The Modern Search for Enlightenment and Transcendence: Five True Cases

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©1993
Five true cases are shared that document the horrors encountered through Transcendental Meditation. As people open up their minds to be enlightened, they are unaware of the spiritual dangers they will encounter and the long-term consequences.


The Modern Search for Enlightenment and Transcendence: Five True Cases

Excerpt from “The Coming Darkness”

The Devil is subtle, yet weaves a coarse web.

Richard Chenevix Trench

In 1974 while doing research for our book on Transcendental Meditation, we met Mike, a bright young man who was studious, eager, and idealistic—a calm reflection of the vast swirl of sixties’ protests that left scars on the national psyche. He had participated in the original Keith Wallace Transcendental Meditation experiments at the UCLA Medical School and in 1968 was initiated into Transcendental Meditation personally by Jerry Jarvis, then national director of the student branch of Transcendental Meditation .

Mike was both interested and impressed by the way Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had spoken of the vast benefits of meditation. He was actively involved in the Transcendental Meditation movement and eager to experience God—the state of “absolute bliss consciousness” spoken of by his guru. The promises were as exciting as the practice was soothing. In fact, Mike expected to become a perfectly integrated human being, free from suffering, full of energy and vitality, replete with creativity and fulfillment.

Mike followed the program faithfully but, unfortunately, the end result was a six-month stint at California’s Camarillo State Mental Hospital. He became the victim of a radical Transcendental Meditation-induced personality disorder, as diagnosed by attending psychiatrists. Later, when he learned of the high suicide rate among Transcendental Meditation teachers and other serious casualties in the ranks of the faithful, he was no longer so impressed.

In fact, the problems were numerous enough that eventually an ex- Transcendental Meditation group was formed in Arlington, Virginia, to document the dangers of Transcendental Meditation from the psychiatric literature and to help those who had suffered Transcendental Meditation -induced breakdowns or other problems.

Mike wondered how a practice so simple and natural as meditation could possibly become something so destructive.


Carl was a qualified psychologist with a degree in physics and a personal interest in religion (especially Christianity) and parapsychology. In fact, he became a leading parapsychologist. His personal psychic abilities amazed not only himself but those who knew him. He was enormously excited by Aldous Huxley’s “Doors of Perception”; what Huxley achieved by drugs, Carl was certain he could achieve by psychic means: that, and perhaps much more. Although fascinated by Christianity, Carl was convinced that the modern churches were corrupting the “original” teachings of Christ. Hence he sought “true Christianity” through occult means. Consumed with a desire to find the real teachings of Christ, he became personally involved in reincarnation research and astral travel.

As his studies and involvement in the psychic world continued, he explored realm after realm. He was bright and enthusiastic, not to mention careful. Most of all he was certain he was on the road to vast personal discoveries. In his view, he had all the right motives, talent, and opportunities.

Eventually, a midwestern university offered Carl a professorship and allowed him to both teach and continue his parapsychological experiments, which provided numerous psychic and mystical experiences. Gradually, however, Carl admitted to himself that some deep and disturbing alteration was taking place within him.

He had earlier encountered some gnawing doubts about the fundamental nature of his spiritual path, but he suppressed them because they were too uncomfortable in their implications. Any doubt as to what kind of spirit was leading him could mean a total revision of his work; it could even mean resigning his professorship and renouncing his parapsychological research. Giving up his research would simply have been too costly, both personally and professionally. And besides, years of painstaking effort had been jeweled with benevolent motives, unique talents, and flawless enthusiasm. Carl was convinced he was existing within an absolutely spiritual state of being.

Yet in spite of all this, he soon became consumed by forces so evil he ended up an incoherent somnambulist requiring exorcism and 11 months of hospitalization.

His eventual renouncement of all study and research in parapsychology was deplored by fellow colleagues who, unfortunately, never learned the real reason for his strange disappearance from the parapsychological community.

Carl finally made a dramatic public confession when he was forced to conclude the following: “Solemnly and of my own free will, I wish to acknowledge that knowingly and freely I entered into possession by an evil spirit. And, although that spirit came to me under the guise of saving me, perfecting me, helping me to help others, I knew all along it was evil.”

Tal Brooke, a personal friend of the authors, was featured in the film “The Late Great Planet Earth” as an authority on Eastern mysticism. He is the author of “Riders of the Cosmic Circuit”, a cogent exposé of the major Hindu gurus, and Avatar of the Night, his bestselling spiritual autobiography, first published in India. It relates his experiences as the principal Western disciple of miracle-working guru Sathya Sai Baba.

