POPE FRANCIS & THE THOMAS MERTON CONNECTION
After writing this booklet at my publisher’s headquarters in Montana, I learned that the Parliament of the World Religions was taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah that same week. I decided to head down there, and with a media pass, was able to enter the conference. What I experienced at the conference has confirmed to me that Pope Francis is without question an ardent interspiritualist on the same page as Thomas Merton.—Ray YungenPope Francis and the Thomas Merton Connection
By Ray Yungen
In 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope Francis the First. This new pope immediately began causing ripples in the Catholic Church with his statements on certain issues. He also caused many to take notice of his unpapal lifestyle such as living in a guesthouse with twelve others rather than living in the papal apartments like previous popes. He projects a down-to-earth image that denotes compassion and trust. He has been called the people’s pope, someone who is your friend, someone you can trust. But there are certain things about Pope Francis’ coming on the scene that are being ignored by the media and most people.
The first of these are the unusual circumstances that surrounded his election to the papacy. Pope Benedict resigned from his position as Pope. He is the first Catholic pope to do this since the 1400s. Popes do not resign but rather continue to be popes until they die. There was no obvious reason for Pope Benedict to resign. There was no scandal, nor no immediate health issue. (Two years into Pope Francis’ reign, Benedict is still alive.)
The second is the number of books about Pope Francis that have been released since he came on the scene. Previous popes had perhaps one or two books about them or by them. But books by or about Pope Francis are extremely prolific. You see them everywhere. Many of these books use descriptions such as revolution and hope.
The cover story in Christianity Today’s December 2014 issue proclaims: “Why Everyone is Flocking to Francis.” CT has its own idea of why “everyone” is drawn to the Pope. But if I am correct in my conclusions about contemplative spirituality and its outcome, then what is happening here is an occurrence that will affect the lives of millions of people, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
In his speech to the U.S. Congress on September 24th, 2015, Pope Francis praised four Americans he admired.1 One in particular stood out from the perspective of the spiritual future of the world—the Catholic monk, Thomas Merton. If you have been reading Lighthouse Trails literature for any length of time, you will know this reference by the pope is quite sobering and very significant. It is this situation that this booklet will be discussing.
Who is Thomas Merton? (1915-1968)
What Martin Luther King was to the civil rights movement and what Henry Ford was to the automobile, Thomas Merton is to contemplative prayer. Although this prayer movement existed centuries before he came along, Merton, a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, took it out of its monastic setting and made it available to, and popular with, the masses. I personally have been researching Thomas Merton and the contemplative prayer movement for over 20 years, and for me, hands down, Thomas Merton has influenced the Christian mystical movement more than any person of recent decades.
Merton penned one of the most classic descriptions of contemplative spirituality I have ever come across. He explained:
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race . . . now I realize what we all are. . . . If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are . . . I suppose the big problem would be thatwe would fall down and worship each other. . . . At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth. . . . This little point . . . is the pureglory of God in us. It is in everybody. 2 (emphasis mine)This panentheistic (i.e., God in everyone) view is similar to the occultic definition of the higher self.
In order to understand Merton’s connection to mystical occultism, we need first to understand a sect of the Muslim world—the Sufis, who are the mystics of Islam. They chant the name of Allah as a mantra, go into meditative trances, and experience God in everything. A prominent Catholic audiotape company promotes a series of cassettes Merton did on Sufism. It explains:
Merton loved and shared a deep spiritual kinship with the Sufis, the spiritual teachers and mystics of Islam. Here he shares their profound spirituality.3To further show Merton’s “spiritual kinship” with Sufism, in a letter to a Sufi Master, Merton disclosed, “My prayer tends very much to what you call fana.”4 So what is fana? The Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult defines it as “the act of merging with the Divine Oneness”5 (meaning all is one and all is God).
Merton saw the Sufi concept of fana as being a catalyst for Muslim unity with Christianity despite the obvious doctrinal differences. In a dialogue with a Sufi leader, Merton asked about the Muslim concept of salvation. The master wrote back stating:
Islam inculcates individual responsibility for one’s actions and does not subscribe to the doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption.6 (emphasis added)To Merton, of course, this meant little because he believed that fana and contemplation were the same thing. He responded:
Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs [the atonement]differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes us away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas . . . in words there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution. . . . But much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light . . . It is here that the area of fruitful dialogue exists between Christianity and Islam.7 (emphasis mine)Merton himself underlined that point when he told a group of contemplative women:
I’m deeply impregnated with Sufism.8And he elaborated elsewhere:
Asia, Zen, Islam, etc., all these things come together in my life. It would be madness for me to attempt to create a monastic life for myself by excluding all these. I would be less a monk.9 (emphasis mine)When we evaluate Merton’s mystical worldview, it clearly resonates with what technically would be considered traditional New Age thought. This is an inescapable fact!
