By Ray Yungen
Before writing my book, A Time of Departing, I made sure I could prove, beyond a doubt, that contemplative prayer had not only slipped into the Christian faith, but also prove it is an integral part of the New Age movement. In fact, New Agers see contemplative prayer as one of their own practices. Why would both New Agers and Christians claim contemplative prayer as their own? Certainly you will not find the New Age movement promoting someone like Dwight Moody or Harry Ironside, but you will find many instances such as this in which New Age therapist Jacquelyn Small cites contemplative prayer as a gateway to the spirituality to which she belongs. She explains it as:
A form of Christian meditation, its practitioners are trained to focus on an inner symbol that quiets the mind … When practitioners become skilled at this method of meditation, they undergo a deep trance state similar to auto-hypnosis.1
The editors of the magazine New Age Journal have put together a book titled As Above, So Below—which they promote as a handbook on “Paths to Spiritual Renewal,” according to their worldview. Along with chapters on shamanism, goddess worship, and holistic health, there is a chapter devoted to contemplative prayer. In it they openly declare:
Those who have practiced Transcendental Meditation may be surprised to learn that Christianity has its own time-honored form of mantra meditation … Reliance on a mantric centering device had a long history in the mystical canon of Christianity.2
New Age author Tav Sparks lays out an array of doorways in one chapter of his book, The Wide Open Door. Again, along with a variety of occult and Eastern practices we find what Sparks calls Spiritual Christianity. He says, “The good news is that there are some forms of Christianity today that are alive with spiritual power.”3 He then uses a few contemplative prayer advocates as examples.
Perhaps the most compelling example of all is one by a prominent figure in the contemplative prayer movement itself, Tilden Edwards. Edwards is the founder of the prestigious Shalem Institute in Washington D.C.—a center which turns out spiritual directors from its training programs. In his book, Spiritual Friend, Edwards suggests those who practice contemplative prayer and have begun experiencing “spiritual unfolding” and other “unusual experiences,” should turn to a book titled Psychosynthesis in order to understand the “dynamics” at “certain stages.”4 For the Christian, there is a major problem with this advice. The book Edwards recommends is a book written by a world famous occultist, Roberto Assagioli.
These dynamics for certain stages of “spiritual unfolding” may be desirable by those in tune with occultism, but remember, Edwards is seeking to draw Christians into this form of prayer. Edwards himself puts to rest any pretense that this is truly Christian when he openly admits, “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”5
How could this mystical revolution have come about? How could this perspective have become so widespread? The answer is that over the last thirty or forty years a number of authors have struck a deep chord with millions of readers and seekers within Christendom. These writers have presented and promoted the contemplative view to the extent that many now see it as the only way to “go deeper” in the Christian life. They are the ones who prompt men and women to plunge into contemplative practice.
(To read more documentation proving that “Christian” contemplative prayer is the same as New Age meditation, read 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer free online.)
1. Jacquelyn Small, Awakening in Time (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1991), p. 261.
2. Ronald S. Miller, Editor of New Age Journal, As Above So Below (Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), p. 52.
3. Tav Sparks, The Wide Open Door (Center City, MN: Hazelden Educational Material, 1993), p. 89.
4. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press,1980), pp. 162-163.
5. Ibid., p. 18.
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)