The Scope of Visualization Today

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2012
The practice of visualization is a directed form of mental imagery and concentration, which is having broad and substantial impact in our culture. It involves the deliberate manipulation of the mind, individually or in conjunction with an assistant, to alter one’s consciousness toward a specific goal.


The Scope of Visualization Today

Introduction and Influence

The practice of visualization is a directed form of mental imagery and concentration, which is having broad and substantial impact in our culture. It involves the deliberate manipulation of the mind, individually or in conjunction with an assistant, to alter one’s consciousness toward a specific goal—often the seeking of some form of secret knowledge or power. What is perhaps the most authoritative general text on the subject states, “If there are two important ‘new’ concepts in 20th century American life, they are meditation and visualization.”[1] “The growth of interest in visualization since the 1960’s is part of a new climate of thought in the West. This new climate has manifested in an interest in all forms of imagery, in the experience of Eastern religions and philosophy, in hypnotism, and in hallucinogenic drugs and altered states of consciousness in general.”[2]

Visualization is prominent in modern humanistic and transpersonal education and is increasingly finding its way into conventional educational curriculum. Jack Canfield is Director of Educational Services for Insight Training Seminars in Santa Monica, California, past president of the Association for Humanistic Education, and consultant to over 150 schools, universities, and mental-health organizations. In The Inner Classroom: Teaching with Guided Imagery he asserts:

Guided imagery is a very powerful psychological tool which can be used to achieve a wide variety of educational objectives: enhance self-esteem, expand awareness, facilitate psychological growth and integration, evoke inner wisdom, increase empathy, expand creativity, increase memory, facilitate optimal performance, evoke a more positive attitude, and accelerate the learning of subject matter.[3]

New Age visualization claims to work by using the mind to influence reality and one’s perceptions. Proponents claim that by properly controlling each person’s alleged mental power, they can influence and change a person’s ideas, consciousness, or even their physical and spiritual environment. Visualization can supposedly be used to change one’s self-image from negative to positive by holding a positive image of oneself in the mind. Visualization may also be used to uncover a claimed “inner divinity” that can allegedly manipulate reality. By creating the proper mental image and environment and then holding it or projecting it outward, practitioners claim they can exercise mental power over every aspect of their lives. (Related practices are used in magic ritual to call on spirits in order to secure such goals.)

Proponents say proper visualization methods can affect health, finances, educational abilities, relationships, vocation, and even one’s destiny. For example, in many Hindu and Buddhist religions, the thought or image one holds at death is believed to powerfully influence one’s supposed reincarnation. This is one reason for adopting mental training exercises such as visualization. In the Hare Krishna sect (ISKCON), devotees chant the name of the Hindu god Krishna thousands of times per day to infuse and influence their consciousness so at the point of death their thoughts will have been so conditioned by “Krishna consciousness” that they will immediately be ushered into Krishna’s presence. On the other hand, if one is thinking of something like a pig or a worm at death, then one will reincarnate as that.[4]

Because the mind is said to be so powerful and work so dramatically, visualization and imagery practices are being pursued by literally millions of people in America. These practices are having growing impact in diverse fields, from New Age medicine and education, to a variety of occult practices, to certain schools of psychotherapy such as the Jungian, humanistic, and transpersonal, to human potential seminars. A standard work on visualization comments:

In the last hundred years specialists in different fields have begun to rediscover the existence and meaning of visualization. Historians, religious scholars, archaeologists, physicians, and psychologists have begun to study the nature of the inner image as it relates to their area of specialization. There is no widely accepted overview of visualization at this time. There is only a general striving toward understanding in many fields, from many view points.[5]

Many scientific journals on visualization have emerged, such as the Journal of Mental Imagery. These also document the impact of visualization in psychology, education, the arts and literature, linguistics, mythology, anthropology, sociology, religion, and even thanatology.[6] Of course, different forms of visualization exist, with different goals, but even the following brief perusal of its influence shows how widespread the practice has become.


