WHAT’S WRONG WITH VISUALIZATION?
By Jerry Johnson, of MorningStar Magazine
(Reprinted from the May 1992 issue)
A number of years ago my wife and I attended a Deception and
Discernment seminar in Berkeley, California put on by the
Spiritual Counterfeits Project. It was an excellent seminar
with classes on numerous topics.
The seminar was punctuated by Christians coming together out of
common concern and a desire to emphasize the truth.
But then there was THE class ….the one that ended with people
upset at each other and some people crying and a great deal of
No, it wasn’t a church board meeting.
It was the class that dealt with visualization.
Now, for those who may not be sure what visualization is: It
isn’t a new type of 3-D movie. It isn’t those sunglasses that
let you see behind you. And it isn’t an eye exam done by
If you talk to either New Agers or Christians who have bought
into it, visualization is an aid to faith, a way to help God to
make that which you desire to become reality. It is done by
repeatedly and consistently creating a very clear mental image
of an object or goal desired. It is taught that if you create
the image with enough fervor and mental clarity, it will help
the thing to occur in reality. Christians may also create a
mental image of Christ and converse with this Jesus and get
advice. They love the method and are often adamant in its
You probably have already had some exposure to the teaching of
visualization. If you’ve seen athletes mentally go through
their race or dive or course while leaning and jumping and
swaying with their eyes closed, you’ve seen a form of
visualization in action. Many sales or business seminars now
teach people to visualize the sale or completed project in order
to help it to happen. If you are into the evolution of language
you may have noticed that somewhere in the last seven years or
so people are now telling you to visualize something rather than
to imagine it.
“So what’s wrong with visualization?”
1) It has been, is, and always will be an occultic method. For
a reference please (do not) see the first published account of
how to visualize. You will find it in an article in a book
published in the 1920’s by Alice A. Bailey, a prominent member
of the occult group, the Theosophical Society. The article was
entitled “Treatise on White Magic”.
2) It works.
“Wait a minute here! First you’re setting up to trash
visualization …and then you say it works?!”
That’s one of the main reasons that I’m trashing it.
Remember, a lot of things that are not appropriate work. Drugs
make you feel good for a while, despite what objective reality
is; same thing with alcohol, illicit sexual activity, and a lot
of the pleasures of the world that work for a season. They are
effective, seductive and destructive.
Now, I don’t mean that if you imagine a Porsche in your front
yard it will show up, but visualization has been used to “help”
physical illness and it has improved performances by those using
“Then what’s wrong with it?”
It’s a lot like asking what’s wrong with killing people in order
to get served more quickly at a restaurant. The goal in itself
is O.K., but the method leaves something to be desired.
You can find visualization taught throughout the history of
published occult, arcane and esoteric literature, including the
book “Real Magic” by Phillip Bonewits, the only person to
graduate from Cal State Berkeley with a degree in Magic and I
don’t mean pulling rabbits out of a hat. At the end of the book
he explains how to “launch” a magic spell. A primary part of
that process is visualization.
By contrast, a group of Christians was given the challenge of
finding anything in the Bible that even smacked of
visualization. One man came up with the story of Babel and
Genesis 11:6, “And the Lord said, ‘Behold, the people is one and
they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now
nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined
to do.’ ” That’s as close as scripture EVER gets to even
inferring this method and the word “imagine” in the Hebrew is
“zamam” which means to plan or plot for evil intent.
Not exactly a glowing recommendation.
Years ago I was taught how to visualize by a well intentioned,
but underinformed, Christian psychologist in a Christian
college. I became good at it … very good. I was able to stop
a friend’s asthma attack quicker than her medication. I was
able to control my stress level. I was able to stop my colds
within two days. I, I, I, I.
Notice a trend?
If you suddenly, evidently possess the power to get what you
want ..who needs God, or more accurately, who will stop to seek
God’s will if you can get your own will?
