The Seven Headed Dragon
Hindu and Occult Teachings Examined in the Light of Christianity
Bishop Alexander of the Russian Orthodox church
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1).
Unlike animals, human beings cannot find complete contentment in the good things of this earth alone. Sooner or later they begin to thirst for a spiritual element in their lives, and then they encounter a whole series of fundamental questions: Why are they alive? What is the purpose of their existence? Is there something beyond the physical world? etc. Christianity helps man break away from the grind of everyday life, to find meaning in life and to develop the more noble qualities of his soul. Beginning with the end of the last century, however, the Western world has been more and more inundated with a plethora of Hindu and occult or “Eastern” teachings, promoting their own methods of spiritual life. Adapting themselves to the Western mentality and culture, these teachings freely use many Christian terms and concepts, creating an impression that they do not contradict Christianity, but rather make up for what is lacking in it. Actually, these teachings are in direct conflict with Christianity and lead their followers along a wrong spiritual path. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of discerning just where their errors lie, especially when they are mixed together with Christian doctrines.
In the present article we shall consider the chief ideas of these Hindu, occult or “Eastern” teachings in the light of Christianity, and we shall explain why they are false and what is wrong with them. We shall also show why their suggested psychotechnical techniques, aimed at “expanding consciousness” and “opening internal spheres” are harmful to the psyche and damaging to the soul. In the second part we shall look at some historical facts and the distinctive characteristics of some of the more popular Eastern cults.
All the Hindu and occult teachings may conditionally be divided into three main currents:
1. 1 “Scientific” and philosophical occult systems;
2. 2 Systems which place emphasis on psychophysiological practices;
3. 3 Systems directed toward the development of intuition and spontaneity.
(1) Gnosticism, the theosophy of Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy, the ideas of Andrei Bely, Rerikh’s Agni Yoga, the Kabbala, the school of Vivekananda, D. Andreev’s “Rose of the World” and similar systems are representative of a (seemingly) scientific and intellectual current of occult thought.
The outstanding characteristic of these teachings is their construction of pseudo-scientific theories about the framework of the invisible world; the hierarchy of invisible beings; the influence of the cosmos on the fate of people, nations and continents; the evolution of the world; the arrangement of man’s essential qualities; and life after death. All of these theories are extremely unclear, confusing and arbitrary, and they are set forth in the pages of thick treatises in many volumes that would require a lifetime to study. These treatises are aimed at people of a contemplative frame of mind. Though they may also contain some advice of a practical character, it takes second place to speculative reasoning. The emphasis is on studying occult literature in order to develop in oneself an “intuition” attuned to the invisible world. One becomes capable of “insight” into the mystical aspect of life and an occult understanding of events. Learning occult sciences usually produces such psychological consequences as a growing emotional coldness, cynicism, contempt for other people, spiritual emptiness and an internal weakness and confusion, leading to despondency.
(2) In the second type of occult teaching, the psychophysiological, the emphasis is placed on reshaping one’s whole organism, and therefore this type carries the danger of doing irreversible harm to one’s health. The participant becomes an object open to the influence of evil spirits, and is capable of doing such damage to his biological functions that no doctor will be able to diagnose what is wrong with him. This branch includes various types of yoga (hatha yoga, raja yoga, and mantra yoga), Krishnaism, “transcendental meditation,” Taoist yoga or mystical Taoism, the methods of Tibetan Buddhism, the methods of O. Aivanhov’s “International White Brotherhood,” Perepelitsyn, Porfiri Ivanov, S. Grof's therapy using narcotics, D. K. Lillie’s baths, and the breathing techniques of S. Grof.
This list includes both traditional Eastern systems, their “scientifically based” modifications, as applied to psychotherapy, and some home-grown Russian methods, such as that of P. Ivanov. While the traditional schools hold theories which are simple and even primitive, the modernized methods use solid “scientific” studies to lend them support. These studies have to do with the area of phenomena and illusions, to which access is gained by narcotics or breathing exercises (such as in the methods of S. Grof.
The main argument of this type of psychophysiological mysticism is its assertion that “it works,” i.e., its practice gives clearly discernible results. This is attractive to people who are more inclined to action than to reflection. The usual methods used in providing a “breakthrough” into the invisible world are movements of the body, fixed postures, regulated breathing, techniques for controlling the flow of blood and the localization of energy processes in the body, repetition of a mantra, visualization (this is a method of working with one’s imagination, whereby one closes one’s eyes and tries to represent some image in the visual darkness, so that in time that one can learn to see the object of the imagination quite clearly and distinctly), “sensory deprivation” (the creation of a situation in which all external stimuli are turned off, so as to facilitate an “opening of the senses” into the invisible world), and the use of narcotics.
(3) The third type is a “mysticism of intuition.” It includes Zen Buddhism, philosophical Taoism, the teachings of Krishnamurti, Rajneesh, Carlos Castaneda and others.
As a rule, these teachings reject a rational or logical approach to matters. They maintain that all the phenomena which surround us are paradoxical and contradictory, and that therefore man must discover an inner ability to react without using the intellect, in a way that is spontaneous and intuitive, without restraining his desires and unconscious reactions. The motto of these movements is “complete internal freedom.” Consequently, religious Taoism permits unbridled orgies*, while adepts of Zen Buddhism allow themselves to do whatever they like.
This division of Hindu and occult teachings into three currents is not firm. It would be better to say that they differ in their varying emphases on the intellectual, the practical and the intuitive. All of them intersect at some points and have much in common. What really brings them together is their particular concept of God as an impersonal world principle and their common utilization of the methods of meditation and yoga.
In the most general terms, all religions and religious-philosophical systems may be divided into two groups. The first includes those teachings which recognize God as a Personal Being, One all-perfect and transcendent, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. The second group believes in an impersonal Principle, which some call the Absolute, others the eternal Principle of the world, still others the cosmic Force or some other such term. Christianity, Judaism and Islam belong to the first group, which may be called God-centered, since faith in a personal God is the foundation for all other religious truths. The Eastern religions of the Hindu or occult type belong to the second group; in contrast to the first, these systems can be called man-centered.
A reader not well-versed in theological questions might think that the question of a personal or an impersonal God is a purely abstract philosophical matter, since His essence is unknowable. The most important thing is to be a good and honest person; this is taught by all religions, irrespective of their ideology. As we shall see, however, the question of personality and self-awareness in God is not at all an abstract one, but rather defines the entire theoretical and practical content of a particular religion or system.
All religions and philosophical systems attempt to answer the chief questions of existence. The differences in their answers to these questions depend largely on their presuppositions and points of departure. The first question is whether God is personal or impersonal; in other words, does He possess reason, self-awareness and will, or is He only some kind of power or energy. This basic distinction, as we shall see, creates an ideological gulf between the God-centered and man-centered systems and leads to diametrical opposites in their conclusions about morality. If Judaism were purified of the accretions of the Talmud and Islam purged of the sayings of Mohammed, these systems would be found to be close to Christianity. On the other hand, the Hindu and occult teachings cannot be reconciled with Christianity, no matter how much one corrects them, because their very basis is completely different. In replacing a personal God with an amorphous concept of all-encompassing energy, they then place man at the center of their attention and have as their goal to teach him how to use this energy for his own self-development and happiness.
Hindu and occult religions criticize Christianity for being dogmatic. They consider themselves superior, in that they do not prescribe a definite system of dogmas; they do not shackle freedom of thought, but offer man the liberty to find out for himself the mysteries of existence. “Truth is one, but people understand it in different ways,” says a well-known Indian adage. But, as we shall see, all the Eastern religions are based on one cardinal dogma: faith in the existence of an impersonal principle which underlies all things. All the religious and philosophical ideas of these religions flow quite logically from this main presupposition. Indeed, if there is no personal God, then there is no higher Reason, no all-directing Will, no incontrovertible Authority, no just Judge. Everything happens “on its own” by the action of blind cosmic forces. All religious truths and moral principles which man has arrived at are conditioned by his capacity to know and the depth of his intellect; they are, therefore, relative, and subject to revision. This idea is the origin of all the variety, contradictions and disorder of the Hindu and occult teachings.
And so, let us proceed to an analysis of the most important aspects of the Hindu and occult systems, beginning with the most fundamental question.
very science, including the most strictly logical and consistent, e.g., mathematics, must rely on a series of “self-evident truths” (axioms), which in principle cannot be proven and have to be taken on faith. If axioms were subject to proof, they would have to be renamed theorems, but it is impossible to prove them. It is not surprising, therefore, that branches of knowledge whose truths are less obvious, such as religion and philosophy, also rely on their own sort of axioms, their dogmas, which remain unprovable and are the object of faith. The most fundamental axiom of all religious-philosophical teachings is the idea of God. While God-centered religions rely on faith in a personal God, the Eastern religions, Hinduism and occultism, base all their conclusions on the presupposition that there exists an impersonal principle of the world.
Christianity teaches us to believe in a single personal God, the Almighty, the Creator of all things visible and invisible. In the Christian understanding, God is an otherworldly and totally perfect Being, One Who is infinitely wise and all-powerful. He lives outside the bounds of time and space. Everything that exists came into being by His will, not as some sort of emanation from His Essence but created from nothing.
In the beginning, there was nothing - no angels, no spirits, no cosmos, not even the elementary particles of which the world consists; there was no energy, no force, no time, no space. Only God existed, as eternal, life-giving and unapproachable Light. In creating the world, God laid down certain laws which govern its development in the direction which He ordained. The nature of the world differs completely from the nature of its Creator, Who is the purest and omnipresent Spirit. God penetrates all things without either touching them or blending with them. Just as the world was created from nothing, so it can also return to nothing by God’s will. Its fate depends completely on the will of the Creator, Who dwells in unapproachable light, outside of time or space, yet is found everywhere and directs everything.
Since God created the world and us men with a definite purpose, He also cares about us, as a father cares for his children.
All Hindu and occult teachings have the idea of an impersonal God as their point of departure. Whereas a Christian speaks of God as “Who,” Hindu and occult teachings regard God as “What.” They merge God and the world in one concept. “God is all, and all is God.” Such a world view is called pantheism, from the Greek words pan, “all,” and theos, “god.” One school of thought speaks of Brahman or the Absolute; a second refers to a universal principle or natural order which lies at root of existence; a third postulates an all-encompassing energy, mystic force or world soul;” a fourth school speaks of the Primary Reality, and so on. What is always understood to lie behind this variety of names is something impersonal, something inseparable from the world itself, a kind of unknown aspect of the universe, which is evolving according to the laws of existence along with the rest of the world. It is interesting to note that all these teachings, while denying a personal God, are compelled to confer upon matter itself certain divine characteristics, such as eternity, infinity, a degree of rationality (in conformity with the laws of nature) and justice (in the laws of karma).
Another characteristic of these teachings is the concept of a cyclical cosmos, in which the world periodically passes through various phases of birth, growth, decay and destruction. Since the universe is a temporal form or modality of the Absolute, it goes through cycles of being and non-being, in the course of which worlds arise from the abyss of the Absolute and then disappear into the same abyss. Thus, the beginning is equated with the end, and time turns back upon itself. In this view the “Absolute” of Hinduism and occultism is not the supernatural Architect and Law-giver, as in Christianity, but an object which is dependent upon and subject to the laws of evolution.
Another characteristic of these teachings is their emphasis on the illusory nature of the world (maya). Since in essence everything flows from the primary energy, everything is only an unreal appearance. All that we see around us is an illusion, and therefore all our ideas are conjectural and not really true.
This presupposition of an impersonal God serves as the foundation for all the other religious and philosophical ideas which characterize Eastern cults, such as denying that human self-awareness survives after death, denying divine revelation, rejecting Christ as the Saviour of mankind, denying the judgement of God and eternal life, bowing before fate as the determinant of human destiny, the doctrine of karma and the transmigration of souls, the relative nature of truth and error, good and evil, virtue and vice, and other such ideas.
Despite the seeming spirituality of Hindu and occult teachings and a certain closeness to Christianity, they should logically be classified as atheism or at least as a kind of spiritualized materialism, one which is not so trivial or militant as communist materialism.
In their own understanding of “truth,” the Eastern or pantheist teachings are quite logical. If there is no personal God that cares for His people, neither can there be a single source of revelation. People who try to learn the mysteries of life are limited both in their intellect and in the nature of their understanding of the mysteries. Naturally, therefore, their conclusions are imperfect, necessarily diverse and subject to reexamination. For example, take the story of the four blind men who were presented with an elephant and allowed to feel it with their hands. One blind man touched its leg and declared that the elephant is like a pillar. The second took hold of its tail and announced that the elephant resembles a snake. The third felt its belly and said that it is like a barrel, while the fourth touched its ears and said that it is a basket. Which one of them was correct? All of them, and none of them!
Similarly, say the Eastern religions, every religion is correct in its own way. The religions of mankind are but various levels of understanding of one and the same truth. In this view Christ, Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster, Mohammed, Krishna and other “avatars” are accepted as being teachers who preached the same principles, but in different verbal formulations. The majority of Indian and occult religions believe that there is no such thing as heresy or error, but only different levels of understanding one Reality.
Because of this belief in the relative nature of all religious doctrines, the Indian and occult religions encourage the study of comparative religion to broaden one’s mental outlook. At the same time, they regard as fanatics all those who lay exclusive claim to truth, such as Christians.
The idea that truth is by its nature unattainable is the fundamental point of departure for Zen Buddhism. If the world is but a phantom illusion, then truth is not to be had. It is impossible for one man either to teach or to learn from another. In order to attain some knowledge, it is first of all necessary to free oneself from preconceived ideas and opinions, such as are preached by various religions. Reality has no objective content; only subjective perception exists. “Truth” must be obtained directly and intuitively, when the seeker and that which is sought flow into one.