Merton’s mystical experiences ultimately made him a kindred spirit and co-mystic with those in Eastern religions because his insights were identical to their insights. At an interfaith conference in Thailand, he stated:
I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian [mystical] traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own Christian traditions.10Please understand that contemplative prayer alone was the catalyst for such theological views. One of Merton’s biographers made this very clear when he explained:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.11This was the ripe fruit of the Desert Fathers, the ancient monks who borrowed mystical methods from Eastern religion, which altered their understanding of God. This is what one gets from contemplative prayer. There is no other way to put it. It does not take being a scholar to see the logic in this.
Contemplative Prayer and The Expansion of the Catholic Church
The most obvious integration of this movement can be found in Roman Catholicism. Michael Leach, former president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, made this incredibly candid assertion:
[M]any people also believe that the spiritual principles underlying the New Age movement will soon be incorporated—or rather reincorporated—into the mainstream of Catholic belief. In fact, it’s happening in the United States right now.12Incorporating it is! And it is assimilating primarily through the contemplative prayer movement.
Contemplative leader Basil Pennington, openly acknowledging its growing size, said, “We are part of an immensely large community … ‘We are Legion.’”13 Backing him up, a major Catholic resource company stated, “Contemplative prayer has once again become commonplace in the Christian community.”14
William Shannon (a mysticism proponent and a sympathetic biographer of Thomas Merton) went so far as to say “contemplative spirituality has now widely replaced old-style Catholicism.”15 This is not to say the Mass or any of the sacraments have been abandoned, but the underlying spiritual ideology of many in the Catholic church is now contemplative in its orientation.
One of my personal experiences with the saturation of mysticism in the Catholic church was in a phone conversation I had with the head nun at a local retreat center who told me the same message Shannon conveys. She made it clear The Cloud of Unknowing (an ancient primer on contemplative prayer) is now the basis for nearly all Catholic spirituality, and contemplative prayer is now becoming widespread all over the world.
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. Speaking of a meeting between the late Pope Paul VI and members of the Catholic Trappist Monastic Order in the 1970s, Thomas Keating, disclosed the following:
The Pontiff declared that unless the Church rediscovered the contemplative tradition, renewal couldn’t take place. He specifically called upon the monastics, because they lived the contemplative life, to help the laity and those in other religious orders bring that dimension into their lives as well.16Just look at the official catechism of the Catholic church to see contemplative prayer officially endorsed and promoted to the faithful by the powers that be. The catechism firmly states: “Contemplative prayer is hearing the word of God … Contemplative prayer is silence.”17
The Merton Paradigm
A 2013 article from the UK news source The Telegraph states:
[Pope] Francis is a Jesuit and his long, arduous formation as a priest was founded on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.18The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) reaffirmed the pope’s “Ignatian spirituality,” stating that:
All Jesuits share the experience of a rigorous spiritual formation process marked by a transformative experience with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. To think that the leader of the Catholic Church is one who follows in the tradition of Ignatius, whose life has been devoted to finding God in all things, and who is committed to the service of faith and the promotion of justice, fills me with great hope. This is a great day for the Jesuits and the worldwide Church.19Harvey D. Egan, S.J., Professor Emeritus of Systematic and Mystical Theology at Boston College explains the following about St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Ignatius of Loyola . . . is one of the Christian tradition’s profoundest mystics and perhaps its greatest mystagogue [one who teaches mystical doctrines].20Today, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius incorporate contemplative prayer practices. Considering that Ignatian spirituality compliments much of Thomas Merton’s spiritual outlook, it is not surprising that a Jesuit pope would say the following words to the U.S. Congress:
[Thomas Merton] remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. . . . Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizonsfor souls and for the Church.21 (emphasis added)The problem is that Merton did indeed open new horizons, but not in a good way. The horizons he opened were to “spiritual realities” that were at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, it reflected an interspiritual perception and even beyond that into the realm of the occult. In the book The Aquarian Conspiracy, the following information shows just how far Merton had crossed the line into realms that were spiritually dangerous.
