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Yoga in Philosophy and
is Incompatible with Christianity
James Manjackal MSFS
As a Catholic Christian born in a traditional Catholic family in Kerala, India, but lived amidst the Hindus; and now as a Catholic religious priest and charismatic preacher in 60 countries in all continents, I have something to say about the bad effects of Yoga on Christian spirituality and life. I know there is a growing interest on Yoga all over the world, even among Christians- and this interest is extended to other esoteric and new age practices like Reiki, reincarnation, acupressure, acupuncture, pranic healing, reflexology, etc. which are methods against which the Vatican has cautioned and warned in her document “Jesus Christ bearer of the water of life”.
For some, Yoga is a means of relaxation and easing of tension and for others is a form of exercise promoting fitness and health and for a few is a means of healing of sicknesses. There is much confusion in the mind of the average Catholic- lay and cleric- because Yoga as promoted among Catholics is neither entirely a health discipline nor entirely a spiritual discipline, but sometimes one, sometimes the other, and often a mixture of both. But in fact, Yoga is primarily a spiritual discipline and I know even priests and nuns in the seminaries and novitiates promote Yoga as help to meditation and prayer. It is sad that now a days, many Catholics are loosing trust in the great spiritualities and mysticisms for prayer and discipline handed over to them by great saints like Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Francis of Sales, St. Theresa of Avila, etc. and are now going after the Eastern spiritualities and mysticisms coming from Hinduism and Buddhism. It is in this regard that a sincere Christian should inquire into Yoga’s compatibility with the Christian spirituality and the wisdom of incorporating its techniques into Christian prayer and meditation.
What is Yoga? The word Yoga means “union”, the goal of Yoga is to unite one’s transitory (temporary) self, “JIVA” with the infinite “BRAHMAN”, the Hindu concept of God.. This God is not a personal God, but it is an impersonal spiritual substance which is one with nature and cosmos. Brahman is an impersonal divine substance that “pervades, envelopes and underlies everything”. Yoga has its roots in the Hindu Upanishads, which is as old as 1.000 BC, and it tells about Yoga thus, “unite the light within you with the light of Brahman”. “The absolute is within one self” says the Chandogya Upanishads, “TAT TUAM ASI” or “THOU ART THAT”. The Divine dwells within each one of us through His microcosmic representative, the individual self called Jiva. In the Bhagavad Gita, the lord Krishna describes the Jiva as “my own eternal portion”, and “the joy of Yoga comes to yogi who is one with Brahman”. In A.D. 150, the yogi Patanjali explained the eight ways that leads the Yoga practices from ignorance to enlightenment – the eight ways are like a staircase – They are self-control (yama), religious observance (niyama), postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), sense control (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), deep contemplation (dhyana), enlightenment (samadhi). It is interesting to note, here, that postures and breathing- exercises, often considered to be the whole of Yoga in the West, are steps 3 and 4 towards union with Brahman! Yoga is not only an elaborate system of physical exercises, it is a spiritual discipline, purporting to lead the soul to samadhi, total union with the divine being. Samadhi is the state in which the natural and the divine become one, man and God become one without any difference (Brad Scott: Exercise or religious practice? Yoga: What the teacher never taught you in that Hatha Yoga class” in the Watchman Expositor Vol. 18, No. 2, 2001).
Such a view is radically contrary to Christianity which clearly distinguishes between Creator and creature, God and man. In Christianity, God is the “Other” and never the self. It is sad that some promoters of Yoga, Reiki and other disciplines and meditations, had misquoted some isolated Bible quotations to substantiate their arguments such as, “you are the temple of God”, “the living water flows from you”, “you will be in me and I will be in you”, “it is no longer I that lives but Christ lives in me”, etc. without understanding the context and the meaning of those words in the Bible. There are even people who portray Jesus as a yogi as we can see now a days such pictures of Jesus in convent-chapels and presbyteries - Jesus presented in yogi postures of meditation!
To call Jesus “a yogi” is to deny His intrinsic divinity, holiness and perfection and suggest that He had a fallen nature subject to ignorance and illusion (Maya), that He needed to be liberated from the human condition through the exercise and discipline of Yoga. Yoga is incompatible with the Christian Spirituality because it is pantheistic (God is everything and everything is God), and holds that there is only one Reality and all else is illusion or Maya. If there is only one absolute reality and all else is illusory, there can be no relationship and no love. The Centre of Christian faith is faith in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God-Head, the perfect model of loving relationship. Christianity is all about relationships, with God and among men, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22: 37-39).
In Hinduism, good and evil, like pain and pleasure are illusory (Maya) and therefore unreal. Vivekananda, the most respected icons of modern Hinduism, said “good and evil are one and the same” (Vivekananda. “The yogas and other works” published, Ramakrishna Vivekananda Centre NY 1953). In Christianity the vexing problem of sin as an offence against the Holiness of God is inseparable from our faith, because sin is the reason why we need a Saviour. The Incarnation, the Life, the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus are for us means for salvation, that is to set us free from sin and its consequences. We can not ignore this fundamental difference in order to absorb Yoga and other Eastern meditation techniques into Christian Spirituality. The practice of Yoga is pagan at best, and occult at worst. This is the religion of antichrist and for the first time in history it is being wildly practised throughout the Western world and America. It is ridiculous that even yogi masters wearing a Cross or a Christian symbol deceive people saying that Yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism and say that it is only accepting the other cultures. Some have masked Yoga with Christian gestures and call it “Christian Yoga”. Here it is not a question of accepting the culture of other people, it is a question of accepting another religion which is irrelevant to our religion and religious concepts.
It is a pity that Yoga has been wildly spread all over from kindergarten to all form of educational institutions in medicine, psychology, etc. calling itself as a science while it is not a science at all; and they are sold under the label ‘relaxation therapy’, ‘self-hypnosis’, ‘creative visualisation’, ‘centering’, etc. Hatha Yoga, one which is wide spread in Europe and America for relaxation and non-strenous exercises, is one of the six recognized systems of orthodox Hinduism, and it is at its roots religious and mystical, which is the most dangerous forms of Yoga (Dave Hunt, “the seduction of Christianity” page 110) Remember the words of St. Paul, “No wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (II Cor 11: 14). It is true that many people are healed by Yoga and other Eastern ways of meditation and prayers. Here the Christian should ask themselves whether they need healing and material benefits or their God Jesus Christ in Whom they believe, Who is the source of all healings and good health.
The desire to become God is the first and second sin in the history of creation as chronologically recorded in the Bible, “You said in your heart, I will scale the heavens, above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my sit on the mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Is 14: 13-14). The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God who knows what is good and what is bad” (Gen 3: 4-5). The philosophy and practice of Yoga are based on the belief that man and God are one. It teaches one to focus on oneself instead on the One True God. It encourages its participants to seek the answers to life’s problems and questions within their own mind and conscience instead of finding solutions in the Word of God through the Holy Spirit as it is in Christianity. It definitely leaves one open to deception from God’s enemy, who searches for victims whom he can take away from God and the Church (IPet 5: 8)
For last eight years, I am preaching the Word of God mainly in European countries, which once were the cradles of Christianity, producing evangelisers and missionaries, martyrs and saints. Now can we call Europe Christian? Is it not true that Europe has erased all its Christian concepts and values from lives? Why Europe is ashamed to say that it has Christian roots? Where are the moral values and ethics practised by Europeans from down the centuries and handed over to other countries and cultures by the bold proclamation of the Gospel of Christ? From the fruits we shall know the tree!. I believe that these doubts and confusions, apostasy and infidelism, religious coldness and indifference came to Europe ever since the Eastern mysticisms and meditations, esoteric and New Age practices were introduced in the West. In my charismatic retreats, the majority of the participants come with various moral, spiritual, mental and physical problems in order to be liberated and healed and to have a new life through the power of the Holy Spirit. With all sincerity of heart I will say, 80 to 90 % of the participants had been to Yoga, Reiki, reincarnation, etc of the Eastern religious practices where they lost faith in Jesus Christ and the Church. In Croatia, Bosnia, Germany, Austria and Italy I had clear instances where individuals who were possessed with the powers of darkness cried out “I am Reiki”, “I am Mr. Yoga”, identifying themselves to these concepts as persons while I was conducting prayers of healing for them. Later, I had to pray over them by the prayer of deliverance to liberate them from the evil possessions.
There are some people who say, “there is nothing wrong in having the
practices of these, it is enough not to believe the philosophies behind”.
The promoters of Yoga, Reiki, etc, themselves very clearly state, that
the philosophy and practice are inseparable. So a Christian can not, in
any way, accept the philosophy and practice of Yoga because Christianity
and Yoga are mutually exclusive view points. Christianity sees man’s primary
problem as sin, a failure to conform to both, the character and standards
of a morally perfect God. Man is alienated from God and he is in need of
reconciliation. The solution is Jesus Christ “The lamb of God who takes
away the sins of the world”. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross, God reconciled
the world to Himself. He, now calls man to freely receive all the benefits
of his salvation through faith in Christ alone. Unlike Yoga, Christianity
views Salvation as a free gift, it can only be received and never be earned
or attained by one’s own effort or works. Today what is needed in Europe
or elsewhere is the powerful preaching of the message of Christ coming
from the Bible and interpreted by the Church in order to remove the doubts
and confusions wildly spread among the Christian in the West and to bring
them to the Way, the Truth and Life : Jesus Christ. Only Truth can set
Yoga: Theory and Practice: Separable?
