*The following is a modified transcript of the already-released video seen above, with numbered references at the end of the article*
By Steven Bancarz| In this article we are going to talk about meditation in a way that it rarely gets spoken of. Is it possible that we are being deceived about meditation? Is it possible that there is a dangerous, more sinister reality behind the practice of meditation that is being deliberately swept under the rug? And what if clinical research actually proves that meditation is psychologically, emotionally, and even spiritually dangerous?
To some people, this may sound like typical Christian paranoia, especially coming from an ex-New Ager like myself. This is something I couldn’t have imagined talking about 5 years ago when I would frequently write about the benefits of mediation on one of the largest New Age websites in the world. This was something I used to both study and practice, and I even wrote an Ebook on mindfulness that got over 30,000 downloads. I thought meditation was a necessary part of life, and any idea contrary to this I would have labelled as unscientific and crazy.
After all, all we ever hear about are the amazing health benefits of meditation; that it can lower blood pressure, improve your sleep, reduce stress, and can be used as a sort of fix-all pill for life. But the truth is, there is a massive body of research demonstrating that meditation has the potential to cause extreme psycho-emotional damage, both in the short and long term.
The reason we only hear about the good effects of meditation is because, oftentimes, only the good effects are reported on. Over 75% of meditation studies that are performed don’t ask participants to report any negative effects they experience.
When subjects are asked to report negative effects, or when they are tested specifically for negative effects, the findings, as we will shortly see, are unbelievable, scary, and deeply concerning. There are many different meditation techniques, such as Vipassana meditation which focuses on the interconnection between mind and body through focused breathing and physical sensations, or transcendental meditation which uses the repetition of a mantra to induce a trance-like state, to any general kind of mindfulness or insight meditation. But the following dangers apply to all techniques, and we know this because the studies we are about to look at include reports from each of these methods.
And what makes this conversation relevant right now is that this practice is continuing to become more and more popular in our society. It’s currently a 1.2 billion dollar industry that is still growing, and studies show it’s being practiced by about 40% of Americans. It’s being recommended by doctors. It’s being recommended by therapists.
It’s being integrated into children’s public schools, catholic schools, prisons, and even the workplace. It’s being promoted by some very influential people in the West such as Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Ellen Degeneres, and even presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. Best-selling books fill shelves teaching people the “art” of meditation, while countless videos online with millions of views teach people how to meditate or offering guided meditations.
This is a staple practice in Eastern religions and the New Age movement, and it’s now beginning to be a staple in mainstream culture. So what we are going to do is allow the studies to speak for themselves and reveal to us the shocking truth about meditation that never gets spoken about.
New major study finds meditation dangerous
The best place to start in this discussion is by looking at a new study published in 2017 on the negative effects of meditation, led by Dr. Willoughby Britton, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour at Brown University. The study sought to document what kind of negative side-effects regular meditators experienced during their practice. The link to the full study can be found here.
The study also sought to document how severe, how frequent, and how long-lasting these negative side-effects were. 60 people were selected to participate in this study, each of whom had at least 18 years of meditation experience in Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. They also had to be exempt of having any unusual psychological experiences in their past that could mimic the symptoms they may report during meditation.
What is interesting about this study is just how long these 60 participants had been meditating for. It’s sometimes asserted that if people have bad experiences during meditation (or any practice embraced by the New Age), it’s because they’re inexperienced and don’t know what they are doing. They’re just being uncareful and lack the proper training.
But in this study, 43% of the participants they interview had meditated for 10,000 hours or more, while another 49% meditated between 1000 hours and 10,000 hours. Not only this, but 60% of the participants were meditation teachers. These people were literal experts. These were also educated people, as only 2 lacked college degrees, and 67% of them had a Master’s degree or higher. These were experienced, educated people. And what they were were interviewed for was challenging, difficult, or distressing experiences they experienced during meditation.