In 1967, Barbara Marx Hubbard, a futurist moved by Teilhard’s vision evolving human consciousness, invited a thousand people from around the world . . . to form “a human front” to those who shared a belief in the possibility of transcendent consciousness. Hundreds responded, including . . . Thomas Merton.22Even though Marx Hubbard was an outright occultist, Merton still was on board with her. There didn’t seem to be any hesitancy on his part to embrace what she referred to as transcendent consciousness. In a nutshell,transcendent consciousness is the very essence of the teaching of all the world’s mystical traditions that God is inall that exists. But consider the implications of such a belief: If God were in everything, including all people, as Merton and Hubbard believed, then there would be no need for Jesus to die for the sins of the world to reconcile man to God because man would already be divine.
The account that best illustrates what outcome this could have for Christianity is the story of Sue Monk Kidd who was a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher in a small town in South Carolina. She would have been seen as an average Christian wife and mother. She gives a revealing description of her spiritual transformation in her book God’s Joyful Surprise: Finding Yourself Loved sharing how she suffered a deep hollowness and spiritual hunger for many years even though she was very active in her church. She sums up her feelings:
Maybe we sense we’re disconnected from God somehow. He becomes superfluous to the business at hand. He lives on the periphery so long we begin to think that is where He belongs. Anything else seems unsophisticated or fanatical.23
Ironically, a Sunday school co-worker handed her a book by Thomas Merton, telling her she needed to read it. Once Monk Kidd read it, her life changed dramatically.
In her third book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, not too many years after she wrote her first two books (which by the way were widely accepted in Christian circles, including a back cover endorsement by Moody Monthly magazine), there had been a dramatic change in her spiritual life as you can see in this narrative she wrote:
The minister was preaching. He was holding up a Bible. It was open, perched atop his raised hand as if a blackbird had landed there. He was saying that the Bible was the sole and ultimate authority of the Christian’s life. The sole and ultimate authority.Now Sue Monk Kidd worships the “Goddess Sophia” rather than Jesus Christ:
I remember a feeling rising up from a place about two inches below my navel. It was a passionate, determined feeling, and it spread out from the core of me like a current so that my skin vibrated with it. If feelings could be translated into English, this feeling would have roughly been the word no!
It was the purest inner knowing I had experienced, and it was shouting in me no, no, no! The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book. It is not something written by men and frozen in time. It is not from a source outside myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period.24
We also need Goddess consciousness to reveal earth’s holiness. . . . Matter becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity. Earth becomes alive and sacred. . . . Goddess offers us the holiness of everything.25During his speech to the US Congress, Pope Francis said that Thomas Merton sowed peace in the “contemplative style.” But actually, Merton did something far different than sow peace; he sowed the actual belief systems of other religions as these two quotes below illustrate:
The God [Merton] knew in prayer was the same experience that Buddhists describe in their enlightenment.26In other words, Merton found Buddhist enlightenment in contemplative prayer. Merton’s view that God is in every person is summed up in this statement:
During a conference on contemplative prayer, the question was put to Thomas Merton: “How can we best help people to attain union with God?” His answer was very clear: “We must tell them that they are already united with God. Contemplative prayer is nothing other than ‘coming into consciousness’ of what is already there.”27Even influential Catholic leaders recognize this and refer to Merton as being a “lapsed monk” who “went ‘wandering in the East, seeking consolation, apparently, of non-Christian, Eastern spirituality.’”28
These new horizons by Thomas Merton that Pope Francis has found to be exemplar are going to lead to an even greater slide into interspirituality within Catholicism and even evangelical Christianity. In essence, those who are flocking to Pope Francis, as Christianity Today stated, are inadvertently flocking to Thomas Merton.
After writing this booklet at my publisher’s headquarters in Montana, I learned that the Parliament of the World Religions was taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah that same week. I decided to head down there, and with a media pass, was able to enter the conference. What I experienced at the conference has confirmed to me that Pope Francis is without question an ardent interspiritualist and on the same page as Thomas Merton. In one document I read (a letter written to all the conference participants by Archbishop Carlo Maria Bigano Vatican Ambassador to the U.S.), the Archbishop stated:
United to all of you in a bond of spiritual communion and in hope of increasing unity among all people of faith, the Holy Father offers his blessing and prayers as a pledge of strength and God.29 (emphasis added)“Spiritual communion” is not referring to human kindness and respect to all people. This “spiritual communion” is where doctrines and beliefs are set aside, and a unity is established just as Thomas Merton suggested to the Sufi master (see page 5).
