Three-time NFL-MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers is off on another spiritual journey to nowhere. Twice he has jetted to Peru to take part in witchcraft ceremonies involving the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca. A shaman witchdoctor guided Rodgers’ mental journeys into so-called “higher states of consciousness.” (Read that as the description of a demon possession ritual if you understand biblical spiritual warfare.) Several times last football season, after throwing touchdown passes, Rodgers celebrated with teammates in the end zone by mimicking drinking ayahuasca brew. This psychoactive drug apparently didn’t help his on-the-field performance. Last season was the worst of his career. So much for spiritual enlightenment.
As I write this blog, Rodgers is considering leaving the Packers, the only team of his NFL-lifetime. He must convince the next team that his athletic skills haven’t aged in 17 seasons. But before making his final career decision Rodgers is heading off to a four-day, dark room meditation retreat.
What’s that? Dark room meditation retreats are the latest New Age fad designed to find one’s true spiritual essence. Complete sensory deprivation is the goal. Days on end in a sparse room, often with little or no furniture. Total darkness. No glimmer of light. Food delivered once a day. No sound. A simple bathroom if the participant can find it. The experience can last several days or a week. Some try it longer, up to 40 days! Many darkness advocates report seeing strange floating lights and orbs in the total blackness. Others speak of visitations by beings of a “higher spiritual order.” Where did this concept come from?
Though New Agers are making dark meditation a popular stop on the trip to spiritual enlightenment, the concept has been around for centuries. Many pagan spiritual traditions have used the practice to alter consciousness. One origin is in Tibetan Buddhism, which my research has shown to be the most highly developed of all non-Christian religions claiming supernatural powers. Dark retreats are an advanced spiritual practice of the Dzogchen lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Spontaneous religious, visual experiences are the goal, seeing with mind rather than the eyes. Yogis claim that dark retreats can lead to visions of deities including shining goddesses. Body energy channels are said to be opened so the powers of these demon deities can flow through the participant.
Another dark retreat purpose is to understand how to navigate between death and the next reincarnation, a state known in Buddhism as “bardo.” In brief, dark rooms seek to lead one into the intermediate spiritual existence leading to the reincarnated state of another life form. To students of the Bible, this is blasphemy and the ultimate lie of Eden’s serpent. While tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, Satan said, “You shall not surely die. Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like god” (Genesis 3:4-5).
Aaron Rodgers like other new age seekers today, may aspire to deeper spiritual understanding in a dark retreat. But the end of such quests may lead to an even deeper blackness, the outer darkness of Hell. Jesus warned of this in Matthew 8:12, when He declared that Hell would be a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Wherever Rodgers plays next season, if he doesn’t repent of his dark retreat evil, he and those who follow his pursuit will eventually end up in the darkness of eternal separation from God.