Enlightenment and a New Morality | John Ankerberg Show

Enlightenment and a New Morality

By: The John Ankerberg Show

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2012
Because it is God’s desire to exalt righteousness in the world, the devil does his best to promote sin and evil. One of the most effective means to accomplish this is to obliterate the categories of good and evil.

Enlightenment and a New Morality

According to biblical teaching, God is a holy and righteous God. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made” (Psa. 145:17). “There is no one holy like the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:2). Hence no one should be surprised that God Himself declares to us, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2).

Because it is God’s desire to exalt righteousness in the world, the devil does his best to promote sin and evil. One of the most effective means to accomplish this is to obliterate the categories of good and evil. This is done by promoting an amoral worldview and through having people experientially perceive that ultimate reality, or God Himself, is beyond good and evil. Demonized people are amoral and frequently express varying degrees of sociopathic behavior. However, the changes in moral perspective do not occur overnight, but are gradually induced by the ongoing mystical experiences. In the end, the state of enlightenment becomes a subjective, experiential condition hostile to moral standards and behavior. By the time one attains “enlightenment,” moral standards have been virtually “blowtorched” out of the individual. Conventional morality is now perceived as mere remnants of an unenlightened consciousness. The evil and immorality one uncovers in the camps of the “enlightened” aptly illustrates this.

When prideful men with supernatural powers believe that they are God and sit with absolute authority over thousands of trusting devotees, stories such as the following can be expected, no matter how seemingly meek, enlightened, or spiritually powerful the guru or spiritual “master” appears. The tales of violence and sexual immorality condoned by Rajneesh and Muktananda are only the tip of the iceberg.[1] Spiritual abuse comes in many forms, but sexual abuse is common. Here is an illustration from the Yoga Journal (some readers may find the following offensive):

I once knew a charming, radiant, charismatic teacher who successfully taught most of his small following to connect clairaudiently with the “Higher Self” so they could better receive inner advice and become calm and centered at will. The teacher had remarkable siddhis, or [psychic] powers. He was clairaudient, and sometimes clairvoyant. He claimed to call on angelic beings for wisdom and healings, and several followers were indeed healed. He claimed to experience ecstatic communion with these beings for days on end and would emerge from his retreats more radiant than usual, almost visibly surrounded by light. On several occasions I and several others observed him insert large needles through the skin of his cheeks and arms without pain or bleeding, and chew up and swallow razor blades with no apparent harm.

This teacher believed that stressful confrontations were useful in helping his students to evoke the Higher Self. He therefore collected “collateral”—the student’s most prized possession—to be forfeited if the student did not obey him implicitly. He then took groups of students on hikes and threatened to hurl one or two of them off a cliff if they didn’t summon their Higher Selves and become immediately calm. As a further confrontation, he would ask students to masturbate in front of the group. And as an ultimate confront, he would ask students (both male and female) to engage in one or another sexual activity with him. When they finally agreed (perhaps remembering the collateral), the teacher would either withdraw the request or go through with it, sometimes in the presence of other group members.[2]

Most Eastern gurus appear to have an active sex life and, given human nature and the esoteric occult teachings which condone abuse or immorality, the results can be very degenerative. One two-year study by a sympathetic practitioner reported the following, indicating that some 70 percent of the gurus and other spiritual masters were active sexually:

According to this survey—which includes information on 54 teachers, six females and 48 males—sexual relations form a part of the lives of 39 of them. Only three out of 15 Zen masters, three of nine Hindu and Jain swamis, less than half of the Tibetan lamas, and five of the 24 Theravada Buddhist teachers considered in this survey are celibate. The rest (including myself) have chosen to involve themselves in sexual relationships. Significantly, 34 of 39 teachers who are not celibate have had at least occasional sexual relationships with one or more students. Sometimes these were straightforward and open, sometimes more covert.[3]

The study also mentioned additional experiences of adultery and homosexuality among the gurus:

Some teachers who are not celibate have spouses and families; of these, some live monogamously, while many others do not. Among non-celibate teachers, some are sexually very active, others only occasionally so. Some are heterosexuals, some are homosexual, and some are bisexual in preference…. Clearly, many of those who are generally acknowledged to be accomplished meditation masters and teachers are sexually active. Indeed, as a group these teachers seem to represent the whole range of human sexuality.[4]

This study also noted abuses, which were not uncommon, and that there was often an attempt to cover up immoral behavior:

Nevertheless, some have involved the exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and have, in a number of cases, contradicted the teachings of the tradition. We have to acknowledge that such incidents have occurred and that in many cases they have been harmful.