The basic premise of yoga theory is the fundamental unity of all existence:
God, man, and all of creation are ultimately one divine reality. An editorial
in the "Yoga Journal" declares this basic premise:
This is why physical yoga and Eastern philosophy are mutually interdependent;
ultimately, you cannot have one without the other. David Fetcho, a researcher
with an extensive background in yoga theory and practice, states:
One of the leading contemporary authorities on kundalini yoga is Gopi Krishna. In his article "The True Aim of Yoga," he says: "The aim of yoga, then, is to achieve the state of unity or oneness with God, Brahman, [and] spiritual beings..." (592:14) .
Yoga authorities Feuerstein and Miller comment that the postures (asana)
of yoga and its breathing techniques (pranayama) are much more than
just physical exercises:
Actually, yoga practice is intended to validate occult yoga theory. And as noted, yoga theory teaches that everything is, in its true inner nature, divine - not only divine but ultimately equal to everything else - everything from God and the devil to the athlete and the AIDS virus.
Yoga theory also teaches that in their outer nature, everything is maya, or illusion. For example, only in his inner spirit is man divine; his "outer nature," of body and personality, are ultimately a delusion that separates him from awareness of his real inner divinity. Thus, another purpose of yoga must be to slowly dismantle the outer personality - man's illusory part - so the supposed impersonal divinity can progressively "emerge" from within his hidden divine consciousness (...)
This is why people who practice yoga only for physical or mental health reasons are ultimately the victims of a confidence game. They are promised better health; little do they suspect the end goal of yoga is to destroy them as individuals. As yoga authorities Feuerstein and Miller comment, yoga results in "a progressive dismantling of human personality ending in a complete abolition. With every step (anga) of Yoga, what we call 'man' is demolished a little more" (593:8) .
In "Yoga as Methods of Liberation," Moti Lal Pandit observes that (as in Buddhism) "the aim of yoga is to realize liberation from the human condition. To achieve this liberation, various psychological, physical, mental, and mystical methods have been devised. All those methods are antisocial (sometimes even antihuman) in that yoga prescribes a way of life which says: this mortal life is not worth living." (595:41) .
Yoga is, after all, a religious practice seeking to produce "union" with an impersonal ultimate reality, such as Brahman or Nirvana. If ultimate reality is impersonal, of what value is one's own personality? For a person to achieve true "union" with Brahman, his "false" self must be destroyed and replaced with awareness of his true divine nature. That is the specific goal of yoga (...) If we examine yoga theory in more detail, it is easier to understand why yoga practice has such specific occult goals.
One of the most authoritative texts on yoga theory within the Hindu perspective is Pantajali's text on raja Yoga titled Yoga Sutras (e.g., 596 ). In this text he puts forth the traditional eight "limbs," or parts, of yoga. These are defined within the context of a basic Hindu worldview (reincarnation, karma, and moksha, or liberation) and intended to support and reinforce Hindu beliefs. Each "limb" has a spiritual goal and together they form a unit. These eight limbs are:
Yama (self-control, restraints, devotion to the gods [e.g. Krishna]
or the final impersonal God [e.g., Brahman]
Because the eight steps are interdependent, the steps of "postures" and "breathing" cannot logically be separated from the others. Thus, the interdependence of all eight steps reveals why the physical exercises of yoga are designed to prepare the body for the spiritual (occult) changes that will allegedly help one realize godhood status.
The concept of prana ("breath") is a key to the process. Pranayama refers
to the knowledge and control of prana, or mystical energy, not merely to
the control of one's physical breath (979:592) . Prana is believed
to be universal divine energy residing behind the material world (akasa).
Prana is said to have five forms, and all energy is thoughy to be a manifestation
of it. Swami Nikhilananada describes it in his Vivekananda - The Yogas
and Other Works as "the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this
universe" (979:592) . Perfect control of prana makes one God. One
can have "infinite knowledge, infinite power, now":"
The aim of pranayama is also to arouse the coiled-up power in the muladhara
chakra called kundalini:
According to Vivekananda, all occult manifestations are accomplished
through yogic control of prana:
In other words, prana, God, and occult energy are all one and the same.
The one who practices yogic breathing (pranayama) is by definition attempting
to manipulate occult ("divine") energy.
This information is a portion of one section under the topic of "Yoga" in the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, by John Ankerberg and John Weldon (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. 1996. pp 600-602) The book covers a wide range of topics, includes an extensive index, and is copiously documented to facilitate further research.
The authors write:
- Footnotes -
Former instructor warns of yoga’s spiritual implications
An ex-yoga teacher turned Christian evangelist says he is disturbed by the growing popularity of yoga programs in schools. He feels adding Hindu-influenced yoga regimens to public school curriculums is not only dangerous but also violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
More than 100 public and private schools across the U.S. are reportedly teaching yoga to young people using a secular curriculum developed by a California woman named Tara Guber. The program she developed for school kids uses terms like "bunny breathing" for yogic panting and "time-in" for meditation. But innocuous as the program may sound, one former yoga instructor says Guber’s curriculum and others like it are a bad idea.
Mike Shreve was a teacher of yoga and meditation at four universities before he was "saved" out of Eastern religions and went on to found a Christian ministry called The True Light Project. He sees some definite dangers in introducing such programs to young people in U.S. schools.
"First of all I believe it is a violation of the commitment this nation has made to the separation of church and state," Shreve says. And secondly, he notes, "I’m surprised that so many schools have started using this in their curriculum - apparently without it being challenged by those who understand the religious roots of yoga."
Yoga has Hindu roots and retains that religious system’s influences,
the former instructor contends. Even teachers of Hindu themselves have
acknowledged that there is no way yoga can be separated from its religious
base, he asserts.
The head of the True Light Project was himself once a student of an Indian guru and also formerly operated a yoga ashram with a number of people who had dedicated themselves to full-time study of the practice. He says the whole purpose of practicing yoga in any of its aspects is to bring a person to an altered state of consciousness.
Yoga programs do not belong in schools, Shreve insists, both for legal and spiritual reasons. He says he is disturbed by the prevalence of yoga programs in public and private schools, where they introduce children to Eastern religion under the guise of a secular curriculum.
YOGA: Can We Separate the Exercise From the Philosophy?
"There is a common misconception in the West that hatha-yoga, one of about ten forms of Yoga that supposedly leads to self-realization, is merely a neutral form of exercise, a soothing and effective alternative for those who abhor jogging and calisthenics ...
"[However], Hatha-yoga is 'one of the six recognized systems of orthodox Hinduism' and is at its roots religious and mystical. It is also one of the most difficult and potentially dangerous [spiritually] forms of Yoga. "The term hatha is derived from the verb hath, which means 'to oppress.'... What the practice of hatha-yoga is designed to do is suppress the flow of psychic energies through these channels ["symbolic, or psychic, passages on either side of the spinal column"], thereby forcing the 'serpent power' or the kundalini force to rise through the central psychic channel in the spine (the sushumna) and up through the chakras, the supposed psychic centers of human personality and power. Westerners mistakenly believe that one can practice hatha-yoga apart from the philosophical and religious beliefs that undergrid it. This is an absolutely false belief. ...
"You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy. ... 'The movements
themselves become a form of meditation.' The continued practice of the
exercises will, whether you ... intend it or not, eventually influence
you toward an Eastern/mystical perspective. That is what it is meant to
do! ... There is, by definition, no such thing as 'neutral' Yoga"
When Westerners employ yoga techniques as a means to improve their health,
they should understand that they can also be producing subtle changes within
themselves which will have dramatic spiritual consequences that will not
be for the better. Regardless of the school or spiritual tradition, yoga
practice tends to alter a person’s consciousness in an occult direction.
What Christian Grof got was far more. She found herself transformed
from a "conservative suburban housewife" into a New Age leader by means
of hatha yoga. All she had to do was "join a hatha yoga class for exercise"
and the logical progression ensued:
Initially, however, as the standard kundalini yoga symptoms emerged in her life, the prognosis was not good. Grof herself was in the midst of a spiritual emergency and increasingly convinced of her own insanity. "I was convinced I was headed for a life of psychopathology. I was afraid I was going crazy." 5 Nevertheless, counseling through occult philosophy put matters in their "proper" perspective. Her marriage ended, "which it was destined to do anyway." And the late popular mythologist Joseph Campbell helped her recognize, "The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic is swimming with delight." He also referred her to LSD and consciousness researcher Stan Grof for more counseling.
The rest is history. The couple were eventually married and today coordinate some 50 SEN (Spiritual Emergency Network) regional information centers around the globe. 6 They also publish a significant amount of literature in the field of occult metaphysics. Their reinterpretation of the pathological phenomena induced by occult practice—as a positive transforming spirituality (a spiritual "emergence")—not only helps undergird and legitimize the occult, but it also effectively inhibits discernment of the true issues involved.
For example, in the case of kundalini yoga, symptoms of mental illness and demonization are gratuitously redefined as emerging manifestations of "higher" or divine consciousness. Thus, we are not to question or fear the kundalini process but to surrender to it and trust it implicitly, for it is indeed part of that ageless wisdom of evolutionary transformation which is far wiser than ourselves. A chapter in a recent book edited by Stan and Christina Grof, Spiritual Emergency, reveals a basic approach of SEN counseling. The title is "When Insanity Is a Blessing." 7
Thus, a slow but sure yoga-induced occult transformation catapulted Christina Grof headlong into the world of occultism. In the long run, her innocent flirtation with yoga altered her entire life and resulted in her becoming a leader in the New Age Movement, with influence over hundreds of thousands of people.
Consider one more example of the potential consequences of innocent yoga practice. While Christina Grof used yoga for help in her pregnancy, Carole, a friend of coauthor John Weldon, used yoga for medical and health reasons. We published her story in The Coming Darkness: Confronting Occult Deception. 8 We first met Carole as a result of exchanging information on the famous Indian guru and yogi Swami Rama. The following information is taken from material sent to us.
