Agamic Psychology and Religious Experience
Dr. K. Loganathan, Universiti Sains Malaysia
1.0 The question how does the different world religions view science can be interpreted in so many different ways. Not only that- it is not also clear exactly what is meant by science. The different philosophers of science do not seem to be able to tell us in very clear cut terms what is science and what is not. New conceptions of science are continuously emerging particularly in the area of social sciences. All these because the methodology in the physical sciences are seen to be inappropriate for the study of human behaviour which is so essential for education, psychiatry, industrial management, political science and so forth. Behaviorism, for example, is declining with the behaviorists themselves becoming more and more interested in the so-called 'spiritual' phenomena, particularly in the meditative prac-tices and how they shape human behaviour and the cognitive processes.
2.0 What I want to mention here is that while no religion can be happy with the notion of science that is physicalistic or positivistic in nature, they can be happy with what I have called Hermeneutic Sciences, sciences that have forged their methodo-logical principles from the notion of literary Hermeneutics- the science of interpreting a text and understanding it correctly, accurately and truly. Here we have a notion of TRUTH that is quite distinct from the notion of scientific facts and which allows "scientific" approaches to its study. This simultaneously means however giving up the dogmatic stance that is no characteristic of practi-cally all religions in the world. TRUTH, even of the revealed kind can be and should be investi-gated. Unless investigations as such are allowed, the religions cannot free themselves of dogmatism and as such have to clash not only with the sciences but also with the human needs for rational understanding. If this state of affairs continues, the grip of religion over man will decline, and the religions will be dead as we can see it happening in the Western World today.
3.0 While the notion of Hermeneutic Science is very broad, its psychological form, that I have called Agamic Psychology is the form of Science most suitable for the study of the religious dimensions of human behaviour. Agamic Psychology uses the products of human activity- essays, articles, poetry, drawings, records, documents, monuments and so forth and treating them as TEXTS interprets them to understand man the producer. Agamic Psychology belongs to the newly emerging fields of interpretive social sciences. But its significant contribution is the development of ACCESS TESTS and through that investigating in a scientific manner the unconscious contents of the human mind which also constitutes the domain of religious experi-ence. Such a study is not new. The ancient Siddhas in India, the alchemists who were mainly medical doctors and psychiatrists have investi-gated the so-called Depth Psychological experi-ences of man for millenniums. Such alchemists are also found in the Middle East, China and Europe. Recently C.G.Jung has made a brilliant study of the medieval European alchemists with the view to see what they can contribute to the study of the religious dimensions of man. When we study the hundreds of texts that have been written by these scholars one is struck by a fundamental similarity despite many differences at the surface level. All of them speak in terms of two fundamental principles - the SUN principle and MOON principle as central not only in the formation of psychical structures but also the physical, biological, bio-chemical, chemical and so forth. What is surpris-ing is that the recently developed BAUM TEST, one of the ACCESS TESTS that is being investi-gated also confirms the presence of these princi-ples at least in the psychical realms. These two principles act and interact in various ways to generate the different psychological dispositions of man. It also discloses that there is a SPIRIT behind these two principles that manipulates them unceasingly to help man raise himself up in personal development and ultimately be in com-mune with the SPIRIT itself. Thus Agamic Psy-chology not only confirms the presence of God, but also helps man to understand HIM better and better through the framework of a scientific approach.
I must describe TWO central elements in Agarnic Psychology that I believe will lead even the sceptics to appreciate the reality of a spirit not only in himself but also in the world unceasingly acting as its architect as many great mystics and philoso-phers all over the world have noted.
The first is the central ACCESS TEST in the form of BAUM TEST and the SECOND a theory of personal development and so forth in terms of a new concept of learning.
Now BAUM TEST in drawing test in which a person is required to draw a tree bearing fruits. The instructions are varied slightly to generate four different such drawings that are called BAUMS (in German Baum means a tree) in order to reach the different layers of the psychical structures. These drawings are in fact METAPHORS - prod-ucts of a form of mental functioning where the UNCONSCIOUS erupts into conscious forms very much like in dreaming experience. These BAUMS which are in fact METAPHORS become the TEXTS that an agamic psychologist interpretes in order to get at the unconscious elements that in fact constitutes a person's psychological make-up. Extensive investigations disclose that all these BAUMS or metaphors of the mind are in fact infinite variations, interactions of basically two elements - the SUN and MOON principles which the Tantric Psychologists in India have called Bindu and Natham and the Taoists in China Yin and Yang. These principles combine in different proportions to generate the different personalities we meet in the world.
