sure these efforts do have some merit, though they are nothing new or unique.

One problem I see is that there is too much emphasis on VIPs, the powerful, rich and famous. Mrs. Moon and her crowd of flatterers crave access to power and wealth, so they want to bring the powerful and the rich to their side, and to show the world they are recognized as great leaders.

Mrs. Moon talks about the evils of colonialism and exploitation from time to time but she and her entourage seem set to keep the existing capitalist and corporation-dominated system in place, perpetuating those problems. It sure looks like the “Cheon Il Guk/Heavenly Kingdom” would not be much different from the oligarchies and plutocracies we have in the world today. A kingdom? Tribes? — Would there be serfs, too, like the common members of the movement today, many of whom are struggling to meet their financial obligations towards the church, including the large amounts of money they are supposed to cough up to pay for Hak Ja Han’s lavish rallies, banquets and conferences, and for the “liberation and blessing” of their own ancestors in the putative spiritual world.

I do applaud and support Hak Ja Han’s oft-proclaimed dedication to bringing peace to the world as the “mother of peace.” But I don’t see any sign that a better, kinder, peaceful and more equitable society is being built anywhere by the movement.

As far as the separate organizations led by some of the Moons’ sons are concerned, I feel they are actually worse than their mother’s, although they are smaller.

***

Here are two earlier posts on politics of the Unification Movement:

Fighting the Good Fight – or not …

and:  Thoughts on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and more…

The Moons’ royal palace (top right) on a hillside overlooking a village in the Korean countryside. Photo 2014. 

Here is a revealing excerpt from my diary written about three years before I completely abandoned my belief in the God of the monotheistic religions and of course also in Moon’s Divine Principle:

Sunday 8 January 1995: This year began with mixed feelings, both positive and negative — though I want to do my best to take a positive attitude and to overcome my almost overwhelming negativity. It’s a tall order.

I fasted the last 3 days of 1994 to try to make a good start into the new year, but I don’t think it made much of a difference. According to what we have been told by our Korean leaders, God will judge and punish us Blessed Couples more and more. Or at least the drawing closer together of Spirit World and Physical World will allow spirits to accuse and attack us much more than in the past. Whenever I hear this kind of statement, from anyone including Abogee himself, I feel like throwing in the towel and rejecting God completely. This turns me into an enemy of God — or at least of the theoretical God I have come to know through Rev. Moon and his church.

If anything serious happened to me or anyone close to me and I was told or given reasons to assume that it was caused by God or by spirits to punish me for my negativity or for my failures, then I would turn utterly cold to God as I know Him in this church, and I would reject Rev. Moon completely. I have no choice, because to accept it and repent would lead me down a slippery slope of doing things only for fear of punishment. All thoughts of love would be automatically excluded, and love itself would be nullified. I have already gone too far in that direction. — Not that I don’t want to repent. I will repent for mistakes and failures when I can clearly understand the true background that makes them stand out as such, and when I can clearly understand my own responsibility towards God and True Parents.

I accept judgment only when I myself understand how it is just. — And yet all this talk of judgment and punishment raises fears in me, because I am not sure whether God and Rev. Moon are just. Rev. Moon makes many statements that confuse the issue for me and that make it very much harder for me to understand him and accept him. I often cannot see love in his statements even though he uses the word a lot. His idea of love is certainly very different from Paul’s definition in the New Testament — or is it not? It’s true, he does seem to include some of those definitions, but there are also very big qualifications/limitations. Rev. Moon often uses language that is really straight from the Old Testament.

He used to emphasize God’s grief in the past but now he emphasizes God’s anger/resentment much more — because, he says, we failed over and over again. That means there is no more love from God. Love is only for those who fulfill. There was never any truly unconditional love anyway. Yes, there is love without preconditions. But there were and are always strings attached. Love is given, but you have to pay for it later. And you pay more, because interest is charged. You are given many things that you may not even want — but you have to pay for them. And they are actually very, very expensive — as you find out bit by bit. Even life itself is like that. You are given life and you cannot say no if you don’t want it because you realize that the price charged for that dubious gift is too high. —

Here, I guess, my negativity is again taking over. But all these things locked up inside me have to come out and be dealt with somehow. I write them down now but I have no idea how or when I can deal with them in the sense of resolving them.

— Abogee/Rev. Moon has said many times that we are thieves because we take and don’t give. Actually, we are given. Sometimes things are almost pushed down our throats. — He says we stole the Blessing, for example. Actually, I never felt that I wanted the Blessing in the first place. I always felt that I was unworthy of the Blessing, and actually I did not even consider myself a full member anymore at the time when I was sent to Korea for the Blessing. Yes, I was pushed to go. Not forced but strongly encouraged and persuaded, even though I had misgivings because I felt I was not at all ready for it. It was the same when I joined the church. I was pushed by the members. I was always weak in character, very impressionable, gullible and very insecure — so I simply obeyed what I thought was probably God’s will.

