On Hinduism, Buddhism,
and Modern Cult of Self
A Remarkable Turnabout
Eastern Religions vs. the True Faith
2.The Challenge of Hinduism
Tolerance Beyond Belief
The Divinity of Self
3.The Buddha's Answer
4.Western Synthesis, Modern Style
From Self-Will to Self-Worship
From Self-Worship to Antichrist
5.The Invisible Reality
"A Measure of Truth"
Honesty is the Best Policy
Genuine, True, Godly?
Acid Trip as a Path to Heaven
6.The Strategic Goal
The Virus Principle
7. Conclusion: The End of the Game
"The religion of the future will not be a mere cult or sect, but a
powerful and profound religious orientation which will be
absolutely convincing to the mind and heart of modern man."
— Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future
This essay attempts to take a close look at Hinduism and Buddhism and clarify both the origins and the implications of their present success in the Western world. We will briefly review the history and basic tenets of these pagan religions and consider their links with modern Western culture. We will then look into the means which are used for their advancement, and phenomena typically associated with it. Finally, we will try to assess their role in the invisible battle currently under way for the souls of the mankind.
1.1 A Remarkable Turnabout
Ever since the Constantinian era, when Christianity first received legal status in the Roman Empire, its spread and influence was continually increasing: first in Europe and Near East, then farther and farther, all over the globe. There were certain impeding factors, to be sure — like the violent counter-offensive of Islam, creeping influence of Oriental sects and Judaism, and abuse of Latin crusades which turned the preaching of the Gospel of Life into a military operation or even into officially sponsored robbery — but by and large, for well over a thousand years Christian faith was expanding, reaching "the uttermost parts of the earth," giving rise to popular understanding of history as gradual triumph of the "Western civilization" which "brings the light of the Gospel to the uncivilized nations:" it seemed that such process of "enlightening the earth" would purge mankind of ancient pagan delusions and lead it straight into the Kingdom of God...
And regardless of differences in views and opinions on that matter, was there a single soul in Europe or in America sometime in mid-XIX century who would believe that in 150 years those "ancient pagan delusions" would not only be live and well, but also busy "enlightening" our own Christian lands and peoples?? Yet this is precisely what has been going on for a number of decades now.
Contemporary reference source on Hinduism , while assuring the mass audience that "Hinduism is not by nature a proselytizing religion," makes the following remarkable statement: "Yet, one of the most striking aspect of contemporary Western culture is its readiness to accept Eastern religious ideas in a way that is unprecedented since the days of the Roman Empire." It is noteworthy that the expression "striking aspect" applies not to the "Eastern religious ideas" which might have somehow been modified to better appeal to or lure the Christians; no, they apparently remain the same, while our native "Western culture," so familiar to us, is unexpectedly submitting itself to an alien influence...
1.2 Eastern Religions vs. the True Faith
Aquestion naturally emerging in any Comparative Religion study is to compare and contrast the religion(s) in question with the Orthodox Christianity. To a large extent, it is the subject of modern Orthodox classics, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future by Fr. Seraphim (Rose) . The author, concerned with the ideology of Ecumenism and its proliferation (in the 1970-es) among the Orthodox believers, based on many sources — both contemporary observations and patristic writings — demonstrates quite clearly and convincingly the deadly fallacy of so-called "Christian Ecumenism," a doctrine which seeks to "unite" Christianity with pagan religions or "re-formulate" either of them to effect some sort of "inclusion." Chapters II through V — nearly 1/3 of the entire book — are devoted basically to the single end: to the proof that ancient Oriental religions, Hinduism and Buddhism in particular, are irreconcilable with and hostile to Christianity on the most profound level.
Much can be also said about important partial truths contained in the Eastern religions. The same author writes elsewhere: "There have been, of course, other forms of coherence than Christianity... Men who believe and follow, for example, the traditional Hindu of Chinese view of things, possess a measure of truth and of peace that comes from truth — but no absolute truth..." [8, p.46]. This "measure of truth," mentioned further down in this essay, has to be carefully studied by every conscious Christian: what in the past was a basis for peaceful exchange and mutual respect among the people of different faith, today has become a beachhead of the enemy offensive.
The fundamental differences between the Christian faith and Oriental religions having been so thoroughly explored, there is no reason to do it again: Orthodoxy does not need any better defense from Hinduism and Buddhism than that presented by Fr. Seraphim. This essay does not focus on re-iterating that such-and-such belief or practice is contrary to Christian doctrine and detrimental to personal spiritual life: a Christian reader can certainly come to appropriate conclusions on his own.
