Meditation – the art of reflection – the gardening of the mind. One often wonders: is meditation touching the Divine or is it wishful thinking through non-thought? There seem to be as many forms of meditation as there are teachers. As a result, there are many differing opinions about how one is to open this perceived doorway to the Self through meditation. However, the question of meditation and the Christian’s use of it as a spiritual discipline is one that needs considerable thought!
Some believe meditation is the doorway to the mystical world and the deeper realms of spiritual understanding, whereas others believe it to be a scientific – therapeutic method that brings harmony, peace of mind, and tranquility. Still others do not accept meditation as a spiritual endeavor at all.
One’s view of this ancient discipline is greatly determined by his perspective: whether he is Eastern or Western in orientation, scientific or spiritual in his approach, or if he chooses to practice meditation under a guru-teacher who emphasizes mysticism or if he chooses to learn through a secular source. The end result is the same! The participant is brought to the ultimate conclusion that he is interconnected with all creation, that he is One with the Divine, and in fact, that he is the Divine – the Higher Self or Divine Self.
Before we journey too far down this road of enlightened understanding it is instructive to hear from those who have offered counsel through their teaching.
· Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh makes this observation. Meditation comes through a basic transformation, a mutation. Meditation is to be one with existence. Meditation is conscious oneness.1
· W. Brugh Joy, M.D. believes that Meditation is the journey into the essence of all, a spiral ever expanding into dimensions and experiences of awareness beyond the self, beyond thought forms, beyond time, beyond fear, beyond death, sometimes exploding into the superbrilliant light of Ascension, unshackling through Resurrection, to where Self abides. Meditation is Divinity’s playground.2
· Eknath Easwaran comments that meditation is, rather, a systematic technique for taking hold of and concentrating to the utmost degree our latent mental power. It consists in training the mind, especially attention and the will, so that we can set forth from the surface level of consciousness and journey into the very depths.3
· Lawrence LeShan writes that meditation is a creative taking hold of and shaping your own life and destiny. According to LeShan, meditation brings the participant to a point where he discovers the attainment of another way of perceiving and relating to reality and a greater efficiency and enthusiasm for everyday life.4
· Michal Levin, an intuitive, says, meditation is the path that led me to my innermost self. At the same time, meditation is the path that leads to the place where the mysteries of the universe reside and the keys to existence await.5
· Benjamin Crème, an esotericist who channels Maitreya Buddha, makes these comments about meditation. Meditation is to bring you into contact and alignment with your soul. Through meditation you build a bridge, a channel of light, between the physical brain and your own soul. The soul and God are identical. The soul is a part of one great oversoul, which is identical with God. You have within the individual soul, the potential of all Deity.6
· Dennis Weaver – actor and follower of Guru Paramahansa Yogananda. The goal of meditation is the same: God Communion. True meditation is concentration on the presence of God Within.7
· Vera Stanley Adler, author, makes this observation regarding meditation. The science of meditation has been used throughout the ages as the means by which a man can link his brain, mind, and soul together, and connect them consciously with the Universal Intelligence—or the Mind and Motives of the Creator of this Solar System.8
· Ram Dass, aka Richard Alpert, mystic and Harvard professor emeritus, gained spiritual understanding from his guru Maharaj-ji. Dass speaks of meditation as visualizing the divine within. As you meditate upon it, experience the deep peace that is emanating from this being. Feel as you look upon this being that it is a being of great wisdom. Feel its compassion and its love. Let yourself be filled with its love. This being is love, this being is wisdom. This is the inner Guru, this is the being within you who always knows. This is the being you meet . . . when you’ve gone beyond your mind. When you have finished this journey, you will have disappeared into this being, surrendered, merged and then you will recognize that God, the Guru and self are one.9
These comments help us realize that meditation is viewed in differing ways and on varying levels. There are those who discount the psycho-spiritual aspect and then there are those who accept the psychic new age interpretation of meditation to its fullest. Although it may be less threatening to naively accept that meditation is scientific, it is wise to recognize that the vast majority of those who practice the discipline accept and believe it to be psycho-spiritual in nature. Our consideration of the subject will reflect this latter view.
