Theophostic Counseling (which was rebranded Theophostic Prayer Ministry/TPM) was coined and developed in 1996 by Baptist minister, Ed Smith. By Smith’s own definition, TPM happens when, “…theophostic facilitators ask the Lord to reveal His truth as clients watch for, listen [to], and feel a special revelation from Jesus, who has the ability to enter into our historical moment and reveal truth in the experience.”
Omitted from Smith’s brief explanation is that once the “special revelation” is made known, the TPM facilitator is trained to determine whether the revelation is from God and that if it is, to declare to the client that the source of the revelation is Jesus Himself.
This gets tricky. The recipient is placing their trust in these facilitators—many of whom are laypeople in the church who, while good intentioned, simply bought a workbook and attended a one-week training course.
Determining on behalf of another person whether or not their special revelations are (1) from their own imagination, (2) a deceptive spirit, or (3) Jesus Christ, is pretty hard to do on-demand in a prayer session, especially if the facilitator and recipient are only casually acquainted.
What is the Litmus Test?
Many times, it is the (1) presence of Scripture or (2) positive emotion that determines the validity of the revelation; but both litmus tests are not altogether trustworthy.
King David’s heart was nearly bursting at the seams with a pure passion to build a temple for the God he loved. His emotions were not only positive, they were authentic. The desire of David’s heart was selfless, God-centered, and for God’s glory, not for his own fame as the king of Israel wanting to build for the sake of achieving architectural praise and acclaim. Everything about David’s motives and desires were genuine, biblical, and God-honoring. And yet, the “word” to build a temple was not from God as we learn in 2 Samuel 7:4, where God appears to the prophet Nathan and tells him to tell David that it is not His will for David to build Him a temple, but that this will be accomplished through one of David’s sons.
When “scripture is quoted” or a client walks away with a huge grin on their face, feeling like the weight of the world has been lifted off their shoulders, that is circumstantial evidence and does not necessarily equate with inner healing. Real inner healing is lasting and is rooted in the power and promises of our Deliverer–not in our feelings, which ebb and flow on the daily like the tide. There will also be people who have been deeply and permanently healed who might not necessarily experience a mountain-top “high” of emotion. Many of them may walk away “feeling” like TPM didn’t “work”—and they may be wrong.
There are also many things that work but that are not God-honoring (e.g. Ouija boards). Just because something worked (or appeared to work based upon one’s feelings) does not mean the method (or application of the method) doesn’t require closer scrutiny.
As far as Scripture is concerned, we know that the Enemy knows and quotes the words of God all the time (as we saw him do in the Garden of Eden and during Jesus’ wilderness fast). Bending, watering down, and twisting Scripture is pretty high up there on Satan’s job description. So, a Bible verse “popping into your head” as you are praying; yes, sometimes that, in fact, IS the Holy Spirit—but sometimes it isn’t. Discernment is still required. The testing of spirits is still required.
Biblical Visions or Hallucinations?
Smith has also admitted:
During Theophostic Prayer Ministry, demons sometimes masquerade as Jesus, appearing visually in people’s minds looking like Jesus. But, don’t be alarmed by this, as it’s easy to spot the demonic imposter. I have found that when a person looks carefully at the face of a demon Jesus, it will usually be dark or hazy, or look angry, scornful, or evil.
Smith also adds a disclaimer, warning against using TPM to channel or divine the future, because he admits that facilitators have used it for divination.
A word about Smith’s assertion that “real Jesus” and “demon Jesus” are differentiated by nothing more than a scary Halloween mask—1 John tells us that the difference between Jesus Christ and antichrists is not in appearance, but in testimony. Antichrists will not profess Jesus Christ as God, nor will they bow down or worship him. Add to this the fact that Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light”—and my guess is, demon Jesus is probably a pretty spectacular sight to behold.
Before I go on, I want to clarify that Theophostic Counseling should NOT be confused with Nouthetic Counseling, which is a method of biblical counseling developed by Jay Adams, a Reformed Christian author, counselor, and founder of The Institute for Nouthetic Studies. Nouthetic comes from the New Testament-cited Greek noun nouthesia, which means, “admonish, correct, or instruct.” Adams and his counseling mentees and successors are just as content to use the word “biblical” in lieu of “nouthetic” as there is nothing special, in and of itself, to the word nouthetic.
Test the Spirits
With that said, the purpose of this article is to compare and contrast Theophostic Counseling with The Silva Method.
