Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
New Age Mysticism Déja Vu
We see what should be obvious from Scripture: “Seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” reflect Satan’s lies at the very beginning of his communication with mankind, which constituted 1) a repudiation of God’s command to Adam that he not eat of the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden, resulting in the penalty of death for his disobedience, and 2) the seductive offer to Eve that she and Adam could be “as gods.” These self-willed and god-wannabe doctrines are indeed demonically inspired and are the very centerpiece of the New Age Movement and Eastern mysticism.
by T. A. McMahon
In the mid-1970s, Dave Hunt wrote a book chronicling the life of Paul Gupta, a Christian convert and the founder of Hindustan Bible Institute. That biography began Dave’s research efforts regarding Hinduism and Eastern mysticism. Shortly thereafter, Dave met a former Hindu guru who had converted to Christianity, and Dave collaborated with him on his conversion story titled Death of a Guru (Rabindranath R. Maharay, Harvest House Publications, Eugene, OR 1984). It was during that time period that the New Age Movement (NAM) got underway in the U.S.
Defining the NAM is rather challenging given all the different perspectives and influences involved, yet its fundamental teachings are rooted in Eastern mysticism. New Agers also declare a common belief in what has been termed the“perennial wisdom,” a guiding principle stating that all religions, at their core, worship the same God, which is defined as Ultimate Reality. The New Age Movement encompasses a staggering variety of individuals, ideas, themes, and practices, all emphasizing the nonphysical/spiritual realm. Some of the movement’s most influential individuals include Helena Blavatsky, Marilyn Ferguson, Teilhard de Chardin, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Oz, Benjamin Creme, Michael Harner, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Shirley MacLaine, Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Yogi Bhajan, Helen Schucman, Neale Donald Walsch, Marianne Williamson, Ken Wilber, Oprah Winfrey, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Beliefs and practices include alternative healing methods, astrology, spiritual energies, meditation, parapsychology, witchcraft, yoga, quantum mysticism, Gaia and goddess worship, reincarnation, UFOs, channeling, karma, hallucinogenic drugs, feng shui, altered states of consciousness, the martial arts, spiritualism, the kabbala, transpersonal psychology, and the human potential movement.
In the late 1980s, Dave Hunt and I wrote America, The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice: The Rise of New Age Shamanism (Harvest House Publications, Eugene, OR 1988). The motivation and purpose for writing that book was to give Christians a better understanding of what the NAM and Eastern mysticism were all about. We were greatly concerned that much of what was clearly New Age was entering and taking hold within Christendom. Not everyone concurred with our concerns, however, including a Christian apologetics author who announced that we had “made up the whole idea of the New Age Movement.” Surprising as that was from someone professing to encourage discernment, it nevertheless underscored the need for an informative work explaining what the NAM believed and practiced, its physical and spiritual dangers, and how its religious concepts were diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity.
As noted, the ultimate reality of the NAM is an impersonal force or energy of which everything consists. Although there are various names for this energy (ki, chi, qi, prana, mana, barakah, innate), it is described in god-terms as pantheism, which is the teaching that everything in the universe consists of God. That widespread belief clearly does not describe the personal, infinite God presented in Scripture. Furthermore, if God were everything or in everything, then “it” would be subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which tells us that energy is inevitably degenerating toward a terminal stage. Undoubtedly, the eternal God of the Bible is not an impersonal energy force.
More Universally Accepted Than Ever
Many today believe that the New Age Movement is itself in a state of entropy or decline. On the contrary! Though the name may not be bandied about as it was thirty years ago, its beliefs and practices are more universally accepted than ever. That would hardly be significant were we considering only India and the countries of the Far East, where the prevalent religions for millennia have centered upon a spiritual energy force. No, it’s the “Christian” West that has been seduced in staggering proportions by the East.
Though the stratagems that have ushered in that spiritual flood are too numerous for this article, some of the most significant ones will be identified. And, of course, the prophetic Word of God will be given to underscore the fact that what is taking place is hardly random but rather the orchestration of God’s chief adversary, Satan himself. “Now the [holy] spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy:4:1).
“Seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” may seem too extreme for most Christians today. Understandably, that reaction may arise due to the notoriety of some ministries that “find” Satan in everything and behind everything. Or it could be that most Christians today simply don’t know the Scriptures or the validity of Bible prophecy. Those words that Paul wrote to Timothy were not his own ideas but rather the words of God given to Paul by the spirit. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians:2:13).
