Can meditation be dangerous?


#1

I was having a chat yesterday with a friend who is very into meditation. He’s into what might be called “new age” mysticism and eastern meditation, and he was telling me how meditation can be scary sometimes. He’s felt incredible peace but also incredible fear during meditation. He was also telling me about someone he knows who had such a frightening experience during meditation that he vowed never to meditate again. This person started to feel his personality disintegrating, and it terrified him so much he’s never been the same. These experiences are the opposite of everything I’ve ever heard or read about Christian mysticism. I’ve never heard of anyone becoming terrified during prayer, or having a psychotic episode, but these things apparently happen during certain forms of meditation. Has anyone here had experience with these types of things?


#2

It depends what you’re meditating upon.

If you are meditating upon the mysteries while praying the Rosary, that wouldn’t be dangerous.

If you’re meditating upon nothing and have opened yourself up to non-Christian ideas through other actions (tarot card reading, other new age practices), that could end up being dangerous.

New age meditation and Christian mysticism are **very **different.


#3

One of the problems with the “pop”-ularization of eastern meditation techniques is that the practice is imported, but the dangers are not part of the advertisement. Eastern teachers of meditation (and there are many styles and facets) are very deliberate and careful in guiding their students through these techniques and they are the first to warn of the dangers to the psyche and the body. I’m not sure on the details but I do know that “confronting the demons” is one level of the meditation process, although what we in the Christian West mean by “demons” and what is meant in esoteric meditation is very different.

Yoga is known in the east to be dangerous to one’s health if not overseen by a competent instructor. The focusing on one’s breathing has been known to shut down the involuntary responses and people have died as a result.

Western meditation, or Christian meditation seeks to deny the “self” and fill the mind with Truth. Eastern esoteric systems seeks to empty the mind in order to negate the “self” and intuit Mind, or Self (the Divine).

Chesterton once constrasted the two systems (East and West) by pointing to the Buddhist mystic over and against the Christian mystic:


Even when I thought, with most other well-informed, though unscholarly, people, that Buddhism and Christianity were alike, there was one thing about them that always perplexed me; I mean the startling difference in their type of religious art. I do not mean in its technical style of representation, but in the things that it was manifestly meant to represent. No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediaeval saint’s body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards. If we follow that clue steadily we shall find some interesting things.” (Chesterton., G.K.; Orthodoxy;Ch. VIII–The Romance of Orthodoxy).


#4

I like Chesterton but I think this quote misses the mark a bit. With regard to “inwards/outwards” this quote implies an “either or” when in reality it’s “both.” In true Christian mysticism there’s a profound turning inward . . . that produces an equally profound going outward.

This “turning inward” is contemplation . . . and many a Christian Saint spent countless hours with their “eyes closed,” as in Chesterton’s image of the Buddhist, immersed in the deep abiding love of the indwelling Trinity. At such times there is profound interior silence . . . a kind of mini-death to self as thoughts, feelings and emotions receed into the background of our awareness as we love in simple presence. Here abundant graces are poured upon the soul and a profound communication takes place beyond our consciousness where we are taught in the ways of self-knowledge . . . of God and self. The fruit of this turning inward as taught by our Saints and Doctors is this: VIRTUE.

And it is with VIRTUE that the true Christian mystic then leaves self to “go outward” to others in loving service to our neighbor.

So there’s a cycle in all of this: turn inward and go outward. Contemplation that produces loving action. Martha and Mary working in unison in our very souls.

Just my 2 cents,
Dave. :slight_smile:


#5

Hi,

I’m convinced that ONLY Christian meditation can be safe. Eastern, or New Age, meditation, is very dangerous and leads to what your friend was talking about.

The difference is that in Catholic meditation, we don’t ‘empty the mind’ (which can be an easy way to invite demons into yourself), but fill it, with God, Scripture, etc. That’s totally different and doesn’t lead to what you describe.

