crmlogo  Cornerstone Research Ministry        Home     About     Articles    Contact
    Recognizing False Biblical Teachings and Teachers



Cornerstone Newsletter

A Toronto Blessing / Holy Laughter... Or Kundalini Curse?

Originally published January 1, 2000 and updated March 31, 2020


"Do not trust in deceptive words saying, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord..." Jeremiah 7:4

By Greg DesVoignes

Note: One of the originators of this occult practice is Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of River At Tampa Bay church, was arrested a few days ago for violating an order not to hold Sunday services due to Coronavirus regulations on gatherings.  People should be aware that while he is a friend of President Trump's head Spiritual Advisor, and was one of the Evangelicals who prayed for Trump in the White House after he was elected, Howard-Browne is not an example to follow in something like that as he is considered a false teacher involved in the occult.  This also applies to Paula White who is also involved in this occult practice as she admits at a conference that Browne held in late 2019.  So, let us begin to expose this.

Picture yourself sitting in a church. While the preacher is preaching, he is interrupted by spontaneous laughter from one or several persons in the meeting room. The laughter is explosive and uncontrollable. The preacher also starts laughing, and so do others in the room....

In the front row, a man stands up and with a walk of one who has had too many intoxicants, staggers drunk like in front of the stage and collapse on the floor.... During an alter call people are falling to the floor after being touched or prayed for. Some are curled up in pre natal positions. Their eyes are rolled back and rapidly moving... Some people are twitching, some are giggling, and some are making animal like sounds.

"Holy Laughter", or "The Toronto Blessing", as it is called, is an experiential phenomena that is said to be manifestations of the presence of the spirit of God. It was primarily introduced in North America and spread by Rodney H. Browne, an evangelist from South Africa. It has been spreading swiftly through Vineyard and other churches, seemingly passed from person to person. Some pastors and others have flew to Toronto, where it started, to be able to "catch the fire".  It since went to Pensacola, Florida into the Brownsville Assembly of God church where this became the major focal point for the "revival".

Sometimes also referred to as "The Anointing" or "Awakening", "The River", "The Fire", participants have reported seeing visions, received healings, and transformed lives as a result of these experiences. Whatever it is called and whatever manifestations come out of it, supporters believe it is a new Holy Spirit revival. But is it?

While wanting to insure that we do not stifle the work of the Holy Spirit, we must also insure that what we see, and what is experienced is really from God. We are told to "test the spirits to see if they are from God". We would not have been told this UNLESS, there be a danger in accepting signs, wonders, and experiences as being all from God. It is a misnomer to believe that everything that goes on inside a church has to be from God. Not so, especially in these times.

This article looks at The Toronto Blessing and tests it according to the standard we have; the Word of God, and with other sources.

Historical Accounts

It appears that this type of "revival" phenomena has happened at least twice in the history of this country. The first in 1801 at what is called the "Cain Ridge Revival" in Kentucky, and again in 1907 at what was called the "Azusa Street Revival" in Los Angeles.

Christian History magazine said that at Cain Ridge, people were falling down, heads were jerking back, some so fast that facial features could not be seen. Yelps and other noises would emanate from some, while others would go into convulsive trances. Some would laugh hysterically. Similar experiential manifestations were reported 106 years later at the Azusa Street Mission. During this time, trembling, laughing, and what is called being "drunk in the spirit" were frequent manifestations

Now, about 90 years later from the time this article was first written or more like 110 yeas, the same manifestations are happening again. If what we are seeing today is an indication of what happened historically, there must have been some indignant eyebrows raised. I caught Rodney H. Browne on the Richard Roberts show on TBN during the time he arrived on scene. By the time I had tuned in, Brown already had the audience 3/4 captive. Roberts and many others were sitting on the floor & sporadic hysterical laughter was breaking out.

A "Mr. Peepers" looking man, "drunk in the spirit", stood up and started staggering around. His eyes were crossed and he would fall down, stand up, and fall down. The man, in drunk comic Foster Brooks fashion, looked at Brown, struck a "Why I never" pose, and collapsed in his seat. The audience was roaring with laughter at his drunken antics.

I wondered as I watched this, if there was really a difference between being drunk on alcohol or drugs, and being drunk in the spirit. If this man had driven would have he not endangered himself and others? Would he have been arrested for driving under the influence of God? I failed to see the humor or a holiness in it.