We see what should be obvious from Scripture: “Seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” reflect Satan’s lies at the very beginning of his communication with mankind, which constituted 1) a repudiation of God’s command to Adam that he not eat of the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden, resulting in the penalty of death for his disobedience, and 2) the seductive offer to Eve that she and Adam could be “as gods.”These self-willed and god-wannabe doctrines are indeed demonically inspired and are the very centerpiece of the NAM and Eastern mysticism.
Most people are aware that the 1970s era was a time of anti-war protest, psychedelic drug use, the hippie movement, the end of the war in Vietnam, the enormous popularity of the Beatles, and the search of young people to“find themselves.” That search led many from the West to India. What few know, however, is that at that time there was likewise a massive missionary effort from the East coming into the West to convert “Christians” to Hinduism by spreading its beliefs and practices.
In his book Yoga and the Body of Christ (Bend, OR: "The Berean Call," 2006), Dave Hunt reported, “Hindu gurus from the East, such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Baba Muktananda, Yogananda, Yogi Bhajan, Vivekananda, Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, and a host of others, were pleased to learn in the late ’50s and early ’60s, that through the popular use of psychedelic drugs, millions of Westerners were experiencing a nonphysical reality that Western science had long denied existed. They were quick to recognize that a vast market for their teachings had thereby been opened up in the West. The New Age movement was birthed. Yoga, once practiced in the East only by "holy men," was made available to the masses in the West, and it soon spread everywhere, even into churches and among evangelicals.
The Invasion of America
“The call went out to Hindus and yoga enthusiasts, ‘The New Age movement...has accepted the great ideas of the East....Let us invade the American Campuses armed with the vision of Vedanta’ (from America: The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice, p. 281). Few, if any, realized that the West had fallen victim to the largest and most successful missionary campaign in history….Most Westerners find it difficult to think of these smiling, bowing, obsequious, and supposedly broadminded yogis, swamis, and lamas as missionaries determined to spread their mystic gospel. It comes as a great surprise that the largest missionary organization in the world is not Christian but Hindu -- India’s Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)”(Dave Hunt, Yoga and the Body of Christ, Bend, OR: "The Berean Call," 2006, p. 12).
Those gurus found their audiences throughout the West, from college campuses to Hollywood. But none were more successful (or deceptive) than the Beatles’ guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Launched into the public’s eye by the British pop group, he introduced his religious beliefs and practices as the “Spiritual Regeneration Movement.” However, opposition arose against his effective attempts to get his program into public schools. Stymied by the courts, he changed its name to “The Science of Creative Intelligence” and later to "Transcendental Meditation" (TM). That success was unparalleled and set the basic stratagem for promoting Hinduism in the West: disguise its religious roots in the fog of pseudoscience. Proclaim that it’s for self-improvement, for health, for peace of mind, even for “spiritual enhancement” as long as it’s “not religious!”
One aspect of the NAM that boosted its acceptance in the West was the spiritual vacuum created by materialism, which didn’t pan out as the scientific answer to solving mankind’s increasing problems. On a mundane level, many realized that having more material goods did not bring about the happiness and peace of mind they thought it would. So, the “spiritual/mystical” solution became ripe for acceptance, and multitudes joined in, especially because there were no “accountability or judgmental strings” attached. Yet there was a major “string” that had to be accepted by the rational Western mind.
In Hinduism the physical reality of the universe is not real at all. It is maya, an illusion, the escape from which is the ultimate goal of yoga. The true reality is found in the nonphysical realm, according to Eastern mysticism. Some in the West were given an inkling that such might be the case based on their experience of reaching altered states of consciousness through psychedelic drugs. Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley led that mind-expanding drug parade, oblivious to or in denial of its destructive results, physically (and spiritually). Yet those“bad trips” opened the doors wide for the gurus who taught a supposedly harmless method for reaching what they claimed to be higher consciousness.
What Have We Been Sold?
So what is being sold in the West by the gurus, the Eastern mystics, and the NAM leaders? Although “perennial wisdom” over thousands of years seems thus far to have failed to solve the extensive problems in the East, are we to accept its claim that it is going to vastly improve the West? Really? It hasn’t worked in its purest form in the East. (A recent comment by a native of India in The Times of India declared: “I am convinced. We are amongst the MOST depraved of societies in the world. And it’s only going to get worse.”). Are we now to believe that the homogenized versions practiced in the West (including Doga [yoga for dogs], Snowga [yoga and snow sports], laughter yoga, and SUP yoga [stand up paddleboard yoga]) will bring about the solution to what ails America?
