A Historical Analysis of Mysticism: Part II

Catholic and Buddhist Spirituality in the Context of the 16th through 21st Centuries

by Scott Noble
nov 9, 2013

Many predators use camouflage to sneak up on unsuspecting prey. The Arctic Owl, in addition to being an extremely silent flier, has white feathers to blend in with its snowy surroundings. If it were a noisy flier with neon orange feathers, it would have a hard time sinking its talons into a potential meal. The doctrines of demons are often camouflaged as well, so as to hide the potential danger from their target audience. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8)

Many people in the church today, in an attempt to live the victorious Christian life, are turning to the Catholic mystics for guidance and revival. Who are these people, and in what direction do their lives point? This paper will take a look at the lives and teachings of seven mystics, aka contemplatives of the past five centuries: Ignatius of Loyola (AD 1491-1556), Teresa of Avila (AD 1515-1582), John of the Cross (AD 1542-1591), “Brother” Lawrence (AD ca. 1614-1691), Madame Jeanne Guyon (AD 1648-1717), Th ©r ¨se of Lisieux (AD 1873-1897), and “Mother” Teresa of Calcutta (AD 1910-1997), as well as three recent popes, and a few events in Asia related to Buddhism. I hope to show in this paper that the teachings of these mystics (three from Spain, three from France, and one from Albania) are a departure from the teachings of the Bible, and actually have many similarities with Buddhist teachings. Paul told the Ephesians, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock… For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:28-29) If we want to have a revived prayer life, or a renewed zeal, we need to “take heed”, not naively being impressed by the mystics. What the mystics have to offer is not real spiritual food for the sheep, but “spiritual sounding” experiences, which take people far from the God of the Bible.

Roger Oakland, in his book “Faith Undone” made this insightful comment. ” Since mysticism is the very steam that drives the emerging church, to exclude it from critique is to side-step the real danger of this movement.” (Oakland, 102-103) Nowadays it is not only emergent congregations that are in danger of this “steam-power” from mysticism. The influx of books and speakers promoting the mystics of old has shaped even “conservative” and “evangelical” churches. Catholic spirituality in some ways is a near replica of Buddhist spirituality- just camouflaged.

Ignatius of Loyola (AD 1491-1556)

“From the first moment of his conversion, Loyola [born in Loyola, Spain] was attracted by the great deeds of saints like Dominic and Francis. ‘If they could so distinguish themselves in the service of the Lord, why cannot I?'” (O’Malley, 6) “A night spent before the Black Madonna at the Benedictine monastery in Montserrat prompted Loyola to exchange his robe and sword for a pilgrim’s staff and the rough cloak and sandals of a beggar. A spell at Manresa saw him begging, praying, fasting, and flagellating, allowing his hair and fingernails to grow to uncommon length, being treated to visions, and working on his Spiritual Exercises.” (Wright, 18)

A Life of Penance

Ignatius narrated the story of his life to a fellow Jesuit named Goncalves da Camara. It is written in the third person, but is usually called an “autobiography” since it was told directly by Ignatius and then recorded by Goncalves da Camara. In Tylenda’s translation of this autobiography, Ignatius said of himself, “…he began to think more seriously about his past life and how greatly he needed to do penance for it.” (Tylenda, 48) Throughout his life, Ignatius also begged alms just as the Franciscans and Dominicans before him. He also continued his practice of penances. “…the desire to resume his former penances returned to him. He made holes in the soles of his shoes and kept enlarging them little by little, so that when winter’s cold came there was nothing there but the upper part of the shoes.” (Tylenda, 110-111)

Life or Death Decision Left to a Mule

Once Ignatius met a Moor who argued with him that Mary was not a perpetual virgin. Parting ways from that Moor, he regretted his lack of action: “Filled with anger against the Moor and thinking that he had done wrong in allowing a Moor to utter such things about our Lady, he concluded that he was obliged to restore her honor. He now decided to search out the Moor and strike him with his dagger for all that he had said.” (Tylenda, 58) Ignatius finally left the decision of whether to use his dagger on this Moor, up to his mule. Since his mule led him in another direction, he did not pursue the Moor. He was unbiblically prepared to commit murder for something that is not even biblical (Mary’s perpetual virginity). “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.” (Mark 6:3)

Idol Vigil, False Visions, and Serpent Form

At Montserrat, in front of a statue of Mary, Ignatius kept a vigil, attentive to the statue all night: “He spent the entire night there, sometimes on his knees, sometimes standing erect, with his pilgrim’s staff in hand.” (Tylenda, 62) Going to another city after this vigil in front of the idol, Ignatius reported of himself, “…it many times happened that in full daylight he saw a form in the air near him, and this form gave him much consolation because it was exceedingly beautiful. He did not understand what it really was, but it somehow seemed to have the shape of a serpent and had many things that shone like eyes, but were not eyes.” (Tylenda, 65-66) Tylenda says of this “form”, “…he came to know that it was the devil, and though he recognized it for what it was, nevertheless, that form continued to appear for the next fifteen years, that is, until Ignatius arrived in Rome.” (Tylenda, 66)

Ignatius continued to have various visions: “[Ignatius] …saw with inward eyes the humanity of Christ, whose form appeared to him as a white body, neither very large nor very small; nor did he see any differentiation of members…He has also seen our Lady in similar form…. many times he thought to himself: If there were no Scriptures to teach us these matters of faith, he would still resolve to die for them on the basis of what he had seen.” (Tylenda, 77-78) Indeed, much of Ignatius’ life was not led by Scripture, but by subjective revelations which often contradicted Scripture.

Returning to speak about the form that was in the shape of a serpent, Ignatius said of himself, “Many times later it continued to appear to him, but as a mark of his disdain for it he drove it away with the pilgrim’s staff he always had in his hand.” (Tylenda, 79) The devil is not afraid of any pilgrim’s staff. Jesus’ disciples cast out devils in the name of Jesus Christ, not because of any personal merit or ability: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” (Luke 10:17)

A theme of devotion to Mary runs throughout Ignatius’ life. This included praying to her as well. “After he had been ordained a priest, he decided to wait another year before celebrating Mass, preparing himself and praying to our Lady to place him with her Son.” (Tylenda, 177) “When he celebrated the Mass he also had many visions…Sometimes he saw God the Father, at other times all three Persons of the Trinity, and at other times our Lady, who was at times interceding for him and at times strengthening him.” (Tylenda, 187)

The Jesuit Order (aka “The Society of Jesus”)

Augustinian monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses of protest to the door of the church in 1517, and in 1527 the “Sack of Rome” took place. The Jesuit order, founded by Ignatius of Loyola, was officially recognized in 1540, and Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises were given official approval in 1548. The Council of Trent, which aimed at counteracting the Reformation, took place between1545 and 1563.

In “History of the Popes” (1766), Archibald Bower, gave this summary of the Jesuit order: “It may be said with truth, that this order alone has contributed more than all the other orders together to confirm the wavering nations in the faith of Rome….to check the progress of the Reformation….and with it a blind submission to the Holy See, among the African, American and Indian infidels.” (Wright, 13)

Some countries in Europe banned the Jesuits, and by 1773 the pope officially banned the Society, “With the papal brief Dominus ac Redemptor, a curious document that does not make any specific accusations against the Jesuits, but claims their removal is necessary for the sake of Christian peace, the Society of Jesus was destroyed.” (Wright, 189) About 41 years later, in the year 1814, the Jesuits came back into favor and were re-established.

“Beyond a doubt, anti-Semitism had been an institutionalized canker within the Roman Catholic tradition…during the nineteenth century a Jesuit journal such as Civilta Cattolica would continue to publish noxiously anti-Jewish material, and it is important to recall that the Jesuit prohibition of those with Jewish ancestry entering the Society would remain in force until as late as 1946.” (Wright, 271)

Tylenda writes, “To help counteract the growing influence of the Reformation in Germany, he [Ignatius] established in 1552 a college in Rome for German seminarians so that they could be properly and thoroughly trained for the work that would be demanded of them on their return to their homeland.” (Tylenda, 25)

“…Jesuit schools were established in Toulouse and Lyons during the 1560s in the immediate aftermath of violent attacks on local Protestant communities: having massacred four thousand Protestants, the Catholic population of Toulouse would happily turn to the Jesuits to revitalize the educational dimension of its social infrastructure.” (Wright, 33)

The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola

“The most distinctive form of this Jesuit ministry of the Word was in fact the guiding of devout persons through the Spiritual Exercises.” (O’Malley, 11) These exercises were officially approved by Pope Paul III in 1548. These exercises are designed to be completed in four weeks, and each day involves five exercises of an hour each. Room is made for those wanting to spend more or less time than this, but that is the general structure of these exercises. I’ll be quoting here from Mullan’s English translation of what Ignatius wrote in Spanish.

Ignatius wrote, “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.” (Mullan, 12) Here already he places the emphasis on self effort rather than on Christ’s merits to be saved. The Spiritual Exercises begin with a focus on people’s sins, and then move towards doing penance. Realizing our sins should draw us to Christ to receive his free grace, not to do penances to save our own soul. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) Ignatius also gives dead saints the role that belongs to Jesus Christ, “…the Saints, how they have been engaged in interceding and praying for me…” (Mullan, 21) “…It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34; see also Hebrews 7:25)

In this time of recognizing one’s sins, Ignatius recommends, “…to deprive myself of all light, closing the blinds and doors…” (Mullan, 25) Following this is a section on how to do penance, which includes the areas of eating, sleeping, and chastising the flesh. In order to chastise the flesh, Ignatius suggests, “…wearing haircloth or cords or iron chains next to the flesh, by scourging or wounding oneself, and by other kinds of austerity.” (Mullan, 26) One of the three reasons given for doing such penances is also, “…as satisfaction for the sins committed.” (Mullan, 26) “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. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe…” (Romans 3:20-22)

Ignatius and Visualization

Ignatius prescribes the use of visualization for various situations, such as, “…see with the sight of the imagination…a Temple or Mountain where Jesus Christ or Our Lady is found…” (Mullan, 18) Also, in recommending a visualization on hell, Ignatius specifically directs the person to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch (using the imagination), and to, “…ask for interior sense of the pain which the damned suffer…” (Mullan, 23) Sadly, this surely would motivate a person doing these exercises to increase their diligence in doing penances, instead of coming to Jesus where true forgiveness can be found. Regarding a visualization on the birth of Christ, Ignatius again advises using the five senses to imagine these scenes, including, “…what they are, or might be, talking about, and reflecting on oneself, to draw some profit from it.” (Mullan, 33) This type of visualization is not recommended in the Bible, and it goes beyond the Bible in imagining conversations and then trying to profit from these imaginary conversations, instead of being edified by the sure Word of God.

