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VISUALIZATION: God-Given Power or New Age Danger? (Part Two) by John Weldon and John Ankerberg

Summary

Although visualization can be adapted to almost any philosophy, in its popular usage it is loosely tied to a monistic or pantheistic world view that sees humans as divine and creators of their own reality. The practice itself en-hances and perhaps even sets up the development of the monistic (“all is one”) states of consciousness foundational to the New Age movement. Visualization is commonly used in occult practice, from casting spells to contacting “inner advisors” or spirit guides. As such, Scripture prohibits New Age visualization. Yet even alleged Christian forms of visualization are insufficiently critiqued, of dubious value, and subject to abuse.

Some have heralded the practice of visualization as one of “two important ‘new’ concepts in 20th century American life” (the other important concept being meditation).2 According to its New Age advocates, visualization, which combines mental concentration with directed imagery, is a powerful tool for achieving personal and corporate goals and changing physical, psychological, and spiritual reality.

In Part One of this series we examined the nature, influence, and varieties of visualization, as well as the reasons people use it. In this concluding installment we will consider the world view commonly associated with visualization, dangers inherent in its practice, its occult aspects, and the question of whether Christian visualization can be a safe and biblical practice.

WORLD VIEW

Because the practice of visualization can be adapted to almost any philosophy and uniquely colored by it, there is no well-defined world view we could present that would always be representative. But if we restrict our discussion to the popular and occult types of visualization (as opposed to the academic and Christian types — see the chart in Part One), while recognizing the very real potential for cross-fertilization between the various types, we can see the emergence of a broad outline. Some principal components include the following:

1) Pantheism or monism: an underlying divine energy — the one power or cosmic reality — interconnects everything.

2) Humans are divine in their true nature and control their personal destinies; they are an integral part of this divine energy and can experientially realize this through proper technique and instruction.

3) The mind of each human has “infinite” potential; the “higher self,” unconscious mind, or some such concept provides the connecting link to the infinite, and is believed to be the repository of vast wisdom and power.

4) Visualization is an important technique that taps the higher self and initiates contact with the ultimate cosmic reality.

Andrew Wiehl observes in his Creative Visualization, “In all the Universe there is but one power, the power within yourself.”3 Shakti Gawain in her later book by the same title claims we are linked to “divine omnipresence and omnipotence” and that our “higher self” is “the God-like being who dwells within you.”4 Because of this, “there is no separation between us and God” in that we are “divine expressions” of God, the creative principle.5 In the words of other proponents, “Imagination…empowers [us] to tap the endless and unborn potentials of universal mind,”6 and, “Visualization allows a person to travel into the mind to a space where the possibilities of matter, time and space are unlimited.”7

When used in an occult program, visualization techniques can thus become seemingly powerful instruments for securing New Age goals: “At a practical level, visualization has an uncanny ability to improve the quality of our lives. It does this through its power to heal the body and spirit, to reconstruct the past and to reveal our hidden truths….The most dramatic visualizations touch the deepest part of ourselves — our essence, our core, and allow us to experience connections beyond ourselves, what some describe as cosmic consciousness.”8

Indeed, the visualization process itself may tend to alter the person’s world view. As noted in Part One, Dr. Mike Samuels is an authority on the subject. He discusses the mechanics and implications of the process:

When a person consciously visualizes he gains the ability to hold his mind on one object, to concentrate. This one-pointedness of mind is a state [of meditation] that has special properties: alertness, clarity of thought, identification with the object, and a feeling of participation in the visualization.

The feeling of identification-participation causes the person to be less involved with himself as an entity separate from the world around him. He goes beyond the boundaries, the limitations of his physical body, beyond the awareness of his personality….

Time and space disappear….A person who has the experience feels that it unites him with the universe. He feels he is a part of creation rather than an observer of it….This purity of vision…is associated with tremendous energy surrounding both the visualizer and the image, and the unity of the two. Such energy cannot help but affect the world around it.9

The world view of visualization just discussed is obviously not Christian. The Bible denies that people are one essence with God or the universe because it declares that only God has eternality — for He “alone is immortal” (1 Tim. 6:16) — and only He is an infinite being. Thus the one and only God (John 17:3) who existed from eternity (Ps. 90:2) created the entire material and spiritual universe, including humanity, from nothing. God did not emanate something of Himself in the process of creation so that everything in creation partakes in the nature of God. To the contrary, as the following Scriptures declare, God created the universe merely by speaking it into existence: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1); “The universe was formed at God’s command” (Heb. 11:3); “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made…For he spoke, and it came to be” (Ps. 33:6, 9).

People are not a part of God. Their minds do not have the “infinite” powers attributed to them by visualization philosophy, nor are they a source of true spiritual wisdom apart from spiritual regeneration or rebirth (Prov. 28:26; Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:20-23; James 3:14-17). Furthermore, visualization has no power to initiate contact with God or gain knowledge of Him. Biblically, those who wish to personally know the one true God must come to Him by faith through the true Jesus Christ (John 17:2-3; Col. 1:15-20; 2:9; Heb. 11:6; 1 Pet. 2:24) — not by trust in their own inner vision, a spirit guide masquerading as Christ, or by an alleged mystical union with some abstract impersonal concept of the divine.

DANGERS

It should be recognized that when the mind is manipulated into novel states of consciousness, there is always a potential for spiritual deception and danger. This is true regardless of a person’s motive or environment (i.e., the spiritual context in which he or she is operating). The number of well-meaning people who have embarked on a visualization program for physical health, psychological understanding, or spiritual advancement and ended up involved in the occult is not small. Books on visualization carry numerous anecdotes of how even the well-intentioned and seemingly nonoccult use of visualization catapulted people into the New Age movement, psychic development, and/or spirit contact.

Visualization allegedly has the capacity to place the mind into a certain brain wave pattern conducive to the development of psychic abilities.10 If this is true (and our research leads us to think that it is), how do we view the practice of visualization in Christian psychotherapy? What about visualization techniques practiced in education in general, or among children?11 Prominent educator Jack Canfield states, “When students are participating in a guided imagery experience they are in an altered state of consciousness.”12 To what degree does a belief that is conditioned or manipulated by visualization affect our behavior and our world view? What are the long-term effects of visualization itself, irrespective of the environment in which it occurs? How neutral is a systematic program of repeated visualization exercises?