Here is a breakdown of what their findings were, and remember, this is coming from people who are educated in Buddhist meditation traditions and have put in more hours meditating than anyone watching this video right now. Through in-person and phone interview with the participants, the study found that:
82% reported fear, anxiety panic, and paranoia. 57% reported depression, dysphoria, or grief. 50% reported social impairment. 47% reported delusional, irrational, or paranormal beliefs. 47% reported physical pain. 42% reported occupational impairment. 30% reported rage, anger, or aggression. 27% reported sleep disorder. 25% reported self-conscious emotions and insecurity.
25% reported loss of sense of personal agency. 23% reported agitation and irritability. 22% reported headaches or head pressure. 20% reported fatigue or weakness. 18% reported suicidality. 18% reported Avolition (lack of motivation and initiative). 17% reported Emotional detachment. And 17% said that they experienced something so severe that it required inpatient hospitalization.
Now a skeptic may say, “well sure everyone has problems when they first start meditating because they’ve never done it before, but these things work themselves out over time with practice”. But these effects were not caused by inexperience, as only 18% reported challenges during the first 50 hours of practice. 29% of reported challenges in their first year, and 45% reported challenges between years 1 and 10. Most of these side effects came about with regular, long term practice. The study actually found that the more someone practices and studies mindfulness traditions, the worse their experience will be.
A skeptic may also say, “well sure but these experiences arise and dissipate in consciousness in a matter of minutes. If you are meditating and experience fear or paranoia for a few minutes or a few days, it’s nothing to worry about, because these are just growing pains of ego-death.” The problem with this objection is that 88% said that these impacts bled over into daily life, even after the retreat or the meditation session was over.
73% reported moderate to severe impairment because of one or more of these symptoms, and these symptoms were reported to last anywhere from 1 week to over a decade. But here is the important stat. Most of these side-effects lasted 1-6 months, or 1-3 years. These two spans of time represent the most common durations of negative symptoms reported by the meditators:
It’s not enough to write these off as small hiccups along the path to inner peace. Most people reported these symptoms lasting months to years, and these regular long-term effects seem to be more congruent with psychological breakdowns and disorders than with enlightenment. As the study itself notes, “Many of the experiences reported by practitioners in our study resemble to varying degrees phenomena discussed in the vast literature on schizophrenia, schizotypy, psychosis, as well as non-psychopathological forms of anomalous experience.” (1)
In an interview with Yoga Journal, Dr. Britton who conducted this study was asked when she began to take interest in studying these darker truths about meditation:
“In 2006, when I was doing my residency, I worked at an in-patient psychiatric hospital, and there were two people who were hospitalized after a 10-day retreat at a meditation center nearby…It reminded me that meditation can be serious, and that someone should study [that side of it].”
The truth is, this is not a new phenomenon, it’s just a phenomenon that doesn’t get spoken about. I was in the New Age movement for years, and wrote plenty of articles on the benefits of meditation, but I had never heard of anything like this before. When asked why she thinks these case studies and clinical findings don’t get any press, she said, “Mindfulness is a multi-billion-dollar industry…One of the teachers I interviewed for my research actually said, ‘This isn’t good advertising.’” (2)
In other words, there is a deliberate attempt to suppress the dark reality of meditation because of how profitable the industry is. A lot of people knock the Christian church because they think it’s just a money-making machine, and they go to the New Age movement instead not realizing the suppression of information and greed that lies at the heart of all it’s apparently altruistic aspirations.
Other studies confirm these findings
Britton’s study is the largest study every conducted on the adverse effects of meditation, but it’s by no means the only one. A 1992 study by David Shapiro, a professor at the University of California, took a sample of 27 long- term meditators and found that 63% of the group studied, who had varying degrees of experience in meditation, had suffered at least one negative effect from meditation and meditation retreats, while 7.4% reported profoundly adverse effects including panic, depression, pain and anxiety to such a degree that they had to stop meditation. One person was even hospitalized with psychosis. (3)
But these findings go back even earlier, when psychologist Dr. Arnold Lazarus found that meditation can lead to depression, agitation, and schizophrenic relapses back in the 70s. (4) Another study from 2018 found that meditation can actually worsen traumatic distress in people. Trauma survivors can experience flashbacks, dissociation, and even retraumatization (5), and other studies have validated this finding that “meditation has the potential to re-traumatise people with a history of posttraumatic stress disorder (6).