The TPM website has a bullet-point list of just over sixty “TPM assertions.” The assertions are statements that any Bible-believing Christian would agree with, and all are backed up with numerous Scripture references. It is not the mission statement of the TPM movement that I am concerned with, but rather its application. TPM creator Ed Smith himself has even stated, “I cannot monitor everyone who claims to use Theophostic ministry. It is simply a tool and people can use it improperly.”
The TPM “Map” consists of five waypoints: Emotion, Memory, Belief, Truth, and Transformation. There is nothing intrinsically fatal or unscriptural about this process or its order of execution. It is the Truth step, however, where I believe there is a potential “kink in the armor.” This step is where Smith’s disclaimer that TPM can be used improperly can come into play. This is where opportunistic antichrists can creep in and hijack the counseling session and redirect the client’s focus from biblical wholeness in Jesus Christ towards a demonic spirit guide masquerading as Jesus Christ.
John 16:13 is pure, inspired-by-God Scripture. It says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” The verse, when applied through God-centered, biblical lenses, will lead us out of deception; but when twisted, it will lead us deeper into deception. It is probably no accident that the New Age movement has “borrowed” two words from John 16:13 that become quite vague once cited out of context. Those words being spirit and guide. Ring any bells?
His Son, and the ruach of Yahweh (the “spirit of God”) are NOT spirit
guides. When we importunately seek answers to our questions via prayer,
sound Bible teaching, and the Word, the answers to our questions are revealed
in the form of biblical truth and conviction—NOT in the form of an angelic apparition
that looks like our cultural rendering of what we think Jesus looks like. A
physical being is not necessary to convey a message or to constitute two-way
communication. While angels appeared from time to time in the Bible to deliver
information to human beings, this does not mean that it is the standard or
prescribed way that Jesus must always ascribe to when answering prayer. Jesus
isn’t a butler that counselors or clients can summon by the mere jangling of a formulaic
“On what basis are we to conclude whether the appearance of Jesus in TPM is literal or figurative, [or whether it is] based on revelation or [the] imagination?”David Entwhistle, Christian psychologist
The Silva Method
Enter José Silva. Silva was a self-taught parapsychologist and author of the books, “The Silva Method” and “Silva UltraMind ESP System.”
According to Tomasz Witkowski, author of the book, “Psychology Led Astray: Cargo Cult in Science and Therapy,” Silva was not entirely self-taught, as he claimed to be under the tutelage of “a Chinese spirit guide sitting in the Yoga position in the astral plane, whom he met at the beginning of his career, practicing the art of out-of-body experience.”
Wikipedia summarized Silva’s method by stating, “Silva claimed to have developed a program that trained people to enter certain brain states of enhanced awareness. He also claimed to have developed several systematic mental processes to use while in these states allowing a person to mentally project with a specific intent. According to Silva, once the mind is projected, a person can allegedly view distant objects or locations and connect with higher intelligence for guidance. The information received by the projected mind is then said to be perceived as thoughts, images, feelings, smells, taste and sound by the mind. The information obtained in this manner can be acted upon to solve problems.”
Silva also stated that his method was designed, among other things to, “help people…to heal both themselves and others remotely, using forces unknown to science.”
Compare that to Ed Smith’s own definition of his TPM method: “Theophostic is a ministry of helping emotionally wounded people to acknowledge and to identify the true source of their inner emotional pain and find lasting peace through receiving personalized truth directly from the Lord.”
Both men’s methods involve (1) helping people to (2) heal, (3) using supernatural means (whether those means be “forces unknown” or “from the Lord.”)
What TPM and The Silva Method have in common
Both methods involve summoning a physical being from the spiritual realm, whether it be the heavenlies (Jesus Christ) or the astral plane (spirit guides).
TPM facilitators, as stated earlier in this article, are instructed to, “…declare to the client that the source of the revelation is Jesus Himself.”
Whereas, The Silva Method teaches its students to “create a mental laboratory;” from within the laboratory, they are told to summon two “counselors” of their own choosing—one male and one female.
Randy England, author of the book, “The Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church,” writes of these counselors: “These ‘counselors’ are to be consulted in full confidence…upon their appearance in the laboratory, these counselors may or may not turn out to be the persons the student had hoped for.”
Indeed. Jose Silva himself corroborates this fact when he clarifies (in regard to these summoned counselors), “We are not sure—perhaps [they] are some figment of our archetypal imagination, perhaps an embodiment of the inner voice, perhaps something more. What we do know is that, once we meet our counselors and learn to work with them, the association is respectful and priceless.”
