Do You Have the Right Christ?

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Mysticism, Contemplative Spirituality and Yoga

(I begin this section with a portion of  a piece I found on the internet written by Michael H.) 

"I am traveling down a long, straight path. There is nothing particularly compelling about it, other than the fact that it leads where I am heading. It seems to stretch forever, the same gray colors seem to blend into a drabness and boredom with no hope of change in sight. "Suddenly I come to a split in the road. The same road continues straight into the distance, as gray and boring as ever. But curving to the left, I see something awe inspiring. The path is illuminated by a powerful golden light, and every rock and tree seem to crackle with life and a happiness that is unfathomable."Suddenly, I am reminded of Robert Frost's poem about the road less traveled. I look toward the spectacle of beauty before me, and then back at the doldrums of the old gray road, some dead leaves blowing in the wind. To the left is something fresh and wonderful; straight ahead is dreariness. The new road, with its curves and light, is very attractive. "But I don't know the road; I don't know where it leads. It may take me miles out of the way of my destination. It would be a wondrous delight, at least it seems so from here. There really is no way to tell where a road will take you when you first start down it...

Such is the lure of mysticism. Wanderers throughout the mists of time have come this way before and stood perplexed by the choice. The promise of Higher Spirituality is inspiring, alluring many a traveler. But the road seemingly less traveled, the road of beauty, curves far away from where they really want to be.

Mysticism exists in a myriad of forms. Within Christianity, it is seen in Roman Catholic teachings, the 20th century Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions, and in the Quakers. In the great three monotheistic religions, it is seen in the practices of the Gnostic Christians, the Sufi Muslims, and the Kabalistic Jews. Outside of monotheism, mysticism expresses itself in the Western New Age movement, as well as the Eastern Buddhism and Hinduism, Yoga, and Native American spirituality.

The draw of the esoteric is powerful: an ecstatic spiritual experience connecting with the Ultimate in Divine Reality! But the alternative is equally possible and equally frightening: finding that esoterism is the ultimate in spiritual and mental bondage. Escaping the illusion of life becomes escaping everything in life that has any meaning.  (This ends the portion of  the piece I found on the internet written by Michael H.)

So what exactly is mysticism? Websters Dictionary says it's the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).  This would be in stark contrast to Biblical Christianity where a Christian gets their knowledge of God, spiritual truth, and experience of God through the written Word of God, the Bible.

While some people may have a mystical experience without trying, there are and have been cultures throughout the ages that have practiced mysticism. Some mystics have fine tuned skills they feel takes them to a higher place of spirituality such as walking on burning coals, lying on a bed of nails or being snake charmers.  But predominantly, especially in today's culture, meditation and chanting are the paths mystics take to get in touch with the "Divine".

Contemplative Spirituality. is a belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness through practicing 'the silence' of the mind and soul. As of recent It has been wrapped in Christian terminology and is spreading rapidly through churches of all denomination. Common terms used for this movement are "spiritual formation," "the silence," "the stillness," "ancient-wisdom," "spiritual disciplines," "contemplative prayer" and many others.  The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all) but Christians don't seem to realize they are involved in something that is un-scriptural.  Let's look at each of the common terms for this movement to understand how this is nothing like Biblical Christianity:

The Silence or The Stillness - The practice of taking time to get in an environment free from distractions and to sit while focusing on quieting the mind.  Their goal is to stop the mind from wandering and to make it focus on one's breath going in and out and eventually be able to hear one's pulse.  Contemplative's suggest this is how a person connects to their true nature, calm themselves and teach ones' self how to live in the present moment.  The spiritual aspect is brought in often times to say "this is how one hears from God or gets in touch with their own divinity".

Ancient Wisdom - Teachings drawn from the books of Roman Catholic mystics who lived from 1085 to 1806.  Some that are particularly revered in this contemplative movement are those from the 15th - 19th century such as Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Anne Catherine Emmerich, St. Ignatius Loyola, Brother Lawrence, George Fox and Thomas Merton.

Spiritual Disciplines/Formation - Human behaviors such as fasting, meditation, simple living, submission to a spiritual over-seer, voluntary exile, night vigil of rejecting sleep, journaling, OT Sabbath keeping, physical labor, solitude, silence in an effort to try and emulate the life of Christ in every way.  Proponents of this practice state that Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism are inadequate and having failed, have left most Christians as failures.

