By Ray Yungen
(author of A Time of Departing)
In recent years, a series of high profile, immensely successful books (120 million sold) have impacted the lives of many Christians. They are the Chicken Soup for the Soul books by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Although these books are filled with seemingly charming and uplifting stories, Canfield’s New Age spirituality is quite disturbing from a Christian viewpoint. In understanding the foundational views of these two authors, one must ask, “Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Luke 6:43)?
In 1981, in the Science of Mind magazine, an interview revealed Canfield was no less than a teacher of the highly occultic “psychosynthesis” method developed by a direct disciple of Alice Bailey (see Bailey’s clear occultism and birthing of the term New Age in chapter 2 of A Time of Departing). In some of his more recent writings, Canfield openly reveals he had his “spiritual awakening” in a yoga class in college where he felt God “flowing” through all things.1 Hence, Canfield also promotes many occult writers.
In order to draw a conclusion on the spiritual persuasions of the Chicken Soup for the Soul authors, take a look at one particular book they both enthusiastically endorse. The book is called Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul, compiled by Arielle Ford. Its format is identical to that of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series—101 stories by different authors on a particular theme.
Ford’s book permeates with Eastern and New Age metaphysical content. A panoply of psychics, mediums, astrologers, channelers, and especially Hindu mystics present a wide array of stories. One such story is about a psychic who writes of her abilities.2 Another story in the book is about a Hindu holy man who manifests “holy ash” out of thin air.3 Yet another involves a man who claims to be the reincarnation of the apostle Paul and writes that the message of Jesus is “God dwells within each one of us [all humanity].”4
Co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Mark Victor Hansen, agreed with Ford’s book so wholeheartedly that he wrote the foreword. Listen to a few excerpts from this foreword, which reveal Hansen’s view:
[E]nlightening stories will inspire you. They will expand your awareness, . . . you will think in new exciting and different ways . . . You will be renewed through the tools, techniques and strategies contained herein . . . May your mystical soul be united with the mystical magical tour you’ve been wanting and waiting for.”5
Jack Canfield echoes this praise on the back cover by stating, “They [the stories in the book] will change your beliefs, stretch your mind, open your heart and expand your consciousness.”6
In March 2005, Canfield came out with his book, The Success Principles. As can be expected, one of these success principles is about meditation. Canfield relates, “I attended a meditation retreat that permanently changed my entire life.”7 Canfield does a superb job of integrating metaphysics with the needs of business creativity. He emphasizes:
As you meditate and become more spiritually attuned, you can better discern and recognize the sound of your higher self or the voice of God speaking to you through words, images, and sensations.8
These books are selling like hotcakes in some evangelical bookstores because they are positive. If someone would have told me fourteen years ago that such books would someday be selling in Christian bookstores, I would have said they were nuts—no way!
Sadly, other such books have seeped into Christian bookstores. In one store, Sara Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, was spotted under a sign, which read, “For Devotions.” In this book she informs her readers we are all “asleep to our divinity.”9 Yet, in spite of her obvious connection to the New Age, I have been told that women’s prayer groups at evangelical churches have ordered this book in bulk! (from A Time of Departing, chapter 5)
1. Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Dare to Win (New York, NY: Berkeley Books, 1994), p. 195.
2. Arielle Ford, Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 1998), pp. 244-247, 361.
3. Ibid., p. 36-39.
4. Ibid., p. 15.
5. Ibid., pp. xiii-xiv.
6. Ibid., back cover.
7. Jack Canfield, The Success Principles (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2005), p. 316.
8. Ibid., p. 317.
9. Sara Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy (New York, NY: Warner Books, 1995, October 31).