Experts in both the theory and practice of visualization warn of its potential dangers. For example, H. V. Guenther and leading Tibetan Buddhist guru, Chogyam Trungpa, assert in The Dawn of Tantra: “Certainly practicing visualization without the proper understanding is extremely destructive….Tantric scriptures abound with warnings about using visualization.”13 Practicing occultist J. H. Brennan, whose Astral Doorways cites visualization as an “excellent doorway,” still warns that to mix certain things — such as yoga postures and visualization techniques — without knowing exactly what one is doing “is asking for psychosis.”14

As noted, many people have embarked on a visualization program and converted to occultism as a result. This poses another danger of the practice because, as we have documented elsewhere, occultism is hazardous to people physically, emotionally, and spiritually.15

THE OCCULT

Coauthor Weldon became interested in evaluating the practice of visualization a number of years ago. While examining the latest New Age trends at a local metaphysical book shop, a large bright yellow text with a colorful caduceus caught his eye. The Well Body Book16 was a holistic health home medical handbook. (It was right next to The Well Cat Book and The Well Dog Book.)

He began thumbing through the book and noticed that it stressed visualization exercises. In fact, the ability to visualize was said to be necessary “for understanding many parts of the book.”17 In the acknowledgments, coauthor Mike Samuels, M.D., gave thanks to “Rolling Thunder,” a well-known native American shaman, “who taught me about healing,” as well as to “Braxius, my imaginary doctor.” However, it turns out “Braxius” is the personal spirit guide of Samuels and, therefore, not what a Christian would call imaginary. The story of their meeting is found in Samuels’s coauthored book, Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds,18 a text that utilizes visualization techniques to encounter spirits.

To date, The Well Body Book and Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds have sold over half-a-million copies. The authors have received a “large number” of letters “from readers who have begun to use spirit guides in their [own] lives.”19 Visualization was the basic method used to contact the spirit world.

This is why the relationship between visualization and the occult is our greatest concern. If visualization can lead to spirit contact, it should concern everyone. As we will later document, in spiritistic writings the spirits themselves often recommend visualization practices as important components for securing occult goals, including spirit contact.

In the following section we will examine the occult potential of visualization by showing: (1) the role of visualization in developing psychic abilities; (2) the use of visualization in occult ritual; and (3) the relationship between visualization and spiritism.

1. Psychic Development. The fact that visualization is often used to develop psychic powers is recognized by numerous experts in both the occult and visualization. For example, “The capacity to utilize visual imagination is a regular part of the training for psychics and healers in the Philippine spiritist churches.”20 As noted, lifelong occultist J. H. Brennan acknowledges the need for successful visualization to contact the astral realm where spirits dwell.21 In fact, as Samuels and Samuels observe, “People who have experienced astral travel say they do so by visualizing themselves separating from their physical body, then floating away from it.”22

Parapsychologist Milan Rzyl observes that “the ability to visualize sharply is central to good psychic performance.”23 Thus, for example, psychic Jack Schwarz utilizes visualization and creative imagery in a meditative context to develop and use his psychic powers.24 According to Samuels and Samuels, “The receptive visualization state is a state in which a person can receive extrasensory perceptions of another person’s mind (telepathy), of objects or events (clairvoyance), of future events (precognition), and of psychic diagnosis.”25

2. Occult Ritual. Occult magician David Conway devotes an entire chapter, “Visualization and the Training of a Magician,” to the importance of visualization for magic ritual in his Magic: An Occult Primer. For example: “The technique of visualization is something you will gradually master, and indeed must master if you are to make any progress in magic….It is our only means of affecting the etheric atmosphere. It enables us to build our own thought forms, contact those already in existence and channel elemental energy we need down onto the physical plane.”26

3. Spiritism. Conway also provides an example of a visualization practice used during magic ritual whose goal is to “produce, in reality, the spirit, god, or demon imagined through ritual.” No one knowledgeable in occult ritual has any doubt about the dangers here, least of all Conway.27 Visualization at this point becomes an integral factor in the fostering of spirit possession:

The adept imagines that the god-form or the most congenial of the planetary or sefirothic forms is materializing behind his back. He visualizes this in as much detail as possible. Slowly, as the altar candles flicker, he will sense with a sureness which precludes all doubt that the visualized form is in fact towering inside the circle behind him. On no account must he turn his head to look at whatever is there; any temptation to do so must be sternly resisted: the form may be unbearably hideous or else possess a beauty that may literally be fatal. In the meantime, the adept should endeavor to continue his mantra, although by now his heart will no doubt be beating furiously. Whatever else happens he must not move, even when he senses that the form is so close as to be almost touching him. Above all he must not panic but should comfort himself with the thought that he is safe enough provided he stays where he is.

At last — and he will certainly know when — the god-form will take control of him. To begin with, the adept will feel an exquisite giddiness somewhere at the base of his skull and quickly convulsing the whole of his body. As this happens, and while the power is surging into him, he forces himself to visualize the thing he wants his magic to accomplish, and wills its success. He must put all he has into this [effort] and, like our friends the Bacchantes, must whip himself into a veritable frenzy. It is at this point that the force evoked will be expelled to realize the ritual intention. As he feels the force overflowing inside him the adept, while still visualizing the realized magical intention, bids it go forth to fulfill his wishes.28

In magic ritual we see the full power of visualization: directed imagery, meditation, force of will, and certainly faith. But what many do not realize is that although visualization can be used deliberately in magic ritual for spirit contact and spirit possession, the very same things can be encountered in normal visualization practice or even through purely make-believe fantasy rituals.

Fantasy Spirits? “Philip” and the “Group Spirit”

The story of “Philip,” the “imaginary” spirit, is illustrative.29 A group of psychic investigators and parapsychologists with the Toronto Society for Psychical Research came together to see if they could create the physical phenomena found in a seance and produce a materialized spirit through their “collective mental power [i.e., imagination and visualization] alone.” They named him “Philip,” giving him an imaginary past, personality, and so forth.

They eventually succeeded — quite beyond their expectations — and remain puzzled to this day. Indeed, they have been awed over the subsequent events. What entered their parlor was not an imaginary spirit, but a genuine, living spirit being with its own personality and power — certainly not part of the group’s “collective” mind or energy. Incredibly, however, the group continued to believe that this independent spirit entity and the phenomena it produced were merely the result of their own “imaginative powers.”