So can we say that because this experiential phenomena happened historically that it is a manifestation of God? Was it of God then; is it of God now? I think not on both counts.


A Personal Visit

A number of years ago I sat in on a service of a local church involved with The Toronto Blessing side of this. The pastor of this church had made a visit to Toronto, brought back the experience and shared it with the congregation. I share this with you because what I observed is going to be pertinent later.

Mental Conditioning

The manifestations began at the end of the service. After the chairs were removed [in anticipation of falling people], the music worship people repeated the same song over and over for a long time. In fact, the song was repeated through the whole experience which lasted about 40 minutes.  People need to realize that many of the Contemporary Christian Music "performers" engage in this repetitive words, verses and musical score during concerts and "worship" at churches.  It is a form of witchcraft to manipulate one into a trance state.

After about 15 minutes of this song, several people began to lay their hands on people, or move their hands back and forth in front of their heads or chests. People began to fall to the floor. The same song continued. Eventually there were about 100 people on the floor. I watched as some curled up in prenatal positions, while others lay flat on their backs. Some appeared frozen in the postures they were laid down in; others trembled. One teen age boy had his arms straight up without any movement for about 30 minutes. Some made sounds, some giggled, some moved their hands back and forth. Even with their eyes closed I could see rapid eyeball movement.

Searching the scriptures, there is no reference to what I saw or any of the other manifestations I shared. In fact the late John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard churches [of which are leaders in spreading this] admits there is no biblical basis for such things as roaring like a lion. [animal sounds]. Some churches do not allow some of the experiential manifestations to continue. But who is to say what is acceptable as to be from God or not? What is the standard that is used to determine this? Disruption, not scripture, is the standard.

So while it may be all right to walk around drunk like, lay on the floor and convulse; screaming, running, roaring and acting like an animal are really not appreciated. But if it is of God, who is man to stop it?

After this article first came out in 2001, one of our readers from California told me his wife heard a Vineyard woman say she had a sexual orgasm while under the "anointing". Would this be an acceptable experience? In fact, can we say that any of these manifestations are truly spiritual encounters with the God of the Bible?

BethelHeidiBakerOne of the largest churches that has been spreading this evil practice is Bethel Church, Redding California.  All you need to do is watch some of the videos that are on the net that show people rolling on the floor, the "Fire Tunnels" in the sanctuary, their Bethel School Of the Supernatural, and even at their concerts via Jesus Culture, Bethel Music and others.  In fact it was their senior pastor Bill Johnson that brought the "Toronto Blessing" back to Bethel after visiting and watching the manifestations as the Toronto Airport Vineyard which was run by John and Carol Arnott.  The photo on the left is from one of the videos out of Bethel.  Self proclaimed prophetess Heidi Baker started this thing going.  The young man on the floor (bottom left) next to her was moaning, crying and rolling back and forth.  Bill Johnson directed security to carry him out.  Many children are on the floor here.

They, and Bill Johnson are part of what is called the "New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  This group of self appointed prophets and apostles was started by the late C. Peter Wagner of Fuller Institute of Church Growth (Fuller University).

The NAR's goal is to perfect the church, who will then perfect the world which is supposed to then allow Jesus to comeback.  According to their teaching, Jesus cannot come back until they make this perfection happen via their, "Joel's Army", the "Dread Champions", etc.  They will be actually assisting the anti-Christ as a part of the false church when he arrives on scene.


Real Encounters

While the Toronto Blessing / Holy Laughtr experiences put a person on the floor, cause physical contortions, and epileptic type symptoms, Biblical examples of encounters with the real God and His Spirit show quite a different scenario.

In Ezekiel 2:1 Ezekiel was given a prophetical vision by God. In vs. 26-28 he sees what he describes as,

"...the likeness of the Glory of the Lord". He said when he saw this, he fell on his face [out of fear]. But what happened next is most revealing as we consider and compare the Toronto Blessing.

"Then He said to me, 'Son of man stand on your feet that I may speak with you'. And as He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet." Ez 2:1-2

What? Notice that when the Spirit entered Ezekiel, it set him on his feet, and did not put him to the floor. It lifted him, strengthened. This Biblical example is contrary to the "anointing" of Holy Laughter or the Toronto Blessing in which people are put to the floor and weakened with some sort of sensual experience for hours. But it's not the only one.

