The Yoga Sutras of Sri Paul

What would C4 contextualisation look like in a Western context?

Hamo raised this question in an article some time ago and I thrashed out a few issues with him on his blog at the time, but I’d like to raise the specter of it again given recent discussions on chi, ki, prana, pneuma, etc, etc, in relation to practices like Tai Chi and Yoga which have become commodified for Western consumers.

For those not familiar with the contextualisation scale, C4 equates to “contextualized Christ-centered communities using insider language and biblically permissible cultural and religious forms.” For the other types see the article.

Here’s a translation of the bible to ponder over:

I urge you, fellow sanyasins, in view of God’s compassion, to offer your bodies
as living sacrifices, sacred and satisfying to God—this is your pranic act of
worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of maya, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind. [Romans 12:1-2]

How comfortable are people with that?

What if you had a serious yoga devote in your cell group?

Would you back away from C4 contextualization even if she was having difficulties with your in-house language?

What might stop you from diving in?

Or what if we try and translate things the other way

“Use the Holy Spirit Luke!” – Ben Kenobi

Doesn’t that sound a whole lot more problematic theologically?

I was recently re-reading a book on Fung Shui which went into elaborate detail about the art of arranging your home to attract Ch’i. Now, once you realise that the author is actually taking about the Spirit of God in creation you have to ask yourself just how uncritically we can sample from consumer culture. There are some hard core issues masked behind the language gap.

21 thoughts on “The Yoga Sutras of Sri Paul

  1. Matt
    There are a lot of rabbits one could chase after based on your post, and to do justice to the complex issues it is the sort of thing that deserves to be discussed at length (which blogs are not very amenable to).
    A few of the broad issues that would need teasing out include:
    * The work of the Spirit of God throughout the creation (as grounded in the Old Testament);
    * Reflections on the “energies of God” as expressed in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and how that relates back to the previous point on the Spirit of God; (also rediscovering inside Evangelical and Reformed theologies something of God’s immanence);
    * Exploring the notion of “Chi” in Chinese thought (found in Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius etc), and noting how the concept has developed in Chinese thought (so it is not “fixed” to classic Taoist views of ancestral spirits and many deities) and how it has also been “reframed” in New Age borrowings.
    * Discerning the folk religious elements in traditional feng shui, and discerning what aspects of that worldview collide with Scripture, and what aspects may actually agree with Scripture.
    A little bit of map work is found in my wife’s essay on aromatherapy in Encountering New Religious Movements (Kregel 2004), and in my 1999 essay on energy healing. At some stage I must renovate and expand that piece to reflect the development of my thinking since that time.
    A few points that could be looked at is delving into the Old Testament on “ruach” the word for wind, breath and spirit. The Ot shows that the Spirit of God (ruach) is everywhere (not in a pantheist meaning either). Yahweh’s ruach gives energy to all things. God’s breath enters the Adam to become a living being. Psalm 33:6 indicates that even the stars were made by God’s ruach (breath).
    The Spirit in the OT tends to be presented as the vitality and passion that comes upon people (rather than making people become spiritual contemplatives). Micah says he is full of the ruach of Yahweh (3:8). The ruach came upon Samson in feats of physical strength.
    The way the word “chi” is used depends on who is talking (which is a bit like the word “God”, what do different humans mean when they use this term). It is interesting to note that the “Union Version” of the Chinese Bible published in 1990 translates the ruach in Genesis two as “chi”.
    One of the faulty ways of thinking is to assume that the word “chi” has one fixed meaning or use, and to then take that as the basis on which one interprets what people mean (without asking the context etc). The genetic fallacy in logic can also occur: dismissing something on the basis of its origins and not on its own merits now. So some Christians argue “chi” comes from Taoist or Chinese occult religion, and so because of those origins the whole concept of it is tainted by false dogma.
    One can look at feng shui critically, particularly when practitioners are concerned about ancestral spirits or developing a folk magic to control inexplicable “powers”. It is appropriate in that cntext to ask challenging and searching questions about metaphysics and theology.
    However it is also possible to reframe things in light of theology to present a very different understanding of something like “chi”. That is, inviting people to reframe their own view from a magical one to another view that looks to God’s Spirit and God’s revelation.
    This might happen in a couple of ways. One is that the ruach (“chi”) is God’s Spirit that providentially nourishes and sustains all life. That is consistent with an understanding of the OT on God’s immanence and the Spirit in the creation.
    At another point though God’s ruach (“chi”) also works in special providential acts. It is God’s ruach (Matthew and Luke narratives) who comes upon Mary with the Christ-child. God’s ruach points to the Christ and our response is either to recognise (he who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit [chi] is saying to the church) or to choose a turning away from God’s Spirit prompting us all to look to Christ (like the Rich Man who goes away from Jesus most miserable because the challenge to give up everything for the kingdom was too much for this man to take).
    If one goes further with the words “feng shui” – meaning wind and water – one can reframe it from a magical way of viewing design (and hence trying to placate spirits) to an entirely different motif. Wind and water are biblical motifs for the Spirit (John 3) and these are directly related to spiritual regeneration “you must be born again/born from above” by the Spirit who blows where he wills. A biblical understanding of creation will recognise that God’s Spirit is everywhere. The counter intuitive challenge is being ready to recognise that the Spirit is always there and everywhere; are we giving thanks or do we have cloudy vision that ignores the Spirit?
    I had better not drone on here but another nudge to consider: the incarnation shows us that God values the human body and sanctifies the body. The energies of the Spirit do come upon the body, but energy must take form and shape, and spirituality needs righteousness and revelation. Jesus spoke of the Spirit as living water bubbling up within us, and our focus is surely to express the love and words of God in Christ to others, and to be empowered to live in the way that Christ is pre-eminent in us in what we say and do – hence a community built in Christ by the Spirit that both announces good news, and confronts the injustices of anti-kingdom practices, values and teachings (both among those who say they are disciples and of those who not Christ).


