The Interface of Medieval Mysticism and Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation

Pam Frost informs us of the influence Eastern mysticism has had on the modern Church, thanks largely to high-profile Protestant’s affinity for the teaching of Roman Catholic mystic monks such as Thomas Merton, Basil Pennington, William Menninger and Thomas Keating.  The Desert Fathers, as they are called, embraced the beliefs of Neoplatonism (Frost explains this term), Buddhism and Hinduism. Now many mainline Protestant churches as well as independent, nondenominational, charismatic and Pentecostal churches are promoting Roman Catholic mysticism.  What is the goal of mysticism? According to Frost, the goal is “to alter one’s perception of reality, redefining the self, the world, and the Divine according to mystical intuitions of Universal Consciousness as Ultimate Reality. Thus mysticism serves as the basis for a collective spirituality that transcends religious distinctions and is therefore the force behind the growing interfaith movement in which “Christian” mysticism plays an important role.”

This is anything but Christian, brethren.

We urge you to read Pam Frost’s entire article over at Dr. Peter Jones’ site truthXchange.  We’ve posted a portion of it below….

desert-fathers

Many Evangelicals [are] adopting not only contemplative Catholic spirituality but also Buddhist mysticism (Mindfulness) in an attempt to enrich their Christian experience.

The decades from the 1970s forward have witnessed the increasing popularity of spiritual formation programs within Evangelical circles based on a resurgence of interest in medieval mysticism and its contemplative spiritual techniques. A major factor behind this movement was the softened posture that the Roman Catholic Church assumed toward Evangelical Christianity as a result of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) as it sought rapprochement with Protestants. In corollary response, many Evangelicals began seeking deeper spiritual experiences based on the contemplative techniques of the medieval mystics. But the process didn’t stop there, since the Second Vatican Council also opened doors for Catholics to engage in interreligious dialogue and to begin mining the traditions of other religions for mystical practices that could enhance Catholic spirituality.

It did not take long for Catholic mystics to realize that mystics of other religions were experiencing the very same contemplative states of consciousness attained by the medieval mystics. This realization naturally led to interreligious dialogue and the initial exploration of interspiritual practices, particularly that of Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation, which so closely parallels contemplative “Christian” techniques and experiences, while differing drastically in actual belief. In view of the similarity of experience and the recent assertions of scientific support for the positive health claims of Mindfulness, it is not surprising to find many Evangelicals adopting not only contemplative Catholic spirituality but also Buddhist mysticism (Mindfulness) in an attempt to enrich their Christian experience.

What is mysticism? Our English word is derived from the Greek mysticos, meaning the occult knowledge veiled in mystery that can only be known through subjective experience. Mystics are those who, through contemplative, meditative techniques, attain altered states of consciousness beyond the thinking mind to experience unmediated union with the Divine, the All, the Source, the Universal, the Force, the Energy, or the Void, depending on which tradition one follows. Mystical spirituality awakens supernatural “revelations” of nondual[1] consciousness, giving the impression of transcending the biblical binaries that distinguish Creator from creation, male from female and good from evil, so that all are intuitively joined into One. Hinduism’s yoga traditions call this state the awakening of Shiva’s mystic Third Eye, a so-called state of esoteric enlightenment that destroys the “demon” of distinctions. Thomas Keating and Richard Rohr, contemporary Catholic mystics with large followings among Evangelicals, also refer to the contemplative state of consciousness as the Third Eye because it awakens a way of seeing reality beyond binary distinctions. In Buddhism, this state is called Nirvana, a state of blissful perception that a Unitive Void is the highest reality beyond the illusion of material existence.

Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation can actually refer to two different practices, both of which alter consciousness and change the way we think. One form is practiced as a sitting meditation that focuses concentration on the breath to intensify awareness on the present moment. This form is very similar to the meditation practiced in yoga, which also focuses on the breath as a technique to prepare the body and mind to enter into deeper meditative trance states through single-pointed mental focus. But Mindfulness can also be practiced continually throughout the normal course of the day by experiencing each moment’s activity through the lens of intense, non-judgmental concentration on the point of the present now. Life is thus perceived in sequential progression from one present moment to the next, allowing thoughts to arise without critical evaluation. In this type of meditation, the practitioner becomes a neutral observer of the self, experiencing a continuum of present moments. The mind is thus detached from objective reality and enters a kind of waking trance-like state. Because all moral judgment is suspended toward the attitudes and actions of oneself and others, the mind easily dissociates from normal evaluative response patterns. In other words, Mindfulness changes the interpretive grid through which the mind processes reality.

