George Burke

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Abbot George Burke, self-styled as Swami Nirmalananda Giri, is an American yogi and author who teaches a strange, heretical synthesis[1] of Hinduism and Christianity (with some Taoist and Buddhist elements) which he falsely dubs “Original Christianity". It is Burke’s opinion that Jesus was actually a magical Sanatana Dharma missionary from India who attempted to bring Hinduism to Judea, and that he returned to India after the resurrection to live out the rest of his life in the Himalayas, an idea pioneered by a handful of 20th century Hindu monastics who sought to convert Christians to their cause. Burke builds upon this idea by teaching his own version of Christian history, one that is built on speculation and several completely made-up stories.

While referring to himself as a Christian, Burke generally ignores the Bible and promotes Hindu scriptures such as the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita instead, though affirming the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, a proto-gnostic text which most scholars believe to be a forgery from the 2nd or 3rd century. Burke also alleges that the Saint Thomas Christians (an ancient Christian community in India founded by Thomas the Apostle) espoused similar views confirming Hinduism, though other sources make no mention of this supposed Hindu connection.

Ordained by the Liberal Catholic Church as a priest in 1974 and a bishop in 1975, Burke lives in a Cedar Crest, New Mexico home dubbed “Light of the Spirit Monastery” (though it seems very few other “monks” live there), a cabin extensively decorated with Orthodox Christian icons as well as statues of Krishna, Buddha, and others. [2]


Information regarding Burke's religious and monastic history is sparse, but Fr. Anthony Nelson of the Russian Orthodox Church paints an image of him as a sort of cult leader who has founded "monasteries" and "convents" in various American states since the 1970s, leading his followers in occult practices and frequently forcing massive denominational and doctrinal changes on them as he goes along.

According to Nelson, Burke got his start as a monk in the Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Monastery in Boston (after experimenting with Roman Catholicism and other Christian denominations) before fleeing to Oklahoma City to start his own Hindu-inspired monastic community with a small handful of misled followers of both genders. After tiring of Hinduism, Burke moved his group to Austin and refashioned them as the "Holy Protection Old Catholic Benedictine Monastery of the Primitive Observance" until 1981 when they were again refashioned into the "Holy Protection Orthodox Monastery". Burke's group would only remain Eastern Orthodox until the mid-1980s, when they would again refashion themselves as Coptic Christians, going so far as to invite actual Egyptian Copts to their monastery under false claims of Apostolic Succession.

It was during this "Coptic" phase when Nelson would come to visit them in person, finding them in the middle of a Hindu-inspired ritual in which they were offering fruits and flowers to icons of Jesus and Mary. Nelson describes a second, "secret" chapel on the monastery premises in which Burke would lead his followers in the worship of demons and other black magic practices, an activity which caused some of Burke's followers to abandon his monastery altogether in favor of more traditional expressions of Christianity.

Burke's monastery would eventually relocate and refashion themselves again by the 1990s, becoming Gnostic and settling in Nebraska as the "Light of Christ Monastery".

Nelson's writing also describe Burke as a tarot card enthusiast and self-described reincarnated Catholic Bishop and Christian martyr. [3]

"Original Christianity"

Dubbed “Original Christianity” in order to sound legitimate, Burke's teachings are fairly unique among heresies in that they represent an attempt to completely re-frame the history and goal of Jesus in order to fit another existing religion. Ironically, believing in Burke’s teachings means believing that Jesus was a failure, having attempted to bring Hinduism and dharma to the Jewish people, but effectively starting a completely new monotheistic, Abrahamic religious group instead. Some examples of Burke’s strange teachings from his website include:

  • The Jews of Jesus’ day taught “gilgul” or reincarnation, and therefore it is “automatically passed” into Christian theology as well (in actuality, gilgul was one of many ideas of the afterlife considered by ancient Jewish mystics, and was only ever a minority opinion).
  • The story of Adam and Eve demonstrates “the intimate relationship between diet and consciousness” and is one of the reasons why we should be vegetarian.
  • The apocryphal “Odes of Solomon” were actually personally written by Jesus and passed down through his apostles.
  • When the Apostle Paul refers to “the scriptures”, he’s actually talking about Hindu scriptures or another apocryphal work.
  • Other forms of Christianity (aka forms that don’t teach Hinduism) are bad and corrupt, having been shaped by people like Constantine (ironically, a similar argument is sometimes used by protestants to attack catholicism).
  • Thomas was a “Spiritual Twin” of Jesus, and the only apostle that correctly understood his teachings. Likewise, he wrote the Gospel of Thomas and founded his church upon it.
  • Thomas visited the Essene people of Qumran (authors of the dead sea scrolls) and influenced them.
  • Jesus was actually descended from the Essenes, who were basically Middle Eastern Hindus according to Burke.
  • Ancient Jews worshipped Shiva, but this fact was obscured over time. According to Burke, Catholic mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich was once healed by crystal idols of Shiva brought to her by the angels.
  • Anointing oil mentioned in the Bible is actually Himalayan Balsam.
  • Jesus rigorously studied the Bhagavad Gita and practiced yoga while studying in Benares, India. While in Israel, he quoted the Gita in his public discourses. Burke’s website goes on to tell what Hindu order Jesus belonged to, what cities and monasteries he visited in India, the influence Buddhism had on him, why he had to flee to the Himalayas, etc.

It should be noted that all of these teachings are, at best, completely based on speculation and wishful thinking on Burke’s part, or are at worst, a completely intentional fabrication, as he effectively attempts to write an alternate history of Christianity. Given the overwhelming detail of Burke’s story of Jesus’ life in India, it seems most rational to assume Burke is intentionally lying, as he provides no sources or corroboration for any of his claims.

Burke’s views regarding Jesus, Thomas, the Essenes, Ancient Jews, and a supposed instance of Shiva healing a Catholic mystic, are all unique to his teachings and cannot be found anywhere else. Neither in any spiritual community, nor within the confines of secular scholarship.


While it is likely that Burke’s target demographic is Christians, his attempts to convert them to his way of thinking seem to have been essentially fruitless. Instead, Burke’s books seem to attract a western demographic that are already interested in eastern religions (similar to “Hare Krishnas”).

Burke’s reception among strict Hindus has been lukewarm to negative, with some Hindu teachers accusing him of trying to use a Hindu facade to spread Christianity among budding Hindus.[4]