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Monday, 21 January 2013 14:10

A Historical Analysis of Mysticism: Part I

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Catholic and Buddhist Spirituality in the Context of the 12th and 13th Centuries

by Scott Noble (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
January 12, 2013

Every Christian knows that prayer is an important part of the Christian walk.  But, not all Christians have experienced a fulfilling prayer life.  Whether it be a lack of time, a wandering mind, or other obstacles, many Christians are sustained on just the "minimum" amount of prayer.  Addressing this need, but not in a biblical way, are the Catholic mystics now promoted by the emergent church and others even within "Bible-believing" churches.  Counterfeit spirituality is not a new thing.  Jesus said, "...the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth..." (John 4:23).  Anything that offers something "exciting" and "innovative," at the expense of truth is not something that leads to being a "true worshipper." 

 Francis of Assisi (1181- 1226 AD)

Francis was born during the time of the crusades, which were mainly from about 1095- 1291 AD.  He had some involvement in the military as a young man, but later was opposed to war.  When he was in his twenties he became serious about doing penance and even abandoned his worldly goods, starting his own monastic order.

"It was probably in 1209 that Francis took his fratres de paenitentia with him to Rome, where...they did get to meet with Innocent III.  They received the pope's verbal approval for the brief rule of life...as well as the 'license to preach everywhere.'"  (McGinn, 46)  Clare who led the female order of Franciscans, also needed to have their rule of life approved by the pope.  "...about 1215, she induced Francis to give the 'poor ladies' ...a 'form of life' (forma vitae)...The document was approved by Innocent III in a special 'Privilege of Poverty.'" (McGinn, 48)

The false doctrine of personal espousal to Christ (and the Holy Spirit) was taught by Francis and by Clare.  Clare, in writing to a daughter of the king of Bohemia, said, "...embrace the poor Christ.  Look upon him....Your spouse...O most noble Queen, gaze upon him..."  (Hellmann, 37)  Biblically, the church as a whole is the bride of Christ, not any individual.  Also, the marriage supper of the Lamb is a future event.

Clare also received approval for a later Rule, in which Francis spoke of their espousal to the Holy Spirit:  "...you have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit by choosing to live according to the perfection of the Holy Gospel..." (McGinn, 48)  "Although Francis's forma vitae had identified the poor ladies as spouses of the Holy Spirit...Clare herself always speaks of Christ as the Bridegroom."  (McGinn, 67)  Either way, this is a false doctrine.

Innocent III was pope from 1198-1216 AD.  A more suitable name for this pope would have been Guilty III.  This man had no problem approving the initial "rules" for both Francis' and Clare's Franciscan orders, but was a great persecutor of Bible believing Christians.  Innocent III also blasphemously applied the title of bridegroom to himself, saying, "And am I not the bridegroom...Yea, I am the bridegroom; for I have the...Roman church for my bride..." (Van Braght, 299)

Henry Halley in his Bible Handbook writes of Innocent III: "Forbade the Reading of the Bible in vernacular.  Ordered the Extermination of Heretics.  Instituted the Inquisition.  Ordered the Massacre of the Albigenses.  More Blood was Shed under his direction, and that of his immediate successors, than in any other period of Church History, except in the Papacy's effort to Crush the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries." (Halley, 776)

The age of the crusades in which Francis lived was an age in which the Catholic church forced people into submission at the tip of the sword, and killed those who refused to submit.  About 12 years before Francis was born, this was evident in the conquering of Ireland:  "In 1169, Pope Adrian issued a papal bull granting the entire nation of Ireland to Henry II, the Norman king of England.  At the Pope's behest, several of Henry's warlords invaded Ireland."  (Bercot, 172)  Patrick (ca. 387- 460 AD), the great missionary to Ireland was a Bible believing Christian, not a Catholic, and would also not have been in agreement with Francis' doctrines.

Francis in his Later Rule, wrote concerning the monks in his order "...let them go begging for alms with full trust." (Hellmann, 32).  In contrast to this are the Waldenses among whom Peter Waldo was a major leader of theirs.  Peter Waldo tried to work within the Catholic system at first, but found that the more he tried to follow the Bible, the more the Catholic priests opposed him.  Waldo also gave away most if not all of his possessions (around 1160 AD), but the Waldenses were opposed to begging:  "They suffer no beggars among them, but help and assist each other as brethren." (Van Braght, 278)  Van Braght has shown in the Martyr's Mirror that the beliefs of the Waldenses and the Albigenses, in spite of some false accusations against them, were very biblical and also very similar to the Anabaptists.

At about the same time the Franciscans emerged, another new order came onto the scene, the Dominicans, founded in 1216 by Dominic Guzman (ca. 1170- 1221 AD).  "...Dominic retained a devotion to poverty that was almost as extreme as that of Francis...The whole order was thereafter to be funded exclusively by begging." (Tugwell, 19)  This emphasis on begging was changed later.

The Dominicans focused mainly on preaching and were also used by popes in inquisitions.  "The Order of Preachers grew out of the preaching campaign against the heretics in the south of France, in which Dominic, with his bishop, Diego, became involved in 1206.  Diego realized that the heretics, whether Albigensian or Waldensian, were winning converts largely because they appeared much more obviously evangelical in their way of life..." (Tugwell, 18-19)  This preaching done by the Dominicans was according to the Catholic traditions of men, which Francis also adhered to.