At the conference, I heard terms (in connection with the Pope, the Catholic Church, and all the world’s religions) such as “oneness,” “dialogue of fraternity,” and “he [Pope Francis] is a buddha” (said by a Buddhist monk); and the general consensus was that anyone who was not in favor of such a unity was spiritually wayward.
When Thomas Merton told the Sufi master that doctrine takes us away from the “spiritual realities” (a mystical state of oneness), he said “much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light.” In other words, beliefs must be set aside, and in their place is a unity that can be reached through mysticism. All of the world’s major religions have a practice that offers this mystical state.
Just as Merton saw “fana” (Islamic mystical state) as one of the paths to spiritual unity, Pope Francis sees the various religions as one family. He is bringing Thomas Merton’s ideas of unity to the table of global unity among all humanity. Thomas Merton’s “contemplative style” (that Pope Francis referenced to Congress) saw no contradiction between Christianity and Buddhism; and Merton said he wanted to be the best Buddhist he could possibly be.30 When Pope Francis praised Thomas Merton (knowing full well the implications of this), he gave a green light for everyone to embrace interspirituality. And where there is interspirituality, there is no place for the Cross of Jesus Christ.
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1. Pope Francis’ speech to the U.S. Congress in September 2015: http://time.com/4048176/pope-francis-us-visit-congress-transcript.
2. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1989), pp. 157-158.
3. Credence Cassettes magazine, Winter/Lent, 1998, p. 24.
4. M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Merton, My Brother (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996), p. 115, citing from The Hidden Ground of Love), pp. 63-64.
5. Nevill Drury, The Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1985), p. 85.
6. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), p. 109.
7. Ibid., p. 110.
8. Ibid., p. 69.
9. Ibid., p. 41.
10. William Shannon, Silent Lamp, The Thomas Merton Story (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), p. 276.
11. Ibid., p. 281.
12. Michael Leach (America, May 2, 1992), p. 384.
13. M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living: The Way of Centering Prayer (New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing, Image Book edition, September 1988), p. 10.
14. Sheed & Ward Catalog, Winter/Lent, 1978, p. 12.
15. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1996), p. 25.
16. Anne A. Simpson, “Resting in God” (Common Boundary magazine, Sept./Oct. 1997, http://www.livingrosaries.org/interview.htm), p. 25.
17. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Urbi et Orbi Communications, 1994), p. 652.
18. Charles More, “A New Pope, a New Primate and a New Life for Christianity” (The Telegraph, March 15, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9932996/A-new-Pope-a-new-Primate-anda-new-life-for-Christianity.html).
19. From the AJCU website stated by John Hurley, JD (president Canisius College), “Statements on Pope Francis’ Election from Presidents of AJCU and Jesuit Institutions” (March 14, 2013 http://web.archive.org/web/20150325025014/http://www.ajcunet.edu/news-detail?TN=NEWS-20130314084452).
20. Harvey D. Egan, Soundings in the Christian Mystical Tradition (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010), p. 227.
21. Pope Francis’ speech to the U.S. Congress in September 2015: http://time.com/4048176/pope-francis-us-visit-congress-transcript.
22. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Archer, 1980), p. 57.
23. Sue Monk Kidd, God’s Joyful Surprise (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1987), p. 56.
24. Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 76.
25. Ibid., pp. 162-163.
26. Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing, 1996), p. 76.
27. Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1996, Revised Edition), p. 211.
28. Deborah Halter, “Whose Orthodoxy Is It? (National Catholic Reporter, March 11, 2005, http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2005a/031105/031105a.php).