Carole was very sick and doctors were unable to find the cause of her
illness. When she went to a physician-nutritionist recommended by a friend,
she found some literature in his office about the Himalayan Institute,
of which the doctor was a staff member. The institute was founded by Indian
Swami Rama, one of the most scientifically studied of the gurus, beginning
with famous biofeedback researcher and spiritist Dr. Elmer Green. Carole
decided to attend the institute, where she began lessons in hatha yoga.
Eventually, she was initiated and received her mantra, or word of occult
power, from Swami Rama. As he laid his hands upon her head, the typical
transfer of "occult energy" began (termed shaktipat diksha). Carole was
However, after two weeks of daily yoga meditation, Carole became engulfed in a nightmare of utter dread and terror. Voices that once claimed they were angelic turned threatening, even demonic. She was brutally assaulted, both physically and spiritually by spirits. During meditation, in the midst of being violently shaken, she could sense that the same energy received at initiation, energy which was now felt to be personal, was attempting to remove her life-essence from her physical body—in her words, "to literally pull the life from my shell of a body." She sensed an overwhelming and implacable hatred directed toward her from this "energy," as if "monstrosities of another world were trying to take my very soul from me, inflicting pain beyond endurance, ripping and tearing into the very depths of my being."
The intermittent suffocation and torment seemed interminable; her fears increased as she realized there was no one to help her. Finally, the attack subsided. But it was merely the first of many.
It seems that nothing could stop the assaults. Her agonized pleas to the spirits were ignored; her husband was powerless. Her father wanted her to see a psychiatrist; others also doubted her sanity. In desperation, her mother contacted psychic friends from a local church of the Unity School of Christianity. They laid hands on Carole and commanded that "the divinity within" deliver her, but to no avail.
Dr. C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., entered the picture. He is a noted neurosurgeon, a former professor at Harvard University, past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, and the author of Occult Medicine Can Save Your Life. Dr. Shealy also works in conjunction with psychics and spiritists such as Caroline Myss. When Dr. Shealy was unable to help, he referred Carole to Dr. Robert Leichtman, M.D., a spiritist who is coauthor of several dozen books received by revelation from the spirits.
Leichtman admitted that Carole’s situation was not uncommon among followers
of Eastern gurus. He even told her some have died as a result of similar
psychic attacks. But he, too, was unable to help. His instructions, such
as visualizing herself in the white "Christ light" of protection, were
useless. By this time, Carole was near the end.
But today, Carole is alive and well. Even her psychiatrist is amazed at the miraculous transformation. She is now in perfect health, both mentally and physically.
How did Carole get free? No one had been able to help her. Today, Carole attributes both her health and her life to a living Jesus Christ who delivered her from a desperate plight. Reflecting back on her predicament, she is awed that such terrible destruction could be purchased at the price of a simple, supposedly harmless form of yoga meditation.
Events like these reveal that there is more to yoga than meets the eye. Whether yoga can trigger some unknown psychospiritual, physiological response, or whether changes are produced spiritistically, or both, few can deny yoga is a powerful spiritual discipline that has been used for millennia to secure occult, pagan goals. As we proceed, we will better understand the reasons for this.
1. Ann Hill, ed., A Visual Encyclopedia of Unconventional Medicine,
New York: Crown Publishers, 1979, p. 223.
Yoga - Health or Stealth?
Growing numbers of westerners have become devotees of various forms of yoga. Christian critiques of yoga often contain warnings against yoga without in-depth analyses of yoga's underlying theology, philosophy, practices and their effects. Those in pastoral ministry are finding Catholics in crisis as a result of their involvement in yoga without the knowledge, discernment or reliable resources to effectively minister to them. In order to address this growing problem, it is crucial that there be a greater awareness of the problem and a commitment to minister and educate on the part of Christian leaders.
The Encyclopedia Britannica on the world-wide web describes the Sanskrit word yoga (meaning union or yoking) as one of six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. The practitioner of yoga seeks to yoke himself to God through a complex, ancient science of self-purification and development. Yoga's basic text is the Yoga-sutras by Patanjali (c. 2nd century B.C.), a sublime treatise on the science of yoga and the ascent of the soul. Through the practice of yoga, one attempts to free oneself from the bondage of karma, or the law of cause and effect which burdens the soul with the effects of sin and keeps it tied to a cycle of rebirth. The purpose of liberation is to return to a once-possessed state of original purity, consciousness and identification with the Supreme Self or, as others believe, to union with the Transcendent God.
The eight stages of yoga include five external preparations and three
internal aids to this ascent of the soul, as we would understand it. The
two ethical preparatory stages of yoga involve detailed practices of renunciation,
restraint from evil and religious observance. The next two steps, the most
popularized and emphasized in the West, are physical postures and breath
control techniques designed to open, cleanse and fortify variously described
physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human person. These aspects
are referred to as bodies accessed via the seven chakras (wheels) or psycho-spiritual
energy centers located throughout the body. The fifth stage is withdrawal
of the senses. The next three stages involve deep concentration, deep meditation
and lastly the state of samadhi or self-collectedness, in which the mediator
and the object of meditation become one. This is the final stage before
union with God or with the Self (as others believe) and the final
At the core of the philosophy of yoga are the beliefs in the law of
karma, reincarnation, the potential for self-realization or enlightenment
without external aid, and a practiced and finally ultimate withdrawal from
the world which is deemed to be an illusion or projection.
Unfortunately, many Christians have experienced some of the beneficial effects of yogic postures, breathing and meditation including extraordinary healing, spiritual renewal and various bliss states. Many have become involved in one of the larger yoga societies or ashrams. Adding to the general confusion about the legitimacy of yoga is the guidance Christians receive from the now significant body of Catholic clergy, teachers and spiritual counselors who practice, write about and advocate eastern practices, especially yoga, often mixing them with Catholic mysticism. One Catholic rehabilitation center for religious I know of teaches yoga to those having already had nervous breakdowns.
In terms of ministry, each yoga practitioner will be heir to differing problems, depending on the kind of yoga he or she practiced and the combination of other eastern or esoteric practices he or she also pursued. Following is a brief overview of a variety of yoga schools or methods with their differing aims and emphases. Each practice stresses different paths of liberation. Each description is my interpretation based on my own experience as an advanced Kriya yoga practitioner and anecdotal observations made during my years in the society of practitioners.
Bhakti Yoga, the most popular yogic practice in India, stresses the first two stages previously mentioned and is devotional in character. Bhakti practices of fasting, right living, prayer and ritual parallel Christian practices and so offer little particular appeal to the average westerner. These first stages, however unglamourous, are essential to the relatively safe practice of more advanced techniques in that they purify the personality of many of its more subtle and unconscious emotional and spiritual weaknesses that will be exacerbated and harmful at later stages of yogic practice. Bhakti Yoga is mixed with other yogic traditions in the case of Amrit Desai, a popular yogi and spiritual leader in America. Recently, numerous female students stepped forward to confirm they had all had sexual relations with him. Westerners, over-impressed with lectures on universal love, are prone to falling into the trap of guru worship, transferring their own dependencies to him.
Ministering to someone who has placed all their trust and identity into a person or group is very difficult. The feelings of betrayal and abandonment are overwhelming upon leaving the group or leader, making it very difficult to re-establish trust in God and community again. Psychological boundaries are destroyed or weakened. Deep emotional healing is needed. Some therapists in attempting to aid these victims make the mistake of pursuing regression therapy or "deep memory" therapy - both of which are risky when psychological boundaries are so weak.
Hatha Yoga, a popular form in the U.S., aims for the conscious control of the physical and etheric (subtle energy) bodies. This emphasis on "energy", another characteristic of yoga, changes the perception of the world as the arena of divine grace into the perception of the world as a domain defined by science, technique and control. Yogic control of body and mind is particularly popular now as we in the west develop a renewed fascination with the human potential movement initiated by Hegel, latched onto by Hitler and now hailed as the precursor of a soon-to-occur evolution in consciousness known as the New Age. The use (or misuse) of Hatha and other yogas at the blatant service of immature personalities brings with it a host of problems. An example is at my own workplace where Power Yoga is offered at lunchtime for a quick pick-me-up. The yoga instructor recently had the class perform an exercise designed to stimulate the pituitary gland - and one of my co-workers did not
sleep the entire following night. The dangers of any kind of yoga
can include abuse of power, unconscious motivations of teachers and students,
as well as the ignorance of the physiological and psychological effects
A number of other yoga paths or combinations thereof exist in the US.
Numerous teachers or experts mix and match yogic traditions, increasing
the likelihood of malpractice, abuse and ill effects. The excitation of
the kundalini (serpent power), this mysterious form of psychic or physiological
energy is, in fact, the result of all forms of yoga. The effects, both
bad and good, are the subjects of not a few texts.
The case histories of yoga masters with paranormal powers do not necessarily affirm the worth of these practices or of yoga philosophy in general. Extraordinary powers are no guarantee of goodness or character. These powers can be the results of spiritual virtue, but can just as likely be variously the results of magical art, demonic influence, psychosis or drugs.
