Parts One and Two dealt with four essential ingredients of inner healing. They are the unconscious, the past, the misuse of memory, and the eliciting of emotions. Part Three is about imagery, the fifth ingredient in the unbiblical stew called “inner healing.”
The most potentially dangerous practice used by inner healers and by some psychotherapists is that of imagery. There is a natural imagery that occurs in all our minds. However, the type of imagery often used by many inner healers comes right out of the occult. There are three techniques (practices) used by mental alchemists (occultists) to manipulate reality with the mind. They are:
- Thinking—positive mental attitude or changing circumstances by thought.
- Speaking—mantra or positive confession.
- Visualizing or imaging—picturing in the mind.
The most powerful of these three occult practices is that of imagery or visualization. All of the senses have images. The images of touch, sound, smell, and taste can be formed, but they are not as powerful as images created through visualization.
A predominant theme of inner healers is reliving earlier life (primarily childhood, but sometimes prenatal life) situations with Jesus. Here one must visualize Jesus. And why? Because inner healers believe that unresolved early life traumas continue to plague the Christian in the present and thereby hinder sanctification. According to them, there is a virtuous, spiritual reason for this kind of visualization. However, there is no biblical basis for this kind of inner healing. The Bible deals with truth and even warns against imaginations that would interfere with knowing God as He is, rather than as one might imagine (2 Cor. 10:5). The Bible is concerned with one’s sanctification, but nowhere in the Bible is such an activity as visualizing or creating an image of Jesus allowed or even hinted at.
Inner healer Rita Bennett says:
As you pray, Jesus brings back to you what it is He wants to heal. You, the hurting person, visualize the scene as clearly as you can. Perhaps you may remember what you had on, where you were sitting or standing, something you smelled or tasted, and especially what and how you felt. Remember that the memories and emotions are permanently joined together, so revisualizing the scene clearly from your memory will put you in touch with your feelings, so that you can let Jesus heal them.1 (Emphasis added.)
And, who is this visualized Jesus? According to the inner healers, the visualized Jesus is the real Jesus. As one of them says, “God’s omnipresence becomes His manifest presence.” We repeat: they believe that the visualized Jesus is the real Jesus.
Dave Hunt says in his book Occult Invasion:
Visualization has become an important tool among evangelicals as well—which doesn’t purge it of its occult power. [David] Yonggi Cho has made it the center of his teaching. In fact, he declares that no one can have faith unless he visualizes that for which he is praying. Yet the Bible states that faith is “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Thus visualization, the attempt to “see” the answer to one’s prayer, would work against faith rather than help it! Yet Norman Vincent Peale declared, “If a person consciously visualizes being with Jesus that is the best guarantee I know for keeping the faith.” …
Of Christ, Peter said, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). In the previous verse he refers to a future “appearing of Jesus Christ.” John likewise speaks of “when he shall appear” (1 John 3:2), and Paul speaks of loving “his [future] appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Visualizing Jesus would seem to be an unbiblical attempt to have Him appear before the proper time—unless, of course, one insists that it is only imagination. Yet those who are involved attribute results to this process that could scarcely be explained as resulting from fantasy conversations with oneself.
Furthermore, a “Christ” who would take on any color of hair or eyes and any form to suit the visualizer is not the real Lord Jesus of the Bible and history. Then who is this entity that appears in response to this occult technique to deceive Christians? 2
Alan Morrison’s book titled The Serpent and the Cross: Religious Corruption in an Evil Age includes a chapter titled “Sorcerous Apprentices: The Mind-Sciences in the Church Today.” A subsection in that chapter is titled “In Your Mind’s Eye: The Occult Art of Visualization” and is a must-read for those who want to learn about the roots and promoters of visualization in the church. The following quotations are from that section:
Fundamental to our study is the fact that the development of the imagination through “visualization” exercises is one of the most ancient and widely used occult techniques for expanding the mind and opening up the psyche to new (and forbidden) areas of consciousness.3
The practice of visualization can be used in a variety of ways, but they all fall into three main types. Firstly, they can be used to provide a doorway into what psychologists call a “non-ordinary state of consciousness.” Secondly, they can be used as a means towards something called “Inner Healing” or “Healing of the Memories.” Thirdly, they can provide an instrument for the manipulation and re-creation of matter and consciousness.4
Most of the people being seduced into the practice of visualization—especially those within the Church— have not the faintest conception of the occultic aim which lies at its root. In spite of the attractions and harmless benefits put forward by its advocates, visualization is a primary gateway for demonic infiltration into human consciousness—a deception currently being worked on a truly grand scale.5
This confusion of an imagined Jesus with the actual Person of Christ is the fatal flaw in the entire psychotherapeutic visualization process, about which we shall say more shortly. How convenient it is to invite the Jesus of your own imaginings into scenes where sins can be forgiven without repentance—not only those of others who have wronged you, but also your own! 6