It’s also been linked to depersonalization and derealization (7) and another study found it exacerbated depression to the point of attempted suicide (8).
Here are a few clinical case studies of the specific experiences of people that were published in peer-reviewed journals. For these people, meditation was linked with psychosis and loss of touch with reality. (9) (10)
A case study in 2001 looked at two manic episodes that both emerged right after a meditation session. (11) Three case reports linked meditation to the reliving of traumatic memories and events. . And three case reports also linked meditation to psychotic episodes in people with a history of schizophrenia. (12)
Real-life testimony confirms these findings
A news media outlet called “The Guardian”, highlights two real-life examples of meditation gone wrong, which sound identical to what these case studies have been finding:
“Claire, a 37-year-old, was sent on a three-day mindfulness course with colleagues as part of a training programme. “Initially, I found it relaxing,” she says, “but then I found I felt completely zoned out while doing it. Within two or three hours of later sessions, I was starting to really, really panic.”
The sessions resurfaced memories of her traumatic childhood, and she experienced a series of panic attacks. “Somehow, the course triggered things I had previously got over,” Claire says. “I had a breakdown and spent three months in a psychiatric unit. It was a depressive breakdown with psychotic elements related to the trauma, and several dissociative episodes.” Four and a half years later, Claire is still working part-time and is in and out of hospital. She became addicted to alcohol, when previously she was driven and high-performing, and believes mindfulness was the catalyst for her breakdown.”
“Louise, a woman in her 50s who had been practising yoga for 20 years, went away to a meditation retreat. While meditating, she felt dissociated from herself and became worried. Dismissing it as a routine side-effect of meditation, Louise continued with the exercises. The following day, after returning home, her body felt completely numb and she didn’t want to get out of bed. Her husband took her to the doctor, who referred her to a psychiatrist. For the next 15 years she was treated for psychotic depression.” (13)
Meditation teachers acknowledge these dangers
We could go on and on, but the evidence is clear: meditation, whether practiced by an expert or a beginner, has the potential to cause severe, long-term psychological damage. Even meditation teachers themselves recognize this. Here is a mindfulness teacher named Leo, who runs one of the biggest self-help and personal development YouTube channels online.
His channel, actualized.org, has almost 1 million subscribers. Here are timestamps, along with quotes, from a video he made called “The Dark Side of Meditation” teaching some of the things people can expect from their mediation practice:
5:50 – Expect feelings of depression and meaninglessness
9:00 – Expect suicidal thoughts and feelings
9:58 – Expect some freak out moments, where you begin to freak out and have no idea why. Things like agitation and irritation.
11:08 – You turn back to old habits that you’ve worked through already, like alcholism, binging on tv, drugs, or sex. You become addicted to things you got over.
14:00 – Expect traumatic memories to resurface of being sexually abused, bullied, hurt, etc.
15:00 – Expect waves of madness and insanity. Your mind feels like a hive of bees, losing control of your mind.
17:15 – this is quite common stuff, recurrent theme through long-term meditation
From clinical studies, to case studies, to the testimony of experts themselves, meditation is proven to have the ability to cause major psychological damage.
Meditation opens doors to the demonic
I also think it’s possible that in some cases, meditation opens us up to demonic oppression. There are some other side effects we haven’t yet reviewed that could be attributed to demonic oppression. The meditation study done by Willoughby Britton also found that 42% of participants experienced hallucinations, visions, or illusions, 37% experienced involuntary movements, 33% reported seeing visual lights, and 18% experienced seeing physical objects dissolve. (14)
While some of these may be psycho-somatic, it’s known within all spiritual traditions (especially Christianity) that things like visions and involuntary movements can be induced by dark supernatural forces.
