Meditation – Occult Goals in Meditation

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2004
This article explains some of the risks to physical and mental well-being, and the psychopathology of meditation.

Meditation – Occult Goals in Meditation

A final indication of the occult nature of meditation is that almost all forms have a similar occult goal. Our own study of meditative systems and occultism has convinced us that the end result of meditation is a goal similar or identical to occult self-transformation. Other researchers have made similar conclusions. In other words, most meditation systems, despite different external characteristics, all lead to the same end state: a psychic merging with “ultimate reality.”

This supposed ultimate reality is usually defined either as a merging into the “One” (an imper­sonal God such as the Hindu Brahman) or as merging into the “void,” as in Buddhist nirvana, or their equivalent in various forms of Western occultism. In all cases, the end result is the same: the destruction of the individual personality which, after all, was only an illusion.

As noted previously, Dr. Daniel Goleman has studied meditation systems extensively. He teaches courses on meditation at Harvard University and is a committed Buddhist with a Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba—the guru that Ram Dass made famous in his multimillion-selling text Be Here Now.[1] In Goleman’s The Varieties of the Meditative Experience, we discover that (bibli­cal meditation aside) almost all forms of meditation are strikingly similar. For example, he dis­cusses a dozen different meditative systems which are representative of all varieties of medita­tion in general. Goleman says that a remark by Joseph Goldstein, that “all meditation systems either aim for One or Zero—union with God or emptiness,” became a type of guideline in his research.[2] And so Goleman wrote, “At this [their] most universal level, all meditation systems arevariations on a single process for transforming consciousness. The core elements of this pro­cess are found in every system, and its specifics undercut ostensible differences among the various schools of meditation.”[3]

While it is true that “the meditator’s beliefs determines how he interprets and labels his meditation experiences,” nevertheless, “all [systems] seem to refer to a single state [of conscious­ness] with identical characteristics. These many terms for a single state come from Theravadan Buddhism, raja yoga, Sufism, [the] Kabbalah, kundalini yoga, Zen, and TM [transcendental meditation], respectively.”[4] In other words, regardless of the system of meditation, all aim at the same end state: a radical, occult transformation of the individual and how he perceives himself and the world. Dr. Goleman concludes:

The literature of every meditation system describes an altered state…. Virtually every system of meditation recognizes the awakened state as the ultimate goal of meditation….
Each path labels this end state differently. But no matter how diverse the names, these paths all propose the same basic formula in an alchemy [transformation] of the self: the diffusion of the effects of meditation into the meditator’s waking, dreaming and sleep states. At the outset, this diffusion requires the meditator’s effort. As he progresses, it becomes easier for him to maintain prolonged meditative awareness in the midst of his other activities. As the states produced by his meditation meld with his waking activity, the awakened state ripens. When it reaches full maturity, it lastingly changes his consciousness, transforming his experience of himself and his universe.[5]

Indeed, in almost every major and minor meditative system, this transformation of personal identity and perception of the universe is achieved principally along occult, non-Christian lines and at the expense of biblical truth. Despite outer differences between these systems, all of them are potentially harmful due to their anti-Christian worldview, occult techniques, and spiritistic elements.

Having now examined the characteristics and goals of most meditation as it is practiced today, there is little doubt that most meditation systems should be classified as occult training. To view them otherwise is simply a delusion.

Risks to Physical and Mental Well-Being

Transformation of consciousness, psychic powers, and spirit possession are not the only dangers of meditation. There are many studies which show that physical and psychological harm can occur from meditation training.[6] And these consequences, like those discussed previ­ously, mirror the effects produced by occult practices in general.