Contemplative Prayer - Centering prayer is a popular method of contemplative prayer or Christian meditation, placing a strong emphasis on interior silence. Though most authors trace its roots to the contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers of Christian monasticism, to the Lectio Divina tradition of the Benedictine monasticism, and to the works like The Cloud of Unknowing and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, its origins as part of the "Centering Prayer" movement in modern Catholicism and Christianity can be traced to several books published by three Trappist monks of St. Joseph's Abby in Spencer, Massachusetts in the 1970s: Fr. William Meninger, Fr. M. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating. (Info from Wikipedia)

One last term I want to introduce to you is Labyrinth Walking.  Labyrinth walking in an ancient practice used by many different faiths for spiritual centering, contemplation and prayer. Entering the serpentine path of a labyrinth, the walker walks slowly while quieting their mind and focusing on a spiritual question or prayer.  Unfortunately labyrinths are showing up on church grounds and Christian colleges today and Christians are buying into the philosophy that walking them clears the mind and gives insight. They need to be educated that the origins of labyrinths is in Greek mythology, so the practice is a pagan one.

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According to Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Yoga is essentially: “a practice involving intense and complete concentration upon something, especially deity, in order to establish identity of consciousness with the object of concentration; it is a mystic and ascetic practice, usually involving the discipline of prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc

From Time Magazine's book, Alternative Medicine: Your Guide to Stress Relief, Healing, Nutrition, and More, it states:  Hard to believe now, but yoga was once considered heretical, and even dangerous. As recently as a century ago, yogis in America were viewed with suspicion; some were actually thrown in jail. Today, though, most gyms offer it, many public schools teach it, and a growing number of doctors prescribe it . . . It may have taken 5,000 years, but yoga has arrived.

Everyone in America today is singing the praises of yoga but what they don't know will hurt them.  The Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age describes how Yoga is done:

Typical exercises, such as those found in hatha yoga, are practiced under the tutelage of a guru or yogi, a personal religious guide and spiritual teacher. Gurus teach students to combine a variety of breathing techniques with asanas, or relaxation postures. In each of the postures, students must first enter the position, then maintain it for a certain length of time, and finally leave it.

This dictionary further states that people in the West have mistaken Yoga to be “mere breathing and relaxation exercises,” when in reality the practice of yoga serves as a gateway to Eastern mysticism and occult thinking.” It adds:

Certain postures, such as the lotus position, are taken to activate the psychic energy centers [the chakras]. And specific breathing exercises are practiced to infuse the soul with cosmic energy floating in the air. A guru might have students gaze at a single object, such as a candle, to develop and focus concentration. The guru might have them chant a mantra to clear their minds and become one with the object in front of them. The goal is to achieve increasingly higher meditative states until reaching oneness with the cosmic consciousness.

 (This information has been taken from's new booklet Yoga and Christianity, written by Chris Lawson.)

From David Wilkerson's book Yoga and The Body of Christ, Wilkerson writes in Chapter 7To summarize what we've documented thus far, in spite of the advertisements and talk about health and fitness, yoga's real goal is to awaken the Kundalini power, coiled like a serpent at the base of the spine, ready to spring up to manifest itself through the alleged "chakras" (centers of the universal force) of the body. The texts by ancient yogis warn that the "Kundalini serpent force" often manifests itself in frightening and destructive ways.  Unfortunately, those texts are scarcely known to yoga enthusiasts today and are certainly not heeded by their instructors. "Spiritual awakening" through the arousal of Kundalini force coiled at the base of the spine is the promise of yoga but the awakening in the Bible is to truth, wisdom, understanding of eternal salvation.  The emphasis in Scripture is knowing truth, not feeling ecstasy. 

The founders of the Spiritual Energy Network wrote on their website "Spiritual experience can feel like bliss but it can also feel like hell.  It can cause hallucinations, seizures, pain, panic attacks, mania, severe depression - all the symptoms of physical and mental illness. When people suffer this way, they may feel they are going crazy and their doctors may agree.  But the authors of this book (they are referring to their book called Spiritual Emergency:  When Personal Transformation Becomes A Crisis), think that in many cases, such a diagnosis is mistaken.  They urge a new category of clinical diagnosis called "spiritual emergency".

Wilkerson goes on to write, Incredibly it doesn't seem to occur to these people
that yoga itself and related Eastern mystical practices are the cause of these horrifying "spiritual emergencies". Why would 'spiritual personal transformation' create a crisis that could even drive one mad?  What a contrast these "spiritual emergencies" present to the experiences of the men and women of God whose lives are recorded in the Bible! Christ gives peace and rest, not inner turmoil and terror!