When is Alternative Health Care Dangerous?
also see free eBook New Age Health Care
Updated May 19, 2009 (first published September 4, 2008)
The following study is excerpted from the September 2008 edition of THE NEW AGE TOWER OF BABEL by David Cloud. This book is available from Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, www.wayoflife.org (online catalog), firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
A study done by David Eisenberg of Beth Israel Hospital in 1990 found that Americans were spending $14 billion a year on alternative health care, including New Age practices such as meditation, touch therapy (including Reiki), positive confession, guided imagery, polarity therapy, aromatherapy, sound therapy, gemstone healing, magnetic therapy, spiritual healing, biofeedback, reflexology, iridology, urotherapy, homeopathy, emotional freedom techniques (EFT), hypnosis, and acupuncture.
That figure has grown dramatically since then. According to a report in the U.S. News & World Report for January 21, 2008, alternative medicine has gone “mainstream.”
In 1992 only 2% of U.S. medical schools offered courses in alternative medicines, but by 2004 that figure had risen to 67% (“More Medical Schools Teaching Spirituality in Medicine,” Lighthouse Trails newsletter, March 4, 2008).
The famous Mayo Clinic has a section at its web site on “complementary and alternative medicine,” dealing with touch therapy, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, cupping, biofeedback, and hypnosis.
Dr. Christina Puchalski, founder of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the George Washington School of Medicine, was the recipient of the John Templeton Spirituality and Medicine Award in 1996.
A friend who read a pre-publication edition of this book observed, “If you go into any health food store it is like going into a New Age chapel.”
The New Age has indeed invaded the field of health care.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ALTERNATIVE HEALTH CARE
I believe it will be helpful to mention the many misconceptions that people have about holistic or alternative health practices.
One misconception is that it is only a common sense, unified system of health care.
In fact, the field of holistic health is far more than this, as we will see. Michael Harner, who is a New Age practitioner, unwittingly gives a loud warning to Bible believers about the danger of these things:
“The burgeoning field of holistic medicine shows a tremendous amount of experimentation involving the reinvention of many techniques long practiced by shamans such as visualization, altered state of consciousness, aspects of psychoanalysis, hypnotherapy, meditation, positive attitudes, stress reduction, and mental and emotional expression of personal will for help and healing. In a sense, SHAMANISM IS BEING REINVENTED IN THE WEST precisely because it’s needed” (A Guide to Power and Healing: The Way of the Shaman, 1980, p. xiii).
Harner thinks it is a wonderful thing that shamanism is being revived within the medical field, but the Bible believer knows that it is a frightful sign of the end times and a great danger to people’s spiritual well-being.
Another misconception is that alternative health care is merely the wise use of the natural healing properties found in nature and in the body itself.
It is true, of course, that the divinely-designed human body has amazing powers of healing, and God, in His bountiful grace, has placed a great many things in the world for man’s benefit. But we will see that this is far from the whole issue when it comes to the field of holistic health.
Another misconception is that since diet is an important part of overall health, that diet must be the whole answer to health.
It is true, of course, that some diets are healthier than others. That is not rocket science. There are established associations between certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart trouble, and diet. It is also true that proper nutrition and certain alternative techniques can heal certain problems. But it is also true that there is a limit to what diet can do. This is the type of bait and switch technique that alternative health care providers are so adept at using. They get you to agree that diet is important and that a change in diet can cure some sicknesses; then they try to convince you that if you simply find the right diet you will be perfectly healthy and that diet is the key to healing every sickness.
Another misconception is that since alternative health care can heal some problems, it can heal all.
For several years I was plagued with frequent colds. Four or five times a year I got a nasty cold that developed into a sore throat and coughing and lasted for a couple of weeks. After I started taking a daily multivitamin the cold problem was significantly reduced. Obviously I had a vitamin deficiency. But this does not mean that nutrition and alternative health care can heal all problems and it does not mean that there is such a thing as a guarantee of total health and it does not mean that we should look askance at standard health care in the way that many alternative care people do.
Another misconception is that we can “eat the fish and spit out the bones.”