One result of this experiment — as knowledge of it spread through articles, a book, and a film — was to camouflage spiritistic phenomena in the guise of human potential. “Philip groups” began all over the world, attempting to duplicate the phenomena of the Toronto group. Thus “the most important feature of this book is the fact that it specifies the method by which the physical PK [psychokinesis] force can be generated by ordinary people and thus made available for study.”30

The only problem was that the contacted “imaginary” spirits “act with their own personalities and idiosyncrasies and not as though they were a part of your subconscious mind.”31 Therefore, many “Philip groups” ended up in actual spirit-contact and necromancy.

Not surprisingly, then, in modern channeled (spiritistic) literature, the spirits actively endorse visualization, recommending specific exercises for learning how to contact them and become a channel:

Enter into the trance state you have practiced. . . .Imagine yourself going higher and higher, transcending ordinary reality and entering into a higher dimension of love, light, and joy. . . .Imagine that many beings of light are coming closer to join you. Feel their love and caring for you. Open your heart to receive them. Imagine the doorways opening between your reality and theirs. Sense the presence of many loving and high beings all around you. . . .Your guide and the guides are aware of you and hold a special welcome for you as you join more closely with them. Imagine that there is a doorway in front of you. . . .When you are ready, walk through this doorway. . . .Ask for the highest guide and teacher who is aligned with you to come forward. Imagine that your guide, a special guide, is coming forward. Sense this guide, feel his or her love for you. Be open to receive. Feel your heart welcoming this guide. Feel the response. Believe that it is really happening! Your imagination is the closest ability you have to channeling, and it is the easiest connection your guide has to you at first. . . . Greet your guide. . . .mentally carry on a conversation with this guide. . . .Ask your guide to begin doing all that he or she can to open the channel, now that you are committed and ready to verbally channel.32

Even cancer therapists O. Carl Simonton and Stephanie Matthews-Simonton, who utilize visualization in a professional setting for cancer therapy, accept this theme of using “imaginary” spirit guides for supposed healing processes. An examination of their book Getting Well Again indicates that they are encouraging nothing less than a form of spiritism.

Consider another illustration of how visualization can be used to contact the spirit world. In Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, leading consciousness explorers Robert Masters and Jean Houston tell others how to utilize visualization and trance to develop psychic awareness and monistic consciousness, and then to raise and contact what they term a “Group Spirit.” This is all done as a means to advance the cause of psychic development. Participants actually offer “obeisance” to a materialized spirit masquerading in the form of the collective group consciousness of the “players.”33

Yet, as in the case of “Philip,” this “mental” entity is described as “an entity with an independent existence of its own”34 and as “an actual, intelligent being, conscious and powerful.”35 In truth, the participants in such exercises hold a seance under another name.36

The process described by Masters and Houston is little different from the visualization process described by magician Conway earlier in which magic ritual is used to conjure the spirit that possesses the magician. Further, the purpose is also similar — inspiration and guidance from the entity (the reader may recall that Jean Houston was recently in the national news for directing Hillary Clinton to engage in “imaginary” consultations with Eleanor Roosevelt and other deceased entities):

Go and stand before the place we have designated to be the residing place of this entity we have evoked. Request inspiration in the form of a dance or a song or a chant, something that can be performed by you now, as an offering and in celebration of the spirit of our group….

After that, as instructed by the guide, each player successively will stand near the center of the circle, receiving inspiration, and then carrying out whatever movements or sounds or other behavior the person feels motivated to do and experiencing this motivation as coming directly from the Group Spirit….

The Group Spirit will appear to you in a dream and you will be able to gain a clear and detailed impression of its appearance, and you may be able to enter into a conversation with it, and various things might be revealed to you.37

Jack Canfield also recommends spiritism under another name. He encourages teachers to assist their students to perform a guided imagery exercise developed by Paula Klimek, who is with the Center for Holistic Education. This occult exercise is to be used by students as early as the sixth grade: “It is a very powerful experience which can help students become aware of their essential nature, their highest potential, their unique gift to the world, and their life purpose.”38

But this exercise deliberately attempts to have children contact and develop a relationship with their “special guide”:

You are about to meet a special guide, your own special guide. A guide whom you may ask what the purpose of your life is. . .Meet this guide and pose your question. . .Feel your guide’s unconditional love and strength and beauty. . .Let whatever happens happen. . .communicate with your guide in whatever way possible. . .Listen to your guide. . . .39

Another example of visualization-induced spiritism can be found in Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization:

Each one of us has all the wisdom and knowledge we ever need right within us….The inner guide is known by many different names, such as your counselor, spirit guide, imaginary friend, or master. It is a higher part of yourself, which can come to you in many different forms, but usually comes in the form of a person or being whom you can talk to and relate to as a wise and loving friend….

Go to your inner sanctuary [through visualization] and spend a few minutes there, relaxing, getting oriented….See in the distance a form coming toward you, radiating a clear, bright light….

Greet this being, and ask him or her what their name is….Ask your guide if there is anything he or she would like to say to you, or any advice to give you at the moment….

Also your guide may change form and even name from time to time. Or you may have the same one for years. You may have more than one guide at the same time.

Your guide is there for you to call on anytime you need or want extra guidance, wisdom, knowledge, support, creative inspiration, love or companionship. Many people who have established a relationship with their guide meet them every day in their meditation.40

The above process is similar to those found in many other practices, for example, using the imagination to create “imaginary advisors” in New Age seminars such as est (The Forum), Mind Psi Biotics, or Silva Mind Control. Various cults and humanistic or fringe psycho-therapies that have reached millions of people do the same.

From a biblical perspective there is little reason to doubt that visualization techniques can and do result in the contact of genuine spirit beings, however they may be redefined as part of the human imagination or “nervous system.”41 Until recent times, visualization had been relegated to occultists and shamans. But now, medical doctors, athletes, teachers, artists, businesspersons, and even clergy are employing new, updated forms of visualization. Unfortunately, because many psychologists, physicians, and others have little understanding of the mechanics of spiritual deception, they have unknowingly allowed themselves to become pawns in a battle whose players are invisible to them.

QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS

A number of variables may affect the specific outcome of visualization techniques. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, neither good motives nor a neutral environment are a sufficient safeguard against spiritual deception or other potential dangers. However, the context of visualization (whether the therapist’s office, personal meditation, magic ritual, etc.) and the content of visualization (i.e., the world view into which the practices are structured) are important for determining the relative potential for alignment with the occult.

