Search This Blog

17 July 2021

My 2½ days in prison in Czechoslovakia

 

My 1982 visa for Czechoslovakia on the left

In March 1982 I traveled by train from Vienna to Berlin, passing through Czechoslovakia. 

At Tabor, about 90 kilometers south of Prague, five armed soldiers took me off the train. One of them had found what they considered suspicious material in my luggage and called the others for help. There were some newspaper clippings of mostly anti-Soviet commentaries and the latest annual report from the US Secretary of Defense to the Congress, as well as a lot of literature on current military affairs, etc. 

I hadn't thought they would search my luggage thoroughly as I was only in transit, especially since a few years earlier when I spent nine days crossing the Soviet Union by train I underwent only what I felt was a rather superficial inspection by KGB border guards. 

These people were serious. They kept me for an hour or so in the waiting room of Tabor train station, with two soldiers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles beside me. They came to stand guard behind me when I went to the toilet. There were other train passengers in the station but hardly anyone dared look in our direction.

Later I was taken to a big office upstairs and ordered to strip down naked while they checked to make sure I didn't carry anything unusual attached to my body or in my clothes. They went through all my luggage and separated all the material they deemed suspicious, then put the rest back.

Later in the evening two men in plainclothes came from Prague and took me and my luggage by car to Ceske Budejovice, about 60 kilometers away. We entered a large building marked with a red star and walked up one or two flights of stairs, then they took me to an office in a long corridor. There was at least one armed soldier who stood guard outside. In the office one of the men started interrogating me while the other took notes on a manual typewriter. I spoke to them only in German.

They asked me many questions about my background, my work as a journalist and about the stuff I was carrying. I felt I should cooperate as much as possible so they wouldn't get the impression that I was hiding something. They had found out I was a member of the Unification Church of the Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and this seemed of special interest to them because they wanted to find out if I knew anything about secret activities of this movement behind the Iron Curtain. Luckily I didn't know anything about that – I say luckily because had I known something they might have noticed that I was hiding it from them, and the interrogation would surely have turned much more unfriendly.  

Unlike the soldiers at Tabor the two men from Prague were not especially intrigued by the literature I was carrying from the US Defense Department and even the CIA. Perhaps they knew the Pentagon provided this material to journalists for free. I had collected a lot of stuff from the Pentagon that they sent me without charge during my years working for The News World daily in New York.  I also used to get literature from the late former Navy Captain Herbert Hetu, who opened the CIA's first Public Affairs office in 1977 –- nothing secret, of course. The US government was much more generous giving out information in those days than it is now – I think mainly as a result of embarrassing congressional investigations during the mid-1970s.  

Late at night the soldier standing guard outside and one other man took me to the end of the corridor, where they opened a thick door that looked like it was made of steel. Behind the door was a prison. I was taken downstairs to a basement and given prison clothing, a towel and a spoon, knife and fork with very short handles and made of some very light, soft metal. After that they led me back up to cell number 26. Much of what happened is a little fuzzy in my memory now but I did memorize that number.

If I remember correctly the cell contained a toilet, a sink and four bunk beds. The ceiling was very high, and there was a small window at least two meters above the floor. There was also a simple light fixture high above and the light was always on.

I spent the first night alone in the cell. In the morning some food and water was pushed through a small hatch in the door. I don't remember any details about the food except that it seemed a bit strange to me but basically edible. I remember hearing voices coming from outside the window at one point. It sounded like prisoners were outside in a courtyard, but the window was too high for me to be able to see what was below.

Later I was taken back to the office to continue the interrogation with the two men from Prague. Everything I said was directly translated into Czech and typed up with three carbon copies. Once they filled a page they read it back to me in German and asked me to confirm if it was correct. Then I had to sign the original and every one of the carbon copies. In this way, during the course of the second day they filled nine pages with my statements. A couple of times I asked them to correct something they read back to me, and they did, but of course I did not know Czech and could not check what they typed up.

I was taken back to the cell for lunch and later returned to the office for another round of interrogation. I asked how long they were going to keep me there and I wanted to contact the embassy or consulate of my country. I don't remember what the men said but it was non-committal.