In other words, even if there are wrong elements within the field of alternative health care, the individual can choose that which is good and helpful and avoid the error. For the following two simple reasons, though, we reject this philosophy. First, when dealing with the occult we are dealing with the devil, and he is very clever and powerful. This is why the Bible exhorts us to stay away from every occultic thing. Eve was not tainted by sin and was in a perfect environment, yet she was deceived by the devil’s wiles. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Second, this philosophy assumes that the average Christian today is capable of exercising the keen spiritual discernment necessary to detect subtle error, and this simply is not the case. The average believer today is biblically ignorant and carnal and grossly lacking in the level of education necessary for such a task. And I am referring to the average member of the typical Bible-believing church. Randall Baer, a former naturopathic doctor, says: “I see this field as being a mixture of positive and negative. Three ingredients of wholesome and six ingredients of New Age. Nine ingredients of healthy and twenty of the New Age. In this tricky, subtle, holistic health field, discernment is at a premium” (Inside the New Age Nightmare, p. 154). Such discernment is far beyond the average Christian today.
Another misconception is that since the alternative health care physician seems to care for me, he will not lead me astray.
One thing that attracts many to alternative health care practitioners is their seeming care. Whereas many traditional doctors are too rushed to show a great deal of personal concern for their patients, alternative health care practitioners typically are more personable and seek to develop a relationship with their patients. Dr. David Sneed quotes from people who complain, “My doctor wouldn’t listen to me. He was always in a hurry. He’s so impersonal.”
It would be wonderful if every health care professional were kind and personable, but a caring attitude does not outweigh a bogus or occultic practice. The witch of Endor was very caring toward Saul, encouraging him and feeding him, but she was still a witch and therefore an abomination to God and a danger to God’s people (1 Samuel 28:20-25; Deuteronomy 18:10-12)!
A similar misconception is that alternative health care practices “can’t hurt.”
In fact, alternative health care practices can hurt. The National Council Against Health Fraud warns that “quacks rob us of our money, our dignity, our health, and our lives” (“Understanding and Combating Health Fraud and Quackery,” Multnomah County Medical Society, Portland, Oregon, 1985). In The Hidden Agenda: A Critical View of Alternative Medical Therapies, Dr. David Sneed lists eight possible dangers of alternative health care: failure to diagnose, failure to treat, emotional harm, wasted money, physical threats, toxic effects, diverted resources, and loss of reality.
Dr. Sneed gives many examples of these dangers. One woman was told to apply a castor oil pack to her abdomen for her abdominal pain, but it turned out that she had appendicitis and needed surgery (p. 5). A cancer patient spent $40,000 and the last month of her life on alternative procedures in Mexico. Her husband said, “Sure, I’m resentful. She chose to spend her last month down there instead of with her family. The doctors told us right out they couldn’t cure her, but they may have been able to prolong her life. They certainly could have increased the quality of her last days” (p. 28). Another cancer patient was treated with alternative therapy for 14 months, “long enough for her breast cancer to spread so widely it required massive medical surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation” (p. 23). One little girl’s nervous system was permanently damaged and an infant died after their parents gave them high doses of vitamin A and potassium as recommended by Adelle Davis in Let’s Have Healthy Children (p. 65). An estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Americans took Laetrile treatments for cancer, but it turned out to be bogus and many died from the toxicity of the treatment itself. “Dr. William Nolen, surgeon ... tells of a thirty-five-year-old mother of three he diagnosed with early, treatable cancer of the uterus. He recommended surgery or radiation, but instead, she chose to go to Mexico and spend $3,000 on Laetrile treatment. When she returned to him six months later, the cancer had spread to her pelvis, bladder, and rectum. She died one month later” (pp. 32, 33). Another woman, who was diagnosed with colitis and gall-bladder disease, pursued an alternative remedy of coffee enemas and became so depleted of essential electrolytes that she suffered a seizure, was rushed to the hospital in a coma, and died (p. 96).
Another misconception is that it is God’s will that we be healthy and if we follow a wise natural plan we will not be sick.
For instance, the Be in Health seminar promoted by Henry Wright claims: “We are dedicated to the eradication and prevention of all spiritual, psychological, and biological disease. ... Pleasant Valley Research and Publishing provide materials designed to promote Wholeness in mankind.” Bill Gothard’s Total Health program also implies that health is always God’s will and that if we simply follow the right “plan” we will be healthy.
One doesn’t have to be a great Bible scholar to refute this. First, God didn’t always heal sick believers even in the early churches. Paul had a sickness that God refused to remove (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Paul’s conclusion to this matter was the opposite of those who claim God’s will is total health, for he said: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). The word “infirmities” is the Greek word “astheneia,” which is elsewhere translated “disease” (Acts 28:9) and “sickness” (Jn. 11:4).