  2. Philip
    I think we could discuss this at length and still not plumb all the depths.
    One of the core practices of yoga is pranayama, breathing exercises to calm the mind and focus the Spirit (Prana). Every time I focus on this connection between spirit and the breath I am drawn to the resurrection story where Jesus breathed on the disciples with the words, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. In this context, breathing was a sacramental act. It particularly reminds me of one glorious evening where I sat on rock wall overlooking the sea and experienced the Spirit of God wash over me as the wind howled and whisked along the clouds. At times like that I can appreciate the connection.
    I’m wondering what Methodius (Steve Hayes) could add re the ‘energies of God’ as someone actually from the Orthodox tradition. I wonder if that could shed some light on how we could more fruitfully engage with the chakra teachings of kundalini yoga? In any respect I’d like to explore the Orthodox teachings more.
    It is good that you point out eastern understandings of Chi have been reframed by the New Age Movement and that the context of the conversation is essential for understanding. Their reframing of the word certainly sets a precedent for Christians to reciprocate. The same could be said for karma and for this reason I am equally amenable to using karma as a synonym for sin. And remember of course Paul and John themselves set a precedent for this sort of thing with their appropriation of musterion and logos from the pagan philosophical and mystery traditions of the ancient Roman Empire.
    It would be good if you and Ruth could expand on your original articles. This is certainly an important topic.
    As you say, the core issue is inviting people to reframe their understanding of Spirit (Chi) from a manipulative/magickal one premised on bending the Spirit (Chi) to the will, to another one more premised on humble surrender, that acknowledges Spirit (Chi) as a conscious agency.


  3. …. the core issue is inviting people to reframe their understanding of Spirit (Chi) from a manipulative/magickal one premised on bending the Spirit (Chi) to the will, to another one more premised on humble surrender, that acknowledges Spirit (Chi) as a conscious agency.
    I think this is a key point to tackle and engage with Matt- harnessing energy forces for our use is completely different to the notion of surrender to the Holy Spirit. At a recent Qi- gong and healing workshop I attended the purpose in connecting with chi was to effect healing in another person. Chi was seen here as the powerful energy force, the practitioners as channels- there was an element of manipulative majick about this but also a sense in which the practitioner needed to be both open and submissive.
    In atempting to engage in all of these areas I suggest that our key task is to listen to the culture and to the Spirit together atempting to see where (or if) they connect.
    How far we can go with contextualisation I am not sure though I must admit to being more comfortable with the Romans contextualisation than your Star Wars example… got me thinking again- thanks I think!