Thomas Aquinas (1225- 1274 AD) was a Dominican monk and later was declared to be one of the 35 doctors of the Catholic church.  Transubstantiation, the doctrine that Christ's literal flesh and blood are offered in the mass is a concept that was present in the Catholic church long before Aquinas, but he helped to entrench this teaching with  a philosophical defense of it, based on the philosophy of the pagan Aristotle.  The word transubstantiation was also in the profession of faith at the Fourth Lateran Council dominated by Innocent III in 1215 AD.

Francis' view of the Eucharist was also that of transubstantiation:  "See, daily he [Christ] humbles himself...daily he comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest...as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, we too are to see and firmly believe them to be his most holy body and blood living and true."  (Hellmann, 35)  Jesus made it clear that the flesh profits nothing and that he spoke spiritually when speaking of eating His flesh and blood:  "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63)  This sacrifice of Jesus was once only,  not many times as represented in the Catholic mass:  "Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Hebrews 9:25-26)

Francis also believed in another way to salvation than that which is in the New Testament:  "And let all of us firmly realize that no one can be saved except through the holy words and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which the clergy pronounce, proclaim and minister.  And they alone must administer them, and not others."  (Hellmann, 35)

"...1224, two years before his death, he received the stigmata marking his body with the five wounds of Christ crucified.  This is attested by all thirteenth-century sources, and it is described as occurring at the appearance of a six-winged seraph."  (Hellmann, 36)  Not only did Francis promote "another gospel," through the Eucharist and loyalty to the Catholic priests, but he also later was represented as "another Savior," because of these stigmata, as we will see later.

Bonaventure (1217-1274 AD)

Bonaventure took up leadership of the Franciscan order for many years.  He was not the first leader of the order after Francis' death, but probably the best known, and he was very prolific in putting into writing his ideas on Franciscan mysticism.

The Roman Catholic church recognizes thousands of "saints" who they deem to be meritorious of the title.  There is another title they give out though, to honor those who faithfully teach and promote the causes of Rome.  This title is "doctor."  As of 2012 Rome has recognized only 35 doctors.  Many of these doctors, promoted mystical views of spirituality.  Bonaventure is one of these 35 doctors.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_the_Church)

McGinn expounds on one of Bonaventure's writings:  "...the logic of Bonaventure's map views what Bernard of Clairvaux and others had seen as the height of the mystical path, that is, attaining the status of the Bride, as the entry into the level of mystical theology proper, where the mind transcends itself....In these modes of contemplation the mind has passed beyond the world of rational logic to a form of Neoplatonic dialectical thought..." (McGinn, 108)  This theme of transcending the mind is common among mystics.  Bonaventure also writes, "In this passing beyond, if it is perfect, it is necessary that all intellectual operations be left behind...." (McGinn, 110)  Being beyond logic, and leaving behind intellectual operation is a dangerous word of advice to give especially considering that the Bible tells us to love God with our mind, and to gird up the loins of our mind.

"...he [Bonaventure] then asks his reader to become each cherub in turn in order to contemplate the paradoxical coincidences..." (McGinn, 109)  Changing one's state of mind and changing one's identity are common in both Catholic mysticism and Buddhism.  The above passage, reminds me of Tibetan Buddhism where their deities are visualized in order to become them:

"The trainee ...visualized the primary deity of his ritual and recited the deity's one hundred-syllable mantra one hundred thousand times...and finally, through prayer and yoga, made their empowerment enter into himself on hundred thousand times...The assumption of the deity's identity, or 'pride,' was crucial in that one could not expect to control the deity's power unless one 'became' the deity." (Robinson, 293- 4)

In Martyr's Mirror, written in 1660, it is recorded, "A. D. 1259...Gerard Sagarellas, an Italian, but a doctor of Paris, wrote a book against the Franciscans, whereupon Bonaventura, General of the Franciscan order, replied..." (Van Braght, 302)  More detail is not given about this book or the reply.  It would have been interesting to see what was written against the Franciscans at that time.  Gerard Sagarellas eventually paid for his faithfulness to Jesus Christ with his life.  In identifying the inquisitors who were to turn people over to the secular authorities for punishment even unto death, Van Braght says, "The Dominicans and Franciscans, though they seemed to be very simple and modest, were nevertheless the principal actors [inquisitors] in this matter." (Van Braght, 317)  There would have been many reasons to write a book against the Franciscans.

Results of Franciscan Spirituality Lived Out

Based on the writings on Joachim Fiore, (who died before Francis) "An apocalyptic role was also found for Francis, who was identified with the angel of the sixth seal of Apocalypse 7:2, 'ascending from the rising of the sun and having the seal of the living God,' that is, the marks of the stigmata upon him." (McGinn, 73)  The Catholic system lends itself well to the exaltation of a man.  Saints are prayed to, the living are practically given the role of savior in praying for and paying for masses to be said for the dead, and the pope is said to be the vicar of Christ.

Various Franciscans have claimed to experience raptures and ecstasies in union with God.  One of these is Roger of Provence who died in 1287.  He once said, "See, O man, that the words you have heard are near to silence and so near that they cannot be heard outside silence, because they can only be heard where they are and because they are within silence.  Therefore, enter into your inmost self, within your own silence, so that you may go from your silence to God's and his silence beyond thought may speak this to you." (McGinn, 133)   This almost sounds like a Zen koan- a statement of illogic designed to get a person beyond the "limitations" of rationality.

