Mysticism in America . +quot;The main fight, make no mistake,+quot; said theologian Nels F

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Mysticism in America . "The main fight, make no mistake," said theologian Nels Ferre in 1961, "is between the Christian faith in its inner, classical meaning and the new Orientalized versions whether they come via Neoplatonism or in modern forms...The supernatural, personalistic, classical Christian faith is now being undermined by an ultimately non-dualistic, impersonal or transpersonal faith. The winds are blowing gale-strong out of the Orient." . Prof. Ferre's meteorological metaphor may have seemed an overstatement in 1961, but today we see its accuracy. Indeed, one of the startling things that has happened in recent history is the penetration of Western society by mysticism and occult philosophy, and the various forms of Eastern meditation which are frequently associated with them. In ten years, the counter- cultural daydream of a society unified around the experience of the "divine within" has begun to take on an uncomfortably concrete reality. It is no longer possible to dismiss interest in the philosophy of eastern religions as a kind of fringe fanaticism which is beneath the concern of the Christian community. . Part of our underestimation of this trend stems from the fact that the American adherents of eastern cults are often so visible and distinctive that we tend to judge their significance in terms of their limited numbers; we fail to see that their existence is merely symptomatic of a much larger cultural shift. Thus we minimize the impact that this imported world-view has had upon our contemporaries' thinking. These mystical doctrines have influenced areas far removed from the sometimes bizarre world of the counter culture. In fact, an underlying theme runs through contemporary developments in science, business and finance, politics, economics, the arts, psychology and religion: the same basic ideas about man, meaning and God which are traditionally associated with the ancient oriental religions are showing up as root premises of most of the important trends in today's western society. . These ideas are rooted in a common set of presuppositions (i.e., faith premises) about the nature of ultimate reality and ultimate values. In the past these presuppositions have been systematically expounded in such "esoteric" disciplines as yoga, magic, alchemy, astrology, kabbalah, Taoism, tantra and Zen. Today, because of the widespread cross-fertilization of these and other schools of thought, meaningful labels are more difficult to apply. Whether we refer to these presuppositions as mysticism, Vedanta, occult philosophy, pantheism or monism is more a matter of emphasis than of semantic precision. Nevertheless, the proud delusion of modern philosophizing, whether scientific or spiritual, may be described as a kind of "cosmic humanism." It is fundamentally identical with the so-called "hidden wisdom" of classical occultism and is characteristically linked with such religious practices of the east as yoga and meditation. This underlying theme is being promoted in way that subtly conditions people at every level of culture to accept a definition of reality which ultimately denies the personal God of the Bible, asserts the autonomy, power and inherent divinity of man, and condemns as obsolete any absolute statement of moral values. . C.S. Lewis also understood this issue as a conflict of fundamentally incompatible faiths. At the same time, he grasped the significance of this clash by seeing it in the perspective of history: "Pantheism is congenial to our minds not because it is the final stage in a slow process of enlightenment, but because it is almost as old as we are. It may even be the most primitive of all religions...It is immemorial in India. The Greeks rose above it only at their peak...their successors relapsed into the great Pantheistic system of the Stoics. Modern Europe escaped it only while she remained predominantly Christian; with Giordano Bruno and Spinoza it returned. With Hegel it became almost the agreed philosophy of highly educated people...So, far from being the final religious refinement, Pantheism is in fact the permanent natural bent of the human mind; the permanent ordinary level below which man sometimes sinks, but above which his own unaided efforts can never raise him for very long. It is the attitude into which the human mind automatically falls when left to itself. No wonder we find it congenial. If "religion" means simply what man says about God, and not what God does about man, then Pantheism almost is religion. And religion in that sense has, in the long run, only one really formidable opponent -- namely Christianity." . In the meantime, the spiritual anemia of the west has left this generation ravenous for reality, and therefore vulnerable to any spiritual counterfeit offered in the name of Truth. As born- again disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will soon come face- to-face with seemingly irrefutable evidence of our own irrelevance. Obviously this development opens up new vistas of Christian apologetics that have barely been touched heretofore. Christians need to be diligent in seeking an informed understanding of what is going on, of where it comes from, what its direction is and what it means within the context of the spiritual warfare to which we are called. . The traditional systems of occult