NEW AGE MOVEMENT
- New Age
- Centering Prayer
(Q): What is the New Age Movement?
(A): Actually the New Age Movement is not new at all. It has been around before Christ. New Age is the modern term for practices such as reincarnation, yoga, channeling, crystals, Enneagram, Centering Prayer, and many more. There are traces of this movement in the Eastern religions such as Hinduism. These religions promote the idea that God is a principal or an idea-not a person. An example of such a practice is reincarnation.
(Q): Why is the New Age Movement harmful to Catholics?
(A): The New Age Movement is very harmful in that it encourages its members to feel free to pursue their own type of spirituality, thus leading them away from the Catholic Church. This movement teaches its followers that everyone is their own God and that they have powers within themselves to control the supernatural. The very attractive lure of the New Age Movement is that one will see instant changes in their life. There is not a need for prayer or discipline within the New Age Movement. There is no God in this movement, it is all about self.
Centering Prayer is making a strong hold in the Catholic Church. Not only is it popping up in church bulletins, it is being practiced in monasteries, by priests, nuns and lay people. So what exactly is Centering Prayer? Well, in short it is thought to be a quick way to become a contemplative and pray like the saints.
(Q) I heard that the Saints used Centering Prayer is this true?
(A) No, it is not true. Centering prayer is a “new” movement taken from an “old” Eastern technique that has only been around for the past 30 years. The origins of Centering Prayer are found in the excerpt below (from Fr. John Dreher’s article “The Danger of Centering Prayer”):
In the mid-seventies, Trappist Abbot Thomas Keating asked the monks, "‘Could we put the Christian tradition into a form that would be accessible to people . . . who have been instructed in an Eastern technique and might be inspired to return to their Christian roots if they knew there was something similar in the Christian tradition?"’ (Intimacy with God, 15). Frs. William Menniger and M. Basil Pennington took up the challenge, and centering prayer is the result. In a few short years it has spread all over the world.
Centering prayer originated in St. Joseph’s Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts. During the twenty years (1961–1981) when Keating was abbot, St. Joseph’s held dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu representatives, and a Zen master gave a week-long retreat to the monks. A former Trappist monk who had become a Transcendental Meditation teacher also gave a session to the monks.
Below are some excerpts from Centering Prayer teachers Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington:
“We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible… Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences”. (Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, Finding Grace at the Center. pp. 5-6)
"Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within." (cf. Open Mind, Open Heart, chap. 5) The sacred word expresses our intention to be in God's presence and to yield to the divine action. The sacred word should be chosen during a brief period of prayer asking the Holy Spirit to inspire us with one that is especially suitable for us. Examples: Lord, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother Other possibilities: Love, Peace, Shalom Having chosen a sacred word, we do not change it during the prayer period, for that would be to start thinking again. A simple inward gaze upon God may be more suitable for some persons than the sacred word. In this case, one consents to God's presence and action by turning inwardly toward God as if gazing upon him. The same guidelines apply to the sacred gaze as to the sacred word."
Keating explains further:
"Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's presence and action within." By "sitting comfortably" is meant relatively comfortably; not so comfortably that we encourage sleep, but sitting comfortably enough to avoid thinking about the discomfort of our bodies during this time of prayer. Whatever sitting position we choose, we keep the back straight. If we fall asleep, we continue the prayer for a few minutes upon awakening if we can spare the time. Praying in this way after a main meal encourages drowsiness. Better to wait an hour at least before Centering Prayer. Praying in this way just before retiring may disturb one's sleep pattern. We close our eyes to let go of what is going on around and within us. We introduce the sacred word inwardly and as gently as laying a feather on a piece of absorbent cotton.
(Q) So what is wrong with using Centering Prayer if it helps us to pray like the saints?
(A) Every Christian is called to spend time with God to talk to God and to listen for God in his or her heart. We can call this type of prayer mediation. Now there are some Christians, because of their detachment to this world; enter into a higher form of prayer and this is called contemplation. With contemplation there may be (but not always) supernatural gifts such as voices, apparitions, etc. Those who seek contemplative prayer by the use of the technique of Centering Prayer are trying to force God to give them a gift that their soul in not yet prepared to receive. According to Fr. John Dreher; Centering Prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as someone apart from oneself. ("The Danger of Centering Prayer" by Fr. JOHN D. DREHER)
(Q) What is the difference between Centering Prayer and Transcendental Meditation (TM )?
(A) For your comparison, below you will see an example of the “Christian” guidelines for Centering Prayer and below the “Christian” guidelines you will see the guidelines for Eastern practice of Transcendental Meditation
Basil Pennington, one of the best known proponents of the centering prayer technique, has delineated the guidelines for centering prayer: Taken from From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on line
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. Be in love and faith to God.
- Choose a sacred word that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord's presence and open to His divine action within you (i.e. "Jesus", "Lord," "God," "Savior," "Abba," "Divine," "Shalom," "Spirit," "Love," etc.).
- Let that word be gently present as your symbol of your sincere intention to be in the Lord's presence and open to His divine action within you.
- Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, your anchor.
Ideally, the prayer will reach the point where the person is not engaged in their thoughts as they arrive on their stream of consciousness.
- Meditator begins by choosing a word that is associated with his own belief system.
- The meditator sits in a quiet area where he can meditate in a comfortable position. He needs to close his eyes and relax his muscles. While taking slow, natural breaths, he repeats his focus word as he exhales. This continues for between ten to twenty minutes.