Books can be beneficial to a beginner, since they encourage meditation. In rejecting reason and logic, Zen Buddhism believes in the infallibility of human intuition and calls for its development through the rigorous practice of meditation, in the Yogic sense of the word. In meditating, one should free his mind from all external impressions and become completely passive. All that there is to be known will come to one from within, all of a sudden. What is important is to feel that one is an organic part of the Whole. When one attains this realization, he is immersed in a state of complete bliss and understands that he is “god.” This spontaneous “enlightenment” is what Zen Buddhism calls the attainment of truth.
The Christian understanding of the absoluteness and immutability of truth is based on the idea of a personal God. In creating man, He endowed him with a godlike intellect, capable of communicating with Him and discerning the truth. If we compare God to the sun, then the human mind is like the eye, able to receive its light, though not its full intensity; in this light it is also able to comprehend the nature of physical and spiritual objects.
The first created man, in his moral purity, was able to have direct contact with God and even to talk with Him (see Genesis, chapters 1-2). When he sinned, man fell away from God. His mind was darkened, and as a result all sorts of false religions made their appearance. Nevertheless, God did not abandon man. Like a loving Father He never ceased caring about the salvation of men, and He sent them His prophets as teachers.
The fullness of truth was brought to the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God. He supplied what was lacking in the Old Testament Scriptures, and He gave us a more perfect understanding of God and spiritual things. He clearly taught what is right and what is wrong, how one should live and what one should strive for, in order to attain eternal life. It was not His intention to satisfy human curiosity by laying bare such mysteries of existence as are beyond our comprehension. His teaching concentrated on what is most important for us: how to reach the kingdom of heaven. Christ’s teaching in all its original purity and integrity is preserved in the Gospels, which were written by the four Evangelists; it is further explained in the writings of the holy Apostles. It is the Bible, therefore, which contains divine revelation in all the fullness of truth.
Our most important task in this earthly life is to learn the divinely-revealed truths contained in the Sacred Scriptures, under the guidance of the Church, and to base our world view and our lives as Christians on these truths. Although man is not always capable of comprehending all the fullness of divinely-revealed truth, he can always believe what it teaches.
Since Hindu and occult religions do not possess a sole source of revelation, they often rely on the revelations of occult spirits and “white brothers” or on the authority of a guru. For example, Helena Blavatsky, the foundress of Theosophy, asserted that she was in constant telepathic contact with Tibetan mahatmas, and could receive orders from them, ask them questions and hear their answers. She regarded her life and the teachings of Theosophy as a fulfilment of the will of mysterious teachers who live on the cloud-shrouded mountain peaks of Tibet.
And so, Christianity clearly separates divinely-revealed truth from the opinions of men. It believes that there is only one Truth, although there may be a multitude of false teachings. Anything that contradicts the truth revealed by God is simply the product of man’s imagination.
In the Christian understanding, man is the creation of God and bears within himself the seal of His image. Whereas angels are purely spiritual by nature, and animals are purely physical, what distinguishes man is his duality. He is composed of a rational soul and a perishable body.
Although the nature of the soul and its appearance in the world remains one of God's mysteries, Christianity teaches quite clearly that the soul of a newborn infant is not a spirit that once dwelt elsewhere, but a new creation that came into being in its mother's womb at a certain moment after the formation of the fetus.* Just as a baby will inherit many of the parents' physical traits, so will it receive some of their spiritual qualities - both positive and negative ones. No matter how much a newborn infant resembles its parents, it is still a completely new “I,” distinct from the persons of its parents. It is a unique and irreplaceable person, possessing an independent consciousness, reason and free will.
The soul of an infant does not enter the body as one moves into an apartment. The soul is united with its body by a mysterious and very intimate bond, which in the plan of the Creator was meant to be eternal. Death, which came about as a consequence of sin, is an abnormal and unnatural phenomenon. While the body after death is deprived of its life principle and degenerates into the elements of which it is composed, there still remains a certain mysterious bond between the body and the soul. When a man’s soul leaves his body, it retains his personality, including his spiritual experience, accumulated knowledge and the moral level which he reached during his earthly life. The personality, the unique “I,” continues to be aware, to think, to remember, to perceive and to desire after physical death. Still, the soul feels that its separation from the body is something contrary to nature and only temporary. The soul was not created to be an angel or a phantom, but rather a part of the nature of a human being, the spiritual part of his person. This is why people will never be able to accept the tragedy of death; it is an unnatural occurrence.
Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to correct the anomaly of death and to restore the twofold nature of man. This restoration will take place on the day of the general resurrection of the dead, when the soul of each man will return to his divinely-renewed and spiritualized body, after which man will live without dying. It is important to understand that at the general resurrection the soul of each man will be reunited with his own body, not with some other new body. This will accomplish the restoration of man to the original twofold form in which God created him.
Hindu and occult religions have a completely different concept of man’s nature. For them the soul is just a condensation or materialization of that same impersonal energy which fills the whole world. The soul is like a drop of condensed steam or a sound wave that is fixed at a particular frequency. The human body is an insubstantial membrane surrounding this condensed energy, like a garment. Death, therefore, is viewed as a natural process, in which the soul, a bit of temporarily condensed energy, once again dissolves into the sea of energy which fills the cosmos. Just as molecules of steam can condense once again into a drop of rain, or as sound waves can once again be synchronized at a definite frequency, so also these “particles” of universal energy can once again come together and form a human soul, in order to dwell in a new body. This process is called rebirth, reincarnation or metempsychosis. While the details of this process and the terminology used may differ from one Eastern religion to another, the underlying idea remains the same: After death man’s personality and self-awareness are lost.
The term personality, or “I,” should be understood as referring to the non-material center of the consciousness and all the psychic processes of intelligent beings. Although a constant stream of all kinds of sensations, thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires runs through man’s consciousness, his “I” is not a passive channel for this stream, but rather an active manager that freely controls and directs its own mental activity. Despite going through a wide variety of activities and conditions, a man is aware of himself as one and the same personality throughout his whole existence; he is the master of his decisions and acts. A man’s personality concentrates within itself all its hereditary and acquired individual qualities, including his memories, knowledge, abilities, creative talents, intuition, sensitivity, experience, religious feelings, morals, will power, character, temperament, interests, ambitions, etc. All this forms the whole and unique “I,” distinct from the outside world and the “I” of other people.
All religions that acknowledge a personal God also accept the immortality of the human personality, whereas those teachings that do not believe in a personal God also reject the immortality of the human person.
Christianity teaches that the most valuable and enduring thing about man is not the physical elements of which he is made up, but rather his personality, his “I.” The cells of an organism age, die and are replaced by new cells, but the human personality preserves all the knowledge and life experience which it has accumulated. A child comes into this world like a blank sheet of paper. Over the years all its impressions, all that it feels, thinks and accomplishes, leave definite marks on its conscious and subconscious mind. The experience which one accumulates over a lifetime forms his personality and shapes his character. In keeping with his inclinations, one can become a scholar or remain illiterate; one can become spiritually developed and ennobled or morally empty.
Since the “I” carries within itself the seal of its Creator, Who is eternal, the personality is the most stable “substance” in nature, more stable than any molecule or atom. Indeed, with proper equipment any physical element may be changed into another by “reorganizing” the sub-atomic particles (quarks and electrons) of which it consists. It is theoretically possible even to turn lead into gold, although it would be difficult to do so under laboratory conditions. The personality of man, however, cannot be changed. It is possible to kill a man physically, but one cannot destroy the knowledge or the life experience of his immortal soul.
Every individual is given the opportunity to develop his own “I” in any way he wants, but neither he nor anyone else can annul what has been acquired internally. In their infancy all babies are similar. It is quite possible that at birth there was very little difference between two such infants as Moses and Jack the Ripper, but over the years one became a prophet of worldwide significance, one whom all men remember with gratitude, whereas the other became a cruel villain. Each was free to choose his own path. Whatever each of them acquired within himself will remain a part of him forever, whether it be priceless spiritual riches or a loathsome burden of immorality. After death each one will be clearly aware of who he is and what he deserves. This fact, the persistence of personal awareness, would be a terrible tragedy if it were not for the grace of God, which renews a man, “healing those who are weak and completing those who are deficient.” We shall say more about this later.
Since all the Hindu and occult schools of thought deny that there is self-awareness in the Absolute, they regard man’s self-awareness as something insubstantial and transitory. Personality is only a phenomenon, like the foam which forms on a wave of the ocean, only to return again to the ocean and dissolve in it without leaving a trace. While it is true that some contemporary formulations of Hindu and occult teachings may ascribe to the Absolute a certain “super-consciousness,” it is not at all clear what they mean by this term. Quite possibly it is only a game of words, and this “super-consciousness” of the Absolute lacks any consciousness, just as transcendental meditation lacks any process of thought. (We shall touch on this further on.).
Christianity understands sin to be a violation of the moral law which was established by God. Thoughts, feelings, words and intentions, as well as deeds, can be sinful, since they place one on a path that leads away from God. The willful rejection of Jesus Christ, a refusal to believe in Him as the divinely-sent Saviour of the world, is also a sin (John 16:9). According to St James the Apostle, one who has the ability to do good and does not do it also commits a sin (Jas. 4:17). A sinful deed or a sinful inclination of the will leaves behind a definite black mark on one’s conscience. Repeated sins, along with a continued inclination of the will towards sin, make one morally ill and drag him down to the depths of hell. Man is called to war against his wicked tendencies, but sin often is stronger than one’s spiritual strength, and one requires help from above. Actually, the infection of original sin is so strong that all people stand in need of the renewing power of the grace of God.
Despite all this, God has placed seeds of goodness in our nature, and therefore every man is instinctively drawn toward the good. When he does wrong, he starts to feel bothered and tormented by a kind of unpleasant feeling. This is because God has bestowed upon our spiritual nature a very sensitive and sure moral instrument, called the conscience. It is not surprising, therefore, that pagans, Moslems, and people of the most diverse religions very often agree in defining what is good and evil, virtue and vice. Those who hold the teachings of Hinduism and occultism are not excluded from this sort of moral consensus. Thus, although Hinduism in theory does not distinguish between good and evil, regarding them as two sides of one medallion, in practice it has something which approaches the concept of sin. In Hinduism this is called karma.
Karma (which means “action” in the language of India) is something negative and undesirable, like a spot which clings to man and stays with him in the process of his soul’s reincarnations. Since Hindu doctrine does not have a God Who forgives and purifies man, karma acquires a purely formal and mechanical character. Eastern religions understand karma as an immutable law of retributive justice, a law which does not depend on any conscious higher Will. Its consequences are felt throughout all the successive reincarnations of the soul, so that every act affects the future of the soul in its next incarnations with mathematical accuracy. People who are now healthy, happy or wealthy are those who have acquired good karma in their previous lives; conversely, people who suffer or are less fortunate are receiving the retribution of their former sins and errors. Simply put, according to the doctrine of karma sin and punishment have a mathematically precise correlation. In this system there is no merciful, forgiving God or Saviour to redeem man’s sins. The law of karma is an implacable and unforgiving accounting of all that man has done wrong, and it requires that in succeeding reincarnations, which can be repeated thousands or millions of times, he must pay for all that he has done.
The doctrine of karma apparently arose as an attempt to explain the cause of suffering. For example, an innocent child would be said to suffer because in one of his former lives he did something wrong and now he must pay for it. If one considers it more profoundly, however, the law of karma is found to legalize injustice. If the personality dissolves at death, then the new person which is formed after reincarnation has no way of understanding what misdeeds it must pay for, and consequently it cannot draw any moral lessons from its sufferings; it is left with only a dull sensation of the unfairness of life.
The Christian faith teaches that suffering and death are closely connected with the tragedy of original sin. If it were not for original sin, man would live forever, but now, since his nature has been damaged by sin, he must face death. His moral corruption cannot be removed by his own sufferings or by his own good works and efforts alone; these things cannot restore him to the state of immortality in which he was originally created. The tragic mistake of sin was corrected by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who redeemed man’s sins by His sufferings on the Cross, thereby depriving death of its power and restoring immortality to mankind. Though this mystery of redemption is beyond the comprehension of our mind, the restorative power of the risen Christ is very definitely at work in the believer. It gives him the conviction that one day he too will rise from the dead by the power of Him Who conquered death.
God loves us; He takes pity on us as His children. When we experience moral weakness, even when we fall into sin, He does not seek revenge and punishment; He waits patiently for us to repent and helps us to return to the right path. Even when He allows afflictions to befall us, they are not meant somehow to expiate our guilt before Him, but to cure us. When we do not reject God, He directs everything toward our spiritual welfare and our salvation. Our goal is to attain the blessedness of eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.
When compared to the radiant Christian hope for man’s renewal and restoration, Hindu and occult teachings appear gloomy and fatalistic. They subject all that happens in the world to fate and the merciless law of karma. “Salvation” is not found through faith and the striving to do good, but by means of a mechanical progression through cycles of reincarnation. No matter what a man may do, whether good or evil, his fate is already fixed, like the movement of the wheels in a timepiece. At the end of all the soul’s fruitless wanderings from one body to another, it is still not destined to achieve personal immortality, but rather to disappear into the cosmic Absolute, losing all the self-knowledge and experience it has stored up.
While a Christian awaits the resurrection of his body — the one and only body which he has had during his earthly life, the follower of Eastern religions regards his body as a temporary shell, a kind of prison, from which he can one day be liberated. According to Hinduism, one’s impersonal spiritual essence is compelled to be reincarnated after death in order to satisfy the law of karma, and may come back as another human being, or as an ape, a goat or even a plant.
