January 26, 2004
Dear David Muyskens,
I just finished reading with great interest the article entitled:
Restoring Tradition of Meditation by Chris Meehan of Religion
News Service .
This was particularly timely as I have been recently doing
extensive research on this kind of meditation as to how truly
prevalent it was in the history of Christianity as well as whether
or not it is Biblical. In this regard, I wrote a documentary/debate
with Rick Foster's RENOVARE as well as a separate documentary/debate
with Christian Psychologist Dr. John Stoll, who both teach and
promote this kind of meditation and "centering."
I hope and pray you take everything to heart, as there are
very good Biblical reasons to do so.
Kindest regards in Christ,
Rock Salt Publishing
The complete transcript of my dialogue with Lynda Graybeal,
one of the Directors at Renovare regarding Richard Foster's Teaching,
is available at:
But here is an excerpt which address whether Rick Foster and
Brennan Manning's definitions of Meditation are, in fact, Biblical
LYNDA GRAYBEAL OF RICK FOSTER'S RENOVARE:
4. False Disjunction, e.g. the only kind of "centering
down" is New Age "centering down". This ignores
the rich history of centering down in the Church, and the fact
that practices from many religions including centering down have
been co-opted by the New Age movement. In conjunction with this,
one huge mistake many people make is to take our present knowledge
of the New Age movement and read it into books and teachings
prior to its inception. In doing this, they can declare that
people who lived decades, and sometimes centuries ago, taught
New Age beliefs.
JAMES SUNDQUIST RESPONSE:
Once again I do not recall ever saying that all centering
down is "New Age" centering down. I can center down
to do my homework, center down to practice my guitar. I can say
that Christ is the center of my life, so thinking about him and
praying to him could be argued to mean that I am centering down.
Additionally, what other religions do with regard to centering
down (as you stated above), is totally irrelevant to Christianity,
regardless of whether or not the New Age Movement has co-opted
this practice. As true believers we are do obey the Word of God
only and not incorporate the beliefs and practices of all other
religions, because they are not of God! Why Richard Foster's
version is New Age is not a false disjunction is that he employs
and prescribes identical techniques to what the New Age employs
such as vain repetitions, Ashtanga Yoga, Kundalini, and Buddhist
prayers at Quaker gatherings that I can document. In quote after
quote, Richard Foster gives accolades to promoters and practioners
of Eastern Mysticism and Meditation which mirror his own views.
There is not even anything to mask what he is doing. Secondly,
you are not even historically accurate. Though the New Age term
itself might be recent, the beliefs and practices the term refers
to, go back to the Garden of Eden. All New Age beliefs, each
and every religion, have at their very foundations the lies of
Satan, which are always, always, always to take away from the
Deity of Christ and the Word of God. Their beliefs stem from
the Fall of Adam, and later from the Tower of Babel, and Babylon.
Even at the time of Christ, Jesus himself commanded us NOT to
pray as the heathens do with vain repetitions (such as breath
mantras). Here is the direct commandment of our Lord himself:
"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen
[do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much
speaking." Matthew 6:7 KJV
So if the Lord does not hear these kind of prayers, who are
we really praying to? What possibly God ordained purpose could
And yet what do we find Richard Foster recommending in his
book Spiritual Classics? Richard Foster states:
"Practice lectio devina by taking a Bible text that you
love, reading it over attentively, then entering into prayer
through a single word or phrase." p.35 "Why does this
little prayer of one syllable pierce the heavens?" p. 45
(Source: Richard Foster, Spiritual Classics, p. 35, p.45)
Jesus Christ said that if you want to be his disciple, you
must obey him. So how is praying with vain repetitions and repeating
a single word or phrase over and over obeying Christ, when he
gave specific instructions which forbade it?
Your version of centering down and imagination does not even
fit the Biblical meaning of meditation, but is, in fact, the
opposite. Richard Foster's idea of meditation is to imagine the
loins of your mind to be let down and relaxed that anything might
enter. Here is the proof:
Richard Foster in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True
Home, speaks of the practice of "breath prayer," in
which a Christian-sounding word or phrase is repeated over and
over again like a mantra. Foster wrote that "Christian meditation
is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it" (Ray
Yungen, Time of Departing, Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2002,
pg. 72). But fill it with what? This "breath prayer"
idea has gained popularity in charismatic circles that frequently
sing of "breathing in Jesus" or variations thereof.
(SOURCE: Jacki Alnor, Christian Sentinel, April 2003. Richard
Foster quote taken from Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline,
Harper & Row Pub., San Francisco, CA 1978, p. 15.)
This is precisely the technique that lets demons enter a person.
But we are to be circumspect which is what a night watchman is,
as this literally means having eyes all around our head to guard
against imaginations and seducing spirits that would love to
The Apostle Paul commands us to "gird up the loins of
our minds," not let them down, not empty our minds.