I also said Pledge for the same reason. I never really pledged what I read out there — that text which was so weird and all but incomprehensible to me. Certainly I tried to understand that Pledge but I never did and I never agreed with most of it. I said it because of peer pressure and because I was told many times that if I just did it long enough I would come to understand it — and anyway, it was God’s will. Later Rev. Moon said or implied that we were liars and cheats because we pledged those things but failed to fulfill them. What’s this? Is the same thing going to happen with the new Family Pledge?

If I were by myself I would never say Pledge now because I don’t want to be accused later. Again, I don’t agree with it and I cannot feel it or understand it. It’s like saying: obey now — pay later. The Blessing, too, presents a big problem. I was told I was included in the Blessing because a quota of so many couples had to be fulfilled. In recent years I have found out from Rev. Moon’s statements that in accepting the Blessing in 1982 I signed a (spiritual) contract under which I owe a huge debt that I never knew about. I am obligated to do all kinds of things that I never believed I could do, and there is more to come ad infinitum. Again, what’s this? And there is no way I can renegotiate that contract or tear it up — because it’s impossible to change or cancel a spiritual contract.

So, what does all that mean? I am ready to pay, but Rev. Moon asks much more than I can ever pay. Is that God’s way? So then what is love? Where is this so-called unconditional love? It is priceless, but we have to pay the price forever. — And yet I don’t want to close all doors. I follow Rev. Moon (more or less and at a great distance), not because I believe in him or love him, but only because I am a total failure and a reject from the society in which I grew up — and I have found no alternative to his teaching in the Divine Principle. I cannot swallow Divine Principle, but most other ideas I cannot even touch with a 10-foot pole.

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Leave a comment

English

Saturday 2nd November 2019:

Today I want to write about my languages, and how English became the most important one to me.

Like most Luxembourgers I grew up speaking Luxembourgish as my native tongue. It was and still is the language – or dialect for those who regard it as such due to its limited vocabulary – that we use in speaking to our parents, siblings and most commonly in local society as a whole.

I never learnt Luxembourgish in school because it was not officially considered an important literary language at the time. We learned to read and write first in German, then in French, the latter being the main official language in this country. I didn’t know any English until I was about 15, when my younger brother, who had started learning it earlier, persuaded me that it was a useful and interesting language. I began to take an English evening course offered by our hometown for a small fee — just an hour or so a week.

The following year, when I was 16, I switched schools and started studying English more seriously – a few hours a week. I liked it because it seemed relatively easy as it had a lot in common with German and French, and also with Luxembourgish, and in my view it was somehow more logical, more compact and more direct than those languages.

My parents knew hardly any English at all. Only my mother had learned some in school but never used it.

Most of what I wrote in my teenage years was in German, which is closest to my native Luxembourgish. While I thought I could write well in German I gradually came to feel that writing in English gave me more satisfaction even though it was harder. In later years I wrote in German, and occasionally in French, only when I corresponded from abroad with my parents and siblings, or some friends who didn’t know English.

Since the mid-1970s the vast majority of all I have written, perhaps over 90 percent, is in English.

When I joined the editorial staff of the just-founded New York City daily newspaper The News World at the end of 1976 I got my first chance to write articles in English for publication. My very first story appeared in the newspaper in March 1977.

Of all the editorial staff of the paper I was most likely the least educated, as I had never finished any schools except elementary. So it was a matter of great pride to me when my editors accepted my articles and then made fewer and fewer changes in them as my English improved.

I learned a few words in other languages during my time in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Far East. Today I can still count in Arabic, Greek and Japanese but I cannot converse in those languages. I made rather half-hearted attempts to learn Greek and Japanese on my own but gave up when I felt they were too difficult and not really worth-while for me to know.

One reason I felt this way was that I believed I still had a lot of work to do improving my English, which had by then become my bread and butter. I still believe this, and I find new or forgotten English words in my reading and in my dictionary almost every day.

Categories: Thoughts | Leave a comment

On my first Far East trip and on God

Tokyo Japan 19791022 two days after arrival fm Siberia

My postcard from Tokyo on 22 October 1979, two days after arrival from Siberia

Diary Sunday 6 October 2019:

Forty years ago today (6 October 1979) I set off on my first journey to the Far East.

The trip, lasting about 4 months, took me by train from Luxembourg (where I had returned from New York just 3 months earlier after 52 months – 4 years 4 months in the USA) to Liège, Belgium, then to Moscow in what was then the USSR, – Soviet Union – then from Moscow across southern Siberia to Nakhodka on the Soviet Far East coast, then from Nakhodka on a Soviet passenger ship [SS Baikal] to Japan through the remnant of Supertyphoon Tip in the Pacific, to Yokohama, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Itoh (on Izu Peninsula) and Chiba for 2 weeks, then on an Air India Boeing 707 through stormy weather via Hong Kong (Kaitak Airport) to Bangkok (Don Muang Airport), my final destination.

The train and boat rides across Siberia, the Sea of Japan, Tsugaru Strait (between Honshu and Hokkaido) and down the Pacific side of Honshu through very heavy seas to Yokohama took exactly 14 days — 2 full weeks.

In Thailand I traveled twice to Si Khiu near Nakhon Ratchasima to bring supplies to a refugee camp, also visited Thonburi across the river from Bangkok and Bang Pa In just north of the city, and went twice by bus and train for a few days to Georgetown on Penang Island, Malaysia to renew my Thai stay permit. I did not have enough money for tourism there.

