ON THIS PAGE
INNER HEALING: ILLUMINATION OR ILLUSION?
THE HEALING THEOLOGY OF AGNES SANFORD
AGNES SANFORD.. TRACING THE ROOTS OF HER BELIEFS
by Pastor Alec Taylor
TRICK OR TREATMENT
here can be little doubt that the charismatic movement has promoted some strange ideas and introduced some bizarre practices into many churches. A system of counselling known as ‘inner healing’ or ‘healing of the memories’ is becoming a craze among many charismatic Baptist and Anglican churches. It is also gaining acceptance in the Imagesline Pentecostal denominations. John Wimber is also an advocate of inner healing practices. Most Christian bookshops display titles promoting inner healing, most coming from charismatically inclined publishing houses, but some from normally reliable publishers.
False teaching comes in subtle forms; it is not 100% error and it will make statements that are true. We must not be taken in when new ideas are overlaid with Scripture - the devil is an expert at quoting God’s Word. Those who oppose the doctrine and practice of inner healing are castigated for encouraging division in the church and for engendering fear in weaker and younger brethren. They are accused of slandering the servants of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. I hope that this article will enable you to see the practice of inner healing as not only unbiblical - but devilish and dangerous.
The Appeal of Inner Healing.
We are all influenced to some degree by our past experiences. Some experiences have been so dreadful that they haunt us and torment us for the rest of our lives. The person who was sexually abused as a child is often plagued with feelings of guilt and uncleanness. Their marriage may be spoiled or even destroyed because of the effects of the abuse that they suffered. William Cowper, the great poet and hymn-writer, suffered all his life from the harmful effects of being bullied at boarding school when very young. We live in a fallen world where life is tough and often tragic. We all carry the scars of the past to some degree or other. We may suffer from a variety of psychological and emotional hang-ups (inner healing practitioners call them ‘hurts’).
The inner healing counsellor will tell us that these hurts are adversely affecting our Christian life, preventing us from enjoying victory over sin. They are responsible for our lack of power, our low self-esteem, our inability to witness or to speak in tongues, etc. He tells us that we need inner healing to free us from our hurts so that we can live a better Christian life. Rita Bennett, quoting husband Dennis, writes,
‘Inner healing is simply cooperating with the Lord to let him cure and remove from our psychological natures the things that are blocking the flow of the Holy Spirit’.
The Method of Inner Healing.
David Seamands divides the counselling process into three phases which ‘are not always distinct and sometimes blend together’ - a time of counselling; a time of special healing prayer; and a time of follow-up. The counselling session includes the counselling and prayer time. The counsellor will probe deep into the past life of the counsellee, seeking to uncover all the hurts and repressed emotions. The session is often very long and the counsellee’s life is bared. One friend remarked that after a ten-hour counselling session, he felt that he had been emotionally raped. He compared it with ‘a marathon session of the confessional in the Roman Catholic Church’. Where there are gaps in the information cleaned the counsellor will often fill them in with so-called words of knowledge. Seamands writes, ‘I may point out some new insight or discernment from the Spirit.’ I have been told of some horrific suggestions (entirely false) which were supposedly given by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. One friend was told such a wicked lie in an inner healing session. She was told that the reason that she couldn’t relate to God as Father was that her own father was a rapist and a murderer during the Second World War. Far from healing any distress, such dreadful suggestions pile on the agony.
[David Seamands, a retired United Methodist pastor and professor emeritus at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, served as pastor at Wilmore United Methodist Church from 1962 to 1984. Seamands and his wife, Helen, were missionaries in India for 16 years before he began as pastor and professor. The couple were regarded as pioneers in the Marriage Enrichment and Engaged Discovery movements, and his book, Healing for Damaged Emotion, sold over a million copies. Seamands, who retired in 1992 from Asbury seminary has recently publicly apologized for "sexual misconduct with an adult female occurring over a number of years. (Christian Century. August 2005)]
Seamands describes the time of special healing prayer as ‘one of the distinctives about the healing of memories. So that the Holy Spirit may actually touch the barriers to health, a full use is made of conversational prayer with emphasis on visualization, imagination...’
The use of the imagination or visualizing is not picturing a scene described in a book, or imagining how your new garden will look when you have laid the lawn and planted the flowers and the shrubs. It is an act of such concentration that reality is created out of imagination.
The technique is advocated by best-selling authoress Joyce Huggett. In a Radio 4 interview (October 1989) concerning her latest book Open to God she stated, ‘I think that there is tremendous value in using our imagination. This time last year I led a group in one of these imaginative contemplations as I call them, and I encouraged the group together to go to Bethlehem to be present at the birth of Jesus and I remember one woman saying to me afterwards, “It was absolutely amazing.” She said, “Mary placed the Christ child into my arms and I held him.” And OK, this was in her imagination, but I think what it engaged when we are using our imagination is our emotions, and what this woman was expressing was her desire to receive Christ into her arms. You just go into a deeper level of real worship when you engage yourself so fully in the gospel story. I think it is wonderful’ The interviewer asked her, ‘But is there a fine line to be drawn between that sort of imagination and fantasy?’ She replied, ‘There’s a fine dividing line, but I think what is happening is that our real emotions are being involved in our prayer when we are using our imagination in this way, and that’s why I’m encouraging readers to do it.’