We are to put on the helmet of salvation to protect our minds,
as well as the shield of faith that we might ward off the fiery
darts of the enemy from penetrating that part of our armor. One
girds up the loins of their mind for war, as that is precisely
what we are in...a spiritual war. Any good soldier girds up his
or her mind when he or she stands guard on a night watch. I know
this first hand because I used to stand guard in four-hour shifts
at night over missile batteries in the U.S. Army in West Germany.
Emptying your mind and/or falling a sleep on guard duty would
get you court-marshalled. You had to be vigilant and constantly
alert, i.e., we are to have the loins of your mind girded up...not
let down! Succinctly, we are to have the mind of Christ....not
This is perfectly consistent with what the Apostle Paul further
"Be sober and be vigilant; because your adversary the
devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may
devour" I Peter 5:8
How can a Christian be ever vigilant and sober within his
mind, if he is spending a lot of time emptying his mind by practicing
any type of meditation which is the direct opposite of Biblical
For one of the very best Scripture passages on the context
and real meaning of what the Bible teaches about "meditation,"
read the entirety of Psalm 119, where you will find the word
"meditate" time and time again.
You want context? The entire passage uses the word "meditate"
to describe the author's intent to meditate on the statutes,
laws, and decrees of the Lord, that the author might not sin
against God. Now traditionally, the "centering down"
form of meditation promoted by Richard Foster involves CLOSING
the eyes. Well let's see what the writer in Psalm 119 thinks
about that. In Psalm 119:148 we read:
"My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises." Psalm 119:148 NIV
When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he rebuked
his Disciples for NOT keeping their eyes open, for he wanted
them to WATCH and PRAY (Mark 14:38) WITH HIM. Let's take an even
closer look at what Jesus had in mind in terms of how he prayed
(the highest form of meditation which is to "watch"
and "pray") in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus Christ's
idea of how to pray was to resist temptation to the sweating
of drops of blood. No human besides Christ has ever accomplished
this feat. Nevertheless, Christ our Lord does set an example
of what should be taking place during our praying. This kind
of praying has nothing in common with techniques or purpose of
praying for Eastern Meditation or any other religion. Christ's
method of praying has nothing in common with Richard Foster's
revised definition of meditation or "centering down."
Jesus Christ gave even more instructions when his disciples asked
him how to pray. The Lord gives them (and us) instructions on
how to pray when he gives us the Lords' Prayer. Once again, he
gives us no instructions which resemble "centering down"
meditation. This prayer is a petition and requires the mind to
be fully engaged, not unplugged. Finally, it tells us to appeal
to the Lord to protect us from the Evil One (i.e., Satan). Eastern
Meditation REMOVES the protection to let the Evil One IN to our
Just prior to this, Jesus had lifted up his OPEN eyes to the
Heavens to pray...not close them when he raised Lazarus.
"Then they took away the stone [from the place] where
the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up [his] eyes, and said,
Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." John 11:41
So we don't even see Jesus praying or instructing us how to
pray or meditate like anything even resembling Eastern Meditation
or Richard Foster's version of meditation.
Again the Apostle Paul says:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever
things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever
things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever
things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if
[there be] any praise, think on these things." Philippians
With the mind of Christ, this is the kind of thinking or meditation
we should be practicing. What is pure or commendable about Carl
Jung's practice of divination or the complete balance of his
theory of the subconscious, which he believed came from what
we possessed in our subconscious as animals before we became
human (thus totally denying the creation of man directly from
the dust by a Sovereign Creator) ?
What is of good report of Carl Jung?
What is noble about his personality theory, which he also
drew from paganism and a spirit-guide that possessed him? Are
not these things clearly abhorred by both Jesus Christ and the
Apostle Paul? We are to flee these things, not embrace, promote
them and feed them to God's children.
You want to call your kind of meditation Biblical. But I challenge
you to go through the entire Old and New Testaments and do a
word search for the word "meditate" or "meditation",
and look it up in the Hebrew and the Greek (as you did with the
word "you" in the New Testament). You will not find
one instance or precedent for the word meaning anything close
to your revisionist definition. You will not find a precedent
for it. You will not find an example of Jesus Christ or any of
the Apostles practicing it or recommending it. But you will find
it practiced and promoted in Eastern Meditation and the New Age
Finally, the New Age Movement did not borrow or hijack centering
down from Christianity. Though not under the same name, the practice
is as ancient as Babylon and the Tower of Babel. And the Tower
of Babel was constructed because of the same lie Satan used in
the Garden of Eden, "You shall be as God."
When you say "church" you mean Roman Catholicism
and the Carmelite Order traditions. But Roman Catholicism is
both pagan and apostate. Indeed, your version of centering down
indeed matastesized into the Church and spread spiritual death
into the Church, just as various forms of cancer metastasize
in the organs of the human body, eventually causing physical
death. Your form of "centering down" is also rooted
in the Church's first and tragically on-going heresy, Gnosticism.
