Discerning the Spirits

The true definition of understanding is directly connected with obedience to God. “Disobedience has closed the door to a vast amount of knowledge that might have been gained from the Scriptures. Understanding means obedience to God’s commandments. The Scriptures are not to be adapted to meet the prejudice and jealousy of men. They can be understood only by those who are humbly seeking for a knowledge of the truth that they may obey it.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 112.

The Holy Scriptures tell us that “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

Rightly stated the word of God illuminates the mind of the receiver. The Hebrew word for light as used by the Psalmist in this verse is ore which means illumination or luminary which involves enlightening, happiness, etc. It also means bright, clear, etc.

It would be correct for me to say that most human beings desire or crave enlightenment. We want to be illuminated to the level whereby we can achieve happiness, perfect peace of mind, complete understanding of ourselves and the mysteries of the world and the universe around us. The problem is that the greater number of those seeking enlightenment are seeking it the wrong way, through the wrong path. There is only one way to be truly enlightened, to attain a correct understanding of ourselves and the mysteries of the world around us, to gain perfect peace and happiness!

Examples of Man’s Quest for Enlightenment Throughout the Ages

Throughout the centuries many people have sought enlightenment in the religion known as Buddhism and many today are still pursuing that path. Buddhism, history tells us, started with Siddhartha Gautama. Born a prince in Nepal (581–501 B.C.), he gave up his possessions and set out to search for a solution to human suffering, the riddle of life, when he was twenty-nine years old.

The record tells us that Gautama first joined five Hindu holy men who believed the way to learn the truth was to starve the body. He starved himself until, pressing his stomach, he could feel his backbone. But this taught him nothing. Soon he began to eat normally again, and the holy men left him in disgust.

That was one extreme. The other extreme, the life of pleasure and richness, he knew well. And it had left him hungry for truth. So he decided to try the Middle Way. He ate enough so that hunger did not occupy his thoughts. Then he sat down quietly under a tree—the sacred Bodhi tree.

For 49 days he meditated. In a vision he saw the armies of Mara, the evil tempter of the world. Mara and his three daughters attacked him with storms, rain, rocks and blazing weapons. And Mara himself offered the wealth of the world if he would give up his search for truth. But Gautama sat unmoved. The armies of Mara fled.

After 49 days of meditation under the tree and after a night of spiritual struggle with the evil one, Siddhartha Gautama overcame him and his evil forces, became awakened, and achieved the enlightenment he was seeking, and entered a transcendental, eternal realm of being. Thereafter he was known as the Buddha, or “the Enlightened One.” He spent the remaining forty-five years of his life proclaiming the Dhamma, the eternal truth into which he had “awakened,” making converts to his beliefs and organizing a formal religion.

In his first address, which centered on the core of his teachings – the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path – he taught: “There are two extremes to be avoided by those who have renounced the world. What are they? Everything to do with passion and luxurious living …, and everything to do with torture of the self and useless pain.”

Avoiding those two extremes the Tathagata (a title of the Buddha indicating that he has gone before into complete Truth) has reached the Enlightenment of the middle Way. (The term “Middle Way” was used in the first teaching that the Buddha delivered after his awakening. In this sutta, the Buddha describes the middle way as a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This, according to him, was the path of wisdom). This enlightenment brings perfect insight and knowledge, and it leads to peace, higher knowledge, enlightenment and Nirvana.

Millions of people throughout time immemorial have sought enlightenment by pursuing the Hindu path. Hinduism has one god, Brahman, who is the eternal spirit. But it also has 330 million lesser gods—enough so that each family can have a favorite to honor at its household shrine. Most important of the gods are the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The three of them are but three aspects of the supreme god, Brahman.

Hindus teach that “the sublime objective of Hinduism is to leave behind this harsh, material world and to be united with God. This union is reached not only through prayers and rituals but through the ideals of Hindu living: purity, self-control, detachment, truth, nonviolence, charity and the deepest of compassion toward all creatures.” The World’s Great Religions (by Life), 1958 edition, p. 15.

For Hindus, Brahman is present within humans as the inner self or soul. The material body and world are obstacles preventing the achievement of oneness with Brahman. Therefore, when this enlightenment and oneness occur the “Self is Brahman,” “pure Consciousness is Brahman.”

