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Yoga in Philosophy and Practice 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 us free.
 

APPENDIX I

 Yoga: Theory and Practice: Separable?
by John Ankerberg and John Weldon

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:
 

We are all aware that yoga means "union"and that the practice of yoga unites body, breath, and mind, lower and higher energy centers and, ultimately, self and God, or higher Self. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and equally fragmented world. Family, friends, the Druze guerrilla in Lebanon, the great whale migrating north - all share the same essential [divine] nature  (594:4) . 

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:
 

 Physical yoga, according to its classical definitions, is inheritably and functionally incapable of being separated from Eastern religious metaphysics. The Western practitioner who attempts to do so is operating in ignorance and danger, from the yogi's viewpoint, as well as from the Christian's  (725:2) .

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:
 

 Again, we see that the control of the vital energy (prana) by way of breathing, like also asana, is not merely a physical exercise, but is accompanied by certain psychomental phenomena. In other words, all techniques falling under the heading of asana and pranayama as, for example, the mudras and bandhas [physical positions or symbolic bodily gestures utilizing pranayama and concentration for physical or spiritual purposes] of Hathayoga, are psychosomatic exercises. This point, unfortunately, is little understood by Western practitioners...  (593:27-28) 

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]
Niyama (religious duties, prohibitions, observances)
Asana (proper postures for yoga practices; these represent the first stage in the isolation of consciousness and are vital components for "transcending the human condition" 601:54)
Pranayama (the control and directing of the breath and the alleged divine energy within the human body [prana] to promote health and spiritual [occult] consciousness and evolution)
Prayahara (sensory control or deprivation, i.e., withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects)
Dharana (deeper concentration, or mind control)
Dhyana (deep contemplation from occult meditation)
Samadhi (occult enlightenment or "God [Brahman] realization" i.e., "union" of the "individual" with God).

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":"
 

 What power on earth would not be his? He would be able to move the sun and stars out of their places, to control everything in the universe from the atoms to the biggest suns. This is the end and aim of pranayama. When the yogi becomes perfect there will be nothing in nature not under his control. If he orders the gods or the soul of the departed to come, they will come at his bidding. All the forces of nature will obey him as slaves.... He who has controlled prana has controlled his own mind all the minds... and all the bodies that exist...  (979:592-93) 

The aim of pranayama is also to arouse the coiled-up power in the muladhara chakra called kundalini:
 

 Then the whole of nature will begin to change and the door of [psychic] knowledge will open. No more will you need to go to books for knowledge; your own mind will have become your book, containing infinite knowledge  (979:605) 

According to Vivekananda, all occult manifestations are accomplished through yogic control of prana:
 

 We see in every country sects that attempted to control of prana. In this country there are mind healers, spiritualists, Christian Scientists, hypnotists, and so on. If we examine these different sects, we shall find at the back of each is the control of prana, whether they know it or not. If you boil all the theories down, the residuum will be that. It is one and the same force they are manipulating. .. Thus we see that pranayama includes all that is true even of spiritualism. Similarly, you will find that wherever any sect or body of people is trying to discover anything occult, mysterious, or hidden, they are really practicing some sort of yoga to control their prana. You will find that wherever there is any extraordinary display of power, it is the manipulation of prana  (979:593,599) 

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.
[...more...]

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:
In providing the reader with a basic critical assessment, we had three goals in mind. One was to document and critique the collective impact of the "new spirituality" in our culture. Another was to document the fundamentally spiritistic nature or potential of these practices and teachings. Finally, we wanted to describe and assess the overall validity or invalidity of the topics from different perspectives, such as scientific, ethical, medical, and biblical.

