Enlightened Martyrdom - The Hidden Side of Falun Gong - James R. Lewis

Enlightened Martyrdom - The Hidden Side of Falun Gong - James R. Lewis

The Doctrine of Li Hongzhi: Falun Gong - Between Sectarianism and Universal Salvation

Enlightened Martyrdom - The Hidden Side of Falun Gong - James R. Lewis

David A. Palmer [+-]
University of Hong Kong
David A. Palmer is an Associate Professor and head of the department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong, which he joined in 2008. A native of Toronto, he graduated from McGill University in Anthropology and East Asian Studies. After completing his PhD in the Anthropology of Religion at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, he was the Eileen Barker Fellow in Religion and Contemporary Society at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and, from 2004 to 2008, director of the Hong Kong Centre of the French School of Asian Studies (Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient), located at the Institute for Chinese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of the award-winning Qigong Fever: Body, Science and Utopia in China (Columbia University Press, 2007), co-author with Vincent Goossaert of The Religious Question in Modern China (University of Chicago Press, 2011; awarded the Levenson Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies), and co-editor of Chinese Religious Life (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is currently finishing the book manuscript Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and the Predicament of Modern Spirituality (co-authored with Elijah Siegler). He has published several articles, journal issues and edited volumes on Chinese religion, modern Daoism, the Baha’i Faith, and modern religious movements. His current research projects focus on local ritual traditions, transnational religious movements, and on faith-based volunteering and NGOs in the Chinese world and Southeast Asia.


This article proposes a brief analysis of the doctrine of Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong. Four main themes dominate the master’s writings: (1) an apocalyptic theme, stressing the moral decadence of humanity and the omnipresence of the forces of evil. Extra-terrestrials are infiltrating themselves in the body of humanity through modern science, the great enemy of virtue; the Buddhist prophecy of the imminent destruction of the world and inauguration of a new universal cycle, is close to being fulfilled. (2) An exhortation to rigorous spiritual discipline, calling on followers to purify their hearts of all attachment to the things of this world. The gods have abandoned the orthodox religions of the past, which have already completely lost the spirit of the true Dharma. (3) A messianic theme: Li Hongzhi is the omniscient and omnipotent savior of the entire universe. He has revealed, for the first time in history, the fundamental Law of the universe, which is the only protection against the apocalypse. (4) A sectarian practice: Li Hongzhi’s adepts must concentrate exclusively on Falun Gong; it is forbidden to read or even think about any other religion, philosophy, or school of thought or of Qigong. They must devote themselves heart and soul to Falun Gong’s psycho-physiological discipline; the perceptions and visions triggered by this practice are attributed to Li Hongzhi’s supernatural power.

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Palmer, David. The Doctrine of Li Hongzhi: Falun Gong - Between Sectarianism and Universal Salvation. Enlightened Martyrdom - The Hidden Side of Falun Gong. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 35-59 Oct 2019. ISBN 9781781794999. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=30552. Date accessed: 15 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30552. Oct 2019

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