CHEN TAO / THE RIGHT WAY
By Jason Barker
Founder: Hon-ming Chen.
Founding Date: 1993.
Official Publications: Practical Evidence and Study of the
World of God and Buddha, God's Descending in Clouds (Flying Saucers) on
Earth to Save People.
Unique Terms: Transmigration, the Right Way, the "One," the great
tribulation, the magnetic field of Void, King Satans, outside souls, Noah's
Other Names: God's Salvation Church, God Saves the Earth Flying
Chen Tao ("The Right Way") was founded in 1993 in Pei-pu, Hsin-chu County,
Taiwan (God's Descending., 1997, p. 79), by Hon-ming Chen, a former
professor of sociology (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 7, 1998,
p. B1). Pei-pu was selected as the initial site for the group because,
according to Chen, the city will become the only place on earth where the
spiritual energy of God ("the inexhaustible light of the Grand Way") flows
from heaven (God's Descending., 1997, p. 79).
Chen and 140 of his followers immigrated to San Dimas, CA, in 1995 in
order to board God's flying saucers when they land in the United States
in 1999 (The Austin American-Statesman, March 6, 1998, p. B11; "GSC
Cult Leader Urged to Let Followers Return to Taiwan," Central News Agency,
December 29, 1997). Complaints from Taiwan followed the group to America.
According to a report in The China Times Express, Chen may have
manipulated his Taiwanese followers to pay $60,000 as a fee for joining
Chen Tao, and an additional $30,000 to $60,000 passage fare to board the
spaceships (China News, December 23, 1997). Police deputies returned
a sixteen year-old member to Taiwan after her mother expressed fears that
the girl would never return (St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 24,
1997). Other family of members expressed fears that the group will kill
themselves, as did the members of the Heaven's Gate cult in nearby Rancho
Santa Fe, CA, prompting an investigation by Taiwanese police into videotapes
and documents that allegedly support accusations against Chen of group
manipulation and potential violence (China News, December 25, 1997).
Members of Chen Tao began moving to Garland, TX, in June or July of
1997 to prepare "the headquarters for God's Kingdom in Texas" (God's
Descending., 1997, p. 79). In September members rode in bicycle convoys
through Garland distributing flyers expressing the group's appreciation
"of your tolerating our activity in the neighborhood as well as your magnanimous
acceptance" (Children of God's Kingdom flyer). According to a report
in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the majority of the group moved from
San Dimas to Garland in December after seeing the number "007" in the sky
- an advertisement for a James Bond movie (December 24, 1997). Garland
was allegedly chosen because it sounds like "Godland" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
March 7, 1998, p. B4).
Chen Tao came to national attention in December after announcing that
photographs of clouds are proof that God will assume a physical body identical
to Chen's and will materialize in Garland at 10:00 am on March 31, 1998
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 23, 1997). God will also personally
greet each of his followers in Garland by engaging in "duplication" (splitting
into hundreds of physical bodies), and practicing xenoglossia (speaking
in all the languages of his devotees) (God's Descending., 1997,
p. 177). This event will be preceded on March 25, 1998, by the appearance
of God on channel eighteen of every television set in North America (Austin
American-Statesman, March 6, 1998, p. B11).
Chen Tao is a complex blending of elements from Christianity, Buddhism,
Taoism, science fiction, and Taiwanese folk religion.
Souls and Transmigration
All life originates from the energy of God, who is one with the "magnetic
field of Void" and can thus can divide his spiritual light energy into
separate beings (God's Descending., 1997, p. 4). Through the process
of transmigration (reincarnation), each being can evolve into a higher
life form: from animal, to human, to the divine status of Bodhisattva or
enlightened one (pp. 11, 19).
Evolution depends upon the being developing purity in the "main soul
light," the primary of three souls including the temporal conscious and
physical souls (God's Descending., 1997, p. 17). The main soul light
is the eternal record of every moment in a being's lives; Chen compares
its memory to that of a computer (p. 17). The main soul light develops
the conscious soul so that the conscious soul is capable of "conscious
awareness, judgment, and expression of feelings" (p. 17). The physical
soul enables the being to engage in physical activity (p. 18).
