History and philosophy of Caodaism Part 5

Updated 2012-05-07 11:20:12

The Holy See of TayNinh gathered in a pamphlet various pages of the Revue Caodaiste (Caodaist Review) and published in 1936 under the title “Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism” (Third Amnesty of God in the Orient), with these words of introduction:
“The pages you are going to read are extracted from the Revue Caodaiste, published at Saigon.
We have been very careful to gather, classify and coordinate them into a small pamphlet that shall present to the reader a summary statement of the scheme and doctrine of Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism.
 
May these modest selections help the seeker after Truth to have an exact idea about the Caodaist ideal in its principal traits”.
The Caodaist Sacerdocy
 
We can perhaps notice already that prayer constitutes the most important part in the Caodaist worship.Here is how the Caodaist Dignitaries justify it :
 
“We are reproached for being uselessly absorbed in long prayers, taking much time for this obligation which might be better employed otherwise.We should willingly acknowledge the cogency of the grounds for this reproach if the prayers we practise consisted in a monotonous recital of intelligible words from which the thoughts of the heart were excluded.But practised with intelligence and earnestness, energetic and full of junction, a prayer, an act of faith, is not only an act of worship, but also an elevation of the heart, a spring of the soul toward the Supreme Being.
 
In the existing state of their religious evolution the mass of the Caodaist faithful needs to acquire a will such as to permit them to resist material temptations under all circumstances, and to surround themselves with pure atmosphere which wards off bad ideas and inferior influences of space.
 
That will, to be efficacious, must be sustained by faith.Now the repeated practise of prayer strengthens that so precious faith, at the same time attracting, by the purity of the heart, the protecting forces of the Beyond.Further, there is nothing more ravishing, more sublime than examining one’s conscience, forgetting everyday, by hours of fervent prayer, business and the world, to lift one’s thoughts toward God with which one deals face to face.
 
Such is the aim of a prayer that must be daily practised by the simple faithful.Tomorrow, raised to a superior degree of evolution, they shall know how to bring it back to its abstract, interior form:meditation.
 
From an invocatory point of view, we pray for sick, unhappy persons, for which we beg God, not the enjoyment of a material good, of a personal interest, but the prompt return to health or the favour of an occult moral support, empowering them to undergo, without weakness, a trial or a karmic consequence.
 
We also pray for the suffering, unhappy spirits, for whom we invoke divine mercy.
 
Thus performed, prayer constitutes one of the necessary practises for the salvation of souls.
 
They who have some religious experience, who speak about religious things not from the outside (as one curiosity that is well worth another: the point of view of Parisian journalists, in general), but from the inside, shall recognize a great wisdom in these simple lines.
 
 
 
From the same pamphlet, we quote these passages (p. 21):
 
“From the consciousness that man has duties toward God that created him, is born the feeling adoration.The whole of the acts by which we witness to God that feeling of adoration constitutes what we call worship.This is true of Caodaist worship.This is practised everyday, in temples as in private homes, in four sessions (tứ-thời):at six o’clock a.m., at noon, at six o’clock p.m., then at midnight.Prostrated before the divine altar, in the leap of the soul toward the Supreme Being, we begin with the rite of the offering of incense (Niệm-hương).Then comes that of the opening of prayers (Khai kinh).
 
Those prayers once said, we set ourselves to sing in chorus a song to the glory of God, then three others in honour of the Three Saints.
 
Such is, in all its simplicity, the rite of daily worship.As for the divine worship celebrated in temples on the days of great ceremony, there is a more imposing ceremonial.
 
The dignitaries of the male sex, in their costume of ceremony, the colour of which is determined by the branch to which they belong, prostrate themselves in transversal rows, on the mat spread before the divine altar which they face.On their right and before the altar of Quan-Thánh-Đế-Quân, kneel on another mat the followers of the same sex (Nam-phai) all dressed in white with the traditional black turban on their heads.
 
On the left and facing the altar of Quan-Âm-Bồ-Tát, prostrated in the same manner as their fellow worshippers on the right, are the women (Nữ-phái) also dressed in white: as for dignitaries, they are distinguished from the simple believers by their special costume.
 
Prayers are everywhere the same; but here, they are set to music and recited according to command given by the masters of ceremony.
 
The Caodaist worship, besides constituting an act of adoration, contains a symbolism, which in brief, we will explain to our readers:
 
The disposition of altar, such as described by Mr. G. Coulet, is but the symbol of the fusion in unity of five branches of Great Way (Ngũ-Chi Đại-Đạo).But the objects of worship, the offerings, etc ... bear a secret deal, a symbolic meaning.
 
The objects of worship : in the middle of the altar, is constantly left lit a lamp with a spherical glass (Thái-Cực Đăng) symbolizing for the Universal Monad (Thái-Cực)
 
In the beginning of the ages, the Universe, we think, was constituted by the Monad, who is the Universal Soul, the non-manifested form of God.
By his manifestations, the Monad successively presented his two aspects male and female (Lưỡng-Nghi) represented on the altar by two kindled fires (Lưỡng-Nghi Quang).
 
Offerings : the offerings of flowers, alcohol and tea, respectively symbolize the three constitutive elements of the human being:the Tinh, the Khíand the Thần.
 
The Tinh, as its name shows, is the essence of all matter, the cosmic sperm, without which no light may be manifested.It is the sexual energy of man and animal, the germinative virtue of plant.By its evaporation, the Tinh, which resides in man, constitutes the coarse part of the perispirit.It is to the perispirital body as the flesh is to the physical body.
 
The Khí, which literally means breath, air, is in man, health, strength, vital energy.It is in the perispirit, the agent that unites the soul with the physical body, which it vivifies.
 
The Thần, intelligent principle, is double in the human being, the superior mental (dương-thần or hồn) is the divine Spirit in man;the inferior mental (âm-thần or hồn) is the most subtile part of the perispirit.
 
To convert sexual energy into vital energy (luyện tinh hóa khí), vital energy into mental energy (luyện khí hóa thần), such is the processes of the mystical purification of the three constitutive elements of the human being.
 
As for the sticks of incense we burn at each ceremony, they are invariably five.Now this symbolic number represents the five degrees of Initiation (kim, mộc, thủy, hỏa, thổ - metal, wood, water, fire, earth respectively):
 
1.Giải-Hương: purity (Shila);
2.Định-Hương: meditation (Dhyana);
3.Huệ-Hương: wisdom (Prajna);
4.Tri-Kiến-Hương: Superior knowledge (Djnana);
5.Giải-Thoát-Hương: karmic liberation (Apavarga).
 
To be admitted to the threshold of Initiation, the first condition for the worshipper is purity in all its form, purity of body, action, language, and thought.
 
Once the threshold is crossed, he sets himself to meditation.By this spiritual exercise, the believer whose thoughts and sensations stand aloof from the world of sense, lifts his soul toward the Superior Self, with which he is put into close contact.In the tete-a-tete of this inner withdrawal carried the completest possible abstraction where the human soul seeks to identify itself with the universal Soul, truths shine little by little into the worshipper’s spirit, no longer, lured by the illusory appearances of anything in the world.
 
At the highest degree of ascension, he feels in his being the full wakening of the superior knowledge that permits him to perceive all eternal truths and embrace, without the least effort, the whole of the past and future.In this state of supreme wisdom, he can contemplate without being dazzled, the divine Light, a light that purifies, illumines and beautifies.Before him, the way of salvation is now open: the karmic liberation.
From that symbolism, as simple as powerful, emanates the great constructive and universal lesson of the human brotherhood:
 
“It is important for the good of bruised and suffering humanity, that every people forget its personal interest to think but of those of the whole; that they forgive one another in all manifestations of thought and faith; that they at last show to one another the broadest tolerance.You may object that in the actual state of human mentality, more prone to egoism than altruism, talking about universal fraternity, is equivalent to dreaming of utopia.This objection is unfortunately plausible and shall remain such, so long as man shall be conceived as a body rather than a spirit: “for, said Annie Besant, matter grows by taking around it, constantly adopting what is exterior to it, and incorporating it into what it already possesses.Material things are worn out and finally perish in the use, and as their quantity is limited, they who desire to possess it are numerous, struggles spring up between these latter.Earning, possession are in effect the conditions of material success.
 
“But when man begins to conceive himself as a spirit rather than a body, he understands that dividing and giving are the conditions of growth and power.Spiritual riches increase in fact in the use; they never perish; when they are given, they are multiplied; when they are divided, their possession, their assimilation become more complete. Brotherhood must come from the Spirit and be spread outside, through domains of intellect and emotion, to finally affirm themselves in the material world.It shall never be established by law imposed from outside, it must triumph by the Spirit overflowing from within”.
 
One day, the petty king Cung-Vương of Sở’s principality lost a hunting crossbow.His officers were ready to go and seek it, but Cung-Vương prevented them, saying: ”What is the use of fetching it.Bear in mind that we don’t lose anything; when a crossbow mislaid by an inhabitant of So is soon found again by another inhabitant of the same principality”.Confucius having heard those words, commented: ”What a regrettable limitation in Cung-Vương’s feeling of fraternity!Would he not better have said: a man lost a crossbow, another man shall find it.”.So expressed, the concept of human fraternity by the great Chinese philosopher appears more beautiful, more striking, more concise.
 
On this splendid plane of human fraternity, Christ disciples and Hiram’s sons, the followers of Buddha, Confucius, LaoTze and enthusiasts of theosophy, spiritism, and occultism, find themselves united in their common desire to build the Temple of Humanity.Let us help with all our might, this fraternal union, this constructive cooperation, that we no longer need blush for the crimes and atrocities with which we have till now bloodied so many centuries of History!It is time, past time, to redeem so much of barbarity.
 
Let us pray! meditate! become living temples.
 
To reach summits, after trials, a Caodaist disposes of the “Cell of meditation”:
 
The cell of meditation is a place where faithful are admitted to receive Initiation.
 
Every believer who asks to be admitted there, must conform to the following rules:
 
Article 1.-He must have fulfilled his moral duties (Nhơn-Đạo) and an exclusive vegetarian diet for more than six months.
Article 2.-He must be presented by a member more virtuous than he.
Article 3.-All written communication with the outside shall be forbidden to him, except with his parents, on condition that it be read beforehand by the Superior of the institution.
Article 4.-He must refuse access to the establishment to all strangers to the religion, though they be officials or members of his own family.
Article 5.-He is forbidden to converse with persons from outside; however, he may receive the call of his parents or children with the Superior’s authorization.
Article 6.-He must abstain himself from chewing betel, smoking tobacco and eating anything besides meals served by the institution.
Article 7.-He must have a calm spirit, a quiet conscience.He must live on good terms with his cell-mates and avoid loud conversation; he must help them in religious practice.
Article 8.-He must obey all injunctions of the Superior and practice spiritual exercises following the scheduled prescriptions fixed by the latter.
 
