On October 27 of this year the Pervomaisky court of the Russian city Krasnodar classified as extremist the book "Zhuan Falun" by the infamous Li Hongzhi and several other Falun Gong publications. This decision has brought to a conclusion a process which had begun in September 2009. Of course, now we have to wait for the decision of the appeals court. If the appeal of the Falun Gong organization will be dismissed this book, as well as two other Falun Gong publications will be prohibited in all territory of the Russian Federation. Let us consider that according to a pro Falun Gong article in Wikipedia:
The main body of teachings is articulated in the core book Zhuan Falun, published in Chinese in 1995. Falun Gong texts have since been translated into an additional 38 languages.
Having this in mind we will realize that the prohibition of this book will make it very difficult for the Falun Gong cult to function in my country.
This decision, no doubt, will cause massive protests orchestrated by Falun Gong in Russia as well as, perhaps, in other countries. So, the question is: can we consider the teaching and practices of Falun Gong extremist (i. e. dangerous to human being, family, society and state) or not? Moreover, can we claim that this danger is reflected in Falun Gong literature which, since it was authored by the "enlightened Master" li Hongzhi, is considered by the adepts of the cult to be Sacred Scripture?
All these aspects of danger can be examined separately, but the time limits of this presentation would not permit it. So I will try in this case study to address only one aspect and to see on the basis of Li Hongzhi's book "Falun Dafa" (which is his first book translated into Russian and published in my country), whether the cult makes claims to heal its adepts and, if so, whether it harms their health.
Quite a number of cults make it difficult for their adepts to receive qualified medical help. That is to say the least - some of them bluntly forbid going to a doctor even in the case of emergency. For example, "Jehovah's Witnesses" prohibit blood transfusion even in life threatening cases. Scientology is vehemently against psychiatrists and psychologists. Moreover, it claims that its members who climb the cultic "Bridge to total freedom" will acquire perfect health and will not need to go to any doctor. Neo-Pentecostal leaders claim that their leaders by the power of the Holy Spirit can heal all diseases and even raise the dead. If an adept of a Neo-Pentecostal cult goes to a doctor it, according to its leaders, signifies that he/she does not have enough faith. The Notorious Vissarion (real name Sergey Torop) from Krasnoyarsk Territory in Siberia who proclaimed himself the last incarnation of Jesus, claims that all diseases must be treated by "esthetotherapy" - i. e. by contemplating the beautiful Siberian nature. Another Russian cult leader Gregory Grabovoy (he was sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud) promised to heal all his followers from diseases, to raise the dead from their graves and to give them eternal life. Nadezhda Antonenko, who two months ago was sentenced to three and half years for fraud, claims that she by her energy charges all water in the room and it becomes a miraculous cancer medicine. We can continue this list on and on. It is needless to say that in all of these cases many people because of lack of real medical help have died, and many more people have had their medical condition aggravated and their health deteriorate.
Can we examine Falun Gong from the same perspective? Does it make medical claims?
One of the main accusations against Falun Gong was a statement that exercises developed by Li Hongzhi may lead to psychic illnesses and even to death (as early as July 30 1999 Agency Xinhua has reported that by this time 743 people in China died because of the cult; by the end of the same year this number has grown to 1400).
In this context we can understand multiple facts which are cited by Chinese media that the followers of Falun Gong under the influence of Li Hongzhi's books have cut their stomachs open with scissors, jumped out of the windows, incinerated themselves, jumped in wells and drowned to death, have taken their parents for demons and killed them, as well as their husbands, wives, children, etc.
Moreover, the cult is accused of being the cause of death of many people who have refused medical help trusting that that the methods of Li Hongzhi will cure them. Yet, the members of the cult flatly deny all these accusations, claiming that they all are propagandistic lies.
Let us see whether this is correct. We will try to find the answer in the works of Li Hongzhi himself and in observations and interviews with Russian cult members which were taken during field studies.
