Barely disguised pagan beliefs and practices have been worming their way into churches through a variety of counselling techniques, masquerading under the label ‘Christian’. We need to be wary of those who claim they can sort out our souls using such methods.
‘Christian counselling’ has grown dramatically over the last half-century and although many have tried to develop a biblical approach to this subject others have been open to non-Christian input. Indeed, some workers in the field have borrowed ideas almost indiscriminately from people who promote anti-biblical material.
This lack of discernment is particularly apparent when dealing with the subconscious mind. The roots of some schools of psychotherapy run deep into the poisonous soil of the occult.
Mesmer and magnets
One of the first researchers to delve below the level of the conscious was the idiosyncratic Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). The enduring importance of Mesmer’s influence can be seen in the following statement from a prominent psychiatrist writing in the prestigious Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine:
‘What is important is the impact and influence [Mesmer] had on the subsequent development of psychiatry. It would be no exaggeration to say that he was one of the world’s first psychotherapists’.1
It is not often realised that Mesmer believed that the planets influenced the human body or that his work was strongly influenced by ‘the occult work of a Jesuit priest, Maximillian Hehl, one of Maria Theresa’s court astrologers who had used magnets to cure people’.2
Mesmer believed in a form of mystical pantheism according to which a ‘magnetic fluid’ permeated the universe. His ‘fluid’ was similar in concept to the Japanese Buddhist Chi; the transcendental magician’s ‘Grand Elixir’; the spiritualist’s Elan Vital; the occultist’s ‘Philosopher’s Stone’; and the Hindu’s Prana.
Mesmer pioneered the study of hypnotism3 and the word mesmerisecomes from his name. This idea was later picked up by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) who studied for a time at the Salpêtrière in Paris, where Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) was reviving interest in hypnosis – but from a materialistic perspective.
In his autobiography Freud wrote, ‘I received the profoundest impression of the possibility that there could be powerful mental processes which nevertheless remained hidden from the consciousness of men’.4
Freud was also far more interested in the occult than is generally realised, declaring: ‘Behind all so-called occult phenomena lies something new and important: the fact of thought transference, i.e. the transferring of psychological processes through space to other people’.5
Freud, one of the fathers of modern psychology and psychotherapy, had two favourite students who carried on and developed his work – Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) and Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961).
Wilhelm Reich was responsible for the concept of ‘bioenergy’ which he believed permeates all matter.6 His basic theory was that psychological problems are fundamentally caused by sexual repression. He even believed that Christ was murdered because the sexually maladjusted world could not cope with Jesus’ own dynamically healthy energy.7
From Reich’s work developed ‘Orgone Therapy’ and ‘Bioenergetics’. The latter is very similar to Tantric Yoga, where sexuality is seen as a spiritual ritual to connect into the spiritual world or ‘cosmic consciousness’ (ananda).8
Freud’s other key student, Carl Gustav Jung, developed theories that have been taken over by many churches. These theories are foundational to what is commonly called ‘inner healing’ or ‘healing of the memories’ – which employ visualised images of Jesus to deal with supposed inner conflicts.
Advocates of such Jungian-style therapies include so-called Christian leaders like Paul Yonggi Cho, Richard Foster, John Wimber and the Arbuthnotts, to name but a few. An internet search for ‘healing of the memories’ produces a strange mix of Christian and pagan protagonists.
Jung attempted to produce a synthesis between psychology and ‘spirituality’. He developed a very complex view of human personality, delving into the depths of the unconscious mind.
He postulated that deep within man’s inner being was something he called the collective unconscious, made up of the memories of a whole race of people. He argued that within the collective unconscious there are hidden primordial images, or archetypes.
According to Jung these often take human form, can be contacted, and can counsel their human hosts as inner guides. He himself developed a ‘relationship’ with a spirit guide, a disembodied entity called ‘Philemon’.
Jung was plagued by dreams and visions – which caused nightmares for his family! It is said that on one occasion the doorbell of his house started ringing by itself and continued without stopping.
One biographer writes: ‘The whole family looked uneasily at one another and Jung knew that “something had to happen”. It was, he wrote, as if “a crowd were present” and the whole house “crammed full of spirits”‘.9
Jung later interpreted this event as being part of a collective mental breakdown, or an encounter with the archaic collective unconsciousness. Christians may well come to a different conclusion.
Bizarre as it may seem, what I have sketched above is the background to much of modern psychotherapy and the various schools of counselling. Sadly, many who claim to be Christians have adopted and adapted it. This may seem surprising but it is certainly the case.10
One example is Morton Kelsey’s book Encounter with Godin which he ‘evaluates the work of Carl Jung in some detail, demonstrating a great deal of compatibility between the thinking of the Swiss professor and some aspects of traditional Christianity’.11 A whole raft of other popular books and so-called Christian counselling strategies have been strongly influenced by the ideas of Mesmer, Freud, Reich and Jung.
The point is not that non-Christians should not be listened to. Although the Bible is completely true, it does not contain all truth. For example, the discovery of the laws of physics, the applications of engineering and the knowledge of modern medicine owe nothing directly to the Bible.
In a whole range of academic disciplines – through the work of common grace and an intelligent exploration of God’s creation – people have discovered the most amazing things about our universe and ourselves.
However, for the Christian, the Bible contains controllingtruth. That is, Christians should always apply a biblical ‘filter’ to ascertain whether the ideas and theories of men should be accepted, rejected or modified.
Computer users will know what a ‘firewall’ is – software on your computer that blocks off invasion by hackers, computer viruses and the like. In the same way, the Bible should act like a firewall, protecting us from dangerous ideas and practices.
What has happened in some areas of ‘Christian’ counselling is that the spiritual and intellectual firewall of the Bible has been turned off. It is not surprising, therefore, that demonic hacking is infiltrating the church.
1.Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol.85, No. 7, p.383.
2. Morrison, A., The Serpent and the Cross, K and M Books, Plas Gwyn, Trelawnyd, Wales (1994) p.293.
3. Hurding, R. F., Roots and Shoots – a guide to counselling and psychotherapy, Hodder and Stoughton, London (1985) p.59.
4. Sigmund Freud, An Autobiographical Study, in Standard Edition, Vol. 20 (1925), p.1.
5. Paul Roezen, Freud and his followers, Penguin (1979), p.113.
6. Again note the pantheistic concepts inherited from Mesmer and ancient paganism.
7. See, Wilhelm Reich, The Murder of Christ,cited in Morrison, A., loc. cit., p.300.
8. This is similar to many pagan religions, including some mentioned in the Bible.
9. Brome, V., Jung: Man and Myth, Paladin (1980), p.113.
10. Hurding, R. F., loc. cit., p.79.
11. Hurding, R. F., loc. cit., p.80.