Si Khiu refugee camp Thailand December 1979

At Si Khiu refugee camp December 1979 with Japanese doctors and nurses

After about 3 months I was invited to return to my work in New York (for The News World daily newspaper), and since I was fed up with Bangkok anyway I gladly accepted. At the beginning of February 1980 I flew in a TAROM (Romania) Airlines Boeing 707 via Abu Dhabi or Dubai or Manama (Bahrain — I forget which of the three) to Bucharest Otopeni Airport and then on a Tupolev 154 to Frankfurt, and from there by train to Luxembourg, where I stayed about 2 weeks before traveling by car to England, London, Nottingham and Mansfield for a few days, and flying from London directly back to New York.

It was a very memorable journey, and I was most impressed with Japan.

————–

On God:

Not long ago I went to an African evangelical Christian service and was struck by how much the believers there praised God. To most religious people, especially those of the monotheistic faiths, this would seem quite normal. Many seem to believe that our lives here on earth and in the hereafter have meaning only insofar as we can serve and glorify God. From my experiences with Muslims and Christians, and Jews to a lesser extent, I know that praising God and thanking Him (/Her…) for our existence and for saving us or at least offering us salvation is one of the most important elements of worship (this term itself says it all).

The implication is that we live at His pleasure and have to offer Him devotion and praise. This is the most extreme in Islam, where God’s name is invoked for just about anything, as if believers had to be afraid to be punished for not praising God enough.

I have often wondered what this reveals about the personality, the psychology of the postulated and adulated God. Why would God, who is supposedly almighty, all-knowing and eternal, need to receive so much praise and glorification? Doesn’t that seem extremely narcissistic?

In Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church we believed that God was suffering, grieving for fallen humankind, which was mostly in thrall to His adversary Satan — whom God Himself also originally created as a good angel, Lucifer. We believed God could not interfere directly with humankind’s responsibility to recognize our fault and return to Him. This was because God had to follow the Principles which He Himself had laid down in creating the Universe and us.

But we also believed God was ultimately almighty and would certainly succeed in His effort to bring humanity back. His will to do that was paramount and unchanging. This was because we were to be God’s children, whom He originally created for love, a love that is supposedly the greatest force in the Universe.

So if we wanted to return to God we had to repent and do penance (pay indemnity as we called it in the church), and to love God by doing His will. God was our original parent, we believed, and He created the Universe for us. But this God was not only a pitiful suffering God. He was also an angry, even vengeful God, as Rev. Moon implied many times in his speeches to us members of his church, and as is told in many passages of the Bible and the Qur’an as well as in some of Jesus’ parables. God was suffering because we had fallen away from Him and spurned His love, and we continued to either ignore or oppose His efforts to win us back. And we had to pay a ransom to this imaginary Satan, and repent in order to alleviate God’s anger (I think this is the underlying reason for the need of repentance).

Over time all these ideas lost every vestige of sense and meaning to me. This God was either a conceited narcissist or a pathetic yet vengeful character whom I simply could not love or praise. Believers of monotheistic faiths could not convince me that there is such a God. I have come to think this God is really a delusion.

We are not children of a God — we are God, in a way. We are infinitesimally tiny parts of God, yet God develops and changes through us. As individuals we are just sparks in time that leave a residue in God’s Universal Memory when we fade away. But as humankind we represent a substantial part of God.

***

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and more…

0-Thailand article 1977 TNW NYC-c

One of my early articles in The News World under my pseudonym Aaron Stevenson

Diary Thursday 12 September 2019 [continued on 20 September]:

Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, when 2 towers and one large building collapsed, killing around 3,000 people. As usual, the anniversary (9/11) was marked around the world with ceremonies in which people expressed their support of the great USA.

I want to take stock of my feelings for that USA, which I long regarded as a second homeland.

My father always professed to hate the USA — though by no means all of her people or even the culture. He watched plenty of American movies, for example. He used to say the US were dominated by “Jews,” who were an ethnocentric tribe of money-grubbing Shylocks, in his mind.

His view of “Jews” was colored by his involvement with Nazis in World War II, when he was a mechanic in the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, in which he had enlisted because he loved airplanes and had hopes of becoming a fighter pilot [he was not accepted for that special training as he was past their age limit of 28 at the time].

I don’t think he ever knew any real Jews. They were mostly just caricatures in his mind, I think. So, to him they were all one kind, all the same, with the same Shylock-type attitude.

I don’t know now if my father’s feelings about the Jews and the USA influenced us his 6 children in any way. Perhaps the only one really affected by this is my brother Gilbert — but in an opposite way. Among all of us Gilbert was the one most in opposition to my father’s ideas and visceral impulses. So Gilbert has become a very ardent supporter of the USA and Israel, and the Jewish people in general — whom he almost completely identifies with Zionism.

So what about me? I don’t think my father’s expressed feelings about the USA and the “Jews” affected me very much. Like most kids my age I was fascinated by many aspects of American culture and by the USA as a whole.

