My Life As a Christian Mystic

The minute I started seeking an experience, I stopped seeking God. The minute I started trying to make God speak, I stopped hearing his voice. The minute I started searching for what is hidden, rather than what is revealed – that’s the moment I began my life as a Christian Mystic. But let me back up and tell you how it happened. Because I never thought it could happen to me.

When I was 18 years old, I left home and moved to Tennessee to be in a band with some friends. My hunger for God and his Word was insatiable, and the joy of my salvation was real. With just $200 to my name and a two-tank Ford Club Wagon, I left California and headed east. I was optimistic that I could serve God through music. I was trusting him to supply all my needs. And he truly did. He took such good care of me in a new town with few acquaintances. Yet, I would make choices that would lead me down another path – a different one than the one I had originally embarked upon.

When I first arrived in Tennessee, a woman and her husband were kind enough to take me in until I could get a place of my own. I had heard her referred to as a “prophetess” – a term I was unfamiliar with at the time. She seemed to see into my soul. I trusted her, and her relationship with God. She and her husband were very kind to me, treating me like their own daughter. Over time my respect for this woman grew, and I came to believe that she was not only wiser than me, but that she had a closer connection to God than I did. I began to rely on her insight, and “words” from the Lord. I didn’t see the subtle shift at the time, but I had refocused my trust from being wholly in God, to her. I began to look to her for guidance.

One night, this woman took me to a revival at a small country church so that I could get “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” She explained to me that I had not yet been filled with the Spirit to the fullest measure. I had been under the impression that since I was already a believer in Christ, I had been filled with the Holy Spirit. But I was at a point in my life when I wanted desperately to follow God and please him. I wanted as much of him as I could get. If there was more of God to know, and he was going to be at this revival, then I was going to be there.

Inside, the church was very small, consisting of one room with about 20 pews on each side and a small stage at the front. At the podium stood a traveling minister, doing something very peculiar. As each person came forward to receive the “baptism,” he touched them on the forehead between their eyes. As he did, they fell backwards into what seemed like an altered state of consciousness. The woman told me that the people were being “slain in the spirit.” I remember praying to God as I walked up to the front, saying, “If this is of you Lord, I want it.”

But I didn’t know what I was praying. I didn’t understand that I was putting God to the test. And I couldn’t see that I was already placing myself in a position to willingly receive whatever spiritual stuff was being dispensed that night. I had essentially already decided: I wanted to be touched. I wanted the “spirit.” I wanted to know what all these other people seemed to know, possess the secret knowledge they seemed to possess, and join the ranks of the truly spiritual. I wanted more.

When the preacher touched my forehead, it felt so light – as if his finger had barely grazed my skin. Immediately I felt a wind-like magnetic force blow my body over, pushing me backwards, down to the floor. I tried to get up, but I felt as if I were glued there by an unseen hand. I couldn’t even lift my head. So I gave in, surrendering to the experience. Waves of intense peace washed over me, like I had never experienced before. It was a little scary, yet exhilarating. As I lay there, I heard the mantra repeated over me again and again, “I love you, I love you, I love you…”

My “baptism in the Holy Spirit” proved to be life altering, and not just in terms of the experience I had that night. From that point on, I began to sense things, “see” things, and “know things” about people. As I went through my daily life, I would often see people – complete strangers, and hear words that I felt strongly compelled to share. I felt so sure that it was God speaking to me, and I believed that he wanted me to demonstrate my faith by speaking forth the words that he gave. There were times when I would tell a person something God had “told me,” and they would just start weeping. Sometimes I would just see pictures, like a flash, when I was looking at someone or praying for them. But whenever I shared “words,” people would respond affirmatively. I came to believe that God had given me the gift of prophecy. Little did I know this was just the beginning of a painful journey that would take years to unravel. A long chapter in my life that I am now re-reading, deciphering, and holding up to the light of God’s Word. In many ways, the end of that chapter would bring me back to square one in my faith. Yet I am grateful to God for delivering me from the evil of that false spirituality.

As I embraced a more charismatic Christianity, I needed to add experience to scripture in order to further validate my faith. Faith in the finished work of Christ alone was no longer enough. I needed to constantly “hear from God,” in order to feel that I was in his will. Perhaps most insidious of all, I viewed myself as more spiritual than what I perceived to be other more nominal Christians. (1) As my need for access to the spirit realm deepened, I began to experiment with my spirituality. I didn’t realize it then, but I had entered the Kingdom of the Occult. For the next seven years I heavily pursued the supernatural, all the while thinking that I was seeking God’s face.

