If some other religion does great paintings, I'll not reject paint brushes. So why would I reject meditation? If a Buddhist experiences something spiritual through meditation, why would I not meditate in some Christian way? Will I really allow my relationship to God to be defined as merely different from everyone else's?
No. Of course not.
Merton's affinity for Buddhism and Sufi-ism is still significant. If a man says he's bringing back something anciently Christian and lost, but is actually bringing in something foreign to Christianity, he loses credibility. And since meditation is being widely promoted as the bridge between West and East, between Christianity and everything else, then such doubts jump to the forefront.
Still, that's all smoke and mirrors if there's nothing wrong with meditation in and of itself.
Briefly stated, the difference between healthy and dangerous meditation is this:
+ Meditation that brings about a state of ready quietness before the Lord is a beautiful thing
- Meditation that induces a state of passivity makes one vulnerable to demonic influence.
Saying the word, "demonic," opens up a huge field of discussion that has never been part of this blog before. So, let me lay a couple foundational thoughts about demons.
+ Demons exist.
+ They are evil. That is to say that they want their way, and don't hesitate to cause harm to get it.
+ They are capable of introducing imaginations, lies, accusations, temptations, feelings and thoughts to humans.
+ Their methods work best with people who passively admit their lies.
+ They want to counterfeit the church of Christ on Earth.
Alongside the reality of the demonic, observe the message of Buddhism: All suffering is caused by craving, therefore cease to crave. The four conditions of śīla are chastity, calmness, quiet, and extinguishment, i.e. no longer being susceptible to perturbation by the passions.
Christians are fans of one type of chastity, of course, but total chastity is really just another incarnation of passivity. The last three elements of that list are explicit shades of passivity. There is a time for calmness and quietness, but there is also a time for aggression and volume. And nowhere in all of scripture will you find extinguishment of normal passions advocated. Buddhism is a beautiful collection of insights calculated to open humanity to demonic enslavement.
1 John 5:19
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
And the Christian's way of encountering this situation is passionate:
2 Cor 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Innocent people by the billions have been trained for millenia to paralyze their own minds, emotions, and wills, while Jesus taught His followers to use them to their full abilities. Buddhism is not "another path to God," but to subjection under the ruler of this world. Buddhism is not a beautiful path from which we should learn, but a deception against which the kingdom of God must make all-out war.
We are slitting our own throats when we celebrate the entrance of these doctrines into His church.
Transcendental Meditation works. If you do the things TM's advocates teach, you will experience the things they promise. Your consciousness will expand. You will feel an amazing connectedness to the universe and to God. You will feel energy coursing up and down your body. And you will have to decide whether phenomena define truth.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
The truth of a thing is found in its relationship to Christ, and nothing else. Lying wonders are wonders still. The wonderfulness of a thing has nothing to do with whether it is true.
Meditation is a simple technique for silencing the mind. Focusing on the sound of a single syllable each time the mind activates will lull it into passivity. This is a simple, biological fact and it is measurable by the change in brainwave patterns of experienced meditators (slowing of beta waves, increase of alpha waves and possibly increases in theta and delta waves with experience.) The single syllable chosen doesn't make any more difference than whether Dumbo held the magic feather. Whether the mantra is "om" or "Lord", the effect is precisely the same. The mind is taught to descend into passivity.
Merton's teaching was that this state allows the spirit to open into God. This mind expansion is universally acknowledged to be a very spiritually receptive state.
But if this is the way to God, then why is there no example of God having required passivity of anyone in scripture? Moses was not asked to empty his mind to receive the word of God. Abraham was not asked to empty his mind to receive God's promise. Gideon was not asked to empty his mind to receive assurance of God's purpose. David was not asked to empty his mind to show his heart after God. Deborah and Jael did not empty their minds before delivering the people from God's enemy. Elijah did not receive power by emptying his mind. Even Isaiah in the very throne room of God was not silent, but spoke repeatedly and so pleased God. There is no story of one of God's chosen people being instructed to empty themselves to be filled with God.
That is for good reason.
God made us as we are, and when He saw Adam He blessed us and said we were good. Had He wanted us to be without will, mind or emotion, He would have created us so. God wants us to grow into the full stature of redeemed humanity, employing every talent with which He endowed us. Our passions are to burn hot toward Him and toward our neighbor in love, not to be lulled into silence.
God came to Earth blazing with tears, mercy and anger. When we are most purely living out His purpose, we will do the same. We will weep with those sin has crushed. We will forgive those who violate us. We will wage war to free those whom God has called.
The call to passivity comes from the one against whom we fight. The call to mind-emptying prayer comes from the one who would deceive us. The call to will-quenching prayer comes from the one who would enslave us. The call to passion-cooling prayer comes from the one who would displace love with comfort.
There is a way to quietness before God, and a tremendous value in going there, but the path of passivity is a false trail.
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn [you] away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.