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The History of Christian Inner-Healing
Publish date: Jun 29, 2009
Summary: Read several sources discussing the origins and growth of mystic psychology in Christian circles.
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Agnes Sanford Biography, Self Help Books Sites:
In tracing a genealogy of Christian inner-healing and imaginative prayer, it is the atheist psychologist Sigmund Freud whose teaching is foundational. It was Freud who taught that there is in everyone a deep unconscious mind, and that the answer to emotional health is to uncover this hidden unconscious mind, endeavoring to reveal it and heal it. According to Freudian doctrine everyone represses the traumas of childhood. In this repression we forget events because they are just too horrible to contemplate. We cannot remember these forgotten events by the normal process of conscious memory. If, however, we can regress the person by certain psychological techniques, we can find that cause of many of our current problems that secretly have stemmed from these buried memories. It was this Freudian teaching that gave rise to the current practice of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.
During the 1920's and 1930's Carl Jung, originally as associate of Freud, disagreed with Freud about the interpretation of spiritual and occult phenomena. Jung, rather than being an atheist, had since childhood been attracted to spirit mediumship. Jung proceeded to overlay his occult thinking onto a Freudian base. He writes of his special spirit guide, whom he called Philemon and whom he credits for many of his teaching points. In the 1940's Agnes Sanford blended Jung's psychologized occult views with her own occult experiences and introduced them to the church. Sanford and her writings and seminars became the Christian source of Jungian occult teaching.
Agnes Sanford began a healing ministry in the '40s; received Pentecostal experience, in '53/54; pioneered teaching for the ‘healing of memories’; part of the ‘positive thinking’ movement she presented God’s healing work as following the laws of nature and positive thinking; she believed that God could work through ‘good’ spirits as well as the spirits of people who have died; she taught that God used some mediums to heal; she believed that angels and dead saints could ‘speak and act in and through us.’
Orrel Steinkamp, "Divination Finds Further Expression in the Evangelical Church," The Plumbline (June 2003):
‘Christianized’ inner healing internally regresses a person into his/her past and, by various mystical and outright shamanistic procedures, then introduces the ‘actual, real, living Jesus’ within the person’s altered state of consciousness. By this procedure the past mystically becomes the present. This conjured Jesus figure will not only heal the past, but will change the facts of history in order to bring about the desired healing.
Healing of the memories, or inner healing, or healing of the emotions has its roots in the teachings of anti-Christian and occultist, Agnes Sanford. It was carried on after her death by those she influenced...
Inner healing therapies are offshoots of Freudian and Jungian theories rooted in the occult. They have destructively impacted secular society for decades and are now taking their devastating toll within the professing Church. A variety of "memory-healing" psychotherapies are masquerading under Christian terminology and turning Christians from God to self. Among the most deadly are "regressive" therapies designed to probe the "unconscious" for buried memories which are allegedly causing everything from depression to fits of anger and sexual misconduct, and must, therefore, be uncovered and "healed."
The basic teaching of inner healing is the theory that salvation or healing comes through the uprooting of negative memories or ‘hurts’ caused by others in early childhood that are supposedly buried in the ‘subconscious’ from where they tend to dictate our behavior without us even knowing it. Thus, the blame for one's bad behavior (a.k.a. ‘emotional problems’) in the present is placed upon others (who are perceived to have sinned against us in the past) rather than upon ourselves where it belongs (cf. Ezekiel 18). In order to ‘heal’ these ‘diseased memories,’ the occultic technique of visualization (which is in reality a type of sorcery or divination which has been used by shamans, witchdoctors, and sorcerers for thousands of years, and is specifically forbid by the Bible) is frequently used to recreate the distressful childhood scene, ‘image’ Jesus (if one is a professing Christian), bringing Him into the past situation as a ‘spirit guide’/ ‘healing agent,’ and then causing Him to sanctify the event, forgive the person who supposedly caused the hurt, and in most cases, even alter the reality of the situation in the subject's mind, all so that the subject might be ‘delivered’ from the ‘crippling emotional pain’ associated with the past negative experience that supposedly ‘diseased memory’ in the first place. (Charismatic Roman Catholic memory-healers employ the same techniques, but generally substitute Mary for Jesus as the ‘healing agent’ whom the subject meets in the fantasy.)
One of the seemingly attractive forms of inner healing is to have Jesus enter a painful scene from the past. The inner-healer helps the person recreate the memory by having Jesus do or say things that will make the person feel better about the situation. For instance, if a man's dad had neglected him when he was a boy, an inner-healer may help that man create a new memory of Jesus having played baseball with him when he was a boy. Through verbal encouragement, he would regress him back to his childhood and encourage him to visualize Jesus pitching the ball and praising him for hitting a home run. Some inner-healers regress people back to the womb and lead them through ‘rebirthing’ by guided imagery and imagination. Thus, through these psychoanalytic/occult techniques, inner-healers should not be surprised at the possibility of actually altering or enhancing the memory in their zeal to replace bad memories with good memories. Inner-healers are always in danger of unwittingly enhancing or engrafting memories through words or actions that mean one thing to the inner-healer, but may communicate something else entirely to the highly vulnerable subject.
Inner healing is based upon the implication that we clearly need something more than God's love and forgiveness in order to love and forgive others who are perceived to have wronged us in the past. Since the Bible distinctly teaches that Jesus can never be called-up and forced to ‘perform’ at our command, any ‘Jesus’ actually visualized would have to be a demon spirit and not of God. Of course, that is precisely the danger of the occult technique of visualization—subjects are being taught to experiment with things that God has repeatedly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments alike, not because the phenomena visualized (i.e. ‘spirit guides’) are not real, but rather because they are produced by demons determined to lead one into the worship of other gods and ultimate destruction (Deut. 13 ff.). The Bible repeatedly warns against becoming involved with the occult on any level, because of what the Bible identifies as ‘spirits of demons working signs’ for the purpose of deceiving the whole world (Rev. 16:14; cf. 13:14). This exposure to the occult, however unintentional and innocent, could easily lead the undiscerning into far more serious spiritual or ‘emotional’ problems than they ever dreamed possible. Unfortunately, the research is replete with such cases of demonic/occultic influence experienced by first-time dabblers.
