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  • A Romanian Spiritual Seeker's Growth:From SciFi Readings to Neidan
  • Şerban Toader (bio)

This presents a short biography of a Romanian spiritual seeker, covering his first discovery of the necessity to engage in a spiritual search to the present. The seeker, whom we will call P., first became interested in self-discovery, i. e., in his place and role in the greater scheme of things on this earth, during high school, the trigger being Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune. Later he engaged in yoga practice and eventually came to focus on two forms of Chinese qi practices: internal alchemy (neidan) and the techniques associated with the Yijin jing.

My information derives from a series of semi-directed interviews with P., including also one with his wife C., similarly a qigong practitioner, between 2012 and 2014, a total of about seven hours. In addition, I gathered materials when I joined him during three trips to China in 2009, 2013, and 2015, serving as a translator for groups P. had organized.

The Trigger

P. started his relationship with Chinese qigong around 1997. By then, he had been a yoga practitioner for nine years, a course initially inspired by reading Frank Herbert's novel Dune, a classic of science fiction that abounds in mystical elements. Since 1997, P. has traveled to China numerous times to pursue qigong, but his interest in yoga never led him to visit India. [End Page 193]

Born in 1977, P. was about 16 years old when he read Dune and came to realize the importance of spiritual initiation and personal transformation. In the book, the main character, a youth named Paul, undergoes some physical and mental training, including also the taking of a certain substance called ''the spice." He passes an initiation that opens him to a new reality, one that he had never encountered before.

Reading this, P. realized less the necessity of spiritual training than the understanding that human beings typically only use a tiny part of their brain potential. He resolved to pursue the expansion or even full attainment of this potential. Following this, P. began to search for practices that might resemble the training procedures in Dune. He explains,

Then I started to search for any kind of training that looked like the one in Dune. The book contained training procedures that looked very much like those used in yoga.

However, they also included ''the spice," maybe matching the pill in external alchemy or possibly resources utilized in internal alchemy, as P. later came to speculate.

Even before reading Dune and becoming aware of organized training methods, P. experienced a certain predisposition toward contemplation. His home faced the majestic Făgăraş mountains in Transylvania, and he liked to just sit and contemplate, often finding himself feeling as if spiritually being carried away. There were no innate, special abilities or extraordinary states. On the contrary, his health was not at its best. As P. describes it,

I had a problem with my physical body. I was not born healthy, but early, at only eight months. The ventricles in my heart were perforated, oxygenated blood mixing with unoxygenated blood. I used to get tired very quickly and I suffered form an aggressive anemia for two years. Therefore, my body constantly forced me to maintain conscious and careful awareness. It would not let me ignore it. This, I believe, is a key factor for my later seeking.

Last but not least, P. also mentions that, living in an officially atheistic society that did not permit religion to be taught in school, he did not receive any systematic religious education. His parents were not pious [End Page 194] people or church-goers. Only his maternal grandmother provided some religious connection. When P. was four to six years old, before he started primary school, she would read the Bible in its Orthodox Christian version to him and his siblings instead of bedtime stories. Still, even as a child, P. notes, ''I do not think I believed in God, nor did I ever think about whether God existed or not. God was an abstract figure, so to speak."

Even after starting to read science fiction, P...


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pp. 193-206
Launched on MUSE
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