Emerging Mysticism

This entry is part 16 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

Emerging Mysticism

In preparation for the next post a short introduction of certain mystical practices is necessary.  It will be contended that a particular worship practice of the Emergent mainstream is deeply rooted in pagan traditions which recently have been described categorically as “New Age” thought and practice.  Thus, an examination of these practices is a good preparatory exercise.  This section will make no attempt to connect Emergent practices to New Age, as that correlation will follow.  Rather, this side-bar fragment will simply identify and describe a mystic principle from pagan traditions which will later be demonstrated to have been adopted by Emergent tradition.

New Age, much like the Emergent movement, is a decentralized spiritual movement rather than an organized religion.  New Age is not a singular vein of spiritual practice, but a syncretism of numerous spiritual practices.  In New Age there is no holy text, no creeds, no central organization, clergy or membership.  As a result, many New Agers are unaware that others categorize them into this classification.  I have had extensive conversations with New Age proponents, in fact, who had never heard of the term.  On one occasion a man confessed, “I don’t know what you call what I believe,” as he systematically described his mystic belief system to me.  To that end, it should be understood that the term can be very difficult to apply to a specific set of practices.  Some practices which could be termed “New Age” are also used in other spiritual traditions, as New Age is only the most modern categorization of a most ancient set of practices.

The history of this movement is extensive, and beyond the scope of this work.  However, by the 1970′s this modern designation of “New Age” had a wide-spread use as the description of this spiritual movement.  The roots of the early movement stem largely from the Eastern mysticism practices of transcendental meditation, which is the core thread of consistency in the movement.

Rather than to attempt to identify the myriads of strange practices which encompass New Age mysticism in its various nuances, this work will focus on the central unifying trait which is relevant to our study of Emergent practice; that of transcendental meditation.

Transcendental Meditation

“Transcendental Meditation” is a trademarked type of meditation introduced by Maharishi Yogi.  The term “transcendental,” meaning essentially “beyond ordinary or common experience,” is being used in this work not to refer to Yogi’s particular platform of meditation, but generally to refer to the transcendental type of meditation which is used to advance one into an altered state of consciousness. In effect, this term is used generally in order to separate this type of meditation from the godly and literal form of meditation which is described in scripture.

The untreated term, “meditation,” refers to a state of continued reflection or (literal) contemplation; to seriously consider a subject, item or thought.  Necessarily, meditation in its unembellished usage includes focused and active thought.  Transcendental meditation, however, is quite the opposite of literal meditation in practice; requiring the removal of active thought; placing the mind at a state of emptiness.

Some claim scriptural authority for the use of transcendental meditation.  Factually, scripture gives a clear call to believers to utilize normal, customary meditation; that which requires thought and concentration on God’s word, character and graciousness.  The ever-present call of God in Joshua is,

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)
8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Likewise the Psalms call us to meditate in an active way:

Psalm 48:9 (NIV)
9 Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Psalm 119:27 (NIV)
27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.

Psalm 119:97 (NIV)
97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.

The term “meditate” appears in English translations of scripture roughly fifteen times.  Clearly meditation, at its root, is not an ungodly concept, but a biblical one.  Yet, in scripture the term is always used in its customary fashion: to actively ponder a subject or thought in one’s conscious mind.  Meditation is never defined beyond the normal practice of active and cognizant thought .  Each biblical text which urges meditation is a call to concentrate on its object in a dynamic and intentional manner.  In Joshua, God calls Israel to meditate on the Book of the Law.  As such, the reader is to focus deeply on the singular content of the Word of God.  He is not inspired to empty his mind, but rather to fill it with God’s word.  Likewise, in Psalms the reader is inspired to put his attention on God’s love, his teachings, his wonders and his law.  Never is meditation synonymous with the emptying of the mind in scripture, but rather the conscious engagement of it.

Transcendental or mystical types of meditation, however, are quite different in application and purpose.  These methods of meditation stem from a long history of practice in Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, Hinduism and the modern designation of “New Age” mysticism.  While each may vary in technique, the essential tenets of transcendental meditation are the same.

The first step in this meditative process is for the participant to come to a place of inner “stillness” and peace.  This “place” is arrived at by posturing oneself in a comfortable position, usually closing the eyes, and then reciting a mantra for an calculated period of time.  The mantra is designed to be a sound devoid of true meaning, although it is usually a spiritual word or short phrase.  The mantra has no deliberate meaning assigned to it, but is used to direct an individual’s attention from “active” mental function to “passive” mental function, where one can achieve an altered state of consciousness.  In effect, the mantra is repeated often and frequently enough that its meaning dissolves away, taking all rational thought with it, leaving the individual quiet; prepared to receive guidance or insights from beyond the conscious state.  Modern New Age proponents refer to this realm as the “astral plane,” while spiritualism will refer to this realm as the “spirit world.” 

