History and philosophy of Caodaism Part 4

Updated 2012-05-07 10:26:17

INAUGURATION OF THE CAODAIST TEMPLE OF PHNOM-PENH
 
 
On Saturday May 22nd, 1937, took place that imposing ceremony of which a speech of the Giáo-Sư Thượng-Vinh-Thanh, Chief Assistant of the Foreign Mission of Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism (who is believed to be the reincarnation of Francois Hugo), constitutes the masterpiece.Here are some broad extracts:
 
“When our hierarchy named me to give a speech today when we are going to inaugurate our first church built in the capital of the Khmer Kingdom, I long hesitated to accept this mark of honour, fearing not to be equal to the mission which seemed to me too difficult and too delicate.The insistence of all my brethren of the Sacerdotal Council was required in particular that of our Dean the Bishop Thuong Bay Thanh, who is at the same time our Venerable and first Worker of the Foreign Mission of Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism, to make up my mind to appear today before so impressive and select an audience.
 
Speaking a still uncertain French and especially not being used to the platform, I beg all your indulgence toward me.
 
Please believe, ladies and gentlemen, that you are in a house where peace and concord reign, where the broadest tolerance has the right to be, where the least discordant word must not be uttered, where all those who are gathered here recognize their duty to love one another as brethren and sisters in order to follow the unique law of God the Creator, Father of all, to whatever race we belong, from whatever country we come.
 
We chose for the inauguration of our first temple the date of the anniversary of the disincarnation of the Great Frenchman, of Great Human, Victor Hugo, who has been since 1927 our much loved and venerated spiritual Leader.We could then show our gratitude to France, the country where the Great Poet was born, that we have learned how to love on the benches of French schools, this chivalrous, generous and humanitarian France.
 
It was in 1927 that the Superior of the Reformed Buddhism, Mr. Pham-Cong-Tac came to Cambodia and the Spirit of Victor Hugo was first manifested by turning tables, then by the planchettes, at last by a billed-basket.So was founded the Caodaist Foreign Mission and the Spirit Victor Hugo became our Spiritual Chief.Under his teachings, we could propagate the new Holy Doctrine, first of all in the territory of Cambodia, then in France and Laos, afterwards in Annam and Tonkin.Let us pay homage to those who frequently took steps in France or in Indochina to defend the cause of Caodaism:Mr.Roger Lascaux, attorney, Mr.Lortat Jacob, attorney, President Albert Sarraut, the Residents Superior Richome, Silvestre, Thibaudeau, the deputies H.Gernut, Marius Moutet, E.Outrey, Paul Ramadier, Marc Tucart, Jean Piot, J.M.Renaitour, M.Voirin, A.Philip, Mlle Marthe Williams, Colonel Alexis Metois, Felicien Challaye, M.E.Tozza, Babriel Abadie de Lestra, Jean Laffray (Director of La Griffe), Ch.Bellan, Ex-Resident of France in Cambodia, etc.etc.We beg your pardon for any unwitting omission that we might make in this hurried account.
 
Now here we are gathered in this solemnity for the inauguration of our “House of God” (Domus Dei) at Phnom-Penh.
 
It is long since at Phu-Quoc, an island situated in the Gulf of Siam, the Spirit breathed as he had already breathed on the Island of Jersey, facing the infinite mystery of the human conscience and destiny, by those immortal tables of Mme de Girardin et de Victor Hugo.It is already long when the Spirit breathed in small family groups in Saigon and quick brought the adherence of Mr.Le-Van-Trung who was to become the Venerated Superior of Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism (3rd Amnesty of God in the Orient).Since 1919, but especially since 1925, our movement has not ceased to be confirmed and to win new consciences and souls on every point of the earth.
 
Certainly, it has met - like all novelties of this world - skepticism, mockery, suspicion, and its most expressive symbols:the Eye of God that is found in a crowd of theologies and philosophies, the swastika that is the origin of all symbolisms and esoterisms of earthly civilization, the most respectable of our symbols, were held up to ridicule or earned us groundless accusations, because of the ignorance and incomprehension of wordlings who looked only on the outside.
 
Now, says an old French proverb:“if you would root up the weeds, first go into the garden”.
 
But it is especially the psychic basis, and why should we fear to call a cat a cat and Rollet a thief, according to the immortal verse of Boileau?It is especially the spiritualistic basis of our movement that was the object of the easiest and most obstinate jokes.We will not here make an apology for modern spiritism.In spite of ceaseless attacks of which it is the object especially since the last three quarters of the century, the spiritualistic fact did not cease to win famous scholars such as Sir Oliver Lodge, a physicist of world renown, Rector of the University of Birmingham, member of the Royal Academy of England, to take only one example.It did not cease to win islands such as Porto-Rico and Cuba, (the most spiritualistic country proportionately to its population and where the radio carries regular broadcasts of a spiritualistic character), whole countries like Brazil, the “home of the Gospel” where a million inhabitants are acknowledged spiritualistists (200,000 in Rio-de-Janeiro): it did not cease to win even universities - unbelievable fact - for Utrecht, Leyde, Belgrade, Lund, Buenos-Ayres, London, several American Institutions already have their chairs of experimental spiritualism.At last it does not cease to be sympathetic with the original thought of our epoch for after having inconstestably decided the prophetic character of the mission and work of Victor Hugo, it has influenced the researches of the three-times doctor Hans Driesch, professor at the University of Leipzig, German theorician of neo-vitalism and the brilliant essays of Allan Kardec and even Bergson.So many things we might add in defence of the spiritualistic fact!But suffice it to say that it is most often ignorance when it isn’t prejudice that causes painful human misunderstanding.It is a poor cause, says British wisdom, that cannot keep a smile for the superficial critic.
 
Furthermore, we have veiled the billed basket, recognizing by the example of the Catholic Church, and of enlightened spiritualists, that spiritualistic practises, if they can be, and effectively in all points of the world (there are spiritualistic groups in the ices of Alaska, in the ranchos of the Argentine pampas, in the luxuriant nature of India), starting point of a new birth of man: its spiritual birth, they can also lead imprudent naive persons, individuals with moral blemish, to disastrous results.Saint Paul had already recommended to his disciples the discerning of spirits.And thus it was that the Anglican Church, deserted by millions of its faithful, united by a certain number of its priests spiritualistic associations to consolidate the faith by proof, religion by science, to associate itself in the new direction that humanity demands(one adult out of seven still frequents the Church in England).
 
But what is the very characteristic of Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism, is not so much that experimental, psychic basis, that communion of the souls of the living and dead, that glorious and moving fraternity of visible and invisible worlds, as the effort of a powerful doctrinal synthesis we have realized by mixing the Gods of Asia with the Gods of Europe.No “House of God” is in effect comparable to ours, for European or Asiatic, believer or unbeliever may lift up his soul toward his hope of predilection by worshipping Jesus Christ, by venerating Gautama Buddha, or (after the example of free-thinkers of the Occident ) by admiring Confucius.That spiritual synthesis tells us where you may find it now, in this world divided by matter, excited by hatred, bloodstained by war.Is there a place where one may, better than in Caodaist temple, work for that fraternity of men, that friendship of races, that solidarity of continents in a wide human gathering having inscribed on its labarum these two words, light of all men of good will:Spirit, Peace?for we dare say, facing the Occident:We are for Peace.
 
Peace with the temporal authorities and chiefs, who also have their mission, often unpleasant and difficult to fulfill in the unleashing of contradictory passions of men.Peace with neighbouring nations, peace with foreign peoples, because war bears in itself so many harms not to be a barbarous superstition or a satanic crime, and the French motto of collective peace, the invisible peace, the peace by conciliation, remains our formula despite the dark hour.Such is the meaning of our spiritualistic synthesis.
 