While the doctrines of karma and reincarnation are an attempt to explain the existence of evil in the world, they actually introduce into the world the greatest injustice, in that everyone is guaranteed the same thing in the end. No matter how much good a righteous man has done, he will not receive a reward for his labours; no matter how much evil the worst evildoer has done, he will not receive punishment for his crimes. Whether one is a holy man, like Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, or the murderer of millions of innocent people, like Stalin, he will have the same ultimate end, to be dissolved into one, faceless Absolute. What could be more monstrous than such an outlook?
Paradoxically, this system is not proved by experience. If each individual human being, after living many lives and working out all his karma, attained spiritual perfection, then we should logically expect that all mankind will reach spiritual perfection. Unfortunately, what we see is quite different: the spiritual decline of society, the growth of crime and depravity, the increase of hatred and senseless cruelty, even among children. The whole picture is in agreement with Biblical prophecies about the moral degeneration of mankind before the Second Coming of Christ.
The doctrine of reincarnation has no objective proof to lend it credence. Some people claim to have fragmentary recollections of familiar places, which they supposedly knew from previous lives, but such assertions are easily explained as being the usual tricks of the imagination. Our brain is constantly storing up fragments of all sorts of visual and auditory impressions, which settle somewhere in the subconscious. Then, at some particular moment, these fragmentary impressions can come together to form a mental picture, so that a person thinks he recognizes a certain place, even though he is actually seeing it for the first time. Hinduism and occultism view these “memories” as a confirmation of the idea of the transmigration of souls. To this we may object that none of the instances of such “memories” contain any substantial information. No one is able to remember either the language which he supposedly spoke in the past, or the details of actual events in a “past life,” or the literary and scientific knowledge which he acquired, or the names of the people with whom he was acquainted. In other words, he remembers nothing of that which our consciousness takes in during life and which forms our intellectual apparatus and our experience of life. All these things disappear without a trace, without any reason. Clearly, all the assertions about the transmigration of souls are unsubstantiated by evidence.
At the same time, the lives of the saints, various works of religious literature and many contemporary accounts of life after death fundamentally refute the occult idea of reincarnation. As a matter of fact, the souls of the dead have on occasion been able to appear to the living and to communicate the knowledge and the experience which they had acquired during a single earthly life, showing that their consciousness was not wiped out by death. When the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah appeared in the company of Christ on Mount Tabor, many centuries after their departure from this world, they retained a clear awareness of what they had been in the past. Similarly, in all the accounts written by emergency room physicians, we read that the soul, after leaving the body, continues to be conscious of itself as the same person which lived in the body until the moment of death. In some cases the soul desires to return to this world, but only to complete an unfinished mission, not to start some new life. Furthermore, when the souls of those newly dead encountered in the next life the souls of relatives who had died earlier, they recognized one another as paticular persons. In all the cases which are known to religion and science, the souls of the dead preserve their “I” and their acquired experience of life; their self-awareness is ineradicable, and this refutes the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul and its ultimate dissolution in nirvana.
From what we have said it is clear that the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation conflicts with the Christian doctrine of redemption. This is very obvious in the case of the wise thief in the Gospel. In a single moment he turned to Christ and became an heir of the kingdom of heaven, bypassing karma and the cycles of wandering through cosmic corridors. The redemption accomplished by Christ frees us from the dominion of cosmic processes and blind fate.
Strictly speaking, “salvation” is a purely Christian concept. It is unknown in the Hindu and occult systems, but it occupies a central place in Christianity. Christianity teaches that God created man for immortal life. If there had been no original sin, it would not have been necessary to save man. Original sin soiled human nature, in the moral sense; it brought disharmony to man’s inner world and deprived him of living communion with God. The effects of sin were so destructive that the Son of God had to come into the world and become man to atone for the sins of mankind.
All of us inherit the contagion of sin with all its deadly effects. We are in no condition to free ourselves from sin and to restore ourselves to eternal life by our own personal efforts. We need God’s help; we need a Saviour! If our Lord Jesus Christ had not redeemed our sins on the Cross, we would all be condemned to eternal death, which means not the annihilation of the soul, but rather its consignment to darkness and everlasting torment. Now, thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, the way to salvation is open to everyone. The Blood Which He shed on the Cross serves to cleanse us from sin and to renew our souls. This process is not automatic, however. A personal effort of the will is necessary to believe in Christ, to accept His teachings and to live as a Christian.
The concept of salvation is a subject too broad to be treated in detail here. Fasting, prayer, the study of the word of God, meditation on things divine, good works, the sacraments of the Church - all of these things are important as means to man’s spiritual regeneration. So, salvation is given on two conditions: personal effort in striving toward God and God’s help, invisibly bestowed by His grace.
Salvation must be understood to mean man’s full restoration, soul and body, his complete deliverance from sin and from all its consequences. It is something far greater than a return to the primal bliss of Eden, because it is accompanied by the spiritualization and transfiguration of man and of the whole physical world. Corruption will be swallowed up by incorruption, and the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Blessedness and happiness will correspond to the moral level which one has attained during his earthly life. This is why Christianity calls upon us to multiply the talents which we have been given and to increase our spiritual treasure. One who sows generously will reap a rich harvest, while one who sows sparingly will also reap a more meager harvest.
Hinduism and occultism have a completely different view of the purpose of human life. Since they reject original sin and personal immortality, they also reject the necessity of salvation. They devote all their attention to self-development, using various methods of yoga and meditation. The highest result of all these exercises is considered to be the realization of one’s own “divinity.” It turns out, though, that the quicker one attains perfection, the quicker he also reaches the end which all will finally reach - dissolution in nirvana. Eastern religions regard this as the highest bliss. But, we may ask, what bliss is there when one is unaware of it? How does such “bliss” differ from death? From a Christian point of view, these are word games.
In the area of morality, while Christianity draws a very clear and plain distinction between evil and good, these are only relative notions in Hinduism and occultism. Their moral relativism is a logical consequence of the idea of monism which is fundamental to them: All is one. Of course, in the literature of Hinduism and Theosophy, as in that of any religion, one can read many fine thoughts about virtue; one can find many good counsels and inspirational exhortations. This cannot be credited to their doctrinal system; it is a result of that common sense and inclination to good which God has placed in heart of every man. Everyone, even if he knows nothing about God and the Bible, feels a natural revulsion for vice and gravitates to a life of virtue.
When one becomes more familiar with the philosophy of Hinduism, it becomes apparent that good and evil are relative and subjective concepts. What is regarded as evil by some can lead to good on another level. “Good” and “evil,” it is said, are necessary, like light and shadow in a painting, or positive and negative charges in an atom, or north and south in a magnetic field. They are different but completely equal aspects of the Prime Reality; they are both essential for the balance of life and the harmony of the universe. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as sin or vice. Neither is there any basic difference between virtuous people and the wicked, between saints and criminals. It is all temporary karma, which will be grist for the mill of reincarnation and will finally be dissolved in the boundless sea of the Prime Reality. Consequently, man is not responsible for his actions; he is only a little wheel in the mechanism of the universe. He may view his actions as being good or evil, but this is only an illusion. Buddhism went on to work out methods for deliverance from this illusion.
Given such an understanding of “salvation,” all the practices of the Eastern religions must needs have a completely different content and goal than in Christianity. In place of prayer as living communion with a personal God, they encourage the development of telepathic contact with mahatmas (souls) and gurus, travel in the astral plane, the repetition of mantras, summoning up spirits, etc. In place of repentance before the Creator and amendment of one’s life, they urge their followers to rely upon their own strength and to develop within themselves a sense of “divinity,” of superiority to the unenlightened.
Just as the idea of salvation holds a central place in Christianity, so also the coming of the Saviour into the world is regarded as a unique and unrepeatable event. The Only-begotten Son of God clothed Himself in our human nature in order to renew it, and, what is more, to make man a sharer of His divine nature. For this reason He ascended into heaven with His transfigured flesh, so that He always remains the God-Man. His fellowship with the human race, His teaching and His personal example, and finally His redemptive suffering on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection from the dead are all inseparable aspects of one great work, the salvation of mankind. All these things were accomplished once and for all; they contain in themselves inexhaustible spiritual power, which will be saving believers until the last days of the world’s existence. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to earth a second time, it will not be to teach or to save, but rather to judge the world and to render to every man according to his deeds.
The teachings of Hinduism and occultism are willing to accept Christ as, at best, one of the avatars, the materializations of Vishnu, i.e., of the very same Primary Reality. Although the god of Hinduism is impersonal, he sometimes “becomes incarnate” and assumes the appearance of a man. Such a divine-human being is called an avatar. Followers of Krishna refer to the Bhagavad Gita, which describes a succession of incarnations of deities, supposedly numbering around twenty-one, whereas the Lord Jesus Christ by His one Incarnation came into our world and accomplished the redemption of mankind. As an example, the god Vishnu, who is responsible for the preservation of the universe, becomes incarnate in the form of Narayana, as the prototype of all the avatars. Other avatars were Buddha, Rama, Krishna, Confucius, Zoroaster, Mohammed, King George V, Mahatma Gandhi, etc. Thus, Hinduism affirms, “As an infinite number of rivers are born (through evaporation and rain) from the ocean, which never dries up, so are the incarnations of the Lord without number.” Supposedly, these avatars came at critical moments in human history in order to teach certain truths.
Each successive avatar is accorded widespread veneration among Hindus. Since he is one with the deity, he possesses supernatural power, siddhi, which places him above the laws of karma. His coming to the world is viewed as an act of love. While dwelling in a body, he can display human emotions, but his own spiritual state reaches beyond the boundaries of time and space (maya). In the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna declares, “I am prince over the demons.” This admission certainly sheds some light on the sinister nature of the avatars of Hinduism.
Saint Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, says of the final avatar (the Antichrist), “[His] coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9; cf. Rev. 13:2).
Christianity teaches that, although we are sinful and stubborn, God never stops caring for us, as a good father cares for his children. Not only is the totality of our life under His control; He also directs every detail of our life for our benefit. If only we did not resist Him, if only we behaved ourselves as His obedient children, there would be no evil on earth; the earthly life of each one of us would end in eternal happiness in His heavenly kingdom. Men perish only because God does not violate their free will; He does not compel them to believe in Him or to live a righteous life. When we ask God for guidance and help, He has the power to alter the natural course of events and even to do that which is impossible according to human understanding. In other words, our life is defined not so much by external factors as by our own free will and the Providence of God.
The teachings of Hinduism and occultism, which do not believe in a personal God, subject all things to blind cosmic processes. Since there is no higher Reason or Will, and our freedom is an illusion, everything is controlled by fate; therefore, those who accept the ideas of Hinduism and occultism believe in fate and in astrology. To decipher their future they turn to horoscopes, fortune-telling, card-reading and all kinds of omens. To justify their belief in the zodiac they cite the influence of the moon over the ebb and flow of the tides and on when seeds sprout and how people feel.
We do not dispute the fact that the stars and the moon can influence us to some degree, just as the seasons of the year, the temperature, humidity and a million other internal and external factors influence us; however, they can only influence, while everything is governed by God. The Christian faith, therefore, teaches us always to turn to God our Saviour for guidance and help. Prayer can accomplish even the impossible, as we know from a multitude of examples.
(Teaching About the End of the World).
Christianity prepares believers for the Second Coming of Christ, which will take place at the end of the existence of the physical world. When He comes to the earth, the Lord will raise the dead, and then He will pass judgement on all people and demons; all will be dealt with according to their deeds. The earth and everything on it will be consumed by fire, but God will make “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). At that time some will enter into eternal life, while others will inherit eternal damnation together with the devil and his angels.
The Sacred Scriptures foretell that the time before the end of the world will be a time of apostasy from Christianity, with evil becoming much stronger. A multitude of false prophets will appear and will draw people to their pernicious teachings. Faith will weaken among men, and they will give themselves to all sorts of vices, while following all kinds of occult practices and worshipping demons. This general apostasy from Christianity will be led by a “great” ruler, whom the Bible calls “the Beast” and “Antichrist.” Apparently, he will be the head of a worldwide government; not only will he be a political leader, but he will also be the founder of new religious ideas. His government will enjoy success because it will exercise the closest control over people. Christianity will be persecuted as an unfounded, outmoded and fanatical religion; the time will come when believers will become confessors of the faith and martyrs.
The moral degradation of humanity will be accompanied by a universal social and personal decline. There will be all-consuming wars and lethal epidemics, famine, earthquakes, “the sea and the waves roaring” and “the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Lk. 21:25, 26). Fortunately, the rule of Antichrist will not last for long. The Lord Jesus Christ will put an end to him, and will “consume [him] with the spirit of His mouth” (2 Thess. 2:8).
The teachings of Hinduism and occultism look at the last times in quite a different way. They paint the coming of the great Avatar in the most glowing colors. Supposedly this great messiah and ruler will bring the world tolerance, prosperity, peace and order. With his coming to earth there will begin a new and happy age, paradise on earth.
Thus, Hindu and occult teachings confront every aspect of the Christian faith with something of their own, which seems to resemble Christianity but is actually very different. One who is not trained in theology may have difficulty in distinguishing truth from fiction. It is impossible to “prove” a particular truth of religion, because it belongs to the realm of the spiritual, which is not accessible to laboratory experiments. Nevertheless, if one turns to the heavenly Father with all his being, he will have a lively feeling of His presence and the warmth of His love in the prayer of the heart. This interior experience will convince him that God is a living Person, One with Whom we can talk, One Who receives our prayers, enlightens our understanding and helps us in our difficulties. In such a living experience of God all the cleverly constructed concepts of Hinduism and occultism fall apart like a house of cards.
