Posts Tagged ‘shalem institute’
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
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.
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.
7. Ibid., pp. 37-38.
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I work at my local pregnancy help center as Client Services Director. I have been following you for years and am thankful for your warnings. When I first started reading your material I would have never thought I would need the information to guard my own spiritual life. Sadly I had to leave a church because leaders were involved in Mystic Catholicism. Friends have read and praised Jesus Calling and The Circle Maker.
Then mysticism began to creep in at the life-affirming ministry where I work. The pro-life ministry is indeed in a spiritual battle. Where else would Satan rather be but in the mist of something as horrific as abortion? First, some months ago, one of the major supporting organizations for pregnancy help centers suggested in an e-mail we read The Circle Maker for spiritual growth and encouragement. I immediately sent an e-mail back warning against such a suggestion. The writer actually called me the very next day to apologize. She stated she would be more careful in the future, but ended by defending the author of The Circle Maker.
More recently something more disturbing to me has occurred.
An organization called Ministry Ventures has introduced silent retreats for ministry executive directors and board members. In an audio interview, Boyd Baily mentions Henri Nouwen, praising his writings. He describes bowing down before an old monk during a silent retreat although he is not Catholic.
This breaks my heart. We in the pro-life ministry need to depend on God for victory. However, it seems, we are now pleasing the Devil.
Please can you address this issue to help me warn others in the ministry? Ministry Ventures can be found on Facebook where there are links to their writings and audios. Here is a link to the audio I spoke of.
Thank you for your help.
Darcy (not real name)
LTRP Comments: In this audio session (see link above), Ministry Ventures co-founder, Boyd Bailey, says he was introduced to Fil Anderson several years ago (8:10 min mark) while at a “silent retreat” at a monastery. Fil Anderson is the author of Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers. Lighthouse Trails wrote about Anderson’s contemplative persuasions and his being trained at the panentheistic Shalem Institute in our 2013 article “Shalem-Trained Contemplative Fil Anderson Member of Samaritan’s Purse “Spiritual Care Team.”
On the Ministry Ventures website, it lists dozens of Christians ministries which are receiving guidance and training from Ministry Ventures. MV states: “Since 1999 Ministry Ventures has been partnering with faith-based nonprofit ministries to help them go Further, Faster!” Unfortunately, if Ministry Ventures is being influenced by contemplatives, it will no doubt pass this influence onto the ministries who come to them for help. A few of these ministries listed are Baptist Medical & Dental Mission, a number of pregnancy centers, Child Evangelism Fellowship of Hawaii, Chinese Pastors Fellowship, Christian Grandparenting Network, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, (FCA), Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers, andTeen Challenge of South Florida.
To Lighthouse Trails:
My church just started advertising a “Contemplative Communion” service for Good Friday. My pastor is really into contemplative prayer, spiritual disciplines, etc. Since I’m a faithful reader of your site (and the BIBLE!), I know that this is bad news. I wanted to mention the contemplative communion thing to you folks in case you feel it might be good to warn people about it, especially this close to Easter. There’s more info on the Shalem Institute’s website.
Thanks for speaking the truth!!
There is actually a story behind the story regarding Shalem Institute’s ecumenical “Contemplative Communion” Good Friday service. Because we have followed Shalem Institute for many years now, it is no surprise to us that they are holding a contemplative service. Shalem’s contemplative roots go back to its beginning. And when we say contemplative, we mean contemplative in its “purest” form, meaning interspiritual, universalistic, New Age/New Spirituality, and so forth. But the story from our vantage point (actually a two-fold story) is that first, mainstream Christianity (United Methodist, Episcopal, etc) has stepped over that line onto the New Age playing field, and second, largely because of one key figure who was trained at Shalem, the evangelical church is right behind them. In other words, Protestant Christianity is beginning to fulfill the “prophecy” from occultist Alice Bailey, whose “spirit guide” told her that the Age of Aquarius (or Age of Awakening for mankind – to know he is Divine) would come to the world, not around the Christian church, but rather through it.
Shalem Institute, located in Washington, DC, was founded by two interspiritualists: Tilden Edwards and Gerald May. We first heard about Shalem before Lighthouse Trails even began, when we were handed an unpublished manuscript by Ray Yungen in the year 2000. In that manuscript, later to be published as A Time of Departing,Yungen revealed that Shalem Institute played a major role in bringing contemplative prayer to the Christian church. Below is an excerpt from A Time of Departing:
Ray Yungen (pp. 65-67, A Time of Departing): If the contemplative prayer movement has a major alma mater, it would be the Shalem Institute (for Spiritual Formation) located in Washington D.C. The Shalem Institute is one of the bastions of contemplative prayer in this country and has trained thousands of spiritual directors since its inception in 1972. To understand the interspiritual proclivities in the contemplative prayer movement, I invite you to take a good look at this organization. Founded by an Episcopal clergyman, the Reverend Tilden Edwards, Shalem’s mission is to spread the practice of mystical prayer to Christianity as a whole.