It is in this altered state that the mystic wonder of meditation realizes its fruition.  For in this state the student of such meditative techniques can receive guidance or instruction from other “higher” beings who dwell in this deeper state of consciousness.  In some traditions, this technique enables one to communicate on an equal level with deity.  In other traditions, such as New Age, one is deemed able to communicate with spiritual beings on a higher astral plane than that of man.  In all variations, man subjects himself to powers greater than himself by the emptying and opening up of his mind to spiritual influences which are expected to appear in this distorted reality.

I should note at this time that I do not discount the practice of transcendental meditation as something inherently bogus.  I do believe people have experiences under the influence of their altered conscious state.  I do believe that “gods” (as it were) are contacted and that proponents of this type of meditation can make a connection with spiritual beings.  I also believe, however, that scripture recognizes precisely three classes of spiritual beings:  God, angels and mankind.  When one presumes to make contact with a spiritual being on a higher order than that of man he can therefore only be contacting God or angels. 

Concerning the notion that one makes “contact” with God in such practices, scripture unconditionally espouses one singular avenue of contact with God, which is the path of Jesus Christ, alone.  Jesus himself noted,

John 14:6 (ASV)
6 … I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.

The “path” to fellowship with God has been cemented by God’s own will to be relegated to the singular mediator of Christ.  Paul notes,

1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

One encounters and hears the voice of God in scripture explicitly through the shed blood of Christ on the cross.  As such, there is no certain practice of mind-altering required, condoned nor even suggested in scripture.  Men in scripture prayed, and God heard, by simple, conscious and overtly human conversation.  Prayer, be it audible by voice, or inaudibly from the depths of the mind of man, is calculated from active thought rather than by one being “elevated” to the plane of God’s existence.  Indeed, such elevation is the very nature of Christ mediatory work, and is not possible for sinful man to achieve by means of any mystical processes.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that anyone with a legitimate faith in Christ should have no difficulty with the idea of Jesus alone being the mediator between man and God.  As such, there is no other person, teaching or practice which is necessary to “reach” God on our behalf.  To that end, the idea of a meditational practice being essentially helpful in communication with God loses its merit; denying the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work of mediation.

In conclusion to the matter of the spiritual “contact” being made through transcendental meditation, there is left only the angelic realm to be subject to communication through such means.  Angels, of course, exist in the “righteous” and “unrighteous” categories. 

Righteous angels will not permit a man to worship them, as noted in Revelation 19 and 22.

Revelation 19:10 (NIV)
10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Revelation 22:9 (NIV)
9 But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

This is not to say that righteous angels have never had contact with humans in dreams and visions.  Yet, even angelic contact within dreams and visions in scripture are contacts made at God’s pleasure rather than man’s.  Angels are God’s servants.  They do not exist to carry on casual conversations with man nor to be accessible for man’s urgent whims.  In Luke 1 an angel appeared to Mary to inform her of the coming birth of Christ.  Mary did not send for an angel nor make an appeal to an angel.  The angel served God’s bidding, bringing his message to Mary without any investment on her part.  Similarly throughout scripture there are no records of man scheduling angelic appointments or calling on (righteous) angels for insight.  This is simply not what angels do.  They are not at man’s disposal, but God’s.

Unrighteous angels, or demons, however, are a different story altogether.  Not only do they not serve God’s pleasure, at least willingly, but they go to great lengths to thwart God’s work with mankind.  They confuse, entice and tempt.  They lead mankind into paganism and counter productivity to the worship of God and the exaltation of his glory.  As Paul notes,

1 Corinthians 10:20 (NIV)
20 … the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.

Demonic angels are quite interested in acquiring the attention and worship of mankind.  Paul notes,

1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV)
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

While more than one point of this text is relevant to this current study, plainly demonic angels have an interest in teaching deceptive doctrines to mankind.

Furthermore, demons have as their occupation the transference of man’s attention away from the true worship of God.

Eph 2:1-2 (NIV)
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

Paul undeniably asserts that demons “are now at work” in those who are disobedient.

Make no mistake about it: demons are capable, willing and involved in the spiritual deception of mankind.  They are taught in scripture to have communion with men who are open to them.  When one practices transcendental meditation and encounters a “higher spiritual being,” the demonic hosts are the only viable beings to which one can be communicating with.  God is contacted quite consciously through the indwelling Christ and righteous angels are not available for contact via the worship practices of man, but serve the Lord’s bidding alone.