Now it was found that among the four BAU MS - A,B,C and D, normally A and B are memories of our own experiences - how one interpreted what happened to oneself and chooses to remember them. The BAUM C however records the ongoing, the current and D the yet to come, the projective possibilities that are consequences of the ongoing, the current. Such an understanding of a person - how he interpretes his own past, understands the present and projects into the future, captures for us the TEMPORAL mode of Being of the person, how he in fact EXISTS in the world. It is this discovery that has made BAUM TEST very useful in counselling. It was found that people change dramatically when they are told that their present way of living is likely to lead to a personal disaster of some kind. Such a prediction which is quite different from that based on statis-tical correlations, is similar to prophetic un-derstanding. The Tantric Psychologists in India call this PURNA ARUUDAM to distinguish it carefully from astrology, palmistry and so forth. Through reaching the TEMPORAL layer of a person's existence, it becomes possible to gain an insight into the kind of future the present course of activities is likely to lead him into. His present activities shape up his future possibilities and frequently he is not aware of it. Where it so happens that his future possibility is rather disas-trous, he can amend his present way of Being and thereby avoid that personal disaster. Many Stu-dents in the Science University of Malaysia who have taken up this Test have benefited immediately. By solving their personal problems and attaining a calmness through deeper self-understanding it has been possible for most of them to concentrate more effectively in their studies and do rather well in the examinations.
5.0 The second issue is with respect to the theory that has been developed in the course of interpreting the BAUMS which are in fact METAPHORS. Thus the principles of interpretations involved are almost the same as in metaphorical or analogical understanding that we have termed Hermeneutic Semiotics.. When we thus interpret and get at the meaning of these BAUMS, it was found that these are in fact behaviours or activities in which a person LEARNS something or other. By learn-ing we mean here something different from what the Behavioral psychologists say - change of behaviour brought about by contingencies of rein-forcement. In Agamic Psychology learning is understood as an activity in which the scope of existing IGNORANCE of a person is reduced. With this understanding - when we see the mean-ing of the different types of BAUMS, we can recognise three different types of learning - the alpha, beta and gamma, in which the latter emerges in the course of the former provided attention is drawing towards it.
The initial alpha learning is the scientific understandings of the physical reality. In the course of such studies when a person turns his attentions towards himself, we have Beta learning. In this kind of learning he gains an understanding of his own psychical constitution - desires, inter-ests; attitudes, competencies, capabilities, values and so forth. Now in the course of active beta learning, there comes a point where he begins to recognise the existence of unconscious factors enormously powerful not only in shaping up his own psychological structure but also the events around. With this begins Gamma-learning which is simultaneously the religious dimensiors of human existence.
What appears to be peculiar to gamma learning and as such to religious experience as a whole is a specific kind of perception that we have termed Transductive Perception which in Tamil is termed vinjnana kaatci by the Tantric psychologists. Ii must not be imagined that this kind of perception is peculiar and is available only to a selected few. Our researches indicate that almost all individuals above the age of sixteen or so are capable of this and it constitutes the basis for the quite common meta phorical kind of thinking. However it can go undeveloped in which case the person becomes sceptical of the reality of religious experience. When however it is developed further and further, a person develops also not only simply as a person but also as a genius. The further he develops this transductive perceptual capacities the more crea-tive and intelligent he becomes. This discovery constitutes one of the most important findings of Agamic Psychology, and currently new kind of educational technologies are being conceptualised and investigated to further affirm it.
6.0 Concluding Remarks
At the moment people belonging to the different religions are more interested in converting others into their faiths rather than encouraging the explo-rations of the world of Transductive Perception, the realms of the depths, the Unconscious. There is more FEAR of the Depths rather than a genuine thirst for understanding it. The scientific temper of the age does not allow any form of dogmatic maintenance of TRUTHS. The TRUTHS even of the revealed kind cannot be appropriated as a living element of ones existence unless it is allowed to be questioned. What emerges unshaken even after severe criticisms and various forms of investigations cannot but be Truths. Only such Truths that stand undying can be meaningful to man.
The Indian Tantric Psychologists learned this lesson very early and because of that have ex-plored the unconscious more extensively than perhaps elsewhere in the world.
By modernising this ancient tradition not only we get a scientific way of investigating religious experience but also a powerful psychology that can enable us to solve the many human problems in education, psychiatry, industrial psychology, human resources development management and so forth in effective and innovative ways.
(Based on an address delivered at the seminar on Science and Religion organised by the International Islamic University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur on the 25th March,1994)
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