Contemplative Spirituality and the New Age

Updated and enlarged February 4, 2016 (first published October 28, 2008) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,

Contgemplative Mysticism
The following is excerpted from our book CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND. Contemplative mysticism, which originated with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monasticism, is permeating every branch of Christianity today, including the Southern Baptist Convention. In this book we document the fact that Catholic mysticism leads inevitably to a broadminded ecumenical philosophy and to the adoption of heresies. For many, this path has led to interfaith dialogue, Buddhism, Hinduism, universalism, pantheism, panentheism, even goddess theology. One chapter is dedicated to exposing the heresies of Richard Foster: “Evangelicalism’s Mystical Sparkplug.” We describe the major contemplative practices, such as centering prayer, visualizing prayer, Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, and the Labyrinth. We look at the history of Roman Catholic Monasticism, beginning with the Desert Fathers and the Church Fathers, and document the heresies associated with it, such as its sacramental gospel, rejection of the Bible as sole authority, veneration of Mary, purgatory, celibacy, asceticism, allegorical interpretation of Scripture, and moral corruption. We examine the errors of contemplative mysticism, such as downplaying the centrality of the Bible, ignoring the fact that multitudes of professing Christians are not born again, exchanging the God of the Bible for a blind idol, ignoring the Bible’s warnings against associating with heresy and paganism, and downplaying the danger of spiritual delusion. In the Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics we look at the lives and beliefs of 60 of the major figures in the contemplative movement, including Benedict of Nursia, Bernard of Clairvaux, Brother Lawrence, Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Siena, Dominic, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi, Madame Guyon, Hildegard of Bingen, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Keating, Thomas a Kempis, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, John Michael Talbot, Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Lisieux, and Dallas Willard. The book contains an extensive index. 482 pages, $19.95

This title is also available in an e-book format at our online catalog at

Way of Life Literature, 866-295-4143,,

The contemplative mysticism that is permeating evangelicalism is a bridge to the New Age. It has been called the “Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality” (Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friends, p. 18).

In a 2005 interview Tony Campolo said:

“I got to meet the head of the Franciscan order. I met him in Washington. He said let me tell you an interesting story. He told me about one of their gatherings, where they bring the brothers of the Franciscan order together for a time of fellowship. About eight years ago they held it in Thailand and out of courtesy, they really felt they needed to show some graciousness to the Buddhists, because they were in a Buddhist country. So they got Buddhist theologians together and Franciscan theologians together and sent them off for three days to talk and see if they could find common ground. They also took Buddhist and Franciscan monastics and sent them off together to pray with each other. On the fourth day they all reassembled. The theologians were fighting with each other, arguing with each other, contending there was no common ground between them. The monastics that had gone off praying together, came back hugging each other. IN A MYSTICAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, THERE IS A COMING TOGETHER OF PEOPLE WHERE THEOLOGY IS LEFT BEHIND AND IN THIS SPIRITUALITY THEY FOUND A COMMONALITY” (“On Evangelicals and Interfaith Cooperation,” Cross Currents, Spring 2005).

Mystical experience is exalted over doctrine and is seen as a key to radical ecumenical and interfaith unity. But if you turn your back to Bible doctrine and try to reach beyond it through mysticism, you are entering the realm of spiritual delusion with no sure light to lighten your path.

Thomas Keating, one of the most influential voices in the contemplative movement, is past president of the Temple of Understanding, a New Age organization founded in 1960 by Juliet Hollister. The mission of this organization is to “create a more just and peaceful world” and its tools are New Age instruments such as interfaith dialogue, visualization, and community building.

Thomas Merton spoke at a Temple of Understanding conference in Calcutta, India, in 1968. He praised the interfaith atmosphere and his fellow pagan religionists. He integrated his Catholic contemplation with Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufism. His books include Zen and the Birds of the Appetite and Mystics and the Zen Masters. He said, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christian. ... I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” The Yoga Journal reported on the source of Merton’s integration of Catholicism and New Age, which was his contemplative practice: “MERTON WAS ABLE TO UNCOVER THE STREAM WHERE THE WISDOM OF EAST AND WEST MERGE AND FLOW TOGETHER, BEYOND DOGMA, IN THE DEPTHS OF INNER EXPERIENCE” (Yoga Journal, Jan.-Feb. 1999).

