Posts Tagged ‘eastern religion’

The Desert Fathers and the Methods They Used

By Ray Yungen

Catholic priest William Shannon in his book, Seeds of Peace, explained the human dilemma as being the following:

This forgetfulness, of our oneness with God, is not just a personal experience, it is the corporate experience of humanity. Indeed, this is one way to understanding original sin. We are in God, but we don’t seem to know it. We are in paradise, but we don’t realize it.1

Shannon’s viewpoint defines the basic underlying worldview of the contemplative prayer movement as a whole. One can find similar quotations in practically every book written by contemplative authors. A Hindu guru or a Zen Buddhist master would offer the same explanation. This conclusion becomes completely logical when tracing the roots of contemplative prayer. Let us look at the beginnings of this practice.

In the early Middle Ages, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They are known to history as the Desert Fathers. They dwelt in small isolated communities for the purpose of devoting their lives completely to God without distraction. The contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks who promoted the mantra as a prayer tool. One meditation scholar made this connection when he said:

The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East … the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.2

Many of the Desert Fathers, in their zeal, were simply seeking God through trial and error. A leading contemplative prayer teacher candidly acknowledged the haphazard way the Desert Fathers acquired their practices:

It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried, some of which are too harsh or extreme for people today. Many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.3

Attempting to reach God through occult mystical practices will guarantee disaster. The Desert Fathers of Egypt were located in a particularly dangerous locale at that time to be groping around for innovative approaches to God, because as one theologian pointed out:

[D]evelopment of Christian meditative disciplines should have begun in Egypt because much of the intellectual, philosophical, and theological basis of the practice of meditation in Christianity also comes out of the theology of Hellenic and Roman Egypt. This is significant because it was in Alexandria that Christian theology had the most contact with the various Gnostic speculations which, according to many scholars, have their roots in the East, possibly in India.4

Consequently, the Desert Fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere–anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus. A current practitioner and promoter of the Desert Fathers’ mystical prayer still echoes the logical formulations of his mystical ancestors:

In the wider ecumenism of the Spirit being opened for us today, we need to humbly accept the learnings of particular Eastern religions … What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent … this is important to remember in the face of those Christians who would try to impoverish our spiritual resources by too narrowly defining them. If we view the human family as one in God’s spirit, then this historical cross-fertilization is not surprising … selective attention to Eastern spiritual practices can be of great assistance to a fully embodied Christian life.5

Do you catch the reasoning here? Non-Christian sources, as avenues to spiritual growth, are perfectly legitimate in the Christian life, and if Christians only practice their Christianity based on the Bible, they will actually impoverish their spirituality. This was the thinking of the Desert Fathers. So as a result, we now have contemplative prayer. Jesus addressed this when he warned His disciples: “And when you pray, do not
use vain repetitions, as the heathen do.” (Matthew 6:7)

It should be apparent that mantra meditation or sacred word prayer qualifies as “vain repetition” and clearly fits an accurate description of the point Jesus was making. Yet in spite of this, trusted evangelical Christians have often pronounced that Christian mysticism is different from other forms of mysticism (such as Eastern or occult) because it is focused on Jesus Christ.

This logic may sound credible on the surface, but Christians must ask themselves a very simple and fundamental question: What really makes a practice Christian? The answer is obvious–does the New Testament sanction it? Hasn’t Christ taught us, through His Word, to pray in faith in His name and according to His will? Did He leave something out? Would Jesus hold out on His true followers? Never!

Understanding this truth, God has declared in His Word that He does not leave it up to earnest, yet sinful people, to reinvent their own Christianity. When Christians ignore God’s instructions in following Him they end up learning the way of the heathen. Israel did this countless times. It is just human nature.

The account of Cain and Abel is a classic biblical example of spiritual infidelity. Both of Adam’s sons wanted to please God, but Cain decided he would experiment with his own method of being devout. Cain must have reasoned to himself: “Perhaps God would like fruit or grain better than a dead animal. It’s not as gross. It’s less smelly. Hey, I think I will try it!”

As you know, God was not the least bit impressed by Cain’s attempt to create his own approach to pleasing God. The Lord made it clear to Cain that God’s favor would be upon him if he did what is right, not just what was intended for God or God-focused.

In many ways, the Desert Fathers were like Cain—eager to please but not willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord and do what was right. One cannot fault them for their devotion, but one certainly can fault them for their lack of discernment.

Notes:
1. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace, p. 66.
2. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind 1988, p.53.
3. Ken Kaisch, Finding God, p.191.
4. Father William Teska, Meditation in Christianity , p.65.
5. Tilden Edwards, Living in the Presence , Acknowledgement page.

Related Material:

A list of ancient mystics (taken from Chris Lawson’s A Directory of Authors: Three NOT Recommended Lists booklet)

Mystics from the past oftentimes favorably endorsed by “Christian” authors today

Middle Ages (Medieval Times) and Renaissance

Angela of Foligno (1248–1309)

Anthony of Padua (1195–1231)

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153)

Bonaventure (1217–1274)

Catherine of Siena (1347–1380)

Desert Fathers, The

Hadewijch of Antwerp (13th century)

Henry Suso (1295–1366)

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)

Hugh of Saint Victor (1096–1141)

Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306)

Johannes Tauler (d.1361)

John of Ruysbroeck (1293–1381)

John Scotus Eriugena (810–877)

Julian of Norwich (1342–1416)

Mechthild of Magdeburg (1212–1297)

Meister Eckhart (1260–1327)

Richard of Saint Victor (d.1173)

Richard Rolle (1300–1341)

The Cloud of the Unknowing (anonymous, instruction in mysticism, 1375)

Theologia Germanica (anonymous, mystical treatise, late 14th century)

Thomas a’ Kempis (1380–1471)

Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)

Walter Hilton (1340–1396)
Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter–Reformation

Brother Lawrence (1614–1691)

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1822)

George Fox (1624–1691)

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

Jakob Böhme (1575–1624)

Jean Nicolas Grou (1731-1803)

John of the Cross (Juan de Yepes) (1542–1591)

Joseph of Cupertino (1603–1663)

Madame Guyon (1647–1717)

Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582)

Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894)

William Law (1686–1761)

Modern Era (19th—20th Century)

Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904–1955)

Bernadette Roberts (1931–)

Berthe Petit (1870–1943)

Carmela Carabelli (1910–1978)

Domenico da Cese (1905–1978)

Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941)

Flower A. Newhouse (1909–1994)

Frank Laubach (1884–1970)

Frederick Buechner (1926–)

Karl Rahner (1904–1984)

Lúcia Santos (1907–2005)

Maria Pierina de Micheli (1890–1945)

Maria Valtorta (1898–1963)

Marie Lataste (1822–1899)

Marie Martha Chambon (1841–1907)

Martin Buber (1868–1965)

Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938)

Mary of Saint Peter (1816–1848)

Mary of the Divine Heart (1863–1899)

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887–1968)

Pierina Gilli (1911–1991)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881– 1955)

Simone Weil (1909–1943)

Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)

Thomas Merton (1915–1968)

Thomas Raymond Kelly (1893–1941)

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The dark side of meditation and mindfulness: Treatment can trigger mania, depression and psychosis, studies shows

Photo used from The Daily Mail (under US Fair Use Act)

By Harriet Crawford
The Daily Mail (UK)

Meditation and mindfulness is promoted by celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Russell Brand, who boast of its power to help people put stress out of their minds and live for the moment.

But the treatment can itself trigger mania, depression, hallucinations and psychosis, psychological studies in the UK and US have found.

The practice is part of a growing movement based on ancient Eastern traditions of meditation.

However, 60 per cent of people who had been on a meditation retreat had suffered at least one negative side effect, including panic, depression and confusion, a study in the US found.

And one in 14 of them suffered ‘profoundly adverse effects’, according to Miguel Farias, head of the brain, belief and behaviour research group at Coventry University and Catherine Wikholm, a researcher in clinical psychology at the University of Surrey.

The shortage of rigorous statistical studies into the negative effects of meditation was a ‘scandal’, Dr Farias told The Times. Click here to continue reading.

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Considering Yoga? Consider this!

Video by Chris Lawson

Questions For Those Considering Yoga (4:25) from Chris Lawson on Vimeo.

Also check out Chris Lawson’s article/booklet “Yoga and Christianity: Are They Compatible?”

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Mysticism & Medicine: A Dangerous Prescription

by Jan Markell
Olive Tree Ministries

The East has convinced the West that the greatest thing they have to offer is Eastern-style meditation. Because some Christians lack discernment, what we have is the complete hijacking of biblical meditation in favor of the Eastern brand. This is risky because it involves blanking out your mind and, by default, allowing anything in. 

