Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Psychotic experience and spirituality

Many years ago I had the good experience of helping a friend went through his difficult treatment process of schizophrenia. My friend initially didn't accept his situation and tried to reason it away as some power was overpowering him. We finally convinced him to seek psychiatric help. During the initial period of trial and error finding of the right psychotic drug (by his doctor, psychiatry has never been an exact science) to stabilize his conditions, he still had, now more controlled, episodes of hallucinations and intrusion of some inner power. In an incident, he told us that some inner power told him that something must happen at a certain day, and he himself felt so sure of its happening as if the voice was him and him the voice. Perhaps with the help the psychotic drug that he was taking, he made a deal with "himself": OK, let's wait for that day to come, and I can decide whether this inner me is phony or not. Needless to say, the promised thing didn't happen on that particular day. After that my friend could live better with his inner force.

It reminds me of all those apocalyptic predictions with doomed-to-fail results. My friend's condition was psychotic in nature whereas those prophets' were spiritual in nature.

The modern world has more lost souls, primarily because we can't nowadays externalize our inner self through the prevalent religion or belief system. As Carl Jung said, that was the birth (or condition of birth) of modern psychology. Without an inner psyche, psychology cannot logically exist.

Nowadays each of us has to manage his own psyche. If he is a Catholic, each Sunday he will go to Church and has his dosage of spirituality, to calm his restless mind, so to speak. And similarly with other religion. The rest of the week? We have to be on our own, with our own responsibility!

And there are the more "courageous" ones who want to get in touch with the ultimate, hopefully, through deep meditation, devoted prayers or kundalini awakening. And were glad when they experienced their psyche being "controlled" by an inner force, or an inner force spoke within him. Some become cult leaders, and some of these leaders made predictions (revelations) that usually turned out to be untrue if a specific date was involved, as per my friend's experience and the experience of the prophets. Some unlucky ones likely to have self-induced psychosis, as Jung warned.

The classic teachings of Taoist meditation (like Hui Ming Jing 慧命經) actually warned practitioners not to heed these inner voices, but treat them as fantasies (i.e. no Buddha, no saints and no demons). But then what should a practitioner get from his Taoist deep meditation practice? Nothingness? Tao? But what is Tao and what is Nothingness?

The missing link in this search for spirituality for the modern man is morality. The highest level of morality is Tao. And the highest level of morality for Christianity is "Treat thy neighbor as thyself". Without this firm grounding in morality, any "awakening" will have no meaning. And morality is not a subject that can be taught by your chi-kung master or teacher of kundalini awakening. Morality has been studied, debated and refined in each of our organized religions. The best sources for the modern man to learn.

It is therefore quite understandable why in Taoist and (old) Zen tradition, the practice of deep meditation was reserved for the morally enlightened disciples. It is more true for the modern man. Without a good study of morality, the practice of deep meditation will be quite useless spiritually, and could be outright dangerous (as Jung said, the possibility of self-induced psychosis). Practitioners be warned.

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