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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

New Age “Healing”

 

Catholic Psychotherapy  |  Spiritual Counsels  |  Books  |  About CSF

 
The Chill | Seduction | Forgiveness and Transformation | The Goddess | The Real New Age |
NEW AGE HEALING PRACTICES
(Buddhism, Centering Prayer, Reiki, Shamanism, Spiritism, Wicca, Yoga)

 

YES, this church is cold,” the priest admitted at the beginning of his homily. The priest was referring to problems with the building’s furnace, but I knew from years of Lacanian psychoanalytic training that another meaning hid behind his prophetic words. I looked at the huge drop cloth covering the chapel of the Blessed Virgin. “Some sort of renovation,” I thought, but I didn’t miss the message that on that day in particular Mary’s chapel was closed. So I considered the deeper meaning in the priest’s words.

 
The Chill

While the priest gave his homily about social justice, my thoughts wandered off into a consideration of what he wasn’t saying. Just as I must be careful not to be misled by what my clients say to me and have to listen carefully for what they don’t say—and are therefore trying to avoid—I thought about his words. Yes, social justice is admirable. But what about devotion? What about prayer? What about the total submission of self to God that has to occur internally through divine grace, especially with the aid of the Sacraments, before one can even think about social changes? In the midst of these reflections I heard his voice again. “This church is cold.” And so I understood. On that particular day, with the Blessed Virgin’s presence covered up, as I shivered in the cold draft blowing through the pews of that parish, the chill of neglected devotion bit my heart.

And that chill, like the misty rain, lingered through the day.

At a dinner later that evening I met a nun who worked with a rehabilitation program for prostitutes. She clearly had the hard-nosed features of a shrewd administrator. I wondered if she had the spirit of Mary in her heart.

During the course of the evening, the nun told us about a prostitute who, as a young child, had been physically and sexually abused by her father and who was struggling to forgive him. “I don’t think I could forgive someone who abused me like that,” she concluded. 

I winced. Doesn’t the capacity to forgive point out the difference between the Blessed Virgin and a feminist? No wonder she didn’t wear a habit. No wonder she had been talking earlier about waiting for the day when there would be women “priests.” Here was a nun admitting that her furnace, too, had been shut off. I felt the chill in the air.[1]

 
Seduction

If there were no lust, there would be no prostitution. If men were not roaming the world—after the example of the devil, “like roaring lions, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)—preoccupied with the desire for self-indulgent pleasure, there would be no money in prostitution. If women were not willing to use their bodies as goods to be bartered for wealth and power, the flame of lust would die out. If we, men and women, did not trust so much in psychological defenses against our emotional wounds, we would trust in God and wouldn’t be so vulnerable to seduction.

  

Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.

  

—Galatians 6:7–8b

 
Forgiveness—and Transformation

Certainly, women have received many wounds from men throughout history. And with this sadness comes the danger of temptation to fall bitterly into an obsession with revenge. Granted, politics is based on revenge. But Christianity isn’t. In order to receive refuge and forgiveness, one must forgive.

But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

—Matthew 6:15

Every personal injury has to be carried and healed within one’s own heart, through an inner transformation by Christ’s real presence. To bear all injuries through surrender to God is the basis of any sanctuary in God. And sometimes, when we recite words about forgiving others, as in the Lord’s Prayer, we really don’t understand what we are saying.

How often do we recite prayers as if they were just a string of words? In our psychological impatience, we end up endowing our reverence with all the murk of split pea soup—“Elemeno P” soup, we might say, if you remember your childhood alphabet recital.

So we all too often miss the reverence of slow, prayerful submission, and in this loss we miss the seven distinct petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. And one of them is Thy will be done.

  

To say that we abandon our will to another’s will seems very easy until through experience we realize that this is the hardest thing one can do if one does it as it should be done.

  

—Saint Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection, ch. 12, no. 5

Yes, “as it should be done”: through true inner transformation with devotion and prayer.

 
The Goddess

When a person grows cold by neglecting true inner transformation through devotion and prayer, he or she may as well be a pagan devotee of the goddess through New Age “spirituality” where sin has been “deconstructed” into a mere patriarchal invention that “oppresses free-spirited souls” who take delight in their “wicked” disobedience.

And who is this goddess?

Let’s just say the goddess took on all comers without discrimination. But not for money. In her time, in the days when her natural cycle of birth, initiation, consummation, repose, and death was worshipped solstice after solstice, year after year, she demanded only one thing: recurring human sacrifice—the death of her current king and consort. It was a gruesome reality hidden behind the allure of being non-judgmental and able to feel good about yourself by basking in all things “natural.” 

So what does this goddess want today?

Maybe, like Shylock claiming his pound of flesh,[2] she wants the destruction of the one King who wouldn’t give her what she wanted and instead told her to “go and sin no more.”

Hell hath no fury like a goddess spurned.