2. The Challenge of Hinduism
2.1 Tolerance Beyond Belief
Hinduism is a vast and very complicated set of religious, social and cultural elements. It is hardly possible to call it a "system," precisely because of its vastness. Moreover, even the definition itself becomes blurred and unclear: "Every attempt at a specific definition of Hinduism has proved unsatisfactory in one way or another, the more so because the finest scholars of Hinduism, including Hindus themselves, have emphasized different aspects of the whole" .
This, in fact, rather than being simply a hindrance to study, is an extremely important feature of Hinduism and related Eastern religions. By its very nature, and not by some sort of imperfection or immaturity, Hinduism is flexible and inclusive beyond any traditional measure. "Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitation the selection or elimination of any... Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in any manifestation... A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu" . A question whether or not the "embraced" religion remains itself or gradually turns into something else is touched upon further down.
At any rate, Hindu religious and philosophical thought considers mutual tolerance of different, sometimes mutually exclusive schools towards one another its greatest strength: as the result, "Hindu thinkers can grasp the most complicated problems of the Western philosophy with remarkable ease" [3, p.18]. Furthermore, "Because religious truth is said to transcend all verbal definition, it is not conceived in dogmatic terms" . Just like Orthodox Christianity, Hinduism claims to be "not merely a teaching, but a way of life."
2.2 The Divinity of Self
Thus, in order to describe Hinduism one has to rely on a set of certain characteristic features, common among various groups and teachings comprising that religion. Some of these features, while being ancient in origin, stable throughout the history, and profound in their role, are manifest mostly in the social realm of the Hindu life (like the caste structure of society: "Ask a Brahmin to explain in a nutshell what Hinduism is all about, and he will tell you: it's the caste system" [7, p.15]), or on the abstract level of the Hindu mind (the religious authority of the Veda sources); among the features more closely related to the everyday reality the most prominent one is the concepts of Brahman and atman.
Brahman is widely understood as the ultimate objective reality or principle; apophatically it can be described as non-created, having no cause, no beginning or end in time, no limits or boundaries in space, no attributes and qualities, and nothing larger or more profound than itself. Thus, Brahman could be associated with God, but that would not be accurate and sufficient. Moreover, in a certain sense personality of a god (Vishnu) can be ascribed to Brahman as well. By and large, Hindu have Brahman as a centerpiece of their religious world view.
If Brahman is the ultimate objectivity, then the ultimate Self, ultimate subjectivity is known as atman. Atman is commonly referred to as the "soul of every thing"; sometimes, distinction is made between atman and Atman — particular soul and Universal soul. At any rate, the origin of the word atman is the same as breath, likepneuma or äóõú, äóøà. In many cases, atman and self are used as synonyms [3, p.335].
The relation between the two basic notions of Hinduism is the most peculiar one: it is that of identity. Although understanding of this identity and techniques of attaining to it differ significantly in different schools of Hindu thought, the heart of the matter remains the same: atman is Brahman. Towards this identity, towards the fullest and broadest awareness of it, should be directed any reasonable human life: "Anyone who has not fully realized that his being is identical with Brahman is... seen as deluded" .
Needless to say, the significance of this fundamental principle is enormous. This essay is certainly no place to elaborate on its theological and metaphysical implications; suffice it is to remind that the backbone of both Christian world view and personal Christian life — sacrifice of love — demands a clear-cut distinction between the subject and the object.
Little wonder, then, that the hallmark of Hinduism, with all its tolerance and inclusiveness, is pure and unadulterated pride. "The appeal of Hinduism is full spectrum; there are blandishments for every faculty and appeals to every weakness, but particularly to pride..." — testifies an ex-Hindu practitioner, — "Original sin was marvelously transmuted into Original Divinity. This was my birthright, and nothing I could ever do would abrogate this glorious end. I was Divine. I was God: "the Infinite Dreamer, dreaming finite dreams" [9, p.34].
3. The Buddha's Answer
Having originated from India, and with its most important area of influence in that subcontinent, Buddhism shares with Hinduism certain fundamental tenets; just like Hinduism, it has split into a number of loosely related teachings and traditions. One major external distinction, however, sets Buddhism apart from its larger and older sibling: its descent, real or perceived, from the single historical source in the person of Gautama the Buddha.