Chief Points of Disagreement
Between Christianity and Eastern Religions
God is a personal being, the Creator, Lawgiver and Judge, Who dwells outside of time and space. He is all-perfect and not subject to any processes of evolution or change.
The world is not eternal; it was created out of nothing by God, along with time, space and the energy which fills it.
God rules over the world and the life of every man. If we obediently follow His will, nothing bad will happen to us, and our heavenly Father will bring us to eternal life.
Time is linear. The creation of the world, the creation of man, the Incarnation of the Son of God and His work of redeeming mankind, the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgement and everlasting life are unique and unrepeatable events.
Man is a bipartite being, in which soul and body are joined in an everlasting union, which is only temporarily disrupted by death. Man, with his personality and self-awareness, is unique and immortal.
Sin is a terrible moral evil, which has done harm to our nature. Only with Christ’s help can man be delivered from sin.
Good and evil, virtue and vice, truth and error are absolute values.
God is the sole source of religious truth. Through His prophets and apostles God has taught man what to believe and how to live. These divinely-revealed truths are contained in the Bible.
Christ is the Son of God, Who once became incarnate. He is the only Saviour. He will always remain the God-Man.
Salvation means that man attains eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a righteous life.
The resurrection of the dead will be accomplished by Jesus Christ at the end of the existence of this present world. Afterwards, everyone will receive what he has deserved, either eternal reward or eternal punishment.
Pastors of souls are called to teach what Christ’s Apostles taught. It is inadmissible to invent new doctrines. A pastor’s teaching is worthy of belief only insofar as it is in accord with the teaching of the Church.
God is an impersonal energy, the prime reality, which goes through stages of birth, development and decline.
The world and “God” are the same thing. From all eternity the world goes through cycles of birth, evolution and decay.
Fate, destiny and the action of blind cosmic forces determine life of man. He is just a pitiful speck of dust in the cosmic mechanism.
Time is cyclical. The processes of the origin of the world, its evolution and its destruction are ever being repeated. Worlds appear only to be destroyed again.
The soul is a temporary condition. After may reincarnations it will be dissolved in nirvana, losing its personality.
Sin does not exist. Man is freed from bad karma by repeated reincarnations.
Good and evil are relative values, which depend upon man’s point of view and his intellect.
Divine revelation does not exist. Hindu and occult doctrines are based on “intuition” or on the authority of “spirits.”
Christ is one of avatars, on a level with Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster, Mohammed and others.
There is no idea of salvation. The goal of life is self-perfection by following a regimen of yoga and meditation.
Multiple reincarnations of the soul will finally end in its being dissolved in the ocean of the Prime Reality (nirvana).
A guru is an independent authority, a sort of divinity, who commands complete and unquestioning obedience.
“If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23).
It is not important what this state is called, whether supernatural attainment, expanded consciousness, cosmic awareness, mystical enlightenment, a sense of one’s own divinity or some other name - its essence is the same. The school which offers this state may be Yoga, Zen Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, Scientology, the “New Age” or some other occult group. If we cast aside the external and unimportant terminology, the state of which we speak may be characterized as a type of trance. With repetition and practice it becomes a condition of spiritual delusion or deception, subject to the activity of unclean spirits.
All the Hindu and occult systems present men with an invitation to spiritual enlightenment, but in order to obtain it, they first require the rejection of human reason as a criterion. It is paradoxical that these systems which above all pretend to reveal the eternal mysteries of our existence declare reason and logic to be the enemies of interior experience, obstacles to spiritual enlightenment. Along with reason they also reject all spiritual authority, including that of objective divine revelation and the experience of Christian saints.
While the followers of Hindu and occult teachings remove the objective criterion for distinguishing between true enlightenment and self-stimulated self-deception, they lay down a subjective principle: “If it works, it’s good.” When those who have supposedly reached mystical enlightenment are asked how they reached it, instead of giving a rational answer they roll their eyes and seem to go into a trance. Afterwards, whey they have come to, they smile sweetly and suggest, “Try it, and you will be convinced.” When emotion replaces reason and every objective criterion is rejected a priori, all attempts to differentiate reality from illusion drown in a sea of subjectivity.
The Christian view is that any subjective perception must be tested against the positive authority of the Scriptures and the spiritual experience of the Church. Man’s reason must stand guard over his emotions, not allowing them to inflame his imagination; otherwise, he will be on a dangerous path and can be subject to demonic deception.
Spiritual enlightenment is state which is familiar to many righteous people. It was experienced by the prophets of the Old Testament, the Apostles of Christ and many of the Desert Fathers. They are unanimous in warning against actively attempting to acquire mystical enlightenment or to evoke it by any sort of method. It is necessary for man to be cleansed of sin through repentance, to purify his heart which has been soiled by passions and to go humbly towards God — this is the first and most important task of the Christian life. True spiritual enlightenment comes from God, when He is pleased to bestow it. It is the gift of God’s loving-kindness, not the fruit of personal effort or a reward for labors.
The man who possesses true spiritual enlightenment has a lively awareness of God’s greatness and his own poverty. It is as if the world and everything around him no longer existed and time stood still. In this state man feels an ineffable inner peace and compunction. All the faculties of his soul — reason, perception and will — are brought into a wonderful harmony, and his heart is afire with filial love for God. There is not a trace of that sickly-sweet self-exaltation, that sense of superiority or divinity, which is felt by those who experience occult mystical “enlightenment.” In a state of God-given enlightenment all the truths revealed in Holy Scripture become clear and convincing. Reason is not rejected, but rather enriched by a deeper understanding of these truths.
In order to preserve us from putting our trust in ourselves and becoming proud, God ordinarily seems to hide from us the awareness of the presence of His light. Yet a soft, barely detectible spiritual light unfailingly penetrates man’s soul in moments of sincere prayer, heartfelt repentance, thoughtful reading of the Bible, meditation on spiritual things, the reception of Holy Communion and attendance at divine services. The full realization of abiding in God’s life-giving light will only be given us in the next life.
Not only do Hindu and occult religions not guard man against deception by the demons; they even recommend and encourage methods which lead to it. The various exercises of Yoga and meditation offer to free man from the bonds of the flesh and to unite him with the Prime Reality. Since the garment of the flesh hinders spiritual receptivity with a stream of physical sensations, they invite their mystics to “liberate” the spirit by means of “astral projection.” In a state of trance they lose consciousness of time and place; their rational and discerning comprehension of their experience is suppressed; all their defenses are down. Unfortunately, they fail to understand that they have opened wide the door which allows the spirits of another world to penetrate the subconscious mind. Having, as it were, made openings into the inner recesses of a man’s soul, the denizens of an invisible world can continue to influence their adept even after he comes out of his trance.
While it is true that those who have attained mystical enlightenment by occult methods experience extraordinary ecstasy and have a sense of their own divinity, this is an unhealthy and very dangerous state, reminiscent of the narcotic effect of drugs. In this state of mindless self-deception reverence for the Most High is replaced by a prideful feeling that “I am a god.” All ideas of moral responsibility and divine judgment disappear, and the subjective feeling of “enlightenment” becomes the criterion of truth and the arbiter of one’s actions.
In the following table we shall summarize the differences between the Christian and the occult understanding of spirituality.
Man was created for blessedness, but in his present state, under the harmful effects of sin, he is in need of healing.
What is most important is to believe in God, to turn to Him in repentance and to undertake a righteous life. The fullness of blessedness and communion with God is reserved for the life to come.
The sacraments of Baptism, Confession and Holy Communion cleanse man from his sins and renew his spiritual nature, gradually making him a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is a conversation with God. Its most important elements are sincerity and attention, in which both mind and heart are directed towards God.
In prayer one should not seek a state of exaltation, but rather spiritual healing and strength for a life of virtue.
In prayer one should avoid imagination or the creation of any sort of images.
Prayer and meditation on things divine always shine light upon the soul, although God usually does not allow us to feel the full joy of this spiritual light, lest we become proud.
Man’s moral imperfection is denied, and sin is thought to be an error of the mind.
Faith and repentance are unnecessary. Anyone can experience bliss whenever he wants.
None of these things are regarded as necessary.
Meditation consists of the unthinking repetition of an occult phrase (mantra.).
The goal of meditation and yoga is to attain the consciousness of one’s own divinity.
One must concentrate on an imagined object in such a way as to become one with it.
Mystical enlightenment, being the result of a trance and demonic deception, creates a sense of superiority and inner power.
Spiritual enlightenment only becomes perceptible in exceptional circumstances, as a gift sent from God.
The mind must always guard the heart, protecting it from demonic deception.
In true spiritual enlightenment man has a lively awareness of God’s majesty and his own poverty. His heart is filled with unutterable peace and love for God, and the visible world seems to cease to exist.
In true spiritual enlightenment the truths of the Christian faith become clear and important.
Prayer always requires inner effort and concentration and hence it is not without labor, even for those who have dedicated themselves to the spiritual life. Therefore, prayer, like all of the Christian life, is the “narrow way which leadeth to life.”
It is always possible to reach mystical enlightenment by following psychic techniques.
The rational mind is considered to be the enemy of mystical enlightenment.
Man attains “cosmic consciousness” and a sense of oneness with nature.
Man becomes convinced that he does not need God or God’s revelation. He is happy because he himself is a god.
Yogic meditation teaches enervation, not thinking about anything. Compared to true prayer, it may be called the “broad path” against which the Saviour warned us.
Thus, it is clear that Christian prayer and meditation on things divine, on the one hand, and the Oriental methods of yoga and meditation, on the other, are two completely different paths. They go in opposite directions and lead to completely different results.
“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt.7:22-23).
Christ came to save us from the power of the devil and from slavery to sin. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-35). In the sacrament of Baptism man casts off the chains of vice and receives from Christ the power to wage war against his evil inclinations. There is no passion, no vice, which a man cannot conquer with God’s help. It is only necessary to enter decisively into combat with sin and to begin to lead a spiritual life to pray, to repent, to receive Holy Communion and to ask God for help. Note that in the process of overcoming his faults man grows and becomes stronger. This process of interior growth contains the purpose of our earthly life.
In place of Christianity’s healing of the soul by grace, a number of contemporary Eastern cults (such as the Krishnaites and others), along with many independent occult “healers” and psychics, offer their services for healing. They promise a complete cure for such serious afflictions as alcoholism, smoking, drug addiction, obesity, excessive sexual desire, etc. Although there is some diversity in their methods, these healers use psychic coding, in which the concentrated energy of the healer brings about an occult effect on the mind of the patient. This coding, like other occult experiences, requires complete openness, passive attention and unconditional trust in the “healer.” There are cases where those who join some Oriental cult and perform its occult practices or who turn for help to a psychic healer are completely relieved of their affliction.
What must be understood is that such “healing” can actually be much worse than the illness for which a cure was sought. With their occult methods psychics and hypnotists break down the defenses of the human soul, which protect it from the dark world of the demons. This takes place through concentrating the patient’s attention on the person of the “healer,” who, like a medium, becomes a conduit for demonic activity. In its effects this “coding” or psychic healing is like a surgical lobotomy, whereby the prefrontal lobe of the cortex of the brain in a patient is removed. While this surgical procedure removes that part of the brain which controls violent behaviour in psychiatric patients, it also irretrievably excises other higher abilities like sharpness of intellect, emotions, creative aptitudes, and, in particular, the ability to believe in God, to pray, and to lead a Christian life (although, if the patient did not lead a spiritual life before the operation, he will probably not even notice the loss of some of his spiritual capabilities.).
In one way or another, a person pays for his occult “healing” with his spiritual health, since some aspect of his spiritual nature becomes permanently atrophied. (See the research on occult pathology in Dion Fortune, Psychic Self‑Defense, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1930; tr. Kiev: Sophia 1993.).
Particularly sinister were the “coding” seances of Yuri Krivonogov, who worked out a method of “psychotropic” hypnosis, with which he turned hundreds of members of the “White Brotherhood” into walking zombies. The psychological damage caused by his methods was so deep that a multitude of physicians, psychics and hypnotists who were brought from all parts of the former USSR could not undo the “coding” of Krivonogov’s unfortunate victims, no matter how they tried. This tragic episode was widely reported in the Russian and Ukrainian press in 1993-95.).
Note: Many of our contemporaries are concerned with the problem of “spells” or “the evil eye.” This becomes a source of income for the professional wizards and psychics, since one of them casts a spell and then another removes it, and thus they help one another in their business. Though there is certainly much room for fraud in this area, there is always a danger of interference from unseen spirits. For protection from such spirits and from all kinds of spells and charms, the only remedy is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which a faithful Christian receives in the Church, free of charge. A believing Christian should stop being afraid of spells or the “evil eye” and turn wholeheartedly to God for protection and help, by means of prayer, thoughtful reading of the word of God, repentance, regular (e.g., monthly) reception of Holy Communion and good deeds done for others. If this is done, then no attack of evil spirits will have any success.
Hinduism arose before 1500 B.C., after the invasion of India by Aryan tribes from Central Asia. Since then it has undergone many stages of evolution and division. The Aryan conquerors brought with them Vedism, a religion of many different gods, whose number was always increasing. These Aryans believed in the transmigration of souls and practiced rites of purification by fire and the cremation of the dead. At first the pagan beliefs of the Aryans were handed down orally, but by 1000 B.C. they began to acquire a written form in a collection of poems and prayers which received the name of the Vedas, or Vedanta (“wise sayings” or “knowledge”). This collection of texts made a deep impression on the religious and philosophical development of later Hinduism. Many of the deities of ancient Hinduism, beings of very questionable morality, became the patrons of various sadistic practices and sexual perversion. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls gave rise to the Indian caste system.
