The Bible repeatedly warns about the danger of spiritual delusion and exhorts believers to be very careful. Consider the following:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).
“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24).
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
To be sober means to be in control of one’s mind, to be spiritually and mentally alert. It means to be on guard against danger. It is the opposite of emptying one’s mind and letting’s one’s imagination run wild and using a mantra to keep one’s thoughts at bay.
The Bible warns that demons transform themselves into angels of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15). It warns of false christs and false spirits (Mat. 24:4-5; 2 Cor. 11:3-4).
When emergents see “Jesus” in their contemplations, how can they be certain that it is the Jesus of the Bible and not a false christ or a demonic delusion? The only way to be certain is by making the Bible the central authority and carefully testing everything by it, but mysticism does not provide such certainty.
In Scripture, error is often referred to in terms of cunning deception. We are warned that wolves hide in sheep’s clothing (Mat. 7:15). See Matthew 24:11, 24; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 11:13; Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 2:4, 8; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:13.
In light of these warnings, we see the danger and folly of the contemplative practices.
Some of them, such as Centering Prayer, attempt to shut down the mind. The very title of the popular 14th century meditative book The Cloud of Unknowing refers to the practice of blotting out conscious thoughts in an attempt to enter into the depths of mindless meditation and transcendental communion with God.
“I urge you to dismiss every clever or subtle thought no matter how holy or valuable. Cover it with a thick cloud of forgetting because in this life only love can touch God as He is in Himself, never knowledge” (The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 8).
The Cloud of Unknowing instructs the contemplative practitioner to choose a one-syllable word and to repeat it as a mantra to “beat down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting” (chapter 7, p. 56).
The practitioner is instructed NOT to focus his attention on the meaning of the word or to use “logic to examine or explain this word ... nor allow yourself to ponder its ramifications” (chapter 36, p. 94).
It also says, “Have no fear of the evil one, for he will not dare come near you” (chapter 34, p. 92).
Centering Prayer involves “moving beyond thinking into a place of utter stillness” (The Sacred Way, p. 71).
Note the following excerpts from Finding Grace at the Center by Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating, which emphasize the unthinking aspect of centering prayer:
“It is best when this word is wholly interior without a definite thought or actual sound” (p. 39).
“We are quite passive. We let it happen” (p. 39).
“As it goes beyond thought, beyond image, there is nothing left by which to judge it” (p. 43).
“By turning off the ordinary flow of thoughts ... one’s world begins to change” (p. 48).
“Go on with this nothing, moved only by your love for God” (p. 49).
“The important thing is not to pay any attention to them [thoughts]. They are like the noise in the street...” (p. 51).
“Any thought will bring you out [of the deep waters of silence]” (p. 52).
“[Centering prayer] leads you to a silence beyond thought and words...” (p. 53).
“Firmly reject all clear ideas, however pious or delightful” (p. 54).
“As soon as you start to reflect, the experience is over” (p. 56).
In light of the Bible’s warnings about the great potential for spiritual deception and the necessity of constant sobermindedness, I cannot imagine a more dangerous spiritual practice than centering prayer.
When asked if it is possible for meditation to be “inviting the devil in,” James Finley replies:
“Sometimes I will tell people who express that--well why not try it? Why not try to just quietly and sincerely and silently open your heart to God and see for yourself if you sense something dangerous or bad or dark. And you might discover that the opposite’s the case” (“Experiencing God through Meditation: Interview with James Finley,” Beliefnet.com).
This counsel is unbelievably dangerous and unscriptural. The Bible warns that the devil takes on the persona of an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14-16). The only way to discern the difference between true and false spirits is to be born again and walking in the Spirit and to carefully test them by the Bible. Catholic mystics such as Finley, Thomas Merton, and William Johnston don’t do that and, in fact, don’t know how to do that.
Some of the contemplatives do give warnings about the potential for spiritual delusion, but their warnings are ineffectual.