Gautama, a nobleman from Northwest India, lived about 500 years BC. As a young man, upset by the wrongs of the world and prevalent suffering, he renounced his rank and possessions and became a wanderer, in search of the spiritual knowledge and perfection. After long and hard exploits, Gautama gained the "great enlightenment" and became the Buddha (such is the meaning of the word); disciples who gathered around him gave origin to a school of thought and devotion known as Buddhism.
From a traditional Hindu viewpoint, Buddhism is a non-orthodox ("nastika")[3, p.19] teaching: it rejects the authority of the Veda and the caste social structure. The Buddha starts off with the observation of the human suffering as a fact of life, which he links with the impermanent, transitory nature of the objects of human interests and desires. But then, unlike Hinduism which questions the reality or veracity of any or all of those objects, the Buddha takes a bold step: he denies the reality behind the subject of existence and suffering. In Buddhism, self does not exist: atman is nothing.
Buddhism perceives human life as an arduous path to a precious goal (sharing this attitude with Hinduism as well as with Orthodoxy, at the same time differing drastically from most brands of non-Orthodox Western Christianity). The goal is the enlightenment, or nirvana, often compared with quenching of fire of illusion, passions and cravings, — or, in other words, with the liberation from the bonds of existence (which is not real, anyway). By its very nature, "nirvana cannot be delineated in a way that does not distort or misrepresent it. But... nirvana can be experienced — and experienced in this present existence — by those who, knowing the Buddhist truth, practice the Buddhist path" .
Notice this emphasis on "not merely a teaching, but rather a way of life" which was mentioned above: In Buddhism its appeal is yet stronger than in traditional Hinduism, for two different but related reasons: a) the "law of karma," while in general accepted in Buddhism, has a somewhat lower priority here, subject to the deliverance through a sudden "enlightenment," with a promise of the eternal bliss here and now to a diligent practitioner; b) once the enigmatic but cognizable atman gives way to a void ("anataman," ) in the center of things, the whole notion of truth becomes in fact inapplicable: truth of what? hence, in any teaching the accent has to be shifted away from knowledge towards attitude or practice.
It should also be noticed that primitive pride of traditional Hinduism, epitomized by the system of castes, is not shared by the Buddhists; in fact, it has developed a monastic tradition with consistent discipline of charity, self-denial and humility. Later we will see how these features are put to work in the modern Western world.
4. Western Synthesis,
Direct influence of Hinduism upon the Western Christianity can be traced back to the year 1893, when Swami Vivekanandra made his appearance at the "World Parliament of Religions" in Chicago. He was a disciple of Ramakrishna, a Hindu religious leader who by all accounts should be credited as the "spiritual father" of modern Ecumenism (he is said to have realized that "all religions are true"). The Ramakrishna Mission through this day remains "the most important modern organization of reformed Hinduism".
Our interest, however, is more logical than historical: we will try to determine the affinity between the religious principles of Hinduism and Buddhism described above with the actual trends in thought and culture which has led the Western Christian civilization to its current state. This will not, of course, make us look at those trends, past or present, as mere "borrowings" from the East; it will rather explain the current successes in the advancement of Hindu and Buddhist teachings, and, even more importantly, help understand the significance of the "Ramakrishna Mission."
The notion of modernity, as we use it in this chapter, is not quite precise: in a broad sense, it goes back to the time when the church of Rome split from the universal (catholic, in the proper meaning) Christianity; in other aspects, it applies only to the last century or even more recent past.
4.1 From Self-Will to Self-Worship
Of the three components of a human personality — mind, emotions, and will, — the latter has often been neglected. While scholars, thinkers, artists and writers were preoccupied with what man knows and how he feels, in the Orthodox Christian world view it is the free will which sets a human being apart from the rest of God's creation, providing the basis for our accountability, that poorly explainable but very real fact of human life. By no coincidence, it is also a bridge which connects the present and the future life of men: without free will there is no accountability, without accountability — no Judgment. And, in defiance of a common fallacy, but in accord with the Fathers, let us remember that true faith and true love come not from the emotions, neither from the mind, but from the free human will.