Despite what you believe and stated above, centering down
has no rich history or even existence in the TRUE CHURCH. For
you to claim that New Age beliefs are only recent, reveals a
tragic lack of knowledge of both history and Scripture. As the
prophet Hosea declares:
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because
thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou
shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law
of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Hosea 4:6
The complete transcript of my dialogue with Dr. John Stoll
and Carl Jung teaching is available at:
But here is an excerpt on that debate which addresses whether
or not "Prayer Centering" is Biblical or Christian:
Dear Dr. Stoll,
Thank you for your continued dialogue in responding to my
To be consistent with our previous format, I begin by quoting
you, then responding in red.
Response to your June 9, 2003 Letter.
As to what you pointed out as to "centered spirituality"
wondering if I got that from Jung, the answer is, no. I got that
as a boy from my Father, a Godly Bible expositor, who reminded
the people to "center their spiritual life on Christ"
rather than on the world. My Father probably never even heard
of Jung. However, various words such as the word, "centered"
are not necessarily the exclusive domain of Godless Psychologists.
As someone with advanced degrees and 50 years of studying,
teaching, and counseling, you should be the first to know that
cantered spirituality is primarily known for it New Age connection.
It is not taught in the Bible. There should be no confusion about
this. And there should be no mixing of Godless Psychology with
Biblical Christianity in order to get cantered. So, you are saying
there is such a thing a Godfull Psychology? This is an oxymoron.
You even concede that term is used in Godless Psychology in your
last letter to me.
So why didn't you completely expose it and renounce its New
Age and normally understood connection? Your father indeed may
not have heard of Jung, so may have used the term innocently
enough, but you should know better than to use the term today,
when most do understand that its most normal usage is identifying
it with the New Age. And this raises another question, how did
your father get along so admirably in the faith WITHOUT probably
ever knowing who Carl Jung was? I have known the Lord for 50
years and studied the Bible too and I never once ever heard of
the term or even concept of being spiritual centered as a Christian.
I have never even heard any great Bible scholar teach such a
There is no such Scripture. Go ahead and use your search engine
in the Bible (I tried it in KJV and NIV) and find me a chapter
and verse to support this very unorthodox gnostic idea of being
spiritually centered. You will certainly find "sanctify",
"justify", in a Bible word search, but you won't find
"centered" or "Centered Spirituality". Now
you may say "well you wouldn't find "trinity"
either in a Bible search. True enough. But you will still find
a host of Scriptures that support the very Orthodox Christian
concept behind the Trinity. But there is no Orthodox Christianity
behind either the word(s) "centered spiritual", or
the concept. And even if you really mean centered on Christ,
then there is no other center. Are you suggesting if Christ is
the fulcrum center, that we are then to balance psychology with
Scripture? If we are to worship him with all of our heart, mind,
strength and soul (not just spiritually center ourselves), there
isn't anything else to balance it with to be centered spiritually.
Now if you wish to use the term centered in the way you would
use a level which has a little bubble in it, or a carpenter's
plumbline, as the Prophet Amos used the term, then you would
still mean everything must be in plumb with the Scriptures. But
Carl Jung is clearly out of plumb and clearly NOT centered, so
he must be totally rejected. The New Age uses also uses the term
Christ-Centered Spirituality But it is not the same Christ. Your
defense of using the term centered spiritually because you mean
Christ exclusively (but did not state this) would be like insisting
on using the word gay in talking about people who are colorfully
dressed. After all, that is what the word meant in the King James
Bible. When almost everyone hearing you describe people as gay
would almost universally be understood to mean that they are
homosexual. And were you use of centered spiritually used in
isolation or where you precisely defined it to mean totally obedient
to the Scriptures, being born again, and totally reliant on the
Holy Spirit, I will concede your use of the term. But because
you have inundated it with Psychology and Carl Jung teaching,
this makes it a great stumbling block.
Centering Down, Is This Biblical?
Dear Dr. Stoll,
I trust that you have had a chance to review my last commentary.
This is more or a less an epilogue to the discussion of Centering.
I have since learned the centering is a key term
invoked and promoted by Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington,
as part of centering prayer which is at the heart
of contemplative prayer. Sound good? Just a better version of
Biblical prayer and meditation? Not when you discover that this
centering is a blended Christianity with Eastern mysticism. Your
own mentor, Morton Kelsey, himself mentored by Carl Jung, stated:
You can find most of the New Age practices in the depth
of Christianity...I believe that the Holy One lives in
every soul. (Source A Time of Departing, Ray
Yungen, page 67, Lighthouse Trails Publishing Company, 2002.)