- Footnotes -
Bibliography numbered as in the book. First number refers to the reference; second number to the page number(s).
593:4. Editorial, Yoga Journal, May/June 1984. Back
725:2. Dave Fetcho, "Yoga," Berkeley, CA:Spiritual Counterfeits Project, 1978. Back
592:14. Gopi Krishna, "The True Aim of Yoga," Psychic, January-February, 1973. Back
593:27-28. George Feuerstein, Jeanine Miller, Yoga and Beyond: Essays in Indian Philosophy, New York: ScSchocken1972. Back
593:8. George Feuerstein, Jeanine Miller, Yoga and Beyond: Essays in Indian Philosophy, New York:Schockenn, 1972. Back
595:41. Moti Lal Pandit, "Yoga as Methods of Liberation," Update: A Quarterly Journal on New Religious Movements, Aarhus, Denmark: The Dialogue Center, vol. 9, no. 4, December 1985. Back
596. Rammurti S. Mishra, Yoga Sutras: The Textbook of Yoga Psychology, Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1973. Back
979:592. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:592. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:592. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:605. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:593,599. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
 

APPENDIX II

Former instructor warns of yoga’s spiritual implications
Jim Brown - Journal Chrétien, France. Feb 2, 2007

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.
"Maybe it is being reduced to just an exercise regimen", Shreve says. But for those who are not taught the differences and those who are not exposed to the spiritual roots of yoga", he warns, "that can be the first step - in a very wrong direction - that will lead them into the meditative aspects of yoga and the false religious overtones that are involved in the practice of yoga."

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.

APPENDIX III

YOGA: Can We Separate the Exercise From the Philosophy?
Johanna Michaelsen.
From the book "Like Lambs to the Slaughter" (pp. 93-95)

"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"
 

APPENDIX IV

Innocent Yoga?
by Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon

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.
Even when yoga is practiced innocently, it can eventually produce dramatic occult transformation. "Personality changes can be brought about in Hatha Yoga by changing the body so that it influences the mind." 1 Consider the experience of Christina Grof, who, prior to her experience with yoga, was an average housewife with normal plans for her life. She took up yoga entirely without suspicion as a practice that would help her physically during her pregnancy. After all, there are widespread claims that "during pregnancy, yoga exercises are extremely beneficial and will keep you supple and relaxed." 2

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:
 

During the birth of my first child, for which I had prepared with the Lamaze method of breathing (very much like yogic pranayama), this enormous spiritual force was released in me. Of course, I didn’t understand it and was given morphine to stop it as soon as the baby was born.... Then the same thing happened when my second child was born. This all led to more and more experiences. I threw myself into yoga, although still not acknowledging it as a spiritual tool. My meeting with Swami Muktananda really blew the lid off everything. He served as a catalyst to awaken what I had been resisting, which was kundalini (the universal life force). 3


Thus, an innocently practiced yoga-for-exercise routine led to numerous psychic experiences that had the cumulative impact of dramatically changing her life. She became a disciple of the Hindu guru Muktananda and then, as we will see, a leader in the New Age Movement with a specific mission: to assist people who were having "spiritual emergencies" from their occult practices and help them to "properly interpret" and successfully integrate these "divine" experiences into their lives. 4

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 in heaven:
 

Currents of electrical energy began to permeate my head and went down into my body.... It was as if a spell had come over me, the bliss that I felt was as if I had been touched by God. The power that had come from his hand, and simply being in his presence, drew me to him irresistibly.


The night after receiving her mantra, Carole was visited by a spirit being who claimed to be the spirit of Swami Rama himself. Although no one had ever mentioned the spirit world in her church (they did not believe in such things), Carole felt that this was the means of directly communing with God. She experienced wonderful powerful forces and energies, while thoughts entered her mind with a magnetic-like force:
 

Electrical currents were pulsating around my body and then moved into my hand, the currents were shaking my hand and strong, almost entrancing thoughts were impressed into my mind, "Meditate, meditate. I want to speak with you." It was a miracle. I was communicating with the spirit world. I had found God. Sitting in the darkness of my living room I began to repeat my mantra. A presence seemed to fill the room. I began to see visions of being one with the universe and the magnetic thoughts were now leaving and I was hearing a voice, which identified itself as Swami Rama, saying he was communicating with me through astral travel.


Within one week, after meditating many hours each day and still in constant communication with this spirit, forces began to come upon me and gave me powers to do yoga postures; I was floating through them, the forces giving me added breath even… postures that before would be very painful to do.

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.
 

I had to endure the torture, unable to free myself. To those around me I was insane. No one believed me and no one could free me. The hopelessness I felt was unbearable. No one believed me except the psychics... and they could do nothing.