  4. Oh Sally, te he, I was hoping to make you uncomfortable with the Star Wars one!
    Sorry, I probably didn’t make myself clear enough. Whilst the Romans translation was an attempt at C4 contextualisation, the Star Wars translation was not meant to be anything of the sort. Rather, the exact opposite, an attempt at cultural exegesis.
    I’d like to draw attention to the fact that what is actually being said by Ben Kenobi is not nearly so spiritually neutral as we’re generally used to thinking. We often miss it because of the language disconnect and the narrative delivery, but at a subtle level Ben’s teaching sharply challenges orthodox Christian pneumatology.
    BEN: Remember, a Jedi can feel the [Spirit] flowing through him.
    LUKE: You mean [he] controls your actions?
    BEN: Partially. But [he] also obeys your commands.
    There is an element of magickal manipulation here that, however much we like the movies, we must nevertheless question. But so often we fail to recognise these issues because we don’t do the necessary language correlations. What I’m suggesting is that, since post-moderns invoke chi, ki, prana, pneuma and ruah interchangeably as different expressions for the same essential phenomena, Christians need to be prepared to do likewise and offer an alternative understanding, an alternative narrative, an alternative practice.


  5. Chutney. You raise an important question but I think you’re drawing a distinction between the personal Soul and the universal Spirit that, in my experience, many eastern mystics and their New Age translators would explicitly deny.
    To the contrary, I find them claiming that true God and true self are one and the same. We don’t of course, as followers of Jesus’ teachings, but that’s precisely why I suggest we reframe teachings about Chi and ofter a counterpoint. In any case, I don’t get the sence that Fung Shui practitioners see Chi anywhere near so localised as to be locked up in an individual body. They say Chi flows through all creation. Yes its within the body too, but does the Psalms not say that we would all die if God should remove his ruah from us? So the idea of the Holy Spirit flowing through all individuals, even ones who have not been baptised in the Spirit, is not foreign to Christianity either.
    As for the Tao, I happily appropriate that language too, but I think its closer to what Christians mean by logos. After all, ‘Tao’ directly translates as ‘The Way’ and is associated with concepts relating to ultimate truth.
    Actually, my thought on Tao are far from unique. This has already been explored extensively by missiologists working in Asian contexts and logos is routinely translated as Tao in Chinese Bibles.
    In the beginning was the Tao,
    and the Tao was with God
    and the Tao was God….
    And the Tao became flesh
    and dwelt among us.
    See Christ the Eternal Tao and Christ the Tao for more on this.
    Actually, this should be a lesson for the Emerging Church. We tend to think we’re so pioneering in grappling with eastern spiritualities for the first time in the west; that this moment is some sort of new reformation. But its all been done before. It just wasn’t here. We need to start valuing the voices of the third world Christians and be humble enough to consider, maybe sometimes they know more than us. After all, while our churches are dying in the face of eastern spiritualities theirs are exploding with exponential growth. Sometimes I think we should put down our Emerging Church books and search Amazon for those written by the Asian pastors who grappled with the same things all in electronic obscurity decades ago. We’re amatures compared to some of them.