After returning to my cell I found two other men there. I tried to talk to them to find out why they were in prison but they spoke only Czech and didn't seem to understand my rather lame attempt to communicate with sign language. They were not unfriendly, though, and the next night passed without incident. 

On the third day I was taken to the office again but this time there was another man there who seemed to be a figure of authority. He barely glanced at me but spoke to the other two men in Czech and at one point made what seemed like a dismissive hand gesture. One of the two men then told me I was free to leave and asked whether I wanted to continue my journey to Berlin. I asked if the East German border guards would go through my luggage again, and he said they would be much more thorough than he and his colleagues had been. Then I asked to go back to Gmünd on the border in Austria.

That morning I was taken to Ceske Velenice on the Austrian border with my luggage – from which to my surprise only relatively few items were missing. Two soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs were waiting for us at the station there, and I was told to get onboard a train on which I seemed to be the only passenger.

As the train headed into the forest towards the Austrian border I saw the two soldiers standing on the platform, watching intently. Perhaps they wanted to make sure I didn't jump off before crossing the border.

The train stopped at Gmünd for me to get off, and if I remember correctly it headed back to the border afterwards. At Gmünd I went to see the station master and showed him my ticket to Berlin. I told him I had been stopped in Czechoslovakia and was not allowed to continue my journey. He put a stamp in my ticket indicating I had not completed the trip – and later after I returned to Bonn in Germany where my journey had begun I was able to get a refund for the unused portion.... 

28 April 2021

The King's Daughter, Soo Baek-hyang

 
From the drama poster                                      Seo Hyun-jin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King%27s_Daughter,_Soo_Baek-hyang

Just watched this Korean drama. I have never seen any movie or TV series that moved me as deeply as this one — ever. It’s a fantasy story about the mysterious daughter of King Muryeong of the ancient Baekje Kingdom in what is now Korea, some 1,500 years ago. This drama has plenty of inconsistencies and faults but the beauty of the story, the characters, the setting and the music made me forget the world for a time. I was especially moved by the main character, the young lady Seol-nan, whose identity as the king’s daughter is hidden. She is perfectly portrayed by the wonderful actress Seo Hyun-jin. Incomparable

So, how do I relate to this drama? 

Diary Wednesday 28 April and Thursday 29 April 2021: 

This is something very special. 

My wife highly recommended a Korean TV drama, “The King's Daughter – Soo Baek Hyang”. It's long: 108 episodes of just over half an hour each. It's a fantasy based on a real woman who lived some 1,500 years ago in the kingdom of Baekje (whose capital at the time was located about 50 km south of where the city of Cheonan lies today – the well-preserved tomb of the king portrayed in this drama was discovered in 1971 and is a now registered as a Korean Historic Site).

I finished watching it 2 days ago. It is by far the most deeply moving story I have ever seen in film. That's what it is to me.

The story of Seol-nan or Soo Baek Hyang, the main character whose identity as King Muryeong of Baekje's daughter is hidden, resonates with my deepest feelings like no other. She is wonderfully and beautifully portrayed by the actress Seo Hyun-jin.

The story is complicated but it is basically about a girl who was conceived by a top general who later became king with his greatest love, the lady Chaewha. The two were tragically separated although their love for each other never waned. The girl's mother was falsely regarded as a traitor to the country and might have been killed if not for a deaf-mute laborer who carried her away to safety and prevented her from committing suicide because her beloved general was directly responsible for the death of her father, whom he saw as a traitor. 

The laborer, Koo-cheon, protected her and loved her, and he was with her when she gave birth to the daughter of the general who had by then become king. From the very beginning as a small baby the girl had a special fondness for the poor deaf-mute laborer, who also loved her as if she was his own special child. The mother was deeply touched by this and later married Koo-cheon because there was no way she could ever return to her true love, the king.