How many Occidentals give themselves up to prayer?I mean a free and spontaneous prayer.
 
How many Occidentals give themselves up to meditation?
 
Yes, I repeat: in spiritual matter, we Occidentals are illiterates.
 
Even if the great Architect of the Universe was but an illusion, a lure, a word, prayer should be useful, meditation should be useful.In our crass, in our anti-religious frenzy, we have banished both from our daily practises, from our spiritual exercises of everyday!But here, perhaps, a new science; Cosmobiology (with its great poet:Theo Varlet), brings us back softly, not to frighten us.Strong spirits are gentle people, who do not like to be cheated.
 
 
 
Reformed Buddhism is broad tolerance, it is the junction of all ways followed till now by people who would move toward the Divine.You are going to cry that we are pretentious.Must we not suffer in imitation of the Saviour, while doing a little good around us?
 
Vegetarian diet.-You may begin by observing ten monthly days.We abandon the flesh diet, because we would shun to bring suffering to beings that, though less evolved than we, yet know how to suffer as we.Medically speaking, man, because of his constitution, is not created to feed on flesh which his digestive organ ill supports.Besides, animals are ill as we, it is difficult to perceive it and men feed on sick parts.Man’s sickness added to the animals’, creates others, the nature of which medical science still is impotent to discover, still more impotent to heal.
 
The vegetarian diet generally brings a sweetness to man, always sound in body and spirit.
 
Since it is a matter of habit, we only ask new adherents for six days per month.
 
Altar -Yes, you ought to have an altar.All you said in your letter is the exact truth.You must always share in the divine communion of ideas to the full,and the altar is there to remind you.A common prayer at a fixed time really puts the spirits of every one of us in the community of thought and gives a reflex in the divine astral that our Master (God) leads.Did not Christ say, that where two of you shall agree in prayer, your plea shall be heard?We then may put ourselves in spirit under the eternal paternity of God.
 
The European, more than the Asiatic, must always have an altar in his house.In fact, he must work more than an Asiatic, for life is more difficult, and he must struggle from morning to evening for his daily bread.And his altar is there to remind him of his duties toward his Creator, when he comes home.
 
We must avoid numerous rites that smell of charlatanism or heresy; but we must not radically do away with them.Intellectuals and scholars are generally brought to extremes; they are either atheists or believers to the point of intolerance not to say fanatism.Let us be of the “golden mean” as the Sage Confucius recommends.In case of death, gather as many as possible of our Caodaist brethren for common prayers.These prayers are intended to facilitate the disincarnation of the dead and, by the force of concentrated thoughts, we lift the spirit of the dead toward superior planes which he alone cannot reach by his own efforts.
 
As for you, think of living long enough to propagate the new Faith, for the of our Divine Master.For us who know the death here below is but the resurrection in the Beyond, death does not make us afraid; it is to us, on the contrary, a deliverance.Yet, while we still may do a little material and moral good around us, we still must live long enough to fulfill the mission incumbent upon us.We only may progress and approach Divinity by a moral perfection of the soul, which is manifested by acts of charity and love.These are the only that empower us to enter into God’s apanage.
 
Dignitaries -God’s universal government consists of two distinct branches: the one is a government ofsouls and beings and the other, instruction and education.
 
Most founders of religions belong only to second branch:Branch of instructors.They are great legislators of God in this world.As God does not desire that, on earth, one man should hold all divine power, he divides it into two and commits it to two highest dignitaries.
 
I.-The Giáo-Tông holds the power and is the Chief of Cửu-Trùng-Đài (Cửu: nine;Trùng:planes;Đài: palace (nine degrees of the angelic or divine Hierarchy and symbol of nine divine planes).
 
II.-The Hộ-Pháp is in charge of religious justice and looks after the application of law, and is the Chief of Hiệp-Thiên-Đài (place of meeting between God and Humanity). (Hiệp:union;Thiên:God;Đài:palace, i.eGod united with men or men united with God.
 
a) The former is attended by dignitaries enumerated in the pamphlet “Le Caodaisme ou Bouddhisme Rénové”, pages 35 and next in the chapter “Notre code religieux”.
 
The dignitaries of the “Confucianist” Branch (Ngọc, Vietnamese name) wear a red gown which signifies “authority”.
Those of the “Buddhist” Branch (Thái) wear a “saffron yellow” gown (symbol of virtue).
Those of the “Taoist” Branch (Thượng) dress in azure, symbol of Tolerance or Pacifism.
Only the Giáo-Tông and the Chưởng-Pháp of the “Taoist” Branch dress in white.
 
Dignitaries of the same grade, either Confucianists, or Taoists, or Buddhists have the same attributes, which are defined in the above-mentioned “Religious Code”.They are distinguished only by the colour of their costume.
 
When one of them is alone in parish, he is the chief there, must see to everything and know everything.But when they are many in the same parish, the Superior of that parish may entrust them with the following works, based on their aptitudes, knowledges or on the branches to which they belong:
 
The Reds (Confucianists) may take charge of personnel, rites and order.
The Blues (Taoists) take care of the interior organization, office-works, instruction, education of the faithful, and charitable institutions.
The Yellows (Buddhists) see to finances, building, works, and various exchanges.
 
b)The Hộ-Pháp is attended by the two following collaborators:
 
The Thượng Phẩm who leads souls toward Nirvana.
Thượng-Sanh who looks after men and women and brings them toward the Đạo (the Way and the Truth).
 
Each of these three great dignitaries has four immediate collaborators of the following branches (a little detailed explanation):
 
The “Pháp” Branch (mysticism) has as a Chief the Ho-Phap who manages
 
The Bảo-Pháp, protector of established laws (mystic side)
The Hiến-Pháp, he who seeks the Beautiful, the Good for the improving of what exists;
The Khai-Pháp, propagator;
The Tiếp-Pháp, he who helps in the application of laws and receives all complaints or suggestions.
The “Đạo” Branch (religious life) has as a Chief the Thượng-Phẩm who looks after:
The Bảo-Đạo, Hiến-Đạo, Khai-Đạo, Tiếp-Đạo, (same prerogatives as above, but in their branch).
The “Thế” Branch (social life) has as a Chief the Thượng-Sanh who sees to:
The Bảo-Thế, Hiến-Thế, Khai-Thế, Tiếp-Thế (same prerogatives as above, but in their branch).
 
These fifteen dignitaries form a Counsel having the right of jurisdiction and control.They communicate with God and Spirits as mediums.
They are seconded by a body of twelve academicians only some of which have been named.
 
To accede to these grades, one must begin by being:Archivist-secretary, then Registrar, Commissar of Justice, Lawyer, Inspector, Chancellor and Instructor.
 
When an Instructor has converted a nation, he may, according to vacancies, successively accede to one of the grades Tiếp, then Khai, afterwards Hiến, next Bảo, and to one of the three above-mentioned highest dignities.According also to his previous acquisitions, he shall be in one of the Three BranchesPháp, Đạo, or Thế.
 
The High Dignitaries of “Hiệp-Thiên-Đài” are charged with the instruction and education of humanity, religious justice and control of the acts of those of Cửu-Trùng-Đài, without, however, being able to interfere themselves in the government and administration of the sacerdocy.They are legislators.They also have a mission to propagate the new Faith by every means: press, meetings, etc... and to take care of the improvement and progress of Letters, Arts, and everything that shall serve to help humanity to live with less suffering and in moral well-being.
 
I am of the “Taoist” Branch, as are a great number of dignitaries of the Foreign Mission, who are Spirits of Bạch-Vân-Động (of the White Lodge) presently reincarnated to work for the success of the third Amnesty of God in the Orient.
 
The aura of each of us, according to the Divine Plane to which he belongs, has a particular coloration: blue, yellow, red or serene white.The Branch of each of us may be revealed only by Guide-Spirits or our Divine Master, from our entry as members of the Sacerdocy, that is to say as dignitaries, begining with Lễ-Sanh (student priest).
 
Hymns -As for hymns, we have them only in Vietnamese.There are prayers that date back to 1.200 years ago which Hàn-Sơn-Tự lamas (Hàn-sơn's pagoda) at Cô-Tô Thành (Cô-Tô city) obtained in spiritist seances.Their translation is impossible to us at present.We shall later ask the spirits’ help for European prayers.Very probably, Victor Hugo’s spirit or Saint Joan of Arc will come for that purpose.I shall not fail to send them to you if need be.These few counsels should be sufficient to prove -once more - that Caodaism does not speak only to illiterate amorphous masses, for which life is a kind of animal half-sleep, but also to evolved and uplifted minds, with mystic tendencies who need intense religious satisfaction
 
 
 
God’s Altar -The Altar resembles a small house closed on three sides, the front being open, we put there a curtain.In time of prayer, we pull the curtain to expose a religious emblem (divine conscience), we light a pair of candles, five sticks of incense and sandal-wood (symbol of the five constitutive elements of man in a state of purification (complete sanctification of the being).
 
In private houses -God’s Altar may also be installed above the chimney of the sitting-room by furnishing it with objects of worship, without being in need of the small house described above.
 
God’s Altar may also be installed on a table, higher than ordinary tables, set against the wall in the room of honour of the house.
Hours-Prayers are said hour times a day.
 
 
1) between 5 and 7 o’clock a.m.
2) between 11 a. m. and 1 p. m.
3) between 5 and 7 p.m.
4) between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.
 
Offerings-We offer tea in the morning and evening, wine at noon and midnight.The tea is offered in a cup set beside another cup containing pure water; as for the wine, we put it in three liquor glasses.Cups and glasses must be covered when not in use.
 
On the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month and on feast-days, we offer flowers and fruits.
 
In the middle of the table of God’s Altar, we put a small night-light that must be lit day and night for the flame represents the divine fire or divine light illuminating the Universe.
 
In time of prayer, we light two candles and fives sticks of incense.We burn only sandal-wood in the great ceremonies.
 