All cult members (when they thought they were addressing a friendly audience) confirmed that they radically refuse medical health on an ideological basis. According to the doctrine of the cult all humanity is divided into two kinds: "ordinary people" and "practitioners", i. e. the cult members who practice Falun Gong methods. As Li Hongzhi claims , the diseases and problems can happen only to "ordinary people" while cult members or "practitioners" have been raised to some "next level of hierarchy", i. e. turn into super humans. The closest parallel to this are Scientology and many New Age cults which entice adepts by promises of transformation into some kind of super beings, vastly superior to all other men.
Thus, claims Li Hongzhi, "all cells in the bodies of practitioners will be replaced by high energy matter" and sooner or later these bodies will "consist of high energetic matter, taken from other spaces". This is one of the basic characteristics of the teaching of the cult. We should add that according to our observations, most Falun Gong adepts in Russia are older (pre-retirement and post-retirement age) women with little education. Their basic desires can be expressed as two obvious (for this category of people) wishes: to become younger and to get rid of all diseases.
They claim that they receive the fulfillment of both in Falun Gong and boast that since they began practicing they have stopped going to doctors. Considering the complete ignorance of most potential adepts regarding the fields of medicine and physiology we can understand why both of these topics are used by the cult to entice people in. Li Hongzhi writes:
"The composition of body molecules remains unchangeable. However, their essence has changed. Your body will not consist of the cells of flesh as before. <...> Of course, you have not completed the process of your movement to perfection, you are perfecting yourself among ordinary people, and because of this you do not look very different from them. The only difference is in the fact that you look much younger than your contemporaries. Of course, first of all you have to remove from your body everything evil including diseases. <...> The appearance of our disciples who have dedicated themselves to Falun Gong after some time will radically change: the skin will become softer and more delicate, the cheeks will become more rosy, elderly people will have less wrinkles, and eventually they will almost be gone. This is always a universal phenomenon. <...> And besides, elderly women will again have their menstrual cycle because the Qi from menstrual blood is needed for perfection of both soul and life".
"The molecules of human body cells in the course of self-improvement will be substituted by high energy matter. <...> Those around you will not notice the changes in your appearance, your molecules-cells (sic! A. D.) will keep their previous structure and order but the energy inside them will change. Thus such a man naturally will not age and wear out, his body cells will stop dying and, consequently, youthfulness will never leave him. In the process of self-improvement such a man will start looking younger than his age. And finally he will stabilize in his own place".
It is interesting that Li Hongzhi has not been publishing his current photographs for at least ten years. Perhaps it is because he does not look much younger than his age? Or, perhaps, because, according to him, such "eternal youth" causes very strange (to say the least) phenomena in the field of physiology:
"When you will reach a very high level of hierarchy and will complete all stages of self-improvement according to the world's laws, you will acquire an eye which will be similar to faceted eyes. I mean that on the upper part of your face there will appear a large eye, in which there will be an innumerable number of small eyes. The enlightened ones who had reached the highest levels of hierarchy have a lot of eyes which completely cover their faces".
Thus, having enticed elderly and not-so-elderly ladies by such fairy tales, the cult conducts its further activity according to the classical method of recruitment of new adepts. It begins by promising a miracle here and now:
"The only thing which can truly make you healthy, to free you from various diseases, and to truly lead you to salvation is self-improvement! "
"Self-improvement" in the Li Hongzhi cult can mean only one thing: to read daily his book "Zhuan Falun" which is considered sacred in the cult, and which, I remind you, was recently recognized in Russia as extremist, to meditate and to do the so called complex of five qigong exercises - of course in the interpretation of Li Hongzhi.
The following absurd claims do not make wonder perhaps only cultic studies professionals who in their daily work come across all kinds of bizarre ideas. Li Hongzhi promises that he personally will place into the lower part of the abdomen of each practitioner a small Falun which is an exact model of the universe. This act will bring healings to both the adept and all those who surround him:
"This Falun I personally place into you during our lectures. When I preach Falun Dafa, all of you gradually receive the Falun which is placed by me. <...> When the Falun turns around clockwise he automatically takes out energy from the Universe. Besides he can produce energy by himself, and to procure the energy which is needed in order to change all parts of the body. <...> The Energy which is freed by the Falun is very helpful to all people around. <...> It can naturally regulate the health of others and to heal all their diseases".
Li Hongzhi stresses that all practitioners of Falun Gong unavoidably better their health and moral state. He illustrates this claim by the experiment of introducing his cultic teaching into socialist industry:
"Since workers and supervisors began studying Falun Dafa (the Great law of Falun) they began coming to work early and leaving it very late. They work with diligence and great care, willingly fulfilling every task given to them. Nobody strives after personal gain. All this led to an incredible change in the spiritual character of the factory. The Economic efficiency of the factory has grown as well".
Li Hongzhi has promised to his adepts to turn them into receptacles of the deified Cosmos and, in a due time, to make them Masters of the Universe. Obviously, here he plagiarizes on the Buddhist tradition which understands the Universe as alien to any teleology. It rather sees the world as the result of the karmic activity of all living creatures in all their reincarnations.
However, according to the teaching of Li Hongzhi people who successfully follow the path of self-improvement can become an elite group, determining the further transformation of the world. Li claims the ability to teach cult members to raise themselves above the laws of Karma, which, according to the law of Buddha, is unalterable. All the adept has to do is to surrender himself to the power which is placed into him by the "Teacher":
"Falun has mental power. He himself knows what to do".
The deified cult leader subdues the will of his adepts through mind control. Constantly reading his books and listening to his voice, they practice psychophysical exercises believing that "the Teacher" has placed into them "the microchip of Eternity". They had expected eternal youth, omnipotence and heavenly joys but they in fact became slaves.
The final goal of self-improvement and reaching the "highest hierarchy", higher than the "level of Ghulai" (i. e. Buddha) in the version of Li Hongzhi becomes rather banal:
"Life without diseases, without suffering, when you have everything you can only wish for - that is what the life of the inhabitants of heaven looks like". The practitioner of self-improvement "needs only to stretch out his hand and he will have everything he wants" and this will happen in his own "Paradise".
In order not to be held responsible for illegal medical practice, the cultists claim that they do not heal anybody: rather the Falun revolves and as he does the disease disappears ("melts") by itself. However, in his explanations of this "phenomenon" Li Hongzhi contradicts himself, which is not surprising: all cultic texts usually have a large problem with logic:
"We do not heal diseases here and we do not strengthen health. We will not give you some kind of information and will not heal you. We do not get involved in that. I personally will endeavor to remove your disease".
But, at the same time:
"Only after I will remove your diseases, will do all that is needed, will place into you everything which needs to be placed, you really can begin self-improvement in our school. If I will not give you anything, everything will boil down to the healing of all diseases and the strengthening of your body".
So, does he heal or not? Or, according to the last quote, he does even more than heal? More so, "to remove disease" means "to heal", or not? However, earlier Li Hongzhi in his usual tautological manner informs us that the practitioners can heal diseases by themselves:
"In the process of self-improvement the practitioners out of compassion practice noble deeds: they heal the sick, involve themselves with healing diseases and bringing health into human bodies".
However, If the adept nonetheless gets sick, it is explained that he wears out his karma, since his body, already replaced by the "matter of high energy" cannot experience illness:
"As a practitioner you by yourself must quench the part of Karma, which was not removed by the Teacher. Because of that you may experience some symptoms of disease, as if you were really sick with something".
The representatives of the higher hierarchies sometimes come into human society not without fear. The problem is that their memory is erased and they easily can "get stuck in the swamp of glory and avarice". A good method of overcoming such a dead end is the "method called craziness" (sic!, - A. D.). A person with good abilities for self-improvement has to be "forced to be in the state of craziness, a certain part of his brain bust be locked" for two or three years. When he will suffer enough his "de" will improve and his "tun" will rise. "After that consciousness will be returned to this person".
In other words, if a person while studying Falun Gong simply becomes insane, there is nothing to worry about: he is simply wearing out his Karma.