The purity of the main soul light can be measured through its "spiritual
light energy" (God's Descending., 1997, pp. 17, 19). The spiritual
light energy of heaven (or Void) is twelve million degrees (p. 27). A small
animal, which is spiritually impure, has less than 1,800,000 degrees of
spiritual light energy, whereas a large animal has between 1,800,000 and
three million degrees (p. 19). Humans have between three and nine million
degrees of energy (p. 19). Divine beings, such as Bodhisattvas and angels,
have nine million degrees of spiritual light energy; a few divine beings,
such as Jesus Christ and the Ju-lai Buddha, have twelve million degrees
of energy (p. 11, 19).
Purity is attained through the evolutionary process of transmigration.
Through each life beings attempt to erase the karma of previous lives.
Poor behavior and attitudes result in an accrual of "causal karma" in the
main soul light, lowering the spiritual light energy; this negative record
is maintained in both the magnetic field of the Void (heaven) and the magnetic
field of the underworld (hell) (God's Descending., 1997, p. 31).
The three souls separate upon death: if the main soul light is pure (above
nine million degrees), this soul will be united with the Void and escape
further purification (pp. 8, 18, 54). If the main soul light is not pure,
however, the old conscious and physical souls will reattach themselves
to the transmigrated being until the being has atoned for the sins of lives
in which the attached souls were involved; this process of "causal retribution"
continues until the karma is erased (pp. 62-64).
The evolutionary cycle of transmigration is extremely long, because
the number of lives experienced by a being renders increasingly less likely
the possibility that the causal karma will be erased (God's Descending.,
1997, p. 155). Because of this residual karma in each current being's main
soul light, each being has transmigrated at least ten times (p. 30), and
ninety percent of the current world population was at one time born as
an animal (p. 132). In fact, some of the eighty percent of the world's
population whose low spiritual light energy leads to their death in the
great tribulation of 1999 will later be transmigrated as animals on Mars
in order to continue their purification (p. 142).
Outside Souls and Devils
Two major obstacles in the evolution of beings are the hindrances presented
by outside souls and devils. These malevolent entities feed on the spiritual
light energy of transmigrated beings, reducing the beings' ability to erase
their karmic records.
Outside souls are those conscious and physical souls who did not report
to the underworld upon death. These souls become lost after suffering a
violent or unexpected death (God's Descending., 1997, pp. 35-38).
Rodney Perkins and Forrest Jackson note that these "lonely ghosts and wild
spirits" are a common theme in Taiwanese folklore (CESNUR's Watch Page
of Chen Tao - God's Salvation Church <http://web.tin.it/cesnur_org/Chen.htm>).
Outside souls exist by draining human beings of their spiritual light energy,
as well as consuming the spiritual air in mountains and rivers (p. 39).
According to Chen, the Buddhist temples in Taiwan are controlled by a "head
outside soul" who rules over lesser souls (p. 39).
Devils present a more active threat in Chen Tao theology. Devils are
"devoted to bewildering the world," and seek to possess transmigrated beings
in order to increase the level of evil and violence in the world (God's
Descending., 1997, pp. 62-64). Devils frequently are the previous souls
of a being who combine with the being's current souls until the sins of
past lives are atoned (p. 62). They are also frequently "debt claimants,"
enemies from past lives who combine with a being's current souls until
the wrongs committed against the claimant in past lives are rectified (pp.
Particularly dangerous are the "King Satans," or "heavenly devil kings,"
who are responsible for all the great tribulations that have occurred.
These devils are the biblical "fallen angels" whose greed has irreparably
corrupted them (God's Descending., 1997, p. 68). Fifteen percent
of the world's population has had some of their souls become King Satans
since the beginning of life on earth; seventy percent of the population
in central and east Asia possessed corrupted souls which became these heavenly
devil kings (p. 70).