Compounding the problem are the situations that involve secrecy or deception, for deception has proven to be the greatest source of disappointment and pain in spiritual groups. The discovery of covert or inappropriate sexual relations between teachers and students is not an infrequent occurrence. In recent years such discoveries have caused major upheavals in nearly a dozen of the largest Eastern spiritual communities in America…. Of the students with whom I have spoken, most of whom were women, approximately half report that such sexual relationships have undermined their practice, their relationship with their teacher, and their feelings of self-worth.[5]

Indeed, when one really gets to know a person who claims to be enlightened—either personally, or by reliable firsthand reports, or through an autobiography—the term “spiritually enlightened” hardly seems appropriate. “Moral anarchist” seems to be the only appropriate term.

Many spiritual leaders today are indeed enlightened, but in an occult sense, which is the opposite of what it means in a biblical sense, to be regenerated and sanctified by repentance and faith in Christ. In our post-biblical culture, people fall prey to “the enlightened” because of being fascinated by their spiritual power, or because they do not understand fallen human nature or the mechanics and dimensions of spiritual deception as revealed in the Bible. Scripture declares that Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4 NASB), who “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9 NASB; 13:14; 20:3, 8, 10), and indeed that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19; cf. Matt. 4:8-9).

From a biblical perspective, those enlightened through the path of occultism, far from incarnating divine power and holiness, are simply living according to their fallen nature. They are manifesting the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) or the individual purpose of the spirit (demon) entity living within them. In John 13:27 and Luke 22:3, we are told that “Satan entered Judas” in order to use Judas to betray Jesus (see John 13:2; Acts 5:3). In addition, the monistic and amoral teachings within the traditions they follow become the religious and spiritual justification for what “the enlightened” do. A sympathetic commentator on Swami Muktananda’s violence and seduction of young girls was forced to confess that “the enlightened are on an equal footing with the ignorant in the struggle against their own evil.”[6] To the contrary, we would suggest the ignorant are better off. But even for the ignorant, it is easy to rationalize such evil. For example, when one bewailer of the abuses commented that the “ignorant” cannot be blamed for being deceived by the “enlightened,” he was neglecting personal responsibility. Ignorance of the law, social or spiritual, has never been an acceptable excuse for condoning evil.

One of the arguments ran as follows: “But in the case of spiritual teachers, who can really blame us? We have nothing in our [American] cultural context in which to place them [the enlightened].”[7] But this is not true at all. By far the most astute commentary on spiritual issues of this sort is the Bible, and the Bible is found in virtually every household and hotel room in the nation. American culture has been profoundly influenced by biblical teaching. A large part of it deals with issues relating to good and evil, and one of its principal themes is spiritual deception and the consequences of idolatry—of forsaking the true and living God for false and demonic gods. The Bible repeatedly warns against men who claim to speak for God and yet lead people to worship false gods (Deut. 13:1-5; Matt. 7:24; 2 Pet. 2; Jude).

To walk off a cliff in the dark has never been good advice, yet millions are advised by their “enlightened” masters to do just that, spiritually and morally speaking. From our research and discussion with former devotees, the alleged accounts of evil committed among the gurus and the “enlightened” are legion: rape, fornication, drug smuggling, adultery, beatings, murder threats, and worse.

For example, the San Francisco Chronicle of April 3 and April 4, 1985, ran a front-page story titled “‘Sex Slave’ Sues Guru,” where former members including a former director of the sect’s Laughing Man Institute accused Western guru Da Free John, a former member of the Church of Scientology, of encouraging “drunken sex orgies,” and, “indulging in long drinking binges, public sex and humiliation, assault…. Women devotees were dressed in naughty lingerie for the guru’s pleasure and subjected to nights of psychological and physical abuse.” One devotee claimed she was “compelled, over a prolonged period of time to accept physical and sexual abuses [including beatings], confinement, degrading acts, inadequate diet, and the surrendering of her children” to Da Free John.

Former members have said that at times they became like zombies, and that even a guru’s most bizarre activity, such as ordering devotees to make pornographic films, were justified as being “religious teachings.”

