See also: Defining Deception: What is a CULT, What is the OCCULT, What is the NEW AGE?
What is Yoga, Mysticism, New Age and the Occult?
By Chris Lawson (March 2010)
Click here for PDF version
"Let no man deceive you by any means…
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you,
I told you these things?"
– 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5.
The word “imperative” is defined as: “A command; an order; an obligation; a duty.”
Applied to the world of spirituality and terminology, we would say that it is “imperative” that we define our terms. As discerning Christians it is part of our duty to know what spiritual terms mean and to stay away from those things that could lead to spiritual harm. To not do so can be disastrous.
Cult, Occult, New Age
Many Christians today have no idea what is referred to when certain terms come to the forefront. Terminology such as New Age, occult, cult, contemplative spirituality, yoga, Reiki, Word Faith, positive confession, and “centering prayer” are often used in “spiritual” conversation. Because of ignorance, undiscerning people oftentimes embrace these alternative spiritual movements and fall away from the truth. When defining terms such as these, we are not trying to belittle group leaders or pigeonhole individuals as “evil, “unkind” or “immoral.” We are simply defining terms that describe movements, teachings, groups and individuals that are involved with doctrines or practices that are generally considered to be outside the doctrines of historic Christianity.
What Is A “Cult”?
The term “cult” is based on a farming term [Latin – cultus] meaning cultivation and is oftentimes used in relation to a religious structure or belief system that has meanings unique to their disciplines or group. In the Christian setting, the term “cult” can refer to a system of religious beliefs or rituals that are polarized around one person’s misinterpretation of the biblical person of Jesus Christ.
In many cases, inside and outside the church, the term “cult” has been used as a loaded term to describe any religious group one views as strange or dangerous. People also use the word “cult” to describe “religious leaders or organizations that employ abusive, manipulative, or illegal control over their followers’ lives.”
Christians generally consider “cults” to believe and teach doctrines that are outside the confines of the essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith. In this sense, “cults” and “cultic teachings” derive from serious deviations from the essential doctrines of classical Christianity. Furthermore, as previously stated, most “cults” revolve around the unbiblical interpretation of the person and work of Jesus Christ. In most cases, groups that claim to be Christian but have severely deviated from the central doctrines of the Christian faith (God, Jesus, and salvation) should be recognized as “non-Christian cults,” or “psudeo-Christian cults.” That is, they say they are Christian and appear to be Christian, but they are clearly not Christian at all (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon’s, Christian Science, Christadelphians, etc.).
Theologically, these are not Christian groups and have no place calling themselves “Christian,” as their unbiblical teachings attack the foundations of the Christian faith.
What Is The “Occult”?
The term, “occult” comes from the Latin occultus or “hidden.” The word “occult” is generally used to describe secret and mysterious supernatural powers or magical, religious rituals.
Throughout history, “occult” practitioners have attempted to gain supernatural power or knowledge apart from the God of the Bible. The term “occult” or occultism generally refers to the spiritual practices and secret teachings of witchcraft, Satanism, and neo-paganism. It also can refer to the various forms of Psychic activity such as astrology, séances, palm reading, etc.
God’s Word clearly condemns occultism in all its forms. The reason? Once an occult practitioner opens this door or gateway, the demonic inevitably comes through. All who dabble in the occult, including Christians, place themselves in hostile opposition to the creator of the universe. Furthermore, statistics reveal that occult practitioners across the globe oftentimes suffer the consequences of delusion, psychoses, paranoia, undiagnosable diseases, immorality – including sexual perversions – demonic possession, suicide, etc. It’s for good reason God says don’t have anything to do with such activities!
What Is The New Age?
The New Age Movement is a belief system that “encompasses thousands of autonomous and oftentimes contradictory beliefs.” New Age practitioners oftentimes utilize occult methods and techniques for ‘enlightenment’, ‘energy balancing’, and channeling. The New Age is actually ancient paganism clothed in 21st century dress.
