Archive for the ‘Mystical Practices’ Category

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.
________________________
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.

_________________________
* 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.

Biblical Christianity – The Biggest Obstacle to the New Age

By Ray Yungen 

The New Age and Christianity definitely clash on the answer to the question of human imperfection. The former—the New Age—espouses the doctrine of becoming self-realized and united with the universe, which New Agers see as God but in reality is the realm of familiar spirits. On the other hand, the Gospel that Christians embrace offers salvation to humanity through grace (unmerited favor). Romans 3:24 boldly states: “. . . being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 6:23, we read: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This gift is not earned or given as a reward for earnest or good intentions as Scripture clearly states:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

This Scripture that tackles the issue of pride sharply distinguishes all of man’s religions from Christianity. Religion persuades us that man is innately good and, therefore, can earn his way to heaven through human perfectibility or, better yet, through the realization of his own divinity. Christianity emphatically states the opposite view that man needs to humbly recognize his own sinfulness and fallibility, and consequently needs salvation through grace.

The Holy Spirit, through the Scripture, convicts the sinner of his sinful and lost condition and then presents to the despairing and repentant man God’s solution–salvation through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Cross: “. . . in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7) and then:

[I]f thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Salvation is entirely a gift of grace bestowed on whoever believes in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross as both God and man. Consequently, we must receive Him as Lord and Savior, understanding that it is by grace and grace alone that we are made acceptable in Christ before a holy God. Justification is God’s gift to the believer. This saving faith, also a demonstration of God’s grace, is more than an intellectual belief in Jesus’ death on the Cross but involves committing and entrusting one’s life to Jesus as both Lord and Savior–Christ’s going to the Cross was a finished work, and we as believers are now complete in Him. Nothing else can be added to this. How totally opposite from New Age thinking is God’s plan of salvation!

It all comes down to the preaching of the higher self versus the preaching of the Cross. New Agers may say God is synonymous with a person’s higher self, and the experience of God can only be discovered by way of meditation. However, the Christian admits his or her sinfulness before a Holy God and remembers he is saved only by the grace and mercy of God through the sacrificial shedding of Christ’s blood for his sins.

The message of Jesus Christ reaches out to the lost human race with the love of God who sacrificed His only begotten Son for the Swami Muktanandas of the world. The Bible teaches that man has an inherently rebellious and ungodly nature (which is evident), and his ways are naturally self-centered and evil in the sight of God. The Bible teaches that God is not indifferent to us. The sacrifice of Christ for the ungodly to reconcile us to God reveals the Lord’s love toward Man.

This explains why Christianity must be steadfast on these issues. If a belief system does not teach the preaching of the Cross, then it is not “the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). If other ways are correct, “then Christ is dead in vain,” rendering His shed blood unnecessary and immaterial (Galatians 2:21).

Because of this conflict, we can safely say that Christianity is the most formidable obstacle to the New Age, standing like a bulwark against this tidal wave of meditation teachers and practical mystics. But, incredibly, many of the most successful practical mystics are appearing from within Christianity itself. Ironically, instead of stemming the momentum of New Age spirituality, it is our own churches that may very well be the decisive catalysts to propel this movement into prominence. Certain spiritual practices have become entrenched in our churches that, like an iceberg, seem beautiful and impressive on the surface but in reality will cause severe damage and compromise of truth. (from A Time of Departing, pp.24-26)

Cutting-Edge Christianity or Shamanism?

By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails Publishing

I find it rather interesting how God has orchestrated things in life, which demonstrate His great love and ongoing mercy to ordinary people like myself. But, more specifically, I am thinking right now about how years ago I happened to come across a copy of a nearly forgotten book at the university library while working on a project. I still find it amazing that this secular humanistic library even had a copy of Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires – a book written by a missionary to the Canadian Native peoples of the 1800s sharing not only his life among them but the amazing stories they would tell him as they would warm themselves before a fire. This book is a treasure of the long-forgotten heritage of the Cree and Saulteaux tribes and how their lives were wonderfully transformed through the proclamation of the Gospel.

Though I first read that book over thirty years ago as a young university student, in 2010 God put it in our hearts here at Lighthouse Trails to publish this nearly forgotten book; then, when we were preparing to release it for publication, Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Canadian Cree, contacted us about a book she had written titled Muddy Waters. The great surprise was that Nanci, whom we then sent a review copy of the Wigwam manuscript, recognized in it the name Mask-e-pe-toon as being the name of the best friend of her great, great grandfather. Nanci agreed to write the forward to that book. We also agreed to publish Muddy Waters. Later we added a DVD (not our own) titled I’ll Never Go Back!: The Testimony of Chief Shoefoot. In this film, Chief Shoefoot shares his own story of what life has been like for him both before and after he received the Gospel, hence his words “I’ll never go back” became the title of the video. Chief Shoefoot is a member of the native people known as the Yanomamo. The Yanomamo reside in a northern region of South America bordering Venezuela and Brazil. Hearing that Chief Shoefoot is part of a Yanomamo tribe especially caught my interest because I remembered studying these people in an anthropology class back in 1972.

Chief Shoefoot

Chief Shoefoot

Anthropologists have been studying the Yanomamo for many years now, and the typical reaction by many anthropologists to missionary outreaches to these people is that they would have been better off if they had been left alone. Granted various missionary efforts were probably not conducted as they should have been, the fact remains that Jesus commissioned the Gospel to be shared with the whole world. What makes this video unique is that it is the testimony of an actual member of the Yanomamo tribe sharing his viewpoint and his side of the story, and his conclusion is an emphatic yes to having received the Gospel. Contrary to what these anthropologists are saying, Chief Shoefoot makes it clear that his life has been forever changed for the better.

Today, even much of the mission field has been marred by the mentality that we should be less intrusive about sharing the Gospel (see New Missiology). Now don’t get me wrong; it’s true that there may be many non-spiritual aspects of a culture that don’t need to be changed, but the Gospel is very intrusive in calling all people everywhere to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came as Savior to the whole world, and people from all tribes and nations are offered one way to God. But today organizations, like YWAM, have been taking a more politically correct approach in assuming that every culture already has within their religious traditions an acceptable pathway to God, and our only duty is to encourage them in what they already believe and are already doing with little more than perhaps an occasional reference to the Jesus Christ of the Bible. The sad truth and reality is that, although many peoples and cultures may believe in some type of supreme being and do have a sense of right and wrong, the Gospel is unique in that it is God’s revealed Word and offer of salvation based on grace through faith alone as opposed to a gospel of good works based on a belief in the innate goodness of mankind and God’s willingness to accept any and all man-made plans of salvation.

The truth is that God has declared in his Word that all are sinners and in need of a Savior. So while it may be true that God has not called us to impose European customs on the indigenous peoples of the world, the Gospel is God’s “culture” for all mankind in that it calls all people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. All I can say is that I personally am so glad that God “imposed” Himself on me when I received Christ as my Savior; and in both Muddy Waters and in the I’ll Never Go Back video, you will witness the powerful and convincing testimony of two people – a medicine man’s daughter (in the book) and a former shaman or witchdoctor (in the film). Their stories are evidence that knowing Jesus Christ as Savior is more precious than anything the world has to offer and does require us to forsake those things that are displeasing to Him.

So, while it may be true that people from all over the world have a sense of right and wrong, the spirituality of all tribes and nations must give way to the truth of the Gospel rather than trying to reshape the Gospel to make it more palatable to any culture. After all, what part of the Gospel would we change? The fact of the matter is that the “preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Thus, it remains that the Gospel will always be offensive and politically incorrect to the unbeliever regardless of cultural setting. The Gospel is offensive not because it is the “white man’s religion” (which it never was) but because it is the way God chose to redeem mankind – which appears foolish to the carnal mind. But as Scripture declares, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Now, let me share something that caught my attention as I was watching the I’ll Never Go Back video. I was listening to Chief Shoefoot share how he became a shaman or witchdoctor and about  the spirituality that ensued, and I was amazed by the realization that as he was describing his spirituality as a shaman, he was describing the spirituality that is being promoted in the church today as “cutting-edge Christianity.” In fact, Chief Shoefoot’s spirituality was far ahead of contemplative spirituality and the New Age of today. Furthermore, they were already incorporating spiritual disciplines into their meditative practices. When I realized this, I listened to Chief Shoefoot very attentively and with much interest because I understood then that they had been practicing “contemplative spirituality” and the “spiritual disciplines” probably for many centuries – perhaps even longer than the Desert Fathers. In listening to him describe his spirituality as a shaman, I also realized that he was at the same time describing where the spirituality of contemplative prayer, the New Age, and the spiritual disciplines will be in the future.

So, while the meditative practices and disciplines of the Desert Fathers phased out to near extinction after the Middle Ages and is being resurrected today, the Yanomamo have preserved and developed these practices and brought them to full fruition. In other words, as the church and the New Age movement are in unison developing these practices, they will in time become like the Yanomamo.

In the film, Chief Shoefoot describes how he was introduced to shamanism at an early age because he was far advanced for his age in spiritual acuteness. Like contemplative prayer and New Age meditation, connection with “God” is accomplished by going into an altered state of consciousness (i.e., the silence). A drug is used for this purpose along with chanting (mantra), rhythm, and dancing. Spiritual disciplines – to include the withholding of food and sleep (i.e., fasting) – were also used to make the spiritual senses more acute. Chief Shoefoot, as I listened to him describe his story, was much more advanced than the mystics and contemplative prayer leaders of today. He literally saw into the spirit world and beheld various spirits which the Yanomamo even had names for.

The Yanomamo shaman recognizes the spirit world as a reality, not a superstition. According to Chief Shoefoot, spirits of various sorts are seen as desirable and are invited to “get inside your chest” while others are avoided as being evil. I am reminded how contemplative leader Richard Foster warns his students to beware of dangerous spirits when they practice contemplative prayer. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland talks about this:

Proponents of contemplative prayer say the purpose of contemplative prayer is to tune in with God and hear His voice. However, Richard Foster claims that practitioners must use caution. He admits that in contemplative prayer “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” and that sometimes it is not the realm of God even though it is “supernatural.” He admits there are spiritual beings and that a prayer of protection should be said beforehand something to the effect of “All dark and evil spirits must now leave.”1

What Chief Shoefoot realized too late is that none of these spirits are good and those considered to be evil cannot be avoided either. He learned that once a person enters into the occultic or contemplative realm, he becomes subject to the spirits that inhabit that realm. Christian mystics who engage in contemplative prayer think they are encountering the Holy Spirit, but Chief Shoefoot literally saw that this realm is inhabited by nothing more than demons who in time also made their habitation in him (and in other members of the tribe).

Understandably, much of the activity of the tribe was marked by immorality and violence. Even anthropologists who are unsympathetic to the Christianizing of these tribes recognize that there is a problem in their social and domestic interactions. Consider, for example, the following quote from an anthropological source regarding the role and treatment of wives in Yanomamo culture:

It is interesting to watch the behavior of women when their husbands return from a hunting trip or a visit. The men march slowly across the village and retire silently into their hammocks. The woman, no matter what she is doing, hurries home and quietly but rapidly prepares a meal for her husband. Should the wife be slow at doing this, the husband is within his rights to beat her. Most reprimands meted out by irate husbands take the form of blows with the hand or with a piece of firewood, but a good many husbands are even more severe. Some of them chop their wives with the sharp edge of a machete or ax, or shoot them with a barbed arrow in some nonvital area, such as in the buttocks or leg. Many men are given to punishing their wives by holding the hot end of a glowing stick against them, resulting in serious burns. . . . It is not uncommon for a man to injure his errant wife seriously; and some men have even killed wives. Women expect this kind of treatment. Those who are not too severely treated might even measure their husband’s concern in terms of the frequency of minor beatings they sustain. I overheard two young women discussing each other’s scalp scars. One of them commented that the other’s husband must really care for her since he has beaten her on the head so frequently! . . . Some men . . . seem to think that it is reasonable to beat their wife once in a while “just to keep them on their toes.”2

For lack of space, let me just say that the interactions of men with each other both within and between tribes is often not peaceable either. But, in any case, Native Spirituality plays a highly significant role in the happenings of these tribes.

Now, I imagine my statement made earlier that those who practice contemplative prayer or New Age mysticism will eventually become like the Yanomamo must now sound too extreme or at least a tongue-in-cheek statement. Actually, it would bring me much comfort if I were to know that I am completely wrong in this assertion. But I am deeply concerned about people, many of whom are Christians, delving into contemplative prayer, eastern meditative practices, and New Age mysticism thinking that they will better themselves by doing so. All of these are occult practices that will tie the user in with the demonic realm though he may think he is connecting with “good” spirits or the Holy Spirit.

It is not unusual for people to join the New Age movement or engage in Yoga or meditative practices like contemplative prayer to reap health benefits to include higher levels of relaxation or to live a more victorious life, but, all the while, they are being introduced to something demonic both in origin and operation. The Bible makes a clear statement about occult or mystical practices in Deuteronomy 18:9-12 by sounding the alarm that these practices are “an abomination unto the Lord.” Then, too, Jesus warned against praying as the heathen do by using “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7), which is a clear indictment against chanting or the mantra-like words and phrases used in contemplative or meditative prayer.

