Last Wednesday Katy Perry, Sting, and Jerry Seinfeld got together for a little shindig in Carnegie Hall. The point of the event? As the New York Times put it, “To raise money for the David Lynch Foundation, which the film director has devoted to spreading the word on [Transcendental Meditation],” often abbreviated as T.M.
According to its official website, Transcendental Meditation is a technique–to be practiced twice daily–intended to “[allow] your mind to easily settle inward, through quieter levels of thought, until you experience the most silent and peaceful level of your own awareness — pure consciousness” (italics original). It has America has enjoyed glittery history of celebrity endorsements, including Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, and Kate Middleton.
Not surprisingly, Christians can easily find themselves puzzled about where Transcendental Meditation stands with relation to their beliefs. Doesn’t the Bible encourage meditation (Psalm 1:2)? And isn’t peace a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)? May Christians–who themselves are often stressed by the hectic pace of life–draw on the benefits of these popular techniques for focus and relaxation?
The apparent popularity of T.M. calls for a fresh examination of this question. Does T. M. have a legitimate role in the life of a believer? Consider these helpful thoughts from Christian thinkers:
T. M. leads to self-worship
“Transcendental Meditation is in reality a form of pantheism. It does not teach the existence of one eternal, personal God, the Creator of the universe. It is part of the monist tradition in that it teaches belief in the essential oneness of all reality and therefore the possibility of unity with the divine. The practice of TM itself leads the mediator toward the idolatry of self-worship because of the identification of the self with the higher ‘Self’ of the creation. In short, TM promotes an experience involving the loss of one’s distinctive identity under the false pretense of a scientific technique
-R. Enroth, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
T. M. is a deceptive state of mind
The biblical worldview is completely at odds with the pantheistic concepts driving Eastern meditation. We are not one with an impersonal absolute being that is called “God.” Rather, we are estranged from the true personal God because of our “true moral guilt,” as Francis Schaeffer says.
No amount of chanting, breathing, visualizing, or physical contortions will melt away the sin that separates us from the Lord of the cosmos—however “peaceful” these practices may feel. Moreover, Paul warns that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). “Pleasant” experiences may be portals to peril. Even yoga teachers warn that yoga may open one up to spiritual and physical maladies.
The answer to our plight is not found in some “higher level of consciousness” (really a deceptive state of mind), but in placing our faith in the unmatched achievements of Jesus Christ on our behalf. If it were possible to find enlightenment within, God would not have sent “his one and only Son” (John 3:16) to die on the Cross for our sins in order to give us new life and hope for eternity through Christ’s resurrection. We cannot raise ourselves from the dead.
Christian meditation must focus on God’s revelation, not self.
Meditation in general is defined as a mental and spiritual exercise directed towards a specific subject. Naturally, for Christians, this means the direction of our minds and spirits towards God our Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Comforter. It involves contemplation of the written word of God and all the richness which results from directing our minds and hearts for the purpose of spiritual refreshment.
For Christians wondering whether Transcendental Meditation has a role in furthering their Christian values, the answer is certainly no. While the hectic pace of American life does reveal the need for a peaceful state of mind (maybe this is why T. M. seems to be increasingly popular), Christians understand that true peace will not be found in any self-focused meditation technique, but only in a relationship with God through Christ.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).