Signification of the disposition of offerings.-We are taught in Bạch-Ngọc-Kinh (Nirvana) that our Supreme Master’s throne is in the North, rising is on the left, and the setting on the right.
 
It follows from this teaching that wherever God’s Altar is installed, the divine Eye is in the North, then the rising or “dương” is on the left and the setting or “âm” is on the right.
 
In the Universe, there are two principles “âm” and dương” that form the origin of all creation.
 
1.-The two candles symbolize the two masculine and feminine Logos united for production in general;the lunar and solar light (âm dương) still conserves the image of that productive power.
 
The left candle represent the solar light (dương) must be lit first
 
2.-The five sticks of incense represent the five senses of man.
 
3.-The three glasses of wine represent the astral being or our vital energy.Wine is the true essence of vine as vitality is the essence of being.Vine and grape represent matter or our material body.Grape juice represents our vital energy or our astral.Wine is the spirit of the vine and the grape, it then symbolizes the divine spirit of our being or soul.
 
4.-The cup of pure water that symbolizes the “dương” must be put on the left of the divine Eye and the cup of tea that symbolizes the “âm” must be put on the right.(This tea and water is put together and forms holy water- “âm dương”.The holy water may be given as a drink to sick persons who have made earnest prayers, and received baptism).
 
Flowers representing the “dương” must be put on the left and fruits the “âm” on the right.
 
The infusion of those dry flowers, well preserved and transformed into decoction, and can heal the sick who sincerely believe in the miracles of the Creator.
 
The three essential elements (Tam-Tài) of the Universe are Heaven (Thiên), Earth (Địa), and Humanity (Nhơn).The Heaven is essentially constituted by the Sun (Nhựt), the Moon (Nguyệt) and the Stars (Tinh).
 
The Earth is essentially constituted by water (Thủy), fire (Hỏa) and ether (Phong).
 
Man is essentially constituted by matter (Tinh), the vital essence (Khí), the soul (Thần).
 
Offerings represent the three essential elements of our constitution.Flowers represent matter, wine, the vital energy and tea, the soul.
 
 
 
Before broaching the subject of rites, I must give you the explanation of “lạy”.
 
In our country, “lạy” are exterior marks of veneration which we inwardly manifest to God, Superior Spirits, Sovereigns, the dead and our parents.They are, then, by no means humiliating, as some think.To make “lạys”, we first begin by clasping the hands (mark of absolute confidence) in the following way.
 
We put the thumb of the left hand on the bottom of the ring-finger and we close the have.We cover the left hand with the right by putting the thumb of the right hand on the bottom of the index-finger of the left hand.
 
Explanation of the position of both hands so joined.-The Heaven was created in the year Tý (year of Rat) and Humanity in the year Dần (year of Tiger), that is why we put the thumb of the left hand at the place of the year “Tý”, and that of the right hand at the place of the year “Dần”.
 
In a standing position, we put joined hands at the middle of the breast.Before prostrating ourselves, we bow deeply three times making an up and down movement with both arms forming a circle (the hands still joined) as a token of the offering of our ardent hearts to God.
 
To make “lạy”, one kneel, bringing the joined hands up to the forehead, lowering the open hands to the floor with crossed thumbs, and making “lạy” by striking the head on both hands a certain number of times according the grade of the Spirit to which the “lạy” are made.
 
At the appointed time for public prayers, the faithful gathered in a room reserved for worship.They line up standing in two rows all along the room, the hands joined and laid on the breast; priests in costume of ceremony in the first row; men place themselves on the left, women on the right, at first face to face. As soon as everything is ready, they put themselves in a respectful position.Men and women saluteone another by an inclination of the head and by the up and down motion with both arms widened into a circle, the hands joined.Then, groups of men and women move toward one another in such way as to form rows of three or four persons or even more, according to the width of the room, being careful not to touch one another and leaving a free space in the middle, distinctly separating men from women, then they turn toward the altar, their eyes looking fixedly at the Divine Eye. The priest and faithful bow deeply three times before the altar, then kneel; move the left foot a little forward, then fold the right foot first, then the left.
 
They then make the following signs: first of all they bring both hands still joined up to the forehead, saying “Nam-Mô Phật” (in Buddha’s name) (related to God).
 
Afterwards, on the left, up to the ear, saying “Nam -Mô Pháp” (related to Nature).
 
Then, on the right, up to the ear, saying “Nam-Mô Tăng” (related to Humanity).
 
Then, on the chest, uttering the five sacramental invocations as follows:
 
1) Nam-Mô Cao-Đài Tiên-Ông Đại-Bồ-Tát Ma-ha-Tát (God);
2) Nam-Mô Quan-thế-Âm Bồ-Tát Ma-ha-Tát (Buddha);
3) Nam-Mô Lý-thái-Bạch Tiên-Trưởng (Taoism);
4) Nam-Mô Hiệp-Thiên-Đại-Đế Quan-Thánh-Đế-Quân.
(Representatives of the three great religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism).
5) Nam-Mô chư Phật, chư Tiên, chư Thánh, chư Thần (Superior spirits).
 
Make a deep bow after each invocation.
 
After each prayer, make three “lạy”, that is to say to bow three times; each time, touch the floor by your forehead. In prayer, a faithful asks his Divine Master to raise him in wisdom, to give him enough strength and courage to follow the Way (Đạo) traced by God and to give to Humanity the peace so often promised. A priest, besides his requests, prays to the Divine Master to protect him for propagating the Holy Doctrine, to teach him to know how to suffer that Humanity may leave in peace and to make universal peace reign.
 
The faithful must follow their priest with devotion in all his movements.
 
On feast-days, at the beginning of the ceremony the officiating priest holds in his hands the five sticks of incense, while he makes the signs and utters the sacramental invocations; afterwards he passes the sticks of incense to one of his assistants (standing near the altar).The latter plants them in a vase ad hoc.
 
At present, we have only prayers in Vietnamese.We pray to God in view of obtaining prayers in French.Meanwhile, the faithful make invocations and form vows.
 
At the end of the ceremony of worship, the assistants make “lạy”, stand up (always the right foot first), bow deeply before the altar three times, make a half-turn from right to left, turn toward Hộ-Pháp’s altar (Buddha, Guardian of Nirvana) erected in front of the Divine Master’s altar and pay reverence to him.Then, they come back to line up as at the beginning of the ceremony face to face and each one at his place.
 
They salute one another by a bow of the head and withdraw.
 
Hộ-Pháp’s altar.For the time being, one can place against the wall a little table on which we put a pair of candle-stick, a vase for sticks of incense, a vase for sandal-wood, a glass for wine, a tea-cup, a water cup, a flower-pot, a fruit-saucer.On the wall is hung a frame upon which are written these words: “Hộ-Pháp” (Buddha, Guardian of Nirvana, protector of the faithful) and the sign “Khí” or “Vital Breath” that resuscitates dying Humanity.
 
The Priests are careful, before the end of each great ceremony, to deliver a sermon exhorting the faithful to believe in God, the Creator and Common Father of all, to love one another, to gather souls for the Universal Peace.
 
Nota Bene-As some are not accustomed to the “lay”, we can at present replace it by a deep reverence.
 
Signed: Thượng-Trung-Nhựt
 
This ritual may seem complicated to Occidentals, even those of good will, who may experience a certain revulsion in playing at choir boy.In its liberalism, in its spirit of tolerance, Caodaism allows great simplications, especially among certain European and American people not very demonstrative in matters of faith.
 
Furthermore, here is the extract of a Divine Message of the 18th of October 1936, a model of
 
 
 
Learn and practise my Doctrine according to the good Lord’s rhythm.
Do not encumber it with your own twaddle afterwards loading it with a thousand erasures! (laughter)
Those who understood Holiness, shall know that my Law does not deliver to anybody his unfathomable Enigma.
Live simply as the rest mortals;
But try to purify, in obscurity, the soul and the body.
My Doctrine does not impose upon you garments dyed in the bark of the gia;
Nor oblige you to shave your beard or hair, nor to abandon your family!
While you parents and grand-parents live,
You must religiously pay your debt of filial Piety.
Spouses piously marry for life.
Keep that Holy Alliance pure as a Lotus that lives in mud and is not impregnated with its smell.
Play wisely the Imbecile or the Idiot.
And do not display to others the Piety you keep at the bottom of your heart.
 
* * *
 
 
(Extract of a letter)
 
There are a great many things that transcend the human understanding, that the human language is absolutely incapable to describe.So, the spirits who are manifested to us, have always recommended to us not to waste time in seeking to penetrate mysteries that they themselves are not in a position to unveil.Let us seek to know the Truth, which we need at present for our guidance, that we may not be in doubt; once having found it, let us persevere in that way.In giving us this recommendation, the spirits do not intend to prevent us from seeking to know, to sound out mysteries, progressing day by day now, such is not their intention.They fear that we will waste our time looking for things that are not absolutely useful.
 
You may affirm to your friends that Khổng-Tử (or Kung Tze), Lão-Tử (LaoTze), Gautama, Jesus of Nazareth, are but instructors, reflexes of the Cosmic mentality who is not a God distinctly separated from the Universe, but, on the contrary, strictly determined by it.
 
Each person, wicked, perverse though he may be, always possesses a little quality; but nobody may pretend to be endowed with all qualities.God made us imperfect that we might have the consciousness of our weakness, in order to make us modest, to incite us to acquire more qualities, more virtues, to reach perfection.We must by our own means, progress, evolve more and more.Every one has what he needs to reach Divinity; a Spirit may create a world which he shall be the Master of.
 
In my last letter, I explained to you the reason why we were led to forbid the faithful to dabble in communications with the formula of the oath dictated in the same spirit by our Divine Master also tends to make us aware of the manoeuvres of ill spirits and that in dictating his formula.God knows that He was addressing followers who were in general Vietnamese, the majority of which, ignorant of Satan’s temptations,should be easily seduced by him, which unfortunately has happened in recent years.
 
Christ had foretold Antichrists had come and founded religious sects to sow division, to lead men astray from the way of Truth.They used all stratagems and found numerous victims.
 
As you see, the formula of the oath found its justification among us Vietnamese.
 
