The Transmigration Of Dr Chen


Fortean Times, Issue 109
By Rodney Perkins And Forrest Jackson

With the year 2000 approaching, incidents of strange religious activity have increased throughout the world. During the 1990s, a few aggressive cults have reared their heads with bizarre and sometimes lethal results. Branch Davidians, Aum Supreme Truth, and the Order of the Solar Temple are the most prominent examples of marginal faiths gone sour. Recently, another doomsday cult has emerged near Dallas, Texas. Variously known as God's Salvation Church, God Saves the Earth Flying Saucer Foundation, and Chen Tao (True Way), the group has proclaimed that God will arrive on Earth in a flying saucer to warn humanity about an impending nuclear holocaust. Although Chen Tao may not become dangerous, their predictions of the End of the World are indeed cause for alarm.

When theories of UFOs merge with New Age concepts like reincarnation and channeling, the result is space religion. Groups like Unarius, the Raelians, and, most notoriously, Heavens Gate, have built entire religious systems around space aliens who reportedly watch over Earth. In the case of Chen Tao, flying saucers (masked as clouds) are an important component of a theology that mixes the tenets of established Eastern and Western religions with millenarian paranoia.

The leader of the True Way is a Taiwanese national named Hon-Ming Chen. He has drawn international attention by claiming that God will be reincarnated in his body on 31 March, 1998 at 10:00 AM Central Standard Time. Six days before this epiphany, God will make a worldwide announcement of his return on television Channel 18. Chen boasts that he will perform three miracles to prove his divine power. He will be able to 1) turn invisible, 2) duplicate his body to greet everyone simultaneously, and 3) speak with anyone, regardless of his or her native tongue. In his spiral-bound book Gods Descending in Clouds (Flying Saucers) on Earth to Save People (1997), Chen says, I have the full faith to say that God will appear at the referred time. At that time people shall see the One in exactly the same look of me to meet the people. I guarantee this on my life. (178) Based on this statement, some people have surmised that the group might be suicidal like Heavens Gate, but Chen and his followers disavow this morbid speculation. Citing strict vegetarianism as proof of respect for life, he denies that they will commit mass suicide.

The 42 year-old Hon-Ming Chen once taught at Chianan College of Pharmacology and Science. Originally, he received direction from Ms. Yu-Hsia Chen, who he believes was one of Gods representatives on Earth. His first spiritual proclamation was that on 11 February, 1996 all Gods and Buddhas descended upon a temple at Pei-Pu village in, Hsin-chu County, Taiwan. According to Richard Liu, Chens translator, before that time there wasnt a gathering place, but we were instructed by God to build one so that God could come down to operate on the Earth. We built it in haste. Everything was built in great haste.

God next told the group to move to San Dimas, California where they established Gods Salvation Church. Chen drew attention in mid-1997 when he claimed to have discovered a man in Vancouver, Canada who was supposedly the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Chen already had a 10 year-old boy named Chi-Jen Lo within his group who was touted as the reincarnation of Buddha. The mentors goal was to arrange a meeting between these two embodied gods. In the preface to The Practical Evidence and Study of the World of God and Buddha (1996), Chen describes the soul of God as divided into two parts: one recognized in Taiwan and the other living in Canada. He wrote that when the time comes, they will meet people of the world at some place in the USA, and get together with the elect. (ii) The meeting between Buddha and the Canadian Christ never occurred, but a 9 year-old named Che-yu Chiang has now assumed the messianic role.

The True Way has now landed in Garland, Texas because to them it sounds like Gods Land. Chen purchased his creek-side residence on 26 March, 1997, which is coincidentally the same day that the Heavens Gate mass suicide was discovered by the San Diego police. During the next few months, about 150 members of his congregation bought expensive homes in the same neighborhood. At first, the group attracted little attention and most neighbors were unaware of their presence. However, eventually there were signs that something strange was on the horizon. In late September, groups of thirty to forty members dressed in Chinese farmer hats and white robes started riding bicycles through the streets. Neighbors found peculiar fliers at their doorsteps explaining that the bike rides were instructed by God to prepare for and welcome the descending of Gods Kingdom in America. The tone of the message was polite and even apologetic, so none of the recipients feared that the End of the World was nearing.


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