I came across this article interviewing this Oxford-educated researcher on meditation who has written a book titled, "The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?" that asserts that there is a "dark side" to meditation and that "severe difficulties" are experienced by 7% of all who practice (insight) meditation such (such as mindfulness meditation). To my amazement, he conflates these "severe difficulties" with "possible psychoses" and states that "meditation can lead people into possible psychosis"!
I had long hard laughs from reading this article, for it is a prime example of the pseudo-scientific horse shit that gets circulated on the internet. But a day after I wrote my excoriation of Dr. Miguel Farias' theory of meditation "leading people into psychoses," I was utterly amazed to discover (online) that he has degrees in psychology and psychotherapy from Univ. of Lisbon and Oxford University (a Ph.D.), did postdoctoral research at the Ian Ramsey Centre in Oxford, worked as a research associate at the Psychology of Religion Group in Cambridge, and lectured at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford. In 2014, he joined Coventry University to lead the Brain, Belief and Behaviour research group. Stupified that Oxford University could graduate a person so inane who would later posit a thesis so preposterous, I stand by my critique just the same and am all the more flabbergasted by his statements in this article.
Because Farias' brow-raising theory deals with the subject of meditation, which has everything to do with everything I do with students in Flying Phoenix Qigong, I first posted my comments on the Flying Phoenix Chi Kung discussion thread in order to get feedback from FPCK practitioners with years or decades of meditation experience and especially to get mental health professionals to share their thoughts about this Ph.D's book thesis!
This all started as a 2-liner short post on Facebook, but after I read the article more closely and found it to be a load of sloppy detritus, it turned into a scathing critique and condemnation.
Title of article and question for the day: "Can Mindfulness Meditation Have Negative Side Effects?"
Answer: Yes, meditation has plenty of "negative" side effects. They collectively are called "grist for the mill". There is no such as meditation without tears.
But Dr. Miguel Farias of Univ. of Coventry believes that "meditation can lead people into possible psychosis":
"So one study suggests that these very severe bad experiences can happen in up to 7% of the people. However, most long-term meditators will have experienced at least one difficult experience - not a severe as this, but they will have experienced something like unexpected deep anger or anxiety."
My reaction: "SO WHAT!!"
As for his absurd "theory" that meditation can cause "possible psychoses" in up to 7% of those who meditate and report, that is a hilarious but very serious load of bunkum that he has propounded, I presume, solely for the purpose of getting attention, creating controversy, and upping sales of his book.
In my experience, undiagnosed psychosis can manifest during hypnotherapy and is indicated by a particular set of involuntary physical movements (that is eerie and quite creepy for most non-psychotics to observe in proximity). Obviously, deep meditation can bring hidden (already existing) psychoses to surface. But to actually cause psychosis?!!--what is this Dr. Farias on--acid laced with speed?
One paragraph reflecting Dr. Farias's expertise really caught my eye, so I decided to dissect it here and and comment on each sentence:
Q: What do you think is happening in the process of meditation that's leading people into a possible psychosis?
A: Meditation has always been a self-exploration technique. We need to have a holistic understanding of who we are. We have lots of hidden room within ourselves. So we have a great propensity towards being good and compassionate, but there's also within us the propensity for aggression and violence. And for a very good reason: survival. So when we start shaking up the deeper structures of who we are exploring ourselves, it's perfectly normal that we find out something unexpected about ourselves. And sometimes we're not at the stage at which we're ready to deal with this material, which is probably what is happening to the people who have suffered most severely from meditating. However, there are some psychiatrists who would claim that within this crisis there is the possibility of spiritual growth. I don't know. I sit on the fence here. What I'm dealing with right now is the necessity to address that there are these potentially very harmful psychological effects coming out of meditation techniques whether they are transcendental meditation or mindfulness. And we need to be aware of this.
MY COMMENTARY (in bold):
For starters, "Doctor" Farias's definition of meditation is New Age horseshit.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think is happening in the process of meditation that's leading people into a possible psychosis?