 
Hộ: to protect; Pháp: law, rule, sign, symbol.
You distinguish three distinct objects that are Hộ-Pháp’s insignia:
 
a) a kind of cube bearing the words “Xuân-Thu”;
b) a sort of cylinder;
c) a kind of stick having at one end a tuft of hair.
 
a) the cube presents a book consisting of five volumes called “Xuân-Thu”:
 
Xuân: Spring
Thu: Autumn
 
It is a social work written by Confucius in the form of a Gospel and which signifies moral perfection, teaching, besides rites, divination of oracles, literature, music and the rules of humanity: “duties of man, citizen, father and mother, husband and wife, son, brother and sister, master and pupil, public official, sovereign, even duties toward animals and plants”.
 
It is the symbol of Confucianism.This book is called Xuân-Thu for Confucius’s idea makes human morals sprout and fructify as the Spring and Autumn which are two seasons having days and nights of equal length and easy to bear.
 
b)The cylinder represents a big bowl, in which Buddha Shakyamuni in his days, was accustomed to receive food offered by his followers.Heir presumptive of the richest monarch, the mightiest kingdom of India, the prince Siddharta, later become the Buddha Shakyamuni, had the courage to leave all his worldly wealth to go and seek in solitude Peace of soul and Heart and Truth.He had to beg for his living to nourish his body in view of propagating the Faith he had acquired.
 
The bowl is called “Bình-bát-du”:
 
Bình:basin
Bát:bowl
Du (pronounced You):to beg.
 
(a bowl in the form of a basin to receive alms), is the symbol of detachment from the riches of this world, abnegation, renunciation, total disinterestedness of life (asceticism).
It is the insignia of Buddhism.
 
c)The stick ornamented with a tuft of hair is called Phất-Chủ:
 
Phất:to move or drive
Chủ:dust.
 
Or Phất-trần (drive impurities from this world) symbolizes the moral exercise that consists inpurifying itself day by day from all faults.As its name indicates, Phất-Chủ is used to drive impurities from this world.
 
It is the symbol of Taoism, the symbol of purity of sentiment.
 
In short, the three doctrines: “Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism” (Christianity being considered as one of the branches of Confucianism), are the three stages of the evolution of soul, the three degrees of initiation that bring the spirit toward pure divinity.
 
The three above-described objects united form Ho-Phap’s insignia, for this dignitary, spiritually speaking, is entrusted with the responsibility of uniting the three doctrines and to see men live in peace and in respect of the laws of evolution.
 
The Thông-Sự, called Hộ-Pháp Em (Em:younger brother; Hộ-Pháp’s miniature), for he inherits from Hộ-Pháp a little part of his authority, that of rendering justice to his brethren of his hamlet, wears on his gown of ceremony, on the right and left of the breast, two badges (the three insignia put side by side) and on the turban, just at the middle of the forehead, the same badge.
 
The Phó-Trị-Sự ï is called Giáo-Tông Em (Giáo-Tông in miniature) because he represents in his hamlet the Giáo-Tông who personifies love toward all beings, who lovingly looks after every act of live of each member, the peace of his spirit and heart, the progress of his evolution.The Phó-Trị-Sựwears a gown ornamented at the collar with a band of ribbon made of of silver-white woven thread, and at the left arm a bit a tricolored ribbon: yellow: Buddhism; blue: Taoism; red: Confucianism.This is the exterior reflection of the three doctrines.
 
The Chánh-Trị-Sự is called Đầu-Sư Em (Đầu: first, Sư : master, Em: younger brother) or first master of the younger brother, or the eldest in the village.The Đầu-Sư received two powers conferred by Giáo-Tông and Hộ-Pháp.The Chánh-Trị-Sự then fulfills Giáo-Tông and Hộ-Pháp's authorities in the village.He wears a white gown ornamented at the collar with a strip of ribbon made of golden-yellow woven thread and on the left arm a bit of tricoloured ribbon of a size larger than that of the Phó-Trị-Sự.He has on his turban Hộ-Pháp's insignia.
 
Our Holy See is now engaged in producing a translation of Pháp-Chánh Truyền:
 
Pháp: Law, rule, sign, symbol, etc.everything that comes from the Law of evolution:
Chánh: stable, infallible, inviolable, perfect correction (the golden mean of all);
Truyền: order, constitution:
Pháp-Chánh-Truyền: rules of the inviolable constitution.
 
The Author of these Rules is our Divine Master Cao-Đài who dictated them to us by mediumnic communications.
 
May we repeat:these explanations, though very summary, can yet appear very complicated for the Occidental who is frightened by the minuteness of detail, characteristic of Oriental worships.Let them be assured: here too, always, Caodaism admits great simplifications in certain countries.
 
As for children of European type of which you spoke to me in one of your letters, scoffers will say that they result from a crossing.But by serious study, and observation, we are able to affirm that these children are born of honest mothers of Vietnamese families, having lived with Vietnamese husbands.They have never set foot in the towns inhabited and frequented by Europeans and have always lived in isolated corners which no European has visited.Yet, certain of their children have features of European of Aryan race; they may sometimes have a European form, and gait, but their hair is always black like that of any other Vietnamese.
 
We believe we know that these children conserve a part of their physique from preceding reincarnations - where they were born from European parents.They are born most often under the astral they had in their preceding reincarnations.
 
By revelations, we confirmed that a man, having a split lip in a preceding reincarnation, actually hears a hare-lip; that another who was an evolved animal still conserves a part of his old instincts, of his previous physical constitution.
 
These things make a materialist smile naturally, who yet would fear to light three cigarettes (two friends and himself) by the same match, to drive without a mascot or a fetish, to lunch or dine in the number of thirteen, to cross the arms of friends in shaking hands at departure, etc. ...
 
The “unaccustomed” has always been the target of our sarcasms and repulsions, what a poor and weak man we are!
 
The Caodaist experience in Europe has provoked these conclusions from a brother in Cao-Đài:
 
“Certain formulas, certain external aspects of Caodaism should be modified in order to be able to keep effectively the attention of persons susceptible of taking it into consideration.I think - and this is already for me an experience - that the picture of the altar representing the symbolic and shining Eye, might be advantageously substituted for the very highly coloured images of divinities or avatars that appear in the believer’s home.
 
Here, in France, people so much prefer simplicity, a sketch, great suggestive outline, at least among the particular public to which I necessarily must address myself.I must say in this connection that the superb picture you sent me of Quan-Âm Bồ-Tát (Kwan-Yin) pleases enormously, and I believe I know the reason why it is very little coloured and simpler than that of the emblem or even that of Quan-Thánh Đế-Quân.I already wrote to you about rites and prayers that might be simplified to make place for simple meditation, perhaps interspersed with short invocations.I think that in France, people might make brief but substantial readings before the altar of Đạo:all this is a matter of comprehension, adaptation, tolerance.The lamp of the altar (Thái-Cực Đăng) is another of the liturgical things that should be better understood and accepted:it goes without saying the most specially consecrated men, such as the dignitaries, could in practice take certain liberties, still conforming as much as possible to the symbolism of Vietnam.
 
Concerning doctrine or teaching, I have written you long and often, I shall come back to it only to affirm once more that it should be eminently preferable not to insist on the personal aspect of the Divinity, to which I attribute without hesitation all responsibility for the existing occidental materialism.People do not want any more of a Jehovah God with arbitrary decisions.All my requests for explanation and conversations I have had since December 1934 on the subject of Dao are convergent and conclusive on that capital point:Kung-Tze, Lao-Tze, Gautama, Jesus of Nazareth are but instructors, reflections of the Cosmic mentality who is not a God distinctly separated from the Universe, but on the contrary, people would listen to me but for politeness’ sake or they would tell me to go back to Rome.
 
How delicate it is for me, and painful, my dearest and venerated Brother, to dilute that which I feel to be of vital importance for the diffusion of Đạo in France!I am brought to believe, after what you wrote me concerning my confidences, that my actual reincarnation in the Occident, at this time, is quite karmic, allowing me to make, in my modest circle a liaison between a world that is fallen and another that tends to the horizon.
But how many misunderstandings it has to meet here!How many nuances to define to Christian or materialistic ears, so similar in their dogmatisms issued from a common illusion (Samara)!”
 
These just reflexions, that go back to 1935, have lost nothing of their value: experienced in the West, in France, Caodaism calls for a simplification for certain souls who live in a “voltairian climate”and who reject the formulas and too complicated rites of an Oriental theosophy:Let us add that this same complication, more apparent than real, is a powerful attraction, a suave delight for certain souls, avid for mysticism (in the most beautiful and noble meaning of the word).
 
* * *
 
 
The religious communion of Caodaism or Đại-Đạo Tam-Kỳ Phổ-Độ ( 3rd Amnesty of God in the Orient) receives its instructions and impulsions from Tây-Ninh’s Holy See.
 
It was born in Cochinchina in 1926 and was officially declared by a letter of the late Lê-văn-Trung, former Colonial Counselor, afterwards become Quyền Giáo-Tông (Temporary Pope: the titular being Saint Thái-Bạch’s spirit), to the Governor of Cochinchina, on the 7th of September.
 
The present Superior of the religion is the Hộ-Pháp Phạm-Công-Tắc whose official Delegate at Saigon is the Phối-Sư (Archbishop) Trần-Quang-Vinh.
 
Some former high dignitaries of Tây-Ninh’s Caodaism have left the communion and created separate sects, preserving the same name of Caodaism.Mr. Nguyễn-Ngọc-Tương, ex-Phủ (Bến-Tre’s sect) and Mr.Nguyễn-Văn-Ca, ex-Đốc-Phủ (Mỹ-Tho’s sect).
 
Others have gone the same way and founded other sects.
 