King Satans are particularly prominent in Asia and Africa, where an
average of forty-seven percent of the population are possessed in some
way by heavenly devil kings (God's Descending., 1997, p. 70). As
the King Satans feed on the spiritual light energy of these people, the
light energy of the magnetic field around the world (except in America)
declines by 100,000 every month; in May, 1997, the energy level in four
of the world's five continents dropped below the human level of three million
(p. 75). The great tribulation in 1999 will begin when the King Satans
attempt to cannibalize each other in an attempt to find spiritual energy
from which to feed (p. 76).
According to Chen, great tribulations (usually climaxing in a nuclear
holocaust) are a regular occurrence in history. There have been five great
tribulations on this planet (not including the nuclear war almost 4.5 trillion
years ago that resulted in the creation of our solar system (God's Descending.,
1997, p. 46)), and over 888,800 million tribulations since the beginning
of time (p. 172). The first great tribulation on this planet was waged
by dinosaurs "at a place called Armageddon in the Hebrew tongue" nearly
ten million years ago (p. 143); the remaining tribulations also ended in
a final climatic battle in modern Israel (p. 145). Each tribulation was
survived by beings living in modern America, who were rescued by God in
a flying saucer (p. 145).
The opening of the seals described in Revelation chapter six began,
according to Chen, in 1911 with the Western imperialism that resulted in
World War I (God's Descending., 1997, pp. 130-131). Chen is unclear
about the date of China's attack on Taiwan: he predicts both February of
1999 (p. 115), and shortly after April 22, 1999 (p. 87). The prediction
of the Chinese attack in February includes the prediction for a simultaneous
"war of unification" between North and South Korea (p. 115).
On April 22, 1999, a "thousand millions [sic] of human-devils" will
initiate a mass slaughter in Chen Tao's "holy land" of Pei-pu, Taiwan (God's
Descending., 1997, p. 80). Chen warns that, unless she repents, an
anonymous female who betrayed Chen Tao will be the first to be crucified
Chen predicts "Noah's Arc" flood of forty days will devastate Eastern
Asia in June and July of 1999 (God's Descending, 1997, pp. 132-133).
The rainfall will be heaviest in Taiwan, with gradually lesser damage away
from the storm's center over the island (p. 87). The food shortages resulting
from the flooding will ultimately lead Asians to commit cannibalism (p.
The massive death caused by both war and flooding will greatly reduce
the spiritual energy upon which the King Satan's can feed, driving the
devils into an insane rage. From August first through the twelfth, the
devils will then convince the Taiwanese whom they control to explode their
three nuclear power plants (God's Descending., 1997, p. 115). The
fallout will cause widespread destruction throughout east Asia (p. 115).
China and Japan will then ally to invade Australia and New Zealand, and
will then conquer southeast Asia (pp. 118-119). European and African nations
will join the war through territorial alliances, and all the nations will
finally destroy each other at Armageddon (p. 119).
God will command America to remain uninvolved during the warfare to
come; the United States will instead welcome refugees into this safe haven
of high spiritual light energy (p. 115). Nonetheless, only twenty percent
of the world's population will survive the great tribulation. These survivors
will once again board God's spaceship.
God and the "One"
The god of Chen Tao "includes all beings; He has the inexhaustible,
endless energy, and His energy is the original source of all existence
and permeates everything.He is omnipresent, He is both in form and non-form"
(God's Descending., 1997, p. 3). In other words, God is the perfect
energy with whom all transmigrating beings should hope to become one (p.
Perkins and Jackson note that, in The Practical Evidence and Study
of the World of God and Buddha, Chen rejects the biblical version of
God as "cruel, narrow-minded, unable to tell good from evil" (CESNUR's
Watch Page on Chen Tao - God's Salvation Church <http://web.tin.it/cesnur_org/Chen.htm>).
Chen instead proclaims that God is "complete love, generosity, mercy, peace,
justice, and forgiving" (Ibid.).
Chen's depiction of God is heavily influenced by Taoism. God is "void
of I," because the "'Tao (Way) begets One; One begets Two; Two Begets Three;
Three begets all existence.' The Way (tao) [sic] that begets One is the
embodied God" (p. 8). This Taoist phrase indicates the close relation that
Chen sees between God and himself. Simply stated, God created Chen (who
identifies himself as "the One" (pp. 8-9, 175)), who in turn came to earth
as the Ju-lai Buddha with several Bodhisattvas to populate the earth (p.