In the two verses of the Bible which use the word “sensual” (being led by our senses and emotions rather than by faith), a negative connotation is given in both:
“This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” (James 3:15) “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” (Jude 1:19) Peter also says the opposite of what Ignatius advises, showing that the believers who had never seen Jesus, did not do visualizations: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing…” (I Peter 1:8)

More to Visualization Than “Meets the Eye”

Singer Michael Card has for a long time been walking on the ecumenical road with the Catholic church, from creating an album together with Catholic mystic John Michael Talbot in 1996, to promoting the works of Catholic mystics Brennan Manning and Thomas Merton. More recently, he has been promoting something called, “Biblical Imagination.” An interviewer of Michael Card clearly sees the connection of what Card is promoting, with the visualization of Ignatius. Interviewer: “Your concept of the “informed imagination” made me think a lot about St. Ignatius….” Michael Card: “…The Catholics aren’t as afraid of the imagination as the Protestants. I think Protestants are afraid of the imagination because every time the King James uses it…it’s always evil.” Card should have just stopped right there, instead of going on to try to justify it. Michael Card makes it sound like a phobia to not visualize, rather than it being a matter of faithfulness, and not adding to the Word of God. (http://www.patheos.com/ Resources/Additional-Resources/ Cultivating -a-Holy-Imagination-Deanna-Witkowski-03-11-2011.html)

Visualization is also used by occultists to communicate with spirit guides. And, such techniques are even being used in elementary schools under the guise of helping children to reach their full potential. These shamanistic practices are being camouflaged and brought into the church by the mystics of old, the emergent church, and also by psychotherapists. Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, in their book “Psychology and the Church,” wrote, “Christian psychology’s visualization picked up from Carl Jung, who learned it from his personal spirit guides, has spread widely throughout the professing evangelical church. This is one of Richard Foster’s, Calvin Miller’s, Cho’s, Peale’s and others’ major teachings. Christianity has been redefined.” (Hunt & McMahon, 172)

“Richard Foster promises that through visualizing Christ in some biblical setting from His life, as recorded in the Gospels, you can have Him actually come to you and speak to you: ‘You can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by His voice…touched by His healing power…Jesus Christ will actually come to you.’ Contact has clearly been made with the spirit world- but not with God or Christ.” (Hunt & McMahon, 168-169) “Visualization has proved to be the most effective ecumenical tool in Satan’s arsenal…Those Protestant ‘inner healers’ who justify their practice because the visualized ‘Jesus’ performs so well must explain how it is that the ‘Mary’ being visualized by the Catholics is no less real and can also ‘heal.’ And, of course both must explain how it is that all manner of ‘guides’ visualized by occultists (from ‘space brothers’ and Ascended Masters to coyotes and jaguars) perform just as well as ‘Jesus’ or ‘Mary.’ (Hunt & McMahon, 171-172)

Buddhist Visualization

In the context of Theravada Buddhism, Winston King talks about a type of meditation involving visualization: “The meditator gazes at some circular shape or distinctively colored area with such total and continued concentration that after continued practice he can produce its image before his ‘sight’ with or without the original stimulus….imagining it as larger and larger until it becomes infinite, so to speak…In this eighth jhanic-type state of awareness the meditator has erased all awareness of subject-object distinctions and is one with his awareness…” (King, 88) Staring at a statue of Mary like Ignatius did, would have probably had some similar effects, though maybe not as far reaching as this Buddhist example.

In another Theravada example, given by Paul Griffiths, the object of meditation is a corpse and also involves visualization. “…the practitioner centers her mind upon the relevant physical object (in this case one of the ten varieties of corpses) until she is able to form a mental image of the object and contemplate that image without necessarily any longer being in the presence of the actual corpse…it involves the withdrawal of the practitioner’s senses from interaction with the external world and a centering of attention upon a mental image.” (Griffiths, 52)

In Tantric Buddhism, used by Tibetan Buddhism and other branches of Buddhism, “Images are ‘supports’ for meditation…The interiorization of iconography depends on Yogic disciplines of meditation and concentration whereby the image is, so to speak, cast on a mental screen by an act of creative imagination, after which it is ‘realized’ by the person meditating.” (Saunders, 79) Another example from Tibetan Buddhism is given by Alex Wayman, “…one goes through an imaginative sequence, as in the Kriya Tantra practice, culminating in one’s imagining oneself to be the deity, in this case the Buddha Vairocana…one imagines in front of one a Vairocana, like oneself, and identifies with him…one imagines that one’s mind is in the shape of a moon disk within the heart of the Tathagata in front.” (Wayman, 231)

Breath Prayers

As if the preceding recommendations of Ignatius would not distance a person sufficiently far from biblical teachings, he goes on to advise “prayer by rhythm” which is breath “praying.” “…with each breath in or out, one has to pray mentally, saying one word of the Our Father, or of another prayer which is being recited: so that only one word be said between one breath and another, and while the time from one breath to another lasts, let attention be given chiefly to the meaning of such word, or to the person to whom he recites it…” (Mullan, 60) Instead of focusing on the meaning of the word, attention can be given, “…to the person to whom he recites it…” This phrase is used because just before this advice, and also afterwards, various prayers are mentioned, some to God the Father, some to Christ, and some to Mary, the “Holy Queen.” (Mullan, 60)

In the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren also recommends breath prayers. Warren says, “…use ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath.” (Yungen, 148-149) Here Warren also nullifies what Jesus told us about prayer: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do…” (Matthew 6:7) Rick Warren recently went even further in his ecumenism to endorse a book which aims at bringing people back to Catholicism: “The mission of Tom Peterson and Catholics Come Home to bring souls home to Jesus and the church is critically important during this challenging time in our history. I fully support this new evangelization project.” -Rick Warren (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11347)

Breath “prayer” is never recommended in the Bible. It is something that is common in Buddhism, Yoga, New Age, and even the occult. In describing New Age meditation, Ray Yungen summarizes, “The two most common methods used to induce this thoughtless state are breathing exercises, where attention is focused on the breath, and mantras, which are repeated words or phrases…The translation from Sanskrit is man, meaning to ‘think,’ and tra, meaning ‘to be liberated from.’ Thus, the word [mantra] literally means to escape from thought.” (Yungen, 15)

Yoga Breathing Techniques Modified in Buddhism

Yoga, which had an influence on the Buddha, involved special breathing exercises also. “…Yoga, devoted itself to the acquiring and perfecting of a kind of psychic control…Its goal was an extrasensory state, a kind of mystical union with the absolute forces of the universe. Its methods combined body control (breathing, posturing, etc.) and concentration of the mind…” (Saunders, 16) “The Buddhist legend had recounted as well the tutoring of Shakyamuni [the Buddha] by various Indian ascetics, the discipline including Yoga breathing techniques…” (Saunders, 204)

In an example from the Pali Canon, instead of focusing on words of prayers between breaths, as Ignatius did, it is recommended to focus on Buddhist doctrines between breaths. “…thus he trains himself; ‘contemplating impermanence (in body, feelings, perceptions, volitional formations, consciousness), I shall breathe in,’ thus he trains himself; ‘contemplating impermanence, I shall breathe out,’ thus he trains himself; ‘contemplating detachment, I shall breathe in,’ thus he trains himself; ‘contemplating detachment, I shall breathe out,’ thus he trains himself; ‘contemplating cessation, I shall breathe in,’ thus he trains himself, ‘contemplating cessation, I shall breathe out…'” (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.060.piya.html)


At the end of this book of Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius gives some rules for maintaining “the true sentiment which we ought to have in the church militant.” (Mullan, 92) Notably absent from these is any advice to read the Bible for instruction. Instead, we find such things as these advocated, “…obey, in all, the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the Church Hierarchical…praise confession to a Priest, and the reception of the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar…praise much Religious Orders, virginity and continence, and not so much marriage as any of these…praise relics of the Saints, giving veneration to them and praying to the Saints; and to praise Stations, pilgrimages, Indulgences, pardons, Cruzadas, and candles lighted in the churches…praise the ornaments and the buildings of churches; likewise images, and to venerate them according to what they represent…” (Mullan, 92)

In the 13th rule, Ignatius even says, “… we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it…Because by the same Spirit
and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed.” (Mullan, 93) The many contradictions to biblical teachings we have seen already show us that it is not the same Spirit governing the Catholic church. In fact Jesus’ words would apply very well to Ignatius’ unbiblical rules: “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition…Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:9;13)

Strangely, Dallas Willard, who is embraced by many “evangelicals,” includes Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises on his website list of “recommended reading,” along with books from several other Catholic mystics, including Teresa of Avila. (http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp).

Teresa of Avila (AD 1515-1582)

Born in Avila, Spain, Teresa of Avila is considered to be one of the 35 doctors of the Catholic church. In AD 1298, pope Boniface VIII officially recognized the first four doctors of the Catholic church: Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome. The two qualifications for being a candidate for this title of doctor are, eminence in doctrine and exemplary holiness of life. This status must also be officially declared by the Catholic church. In 1970 the first woman doctor was added to the list. Now there are four women doctors: Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Th ©r ¨se of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen. Many of the doctors have been mystics.

From the time when she was a teenager, Teresa exhibited unstable behavior, which continued into her adulthood. Bouyer, who was born into a Lutheran family in Paris, but converted to Catholicism in his twenties, wrote, “…[Teresa] was soon and for a rather long time to give dangerous signs of a tendency towards hysteria, if not of a total mental and physiological derangement…She had to pass through twenty years, crossed by crisis in which neurosis is evident.” (Bouyer, 94) In her early twenties, she entered the monastery of Carmel of the Incarnation, but after a few years she had health problems again, “…she was attacked by all kinds of troubles: persistent fever, cardiac weakness, more or less epileptic-type seizures…” (Bouyer, 95)

When Teresa was about 22 years old, she wrote of herself that, “After those four days, during which I was insensible, so great was my distress, that our Lord alone knoweth the intolerable sufferings I endured. My tongue was bitten to pieces…” (Teresa, A. 1904; 71) After those four days of being insensible she gave herself to “Joseph.” “…I took for my patron and lord the glorious St. Joseph, and recommended myself earnestly to him….St. Joseph having the title of father, and being His guardian, could command Him [Jesus]–so now in heaven He [Jesus] performs all his [Joseph’s] petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they too know this by experience…” (Teresa, A. 1904; 74) This is a consistent theme among the Catholic mystics- taking the focus and glory away from God who deserves all the praise, and giving this praise and glory to people instead.

