Cao Dai
Cao Dai is a Vietnamese religion that began in 1925 with a
vision of the Supreme Being given to Ngo Van Chieu. In the
vision he was asked to spread the message of the unity of religion.
God, as the source of all, began different religions at different
times for different people. In the light of modern transportation
and communication, however, it is time for all
religions to unite around their common Source. Ngo was assured
that other messages would be received from spiritual beings
in God’s service. Out of the original revelation, a new religion
and hierarchy (somewhat modeled on Roman
Catholicism) emerged. Integral to the structure has been a
groups of mediums (some of whom practiced automatic writing)
who have continued communications with various spiritual
beings. Some of the revelations were received by a practice similar
to the planchette. Mediums would turn a basket upside
down and insert a pencil through it in such a way that the moving
basket left a written message behind. All officers in the
church are approved by such a spiritualist message. Their presence
is a primary sign of the influence of theosophy and
French Spiritualism on the movement from its beginning.
Cao Dai developed as a synthesis of religions, trying to take
universal truths and insights common to Christianity, Buddhism,
Taoism, Confucianism, and Genism (all present in Vietnam),
as well as Theosophy and Spiritualism. It later included
Islam, Zorastrianism and Hinduism in its research. Among the
common beliefs that the Cao Dai have asserted is the belief in
the One God, the ongoing connection of each religion to its
source, and the principles of love and justice. It is the assertion
of Cai Dao, that any believer following the esoteric practice of
their present religion will lead them to the same ultimate goal.
The Cao Dai also teach a set of esoteric practices that attempt
to transform matter into vital energy and then into spiritual
energy. A basic meditation exercise utilizes the subtle body
anatomy derived from Tantra, including activation of the energy
centers known as chakras and the raising of kundalini energy.
The Cao Dai grew across Vietnam, but was profoundly effected
by the Vietnamese War and the suppression of religion
under the post-war government. During this time it spread quietly
within the Vietnamese expatriate communities around the
world. In the 1990s it has suddenly emerged into public notice
as it has attempted to break out of it ethnic enclaves into the
larger European and North American religious and spiritual
community. The international center of Cao Dai remains in
Vietnam, at the Tay Ninh Cao Dai cathedral located about 60
miles from Ho Chi Minh City. The government has considered
the spiritualist practices of the group but superstition and
banned their continuance. Cao Dai spiritists have had to operate
in secret. The most recent government regulations allow it
to operate, but under such a system many believe is designed
to eradicate the religion in Vietnam in a generation.
International headquarters are in Vietnam, but overseas
headquarters have been established at 1608 Smiley Heights
Dr., Redlands, CA 92373. There are a number of Internet
pages devoted to Cao Dai, including one supported by the Sydney
Centre for Studies in Caodaism,
nlapandoracaodaism.html. The primary Internet site for the
movement can be found at
Sydney Centre for Studies in Caodaiism. http April 20,
Cao Dai. April 20, 2000.