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Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?

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Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
3/6/12 1:06 AM
Hello,

I've been wondering about this for a while now: is there a correlation between the siddhis and the "gifts of the Holy Spirit" that one might find in Charismatic Christian churches? I have a few family members who attend a Charismatic Episcopal Church, and there are many members there who openly display gifts that seem identical to some Buddhist siddhis: things like prophetic dreams or just sudden bursts of prophetic inspiration, strong faith, and speaking in tongues (I'm actually not sure if that one is mentioned at all in Buddhism). Though I don't subscribe to their belief system, a lot of this stuff is pretty undeniable for me. I've even been given a Word.

As I recall in Daniel Ingram's book, many people who are "born again," as my family members and most of the members of this particular church are, have actually had an Arising and Passing Away experience. I don't remember if this particular experience related to attainment of psychic powers, though.

So, any thoughts on this at all?

RE: Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
11/11/12 10:30 AM as a reply to Andrew B..
Andrew B.:
Hello,

I've been wondering about this for a while now: is there a correlation between the siddhis and the "gifts of the Holy Spirit" that one might find in Charismatic Christian churches? I have a few family members who attend a Charismatic Episcopal Church, and there are many members there who openly display gifts that seem identical to some Buddhist siddhis: things like prophetic dreams or just sudden bursts of prophetic inspiration, strong faith, and speaking in tongues (I'm actually not sure if that one is mentioned at all in Buddhism). Though I don't subscribe to their belief system, a lot of this stuff is pretty undeniable for me. I've even been given a Word.

As I recall in Daniel Ingram's book, many people who are "born again," as my family members and most of the members of this particular church are, have actually had an Arising and Passing Away experience. I don't remember if this particular experience related to attainment of psychic powers, though.

So, any thoughts on this at all?

I know this is an old thread, but it's also unanswered, so I'll throw in my 2c. This is based on having been-there done-that on the whole charismatic Christianity thing.

I find it absolutely plausible that what are described as the charismatic gifts are indeed in some way connected with other "powers" from various other traditions. I have level-head, cautious-minded Christian friends who, in the privacy of a small group, will admit to experiences such as being levitated, or encountering entities they referred to as angels. Miraculous healing (or rather, events that claimed that label) are common. And speaking in tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge, are really pretty much an everyday event. I have personally seen phenomena that could be interpreted as being all of those. And I have seen many times the phenomenon known as "baptism in the Holy Spirit", which could be interpreted as some kind of A&P or jhana or more. I myself was considered by my church to have been "given" the gifts of prophecy and of tongues (although pretty much everyone and their dog gets tongues emoticon ). I have given umpteen prophecies over the years, and I spoke in tongues all the time. In fact, once or twice I even prophesied *in* tongues. If you were here, I could demonstrate tongues for you right now, as easily as I could demonstrate turning on a light, or making a fried egg. (Mmm, fried egg.) And this stuff goes back to before the modern wave of charismatic stuff. Padre Pio and Jean Vianney are just two relative recents worth looking at, before pushing back further towards the desert fathers. So, yes, it looks like there may well be powers in them thar Christians.

However, I also believe that in practice there is a whole lot of figments of people's imagination, ignorance of modern science[1], and even downright charlatanry, that muddies this whole area. As far as I can see, that's not a problem of Christianity alone. Buddhism and pretty much every other world view is vulnerable to it too. In fact, another problem is that even in the face of the genuine article -- the actual manifestation of a true charismatic gift[2] -- sometimes people can over-emphasize its significance and give greater credence to *everything* the original gift wielder does. So someone tells you accurately that God has just healed your vision. Cool. And then they tell you that you're supposed to move to Bolivia and preach the gospel while wearing a chicken costume. Hmm. Maybe *not* cool. Accuracy in the first does not, of itself, imply accuracy in the second. I've seen such an effect[3] in and around the so-called "Toronto Blessing", resulting in whole churches fracturing. An additional problem -- and again, I think we see it here too on DhO -- is a degree of social pressure (mostly only in the mind of the individual) that experiencing any given thing, be it A&P or "the gift of tongues", is a good thing. The result of that is people want the experience so much -- hey, who wouldn't want to have an anointing by the supreme all-loving power in the universe -- that they just make it up. And of course, they may not realize they are making it up. I class pretty much every "power" aspect of my own Christian experience of being that kind. Figments of my imagination, conjured up as part of integrating into a group of very nice people (including some *very* pretty girls who passed around hugs like candy) who held such things -- the real ones obviously, not my figments -- in high regard.