Much of Teresa’s life is led by experience, rather than by God’s Word. She claimed to receive intellectual visions giving her “mystical understanding” of things. As we saw above, her mystical understanding of who Joseph is, contradicts what the Bible says. We are forbidden in the Bible to pray to anyone except to God. Teresa claimed, “…the Lord showed so much love for me by teaching me in many ways, that I have very little or almost no need for books.” (Kavanaugh, 77) These intellectual visions, were, “…without image or explicit words.” (Kavanaugh, 78) “The intellectual visions were soon followed by another kind of vision called the imaginative vision, in which Teresa now beheld Christ not only in a spiritual way but, within her imagination or fantasy, in a corporeal fashion as well.” (Kavanaugh, 78)

“…in 1539 she had had a first imaginary vision of Christ, addressing vigorous reproaches to her.” (Bouyer, 96) Then, from the time her father died of a serious illness in 1543, “… until 1555, she abandoned all personal prayer outside the Office recited in choir…In 1555, she had a startling experience of Christ’s presence…” (Bouyer, 96) “After a period of visions accompanied by great devotion to the Rosary, she finally had, in 1559, the famous vision of the cherubim transpiercing her with a dart of fire.” (Bouyer, 96) “A dart of fire”? “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16) Sometime after this experience of the dart of fire, when Teresa would have been in her mid 40s, she had a strange experience, being tormented by the devil. “…when I found myself suffering so cruelly….It pleased our Lord to let me understand that it was the work of Satan….My body, head, and arms were violently shaken; I could not help myself…” (Teresa, A. 1904; 254)

Instead of calling on Jesus, Teresa’s solution to this attack was the following. “I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like holy water. They run away before the sign of the cross also, but they return immediately: great, then, must be the power of holy water.” (Teresa, A. 1904; 254) It is easy to see the influence of the devil in Teresa’s life and her ignorance of God’s Word. Being “insensible” and “out of control” are themes that are seen repeatedly in Teresa’s life.

“As early as 1558…her pious lay friend, Maria de Ocampo, had suggested that she [Teresa] found a Carmelite reform, returning to the primitive rule that had been more than mitigated in 1432…In April 1561, her new Jesuit director, Gaspar de Salazar, gave her his entire support.” (Bouyer, 97) “…the grace of perfect union, which she [Teresa] calls ‘spiritual marriage,’ was given her in 1572 through an intellectual and imaginative vision of Christ in his sacred humanity.” (Kavanaugh, 79)

Four Broken Cisterns

Teresa began to write a book about her life in 1560. In this book she presents a spiritual progression, using the metaphor of water. The first step is “the well” where a person meditates: “…by this term ‘meditation’ a combination of imagination feeding on gospel scenes, reflection…and finally an act of will…”, is meant. (Bouyer, 100) The second step is “the water-wheel” (or “prayer of quiet”), in which, “…there is no longer any activity other than that of the will, which ‘accepts being imprisoned by God like someone taken captive by the One who loves him.” (Bouyer, 102) This already is beginning to sound like Buddhist detachment.

Step three is called, “the river,” or “the spring,” in which, “…our faculties themselves (memory-imagination, understanding and will) seem to go to sleep, so entirely occupied are they with God alone. This is what she [Teresa] depicts as ‘a glorious madness, a heavenly insanity, in which true wisdom is acquired…” (Bouyer, 102) By the way, why go to all that trouble to get “true wisdom” (using a process that adds to the scripture and therefore is not “true”), when God has told us that all we have to do to get wisdom is to ask (James 1:5)? The fourth and last step is called “rain,” in which it is said that, “…such as union of our faculties with God is produced ‘that one loses one’s strength almost completely in a kind of annihilation that goes hand in hand with an excessively great and sweet joy.'” (Bouyer, 103) These stages do not resemble biblical prayer at all.

With these non-biblical practices people are taken away from worshiping God in spirit and in truth. “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

More quotes from Teresa of Avila: “The soul, while thus seeking after God, is conscious, with a joy excessive and sweet, that it is, as it were, utterly fainting away in a kind of trance: breathing, and all the bodily strength, fail it, so that it cannot even move the hands without great pain; the eyes close involuntarily, and if they are open, they are as if they saw nothing…The ear hears; but what is heard is not comprehended …for all bodily strength vanishes…” (Teresa, A. 1904; 152)

What Teresa describes, rather than being spiritually helpful, is more like “zoning out” or going into a “zombie state”: “At other times certain excessive impetuosities occur, accompanied with a certain fainting away of the soul for God, so that I have no control over myself…” (Teresa, A. 1904; 351) Doing a search in her autobiography, phrases like, “I cannot control it,” “no control over itself,” “I had no control over myself,” “beyond control,” frequently occur. This is the opposite of what the Bible says about the fruit of the Holy Spirit being self-control or temperance.


Teresa wrote, “…some great ladies being present,–I threw myself on the ground; then the nuns came around me to hold me; but still the rapture was observed…It seemed to me, when I tried to make some resistance, as if a great force beneath my feet lifted me up. I know of nothing with which to compare it; but it was much more violent than the other spiritual visitations…” (Teresa, A. 1904; 164)

Levitation is also claimed in Buddhism. From the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon: “When a monk has thus developed & pursued the four bases of power [via concentration], he experiences manifold supranormal powers…He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird…”(http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn51/sn51.020.than.html)

More Books

In 1565, Teresa wrote a manual called, “Way of Perfection.” Concerning this book, Bouyer wrote, “One should note the warlike tone of the introduction of this new volume. Teresa is now well-informed not only about the Lutheran schism but about all the troubles and oppositions that its repercussions involve all the way to Spain. For her, and this is very significant, the development of an authentic contemplative life is in the end the best weapon for combating a heresy that is based on justification by faith alone…” (Bouyer, 105)

In 1579, Teresa finished writing “The Interior Castle,” detailing seven “mansions” of the spiritual life. “She would encounter Christ, her destined Bridegroom, only in the final and innermost retreats of her own interiority…” (Bouyer, 108-109) “The passage from the fifth mansion, which is therefore the prayer of quiet, to the sixth is marked by interior as well as external trials, which are the final preparation for what she calls the ‘spiritual marriage.’ These trials themselves alternate at that time with extraordinary experiences, raptures, ecstasies, flights of the spirit, as she says. Nevertheless, once the seventh and the highest mansion is attained, that in which the spiritual marriage is consummated, these phenomenon as well as the trials are transcended in a stable union.” (Bouyer, 109-110)

In the “Interior Castle” Teresa wrote, “In the prayer of union the soul is asleep, fast asleep, as regards the world and itself: in fact, during the short time this state lasts it is deprived of all feeling whatever, being unable to think on any subject, even if it
wished. No effort is needed here to suspend the thoughts…This is a delicious death, for the soul is deprived of the faculties it exercised while in the body.” (Teresa, A. 1921; 71-72) Whereas Ignatius of Loyola advocated a focus on the senses through visualization, idols, and doing penances, Teresa and other mystics advocate more of a withdrawal from the senses, but even here the focus is indirectly on the senses in wanting to achieve and experience an elated state of consciousness. In both cases though the mystic goes beyond the normal and biblical use of our senses.

Devotion to “Mary”, “Joseph” and “Peter of Alcantara”

Teresa was very devoted to “Mary” and “Joseph”: “Our Lord grant that all may be to the praise and glory of Himself and of the glorious Virgin Mary, whose habit we wear.” (Teresa, A. 1904; 306) “…I have by experience found the royal Virgin help me whenever I recommended myself to her; and at last she has brought me back to herself.” (Teresa, A. 1904; 49-50) “Afterwards I saw our Lady on my right hand, and my father St. Joseph on my left, clothing me with that garment. I was given to understand that I was then cleansed from my sins [cleansed by her sins via “Mary” and “Joseph,” not Jesus?]. When I had been thus clad–I was filled with the utmost delight and joy–our Lady seemed at once to take me by both hands. She said that I pleased her very much by being devout to the glorious St. Joseph…” (Teresa, A. 1904; 277)

Supposedly, the “Lord” told her to do the opposite of what the Lutherans were doing, which encouraged her to maintain her devotion to “Joseph” and “Mary,” “‘What Satan was doing among the Lutherans was the taking away from them all those means by which their love might be the more quickened…Those who are loyal to Me, My daughter, must now, more than ever, do the very reverse of what they do.’ I understood that I was under great obligations to serve our Lady and St. Joseph, because, when I was utterly lost, God, through their prayers, came and saved me [saved by “Mary” and “Joseph,” not Jesus?].” (Teresa, A. 1904; 379) Speaking of her confessor, the commissary-general, Teresa wrote, “I could not give thanks enough to God, and to my glorious father St. Joseph, who seemed to me to have brought him here. He was the commissary-general of the custody of St. Joseph, to whom, and to our Lady, I used to pray much.” (Teresa, A. 1904; 246)

Teresa also claimed she had visitations from the deceased Franciscan friar Peter of Alcantara. “Since then, it has pleased our Lord that I should find more help from him than during his life. He advises me in many matters. I have often seen him in great glory. The first time he appeared to me, he said: “O blessed penance, which has merited so great a reward!” (Teresa, A. 1904; 223-225)


The Catholic church has not only accepted Teresa’s teachings, but has exalted her to be a doctor of the church. The example from her life promotes praying to “Mary,” “Joseph” and also a dead friar named “Peter of Alcantara.” Her teachings include advice to let the soul go to sleep, “suspend the thoughts,” combat “justification by faith alone,” advocate the use of imagination (visualization), and “fainting away in a kind of trance.” These kinds of teachings are very much in agreement with the dogmas of the Catholic church and with the teachings of other doctors of the Catholic church, but it is enigmatic why “evangelical” publishing houses, such as Bethany House Publishers and Multnomah Press, would publish the book “A Life of Prayer” a compilation of Teresa’s works, promoting such an unbiblical example of “a life of prayer.” The Bible is our guide to learn how to pray. Teachings which promise exciting experiences, but are more akin to Buddhism than to the Bible, will only lead away from God. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. In the chart below is a comparison between Catholic and Buddhist spiritualities, showing that the Catholic mystics of old, although they clothed their teachings with Christian terms, actually were promoting much that is central in Buddhism.