Later, she gave birth to a second daughter sired by the laborer. They were named Seol-nan and Seol-hee. Seol-nan, the king's daughter, was full of love towards her mother and her stepfather (whom she knew only as her real father), and very protective of her younger sister even if it meant taking punishment for wrongs Seol-hee had done. Seol-nan was also very happy with their simple life in a remote village in the mountains. Seol-hee, on the other hand, wanted a better life and even came to despise her poor handicapped father.

One day they were attacked by assassins who they thought were bandits. In fighting desperately to protect his family the father was so badly wounded they thought he was dead. But he had fought so fiercely that Seol-nan was able to create a diversion that allowed her and her sister to escape from the assassins, taking their wounded and blinded mother with them.

They hid in a cave in the mountains and Seol-nan did her best to erase their tracks so the assassins could not find them. But the mother, who had lost her eyesight to a sword stroke in the fight, was so badly injured that her life was in danger.

Seol-nan risked her own life to try to find a doctor in a village not far away. The doctor was not willing to go to the cave with her but he gave her some medicines for her mother. 

While she was away her mother woke up and started talking urgently to Seol-hee because she thought it was Seol-nan who was with her. She addressed her as Seol-nan but Seol-hee did not tell her that her sister had gone to look for a doctor. Seol-hee kept silent so the mother could not know she was actually talking to her rather than Seol-nan since she could not see her.

She felt she was close to death, so she wanted to reveal to Seol-nan the secret of her conception by the king. Both daughters had known only one father, Koo-cheon. Seol-hee listened intently to her mother telling her her name chosen by herself and the king for their first child if she was a daughter would be Soo Baek Hyang. 

Her mother also urged her to find a special hairpin the king had given her before the events that drove them apart. The mother had lost that hairpin on the way to the cave but realized it only later. They were lucky the assassins did not find it because it could have led them to their hiding place.

Lady Chaewha told Seol-hee to go to the Baekje capital and try to get access to the king. She was sure the king would recognize the hairpin and the name Soo Baek Hyang, and would be happy to welcome his daughter because she knew he valued blood ties almost above all else.

Then she touched Seol-hee's face and realized she was talking to the wrong daughter. Seol-hee told her Seol-nan had gone to find a doctor. The mother asked Seol-hee to tell Seol-nan about these things if she herself was unable to do so when her older daughter returned. Seol-hee promised to do that and then, at her mother's urging, stepped out of the cave to look for her sister.

When Seol-nan came back with the medicine and met her sister outside the cave, Seol-hee acted distraught and told her their mother was delirious and telling crazy stories. She stood in the way and even prevented Seol-nan from entering the cave right away. Seol-nan then brushed past her sister and found her mother crawling towards her in desperation and on the threshold of death.

Seol-nan held her mother in her arms and lady Chaewha desperately tried to tell her what she had said to Seol-hee before. She did not have the strength to speak anymore, however, and only managed to whisper something like: “Your name is Soo Baek Hyang.” It was barely audible and Seol-nan was not sure she heard right.

Her mother died in her arms.

Seol-nan did remember the name Soo Baek Hyang, though, because she had a tattoo of a flower on the back of her left shoulder. Her mother had given her that tattoo when she was a child and told her the name of the flower was Soo Baek Hyang, the centennial fragrance, and the “Baek” part was what gave the Baekje kingdom its name.

Her mother had told her this one day when she was bathing the two girls and they asked her about the tattoo on Seol-nan's shoulder, which Seol-hee did not have.

Seol-hee never told Seol-nan what her mother had revealed to her in the cave.

After the mother died Seol-nan vowed to find their parents' murderers and punish them, and to always protect and support her younger sister as Lady Chaewha had asked of her and as she had done many times in the past.

If I remember correctly Seol-hee found the hairpin from the king but did not tell Seol-nan about it. 

When they were on their way towards Baekje from the small neighboring Gaya Confederacy where their parents had found refuge and raised them, Seol-hee stole away and disappeared. She abandoned Seol-nan and made her way to the Baekje capital, where she wanted to take Seol-nan's place as the daughter of the king.

Seol-nan, distraught when finding her sister gone, believed she must have been kidnapped by bandits and resolved to rescue her at the risk of her own life.

*-* 

This is just a very brief account of the beginning of the story.

