Chasing after a spiritual “high” by following the “mystics”

Teresa of Avila: An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement
By Carolyn A. Greene
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2017, 19 pages, $1.95

Within the evangelical church, we see trends and gimmicks come and go. Others stay around for awhile. Some hip pastor dreams up a new, “cutting edge” spirituality technique and then appears on TBN hawking his new book and the next thing you know “progressive” pastors all over the country are climbing on board so they don’t get left behind at the “last year’s news” station.

Such is the case with the “contemplative prayer” (aka “spiritual formation” and “centering prayer”) movement. It wasn’t enough just to read God’s Word and go to the Lord in simple prayer. No, as Christianity in America began moving farther and farther away from doctrine-based faith to subjective experientialism, “cutting edge” pastors began looking into methods for their congregations to “deepen” their prayer/worship “encounter.” But there was no need to reinvent the wheel. “Hip” pastors read accounts of the old Roman Catholic mystics and discovered exactly what they were looking for.

Cloistered monastic religious orders encouraged their monks and nuns to practice forms of extreme asceticism including self-mortification (flagellation, chronic fasting, sleep deprivation, etc.). Under these conditions, the mystics often fell into deep swoons and trances and claimed to experience ecstasies and the miraculous phenomena of levitation, bi-location, and stigmata as well as being visited by Jesus and/or the “Blessed Virgin.”

One such Catholic mystic was the celebrated “saint,” Teresa of Avila, Spain (1515-1582). In this pamphlet, Carolyn Greene refers to some of the writings of Teresa to illustrate her “otherworldly” experiences. This short pamphlet is not a thorough exposé of “contemplative prayer” or of the alleged experiences of Teresa, but serves only as a brief introduction.

Many “hip” pastors and church leaders have jumped onto the “contemplative prayer” band wagon. They extol the writings of Teresa and other Catholic mystics as guides for their followers to experience a deep, subjective, often trance-like “encounter” while in prayer/meditation. This technique began in the “emerging church” with people like Brian McLaren and Richard Foster and has since spread into mainstream “evangelicalism” through people like Sarah Young, Rick Warren, Dallas Willard, Tim Keller, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer.

Contemplative/centering prayer promotes emptying the mind and experiencing a self-induced trance similar to the TM trancendental meditation practices taught in Hinduism. I believe voluntarily surrendering control of one’s mind exposes an individual to demonic influences. In contrast, God’s Word commands that we are to be ever sober and vigilant rather than slaves of hypnotic euphoria.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:22-24

The other great danger of the contemplative prayer movement is that it serves as a bridge between evangelical Christians and Roman Catholicism. Teresa of Avila was a faithful follower of Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation through sacramental grace and merit. If your pastor proposes a contemplative/centering prayer initiative, it’s definitely time to find a new church.

For many resources that examine the dangers of contemplative spirituality and Roman Catholicism, see the link to Lighthouse Trails Publishing below.

Lighthouse Trails Publishing

Sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1652, “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” purports to show the “saint” in the throes of swooning ecstasy as an angel prepares to thrust a golden lance into her heart.

17 thoughts on “Chasing after a spiritual “high” by following the “mystics”

  1. Very frightening stuff, Tom. Dangerous. Grateful! I would rather have one pure word from God than a thousand delusive visions. When I was in high school I wrote to the Carmelites in Erie, PA, wondering about this, then ran away from the Lord as fast as I could.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Maria! Yes, chasing after this mysticism is like religious drug addiction, always seeking a high. There is a Carmelite monastery just a few miles from us. I can remember riding by the grounds and building as a child, wondering about the women who were cloistered inside. Those poor souls put themselves through the ringer trying to merit salvation.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Very pertinent as it seems every 2nd Christian I know exhibits being entranced by stuff like this… It is easier for me to see as was pre becoming a ‘born again Christian’ so messed in the head by occultism & mysticism that my bs detector as a new Christian was finely honed. Holy Spirit cleaned me up fast. It is truly frightening how this mystic path number has snared so many Christians… Trying to tell them it is satanic wiles of deception does not make one popular or even heard… As a young kid I was known for my fascination with catholic saints, mystical paths, apparitions etc… I even collected holy picture cards but sooner or later my rebellious nature & cynicism won. By 14 years of ages I ripped apart me rosary beads (an act of sacrilege haha) & made earrings out of them. Have you ever noticed how many Catholic priests/theologians love Buddhism. Let me tell you why! It is because it is the same deception! All satanic. Saved by works…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, SMH. Yes, there’s a fascination among many with this “inner spirituality.” What comes to mind is a type of gnosticism where only the most devoted are introduced to the most important mysteries of the religion. Freemasonry and Scientology are also examples of this “climbing the ladder” to mastery.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Forgot to add something. That picture of Avila in ecstasy has perverse sexual overtones… same sorta stuff that also entered into charismatic movement Unclean spirits… The RC stuff is satanic to the core John Deegan in Ireland see vid (ma hero!) knows! I know! You know… The best part is when he shouts the truth Evil Rome Crimes of the roman catholic destruction & genocide of our ppl You raped our children murdered our children… You are sons of satan Evil Rome (I love my people love Ireland God is with John)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for bringing this up, SMH. I alluded to the veiled eroticism in Teresa’s visions in my comments under the photo of the sculpture, but I didn’t want to make an issue of it for the purposes of the post. In the writings of many of the female mystics, there are many thinly-veiled erotic inferences. Academics refer to this as “bridal mysticism.” In addition to other elements, the visionary is often pierced by some type of instrument or light, suggested by many to be a type of phallus. It’s all fairly obvious to any thinking person. See below for an earlier post on another mystic, “saint” Rita, whose visitations also included erotic elements. These women would have been hospitalized today. Below that is an article about Bernini’s “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa,” which discusses the same issue.

      I apologize if you or any others who read this comment are offended, but this was all a very real part of Catholic mysticism.

      Thank you for the video of the gentleman confronting the Catholic bishops. We have no idea of the magnitude of suffering inside Catholic institutions.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I know. And am sad. But the truth of God’s word will continue to offend. Trust the Holy Spirit. He will give the words.:)

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s