Certainly, any claim to benevolence is ruled out when visualization is used to develop psychic abilities, enter altered states of consciousness, or magically control the environment, or is used for channeling or other forms of spirit contact. While some of the seemingly innocuous visualization techniques in certain forms of psychotherapy are undoubtedly not the same as visualization programs in the world of the occult, there are still unanswered questions about the possible impact of long-term visualization practices. For example, in education and in Christian or secular psychotherapy, do we know the consequences of sustained visualization practice among children or patients? Can we be sure that long-term visualization practice will never open the door to the experience of so-called “higher consciousness”?

Is there such a thing as neutral visualization in the long-term? When people consecrate themselves into an intensive program of visualization, do they really understand where this may lead? Practices that initially seem innocuous, such as Transcendental Meditation (TM), nevertheless, in the final analysis, can have considerable impact on a person physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually.42 We might ask how a simple sound, a mantra repeated 15 minutes twice a day, could produce such dramatic changes as those brought about by TM. But we could ask the same thing of a simple visualization technique. Perhaps there is more going on here than meets the eye. Perhaps spiritistic influence is a greater possibility than is usually supposed.

Consider someone using visualization to induce astral projection. What factors actualize the event? Intent? Occult environment? Psychophysical changes induced by visualization conducive to trance? The spirits? (Indeed, it is the spirits themselves who often claim to induce and, to a degree, control out-of-body experiences.43) What are the parameters of the psychophysiology of visualization? Where do they end, and where does spiritual deception begin?

Christian Visualization?

Many Christians have used some form of visualization. They argue that in rejecting visualization, the church is ignoring aspects of the creative imagination that are really legitimate. The comments of researcher Stanley Dokupil are perhaps relevant:

One of the reasons the New Agers are making such inroads is that the evangelical church has proven itself to be unimaginative, and overly linear in its thinking. The unconscious is real and there are powers there I believe that are not necessarily evil. Certain individuals by their nature are more inclined toward the full use of their imaginations than others, artists, therapists, certain other creative types, etc. If the church doesn’t provide a discerning guidance for these people, other than outright dismissal of all borderline phenomena as satanic, then the church is not only poorer for having lost these people but will have to pay for it by having God’s gifts used against His own church. The works of Jonathan Edwards, such as Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, The Distinguishing Marks of a Word of the Spirit of God, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, as well as Elizabeth Winslow’s biography of Edwards are very informative here.44

Obviously, we cannot recommend the kinds of visualization we have been discussing in this article. The spiritual risks are too clear. So if the church is going to accept some aspects of the practice of visualization, it will need to sort out the godly uses of the imagination from occult varieties.

Otherwise, how does a Christian therapist using an “inner Jesus” as a guide, friend, and advisor ensure his or her client against spiritism? What safeguards can be provided to ensure that imagination will not lead to unanticipated reality and that a spiritistic Jesus will not appear? Spiritistic Jesuses appear all over the place in the occult, from dictating occult texts such as A Course in Miracles to direct appearances in the temples of the Mormon Church and to various occultists.45

Is the “Jesus” who manifests inwardly in inner healing to guide, comfort, or erase bad memories an entity who must appear at the beck and call of the emotionally needy? If so, how is this different from the familiar spirit of the channeler?

Apart from the occult, how much power does visualization really have? If people were gods-in-embryo with divine energy at their disposal, and if their thoughts actually did create reality, then visualization should create literal miracles — but this is not the case. Given biblical teaching, visualization is mostly impotent and would seem only marginally useful at best even in its allegedly “neutral” or “Christian” therapeutic aspects. In other words, isn’t it true that living in harmony with God’s ordering of the world and obeying His moral standards are vastly more important to physical and spiritual health than are manipulation of mental pictures through visualization — even in a Christian context?

Another issue to face is where the Christian should be deriving his or her personal identity. Is our self-image to be determined from our creative imagination or from the Word of God? Do the popular visualization techniques applied in a Christian context really conform to reality? Belief can certainly affect our behavior but such belief must be based either upon reality or something possible. New Age and much Christian positive confession imaging do not count as true what is true; they only imagine and visualize as true what one wants to be true but really is not true — and, if people are honest, what continues not to be true.46

If visualization truly puts us in contact with our inner being, our subconscious, what can we expect to accomplish but perhaps the welling up of that reality that Jesus spoke of? “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:20-23). Perhaps this is the reason why many authorities have warned about the psychological danger resulting from using visualization to explore the unconscious. But New Age theorists and most visualizing church members must regard the biblical doctrine of human depravity as anathema. To find the “divine” within, with its suggestion of universalism, the words of Christ must be ignored or reinterpreted.

Therefore, is the visualization program that seeks to remold human depravity into divinity really based on reality? Whose reality? If a Christian has been forgiven, regenerated, justified, joined to Christ, adopted, and positionally sanctified, how important is a spiritual program of visualization? These doctrines are spiritual realities and facts one need only understand and accept to integrate.47 While the imagination might help a Christian to see such realities as personally true, this perception is not something that needs to be attained through a daily program of visualization.

God has promised Christians many things — that He will finish the work He began in us (Phil. 1:6), that our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16; 3:18), that we will stand before Him blameless, perfect in body, soul, and spirit — for “the one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

Christians are to be renewed daily by the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the Word of God. They are not to be renewed by a transpersonal psychology using Eastern metaphysics or inner work through visualization. The power of the Word of God to build a truly integrated person in those whom it “renews” makes modern visualization pale by contrast. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Where then is the spiritual power of visualization? Will an hour a day of our busy lives be better spent in visualization or in prayer? Will an hour a day be better spent on the therapist’s couch talking to an imaginary “inner Jesus” or in the Word of God hearing from the real Jesus? And what of our children? Will secular or New Age visualization methods in the classroom finally be in their best interests?

In our culture, visualization practices are here to stay. This underscores the necessity for Christians to bring a thoroughgoing, biblical critique to this occult method.

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VISUALIZATION: God-Given Power or New Age Danger? (Part One) by John Weldon and John Ankerberg

Summary

Visualization is the use of mental concentration and directed imagery in the attempt to secure particular goals, whether physical, psychological, vocational, educational, or spiritual. Visualization attempts to program the mind to discover inner power and guidance. It is often used as a means to, or in conjunction with, altered states of consciousness (e.g., as produced by meditation), and is frequently used to develop psychic abilities or make contact with spirits. There are at least four identifiable types of visualization in our culture: academic, popular, occult, and Christian. Although there are boundaries separating these types, they are usually fairly fluid, and there is much potential for interrelationships between them. The practice of visualization, a directed form of mental imagery and concentration, 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. Perhaps the most authoritative general text on the subject, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye: The History, Techniques and Practices of Visualization, observes, “If there are two important ‘new’ concepts in 20th century American life, they are meditation and visualization.”2

The book’s authors continue, “The growth of interest in visualization since the 1960s 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.”3

Visualization is prominent in modern humanistic/transpersonal education and increasingly finding its way into even 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.”4

The reason visualization is being lauded today as an extremely powerful psychological tool for inner healing and personal transformation is that proponents claim it works dramatically. In this first of a two-part series, we will examine the nature and influence of visualization, the reasons people use it, and the different kinds of visualization. In all of this we will see that the spiritual implications of visualization practice are significant.