  6. Matt
    Perhaps Steve will make some comments from inside the tradition. It is important to keep in focus that God’s energies are not an emanation (so not the kind of things posited in Cabalistic musings) or an intermediary thing. The energies are God himself in his activity and self-manifestation as he communicates himself in outgoing love. The energies are an exterior manifestation of the Trinity. The energies also bear witness to the unity and the simplicity of the being of God. The energies manifest the many names of God – wisdom, life, justice, love, etc.
    On the chakras — there are tension points. One is that in Biblical revelation there is no evidence for that kind of anthropology (7 energy centres related to an auric body). So the anthropology of the chakras must be understood first of all in the specific context of Tantric Yoga in its classical East Asian expression.
    Then we must also take note that Charles Leadbeater (Theosophical Society/Liberal Catholic Church) redefined chakras and auras, and it is Leadbeater’s “anthropology” that has become familiar to us via New Age. His interpretation has set much of the pace for current western understandings of chakras and auras. So that anthropology needs to be appreciated in its own cultural and cosmological terms.
    At best from a Biblical standpoint one might explore the meaning of “soma” (NT Greek word for body) as used in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul talks about terrestrial and celestial and spiritual bodies. From there it may be possible to talk about “spiritual planes” and what interactions we may/may not have with them. In the instances where Paul and John for example are “in the spirit” and “travel” to heaven these are cases where God takes the initiative to draw them hence. So it is not evidently an art or technique they learned to do or initiated others into doing. There are no biblical texts to sustain that thought.
    If one wanted to consider biblical metaphors related to “soma” then one can find different aspects of human anatomy mentioned as linked to emotions: heart, kidneys etc.


  7. Philip has got me thinking regarding the energies of God which we know are not an inpersonal force- but rather require from us a relational response- how then do we make connections with those who see spiritual energies as impersonal and things that we can manipulate and control- like the force!?
    Also Chakaras are something I have been looking into esp in regard to the coulours atributed to them… any thoughts folks?


  8. I must admit the chakras have got me stumped. Annoyingly so.
    I find it’s one of the most popular teachings, so I really feel the need to engage with it, yet I also find it’s one of the least compatible with Biblical teachings (as per Philip’s comments on anthropology), so I’m not really sure how to.
    I can’t even draw on my personal experience. Even when I was in the New Age I was always far more into the far eastern than the indian, and even where I studied the indian I always far more into karma yoga and ashtanga yoga than kundalini yoga and tantra, so I draw a blank there too. I did buy a chakra meditation tape early on in my meditation explorations, but it never really gelled with me.
    I do appreciate that your thinking through the chakras Sally and you might be interested to know that your earlier musings prompted me to pick up a copy of ‘Your Seven Energy Centres’ by Elizabeth Clare Prophet earlier today while I was walking past Aquarius Rising with my son in Parramatta (see side bar ‘current reads’ for more).
    Another book I have been reading, ‘A Path with a Heart’, by Western Buddhist master Jack Cornfield has been prompting me in similar ways and I was wondering last week: even if we critique the anthropology, surely the more general emphasis of working through spiritual blockages different aspects of our experience – in the heart, mind, body and soul – has some validity to it? The problem for me is the assertion that we must work through these things in so linear a sequence. I find the notion of kundalini energies and chakras far easier to come to terms with if I treat them more metaphorically and less anthropologically. But would practitioners accept a metaphorical approach as having any validity. I honestly don’t know. I would like to hear more about how you use the colours. I think that’s an interesting thread too. I’ll have to dwell on Philip’s celestial bodies some more this weekend too.