With inner healing, past hurts are relived with the counsellee often regressing back to childhood. Jesus is imagined into the hurtful situation, giving comfort and encouragement (Roman Catholic charismatics generally visualize Mary into the scenario). I quote a testimony from Rita Bennett:
‘I stated to the counsellors that I hated my mother for not loving me. I spoke forgiveness to my mother and asked God to forgive me. Then we asked Jesus to allow me to see how he meant my mother to be through praying a creative prayer. First, Jesus held me really close and I could feel his love. Then he handed me to my mother, and she showered my face with kisses. I really liked this. Then she touched my hands, and I wrapped my fingers around her finger. Then she unwrapped my blanket and touched my legs and feet and stroked me all over.... Then Jesus took me and held me and burped me...’
Seamands confesses that this prayer time ‘can be somewhat frightening, and counsellors must simply “hang loose in the Spirit” and be ready for almost anything.’ He goes on to write, ‘Don’t be surprised if, when counsellees re-experience a situation, they revert back to that time. Their voices may become like those of little children, and they may say and do things appropriate to that stage of life.’
One victim of inner healing confirmed that this happened in her experience. She regressed to childhood and found herself speaking in the voice of a two-year-old girl. She said that the experience was weird. Another friend found a man’s voice coming from her vocal chords. She was left a total wreck after hours of counselling. How can anyone who wishes to be faithful to Scripture sanction such dreadful practices?
Why We Must Reject Inner Healing Teaching.
A. It is not biblical.
Seamands writes,‘It is of the most importance to understand that the healing of memories has a solid foundation in the Scripture, which is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.’ That sounds good — but it is a foundation as firm as a lump of jelly, for Scripture is misused beyond recognition. It requires a fertile imagination to equate the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) with the mind-bending practices of inner healing. Among their favourite Scrip-tures are John 14:27; Luke 4:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 13:11. The Lord Jesus does heal the broken heart, he does give his peace, but we do not need to look into good Bible commentaries to know that these verses haven’t the remotest connection with the practice of inner healing. How 1 Corinthians 13:11 can be used to justify regression and the healing of ‘the hurt child within’, I fail to understand.
Seamands admits that precise definitions of inner healing do not appear in the Bible, but says that, ‘We have a spiritual obligation to use every new insight and discovery in any area of life for God’s glory and human good.’ The problem isn’t whether we can benefit from advances in technology or science, but whether we can use techniques that not only are absent from Scripture, but deny Scripture. Paul’s letters to the churches reveal him to be a great pastor of souls. Those early Christians faced quite as many problems and trials as we face in the twentieth century. In all his detailed teaching, we fail to find a single instance of inner healing being described or taught.
It is not difficult to see why many Roman Catholic charismatics love the practice of inner healing. The teaching has little to say on the glorious doctrine of justification by the free grace of God, through faith. We stand righteous in Christ, we have peace with God, our guilt has been cleared and there is no more condemnation (Romans 5:1; 8:1). We are cleansed (1 Corinthians 6:11). We do not look to inner healing for peace. In Christ we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). He has dealt with our past and is with us in all our present difficulties and trials.
Bennett is on dangerous and blasphemous grounds when she uses Romans 4:17 to support visualization. God ‘calls those things which do not exist as though they did’ because he is our God and Creator. We must not try to ‘play God’ by seeking creative power through visualization. The Second Commandment forbids us from making any carved images or material representations of God. To visualize Christ, bringing him into our presence (however we imagine him to be) is a violation of the commandment.
If visualizing was the practice of New Testament Christians, it makes 1 Peter 1:8 difficult to understand, for those readers of Peter’s letter had not seen the Saviour (in the flesh or by visualization). The apostles were at pains to point out that they had seen and touched the Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry (2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1, 3). In this respect they differed from the readers of their letters who had not seen the Lord. ‘We walk by faith, not by sight’ (or by visualizing) - 2 Corinthians 5:7. After the resurrection, the apostles did not attempt to use visualization to bring the risen Saviour in their midst. Thomas worshipped a real Christ, not a visualized Christ. The warning of puritan John Owen is very apt in today’s context of inner healing: ‘You have an imaginary Christ, and if you are satisfied with an imaginary Christ you must be satisfied with an imaginary salvation.’
B. We must reject inner healing because of its roots.
The problem is exacerbated when we discover the source of inner healing teaching. Carl Gustav Jung the famous Swiss psychologist taught that there is within each of us ‘a collective unconsciousness’. Jung had a spirit guide called ‘Philemon’ and he claimed that he was bringing up images from the ‘collective unconscious’. Agnes Sanford was much influenced by Jung’s ideas (which came from evil spirits) and ‘Christianized’ them, introducing visualization and inner healing to an unsuspecting church. Her son Jack studied at the C.J. Jung Institute in Zurich with Morton Kelsey, a charismatic. Hunt and McMahon gave detailed proof of the occult practices and strange teaching of people such as Agnes Sanford, Morton Kelsey, John and Paula Sandford, Richard Foster, and other teachers of inner healing and visualization. Can inner healing be anything but satanic deception which is being made respectable by certain church leaders?