 
The Real New Age: the New Spiritual Dark Age

When the Roman Empire collapsed as a result of barbarian invasions and the destruction of Rome, all of the technological expertise of the Roman culture was lost as well. In the following centuries, the Dark Ages of Western Europe were dark because of the loss of secular learning. But there was no loss of faith. In fact, during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church provided western culture with its only light, its only source of human dignity and hope.

Today, we are awash in technology. We are so overly dependent on trust in gadgets—and the glorification of the self that they buttress—that most persons have lost any sense of trust in God. And so we are on the brink of a new Dark Age—a spiritual Dark Age of ingratitude, insolence, and atheism, lost in its own spiritual blindness.

 
NEW AGE HEALING PRACTICES

Christianity teaches us that all of us, through a fundamental disobedience and lack of trust, have lost the place in divine life for which God created us. Christ, the only Son of God, came into this world, like a shepherd looking for lost sheep, to lead us back into the divine presence. In his flesh he manifested  faith: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”(John 14:9). And in the shedding of his blood he manifested love, the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of saving others from their own self-destruction.

Thus Christ told his Apostles, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Therefore there is no healing, no truth, and no path to divine glory except through the Cross, the way of sacrifice, obedience, and prayer. So, if we want truth and life, we have to follow Christ in the Way of the Cross.

Still, many persons fear the cross. Beaten down by abuse and hypocrisy, they desire only to be accepted and validated. Like that nun in the story above, casting forgiveness from their hearts, and angry with the Father because of the sins of their own fathers, they want an easy way to feel good about themselves.

And so a multitude of lost and wounded souls seek out healing practices that, within an offer of easy acceptance, covertly oppose fundamental Christian faith.

  

All these non-Christian practices, in denying or subverting the reality of sin, hold out the expectation that we can set aside our dependence on receiving divine grace through the Sacraments, and, like an angry, spurned goddess, they seduce us into taking matters into our own hands so as to attempt to heal ourselves of our separation from the divine life.

  

 
Buddhism. Buddhism is not a religion; in its purity, it is an Oriental, atheistic philosophy whose goal is to escape human suffering. Because the philosophy is an ethical system, based in a natural philosophy with nothing in it that must be “believed” (as opposed to a theological system based in supernaturally revealed truth), its ideas are often taught in the West for their value in achieving a sense of psychological relaxation.

  

Many individuals who have turned away from God—especially because of anger at God—turn to Buddhism precisely because the system is atheistic and holds out nothing to believe in. But in the psychological sense, what does it mean to believe in? Well, in the words of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, we  believe in beings in so far as they are able to say something. [3] And what is Christianity all about but the Word of God speaking to us, saying something very, very important? That Word is the core of all belief—and the core of all love. So, with nothing to believe in, you put yourself in a wasteland where there is no real love, no God, nothing at all. You can call this emptiness Nirvana or anything else you want, but it has nothing to do with Heaven. 

  

 
Centering Prayer. This type of prayer is a form of meditation, similar to Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM was popularized by a Hindu guru in the US and Europe during the latter part of the 1960s, just as the new Age of Aquarius began to billow into the world on clouds of marijuana smoke. Marijuana is for atheists (those who reject the idea of God) and Satanists (those who reject God). Similarly, in Centering Prayer a person spends a half hour or so once or twice a day focusing on his or her breathing to establish a sense of relaxation. A “Christianized” form of this prayer instructs practitioners to meditate on the name of Jesus.[4]

  

Simple forms of meditation can be helpful in teaching a person how to relax and focus attention. Similar practices based in pure physiology, such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) and Autogenics (both of which I explain on A Guide to Psychology and its Practice) are purely physiological practices that can facilitate a healthy state of mental and bodily relaxation. All of these practices can serve as a prelude to learning prayer and contemplation in the context of the Christian worship of the Triune God.

  

Discover a Catholic relaxation recording
 

  

The danger with centering prayer (and all other similar practices), for a Christian, is that a person is tempted to follow just simple, easy practices (such as spending only a half hour in meditation a day) and neglect other prayer (such as the Celebration of the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, and the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy) as well as the moral obligations of a holy lifestyle. In this neglect of worship, devotion, and morality, the psychology of the self becomes raised to the level of the mystical, and Christianity becomes reduced to a form of Christian Buddhism.

  

 
Reiki. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that allegedly promotes “healing”. It is administered by physical touch (or near touch), as a sort of “laying on of hands.” Reiki is based on the idea that it can stimulate and direct an unseen “life force energy” in such a way that facilitates “spiritually-guided” physical healing under the guidance of angels or spirits. Practitioners claim that Reiki is not a religion, but they advocate “simple ethical ideals” that supposedly promote peace and harmony.

  

Peace and harmony sound nice, don’t they? Well, the danger is that those simple ethical ideals are a watered-down version of Christian morality that, like a Trojan Horse, will attack genuine Christianity from within.
 
