Friday, March 12, 2010

Mysticism: Spiritual Crack

Posted by Christine Pack

Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Merton once compared mystical meditation to the same powerful experience generated by mind-altering drugs.
"Isn't it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative prayer] which no one knows anything about?" (Thomas Merton, from  a letter he wrote to fellow mystic Matthew Fox)
The thing that Merton (like all mystics before him and since) didn't understand is that mystical meditation is far more dangerous than drugs. Entering into an altered state of consciousness is playing with spiritual dynamite, and not in a good way.

Monvee, the new product put out by Leadership Network, markets itself as a way for Christians to draw closer to God through something called "Spiritual Formation." Spiritual Formation, for those who don't know, is the main avenue by which mysticism is coming into today's churches.  Today's Christians who are enamoured by this Christian sounding practice try to make the distinction that there is a difference between "bad" mysticism and "good" mysticism. Obviously, to those pleading this case, "bad" mysticism would be occultic, and eastern in origin. But "good" mysticism, so the reasoning goes, would be a type of mysticism that is Christian, biblical, and necessary for spiritual development.  

But the "Christian" mysticism taught in Spiritual Formation courses - and referenced by Thomas Merton above - is not Christian, and is in fact identical to classic occultic meditation practices taught in Hinduism, Buddhism, wicca, paganism, etc.  The technique is always the same: corraling one's thoughts through the use of some device (mantra, breathing, etc.), entering into an altered state of consciousness, then "listening" to God.  This is not Christian.  This is what pagans do. And wiccans. And Buddhists. And Hindus.  And just like with crack, a Monvee user will have to come back over and over again, trying to find that elusive high, trying to get another spiritual charge.  Christians "listen" to God through the study of scripture, not through using a mantra meditation to alter their state of  consciousness so they can get a little spiritual "bump" from God.

Instead of actually drawing a person closer to God, these occultic practices generate a "counterfeit Holy Spirit experience" which "feels" very real, very profound, and very spiritual.  Actually, when people engage in these practices, what they're experiencing is spiritual...only, it is not from God.
"And no wonder, for even Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Cor 11:14). 
Beware of Spiritual Formation - and warn your brothers and sisters in Christ.  We "listen" to God not by powering down and getting a spiritual "hit" from God, but by reading and studying the Bible- Sola Scriptura.  Spiritual Formation techniques have many different names, but here are some of the most well known:
Lectio Divina 
Contemplative Prayer 
Contemplative Spirituality 
Ancient Future 
Spiritual Disciplines 
Centering Prayer 
Jesus Prayer

photo credit: daveblume via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

Secular Interview About What Mysticism Is - BBC Radio Program

What Is Mysticism? (Sola Sisters Article)

What Is Mysticism? (3-Part Series by Dr. Gary Gilley) - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5

Mystical Youth Ministry

Contemplative Monvee: Placing Experience Above Scripture

Contemplative Prayer, Spiritual Formation and the Kundalini Effect 

Mysticism: A Counterfeit Holy Spirit