I was defenseless against these never-ending attacks... hundreds of presences filling my room, which itself would be filled with thick, ice cold air, my body drenched with perspiration as my whole being fought against them.

After spending several weeks at my parents’ we decided perhaps I could try returning home. But that night the spirits started to exert their full power.

First, against my skull. I felt as if they were trying to crack it open, like the air was being cut off to my brain. Incredible pressure was exerted upon my back and chest, pulling with a wrench-like grip. It felt like they were trying to pull my shoulder from its socket, pressing on my eyes trying to blind me, pushing on my throat trying to choke me. Filled with fear and exhaustion, on the brink of death I screamed to my husband, "I’m dying; I can’t take it anymore. Get me to the hospital."

I was taken to the hospital where I laid like a scared dog cowering on a cart. I could hardly speak but at least the spirits were gone—temporarily.... The doctor on duty recommended a psychiatrist who saw me the next morning. He told me I was covering up some deep problems with this "talk of evil spirits." "There is no such thing as the devil," he said coldly.


Carole admitted herself to the hospital, but once more no one could help. The attacks finally subsided and she was released. Upon returning home, the attacks began again. More unimaginable torment. Although she was terrified of dying, death was now her desire. Wishing to take her life but too fearful of dying, she readmitted herself to the hospital. Once again, she was placed in locked ward. She felt that here she would die, alone and in torment

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.

Notes:

1. Ann Hill, ed., A Visual Encyclopedia of Unconventional Medicine, New York: Crown Publishers, 1979, p. 223.
2. Brian Inglis, Ruth West, The Alternative Health Guide, New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983, p. 143.
3. Stan and Christina Grof, "Spiritual Emergencies," Yoga Journal, July-August 1984, p. 40.
4. Stanislav Grof, Christina Grof (eds), Spiritual Emergency, Los Angeles, CA: J. P. Tarcher, 1989.
5. Grof, Yoga Journal, p. 41.
6. cf. Grof, Spiritual Emergency, p. 227.
7. Ibid., pp. 77-97.
8. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Coming Darkness: Confronting Occult Deception, Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993.
 

APPENDIX V

Yoga  -  Health or Stealth?
 by Clare McGrath Merkle

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
 release from the cycle of rebirth.

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.
The core beliefs of this ancient discipline are, at best, incompatible with Christian doctrine, having been negated by the radical entrance of Christ into human history. Through the Paschal Mystery of His death and resurrection, we and the physical world were redeemed from sin and we were enabled to enter heaven.
While, doctrinally, yoga is an ancient outdated attempt to attain divine union, practically, this fact means little to a lukewarm laity that is hungry for access to spiritual experiences that they believe (erroneously) their own tradition denies them. Our goal must not only be to point out the hazards of yogic philosophy and practice, but to replace any false concepts and influences by offering seekers the true Living Water that is the gospel and love of Jesus Christ.

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 of yoga.
It is important to note that historically, in the east, advanced yoga practice was only permitted within narrowly defined parameters. Students practiced under the strict guidance of a yogi in controlled, slowly advancing stages in stress-free settings. Higher levels involving breath work and energy work were always reserved for those initiates successfully completing years of the purification which decreased the likelihood of problems.
Now, even in all but the most rigorous ashrams in the west, advanced yogic practices are imparted at weekend or week-long getaways and some yoga teachers receive certifications after only months of study. In addition, yoga techniques are taught by psychologists and intermingled with avant-guard psychological release work methods such as rolfing or rebirthing which are intended to break through unresolved issues and remove deep emotional blocks through either the expression of strong emotions or rough physical massage - a recipe for disaster.
Several months ago, one enthusiast completed certification as a yoga instructor after only a year's study. She traveled for a weekend workshop on holotropic breathing - a way of accessing childhood trauma through heavy yoga-like breathing techniques designed to induce altered states of mind. For some time afterward, she was in total bliss and believed it was the divine will she leave her family. These kinds of therapy weekends have innumerable casualties. Treatment centers/retreats for those suffering these kinds of psychotic breaks and nervous exhaustion are much needed.
True advanced yogic practitioners are the first to warn about the dangers inherent in yoga, a science designed to remove unconscious blocks, incite untapped psychological wells of emotions, and enervate the nervous system. Unfortunately, the most commonly heard remark after a yogic practitioner experiences a psychotic break due to his yogic practices is that "he went too fast" or "she has bad karma to work out". Hatha Yoga, then, while hailed as merely a physical self-improvement technique, goes much farther in practical terms.
Two other yogas of immense popularity are Tantric and Kundalini Yogas. Tantra Yoga is a product of Shaktiism, the worship of the Hindu supreme goddess, Shakti (Power). Shakti is worshiped as both the divine will and the divine mother who calls for absolute surrender. In her fierce destructive aspect she is depicted as Kali. Shakti is also the power that lies dormant in the base of the spine, coiled like a serpent (kundalini). Kundalini energy is aroused and guided up the spine to open chakras and attain spiritual liberation. It is the rising of this serpent power that marks the removal of karma and the push toward enlightenment.
Tantric practices are found in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sects and are classified as secret esoteric practices involving purification, control of psychological processes as well as spells, rituals, symbols, black magic and necromancy. Tantraism utilizes sexual energy (whether through ritualized overt sex acts or subtle psycho-spiritual stimulation) to achieve bliss states. Secret tantric texts are also the basis of the "healing" technique known as Reiki - most popular now in Catholic circles and promoted at many hospital healing centers. Reiki has as its base the use of secret tantric practices which are most deadly and damaging spiritually.