Timothy was physically weak and often sick (1 Tim. 5:23).
Trophimus, Paul’s co-worker, was left behind in Miletum because he was sick and God did not heal him (2 Tim. 4:20).
Second, the Bible plainly states that all weakness and sickness and trouble in this life ultimately stems from the Fall. It goes back to our sin. We live in a world that groans under a curse and even those that are born again are subject to that curse (Rom. 8:22-23). We live in a body of death (Rom. 7:24).
The New Testament faith does not teach us to expect total health and total deliverance in this present world; it teaches us to live by hope, and hope that is seen is not hope. Consider the following important passage in Romans 8:18-25:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that THE WHOLE CREATION GROANETH AND TRAVAILETH IN PAIN TOGETHER UNTIL NOW. AND NOT ONLY THEY, BUT OURSELVES ALSO, WHICH HAVE THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, EVEN WE OURSELVES GROAN WITHIN OURSELVES, WAITING FOR THE ADOPTION, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
A similar misconception is the idea that the body is capable of healing itself of any problem or disease if it is provided with the right diet and environment.
This is a dangerous half-truth. Whereas God has given the body amazing healing powers, there is a dramatic limit to what it can do. And, as we have seen, we live in a fallen, cursed world, and there is no divine promise of perfect health.
Another misconception is that the Bible lays out the ideal healthy diet.
George Malkmus has his “Hallelujah Diet.” Don Colbert has the “What Would Jesus Eat” diet. Gwen Shamblin has her “Weigh Down Workshops,” and Jordan Rubin has “The Maker’s Diet.” They all claim to be Bible-based. Rubin says that “God gave me this health message” (“New Diet Plans Take Cue from the Bible,” USA Today, June 10, 2004).
In fact, there is no Bible diet plan for today. From Adam to Noah, men were vegetarians, stemming from God’s command in Genesis 1:29-30. After the flood, men were instructed to eat meat as well as vegetables (Genesis 9:3). Under the Law of Moses, the nation Israel continued to eat meat, but some animals were designated clean and others unclean. The Lord Jesus Christ is a Jew and lived under the law and therefore followed the Mosaic dietary system. He wasn’t a vegetarian. He ate fish (Lk. 24:42-43) and He ate lamb, which was required during the Passover (Exodus 12:6-8).
When the church was established, the former restrictions were done away. There are only three teachings about diet in the New Testament.
First, Peter was taught that the Old Testament dietary restrictions are no longer in effect for the New Testament believer (Acts 10:9-16). The truth of this was emphasized in that the vision and the command to rise, kill, and eat was repeated three times. This passage single-handedly refutes the following claims: that the Mosaic dietary restrictions are in force in the New Testament churches, that the Mosaic dietary restrictions were for health purposes (if that were true, God would have kept them in force), that eating meat is unhealthy, that vegetarianism is a superior program, and that is cruel to kill animals.
Second, we are taught that in the New Testament dispensation diet is entirely a matter of personal liberty (Romans 14:1-6) and we are not to judge others in such matters (Romans 14:13).
Third, we have a warning about those who teach against eating meat (1 Timothy 4:1-6) and we are told that to require a vegetarian diet is a doctrine of devils.
To go beyond the Bible’s clear teaching in this matter and to create dietary programs that purport to have a Scriptural basis and to have divine approval and universal properties is heresy.
The New Testament plainly states that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
Thus, according to Scripture, diet is a personal and individual matter. Each person is different, with his own metabolism, taste, culture, lifestyle, health, and occupation; and diet must be determined on this basis and not on some plan purporting to be from the Bible.
I am not saying that all diets are equally healthy; I am merely saying that there is no one diet that is required by the Bible.
Another misconception is that if an alternative health practice is used sincerely by a believer “from a Christian perspective,” it is O.K.
If this were true, the Bible would not contain so many warnings for believers to separate from error (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:9-12; 1 Corinthians 10:21; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; 1 John 5:21). Occultic practices are occultic practices, regardless of who uses them!
Another misconception is that if a product or treatment plan is accompanied by glowing testimonies, it must be good.
The alternative health care field is driven by testimonies, and they can be very impressive, particularly when an individual is frustrated by a persistent problem or desperate to be healed of a disease and is grasping at any straw. But wise saints recognize that we live in a fallen world among deceitful creatures and are careful not to be tricked. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going” (Proverbs 14:15).
The book Dubious Cancer Treatment by Stephen Barrett and Barrie Cassileth lays out four common-sense conditions that must be met before a testimony can be valid. First, the patient must actually have the disease. As with charismatic “healings,” it is not uncommon for people in the alternative health care field to testify that they have been healed of a certain disease that was never properly diagnosed. Second, the claimed cure must result from the therapy. Other factors could have been at work. Several years ago I saw an advertisement for a tonic product that guaranteed weight loss. The patient was instructed to take the tonic in the evening and not to eat anything within a few hours of going to bed. The fact is that the resultant weight loss could be achieved from the prescribed fasting without the assistance of the accompanying tonic! Third, the disease must be actually cured rather than in remission or some such thing. Fourth, the patient must be alive! Many of Pentecostal healer William Branham’s patients died after being proclaimed healed, and the same thing has happened to many of those who have been “healed” by through alternative health care. (See our book The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements for documentation.) For example, Stanislaw Burzynski offered a cure for cancer called “antineoplastons,” that was supposed to “normalize” cancer cells. In 1988, Sally Jesse Raphael featured on her television show four patients of Burzynski that had supposedly been healed. Four years later, Inside Edition reported that two of the four had died and a third had a recurrence of the cancer. Further, another woman testified “that her husband and five others from the same city had sought treatment after learning about Burzynski from a television broadcast--and that all had died of their disease” (Stephen Barrett, Questionable Cancer Therapies).
Another misconception is that if an alternative health practice helps one person it can help all.
It is important to understand that even if a certain treatment is genuinely effective for one person does not mean it is effective across the board. It is true that a multivitamin solved my problem with frequent colds, but that does not mean that multivitamins are a cure-all for colds.
Another misconception is that if it is natural it must be good.
But in fact, many natural things are dangerous. Most poisons are perfectly natural!
A similar misconception is that only things that are “natural” in the field of diet and health care are proper.
In the eyes of those who hold this doctrine, herbs and other “natural” products are considered useful and safe, whereas “man-made” medicines such as antibiotics and inoculations are considered improper and dangerous. The fact is that God gave man the wisdom and the authority to subdue the earth and have dominion over it (Genesis 1:28). Every good gift is from above (James 1:17). Though we recognize that doctors aren’t gods and they are imperfect and make mistakes, it is truly foolish and unscriptural to reject the benefits of modern medicine. There are doubtless dangers in the field of modern medicine, but there are also many more dangers in the field of alternative or natural health care! Personally, I thank the Lord for every advance in medicine. I thank the Lord for antibiotics, anesthesia, inoculations, modern surgery, dialysis, advanced pain killers, you name it! Modern medicine has greatly increased the length and quality of human life. If you don’t believe it, spend a few years in the remote villages of South Asia or central Africa.
Dr. David Sneed says:
“The fact is, nature is ‘fallen,’ according to the Bible. Expelled from Paradise, man has had to learn to wrest from nature good farming land, tolerable living conditions--and disease-fighting drugs. A gracious God has given us both the raw material and the ability to develop such technologies as medical science. Why deny ourselves such gifts, in a misguided attempt to return to a naïve concept of nature?” (The Hidden Agenda, p. 112).
WHEN IS ALTERNATIVE HEALTH CARE WRONG?
It is certainly not wrong to want to live in a healthy manner, and we know that many “natural” or alternative remedies are effective and legitimate for certain problems; but when a practice enters into the realm of the occult, it is forbidden by God’s Word. Consider some examples of the techniques and practices that contain very dangerous spiritual elements.
LIFE FORCE ENERGY
One example of an occultic practice in the medical field is the idea that there is a metaphysical life force energy that permeates everything and that flows through and/or around the body and affects the health. This is foundational to the Eastern approach, which aims to manipulate the flow or balance of life energy to restore and maintain health. Hindus call it prana; Chinese call it chi or qi (pronounced chee); Japanese call it ki. Terms with similar meaning are kia, huna, mana, ordic, and orgone. It is purely occultic, with no biblical or biological basis, and lies at the heart of yoga, eastern massage, reiki, feng shui, tai chi, qi gong, acupuncture, acupressure, polarity therapy, magnetic therapy, biofeedback, reflexology, iridology, ayurveda, homeopathy, and the martial arts.
Consider what the Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience says about the field of “bodywork” (e.g., acupuncture, chiropractic, polarity therapy, reflexology, reiki, rolfing, therapeutic touch, touch for health).
“Bodywork therapies assume the existence of a universal life force that affects health, which can be stimulated by the therapy. ... Bodywork therapy involves a high level of intuitive awareness on the part of the therapist; PSYCHIC ABILITIES SOMETIMES DEVELOP over the course of time. Patients sometimes report experiences such as past-life recall and clairvoyance.”
The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs has the following warning:
“We believe that any system which claims to regulate or manipulate ‘invisible energies’ is, at least potentially, an introduction to occult energies and should be avoided.
Another example of an occultic practice that has invaded the field of medicine is the idea of humors. It is based on the ancient Greek cosmology that there are four elements--fire, air, water, and earth--and these have four corresponding humors in the body: choler (yellow bile), blood, phlegm, and melancholy (black bile). An imbalance of the humors supposedly results in sickness, and humor practitioners prescribe remedies to control and balance the humors, but it is pure hocus pocus!
Another example of an occultic practice that has invaded the field of health care is visualization. As we have seen, it is a foundational New Age technique and it is used widely in holistic health care. For example, the Taoist Water Method uses visualization to “dissolve energy blockages.” It is described as follows:
“Lift your hands above your head ... begin slowly moving your hands down your body. As you sense or feel a blockage, stiffness, or pain, visualize it as hard and cold ice. Allow it to turn from stiff ice to fluid water as the cleansing line touches it. Then allow the water to vaporize and lift out of your body and out of your outer energy. With your exhale, send it far away from your being. ... Continue down your body, doing this wherever you feel blockage or pain” (John Talbot, Come to the Quiet, p. 221).
This is occultic hocus pocus, and any benefit derived from it is either psychological or demonic. Visualization is the concept of the power of mind over matter, and it is nowhere supported by Scripture.
Another occult practice that has invaded the health care field is hypnosis. This is “an induced altered state of consciousness in which the subject becomes passive and is responsive to suggestion” (Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience). The term hypnosis comes from hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, and was coined by James Braid, a 19th-century British mesmerist.
Hypnosis is used widely in medicine and psychology. Donald Connery, in Exploring Hypnosis, says, “There is greater interest in and employment of medical hypnosis than ever before in history.” The American Medical Association approved the use of hypnosis in 1958. Courses on hypnosis are taught in many medical schools and an estimated 20,000 medical and psychological specialists use it (“Hypnosis,” Encyclopedia of new Age Beliefs).
Hypnosis is used in pain relief, anesthesiology, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, weight control, birth control, sleep therapy, physical healing, psychological healing, self improvement, human potential, regression therapy (healing the present through recovering the past), and many other ways.
When used in the field of modern health care, the idea is that the practice of hypnotism itself is innocent and useful and can be divorced from its occultic associations, but this is impossible. Hypnotism arose from the field of occultism and remains intimately associated with it. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology says: “Hypnotism is no longer classed with the occult sciences. ... Nevertheless its history is inextricably interwoven with occultism, and even today much hypnotic phenomena is classed as ‘spiritualistic.’”
The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs observes: “Historically, hypnotism is typically associated with the occultist or psychic, the one who exercises power over things or persons, such as the shaman, magician, witch doctor, medium, witch, guru, or yogi.”
In the 18th century, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) communicated with spirits while in a trance state induced by breath control. It was called somnambulance. In 1788, a Swedenborgian society in Stockholm reported to a sister society in France a number of cases in which somnambulists had transmitted messages from the spirit world (Slater Brown, The Heyday of Spiritualism).
Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), an astrologer and occultist, proposed a healing technique through hypnosis and the flow of “animal magnetism” from the practitioner to the patient. He held the occultic view that there are thousands of channels in our bodies through which an invisible life force flows and that illness is caused by blockages. The practitioner of animal magnetism could allegedly cure sicknesses by overcoming the obstacles and restoring the flow. The term “to mesmerize” is based on Mesmer’s hypnotic practices, and the field of modern hypnotism stemmed from his techniques.
Mesmerization or hypnosis produced two occultic movements in the 19th century.
