Beware of those Eastern Mystical Labyrinths!

Sigh. The folks at Lighthouse Trails Research (one of the Internet’s more visible anti-mysticism websites) are getting goofier and goofier (or, perhaps, more and more paranoid). Yesterday they posted a blog entry in which they listed over thirty terms that they describe as “the ‘inside language’ of contemplative spirituality.” They go on to issue this dire warning: that all these “point to one thing … eastern mysticism.”

The list includes such terms as:

  • Labyrinths
  • The Jesus Prayer
  • Lectio Divina
  • Taize
  • A Thin Place
  • Spiritual Direction
  • Ignatius Exercises (sic)
  • Centering prayer
  • Prayer of the Heart
  • Dark night of the soul
  • Practicing the Presence
  • Spiritual Formation

Actually, only two of the terms on the list — “Yoga” and “Mantra” — are from eastern religions. All of the rest are thoroughly Christian terms, even if some of the practices included, such as Centering Prayer, are ecumenical in scope (Centering Prayer, as a method of teaching contemplative prayer, was created as a response to the many Christian young people who were exploring eastern mysticism in the 1970s). So, not only is this post silly and paranoid, but it’s just plain inaccurate.

Indeed, most of the terminology on this post points not to eastern mysticism, but to Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. I think the people at Lighthouse Trails should just call a spade a spade and admit that their real agenda is to tear down the body of Christ, by pitting evangelicals against Catholics.

My favorite term on this list is “A thin place,” which comes from not from the lands of eastern mysticism, but from Ireland. It simply refers to a place where one can more easily discern the presence of God (whether it be a cathedral, a monastery, or a site of natural beauty and wonder). I’m sure the generations of devout Christian Celts who celebrated God’s presence in their lives would be most amused to discover that they were secret agents of eastern mysticism, without even realizing it!

If you’ve read this far, please join me in praying for everyone associated with Lighthouse Trails Research — that they might be healed of their erroneous belief in an angry God who hates contemplative spirituality. As annoying as I find their website, what really saddens me is when I ponder what it must be like for those who actually live under the bondage of such a legalistic theology.

What Has Not Yet Been Revealed
Sanctity and Struggle, or, Why Saints Have Chaotic Inner Lives (Hint: It's Because We All Do)
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Peter

    Thank you, Carl,
    Having come from such a legalistic background I can testify that the driving force behind all this suspicion is fear: fear that what we will find if we use any of the listed means (or a hundred others not [yet] listed on the blacklist) of seeking personal gnosis or enlightenment or contact with God is a terrible scarey demonic sort of god or gods who will be sure to succeed in drawing us away from the limited view of God that the True Church (whatever version of it being represented) has so carefully indoctrinated us about.


    I pray with you, Carl, for Lighthouse Trails Research and a hundred or a thousand other witch-hunters who have taken upon themselves the cause of The Defense of the Truth instead of the glorious freedom of the children of God to celebrate and spread the light and joy of the gospel through open, abandoned acts of worship and service. I pray that the Spirit of Truth whom they so earnestly seek to honor may break in to their narrow world and release them into the liberty Jesus paid such a high price to give to them freely by his grace. I could go on, but the main idea here is deliverance from narrow-minded bondage, and as far as I know the heart of Jesus, I am certain that this is His will for these sad and damaged folks.

    Kyrie eleison! Christe eleison!

    Blessings to all,

  • margi

    It would be nice if they would sit back and contemplate their own research skills for a moment.

  • margi

    I read further (I need to be sent out to dig a ditch, really I do) and this is what I learned.

    Brother Cadfael was a desert father… well… he lived in in the middle-ages and seems the most likely monastic of his period to have met a Hindu.

    Julian of Norwich was a feminazi.

    Joanne Rowling is steeped in the black arts. If you think floo powder, quidditch or dragons’ eggs are fun go read Deuteronomy and that’ll cure you.

  • Yvonne

    It makes me happy to see the contemplative practices for spiritual renewal that are being explored by many Christians, as the more these contemplative practices are engaged in, the more the practitioner becomes aware that the Divine Beloved really does love all the beings of this earth, no matter how they perceive the Divine.

    I feel sorry for those who are imprisoned in the narrow mindset that says if a practice comes from another tradition, or even resembles another tradition, then it must be bad. They clearly haven’t read the Gospel of John chapter 14 properly.

    Brother Cadfael was a desert father??? Oh please. Margi, you are a braver woman than I to have delved into their website.

  • breadandwine

    Carl: I just discovered your blog … what fun! And this post leading me to a group which has finally figured out that Brother Jerome (“practicing the presence”) and St. John of the Cross (“dark night…”), like the Celtic saints of Ireland, were practitioners of “eastern mysticism” … this is priceless. I could spend hours surfing around in this maelstrom of religious paranoia. But I won’t … back to planning my sabbatical.

  • Isaac

    It’s sad, really. Throw a little mysticism or asceticism in the faces of those who already find themselves to be “saints” with no need for “dead religion”, you can expect a lot of harshness in return. It stems mostly from pride, in being exalted above people who are seeking God through personal divine revelation via mysticism and theosis — because the majority of people against it are already “walking Christ’s”. Mysticism is dead, because they are content with hedonism.

    Of course this isn’t the case for everyone. For a lot of people, they’re afraid, and it’s a natural reaction to fight fear with defense mechanisms such as anger, or just shutting down completely. People shove it away without hearing a word of it, or at worse, attack it aggressively.

    Prayers for Lighthouse Trails Research. May the Lord illumine their hearts and minds. Lord have mercy.

  • zobcity1

    In America we have the handy work of Rick warren leading the charge on all that witchcraft stuff interwoven with the 40 day oddesy to “discover self” but never mind the fact Apostle Paul said that there is nothing good within us yet needing to deny self is the real deal, but his filth sells so enjoy it Mr. Warren as you wilol not spend it in the pit!

  • Carl McColman

    Zobcity1, I sincerely hope English is not your first language. If it is, then I weep for our future.

  • zobcity1

    You are all too wise to misdirect repy.

  • zobcity1

    Some of us got saved from the Rick warren types.
    And Buddism.
    And new age foolishness.
    But, I detect you are still seduced by his works and other things like it.
    John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

  • zobcity1

    Oh well!

  • Carl McColman

    Matthew 7:1-4 leaps to mind.