Dr. Edwards himself makes no effort to hide his interspiritual approach to Christianity. One example was a workshop he did titled: Buddhist Contributions to Christian Living. He promises that if one wants to live in the divine Presence, then consider that:
“Some Buddhist traditions have developed very practical ways of doing so that many Christians have found helpful . . . offering participants new perspectives and possibilities for living more fully in the radiant gracious Presence through the day.”
An individual who had a particularly large influence in the Christian counseling field is the late psychiatrist and author Gerald May. May, who passed away in 2005, was also a cofounder and teacher at the Shalem Institute. . . . one finds a direct affinity between May and Eastern mysticism.
In the front of his book, Simply Sane, he states upfront: “The lineage of searching expressed herein arises from scriptures of the world’s great religions.” He then gives thanks to two Tibetan Buddhist lamas (holy men) and a Japanese Zen Master for their “particular impact” on him.
The influence of Eastern spirituality is also depicted in his book, Addiction and Grace, which is considered to be a classic in the field of Christian recovery. In this book, May conveys that “our core . . . one’s own center . . . is where we realize our essential unity with one another with all God’s creation” (emphasis mine).
Of course the method for entering this “core” is the silence, which May makes obvious when he explains:
“I am not speaking here of meditation that involves guided imagery or scriptural reflections, but of a more contemplative practice in which one just sits still and stays awake with God.”
May is even more upfront about his Eastern metaphysical views in his book, The Awakened Heart, where he expounds on the “cosmic presence” which he explains is “pervading ourselves and all creation.”
One might defend May by saying he was just speaking of God’s omnipresence. But May was firmly in the mystical panentheistic camp. There can be no mistaking his theological underpinnings when May revealed his meaning of “cosmic presence” in such statements as:
“It is revealed in the Hindu greetings jai bhagwan and namaste that reverence the divinity that both resides within and embraces us all.”55
Like [New Ager] M. Scott Peck, May started with Zen Buddhism back in the 1970s. He was still in tune with it some thirty years later when he wrote the foreword to a book called Zen for Christians. In it, he wrote: “I wish I’d had this book when I began to explore Buddhism. It would have made things much easier.”56
Later in A Time of Departing, Yungen quotes Shalem founder Tilden Edwards as saying the following: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”
That is the very core of why Lighthouse Trails continues warning about the contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation) movement that has literally knocked the evangelical church off its feet (only she doesn’t realize it).
There are two key players within the evangelical camp who have been heavily impacted by Shalem Institute, one directly and one indirectly: Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg. Barton was trained at the Shalem Institute and later became the Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek. There, she teamed up with John Ortberg to create Willow Creek’s curriculum on Spiritual Formation. While Richard Foster was bringing contemplative prayer into the church through his 1978 classic Celebration of Discipline, Barton and Ortberg were bringing it in through a side door, the highly influential Willow Creek. Today, both Barton and Ortberg are actively doing their part in bringing about this paradigm shift to evangelical Christianity.
If one would like to see what the evangelical church is becoming, one only needs to take a look at Ruth Haley Barton today. After she left Willow Creek, she went on to start her own organization, The Transforming Center. There, her program trains thousands of pastors and church leaders how to become contemplative.
Again, from Ray Yungen:
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” [Barton] means normal ways of praying. She still uses words, but only three of them, “Here I am.” This is nothing more 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. (p. 172, A Time of Departing)
On Ruth Haley Barton’s website, it states:” Our passion is to see every church become a center for spiritual transformation.” We believe it would be profound to know how many evangelical pastors, who are holding Good Friday services this coming Friday, have been influenced by Ruth Haley Barton or Richard Foster. Most likely the majority of them have a copy of Celebration of Discipline on their bookshelves. If your pastor is one of those who does, take a look at Shalem Institute, and we believe you will be taking a look at the near future of evangelical Christianity.
A number of years ago, one of our colleagues contacted Gerald May via e-mail and asked him if he believed that Jesus was the only way to salvation. He answered emphatically, “Absolutely not!” This is the face of the Christian of the future, a future that is at the threshold right now.
Conflicting Reports: Nazarene Superintendent Says Nazarene Church Not Emergent versus Olivet Nazarene University Welcomes Emergent Mystic
QUESTION: IS THE NAZARENE CHURCH STILL PROMOTING THE EMERGING CHURCH AND CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY?
SIDE ONE: “Our General Leaders have taken a very clear stand concerning the emergent church.” – Nazarene District Superintendent
SIDE TWO: “I grew up a Roman Catholic and later became an Anglican priest (it was the closest I could get to being a Catholic priest without having to “swim the Tiber”) so there’s definitely a weird brew of influences floating around the community. I’m presently studying spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality at the Shalem Institute and beginning next year in a doctoral program at Fordham University (The Jesuit University of New York) so the voices of Merton, Rahner, Ignatius, St Francis, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill and other contemplatives find their way into our ministries and preaching as well.”-Ian Morgan Cron, speaker at Olivet Nazarene University (source)
SIDE ONE: Letter from a Nazarene District Superintendent (Used with permission):
2011 – Our [Nazarene] denomination has shown great growth in the USA this last year. I don’t know about any mass exodus over these issues. While some of our schools, including MNU have had some speakers in the past that we wouldn’t have again, it was before it was revealed that they are heretics. There have been some questions about Point Loma and NNU, but much of it has been addressed. I believe this is very much overstated. Our General Leaders have taken a very clear stand concerning the emergent church. We are very aware what is being taught at MNU and will not tolerate any of these false teachings there. Also, we just finished our Ordination interviews and the right questions were asked concerning the reality of hell and the authority of the Word of God.
The “concerned Nazarenes” tend to get their facts confused and are still harping about old news. It reminds me of the rumor that continued to circulate that Madam Murray O’Hair was trying to shut down Christian broadcasting. It was never true, made the Christians making the accusations look like fools, and continued to be spread by over zealous people long after she was dead. My thoughts about all this are simple. I don’t believe everything I read. I do realize there are some heretics out there, and we need to pay attention to what is being taught at our schools, especially our regional college, MNU. We (the DS’s) will continue to meet with the religion department and they know loud and clear what we think about all this.
SIDE TWO: Olivet Nazarene University Welcomes Emergent Mystic
If the problem with emerging/contemplative spirituality in the Nazarene denomination has been “overstated” as the Nazarene superintendent says in the above letter, then one must ask the question, why is it that Nazarene universities are STILL promoting “New” spirituality/ contemplative figures?
One year ago, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled Olivet Nazarene University 105th School Added to Lighthouse Trails Contemplative School List . That article was spawned when we received an e-mail from a concerned parent whose child was attending Olivet University who learned that the school was promoting Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen. After doing research, we placed Olivet Nazarene University on our “Contemplative School List.” This past weekend we received a phone call from a man who told us that Nazarene universities are bringing in speakers who “fly under the radar” and who are of “liberal emergent” persuasion. His case in point was the upcoming scheduled visit to Olivet by Ian Morgan Cron, of whom until this past weekend we had not heard the name. On March 13th and 14th, Cron will be speaking at the Olivet chapel service from 10am to 11am. We called Olivet and were told that Olivet’s school chaplain Mark Holcolm in the Office of Spiritual Development is responsible for chapel speakers. Cron also spoke at Olivet on September 5th and 6th 2012 at the chapel service.
Who is Ian Morgan Cron, and why is it so important to know that he is a speaker at this Nazarene university? If you have heard the names Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Jim Wallis, Marcus Borg, Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, and Henri Nouwen, and if you are familiar with the mystical emergent spirituality that these people adhere to, then you can understand the spirituality of Ian Morgan Cron (who describes himself as an “Episcopal priest, psychotherapist, and retreat guide” and says he was trained at the Shalem Prayer Institute). Not only does Cron admire and promote these teachers but he is admired and promoted by them. And not only does he admire the hard-core mystics but he teaches contemplative meditation himself. Below we are listing some documentation so you can see for yourself what Cron believes . Then you can see how ill-advised it is for a Nazarene superintendent to say that the issue of emerging coming into the Nazarene denomination is being “overstated.” It is not being overstated, and sadly, while Nazarenes are being lulled into slumber and told that “all is well,” the denomination is being increasingly influenced by a panentheistic interspiritual belief system that negates the message of the Cross. Does that sound extreme? Consider the “theologies” of some of the writers Cron adheres to: Brian McLaren calls the doctrine of Hell “false advertising” for God; Marcus Borg does not believe in the virgin birth or that Jesus is the Son of God come to die for the sins of the world; Jim Wallis, founder of SoJourner is a heralder for a liberal, marxist agenda; Phyllis Tickle says that Brian McLaren is the next Luther; Thomas Merton says that divinity dwells in all human beings and that if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship each other; Henri Nouwen reiterates Merton’s interspiritual panentheistic views in numerous instances in his own writing; Richard Rohr could be considered a Matthew Fox spiritual look-alike. Example: In Rohr’s book The Naked Now he states: “[New Age mystic] Ken Wilber is really the best teacher today . . . to give us an ‘integral spirituality.’ Pick any book of his that fascinates you, and you will know why I, as a Christian, recommend him.” (p. 153) Wilber’s “integral spirituality” includes every form of mysticism that you can imagine, including tantric sex.
While we were researching Ian Morgan Cron, we stumbled across a Twitter post he wrote on February 22nd stating that he was speaking with Dr. Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven) at Christ Church in Greenwich, CT, where Cron is currently an adjunct pastor. In 2012, Lighthouse Trails wrote 2 stories about Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who was featured on the cover of Newsweek for his near death experience that has led him to become heavily involved in New Age meditation practices. Our one story, Follow Up Story on Newsweek Article about Author of “Proof of Heaven” Admits to Practicing Deep Meditation” discusses and documents this. Alexander refers to God as “om,” a Hindu mantra. The interview between Cron and Alexander took place at Christ Church on February 23rd.
Cron is currently obtaining his doctorate at Fordham University, a Jesuit college and is a curator for a project called Courageous and Faith Series. These “conversations” to “follow Jesus” take place at Christ Church and interview figures such as Rob Bell, Jim Wallis, Anne Lamott, Gabe Lyons, Phyllis Tickle, and William Paul Young (The Shack), all of which fall in the emergent/contemplative camp.
The point is Ian Morgan Cron has surrounded and absorbed himself with meditation mystics, yet he is going to be talking to students at Olivet Nazarene University. With this kind of thing happening, we just don’t see how any Nazarene pastor or superintendent could say that concerns that we and others have are “overstated.” The superintendent who wrote the letter above said “While some of our schools . . . have had some speakers in the past that we wouldn’t have again, it was before it was revealed that they are heretics,” we must wonder if Cron would be in that category of “heretic.” Panentheism, interspirituality, altered states of consciousness, God in all – the answer seems pretty clear.
Lest one think that the Nazarenes stand alone in embracing Cron, just take a look at Cron’s speaking schedule. Places he will be speaking (or has spoken) at include: World Vision, Willow Creek, Denver Seminary, Family Fest with the Gaithers, the Dove Awards, Renovare, C3 Conference with Philip Yancey, the Calvinist Crossroads Community Church in MD, Texas Christian University, Catalyst Conference with Andy Stanley, and Worship Leaders Conference with James McDonald and Saddleback pastor Buddy Owens. He also has written for Fox News and his 2011 book Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir . . . of Sorts was published by Thomas Nelson. An earlier book was published by NavPress. All this to show that Cron has very much been accepted into evangelical Christianity.
In conclusion, in a video on YouTube, Cron states that “the future of the church lies with silence.” He is referring to the mystical state that occurs during contemplative meditation. He echoes Karl Rahner who said the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. This is where “Christianity” is heading, and the Nazarenes are helping to lead the way.
Cron joins Dr. Eben Alexander: I’m with Dr. Eben Alexander, author of”Proof of Heaven” tomorrow night. Fascinating book.— Ian Morgan Cron (@iancron) February 22, 2013 (Twitter)
From an interview on Internet Monk with Cron from 2008 -Ian: “I grew up a Roman Catholic and later became an Anglican priest (it was the closest I could get to being a Catholic priest without having to “swim the Tiber”) so there’s definitely a weird brew of influences floating around the community. I’m presently studying spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality at the Shalem Institute and beginning next year in a doctoral program at Fordham University (The Jesuit University of New York) so the voices of Merton, Rahner, Ignatius, St Francis, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill and other contemplatives find their way into our ministries and preaching as well.”-Ian Morgan Cron
[I]f you were to jump off a cliff with the intent to fly saying the word “fly, fly, fly” as you jump off and someone else jumped off the same cliff with the intent to hit the bottom saying “fall, fall, fall” as he jumps off, in either case both will hit the bottom. – Ray Yungen
If our intent is to find Jesus, is the method of going about this acceptable, even if the method might happen to be a Buddhist meditation style. Brian Edgar, former Director of Theology and Public Policy for the Australian Evangelical Alliance believes it is when he states:
Sometimes people suggest that certain methods (such as meditative, contemplative or imaginative prayer) are not Christian. But the key question is about the intention or the focus involved, rather than simply the technique. If the aim is to focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ through the presence of the Spirit then it is Christian. If a prayer is focused at something or someone else then it is not. It is really just the same as preaching. Speaking and listening can be a thoroughly spiritual exercise. But non-Christians also speak and listen, and what makes something a Christian exercise is the content rather than the method. (Edgar, Spirituality – link removed by Australian Evangelical Alliance)
Panentheist and contemplative Tilden Edwards, co-founder of Shalem Institute, would agree with Edgar when Edwards states:
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.1
But research analyst and author Ray Yungen disagrees with this idea that intent justifies or permits the method:
The premise here is that in order to really know God, mysticism must be practiced-the mind has to be shut down or turned off so that the cloud of unknowing where the presence of God awaits can be experienced. Practitioners of this method believe that if the sacred words are Christian, you will get Christ-it is simply a matter of intent even though the method is identical to occult and Eastern practices. So the question we as Christians must ask ourselves is, “Why not? Why shouldn’t we incorporate this mystical prayer practice into our lives?” The answer to this is actually found in Scripture.
While certain instances in the Bible describe mystical experiences, I see no evidence anywhere of God sanctioning man-initiated mysticism. Legitimate mystical experiences were always initiated by God to certain individuals for certain revelations and was never based on a method for the altering of consciousness. In Acts 11:5, Peter fell into a trance while in prayer. But it was God, not Peter, who initiated the trance and facilitated it. By definition, a mystic, on the other hand, is someone who uses rote methods in an attempt to tap into their inner divinity. Those who use these methods put themselves into a trance state outside of God’s sanction or protection and thus engage in an extremely dangerous approach. Besides, nowhere in the Bible are such mystical practices prescribed. For instance, the Lord, for the purpose of teaching people a respect for His holiness and His plans, instated certain ceremonies for His people (especially in the Old Testament).
Nonetheless, Scripture contains no reference in which God promoted mystical practices. The gifts of the Spirit spoken of in the New Testament were supernatural in nature but did not fall within the confines of mysticism. God bestowed spiritual gifts without the Christian practicing a method beforehand to get God’s response….
[Y]ou can call a practice by any other name, but it is the same practice, hence the same results. For example, if you were to jump off a cliff with the intent to fly saying the word “fly, fly, fly” as you jump off and someone else jumped off the same cliff with the intent to hit the bottom saying “fall, fall, fall” as he jumps off, in either case both will hit the bottom. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in contemplative prayer, although the intent may be to honor Christ. (quote from chapter 4, A Time of Departing)
Consider the following article below by Ray Yungen where he talks about Philip St. Romain and “Christian” mysticism. You will see that the contemplative mystical experience is the same as the New Age Kundalini experience and thus, a very dangerous practice in which to engage.
1. Tilden Edwards, Living in the Presence (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1987), Acknowledgement page, as cited in A Time of Departing, chapter 2.
“Christian Mysticism or Occultism?”
by Ray Yungen
Many Christians might have great difficulty accepting the assessment that what is termed Christian mysticism is, in truth, not Christian at all. They might feel this rejection is spawned by a heresy hunting mentality that completely ignores the love and devotion to God that also accompanies the mystical life. To those who are still skeptical, I suggest examining the writings of Philip St. Romain, who wrote a book about his journey into contemplative prayer called Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality. This title is revealing because kundalini is a Hindu term for the mystical power or force that underlies Hindu spirituality. In Hinduism it is commonly referred to as the serpent power.
St. Romain, a substance abuse counselor and devout Catholic lay minister, began his journey while practicing contemplative prayer or resting in the still point, as he called it. What happened to him following this practice should bear the utmost scrutiny from the evangelical community–especially from its leadership. The future course of evangelical Christianity rests on whether St. Romain’s path is just a fluke or if it is the norm for contemplative spirituality.