MF: Meditation has always been a self-exploration technique
• NO, IT IS NOT A SELF-EXPLORATION TECHNIQUE. MEDITATION HAS CERTAINLY HAS DEVOLVED INTO ITS PRESENTLY POPULAR, ILL-TAUGHT PRACTICE; BUT THE ANCIENTS NEVER USED IT FOR SELF-EXPLORATION. INSIGHT FOLLOWS CHANGE; NEVER PRECEDES IT. AND QUIET SITTING DOESN'T CAUSE CHANGE, EXCEPT WHEN DONE LONG ENOUGH, ONE MIGHT HAVE TO GET UP TO PEE. IT IS UTTERLY ASTOUNDING THAT AN OXFORD PH.D. DOING RESEARCH ON THE EFFECTS OF MEDITATION DOESN'T KNOW WHAT MEDITATION IS.
(4) Meditation without sufficient preparation through having heard and pondered the Doctrine is apt to lead to the error of losing oneself in the darkness of unconsciousness. 
 This refers to that mental chaos or delusion which is the antithesis of the mental discipline acquired by right practice of yoga under a wise guru's guidance.
--The fourth of "Ten Errors", Section X. of "Precepts of the Gurus" in
"Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines", translated by W.Y. Evans-Wentz.
This passage, btw, spells out the whole problem since time immemorial with ill-taught insight meditation, which is more prone to happen as self-guided meditation techniques have been faddish for years and has become more and more popular in America and the west with derivative methods such as Mindfulness Meditation. Insight meditation/Mindfulness is fine and calming and great to teach kids in school in order to improve focus and concentration, but a good and wise instructor is absolutely essential for adolescents and adults, in order to prevent them from being fed perverse views, or getting stuck in any of the three major pitfalls on the path of spiritual growth: fear, clarity, and power. (I am not so much a proponent of insight meditation, because that modality is too easy to be manipulated by charlatans and I don't like to see people giving up their power to gurus, but am a very strong proponent of concentrative meditation [into which all the Chinese martial, yogic and healing arts generally fall] and the spiritual path of martial Zen that these arts facilitate.)
We need to have a holistic understanding of who we are.
• AS IF YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO HAS THIS HOLISTIC UNDERSTANDING.
We have lots of hidden room within ourselves.
• I THINK I'LL FURNISH MY HIDDEN ROOM WITH FLOOR-TO-CEILING TV, NHK SPEAKERS, LAVA LAMPS, HOOKA PIPE, A FEW BEAN BAG CHAIRS, NORDIC TRACK, AND A DANCER'S POLE.
So we have a great propensity towards being good and compassionate, but there's also within us the propensity for aggression and violence. And for a very good reason: survival.
• (pause) OH, SO, LIKE, YOU'RE AN IDIOT, RIGHT? --TO HAVE TO SAY THINGS THAT INANE AND OBVIOUS?
So when we start shaking up the deeper structures of who we are exploring ourselves,
•MAYBE A HARI KRISHNA JAMBOREE WILL SHAKE UP "DEEPER STRUCTURES OF WHO WE ARE" WITH THEIR PATENTED JUMPING BEAN ENEMAS--IN THE WORDS OF BERKELEY/VENICE BEACH/GREENWICH VILLAGE COMEDIAN SWAMI-X, OR PERHAPS IN THE THIRD MONTH OF PRIMAL THERAPY WITH ART JANOV HIMSELF, ONE WILL BE ABLE TO FACE THE MOST DEEP-SEATED PAIN(S) THAT A PERSON HAS SPENT AN ENTIRE LIFETIME BUILDING NEUROTIC DEFENSES TO NOT EVER HAVE TO FEEL, BUT NOTHING AS PSYCHOTHERAPEUTICALLY INERT AS MINDFULNESS MEDITATION OR ANY TYPE OF INSIGHT MEDITATION CAN SHAKE UP SHIT--I.E., BRING INTO CONSCIOUSNESS ANYTHING THAT RISES ABOVE GRIST FOR THE MILL.
...it's perfectly normal that we find out something unexpected about ourselves.