One of these was the New Thought or Mind Science movement. Phineas Quimby (1802-66), a student of Mesmer, called his “mind healing” theories the Science of Health and had a powerful influence on Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.
The other occultic movement produced by hypnotism was spiritism. Another Mesmer student, Andrew Jackson Davis, published a book in 1847 which he said was dictated to him by spirits while he was in a mesmeric trance. The Encyclopedia of Psychic Science says, “The conquest by spiritualism soon began and the leading Mesmerists were absorbed into the rank of the spiritualists.”
The spiritist revival in Brazil also began with hypnosis. French educator Leon-Denizarth-Hippolyte Rivail was led through hypnosis to communication with spirits. His spirit guide instructed him to take the name Allan Kardec, and under this name he wrote the very influential The Book of the Spirits (1857).
John Ankerberg observes: “Mesmerism, then, paved the way for occult revival. And there is an ominous parallel today in the great upsurge of interest in hypnotism as both an occult method and a medical-diagnostic tool. ... Whatever their differences, one fact is admitted by all. The phenomenon of mesmerism is today known as hypnotism” (The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs).
The danger of hypnotism is evident from the fact that it can produce a wide variety of occult phenomena, including past life experiences, multiple personalities, speaking in unknown languages, automatic writing, clairvoyance, telepathy, seizures, spirit possession, astral projection, and psychic diagnosis (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs).
One famous example of multiple personalities that developed through hypnosis is Susan Houdelette. She was a normal woman who sought the help of a therapist to quit smoking, but when placed under hypnosis she developed 239 different personalities!
There is an entire field of repressed memory syndrome whereby supposed hidden memories are recovered through hypnosis and other techniques. What has often been recovered, though, are fantasies that become reality to the patients. “... there are thousands of victims today who, because of hypnotic regression, only think that they were subject to sexual or satanic abuse as children. This has resulted in great tragedies, including ruined families (where parents were the alleged abusers or Satanists) and patients who committed suicide. Because thousands of families have been torn apart by things like this, a national organization has been formed specifically to draw attention to the problem and to help victims of what is termed the ‘false memory syndrome’” (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs).
Many support hypnotic therapy because “it works,” but just because something works does not mean it is right. There are innate powers within man that can be manipulated and there are satanic powers. The magicians in Egypt were able to perform amazing feats and could even duplicate some of the divine miracles (Exodus 7:10-12, 19-22; 8:5-7).
Further, it must be understood that hypnotic healing often results in “symptom substitution,” whereby victory in one area results in defeat in another. One woman who lost her fear of spiders developed a strong addiction to alcoholic. Another who found relief from the pain of gall-stones began to suffer from terrible outbursts of rage. Dr. Kurt Koch, a Christian expert in occultic phenomena, warned: “I could quote many examples like this involving so-called harmless hypnotists. ... The unfortunate thing is that occult hypnosis is often used as a means of obtaining healing. The apparent success of the hypnosis, however, is accompanied without fail with all sorts of mental and emotional disturbances” (Demonology Past and Present, 1973, p. 128).
This is a very loud warning to those who have ears to hear.
Even though hypnotism has been “secularized” and brought into the fields of health care and education, it is still intimately associated with the occult.
It is one of the most prominent techniques in the New Ager’s toolbox. It is used as the door to astral planes, as the key to uncovering UFO abductions, and as a wonder tool to help people develop psychic powers. Simeon Edmunds, author of The Book of Hypnosis, says the first step to the development of psychic power is to enter the deepest possible level of hypnosis. In Hypnotism and the Supernormal, Edmunds says that “many of the most famous spiritualistic mediums began their psychic careers as hypnotic subjects, and hypnosis has been used with marked success in the development of a number of others.”
Hypnosis is used by channelers to prepare themselves for communication with spirits. For example, Esther Hicks, the channeler of Abraham, makes contact with her spirits through self-induced hypnotic trance. Further, various channeled spirits have actually recommended the practice of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is used to recover the events of alleged past lives. As a member of the Self-Realization Fellowship Society before I was converted to Jesus Christ, I was taught a method of hypnosis or guided imagery which was supposed to allow me to investigate my past lives. Some who have used this technique have actually seen places in their “imagination” that they have never before visited only to discover these actual places later while traveling.
This is a fearful demonic deception, because the Bible says man lives once and then faces judgment (Heb. 9:27). Reincarnation is a lie of the devil, and those who experience past lives are experiencing a strong delusion.