Elijah's encounter with an angel is also revealing. In Kings 19:5-7 we see Elijah in despair and giving up. But an angel of the Lord said to him, "Arise and eat". This happened twice. The angel lifted him. His presence did not keep Elijah on the ground or weaken him or cause strange manifestations.

Daniel had a similar encounters. In Daniel 8:15-18 Daniel falls on his face from fear at the sight of a vision. But we see in verse 18, Daniel said of this being, "but he touched me and made me stand upright". The same thing happened in Daniel 10:9-18. Encounters with the spiritual realm of God lift the person up but did not put them on the ground.

The New Testament gives us similar examples. Consider the work of Jesus. In Matthew 9:27 Jesus tells a paralyzed man, "Rise, take up your bed and go home". And what about those who touched the garment of God incarnate? They were healed, not put to the ground, not filled with shaking, twitching, laughing.

Aside from the lack of Biblical evidence and the scripture contradiction of these manifestations, another thing that bothers me about the Toronto type "anointing".

There are many people who manifest many of these same symptoms that wish they would wouldn't. These are the people with neurological problems that they have through diseases, injuries, the result of using drugs, or just being born with a problem. They would like to stop shaking and trembling. They would like to come out of their curled up positions. They would rejoice if they could stop taking insulin so they would not stagger and manifest signs of intoxication as a result of insulin shock. The epileptic would desire not to fall in a public place, lose control, and have people watch as their eyes roll back or twitch under their eyelids.

Are these experiences we seek? Would an encounter with God cause symptoms of disease, brain injury, mental illness or even possession? Or, like we see in scripture, would an encounter with God stop these things?

Receiving The Holy Spirit?

There is also no reference to the anointing of the Toronto manifestations in receiving the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:44 we see that while Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon the people who were listening to the message. The account of this in verse 46, "For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and exalting God". In Acts 19:6 the results of laying on of hands was speaking in tongues and prophesying. Again, no animal sounds, no uncontrollable laughter, no staggering around.


If It's Not Biblical, What's The Source?

After reading literature on this phenomena from various sources, and watching it myself, I have concluded that what is happening is the result, in part, of emotionalism, or having the mind altered. There are many things that can trigger the latter, and sources other than scripture where these things can be found.

We have "tested the spirit" of this "anointing" using the Word and cannot find anything to validate this phenomena. This should put up warning flags and tell us there is something wrong. So if it is not found in the Word of God, if it cannot be validated by the standard God gave us, where can it be found? Let's start out with something "light".

Witches Laugh Too

Holy Laughter and it's alleged benefits are not confined to inside churches. The WICCAN witch Carol Christ says in her book The Laughter Of Aphrodite;

"I laughed for hours and hours. All my private personal suffering... was dissolved in laughter... I felt transformed... and have always viewed what happened as a kind of spiritual experience... people do not think of laughter as a spiritual experience. I now understand that laughter can be a mediator of transformation. Gavreil's laughter, like Aphrodite's enabled me to distance myself from pain, opening a new perspective to my life." Carol Christ, The Laughter Of Aphrodite: Reflections On a Journey to the Goddess, Harper & Row, 1987, pgs 5, 6.

Question. Is this laughter experience of a witch from God; or is the Holy Laughter really a generic occult experience from some other spirit that touched the witch?

Carol Christ said it was a spiritual experience that transformed her life [but it did not turn her to God]. Consider this. Its not in the Word, but note that Carol mentioned that laughter enabled, not just her, but the Goddess Aphrodite, to be distanced from pain. So, this phenomena is not in the Word, but a witch has a transforming spiritual experience the same as church members report. Seeing these things led me into a search in an occult book store.

Unholy Discoveries

Back around 2000 I explained the phenomena and experiences, and manifestations of The Toronto Blessing to two employees of the New Age store. I asked them if they had ever heard of such manifestations or where I might find references to them. One person told me that the manifestations [falling down, trembling, and all the others previously mentioned] sounded like something that happens in aspects of African religions such as Santeria. He offered to have some Santeria priestesses contact me [I declined].

Now this made sense, as it brought back a remembrance of a study I did several years ago on Voodoo [which originated in Africa]. Voodoo rituals mix aspects of Catholicism and the occult. Their rituals start out with a Catholic type service. They sing Christian songs, and say prayers. After this is completed, the Voodoo rituals start with repetitive music and drumming.

Some people go into what the Voodoo practitioners call "Trance". Another word they use for possession of the Loa, or Voodoo deities. This trance state can happen automatically to some when they are under hard situation. What happens in this trance?

According to Kyle Kristos in his book, Voodoo, this trance puts a person in contact with spiritual forces. The trances are indicated by trembling, convulsions, a feeling of emptiness, and fainting. During this trance there is no self control; legs tremble, and there is rapid eye movement under closed eye lids.

While in this trance, some crawl on the floor and staccato sounds come out of their mouths. The Hungans [which means priest or witch doctor] watch and try to catch people as they fall to the ground. Why are these same experiences and manifestations going on in churches?

Now I do not believe that a Christian can be automatically possessed. However, when a person's mind becomes empty by flirting with unbiblical methodologies and expectancies and goes into an altered state, we can open our minds to manipulations of things other than God.

For instance, if a Christian were to take a hallucinogenic drug, he would have the same experience as a non Christian. If you play with fire, your going to get burned. A good example is the experience Johanna Michaelson speaks of in her book, The Beautiful Side of Evil. Through the use of the occult practice of visualization, she had contact with demonic spirit guides; and lot's of trouble.

Kundalini In Church?

One of the employees of the occult bookstore also suggested browsing through their books on Eastern Mysticism. The most revealing book I found was one on Kundalini Yoga. What was not found in scripture on the manifestations and other aspects of the Toronto Blessing, I found in a book called Kundalini: The Arousal of the Inner Energy, by Ajit Mookerjee. The purpose of this Eastern practice is to arouse the Kundalini [serpent force] at the base of the spine. It is a form of Yogi meditation and the phenomena, experiences, and manifestations happen while the mind goes into an altered state.

Two Parallel Roads

This altered state is triggered in many fashions, including the use of repetitive music. As you read the following quotes from this book, keep in mind what is involved in the aspects of the Toronto Blessing. The goal of Kundalini, like The Toronto Blessing, is spiritual growth. Like The Toronto Blessing, Kundalini "energy", experiences and manifestations can be passed from person to person. For a full comparison between The Toronto Blessing and Kundalini, see the table later in this article.

In a chapter called The Kundalini Experience Classical and Clinical, the writer says;

"The ascent of the Kundalini as it pierces through the chakras is manifested in certain physical and psychic signs.

Yogis have described the trembling of the body which precedes the arousal of Kundalini, and the explosion of heat which passes like a current through the Sushumna [the supposed channel by which this energy rises through the body]....inner sounds are heard... the head may start to feel giddy... the yogi visualizes a variety of forms... pure light...numerous signs and symptoms may be experienced... as creeping sensations... tingling sensations all over the body; heaviness in the head or sometimes giddiness; automatic and involuntary laughing or crying; seeing visions of deities...

The chin may press down against the neck; the eyeballs roll upwards or rotate; the body may bend forward or back, or even roll around on the floor... the mind becomes empty... there is spontaneous chanting of mantras or songs, or simply vocal noises

The eyes may not open in spite of one's efforts to open them. The body may revolve or twist in all directions. Sometimes it bounds up and down... sometimes the hands move... some speak in tongues... Sometimes the body feels as if it is floating upwards and sometimes as if it is being pressed down into the earth... It may shake and tremble and become limp, or turn as rigid as stone.

In the process of the arousal of Kundalini, Muktananda went through an experience of extreme sexual excitement. Not everyone will experience all or even most of these signs. The Sakti [foundational consciousness] produces whatever experiences are necessary for the disciples spiritual progress according to his samskaras [impression or fruit of Karmic action] or habit pattern formed by past action". Pgs 71, 72

There is something wrong when we cannot validate the experiences and manifestations of The Toronto Blessing through the Bible, the standard of truth, but find these same manifestations in books on Eastern mysticism. What is also interesting is what is said about these symptoms.

"Symptoms, when caused by this process, will disappear spontaneously in time. Because it is essentially a purificatory or balancing process, and each person has only a finite amount of impurities of the sort removed by Kundalini, the process is self limiting. Disturbances seen are therefore not pathological, but rather therapeutic. The people in whom the physio - Kundalini process is most easily activated, and in whom it is most likely to be violent and disturbing, are those with especially sensitive nervous systems". Pg. 94

To view the list of comparisons: GO TO CHART

How interesting that the Kundalini manifestations [which are described as "disturbances"], as well as the Toronto manifestations, are considered therapeutic. In other words, they have a healing effect. But what is doing the healing.? Let's consider what happened in the spiritual confrontation between Moses and the sorcerers of Pharaoh.

Not All Manifestations Are Of God

"Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 'when Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, "Work a miracle", then you shall say to Aaron, "Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent"'".... Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents" Exodus 7:8-12

Satan also has power to attempt to duplicate the works of God that he may deceive. Not all so called manifestations are from God, including speaking in tongues at times. Notice that speaking in tongues was one of the manifestations of Kundalini. Perhaps that is one of the reason we see Paul saying that if one does this publicly, there should be an interpreter, and also as John said, that we should test the spirits.

A case in point is the false prosperity teacher Robert Tilton. While watching him on TV several years ago, I could not help notice that on every showing he kept repeating the same words while "speaking in tongues". I wrote down the words he spoke and found them in the dictionary. His "tongues" were calling out to the demonic mythical gods of prosperity! How appropriate for Mr. Tilton [who has since been exposed]. My finding was verified by a person I know who used to be into demonology. He was also watching Tilton. He said that the words Tilton was speaking were the same incantations he learned to call on prosperity gods.


Signs & Wonders

John said, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God" Why? "because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1

As we saw with the magicians of Pharaoh, Satan will counterfeit the works of God. And as we see in the above verse, because of this we are to test the spirits because there are teachers today that are not teaching truth, but the things of Satan. And since we cannot validate the Toronto phenomena biblically but find it in occult practices, Satan appears to be the source of these manifestations.

There was something interesting about the encounter between Moses and the magicians of Pharaoh. After the magicians turned their staffs into serpents, the Word tells us, "But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs". Exodus 7:12 So it is with all false teachings. The real truth powers over the counterfeit. Speaking of the encounter with the magicians of Pharaoh, Paul said,

"And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be". 1 Timothy 3:8-9

We make a big mistake to just accept everything we are told. It is our responsibility to verify scripturally what we are taught, and what manifests spiritually. We also become in error if we seek after these experiences.

Seeking Signs: A Sign of Disobedience

The New Age religion is one of seeking experiences, signs and wonders. In fact in their own doctrine, spiritual experience is pre emanate over faith. That is possibly why Paul said that false teachers are rejected as regards the faith, relying upon signs and wonders instead. In other words, faith rests upon experience in the New Age. What happens when the experiences pass away or become boring?

Jesus warned,
"An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign". Matthew 12:39

And Paul warned through God,
"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons". 1 Timothy 4:1

This is descriptive of the New Age today, and the church which has fallen into the things we have seen. For it is evident that things you can see witches involved in, and things found in books on Voodoo and Eastern mysticism are doctrines of demons.

We need to understand that the Word tells us that an apostasy of the church will happen before the revealing of the Anti Christ [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4] And how does he deceive? Through signs and wonders [2 Thessalonians 2:9-11]. Everything we see happening today to deceive and take us away from faith, is a preparation to accept this man of sin.

It is not really surprising that churches would succumb to involvement in experiences not found in the Bible, but found in the occultism of deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. For we were also pre warned long ago;

"If there arises among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, whereof he speaks to thee saying, 'Let us go after other gods" what thou has not known, "and serve them";

Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep his commandments, and obey His voice, and ye shall serve Him and cleave unto Him". Deuteronomy 13:1-4

Just because it works, just because it is spiritual, does not mean it is from God! How important it is today not just to accept everything we are told. None of us are immune from the potential of being deceived. It is easy to be deceived, and that is why we must read the Word, study it, meditate on it. We cannot see what the lies are unless we first know the Truth. This is an individual responsibility.


God's Grace

In doing the research for this newsletter one thing that really stood out to me is the difference of God's word in comparison to things outside of it. How God dealt with His people, lifting them up, not throwing them down gave me a refreshed view of the sweetness and gentleness of His Word. And He still is this way today, even if we realize that we have strayed away from the truth and have gotten into things we should not have.

By the scriptures we have read, it was not to be a surprise to God that His own people, as Israel did, would fall into false teachings. He knew it! And if we, even in ignoring the scriptures to test the spirits and watch for these things, find ourselves involved in false teachings, His grace is still there. He is still there to lift up, strengthen and set us on our feet.

Speaking of this last days system that God said would infiltrate the church, He graciously says,

"Come out of her My people..." Revelation 18:4

"What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety - nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing." Matt 15:4-5

This is love and grace, in spite of us. The question being, will we listen, come out of following these things, and receive His lifting?