So it is not entirely out of order that I would challenge you
regarding the use of this term, as it is now been integrated
into Christian. Centering Prayer was further endorsed by Brennan
Here is another one of your quotes:
"The study of psychology as a scientific field poses
problems for the Christian, yet when integrated with the psychological
principles as demonstrated in God's Word, it offers the opportunity
of opining new insights regarding Christian experiences and understanding
of the Biblical truths. An illustration may serve to help underscore
this principle. The sulfa drug does not kill the germ. It dissolves
the hard protective coating around the germ so that the white
corpuscles are able to kill the germ. In a similar fashion, psychology
can provide the tools used by God to penetrate more efficiently,
and dissolve the defensive shell that people use to insulate
themselves from Biblical truths, and from their fellowmen. When
this shell is broken, the Spirit of God is able to perform His
work in their lives. Each problem raised by life and psychology
has its answer in the Word of God. These answers should be sought
and found, and when they are, along with personal application,
the normal spiritual life that God has for each of us will become
So, psychology can break the shell, so that the world, as
with CGM can break down the defenses so that people will seek
after God? What an anemic view of the power of God's word. The
Bible is not able to pierce or dissolve these defenses, but Psychology
is? Psychology is sharper than a two-edged sword separating even
soul from spirit? I thought only the Scriptures could do that
via the Holy Spirit. The word of God itself does the penetration
and is certainly sharper than psychology. In fact, psychology
has no blade at all and penetrates nothing to produce righteousness.
Psychology and Carl Jung is what dissolves the protective coating
of the armor of God so that the Christian can no longer ward
off the fiery darts of the enemy. In response to Dr. Stoll's
proposition that Psychology can dissolve the shell that insulates
people from Biblical truths, here is what the Scriptures say:
"Now when they heard [this], they were pricked in their
heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men
[and] brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:37-38
If Dr. Stoll is right, When 3,000 who were saved asked "What
shall we do?" Shouldn't Peter have said. "Take a Personality
Profile Test? Or, many of you standing here did not
get saved by hearing the Scriptures, so I would now like to educate
you to some of the hundreds of theories of psychology in order
to break down those barriers that the Scriptures themselves were
unable to do, so that the Gospel can penetrate more of you than
the Scriptures by themselves were able to do. And for those of
you who did get saved. Now is the time to get sanctified. But
once again, Scripture is good as far as it goes, but we really
need an additional tool, we need a Personality Profile. In many
circles this will become known as MBTI.
Then in Acts 2:42
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine
Would then read: "and they continued steadfastly in the
apostles doctrine and Carl Jung occultic teachings and Gnosticism."
Act 4:4 "Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed;
and the number of the men was about five thousand."
I would ask Dr. Stoll "Howbeit that if hearing the word
(Scripture) caused five thousand to believe, why does he state
that Psychology can break them down to receive Scripture and
be saved?" Does the Bible say Psychology can prick the heart,
or does it say hearing the Word pricked their hearts?
Rom 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be
ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove
what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern
of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his
good, pleasing and perfect will." NIV
This is an amazing statement! You can't even test what is
God's will until you renounce the patterns and principles of
this world (Jung, Kelsey, Psychology). HOW ABOUT THAT!!! Again
I say "then"!!!!!!
Sincerely in Christ,
Rock Salt Publishing
January 28, 2004
Thank you for your response to my letter and appeal regarding
as to whether or not it is Biblical. And though I feel constrained
to oppose you, I am grateful that your tone was diplomatic.
I should point out further that though you response seems
to focus on one aspect of Christian Meditation which
is centering prayer the scope of the article did
address the greater issue of Christian Meditation
in which you were named and identified with. In that article,
in a conference at St. Thomas More Church, held by you and Steve
Cartwright, he states by centering prayer they received the gift
of the presence of God, as though the presence of God did
not already exist in the manifestation of the Gifts of the Holy
Spirit ALREADY identified in Scripture, in which NO separate
gift was listed anywhere known as the gift of the presence
of God. Mr Cartwright further states that there is no
analysis of experience....say what? We must ALWAYS test
these spirits to see if they be of God. We must always test every
idea against Scripture as Paul commended the Bereans for. We
must cast down vain strongholds of imagination. No analysis....this
idea is totally foreign to Scripture in terms of our walk with
the Lord. But it is certainly at the heart of the New Age Eastern
Meditation that does not gird up the loins of the mind, being
circumspect to every device and seducing spirit that comes along,
masquerading as an angel of light and illumination to the hidden
(occult) mystery religions.
I think it is fair to say that centering prayer
is what, in fact, its founders and leaders who coined the term
say that it is. It is fair to say that it is what is defined
as on the prayer centering website which in its own words states
under the definition of centering prayer:
Centering Prayer is a method of prayer, which prepares us
to receive the gift of God's presence, traditionally called contemplative
So it would only then be fair and logical to conclude that
centering prayer is what they then define contemplative
prayer as. Now it would also be fair to conclude that by
their own admission the site then tells us where these ideas
came from, who first promoted them, and who now promotes them.