The purity, sincerity, selflessness and dedication of Seol-nan throughout this story moved me to tears many times. To me, Seo Hyun-jin, the actress who portrayed her, is not only ravishingly beautiful but also displayed a wonderful personality here very convincingly. She really embodied the incomparably lovable and loving character of Seol-nan.

In the film she often takes on roles normally reserved for men and she is regarded by most of those she encounters as a tomboy. Many of the men fail to see her great beauty as a result. 

So, how do I feel connected to this story?

I have a daughter who happens to live in Korea. She has two older brothers who are severely mentally handicapped and unable to live independently.

From the time I was in my late teens my secret heroes were always girls, women, heroines, not men like myself. I am very happy to be a man and never wanted to be a woman myself because I always felt very deeply that I wanted to love and cherish women while seeing them from a male perspective. 

I saw my imagined heroine more as a daughter of mine or perhaps a younger sister (I was the oldest of six children and grew up with three younger sisters) than as a love partner or wife. My ideal heroine was like a daughter to me rather than a wife. This drama has fully brought that realization home to me.

In this story I personally identify most with the laborer Koo-cheon, the only man Seol-nan knew as her father until she discovered the secret of her conception. But I also feel like the king towards Seol-nan, who, after she goes through many tribulations and much suffering, finally discovers her as his true daughter. This is one of the greatest moments of the drama. Unfortunately the king dies not long after this of an illness. Yet I was very glad the drama ended on a happy note, with a new beginning. 

There is much sadness here but also much joy, much hatred counterbalanced by great love. I feel a special, deep love as a father towards my daughter because I see a Seol-nan in her.  

*** Here is a link to the song in the drama on Youtube, the first part being sung by the actress Seo Hyun-jin herself: Seo Hyun Jin Feat Kim Nani Soo Baek Hyang OST 


04 April 2021

The 'evil empire' is in the west

Weapons of war displayed at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. Photo 2014.

Weapons of war displayed at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. Photo 2014.

Diary entry Monday 31 August 2020 (excerpt):
The volume of anti-China and anti-Russia disinformation spread by western media and western governments these days is beyond anything I have seen and heard before – almost unbelievable.
It’s a huge campaign to vilify those countries that don’t toe the capitalist-oligarchist-white supremacist-militarist-fascist-Zionist-Judeo-Christian-centered line.


The USA has truly become a huge criminal enterprise and an “evil empire“ in my view, bombing and occupying other countries, supporting evil regimes like Saudi Arabia, which is destroying Yemen, threatening and coercing others around the globe, strangling nations like Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and others with sanctions, lying, cheating, stealing, murdering and plundering in so many places, etc.
I am not “anti-American.” I just want to see peace, cooperation and harmony in the world, and in my view it is primarily the USA and Israel who are working against those ideals, even though they pretend otherwise. More than anything I would like to see peaceful cooperation among nations and non-hostile competition. But the USA and its “allies” (lackeys, really), and Zionist Israel go out of their way to destroy any chance of that happening.


They have really been doing this ever since they were created even though they publicly espoused great ideals in which many of their people believed. They were deceived and hijacked from the beginning by selfish, lying, evil people who quickly gained great power.


Today these powerful people cannot bear the fact that the leaders of China, Russia, Iran and others stand in the way of their efforts to gain absolute power over the world. They want to crush them either by inciting revolts in their countries or – if they become desperate enough in case “regime change” attempts meet with no success – by destroying them with military force. They believe they have God on their side, and that God wants them to take control of the whole world.


Our Moon [Unification] movement also wants to take over the world and build what they describe as the “Heavenly Kingdom under God and True Parents.” They focus on winning leaders of countries and powerful people in all spheres of life to their side. In essence they are building an oligarchy that they want to rule the world under the guidance of Rev. Moon’s widow Hak Ja Han and her successors.


But have they built a really peaceful, harmonious, cooperative society on a small scale anywhere? Yes, they get people to cooperate harmoniously (I guess) in order to organize their many spectacular, lavish events such as big rallies and conferences designed to entice world leaders in all fields to join their fold. But I don’t see any real progress at the grassroots level towards building a real harmonious society that could become a model for a future world of peace and love.