Catholic Spirituality

Buddhist Spirituality

Withdrawing from the senses:

“…our faculties themselves (memory-imagination, understanding and will) seem to go to sleep…” -Teresa of Avila (Bouyer, 102)

“…the affections of the soul are oppressed and constrained, so that they can neither move nor find support in anything; the imagination is bound and can make no useful reflection; the memory is gone; the understanding is in darkness, unable to understand anything; and hence the will likewise is arid and constrained and all the faculties are void and useless…” -John of the Cross (Peers, 102)

“Please note that to arrive at this state, we have to mortify our senses…” -“Brother” Lawrence (Lawrence, 135)

“The only way to overcome the senses is to draw the soul completely inward…By focusing its attention inward, it weakens the senses…” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 54)

I remained for a whole week far removed from this world. It seemed as though a veil were thrown over all earthly things…Alas! I found myself again on earth, and dryness at once returned to my heart.” -Th ©r ¨se of Lisieux (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 145)

Withdrawing from the senses:

“After a certain period, you will experience just that split second when your mind is fully concentrated on your breathing, when you will not hear even sounds nearby, when no external world exists for you.” (Rahula, 70)

In describing the four altered states of consciousness most common in Buddhism (Sanskrit- dhyana), Griffiths says these are, “…aimed initially at withdrawing the practitioner’s senses and thoughts from interaction with the external world and finally at bringing all mental activity to a halt.” (Griffiths, 36-37)

“The four dhyanas are best understood as a series of altered states of consciousness characterized by an increasing degree of enstasy. The term ‘enstasy’ literally means ‘standing within.’ An enstatic practice, then, is one aimed at the withdrawal of the practitioner’s senses and thoughts from contact with the external world and at the reduction of the contents of her consciousness.” (Griffiths, 38)

“Jhana…signifies a state of trance in which all sensory input, aside from the subject of meditation, is totally excluded from awareness. At the higher jhanic levels the meditator is also incapable of speech or movement, and in the highest possible, attention is said to be without ordinary consciousness and to reach the trance of cessation.” (King, 88)

Separation from Self:

“At other times certain excessive impetuosities occur, accompanied with a certain fainting away of the soul for God, so that I have no control over myself…” -Teresa of Avila (Teresa, A. 1904; 351)

“…the soul must gradually cease any activity. It must simply yield itself to the impulses of the divine Spirit until it is wholly absorbed in Him.” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 158)

“The transformation…is recognized by the lack of distinction between God and their soul- it is no longer able to separate itself…from God… everything is equally God, because it has passed into its Original Source, reunited to its ALL, and changed into Him.” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 199)

“It is called a departure- that is, a separation from self so that we may pass into God. A total and entire loss of the person’s will, which causes the soul to be totally empty of anything in itself.” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 187)

Separation from Self:

“…you lose yourself completely in your mindfulness of breathing. As long as you are conscious of yourself you can never concentrate on anything.” (Rahula, 70)

“The supreme illusion that meditation seeks to overcome is the belief in a substantial self.” (The Staff, xviii)

“In this eighth jhanic-type state of awareness the meditator has erased all awareness of subject-object distinctions and is one with his awareness…” (King, 88)

Speaking of Buddhist meditation, Saunders writes, “Samadhi is a condition of profound concentration, of absorption, when consciousness of separate subject and object ceases to exist and all blends indistinguishably into the One. It is a state of psychic oneness brought about by the suppression of all intellectual activity.” (Saunders, 67)

“…the meditation practice most frequently recommended in the canon: mindfulness of in-and-out breathing…Further contemplation would bring about a realization of the impermanence, stress, and lack of self…inducing a sense of dispassion, cessation, and letting go…Once these subtlest of attachments are abandoned, nothing would remain to bind one to the realm of samsara, and thus the mind would attain nirvana.” (Robinson, 39-40)


Regarding a visualization on the birth of Christ, the angel appearing to Mary, etc. Ignatius of Loyola advises using the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch to imagine these scenes, including, “…what they are, or might be, talking about, and reflecting on oneself, to draw some profit from it.” (Mullan, 33)

“…imagination feeding on gospel scenes…” -Teresa of Avila (Bouyer, 100)

“We must not form any image of the Deity, though we may of Jesus Christ, seeing Him in His birth, or His crucifixion, or in some other state or mystery…” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 24)


“…the practitioner would imaginatively identify himself with the unfortunate in question to the extent that he would, in an almost literal sense, become that unfortunate.” (Griffiths, 62)

In Buddhism it is claimed that a meditator can recall past lives. This is parallel to the visualization Ignatius advocates and false identities that are taken on. “He remembers thousands of births and many cycles of existence, and knows that in such a place he was a being of such a name and clan, and had certain experiences and length of life in each of these births.” (Thomas, 182)

One-Pointed Concentration:

Keeping a vigil in front of a statue, such as Ignatius of Loyola did, staring at a statue of Mary all night involves this kind of one-pointed concentration.

“The two most common methods used to induce this thoughtless state are breathing exercises, where attention is focused on the breath, and mantras, which are repeated words or phrases…” (Yungen, 15)

“Practicing the presence of God…a general and loving gaze at God [without reference to scripture- just a “one-pointed” gaze]…” -“Brother” Lawrence (Lawrence, 131)

“The only way to overcome the senses is to draw the soul completely inward to an awareness of the presence of the indwelling God [like Lawrence, she focuses only on God’s “presence” having overcome her senses]…” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 54)

One-Pointed Concentration:

“…the meditator is encouaraged to proceed beyond the realm of form to the trances of the formless realm, in which concentration moves from its focus on material objects to successive one-pointed contemplations…” (Strong, 124-125)

“Jhana…signifies a state of trance in which all sensory input, aside from the subject of meditation, is totally excluded from awareness…” (King, 88)

Referring to the second trance (jhana in Pali; dhyana in Sanskrit), Thomas says, “…with the ceasing of reasoning and investigation, in a state of internal serenity with his mind fixed on one point, he attains and abides in the second trance…” (Thomas, 181)

Thomas points out the similarities between Buddhist and Catholic spirituality. “…the attention is confined to one object, accompanied by a narrowing and intensification of consciousness with certain emotional changes.” (Thomas, 186)


“In the prayer of union the soul is asleep, fast asleep, as regards the world and itself: in fact, during the short time this state lasts it is deprived of all feeling whatever, being unable to think on any subject, even if it wished. No effort is needed here to suspend the thoughts…This is a delicious death, for the soul is deprived of the faculties it exercised while in the body.” -Teresa of Avila (Teresa, A. 1921; 71-72)

“…the soul that is quiet and peaceful in prayer often sinks into a…mystical…slumber in which all of its powers are at rest…the soul is wholly adapted to this mystical slumber…” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 70)

“In this stage we have nothing but internal and external desolation…This desolation occurs quite violently in some…we begin to feel a general inability in respect to everything…” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 179-180)


“…All of this can culminate in what is known as the trance of cessation (nirodha), a state in which all mental and most bodily functions are suspended. The meditator in such a state does not have thoughts, feelings, or sensory awareness of either the outside or the inside world.” (Strong, 124-125)

Griffiths explains further about the attainment of cessation. “It consists in the complete absence of all mental events and is often called a ‘mindless’ (acittaka) condition…like a catatonic or a patient in deep coma…” (Griffiths, 41)

“A ninth stage known as the “attainment of cessation” (nirodha-samapatti) is also mentioned in some sources. In this stage all mental operations are completely suspended, and even heartbeat and respiration cease. Life subsists simply in the form of residual bodily heat. A person can, we are told, remain in this state for several days, eventually emerging from it spontaneously at a predetermined time.” (Keown, 91-92)


“… we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it…” -Ignatius of Loyola (Mullan, 93)

“But here in this mystical death of the soul, all things are alike…It has no preference between being an angel or devil…” -Madame Guyon (Chadwick, 185)


“Here is no attitude of criticizing or judging, or discriminating between right and wrong, or good and bad. It is simply observing, watching, examining. You are not a judge, but a scientist.” (Rahula, 73)

“In this fourth and culminating altered state, then, affect has been reduced almost to nothing, and the analytical and classificatory activities of the mind have also been reduced to zero.” (Griffiths, 40)

John of the Cross (AD 1542-1591)

Born in Spain, and a Carmelite, John of the Cross is also considered to be one of the 35 doctors of the Catholic church. He is famous for the phrase, “the dark night of the soul,” and wrote mostly about the first stage a contemplative goes through- that of “purgation.” Most forms of mysticism recognize three stages the contemplative person goes through- purgation (detachment), illumination, and union: 1. In the purgative stage a person becomes detached from the things of this world, and becomes like an empty vessel to be filled; 2. In the illuminative stage the contemplative person becomes filled or “enlightened” with “insights;” 3. In the unitive stage, the person supposedly unites with God or becomes “one with everything”, “absorbed”, or fully realizes the “non-existence” of self and thus their (whose?) oneness with everything (as in the case of Buddhism).

Extrasensory State Leading to “Union”

An extrasensory state ending in union can be seen in Yoga, Buddhism, and also in the writings of John of the Cross. “…Yoga, devoted itself to the acquiring and perfecting of a kind of psychic control….Its goal was an extrasensory state, a kind of mystical union with the absolute forces of the universe.” (Saunders, 16) John of the Cross wrote of the three stages, “…lulled to sleep by means of this blessed night of the purgation of sense, the soul went forth, to set out upon…the way of illumination or of infused contemplation….In those who have afterwards to enter the other and more formidable night of the spirit, in order to pass to the Divine union of love of God…it is wont to be accompanied by formidable trials and temptations.” (Peers, 54)

Passive Detachment of the Senses

John of the Cross is quoted here, talking about the passive detachment of the senses. “For the language of God has this characteristic that…it transcends every sense and at once makes all harmony and capacity of the outward and inward senses to cease and be dumb.” (Peers, 109) “And thus He leaves them so completely in the dark that they know not whither to go with their sensible imagination and meditation; for they cannot advance a step in meditation, as they were wont to do afore time, their inward senses being submerged in this night…” (Peers, 34)

“…God, by means of His own infusion, bestows upon the soul passively, secretly and in silence….it is needful that all the faculties should receive this infusion, and that, in order to receive it, they should remain passive…” (Peers, 100) “For the spiritual and the sensual desires are put to sleep and mortified, so that they can experience nothing, either Divine or human; the affections of the soul are oppressed and constrained, so that they can neither move nor find support in anything; the imagination is bound and can make no useful reflection; the memory is gone; the understanding is in darkness, unable to understand anything; and hence the will likewise is arid and constrained and all the faculties are void and useless…” (Peers, 102)

Like many of the suggestions of the mystics, these quotes are in stark contrast to the good example the Bereans set of having a “readiness of mind.” “…they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

Inordinate Use of the Senses

In looking at Ignatius of Loyola, we saw the strong emphasis he placed on using the senses. By contrast, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross seem to focus on detaching from the senses. Taking a closer look though, all three of these mystics begin with the same basic stages mentioned above. For Ignatius’ program, the person began by thinking of their sins and depriving the senses through penances (purgation). Later, emphasis was placed on visualizing and making full use of the senses (illumination). In Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross’ writings, detachment from the senses is more plainly stated, and their writings then point in the direction of illumination.

