If you listen to the gurus and yogis; the practices of yoga, Reiki, centering prayer, transcendental meditation and all similar methods lead to experiences of self-fulfilment or enlightenment.
Unfortunately, many people today think yoga and Reiki are something that is compatible with Christian doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though in many communities, "Christian" yoga and Reiki may be used, it is contrary to what the First Commandment teaches us. They instruct us to go down to the level of human realizations that are man-made and not from God. This is very dangerous.
The Catechism teaches us that "all practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion." No. 2117
Also, the Church cites idolatry as being against the First Commandment, saying: "Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons." The New Age ideology promotes self-divinization in many forms.
Here’s a quote from Rev. Dreher describing the ideology of "centering prayer" which follows the same principles as yoga…
"Centering prayer (or yoga), differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as someone apart from oneself. The Christian knows a God who is personal, yet who, as Creator, infinitely transcends his creature. God is wholly other than man. It is also crucial to Christian prayer that God engages man’s whole being in response, not just his interior life. In the view of centering prayer, the immanence of God somehow makes the transcendence of God available to human techniques and experience.
"Centering prayer is essentially a form of self-hypnosis. It makes use of a "mantra," a word repeated over and over to focus the mind while striving by ones will to go deep within oneself. The effects are a hypnotic-like state: concentration upon one thing, disengagement from other stimuli, a high degree of openness to suggestion, a psychological and physiological condition that externally resembles sleep but in which consciousness is interiorized and the mind subject to suggestion."
This type of "prayer" or meditation is a form of hypnosis; this has been proven by various studies by professional psychologists. They did tests to confirm that people under the hypnotic state of meditation used in yoga experienced a drop in blood pressure, respiratory rate, lactic acid level in the blood, and the galvanic conductivity of the skin.
Since we want to find what the difference is between meditation used in Yoga and Christian meditation, why don’t we look at the differences between the Christian and Eastern spiritualities first?
According to what the Catholic faith teaches, all men are creatures who are called out of nothing, to serve and know God. A Christian is someone who knows his life is linked with Christ; that without Him, he cannot survive. The Christian’s whole life has been reconstructed in Christ because essentially, he lives in Christ if he is in the state of grace. (i.e. not in the state of mortal sin). Of course, this has to be his choice, since God always respects the free will of the human person.
Eastern religions, on the other hand, look for God as if He was a part of the universe, instead of having created it. They believe all reality is one, so God is just a part of a reality, just as man is. They believe they have to go beyond the "real" world in order to get to the spiritual world that is under it. They believe that God is only a state of being, a "state of mind" if you will.
For Christians, however, God is indeed REAL and all of creation only exists to serve Him, because He willed it so. In Christian thinking, it (the world and all that is in it) need not even exist but for the benevolence of God’s love, of His Fatherly love for us.
So in the East, human means are "necessary" in order to go towards God, with the goal of achieving an altered state of consciousness, whereas a Christian seeks to speak and interact with God. In this interaction with God, a Christian aspires to attain a certain "participation in the divine nature" (2 Peter 4:4). The Eastern religions on the other hand, seek to find God within and find an escape from the realities and distractions of the outer world. This is always attempted by different psychological and/or physiological techniques rather than by an encounter with the Divine Personhood of God.
The Eastern religions confuse technique with encounter. They do not believe in God as supreme Person, but as a part of themselves and of the universe. We are not identical with Him, as He is Creator of the universe. We cannot manipulate this fact with techniques of any sort. We can use the way that children speak with their parents as an example, because in reality we speak to God in the same way, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When a Catholic speaks about sanctifying grace for example, he means the grace of union with God. By the means of this grace, we are given a share of the holiness of God Himself, it is His way of giving Himself to man. By applying this grace in our daily lives, we travel on the journey of conversion, which is complete union with Him. Our goal as Catholic Christians is not only the inner peace so much sought after by the Eastern religions, but the sanctification of body, mind and heart, not only personally, but including the entire world. The Eastern world instead claims inner peace for oneself, without taking into account the "otherness" of God, and even other realities of ones’ life.
Archimandrite Sophrony of Mount Athos, who is an authority in Orthodox spirituality, speaks from his own personal story. He was involved in Eastern religions for years, before he returned to the Orthodox faith of his youth. We quote him at length, for he speaks with clarity on these subjects:
"In advising against being carried away by artificial practices such as Transcendental Meditation I am but repeating the age-old message of the Church... The way of the Fathers requires firm faith and long patience, whereas our contemporaries want to seize every spiritual gift, including even direct contemplation of the Absolute God, by force and speedily, and will often draw a parallel between prayer in the Name of Jesus and yoga or Transcendental Meditation and the like. I must stress the danger of such errors...
"He is deluded who endeavours to divest himself mentally of all that is transitory and relative in order to cross some invisible threshold, to realize his eternal origin, his identity with the Source of all that exists, in order to return and merge with him, the nameless transpersonal Absolute. Such exercises have enabled many to rise to supra-rational contemplation of being, to experience a certain mystical trepidation, to know the state of silence of mind, when mind goes beyond the boundaries of time and space. In such like states man may feel the peacefulness of being withdrawn from the continually changing phenomena of the visible world, may even have a certain experience of eternity. But the God of Truth, the Living God, is not in all this.
"It is man’s own beauty, created in the image of God, that is contemplated and seen as divinity, whereas he himself still continues within the confines of his creatureliness. This is a vastly important concern. The tragedy of the matter lies in the fact that man sees a mirage which, in his longing for eternal life, he mistakes for a genuine oasis. This impersonal form of ascetics leads finally to an assertion of the divine principle in the very nature of man. Man is then drawn to the idea of self-deification, the cause of the original Fall. The man who is blinded by the imaginary majesty of what he contemplates has in fact set his foot on the path to self-destruction. He has discarded the revelation of a personal God... The movement into the depths of his own being is nothing else but attraction towards the non-being from which we were called by the will of the Creator." (His Life is Mine, 115-116)
To put it simply, authentic prayer goes to God from our soul, and not in the soul itself. Our souls are brought closer to God Himself, and not brought into some distant space in our mind, as what happens in Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, etc. Incidentally, these practices not only distance us from God, but also give us the idea that we can escape from our lives and reality. Christian teaching is just the opposite, because it teaches us to first put our faith in God, and then allow Him to help us to carry our cross.
The yogi instructors speak freely about the techniques they use, and why they use them. Kundalini Yoga Master Gurmukh admits in a video that yoga evokes energy through the postures, breathing techniques, chanting, and meditation. She says that it is necessary to: "Clear and empty the mind, awake the snake within you and go into a larger world."
People think they can separate the exercises that Yoga uses, from their spiritual roots, but this cannot be done. Ignoring something does not make it cease to exist. Occultism expert and ex-New Age practitioner Caryl Matrisciana says: "Most people have no idea what they’re doing when they practice the rituals of Yoga and think that they’re only basic physical exercises. They have no clue that all the ‘asanas’ (postures) are designed to prepare the Hindu practitioner for his belief in the ‘cycle of death’ known as reincarnation."
Any Hindu will tell you that yoga is not purely physical – it was not designed for physical fitness, but to realign the serpent force within the body to achieve Godhood, which is yoga. Anyone doing exercise for fitness ought to look for exercises designed for that.
A Reiki website describes it in a very interesting way. "Reiki transcends the man-made divisions of religion, economics, location, gender, and race."
In Reiki, they call the teachers "master." Master also means that the student has come far enough along in his or her development that troublesome lifestyle habits and limiting belief systems (such as Catholicism) are taking less and less time and energy away from living a "fully conscious life."
A German Reiki channeler makes this comment: "It frequently happens that patients will come into contact with new ideas after a few Reiki treatments. Some will start doing yoga or autogenous training or start to meditate or practise [sic] some other kind of spiritual method... Fundamental changes will set in and new things will start to develop. You will find it easier to cast off old, outlived structures and you will notice that you are being led and guided more and more..."
William Lee Rand, a New Age advocate for Reiki states: "Reiki can be defined as a non-physical healing energy made up of life force energy that is guided by the Higher Intelligence, or spiritually guided life force energy. We believe this "Higher intelligence" reached during Reiki sessions is not a source of good universal energy as is stated by Reiki masters but rather is of a demonic nature.
The occult is like a wolf
Unfortunately, entire religious communities are giving precedence to the ideologies of the Hindu religion. These practices were introduced by such men as Thomas Merton (who was influenced heavily by the Hindu ideologies), and who have done enormous harm to the Church because of the ignorance of the people on the danger of these practices. Many people do not realize that it was gurus and other experts in Hinduism who were consulted for these particular meditation techniques.
Reiki is incompatible with Catholicism because it does not acknowledge Jesus as a divine Person and Saviour of mankind. Pantheism is a belief system that really resembles what the followers of Reiki are talking about. They believe in a universal energy – that has nothing to do with Jesus – something that gives life to human beings, and also rules the entire Reiki practice. The users of Reiki believe that they can use this energy to heal, but in reality they are practicing divination and a form of magic when they utilize these powers. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2111, 2116-17).