My quiet times moved further away from God’s Word, and became sessions where I would sit with my Bible open on my lap, asking God to direct me to passages that would speak to me “prophetically.” Sometimes in an attempt to hear from God, I would do automatic writing. Pages would flow, as I wrote down “God’s heart for me.” I had a vague awareness that this was a technique used in the occult, but I rationalized that I was using it for good, because I was a Christian. How sad that I sought something better, when I already held in my hands the treasure of God’s Word. At other times, I would practice “centering prayer,” repeating a word like a mantra, emptying my mind and receiving subsequent words and visions. I didn’t draw a connection to Jesus’ admonition to “not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.(2)

When I met my husband, things began to change. Although a professing Christian, he was not as comfortable with the idea of going up to complete strangers and sharing words from The Lord. I began to retreat into myself more, and speak out less. Yet I continued to hear words, see pictures and have visions and dreams.

For the first 8 years of our marriage we attended a church in L.A. that we initially felt had a strong sense of community, but that we eventually came to believe is a Bible-based cult. In addition to many manipulative, relational dynamics, the church had a mystical view of God, with a particular emphasis on maintaining an emotional high based on experiential faith. The emphasis on doctrine was weak, and the poor teaching I received there taught me a worldly version of Christianity that made room for a lot of sin, impurity and half-truths. It was during this time that much of my involvement with the occult transpired.

On several occasions, I engaged in guided imagery, in an attempt to achieve emotional healing from past hurts. A friend who called herself a Christian led me in the exercise. At the time, I didn’t see any problem with the fact that she also had psychic abilities and read auras. In these guided imageries I would see “Jesus” appear in my childhood memories, helping me to work through the years of pain. Although I couldn’t admit it at the time, something about this Jesus felt terribly off. I didn’t understand then that guided imagery is an occult technique used by mediums, new agers and the like. It wasn’t until I read two good books – The Seduction of Christianity, and The Beautiful Side of Evilthat I was able to see this method for the counterfeit that it was; a replacement for the authentic healing work of the Holy Spirit.

During this time period I developed a lot of health problems, and sought the help of “doctors” who used a kind of divination method in order to pinpoint my physical issues. By asking “yes” or “no” questions, they would read my body, with magnetism techniques and energy charts. During this period I also opened myself up to practicing divination on my own, spinning a pendulum over my palm. A girl from our church had shown me how to do it, and I tried it several times on my own, with much success. I didn’t know then that I was engaging in divination, but I felt convicted that I was seeking answers outside of God, so I stopped. Yet I still had little discernment. And I continued to seek help from methods, rather than from God himself.

In the last several years in our church in L.A., my ability to “hear from God” became stronger than ever. Almost daily, words and pictures would pop into my head from out of nowhere. They began to make less and less sense, and were often either bizarre, or in the realm of the outright occult. At our church, the pastor had told me that I was the “most prophetic person” in our congregation, and asked me to share with him any words, visions, dreams or insights I received. Yet he did not have the discernment himself to test the spirits, or to question where my information was coming from. He gave me no Biblical instruction or parameters. It was the blind leading the blind. In my desperation to “hear from God,” I fell deeper into darkness.

Eventually, the sum of these experiences brought me to a place where my spiritual encounters no longer felt benevolent, but actually became hostile in nature. I became more and more disturbed in my spirit, even as I also became aware of an evil presence that seemed to always be with me. Strange things began happening to me. On one occasion, I heard an audible whisper of a mocking voice taunting me. I felt its hatred palpably. On several other occasions, I woke in the night pinned down in my bed, being choked by an invisible force. More and more I was tormented by evil beings that surrounded me, and the relentlessness of their presence. Why was this happening? How could I make it stop? I prayed to God to make them go away, but nothing seemed to work. I believed I was supposed to be a victor in Christ, but I felt like the living dead. (3)

Unable to take it any more, my husband and I finally cried out to the Lord for help. We had reached our end. We began to admit that something in our lives was terribly wrong. We didn’t know what it was yet; but we could see that what was happening in our lives did not match up with what scripture teaches about a full, free life in Christ. We began to actually read the Word, and submit to God’s wisdom, rather than our own reasoning. We prayed for God to take away all the confusion and lies, and to help us see Truth.