Beginning with the sixth century B.C., with the commencement of the period of the Upanishads, Indian religion took on a more pessimistic character. Hindu asceticism developed in this period, and great authority was given to the guru, or religious teacher. As the basic principles of contemporary Hinduism took shape, primitive pagan polytheism began to be replaced by a principle of monism, according to which everything, including God and the world, are in essence one and the same thing. This pantheistic idea became a foundation of Hinduism, its cardinal belief. Earthly life came to be regarded as an unceasing series of migrations of the soul (sansara, or metempsychosis), and the goal of life was to be liberated from the punishing law of karma. Complete freedom (moksha or mukti) from the cycles of life is attained when man’s soul (atman) merges and is completely dissolved in the world soul (Brahman). This idea is the basis for the Brahmanic branch of Hinduism. At about the same time Buddhism arose as a reaction against the abuses of the Brahmanic caste system.
The latest stage in the development of Hinduism began after the appearance of Christianity. The literature of the Vedas acquired the importance of sacred scripture, and the religious philosopher Sankara elaborated the idea of maya, according to which all objects and events which we see are an illusion. Asceticism became even more severe, and the awareness of moral duty (dharma) became part of the way to liberation from the phantom-like nature of the world and union with “the One.” The god Brahma assumed first place among the gods, and “Lord” Krishna (the tenth incarnation of the god Vishnu) became the object of general devotion.
Throughout its entire history Hinduism avoided proselytism or missionary work; however, beginning in the 1890s it started to branch out to the USA when Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of the Indian reformer Ramakrishna, established the Vedanta Society in New York. Since then a multitude of Indian-inspired movements have sprung up: Transcendental Meditation, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Divine Light Mission, Eckankar. Many contemporary sects, cults and Eastern religious groups, including Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Christian Science, Freemasonry, Bahai and Scientology, are full of Hindu ideas. At the same time many self-appointed gurus have appeared, advertising to the general public their methods of self-awareness and uncovering one’s inner potential.
The Vedic literature is a compilation of very diverse religious and philosophical materials, along with a national epic. The first part of the Vedas, the Rig Veda, contains hymns, directions concerning sacrifices, legends and prayers, filled with the spirit of Hindu polytheism. The second part of the Vedas, the Upanishads or Vedanta, which appeared later, holds the religious-philosophical world-view of Hinduism. While ancient Hinduism included a countless multitude of deities of all sorts, in time they came to be regarded as diverse manifestations of a single principle. The Indian statement, “Brahman is one, and there is no other beside it,” seemingly sounds like a confession of monotheism. Brahman, however, is not a transcendental personal Being, but rather a principle which forms the foundation of being. Out of the many ancient pagan deities, three acquired particular importance in Hinduism. Brahman came to be seen as the creator-god, Vishnu as the preserver-god, and Shiva as the destroyer-god. In this there is nothing resembling the Christian Trinity, since all three gods are representations of the one impersonal first principle of existence. At the same time, Vishnu was credited with the ability to become incarnate and take on a human form.
Since the world consists of pure energy, the materiality of objects is simply an illusion on our part. Just as a dream exists in the imagination of one who is asleep, our world is a kind of dream of the deity. God is the soul of the world (Mahatma), and every individual soul (atman) is his representation.
Hinduism attaches great importance to karma and the transmigration of souls, as we have already noted. From Hinduism this teaching has been carried over into Theosophy, the New Age movement and other Eastern cults.
Hinduism does not offer one single method for salvation. Instead, the philosophy of Yoga (mystical enlightenment and union with the world-soul) offers various ways, any of which may be chosen, depending on one’s own abilities and inclinations. The goal of all the forms of Yoga is to uncover one’s divinity.” The various ways lead to the same goal, with some being faster and easier, and others more lengthy. One who is not enlightened is compelled to be reincarnated thousands of times before he can attain rest in nirvana.
The existence of heaven and hell is not denied, but they are not considered to be final destinations; they are only transitional stages in the cycles of reincarnation.
Since man is a part of the world-soul and therefore a “god,” sin is merely an illusion. Feelings of guilt and moral responsibility before a higher Judge are ideas of the superstitious masses. Vivekananda said, “Sin is to consider someone a sinner.” Believing this, a follower of Hinduism feels no need at all to repent and to amend his life according to divinely-revealed commandments. The goal of life, with its many reincarnations, is nirvana - union with Brahman and dissolution in him, or, in other words, the annihilation of personal existence, which is equivalent to eternal death. This is declared to be the highest bliss.
While every religion has its own hierarchy and system of government, Hinduism has complete anarchy. Hinduism may find expression in most diverse forms of ritual, from those that are lofty and spiritual to some which are vulgar and cruel. In some branches of Hinduism one encounters complete aversion to any shedding of blood, while others feature the most bloody types of sacrificial offerings. Hinduism runs the gamut from the strictest asceticism to the wildest depravity. It does not have a common moral code or a standardized form of worship.
“Truth is one, but people express it in various ways,” proclaim the sacred writings of Hinduism. This saying very accurately conveys the essence of Hinduism as the most changeable and adaptable false religion of mankind. Hinduism does not deny the truth of any other religion, because it considers everything to be one. Over its long existence Hinduism has absorbed very different beliefs, and has become filled with contradictions, but this does not bother its adherents at all.
Despite the amorphous and adaptable character of Hinduism we must not think that it has no dogmas. Its very all-inclusiveness and tolerance spring from its cardinal principle: all is one. This is the basis for all the peculiarities of Hinduism: its diversity, the contradictions of its religious-philosophical ideas and the absence of definite moral norms.
Buddhism sprang from the soil of Hinduism and inherited many elements from it. As with Hinduism, it has no organization and no definite body of doctrine. It is even arguable whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. Its founder, Buddha, did not consider his ideas to constitute a religion. He did not accept any gods, any doctrines, any beliefs. One of founders of Theosophy, Olcott, in his “Buddhist Catechism” defines Buddhist teaching thus: “Out of all religions only he (Buddha) teaches the highest good without God, the prolongation of existence without a soul, bliss without heaven, holiness without a Saviour, and redemption by one’s own efforts alone, without any prayers, rites or repentance, without any help from clergy or saints; in the end, he teaches, a perfection which can be realized now in this earthly life.” It would be quite true to say that Buddhism is atheistic, and Buddhists will not argue with that characterization.
All the elements of Buddhism, all its rituals, practices, philosophy and art, have as their goal the elimination of the illusion that man exists. Not only man, but everything else in the universe is believed to lack solid content; everything is an illusion. For this reason whatever Buddhism teaches is usually phrased in negative terms. Buddhism is a philosophy of pessimism.
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.). Much of what we know about him is legendary. It is said that he was a wealthy Indian prince, whose parents tried from his infancy to surround him only with everything pleasant and beautiful. When he grew older and left the palace for the first time, he saw how other people lived, and he was shaken by scenes of extreme poverty and suffering. Soon afterwards he renounced his wealth, left his wife and children and went off to wander around as a beggar, in search of the truth. Once, when he was in a state of deep meditation, he was struck with the thought that the thirst for life is the cause of all human suffering. If one could eliminate all desire, suffering would cease. Having understood this, he devoted the rest of his life to developing and preaching his idea. He came to be called Buddha, meaning “the enlightened one,” because he had received this enlightenment.
Buddha preached against the caste system of his country and taught that all people are equal before God. He encouraged charity and compassion. He called upon all to become monks, because only monks are able to live a life of hardship, so necessary for “enlightenment.” Any activity which ties man to the material world brings him suffering. Buddha said nothing about a future life, because he thought that such a thing had no relation to reality. He viewed the ultimate goal of existence as nirvana, a condition of complete rest, free from all thoughts, feelings and desires. This condition he called blessedness.
In 236 B.C. a council of five hundred Buddhist monks collected and put into writing the oral traditions of Buddha’s teaching. This collection is known as the Tipitaka. The active missionary work of the Indian ruler Asoka (274 - 236 B.C). quickly spread Buddhism to Burma and Ceylon. After Asoka’s death, however, Buddhism splintered into many sects.
Questions about God, the origin of the world and of man and other purely “abstract” matters did not interest Buddha. The point of departure for his system is an analysis of a very practical problem: What causes suffering, and how can one be freed from it? Buddha laid down four cardinal truths as the foundation of his teaching: (1) Suffering fills all aspects of human life, from birth to death. (2) The cause of suffering lies in the desire to live and to gain pleasure. (3) Therefore, in order to be freed from suffering, one must crush within oneself all desires. (4) There is an eightfold path to this goal: right views, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right contemplation.
If one follows the eightfold path indicated by Buddha, he can avoid the law of karma and the fruitless cycles of reincarnation. When freed from all desires, man is finally immersed in the “blessed” state of nirvana; in other words, his life is extinguished. While the basic idea of Buddhism is extremely simple, the rules for the “path” are very numerous and complex, so that to learn them requires a lifetime. This fact makes Buddhism the most complex and paradoxical system that exists.
Self-mastery is a central theme of Buddhism. Everything that occurs is viewed as a result of “restlessness,” “worry” or “ignorance” in the transcendental consciousness of the Absolute Principle. Such “restlessness” is something negative, something which should not exist. One who “learns the truth” that existence should not exist, because it contradicts the essence of the Absolute Principle, has found the path to peace and to ultimate repose in nirvana. Buddhism preaches a decisive rejection of this world. Its ideal is the annihilation of personal existence. In this respect it is directly opposed to Christianity, for which personhood is the most important thing about man.
The Buddhist sage puts all his efforts not into discovering the positive side of existence or into finding the truth, but rather into unmasking the illusory and deceptive nature of life. In this endeavour, partly philosophical, partly mystical, he is always striving to lessen the intensity of existence and to do away with it completely. Thus his goal is not spiritual growth, as in Christianity, but spiritual extinction.
Buddhism regards virtue as a passing phenomenon, which even becomes a hindrance at the higher stages of perfection, since all acts performed in this present life inevitably lead to a new reincarnation. Bad deeds are even more harmful, because they increase one’s sufferings in the next reincarnation. The concept of the Fall and the problem of evil do not figure in Buddhism. It teaches that “evil must exist along with good, just as light and darkness, pleasure and pain; otherwise, order loses its meaning without chaos, just as the higher is inconceivable without the lower, or pleasure without pain.” “No matter how great the needs or requirements of others, no one should sacrifice his own salvation for them,” we read in the Buddhist moral code.
Since it rejects the idea of a Creator and regards the world as evil, Buddhist philosophy introduces evil into the Absolute itself. When some incomprehensible “restlessness” or worry arise in the Absolute, it engenders our insignificant” world, which deserves only to be annihilated. Buddhism offers meditation in place of prayer and mystical enlightenment in place of communion with God.
In time Buddhism split into two main branches: one more liberal - the Mahayana, meaning great wheel, with a wide path to salvation; the other more conservative - the Theravada, the path of the holy man, of the few. These branches are so different from each other that they could be regarded as different religions.
The liberal Mahayana branch spread in the north, to China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Indonesia and Vietnam. It emphasizes the ritual side of the Buddhist religion, with the burning of incense, magical ceremonies and occult rituals. The statues of Buddha are accorded divine honor, and a multitude of deities are worshipped. The Tibetan form of Mahayana Buddhism is the most occult of all. It has a ruling class of priests, the lamas, whose function is to study and interpret the philosophical aspects of Buddhism. It encourages a contemplative mode of life, a life of peacefulness lived at a slow rhythm. Man is called to bring himself into harmony with nature.
The conservative Theravada branch spread in the south, in Ceylon, Burma, Cambodia and Thailand. Its basis is the teachings of the Tipitaka, which invite man to follow a monastic life. One should dedicate his whole life to Buddhism. The goal of existence is nirvana. The chief virtue is wisdom. The Theravada school avoids ritual and prefers meditation. The idea of God as a personal reality is completely absent.
There is also another type of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism or simply Zen, which is a Japanese version of Buddhism. For Zen logical analysis is taboo. It is impossible for one man to teach another anything, and it is equally impossible to learn anything from another. Each man must free himself from preconceived notions and from the opinions of others. Zen rejects all doctrines and religions. It regards miracles and supernatural phenomena as mirages and illusions. It teaches that reality possesses no objective content; there is only subjective perception. “Truth” is reached by a direct and intuitive way, when the knower and the known become one.
The written word can be useful in the beginning, as an aid to meditation. Enlightenment is good, but it is not a goal, since Zen insists that it has no goal. What is important is not the future, but only that which is taking place now. Zen believes that human intuition is infallible, and rejects any other authority. Zen recommends self-development by means of intensive exercises of meditation, which is practiced several hours a day.
When one meditates, he must free his mind from any attachment to things earthly, not thinking about either evil or good. The important thing is to concentrate on one thought, fully fathoming its content. All that a man can know comes to him from within. It is most important to feel that one is an organic part of the Whole. At such a moment one experiences a spontaneous state of “enlightenment,” which is believed to be the highest form of bliss. In fact, hallucinations and visions of demons are a common result of Zen meditation.
Zen doctrine is chaotic; it affirms nothing and denies nothing; it only shows “the way.” Like Hinduism, Zen teaches that God and man are one. Thus it excludes any object of worship, along with sacred Scripture, rites and ceremonies. It does not recognize either virtue or vice, since it considers them to be the fruit of subjective perception. Zen is entirely centered on man and his feeling of well-being; all that goes on around him is unimportant. Zen makes an impression on those who detest dogma and authority. Probably for this reason it is attractive to some contemporary intellectuals, who have had their fill of the incessant stream of soulless information.