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.
Many of the progressively stronger manifestations of supernormal powers and phenomena accompanying serious yogic practice are well documented both in the east and west. There can be no doubt that these events occur, which are the effects of practice. For example, kundalini episodes, where the student experiences marked physiological phenomena, can include the spontaneous assumption of strange and difficult yoga postures. One such posture - standing on one's head alone - has been observed, for example, in one Catholic saint, during a flight of ecstasy. Sweet aromas, the hearing of celestial choirs and musical instruments, bilocation, healing powers and ecstasies are all well documented experiences of yoga masters and adepts. Western students, in reading of or visiting these adepts, become convinced of the philosophy's veracity and benefit.

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?
We must know how to dissect not only the philosophy of yoga but the flawed logic behind its practices. We must also realize that the greatest lies have the most truth in them. There is much truth in yoga. The Nazi SS were trained to lie as closely to the truth as possible to establish the bond of trust with their victims.
We must be willing to hold those who seek out counsel gently but strongly in the truth of Jesus Christ.

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.
At its best, yoga is a very beautiful and intricate system devised thousands of years ago to mimic the states and powers of saints in order to attain their virtue. At its worst, it is a tool of hidden and dangerous power that destroys minds and lives. At its heart, it is nothing more than a flawed shadow of the truth in comparison to the power of the Paschal Mystery and the sacraments. In any light, it is now incontrovertibly incompatible with and antithetical to the Christian walk.

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.
About the author: Clare McGrath Merkle is the editor of The Cross and Veil website and was once involved in the New Age as a "healer" and advanced Kriya yoga practitioner. The site is the fruit of ten years of personal renewal and five years of efforts at evangelization.

This article is reproduced from Clare McGrath's website - crossveil.org
 

APPENDIX VI

NEW AGE: Catholic Faith and Yoga - Incompatible
by Catherine Marie Rhodes

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:
As a Catholic contributor, I never write for human respect. If that were my purpose, I would have already curtailed writing. Because my intent is to speak the truth, I never expect a pat on the back. But I maintain it pleases me to learn that my work does not always fall on deaf ears. Like most Christian writers I have encountered admirers and detractors. The positive feedback has been rewarding, but one specific incident is prominent amid the others.

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.
A few minutes after the guru re-entered the church, Mary recited the Blessed St. Michael’s prayer and re-entered the church as well. She slowly opened the door to the Chapel and was horrified by what she witnessed. The Chapel was dark with the exception of a few dimly lit recessed lights. Mary thought, “I’ve never seen an aerobics class like this before near a consecrated altar.”

