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A Conversation with Michael Graham
Michael Graham spent 28 years at the heart of Indian religions before becoming a Christian, about five years ago. Exceedingly articulate about his experiences, he has spoken widely at churches throughout his native Australia. Now, with a book just published about his journey, he is off to the United States for a period of teaching and lecturing.
Here is what I wrote a couple of years ago when I interviewed him:
Many of the young Western spiritual seekers who flocked to Indian religions during the idealistic 1960s and 1970s became familiar with a mild-mannered Australian named Michael Graham. For Michael, who had embarked on an intense and far-reaching spiritual journey from the time of his graduation from elite Geelong Grammar School in the mid-1960s, came to find himself at the forefront of the great migration to the West of Indian religious teachings and practices.
As one of the first Western disciples of Swami Muktananda Paramanansa, who was to become a leading figure in America and elsewhere with his teachings of Siddha (perfect being) yoga, Michael helped manage his ashram (spiritual centre) in India, with up to 2,600 Westerners there at one time. He also became deeply involved in Muktananda’s American activities and energetically promoted his teachings in Australia and elsewhere.
Yet today Michael is on a different mission. In 1997 he became a Christian, after being convicted with the realisation that his 28 years of spiritual practices and experiences amounted to, in his own words, “a big fat zero” - and he is now working to persuade other idealistic spiritual seekers that their needs are simply met by the figure of Jesus, “the fulfilment of all spiritual paths”.
On the eve of his departure for the United States I asked him for some further reflections.
“A feature of the American culture is that people tend to be more engaged and interested in spiritual possibilities than in Australia,” he said. “There is a natural curiosity. I hope to get as many chances as possible to talk of my 28-year odyssey, and the renewal and rest I found in Christ. It was so unexpected. It would have been the last place I’d have looked if Christ had not sought me out.”
How does he compare today’s New Age spiritual seekers with those of his youth?
“There is not so much interest in Indian religion now,” he commented. “There is a lot of dilettantism, but not much rigour or discipline. Today you get pop Buddhism through the Dalai Lama, mixed up with astrology, psychic readings and so on. It’s Marie Claire spirituality now.”
In his talks to church gatherings Michael finds widespread interest in his experiences, coupled with concerns about the inroads that New Age spiritualities seem to be making, even among some Christians.
“People often ask me of the dangers involved in alternative spiritualities,” he said. “For example, they ask if it is okay to meditate. People need to be reminded that in Jesus we have our sufficiency. We don’t need ‘Jesus plus some kind of supplementation’. We need to rely on Him intellectually, emotionally and functionally.
“But it seems that many people don’t get this. And that stands in the way of their getting what they might from God’s grace.”
Many Christians are discovering meditation. What does Michael think about this?
“Eastern meditation and Christian meditation are quite different,” he said. “Most forms of Eastern meditation have to do with creating conditions for stopping mental processes. Christian meditation, by contrast, penetrates the meaning of scriptural verses through deliberate contemplation that can also lead to peace.”
July 19th, 2002