Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What does the Catholic Church teach about Chakras?

This question came to me in the context of a youth group meeting where we were talking about Harry Potter. I always let the High School students choose the topics that interest them.  I was explaining to the kids that though the Church has no official position on Harry Potter (it is easy to site sources both for and against it) there are many Christians who are wary about Harry Potter, because it appears to endorse witch craft and other occult practices.

One of my youth came to me with a question after the talk-  what does the Church teach about Chakras?  Now I happen to know that his mom is into those kinds of things, and I always hate to undermine a parents authority, but I decided to do some research and find out.

I am not an authority on this subject, and if readers have insights or sources that they recommend, I'd be interested to do more research and can make this a working document!

As part of my own research, I am reading the document "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life".  This is the Vatican document that deals with New Age practices as a whole, and the title is a pun off the fact that New Age refers to the fact that we're moving out of the age of Pisces and into the Age of Aquarius.  The reader may be familiar with a catchy tune on that theme.

While this document focusses broadly on the dangers of New Age, I will just give my initial thoughts on Chakras here.

Chakras are energy centres located through the human body which channel life into our Aura.  If part of your brain shuts down when you read this language, I am with you.  I won't bog you down with a more detailed description of it, since that's all over the web anyway.  The idea of Chakras is rooted in Hindu spirituality.

Even while researching this stuff, a colleague looked over my shoulder and saw the diagram and asked what I was working on.  He believes in Chakras, and had some arguments for them-  like how you know someone is looking at you when you can't see them, or can sense someone behind you.

But I have to be honest, I am a skeptic.  I struggle to believe in things without scientific evidence.  Some people may see this as a contradiction, since I am a Catholic Youth Minister, but I've argued elsewhere for the evidence for Catholicism from a skeptical viewpoint, and I happen to think it is very compelling. I tend to think the scientific community is honest, and is seeking truth, and for the most part is not trying to quash the spiritual dimension of the world.  That there are skeptics who are skeptical as an avowed stance and will disbelieve anything spiritual despite the evidence... well, I don't think that's intellectually honest.

So when I consider something like Chakras, I immediately wonder what the scientific evidence for them is?  There is some evidence of course...  but it seems pretty shaky to me.  The consensus of the scientific community certainly does not appear to believe in these things.  If it is "energy", it should be measurable The immediate answer is "well, we don't have the technology required to measure this form of energy."  Maybe.  I believe that there are things that are by nature immeasurable by science.  I call those things "Spirits."

So if Chakra's are a spiritual reality rather than a physical reality, this gives me a different reason to be suspicious of them. As I said it is rooted in Hindu spirituality.  A lot of Hindu spirituality is in direct conflict with Christian spirituality- notably things like worshipping the destroyer. Within Chakra's themselves is a teaching about the "Kundulini Serpent" Chakra.  Considering the serpent in Christian spirituality is a symbol of Satan, I think it is obvious why a Christian would be suspicious of something that tries to tap into the energy and use it as a porthole to their aura...

At any rate, there is a very strong desire to reconcile differences in different faiths and come up with one uniform truth... and while that desire can seem admirable, if Christianity is correct about the very different realms of Good and Evil, then it is a dangerous thing to try to say they are all one, as is claimed by Hinduism, and Daosim, etc.

I wish I could give a stronger answer on this.  In truth I think not only Chakras, but yoga, acupuncture, and a number of other practices which invoke these same ideas, are to be avoided. I am well aware that this is an extremely unpopular viewpoint, and that I am ignorant in these regards, but I am not ignorant in regards to Christainity, and I think their assumptions are not reconcilable with the values of Christianity.  In fact I think these practices are rooted in presumptions that are occult, in that they call on spiritual powers besides God, atheistic, as they reduce God to an impersonal force, and may even idolatrous.

I do not want to go so far as some have done as to call these practices 'demonic', but I do have to ask the question-  if it is not a physical or psychological reality, then is it spiritual?  If it is spiritual but not rooted in a Christain understanding of God... then precisely which spiritual reality is it rooted in?  There are certainly some red flags here.

Here are a couple of quotes from the Catechism, that don't address Chakras specifically, but related ideologies.  Certainly some food for thought!

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.

2126 Atheism is often based on a false conception of human autonomy, exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God. Yet, "to acknowledge God is in no way to oppose the dignity of man, since such dignity is grounded and brought to perfection in God...." "For the Church knows full well that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart."



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