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
 

APPENDIX VII

Yoga & Christianity, ARE THEY COMPATIBLE?
February 2006 By Joel S. Peters

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 origins of Yoga date back as far as 5,000 years, and for a long time the principles of Yoga were passed on as oral tradition. This tradition was eventually committed to writing, and Yoga thus made its appearance in the four ancient Hindu writings known as the Vedas, the oldest of which dates to about 1500 B.C. An individual named Patañjali later compiled and codified the sum total knowledge about Yoga. Sources vary on when this occurred, with dates ranging anywhere from the fourth century B.C. to the second century A.D. His work, called the Yoga Sutra, is the authoritative text on Yoga and is recognized by all of its schools.

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?
You will certainly find plenty of denials of any connections between Yoga and religion from some authors and instructors. Consider the following examples: "Yoga is not a religion, therefore it can be practiced in partnership with any religious belief" (Rammurti S. Mishra, Fundamentals of Yoga). "Yoga is a complete system of how to live our lives. It leads us to a whole new way of living. It is not a religion, yet it can be combined with a religion to increase the richness of any tradition" (Mischala Joy Devi, The Healing Path of Yoga). "Some people think that yoga is calisthenics, epitomized by the headstand, the lotus posture, or another pretzel-like pose. Others think it is a system of meditation. Yet others regard it, perhaps fearfully, as a religion. All these stereotypes are misleading" (Georg Feuerstein and Stephan Bodian, eds., Living Yoga). "So what is Yoga, anyway? Yoga is not just stretching, just breathing, or just meditation. It is not just crossing your legs, closing your eyes, putting your thumbs and forefingers together and chanting 'Om....' And it is certainly not a cult or religion" (Larry Payne and Richard Usatine, Yoga Rx).

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?
At the heart of Hinduism is a monistic worldview -- one which maintains that all reality is ultimately one and that it shares a common divine "essence." In other words, my own true self or identity is really the same identity as all other beings. While the labels for this essence vary (e.g., universal mind, cosmic consciousness, a higher reality, eternal self), they all convey the same basic concept, namely, that the universe is comprised of an eternal, divine spiritual energy, and all entities in existence -- including humans -- are extensions of this energy. Yoga is the vehicle that unites the practitioner (male = Yogi, female = Yogini) with this cosmic energy. The task of the Yogi, then, is two-fold: (1) to discard the "erroneous" notion that each person is a unique being distinct from the rest of creation, and (2) to "become one" with this cosmic energy or so-called higher reality.

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 Religious Aspects?
I submit that this question is misleading and betrays some ignorance on the part of the person asking it. It's misleading because it presupposes that a dichotomy can be made between the physical postures of Yoga and its underlying spirituality; it betrays ignorance because the Christian practitioner who asks it, in all likelihood, has not done research on Yoga before undertaking it. If he had, he would have realized that Yoga is by its very nature a Hindu religious practice.

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?
Yes. In a 1989 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation (hereafter Aspects), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith focused on various Eastern spiritual practices and the legitimacy of their inclusion into the spiritual lives of Christians. In a footnote contained in Number 2, Aspects specifically states that "The expression 'eastern methods' is used to refer to methods which are inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism, such as Zen, Transcendental Meditation or Yoga." So the Magisterium clearly has Yoga in mind when addressing the issue of Christians using Eastern spiritual practices.

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?
Yes. Recall that Aspects stated “psychic disturbances” could result from a discrepancy between a mystical experience and the state of the person’s soul. In other words, a person who is experiencing actual mystical phenomena but who is not deeply grounded in Christ may find himself dealing with some serious spiritual anomalies. It should not surprise us, then, to discover that psychic phenomena are part and parcel of Yoga’s “benefits.” For example, Rammurti S. Mishra (cited above) claims that through Yoga a person can “. . . acquire the power of seeing and knowing without the help of other senses. . .”, “. . . know past events and future incidents . . . ”, “. . . open the third eye in you, which is called . . . [the] ‘divine eye’”, expect to experience auras and astral bodies which “ . . . are coming to serve him [the Yogi]”, and obtain the powers of clairaudience and clairvoyance. One only has to browse the pages of the Old Testament to see that such abilities are really occult powers and are condemned by God in the most unequivocal and forceful terms (cf. Lev. 19:26, 31; Deut. 18:9-14; 2 Kgs. 17:13-15, 17-18; 2 Chr. 33:1-2, 6).

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.