To most western devotees, these powers are merely the harnessing of energies and physical laws not yet understood in the west. The majority of holistic energy work practices touted as healing science are all built on a science of energy manipulation based on the eastern chakra system. What we in the west do not fully realize, is that any manipulation of energy is tantamount to the practice of magic - using power at the service of the will. Utilizing or even simply channeling these energies sent supposedly by God, angels, extra-terrestrials or the universe opens the yoga practitioner and also the many healers and body workers in the New Age to forces they cannot perceive, understand or control. Surrender to otherworldly guides, gurus or yogis adds additional oppressive influences in the dangerous game of kundalini arousal. The arousal may not only cause long-term psychological burn-out and exacerbation of latent weaknesses but also demonic oppression and possession as Pandora's box is literally opened to the spiritual world. Using the Garden of Eden as an analogy, our spines are like the tree of life which hold within them the potential for good or evil. The serpent power allures us to seek the hidden knowledge and power of these forbidden fruits. True spiritual development, ecstasies and gifts, however, descend from above and are not the result of conscious control. As Our Lord warned, those who try to enter heaven without Him are thieves.
The general belief that the universe is benign and that practitioners of goodwill are protected by invoking Christ and his angels usually keeps yoga practitioners pushing the limits of endurance and safety in their power-driven lust for the kundalini arousal and enlightenment. Why?
Yoga appeals to modern America because it is a pseudo-science. It is
technique-driven and codified. It is also addictive as one becomes more
and more used to the pleasure of altered states (which can lead to habitual
dissociation). Americans desire for self-improvement, endless youth and
ultimate knowledge and power have fed the yoga craze. The concepts of sacrifice,
suffering and guilt of mainline Christianity are replaced by a philosophy
of endless progress, bliss and control over one 's own destiny. How can
we combat this very seductive way of looking at the world and ourselves?
How can we not seem to be backward, naive and just plain narrow-minded?
What are yoga 's biggest errors?
Firstly, yoga would make us all christs - without need of a savior. While there is ample documented evidence of the presence of great saints in the east who led and lead lives of renunciation and sacrifice to atone for others ' sins, only Our Lord Jesus Himself opened the gates of heaven. One clear announcement of the liberating action of acceptance of Jesus as Our Lord is the story of the good thief. Whilst on the cross, Our Lord promised the good thief he would be with him in paradise that very day. Under karmic law, a thief of his ilk would have necessitated hundreds of life times to remove his own karma. Our Lord carries this burden for each of us. If reincarnation were a reality, perhaps some might like to spend hundreds of lifetimes on this very sad world to attain heaven - but why would they?
Secondly, yogic philosophy maintains we live in a world of illusion - one to be escaped. As Christians we believe that our world, while fallen, has now become the beginnings of the kingdom of God. Our calling is not to escape the world but surrender to it fully with compassion and mercy. As importantly, by our embrace of the cross and its ever present redemptive action through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the living sacrifice of the Mass, we are no longer bound to the slavery of sin and have become heirs to the mysteries of sanctifying grace and Heaven. Why try to find the one in a million yoga master who can take on one 's karma when every day Our Lord makes himself available daily to take away our sins?
These two errors alone set the spiritual adventurer up for disaster. Once we accept the premise that the world is an illusion and we are christs, we are opened to increasing ego inflation and dissociation as reality becomes more and more subjective and we become more self-referenced. A dear friend of mine, dying of cancer, was told by her "guardian angel" and her New Age state licensed psychological therapist that she was cancer-free. She died not long after she had the opportunity to have surgery for this very correctable form of cancer.
Why, then, have so many religious, teachers and seekers either embraced the yogic philosophy in place of Christian beliefs or, on the other hand, sought to Christianize the practice and legitimate it as a spiritual aid in their walk with Jesus? The question most Christian devotees of yoga pose when questioned about their practice is Why not? This is the question we must all be able to answer to shield our family and friends from great spiritual injury. For, in fact, the dangers involved in yogic practice are as great as or greater than any occult pursuit, despite its hallowed origins in history.
We cannot simply warn against error and argue doctrine. We must also
become the rivers of living water Our Lord told us we would be if we only
drink from the well of living water ourselves. In all the time I spent
attempting to witness to those in the New Age, no argument could change
anyone 's mind. Programming, mental and physical conditioning, behavioral
addictions and spiritual influences all weave a tight web of deception
around those in yoga practice and in the New Age in general. It was only
through my sister 's prayers that the veil of deception was lifted for
me to see into what I had become involved.
In closing, yoga and all New Age practices have filled the void that
exists because we abandoned the greatest source of bliss and comfort, the
Eucharist. A return to the Eucharist and a renewed program of instruction
on contemplative prayer will bring many Catholics back from these deceptively
beautiful practices and philosophies.
This article is reproduced from Clare McGrath's website - crossveil.org
NEW AGE: Catholic Faith and Yoga - Incompatible
Experts on cults and Catholic spirituality agree that yoga cannot be divided from its own spirituality. Ft Myers bishop bans classes at parish, Voice of the Faithful objects.
Part I – An Inspirational Story:
One morning while checking my message machine, I heard a female voice announce, “I’m searching for the woman who writes for Catholic websites.” From her amiable tone, I sensed she was not a detractor and I returned her call.
When I phoned her, she introduced herself and will be referred to herein as “Mary.” She indicated she had read some of my articles and wanted to ask a question about the “New Age” dilemmas prevalent in her hometown. Though Mary and I had just met, it was soon apparent our passions were considerably alike!
Next, Mary shared a very inspirational story with me. She had discovered that a nearby Catholic parish in Fort Myers, Florida, was offering Yoga classes in the Chapel that surrounded the main altar. Mary and a few friends including a relations manager from Relevant Radio, arrived at Pope John XXIII parish on the morning of February 5, 2007.
After arriving, Mary proceeded into the church and lightly sprinkled
holy water and blessed salt in the church before the Yoga classes commenced.
Then she entered the parking lot to distribute leaflets about Yoga, to
approximately 25 women as they arrived for the classes. Mary reasoned the
women probably did not understand the dangers inherent in Yoga and she
wanted to offer guidance. While distributing the literature Mary was confronted
by the Yoga teacher (the Deacon’s wife). The Yoga teacher told Mary, “I
wish that you would leave Church property.” Mary in turn professed the
same wish to the instructor.
Mary noticed the women were dressed in leotards and slouched on their Yoga mats in a half circle, or crescent moon position. The teacher/guru was advising the participants to visualize “love and light.” Writers Note: The meditative phase of Yoga begins with fixing the mind on one object which may be anything whatsoever. Mary viewed signs that advertised Yoga products and Yoga classes and noticed a table adorned with a basket for donations.
Mary also observed that much of the Yoga material was embellished with the Om Brahman symbols. As Mary began taking photos, the women seemed to snap out of their trances and became irate. After a few minutes of insults hurled at Mary, she closed the chapel door and left.
As Mary headed to the church parking lot to depart, she learned that the guru and her followers had summoned the police. After Mary and her friends spoke to the substitute priest (the Pastor was not available), he communicated to the police that there was not a problem, and the police retreated.
According to a short article by the Yoga instructor, the regular Pastor/Administrato r is a Yoga practitioner himself. Upon his return, he continued to support the Yoga classes and had blinds installed for those who found the classes offensive. Hopefully, most of us understand that window blinds would not have prevented our Lord from seeing the sinfulness that transpired near His altar.
Though horribly distressing that these women had desecrated our Lord’s house with their occult practices, the story does have a wonderful conclusion.
Shortly after the incident, Mary gave Bishop Frank Dewane various articles and photos regarding the offensive Yoga classes. Though he has not explained his decision, he ordered the classes discontinued. The bishop and Mary deserve credit and praise for their courageous actions.
Mary’s account might remind you of a similar one. I think most of us can recall how our Lord angrily threw the moneychangers out of His Father’s house. When necessary, our Lord acted with righteousness and did not hesitate to call unrepentant sinners –“hypocrites,” “sons of hell” and “broods of vipers.”
New Age practices and beliefs have become rife and deeply embedded in Catholicism. The New Age Movement is really not new at all. Its evil is recorded in Genesis. The challenge for Catholics is to discern authentic spirituality and be willing to confront the New Age serpent-speak when we witness it. After all, speaking out really can make a difference!
Part II - Why Yoga is Incompatible with Christianity:
What is Yoga? The word Yoga means union. The goal of Yoga is to unite one’s temporary self with the infinite Brahman. Brahman is not a personal God but a spiritual substance which is one with the cosmos and nature.
Fr. James Manjackal, a Catholic priest who was raised in a traditional Catholic family in India, states: “Yoga is not an elaborate system of physical exercises, it is a spiritual discipline purporting to lead the soul to Samadhi, the state in which the natural and divine become one. It is interesting to note that postures and breathing exercises often considered to be the whole of Yoga in the West are steps three and four towards union with Brahman.”
In a recent phone conversation with Fr. Paul E. Demarais, he stated that “there is no safe level of Yoga practice.” Fr. Demarais is Diocesan Director of the Cult and Occult Awareness Network in Providence, Rhode Island.
The late Fr. John Hardon SJ also affirmed that Yoga is not compatible with Catholicism. “Inner Hinduism or Yoga professes pantheism which denies that there is only one Infinite Being who created the world out of nothing. This pantheistic Hinduism says that followers will have brief tastes of heaven between successive rebirths on Earth.”
Dr. John Ankerberg states in his article Innocent Yoga? “Regardless of the school or spiritual tradition, Yoga practice tends to alter a person’s consciousness in an occult direction. Even when Yoga is practiced innocently, it can eventually produce occult transformation.”
There are those who claim there is nothing wrong with practicing Yoga for exercise purposes only, but even the teachers of Hindu have stated that the philosophy and the practice of Yoga are inseparable. From Johanna Michaelsen’s book “Like Lambs to the Slaughter” (pp 93-95) she states, “You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy… The movements themselves become a form of meditation.”