It is out of this desire to be enlightened and attain to oneness with Brahman—chief god, that yoga (yoking, joining, union) becomes significant in the spiritual experience of Hindus. “The aim of yoga is the achievement of true insight through the liberation of the soul. The means of achieving this are renunciation, abstinence and asceticism, rejection of all comforts and possessions, the killing of desires and through this the attainment of spiritual serenity and inner gentleness, expressed as inner retreat in contemplative meditation.” The Story of World Religions, Markus Hattsteih, 2005 edition, p. 14.

Dr. John Bowker in his book The Message and the Book, page 177, gives an even deeper understanding of the role of yoga in the life of an Hindu. He states that “Yoga is often associated outside India with techniques, exercises and postures that lead to calmness or other new states of consciousness, but that is only a small part of Yoga and of no importance on its own.”

He clearly reveals “The point of Yoga is that it leads to a transformed understanding of the cosmos and of human nature within it, and on the basis of that transformed understanding it teaches the way in which through practice one can attain extraordinary powers (siddhi) and the state known as Samadhi. The word Samadhi has various meanings, such as concentration, contemplation and altered consciousness of a trancelike kind. In its strongest and ultimate meaning, it is a state of complete and blissful stability far beyond the seething turmoil of ideas and events.” Ibid.

Geoffrey Parrinder in his analysis of the philosophy, mythology and ethics of Hinduism affirms in his book World Religions pages 214, 215, that “The yoga known to western enthusiasts is a late elaboration of these earlier practices, with heavy emphasis on more difficult physical postures and a physiological theory according to which the yogi in meditation seeks to raise the kundalini. This is a spiritual force conceived as a dormant snake lying coiled at the base of the spine, up the central vein (sushumma) which lies in the vertebral column, through six ‘circles’ of psychic power along the column to the ‘lutus’ at the top of the head, by accomplishing which he wins salvation (Laya Yoga).”

Kundalini Awakening

  • Kundalini means “the coiled one.”
  • Kundalini is described as lying “coiled” at the base of the spine, represented as either a goddess or sleeping serpent waiting to be awakened … Kundalini awakening is said to result in deep meditation, enlightenment and bliss.” Wikipedia
  • One Hindu author argues, “You may hear it called many things. Like Kundalini-Sakti, Serpent Power, Goddess (Devi) Kundalini, Shakti, The Holy Spirit or just plain Kundalini. She is the Divine Cosmic Energy in the body. Her movement is serpentine so it’s often described as snake-like. All the Yogas are methods to help awaken the Kundalini. The goal is to have the Kundalini to rise through the seven Chakras (Energy Centers) and obtain Enlightenment. When the Kundalini passes the Seventh Chakra (Crown Chakra), she unites with Siva which is the masculine part of the Universe. You become one with the cosmic consciousness while still in your living body. You become one with your Higher Power … You have reached Enlightenment.” (Article: What is Kundalini Awakening?)

Justin O’Brien, in his book Christianity and Yoga: a Meeting of Mystic Paths, states that “Yoga is a systematic science, a set of techniques, and while yoga itself is not a religion, its practical teachings are an integral part of the great religions of the world … . Its central teaching is that man’s essential nature is divine, perfect and infinite … . Through the meditative methods of yoga one can dispel the darkness of ignorance, and become aware of his essential nature, which is free from all imperfections.” p. xi.


The “Lotus” Position

“Eastern meditators take very seriously the preparation for meditation and physical positions. They begin by relaxing their bodies and minds. They seek out a quiet place, where they sit down, usually in what the Hindus call the ‘lotus’ position. The lotus position involves sitting cross-legged on the floor with torso held upright and eyes closed. This position is the most common meditative posture used … as facilitating communion with the spirits.” The Danger Within, Manuel Vasquez, p. 66.

Dr. Cathy Burns’ records of the “lotus”: “You will sometimes see strange little Chinese gods or Oriental Buddhas sitting on the blossom of a Lotus. In fact, if you look carefully you will find nearly all the Oriental gods are so depicted. This means that they have opened within themselves that Spiritual Consciousness which they call the Kundalini. One of the emblems of Isis is the lotus, which is a symbol of the resurrection. Of course, in Egyptian mythology, the idea of resurrection means rebirth or reincarnation. The lotus was also associated with sun gods.” Masonic and Occult Symbols Illustrated, 271.

