Spiritual Crisis and Transcendental Meditation

by Lit-sen Chang

 

I. A Movement to Destroy the Creator

After the first World War, Oswald Spengler, in his noted book The Decline of the West, warned mankind that the world-city is now soulless and that exact science must presently fall upon its own keen sword.1 This book, though widely read by the thinking people of the world both in the West and the East, only gives a diagnosis of the disease of modern man, but provides no positive answer, for it fails to explore the deep roots of human problems, and consequently its philosophy of history indicates no exit from the human endeavor. It is indeed ironic that while Spengler diagnosed the world-city as “soulless,” his remedy was also somewhat “soulless.”

Dr. Abraham Kuyper, a well known Dutch theologian and statesman, in his Stone Foundation Lectures on Calvinism, pointed out that the crisis of modern man “starts from the unbelief of the French Revolution.” He said, “Voltaire’s mad cry: ‘Down with the scoundrel,’ was aimed at Christ Himself; but this cry was merely the expression of the most hidden thought from which the French Revolution sprang. The fantastic outcry ‘We no more need a God,’ and the odious shibboleth ‘No God, no master’ of the Convention ... were the sacrilegious watchwords which at that time heralded the liberation of man as an emancipation from all Divine authority. The leaders of the French Revolution declared war against every religious confession, and henceforth God was to be considered as a hostile power, yea, even as dead.” (Here we discover the historic origin of the “death-of-God” movement!) “The principle of that revolution remains thoroughly anti-Christian and has since spread like a cancer, dissolving and undermining all that stood firm and constant before our Christian faith.” Since that time Christianity has been imperiled by the greatest and most serious of dangers: “Pantheism, born from the new German Philosophy and owing its concrete evolution-form to Darwin, claims for itself supremacy in every sphere of human life, even in that of theology, and under all sorts of names tries to overthrow our Christian traditions and is bent upon exchanging the heritage of our fathers for hopeless Buddhism.”2

The modern sensate culture, as a result of its alienation from the historic Christian faith, is thus going through a process of disintegration. Modern man has lost all metaphysical certainties and has substituted in their place the ideals of false security. In this age of tension and anxiety, while science has destroyed the refuge of the inner life and the false prophets provide no remedy for this soulless world-city, Zen (known as Hsin Tsung, meaning “mind doctrine” which teaches the way of full realization of the mind) steps in and appeals to the western mind weary of conventional religion and philosophy. It is the claim of Zen that it can reduce the tension of all opposites by leaping above them.3 For Zen claims to bring about the “unity of man and the universe,” to effect the “rhythm of the mind with the changing forms,” and to produce the state of “oneness.”4 It teaches such doctrines as non-duality, non-discrimination and non-differentiation by practicing Yoga and Transcendental Meditation.

Alan Watts, a former Episcopal priest, now an interpreter of Zen in the West, even asserts that the fundamental dynamics of the universe is the game of hide and seek, the play of yes-and-no. Hence, explicitly, the light and dark are enemies, but implicitly they are really friends, and not only twins, but they constitute a unity. Without an antithesis between the light and the dark, Alan Watts can explain away “original sin” in terms of “original illusion” in which the Creator seems to become the creature. It is the flaming sword that turns in all directions and guards the way of return to Paradise, preventing us from daring to recognize, upon pain of the utmost blasphemy, that we are each the Lord in hiding.5 However, such a view is nothing new, but simply reflects the iconoclastic stance of Zen, i.e., every man is a potential Buddha. Thus it is only natural for Alan Watts to conclude that “we are each the Lord in hiding.”

In order to eradicate such distinction, there is now a movement in the West “to remove the concept of a personal God and all that implies a salvation by grace alone. Salvation has no use for God”; thus we are told, “look to no Person or God for help.”6 John A. T. Robinson could even twist the story of the prodigal son in Luke to prove that a man’s reconciliation is to himself and not to God. He gives no solid treatment of man, or of sin, or of the Redeemer; and changes the vocabulary of theology—using “ultimate reality” or “ground of Being” for God, and leads only to greater confusion. For he argues that there is no God “up there” or “out there,” that the mental picture of such a God may be more of a stumbling block than an aid to belief in the Gospel. Here we see Robinson has actually “changed the truth of God into a lie” (Rom. 1:25)—for Zen-Buddhism!