There are about 300 million Buddhists. It is the fourth largest religion in the world in terms of numbers.
In the U.S. in the Sixties the ideas of Zen Buddhism gave birth to the hippies, with their practice of “free love.” Although Zen Buddhism makes rather stern moral demands on beginners, a master of Zen is free to do what he wishes. Modern Buddhism is filled with occultism, magic and contact with the spirit world.
Buddhism attracts people by its non-dogmatic character and the ease with which it coexists with various other religions. Esoteric Buddhism invites its adepts to rise above love and hate, good and evil. For such a Buddhist love is as dangerous as hatred, because it chains him to the revolving wheel of this world. The only state worthy of him is alienation and indifference. At the highest levels of Buddhism it is believed that good and evil, as moral categories, simply do not exist. They belong to the sphere of existence, and the Buddhist must eliminate from himself any desire for existence.
Christianity, on the contrary, does not look on desire as evil. God Himself placed in us a longing to be creative, to improve ourselves, to take joy in life. The problem is that sin has upset the original balance between physical and spiritual desires, and the soul, which should be the master of the body, has become its slave. We have confused the proper hierarchy of values, so that we often strive for the wrong things, even for things which are harmful to us, while we neglect the things that are truly valuable, such as communion with God and our interior life. Christian life has as its goal to help us to order our thoughts and desires aright and to direct all our efforts towards the attainment of eternal life.
Theosophy is a complex mixture of various occult teachings, both ancient and modern, combining Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Kabbala and medieval mysticism with an admixture of Buddhism and filling it out with the fantasies of its foundress, Helen Blavatsky.
While most of the assertions of this fantasy-ridden and confused sect are as old as Hinduism, Blavatsky’s achievement was that she succeeded in arousing interest in half-forgotten occult ideas by presenting them in a form that appealed to people of a mystical bent who longed to learn the mysteries of life. Theosophy beckons to them with its lofty-sounding catch-phrases: to found a universal brotherhood which will unite people of all races and beliefs; to encourage the study of religion, philosophy and the latest scientific discoveries; to explore the mysterious forces of nature and paranormal phenomena.
While it uses some Christian terminology, Theosophy is thoroughly grounded in a pantheistic world-view. All its statements about man’s spiritual development and his union with the divine principle are based on occult metaphysics and contrived psychology. Its ethical teaching rejects the absolute quality of principles of good and evil and free will. It agrees with Hinduism in seeing its followers as subject to the laws of karma. It makes quasi-scientific statements, but these are completely unproven, and rely entirely on the unsubstantiated testimony of its own leaders, who are full of unhealthy mysticism, charlatanism and trick “miracles.”
Although in numerical terms the Theosophical lodges were never very large, their ideas exerted a powerful influence on the world-view of the upper classes in pre-revolutionary Russia. Now these ideas have been freely borrowed by various occult societies, especially those of the “new Age” movement.
The foundress of Theosophy, Helen Petrovna Blavatsky, was born in Russia in 1831 to a family named Hahn, which was of the gentry and of German origin. From her childhood she displayed mediumistic abilities, which led her to be interested in spiritualism. At the age of 17 she was married to an elderly general, Nikolai Blavatsky; the marriage only lasted three months.
After her divorce Blavatsky travelled widely, visiting India and Tibet. Later, in her Theosophical writings, she asserted that during her travels she came into contact with higher bodiless beings, the mahatmas, who revealed to her the mysteries of existence. Among these incorporeal masters she held one in special honour, and called him “the Master” (this was apparently the “prince of this world” referred to in John 12:31.).
In 1872 she arrived in New York and took up the practice of spiritualism. In 1875, together with Col. Henry Olcott, she founded her Theosophical Society, which is still in existence. Three years later she again visited India, where, in 1882, together with Olcott, she established the international headquarters of Theosophy in Adyar. When she was publicly exposed as a fraud, she had to leave India, and she began travelling around Europe, tirelessly spreading her occult ideas.
Mme Blavatsky finally settled in London. In 1884 her claims of performing miracles and receiving supernatural communications from “bodiless masters” were reviewed by the Society for Psychical Research and found to be unsubstantiated. The Society publicly accused her of resorting to sorcerous practices, using hypnotism and charlatanism. Although her authority was undermined, Blavatsky did not give up. She continued to expend much effort in writing and disseminating her ideas. On closer acquaintance it becomes apparent that she borrowed much from older occult literature, particularly from the Kabbala. Her major works are the Secret Doctrine and the Voice of Silence. The well-known author Vsevolod Soloviev, who knew Mme Blavatsky very well, accused her of trickery and dishonesty (see his work “A Contemporary Priestess of Isis”).
Mme Blavatsky was short and plump, with a wide-eyed stare, and was known for her eccentric behavior. Early in life she turned away from the Orthodox faith in which she had been baptized, and she bitterly hated Christianity, so that she devoted all her energy to overthrowing Christian ideas and establishing occultism in their place. She based her authority on the “miracles” which she performed, such as materializing objects, and the revelations of her bodiless masters, who supposedly dropped notes to her, revealing the mysteries of the universe. In her youth she edited a publication called “Lucifer,” whose purpose was to rehabilitate that fallen spirit, and to this, her first love, she remained faithful throughout her life. She was married several times, had various lovers and gave birth to a child out of wedlock. She was rowdy, frequently used vulgar language, smoked constantly and used narcotics (hashish). From the point of view of psychology she represents a complex case of split personality. When reading her biography one is reminded of Christ’s words about false prophets, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” A writer such as Gogol might have called her a “storied” woman, because wherever she went, her presence led to an unpleasant story. This lady guru died in London in 1891.
After her death Olcott continued to lead the Theosophical Society. It went into a decline, but William Judge (1851-1929) was able to give it a new lease on life. After Olcott’s death the Theosophical Society was headed by a faithful disciple of Mme Blavatsky, Annie Besant (1847-1933), who upheld and elucidated many of Blavatsky’s ideas. She also led the esoteric branch of the Theosophical Society, which specialized in magic and spiritualism.
Theosophical lodges, though not numerous, are in existence till the present day in various cities of Europe and America. Mme Blavatsky’s occult ideas played a role in the abandonment of the Church by the pre-revolutionary Russian intelligentsia and in the importation and spread of communism in Russia. Now many of the ideas of Theosophy have been adopted by the New Age movement. The same ideas are also held by the Liberal Catholic Church.
It is rather difficult to examine and refute the ideas of Theosophy one by one, because they are extremely confused. Basically, Theosophy is built upon fantasies and unsupported statements. The brazen fictitiousness of these statements knows no limit other than the imagination of the “prophets” of occult teachings.
Like the Neoplatonists and Gnostics of the first centuries of Christianity, Theosophy teaches that the sacred books of all religions contain a single secret doctrine, which runs through them all like a red thread. It is only necessary to discover this secret doctrine, and then the unity of all religions will become apparent. This assertion is, of course, groundless. The Christian Bible holds no secret doctrine. In fact, everything in it is laid out very clearly, so that even simple people can understand the word of God and have a sound foundation for their life.
Like Hinduism, Theosophy teaches that there is an omnipresent, infinite and unchangeable Principle (the Absolute, or the “world-soul”) which is incomprehensible to the mind. The world is eternal; it periodically goes through cyclical phases of birth, growth and death, in order to appear once again in a new form. The souls of all people are part of a universal soul which fills all things. The world contains a large number of gods, spirits (devas) who have a complex hierarchy, based on the numerical correlations of Kabbalism.
As in Hinduism, the “God” of Theosophy has a definitely abstract character. He is impersonal and completely passive in relation to the destinies of mankind. Following the ancient Gnostics, Theosophy also ascribes to the Deity a feminine principle, called Sophia (wisdom). Theosophy elaborates on the Hindu doctrine, teaching about the day and night of Brahman. At the entry of Brahman (the day), the universe appears, and small particles of Brahman, the “egos” of human beings, are clothed in various bodies, physical, astral, mental, etc. This is what we know as life. At the departure of Brahman (the night), everything is destroyed, and human “egos” are once again dissolved in Brahman. And this goes on for ever; worlds arise and are destroyed in an endless closed cycle. Deities, spirits and the souls of men emanate (like the Gnostic aeons) from the infinite and unknowable Reality. The world and those in it must pass through seven stages of evolution (?!) Needless to say, all these assertions are completely arbitrary.
While Theosophy is not officially opposed to Christianity, it considers it to be a lower form of religious awareness. Just as in Freemasonry the lower ranks are allowed to profess Christianity, but the higher degrees must join the “true” religion, so also in Theosophy only those who are in the lowest stages of knowledge may go to church and keep Christian customs. Mme Blavatsky bombastically declared, “Truth is higher than religion.” She looked on all religions as paths which lead to one central point. She encouraged the study of all religions, contact with them and drawing on their experiences.
Theosophy bypasses asceticism, replacing it with contemplative mysticism and the independent study of religious-philosophical ideas. It insists that one who has learned the methods of Theosophy will be able to penetrate the mysteries of the Egyptian priests and the secrets of the Chaldean astrologers; he will drink deeply of the wisdom of all the ages. Theosophy promises man supernatural powers, such as clairvoyance, telepathy and the ability to influence and subjugate others.
Thus, Mme Blavatsky’s Theosophy is a jumbled mixture of occult teachings, all based on a pantheistic world-view. Since Theosophy rejects the existence of a supreme Authority or a Will that guides all things, all its assertions are only conjectural, and virtue is a matter of personal preference.
Along with the spread of Indian occult ideas in the West, another ancient Indian invention has also been gaining great popularity. Surprisingly, even many doctors defend Yoga as a “safe and effective” method for achieving physical and mental health.
Hinduism understands Yoga, in the widest sense of the word, to mean a course of action which leads to unity with the world-soul. This goal may be reached in different ways, some quicker and easier, others more prolonged and difficult. For example, Bhakti Yoga, which is the most popular form in India, is the way of veneration for the Deity. This takes in the constant repetition of an occult name, or mantra. Karma Yoga is the way of service, which is attractive to people who are disposed toward practical activity. Jnana Yoga is the way of knowledge, which leads men to seek guidance from a guru and to study the sacred writings of Hinduism. Raja Yoga is the way of contemplation, which includes various ways of meditation, in which the practitioner must learn to discipline his body and his mind, so as to attain samadhi (union with the Absolute). Usually the term Yoga is used to refer to a system of exercises, consisting of various bodily positions, the regulation of one’s breathing and meditation. It also offers methods for developing clairvoyance and “opening one’s third eye.” The development of clairvoyant faculties supposedly gives one the ability to see what is happening in distant places or events of the past and the future. At a certain stage of his exercises the disciple of Yoga can see the shining face of a “teacher,” who then becomes his guide.
To the degree that one achieves success in yogic exercises, he opens up his senses. For example, according to the prescriptions of Agni Yoga (the “fiery” Yoga of Nikolai Rerikh [ also known in English as Nicholas Roerich]), at a certain stage one can attain “the vision of the stars of the spirit,” in which one begins to see flashes of light in space, appearing like shining points of various colors; this ability may be obtained just by reading occult books. Next comes “contemplation of the purifying fires of the centers,” i.e., the chakras, which supposedly perceive the unseen world and through which this unseen world acts upon man. At a subsequent sage one begins to hear “the voice of one’s invisible teacher,” who revels to him occult mysteries. (Mme Blavatsky and Rerikh wrote many volumes which were dictated to them by such voices). At the highest stage there is the appearance of the “external fire,” which unites the consciousness of personality with that of space. This stage brings with it the complete “opening” of the senses for union with the world of spirits. This is what Hinduism sees as mystical illumination.
Mantra Yoga, the method of the Krishnaites, Tibetan Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation, pursues the goal of direct vision of the “deity” of the mantra and union with it. This brings with it bliss, happiness and the discovery of supernatural abilities.
All forms of Yoga are dangerous, because they prematurely and forcibly uncover the still-green “bud” of man’s spiritual nature. The exercises of Yoga maim man’s spiritual center, which God has ordained to be uncovered only in the next life, when man has been cleansed from the lethal contagion of sin. Many weighty authorities warn us against the exercises of Yoga, because they have seen their destructive consequences.
For example, Gopi Krishna writes, “All systems of Yoga are meant to bring about psycho-physical changes in man, such as are necessary for the transformation of his consciousness.” These changes are effected by definite postures of Yoga and by methods of breathing which arouse man’s occult energy and psychic powers. These produce dramatic changes in his consciousness, which are so powerful that most of those who experience them are forever psychically changed.
Nowadays many people practice Yoga simple as a form of exercise or calisthenics. They are not aware of what it leads to. There have been cases when even the most apparently innocent yogic exercises led people to insanity and demonic possession. What is most sinister is that some people accept the psychic changes wrought by Yoga, even the fits of insanity, as a positive spiritual experience, leading to mystical enlightenment.
It is not surprising that the practice of yoga can ruin both mind and body. The real goal of yoga is to annihilate the personality, that “deceptive illusion,” in order to touch the “true I” of the impersonal Brahman. Moti Lal Pandit declares, “The goal of yoga is to liberate man from his normal condition. For this various methods must be used: psychological, physical, mental and mystical. All these methods are unnatural and anti-social, since yoga prescribes a way of life which as much as announces, ‘My mortal existence does not deserve to live.’”