This should always be one of the first questions a Christian
should ask in order to be a good Berean to see if these ideas
can be found in Scripture. The site then lists various notables
from which this tradition was drawn. Here is the quote on the
very website you are listed as a contact:
Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices
of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers
and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures),
The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa
of Avila.. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in
the 1970s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger,
Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist
Abbey, St. Josephs Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.
Source: http://www.centeringprayer.com/cntrgpryr.htmow lets examine
exactly what these teachers (and other names listed on other
Christiancentering prayer and contemplative prayer
sites, such as Richard Foster, Brennan Manning, Basil Pennington
The Carmelites go back to 1562 when Teresa of Avila took it
to herself to reform the Carmelite Order instituted in 1154 on
the Mount Carmel, Israel. The Order fell victim of a lack of
discipline among its monks and nuns, Teresa resolved to revive
it by restoring the primitive rule and emphasizing a contemplative
life. John of the Cross joined forces with Teresa to reform the
monks houses of the Order. Now besides the fact the Carmelites
are a Roman Catholic order, here are some quotes from these Carmelites
which are quite alarming and why the New Age just love them:
Here is what John of the Cross says about God:
*'My beloved [God] is the high mountains, and the lovely
valley forests, unexplored islands, rushing rivers' John of the
No God is not the high mountains, he is the creator of the
high mountains. Anyone worshipping the mountains, thinking they
are God is pantheism. (John of the Cross was Carmelite who joined
forces with Teresa of Avila.)
He also wrote of mystical union that "it would not be a
true and total transformation if the soul were not transformed
into the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity" (Spiritual
Canticle, stanza 39.3) Source: Brittanica International, 1966.
Here is a quote from Basil Pennington, who wrote the preface
for Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God:
*'[T]he soul of the human family is the Holy Spirit.'
Another quote from Thomas Keating:
"God speaks through the prophets, but he speaks better
No, that is not Scriptural. In fact it contradicts this Scripture,
as the Apostle Paul would beg to disagree with Thomas Keating:
Rom 10:17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by
the word of God.
Hbr 11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]:
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that]
he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
So you can't even obtain faith in silence, so it is impossible
to please God until you first hear. You can not hear if it is
silent, that is an oxymoron!
Here is a quote from Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating in
their book Finding Grace at the Center:
We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom
of the East and capture if for Christ. Indeed, those
of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to
acquaint ourselves with as many of these Easter techniques as
possible...Many Christian who take their prayer life seriously
have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices...
In order to guide persons having this experience [divineoneness],
Christian spiritual directors many need to dialogue with Eastern
teachers in order to get a fuller understanding.
Now this is quite an amazing statement considering that you
state: It would be tragic if some Christians were held
back from receiving the gift of contemplative prayer because
they were frightened that it was New Age. David Muyskens,
January 27, 2004
Yoga, Zen, and TM are not New Age? So much for light not having
fellowship with darkness, so much for coming out from among them,
so much you can not simultaneously drink from cup of demons and
the cup of the Lord, so much for the Scripture if it does
not speak to the law and the prophets there is no light in them,
so much for Jesus Christ's own words that a thornbush can not
PRAYER CENTERING Review
As mentioned above, the key to spirituality, according to
Manning, is a special type of prayer which he calls "contemplative
prayer" or "centering prayer."
For the uninitiated, this may not seem ominous. It may sound
like what God calls us to do in His Word. It is not. It is ominous.
It is a practice derived from Eastern mysticism.
In The Signature of Jesus, Manning writes, "The task
of contemplative prayer is to help me achieve the conscious awareness
of the unconditionally loving God dwelling within me" (p.
211). He also says, "What masters of the interior life recommend
is the discipline of 'centering down' throughout the day"
Manning attempts to head off the charge that centering prayer
comes from Eastern mysticism and the New Age movement by saying:
A simple method of contemplative prayer (often called "centering
prayer" in our time and anchored in the Western Christian
tradition of John Cassian and the desert fathers, and not, as
some think, in Eastern mysticism or New age philosophy) has four
steps (p. 218).
He instructs the reader in the practice of centering prayer,
which is a type of contemplative wordless "prayer"
a technique that involves breathing exercises and the chanting
of a sacred word or phrase. Manning begins "the first step
in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer"
(p. 212)! What biblical support is there for this idea?
The second step, according to Manning, is to "without
moving your lips, repeat the sacred word [or phrase] inwardly,
slowly, and often" (p. 218). Once again, where is the biblical
support for this practice? None is cited, because none exists.