29. Can be read at: https://cadeioparliament.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/message-to-pwr.pdf.
30. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
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republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
As we prepare to discuss the Contemplative Mystic Thomas Merton we will be entering the very Temple of the Contemplative Spirituality Movement (CSM) itself to touch one of its most “anointed” Buddhas. Those who teach Contemplative Spirituality Mysticism such as Richard Foster, the Quaker mystic who is listed among the “living spiritual teachers” at the Spirituality & Practice website, hold the late Merton in extremely high regard. Regardless, in this article I will show you that Merton taught a “social conversion,” which was a clear rejection of the historic orthodox Christian theology and the absolute necessity for mankind to be born again/regenerated. Merton’s teachings about Contemplative/Centering Prayer (i.e. transcendental meditation) for the inward conversion of man was right in line with the same foolish social gospel preached in liberal theology. And now through so-called “Christian” mysticism this falsehood has been reimagined by Guru Brian McLaren and others in the Emergent Church as their own warped and toxic myth of the Kingdom of God.Spiritual Director Thomas MertonA wise man attacks the city of the mighty and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust (Proverbs 21:20).In the CSM you will much talk about Spiritual Formation (SF) from men like Richard Foster, the Guru of Contemplation, and his faithful sidekick Dallas Willard. One of the main ideas they promote is the need for a Spiritual Director in one’s life. First we turn to a book called Spiritual Direction & Meditationby Thomas Merton, the man Foster says shared “priceless wisdom for all Christians who long to go deeper in the spiritual life.” In it Merton explains the origin for this supposed requirement of “spiritual direction.” As he does you will see where this whole messed up mysticism immediately went off-track. Merton tells us the:original, primitive meaning of spiritual direction suggests a particular need connected with a special ascetic task, a peculiar vocation for which a professional formation is required. In other words, spiritual direction is a monastic concept. It is a practice which wasunnecessary until men withdrew from the Christian community in order to live as solitaries in the desert. For the ordinary member in the primitive Christian community there was no particular need of personal direction in the professional sense. The bishop, the living and visible representative of the apostle who had founded the local Church, spoke for Christ and the apostles, and, helped by the presbyters, took care of all the spiritual needs of his flock (11, emphasis mine).In reading the above one must take into account that as a Roman Catholic monk Merton’s view of Church history is badly skewed. However, even with that we can see the whole of this so-called “Christian” mysticism, with its “spiritual formation” and “spiritual directors” teaching their contemplative spirituality began as a rebellion against Biblical authority and the outline for Church leadership in the pastoral epistles. We’ll return to this “monastic concept” later but for now we can see Merton admits that “men withdrew from the Christian community in order to live as solitaries in the desert.” This is where mysticism would enter into their religious life as the eastern “Desert Fathers” began seeking “common ground” with Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus in their worship. There they turned their back on their brothers and sisters in local churches in favor of seeking individual religious experience apart from the prescribed method of worshipping God in this Age of Grace laid out in the New Testament.As we return to begin looking more specifically at Thomas Merton I want to mention that in his excellent series Mysticism Gary Gilley points out just how deeply Guru Richard Foster is influenced by the mystic monk Thomas Merton. Just a quick aside for those who wonder why I use the title Guru so often with these “spiritual directors” in the Emergent Church like Foster and McLaren; if you are going to assign each other titles from apostate Rome and involve yourselves in trying to teach practices of Eastern mysticism, then a Guru is what you are. Gilley is right when he says of Foster:Foster cites and/or quotes Merton on at least nine separate occasions in Celebration of Discipline, yet Merton was not a Christian as far as we can tell. He was a twentieth-century Roman Catholic who had so immersed himself in Buddhism that he claimed he saw no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity and intended to become as good a Buddhist as he could.But despite his doctrinal views and New Age leanings Foster considers Merton’sContemplative Prayer, “A must book,” and says of Merton, “[He] has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” Merton wrote, “If only [people] could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”Merton’s MessageThe above quote from Merton comes from his Conjectures Of A Guilty Bystander (CGB) which was first published in 1966 and is a good representation of where his contemplative spirituality ultimately led him. On the back cover we’re told that as he neared “the end of his life” the Mystic Monk “played a significant role in introducing Eastern religions to the West.” Now let’s look at the above quote once again, but this time in its broader context. Beginning on page 156 of CGB Merton is describing an experience he has one day while watching people “in the center of the shopping district.” Merton tells the reader he “was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people,…even though we were total strangers.” As he continues on describing this epiphany Merton says he comes to understand that the solitary life of a monk creates “the illusion that by making vows we become a different species of being” as it were.In the following we will catch a glimpse of the universalism