Whether depriving the senses beyond natural limits, or inordinately indulging the senses, the advice of the mystics goes beyond what the Bible recommends. It seems that many “Bible believing” Christians have been “desensitized” by popular books and speakers instead of searching the scriptures daily as the Bereans did. Bill Randles has this good definition of mysticism. “Mysticism is the sensualization of our relationship with God and dealings with the spirit realm. By sensualizing, I am not referring to sexuality, but with the feeling realm. A mystic is someone who wants to know God intimately, but is not patiently waiting for the ‘beautific vision.’ He wants to see, touch, feel, and be one with God NOW. The mystic asks, ‘Why can’t we feel God? See Him? Go deeper and deeper with Him, into deeper levels of intimacy?’ We can, but in His time and on His terms.” (Randles, 100)

Matthew speaks of the “beautific vision.” “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) This is not for now, as Peter made clear. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (I Peter 1:8) “…for we walk by faith, not by sight…” (II Corinthians 5:7) “…the just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) “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. ” (Hebrews 11:6) Having looked at the lives and teachings of three Spanish mystics, we will now look at the lives and teachings of three French mystics.

“Brother” Lawrence (AD ca. 1614-1691)

Frenchman Lawrence’s Grand Vicar relates what Lawrence told him, “He [Lawrence] did not remember the things he did, and was almost unaware even when he was occupied in doing them. On leaving the table he did not know what he had eaten…When an outward duty distracted him even a little from thinking about God, there came into his soul a reminder from God that gave him an even stronger thought of God. This memory inflamed his soul and set him afire, sometimes so strongly that he cried out and sang and leaped about like a madman.” (Lawrence, 72)

Speaking of Lawrence’s early career as a monk, and giving an example of a “one-pointed concentration,” the Grand Vicar wrote, “He endured bodily austerities and long night watches, sometimes spending almost entire nights before the holy Sacrament.” (Lawrence, 35) At one point, the Grand Vicar said Lawrence, “…could actually see the devil circling his bed, but he mocked the devil.” (Lawrence, 54)

Like most of the mystics, Lawrence was also deeply devoted to Mary: “From the beginning of his novitiate, he applied himself fervently to the practice of the Religious Life. He was most devoted to the Holy Virgin and had a son-like confidence in her protection. She was his refuge in all the difficulties of his life…and it was his custom to call her his ‘Good Mother.'” (Lawrence, 31)

Silent Conversation

In his own words, Lawrence’s later method of prayer became, “…a silent, secret and nearly unbroken conversation of the soul with God.” (Lawrence, 93) “I feel my entire spirit and soul rise without any trouble or effort and remain suspended and centered on God….I know that some will treat this state as idleness….I admit that it is a holy idleness….” (Lawrence, 95) This “silent conversation” is a contradiction of terms, just like the supposed “silent sermon” of the Buddha from which Zen Buddhism claims to be derived.

Lawrence also wrote about his prayer technique, saying, “Practicing the presence of God…can be accomplished either through the imagination or by the understanding…a general and loving gaze at God….” (Lawrence, 131) “This gaze is the easiest, the most holy, the most solid and the most effective type of prayer.” (Lawrence, 135) The steps towards achieving this “gaze” sound similar to Buddhist detachment, and also similar to the “zoned-out” state which his predecessor, and fellow Carmelite, Teresa of Avila experienced. These steps are given in Lawrence’s own words. “Please note that to arrive at this state, we have to mortify our senses….To be with God, one must absolutely leave all created things behind.” (Lawrence, 135)

Biblically speaking, prayer is not a “silent” conversation, nor an imaginative “gaze” at God. Concerning the “silent” conversation, Lawrence wrote that it, “…is done in the depth and at the center of the soul….We would sometimes be surprised if we knew what the soul sometimes says to God….” (Lawrence, 132) He seems to be unaware even what his soul is “conversing” about. Likewise he was unaware of his outward actions, being detached from his senses, in order to “gaze” inwardly at God, for a “silent conversation.”

It is somewhat of an abstract concept to focus on God’s “presence” in a “silent conversation” all the time. Likewise it would be strange to focus on the “presence” of a friend or spouse, instead of actually having a relationship with them via a real conversation. Lawrence’s focus is a non-verbal, abstract one, and becomes a one-pointed focus for eliminating all other considerations, “mortifying our senses.” “In [Richard] Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster encourages readers to ‘bind the mind’ with ‘breath prayers,’ quoting Theophane the Recluse and making reference to Brother Lawrence, calling him a practitioner of this type of prayer.” (Yungen, 149) This is very much in line with Buddhist meditation, but far from what the Bible is talking about when addressing the topic of prayer.

In the book of Exodus, Moses said to God, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” (Exodus 33:18) In response, God told him, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee….” (Exodus 33:19) When God fulfilled his promise to Moses in the next chapter, Moses did not get some abstract feeling or experience, but heard a mini sermon from God, giving him insight into God’s character. “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.” (Exodus 34:6-8)

Truth Trumped by Experience

The mystical methods are more akin to Zen Buddhism in which rationality must be overcome in order to live spontaneously. Lawrence’s life of not remembering what he did and detaching himself from his senses, certainly was spontaneous and beyond rationality. Using reasoning to deny reasoning, Zen asserts that, “…reasoning is futile. Zen holds that nobody can actually think himself into a state of enlightenment, still less depend on the logical arguments of others. Rationality must eventually give way to intuitive insight, which alone frees a person to live naturally and spontaneously….” (Mason & Caiger, 169) This is an approach which downplays truth and exalts experience. Lawrence’s life also exalted experience to the detriment of truth. We are supposed to love God with all of our mind (Matthew 22:37).

The tone of Lawrence’s life is also reflected in the Zen philosophy used to train Japanese warriors in the past: “…what the Japanese perceived to be the Zen style: a quick and total awareness of the present, so free from distracting thoughts and dualisms that the swordsman attained a state of mushin (no-mind), at one with his sword.” (Robinson, 261) Instead of focusing on an awareness of the present, or on an awareness of one’s own Buddha nature (which is also a Zen practice), Lawrence focused on “God’s presence,” but he did so not by using his mind to reflect on God’s Word, or by using actual words to communicate, but simply by “gazing,” turning off his senses, silently experiencing something, and using a method that is contrary to the Bible.
During World War II, “Rinzai monks were called on to…teach meditation as a way of instilling the single-minded “no-mindedness” of the Way of the Warrior- not only to soldiers, but to all whose total commitment would be needed to support the war effort.” (Robinson, 263) This “mushin” (no-mindedness) is mystical and similar to what Lawrence practiced, but it’s not biblical. Biblically speaking we are supposed to have a “sound mind” and this especially includes when we are praying. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Madame Jeanne Guyon (AD 1648-1717)

Gene Edwards, in an introduction to some of Madame Guyon’s (citizen of France) writings, says, “The contents of a few of her writings can literally curl the hair of an evangelical. She was, first of all, a Roman Catholic.” (Edwards, xiii) Edwards also makes mention of her connection to the other mystics. “After Guyon and her writings fell under the wrath of Louis XIV, she wrote a book entitled Justifications in which she explained her teachings, proved- at least to her satisfaction- that she was teaching only what Catholic mystics of the past had taught, and even commented on their commentaries.” (Edwards, xiv) “Both Fenelon and Madame Guyon quoted Brother Lawrence in her trial….” (Lawrence, 20) Guyon was influenced by, and justified her methods from, the writings of Teresa of Avila and others also.

Although the prominence of “Mary” in Guyon’s life is less than in the lives of other mystics, this prominence is not altogether absent. Writing of her youth, Guyon said, “I did not fail to say my vocal prayers every day, to confess pretty often, and to partake of the communion almost every fortnight. Sometimes I went to church to weep, and to pray to the Blessed Virgin to obtain my conversion.” (Plantinga, 23)

Guyon did not want to make images of saints. “Although I tenderly loved certain saints, as St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Mary Magdalene, St.Teresa, yet I could not form to myself images of them, nor invoke any of them out of God.” (Plantinga, 40) This did not stop her from praying through an idol of Jesus though. Guyon wrote in her autobiography about this after her husband died, and like other Catholic mystics, spoke of Christ as her personal spouse, “It was in the morning of July 21, 1676, that he died. Next day I entered into my closet, in which was the image of my divine spouse, the Lord Jesus Christ. I renewed my marriage-contract, and added thereto a vow of chastity, with a promise to make it perpetual, if M. Bertot my director, would permit me.” (Plantinga, 83)

Guyon was also not opposed to visualizing Jesus, contrary to what the apostles taught in John 20:29 and I Peter 1:8. Guyon said, “We must not form any image of the Deity, though we may of Jesus Christ, seeing Him in His birth, or His crucifixion, or in some other state or mystery, provided the soul always seeks Him in its own center.” (Chadwick, 24)

Withdrawn Prayer Method

The method of prayer which Guyon prescribed was in many cases foreign to what the Bible teaches. In some cases the parallels with Buddhism are plain to see. She would frequently recommend that people withdraw into themselves. “…sink into yourselves…withdrawing ourselves inward by faith…Withdrawing inwardly is difficult in the beginning…” (Chadwick, 16-18)

Other advice (taking people away from logic and reason) in connection with Bible reading and prayer which Guyon gave includes, “…let your soul linger sweetly and silently on the Scripture verse you have read. Do not try to reason out the truth in it…” (Chadwick, 17) “We must, therefore, continue steadfastly and immovable in our abandonment, without listening to the voice of natural reason.” (Chadwick, 36) “…sink into nothingness before Him…” (Chadwick, 46)

The following advice echoes the advice of Lawrence and Buddhist meditation, overcoming the senses. “The only way to overcome the senses is to draw the soul completely inward to an awareness of the presence of the indwelling God…By focusing its attention inward, it weakens the senses, and is nearer to the inward awareness of God the more it is separated from the awareness of self…” (Chadwick, 54) Buddhism also seeks to separate a person from an awareness of self (anatta). The theological terms are different here, but an altered state of consciousness is sought in both, weakening the senses and going inward.

Guyon points out that those who do weaken and overcome their senses and separate from the awareness of themselves, also sometimes faint! That’s not surprising, but she tries to justify this and make it sound like a good thing. “That is why those in whom the attraction of grace…is very powerful, are…completely without energy and strength and are even subject to fainting.” (Chadwick, 54)

Guyon continues with unbiblical advice for her would-be pupils. “…your soul should not attempt to do anything other than withdraw itself from external objects and turn inward.” (Chadwick, 60) “The more passive and tranquil the soul remains, and the freer it is from self-effort, the more rapidly it advances…” (Chadwick, 61) “All our attention should, therefore, be directed toward developing the greatest amount of ability to withdraw inward.” (Chadwick, 61) “All their praying is now done in silence…it is of the utmost importance to remain as silent as possible.” (Chadwick, 68-69) “…the soul that is quiet and peaceful in prayer often sinks into a…mystical… slumber in which all of its powers are at rest…the soul is wholly adapted to this mystical slumber…” (Chadwick, 70) “The only way to find God is to direct your thoughts and feelings inward.” (Chadwick, 75)

What we see as we read further in Guyon’s instructions is a gradual but consistent path towards more passivity, more silence, more withdrawing, and finally a state of “slumber.” This is not a biblical way to pray, but is more akin to Buddhist cessation in meditation. Guyon continues by actually discouraging praying with words, “Now that your soul has been called to a state of inward silence, you should not burden yourself with vocal prayers.” (Chadwick, 93) This kind of an absolute and inward silence is a turning off of the mind. Instead of communicating with God in a relationship, an experience is the focus of this exercise.

