Sunday, December 27, 2009

Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" & Occultism/New Age

From my proposed chapter on the Emergent Church, "Emergen[t]cy: Investigating Postmodernism":

After awhile there is a deep yearning within to go into the upper regions beyond the clouds. In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily. Imagine your spiritual self, alive and vibrant, rising up through the clouds and into the stratosphere. Observe your physical body, the knoll, and the forest shrink as you leave the earth. Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in His presence. 
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1978), 27 (emphasis added).

We of the New Age can risk going against the tide. Let us with abandon relish the fantasy games of children. 
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1978), 170 (emphasis added, however, capitalization is in the original).

Out of body experiences need to be defined a bit here:

ASTRAL PROJECTION - Ability of the soul to leave the body and journey to other dimensions of space and time, known as the astral plane. New Age adherents declare that the physical realm is characterized by illusion and limits, whereas the astral plane is the source of all that is real and boundless. Occult leaders teach their followers to enter trancelike states while using meditative practices and hallucinogenic drugs. By doing so, they can project consciousness into the astral realm, tap into the cosmic consciousness, and obtain the wisdom of the ascended masters. Special chambers have been designed to create an environment for permitting the rapid release of the astral body from the physical body. They call this an out-of-body experience. Surroundings may include power objects, such as crystals or pyramids, New Age music, subliminal or meditation tapes, or a varied combination of other occult paraphernalia. Once the required trancelike state is achieved, the travelers are said to maintain contact with their physical form through a silver umbilical-like thread. While some astral projectionists report journeys to distant lands, others claim they traveled to faraway galaxies and parallel dimensions of space and time where they obtain the secrets of the universe. Some say they have reached heaven, were greeted by angels, and were cloaked in radiant light. Others assert they have reached the ethereal realm, met their spirit guide, and received vital guidance. Some former New Age adherents also report encounters with appalling demons and the paralyzing fear that they would never return to their physical form. Proponents of astral projection explain away these negative experiences as nothing more than necessary stepping stones to achieving enlightenment. See also: ...OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE.
Debra Lardie, Dan Lioy, and Paul Ingram, eds., Concise Dictionary of the New Occult and New Age (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Resources, 2000), 32.

OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE - A sense of separation from the physical body and of being able to view oneself and others from an external vantage point. Out of-body experiences are usually reported in near-death experiences. New Age advocates encourage the deliberate separation of the astral body to achieve spiritual purification. See also: ALTERED STATE, ASTRAL PROJECTION....
Ibid., 192-193.

ALTERED STATE - A changed condition of awareness in which the mind seeks to transcend mundane material reality and enter into ethereal dimensions of time and space. New Age practitioners are eager to achieve an altered state of consciousness, contending that it is a gateway to uncovering repressed capabilities of the mind, body, and spirit. They believe that people in altered states tap into intuitive powers that enable them to experience reality from a new perspective. Occult leaders advocate the use of altered states to interact with spirit guides, who are then invited to reside within the person under the guise of the "higher self." Achievement of altered states is considered a necessary step in the spiritual evolution of people toward divinity. Advocates use terms such as "surrender" and "release" "visualize" and "flow" to refer to altered states in which devotees experience lights, colors, and sounds. These are to lead to the ultimate state of existence or enlightenment. Those who achieve this state are said to have realized their innate divinity and unity with the Universal Mind.
Ibid., 17. 

Again, to be clear, these are not Christian activities:

Visualization... meditation... astral projection, and out-of-the-body experiences are examples of New Age techniques for achieving transformation.... Meditation, ... and astral projection are additional methods people can adopt to expand self discipline, awareness, and knowledge. By so doing, individuals would be choosing not only the methods through which they change but also the goals of their endeavors. They will be, in fact, creating their own realities; in other words, assuming responsibility for their own personal growth and betterment.

John A. Saliba, Christian Responses to the New Age Movement: A Critical Assessment (New York, NY: Geoffrey Chapman, 1999), 10, 12.