The apostle Paul warned:
1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
How is this possible? It will happen, and is happening, through false teachers who have infiltrated the Church.
Jesus warned us that false prophets and teachers were coming—He said they would come dressed in sheep’s clothing but would in reality be ‘ravenous wolves’ who would devour and destroy many with their demonic lies. (Matt.7:15-20)
Paul told us false teachers were coming—
Acts 20:29 (NKJV)
29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
Peter warned us they were coming—and that they would bring with them all kinds of destructive and damning heresies. (2Peter 2:1-3)
So Jesus warned us they were coming, Paul warned us they were coming, Peter warned us they were coming–Jude told us they’re here—he said that they “crept into the church unnoticed” (v.4)
How could this have happened in spite of all the warnings? It happened because even though the Church was warned she wasn’t watching.
Now in the first century the main heresy that the early church fought was Gnosticism.
The word ‘Gnostic’ comes from the Greek word ‘gnōsis’ which means ‘knowledge’.
The Gnostics prided themselves on their knowledge—spiritual knowledge that they claimed not even the apostles had when it came to understanding the “deep things of God.”
The Gnostics considered themselves wiser and more spiritual than everyone else. They were the “spiritual elite” and everyone else was below them—which was one of the main reasons this philosophy drew so many people to it because it appealed to the pride in man.
But it was also popular because the Gnostics practiced a form of mysticism which included various practices that appealed to people because it promised that they could “experience God” in a way that others who didn’t practice these things could not.
This is what made Gnosticism so attractive—it gave people things they could do to conjure up God and become one with Him. And through these mystical practices and disciplines they could gain insights and spiritual knowledge that non-Gnostics couldn’t attain to.
So if they meditated a certain way or chanted the right way they could connect with God and reach spiritual perfection—a pillar of Gnostic doctrine.
If Gnosticism was the most dangerous heresy facing the early church in Paul’s day—what do you think is the most dangerous heresy facing the church in our day?
Let me tell you what I think it is (or at least is at the top of the list)—contemplative spirituality also known as Spiritual Formation and at its core is what is known as contemplative prayer.
What is Contemplative Prayer?
Contemplative prayer is a belief system that uses ancient, eastern meditation practices to induce altered states of conscience known as ‘the silence’ (the emptying of all thought to make contact with the spirit realm possible).
There are three different ways to reach the silence:
- By repeating a word or a phrase (mantra)
- By using breathing exercises (that’s why it’s sometimes referred to as ‘breath prayers’)
- By focusing on an object
The most common way to reach the silence is by using a mantra which is why contemplative prayer is sometimes called ‘mantra meditation’.
Ray Yungen in his book, A Time of Departing, had this to say, “Since mantras are central to this type of meditation, it is important to understand the proper definition of the word. The translation from Sanskrit is man, meaning to “think”, and tra, meaning “to be liberated from.” Thus, the word literally means to escape from thought. By repeating the mantra, either aloud or silently, the word or phrase begins to lose any meaning it once had. The conscious thinking process is gradually tuned out until an altered state of consciousness is achieved”.
This kind of meditation has been practiced for centuries by those in Eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism (Transcendental Meditation), Islamic Sufism; also by those in the New Age and occult. However, over the last 50 years it has become ‘main stream’ in American culture.
How Did This Type of Eastern Mysticism Become so Popular in American Secular Culture?
Those promoting these meditation techniques knew that to keep them in the realm of the spiritual would only limit their appeal, they knew that most Americans would not get involved in Eastern religious practices since we are primarily a Judeo-Christian nation. And besides secular people wouldn’t mess with spiritual meditation practices anyway.
So they did ‘repackaged’ their product so that the focus was changed from the spiritual to the physical—in other words things like Yoga (Transcendental Meditation) and Creative Visualization were presented as adds to physical and mental health (physical fitness/stress reduction) and self-help tools to help people “tap into their full potential” and thus become more productive on the job etc.
The whole ‘Human Potential Movement’ is built on eastern mysticism and has infiltrated thousands of corporations under the guise of stress reduction and better productivity techniques.