  9. Matt
    I believe that one of the important factors to keep in the foreground concerns the distinctives of Scripture and the organic development of Christianity. There are two strands related to contextual theology/contextual missions/contextual apologetics:
    (A). Elements of shared thought/points of contact;
    (B). Elements of dissimilarity.
    Not every thought, concept or practice is necessarily capable of being interrelated to a Christian way of living. So we see here that efforts to acquire magical control of forces runs counter-clockwise to Jesus’ model of servanthood; Paul’s acceptance that God’s strength is perfected in our weaknesses, and so on.
    So one point for further reflection would be on this question of maybe there is too much dissimilarity for there to be a rapprochement of ideas on chakras. I am not saying the barn-door is shut, but that it is a significant line of thinking that requires meditation and probing.
    Another related point is that if you set aside Christianity for a moment, consider how other major traditions are regarded by the kinds of seekers you have in mind here. To what extent do they “listen” and “accept” the distinctive precepts of say Sufism, Zen, Sikh pathways? Religious borrowing is a two-way street. You can see amalgamation and adaptation of kundalini/tantric ideas into Reiki and in some new Shinto-based movements that have arisen in Japan since 1945. If one was to be a strict Shinto devotee, it would be difficult to reconcile it with tantra. However adaptation of religious ideas and practices is a distinct cultural feature of Japanese living.
    However, you will also find the rejection of ideas in these traditions too and sometimes a reassertion of certain distinctives. The lesson here is one need not always be looking for an overlap or parallel in order for a view to be proclaimed and lives lived around those teachings. Does the Dalai Lama have to always look for points of commonality between Vajrayana and all things manifested in other faiths?
    But let me remind you of something related to phenomena that has parallels. One of the movements to arise from India and that has found a place around many parts of the world is Siddha Yoga. The Siddha tradition is part of Kashmir Shaivism (Kashmir tradition related to Shiva), which is tantric (kundalini yoga). The great modern guru was Swami Muktananda, and now the movement is directed by a female successor Guru Mayi.
    In Siddha Yoga, especially in its earliest days (late 1940s up to the late 1970s) there was much emphasis on an experience of shaktipat – a transmission of power/energy that was called an “awakening”. Now the awakening involved tangible phenomena: spontaneous yogic movements (kriya), laughter, sobbing, dancing, utterances (glossalia/ie tongues) etc.
    If you recall the story of Michael Graham (the first Aussie convert/disciple of Muktananda) he had a tremendous experience of this, and he was able to pass it on to others by his own physical proximity. Now Michael also experimented alongside of his primary commitment to Siddha Yoga with other pathways. One of those was Subud, which originated in Indonesia out of Islamic mysticism. In Subud there is an experience involving a transmission of energy that involves spontaneous bodily movements, laughter, etc and it is called “latihan”. Michael likewise experienced “latihan” in Subud in Australia.
    Before Michael became a Christian he noted the news reports in the early 1990s concerning the Toronto Blessing. Michael observed that the phenomena of the Blessing was identical to both latihan and the Siddha awakening. He has never been able to make up his mind about this phenomena, but he is persuaded that the same forms have been manifested in three entirely different religious contexts (Hindu tantra, Islamic mysticism, and Christian Pentecostal).
    Now some Christians would say “aha, I knew it this is demonic phenomena inside the church and look where it came from — Hinduism.” While that model of interpretation could be considered, it is difficult to see how that can be firmly concluded especially in view of the outcomes in the Pentecostal contexts where people have not abandoned primary confession of faith in Christ. The other point is this: do we make the phenomena the main point and object of desire (hence open to abuse), or is the person of Christ the centre and circumference of all things we pursue?
    Perhaps what is also needed in part is theological reflection, as much as considering what kind of “reframing” of ideas might occur. The notion of spiritual blockages is important to many New Agers as related to chakras (perhaps more than say auric bodies and out-of-body phenomena; that’s just an impression by the way). But take the “blockages” and the notion of channelling energy to free up the flow within (whether for “healing” or otherwise).
    If one approached this problem on multiple levels it might be possible to develop some kind of stimulating dialogue. If you approached the matter from the wisdom literature, spiritual blockages correspond to idolatry and to “vanity of vanities”; without God propely in the picture we have stunted growth and dysfunctional vision, living etc. And if we recall that wisdom is an unfolding concept in Scripture, starting from mundane observations on life in creation, and culminates in Paul with Christ as the Wisdom of God, one could look at blockages in terms of an absence of relatedness to wisdom (both the mundane and in the Christ).
    But one could also consider blockages very much in relationship to sin and “you reap what you sow”. Unless our whole being is aligned to God’s grace we retain blockages that defeat us from growth and wholeness (basically the old sin, confession, repentance, forgiveness equation).
