From the time I was a child, skipping along the creek bank to my grandparents’ house, I felt I could sense (and at times see) what you could call the unseen or spirit world.
Sometimes this world was as sweet as the childlike wonder of knowing where the prize Easter egg was hidden. Other times, an ominous flash of perception would warn me that I was in a home where witchcraft was practiced. Often, these experiences were accompanied by a vision and a sensation of hot or cold in my heart, forearms, and hands.
There were confusing times, too, when I had a strong suspicion someone couldn’t be trusted or wasn’t telling the truth. Being a child, I wasn’t sure when to speak up or what to say, so I tended to blurt out whatever came to mind.
“You’re being nosy again,” my mother would say in her gentle way, even though I could tell I was testing her patience. “You need to mind your own business.”
The Demonic Doorway
My grandmother, a wise and loving Christian woman, had a strong influence on me. She would sit on her front porch shelling peas for supper, her eyes would shine with light, and my heart would burn as she told stories about the many people Jesus helped and how the demons and religious leaders didn’t like him.
As a teenager, I was curious about the supernatural realm, and I started satisfying that curiosity with books on the occult. I loved God, but I also nursed a disobedient streak. And even though the subject matter was frightening, I found myself gradually lured in. I bought a Ouija board and became interested in clairvoyance—the ability to know things about people and places, present or future, based on heightened perception.
As the doorway to the demonic realm swung open, terrifying incidents occurred. At one point, I slept with a Bible because I believed I was hearing demons in my room. Another night, unable to sleep, I kept watching my bedroom door, sensing that someone was standing just outside. Another time, I woke up in a cold sweat after feeling a tug at my nightgown and hearing a low, menacing growl in my ear.
Yet the idea of accessing supernatural powers remained appealing. After enduring sexual abuse as a child and struggling with relationships, drinking, and rebellious impulses as a teenager, I longed for some means of empowerment and escape. And in later years I was drawn to the promise of self-healing and the opportunity to heal others.
Looking back, I see how Satan was preparing me to be seduced by one of the greatest dangers of New Age thinking: the false promise of peace through spiritual enlightenment. Although Christians often associate New Age philosophies with crystal balls, Ouija boards, and séances, most New Agers regard these activities as dime-store knockoffs of more mature paths of self-discovery. Many are health care workers, environmentalists, engineers, and teachers. Their worldly success and sophistication are alluring. Their lives appear the pillar of peace and stability.
In my mid-20s I began studying Reiki, a New Age healing technique that uses different symbols and hand positions to supposedly channel energy from the universe. (The term itself means “universal life energy.”) At the time, I was desperate for peace and longing for spiritual awakening. Wanting to belong, I eagerly accepted the idea that Satan was a manmade myth contrived to keep people in religious bondage. I committed myself to relinquishing the negativity within me—a bundle of old wounds, limiting beliefs, and fear—so that the universe’s healing powers might flow unimpeded.
During Reiki sessions, I met many people who were genuinely kind and caring, people who nurtured and loved me. But my conscience was never entirely at ease. Even though I wasn’t following Jesus, my heart would cry out whenever I heard anyone ascribe their blessings to a nameless cosmos.
By the time I became a Reiki master, I was also a mom living on my own. And as so many new parents can attest, the anxious and awestruck feelings of parenthood have a way of awakening interest in religion. I went to church now and again but couldn’t seem to settle in anywhere. Next door to me lived an elderly couple raising their young granddaughter. She invited me to her church, where I finally found a home for my soul. I went through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study and was baptized.
Now, I was straddling two worlds. On Saturdays I would offer Reiki sessions and teach classes at a friend’s store. My ability to receive visions and impressions of people had gained some attention. “Are you a medium?” customers in the shop would ask me. “There’s a psychic seminar in town next week. You could make a lot of money.”
But I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the Reiki world. Every day I felt a greater burden of conviction to tell people that whatever healing they experienced during Reiki sessions was a gift from God, not me. He was the answer to all their questions, problems, and longings.
Yet saying this was forbidden. New Age philosophy treats this world as an illusion, a school for our spiritual mastery where many gods, spirits, and guides are honored. To speak of Jesus as one deity among many, equal in power and authority, is permitted. But to speak of him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life is out of the question.
Despite my discomfort with Reiki, I remained powerfully attached to the joy (and rewards) of helping people. I feared quitting it for the sake of Jesus: What if people stopped seeking me out for healing and I returned to my drifting ways? So I made what seemed a fair compromise: I quit teaching Reiki methods and told my students about my faith in Jesus, but I continued offering Reiki sessions for my clients, asking the Holy Spirit to operate underneath the surface.
The Power of Jesus’ Name
Soon enough, I came face to face with the foolishness of serving two masters. The crisis point arrived when a friend asked if I would teach Reiki to her and another woman. My hands had heated up just prior to her call, and I thought this might be God’s way of giving his permission. I agreed to the class, convincing myself that I could talk about Jesus freely because this friend knew about my faith.
The first session went smoothly enough, but that night I had a terrible dream of two witches attacking me. I yelled out the name of Jesus, and immediately they disappeared. I awoke from the dream scared but in awe of a name so powerful that satanic forces fled at its mention.
The next day I informed the women that I wouldn’t teach the class any longer. “You do not need more teaching,” I said. “You need Jesus.” They erupted in tears and anger, accusing me of arrogance, stupidity, and a lack of empathy. Eventually, I was asked to leave. For a week thereafter, I endured their insults, along with the expected exclusion from certain formerly friendly circles. But I also felt an incredible relief. I ripped up all my Reiki books and asked God to forgive me. That was over 15 years ago, and I haven’t practiced Reiki since.
The New Age is the old Satan playing on our deepest longings for peace, connection, abundance, and immortality. In contrast, the Christian path of obedience, sacrifice, and suffering can seem foolish, even masochistic. That’s why I praise the name of Jesus, who laid down his life not for spiritual masters but for the weak and wounded sinners he loved so dearly.
Nicole Watt is a freelance writer and homeschooling mother living in Northern Ireland.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.