Meditation Observations and Claims
Meditation is the spearhead of an evangelical invasion from the East. It is an attempt to reweave the fabric of Western culture. Although meditation is central to Hinduism, it has a place in Christianity as well. (We will look at the biblical aspects of meditation later.) Meditation can be understood through a variety of facets. It plays a foundational role in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, the New Age, Theosophy, and Christianity. There are many pathways into its embrace. One can become engaged in Light Meditation, Zazen (Zen), Satsang, Transcendental Meditation, Chakra Meditation, the Silva Method of Mind Control, Mantra Meditation, Breath Meditation and a large number of other avenues.
Meditation claims extraordinary results for itself. It has become the new elixir of the twenty-first century. Meditation claims to enhance one’s health, help one to perceive true reality, to relieve stress and promote relaxation, to increase one’s academic prowess, and to bring the meditator into a sense of his true self – his divine nature. Meditation opens the psychic center in the individual’s mind and leads him into his supposed enlightened God Self. One practitioner commented: I started having long conversations with a voice inside my head, experiencing vivid memories, and a flood of creative ideas.10 Rabi R. Majaraj, a former guru, stated that During the daily meditation I began to have visions of psychedelic colors, to hear unearthly music, and to visit exotic planets where the gods conversed with me, encouraging me to attain even higher states of consciousness.11
The goal of Eastern forms of meditation is to quiet the mind through non-thought. It is the act of re-focusing one’s thought on a word (mantra), an object, a precept, or for the Christian – the Word of God. For the non-Christian practitioner meditation is in one sense blanking out the mind while at the same time more acutely focusing the mind on a given word, thought, or object. Meditation is believed to be a method of mental and spiritual training to develop one’s full potential as an individual.
“Contemporary psychology and medicine regard the contemplative traditions as a rich source of skills for mastering attention, promoting health and stress resilience, reducing pain, awakening creativity, and building the power of positive emotions such as empathy, patience, joy, and loving-kindness.” 12 Other goals include discovering and transforming the limiting habits of mind that block our full potential. Another is to actively cultivate and bring more fully alive our potential for wisdom, creative intelligence, calm intensity, loving-kindness, and compassion.13 The ultimate goal is to recognize one’s interconnectedness with all creation and to realize one’s divinity. This sense of interconnectedness – the idea that we are all One – we are the same essence, is designed to strip us of being judgmental. If we are truly One then how can we judge ourselves. Meditation removes one’s need to discern rightness or wrongness. We are just different.
On first glance many of these goals are desirable; however, the route taken to hopefully achieve them has more pitfalls than one may want to encounter. We will discuss the potential dangers of meditation later.
Categories of Meditation
There are literally thousands of meditation types and practices one might employ in his spiritual journey. However, to allow for our discussion on the subject we will consider the categorization of Joel and Michelle Levey, the authors of Living in Balance. They offer the following for our consideration.
Meditation can best be understood by constructing five categories for our use. Concentration Meditation, Mindfulness Meditation, Reflective Meditation, Creative Meditation, and Heart-Centered meditation.14 Concentration plays a primary role in all forms of meditation and draws the participant to a one-pointedness in his activity. The purpose of meditation is not only to quiet the mind but also to dispel all other mental chatter – the internal dialogue. Concentration allows the meditator to accomplish this goal. “A concentrated mind is also the precursor of great bliss and the prerequisite for the development of psychic abilities.” 15 Mindful Meditation strengthens one’s focus on the wonder of his experience and draws his attention to the interrelatedness of everything. Reflective meditation is traditionally used to allow one to gain insight into the meaning of life, death, relationships or some philosophical thought. It essentially provides the individual a breakthrough insight. Creative meditation turns the meditator’s focus to problem solving. Receiving a solution to one’s dilemma is possible through the use of intuition and recognizing that the creative impulse alive within us is the universal creative spirit (the Divine Self, the God Self).16 The use of heart meditation is to make the meditator more keenly aware of his interconnectedness with all creation – that he is one with God, and to move the practitioner away from his sense of individuality and embrace his new-found sense of oneness.