C. We must reject inner healing because of its fruits.
Inner healing books give glowing accounts of people who found liberation through its teaching. We have no warrant to embrace a practice because ‘it works’ — the cults all claim that their religion ‘works’. We must reject all teaching that is not biblical. Where Scriptures are used to support such practices, we must ask ‘Is this what the verse and its context are really saying or implying?’ Those who have spoken to me of their experiences of inner healing counselling tell a different story from that which we find in the books. One young lady, who with the help of friends broke loose from a hostel where inner healing was practiced, wrote to those at the hostel, ‘In my opinion, these regular “counselling” sessions of young, vulnerable women alone, by an older man, are neither healthy nor safe. I believe that such practices can lead to a misplaced dependence upon the counsellor rather than upon the Lord Jesus. I have yet to see any positive fruit of such methods either within the hostel or elsewhere.’
Mary Pytches advocates the use of touching during counselling sessions. She writes, ‘Touching a counsellee may give him the support needed to explore a painful area of his life. In ministry it is good to sit alongside a counsellee holding his hand lightly or laying one’s hand gently on his arm. A gentle touch is just sufficient for him to know someone is there and ready to give him support and help whenever it is needed. Tenderness conveyed in a touch may also provide the trigger needed to surface the blocked feelings.’
When the counsellee is in a state of regression taken over by visualization, and not in control of themselves, the danger should be obvious. I know of two ministers who have fallen into adultery because of their involvement in counselling. I know that one does not have to be into counselling to fall into such sin, but inner healing techniques leave both counsellor and counsellee very vulnerable. A friend was in a church that was completely destroyed by inner healing teaching. Such counselling led to the break up of several marriages. One of the elders of the church, whose marriage was falling apart, went to a man who was very extreme in his inner healing teaching. He was told that he was having problems in his relationship with his wife because the spirit of her deceased mother was inhabiting her. In visualization, they saw the mother’s spirit between two angels who told her to leave her daughter alone and go to a higher plane of learning. That is spiritism! Though it is true that inner healing teachers warn against the occult, they have fallen for Satan’s craftiness. He has allowed them to padlock the front door of the church, but the back door is wide open to his wicked doctrines.
Inner healing counselling claims to diagnose and then successfully treat the malady.
Many of those counselled are needy souls who are not saved. They are led to believe that they have peace with God through a psychological process (for that is what it is, apart from the occult connotations). Weak, immature Christians are left unable to cope with the normal pressures of the Christian life.
Inner healing fails to deal with real sin and real repentance.
It proclaims that our sin is because of Satan or past hurts that we have suffered. If you are an objectionable person, it is your sin. Don’t blame your sinful behaviour onto past hurts; others have also been hurt and they are fine Christians. The way of forgiveness is not by going back in your imagination to the past, but by turning to God in repentance and faith now in the present.
See Sin, Repentance and Salvation
The Better Way.
We all suffer the consequences of living in a fallen world; the Christian is not exempt from suffering. Even the most superficial reading of the New Testament shows that the Christian life involves conflict, struggle, trials and tribulation. The apostles taught ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). ‘Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character hope’ (Romans 5:3-4). The early church thrived under rejection and triumphed in difficulties. The apostles did not give way to despair in suffering, they rejoiced (see Acts 5:40-41; 16:22-25; Romans 8:17-18; 1 Corinthians 4:9-13:2. Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18: 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:2; 3:2-4). We need a robust Christianity, thoroughly grounded in the Word of God. We will then be better able to cope with life’s hurts as we enjoy present fellowship with the Lord.
We also have to recognize that there are many people in our churches who are scarred from bitter experiences. We must not pretend that those needs do not exist because we are ‘Reformed’ or ‘sound.’
Our churches must be caring churches where the love of Christ is known and felt - not in theory, but in practice. The ministry of encouragement and counselling from the Word of God is vital in the life of every local church. The charismatic movement is bankrupt of true spirituality and sound theology. We must be ready to receive those who come out of the movement disillusioned and shattered. They may well have suffered at the hands of inner healing counsellors. They need to be accepted and welcomed among us so that we can help them unravel the confusion and the mess in which they find themselves.
We must not be intimidated by ‘big names’ who support the practice of inner healing. Let us be bold in contending earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
(For... inner healing)
Mary Pytches - A Healing Fellowship (Hodder)
Rita Bennett - How to pray for Inner Healing for yourself and others (Kingsway)
David Seamands - Healing of memories (Scripture Press).
(Against... inner healing)
Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon - The Seduction of Christianity (Harvest House) especially pp.123-136; 171-188.
Dave Hunt - Beyond Seduction (Harvest House... pp. 200-15.
Peter Masters’ The Healing Epidemic (The Wakeman Trust) which contains an excellent chapter which refutes inner healing practices.
INNER HEALING: ILLUMINATION OR ILLUSION?
By Martin and Deidre Bobgan
Across America parents are receiving phone calls and correspondence that plunge them into a nightmare of accusations of abuse and incest. These are not parents of young children or teenagers. They are parents of grown children who throughout their lives had had no recollection of being sexually molested by their mother or father. Now, seemingly out of the blue, their bizarre stories are stunning their parents. These adult children, usually daughters, now claim to remember precise details of one of their parents sexually abusing them. Where do they get such ideas? Where do those sordid memories come from? What brings them to the surface? Inner healing and other forms of regressive-type therapy lurk behind this surge of family horror stories.
At first the parents are stunned. They are being accused of sexual exploits that they declare they would never even think of doing. But when they try to talk to their son or daughter, their words fall on deaf ears. They are accused and condemned without a trial--all based upon alleged memories discovered through inner healing. And now they are helpless in their concern over the welfare of their adult child who will have nothing to do with them.