Denial about the New Age is a common obstacle. (2 Tim. 4:3) “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and insatiable curiosity.”
As Christians, we cannot straddle the fence. Sadly, many ask themselves, “How close can I get to the fire without getting burned?” The answer: There is no such thing as Christian Yoga.
About the Author:Catherine Marie Rhodes is the pseudonym of a member of the Catholic Media Coalition and a contributor to Spero News.
This article is reproduced from the website - Spero News
Yoga & Christianity, ARE THEY COMPATIBLE?
Joel S. Peters teaches theology at a Catholic high school in Montvale, New Jersey.
It is not at all uncommon these days to see Yoga advertised and promoted. Books on Yoga abound, websites dealing with its philosophy and practice are numerous, and instructional seminars are routinely offered in gyms, health clubs, and even some Catholic institutions. It has so successfully permeated our culture that most people don't even raise an eyebrow at the mention of it. In fact, some Christians have integrated Yoga into their lives and may thus admire their own "inclusive" attitude. Or they see nothing wrong with practicing Yoga and would be quite surprised to learn that it represents any spiritual threat whatsoever.
It is precisely because of this ignorance about Yoga -- on the part of professed Christians -- that I have chosen to write this article. I don't doubt that the vast majority of believers who practice Yoga are blissfully unaware of its true nature and purpose, and they probably view it as "simply exercise." But herein lies its greatest danger. When Yoga is written off as a mere physical discipline with little or no regard for its spiritual underpinnings, we run the risk of being misled about something that could have a significant bearing on our own spiritual well-being.
What Is Yoga?
The word "Yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj, meaning "union" or "to yoke." Sanskrit is the ancient language of Hinduism, and so it should be no surprise to learn that Yoga is inextricably linked to this religion. In fact, "Yoga" is very similar in meaning to the Latin word religio, from which we get our word "religion" -- meaning "to fasten" or "to bind." In the case of both words, the clear implication is that a person is being "yoked" or "fastened" to something spiritual. More significant, though, is the reason for Yoga's development.
In Hinduism there are three paths to salvation: works (rituals, duties, and ceremonies that add to one's merit), knowledge (understanding that not sin, but ignorance about the true nature of our existence, is the cause of evil and misery), and devotion (the worship of Hindu gods and goddesses). The path of knowledge is used most often by the Brahmin or priestly caste (highest stratum) in Hindu society. Within this path there are three schools of philosophy: Vedanta, Sankhya, and Yoga. So, plainly put, Yoga is a system of Hindu philosophy designed to lead the practitioner to spiritual enlightenment or salvation. The specific mechanism involved in the process is the use of physical postures (asanas) coupled with breathing exercises that are specifically designed to enhance meditation and alter one's state of consciousness so the practitioner may attain oneness with a "higher reality."
While it is beyond the scope of this article to deal with the numerous styles of Yoga, it is relevant to note that although components within the branches of Yoga may vary, the ultimate goal is the same, namely, the altering of one's consciousness to attain a spiritual state.
But Don't Resource Materials on Yoga Disavow any Religious Connection?
All are recognized Yoga masters, and yet one cannot help but pause at the incongruity between their denials about religious connections to Yoga and the material they set forth in their books that clearly shows how the practice of Yoga is a formalized means to a spiritual end within the context of a distinctly Hindu worldview. And if Yoga is truly not a religion, then how do we explain the fact that Yoga plays a very prominent role in the Vedas, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Upanishads, which are Hinduism's scriptures? So such denials are at best ignorance on the part of these authors (which is untenable in light of their status as Yoga masters) and at worst a deliberate misrepresentation of what Yoga actually is. Both explanations present some problems.
So Why Is the Practice of Yoga A Problem for a Christian?
Professed Christians should already be noting that the aforementioned worldview is foreign to -- even diametrically opposed to -- their own. So the very defining context of Yoga is a radical departure from the Christian perception of reality, whereby the believer in Christ must rightfully acknowledge that (a) he is, in fact, a unique creation of God, (b) neither man nor the created universe is divine, and (c) the goal of this life is to grow in one's relationship with a personal, loving, divine Creator who, though eternally distinct from what He has created, calls us into fellowship with Him. The discrepancy between these two worldviews cannot be overstated.
But Can't I Just Gain the Physical Benefits From Yoga Without the
To suggest that one can derive solely physical benefits from Yoga without being affected -- in some way -- by its inherently spiritual foundation is to miss the mark. Yoga is not primarily about limbering up the body; it is about using physical means to achieve a spiritual end. So the question of separating the physical from the spiritual in Yoga is really a contradiction in terms. In fact, if one consults the massive amount of Yoga material available, it becomes patently clear that any physical benefits are secondary considerations. Yoga is consistently presented as being primarily about actualizing one's spiritual potential, attaining "freedom," transcending the ego, and the like.
Perhaps by analogy a Catholic may ask if it's possible to receive the Eucharist and not be participating in something religious. Or think of it another way. If an atheist takes and consumes a consecrated Host, could we validly maintain that has he not received the Body of Christ because he doesn't believe that that's what it is? Could we assert that he has merely "gone through the physical motions" of receiving but has not engaged in a spiritual activity? Technically speaking, the Eucharist has a spiritual reality independent of the receiver's beliefs, and I propose that the same is true for Yoga. Just as the Real Presence is contained within a consecrated Host whether or not someone believes it, so also does Yoga have a spiritual component that is real, whether or not it is the specific pursuit of the practitioner.
"But hold on," you say. "I've been practicing Yoga for some time now, and as a result I've become more peaceful and it has had a positive effect on my physical well-being. And it certainly hasn't turned me away from my Catholic faith." Well again, I cannot deny that people do experience physical consequences from Yoga, but I suspect that Yoga's spiritual effects may be more subtle and therefore more elusive to identify. Keep in mind that humans are embodied spirits, so when we engage in a spiritual activity it naturally ought to produce some kind of result.
The issue then becomes a matter of what type of spiritual impact Yoga may have on Christians who practice it and whether or not beneficial bodily results mean that one is still spiritually "okay." Increased bodily flexibility or heightened mental peacefulness really says nothing about the objective state of one's soul, so the ultimate barometer of any spiritual practice from a Christian point of view is: Is this endeavor leading me to a deeper union with Christ? Considering Yoga's express purpose, it is extremely difficult to answer this question in the affirmative.
Does the Catholic Church Formally Have Anything to Say About Yoga?
While this document does not expressly condemn Yoga, it repeatedly advises caution about using spiritual, meditative, or mystical practices that are devoid of a distinctly Christian context. For example, Number 12 states: "proposals to harmonize Christian meditation with eastern techniques need to have their contents and methods ever subjected to a thorough-going examination so as to avoid the danger of falling into syncretism." It also affirms that bodily considerations (such as Yoga's postures, for instance) can indeed impact us spiritually: "Human experience shows that the 'position and demeanor of the body' also have their influence on the recollection and dispositions of the spirit. This is a fact to which some eastern and western Christian spiritual writers have directed their attention" (#26).
Most noteworthy of all the document's observations is the rather stark one that mental and physical euphoria -- such as that which might result from practicing Yoga -- are not always what they seem to be: "Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations" (#28). More will be said about this "psychic disturbance" later.
In 2003 the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released a document entitled Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life (hereafter Bearer). While the focus of this document is the New Age movement, we again find the subject of Yoga included: "Some of the traditions which flow into New Age are: ancient Egyptian occult practices, Cabbalism, early Christian Gnosticism, Sufism, the lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, mediaeval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, Zen Buddhism, Yoga and so on" (#2.1).
Like Aspects that preceded it, Bearer advises definite caution about the use of non-Christian practices, but it goes one step further by calling into doubt the very context from which something like Yoga precedes: "It would be unwise and untrue to say that everything connected with the New Age movement is good, or that everything about it is bad. Nevertheless, given the underlying vision of New Age religiosity, it is on the whole difficult to reconcile it with Christian doctrine and spirituality" (#2).
This "underlying vision" bears a striking resemblance to the Hindu worldview, and many terms and concepts employed within the New Age movement convey essentially the same reality as the goal of Yoga: an altered state of consciousness that is a means to a transcendent, spiritual experience. The problem is that such a context is wholly foreign to a Christian understanding of the nature and purpose of prayer, meditation, and mystical experience. Moreover, the very notion of humans merging with a divine cosmic consciousness contradicts what the Church says about a bona fide Christian mystical experience: "In order to draw near to that mystery of union with God, which the Greek Fathers called the 'divinization' of man, and to grasp accurately the manner in which this is realized, it is necessary in the first place to bear in mind that man is essentially a creature, and remains such for eternity, so that an absorbing of the human self into the divine self is never possible, not even in the highest sta tes of grace" (Aspects #14; emphasis added).
For those Christians who wish, perhaps, to use Yoga's meditative techniques as a preparation for or an aid to prayer, we ought to be mindful of the true nature of all spiritual activity: "Christian prayer is always determined by the structure of the Christian faith, in which the very truth of God and creature shines forth. For this reason, it is defined, properly speaking, as a personal, intimate and profound dialogue between man and God. It expresses therefore the communion of redeemed creatures with the intimate life of the Persons of the Trinity" (Aspects, #3; emphasis added). We also must be mindful of the fundamental difference between Christian and Hindu or Eastern mystical experiences: "For Christians, the spiritual life is a relationship with God which gradually through his grace becomes deeper, and in the process also sheds light on our relationship with our fellow men and women, and with the universe. Spirituality in New Age terms means experiencing states of consciousness dominated by a sense of harmony and fusion with the Whole. [Such] 'mysticism' refers not to meeting the transcendent God in the fullness of love, but to the experience engendered by turning in on oneself, an exhilarating sense of being at one with the universe, a sense of letting one's individuality sink into the great ocean of Being" (Bearer, #3.4).