A symposium report by a number of authorities, some of whom practice meditation, “Spiritual and Transpersonal Aspects of Altered States of Consciousness,” comments: “Recently the ‘fringe benefits’ of meditation regarding health, vitality, and cognitive functioning have been broadcast, and increasing numbers of people practice meditation for these purposes…. [But] there are many dangers in this journey.”[7] One authority states, “There can arise a clear vision of the dissolution of the self from moment to moment, and this often leads to a realm of fear and terror, and a kind of inner death.”[8]

In “Psychiatric Complications of Meditation Practice,” Mark Epstein, M.D., and Jonathan Leiff, M.D., discuss potential hazards. Leiff is a graduate of Yale College and the Harvard Medical School and is with the Boston University School of Medicine. Epstein, a psychiatrist at Cam­bridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School, wrote his undergraduate thesis on Theravadin Bud­dhist psychology and has practiced vipassana meditation for over a decade. The authors note the lack of public awareness concerning meditation hazards:

What has not been made clear, however, is the range of side effects of meditative practices that may present to the clinician as psychological disturbance. Some of these complications have already been noted by Western health professionals, others are only too well known within the meditative traditions. The most obvious misuses of meditation were hinted at by early psychoanalytic investigators, while the more subtle abuses and psychological crises of the advanced practitioner have traditionally been handled by the meditation teacher.[9]

The authors’ conclusions are based on their ten years of experience observing literally “hun­dred of meditators.” They note that “practitioners of meditation, often swimming in the rhetoric of transformation, may fail to recognize the regressive nature of much of their experiences.”[10] After a long discussion of the psychiatric complications noted in the literature, they conclude with a significant observation: “Meditation may be conceptualized as a developmental process that may produce side effects anywhere along the continuum. Some of the side effects may be pathological in nature while some may be temporary distractions or hindrances,” and they ask, “How can innocuous side effects of meditation be differentiated from debilitating ones?”[11]

The point is that they cannot be differentiated. The person who meditates in the Eastern or occult manner takes risks with his bodily health, his mental health, and his spiritual health, as a great deal of research and literature demonstrates.[12]

The following are some of the characteristics experienced at the deeper levels of a particular type of Buddhist vipassana meditation, but they are not unique to it. They include spontaneous movements, experiencing dramatic “energy flows,” unusual breathing, dream and time changes, out-of-the-body experiences, and psychic phenomena. The descriptions given in the “spontane­ous movement” category included much twitching, involuntary jerks, violent shaking, spontane­ous yoga stretching, jerking, weird faces, drooling, pain, arms dancing, head rolling, falling over, violent shakes, loosening, and arms flapping like wings.[13] On his own meditative journey, vipassana practitioner Jack Romfield said, “[M]y arms started to involuntarily flap like I was a chicken or another bird. I tried to stop them and I could barely do it, and if I relaxed at all, they would flap…. For two days I sat there watching my arms flap.”[14]

Meditators also described many other experiences, such as loss of body awareness, the body disappearing, leaving the body, the head detaching itself, the body growing huge, LSD-like visions, hallucinations, and visions of Buddha. Almost half of those completing student question­naires reported “especially dramatic mood swings.” These included huge releases of anger, “screaming mind trips,” depression, fantastic mood swings, “turbulence of mind,” “days of acute anxiety,” “violent crying,” restlessness, and “hellishness.”[15]

It is hardly surprising that one hears about meditation-induced casualties, when the very process of meditation is designed to radically dismantle the divinely instituted functions of hu­man perception. After all, if one refuses to play by the rules, one might expect problems.

Many of the horrors experienced by committed meditators are also revealed by Tal Brooke, the former leading Western disciple of India’s premier guru, Sathya Sai Baba. Before receiving his graduate degree in religion from Princeton University, Brooke wrote Riders of the Cosmic Circuit,[16] a little-known but urgently needed exposé unveiling much Eastern metaphysics for what they really are: forms of Satanism. But the power of the book also lies in documenting the hazards of many Eastern paths, including the radical breakdown of personal morality, suicides, and insanity.[17]

These kinds of profoundly regressive states of consciousness are one reason for the confu­sion surrounding so-called “enlightenment,” and how to properly evaluate it and distinguish it or its components from psychopathology (e.g., madness or insanity). Experiences of Eastern and occult “enlightenment” and mental illness are often so similar that even some New Agers are baffled at their correspondence.