At present (1948), there are 11 sects of the Caodaist communion.Being anxious for exactness and impartiality according to our brother Gago’s spirit, here is the list of those sects and branches with the name of their chiefs and the headquarters of each:
 
 
 
No
Denomination of sects
Names of Chiefs
Headquarters
Observations
1
Minh-Chơn Lý
Nguyễn-Văn-Ca
Mỹ-Tho
 
2
Ban-Chỉnh-Đạo
Nguyễn-Ngọc-Tương
Bến-Tre
 
3
Tiên-Thiên
Lê-Kim-Tỵ
Phú-Nhuận (Gia-Định)
Mr.Tỵ gives himself the title of President of the Caodaist Union (deceaseed at Hải-Phòng in 1948)
4
Thông-Thiên-Đài
Quách-Quang-Nghĩa and Lê-Quang-Hộ
Gò-Công
Sài-Gòn
 
5
Liên-Hòa Tổng-Phái
Nguyễn-Phan-Long and Trần-Văn-Quế
Cầu-Kho
Saigon
 
6
Minh-Chơn-Đạo or
Công-Đồng Hội-Phái
Cao-Triều-Phát
Bạc-Liêu
 
7
Trung-Hoa Học-Phái
Trương-Kế-An
Thủ-Dầu-Một
Mr. An has opened a medical office at Thu-Dau-Mot.
8
Tây-Tông
Nguyễn-Bửu-Tài
Bến-Tre
Mr. Tai withdrew to Tay-Ninh’s Holy See where he resides.
9
Tuyệt-Cốc
Nhuận and Ruộng
Tây-Ninh
They are ascetics living secluded and very little known..
10
Chiếu-Minh-Đàn
Tư-Quỳnh
Cái-Khế (Cần Thơ)
The late Doc-Phu Ngo-Van-Chieu is its founder.
11
Nữ-Trung Hòa-Phái
Ngọc-Nhiên-Hương and Lê-Ngọc-Trinh
Sài-Gòn
 
 
The principal characteristic of Caodaism is the worship of Cao-Đài Tiên-Ông Đại-Bồ-Tát Ma-ha-Tát, the same God (Trời) worshipped by the five religious branches (chi) hereafter named under the name of Ngọc-Hoàng Thượng-Đế.
Here is the list of the five actual branches of Buddhism:
 
Denomination of “Chi”
Name of Chiefs
See of Branches
Observations
Minh-Lý
O-Kích (Âu-Kích)
Saigon
Tam-Tông-Miếu Pagoda
Rue Chasseloup-Laubat
Minh-Sư
Trần-Đạo-Quang
An-Nhơn(Gia-Định)
Linh-Quang-Tự Pagoda
Minh-Tân
Lê-Minh-Khá
Vĩnh-Hội (Saigon)
The only “chi” having adhered to Caodaism exploited by the CaodaistUnion
Minh-Thiện
Đạt and Mùi
Thủ-Dầu-Một
Minh-Thiện Pagoda
Minh-Đường
Lê-Văn-Lịch
Cần-Giuộc (Chợ-Lớn)
 
 
TOWARD UNION
 
In 1945, Tây-Ninh’s Holy See took the initiative in working for the unification of all “chi” (branches) and all “phái” (sects).The former municipal counselor of Chợ-Lớn, Mr. Nguyễn-hữu-Đắc, was entrusted with this mission.Mr.Đắêc’s attitude being appreciated as not conforming to the spirit that animated the Holy See, he publicly gave up his project.Mr.Đắc did not cease to pursue his conversations which ended in a meeting at the Minh-Tân Pagoda at Vĩnh-Hội (Sài-Gòn).A committee was elected with Mr. Cao-Triều-Phát of Bạc-Liêu as President and Mr.Lê-Kim-Tỵ as Vice-President.
 
At this “Caodaist Union” (Cao-Đài Hiệp Nhứt) the orthodox Communion of Tây-Ninh and most of other sects, especially those of Bến-Tre and Mỹ-Tho did not participate.
 
In September 1946, Mr.Lê-Kim-Tỵ, vice-president tried vainly to convene a general assembly of sects, first at the pagoda of Minh-Tân at Vĩnh-Hội, then at Mr.Nguyễn-Ngọc-Thơ’s Bạch-Vân-Am temple at Phú-Lâm (Chợ-Lớn), the proprietors of these pagodas not having accepted the responsibilities of fact and intention of the promoter of the meeting.
 
At last, Mr.Lê-Kim-Tỵ took advantage of a worship ceremony at the home of ex-adjutant Bùi-Văn-Nhàn at Phú-Nhuận on the occasion of the 15th day of the 8th month (September 10th) to have acclaimed President of the Caodaist Union by a group of followers of Tiên-Thiên to which were joined some members of other sects unauthorized by their sacerdocy.Mr.Nhàn was promoted vice-president.
 
Tây-Ninh’s Orthodox Caodaism has no relation with “the Caodaist Union” above-mentioned.
 
It is good to draw attention to these various tendencies precisely to avoid confusion and to lead all those who wish for Union for Synthesis, for Communion toward its true and only actual points of Caodaist radiance, His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc, Hộ-Pháp at Tây-Ninh, and toward his active Delegate at Saigon:His Eminence Trần-Quang-Vinh, Phối-Sư.
 
Here is an outline on the Organization and Hierarchy of Caodaism.
 
 
 
The Holy See is situated at Tây-Ninh, four kilometers from the town.
 
We find there a great Temple that is the work of modern Sino-Vietnamese religious architecture conceived and realized by His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc himself, the size of which is comparable to that of European Cathedrals.
 
Important religious services are installed there as well as agricultural, forest and industrial (saw-mill, brick-yard, etc.) works.
 
It is a holy city equipped with a school, a hospital, a market, a playing-field, broad, clean and well-maintained streets.
 
At present, numerous crews of workmen of various specialities work feverishly at equipping and town-planning.
 
The inner enclosure is protected by a semi-military armed guard, who are preparing recruits destined for self-defence posts in the provinces.
 
The Holy See houses a population of more than 10,000 persons.Outside the enclosure, there is an agglomeration of followers estimated at more than 80,000 inhabitants.
 
The Religion’s Direction comprises:
 
I.-The Cửu-Trùng-Đài or Executive Body which represents the Temporal Power;
II.-The Hiệp-Thiên-Đài or Legislative Body which represents the Spiritual Power.From an esoterical point of view, this Body holds the mystic power.
III. - The Cơ-Quan Phước-Thiện or Works of Charity (Charitable Body)
 
 
At the head of Cửu-Trùng-Đài, is enthroned the Giáo-Tông (Pope) whose titular is Saint Lý-Thái-Bạch’s Spirit.Since the creation of the religion, the late Lê-Văn-Trung is the only human being who received the title of Quyền Giáo-Tông (Temporal Pope) and was the true Chief of the Religion.He has not yet his successor.Wanting the Giáo-Tông, the Hộ-Pháp, Chief of Hiệp-Thiên-Đài, became Superior of Caodaism.
 
The hierarchy of the dignitaries of Cửu-Trùng-Đài is schematically established in the following fashion:
 
No
TITLE
ENGLISH EQUIVALENT TITLE
NUMBER APPOINTED
OBSERVATIONS
1
Giáo-Tông
Pope
1 Titular
Vacant
2
Chưởng-Pháp
Censor cardinal
3 Titulars
Vacant
3
Đầu-Sư
Cardinal
3 Titulars
Vacant
4
Chánh Phối-Sư
Principal Archbishop
3 Titulars
Vacant
5
Phối-Sư
Archbishop
33 Titulars
Insufficient
6
Giáo-Sư
Bishop
72 Titulars
Insufficient
7
Giáo-Hữu
Priest
3000 Titulars
Insufficient
8
Lễ-Sanh
Student Priest
Unlimited
 
9
Chánh-Trị-Sự
Sub-Dignitary
Unlimited
 
10
Phó-Trị-Sự
Sub-Dignitary
Unlimited
 
11
Thông-Sự
Sub-Dignitary
Unlimited
 
12
Tín-Đồ
Follower
   
 
For the Administration of the Religion, the Cửu-Trùng-Đài comprises 9 religious Ministries or “Viện”:
 
1. Lại-Viện. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Interior
2. Lễ-Viện . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Rites
3. Hòa-Viện . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Security
4. Hộ-Viện. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Finances
5. Lương Viện . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Supplies
6. Học-Viện. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Education
7. Nông-Viện. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Agriculture
8. Công-Viện. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Public Works
9. Y-Viện. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Health
 
 
At the head of Hiệp-Thiên-Đài is placed the Hộ-Pháp (Grand Chief of the Legislative Body) assisted by a Thượng-Phẩm and a Thượng-Sanh.
These three high dignitaries command the Thập-Nhị Thời-Quân (12 members of the Legislative Body).
 
The Hierarchy of the dignitaries of Hiệp-Thiên-Đài is established, according to the divine instruction, in the following way (see table) :
 
NO
TITLE
ENGLISH EQUIVALENT TITLE
EQUIVALENT TITLE IN THE CUU TRUNG DAI
OBSERVATIONS
1
Hộ-Pháp
Holder of religious laws and rules.Master of Mystic Branch
Pope
The Superior
2
Thượng-Phẩm
Chief of the Sacerdotal Body (Defender and Protector of the Sacerdocy)
Censor Cardinal
Deceased, not replaced
3
Thượng-Sanh
Chief of all the lesser order of the Religion from simple followers to Lễ-Sanh
Censor Cardinal
Deceased, not replaced
4
Tiếp-Pháp
Legislator
Cardinal
 
5
Tiếp-Đạo
Legislator
Cardinal
 
6
Tiếp-Thế
Legislator
Cardinal
 
7
Khai-Pháp
Reformer
Cardinal
 
8
Khai-Đạo
Reformer
Cardinal
 
9
Khai-Thế
Reformer
Cardinal
 
10
Hiến-Pháp
Renovator
Cardinal
 
11
Hiến-Đạo
Renovator
Cardinal
 
12
Hiến-Thế
Renovator
Cardinal
 
13
Bảo-Pháp
Conservator
Cardinal
 
14
Bảo-Đạo
Conservator
Cardinal
 
15
Bảo-Thế
Conservator
Cardinal
 
The Secondary Cadre of Hiệp-Thiên-Đài comprises the following dignitaries:
 
NO
TITLE
ENGLISH EQUIVALENT
EQUIVALENT TITLE IN THE CUU TRUNG DAI
OBSERVATIONS
1
Tiếp-Dẫn Đạo-Nhơn
Instructor
Principal Archbishop
 
2
Chưởng-Ấn
Chancellor
Archbishop
 
3
Giám-Đạo
General Inspector
Bishop
 
4
Cải-Trạng
Lawyer
Bishop
 
5
Thừa-Sử
Historian
Priest
 
6
Truyền-Trạng
Investigator
Priest
 
7
Sĩ-Tải
Archivist
Student Priest
 
8
Luật-Sự
Master of Doctrine
Sub-dignitary
 
 
 
The Cơ-Quan Phước-Thiện (Charitable Body) mainly looks after the aged, widows, orphans, in short all the underprivileged, whether they belong to Caodaism or not.They morally and materially support the families of dignitaries who have vowed to abandon their homes to consecrate themselves entirely to Religion.
 