Brooke was a young and idealistic University of Virginia graduate whose searching mind forsook everything in an attempt to find God in the massive and spiritually bewildering subcontinent of India—that almost mortally wounded civilization to which so many Westerners flock in search of “wisdom from the East.” In his own words he explained to the authors his odyssey and where it finally took him:

If a Hollywood producer were to line up all the sorts of flashy occult signs a seeker would need to get to India, I had them. In truth, I had been riding on a tidal wave of spiritual joy and hope from 1966 (when I had a massive mystical experience under LSD) until I went to India in 1969, after graduating from The University of Virginia. After the mystical experience, every time I looked into one of India’s scriptures, it seemed to be speaking to me. That sense of rapport with the East seemed to urge me within: The Upanishads, Vedas, Baghavad Gita, and on and on, then the works of the modern yogis, Aurobindo, Ramakrishna (19th century), Yogananda, Ramanah Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Maharishi, Sivananda, et al. By the time I got to India, a pundit from Benares Hindu University said what they almost never allow a Westerner—”Your understanding, sir, is on par with our most educated and illumined Brahmin pundits. You must have once been here for many lifetimes.” That was merely one of many confirmations.

The only thing that rippled this current of intoxicating optimism was the incredible culture shock I experienced upon arrival in Delhi. The fruits of the system I loved were appalling, staggering. India travailed as a vast suffering civilization. It was a land where people, according to its philosophy, were elevated to the position of potential gods—but the harsh realities were that never had I seen a land where people were so degraded and abused. There was an indefinable “philosophic other” hanging in the air which kept leaking through to sour my joy. Here was a civilization that could boast having the most profound system of spirituality ever devised, yet everything else about it was run down, exhausted, seedy, travailing.

For six months I met some of the leading Western gurus, including Ram Dass, Muktananda, Maharishi, Krishnamurti, and many others. That too was a disappointment. It all still felt like a spiritual Coney Island—it smelled of “con.”

Then, in my most vulnerable period, in South India, when I was on the verge of giving up my great Eastern dream, I met India’s premier guru, the miracle-worker Sai Baba. And back on went the joy knob inside my soul. What further verification did I need? He was attuned to the supernatural, seemed to have known me from the beginning of time, foreordaining, he said, my visit to India. And, sign of signs, he accepted me in his inner circle. He taught the very seat of Indian philosophy I had come to love, monistic Advaita: the universe is composed of pure self-discovery. Thus the ultimate finding is that the deepest self is the central consciousness which is none other than the One, God. Gone were the threats of good, evil, sin and judgment.

Here was a candy-cane Eden without the serpent.

Then, two years later, a major trauma took place. I discovered something regarding the deep things of evil. It was so great a revelation, that I lived in a state of what I called utter “occult desolation.” The circumstantial syrup that had bathed me in an ocean of milk and honey turned to wormwood, and the events of my life began to resemble a Satanic thriller along the lines of Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” or Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby.” Baba, now that I had seen behind his exterior armor, I began to realize was an Antichrist of the kind predicted in Matthew 24:24.1 escaped India grateful to be alive but with a new awareness of the potential for deep evil inherent within Eastern metaphysics, an evil that had enticed me to the brink of destruction. Were it not for my turning my life over to Christ in a South Indian hotel room, I would be dead today.

We first met Carole as a result of exchanging information on the famous Indian guru Swami Rama. The following information is taken from material sent to us.

Carole was very sick, and the doctors were unable to find the cause of her illness. She decided to go to a physician-nutritionist recommended by a friend. In his office she found some literature about the Himalayan Institute, of which the doctor was a staff member. The institute was founded by Indian Swami Rama, one of the most scientifically studied of the gurus, beginning with famous biofeedback researcher Dr. Elmer Green. Carole decided to attend the institute and began lessons in hatha yoga. Eventually she was initiated and received her mantra, or word of power, from Swami Rama. As he laid his hands upon her head, the typical transfer of occult energy began (termed shaktipat diksha). Carole was in heaven:

Currents of electrical energy began to permeate my head and went down into my body…. It was as if a spell had come over me, the bliss that I felt was as if I had been touched by God. The power that had come from his hand, and simply being in his presence, drew me to him irresistibly.

The night after receiving her mantra, Carole was actually visited by a living spirit being who claimed to be the spirit of Swami Rama himself. Although no one had ever mentioned the spirit world in her church (they did not believe in such things), Carole felt that this was the means of directly communing with God. She proceeded to experience wonderful, powerful forces and energies, while thoughts were impelled into her consciousness with a magnetic-like force.