The Hand Signal

“A Dictionary of Mysticism notes that the mudra is a ‘mystic seal’ of Oriental occultism; a series of occult signs made with the fingers, and considered to have magical effects.” Ibid., 231.

“In addition to mantras (form of enchantment) and yantras (instrument, means or emblem), the third way of representing deities is through gestures (mudra). There is a large number of symbolic gestures used in rituals and believed to evoke supernatural beings. Many of the mudras through which a deity can be evoked are also used in sacred dance. The fingers are formed into circles. This is called a mudra.” Ibid., 231, 232.

Mystical Meditation

In his book The Danger Within, page 58, Pastor Manuel Vasquez argues that “Although meditation has always been a legitimate part of Christianity, there appears to be a ‘meditation movement’ in Christian circles today that incorporates New Age concepts and that is adversely affecting some sincere Christians. Take for instance, Joey Orman, who was introduced to mystical meditation by a deacon in her church. He promised her ‘astro travel’ and a closer walk with the Lord. But soon the cosmic energy forces she received overwhelmed her and caused a disorder in her central nervous system. Joey ended up in a psychiatric ward.”

Pastor Vasquez states further that “Some Christian leaders today are teaching, through seminars and books, questionable meditation techniques and such dangerous elements as ‘guided imagery’ and ‘visualization.’ Christians are instructed to conjure up the image of Christ, dialogue with Him in their minds, and equate His messages (“given through an inner voice”) with those of Scripture.” Ibid., 58, 59.

In answering the question of Why the interest in meditation? Pastor Vasquez shows that “Eastern mystics, especially Hindus and Buddhists, have practiced meditation (yoga) for centuries as a part of their religious, spiritual exercises. They also engage in ‘inner listening’ or ‘inner communion.’ …

“Some Christians believe that Hindu meditation techniques such as hatha yoga are a practical way of handling daily stress, with the added bonus of increasing spirituality and intimacy with God … . But perhaps the most prominent reason Christians become involved in meditation is for spiritual enrichment.” Ibid., 61, 62.

What about Spiritual Formation?

Pastor Rick Howard, a retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor, addresses the relevant subject, Spiritual Formation in his book entitled The Omega Rebellion. Beginning on page 25 he shows the history of this doctrine by highlighting Martin Luther and Ignatius Loyola. He wrote that “Martin Luther and Ignatius Loyola were contemporaries. Both were drawn to God by His Spirit; both were convicted of the sin in their lives and both sought a way of escape from their guilty consciences through the power of God. Finding God and His power to bring them victory was at the core of their search.

“For reasons that will only be revealed in the judgment, they looked for that victory in different places. Martin Luther searched the Holy Scriptures and found the God of creation, while Loyola searched the world of ‘spirits’ and believed he found God in His creation. … Loyola chose to suppress his guilty conscience, refusing to think any more of his sins. Instead of searching the Holy Bible, he sought enlightenment through the supernatural world, satisfying his own carnal propensities. He always desired to see God in everything, everywhere, all the time. This was the desire of his heart.

“Loyola longed for supernatural experiences, believing them to be evidences of God’s presence and power. Deceived, he turned to the writings of Roman Catholic mystics and saints, longing for God to reveal himself in everything, all the time. He desired God’s presence on his terms, and Satan made sure he would think he found Him. From these experiences he was profoundly changed and for the rest of his life asserted that God miraculously gave him the enlightenment of a lifetime in just a few moments.” Ibid., 26.

From the autobiography of Ignatius Loyola, Pastor Howard reveals the following concerning Loyola’s hunger for illumination in the spirit world. He wrote, “And he was seated there, the eyes of his understanding began to be opened: not that he saw some vision, but understanding and knowing many things, spiritual things just as much as matters of faith and learning, and this with an enlightenment so strong that all things seemed new to him.” The Autobiography of St. Ignatius Loyola, p. 30. Ibid., 26.

Ignatian Spiritual Exercise Schedule

Furthermore, according to Pastor Rick Howard, “The concept of God as revealed to Loyola in these mystical experiences revealed a God who is pantheistic—His person existing in the things of His creation.” Loyola developed what is called today his “Spiritual Exercises,” which contain all the teachings from which modern spiritual formation was constructed.

