Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lumimous experience and psychosis

Today I read this piece of news in Taiwan Times:

"Wang Chao-hung (王超弘), known as “Teacher Wang,” wrote on his blog last month that based on his studies of the Chinese classic I Ching (易經), also known as the Book of Changes, a magnitude 14 earthquake would hit Taiwan on May 11 at 10:42.37am."

Of course, like other doomsayers of other major disasters (like the many end-of-the-world prophesies around the globe), it turned out to be a false alarm. These prophets certainly strongly believed what they "saw" or experienced, and the famous among them got a quite a group of followers. And if one googles the web, one can certainly find other minor figures of personal prophets hanging around (using I-Ching, meditation, or whatever, and they write blogs too).

As a student of psychology, I won't deny the fact that these are genuine psychological reality of these "enlightened" people. According to classic Taoist and Buddhist meditation texts, one who has achieved the highest level of enlightenment got six supernatural powers (like able to travel easily through space, and able to listen to anything and everything etc.). Assuming that the authors had actual experience and were not lying, one can consider these powers to be psychological reality of these authors (with or without metaphysical reality depends on one's belief system).

Therefore, the experience itself between an enlightened Taoist or Buddhist (following the enlightenment by meditation route) is quite similar to that of Teaching Wang of Taiwan. Of course, the different is that Teaching Wang considered them to be actual coming event and act upon it! It is interesting to note that one well known Chinese Taoist religious leader (fled to US due to persecution by the mainland authority) once told a journalist that he did can travel to different places around the world. When questioned as to why he hadn't met other fellow "travelers" or could testify who were around during that time, he said something like, "I travel in some specific space/time not of my own choosing". This is of course a special, interesting, answer, most oracle tellers in the East (and perhaps in the West too!) will tell you that it will do them harm if they disclose Heaven's secret. That ends any discussion (unless you're a big customer!)

How about psychosis? It is a fact that those suffering from schizophrenia will probably tell you that they got those supernatural powers too (and were troubled by them, plus other stuffs). According to Jungian psychology, it is the working of a person's Collective Unconscious in both case, psychosis and meditative enlightenment. And in both cases, there are people who are more likely to be thus affected (so don't "worry", it you don't have supernatural power after years of meditation!). But there is a crucial difference. Whereas for the enlightened, his Collective Unconscious only feeds him with true-to-God information (like he is really doing space travel to the North Star or taking personal lessons from the Immortal Great grandmaster Luzu (呂祖) himself) he is still in the driving seat, a schizophrenia on the other hand is being taken over or controlled by part of his Collective Unconscious, that makes his case pathological.

Having said that, even for the non-pathological cases, luminous experience from one's Collective Unconscious can be very strong and, in some sense, quite uncontrollable. Teacher Wang's incident demonstrated this (Wang yielded to his luminous experience rather than took better advice of his more rational ego!).

In classic Taoist Nedian thinking, a practitioner is actually warned against yielding to such luminous experience, except during one's learning experience with a previous guru. In Neidan practice, when one's embryo leaves one's physical body, it will be inundated by all sorts of images presenting themselves as angelic or demonic. A practitioner is told that it is only fantasy rather than reality and should not be misled. Based on this thinking, I believe it is safe to conclude that the six supernatural powers should be treated likewise too.

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