It is true that from Europe cones the slight reproach that Caodaism should have excluded from its temples: Mohammed and Islam.On our part, there was no ostracism.And it is sufficient to recall here one of the teachings of Mohammetan mysticism to see that no Caodaist should refuse to recognize that in this anecdote of soufism, the very history of his own birth in the divine manner, his metanoia or upsetting of the values of the religious soul.
 
One disciple presents himself at the door of the master and knocks.Silence.He knocks again.A voice from inside:
 
- Who is there?
-It is I.
 
Silence.The door is not opened.
Later, the disciple presents himself again at the door of the master and knocks.A voice from inside:
 
-Who is there?
-It is thou!
 
And the door is opened this time.
 
Truly, a religion that knew how to propagate such truths of a universal nature, a religion that has put upon the lips of certain of its disciples those marvelous words:“ I am neither Mohammedan, nor Christian, nor Jew, I am Ouali (God’s friend), indeed, I say that religion could not have been the object on our part of any plot, any conspiracy.Let the Mohammedans of India, the natives of the French Mohammedanism believe us in this and recover confidence for our mutual good.And since we have uttered the name of Mohammedan France which has erected its mosque in Paris where five times a day blares from top of the minaret the call of the muezzin, now it is sweet to us to thank, with all our hearts, sincerely and gratefully Caodaist France, that France which, with its measured spirit, its harmonious will, its fraternal hand always stretched toward the little ones who have not yet realized themselves, has enabled us to be what we are, will help us to become what we shall be.To that France which understood that the 3rd Amnesty of God in the Orient, with psychic and then scientific basis, might reach the universal by the synthesis character of religions which it unites and epitomizes in a daily, peaceful and new hope in the world, which was recently greeted not only by periodicals such as La Nature of Paris, but also Religion of Rome and Reformator of Rio de Janeiro, to that France always ready to exalt and glorify the spiritual and universal, constructive and benevolent values, Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism, from its Superior and its Hierarchy to the humblest of its faithful, now sends the heartfelt expression of its infinite gratitude.In working for our spiritual synthesis, working in the sense of the universal, we are conscious of having worked as Frenchmen, to come much nearer to the French soul with which we believe ourselves to have so many secret and mysterious affinities, that the communion of the living and dead can but strengthen and prove itself in the future.
 
It is before that joyful fact that we dare to express our dearest desire in the world:That liberal, generous France helps us spread the benefit of our endeavour to all its subjects and proteges without distinction, for to the thirst of souls, spiritual possibilities must be equal to all.Therein is equity, therein is justice.That all may be realized to the maximum and that all may go to everybody working for that edification of the divine, the castle of the soul according to the beautiful words of Saint Theresa in the local and ephemeral man that the wheel of life temporarily ties to the destiny of those “earths of Heaven” where our globe is but a stone thrown among billions of others in the Infinite . . .
 
Before those infinite perspectives, what are the stingy limitations that sadly delay the growth of souls whose wakening awaits a ray of light, a flash of fire, so we believe that France shall have perfect confidence in us and give to us the same facilities as to other spiritual powers to invite to our rich feast of divine food, so many of our brethren who may not yet come to us or to whom we may not yet go.
 
Let France, faithful to its most sublime traditions, be thanked in advance for “service of its neighbour” which is the first and greatest duty of any Caodaist.
 
This ceremony found multiple echoes in the Indochinese press.
 
La Presse Indochinoise (4, 22nd, 1937) tells us of a visit to the Caodaist temple at Phnom-Penh, which is situated almost at the corner of Pasquier Boulevard and Verdun Street.- Formerly - eight years ago - it was only a simple straw hut where lived the first missionaries.
 
After praiseworthy endeavours of remarkable propaganda, the Caodaists at Phnom-Penh have attracted into their ranks more than 20,000 faithful, men and women, among which we count several Europeans and one thousand Chinese.
 
Thanks to the sacrifice and good will of all the believers, the temple has at present become a magnificent building.Its inauguration shall take place on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd on next May; on the same occasion, the festival of the anniversary of father Victor Hugo will also be celebrated.The ceremonies of these two united festivals promise to be splendid.The great chiefs of Caodaism of Tây Ninh such as His Holiness Phạm-Công-Tắc, Mme Huyện-Sây, will be present at the festivals.
 
Mr. Đặng-Trung-Chữ, chief of the Caodaists of Phnom-Penh, with whom we had an appointment today at the temple, could not receive us. Urgently called to Châu-Đốc, he was replaced by Mr.Hương who served us as a guide during our visit of the newly built temple.A thin man with an oval face, a high forehead, a little black scanty beard clinging to the chin, Mr. Huong physically represents the caodaist-type.Very enterprising, he guided us through the temple recently done up like new, and with competence gave us all the desired explanations.At the entrance of the temple, a large photo of Victor Hugo, in his classic position of a thinker, at once strikes the sight.Near him on the same table, stands Doctor Sun Yat Sen, the father of the Chinese Revolution.One represents the reformer of Caodaism, the other the propagandist par excellence.At the center, the sanctuary is at the same time austere and soberly arranged.Without superfluous decorations, there is only a paper globe, an eye painted on cloth then, by hierarchic order, are settled the statues of Buddha, Christ, and the angels.
 
On our right, “Quan-Công-Hầu” with a bright red face is reading; on our left, “Phật Quan-Âm” is saying prayers.At the bottom, opposite the Sanctuary, hanging on the wall is a big picture in marble on which figure the names of Moutet, Guernut, Albert Sarraut, Felicien Challeye, etc.
 
Beside the usual functions of religion, the Caodaists also take care of the education of their children.
 
We paid a visit to a class led by a young teacher having under his care twenty pupils who, with an admirable cadence, recited aloud the lessons they had learned by heart.All are children of Caodaists, said Mr.Huong to us not without satisfaction, on accompanying us toward the exit.
 
On leaving the temple and our guide, we carried with us the impression that the leaders of Caodaism at Phnom-Penh have done much for the triumph of their religion; the results already obtained are the best proofs of their tireless work which will surely be crowned with success at the next inauguration of the temple.
 
L’Opinion (5, 24th, 1937) in these terms related the inauguration:
 
“According to the prepared program, the Caodaist temple of Phnom-Penh was inaugurated on Friday by various ceremonies to which we shall return later, lacking space today for a detailed account.”
 
Here is, however, the text of the speech pronounced by His Eminency Thượng-Chữ-Thanh, Chief of the Foreign Mission of Caodaism in the course of the first day:
 
“I am grateful to you for coming in such numbers to attend the inauguration of the first Caodaist temple in Cambodia as well as the festival of the anniversary of the spiritual Chief of our Mission Victor Hugo.
 
In the name of the caodaist hierarchy, I give you, Ladies and Gentlemen, our liveliest gratitude for your kind attention toward us.
 
You may, perhaps, have learned of the birth of Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism by publicity others than ours. You found that it was born of a marriage between Oriental and Occidental philosophy.It is the synthesis of all the faiths of the world.
 
What do we mean by Oriental philosophy?
 
Is it not that which comes from high philosophical thinking of all the Asiatic religions most of them being found in China. Except Buddhism which is of Indian origin, but which was also thousand years ago nationalized Chinese and Vietnamese.
 
The philosophy that forms the ground of Asiatic morals has already given to the Orientals several milleniums of civilization of which China is considered the guiding spirit.The Vietnamese nation profits greatly thereby.
 
Through the interpreter of Spiritism, we recognized that a reformation of the moral state of all humanity is necessary for the spiritual evolution of the world.
 
The human spirit had already come to a stage where the old dogmas and doctrines could not satisfy its freer and more sublime expansion.A new era must be reserved to it; that new era consists in giving it a broader horizon for its liberty of conscience.A new faith must be granted to it.That faith must comprise all other existing faiths, while conserving them in their philosophical purity.Hence the name of Caodai (High Church or Great Faith of the world) created by the Divine Spirit.
 
Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism practises a large tolerance toward all beliefs.It respects all human consciences as it respects the universal Conscience that is the emanation of God.The symbolic Eye figuring on our altar is the image of the individual Conscience and the universal Conscience.Our worship then is the worship of God and Humanity.The exterior manifestation of our new religion consists in bringing back all thoughts toward the primordial unity:“the Conscience in itself and the Conscience in God”.An inward voice makes us understand that Humanity is One; one in nation, one in thought, one in religion.The idea of uniting all mankind in a new conception of Love and Justice might give the world a more lasting peace by the practise of God.
 
Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism has a tendency to fraternize with all races and unify souls by preaching to the world Peace and Concord.Such are the great lines dictated by our divine Constitution practised by his ministers.
 
I close, Ladies and Gentlemen, my dearest Brethren and Sisters in the faith, wishing that divine mercy may be spread on you and on the whole world.”
 
La Presse Indochinoise (5, 25th, 37), in a very long report, relates in detail the outstanding events of the ceremony.We extract only some new viewpoints:
 
The dedication of the caodaist temple of Phnom-Penh, celebrated three days ago, obtained a lively success among the population of the Khmer capital, and was marked with a character, at the same time splendid and solemn.
 
Thousands of spectators, the faithful, coming from Cochinchina and the remotest corners of Cambodia, invaded the temple till its compound become too narrow to contain the ceaselessly growing crowd.
 
For want of space, a dense throng stood along the sidewalks and on the curb of Đỗ-Hữu-Vị Boulevard, which was filled with pedlars who did a thriving business.Yet, no unfortunate incident was noticed in the course of three days of festival; the police force furnished by the caodaist members made it easy for the official police force.With a smile and every courtesy, they guided the guests and interested spectators.
 
In the evening, flags of different nations, pennants, banderoles, banners of various colours constituted a magnificent ornament, with the violently lit temple and agreeably decorated platforms where took place the reception of French and local authorities, representatives of the press and guests.
 
Inside the temple, the sanctuary, possessing an austere aspect, did not exclude beauty by its simplicity.On the right and left of the sanctuary were installed two altars: the one, of Quan-Thánh Đế-Quân; the other, of Quan-Âm Bồ-Tát.
 
Outside, two big illuminated swastikas framed the symbolic Eye of which the pupil was lit by a green electric bulb.Opposite of the temple, on the esplanade “Bạch-Vân” was erected a big altar with the photo of Victor Hugo seated, his elbow on a table, which was attended by two rows of members of three orders, in yellow, red, blue tunics.
 
In a broad court situated between the esplanade and the temple, numerous French, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Hindu personalities visited various attractions, especially the fireworks, the dance of the unicorn, and the “long-mã” accompanied by Cambodian, French and Vietnamese music, which, viewing with each other in talent and ardour, produced a deafening uproar.
 
This speech was followed by a doctrinal discourse of great import delivered in Vietnamese by Mr.Phạm-Công-Tắc who honoured the ceremony with his presence from the beginning.The end of the lecture was received religiously and with long applause by a fervent audience.
 
Truly, this inauguration of the temple marks a fine achievement for the Caodaists of Phnom-Penh who did their very best to give their temple - formerly a simple straw hut - a worthy and admirable appearance.
 
La Dépêche (5, 26th, 1937) also gave a very detailed account, of which we shall cite only a few passages indicating new aspects of the ceremony.
 
On Pierre Pasquier boulevard, in the quarter that one of our collaborators not long ago called the “lake-dwellers city of Phnom-Penh”, in the place of the little straw chapel dedicated to the new cult of Reformed Buddhism, the Caodaists of Cambodia have built a magnificent temple whose style strangely recalls that of Saint Mexmes Church at Chinon”.
 
After a detailed description of the temple, we read:
 
“The Hộ-Pháp Phạm-Công-Tắc who the day before had left the Vatican of Tây-Ninh, and who stayed, on his arrival at Phnom-Penh, in the parish house erected within the circumference of the monastery, came at the appointed time to the temple, arrayed in the costume of a great Marshall of the Celestial Empire, sheltered beneath golden parasols preceded by a band playing a lively march and escorted by a numerous retinue.
 
At the entrance of the temple, the Hộ-Pháp was welcome by the Chief of the Mission, surrounded by the local clergy.He was shown toward a platform of honour set back from the porch on which he stood during the ceremony, armed with his Marshall’s baton, the sight of which must have frightened the unhealthy spirits and kept them off the sacred place.
 
The smoke of the sticks of incense stuck into the vases of ash rose like a curtain before the symbolic globe and divinities.
 
The monks, draped in their red, blue or yellow gowns, the members dressed in their white robes, knelt on the mats in line and occupied the central and lateral naves of the temple.Now and then, heralds announced various phases of the ceremony at the top of their voices.
 
The festival over, the Ho-Phap was accompanied again by the same ceremonial to his rest house.He then had a quick interview with La Dépêche:
 
The Hộ-Pháp Phạm-Công-Tắc is a keep, educated man; he speaks and writes French admirably.He was reading La Dépêche when we were brought into the sitting room by the Chief of the diocese.Immediately, he stood up, offered his hand like a gentleman and, with a smile, showed us to an arm-chair.
 
Fearing the torture of a long interview, he began to let us know that he was a faithful reader of our paper and took particular interest in its Cambodian edition for he had in the Khmer land more than forty thousand coreligionists.
 
For him Caodaism is a religion that draws its strength from social concord and peace.The benevolent hospitality that the Vietnamese Caodaists found in Cambodia touched them deeply.He wished with all his heart that his countrymen might witness their deep gratitude in regard to the local authorities by continuing to work, here as elsewhere, in the respect of the laws and customs of the country.
 
He manifested however his astonishment on seeing that orders, no doubt misinterpreted, had been given on the occasion of this festival, to keep the subjects of His Majesty Monivong from the merrymaking in the circumference of the Caodaist temple . . .
 
His Eminency Thượng-Chữ-Thanh, Chief of the Foreign Mission, in residence at Phnom-Penh, next took the floor.
 
First, he announced the death of Mrs.Lâm-Ngọc-Thanh, a great dignitary of Reformed Buddhism, who had just died at Vũng-Liêm and asked the audience to observe a minute of silence.
 
Then he praised the founders of Caodaism in Cochinchina, particularly dwelling on the merits of the late Pope Lê-Văn-Trung and another dignitary, the late lamented Cao-Quỳnh-Cư.Afterwards, having concluded the account of the new religion in Cambodia, the orator informed the audience that the ceremony of inauguration of the temple of Phnom-Penh coincided with the anniversary of the death of Victor Hugo, the spiritual Chief of the Foreign Mission of Caodaism.
 
Three other speeches delivered in Cantonese, Triều-Châu and Cambodian, reproduced almost word for word the speech of Mr. Thượng-Chữ-Thanh.
 
In the afternoon, at 4:30 took place in the circumference of the monastery the procession of deified personages.
 
Preceded by the unicorn and followed by a dragon, the procession gathered in their order the car of Buddha Di-Lặc, an idol with a broad smile, impassible in his nirvanian happiness, the altar of the Pope Lê-Văn-Trung, the portrait of Victor Hugo, the statue of Joan of Arc, the portrait of Cao-Quỳnh-Cư, that of Sun-Yat-Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, and at last the big car of the sacred Mountain on which sat enthroned the great sage Lý-Thái-Bạch having on his right the goddess Quan-Âm and on his left the warrior Quan-Công.
 
At the foot of that mountain the late Pope Lê-Văn-Trung was blessing the crowd.
 