Yet hypnosis persistently results in the delusion of past life recovery. One study of 6,000 hypnotized subjects found that 20% reported “earlier lives” (Deidre and Martin Bobgan, Hypnosis and the Christian, p. 23). And this is true even when it is used by therapists who don’t believe in reincarnation. For example, psychologist Diana Denholm first used hypnosis to help people stop smoking and lose weight and other such things, but when some of her patients experienced “past lives” she became convinced of its reality. She now uses regression therapy regularly (Raymond Moody, Coming Back: A Psychiatrist Explores Past-Life Journeys, pp. 12-13). Psychiatrist Brian Weiss, author of Many Lives, Many Masters, is another example. He became a believer in reincarnation when one of his female patients, while under hypnosis, described past lives.
The fact that hypnosis is so intimately associated with the occult and communication with spiritual realms forbidden in Scripture is a loud warning to those who have ears to hear (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10-12). The wise Christian will stay far away from anything savoring of the occult! Playing with such things is like a child playing with fire.
The Bible exhorts the believer to be sober (1 Peter 5:8). To be sober means to be in control of one’s mind, to be spiritually and mentally alert. It means to be on guard against danger. It is the opposite of allowing oneself to be put into a trance. The Bible warns that demons transform themselves into angels of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Unless the believer remains sober and vigilant, he is in danger of being deceived. Thus, even a “mild” level of hypnotism can be spiritually dangerous.
The fact that hypnosis is used today by Christian psychologists and doctors, does not justify it. We live in an apostate age of illicit ecumenism, syncretism, and interfaith dialogue, an age in which multitudes of professing Christians have turned their ears from the truth and have turned to fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Instead of standing on the Bible alone as the sole authority for faith and practice, professing Christians are delving into forbidden realms and mixing the truth together with lies. The white of truth and the black of error have been intermingled to become the gray of compromise.
Another New Age technique that has invaded the field of health care is mediation.
Meditation is the practice of relaxing and entering into a transcendental state of consciousness. It involves putting oneself into a hypnotic or an “altered” state of consciousness through repeating a mantra or focusing the mind on a single picture or mental image, etc.
Meditation is an integral part of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, and pagan spirit worship. I was taught meditation techniques as a member of the Self-Realization Fellowship Society before I was converted to Christ. They describe meditation as “the science of uniting the individual soul with the Cosmic Spirit.”
Meditation is used everywhere in the New Age. Alice Bailey, founder of the Lucifer Trust, taught that meditation is one of the most important means of recognizing one’s own divinity and tapping into the wisdom of the universe. She organized meditation groups to meet on the full moon “to create lines of spiritual force” to prepare for the coming of this christ (Robert Eelwood, Alternative Altars: Unconventional and Eastern Spirituality in America, p. 134).
New Age channelers use meditation to align themselves with their spirits. David Spangler, who channeled a spirit called “John,” said:
“In order to accomplish it, I must enter into meditation and align with my own Higher Self, my inner spirit, for it is with that level that John can communicate most effectively” (Conversations with John, 1980, p. 1).
Meditation is the first step of the Silva Mind Control Method. The student is taught that after entering a meditative state (which is called “reaching your level”) he can perform various occultic things such as out of body travel.
John Gray recommends meditation as one of his “nine steps for creating the miraculous.” John Canfield recommends it as the way to hear the voice of God. Oprah Winfrey calls it “centering up for myself” and believes that it connects her to her spirit guides.
Shakti Gawain says:
“Almost any form of meditation will eventually take you to an experience of yourself as source, or your higher self. ... you may even experience a lot of energy flowing through you or a warm radiant glow in your body. These are signs that you are beginning to channel the energy of your higher self” (Creative Visualization, 2002, back cover).
New Agers believe that meditation even has the power to create a new world. The Harmonic Convergence and Global Peace Meditation Days are predicated upon this belief. Each Meditation Day features, among other things, a sustained period of meditation focusing on peace and harmony.
Since the 1980s the New Age practice of meditation has been infiltrating the field of health care. In 1987 USA Today reported:
“Once a practice that appealed mostly to mystics and occult followers, meditation now is reaching the USA’s mainstream. ... The medical establishment now recognizes the value of meditation and other mind-over-body states in dealing with stress-related illness” (USA Today, Sunday supplement, July 24-26, 1087).