Are there any other dangers associated with Yoga?
Of the four authors cited above, Mishra is certainly not alone in claiming that Yoga can either develop a person’s psychic abilities or subject him to psychic phenomena. Devi recounts the story of a woman recovering from cancer who used some Yoga techniques she learned from the author as part of her therapy: “‘I do my imagery every day like you told me to. It is usually nice, but last night when I was doing it, something happened. Instead of me just imagining the picture of the Lord Jesus [as a focus for meditation], he really appeared and then turned into pure white light. I could feel the light enter my body right there.’ (She pointed to the third eye center, between her eyebrows.)” (p. 47, italics and parentheses in original).
Feuerstein and Bodian note that experiences made possible through Yoga include “. . . lucid dreaming, out-of-body states, clairvoyance, and other psychic abilities, as well as ecstasies, mystical states and, at the apex of them all, enlightenment.” They go on to assert that “Yoga is at home with all these mental states and mind-transcending realizations” (pp. 4-5).
Silva, Mira and Shyam Mehta, in Yoga: The Iyengar Way (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997) tell us: “The heightened states of consciousness [in Yoga] . . . result in spiritual wisdom. They also bring various supernormal attainments (siddhis), according to the object of meditation. Some are within the range of human experience,such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, and the ability to read minds” (p. 170).
Given these candid admissions by Yoga masters that the development of psychic abilities is a virtually unavoidable result of practicing Yoga — in fact, it is the very goal — the believing Christian is left with a serious moral and spiritual dilemma: should he pursue an activity whose ultimate goal is to cultivate “powers” that God expressly condemns? There’s no avoiding the fact that Yoga can and does foster these abilities, and there’s no avoiding the fact that God tells us they are spiritually harmful to His children.
YOGA - Not a Catholic Meditation Technique
Written by Marta 2003. LEAP OF FAITH - http://faithleap.home.att.net
This Catholic apologetic paper has been written in answer to the following email message:
The question is complex and not easy to answer. There are many components to the question: What is yoga? Why is it so popular in today's society? Why is it finding disciples among our Catholic faithful? Is it Catholic? Is it just an exercise? Is it right for the Catholic faithful to practice yoga?
The concept of alternative health treatments and the freedom of relating to people of other religions, have led some Catholic faithful into areas of individual exploration. Yoga is popular today, among Catholics and the general population. I have a Catholic friend, Ana 2, who years ago started practicing yoga, and today believes that God is energy, that we are all part of God, that there is no devil, that there is no hell, and that there is reincarnation. I wonder, if what happened to Ana could happen to Janet?
What are we doing when we do yoga? The urgency of answering Janet is compounded by the responsibility I feel as a Christian not to be prejudiced and to look at situations and people through the eyes of Christ. I do not want to sound judgmental or closed minded. I recall Romans 1:25, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator..."
Yoga originated as one of the systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy. In Samskrit it means "union" and it seeks the union of the individual with the divine by means of exercise, breathing, posture, diet and meditation. The effects of yoga are similar to hypnosis. Have you ever seen a magician hypnotize someone and make them act out at their command without the person being conscious of their action? In being hypnotized by the magician, the individual is giving up his or her free will and conscious control. When the individual goes into a trance brought about by yoga, who or what is in control? The person is giving away its mind to something. If a person was compared to an airplane, it has just given away the controls of the plane to another person or entity. What is that something to which the free will of the individual is surrendered? It is not God as we Christians know it. The person may never know. One is dealing with the occult powers of the mind. Our mind is the "pilot" at the "control" of our will. When we let go, who is doing the "piloting"?
What are we doing? We are experimenting with an unknown. Hypnosis is an area not completely understood. When we empty ourselves of every human desire and search into the "depth" of our souls.., what are we looking for? I fear the loss of a soul to pagan practices, because Colossians says, "See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ." 3
Yoga in our American culture is marketed as a way to exercise the body and mind by relaxing and toning the muscles. It is fashionable. It is up to the individual to make it happen. You do not need community. It is offered in churches, in Country Clubs, at work, sometimes it is even covered by insurance as an alternative medical treatment. In the Church's bazaar in my parish, gifts certificate to yoga classes in the Dharma Institute 4 were auctioned. We are practicing techniques devoid of Christianity thinking that we are "just" exercising. How did it happen? Western Christianity has brought humanity to the point of development that it is today. Yoga and Eastern philosophy sinks the human soul into hopelessness, neglecting the world we live in and sinking the human mind into unknown territories. The product of the Eastern culture can be seen in the countries where it has been practiced for centuries. The picture is one of poverty and sorrow. Eastern yoga places the responsibility of salvation on the individual disregarding Jesus sacrifices for us.
We have been misled by yoga exercises to believe that the physiological feelings brought about by our own actions are of a spiritual nature. In "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation," is stated:
The Christians who want to justify yoga as compatible with Christianity may quote Saint Paul, "In him we live and move and have our being."6 They also may quote Jesus saying, "The Father and I are one."7 They proceed to say that Jesus was a Yogi, an enlightened one, a person in union with God. In yoga the ultimate goal is to be one with god, but the god they define is not the God we know. Yoga is a pseudoscience, defining God as an energy that permeates everything, and we are all part of that energy. The way it attracts Americans to its ritual and exercises is talking in terms attractive to our culture. It promises physical health and mental health, muscle tone, spiritual enrichment but the methodology is one of the Hindu religion.
Yoga is not a Christian practice and can lead individuals away from the Catholic Church first and then away from Christ. In today's society there is no generic religion, but yoga could be said to be one. It describes itself like a way to be in harmony with one's own body. Its marketing techniques convey the idea that it is a way of reducing stress and improving the mental well being of an individual. Where is the error? Yoga is a religious practice that will lead Christians astray. It yokes the individual to self-search into the psychic powers of the mind.
It is a practice without the divine revelation of Christ trying to make sense of the world and what it is all about. We are in need of a Savior. Without Christ we cannot work our own salvation. Through Christ alone there is salvation. "The theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in other religions, is contrary to the Church's faith." 8
The "God" that yoga talks about is an energy. If you are able to tap into that "energy" you will be like "God." You will be enlightened which is what the Hindus believe Christ to be. The God we worship as Christians is a personable9 God, a Triune God. We are the creature, He is the Creator.
How can a Catholic be lead into yoga thinking it is a spiritual rich method? By thinking of the inner "God" which yoga is trying to approach as the Holy Spirit. That is not what yoga is talking about. The misunderstanding of what yoga is, promotes the practice of yoga among the Catholic population. Well meaning Catholics are introduced to elements of Gnosticism which the Early Fathers fought to erradicate. In this case "ignorance is hazardous to the faith." The solution to the problem is to learn what Christ's message of salvation is all about. God is the creator. We are His creation redeemed by Jesus Christ.
There is a need to remember that "Man's nature calls him to seek the truth while ignorance keeps him in a condition of servitude."10 "Indeed, the whole Church, as the 'salt of the earth' and 'the light of the world' (cf. Mt 5:13 f.), must bear witness to the truth of Christ which sets us free."11
My friend Ana wandered away from Christianity practicing yoga. I realized that, when she told me that she believed in Jesus like a prophet, but like any other prophet; and in her home, next to the picture of Jesus, I saw the picture of Paramhansa Yogananda.12 To her the yogi and Jesus were at the same level as persons in union with God. But, "What was God to her?" I asked, and Ana told me that we are all god. How can a Catholic like her, wander away from the faith and be so deceived? The concept of yoga practiced by Ana was an exercise that searched union with the Infinite. In words from the Autobiography of a Yogi: 13
The above quote from the book by Paramhansa Yogananda,15 equates our Lord Jesus Christ to the prophet Elijah, and echoes what Ana said about who Christ was. The statement sounds scientific without scientific basis. What is wrong with the picture?
The Hindu religion from which Yoga originates is a pluralistic religion and it believes in many deities. To them, any religion is okay. Religion is viewed as a way to God.
The Catholic Faith is not a pluralistic religion. In Dominus Jesus 16 we read, "The Church's constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle)." The secular expression, "I'm okay. You're okay," is not a Christian concept. Our God is a jealous God as Exodus 34:14 says, "You shall not worship any other god, for the LORD is 'the Jealous One'; a jealous God is he."
The American culture sometimes judges religion only as a social function. The standard idea in the American society is that as long as you believe in something you are okay. Any religion is fine as long as it believes in God. You have to be open minded enough to keep religion to yourself, "after all it is a private matter - You and God and that is it!" That sounds like the Greco-Roman culture. Have we forgotten why the Christians were persecuted by the Romans? They were persecuted because they would not worship other gods and condemned the worship of other gods. The Greco-Roman culture condoned pluralism in their religious fervor. Christians did not and do not. Catholics have fought and died to preserve the Christian faith for two thousand years. Are we diluting the truth with unwanted pollution? Was the blood of the early martyrs shed in vain?
Ecumenism has been interpreted at times as the freedom to experience any faith and culture. After all, some Catholics may say, the Second Vatican Council encouraged dialogue among different religions. That is true as we read in the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions":17
The above quote taken out of context seems to reaffirm that any religion outside of Christ has some part of the truth. What the statement really says is that these religions may have an incomplete part of the truth. This is clarified if we read the statements that follow: "Indeed, she proclaims and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth and the life' (Jn 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19)." 19
The Catholic Church encourages us to establish dialogue with other religions, and to foster peaceful coexistence among all, but it does not say that the Catholic Church is equal to other religions. The Declaration Dominus Jesus 20 reaffirms that the Church is necessary for salvation. In life we are not in the market for the truth. We already found it. The truth of Christ is revealed in His Church: The Catholic Church.