Conclusion
Yoga is inextricably grounded in a philosophy and a religious worldview that are substantially contrary to the Christian faith. Its express purpose is the achievement of altered states of consciousness that lead to spiritual "enlightenment." Perhaps the latent danger in Christians using Yoga is best summed up in an honest admission by Feuerstein and Bodian: "Admittedly, many aspects of yoga have a Hindu flavor, such as the Sanskrit mantras (sacred sounds) that practitioners may recite aloud or repeat mentally, or the ideas of moral retribution (karma) and reincarnation.... People of any religious or spiritual persuasion, as well as open-minded agnostics, can practice yoga with great benefit. Ultimately, however, they tend to have the kinds of yogic experiences that cause them at least to entertain, if not adopt, the theories offered by the yoga tradition" (emphasis added). Oh? And I thought Yoga was merely about physical exercise.
 

APPENDIX VIII

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:

Peace be with you! I am a high school youth minister at a Catholic church. Recently a debate has arisen among members of our parish staff about Yoga. The basic debate is thus: is it possible to separate the movements and positions of yoga from the spirituality? Several members of our staff do yoga at the church once a week and they claim that it's just exercise -- totally separate from any sort of religious ties.

I'd be interested in reading your treatise and hearing the results of your research in this area. Thanks! In Christ, Janet 1

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:

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. 5

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

Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which the human blood is decarbonated and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues. The advanced yogi transmutes his cells into pure energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir, and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to dematerialize at will. 14

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 Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men." 18

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:

"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,  Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

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:

"The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself." 29

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:

"Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh be longs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world."33

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

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." www.vatican.va The Vatican Sept. 2000.
Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, "Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian." www.vatican.va The Vatican . May 24, 1990
Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, "Letter for the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation" www.vatican.va The Vatican October 15, 1989.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Notification Concerning the Writings of Fr. Anthony DeMello, S.J." Vatican Information Service, August 22, 1998.
Dreher, Rev. John D. "The Danger of Centering Prayer." http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0005.html
Gessy, Rev. Lawrence J. "The Basic Conflicts between Mahrishi and Christianity." Today's Destructive Cults and Movements, Our Sunday Visitor:Huntington, IN.
Gormley, William J., C.M., S.T.L. Medical Hypnosis, Historical Introduction to Its Morality in the Light of Papal, Theological and Medical Teaching - A Dissertation. The Catholic University of America Press:Washington, D.C. (1961)
Hardon, Fr. John A. S.J. "Why is Yoga incompatible with Catholicism? - Ask Father Hardon" The Catholic Faith 4, no. 2. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, CA. (March/April 1998) Notra Aetate - Vatican II's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions
www.vatican.va The Vatican (1965). St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei The New American Bible at http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/index.htm Tweed, Thomas A. and Prothero, Stephen A. Asian Religions in America: A Documentary
History, Oxford University Press, 1999.



1 Janet is not her real name.
2 Ana is not her real name.
3 Col 2:8
4 THE DHARMA CENTER, 13817 Southwest Freeway, Sugar Land, TX 77478 - It offers yoga, t'ai chi, pilates, massage therapy, healing touch, aromatherapy, etc.
5 'Letter for the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation' by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. October 15, 1989.
6 Acts 17:28
7 John 10:30
8 "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican. September 2000. #6 9 Cf. Dreher, Rev. John D. 'The Danger of Centering Prayer.' From http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0005.html
10 Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.' Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican. May 24, 1990.
11 Ibid.
12 Yogananda, Paramhansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. Paramhansa Yogananda. First Edition 1946.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public the "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" on September 2000. It is available at the Vatican site - www.vatican.va.
17 Notra Aetate - Vatican II's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (1965), #2.
18 From Notra Aetate: "Religions... that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus, in Hinduism men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism in its various forms realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men in a devout and confident spirit may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life and sacred rites.' "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. 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 Notra Aetate - Vatican II's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (1965), #2.
20 Refer to footnote #17.
21 False science.
22 John 14:6
23 Gormley, William J., C.M., S.T.L. Medical Hypnosis, Historical Introduction to Its Morality in the Light of Papal, Theological and Medical Teaching - A Dissertation. The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C. (1961) pp 126.
24 From the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church 'On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation' by the Congregation of Faith - October 15, 1989. Footnote #12. Pope John Paul II has pointed out to the whole Church the example and the doctrine of St. Teresa of Avila who in her life had to reject the temptation of certain methods which proposed a leaving aside of the humanity of Christ in favor of a vague self-immersion in the abyss of the divinity. In a homily given on November 1, 1982, he said that the call of Teresa of Jesus advocating a prayer completely centered on Christ "is valid, even in our day, against some methods of prayer which are not inspired by the Gospel and which in practice tend to set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity. Any method of prayer is valid insofar as it is inspired by Christ and leads to Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6)." See: "Homilia Abulae habita in honorem Sanctae Teresiae:" AAS 75 (1983), 256-257.
25 Phil 2:5-8
26 www.vatican.va
27 The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Cf. John 8:32
31 Cf. Gen 2:9,17.
32 John 15:16
33 1 John 4:1-3
34 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIV, 28: CCL 48, p. 541.
35 http://www.arlingtonyogacenter.com/aboutyoga.html
36 2 Cor 11:13-14
37 [Gen 17:8] I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God." [Gen 17:9] God also said to Abraham: "On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.
38 [Exo 34:27] Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with them I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
[Exo 34:28] So Moses stayed there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
39 Refer to footnote #17.
40 1 Thessalonians 5:23
 