Paul Tillich, who reduced all divine attributes to symbolic representation, likewise rejected a Deity who deprives him of his subjectivity because He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He asserted that “this is the God Nietzsche said had to be killed, because nobody can tolerate being made into a mere object of absolute knowledge and absolute control.”7 He further asserted that “God will remain somehow remote and ‘out there’ unless there is a complete turn about in which all references to the high and the beyond are translated into terms of depth. This infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all beings is God. That depth is what the word God means. He who knows about depth knows about God.”* His speculative philosophy postulated the “unconditioned” over against the God of the Bible and paved the way for the “death of God” movement. He was so credited by Thomas J.J. Altizer, one of the most articulate “death-of-God” theologians, who blasphemously asserted that “only the death of God can make possible the advent of a new humanity.”9

II. An Attempt to Deify the Creature

The radical proponents of the “Death of God” theology have taken upon themselves the “iconoclastic role” of Zen which was represented by one of the outstanding Zen masters, Linchi (or Rinzai), who advocated with all vehemence: “O! Brethren, If you want to grasp the correct view of Dharma . . . smash whatever you come across. . . . Smash the Buddha, Patriarchs and Arhats, smash your parents and all your relations if you come across them; . . . you will be in real emancipation.”10 In other words, the emancipation of man demands the death of Buddha and the absolition of all authority. In this respect, we could say that the “death-of-God” theology has nothing new to offer; it is simply the revival of the Spirit of Zen. Thus Altizer said; “Today, Buddhism is the religion that is most profoundly challenging Christianity (particularly in its Zen form). Contemplation [or Transcendental Meditation] is the highest of man’s activities. For therein he can become God and therein can he become immortal. Genuine Christianity is the ultimate form of rebellion.”11 This is indeed the spirit of anti-Christ!

Alan Watts stresses the spirit of Zen when he advocates that: “Every Easter Sunday should be celebrated with a solemn and reverent burning of the Holy Scriptures, for the whole meaning of the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven (which is within you) is that God-man-hood is to be discovered here and now inwardly, not in the letter of the Bible.” “The eternal home will never be found so long as you are seeking it for the simple reason that it is yourself. ... As soon as you realize that you are the center you have no further need to see it.”12 He completely disregards our Lord’s own promises and thus distorts biblical truth by alleging that: “In its early ages, the church was in constant expectation of the Parousia, the second coming of the Lord. Obviously, the church has been looking for the Parousia in the wrong direction—in the outward skies not in the realm of heaven which is ‘within.’ The true Parousia comes at the moment of crisis in consciousness.”13 Like other non-Christian scholars, this former Episcopal priest ignores the deadly problem of the sin of mankind, that we were dead through trespasses and sins, following the evil ways of this present age. Only Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility and reconciled us to God in one body through the Cross thereby bringing the hostility to an end.14 Man cut himself off from God by sin. It is only when sin is removed that we can have fellowship again. Thus it is not merely a psychological problem, as Alan Watts imagines, that “Centuries before Western psychology invented the idea of the unconscious aspect of one’s ‘own’ mind, Indian and Chinese philosophers devised experiments whereby consciousness could be expanded or deepened so as to include vast areas of experience entirely ignored (or ‘screened out’) by conscious attention as we are normally taught to use it. It was from such experience that the Indian and the Chinese derived their sense of unity and continuity between the depths of man (Atman) and the depths of the universe (Brahman).”15

Such a view is not only useless speculation, but also the work of “the mystery of iniquity.” It is essentially a rebellion of human nature against .the idea of objective order in general and is antagonistic to a personal God and the biblical revelation in particular. We are told that ultimate faith is not in or upon anything at all. According to Kierkegaard, the very idea of order in this objective world was the source of the slavery of man. This marks a shift or reaction in the trend of Western thought. This is a turning toward “inwardness” and makes the “mind” its own master.

This process of turning was called Dhyana in Sanskrit or Jhana in Pali; or Chan-na (or Ch’an) in Chinese and better known to Westerners as Zen. This turning to “inwardness” has been the mainspring of all philosophy down through the ages in India. According to the Upanishads, to know “Other is self” (“other” is but the objectification of the self) is the ultimate wisdom of the highest joy. If one could comprehend “Tat Tvam Asi” as expressed in the “Mahavakya” (which means “that thou art” or “the other is yourself,” “the eternal is in oneself,” “thou art the Eternal”), he is delivered from bondage to freedom. This is simply an attempt to absolutize or deify the creature (and make man sovereign and transcendental) as over against God; thus man becomes his own master and Savior.16 But this is a futile attempt rooted from the rebellious spirit of Lucifer! The Bible teaches that it is only “by grace we are saved” and made us truly “transcendental” to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (cf. Eph. 2:5,6).