Perhaps I don’t know enough about what may have already been achieved or be in the process towards that goal. Until now I have seen no sign at all of the building of an ideal society. It seems the focus is totally on a top-down approach, which in my opinion is doomed to failure because it will almost certainly be hijacked by the most powerful, devious and ultimately selfish people – just like almost any society created by humans before.


I hope I can be proven wrong in this. I do hope so. – Right now it doesn’t look good. 

About how my view of the USA changed over time

More on the Unification (Sun Myung Moon / Hak Ja Han) movement and the USA:  

Why I cannot go back to my previous 'faith'

****

On death (mine):

Diary entry Thursday 3 September 2020 (adapted):
I’m reading an article in Psyche magazine about how to overcome our fear of death.
Do I fear death? In one sense, yes. It’s the fear of the unknown, a natural fear.
But I believe in essence I do not fear death itself – being no more. What I fear far more than anything else is the likely and the possible consequences of my death for those I leave behind – my immediate family. My wife and our children.


How could they cope when I am gone? I worry about that much more than about myself dying. Also, I worry very much that I might become a burden to them if I lose my mind or parts of my body.


This is what I fear and what I worry about much, much more than my own demise. I believe I am now fully reconciled with the idea that I will die. I certainly would not want to live too long – only long enough to be able to take care of my family as much as possible. I do want to leave this existence once I feel I have done my best in this. … And I definitely do not want to exist beyond this earthly life.


I, this self – whatever it is – clearly began at some point in time after I was conceived in my mother’s womb. I believe it is quite natural that I should cease to exist at some point in time. 

06 December 2020

My very brief Arctic adventure

Postcard I sent my parents from Ivalo, Finnish Lapland, Sep. 1971 - Stamp removed for collection


 This is a story I wrote elsewhere about a short trip I took at age 20 in 1971 when I worked for Luxair Luxembourg Airlines. At the time I gave all the money I earned to my parents, which was a condition my father imposed until I would reach the then-legal age of majority of 21. He always gave me some pocket money and a little extra for my vacations. 

After one year of service with Luxair I was entitled to one free round-trip flight within Europe on certain airlines but didn't want to fly to one of the typical tourist destinations. Yet I wanted to travel as far a possible. Looking at a map it seemed to me the farthest I could go was Ivalo in Finnish Lapland, the northernmost airport in Finland. At that time Finnair offered flights between Luxembourg and Helsinki with a short stopover in Gothenburg, Sweden. 

I arrived at Ivalo airport on 6 September 1971 after changing planes in Helsinki and Oulu. As far as I can remember there was only one building that looked like a log cabin at the airport. Apart from the Convair Metropolitan 440 propeller plane on which I arrived there was one other aircraft on the tarmac, a DC-3 with the letters NOAA painted on it. 

At the hotel in town I met some of the passengers of the DC-3. They were scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studying weather patterns in the Arctic. 

I had read about Hammerfest in Norway as the northernmost large town in Europe and thought I might try to hitch-hike there. The next morning I started walking along the main road north from Ivalo, holding out my thumb every time a car passed. There was very little traffic but I quickly got my first ride up to Inari. Later in the day a young woman not much older than I picked me up and invited me for a beer and a smoke on the balcony of her cottage at Utsjoki. She told me a lot about northern Finland, which I found very interesting. 

Some time in the afternoon I got a ride with two ladies in an old car crossing the border into Norway and all the way up to Rustefjelbma near where the salmon-rich Tana River flows into the Tanafjord. By this time the sun was already low on the horizon and I found a good place to sleep among some shrubs not far from the road. As I started to pull my sleeping bag out of my big US Navy seabag a car came up on the road. On the spur of the moment I decided to try to hitch another ride. 

The driver, a man about 40 years old, stopped and told me he was going west, which was the direction I needed to go if I wanted to reach Hammerfest. He told me he would drop me off in a place called Ifjord and then head north on a different road to catch a boat going to a remote village on Nordkinn, if I remember correctly. I quickly closed my seabag and joined him in the car. Darkness fell as we drove on a road along the southern end of Tanafjord and across the neck of the Nordkinn Peninsula. Not much later it started raining. The man, who spoke very good English, told me about his travels in India and other places. 