As we study the history of the Western civilization, we learn that Christianity has brought humanity to the point of development that it is today. Yoga and Eastern philosophy sink the human soul into hopelessness, neglecting the world around and dismiss it as an "illusion." The product of the Eastern culture can be seen in the countries where it has been practiced for centuries. The picture is one of poverty and sorrow. Eastern philosophy practiced in yoga places the responsibility of salvation on the individual disregarding Jesus sacrifices for us.
The marketing technique used to promote yoga may sound scientific, but there is no basis in science for what is stated. Yoga is not a science, but a pseudo-science. 21 In today's society, the danger of yoga is that it can mislead innocent Christians to believe that it is an alternative way to getting healthier and obtaining relaxation in this busy world. The reality is that yoga is the initiation of an Eastern religion that does not believe in Christ as the savior of the world. A religion based on man's way of trying to explain God through human understanding alone. It makes the sacrifice of Christ worthless. It ignores the reality of Jesus Christ when He says: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."22
In today's health issues, we can see how hypnosis can use the mind to manipulate body rhythms and lead people in ways that are not usually possible. In 1957, Pius XII describes hypnosis, "Here a lowering of conciousness is intended to be brought about that the higher faculties might thereby be dulled in such a way as to paralyze the psychic control mechanism which men constantly use for self-mastery and self direction..." 23
Yoga exercises are geared toward detaching the mind from "reality." We do it to ourselves. We need to protect our ways and practices. The mind can be disturbed by tampering with it. In yoga, we are dealing with the mind. Our body and soul are so closely knitted that it is hard to separate them. Our human body is made-up like one of body, mind and spirit. The body is similar to my computer hardware; the mind is the program that runs it; and the spirit or soul is the hand that guides it. When you tamper with the body you affect the way the mind may see things and impair the spirit to guide it. Can we separate yoga exercises from the spiritual make up of yoga? Can we alienate the action from what is intended to do? Let us look at it from a Catholic point of view.
When talking to someone in the Hindu religion, who practices yoga, it is easy to conclude that they are trying to obtain salvation by their own efforts outside of Christ. They see Christ as a good person, an enlighten one, even a good prophet but that is it. The Hindu belief from which Yoga originated believes in reincarnation and predestination. It lessens the value of life. To put it simply, it makes life a recyclable commodity. In reincarnation, if your life doesn't work this time, there will be another chance in another life. There is no sin. There is no devil. According to yoga, God is an energy. It interpretes humanity without the divine revelation of Christ.
I heard Bishop Vasquez of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston describing a Catholic and saying that being Catholic is being in community. We are in community when we remain in the Church. Even monks and mystics, who yogis like to compare themselves to, lived in communities. St. Theresa of Avila 24 in her life time rejected "certain methods" which did not take into consideration the humanity of Jesus and were tempting her to submerse into the abyss of the divinity. We are to worship God with our free will, not giving up our free will. We align our will to God's will, but we never lose our identity. If we were to seek unity with God, like a yogi aspires to do, we would be looking for equality with God, something that not even Jesus looked for on this earth.25 Our attitude in our every day lives should be as Philipians 2:5-8 describes it:
If you search for "yoga" in the Vatican site 26 nothing turns up. Yoga is so foreign to the Catholic faith that there are no specific documents to address the issue. In reference to Hinduism, the Catholic Church has adopted a spirit of reconciliation with it and with different religions through out the world. Annually, it gathers leaders of different religions from around the world to pray for world peace. In the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, in 1965 27, it acknowledges that Hinduism leads men to contemplate the divine mystery "through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry." They do that searching for freedom from the human condition through ascetical practices or profound meditation. Nostra Aetate 28 also affirms the knowledge that:
Without the horizon of God, searching within by the use of yoga, a human being can get lost. With limited mental resources searching for the divine outside of Christ is dementia. It is a sin, because it is sinful to disregard the wondrous sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to try to reach salvation, health and redemption outside of Christ. With Christ's word ever present, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.30
Yoga is the taste of the "tree of knowledge."31 It promises health and peace to the troubled soul and the only thing that it asks in return is total abandonment of one's free will to something or someone that is quoted as universal energy. Yoga is non-Christian practice.
We need to be aware of the danger of yoking ourselves with pagan practices. As Paul says in 2 Cor 6:14: "Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?"
Humans are hungry for a closer relationship with God, but we have to remember that a relationship has to be nurtured and is not a "drive-through lane service" on which we decided what to get and when to get it. In the department of mystical experiences, God is in control, time and the place at His own choosing. "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you."32
To grow in our spirituality we cannot trust every experience as from God. We need to remember 1 John 4:1-3:
As the baby-boomers begin to age, they search for new ways to health and inner peace. Ponce de Leon embarqued in the same search when he came to Florida in 1513 searching for the Fountain of Youth. He did not find it, as the people who are looking for a "new way" in yoga will not find it either. When we wander away from our Catholic faith and begin experimenting with other religions searching for false promises, we are acting against the law of God as St. Augustine said "Love of self to the point of contempt for God."34 Good and evil, good and sin are no longer discernable because everything goes.
It is not possible to separate the movements and positions of yoga from its spirituality. We cannot separate the yoga exercise from the yoga beliefs. They go hand in hand. Just ask a yoga instructor where does it all lead to. They will tell you that yoga is just the beginning of a journey to "revitalizes and nourishes the mind, body, and spirit." 35
You can defend yourself against temptation if you know it is a temptation. You can stop yourself from sinning if you know that it is a sin. The danger of yoga it is that it seems harmless and it is not. It seems different, mysterious in many ways. It reminds me that the occult has always existed and the realm of the kingdom of the evil one is real on this earth. My experience is that once in yoga the self-sufficiency of the individual kicks in, and the individual creates its own way of finding "God" and ends up walking away from the Church and the sacraments. We need to know what we are getting into and it is not from the Triune God.
On a television program the other night, I heard a reporter say that "what made the attack on Pearl Harbor a total Japanese success was that the Japanese managed to keep it a total secret." What is making yoga a success in the American culture, it is that it has kept the secret that is a religion and leads its followers to believe that it is alternative health practice. It is attacking the Christian beliefs and the Christian churches do not even know it.
I will say about those who are introducing yoga to the Catholic faithful the same that Paul said about the prophets in the region of Achaia: "For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, who masquerade as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light."36
The reality of God's love for us is such that we never loose our own identity. God wants us to love Him but He respects our identity and in heaven we will have our identity. When we die, we will not blend into the essence of God. We will not become God. We will remain as individuals to worship God eternally and we will experience a joy that no human feeling can compare to. If we are able to give over to God all that we are and all that we have, our physical and spiritual well being will improve. The secret of happiness and peace is to say like Mother Theresa of Calcutta: "I am nothing but a pencil in God's hand" and leave everything to the Lord.
What can take the place of yoga? I think there are many alternatives. The one I would place at the top of the list is to go to daily Mass and to pray, talking to God as a friend. Walk for fifteen minutes each day while praying the rosary and then sit quietly thinking of the mysteries of our faith, giving thanks to God for every one of them. Instead of turning off your inner light of faith, shine the light of Christ to others. Make your life one of helping others, of showing genuine interest for the lives of your family members, of your friends, of your community. Make your life one of service. Begin by relating better to your loved ones. Call your husband and your children once a day and pray with them. Live each day as it was your last in love and service of Christ.
Mystical experiences are a gift from God which God initiates. In the Bible the vertical experiences with God gave great spiritual fruit for the community, for example Abraham and Moses. The encounter of Abraham and God which God initiated made possible a covenant between God and His people. 37 The encounter of Moses with God in the burning bush with God initiated compelled Moses to lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments 38 A true experience of God in Christ Jesus is shown by its fruit. If the Spirit is poured upon a soul the fruits of the Spirit will show through the actions of the individual.
In the Eastern religions and exercises, the body is the instrument by which we escape from the distractions of the outer world, seeking God within ourselves. Can we by technique or exercise achieve mystical experiences? No. God cannot be commanded to act. Your body can be commanded to act but only God or your free will can command your soul.
We are part of a greater picture. We can share our gifts. We are part of a reality not an illusion. In that reality of life, Christ has given us the Church and the sacraments but we cannot command the Lord to act upon our command. To desire or try to be like God is a sin against the first commandment. We, Catholics, believe that there is One Truth, Jesus Christ, and the best document to clarify that statement was written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith: "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." 39 Its content stands in defense of Jesus Christ which yoga is in direct oppossition to.
In summary, answering Janet's question: When we talk about separating the exercise of yoga from its spirituality, one thing comes to mind, can we separate the intent and the instrument of an action? For example, the gun from the person who pulled the trigger? The exercises of yoga are designed to detach the mind from the concentration of its surroundings. If you give away your alliance to Christ for the sake of your body is it worth it? I do not think so.
"May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless forthe coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."40
Carrera, Archbishop Norberto Rivera. "A Call
to Vigilance -Pastoral Instruction on New Age" Mexico City, Mexico.
January 7, 1996. in the August/September 1996 Issue of Catholic International.
My Testimony on Yoga and the New Age in General
I will tell you quickly the downward journey I took toward the loss of God.
Not being a practising Catholic, and attempting to better myself on the mistaken path, I did everything, always under the appearance of good. Encouraged by my friends I went to a woman who read cards, only out of curiosity. Later I began to read self-help books, a little of metaphysics, New Age writings, etc.