Shambhala Publications, a publisher that specializes in Occultic, Jungian, New Age, Buddhist, and Hindu writings, also publishes the writings of Catholic mystics, including The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton, The Writings of Hildegard of Bingen, and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

The Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, which is sponsored by the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries of North America, is associated with the
North American Board for East-West Dialogue (NABEWD). At the NABEWD’s first meeting in January 1978 at a monastery in Clyde, Missouri, Robert Muller, a New Age leader at the United Nations, was selected as the organization’s advisor. Muller believes in the divinity of all men.

New Ager
Caroline Myss (pronounced mace) has written a book based on Teresa of Avila’s visions. It is entitled Entering the Castle: Finding the Inner Path to God and Your Soul’s Purpose. Myss says, “For me, the spirit is the vessel of divinity” (“Caroline Myss’ Journey,” Conscious Choice, September 2003).

Mary Coelho, a third generation Quaker, pursued contemplative mysticism from the Quaker inner light through Catholic contemplative practices all the way to the New Age. Today she believes that man is a product of billions of years of evolution, a process that is reaching a new stage in our day. She denies the Bible’s teaching on creation, the fall of man, and salvation only through faith in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

On April 15, 2008, emerging church leaders and contemplatives
Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt joined the Dalai Lama for the New Agey Seeds of Compassion InterSpiritual Event in Seattle. It brought together Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, and others. The event featured a dialogue on “the themes common to all spiritual traditions.” The Dalai Lama said, “I think everyone, ultimately, deep inside [has] some kind of goodness” (“Emergent Church Leaders’ InterSpirituality,” Christian Post, April 17, 2008).

Rob Bell’s god is more akin to New Age panentheism than the God of the Bible. He describes God as “a force, an energy, a being calling out to us in many languages, using a variety of methods and events”
(Love Wins, Kindle location 1710-1724).

“There is an energy in the world, a spark, an electricity that everything is plugged into. The Greeks called it
zoe, the mystics call it ‘Spirit,’ and Obi-Wan called it ‘the Force’” (Love Wins, location 1749-1762).

Bell also worships a New Age christ. His Jesus is “supracultural ... present within all cultures ... refuses to be co-opted or owned by any one culture ... He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him ... there is only one mountain, but many paths. ... People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways ... Sometimes people use his name; other times they don’t” (
Love Wins, location 1827-1840, 1865-1878, 1918-1933).

It is not surprising, then, that Bell recommends that his readers sit at New Ager Ken Wilber’s feet for three months.

“For a mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity, set aside three months and read Ken Wilber’s
A Brief History of Everything” (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p. 192).

Wilber, who believes in the divinity of man, was also invited to write the foreword to
The Common Heart, a book that describes the interfaith dialogues conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, under the direction of Thomas Keating.

Wilber also conducted a
Mystic Heart seminar series with Catholic contemplative monk Wayne Teasdale. In the first seminar in this series Teasdale said, “You are God; I am God; they are God; it is God” (“The Mystic Heart: The Supreme Identity,” [web page no longer available]).

Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution (1981, 2004), Ken Wilber calls the Garden of Eden a fable” and the biblical view of history “amusing” (pp. xix, 3). He describes his “perennial philosophy” as follows:

“... it is true that there is some sort of Infinite, some type of Absolute Godhead, but it cannot properly be conceived as a colossal Being, a great Daddy, or a big Creator set apart from its creations, from things and events and human beings themselves. Rather, it is best conceived (metaphorically) as the ground or suchness or condition of all things and events. It is not a Big Thing set apart from finite things, but rather the reality or suchness or ground of all things. ... the perennial philosophy declares that the absolute is One, Whole, and Undivided” (p. 6).

