NEW AGE Pathways in the church
By now, there should be no doubt that the new age movement has permeated the culture with its beliefs and practices. Year after year the public has become more exposed to its teachings through the TV, magazines and the spiritual trends in society used by the populace (yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques for our stressed out lives.)
This new spirituality that was once underground, practiced by a few in the 60’s and 70’s is now one of the most popular lifestyles, many of its tenets and practices are now accepted – even by the church. In fact many in the church promote out right new age occultism without barely a challenge.
Both My wife and I came out of the new age movement and we were practicing nearly the same type of spiritual exercises that are now being used inside portions of the church, the only difference were the terms used to identify the practice. To see this taking place is very disturbing. What makes it more dangerous is that those who are promoting these endeavors do not want to listen to others who have been down this path before they became Christians. They ignore their warnings and reject the facts and try to undermine the person.
While many Churches identify the culture as postmodern, at the same time they are willing to adopt the cultures practices to reach the culture. This means whatever is influencing the culture can more easily come into the church because we are adopting its ways. Previously what is spiritually harmful has been coming through the backdoor instead of the front. Now it’s knocking on the front door, and many are answering it by opening it and inviting it in. This is done because of a lack of judgment on leader’s part. While everyone is making a fuss about the Da Vinci code released to persuade the public on Christianity we have not recognized what is taking place in our own living room – the church. We are not to be unaware of the schemes of the Devil, his strategies of distractions. In one sense there is an all out assault publicly at the same time he makes a subtle progressive push in other areas. This is where we are missing it.
When my wife and I were part of the movement known as the New Age we once practiced a non- judgmental attitude toward error and falsehood. We believed that everyone’s path was there own choosing and that it was all from God. So we could never say someone or some thing was wrong. This same lie of tolerance for the sake of “getting along” with each other is practiced in the world today- its called diversification. It may be acceptable by those who have no clue about absolute truth but it should not be found inside a church that is supposed to be the pillar and ground of truth.
For years we practice various techniques, methods and new ways to gain knowledge and grow spiritually. I can remember the week before my wife and I became Christian and accepted the true Jesus Christ. We were going to a metaphysical group that was doing occult affirmations, part of their “I AM Religious Activity” to bring about self illumination. We joined with them decreeing and calling upon the “I am” the light, and angels to empower us. After this was done I knew we had awakened something very ancient, but at the time I could not put my finger on it. Of course, we did not think we were joining some cult, but unknown to us, we were adopting spiritual practices that had hidden harm. We had come in touch with something we could not at the time explain, awakened through spiritual forces that were unfamiliar to us. We were being made into sorcerer’s apprentices by the “spirit of the [new] age.” We had no experience with true Christianity so this counterfeit suited us just fine.
After we did this for a few hours we were driving home and what we had practiced begun to take affect inside of us. By the time I got home, I felt nearly all powerful, I had energy surging through me that was beyond anything I felt before and it was deluding me. I thought I could ride the biggest wave Hawaii had to offer (that I even could even fly). In New Age terms, our chakras had been opened. My wife was energized and started cleaning the house and could not stop, we both had this erratic energy flowing in us and we could not sit still, yet at the same time it felt good. Powerful mystical experiences can be very convincing. They are nothing to underestimate in power or influence. If it was not for God’s hand of grace intervening that very week we would have been sucked into this spiritual vortex that had grabbed us for a ride. Instead we were set free by the truth and only the truth found in the word.
This was from only from one session with others that was part of a succession of nine sessions to bring us on a path to the ultimate mystical experience of discovering the divine within us.
It began with an experience of awakening, it would proceed to transformation and then finally to a self realization. This is the pathway in all new age goals, it is a system that brings a mystical diaprax that is so powerful it changes ones way of thinking, their view of the world and their course in life is then grounded in this experience.
This why visualization, meditation and many of the now common practices offered are not intending to change ones religion but spiritually add to it. One can believe in anything or nothing and still adopt these occult practices for their lifestyle. Because it really does not matter what religion one is- it’s about spirituality- a mystical worldview that can bring an experience of oneness with nature and with those from all religions.