•THIS DEFINITION OF "NORMALCY" IS SO PROFOUND, THAT I MUST READ IT MANY, MANY TIMES OVER, AND THEN LAMINATE IT AND PUT IT ON MY WALL, AND USE IT AS A DAILY MANTRA.
And sometimes we're not at the stage at which we're ready to deal with this material, which is probably what is happening to the people who have suffered most severely from meditating.
• THIS CONCLUSION IS PURE CONJECTURE AND SPECULATION PREMISED ON ONE HELL OF AN INANE ANTECEDENT. BUT FOR DR. MIGUEL FARIAS, PURE CONJECTURE BASED ON AN INANITY = THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD. THE FACT THAT THIS IS ALL HE HAS TO SAY IN AN INTERVIEW ABOUT HIS BOOK INDICATES THAT THAT IS ALL HE HAS IN HIS BOOK TO JUSTIFY HIS COCKAMAMY ASSUMPTIONS AND PREPOSTEROUS CONCLUSIONS THAT HE IS WARNING THE PUBLIC ABOUT THROUGH HIS CONCERN FOR THEIR MENTAL HEALTH.
• YES, HE STATES THAT 7% OF ALL MEDITATORS WHO HAVE SUFFERED "MOST SEVERELY"--BY HIS UNEXPLAINED SCIENTIFIC METRICS OF SUFFERING--REPRESENT AN AT-RISK GROUP FOR "POSSIBLE PSYCHOSIS."
However, there are some psychiatrists who would claim that within this crisis there is the possibility of spiritual growth.
• THREE POINTS:
(1) WHY DO YOU, DR. FARIAS, DEFER TO "SOME PSYCHIATRISTS" AND NOT MAKE THIS PROFOUND CONCLUSION YOURSELF--THAT "WITHIN THIS CRISIS THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH"?
(2) SINCE WHEN DO PSYCHIATRISTS KNOW DIDDLY SHIT ABOUT SPIRITUAL GROWTH? UNLESS THEY ALL TRADED IN THEIR M.D.'S FOR DOCTORATES IN DIVINITY (AND EVEN THEN...), OR HAVE RECENTLY BEEN CALLED AND ANOINTED EN MASSE BY GOD, THE LAST I KNEW OF THEM, THEY ARE ONLY TRAINED TO DIAGNOSE MENTAL ILLNESS, PRESCRIBE DRUGS AND SURGERIES, AND TEACH THE LANGUAGE OF PSYCHOANALYSIS THAT ALLOWS PATIENTS TO TALK ABOUT THEIR PROBLEMS FOR 10 YEARS AT $300/HOUR AND NEVER SOLVE ONE PROBLEM.
(3) BUT I LOVE THIS GUY, FOR HIS CRAZY-ASS SEGUE ARRIVES AT THIS CONCLUSION: PSYCHOTICS CAN NOW ATTAIN SPIRITUAL GROWTH. WHY, HE'S JUST MADE A DISCOVERY THAT IS MIRACULOUS! ]
I don't know. I sit on the fence here. What I'm dealing with right now is the necessity to address that there are these potentially very harmful psychological effects coming out of meditation techniques whether they are transcendental meditation or mindfulness. And we need to be aware of this.
**NO, DOCTOR FARIAS, YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF THE FACT THAT YOU ARE SITTING NOT ON A FENCE, BUT ON YOUR BRAIN. BECAUSE YOU HAVE SHIT FOR BRAINS AND YOUR HEAD IS IN YOUR ASS. THEREFORE, YOU ARE SITTING ON YOUR BRAINS. Q.E.D.
I first posted this scree on the Flying Phoenix Chi Kung discussion thread in Group Studies that's followed by 440,000+ Qigong/meditation practitioners worldwide, because Dr. Farias' theory, created by piling alternating layers of bunkum and hokum, has attained new heights in the world of horse shit.
(Bunkum = nonsense; hokum = pretentious nonsense.)
(Sifu) Terry Dunn
Edited by zen-bear, 19 February 2016 - 02:59 PM.