When he dropped me off at Ifjord it was pitchdark and cold and windy outside, and a heavy rain kept beating down. He asked if I was okay and I said confidently that I could protect myself from the rain. So he drove off into the night. 

I looked around. There was not even the tiniest speck of light to be seen anywhere. I couldn't see anything at all. Not far away I heard water running and thought there was a creek nearby. I put a large sheet of plastic on some higher ground away from the water and laid my sleeping bag and the seabag on it. After slipping into the sleeping bag I wrapped the plastic sheet around myself and tucked it under me but found I had to hold onto it because the wind kept blowing it loose. Soon I had an intense headache. I could not sleep at all that night. 

The rain stopped before the sun rose in the morning, but I and all my gear was soaking wet. I saw two or three small houses not far away but they seemed uninhabited at this time. There was no sign of life at all. Luckily my head no longer ached.

In my heavy seabag I had a camping gas cooker, which I lit to get some warmth. I hung some of my wet clothes and the sleeping bag on a branch of a small tree nearby and put the burning gas stove under them. Gradually I was able to dry most of my clothing this way.

A little later in the morning a jeep-type car came up the gravel road from the same direction I had come the night before. When I signalled to request a ride the driver stopped and let me sit next to him. He spoke only Norwegian and tried to tell me something I didn't understand. After a few kilometers he stopped at an open area where some large road building machines were parked and indicated to me this was as far as he was going.

I continued on foot up a low hill from where I caught a view of a beautiful wide inlet with dark blue water, my first glimpse of the Barents Sea. It was a corner of the Laksefjord. I followed the road down to the gravelly beach, where I saw a few small houses beside the road and some rowboats in the water on the other side. An old man stood by the road and when he saw me he seemed very surprised, as if I was an apparition. I greeted him but he didn't utter a word. Judging from his reaction I thought he might be wondering if I was a ghost. I continued about a kilometer up a hill past the houses and when I looked back the old man was still staring in my direction. 

Shortly afterwards a herd of reindeer crossed the road just 20 meters or so in front of me. I don't think I had ever seen reindeer before. They are very beautiful animals. This herd seemed tame but I didn't see any humans with them. As I didn't want to frighten them I kept my distance and stopped by the side of the road to let them pass. The reindeer didn't pay much attention to me but suddenly I was attacked by a swarm of very aggressive flies that must have accompanied them. Some of the insects sat on my glasses and tried to get into my eyes, and I was flapping my hands wildly to chase them away. 

After the reindeer passed the flies were gone just as suddenly as they had appeared.

A car came up the road from the direction of Ifjord and I held out my thumb. The driver, a middle-aged man, stopped and let me sit beside him. He didn't speak much but I found out he was on his way to Lakselv, about 100 kilometers away to the southwest. 

After about an hour of driving we passed through the village of Borselv and then I saw one of the most spectacular sights I had glimpsed until this day: the Porsanger Fjord. As we drove south along the inlet's east bank I could not take my eyes off the view of the sea, the hills on both sides, the islands in the middle and the many birds everywhere.  

After the man dropped me off at Lakselv I thought about whether I was ready to continue hitch-hiking to Hammerfest. I had plenty of time as I had taken two weeks' leave from work for this trip. But I didn't think I had enough money to stay in hotels. Remembering that horrible night at Ifjord I felt I really wouldn't want to go through such an experience again on this trip. It had been my first night outside in such rough conditions and it demoralized me more than I realized at first. So I decided to go south, back to Ivalo, and to forget about Hammerfest. I chickened out. Although it was not the first time I lost courage like this it sticks in my memory as an event that foreshadowed many others. Perhaps my father had been right to call me a wimp, a coward, although I am sure his intent was to stoke my pride hoping I would overcome my fear. 