Inner healing practices of regressing into the past, fossicking about in the unconscious for hidden memories, conjuring up images, acting out fantasies and nightmares, and believing lies, all resemble the world of the occult, not the work of the Holy Spirit. An imaginary memory created under a highly suggestible, hypnotic-like state will only bring imaginary healing. It may also plunge people into a living nightmare.
What is being taught as inner healing/healing of memories is nothing but basic sorcery, which is an attempt to manipulate reality in the past, present, or future, and denies God's omnipotence by implying that He needs our ‘creative visualization’ in order to apply effectively His forgiveness and healing, while simultaneously, sets us up as gods who can, through prescribed rituals, use Him and His power as our tools. In fact, inner healing/healing of memories is nothing but ‘Christianized psychoanalysis’ that uses the power of suggestion to solve so-called problems, which the technique itself has many times created.
The Bible has much to say concerning the healing of memories (besides condemning its methodologies). The Bible clearly teaches that moral choices rather than past traumas determine our current condition and actions, and thereby, our responsibility; the Bible has always taught that it is not the act in the past but how one reacts to the act that determines ‘which soul has sinned’ (Ezekiel 18 again). Since there is no Biblical evidence that any prophet, priest, or apostle ever dealt with anything remotely related to buried or repressed emotions or memories, then shouldn’t one question why this is so if inner healing is the big truth that its practitioners say it is?
If prayer and Bible study and the power of the Holy Spirit are not enough for saints today to deal with life and problems, then the saints of old, including the apostle Paul, must have been greatly lacking. Despite his many hardships described in Scripture, Paul was able to function and rejoice in the Lord without the help of psychoanalysis. Paul forgot the past and pressed on toward the prize (Phil. 3:13–14) promised to all those who love Christ's appearing (2 Tim 4:7–8).
Martin Bobgan, A Response to the Christian Research Institute’s Evaluation of Theophostic Prayer Ministry (Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries, 2005): 17:
Inner healing beliefs and techniques, such as TPM, continue to deceive many Christians. A central belief is that we are the way we are because of past hurts that need to be healed through reliving the past and bringing Jesus into past events. The inner healer believes and teaches that present problems are expressions of past wounds (or, as with TPM, the person’s response to them) that must be healed before the person can overcome problems of living and get on with life. When these beliefs are mixed in with the Christian faith, they can become part of a person’s overall belief system. When this happens, people will hold onto these false ideas as tenaciously as their beliefs about God and how He works in their lives. Right now TPM is one of the most influential and dangerous combinations of psychotherapy and inner healing.
Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Book Review on “Abusing Memory: The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford," written by Dr. Jane Gumprecht:
Abusing Memory is an appropriate title for Dr. Jane Gumprecht’s book. She skillfully demonstrates that the popular practice of inner healing is a dangerous combination of psychology and new-age spirituality. Practitioners attempt to heal people of present problems through a mental imagery process that guides people into re-experiencing real or imagined past events. Instead of being healed, many recipients of inner healing are now living according to lies. Inner healing is not based on truth, but rather on unbiblical doctrines, faulty memory, heightened hypnotic-like susceptibility, guided imagery, visualization, and fantasy.
In her book Abusing Memory: The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford, Gumprecht focuses on the beliefs, teachings, and practices of Agnes Sanford, the ‘mother of the Inner Healing/ Healing of the Memories movement.’ As one studies this book, one sees Sanford’s vast influence throughout Christendom. Gumprecht says: “Most inner healing advocates acknowledge their debt to her, and her 'theology' is evident in their ministries. John Loren Sandford (no relation to her) dedicated his books to her as his beloved mentor. Morton Kelsey learned healing of memories from her as well. Karen Mains of Chapel of the Air was trained in inner healing at the School of Pastoral Care founded by Agnes and her husband. Similarly, spiritual therapist Leanne Payne is a disciple of Agnes, as was the late Ruth Carter Stapleton. Glen Clark, who established Camps Furthest Out, published Agnes’s first book, The Healing Light...also endorsed by Theosophy, the first of the modern New Age cults. An entire chapter is devoted to "The Ministry of John Sandford."
Gumprecht traces Agnes Sanford’s life and her development of unbiblical theological notions gleaned from a syncretism of occult spirituality, the Freudian unconscious, the Jungian collective unconscious, and depth psychology. She shows how Sanford distorted Christianity to make it fit her ideas and turned Jesus into a ‘Time Traveler’ who supposedly guides people back in time to meet their so-called inner child, to remember the pain of their past, and to have Jesus heal the pain. She also shows how Sanford "affirmed the Freudian doctrine ...that the unconscious is a powerful dark force which rules our conscious lives" and used teachings about the inner child from mystical traditions and Jung’s Child Archetype.
While the entire book is filled with evidence that should discourage every Christian from participating in inner healing, Gumprecht’s chapters ‘Inner Healing and Memories,’ ‘The Inner Child,’ and ‘The Source of the Unconscious’ are especially helpful. They give a clear overview of the practice of inner healing, of its unbiblical foundations, and of the dangers of inner healing as it is used by people today. Inner healing techniques are used by many Christian counselors, some of whom may not even call what they are doing ‘inner healing.’ Thus, Christians need to be warned and armed with the kind of warning and documentation found in the book Abusing Memory.
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