With the media accentuating and exaggerating the numbers of women who have been molested, nearly anyone who cries "incest" is believed beyond a doubt. And why should anyone doubt a grown woman's sudden "recall" of a memory hidden in her unconscious? After all, isn't the memory like a tape recorder or computer that faithfully records and retains every event in some deep unconscious vault of the mind? Aren't there reliable techniques that enable a person to recall past events accurately? Or, are there some problems with those assumptions?
IS THE MIND A COMPUTER?
While many writers of pop psychology continue to equate the human mind with a tape recorder or computer, those are poor and misleading analogies. Dr. John Searle, in his Reith Lecture "Minds, Brains, and Science," explained:
"Because we don't understand the brain very well we're constantly tempted to use the latest technology as a model for trying to understand it.
"In my childhood we were always assured that the brain was a telephone switchboard. ("What else could it be?") And I was amused to see that Sherrington, the great British neuroscientist, thought that the brain worked like a telegraph system. Freud often compared the brain to hydraulic and electromagnetic systems. Leibniz compared it to a mill, and now, obviously, the metaphor is the digital computer. ...
"The computer is probably no better and no worse as a metaphor for the brain than earlier mechanical metaphors. We learn as much about the brain by saying it's a computer as we do by saying it's a telephone switchboard, a telegraph system, a water pump, or a steam engine" (John Searle, "Minds, Brains, and Science," The 1984 Reith Lectures, London: British Broadcasting Corp., 1984, pp. 44,55,56).
What Searle is getting at is the fact that the brain is not a mechanical piece of technology.
Medical doctor-researcher Nancy Andreasen, in her book The Broken Brain, declares that "there is no accurate model or metaphor to describe how [the brain] works." She concludes that "the human brain is probably too complex to lend itself to any single metaphor" (Nancy Andreasen, The Broken Brain, New York: Harper & Row, 1984, p. 90).
Current research demonstrates that computer memory and biological memory are significantly different. In his book Remembering and Forgetting: Inquiries into the Nature of Memory, Edmund Bolles refers to the human brain as "the most complicated structure in the known universe" (Edmund Bolles, Remembering and Forgetting, New York: Walker and Company, 1988, p. 139). He says,
"For several thousand years people have believed that remembering retrieves information stored somewhere in the mind. The metaphors of memory have always been metaphors of storage: We preserve images on wax; we carve them in stone; we write memories as with a pencil on paper; we file memories away; we have photographic memories; we retain facts so firmly they seem held in a steel trap. Each of these images proposes a memory warehouse where the past lies preserved like childhood souvenirs in an attic. This book reports a revolution that has overturned that vision of memory. Remembering is a creative, constructive process. There is no storehouse of information about the past anywhere in our brain" (Ibid., p. xi). [Emphasis added by authors]
After discussing the scientific basis for memory and how the brain functions, he says:
"The biggest loser in this notion of how memory works is the idea that computer memories and human memories have anything in common" (Ibid., p. 165).
He goes on to say, "Human and computer memories are as distinct as life and lightning" (Ibid.).
IS MEMORY RELIABLE?
Unlike a computer, the memory does not store everything that goes into it. First, the mind sifts through the multitude of stimuli that enter it during an actual event. then time, later events, and even later recall color or alter memories. During the creative process of recall, sketchy memories of events may be filled in with imagined details. And, an amazing amount of information is simply forgotten--gone, not just hidden away in some deep cavern of the mind. Memory is neither complete nor fixed. Nor is it accurate. As researcher Carol Tavris so aptly describes it:
"Memory is, in a word, lousy. It is a traitor at worst, a mischief-maker at best. It gives us vivid recollections of events that could never have happened, and it obscures critical details of events that did" (Carol Tavris, "The Freedom to Change," Prime Time, Oct. 1990, p. 28).
Yes, memories can even be created, not from remembering true events, but by implanting imagined events onto the mind. In fact, it is possible for implanted and enhanced memories to seem even more vivid than memories of actual past events.
Under certain conditions a person's mind is open to suggestion in such a way that illusions of memory can be received, believed, and remembered as true memories. Hypnosis, guided imagery, and inner healing are as likely to cause a person to dredge up false information as true accounts of past events. In a state of heightened suggestibility a person's memory can easily be altered and enhanced. This happens under hypnosis, through guided imagery, in age regression therapies (such as primal therapy) and during certain forms of inner healing.
THE POWER OF SUGGESTION
Bernard Diamond, a professor of law and clinical professor of psychiatry, says that hypnotized persons "graft onto their memories fantasies or suggestions deliberately or unwittingly communicated by the hypnotist." Not only may they have new memories, but Diamond declares that "after hypnosis the subject cannot differentiate between a true recollection and a fantasy or a suggested detail." He notes that court witnesses who have been hypnotized "often develop a certitude about their memories that ordinary witnesses seldom exhibit." Diamond declares, "No one, regardless of experience, can verify the accuracy of the hypnotically enhanced memory" (Bernard Diamond, "Inherent Problems in the Use of Pretrial Hypnosis on a Prospective Witness," California Law Review, Mar. 1980, pp. 314,333-337,348).