Christian view on the connexion between the will, rather than knowledge and feelings, on one hand, and the human destiny on the other, is summarized in the closing statement to a chapter in The Ladder by St. John of Mt. Sinai: "At the exit of our souls we will not be condemned, O brethren, for not having worked miracles, not having been theologians, not having attained to apparitions; but beyond any doubt we will give account to God for not having wept ceaselessly about our sins" (7:70). Remarkably, engineering savvy and knowledge of nature accumulated by mankind offer a solid confirmation to this ancient truth about what makes a human being. Indeed, today we have learned that deep, near-human emotions can be found in the animal kingdom, and what just 50 years ago was a subject of lofty discourse among philosophers and cyberneticians (notice the disappearance of this word from the scientific lexicon) — like machines playing chess and composing verse or music — today is merchandise in a discount computer store.
Thus, the Christian West withstood the diseases of reason (Scholasticism), emotions ("Renaissance") or both (Reformation); it took the revolution of human will to shatter it. Nietzsche is always cited as its herald; Dostoevsky in The Possessed spoke of the same. But neither Nietzsche nor Dostoevsky, nor any of their modern followers, invented anything of their own: they simply bore witness to what they saw in the world around them. "The attribute of my godhead is self-will," — says Kirillov in The Possessed, summarizing some two hundred years of Humanist thought and roughly a century of practical revolutionary work in Europe. What followed was but natural consequences.
"The new religion, the religion not yet fully revealed that will succeed the old religion of Christianity to which modern man thinks by now to have delivered the final blow — is supremely the religion of self-worship" [8, p.52]. In just 40 years since Fr. Seraphim wrote these words, "the religion not fully revealed" has become part and parcel of the human mentality, with its "feel-good-about-myself" above all. And of course, non-Orthodox churches are permeated with this spirit. An article by a secular journalist in a secular magazine makes a sober observation regarding the Episcopalian Church: "The main idea behind [their] pastoral theology is that priests should help parishioners feel good about themselves. This is fine, except that much of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is specifically designed to make people feel bad about themselves — to wake them from their self-satisfying languor..." [2, p.22] Is it surprising that today Ramakrishna is much more welcome in the "mainstream" churches than Jesus?
4.2 From Self-Worship to Antichrist
There is, however, much more to it. By the end of the XX century Nietzsche's Superman has degenerated (or rather naturally developed) into a scared, vulnerable, and dumb creature, a consumer of TV news and commercials, a respondent to opinion polls and impulse shopper — a "post-modern man." Likewise, the utopian excitement of the recent past has given way to the gloomy madhouse of "political correctness," militant mediocrity and reciprocal lawsuits recycling any social or personal encounter into cash... Nietzsche is surely spinning in his grave. What Fr. Seraphim coined subhumanity in the avant-guard art and philosophy  is now everywhere. Superman has plunged into subhumanity and does not feel great about himself any longer.
This is, indeed, a natural process. As Nietzsche announced and everyone agreed, man has killed God and put himself into His place in the center of his world view. And this would be just fine, except that one's world view is not like an average avant-guard picture which you can hang on the wall any side up; it is more like windshield in your car. If your windshield is not clear and straight, you will end up in the ditch.
And it is neither clear nor straight for the "post-moderns": man is neither a "well-organized system of cells," nor a measure of all things; all religions are not the same; atman isn't Brahman. For a faithful Christian all this is a matter of faith; an honest observer will be moved in that same direction by observation and reasoning. Unfortunately, those who have traded both reason and faith for self-worship cannot get them back: subhumanity is a one-way street.
The spectacular failure of self-worship brings about the next move, similar to that which once led the Buddha away from Hinduism. Man does not fit well in the center; man has to be done away with. In his place remains nothing. No surprise that it was Nietzsche himself who visualized nothingness behind the joy of the Superman. "What is the god of the Nihilist? — asks Fr. Seraphim in his work on the subject [10, p.70] — It is nihil, nothingness... of apostasy and denial, it is the "corpse" of the "dead God" which so weighs upon the Nihilist... The Nihilist wills the world, which once revolved about God, to revolve now about — nothing."
Obviously, it cannot be a steady state. "At the present moment of man's spiritual history — a moment, admittedly, of crisis and transition — a dead God, a great void, stands at the center of man's faith" [ibid.]. The void has to be filled. Who will do that? It will not be God: man has killed Him. Not man either: he has tried and miserably failed. Then who? Someone who can impersonate God, take place of God... this is an accurate definition of Antichrist.