Again, what is being promoted? It’s the idea that the physical world is an illusion, i.e., true reality exists in the nonphysical realm, which is entered by suspending normal consciousness. This suspension is accomplished by experiencing an altered state of consciousness primarily through drugs and/or meditation.
I suggest that rather than suspending our normal consciousness, let’s instead apply the biblical definition of meditation, which means to deeply consider what’s being communicated. The philosophies of the gurus et al. attempt to persuade us that achieving a higher state of consciousness is far better than retaining our normal state, which is supposedly preventing us from realizing that we are all part of the divine Being. Moreover, they insist that our ordinary consciousness is keeping us from experiencing continual peace and bliss in our lives.
Should I then opt for spending most if not all of my time in an altered state of consciousness? There are yogis in India who do so. Ironically, their physical needs must be attended to by those who function in a normal state of consciousness. One doesn’t need much insight to recognize the dire consequences of attempting to live one’s life alternating between the two states of consciousness.
Since it began, the New Age Movement never got around to addressing the practical issues of its spiritually eclectic teachings and practices. It simply pushed forward as though it were a given that the spiritual grass (pun intended) was greener in another reality. But that was then. Have the world and the West moved on? Not quite. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the name “New Age Movement” may be little used today, but its content is hidden in plain sight and its seeds have taken root seemingly everywhere.
Some of the many manifestations of the concepts and practices of Eastern mysticism have made deep inroads in the evangelical church. As shocking as that is, it is nevertheless confirmed by prophecies related to the apostasy that Scripture declares will take place prior to the Lord’s return. Among the many verses that indicate this apostasy are 2 Timothy:4:3-4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” and Luke:18:8: “…Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
Although that condition is prophesied, it is a statement referring to Christendom collectively -- not Christians individually. In other words, apostasy will indeed take place and will infect, perhaps, most Christians, but each Christian will be held personally accountable for his or her walk with the Lord. Not every Christian will be seduced by the end-times deception.
Just as the Beatles were the main springboard for launching the Eastern mysticism of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, so Star Wars , which premiered in 1977, popularized the religious concept of God as a Force. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars , told Bill Moyers that since childhood he had been puzzled by the number of religions in the world and concluded that they all worshiped the same God. Hence, the perennial wisdom of the Force, which he believes accommodates all religions. He clearly did not mean biblical Christianity, yet that truth has hardly dampened the world’s enthusiasm for an impersonal god that holds no one accountable.
Although Lucas no longer controls what he created 38 years ago, the Force is back and may be more influential than in all its previous series of films. Based upon its opening successes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is on its way to becoming the biggest box office hit in movie history. For those in the movie’s audience who may not be aware of what the Force is all about (I can’t imagine who that might be, including the light-saber-swinging very young), it is explained throughout the film, including a basic teaching by Han Solo. This is indeed New Age mysticism déjà vu.
Although one might expect the world to relish the spiritual pie-in-the-sky offered by New Age mysticism, it is both shocking and disheartening to see Christians taking it in with little or no biblical discernment.
The New Age Movement seems to have faded away since it came on the scene quite vigorously in the 1970s. Actually, it hasn't faded away but has "faded into the woodwork." Many of its teachings and practices have become so accepted in Western society that they're commonplace, seemingly far removed from their Eastern mystical roots. Terms like karma, yoga, meditation, guru, mantra, etc., have become part of our everyday language, without any hint of their religious origins and connections for most people. Additionally, a number of programs have arisen that deceptively promote Eastern meditation as non-religious science by calling it mindfulness.
Yet there are some who are sounding the alarm that potential danger lies hidden in the spiritual foundations of meditation. They recognize that the faith of Christians who participate in these practices is being undermined. Gaylene Goodroad, researcher and writer for Herescope, quotes former mystic Christine Pack regarding her first meditation experience:
"In the space of 20 minutes (because that's all the time it takes to do a meditation), my worldview shifted dramatically...the Christianity of the Bible was no longer a valid spiritual path for me. Why? Because Christianity is the only religion with such unbending and exclusive truth claims. ('I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life....no one comes to the Father but through Me.' -- John 14:6)....And meditation counters this claim by generating an experience in which a person feels a profound sense of interconnectedness and oneness with 'all' that feels completely counter to the exclusive truth claims of Christianity.