Wilber says that this perennial philosophy “forms the esoteric core of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, AND CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM” (p. 5).

Thus, this New Ager recognizes that Roman Catholic mysticism, which spawned the contemplative movement within Protestantism, has the same esoteric core faith as pagan idolatry! And there is no doubt that this true. It is a blind leap into the dark.

Thomas Keating and Richard Foster are involved in the Living Spiritual Teachers Project, a group that associates together Christians of various stripes, Zen Buddhist monks and nuns, universalists, occultists, and New Agers. Members include the Dalai Lama, who claims to be the reincarnation of an advanced spiritual entity; Marianne Williamson, promoter of the occultic A Course in Miracles; Marcus Borg, who believes that Jesus was not virgin born and did not rise from the grave; Catholic nun Joan Chittister, who says we must become “in tune with the cosmic voice of God”; Andrew Harvey, who says that men need to “claim their divine humanity”; Matthew Fox, who believes there are many paths to God; Alan Jones, who calls the gospel of the cross a vile doctrine and says there is no absolute authority; and Desmond Tutu, who says, “... because everybody is a God-carrier, all are brothers and sisters.”

Rick Warren has yoked up with mystic Ken Blanchard on various occasions, and Blanchard is intimately associated with New Age paganism. Blanchard visited Saddleback in 2003 and Warren told the church that he had “signed on to help with the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, and he’s going to be helping train us in leadership and in how to train others to be leaders all around the world” (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, pp. 162, 163). Warren teamed up with Blanchard in the Lead Like Jesus conferences and audio series. Warren used Blanchard’s materials in a Preaching and Purpose Driven Life Training Workshop for Chaplains at Saddleback in 2004 (A Time of Departing, p. 167). Warren also endorsed Blanchard’s book Lead Like Jesus.

Blanchard, in turn, has strong New Age associations. He wrote the foreword to the 2007 edition of Ballard’s book
Little Wave and Old Swell, which is inspired by Hindu guru Paramahansa Yogananda. This book is designed to teach children that God is all and man is one with God. In the foreword Blanchard makes the following amazing statement: “Yogananda loved Jesus, and Jesus would have loved Yogananda.” I was a disciple of Yogananda before I was saved, and there is no doubt that he did NOT love the Jesus of the Bible!

Blanchard’s recommendation appears on the back cover of Deepak Chopra’s
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. He wrote the foreword to Ellen Ladd’s book Death and Letting God, which promotes clairvoyance. He endorsed the 2005 book Zen of Business Administration, which is subtitled “How Zen practice can transform your work and your life.”

Blanchard joined members of the New Age occultic project The Secret in January 2008 for a one-day seminar entitled “Your Best Year Ever” (“Ken Blanchard Joins ‘The Secret’ Team,” Lighthouse Trails, Jan. 14, 2008). Rhonda Byrne, the author of
The Secret, thanked “Esther Hicks and the teachings of Abraham.” Abraham refers to a group of spirit guides that Hicks channels. The Secret teaches the New Age doctrines that man is god. “You are God in a physical body ... You are all power ... You are all intelligence ... You are the creator” (p. 164).

Lighthouse Trails wisely observes:

“Did Rick Warren know of Blanchard’s sympathies when he brought him in to help at Saddleback? Of course he did. And do you think that Rick Warren and Ken Blanchard are going to train their ‘billion’ soldiers for Christ how to practice New Age mysticism and learn how to go into altered states of consciousness? You bet. And that is definitely something to be concerned about” (“Rick Warren Teams up with New Age Guru,” Lighthouse Trails, April 19, 2005).

Warren is also closely associated with New Age mystic
Leonard Sweet. He teamed up with Sweet in 1994 to produce the Tides of Change audio set published by Zondervan. A photo of Warren and Sweet are pictured on the cover. Warren endorsed Sweet’s book Soul Tsunami, the endorsement appearing on both the front and back covers. Warren invited Sweet to speak at the 2008 Saddleback Small Groups Conference called Wired.