Furthermore, Johanna Michaelson, in her book, “The Beautiful Side of Evil,” testifies to her own personal experience using The Silva Method. While at a Silva Mind Control class, she selected Jesus and Sarah Bernhardt as her male and female counselors. She “went to her level” (achieved Alpha state) and entered her mental laboratory. Jesus and Sarah both showed up, and to Johanna’s credit, she at least had the presence of mind to bow at the feet of Jesus rather than Sarah. At least she got one thing right.
As the instructor was dismissing the students, he gave them all a firm warning to not summon their counselors alone at home. Johanna, throwing caution to the wind, did so anyway and, in her own words:
“O Lord,” I prayed, “please reveal the counselors I’m truly meant to have.” The chamber door began lowering—the same radiance shining from behind it—but something was wrong. The hair was wild and matted, the forehead was covered with coarse fur and the eyes were slanted, gleaming and wild. Fresh blood smeared the muzzle and oozed down long white fangs. Yet the rest of the figure was the same as before, covered in a long linen robe and gleaming.”
The tale concludes with Johanna, “learning to accept the werewolf faces of Jesus and Sarah.” Shortly after this experience, Johanna learned she had the gift to clairvoyantly diagnosis the illnesses of people living far away, whom she had never met—a “gift” she utilized throughout her career as the assistant to a psychic surgeon.
England concludes that Johanna’s story is evidence that, “Evil can appear as beautiful as anyone can imagine.”
Jan Fletcher, in the article, What is Theophostic Counseling, writes, “In TPM, a Theophostic-trained facilitator asks the ministry recipient to drift back and identify the first memory he or she can remember in which was felt the same negative emotion that has been ‘triggered’ in the present time and is the current source of trouble.”
My question is, what exactly is meant by “drift back”? Does this simply mean ponder? Think about? Try to remember? Drift back. Hmm? That is vague, and where there is undefined terminology, there is opportunity for an antichrist to pounce.
Frank Meadows, writing for CBN, offers some flavor. He writes, “Theophostic prayer is a Spirit-led process by which a Theophostic Prayer Minister asks the ministry recipient to focus on their current emotional pain as well as any physical feelings in the body or images that come to mind. For example, I might recommend the person close their eyes to help them focus on their painful emotions for a few minutes while I briefly pray and invite the Holy Spirit into the session.”
Gary Almy adds, “To be cured the client must first age regresses to the time of the memory that is the source of their pain.”
Age regression (also commonly referred to as hypnotic age regression) is typically done under hypnosis. Hypnosis is a taboo among most believers (I suspect Ed Smith would agree). I am going to assume here that Gary Almy took creative liberty and chose the phrase “age regress,” and that he is not quoting this from the TPM manual. But with that said, we must be extremely careful when instructing a traumatized client to close their eyes, relax, and go back to mentally regress back to a past time in their life. Because as you will see shortly, one does not need to be “hypnotized” in order to fall into an Alpha state.
There is no harm done in having a person simply close their eyes. But it is uncomfortably close to Silva Method blogger and advocate Socrates Chouridis’ advice to, “…count backward, you have to look behind your closed eyelids, slightly above. It is known that the brain produces alpha brainwaves when having your eyes at this position.”
Traditionally, astral travelers have had to employ techniques to separate from their body to ascend to the astral plane while asleep. Sleep Paralysis, Lucid Dreaming, and Out of Body Experiences being necessary steps to astral ascension—and all are done in varying degrees of dream state. The Silva Method, however, according to Hebrian Daniel, in his online article, A Way to Reach OBT/Astral Projection, rightly connects the dots when he writes, “The Silva Method allows you to achieve this deep relaxation [Alpha state] through meditation during waking consciousness.”
In other words, The Silva Method is a short-cut to the astral plane–the place where one goes to commune with demonic spirit guides…some of whom may be in really convincing “Jesus of Nazareth” Halloween costumes.
In the New Age and occult realms, visualization leads to altered states of consciousness, demonic delusions, false views of reality, astral travel, hallucinations, introduction to spirit guides, and demonic attempts to manipulate the God and Jesus and Holy Spirit of the Bible into one’s own understanding and interpretation.
Not only does the TPM method NOT teach the practice of visualization, it strictly warns against and forbids it, but we still must remain vigilant to make sure that, while Ed Smith does not condone it, there will be biblically unsound, innocently ignorant, poorly trained, or downright sinister TPM facilitators who don’t know the difference between “a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ” and visualization.
