Upon their first contact with Cao Đài, many friends often wonder why Victor Hugo is venerated in the Religion. His image catches their first sights on entering any Cao Đài temple, along with those of two other Saints on a heavenly looking painting in a space called Tịnh Tâm Điện (Serenity Hall). Some may quickly assume that the painting is there to welcome or calm visitors' minds. In reality, it is neither a decorative painting nor a welcome message. What it conveys carries a much more profound and universal implication on Mankind. The three Saints were signing a Covenant on behalf of Mankind with Heaven. Written in French and Chinese, the letters mean: "God and Humanity; Love and Justice." The Covenant will bring Mankind together into a universal family in the new Kingdom to come in the next Cycle of evolution.
Why are Victor Hugo and the other Saints chosen to sign the Covenant?
Many scholars tend to reason that due to French influence on its past colonies, the New Religion inadvertently borrowed aspects of his works and qualities in its formation. From a secular perspective, such reasoning seems to make sense. From a spiritual perspective, it can be deemed ignorant. Very few in this world know who he really is.
He deserves to be respected for his many literary works and contributions to the progress of France and humanity. Les Miserables has woken us all across continents and generations to the dire plights of those being tormented and exploited under the yoke of oppressors and villains. Although it was written more than a century ago, similar stories of incarceration, slavery, oppression, etc. can still be found in the modern age. Hugo's tireless strife for liberty, equality, and fraternity needs to be carried on for many years, if not many decades.
The world often thinks of him as a great writer, politician, humanist, and probably also a mystic. Few ever know that he was an incarnation of a Divine Spirit from Loge Blanche Realm. According to Caodaipedia, the real name of this Divine Being is Bạch Vân Chơn Nhơn (Loge Blanche Saint) or Nguyệt Tâm Chơn Nhơn (Lunar Heart Saint). Loge Blanche refers to a spiritual realm where Divine Beings come to prepare for their reincarnation on earth. Its Beings often stay in close contact with or observation of the earth, and therefore can represent earthly beings in the eternal realm. During the Third Amnesty, they also follow God's Will to establish His Great Way (Tung Thien, 31).
Bạch Vân Chơn Nhơn has actually been reincarnated more than once. Before Hugo, He came to Vietnam in the physical form of the renowned poet Nguyễn Du (Tung Thien, 31). This poet has been recognized by UNESCO as a notable World Cultural Figure thanks to his hundreds of poetic works, especially the 3,254-line humanistic novel in verse form titled 'Tale of Kieu' (Do Thuy).
His Role in the Cao Đài Religion
Under the guidance of the Supreme Being, His Holiness Ho Phap (Head of the Legislative Body) helped form the Overseas Missionary Body which was placed under the direction of Bạch Vân Chơn Nhơn. He is assisted by other spirits such as Jean De La Fontaine in France, Sun Yat-Sen in Asia, William Shakespeare in England, Léon Tolstoi in Eurasia, Pearl Buck in America, etc., as well as many Cao Dai missionaries in different countries (Tung Thien, 39). Below are several poems and teachings delivered by Him through spiritist seances:
Moonlight shines on the Holy Land of the East,
Hearts of sacredness spread in four directions,
The Way leads the world out of calamities,
Souls on the path are saved in all locations.
Preserve your one heart for the Lord,
Though His face or place is ever known,
Nor is His power ever seen,
Across the universe He reigns over souls.
"As far as I am concerned, there are many other earths in the endless universe. They may be larger, but their life and creatures likely share similar forms. Take, for example, another earth which is more evolved in terms of spirituality and humanism. At some stage, it seemed to be just like this earth. Thanks to evolution, beauty reigns over its entire sky. Its creatures are very holy, peaceful, and harmonious who control its different regions. Its mankind knows neither war nor relativism; everything is absolute. Many noble souls compete for better virtues. All creations are based on wisdom and knowledge, while their righteous souls curb impurity and frailty. Even the most lowly groups do not need laws to regulate their life. They are unified by holy faith. Death is subdued by lofty conscience. No difference exists between the dead and the living. Love manifests everywhere. All souls are fully imbued with the Holy Spirit. On our earth, certain groups might have a slightly similar way of living. One day, you will see the great meaning when our earth evolves to the next level." (Tung Thien, 50)
Caodaipedia. Nguyệt Tâm Chơn Nhơn. Center for Studies in Caodaism.
Do Thuy. Nguyen Du: symbol of Vietnamese culture. Vietnamnews, 2015. https://vietnamnews.vn/sunday/features/276934/nguyen-du-symbol-of-vietnamese-culture.html
Tung Thien. Tien kiep Nguyen Tam Chon Nhon, Hau kiep Nguyen Du, Victor Hugo. Center for Studies in Caodaism, 2015.
Walthausen, Abby. How The Author of Les Misérables Became a Fixture of Cao Dai. Literary Hub, 2019. https://lithub.com/on-victor-hugos-posthumous-career-as-a-religious-prophet/
Hoskin, Janet A. An Unjealous God? Christian Elements in a Vietnamese Syncretistic Religion. University of Chicago Journals. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/678183