Also, meditation is safer when we’re actually seeking virtue, not spiritual experiences. If we practice contemplative prayer, in the way that St Teresa of Avila talked about, but really focus on being better Christians in our lives and try to overcome sin, - we’re less likely to fall into delusion than if we focus on the meditation itself. Even in Christian meditation, delusion is possible, if we don’t do it correctly. However, in non Christian meditation, it’s almost guaranteed… :frowning:

God bless


#6

Never practice New Age or Eastern mysticism/meditation. These open the doorways to the devil, which is why your friends have had terrible experiences in them. The experience of peace in the prayer can also be a deception. It isn’t a foolproof way of knowing that God is present. It’s very unwise to practice it outside of the normal methods taught by the saints.


#7

DT,

I agree with you. It can be a false, or too simplistic dichotomy. The Christian ascetic is guided with spiritual direction, as is the eastern adept. What is dangerous with either practice is the lack of direction, and the true eastern adepts all know this to be true, which is why they warn against “trying this at home”. That is the first danger in its popularization in the West. The Christians face a similar dilemma because our enemy can sieze upon emotions, or subtleties and manipulate us if we are not careful. I think this is why many do not approach this level of spirituality. It takes serious spiritual direction.

The main difference, as I see it, is that the negation-of-self in the east is significantly different than the denial of self-will in the Christian ascetics. To what ever degree the philosophy behind the practices agrees on the object (not all forms of eastern religion are polytheistic, pantheistic, or monistic, after all) there may be no true dichotomy.

All my best . . .


#8

I’m with Belle. Kudos.


#9

Hi Convert66 -
You made some very good comments, thanks! And I think your quote cuts right to the heart of the matter with regard to the OP’s question. :thumbsup:

I don’t know that much about the eastern concept on all of this (maybe you can help) but I think a certain commonality of terms probably confuses things.

Christian ascetics can be addressed to either sense or spirit. With our Lenten practices, for example, all of us - to one degree or another - have some familiarity with mortification regarding our senses. What is less known, however, is the importance of spiritual asceticism . . . and here I sometimes see a blurring on these forums with what I suspect (but don’t know for sure) might be part of eastern practices.

Spiritual asceticism in the manner of St. John of the Cross has to do with the proper ordering of our interior senses: intellect, will and memory . . . specifically the impact of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and the various “images” of all kinds that we recall to our minds through our memory. Closely aligned to all of this is the hold that our opinions, preferences, hopes and expectations can have on our spiritual growth.

What we are to do is learn to turn away from those thoughts, feelings, emotions etc that pull us away from the love of God or neighbor. We want to avoid “clinging” interiorly to what is unhealthy or that could lead us to sin. In more advanced situations, we learn to interially withdraw from all that removes us from the sense of His presence in our minds and hearts . . . especially the never ending stream of idle nonsense that occupies so much of our mental activity. So we learn to empty “self” (in the form of extraneous or potentially harmful thoughts and feelings) and fill ourselves with Him. It is a constant recalling of our mind and heart whenever we notice we’ve strayed in the manner of a Brother Lawrence. Many terms can be used to describe this kind of spiritual asceticism: praying without ceasing, active recollection, on-going mental prayer, prayer of the heart, prayer of simplicity and so on.

What we don’t do, however, in this spiritual asceticism to try to create any sort of blankness or nothingness in our mind . . . and that’s where things sometimes get confusing on these forums. Especially when you toss in the teaching on infused contemplation (which is something else entirely) where the Saints and Doctors will often use terms like void, oblivion, abyss, suspension of the faculties, spiritual sleep and so on in the attempt to describe the actual experience of very deep contemplation.

Bottom-line: It’s one thing for God to produce these momentary effects in our soul through the experience of infused contemplation. It’s another thing entirely to try and produce it ourself through blanking the mind.

Good talking with you,
Dave. :slight_smile:


#10

Meditation can be EXTREMELY dangerous… if you’re driving, sitting on the railroad, or under water. :smiley: Other than that, it helps relieve stress and anger, gives you energy and helps you live significantly longer. It would be to everyone’s benefit to meditate often and lift the weight of the world off of your shoulders. Our “Devils” are in control of us when we’re stressed out, NOT when we’re calm and clear minded and rational. A little space gives us the freedom to think and not be so quick to throw a punch. A cluttered mind will act crazy out of stress. Stuck in too much traffic, you get angry and even want to kill. But if you meditate and clear up the road, you can drive smoother and easier.


#11

Eastern Meditation isn’t dangerous, if it were, we’d see more damaging behaviors from Buddhist than we see from Christians.