which underlies the more liberal vein of theology within apostate Roman Catholicism as Merton says of the monastic life that:though “out of the world” we are in the same world as everybody else, the world of the bomb, the world of race hatred, the world of technology, the world of mass media, big business, revolution, and all the rest. We take a different attitude to all these things, for we belong to God. Yet so does everybody else belong to God. We just happen to make a profession out of this consciousness (157, emphasis mine).As one continues to read there is no question Merton is writing in praise of his fellow mankind and downplaying our sinful nature. In fact he even says it “is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race,” even though it “makes many terrible mistakes.” This love of man is a common theme in the writings I’ve studied by those who are longtime practitioners of Contemplative/Centering Prayer. And with this misapplied love comes an anthropocentric understanding of God. Rather than focusing on how we’ve caused God such grief by these “terrible mistakes,” which are the results of a fallen nature that can only be cured by the Cross of Christ, instead Merton turns things backward when he says:yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake. I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, and now I realize we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun (157).Now we have the context for the earlier quote and it is beyond question that Merton is literally gushing about what he sees as mankind’s innate goodness. This becomes even clearer as the late mystic comes to believe that his “solitude” really “is not just my own.” This says Merton “is because I am one with them…and when I am alone they are not ‘they’ but my own self.” And what follows is an unmistakable denial of the doctrine of original sin:Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed….I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.Again, that expression, le point vierge, (I cannot translate it) comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written is us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billion points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely….I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere (158).Clear Contextual Evidence Of The Human Potential MovementI’ve purposely chosen to include this much of the text of Merton’s book to annihilate the argument that my conclusions have been formed by taking the Mystic Monk out of context. It is beyond question that he is talking about an inner quality of goodness at “the center of our being.” Further he tells us this “point of nothingness” is itself “untouched by sin,” and in line with ancient Gnosticism this divine spark “belongs to God,” and this “point” of deity within mankind “is the pure glory of God in us.” And finally doctrine in agreement with the “Inner Light” of the Quakers comes emerging as Merton tells us this “little point of nothingness” is “in everybody” and is “blazing with the invisible light of heaven.” Men and women, this is a uniform testimony from those I have read who practice contemplative spirituality. So it’s little wonder that in the back of his own booklet Meditative Prayer under “Further Study In Meditation” Guru Foster would call Merton the Mystic Monk’s book Contemplative Prayer, “A powerful analysis of the central nature of contemplative prayer. A must book.”On Slice Of Laodicea I once posted the abbreviated quote from Merton’s CGB as an example of an anthropocentric denial of original sin and an improper view of mankind’s true nature. And then underneath I placed the following from Christ Jesus the Lord:What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:20-23).While this would certainly appear to be a flat contradiction by mankind’s Creator Himself of Merton’s mystic teachings above there were quite a few who were unable see that these statements are mutually exclusive and therefore diametrically opposed. Whatever equivocation we’d like to use about Merton his statement stands in its context. He is unquestionably talking about an innate goodness in mankind. Whereas Jesus says in no uncertain terms there is not. This is as old as Genesis 8:21 where He had already said: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” And we also consider this from the inspired Apostle Paul – ”I know thatnothing good lives in me (Romans 7:18). So the sad story is that sin proceeds out of the heart of man, and every intention of man’s heart is evil, and nothing good is inherent in mankind that would make him worthy of God’s saving him despite what Norman Vincent Peale and his clone Robert Schueller and one of his disciples smilin’ Joel Osteen say to the contrary.For Men Shall Be Lovers Of Their Own SelvesIf you actually read what myself and others have written on Thomas Merton you would know that by the time his life was over he was for all intents and purposes a Buddhist and his theology ended up as panentheistic as the other mystics before him. I documented Merton’s disgusting recounting of his spiritual experience at Polonnaruwa in Thomas Merton And The Buddhas. The information that follows now is from my article Contemplative Prayer And Meditation and was itself literally taken from Merton’s Message at The Thomas Merton Foundation. They are in a much better position to know what this heretic taught than any of us. For the Lord’s sake isn’t it time we finally see what is so blatantly obvious? This simply has no place in Christian theology:He takes people into deep places within themselves… At the core of Thomas Merton’s spiritual writings is the search for the “true self” and our need for relationship withGod, other people and all of creation… He concludes that we must discover God as the center of our being to which all things tend…Merton’s interests were prophetic,…he foresaw…the source of the problem [we face] is that man “has become alienated from his inner self which is the image of God.” [The solution] requires a social conversion,… The first step in this turning is a transformation of consciousness and Thomas