The spiritual techniques which we are now seeing in the church, and labeled as Christian, originated in the religions of the east but were not made popular until the 60’s.
The 1960s did not penetrate very deeply into the small towns of the Quaboag Valley of central Massachusetts. Even so, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, couldn’t help noticing the attraction that the exotic religious practices of the East held for many young Roman Catholics. To him, as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. He invited the great Zen master Roshi Sasaki to lead retreats at the abbey. And surely, he thought, there must be a precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to laypeople. His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a dusty copy of a 14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, “The Cloud of Unknowing.” Drawing on that work, as well as the writings of the contemplatives Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, the two monks began teaching a form of Christian meditation that grew into the worldwide phenomenon known as centering prayer. Twice a day for 20 minutes, practitioners find a quiet place to sit with their eyes closed and surrender their minds to God. In more than a dozen books and in speeches and retreats that have attracted tens of thousands, Keating has spread the word to a world of “hungry people, looking for a deeper relationship with God.”
In Search of the Spiritual
If you have been taught to practice contemplative prayer in your Mennonite church, school, seminary, or retreat centre, you may be familiar with many of the names and methods mentioned in the above article. It is important to know the roots of this movement, and why it has no place in true Christianity. The following article explains more:
In the 1970’s, three mystic Roman Catholic monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating (head monk) labeled Centering Prayer as a “method of prayer, which prepares us to receive the gift of God’s presence, traditionally called contemplative prayer”. It is “…the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God… whom we know by faith is within us… Contemplative Prayer is a prayer of silence, an experience of God’s presence…” 3
The Contemplative Outreach Ltd. website featuring Thomas Keating’s teachings, provides further insight into the method of Contemplative Prayer and lists the guidelines to practice it. It states:
“This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.” “The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to Contemplative Prayer, is the indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “ “It is also inspired by writings of major contributors to the Christian contemplative heritage including John Cassian, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton.” Emphasis Added
Contemplative Prayer “Guidelines include:
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
3. When engaged with your thoughts*, return ever-so gently to the sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
*Thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections.” 4 Emphasis Added
In my research, it became clear that these Roman Catholic monks were influenced by pagan Eastern Religions. “During the twenty years (1961-1981) when Keating was abbot, St. Joseph’s held dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu representatives; and a Zen master gave a week-long retreat to the monks. A former Trappist monk who had become a Transcendental Meditation teacher also gave a session to the monks.” 5
–Contemplative Prayer: Seducing Spirits and a Doctrine of Devils
By Christine A. Narloch
The following are some more names that you will eventually be introduced to if you are being trained in unbiblical contemplative spirituality. Click on them to find out who they are, so that when you hear or read these names in your Mennonite church, school, seminary, small group, or retreat centre, you will be able to speak the truth to your deceived teachers:
The time has come when the Mennonites will not endure sound doctrine, but are gathering to themselves teachers, Buddhists, Roman Catholic monks, nuns, demonically inspired mystics and occultists, who instruct them in ways to hear what their ears want to hear.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 2 Timothy 4:3
Dear “Contemplative Christian”: Are you the victim of seducing spirits?
by Ray Yungen