Two Franciscan women of note during this time were Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297 AD) and Angela of Foligno (ca. 1248- 1309 AD).  Continuing with Francis' theme of entering into the experience of the cross, it was recorded of Margaret that, "There they saw Margaret, not alongside the cross, but as if she were on the cross, tortured by severe sufferings...In the terrible excess of suffering she ground her teeth, writhed like a worm or a twisted wreath, grew as pale as ash, lost her pulse and speech, grew totally cold.  Her throat grew so hoarse she could hardly be understood when she came to her senses."  (McGinn, 140-141)

Why did she have to come back to her senses?  Biblically speaking we are not supposed to leave our senses in the first place!  Whether it is the role of dying on the cross or the role of being the bride of Christ, both of these women took on roles which were not theirs to take, just as Francis was assigned the role of Savior from purgatory, and the role of being the angel of the sixth seal which are not his rightful roles.

Speaking of Angela, it was recorded that, "...the Spirit (in the manner of Francis) addressed her as bride: 'My daughter and sweet bride...I love you more than any other woman in the valley of Spoleto." (McGinn, 145)  Angela also, "...encounters Francis in her ecstasies." (McGinn, 149) This was after Francis had died.  "Angela's last days, as she lies on her deathbed 'absorbed more than usual in the abyss of divine infinity...has her cry out...again and again-'O Unknown Nothingness!  O Unknown Nothingness!'" (McGinn, 151)  What kind of a spirituality is this, which concludes with sort of a Buddhist "sunyata" for this "bride of the Spirit"?

There are some similarities between mystical pursuits and extreme Pentecostal experiences, such as the so called "Toronto Blessing."  Bill Randles points out the exaltation of experience over truth:  "In the new paradigm it is no longer truth that changes lives, it is sheer experience.  'Turn off your mind, don't pray, don't analyze, you wouldn't analyze a Kiss from your lover would you?'  is how they put it up in Toronto." (Randles, 96)  Many people in "conservative" churches would have outright rejected the extremes of Toronto, but welcome similar philosophies into the church under the guise of different terminology:  "contemplation" being one of them.

This exaltation of experience at the expense of truth, is also promoted by the "New Apostolic Reformation" of C. Peter Wagner and company.  Albert James Dager writes, "C. Peter Wagner was at one time mentor as well as disciple of the late John Wimber, who took over the Vineyard Christian Fellowship...By integrating psychology with inner healing, the laying on of hands, and a peculiar form of mysticism which resulted in many bizarre manifestations, Wimber's movement left the objective reality of God's Word to turn to charismania. Wagner championed Wimber's philosophy and has never repented of doing so."  The Toronto phenomenon mentioned above, took place at a Vineyard. (http://www.moriel.org/ Newsletter/2007/2Q 2007_Spiritual_Warfare_and_Territorial_Spirits.pdf)

This "New Apostolic Reformation" instead of being a reformation to leave the false doctrines of Rome, is a reformation which promotes returning to Rome.  Jacob Prasch points out this ecumenism:  "Many of the techniques pioneered by Wagner were not even logically consistent. He would observe the large church growth in Latin American Pentecostalism and attempt to replicate it in the developed world, ignoring the fact that in Latin America growth was dominated by a massive exodus out of Roman Catholicism while Wagner and Wimber were ultra ecumenical accepting Roman Catholicism as biblically Christian." (http://www.moriel.org/ articles/missions/review_ gary_greigs_apologetics.htm)

Some Summary Statements About Franciscan Spirituality

"...key elements of Franciscan mysticism...the significance of poverty and humility...the centrality of imaginative participation in the events of Christ's life, above all the passion; a strong Marian piety; belief in an imminent general age of contemplation..." (McGinn, 123)

"Among the many Catholic orders, Franciscans have proportionally reported higher ratios of stigmata and have claimed proportionally higher ratios of visions of Jesus and Mary."  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciscan)

Franciscan Spirituality as Seen in "The Little Flowers"  [According to McGinn, this version of Francis' biography is still the most widely read (42)]:

Some Methods and Results of Franciscan Spiritual Exercises

"St Francis...got up and began to pray. Raising his hands and eyes to heaven, he exclaimed with great devotion and fervour, "My God! my God!" at the same time weeping bitterly; and thus he remained on his knees all night, repeating with great love and fervour the words, "My God! my God!" and none others." (Ugolino, 9)

"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)

"About the beginning of the Order, and during the lifetime of St Francis, a young man...whose name was Simon... during these divine visitations he was often rapt in God, and quite insensible to all bodily things." (Ugolino, 69)

"Brother James was once, in prayer, ravished in God, remaining for three days in ecstasy, quite insensible to all bodily feeling, so that the brethren thought him to be dead; and during this ecstasy many things with regard to the Order were revealed to him." (Ugolino, 80)

[Speaking of Brother John] "...ravished out of himself, and all corporal sensations being suspended, his body fell back... carried to the sacristy as if dead, for his body was quite cold...and in this state he remained till the third hour..." (Ugolino, 89)

[Speaking of Francis] "... he was sometimes so absorbed in God that he heard nothing, nor felt anything by his bodily senses." (Ugolino, 98)

