Catharsis and Meditation

11th January is the birthday of the American philosopher and psychologist William James.

Born in 1842, William James studied medicine at Harvard, branched out into psychology and eventually became an emeritus professor of philosophy at Harvard in 1907. His ground-breaking work earned him the title of ‘Father of American Psychology’. His most influential book is The Principles of Psychology (1890). He also wrote on Mysticism based on his research of the ‘subconscious’.

Osho has spoken extensively on William James. Osho says William James has coined a beautiful phrase “oceanic experience”. The religious experience is an oceanic experience, a dewdrop slipping from the lotus leaf into the ocean – in one way, disappearing into the ocean, in another way, the ocean disappearing into the dewdrop, both becoming one. Just for this small phrase, I consider him to be one of the greatest psychologists ever. He has touched exactly the right point. Here everybody has to reach to the experience … from the dewdrop to the ocean. Unless you experience `oceanic’ yourself, spreading in all ten directions, in absolute freedom, you have not used the great opportunity of life.


It is. And it is that way for a purpose. It is madness with a method; it is consciously chosen.

Remember, you cannot go mad voluntarily. Madness takes possession of you. Only then can you go mad. If you go mad voluntarily, that’s a totally different thing. You are basically in control, and one who can control even his madness will never go mad.

You can go mad at any moment because you have accumulated everything that is necessary to become mad. Everyone is just on the verge of madness.

I am reminded of one incident: One of the greatest psychologists of this century, William James, once went to visit a madhouse, a mental asylum. He was one of the sanest men possible, one who knew much about the human mind: its mechanism and its working.

He visited a madhouse. Suddenly, he became sad. Looking at the madmen he became worried, a deep anguish overcame him. He left the madhouse, but he couldn’t sleep that night.

In the morning he was trembling with fear, a deep fear, as if he had been awakened from a nightmare. His wife became disturbed, his students became disturbed. They said, “What has happened to you? Your face looks deathly pale. Are you ill? Yesterday you were okay, healthy, everything was fine. What happened to you in the madhouse?”

William James said, “A thought came to me. I saw one of my old friends there. He was sane once, as sane as anyone. Now he is mad. He couldn’t do anything to prevent it. A thought came to my mind that if, tomorrow or the next day, I am taken possession by madness, how can I prevent it? Man is helpless. This friend of mine was as sane as me, even more so. He couldn’t do anything; he has become mad. I also can become mad, and nothing can be done to prevent it. This helplessness is making me sad. Last night I couldn’t sleep. At any moment madness may come and I cannot do anything to prevent it. I am on the verge.”

And it is said that James remained sad his whole life. He couldn’t forget that mad friend of his who had once been okay and now there was nothing that could bring him back from the world of madness.

Anyone can become mad at any moment. But if I was there to talk to William James, I would have said to him that something can be done to prevent it. Go mad voluntarily! Use madness as a method to be relieved of madness. Throw the madness out of your system; don’t go on accumulating and repressing it. Allow it to escape from you; don’t preserve it.

This looks paradoxical. Those who look so sane are mad within. At any moment their layer of sanity can be broken. That layer is only skin deep; anything can break it. And, temporarily, you all go mad. If someone insults you, the layer is broken. Anger erupts; you explode. What is your anger? Temporary madness. Then you pull yourself back together, repair the hole, the leakage, and you are sane again. But your sanity is just so-so. At any moment, anything can make you mad. Your sanity is just hidden madness.

My method teaches you to throw that hidden madness out. Don’t allow it to remain in your system; it is poisonous. Don’t accumulate it; release it. If your total madness is released, there is no possibility of your ever going mad.

Once you can feel a non-mad being within, you have gone beyond madness, you have transcended. It is impossible for a Buddha to go mad. Everyone else can go mad; only a Buddha cannot. Why only a Buddha? Because he has thrown all his madness out.

Meditation means throwing your madness out. When there is no poison within you, you will have a different quality of being. You will be able to fly, you will become weightless. Then bliss is not something that happens to you; it is not something that comes to you from without It is something that arises in you, it is something that is your inherent nature. Then bliss is not accidental. It is you; it is your nature, it is your Tao, your being, your very existence. Then, no one can take this bliss from you.

Unless this layer of hidden madness is thrown out completely, your source of bliss cannot start functioning, flowing. It cannot become a continuous stream, a river. Throw out this stone, this block, this dead weight, and allow the inner source of bliss to flow. Not only will you be blissful. Even others will get infected with your bliss.

When you are sad, you make others sad. You may know it or you may not know it. When you are ill you make others ill, because others are not so much others. We are linked together; existence is a togetherness. Nothing happens to you without it happening to others also. We vibrate into each other; we penetrate into each other. Your sadness, your madness, affects others.

Now in the West there is a therapy called family therapy. They say that if one member of the family is mad then the whole family has to be treated. The whole family is bound to be mad, otherwise how could one member of the family become mad? And unless the whole family is treated, the one member cannot be helped. But if you go deep, then why only the whole family? Why not the whole society? And why only the society? Why not the whole world?

We are part of a mad world. Family therapy will not help; we need a world therapy. But who is going to help? The psychoanalyst is himself mad; the helper is also helpless; the guide is also misguided. Everything is just a temporary arrangement: one madman helping another and waiting to be helped by someone else. The blind leading the blind.

You cannot wait for the whole world to be treated. You will die first; you are not going to be here forever. If the whole world is mad, if madness is like an ocean surrounding us all, you cannot wait; there is no time. So, family therapy, or even world therapy, is not going to help. Only one thing can help. You, as an individual, please don’t accumulate madness. Throw it out, release it. Once the madness is released, the source of your bliss opens, becomes flowing. The river is there. You will be filled by it, and then you will be overflowing. And your overflowing bliss will help all the others who are around you; it will penetrate them.

Health is as infectious as disease. You may not have heard about it, but health is infectious. If disease can be infectious, why not health? If there are germs of disease, I tell you, there are germs of health. But they are more subtle. And if there are currents of madness, I tell you, there are currents of bliss. They are more subtle, more delicate, more invisible.

Release your madness and soon you will find that you are releasing a blissful current also, a riverlike flow that goes on and on. Whenever one becomes a Buddha the whole world participates in it. The world may know it or may not know it, but whenever there is a Buddha the whole world flowers in a certain way. It becomes more aware, more alert, more blissful, more silent.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho at Anandshila Meditation Camp, Bombay, India.

Discourse series:

The New Alchemy: To Turn You On

Appendix #12
Chapter title: Catharsis and Meditation: Steps on The Path
15 February 1973 am in Anandshila


Osho has spoken on philosophers Aristotle, Bakunin, Berkeley, Bukharin, Camus, Carlyle, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Kropotkin, Laing, Marcel, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Russell, Sartre, Schiller, Socrates, Voltaire, Wittgenstein and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Communism and Zen Fire Zen Wind
  2. Beyond Enlightenment
  3. The Divine Melody
  4. The Discipline of Transcendence
  5. Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
  6. The New Dawn
  7. The Golden Future
  8. The Sun Rises in the Evening
Spread the love

Leave a comment