The assassination of President Kennedy and the mystery surrounding it affected me, though. I was close to 13 years old (12 y. 9 mo.) when it happened in November 1963 (actually, the day before Gilbert’s 11th birthday). I remember staring at the large black and white pictures in the German magazine “Stern,” which my father used to read. I found it hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was shot dead by Ruby right after he was nabbed by the police. Somehow the assassination itself and the aftermath, followed a few years later by the murders of Martin Luther King and Kennedy’s brother Robert, seemed totally sinister, evil — and in my mind a cloud descended on the rosy image I had of the USA.

When I saw pictures and film of what the US were doing in Vietnam I even joined a protest march to the American Embassy in Luxembourg City once; I think that was in the winter of 1968-69. However, this did not mean I hated the American people or the culture. Around the same time I met Ben Barker in Clervaux (Luxembourg), my first American friend. He was a middle-aged itinerant evangelical preacher and puppeteer, on a bicycle tour of Europe. We corresponded for a few years after that, though I never saw him again.

In school, where I started learning English from the age of 16 (February 1967 — in the Lycée de Garçons/Esch-Alzette), I tried to speak the language with what I thought was an American accent — to the displeasure of my teacher, who spoke the purest Oxford English.

Also, in 1968 or 1969, I applied for a scholarship offered by the American Field Service that would have allowed me to study for one year at a high school in the USA. I wrote an essay for them — I think it was about American-Luxembourg relations — and was accepted. The only problem was that my parents had to pay for my air ticket to the US and give me some money for expenses, as I did not have any except in a special savings account that could not be debited until I was 21 (1972) [I had already earned a small salary in 1966-67 when I worked as an apprentice fitter in the ARBED Belval steel mill for about 6 months — but that money mostly went into the savings account]. My parents could not afford to pay, so I had to cancel my application for the AFS scholarship.

By 1972 I was desperate to get away from Luxembourg, so I got my first visa for the USA from the same Embassy I had marched against a few years earlier. In my correspondence with my friend Ben Barker during those years I had learned quite a bit about America but we had a mild dispute about the US bombing of North Vietnam, which he supported but I abhorred. He wrote from different places as he moved often — from Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, etc. He always wanted me to read the Bible and accept Jesus as my personal Savior. I still have 5 of the letters Ben wrote me, from 1969 and 1970.

In 1972 I also went to Brussels to visit the Canadian and South African Embassies and to ask what I needed to do to immigrate to either of those countries. The Canadians said I first had to find a job in Canada, and for the South Africans it was more or less the same — though they told me my qualifications were insufficient.

Between 1975 and 1982 I spent a total of just over 6 years in the USA, mostly working with the Unification Movement (Korea’s Sun Myung Moon) and its offshoot companies, especially the daily newspaper The News World in New York City, which we launched at the end of 1976.

I never returned to the US after 1982 but worked for ABMC, a US Government agency, from 1992 until my retirement in 2016. ABMC (American Battle Monuments Commission) maintains the (WWII) Luxembourg American Cemetery where I was custodian-guide and associate those 24 years.

In my time in the US and later in the cemetery I got to know many Americans and learned a lot more about the USA.

In the Unification (“Moon”) Movement in America we were very patriotic, very positive about the country and its role in the world. This was, of course, reflected in our newspaper. I edited and wrote many articles with a strong pro-American, conservative bias in those days, because like most “Moonies” I believed the US was the most important country, without which the world could not be saved from evil communism and socialism.

I shook off the unease and even horror I had felt earlier about what the US had done to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The USA had withdrawn from that region and now those countries had fallen to communism.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s I had been curious about the Soviet Union, and my father always viewed the Russians positively as a counterweight to the USA. I sometimes read a pro-Soviet magazine in German, Sowjetunion Heute, and found it quite interesting although I was not attracted to Russia nearly as much as I was to the USA. At one point in 1971 I visited the Soviet (USSR) Embassy in Luxembourg-Beggen to sign a book of condolences for the 3 cosmonauts killed in space during the Soyuz-11 mission. I received a free lifetime subscription to Sowjetunion Heute, which my father went on to keep after I left Luxembourg.

In October 1979 I crossed the Soviet Union by train on my way to Japan. The country appeared rather shabby to me, almost like a Third World nation, not at all like a great superpower that threatened the west. A few months later when I was living in Bangkok I heard and read about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (a country I had visited in March 1972 on a very memorable trip). I was shocked. I hadn’t followed events leading up to the invasion — at least not closely. In the newspaper in New York during 1978 and 1979 the Iranian Revolution dominated the headlines and our attention. Afghanistan seemed a sideshow. Now the Soviets, the “evil communist empire,” had broken out of their underbelly and seemed poised to march to the shores of the Arabian Sea.

Later, during the 1980s when I worked for the Middle East Times, I wrote many articles about Afghanistan and traveled to some of its eastern border areas three times with mujehideen from Pakistan. All 3 times I came under artillery fire from Afghan and Soviet forces. My articles were, of course, biased against the Soviets and their Afghan allies/”puppets.” I was still very pro-American, keeping the mindset I had acquired during my time in the USA.