"Thus, on the Feast of the Assumption, St Francis began the holy Lent, with great abstinence and austerity, maserating his body and invigorating his soul by fervent prayers, vigils, and disciplines; and thus increasing more and more, and going from virtue to virtue, he prepared his soul to receive divine mysteries and illuminations, and his body to sustain the cruel conflicts with the demons, who often attacked him sensibly." (Ugolino, 99)

[Speaking of Francis after he received the stigmata] "...was insensible of all that passed around, and knew nothing of all that was said or done, or even that he had passed by that castle or through the country... on the other side of the town, coming to himself as if just returned from the other world... had been unconscious of all things earthly...And the like befell him many different times..." (Ugolino, 107)

Another Jesus

"...in that contemplation, on that same morning he beheld a seraph descending from heaven with six fiery and resplendent wings; and this seraph with rapid flight drew nigh unto St Francis, so that he could plainly discern him, and perceive that he bore the image of one crucified...He felt great joy at the gracious presence of Christ, who appeared to him thus familiarly...For upon his hands and feet began immediately to appear the figures of the nails, as he had seen them on the Body of Christ crucified, who had appeared to him in the likeness of a seraph..." (Ugolino, 103-104)

"For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." (II Corinthians 11:4)

Exaltation of Man and Salvation by Human Works

"The true servant of Christ, St Francis, was in certain things like unto a second Christ given to the world for the salvation of souls." (Ugolino, 19)

"And this shall suffice concerning the fifth consideration of the glorious, holy, and sacred stigmata of our father St Francis, whose life may God give us grace to follow in this world, that by virtue of his glorious stigmata we may deserve to be saved with him in Paradise! To the praise of Jesus Christ and his poor servant St Francis! Amen." (Ugolino, 121)

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20) "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:16)

"Brother Elias departed from this world, his soul being saved by the merits and prayers of St Francis, in which he had placed such great faith." (Ugolino, 66)

"...the most holy Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to St Francis in much splendour, and thus addressed him: 'As thy prayer and thy wish is to observe that which Christ and his holy Apostles observed, the Lord Jesus sends us to thee, to tell thee that thy prayer has been heard, and that it is granted to thee and to all thy followers to possess the treasure of holy poverty. We tell thee also from him, that whosoever, after thy example, shall embrace this holy virtue, shall most certainly enjoy perfect happiness in heaven...'" (Ugolino, 28)

Contrary to this vision of "Paul," the real Paul said..."But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8)

The Eucharist

[Speaking of Brother John] "...he saw before him Christ himself, with a multitude of angels, and he could not endure his Majesty. He saw that Christ would not enter the Host, nor would it be changed into the Body of Christ, unless he pronounced the other words of the Consecration, namely, Corpus meum... after a long time, it pleased God that Brother John should pronounce in a loud voice the words, enim Corpus meum; and immediately the form of bread was changed, and Jesus Christ, the blessed one, appeared in the Host, in his bodily shape, and in great glory..." (Ugolino, 88)

Communion With the Dead

[After Francis died] "... St Francis came to him, as he had promised with a great multitude of glorious saints, and conducted his soul to life eternal in the kingdom of the blessed." (Ugolino, 51)

"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD..." (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

[After Francis died] "Having said these words, St Francis and his companion immediately disappeared. Many brethren heard this related by the eight friars who witnessed the vision, and heard the words of St Francis." (Ugolino, 117)

Levitation

"At the third time he breathed on Brother Masseo, who, to his great surprise, was raised above the earth, and fell at some distance before the saint." (Ugolino, 27)

"Bentivoglio of Severino, was seen by Brother Masseo raised above the earth as he was praying in the forest...Brother, Peter of Monticello, who was the guardian of the old Convent of Ancona, was raised several feet above the earth, to the foot of the crucifix before which he was in prayer." (Ugolino, 71)

"St Francis; and in reward of his purity he was permitted many times to behold him rapt in God and suspended above the earth, sometimes at the heights of three feet above the ground, sometimes four, sometimes raised as high as the top of the beach-trees, and sometimes exalted so high in the air, and surrounded with so dazzling a glory, that he could scarce endure to look upon him." (Ugolino, 97)

Mind-Reading

[Speaking of Francis] "...he was sometimes so absorbed in God, that he was seen by his companions to be raised corporally above the ground, and rapt in prayer; and in these raptures were revealed to St Francis not only things present and future, but even the secret thoughts and desires of the brethren..." (Ugolino, 96)

[Speaking of Francis as father]  "... his saintly father had penetrated into his deepest thoughts..." (Ugolino, 43)

It is interesting to note that levitation and mind reading are also claimed for those who excel in Buddhist meditation:  "The main aim of concentration meditation is to develop right concentration- concentration of the pure mind. As a result of this, we end up in deep states of concentration or absorption (jhanas). When these are further developed, they can give rise to supernormal powers- like levitation, mind reading, recollection of past lives, and so forth." (From the book "Essentials of Insight Meditation"Ã‚  http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/essentials.pdf)  These ideas are also confirmed in the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon: (http://www.accesstoinsight.org /tipitaka/sn/sn51/sn51.020.than.html)

Exaltation of Mary

"...the Queen of Heaven appeared in great splendour, with her Blessed Son in her arms, and approaching Brother Conrad placed the Holy Child in his arms." (Ugolino, 72)

Purgatory

"Then Brother Conrad, seeing that the soul of the young man was relieved by his prayers, said for his intention a hundred Paters; and when they were finished of soul said to him: "I thank thee, dearest Father, in the name of God, for thy great charity towards me; through thy prayers I have been delivered from the pains of purgatory, and am going to heaven," and with this the soul departed. (Ugolino, 73)

"In this seraphical apparition, Christ, who appeared under that form to St Francis, spoke to him certain high and secret things... so do I grant to thee that every year on the anniversary of thy death thou mayst go to Purgatory, and take with thee to the glory of Paradise all the souls of thy three Orders, the Friars Minor, the Sisters, and the Penitents, and likewise all others whom thou shalt find there, who have been especially devout to thee..." (Ugolino, 104)

In the previous quotation everything that II Corinthians 11:4 speaks against, is promoted:  "another Jesus," giving "another gospel," and being devoted to a man, and a dead man at that ("another spirit").