The procession, preceded, accompanied and followed by noisy orchestras, made three times the tour of the temple passing before the platform where were seated the Ho-Phap, the personages ofhis retinue and the dignitaries of the religion.
 
On a part of the platform, we noticed numerous Chinese women newly converted and draped in white cloaks like the Vietnamese, with the marks and badges of their grade.
 
In France, Le Fraterniste, in Cambodia, La Vérité (10,20th, 1937) published this impression of the whole:
 
The newspaper illustrations, the pictures that I have before me, show the unusual splendor of the festival that took place under the presidence of the Superior.Thousands of followers had come from all parts: fifteen, twenty, twenty-five thousand?It is difficult to estimate such Asiatic crowds.Speeches were made and broadcasted by Charles, Chief of the Foreign Mission, by Francois, a guiding spirit of the movement.Those speeches reflect a number of ideas that seemed to me interesting.
 
The sponsorship of the spirit Victor Hugo should be sufficient to underline the eminently spiritualistic character of Caodaism, the actual Superior of which was the chief of the school of mediums at Tây-Ninh (Cochinchina).
 
The real alliance of the religions of the Orient and the religions of the Occident is affirmed there in every part, at every moment, for the Caodaist pagodas are open to the veneration of Christ, Buddha, Lao-Tze, Confucius, Mohammed, and all the messengers of God on the earth, be they spiritualists (Victor Hugo, Camille Flammarion) or benefactors of humanity.
 
In an hour when some are putting a label on everything for dividing mankind and sowing hatred; it seems useful to encourage this movement of reconciliation, union, universality.In an hour when some go back to the exclusive formulas and anathemas of the years of old:“only here may you be saved”, it seems good to repeat, even to the deaf, that it is forever finished with the pitiful game of labels:What only matters is not creeds, but acts.Allan Kardec has luminously expressed:outside of charity, no salvation.
 
The pacific and pacifistic spirit of Caodaism is also worthy approval.The disciples of Cao-Đài (the Supreme Being) are hostile to distinction of peoples, races, religions, colours, and wish a reconciliation of governments.Facing the Occident, the Caodaists cry: we are for peace, fraternity of men, friendship of peoples, collaboration of races.Here we are far from the barbarous politics of totalitarian states, black, brown, or red pestilences, and hired adventurers who, in each country, seek to ape copying the new Badinguet.
 
One sees in it an admirable spiritualistic synthesis, where even an unbeliever finds his spiritual brad, because he may in a Caodaist pagoda, ask the rules of conduct of Confucius or the sage Lao-Tze.Indeed, the temple of Cao-Đài does not refuse its spiritual treasuries to anybody.May we be far from our label stickers, our little chapels, our small clans of benighted prefectures and sub-prefectures, dead dust.
 
The time-table enables us to understand the importance of these three days of festivals:
 
* * *
 
Program of May 21st, 1937
 
Morning:
5:15 a.m.Gathering of dignitaries and members at the temple.
5:30 a.m.Reception of H. H. Hộ-Pháp in the temple.
6:00 a.m.Great ritual ceremony and sanctification of the symbolic globe.
9:00 a.m.Reception of H. H. Hộ-Pháp on the esplanande of dignitaries and presentation of the sacerdotal body.
9:30 a.m. Songs and prayers by the children’s chorus; opening speech in Vietnamese byH. E.Thượng-Chữ-Thanh, Giáo-Sư, Chief of the Foreign Mission; speeches in Chinese and Cambodian.
11:30 a.m.Prayer (at microphone) for world concord and peace.
Noon:
 
Ritual ceremony and prayers for the dead.
 
Afternoon:
 
4:00 p.m.Gathering of dignitaries on the esplanade.
4:30 p.m.Procession of the portrait of Victor Hugo round the temple to be later installed on the esplanade “Bach-Van”
5:30 p.m.Ritual ceremony and prayers by the children’s chorus; lectures in Cambodianby Chánh-Trị-Sự Phạm-Văn-Châu; lecture in Vietnamese by Giáo-Sư Hương-Phụng (Mme Trần-Kim-Phụng), Tiếp-Đạo Cao-Đức-Trọng and Khai-Pháp Trần-Duy- Nghĩa.Speech in French by the Chief of the Foreign Mission.
11:00 p.m.Great ceremony of the anniversary of Victor Hugo, spiritual Chief of the Foreign Mission of Caodaism.
 
 
Morning:
 
5:00 a.m.Ritual ceremony.
8:00 a.m.Prayers for the repose of the dead and for would concord and peace.
11:00 a.m. Ritual ceremony.
Evening:
 
4:00 p.m.Gathering of dignitaries on the Esplanade.
4:15 p.m.Reception of H. H. Hộ-Pháp on the esplanade.
5:00 p.m.Reception of French and local authorities, representatives of the press and guests.
5:15 p.m.Prayer by children of the chorus in honour of the Religion: speech of nauguration of the Caodaist temple by the Assistant-Chief of the Foreign Mission (microphone).
6:00 p.m.Visit of the temple by the Authorities and all the spectators.
6:15 p.m.Signing of the Golden Book.
6:30 p.m.Tea of honour.
8:00 p.m.Speech of H.H. Hộ-Pháp (H. H. Phạm-Công-Tắc) (at microphone).Religious lectures by H. E. Thượng-Chữ-Thanh; other religious lectures.
11:00p.m. Ritual ceremony.
 
 
Morning:
 
5:00 a.m.Ritual ceremony.
6:00 a.m.Gathering floats, votive tables, dragons, unicorns, music, etc. on Pierre Pasquier Boulevard, opposite the Caodaist temple.
6:45 a.m.Start of the procession and train for town.
11:00a.m. Ritual Ceremony.
 
Evening:
 
4:00 p.m.Gathering of dignitaries on the esplanade.
4:30 p.m.Alloting of prizes for floats, dragon, unicorns, votive tablets, music.
5:00 p.m.Chants by the children’s chorus in honour of the religion, with music; ritual ceremony.
6:00 p.m.Religious lectures by various dignitaries; closing speech by Tiếp-Thế Lê-Thế-Vĩnh.
10:00p.m. Prayers in chorus for the repose of the dead and for world concord and peace.
11:00p.m. Great ceremony of the 15th day of the 4th month of the year Đinh-Sửu.
 
Mr. Ch. Bellan, ex-Resident of France in Cambodia, sent from Paris (9,1st, 37) his general impression:
 
“I read with great interest the documents you sent me, concerning the inauguration of the Caodaist temple of Phnom-Penh.I have shared them with some friends and personalities interested in this movement which tends toward the unification of religions and to universal fraternity.
 
In the course history, the opposition of various religions has caused a great deal of bloodshed and one could wish that a mutual comprehension might be imposed for the happiness of humanity.
 
The progress of science has reduced distances more and more, but if the peoples of the earth understand each other a little better than formerly, it is no less true that they are often deceived by bad shepherds and that there exist, alas! many misunderstandings among them.
 
If Caodaism spreads, we may expect an era of peace and quiet, if not of happiness, the latter being not of this world.Each one therefore must hoe his own row in that direction.For my part, I am truly very glad to know that the odious persecutions, of which the Caodaists have been the victims, is over.
 
One could not then, with the help of all, hinder the diffusion of a doctrine that might - as Buddha preached - it is not hate, but love that united hearts - make calm to reign over the surface of this still-troubled earth.
 
My kind fraternal greeting.
 
Signed :Charles Bellan
 
 
 
One of our good Caodaist brethren, Mr.Gabriel Abadie, of Lestrac, little better informed than our great journalists of Paris (City of Light) presented in VU (September 7, 1932) a documentary and illustrated article on Caodaism contrasted with those who batten on error and lie, Mr.Abadie can prove how much he has suffered in committing himself to tell the truth about Caodaism.
 