Impact of Meditation
Meditation has made its way into our lives in many areas. It is taught in school classrooms, churches, sport programs, elder care programs, wellness centers, and seminars. Deborah Rozman is an educational consultant and works with elementary teachers and students. She is the author of Meditating with Children and through her text she hopes to help children discover a “deeper meaning in life” by “searching within themselves.” 17
On the surface, Rozman’s desire to help children acquire a deeper meaning in life appears to be noteworthy. However, as her readers discover, when they take her writing in total they find that she promotes not only a deeper sense of meaning in one’s life – but she introduces her students to a wide range of psychic possibilities. First, she introduces her students to what the mystics call the energy centers of the body called Chakras. Chakra Meditation is used to help the initiate develop psychic awareness and ultimately cross the threshold to enlightenment. Rozman develops her students’ rudimentary understanding of meditation. She deepens their awareness of this internal wisdom by encouraging her students to practice meditation techniques that open their senses to the Source (read: God) inherently within them. “First give the problem to the Source of wisdom within you.” “Everyone goes into meditation and poses a problem silently to the Source within and asks for an answer.” 18 Essentially, she is asking each student to open his or her inner pathway to receive psychic or consciously unknown information. In other words, she is creating an opening for demonic deception.
The deception that haunted Rabi Maharaj tortured him. Through his life as a guru he had become oppressed by the spirits and the deities that he worshipped through Yoga and meditation. His anguish resulted in the question – “Who were these gods and spirits and forces that I invited to come into me through nyasa and Yoga and meditation?” 18 Rabi had come to the inevitable conclusion that “the self-denial practiced in Eastern mysticism of all kinds was based upon the fallacious belief that man’s only problem was wrong thinking and that he need only ‘realize’ that he was God.” 19 He had become self-deceived through his practice of Yoga and meditation and bought into the lie that he was One with the Source – he was indeed God.
Rabi Maharaj ultimately questioned his faith. He knew that he needed forgiveness, that he was a sinner and needed the cleansing that only redemption could bring. He realized that Hinduism – the broad way – was not the way. After his conversion he made this comment. “We knew that there was no compromise, no possible blending of Hinduism and true Christianity. They were diametrically opposed. One was darkness, the other light. One represented the many roads that all lead to the same destruction; the other was, as Jesus had said, the narrow road to eternal life.” 20 Rabi had made the great discovery: he is not – even through his meditative mind – a deity in progression and cannot save himself.
Another gateway through which meditation has made an impact is the Christian church. There is very little understanding about meditation in the church and this lack of knowledge strengthens the possibility of spiritual destruction. Most Christians are grossly unprepared to offer anyone the criteria to adequately discern true Christian meditation. Because of this insufficient instruction regarding meditation, Christians, in general, accept the Eastern view of meditation as being legitimate. (We will consider the differences between Christian and Eastern meditation later.)
I attended a class at a high profile Methodist church in Highland Park, Texas a few years ago and I was dismayed to find that the class was using material written by the Catholic mystic Thomas Keating. The text for the class was The Spiritual Journey. The class presenter was an associate minister who had become deeply involved in Contemplative Meditation.
Once I received my text I began to leaf through it to see if, indeed, my reservations were warranted. They were! Contemplative Prayer or meditation is grounded in Centering Prayer. Centering meditation is central to all methods of meditation. It centers the self, bringing one’s focus into alignment with one’s consciousness.
Rozman uses centering meditation as the introductory meditative form that builds the foundation for tapping the Source. She says, “the objective is to establish a true recognition of Center within and the purpose of centering so as to tap the Source of Consciousness and Life for Peace, Joy, Inspiration and Bliss.” 21 Rozman offers this injunction for the teacher. “The teacher should be in equilibrium before the class commences” and that “a humble inner request for guidance from the Higher Self, the Source within sets the tone” 22 for the meditation. Keating addresses this aspect of the process, “Centering Prayer is a beginning, is a process of interior transformation, a friendship initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union.” 23 Rozman offers this suggestion to teachers who use her text in the classroom. “If you still have trouble with the word ‘Meditation’ when bringing this program to your children, parents, family, school administrators or board of educators, use alternative terms like . . . awareness training, concentration, centering, awareness games, relaxation, wholistic learning, creative imagery, etc.” 24
Keating’s text is written in such a way that the undiscerning will find it difficult to recognize his proclivity for New Age precepts. It is his desire and likewise the desire of those who use his approach to bootleg their metaphysical/mystical teachings by using terminology similar to Rozman’s. However, Keating allows the reader to see his intention by listing those who he recommends as co-journeymen on this spiritual trek.
This author’s experience in discerning the theological persuasion or world view of a writer is founded not only in the pages of an offending text, but also in the writer’s suggested readings and other criteria. In Keating’s case he suggests several known occult/New Age writers as individuals the inquirer needs to emulate. Keating recommends Ken Keyes, the author of Handbook to Higher Consciousness along with Ken Wilbur, the author of No Boundaries published by the New Age publisher Shambhala. As one might expect he recommends several of his personal texts, but one that caught my eye was titled: Meditations on the Tarot published by Amity House. Even the undiscerning reader would surely question this entry as one that should be used to understand the contemplative life.
Another aspect of mystical or metaphysical writing is that it is often difficult to correctly understand the writer’s intent. Gnostics, Theosophists, Esotericists, and other writers in the New Age/metaphysical genre use language that most individuals would find contradictory. Keating offers an example. Under his Guidelines For Christian Life he makes the following statements: 1.The fundamental goodness of human nature . . . is an element of Christian faith. The basic core of goodness is capable of unlimited development; indeed, of becoming transformed into Christ and deified. 2. Our basic core of goodness is our true Self. Its center of gravity is God. 3. God and true Self are not separate. Though we are not God, God and our true Self are the same thing. 25 Then later in the text Keating makes this comment. The way to become divine is thus to become fully human. 26
I trust that you made it through the above without a nosebleed. But it is important to recognize the dichotomy. Statements 1 and 2 are fairly straightforward in their understanding. It appears that we are Divine Beings. But in number 3 he throws a curve. He covers his base by seemingly making a clear statement that we are NOT Gods. Then to further cloud the issue he follows up by stating that God and our true Self are the same thing. It is important to understand that when capitalizations are used the author is implying deity – as Keating uses the term Self. Now, I must tell you that the usage of the term “Self,” while it implies deity, does not, according to the mystic, mean you are deity. It means that your “true self” – the core of your being – is Divine. Meditation is an essential psycho-spiritual technology to help us recognize this “Truth”. An interview with Dennis Weaver in Meditation magazine makes it fairly clear: True meditation is concentration on the presence of God Within.
Vishal Mangalwadi makes the following comment regarding consciousness. “God consciousness is not the highest state because even in this the duality of Self and the outer world persist. But in Unity consciousness, the apparent paradox of the Absolute and the relative world, is fully resolved. One perceives their essential identity. In other words, one sees that there is no difference between myself, other selves and the material world. It is all one. This is liberation. This oneness however, is not seen intellectually but intuitively or mystically. After attaining this state one is not reborn. He merges into the universal consciousness.” 27 In essence, he attains salvation through realizing his universal oneness with divine consciousness.
Dangers of Meditation
The primary purpose of meditation is to correct one’s false perception of reality by altering his awareness through altered states of consciousness and thereby correcting his reality. The altering of one’s consciousness opens the doorway into the psychic realm and subjects the individual to deception.
The deception comes when the individual misinterprets these psychic powers and the “higher” states of consciousness that accompanies meditation as awakening the divine “self”. LeShan warns that these psychic events during one’s meditation are powerful distractions from the individual’s true focus of personal growth and should be ignored. He goes so far as to say they are a “trap”28 and “seductive” – they must be avoided. It is of interest to note that most purveyors of meditation practices would encourage the individual to pursue these psychic episodes.
A greater danger awaits those who seek deeper experiences in meditation and ultimately open a spiritual realm that brings destruction. Through meditation-induced spirit contact they open themselves up to the idea that their ultimate reality is that of a divine being. In their new understanding they believe they are indeed “one” with reality – God.
The mindlessness of meditation not only opens one’s conscious state to the demonic realm, but also prohibits the ability of one’s mental faculties to rightly focus on the true need of right relationship with God – rather than an altered consciousness masquerading as deity. The empty-mindedness of meditation is the same altered state that mediums seek to open themselves to “spirit guides” and channel information for their own purposes. When an individual allows his mind to enter a passive state through meditation he is placing himself in a spiritual minefield where he will ultimately expose himself to deception.
The authors of the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs mention three aspects of occult phenomena that accompany most all forms of meditation: 1) The cultivation of altered states of consciousness; 2) the eventual development of psychic powers; 3) the possibility of spirit possession.29 Parapsychologist Dr. Karlis Osis identifies an altered state of consciousness as the most central factor in meditation. For many who practice meditation an altered state of consciousness becomes their platform for success.
When the practitioner enters an altered state and experientially endorses the precepts of his teacher he then identifies with that view. Muktananda says, The Guru is God Himself. Sai Baba tells his followers, You are the God of this universe, and You are God in reality; Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh says, As you are, you are God. Regardless of the guru or the teacher, the message is the same: you are God, a divine being. Although some attempt to hide this fact by discounting its forthrightness, the avalanche of agreement stands with the former insight.
The eventual development of psychic powers is another potential reality for the practitioner. Clinical psychologist Daniel Goleman Ph.D. and an authority on Buddhist meditation says that every school of meditation acknowledges that psychic phenomena are a part of advanced stages of mastery in meditation. Goleman, a follower of guru Neem Karoli Baba, teaches meditation courses at Harvard University. He makes the following observation: all meditation systems employ the same process for transforming one’s consciousness. He continues by saying, 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.30 Essentially, it makes little difference which form or school of meditation one pursues; the merging of the individual with a psycho-spiritual reality produces the same end result – a new reality based in an occult experience.
However, the greatest concern one should have is the possibly of becoming demonically possessed by the spirits encountered in meditation. As noted earlier, when the individual enters a passive mental state, he then allows the greater possibility for a spiritual take-over. The practitioner effectively opens the doorway for possession. Channeler Laeh Garfield writes in Companions in Spirit: A Guide to Working with Your Spirit Helpers, “Meditation simultaneously calms you down, uplifts you and sharpens your awareness, so that discarnate teachers can come through to you with the messages they convey.”31
The message should be clear! Meditate at your own peril. There are forces at work that seek your destruction. We have only scratched the surface regarding the potential dangers of meditation. There is much more we could discuss. However, space limits our doing so.
Meditation has been a long tradition in the Christian church. However, the practice has not been widely used by the faithful. Meditation, as a discipline, has not lent itself well to instruction in recent church history. The only examples the church has been exposed to are those within the cloistered walls of the monasteries. However, as we have noted above, these traditions have been greatly influenced by the mystics and the traditions have become more Eastern in their approach than biblical.
Therefore, it is imperative for us to discover and implement the biblical model for our spiritual walk and relationship with our God. The other methodologies of meditation lead us into darkness and eventually spiritual death.
Christianity calls us to look outward and upward to God, rather than within for spiritual nourishment. The authority for the Christian life does not lie within us, but in the Word of God – Jesus and His Word. Christian meditation brings life – not death. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh says that meditation is a subtle death. “It is the death of you: of your mind, of your ego, of all that defines you. Only what is within, what is not mind, not the ego, remains – and that is pure consciousness.”32 Christian meditation should accentuate our being, the fact that we are created in God’s image. It should not eliminate who we are! Christian meditation should also strengthen our mind – not kill it. Christian meditation should open a deeper relationship with God through His Word as we give thoughtful meditation in how we might become more conformed to the Scripture’s teaching – not the merging of our selves with consciousness.