III. An Avenue of Pseudo-escape

In the matter of the salvation of mankind, never has a generation possessed as many avenues of pseudo-escape as we have today. Now the West is confronted with a new menace. There is a search for the “world within,” the “limitless inner space,” for the “consciousness expansion” or “transcendental meditation”; for “Samadhi” and “Satori.” But all these psychological experiences or religious phenomena of natural man without spiritual regeneration are counterfeits and deceptive ways which only lead to eternal destruction and total separation from the God of the Bible!

In fact, as the late renowned psychologist Dr. Carl Jung pointed out, “The great neurosis of our time is emptiness.” Modern man is like a sheep without a shepherd, caught in the throes of anxiety and despair, absolutely devoid of any light of hope for the future. For instance, the Beatnik—the follower of “the lunatic way of Zen,”17 has somehow achieved a manner of life, but the empty expression on his face betrays the vacuum in his soul. His is a way of nihilism; for he has escaped from nothing to nothing. Though he might indulge himself in unlimited freedom in his way of thinking and living, “that freedom is like a ‘prison cell without a root’. Although one might soar high to the sky in his imagination or so called Transcendental Meditation, he is still bounded by four walls! His situation remains the same, he is still deep in the bottom of the cell and finds no way out.”18

When men knew God but refused to honor Him as God, all their thinking ended in futility and their misguided minds plunged into darkness, changing the truth of God into a lie. Because they did not open their minds to love of the truth, so as to find salvation, God puts them under a strong delusion which works upon them to believe in pseudo-religion and worship a false god.19

For this reason, since the beginning of this century, Zen has had a profound impact on the West, especially among the intellectuals. Even God’s own people are misled and intoxicated. They are fascinated with the spirit of Zen and think they have found the very key to unlock their problems. R. H. Blyth contends that “Zen is the most precious possession of Asia” and even feels that “it is today the strongest power in the world.”20 But, after all, what is Zen? The present author, a former advocate of Zen and promoter of TM, speaking from his own bitter experiences,21 believes it an utter fraud, only an avenue of pseudo-escape. It is not only religiously and logically unsound, but psychologically and socially detrimental. Zen is “a technique by which to achieve a mental breakdown.” The so-called “satori” is simply “the final critical collapse under the accumulative pressures of stress.” It is “a mental catastrophe,” “a piling up of intellectual frustrations that lead to the crumbling of the edifice of logical thought.” Although it is labeled as “the way of liberation,” it is rather a cult of iconoclasm, a disastrous surrender to Nihilism, a kind of mystical “self-intoxication”; “a childish dependence upon magical omnipotence,” a ridiculous substitution of “fire cracker-propelled garbage cans for space rockets,” and after all, a suicidal approach to “mind-murder.”

IV. A Venture of “Mind-Murder”

We are not surprised by this new trend in the Western mentality, for it was revealed by God nearly 2000 years ago that this must happen in the last days when perilous times shall come (I Tim. 4:1). In recent decades, Zen has aroused the curiosity of many in the West and it is exercising a great influence among intellectuals and students and even in the armed forces. While the truth of God has been changed into a lie and the psuedo-religion has become “the opiate of the people,” it is interesting to note that there is a tendency to make “the opiate” the “religion of the people.” Now the minds of the West are being captured by a “new religion”—”the Gospel according to LSD.”22

Alan Watts, a noted interpreter of Zen Buddhism in the West, relates this current movement to Zen; he says flatly that “LSD is quite emphatically a new religion. The God-is-dead trend is not unconnected. . . . This is technological mysticism.”23 If the opiate (LSD or any other technique such as Transcendental Meditation), becomes the religion of the people, the future of the nation is doomed to decline and fall! History teaches that the decadence of the people and the decay of religion were, as Edward Gibbon pointed out, the chief reasons for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The history of China offers a similar parallel. When Buddhism came to China, and especially after the development of Zen, the great empire also began to decline!

