IV. HOLISTIC HEALTH
Health and Wholeness
One aspect of the New Age movement that can prove alluringly deceptive to Seventh-day Adventists is its emphasis on holistic health. Adventists long have believed in the “wholeness” of the human being.
We know that mind and body interact, thus the individual should be treated as a whole person. However, New Age holistic health means “wholeness” on pantheistic grounds (“All is One”; “We are all God”) and not the Bible’s view of the nature of man. There is a sharp difference. In recent years a strong movement has developed in the United States to establish medical centers that unite physicians practicing scientific medicine with the practitioner of occult and eastern healing arts. In 1979 the Journal of the American Medical Association reported the existence of more than 500 such centers/clinics in the country headed and staffed by physicians and 10,000 holistic health care practitioners (November 16, 1979). Thus, ancient (that is, occult-Eastern) methods of healing and modern medicine are joined.
In 1977 the prestigious Johns Hopkins University opened its doors to lectures in psychic healing and other unconventional treatments. According to news reports Dr. Lawrence Green, head of the school’s division of Health Education, “helped organize a series of seven lectures at the Baltimore, Maryland, school that included demonstrations and talks by practitioner in psychic healing, laying on of hands, yoga, meditation and nutritional therapy” (cited in spiritual counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978, 6). Later in the same year (1977), the New York Times reported:
An unorthodox therapy in which nurses attempt to make sick patients feel better by “laying hands” on them is being introduced in hospitals and nursing schools throughout the country.
In many ways similar to the laying –on of hands that is practiced by faith healers and mystics and that is scoffed at by medical science, the therapy is being taught at the graduate level by Dr. Dolores Krieger, a nurse and a professor at the New York University School of Education, Health, Nursing and Arts Professions (Ron Sullivan, “Hospitals Introducing a Therapy Resembling ‘Laying on of Hands,’” New York Times, November 6, 1977, cited in Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978,7)
It should be observed that Dr. Dolores Krieger (R.N., Ph.D.), an advocate of Eastern mystical energy concepts, was tutored under a psychic by the name of Dora Kunz. She openly admits the source of her therapy: “I had been taught the technique of laying on of hands by Kunz” (“Therapeutic Touch and healing Energies From Laying On of Hands,” 28-29, cited in John Weldon and Zola Levitt, Psychic Healing [Chicago: Moody Press, 1982], 22).
Success has become the goal for contemporary professionals. Natural desire provides access to the modern mind for New Age thought under the guise of Human Potential seminars. A variety of courses are offered to enable the professional to activate his latent “higher powers.” Varying approaches have been devised, but they commonly include some form of meditation accompanied by physical, breathing, and relaxation exercises. The Eastern mystical context from which these techniques are drawn to bring about states of consciousness usually is omitted. The participant is led to think he is tapping a “reservoir of magnificence” within himself. (See Burrows, Christianity Today, May 16, 1987, 17, 19-20
The Bible acknowledges that the Creator has endowed human beings with many talents and abilities. It challenges every person to improve these. There is, therefore, a true realization of the human potential from a Christian perspective. However, there is a difference between developing ability by study and practice and attempting to tap an alleged inner power by mystical forms of meditation. From a Christian perspective a developed ability brings honor to the Creator; from the New Age perspective any development is self-centered and brings honor to the person.
But a greater danger may lie in the meditative process. The unstated goal behind such techniques (whether the participant senses it) is to alter consciousness to achieve union with the god or god-power within. But in such a state of passive neutrality the mind could be subject to Satanic invasion and delusion.
Registered nurse, Sharon Fish summarizes David Haddon’s remarks on Transcendental Meditation on this point:
In his analysis of TM, David Haddon notes that the alteration of consciousness which results from practicing the various forms of Eastern meditation can have adverse spiritual effects. Sensory perception gradually shuts down with the repetition of a word or mantra, for example, and the conceptual activity of the mind ceases as the brain shifts gears to neutral. This passive state, Haddon notes, resembles that sought by mediums in order to make contact with spirits. . . “(David Haddon, “Transcendental Meditation Wants You, Eternity [November 1974], 24-25, cited in Sharon Fish, “Holistic Health and the Nursing Profession,” Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978, 41)
Emotional and physical stress are characteristic of contemporary society. The need to cope with these also has opened doors to the New Age holistic health approach. Americans, who once flocked to psychiatrists, encounter groups, or chiropractors, now go to teachers of Transcendental Meditation, yoga classes, and biomedical feedback labs where they learn to control muscle tension by meditation into an altered state of consciousness (see Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978, 29-40). Transcendental Meditation, yoga, and biomedical feedback (some forms of the latter may be neutral) are three of the most common stress reducers popularized in holistic health.