Similarities Between Buddhism and Catholicism:

Buddhism Catholicism
-Celibacy of monks-Special language for the clergy (Pali)-Prayer to dead saints-Salvation by works-Belief in purgatory

-Begging alms

 

-Special clothes for the clergy

-Devotion to relics

-Use of idols

-Levitation and mind reading claimed for able meditators

-the championing of Buddhist causes by the government

-making merit for the dead

-Celibacy of the priesthood-Special language for the clergy (Latin)-Prayer to dead saints-Salvation by works-Belief in purgatory

-Begging alms (at least for early Franciscans and Dominicans)

-Special clothes for the clergy

-Devotion to relics

-Use of idols

-Levitation and mind reading claimed for able contemplators

-the championing of Catholic causes by the government

-saying masses for the dead

Should it be any wonder then, that the world's leading publisher of books on Buddhism (Shambhala Publications) also promotes Catholic Mystics (including Francis of Assisi) on their website?...

"The Christian mystics are the treasure of Western civilization"”yet they remain little known among those of us who are potentially their spiritual heirs. Andrew Harvey's anthology confronts us with the mystics in their own words, to show us how well they serve, even now, as guides for the spiritual life"”and to challenge our preconceived ideas about the path of Christianity. He has chosen selections that represent all eras of the Christian tradition, as well as the amazing range of people who have embodied it, people like Francis of Assisi, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Bede Griffiths, and many others."

(http://www.shambhala.com/teachings-of-the-christian-mystics.html)

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090- 1153 AD)

About 28 years before Francis of Assisi was born in Italy, the Frenchman Bernard of Clairvaux died.  Bernard was the abbot of a Benedictine/Cistercian monastery well known for his mystical writings.  He is also one of the 35 people deemed to be a doctor of the Catholic church.  It probably should not come as a surprise then, that he was no friend of Bible believers.

In his book "Why Jesus?," Ravi Zacharias gives a mostly good apologetic for the truth, showing the bankruptcy of the new spiritualities of Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.  It is unfortunate that at the end of his book he brings in a recommendation for "Christian mysticism":

"Indeed, great mystics fascinate me as well.  I recommend the finest volume I have read that pulls together the best known Christian mystics:  a book titled, "Water From a Deep Well," by Gerald L. Sittser.  From Bernard of Clairvaux to John of the Cross, there is a goldmine here for thought, for reflection, for example, and for sensing God's near and dear presence."  (Zacharias, CD 7, track 11)

In this point at least he has used one false spirituality to try to counter another false spirituality.  That is like removing one poison only to replace it with another one.  In calling the mystics "Christian mystics," he has marketed the "Catholic" part out of their name and also failed to disclose what kind of an "example" such people gave.

Bernard of Clairvaux "for example" in addition to promoting the persecution of Bible believing Christians (more on this later), and teaching non-biblical mysticism, also was a major spokesman for the second Crusade, and held to doctrines which militate against faithfulness to God:  the exaltation of Mary, the idolatry of the mass, etc.

Bernard, like many mystics takes a lot of his teachings from the Song of Solomon:  "In the text the Bridegroom, who is embracing the Bride...forbids the daughters of Jerusalem to awaken her...The abbot calls this 'ecstasy' (exstasis) a death, because it removes the soul from life's cares, enabling it 'to be snatched from itself by a holy and vehement thought (cogitatio)...so that it surpasses the common use and custom of thinking'...'The soul in ecstasy does not have the sensation of living (though it is alive), and so necessarily does not feel life's temptations.'  The abbot goes on to state that 'this kind of ecstasy (excessus)...is called contemplation.'" (McGinn, 206)  Here we have a definition of the word "contemplation" which is quite different from ordinary logical pondering.

"Like all classical Christian mystics, he gives the sensation of sight, or contemplative vision, and important role." (McGinn, 187)  "But contemplation in the proper sense for Bernard, as for his patristic sources, was a rich term used to express a continuum of the experience of God's presence symbolized in visual form." (McGinn, 211)

In the ten commandments we are forbidden from making a graven image.  This includes not only images of wood, stone, or gold, but also making an image in our minds.  Visualization is not something that is promoted in the Bible.  "For we walk by faith, not by sight."(2 Corinthians 5:7)

Greg Boyd, a popular author in some "evangelical" circles, has written a book called "Seeing is Believing," in which he promotes visualization, also describing a visual interaction he had with "Jesus" and his dead grandmother. (http://cicministry.org commentary/issue83.htm)  Bob DeWaay also points out, "... Greg Boyd cites some of Foster's words here to support what he calls "cataphatic prayer" which uses the imagination and images as a means to contact God and gain spiritual information. Foster prescribes a practice using one's imagination that mimics astral projection to the degree that he actually includes a footnote disclaimer stating that it is not astral projection ...Boyd describes how he practices this, as well as its results..."