The certainty of pseudo-memories and the uncertainty of real memories render such activities as hypnosis and inner healing questionable at best and dangerous at worst. Because memory is so unreliable, methods of cure that rely on unearthing so-called hidden memories not only open up the possibility of human creativity but also expose the mind to possible demonic suggestion. Even though the hypnotist or inner healer may wish to protect the person from receiving false material, he cannot avoid implanting human suggestion. Nor can he prevent demonic suggestions from entering the vulnerable mind of the person who is in a heightened state of suggestibility.
Even if there are people in the room praying for the person undergoing hypnosis or inner healing, the possibility of lies and fantasies being engrafted into the memory remains. That is because of the involvement in occult activity, which is forbidden in the Bible. Hypnosis and guided imagery are both occult activities, and inner healing may involve hypnotic suggestion, guided imagery, and occult visualization. Hypnotherapist Dr. Joe M. Persinger says that the field of hypnosis "includes meditation, visualization, guided imagery, relaxation, biofeedback, and breathing techniques" (Joe M. Persinger, quoted by Sheri Graves, "Hypnosis: Exploring Deep Levels of the Mind," Santa Barbara News-Press, Sept. 20, 1989, p. D1).
Regarding the relationship between guided imagery and hypnosis, Dr. David Bressler, an authority in the field of hypnosis and imagery says,
"I think they're the same thing. It's that simple." He also says, "Imagery is at the heart of all magic" (David Bressler, "The Inner Adviser Technique: The Healer Within," InfoMedix tape, Garden Grove, Calif., 1983).
John Weldon and Zola Levitt say,
"We would expect that most if not all of those who are occultly healed are likely to suffer either psychologically or spiritually in some way" (John Weldon and Zola Levitt, Psychic Healing, Chicago: Moody Press, 1982, p. 195).
REALITY OR ILLUSION?
Those who practice inner healing should not be surprised at the possibility of altering or enhancing the memory, because there are times when they purposely attempt to replace bad memories with good memories. They do this through guided imagery and visualization. In fact, 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 inner healers should recognize the danger of unwittingly enhancing or engrafting memories through words or actions that mean one thing to the inner healer but may communicate something else to the highly vulnerable subject.
It is very likely that people who remember sexual abuse and incest through inner healing are remembering an illusion or distortion of reality, a destructive suggestion accidentally placed there by the inner healer, or created through a combination of stimuli, such as in a nightmare, or worse yet, implanted by demonic influence. Yet they have no doubts about their newly discovered dark memory. In fact, the certainty of the alleged memory has the mark of an hypnotically engrafted memory rather than of a distant reality. And who can or will reveal the truth to them? Probably not their church or other Christians if they have been either supportive or ignorant of inner healing.
THE TRAGIC INFLUENCE OF INNER HEALING
Many Christians have been influenced by such best-selling authors and inner healers as John and Paula Sandford, Rita Bennett, and David Seamonds. Unfortunately those Christians believe such statements as this one from Seamands:
"The realization of grace cannot be maintained in some people without an inner healing of the past. God's care cannot be felt without a deep, inner reprogramming of all the bad conditioning that has been put into them by parents and family and teachers and preachers and the church" (David Seamands, Healing for Damaged Emotions, Wheaton: Victor Books, 1981, p. 85).
Such Christian writers perpetrate false information and encourage erroneous beliefs. In spite of brain research to the contrary, they teach that the mind is like a computer and that there is an unconscious reservoir of hidden, but very powerful memories that highly influence a person's thoughts, attitudes, and actions. And they are convinced that the memories they dredge up are accurate.
This tragic example of people with newly unearthed "memories, caught in a black hole of anger, resentment, unforgiveness, accusations, separation, and confusion, is part of the picture of the damage wrought by those who honestly believe they are helping people. 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, 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.
We were approached by a woman one day who asked if we knew of a Christian psychiatrist. Months earlier she had enthusiastically exclaimed how she and her daughter had attended an inner healing seminar and had been healed of all kinds of things that they did not even know existed. Now she was desperate. Her daughter was trying to deal with all of the rot that had materialized during inner healing.
The people who are most vulnerable to inner healers are those who are at a low point in their spiritual walk or who are experiencing difficult circumstances. The inner healers entice through all kinds of direct and implied promises for healing damaged emotions, healing roots in the past that prevent personal growth, and enabling a person to have a closer walk with God. They circle about congregations like vultures, waiting for the opportunity to swoop down on those who are near to dropping from spiritual exhaustion. They assure their prospective victims of their sincere desire to help and they communicate a biblical facade by using butchered Bible verses and Christian-sounding conversation.
However, once their talons pierce the person, a penetrating parasitic process begins. And the host/parasite relationship continues as long as the host continues to look to the inner healer to make him emotionally well and spiritually whole.
Instead of being healed, however, there is a very strong possibility that the recipients of inner healing are now living on the basis of a lie from the pit of hell. Inner healing is not based upon truth. It is based upon faulty memory, guided imagery, fantasy, visualization, and hypnotic-like suggestibility. And while the inner healers may conjure up a Jesus and recite Bible verses, such inner healing is not biblical. Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32).
We pray that those who have suffered under the abuse of inner healing will be set free through the truth that is in Christ Jesus.
The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford
“... perhaps the woman who has had the most adverse influence on modern Christianity was the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries to China, Agnes Sanford.