Modern man is fascinated by the experience of psychedelic (mind-manifesting) chemicals on human life. Seeking for “inner space of mind,” “consciousness expansion,” Transcendental Meditation, “superior activities of brain-mind-function,” “chemical escapism,” “Samadhi,” “Satori,” “Beatific Vision,” he even believes that the sacred biochemical such as LSD and cannobis are “hosts of God” and “sacraments of psychedelic religion,” which take refuge in “technological mysticism.” Just as the surgeon used drugs to kill or dull physical pains, false prophets try to apply drugs or ways of special discipline (Koan and Transcendental Meditation) to intoxicate the mind so as to relieve mental sufferings, including the anxiety and fear of death. But in fact, it is a venture of “mystical self intoxication” or “mind murder”!24

V. The Root of Human Problem

However, temporal release does not heal the disease, nor will psychotherapy save the soul. Although Dr. Suzuki claimed to have the courage to plunge into the abyss of Tathata without fear (as he wrote: “Zen does not find anything frightening in infinite possibilities and unlimited freedom”),25 he is like the LSD user who thought that he could fly, but was dashed to pieces! The roots of our problems are not in the mind, but in the soul. As one noted missionary working among the Buddhists observed, “the attainment of ‘satori’ does not touch the deepest level of human life. It does not reach down to the depths of conscience in its relation to God. Although a “cosmic awakening [or Transcendental Meditation] may bring a certain clarity and peace of mind to man, the life of faith has not been kindled at all.”26 Zen is known as the way of full realization of the mind, and “Koan” exercise is devised to discipline the mind and to stimulate the will. But without supernatural power, the will of man is a slave and is subject to “the law of sin.” So it is futile to discipline the mind through the “Koan” exercise, or Transcendental Meditation, or to take drugs to trigger metabolic processes and to have so-called “transcendental experience.” Without a complete change of human nature by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, one’s “transcendental experience” is never genuine. For both “Koan” and “LSD” are natural means which might be able to produce psychological or chemical reactions. But to expect supernatural experiences from natural means is entirely illogical. The flesh is flesh and the Spirit is Spirit. The difference is in kind, not in degree. A duck is a duck, and a chicken is a chicken; it is futile to train a chicken to swim like a duck; just as it is futile to try to “transcend” a person by meditation. Except a man be born again in the Spirit, he cannot see the heavenly things.27 And only those who are saved by His grace are raised up and enthroned in heavenly (truly “Transcendental”) realms in union with Christ Jesus. Our hope is only in the one Great Physician, the Great Psychiatrist from heaven. Only His supernatural work and divine power can set us on safe ground and fully answer the restless striving of our psyche and heal the disorder which results therefrom.

Our present crisis has its root in theology—our proper relation to God. Modern theologians have been misled by Schleiermacher. According to him, religion is essentially a sense of the infinite, more than trust in a personal God. His conception of religion makes it entirely subjective, a product of human factors, and ignores its relation to absolute truth.28

Thus, men are apt to be tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine and deceived by seducing spirits. One can be a “Christian” with his feelings and a heathen with his head. This is why an Episcopal priest like Alan Watts can be a Zen Buddhist. This is why Paul Tillich, a so-called theologian, could have keen interest in Zen Buddhism. This is why Thomas Altizer, while occupying his position in a Christian institute, can consider Buddhism the most challenging religion, and contemplation (Transcendental Meditation) the highest of man’s activity, for therein can he become God, since he feels that Nirvana and the kingdom of God are parallel and not contrary to each other.29 But true religion is not a matter of feelings. It embraces the entire man with all his thoughts, feelings and volitions. It has its seat in the heart, where all the faculties of the human soul are seen in their unity. The heart in the language of biblical psychology means “the focus of the personal and moral life” “for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). All the soul’s motions of life proceed from it and react upon it. It is the central organ of the soul. Religion is rooted in the image of God in man; man’s relation to God is central and involves the whole man.30 The heart of man was created for God and it cannot find rest until it rests in his Father’s heart. “Man, captive in the world, arises and says to himself: I shall go to my Father.”31 This is true religion and this is the only way of salvation, for “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). So shun “vain deceit after the tradition of man, after the rudiments of the world,” (such as Transcendental Meditation, etc.) and go back to God, for “history centers in Jesus Christ and passes over into theology.” “To Him return ye every one,” as Toynbee advocates.32 At this juncture of history and in this generation of tension and despair, we have an urgent message to preach, so that the tide of this age may be turned from total destruction to eternal salvation.