Merton is a preeminent guide to us in this first step…[and] a spiritual master whose influence crosses generations and religious affiliations.And as I have previously pointed out, of course it would cross “religious affiliations” because there is no mention of the inherent sin nature of man, or the need for being regenerated, or of the Cross of Christ as the only real solution for sin. What we have just read from a Site sympathetic to Merton could be agreed to by virtually anyone from any spiritual background, and this is precisely my point. It is exactly this same message of New Age spirituality that comes through the “transformation of consciousness” to all those who practice this transcendental meditation long enough to anger God until He finally abandons them to their reprobate mind. (see–Romans 1:18-32)Men and women, God is not the center of mankind’s being and His image in man was shattered at the Fall. The absolute Truth is that apart from Christ one cannot even begin to restore this imago Dei. This is an appeal for you to see these things taught by demons for what they actually are…the worship of mankind and a major step toward the fulfillment of Satan’s blasphemous boast frozen in time for us by God the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 14:14 – “I will make myself like the Most High.”____________________________________________________________republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:4-5, KJV)It is simply beyond question that the Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism which Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster is teaching your pastors is heavily influenced by the late Roman Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton.In his book A Time of Departing Ray Yungen offers this bit of personal testimony in an encounter with Guru Foster: “I attended a local seminar where Richard Foster was speaking. At the end of the meeting, I approached him. Wanting to know more about Foster’s beliefs, I asked, ‘What do you think about the current contemplative prayer movement?’ Foster emphatically told me, ‘Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people!’ ”The Unholy Ground Of IdolatryWhat you are about to see is an account from Thomas Merton’s own journal concerning his “total integration” as he observed the huge Buddha statues at Polonnaruwa. This event happened during the tour of Asia he was on in 1968 when he was accidentally electrocuted. As a matter of fact, in the series “Merton Center Occasional Papers” from Merton.org, the website of “The Thomas Merton Center [which] is the official repository of Merton’s artistic estate,” ITMS President Dr. Paul M. Pearson tells us:In his Asian Journal Merton refered to himself as a pilgrim – “I have left my monastery to come here not just as a research scholar or even as an author. I come as a pilgrim…to drink from ancient sources of monastic vision and experience.” (3)I now take the following section from the book Thomas Merton: My Brother by the late Spiritual Master M. Basil Pennington who was a fellow Trappist monk and a close friend of Merton’s. It will be presented without comment, but as you read I ask you to consider that Merton’s own account of awe while he stood before these pagan idols is coming from someone many evangelicals today consider to be a Christian.”Pennington writes: “At Polonnaruwa,…Merton was able to enter into the sanctuary with the solitariness he wanted. The pilgrim took off his shoes and let the dampness of the living earth speak to him. At this point it is not only best but necessary to let Merton speak for himself”:I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand. Then the silence of the extraordinary faces. The great smiles. Huge and yet subtle. Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing, the peace not of emotional resignation but of Madhyamika [the “Middle Path” school of Buddhism], of sunyata [“emptiness, the Void” – a basic concept in Buddhism], that has seen through every question without trying to discredit anyone or anything – without refutation – without establishing some argument. For the doctrinaire, the mind that needs well established positions, such peace, such silence, can be frightening.I was knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures, the clarity and fluidity of shape and line, the design of the monumental bodies composed into the rock shape and landscape, figure rock and tree. And the sweep of bare rock slopping away on the other side of the hollow, where you can go back and see different aspects of the figures. Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious. The queer evidence of the reclining figure, the smile, the sad smile of Ananda standing with arms folded (much more “imperitive” than Da Vinchi’s Mona Lisa because completely simple and straightforward).The thing about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem and really no “mystery.” All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear. The rock, all matter, all life is charged with dharmakaya… everything is emptiness and everything is compassion. I don’t know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely, with Mahabalipuram and Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage had become clear and had purified itself. I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for. I don’t know what else remains, but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.Basil Pennington then adds, “here through the aesthetic experience that Merton entered into and sought to express the mystical experience…quiet, isolation, simplicity and freshness. There is a wholeness. Merton said he could not express it adequately. He might have added, as did his Cistercian Fathers in speaking of such moments of total integration, that those who have experienced it know what he was talking about, and those who have not should seek the experience so that they will know.”“Merton did not return to this experience in the few journal entries that would follow. As I have said, a week later he would be dead.” (171,172,173).____________________________________________________________