What Eastern Gurus Say About Occult Practices – Insanity or Death

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005
Among Eastern gurus as a whole, occult practices are widely accepted. Typically, they include not only various forms of spiritism but also astrology, magic, sorcery, necromancy, development of psychic abilities, shamanistic practices, and the transferal of occult power in initiation (shaktipat diksha). But, even with this broad acceptance, the gurus admit there is a great deal of danger involved.

What Eastern Gurus Say About Occult Practices
Insanity or Death

In earlier articles we examined some of the associations between Eastern religion and Satanism/witchcraft. Now we bring our concerns closer to home by examining the beliefs of some popular American gurus. Among Eastern gurus as a whole, occult practices are widely accepted. Typically, they include not only various forms of spiritism but also astrology, magic, sorcery, necromancy, development of psychic abilities, shamanistic practices, the transferal of occult power in initiation (shaktipat diksha), etc.

As veteran researcher Brooks Alexander observes of Rajneesh, Muktananda, and Sai Baba:

All of these gurus espouse a similar philosophy, and they all turn it into practice in a similar way. It is a pattern that we find not only in tantra (Indo-Tibetan occultism), but in European satanism, antinomian gnosticism, and ancient pagan sorcery as well.[1]

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, for example, states that witchcraft constitutes “one of the greatest possibilities of human growth.”[2]

Part of the disciples’ required obedience to the guru is to follow the guru’s sadhana, or spiri­tual path. By definition, this places a person on the path of occultism. In fact, psychic powers and spiritism are to be expected.[3] For example, spirit contact frequently occurs with what are believed to be various Hindu deities, “nature” spirits, or the guru himself after death (or even while alive via his alleged “spiritual form.” Thus, Muktananda tells his students they will encoun­ter various Hindu gods and other spirits as well as the alleged dead.[4]

Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual autobiography, Autobiography of a Yogi, is replete with occult experiences: astral projection, psychometry, astrology, psychic healing, spiritistic material­izations and apportations, amulets, etc.[5] For example, Yogananda teaches, “True spiritualism [mediumism] is a wonderful science…. It is possible by meditation and spiritual [occult] development to contact departed loved ones.”[6]

The text Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Occultism claims that true occultism is “dynamic spirituality… an indispensable instrument along the spiritual path.”[7] Aurobindo and the “Mother” emphasize that “to talk about occult things is of little value; one must experience them.”[8]

Our research into some two dozen of the major gurus revealed that many of them were, in fact, possessed (defined as God possession or spirit possession, but not demon possession) and that their spiritual paths were often designed to lead to spirit possession, defined as a form of higher spirituality or enlightenment.

Thus, because Eastern gurus constitute a class of occultists, they, too, are familiar with the territory and warn of the hazards of occult practices. For example, medium Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual “adviser” at the United Nations, states:

Many, many black magicians and people who deal with spirits have been strangled or killed. I know because I have been near quite a few of these cases.[9]

He refers to deceptive spirits who will impersonate a person’s guru in visions and urge dis­ciples to commit suicide. He also mentions several people who died from yogic breathing exer­cises.[10]

Meher Baba warned about the possibility of death or insanity from the Eastern path and, in fact, like other shamans, believed insanity was evidence of higher spirituality; he also accepted the possibility of suicide as a form of liberation, if it was done with the “proper” motive.[11]

Regardless, like psychic counselors in general, the gurus usually teach that given proper instruction and technique, occultism is safe. This is a bit ironic because most gurus have char­acteristically experienced a terrible insanity/possession on their own road to so-called “enlight­enment.” Meher Baba himself was seriously insane for a time; so were popular gurus Ramakrishna, Muktananda, Prabhupada, Rudrananda, Nityananda, Da Free John, and many others.[12]

Note for example the following description of events relating to Muktananda’s own spiritual enlightenment, a path he endorses for his disciples. During so-called kundalini arousal, such experiences may last for months or even years, in which case a protracted insanity and/or demonization must be endured. We quote at length so the reader may have a better under­standing of the frightening reality that is frequently involved on the Eastern path. In Muktananda’s own words:

I was assailed by all sorts of perverse and defiling emotions. My body started to move, and went on like this in a confused sort of way…. After a time, my breathing changed, becoming disturbed. Sometimes my abdomen would swell with air, after which I would exhale it with great force. Often the breath that I took in would be held inside me. I became more and more frightened… my mind was sick with fear….
My thoughts became confused, meaningless. My limbs and body got hotter and hotter. My head felt heavy, and every pore in me began to ache. When I breathed out, my breath stopped outside. When I breathed in, it stopped inside. This was terribly painful and I lost my courage. Something told me that I would die at any moment…. I could not understand what was happening, how it was happening, who was making it happen….
By now it was after 9:00. Someone had seated himself in my eyes and was making me see things…. It seemed that I was being controlled by some power which made me do all these things. My intellect was completely unstable…. I heard hordes of people screaming frightfully… and saw strange creatures from six to fifty feet tall, neither demons nor demigods, but human in form, dancing naked, their mouths gaping open. Their screeching was horrible and apocalyptic…. An army of ghosts and demons surrounded me. All the while I was locked tight in the lotus posture, my eyes closed, my chin pressed down against my throat so that no air could escape.
Then I felt a searing pain…. I wanted to run away, but my legs were locked tight in the lotus posture. I felt as if my legs had been nailed down permanently in this position. My arms were completely immobilized….
Then, from over the water, a moonlike sphere about four feet in diameter came floating in. It stopped in front of me. This radiant, white ball struck against my eyes and then passed inside me. I am writing this just as I saw it. It is not a dream or an allegory, but a scene which actually happened—that sphere came down from the sky and entered me…. My tongue curled up against my palate, and my eyes closed. I saw a dazzling light in my forehead and I was terrified. I was still locked in the lotus posture, and then my head was forced down and glued to the ground….
I started to make a sound like a camel, which alternated with the roaring of a tiger. I must have roared very loudly, for the people around actually thought that a tiger had gotten into the sugarcane field….
I am in a terrible state. I have gone completely insane. You may not be able to see it from the outside, but, inside, I am crazy…. My body began to twist…. Now, it was not I who meditated; meditation forced itself on me. It came spontaneously; it was in all the joints of my body. Then, suddenly, a red light came before me with such force that it seemed to have been living inside me. It was two feet tall and shone brightly….
Every part of my body was emitting loud crackling and popping sounds….
At this time, I understood nothing about the various experiences….
Only afterward did I learn that they were all part of the process pertaining to [spiritual enlightenment]…. People who have experienced it call it the awakening of the Kundalini. The experiences I had had under the mango trees were due to the grace of my Gurudev Nityananda; they were all his prasad [blessing]….
Sometimes I would jump and hop like a frog, and sometimes my limbs would shake violently as though shaken by a deity. And this was what was actually happening; a great deity in the form of my guru had spread all through me as Chiti [consciousness], and was shaking me with his inner Shakti [power]….
The power of the guru’s grace enters the disciple’s body in a subtle form and does many great things…. Every day I had meditation like that. Sometimes my body would writhe and twist like a snake’s, and a hissing sound would come from inside me….
Sometimes my neck moved so violently that it made loud cracking sounds, and I became frightened…. I had many astonishing movements like this. Sometimes my neck would roll my head around so vigorously that it would bend right below my shoulders so that I could see my back. When the intensity lessened, I became peaceful again. But because I did not understand these kriyas [spontaneous yoga movements], I was always worried and afraid. Later, however, I learned that this was a Hatha Yoga process effected by the Goddess Kundalini in order for Her to move up through the spinal column into the sahasrara [upper psychic center].[13]

Thus, as is true in some forms of Western mysticism, the Hindu path endorsed by the East­ern gurus offers the possibility of temporary insanity and outright spirit possession, together defined as expressions of one’s emerging spiritual “enlightenment.” Unfortunately, Western gurus who imitate the East are not more encouraging. Ram Dass once said that psychosis is “far out” and that mental hospitals are “groovy ashrams.”[14] The deceptions, follies, and other consequences of his own spiritual path are detailed in books such as Grist for the Mill.[15] Further, the “ascended masters” (spirits) who speak through “Guru Ma” (Elizabeth Claire Prophet) of the Church Universal and Triumphant admit that their spiritual instructions have caused the prema­ture death of some students.[16]


  1. Brooks Alexander, “Book Review: Riders of the Cosmic Circuit,” in SCP Journal, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1987, p. 39.
  2. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Swami Ananda Yarti, The Sound of Running Water: A Photobiography of Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh and His Work 1974-1978 (Poona, India: Poona Rajneesh Foundation, 1980), p. 364.
  3. Daniel Goleman, “The Buddha on Meditation and States of Consciousness” in Charles Tart, ed., Transpersonal Psychologies (New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1977), p. 218.
  4. Swami Muktananda, Play of Consciousness (New York: Harper & Row, 1978), pp. xxiii, 155-161.
  5. Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1972), pp. 16, 55- 57, 132, 137, 190, 475-79.
  6. Paramahansa Yogananda, “Where Are Our Departed Loved Ones?” in Self-Realization Magazine, Spring 1978, pp. 6-7.
  7. Sri Aumbindo and the Mother on Occultism, compiled by Vijay (Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Society, 1972), p. 17.
  8. Sri Aurobindo, A Practical Guide to Integral Yoga, compiled by Manishai (Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1973), p. 273.
  9. Sri Chinmoy, Astrology, the Supernatural and the Beyond (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1973), p. 62.
  10. Ibid., p. 94, and Chinmoy, Great Masters and Cosmic Gods (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1977), p. 8.
  11. Meher Baba, The Path of Love (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1976), pp. 44,64,138; C. D. Deshmukh, Sparks of the Truth From the Dissertations of Meher Baba (Crescent Beach, SC: Sheriar, 1973), p. 45; Meher Baba, Listen Humanity, D. E. Stevens, ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 100.
  12. John Weldon, Eastern Gurus in a Western Milieu: A Critique From the Perspective of Biblical Revelation, Ph.D. dissertation. Pacific College of Graduate Studies, Melbourne Victoria, Australia, 1988.
  13. Swami Muktananda, Play of Consciousness (New York: Harper & Row, 1978), pp. 75-81, 84-85, 88-89.
  14. Ram Dass, The Only Dance There Is (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1974), pp. 74-75.
  15. Ram Dass, Grist for the Mill (New York: Bantam, 1979).
  16. Serapis Bey, Dossier on the Ascension, recorded by Mark L. Prophet (Los Angeles: Summit University Press, 1979), p. 167.

1 Comment

  1. Charlotte Smith on August 6, 2017 at 10:46 am

    You mock: It is possible by meditation and spiritual [occult] development to contact departed loved ones.”[6]
    But didn’t Jesus contact the dead Lazarus? Didn’t Jesus say you shall do all these things and even greater? What is meditation if it is not “be still and know that I am God”?
    You mock: psychic healing. How would you describe Jesus’ healing the centurion’s daughter miles away from where Jesus and the centurion spoke?
    Are you one of the “ordained” ministers sworn to deny that Matthew 6:22 teaches meditation?

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