At the beginning of the year 1926, in a compartment situated in the vicinity of the "Halles Centrales” in Saigon, gathered some young learned men, all Buddhists, who were cultivating spiritism in their leisure hours.The idea had come to them from the seances and revelations of one of their masters, a convinced spiritist and representative of the most important spiritist society of France.
 
The beginnings were not conclusive, but little by little, with the extreme patience which characterizes the Oriental, by eliminating those who did not possess "fluid", replacing them by comrades better endowed, they registered, it seems, extraordinary results.
 
They were, at the beginning, put in communication, they claim, with the spirit of one of the sages of Chinese Antiquity, Lý-Thái-Bạch, more commonly called Li-Tai-Pe, the Chinese Homer. He who reformed literature under the 13th dynasty Tang (713-742), an earnest Taoist who dictated them some messages.
 
There were also those from Quan-Thánh Đế-Quân, the Chinese Turenne.So, what seemed first to these neophytes of spiritism an amusement, rapidly became a mystic occupation: the conversation with superior spirits from Beyond, from whom they took counsel.
 
But the use of the turning table to correspond with the occult world seeming to them impractical, thus they confided to the Spirit, who recommended the billed-basket, a kind of rattan helmet, and at the same time counseled them to learn from the wisdom of one of their countrymen, the Phủ-Chiêu, a man versed in spiritism.The latter, who was following the doctrine of Gautama Buddha and practicing the morals of Confucius, told them that he had been in relations with the spirits for several years, from whom he had obtained this revelation:the existence of a Being, sovereign of the Supreme Universe, he was Cao-Đài.He taught the young men to use the billed-basket and participated in their spiritist seances.
 
At the suggestion of the spirits, they entered into contact with one of their countrymen, a former Cochinchinese mandarin and member of the Government Counsel, Lê-văn-Trung, whose life of dissipation and unrestrained pleasure, did not predispose him to the part he was to be called to play.
 
Lê-Văn-Trung’s conversation was miraculous.Moved by grace, the opium-smoker smoked no more, the tippler abstained from his favorite alcohol, he ceased to eat meat and fish, gave up the pleasures of the flesh, became a vegetarian and practiced the asceticism of the austerest bonze.It was in a following and memorable meeting of spirits that the billed-basket enjoined Lê-Văn-Trung to take up the propagation of Caodaism and conferred on him the title of Pope of the new religion.
 
On the subject of the universality of Caodaism, our brother very well explains the meaning of Cao-Đài:
 
“ Cao-Đài” is the symbolic name of the Supreme Being, who, for the third time, would reveal himself to the Orient.
 
The opinion of the followers of the new faith is that God, adapting his teachings to the progress of the human spirit, now more advanced than formerly, should this time be manifested through mediums, he being unwilling to allow any mortal the privilege of founding Caodaism.This new manifestation of the Supreme Being so comes because all religions submitted to human founder’s authority are unsuited to universality, seeing that his prophets protested against the truths proclaimed by other religious faiths, toward which they show a marked intolerance.
 
The Caodaist doctrine is, in great part, drawn from the three principal and oldest religions of the Orient: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.It maintains their purest principles recognized as being the eternal, immutable truths of the Divine Law.But it intends to re-establish in their true meaning certain beliefs that seem to have been twisted.
 
So refounded, this doctrine conciliates all religious convictions and adapts itself to various degrees of spiritual evolution.
 
From a moral point of view, it reminds man of his duties and obligations, teaches him to know how to behave toward himself, his family, society, and the whole of Humanity.
 
From a philosophical point of view, it preaches contempt for honour, wealth, luxury, in a word, the freeing from servitudes of matter, to look to spirituality for the full quietude of the soul.
 
From the point of view of worship, it recommends the worship of God and the veneration of the superior spirits who constitute the occult August Hierarchy.It admits the cult of Ancestors, built upon the principles of Buddha, but stands out nevertheless against meat offerings and the use of votive paper.
 
From a spiritualist point of view, it agrees with other religions, on the existence of the soul, its survival from the physical envelope, its evolution by successive reincarnation, the posthumous consequences of human actions ruled by the law of Karma.
 
From the point of view of initiation, it preaches, to those of the followers judged worthy, the revealed teachings to empower them, by a process of spiritual evolution, to approach ecstasies of bliss.
 
The basis of caodaist doctrine is the practice of good and virtue.How could it be otherwise with a religion that amalgamates the three great systems of the Orient:Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, in order to uphold only the highest teachings and eliminate the lower precepts considered as factors of superstition and ignorance?
 
1.The merciful Buddha preached devotion and charity.
2.The Taoist Doctrine prescribed the worship of truth and the discipline of character.
3.The sage Confucius traced the way of the Golden Mean.
 
Cao-Đài united the great principles of love and goodness taught by the Three Saints, preaching a new religion wherein men of all colours must strive by new disciplines, toward the creation of better world, of a world from which would be excluded wars and conquests in which the races might fraternize.
 
Our brother answers the objection of a certain journalist that Jesus Christ would be there only a second-rate divinity.
 
“Christ is a hyphen between Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.If he is placed below Far-Eastern divinities, it is because he came to the world many centuries later ...”
 
In 1932, Mr. G. Abadie had already foreseen the long and painful chapter of jokes and persecutions that were to be let loose and from which he would not himself escape.
 
“The new religion, Reformed Buddhism, did not raise, on account of the proverbial tolerance of the Far -Eastern peoples, any quarrel between the old worship and the reformed one, considering that it was not so intransigent as to declare that, besides its morals and doctrine, it could only have error and punishment.It shows on the contrary its respect for religions, the teachings of which seemed to it worth veneration and it did not hesitate at all besides Buddha, LaoTze and Confucius to put in honour the image of Christ, wishing to spread a teaching, the origin of which troubled it less than its intrinsic value.There is nothing more to it except that the ground of its dogma is the law of the Three-Saints (Buddha, Lao-Tze, Confucius) of which it conserves the old beliefs, habits and rituals.
 
One might ask oneself, especially these last years, what can be the deep causes that have put the native soul heretofore asleep, toward a religiosity reaching the mystic fanatism of the high periods of faith.
 
Why this religious awakening? one asks.
 
The Caodaist doctrine tends to a moral and social action by making the Vietnamese people recover under the lead of their elite, the traditional taste of their simple, frugal and careful existence.
 
One wonders to see France or more exactly some over-zealous and certainly ill inspired officials take sides against the heretics of the reformed heathen religion in favor of, it seems, the old belief, which, moreover, does not solicit it, and require that the orthodox doctrine of the old Buddhism be respected without change, nor evolution of any sort that adapts it to new conceptions.
 
The explanation of the campaign conducted against Caodaism is found in the obstruction that gives rise to the reformed religion the number of faithful which is in Cochinchina, for instance, more than one million out of three million and a half inhabitants.
 
The former governor of Cochinchina Blanchard de la Brosse is now exposed to public opprobrium for having declared practicable, and authorized this religion in the territory under his jurisdiction.But the alarm is given and a crusade is launched against the heretics.
 
Since then, great progress toward understanding has been accomplished, and Caodaism is on the way to becoming the official religion of the new State of Vietnam.
 
Le Cygne (Bạch-Nga, Hànội) published a series of articles: The true visage of Caodaism (9-36), from which we shall cite only the most curious passages.It was the title indicates an objective report.We can’t pay a better compliment to it, for the truth is also God’s service.
 