    One could extend this to a hermeneutic of Scripture. One can apprehend the “knowledge” by reading the text, but blockage will ensue unless the life lived manifests the text. The parable of the sower and the seeds comes to mind here; but also the desert fathers who combined reading Scripture with the manifestation of truths in the way one behaved and related.
    Blockage and power might also be explored. Blockages remain in us when we seek power to feed our fallen minds, our misconstruing of “dominion” whether over other humans or over the rest of creation. The notion of vulnerability in the Incarnation (the Christ-child is a helpless babe dependent on others; crucifixion is impalement – sheer physical pathetic helplessness; “you will serve as a slave not lord it over others” etc).
    Blockages ensue when we fail to heed “he who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit says”, and the lamentable corporate state of most of the 7 churches mentoned in Revelation 2-3.
    On the anthropology question I feel that while one can delve into 1 Corinthians 15, we might keep in mind the notion of “hiddenness” relative to doxa (glory). There is a strong motif in Scripture about nakedness and transparency. The primordial humans of Genesis 2 are naked (not just physically but transparent to each other and to God). Then in shame hiding occurs and covering up occurs. Note that Noah is nude and drunk he curses his son Ham for seeing his nakedness. Note the “disintegration” of Isaiah with the seraphim in the Temple vision (chap 6); in the raw unveiling of the holiness/glory of God the prophet falls to pieces; think of the veil over Moses face because even the mere after-glow of YHWH’s presence is blinding for others to see. Consider the Transfiguration – Peter James and John hit the dirt because it is “too much”. John in the Revelation is tempted to fall down and worship the angel (“do not do it” says the angel).
    Now the hiddenness is not about esoteric mystery or gnostic teachings for the chosen few elitists; no the hiddenness here is that God’s glory is too much mortals to handle. So the bodily transformation that resurrection brings equips us to handle that doxa, and so the contrast in Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 between “the then” and “the now” (now we see through the glass darkly, but then face-to-face; all about 2nd advent). So we suffer from Luther’s maxim “simul justus et peccator simultaneously saint and sinner”. Our anthropology must be transformed and the final transformation is about resurrection which removes once and for all every “blockage”.
    Also note that in all of this there is no emphasis whatsoever on out-of-body travels or physical portals in the body related to psychic or spiritual energy centres in another enveloping body (the auric body/or bodies as some posit 7 bodies enveloping the physical form). Perhaps one could take the 7 symbolism and relate it back to 7 days of creation etc; but remember that the New Age understanding involves both symbolism (like colours) as much as the auric stuff being reality.
    If one wants to talk about colours and symbols biblically, then one can look at the Noahic rainbow and colours seen by John in heaven; one can look at the colours associated with spiritual robes (garments worn in the Tabernacle; the various garments worn by Jesus from crib to cross). One has to come back to the spiritual importance of artistic, iconic representation of truth, and recall also that early Christian art (pre-Nicene) was one form of apologetics used (yes apologetics that much maligned discipline).
    In the interim (between the then and the now), the power of God’s Ruach (the Holy Spirit; the energies of God etc) is here to propel us to live. But it is centred in servanthood not in glorying in “I have power”.
    We must receive God’s Spirit so we can indeed cry “Abba, father”. The energies of God are not reserved for the charismata of 1 Corinthians 12 (tongues, visions etc), though they can be manifested there. The problem is to isolate the charismata and individualise these things at the expense of the Body of Christ (these things are to equip and edify the entire community and not ego-centred head-trips of self-importance).
    Rather the main emphasis of the great mystery of Godliness is that of the Trinity indwelling us now to live for the kingdom of Christ in servanthood (not magical power).
    In a metaphorical way it may be possible (this is where deep mature reflection is required) to speak of the Spirit of God addressing us in our hearts and body; having the vision of the Spirit so that one’s eyes see truly the difference between a renewed world and the current degraded fallen state.
    One might also come back to blocked energy and the theology of healing. We must differentiate between being cured of an ailment and being healed. Your final healing is assured in resurrection. The mystery of illness and sin is one that tempts people to extremes: you have not been healed because you are demonic; you would be healed if you had faith; everyone is guaranteed miracles on tap anytime anywhere etc. Yet we can at times take on board that our “dis-ease” may be a need of a deeper spiritual matter that extends beyond physical frailty and ailment. Repentance and cleansing are important in pastorally reassuring people of their baptismal vows; encouragement is the proverbial key to caring.
    Finally, the anthropology question probably should be assessed on the doctrine of creation (re the Imago Dei) and the regenerative work of God as Father, Son and Spirit indwell those who walk the way of Christ. Instead of chakras being portals into the auric realm, we need to realign our thoughts and actions by asking whether we recognise the Imago Dei in others (or how we deny or degrade it in what we say and do to others), alongside of meditating on the final point of transformation those in Christ becoming joint-heirs and partakers of the divine (but this is not pantheism).
    I guess that offers quite a few more rabbits to run after!


  10. So sorry Matt but I have mentioned before that blogs have their limitations, and if you open up a big issue you will also open up the horizons for relevant reflection and digestion. It is funny that you can be “rebuked” for breaking netiquette (brevity vs verbosity), and then later find that those who say “see thou doest it not” then go ahead and deposit long messages on their own blogs! Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
    One other reminder is you can refer back to Ole Madsen’s little paper where he does tarot meditations and links those things to chakras. So he guides seekers in an exercise and talks to them about meeting Christ Jesus in the heart chakra. One could probably talk about the crown chakra as a springboard to being anointed on the crown with oil in the OT, and recall the link in symbol between oil and God’s Ruach resting on a person, and then in Isaiah the link between anointing and proclaiming good news. However my main point is still that eve if one does this (starting where the other person is in their comfort zone and paradigm) the desire is surely to encourage people to bring their ideas under the sovereignty of God in Christ and in biblical teachings. If the biblical anthropology does not have space for chakras, then at some point in the journey of discipleship the adept must follow the prompting of the Spirit speaking through the Word.


  11. Ok, I’m back from my meditations. Sat down by the waters of Lake Parramatta this afternoon, pondering life, the universe and everything while my sons were having their siesta, and one the way back a story spontaneously insinuated itself into my consciousness – that of Pharaoh’s hardened heart in the Exodus story. A blockage of Spirit if I’ve ever heard one! Interesting that you’ve raised the heart chakra in the meantime. I am wondering if there are other stories that could shed illumination on other chakras, inviting people into a more personal understanding of the Spirit? This is largely stream of consciousness so forgive me that I leave so many loose threads lying around.


  12. Phil
    I think you misunderstood me there. I enjoyed your last few posts. Just meaning that there was so much in them that I need to give it some serious attention. I could see my laptop battery was going to go flat before I finished thinking about it. Still pondering. Don’t let me put you off.


  13. Naw, naw. That’s just my self-deprecating humour! I don’t take myself too seriously and I don’t believe in the PR I have seen about myself in days gone by.


  14. Actually, there’s another story that I think is worth picking up on in any discussion on energy healing and that’s the one of Simon Magus from Acts 8.
    Have you every considered how much Simon Magus sounds like a Reiki healer?
    To recap for those not so familiar with the story, Simon is basically this alt. spirituality guy who’s blown away by the alt. healing activities of the apostle Philip and starts following him around the countryside. Simon observes people receiving the Spirit after Philip lays hands on them and says “Wow, would you charge me up with that power if I give you this wad of cash?” Philip goes, “Nah, nah, you’ve got it all wrong mate, the Spirit can’t be bought or sold!” and then calls on him to shift his mindset about such things.
    I think this is a very important story to reflect on when we’re interacting with energy healers, particularly those who’ve spent wads of cash to receive ‘attunements’ so they can become Reiki healers. One of the things that should distinguish Christian healing from other forms of alternate healing is its wild and free basis.


