One may feel this formulation out of touch with the political reality. Looking at the last century, however, the formulation seems to the point.
Fascism in the Franco and Mussolini way were in themselves totalitarian and authoritarian with a strong division between leaders and the ordinary people and therefore inspired by a rejection of democracy.
A similar trend was found in Soviet communism and in fact in all the derivations from that system in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, where International Communism planted its offshoots. Chinese Communism still seems to aim at a return towards totalitarian and authoritarian alternatives to democracy.
In the last ten years more and more of the inside story of fascism and communism has come forward, and the red thread seems to be the cult and worship of the in-group of leaders and their variations of the same ideology, which were in fact not very different from one another, but always very anti-Christian.
The new millennium seems to be destined to belong to the large multinational companies, and in fact the guru-movements are already running like such companies. And in fact they are often run like them without any democratic and political control from society.
The growing international elitism, which is the greatest threat to democracy does find support from the movement of gurus, for their guruism is in itself such elitism, not built on quality but on superstition.
Can we see a difference between these cults in the nineteenth, in the twentieth and in the twenty-first centuries? It is doubtful, for there is one new-religious-movement from the last third of the nineteenth century till this first third of the twenty-first century.
What combines these years from 1870 till 2002 is not least the attempts to relate to and may be to accept modernism. The neo-movements in all religions have a sort of religio moderna in common, and the different types of modernism in fact are various degrees of liberalism, the "red thread", which connects all of them and makes them different from the classical versions of the religions.
When we speak about New Religious Movements as one reality we are of course making a generalization which is not quite correct. For each of the NRMs may well be an expression of modernism and be a religio moderna which expresses important parts of liberalism and still they may be and are rather different from one another, since the classical religions they are derivations from and modernizations of are very different indeed from another.
Therefore Mormonism as a derivation from Christianity is quite different from Arya Samaj, which derives from Hinduism. And Soka Gakkai, again which is an expression of modern Buddhism, is very different from the three examples mentioned, and still all three are NRMs, which express an attempt to live their religious classical beliefs within the presuppositions of modern, liberal society.
In spite of all the differences we can in fact find one line of thought which expresses the transformation from the classical presuppositions to the modernist reform, namely the transformation of reincarnation from the classical samsara-model to the modernist progress-model.
Samsara means the eternal, circular dependence on what has been done. And progress means the temporal, linear development onto what has to happen.
Samsara is translated as perpetual reincarnation and is the classical Oriental understanding of our human inability to get out of the circle of what has happened. Samsara means the absolute causality. Everything is the result of something and such causality can not be changed.
But in progress anything can happen, since life is in a forward movement and works for development towards a better future.
It is possible to make the generalization that Samsara with the circle and the stability and stagnation is the model of the orient, while progress with the line towards the future and with change and reform/revolution is the model of the occident.
Indian society is built upon the caste system in some form, and Samsara and its content which is Karma is the firm causality which keeps Samsara going. You are the necessary result of your past, and that is Karma. Everything returns as a consequence of that eternalist model of life, and that model is Samsara.
When the churches enter into such a karmic and samsaric society they bring with them another model of life. Christianity knows the reality of the law and its firm and consistent challenge to human beings, but the Christian Gospel is of a different nature and knows of freedom and liberty and change/conversion and new life.
The samsaric/karmic model rejects the Christian Gospel and does so by necessity. But together with the Christian churches came Western culture and with Christian culture came evolutionary ideologies, first of all in the form of Darwinism.
We can find out how it happened that Hindus became neo-Hindus. Normally they were first attracted to Christianity and considered to convert to the Christian church. But on second thought they opted against Christianization and for Westernization in a modernist and liberal form of their own religion.
Already early Hindu reformers revealed the first attraction to Christian mission, but they later surrendered to Western liberalists and evolutionists. This later program was first of all represented by the theosophists. They were in fact another Western religion, but much more acceptable for the classical oriental religions, because they also feared and countered the Christian missionaries.
Similar developments are found in most Asian cultures, but India and China are no doubt the important prototypes for this development.
The theosophists were the main agents for the important transformation of influential parts of the classical religions. The form of modernism within these religions obviously became marked by Hinduism or Buddhism or Shintoism etc. Therefore their way of modernization became quite different from the Western modernization, which had in it liberal Christianity as its presupposition.