A lover of sports, and tired of the routine, I began, also encouraged by a friend, to do yoga at a well known fraternity. A few months later I left it because they were manipulating the will of the women. I moved to another "more serious" yoga group. Newly arrived Italian rishis, with masters and all. There I learnt another type of austere life. I read much on Buddhism, Taoism, other masters, yoga techniques and New Age in general; all appeared to me very stimulating and new.
I met different people and they all seemed to be very pleasant. For more than five years I learned and performed diverse meditations, asanas, vegeterianism, seminars conducted and paid by the guru, fasts, tai-chi... all very interesting for the one who is searching and does not know Jesus. I distanced myself from my family and from the world.
The result. One fine day I woke up levitating above my bed... with a spiritual creature, like an octopus, grabbing my head. With a play of words, I had surrendered my soul. In an attempt to remove that which consumed all my energy, I did what should not be done. I looked for other women who cured or delivered. All of these persons had imges of the Virgin or went to Church, so it was difficult to mistrust them or doubt. They did reiki, bioenerby, cosmic energy and whatever the spiritual market offered as "alternative". If there was a slight improvement it was only momentary. Pollution and more spiritual pollution. As one cannot see.....
Finally, thanks be to God, I entered the Church. Salvation came firstly in the Legion of Mary and then the Charismatic Prayer Group. I survived the first year thanks to the charismatic retreats in Padre Hurtado, Chile, from month to month. My life has been very difficult since then... but always accompanied and comforted by Jesus and Mary.
I want to share what I saw is behind yoga and by whom it is being used. It produces a great confusion of values, robs the energy and causes total loss of freedom. Christian yoga is a contradiction. Parishes should not conduct practices utilised by the New Age and which lead to arrogance and spiritual pride.
"Asanas" are spiritual exercises invoking other gods... that is idolatry. The mind cannot be made blank during meditation and exercises because it is dangerous. There is a spiritual world we cannot see and that the Bible mentions (Eph. 6:12)
Finally, it is more than 5 years since I am looking for healing, with persecutions, mental and spiritual attacks. I have received a lot of help from priests and a Catholic psychiatrist. There has been a lot of deliverance and much personal and shared prayer. Confessions, prayer of renunciation of all past practices, prayer of renunciation at confession, renouncing the devil and all previous practices, prayer for forgiveness for myself and for all those who harmed me for so long as well. Hours before the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Mass and the Eucharist daily, prayer groups and several rosaries daily.
I want you to know that the devil exists, as well as demonic spirits
and people who work for them. Not everything that shines is gold. Jesus
in the only one who heals, saves and sets free. He makes all things new.
I believe. Jesus, who is God, came and for love of us gave up his life.
Yoga and horoscopes can lead to possession by
Devil, claims Cardinal's exorcist
LONDON – Atheism is becoming a key cause of demonic influence in the world, a British exorcist has warned.
Father Jeremy Davies, exorcist of the Archdiocese of Westminster, which
covers most of London, said that the “spirits inspiring atheism” were those
who “hate God.”
In the book published by the London-based Catholic Truth Society, he
said that sin was the primary reason why people lost their freedom to the
power of the devil.
The priest, who is based in the town of Luton, north of London, said that key among the transgressions that have a “special affinity” with Satan was “rebellion against God” – which included the sins of blasphemy, atheism and attacks on Christ and the church – as well as sins against the light, when people resisted God’s grace.
He also warned Catholics to be wary of what he called the “idolatrous demonic side” of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and the druidism that had its origins in ancient Britain.
The exorcist denounced “new revelations” and criticized Mohammed, founder of Islam; Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, now called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. He called them “heretical prophets and false messiahs” who led their followers to a “demonic bondage of conscience.”
Father Davies’ strongest condemnation, however, was reserved for the
pride of modern atheistic scientists.
His book also spells out the degrees of demonic influence a person may
experience, ranging from temptation and sin to obsession, then possession,
with perfect possession being the gravest and rarest form that usually
entails a deliberate commitment to evil on the part of the person involved.
Father Davies told the reader that if a person is in desperate need
of help and feels stranded, he or she should go straight to the local bishop.
GUIDELINES FOR EVALUATING REIKI AS AN ALTERNATIVE THERAPY
Committee on Doctrine
1. From time to time questions have been raised about various alternative therapies that are often available in the United States. Bishops are sometimes asked, "What is the Church's position on such therapies?" The USCCB Committee on Doctrine has prepared this resource in order to assist bishops in their responses.
I. HEALING BY DIVINE GRACE AND HEALING BY NATURAL POWERS
2. The Church recognizes two kinds of healing: healing by
divine grace and healing that utilizes the powers of
nature. As for the first, we can point
to the ministry of Christ, who performed
many physical healings and who commissioned his disciples to carry on that
work. In fidelity to this commission, from the time of the Apostles
the Church has interceded on behalf of
3. The two kinds of healing are not mutually exclusive. Because
it is possible to be healed by divine power does not mean that we should
not use natural means at our disposal. It is not our decision
whether or not God will heal someone by supernatural means. As the
Catechism of the Catholic Church points out,
the Holy Spirit sometimes gives to
certain human beings "a special charism of healing so
as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord."2
II. REIKI AND HEALING
A) The Origins and Basic Characteristics of Reiki
4. Reiki is a technique of healing that was invented in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts.4 According to Reiki teaching, illness is caused by some kind of disruption or imbalance in one's "life energy." A Reiki practitioner effects healing by placing his or her hands in certain positions on the patient's body in order to facilitate the flow of Reiki, the "universal life energy," from the Reiki practitioner to the patient. There are numerous designated hand positions for addressing different problems. Reiki proponents assert that the practitioner is not the source of the healing energy, but merely a channel for it.5 To become a Reiki practitioner, one must receive an "initiation" or "attunement" from a Reiki Master. This ceremony makes one "attuned" to the "universal life energy" and enables one to serve as a conduit for it. There are said to be three different levels of attunement (some teach that there are four). At the higher levels, one can allegedly channel Reiki energy and effect healings at a distance, without physical contact.
B) Reiki as a Natural Means of Healing
5. Although Reiki proponents seem to agree that Reiki does not represent a religion of its own, but a technique that may be utilized by people from many religious traditions, it does have several aspects of a religion. Reiki is frequently described as a "spiritual" kind of healing as opposed to the common medical procedures of healing using physical means. Much of the literature on Reiki is filled with references to God, the Goddess, the "divine healing power," and the "divine mind." The life force energy is described as being directed by God, the "Higher Intelligence," or the "divine consciousness." Likewise, the various "attunements" which the Reiki practitioner receives from a Reiki Master are accomplished through "sacred ceremonies" that involve the manifestation and contemplation of certain "sacred symbols" (which have traditionally been kept secret by Reiki Masters). Furthermore, Reiki is frequently described as a "way of living," with a list of five "Reiki Precepts" stipulating proper ethical conduct.
6. Nevertheless, there are some Reiki
practitioners, primarily nurses, who attempt
to approach Reiki simply as a natural
means of healing. Viewed as natural means
of healing, however, Reiki becomes subject to the standards of natural
science. It is true that there may be means of natural healing that
have not yet been understood or recognized by science. The basic
criteria for judging whether or not one should entrust oneself to any particular
natural means of healing, however, remain those of science.
C) Reiki and the Healing Power of Christ
8. Some people have attempted to identify Reiki with the divine healing known to Christians.6 They are mistaken. The radical difference can be immediately seen in the fact that for the Reiki practitioner the healing power is at human disposal. Some teachers want to avoid this implication and argue that it is not the Reiki practitioner personally who effects the healing, but the Reiki energy directed by the divine consciousness. Nevertheless, the fact remains that for Christians the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique that is passed down from the "Reiki Master" to the pupil, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results.7 Some practitioners attempt to Christianize Reiki by adding a prayer to Christ, but this does not affect the essential nature of Reiki. For these reasons, Reiki and other similar therapeutic techniques cannot be identified with what Christians call healing by divine grace.
9. The difference between what Christians recognize as healing by divine
grace and Reiki therapy is also evident in the basic terms used by Reiki
proponents to describe what happens in Reiki therapy, particularly
that of "universal life energy." Neither
the Scriptures nor the Christian tradition as a whole
speak of the natural world as based on "universal life energy" that is
subject to manipulation by the natural human power of thought and will.
In fact, this world- view has its origins in eastern religions and has
a certain monist and pantheistic character, in that distinctions
among self, world, and God tend to
fall away.8 We
have already seen that Reiki practitioners are unable
to differentiate clearly between divine healing power and power that is
at human disposal.
10. Reiki therapy finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief. For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems. In terms of caring for one's physical health or the physical health of others, to employ a technique that has no scientific support (or even plausibility) is generally not prudent.
11. In terms of caring for one's spiritual health, there are important dangers. To use Reiki one would have to accept at least in an implicit way central elements of the worldview that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man's-land that is neither faith nor science.9 Superstition corrupts one's worship of God by turning one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction.10 While sometimes people fall into superstition through ignorance, it is the responsibility of all who teach in the name of the Church to eliminate such ignorance as much as possible.
12. Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.
Most Rev. William E. Lori (Chairman) Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt
Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli
Most Rev. José H. Gomez Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron
Most Rev. Robert J. McManus Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl
1 See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
Instruction on Prayers for Healing (14 September 2000), I, 3: "Obviously,
recourse to prayer does not exclude, but rather encourages the use of effective
natural means for preserving and restoring health, as well as leading the
Church's sons and daughters to care for the sick, to assist them in body
and spirit, and to seek to cure disease."