My overall conclusion -- and this is a life's work, so who knows what I'll be thinking next week emoticon -- is that:

a. There is a whole lot of utter shite and nonsense in Christianity as we see it manifest around us
b. Deep under the shite, I suspect there's a profound core and it's *exactly* the same thing being pursued in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, even Quantum Mechanics, etc (all of which have their own warm, comforting layers of shite). And I get the feeling that some good places to start looking for that core are John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, The Cloud of Unknowing, and so on. Also, a couple of recent Buddhist Geeks podcasts could be of use: http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/author/david_frenette/

A final point of caution, in case you're looking to bring up, with your charismatic friends, this possible connection. One of the nastier and more tragic parts of the particular shite that has accreted around a lot of Christianity is a bigotry against anything unorthodox, and with an intensity that borders on the vicious. Individual Christians can be as nice as nice, but when it comes to dogmatic belief, they can be as bad as ... well, I was going to say they can be as bad as the Spanish Inquisition, but, well, hah! emoticon For example, the Buddhist Geeks podcasts refer to Centering Prayer, and I know some Catholics who would react badly to that. And then Jean Vianney and Padre Pio, while beloved by Catholics, could be a red rag to a bull to some evangelicals who don't even accept that Catholics are Christians! And If you were ever to try talking about *any* of this to Fred Phelps and friends, could you let me know first so I can watch? emoticon

R.

[1] Or, just as bad, over-reliance on modern science. I don't think Christians -- even people who don't believe in things like evolution -- realize just how much territory they have yielded unnecessarily to science. I once tried to explain to a church friend (while I was still involved) that I found it far more miraculous that people were *not* healed when we prayed for them than the occasional time it seemed they were. For me the failure-to-heal-through-prayer is a sign that the laws of physics are standing strong, and *that* is the miracle. What's profound is not someone waving a wand over a hat and a rabbit jumping out. It's that no matter how many times one waves that wand, a rabbit *never* jumps out! My friend just looked at me as if I'd just denied the Holy Spirit emoticon

[2] Not that I'm saying any such thing actually exists.

[3] The giving credence part. I'm not saying that any component of the "Toronto Blessing" was the genuine article. (But I'm not saying none of them were either.)

RE: Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
11/12/12 4:10 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
And speaking in tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge, are really pretty much an everyday event. I have personally seen phenomena that could be interpreted as being all of those. And I have seen many times the phenomenon known as "baptism in the Holy Spirit", which could be interpreted as some kind of A&P or jhana or more. I myself was considered by my church to have been "given" the gifts of prophecy and of tongues (although pretty much everyone and their dog gets tongues emoticon ). I have given umpteen prophecies over the years, and I spoke in tongues all the time. In fact, once or twice I even prophesied *in* tongues. If you were here, I could demonstrate tongues for you right now, as easily as I could demonstrate turning on a light, or making a fried egg. (Mmm, fried egg.) And this stuff goes back to before the modern wave of charismatic stuff. Padre Pio and Jean Vianney are just two relative recents worth looking at, before pushing back further towards the desert fathers. So, yes, it looks like there may well be powers in them thar Christians.

I have been a Christian for most of my life now, but I never understood the "speaking in tongues" thing, I mean, that's completely useless! And wtf? Never understood wth was going on.

I find it crazy how some people are really enthusiastic about how whatever they feel like saying, as long as they do it feeling good, they think it's god speaking prophecies through them or so. If a "prophecy" happens to be true, it's "Blessed be the Lord", if it's not, they usually don't even remember the "prophecy".

What is "words of knowledge"? I don't think I heard of it.

By the way, I don't know if someone ever heard of it, but sometimes a priest "bless" someone and they fall to the floor in their backs. Personally it almost happened to me, but I must say it was because it seemed like the priest was trying to make fall! He was kinda pressing his hand against my head while he "blessed" me, and if I wasn't careful I would have fallen, I didn't really feel anything, but I see how really suggestible people would fall for that(pun intended).

Another funny thing was how the other day a friend of mine convinced me to go to a church and:
1 - I was paying attention to the senses and cultivating happiness, and then my friend said "I could see you were feeling something"... well, sorry, nothing outside my usual practice experience.
2 - He was feeling sick, and I gave him some ginger candy I had with me, he only started eating it after the teachings were over, and went to the priest to ask him to "bless" him because he was sick; Funny thing is, after the priest blessed him, he said he was already feeling a little better, but I'm pretty sure that was the ginger candy fault, he even asked me for more twice after that.

RE: Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
11/12/12 5:17 PM as a reply to John P.
John P:
never understood the "speaking in tongues" thing, I mean, that's completely useless! And wtf? Never understood wth was going on.

It really refers to two entirely different things. One is the ability to speak in a foreign language, or at least to be able to speak to someone who doesn't speak your language, and all of that without actually learning the language in question. I've heard reports of it but never seen it. I don't believe it exists.

The other is, to be cynical, the ability to babble on like an idiot, with a musical tone, amid a crowd of other adults doing the same thing :-) The *theory* is that the person is speaking somehow more directly to God, in a language more able to express love than our regular languages. As I say, that's ten a penny in charismatic circles.