THE NATURE OF VISUALIZATION

New Age visualization claims to work by using the mind to influence one’s perceptions and personal reality. Proponents claim that by properly controlling each person’s alleged mental power, they can influence and change a person’s ideas, consciousness, and even his or her physical and spiritual environment.

For example, 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 serve 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 also used in magic ritual to call on spirits in order to secure such goals.

Because the mind is potentially so powerful, proponents say, proper visualization methods can affect health, finances, educational abilities, relationships, vocation — and even one’s destiny. In many Hindu and Buddhist religions, for example, the thought or image one holds at death is believed to powerfully influence one’s next life. This is one reason given for adopting mental training exercises such as visualization.

THE INFLUENCE OF VISUALIZATION

Visualization and imagery practices are being pursued by millions of people in America. These practices are having a growing impact in diverse fields, from New Age medicine and education, to a variety of occult practices, to certain schools of psychotherapy (i.e., the Jungian, humanistic, and transpersonal schools), to human potential seminars. The text Seeing with the Mind’s Eye observes the following: “In the last hundred years spec-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 viewpoints.”5

Many scientific journals on visualization have emerged, such as the Journal of Mental Imagery. They document the impact of visualization in psychology, education, the arts and literature, linguistics, mythology, anthropology, sociology, religion, and even thanatology (the study of death and dying).6

Different forms of visualization exist, with different goals. But even a brief perusal of the general influence of visualization is impressive.

Medicine. Visualization is used widely in New Age medicine. The relevance of visualization techniques here will become evident as we proceed. For now, we may observe that a central tenet of much New Age medicine is the manipulation of mystical life energies such as chi and prana. Visualization promoters also 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 bio-plasmic 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

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

Occultism. Shamans, spiritists, magicians, and witches routinely use visualization. Many people are familiar with American shamans Carlos Castaneda and Lynn Andrews, whose books have sold in the multiple millions. Their 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. For instance, 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 common to numerous occult religions. These include Rosicrucianism, Tantrism, and the mind sciences (New Thought, Divine Science, Unity School of Christianity, Religious Science, etc.).

In essence, occult practitioners of all stripes use visualization. For example, Kreskin, the psychic and famous “mentalist,” confesses he “rehearses constantly through mental imagery.”10

Psychotherapy. Visualization is also widely used in psychotherapy. According to one source, “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 Mike Samuels, M.D., who coauthored Seeing with the Mind’s Eye with his wife, is a committed spiritist and author of Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds.12 In their book, Mike and Nancy Samuels devote almost two hundred pages to the use of visualization in modern psychology, medicine, parapsychology, art and creativity, and the occult or, as they call it, “the spiritual life.”13 They discuss 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

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

The practice of psychosynthesis is a fringe psychotherapy blending various Eastern and Western methods of self-awareness. It was developed by Robert Assagioli, who for years was the Italian director of Lucis Trust, the occult organization founded by New Age leader Alice A. Bailey.17 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.

Along similar lines, a psychic named Bob Hoffman (with the supposed help of a dead friend, Dr. Siegfried Fisher) and a psychiatrist named 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.”18 One Quadrinity teacher, Jean Porter, reveals its occult application through her book, Psychic Development (Random House, 1974).

An early pioneer in the academic use of visualization was German psychiatrist Johannes H. Schultz. From his clinical experience with hypnosis,19 he developed what is called “Autogenic Training.” This is a form of therapy using autosuggestion, visualization, deep relaxation, and other techniques. According to visualization authority Samuels, 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.”20

In fact, some enthusiasts promote Autogenic Training 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 breakthroughs of consciousness obtained through meditative techniques of various kinds.21

Wolfgang Luthe, one of Schultz’s students is “now the acknowledged authority on Autogenic Training.”22 He is author of Autogenic Training and, with Schultz, the technical seven-volume Autogenic Therapy, which cites some 2,400 case studies. Schultz observes that the autogenic program of visualization exercises may be improved by the use of meditation: “All the positive effects of the standard exercises are reinforced by this meditative training.”23 One part of the meditation has the patient “ask questions of his own conscious inner self,”24 a technique which has not infrequently become the means to spirit contact.

The influential psychoanalyst Carl Jung, himself a student of the occult,25 developed his own visualization method called “active imagination.” This potentially dangerous technique is considered a “powerful tool in Jung-ian psychology for achieving direct contact with the unconscious and obtaining greater inner knowledge.”26

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,27 she frankly admits the danger of active imagination and reveals in detail how it can powerfully influence the mind. She urges “great caution” before anyone employs this method.28 Hannah also confesses that active imagination employs a time-honored method to contact the “gods.”29 Indeed, there is little doubt that it may facilitate contact with what can only be termed spirit guides.30 However, these spirits are typically internalized as powerful psychodynamics; that is, they are conceptually normalized as part of the internal “structure” of the unconscious mind.

Human Potential Seminars. Most of the popular “think yourself rich” (or healthy, sexy, happy, etc.) seminars and texts endorse and use visualization. Modern New Age seminars, such as Silva Mind Control31 and the Forum (formerly “est”), collectively have millions of graduates, on whom they have used varying visualization techniques. In one’s mind, one can create “projection screens” on which to picture desired images — whether seeing oneself with greater self-confidence, learning abilities, or less weight, or imagining one’s white blood cells warding off viral invaders or specific illnesses. Further still, a secret inner sanctuary or mental laboratory may be constructed where one may contact “inner advisors” or spirit guides for assistance in decision making and direction in life.

