What’S Behind The Manson Cult?

Our Savage God, by R. C. Zaehner (Sheed and Ward, 1975, 319 pp., $8.95), is reviewed by Donald Bloesch, professor of theology, Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.

In this provocative book R. C. Zaehner, for many years professor of comparative religion at Oxford University, investigates the pseudo-mysticism that lay behind the Charles Manson murders. Manson is the California sex and violence cultist who is now in prison because of his role in the murders of Sharon Tate and others. He is back in the news because one of his followers, Lynette Fromme, apparently attempted to kill President Ford in Sacramento. What intrigues the author is that Manson not only used drugs in his quest for reality but also sought an experience of enlightenment as in the mysticism of the East. Zaehner also discusses A Clockwork Orange in attempting to explain the malaise that afflicts so many young and not-so-young people today.

Zaehner sees the speculation of the pre-Socratics, Platonists, and Oriental mystics behind much of the metaphysical confusion today. He recognizes that the great philosophers of classical antiquity as well as of Hinduism and Buddhism were not without some wisdom; yet certain of their presuppositions when not seen in the right context can give rise to a moral nihilism that undercuts the very fabric of society.

The view that in God there is both good and evil, implicit in Heraclitus and explicit in the Upanishads, can be devastating for those who seek to forge an ethical and meaningful life. In the mysticism of high Hinduism, God is the sole agent, and any responsibility for good and evil is his. Like many of the Eastern mystics, Manson sought to attain a position beyond good and evil. By ...

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