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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beyond a Doubt: Contemplative Spirituality = New Age Movement

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 Francis Schaeffer or Charles Spurgeon, 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

In answer to the well-meaning but folly-laden attempts of the Desert Fathers and their spiritual descendants, I must refer to the deep observations of Charles Spurgeon who penned:

Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrine of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord’s own Word are defilements and pollutions.6

(from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed. by Ray Yungen, pp. 44-46)

(HT: Lighthouse Trails Research)

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