As I walked along the road leading south from Lakselv the air around me was suddenly filled with the ear-shattering noise of powerful jet engines. Three F-104 Starfighter jets passed just above me at great speed and then disappeared over the horizon far ahead.

A little later a young man in a pickup truck took me to Karasjok near the border of Finland. When we arrived it was late in the afternoon, so I walked out of the village and found a place in a big meadow with some trees and shrubs where I could camp for the night. I laid my plastic sheet on the ground under my sleeping bag and wrapped it around me as I had done at Ifjord. There was no wind and no rain this time, and as I was quite tired I fell asleep fairly quickly. 

Next morning I woke up because I felt someone pushing against my sleeping bag. It was a male sheep (it might have been a goat – I don't remember for sure), apparently incensed that I had taken over one of its favorite grazing spots. There were several other sheep all around me in the meadow. I quickly packed my belongings into my seabag and headed back to the road.

Not much later a middle-aged man in a Volkswagen Beetle picked me up. He spoke only Finnish. I told him I was on my way to Ivalo, and he indicated to me he was going there too. He took me across the border to Karigasniemi and then Kaamanen, where he stopped and told me something in Finnish. I understood he had some business to take care of in this village before heading down to Ivalo. After about an hour or so he returned to the car and took me the rest of the way. 

At Ivalo I booked into the same hotel where I had stayed a few days earlier. I didn't feel like spending another day in the village, so I decided to take a flight to Helsinki the next morning.

When I arrived at Helsinki airport I realized I would not be able to go to the city for some reason I don't remember now. I don't know if I felt I couldn't afford staying in a hotel there because I didn't have enough money or some other problem. At any rate I do remember spending a night in a kind of transit lounge at the airport, aided by Finnair staff. The next day I caught a direct Finnair flight back to Luxembourg. 

The experience of this very short trip to Finland and Norway left a deep impression on me, which is why I remember some details I have forgotten from other, much longer journeys. Yet I missed many of the most spectacular sights of Lapland and the mainland European Arctic, such as the Northern Lights or the midnight sun. 

Today I cannot understand why I never thought of buying a camera and taking pictures on my trips. My father always had both a still picture and a movie camera, and used both frequently. Of course, seeing how he took photographs it seemed very complicated. He used a light meter almost every time, and adjusted his aperture and exposure settings according to the readings of that device. Also, film and development were expensive, and I may have felt I couldn't afford taking photographs. Yet today I regret very much not having a pictorial record of my early travels other than a few picture postcards. 

03 July 2020

Why I cannot go back to my previous 'faith'

My postcard to my parents written a day after arrival in NYC — I had met Unification Church members the night before who let me stay with them in their ‘center’ (house) on 71st Street Manhattan. 

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.  




19 June 2020

My pictures on Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/erwinluxembourg/ 

A few here:

Skardu Baltistan Pakistan 1987

Mont Saint Michel France 2009

Seorak National Park South Korea 2017

North of Asmar Kunar Valley Afghanistan 1985


Batura moraine Passu Hunza Pakistan 1985


Crater below Mt. Takachiho Kyushu Japan 1988

Kakopetria village Cyprus mid-1980s

On 3088-m. Qurnat As Sawda peak Lebanon 1985

Mina tent city Mecca Saudi Arabia 1973

Passu Peaks Hunza Pakistan 1985

Pedhoulas church Troodos Cyprus 2016

Skardu-Gilgit road Baltistan Pakistan 1985

7788-m. Mt. Rakaposhi Hunza Pakistan 1985

1950-m. Mt. Olympus Cyprus mid-1980s


03 May 2020

Father figure -- and the inner voice


My father took this picture of me with a fishing boat crew in Tunis in July 1973. 
It was our only vacation together, just him and me -- 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. 

16 April 2020

Leader or Follower?

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
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' -- the enthralling myth, really -- 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 myth 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 ….

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 )

07 March 2020

Sadly, the meek will not inherit the earth



Diary Sunday 16 February 2020:

I hadn't watched any Korean dramas for quite a while. I was disappointed by some recurring elements in too many of them – except the ones that are really just funny or romantic – such as way too much melodrama, too much violence (just like western movies) and what I see as almost like a love affair the script writers seem to have with the evil (the bad guys – again, just like their western counterparts).