Guyon falsely claims, “God exists in an infinite stillness, and for the soul to be united to Him it must participate in His stillness.” (Chadwick, 155) “…the soul must gradually cease any activity. It must simply yield itself to the impulses of the divine Spirit until it is wholly absorbed in Him.” (Chadwick, 158) These teachings are similar to the extreme Pentecostals who urge people to turn off their minds, not paying heed to what the Bible says, but instead just go with the flow of the “Spirit.” But, God’s Holy Spirit is the Spirit of TRUTH: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13) God’s Spirit will guide us into truth, not into ceasing from all activity. Guyon insists though that, “We can only be united to God in simplicity and passivity…” (Chadwick, 160)

Following along the path that Guyon suggests, “The fourth stage is naked faith. In this stage we have nothing but internal and external desolation…This desolation occurs quite violently in some…we begin to feel a general inability in respect to everything…” (Chadwick, 179-180) Where in scripture is this sort of a path suggested? It is not. “But here in this mystical death of the soul, all things are alike. Now being dead, the soul is insensible to everything that concerns it…It has no preference between being an angel or devil…” (Chadwick, 185) This “mystical death” is not “dying to self” or being “born again” as described in the Bible. It is an extra-biblical experience that is suggested by Guyon. She goes on to describe an extra-biblical life, not from God, but from within. “…the life that is now communicated arises from within…It is, as it were, a living germ that has always existed there, although undetected.” (Chadwick, 186)

“In this state of resurrection comes that indescribable silence, by which we not only exist in God, but commune with Him.” (Chadwick, 196) Guyon concludes with this enigmatic statement: “The transformation…is recognized by the lack of distinction between God and their soul- it is no longer able to separate itself…from God… everything is equally God, because it has passed into its Original Source, reunited to its ALL, and changed into Him.” (Chadwick, 199) A little earlier in her advice on prayer, Guyon says that, “It is called a departure- that is, a separation from self so that we may pass into God. A total and entire loss of the person’s will, which causes the soul to be totally empty of anything in itself.” (Chadwick, 187)

I would also call this a “departure,” but not in the sense that Guyon meant. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (I Timothy 4:1) Guyon was zealous in many regards, but not according to the knowledge given by God in His Word. If people ignore God’s Word to follow after experiences, it will lead to a departure, and will also lead to missing out on the righteousness of God, which He will give to anyone freely, who comes to Him on His terms. “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:2-3)

Nowadays many people in “evangelical” and “conservative” churches are promoting the writings of the Catholic mystics, or promoting modern authors who point to the mystics. Some of these modern authors include Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Larry Crabb, Brennan Manning, Shane Claiborne, Henri Nouwen, and especially many of the emergent church authors (Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, etc.) Considering that mysticism or contemplative spirituality is the steam that drives the engine of the emergent church (as Roger Oakland pointed out), and that many of the mystics are “doctors” of the Catholic church, promoting them is akin to staging one’s own spiritual shipwreck.

Th ©r ¨se of Lisieux (AD 1873-1897)

Th ©r ¨se’s (French) parents had nine children and dedicated all of them to Mary. They also named all of them Mary (spelled the French way- Marie)- even the two boys who died in infancy were named Mary (Marie Joseph Louis and Marie Joseph Jean Baptiste)! Th ©r ¨se’s given name was originally Marie-Fran §oise-Th ©r ¨se Martin. “Mother” Teresa of Calcutta named herself after this Th ©r ¨se. In Th ©r ¨se’s life, “Mary” seems to take center stage. At the age of 9, Th ©r ¨se faced a serious illness. Th ©r ¨se wrote of herself, “The illness was undoubtedly the work of the devil…. However, he little knew that the Queen of Heaven was watching faithfully over her Little Flower, that she was smiling upon it from on high.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 41) “I do not know how to describe this extra-ordinary illness. I said things which I had never thought of; I acted as though I were forced to act in spite of myself; I seemed nearly always to be delirious; and yet I feel certain that I was never, for a minute, deprived of my reason.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 35)

Th ©r ¨se attributed her cure, not to God, but to “Mary.” “…she came in again and knelt in tears at the foot of my bed; turning towards the statue of Our Lady, she entreated her…I too…turned to my Heavenly Mother, begging her from the bottom of my heart to have pity on me. Suddenly the statue seemed to come to life and grow beautiful, with a divine beauty that I shall never find words to describe.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 37) “When we reached Paris, Papa took us to see all the sights. For me there was but one–Our Lady of Victories…In this holy spot the Blessed Virgin, my Mother, told me plainly that it was really she who had smiled on me and cured me. With intense fervour I entreated her to keep me always…I prayed specially to St. Joseph to watch over me; from my childhood, devotion to him has been interwoven with my love for our Blessed Lady.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 66)

This “queen of heaven” which Catholics often refer to is not the Mary of the Bible at all, but rather is the continuation of an idolatrous practice from Old Testament times:
“The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?” (Jeremiah 7:18-19)

When Th ©r ¨se was 15 years old, she became a Carmelite nun. She continued as a nun for nine years until she died at the early age of 24 of tuberculosis. Th ©r ¨se was later deemed to be one of the 35 doctors of the Catholic church. While at the convent, her prioress asked her to write down her life story. Given this task, she took it to “Mary”: “Before setting about my task I knelt before the statue of Our Lady which had given my family so many proofs of Our Heavenly Mother’s loving care. As I knelt I begged of that dear Mother to guide my hand, and thus ensure that only what was pleasing to her should find place here.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 11)

Using statues for religious purposes is idolatry. In addition to that, it becomes a form of visualization, when a person pictures their idol even when they are not in front of it. This is just the natural outcome of idolatry, causing people to focus on imaginary images rather than on the real words of Jesus in the Word of God. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…” (Exodus 20:4)

While a nun, Th ©r ¨se was heavily influenced by John of the Cross’ writings, “I have obtained many spiritual lights through the works of St. John of the Cross. When I was seventeen and eighteen they were my only food; but, later on, and even now, all spiritual authors leave me cold and dry.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 96-97) John of the Cross also wrote much about the unbiblical concept of being personally (not corporately) espoused to Christ. At the age of 17, in 1890, Th ©r ¨se wrote of her so called “espousal” to Christ. “God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, and the Glorious Virgin Mary, Queen of the Heavenly Court, announce to you the Spiritual Espousals of their August Son, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, with little Therese Martin…” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 90)

Mystical Experiences

Speaking of a “rapture” she had, Th ©r ¨se said, “I was in the choir, beginning the Way of the Cross, when I felt myself suddenly wounded by a dart of fire so ardent that I thought I should die. I do not know how to explain this transport…It seemed as though an invisible force plunged me wholly into fire. . . . But oh! what fire! what sweetness!…I have had several transports of love, and one in particular during my Noviciate, when I remained for a whole week far removed from this world. It seemed as though a veil were thrown over all earthly things…Alas! I found myself again on earth, and dryness at once returned to my heart.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 145) In that rapture we also see the influence of John of the Cross’ passive detachment of the soul.

Like Francis of Assisi, Th ©r ¨se longed to have Christ’s wounds on herself. “And since Thou hast deigned to give me this precious Cross as my portion, I hope to be like unto Thee in Paradise and to behold the Sacred Wounds of Thy Passion shine on my glorified body.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 145)

Th ©r ¨se sent a letter to her sister, recommending to her a type of visualization on Jesus’ face. “MY DEAREST CELINE,–I send you a picture of the Holy Face. The contemplation of this Divine subject seems to me to belong in a special way to my little sister…” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 204) Th ©r ¨se also wrote a prayer designed for novice nuns to pray to a picture of Jesus’ face. “O Adorable Face of Jesus…Dear Spouse of our souls, if we could love with the love of all hearts, that love would be Thine…Give us, O Lord, this love! Then come to thy Spouses and satisfy Thy Thirst.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 246-247)

Penance and Suffering
“…it cost me a great deal to perform certain exterior penances, customary in our convents…it seemed to me that the image of my Crucified Lord looked at me with beseeching eyes, and begged these sacrifices.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 148) From the epilogue of her autobiography an example is given. “It happened, however, that she fell ill through wearing for too long a time a small iron Cross, studded with sharp points, that pressed into her flesh.” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 148)

“For several days, during the month of August, Th ©r ¨se remained, so to speak, beside herself, and implored that prayers might be offered for her…she kept repeating: ‘Oh! how necessary it is to pray for the agonising! If one only knew!’ One night she entreated the Infirmarian to sprinkle her bed with Holy Water, saying: ‘I am besieged by the devil. I do not see him, but I feel him; he torments me…And I cannot pray. I can only look at Our Blessed Lady and say: ‘Jesus!’…I am not suffering for myself, but for some other soul, and satan is angry.’ (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 152)

Not the Mary Nor the Jesus of the Bible

Right up to the end of her life, Th ©r ¨se kept her attention fixed on “Mary”, “In the morning, the sweet Victim, her eyes fixed on Our Lady’s statue, spoke thus of her last night on earth: “Oh! with what fervour I have prayed to her!…And yet it has been pure agony, without a ray of consolation…” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 162) It is sad to see that Th ©r ¨se, this “doctor” of Roman Catholics, was in need of learning who the real Jesus of the Bible is- not one who demands penances and who is prayed to through Mary, nor one who must be approached through mystical techniques.

The Catholic church has gone far afield with their doctors and traditions, when all that we need to know about Jesus and salvation is in God’s Word, the Bible. “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) “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (II Timothy 4:2-4)


Th ©r ¨se assumed in her lifetime that people would pray to her after she died, “When asked before her death how they should pray to her in Heaven, Soeur Therese, with her wonted simplicity, made answer: ‘You will call me ‘Little Therese’–petite Therese.'” (Th ©r ¨se, 1912; 166) Patricia Treece wrote a book puplished in 2001 called, “Apparitions of Modern Saints: Appearances of Th ©r ¨se of Lisieux, Padre Pio, Don Bosco, and Others: Messages from God to His People on Earth.” Supposedly Th ©r ¨se comes to visit people and people also pray to “her.” This is called necromancy and consulting with familiar spirits, and is condemned in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12 states, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire….or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD…” Also, such “familiar spirits” are not really the ones people think they are, but rather are “angels of light” or deceiving spirits, trying to take people’s attention away from God. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness…” (II Corinthians 11:14-15). Such attention is also given to dead people in Buddhism, instead of glorifying God.