The Church. Not unexpectedly, 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. Jon Trott and Eric Pement note that “visualization exercises are increasingly finding their way into Christian churches.”32 In The Seduction of Christianity, author Dave Hunt devotes two chapters to the harmful influence of visualization within the church. He observes, “‘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.”33

Hunt distinguishes visualization proper from the nonoccult use of the imagination. He observes:

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.34

As more people turn inward or seek “enlightenment,” as interest in parapsychology and psychic development increases, as mind-altering techniques are utilized more and more in the medical, educational, sports,35 and psychotherapeutic communities, and as mind science philosophies and human potential New Age seminars grow in impact, the use of visualization will increase proportionately. Such an influence will continue impacting the church. But as Part Two will document, the world view of the visualization promoters is rarely Christian. Instead, it is often blatantly occult or humanistic. As Stanley Dokupil comments, “Imagination is fast becoming the focus of much of New Age thought and method.”36

WHY PEOPLE USE VISUALIZATION

We now turn to the claims visualization proponents have made. They can be summarized under three dominant themes: (1) the quest for personal power; (2) the quest for inner knowledge or spiritual enlightenment; (3) the quest for physical health. The following citations are representative for each category.

1. The Quest for Personal Power. Psychic Harold Sherman says, “There is tremendous power in imagery.”37 Andrew Wiehl claims in Creative Visualization: “Wonders have been performed, seeming miracles wrought, through visualization. It is a God-given power available to anyone.”38

2. The Quest for Spiritual Enlightenment. Jack Canfield remarks, “To me the most interesting use of guided imagery is the evocation of the wisdom that lies deep within us.” He proceeds to discuss how students can contact their own spirit guides as “wisdom counselors.”39

Mike Samuels observes, “Philosophers and priests in every ancient culture used visualization as a tool for growth and rebirth….Most religions have used visualization as one of their basic techniques in helping people to realize their spiritual goals. Visualization intensifies any experience.”40 In Visualization, est-graduate Adelaide Bry asserts that the practice has the power to “reveal our hidden truths” and to allow us to experience personal connections to “cosmic consciousness.”41

A journal devoted to Robert Assagioli’s method of psychosynthesis claims, “Imagination is superior to all nature and generation, and through it we are capable of transcending the worldly order, or participating in eternal life and in the energy of the super-celestial. It is through this principle, therefore, that we will be liberated from the bonds of fate itself.”42

3. The Quest for Physical Health. Consciousness researcher Kenneth Pelletier of the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Francisco teaches: “The greatest potential of autogenic training and visualization [is as]…a potent tool in a holistic approach to preventative medicine.”43 In his Positive Imaging the late popular “positive thinker” Norman Vincent Peale cites shamanistic researchers Jeanne Achterberg and G. Frank Lawlis as stating: “Imagery may well prove the single most important technique for modern health-care.”44

Unfortunately, people may get more than they bargained for when they use visualization techniques for personal power, spiritual/educational enlightenment, or physical/mental health. Visualization programs usually come with additional baggage — various accompaniments, world views, and physical and spiritual dangers. But before we examine this additional baggage, we will first note the different varieties of imagery and visualization. This will help us to avoid confusing related, but distinct, practices.

TYPES OF VISUALIZATION

Visualization is essentially a powerful and directed use of the imagination with a wide variety of specific goals and methods. One problem in writing briefly on this topic is that the many different types of visualization make a general analysis difficult. The academic varieties do not have the same goals or necessarily the same methods as do the occult or Christian forms of visualization, so a valid critique in one area will not necessarily be valid in another. For example, those interested in imagination in the context of an occult world view do not have the same purposes or even practices as Christians who may attempt to use the imagination for what they see as godly purposes.

The chart on this page helps distinguish the types of visualization. It reveals that boundaries between the categories are rarely absolute; often it is more a matter of degree.

FOUR TYPES OF VISUALIZATION

1 Academic:

*Autogenic Training
*Jungian methods
*Imagery studies
*Secular or Transpersonal Psychotherapy

2 Popular:

*New Age therapies
*Mind Science practices
*Personal or business-oriented
motivational/achievement programs and seminars

3 Occult:

*Ritual magic
*Shamanism
*Psychic healing
*Spiritism
*Hinduism
*Buddhist practice
(such as the use of mandalas)

4 Christian:

*Christian psychotherpy
*Inner healing
*Jesus visualization
*Visualization with Scripture45

Between types 1 and 3, and 3 and 4, some boundaries are concrete, but potential interrelationships exist.

Between types 2 and 3, boundaries are fairly fluid.

Between types 1 and 4, and 2 and 4, boundaries are more fluid; potential and actual interrelationships exist.

VARIETIES OF VISUALIZATION

There are three general varieties of visualization:

1. Programmed Visualization is an active process used individually; for example, the practitioner holds a positive image in the mind in order to “create” the desired object or situation. It can be performed on the psychiatric couch or in magic ritual.

2. Receptive Visualization is a passive process; it “lets the movie roll” after an initial theme, setting, or the like is developed in the consciousness. The method is passive in that it receives whatever comes into the mind, which is usually interpreted as special guidance of some kind, such as instructions from one’s “higher self,” “inner guide,” or “divine consciousness.”

3. Guided Visualization, also termed guided imagery, employs a friend, counselor, or family member in either a therapeutic or occult, New Age context. The therapist suggests a scene — such as a meadow or a forest — and the patient imaginatively elaborates upon the scene as a key to his or her own “inner processes” and “unconscious conflicts.” Guided imagery may also be done by a leader of a New Age seminar or practice who helps the audience construct a particular mental environment for contacting a spirit guide. Silva Mind Control, with some eight million graduates, is one example.

These general types of visualization can be described loosely under a number of terms: guided fantasy, mental imaging, active imagination, directed daydreaming, inner imagery, and so forth. But it should be remembered that visualization is not the same thing as imagery. Visualization involves imagery, but the imagery is purposely directed toward a particular goal.

How does imagery differ from visualization? There are different forms of imagery, many of which we all experience. For instance, a “memory image” is a reconstruction of a genuine past event tied to a specific occasion, like the vivid recollection of one’s first date retained over a period of many years.

An “imagination image” is the construction of an imaginary image that may or may not contain elements of past perceptions or events but in any case is arranged in a novel way. One might, for example, imagine how one’s home would look with a new car parked in front, or how the living room would look with the furniture rearranged. One might also imagine what it would be like to be in heaven (or hell), or how one of the biblical prophets dealt with a difficult situation — or what one would do in his place. This is similar to “daydream fantasy” in which there is a combination of memory and imagination images.

In the sleep imagery of dreams we also find past perceptions reconstructed in novel arrangements.