Yet I began to have some doubts. Actually it had already started when I was still in New York working for The News World. The first stirring of my doubts about what we were doing began when I was asked to write our top story of the day, under a banner headline, hailing the military coup d’état in La Paz / Bolivia led by General Luis Garcia Meza Tejada in July 1980.

At the time our company published a right-leaning, anti-communist Spanish newspaper, Noticias Del Mundo, whose offices were located one floor above our newsroom in our building — the former headquarters (until ca. 1940) of the famous Tiffany & Co., at 401 Fifth Avenue (37th Street entrance).

The editor-in-chief of Noticias Del Mundo was an Argentinian journalist named Rodriguez Carmona, who I believe had ties to his country’s intelligence service under the bloodthirsty dictatorship of Gen. Jorge Videla. Rodriguez Carmona provided the information based on which I was to write my article. I was reluctant because I had doubts about the character of the coup plotters in Bolivia. In the end I wrote the story as suggested by my editor, Robert Morton, and it was published at the top of our front page under my pseudonym byline (in the paper, whenever I was in New York City, I always wrote under the name Aaron Stevenson, which was chosen for me in early 1977 when my first story appeared, due to concerns about my status as an illegal alien; when I worked for the paper out of Washington DC in June 1979, for some reason, my real name Erwin Franzen was used with my stories).

I was not happy about that story on the coup and it became one of the reasons I quit my job temporarily a month later (late August 1980) and returned to Luxembourg for 4 months until I got fed up there again and came back to New York and The News World at the beginning of 1981.

Bo Hi Pak, our publisher and our founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s interpreter, and my editor Morton and most of our staff welcomed the Garcia Meza coup because it kept Hernan Siles Zuazo from gaining power as he would have in fair elections. We regarded Siles Zuazo as a dangerous leftist. Pak and some of our members went to Bolivia and were well received by the coup leaders. They were enthusiastic about the prospect of being allowed and even encouraged to teach Victory Over Communism (our anti-communist doctrine) in schools there and to establish chapters of CAUSA International — our church’s new anti-communist political organization, which focused mainly on Latin America and Hispanics in the USA.

From the beginning it was clear that the Bolivian coup was backed by Videla’s dictatorship in Argentina, and some of our people were happy about that because they were regarded as staunch anti-communists.

Soon, however, it also became clear that those nice, friendly anti-communists were torturing and massacring opponents and even anyone who could be labeled a leftist or human rights activist. The coup leaders also enjoyed active support from some Nazis such as Klaus Barbie, the “butcher of Lyon” in World War II, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews.

Garcia Meza and his henchmen were also deeply involved in cocaine trafficking. When Ronald Reagan became President early in 1981 his administration learned from the FBI about the Garcia Meza regime’s involvement in drug trafficking, and quickly began to distance itself from them. Articles about this drug business appeared in American newspapers, and soon La Paz became isolated.

We also ended up having to distance ourselves from them. But the episode taught me that our stance of almost blindly supporting anyone who professed anti-communism was at least very naive if not outright dangerous.

I began to have doubts about US support for dictatorships like that of Pinochet in Chile and Videla in Argentina. Jimmy Carter had emphasized human rights and tried to push some US allies to improve their record in that area. Under Reagan, however, human rights violators were only criticized and punished if they were leftist or communist, or did not submit to US pressure. Our members whole-heartedly agreed with this idea, and I tend to believe a majority of them still do even to this day.
[For more on this see my earlier post: Fighting the Good Fight – or not …]

CONTINUED on Friday 20 September 2019:

During the 1990s I was somewhat ambivalent about America’s role in the world. The Soviet Union had collapsed and it seemed the US now regarded itself as the ultimate power in the world. A first glimpse of this emerging reality was, in my view, afforded by the 1991 Gulf War.

While it is true that the GHW Bush administration consulted with Soviet leader Gorbachev at the time, it was clear the US was in the driver’s seat. There was already no doubt in anyone’s mind that the USSR was crumbling, dying. And China was still mostly a Third World country, though, like India, equipped with some nuclear arms.

I certainly didn’t like Saddam Hussein but I felt the crisis in the Gulf when he invaded Kuwait should be resolved by diplomacy, not war. When the US built a coalition of military forces to attack Iraq I did not like it because I felt it was not necessary and could lead to great disaster. I remember Bush sought advice and support from evangelist Billy Graham before he launched the assault. I did not like that at all. It seemed like a Christian leader gave his blessing to a war of choice, not a defense of the United States. The US was not threatened by Iraq, and everybody knew that country would not stand a chance fighting America — with or without a coalition of other powers.

Then the inevitable happened. Iraq was devastated, leading to vastly more death and destruction than it caused in invading Kuwait. Then there was the so-called “highway of death,” what US airmen called a “Turkey shoot.” American bombers totally butchered hundreds or thousands of Iraqi soldiers who were retreating from Kuwait. That was absolute, wanton mass murder and a war crime in my book. Yet I gave the United States the benefit of the doubt.

It took many more years before I finally changed my mind. When Clinton later bombed Serbia in 1999 I thought he and NATO were fully justified because of what I had heard and read about what the Serbs had allegedly done to Bosnia and Kosovo. I would change my mind about that only much later when I learned more about what happened from non-western points of view.