But they had a lot in common with the general trend of the West towards secularization. The strong secularist tendency after 1870 among the intellectuals of the West are analogous with the contemporary feminist revolt, which were also supported by leading theosophist women such as Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Alice Bailey, and many others, all supported by some strong-headed male such as Colonel Allcott, bishop Leadbeater, and similar types. To understand theosophy as another side of secularization may be unusual but hits an important note.
The mark of all the secular movements from the last third of the 20th century seem to be anti-religious, for they stand up against institutional religion all over the world. The alternative was ideology and humanism. But the following century, the 20th century saw the maturization of such ideologies, and their inherent anti-humanism was soon revealed in both socialist and fascist radicalizations.
In fact religiosity became in this modernism a sort of "religion" turned against God. The new ideologies were realized as religions without God and against God. Man was enthroned, for nothing was to be above man. Man is the measure of man, but obviously this man-cult had to invent "a new man", an ideal man, irrespectively of the denomination of that man, if only he was new!
The new religions which came forward pretended to be able to deliver the real new man, "the divine man", for they had the vision of such a creature, who was beyond time, space and causality. The invention of this new creature, man made for and able to live up to the expectations from the new world, made enormous human sacrifices necessary, and those who could or would not follow the party orders had to take the consequences in concentration camps and labor camps, where human annihilation was made an industrial enterprise for the new society.
The commissar became the power-agent for the new order, and the "moral" of this machine was nothing but the law of the jungle. Darwinism came into this picture as "social Darwinism" according to which the law simply was "the survival of the fittest" meaning "the survival of the toughest".
Obviously this contrasts totally with the ethics of Christianity, and the fight against churches was the necessary consequence. In all countries a growing confrontation between the new "huns" and the Christians became an inevitable necessity and martyrdom was the inevitable result.
Yoga is a common term for a number of very different yoga-systems, headed and performed by different yogi-leaders. Of course there is a difference for instance between the Buddhist and the Hindu gurus, but there are also similarities between all yogas.
First of all Hindu gurus have a concept of divinity, and they maintain that their yoga system produces divinity. You become divine by performing yoga and thereby you become a practicing divinity. That is done in different ways, but they seem to agree on one point: That they leave humanity behind and go for divinity.
In fact it is quite clear that if the term divine implies God, Buddhism in principle is "out", but Hinduism is "in". The Buddhist meditation does not end in divinity as such, but in emptiness, sunyat. The Hindu meditation aims at divinization, and the Guru in fact is the successful yogi who takes upon himself to guide disciples into the same divine situation as their master is in already.
In fact the two forms of guruship do not differ so much. For reaching sunyat in Buddhism comes close to reaching Nirvikalpa samadhi in Hinduism. Samadhi in fact means death. and emptiness in fact comes close to the formless death of Buddhist doctrine.
The yogas differ a lot, but fundamentally their social function is the same, namely to turn the attention away from all social and political responsibility. The guru and his disciples are their own gods and their own neighbors. There is no other god than the divine guru, and his disciples are obliged to practice total obedience to the master. The system is authoritarian by nature.
The system is fundamentally fascist too, and the analogy between "the yogi and the commissar" is obvious. The internationally well known study in the interdependence of the yogi and the commissar by Arthur Koestler therefore hits the top of the nail and reveals the important secrets of the guru-yogi complex.
The theosophical renaissance of Hinduism and Buddhism became the mother of both various Hindu and Buddhist guru-movements. And we will in the following concentrate on these movements for they have become the decisive elements in the new blend of religions the so-called New Age and its authoritarian claims.
There is a tendency recently to understand New Age as just a generalized syncretism, a sort of religiosity that conforms with the Great Society which is coming into existence worldwide. And that is no doubt part of the reality. But not the most important part. The gurus and masters are the most important part! We will therefore take a look at some of the most important of these world-religious leaders who attract so much attention and claim such absolute authority.
But first the question: What is a guru?
He is a master-teacher. He is not a priest and not a prophet, the two well known figures in Christianity. A guru is something special.
Guru and yoga belong together. But they are not the same. Yoga is performed by a yogi, that is obvious. And yoga produces a yogi, for a yogi has performed his yoga perfectly. And that has made him a yogi!That has at the same time made the yogi divine, but his divinity is a result of his yogic exercises. The most ambitious yoga is kundalini yoga, and we will give a short outline of the kundalini-system in order to give at the same time a profile of the real yogi.