Properly evaluating the relationship between enlightenment and psychopathology has been difficult for some people because what we commonly define as mental illness in the West is actually a sign or component of “enlightenment” in the East. In other words, many Eastern gurus teach that periods of insanity indicate spiritual enlightenment! This is why it is called “divine madness.” The Hindu guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh once quaintly remarked that many of his disciples were going to become zombies, and all to the good:

You be a Zombie. Be a perfect Zombie…. This is what is happening: catalepsy…. This is going to happen to many. Don’t be afraid when it happens. … You become idiotic…. And [it is] good, because it will destroy the past…. That is the whole meaning of sannyas and discipleship: That your past has been completely washed away—your memory, your ego, your identity—all has to go.[18]

Meher Baba teaches that many of India’s insane, the Masts, who in the West would be treated in mental hospitals, are in various stages of spiritual evolution. They are mad precisely because they are so spiritually committed to God.[19] Meher Baba calls them the “God-intoxi­cated” ones. In the words of biographer and disciple C.B. Purdom:

They are in a state of mental and physical disorder because their minds are overcome by strong spiritual energies that are far too much for them, forcing them to renounce the world, normal human habits and customs, and civilized society, and to live in a condition of chaos. They are psychological cases beyond the reach of psychoanalysis, because their condition is too advanced and obscure for any known procedures. Their minds are in some way shattered and their brains cannot fully function. Only a spiritual Master, says Baba, who is aware of the divine spirit that possesses them, which causes them to be unfit for normal society, can be of any help to them, and even his help reaches them with difficulty as they are virtually shut off from human contact. They are in the world but not of it. In Baba’s terms they are “God-intoxicated souls.”[20]

Significantly, the Masts became mad from meditative practices, and during some of these practices it was “by sudden contact with a highly advanced spiritual being.”[21] It is supposedly a “divine spirit that possessed them which causes them to be unfit for normal society.”[22]

The famous Ramakrishna experienced insanity while undertaking his duties as a priest in the temple of Kali, and at many other times. During meditation he would experience a “divine de­lirium” and see demonic creatures emerging from him. For him, the truly enlightened soul often acts, in his words, “like a madman.”[23]

Biographer Romain Rolland described part of Ramakrishna’s experiences:

He was no longer capable of performing the temple rites. In the midst of the ritual acts he was seized with fits of unconsciousness, sudden collapses and petrifactions, when he lost the control of the use of his joints and stiffened into a statue…. Minute drops of blood oozed through his skin. His whole body seemed on fire…. He became the Gods himself…. He was the great monkey [god], Hanuman.
The legion of Gods swooped upon him like a whirlwind. He was torn in pieces. He was divided against himself. His madness returned tenfold. He saw demonic creatures emerging from him…. He remained motionless, watching these manifestations issue from him…. He felt madness approaching…. Two years went by in this orgy of mental intoxication and despair.[24]

On his own path to enlightenment, Gopi Krishna “passed through almost all the stages of different, mediumistic, psychotic, and other types of mind; [and] for some time [he] was hovering between sanity and insanity.”[25] Da Free John extols the “divine madness” of his own gurus, Nityananda, Muktananda, and Rudrananda:

True yogis are living forceful beings. They are madmen, absolutely mad—and absolutely dangerous. …Look at Nityananda—he severed heads all his life…. Those who came to him …were wiped out, torn apart…. My experience with people like Rudi, Muktananda, Nityananda, and others was like this: I would be sitting in my house in New York by myself, and this force would enter me, it would practically break my neck, and my body and mind would be taken over. And I would walk around as Nityananda, as Rudi, as Muktananda, literally…. [T]hese wildmen served that process [of enlightenment].[26]

Such stories could be multiplied ad nauseam. This modern penchant to reinterpret demonism and insanity as “true spirituality” is illustrated in numerous books, such as by consciousness researchers Stanislav and Christina Grof (eds.) in Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Trans­formation Becomes a Crisis and The Stormy Search for the Self. Chapter titles from Spiritual Emergency include such items as “When Insanity Is a Blessing: The Message of Shamanism.”[27] The introduction to the book informs us that pathological states of consciousness, when “prop­erly understood and treated supportively,” can produce “healing and have very beneficial effects on the people who experience them.”[28] All of this illustrates the deep spiritual confusion now coursing throughout our nation. The East has indeed come West and the church must be pre­pared to deal with the consequences.