Agnes epitomizes the chief concern of this article. Although reared by parents who taught her the Bible "from Genesis to Revelation," she was never satisfied with what God had to say. Dr. Jane Gumprecht is an evangelical Christian and medical doctor whose background growing up in a Religious Science cult (Unity Church) enabled her to write a very insightful book (Abusing Memory: The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford), which we offer. It addresses Agnes's many New Age and otherwise biblically erroneous teachings. Jane writes,
Sanford was a free spirit. Her rebellion against orthodox Christianity led her to rely on personal experience over what God says in His Word. Several times in her books she expressed the thought, "experience comes before theology."
Sanford's preference for the experiential led her into worshiping in a Buddhist temple (which she conjectures resulted in her own demonization); teaching occult visualization; promoting Jungian psychotherapy; believing that Jesus became a part of the collective unconscious of the human race; characterizing God as a "Force"; seeing the makeup of the world in terms of thought vibrations; and claiming that through visualization we can create virtue in people, forgive them of their sins, and heal them, all from a distance and without their knowledge. In Sanford's The Healing Light, she explains to a non-Christian mother how visualization in the name of Jesus can help her transform her troublesome youngster into the child she wants her to be.
Sanford's many books and School of Pastoral Care spread her false teachings and therapies throughout the church, greatly influencing leaders such as Richard Foster, John and Paula Sandford, Morton Kelsey, Francis MacNutt, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Leanne Payne, Karen Mains, Rita Bennett and David Seamonds. Agnes single handedly began the Inner Healing movement, with its terribly destructive healing-of-memories techniques. This not only became a chief therapy of many Christian psychologists but was highly promoted by the Vineyard Fellowships, initially by Kenn Gulliksen, the movement's founder, and later by John Wimber, who recommended the writings of Sanford and her inner-healing disciples. Most recently, many churches of the Foursquare denomination, founded by "pastor" Aimee Semple McPherson, have been fostering Sanford's unbiblical methods through Cleansing Stream, a rather costly inner-healing program utilizing videos, workbooks and a "spiritual" weekend laden with psychotherapeutic encounter-group methods.” (Women of the Faith by T.A. McMahon )
(See Rick Warren’s Tribute to John Wimber on THIS Page)
Agnes Sanford Tracing The Roots of Her Beliefs
Agnes Sanford, born in 1897 to a Presbyterian missionary, was founder of "inner healing," and is viewed as one of the preeminent spiritual healers of the twentieth century. Her first book, The Healing Light, sold over half a million copies. Her books still sell well at both Christian bookstores and churches such as John Wimber's Vineyard fellowships.
A Short Biography on http://agnessanford.wwwhubs.com says ..
“It is not generally known, but Agnes Sanford herself suffered from severe, recurrent depressions for many, many years. In her autobiography, Mrs. Sanford said that she finally began to break out of her chronic depression after a Protestant clergyman laid his hands on her head and prayed for her. For the next year, she wrote, she went about her work repeating to herself, hourly and daily, the same prayer: “Lord have mercy on me, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit.” Little by little, over a period of time, the depressions vanished, and she was finally free of them.
It was not until years later, when she met an Orthodox priest and told him of her experience, that Mrs. Sanford learned that she had been reciting, unknowingly, the ancient Jesus Prayer of the Orthodox Church: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” a prayer which monks, nuns and the Orthodox faithful had been reciting for centuries.
Short, plump, breezy, and matter-of-fact, Mrs. Sanford taught that the principles of prayer and healing are universal--that is, they are included in all religions, yet transcend all religions. She said Jesus stood in church services all over Christendom with his hands tied behind his back because neither ministers nor people expected him to do anything. She said people who prayed had to expect miracles. That required them to pray down the voice of doubt within them based on old hurts, griefs, and failures. "There is more in the Bible than mere information. A spiritual energy we call faith, seems to connect with the very book itself."
Agnes Sanford believed “experience comes before theology.” She taught various visualization techniques, teaching that one could forgive another's sins through visualization. The technique of visualization became the key to her inner healing teachings. One visualizes a situation in the past, then visualizes Jesus coming into their circumstance to solve the problem. She stated “I believe imagination is one of the most important keys to effective praying . . . God touches me through my imagination . . . Imagination is one of the keys to the relationship of prayer with God.” “Prayer through the imagination . . . picturing the healing.” She also promoted Jungian psychotherapy, and believed Jesus became a part of the collective unconscious of the human race. Sanford called God “primal energy,” “the very life-force existing in a radiation of an energy ... from which all things evolved,” that “God ... made everything out of Himself and He put a part of Himself into everything” and called Jesus “that most profound of psychiatrists.” Sanford's pastor was Morton Kelsey who studied at the C.G. Jung Institute near Zurich, Switzerland, and who became a Jungian psychologist, as did Sanford's son, John Sanford.
Agnes Sanford began a healing ministry in the '40s; received Pentecostal exp., 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."
Together with her husband, and alone after his death, she spoke to and taught groups all over the country about the power of prayer. She died in February 1982 after 35 years of ministry”.
Sanford was “one of the early popularizers of the Manifest Sons heresy. She taught that the Great Tribulation is in the past; we are now in the Millennium and Christians must, through Science of Mind techniques, take dominion over this earth, even removing the effects of the Fall—without the return of Christ. (See Creation Waits, Logos, 1978, etc.)