In the cemetery where I worked we always held ceremonies to mark Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and often on other occasions as well, such as the anniversary of the liberation of Luxembourg (10 Sep. 1944) and the start of the Battle of the Bulge (16 Dec. 1944). We always had American general officers or top diplomats speaking at these events. Invariably they would equate what American military forces were doing around the world at this time with what the GIs did in World War II — defending the US and Europe against the forces of evil.

They also always portrayed the deceased soldiers as heroes who died on the battlefield for a great cause. One word that I missed in most of their speeches was peace. I also missed it in our agency ABMC’s publications and in the instructions given us for guided tours of the cemetery. Our motto became: “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds,” taken from a statement by Gen. John Pershing, the founder. The emphasis was always on “glory.” The soldiers rested “in honored glory.” Their deeds in war were “glorious.” So that meant in a way war was good, because it brought glory to those who won, who defeated their enemies, anyway.

But I took very many family members and close friends or war comrades to the graves of their loved and cherished ones over the years. The family members and buddies clearly felt sorrow over the loss of those young men (and one woman, among over 5,000 dead), not glory. They did not say they were happy that their loved ones rested in “glory.” I think they mostly wished for peace, that almost forbidden word / idea. Most said they hoped there would never be another war like World War II, no conflict in Europe or — God forbid — in America.

I felt there was a major change after 9/11, a hardening of the attitudes of many Americans towards people of other cultures such as Muslims. There was also a big change in our agency, ABMC. Whereas in the 1990s we had struggled financially and our mission was not considered especially important, after 2001 the US Congress greatly increased our budget, and our work was given a major impetus. But the idea of peace was buried ever so deep, it seems to me. America was at war and had to continue in this state indefinitely. So those who had fought in the world wars of the 20th century were honored even more than before, because they had made America not only great but the greatest of all the major powers of history.

I read several books and a lot of articles on the Internet that gave me insight into unsavory aspects of American history, and foreign and military policy, of which I had hitherto known very little. In recent years I have become almost totally disillusioned with the USA as I have observed how they strive to put a stranglehold on the whole planet with their enormous military and economic power and their gigantic intelligence apparatus, which they use to destroy, to coerce, to lie and to cheat others.

In my opinion the US use by far the largest proportion of their power and their wealth to dominate or crush other countries, and only a comparatively puny share to help and support those in need. I believe Russia and China and Iran, and other potential rivals or foes of the US build up their own military forces and intelligence capabilities as much as they do because they feel rightfully threatened by the US.

Categories: News and politics, Thoughts, Travel

Escape from God …?

Excerpts adapted from recent diary entries [important clarification inserted below in bold type on 13 April 2019]:
On the Run from God… (provisional title of the memoirs I am writing).

My grandmother used to tell a story about me when I stayed with her once as a very small boy. She said I had been outside their house in the sun for a short while one day when I suddenly came running inside exclaiming: “The sun is moving! The sun is moving!”
When she and my grandfather looked at me I said I saw how the shadows of the houses moved.
My grandmother, who was a good Catholic, said: “The sun does not move but God holds our earth in his hand and moves it around the sun.”
“Can we see how God does this?” I asked, and she told me God cannot be seen.
Then, according to her story, I retorted: “How can God move our earth if we cannot see him? I cannot believe this.”
For some reason my answer impressed my grandmother so much that she regarded me as a very bright kid.

Perhaps ever since that time I have tried to find this invisible God.
I was raised a Catholic and took my religion seriously until doubts became too strong in my teenage years.
In my early twenties while traveling in the Middle East I officially became a Muslim in Damascus, Syria and performed the Haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca and Medina with some friends. Having forsaken Catholicism I was yet unable to become inspired by Islam and never delved into it.
Then two years later, at age 24, I met the Unification Church of the Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon in the United States. I became more inspired than I had ever been before and thought I had really, finally, found God.

The Divine Principle, the teaching of Rev. Moon, and the mostly friendly and loving yet also very competent members of this movement convinced me for a time that God worked through them to create a better world. I always had doubts, of course, about God, about Moon, about the teachings and also about my fellow acolytes. But I felt nonetheless that this movement was the best hope for a humankind I considered debauched and bound for self-destruction.

…. About the title of my book “On the Run from God”: the God from whom I am running away, trying to escape, is a myth – in my view. It is an extremely powerful myth that holds most of humankind in thrall, in bondage. To me it is a God that cannot exist but is nonetheless real to most of my fellow humans.

…. I don’t believe in such a God. I thought I did many years ago, and clung to an illusion of such a belief for many years. But gradually, between 1994 and 1998, I came to realize that my belief itself was unreal – it wasn’t me. I did not really, deeply believe in such a God. I never did. I only wanted such a God to exist, because I accepted other people’s contention that it was good, right, just.
Starting in 1994 I applied Occam’s Razor to the entire concept of that God. Over the next several years I came to understand that I could never really believe in such a God and that such a God really could not exist. It did not make any sense at all anymore.