A further question can here be raised: if each of these visualized “christs” is not the objective, risen Christ of Scripture, then who or what are the entities which are conjured up in the imaginations of professing Christians and others who are encouraged to fantasize these images by Christian psychotherapists? The plain truth is that they are little different to those “inner guides” of the secular visualizer.7
What, therefore, should be the response of the Christian to the use of visualizations involving the image of Jesus Christ? Of primary concern should be the fact that this type of activity is specifically forbidden and warned against within the pages of the Bible. It is a solemn fact that every figurative representation of God contradicts His being; and although we do not wish to obscure the fact that Jesus (as God manifested in the flesh) was a real human being, the conjuring up of a visualized image of Christ for the purposes of mental manipulation is surely a gross form of idolatry. The last thing that the Christian should be doing is relying on such images in the imagination for guidance in life or to increase faith.8 (Bold Added)
Charles Hodge has said: “Idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods, but also in the worship of the true God by images.”9 J. I Packer says that “Images dishonour God for they obscure His glory.” He says, “They inevitably conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent.”10 Packer also says:
If you habitually focus your thoughts on an image or picture of the One to whom you are going to pray, you will come to think of Him, and pray to Him, as the image represents Him. Thus you will in this sense “bow down” and “worship” your image; and to the extent to which the image fails to tell the truth about God, to that extent you will fail to worship God in truth. That is why God forbids you and me to make use of images and pictures in our worship.11
Imagining God in our heads can be just as real a breach of the second commandment as imagining Him by the work of our hands.12
All man-made images of God, whether molten or mental, are really borrowings from the stock-in-trade of a sinful and ungodly world, and are bound therefore to be out of accord with God’s own holy Word. To make an image of God is to take one’s thoughts of Him from a human source, rather than from God Himself; and this is precisely what is wrong with image-making.13
Within the theoretical framework of the unconscious and past determinants of behavior, the practice and the use of imagery often produce cathartic emotions. But, it is in the use of imagery or visualization that one can decidedly move the normal (natural) use of the imagination to that of an occult practice. It is particularly the conjuring up of an image of Jesus that can make it occult. This is exactly what Shamans do. Shamans seek spirit guides through an altered state of consciousness (ASC) in order to accomplish certain goals. The Shaman often consults his spirit guide and even travels with it on a Shamanic journey. The Jesus of the inner healer is unlikely to be the real Jesus, but more likely an occult spirit guide.
Guided Imagery/Hypnosis; Inner Advisor/Shamanism: David Bressler, Ph. D., and Martin Rossman, M. D., use and teach imagery considerably. Dr. Bressler says of the relationship of guided imagery and hypnosis: “They are the same.” Bressler and Rossman, in their workshop on “The Inner Advisor in Clinical Practice,” encourage speaking to an inner wisdom figure. Bressler says, “It is as I understand it the essence of shamanism.”14
They refer to it as contemporary Shamanism. Shamanism is witchcraft! Bressler and Rossman don’t care what wisdom figure you use. Jesus would be just fine with them. In fact, Rossman says that the most used inner guide by Catholics is the Holy Guardian Angel. What is the difference between a shamanistic practice of using any imaginary figure, including Jesus, and some Christian asking you to imagine Jesus? Or, is imagery as used by David Yonggi Cho in his book The Fourth Dimension any different from the imagery used by Bressler, Rossman and a host of other teachers of imagery outside the church?
Hypnosis: “The active ingredient in hypnosis is imagery,” declares Daniel, Kohen, M.D., Associate Director of Behavior Pediatrics at the Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center.15 Medical doctor Jeanne Achterberg says, “I don’t know any real difference between hypnosis and imagery.”16 (Bold added.)
William Kroger says, “The images you use are the most potent form of therapy.” He suggests that bad images make you sick and good images make you well. Kroger tells how he increases the power of the image. He says:
We now give an image in five senses, because an image in five senses now makes the image more potent. The more vivid the image, the more readily conditioning occurs.17
Robert Baker contends that “the greater or better the individual’s powers of imagination or fantasy, the easier it is for the individual to become hypnotized and to demonstrate all of the behavior others normally associate with or attach to the phenomenon of hypnosis.”18
There are ordinary, legitimate uses of the imagination.For instance one may mentally see what is happening while reading a story or listening to a friend describe something. Imagination and visualization are normal activities for creating works of art and for developing architectural designs and even scientific theories. However, imagination by suggestion may be so focused as to move the person into an altered state of consciousness with the images becoming more powerful than reality. Other dangerous uses of imagery in or out of a trance would be attempting to manipulate reality through focused mental power or conjuring up a spirit guide. Some people are led to imagine a quiet, beautiful place and once they are mentally there, the suggestion is made to wait for a special being (person or animal) who will guide them and reveal information important for their lives. That is a form of shamanism, and the conjuring up of an image of Jesus, as in Theophostic Prayer Ministry, can be shamanism.