In The Healing Light, she presents a false "God" who is the "life-force" in everyone and in everything. It is a form of "energy" like electricity: "the original force that we call God (p 30)....we are part of God (p 34)....He's in nature, and He is nature (p 35)....I was conscious of oneness with God, and therefore with the snake which God had made" (p 69). Her pantheism is clear.
On pages 21-22 she gives four steps for tapping into this "God-force," the second being "...to turn it on...we can simply say, "'Whoever you are—whatever you are—come into me now!'" To support her Science of Mind, she quotes a scientist: "a vibration of very, very high intensity and an extremely fine wavelength, with tremendous healing power, caused by spiritual forces operating through the mind of man, is the next thing science expects to discover" (p 32). She goes on: "The love-vibrations and the faith vibrations of God and His saints [she includes dead "saints"—"there is no death" (p 143)] enter through our thoughts of life and love. In the same way, the destructive thought-vibrations of mankind, and of 'Satan' [whoever or whatever 'Satan' may be; her metaphysical system requires no personal devil] enter through our thoughts of illness, hate and death" (p 43-44).
She taught that everything is a matter of thought-vibrations. We can be made ill by negative vibrations, can heal ourselves and others through positive vibrations and can even forgive the sins of others and turn them into Christians in this way. She writes, "...project into the burglar's mind the love of God, by seeing him as a child of God and asking God to bless him [p 60]. A new age is being born...when love-power, [projected] at the command of ministers and surveyors and children and everyone, is sufficient to change hearts....This is the beginning of a new order...the dawning of a new day!...As our prayers, our mental training and our acts of forgiveness fuse into a high consciousness of God's indwelling, we become more and more aware of an inner source of power that can be tapped at will" (p 75). Mary Baker Eddy was no worse!
"Inner healers" John and Paula Sandford… who were associated with Agnes for years… admit that Agnes was involved in Unity, spiritualism, occultism. John even declared that she had been unsaved and demon possessed at the time she wrote The Healing Light and founded the Schools of Pastoral Care (where he taught with her), and that he led her to Christ and cast the demon out in 1964. Yet he credits this woman, while unsaved and demon-possessed, with healing him of a back injury and leading the church into "the healing of memories." [New Age Inroads into the Church by Dave Hunt ]
Emmet Fox [1886 to 1951]
One of the most influential New Thought authors of the 20th Century played a large part in shaping Sanford’s theology. In her words
“In The Healing Light, Behold Your God, Dreams Are For Tomorrow and most of all in Twice Seven Words, I have given my new-old and deeper understanding of this profound subject: the forgiveness of sins. But I have never before told in full manner my coming to this understanding. I owe it to three people: Sister Leila Margaret, Father Weed, and first of all Dr. Emmet Fox. I had read his book The Sermon on The Mount, setting aside a few ideas as being untenable according to my beliefs, reserving judgment upon others, but seeing the truth that illumined hitherto dark mysteries. Because I had read this book, I went to hear Dr, Fox (a “teacher of truth”) on the only occasion to my knowledge when he lectured in Camden. How Marvelously the Lord works! For this talk was on the very subject most on my mind: how it was through the death on the Cross Jesus could forgive sins.” [Sealed Orders by Agnes Sanford. Page 209]
“I did not know that there were any other books upon the subject of the prayer of faith, except possibly Science and Health. I tried to read it, but to me it did not make sense. It did not speak to my condition. Not that I scorn Christian Scientists. I am grateful to them, for at a time when the Church had totally forgotten or denied healing, they dared to believe in it.
Then someone gave me a copy of Emmett Fox’s The Sermon on the Mount, and although the language of this book was not that to which I was accustomed, speaking of “treating” and “demonstrating” when I would have said praying and receiving answers to prayers, still it thrilled my soul because it made clear to me the reality of the spiritual body that interpenetrates the physical body and of the spiritual world in which we really live. This book is based strongly and squarely on the words that Jesus actually said. It rounded out my two year’s study of the Gospels, and I then undertook to trace through the whole Bible this thought of the spirit of man co-existing with the body of man.” [Sealed Orders by Agnes Sanford. Page 113]
According to http://emmetfox.wwwhubs.com, Emmet Fox …
“early discovered that he had healing power, and from the time of his late teens studied New Thought. He came to know the prominent New Thought writer Thomas Troward.
Fox attended the London meeting at which the International New Thought Alliance was organized in 1914. He gave his first New Thought talk in Mortimer Hall in London in 1928. Soon he went to the United States, and in 1931 was selected to become the successor to the James Murray as the minister of New York's Church of the Healing Christ. Fox became immensely popular, and spoke to audiences in some of the largest halls in the city. He was ordained in the Divine Science branch of New Thought”
And what is Divine Science?
(“Divine Science is based on the changeless truth that God constitutes the nature of all being and that God fills the invisible and visible realms of existence. This truth has never changed. All truth is as available to man now as it was to Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Nothing man does or fails to do will ever separate him from the Source out of which he was created. Paul reminds us, "in Him we live, and move and have our being.") http://divinescience.org/home.htm
http://emmetfox.wwwhubs.com goes on to say
The influence of Emmet Fox in the spread of New Thought ideas and emphases lies not simply in the large number of his readers, but in the fact that he is so widely read my ministers of all denominations. A check in large denominational bookstores in various cities from time to time has revealed that Emmet Fox's books are in constant demand; and these are the stores in which ministers chiefly buy their books. They do not, of course, read it as New Thought, but they buy it and read it. There is nothing sectarian, certainly, in the titles "The Sermon on the Mount" and "The Ten Commandments," nor is there anything about them outwardly to indicate that they are New Thought, and nearly half a century after his death, the writings of Emmet Fox remain influential.