Today I remember that it was comforting to believe there was an almighty father/mother who had created us and who was good, benevolent, gracious, compassionate, and who always supported us when we did our best to be good too. 

It was comforting to feel we were the children of this God, and that together with our Heavenly Father/Mother we could right this world, rid it of all evil. I, too, clung to this belief. I always had doubts, which I had to find ways to overcome. I imagine everybody wrestles with such doubts at times.
Then we have to dig deep into ourselves and pray, and our hearts tell us how bleak and terrible the world would be without such a God. And we repent. Then we feel good. We feel this God’s warm embrace. It seems God likes it most when we repent. That is what binds us to this God – repentance. And it always makes us come back for more of this warm embrace that we feel after we repent. I felt like that too, many, many times.
However, this warm embrace is gone when I return to reality, when the prayer is over. Very quickly afterwards there is nothing left but a memory of the embrace that fades fast when confronted by the reality around me and the realization that nothing has changed as a result of the prayer. Everything is still broken, shattered. The world is still beautiful in one sense and a horrible mess in another.
I do believe it is up to us to right this world. I do believe I should do my best to be good and do good. Simply because I am horrified by the bad I see within myself and around me, and because I love the beauty and the goodness that I also see everywhere.

In my view now there is a real God hidden behind the mythical, false God described by the monotheistic religions. The real God must have inspired the myth but is quite different from the way He/She/It is described. Over the last 20+ years I have been trying to understand that real God, and I am still searching….

I believe I, we, all, everything, are parts of this real God. God is all there is. God, originally, is not good or bad. Yet He/She/It encompasses all the good and all the bad, all the beauty and all the ugliness as we understand them. 

God as universal consciousness divided Him/Her/Itself into innumerable parts, each clinging to a physical entity – a projection that made the separation from other parts of universal consciousness real. Many parts were joined together in larger physical entities. Each of us humans is composed of many parts joined together. Our individual consciousness arises out of the many parts joined together to form one mind and one body.
Our individual, separate consciousness cannot continue to function once the body that holds it decays. It’s like water in a cup. When the cup breaks the water flows in all directions until eventually it returns to the ocean. The ocean is universal consciousness, God. But the water has memory. There is universal memory, which in my mind determines time itself. There is also entropy, which I think degrades the memory to some extent. I don’t know, of course. These are just stray thoughts of mine.
God created everything by dividing Him/Her/Itself and then pushing everything to evolve in various directions. I believe we humans, collectively, are a spearhead of this evolution of God. There may very well be others, other spearheads – meaning the most highly developed, separate forms of consciousness. This evolution continues, of course. God’s – and our – understanding of good and bad evolved from the interaction of the separate consciousnesses into which God had divided Itself, especially us humans (spearhead/s).
I believe God, as the sum or the ocean of universal consciousness, retains an identity, a personality clinging to the physical universe as a whole and in particular to the spearhead/s of evolution (really God’s own evolution) – us humans (and perhaps other such spearheads – advance guards – in other parts of the universe). So this God inspired all the so-called holy scriptures (at least those who conceived them) and prophets, etc. God inspired those who produced what became the Torah, the Bible, the Vedas, the Avesta, the Quran and many others. But God’s own personality evolved and continues to evolve – through the spearhead/s, through us.
That is my belief now, after struggling for many years to formulate an understanding that would explain my doubts and allow me to separate from the teachings of Rev. Moon to which I had clung almost desperately for so long.

Categories: Thoughts | Leave a comment

About my father ….

My story really begins with my father, who was the dominant figure in my early life. Nic Franzen was born in March 1911 in the town of Esch-sur-Alzette, the second largest in my country Luxembourg. The river Alzette, which gave the Luxembourg national anthem its colloquial name, enters the country from France and passes under this town as a small creek before heading north to the capital city and beyond.