Another is “Guided Imagery.” For example, a nurse first leads her patient into a relaxed mood by means of deep breathing exercises. The patient then is invited to close her eyes and accompany the nurse on a beautiful walk in her imagination as it is described to her. In the course of the imagined stroll the two arrive at a fence enclosing a pleasant meadow. They enter, and the patient is told that this is to be her own private meadow. Walking across the grass, they come to a large tree and sit down under its shade. Then touch it. The nurse tells the patient to let the strength of the tree flow through her, to express her fears, and to cry if she needs to. Then, in imagination, they return home. Now the patient is informed that this imaginary walk has provided her with a personal experience, and whenever she cannot take the pain, she should return to the meadow in her mind and talk to the tree. (See Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978, 39).
We recognize kindness in this technique and a rational attempt to divert the mind of a suffering person from pain to something more pleasant, but from a Christian point of view it bypasses the privilege of prayer and the Christian’s personal relationship with God. Instead of sharing her pain and her need with God through prayer, the patient is told to consult with an imaginary tree and not to be afraid to cry before it. This particular example reveals the shallow dimensions of pantheism: there is no personal God to whom one can turn. The participant ends up talking to an illusion—her imagined tree: in reality talking to herself.
It may be asked whether there is really any danger to spiritual experience for a Christian to adopt a holistic technique for bringing about relaxation or reducing stress. Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, School of Medicine in San Francisco and a prominent advocate for holistic health, candidly addresses this question. Let Christians take note:
A person entering into meditation has already in some sense committed himself to an accompanying philosophical system. This factor of the individual’s attitude as he approaches meditation practice cannot be underestimated in understanding the positive effects of such practice. (Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer: A Holistic Approach to Preventing Stress Disorders [New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1977], 195, cited in Brooks Alexander, “Holistic Health From the Inside,” Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978, 16)
Sharon Fish summarizes Dr. Pelletier’s further remarks thus:
Pelletier notes that though the information received from the body by the mind in biofeedback is neutral and various forms of meditation may be engaged in without adhering to a particular belief system, this is the exception rather than the rule. In the apparent simplicity of each technique, he says, lies a common search for a deeper meaning as a person moves from early meditative states to deeper and deeper states of meditation, it should be clear, states Pelletier, that meditation is more than a simple means of stress reduction and that each system of healing is based on certain philosophical assumptions….
While the practice of meditation will probably not lead most people to the extreme of demonic contact or possession, there are other spiritual effects. As Pelletier and other advocates of holistic health have noted with enthusiasm, there is often a change in one’s belief system that accompanies meditation—a change that reflects the assumptions of pantheistic theology underlying most of the proposed healing techniques. (“Holistic Health and the Nursing Profession,” Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978, 40, 41, emphasis added)
Diagnosing and healing disease
Psychic healing has always been an important aspect of the occult. The current holistic health emphasis is no exception. It presents a bewildering array of techniques for diagnosing and healing disease. We list only a few of the better known ones such as: Radionics or Radiaesthesia (use of objects, pendulum, black box, etc.), acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, applied kinesiology, iridology, herbal therapy, color therapy, gem therapy, etc.
We recognize that a scientific basis is argued for some of the above, yet these and scores of other practices in holistic health are closely related to either an occult, humanist, or Eastern world view that is anti-biblical. Therein lays the danger to the Christian who is tempted to adapt these techniques to his biblical world view. We believe that in most cases this is not possible.