(http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=6208)

"The frequent appearance of wine in the Song of Songs allowed Bernard to make considerable use of the notion of 'sober, or sacred drunkenness'...an ancient description of the mystical experience first found in Philo and present in patristic writers." (McGinn, 212)  These ideas seem like the forerunners to the "drunk in the Spirit" manifestations at the "Toronto Blessing."

"Bernard, as we have noted, gave the angels a larger role in mystical experiences than most Latin mystics." (McGinn, 209)  In speaking of "imaginative likenesses" Bernard writes, "I think these are formed in us by the suggestion of the holy angels, just as, on the other side, there is no doubt that contrary and evil imaginings are thrust in by the evil angels." (McGinn, 210)

Speaking of giving birth to spiritual understandings through meditation, Bernard writes, "In this last kind sometimes there is a passing beyond and departure...even from the corporeal senses so that she who perceives the Word does not perceive herself...the mind...is as it were stolen away from itself- indeed, rapt and snatched from itself- in order to enjoy the Word." (McGinn, 212)

A "departure..from the corporeal senses"?  A "sacred drunkenness"?  Not having the sensation of living?  Promoting an experience comparable to sleep from which the Bridegroom did not want the Bride to be awakened?  Surpassing the common use and custom of thinking?  These are just alternate ways of saying "altered state of consciousness," which is not something the Bible promotes, but which is promoted by Shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.

Bernard's support of persecuting Bible believing Christians:  "...about A. D. 1155 there were in the above part of France, certain simple but truthloving peasants, who, pointing to no other author of their doctrine or belief, than to the apostles, called themselves Apostolics...Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, greatly inveighed against them in divers sermons, calling them a sort of despised, boorish rabble...Continuing, he [Bernard] shows in what their so called heresy consisted, saying: "They ridicule us, that we baptize infants; that we implore the intercession of the saints, and the like...but it is to be deplored, that not only secular princes, but also, it is said, some ecclesiastics, yea bishops, who ought much rather to have persecuted them, upheld them for lucre's sake, saying: `Why should we condemn them as heretics, who have not been convinced of heresy, nor have confessed the same?' Thus far, Bernard, who was called, The Mellifluent, but who nevertheless poured forth nothing but bitter gall against these people... they contemned infant baptism, purgatory, praying for the dead, invocation of the saints, swearing of oaths, etc.; that they accepted no evidence save from the New Testament; and went joyfully unto death." (Van Braght, 293-294)

"But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."  (Galatians 4:29)

Events in the East at This Time

Purging of the Pali Canon in Ceylon (Sri Lanka)

In Ceylon, the place where the Pali Canon was first written down (c. 70 BC), and where its commentaries were composed (c. 500 AD), the texts went through a purging in the 12th century:  "When Parakkamabahu I. (1153- 1186) reformed Buddhism in Ceylon during the 12th century, the monks of the Abhayagiri- and the Jetavana-vihara were reordained according to the Mahavihara tradition.  Con-sequently, their texts gradually disappeared, and the only Theravada texts surviving are those of one single monastery, the Mahavihara." (Hinuber, 22)  "...consciously following King Asoka's example, King Parakramabahu forcibly united all the monks in Sri Lanka into the Mahavihara sect." (Robinson, 147)

The Thai Kingdom Emerges

Up until 1239 AD when the Sukhothai Kingdom was formed, Thailand was mostly under Khmer and Mon rule.  The Khmer Empire held mainly to Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism at that time.  The Sukhothai Kingdom came under the influence of Theravada Buddhism through Sri Lanka, via Ligor (modern day Nakhon Sithammarat in southern Thailand).  Towards the end of the 13th century, the king of the Sukhothai Kingdom, Rama Kamhaeng invented the Thai alphabet, based on Mon and Khmer scripts.

Crusade-like Violence in Burma

About 150 years before this, and slightly before the crusades of the Catholics versus the Muslims, a Burmese king was setting Buddhism up as the state religion through a crusade of his own:  "...King Anawarhta (1044-77) the monarch who made Theravada the state religion of Burma. After his conversion by the monk Shin Arahan Anawarhta's first task was to acquire the Pali scriptures. The nearest copy was in the neighboring kingdom of Thaton which was invaded, its capital sacked and the scriptures triumphantly brought to Pagan on the backs of a train of elephants. The king of Thaton and his family lived out their remaining days as slaves in a monastery. To get relics to enshrine in the numerous stupas he was building Anawarhta then invaded Prome...All Anawarhta's campaigns were opposed militarily and must have resulted in a great deal of bloodshed although no figures are given in the ancient

records. The clerics who recorded these events were only interested in the number of monks Anawarhta fed and the number of monasteries he built, not in how many people he slaughtered."

(http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-berlin.de/downloads/brokenbuddhanew.pdf)

The Mongol Empire and Tibet

In the north, Genghis Khan (ca. 1162- 1227 AD) was busy building his Mongol

Empire, which eventually under other rulers, included control over Tibet.  In Tibet the first Dalai Lama had not appeared on the scene yet.  Gendun Drup (1391- 1474 AD) is considered to be the first Dalai Lama, but was not called that in his lifetime.  Buddhism first came to Tibet in about 650 AD, but experienced a resurgence of interest, known as "the Second Propagation" from about the 11th to the 13th centuries.  "Thus, by the end of the Second Propagation, there were four major schools of Buddhism in Tibet- Kadam, Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma..." (Robinson, 280)  Of these four schools, the Kadam school ceased to exist towards the end of the 16th century, but in the 15th century, the Gelug school began, which is the school the Dalai Lamas belong to.  Nowadays Tibetan Buddhism still has four primary schools.