After all, if God wants something into your life and you yield
to His leading, does He really need your help to create the
reality? And if He doesn’t want you to have it, isn’t rebellion
to go after it anyway?
Visualization isn’t just an occult method and it isn’t just a
distraction to a life of faith IN GOD (not yourself or your
ability to imagine). It creates pride and begins to warp your
doctrine and view of God.
“Now, you’re really blowing wind!”
I wish that were true.
In a recent book a VERY prominent and repeatedly published
Christian author had a chapter that extolled the virtues of
using your imagination to develop intimacy with God. What he
taught was visualization. In this chapter the author made the
following statement which, by the way, is wholly in the context
and intent of the chapter: “We cannot commune with a Savior
whose form and shape elude us”.
That is really interesting when lined up to John 4:24 “God is
spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in
The author loses.
And so do those who follow his lead.
Exodus 20:4 instructs us to not worship any created images. I
believe that probably includes mentally created images. After
all, if I commune with a God whose form and shape have not
eluded me I have two problems.
1) I am communing with a god that I have defined by my
imagination. MY imagination, formed by MY mind, which is
neither perfect nor capable of recreating a complete and
accurate picture of God. My desires and prejudices will color
both the image I create and the advice that image gives.
2) If I can figure God out well enough to imagine a Biblically
accurate and complete image with my brain, that God’s pretty
small and probably doesn’t warrant my worship.
After all, my brain can’t even imagine or understand how a TV
set I plug into a wall can produce accurate replications of
actors that did their thing weeks or years ago. If I can’t
figure how a TV works, how in the world am I supposedly capable
of accurately imagining God?
It just don’t make sense.
Let me be blunt: I HATE visualization. At one point it seduced
me and I hate to see others get sucked in. It is an occult
method that has NO place in the life of a believer. It is not a
neutral tool. It’s a satanic one.
No, I won’t win any diplomacy awards for this article.
Now on to a briefer look at the second occultic method. And,
yes, you can breath a sigh of relief.
“Lizard tongue and wing of bat,
Tooth of hen and leg of gnat,
Grant the wish I wish to hold,
Give me lots and lots of gold”
Most of us would recognize that poem as a farcical version of a
magic spell … it’s also not all that different from a teaching
that has made MAJOR inroads into the lives of many believers.
I quote a book that is extremely popular with the people that
hold to this second type of error: “Those that say they can and
those that say they can’t are both right. Words are the most
powerful thing in the universe.” “God never did do anything that
He didn’t say first. He said it then He did it. The power to
do it was in the Word.” “You must watch what you say. You have
to believe that those things that you say – everything you say –
will come to pass.”
I could go on … ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
This error is known as positive confession. Historically it’s
known as casting a spell.
It is the idea that whatever you say, because you said it,
creates reality. Therefore, you can only verbalize things that
you want to happen.
I had a friend that believed in positive confession. She had a
book of verses, taken out of context, of course, that were to be
said in order to create a positive reality.
Included in this book was a verse that talked about God holding
back the flood waters. It was to be stated to overcome a
woman’s water retention.
I am NOT making that up. I still chuckle about that.
That friend died while positively confessing she had been healed
To me, this particular belief (spelled h-e-r-e-s-y) has two
ridiculously obvious doctrinal problems:
1) It holds that the spoken word is “the most powerful thing in
the universe”. That concept is easily trashed in Exodus 20
where it is declared that we are to have no other gods …most
powerful things, if you will …before him. Also, if what they
say is true, when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem
and said how he would gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers its’
chicks, he should have spouted feathers.
2) Man’s spoken will then becomes sovereign. Not God’s will …
man’s. Besides, since this teaching has no basis in reality, as
my dead friend can now attest, it just sets people up to deny
reality and live, and die, in a world of fantasy, wishful
thinking and self-delusion.
Both visualization and positive confession are gaining converts
in the church today. Both deceive and delude those who end up
following their own desires rather than seeking God’s will.
Both are simply witchcraft … supposedly done in Jesus’ name.
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