Certain traditional qualities of Antichrist — "A humanitarian world-ruler... [who will] turn creation upside-down by making darkness seem light, evil good, slavery freedom, chaos order; he is the ultimate protagonist of the philosophy of the absurd..." [9, p.54] — on the verge of the XXI century seem more like a checklist for an average Federal politician. But it does not yet mean that anyone can fill the void; let us not forget that "even now there are many antichrists" (1Jn. 2:18), bearers of "spirit of Antichrist" in the world (4:3). The "eerie expectancy" of those who have discovered the hard way that "atman is nothing" is for someone of a larger caliber. "Men today wait for Godot — who is, perhaps. on one level, Antichrist, — in the hope that he will bring appeasement of conscience and restore meaning and joy to self-worship" [9, p.53]. Superman needs a hand to pull him out of the ditch of subhumanity.
5. The Invisible Reality
5.1 "A Measure of Truth"
Connected so broadly and deeply with the critical features of modern life, Eastern religions no longer need anyone's 'Ecumenical hospitality' in the West: they are at home here. "In its quiet, compassionate way it is perhaps the saddest of all the reminders of the 'post-Christian' times in which we live. Non-Christian 'spirituality' is no longer a foreign importation in the West; it has become a native American religion..." [9, p.94].
The reason for Fr. Seraphim's fervent tone in the Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future is not primarily dogmatic (who among sane Orthodox Christians would possibly argue against his conclusions?) but rather pastoral: substantial number of young Orthodox, as well as those who could or would become Orthodox converts, were influenced by "Christian Ecumenism," and Fr. Seraphim by his book achieved a very important goal of sobering them up and dissuading them of their delusion.
Notice with this regard that for those who have little knowledge and/or appreciation of the Orthodox Christianity, his approach seems not quite relevant: they would listen to all his explanations and reasoning and say: "Yes, that's right, 'Christian Zen' and 'Transcendental Meditation' are indeed very far from patristic Christianity. But who cares? the same can be said even about the Episcopal church! What's your problem?..." Even though in fact their reaction might be different (and we will see why), it gives us the first insight into why the contemporary Western culture is so helpless against the onslaught of the Eastern religions.
Another, deeper reason for that helplessness is the "measure of truth" which is found in the Eastern religions: it is totally missing from modern Western Christianity with its supermarket approach to religion in general, its notion of Ultimate Truth as a set written statements (thanks to computer programming, this folly has become widely exposed) and its legalistic view of Salvation. Eastern religions are forcing the West to pay the bill for its excesses, deviations and fallacies of the past 1,000 years, with hefty interest.
By contrast with non-Orthodox Christianity (which in many cases should not be spelled without quotes any more), a Hindu or Buddhist practitioner finds first and foremost "not merely a teaching, but a way of life." It is a religious life which he finds, seemingly antagonistic to the entire modern world (that's why he values it so highly in the first place); in that life the invisible reality is not shunned or mocked, but stays in the limelight and runs the show. We have to find out what kind of invisible reality it is.
5.2 Honesty is the Best Policy
An article  by Fr. Damascene (Christensen) is addressing just such people who in search for the religious truth have turned from shallow, "politically correct" main-line Protestantism to Oriental religions. In fact, the entire issue of The Orthodox Word magazine where that article appears is dedicated to a mission "From Eastern Religions to Eastern Orthodoxy." Fr. Damascene opens his article with a paragraph describing his past experiences in Zen meditation. "To this day, — he goes on, — I consider it a real experience, an insight into eternity. The problem was not in the insight, but in my interpretation of it..." Further down he quotes Fr. Sophrony (Sakharov) of Mt. Athos commenting in His Life Is Mine on the same subject and adds: "Fr. Sophrony, having been [in his young age] a yogi himself, did not deny the truth of the experiences of trans-personal consciousness. He was not an externally-minded Christian, enslaved in the letter of the law, who would just dismiss the experience of non-Christian spiritual practitioners as being evil and demonic."
Obviously, we cannot expect a comprehensive study from a missionary article: its goal is to win the hearts (not only minds!) of non-Christian readers. But irrespective of how successful that missionary attempt might be, let us notice an interesting fact about Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, written by that author's beloved teacher and spiritual father. The book was addressed, as mentioned above, to the Orthodox reader and unlikely to influence anyone else; nevertheless, it is on record for bringing numerous souls from diverse delusions to Orthodoxy. That is the case because "winning the heart" is a lot more than saying pleasant words. Fr. Seraphim sought to please no one; he was telling the stark truth in stark words, contrary to the prevailing attitude of self-worship, engaging the enemy on the terms he preferred, fighting him with the weapon of his choice, the weapon of truth, — and winning.
