Neologism shaped by the Press and the French and authorities of Indochina, the expression "CAODAISM" indicates since 1926, in Viet Nam, a new mystic dedicated to the worship of adoration of God under the symbol of the Divine EYE (Divine eye surrouded by irradiation.) and under the sacred title of "NGOC HOANG THUONG DE" (Emperor of lade GOD), NAM PHUONG GIAO CHU (Spiritual Master of the South), CAO DAI TIEN ONG (Cao Dai the Old Immortal), DAI BO TAT (the Eldest Boddhisattva), MA HA TAT (the Venerable Saint).
The new religious Discipline, upon order of the divine Instructor, calls itself "CAO DAI DAI DAO, TAM KY PHO DO" (The Great Way opened by CAO DAI, in view of the 3rd General Amnisty of God).
The divine Teaching is dispensed by the way of spiritistic messages obtained through "NGOC CO", a special kind of (psychographic receptor) unknown to Western Occultism, but used in the Orient since immemorial ttme to communicate with the spiritual world.
According to the degree of his spiritual evolution, the adept observes pattial or integral vegetarism, devotes himself to simple prayer or gives himself up to daily meditation, outside his working hours.
Monkhood was not set up yet.
Every adept should make his own living and keep himself to a triple permanent obligation:
- Towards the Divine Master: acts of veneration according to established ritual: DEVOTION
- Towards the world: acts of benefaction according to the means available to him: SERVICE
- Towards oneself: acts of moral and spiritual puriFcation: PURIFICATION
In an impetus of concitiating eclectism, the Caodaism, for its doctrinal fund, adapts without removing their mark:
- the norms of confucian regorism.
- the gentleness of Buddhism and its metaphysic speculations.
- the code of ethics of Taoism, and its esoteric conceptions.
- the noble morals of Christianity.
The spiritism to which the adept has often recourse to has nothing in common, at least from the point of view of ceremonial and of result, with western spiritism and constitutes not an end in itself but a privilege of investigation' of information and especially of study.
Contrary to current opinion, Caodaism has taken birth toward 1920 at Duong Dong, the chief town of Phu Quoc Island, in a modest pagoda named "Quan Am Tu" perched on the flank of the Duong Dong mountain.
As a matter of fact, it is in this pagoda that God, under the simple name of "CAO DAI TIEN ONG" (Cao Dai the Old Immortal), has revealed himself during spiritism sessions organized by a group of fetvent occuttists which included the future Initiator of Caodaism, Ngo Minh Chieu, then district chief of Phu Quoc.
There is regrettable lacuna: most of the Caodai annals remained silent and failed to give precisions of a primordial importance on that point.
The site of the "Quan Am Tu" was however located and in 1961 on the old place, a group of Caodaist of the Esoteric School erected a commenmorative Temple.
The first Caodaist Disciple
In a spiritism session held at Ouan Am Tu on February 1921. CAO DAI TIEN ONG, Cao Dai the Old Immortal, in his capacity of Instructor, gave the investiture to Ngo Minh Chieu whose vocation was affirmed by himself.
Since then, the first Caodaist disciple devoted himself to a strict ascetism, under the occult but continous direction of the Divine Master with whom he should be able to enter into direct communication besides special spiritist sessions thanks to supra normal faculties (as were assumed by a few rare confidences gathered by the first graduate of the first promotion of the Esoteric Schoot).
After three years of teaching, the divine Master expressed his complete satisfaction with the spiritual progress achieved by the Disciple, and at the same time, of his decision to entrust him wlth a deticate mission: to establish the foundations of the new Faith.
The Promotor of Caodaism
Toward the end of the summer in 1924, Ngo Minh Chieu being a functionary, was assigned to Saigon where a short time after his arrival, he inaugurated his apostolate by the initiation of the elect from the first promotion of the Esoteric School. To this day, a long time after he passed away, Ngo Minh Chieu continues to assume the high direction of the apostolate.
From July 1925 to February 1926, upon formal divine instructions, a group of spiritists from Saigon, the future founders of the first Church of Caodaism at Tay Ninh, came to take his counsels or his directives which were lavished in his quality of Elder Brother or Initiator, in view of preparing the advent of Esoteric Caodaism.
This kind.of contacts ended the moment the Church of Tay Ninh felt itself cavoble to spring into life, and subsequently with anothet group of occultists to which belonged the future Founder of the second Church of Esoteric Caodaism, at Ben Tre and the future leaders of the third Church, at My Tho of the fourth, at Ca Mau.
Ngo Minh Chieu, the promotor of the newly-born doctrine, thought he should abstain from any direct interference into the realization of the program of organization and of preaching as well as in the solution of related problems.
His delicate reserve explains the long reticence which persisted around his true role in the advent of caodaism to the day when before the dignitaries gathered for a great ceremony (Phat Mau) of 1954) the Superior of the Tay Ninh Church Pham Cong Tac at the occasion of an introduction, made clear that... this is the Son of our Virtuous One Ngo Minh Chieu, THE INITIATOR OF CAODAISM.
Duality of the Teaching of Caodaism.
Here again another serious gap temains to be filled: the majority of Caodaist Sects apparently ignore systematically this duality in the new Doctrine.
As a matter of fact and like the great old religions, at the beginning the Caodaism has a double teaching:
- The Exoteric School (Ngoai Giao Cong Truyen)
- The Esoteric School (Noi Giao Tam Truyen)
Between them there is neither doctrinal paradox nor double use. On the contrary, they correspond to 2 cycles, starting and final, of the process of spiritual evolution.
Exoteric School (which presents nothing in rnmmon witb Hihayana Buddbism) or tbe Way ot Collective Assistance or minor Order of Initiation to circonvotutive progression.
The Exoteric School is a perfect organism of propagation and of (evangelization). It appeals to the great public without special preparation with its imposing Temples, its priesthood based on a hierarchical system, its liturgical pump, and administrative organization patterned partiatly on secular formula.
The school attended to social life, directs the religious formation of neophytes, orients spiritual aspirations of adepts for whom salvation can be obtained only by devotion, practice of virtue and divine grace
The Esoteric School (which has nothing in common with Mahayana Buddhism) or Selective Way or Major Order of Initiation to direct Accession.
This school is exclusively reserved to the elect, those who are personally selected by the Divine Master in the calm and silence of the sanctuary and its teaching has no temple, no priesthood, no liturgy, no matedal organization.
The disciple, bound by an irrevocable vow, severely and for a long time prepared to become an adept, renounces to honours, wealth, to all enjoyments of worldty life in order to adapt himself to the peculiar living conditions imposed by religious discipline whatever situation of fortune they may have or whatever position in social hierarchy they may hold.
Witthout showing any peculiar appearance, the disciple trains himself with a steady regularity to a lucid concentration, devoid of any psychological shock or of any state of known exaltation (trance, ecstasy, hypnosis etc...) in view of acquiring a progressive extinction of . his (interior self) and consequently, his identification with the Absolute, his integration with DAO, with the Infinite.