Ray Yungen observes that those who practice meditation for health can get more than they bargain for:
“As one meditation teacher explains, ‘It is more than a stress reducer. It is the vehicle all religions use to impart the esoteric knowledge of their own mystical tradition.’ Thus, many people have unwittingly become New Agers by simply seeking to improve their physical and mental health through meditation. ... [Joan] Borysenko, a medical doctor, revealed: ‘I originally took up secular meditation for its medical benefits and in time discovered its deeper psychological and spiritual benefits’” (A Time of Departing, p. 99).
The Bible’s exhortations for the believer to be “sober” (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8) forbid any practice whereby the individual ceases to be fully in control of one’s mind. To be sober means to be spiritually and mentally alert. It means to be on guard against danger. It is the opposite of putting oneself into an altered state of consciousness.
Another New Age technique that is spreading within the field of health care is dream analysis. The idea typically is that one’s dreams are a form of revelation from the realm of the “unconscious” and that the individual can learn to interpret them and thus be guided by them.
Cross Country Education has provided training in dream analysis to more than one million health care professionals since 1995 (http://www.seminarinformation.com/qqbuen/).
The Discovery Channel’s online Health Center features six steps to decoding dreams from Marcia Emery’s book The Intuitive Healer: Accessing Your Inner Physician (St. Martin's Press, 1999).
WebMD and EmaxHealth, general purpose medical health web sites, also include sections on dream interpretation at their sites.
The Aisling Dream Interpretation course claims that “dreams always advise us of the best course of action to improving health” and they “open your eyes to the presence of angels in your life.”
It is true that God sometimes gave revelation to people by dreams in Bible times, but He also made the meaning clear in such cases. For example, the dream given to Nebuchadnezzar was interpreted by Daniel (Daniel 2). The Bible nowhere teaches us how to interpret general dreams. The current focus on dream interpretation came from Carl Jung. He believed that dreams “serve to guide the waking self to achieve wholeness,” but he was a deceived man who communicated with demonic spirit guides all his life.
In fact, dream interpretation is pure guesswork. For example, at the Edgar Cayce web site we find the following dream and its analysis:
“I am from Scotland. I dreamt that I had a couple of worms attached to me. One was on my arm. They seemed to originate from tiny insects (maybe ants). Someone said I had to get rid of them as they would attach to my face and I felt a little anxious about that. My husband pulled them off and said not to worry, as they were easy to get rid of.”
“Dear Dreamer, bugs or insects can often be symbolic of something bothering or ‘bugging’ the dreamer. The fact that they originated from tiny insects suggests that you may have allowed tiny worries to grow into bigger issues and problems. Your husband telling you not to worry could be literal in terms of his approach to something you are concerned about. I think the dream is related to your worrying about your new job and is simply showing you that it is not as big of a problem as you are making it into.”
The “interpretation” is nothing but a wild guess. Those who seek wisdom through dream interpretation are in great danger of being deluded. We don’t need dream revelation. We have the complete revelation of God in Scripture which is able to make us “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We are forbidden to adopt the ways of the heathen (Jeremiah 10:2). Things associated with idolatry and pagan darkness are demonic, and the Bible forbids us to participate with such things (1 Corinthians 10:19-21). The Word of God warns, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
Delving into secret or occultic realms is forbidden. This is the very essence of divination and wizardry. See Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
As for diet, there is no biblical diet that is required for God’s people today as there was in the Old Testament. Paul warned that vegetarianism as a legalistic practice is a doctrine of devils, and he taught that all things are good to eat if received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:1-5). For the Christian, diet is a matter of health and personal preference, not a matter of Bible doctrine.
We should beware of an overemphasis on diet. It can become idolatrous. The Bible teaches us to put our focus on the spiritual rather than the physical. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
We don’t live in paradise. We live in a cursed world and a body of death (Rom. 8:22-23; 7:24). Life is short at best, and no matter what kind of diet you adopt you will plenty of problems and sicknesses and will eventually die.
The Bible says we should die to self and live for Christ and for His gospel’s sake (Mark 8:35). Christ’s Great Commission instructs us to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mat. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15; Acts 1:8). Finicky eaters are a nuisance rather than a help to this work. My wife and I have lived in South Asia for nearly 20 years, and I thank the Lord that we have not had to worry about maintaining some sort of strict diet.