9). When God returns on March 31, 1998, he will assume a physical body
identical to Chen's (p. 175). Chen has also stated that he and his followers
wear only white because God will be clothed in white when he appears; the
members wear cowboy hats because "they help the group fit in" (Austin
American-Statesman, March 6, 1998, p. B11).
Jesus Christ is one of the primary divine beings in Chen Tao. He helped
settle on Pluto the survivors of the nuclear war that created our solar
system (God's Descending., 1997, pp. 46-47). Chen has allegedly
claimed that he fathered Christ, and that one of the children in Chen Tao
is the reincarnated Christ (Netly News, January 7, 1998).
Chen teaches that the Bible "is neither God's not Jesus Christ's revelation,
but heavenly devil kings' descriptions" (God's Descending., 1997,
p. 124). In fact, "many believers of the Bible who read those forged contents
will become gradually controlled by devils without knowing it" (p. 122).
Chen therefore concludes that he needs to "clarify what parts of the Bible
are 'devil's words'" (p. 123).
THE FUTURE OF CHEN TAO
Media reports have been filled with speculations that, upon the failure
of God to fulfill Chen's prophecies, the members of Chen Tao will commit
mass suicide. These reports have focused on a alleged letter from a former
member stating that members "were set to die in a horrible manner if they
believed Chen's teachings" (China News, December 25, 1997), and
on Chen's guaranteeing "on [his] life" that his prophecies will be fulfilled
(God's Descending., 1997, pp. 177-178). Chen has declared that he
is willing to receive the death penalty if his prophecies prove false (MSNBC
Local News, December 23, 1997 <:http://www.msnbc.com/local/kxas/9238.asp> Note: The article has been removed - URL retained for reference).
Members have vigorously denied that they will commit suicide. Chen claims,
"We would not take our lives under any circumstances" (Austin American-Statesman,
March 6, 1998, p. B11). In answer to a question by James Walker of Watchman
Fellowship at a press conference on March 12, 1998, Chen declared that
he would tell his followers to leave him if God does not return on March
31. Chen Tao spokesman Richard Liu similarly believes that "we will conclude
that God has changed his plan" if nothing occurs, and that many followers
will then return to Taiwan and eventually abandon the group (Scholar
Visits Chen Tao, <http://www.trancenet.org/groups/gsc/news.shtml>).
March 25, 1998 Update: Teacher Chen retracted his prophecy
that God will appear on March 31st after his prophecy about God appearing
on channel 18 on March 25th failed. Chen stated, "Because we did
not see God's message on television tonight, my predictions of March 31
can be considered nonsense" (UFO Cult Calm as God Misses Predicted TV
Appearance, Note: Page removed - URL kept for reference).
Chen plans to continue his study and research in Garland, but has dismissed
his followers to return to Taiwan (Ibid.).
The Bible makes it clear that only God knows the date for the end of
time (Mark 13:32). It is therefore improper for Christians to speculate
on the exact date. In fact, the Bible so strongly stresses the importance
of avoiding false prophecy that false prophets were put to death under
the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
The Bible also refutes the idea of reincarnation; we die only once,
and then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). As Christians, we also know that
we do not need to earn our salvation through self-purification; we are
instead saved through the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
God is not a void with whom creation panentheistically shares a spiritual
light structure and in whom we ultimately hope to be absorbed; Revelation
shows that we will spend eternity in an intimately personal, yet physically
separate, relationship with God (21:3). Nor is He merely a being of disembodied
love without a sense of justice, as Chen's alternative revelation asserts.
Instead, the Bible shows that God is both loving and just (Psalms 101:1).
The Bible also proves that Jesus is not an equal with the Buddha and the
son of Hon-ming Chen. Instead, Jesus is God, and assisted the Father in
the creation of the world (John 1:1-3).
In direct contrast to Chen's attack upon the authority of Scripture,
the Bible also testifies to its own trustworthiness (2 Timothy 3:16).
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