These same methods and ideas are found inside certain churches today. Mostly those who have no understanding of these matters and little or no Biblical discernment. Robert Schuller is one of the most visible church representatives. His program “Hour of Power” is seen all over the world by various different religions and strangely enough is accepted, because he is not a challenge to their religious beliefs. He comes across as one of the most likeable men with a broad painted smile. But don’t let the package fool you. He has this to say about mediations… “A variety of approaches to meditation...is employed by many different religions as well as by various non-religious mind- control systems. In all forms... TM, Zen Buddhism, or Yoga…”
"It is important to remember that meditation in any form is the harnessing, by human means, of God's divine laws.... We are endowed with a great many powers and forces that we do not yet fully understand."
"The most effective mantras employ the "M" sound. You can get the feel of it by repeating the words, "I am, I am," many times over.... Transcendental Meditation or TM... is not a religion nor is it necessarily anti-Christian." (Peace of Mind Through Possibility Thinking, pp. 131-32).
This is far more dangerous than many would want to admit. This is part of what we were doing that was bringing in a great deception to us. Mediation is not neutral in its effect at all- it will make your mind neutral but it can also be taken over. Schuller is also in agreement with another Catholic mystic Thomas Merton, who saw no contradiction between Zen and Christianity. In fact, to recommend Zen Buddhism seems to speak for itself.
Ken Blanchard is another man of influence in the corporate world, he wrote the forward to Jim Ballards book Mind Like Water: Ballard states, “I signed up for the yoga meditation lessons ... founded by Paramahansa Yogananda....I had evidently reached a level of consciousness beyond the usual …” Blanchard himself has endorsed numerous other books to the church that are promoting the new age movement and its practices, he and his wife both encourage the practice of yoga and meditation. “Practice stress management techniques, (deep relaxation, mediation, yoga)” (Dr. Marjorie Blanchard, Life Balance for Both Individual Well Being and organizational Retention, p.11, astd. 2003, The Ken Blanchard companies).
Dan Kimball, author of “The Emerging Church” (with forewords by Rick Warren and Brian McLaren), encourages practices such as lectio divina, (p. 223) a form of mantra-style meditation. Reviving ancient traditions in worship that include candle lighting, prayer stations, symbols, icons all as tangible tools to help one enter a meditative state; practices that the Bible speaks nothing of. The mantra type repetition of a thought or a word spoken audibly or silently over and over again also helps one enter this deeper state and supposedly bring them closer to God.
Lectio divina, contemplation- the silence, centering prayer, the use of icons or visualization in your prayer; decreeing-chanting; guided imagery have all become popularized by those who love new trends and ways. They are no different than the ancient occult methods except with a Christian twist. So before you go and indulge yourself in something that is being offered to you as the new way to be spiritual better step back and do some research on it. (see our article on meditation)
Gary Thomas writes “Choose a word (Jesus or Father, for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently in your mind for a set amount of time (say, twenty minutes) until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing” (Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways, p. 185)
He tells us "Mystics throughout the ages have sought to reach this destination, a quiet spiritual refuge" (Gary Thomas, Sacred Parenting).
Modernist/ futurist Leonard Sweet states of his book ‘Quantum Spirituality’ “In one sense the whole of this book is an extended meditation on the nature of true New Light leadership and on how more of these voices of the third millennium might emanate from America’s churches and synagogues.”
This new light Sweet refers to is introducing both new and different light than the word of God. His concepts are no different than other new agers as he also draws from their philosophies. On p.147 He quotes, “philosopher/mystic Georges Gurdjieff argued that one hundred fully enlightened people would be all that was necessary to change the world. The transcendental meditation (TM) movement puts the number needed to move to critical mass at 2 percent; psychoanalyst Erich Fromm estimated 20 percent. The means by which these small numbers are gathered are as much through the energies of play and leisure as through work and enlistment. The fundamental question of the nature of quantum fields, for example, is their mysterious vacuum energies. Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them.”