Notes

  1. Cf. O. Spengler: The Decline of the West, I, pp. 367, 424.
  2. Abraham Kuyper, Calvinism, pp. 10, 11, 18, 23.
  3. C. Humphreys, Zen Buddhism, p. 208.
  4. Alan Watts, Spirit of Zen, p. 121.
  5. Watts, Beyond Theology. The Art of Godmanship, pp. 34, 35, 75, 76, 81, 82.
  6. C. Humphreys, Zen Comes West, pp. 74, 203.
  7. Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, p. 185.
  8. Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, pp. 63, 64.
  9. Thomas Altizer, “Creative Negation in Theology,” The Christian Century, July 7, 1965, p. 865.
  10. The Sayings of Master Linchi, cp. Ogata, Zen for the West, p. 12.
  11. Altizer, Oriental Mysticism and Biblical Eschatology, pp.11, 23, 107.
  12. Watts, op. cit., pp. 115, 162.
  13. Watts, ibid, pp. 164-165.
  14. Cf. Ephesians 2:1-16.
  15. Watts, op. cit., pp. 212.
  16. Cf. Guru K. Dutt, Existentialism and Indian Thought, pp. 57, 62; Radhakrishnan, East and West, p. 20; Eastern Religions and Western Thought, pp. 20-33, 97-102.
  17. Cf. Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums.
  18. Surgit Singh, Christology and Personality, p. 166.
  19. Cf. Romans 1:21, 25; II Thessalonians 2:10-11.
  20. R. H. Blyth, Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics, p. vii.
  21. Chapter Five of this book.
  22. John Warwick Montgomery, “The Gospel According to LSD,” Christianity Today, Current Religious Thought, July 8, 1966.
  23. Time, June 17, 1966.
  24. Griffis, Religions in Japan, p. 255; Reischauer, Studies of Buddhism, p. 118.
  25. William Barrett (ed.), Zen Buddhism; Selected Writings of Suzuki, pp. 265-266.
  26. ReicheIt,Meditation and Piety in the Far East, pp. 16, 17.
  27. John 3:3, 27.
  28. L. Berkhof, Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology, p. 108.
  29. Cf. Altizer, Oriental Mysticism and Biblical Eschatology, pp. 11, 43, 178.
  30. Berkhof, op. cit., p. 109; Laidlaw, The Bible Doctrine of Man, p. 225.
  31. J. H. Bavinck, Inleiding in de Zielkunde, p. 277.
  32. ArnoldToynbee, “Civilization on Trial,” Preface, p. v.

Author

Dr. Lit-Sen Chang, Chinese apologist and theologian and scholar in Far Eastern philosophy, gave his life to the exposition and defense of the historic Christian faith. He was born in 1904 in China. From a young age he received a through education in the Confucian classics. As he witness his country on the verge of extinction, he cried out for national salvation through individual endeavor. He became a prolific writer.

Dr. Chang graduated from Fu Tan University, Shanghai, and at age 21 became a university professor in Peking. He studied law at the Sorbonne and traveled to the universities of Europe in search of China’s national salvation. He returned to China at 26, and was appointed professor at several leading universities. When Japan invaded China in 1937, Dr. Chang was recruited to important positions in the Nationalist Party, the National Government and the Supreme National Defense Council. After China’s victory in 1945, he won a seat to the Parliament of the Republic of China.Confronted by complex social ills in China, Dr. Change realized that the way to peace and national strength lay in the human heart. He immersed himself in Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. He felt called to regenerate Chinese culture and the religions of the East. He planned to visit India and strategize with scholars there to revive the traditional religions of Asia. At that point he heard the gospel, repented of his sin and committed his life to Jesus Christ. He gave up all his ambitions and studied at Gordon Divinity School. He was 53 by that time. He graduated summa cum laude, and served as professor of missions for many years. He was honored with Doctor of Literature degree from Wheaton College, and as “Distinguished Lecturer in Missions Emeritu” by Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

God Called Dr. Chang to the propagation of the Christian faith through literature. He wrote day and night in order to “give the reason for the hope” within us, and to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”. Dr. Chang boldly proclaimed the infinite God of the Bible, and critiqued humanistic thinking East and West. He lived a simple and diligent life, tirelessly writing with no regard for return or reward. His works in Chinese and English totaled over eighty volumes. His mature thought is seen in the four-volume Apologetics and the eight-volume Systematic Theology. These are not only valued for their scholarship, but form a unique treasure for the Body of Christ, as they edify the reader’s heart and inform the mind.


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