"It feels like you have just had an encounter with God, that you have been in the presence of the Divine...only, you haven't. Let's look at the logical conclusions that practicing mystics must come to if they are staying true to their belief system: If I can experience God through meditation, if I can `cross the divide' through my own efforts, then the Cross of Calvary has no meaning. And Jesus was a liar when He said that He was the only way to God. And the Bible was wrong where it says that without Christ we are dead in our sins and trespasses (no 'divine inner spark' already living within each person)."
The experience of "oneness with 'all"' doesn't necessarily happen to everyone who meditates, but the potential is there for everyone who practices it, no matter the goal of the practitioner -- whether seeking spiritual enlightenment or simply relief from stress. That latter point, including being more productive in one's job, school, or family environment, is what is being heralded by the promoters and publishers. Noted Hollywood director David Lynch, a disciple of Transcendental Meditation's (TM) founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, started the Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Yet while denying its religious roots and basis, he declares, "If you don't already meditate, take my advice: Start. It will be the best decision you ever make." Another meditation foundation that is being eagerly received by educators is MindUP. It has Buddhist roots, whereas TM's source is Hinduism -- although that information is often hidden by their promoters.
MindUP's mindfulness meditation claims to train the brains of both adults and children to develop the "social and emotional skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happy lives," with no religious attachments. That's quite attractive to Americans, a society given to self-helps and whatever else may seem to solve their problems. Yet the rush to solutions in the US is nearly always based upon a zeal without knowledge. That would account for the overwhelming growth of another "mind-adjusting" business -- psychotherapy, the pseudoscience that has created far more problems than it has solved while becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Should American consumers be concerned about the increasing number of meditation offerings? Have any warning labels or caveat emptor (buyer beware) caution signs been attached to TM or MindUP by their promoters? Not even in the small print. Is that because, as they say in the sports world, "No harm, no foul"? Hardly, as a growing number of concerns of late are being reported, such as this article in The Washington Post titled: "Meditation and mindfulness aren't as good for you as you think: There are negative side effects that no one ever talks about." Here are some excerpts:
"Mindfulness is a technique extracted from Buddhism in which one tries to notice present thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment....What was once a tool for spiritual exploration has been turned into a panacea for the modern age a cure-all for common human problems, from stress to anxiety to depression. By taking this 'natural pill' every day, we open ourselves up to the potential for myriad benefits and no ill effects, unlike synthetic pills, such as antidepressants, with their potential for negative side effects....Mindfulness has been sold to us, and we are buying it....After examining the literature from the last 45 years on the science of meditation, we realized with astonishment that we are no closer to finding out how meditation works or who benefits the most or the least from it."'
So much for the "science" of meditation!
It's interesting that this report by a secular newspaper states simply and clearly what TM and mindfulness meditation programs have lied about from their introduction: "Mindfulness has been separated from its roots, stripped of its ethical and spiritual connotations and sold to us as a therapeutic tool. While this may not deny its power as a technique to change our state of consciousness and with implications for mental health, it arguably limits its 'naturalness,' as well as its potential -- at least as originally intended." The secular article concludes with this: "So if you go into it [the practice of mindfulness meditation] as with taking any other kind of pill – keep your eyes open. Don't consume mindfulness blindly."
The undisclosed "negative side effects" run the gamut from continuing depression to demonization to suicide. The Atlantic printed an article titled "The Dark Knight of the Soul: For some, meditation has become more curse than cure." Dr. Willoughby Britton oversees a retreat center that ministers to meditators who are there not to restore themselves with meditation they're recovering from it: "I started having thoughts like, Let me take over you, combined with confusion and tons of terror," says David, a polite, articulate 27-year-old who arrived at Britton's Cheetah House in 2013. "I had a vision of death with a scythe and a hood, and the thought, Kill yourself, over and over again." Another young man being treated is "Michael, 25, a certified yoga teacher [who] made his way to Cheetah House. He explains that during the course of his meditation practice his 'body stopped digesting food. I had no idea what was happening.' For three years he believed he was `permanently ruined' by meditation."