To reach that aim, it is important that this organism have at its disposal necessary financial and material means.For this purpose, the Charitable Body received the authorization of the Sacerdotal Body to set itself to forest and industrial works, to the development of rice and food cultivation, to the breeding of cattle and pigs, and even to activities of local commerce.The gratuitous help of the voluntary members of the Charitable Body is utilized according to their competence and skills.
 
No
Title
Equivalent in the Cửu-Trùng-Đài
1
Phật-Tử
Pope
2
Tiên-Tử
Censor Cardinal
3
Thánh-Nhơn
Cardinal
4
Hiền-Nhơn
Principal Archbishop
5
Đạo-Nhơn
Archbishop
6
Chơn-Nhơn
Bishop
7
Chí-Thiện
Priest
8
Giáo-Thiện
Student-Priest
9
Hành-Thiện
Sub-Dignitary
10
Thính-Thiện
Earnest-Faithful
11
Tân-Dân
Earnest-Faithful
12
Minh-Đức
Simple Member
 
At present, the dignitaries of the highest rank of the Charitable Body reach only the rank of “Chí-Thiện” (Priest).
 
 
 
For practical reasons, Caodaism has adopted as religious circumscriptions, existing administrative divisions in Cochinchina.
 
It comprises five “Trấn” led by Khâm-Trấn-Đạo who are chosen among the dignitaries having the rank of Giáo-Sư (Bishop).
 
Each province has at its head a Khâm-Châu-Đạo who ranks among the Giáo-Hữu (Priest).
 
The Đầu-Tộc-Đạo administers an area corresponding to a government administrative delegation.He is chosen among the Lễ-Sanh (Student Priest).
 
The Đầu-Hương-Đạo, chief of a village parish, ranks among the Chánh-Trị-Sự (lesser dignitary).
 
In hamlets, there are Phó-Trị-Sựor Tri-Lý-Đạo and Thông-Sư or Thông-Lý-Đạo (lesser dignitaries).
 
The provincial dignitaries hold their seats either in Văn-Phòng (offices) especially organized for that purpose or in meeting-places where they install their offices.
 
 
CAODAISM :STATE RELIGION, NATIONAL RELIGION OF VIETNAM
 
 
Caodaism: its origin, character, and projects
 
Caodaism is of a spiritual essence.Its creation proceeds from spiritism.Its doctrine and worship were taught to men by the interpreter of the billed-basket.Messages came either from the Supreme God, Cao-Đài Himself, or Superior Spirits such as Lý-Thái-Bạch, the Chinese Poet Ly-Tai-Pe of the Đường (Tang) dynasty, now become spiritual Pope of Caodaism.Spirits of European great men among others: Victor Hugo (Nguyệt-Tâm Chơn-Nhơn) often intervened to dictate religious precepts in verse.
 
Caodaism is an amalgam, a synthesis of existing religions:Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, etc. - It does not neglect animistic worships and the deification of heroes of the Sino Vietnamese antiquity.
 
The architecture of the Đền-Thánh (Great Temple) which draws the admiration of foreign tourists by its audacious conception and scope, was inspired by the Pope Lý-Thái-Bạch or Hộ-Pháp Phạm-Công-Tắc, present Superior of Caodaism, who had the merit of accomplishing the building with very reduced means under the most unfavourable circumstances.It is artistically decorated with all the symbols of the associated religions, legends and beliefs of the Sino-Vietnamese folklore:This heterogeneous mixture makes of it a monument of great originality.The most characteristic of innovations, is the Tower of Saker (Nghinh-Phong Đài) from where melodious and enchanting modulations of an invisible chorus mysteriously escape.It is crowned with a fabulous animal, the Dragon-Horse (Long-Mã) that carries on its back the first signs of the Chinese Zodiac.
 
The worship has its peculiarities.Prostrations are made not with joined flat hands, but with hands so joined as to form a ball, both thumbs being hidden inside.Instead of three traditional sticks of incense, five are burned at each ceremony.Offerings of flowers, tea and alcohol are made on an altar where the Oriental Gods are close to Jesus Christ.The religious emblem is the divine Eye darting its beams on a cosmic globe.This is the eternal light.
 
The administrative structure is that of a modern State.There are the Executive Power (Cửu-Trùng-Đài) the Legislative Power (Hiệp-Thịên-Đài) and the Charitable Body (Cơ-Quan Phước-Thiện), distinctive token of the religion.
 
The Cửu-Trùng-Đài or Executive Power is divided into three branches (Phái):
 
·         Thượng or Taoism, symbol: azure.
·         Ngọc or Confucianism, symbol:red.
·         Thái or Buddhism, symbol:yellow.
·          
These three colours form the tricoloured banner of Caodaism.
 
The Caodaist regime is fundamentally democratic.Nominations and promotions in the Episcopal hierarchy are first submitted to an assembly of Faithful (Hội Nhơn Sanh) composed of representatives of parishes in the ratio of one delegate per 500 members or fraction thereof.They are then submitted to the Sacerdotal Council, the High Council, and finally, the Spiritual Pope Lý-Giáo-Tông.
 
The Holy See is situated at Tây-Ninh, 4 kilometers from the chief-town of the province.
 
It is a town having an area of 100 hectares, equipped with modern installations, printing-house, police-station, play-ground, weaving-mill and furniture-factory, administrative offices and also an undertaking-service.It has its brickyard, sawmill, and public-works.Its kitchens and refectories are of considerable size.
 
Caodaism has seen 22 years of existence (in 1948).It might take on more breadth.It is busy with its works of reconstruction and arrangement.
 
It knew its hard beginnings.The persecutions were due to a want of understanding on the part of some, and the evil intent of others.
Interior dissensions gave birth to eleven dissident sects.
The war was a hard blow for Caodaism.The five-year absence of the Superior Phạm-Công-Tắc, exiled from 1941 to 1946 to Madagascar with five of his dignitaries, deprived it of its most dynamic animators.
The demolition of buildings and other unavoidable consequences of military operations, are hard felt.
There remain of the archives and the old library only valueless documents.
The projected monastery remains in the blue-print stage.
All now must be reconstituted, reconstructed, re-begun.
To a religion, time does not matter.
Relying on its faith and divine protection, Caodaism continues its way, softly but certainly, to accomplish the Celestial Mission.
 
Future projects:
 
It does not lack ambitions in the domain of realizable projects:
“To make of Caodaism a religion of State, the national religion of Vietnam;”
“To make of the Caodaist Holy See a center of pilgrimage and tourism, not only for Vietnam and its neighbouring countries, but also and especially for the far nations of Europe and America;
“To extend proselytism in the world and have, at least in the great capitals, meeting-places where Caodaist missionaries shall come preaching the Love of Neighbour and Universal Brotherhood”.
To realize these dreams, Caodaism knows that it counts on the sponsorship of the New France, a Great Friend and a Good Counselor.
 
Saigon, November 10th, 1946.
Trần-Quang-Vinh

 

* * *
 
 
WHAT HIS EXCELLENCY TRẦN-QUANG-VINH THINKS ABOUT REINCARNATION BY CAODAISM
 
The Law of reincarnation, when one seeks to the sources of Wisdom, is at the origin of all religions.Every searcher of truth in the Orient or Occident, every truly religious person, without distinction of belief, must conceive and recognize that that law is unique from an esoteric point of view and shall always remain so; whence the certitude of the immortality of the soul and the evolution of each being after successive existences.
 
Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism, in order to realize religious unity, takes into consideration the pure principles acknowledged as being eternal truths of the Four Great Religions and practises the broadest tolerance toward all forms of Faith, however reserving for itself to bring them back, by persuasion, to the original Unity.
 
Now, our doctrine is founded by Spiritism, on the teaching of our Divine Master, it is natural that we should conceive of the Reincarnation, in the manner of spiritualists of India and the Occident and take as a fundamental Axis the karmic Law that was taught of old the secret seal in the temples of India, Chaldees and Egypt.It is simple, comprehensible, because for common people and learned persons, truth does not change its form,As the sun that shines for all over the world, the divine Law is applied to all the universe and even imposed upon vegetation and the beasts.
 
Is it not the goal of every religious man to reach the Wisdom of the Soul?Is it not the eternal Glory of all spirits to acquire the riches of God’s virtue and be rendered immortal.The result is learning to know oneself first, and then knowing, by conscience, the Being who must be.To reach this supreme aim, from unclean matter to pure Divinity, all vitality, all energy, all being, makes its way tramping through numerous reincarnations.Now, who says Reincarnation says Suffering, who says Suffering says Love.Christ, Buddha, LaoTze and Confucius did not step aside from that way.The Truth taught by our Divine Master and conceived by each of those instructors of Humanity is always one.
 
They who pretend otherwise are far from Truth.They are persons rushing to enjoy a beatitude and perfect rest after the hard terrestrial trial and who would pass in one bound from our planet to the Seventh Heaven and Nirvana.To those eager for easy Paradise, we must recall that great occultists as well as great philosophers who have affirmed successive lives, believed that the soul, arrived at perfection, ceases to be reincarnated to live a life of Cosmic transcendence.But to reach perfection of the soul is a long journey.The number of stages depends on each spirit.Meanwhile, successive lives are necessary for the extension of sensibility, the development of intelligence and the exercise of will.This theory is the only one that gives a plausible explanation of the evolution of the soul by uniting it to the Law of Reincarnation.
 
Such is the Law of strict justice proving the real and infinite kindness of God.His Creatures are responsible only for their actions and the conscience is a severe judge who marks each suffering with a step taken toward evolution.
 
From the preceding statement, it is easy to understand that the reincarnated being does not wholly differ from the terrestrial being, which we might know.Little by little, as it accumulates existences, the spirit creates an individuality that is permanent, constantly keeps on improving it, what ever may be the different bodies that it momentarily animates later to be abandoned.The progress of the spirit or the soul increases according to the merit of each life, but the evolution does not prevent the soul, in certain cases, from spontaneously remembering his past lives.Mr. Leon Denis has, on the problem of being and Destiny, given precious indications and God has granted them to give the world proof of the reality of successive existences.
 
In his Treatise on Egyptian Mystic, Jambique expresses the following:
 
God’s Justice is not the Justice of men.Man defines Justice in relation to his actual life and his present state.God defines it relatively to our successive lives and to the universality of our lives.Thus the pains that afflict us are often punishments for sin which the soul has committed in a previous life.
 
They who pretend the contrary ill understand the divine Justice.As Allan Kardec so justly wrote:we must be born and reborn and ceaselessly progress.Knowledge of this law will enable men to destroy utterly within themselves all selfishness, hate, envy and pride.It will teach to all the acceptance of suffering for the perfection of the soul and help those who suffer to understand the reasons for inequalities herebelow.By placing the divine above the human, it puts at the Zenith of the Cosmos the key to all problems.
 
* * *
 
 
According to the teachings of the Supreme Being, the Doctrines of the various religions through the centuries have been denatured and badly practised even by those who were charged with spreading them.The order and peace of the days of old are effaced, the moral Law of Humanity is quite betrayed, the world is at present in darkness.A new religion is needed, capable of maintaininghumanity in the love of creation and fraternization of all races.The Caodaist Doctrine sets itself this heavy task.To the eternal truth, to the divine Law, Caodaism conforms its dogmas and principles.It respects others’ beliefs when those beliefs are not of a nature to lead humanity to Fanatism or Heresy.Where certain truths are deformed by superstitious conceptions of ignorance, the new religion undertakes to re-establish them in their true meaning.The scheme of our great way tends not only to conciliate all religious convictions, but also to adapt itself to all degrees of spiritual evolution.
 
From a moral point of view, our Doctrine reminds man of his duties toward himself, his family, society, which is a wider family, and finally humanity, the universal family.
 
From a philosophical point of view, it preaches disinterestedness toward honours, riches, luxury, in a word, a freeing from the servitude of matter to seek in spirituality the full quietude of the soul.
 
From the point of view of worship, it recommends the adoration of God, the Father of All, the veneration of Superior Spirits who constitute the August Occult Hierarchy and the Founders of great Religions, true instructors of Humanity.
 
From a spiritualistic point of view, it confirms, in harmony with other religions and with the systems of spiritualistic and psychical philosophy, the existence of the soul, its survival of the physical body, its evolution by the plurality of existence, the post-humous consequences of human action ordered by the karmic Law.
 
From the point of view of the initiate, it communicates to those of the dignitaries who are worthy, revealed teachings that shall empower them, by a process of spiritual evolution, to accede to ravishments of beatitude.
 
To evangelize the world and unite all the Master’s children, we, his disciples, have only to draw our force and wisdom from his divine teachings.His doctrine is a reformed doctrine, the only one capable of bringing back universal Peace drawn from the fusion of the principal religions of the Orient and of Christianity, and actually spread over much of the terrestrial globe under different forms.With him, we shall dissipate everything that is of error and pretension, overthrow all obstacles and everywhere sow Wisdom and Love.
 
The spotless Truth can come only from Him, for all human bodies are subject to error, and no one herebelow can penetrate His secrets.
 
He is the true Father and Master of Humanity because it is from Him that comes all our being.Father, He gives us Vitality; Master, He bequeaths us his own Divinity.
 
Note.- The Buddhist Truth on the karmic Law is always the same as Gautama Buddha said:
“The Present is the Result of the Past which was our Work.
The Future shall bring forth an effect of which the Present is the cause.”
 
Saigon, November 10th, 1946.
The Delegate of the Superior of Caodaism
Trần-Quang-Vinh
 

 

* * *
 
 
 
The newspaper “Le Khmer”(5-30-37) briefly interviewed His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc, present Superior of Caodaism.Here is the text of the interview:
 
“We shall not undertake to revive, in these lines, the show and splendor of the ceremonies marking the inauguration of the Caodaist temple of PhnomPenh, our colleagues having done it so well.
 
We only aim at examining with our readers, with all impartiality, the declaration that His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc, Supreme Chief of the Caodaist Religion, so kindly gave us.
 
We were profoundly moved and touched at the welcome we received from this man, by his modesty and by his great simplicity!Our conversation was cordial, friendly, we might say fraternal, for at no time did His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc try to pontificate, nor give proof of the least intolerance”.
 
He is a very enlightened man.His religious conceptions are no doubt somewhat different from ours, but the ideal pursued is so beautiful, that we could only bow before his sincere faith, reminding ourselves of what is sung in all the Christmas song:
 
“Glory to God in the highest.And on earth peace, good will toward men!”
 
We shall add that after having seen and heard, we esteem that the Caodaists are truly men of good will.
 
To a question we asked him on the subject of the doctrine exposed in the pamphlet graciously handed to all visitors, expressed thus:
 
“Without being polytheist in fact, it is so in principle, for besides the official adoration of the Supreme God, it allows its believers the free veneration of other gods who have conquered their hearts”.
 
In effect, we remarked to His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc that in all the revelations made to men on the subject of the Divinity, it was an acknowledged fact, even to the occultists, that there was only one God, in three persons, called by the appellation of “Divine Triad”.
 
That’s right, replied His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc, but for us, God is:
 
“The Incommensurable, the Eternal, the Most High, the Absolute.He has no name”.
 
In our religion, the word “gods” that has shocked you, has not the heathen meaning you lend it, it simply designates spirits completely detached from matter and approaching the Most High as near as possible.
 
They are, in a way, saints.
The names of our Eternal are given him by every people and under different forms.
These different names separate humanity instead of uniting them, that is why we don’t call him God, but the Most High, the Absolute, the Eternal.
 
To another question concerning Christ, the answer was also categorical:
 
“We don’t seek to destroy Christ’s doctrine, we come, on the contrary, to strengthen it, for it is impossible to deny the existence of Christ.Our efforts aim at preparing, by spirituality, the regeneration of humanity, which seems to have forgotten all the maxims of Christ, which if they had been followed, should have kept peace in the world.
 
Caodaism is the bridge cast over the deep chasm (that seemed impassable) separating Christ from Buddha, who was his Precursor, the harmony of whose doctrines, completing one another, is necessary to the union of the Occidental and Asiatic peoples, that fraternity may reign between them.”
 
We could only bow before so wise a saying, which, furthermore, corresponds to that of Christ.
 
“I am not come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets.I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
 
It is moreover strange to find that in recent years, in the whole world the number of men who take an interest in the Holy Scriptures, increases steadily.This need of belief is typical and is for us the tangible proof that the time foretold by Daniel and Saint John, when Christ is going to return to the earth to give to each his due, is near.
 
So, we can only rejoice in the work undertaken by Caodaism, that of bringing back to Christ, by a necessary transition, the lost sheep of the Far-East, in order that,according to Saint John:
 
“One shepherd and one flock”
Le Populaire d’Indochine (11-27-36) also had an interview with the Superior of Caodaism under circumstances as follows:
 
“A crowd estimated at some twenty thousand persons occupies the alleys, the gardens and the “woods” of Tây-Ninh since yesterday.
 
They have come from all parts of Cochinchina, some by boat, others by cart.They camp in the open air, men and women, seated on mats, near the big oxen that have brought them here.
 
Tây-Ninh is in holiday.Tây-Ninh is celebrating the end of mourning for the late Pope Lê-Văn-Trung.
 
On the square of “Universal Fraternity” which is illuminated by the garish light of a sweltering sun, a big altar has been erected to the memory of the former Chief of Caodaism.
 
On this altar is stretched an immense cloth representing Mr.Lê-Văn-Trung with his sacerdotal trappings.
 
From both sides of the gigantic esplanade which is the place of “Fraternity” are lined up, province by province, the delegations from the interior with their chiefs, banners, and oriflammes.A new rule established only since Mr.Lê-Văn-Trung’s death reduced the period of mourning to twenty months instead of twenty four.
 
But, for Mr.Lê-Văn-Trung, the old rule was maintained.
 
While awaiting the great night festival, we went to pay a visit to Mr.Lê-Văn-Trung’s successor, Mr.Phạm-Công-Tắc in his small villa, at the very end of the alley “Thượng-Trung-Nhựt”.
 
Mr. Phạm-Công-Tắc welcomed us with the delicate courtesy for which he is well known.
 
He gracefully answered all our questions:
 
“Have you come into communication with Mr.Lê-Văn-Trung’s spirit?
-Yes, many times.
-By yourself or through a medium?
-Through a medium, though I am a medium myself, and could make direct contact with the later Pope’s spirit.
-What recommendation did he make?
-To do our best to open our religion to all faiths, all beliefs, in broad spirit of tolerance, to destroy the materialist error wherever we shall meet it.
-Tell us of the work of propaganda of Caodaism abroad.
-It is not an easy work, for it is not proper to wound the susceptibilities of the nations to which we come.
-For our propaganda in China, the members of the mission are already named, but they are at present finishing their cultural formation in the Seminary.
-How many Caodaist seminaries are there?
-Two: one at Tây-Ninh, the other at PhnomPenh.The government has suggested that we discontinue them.But that is not possible, for we must form true priests.
-Have you any Frenchmen in your religion?
-Oh yes.Many Frenchmen are beginning to learn our religion by correspondence.
In France, Mrs. Felicien Challaye bears the executive powers with the title “Giáo-Sư” (that is, bishop) while Mr.Gabriel Gobron carries the legislative powers with the title of “Tiếp-Dẫn Đạo-Nhơn” (i.e. Instructor).
-What is the actual number of followers of Caodaism?
-At one time, the schism of Bến-Tre did our religion an injury which saw numerous faithful turn away from it.But now, we have reached nine tenths of the number of followers we had at the moment of the greatest extension of Caodaism.The figure is more than one million. In Tonkin, we have between 6 and 7,000 faithful.
With these words, we take leave of Mr.Phạm-Công-Tắc, because many other callers wish to talk with the Pope.
From 7 o’clock in the evening on, the gardens of Tây-Ninh are illuminated by thousands of Chinese lanterns, while paper images representing Genii are illuminated by soft lights.
 
A spotless moon gives this ceremony a somewhat unreal character.
 
Ten thousand of the faithful already occupy the spots reserved to them in the parade of the great procession.
 
And one cannot deny that a certain mysticism emanates from that quiet moon-white train, from that endless parade under big trees that not the least breeze stirs nor the least cry disturbs.
 
Caodaism, among its other adversaries, has also met certain spiritualists, in spite of its origin of spiritualistic practises (at least, in the qualified Sacerdocy).It seems that spiritism is a new wine that bursts old bottles: a mass of followers having understood nothing of the explosion of spiritism in our ultramodern world, have squabbled and disputed with one another to know whether it is a philosophy, a science, a religion, without knowing (or without wishing to know) that it is all these at the same time and does not bear that artificial compartmentalizing of pedants and illiterates.
 
We then have religious spiritualistic countries (Great Britain, Brazil, etc.) and scientific spiritualistic countries (France, Italy, Cuba, Argentina, etc.).Better: in the same country, we find groups with a religious tendency (Christic spiritism in England, France, etc.) and associations with a scientific tendency (Revue Spirite at Paris, Revue Spirite Belge at Liege, etc.)
 
Scientific spiritualists, in general, are hostile to Caodaism, which they reproach for its ceremonies, rites, Sacerdocy, “catechisms”, and at the slightest provocation, those good apostles would excommunicate it without a trial!I know what I say in writing these painful observations.
 
They would have an Asia more Voltarian than Voltaire!Such ignorance is not encouraging...
 
Mr.Phạm-Công-Tắc, Superior of Caodaism, wrote to me, on the 25th of March 1935, from the Holy See at Tây-Ninh (Cochinchina), a letter that I publish, not for the flattering appreciations it contains about me (perhaps, you will believe me if I confess this:I have not yet come to work impersonally, anonymously, as every advanced Initiate ought to work for social service, but I have come to an absolute indifference before praise and blame expressed about my work and me), but for certain teachings, for certain precisions which it contains:
 
“My dear Brother,
 
Our Brother, Mr. Vinh, has shared with me all your letters as well as your articles appearing in various reviews.
 
Allow me to thank you with all my heart for busying yourself with the new Doctrine with such a noble self-sacrifice our Divine Master holds you in great consideration, and we pray that He may give you better health to be able to continue without interruption the work you have so well undertaken,This very evening, I am going to conduct divine service and present to that end a petition to our Divine Master.Do believe that I have been very sorry to hear that you are suffering and that, from time to time, illness confine you to your bed.You must be well to work.Man has but few years to live on this earth of trials, and time is precious to him, very precious, when he knows how to use it.
 
Humanity lives in suffering.It is our duty to seek, by all means, if not to end those sufferings, at least to relieve them.So long as we draw a breath of life, let us work, always work for the regeneration of man, his perfection, the fraternization of races, the universal peace, that so much promised (and so little realized) peace.
 
Thanks to your unwearying activity that you have made known the new Doctrine in numerous spots of various countries.I beg you to persevere in your task, for I am firmly convinced that one day soon, your efforts shall be crowned with success.
 
I am sure that our Divine Master and numerous spirits watch over you and inspire you marvelously.
 
Always keep in close and regular relations with spiritualistic circles and help their members understand that, by the Divine Will, we Cochinchinese, have but a little mission that limits itself to the creation of a Sacerdocy to whom we inculcate a Faith, a great Faith in God, and it needs the gathering of all spiritualistic messengers of the whole world to prepare the New Gospel capable of renovating the World in the way of Truth; in order that man may walk no more in darkness and that he may know where he comes from, what he is doing in the present life, and what he will become after death.
 
You are very specially named for that great task.God made you polyglot for the purpose.You have that great advantage over all of us here, who, besides our mother tongue, speak and write French but imperfectly.
 
I know that Spiritualists have among them immutable principles; they do not want religion, nor cumbersome rites, it will be very difficult to make them admit our ideas and accept our new Faith.But I have confidence the God and the spirits will help you in this difficult task, and when the time comes, their Great Master Allan Kardec, will manifest himself to bring them back toward us.The Spirit Victor Hugo, under the pseudonym “Symbol”, has sent them several messages.
 
On the other hand, Brother Francois of PhnomPenh has shared with me his answer to Brother Henri Francois, of France.I fully approve of its terms ...I am pleased to quote:“Intellectuals, scholars are generally carried to extremes:they are either atheists or believers, sometimes to the point of intolerance, not to say fanatism.Let us follow in the Golden Mean, as the sage Confucius recommends.
 
Here-inclosed is the translation of a message our Brother Cao-Đức-Trọng (Tiếp-Đạo) and I have obtained from Victor Hugo’s Spirit, concerning dignitaries of Hiệp-Thiên-Đài .Please read the explanations given on this subject to Brother Henri Francois by his namesake of Cambodia.
 
“I think that you have solicited by many persons as to how we shall succeed in unifying all Religions which, by their principles, dogmas, rites, beliefs, etc. ... are so clearly different, even opposing and contradicting one another, not to say posing as adversaries.
“We might answer by these few sentences which, in my opinion, explain the question quite clearly in spite of being somewhat laconic.
“Let us consider Religions as departments of a University”.
“To be admitted into one of these departments, a student must first have his B. A., a key giving him access to the University of his choice.
“To have his diploma, a student must pass through the primary and elementary classes and so on, where he must acquire a sufficient range of diverse, even heterogeneous knowledge.
“To form a University, there must be several departments.Each department has its particular teaching, but all must be under one leadership:a president.
“Broad acquired knowledges will always be useful to the student in the future and give him the stamp of a learned man.In the department of his choice, he must improve the studies of choice, but the others already acquired are not useless at all.An engineer is versed in mathematics, a physician anatomy, a lawyer must be schooled in the law, but each of them has to know, in addition, letter, figures, a little of other matters, always necessary in life.
“In spite of their particular knowledge, their professions, they cannot live outside society.
“So, society re-unites them after their graduation.Moreover, the engineer cannot get along without the physician, or the physician without the engineer.
“It is the same with religions.
“A lay man must have acquired some principles of morals, some notions of philosophy, etc. to be well thought of, and not be expelled from Society.He thus prepares himself for entry into a religion to his taste.
“Religions are like University departments: superficially their dogmas, beliefs, etc. ... seem to be out of harmony with one another, they often are in opposition.They must be so, for each one has a taste, a tendency, a desire, an instruction, and an education completely different of that of his neighbor.
“Religions were differently created because of the stage of civilization of peoples, the degree of evolution, the atmosphere, place of their birth, their manners and customs, etc.But above all these things, seeming so diverse, there is the Creator, God, i.e. the Universal Conscience who unites all men in spite of the diverse colors of their skin, their degree of civilization, etc....
“It belongs to Caodaists to place themselves at the service of the “Great Faith in God” for that “Union”.It will put an end to the terrible “nightmare”, fratricidal world war, by which men are obsessed and which is even now being prepared so actively in Europe.”
 
* * *
 
 
In the Service of Caodaism
 
I have given much of my life to Caodaism.I have shared its pain, its sorrows, and its discouragements, at tragic times when doctors of philosophy and sons of hate were bullying it and persecuting it in hundreds of cynic or hypocritical ways.I have lived its joys, its hopes, its triumph, at happy moments when knights of the spirit and men of good will were granting it a truce or recognizing its tight to more justice.
 
In spite of precarious health, I have made these sufferings my own; they were sometimes added to my almost daily worries.To the trial of Caodaism were added, in a painful fraternity, my own karmic reparations.After overwhelming hopeless days, a ray of light has from time to time pierced the cloud, and the sun has swept the Ardennes fog.It was my health that, once more, recovered for a time; it was some newspaper or letter which, by air or sea mail, brought from Indochina joyous news which made me exult.
 
For 13 years, I have thus lived the life of my brethren of Vietnam, making it one with my own.
 
I have regretted a thousand times having no more spiritual power, useful relations, talent and lucidity, in order to help them better in their constructive efforts as well as in their silent distresses.I would do much for them, and I feel, in all humility, that I have done very little!Forgive me, my good my kind Vietnamese brethren, for having been so little the Instructor in France that you solemnly named, for having been only the humble follower you familiarly call:
 
“Brother Gago”
Rethel, 1937 - 1938 - Nancy, 1939
 
* * *
 
 
About Mr.Chiêu, the first Caodaist, la Revue Caodaiste No. 22, March 1933), on the occasion of his disincarnation, brings us some details.
 
I. - His childhood
 
The Phủ Ngô-Văn-Chiêu was born on the 28th of February 1878 at Bình-Tây (Chợ-Lớn) in a modest house situated behind the pagoda dedicated to Quan-Đế, the Chinese Turenne.
 
At birth, he refused his mother’s breast, and had to be given, instead of natural milk, rice soup.
 
His parents, who were very poor, later came to live at Mỹ-Tho, and commended him to the care of his aunt, who sent him to school.Endowed with a quick intelligence, he soon was conspicuous and, when at twelve, he presented himself to the Administrator of the province of Mỹ-Tho to solicit a scholarship; it was granted.Admitted as a scholarship-boarding student, first at primary school, then at the college of Mỹ-Tho, he worked earnestly and passed with success his competition for a government position.At that time, this envied position was the crowning touch to a French-Vietnamese secondary education.Aged 21 years, the young man contented himself with it, for want of being able to carry his study further, and in order to help his parents.
 
II. His life as an official and his religious vocation.
 
The new official was appointed to the Immigration Service at Saigon.He spent three years there, from 1899 to 1902.Having a natural tendency for religious things, he liked to tell the stories of saints and adventures of the immortals of antique China that he had heard narrated by Chinese comrades, when he was at his aunt’s, who was married to a Chinese.One day, one of his friends surprised him relating a tale of saints to some little Chinese pupils at Cho-Lon, to whom he gave private lessons every evening.He had a great respect for Genii and Saints.At home, he had erected an altar in honor of Quan-Thánh Đế-Quân.He often recited the “Minh-Thánh-Kinh”, a book of prayers whose author was a spirit of that great general, a man of high virtue, who fasted two days per month.
 
In 1902, during a spiritualistic seance that took place at Thủ-Dầu-Một, where he was present, a superior Spirit was manifested and, after having revealed to him his future religious mission, advised him to practice the Đạo without delay.
 

  • Some copies of this fine book are still to be found at: Mme Veuve G. Gobron, 9, rue de Serre, à Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle)
  • Extract from the preface by Valentin Bresle, founder and director of the Mercure Universel, 12, rue Fromentin, Paris (9ème)
  • Valentin Bresle has since greatly developed these esoteric theories in Thesaurus Magiae and in Thesaurus Sapentiae.
 
  • The British National Spiritist Association was founded in 1873, partly through the initiative of Rev. Stainton Moses who formed eleven years later the Spiritualist Alliance of London, today the most powerful in England.(page 35, Rene Sudre, Introduction a la Metapsychique humaine, Payot Edition 1926).
 

Thanks to the help of Stainton Moses and several other, Crookes succeeded in founding on February 20, 1862 the “Society for Psychic Research” (S.PR.) “Which played a considerable role in the history of metaphysics”.(Op. cit. Page 38).

History and philosophy of Caodaism Part 4

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