- The meditator needs to concentrate only on his focus word, inhibiting other thoughts from being present. After the meditation session is complete, he should sit quietly with his eyes shut for a couple of minutes as he allows other thoughts to enter his mind.
- He can then rise after sitting for another couple of minutes with his eyes open. This technique should be practiced once or twice a day.
(Q) How can I achieve contemplative prayer without using the technique of Centering Prayer?
(A) Contemplative prayer of the saints was a gift of the Holy Spirit. It was not something that the saints forced to happen to them. It was a gradual gift that was acquired after much purification of the soul, by living an life of virtue and yearning and longing with deep love for God.
One thing is for sure, the saints who were able to practice contemplative prayer did not live the sort of lives we live today. If we want to pray like a saint then we need to start acting like a saint. We need to turn off the TV, turn off the radio, get off the phone, stop texting, and listen for God all day in our heart. How realistic is it to flood our brains with music, TV and then think that we can turn it off for the hour we decide to pray? It just doesn’t work that way! Our mind will still crave the stimulation that it is accustomed to hearing. Once the constant noise is out of our head and we are accustomed to silence then we will see a change in our prayer life. We also must change our ways. Go to confession once a month or more often (Pope John Paul II went to confession weekly). For more ways to change your life see SINS, VIRTUES.
(Q)What do I do if I continue to get a distracting thought?
(A) Open the Bible and reflect on God’s word. This is called lectio-divina. Search on the Internet or in the Library on lectio-divina for ways to help the Bible come alive and help bring you closer to God through spiritual insights.
(Q)What kind of dangers carry over from Transcendental Mediation (TM) that I may be opening myself up to by practicing Centering Prayer?
(A)There are many physical, psychological, and spiritual dangers associated with Yoga, Transcendental Mediation (TM), and especially practices that are used to bring about a "Kundalini Awakening." (http://www.yogadangers.com/)
Some of the reported symptoms of a "Kundalini Awakening"
- Mental confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory problems
- Severe emotional mood swings -anxiety, depression, rage, fear and dread
- Sleep disturbances
- Gastrointestinal problems, irritable bowel syndrome
- Itching, burning, cramping, twitching of skin and body
- Electrical rushes and feelings of energy moving throughout the body
- Ego problems, grandiose and paranoid states
- Psychic, trance states and out-of-body experiences
- Sexual and hormonal difficulties
- Uncontrollable vocalizations, chanting and body contortions
- Ringing, rushing, and hissing sounds in ears
- Paranormal activity - levitations, possession states, and spiritual assault
- Inability to function effectively enough to work or care for children
Symptoms can last for years
(Q): What is reincarnation?
(A): Reincarnation is the belief that the soul returns back to earth after death in another body, either human, animal, plant life, etc. Reincarnation is the belief of many oriental religions. Reincarnation is contrary to the Bible and to all Christian belief in the afterlife. "It is appointed that men die once, and after death be judged" (Heb. 10:27).
(Q): What is yoga?
(A): A Catholic friend of mine told me that she was going to take yoga, thinking it was some type of physical exercise. She was shocked when I told her it was a Hindu meditation that is forbidden by the Catholic Church.
Yoga, is a meditation that is thought to unite a person with the divine. Once you have acquired the correct posture (the lotus position), it is much easier to concentrate and the breathing exercises can begin. The yoga student is instructed to begin by concentrating with detail on the air flowing in and out of the nostrils. This should only be done for 10 or 15 minutes if a "guide" is not available (a mentor). Why? Because there is a danger that one may begin to hallucinate.
Here are a few excerpts from the (non-Christian) book by Eknath Easwaran,: "Please do not, in a burst of enthusiasm, increase your meditation to an hour or longer, because such a practice exposes you to dangers. ...a few [people] have an inborn capacity to plunge deeply inward. And once you break through the surface level, you are in an uncharted world. It is like a desert, but instead of sand there are latent psychological tendencies, terribly powerful forces. There you stand in that vast desert without a compass. You have tapped forces before you are prepared to handle them, and your daily life can be adversely affected by them. You may see lights, perhaps brilliant ones, or hear sounds. Entering deeper consciousness is like descending into a cave. There are bewitching experiences, and there can also be awesome, even disorienting ones. One last warning: please do not try to connect the passage to a physiological function, such as heartbeat or breathing rhythm. Such a connection may seem helpful initially, but it can cause serious problems later. Trying to synchronize your mantra with physiological processes, such as heartbeat or breathing, also divides your attention. No harm will result if this happens by itself, but do not try to make the connection. Actually, it can be quite hazardous to interfere with vital functions that are already operating smoothly without our conscious intervention. The authors of meditation guides advise exercising extreme caution unless accompanied by a "competent guide."
(Q): What is Channeling?
(A): Did you ever see the movie "Ghost"? If you did, Whoopi Goldberg allowed the spirit of Patrick Swayze to enter her so that he could communicate with Demi Moore. According to Mitch Pacwa's book "Catholics and the New Age" channeling is contact between a human and a spirit, during which the spirit takes over or possesses the personality of the human. Often a different voice tone or accent will be heard.
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
(Q): What does one do with crystals?
(A): The New Ager believes that crystals have power and that they unite one with the universe. Crystals are normally a quartz type rock that one hangs around their neck, on their car mirror, etc.
2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)