“Let my dear readers be assured! Instead of pulling a long face in reading the subject of this inquiry, looking me up and down with an astonished or skeptical or mocking eye, murmuring imprecations against me, let them listen calmly to the confessions of a man who, like them, and nearly all Tonkinese intellectuals, has willingly ridiculized a religion newly born in his own country, simply because he has understood nothing of it.“Newly born” is not quite the word; following the Caodaist calendar, Humanity is in the year of the 3rd Amnesty of God in the Orient; it is then ten years ago that this religion came into its own.
 
An experienced sociologist must notice that since the first quarter of this century, Vietnam has undergone an abrupt shock.There has been a complete overthrow of the destiny of people, its thought and faith.The return of two Phan’s announced the first symptom of that fever which increases daily.From a political point of view, that is revolution in all minds and hearts.From an economic point of view, it is the intensive development of industry, the formation of cooperatives and syndicates.From a literary point of view, the radical reform of the language, the introduction of new concepts in Poetry and Art, and as for the domain of religion, the birth of a new faith.”
 
To the rebuke that Caodaism would be constituted only by ignorant and superstitious masses, skillfully shorn by swindlers and charlatans, this reply:
 
The thousands of Caodaist believers are not all credulous or superstitious persons.A great number of those who practice the new religion in Cochinchina, in Tonkin, in China, and in France, are intellectuals of the upper class, teachers, lawyers, writers, journalists, deputies.It is not without reasonthat Caodaism caused many to make mention of it throughout the world, that several famous reviews of Paris, London, Lisbon, Warsaw, even of Rome and of Buenos-Aires have started to study its dogma and doctrine. The author of this inquiry has had the rare privilege of ransacking the archives of the Holy See of Tây-Ninh where he could read letters and precious documents, bulletins of conversion addressed to the Pope by foreign personalities from different capitals of Europe and America.Even Japan, a country proud of its Bushido, has sent scholars to Tay-Ninh trying to understand what is this new faith which has shaken the world’s opinion”.
 
La Vérité (The Truth), also, made a report (May 11, 13, 38) that was later put out in pamphlet form (special edition of this daily of PhnomPenh) and from which we note the following extract :
 
“During the twelve years in which Caodaism has developed in Indochina, it is to be noticed that no serious objective study has yet been consecrated to it,However this social and religious movement touches hundreds of thousands of human beings on an ever widening scale.The new religion feeling itself cramped within the limits of its cradle, Cochinchina, has sent its missionaries to Cambodia, to Annam and to Tonkin, where it flatters itself with some success.
 
It has its temple in Paris, and ambition soon to bring the good word as far as China, Siam, India and Europe.
 
The Vietnamese pride is thus expressed unexpectedly in a field of action that was unknown to Giao-Chi’s descendants.They brought nothing to human thought.Why?Mystery.
 
The Caodaism seems to despise the enigma so put, for it pretends to the dignity of religion at the same level as Buddhism.Moreover, is it not called Reformed Buddhism:
 
This ambition alone of the new faith that counts, it is said, millions of followers among which many intellectuals, induces us to study Caodaism carefully,Obeying today to the injunctions of friends, we have decided to present to the waiting public some truths bout the new doctrine, some observations and objective analyses”.
 
La Vérité (The Truth)
 
In the preface of the pamphlet, the author adds these considerations:
 
“Some have loosed on the spiritist origins of the Caodaism much easy irony; they have tried to clothe off by ridicule, divine messages transmitted by the turning tables and the billed-basket.
 
What is there then surprising, unexpected, in the eternal truth borrowing that vehicle instead of making itself heard on a Sinai surrounded with lightning and thunder, or expressing itself by the voice of inspired prophets or marvelous apparitions.
 
Do not the efforts of a medium elected to that mission, as noble as any, isn’t it at all so legitimate, offer as many guarantees as any voice chosen until the present to help Heaven to communicate with Earth?
 
As for the persecutions of which Caodaism has been the object and of which the era is perhaps not closed, may we not see therein the better proof of its celestial origin and its supernatural character?All religions preaching like it justice and goodness, founded like it on sacrifice and love, have known the hostility of man, the rancour of the powerful, the anger and reprobation of all those whose satisfied egos they came to trouble, whose authority they shook, whose pride and tyranny they combatted.
 
To be persecutor or persecuted, to dominate by force or to be a victim of violence, to impose faith by arms or to accept martyrdom, there is not, in all history, other alternative for growing religions.Had Caodaism any choice? Its only weapon is gentleness.It could oppose to its enemies, but its resignation and confidence in the final triumph of justice; it could, on submitting itself to the laws, but proclaim, without weakening, its invincible attachment to the truth come from Above; it could only endeavor to prove, by its firmness and constance, the authenticity of its divine mission.That is what it has done.
 
And its persecutors have been forced to bow before such heroic and quiet courage, to recognize its right to life, to grant it freedom, the only favor it claims.
 
Victorious over force, now disarmed, it remains to Caodaism to conquer the misunderstanding of men, their blindness, their skepticism,These are redoubtable enemies.
 
The other religions, of which it is the synthesis, have already confronted them.They have succeeded:Why shouldn’t it, too, succeed?
 
Of what we can reproach it?Too much good faith, too much sincerety, too much tolerance?Is it for proposing an ideal too broadly, too fraternally human that we might reproach it?
 
Is it at all contradictory in that fusion of diverse religions, each keeping, of its primitive faith, the essence and what forms for all a kind of common fund, that it must find means to make fraternity and the universal peace reign over mankind?Here is how the Supreme Master, in one of his messages, explains the necessity of that fusion:
 
“Formerly, the peoples did not know one another and lacked means of transport: I then founded at different epochs, five branches of the Great Way:Confucianism, The Worship of Genii, Christianism, Taoism, Buddhism, each based on the customs of the race called particularly to apply them.
 
“Nowadays, all parts of the world are exploited; people knowing each other better, aspire to a real peace.But because of the very multiplicity of those religions, men do notalways live in harmony one with another,That is why I decided to unite all those religions into one to bring them to the primordial unity.
 
“Moreover, the holy doctrine of those religions has been, through centuries, more and more denatured by those who have been charged to spread, up to such a point that I have now firmly resolved to come myself, to show you the way”.
 
It is then the whole world that now is offered to the apostolate of Caodaism, heir of the antique doctrines that have already conquered the quasi-unanimity of men.
 
The task shall be hard, for, as says the message we have just read, men have forgotten the very principles of the doctrines, which they pretend to profess.They have sometimes conserved the letter; but have more often lost the spirit.
 
The task shall be hard, for though the land where the missionaries must go to prepare the mission is no longer tillable, it is full of parasitic and poisonous plants as vigorous and such solidly rooted as if all the evil human passions served them for manure.
 
Never was the need more felt of reminding men that they all are sons of one Father and that the horrible fratricidal struggles, to which they gave themselves up yesterday, to which they are ready to submit tomorrow, shall cause the ruin and the sorrow not only of themselves, but of their children, and their children’s children.
 
Caodaism is a synonym of peace, fraternity, love.May the millions of the believers it shall some day count, and may that soon, remember to inspire their conduct by the eternal maxim, that is found in the books of the Masters of all times, in which are summed up all science and all wisdom: “Love one another”.
 
What is the point of view of the caodaist Sacerdocy on this report: it is La Vérité (The Truth) gives it to us.
 
“Our objective inquiry communicated to the orthodox Church of Caodaism has earned from its greatest Chief, the Superior Phạm Công Tắc, the charming letter from which we cite below and excerpt concerning the relation of the Đại-Đạo to Minh Ly movement.
 
Our readers understand by this simple letter the broad tolerance of the Caodaist spirit, which rejects no belief on account of its non-conformity or its non-orthodoxy.Such an attitude honours the Caodaists, notwithstanding all other social and philosophical considerations.
 