Then something amazing happened. We began to find freedom! As we started to understand the gravity of the deception and spiritual darkness we had exposed ourselves to, we were able to repent and shut the doors we had opened, one by one. Through reading the Word, I was able to re-learn who the real Jesus is. I was able to see that the spirit I had assumed was “Jesus,” was a fraud. I was able to begin to understand that the reason scripture over and over again emphasizes the importance of the Word, is because there are so many other spirits and lies that come in Jesus’ name, pretending to be him, to be the truth. The only way to know who the real Jesus is, is to know the Word. Personal revelations are not enough; we must hold up everything to scripture. (4)

As the truth about my involvement in the occult became increasingly clear to me, I began to research the practices I had engaged in. I learned that my experience of being “slain in the spirit,” was identical to a practice in Hinduism, where the guru touches the “third eye” on the forehead of the disciple, in order to awaken their “Kundalini power,” also known as the “serpent power.” I learned that the goal of this experience, as is the goal of yoga, is to awaken the individual to personal divinity  – i.e. the “god within,” thereby creating a sense of oneness with God and all things. I learned that much of what I experienced as a direct result of my own “awakening,” including the prophetic propensities which I developed, are well documented as typical supernatural phenomena for those involved in the occult. (5) I learned that sensations of deep peace and well being are common in the new age and many occult practices; yet they are almost always accompanied by evil encounters that follow the initial bliss. I was finally able to distinguish between the physical, almost drunken sense of well being I had experienced – and the true peace that only comes from the security of salvation by faith in Jesus, and his finished work on the cross. I learned that methods of materialization are cheap magic, inviting demons to “play house” in the theatre of our minds. I learned that the contemplative prayer traditions have no root in scripture, but make use of pagan ritual as a way of conjuring – rather than praying to God. All the practices I had engaged in had not drawn me closer to God, but pushed me  further away from him.

The word “occult” means “that which is hidden.” In a nutshell, that’s what I had been striving for, all of those years. I had called it “God,” and “Jesus.” But like most of us, I didn’t want truth that was free and available to all, as plain as the words on a piece of paper. I wanted something that was mine alone. I wanted something secret. I wanted something more. I didn’t really want to have to pray to God and wait on him for an answer; I wanted an instant granting of my requests. In the Old Testament, this practice is referred to as sorcery, witchcraft, divination, fortune telling and magic. It is forbidden by God, because it clearly seeks to circumvent him and his sovereignty by taking control into our own hands. Just like the gnostics of old, my quest had turned away from seeking God, to seeking power; power that comes from having privileged information.

In the Bible, we see the contrast between the way diviners, sorcerers and false prophets seek answers through magic, versus the way God’s people seek him through relationship. Abraham, the father of our faith, “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (6) What is faith, but to put your trust in another? And again in Hebrews 4:14-16 we are encouraged by the sacrificial love of Jesus who, “…in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The approach of the world has always been to do things on our own, apart from God. But this is diametrically opposed to what God commands of us: to acknowledge him and come to him, making our requests known, leaving the outcome in his hands. Whereas the way of sorcery teaches that one achieves results or gains the information they desire by following a set of steps or rules, God says “Come now, let us reason together… though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…(7) It’s such a simple litmus test, but it’s reliable: if something requires you to use a method or ritual in order to gain knowledge, wisdom, peace or health, it’s not from the true God.

I find it fascinating that so many people falsely perceive Christianity as primarily about keeping a set of rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. While as believers, we desire greatly to do the things that please God, we understand that nothing we do can save us, improve us, or make us acceptable to God. It’s not about rule-keeping, because we know we cannot keep the rules, because we are fallen and sinful, and will therefore always break them. But thank God, we rely on Jesus – the one who kept the rules perfectly, in order to justify us. We have the joy of being able to come to him, fully approved and cleansed from all our evil and failures. We have the privilege of being able to be in a relationship with the very God who created us. And we know that while we still follow the law, we are no longer bound to it; because Jesus alone could fulfill it, and he has.

By God’s grace he has brought me out of the christian-occult. By his grace, he has brought me out from under weak and false teaching, and shown me the gloriousness of his Word and the finished work of Christ. By God’s grace he has taught me the difference between seeking him alone, and seeking hidden knowledge. And isn’t that the original sin? The lie the serpent told Eve, that she could know what God knew? It tempts us all in our pride – in our presumption to question, “Did God really say?” We all fall for the Lie, when we seek to be like God. We all fall into deception when we fail to take him at his Word(8)