Yet, more and more Christians are joining in contemplative or mystical prayer, thinking it will make them stronger spiritually when the opposite is the case. In fact, what Christians are being drawn into is very antichrist in nature. Our research shows that those who engage in contemplative prayer in time see less and less relevance to the Cross (the atonement) to where it becomes unnecessary. The reason for this is quite simple: contemplative prayer makes a person feel one with and a part of God to where a sacrifice for sin no longer makes any sense.

Contemplative prayer is one and the same thing as New Age or mystical prayer; both are occultic practices in that they bring the practitioner into the demonic realm though he believes all the while that he is connecting with God. Then when I heard Chief Shoefoot’s testimony, I realized that shamanism is one and the same thing as contemplative or New Age mystical prayer as well. As one adherent of mysticism explains, “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics.”3 Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, who helped pioneer the modern-day contemplative prayer movement identified with Buddhism (saying he “intend[ed] to become as good a Buddhist as [he] can”)4 because he realized that the prayer of the Buddhist monks was the same as his. Alice Bailey, whom I consider the mother of the New Age movement, predicted that New Age (or occultic) spirituality would not go around the Christian church but rather through it. She called it the “the regeneration of the churches.” In explaining this, Ray Yungen says:

[I]nstead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary  vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness!5

In other words, occultic prayer all over the world is coming to a head and bringing about the great falling away that the Bible predicts will happen. Modern day proponents refer to it as quantum spirituality; and through borrowing terms used in physics, they tell us that if enough people meditate at the same time, we will achieve a critical mass, and we will then witness the dawning of the age of Aquarius where peace will guide our planet. However, Alice Bailey and New Age leaders who have followed her see Christians who do not practice New Age style meditation as in the way because they are not being “vibrationally sympathetic.” Such people, they maintain, will have to be eliminated! Having come from the New Age movement, Warren Smith has been warning Christians about this for some time. New Age leaders speak of love, but those who have birthed and perpetuated the movement have something much more sinister in their hearts.

We at Lighthouse Trails, as do other ministries like ours, have a sense of urgency to call all Christians to return to their true roots – namely the Gospel. Our loyalty needs to be with our Savior and not with the traditions of men. Whether we are Native American or of any other descent, Jesus Christ needs to be more precious than any of the things that would make us appear politically correct or gain the favor of men.

Notes:

1.  Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing),  p. 99.

2.  Napolean A. Chagnon, Yanomamo: The Fierce People (New York, NY: Holt, Reinhart adn Winston, 3rd edition), pp.112-113.

3.  Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism (London, UK: SPCK, 1979), p. 7; as cited in A Time of Departing, p. 32.

4.  David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969), as cited in A Time of Departing, p. 78.

5. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd edition), p. 124.

Note: To access information about the books and DVDs we mention in this article, click here.

I’ll Never Go Back – DVD

Letter to the Editor: Reiki in Society? Now Shamanism!

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

SHAMANISM? A recent Columbus Ohio magazine had a story about a reiki center. Among other “professional therapies” offered at that location was “shamanic services.” Shamanism is defined by Webster’s as: “religion . . . characterized by belief in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits responsive only to the shaman.”

It’s interesting that reiki practitioners (including ones billed as “Christian reiki”) tend to speak in terms of “energies” and deny the fact that reiki has anything to do with actual spirits; yet now, facilities offering “therapies” like reiki might also offer shamanic healing, which is openly acknowledged as a calling on/connecting with spirits.

Until now (at least, in my experience) references to shamans were pretty subtle. Tiny blurbs in the occasional magazine. But this week, thumbing through the newest issue of a little New Age mag . . . whoa! Several stories/ads about shamans/shamanic healing. In one ad, the shaman even promises to “make death an ally.” (No thanks.)

I decided to search “Christian shaman” online—hoping to come up empty. But I spotted several references. Shaman, sorcerer, witch doctor, medium . . . whatever you want to call it . . . It makes me so sad to think of people engaging a mediator to connect to lesser “spirits,” when everyone is invited to go directly to THE Spirit, the Lord Almighty Himself.

Lynn Lusby Pratt (name used with permission)

Lighthouse Trails is the distributor for a film called I’ll Never Go Back. It’s the testimony of a former shaman who is now in Christ. Because shamanism is taking the same path as contemplative spirituality, we encourage you to watch a clip of this film below. And if you know someone who is involved with any kind of meditation, then get the DVD if you can and share it with that person.


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