Contemplative advocates propose that there has been something
vital and important missing from the church for centuries...
necessary for their spiritual vitality. That implies that the
Holy Spirit has been fully effective for hundreds of years,
and that the secret key that unlocks our knowledge of God has
yet to be been found ....
making a distinction between studying God's Word versus experiencing Him, suggesting that we cannot hear
Him or really know Him simply by knowing His Word and praying to
Him -- we must be contemplative.... But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God
living and active, and has always been that way! We come to love Him
filling our minds with that Word, not through
a mystical practice of stopping the flow of thought....
Time of Departing [Chapter three] I quoted Thomas Merton's statement that he
saw various Eastern religions "come together in his life" (as a
Christian mystic). On a rational level, Christianity
and Eastern religions will not mix; but add the mystical element
and they blend together like soap and water....
Mysticism neutralizes doctrinal
differences by sacrificing the truth of Scripture for a mystical
experience. Mysticism offers a common ground... some kind of divinity in all. But we know from Scripture
"there is one God; and there is none other but he" (Mark 12:32).
In a booklet put out by
Saddleback Church on spiritual maturity, the following quote by
Henri Nouwen is listed:
"Solitude begins with a
time and place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not
only that God exists, but that He is actively present in our
lives -- healing, teaching, and guiding -- we need to set aside a time
and space to give Him our undivided attention."1
When we understand what
Nouwen really means by "time and space" given to God we can also
see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his
biography of Nouwen, God's Beloved, Michael O' Laughlin says:
"Some new elements began to
emerge in Nouwen's thinking when he discovered
Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of
contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the
world through new eyes. . . . If ever there was a time when
Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters
or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he
fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings
of Thomas Merton."2
In his book, Thomas
Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these "new
eyes" that Merton helped to formulate. He said that Merton and
his work "had such an impact" on his life and that he was the
man who had "inspired" him greatly.3
But when we read Nouwen's
very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen
lays out the path of Merton's spiritual pilgrimage into
contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a
critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand
what are the roots behind Merton's spiritual affinities. Nouwen
explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley
who "brought him to a deeper level of knowledge" and "was one of
Merton's favorite novelists."4 It was Huxley's book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton "into contact with
"He [Huxley] had read
widely and deeply and intelligently in all kinds of Christian
and Oriental mystical literature, and had come out with the
astonishing truth that all this, far from being a mixture of
dreams and magic and charlatanism, was very real and very
This is why, explained Nouwen, Merton's mystical journey took him right into the arms
"Merton learned from him
[Chuang Tzu-a Taoist] what Suzuki [a Zen master] had said about
Zen: 'Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake and
Become aware of what? The
Buddha nature. Divinity within all.
That is why Merton said if
we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and
worship one another. Merton's descent into contemplative led him
to the belief that God is in all things and that God is all
things. This is made clear by Merton when he said: "True
solitude is a participation in the solitariness of God-Who is in
Nouwen adds: "[Chuang
Tzu] awakened and led him [Merton] . . . to the deeper ground of
This has been the ploy of
Satan since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, "ye
shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:4). It is this very essence that is
the foundation of contemplative prayer.
In Merton's efforts to
become a mystic, he found guidance from a Hindu swami, whom
Merton referred to as Dr. Bramachari. Bramachari played a
pivotal role in Merton's future spiritual outlook. Nouwen
divulged this when he said:
"Thus he [Merton] was more
impressed when this Hindu monk pointed him to the Christian
mystical tradition. . . . It seems providential indeed that this
Hindu monk relativized [sic] Merton's youthful curiosity for the
East and made him sensitive to the richness of Western
Why would a Hindu monk
advocate the Christian mystical tradition? The answer is simple:
they are one in the same. Even though the repetitive words used
may differ (e.g. Christian words: Abba, Father, etc. rather than
Hindu words), the end result is the same. And the Hindu monk
knew this to be true. Bramachari understood that Merton didn't
need to switch to Hinduism to get the same enlightenment that he
himself experienced through the Hindu mystical tradition. In
essence, Bramachari backed up what I am trying to get across,
that all the world's mystical traditions basically come from the
same source and teach the same precepts . . . and that source is
not the God of the Old and New Testaments. That biblical God is
is now being invited, perhaps even catapulted into seeing God
with these new eyes of contemplative prayer. And so the question
must be asked, is Thomas Merton's silence, Henri Nouwen's space,
and Richard Foster's contemplative prayer the way in which we
can know and be close to God? Or is this actually a spiritual
belief system that is contrary to the true message that the
Bible so absolutely defines -- that there is only one way to God
and that is through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose
sacrifice on the Cross obtained our full salvation?
If indeed my
concerns for the future actually come to fruition, then we will
truly enter a time of departing.
(From chapter 9 of A Time of
Departing - for more about Ray Yungen's work, visit:
1.. Henri Nouwen, cited in
Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: Solitude Tool (Lake
Forest, CA: Saddleback Church, 2003), p. 12.
2. Michael O' Laughlin,
God's Beloved (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 178.
3. Henri J.M. Nouwen,
Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper &
Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition), p. 3.
4. Ibid., pp. 19-20.
5. Ibid., p. 20.
7. Ibid., p. 71.
8. Ibid., pp. 46, 71.
9. Ibid., p. 71.
10 . Ibid., p. 29.