In conclusion, meditation today is almost universally seen as a positive path bringing physical or mental health and spiritual wholeness. Unfortunately, many of those who suffer from such an interpretation have little knowledge of either the occult tradition behind meditation or the dynam­ics of spiritual deception.


  1. Ram Dass, Be Here Now (Boulder, CO: Hanuman Foundation, 1978).
  2. Daniel Goleman, The Varieties of the Meditative Experience (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977), p. xix.
  3. Ibid., p. 106.
  4. Ibid., p. 112.
  5. Ibid., pp. 115-118.
  6. Among them are Leon Otis, Adverse Effects of Meditation (Menlo Park, CA: Stanford Research Institute, 1979); J. A. Fahmy and H. Fledulisu, “Yoga Induced Attacks of Acute Glaucoma,” Acta Ophthalmologica, 1973, 51, pp. 80- 84; J. Hassett, “Meditation Can Hurt,” Psychology Today, 1978, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 125-126; A. Lazarus, “Psychiat­ric Problems Precipitated by Transcendental Meditation,” Psychology Reports, 1976, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 601-602; B. O. Regan, “Mind/Body Effects: The Physiological Consequences of Tibetan Meditation,” Newsletter of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1982, vol. 10, no. 2.
  7. Mary Jo Meadow, et al., “Spiritual and Transpersonal Aspects of Altered States of Consciousness,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 11, no. 1, 1979, pp. 62-63.
  8. Roger N. Walsh, Frances Vaughan, eds., Beyond Ego: Transpersonal Dimensions in Psychology (Los Angeles, CA: J. P. Tarcher, 1980), p. 153.
  9. Mark D. Epstein, Jonathan Lieff, “Psychiatric Complications of Meditation Practice,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 13, no. 2, 1981, p. 137.
  10. Ibid., p. 139.
  11. Ibid., p. 144-145.
  12. Komilla Thapa, Vinoda Murthy, “Experiential Characteristics of Certain Altered States of Consciousness,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 17, no. 1, 1985; Jack Kornfield, “Intensive Insight Meditation: A Phe­nomenological Study,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 11, no. 1, 1979; John Weldon, Zola Levitt, The Transcendental Explosion (Irvine CA: Harvest House Publishers); John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Craig Branch, Thieves of Innocence: Protecting Our Children from New Age Teaching and Occult Practices (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), pp. 182-184.
  13. Kornfield, “Intensive Insight Meditation,” pp. 41-45.
  14. Stanislav Grof, Christina Grof (eds.), Spiritual Emergency (Los Angeles, CA: J. P. Tarcher, 1989), p. 155.
  15. Kornfield, “Intensive Insight Meditation,” pp. 47-49.
  16. Tal Brooke, Riders of the Cosmic Circuit: Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Muktananda… Gods of the New Age (Batavia, IL: Lion, 1986).
  17. Ibid., pp. 140-154,190-202.
  18. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, “God Is a Christ in a Christ,” Sannyas, May-June 1978, p. 11.
  19. C. B. Purdom, The God-Man: The Life, Journeys and Work of Meher Baba (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1964), pp. 137-39.
  20. Ibid., p. 137.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid., emphasis added.
  23. Mahendranath Gupta, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrisna, 6th ed. (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1977), p. 405; cf. p. 548).
  24. Romain Rolland, The Life of Ramakrisna, vol. 1 (Calcutta, India: Advaita Ashrama, 1979), pp. 36-37, 41.
  25. Gopi Krishna, The Awakening of Kundalini (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975), p. 124.
  26. Bubba Free John, No Remedy: An Introduction to the Life and Practices of the Spiritual Community of Bubba Free John, rev. ed. (Lower Lake, CA: Dawn Horse Press, 1976), pp. 275; cf. Franklin Jones [Da Free John], The Method of the Siddhas (Los Angeles, CA: Dawn Horse Press, 1973), pp. 256-258.
  27. Grof and Grof, Spiritual Emergency, pp. 77-97.
  28. Ibid., p. x.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel on March 18, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Hanuman, is a word composed from two sanscrit words: Hanan (anihilation) and Man (mind)! Hanuman is translated by anihilation of the mind! (See Hanuman: The Devotion and Power of the Monkey God , by Mataji Devi Vanamali)

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