This is the type of divine understanding/enlightenment that is being taught to many Seventh-day Adventist leaders who in turn teach it in our churches today to Seventh-day Adventists. As Pastor Howard puts it, “The basic theology behind what is being taught in the very missions and institutes where Seventh-day Adventists have gone to learn spiritual formation is the theology of Loyola: pantheistic, mystical, and Roman Catholic. It includes contemplative/mystical prayer, leading one into an altered state of consciousness believed to be the ‘presence of God.’

“Spiritual formation counterfeits the work of the Holy Spirit that directs our minds to Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary. People are deceived by the teaching that they can come into Jesus’ presence whenever they desire, communicating with Him through the practice of ‘centering’ and ‘contemplative prayer,’ which brings them into the mystical state of the silence. Furthermore, they are taught a false type of pantheism that claims Jesus, in His fullness, can be found in every human being and in all of His creation, everywhere.” Ibid., 30.

Why Many SDA Are So Blind

“In following the path of Satan’s choosing, we are encompassed by the shadows of evil, and every step leads into deeper darkness and increases the blindness of the heart.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 92.

“It is not God that blinds the eyes of men or hardens their hearts. He sends them light to correct their errors, and to lead them in safe paths; it is by the rejection of this light that the eyes are blinded and the heart hardened. Often the process is gradual, and almost imperceptible. Light comes to the soul through God’s word, through His servants, or by the direct agency of His Spirit; but when one ray of light is disregarded, there is a partial benumbing of the spiritual perceptions, and the second revealing of light is less clearly discerned. So the darkness increases, until it is night in the soul.” The Desire of Ages, 322.

The Way to True Divine Enlightenment

“Let the purpose be sincere and unwavering to discern the truth and to obey it at whatever cost, and you will receive divine enlightenment. Real piety begins when all compromise with sin is at an end.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 91.

The One Who Gives Divine Enlightenment

  • “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:13).
  • “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
  • The Holy Spirit openeth many dark and deep mysteries. “(Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand My knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:4, 5).
  • “Thou gavest also Thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not Thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst” (Nehemiah 9:20).
  • “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

“It is the Spirit itself that teaches and enlightens. The most powerful preaching of the Word, the reading of the Scriptures, will not be able to transform the character and save souls unless the Spirit works with and through the human agents. The planning and devising must not be of a character to draw attention to self. The Word is a power, a sword, in the hands of the human agent, but the Holy Spirit in its vital power is the efficiency to impress the mind. ‘They shall be all taught of God’ (John 6:45). It is God that causes the light to shine into hearts. … The reason why God can do so little for us is that we forget that living virtue in the Holy Spirit is to combine with the human agent.” Sons and Daughters of God, 30.

“Let all humble themselves before God, asking for grace and wisdom, that they may see wherein they have violated His holy law. Unless His Spirit enlightens them, they will never know, even though it is set before them by their brethren.” The Upward Look, 240.

“The Lord speaks to the heart that humbles itself before Him. At the altar of prayer, as the throne of grace is touched by faith, we receive from the hand of God that celestial torch which enlightens our darkness, and convinces us of our spiritual necessity. The Holy Spirit takes of the things of God, and reveals them to the one who is sincerely seeking for the heavenly treasure. If we yield to His guidance, He leads us into all light. As we behold the glory of Christ, we become changed into His image. We have that faith which works by love, and purifies the soul. Our hearts are renewed, and we are made willing to obey God in all things.” The Review and Herald, December 15, 1896.

Those Only Who Will Receive the Knowledge of Divine Truth

“The knowledge of divine truth is promised to those who will render obedience to the light and truth that have been given to them. An entrance into the strait gate is not dependent upon the possession of learning or riches, but it is dependent upon the possession of a teachable spirit. He who appreciates the first ray of heavenly light, and appropriates it, and walks in it, bringing his actions into harmony with that ray, and becoming sanctified through it, will receive yet more light. He will understand that the gospel is the plan of salvation.” Ibid., March 28, 1912.

Only Those Who Acknowledge Christ as Saviour and Lord Will Be Enlightened!

“The Holy Spirit enlightens the mind of the one who depends on the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, and indites a prayer of confession and repentance that is acceptable to the Lord.” Loma Linda Messges, 51, 52.

Christ promised that the Holy Spirit will illuminate man’s understanding concerning the mysteries of redeeming love.

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: … He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:12–14).

Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.