Nic was the second of six children. He remembered a little bit about the Great War, in which our German neighbors crossed our country to attack our Belgian and French neighbors. There was no fighting on our soil as we did not have an army to oppose the Germans, but some action took place just over our borders. Nic was in second grade when the war ended in 1918.
I don’t remember him talking much about his youth and his first decade as an adult before the start of the second war in his life, World War II. His brief memoirs, which he recorded not long before his death in 1991, cover the period between the wars very sparsely. He did tell us his children some stories from the time in the late 1920s and early 1930s when he played dance music in local taverns on both sides of the French-Luxembourg border with his father, uncle and some of his brothers. He used to play the trumpet. By trade he was a mechanical fitter and welder. Sometimes he told us with some pride that he had read books by great philosophers such as Kant, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. He wanted to impress us with the importance of learning.
After France and Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939 my father and a friend went to the town of Audun-le-Tiche across the border and volunteered to join a unit of mercenaries that a French Army colonel by the name of Péricard was planning to assemble in order to launch suicide missions against the German armed forces. The unit was to be called “volontaires de la mort” – death volunteers. The plan fell apart when the colonel’s superior General Gamelin rejected the idea as “unnecessary.”
When World War II came to Luxembourg with a German invasion in May 1940 Nic was shocked to find that the country’s leaders around Grand Duchess Charlotte and her family fled abroad. I don’t remember him mentioning it but it was a stark contrast to the action of Charlotte’s elder sister Marie Adelheid, who as a very young head of state had stayed in the country when the German Army invaded in 1914. Marie Adelheid was later hounded mercilessly by politicians and the local press for being too friendly with the Germans, and abdicated in disgrace in favor of Charlotte. She briefly served as a nun in Italy but fell gravely ill and died of influenza at her mother’s residence in Germany before she reached age 30.
My father felt Charlotte and her cabinet had abandoned the country to save their own skins. He believed that had they stayed they might have been able to intercede with the Germans on behalf of the Luxembourg people to alleviate the harsh conditions they imposed during the occupation. Of course, perhaps Charlotte wanted to avoid suffering the same fate as her hapless sister.
Since his youth Nic had been fascinated by airplanes, and when the German Nazi Air Corps offered free flying lessons on gliders in 1941 he applied. He then went to a flight school in Germany twice for one month and returned with a license to fly glider planes. The following year he enlisted in the Luftwaffe, the German air force, hoping to learn to fly fighter aircraft. After going through basic training at Reims in France he worked as an aircraft ordnance technician at Juvincourt airfield near that town for eight months. Later he was assigned to the Richthofen fighter wing at Triqueville near the English Channel.
His dream was to fly the fighters he serviced but he learned that the Luftwaffe did not accept anyone over the age of 28 for pilot training. As he was already 31 at the time he was considered too old.
In his memoirs he wrote that he considered desertion when he realized his dream could not be fulfilled. However he did enjoy the adventurous life at Triqueville airfield, where they were almost daily under attack from British and American aircraft. He received permission from his superiors to build an improvised anti-aircraft weapon by attaching a 20-mm machine gun from a fighter to a tripod with a turntable bearing he had welded together. A hole was dug for him where he placed his device with boxes of ammunition. When his comrades were taken away to shelters before a raid he would stay behind and fire at the attacking aircraft from his hole in the ground.
Sometime later when their airfield was almost totally destroyed by heavy bombardments his unit was ordered to move to another location in northern France, and then another, and another. Nic wrote in his memoirs that because he spoke French well he was occasionally sent on errands to different places around France.
At one point he got orders to move to an airfield at Aix-en-Provence near the French Mediterranean coast. He wrote that he loved that area very much. One of his missions was to take 100 anti-ship bombs from the Paris area on a special train to Marseille, which took as long as 22 days because of sabotage of the rail lines by the French resistance.
In the fall of 1944, after Allied forces broke out from their beachheads in Normandy and in the south of France, his unit was ordered back to Germany. They stayed in a village north of Frankfurt during most of the winter but then moved east and south as they lost more and more of their aircraft. Finally, when they had no more planes, the remnants of the unit drove their trucks to Munich.
At this point there is a break in my father’s memoirs, where he mentions only that he escaped from American “detention.” He does not explain how he was captured by the Americans or where and how long he was held until he managed to flee. I remember him telling me the Americans did not feed him, and I thought he also said one or more of his fellow inmates were killed during the escape, but I am not sure memory serves.
Somehow he became a prisoner again on his way back towards Luxembourg but he didn’t explain in his memoirs who captured him or how this happened. After spending about two weeks in detention in Alsace, France he was taken in August 1945 to an improvised prison camp in Luxembourg guarded by young thugs who often amused themselves by mistreating the inmates.
The following month he was moved to the Grund prison in Luxembourg City, where he had to make bags with paper and glue all day. Soon afterwards he volunteered to join a prisoner bomb disposal squad. He and a few others were taken to Clervaux in the devastated north of the country, where the Battle of the Bulge had raged during the winter of 1944-45. As he was the only professional welder in the group he was assigned the task of cutting up disabled tanks and armored vehicles that littered the former battlefields in the area.
In February 1946 he was sent back to the Grund prison to make paper bags again until the following month, when, on his 35th birthday he had to appear in court before a special tribunal. This tribunal had to handle the cases of as many as 8,000 people accused of collaboration with the Germans, so the judicial proceedings were completed very quickly. My father was sentenced to an 18-year prison term, even though the court had testimonial evidence that he had never betrayed anyone to the Germans during the occupation, as others had done. In his memoirs he wrote that he believed some of those sitting in judgement or mistreating prisoners might have secretly collaborated with the Germans and betrayed others but were not found out after the war.
In addition to the prison term he was also divested of his Luxembourg citizenship and became a foreigner in his own country.
In February 1949 the Luxembourg government decided to reduce the sentences of collaborators like my father, who were tried immediately after the war and were given heavy prison terms even though there was no evidence that they had betrayed anyone to the Germans. Nic’s elder brother “Lux” (as he was known to us) had actually worked with the anti-Nazi resistance, and Nic knew others who did the same but he always kept that information from the Germans.
My father was conditionally released from prison at the end of March 1949. 

Nic Franzen 1971-03 and 1991-03 -c

Nic Franzen at 60 and on his last birthday 20 years later — 1991.

1-Lux Nic Mett Fränz Colas Franzen 1928

Franzen dance music band 1928 — Nic is second from left.

****

 

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.