What, then, did Fr. Seraphim have to say about "trans-personal consciousness" and the like? "The last blandishment that I will mention... is 'spiritual experiences'. These are psychic and/or diabolic in origin... Don't think that what they see, hear, smell and touch in these experiences are the result of simple mental aberration. They aren't. They are what our Orthodox tradition calls prelest (planh, spiritual deception, delusion). It is an important word because it refers to the exact condition of a person having Hindu 'spiritual experiences'" [9, p.36]. It remains to be asked of Fr. Damascene, whom did he allude to as "externally-minded" and "enslaved in the letter of the law?"
5.3 Genuine, True, Godly?
Let us go a step farther and sort out what we know about the invisible reality in the Oriental religions. Certainly, it is much more complicated than a $100 bill which is either true and a neat thing to have, or counterfeit and then you are in trouble. In the classic example of a stunning magical show of a Hindu "holy man" suddenly disrupted by a silent Orthodox prayer [9, p.56], there is no doubt as to the demonic nature of that miracle (which sheds some light on the conditions of the high-praised Hindu tolerance), but on the other hand, its whole meaning and power was in showing to the astonished viewers the very true picture from their past!
From numerous accounts, and sometimes from personal experience, we know that the forces of darkness, a.k.a. demons, can disclose certain truths to men, often with tangible benefits for the latter (treasures discovered, crucial warnings issued, means of healing provided, etc.). The reason behind those short-term benefits is very simple: to lure people into a long-term submission to said forces... Does it always happen this way? Not necessarily: God is merciful, he gives men resolve and strength to fight their invisible oppressors, get rid of them and return to True God — basically, like in everyone else's spiritual battle. Is it then an excuse for getting involved with those forces and enjoying those benefits?
Yet another important note: in our day of dumb pseudo-scientific materialism, it is all too common to dismiss any 'spiritual experience' as illusory or fake. Numerous con-artists, sects and cults help this perception a great deal, but it is dead wrong to equate Hindu and Buddhist religion with con-art. And who do you think is the happiest because of such popular "state of denial"? Confronted with a question like "Do you believe in witches?" (sorcerers, evil spirits, spells etc.) even some faithful Christians are quick to reply with an emphatic "No!" instead of observing: "I have no business believing in them, I know about them — but they are notorious for evading light."
We can summarize our assessment of the invisible reality in the Oriental religions as follows. Is it genuine, that is, neither fraudulent nor fantastic? — yes. Is it true, that is, correctly reflecting the objective world? — sometimes. Is it godly, that is, manifesting One God in Trinity? — never.
5. Acid Trip as a Path to Heaven
Narcotics need no introduction. "One young man, — tells Fr. Damascene about his Zen years — ...told me how, when on an acid trip, he had gone further and further, deeper and deeper, inside himself..." [4, p.220]. Then he, of course, decries such pursuits: "Was that Ultimate Reality, this Impersonal Force of the universe, then, something that modern people could come to know simply by taking a drop of acid, while all the holy people of the past ages had struggled throughout their lives to know It?..." [ibid.] But what for an Orthodox author is but a vivid illustration of the follies of his unfortunate fellow-travelers on the spiritual path, is no rhetorical question at all for someone else with a different background. In fact, many serious authors who had taken on such question came up with a definitive Yes for an answer.
One of them, probably among the most serious, is Stanislav Grof, M.D., a psychiatrist who spent many years studying the effects of LSD on his patients, when such research had not yet been outlawed for socio-political reasons. His book , a summary of his clinical studies, is a singularly interesting document, describing a wide variety of cases with "unusual experiences" from a skeptical, even antagonistic point of view (unfortunately, to a large extent beyond normal confines of decency). But probably the most remarkable case, though not really presented as a "case," is that of the author himself: an honest professional, originally a Freudist and materialist to boot, whose world view was shattered literally "by a drop of acid" which he administered to his patients (who, by and large, did not suffer from any disease but volunteered to be tested with the new promising substance).
This is no place to give an account of Dr. Grof's extensive study: let us just take a very brief look at what could be called "religious experiences." The book, indeed, is filled with such "experiences" and reads like a reference manual on religious cults: Adonis, African tribal rituals, Ahura Mazda, Ahriman, animism, Apollo, Astarte, Atman-Brahman union, Babilonian religion, bacchanalia, belly dancing, black magic, Black Mass, Black Sabbath, Boddhissattva, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha... (make no mistake, all studies took place in Czechoslovakia and the US). Obviously that was before the age of Political Correctness; but wouldn't it be odd not to see Christianity mentioned at all? Well, "Christian experiences" are mentioned, just a few times, like in this list of the most popular objects of self-identification: "...Emperor Nero, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theresa, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, and Sri Ramana Maharishi" [5, p.180], or another list of "spiritual guides and enlightened beings:" "Sri Ramana Maharishi, Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, Ghandi, or Jesus Christ" [p.197].