Having rejected mental prayer as “unproductive,”1 he embraced the prayer form that switches off the mind, creating what he described as a mental passivity. What he encountered next underscores my concern with sobering clarity:
Then came the lights! The gold swirls that I had noted on occasion began to intensify, forming themselves into patterns that both intrigued and captivated me … There were always four or five of these; as soon as one would fade, another would appear, even brighter and more intense … They came through complete passivity and only after I had been in the silence for a while.2
After this, St. Romain began to sense “wise sayings” coming into his mind and felt he was “receiving messages from another.”3 He also had physical developments occur during his periods in the silence. He would feel “prickly sensations” on the top of his head and at times it would “fizzle with energy.” This sensation would go on for days. The culmination of St. Romain’s mystical excursion was predictable–when you do Christian yoga or Christian Zen you end up with Christian samadhi as did he. He proclaimed:
No longer is there any sense of alienation, for the Ground that flows throughout my being is identical with the Reality of all creation. It seems that the mystics of all the world’s religions know something of this.4
St. Romain, logically, passed on to the next stage with:
[T]he significance of this work, perhaps, lies in its potential to contribute to the dialogue between Christianity and Eastern forms of mysticism such as are promoted in what is called New Age spirituality.5
Many people believe St. Romain is a devout Christian. He claims he loves Jesus, believes in salvation, and is a member in good standing within his church. What changed though were his sensibilities. He says:
I cannot make any decisions for myself without the approbation of the inner adviser, whose voice speaks so clearly in times of need … there is a distinct sense of an inner eye of some kind “seeing” with my two sense eyes.6
St. Romain would probably be astounded that somebody would question his claims to finding truth because of the positive nature of his mysticism. But is this “inner adviser” St. Romain has connected with really God? This is a fair question to ask especially when this prayer method has now spread within a broad spectrum of Christianity.
This practice has already spread extensively throughout the Roman Catholic and Protestant mainline churches. And it has now crossed over and is manifesting itself in conservative denominations as well–ones that have traditionally stood against the New Age. Just as a tidal wave of practical mystics has hit secular society, so it has also in the religious world. St. Romain makes one observation in his book that I take very seriously. Like his secular practical mystic brethren, he has a strong sense of mission and destiny. He predicts:
Could it be that those who make the journey to the True Self are, in some ways, demonstrating what lies in store for the entire race? What a magnificent world that would be–for the majority of people to be living out of the True Self state. Such a world cannot come, however, unless hundreds of thousands of people experience the regression of the Ego in the service of transcendence [meditation], and then restructure the culture to accommodate similar growth for millions of others. I believe we are only now beginning to recognize this task.7
A book titled Metaphysical Primer: A Guide to Understanding Metaphysics outlines the basic laws and principles of the New Age movement. First and foremost is the following principle:
You are one with the Deity, as is all of humanity â€¦ Everything is one with everything else. All that is on Earth is an expression of the One Deity and is permeated with Its energies.8
St. Romain’s statement was, “[T]he Ground [God] that flows throughout my being is identical with the Reality of all creation.”9 The two views are identical!
St. Romain came to this view through standard contemplative prayer, not Zen, not yoga but a Christian form of these practices. The lights were also a reoccurring phenomenon as one contemplative author suggested:
Christian literature makes reference to many episodes that parallel the experiences of those going a yogic way. Saint Anthony, one of the first desert mystics, frequently encountered strange and sometimes terrifying psychophysical forces while at prayer.10
Unfortunately, this experience was not confined to St. Anthony alone. This has been the common progression into mystical awareness throughout the centuries, which also means many now entering the contemplative path will follow suit. This is not just empty conjecture. One mystical trainer wrote:
[T]he classical experience of enlightenment as described by Buddhist monks, Hindu gurus, Christian mystics, Aboriginal shamans, Sufi sheiks and Hebrew kabalists is characterized by two universal elements: radiant light and an experience of oneness with creation.11
Without the mystical connection there can be no oneness. The second always follows the first. Here lies the heart of occultism.
This issue is clearly a serious one to contend with. Many individuals, using terms for themselves like spiritual director, are showing up more and more in the evangelical church. Many of them teach the message of mystical prayer.
1. Philip St. Romain, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality, Crossroad Pub. Co., 1995, p. 20-21.
2. Ibid., pp. 22-23.
3. Ibid., pp. 28-29.
4. Ibid., p. 107.
5. Ibid., pp. 48-49.
6. Ibid., p. 39.
7. Ibid., pp. 75-76.
8. Deborah Hughes and Jane Robertson-Boudreaux, Metaphysical Primer, Metagnosis Pub., 1991, p. 27.
9. St. Romain, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality, op. cit. p. 107.
10. Willigis Jager, Contemplation: A Christian Path, op. cit., p. 72.
11. Michael J. Gelb, The How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Workbook, Dell Publishing, New York, NY, 1999, p. 142.
This article is an excerpt from A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen.