Archive for the ‘Mystical Practices’ Category

Revealing Quotes by Influential Contemplatives

These revealing quotes are from well-known figures who have significantly influenced the religious landscape in today’s culture. Sadly, they have helped to mislead millions with their promotion of contemplative prayer (a mystical, panentheistic-rooted practice).

Shalem Prayer Institute
“This mystical stream [contemplative prayer and other monastic traditions] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”—Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18.

Gerald May/Brother Lawrence
“. . . a little phrase that Love inspires,” letting a word, phrase or image repeat itself quietly deep inside us as we go through our daily activities.”—Gerald May, quoting Brother Lawrence – “Contemplative Spiritual Formation: Going Deeper”

Rick Warren
“With practice, you can develop the habit of praying silent ‘breath prayers'” – Rick Warren, from his book, The Purpose Driven Life (p. 299)

“[U]se ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath.”—Rick Warren,
Purpose Driven Life, p. 89.

Ken Blanchard
“Does Buddha have anything to offer non-Buddhists in the workplace? My answer is a wholehearted, ‘Yes.’—Ken Blanchard, co-author of the One Minute Manager, from the foreword and front cover of What Would Buddha Do in the Workplace?

Bruce Wilkinson
“We have promoted an unbiblical message that becoming born-again is the answer to everything. It’s not. It changes your eternity, but it doesn’t change your sexual behavior, for instance. The gospel does not always have the answer for modern-day dilemmas.” – JOY! magazine, the South African counterpart to Charisma, in April 2004

From Youth Specialties
“I built myself a prayer room—a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine monks. I meditated for hours on words, images, and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns…”—Mike Perschon, Youth Specialties Magazine, December 2004

“Choose a sacred word or phrase. Consistently use the same word throughout the prayer. Begin silently to repeat your sacred word or phrase.” – Mark Yaconelli, Youth Specialties National Pastor’s Convention (source)

Charisma Magazine
“Spiritual ecstasy. The third phase of contemplative prayer … a supernatural trance state …” – Charisma magazine, Oct. 2004

Brennan Manning
“Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there.” – Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, p. 197

Larry Crabb
“Brennan (Manning) is my friend, walking ahead of me on the path toward home. As I watch him from behind, I am drawn to more closely follow on the path…” – Larry Crabb, endorsement of Abba’s Child (source)

Henri Nouwen
“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” – Sabbatical Journey (the last book Nouwen wrote), p. 51, hardcover edition

“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart.” – Way of the Heart, p. 81.

Ruth Haley Barton
“Ask for a simple prayer to express your willingness to meet God in the silence … a simple statement …such as “Here I am.” … Help yourself return to your original intent by repeating the prayer that you have chosen.” – Discipleship Journal, Vol. 113 1999

John Michael Talbot
“I began practicing meditation, specifically breath prayer, once again. I integrated the use of Tai Chi and yoga.” – John Michael Talbot, Interview with Christianity Today 10/22/2001

Shakti Gawain
“Its [visualization] effect is to dissolve our internal barriers to natural harmony and self realization.” – Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization, p. 6.

Richard Foster
“[Y]ou and I may have strong opinions on double predestination, supralapsarianism, and biblical inerrancy, but these should not be considered evangelical essentials.” – Streams of Living Water, Kindle location 3914

Matthew Fox
“We need to become aware of the Cosmic Christ, which means recognizing that every being has within it the light of Christ.” – Steve Turner interviewing Matthew Fox, “Natural Mystic?” (Nine O Clock Service, March 1995)

“Everyone is born a mystic and a lover who experiences the unity of things and all are called to keep this mystic or lover of life alive.” (source)

Beth Moore
“[I]f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.” – from the Be Still DVD, an infomercial for contemplative prayer (source)

Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Soul
“What works for me is a combination of disciplines: I do yoga, tai chi which is a Chinese martial art and three kinds of meditation—vipasana, transcendental and mantra (sound) meditation.” – from Choosing to be Happy

Thomas Merton
“Isn’t it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative prayer] which no one knows anything about?” (source)

M. Basil Pennington
“When we go to the center of our being and pass through that center into the very center of God we get in immediate touch with this divine creating energy … that the divine energy may have the freedom to forward the evolution of consciousness in us and through us, as a part of the whole, in the whole of the creation.” – An Invitation to Centering Prayer

Thomas Keating
“My acquaintance with eastern methods of meditation has convinced me that … there are ways of calming the mind in the spiritual disciplines of both the east and the west [and] many serious seekers of truth study the eastern religions.” – Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 29

Pope John Paul
“Pick out a word or two. Tell your children to sit quietly and repeat the word in their heads—not thinking about the word, just repeating it.” – Everyday Catholic newsletter, Nov. 2001

The Emerging Church
“The first time I introduced this, the kids came in, and I had a candle going and a little incense burning and some Gregorian chant music on the CD player” – Tony Jones, from interview with editor Jeff Bailey, Cutting Edge magazine, pp. 15-22.

“Some of the values of the emerging church are an emphasis on emotions, global outlook, a rise in the use of arts, and a rise in mysticism and spirituality.”—Josh Reich, Youth Specialties, “Creating Worship Gatherings for the Emerging Church” 

“We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.”– Rob Bell, “The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, Nov. 1, 2004

The Impact of Practical Mystics versus Cults

By Ray Yungen
(Author of A Time of Departing)

Evangelical scholar David L. Smith correctly assessed the powerful, yet subtle, impact New Age spirituality is having on society when he made the following observations:

Not since Gnosticism at the dawn of the Christian era has there arisen a philosophy as pervasive and threatening to orthodox Christianity as the New Age movement . . . It would be difficult to find any area of life, which has not been touched or redirected to some degree by the concepts of this movement.1

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Smith recognizes that, rather than just a small segment, the overall social fabric of society is being impacted. This movement has clearly evolved well past the subculture stage into something much more dynamic and sophisticated. This stunning change has been brought about by the rise of a new breed of mystic—one that presents mysticism as a complement to secular goals and one that is adept at easing the public’s natural impulse to reject the strange and unfamiliar. Some examples of this are:

A prominent, influential speaker and seminar leader, Brian Tracy, promotes the use of the “superconscious mind” (i.e., the higher self), “to improve productivity, performance and output” in the corporate world.2

An article in one major Pacific Northwest newspaper features a large color picture of a local university professor in a classic Zen Buddhist meditation pose. He has not joined the Buddhist religion but is trying to reverse his heart condition through Eastern meditation.3

A popular morning talk show entices viewers with the promise of “how to get along with your spouse.” The show then features popular New Age author Wayne Dyer exhorting viewers to “go into the silence for guidance” when they get angry with their mate[s].4

These are just a few examples of what could be called secular mysticism or generic mysticism, meditation practiced not for religious reasons but as a tool to improve life. Many Christians have a difficult time comprehending this concept. They have been trained to think in terms of cults such as the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) or the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses). But these groups are rather limited in their impact because, even if they become sizable, they remain only isolated islands in society. The advantage practical mystics have is that they only have to piggyback a seemingly benevolent meditation method onto whatever programs they are promoting—in other words, they do not have to proselytize people to a dogma, only a practice.

New Age publisher Jeremy Tarcher spoke of this challenge in an interview. Speaking of practical mystics he explained: “They have to learn to present their perceptions in appropriate language and actions that don’t arouse fear or resistance.”5

Because of their success at this effort, one writer declared that interest in meditation was currently exploding. This explosion in Western culture is unprecedented and very real.

In the West, mysticism had always been restricted to a tiny fraction of the population (i.e., shamans, esoteric brotherhoods, and small spiritually elite groups). Never before has there been a widespread teaching of these methods to everyone. Now, mysticism pervades the Western world. How did this happen?

The first such book to reach a broad audience was Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. This book could rightfully be called a practical mystic’s bible. Many people can trace their first involvement in metaphysics to this book. Since its publication in 1978, it has sold millions of copies and has influenced the fields of psychology, health, business, and athletics.6

The book became so popular because it addresses such topics as creativity, career goals, relationships, better health, and simple relaxation and peacefulness. Who wouldn’t want to have all this, especially if all it takes is engaging in a simple practice?

Gawain spells out very clearly what that practice entails. She teaches her readers:

Almost any form of meditation will eventually take you to an experience of yourself as source, or your higher self . . . Eventually you will start experiencing certain moments during your meditation when there is a sort of “click” in your consciousness and you feel like things are really working; you may even experience a lot of energy flowing through you or a warm radiant glow in your body. These are signs that you are beginning to channel the energy of your higher self.7

There had been books like hers before, but those appealed to people already in the New Age subculture. This wasn’t true of Creative Visualization. This book had just the right secular slant on something inherently spiritual. Gawain believed that one could stay a Jew, Catholic, or Protestant and still practice the teachings of the book. All you were doing was developing yourself, not changing your religion.

Gawain was merely the forerunner of what has become a flood of such books. A more recent book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which is about the “spiritual path to higher creativity,”27 has sold over two million copies.

A good example of this approach was a business in a major West Coast city that sold books, tapes, and videos on stress reduction. The owners were very active in their community. Doctors, therapists, and teachers came to them for help. They gave talks to school faculties, major corporations, and all the major hospitals in their city. Their clientele tended to be affluent, well-educated professionals and business people who were interested in personal growth.

Yet, along with stress reduction and self-improvement, another element was subtly present—spiritual awareness. One of the owners wrote how she attended a powerful workshop with “Lazaris” and discovered that his techniques were “practical and useful.”8 That does not sound too extraordinary at first glance—however, Lazaris is not a person but a spirit guide!

Because of the stereotypes about people who gravitate toward mystical experiences (such as counterculture types), we may tend to assume people associated with these practices have strange personalities or are in other ways offbeat. On the contrary, these individuals are professional, articulate, conservatively dressed, and above all, extremely personable. They are positive and likeable. A newspaper reporter who did an article on one of them told me, “She is one of the most calm, serene persons I have ever met.” The reporter added, “People want what she has!”

The health, self-help, and recovery sections of secular bookstores are now saturated with New Age metaphysical books. Christian columnist Terry Mattingly summed up the situation brilliantly when he observed: “The New Age didn’t crest, it soaked in . . . It is now the dominant theme in commercial bookstores.”9 If the self-help and personal growth sections of most secular commercial bookstores were examined, the only conclusion to come away with would be that New Age mysticism is the prominent spiritual viewpoint of this country.

A case in point: One day while strolling through a shopping mall, I noticed a New Age bookstore and a secular bookstore just around the corner from each other. Upon examination, it was clear the secular bookstore had far more New Age books than the New Age bookstore did—hundreds more. Moreover, the vast majority were not in the New Age section but in the self-help, health, and other sections. Thus, New Age bookstores have almost been rendered obsolete by the explosion of practical mystic books stocked in traditional bookstores.

This is not an understatement or scare-tactic conjecture. Take a look at book sales for some of the major New Age authors around today. Just the top two, Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra, have sold fifty million books between them. James Redfield, the author of The Celestine Prophecy, can boast of a staggering twenty million books sold, and Neale Donald Walsch, the channeler of Conversations with God, a paltry seven million.10
The basic message of these books and hundreds of others like them could be reduced to one simple word, a word that cries out a uniform consistent theme—meditate! That is to say, you’re not going to get anywhere in this life unless you get that “click” that Gawain spoke of earlier and to do it, you must meditate.

If you think the New Age movement is a colorful assortment of strange cults populated by free-spirited aging hippies and assorted oddballs who are being duped by money-hungry charlatans and egocentric frauds, then think again. We are not dealing with fringe religious groups or chanting flower-children anymore but with a broad-based concerted effort to influence and restructure our whole society. (Excerpt from A Time of Departing, chapter 1)

Notes:
1. David L. Smith, A Handbook of Contemporary Theology (Victor Books, 1992), p. 273.
2. Brian Tracy, Maximum Achievement (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1993), pp. 179, 17.
3. “Change of Heart,” (The Sunday Oregonian, September 19, 1993), p. L1.
4. AM Northwest Morning Talk Show, KATU Channel 2, Portland, OR, Interview with Wayne Dyer, March 27, 1997.
5. Jeremy Tarcher, “Living with Vision” (Science of Mind, April 1, 1992), p. 44.
6. Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization (Novato, CA: Nataraj Publishing, 2002), back cover.
7. Ibid., 1983, 9th Printing, p. 57.
8. Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (New York, NY: William Morrow Co., 10th Anniversary Edition), front & back covers.
9. What’s New at Stiles newsletter, 1985.
10. Terry Mattingly, “Marketplace of the Gods” (Christian Research Journal, May/June 1986), p. 6.

Taizé Worship – Growing in Popularity, But Roots Are in Mystical Monasticism

Taizé Worship Service

Taizé Community in France during a worship service (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; copyright owner: Damir Jelic; used with permission)

By Chris Lawson
(Author of Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

The worship practiced at Taizé has attracted many people from around the globe and from many different denominations. While many of the words found in Taizé worship music are words found in Scripture or words that do not necessarily contradict Scripture, the Taizé songs and worship services themselves are centered around contemplative, ecumenical, and oftentimes emergent spirituality themes. The emphasis is not on the teaching or exhortation of the Word of God but rather is to help participants “experience” God through sensory-focused music and singing. A church association in the UK describes the Taizé worship style as such:

The contemplative worship practices of the Taizé community are promoted at an annual international conference. Taizé worship is being incorporated in a wide variety of churches, both Protestant and Catholic and its pattern of devotion is emulated in other monastic communities around the world.

A Taizé worship service involves sung and chanted prayers, meditation, a period of silence, liturgical readings, and use of candles. There is no preaching. The style of prayer practiced at Taizé has attracted many worshippers from around the globe and from many different denominations.1

The main focus on the Taizé worship is the chanted prayers, meditations, and songs. However, the Bible warns against such practices:

[W]hen ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

The Contemplative Network, an online resource for those interested in meditative prayer practices, describes Taizé worship and prayer like this:

For those familiar with Taizé common prayer, but unfamiliar with Centering Prayer practices, they will discover that they grow from the same root of seeking to surrender the mind and heart to the intimate presence of God. They share the same spirit of ancient monastic traditions to open space to let the Word of God reverberate in all its dimensions. Those who have tasted of this open space during the silent period of a Taizé common prayer service may find themselves well disposed to explore related contemplative practices such as Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer.2

The Taizé worship is not based on the objective Word of God but rather offers spiritual experiences that are subjectively appealing to the flesh. In Scripture, we are instructed to build up the inner spiritual man and to resist the carnality of the flesh (Ephesians 3:16, Romans 8:1-16).

Jesus Christ instructed His disciples that they should not use repetitive prayers (chanting) like the heathen (New Agers, pagans, etc.) do. Anytime experience is given higher regard than God’s Word, it puts followers at risk of becoming victim to deception and even dangerous spiritual realms. Mystical and esoteric experiences are subjective, meaning they are not founded on anything solid or concrete. It is the Word of God (the Bible) that is to be our steering mechanism through life. Consider these verses that show the importance of the Word of God. You won’t find any verses giving credence to seeking after mystical experiences:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)

Taizé Worship Influenced by Catholic Prayers

The repetitive Taizé songs are influenced by the Roman Catholic notion that a person needs to say a certain amount of repeated prayers in order for them to be enough (e.g., the Catholic works mentality—which dictates that one must do enough works to reduce the time in Purgatory).

An example in Roman Catholicism would be the Rosary—a droning repetition of the same set of prayers, something like this: six repetitions of Our Father, fifty repetitions of the Hail Marys, and three repetitions of the Glory-be prayers. These repetitive prayers are usually said before or after mid-week Masses.

Jesus said, when asked about how to pray, to only pray to God (not Mary or saints or angels) and to not repeat the same prayers over and over again like the pagans “for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Six different Psalms tell us to sing a new song unto the Lord, but not one tells us to chant. Now Psalm 136 is unique in that it uses the refrain “his mercy endureth for ever,” but this is not a chant in that each refrain is a response to a different statement. So, unlike the psalms, the Catholic uses endless repetition out of guilt (in doing penance) or to be heard by God or from the sense that the Taizé songs are sung to allow participants to go into mind-altering trance-like states.

Taizé Worship Practices Similar to New Age Meditation

Sadly, many of the spiritual experiences occurring during Taizé worship services are similar to what takes place during New Age meditation. The following quote is from Lacy Clark Ellman, author of the New Age website, A Sacred Journey. Her quote is from “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile.” The processes (i.e., techniques) she mentions are reminiscent of many transformative occult practices. Regarding Taizé worship, Ellman explains:

Singing their [Taizé monks] chants left me transported—centering me, bringing me peace, and thus opening me up to the Sacred. I’ve been known to describe it as the perfect combination of the contemplative and charismatic—the words simple and liturgical in nature, with the repetition making space for the Sacred Guide to enter. . . .

Instead of trying to facilitate an experience with bright lights and catchy songs, the [Taizé] brothers invite visitors into their own experience—a rhythmic practice of chants, reading, and [meditative] silence in languages found across the globe. They didn’t explain what was going on or how to participate, apart from a board that displayed which song was to be sung next.3 (emphasis added)

The problem with this explanation is that occultists (shamans, sorcerers, witches, etc.) and New Age practitioners around the globe are receiving similar experiences, in varying forms, through spirit contact via spiritualism, séances, channeling, etc. So too, non-Christians enter varying levels of voluntary and involuntary possession states using this same process.

Instead of encouraging Christian worship settings that provide for a clear understanding of sound biblical preaching and teaching of the Bible, Taizé worship services provide a fast track to spiritual experience via unbiblical forms of prayer, meditation, and silence. In many cases, they bypass the Bible altogether. In settings like this where anything goes—chanting, centering down to enter “the silence,” lengthy repetitive singing, and meditative/altered states—any form of spirit contact can occur.

Considering these things, it is of utmost importance that Christians heed this biblical warning:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Timothy 4:1)

When people are not being taught the Bible and warned about the dangers of false doctrine and non-biblical practices, they will inevitably, in mystical Taizé type settings, end up under the influence of deceiving spirits. As the above passage describes, strong delusion will overtake them. This is no small problem as it is running rampant in the church throughout the world.
The true Christian has only one option at this point, and that is to obey Scripture and separate from those who bring teachings contrary to the Word of God.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18; emphasis added)

(This is an excerpt from Chris Lawson’s book Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

Endnotes:

1. The Cornilo Churches, UK (http://www.cornilochurches.org.uk/taiz.htm).
2. The Contemplative Network, “Prayer With the Songs of Taizé (http://www.contemplative.net/prayer-with-songs-taize-t-1_43.html).
3. “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile” (http://www.asacredjourney.net/2013/08/taize).

What Your Church Needs to Know Before Doing a Priscilla Shirer Study

The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us, as Nouwen says, “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.”—Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens, p. 93

Years ago, I got a chance to meet Jan Johnson. . . . I was encouraged and redirected in so many ways. As a young woman trying to navigate the ins and outs of my relationship with the Lord, Ms. Jan spoke wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.—Priscilla Shirer (emphasis added; http://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/wisbits; quoted in 2010 and still up on Shirer’s website)

Priscilla Shirer

This week, our office received a call from a woman who was concerned that her church is going to be doing a study using material by Priscilla Shirer. Our caller wanted to get some information she can show her pastor as to why her church should not be doing a Priscilla Shirer study. Because Priscilla Shirer is a contemplative proponent, we concur with our caller’s concerns. In John Lanagan’s booklet,  Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer,Lanagan shows how both Moore and Shirer have been advocates of contemplative spirituality for quite some time. In that booklet, and this is what we want to focus on in this article, Lanagan discusses a woman named Jan Johnson. Because Priscilla Shirer embraces and has gleaned spiritually from Johnson, we need to take a closer look at what Johnson believes.

We first heard about Jan Johnson in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing where Yungen explains:

Spiritual director Jan Johnson, in her book When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, is a perfect example of an evangelical Christian who endorses and promotes this practice [contemplative prayer]. She leaves no doubt about what this type of prayer entails:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” [emphasis added]

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. [emphasis added] (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 82.)

When Johnson talks about stilling the mind in order to experience God’s presence and hear His voice, she is referring to something that is universal with mystics—putting the mind into a neutral, altered state where one is not aware of the distractions around him. This inner stillness can only be achieved through some type of meditative practice (see Johnson’s quote at top of this article), which in the case of “Christian” mystics is contemplative prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with contemplative jargon, the “cloud of unknowing” is taken from a small book of the same name, written by an anonymous monk several hundred years ago. The book is a primer on contemplative prayer and in it instructs:

Take just a little word, of one syllable rather than of two . . .  With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting. (The Cloud of Unknowing)

This is describing a mantra-style practice, no different than that used in eastern meditation. It is interesting that Jan Johnson says the effect of this type of prayer is “unnerving.” Webster’s Dictionary defines unnerving as “inspiring fear.” This reminds us of another contemplative teacher, Richard Foster, who suggested that people pray prayers of protection before practicing contemplative prayer in order to avoid an evil encounter. But where in Scripture is prayer to God described as inspiring fear or something that needs prayers of protection first? Nowhere. That’s not how God’s Word defines prayer.

Jan Johnson

In Jan Johnson’s book, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness, Johnson shows her resonance with a number of contemplative figures with quotes by and references to them.  One particular name that jumps out is New Age sympathizer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Read a few quotes by Chardin and then ask yourself, why would a Christian author (Johnson) be drawn to someone with these views:

What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheist aspect of Christianity.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 56

Now I realize that, on the model of the incarnate God whom Christianity reveals to me, I can be saved only by becoming one with the universe. Thereby, too, my deepest ‘pantheist’ aspirations are satisfied.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 128.

I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 95.

Johnson’s 2016 book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina leads readers in lectio divina meditations. Lectio Divina is used today as a gateway practice into contemplative mystical prayer. In her book, Johnson provides a section titled  “Relax and Refocus (silencio)”  which is instruction to readers on how to get rid of mental distractions when trying to practice lectio divina:

Each exercise begins with brief guidance to slow down, quiet your inner self and let go of distracting thoughts. . . . focusing on God. A way to interrupt this [mental] traffic is to focus on being present in the moment by breathing in and out deeply— even overbreathing. It also helps to relax our body parts one by one: bending the neck, letting the arms go limp, relaxing the legs and ankles. Loosen each part from the inside out. This doesn’t mean you’re setting aside your mind— you’re redirecting your mind away from the busyness that often consumes you. Being present in the moment prepares you to wait on the still, small voice of God. If you are distracted, you may want to try the palms up, palms down method. Rest your hands in your lap, placing your hands palms down as a symbol of turning over any concerns you have. If a nagging thought arises, turn your hands palms up as a “symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.” [Foster] If you become distracted at any time during meditation, repeat the exercise. (Meeting God in Scripture, Kindle version, Kindle location 102)

To back up her teaching on practicing contemplative meditation and finding that inner stillness of the mind, Johnson turns to several contemplative teachers in Meeting God in Scripture. Sadly, God and Scripture are not the only things readers are going to meet when they read this book by Johnson. They will also meet Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and David Benner. Other books Johnson has written have the same caliber.  A few of those titles are:  Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul, Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life, Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace, and Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Willard and Johnson). She has written several others books which carry the same message: you’ve got to have the inner mental silence to really know God (something Beth Moore has said too—in the Be Still DVD).

We could give several more examples of Johnson’s embracing contemplative spirituality. You won’t find much that she has written that doesn’t include this element. In one article on her website titled “What Is Solitude & Why Do I Need It? or . . . Turn Up the Quiet,” she quotes panentheist Thomas Merton from his book New Seeds of Contemplation. Why does Jan Johnson keep referring to contemplative mystics in her writings? There can only be one answer to that question—because she resonates with them.

Conclusion

As noted at the beginning of this article, Priscilla Shirer “was encouraged and redirected in so many ways” when she met Jan Johnson. She added that Johnson “spoke wisdom into [Priscilla’s] life that was extremely pivotal in [her] life—personally and in ministry.” Shirer said these words in 2010 and has left them up on her website to this day. Obviously, she still feels this way about Johnson. In Shirer’s popular book 2006/2012 Discerning the Voice of God, she favorably quotes Jan Johnson twice from When the Soul Listens. Shirer also quotes contemplatives Joyce Huggett and Phil Yancey in Discerning the Voice of God. Shirer clearly has been influenced by Jan Johnson as she admits herself.

We’ll close with this: On Priscilla Shirer’s website, where she talks about meeting Jan Johnson, she also includes an article by Johnson who is quoting panentheist Catholic priest Richard Rohr (founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation) from his book Everything Belongs (meaning everything and everyone is part of God). Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Episcopalian panentheist Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). Rohr wrote the foreword to a book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. For Rohr to write the foreword to such a book, he would have to agree with Coutinho’s views. On Rohr’s website, he has an article titled “Cosmic Christ.” One need not look too far into Rohr’s teachings and website to see he is indeed promoting the same Cosmic Christ as Matthew Fox – this is the “christ” whose being they say lives in every human—this, of course, would nullify the need for atonement by a savior. Lighthouse Trails has written numerous times about Rohr as he is aggressively pushing his panentheistic mystical spirituality into the evangelical church. If everything you have read in this article has not persuaded you to steer clear of Shirer’s studies, then this should do it, hands down. The fact that she keeps the post about Rohr on her website should alarm all Bible-believing Christians and illustrates the spiritual affinity Priscilla Shirer is drawn to.

Before your church does a Priscilla Shirer study, please keep in mind the things you have read in this article. Contemplative prayer has roots in panentheism  (God is in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God) as you can read in Ray Yungen’s article “The Final Outcome of Practicing Contemplative Prayer: Interspirituality.” Do you really want your church influenced in any way by a spirituality that is so against the Cross? Are we saying Priscilla Shirer is necessarily against the Cross? No, but for someone who wrote a book on how to discern the voice of God, she sure isn’t showing any discernment in the voices that she herself is listening to and being persuaded by.

NEW BOOKLET: Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement

NEW BOOKLET: Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement by Carolyn A. Greene is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.

Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement

By Carolyn A. Greene

Editor’s Note: Today, it is not uncommon for Christian leaders and teachers to recommend the writings of Teresa of Avila. For instance, the late theologian Dallas Willard encouraged his followers to read Teresa’s Interior Castle saying Teresa is “an example to follow.”1 Christian publishers like Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, and Multnomah Press have published books by Teresa of Avila. Rick Warren, author of the highly popular Purpose Driven Life, says her writings are among “great, classic devotional works.”2 Pete Scazzero, author of the popular book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, lists Teresa of Avila’s book, Interior Castle as one of his “top ten books.”3 Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Pathways and Sacred Marriage, favorably references Teresa of Avila numerous times in his book, Thirsting for God. And not surprisingly, contemplative authors such as Richard Foster and Henry Nouwen see her as a fellow mystic.
In 2009, Lighthouse Trails published Castles in the Sand, a story involving a young troubled girl who begins attending a Christian college where she is introduced in her Spiritual Formation class to the writings of an ancient mystic, Teresa of Avila. The following booklet is taken from Castles in the Sand narrating Teresa’s life. While Castles in the Sand is a work of fiction, Teresa of Avila is a real, historical figure (1515-1582). The depiction of her life in this booklet is based on historical records (see bibliography at end of booklet). Quotes and paraphrases of her writings are taken from her actual written works. The lives of other characters portrayed in this booklet are created from composites of true stories.
While some readers may find some of Teresa’s mystical experiences (that at times included involuntary levitating) troubling to read, it is important to understand that the “spiritual ecstasies” Teresa of Avila encountered were the result of her practicing a meditative prayer, much like one that is being practiced by countless Christians today through the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement. We pray this booklet will illustrate how mystical prayer methods are dangerous and introduce the practitioner to occultism and its tormenting “fruit,” something you will not be warned about by those who recommend you study the ancient mystics. And now, the story of Teresa of Avila.
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And still they told me my visions were the work of evil spirits! For six years, I was on trial . . . six years! So many prayers and masses said, I grew weary of them all! Yet still the trances and favors have become more violent and frequent . . . oh, I am in distress, such great distress. I am weary, and so tired . . . so very, very tired.—Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun who was born in Spain in 1515. As a young girl with an active imagination and great love for books, she was profoundly affected by her mother’s death, which left her emotionally empty. In despair, she threw herself before an image of the Virgin Mary and begged her to be her new mother. This extreme devotion to the Mother Mary soon gave way to an interest in fashion as her beauty blossomed. With it, the passion for reading, writing, and romance was rekindled. Teresa’s concerned father sent her away to boarding school at an Augustinian convent. However, when Teresa fell dreadfully ill with malaria, the nuns sent for her father who came to take her home.Recuperating from the serious illness and suffering from headaches, Teresa read a book given to her from her uncle called The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna, from which she learned the practice of the prayer of recollection.* Though previously not interested in reading about such things, her illness had transformed her into a more serious kind of girl. She soon learned to practice “the prayer of quiet,”** a state where the soul is completely absorbed.

Weary of the worldly things that had once given her pleasure, she made secret plans to escape to the Carmelite Monastery without consent from her father and pursue a serious life of prayer, as her uncle had been urging her to do. Teresa later wrote about receiving “favors” that the Lord granted her as she continued to practice her “mental prayer” and the prayer of quiet, two stages of mystical prayer.

“It used to happen, when I represented Christ within me in order to place myself in His presence, or even while reading, that a feeling of the presence of God would come upon me unexpectedly so that I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed in Him. This did not occur after the manner of a vision. I believe they call the experience ‘mystical theology.’ The soul is suspended in such a way that it seems to be completely outside itself. The will loves; the memory, it seems to me, is almost lost. For, as I say, the intellect does not work, but it is as though amazed by all it understands because God desires that it understands, with regard to the things His majesty represents to it, that it understands nothing.”
The practice of the prayer of quiet continued to bring Teresa into what she called the state of union, the place where intellect and will cease to function over which she soon had no control. As the years passed, Teresa’s headaches and visions began to take their toll. She was counseled by the Jesuit Fathers to give up her “interior” prayer, but that didn’t help.
One day, she cried out, “Oh these visions! What tortures I have endured . . . how can I bear it?” she wailed. “I even gave up mental prayer. I . . . I gave it up. I did! First I waited to be free of sin, but they found no fault in me. Not a fault! Yet I was visited again, more visions . . . more revelations . . . to this most miserable sinner as I.”
Behind her, she could hear the group of nuns that stopped a short distance away, pausing for a moment before turning and walking in the other direction.
“Indeed, I have dreaded the time of prayer,” she whispered now, lest the others murmur about her even more. “Even Father Francis became afraid of my graces . . . in great distress they insisted I had been deceived by Satan. So I . . . I punished myself, oh I did, I did, in order to resist the effects! To no avail! Father Alvarez said . . . he said it was friendships I must give up, but that changed nothing. Then he told me I must recite a hymn, and I did. That was when the angel came . . . the angel . . . oh, how it pierced me! They told me . . . they said my visions were illusions of Satan and told me to point my finger in scorn at another. I tried to obey them, to no avail, so ridiculous they all are, so now I hold this crucifix in my hand at all times . . .”
She wiped her face with her wet sleeve and held up the wooden crucifix.
“And still they told me my visions were the work of evil spirits! For six years, I was on trial . . . six years! So many prayers and masses said, I grew weary of them all! Yet still the trances and favors have become more violent and frequent . . . oh, I am in distress, such great distress. I am weary, and so tired . . . so very, very tired . . .”
Her voice was weaker now as she shifted her weight from one aching knee to another on the cold, stone floor. “Yet I fear there is more sorrow ahead . . . I fear delusions . . . already they are calling for me . . . more inquiries to tell me I am deluded. How can they be sure they aren’t deluded and deceived as well? Every one of my examiners tells me something different! Oh! My soul is plunged into darkness! How I long to be alone . . . oh, when will this life ever become more than a never-ending dark night for my soul! I hear them coming even now demanding answers to unanswerable questions. How can I bear it? I want only to be alone. I just want to be . . . oh, please let me be . . .”
Gradually the pitiful sounds of her whimpering subsided as the dreadful footsteps that echoed from the far end of the corridor grew closer and then stopped. She straightened the folds of her habit, held her head high, and with a faraway look in her eyes, turned to face her visitors.
“Sister Teresa,” a man’s voice said. “Come now, we must ask you more questions.”

 Teresa referred to these favors, or trance states of mystical ecstasy, as “true union.” Some of her contemporaries who observed these experiences were concerned about Teresa.

“Where is she anyway?” said Sister Catherine, who had just come in with a basket full of freshly picked tomatoes.

“Maybe she is in a trance,” joked Sister Maria. Just last week they had all watched as Teresa had gone into another trance in the kitchen while holding a hot pan of oil. Now accustomed to her trances, their greater concern was the possibility of Teresa spilling the little, precious oil they had left.
“The priests have advised her that the visions are of the devil, and to make the sign of the cross whenever she has one,” said Catherine, the youngest nun among them. “She won’t be coming into the kitchen for a few weeks. She is fasting and doing penance.”
“So that’s why she wears a cilice!” chimed in Maria.
“A cilice. What’s that?” asked Catherine.
“It’s an undergarment made of coarse animal hair. It scratches terribly and makes you very itchy. Pray to Our Lady that you will never be ordered to do mortification and be told to wear one,” said Carmelita. “I think slicing onions in this kitchen is torture enough.”
The sisters giggled.
“I think it’s a terrible thing,” said Rosa, a serious-minded nun and the oldest among them all. “Poor Teresa. We must not talk about our dear sister in this manner. If one decides to practice penance, it is only to share the sufferings of the Lord as His bride to be one flesh with Him.”
Rosa had personally witnessed Teresa’s private confusion over the priests’ accusations that her visions were from Satan. Those accusations were the reason Teresa had taken to inflicting tortures and mortifications upon herself. Teresa was just one of many nuns who drew blood in self-flagellation. (The monks did it too, so they were told.) Perhaps she thought that wearing a prickly shirt over her wounds would make her ecstasies disappear. The purpose of such self-inflicted trials was to attain self-detachment, something of which Teresa often talked. Surely, she reaped the benefits of such disciplines, having much more tranquility and self-mastery than the rest of them. “Mortify the flesh and share in Christ’s sufferings” was the directive. Teresa’s favorite motto was “Lord, either let me suffer or let me die.”
Teresa eventually began to write about her spiritual experiences, which included hearing voices and experiencing visions during ecstatic states of rapture in which she felt herself being lifted from the ground by a powerful force outside of her control.
QUESTIONED FOR HERESY
The cell was cold. There was no table or chair. Only a rough, straw mattress in the corner provided any reprieve for the room’s sole occupant. A barefoot nun in a clean but worn habit of coarse serge knelt near the window. The last glimmer of evening light softened the lines on her aging face. Her sparse ink supply allowed no rewriting, but there was no need to reread the lines she had already written. Having commanded her to record her experiences, her confessors would weigh her story on the Inquisition’s scale of heresy.
Some said the voices she heard in her head were of the devil. But Teresa was desperate to explain that these revelations she received were from the Lord! It was the Lord who granted her these great favors and visions which she called ecstasy. They humble the soul, thought Teresa, strengthening and helping it to despise this life.
During these experiences, she seemed to receive a clearer understanding of the Lord’s rewards. Yet, she struggled with the fear these visitations also brought. She could no longer resist them or keep them a secret. Not only were the revelations themselves frightening, but visionaries like herself were often burned at the stake. Since her writings would remain in the hands of her Inquisitors for some time, she must choose her words carefully, yet tell the truth.
Dipping her quill in the inkstand, she continued to write about her life, pausing only to rub her arthritic shoulder now and then. This was to be her final writing. She was working on chapter twenty, trying to explain the difference between union and rapture and their effects.
“It seemed to me, when I tried to make some resistance, it was as if a great force beneath my feet lifted me up. I know of nothing with which to compare it; but it was much more violent than the other spiritual visitations, and I was therefore as one ground to pieces; for it is a great struggle, and, in short, of little use, whenever our Lord so wills it. There is no power against His power.”
As Teresa wrote, the light grew dim. She lit her candle, then continued to write on the parchment set on the window ledge:
“Further, I confess it threw me into great fear, very great indeed at first; for when I saw my body thus lifted up from the earth, how could I help it? Though the spirit draws the body upward after itself and that with great sweetness, if unresisted, the senses are not lost; at least, I was so much myself as to be able to see I was being lifted up. The majesty of Him who can effect this so manifests itself, that the hairs of my head stand upright.”
Deep in thought, she gazed at the candle’s flame. How could she possibly describe rapture and detachment with pen and paper? Mere words were not enough to explain the spiritual marriage she had experienced. How could she even speak of the intense pain that accompanied the sweetness of her visions and revelations, the great shocks she would feel when her Lord threw her into a trance, or the indescribable desire, which pierced her soul until it rose above itself. The days that followed such ecstasy never failed to make her feel as if all her bones had been pulled out of joint.
“I have to say that when the rapture was over, my body seemed frequently to be buoyant, as if all weight had departed from it; so much so that now and then I scarcely knew that my feet touched the ground. Yet during the rapture itself, the body is very often as if it were dead, perfectly powerless. It continues in the position it was in when the rapture came upon it—if sitting, sitting; if the hands were open, or if they were shut, they will remain open or shut.”
But she wasn’t the only one. There were others, even in this place, to whom her Lord was granting the same special graces as the ones He had granted her. Others too had experienced raptures so deep that they would appear as though dead or in a trance, sometimes for days.
As she continued to recall her own experiences, she wrote about the priest who told her God had sent her so much sickness because she did no penance, and he had ordered her to practice acts of mortification. During one such time of obedience, her spirit was carried out of her body in such a state of ecstasy that she heard words instructing her not to have conversations with men, but with angels.
She described the angel she had seen in bodily form . . .
“He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful—his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call cherubim. I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point, there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one.”

Berninis sculpture of The Ecstasy of St Teresa. Public domain.

The famous marble statue called “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” by Gianlorenzo Bernini depicts the sensual scene of the mystical experience described by Teresa of her encounter with an angel. She is reclined on a cloud with her head thrown back awaiting the thrust of the angel’s golden spear.

In the quietness of her room, Teresa had often found herself falling into a deep trance, later pondering the exquisite state of bliss she experienced during these mysterious episodes. However, lately, she found herself losing control. For example, she could no longer prevent them, even when she was in the company of others. They all knew. Some were even sworn to secrecy. But did they know how she had recently grown to fear these times? Increasingly, she struggled to resist these frightening instances when her body was raised from the ground as she prayed. Yet it was no use. She was helpless to stop it.
Teresa slowly straightened and rubbed her stiff joints. She turned to gaze at the crucifix hanging on the wall of her cell as it reflected the candlelight. Her pen rolled across the ledge of the window where she had laid it and dropped onto the stone floor as she grabbed her rosary and began counting the beads, repeating the evening prayer. Immediately, a familiar burning sensation began to grow deep within her, welling upward in surges. It was happening again . . . She grabbed hold of the ledge and began frantically to pray that no one would come through the door and restrain her again.
She recalled other times these involuntary levitations occurred. One of the eye witnesses of the favors and levitations of Teresa of Avila was said to be Sister Anne of the Incarnation.
One young nun was well acquainted with Teresa’s trances, which she referred to as the “transport of the soul.” She had witnessed some of the most disturbing occurrences in Sister Teresa’s life but had been vowed to secrecy. She hadn’t been the only one in the choir loft that unforgettable day, waiting for the bell to ring, when they saw Teresa’s body rise inexplicably about half a meter off the ground. She’d actually been off the ground! Sister Teresa’s body had hung in mid-air, as Sister Anne had later recounted with fresh incredulity! This incident had quite terrified some of them. Since Sister Teresa’s body had been trembling as well, Sister Anne had cautiously held her hands under the raised feet of Sister Teresa for the duration of the ecstasy. It had lasted nearly half an hour before she’d sunk to the floor and then stood among them, lucid once again. Teresa had turned to her calmly and quietly and asked how long she had been there, watching. It was then that Sister Anne had been sworn to secrecy, but that kind of secret wasn’t the kind that could be kept quiet for very long.

There had been other incidents as well. Teresa’s friend, a bishop, once saw her grab the bars of an altar grill during communion to prevent herself from rising into the air, as she cried out to be delivered from her ecstasy. Numerous times, and on different occasions, many others had also seen her raised from the ground. Sister Teresa had always called these experiences “Favors of His Majesty.”

As instructed by her advisors, Teresa wrote everything she knew about entering what she called the interior castle or inner rooms of the soul. She believed the key to achieving union with Christ in the center room was by way of prayer.

“As you wished, I have written everything I know.” Teresa nervously set her papers on the table before her confessors. The religious directors had ordered her to write about her method of mental prayer—her interior castle—as a book of instruction for her nuns. She had been careful to refer to herself in the third person throughout the book, as she was always under the watchful stare of her superiors. It had been a difficult task.

“But it has only been two months! You have completed it already?” the priest said, staring in amazement at the pile of papers stacked neatly before him.
“I have not only described how the soul is a castle, but also how a journey into the soul is a series of seven interior rooms, or inner courts, within the castle that one must pass through by way of prayer. Each chamber is a different stage of the journey. Read it and you shall see.”
The priest browsed through the first pages while Teresa rubbed the back of her neck. Her joints ached, her head hurt, and she was exhausted after finally completing the most important portion of her written work, so far. It had been an extremely troubling time in her life. During the last two months, her superiors had required this writing, yet she had also been expected to fulfill her regular duties, despite severe weakness. Added to that was the torment of living in fear of the next revelation or rapture that would come upon her without warning.
“So tell me, these first three rooms, or mansions, as you call them,” asked the priest, with undisguised fascination, “what stage of the journey do they symbolize?”
“The first three mansions are for those who are just beginning to learn the practice of mental prayer.”
“And the next ones?”
Weak from exhaustion, Teresa did not wish to explain. It had been difficult enough writing about these things with the turbulent noise that throbbed in her head: the roaring sound of rushing rivers and oddly, the whistling of birds pulsated continually in her mind. It was most disturbing when she was conscious of her faculties and her soul was not suspended in ecstasy. Whenever an ecstatic experience occurred, she believed it was from the top of her head that her spirit was released and moved out at great speed.
“The last four,” she began slowly, trying to shut out the roar of a waterfall in her head, “are for those who have begun to experience the indwelling after having entered the spiritual realm. It is the fourth dwelling that is the turning point, and the one most souls enter. This is where one moves from mere meditation to contemplation. It is an interior awareness when God suspends the soul in prayer with rapture or ecstasy or transport.”
“I see,” said the priest, stroking his chin. “Here I see you have written about water and worms.”
Must they keep prodding? She had done as they had asked, and there were chores to be done.
“Yes, like the spring that wells up filling every crevice, so is God’s presence to one who reaches spiritual union. But one must be dead to the outward senses and alive to His Majesty, like a silkworm that dies to produce a little white butterfly. So is Divine union in the center of the castle.”
How could she explain that although she had only mentioned seven inner mansions, there were many more rooms contained in each one, and courtyards with fountains, gardens, and labyrinths in which one could be consumed?
Teresa grew increasingly uncomfortable and longed to leave. Unaware of her misery, the priest abruptly rose to his feet.
“This will take some time to read,” he said hastily, and escorted Teresa to the door.
“I pray it is satisfactory,” she said humbly, trying not to reveal the tremendous pain in her head. “It is my strong desire to aid you in serving His Majesty. If the theologians examine my writings and find any error, it is only because of my ignorance. Perhaps I shall be in purgatory for writing this book, but I pray He shall free me from this and pardon my sins.”
The priest nodded. “We will examine the work and speak to you soon.”
The door closed behind Teresa. Her rough wool habit scraped her bare ankles with each step as she walked quickly down the dim hallway. Pausing before a statue of St. Joseph, she knelt and prayed, “I submit to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Roman Church, may the sovereign Master be praised.”

Tired and aching, she made the sign of the cross and hurried back to the convent. Perhaps she could distract herself from the inner turmoil by spinning more wool.

Teresa referred to the final stage of her “spiritual betrothal” prayer process as “rapture.” In this deepest trance state, she experienced “delectable pain” that penetrated the bowels of the soul.

In her latter years, Teresa seemed to be increasingly fearful of these favors, or painful bouts of spiritual ecstasy and levitation which she could no longer control.

“Whenever I have tried to resist the onset of a rapture, it has felt like a powerful force was lifting me from the soles of my feet. I don’t know what to compare this force to. It is far more cataclysmic than anything I’ve experienced in the previous stages of prayer. The struggle is so ferocious that it utterly wears me out. But in the end, fighting is futile. If this is the Beloved’s desire, there is no power equal to his . . .