Biblical meditation, then, is the conscious reflection of the mind on God’s Word – revealed truth. We are to reflect on this truth until it has taken deep root in our essence – who we are. Our innermost being! As Christians, we are to meditate on three great Truths.33
First, we are to meditate on God himself. The Scripture tells us that we are to meditate on God, not our self. Isaiah 26:3 says that our mind is to stay (remain) on Him and that we will have perfect peace. Eastern meditation claims to bring peace to the individual. But, true peace only comes by rightfully placing one’s thought on Him.
Second, we are to meditate on God’s works. Psalm 77:12 says that we are to “meditate on all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” Psalm 143:5 adds that we are to “remember the days of old, I meditate on all thou hast done; I muse (ponder) on the work of Thy hands.” We are not only to ponder the things of the past. We should ponder the works of Christ and particularly His redemptive work on our behalf. Should we not ponder or meditate on the great debt that Jesus cancelled for us?
Third, we are to meditate on God’s Word. The Christian is to focus his mind on the Scripture – to meditate on God’s Word day and night (Josh. 1:8, Psalm 1:1-2). The Scripture reminds us that the man who pleases the Lord is the one who continually meditates on his law. We are to fill our minds with God’s truth, not seek a passive state in a mental wasteland.
“True meditation is not ‘emptying the mind.’ It is simply pondering the truths of God – His person, His works, His Word. It is allowing that truth to mold us and make us, to fit us and form us, to chip us and change us. It is adoring, worshiping, and communing with God who has found us through His Son, Jesus Christ.” 34
- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, The Psychology of the Esoteric, (New York, N.Y.: Perennial Library, Harper Row, Publishers, 1976), p. 10.
- W. Brugh Joy, Joy’s Way (Los Angeles, California: J.P. Tarcher, Inc., 1979), p.180.
- Eknath Easwaran, Meditation: An Eight – Point Program (Petaluma, California: Nilgiri Press, 1978), p.9-10.
- Lawrence LeShan, How To Meditate: The Acclaimed Guide To Self-Discovery (New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books, 1974), p. 19, 104.
- Michal Levin, Meditation: Path to the Deepest Self (New York, N.Y.: DK Publishing, Inc., 2002), p.8-9.
- Benjamin Crème, The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom (London, England: The Tara Press, 1980), p. 130.
- Dennis Weaver, Meditation Magazine (Van Nuys, California: Intergroup for Planetary Oneness, 1986, Vol. 1, No. 4), p. 7.
- Vera Stanley Alder, The Finding of the Third Eye (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1981), p. 148.
- Ram Dass, Grist for the Mill (New York, N.Y.: Bantam New Age Books, 1976), p. 70-73.
- Dane Spotts, Meditation Magazine (Van Nuys, California: Intergroup for Planetary Oneness, 1988, Vol. 3, No. 4), p. 9.
- Rabi R. Majaraj, Death of a Guru (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1977), p. 57.
- Joel Levey and Michelle Levey, Simple Meditation & Relaxation (Edison, N.J.: Castle Books, 2002), p. 26.
- Ibid., p. 30.
- Ibid., p. 31.
- Ibid., p. 32, 62. Such as: Clairvoyance, telepathy, and mind-travel.
- Ibid., p. 169, 171. Italics mine.
- Deborah Rozman, Meditating with Children (Boulder Creek, California: University of the Trees, 1977), p. 1.
- Maharaj, p. 101.
- Ibid., p. 175.
- Ibid., p. 134.
- Rozman, p. 20.
- Ibid., p. 21.
- Thomas Keating, The Spiritual Journey (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Contemporary Communications, 1987), p. 1.
- Rozman, p. 148.
- Keating, p. 24.
- Ibid., p. 60.
- Vishal Mangalwadi, The World of Gurus (New Delhi, India: Vikas Publishing House, 1977), p.111.
- LeShan, p. 50. ESP, p. 83-88. Energy, chakras.
- John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1996), p.389-395.
- Ibid., p. 395.
- Ibid., p. 392.
- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, I Am The Gate (New York, N.Y.: Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row Publishers, 1977), p. 86.
- Will Varner, Prophetic Round-Up Newsletter (Abilene, Texas: S.R. Peak, 1990, Vol. XXXX, April-May, No. 4 & 5), p. 12-14.
- Ibid., p. 14.