As if deliberately designed (not by Dr. Grof himself, to be sure: he seems to be quite sincere and at times even naive) to counter-balance the all-too obvious conclusion, there is a case in the book of a specifically Christian experience, only one, but fairly extensive and described in detail [p.145-149], of a clergyman undergoing a "training LSD session." It is, indeed, based on Christian images, filled with Christian concepts and reflections. In what can be seen as sober, trustworthy and powerful expressions the clergyman describes what happened to him in the world he has discovered.
A sequence of various death-related scenes moved him towards a universal vision, towards the perception of some universal Whole. Finally, it culminates as follows: "Now the panic, the terror were all gone; all that was left was the anguish and the pain as I participated in the death of all men. I began to experience the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. I was Christ, but I was also everyone as Christ and all men died (cf. Gal. 2:19-20)... At this time in my experience there was no longer any confusion; the visions were perfectly clear. The pain was intense, and the sorrow was just, just agonizing. It was at this point that a blood tear from the face of God began to flow. I did not see the face of God, but his tear began to flow, and it began to flow out over the world as God himself participated in the death of all men..." [p. 147].
You might stop right here in complete bewilderment: is it, indeed, the Ultimate Reality in a drop of acid, with our judgment of the ungodly nature of such "experiences" overturned?? You might even start praying that the demonic trap is exposed, that the Lord gives you a hint, — and behold, it is right there, on the next line: "We made our way in the dirgelike procession toward Golgotha... I was crucified with Christ and all men on the cross..." Wait a minute: there was, indeed, a huge crowd moving in a procession toward Golgotha, but in no way were all men going to die with Christ. They were going to kill Him, or to rejoice at seeing Him killed, and they did just that. And that has made all the difference.
This could be called "a happy end" (for the reader, though not for the hapless clergyman), thanks to God's mercy in allowing such testimony, and Dr. Grof's professional integrity in getting it recorded. Let us not forget, however, that an innocuous outcome of a encounter with graceless 'spirituality', be it LSD-induced or not, may never be taken for granted.
6. The Strategic Goal
6.1 Natural Immunity
According to Tertullian, "human soul is a Christian by nature." This statement, when properly understood, gives us the most precise reason behind the advancement of the Oriental religions, — that is, the strategic reason in the battle plan of the enemy. Indeed, many voices who try to sound impartial are quick to point out that Buddhism defends the same 'core values' as Christianity: love of fellow men, meekness, humility, self-sacrifice, rejection of the world... "This is sheer nonsense, — they chide us, — to attack Buddhism as an enemy of Christianity. Just look around at the real perils: selfishness, lewdness, dumbing-down, greed, violence, materialism, and money, money, money... Don't you see that the ancient religions, particularly Buddhism, are on our side in fighting them?"
Yes, those are real perils, and we have to fight back. If a Buddhist group works to purge public schools of pornography or to improve conditions for home schooling, Christians are justified to see them as allies. But if the same group offers cooperation in 'spiritual upbringing of children', it has to be rejected unconditionally. As the Russian saying goes, "a goose is not a friend to a swine."
The perils listed above are bad, but in a sense not bad enough. True, they ruin many souls, — but only those who had renounced Christ or had not known Him in the first place. A Christian afflicted by them — if he is a conscious Christian — will certainly find the way out to repentance and recovery. They are like bacteria which cause sickness, but cannot stand against the immune system. If the human soul is a Christian by nature, it has built-in immunity against all those primitive vices: this is proven by the fact that decent people of various faiths and backgrounds equally despise them.
What, then, can we expect from the enemy, if the weapons he implements against us are not powerful enough, if our natural immunity keeps us, by and large, intact? You don't need to be a great strategist to realize: he will be out to fool our immune system.