Other types of imagery are experienced only rarely. In hallucinations we find internal imagery that is wrongly believed to be external. In supernatural visions we find externally induced, internally occurring imagery. These revelations may be either true or false, depending on whether they are from God or the devil (Matt. 4:8; Ezek. 1:1).

There are many other varieties of imagery. Typically, however, these kinds of imagery are not visualization. They lack the accompaniments, commitment, and trust involved in the visualization process and its specific techniques. All this is why it is important to distinguish imagination and imagery from visualization proper.

ACCOMPANIMENTS OF VISUALIZATION

Visualization is rarely used by itself. The typical accompaniments of visualization include: (1) relaxation, (2) meditation (sometimes accompanied by yoga-like controlled breathing and postures), (3) the cultivation of will power, (4) various forms of self-hypnosis, and (5) faith or trust in the “guide” (whether human or spirit) and in the process of visualization itself.

Relaxation is, of course, a vital and necessary part of everyday living. But when combined with visualization and meditation techniques, it can be transformed into an occult process. In “Relax Your Way to ESP,” a well-known psychic researcher, the recently deceased D. Scott Rogo, refers to the research of parapsychologist Rhea White, who discovered that of the greatest psychics “by and large many of [them] began with relaxation.”46 These psychics also stress the importance of suggestion and visualization.47

In Creative Visualization, New Age psychic Shakti Gawain observes, “It’s important to relax deeply when you are first learning to use creative visualization.”48 Jack Canfield even encourages classroom students to practice a variety of occult or potentially occult relaxation techniques just prior to the visualization process, including breath awareness, breath imagery, breath control, progressive relaxation, autogenic training, polarity, and chanting.49

In the following excerpt from Opening to Channel, two spirit-guides, “Orin” and “DaBen,” offer advice for relaxation which “helps you become accustomed to the state of mind that is best for a [spirit] guide’s entry.”50

Exercise from Orin and DaBen

Achieving a Relaxed State

Goal: This exercise is basic preparation for going into trance. We want your experience of channeling to be relaxing, easy, and joyful….

Steps:

1. Find a comfortable sitting position, either on a chair or the floor, which you can easily hold for ten or fifteen minutes.

2. Close your eyes and begin breathing calmly and slowly, taking about twenty slow, rhythmic, connected breaths into your upper chest.

3. Let all your concerns go. Imagine them vanishing. Every time a thought comes up, imagine it on a blackboard, then effortlessly erase it, or imagine putting each thought into a bubble that floats away.

4. Relax your body. Feel yourself growing serene, calm, and tranquil. In your imagination, travel through your body, relaxing each part. Mentally relax your feet, legs, thighs, stomach, chest, arms, hands, shoulders, neck, head, and face. Let your jaw be slightly open, and relax the muscles around your eyes.

5. Put up a bubble of white light around you. Imagine its size, shape, and brightness. Play with making it larger and smaller until it feels just right.

6. When you are calm and relaxed and ready to return, bring your attention slowly back into the room. Savor and enjoy your state of calm and peace. . . usually it is sufficient to practice every day for twenty minutes or so for one to two weeks to grow accustomed to deeper relaxation and inner stillness. This regime is not absolutely essential, but helps you become accustomed to the state of mind that is best for a guide’s entry.51

Relaxation, then, is an important component of successful visualization.

Meditation is a second component. Visualization is often conducted within a meditative environment, such as a structured program of internal concentration using a mantra or word of psychic power. As we have shown elsewhere,52 almost all meditation other than biblical meditation develops psychic powers, inculcates a nonbiblical, occult world view, and can open the door to spirit contact. Gawain observes that “almost any form of meditation will eventually take you to an experience of yourself as source, or your higher self.”53 What she means by “source” here is ultimate reality or God.

The systematic use of will power for effective visualization is stressed in magical and occult texts, particularly for ritualistic purposes. To a degree it parallels the popular usage, although often for different goals.54 Regardless, without willful intent and commitment, visualization does not exist. Thus,

Programmed visualization…is the deliberate use of the power of your own mind to create your own reality….there is nothing too insignificant or too grand for you to visualize. Our lives are limited by what we see as possible….A basic rule of visualization is: you can use visualization to have whatever you want, but YOU MUST REALLY, REALLY WANT WHAT YOU VISUALIZE. (emphases in original)55

Hypnosis can be another component of visualization. In fact, some visualization and progressive relaxation methods are indistinguishable from hypnosis.56 Hypnosis may be part of or joined with visualization in both the popular and the academic varieties. As far as the latter are concerned, interest in hypnosis is usually sparked by the fact that one’s ability to visualize and one’s susceptibility to hypnosis are related: “Imaginative involvement, or absorption in fantasy experiences, and high imagery are known to be positively related to measured hypnotizability….Today the intimacy between imagination and hypnosis are [sic] clearly recognized and studied by appropriate scientific methods.”57

Faith or trust is held to be an integ-integral factor regulating the effectiveness of visualization. As is clear from the material cited below, without such trust a person cannot expect much in terms of results. Yet, faith is rarely placed in the biblical God or Christ but rather in one’s own alleged inner powers, mental capacity, or “intuitive” abilities; or in cosmic energy, the universe, and so forth. The following statements note the importance of faith: “To put it another way, in attempting this or any other technique for self realization, one needs to trust that it can work.”58 “Have faith that it will materialize as you picture it, and never for a moment doubt it….Just as an attorney must understand law in order to practice it…so must we understand the law of the Universe and co-operate with it in order to have our desires realized. The more faith and enthusiasm we put into our mental imaging, the sooner it will work out for us.”59

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

Our discussion of visualization thus far suggests a number of conclusions: (1) We all routinely experience certain types of imagery. (2) Imagery is a component of visualization but may be studied in and of itself, apart from visualization. In other words, imagery studies may be strictly scientific and neutral, or they may be placed into a larger metaphysical world view. (3) Imagery is therefore not necessarily visualization. Visualization demands the exercise of will and faith within a context of relaxation, meditation, and often self-hypnosis. (4) In general, the classes, types, and methods of visualization can be, to one degree or another, fluid in their interrelationships. (5) The components of visualization often regulate its outcome. That is, they place it within a certain context, a certain world view, and to that degree influence the method’s effectiveness, impact, and spiritual implications.

In Part Two we will examine the world view that commonly accompanies the practice of visualization. We will also consider the dangers associated with visualization, its occult aspects, and the question of whether Christian visualization can be a safe and biblical practice.