Electrical currents were pulsating around my body and then moved into my hand, the currents were shaking my hand and strong, almost entrancing thoughts were being impressed into my mind, “Meditate, meditate. I want to speak with you.” It was a miracle. I was communicating with the spirit world. I had found God. Sitting in the darkness of my living room I began to repeat my mantra. A presence seemed to fill the room. I began to see visions of being one with the universe and the magnetic thoughts were now leaving and I was hearing a voice, which identified itself as Swami Rama, saying he was communicating with me through astral travel.

Within one week, after meditating many hours each day and still in constant communication with this spirit, forces began to come upon me and gave me powers to do yoga postures; I was floating through them, the forces giving me added breath even… postures that before would be very painful to do.

However, after two weeks of daily meditation, Carole became engulfed in a nightmare of utter dread and terror. Voices which once claimed they were angelic turned threatening, even demonic. She was brutally assaulted, both physically and spiritually. During meditation, in the midst of being violently shaken, she could sense that the very same energy received at initiation, energy which was now felt to be personal, was attempting to remove her life-essence from her physical body—in her words, “to literally pull the life from my shell of a body.” She sensed an overwhelming and implacable hatred directed toward her, as if “monstrosities of another world were trying to take my very soul from me, inflicting pain beyond endurance, ripping and tearing into the very depths of my being.”

The intermittent suffocation and torment seemed to be interminable; her fears only increased as she realized there was no one to help her. Finally the attack subsided. But unfortunately, it was merely the first of many to come.

It seems that nothing could stop the assaults. Her agonized pleas to the spirits were ignored; her husband was powerless. Her father wanted her to see a psychiatrist; others also doubted her sanity. In desperation, her mother contacted psychic friends from a local church of the Unity School of Christianity. They laid hands on Carole and commanded that “the divinity within” deliver her, but to no avail.

Dr. G. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., entered the picture. He is a noted neurosurgeon, a former professor at Harvard University, past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, and the author of “Occult Medicine Can Save Your Life.” Dr. Shealy also works in conjunction with psychics and spiritists such as Carolyn Myss. Dr. Shealy was unable to help and referred Carole to Dr. Robert Leichtman, M.D., a spiritist who is coauthor of several dozen books received by revelation from the spirits.

Leichtraan admitted that Carole’s situation was not uncommon among followers of Eastern gurus. In fact, he told her some have died as a result of similar psychic attacks. But he, too, was unable to help. His instructions, such as visualizing herself in the white “Christ light” of protection were useless. By this time, Carole was near the end:

I had to endure the torture, unable to free myself. To those around me I was insane. No one believed me and no one could free me. The hopelessness I felt was unbearable. No one believed me except the psychics… and they could do nothing.

I was defenseless against these never-ending attacks… hundreds of presences filling my room, which itself would be filled with thick, ice cold air, my body drenched with perspiration as my whole being fought against them.

After spending several weeks at my parents’ we decided perhaps I could try returning home. But that night the spirits started to exert their full power.

First, against my skull. It felt as if they were trying to crack it open, like the air was being cut off to my brain. Incredible pressure was exerted upon my back and chest, pulling with a wrench-like grip. It felt like they were trying to pull my shoulder from its socket, pressing on my eyes trying to blind me, pushing on my throat trying to choke me. Filled with fear and exhaustion, on the brink of death I screamed to my husband, “I’m dying; I can’t take it anymore. Get me to the hospital.”

I was taken to the hospital where I laid like a scared dog cowering on a cart. I could hardly speak but at least the spirits were gone—temporarily…. The doctor on duty recommended a psychiatrist who saw me the next morning. He told me I was covering up some deep problems with this “talk of evil spirits.” “There is no such thing as the devil,” he said coldly.

Carole admitted herself to the hospital, but once more no one could help. The attacks finally subsided and she was released. Upon returning home, the attacks began again. More unimaginable torment. Although she was terrified of death, death was now her desire. Wishing to take her life but too fearful of dying, in desperation she readmitted herself to the hospital. Once again, she was placed in a locked ward. She felt that here she would die—alone and in torment.

But today, Carole is alive and well. Even her psychiatrist was amazed at the miraculous transformation. She was now in perfect health, both mentally and physically.

Carole knew she was free from the spirits. But how? Carole was unable to help herself. Her best friends could not help her, nor her parents or husband. Neither the medication nor the medical profession could do anything. The psychics were the most powerless of all. Today, Carole attributes both her health and her life to a living Jesus Christ who delivered her from a desperate plight.

Reflecting today on her predicament, she is awed that such terrible destruction could be purchased at the price of a simple, supposedly harmless form of meditation.

Johanna Michaelsen, another personal friend of the authors, had always believed in God; indeed, it was her desire to serve Him. As a Silva Mind Control graduate (and resultant spiritist) and as an assistant to a “psychic surgeon” in Mexico, she believed she was fulfilling her dreams. She encountered marvelous psychic experiences, “visions of inexpressible ecstasy where waves of light and peace would flow over me.” In fact, she had “never experienced such joy, such light and peace, such unspeakable ecstasy.” She felt, “I was on the right path at last.”

And yet after years as a psychic, after 14 months assisting at “several hundred psychic operations” with medium Dona Pachita (one of the psychic surgeons discussed in Drs. Krippner and Villodo’s “The Realms of Healing”), she encountered severe attacks and a “murderous demonic rage” from the very spirits she had become so close to. How could this be? These were good spirits—helpful, kind, and loving—not like the evil spirits she had also encountered on her psychic journey. These good spirits couldn’t be evil; her own spirit guide had assured her that he was none other than Jesus Christ Himself!

Yet now her own spirit helpers had turned on her and, like the spirits that tormented Carole, seemed to want her dead. Why? What could possibly be the cause? The only conceivable reason for the spirits’ dramatic change of temperament provided a startling revelation. The one difference in her life was that she had been giving serious consideration to the biblical Jesus Christ—”to accept Jesus Christ of Nazareth as He is, rather than as I had come to think He should be as a psychic.”

But if the spirits didn’t like the real Jesus, then how could they be good spirits? Worse yet, might they be demons, whose cunning was legendary? Although Johanna viewed Christians as “narrow-minded, spiritually undeveloped and undiscerning legalistic fundamentalists who simply didn’t understand the vastness of the manifestations of God,” she finally concluded that she herself had been the victim of a clever spiritual ruse.

The spirits really were demons.

Her story is told in “The Beautiful Side of Evil”, wherein she outlines the details of this spiritistic duplicity. In spite of the ecstatic experiences and all the apparent benevolence of her spirit helpers, she concluded these so-called “guides” were evil spirits only mimicking good spirits in an attempt to deceive her, even as the Scriptures teach (2 Corinthians 11:14). She concluded her book by warning others:

Remember, there is a beautiful side of evil— deceptive, subtle, adorned with all manner of spiritual refinements, but no less from the depths of hell than that which is blatantly demonic.

Mike, Carl, Tal, Carole, and Johanna—five bright and very hopeful men and women whose most optimistic dreams turned into palpable nightmares. Why? What kind of reality can transform the genuine sincerity of such people into the terrors they experienced?

What kind of psychic reality are such individuals tapping into? What manner of powers are they encountering? Is it merely human potential—the “divinity within” of the Eastern philosophy or the “latent psi” of the parapsychologist—somehow gone awry? Or is it something else? Why is it that so many people end up experiencing destructive powers, especially when they had the best of motives and initially encountered powerful and tremendously encouraging and loving experiences? How can something initially so “spiritual” and “blissful” and “beautiful” end up unmasked as something so evil—and so destructive?

In other words, why does the persistent optimism of those who promote the occult so often come crashing down on the individual level? Why the eventual destruction from religious practices, from seeking after God? Why the Bishop Pikes— those whose spiritistic odysseys lead to tragic deaths? Why the Ram Dasses—those whose personal deception by their own gurus or spirit guides lead to such destruction that they despair of knowing whom to trust or what to believe? Why have millions of people suffered as a result of what they thought were spiritual activities?

The reason is as disarmingly simple as it is frequently rejected: There is indeed a world of evil spirits. Their goal is to deceive people and trap them by occult practices—practices that our culture now defines as spiritual and godly. But biblically speaking, these practices are not godly. In the Bible, God declares they are sinful and idolatrous (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). They are dangerous because they attract the demonic.

The question is often raised, “Why is psychic or occultic activity as harmful as it is?” There are at least three reasons.

1. Occult activity rejects God’s will for man. Occult practice is hazardous because it is a violation of the will of God, i.e., because God forbids it as an “abomination” to Him (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:9-12). Ignorance of God’s law does not cancel the logical consequences of violating such law, just as taking poison by mistake will still cause injury. In this regard, however, occult activity is not necessarily like other disobedience.

To one degree or another, occult activity involves aligning oneself with the spiritual enemies of God (Satan and his demons), with all that implies, including their goals for men. In other words, the degree of confrontation with God appears to be the issue. Occult activity opposes God in a direct and active manner, whether or not one is aware of it.

For example, as we will see in Chapters 2 and 4, the occult worldview is pervasively anti-Christian.

2. Men are inherently ill-fitted for encounters with occult realities. The occult is hazardous because mankind’s current status as spiritually, morally, and physically fallen does not properly equip him to deal safely with the realm of the supernatural. Ultimately, his knowledge of this world is minuscule, nor does he have the means to secure protection from whatever nasty things might exist there. It’s rather like playing tennis with your side of the court underwater. You can’t win regardless of how well you play the game.

The history of the occult reveals that entering the spirit world is equivalent to walking unprotected on a mine field without knowledge of the number or location of the mines. If no one in his right mind would enter such a place on earth, neither should he do SO anywhere else. Thus, the inherent consequences of contacting the supernatural realm tend to increase the normal consequences of ignorance, naiveté, pride, or power-seeking. For example, naiveté in repairing your car is one thing and carries its own level of risk; but naiveté in the things of Satan and a supernatural world of evil spirits is more serious and carries more risk.

In this regard, perhaps occult activity may be compared to the AIDS virus—another modern problem men are ill-prepared to deal with. Unfortunately, the occult is in many ways the equivalent of a spiritual AIDS. In both cases:

• One is exposed to something deadly.

• Infection occurs through activity that is exciting and pleasurable and often initially full of promise.

• Infected persons can be symptomless for years, unaware of the death sentence they carry inwardly.

• The disease is spreading rapidly.

• Most people refuse to believe they can be infected.

• Human ignorance concerning the exact nature of the illness is vast.

3. Occult practices introduce people to spiritual entities who seek their destruction. Occult involvement does not merely involve consorting with the enemies of God, but also with one’s own adversaries. Any enemy, of course, may feign friendship for ulterior motives, but sooner or later it will seek to injure or destroy. In this sense, the spiritual underworld operates in ways similar to the criminal underworld. Just as the latter will use its hirelings only for its personal plans or glory and dispose of them when convenient, the spiritual underworld operates in the same manner.

In summary, the occult is hazardous because it involves first, personally confronting God and opening oneself to demonic influence and/or God’s judgment; second, functioning in a hostile and alien terrain containing its own kind of booby traps; and third, encountering the devil’s hatred.

However, at what point a particular activity becomes dangerous (in such a manner that harmful personal consequences must follow) we cannot say, for it seems to depend on a number of factors. For one person, consequences may come sooner than for another. But for everyone who remains involved in the psychic world, there will be consequences.

While we cannot say that a single deliberate exposure to a given psychic practice or event is dangerous, neither can we say it is absolutely safe. Psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Checkley warns, “I have seen patients whose involvement with relatively minor forms of the occult has caused them to suffer mental illness.”

Brooks Alexander, senior researcher for the Spiritual Counterfeits Project in Berkeley, California, observes:

Many people seem to have so-called “psychic” experiences without being emotionally or spiritually injured by them. At the same time it seems clear that the world of psychic pursuit and fascination is a demonic playground. How do we know the acceptable level of psychic involvement? We do not know. Each individual encounters the demonic danger at his own level of temptation—whatever that may be.

The fact is that no one knows how demonic beings operate in relation to psychic phenomena. Therefore it is impossible to say that “X” amount of psychic involvement will result in demonic contact. We do not know where the line is drawn between dabbling and demonism, or between curiosity and commitment, nor do we know how and when that line is crossed. It may be that the question of “how much” has less to do with it than we think. I would suggest that the neural and mental patterns set up by psychic involvement provide an interface with other forms of consciousness, which are extra-dimensional and demonic in nature. If that is the case, then psychic dabbling is a little like entering the cage of a man-eating tiger. You may or may not be eaten, depending in part on how hungry the tiger is. The significant point is that once you enter the cage, the initiative in the matter passes to the tiger.

It should also be noted that the effects of occult activity are often not discernible (e.g., an imperceptible if increasing resistance to the gospel or the early imperceptible stages of psychological damage or even demonization). Non-Christians, of course, would not think the former was of any consequence, but it is of great concern if the gospel is true, for then one would be predisposed against the one true God with potentially eternal consequences.

Of course, if God chooses He may blunt the effects of sin and protect us from our ignorance or folly, or from the schemes and designs of the spiritual underworld. God’s grace and mercy must always be taken into account, but never taken for granted. The Scripture itself warns all men, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). As Thomas Hale once warned, “We must not so much as taste of the devil’s broth, lest at last he bring us to eat of his beef.”

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