New Age meditation pollutes Eastern meditation with erroneous ideas and such, and they should be avoided. Buddhist have problems with the New Age movement as much as Christians do.

For Christians however, all meditation is Christ centered.

In Christian contemplative meditation, we turn inward, to be in the presence of the Holy Trinity who dwells within.

The context of meditation between Eastern Religions and Christianity is the main difference.

Ours is always Christ Centered and being one with Him.

Jim


#12

If God is truly omnipresent, then by logic you should be able to find God no matter where you look. In any and every part of everything. Even in facing "danger". In both light and darkness. So what difference does it make what's dangerous or not? There's only one way to find out what's dangerous in life. TRY IT. If you really believe God is with you, then there's nothing to be afraid of. If God is with you then you can go to Hell and back. So go for it. If the Devil takes you over while in meditation then at least it'll be a lesson to the rest of us. So what is there to lose? Either way it helps the rest of the world and would be considered a great sacrifice if something does go wrong. At least we'll know for sure rather than guessing, when there's not even a single documented case of demonic possession that's resulted from meditation. Moreso from drug addicts. It's always the drug addicts that seem to get taken over. I think we should have some proof before jumping to conclusions based on a silly idea. So if there are any brave volunteers to try this so-called "dangerous" meditation, we'll be right behind you. Or you could always grow up. :thumbsup:


#13

I dunno…
http://forum.scubatoys.com/images/smilies/smiley_scuba.gif I love to zone out and listen to my bubbles.

But in every other situation, I’d much rather think about something than nothing.


#14

Christian meditation introduces the mind to the soul radiating from the center of our being to connect guide and sooth our energy. Energy radiates from the soul similar to an electrical current giving light to a bulb. This energy is no longer rampant, but focused, connected with our core and the spiritual depths of our soul. This consciousness directed by Christ does not judge, just witnesses with the understanding that we are drawn to the power of the soul. A consciousness of bliss filling an empty, powerless place with wisdom and knowledge requires inner work recognizing where we are influenced by external circumstances and lose energy. We lose energy when we fear. When we walk with the mind of Christ we have nothing to fear because God is the strongest force.


#15

I read somewhere, can't remember where but it was a catholic pamphlet about new age meditation. It said that it opens the door for evil to come in. It also contained several actual stories of people who had bad expeirences with type of meditation. I do however meditate while saying the rosary or when I pray. I'm told that praying is a form of meditation. I do know that thier are many differnt ways to meditate.
God bless you all.
jesus g


#16

[quote="jesuspsr, post:15, topic:165873"]
I read somewhere, can't remember where but it was a catholic pamphlet about new age meditation. It said that it opens the door for evil to come in. It also contained several actual stories of people who had bad expeirences with type of meditation. I do however meditate while saying the rosary or when I pray. I'm told that praying is a form of meditation. I do know that thier are many differnt ways to meditate.
God bless you all.
jesus g

[/quote]

Yeah and I've read articles by Catholic priest critical about Christian meditation and called it dangerous.

The authors were obviously out of touch with the concepts of contemplative prayer.

If the intention of your will is Christ centered, it can only be positive because everything you receive, doesn't come from the method you're using, but from Christ himself.

Same is true of the Rosary. You don't receive grace from the method of praying the Rosary, but form God alone.

Jim


#17

It would seem obvious that one should be "Christ-centered" in your meditations or contemplative activity. Eastern religious practices focus on emptying oneself or making yourself the center of being. Christian meditation focuses on Jesus. This is fairly black and white.

With that being said, I think a body scan meditation where one focuses on the individual body parts or breathing to relax for a few minutesprior to prayer does help prepare the mind and body to clear the tension and multiplicity of extraneous fears and worries. It assists you to focus on your prayer life and relationship with God by allowing time to shift gears from the daily grind. YOu neeed a little time to get out of the mode of paying the bills, wondering what you are going to eat for supper, wondering if you remembered to let the dog out, etc.

I would also suggest the OP read material on Lectio Divina, a monastic form of prayer and contemplation common in many Catholic monasteries as well as the use of the Jesus prayer and the practices of heyschism sometimes used in the Eastern Orthodox Church


#18

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