Since yoga is based on occult ideas, it is not surprising that getting caught up in it leads to irreversible psychic changes and illnesses. This is not because yoga has not been practiced improperly, but because of its occult nature.
Many people, even physicians, mistaken suppose that yoga is harmless. The facts, however, are convincing: Yoga has caused many psychological illnesses, and even death. For example, Swami Prabhananda writes about yogic breathing exercises: “Permit me to warn you that these breathing exercises can turn out to be very dangerous. Especially if they are performed incorrectly, there is a serious risk of harming one’s mind. Those who practice these breathing methods without the proper supervision are liable to become so ill that neither medicine nor science will be able to cure them, or even to diagnose correctly what the problem is.”
Shree Purohit Swami, a commentator on the Pantanjali Yoga Sutras, warns: “In India and in Europe I have encountered about 300 people who have suffered from mistaken practices. Physicians examined them but found no organic damage, and hence could prescribe no remedy.”
Another authority on Yoga, Hans-Ulrich Rieker, author of “Yoga and the Spiritual Life,” cautions, “Yoga is not a mere amusement. We should remember that its practice can lead to madness or death. In Kundalini yoga, if the prana (breath) is removed too soon, there is immediate danger of death for the yogi.”
Gopi Krishna, the above-mentioned yoga expert, warns about the dangers of yogic exercises, which can evoke a powerful reaction from the central nervous system and cause death.
A classic guide to Hatha yoga, “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” gives this warning in its second chapter: “Just as one must beware of lions, tigers and elephants, so also prana (the ‘divine’ energy of breathing) must be under control, or else it can kill the practitioner.”
Swami Prabhavananda (Yoga and Mysticism) includes among the possible consequences of the improper practice of yoga brain diseases, incurable illnesses, insanity, gloomy moodiness and being in a state of trance. All this from “one small mistake.”
If those who teach yoga were more open about these dangers which lurk below the surface, many catastrophic cases would be prevented.
In the second half of the twentieth century an eastern teaching called “Transcendental Meditation” or “TM” became widespread in the U.S.A. It was offered as a simple form of self-therapy, accessible to all, one which brought relief from internal tension and aided mental concentration. At first its results seemed so successful that it was used in the military, schools, prisons, hospitals and even in some Christian communities.
Actually, TM is a simplified form of mantra yoga. In the practice of TM, one sits on the floor in a certain position, closes the eyes, breathes slowly and rhythmically and mentally concentrates on the sing-song repetition of a certain word, the mantra. It is recommended that this exercise be done for about twenty minutes twice a day. The immediate goal of this practice is help oneself to get rid of excessive tension, to calm down and to acquire inner strength - all things which are certainly needed in our fast-paced modern life. Those who promote TM try not to emphasize its religious and philosophical aspects; indeed, they conceal from beginners the fact that the practice of TM brings man into contact with the pantheistic ideas of Hinduism and occultism. To popularize TM in the U.S. its chief “apostle,” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian, removed much of the Indian terminology from it, replacing it with a modern scientific and psychological vocabulary. This did not change the essence of it.
In fact, when a novice is initiated into TM he is obliged to bring with him three types of sweet fruit, fresh flowers and a clean handkerchief. These items are put into a basket and placed before a portrait of the guru in the room where the initiation takes place. A candle is lit and incense is burned while something is softly chanted in Sanskrit. Finally, the initiate is given a mantra, a Sanskrit word whose meaning is concealed from him. Now he is obliged to repeat this word during his sessions of “meditation.”
What, then, is a mantra? The word “mantra” itself comes from two words: man — to think and tra — protection or freedom from “slavery” to a life of phenomena (samsara). In other words, a mantra is a Sanskrit word, phrase or sound. Generally mantras are taken from the Vedas. Any of the names of the deities of the Hindu pantheon is considered a mantra, so that one who continually repeats the mantra may receive a “visit” from such a deity and converse with it. Some mantras are “concrete,” and contain the name of a “deity,” such as Krishna, Siva, Sarasvati, etc.; others are “abstract,” and call upon the impersonal Absolute, so as to attain liberation and entry into a state of samadhi, or union with the Absolute.
The well-known yogi Sivananda points out in his book “Japa Yoga” (i.e., the yoga of repeating mantras) that every mantra is distinguished by a particular rhythm and has a cipher or code which, as it is repeated, opens the way for a man to contemplate the deity of the mantra. In other words, what happens is that a man loses his spiritual self-defense and comes into contact with fallen spirits. In speaking of the presence of a deity, or davata, in every mantra, Sivananda himself defines it as “a supernatural being, higher or lower,” which is the source of the mantra’s power. Thus, it is clear that a mantra can evoke a lower, evil being, “the dark side of the Force.”
It is not difficult to learn TM. By practicing its form of meditation for twenty minutes twice a day, one quickly achieves the relaxed, half-asleep state of trance. This is a state of “complete contentment,” similar to the effect of some narcotics. This is what is called transcendental meditation. Followers of TM enthusiastically proclaim the simplicity and successfulness of their method, while they remain silent about the religious aspect of their practices and the sad spiritual consequences to which they lead.
While the practitioner of TM is not required to change his religious beliefs or accept any new moral principles, the very fact that TM includes a pagan rite of initiation and the ritual repetition of an occult phrase in its continued exercises puts one on the path of participation in the Hindu religion. TM has as its basis a pantheistic conception of the Prime Reality, with which one who practices TM tries to become one. Success in TM is achieved by having a man ascend the “ladder of consciousness” until he reaches the seventh and final step, when he is dissolved in the sea of the cosmic “superconsciousness.” At this point he supposedly finds complete peace and realizes his own divinity. This is, at best, a hallucination, and more probably a demonic deception. Such is the final goal of these exercises in meditation.
TM is the Indian antithesis of true Christian meditation, which consists in reverent reflection on God. Christianity counsels active divine meditation to the end that one may more deeply understand one’s faith and strengthen it. The Lord commanded Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night” (Jos. 1:8). When a Christian meditates on the truths of the faith, he comes to understand them better. As the Lord promised His disciples, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Just the opposite takes place in TM. The very word “meditation” loses its proper meaning. Meditation means an activity of the mind in which one tries to understand something better, to comprehend it.
In TM, on the contrary, one must suppress all activity of the mind and mindlessly repeat a word which one does not even understand. In this way the mind and the nervous system are overloaded, and the brain is turned off. Modern research has shown that the constant repetition of any phrase, such as “apple pie,” is capable of bringing about considerable changes in one’s psycho-physiological state.
The exercises of TM cause a man to drop his self-defense, thus opening up access to his subconscious for the fallen spirits, against which St Paul the Apostle warns us in his Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:10-17).
So, TM should be considered dangerous and harmful. It produces those fruits which are common to occult practices: a lessening of faith, an increase of pride and even mental breakdown.
Christianity has far better methods to give the inner man relief and calmness. First of all, there is sincere and heartfelt prayer. Morning prayer promotes internal discipline, which protects a person against excessive worry in the course of the day. Evening prayer provides relief, internal comfort and a sense of peace before one goes to sleep. It is a good thing to learn to preserve a prayerful disposition throughout the day. This is greatly aided by the “Jesus Prayer” (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner), which gives one a constant awareness of the presence of God.
Nervous exhaustion and dissatisfaction arise chiefly from a conscience soiled by sin and from the passions which are at war within us. Therefore, it is necessary to purge one’s conscience periodically by heartfelt repentance, Confession and Holy Communion.
It is very beneficial to think about God and matters of faith in the morning, right after morning prayers. Read a chapter or a passage from the Holy Scriptures and try to understand what you have read, applying it to the circumstances of your own life. This Christian form of meditation, strengthened by prayer, truly brings with it peace, a sense of collectedness and spiritual enlightenment.
The occult movement called the “New Age” has become quite popular. Some see it as a new religion, while others take it to be a new understanding of life. First of all, we must note that its claims to be something “new” are deceiving. In the sphere of religion and philosophy the “New Age” does not teach anything that is new; it is an amorphous mixture of various occult teachings, all of which have been around for a long time. What is new about the “New Age” is its sales method of marketing every variety of occult material so as to attract “consumers” of diverse interests and tastes. In this respect the “New Age” is a kind of spiritual department store, a shopping center in which everyone can find something interesting and useful.
The “New Age” movement began to develop rapidly in the U.S. in the 1970s, as an alternative to a brief fascination with “secular humanism.” The ground for the growth of “New Age” occult ideas had been prepared by a number of Hindu and Theosophical organizations, such as Vedanta and Transcendental Meditation. The ideas propagated by the “New Age” movement were attractive both to those who were tired of “antiquated” Christian doctrines, and to those who were not satisfied with the shallow materialism of “secular humanism.”
The “New Age” has never claimed to be a unified or organized movement. Rather, it takes the form of an ever-growing network of independent groups, all sharing some occult interests. The success of the “New Age” movement is greatly helped by its ability to adopt and assimilate the most diverse doctrines and practices in its huge melting pot, always promising to improve the welfare of the individual and of society as a whole. The “New Age” movement does not reject anything out of hand; it willingly absorbs anything that may be of mystical interest or practical usefulness.
For this reason the “New Age” movement, although it only appeared recently, has been able to exert its occult influence in many spheres of private life, family life and the life of society, encompassing millions of people in the U.S., as well as in Russia, in Europe and in other areas. The “New Age” movement is deceptive in that it does not come out openly against Christianity; it only tries to “supplement” it with “fresh ideas.” When a center for religious studies at Princeton University did a survey of Christians in the U.S. at the beginning of 1992, asking what influence “New Age” ideas had on their beliefs, almost one-fourth of the respondents said that they saw no conflict between Christianity and “New Age” teachings. Even more surprising was the response of Catholics: 60% of those surveyed responded that Catholicism and the “New Age” were in complete accord. They could only give such answers because they know less about the teachings of their Catholic faith than about the ideas spread by the “New Age” movement. This is not so surprising, considering that Catholic book stores are full of such occult works as Joshua, No Other Name, Turning Point, Nizam Ad-Din Awliya, The Web of the Universe, The Unity of Reality, Beyond Patching ... Even some of the clergy, monks and nuns have begun to take an interest in “New Age” ideas.
A popular book called A Course in Miracles is studied by Christian youth groups as an easy-to-understand guide to the teachings of Jesus Christ and their practical application in modern life. This 1200-page book even resembles the Bible in its external appearance and its chapter divisions. Some Catholic parishes offer courses of instruction in this book. American students are being given “New Age” lessons on how to achieve greater concentration in their studies, how to strengthen their energy potential, how to attain greater success in life, how to uncover one’s creative abilities and to find new meaning in life.
The “New Age” philosophy weaves together a confusing tapestry of unconnected ideas and phenomena. Birth and death, mediums and healers, the paranormal and the metaphysical, reality and illusion, the Bible and legends, past lives and future reincarnations - all come together in the “New Age.” Here you can find ordinary pantheism, karma, the transmigration of souls and the whole fabric of occult mysticism, reworked so as to appeal to the contemporary “consumer.”
Contemporary holistic ideas and non-traditional healing methods occupy a prominent place in the “New Age” movement. Scientific medicine is blamed for being ineffective. A fundamental idea is that the whole person must be healed, not just one organ. Therefore, holistic methods of treatment are prescribed, including acupuncture, crystals, biofeedback, massage therapy (with special stress on reorienting one’s energy field), an Indian or vegetarian diet, medicinal herbs and methods of physical and spiritual self-improvement. It cannot be denied that among these methods there are those that are beneficial and have long been known in folk medicine, although using crystals to concentrate cosmic energy must surely be classed as charlatanism. Unfortunately, all the non-traditional healing methods have been tainted by occult contamination by the ideology of the “New Age” movement. In fact, right alongside the use of beneficial herbs and minerals the “New Age” movement offers Yogic breathing exercises, ways of developing one’s self-assurance, the discovery of one’s inner potential and the release of bioenergy, and at the same time the reader encounters astrological predictions and lessons in fortune-telling with cards.
To those of a mystical bent the “New Age” movement offers a wide assortment of occult practices, including Indian-style meditation, psychological exercises, spiritualism, channelling, Yoga and astral projection. The “New Age” ideology accepts any religious practices and beliefs, no matter how strange or fantastic they might be. The “New Age” movement has borrowed from Oriental philosophy a belief in the existence of an invisible energy inside and outside of the human organism. This is called chi by the Chinese, ki by the Japanese and prana in the terminology of Yoga. Holistic centers, scattered throughout the world, conduct seances in which the participants immerse themselves in a mass trance and experience an intimate sense of unity with nature. Also popular are belief in UFOs, the secret life of plants and the mystical meanings of numbers (borrowed from the Kabbala). The “New Age” has assimilated ideas from parapsychology, UFO-logy, Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism, astrology and psychoanalysis. The movement invites people to enter altered states of consciousness. Its goal in developing self-awareness is to erase the boundary between the material and spiritual worlds and to feel the “wholeness of the cosmos.”
The idea of “enlightenment” plays a large role in the “New Age” movement. To attain this enlightenment one must first reevaluate one’s values and undergo a psychological change. Old world-views must be replaced by a new outlook, one consonant with the coming “Age of Aquarius.” This state is reached by a personal mystical experience, in which the disciple of the “New Age” teachings suddenly feels with his whole being that he is at one with the cosmic spirit; he and the world are one.
A well-known popularizer of the “New Age” in America, the actress Shirley MacLaine, thus describes the mystical “enlightenment” which came to her while she was taking a hot bath: “I suddenly felt as if my whole body was soaring in space. Slowly, gradually, I turned into water. ... I could feel the inner unity of my own breathing with the energy which surrounded me. I actually became air, water, the dark sky, the walls of houses, bubbles of soap, candles, wet marble under water, even the sound of the nearby river.” This sense of unity with nature and of one’s own “divinity” feels a person with rapture, and it seems to him that he possesses inexhaustible “divine” energy.