Visualization is used widely in New Age medicine: A central tenet of much New Age medicine is the manipulation of mystical life energies, such as chi and prana. Visualization promoters claim that the practice of visualization can “produce” and manipulate this energy:

… Physicists have also begun to study subtle body energies and their effect on the world outside the body. Throughout history, philosophers have recognized this energy and given it many names The Chinese called it chi, and the Indians prana or kundalini, the Japanese ki; 20th century parapsychologists have referred to it as bio-plasmic energy…. Russian and Czechoslovakian scientists have studied bioplasmic energy in association with healing, telepathy and psychokinesis. They have found that through visualization a woman named Nelya Mikhailoya can change her bio-plasmic energy fields…. Studies like this tend to confirm occult belief in such concepts as auras and astral bodies. These experiments demonstrate how a visualization [technique] can produce energy which directly affects objects in the external world.[7]


Visualization is used in education, for example in counseling, creative writing, and problem-solving courses. It is also used to develop altered states of consciousness in students, to help them reach “inner guides” or allegedly tap the “higher self” and its powers. It is used for enhanced learning potential, self-esteem, and stress reduction.


Visualization is routinely used by shamans, spiritists, magicians, and witches. Many people are familiar with American shamans Carlos Castaneda and Lynn Andrews, whose books have sold in the millions, and whose writings stress that visualization is a key ingredient for success as a shaman. According to hypnotherapists Richard Dobson and Natasha Frazier, “In the last few years shamanic trance techniques have been taught or explained almost entirely as a form of visualization.”[8]

Visualization is widely used in psychic healing. Psychic healers Amy Wallace (granddaughter of Irving Wallace) and Bill Henkin observe in The Psychic Healing Book: How to Develop Your Psychic Potential Safely, Simply, Effectively: “Visualization is one of the most potent and widely used techniques in [psychic] healing. It has been stressed for centuries in schools of Eastern mysticism and is used in nearly every contemporary school of ‘consciousness-raising’.”[9] Visualization is also used in numerous occult religions such as Rosicrucianism and Tantrism and in the mind sciences (such as New Thought, Divine Science, Unity School of Christianity, and Religious Science). Occult practitioners of all stripes use visualization. Even Kreskin, the psychic and famous “mentalist,” admits that he “rehearses constantly through mental imagery.”[10]


Visualization is also widely used in psychotherapy: “The use of the imagination is one of the most rapidly spreading new trends in psychology and education. It is interesting to notice that many of the modern pioneers of imaginative techniques, Hans Karl Leuner and Robert Desoille among them, have stressed the compatibility of such techniques with all main schools of psychology.”[11] A standard text on visualization is Seeing with the Mind’s Eye by physician Mike Samuels, M.D., and his wife. Samuels is a committed spiritist and author of Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds.[12] In his book, he devotes almost 200 pages illustrating the use of visualization in modern psychology, medicine, parapsychology, art and creativity, and the occult, or, as he calls it, “the spiritual life.”[13] Samuels also discusses visualization techniques used within many psychological disciplines and methods, including Freudian, Jungian, induced hypnagogic reverie, aversive training, implosion therapy, hypnotherapy (the spiritistic ability of automatic writing is classified here), behaviorist systematic desensitization, induced dream work, Kretschmer’s meditative visualizations, Leuner’s guided affective imagery, Gestalt psychodrama, psychosynthesis, and others.[14]

The Journal of Mental Imagery is sponsored by the International Imagery Association, which conducts regular meetings for the academic community. The brochure for the Sixth American Imagery Conference held in San Francisco, “Timeless Therapeutic Images,” observed:

A rapidly growing body of scientific findings from psychology, psychiatry and neuropsychology has found that fast and extensive emotional, physiological and psychological change can occur through mental imagery…. The image resides at the core of consciousness…. It effortlessly joins the inner self with the outside world, permits the positive to confront and overcome the negative, leads us to an appreciation of art in Nature, [and] forges new paths in consciousness through new perception.[15]

But as the Spiritual Counterfeits Project in Berkeley, California, warns, many such conferences:

… may best be described as an amorphous blend of secular scientific materialism and a (sometimes) disguised brand of occult philosophy…. [At one conference attended] the primary focus during the conference… was on the use of imaging in order to contact one’s personal inner advisor or spirit guide.[16]

For example, psychosynthesis is a fringe psychotherapy blending various Eastern and Western methods of self-awareness. It was developed by Roberto Assagioli, who for years was the Italian director of Lucis Trust,[17] the occult organization founded by occultist Alice A. Bailey.[18] It makes extensive use of visualization and imagery in order to contact the “higher self,” which can become the means for psychic development and spirit contact.