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Estates/6535/visual1.htm

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What is a Cult and the Occult? by Jim Bramlett

(The information below is summarized from numerous expert sources on cults and the occult)

The two words, “cult and occult,” sound similar. But while different, they both pose a similar spiritual threat to people by appearing to be something they are not. Both can cause its victims to miss God’s loving and free provision for their lives through Christ, and cause them to face a tragic, Christless eternity. There are many nice, friendly and caring people in the cults and the occult. God loves them, so much that Christ died for them. They are not our enemy. Our enemy is Satan and his deceiving spirits.

Cults

In popular usage, “cults” are religious groups predicted by the Bible (2 Peter 2:1) that deviate from the central, historic truths of biblical Christianity and God’s revelation in Christ. Some cults are offshoots of ancient pagan religions, have no similarity to Christianity, and are easy to identify. Others falsely try to imitate Christianity, often using the Bible and Christian terminology, and are more difficult to distinguish. These latter cults typically exhibit one or more of the following traits:

1. They may consider Jesus Christ as not equal to God the Father, but something less. But Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), and Paul said that Christ is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) The Bible is repeatedly clear that Jesus is deity, and when on the earth, He was God in human form. We can be redeemed from our sins only because God’s own perfect blood (in Christ) was shed for our perfect cleansing.

2. They may typically reject the clear biblical revelation of a triune God, sometimes called the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit — one God, not three, but manifest in three Persons. The Bible refers to all three as Persons, yet One. A mystery, but truth.

3. They may have their own “sacred” book in addition to the Bible. And although they usually deny it, these books conflict with and are given precedence over the Bible.

4. They typically reject the wonderful biblical truth that salvation is a “free gift” from God by grace through faith alone (this truth glorifies God and not man). Instead, cults and all other “religions” falsely say that people must “earn” their salvation by certain works and deeds, often works that will perpetuate the cult (this glorifies man rather than God).

5. Cults are often exclusive, centering around a strong leader (or late founder) who has the only “true” interpretation of Scripture. Whereas Christ came to give us freedom, (Galatians 5:1), cult members are in bondage to that cult or leader, with the threat that leaving the cult will cause a loss of salvation.

Thousands of these cults exist, but here are some major ones listed in most cult reference books: Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, The Unity School of Christianity, The Way International, The Children of God, Scientology, The Unification Church, Unitarianism and the New Age Movement (which is also occult).

If involved in any cult, run — don’t walk — to the nearest exit, and find a Christ-centered, Bible- believing church. Also, apply the four-step process below.

References. There are many excellent books available on cults. Four are: The Kingdom of the Cults, by Dr. Walter R. Martin; The Deceivers, by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart; Cult Watch, by Dr. John Ankerberg and John Weldon; and Larson’s New Book of Cults, by Bob Larson.

The Occult

The word “occult” refers to what is hidden, concealed, or secret. The occult involves the spirit world, but the spirit world of darkness. The occult is particularly deceptive because the spirit world is very real. Practitioners are dealing with reality — but dark, forbidden, and evil reality.

There are two kinds of spiritual reality. The first is God’s spiritual Kingdom of truth and light, where Christ is King, the nature of which is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17), and where God’s holy angels dwell, worship and serve Him. The second is the world of Satan (a fallen angel), a world of darkness and hopelessness, void of God, and where other fallen angels (called demons) who hate God work to advance this evil kingdom under their leader, Satan. This latter world of spiritual darkness is that which is experienced through the sinister practices of the occult.

The Bible does not reveal a “dualism,” or co-equal forces of good (represented by God) and evil (represented by Satan). Satan is totally subject to the sovereign, omnipotent Creator. But God has given Satan certain authority to operate in the earth as a result of man’s sinful fall. He operates through the minds and wills of fallen humanity, and he has constructed a complex web of many evil schemes, including occult practices, even religions, to deceive and snare people by appearing to offer them access to supernatural power and knowledge. The Bible says that such deception will increase in “the last days” before Christ returns (1 Timothy 4:1). But the Bible also says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Those who trust and obey Jesus Christ have protection and victory through Him.

Any degree of occult involvement can produce problems of oppression, depression, despair, hopelessness, and many physical problems, sometimes bringing death, even self-destruction. Demonic influence can produce obsessions, phobias, bizarre behavior, violence, homicide and sexual perversion in its victims. Worse, it can deceive a person into eternal darkness. The occult is a form of idolatry and a sin expressly forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). In the New Testament when the gospel was proclaimed and received, the liberated people gladly burned all their occult materials (see Acts 19:19).

Here are just a few of the many occult practices: astrology, various kinds of “fortune telling,” witchcraft, satanism, ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance, seances, spiritism meetings, use of mediums or “channeling,” automatic writing, ouija boards, hypnosis, parapsychology, psychic surgery, eastern religions, reincarnation, voodoo, magic charming, yoga; involvement with psychics such as Jeane Dixon, Edgar Cayce; the Rosicrucians, and the New Age Movement. The New Age Movement is a catchall term embracing many modern occult beliefs and practices. There is even compelling evidence that UFOs are real, but supernatural and often occult manifestations of fallen angels whose ultimate purpose is to deceive humanity into thinking super-intelligent extraterrestrials will help usher the earth into a golden “New Age” of happiness without God. But with God rejected and without His blessings, occult-practicing, lost and depraved humanity will soon bring upon itself the end-time global holocaust prophesied by the Bible.

If you are now or have ever been, anytime in your life, involved with any cult or occult practice, you can be set free of it and any symptoms it may have brought by doing the following: (1) Confess sincere faith in and commitment to Christ; (2) confess the cult and occult sins to God, naming and forsaking each one; (3) renounce Satan, in Jesus’ name, and commanding him and his demons to depart; and (4), receive and claim your liberation by faith, without doubting, trusting in the authority and total faithfulness of God and His Word. If you do this, Satan must obey and release you, by the authority of Jesus’ Name and God’s Word, and any symptoms that Satan put on you must disappear.

References. There are many books available in Christian bookstores on the occult and the New Age Movement, including The Coming Darkness, by John Ankerberg and John Weldon; Inside the New Age Nightmare, by Randall N. Baer; Understanding the Occult, by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart. For information on UFOs: The Omega Conspiracy, by Dr. I.D.E. Thomas; Planet Earth–2000 A.D., by Hal Lindsey; and the outstanding documentary video, UFOs: The Hidden Truth (the video is available by calling 1-800-475-1111).

http://www.choicesforliving.com/spirit/cults.htm

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