Many of the so-called “desert fathers” (…) adopted occult techniques, later popularized as the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. They thought that if they could visualize Christ and biblical events in their imagination, the Bible would become more real and they would mature spiritually. That delusion is still promoted by many Christian leaders today such as Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, Karen Mains, and others. Foster enticed thousands with the deceitful promise of spiritual maturity through occult methods such as the following in Celebration of Discipline (R. Foster, Harper and Row, Pub., 1978, pp. 24-27):
[Begin] with a daily period of from five to ten minutes…learning to “center down”…[using] two brief exercises….The first [is] called “palms down, palms up”…placing your palms down as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God. Inwardly you may pray “Lord, I give to You my anger toward John. I release my fear of my dentist appointment….I surrender my anxiety over not having enough money to pay the bills…my frustration over trying to find a baby-sitter for tonight.” Whatever it is that weighs on your mind…just say, “palms down.” Release it….After several moments of surrender, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord… “I would like to receive Your divine love for John, Your peace about the dentist appointment, Your patience, Your joy.” Whatever you need, you say, “palms up.” Having centered down, spend the remaining moments in complete silence….
Another meditation aimed at centering oneself…seated…comfortably, slowly become conscious of your breathing [to] get in touch with…the level of tension within. Inhale deeply, slowly tilting your head back as far as it will go. Then exhale, allowing your head slowly to come forward until your chin nearly rests on your chest. Do this for several moments, praying inwardly something like this: “Lord, I exhale my fear….I inhale Your peace. I exhale my spiritual apathy. I inhale Your light and life.” Then, as before, become silent….
After you have gained some proficiency in centering down, add a five- to ten-minute meditation on some…tree, plant, bird, leaf, cloud, and each day ponder it carefully and prayerfully. God…uses His creation to show us something of His glory and give us something of His life…as Evelyn Underhill [says]…begin with that…contemplation which the old mystics sometimes called the “discovery of God in His creatures.”
Having practiced for some weeks with the two kinds of meditation listed above, you will want to add the meditation upon Scripture….Take a single event….Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola to apply all our senses to our task. Smell the sea. Hear the lap of water along the shore. See the crowd. Feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach…. Francis de Sales [says] “represent to your imagination the whole of the mystery on which you desire to meditate as if it really passed in your presence….” As you enter the story…remember that since Jesus…is not bound by time, this event in the past is a living present-tense experience for Him. Hence, you can actually encounter the living Christ in the event…Jesus Christ will actually come to you.
This is, of course, rank occultism. The visualized “Jesus” often takes on a life of its own and does indeed “speak.” This is not the Lord Jesus Christ come down from the right hand of His Father in heaven, but a seducing spirit, exactly as Paul warned would occur: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Tim 4:1, 2). There is no excuse for falling into such delusion, which is so contrary to the Word of God.