Victim versus Sinner
In addition to the potential damage caused by the use of the unconscious, the past, the misuse of memory, the eliciting of emotions, and imagery, a grossly unbiblical result of inner healing is its propensity to treat humans as victims rather than sinners. Inner healers and those who go to them perpetually see the mote in the eyes of others rather than seeing the beam in their own eyes. Inner healers not only encourage the victim role, but they have a compulsive preoccupation with it. An inner healer asks one to dwell on “my hurts,” “my inner child,” mistreatment by others, etc.—all victim roles. If one would count all the Bible verses about man as victim (sinned against) and man as sinner, they are about 100 to 1 in the direction of man as sinner.
Why do inner healers always dwell on the hurts received rather than the hurts given? If you really want to confuse an inner healer, tell him that you want to deal with your sins before others’ sins and that you first want to think about all the joys of the past and thank God for them before doing anything else. That could send all the inner healers into a state of panic, that is, unless they accuse the individual of denial or bide their time before encouraging a journey into the dim past of the old self that believers are to count dead.
The inner healers’ use of the unconscious, the past, the misuse of memory, the eliciting of emotions, and imagery are false, fleshly attempts to deal with spiritual problems. When one functions in a fleshly manner in the spiritual realm, there is an openness to the sins of the flesh and even demonic spirits. Dr. Gumprecht, in her book Abusing Memory, says:
[Agnes Sanford’s] criteria for truth was “Does it work?” It was not “what does the Word of God say?” She wrote, “Religion is an experience of God. Theology is merely an attempt to explain the experience.”19 J. Gresham Machen called this mysticism: “Mysticism is the consistent exaltation of experience at the expense of thought.”20 21
No one knows the long-term results of the inner healers’ practices. When dramatic claims are made, as they are by inner healers, proof of dramatic results must be required. Aside from personal testimonies, there is no scientific research that has established the efficacy of any of the brands of inner healing. Christians should stay away from inner healers who use methods described here. If you want real inner change, pray the prayer that God always answers: “Thy will be done” in my life. Then do two things that are far more productive than any inner healing seminar that we know: simply “trust and obey . . . for there’s no other way.”
Experiential Theology versus the Word of God.
We are in an era of experiential theology—a feeling theology. Theology is too often formed out of personal experiences. There is a movement away from a Word orientation to a feeling orientation, away from the Word as the basis for theology to feelings as a basis for theology. Experiential theology rarely equates to biblical theology. In fact, human experience is often the worst enemy of divine revelation.
Though the most popular writers in the inner healing movement include both men and women, it is our observation that the overwhelming number of participants are women. We read a secular book titled Perspectives on the New Age. It is obvious from what the writers say that the number of women involved in the New Age movement far outnumbers the men. One writer says: “I have argued that the New Age appeals to women because it values traits that have been traditionally attributed to women (e.g., intuition, nurturance, etc.).”22
The use of the unconscious, the past, the misuse of memory, and the eliciting of emotions, and imagery are all fleshly, experiential attempts to deal with problems of living, not only in inner healing, but in a multitude of other individual and group activities in which Christians should not become involved. If we give in to experience, our experience will create our theology. We will have another Christ (created through mental imagery), another spirit (emotional sensations), and another gospel (salvation from victimhood and sanctification through catharsis).
God, save us from such folly!
(PAL V15N3 * May-June)
1 Rita Bennett. You Can Be Emotionally Free. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1982, pp. 77, 78.
2 Dave Hunt. Occult Invasion. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998, pp. 180-183.
3 Alan Morrison. The Serpent and the Cross: Religious Corruption in an Evil Age. Birmingham, UK: K & M Books, 1994, p. 426.
4 Ibid., pp. 426, 427.
5 Ibid., p. 432.
6 Ibid., pp. 440, 441.
7 Ibid., p. 443.
8 Ibid., pp. 447, 448.
9 Charles Hodge, quoted by J. I. Packer. Knowing God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 39.
10 J. I. Packer. Knowing God, p. 40.
11 Ibid., p. 41.
12 Ibid., p. 42.
13 Ibid., pp. 43, 44.
14 David Bressler and Martin Rossman, “The Inner Advisor in Clinical Practice” workshop.
15 Daniel Kohen, Prevention, July, 1985, p. 122.
16 Jeanne Achterberg. “Imagery in Healing: Shamanic and Modern Medicine, Mind & Supermind lecture, Santa Barbara, California, February 9, 1987.
17 William Kroger. “Healing with the Five Senses,” audio M253-8. Garden Grove, CA: InfoMedix.
18 Robert Baker. They Call It Hypnosis. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1990, p. 19.
19 Agnes Sanford. The Healing Touch of God. New York: Ballantine Books, 1983, p. 2.
20 J. Gresham Machen. What Is Faith? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962, p. 35.
21 Jane Gumprecht. Abusing Memory. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1997, p. 26.
22 James Lewis and J. Gordon Melton. Perspectives on the New Age. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992, p. 188