Dr. Britton is an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Brown University Medical School. The Atlantic article continues: "She receives regular phone calls, emails, and letters from people around the world in various states of impairment. Most of them worry that no one will believe -- let alone understand -- their stories of meditation-induced affliction. Her investigation of this phenomenon, called 'The Dark Night Project,' is an effort to document, analyze, and publicize accounts of the adverse effects of contemplative practices."' In America: The Sorcerer's New Apprentice, Dave Hunt and I attempted to inform the Body of Christ of our concerns about the spiritual and physical dangers of Eastern mystical techniques and practices that many Christians were being attracted to and seduced by, believing they were simply engaging in physical and mental exercises that would improve their minds and bodies.
Few seemed to be listening as we explained that Eastern meditation leads to the same kind of altered state of consciousness as psychedelic drugs, even though meditation and other related mind-altering techniques (repeated mantras, visualization, sensory deprivation, yoga asanas, etc.) were being touted as a "natural" approach without the side effects of drugs. In that 1988 book, we noted some of the New Age organizations that have faced up to the claimed "nonexistent," yet real, horrendous side effects, such as the Spiritual Emergency Network, which maintained a hotline and referral treatment service for those whose lives had been spiritually and physically wrecked. The Spiritual Emergency Network continues today although with the adjusted new title: "The Spiritual Emergence Network."
A New Type of Bondage
Even among those who are acknowledging the present and potential damage of mystical practices, there seems to be a type of bondage involved. Dr. Britton, for all of her great concerns, candidly admitted, "There are parts of me that just want meditation to be all good. I find myself in denial sometimes, where I just want to forget all that I've learned and go back to being happy about mindfulness and promoting it, but then I...meet someone who's in distress, and I see the devastation in their eyes, and I can't deny that this is happening."
Tragically, there are many in the church, whether Christians in name only or true believers, who are ignorant of, oblivious to, or in denial regarding the dangers of New Age/Eastern mystical beliefs and practices. Dave Hunt, in his 2006 book Yoga and the Body of Christ, reported that "Astonishingly, there are about 586,000 references on `Google Search' under the heading 'Yoga for Christians.'" Today that same search brings up more than a million resources. Anyone concerned?
Let's review some undeniable facts. New Age mysticism is a latter-day re-establishment and reworking of Eastern mysticism for the West. At the heart of it all is the view of God as an impersonal spiritual Energy or Force that can be manipulated by the mind of man, a concept that rejects the personal Creator God who reveals Himself in Scripture through His Holy Spirit. The way to connect with the "God" of Eastern mysticism is through experiencing an altered state of consciousness via mind-altering methods such as drugs, meditation, visualization, yoga positions, repetitious chanting, sensory deprivation (Sufi whirling, Indian sweat lodge experiences, isolation cells, etc.). All of these are forms of sorcery, a term found in Scripture (in the Greek, pharmakeia, translated as magic, sorcery, enchantment), and a practice condemned therein. Writers for major secular newspapers and magazines have recognized the fact that the meditation promoted by organizations (e.g., MindUP, TM) that declare it to be scientific with no religious connection, as well as beneficial with no side effects, are misguided if not fraudulent.
If the secular press can discern the harmful errors contrary to the claims of the meditation businesses, where is the discernment among Christians? The criticism that they seem to be climbing aboard the Titanic even though it's lurching is sadly true. Consider Rick Warren, who is arguably the most recognized and influential evangelical pastor today. Hoping to help those among his church members who struggled with weight loss, he introduced The Daniel Plan. As part of that plan, he turned himself and his flock over to the guidance of three medical doctors, all of whom promote mystical meditation: Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Oz is a Sufi mystic, the national spokesman for TM, and a devotee of New Ager Oprah Winfrey. Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist who teaches the Japanese spiritual-energy practice of Reiki. Dr. Hyman teaches Buddhist meditation. Furthermore, on his RWToolbox Twitter page Warren directs followers in the contemplative meditation practice of "centering prayer": "Choose a simple word, phrase, or verse from Scripture....Take time to become quiet....Let them [your thoughts] go ....Be with Jesus. Listen. Be still." Warren is hardly alone in Christianity's slide into Eastern mysticism.
What About Yoga?
Evangelical conferences for youth have started their days with yoga. A writer for Christianity Today says "Yes to Yoga." She claims, "The three hours a week I spend doing yoga not only make me more flexible, tone my muscles, and relax me. They also draw me closer to Christ. They are my bodily-kinetic prayer."' Can yoga have some physical value? Yes. But at what cost? Smoking also has some value in that it calms and relaxes the smoker. However, unlike yoga meditation, it carries a warning label regarding its potentially deadly consequences.
Amazingly, there is a network of Christians who practice different forms of yoga, such as Jesus Yoga, Yahweh Yoga, Holy Yoga and Kid's Holy Yoga, Praise Moves, Yogafaith, and Christoga. They have a website that speaks for all regarding its purpose: "We are drawn together through our individual and collective experience that yoga and meditation deepens our Christian faith....We simply feel called to share our experiences with the hope they'll draw others to deepen their faith through embodied contemplative practices" (See www.christianspracticingyoga.com/). The Christian Yoga Magazine website declares that it is a resource "for people of all religious traditions to explore how they can integrate Eastern physical and spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi -- into their daily lives while remaining true to their deepest spiritual beliefs" (See www.christianyogamagazine.com/about/).
There's little doubt that many of the proponents of Christian yoga are sincere people who just want to make Christianity and yoga compatible. It seems obvious that this would be inexcusable, but given the present state of Christianity -- which seems to welcome, with arms wide open (despite glaring contradictions), any additions or modifications we find it happening with increasing frequency. This is experiential ecumenism, part of the process at work in the development of the religion of the Antichrist.
Furthermore, it's a fulfillment of prophecy, along with an encouragement to press on: "Remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts...sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye... building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 1:17-23).
The only faith that can be deepened in truth is biblical faith, which is diametrically opposed to the teachings and practices of Eastern mysticism and its Westernized stepchild.
The Problem With Martial Arts
In his 2006 book, Yoga and the Body of Christ, Dave Hunt noted that there were more than 500,000 references on Google Search for "Christian churches and yoga." Today, that search brings up more than 10 million! In part two of this series "New Age Mysticism Déjà vu" (March 2016), I explained that the heart of yoga is an Eastern mystical view of God as an impersonal force or energy. In light of that belief, so-called Christian yoga is an attempt to reconcile two contradictory beliefs and practices, which can never happen. Any endeavor that tries to Christianize the practice of yoga is akin to turning to Christ-rejecting pagan religions in order to draw closer to Him. That is both nonsensical and blasphemous.
In this series dealing with the intrusion of Eastern mysticism into the church, it would be a huge error to overlook another growing practice among Christians -- a practice that may even exceed the numbers of those involved in yoga: Christianized martial arts.
The information contained in this article is drawn primarily from two former practitioners and teachers of the martial arts, Gaylene Goodroad and myself. Throughout my college days, I competed in the sport of intercollegiate Judo and participated in AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) tournaments. As head of my college Judo club I helped instruct new members and teammates. After graduate school, I moved to the West Coast and studied aikido at what then was considered the top aikido dojo [training center or school] in the country. For more than a decade I was engrossed in the history and cultures that produced the martial arts.
Gaylene Goodroad's experiences were more concentrated and advanced than my own due to the fact that she had studied under the personal guidance of highly revered teachers (whom I could only access by reading their books). She has written of her involvement in karate (advanced black belt degrees in two of the arts, and as a sensei) and has presented her evaluation of the martial arts in general in her booklet My Life in "The Way".
We Need to Obey God!
The truth is that anyone who claims to be a Christian, i.e., to be a follower of Jesus Christ, needs to follow His teachings! As obvious as that should be, and as much as it is professed, fewer and fewer Christians (a group that includes many who call themselves Bible-believing Christians) truly adhere to the necessity of going by the teachings and instructions of the Word of God. Although the Bible is wonderfully profound, its fundamental truths can be readily understood by every believer who is born of the spirit of God. God, who is no respecter of persons, does not play favorites regarding one's intellect (Acts 10:34; 1 Corinthians 1:27). He makes very clear the revelation of Himself, His characteristics, His plan for His creation, His solution for the problem of sin, the reconciliation of the lost to Himself, and other essential issues.
A major characteristic of our eternal creator God is that He is personal. He is the Creator of everything. Furthermore, He created Adam in His image, i.e., with personal attributes. The gospel is the revelation of the personal God of creation who so loved His people Israel that He raised up a man to be a perfect sacrifice in order to save them from their sins. What Christian would deny that? There are those who do -- those who are in cults that carry the name of Christ in their title but who deny the biblical Jesus, and those in liberal denominations whose theology is as fickle as the wind. Yet there are also Christians who are unwittingly entertaining a view of God that denies the personal God of the Bible. Who might they be? Those who are involved in the Eastern spirituality of martial arts.