“Mother” Teresa of Calcutta (AD 1910-1997)

In her youth, Agnes (Teresa of Calcutta), in her home country of Albania, was inspired by “Father” Jambrekovic, a Jesuit priest who, “…set up a youth group called the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” (Sebba, 17) Jambrekovic also shared many missionary stories, especially about Jesuit missionaries, with the youth group and challenged them with the example of Ignatius Loyola.

“On 24 March 1931, Agnes took her first vows, those of poverty, chastity and obedience as a sister of Loreto. She felt inspired to take her name in religious life from a French nun called Th ©r ¨se Martin…There was, however, a slight problem about the name…[another nun] had already taken the name of Marie-Th ©r ¨se. In order to obviate confusion, Agnes decided to spell it in the Spanish way, ‘Teresa’, invariably leading people to ask whether she had taken the name of the great Spanish Carmelite nun. ‘Not the big St Teresa of Avila…but the little one,’ meaning of course, St Th ©r ¨se of Lisieux.” (Chawla, 8)

Teresa was part of the Loreto Sisters from 1928 until 1950, when she founded her own order, called the Missionaries of Charity. “Her choice of the Loreto Sisters, the Irish branch of one of the top women’s orders, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), was perhaps more significant than she realized, although it is highly unlikely that she knew much if anything about, Mary Ward [AD 1585-1635], foundress of the Order she was joining…” (Sebba, 29-30) Mary Ward and the order she founded were heavily influenced by Ignatius of Loyola’s ideas. Having been part of the Loreto Sisters for over 20 years, Teresa also would have been very much influenced by Ignatian spirituality.

On a Loreto Sister’s website, this history is given, “It became even clearer to Mary [Ward] in 1611 what this form of life would be: it was to be modelled on the way of life and the spirituality of the Society of Jesus [Ignatius’ Society aka the Jesuits]. In 1621, after much thought and several “Plans” for their way of life, Mary prepared for the authorities in Rome a final document, adapted from a Jesuit source. This “Third Plan” (Institutum I) sketches out a women”s community very closely resembling that of the Society of Jesus…” (http://www.ibvm.ca/about/history/first-foundation)

When Mary Ward founded her own community of nuns, she named it Loreto Abbey. “Loreto was a shrine in Italy to which Mary Ward was especially devoted.” (Sebba, 31) The Loreto shrine in Italy was supposedly where the Virgin Mary lived at one time. Teresa of Calcutta was also especially devoted to “Mary.”

Devotion to “Mary” and Three Visions of “Mary”

Writing to some of her sisters, Teresa wrote, “I brought a big Easter candle with the image of Our Lady with the child on it…If you have the Easter candle, please light it before Our Lady in thanksgiving…” (Kolodiejchuk , 301) Teresa also said, “Please pray for me that I will be only all for Jesus through Mary.” (Kolodiejchuk , 309)

Teresa believed she would be guided by “Mary” too, “…keep close to Mary the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She will guide & protect you and keep you only all for Jesus. Let nothing and nobody ever separate you from the love of Jesus and Mary.” (Kolodiejchuk, 314) “Only after her death would they [the sisters] learn about the three visions Mother Teresa had in which Our Lady had pleaded with her to answer the call of Jesus and the call of the poor.” (Kolodiejchuk , 322)

Devotion to the Eucharist

When Teresa was hospitalized in 1996, her doctor noticed, “‘When that box is there, in the room, she is just looking and looking and looking at that box.’ The Hindu doctor was an unknowing witness to the power of the Eucharist over our Mother.” (Kolodiejchuk, 328) This is similar to “Brother” Lawrence’s night watches in front of the Eucharistic Sacrament, maintaining a one-pointed focus. Since 1973, it was part of Teresa’s daily routine to “adore” the Sacrament for one hour.


In Teresa’s Rules for her order, she says that aspirants to her order must, “…spend a year in contemplation and manual labor…They must learn to be contemplatives in the streets and slums just as much as in their convents.” (Kolodiejchuk , 343) The word “contemplation” has mystical connotations in the Catholic context.

In the section under Spiritual Exercises she does not specifically recommend reading the Bible. Instead, she recommends, “…half an hour’s Meditation…the full rosary- the litanies of Our Lady and Saints and half an hour of spiritual reading…in contemplation and penance together with solitude she can gather spiritual strength… In the practice of corporal penances the Sisters shall be guided by the judgment of the confessor alone.” (Kolodiejchuk , 345-346) We see that focus is directed towards “Mary” and other “saints,” instead of to Jesus Christ, and that corporal penance was also practiced, under the guidance of a confessor. According to Felix Raj, director of the “Goethals Indian Library,” “Mother Teresa had habitually preferred Jesuits as retreat preachers, spiritual directors and confessors for herself and her Sisters.” (http://www.goethals.in/collections/felixrajarticles/InfluenceMotherTeresa.htm)

Retreat and Routine

In a 12 day retreat Teresa did in 1959, each day of the retreat is under the patronage of a different person, rather than all being under God’s direction and influence: “Under the patronage of my Guardian Angel…Under the patronage of St. Ignatius…Under the patronage of St. Francis Xavier…Under the patronage of Mary, Queen of Heaven…” (Kolodiejchuk , 350-360) “Mother Teresa rose every morning at 4:40 a.m. and, after community prayers and meditation on the Word of God from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., attended Holy Mass…At 6:00 p.m. there was an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (since 1973)…” (Kolodiejchuk , 391)


Teresa also falsely took on the identity of being Christ’s spouse individually, “Now and for life I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse.” (Kolodiejchuk , 304)

By her own admission Teresa did not have the witness of the Holy Spirit to confirm her standing with God. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16) Teresa said, “Inside it is all dark and feeling that I am totally cut off from God.” (Kolodiejchuk , 306) “She had stopped writing about her darkness and rarely spoke about it, but suffered from it as intensely as she had for the past thirty-five years.” (Kolodiejchuk , 306)

Ecumenism: Blurring the Lines

The spirituality of the Catholic church has moved from sending Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits to declare inquisitions on heretics, to embracing almost any belief. “…Catholic contemplatives have adopted Zen teachings and techniques to aid them in the search for God. Pioneers in this process were Father Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle (1898-1990), a German Jesuit missionary to Japan, and Thomas Merton (1915-1968)…” (Robinson, 301)

Teresa of Calcutta was also a pioneer in blurring the lines between beliefs. “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.” (Teresa, M., 31) Putting this philosophy into practice, Teresa said, “In Yemen, which is an entirely Muslim country, I asked one of the rich people to build a Masjid there [a Masjid is a Mosque]. People needed a place to pray. I said to him: ‘They are all your Muslim brothers and sisters. They need to have a place where they can meet God.'” (Chawla, 214)

While many Roman Catholics have moved towards unity with the world’s religions, some “evangelicals” have moved towards unity with Catholicism. Larry Crabb is one of these “evangelicals” who is embracing Rome. Mystic Brennan Manning who was a favorite author of Crabb, had this to say about “centering prayer,” “…the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer….Choose a single, sacred word…repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, and often.” (Yungen, 88) Crabb doesn’t see any problems with the above advice. Crabb said, “I”ve practiced centering prayer. I”ve contemplatively prayed… I”ve benefited from each, and I still do.” (The Papa Prayer, p. 9) Crabb speaks of his rejection of the truth as if he has overcome a psychological disease. “I”m glad that as a conservative evangelical who still believes in biblical inerrancy and penal substitution, I”ve gotten over my Catholic phobia, and I”ve been studying contemplative prayer, practicing lectio divina, valuing monastic retreats…” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?tag=larry-crabb)

Shane Claiborne, a promoter of a social gospel, said, “[“Mother” Teresa] seemed to be giving the gospel a pretty good shot…” “Did Mother Teresa relate the gospel of repentance and grace through faith alone to those dying…Claiborne wrote nothing about the lepers” repentance and faith in Christ. Mother Teresa”s own writings testify that she did not try to convert people.” (http://www.mennonitebrethren.net/?p=209) In an interview with mystic Tony Compolo, Claiborne also reveals his leanings towards ecumenism. “Claiborne: You also note in your book the encounter of Francis of Assisi and the Muslim Sultan…they came together across major religious divides and had a mystical unity…Maybe we will even find a mystical union of the Spirit as Francis did.” (http://www.mennonitebrethren.net/?p=209)

Three Recent Popes:

Pope John Paul II (was pope from AD 1978-2005):
“I remember especially March 25, 1984, the Holy Year. Twenty years have gone by since that day when in spiritual union with all the bishops of the world I entrusted all of mankind to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in response to Our Lady’s plea in Fatima.” (http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=44989) Mike Oppenheimer wrote concerning John Paul II’s ecumenism, “On the second anniversary of Assisi’s historic prayer meeting, the Pope recently declared that the efforts of ‘Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists [etc.] …were unleashing profound spiritual energies in the world and bringing about a ‘new climate’ of peace.'” (http://www.letusreason.org/RC25.htm)

Jacob Prasch of Moriel Ministries, points out the connection between Islam and the Catholic Church. “…the same Vatican that saw Pope John Paul II kiss the Quran in an act of religious reverence is seeking common ground with Islam based on a common theology of Fatima (which is also the name of Mohammed’s daughter), the veneration of Mary.” (Prasch, 322) Prasch elaborates on this further, “Today the Vatican proposes Mary as the unifying force between Christendom and Islam, while such false teachers as Tony Campolo teach Evangelicals that mysticism is the common ground between Christianity and Islam. It is obvious that Jeremiah’s lamenting of the Jews sacrificing cakes to the queen of heaven will have an eschatological replay in the veneration of Mary (Jer. 7:18).” (Prasch, 458)

Pope Benedict XVI (pope from AD 2005-2013):

Denial of what Scripture says about Mary, deferring to dogma and tradition: “When one recognizes the place assigned to Mary by dogma and tradition, one is solidly rooted in authentic christology…Marian dogmas: first that of her perpetual virginity and divine motherhood and then, after a long period of maturation and reflection, those of her Immaculate Conception and bodily Assumption into heavenly glory.” (http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/591/Don_t_Forget_Mary___Cardinal_Ratziner__Pope_Benedict_XVI_.html)

Pope Francis (pope from AD 2013- present)

