How did it become popular today inside the church for Christians to follow after Eastern Mysticism and New Age beliefs? The following events had an important effect on the church. See if you think that the Bible supports these views as presented by Thomas Keating –
Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating, a global figure in both interreligious dialogue and Christian contemplative prayer, has died on October 25 at the age of 95.
Keating was one of the chief architects of what is now known as CENTERING PRAYER.
He was well known internationally through his extensive writing, lecturing and teaching on the contemporary practice of MEDITATIVE PRAYER and on INTERFAITH discourse,
The Dalai Lama and Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating in 1991 (NCR file photo)
A statement from Contemplative Outreach, the international organization co-founded by Keating, said, “It is with deep sorrow that we share the news of the passing of our beloved teacher and spiritual father.”
Recovering Christian contemplative prayer
Largely in response to the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council’s call to religious orders for renewal, Keating and fellow Cistercian monks William Meninger and the late Basil Pennington (1931-2005), worked together in the 1970s to develop a CONTEMPLATIVE prayer method that drew on ANCIENT traditions but would be readily accessible to the modern world.
Keating’s observation that many, notably younger persons, were being attracted to EASTERN MEDITATION practices helped spur his work to recover Christian CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER.
In-house issues and the contemplative work — focused on understanding SILENCE as the language of God — reportedly created some uneasiness within the Spencer Trappist community. Some have described it as tension between MONASTIC ASCETICISM and CONTEMPLATION.
With the growing popularity of CENTERING PRAYER, Keating led retreats and workshops worldwide which eventually developed into various organizations. Out of that grew Contemplative Outreach Ltd., officially incorporated in 1986. Its website describes the network as consolidating “the three monks’ experiment.”
“In my lifetime there are few priests or teachers who have both exemplified and taught an actual transformative spirituality as well as Thomas Keating.”
“He combined good theology with good psychology without compromising either of them,” added Rohr. “We were personal friends and I will miss his company here in nearby Snowmass, but we will still have his love — and his books, which will always remain as spiritual classics.”
Centering prayer draws its name from a reference in a Thomas Merton text. The centering prayer movement has grown in popularity among various denominations. In the Evangelical Church, both Pennington and Keating have been very influential in promoting centering prayer.
BASIL PENNINGTON (1931-2005) entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance in 1951 at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. This Order is also called Trappist after the name of the location of their founding, which was the Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe.
The Order is dedicated to CONTEMPLATION. The monks dedicate themselves to SILENCE and SOLITUDE and meditation under the RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT.
This Rule teaches salvation and sanctification through asceticism. Chapter 7 of the Rule presents a 12-step ladder of virtue and asceticism that “leads to heaven.” These include repression of self-will, submission to superiors, confession, stifling laughter, and speaking only when asked a question. Under the Rule of Benedict everything is regulated, including sleeping, waking, meal times, quantity and quality of food, clothing, work, and recreation. The Rule forbids the ownership of any private property or the receipt of letters or gifts without permission of the abbot.
Pennington was a UNIVERSALIST who taught that man SHARES God’s divine nature.
“We are united with everybody else in our human nature and in our SHARING OF A DIVINE NATURE, so we are never really alone, we have all this union and communion. Getting in touch with that reality is the greatest healing. We can adopt meditative practices which enable us to begin that journey of finding our true inner selves or transcending our separate selves and leave behind some of the pain and suffering” (Interview with Mary NurrieStearns)
Pennington used language that included words such as ALL, SAME, UNITY, ONE…etc., when describing the meditative practices of all religions which can bring one into the experience of the same God:
“It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced” (Pennington, Centered Living, p. 192).
At an abbey at St. Joseph, the centering prayer movement began in the 1970s. On a similar note, Richard Foster released the first edition of CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE in 1978. Foster introduced Evangelical Christianity to this type of mystical and contemplative approach to faith. Trappist monk William Meninger found a “dusty copy” of The Cloud of Unknowing, and he and Keating and Pennington began developing a system of contemplation based on that as well as the writings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.
Observing that this type of Catholic contemplation is very similar to that of Buddhist and Hindu mystics, they invited pagan meditation masters, including Zen Buddhist Roshi Sasaki, to teach at some of the retreats.
Keating combines contemplative practices with humanistic psychology, eastern religion, and New Age, and he has been deeply influenced by his pagan associations.
He believes that man has a “false self” built up through one’s life experiences and this false self is filled with guilt because of a false sense of sin and separation from God. The guilt supposedly is not real and the false self is “an illusion.” The objective of contemplative techniques is to reach beyond this false self to the true self that is sinless and guiltless and already in union with God.
This is a UNIVERSALISTIC teaching that denies the fall and salvation through faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
“As we evolve toward self-identity and full self-consciousness, so grows the sense of responsibility, and hence guilt, and so grows the sense of alienation from the true self which has long ago been forgotten in the course of the early growth period. This whole process of growth normally takes place without the inner experience of the divine presence. That is the crucial source of the false self. … THERE’S NOTHING BASICALLY WRONG WITH YOU, it’s just that YOUR BASIC GOODNESS has been overlaid by emotional programs for happiness which are aimed at things other than the ultimate happiness which is your relationship with God” (Keating interview with Kate Olson, “Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy,” Trinity News, Trinity Church in the City, New York City, volume 42, issue 4, 1995).
A Roman Catholic reference describes Keating’s thoughtless meditative prayer in Hindu terms as being united with God in a mindless experience.
“Contemplative prayer is the opening of mind and heart, our whole being, to God, the Ultimate Mystery, BEYOND THOUGHTS, WORDS, AND EMOTIONS. It is a process of interior purification THAT LEADS, IF WE CONSENT, TO DIVINE UNION” (Keating interview with Kate Olson, “Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy,” Trinity News, Trinity Church in the City, New York City, volume 42, issue 4, 1995).
Keating describes centering prayer is “a journey into the unknown” (Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 72).
Keating wrote the foreword to Philip St. Romain’s book Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (1990). Keating says,
“Kundalini is an enormous energy for good,” but also admits that it can be harmful.
This get’s a bit weird real fast. He postulates that the meditative prayer practices of Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross might have been associated with kundalini energy. Keating concludes by saying: “This book will initiate Christians on the spiritual journey into this important but long neglected dimension of the transforming power of grace.” Transformative – really? Who is doing the transforming?
Kundalini is a Hindu concept which says that there is powerful form of psychic energy at the base of the spine that can be “awakened.” It is called the serpent – sounds occultic?
An important point to keep in mind – its own practitioners warn repeatedly about its dangers. The Ayurveda Encyclopedia says, “Those who awaken their kundalini without a guru can lose their direction in life … they can become confused or mentally imbalanced … more harm than good can arise” (p. 336). The book Aghora II: Kundalini warns many times that “indiscriminate awakening of the Kundalini is very dangerous” (p. 61). It says: “Once aroused and unboxed Kundalini is not ‘derousable’; the genie will not fit back into the bottle. … Those who ride Kundalini without knowing their destination risk losing their way” (p. 20). In fact, the book says “some die of shock when Kundalini is awakened, and others become severely ill” (p. 61). It is likened to a toddler grasping a live wire (p. 58).
Keating published eight “Guidelines for Interreligious Understanding,” including the following. Consider what a biblical response would be to the following guidelines –
* The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate reality to which they give various names: Brahman, Allah, Absolute, God, Great Spirit.
* Ultimate Reality cannot be limited to any name or concept.
* The potential for human wholeness–or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana–is present in every human person.
* Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it is regarded as personal, impersonal or beyond them both
This is UNIVERSALISM, and it is birthed out of contemplative spirituality and interfaith dialogue.
Beginning in 1982 exchanges took place between Catholic and Buddhist monks and nuns. The Buddhists visit Catholic monasteries in North America, while the Catholics visit Buddhist monasteries in Asia. This was done with the approval of the Dalai Lama, who was approached in 1981 while he was participating in a Buddhist-Catholic interfaith symposium at the Naropa Buddhist Institute in Boulder, Colorado. David Steindl-Rast and Thomas Keating also participated in the symposium. When the Catholics asked the Dalai Lama if he and his monks would be willing to participate, he replied, “Yes, but I have no money” (Pascaline Coff, Ibid.). The Catholics volunteered to pay the expenses, and the exchanges began the following year.
Yet, there are many similarities between these and New Age practices and Eastern Mysticism. Eastern religions (e.g. Buddhism) had a big influence on Thomas Keating. And it still influences the practices today. References for this material include Roman Catholic information showing how the RC Church exchanged meetings (and still do) with monks from other mystical religions (e.g. Buddhism) and share ideas, practices, teachings….etc. on contemplative meditation and similar practices.
Today, Evangelical seminaries are following suit with retreats being held by professors and their students onsite at a RC abbey or monastery. In addition to times of SILENCE & SOLITUDE, there are interactions with monks. The Evangelical Church & seminaries are training the next generation of pastors and church leaders with influences that come from these types of Eastern perspectives – a contemplative, meditative practice which includes times of SILENCE and SOLITUDE.
The Bible says several things warning us of the influence of unbiblical religions and practices that follow after these other faiths. However, today, the influence is subtle and it is sweeping through the church.
When one researches the history of contemplative prayer and various mystical practices in the churches today, much of it leads back to interactions between Roman Catholic monastic communities and Eastern religions. It gets difficult to justify any carry-over into the Christian faith with origins of these items not coming from Scripture. The deception is real and the path comes from outside of the Christian faith.