  15. Matt
    I’m not quite persuaded of the similarities between Reiki healing and the Simon Magus story.
    Reiki (even with its various schools or lineages created outside of Japan in the 1970s-80s) is firmly rooted in the same metaphysical tradition that has given rise to acupuncture and qi gong.
    The Simon Magus story shows that Simon is a bit of a miracle-wonder-worker in Samaria coinciding with the evangelist Philip’s visit to Samaria. Simon performs his own “signs and wonders” before the preachment of the gospel occurs via Philip. While the 2nd century Church Fathers credit Simon as being the insitgator of gnosticism,
    (and I’ll leave that topic to one side), Simon is a wonder-worker. He fits into the broad phenomenology of such characters throughout the ancient near eastern world and the Greco-Roman world. I think that phenomenologically there is quite a bit of difference between the “signs and wonders” of those cultures and the healing and metaphysical paradigm of Chinese culture.
    You are trying to see a parallel between the training courses to become a 3rd and 4th level Reiki Master (which started in the USA via Mrs Takata with a $10,000 price-tag, that was later undercut by William Rand in 1989 [$600.00 all up]); and, Simon wanting to buy the Holy Spirit. If one makes the current correlation between Chi and Spirit, you might see a general parallel.
    If you are also thinking in terms of tangible sensations of power/energy, it probably looks like that in Acts 8; but is that phenomenologically (not theologically) similar to what Reiki healers do?
    It needs to be noted that properly accredited reiki healers learn to meditate on an array of symbols as they tune in to the energy. Knowledge of those symbols has been kept confidential among reiki teachers. Its creator Mikao Usui used a set of Buddhist symbols to do with Power, Love and Light. His original notebook, now published in a book by Frank Petter, is used by those who see themselves as traditional reiki healers.
    Others have diverged, and have amalgamated the chakra system from India with the original reiki model. William Rand uses other symbols for attunement purposes (4 master symbols, 8 treatment symbols). While August Starr operates with an extra-terrestrial model channelled by the Ashtar Space Command.
    All of these meditative symbols belong in the East Asian cultures, and do not seem to correspond to the Greco-Roman or ancient near eastern cultures. What conceptual affinities you can find in the West on invisible energy forces and healing are traceable back to Anton Mesmer.
    Perhaps a different NT event to look to is the healing of the woman with menstrual problems (Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). In those twin accounts where the woman touches Jesus’ clothes the texts say that Jesus perceived that “power” had flowed out of him, thus prompting his question: “who touched me”.


  16. Hmmm, I’ll have to ponder this. I wasn’t thinking so much in terms of tangible sensations, more in terms of the money and theological problems it raises, but, now that you mention it, that aspect does deserve more thought.
    That last story, the healing of the women is very interesting isn’t it? Jesus speaking of ‘power’ in a depersonalised way. I wonder if there are any anthropological studies that deal with this specific text that we could draw contextual insight from?


  17. “The power that proceeds from him” is the sense behind the Markan text in Greek. It is in that setting not so much about impersonal energy, but rather power proceeds from him because of who he is and who sent him; in other words to identify the power that healed is to identify the one who heals; and here the power of healing is locked up up in the word “to save”. While salvation is strongly and consistently linked to redemption and forgiveness from sin, the saving of the entire person (hence the physical healings) piggy back on this.
    In the context of the Markan chapter this incident is preceded by several other healings, all of which are illustrative episodes in Mark’s narrative about “here is the Messiah/Servant King”.
    In The Lukan passage Jesus is quoted as saying power has gone from him. Again it slots into various episodes of healing that Luke recounts, and again pointing to the signs associated with the figure of Jesus.
    The point I’d draw here is that the gospels show Jesus is anointed of God and that under the Father’s will he goes forth as the emissary to Israel (after centuries of prophets sent). Isaiah points (chap 61) to the direct link between anointing and good news proclaimed; and behind Isaiah is the entire OT theology and motif of oil as external symbol of God’s Ruach resting on a person (usually a king or priest or prophet). To anoint with oil was the ceremony showing God’s Spirit rested on that person, empowered for service. In the figure of Jesus we have all things dovetailing: he is King of Israel (so must be anointed as were all kings of Israel/Judah; the gifts of the Magi for anointing), he is anointed by God as the Holy Spirit descends (baptism), and he stands up in the synagogue citing the Isaianic passage “The Spirit has anointed me to proclaim good news … today this is fulfilled in your midst”.
    So the “power” proceeding forth is the power of God as Father bestowed his love on the Son in the form of the Spirit, and the Spirit enables the healing ministry.
    When the healed woman is identified she is shown that “her faith” was what mattered not the act of touching his clothes. She needed to be identified because:
    a. She was now a witness to Jesus;
    b. The ritual purification rules mattered and she needed to be shown to all as ritually pure.
    c. She needed to have a complete understanding as to “how” and “why” healing occurred (not the powerful-magical clothing, but faith in the person of Jesus).
    I don’t know off-hand of any anthropological comments about this episode (but there may be).


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