JB asks: “I would like to know if relaxation exercises such as visualization and abdominal breathing who have proven to relieve anxiety are accepted by our Faith. I’m not talking about visualizations where one’s soul supposedly “leaves the body” or anything weird like that but those where one thinks about a scenery and after a while releases fears and stress somewhere (perhaps a cloud, a hole in the ground, etc.) or sees them fade or disintegrate.”
The best way to answer this question is to explain what New Age guided imagery is all about, then let JB ascertain if the practice he’s employing bears any similarities.
New Age guided imagery/visualization does not necessarily involve out-of-body experiences. It uses mental concentration and directed mental imagery to achieve particular goals, such as good health, a better financial situation, deeper knowledge, etc., but it does not rely upon the natural imagination or the kind of visualization that accompanies the normal creative process.
The New Age version is a technique that manipulates reality by inducing an altered state that bypasses rational thinking. It supposedly works by using the powers of the mind to influence one’s perception and personal reality.
“Proponents claim that by properly controlling each person’s alleged mental power, they can influence and change a person’s ideas, consciousness, and even his or her physical and spiritual environment,” writes the Christian Research Institute (CRI).
For example, one can change a negative self-image by holding a positive image of oneself in the mind. New Agers also claim it can be used to uncover one’s “inner divinity.”
“By creating the proper mental image and environment and then holding it or projecting it outward, practitioners claim they can exercise mental power over every aspect of their lives,” the CRI writes. “Related practices are also used in magic ritual to call on spirits in order to secure such goals.”
Guided visualization, or guided imagery, is very popular in retreat houses and occurs when someone leads a person or group and guides them on what they should be visualizing. This process is often preceded by a series of relaxation/breathing exercises which are crucial for inducing a mild trance state.
The practice is very prevalent in the occult and is used by shamans, spiritists, magicians and witches, as well as in psychic healing. Numerous occult religions employ this practice, such as Rosicrucianism, Tantrism, and the various mind sciences such as New Thought, Divine Science, Unity School of Christianity, etc. Popular mind control groups such as Landmark and Silva Mind Control also use it.
Believe it or not, this version of visualization has moved into the field of education where it is being used in counseling, creative writing and problem-solving courses. It is also widely used in psychotherapy.
Send your New Age question to email@example.com