In other words, when a certain number to be involved is reached the greater the mass and influence. Unfortunately this is not God’s methodology, adding a Christian Scripture does not correlate the.
Sweet poses, “Part of the appeal of New Age thinking is its openness to the mystical uses of technology, including brain machines (“Techno-Zen”). The computer breakthrough known as cyperspace or “virtual reality” holds out the possibility of facilitating higher modes of meditation and consciousness.”
So Sweet believes, “Worship should give full measure to the body and free all its senses, whether in the form of body prayers and praise, guided visualizations and meditative iconography, or interactive preaching and overhead projector hymnsinging. The use of musical and visual motifs in worship help to complete the circle of one’s being” (p.161 Quantum Spirituality).
Making use of our technology with visual aids (depending what they are) may or may not be helpful, it depends on what it is being used for. Definitely, Guided visualizations and meditative iconography do not have any relationship to learning the word of truth or expository preaching to those in the church that desperately need to hear God’s word. In fact Jesus told us to HEAR the word. And we wonder why we are becoming powerless with the truth, not because we do not have it, but because those who are called leaders don’t use it, nor know how to explain it. Instead they have employed worldly substitutes to reach the heart of man instead of using the simple truth Jesus gave to us. Out with the old- in with the new says the modernist, so says the new agers.
Shakti Gawain who popularized visualization and wrote the book “Creative Visualization” stated Creative Visualization is magic in the truest and highest meaning of the word” (p.4), that you are aligning yourself with the natural principles that govern the workings of our universe.” Why is she saying this? Because in her worldview its all energy and by using certain techniques we can control this energy with words and our mind, by seeing.
We are being convinced that “God is restoring meditation and contemplative prayer to the body so we can gaze upon Him. He knows the western church will only give His presence a few minutes right now, so He is going to begin to raise up forerunner messages about the life that calls from deep to deep. There are going to be centers raised up all around the world to counter the meditation centers of the eastern religions so that people can focus together upon the true God. (Restoration unto Reformation WhiteDove Ministries April 2005 E-Newsletter from: Paul Keith & Wanda Davis Shawn Bolz, & Bob Jones )
There is an abundance of deception in these practices and there are those who teach others the same deception only in different words
The Beginning of “New Thought” Influences
The new thought movement was Christianized by teachers in the word faith movement and was popularized by them in the early 80’s. Speaking things into existence, visualizing in prayer, decreeing and declaring are all part of ancient Occult spiritual practices. The Faith teaching Motto- “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” “By the spoken word we create our universe of circumstances....” (Paul Yonggi (David) Cho (Solving Life's Problems, p. 51.) Kenneth Copeland, “You can have what you say! Accurately, James wrote, “though our tongue is a small member it boasts great things.’
They convinced people that the Spiritual dimension is able to be tapped into by various practices of the word and faith so we can control and manipulate material/physical world. The word spoken is first incubated in thought and will become reality when continually spoken in faith. They were able to pawn this Occult belief system off to the Church because of our ignorance on these matters. And we are no better off today as so many have embraced these non biblical procedures.
Occult magician David Conway explains the power of words that affect our world “Unseparable from magical speculation about words is the theory of vibrations, which supposes that certain sounds have a powerful acoustic impact on both the spiritual and astral worlds. Like the spiritual world and astral plane can in some circumstances be affected by sound, so that verbal magic may be said to derive its power not only from the idea contained in certain words, but from the peculiar vibrations these words create when spoken’ (Magic: an Occult Primer, pp. 74-75).
In the later 80’s and early 90’ this kind of new age practice energy came rushing into the churches through the Vineyard movement. Called saturation prayer- they would swoop the air toward each other as if the Holy Spirit was contained in it and bring it upon the person they were praying for. They would pray for “more” on the recipient they laid hands on, calling out “fill, fill.” They believed they were getting soaked in the Holy Spirit and an immediate change was taking place.
Numerous other aberrant ideas and practices began to surface as the church (mostly those who were charismatic) was open to what they thought was God doing a “new thing.” But it wasn’t God and it certainly was not new, it was cold Gnosticism and mysticism with a Christian twist.
