TWO weeks ago we learned about Jezebel, the former queen responsible for robbing peace from the nation she ruled. The reason they couldn’t have peace was because Jezebel practiced a religion that God abhorred. He abhorred it for numerous reasons: First, because it denied that He was the one true God; second, because it erected idols to replace him as the object of His people’s devotion; third, it kept His people from loving Him with all of their heart, soul, and mind; and fourth, in order to practice this religion, you had to engage in detestable practices, like child sacrifices.
And sex orgies. And sex worship.
I gave you a list of harlotry-qualifying activities in that post, and I would guess that most readers didn’t identify with getting involved in séances to contact the dead (necromancy) or divination and sorcery, channeling spirits, witchcraft, and cultic magic.
But some of us might have played around the edges of the study of astrology, (ever read your astrology forecast in the daily newspaper?), Taro card reading, visiting fortune tellers (who practice what’s known as divination). And even though the term isn’t tossed around much any longer, New Age is still front-and-center in most people’s religious life, along with Humanism—the worship of man as god.
And many people now practice Yoga, which is a mixture of physical, mental and spiritual exercises or disciplines that originate in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. All are religions that deny the one true God. (Unless, of course, you’re doing “Christian yoga,” which I’ve never tried and can’t comment on.) If you’re practicing yoga with the Eastern-focused spiritual component, then you are, indeed, playing around the edges of your Christian faith and coming dangerously close to, if you are not already, participating in harlotries.
Meditation is another common practice today. While the word “meditating” in the Bible means chewing on the word of God like a lion ripping and devouring its prey, meditation the way Eastern religions practice it bears no resemblance to that definition. Eastern meditation involves emptying your mind, repeating a mantra, and opening yourself up to mental experiences. A different state of consciousness.
As the Berean Call newsletter stated in their February 2016 issue: “The philosophies of the gurus et al. attempt to persuade us that achieving a higher state of consciousness is far better than retaining our normal state, which is supposedly preventing us from realizing that we are all part of the divine Being. Moreover, they insist that our ordinary consciousness is keeping us from experiencing continual peace and bliss in our lives.”
Wow, doesn’t that sound great!? Experiencing continual peace and bliss? Who doesn’t want to be part of the divine Being? Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way. Consider the story of a friend of my younger son. Evidently this young man, in his late teens, was adept at meditating, emptying his mind and going into another state of consciousness. But one day that altered state of consciousness took him to a dangerous place, one that affected him so severely that he ended up in counseling. He told my son it was terrifying, the worst thing that ever happened to him. He said he didn’t ever want to go there again and was done with meditating.
Seem extreme? Evidently it’s not. In the March issue of the Berean Call, T. A. McMahon quotes the Washington Times. “Meditation and mindfulness aren’t as good for you as you think: There are negative side effects that no one ever talks about.” Here are some excerpts: “Mindfulness is a technique extracted from Buddhism in which one tries to notice present thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment....What was once a tool for spiritual exploration has been turned into a panacea for the modern age—a cure-all for common human problems, from stress to anxiety to depression. By taking this ‘natural pill’ every day, we open ourselves up to the potential for myriad benefits and no ill effects, unlike synthetic pills, such as antidepressants, with their potential for negative side effects…Mindfulness has been sold to us, and we are buying it…After examining the literature from the last 45 years on the science of meditation, we realized with astonishment that we are no closer to finding out how meditation works or who benefits the most or the least from it.”
Yes, we are buying it to the tune of millions of hard-earned dollars. I have sat through all-day lectures given by well-respected leaders in psychoneuroimmunology (the study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease) who encourage practitioners and patients to incorporate meditation as part of their patient and personal practice. It all sounds too good to be true. And it probably is.