Sweet promotes a New Age spirituality that he calls New Light and “the Christ consciousness.” He describes it in terms of “the union of the human with the divine” which is the “center feature of all the world’s religions” (
Quantum Spirituality, p. 235). He says it was experienced by Mohammed, Moses, and Krishna. He says that some of the “New Light leaders” that have led him into this thinking are New Agers Matthew Fox, M. Scott Peck, Willis Harman, and Ken Wilber, plus the Catholic-Buddhist Thomas Merton. In his book Quantum Spirituality Sweet defines the New Light as “a structure of human becoming, a channeling of Christ energies through mindbody experience” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 70). He says humanity needs to learn the truth of the words of Thomas Merton, “We are already one” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 13). Sweet draws heavily from Catholic mysticism. He says:

“Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center. ... In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, ‘The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing’” (
Quantum Spirituality, 1991, p. 11).

In 2011 Rick Warren yoked together with three men whose thinking is permeated with New Age principles in an alternative health care program for Saddleback Church. Called the “Daniel Plan,” the program was written by Mehmet Oz, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman. Oz is a follower of Emanuel Swedenborg, who entertained spirit guides and was deeply involved with Eastern mysticism (“Special Report,” Lighthouse Trails, Jan. 11, 2011). Amen, a professor of psychiatry and founder of Amen Clinics, teaches Eastern meditation and deals in pop psychology and self-help. Both Oz and Amen promote Reiki, which is an occultic practice that allegedly channels “universal healing energy.” Amen told Warren that he intends to help Saddleback church members to have good “brain health.” What is this? Amen has written several books on this subject.
The Brain in Love promotes Hindu Tantra, which is the pagan concept of combining yogic meditation with sex. Making a Good Brain Great promotes Hindu-style meditation through the vain repetition of the alleged primal sounds saa, taa, naa, maa, aa. We wonder if Amen will be teaching Hindu tantric yoga at Saddleback. This would go right along with the current emphasis on good sex programs in emerging churches (and some fundamental Baptist ones, as well). Even if these actual demonic practices are not part of the Saddleback health program, Rick Warren has brought his people into potential contact with such things by his unhesitating recommendation of these men. Mark Hyman also promotes meditation based on Buddhist principles. He clams that “diseases don’t exist; their symptoms are related to effects” (“Rick Warren’s Celebrity Health Plan Draws Thousands,” The Orange County Register, Jan. 16, 2011). To say that disease doesn’t exist apart from human causes is New Age nonsense. While it is true that diet and exercise can affect one’s health, all diseases are not the result of lifestyle. We are fallen sinners who live in a sin-cursed world, and disease and death are realities that affect every individual regardless of what type of “healthy lifestyle” he pursues. In our book The New Age Tower of Babel, we warn that the alternative health care field is permeated with New Age thought. A friend observed that health food stores are New Age chapels. Beware, friends. Though we know that health is important, the Bible itself doesn’t have much to say about it. What the Bible does have a lot to say about is spiritual health in general and not associating with paganism in particular! “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:21).

Observe, then, how close are the ties between contemplatives and the New Age! And contemplative spirituality is the bridge.

This is only a tiny glimpse into this frightful matter. Rick Warren does not believe that all religions worship the same God or that man is God, but his enthusiasm for contemplative practices and his lust for the newest thing have brought him and his followers into close association with those who do. He is promoting the same type of “spiritual” practices that are nurturing the New Age and his thinking is being corrupted by this illicit association.

Evangelicals who are reading and recommending books by mystics would be wise to take heed to this warning. If they delve into Catholic contemplative practices they are in great danger of being corrupted by this illicit endeavor.


The previous is excerpted from our book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, which is available from Way of Life Literature. __

David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,

Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc.’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service, an e-mail listing for Fundamental Baptists and other fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. OUR GOAL IN THIS PARTICULAR ASPECT OF OUR MINISTRY IS NOT DEVOTIONAL BUT IS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ASSIST PREACHERS IN THE PROTECTION OF THE CHURCHES IN THIS APOSTATE HOUR.

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