The third step concerns what to do when inevitable distractions
come. The answer is to "simply return to listening to your
sacred word. Gently return your mind to your sacred word"
Finally, "after a twenty-minute period of prayer [which
Manning recommends twice daily] conclude with the Lord's Prayer,
a favorite psalm, or some spontaneous words of praise and thanks"
(p. 219). While he doesn't say how long this concluding recitation
or spontaneous words might last, it seems he only expects this
to be a minute or two, since the Lord's Prayer and most of the
Psalms are short and easy to read in a minute or so. This concluding
recitation seems to be an afterthought, something put in to make
the "prayer" seem Christian. Yet even this fourth part
is biblically suspect. Jesus said, "And when you pray, do
not use vain repetitions as the heathen do" (Matt 6:7).
Any routine prayer repeated each prayer session will soon fall
into the category of "vain repetition," even if it
is Scripture. The Lord's Prayer is a sample of the way we should
pray, and not some prayer we should memorize and repeat back
to God daily.
The instruction utilizes odd jargon such as the "false
self" and "crucifixion of the ego" and a curious
mix of spiritual and psychological terms. To understand his language
one would need to have a more candid overview of centering prayer,
which I found in an unusual-for me, not for New Agers-non Christian
source called Gnosis Magazine. The following is a condensation
of the article titled "From Woundedness to Union" (Gnosis,
Winter 1995, pp. 41-45). The author is a Ph.D. who was tutored
by the inventors of centering prayer:
Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington [who Manning credits for
teaching him this prayer form] were exploring how to achieve
a more concentrated experience on the general model of a Zen
sesshin, having been quite experienced in sesshins. During these
experiments they came upon a form of meditation from which tears,
repressed memories, deep intuitions all came to the surface in
a jumble, along with a sense of catharsis and bonding among the
From his years as abbot, Keating recognized that this technique
accelerated the sensitizing of the unconscious which is the goal
of the contemplative life. He recalls, "I saw people going
through in ten days what it might have taken twenty years to
go through at a monastery." He believes that this unloading
of the unconscious is a purification process at work to which
he attaches traditional Christian terminology as the struggle
against sin. This is called "Divine Therapy."
The main goal is to dismantle the "false self,"
the needy, driven, unrecognized motivations behind untransformed
human behavior. They suggest the false self as a modern equivalent
for the traditional concept of original sin. The "true self"
is buried beneath the accretions and defenses. A huge amount
of healing has to take place before our deep and authentic quest
for union with God is realized. This, in essence, constitutes
the spiritual journey.
The most fruitful connection here [for the author of the article]
is the linking of the "dark night" of the traditional
apophatic path and the psychological process, the "darkness"
of the psyche. If psychoanalysis represents "cataphatic
therapy"-using words, concepts, and awareness to illuminate
the darkness of our inner ground-centering prayer presents a
kind of "apophatic psycho therapy" ("apophatic"
meaning that which points one towards the ineffable, beyond all
words, concepts, and forms).
Periods of psychological ferment and destabilization are signs
that the journey is progressing, not failing. The results can
often be horrifying to ourselves. As trust grows in God and practice
becomes more stable, we penetrate deeper and deeper down to the
bedrock of pain, the origin of our personal false self. In response
to each significant descent into the ground of our woundedness,
there is a parallel ascent in the form of inner freedom, the
experience of the fruits of the spirit and beatitude.
By interweaving the contemporary language of psychological
healing with the traditional language of Christianity a new synthesis
Chapter seven is entitled "Celebrate the Darkness"
(a title that is decidedly not only unbiblical, but even antibiblical;
darkness is always presented negatively in Scripture, see, for
example, 2 Cor 6:14; Eph 5:8, 11; 1 Thess 5:4-5; 1 Pet 2:9; 1
John 1:5-10). Manning writes "the ego has to break; and
this breaking is like entering into a great darkness. Without
such a struggle and affliction, there can be no movement in love"
(p. 145). He goes on,
With the ego purged and the heart purified through the trials
of the dark night, the interior life of an authentic disciple
is a hidden, invisible affair. Today it appears that God is calling
many ordinary Christians into this rhythm of loss and gain. The
hunger I encounter across the land for silence, solitude, and
centering prayer is the Spirit of Christ calling us from the
shallows to the deep (p. 149).
In centering prayer the word sin becomes a religious word
attached to a method of psychological therapy, and the biblical
presentation of true moral guilt is omitted.24 It is a system
completely open to the manipulation of the inventors who feel
the liberty to use the biblical language any way they see fit.
Manning attempts to give it the validity of tradition by saying
that it is has been rooted in Catholic monastic practices since
the 5th century: "It is a comfort to know that this is a
path that others have tracked before us" (p. 149).
The practice of centering prayer is expanding in many parishes
and is now moving beyond Catholic boundaries as many are coming
to it from the Recovery Movement. The Catholic Church does not
have an official position on this form of prayer, but some Catholic
scholars refute the mind-emptying techniques. They also call
for psychological studies because of the reported occurrences
of depression among practitioners of New Age type meditation.