The goal of mysticism, in general, is to alter one’s perception of reality, redefining the self, the world, and the Divine according to mystical intuitions of Universal Consciousness as Ultimate Reality. Thus mysticism serves as the basis for a collective spirituality that transcends religious distinctions and is therefore the force behind the growing interfaith movement in which “Christian” mysticism plays an important role.

This really shouldn’t surprise us, though, since the medieval mystics, who now hold such powerful influence in many Evangelical circles, were themselves heavily influenced by the Oneist religious philosophy of Neoplatonism. Somewhere between the late 5th and early 6th centuries, a man writing under the pseudonym of Dionysius the Areopagite (pretending to be Paul’s Athenian disciple recorded in Acts 17:34) repackaged Plotinus’s pagan philosophy of Neoplatonism in Christian terminology. Revered with near apostolic authority, pseudo-Dionysius (as he is now properly known), introduced Christianized Neoplatonism as a foundational worldview for Catholic mysticism.

But Neoplatonism is anything but Christian. According to Neoplatonism, an impersonal, universal Divine Essence spontaneously overflowed itself, emanating in a progressively downward spiral from the pure spiritual realm, first into cosmic mind (nous), then into universal soul (psyche), until the lowest state, that of material existence, was reached. The universal soul was then fragmented and became trapped in individuated bodily existence as an inner spark of Divinity. So the Fall, according to Neoplatonism, is not man’s moral failure through sin, resulting in separation from God, but the fall of spirit into entrapment within material existence. Thus, meditative and contemplative techniques coupled with ascetic disciplines induce altered states of nondual consciousness devoid of distinctions, in order to experience the soul’s mystical reunion in the Divine Essence. This process is called “transformation,” a kind of spiritual alchemy by which human consciousness is mystically transformed into Divine Consciousness.

What is expressed in Neoplatonism is the ontological unity of everything, meaning that everyone and everything share in the Essence of Divine Being. Meditative techniques are designed to awaken perception of inner Divinity flowing within the stream of Divine Consciousness pulsing throughout the cosmos. It is theorized that if religions could only tap into this stream, the experience would eclipse religious distinctions and serve as a catalyst for interreligious harmony.

Though Neoplatonism is a thoroughly pagan religious philosophy, pseudo-Dionysius successfully infused it into medieval Catholic spirituality through his influential works The Mystical Theology and The Celestial Hierarchy, treatises that were spiritually formative to John Scotus Eriugena, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Jan van Ruusbroec, Johannes Tauler, and a host of other medieval mystics.

But the Christianized Neoplatonism of pseudo-Dionysius is also responsible for the modern revival of interest in contemplative spirituality. In the fourteenth century, an anonymous English monk wrote The Cloud of Unknowing, a book the author credits in its entirety to the teachings of pseudo-Dionysius (whom he calls St. Denis): “Anyone who reads Denis’ book will find confirmed there all that I have been trying to teach in this book from start to finish.”[2] In the early 1970s a dusty copy of The Cloud of Unknowing was discovered by Trappist monk William Menninger in St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Inspired by The Cloud’s mystical “Christian” allegory, William Menninger, Abbot Thomas Keating, and fellow Trappist M. Basil Pennington developed Centering Prayer as a revival of medieval contemplative spirituality. In his influential book on Centering Prayer, Open Mind, Open Heart, Keating defines contemplative prayer as “a process of interior transformation… [leading to] divine union”[3] during which “[o]ne’s way of seeing reality changes in this process.”[4] What takes place during contemplative meditation is the exchange of worldview from Twoism to Oneism, which Keating describes as “A restructuring of consciousness…which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists.”[5]  Continue reading

Related:

Christians Mystically Encountering God by Marsha West

Check out our White Paper on Roman Catholicism and Contemplative Prayer

 

 

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10 Responses to The Interface of Medieval Mysticism and Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation

  1. Edwitness October 28, 2016 at 11:21 am #

    I wonder if anyone sees the parallel between the neoplatonism being discussed here and the way the orthodox view of the oneness of God is defined in seminaries and churches throughout Christianity? Augustine and his contemporaries played a very large role in defining it the way we have come to understand it. He was heavily influenced by greek philosophy. So much so, that this is where the view of the oneness of God comes from today.