“Still, I confess that this particular favor terrified me. If you don’t resist, the same force that carries your soul away in rapture will elevate your body with equal gentleness. Yet when you see yourself lifted off the ground and remain conscious enough to witness the event, the majesty of the One who can cause such a thing is enough to make your hair stand on end.”
Teresa often used erotic metaphors to describe these violent mystical experiences that overpowered her. She also wrote that it felt like she was being torn apart, and the aftermath of the detachment was so severe that at times she lost consciousness, being racked with torment and her bones disjointed.
CONCLUSION
The Bible teaches us that the believer who is born of the Spirit is still in control of his senses or as Paul puts it, “the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14: 32-33; emphasis added).A Christian is not taken over by the Holy Spirit like a demonically possessed person. While God often works in ways we can’t understand, we will not experience weird things like levitation and psychic detachment that knocks us out and leaves us feeling physically sore. Anyone who practices the contemplative prayer techniques of mystics like Teresa of Avila is stepping into dangerous spiritual territory.After founding the Discalced Carmelites (barefoot nuns), Teresa of Avila fell ill and died at the age of sixty-seven. Even though her writings were controversial and she was interrogated during the Inquisition for heresy, she was later declared a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church for her teaching on prayer and today, she is often looked to as a viable resource on prayer.

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* Teresa describes this prayer of recollection as to “withdraw from those things by which your external senses are distracted.” It is a method of contemplative prayer wherein  one puts a deep mental focus on one thought thereby entering an altered state. See her book St. Teresa’s Own Words: Or, Instructions on the Prayer of Recollection. Teresa says practicing this method will more quickly lead “to the prayer of quiet” that she is so well know for.
** In Teresa’s book Interior Castle, she says the “prayer of quiet” is the entering into the “fourth mansion” (i.e., fourth stage) of meditative prayer calling it the “supernatural element of the mystical life.”
To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.
Endnotes
1. http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp.
2. The interview where Rick Warren said this can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVCY8pW-ACs.)
3. Peter Scazerro, “My Top 10 Books: Spring/Summer 2013” (http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/2013-books-i-am-reading/).
Photo Credits
Cover: Painting by Baron François Gérard (French, 1770-1837), 1827, “Saint Theresa.” The photo used is a reproduction of a work that is in the public domain; taken from Wikipedia.
Page 4: Paul Hill, “St. Theresa of the Child Jesus,” used with permission from istockphoto.com.
Page 16: Painting by Peter Paul Reubens in 1615. The photo used is a reproduction of a work that is in the public domain; taken from Wikipedia.
Back cover: From fotosearch.com; used with permission.
To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.
Bibliography
Note: The books listed in this bibliography should not be considered a recommendation. The author of Castles in the Sand and this booklet has used these books for research as well as for citing.
Teresa of Avila; The Interior Castle.
Hodder & Stroughton Christian Classics
Edited by Halcyon Backhouse, 1988
Teresa of Avila; Selections from the Interior Castle.
Harper Collins Spiritual Classics, 2004
Teresa of Avila; St. Teresa’s Own Words, Or, Instructions on the Prayer of Recollection. Waxkeep Publishing, Kindle Version (not dated)
Malone, Mary T; Women and Christianity.
Orbis Books Volume III, 2003
Teresa of Avila; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume 1 and Volume 2
ICS Publications, 1976; http://books.google.ca/books?id=lpo1vV1kXDUC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Teresa of Avila; Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life; translated by Mirabai Starr. http://books.google.ca/books?id=wVLtJ-JFVcQC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Osuna, Francisco de; The Third Spiritual Alphabet.
Paulist Press, Translated by M.E. Giles.
The Classics of Western Spirituality, 1981.
Dalton, Rev. John; The Letters of St. Teresa.
London: Thomas Baker, I, Soho Square. Translated from the Spanish, 1902, http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/teresa/letters/letters.html.
Teresa of Avila; Life of St. Teresa of Jesus of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel. Translated from the Spanish by David Lewis; Third Edition Enlarged
With Additional Notes and an Introduction by Rev. Fr. Benedict Zimmerman, O.C.D.; http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/life.html.
Foster, Richard; Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home.
HarperCollins, 1992, First Edition.
St. Teresa of Avila; The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume 1 and 2; translated and edited by E. Allison Peers; London: Burns& Oates; 2002 edition.
To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.

Letter to the Editor: Chakra Article in Orange County Newspaper Brings to Remembrance Ray Yungen’s Work

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I came across this article [see below] in the travel section of our local newspaper the Orange County Register, dated January 1, 2017. The mention of the “seven chakra garden” was what prompted me to send this to you. It also made me want to mention some things about your dear departed friend, Ray Yungen, who taught on this very subject. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, and yet of all the speakers I’ve heard he was the one I’d hoped to meet and talk to. It must be so very, very hard for you losing him! I only saw his conference appearances on line [YouTube] a few times, and he just was fantastic in every way. He came across as very balanced, stable, likable, knowledgeable, wise and with a fun sense of humor! The way he wrote and the way he spoke he seemed to be such a clear thinker, it is such a delight to read his works. I admired him so much. I have been reading your online newsletters that I missed through the year. I just read one by Ray in June of 2009 regarding the Desert Fathers—excellent! So I thought writing to you and thus keeping his memory alive was a positive thing to do . . . I hope this is so!

Warmest regards to you in very cold Montana!

Susana

 

A Film Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – FECKLESS FALSE SAVIORS OF THE STAR WARS DYSTOPIA

By Gaylene Goodroad
Herescope Blog

Like its mega-blockbuster distant sequel, The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, was strategically released to capitalize on the Christmas box office market this year. The movie debuted globally at $270 million over the weekend, nudging Disney Studios over the $7 billion record,[2] which indicates that folks are eagerly buying this particular entertainment product. But, Rogue One, a standalone Star Wars film, tells a dark and foreboding tale of pagan salvation that is diametrically opposed to the Scriptures, as well as the hope of the Christmas narrative given to us in the Gospels.

In this Star Wars tale, the future of the galaxy lies, not in a Savior sent from the one true God, but in the hands of a renegade band of cosmic commandos who commission themselves to steal the design plans of the Imperial Death Star—plans which betray a critical vulnerability detailing how to annihilate the planet-sized battle station from within. These feckless saviors utilize every weapon in their arsenal, including murder and mayhem, in order to fulfill this herculean mission to ultimately deliver the galaxy from the malicious oppression of the Evil Empire once and for all.

This standalone installment fills in various storyline gaps and sets up the first segment of the original Star Wars Trilogy, A New Hope. Hope is a definite casualty following the massive carnage depicted in this motion picture. The fully operational Death Star—manned by ruthless Imperial dictators Grand Moff Tarkin and the notorious rogue Jedi Knight Darth Vader—nearly vaporizes at least two planets, along with their multitudes of inhabitants. A horribly magnificent surgical obliteration shown in its full cinematic and apocalyptic glory. Click here to continue reading.


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