APPENDIX IX

My Testimony on Yoga and the New Age in General
Name witheld with permission of the author to maintain confidentiality
Argentina, March, 2005

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.
 
 

APPENDIX X

Yoga and horoscopes can lead to possession by Devil, claims Cardinal's exorcist
By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

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 a new 56-page book called “Exorcism: Understanding Exorcism in Scripture and Practice,” Father Davies wrote that Satan had blinded secular humanists from seeing the “dehumanizing effects of contraception and abortion and IVF (in vitro fertilization), of homosexual ‘marriages,’ of human cloning and the vivisection of human embryos in scientific research.”
The result, he said, was that Europe was drifting into a dangerous state of apostasy whereby “only (through) a genuine personal decision for Christ and the church can someone separate himself from it.”

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.
Father Davies also said atheism was largely to blame for entrapping people in states of “perversion.”
The book raised concerns about “some very unpleasant things” that endanger young people especially, and the priest said, “We must do what we can to protect and warn them.”
He called occult practices such as magic, fortunetelling and contacting the spirits of the dead “direct invitations to the devil which he readily accepts.” He said such practices involve the abandonment of self-control, making them as corrupting an influence as hard drugs, demonic music and pornography.
At the same time, Father Davies said the “thin end of the wedge,” such as soft drugs, yoga for relaxation and horoscopes for fun, were just as dangerous.
“Beware of any claim to mediate beneficial energies (e.g. reiki), any courses that promise the peace ... Christ promises (e.g. enneagrams), any alternative therapy with its roots in Eastern religion (e.g. acupuncture),” he added.
“They are not harmless,” said Father Davies, a former medical doctor who was ordained in 1974 and has been an exorcist since 1986. “Sanity depends on our relationship to reality.”
Father Davies also said it was not uncommon for people who later turned away from sinful lifestyles to undergo periods of supernatural oppression as the devil fought them for their souls.

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.
“Pride is the specific trait of Satan,” he said. “There are two kinds of Satanism: ‘occultic,’ in which Satan is worshiped as a person; and what is said to be even more terrible and certainly is even more deceived, ‘rationalist,’ in which Satan is regarded as an impersonal force or symbol and the glory belongs to the Satanists.
“How close to rationalist Satanism, without realizing it, is atheistic scientism – the hubris of science going beyond its proper sphere and moral boundaries – the tree of knowledge presently spreading its branches throughout our Western culture, which is rapidly becoming that of the whole world,” he said.
He also said that “a contagious demonic factor” is among the causes of homosexuality.
“Even heterosexual promiscuity is a perversion; and intercourse, which belongs in the sanctuary of married love, can become a pathway not only for disease but also for evil spirits,” he said.

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.
The book includes sections on the rites and means of exorcism and deliverance, including those of buildings and places as well as people.