The result of this mystical practice is that the practitioner
becomes less interested in objective spiritual knowledge found
in the Bible and more interested in the subjective experience
which is found through centering prayer. This may account for
the antagonistic attitude toward traditional forms of faith.
Manning speaks of "several local churches I have visited,
[in which] religiosity has pushed Jesus to the margins of real
life and plunged people into preoccupation with their own personal
salvation" (p. 193). Of course, centering prayer requires
no interest whatsoever in one's own personal salvation since
it presupposes that all are already saved. That is what we discover
when we "center down." Manning's attitude toward the
Bible seems to be markedly different from that of Calvin and
Luther, for example, or of anyone who has a high regard for it
as the very Word of God:
I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian
culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians,
the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word-bibliolatry.
God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book.
I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny
of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely
what God wants (pp. 188-89).
In The Signature of Jesus Manning rarely cites Scripture.
Why should he, when the truly important knowledge of God comes
from his experience of centering down and not from the Bible?
Remember "God cannot be confined within the covers of a
leather-bound book." While Manning would acknowledge that
some elementary truths of God can be found by reading the Bible,
intimate knowledge of God only comes through centering prayer.25
BRENNAN MANNING Review by Jackie Alnor:
There are several statements in your letter I would also like
It is astonishing to me that you would say that these people
are not integrating Carl Jung into their books and teaching.
Carl Jung has been a vast influence, initially in Roman Catholic
mysticism and gnosticism. In fact it was prevalent in Roman Catholicism
BEFORE it was brought to Evangelical Christianity. This in common
knowledge which you can prove with your own website search of
Catholic Retreat Centers who are great devotees and promoters
of Carl Jung. Even the various authors promoting this movement
such as Richard Foster's books are laced with quotes from Carl
You state that centering prayer is NOT using a repetitive
mantra. Well this may be the case for you, but it collides with
the observed practices in a host of Christian meditation retreat
centers and the actual prescriptions offered by leaders of the
You have correctly quoted Scripture. But you have not made
any connection with the term centering and those
Scriptures. There is not one single example of the practice in
Scripture. Not not one single example. Your example of Christ
commanding us to pray secret in our prayer closes says nothing
about being silent, only to not be seen or heard by others. Secondly,
if if is so important to be in isolation to pray, then why are
you then promoting group techniques? Furthermore, show me one
Scripture where God goes deeper than conversation,
Show me one Scripture that says we are any closer to God in silence
than we we confess our faith with our lips, or when Jesus prayed
to the Father to the sweating of drops of blood, or Daniel's
prayer? It is amazing to me that all of you who promote this
contemplative prayer think you are closer to God
than all of the persecuted and martyred saints throughout the
ages who did not practice this form of prayer...that somehow
they missed out. What you are proposing is that somehow a very
subjective (and untested by the testing of the spirits to see
if it be of God) is superior to the objective Word of God. This
is particularly true when the Scriptures themselves declare that
the is already sufficient to the perfecting of saints (sanctification)...that
we already lack nothing. Sola Scriptura was sufficient for the
Apostle Paul and he told us it was sufficient...nothing deficient....lacking
nothing. If we lack nothing without prayer centering
then what can this practice add? Are you saying that prayer centering
is a way to open our hearts that could be achieved by reading
the Scripture and praying the same way the rest of the saints
have always prayed? There is no presence of God when two or more
are gathered in his name without even practicing centering
prayer? God is not already present in a believer by virtue
of his simple obedience to Christ's commands such as the Great
Commission (which the Desert Fathers did NOT practice), by simply
praising his name (The Lord occupies the praise of his people)?
Centering Prayer is not listed as one of the Gifts
of the Holy Spirit, and yet a Christian does not have the presence
of God until they practice Centering Prayer? If this is
true, then there is no presence of God in all the Gifts of the
Holy Spirit that are listed in Scripture. But that idea is absurd.
Without God's presence in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, what
Christian would even want them and of what value would they be
to the Church?
Psalm 62 You state: It is the quiet prayer the Psalms
speak of ("For God alone my soul waits in silence"
You have quoted the Revised Standard Edition. The King James
or even the NIV does not contain the words in silence.
Here is the proof:
Psa 62:1 [[To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of
David.]] Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him [cometh] my
salvation. Psalm 62:1 KVJ
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes
from him. Psalm 62:1 NIV
So where is in silence in these passages?
But even more crucially, is the rest of the verse you did
not quote (from him cometh my salvation), because
this reveals what the whole chapter is really all about, and
that is what the Psalmist David was talking about what he was
waiting for...and that is his salvation. In fact the whole rest
of Chapter 62 is talking about salvation...and the expectation
of Christ's coming to save him ultimately. The Psalm even ends
with the assurance that God will reward man according to his
works whether they are wicked or righteous. Even if David were
waiting in silence he is waiting for his salvation,
not simply a subjective experience of practicing the presence
of God. Finally we are not even told that Psalm 62 is a prayer
as you state!
