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Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki: A Guide for Christians

Br Max Sculley FSC

Max Sculley's critique of Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki comes with a timely warning that despite these practices' surface appeal for helping fitness, relaxation and health, they are closely linked to underlying Eastern philosophies that are incompatible with Christianity.

Vatican documents, including one authored by the previous pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, have highlighted the spiritual dangers associated with methods of meditation associated with Eastern religions.

Despite these warnings, Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki continue to be promoted in parishes, schools and religious orders around the world to an increasing extent.

Max Sculley's detailed and well documented analysis of Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki include gripping personal stories that bring home the dark side of these practices.

This book needs to be widely circulated among teachers, clergy and religious.


Yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki are now familiar terms to most Australians. While these practices and the accompanying philosophies have been introduced to Australia in relatively recent times, they have been accepted quite readily by many people. Indeed, they have become very popular. Almost every suburb or country town would provide access to these relaxation techniques. Many people have not only made use of the practices, but have gone on to learn how to teach the techniques. Many have submitted themselves to a more detailed exploration of the spiritual background to the practices. Many have oriented their lives around the philosophies that underpin these techniques. The experiences associated with the use of the techniques have opened up doors into a new spiritual world, the world of Eastern religions.

As techniques they have been marketed as good for relaxation, fitness and general health. They are now widely used for this purpose. Most would view them as being beneficial at the physical and emotional levels. These techniques are seen as a source of personal wellbeing. Few would question whether there are any dangerous aspects to these practices.

Devotees of these techniques would claim that they do not have a religious dimension. They would claim that anyone can keep their own beliefs and utilise these practices for the good they offer. They are viewed as useful techniques that anyone of any or no religious background can utilise.

On the understanding that they are not religious but are merely techniques they have been successfully integrated into mainstream Australian life. Sports people use them. Business people turn to them. Many Christians have been drawn to them, seeing them as supplementing Christian spiritual practices.
This book,
Yoga, Tai Chi & Reiki: A Guide for Christians by Max Sculley, provides an invaluable insight into the background to these practices. His research reveals the underlying "philosophies" or world views that have given rise to these techniques. He shows clearly that using the techniques leads many into a new spiritual world.

This world is inimical to Christian faith. While they may offer practices that can be helpful at a superficial level they are a Trojan horse for dangerous spiritual infiltration. In their desire to know more of the technique which they have found beneficial a person can unwittingly be exposed to demonic powers. They have ventured into a mysterious world lacking the sound guidance that Christianity offers. When one encounters preternatural powers the question does need to be posed: what is the origin and nature of these powers? If they are not from the God revealed by Jesus Christ, then where do they come from? Venturing further into this exotic world can lead a person to embracing a belief in and a personal subjection to powers that do not come from the true God. Indeed, a person who follows these religious philosophies to their full extent can find themselves worshipping a false God.

There are a number of common elements to Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki. They all offer a physical practice that is readily accessible. They claim to offer methods that achieve relaxation and offer paths to greater wellbeing and healing. Many people find this to be the case. At the superficial level these systems there may be no more than providing a source of simple benefit for the person - being able to de-stress, being able to relax and experiencing some personal healing. However, these experiences can be seductive.

When advocates of these practices declare that the practices are not religious they are trying to re-assure people that they are not being duped into another religion. Yet, each of these practices has a strong "theological" basis. They carry a vision of the human person and clear understanding of the nature of the divine. Each of them, in fact, has a spiritual origin and can easily draw practitioners into these religious philosophies. They all offer an alternative understanding of the make-up human person and they invite people to discover their view of divine reality.

By their nature they do not stop with the simple physical exercises — their advocates know the deeper spiritual meaning of what they are doing. They can't help but promote this deeper reality. They want to lead people to the truth as they see it. Thus people are drawn into this new and exotic spiritual realm. This worldview is at odds with Christian faith and belief.

The divine, as they see it, is an impersonal force — and not the personal God revealed in Christianity. The practitioner, fascinated with the discovery of new powers, is drawn to surrender to this divine force. Simple exercises of relaxation have led to idolatry!

On two particular occasions the Catholic Church has addressed questions associated with the use of techniques taken from Eastern religions. In 1989 the then Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published "Some Aspects of Christian Meditation" and in 2002 the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue combined to produce a reflection on the New Age, entitled "Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life".

In the first of these documents the methods of meditation used by Eastern religions were compared with the Catholic tradition of meditation. The document warns of dangers associated with embracing Eastern forms of meditation which may threaten the integrity of Christian prayer.
The second document contrasts New Age religiosity with Christian faith. It points to the difference between the Christian's faith in a personal God revealed in Jesus Christ with impersonal energies proposed in various New Age spiritualities. It asks the question: "Is God a being with whom we have a relationship or something to be used or a force to be harnessed?"

Br Max Sculley in this book addresses these questions by revealing clearly that what underpins these techniques is quite foreign to Christianity and damaging to the faith and possibly the life of the practitioner.

Having said this, it is important to state that it is not an inevitable process for everyone who uses Yoga or Tai Chi or seeks some healing through Reiki. These practices can be used simply as physical exercises that are helpful. If a person is wary of getting caught up in the spiritual philosophies, then they can be used with no detrimental effect at the moral or spiritual level. Indeed, it may be possible for the development of similar techniques grounded in a healthy Christian spirituality. As the Church has done in past times it is possible to find ways in which they can be "baptised" and integrated into the Christian faith.
However, an understanding of the spiritual roots to these practices is necessary to ensure that prudence accompanies their use. These practices can be dangerous at the spiritual level.

