Several months ago a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks visited our Unitarian Universalist church. They wore ceremonial clothing, chanted for what seemed like forever, and then began making a mandala out of colored sand in the common room. It was fascinating to watch, and I enjoyed experiencing a taste of another culture’s traditions and beliefs. When I was a girl, my aunt came to visit my family. She was reading Harry Potter and had brought the book with her, but my parents made her leave it in the car during her stay. It might let demons in the house, they told us.
These two memories sprung to mind immediately when I read Adult Coloring Books and Mandalas, A Warning For Christians, by blogger The Last Hiker.
Last week I received a kind gift from a friend. She is one of the godliest people I know. My friend is smart, independent, and she loves the Lord. She is not naive. She is a professional, a leader. She is not a crunchy new-ager. I have known her for 15 years. We are super close.
The gift is a cool and popular new item that many of my other Christian friends have used especially during times of illness. They are popular with cancer patients who just sit all day in hospital beds, bored of Judge Judy.
They are sophisticated versions of what children daily do.
They are nostalgic.
They are adult coloring books.
I see them in Barnes and Noble. I see them in Michael’s Craft Store.
I have seen them in the Christian owned craft store Hobby Lobby.
They are just coloring books.
I have no problem with coloring books. I have kids. We color.
I do have problems with Mandalas though, which happen to be a part of most of these adult coloring books.
So, I just want to give a warning to my sweet Christian friends to stay away from mandalas and I will let you know why.
According to wikipedia, a mandala is “is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe.” However, also according to wikipedia, “in common use, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.” The Last Hiker quotes this definition and continues as follows:
A mandala is used in tantric Buddhism as an aid to meditation. They meditate on the image until they are saturated by it. They believe that you can merge with the deity by meditating on the mandala. “A mandala is also visualized (dhyana) by the yogin whose aim it is to merge with the deity.”
Focusing on mandalas is a spiritual practice where you merge with “deities”–this practice opens the door to demons.
The thing is, how is the devil going to get Christians to meditate on mandalas?
No Christian would put one in their house and sit and stare at it for an hour, chanting the sacred word!
But if the enemy can get a Christian to stare at a mandala because they are coloring it, he can have them absentmindedly focus their attention on the image and they will unknowingly open up their subconscious to this image in almost the same way.
. . .
According to the article above about “Ritual Objects of Buddhism and Hindusim,” a mandala is a key tool to practicing a religious ritual, and it opens people up to trances. When you think about how our brains zone out when we color anyways, this makes it even more interesting.
Yes, that’s right, The Last Hiker thinks the devil put mandalas in coloring books sold to Christians in the United States in order to open them up to trances. In fact, she argues that by coloring mandalas, Christians actually participate in a religious ritual.
If the monk constructing the mandala is participating in a spiritual ritual, what are we doing as we mindlessly trace the shape with a colored pencil and try to keep the pattern balanced with our coloring choices. We are also going through the motions, participating in this ritual without even knowing it.
She goes on to quote a number of different individuals promoting the spiritual benefits of coloring mandalas, using terms like meditation and zen. She points out that adults didn’t care about coloring before people put mandalas in coloring books, and my isn’t that interesting. “Normal everyday people believe it is just some fun new hobby,” she admits. “But why didn’t they just choose to color with their children, or take an art class?” she asks. She closes with this:
So my question when it comes to the whole adult coloring books is this–
Is it really about coloring?
Or is it about spiritual hosts of wickedness sneaking mandalas into our homes and into our subconscious minds?
Is it really about recreation or is it New Age evangelism?
I can color all I want.
But if I do, I am going to get a big fat coloring book of Bible stories.
It isn’t so trendy and cool, but at least it is honest.
Can I just say, what The Last Hiker is missing is that coloring in intricate designs is way more fun and relaxing than coloring traditional coloring books for children. And especially for people who aren’t artists, it’s also way more relaxing than creating your own art from scratch, without lines to color in. But then The Last Hiker probably sees “relaxing” as a synonym for “meditating.”
What I want to get at is this: Evangelicals, for all their claims of not being like Catholics with their rituals and relics, imbue objects with an enormous amount of power. My parents believed a book could let demons into our home, and The Last Hiker believes coloring a picture could leave you open to the same.
Evangelicals talk a lot about having an all powerful God. You would think that if you had this all powerful God on your side, you wouldn’t need to worry about something as small as papers bound together in a book with ink printing on them. And you would think that if you were truly a child of this God, you wouldn’t need to be worried about opening yourself to demonic influences completely accidentally and without any intent or awareness. And yet evangelicals are.
The Last Hiker responded to a critical comment with this:
Thank you for your comment, but I have to disagree. The Bible is clear that His people are not to have anything to do with any form of idolatry, false religion, and images–because they will lure our hearts away from the truth. These things are connected to the demonic. There is a difference between coloring a map of India and coloring a Hindu/Buddhist mandala in my opinion because you are actually participating in a pagan ritual. But thank you for leaving a comment.
In a sense, it’s too bad that evangelicalism doesn’t allow for positive talismans to help guard against evil talismans. The world might be a bit less scary for evangelicals if they could wear a Saint Christopher metal, or carry a relic of your patron saint. But evangelicals tend to see even ostensibly positive talismans as idols or conduits of possible demonic influence. The result is a world that feels more scary than it needs to—a world where letting a book enter your home or coloring a pattern in a coloring book might give demons access to your body and threaten your spiritual state.
And with that, I’m off to color another mandala!