Reiki then, uses forces that are not Christian at all, because they rely on these "powers" or spiritual agents. The Catholic Church says that all living creatures were created through Jesus and that every human being has a soul, making him a "living, human body." Reiki says that while the principle of man’s life should be spiritual, they do not agree that each man has a soul. They put all their emphasis on what they call energy or "Ki."
"Any energy used as part of the body’s operations – such as the electricity in our nervous systems – is material in nature, not spiritual," counters This Rock Magazine in their October-December 2001 issue, confirming the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject. "The various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism that posit the existence of a life energy (ki or kundalini) interpret that energy as spiritual," the magazine continues. "Since this is contrary to Christian theology, it is inappropriate for Christians to participate in activities based on this belief."
The difference between Reiki’s "spiritual consciousness" and Christianity is that Jesus is indeed a divine Person. Also, we have to understand that a Catholic may not call upon God besides in the name of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit (in other words, the Holy Trinity). Interceding to other entities can call evil spirits, especially when the person is calling upon an impersonal "God Consciousness" which of course, is not the Holy Trinity!
A Claretian priest named Fr. John Hampsch, who has been a spiritual director for many years, states that there are many spiritual dangers with Rieki. In fact, during an interview he stated that a woman he knew once said that she heard a Reiki master calling spiritual "beings" by name during a Reiki treatment. Apparently, this Reiki master thought he was helping this woman become healed, but instead he was exposing her to the threat of "spirits" of whom he knows really nothing about.
Fr. Hampsch states that Reiki, "Is dangerous stuff, it is very subtle but there is undoubted danger, as with other occult practices, because one opens up to the influence of evil spirits. He affirms that there are always "devil’s compensation" in occult use and practice. In other words, you may experience an improvement in your health for a time, but the ultimate "payment" will always be much more dangerous and harmful. It may include addictions, morbidity, uncontrolled anger, or even thoughts of suicide. He concluded that he has talked to many people who have experienced troubles after being "treated" by a Reiki master.
In Vatican II’s Ad Gentes, the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Catholics are told to look "attentively on how Christian religious life may be able to assimilate the ascetic and contemplative traditions whose seeds were sometimes already planted by God in ancient cultures prior to the preaching of the Gospel" (no. 18).
Notice that this Church document relates that we are to "assimilate" and not "accommodate." We are not, in other words, to entertain practices that allow us to receive ideas that may encourage us to religious relativism. Any retreat center that wants or is promoting Reiki needs to really study this point, if they wish to remain Catholic.
New Age spirituality is not even medically plausible, and can never be linked to Christianity because of the dangers involved for the people who become tangled up in it. Only Jesus Christ is the divine Healer, he is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn. 14:6), only in Him is there salvation.
In a document written by the Pontifical Council for Culture entitled: "Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life," the Catholic Church gives a reflection on the "New Age" ideologies.
"It should be recognized that the attraction that New Age religiosity has for some Christians may be due in part to the lack of serious attention in their own communities for themes which are actually part of the Catholic synthesis such as the importance of man’s spiritual dimension and its integration with the whole of life, the search for life’s meaning, the link between human beings and the rest of creation, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity.
"When one examines many New Age traditions, it soon becomes clear that there is, in fact, little in the New Age that is new. The name seems to have gained currency through Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, at the time of the French and American Revolutions, but the reality it denotes is a contemporary variant of Western esotericism.
"It has involved a progressive rejection of a personal God and a focus on other entities which would often figure as intermediaries between God and humanity in traditional Christianity, with more and more original adaptations of these or additional ones. A powerful trend in modern Western culture which has given space to New Age ideas is the general acceptance of Darwinist evolutionary theory; this, alongside a focus on hidden spiritual powers or forces in nature, has been the backbone of much of what is now recognised as New Age theory.
"Even if it can be admitted that New Age religiosity in some way responds to the legitimate spiritual longing of human nature, it must be acknowledged that its attempts to do so run counter to Christian revelation. In Western culture in particular, the appeal of "alternative" approaches to spirituality is very strong. On the one hand, new forms of psychological affirmation of the individual have become very popular among Catholics, even in retreat-houses, seminaries and institutes of formation for religious.
"John Paul II warns with regard to the ‘return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age: We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practising gnosticism – that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words. Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian.’ "