The teaching of the few that was once hidden to the world, known only to the initiatives was now made known to the many. And of all places, it was being found in churches, as the people wanted “more” from God than just His word. As Tim Challies has put it “If we cannot know God through His Word, then we have to find him in other ways. It is little wonder, then, that the emergent church is embracing mystical practices of days past. The labyrinth and Catholic mystics find their way into emergent worship. There is renewed emphasis on meditation and new methods of preaching. The Bible is taught as a guidebook, not as an authoritative manual for the Christian life” (Tim Challies - Emerging Church, Nothing New Under the Sun).
The New Age has married into our post modern age, and it ran through like the rising waters from a broken dam, and soaked everything in its way. Now we are paying the price of our openness to spiritual ways beyond holy writ, we can’t dry out, we have been soaked.
If you are convinced by an experience it is very hard to be talked out of it with reasoning or Scripture. This is why those who get immersed in meditation or what we know as mind altering practices (the emergent church movement) are so hard to reach, because they no longer recognize what is right or wrong, what is biblical or not. The lines are blurred from being diapraxed, their mind has been altered. It is a form of cognitive dissonance that most are unaware has taken place; they do not know they are deceived. Unless they question their experience in light of the word where truth resides there is no way of reaching them and helping them exit the darkness they are enveloped in. They become blind to their own self inflicted deception. A false light fills their being that is powerful enough to slant their worldview and keep them unbalanced. As a man thinks in his heart so is he is certainly apropos for what has taken place.
Unfortunately, Churches today are just as ill equipped to answer the New Age- Occult infiltration as they were in the 80’s-90’s, but at least back then they were interested to learn more so they can both protect the church and reach the people. Today they are less able to cope with those who get saved out of the new age and help them transition into sound Christian doctrine. It’s not hard to figure out why we, when one is aware of the change inside the churches at large. It’s a reality that must one faced that one can find themselves inside a church doing the very same practices they did outside, only calling it by a different name. The leadership must be equipped to protect and provide answers even if they take the stand alone. As a friend of mine made the point as we were discussing the changes taking place, “People go insane together in a crowd but they only regain their sanity one at a time.”
A Deepening of the Deception
No one has spoken clearer on the new ecumenism that is united by a mystical experience than Matthew Fox. Fox states Christianity has been “out of touch with its "core," its center, its sense of mystical practice and cosmic awareness” (p.7, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ by Matthew Fox.) “This shift requires making mysticism central to our faith once again. What the human race needs today is mystical solidarity. (p.232) the coming together of religions, has been thwarted because world religions have not been relating at the level of mysticism” (p.65.)
Fox’s view is panentheism, which he defines as "all things in God and God in all things" (p. 57 The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). He is also correct in stating, this “is the way all genuine mystics interpret the universe. Divinity is not outside us. We are in God and God in us. That is the unitive experience of the mystics East or West” (p.50.)
It is not surprising that so called evangelicals like Tony Campolo say the same thing. In his book “Partly Right” He favorably writes, “Robert Schuller affirms our divinity, yet does not deny our humanity ... isn't that what the gospel is? Isn’t God’s message to sinful humanity that He sees in each of us a divine nature of such worth that He sacrificed His own Son so that our divine potentialities might be realized?
One cannot be further away from the intent of the gospel than this.
Campolo has said that, “I’m not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians.” One must then conclude that to be born again spiritually is not a matter of life and death to a person. Campolo actually defends his non biblical position “I do not mean that others represent Jesus for us. I mean that Jesus actually is present in each other person” (Anthony Campolo, A Reasonable Faith responding to secularism p.192)
This is no different than new age spiritualist Matthew Fox’s similar statements “We are all called, like the Cosmic Christ, to radiate the divine presence to/with/from one another” (ibid. p.137) “Christ in the universe and the Cosmic Christ in other religions. Yet the Divine One is present in them all...” (ibid. p.229)
How does on arrive at these conclusions? By meditation and various other new age techniques. Matthew Fox writes “3.Everyone is a mystic (i.e., born full of wonder and capable of recovering it at any age; of not taking the awe and wonder of existence for granted.)