"Be still, and know that I am God," Ps. 46,
Once there is nothing in the context of this Psalm to suggest
the author was praying. If anything the Lord was trying to do
what he did with Job and that is to get him to pay attention
to everything the Lord is doing and has done in Creation and
Judgment..man was not being credit for contributing to some sort
of dialogue with God. This Psalm is almost a reprimand to mankind.
This be still was analogous to trying to get a fidgety
child to sit still and pay attention. God was simply
tell man to stand in awe and behold all that GOD was doing including
the devastation he caused on the earth. This can be clearly seen
in verse 8 where he states:
Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations
he hath made in the earth? And this is prayer centering?
What possible role did man have in this activity?
More proof from Biblical scholars regarding what be
still means in Psalm 46:
Psa 131:2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child
that is weaned of his mother: my soul [is] even as a weaned child
Once again this quieting oneself is just like what Psalm 46
is asking us to do. In fact this verse even reinforces that Psalm
46 by trying to get the child weaned off of behaving like a child
and simply behaving more like an adult. But it has nothing to
to with centering prayer and just like with Psalm
46 there is nothing in this chapter to even suggest the author
Finally I would like to respond to your use of Ephesians 3:16,17,
and 19. First allow me to put these quotes:
Eph 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches
of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in
the inner man;
Eph 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that
ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Eph 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is]
the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,
that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God
Now I will agree with you that this passage is a prayer because
Paul states that it is in verse 14 when he says for this
reason I knee before the Father. We are also not left in
the dark what Paul was referring to that we might be filled to
the measure of fullness of God. The impression created
in vast majority of proof texts in Christian Meditation
and Centering Prayer is that some new information
or elevated state of consciousness is going to be achieved which
all other Christians who don't practice it will not attain. But
Paul tells in this very chapter who would received these riches
(all Christians) and even what they would receive. It is essential
that when Paul write a phrase such as for this reason
, of King James renders it for this cause you have
to go back to the earlier part of that passage to see what the
reason was that he was referring to, or what cause. Well Paul
tells us immediately prior in Verse 13. So, what reason does
Paul give for kneeling before the Father. He says so all
the rest of the Christians in Ephesus won't get discouraged because
of Paul's suffering. There is no mysterious altered state of
consciousness that you are going to experience in your inner
being. Paul goes further as you go back even further in passage.
There are not some new found riches yet to be discovered by centering
prayer as you seem to imply. Paul tells us what theses
riches are when he declares that it was the mystery of Christ
which was not made known yet to the Gentiles in previous generations.
In other words, what was hidden is now revealed in Christ. BUT
IT IS ALREADY REVEALED...and to make it plain to everyone
the administration of this mystery (Verse 9).
Now this is not to say there are not riches yet to be revealed,
as Paul in other place says But as it is written,
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the
heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that
love him. I Corinthians 2:9 But these are riches that we
will obtain when we are resurrected in our glorified bodies...not
before, and certainly not acquired by means of prayer centering
or the type of meditation described in your movement. Paul would
agree that we should no longer be as a child but become mature.
But this maturation comes through sanctification of his Word
so that we won't be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine
and cunningly devised myths and fables dreamed up by Gnostics
and Mystics and their descendants that Paul himself opposed.
Three other very valuable resources on Christian Meditation
Ask for article on Renovare and Richard Foster by Al Dager
In Particular, Ray Yungen's Book Time of Departing
Well I hope that this treatise will demonstrate to you that
the concerns Christians have regarding whether or not Christian
Meditation is New Age is not without foundation and documentation.
That in the end, it is a clear and present danger to the Church
Kindest regards in Christ,
Dear James Sundquist:
I wish I could share with you what Centering Prayer is
and how the Lord has blessed me through its practice. Centering
not a form of meditation, it does not use a mantra, it is all
indwelling Christ and spending time in an intimate, loving relationship
with him. It
should not be lumped with eastern meditation or Jungian psychology.
It is a
way of opening our hearts to be in contemplation which is a silent
communion with God. It is the prayer Jesus taught when he said
we are to go
into our secret room and there commune with Abba, the most intimate
Father. It is communion with God that goes deeper than conversation,
of course, also important as we come closer to God. It is the
God that is known in this silent, contemplative prayer. Its consequence
knowing that Presence in the rest of life. It is the quiet prayer
speak of ("For God alone my soul waits in silence"
Ps. 62, "Be still, and know
that I am God," Ps. 46, "I have calmed and quieted
my soul, like a weaned child
with its mother.") It is what Paul prayed for: "That
you may be strengthened
in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ
in your hearts...so that you may be filled with all the fullness
(Eph. 3:16,17&19) I hope this helps clarify gift that many
practice Centering Prayer are receiving. It would be tragic if
some Christians were
held back from receiving the gift of contemplative prayer because
frightened that it was New Age.