Who Are the Desert Fathers?

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“In the early Middle Ages, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They were 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. They were the ones who first 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.’…

“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.

“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 is right. One cannot fault them for their devotion, but one certainly can for their lack of discernment.” Ray Yungen,from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed.

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