4.Everyone is a prophet, i.e., a "mystic in action" (Hocking) who is called to "interfere" (Heschel) with what interrupts authentic life.
10. That we experience that the Divine is in all things and all things are in the Divine (Pantheism) and that this mystical intuition supplants theism (and its child, atheism) as an appropriate way to name our relation to the Divine and experience the Sacred.” (From his 10 principles of CREATION SPIRITUALITY)
As Fox teaches, meditation is to look inward to ones self in which they find the true self, this true self is finding God within. Higher spiritual levels are achieved from more light flooding ones being with spiritual knowledge.
Light which is a vibration traveling to intrude on substance, those who meditate are to visualize the coming of the light into various situations on the earth, they direct it by their mind and soul power as well as prayers and affirmations.
The idea that “all is one” (monism) and “all is God” (pantheism) is the basis for the New Age Movement, it is rooted in Eastern religions and it is also part of Occult teaching. There is no distinction between the Creator and the creation as in Christianity, Judaism. On the question, “who am I?” It is answered by, “I am...” the “I AM” is God according to the Occult philosophy is who you are along with everyone and everything else.
Through various techniques, glimpses of eternity are believed to be seen as they teach the true self is ancient and within us all. Various consciousness techniques are used to bring an experience of a universal oneness: meditation; guided imagery; yoga; chanting of mantras; channeling of spirit guides; Alpha Mind techniques. In meditation breathing becomes a “sacred word.” Christian meditation is reformed to mean our breathing as relationship with God. When you inhale, God is breathing life into you; your inhalation is God's exhalation. This is the same as the prana of Hinduism. Meditating is accompanied with risk. We are told that Apophatic meditation is receptive. God is approached as a relational Partner and one seeks loving union with God at the level of the will.
All of these concepts and spiritual practices are fraught with potential dangers: numerous harmful consequences both spiritually and physically can occur from using them. These are not neutral as the naďve or innocent think. Spiritual deception leads to occult bondage, demonic contact and possession become more common than rare when these are used consistently. These can also lead to a mental breakdown and dysfunction in the real world.
Warren Smith points out Bernie “Siegel continues to influence countless numbers of people in his role as a New Age leader. In his books and workshops he encourages people to do guided meditations and visualizations-just as he once did-to initiate contact with their own personal spirit guides. Siegel openly endorses the teachings of A Course in Miracles and currently serves on the Board of Advisors of Jerry Jampolsky's the Course in Miracles-based Attitudinal Healing Center in Northern California (Deceived on Purpose, p.48 by Warren Smith)
Schuller had recommended guided meditations and visualizations he has also endorsed the Course in Miracles a number of years ago. It should be noted that this book that denies mans sin, just as Schuller does.
Mind-body researcher, Bernard Ward, writes in his book, “Think Yourself Well” that “newcomers” to these practices find "to their absolute amazement" that what he calls the presence" is waiting to "help and guide them when they enter the meditative state. He acknowledges that mindbody teachers are not surprised" when these spirit guides appear because "spiritualists and mystics have known this presence for centuries (p. 65).
Yes and so has the Bible and warns us of them. God did not create man to become neutral in the mind except when we go to sleep and even then it is not the same thing, the mind is still active, only relaxed. One of quickest ways to get in touch with the spiritual realm is by hypnosis, drugs, meditation, or visualization. Anytime we interfere to change the normal brain patterns, especially to lessen them while we are awake we bring ourselves into an altered state of consciousness and if the experience is radical enough we can enter the spiritual realm. The means can be Transcendental Meditation, EST, Eckankar, it does not matter, although some are more effective and quicker than others. They all bring you to the same place and the same conclusion.
Many New Agers report strange and unique experiences during deep meditation or trances contact with a spirit beings who come as light, and give them an overwhelming sense of peace. From this experience which is extremely addictive they reject their religious upbringing and see the Bible as in error. These “angels of light” persuade them by a direct spiritual experience to deny Jesus is the only Christ and have them believe they too are Christ (as in the book “The Course of Miracles,” which was channeled not by Jesus but a lying spirit called by the same name). Their former beliefs are replaced with new occultic practices like astrology, spiritism, yoga, meditation, astral travel vision quests etc etc.
Gopi Krishna described experiences of most yogic, meditative, and mystical practices. “During the ecstasy or trance, consciousness is transformed and the yogi, sufi, or mystic finds himself in direct rapport with an overwhelming Presence. This warm, living, conscious Presence spreads everywhere and occupies the whole mind and thought of the devotee.…” (Gopi Krishna, "The True Aim of Yoga," Psychic, January-February, 1972, p. 14.)
This energy that is experienced by all mediators is considered a supernatural -a divine energy, and it can be called by many names. Too many are unaware that “Luciferic energies” flow when one practices occultism. They are powerful, overwhelming and cannot be put aside. Like a junkie hooked on his high, so are those who have received this enlightenment. As Warren Smith states, it is “The light that was Dark.”
The Age of Aquarius was jot just a song, it is well under way taking place with increasing numbers of men and women transformed by the science of meditation who do not know that they are participating in a far bigger movement than their own personal improvement. The plan of the spiritual masters like Alice Bailey spoke of is coming to fruition and so many do not know the hand they have been dealt.
Shakti Gawain recommends “Affirmations can be used alone, or in combination with visualizing or imaging. You should always include affirmations as part of your regular creative visualization meditation periods. (Creative Visualization p.26)
“ you open the channel for higher wisdom and guidance to come to you through your intuitive mind. You can ask questions and wait for answers to come to you through words, mental images, or feeling impression” (ibid .p.40)
In his booklet, The Power of the Inner Eye, Robert Schuller promotes the occult technique of visualization. “In the May, 1985, issue of Psychology Today…. "In the Mind's Eye." [It] deals with . . . visualization .... This is the vision that the Bible is talking about in the verse, "Where there is no vision the people perish.". . . I have practiced and harnessed the power of the inner eye and it works .... Thirty years ago we started with a vision of a church. It's all come true” (p.181 of Occult Invasion by Dave Hunt) [emphasis mine]
Actually this scripture he refers to means where there is no revelation- no word from God the people perish. And he is a perfect example of this.
Shakti Gawain in her book Creative Visualization (1985) calls it the basic creative energy of the universe she explains the very same definition “Creative visualization is the technique of using your imagination to create what you want in your life. “
“Almost any form of meditation will eventually take you to an experience of yourself as source, or your higher self. If you are not sure of what this experience is, don't worry about it. Just continue to practice relaxation, visualization, and affirmation. Eventually you will start experiencing certain moments during your meditation when there is a sort of "click" in your consciousness and you feel like things are really working; you may even experience a lot of energy flowing through you or a warm radiant glow in your body. These are signs that you are beginning to channel the energy of your higher self” (p.41 Creative Visualization)
The book tells us she has studied with many well known teachers in the human potential movement. So it is not a surprise to hear Robert Schuller sounding the same, since he too is affirming the same platitudes.
Mediation and other methods are a very quick way to be introduced to a new world view and it will certainly not be a Christian one. In fact one new age practice leads to another as one pursues spiritual growth by these methods. That is my personal experience, you see it has to, for one to go deeper and to the next level of intimacy.
Why has all this become popular in our day unlike any other? We need to understand the enemies intent to water down the church and have it look no different than the world, but still have it look spiritual. The more we seek these new methods the less we will be effective in answers and explaining or even presenting the gospel. As we watch these things taking place we need to be aware of those who are holding to the faith that is presented to us in the Bible and those who bring in something very different to have us change.
People will always chase the new thing[s] down wherever they are not holding to and practicing the old thing accurately- God's eternal word. Ancient it may be, but it is the truth that stands the test of time, to all cultures and all generations, and that is what our focus should be on.