Ed. Note
 
Phạm-Công-Tắc, Superior of Caodaism or Reformed Buddhism, Holy See at Tây-Ninh, to the Director of La Vérité, PhnomPenh.
Mr. Director,
 
“The Caodaist Sacerdocy and I are deeply touched by your high token of sympathy toward our religion:We have read your report with interest,Further, it is the only organ that has courageously defended our cause since the beginning,We can say that it is our friend.This report is interesting from any point of view, save some little errors of documentation of which we beg you to be so kind as to grant us hearing.
 
“Caodaism does not spring from the Minh Lý movement.We recognize that the Minh-Lý was organized before us, but it is separated from us by mystic and philosophical point of view.The truth is that the Vietnamese spiritualist movement came into being spontaneously with the help of no foreign concept, doctrine or dogma.It was unforeseeable.We can say that it was almost miraculous. As if led by an invisible power, the manifestation is latent. Moreover, this movement has felt in all the world,All the spiritualist organizations that were created after the war were perhaps born of that unknown power.
 
“As for the Caodaists, a group of intellectuals gathered to search for the possibility of harmonizing the two civilizations, the Oriental and the Occidental.
 
“They have tried in this case to bring close the two philosophies:Christianity and Confucianism.The attempt is so encouraging by reason of the high morality of the great thinkers who thus converge toward the Good and the Beautiful.There exists then a spot where ideas can meet and thus thoughts be united.Knowing this, the group of Vietnamese intellectuals took steps to prepare a field of mutual understanding.They have had the satisfaction to see that great ideas can no longer separate thinkers of the human race.Morals are one, it is only practise that differs.Here is to them an obstacle or a catch.The power to act is not within the reach of common men such as they.It is above their reach,A bit of slowing down was seen in the Caodaist movement,These intellectuals seek for a way: unity of faith and practise of all religions.
 
“Without my describing it, you can guess the value of an attempt.
 
One of their friends came from France in the person of Captain Monnet. He is a spiritist.He took interest in the research of these intellectuals, but friendly understanding in the practise of all religious faiths escaped from him too.He advised them to consult the Spirits.That is to say they have had recourse to the help of The Beyond to solve their difficulties. The first spiritist communication, given by the Spirits, in the form of counsel, gives them the key to the enigma.
 
“The conclusion is this: Faith derives from the Conscience. The Conscience is impossible of subordination.It differs according to the state of the spirit of each individual. It is impersonal and inalienable, because it is God’s emanation (the universal Conscience).So, a liberty of conscience for all human beings is proclaimed, but union in the spirit of the Beautiful and the Good is obligatory, from which was born the Caodaist doctrine:the doctrine of broad tolerance.
 
One might say that Caodaism is a purely philosophical religion, whereas the Minh-ly is a body that limits itself to a cultural practice of the three Oriental religions:Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, mixed a little with hypnotical mysticism.
 
It is a friend to Caodaism in its social manifestation, but it is not a blood brother.
 
We hope to be able to meet it in the practise of the Beautiful and the Good of which we make an apostolate of propaganda”.
 
Signed: Phạm-Công-Tắc.
 
And here is one of the famous spiritualistic seances at the beginning of Caodaism:
 
It was in 1926, I was living in an apartment of the Audouit building, now become the Huỳnh-Đình-Khiêm building,At my home, there came in and out young boys and girls, students, republicans,progressionists and revolutionary militants.
 
One Sunday morning, an unknown young man came into my office, took a seat opposite me and blurted out, without ceremony, these words which, however, did not astonish me:I have been, in fact, accustomed to this kind of visit and proposition.
 
-My dear friend, if you like, we are going to strike up a friendship to study philosophy and politics together.You know, no doubt, better than I, what relation these two activities have to each other.
 
In the feverish social and political atmosphere in which we lived at that time, which seems already strangely distant, I did not wonder either to read on my caller’s card: Vietnamese Revolutionist.
 
On the evening of the day before appearing for the examination for the first part of his B.A., this good boy was expelled from school.His crime? To have written to Mr. Cognacq, at that time Governor of Cochinchina, to protest against a certain speech of his.Since that moment, this student had set himself to read enormously; to steep himself in various philosophical systems; to be convinced of the necessity of revolution.To manifest in his new faith, he did not hesitate to have his calling cards printed as I have showed above ...
 
The fanatics of my friend type were so numerous that I didn’t suspect him to be a provocateur.Later I found that my new friend was highly educated; that he was versed in spiritualistic philosophies and that “spiritism” interested him particularly.That is how I was led to know the movement of turning tables and medium communications.One evening in November, my friend was reminding me for the Nth time of the marvels of turning tables, which he had learned from the works of some promoters of French Spiritism, now departed, Allan Kardec and Léon Denis.I threw out a categorical challenge as to the veracity of these phenomena, defying to attempt an experiment. He brought me at once to some authentic chiefs of an occult school at that time newly born, the later activities of which were to have a great influence on the formation and development of Caodaism: his school was called Minh-lý Đạo, which may be literally translated: The Way of Enlightened Reason.
 
I hasten to acknowledge that I was placed in the presence of extremely kind and honest men.They were bumble employees in administration and business, eager for self-improvement and rising in society thanks to their continued efforts,They were ten who gathered in a kind of coterie to discuss spiritualistic philosophies, and then when the theories were well assimilated to a new canon they created themselves, with a view to venerating their saints and sages.
 
I was very surprised at their broad spiritualistic learning.They all were capable of citing from me entire passages of the greatest works of the spiritists.Better than their French Masters, they had the audacity to use Henri Durville, the renowned occultist, in their pursuit of truth.
 
That is how one of the leaders, Mr. Xứng, kindly inaugurated the author’s relationship with his group by a hypnotic experience.I confess, however, that I found in it nothing truly conclusive.
 
After having me shut my eyes, he made various movements in the air with their two broad hands all around my head without ever touching it.After a quarter of an hour of this hypnotic preparation, he ordered me with a clear and caressing voice to incline my head in a certain direction, or to make certain gestures with my arms, which I did without difficulty.
 
The spectators who were members of the group and my friend X were visibly satisfied with the experience:As I insisted on attending a seance of some importance, Mr. Âu-Kích, the most esteemed of the group, prepared it.
 
On a table used as an altar, he had nine candles placed triangularly:He then explained to me that the figure nine as well as the geometrical placement imply the number three (three angles in a triangle, actually) and have a symbolic importance, that only the initiate can understand.Then began the ceremony of offerings.The members of the group prostrated themselves before the altar, the chief, Mr.Âu-Kích placing himself in the middle.They recited prayers, the recognized themes of various Asiatic religions.Besides, their catechism does not hide the fact that their philosophy is a synthesis of the Buddhist, Confucianist and Taoist religions.But here it was suddenly, that the chief drew strange movements in space with his right arm.All fell silent as if by magic.- X. whispered in my ear that the “Spirits” were going to make communication through Mr.Âu-Kích.
 
In fact, the latter having seized a big pencil which had been placed beforehand on a small table with some paper, set to transcribe the divine words, his eyes closed.They explained to me that he was the preferred “medium” of great spirits; venerated by the faithful, which the Bodisatva Quan Âm had dedicated to me through the chief of the group.I was, in fact, very proud to learn that during my “former existences” I had accomplished great works, and I was “exiled in this valley of tears” only to atone for the crime of pride of which I was guilty.I should have been an unbearably proud man “in the course of my successive existences”.
 