The New Age Movement borrows its theology from pantheistic Eastern religions. Many of its practices come from 19th century Western occultism that have been brought to the West through Eastern religious leaders, cultists, yoga instructors, etc. The Theosophical Society, a group going back to the late 19th century, was instrumental in mixing Eastern religions and Western magic – and then introducing this spiritual mix to Europe and North America. The New Age Movement in its modern context was largely birthed through Theosophy.
The Index of Cults and Religions states that those caught up in the “New Age Movement” generally exhibit one or more of the following beliefs [oftentimes in conjunction with “occult” methodology]:
All is one, all reality is part of the whole.
Everything is God and God is everything (pantheism and pan-en-theism).
Man is God or a part of God.
Man never dies, but continues to live through reincarnation.
Man can create his own reality and/or values through transformed consciousness or altered states of consciousness.
What Is Mysticism?
Mysticism is a vast subject. Many mystics and many dictionaries define mysticism in a myriad of ways. Here is a very basic definition from the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
One entry found for mysticism.
Main Entry: mys·ti·cism
1: the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics, 2: the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight), 3 a: vague speculation: a belief without sound basis, b: a theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power
Here is how the Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age defines mysticism:
“The view that awareness of Ultimate Reality may be gained through a heightened state of mental perception and excitement. The mystical experience is designed to take participants beyond the boundaries of reality through a succession of physical sensations, resulting in the perception of direct communication with the inner god. The goal is to become awakened to the deity within, thereby uniting with the universal life force. Sharing in this common objective are the Ultimate Reality of the New Age, the satori of Zen, the samadhi of Yoga, and the Nirvana of Hinduism... New Age mysticism gained its initial popularity during the 1960’s. Eastern mystics promised their followers personal freedom, spiritual fulfillment, and a limitless array of innate abilities. Even today, proponents tell initiates they can achieve altered states of consciousness through self-discipline, diet, meditation, and the use of hallucinogenic drugs. They introduce these initiates to ascended masters who will guide them in their journey to enlightenment. New Age mystics report feelings of euphoria, peace, and universal oneness, as well as a renewal of energy and a greater appreciation for the earth’s beauty. They assert that universal life forces have given them intuitive bursts of insight and creativity. See also: ALTERED STATES, NEW AGE MOVEMENT, SATORI, TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION.”
Note On Mysticism:
Reader, please note carefully that Christians who practice yoga, Contemplative “centering prayer,” “visualizing Jesus,” “chanting” or inwardly rehearsing “mantras” experience the exact same thing as stated above – “Awakened to the deity within, thereby uniting with the universal life force.”
Undiscerning Christians are taking mystical concepts, techniques and methods and “[s]haring in this common [unbiblical] objective” of experiencing “the Ultimate Reality of the New Age, the satori of Zen, the samadhi of Yoga, and the Nirvana of Hinduism…”
This ought to cause serious alarm to any who profess to follow the Biblical Jesus Christ, and yet are dabbling in or promoting these alternative spiritual ways.
What Is Yoga?
The Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age, written by Debra Lardie, describes Yoga this way:
A Hindu physical and mental discipline. Hinduism teaches that the self is divine and distinct from the activity associated with the body, mind, and will. Through yoga’s system of exercises, people can train their consciousness to control the body and mind, thereby attaining a higher state of awareness…
Through the regular practice of yoga, people can achieve perfect spiritual insight, tranquillity, and well-being, experiencing freedom from ignorance, suffering, and ultimately achieving rebirth.
This dictionary then goes on to describe the etymology of the word “Yoga.”
The name ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit term that means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite.’ This etymology fits with the underlying philosophy of yoga. Hindus claim that God is a vital energy source from which all reality emanates. People are connected to this universal life force and are archetypes of it. According to Hindu teaching, the human predicament is caused by a lack of awareness of this vital link between people and the cosmic consciousness.
The goal of Yoga:
The goal of yoga is to help practitioners reexperience their oneness with the universal self. As people practice yoga, a higher level of connection with the infinite Oneness will result. Their view of the world will be radically changed as a particularization of Ultimate Reality.