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.
May 25, 2008

APPENDIX XI

GUIDELINES FOR EVALUATING REIKI AS AN ALTERNATIVE THERAPY

Committee on Doctrine
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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
the sick through the invocation of the name  of the Lord Jesus, asking for healing through the power  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  whether  in  the  form  of  the  sacramental  laying  on  of  hands  and anointing with oil or of simple prayers for healing, which often include an appeal to the saints for their aid. As for the second, the Church has never considered a plea for divine healing, which comes as a gift from God, to exclude recourse to natural means of healing through the practice of
medicine.1   Alongside her sacrament of healing and various prayers for healing, the Church has a
long history of caring for the sick through the use of natural means.   The most obvious sign of this is the great number of Catholic hospitals that are found throughout our country.

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
This power of healing is not at human disposal, however, for "even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses."3    Recourse to natural means of healing therefore remains entirely appropriate, as these are at human disposal.  In fact, Christian charity demands that we not neglect natural means of healing people who are ill.
 

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.
 
7. Judged  according  to  these  standards,  Reiki  lacks  scientific  credibility.   It  has  not  been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy.  Reputable scientific studies attesting to the efficacy of Reiki are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious.   The explanation of the efficacy of Reiki depends entirely on  a  particular  view  of  the  world  as  permeated  by  this  "universal  life  energy"  (Reiki)  that  is subject to manipulation by human thought and will.  Reiki practitioners claim that their training allows one to channel the "universal life energy" that is present in all things.  This "universal life energy," however, is unknown to natural science.   As the presence of such energy has not been observed by means of natural science, the justification for these therapies necessarily must come from something other than 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.
 

III.  CONCLUSION

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
Bishop of Bridgeport Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli
Bishop of Toledo Bishop of Paterson

Most Rev. José H. Gomez Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of San Antonio Bishop of Oakland

Most Rev. Robert J. McManus Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl
Bishop of Worcester Archbishop of Washington

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."
2  Catechism, no. 1508.
3  Catechism, no. 1508.
4  It has also been claimed that he merely rediscovered an ancient Tibetan technique, but evidence for this claim is lacking.
5  As we shall see below, however, distinctions between self, world, and God tend to collapse in Reiki thought.
Some Reiki teachers explain that one eventually reaches the realization that the self and the "universal life energy" are one, "that we are universal life force and that everything is energy, including ourselves" (Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers with Susan Davidson, Reiki Energy Medicine:  Bringing Healing Touch into Home, Hospital, and Hospice [Rochester, Vt.:  Healing Arts Press, 1996], p. 48; see also p. 102).
6  For example, see "Reiki and Christianity" at http://iarp.org/articles/Reiki_and_Christianity.htm and "Christian Reiki" at http://areikihealer.tripod.com/christianreiki.html and the website www.christianreiki.org.
7  Reiki Masters offer courses of training with various levels of advancement, services for which the teachers require significant financial remuneration.  The pupil has the expectation and the Reiki Master gives the assurance that one's investment of time and money will allow one to master a technique that will predictably produce results.
8  While this seems implicit in Reiki teaching, some proponents state explicitly that there is ultimately no distinction between and the self and Reiki.  "Alignment with your Self and being Reiki is an ongoing process.  Willingness to continuously engage in this process furthers your evolution and can lead to the sustained recognition and ultimate experience that you are universal life force" (The Reiki Healing Connection [Libby Barnett, M.S.W.], http://reikienergy.com/classes.htm, accessed 2/6/2008 [emphasis in original]).  Diane Stein summarizes the meaning of some of the "sacred symbols" used in Reiki attunements as:  "The Goddess in me salutes the Goddess in you"; "Man and God becoming one" (Essential Reiki Teaching Manual:  A Companion Guide for Reiki Healers [Berkeley, Cal.: Crossing Press, 2007], pp. 129-31).  Anne Charlish and Angela Robertshaw explain that the highest Reiki attunement "marks a shift from the ego and self to a feeling of oneness with the universal life-force energy" (Secrets of Reiki [New York, N.Y.:  DK Publishing, 2001], p. 84).
9  Some forms of Reiki teach of a need to appeal for the assistance of angelic beings or "Reiki spirit guides."  This introduces the further danger of exposure to malevolent forces or powers.
10  See Catechism, no. 2111; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II, q. 92, a. 1.

 

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