A study that was published on meditation-induced light experiences documented in clinical research and in Buddhist traditions that meditators experience visions and hallucinations such as seeing waves of smoke, orbs, jewels in the sky, ropes appearing out of objects, or light emanating from their own bodies, etc.) (15)
Another study linked meditation to the occurence of out-of-body experiences, an experience which is intrinsically demonic as proven further in a video I did on astral projection (R. B. Kennedy, “Self-induced Depersonalisation Syndrome,” American Journal of Psychiatry 133, no. 11 (1976): 1326-1328.
It’s common knowledge that mediation leads to an increased occurrence of nightmares and sleep paralysis which can be demonically inspired at times, and as we have already seen, meditation is linked to suicidal tendencies and all kinds of mental health problems such as delusions, paranoia, and psychosis, which may have spiritual orientation as well since the Bible will sometimes correlate these symptoms to demonic oppression.
For example, in Mark 5:15, a demon-possesed man cutting himself was only found to be “in his right mind” once demons were expelled from him. This story is told again in Luke 8:35. Meditation causes paranoia, confusion, disorientation, etc. which the Bible tells us can come from demons. So it’s entirely possible that some of these darker psychological side effects are a result of demonic activity entering into people’s minds through meditation.
Oddly enough, it’s common knowledge that things can go spiritually sideways during meditation. Here are some more timestamps from “The Dark Side of Meditation” explaining some of the demonic phenomenon people can expect from their practice, coming from meditation teacher “Leo” from Actualized.org:
16:00 – Expect nightmares involving killing people, having sex with your mother, or butchering the dog.
24:35 – You might start to behave like an animal and scratch yourself like a cat or howl like a wolf.
25:29: Paranormal phenomenon like past-life experiences or seeing the future. Full out-of-body experiences. See or hear spirits. Hear voices in your head. See angels or demons. See gods and deities, praying mantis people, spirit animals, giant insects, aliens, feeling like you’re being abducted or probed.
28:10 – You will look at objects and then merge and become them. You can look at a lamp and become the lamp, or a car, of your child.
28:56 – Kundalini awakening, feel like you are being controlled by a puppet master. It’s almost like you’ve been possessed.
This is demonic by any and all standards, and all it takes is a quick Google search to see that people struggle with demonic attacks after meditation and are looking for help on forums. This is surprisingly common. And because it opens up doorways to the demonic, meditation is actually something taught in spiritual Satanism to facilitate demonic encounters. On the Joy of Satan ministry site for example, there are scores of different meditations listed for spiritual power and growth, some of which involve invoking the energies of demons or Satan himself. (16)
If meditation was a safe and purely physical exercise, it would not result in demonic encounters, and it would not be used by Satanists to further their spiritual pursuits. The problem is, meditation is an intrinsically spiritual exercise. For thousands of years, meditation has been used as a spiritual exercise to cultivate a certain spiritual insight (such as Moksha) and spiritual state (such as Nirvana).
In Hinduism for example, meditation is believed to result in what are called “siddhis”, which are supernatural abilities which include the ability to teleport at will, leave your body and enter the body of another person, mind-read, control the weather, see into the future, see into the past-times of the gods, and to die when one desires. (17)
The Bible is clear that things like this are abilities or deceptions brought about by demons, such as in Acts 16:16 where a demonic spirit gave a woman the ability to predict the future. If meditation traditions tell us that side effects of the practice mirror what the Bible attributes to demonic power, that should be a red flag to us. And what we are doing in the West is taking something that is a spiritual practice, attempting to strip it of it’s purpose and reducing it to a psycho-emotional exercise, and then wonder why it isnt have the effect we want.
For more commentary on meditation from a Christian perspective, please refer to the video down below:
Meditation increases the chance of a person developing epilepsy, and increases the likelihood of future seizures in people who already have epilepsy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15617849
Another study found that people with narcissistic personalities experienced a decrease in empathy toward other people after practicing mindfulness meditation. In other words, it makes self-centered people more self-centered: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298868.2016.1269667)