Meditation – Info At a Glance

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2004
True or false: “Meditation is mentioned in the Bible, so it is perfectly safe for anyone to use any of the currently popular meditation techniques.” While it is true that the Bible mentions meditation, and even encourages Christians to meditate, biblical meditation is quite different from the so-called “new-age” meditation practiced so eagerly today. Learn of the dangers of wrong meditation in this new series by Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Weldon.

Meditation – Info at a Glance

Description. New Age meditation comprises many forms and involves the control and regulation of the mind for various physical, spiritual, and psychological purposes. New Age meditation is derived from Eastern or occult methods, which seek a radical transformation of the consciousness. This altered state of consciousness leads to an alleged “self-realiza­tion” or spiritual “enlightenment,” which has as its final goal union with ultimate reality and the resulting dissolution of the individual personality. There are many forms of religious meditation in the world, and the New Age Movement seems to have adopted most of them. Almost all forms of meditation practiced today produce similar results in the individual.

Founder. Unknown; the practice is ancient and cross-cultural.

How does it claim to work? New Age meditation claims to work by profoundly “stilling” or otherwise dramatically influencing the mind. Through this process the meditator is alleg­edly able to perceive “true” reality, his own “true” divine nature, and finally achieve spiritual enlightenment. Meditation promoters also claim the practice has numerous health benefits.

Scientific evaluation. Apart from the documented effects of simple relaxation, scientific studies have confirmed other psychophysiological influences of meditation, but their mean­ing and value is variously interpreted. Science cannot comment on the spiritual claims made by proponents.

Examples of occult potential. Psychic powers, altered states of consciousness, astral projection, spiritism, kundalini arousal, and other occult phenomena.

Major problem. Although widely perceived as a harmless form of relaxation, New Age meditation is far more than this because it brings a variety of spiritual and other conse­quences. New Age meditation uses the mind in an abnormal manner to radically restructure a person’s perceptions of self and the world in order to support occult New Age philosophy and goals. In the process, regressive states of consciousness are wrongly interpreted as “higher” or “divine” states of consciousness, and meditation-developed psychic powers are falsely interpreted as evidence of a latent divine nature. Unfortunately, meditators often do not realize the possible long-term consequences of these practices, such as the extremely dangerous kundalini arousal.

Biblical/Christian evaluation. The nature, context, purpose, and type of meditation determines its validity and outcome. Biblical meditation (Psalm 19:14; 77:12; 119:97, 99) is a spiritually healthy practice; Eastern or occult (e.g., New Age) meditation is harmful and has negative spiritual outcomes.

Potential dangers. The form and duration of meditation will influence the outcome. A daily 20-minute period of transcendental meditation is quite different from eight hours a day of Buddhist vipassana, or “mindfulness” meditation. However, adverse responses are not infrequently encountered even in milder forms of meditation. For example, the dangers in Transcendental Meditation were documented in coauthor Weldon’s earlier critique of this practice,[1] and since then scientific studies have continued to document the possible dangers of this Hindu practice. It seems that when altered states of consciousness are entered for even a short period of time, day after day, month after month, year after year, that some or even many of the same adverse phenomena found in more extensive meditative pro­grams are encountered. Among these are philosophical conversion to the occult, demon possession, and various forms of physical, spiritual, and psychological damage.[2]

Meditation typically induces altered states and is often a form of yoga or used with a yoga pro-gram to progress toward enlightenment.

Introduction and Influence

Meditation is one of the most popular of all modern religious practices. Meditation tech­niques have assumed a prominent place in large numbers of physical, spiritual, and health therapies where relaxation is a primary goal. An article titled “Unwind and Destress” in Prevention, America’s leading health magazine, endorsed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s tran­scendental meditation[3] as well as a form of Buddhist “mindfulness” or vipassana medita­tion.[4] Herbert Benson, M.D., is the author of a best-selling text, The Relaxation Response, which also emphasizes the stress reducing benefits of meditation.[5]

Meditation is increasingly found in schools and is an important pillar of transpersonal, or New Age, education. Wilson Van Dusen, a psychologist with an interest in the psychic realm and the occult Swedenborgian religion (see his The Presence of Other Worlds), points out that “meditation is one of the foundations of transpersonal education.”[6]