The Berean Call continues: The undisclosed ‘negative side effects’ run the gamut from continuing depression to demonization to suicide. The Atlantic printed an article titled “The Dark Knight of the Soul: For some, meditation has become more curse than cure.” Dr. Willoughby Britton oversees a retreat center that ministers to meditators who are there not to restore themselves with meditation—they’re recovering from it: “I started having thoughts like, Let me take over you, combined with confusion and tons of terror,” says David, a polite, articulate 27-year-old who arrived at Britton’s Cheetah House in 2013. “I had a vision of death with a scythe and a hood, and the thought, Kill yourself, over and over again.” Another young man being treated is “Michael, 25, a certified yoga teacher [who] made his way to Cheetah House. He explains that during the course of his meditation practice his ‘body stopped digesting food. I had no idea what was happening.’ For three years he believed he was ‘permanently ruined’ by meditation.”
Dr. Britton is an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Brown University Medical School. The Atlantic article continues: “She receives regular phone calls, emails, and letters from people around the world in various states of impairment. Most of them worry that no one will believe—let alone understand—their stories of meditation-induced affliction. Her investigation of this phenomenon, called ‘The Dark Night Project,’ is an effort to document, analyze, and publicize accounts of the adverse effects of contemplative practices.”6In America: The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice, Dave Hunt and I attempted to inform the Body of Christ of our concerns about the spiritual and physical dangers of Eastern mystical techniques and practices that many Christians were being attracted to and seduced by, believing they were simply engaging in physical and mental exercises that would improve their minds and bodies. Few seemed to be listening as we explained that Eastern meditation leads to the same kind of altered state of consciousness as psychedelic drugs, even though meditation and other related mind-altering techniques (repeated mantras, visualization, sensory deprivation, yoga asanas, etc.) were being touted as a “natural” approach without the side effects of drugs. In that 1988 book, we noted some of the New Age organizations that have faced up to the claimed “nonexistent,” yet real, horrendous side effects, such as the Spiritual Emergency Network, which maintained a hotline and referral treatment service for those whose lives had been spiritually and physically wrecked. The Spiritual Emergency Network continues today although with the adjusted new title: “The Spiritual Emergence Network.”
Even among those who are acknowledging the present and potential damage of mystical practices, there seems to be a type of bondage involved. Dr. Britton, for all of her great concerns, candidly admitted, “There are parts of me that just want meditation to be all good. I find myself in denial sometimes, where I just want to forget all that I’ve learned and go back to being happy about mindfulness and promoting it, but then I...meet someone who’s in distress, and I see the devastation in their eyes, and I can’t deny that this is happening.”
Scary stuff, yes? Mindfulness and yoga. More items to add to our list of harlotries. Are they on your list?
And, with Christmas season upon us, and the first Sunday in Advent having started yesterday, just why am I talking about all of this now?
Because we’re still searching for peace. And we seem to be looking for it in all of the wrong places. Because we really don’t want to admit that the Prince of Peace is the only source of true peace. We want to find it on our own, so we can deny Him his rightful title and place in our lives. As James says in the New Testament, we do not have because we do not ask and when we ask, we do not ask rightly.
Maybe this Christmas season what we need to do is to start practicing Lent a little early. Like identifying our personal harlotries and setting those aside so we can let the Prince of Peace enter our hearts anew this Christmas season. So we can really concentrate on Him. Only it won’t be like Lent in the way that we fast from something, only to pick it up again after the forty days are over and Easter Sunday has rolled by us.
What I am talking about is not the harmless—and helpful—relaxation exercises that can actually lower your blood pressure and breathing rates and relax over-tensed muscles. The sort of give your body a time out, an opportunity to focus on and control how your body’s systems react to stress and fatigue. Having studied those in college as part of my major, I’ve been trained how to do those, I use them myself, and know they work. Being able to use your breathing and muscle relaxing techniques to lower your blood pressure and heart rate can actually be entertaining and challenging, with benefits!
For tips on how to safely meditate and practice relaxation techniques, see my blog posts:
So be smart, use your brain, and don’t give it over to something—or someone—else, unless that person is God, the One who created it!
ON a Christmas note, yesterday (November 27) was the first Sunday in Advent, when we commemrate Christ coming as a child. It is the first season in the Christian year. Advent is also defined as an arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. Christ is a notable person, and His coming is even more notable. Starting next Monday, we’ll be talking about the significance of Christ’s advent into the human world, then and in the future, and what that means for all of us.
So, until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter. Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!
When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer
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