The question that is now ever before me is, “Is God enough?” Will I be fully satisfied in him alone? Or do I need something more than God? Do I need some other version of Christianity, that makes promises to me that I can’t even find in my Bible? Will I believe what God teaches: that we are called into a relationship with him, to know and love him by receiving the pure gift of salvation, through no good works of our own? Or will I believe what the world teaches: that we can gain knowledge, wisdom, peace and health – not through relationship or a gift of grace, but through the effort of method and practice? Will we prefer to have our itching ears scratched with the lies we crave to hear? Or will we desire the truth that calls us to pick up our cross, and follow Jesus? Do we prefer a secret that makes us feel like one of the privileged few? Or do we want the good news of the gospel, proclaimed from roofs and hilltops for all to hear? (9) Will we seek added revelation to God’s already revealed Word? (10) Or will we trust him? Every wrong path seeks not God himself, but knowledge. Only the narrow path will lead to life. (11)

Scripture References:

1. All Christians are equal in Christ – Galatians 3:26-28
2. Don’t pray with empty phrases & repetitions; The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:5-14
3. You can’t drink the cup of God and demons – 1 Corinthians 10:21-22
4. Not every spirit is from God – 1 John 4:1-6
5. Christian Counseling and Occultism – by Kurt E. Koch
6. Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness – Genesis 15:1-6
7. God calls us to reason with him – Isaiah 1:18-20
8. Satan’s lie: we can know what God knows & be immortal – Genesis 3
9. The good news is good – Romans 10:14-15
10. Don’t add to God’s Word – Revelation 22:18-21
11. The broad road leads to destruction; the narrow road leads to life – Matthew 7:13
12. Slaves to righteousness – Romans 6:15-19

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6 thoughts on “My Life As a Christian Mystic

  1. Thanks for sharing. I definitely have been exposed to most of what you have wrote about at some point in my life (as a Christian and not). It always made me uneasy, but I could never definitively point out what was off, not to mention it was mostly from well meaning Christians. Now, it makes all the more sense why reading the bible is such a necessity, which seems like a no-brainer, yet at times just seems to easy to take God at his word and live it out in grace. I appreciate you taking the time to make your thoughts known.

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  2. Thena thank you for writing this down. It is very well articulated. This is definitely a problem in “Christian” circles. I love how you clearly pointed out the have it now desire that is rampant in our culture. . .. . “I didn’t really want to have to pray to God and wait on him for an answer; I wanted an instant granting of my requests” Waiting on the Lord builds our faith. How many times have we seen people in the bible rushing God and not being patient for His will. Abraham Sarah …. We are not patient people nor do we trust an all powerful God. You also hit another strong and sensitive chord when you talked about knowing a secret thing of God, like being let in on some knowledge reserved for special Christians “closer” to God. This is not an new apeal, even the decipleles wanted to be greater in the kingdom. That is our wretched human heart. We should want to shout the good news from the rooftops for all to hear. Maybe we don’t think people deserve to know. We are so wicked and only God can set us free. Only the true power of the holy Spirit can renew our minds and take every thought into captivity onto the obedience of Christ. That is living in the spirit.

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    1. Amen, Erin! Thank you for all your sweet comments. You are so right – living in the Spirit is having our minds renewed by obedience to Christ… thank you for speaking truth to me and encouraging me too 🙂

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  3. Hi Thena,

    I recently watched a message Erwin McManus gave to a Christian men’s business group called New Canaan Society (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIWDICt-MXg&index=1&list=PLMW9_mrNZynjrFF9qIgkg_BZ9hTVnBRia). I was so disappointed but, sadly, not surprised, they would even engage him to speak.

    I was curious to see what others may have written about McManus and that is how I stumbled on your blog. I initially read your open letter to McManus and was very encouraged I was not alone in my reservations regarding his theology and overall representation of the Gospel. That research led me to your post titled, “My Life As A Christian Mystic”. I loved it! I resonated with it so much I have saved it as a resource to send to others. I also sent it to my son and encouraged him to read it carefully in order to equip himself to understand how this false gospel works. We live in the intersection of the spiritual and physical worlds (Eph 6:10-20). We must be vigilant and stand against false teaching, even when it attempts to disguise itself. Great job!! Never lose motivation to write. Your blog post was out there for over 2 years before I found it. I have shared it on my Facebook, with my son and will a colleague at work. I also read and listened to your music! Keep up the fight and the real expression of talent with which God has graced you. Thank you for laying those gifts at His feet and encouraging me in the process!

    Kind regards,

    Tom

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    1. Tom,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I am encouraged by your words, and to hear that you have been encouraged as well. We are indeed living in a time of many false gospels, but at the heart of them all is the lie that we must do something to contribute to our salvation. Thank God that He alone saves us, because we just can’t. I pray that all believers will draw near to God, and resist the devil, not growing weary and not looking to ourselves or others, but to Christ, who was looking to the joy set before him. Amen to everything you said, and take care in the Lord!

      Thena

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