Another example is from Swami Nityananda, who claims to be the late Swami Muktananda’s legitimate successor. The Illustrated Weekly of India (March 16-22, 1986) ran a cover article, “I was Abducted,” in which Swami Nityananda alleged he was forced to abdicate his guru status and abducted by a “gang” of foreign devotees involving a “reign of spiritual terror.” The response of the official Muktananda organization in the United States was quite different. In a special Report of March 23, 1986, the Siddha Yoga Dham of America organization (SYDA) denied all charges and claimed that it was Nityananda’s own evils which forced his retirement from gurudom.

In the report, American swamis said:

This path is not an easy one—it is like a razor’s edge. Because a swami is so visible, his actions must be spotless and beyond reproach. This is not so with Swami Nityananda, now known as Venkateshwar Rao. Having publicly renounced the world he privately embraced it. Ignoring his duties and the spiritual needs of his devotees, he pursued sense pleasures, misled seekers and broke his vows of chastity and obedience time and time again. In short, he abused his position as a spiritual teacher, betraying the love and trust of thousands of devotees.[8]

In light of the serious charges leveled against Muktananda by three dozen former disciples (see “The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda,” Co-Evolution Quarterly, Winter 1983), Nityananda, it would appear, was not behaving all that differently from his own guru. It was Muktananda’s own disciples—and some of those closest to him—including those who had witnessed or been participants in such acts that stated Muktananda had engaged in lies and deception, sex with young girls, had some of his own disciples beaten, and worse things. Swami Nithyananda was also arrested in a sex scandal in March, 2010.[9]

Note also a few descriptions of self-styled gurus who claim enlightenment, as given in the Yoga Journal. Here we see that the consequences of “enlightenment” can range from spiritual pessimism to gross immorality to extreme self-aggrandizement. “Guru Rama,” aka Frederick Lenz, PhD, states, “Enlightenment simply means that you’ve run out of questions and that the answers don’t matter anymore.”[10] On the other hand, Barry Tellman offers the world the boastful invitation: “This letter is an invitation to live with me. I am the Supreme Being, the sole source of everything and everyone that ever was or will be.”[11] I. M. Nome claims that he has “no personality” at all, period.[12] Lee Lozowick may choose to use methods that are arbitrary, foolish, unjust, contradictory, and irresponsible, since “all his actions are God-motivated” and as such, potentially any behavior is “proper… for a Godman.”[13]

The following assessment concerning Rajneesh, who wanted to “blow apart” all that is human seems to sum it up:

As has been said, one of the key innovations of this guru above the others is his synthesis of advanced contemporary psychological techniques in the peeling off of layer after layer in the onion-skinned defenses of his disciples—rolfing, rebirthing, primal scream, encounter groups, sex encounters, the deprivation tank, and so on. And then synthesizing this with kundalini yoga, shakti-pat, and far more subtle and esoteric forms of possession, mind-bending, and hidden initiations geared at blowing apart that most basic barrier, the barrier of the conscience, the sense of good and evil. Here is where Advaita and Tantra remain supreme. Not the popularized Tantra, but the cryptic North Indian Kashmiri variety. Here is where all the seals of what we call a human being are blown apart.[14]

Psalm 145:17


  1. Tal Brooke, Riders of the Cosmic Circuit: Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Muktananda…Gods of the New Age (Batavia, IL: Lion, 1986).
  2. Dio Urmilla Neff, “Tumbling From The Pedestal: What Makes Spiritual Teachers Go Renegade?” Yoga Journal, July-August, 1985, pp. 21-22.
  3. Jack Kornfield, “Sex Lives of the Gurus,” Yoga Journal, July/August 1985, p. 27.
  4. Ibid., pp. 27-28.
  5. Ibid., p. 28.
  6. Stephan Bodian, “Editorial,” “Perils of the Path” issue, Yoga Journal, July-August, 1985, p. 30; cf. William Rodamor, “The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda,” Co-Evolution Quarterly, Winter 1983.
  7. Neff, “Tumbling,” p. 22.
  8. Copies of the report are available from the Siddha Yoga Dham of America.
  9. http://news.oneindia.in/2010/03/03/swami-nityananda-sex-scandal-video-tamil-actress.html.
  10. Neff, “Tumbling,” p. 35.
  11. Ibid., p. 32.
  12. Ibid., p. 33.
  13. Ibid., p. 34.
  14. Brooke, Riders, pp. 138-39.

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The John Ankerberg Show

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