6.2 The Virus Principle
In one of his best articles , looking at the destruction of Russia, V. N. Trostnikov contemplates the metaphor of a virus: an error, a "bug" introduced into the genetic code of a cell, small enough not to be noticed by the immune system, but serious enough to kill the cell and produce countless new viruses... In fact, it is much more than a metaphor: it is the principle by which the enemy fights us. Having no creative power of himself, he lives by our errors, by our failures in discerning between good and evil (in other words, by the immune system failures). Satan is an ape of God.
"Of all of today's Eastern religious currents, Zen is probably the most sophisticated intellectually and the most sober spiritually," — observes Fr. Seraphim [9, p.94], agreeing, as it seems, with the Buddha's advocates, only to remind us about the "virus principle": "With its teaching of compassionate and loving 'Cosmic Buddha', it is perhaps as high a religious ideal as the human mind can attain — without Christ. Its tragedy is precisely that it has no Christ in it, and thus no salvation, and its very sophistication and sobriety effectively prevents its followers from seeking salvation in Christ."
That's where the real trouble is. The enemy is too smart to rely on sweepstakes, soap operas, triple-X-rated movies and fat liability lawsuits: whom would he win with these means? only those who belong to him anyway. As noticed above, to win the final battle against Christianity, Antichrist has to literally replace God: this seems like logical impossibility, unless the Christian faith is first eroded and disfigured with the notion of an Impersonal God which resembles the True One, like a virus-infected cell.
6.3 Impersonal God
The following remarkable dialog with Fr. Seraphim (Rose) is related by Fr. Damascene [4, p.226]: "I asked him: 'Where did the idea of an Impersonal God come from?' 'That concept', — he said, — comes from people who don't want to meet the personal God, because He definitely requires things of one..." This first encounter with Fr. Seraphim became the turning point in the author's life.
It might be argued that the Buddhist "Eightfold Path" is also a substantial set of ethical requirements, — but they are impersonal by nature, like those of a modern bureaucratic super-state imposed on a once-free citizen. Impersonal requirements indeed do exist, and can be even "religiously" complied with, but in the absence of the One Who requires they remain empty. Following them has no meaning, no substance for man; no impersonal requirements can ever cause him to cry out:
"I awaited Thy salvation, O Lord, and Thy commandments have I loved.
My soul hath kept Thy testimonies and hath loved then exceedingly."
Impersonal requirements convey no love. Impersonal God is not a God of love. Man need not and will not burn for such God, and that's exactly what the enemy wants.
"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So that because thou art lukewarm, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
While the once-Christian denominations reduce Personal God to mockery of "me and my buddy Jesus" or "sign the dotted line to receive salvation," modern man is driven out to search for Him by demand of his Christian soul, — and falls into a deadly trap. The virus of Impersonal God puts out the flame of love and carefully replaces it with a warm and fuzzy feeling — so carefully that no one can tell what exactly has happened, and, in fact, no one cares any longer.
The End of the Game
Fra Girolamo Savonarola summarized the age-old Christian teaching of the spiritual battle in the following sharp image: "Throughout your whole life Satan is playing chess with you, to mate your king at the time of your death." Let us also remember, that an individual human life, of which he was speaking, has certain similarities with the lives of human societies, nations, and with the history of mankind in general.
No one would claim with certainty that "the time of our death" is near; but it would be equally unwise to claim that it is not near. If so, we can expect changes in the enemy's game plan. He will not be concerned with inflicting damage upon us by taking our minor pieces; pressed by the time constraint, he will charge our king — our Holy Faith — to trap and lock it before the final bell (or trumpet).
And if we carefully look around, we will agree that it might be, indeed, later than we think.
The Buddha and Buddhism: Britannica Online
Carlson, Tucker. The Episcopalian Church in Crisis. The Weekly Standard, October 13. 1997.
Chatterjee, S., Datta, D. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. Calcutta, 1954.
Christensen, Fr. Damascene. Personal God. The Orthodox Word, vol. 32:5, 1996.
Grof, Stanislav. Realms of the Human Unconscious. New York, 1976.
Hinduism: Britannica Online
In the Footsteps of Apostle Thomas. An interview with Fr. V. Zubkov. Radonezh, #15, October 1998 (in Russian).
Rose, Fr. Seraphim. Subhumanity. The Orthodox Word, vol. 18:5, 1982.
Rose, Fr. Seraphim. Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. Platina, 1990.
Rose, Fr. Seraphim. Nihilism. Forestville, 1994.
Trostnikov, V. N. The Plague of the XX Century. Veche, #35, 1989 (in Russian).Go to the top
Missionary Leaflet # E69d
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran