Prof. Johan Malan, University of Limpopo, South Africa
There is a widespread resurgence of Eastern meditation among nominal Christians in the West. In many churches and other Christian circles, prayer is increasingly replaced by meditation, which is also described as contemplation, centring prayers, or quiet prayers. Meditation is often accompanied by Yoga relaxation exercises and relaxed breathing in order to promote a mental shift from the rational left brain to the intuitive right brain.
The basic objective with meditation – whether it be Hindu-based Transcendental Meditation (TM), Buddhist, Islamic or ‘Christian’ meditation – is to acquire a situation of complete rest in your body, soul and spirit, thereby eliminating stress and facilitating contact with deeper, more creative levels of your consciousness. Rational thinking is intentionally suppressed and switched off while you transcend to mystical spheres to make contact with your deeper self. According to Naomi Humphrey (Meditation – the inner way) meditation helps to deliver you from spiritual and mental bondage, and also from fear, by enabling you to transcend to a new perception of reality. The result is a holistic way of life in which spirit and matter become integrated.
Meditation has an inner focus. You are not searching for a God who is outside of you, but learn to overcome the barrier of domination by human thoughts to discover God deep within yourself. This is an Eastern practice aimed at self-deification. A Roman Catholic priest and practitioner of meditation, Adrian B. Smith, says in his book, TM – an aid to Christian growth, that he accepts this Eastern concept of God: "The great religions of the East are more accustomed to seeking the God who is within, both within the cosmos and within one's own depth. This leads more easily to an interior form of prayer – or centring prayer… The Judeo-Christian tradition looks more often to the God without… TM can, by developing a consciousness of the depth within us, lead us to greater interiority – to an experience of God's presence deep within us." According to him, meditation also leads to greater unity and harmony in the world: "People who are enlightened experience a new harmony with other people and with the cosmic world. They have entered a new era of harmonious relationships which is one of the fruits of the Kingdom."
During daily meditation, usually two sessions of 15 to 20 minutes in a seated position with your eyes closed, a mantra is used to obtain an altered state of consciousness. A mantra is a short phrase or a single word which is repeated over and over until your rational thoughts have been put to rest to allow for a deep spiritual consciousness. The manta is repeated until your own thoughts fade away and are replaced by a mystical experience in which you receive inspirational suggestions (brainwaves) and thoughts of an unknown origin.
Meditation has not only entered the Roman Catholic Church but also many Protestant churches. Dr. Willem Nicol strongly promotes this practice in the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) and has written extensively on the subject. In one of his books (Stem in die stilte, p.8) he admits the Eastern origin of this practice. He says: “In the West, Buddhist meditation has obtained a large following, mainly through Zen Buddhism. Certain Christian teachers of meditation, such as Thomas Merton, are in favour of a style of meditation which is closely related to Zen in that they intensely strive for inner emptiness. Yoga was developed in India, and is a strict method of concentration and turning to yourself. The purpose is the liberation of the spirit from domination by the body. In Europe, Yoga and Zen are even used in Protestant churches for relaxation. In South Africa, the most well-known form of Eastern meditation is TM. It was developed from Yoga and popularised in the West by Maharishi. This is a natural technique and the people who practise it do not need to have any particular faith.”
‘Christian’ meditation follows exactly the same route as all other forms of meditation, which is a transition from the left brain to the right brain. Dr. Nicol (ibid p.73) says: “If you are a beginner, you must take drastic measures to suppress you intellect.” The objective with this exercise is to quiet the rational left brain and to awaken the perceptive faculties of your intuitive right brain. That opens the way to the unlocking of a deep level of consciousness where psychic and extrasensory perception can be done. Followers of the Eastern religions have, for many centuries, been dedicated to obtain mystical, right brain experiences, while those in the West mainly occupied themselves with rational thinking. Meditation is the most important technique to help a person transcend to the unknown, inner world. It serves the double purpose to put the left brain to rest by relaxation exercises, and to experience the intuitive consciousness of the right brain. For all those who practise meditation, regardless from which religious background, this experience is very important as the meditation exercise would have failed without it.
Dr. Nicol is still involved with instruction on meditation at various congregations. In September 2004, the DRC, Eldoraigne, organised a conference on “Mystical Spirituality.” Among the speakers were Dr. Nicol, Vr. Strydom of the Roman Catholic Church and Bishop Marcos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. The emphasis was on meditation.
In all the meditation schools it is admitted that the thoughts emerging from deep, intuitive levels of the right brain may be good or bad. Dr. Nicol (ibid p. 97) says: “If one waits for thoughts, your own subconscious mind, or even evil powers, may talk to you.” He therefore openly admits that meditation potentially opens a channel of communication to demonic beings.
The New Age author, Dick Sutphen (Finding your answers within, p. 45-47) refers to good and evil spirits that can influence a person during meditation. The humanistic psychologist and mystic, Marilee Zdenek (The right-brain experience, p. 20) says that, in their intuitive consciousness, people may be guided by goddesses of fortune or they may be afflicted by dragons. She warns against the latter but strongly recommends the former. However, both categories of spiritual beings are unacceptable to Christians. A goddesses of fortune, or a spirit guide, is nothing else than a demon who camouflages himself as a messenger from God (2 Cor. 11:14).
It is becoming increasingly obvious that mysticism is one of the most important areas in which the different religions of the world are meeting one another to foster ties of greater unity. Meditation is a major gateway which offers access to the mystical world. It first affords a transition from the rational left brain to the intuitive right brain, and then allows a person to descend through various levels of consciousness until a cosmic consciousness is experienced. On this level the discovery is made that all faiths worship the same God, who is the Universal Source of Wisdom.
Dr. Celia Kourie, a Roman Catholic theologist of the University of South Africa, also strongly propagates the idea of mysticism. She says: "Mysticism is a very deep phenomenon which cuts across all religions. It was neglected as a result of the dryness that crept into Reformed churches." She believes that all religions offer mystical experiences of unity with God, and that the Spirit of the one God works through all faiths.
In 1987, the Anglican Church in South Africa established the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Cape Town with the purpose of discovering God in a new way, and also to deepen the relationship with Him through meditation and contemplation. Various courses and retreats are offered by the Centre, among others, on “the inward journey.” That is a journey of mystical unification with God. The founder of the Centre was an Anglican priest, Francis Cull, who was the spiritual mentor of Archbishop Tutu.
According to an article, Silence, the mother tongue of God in Die Burger of 12.03.2005, Dr. Carel Anthonissen, Dutch Reformed pastor of the Student Congregation in Stellenbosch, was recently appointed as the first Afrikaans-speaking, Dutch Reformed director of the Centre. He says: “Retreats (periods of seclusion for silence and meditation) are not well known in the Dutch Reformed Church, but in the Catholic and Anglican Churches this practice is regarded as an integral part of the Christian life… In the Centre, we are serious about the mystical tradition in Christianity.”
However, Dr. Anthonissen admits that mystical experiences are not strictly associated with faith or other revelations of God. He says: “The contemplative tradition also works with the idea that God has a dark and mysterious side – that faith cannot explain everything. There are sides of God to which you are speechless, from your darkness to God’s darkness.” On communication with God he says: “Silence is actually the mother tongue of God. It is a space in which God can come close to you, and you can more intensely experience Him.”
A course in Benedictine Meditation (a Catholic practice) is advertised in a newsletter of the Centre. The activities for the following year include, among others, mornings of contemplation, quiet days, inward journeys, and meditative walks. Members of different denominations, also from the townships, attend the meetings of the Centre. It will be the task of Dr. Anthonissen to introduce the activities of the Centre to Afrikaans congregations. His first course was at the DRC congregation Sonstraal in Durbanville.
The activities of the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Cape Town are only the tip of the iceberg as they form part of a world-wide process of religious compromise with the East that currently occurs within ‘Christian’ churches. In his foreword to Ray Yungen’s book, A time for 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, centring 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.”
In his book, Ray Yungen further explains this concept: “For many years during my research I would come across the term contemplative prayer. Immediately I disregarded it as having any New Age connotation because I thought it meant to ponder while praying – which is the normal association with the term. But in the New Age field, things may not always be what they seem to untrained ears. What contemplative prayer actually entails is described very clearly by William Johnston in his book: Letters to contemplatives: ‘When one enters the deeper layers of contemplative prayer one sooner or later experiences the void, the emptiness, the nothingness, the profound mystical silence, an absence of thought.’ To my dismay I discovered that this mystical silence is accomplished by the same methods used by the New Agers to achieve their silence – the mantra and the breath! Contemplative prayer is the repetition of what is referred to as a prayer word or sacred word until one reaches a state where the soul, rather than the mind, contemplates God... Contemplative prayer may sound exotic and appealing, but it is Biblically groundless... Those who use this method put themselves in a trance without God’s sanction. This approach is extremely dangerous. Nowhere in the Bible is such a mystical practice prescribed... Nowhere in the Bible is the silence referred to as the power of God, but faith in the message of the cross most certainly is! (1 Cor. 1:18).”
The Roman Catholic Church officially endorses contemplative prayer. Ray Yungen says: “The new catechism [of the Catholic Church] firmly states: “Contemplative prayer is hearing the word of God... contemplative prayer is silence.” Church members therefore do not have to study the Bible to learn the will of God as they can rely on mystical thoughts that occur during meditative trances. In this way the god of this age (Satan) blinds the minds of people by silencing them, “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:4). A person whose mind has been silenced and thus blinded by the devil, does not have enlightened eyes of understanding (Eph. 1:18) and consequently does not use his common sense to learn God’s will by reading or listening to His Word. He eliminates his mind and the Bible from his learning process and resorts to meditation to contact a dark and unknown god who will teach him through psychic brainwaves.
Those who meditate often have intense mystical experiences and even see lights approaching them. Ray Yungen says the following about the Catholic priest, Philip St. Romain: “Having rejected mental prayers as unproductive, he embraced the prayer form that switches off the mind, creating what he described as mental passivity. What he encountered next underscores my concern with sobering clarity: ‘Then came the lights! The gold swirls that I had noted on occasion began to intensify, forming themselves into patterns that both intrigued and captivated me. There were always four or five of these; as soon as one would fade, another would appear, even brighter and more intense. They came through complete passivity and only after I had been in silence for a while’. After this, St. Romain began to sense wise sayings coming into his mind. He also had physical developments occur during his periods in the silence. He would feel prickly sensations on the top of his head... He revealed: ‘I cannot make any decisions for myself without the approbation of the inner adviser, whose voice speaks so clearly in times of need. There is a distinct sense of an inner eye of some kind seeing with my own eyes.’ Is this inner adviser St. Romain has connected with really God? ... This practice has already spread extensively throughout the Roman Catholic and Protestant mainline churches.”
Evidence has also been found that people who have mystical religious experiences eventually develop a pantheistic concept of God. That is not the belief in a personal God in heaven, but in an impersonal god who is everywhere and in all things. According to this view there is an element of divinity in every person, and this “god from within” must be discovered and developed through meditation. Yungen says: “In a recent opinion poll it was revealed that 84% of those questioned in the USA believed God to be everywhere and in everything rather than someone somewhere. This means pantheism is now the more popular view of God. If true, then a high percentage of evangelical Christians in America already lean towards a pantheistic view of God and without realising it devalues the very source of their salvation.”
The important question that must be answered is whether meditation, which is also described as contemplation (quiet, mystical thoughts about God), can, from a biblical perspective, be regarded as a legitimate form of prayer. Is there any relationship between biblical prayers and Eastern-type meditation, and what meaning does the Bible assign to the word meditation?
Biblical prayers are spiritual thoughts, desires and petitions that are clearly expressed in words. The supplicant’s rational mind must not be in a passive state, as true prayer requires a sober and active level of consciousness in which carefully considered words are spoken to God. It does not take the form of a vain repetition of words (mantras) or mystical thoughts that are foreign to the Bible. The Lord Jesus says: “But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do” (Matt. 6:7).
Prayer is an act of faith (Jas. 1:6; Heb. 11:6). It is not, as Dr. Anthonissen says, a matter of faith not being able to explain everything, and that we consequently have to rely on mystical revelations of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). When we hear or read the Word of God, the Holy Spirit enables us to appropriate the promises in the Bible in faith. A sense-perception of the Word requires that we are in sound and sober senses. We can then spiritually react on that information by approaching God in prayer and accepting His promises in faith.
Meditating on the Word. The Bible does not equate prayer with mystical meditation, but explains meditation quite differently as the sober and conscious contemplation of God’s Word (Ps. 1:2). Quiet times of meditation are therefore not prayers without words but the contemplation of God’s Word. It is an interaction between the mind and faith of a believer in which Scriptures are thoughtfully examined, probed and considered. It is definitely not an activity in which I have to switch off my mind and think about nothing. Before I can meditate on the Word I must first be informed on it by reading it, while realising that only the Holy Spirit can help me to understand what I have read: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). The discovering of these truths must not lead to mystical meditation sessions but to praise and thanksgiving to God (Ps. 119:62). I should memorise these promises and believe in them (Ps. 119:93). They must be such a source of spiritual blessing that I will meditate on them all day and even at night (Ps. 119:97, 148; Ps. 1:2). In this way I will experience the presence of the Lord and be instructed by Him through the Holy Spirit (Ps. 119:135; John 16:13-14). In this spiritual experience, Bible study, meditating on the Word, prayer and faith in the Lord Jesus who fulfils these promises (1 Cor. 1:20) all play a vital role. Silence is not God’s mother tongue, as He uses words to communicate with us: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). God is exalted far above human beings, but through His Word and His Spirit He speaks to our hearts. Eastern meditation, which also disguises itself as ‘Christian meditation,’ is an inward journey in which people empty themselves of all thoughts while searching for God without using any words, thereby also negating God’s own Word. That is a heathen practice, which should be utterly rejected.
The glory of God. When we approach the Father in prayer through Jesus Christ He is revealed to us in all His glory. In the Lord Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). Although God is unsearchable there is no dark and mysterious side to Him as experienced by some people during meditation. They even receive evil thoughts when they empty themselves and think about nothing, which is clear proof of the fact that Eastern meditation opens a doorway through which demons can sneak in. They disguise themselves as angels of light, but the person who meditates has no discernment when he is in an altered state of consciousness. His rational mind has been switched off, resulting in his total inability to think analytically and to test any thoughts in the light of his knowledge of Scripture, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He has exposed himself to impressions and ideas that may have disastrous consequences in his spiritual life, as meditation usually leads to a blind love for all people of all religious convictions. Multireligious ecumenical ties are encouraged by this disposition, which practically amounts to the denial of Jesus Christ as the only Saviour of humanity. Human beings then glory in themselves.
Meditation is an antichristian form of self-deliverance. During meditation, a person descends to deeper levels of his consciousness where he discovers the psychic powers and spiritual gifts to heal himself and solve his problems. He meets “the god within” who is wrongly regarded as the God of the Bible. It is this “god” who is dark and mysterious, and may leave evil impressions in the subconscious mind of the person. This “god” is the devil who works through the fallen nature of human beings and shows himself to be God. Even if this “god” within you pretends to be Jesus, it is “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) who manifests himself in a mystical way. He may reveal himself as the cosmic Jesus of all faiths and offer his blessings to all who are ecumenically minded.
Meditation promotes unity among all people and all faiths. A unified, cosmic perception of humanity is unbiblical. The Lord has determined boundaries between the nations (Acts 17:26) and also expects of us to live holy lives in which we set ourselves apart from all other religions (2 Cor. 6:14-18). When we remove the God-given boundaries among nations to promote a new world order, and also engage in ecumenical ties with all churches and religions, we are pursuing a humanistic form of unity. That can only lead to chaos and the continued subversion of evangelical Christianity. Conformity to the present evil world should be resisted (Gal. 1:4). The world is hostile towards evangelical Christians (John 15:9) because the world and its institutions are lying in the sway of the devil (1 John 5:19). Small wonder that the unsaved world and all its religions also have forms of worship and prayer that are foreign to true Christianity.
Let us reject all mystical practices and manifestations. Let us worship God through the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ while we observe a holy walk before Him (1 John 3:22), entertain sober thoughts as we gird up the loins of our mind (1 Pet. 1:13), accept accountability to God for everything that we do and think (Rom. 14:12; Matt. 12:36), and pray prayers that are in accordance with His holy will (1 John 5:14).
Brian Flynn, the director of One Truth Ministries in Minneapolis, says: “Eleven years ago I walked away from the life of a New Age medium and gave my heart to Jesus Christ. As a medium, I performed psychic readings and, through meditative practices, contacted spirit guides. At the time, I did not realize these guides were demonic. Now as a Christian, I no longer have to chant, go into altered states of consciousness or perform rituals to find the peace and truth I found through the Lord and his Word.
“Three years ago, I read a book called A Time of Departing, which claimed that many Christian leaders were teaching a mantra-meditation technique. You can imagine my shock when I discovered the New Age had infiltrated Christianity through such a technique, a practice called contemplative prayer. The technique involves repeating a word or phrase over and over until reaching what is called the silence. Sometimes, instead of a word or phrase, the breath is focused upon, thus the name breath prayers. The goal? Reaching an altered state of consciousness in order to communicate with God.
“Contemplating God's Word is a good thing. But the contemplative prayer I speak of is not. First practised by monks centuries ago, it died out and did not re-enter again until the 1960s when Catholic monks, Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton, decided to introduce the practice to mainstream Christianity. Richard Foster, a supporter of contemplative prayer, 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.’
“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.
“The Achilles' heel for Mr. Foster is that there is no scriptural support for contemplative prayer other than this warning, ‘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. Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him’ (Matt. 6:7-8).
“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” (end of quotation).