Several types exist:
Several types of yoga exist. Jnana yoga refers both to the path of discrimination and wisdom, whereas bhakti yoga refers to the path of love and devotion to a personal god. Kama yoga refers to the path of selfless action, whereas hatha yoga, which is popular in the West, stresses physical postures or positions. Japa yoga requires the repetition of mantras, or sacred sounds, to enable a person to concentrate without being interrupted by external distractions. Kriya yoga enables devotees to channel cosmic energy to their souls in order to establish a harmonious union of the mind, body, and spirit, releasing innate miraculous powers. Kundalini yoga emphasizes opening psychic energy centers called chakras supposedly located up and down the spinal column. This is thought to animate the Kundalini, a cosmic force coiled at the base of the spine.
Gurus teach spiritual techniques:
Typical exercises, such as those found in hatha yoga, are practiced under the tutelage of a guru or yogi, a personal religious guide and spiritual teacher. Gurus teach students to combine a variety of breathing techniques with asanas, or relaxation postures. In each of the postures, students must first enter the position, then maintain it for a certain length of time, and finally leave it.
And now we come to the place where this writer states very clearly how Westerners have mistaken yoga to be “mere breathing and relaxation exercises,” when in reality, “The practice of yoga serves as a gateway to Eastern mysticism and occult thinking.”
Author Debra Lardie states:
Some in the West incorrectly think of yoga as mere breathing and relaxation exercises to develop, stretch, and strengthen the body’s muscles, extend and align the spinal column, and enhance cardiovascular circulation. The practice of yoga serves as a gateway to Eastern mysticism and occult thinking. Certain postures, such as the lotus position, are taken to activate the psychic energy centers. And specific breathing exercises are practiced to infuse the soul with cosmic energy floating in the air. A guru might have students gaze at a single object, such as a candle, to develop and focus concentration. The guru might have them chant a mantra to clear their minds and become one with the object in front of them. The goal is to achieve increasingly higher meditative states until reaching oneness with the cosmic consciousness. This state of being is characterized by a blank stare in which the devotee is receptive to esoteric wisdom from the Universal Mind. See also: CHAKRA; HINDUISM; KUNDALINI; LOTUS; MANTRA; YOGANANDA; PARAMAHANSA.
Dear reader, anyone who promotes, teaches, practices, or endorses any type of cultism, mysticism, occultism or New Ageism is seriously misled and is misleading others! The following Bible verses ought to be seriously heeded by Christians and non-Christians alike. All who place any value whatsoever on human life ought not to dabble in these dark arts. The reason? Because when one opens the door to the kingdom of darkness, the demonic realm is more than willing to come flooding through.
In Deuteronomy 18:9-14 God says:
When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.
It is up to you and you alone to read your Bible, discern between truth and error, and contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3-4)
Prove [test]all things; hold fast [cling tenaciously to]that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.
Something important to remember is this: Casting aside the Biblical standard of divine revelation in order to have an “experience with God” will always end in spiritual disaster. The world of pagan [and Christian] mysticism and the kingdom of the occult do just this. They both either reject Biblical truth outright or they cleverly redefine it in order to justify having an unbiblical “direct experience” with the divine. This is done in the name of spirituality and according to the wisdom of men, not God. It must be noted that the world of satanic deception is based on one thing: Experience!
It’s important to note that people somehow think that if they have a spiritual experience it must be of God. Which God? Jehovah, the God of truth? “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth” (Psalm 31:5). Or Satan, the god of this world? “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”(2 Cor.4:3-4).
The heart of paganism, occultism and mysticism is to have a direct spiritual experience with the divine – but in doing so, intentionally or unintentionally sacrificing the divine revelation in the form of Biblical truth and discernment. When Biblical truth is cast aside or distorted in order to fit one’s own cleverly designed spirituality, one can be sure that deception will come. This is how Satan works!
Here’s the reason for defining the terms in this article: To spare Christians from becoming involved – naively or openly – with pagan spirituality that leads to spiritual darkness and despair. Christians today need to be more discerning than ever before. Let us steer clear from embracing the paganism, occultism, mysticism and New Age spirituality that is now prevalent in our world.
[2.] Debra Lardie, Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age (Kregel Publications, 2000), pp.288-289.