Ray Yungen—“The health, self-help, and recovery sections of the secular bookstores are now saturated with New Age metaphysical books. Christian columnist Terry Mattingly summed up the situation brilliantly when he observed: ‘The New Age didn’t crest, it soaked in … It is now the dominant theme in commercial bookstores.’ If the self-help personal growth sections of most secular commercial bookstores were examined, the only conclusion to come away with would be that New Age mysticism is the prominent spiritual viewpoint of this country.”
If this kind of Eastern spirituality had only affected secular culture in the West it would have been bad enough—but as Paul warned that in the last days many in the Church would depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and would embrace doctrines of demons—that prophecy has now been fulfilled in our day.
This is a doctrine that’s being embraced by thousands of churches, Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian publishing houses.
How Did Contemplative Prayer a.k.a Mantra Meditation Infiltrate the Church?
Contemplative prayer got its start in the church through a group of Catholic monks known as the “Desert Fathers.”
These were a group of men who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. and wanted to live lives of total separation from the world so as to experience God in a deeper way.
So they left their towns and villages and moved out into the desert to live a monastic kind of life (the word ‘hermit’ comes from the Greek word for ‘desert’).
Later they built monasteries and lived together but initially they were individual hermits sprinkled throughout the desert seeking a deeper knowledge of God.
At some point they came in contact with other travelers from the East who taught them forms of eastern meditation that they believed would help them experience God in a new and more powerful way.
In the West, meditation means to “think deeply about something”, but in the East it means to “empty the mind in order to open it to the spirit world, leading to mystical experiences with “God.”
These Catholic hermits thought that if they could learn to practice mantra meditation techniques like contemplative prayer and learn to visualize Christ and biblical events in their imagination, the Bible would become more real and they would mature spiritually.
You say, “How could they think they could use Eastern pagan practices to help them get closer to the God of the Bible?”
The Desert Fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere—anything could be utilized to reach God. And so if mantra meditation worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus.
In other words everything back then and still today with those practicing these things in the Church is based on intent. Yes Hindus and Buddhists practice these things to make contact with their gods but as long as our intent is good, i.e. to make contact with the true and living God—it becomes sanctified and God honors it.
Well using that logic Christians could justify using Crystal Balls, Tarot Cards and Ouija Boards to make contact with God and come into a deeper relationship with Him—I mean it’s OK because our intentions are good—right? WRONG!!
Wanting to draw near to God is a good thing—but it must be gone about in the right way. Good intentions are not enough—the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
David had good intentions when he wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem but he didn’t follow God’s instructions for transporting the Ark and even thought his intentions were good the results were bad (Uzzah died). The moral of the story is, it’s good to want to do a good thing for God but it must be done in the right way–His way if it’s going to be blessed and not end in disaster!
“So what happened with these Eastern meditation techniques among these Catholic hermits?”
Roger Oakland in his book “Faith Undone” writes, “This practice remained obscure for many centuries and didn’t become mainstream until about fifty years ago when a Catholic monk who was also a world-renowned Trappist monk named Thomas Merton brought it out of the convents and monasteries and presented it to a much larger audience. Catholic priest and mystic Henri Nouwen further expanded this interest to Protestant and even Evangelical circles. Others who played a vital role in the propagation of mystical prayer were: Matthew Fox, Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating. Pennington’s book alone, Centering Prayer, sold over a million copies.”
Thomas Merton eventually came to believe and taught that the realm reached during mantra meditation is the same no matter what religion you belong to (just like spokes on a wheel all leading to a central hub—all religions lead to the same place and connect all of us with the same “God”).
This is the foundational belief that Panentheism (God is in all) is built upon which almost everyone who practices contemplative prayer for any length of time eventually comes to believe in.
One of the most influential and well-known evangelical Christians in support of contemplative prayer is Richard Foster. His book, Celebration of Discipline, is considered a “Christian classic”. It has sold more than two million copies since it first came out in 1978 and is still going strong today.
Christianity Today named it number eleven in the “Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals” and the readers of that magazine voted it the third most influential book after the Bible!
Richard Foster is a big fan of Thomas Merton and praised him as being right up there with Zen Masters from the East as “an authority on meditative or contemplative prayer”.
Foster is another one who believes that as long as our intent is to make contact with the God of the Bible then contemplative prayer becomes a ‘sanctified tool’ to help us draw close to Him.
Listen to some of what Richard Foster teaches Christians to do to experience “God”—Foster in, Celebration of Discipline, he writes, “In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body…Reassure your body that you will return….Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in his presence. Listen quietly [to] any instruction given” (p. 27).
This is astral projection and is the major occult technique used by shamans (witch doctors) to contact their spirit guides.
Yet Foster claims that it will allow you to contact Jesus: “Take a single event [from Scripture]. Seek to live the experience…apply all your senses to your task…represent to your imagination the whole of the mystery…as an active participant….You can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by His voice…touched by His healing power.…Jesus Christ will actually come to you” (p. 26).
Not so! You cannot summons Jesus Christ from the right hand of the Father to appear before you at your beckon call—but any demon will be happy to pretend to be Jesus if you engage in non-biblical occult practices like visualization (which is what Foster is promoting).
If God gives you a vision it’s called revelation, but if you try to conjure one up it’s called divination—and that is strictly forbidden by God in His Word.
In the occult visualization is the quickest way to pick up a spirit guide.
Author Dave Hunt said, “The growing belief that visual images created in the imagination open the door to a closer walk with God is part of an epidemic of extra biblical teaching that is being accepted in the church today. The door is being opened to demonic delusion, and it is astounding how many Christians are walking through it.”
Jesus said, “Father Your Word, (not “Your image, picture or visual representation”), but Your Word is truth”.
If this kind of prayer is so good and of God then why does it come with a “warning label”? Richard Foster writes a curious warning about this practice in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home: “I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance… While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.”
Brian Flynn an ex-New Age medium and now evangelical Christian responds—“Then why do it, Mr. Foster? Why would God put me in a position to fend for myself in this unknown spiritual realm surrounded by spiritual beings that are not in cooperation with God and his way? He would not. “What would martyrs of the faith who departed from Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism say to us if they could speak of our intermingling Christianity with Eastern mystical practices? As a former New Age medium, I know the difference between Eastern meditative practices and biblical Christian prayer. Sadly, too many in the Christian community do not.’”
Roger Oakland in his book, Faith Undone, ends the chapter entitled “When West Meets East” with these words of warning, “Foster’s implication that some contemplative prayer is safe is terribly mistaken. No contemplative prayer is biblical or safe—even the most “mature” of the Christian mystical leaders proved susceptible to its demonic pull. Thomas Merton at the end of his life said he wanted to be the best Buddhist he could be. Henri Nouwen at the end of his life said all paths lead to God. This was the spiritual fruit of their lives after years of practicing mystical prayer.”
And yet many in the Church continue to allow themselves to be led down a path of deception by embracing these teachers and their teachings.
How Do Christians and Church Leaders Justify Practicing Contemplative Prayer?
Again much of it is justified based on intent and results—in other words since their intent is good and these things seem to give them an experience with God and a sense of well-being, peace, joy and even feelings of euphoria—therefore, many reason, “If it feels good and the results are positive it must be from God.”
Brian Flynn—“As a former practitioner of TM, I know that feeling; it is very empowering and seductive. After my psychic meditations, I felt tremendously euphoric. What makes contemplative prayer so dangerous is that Christian practitioners believe this power and euphoria come from God. And they believe the voice they hear is the voice of God. They are mistaken, and Scripture clearly warns us that just because something appears good, does not necessarily mean it is: “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2Cor.11:14-15)”.
Can Mantra Meditation Be Justified From Scripture?
Proponents of this kind of meditation try to justify it from Scripture by saying that the Bible talks about meditation in many different places such as—”This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night…” (Joshua 1:8)
The word translated ‘meditate’ is a Hebrew word that means “to chew the cud” and simply refers to the practice of “chewing on something God said so as to extract every ounce of spiritual nourishment and meaning from it”. It doesn’t mean to go into an altered state of consciousness by emptying the mind of all thought so as to make contact with the spirit realm.
They justify entering into The Silence as a way to know God by quoting Ps.46:10—“Be still and know that I am God…” The Hebrew for “be still” is a word that means to “stop activity.”God is telling us to “stop running around trying to fix our problems. Be still and let Me show you that as God nothing is hard for Me to solve”.
Nowhere in the Bible did any of God’s people in either the Old or New Testaments ever practice let alone teach contemplative prayer.
While it is absolutely certain no reference can be found anywhere in Scripture that supports the practice of mantra-style contemplative prayer, there is a reference that actually condemns it, and it is Jesus Christ who says: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matt.6:7)
In the Greek “vain repetitions” means “meaningless, repetitive babbling” which Jesus told us not to do when we pray—the very thing mantra meditation is built upon.
Brian Flynn—“Jesus told us not to use vain repetitions as .. the heathen do. While it is certainly true the Desert Fathers experimented with contemplative prayer, what is not true is that it originated with them. In actuality, mantra meditation was practices by pagan religions (including Hinduism and Buddhism), centuries before Christ was born. So it would only make sense that Jesus knew about this form of prayer and may very well have been referring to it directly.”
What are the Consequences of Practicing Contemplative Prayer?
Some of the physical effects for those who practice mantra meditation include seeing flashing lights and feeling strange sensations like tingling on the top of their head. But some of the more severe consequences would include hearing voices and experiencing a change in personality.
Cassandra Batya, who as a Christian, decided to practice contemplative meditation because she wanted to feel a close relationship with God. However, the more she got into contemplative spirituality, the worse things got. Listen to excerpts of her candid and compelling testimony:
“My spiritual focus and prayer became less about Jesus, and more about mystical spiritual highs and insights. Contemplative spirituality became my drug. During prayer, a voice in the back of my head would tell me I was a witch. One night, my thumb/hand began to shake on its own during prayer. By nature, I am a kind and loving person and have been told such, but I started to have hateful and venomous mood swings and became at moments verbally abusive to my loved ones. I was surprised at my own behavior and language.”
Eventually, she realized she had entered a dangerous demonic realm. Immediately, she began praying for guidance: “I repented and renounced all contemplative practices, inner/esoteric spirituality, and mysticism. Actually, I wept aloud, fell on my knees, and begged God’s forgiveness. I threw out all books and music that dealt with mystics, mysticism, and esoteric/inner/contemplative spirituality and anything else related to it. I immediately knew I had done the right thing. The atmosphere in my home changed, and for the first time in a long time, when I prayed to God I felt a peace and joy in my heart, and not great fear or terror.”
One of the major spiritual results of practicing this kind of meditation is Panentheism and Interspirituality.
Panentheism means that “God is in everything”.
Contemplative prayer is giving Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Islamists the same experiences leading all who practice mantra meditation to believe that the same “God” is in all of these faiths.
The inevitable result is then interspirituality—“a uniting of the world’s religions through common ground”. The term means to “break down the barriers that separate religions”.
One leader in the contemplative movement said that the only way to do this was through contemplative prayer— “All these religious traditions [Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, etc.] emerge out of mystical experience, and mystical experience means a direct knowledge of and relationship with the Divine, God, or Boundless Consciousness. One can almost say that the real religion of humankind isn’t religion at all, but rather it is mystical spirituality.”
These practices are preparing people for the one world religion under the False Prophet and Antichrist.
In his foreword to Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing, Ron Comer says: “By using Eastern mystical techniques such as the repetition of words (mantras) and the emptying of the mind, professing Christians are testifying to powerful experiences in the spiritual realms. In Christian circles these techniques are being called: the silence, breath prayer, centering prayer, or contemplative prayer. Through these mystical prayer practices the church today has opened its door to a subtle abandonment of the gospel…Like two rivers merging together, Eastern and Western religious thought are joining together, thus gaining momentum towards a one world religion in which all paths lead to God.”
We are living in the Last Days and the return of Jesus Christ is getting very near. The world is being prepared for the coming of the Antichrist like never before. As Christians we must awake out of sleep and become ever vigilant against the devil’s deceptions. We must earnestly contend for the faith and fight the good fight against false teachers and the false doctrine they bring so that we might hear our Lord and Savior say to us someday, “Well done good and faithful servants”.
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” (Martin Luther)
May the Lord richly bless you as you walk with Him (and fight for Him) day by day.