Another example would be psychic Bob Hoffman who, with the help of a dead friend, Dr. Siegfried Fischer, and a psychiatrist, Ernest Pecci, developed a system of psychic psychotherapy called the Fischer-Hoffman technique, later renamed the Quadrinity Process. “This system involves imagining an inner sanctuary and a spirit guide in order to aid in receptive visualization.”[19] One quadrinity teacher, Jean Porter, reveals its occult application in her book Psychic Development.

One of the early pioneers in the academic use of visualization was German psychiatrist Johannes H. Schultz. He developed what is called “autogenic training” from his clinical experience with hypnosis.[20] Autogenic training is therapy that uses autosuggestion, visualization, deep relaxation, and other techniques.

According to visualization authority Mike Samuels, M.D., it “is the most thoroughly researched and widely applied of all the systems of visualization in healing. Autogenic training has many characteristics in common with hypnotherapy (especially autosuggestion), certain psychic healing techniques, relaxation healing techniques… ancient yogic techniques, and the more recent healing techniques taught in mind-control courses.”[21]

Autogenic training is promoted by some enthusiasts as a method of developing occult states of consciousness for those who don’t want to take the time to follow an Eastern path:

Persons who, for whatever reasons, are not inclined to engage in any of the Eastern meditative techniques… might do well to consider autogenic training. It is a remarkably thorough and systematically designed practice with an end result comparable to that of diligent meditation….

In essence, the final stages of autogenic training may be compared to the break-throughs of consciousness obtained through meditative techniques of various kinds.[22]

Wolfgang Luthe, one of Schultz’s students, is “now the acknowledged authority on Autogenic Training.”[23] He is author of Autogenic Training and with Schultz the seven-volume Autogenic Therapy, which cites some 2,400 case studies. Schultz states that the autogenic program of visualization exercises may be improved by the use of meditation: According to Samuels, “All the positive effects of the standard exercises are reinforced by this meditative training.”[24] One aspect of autogenic meditation has the patient “ask questions of his own conscious inner self,”[25] a technique which has not infrequently become the means to spirit contact.

The influential psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a student of the occult,[26] developed his own visualization method called “active imagination.” This potentially dangerous technique is considered a “powerful tool in Jungian psychology for achieving direct contact with the unconscious and obtaining greater inner knowledge.”[27]

Jungian analyst Barbara Hannah is a teacher at the prominent C.G. Jung Institute. In Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination as Developed by C.G. Jung,[28] she frankly admits its danger and reveals in detail how it can powerfully influence the mind. She urges “great caution” before anyone employs this method.[29] Hannah also says that it is a time-honored method for contacting the “gods.”[30] Indeed, there is little doubt that it may facilitate contact with what can only be termed spirit guides.[31] However, these spirits are typically internalized as powerful psychodynamics, that is, they are normalized as part of the internal “structure” of the unconscious mind.

Human Potential Seminars

Most popular “think yourself rich” (or healthy, or sexy, or happy) seminars and books endorse and use visualization. Modern New Age seminars have millions of graduates, such as Silva Mind Control[32] and Landmark Education’s The Forum (formerly “est”), and employ visualization techniques. In one’s mind, one can create “projection screens” on which to project desired images, such as greater self-confidence, losing weight, or even seeing one’s white blood cells warding off viral invaders or specific finesses. A secret inner sanctuary or mental laboratory may be created where one may contact “inner advisors,” or spirit guides, for assistance in decision-making and direction.

Thus visualization practices are having substantial impact on modern culture, and people need to be informed on this important subject.

In the Church

The modern impact of visualization in health, science, education, psychotherapy, and other areas has resulted in visualization techniques being used by more and more Christians. Trott and Pement note that “visualization exercises are increasingly finding their way into Christian churches.”[33] In The Seduction of Christianity, popular author Dave Hunt devotes two chapters to the harmful influence of visualization within the church:

“Visualization” and “Guided Imagery” have long been recognized by sorcerers of all kinds as the most powerful and effective methodology for contacting the spirit world in order to acquire supernatural power, knowledge and healing. Such methods are neither taught or practiced in the Bible as helps to faith or prayer.[34]

The visualization we are concerned with is an ancient witchcraft technique that has been at the heart of shamanism for thousands of years, yet is gaining increasing acceptance in today’s secular world and now more and more within the church. It attempts to use vivid images held in the mind as a means of healing diseases, creating wealth, and otherwise manipulating reality. Strangely enough, a number of Christian leaders teach and practice these same techniques in the name of Christ, without recognizing them for what they are.[35]

Unfortunately, as we will shortly document, the worldview of the visualization promoters is rarely Christian. Instead, it is blatantly occult or humanistic. As researcher Stanley Dokupil comments: “Imagination is fast becoming the focus of much of New Age thought and method.”[36]


  1. Mike Samuels, M.D., Nancy Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye: The History, Techniques and Uses of Visualization (NY: Bookworks/Random House, 1983), p. XI.
  2. Ibid., p. 34.
  3. Jack Canfield, The Inner Classroom: Teaching With Guided Imagery (Amhurst, MA: Institute for Wholistic Education, 1981), p. 27
  4. e.g., A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, On the Way to Krishna (NY: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1973), pp. 52, 57.
  5. Samuels and Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye, p. 21.
  6. e.g., A. A. Sheikh, Editorial, “Mental Images: Ghosts of Sensations,” Journal of Mental Imagery, Spring, 1977, Volume 1, pp. 1-2.
  7. Samuels and Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye, pp. 70-71.
  8. Richard Dobson, Natasha Frazier, “Trance, Dreams and Shamanism,” Shaman’s Drum, Spring 1986, p. 39.
  9. Amy Wallace, Bill Henkin, The Psychic Healing Book: How to Develop Your Psychic Potential Safely, Simply, Effectively (NY: Delacorte Press, 1978), p. 43.
  10. “Kreskin: Mind Star in a Universe of Realities: Who Or What Is He?” New Realities, Volume 1, Number 6, February, 1978, p. 14.
  11. James Vargiu, ed., Psychosynthesis Institute, Synthesis Two: The Realization of the Self (San Francisco, CA: Psychosynthesis Institute of the Synthesis Graduate School for the Study of Man, 1978), pp. 119-20.
  12. Mike Samuels, M.D., Hal Bennett, Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds (NY: Random House, Inc., 1974).
  13. Samuels and Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye, pp. 162-323.
  14. Ibid., pp. 180-206.
  15. International Imagery Association, Sixth American Imagery Conference, “Timeless Therapeutic Images,” Brochure describing proceeding of the November 5-7, 1982, Conference in San Francisco, CA, Distributed by Brandon House, Box 240, Bronx, NY 10471.
  16. Stanley Dokupil, “Seizing the Power; The Use of the Imagination for Healing,” SCP Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 6 (1982), p. 3.
  17. See
  18. Alice Bailey, The Unfinished Autobiography (NY: Lucis Publishing Co., 1976), pp. 224-25.
  19. Samuels and Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye, p. 276.
  20. Kenneth Pelletier, Mind as Healer Mind as Slayer: A Holistic Approach to Preventing Stress Disorders (NY: Dell, 1979), p. 229.
  21. Samuels and Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye, p. 226.
  22. Pelletier, Mind as Healer Mind as Slayer, pp. 229, 233.
  23. Ibid., p. 237.
  24. Samuels and Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye, p. 225.
  25. Sheikh, “Mental Images,” p. 225.
  26. Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (NY: Vintage/Random House, 1965), pp. 180-200.
  27. Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination as Developed by C. G. Jung (Santa Monica, CA: Sigo Press, 1981), cover.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Ibid., pp. 5-6, 11-12, 18-20, 27.
  30. Ibid., p. 3.
  31. Ibid., pp. 3-51.
  32. A video debate between Jose Silva, John Weldon, Dave Hunt and George DeSau is available from The John Ankerberg Show, P. O. Box 8977, Chattanooga, TN 37414.
  33. John Trott and Eric Pement, Cornerstone, Volume 14, Issue 74, Chicago, IL: Jesus People USA, p. 19.
  34. Dave Hunt, T.A. McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1984), p. 123.
  35. Ibid., p. 124.
  36. Stanley Dokupil, “Seizing the Power; the Use of the Imagination in Healing,” SCP Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 6, (1982), p. 2.

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