If a "prophecy" happens to be true, it's "Blessed be the Lord", if it's not, they usually don't even remember the "prophecy".

That "reporting bias" is so common as to be normal behaviour. I pointed it out once while still in the church and got told I lacked faith. Hey, they were right! :-)

Another cognitive bias is seen when people relate how God saved them from a bad situation. Like this:

"Well, I got lost in a dangerous area of town and my car broke down. I had to walk and I got accosted by a gang. They stripped me naked and did bad things to me, cut off my legs, and stole all my money. I was lying in a pool of my own blood, and I knew death was near, so I cried out to the Lord to save me. At that precise moment, a member of the local church outreach team happened to be passing. He heard my cry and took me to safety. Praise the Lord for His protection and infinite love".


To which it took all my strength not to yell out, "If God is so f*cking great, why did he let your car break down in the first place!?"

What is "words of knowledge"? I don't think I heard of it.

Just a specific form of prophetic utterance. Like, "God is telling me there is someone here who has recently had a fight with his wife. He wants them to reconcile and go raise a new church for him in Albania." Prophecy itself tends to be more general, not personal, and more vague. As in:

"The Lord says his mercy is upon us now and we must drink of it while he is near. A great tribulation is approaching, and our faith will be tested even unto death. Yet still, those who stay close to him will reap great blessings."


Hey! I still got it!

RE: Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
11/12/12 5:21 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
The other is, to be cynical, the ability to babble on like an idiot, with a musical tone, amid a crowd of other adults doing the same thing :-) The *theory* is that the person is speaking somehow more directly to God, in a language more able to express love than our regular languages. As I say, that's ten a penny in charismatic circles.

And actually -- cos I'm trying to be more open about all my past stuff -- it's actually not that different from chanting in a Zen center, or similar. So I guess that may be part of its root. It seems perfectly conceivable that tongues of that second kind are an aid to contemplation -- like a mantra. When the whole church really gets going, and the harmonies start, and you hear the girls breaking off and moving up into higher ranges while the guys push down and the basses apear, it can be quite beautiful.

As penance for my cynicism I now commit to 100 lines:

"I must not throw the Christian baby out with the bathwater"
"I must not throw the Christian baby out with the bathwater"
"I must not throw the Christian baby out with the bathwater"
' I must not ...

emoticon

RE: Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
12/22/12 2:18 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this thoughtful response! I'm sorry for not responding back sooner, but it's been a long time since I've even looked at this post.

Some of what you've said has been comforting. It can be conflicting, sometimes, to see a certain sincerity and genuineness in such strange phenomena, and yet see so much shite (as you say) piled on top of it. The bit about one's authenticity getting overblown because one prophecy comes true is very helpful, even to my own practice at this point. I hit what I'm certain to be early A&P (or at least some sort of kundalini awakening) through the instruction of a prophetic letter I received from one of the church-goers (and this was some time after I even made this thread), so I can see how people can get almost obsessed with things like that.

Robert McLune, you've not only satisfied my curiosity, but I think you may have helped me with a major obstacle in my current practice. Thank you.

RE: Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
1/9/13 4:17 PM as a reply to Andrew B..
I understand speaking in tongues to be an 'ecstatic' altered state. It is not so much the outward manifestation (the babbling) but rather the inner intensity (spiritual fire) which makes it special. As far as the babbling is concerned I believe that it is simple glossolalia or random syllables from one's own language although I never recorded my speech and thus have never been in a position to verify if I was, in fact, speaking in an authentic foreign (to my conscious mind) language. Of course I have heard enough foreign languages that even if I suddenly (more or less randomly) spoke in a foreign tongue it wouldn't necessarily be a super-natural miracle.

The trance of speaking in tongues, as it keep the conscious mind completely absorbed is useful for other reasons and can be used quite effectively for all kinds of result oriented magick (sorcery).

I believe that when we are speaking in tongues we are accessing a part of our mind where language is processed; a meta-language center of the mind. As a spiritual practice it might help develop and strengthen our self-expression. It seems oddly similar to a baby's babbling with the added ingredients of speed and intensity.

RE: Siddhis in Charismatic Christianity?
Answer
1/9/13 6:13 PM as a reply to The Xzanth.
The Xzanth:
It is not so much the outward manifestation (the babbling) but rather the inner intensity (spiritual fire) which makes it special.


That's a good explanation, Xzanth, and fits with what I know of the way in which strong feelings -- basic bioenergy -- can breach the defense mechanisms. At one time I was reading Jonathan Edwards, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, and other old-time Christian writers, and I also get the impression that the classic Christian born-again experience is actually a form of awakening. In fact, we can see the same forces at work in Eckhart Tolle's story:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swNMOiWXcII