To attain enlightenment the “New Age” movement puts forth a path consisting of four stages: 1) “entry,” wherein one’s ordinary ideas about the world are eliminated; 2) “exploration,” wherein there is an attempt to reach a new level of awareness with the help of psychic techniques; 3) “integration,” when the rationalistic perception of the interconnection of phenomena is weakened by the intuitive method; and 4) “the spell,” a stage in which one discovers identities other than one’s own, sources of energy and ways of realizing them “for the good of humanity.” Meditation, Yogic exercises, spiritualist seances, hypnosis, magical talismans and crystals, the practice of witchcraft and even narcotics all serve as supplementary aids toward this mystical illumination. In a state of such mystical enlightenment one seems to become the absolute master of one’s body and soul; through contact with “divine energy” one becomes a “god-man.”
The idea of a universal religion is an integral part of the “New Age” philosophy. As is typical for an Indian occult system, the “New Age” movement adheres to the principle that all religions, in essence, teach the same thing, only in different ways. One must lift himself above the level of any particular prejudice. The “New Age” movement does not possess its own doctrinal system; it embraces various occult ideas and Eastern religions. Everywhere it creates branches, like the cells of a huge network which enmeshes the whole world. Despite its all-embracing pluralism, it nevertheless exhibits a definite anti-Christian bias, even though it does not openly reject Christ or the Gospel. The “apostles” of the “New Age” state that Christianity is outmoded and does not answer the spiritual needs of contemporary man. For these people Christ is simply one of many incarnations of Vishnu. Man does not need Christ; he has divinity within him, and is able to perfect his consciousness and become one with the cosmic Absolute.
Among the many different kinds of activity which the “New Age” movement engages in, there are some tasks which concern it on a global scale, such as ecological improvement, solving social problems, seeking the political unification of nations and establishing the complete unity of all mankind.
The “New Age” movement tries to direct the activity of organizations and individuals so as to spread its ideas and to implant them in the spheres of business, art, philosophy and culture. For this training seminars are used. After man’s personal transformation, the next step is the renewal of the whole planet, since all is one. The Gaia hypothesis states that the earth has its own life, as Mother Earth. The “New Age” movement also speaks about the necessity for political change to bring about a common solution to the problems of healing the earth. “Since we are all citizens of one world, we need a world that is unified, and we need a universal spirituality. Before the end of this century, religious leaders should get together and work out universal laws, which will be the same for all religions. They should communicate these laws to political leaders, so that they know what God, the gods or the cosmos expect from the human race. ... One single worldwide political system is required to bring about global harmony. Our planet is in a state of great confusion. We must begin to act.”
The leadership of the “New Age” movement works through international banks and cooperates with major financial firms, whose goal is to establish a system of one-world government. They envisage that such a system will unite all political, economic and religious groups in order to end war, avoid ecological catastrophe, solve impending financial crises and stop political instability. The “New Age” movement proclaims the coming of the glorious “Age of Aquarius,” which is like the kingdom of God, only without a personal God and without Christ. This coming era is conceived as being a new stage in the development of society, in which mankind will acquire a planetary consciousness. For further details on this subject see a book written by an assistant of the Secretary General of the United Nations: New Genesis: The Shaping of a Global Spirituality, by Robert Muller (New York: Doubleday 1984); also The Global Brain: Speculation on the Evolutionary Leap to Planetary Consciousness, by Peter Russel (Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher 1983.).
The “New Age” movement is particularly dangerous because it adds a worldwide marketing approach to a mixture of occult ideas, which are packaged as practical recipes for improving one’s health, feeling better and achieving success in life. If a super-religion, uniting people of all races and cultures, ever emerges, it will probably be something like the “New Age” movement.
The Kabbala, which means “oral tradition,” is a Jewish theosophical system which had its beginnings at the dawn of the Christian era but was gradually augmented with ideas borrowed from Pythagoreanism, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism. The Kabbala seems to have been a kind of reaction against the soulless ritualism and formalism of Judaism.
The immediate goal of Kabbalism is to discover the hidden teaching which is supposedly concealed in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, written by the Prophet Moses) and to add to it mystical ideas which have been transmitted orally. For the purpose of discovering the hidden meaning of the Torah the Kabbalists worked out a complex method of numerological computation combined with the transposition of the letters of the biblical text.
Kabbalist doctrine is set forth in books written at various times by various authors. Its chief works are the Sefer Yezirah (Book of Creation), probably written in the sixth or seventh century, and the Zohar (Splendor), written by Moses de Leon around 1300. The Sefer Yezirah is concerned with a study of the nature of the Deity, the “infinite nothing” which reveals itself by means of emanations and in the process creates worlds. This process corresponds to the ten numerals (sefirot) and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which taken together comprise thirty-two mystical “paths of wisdom.” The sefirot are taken to refer to the “living creatures” or angels described by the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 10). The letters of the alphabet correspond to the three parallel worlds of man, the planetary spheres and the seasons of the year. The details of this occult system, in which letters and numbers are viewed as mystical reflections of a supernatural reality, are quite confusing and contradictory. The religious basis of Kabbalism is the common occult doctrine of a pantheistic idea of God.
In practical application, Kabbalists worked out methods of “white” magic, foretelling the future, calling up the souls of the dead, exorcism of demons, cheiromancy [divination by examination of the hand, or palmistry], wearing amulets and attaining mystical enlightenment. Ancient Kabbalists were considered to be masters of alchemy and astrology. The Kabbala ascribes great importance to the mystical meanings of numbers and letters and the magical power of the biblical names of God.
The sixteenth century was a period of particular interest in the Kabbala. It had a great influence on a number of western occult systems, including Freemasonry, Theosophy and Anthroposophy. Among the thinkers who studied the Kabbala were Pico della Mirandola, Reichlin and Paracelsus. Kabbalism served as the foundation for the messianic movements of Shabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank and later for Hasidism.
Gnostic sects, so called from the Greek word gnosis — knowledge, arose at the dawn of Christianity. Till the third century they represented a great obstacle for the Church. The teaching of these sects was an attempt to “elevate” Christianity and to add to it the treasures of pagan culture - oriental occult beliefs and Greek philosophy. This attempt at a synthesis distorted Christianity in the most unimaginable ways.
Gnostic teachers are classified as eastern, or Syrian, and western, or Alexandrian. The first group includes the Ophites, Saturnilus, Basilides, Cerdo and Marcion; the second - Carpocrates and Valentinus. The eastern form of Gnosticism shows the influence of Persian dualism, which taught that there are two principles: the good God, Creator of the spiritual world, and the evil god, who created the physical world.
Western Gnosticism shows clear traces of Platonism and Neo-Pythagoreanism, with their many degrees of emanations of the Deity. The Gnostics held that at the summit of all things there is a Supreme Being, to which they gave various names denoting its absoluteness: the Highest, the Almighty, the Incomparable, the Infinite, the Self-contained. At the same time, the Gnostic saw before him a world that is disorderly and chaotic, and he had to explain its origin. To the Gnostics it seemed impossible that this world could be the creation of the Most High God; otherwise, the source of all the evil in the world would have to be sought in Him. Instead, the Gnostics thought that the substratum of this world had to be matter, which the eastern Gnostics viewed as an independent, living and evil principle, and the western Gnostics regarded as an emanation or shadow of the Absolute, one which possessed only a phantom existence. Inert matter alone, however, could not have produced the world, in which there is obviously a particle of the highest divinity. And so, all the branches of Gnosticism set themselves the task of explaining the origin of a world which consists of sparks of light plunged into the darkness of matter.
To solve this problem the Gnostics found it necessary to come up with a complex system of eons, beings which emanate or flow from the Absolute like a series of waterfalls. In some Gnostic systems the number of intermediaries between the Great Unknowable and the material world reached thirty-two, a magical number derived from the Kabbala. The farther an eon was from the Absolute, the weaker the influence of the divine on it, with a corresponding increase in the darkness of matter. The first eon which emanated from the Absolute they called the Demiurge. It was the Demiurge which then created the world, composed of spiritual elements mingled with matter. Matter is the very lowest eon, and was regarded as equivalent to evil. People who pursue the spiritual life are oppressed by the bonds of darkness, since they have unwillingly been made prisoners of the world below. Their desire is to reach a higher plane of being and be united with the life of the Absolute. Such union is attained by a knowledge of the mysteries of existence — gnosis.
Since the Gnostics regarded matter as evil, they were unable to accept the reality of the Incarnation of the Messiah. It was impossible for a spiritual being such as Christ to come into direct contact with evil matter. Hence there appeared the heresy of docetism (from dokeo - to appear or seem), which taught that Christ only appeared to be a man, while in reality He was a spirit.
By the end of the third century the Gnostic sects had gone into a gradual decline, but their ideas exerted a great influence on a number of later occult movements, such as Freemasonry, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, and also on the philosophical schools of Jacob Boehme, Schopenhauer, Swedenborg, Paracelsus, Schelling and others.
Gnosticism, then, introduces various intermediate beings, the eons, between God, the Absolute, and the world below. In some schools the demiurge was such an intermediate being, while in others it was the Logos, Sophia, the world-soul, the “feminine principle” or some other such thing. All these doctrines are quite confusing and even contradictory in their details; what they all have in common is the idea of emanation from the Deity — in other words, another variant of the same old occult pantheism.
It is to be noted that, regrettably, the temptation to create a bridge between the all-perfect Creator and His creation here below also affected Russian theology, owing to the philosophical writings of Vladimir Soloviev. A number of Russian religious writers, including Archpriest Paul Florensky, Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, Prof. Nicholas Berdiaev and some of the theologians of the Paris school of theology, picked up Soloviev’s Gnostic ideas and wrote whole chapters about Sophia, the world-soul and the “feminine aspect of God.”
In a separate appendix we shall have more to say about some other occult movements, such as Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism, Krishnaism, Eckankar, the Agni Yoga of Rerikh, etc. What must be remembered is that, despite some external differences, all these teachings are based on the pantheist idea of an impersonal God.
It is our lot to live at a time when all sorts of Hindu and occult teachings are flowering riotously and even edging out traditional Christian ideas in the thinking of society. The author of the book of Revelation recorded a vision relating to the last times:
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. ... And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. ... And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life” (Rev. 13:1, 6, 8). This refers to Babylon - a world government which will unite all the nations of the earth and institute the strictest control over many areas of public and private life.
It is not within the scope of the present work to deal with the political aspects of this subject or the means which might be used to realize such a world governmen, but we must touch upon the spiritual side of the subject. First of all, it should be noted that the dragon of Revelation has many heads. If the head is taken to be a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, then a multitude of heads apparently refers to the multiplicity and diversity of the ideas which form the ideological basis of the future Babylon.
Neither Christianity nor any other single religion now in existence will be able to satisfy the desires and tastes of all nations. Something like the “New Age” movement, however, with its marketing methods and its ability to assimilate “all that is best” from different religions, would be suited to unite all mankind under the canopy of a universal pan-religion. While we do not yet know all the particulars of this future religion, we can say with some certainty that its unifying principle will be the concept of an impersonal God, as in all the Hindu and occult sects. This concept will be like the backbone which joins together the heads, the body and the tail of that hellish monster.
The reference in Revelation to “worshipping the beast” does not mean the acceptance of a particular political system, but rather the acceptance of an anti-Christian ideology. It is not that the personal God will be formally rejected; what is more likely is that He will be ignored as if He did not exist. As for Christ, He will be relegated to the lowly role of one of many teachers of the human race.
A famous tale from Greek mythology tells of the victory of Hercules over the nine-headed hydra. In this heroic battle Hercules was only able to overcome the hydra when he cut off all nine of its heads. Of course, this is a myth, and the heads of the dragon of Revelation will not be so easy to cut off. In a spiritual sense, the many-headed hydra represents the teachings of Indian and occult sects, which ruin millions of souls with their pseudo-religious ideas and methods. The book of Revelation describes the many-headed monster as fierce and bloodthirsty, having in mind its spiritual effects. In its external appearance, however, as perceived by people, it will look quite harmless, even friendly and smiling, as it beckons unsuspecting people towards itself. Otherwise, we might ask, how could such a monster from hell succeed in destroying so many human souls?
It is not necessary for a believing Christian to do battle with each of the beast’s heads individually — that is, to refute every Hindu or Theosophical idea. In order to vanquish the monster, it is sufficient to strike at its very heart, and this “heart” is the cardinal assumption of all occult doctrines — the rejection of a personal God. If a Christian will only acknowledge with all his heart that there is a personal God, Who created the world, Who loves us, Who cares for our salvation like a solicitous Father and Who expects our filial faithfulness to Him, then all the elaborately woven webs of occult teachings will dissipate like smoke. The battle is not one that is visible and worldwide, but rather individual hand-to-hand combat, in which a Christian has to overcome the deceit of false occult mysticism. As it is written, he who overcomes the beast will be counted worthy of a crown of life. Fortunately, we are not alone in our combat. On our side we have the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has promised that no one will be able to snatch a believer out of His hands (John 10:28).
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, save us from the beast of hell, that we may eternally glorify Thee together with Thy Father, Who hath no beginning, and Thy life-creating Spirit. Amen.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; and suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke by the prophets. And in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the Resurrection of the dead and the Life of the world to come. Amen.
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Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers 1985.
Father Seraphim Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. Platina, California: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood 1990.
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