Also See Roots of Evil It is unlikely that many Christians are aware of the the common roots of some popular beliefs in the church, and the New Thought beliefs without. From Clement Stone’s Positive Mental Attitude to Robert Schuller’s Possibility Thinking and Oral Roberts’ seed-faith principles, they all stem from common sources and pretty much say the same thing.
Emmet Fox and The Sermon on the Mount
On Page 2 of Emmett Fox’s Book The Sermon on the Mount, in which he calls the Bible a book about Metaphysics, he asks the questions
“What did Jesus teach? What did he really wish us to believe and to do? What were the objects that he really had at heart?”
On Page 3, under the heading of What Did Jesus Teach? He proceeds to answer some of these questions.
“Jesus explains to us what the nature of God is, and what our own nature is; tells us the meaning of life and of death; shows us why we make mistakes; why we yields to temptation; why we become sick, and impoverished, and old; and most important of all, he tells us how all these evils may be overcome, and how we may bring health, happiness, and true prosperity into our lives, and into the lives of others, if they really wish for them, too.
The first thing that we have to realize is a fact of fundamental importance, because it means breaking away from all the ordinary prepossessions of orthodoxy. The plain fact is Jesus taught no theology whatever. His teaching in entirely spiritual and metaphysical. Historical Christianity, unfortunately, has largely concerned itself with theological and doctrinal questions,, which, strange to say, has no part whatsoever in the Gospel teaching. It will startle many good people to learn that all the doctrines and theologies of the churches are human inventions built up by their authorities out of their own mentalities and foisted upon the Bible from outside; but such is the case.” [The Sermon on the Mount by Emmett Fox. Page 3]
The Plan of Salvation which figures so prominently in the evangelical sermons and divinity books of a past generation is as completely unknown to the Bible as it is to the Koran… [The Sermon on the Mount by Emmett Fox. Page 3]
He also states
If you want material prosperity, you must first think prosperity thoughts, and them make a habit of doing so, for the things that keep most people poor is the sheer habit if poverty thinking. If you want congenial companionship, of you want to be loved, you must first think thoughts of love and good will. Like begets like is another way of stating the Great Law, which means that as a man soweth in his unseen thoughts, so shall he reap in that which is seen. “all things work together for good to those who love good,: and to love good means to occupy oneself with thoughts of good.
After talking about how difficult it is for some people to change entrenched habits he then goes on to say..
For this reason many people become discouraged with themselves and indulge in a great deal of self condemnation because they not very speedily change the whole current of thought over the whole area of their lives, destroy the old Adam, as Paul says, in a very short time…
Do not dwell on your mistakes or upon the slowness of your progress, but claim the presence of God with you, all the more… Claim Wisdom. Claim Power, or prosperity in prayer”. [The Sermon on the Mount by Emmett Fox. Page 32]
More quotes by Emmet Fox from http://emmetfox.wwwhubs.com/foxspks.htm
“Strange as it may seem to you, there exists a mystic power that is able to transform your life so thoroughly, so radically, so completely, that when the process is completed your own friends would hardly recognize you, and, in fact, you would scarcely be able to recognize yourself”.
“But where, it will naturally be asked, is this wonderful, mystic Power to be contacted? Where may we find it? And how is it brought into action? The answer is perfectly simple – This Power is to be found within your own consciousness, the last place that most people would look for it. Right within your own mentality there lies a source of energy stronger than electricity, more potent than high explosive; unlimited and inexhaustible. You only need to make conscious contact with this Power to set it working in your affairs; and all the marvelous results enumerated can be yours. This is the real meaning of such sayings in the Bible as "The Kingdom of God is within you"; and "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all the rest shall be added."
“…your ability to contact the mystic Power within yourself, frail and feeble at first, will gradually develop until you find yourself permitting that Power to take your whole life into its care. The life story of Jesus, the central figure of the Bible, perfectly dramatizes this truth. He is described as being born of a virgin, and in a poor stable, and we know how he grew up to be the Savior of the world. Now, in Bible symbolism, the virgin soul means the soul that looks to God alone, and it is this condition of soul in which the child, or Spiritual Idea, comes to birth.
NEVER recognize evil as having any reality. Never grant it the courtesy of the slightest or most formal acquiescence. Even though you may not be able to demonstrate over error for the time being, still you must not recognize it as having any power or reality.
It was from this man Emmet Fox, who called himself one of Charles Fillmore’s (Founder of Unity) spiritual children, that “Agnes Sanford picked up many of her ideas, such as "God's love was blacked out from man by negative thought-vibrations...[Jesus] lowered his thought vibrations to the thought vibrations of humanity" to accomplish "the at-one-ment"—a Unity term that Fillmore called the "reconciliation of man's mind with divine Mind through the superconsciousness of Christ Mind." Sanford commends the "prayers of Unity and other modern schools of prayer" (p 143) which "project the power of God" for healing”. [New Age Inroads into the Church by Dave Hunt ]