There is nothing, in and of itself, sinister about special revelation. Most Believers would define their conversion as a supernatural event where the Spirit of God showed up and spoke into their lives.
But again, there is a fine line between “special” knowledge and “secret” knowledge. The very definition of the word “occult” is “hidden from view” or “secret.” There are lightyears of difference between special revelation and occult secret knowledge—but in the hands of a smooth-talking wolf in sheep’s clothing, or a purely-motivated but poorly trained facilitator—a traumatized recipient who is unread in Scripture could be easily led astray.
Another commonality between Ed Smith’s TPM method and Jose Silva’s method is that both men claim that Jesus is the Healer/Guide who is mastering the journey. While Ed Smith blatantly markets his approach as a Jesus-centered method, many may be surprised to learn that Jose Silva did so as well.
Jose Silva is on record as saying, “Rabbi Jesus was assigned by Almighty God of the Universe to Planet Earth to teach humanity, in a step-by-step procedure, how to look for and find what is called the kingdom of God within us all. … Jesus came to give us a message to correct the problem of human development on this planet because Moses didn’t do it and Noah didn’t do it, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob didn’t … Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Mohammed didn’t do it. So, Jesus finally came to straighten out their mess and problem.“
Upon further research you will discover that Silva was merely touting what is referred to today as “Christ Consciousness” and has nothing to do with worshipping Jesus Christ, but Christ being the first human being to realize and obtain self-godhood.
TPM portends that, “When God reveals His truth to us in the root memory places of our mind, our vision or understanding is supernaturally corrected in that loving, God-truth encounter.”
The Silva Method, likewise, boasts that it can, “Teach students specialized guided imagery techniques to rewire their subconscious and negative programming, tap into their true potential and achieve their goals.”
TPM differentiates that the renewal of the mind is done by and through Jesus Christ for the purpose of healing; while The Silva Method ascribes the healing to self, the power of the mind, Christ Consciousness, and spirit guides for the purpose of obtaining psychic power, it is still crucial to employ discernment and to test the spirits to ensure that your TPM facilitator is utilizing the method for wholeness in Christ, not for purposes of divination.
In conclusion, I would persuade anyone out there who is dealing with PTSD, childhood trauma, sexual abuse, or anxiety and depression related to unnamed, latent abuse or trauma to use the utmost of discernment when selecting a counselor—even within a church setting.
We so often desire a spiritual experience. We don’t just want healing—we want miraculous healing. We want bells and whistles, confetti and fanfare. We want an eye-popping story to regale the small group ladies or our grandchildren with. After years of feeling nothing but comatose apathy, we want to FEEL our encounter with Jesus Christ with all five senses.
But God does not always reveal Himself to us in this way. Sometimes God, with all his power, chooses very anticlimactic solutions to our problems. Sometimes, if you hooked an EKG up to God’s miracles, they would appear to flatline—but they would still be miracles none-the-less.
We must learn a lesson from Naaman—the Syrian commander with leprosy who was angry at Elisha’s untheatrical method of healing, declaring, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.”
He wanted a spotlight. A three-ring circus. Fanfare. Shofars sounding from the heavenlies. And all he got was a note delivered by a D-list messenger boy instructing him to dunk himself in a dirty river seven times. Thankfully, after licking his wounds (figuratively speaking, of course) he humbled himself, obeyed, and was healed. But the story provides us with a fantastic lesson on expectation. There is no guessing how, when, or if God is going to answer our prayers. We have to be prepared to stay the course and realize that answers to prayer often come from D-list messenger boys—not Jesus Christ Himself, in the flesh, in the form of an angelic apparition after achieving a self-induced hypnotic Alpha state.
Brothers and sisters, I hope that I have made myself clear. Ed Smith and his TPM method are not on trial in this article. The point here is simply to highlight aspects of the model that the New Age movement could easily hijack if we do not stay sober minded, vigilant, and discerning.
A hammer is not an evil object, nor was its inventor an evil man. If someone uses a hammer to bludgeon another man to death, it is the man who used the hammer as a murder weapon who goes on trial—not the hammer, or the guy who invented it.
Likewise, TPM and Ed Smith are not responsible for how the Theophostic prayer method is interpreted, used, or abused. But that doesn’t mean we should blindly trust every TPM facilitator that we are sending our friends and loved ones off to pray with.
Stay sober minded and stay safe out there.