Too often those who murder, torture, lie, cheat, betray, destroy the lives of others, exploit others, push others down, etc., are allowed to cause much more death, horror, pain and destruction than their own lives are worth before they are stopped – and sometimes they even get off scot-free.

A few days ago my wife recommended a new drama: Crash-landing On You – or Emergency Love Landing. I have watched 13 episodes out of the 16. I liked it up to that point because there were many funny and also pleasant romantic elements.

The story is about a rich, self-made South Korean company chairwoman (who is also the daughter of the chairman of one of the biggest corporations) who gets caught in a tornado while paragliding and lands on the North Korean side of the DMZ, where she meets and later falls in love with an army officer.

Most of the story is very nice and pleasant but there is also a dark subplot running through it about a higher ranking North Korean officer who exploits, tortures and murders people, and who wields enormous power over others using corruption and blackmail. As the story unfolds, this and other dark subplots – such as the betrayal of the main character by one of her half-brothers – become more and more prominent.

I liked the main actors in the drama very much, especially Son Ye-jin, who plays the chairwoman. But also all the other characters are played very well.

Yet today, after watching Episode 13 which has the main character near death in hospital after being shot by the evil North Korean officer, I just gave up and am not interested in seeing the rest. My wife says the series is very funny and enjoyable, and the dark subplot is just a minor element. I agree there is a lot that is indeed very pleasing and funny in this drama but I don't like the dark theme and violence becoming as prominent as I feel it has. It offends me so much that I refuse to watch the rest. I don't need to know how the story ends if to find out I have to endure so much unpleasantness in the show.

The problem is that this reminds me too much of the real world, with which I am almost at war. Yes, there is so much that is beautiful, great and pleasant in this world – but I can never forget its dark side.

Jesus said the meek will inherit the Earth but it is very obvious that this is still very, very far from being fulfilled. It is not clear at all whether this could ever come true. In fact it seems totally impossible, though I can't say it definitely is.

Everywhere on Earth, among humans, animals and even plants, the strong, the cunning, the ruthless, the violent, the aggressive, the exploitative, the parasitic prevail, and their genes dominate because they can procreate whereas the meek, the weak, the gentle, the naive, etc., are cast aside or eliminated. We ourselves would not be here if not at least some of our ancestors had prevailed over others and cast them aside. It is indeed survival of – and domination by – the fittest, the most well-adapted. I believe that is the way God has worked (see my posts:

https://diamir.blogspot.com/2019/03/escape-from-god.html  and

https://diamir.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-on-god.html , and also

https://diamir.blogspot.com/2008/05/my-ideas-about-god-as-they-have-evolved.html   ).

I only have a very faint hope we can change this someday.


Diary Monday 17 February 2020:

I ended up watching the last 2 episodes of Crash-landing on You anyway. It's quite emotional, as usual with Korean dramas, but quite nice, too. Maybe I'm too sensitive about this. I get flustered and frustrated too easily. Yes, frustrated.

I'm glad I watched the rest, and it turned out to be a bittersweet happy ending. I really liked the main actress, Son Ye-jin. She is great.

Of course all this changes nothing about what I wrote in the preceding entry about my view of the world. I wish so much this could change, and soon. It does not look likely, unfortunately.

26 November 2019

My view of the Unification Church / Movement

Unification Church Barrytown training center / seminary 1975

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. 

For an account of how my view of God and the Divine Principle evolved over the years, please seehttps://erwinlux.typepad.com/


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. …..”


Partial view of one of the movement's properties at Cheong Pyeong Lake, Korea. Photo 2014.

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….

My first serious doubts about God - May 1994



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 some earlier posts on politics of the Unification Movement:


and:


See also: My first Far East trip and my view of God today

MORE BELOW THE PICTURE 

The Moons' royal palace on a hillside overlooking a village in Korea

Here is a revealing excerpt from a diary entry I wrote about three years before I completely abandoned my belief in the God of the monotheistic religions and of course 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. 

See also Escape from God ...?