The School of Philosophy (Auckland)
©1997, 2006 Trevor Mander, BSc, MDiv, Dip Tchg
The School of Philosophy in Auckland (SPA, founded in 1961) appears to be just an academic institution. Phrases such as “introductory course,” “new and interesting study,” and “tutor and student,” convey the idea of intellectual objectivity. One of the published aims is the discovery of “what lies at the core of our being, to discover one’s self.”
But is this really just another education course in philosophy? Or is the SPA actually a group trying to teach the core principles and practices of a distinct Hindu sect?
Relativism and Universalism
The SPA teaches that it is absolutely true that no absolute truths exist. They believe that it is absolutely true that everything is relative. Truth is relative and found only by subjective experience. But for the SPA to claim that it is objectively true that everything is only subjective is a self-refuting argument! So much for teaching philosophy. The School claims that their religious view, that “all religions and philosophies reflect differing aspects of the one truth” is the only true religious view. The SPA cuts its own philosophical head off when it claims that all truth is relative all the while standing atop a pinnacle of their own absolute. The SPA think they are the only ones allowed to have exclusive truth claims. But the exclusive claim that all religions do not hold exclusive beliefs is, of course, pure hypocrisy. At the very least it is being dishonest with what other religious groups believe. Relativism is silly, however this teaching has dramatic affects on those who believe it. Logically, it would result in people who are completely self-centred in morality and separated from reality. As the Bible puts it, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” This is like believing that 1+1=3, or that murder and hate is just the same as love and kindness. Not the values you want to teach your children! There’s a much better alternative. You can trust in the Jesus of the Bible for true family values and true faith. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
This is the belief that God is the universe. This is different from the Christian belief that God created the universe (Col 1:16) and holds the universe in existence (Heb 1:3). The result of believing pantheism is worshipping a finite created thing instead of an infinite uncreated God (Rom 1:25). But why should we offer our ultimate worship to that which is not ultimate?
The SPA teaches that you are actually one with the universe a bit like ‘the Force’ in the Star Wars movie. “You are God,” they say, “it’s just that you need to remember it.” You can come to know that you don’t change. But there is the problem. The SPA is claiming you have to go through a process (change) of learning to find out that you don’t actually change. But if you really didn’t change (i.e. were God) then you wouldn’t have to learn that you didn’t change because learning is a process of change! Another self-refuting belief of this so-called School of Philosophy.
The SPA believes that pain and suffering don’t exist, that they are just an illusion. This aspect of pantheism doesn’t even attempt to offer a solution to the problem of evil, it just says there isn’t a problem at all! A whole belief system in denial. To which we respond with the famous poem, “If pain is an illusion tell me why it is that when I sit on a pin and it punctures my skin, I dislike what I fancy I feel?” If pain is just illusion why is it so persistent, why does it hurt so much, and why doesn’t it go away? How much better is a faith in Jesus Christ that can help you through the difficult times and offer hope for the future (see Romans 5:1-11).
Riding on the back of pantheism is the SPA teaching of reincarnation (coming back again and again in other lives). This is opposite of the Bible teaching that, “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb 9:27). Reincarnation relies on the doctrine of karma, the belief that if someone is suffering then it is because they did something bad in a past life. Instead of having an answer as to why innocent people are seen to suffer in this world, the SPA again just deny that the problem exists. Only the guilty suffer in the reincarnation world view. Basically, if you’re suffering you deserve it. This is why in India, a predominantly Hindu society, there is such incredible poverty and suffering. People are left in the streets because “that’s their karma.” Contrast this with the profound teaching of the Bible. Jesus said that the second most important commandment in all the universe is to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The first commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37,39). We can’t throw away our reason when worshipping God, which brings us to the next point.
Hindu Yoga meditation
The goal of such meditation is the emptying of the mind. Just like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars turned off his targeting computer, we are expected to turn our minds off and make our minds a blank slate. “Don’t think, use the Force Luke!” It’s a great way of getting into a cult but not a good way of getting to know and enjoy God. Rather, we should make God and His works the focus of our mind. “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Josh 1:8). “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10). “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18). Fill your mind, don’t empty it.
Advaita Vedanta Hinduism
Also known as Uttara Mimamsa, this Hindu belief teaches that all things that appear to exist (lots of different people, different objects, a personal God, and different experiences like pain) are just illusion. Only the impersonal “One” or Brahman exists, nothing else. This concept is meant to be grasped not by the rational mind but by an esoteric mystical enlightenment experience called moksha. Which just goes to show how Advaita is self-refuting. “All experience is an illusion and we learn this from an experience we have.” Not only that, but it’s just not livable to say that everything is an illusion. You might say that cars are an illusion but would you play in the street as if they were? What would happen if everyone suddenly disregarded all laws, road rules, moral standards, and all laws of nature (like gravity)? People who love wisdom surely would not advocate such ideas.
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
One of the distinguishing marks of the cults is information control. They don’t tell you at the start what they really teach and believe. It’s only after time that the truth comes to light. As Jesus Christ warns, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt 7:15). Cults deceive people and teach man-made philosophies that are contrary to the truth. The School of Philosophy is really teaching a radical form of Hinduism mixed in with the New Age Movement. Watch out!
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