The Spiritual Nature of Karate
Goodroad quotes Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern-day karate: "By the time I had been practicing Karate for some years, and as I became more familiar with the art, I became more conscious of its spiritual nature..." (Karate-Do, Kodansha International, Ltd., Tokyo 1975, p. 86).
The preponderance of martial arts is rooted in the foundational belief of Eastern mysticism, which is that God is an impersonal energy -- a nonphysical force. This nonphysical energy is what makes up the mystical power in nearly all of the martial arts practices. Everyone who has long been part of the martial arts scene has, at some point, witnessed the actual power itself, whether it was related to the utilization of ki, chi, quigong, kundalini, prana, or other Eastern mystical power devices. From my experience, aikido demonstrated the most obvious use of such power, and that power is all the more desired the longer one continues in his or her own particular practice. Sooner or later, one discovers that physical techniques have a limit, and further advancement can be realized only through spiritual development. An exception to this would be a short-term self-defense class that is devoid of any spiritual aspects and utilizes only the physical techniques found in some of the spiritually oriented martial arts.
The spiritual seduction, on the other hand, is real and can attract any practitioner at any level. One well-known writer/devotee of karate, who had no interest in karate's religious aspects, notes what is most common among martial artists: "Only after several years of training did I come to realize that the deepest purpose of the martial arts is to serve as a vehicle for personal spiritual development" (Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts, cited in Gaylene Goodroad, My Life in the Way, p. 9). Exactly what is involved in that spiritual development? I personally witnessed my own aikido instructors and others in public exhibitions performing feats that defied any natural explanation.
The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, who was a disciple of a grand shaman (one who is said to mediate between mankind and the world of the spirits), was able to demonstrate extraordinary abilities that are beyond the laws of physics. He claimed that his abilities were derived from his spiritual beliefs: "Each one of us is inherently a god or a goddess. Cooperate with all the myriad deities of this world, and fulfill your duty as a messenger of the divine" (John Stevens, Aikido, p.9, cited in Goodroado My Life in the Way, p. 12). It is no coincidence that Ueshiba's words reflect the lie of godhood that was offered to Eve by Satan speaking through a serpent in Genesis 3:5.
What About "Christian" Martial Arts?
What then of Christian martial arts? As with Christian yoga, there is a denial of any Eastern mystical influence in the Christianized program, which it is claimed has been modified to conform to Christianity. Even if that were the case, which it is not, what part of any martial arts endeavor is reflected in the New Testament teachings related to the church, which is the bride and the body of Christ? Nbrie whatsoever! Yet various "Christianized" programs emulate many of the aspects that are clearly unique to the Eastern martial arts with its spiritual roots. For example, many work out in a dojo, dress in traditional gis, wear color belts to signify ranks, and bow to a sensei, or teacher. Aside from the original spiritual meanings related to those things, where is any of that found in the Scriptures? If it's not found in the Bible, why label it "Christian"? Somehow the mystical aspects of the martial arts have blinded multitudes of Christians from seeing what should be obvious.
In regard to various forms of self-defense, which is what the martial arts are all about, would it make biblical sense to start a "Christian" wrestling club or a "Christian" boxing association? What do those endeavors have to do with Christianity? How about a "Christian" mixed martial arts organization? As absurd as that clearly is, one such organization crowned an American Christian Mixed Martial Arts champion last year [emphasis added]. The inclusion of such things is both unbiblical and irrational. Worse yet, some identify the demonic power of ki or chi energy to be the power of the. Holy Spirit. In a book titled Christianity & Martial Arts Power, by Michael Chen, (Dorrance Publishing Co., Pittsburgh, PA 2002) a back-cover endorsement declares, "Throughout the book, [the author] uses numerous appropriate and instructional passages from the Holy Bible and connects them to essential martial art concepts such as chi, or life energy."
In her testimony booklet, My Life in "The Way": From the Broad Way of the East to the Narrow Way in Christ, Gaylene Goodroad documents the overwhelming influence of Chuck Norris and his mixing of the Eastern mystical worldview with his Christianity. No one has been more effective than Norris in promoting the martial arts in America, which he has done by means of his wins in karate championships, his martial arts programs for young people, and the many movies and TV series in which he has starred and exhibited his skills. Norris's first autobiography tells of his having learned occult metaphysical concepts from Napoleon Hill and others (see The Seduction of Christianity re Hill). In a 2004 rewrite of his autobiography, Against All Odds: My Story, (B & H Publishing Group, Nashville TN) Norris tells of his relationship with Jesus Christ: "...a very real transaction between God and me took place at [a Billy Graham Crusade] that night. I committed myself to follow him... and he committed himself to me as my Savior and Lord..." (Norris, pp. 29-30, cited in Goodroad, My Life, p. 45).