Once a practitioner of such Eastern meditative practices is engaged with their demonic “spiritual guide,” they claim to receive special revelations, instructions and fellowship with their guide.  They return regularly for more enlightenment.

Such is the nature of the process of transcendental meditation at its full fruition.  Surely there are those who are involved in such practices who have not arrived at the final state of altered encounters with demonic entities.  Yet, even simplistic Yoga techniques represent the same practice, though possibly with yet unrealized fulfillment of its intended end. 

Transcendental meditation is a path to demonology even to those whom have not yet reached their full potential in its misguided pursuit.  Being thus noted, one should carefully consider the eerie and unmistakable similarities which exist between transcendental meditation and the contemplative prayer practices described and encouraged by Emergent leaders.

This comparison will be the subject of the next post in this series.

Series Navigation<< The New, Friendlier GospelThe Emergent Contemplative Prayer Model >>

8 Comment(s)

  1. Sadly, this isn’t just happening in emergent chruches, but it’s also flooding into a majority of all of our evangelical churches through the monikers, “contemplative spirituality” and “spiritual disciplines.” It’s also seeping into Sunday School curriculum by companies that were once solid theologically. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, these things are being taught in many of our Christian colleges and seminaries.

    Diane R | Feb 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. Very true, Diane. One more sad note: these principles are being greatly targeted at youth ministry, as well. We can thank Tony Jones, Youth Specialties and the hosts they have indoctrinated for that reality.

    kluttz | Feb 12, 2009 | Reply

  3. Could you produce an article on Biblical meditation? Thank you.

    Job | Feb 21, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hey, Job-

    It’s entirely possible. For the time being, this article is the closest synopsis of the biblical intent concerning the term. But, the next article in this series will detail the Emergent Leader’s understanding of (non-biblical) meditation, which, as this introduction has pretty much indicated, is nothing more than warmed over TM.

    I think the key to Biblical meditation is the antithesis of TM; Biblical meditation requires concentrated thought (to the point of writing the Word of God on one’s door posts, and hanging it from one’s garments) while TM is the exact opposite. TM requires one to “empty” the mind and allow an outside message to “come to you” rather than allowing the message which was “given to you” by the Word of God to be the substance of one’s meditation.

    kluttz | Feb 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. Bro. Kluttz,
    I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your blog and good biblical teaching. Keep up the good work. Also, I wanted to thank you for adding me to your blog roll.
    In Christ,
    Jeff Ray

    Bro. Jeff | Feb 22, 2009 | Reply

  6. You, too, Jeff! Thanks for the encouragment.

    kluttz | Feb 22, 2009 | Reply

  7. Just found this site while studying to teach the local church on the last days, apostasy and the emergence of counterfeits. You have much I can learf from.
    Could you please explain the following to me?
    “One encounters and hears the voice of God in scripture explicitly through the shed blood of Christ on the cross.”
    Quite frankly this does not make sense. It is the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent that makes known His will, and I don’t understand the statement.

    Thank you,

    JM Howard

    J.M. Howard | May 31, 2011 | Reply

  8. My point in that statement is that Christ – through his blood – opened up the ability for man to hear from God. Yes, the Holy Spirit communicates with man, but never outside of the parameters of scripture as have already been given. As such, my argument is that TM (meditation, as outline in the post) – as a means to “hear” from God – is counter biblical. Biblical hearing comes from the word of Christ (Rom 10:7), not from deep breathing, the repetition of a mantra, and having a special mystical encounter via TM.

    I’d also warn that the statement “It is the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent that makes known His will” – while technically true – is not without boundaries and tests via scripture. If the voice one hears is contrary to what the scriptures teach – then one is not hearing the Holy Spirit, but one of the other spirits that have gone out into the world. (1 Jn 3-4) The issue here (as this post is pointing out) is that these people are professing to be “hearing from God” – or “hearing from the Holy Spirit” while their message fails any and all biblical testing.

    Jeff Kluttz | Jun 3, 2011 | Reply

7 Trackback(s)

  1. Feb 12, 2009: from GospelScoop
  2. Feb 21, 2009: from Is The Emergent Church Defined By The Transcendental Meditation Of Maharishi Yogi? « Jesus Christology
  3. Feb 23, 2009: from The Emergent Contemplative Prayer Model » ReturningKing.com
  4. Mar 1, 2009: from The Emergent Contemplative Prayer Model : ReturningKing.Com
  5. Apr 17, 2009: from A Custom-Built Gospel : ReturningKing.Com
  6. Apr 30, 2009: from Wolves in Wool Conclusion: From Christ to Antichrist : ReturningKing.Com
  7. Aug 25, 2009: from The Penal Substitution Theory: On the Mark : ReturningKing.Com

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