This my friends believe in mediumnity, that is to say in communications with the “Beyond” and consequently in the survival of the soul.Differing from the Catholics, they do not speak of eternal hell, but about transmigration of the soul, which, by leaving the physical body, may live in other earths than ours. In this, they resemble the Buddhists, with, however, this important restriction: whereas Shakyamuni’s disciples admit that a human soul may come back to earth and live in the body of a beast.Minh-Lý’s followers, more modern, reject this hypothesis.In their new faith, the law of attraction replaces, in very unexpected fashion, the Buddhist transmigration of the soul. It is unnecessary then to have the wicked come back to this earthly life in the skin of a pig or a dog to atone for past faults.This would be moreover presenting the Author of Creation asto cruel a judge.No, the law of attraction, that plays in space, suffices for celestial justice.Such, who through a life of sacrifices should be “deified” after death, thanks to the attraction, arrive at a superior world in space.On the contrary, the wicked, the selfish “shall fall themselves”, after their departure from the earth, into a planet whose conditions of existence are still more painful.All this is done naturally, automatically, “as it were”:
 
Though these latter lines are not very clear, or are disputable from a Latin spiritualistic point of view (the Anglo-saxon spiritism does not admit of a return to the earth, but of progress in spheres of space), let us come to the “utility” of Caodaism:
 
“Nevertheless with the triumph of capitalism, the old Cochinchinese patriarchal economic structure was broken down.The Gia-Long Code which recognized only the collective personality of the village and the family, thoroughly anti-individualistic, was abolished or almost so, in Cochinchina, where the individual freedom recognized more or less by the modified codes is the cause of the discard of Confucianism.After all, the latter has really constituted a religion with its Canon, its clergy, its temples, and not just a morality.
 
It is clear that under these conditions, a father’s authority as well as that of a husband or a landowner, could be more threatened in Cochinchina than in other parts of Vietnam where the Gia-long Code and Confucianism still retain their glory power. That is, in my opinion, the only reason why there was room in our twenty Cochinchinese provinces for the birth of a new faith.
 
If the Shakyamuni doctrine can be subdivided into two great schools:that of the Greater Vehicle also called “Northern” which comprises in Indochina the Vietnamese Buddhist population, and that of the Lesser Vehicle or “Southern”, which influences Cambodia and Laos, why should it not be able to take upon itself the modern form of Caodaism?
 
We pass by all that is connected with the persecutions in this pamphlet.
 
Concerning the future of Caodaism, two remarks:
 
1) Whatever one may say about Confucianism, it was the “national religion” of China and Vietnam.In these countries, the spiritual and the temporal powers are joined in one man’s hand, the Emperor’s, the Son of Heaven, consequently, master of soul and body of his subjects.To have religion, there must be temples of worship or churches; a canon; clergy.These conditions have been met by the “Nho” Doctrine.The temple of worship, is it the paternal house itself.While the “four classics” and the “five canons” sum up the catechism of the “Saint of the land of Lo” (Confucius).The clergy was a society of men of letters who, in fact, held both powers, spiritual and temporal, with, as a kind of Pope, the Emperor, the Son of Heaven.
 
The development of capitalism in Cochinchina with its consequent abrogation that favours individualism to the detriment of Confucian collectivism, undermined favourable conditions to the survival of the religion of the sages.It is thus, historically, that the dawn of new religious sects, and particularly of Caodaism, must be explained.
 
2) It is characteristic in our century of international capitalism, this religious Reform of ours is contemporary with an Asiatic movement of the same essence, the same historic mission.For, in Japan and China, the tormented elements of the feudal bourgeoisie seek to create a social superstructure by founding a thousand and one modern neo-buddhist sects,The Caodaists and Minhlyists of our country will profit by comparing their doctrines with those of the Japanese and Chinese Reforms.
 
I add that the Minh-lý was but a new sect among many other sects that grew like mushrooms.But it represented the sect the most disciplined, the most educated from a philosophical point of view, and which possessed a theory wholly expressed in its catechism.
 
In spite of the simplicity with which the doctrine of Buddhism is exposed, it does not seem to us that this work and especially the philosophy which he attempts to bring within the scope of the average intelligence, can deeply penetrate the European masses, the principle of the “non-self” and that of causality, as conceived by the Buddhists being found, for the Occidental mentality, too much in opposition to the conception of the majority, that will always prefer to cast upon that entity, under the name of “Destiny”, the responsibility of their sufferings, rather than acknowledge “the natural harvest of grain sown ”.That which, in Mr. Entai Tomomatsu’s work, seemed able to retain our attention most particularly is, besides Buddha’s psychology, to which the author restores his profoundly human sense, the statement of the attempt made by certain Japanese intellectuals to bring Buddhism back to its original nobility by freeing it from the conceptions of certain interested sects, which, for believers, prayer, meditation with crossed legs and especially offerings, constitute the essential.
 
That movement, to which we cannot help giving all our sympathy and which relies on the fact that Buddha, since his satori (illumination) always attached more punyas (merits) to the social act than to the most earnest prayer, the most severe mortification, that movement, even if it must remain purely Asiatic, is yet worthy to be known by us, for, permitting the adaptation of Buddhism to the practical life, it could be very heavy with consequences in the whole world.
 
And if we consider that no text exists, facilitating the knowledge of Buddhism, we must thank Mr. Entai Tomomatsu and his faithful translator for having given us that work by way of introduction to the study of a philosophy able, so says the author, to penetrate not only into an epoch, but all epochs.
 
The opposition breaks out, still more brutally, in such an echo as this:The secrets of the “Mahatmas” in Brazil.
 
While the Bulletin des Amitiés Spirituelles (No 40, page 17) sets itself to depreciate the “faith” of the “superhumans” and to reduce them to proud little Luciferians compartmented in a corner of the Created and wishing to dethrone God (sic), Pensamento, Saint Paul’s great initiatic review, passes in review the faculties developed by those “initiates” despised by Sedir (p.396) and his christic sect.
 
1) Possibility of entering into relations with the planetary beings of the solar system;
2) Our cosmos has no more secrets for them because of their internal vision;
3) Knowledge of the future;
4) Possibilities of acting on matter;
5) Transmission of sound to great distance;
6) Limited influence upon the actions of other men;
7) Reading of others’ thoughts;
8) Spontaneous understanding of all languages;
9) Possibility of prolongation of the physical life (Elixir of a long life);
10) Healing of sick persons;
11) Power of duplication, etc.
 
For despicable little “Initiates”, confined in a small corner of the Created, that is not so bad!
 
But what is painful - and with which people play - is to oppose these possible faculties of the Mahatmas” to Christ’s virtues, to denounce them as incompatible, in order to succeed by “cultivated ignorance” to maintain the party spirit, instead of opening their arms to all men, without category or distinction!Though some be not ready for that universal embrace, we see that by limitation, being prejudiced, they try to impose it upon others.
 
O Astro (5--39) has estimated that in 1926, there still were in Japan 71,281 Buddhist temples frequented by 58,621,000 inhabitants.Where is Christianity in the Nippon Archipelago: according to La Luz del Porvenir which borrows the details from the great spiritualistic association Oomoto Internacia (in Esperanto), we believe now dissolved, and its leaders hunted down and incarcerated.Sixty years of evangelization by missionaries have succeeded in converting only 250,000 Japanese, a stable figure in spite of the enormous increase in population these last years.At the same time, new sects and religions with a Buddhist and Shintoist basis draw to themselves thousands and thousands of new believers:Oomoto, for instance, counts more believers than Christianity.
 
A man to all men must say:
 
Li-Tai-Pe was for China what Homer was for Greece and Ossian for Scotland.
 
Quan-Thánh-Đế-Quân was for China what Turenne was for France.
 
Buddha, LaoTze, Confucius were what They are and Thee, Thou, are a son of God as I am thy brother.Thy suffering is my suffering.Let my joy in being a son of God be thy joy in being my brother.
 

Buddha, LaoTze, Confucius were what they are and thou, and I, are sons of God.So as for Thee, thou art I and I am thee.If thou understandest that, afterwards thou shalt understand peace, harmony and the joy of being.

History and philosophy of Caodaism Part 3

History and philosophy of Caodaism Part 5

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