Whether or not Norris is a true believer is between him and the Lord. However, he has nowhere repented of his belief in the Eastern occultism that he endorses in his books, such as The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems (Little, Brown & Co., Boston MA, 1996): "The monk finally told me to open my eyes, and when he did so, it was like waking up...that was when I first became aware that there was more to the martial arts than just the physical, and it was a turning point in my life..." (pp. 3-5). Norris knows the spirituality of Eastern religions far better than he knows the Bible.
That lack of biblical awareness, unfortunately, has led to a spiritually disastrous mistake: the unwitting attempt to syncretize the personal God revealed in Scripture with an impersonal energy. He declares, "The fact is that everyone has ki, which is really little more than a technique of visualization allowing one to utilize the internal energy that we all have and letting it flow through the body" (pp. 127-30). No, it is far more, according to martial arts literature: It is the energy that governs the universe and the individual, the cosmic truth, i.e., god as a "force." One cannot hold to both ideas: God as a force and the God of the Bible, which are diametrically opposed to one another.
Have We Lost the Ability to Think?
In this day when many appear to have lost the ability to really think, holding contradictory beliefs is commonplace. Sadly, not thinking biblically is also commonplace in the church with the same results for professing Christians. Gaylene Goodroad, however, writes that after confessing her sinfulness and putting her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way for her to be reconciled to God, the Lord saved her. He then opened her heart and mind, enabling her to recognize the false beliefs she not only had held but had taught for a number of years. She writes, "At the time of my conversion, I had also dedicated over thirteen years of my life to the martial arts. Through the literal sweat of my brow, I had achieved not one, but two, coveted black belts, promoting that year to second degree -- Sensei Nidan. I had studied under some internationally recognized karate masters, and had accumulated a room full of trophies while [husband] Steve was stationed on the island of Oahu.
"I had unwittingly become a teacher of Far Eastern mysticism, which is the source of all karate -- despite the American claim to the contrary. I studied well and had been a follower of karate-do: 'the way of the empty hand.' I had also taught others the way of karate, including a group of marines stationed at Pearl Harbor. I had led them and others along the same stray path of 'spiritual enlightenment,' a destiny devoid of Christ. In 1992, I renounced both of my black belts, after discovering the sobering truth about my chosen vocation in light of my Christian faith. For the years since, I have grieved over the fact that I was a teacher of 'the Way' to many dear souls -- including children. Although I can never undo that grievous error, my prayer is that some may heed what I have written here" (My Life in "The Way").
As noted, the popularity of martial arts among Christians is staggering. Certainly, the huge numbers show that it has reached far beyond a fringe element within Christendom. One would expect better discernment among conservative Christians and their organizations even though we are in a time when the Word of God is neither studied nor endured and is rarely referenced. Bob Jones University has the Judo-Gentlemen and the Champions for Christ Karate team. Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) has short-term mission trips that teach tae kwon do. Liberty University conferred an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree on Chuck Norris, who is also a contributing columnist for WorldNetDaily (WND).
The list goes way beyond those few examples, and it would seem to be overwhelming when one considers the appeal to Christian youth through the influence of movies. No one has to explain to a youth today what the "Force" of Star Wars is all about. They also get the Yin Yang symbol that adorns their lunchboxes, along with the image of Master Splinter of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Many are all the more confused by being told that God is the Force. I wonder how many children of Christian parents understand the uncomplicated characteristics of the personal God who is revealed in Scripture and who created them. Just recognizing His personal attributes would be helpful. My encouragement to parents and grandparents is to start with that lesson for their children's sakes.
There is no justification for incorporating Eastern concepts and practices into one's walk with the Lord. They lead multitudes of Christians to participate in techniques that come from the world of the occult and will ultimately deceive them regarding the character of God and, therefore, the very Gospel itself. Our prayer for this three-part series is that believers who read the articles will better recognize the inherent dangers of the New Age Movement and Eastern mystical concepts.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
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