It can be good for someone to pray for you or with you, but it is spiritually dangerous for a lay person to lay hands on you to pray over you. Not only can a lay person contaminate you spiritually with moral impurity, but also that person’s personal hellgate (a pathway to demonic influence) can open up a hellgate in you.
 
Furthermore, let us not forget that not all angels are holy beings; the fallen angels are demonic. A Christian who dabbles in spiritism is playing with fire—hell fire. Just remember that if you follow the way of sacrifice, obedience, and prayer, your energy fields will be guided by Christ Himself. What greater healing is there than that?

  

 
Shaminism. Shamans claim to perform both physical and spiritual healing with the assistance of animal helpers and spirit guides.

  

For the most part, Shamans are really using personifications of the unconscious. Because the unconscious is the totality of your personal life experiences, various aspects of those experiences can be accessed psychologically just as a computer program can access parts of an electronic data base. Thus it may seem that an animal helper is giving you wisdom, but the “animal” really derives from your own personal unconscious experiences.

Shamans may also access spirits of nature, but these things are really spirits of a fallen nature and so are limited in knowledge because they are trapped inside the box of sin. Thus their “spiritual wisdom” cannot perceive the reality of the divine—nor can it perceive the reality of sin and hell.

Shamans may also access spiritual beings, buy these are really demons masquerading as healing spirits. Keep in mind that the whole point of evil is to deceive unwary souls and lead them to their perdition. Demons are quite happy, therefore, to perform works of “healing” if, in the end, a person is led into idolatry and away from God.

  

 
Spiritism. Some forms of healing are claimed to have been received as teachings directly from angels or as “channeling” from spirits.

  

In his letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul warned against anyone who advocates  the worship of angels, taking his stand on visions (Colossians 2:18). Remember, not all angels are holy beings; the fallen angels are demonic. A Christian who dabbles in spiritism is playing with fire—hell fire.

  

 
Wicca. Wicca is another name for witchcraft, though Wicca tends more often than not to be practiced as a form of “white” witchcraft—a worship of the White Goddess—rather than outright Satanism. The Mexican and Latin American practice of Santeria, though veiled under some Catholic practices, is just another form of witchcraft. Wicca can be traced back to Neolithic and Bronze Age fertility cults that included human sacrifice as a fundamental component of the natural cycle of the seasons.

  

In today’s world, especially because of the fascination with fantasy literature, Wicca tends to be popular with those who seek a “natural” spirituality. But the spirits of nature are fallen angels—that is, demons. Wicca also tends to be popular with school girls who are completely ignorant of the demonic dangers with which they dabble. In fact, many girls are led into Wicca by feminist teachers (and nuns!) trying to reclaim some sort of mythic “lost femininity.” But Wicca is fundamentally opposed to Christianity, for the White Goddess wants nothing more than the destruction of the one King she couldn’t seduce.

  

 
Yoga. Yoga, an ancient Hindu practice, has two basic forms. Raja  yoga consists of meditational practices based in polytheistic religious beliefs. Hatha yoga consists of body movements that purport to enhance the flow of body energy forces.

  

If practiced purely as a form of self-discipline and physical exercise to keep the body limber, hatha yoga can be helpful even to a Christian. Its danger derives from the anti-Christian spiritual beliefs that underlie its physical practices.

  

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes.

1. One reader, a Protestant woman, has actually demanded that I remove this story. And yet in making this demand she only proves the psychological point of this entire web page. That is, in hearing that this nun—indeed, any person—is subject to God’s judgment, the reader’s fear of punishment for her own unconscious anger is aroused, and so she reacts by demanding that the truth be suppressed. Therefore, we can say that a fear of punishment is the psychological basis for the New Age denial of sin. So please remember that neither in protesting God’s justice nor in attempting to hide from it will you be saved from it. Your only hope is to reconcile yourself with God the Father through the mercy offered to us through Christ His Son.

2. William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene III.

3. Jacques Lacan, “Seminar of 21 January 1975.” In Mitchell, J. & Rose, J. (Eds.), Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne (New York: W. W. Norton [paperback], 1985). See p. 169.

4. Centering prayer, however, should be distinguished from the Jesus Prayer, which was popular with the desert monks of the Eastern Church who practiced hesychasm (from the Greek hesychia, stillness). The prayer has many variations, from the basic “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me” to a shorter “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy” to an even shorter “Son of God, help me.” If the prayer is practiced properly as a way to pray constantly (see the writings collectively known as the Philokalia for more information) it will lead to an understanding of Christianity as an all-encompassing lifestyle of mind in the heart, and it will draw you into true detachment from the world. Many persons today, however, make the unfortunate error of using the Jesus Prayer as a quasi-Buddhist meditative practice where the words themselves, rather than their heartfelt meaning, drive away distractions. Still, the Jesus Prayer can be used today by the laity as a sort of background prayer to maintain a constant awareness of God within the silent spaces between and behind all of our work activities. Think of it as a “mortar” that binds together all the other work and vocal prayers of the day.

 

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