Zen in Japan

"Buddhism was probably first brought to Japan by Korean immigrants...The first recorded contact on the royal level, however, was in 552."  (Robinson, 243)  "Myoan Eisai (1141-1215) established the first Zen (in Chinese, Ch'an) temple in Kyoto in 1202...Dissatisfaction with the eclecticism of Eisai's Zen led a number of monks in the following generation to travel to China on their own to receive transmission of a less adulterated teaching to bring back to Japan.  The first to do so was Dogen Kigen (1200-53)....Zen, he [Dogen] says, is essentially 'dethinking thinking.'  With what means is dethinking to be thought? 'Beyond thinking.'" (Robinson, 251)

"It is even possible to see strong parallels between his [Dogen's] thought and that of early Buddhism:  Dethinking thinking corresponds to the use of right view to go beyond views....Dogen became regarded as the founder of the Soto school of Zen." (Robinson, 252)  The word Zen comes from the Pali word "jhana":  "...the jhanas are states of deep mental unification which result from the centering of the mind upon a single object with such power of attention that a total immersion in the object takes place." (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratana/wheel351.html)  For attainment of the four jhanas, the Pali Canon recommends a monk to, " ... attend carefully to this same concentration through mindfulness of in-&-out breathing."  (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.008.than.html)

The Lotus Sutra in Japan

At the same time Zen was developing in Japan, Nichiren (1222- 1282 AD) formed another Buddhist sect:  "Only the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren felt, contained the unadulterated True Dharma.  All other Buddhist sects were wrong..." (Robinson, 256)

"Nichiren's life followed the pattern of a Shinto shaman more than that of a Buddhist leader.  He attracted a following largely through his courage and...his personality, which at times resembled that of a medium possessed." (Robinson, 256)  "...the practice he [Nichiren] recommended was simplicity itself:  the repetition of the daimoku (mantra) 'Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō'...Later he worked out a mandala representing his beliefs, called the gohonzon, at which one was to stare while  repeating one's declaration of homage." (Robinson, 256)  Soka Gakkai Buddhism is an offshoot within Nichiren Buddhism.  It began in 1930 and is based on Nichiren's teachings.

Nichiren's Influence Felt in Korea

False teacher David/Paul Yonggi Cho writes, "Through visualization and dreaming, you can incubate your future and hatch the results." (http://www.inplainsite.org/html /rick_warren_new_age.html#RW-Cho)  "Cho claims that the Holy Spirit said to him, "Look at the Soka Gakkai. They belong to Satan... and with the evil fourth dimension they carry out dominion over their bodies and circumstances." Then God told him that Christians should link their fourth-dimensional spiritual power to God the Creator to have even greater control over circumstances than the Soka Gakkai." (http://lyndemdesigns.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=82)

From a Soka Gakkai website"¦""¦all I knew was the absolute power of daimoku and the technique of mantra-powered visualization I had used in my own recovery, as revealed by SGI Vice President Takehisa Tsuji. That method of chanting and imagery placed the seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo over the body, perfectly corresponding to the ancient chakra schematics of Hindu and Tantric Buddhism."

(http://www.gakkaionline.net/Experiences/mailmantra.html)

"Results" are not proof for the Christian.  True Christians worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  If somebody can get results which are not according to truth, then these results are "lying wonders" (II Thessalonians 2: 9).  Christians are to love the truth (II Thessalonians 2: 10) and rejoice in the truth (I Corinthians 13: 6).  The first and the last items in the armor of God are truth (Ephesians 6: 14;17), and it is the truth which sets us free (John 8: 32).  Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14: 6).  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 15: 26).  Are you valiant for the truth (Jeremiah 9:3)?

Conclusion

A summary of some of the tendencies and teachings promoted by the Catholic mystics of the 12th and 13th centuries include :  taking on roles and identities which didn't belong to them (personal espousal to Christ and the Holy Spirit, entering into the experience of the crucifixion, praying for the dead, becoming a cherub, recognizing Francis as a savior from purgatory, and the pope as the vicar of Christ, etc.), repetitious mantra-like praying, repeating the sacrifice of Jesus bodily in the Mass, exalting Mary beyond her biblical role, downplaying rational thought in order to emphasize experience, being detached from one's senses, encouraging visualization, preaching a gospel of works, persecuting true Bible believers, and relying on Catholic dogmas instead of the Bible.

Some people seem to think they can dabble in these "contemplative" pursuits just a little bit.  But, look where this road leads.  If a person doesn't want to go on a 500 mile trip to Babylon, why even go one mile?  This is the broad way, not the narrow way which leads to life.