I guess this shouldn’t be shocking when a major news story of 2009 had this headline: “More U.S. Christians Mix Eastern and New Age Beliefs.”  While you may think this is being done only by liberal Christianity, think again! It crosses all  denominations. This is not just some kind of fad or an isolated phenomenon. It is building momentum month by month, and more and more people are seeing this mystical spirituality as a valid and powerful way to experience the presence of God. Many influential and respected people within Christianity view this practice as being perfectly in accordance with orthodox Christianity.  

I have already presented the story of the Bethel symposium in early November that suggested there might be a common bond or “common ground” between Christianity and Buddhism in the realm of meditation. The symposium had information about “Christian Zen” but NO information about authentic, biblical meditation.  There was no solid gospel presented in 75 minutes. Click here to continue reading.

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USA Today: “More U.S. Christians mix in ‘Eastern,’ New Age beliefs”

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
 
Going to church this Sunday? Look around.The chances are that one in five of the people there find “spiritual energy” in mountains or trees, and one in six believe in the “evil eye,” that certain people can cast curses with a look — beliefs your Christian pastor doesn’t preach.

In a Catholic church? Chances are that one in five members believe in reincarnation in a way never taught in catechism class — that you’ll be reborn in this world again and again.

Elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been widely adopted by 65% of U.S. adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released Wednesday. 

Syncretism — mashing up contradictory beliefs like Catholic rocker Madonna‘s devotion to a Kabbalah-light version of Jewish mysticism — appears on the rise. 

And, according to the survey’s other major finding, devotion to one clear faith is fading.  Click here to continue reading.

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Critics of Teaching Children Transcendental Meditation Are Threatened

LTRP Note: The following article is a follow-up to a previous article about the surviving Beatles working together with the David Lynch Foundation to raise money to teach children around the world Transcendental Meditation.

The article below states that the David Lynch Foundation threatened a group that was speaking up against teaching mysticism to children. Researcher Ray Yungen, when hearing this story, said it made perfect sense. Recently, when he was researching the top two major chain bookstores in the country (both of which begin with the letter “B”), because of the upcoming Easter religious holiday they each feature a table with the theme Faith, Religion, and Inspiration. At the first store, there were forty-six titles on the table, none of which represented evangelical Christianity. Rather there was books on Wicca, two or three by channeled entities, the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, and Marianne Williamson. In essence, mysticism was the overriding theme. In the second store, there were forty titles on this table, with only eight or nine representing evangelical Christianity. The rest represented predominately Hinduism (Autobiography of a Yogi) and Buddhism. This illustrates, like none other, that the paradigm shift Lighthouse Trails has been warning about for the past seven years is already here! Even the most hardened skeptic would have to acknowledge that something dramatic and unprecedented has taken place.

“David Lynch Foundation Bullies Anti-TM Webcast Offline”
by Watcher’s Lamp

In anticipation of the David Lynch Foundation’s star-studded benefit concert to promote Transcendental Meditation in public schools, cult recovery expert John Knapp organized a no-cost webcast, TELL TM, HANDS OFF OUR SCHOOLS! that was scheduled to take place April 2, 2009. Panelists included University of So. Carolina sociologist and researcher Dr. Barry Markovsky, and Dr. Meera Nanda, author of Prophets Facing Backward.

Here’s the details from the Knapp Family Counseling website:

Join us for a free Web Event, April 2, 8 pm EST, to learn a side of the Transcendental Meditation story they won’t tell you.

Concerned scientists question research claiming benefits. Former members allege secret agendas. Clergy are unsure if TM contradicts their religion.

In this atmosphere, the David Lynch Foundation sponsors Paul McCartney & Friends in concert April 4, 2009. Reminding many of Tom Cruise’s marketing for Scientology.

DLF states this “World Harmony Concert” will raise millions to introduce “TM/Quiet Time” into public schools.

We believe this violates the separation of Church & State. Many consider meditation valuable. Our concern is religious meditation forms do not belong in public schools.

On the eve of the webcast, General Counsel for the David Lynch Foundation contacted John Knapp and warned of potential legal action against Knapp and the panelists. Click here to read this entire article.

Critics of Teaching Children Transcendental Meditation Are Threatened

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