Harper’s ran an in-depth article on the fate of a young woman who did intensive Easterm meditation at a retreat and contacted mental illness as a result. It ended tragically. The piece reviews significant scientific literature on the deleterious effects of meditation.
I warned of the psychological, physical, and spiritual dangers of yoga and meditation in my book, Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity Press, 1988). Back then, a New Age organization was set up to help people who experienced mental problems through New Age involvement, The Spiritual Emergency Network. I also quote yoga teachers who warn of the psychological and physical dangers of yoga when (in their mind) done wrongly. I have excerpted part of that book below from the Kindle version. (Sadly, the footnote references do not appear, but they will if you purchase the book from Amazon, which is only $2.99.)
We were made for worship, relationships, and work. We were not made to sit for hours on end focusing on our breath, having little external stimuli, and blanking out our God-given minds. Our minds are to be renewed through the Holy Spirit and according to the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119), not annulled or deconstructed into oblivion.
The article mentions that Buddhist writers of old warned of “demonic” dangers of meditation. Remember that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14; see also 2 Peter 5:8; 1 John 4:1-6).
Please read the Harper’s article with what I wrote in mind–in mind! Don’t waste your mind or direct your consciousness to nothing or Nirvana. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Spiritual Dangers (from Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age)
Those who trust in Christ are given access to spiritual discernment and power in spiritual combat. Yet those outside of Christ are fair prey of the enemy. In communicating to New Agers it is sometimes wise to warn them that psychic sojourns may lead them into raging spiritual storms.
As New Age seekers dive into their spiritual experiences, they leave themselves vulnerable to both fraud and spiritual deception Some seekers are primed for deception because they are desperate, hurting people looking for an answer—any answer. If Christians encounter such souls, a word of warning is a good tonic. Even if we can’t lead them to Christ just then, we can warn them of occult dangers and offer the safety of knowing Christ as victor over sin and Satan.
It should be made clear that the Bible prohibits all occult activities for at least two reasons. First, God alone is worthy of worship, and he is rightfully jealous of our affections and obedience. Since he is supremely good, this jealousy translates into a desire both to glorify himself and to have his creatures live as they ought to live. Second, God also knows the reality of fallen spiritual beings who entice humanity to follow their destructive ways. For these reasons he vetoes any suggestion of occult involvement. Although many biblical passages condemn the occult, this passage from Deuteronomy, originally given to God’s people who were to possess the Promised Land, is the most exhaustive:
When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deut 18:9–13; see also Lev 19:31; 20:6)
Isaiah echoes this and points us in the right direction: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Is 8:19–20; see also 47:8–15).
Although there are scores of other biblical warnings, consider the stark finality of Jesus Christ’s words concerning those who will not enter the eternal city: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15). If the biblical warnings are not heeded, cautions can be given from New Age literature itself. For instance, if a friend wants to take a yoga class at the local YMCA to help calm her nerves, we might quote the following, written by an advocate of yoga: “Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity.”26 Practitioners of yoga often warn of the power of the kundalini energy, represented as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. The purpose of many forms of yoga is to “awaken the kundalini” and release its energy upward through the seven chakras (energy centers) of the body. But the yogis themselves caution that this is no child’s play. One might get burned (literally!) by the serpent’s hot breath—or go insane.27
In an issue of ReVision, a scholarly New Age journal, consciousness researchers Christina and Stanislav Grof speak of “transpersonal crises” that are often linked to “various meditative practices which are specifically designed to activate spiritual energies.” These include “the practice of yoga, Zen, various movement meditations, pranayama, Kundalini maneuvers, Tibetan Buddhist psychoenergetic exercises, Christian prayer and other forms of deep and systematic spiritual involvement and self-exploration.”28 (Given the substance of their article, it is clear their concept of “Christian prayer” is not a biblical spirituality, but pantheistic introspection falsely labeled Christian.)
The Grofs believe these “emergencies” are merely difficult stages often required for greater growth, which they interpret as New Age enlightenment Yet their descriptions of the “crises” are bone chilling, especially when describing the “awakening of the Serpent Power (Kundalini)” which they say “can be accompanied by dramatic physical and psychological manifestations called kriyas,” which include “powerful sensations of heat and energy streaming up the spine, associated with tremors, spasms, violent shaking, and complex twisting movements.” They also mention “involuntary laughing or crying, chanting of mantras or songs, talking in tongues, emitting of vocal noises and animal sounds, and assuming spontaneous yoga gestures (mudras) and postures (asanas).” Other physical manifestations include “nausea, diarrhea or constipation, anal or uterine contractions, clenching of the jaws, rise and drop of temperature, and bulimia or loss of appetite. The entire body can be rigid or limp, and feel unusually large or small.”29
Although the Grofs also list supposedly positive benefits of kundalini such as “ecstasy, orgiastic raptures, and states of indescribable peace and tranquility,”30 one must risk a total breakdown (or worse) for that prize. Yet all the subjective enjoyment in the world cannot yield the forgiveness of sins or the peace of mind offered by Jesus Christ, who requires no such psychological and physical violence from his followers.
The Grofs found these “transpersonal emergencies” prevalent enough among New Agers that in 1980 they founded “the Spiritual Emergency Network” to help enlighten the “psychotherapeutic community” to the reality of the issue and to offer assistance through education and referrals to those undergoing various crises. The headquarters for the Spiritual Emergency Network is on the campus of the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in the San Francisco area and has 42 regional centers worldwide.31
Yoga may also open up a person to spiritual contacts and all manner of occult activity. Transcendental Meditation—while claiming to be a neutral, psychological technique—uses yogic methods to alter consciousness. Maharishi, its founder, has said that the purpose of chanting the mantra in Transcendental Meditation is “to produce an effect in some other world, to draw the attention of those higher beings or gods living there. The entire knowledge of the mantra . . . is devoted to man’s connection, to man’s communication with the higher beings in a different strata (sic) of creation.”32
If a person says he is interested in yoga simply as a physical discipline, he should be told that it was not invented by the mystic masters of old simply to cultivate better physiques. Yoga teachers such as R L. Hittleman admit that any health benefits are secondary He also admits to having used the health angle to hook Westerners on the Hindu world view.33
An article in Yoga Journal on parapsychology even warns psychic sojourners that the use of divination (through Ouija boards, automatic writing and other methods) “in a frivolous or disrespectful manner” makes one “liable to attract ‘lower’ discarnate communicators, including ghosts or poltergeists, and one runs the risks of becoming obsessed or possessed.”34 Christians need not use quotation marks for the word lower, because they believe in an active “Lowerarchy.”35 of demonic mischief-makers capable of possessing, obsessing and oppressing those outside the protection of the risen Christ. Although the article in Yoga Journal issues a small warning, it falls tragically short of Christian discernment It tantalizes readers by saying that “two of the most famous ‘channeled’ teachings of recent years—the Seth books and the ‘messages from Michael’—got their start on the Ouija board.”36
Christians may challenge New Age aspirants by concretely relating dangers of various New Age practices. Many of these—channeling, psychic healing, mind-altering meditations and so on—are nothing but modernized occultism, and occultism exacts too high a price in the end. The late Kurt Koch, Christian theologian and occult counselor for over forty-five years, has given hundreds of examples of occult bondage in his many writings. His seasoned analysis was that “no one makes use of occult powers without harm.”37 We are not suggesting that all people involved in some occult/New Age practice will suffer similar symptoms, but that these practices are outside the will of God and thus generally dangerous.
Confronting the New Age: How to Resist a Growing Religious Movement (pp. 76-80). InterVarsity Press, 1988. Kindle Edition.