Because meditation is widely viewed as a positive practice with a wide variety of applica­tions, many “New Age” groups and techniques employ meditation as an adjunct. This is why Eastern, occult, and other New Age forms of meditation are increasingly used in our society among both laypeople and professionals. Such meditation, however, is typically combined with a particular religious perspective. This perspective sees the purpose of meditation as inducing a form of spiritual enlightenment, one that harmonizes with the occult goals and beliefs of the religious view advocated. Spiritual goals aside, meditation is also recommended enthusiastically for its alleged mental and physical health benefits. But as we will see, such meditation is far from healthful.

Given the number of people who are practicing meditation today, we believe it has be­come a significant social problem. In 1975 William Johnston warned in his Silent Music: The Science of Meditation, “Anyone with the slightest experience of meditation knows about the uprising of the unconscious and the possible resultant turmoil, to say nothing of the increased psychic power that meditation brings. All this could have the greatest social consequences if meditation becomes widespread.”[7]

But today meditation has become widespread. Meditation is practiced by 10 to 20 million people in this country.[8] Almost four million people have been initiated into Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s occult system of transcendental meditation alone.[9] Dozens of Hindu and Buddhist gurus or groups all require meditation practice in conjunction with their religious programs. Hundreds of relatively new spiritistic religions also have meditation agendas: the Association for Research and Enlightenment (based on the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce), the Church Universal and Triumphant (founded by Mark and Elizabeth Claire Prophet), Eckankar (begun by Paul Twitchell), the Gurdjieff Foundation, the Rosicrucians, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Astara, and many more.

Established traditional, mystical, and occult religions in America, such as Sufism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Tantrism stress the importance of their meditation procedures.

Scores of New Age therapies, such as those found in the growing field of transpersonal psychology, require or recommend some form of meditation in conjunction with the therapy.[10] And endless occult practices, such as witchcraft, druidism, cabalism, and mediumism offer their own brand of meditation.

Meditation is also offered in many new contexts: at the local YMCA, at churches, in schools, in sports clinics, and even in some hospitals. The United Nations has an unofficial meditation adviser, guru Sri Chinmoy, who is a practiced meditator and spiritist.[11] Chinmoy conducts meditation sessions for government officials in the United States, Congress, and the British Parliament.[12]

If our view of New Age meditation is correct, then it will not offer the benefits claimed by promoters. However, before we proceed to examine the goals, nature, practices, and potential consequences of meditation, we must first discuss its influence in the church and in other areas of society. We will begin by looking at its influence on children in next month’s article.

Notes

  1. A critique is found in John Weldon, Zola Levitt, The Transcendental Explosion, Irvine, CA: Harvest House Publishers, republished by Zola Levitt Ministries, Dallas, TX, 1991.
  2. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Coming Darkness: Confronting Occult Deception (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993).
  3. See Weldon, Levitt, The Transcendental Explosion.
  4. Porter Shiner, “Unwind and Destress,” Part 1, Prevention, July 1990, pp. 85-86
  5. Herbert Benson, The Relaxation Response (New York: William Morrow, 1975).
  6. Wilson Van Dusen, “On Meditation” in James Hendricks and Gay Fadiman, eds., Transpersonal Education: A Curriculum for Feeling and Being (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), p. 98; cf. p. 101.
  7. William Johnston, Silent Music: The Science of Meditation (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 26.
  8. cf. Edward Maisel, Tai Chi for Health (New York: Dell/Delta, 1972), p. 135.
  9. Weldon, Levitt, Transcendental Explosion.
  10. We examined over 40 issues of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. This revealed that Eastern and occult forms of meditation have great importance to transpersonal psychologists. See also Raymond J. Corsini (ed.), Handbook of Innovative Therapies (New York: John Wiley, 1981. (This book discusses some 250 therapies.)
  11. Sri Chinmoy, Astrology, the Supernatural and the Beyond (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1973), pp. 53-68; Sri Chinmoy, Conversations with the Master (Jamaica, NY: 1977), pp. 9-20,26-29.
  12. Sri Chinmoy, Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1978), p. 311.

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