However, what worries "the Teacher" most is to prevent people from getting sick, or, to be more exact, mentally sick (so, such possibility exists) during the work of cultic study sessions. Obviously, it can significantly reduce the reputation of the cult:
"Unfortunately, many practitioners behave not in the way, they should have behaved properly. They remain being ordinary people. Thus when the time comes they still get sick. In this or that day, a person will get a blood clot in his brain, or some other disease, or he will come down with psychosis. When this man will become raving mad, people will begin to disseminate rumors that he "acquired the flowing out fire and possession" (? - A. D.) because he practices self-improvement. Think for yourself, is it fair? <...>
If this man would have gotten his psychosis at home it would not be so bad (! - A. D.) but even then people might say that he got sick because he practiced Qigong. But if he got his psychosis on the exercise ground - that is the worst possible case. They will stick such a label upon you, that you will never be able to take it off. Even the newspapers will write that the study of Qigong caused flowing out fire and possession.<...>
Think for yourself; is it fair to ascribe it to Qigong? Let us take a hospital doctor for example. Is a doctor guaranteed to be free from diseases? Can one treat this subject in such a way? "
We can make several conclusions from this lengthy quotation. Obviously, Li Hongzhi understands very well that his system eventually leads people to insanity and it makes him worry. And knowing that, he continues leading his cult and developing its teaching, thus deliberately causing harm to the physical and the mental health of his adepts.
At the same time, perhaps it is helpful to remind that Li Hongzhi himself went to doctors (while proclaiming, as we have seen above, that his system makes the practitioner absolutely healthy). According to the documents, provided by the Xinhua agency, between 1982 and 1992 he regularly purchased medications.
However, these facts are not known by most cultists. And if we return to Li's explanations for the simple fact that his system can cause only harm, we see typical cult leader demagogy: if the method has helped you, be thankful to the cult and its leader. But if the method has not helped you - it is your own fault, go on; continue with wearing out your karma further on!
Having thought of everything, Li Hongzhi strives to protect himself from possible allegations, warning that his method will not help gravely ill people. Naturally, it will not help, not because the method us useless, but because the gravely ill person is guilty himself - he cannot stop thinking of his illness, which is, of course is very stupid of him:
"We do not allow gravely ill people to come to our lectures because they cannot free themselves from thoughts about treating their illness. The state of their health constantly worries them. They are gravely ill and this tortures them. They cannot free themselves from such thoughts, can they? They do not have the strength for self-improvement. Many times we have stressed that we do not accept the gravely ill".
People in many countries of the world are manipulated by Falun Gong recruiters to believe these illiterate lies. They fanatically trust that a middle-aged half-literate Chinese exile in the USA implants Faluns into their bodies, changes their bodies into "matter of high energy", after which they acquire many "faceted" eyes. Perhaps if this nonsense would not be presented as "healing all diseases" and "acquiring eternal youth" it would not have been harmful to such a degree - since there would be nothing to entice potential recruits with. However, as it is, the Falun Gong cult of Li Hongzhi presents a real danger to people's well-being, health and even their lives. Because of his claims to heal people, his brain-washed adepts refuse medical help and often this brings their situation to an irreversible end. Moreover, Li Hongzhi himself incidentally admits that people are prone to having nervous breakdowns during his seminars and exercises, which, of course, can lead them to the murders and suicides described by the Chinese media. And I believe, that even from the limited examples I have mentioned, we can see clearly enough that this is more than possible.
1) Li Hongzhi, Falun Dafa, Moscow, 1999, p. 63. All quotations from Li Hongzhi are translated into English from Falun Gong Russian editions. The language and content of the text are very confused and far from literate. We have tried to preserve the style and the manner of the author.
2) Ibid, p. 37-38.
3) Ibid, p. 64.
4) Ibid, p. 50.
5) Ibid., p. 60.
6) Ibid., p. 39.
7) Ibid., p. 82.
8) Ibid,. p. 26.
9) Ibid,. p. 39.
10) Ibid,. p. 91.
11) Ibid., p. 100.
12) Ibid., p. 102.
13) Ibid., p. 11.
14) Li Honghi, Falun - the Law of Buddha, Moscow, 2003, p. 41.
15) Li Hongzhi, Falun Dafa, pp. 111-112.
16) Ibid,. p. 167.
17) Ibid., p. 38.