Richard Foster warns that contemplative prayer is “entering deeply into the spiritual realm,” and he says that not everyone is ready and equipped to enter into the “all embracing silence” of contemplative prayer (p. 156). He admits that there is the possibility of meeting dark powers, but his suggested solution to this danger is exceedingly shallow and unscriptural. He recommends that practitioners ask “God to surround us with the light of His protection” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 23). He suggests the following prayer: “All dark and evil spirits must now leave” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, p. 157).
It is not enough to pray that God will protect us from spiritual danger; we must obey His Word. If we pursue practices that are contrary to Scripture, all the prayer mantras in the world will not keep us from the evil that we will experience there! To pray for protection and then walk in disobedience is not faith but presumption. In such a situation, a prayer of protection is no more effective than holding a crucifix or fingering prayer beads.
Roger Oakland wisely observes:
“I wonder if all these Christians who now practice contemplative prayer are following Foster’s advice. Whether they are or not, they have put themselves in spiritual harm’s way. Nowhere in Scripture are we required to pray a prayer of protection before we pray. The fact that Foster recognizes contemplative prayer is dangerous and opens the door to the fallen spirit world is very revealing. What is this--praying to the God of the Bible but instead reaching demons? Maybe contemplative prayer should be renamed contemplative terror. ... Foster admits that contemplative prayer is dangerous and will possibly take the participant into demonic realms, but he gives a disclaimer saying not everyone is ready for it. My question is, who is ready, and how will they know they are ready? What about all the young people in the emerging church movement? Are they ready? Or are they going into demonic altered states of consciousness completely unaware?” (Faith Undone, pp. 99, 100).
The Roman Catholic contemplative monk John Michael Talbot gives an even stronger warning about the potential danger of contemplative prayer. He says:
“IT CAN BE MOST DESTRUCTIVE IF USED UNWISELY. I CAN ALMOST PROMISE THAT THOSE WHO UNDERTAKE THIS STUDY ALONE WITHOUT PROPER GUIDANCE, AND GROUNDING IN CATHOLIC CHRISTIANITY, WILL FIND THEMSELVES QUESTIONING THEIR OWN FAITH TO THE POINT OF LOSING IT. SOME MAY FIND THEMSELVES SPIRITUALLY LOST. IT HAS HAPPENED TO MANY. For this reason, we do not take the newer members of The Brothers and Sisters of Charity through this material in any depth as part of their formation, but stick squarely to overt Catholic spirituality and prayer teachings. I would not recommend too much integration of these things without proper guidance for those newer to the Catholic or Christian faith” (Talbot, “Many Religions, One God,” Oct. 22, 1999, http://www.johnmichaeltalbot.com/Reflections/index.asp?id=135).
Talbot thus recognizes the extreme danger of contemplative practices, yet he thinks he is capable of using them without being harmed by them. He should listen to the words of Scripture: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
I AM CONVINCED THAT THOSE WHO PARTICIPATE IN SUCH THINGS OPEN THEMSELVES UP TO DEMONIC INFLUENCE.
David Hunt sounds an important warning about visualizing prayer. He gives the example of a man who visualized Jesus and was surprised when “Jesus” began to interact with him.
“I began to visualize myself as a boy of eight. ‘Now see if you can imagine Jesus appearing,’ [the seminar leader] instructed. ‘Let Him walk toward you.’ Much to my amazement Jesus moved slowly toward me out of that dark playground. He began to extend His hands toward me in a loving, accepting manner. I NO LONGER WAS CREATING THE SCENE. The figure of Christ reached over and lifted the bundle from my back. And He did so with such forcefulness that I literally sprang from the pew” (Robert L. Wise, “Healing of the Memories: A Prayer Therapy for You,” Christian Life, July 1984, pp. 63-64, quoted from Hunt, The Occult Invasion).
“That this was more than imagination is clear. The one who originally visualized the image of ‘Jesus’ was surprised when it suddenly took on a character of its own and he realized that he was no longer creating the image. This ‘Jesus’ had its own life and personality. There can be no doubt that real contact had been made with the spirit world. We may be equally certain that this being was not the real Jesus Christ. No one can call Him from the right hand of the Father in heaven to put in a personal appearance. The entity could only have been a demonic spirit masquerading as ‘Jesus’” (The Occult Invasion, “Imagination and Visualization”).
Morton Kelsey taught the use of visualization and exhorted his readers not to fear when the visualizations took on a life of their own! He quoted from Carl Jung, who communicated with a spirit guide throughout his life:
“In the same way, when you concentrate on a mental picture, IT BEGINS TO STIR, the image becomes enriched by details, it moves and develops. Each time, naturally, you mistrust it and have the idea that you have just made it up, that it is merely your own invention” (Jung, Analytical Psychology, quoted in Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence, p. 226).
Kelsey then comments:
“It is usually not too difficult for most people to start the process by concentrating on something graphic. The hard part comes in realizing THAT SOMETHING COULD MOVE UNEXPECTEDLY INSIDE US WITHOUT OUR CONSCIOUS DIRECTION. That is why it is so vital in developing imagination, meditation, or contemplation TO REALIZE THAT OUR EGO IS NOT THE ONLY FORCE OPERATING WITHIN US” (The Other Side of Silence, p. 227).
Since Kelsey didn’t believe the Bible, viewing it largely as myth, he didn’t understand that when images “stir” and “move unexpectedly” and take on a life of their own it is became one has entered the realm of the demonic.
Consider the practice of guided visualization. A leader instructs the practitioners to get comfortable and then to do something like the following:
“Imagine yourself walking down a road. It’s the path of your life. Imagine what the path looks like. Is it curvy? Or straight? Hilly? Flat? Is it wide or narrow, surrounded by trees or by fields? You look down. Is the path rocky? Sandy? Is it dirt? Maybe it’s paved. What does it feel like under your feet? And up ahead, what’s in your path? Does it look clear or are there hurdles in your way? Something is in your hands. You’ve been carrying it a long time--it’s something you brought with you, in your spirit, up to camp. Look at it. What does it look like? What does it feel like in your hands? Is it hot? Cold? Warm? Is it smooth? Prickly? Sharp? Rough? Is it heavy or light?
“Now look up ahead. A figure is moving toward you. You can’t quite make out who it is, but he seems to know you and his pace quickens as he recognizes you. Now you can see--it’s Jesus! He’s coming closer. What’s the expression on his face as he walks toward you? How do you feel? He says a word of greeting to you. What does he say? How do you feel? Do you say anything back?
“Now Jesus is standing in front of you. What does he say? Now he’s holding his hands out--he wants you to put what’s in your hands into his hands. How does it feel as the object leaves your hands? Do you say anything to Jesus?
“Now you and Jesus start to walk together--he’s holding the object of yours. As the two of you walk along, what do you talk about? Imagine the conversation” (Tony Jones, The Sacred Way, pp. 83, 84).
This is either pure fantasy and therefore of no value, or it moves into the realm of the occult. Tony Jones describes how that Jesus allegedly appeared to him during one such episode and spoke to him face to face (The Sacred Way, p. 79).
Al Dager of Media Spotlight gives a discerning warning about the extreme danger of contemplative practices:
“Unfortunately, all these exercises serve to do is open the person up to demonic influences that assuage his or her conscience with a feeling of euphoria and even ‘love’ emanating from the presence that has invaded their consciousness. This euphoria is then believed to validate that the person is on the right spiritual path. It may result in visions, out-of body experiences, stigmata, levitation, even healings and other apparent miracles.”
The guided prayer techniques are exactly the same as the techniques I was taught by disciples of the Hindu guru Paramahansa Yogananda before I was converted. We were supposed to use these techniques to view events in our past lives. The yogic meditation led me into dark realms farther and farther from the holy God of the Bible, the God who is light and in whom “is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). I repented of it completely after I came to Christ. I wrote to the Self-Realization Fellowship Society, testified to them of my Christian conversion, and asked them to drop my name from their rolls.
Emergent leader Nanette Sawyer unwittingly gives a frightful testimony along this line. She said that she is a Christian (of the liberal brand) because she was taught meditation techniques by a Hindu. She said that while “sitting in meditation, in a technique similar to what Christians call Centering Prayer, I encountered love that is unconditional, yet it called me to responsible action in my life” (An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 44). This occurred AFTER she had rejected biblical Christianity and the gospel that Jesus died for our sins (p. 43). She said that she found love and Jesus through Hindu meditation, but it was not the Jesus of the Bible nor was it the love of God as described in the Bible. It was another gospel, another Jesus, and another spirit (2 Cor. 11:4). John warned, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1), and the only sure way to try the spirits is to test them by the Bible. As for true love, John defined that, too. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
THE FACT THAT ITS PRACTITIONERS CALL CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY “DARKNESS” IS A LOUD WARNING TO THOSE WHO HAVE EARS TO HEAR.
Brennan Manning calls centering prayer a “GREAT DARKNESS” (The Signature of Jesus, p. 145) and an entire chapter of his book is devoted to “Celebrate the Darkness.” He claims that the darkness of centering prayer is caused by the human ego being broken and spiritual healing being achieved, but since the practice is not supported by Scripture that is presumption and not faith.
The sixth century Syrian monk called Dionysius the Areopagite said that asceticism and mystical practices can penetrate the mystery of God’s “DARK NO-THINGNESS.” This man has had a major influence on Catholic mysticism.
The Cloud of Unknowing uses the terms “BLIND” and “DARKNESS” and “NOTHING” repeatedly.
Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello calls centering prayer “DARK CONTEMPLATION” and descending “into THE DARKNESS” (Sadhana: A Way to God, pp. 32, 33). He says those who practice centering prayer “expose themselves, in BLIND FAITH, to THE EMPTINESS, the DARKNESS, the idleness, THE NOTHINGNESS” (p. 31).
Catholic monk William Johnston says that meditation is the art of passing from one layer to the next in an inner or downward journey to the core of the personality where dwells the great mystery called God ... WHO DWELLS IN THICK DARKNESS” (The Inner Eye of Love: Mysticism and Religion, 1981, p. 127).
God did hide Himself in thick darkness in the Old Testament era because of man’s sin and the fact that Christ’s atonement had not yet been made (Exodus 20:21), but in reality God is light and not darkness. “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It is sin that separates the sinner from God and His glorious light. The people in Moses’ day had to stand away from Mt. Sinai when God gave the Law and God wrapped Himself in darkness, because the Law of Moses can only reveal sin and cannot justify the sinner (Romans 3:19-20). The Old Testament temple signified this separation. God dwelt in the holy of holies, and no man could enter therein except the high priest and that only one time a year, on the Day of Atonement. There was a thick veil that barred the way into the holy of holies.
But when Jesus Christ came and died on the cross and shed His blood to make the perfect atonement for man’s sin, the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom, signifying that man now has free entrance into God’s very presence if he comes through faith in Christ (Mat. 27:50-51).
If a contemplative encounters darkness in his mystical journey, that darkness is not God; it is sin and the devil. The darkness of this world is the devil’s domain, but God has turned the believer “from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). He has “delivered us from the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13) and called us “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Now we are “children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5).
Pierre Teilhard described his practice of meditation as “going down into my innermost self, to THE DEEP ABYSS” (The Divine Milieu, p. 76). He said: “At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me.” At the end of the journey he found “a bottomless abyss at my feet.”
This is a loud warning to those who have ears to hear. Though the mystic believes that he is touching light and truth through contemplative practices, in reality he is fellowshipping with darkness and lies and demons. Who were these “persons” who were distinct from Teilhard himself and who did not obey him? From a biblical perspective, we have to conclude that the man was communicating with demons. This is why he taught such demonic doctrines as evolution and a “cosmic” christ that is something different than the person of Jesus.
John Michael Talbot, the popular Roman Catholic CCM musician and contemplative promoter, recommends the use of eastern religious practices such as yoga but, as we have seen, he admits that such experiences “can be most destructive if used unwisely.” He even says: “SOME MAY FIND THEMSELVES SPIRITUALLY LOST. IT HAS HAPPENED TO MANY” (Talbot, “Many Religions, One God,” Oct. 22, 1999, http://www.johnmichaeltalbot.com/Reflections/index.asp?id=135).
Anything with that type of power for evil and spiritual destruction should be avoided like the plague!
Philip St. Romain, the Catholic lay minister who wrote Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (1990), has experienced many strange things while practicing centering prayer. After “centering down” into silence, gold lights would appear and swirl in his mind, forming themselves into captivating patterns. He felt prickly sensations that would continue for days. “Wise sayings” popped into his mind as if he were “receiving messages from another.” After studying eastern religions he came to the conclusion that he was dealing with kundalini energy, and we have no doubt that he was, because mindless centering prayer brings one into the same dark realm as Hinduism’s yoga. The “inner adviser” that one encounters through centering prayer is demonic.
Even the heathen practitioners of kundalini warn 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. ‘After the awakening the devotee lives always at the mercy of Kundalini’” (p. 20). In fact, the book says that “some die of shock when Kundalini is awakened, and others become severely ill” (p. 61).
St. Romain is communing with demons and he got there, not through Hindu yoga, but through Catholic contemplative mysticism, the same kind of mysticism promoted by the Quaker Richard Foster and the Southern Baptist Rick Warren.
St. Romain has come to depend on the voice that he hears in contemplative prayer.
“I cannot make any decisions for myself without the approbation of THE INNER ADVISER, whose voice speaks so clearly in times of need” (Kundalini Energy, p. 39).
The Ayurveda Encyclopedia explains that one can encounter internal voices through yogic mediation, and the practitioner is instructed to listen to the voices and follow their counsel.
“Just as with all spiritual experiences that are out of the norm of supposed societal acceptance, THE HEARING OF INNER SOUNDS OR VOICES (nada) has generally been associated with mental illness. Spiritual counseling reassures a person that their experiences and feelings are spiritual--not abnormal. Understanding nada helps persons feel comfortable when hearing any inner sounds. ... If a sound is heard, listen to it. If many sounds exist, listen to those in the right ear. The first sound heard is to be followed. Then, the next sound heard is also to be followed” (p. 343).
I have never read a more effective formula for demon possession and spiritual delusion, and “contemplative” practices such as centering prayer and visualization and guided imagery are no different in character than Hindu yoga. In fact, many contemplative practitioners admit this.
John Michael Talbot says:
“For myself, after the moving meditations of Hinduism and Taoism, and the breath, bone-marrow, and organ-cleansing of Taoism, I move into a Buddhist seated meditation, including the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. I do all of this from my own Christian perspective...” (Come to the Quiet, p. 237).
Meditation practitioner W.E. Butler, in Lords of Light, says that mystical contemplation “brings with it a curious kind of knowing that there is somebody else there with you; you are not alone” (p. 164).
Indeed, but that “somebody else” that the unsaved meditation practitioner encounters is certainly not Almighty God.
Tony Jones admits that the practice of silence often results in spiritual oppression. He mentions “the dark night of the soul” which comes through meditation and says, “It seems one cannot pursue true silence without rather quickly coming to a place of deep, dark doubt” (The Sacred Way, pp. 41, 82). He quotes Thomas Merton as follows: “The hermit, all day and all night, beats his head against a wall of doubt. That is his contemplation” (p. 41).
We are reminded of Mother Teresa, who was called a living saint by Catholics and Protestants alike during her lifetime and is on a fast track for canonization in the Catholic Church. She practiced a very serious level of contemplative spirituality all her life, but she found only darkness. This is documented in the shocking book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta (2007), which contains statements made by the nun to her Catholic confessors and superiors over a period of more than 65 years.
In March 1953 she wrote to her confessor: “... THERE IS SUCH TERRIBLE DARKNESS WITHIN ME, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’”
Over the years she had many confessors, and she continually referred to her spiritual condition as “my darkness” and to Jesus as “the Absent One.”
In 1962 she wrote: “IF I EVER BECOME A SAINT -- I WILL SURELY BE ONE OF ‘DARKNESS,’” and again, “How cold -- how empty -- how painful is my heart. -- Holy communion -- Holy Mass -- all the holy things of spiritual life -- of the life of Christ in me -- are all so empty -- so cold -- so un-wanted” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, p. 232).
In 1979 she wrote: “THE SILENCE AND THE EMPTINESS IS SO GREAT -- that I look and do not see, -- Listen and do not hear.”
Her private statements about the spiritual darkness she encountered in contemplative prayer continued in this vein until her death, and they are the loudest possible warning about the danger of contemplative mysticism.
Contemplative practices are vehicles to bring the practitioners into contact with demons.
CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES HAVE EVEN LED SOME TO GODDESS WORSHIP.
This is what happened to SUE MONK KIDD (b. 1948), and her experience is a loud warning about flirting with Catholic mysticism.
She was raised in a Southern Baptist congregation in southwest Georgia. Her grandfather and father were Baptist deacons. Her grandmother gave devotionals at the Women’s Missionary Union, and her mother was a Sunday School teacher. Her husband was a minister who taught religion and a chaplain at a Baptist college. She was very involved in church, teaching Sunday School and attending services Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday. She describes herself as the person who would have won a contest for “Least Likely to Become a Feminist.” She was even inducted into a group of women called the Gracious Ladies, the criterion for which was that “one needed to portray certain ideals of womanhood, which included being gracious and giving of oneself unselfishly.”
But for years she had felt a spiritual emptiness and lack of contentment. Prayer was “a fairly boring mental activity” (Kidd’s foreword to Henri Nouwen’s With Open Hands, 2006, p. 10). She says,
“I had been struggling to come to terms with my life as a woman--in my culture, my marriage, my faith, my church, and deep inside myself” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 8).
She was thirty years old, had been married about 12 years, and had two children.
Instead of learning how to fill the emptiness and uncertainty with a know-so salvation and a sweet walk with Christ in the Spirit and a deeper knowledge of the Bible, she began dabbling in Catholic mysticism. A Sunday School co-worker gave her a book by the Roman Catholic monk Thomas Merton. She should have known better than to study such a book and should have been warned by the brethren, but the New Evangelical philosophy that controls the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches created an atmosphere in which the reading of a Catholic monk’s book by a Sunday School teacher was acceptable. Their thinking goes like this: Who are we to judge what other people read, and who is to say that a Roman Catholic priest might not love the Lord?
Kidd began to practice Catholic forms of contemplative spirituality and to visit Catholic retreat centers and monasteries.
“... beginning in my early thirties I’d become immersed in a journey that was rooted in contemplative spirituality. It was the spirituality of the ‘church fathers,’ of the monks I’d come to know as I made regular retreats in their monasteries. ... I thrived on solitude, routinely practicing silent meditation as taught by the monks Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating. ... For years, I’d studied Thomas Merton, John of the Cross, Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, Ignatius, Eckhart, Luther, Teilhard de Chardin, The Cloud of Unknowing, and others” (pp. 14, 15).
Of Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which she read in 1978 for the first of many times, she says,
“My experience of reading it initiated me into my first real awareness of the interior life, igniting an impulse toward being ... it caused something hidden at the core of me to flare up and become known” (Kidd’s introduction to New Seeds of Contemplation, 2007, pp. xiii, xi).
Merton communicated intimately with and was deeply affected by Mary veneration, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufism, so it is not surprising that his writings would create an appetite that could lead to goddess worship.
In The New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton made the following frightening statement that shows the great danger of Catholic mysticism:
“In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that HE NO LONGER KNOWS WHAT GOD IS” (p. 13).
What Catholic mysticism does is reject the Bible as the sole and sufficient and perfect revelation of God and tries to delve beyond the Bible, even beyond thought of any kind, and find God through mystical “intuition.” In other words, it is a rejection of the God of the Bible. It claims that God cannot be known by doctrine and cannot be described in words. He can only be experienced through mysticism. This is a blatant denial of the Bible’s claim to be the very Word of God.
This opens the practitioner to demonic delusion. He is left with no perfect objective revelation of God, no divinely-revealed authority by which he can test his mystical experiences and intuitions. He is left with an idol of his own vain imagination (Jeremiah 17:9) and a doctrine of devils.
Kidd’s own first two books were on contemplative spirituality--God’s Joyful Surprise (1988) and When the Heart Waits (1990).
The involvement in Catholic contemplative practices led her to the Mass and to other sacramental associations.
She learned dream analysis from a Jungian perspective and believed that her dreams were revelations. One recurring dream featured an old woman. Kidd concluded that this is “the Feminine Self or the voice of the feminine soul” and she was encouraged in her feminist studies by these visitations.
She rejected the doctrine that the Bible is the sole authority. In church one day the pastor proclaimed this truth, and she describes the frightful thing that happened in her heart at that moment:
“I remember a feeling rising up from a place about two inches below my navel. ... It was the purest inner knowing I had experienced, and it was shouting in me no, no, no! The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book. It is not something written by men and frozen in time. It is not from a source outside myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period. ... That day sitting in church, I believed the voice in my belly. ... The voice in my belly was the voice of the wise old woman. It was my female soul talking. And it had challenged the assumption that the Baptist Church would get me where I needed to go” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, pp. 76, 77, 78).
She began to think that the Bible is wrong in its teaching about women and that women should not take the subordinate position described therein. She came to believe that Eve might have been a hero instead of a sinner, that eating the forbidden fruit had actually opened Eve’s eyes to her true self. Kidd came to the conclusion that the snake was not evil but “symbolized female wisdom, power, and regeneration” (p. 71). She was surprised and pleased to learn that the snake is depicted as the companion of ancient goddesses, concluding that this is evidence that the Bible is wrong.
She began to delve into the worship of ancient goddesses. She traveled with a group of women to Crete where they met in a cave and sang prayers to “the Goddess Skoteini, Goddess of the Dark.” She says, “... something inside me was calling on the Goddess of the Dark, even though I didn’t know her name” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 93).
Soon she was praying to God as Mother.
“I ran my finger around the rim of the circle on the page and prayed my first prayer to a Divine Feminine presence. I said, ‘Mothergod, I have nothing to hold me. No place to be, inside or out. I need to find a container of support, a space where my journey can unfold’” (p. 94).
She came to the place where she believed that she is a goddess.
“Divine Feminine love came, wiping out all my puny ideas about love in one driving sweep. Today I remember that event for the radiant mystery it was, how I felt myself embraced by Goddess, how I felt myself in touch with the deepest thing I am. It was the moment when, as playwright and poet Ntozake Shange put it, ‘I found god in myself/ and I loved her/ I loved her fiercely’” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 136).
“I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 163).
“When I woke, my thought was that I was finally being reunited with the snake in myself--that lost and defiled symbol of feminine instinct” (p. 107).
She came to believe in the New Age doctrine that God is in all things and is the sum total of all things, that God is the evolving universe and we are a part of God.
“I thought: Maybe the Divine One is like an old African woman, carving creation out of one vast, beautiful piece of Herself. She is making a universal totem spanning fifteen billion years, an extension of her life and being, an evolutionary carving of sacred art containing humans, animals, plants, indeed, everything that is. And all of it is joined, blended, and connected, its destiny intertwined. ... In other words, the Divine coinheres all that is. ... To coinhere means to exist together, to be included in the same thing or substance” (pp. 158, 159).
She built an altar in her study and populated it with statues of goddesses, of Jesus, of a Black Madonna -- and a mirror to reflect her own image.
“Over the altar in my study I hung a lovely mirror sculpted in the shape of a crescent moon. It reminded me to honor the Divine Feminine presence in myself, the wisdom in my own soul” (p. 181).
Her book ends with the words, “She is in us.”
Sue Monk Kidd is quoted by evangelicals such as David Jeremiah (Life Wide Open), Beth Moore (When Godly People Do Ungodly Things), and Richard Foster (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home). Kidd’s endorsement is printed on the back of Dallas Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines. She wrote the foreword to the 2006 edition of Henri Nouwen’s With Open Hands and the introduction to the 2007 edition of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation.
Another example of how Catholic contemplative spirituality has led to goddess worship is the sad story of ALAN “BEDE” GRIFFITHS.
He was born in England and studied at Oxford under C.S. Lewis, who became a lifelong friend. In 1931, while at Oxford he converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism. The next year he joined the Benedictine monastery of Prinknash Abbey near Gloucester and was ordained a priest in 1940. The name Bede, meaning prayer, was given to him when he entered the Benedictine order.
He moved to India and became a Hindu monk (while remaining a Catholic priest), calling himself Swami Dayananda (bliss of compassion), going barefoot, wearing an orange-colored robe, practicing yoga, taking the tika, and refusing to eat meat.
He accepted the Hindu concept of the interrelatedness of everything and the unity of man with God.
“He loved to quote the Chandogya Upanishad (8,3) [Hindu scriptures] to show that while our body takes up only a small space on this planet, OUR MIND ENCOMPASSES THE WHOLE UNIVERSE: ‘There is this city of Brahman (the human body) and in it there is a small shrine in the form of a lotus, and within can be found a small space. This little space within the heart is as great as this vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars; fire and lightening and wind are there, and all that now is and is not yet--all that is contained within it” (Pascaline Coff, “Man, Monk, Mystic,” http://www.bedegriffiths.com/bio.htm).
He rejected the Bible’s doctrine that there is good and evil:
“I saw God in the earth, in trees, in mountains. IT LED ME TO THE CONVICTION THAT THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE GOOD OR EVIL IN THIS WORLD. We have to let go of all concepts which divide the world into good and evil, right and wrong, and begin to see the complimentarity of opposites which Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa called the coincidentia oppositorum, the ‘coincidence of opposites’” (1991, http://www.bedegriffiths.com/bio.htm).
At the end of his life he came to believe in the validity of mother goddess worship. This was the fruit of his communion with idolatry through contemplative spirituality. In 1990, after a stroke, he began to speak of the awakening of his repressed feminine.
“When he first spoke about THE BLACK MADONNA, he said his experience of her was deeply connected to the Earth-Mother, to the forms of the ancient feminine found in rocks and caves and in the different forms in nature. HE LIKENED IT TO THE EXPERIENCE OF THE FEMININE EXPRESSED IN THE HINDU CONCEPT OF SHAKTI--THE POWER OF THE DIVINE FEMININE. Later Father wrote these reflections on the Black Madonna: ‘The Black Madonna symbolizes for me the Black Power in Nature and Life, the hidden power in the womb. ... I feel it was this Power which struck me. She is cruel and destructive, but also deeply loving and nourishing’” (http://www.bedegriffiths.com/bio.htm).
Griffiths had a large influence in promoting interfaith philosophy in Roman Catholic monasteries in America, England, Australia, and Germany through his books and lectures. He wrote 12 books on interfaith dialogue, the most popular being Marriage of East and West.
Griffiths’ love for the Black Madonna is interesting. Sue Monk Kidd, too, as she traveled from Catholic contemplative practices to goddess worship, experienced a great love for the Black Madonna. Thomas Merton did the same thing in his journey into Roman Catholic mysticism and beyond to Zen Buddhism.
This is not surprising because the Madonna was originally borrowed from pagan idolatry, from the ancient mother goddess mystery religions that stemmed from Babel.
Contemplative practices are encouraging the spread of such heresies, and this is a loud warning to those who have ears to hear.
I would urge my readers in the strongest possible way not to dabble in contemplative practices. There really is no telling where it might lead. It can lead to Rome or Buddha or even to Artemis.
(For more about Sue Monk Kidd and Alan Griffiths see the chapter “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)
This article is excerpted from our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, which is available from Way of Life Literature in print and eBook editions.
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