Archive for the ‘The Role of Meditation’ Category

DOES YOUR PASTOR KNOW THAT YOGA AND CHRISTIANITY ARE NOT COMPATIBLE?

BKT-YG-LAWSON-LOW-RESOLLTRP Note: We are hearing more and more reports about evangelical churches embracing Yoga. If your church is entertaining the idea of introducing Yoga classes to the church or if you know of a local church that is doing this, please give that pastor a copy of this booklet and ask him to reconsider. To order copies of YOGA and Christianity – Are They Compatible? in booklet form, click here. Those churches that welcome Yoga will in time be drawn in to the “new” spirituality and away from God’s Word. This is serious, and there is no time to waste. If you cannot afford to buy a booklet for a pastor, e-mail us his name and address, and we will send it for you at no cost to you. Let’s do what we can to stop Yoga from entering so many churches.

We were told a story this week about a place of business where the owners said that all employees had to begin Yoga classes in order to reduce stress. While one employee who was a Christian refused to participate, he observed that eventually two of the non-Christian employees became Hindu. Shockingly, the owners of the business were Christians.

By Chris Lawson

Western Culture Embraces Yoga
It is no secret that Yoga is taking Western civilization by storm. In just a little over a hundred years, a mystical revolution has occurred that millions of Westerners have wholeheartedly embraced. Amazingly, the Western Judeo-Christian view is in the process of a paradigm shift toward the same perspective as yogic India.

To illustrate the magnitude of the Yoga explosion, consider Yoga Journal’s “Yoga in America Study 2012.” This study reveals some incredible statistics:

• 20.4 million Americans practice Yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study.
• Practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on Yoga classes and products. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion.
• Of current non-practitioners, 44.4 percent of Americans call themselves “aspirational yogis”—people who are interested in trying Yoga.1

Yoga (or Yogic spirituality) is influencing Christians and non-Christians alike. It only takes 0.27 seconds to come up with over 411,000,000 results for Yoga on Google’s search engine. When searching Amazon.com’s “All” category for Yoga, one quickly comes up with a staggering 143,081 results. That’s just within Amazon.Com. If one searches for book titles only on Amazon.com, the search yields 26,316. Certainly, the influence of Yoga can be found almost everywhere. In Time Magazine’s book, Alternative Medicine: Your Guide to Stress Relief, Healing, Nutrition, and More, it states:

Hard to believe now, but yoga was once considered heretical, and even dangerous. As recently as a century ago, yogis in America were viewed with suspicion; some were actually thrown in jail. Today, though, most gyms offer it, many public schools teach it, and a growing number of doctors prescribe it . . . It may have taken 5,000 years, but yoga has arrived.2

Just What is Yoga?
No doubt, many, probably most, of the millions of Westerners who practice postural Yoga have never read a simple definition of what Yoga really is. Below, I have presented a small selection of definitions of Yoga. While there are countless descriptions on the Internet and in libraries, the definitions I have chosen are an accurate overall representation of the meaning of Yoga.

According to Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Yoga is essentially: “a practice involving intense and complete concentration upon something, especially deity, in order to establish identity of consciousness with the object of concentration; it is a mystic and ascetic practice, usually involving the discipline of prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.”3

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary adds: “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.”4

Cyndi Lee, expert yogi and writer for Yoga Journal, defines Yoga as such:

The word yoga, from the Sanskrit* word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” . . . The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago.

The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).5

Goutam Paul, author of Bhagavad Gita: The Ultimate Science of Yoga states:

When we talk about linking or connection, an obvious question arises: to connect what with what? The very word “connection” implies that there must be two different entities separated from one another, and they need to be connected. The ancient Vedic* text Bhagavad Gita explains that these entities are the individual consciousness and the universal Supreme consciousness. Some may call this universal consciousness an all-pervading energy, whereas most theists consider this Supreme consciousness to be God. . . . The purpose of Yoga is to connect the individual energy with the universal energy, or put another way, to connect the individual being to its source—the Supreme Being.6

One large online archive of New Age, occult, and mysticism-oriented literature states:

The ancient Yogis recognised long ago that in order to accomplish the highest stage of yoga, which is the realisation of the self, or God consciousness, a healthy physical body is essential. For when we are sick, our attention is seldom free enough to contemplate the larger reality, or to muster the energy for practice…

The roots of Yoga can be traced back roughly 5,000 years to the Indus Valley civilization. . . . According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ultimate aim of Yoga is to reach “Kaivalya” (freedom). This is the experience of one’s innermost being or “soul” (the Purusa). When this level of awareness is achieved, one becomes free of the chains of cause and effect (Karma) which bound us to continual reincarnation.7

The Index of Cults and New Religions lists the different types of Yoga:

Karma Yoga (spiritual union through correct conduct)
Bhakti Yoga (spiritual union through devotion to a Guru)
Juana Yoga (spiritual union through hidden knowledge)
Raja Yoga (spiritual union through mental control)
Hatha Yoga (spiritual union through body control/meditation)
Kundalini Yoga (spiritual union through focusing inner energy)
Tantra Yoga (spiritual union through sexual practices)8

Swami Nirmalananda Giri of the Atma Jvoti Ashram, answering the question to “What is Yoga?” states:

What do we join through yoga? Two eternal beings: God, the Infinite Being, and the individual spirit that is finite being. In essence they are one, and according to yogic philosophy all spirits originally dwelt in consciousness of that oneness.9

The Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age describes how Yoga is done:

Typical exercises, such as those found in hatha yoga, are practiced under the tutelage of a guru or yogi, a personal religious guide and spiritual teacher. Gurus teach students to combine a variety of breathing techniques with asanas, or relaxation postures. In each of the postures, students must first enter the position, then maintain it for a certain length of time, and finally leave it.10

This dictionary further states that people in the West have mistaken Yoga to be “mere breathing and relaxation exercises,” when in reality “[t]he practice of yoga serves as a gateway to Eastern mysticism and occult thinking.”11 It adds:

Certain postures, such as the lotus position, are taken to activate the psychic energy centers [the chakras]. And specific breathing exercises are practiced to infuse the soul with cosmic energy floating in the air. A guru might have students gaze at a single object, such as a candle, to develop and focus concentration. The guru might have them chant a mantra to clear their minds and become one with the object in front of them. The goal is to achieve increasingly higher meditative states until reaching oneness with the cosmic consciousness.12

Understanding the Meaning of “Occult”
The word “occult” comes from the Latin occultus or “hidden,” and those who employ the term generally do so in an attempt to describe secret and mysterious supernatural powers or magical (magick) religious rituals.

Throughout history, there have been those who attempted to gain supernatural power or knowledge through occult means. Occultism also can generally refer to witchcraft, Satanism, neo-paganism, or any of the various forms of psychic discernment such as astrology, séances, palm reading, and a myriad of other spiritual methodologies for contact with the spirit world. The term occult is often interchangeable with the term metaphysics—these terms share the belief that there is a universal energy (e.g., Chi, Prana, Ki, etc.) that exists in all things. By engaging in the occult (i.e., metaphysical arts), this energy is awakened. Yoga in all its forms is simply one spiritual genre among many designed to induce practitioners into altered states, thereby gaining access into the world of occult spirituality.

Kundalini—the Energy Behind Yoga
Internationally recognized occult authority, Hans-Ulrich Rieker (author of The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika) describes the vital role kundalini plays in Yoga when he states, “Kundalini [is] the mainstay of all yoga practices.”13 With this in mind, a brief look at “kundalini energy” (the root of Yoga) is in order.

Born as Chinmoy Kumar Ghose (1931-2007), Sri Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual “master,” spirit medium, occultist, and interfaith guru. Teaching Yoga in the West from the time he moved to New York City in 1964, Chinmoy spent 43 years in the West producing “prayers and meditations, literary, musical and artistic works.” Giving spiritual meditations twice a week at the United Nations building (since 1970),14 Chinmoy’s occult philosophy for life was, “When the power of love Replaces the love of power Man will have a new name: God.”15 Man becomes “God”? According to Chinmoy, yes!

Like many other occultists who promote yogic spirituality intertwined with “love,” Chinmoy masterfully crafted his occultism under the guise of “Concentration, Meditation, Will-Power and Love.” These themes are expanded upon in Chinmoy’s occult manifesto, Kundalini: The Mother Power where Chinmoy explains Yoga’s occult foundation, goals, and the purpose of manifesting the kundalini serpent power.

Chinmoy likened “kundalini arousal” (varying states of demonic possession) to a “game” that is to be “played” between Shakti “The Mother Power” (a Hindu goddess) and the adept who seeks to manifest kundalini. The “power” and “force” that Chinmoy encourages people to “play with” is, in actuality, in many varying religious contexts, demonic spirits (fallen angels) that masquerade as “The Mother Supreme,” “kundalini,” “Chi,” “prana,” etc. Chinmoy wrote:

When the kundalini is awake, man is fully aware of the inner world. He knows that the outer world cannot satisfy his inner needs. He has brought to the fore the capacity of the inner world, which he has come to realise is far superior to the capacity of the outer world. He has brought to the fore the hidden powers, the occult powers, within himself. Either he uses these powers properly or he misuses them. When he divinely uses the powers of kundalini, he becomes the real pride of the Mother Supreme. When he misuses them, he becomes the worst enemy of man’s embodied consciousness and of his own personal evolution.16

Here in the West there are many who feel that the powers of kundalini yoga are nothing but rank superstition. I wish to say that those who cherish this idea are totally mistaken. Even the genuine spiritual Masters have examined kundalini yoga and found in their own experiences the undeniable authenticity of its hidden occult powers.17

The kundalini power is the dynamic power in us. When the dynamic power and the spiritual knowledge go hand in hand, the perfect harmony of the Universal Consciousness dawns and the conscious evolution of the human soul reaches the transcendental Self [godhood].18

Kundalini Awakening
If Kundalini is “the mainstay of all Yoga practices,” as Rieker and other Yoga authorities maintain, the Yoga practitioner must understand clearly what the “kundalini” power is, how “it” operates, and what its effects are.19

Kundalini is a term which in Sanskrit means “coiled.” This “yogic life force” supposedly moves through the chakras (energy centers that are “activated one by one through the breath”20 in the human body in order to bring one into a state of occult enlightenment. According to occult philosophy, Kundalini is a non-physical field of energy that yogis say not only surrounds the physical body but can infuse the body.

Lee Sannella, M.D., a noted Psychiatrist, Ophthalmologist, and cofounder of the Kundalini Clinic in San Francisco, explains in his book The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis or Transcendence:

According to this [tantric] Indian tradition, the kundalini is a type of energy—a “power” or “force” (shakti)—that is held to rest in a dormant, or potential, state in the human body. Its location is generally specified as being at the base of the spine. When this energy is galvanized, “awakened,” [which is done during Yoga], it rushes upward along the central axis of the human body, or along the spinal, to the crown of the head. Occasionally, it is thought to go even beyond the head. Upon arriving there, the kundalini is said to give rise to the mystical state of consciousness, which is indescribably blissful and in which all awareness of duality [separation] ceases.21

For those who have doubts that all Yoga has the capacity to arouse kundalini energy, perhaps one ought to think again. After all, the Yoga postures themselves were designed specifically to receive this serpent power.

Yoga’s Dangers of Psycho-spiritual and Psycho-physical “Emergencies”
Volumes of material could be quoted from regarding the dangers of Yoga, meditation, and other psycho-spiritual and physio-spiritual practices. Modern practitioners—and even medical doctors—are now testifying to the fact that physical dangers associated with practicing Yoga are a reality. In fact, people who have done Yoga for purely “physical exercise” have been spiritually affected to the point of being systematically dismantled by hostile “forces,” over which they have no power. Eastern gurus call this type of Yoga effect “enlightenment,” yet it is anything but that!

In India today, countless millions of Yoga practitioners are influenced by the spirit world, achieving manifold “possession” states and “manifesting” the kundalini-shakti power (also called “serpent power”). It is the same in the West, only it falls under different names and in a Western context. One should note well that it was not until the 19th and early 20th centuries that Yoga was touted as a physio-postural “exercise” in Britain and the USA.22

The following is a mere sampling of what can occur when the kundalini-shakti “force” is “aroused,” “galvanized,” “awakened,” “summoned,” etc. These “spiritual emergencies” can even occur during Hatha Yoga sessions at the local fitness center. Depending on the teacher (yogi/yogini) one has, you never quite know what you will get.

In Lee Sannella’s book The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis or Transcendence, Sannella tells how the “Physio-Kundalini” experience is “a dramatic occurrence . . . culminating [in a] state of ecstatic unification.”23 He adds:

[T]he kundalini causes the central nervous system to throw off stress . . . usually associated with the experience of pain . . . It appears to act of its own volition, spreading through the entire psychophysiological system to affect its transformation.24

[T]he kundalini produces the most striking sensations . . . the “heat” generated by “friction” of the kundalini . . . causes turbulence, which may be experienced as painful sensations . . . spontaneous bodily movements, shifting somatic sensations.25

Amongst other kundalini symptoms, “spiritual emergency” scenarios26 and numerous case studies of destructive kundalini manifestations, Sannella mentions Swami Narayanananda, author of “the first detailed book on the kundalini experience.”27 Sannella notes that Narayanananda’s book:

. . . distinguished between a partial and a full arousal of the kundalini energy. Whereas partial arousal can lead to all kinds of physical and mental complications, only the kundalini’s complete ascent to the center at the crown of the head will awaken the true impulse to God-realization, or liberation, and bring about the desired revolution in consciousness. Only then can the body-mind be transcended in the unalloyed bliss of enlightenment.28

Narayanananda catalogued a listing of sensations and experiences that occur as kundalini symptoms. Sannella summarizes some of these:

* There is strong burning, first along the back and then over the whole body.
* The kundalini’s entrance into the central spinal canal, called sushuma, is attendant with pain.
* When the kundalini reaches the heart, one may experience palpitations.
* One feels a creeping sensation from the toes, and sometimes the whole body starts to shake. The rising sensation may feel like an ant crawling slowly up the body toward the head, or like a snake wiggling along, or a bird hopping from place to place, or like a fish darting through calm water, or like a monkey leaping to a far branch.29

Sannella arranges the “physio-kundalini complex” into four basic categories, which the following somewhat encapsulates and which Sannella (and others) consider to be “therapeutic.” Of the psycho-spiritual/physio-spiritual process Sannella contends, “[s]everal of my kundalini cases are especially interesting because they serve as support for my contention that the kundalini process can be looked upon as being inherently therapeutic.”30

Therapeutic? I find that absurd reasoning! Surprisingly, Sannella admits to the dangers:

I must, however, sound a word of caution here. I firmly believe that methods designed specifically to hasten kundalini arousal, such as breath control exercises known as pranayama, are hazardous, unless practiced directly under the guidance of a competent spiritual teacher, or guru, who should have gone through the whole kundalini process himself or herself.31

He says the Yoga breathing techniques “may prematurely unleash titanic inner forces,” and the practitioner will have no way to control these forces. He warns, “The kundalini can be forced, but only to one’s own detriment.”32 Basically, one must go through varying stages of what the Bible would consider demonic possession!

Symptoms of Kundalini Awakening
There is a very long list of symptoms that can occur during a kundalini awakening. While proponents will tell you that there are many benefits, they readily admit, as I have shown, that there are many terrible consequences. Here are just a few of them:

Tremors * Shivering * Shaking * Cramps * Spasms * 
Energy rushes * Muscle twitches * Strong electricity circulating the body * Tingling * Intense heat or cold * Involuntary bodily movements * Jerking *
Periods of extreme hyperactivity * Periods of fatigue * Intensified or diminished sexual desires * Headaches * Pressures within the skull
* Racing heartbeat 
* 
Emotional outbursts
* Rapid mood shifts *
Feeling of grief, fear, rage, depression * Spontaneous and uncontrollable laughing and weeping * Mental confusion * Convulsions * Altered states of consciousness33

I don’t recall Jesus or the disciples ever likening the fruit of the Spirit or the working of the Holy Spirit with any of these symptoms!

What About “Christian” Yoga?
In an eye-opening article titled “Yoga Renamed is Still Hindu: I challenge Attempts to Snatch Yoga From its Roots,” Professor Subhas R. Tiwari of the Hindu University of America made some very interesting points in response to inquiries from several journalists around the country. As a graduate with a Master’s degree in Yoga philosophy from the famed Bihar Yoga Bharati University, Professor Tiwari’s response was featured in an article in Hinduism Today. Professor Tiwari enlightened undiscerning American’s with the following:

In the past few months I have received several calls from journalists around the country seeking my views on the question of whether the newly minted “Christian Yoga” is really yoga.

My response is, “The simple, immutable fact is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it.” . . . The effort to separate yoga from Hinduism must be challenged because it runs counter to the fundamental principles upon which yoga itself is premised. . . . Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga. . . .

[Yoga] was intended by the Vedic seers as an instrument which can lead one to apprehend the Absolute, Ultimate Reality, called the Brahman Reality, or God. If this attempt to co-opt yoga into their own tradition continues, in several decades of incessantly spinning the untruth as truth through re-labelings such as “Christian yoga,” who will know that yoga is—or was—part of Hindu culture?34

Some may ask, “Well, can’t I just do the Yoga exercises and forego the religious or spiritual aspects?” One researcher has this to say:

There is absolutely no problem in stretching exercises in and of themselves. . . . No one can deny that stretching helps the blood flow, that breathing in oxygen helps our overall health. . . . There are numerous exercise programs that incorporate stretching that in no way relates to yoga (and its perspective). . . . Religious syncretism is probably the most dangerous thing we can involve ourselves in because we can rationalize its purpose. . . . Essentially one cannot practice a portion of Hinduism and continue to walk with the true Christ who is not a Hindu Guru.35

A former occultist who is now a Christian explains:

You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy. . . . The movements themselves become a form of meditation. The continued practice of the exercises will, whether you . . . intend it or not, eventually influence you toward an Eastern/mystical perspective. That is what it is meant to do! . . . There is, by definition, no such thing as “neutral” Yoga36

The Conflict Between Yoga, “Christian” Yoga, and the Gospel

Is Yoga a religion that denies Jesus Christ? Yes. Just as Christianity denies the Hindu MahaDevas such as Siva, Vishnu, Durga and Krishna, to name a few, Hinduism and its many Yogas have nothing to do with God and Jesus . . . all of Yoga is all about the Hindu religion. Modern so-called “yoga” is dishonest to Hindus and to all non-Hindus such as the Christians.—Danda, Dharma Yoga Ashram, Classical Yoga Hindu Academy; an e-mail written to Lighthouse Trails Research

Altogether, Western Yoga has become a launching platform for occultism—the very thing that lies at the heart of Buddhism Hinduism, and New Age spirituality. Even the Christian church has been affected by alleged “Yoga for Christians.” Consider the names of such “ministries” that mix Scripture and “Jesus” with Yoga, and then sell it as Christian Yoga exercise: Yahweh Yoga, Holy Yoga; Body Prayer, Christ-Centered Yoga, New Day Yoga, Trinity Yoga, Yoga Devotion, Grounded in Yoga, Be Still Yoga, Atoning Yoga Extending Grace, and many more.

Most Christians would probably acknowledge that occultic practices are the antithesis of biblical Christianity. But when it comes to Yoga—also the outworking of occultism—they seem oblivious. And yet, the philosophies and practices of yogic mediation have the capacity to “unhinge” (dismantle) humans—in every way. These philosophies come from ancient occultism and originally started back in the Garden of Eden. The voice of that old serpent, the Devil and his satanic forces, put forth the exact same lie today that has fueled the world of the occult through all the ages—that humanity can become God. “[Y]e shall not surely die . . . ye shall be as gods” (i.e., like God; Genesis 3:4-5).

The very nature of many of the meditative yogic practices are engineered to (1) blow out the discernment faculties of human beings, (2) create an insulating barrier of spiritual resistance against the biblical Gospel, and (3) generate personal hostile opposition towards Jesus of Nazareth and His teachings. Consider the difference: the Bible teaches that man is sinful and the wages of sin is death; Jesus Christ, came in the flesh, died on the Cross, and was resurrected, paying the penalty for man’s sin with His own shed blood. He then offers salvation freely to “whosoever” believeth on Him by faith. Yoga (i.e., Hinduism), on the other hand, is completely the opposite. Man is already divine, and that divinity only needs to be “awakened” through Yoga. No sin, thus no need for a Savior. Man will save himself.

In place of God’s Word as the ultimate authority, a new higher authority called “experience” is embraced. Thus, the Jesus Christ of the Bible, the clear teachings of Scripture, and the established historical doctrines of the Christian faith, along with “biblical separation” from occult pagan spirituality, are thrown out of the window.

The reality that practitioners of Yoga, including Christian practitioners, can become physiologically and psychologically “unhinged” is a terrifying consideration. When one yields to the spiritual forces of darkness that fuel the world of yogic spirituality, one ought to be prepared to face dire consequences—that for millennia yogis in the East have endured, and by which have tragically been destroyed.

Practicing Yoga can result in the severe dismantling of the human personality, resulting in total spiritual devastation, and oftentimes including demonic possession. The respect, honor, and adoration of rats, snakes, monkeys, cows, and the worship of 330 million gods of Hinduism surely ought to speak volumes to the Western Yoga practitioner who thinks he or she can Christianize Yoga or simply turn it into a benign physical exercise program.

When you stop and realize that increasing numbers of Christian churches are now allowing Yoga classes, and when you look at the sheer facts, this is simply hybridized yogic evangelism in the church. Sadly, the bulk of Western Christians seem to be blind to this.

Paul the Apostle, remembering the sinful disaster that took place in the garden of Eden, warned the early church at Corinth about the danger of spiritual deception in the name of Christ:

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlity, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

The question this booklet title asks is: Are Yoga and Christianity compatible? I hope and pray that after reading this material you will answer that question with a resounding No. We live in a world where forces of darkness, of which the Bible speaks, are seeking to deceive us. But Scripture also says we can protect ourselves through His provision. We do not have to walk in spiritual darkness.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6: 11-13)

To order copies of YOGA and Christianity – Are They Compatible?, click here.

Endnotes:
1. “Yoga in America Study 2012” (Yoga Journal, http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america.
2. Lesley Alderman, “Bend and Be Well,” Alternative Medicine: Your Guide to Stress Relief, Healing, Nutrition, and More (New York, NY: TIME Books, 2012), p.62.
3. Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Unabridged, 2nd ed., Deluxe Color 1955, 1983), p. 2120.
4. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yoga.
5. http://www.yogajournal.com/newtoyoga/820_1.cfm.
6. Goutam Paul, Bhagavad Gita: The Ultimate Science of Yoga (http://www.cs.albany.edu/~goutam/ScYogaCamera.pdf).
7. http://www.experiencefestival.com/yoga.
8. http://www.sullivan-county.com/id3/expositer.htm#Y.
9. http://www.atmajyoti.org/med_what_is_yoga.asp.
10. Debra Lardie, contributing editors Dan Lioy and Paul Ingram, Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), pp. 288-289.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Hans-Ulrich Rieker, The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika (New York, NY: Seabury Press, 1971), p. 101.
14. http://www.srichinmoy.org.
15. Ibid.
16. Sri Chinmoy, Kundalini: The Mother Power (Jamaica, N.Y: AUM Publications, 1992), p. 49.
17. Ibid., p. 51.
18. Ibid.
19. See Hidden Dangers Of Meditation And Yoga: How To Play With Your Sacred Fires Safely by Del Pe.
20. “Chakras,” http://www.sanatansociety.org/chakras/chakras.htm.
21. Lee Sannella, The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis or Transcendence (Lower Lake, CA: Integral Publishing, 1987, Revised 1992), p. 25.
22. See Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice by Mark Singleton, 2010; A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism by Elizabeth De Michelis, 2005; The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice by Georg Feuerstein, 2001.
23. Lee Sannella, The Kundalini Experience, op. cit., p. 31.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid., p. 32.
26. See also Grof & Grof’s The Stormy Search for the Self: A Guide to Personal Growth through Transformational Crisis, 1992; and Spiritual Emergency, 1989.
27. Lee Sannella, The Kundalini Experience, op. cit., pp. 48-49.
28. Ibid., p. 48.
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid., pp. 93-108, 113.
31. Ibid., p. 116.
32. Ibid.
33. Symptoms of Kundalini awakening, Submitted by zoya on Fri, 03/11/2011—11:57, http://www.gurusfeet.com/forum/symptoms-kundalini-awakening.
34. Subhas R. Tiwari, “Yoga Renamed is Still Hindu” (Hinduism Today, Jan/Feb/Mar 2006, Magazine Web Edition http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=1456).
35. Mike Oppenheimer, “Yoga, Today’s Lifestyle for Health” (http://www.letusreason.org/NAM1.htm).
36. Johanna Michaelsen, Like Lambs to the Slaughter (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1989), pp. 93-95.
A. Sidebar on page 7: Goutam Paul, Bhagavad Gita: The Ultimate Science of Yoga, op. cit., p.1.

To order copies of YOGA and Christianity – Are They Compatible?, click here.

CL_Color_suit_2About the author: Chris Lawson is a missionary and an ordained pastor. Among his achievements and calling as a career missionary, he has served as a long-term church planter in the USA and also in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the founder and president of Spiritual Research Network, Inc., a Christian outreach dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel and encouraging biblical discernment. You can visit his website where there is extensive research at: http://www.spiritual-research-network.com. Chris lives in central California with his wife and children.

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 cannot 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.

Letter to the Editor: Concerns About Meditation/Visualization Language in Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan “Bible Study”

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I am a member of a Baptist church affiliated with the SBC. My Sunday School class recently began the Not a Fan video Bible study, being supplemented by the Not a Fan journal  [this link is to a sample of the journal] by Kyle Idleman. I was familiar with the book of the same title and the concept (are you a fan or a follower?) but knew little else. I went into the study with an open mind, but quickly called into question the manner in which the author was prompting the reading to “consider” his concepts. By day 2 of the journal, it became clear to me that I would not be continuing. My spirit was utterly grieved by the exercises! I am hopeful that Lighthouse Trails will review this journal and prayerfully consider it. I feel it is dangerous teaching that is delving into contemplative prayer.

Below are some examples I extrapolated from the first 91 pages of the 192 page journal.

Day 1, Noon Reminder:

Try taking five minutes for meditation. Close your eyes and in your mind picture Jesus. Watch Him turn, look at you and hear Him say, “If you would come after me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Hear Him say these words again and again. Become aware of your reaction to His invitation.

Note: [from the journal] Some of the suggestions, like this one, may sound a bit inane or even non-traditional. We encourage you to try each exercise with an open mind. Give it 100%.

I was immediately adverse to the idea of “imagining” and “awareness.”  It jarred me, but I decided to simply skip past that section and continue on. Fast forward to the “noon reminder” on day 2:

Try repeating this phrase aloud ten times, “Lord Jesus, come interfere in my life.” (Again, this is one of the suggestions that may sound childish or impractical, but what do you have to lose in trying it?)

Matthew 6:7 comes to mind: “And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Here are some other observations I made as I looked deeper into the journal. First, there is a purposeful “convincing” being done to get the reader to participate in these exercises. The 2 examples I gave are just two of MANY. Idleman excuses these exercises as possibly “childish,” “silly,” “crazy,” and “impractical” but encourages the reader to give them a try anyway. When studying the Word of God, these are not words that come to mind or describe what our attitude or experience should be when doing so.

Within the first 91 pages, I have highlighted the word “imagine” countless times. A lot of prompting to visualize is used. There are also several times where it is suggested to repeat words and phrases. The words “meditate” and “meditation” are used frequently as well. The reader is encouraged to focus on their own thoughts, imagine, “picture the destination” (pg. 74), “picture the place you want to end up.” (pg. 74), “pictures Jesus” (pg. 85), “review your day in your mind’s eye” (pg. 50). The author then prompts the reader to jot down thoughts after completing the exercises.
On page 90 it says, “Sit, be still and take in your surroundings. Use your senses to observe everything going on around you.”

The first reference to prayer doesn’t even appear until page 24 and it says this: “Imagine saying your evening prayers to the person you are most likely to put ahead of Jesus.” There is a lot more on visualizations, meditation and being self-aware than there is on prayer!

I am continuing my research on this but am hoping your staff will take a look as well and let me know if my reservations are founded.

Thank You,
J.B.

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: BlueCross BlueShield Health Insurance Now Offering Mindfulness

To Lighthouse Trails:

BlueCross BlueShield Health Insurance is now promoting mindfulness.

Anthony

LT Note: Below is the e-mail Anthony received from BlueCross Blueshield. While this particular ad is from BlueCross BlueShield North Carolina, we checked other states, and it appears that the insurance company is offering or promoting mindfulness in most, if not all, states in the U.S. Click here to read a Lighthouse Trails article explaining what mindfulness is.

Because health is a big deal.™
This Week’s Deal: eMindful
36% Off on Live Mindfulness Online Classes

During the month of April, Blue365 members receive a special discount on an eM Life Membership. The eM Life platform offers a suite of best-in-class resilience building classes, content and tools accessible from your phone, tablet or desktop devices.

You can experience eM Life with an exclusive Blue365 limited time offer:

1.     Get a 30-day Life Membership with unlimited access for $6.39 (regularly $9.99), or

2.     Choose one year of unlimited access for $5.11/month (billed upfront at $61.36, regularly $95.88).

The engaging features of eM Life are designed to help you discover deeper connections with other people, and with your own purpose and intentions.   You’ll have access to world class instructors, PhDs and mindfulness experts to help you achieve mindfulness in every moment, and features including:

  • A robust On Demand library of video and audio programs around yoga, mindful eating, stress reduction and more.
  • Live online classes every day of week, multiple times per day – with new topics and skills every day.
  • Immersive programs and online retreats for deeper learning and exploration.
  • Choose to practice with dozens of expert instructors from around the world.
  • 24/7 discussion board, with highly trained expert instructors leading conversations.
  • “Chime Time” meditation timer for silent practice.
  • Curated content from around the world.
  • A game designed to exercise your working memory.

Redemption is easy.  Just register with eMindful before the end of April and enter the promo code viewable after you click the “Redeem Now” button.

Read More

 
 
  Experts say just 20 minutes a day spent meditating can improve health.  
 

An Appendix on the Al Mohler Situation: “The Contemplative Christian (The Christian of the Future?)”

LTRP Note: In view of our recent post on Albert Mohler who promoted the book The Benedictine Option (a book that encourages contemplative prayer practices), we are posting this article by Ray Yungen from his book A Time of Departing so readers who are unfamiliar with the contemplative prayer movement can gain better understanding.

By Ray Yungen

Within the evangelical world, contemplative prayer is increasingly being promoted and accepted. As a result, it is losing its esoteric aspect and is now seen by many as the wave of the future. One can’t help but notice the positive exposure it is getting in the Christian media these days. In Today’s Christian Woman, a popular and trusted Christian magazine, feature titles make the appeal to draw closer to God. The author of one such article says, “Like a growing number of evangelicals, I’ve turned to spiritual direction because I want to know God better.”1 But without exception, every person she cites is a dedicated contemplative, one being Ruth Haley Barton, author of Invitation to Solitude and Silence. Barton was trained at the Shalem Institute (founded by panentheist Tilden Edwards); and in fact, that organization was featured in the article as a resource for the reader. However, considering the content of many statements on the Shalem Institute website, how could Shalem even be listed as a resource for Christians? Listen to a few:

In Christianity and other traditions that understand God to be present everywhere, contemplation includes a reverence for the Divine Mystery, “finding God in all things,” or “being open to God’s presence, however it may appear.”2

[Thomas] Merton taught that there is only one way to develop this radical language of prayer: in silence.3

The rhythm of the group includes . . . chanting, two periods of sitting in silence separated by walking meditation, and a time for optional sharing.4

In another magazine article, Ruth Haley Barton, who incidentally is the former Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek Community Church, echoes Southern Baptist-turned-goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd in many ways, including the general malaise or condition of the human soul. Barton recounts:

A few years ago, I began to recognize an inner chaos in my soul . . . No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, and listened to good teaching, I could not calm the internal roar created by questions with no answers.5

Ruth Haley Barton

The following scenario Barton relates could be the wave of the future for the evangelical church if this movement continues to unfold in the manner it already has:

I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul . . . eventually this wise woman said to me . . . “What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” . . . I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words.6

By “addiction to words,” she means normal ways of praying. She still uses words, but only three of them, “Here I am.” This is nothing other than the Cloud of Unknowing or the prayer of the heart.
Like Richard Foster, Barton argues that God cannot be reached adequately, if at all, without the silence. In referring to 1 Kings 19 when Elijah was hiding in a cave, Barton encourages:

God loves us enough to wait for us to come openly to Him. Elijah’s experience shows that God doesn’t scream to get our attention. Instead, we learn that our willingness to listen in silence opens up a quiet space in which we can hear His voice, a voice that longs to speak and offer us guidance for our next step.7

What Barton fails to mention here is that Elijah was a valiant defender of the belief in the one, unique God—Yahweh (as seen in his encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal), and he never went into an altered state of silence in his personal encounter with God.

Barton is no longer teaching at Willow Creek. She left there to start the Transforming Center and now teaches pastors and other Christian leaders spiritual formation. Hers is just one of many avenues through which contemplative prayer is creating a new kind of Christian, possibly the Christian of the future.

Endnotes:
1. Agnieszka Tennant, “Drawing Closer to God”(Today’s Christian Woman, September/October 2004, Vol. 26, No. 5), p. 14. Published by Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, Illinois.
2. Shalem Institute, “What Does Contemplative Mean?” (Shalem Institute About Shalem page, http://web.archive.org/web/20050204190729/http://shalem.org/about.html#contemplative).
3. Ann Kline, “A New Language of Prayer” (Shalem Institute newsletter, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2005, http://web.archive.org/web/20060930230219/http://www.shalem.org/publication/newsletter/archives/2005/2005_winter/article_04).
4. Shalem Institute website, General Events, “Radical Prayer: A Simple Loving Presence Group” (http://www.shalem.org/programs/generalprograms/groupsevents_folder; no longer online—on file at LT).
5. Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words, Issue #113, September/October, 1999, http://web.archive.org/web/20060628075740/http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.113.13.html), p. 35.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., pp. 37-38.

Mindfulness, Meditation Techniques Being Used in Public School Classrooms Across County on 750,000 Students

LTRP Note: The following news story is posted for informational and research purposes and not as an endorsement of the content. It is to show how vast numbers of children attending public schools have been taught how to meditate. While advocates say that meditation helps children relax and concentrate, we know that the long-term effects of meditation are dangerous and spiritually harmful.

By Kris O’Donnell,
Ivanhoe Newswire

“Mindful schools program has impacted 750,000 students”

Still shot from KSAT news video (used in accordance with U.S. Fair Use Act)

Mindfulness and meditation techniques are being used in schools across the country. A recent study by the University of California-Davis and the non-profit organization, Mindful Schools, shows mindfulness triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class activities.

It’s not a big deal to see fourth graders meditating and kindergartners practicing mindful breathing at a mindful elementary school. Every class here has students doing the same thing.

Heidi Palmiero-Potter a 4th Grade Teacher at Harris Hill Elementary School in Buffalo, New York admits students, “They’re less impulsive with each other, they think about their words before they speak so it definitely spills to into the daily routines.”

“Mindfulness can be different things like meditating, deep breathing,” shared 4th grade student, Adam Elbousty.

And 3rd grade student, Preston Payne told Ivanhoe meditating is, “Like you breathe really slowly.” Click here to continue reading.

Related Articles from Lighthouse Trails:

The Dangers of Spiritual Formation?—And Some Ways it is Influencing Your Children

DANGERS & DECEPTIONS of The Martial Arts and Why One Woman Walked Away From a Championship Career

Meditation! Pathway to Wellness or Doorway to the Occult?

Understanding Shamanism

Mindfulness! Heard of It? What Does it Mean, and Where is it Showing Up in Christian Circles?


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