At some level Max Sculley's 2012 book YOGA, TAI-CHI, REIKI reads like the early stages of an apocalyptic, end of the world, clash of civilizations sci-fi novel. A radically insecure, increasingly unChristian West is not defending itself against pagan ideas flowing from India, China and Japan. Modern post-Christians have hearts void of but longing for the true God. Enter spirituality, New Age, yoga, taichi and reiki to fill the post-Christian vacuum.
-- From India comes Hinduism as manifested in three main forms of Yoga: hathi, raja and kundalini. It is the snake goddess Kali versus Jesus. It is slow deep breathing and altered states of consciousness. It is worship of an impersonal god Brahman and impersonal forces called prana, chi (qi) or ki. It is driving out the awe and worship of a personal Holy Trinity, whose second person, the Word, was made flesh in Jesus.
-- China gives us kungfu and its instrument the martial art tai chi, both associated with qigong, the philosophy of taoism in pursuit of unity with chi, the divine force that drives the universe and flows ever more strongly within the trained human body. Practice faithfully the external postures and "walks" of tai chi and you will almost automatically find God. This is not, of course, what Christianity teaches: yes, prepare through Spiritual Excersises for highly desirable mystical union with God. But only God can, as a freely given gift that you cannot control, unite you with Him mystically.
-- Dating only from its discovery in Japan in 1899 by Dr Mikao Usui, reiki (ki is Japanese for Chinese chi/qi) is a benevolent healing art. Energy passes through the body of a healer into a person to be healed, usually in association with hand movements of the healer. "Reiki provides healing power to all on demand. By contrast, the Christian charismatic gift of healing is bestowed only on some members of the community" and must be prayed for (Ch 10, p. 142).
The author, Max Sculley, is an Australian raised in Sydney in New South Wales. He is a long-time lay member of the Roman Catholic religious teaching institute of St John Baptist de la Salle, in the USA commonly called The Christian Brothers. The like-minded Foreword to YOGA, TAI-CHI, REIKI, penned more than a year and a half before the book was published, is by Sydney's Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous (see his blog at http://bishopjulianporteous.com/ ). Both Brother Sculley and Bishop Porteous are experienced spiritual counselors. Both grew concerned while counseling troubled practitioners of taichi, etc., about only dimly perceived dangers to Christian faith and living embedded in the non-Christian origins and world views of yoga, taichi and reiki. Hence the Foreward and this book.
In his tightly reasoned 4 1/2 page Foreword, the bishop stands back from making detailed descriptions of the physical dimensions and movements of the three arts and focuses on their non-Christian origins, asserting that the three come embedded in both theological and philosophical origins and world-views from which they cannot be disentangled, no matter how much teachers claim to do so. Some excerpts from the Foreword:
-- "using the techniques lead many into a new spiritual world. ... The techniques ... engage a person in entering into an altered state of consciousness ... This is where the danger lies" (p. 2)
-- "they are a Trojan horse for dangerous spiritual infiltration ... a person can unwittingly be exposed to demonic powers ... worshipping a false God" (p. 2).
-- "advocates of these practices ... want to lead people to the truth as they see it. ... This worldview is at odds with Christian faith and belief. The divine, as they see it, is an impersonal force -- and not the personal God revealed in Christianity" (p. 3).
In 12 chapters Max Sculley's book treats in succession yoga, taichi, reiki and "New Age" practices and beliefs. It concludes with endnotes and also with a 24-page alphabetic glossary of such terms as astral travel, ASC (altered states of consciousness), bliss (Hinduism), Brahman, Centering Prayer (C.P.), channeling, chi (qi, ki), demonisation, External Chi Healing, karma, kundalini, mantra, martial arts, New Age, OM (AUM), prana, reincarnation, Taoism, Wu Chi (the Tao), Zen and many more. YOGA, TAI-CHI, REIKI does not present a separate bibliography. But its text, arguments and counter-arguments are well documented within the endnotes.There are also helpful black and white drawings of external postures within the three Asian practices.
Brother Sculley, apparently without having spent much or any time himself studying the three disciplines with a master, shows considerable familiarity from reading and from accounts to him by troubled practitioners who seek his counsel, with details of the physical postures and movements of yoga, taichi and reiki. He detects a few suspicious commonalities among the practices, starting with deliberately slowed breathing, acceptance of oriental theories of anatomy and health and in some cases of underlying philosophies and world views.
Max Sculley warns strongly against deliberate, conscious efforts to alter ordinary consciousness (he exempts sleep, daydreaming and such ordinary shifts in consciousness). He argues that deliberate purely human search for God by voiding consciousness and leaving a vacuum at the center of personality invites spirits other than the true God to take possession of that emptiness. He contrasts the three Oriental techniques with varieties of prayer and meditation long developed within Christianity, citing John Cassian, Mother Teresa and two recent popes. There is danger in the exotic Oriental disciplines that practitioners will devalue disciplined logical thinking, weaken their will power and become dangerously quietist and passive, unable to defend themselves against anti-Christian spiritual powers.
Belief in chi (qi) or prana entails belief that the supreme god is impersonal, without mind and will. This is inimical to biblical and historical Jewish and Christian belief in a personal, loving all powerful true God.
Brother Max Sculley devotes perhaps 20% of his text to concrete examples from his own personal counseling experience and from important literature of bad things that have happened to certain practitioners of yoga, taichi and reiki. I reckon that it would take me at least a year to read, digest and evaluate his numerous printed sources.
I have found YOGA, TAI-CHI, REIKI a useful, instructive introductory tour d'horizon of three Eastern disciplines rapidly spreading in Australia, the USA and throughout what used to be called Christendom. I myself have had lessons in all three disciplines studied, was generally familiar with their historical and spiritual origins, but have learned much new or more detailed from this short book. I particularly value the many written sources embedded in the endnotes, including John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Deepak Chopra, Mother Teresa, Cathechism of the Catholic Church, Thomas Merton, Basil Pennington, John Cassian, Saint Teresa of Avila, Laurette Willis, Mircea Eliade and many many others with widely differing viewpoints.
Some might scoff at Brother Max Sculley as yet another overwrought prophetess Cassandra warning of dangers that no one else perceives or believes. Yet one thing is worth remembering: what King Priam's daughter Cassandra warned against in the Greek myth was the Trojan Horse as instrument of the destruction of Troy! The Bible warns believers against efforts to communicate with the dead, seek preternatural powers apart from God and other practices which Bishop Porteous and Brother Max Sculley find inextricably, willy nilly, bound up with mere external practice of yoga, tai chi and reiki. They just might be right. Fire is a useful tool of human civilization. But it is also dangerous to play with fire.
Bottom line: I recommend that you read YOGA, TAI-CHI, REIKI with an open, enquiring mind. Weigh the arguments behind the deliberately alarming theses of Bishop Porteous and Brother Sculley. Read some of the book's sources for yourself. Debate views pro and cons with friends and colleagues. Regard this book as a timely, good but far from perfect "first word," with "the last word" not yet written.
What did you think of this review?