This book is timely. The research into the background to these techniques raises many questions. With the widespread use of these practices and with many Catholics attracted to their use this book provides a very valuable service in warning of the dangers associated with embracing the underlying philosophies to these practices.

The book recounts many examples of people who have found themselves seriously threatened by powerful and destructive spiritual forces as a result of embracing these techniques.

For the Christian the spiritual life is an engagement with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit offers the pure water of saving grace. The Catholic tradition is rich in experience and teaching in the ways of the spiritual life. We have the example of the great mystics and a library of spiritual writings that offer wisdom, insight and sure guidance for anyone wishing to enter more deeply into the divine life offered through faith in Jesus Christ, who is the "bearer of the water of life".

Julian Porteous
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney
9 April 2011


Altered States of Consciousness (ASC)
A recurring refrain in our treatment of these three energy systems is the creation of abnormal mental states by a variety of techniques. Such mental states are commonly referred to as 'Altered States of Consciousness' which lie at the heart of New Age spirituality. Such states are generally characterised by a significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will.

The term ASC does not include altered mental states which characterise day-dreaming, sleeping and dreaming which form part of the natural cycle of human life. Nor does it apply to genuine Christian or biblical mystical experiences such as visions, ecstasies or prophetic revelations. Such experiences differ from ASCs in that these altered states are not produced by human techniques but happen spontaneously and unbidden by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. They result in a world view and a morality in accord with biblical and Christian tradition; they generally help to build up the People of God in their faith, and recipients of such revelations glorify, not themselves or demonic spirits, but the one true God.

In the text, we outline the different ways in which ASCs are induced in our three energy systems. But as is well known, there are numerous other ways of inducing an ASC, as for example through zen meditation, hypnosis, shamanic trance-dances, certain types of visualisation, centring prayer and the ingestion of mind-altering drugs such as mescaline and LSD.

Adepts of ASCs commonly experience a sense of oneness with the cosmos and with the divine and may even come to believe that they are divine through the feelings of bliss and the psychic powers they experience. They may experience revelations through visions and may experience a restructuring of their world view.

The dangers which may result from ASC practice are mental illness, spirit possession and occult bondage. The term 'occult' as used in this book, unless otherwise indicated, means 'related to demonic influence'.

Ankerberg and Weldon who treat the topic of ASCs extremely well in their Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs
6, provide ample evidence to show that such mind-altering techniques may expose one to a range of demonic spirits which lead one into beliefs and practices contrary to biblical teaching.

One case-study to which Ankerberg and Weldon draw our attention may give us pause to consider the dangers associated with profoundly altered states of consciousness. Carl was a leading parapsychologist practising as a professor in a university in Mid-Western USA. An Episcopalian very interested in Christianity, he was convinced that over the centuries it had been corrupted by the churches. He had a strong desire to discover primitive Christianity and sought to do this by transcending the boundaries of time through altered states of consciousness. He claimed to be able to enter into past life experiences through astral travel and communicated these experiences to his amazed students.

As his psychic powers became stronger and his mystical experiences grew more profound, he began to notice changes in his personality. At one period, he began to have misgivings about the path he was following but quickly suppressed these. Eventually, evil forces operating within him caused a serious breakdown and left him 'an incoherent shell of a man'
7. He underwent a very difficult but successful exorcism and 11 months of hospitalisation. After his recovery, he wrote a letter to his large following of disciples and confessed:

Solemnly and of my own free will I wish to acknowledge that knowingly and freely I entered into possession by an evil spirit. And although that spirit came under the guise of saving me, perfecting me, helping me to help others, I knew all along it was evil. 8

Then Carl went on to outline the cause of his demise:

My central error, which was both intellectual and moral in character, concerned the nature of human consciousness. Like many before me and many others nowadays, I found that with rigid and expert training I could attain a fascinating state of consciousness, a complete absence of any particular object (in my awareness). I found I could attain a permanency on this plane of consciousness. 9

Such are the dangers of practising ASCs in a disciplined way over an extended period of time.

Many Christians who practise yoga and tai chi seek to distance themselves from the pagan system of beliefs underlying each. What they fail to realise is that the mind-altering techniques which are an integral part of these practices, by themselves alone, present serious spiritual risks.

My sincere hope and prayer is that this book may alert Christians, and indeed all people of good will, to the dangers hidden beneath the surface of these apparently innocent and healing arts. May those who have been already seduced by the sensations of bliss and occult powers gained through them, come, through the Blood and Water which flowed from the All-merciful Heart of Jesus,
10 to that experience of the love of the one true God which surpasses all comprehension.

Publisher' Book Information

Order the book from Amazon.co.uk

Bishop Peter Elliott warns of the dangers behind all 3 fads as he reviews Br Max Scully’s searching critique.

AD2000 Book Review

Review by Father Jeremy Davies, Exorcist for past 25 years of the Archdiocese of Westminster UK and author of CTS Pamphlet, Exorcism (2008).

By Ian MacDonald

Resonse from Zenit

by Brother Max Sculley DLS

The Version of this page: 27th January 2014

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