    John 17 should be enough to help any truth seeking Christian see that this view is wrong.
    Vs’s 21-23-
    “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
    And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, EVEN AS WE ARE ONE:
    I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

    Do you think Jesus was saying that when this prayer is fulfilled that we will be one in essence and ontologically?

    Blessings:-}

  2. Edwitness October 28, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    Or that we are to be one in love? just like He says the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are.

    Blessings:-}

  3. Edwitness October 28, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    Add to that vs 11- “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, THAT THEY MAY BE ONE, EVEN AS WE ARE.”

    BLESSINGS:-}

  4. Manny1962 October 28, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    This is all part and parcel of the Mystery Babylon Religion that is being brought together by forces foretold long ago. Do you ever wonder how this is all happening at such a time in history! This is unprecedented! Ecumenism to the fore front! This is such an exciting time to be alive! We are seeing the culmination of history, the church age, the book of Revelation coming to life on a daily basis……knowledge will increase in the last days (Daniel 12:4) being fulfilled.

    Ed, how are you brother? This is something I thought you would like to know. The Kings of the East are consolidating! The Phillipines has for all intents and purposes broken away from the US, president Duterte flew to China and joined in their sphere of power……. Publicly denounced Obama, the US and pledged the Phillipines to China’s political philosophy. Malaysia, long run by an extremely corrupt leader with ties to the Clinton Foundation, has jus snubbed the US and is buying their new ships not from the US, but from, guess who? China! As I posted before China completed a railroad from China directly to Tehran! Biblically speaking, the Kings of The East are coalescing, expect The Koreas to follow suit along with Japan, who happens to be near total economic failure as their central planning bank has foisted Zero Interest Rate Policy on the country, which has led to fiat money which is worthless.

    We here in the states, are in deep, deep trouble. We must reach the lost with the Gospels! We must be in prayer and to be frank we should be fasting in prayer for the bride, notice I don’t call it the church any longer. Great is the apostasy darkening all things. The bright spot? OUR LORD WILL BE HERE SOON! Maranatha! God bless!

  5. Manny1962 October 28, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    Ed, one more thing.

    This is truly outstanding, China reaches out to US “ally” Saudi Arabia!

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/14102016-saudi-special-forces-train-with-chinese-french/

    Remember they will cut accross from East to West!

    My apologies to Marsha and Amy! I know this was out of context with original post. But, it does dovetail into the fast-coming-together-puzzle that is Revelation! Apostasy, political alignments, the revealing of the man of sin when the apostasy reaches it climax! We are almost there folks. The world is being lined up for some sort of “re-set” which will shake all things into the kingdom of the beast!

    • Edwitness October 28, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

      Thanks for the info Manny1962. I did not know about the railroad or China reaching out to the Saudi’s. Very interesting developments for all the reasons you stated.
      And thank you for the link Sola Scriptura. I read it. Great stuff. The KJV is the only Bible I read from for exactly those reasons. The Holy Spirit makes sure we are getting the right teaching. IF we are being good Bereans when we hear it. He can only give us what we humble ourselves to receive:-)
      James 4:6- “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

      Blessings:-} brothers and sis’s

      • Manny1962 October 29, 2016 at 8:56 am #

        Ed, here’s the railroad, I’m using the RT link as The Financial Times might not open properly. Notice how long it takes materiel to be moved by rail versus sea, 14 days by rail compared to 45 days by ship! In a moment’s notice the Kings of the East can move their colossal army to Israel in two weeks or less when you count aircraft also being deployed. This is an outstanding event!

        https://www.rt.com/business/332631-china-iran-train-arrives/

        • Edwitness October 31, 2016 at 8:55 am #

          Manny 1962,
          Thanks brother for the info. I read the article and it sounds fairly benign. But, we know from the scriptures that there are profound implications connected with these events. Maranatha!!
          Blessings:-}

          • Manny1962 October 31, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

            God bless you Ed,

            Yes! You’re correct! It is benign, it’s being showcased as economic endeavor. But, the infrastructure is there! Completed and ready to be used, endeavors can be changed at a moments notice, one day food and farm equipment, the next soldiers and armaments! The way is paved for the Kings of the East! Maranatha! One day we will all sit at our Master’s feet and discuss better things! The time is drawing nearer!

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