Popular authors like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Greg Boyd and others within "conservative" churches are pointing people towards the Catholic mystics:  "AP [Andy Peck:] Who has influenced your thinking outside of the Bible? DW [Dallas Willard:] The people who have influenced me most are long dead: people such as in the catholic tradition, Thomas a Kempis, St Francis of Assisi, St Augustine..." (http://www.dwillard.org/ articles/artview.asp?artID=92)  Both Dallas Willard and Richard Foster recommend many books with mystical leanings on their websites:

(http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp) (http://richardjfoster.com/books/)

As the so called conservative church is pointed towards the Catholic mystics, they in turn look towards eastern methods of spirituality, drifting further and further from the Bible.  The true Bible believers of the past left this false spirituality:

In the year 1317 AD:  "Now when the light of the Gospel began to break forth greatly from the doctrine of the Waldenses, which militated against the papal inventions, this also manifested itself in a monastery, among the Franciscan monks; so that particularly four of the order of the Minorites, their eyes being opened, separated from monachism, and at the same time from the superstitions of popery, desiring thenceforth to follow and serve Jesus Christ, their Saviour, not in a simulated, but in true poverty, with, in, or among the cross bearing church of God, called the Poor Men of Lyons, Brethren of the Poor Life, or Waldenses; who also opposed infant baptism, the swearing of oaths, revenge against enemies, and other articles of the Roman church.... In the meantime, it appears, the above four persons, refusing to depart from the truth which they had confessed and accepted, were condemned to death as heretics, and, having commended their souls to God, were burnt alive."

(Van Braght, 331)

In this paper we have seen some of the fruits of the lives of some popular Catholic mystics, which include presenting another gospel and misleading people from the way that leads to life.  "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits..." (Matthew 7: 15-16)  Good fruit is related not only to deeds, but also to words and doctrines (Matthew 12: 33- 36).

In the above verse, the "ravening wolves" come in "sheep's clothing."  But, in churches today, the real sheep are impressed by this "sheep's clothing," and ignore the danger of the ravening wolves.  Even the shepherds often overlook this ravening influence.  Once the wolf is accepted by the church, the wolf is at liberty to wound, kill, and shipwreck the faith of many ("Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." Proverbs 18:21).  Then, the strength of the church will be redirected either introspectively so that the church has no outward effect, or towards irrelevant projects that won't bring any lasting fruit for the kingdom of God.  False prophets invariably sap the strength of the church.

Does a real sheep have any need for a "wig" of "sheep's clothing"?  Does a real Christian have any need to learn from these non-biblical techniques, which seem to be clothed in biblical language, but inwardly are destructive heresies?  The Bible is our pure standard.  Those who try to add to the Bible through special techniques are like those who would try to add a negative 5 to a perfect ten, or those who would try to add poison to pure water.  When adding "special doctrines" to the Bible, the value only decreases.  Let us be valiant for the truth.  A person who would like to compromise the truths of the Bible cannot say they love Jesus:  "If a man love me, he will keep my words" (John 14:23)

There is still much ground to cover.  In the next part of this series, I hope to take a look at four influential Catholics from the 16th through 20th centuries, again comparing their teachings with eastern practices and the Bible.

References

Bercot, D.W. (1999).  Let Me Die in Ireland:  The True Story of Patrick.  Amberson:  Scroll Publishing.

Halley, H.H. (1965).  Halley's Bible Handbook.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House.

Hellmann, J.A.W. (1997).  The Spirituality of the Franciscans.  In Rait, J. (Ed.) in collaboration with McGinn, B. & Meyendorff, J., Christian Spirituality II:  High Middle Ages and Reformation.  (pp. 31- 50).  New York:  Crossroad.

McGinn, B.  (1998).  The Flowering of Mysticism.  New York:  Crossroad.

Randles, B.  (1999).  Beware The New Prophets:  A Caution Concerning the Modern Prophetic Movement.

Robinson, R.H., Johnson, W.L., Wawrytko, S.A., & DeGraff, G.  (1997).  The Buddhist Religion:  A Historical Introduction.  Belmont:  Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Tugwell, S. (1997).  The Spirituality of the Dominicans.  In Rait, J. (Ed.) in collaboration with McGinn, B. & Meyendorff, J., Christian Spirituality II:  High Middle Ages and Reformation.  (pp. 15- 31).  New York:  Crossroad.

Ugolino, Brother.  The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi. (www.ccel.org)

Van Braght, T.J.  (1938). Martyrs Mirror:  The Story of Seventeen Centuries of Christian Martyrdom, From the Time of Christ to A.D. 1660. Scottdale:  Herald Press.

v. Hinuber, Oskar.  (1996).  A Handbook of Pali Literature.  Berlin:  Walter de Gruyter.

Zacharias, R.  (2012).  Why Jesus:  Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality. (Audio Book).  New York:  Hachette Audio.

Websites

http://www.shambhala.com/teachings-of-the-christian-mystics.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_the_Church

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciscan

http://www.moriel.org/Newsletter/2007/2Q 2007_Spiritual_Warfare_and_Territorial_Spirits.pdf

http://www.moriel.org/articles/missions/review_ gary_greigs_apologetics.htm

http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/essentials.pdf

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn51/sn51.020.than.html

http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-berlin.de/downloads/brokenbuddhanew.pdf

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratana/wheel351.html http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.008.than.html

http://www.inplainsite.org/html/rick_warren_new_age.html#RW-Cho

http://lyndemdesigns.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=82

http://www.gakkaionline.net/Experiences/mailmantra.html

http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue83.htm

http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=6208

http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=92

http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp 

http://richardjfoster.com/books/

 

 

Read 8394 times Last modified on Monday, 21 January 2013 14:29

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