Pope Francis is the 266th pope and the first Jesuit pope: “He had told a crowd…just after his election that he intended to pray to the Madonna ‘that she may watch over all of Rome’….Francis considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.” (http://news.yahoo.com/pope-francis-prays- rome-basilica-1st-outing-083235180.html) Pope Francis’ statement doesn’t agree with the Bible, but agrees very well with Rick Warren’s statement. “I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing.” – Rick Warren (Yungen, 144)

Pope Francis said, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists…And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class!…And we all have a duty to do good…”But I don”t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: we will meet one another there.” (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/05/23/pope-francis-sermon-sparks-debate -even-the-atheists-have-been-redeemed-with-the-blood-of-christ/)

Events in the East at This Time

Whenever people choose to reject God and His Word, the Bible, whether it’s the Catholic church, Buddhism, or people of any country, they automatically choose to follow their own man-made and imperfect standard. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3) In this section we’ll look at some of the events that occurred in Buddhist nations from the 16th through the 21st centuries. Rejecting God’s standard often has immediate and negative results, while at other times the results will only become evident on the day of judgment. The psalm quoted above also says, “….Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:12)

Ceylon (Sri Lanka)

In 1950, the not yet prime minister of Ceylon (called Sri Lanka since 1972), S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, declared before the World Fellowship of Buddhists that man is free to decide for himself regarding what is right and wrong, without reference to God’s will: “The Buddha preached that ultimate freedom of man when the human mind need not be subject even to the will of God, and man was free to decide for himself what was right or wrong…” (Swearer, 117)

With a philosophy like this, Bandaranaike should not have been surprised that three years after being elected as prime minister, someone did decide for himself what was right by shooting and fatally wounding him (he was elected in 1956 and assassinated in 1959). That someone was not a Hindu Tamil, whom his government had marginalized, but a fellow Buddhist, who was a monk. He simply followed Bandaranaike”s advice and decided for himself.

And where did “ultimate freedom” lead for Ceylon? In the article, “No middle way for Sri Lanka’s militant monks”, written in 2007, it is plain that the Buddhist monks there are still not opposed to the use of violence: “As the war that has ravaged Sri Lanka for 25 years enters a new and terrible phase, Rathana and his fellow hardline monks are urging President Mahinda Rajapaksa to keep the promise on which he came to power in late 2005: to crush the Tigers with military force.” (http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007 /06/15/1181414556706. html?page=fullpage)


Burma has had a history riddled with dictators, in spite of being a very devout Buddhist nation. At times, the lack of an absolute standard in Buddhism, has helped to create the necessary vacuum for a dictator to step in. “…all these kings were Buddhists; the most warlike of all, Bayin Naung [king from AD 1551-1581] evidently saw himself, as Hall puts it, ‘as a model Buddhist King building pagodas where ever he went, distributing copies of the Pali scriptures, feeding monks…” (Ling, 29) “A new ruler, who called himself Alaungpaya, ‘the Great Lord, Buddha-to-be’ [reigned from AD 1752 to 1760]…had begun to extend Burmese domination once again over the whole area east of Thailand. He defeated the Shans who had controlled upper Burma, and the Mons in lower Burma.” (Ling, 41) “As he [Alaungpaya] approached Ayudhaya he showed what he could do by massacring the defenceless local population regardless of age and sex and covering the rivers with their corpses.” (Ling, 43) A later Burmese king, Hsinbyushin, invaded Thailand and conquered Ayudhaya in AD 1767.

“Bodawpaya [reigned from AD 1782-1819] can be said to have had two major preoccupations, military and religious. When he was not engaged in costly wars of territorial expansion he was busy with equally costly pagoda building programmes, for which, as Cady says, he had a mania…He believed himself to be a Bodhisattva, or Buddha-to-be…” (Ling, 49) “In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Sangha was split by the robe dispute: should monks in public cover both shoulders or only one? Under pressure from King Bodapawya the dispute was settled in favor of both shoulders.” (King, 107)

During World War II, “‘The period of Japanese military rule [in Burma] lasted only three years, but to the Burmese people it was more irksome than some sixty years of British rule…The Japanese imposed a reign of terror’…These were the realities of coexistence with ‘fellow Buddhists’ of another nationality.” (Ling, 101)


In the same year that Chiang Mai was founded, the central Thai kingdom invaded Cambodia. “The Thais first attacked Angkor in 1296, taking slaves and pillaging the capital. Then in 1352-1430 the Kingdom of Ayutthaya attacked and looted Angkor four times, enslaving and imprisoning many Khmer.” (http://www.cambodianview. com/buddhist-history1.htm) “When Ayudhya was sacked and destroyed by the Burmese in 1767, King Tak Sin the Great, then a general of the Thai army, was able to liberate his motherland within seven months.” (Na-Rangsi, 110)

The Mongol Empire and Tibet

In 1578 Sonam Gyatsho (AD 1543-1588), “…converted the Mongol ruler, Altan Khan, to Buddhism…because Gyatsho was regarded as the tulku of his two predecessors, he became known as the Third Dalai Lama, with the title of First and Second granted retroactively to them.” (Robinson, 288) A “tulku” is supposedly someone who intentionally reincarnates so as to “resume leadership after his reincarnated form…” (Robinson, 286) “With the help of Mongol troops, the Fifth Dalai Lama crushed his enemies in central Tibet and became ruler of the entire country.” (Robinson, 288). The Fifth Dalai Lama (AD 1617-1682) is also the first Dalai Lama to claim that he is an incarnation of Avalokitesvara (known in Japan as Kannon). “Thus he became the first figure in Tibetan history to combine the tradition of tulku and bodhisattva emanation in one person.” (Robinson, 288) “…Maitreya, Manjusri, and Avalokitesvara [Kannon]…These great beings are nonhistorical; there is no evidence that any of them is an apotheosis of a human hero…Strangely, no Sutra preaches devotion to a celestial bodhisattva until the third century C.E….” (Robinson, 105)

“The Sixth Dalai Lama…is credited with being the author of a series of erotic poems based on his exploits in the brothels of Lhasa. For a period, his fellow lamas debated whether he was a Tantric adept of the old school or a mere lecher. They finally decided that Avalokitesvara had abandoned him…the Ninth through the Twelfth died in childhood, perhaps of foul play…The Fourteenth Dalai Lama (b. 1935), enthroned in 1950 just before the Chinese Communists invaded Tibet, was forced to flee the country in 1959…” (Robinson, 288-289) As of 2013, the position of “Dalai Lama” is about 622 years old, counting from Gendun Drup (AD 1391- 1474), who was posthumously named as the “first Dalai Lama.”


“This amalgamation of Buddhism and Shinto…was the dominant form of religion in Japan from the eleventh century to the mid-nineteenth century. Even after the forcible separation of the two faiths for political reasons in the 1870s, the amalgam has lived on among the people.” (Mason & Caiger, 108)

From the Ashikaga Period through the Edo Period (AD 1333-1868), Japanese Buddhism was somewhat “institutionalized.” “All Buddhist sects aside from Soto and Rinzai [both Zen] had formed armed societies to protect their interests, only to be slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands, which destroyed Buddhism’s credibility as an instrument for national unity.” “…the long period of uneventful existence, of status quo, the absence of new ideas or challenges from abroad, were ultimately to sap the vitality of Buddhist institutions until, by the end of the Tokugawa period [1868], their condition can at best be called apathetic.” (Saunders, 247)

From the Kamakura Period (1185) until the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868), Japan was mostly ruled by shoguns. It was during this time that the Jesuits first came to Japan. Saunders writes, “The early success of the Jesuit teachings was striking. This was due in part to the fact that the converts considered Christianity a form of Buddhism, a confusion rendered all the more acute by the use of Buddhist and Shinto terms to apply to Christian concepts.” (Saunders, 243)

“…at the beginning of the Meiji era [1868], Buddhism was at its weakest. The years of stultification under Tokugawa control had terminated in the identification of the religion with the shogunal power…In 1867, the shogunate collapsed, and the next year Buddhism was disestablished and largely disendowed.” (Saunders, 255) After World War II, “…the emperor publicly denied his divinity….[there was] for the first time in Japanese history, a totally secular government; to give individuals total religious freedom.” (Robinson, 264) Many new sects of Buddhism emerged in Japan, while most of the older sects also made a come-back.


“As the religion of the masses, Buddhism also became the religion of the disaffected. Some of the lay Buddhist organizations- such as the White Lotus Society, loosely connected with the Tien-t’ai school [which became Tendai in Japan]- actually staged insurrections against the Mongol and Manchu rulers. The White Lotus rebellion at the end of the eighteenth century (1796-1804) took the ruling Manchus 10 years to suppress. A few notorious temples, such as the center at Shao-lin, trained monks in the martial arts, but the Sangha as a whole remained aloof from such affairs.” (Robinson, 211)


In the lives of the mystics we’ve looked at here, “Mary” holds a very central role. This central role is also promoted by popes. “In the cathedral of Quito, the largest Catholic church in Ecuador, you will see in the center of the altar a crucifix with Mary hanging on the cross, shedding her blood for your sins. Mary, not Jesus!” (Carlson & Decker, 225) We’ve also seen how the lives of the mystics were led by visions, dreams, spirit encounters, and experiences, rather than upon the solid rock of God’s Word. The techniques they used, such as visualization, statues of Mary, penances, repetitious prayers, focus on the Eucharist, detaching from one’s senses, and going into altered states of consciousness, are all likewise things which take a person away from worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

In many cases the techniques used by Catholic mystics and contemplatives have much in common with Buddhist techniques. The former prime minister of Ceylon, declared that, “The Buddha preached that ultimate freedom of man when the human mind need not be subject even to the will of God, and man was free to decide for himself what was right or wrong…” (Swearer, 117) The Catholic church has in many ways done exactly that- deciding for themselves what is right or wrong, instead of looking to the Bible, God’s Word.

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

It is a good thing to be able to recognize one’s own “lukewarmness,” and be zealous to repent. (Revelation 3:16-19) What does this entail though? Instead of following the biblical way of repentance, many non-Catholics who want revival or renewal in their prayer lives have looked to the Catholic mystics. In doing so, these sheep have not received food to nourish their hungry souls, but instead have come to trees, “…without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (Jude 1:12) Jesus said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) That should be our food as well- to do God’s will. If we are doing God’s will, we will be fed from His Word, and will be His witnesses in a generation that needs to know the truth of God’s Word. In the next part of this series I hope to take a look at the early history of Catholic mysticism, comparing that to the biblical way of praying.


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http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/ Cultivating -a-Holy-Imagination-Deanna-Witkowski-03-11-2011.html
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/05/23/pope-francis-sermon-sparks-debate -even-the-atheists-have-been-redeemed-with-the-blood-of-christ/
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007 /06/15/1181414556706.html?page=fullpage
http://www.cambodianview. com/buddhist-history1.htm

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