We wish to underscore this warning. Conservative Christians who have studied holistic health over the last two decades (see appended bibliography for a few examples) are convinced that its diagnosing and healing procedures are based squarely on occult and mystical concepts. While some elements in holistic health may be matters of indifference, no distinctive occult technique can be viewed as “neutral” even when separated ostensibly from its roots. (Emphasis added) Note the following assertions by the editor of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal:
The original purpose of this article was to answer the question: To what extent does the holistic movement commonly recognize occult metaphysics and Eastern mystical spiritual experience as an operation basis for its activities and its self-understanding? Most of the evidence available for inspection indicates that the answer can be given without qualification: Overwhelmingly. It appears that the movement as a whole is dominated, if not controlled, by a consistent and systematic form of spirituality that is radically antithetical to biblical Christianity….
It is probable that none of the Eastern or occult healing techniques are “neutral” in themselves, even when ostensibly divorced from overt philosophical statements; the metaphysical framework from which they emerge is so pervasive and encompassing that every detail of practice is intricately related to elements of the underlying belief system. As a result, the technique taken as a whole will carry overtones and implications of the metaphysical system from which it is derived, even if that system is not explicitly attached. (Brooks Alexander, “Holistic Health From the Inside,” Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, August 1978, 15-16)
We believe the above conviction will be confirmed as we proceed.
The Magnetic Energy Field. An assumption that is fundamental to many of the diagnosing and healing techniques of holistic health is the belief that every individual (all objects as well) is enveloped in an energy field. This energy, sometimes designated as the “aura,” is viewed as external to the human body, although it is alleged to be composed of seven rays issuing from seven centers within the body. The energy field is presumed to act as a medium for the interplay of other energies with which it may interact. It is obvious that such a view follows logically from the movement’s pantheistic orientation which teaches that force or energy is the fundamental reality that permeates and binds the universe together.
When illness occurs in the body, it is alleged that the magnetic energy field around the sick person is disturbed and an imbalance is developed. The holistic health practitioner can manipulate this magnetic field of energy both to determine the nature of the disease and to treat it. The healer may be present with the sick person or actually at a distance from his subject. In this case he may diagnose and heal by working with a picture or writing of the patient or some object he has handled.
It is claimed that some practitioners, as sensitives, can perceive subjectively the aura and its balance or imbalance. Others may view the aura objectively through the Kilner screen (a special type of glass). Here the occult slip is showing. In actual fact, the magnetic energy field or aura cannot be scientifically demonstrated. It can be perceived only by persons who are sensitives or mediumistic.
Ellen G. White Statements on Body Electricity. Some Seventh-day Adventists have been led to believe that the writings of Ellen White endorse the various holistic health techniques and their philosophical premises. This is based upon several of her statements where she alludes to the electrical currents of the body. We will examine this point briefly, noting meanwhile that although both sources may use some common terminology, the differences in the meaning are profound. Ellen White speaks of electrical currents in harmony with the biblical world view; holistic health writers speak from a pantheistic orientation. We cite Mrs. White’s principal statements without attempting to be exhaustive:
The sensitive nerves of the brain have lost their healthy tone by morbid excitation to gratify an unnatural desire for sensual indulgence. The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which Heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life. Whatever disturbs the circulation of the electric currents in the nervous system lessens the strength of the vital powers, and the result is a deadening of the sensibilities of the mind. In consideration of these facts, how important that ministers and people who profess godliness should stand forth clear and untainted from this soul debasing vice! (Child Guidance, 447; see also Testimonies, vol. 2, 347)
God endowed man with so great vital force that he has withstood the accumulation of disease brought upon the race in consequence of perverted habits, and has continued for six thousand years. This fact of itself is enough to evidence to us the strength and electrical energy that God gave to man at his creation. It took more than two thousand years of crime and indulgence of base passions to bring bodily disease upon the race to any great extent. If Adam, at his creation, had not been endowed with twenty times as much vital force as men now have, the race, with their present habits of living in violation of natural law, would have become extinct. (Testimonies, vol. 3, 138-39)
This class fall more readily if attacked by disease; the system is vitalized by the electrical force of the brain to resist disease. (Testimonies, vol. 3, 157)
The influence of the mind on the body, as well as of the body on the mind, should be emphasized. The electrical power of the brain, promoted by mental activity, vitalizes the whole system, and is thus an invaluable aid in resisting disease. (Education, 197, emphasis added)
Physical inaction lessens not only mental but moral power. The brain nerves that connect with the whole system are the medium through which heaven communicates with man and affects the inmost life. Whatever hinders the circulation of the electric current in the nervous system, thus weakening the vital powers and lessening mental susceptibility, makes it more difficult to arouse the moral nature. (Education, 209, emphasis added)
Although the tracks of truth and error lie nearby at times, it is clear from these statements that Ellen White gives no support to the pantheistic view that the individual is surrounded by an aura of energy comparable to a halo or magnetic energy field. Her statements pertain to “the circulation of the electrical current in the nervous system” within the physical body of the individual.
Although Mrs. White wrote the statements before the advent of modern medicine, the presence of these electrical impulses can be scientifically demonstrated now. Electrocardiographs and electroencephalographs are well-known in conventional medicine. The tracings of these natural electrical impulses generated within the body can assist the modern physician with his treatment of disease.
But Ellen White never suggests or implies that an external aura of electrical energy surrounds every person and object. Nor does she teach that such can be manipulated to determine or heal human sickness. To superimpose views of holistic healers upon her clear-cut statements is to distort what Ellen White actually is saying.
Ellen G. White’s View on Occult Healing. But Ellen White did recognize that occult healers claimed to heal through the manipulation of electrical currents. In fact, she claimed that the healers were “channels for Satan’s electric currents.” In an article entitled “Shall We Consult Spiritualist Physicians” (part of Testimony 31, published in 1882) she spoke to this issue, basing her remarks on King Ahaziah’s appeal to Baalzebub the god of Ekron for healing (see 2 Kings 1):
The heathen oracles have their counterpart in the spiritualistic mediums, the clairvoyants, and fortunetellers of today. The mystic voices that spoke at Endor are still by their lying words misleading the children of men. The prince of darkness has but appeared under a new guise…. While they (modern people) speak with scorn of the magicians of old, the great deceiver laughs in triumph as they yield to his arts under a different form.
His agents still claim to cure disease. They attribute their power to electricity, magnetism, or the so-called “sympathetic remedies.” In truth, they are but channels for Satan’s electric currents. By this means he casts his spell over the bodies and souls of men.
I have from time to time received letters both from ministers and lay members of the church, inquiring if I think it wrong to consult spiritualist and clairvoyant physicians. I have not answered these letters for want of time. But just now the subject is again urged upon my attention. So numerous are these agents of Satan becoming, and so general is the practice of seeking counsel from them, that it seems needful to utter words of warning….
Not a few in this Christian age and Christian nation resort to evil spirits rather than trust to the power of the living God. The mother, watching by the sickbed of her child, exclaims: “I can do no more. Is there no physician who has power to restore my child?” She is told of the wonderful cures performed by some clairvoyant or magnetic healer, and she trusts her dear one to his charge, placing it as verily in the hands of Satan as if he were standing by her side. In many instances the future life of the child is controlled by a satanic power which it seems impossible to break….
In the name of Christ I would address His professed followers: Abide in the faith which you have received from the beginning. Shun profane and vain babblings. Instead of putting your trust in witchcraft, have faith in the living God. Cursed is the path that leads to Endor or to Ekron. The feet will stumble and fall that venture upon the forbidden ground. There is a God in Israel, with whom is deliverance for all that are oppressed. Righteousness is the habitation of His throne….
Angels of God will preserve His people while they walk in the path of duty, but there is no assurance of such protection for those who deliberately venture upon Satan’s ground. An agent of the great deceiver will say and do anything to gain his object. It matters little whether he calls himself a spiritualist, an ‘electric physician,’ or a ‘magnetic healer.’ By specious pretenses he wins the confidence of the unwary….
Those who give themselves up to the sorcery of Satan may boast of great benefit received thereby, but does this prove their course to be wise or sage? What if life should be prolonged? Will it pay in the end to disregard the will of God? All such apparent gain will prove at last an irrecoverable loss. We cannot with impunity break down a single barrier which God has erected to guard His people from Satan’s power. (Testimonies, vol. 5, 193-4, 197-99, emphasis added)
The counsel is clear. In harmony with the Bible Ellen White recognizes the presence of Satan and evil angels behind the occult systems of healing. To pursue recovery from sickness at such sources simply opens the door to satanic deceptions and control. The Ellen G. White writings give no support to the holistic health’s pantheistic view or reality and emphatically reject this approach to healing.