philosophy and their newer variants are all patterned after the archetypal lie of Genesis 3. They are not primarily intellectual constructions, but flow in the first instance from a common experience -- the experience of "cosmic totality." This powerful but partial (and therefore ultimately false) experience, like the serpent's primordial deception, is single in its nature. The mystical systems that seek to interpret this experience can nevertheless be analyzed for purposes of intellectual convenience into a number of mutually related categories of thought. The four most important of these may be stated as follows: (1) "All is One." . This declaration is not a theoretical proposition, but a succinct description of the experience encountered in a state of altered consciousness. Such altered states of consciousness may occur spontaneously, but they are more usually produced through the systematic practice of some technique of meditation. The effect of this kind of experience is to dissolve all distinctions (especially the distinction between the perceiver and the objects of his perception) into a single, undifferentiated unity. The interpretation of this experience leads directly to the first presupposition of monistic philosophy: that there is only one Reality in existence. From this it follows, both logically and experientially, that all apparent separations and oppositions (including the opposition of good and evil) are unreal or are secondary manifestation of the single divine Reality. Likewise, all "objects" and "individuals" are merely partial glimpses of the all-inclusive One. This ultimate Reality is often identified with "pure consciousness," in the sense of unlimited and unconditioned awareness. In Hindu terms, it is Sat-Chit-Ananda, that is, "Being-Awareness-Bliss," or "the ecstasy of consciousness aware of itself." . This point of view can be illustrated in an instance of advanced scientific speculation by the case of Erwin Schrodinger, Nobel Prize-winning physicist. His world-view, derived, he says, from Vedanta, is that there is only a single consciousness, of which all things are but different aspects: "The external world and consciousness are one and the same thing, in so far as both are constituted by the same primitive elements." (2) "Man is a Divine being (the Divine within)." . This assumption is inevitable on the basis of the experience described above. If there is only a single Reality in existence, then we are obviously parts or emanations of it. Our own "consciousness" provides the specific connecting link. In experiencing it we experience our oneness with the divine and the essential divinity of our innermost nature. All forms of occult philosophy are united around the central belief that the inner or "real" Self of man is God. This is the fundamental form of the fundamental falsehood, the basic statement of The Lie: "Man is God!" (3) "The purpose and fulfillment of life is to become aware of our divine nature." . However the "divinity" of man may be defined by a particular cult, the "way" is always the way of gnosis: the attainment of experiential "knowledge" through a flash of metaphysical insight. "Salvation" is equated with the discovery of this higher Reality and its laws. The usual occult terminology refers to "enlightenment," illumination," "at-one-ment," "union" or "Self- realization." All propagandists of mystical occultism regard their philosophies as scientific as well as (or rather than) religious. They seek to be united with the divine principle or law through their understanding and use of spiritual and psychic techniques. Such attempts seem feasible because God experienced as "the law of man's own being" is completely immanent and therefore readily accessible. As a further result of this approach, such movements look to the personal, subjective and experiential as the source and certification of meaning within the context of their system -- not only apart from, but in opposition to any reliance on faith or the authority of revelation. (4) "Self-realization leads to the mastery of spiritual technology and the attainment of psycho-spiritual power." . As an initiate advances upon the path of gnosis, he becomes increasingly familiar with the divine "One" and its relationship to the secondary levels of its manifestation (which we think of as the realm of "creation"). Thus he, as man-God, becomes master and creator of his own reality. Through his knowledge and utilization of spiritual laws, he becomes capable of creating and manipulating the conditions of his own further development or that of others. (If he assumes this role in relation to other individuals, he becomes in effect a "guru" or spiritual master.) Inasmuch as reality is composed of consciousness, man learns to control reality by controlling consciousness. . As we participate in the divine by virtue of our possession of consciousness, we automatically take part in the process by which the world of sense-objects is brought into (illusory) being. As the "enlightened" or "realized" individual learns to alter his consciousness at will, he thereby learns to alter the structure of creation; "matter" itself can be created or decreated by him with the facility of a divine conjurer. It is here that mysticism merges into magic (and vice-versa). From Yahweh's own attribution of unlimited power to those who sought to ascend to heaven, we can see that the Tower of Babel was essentially an occult enterprise: "This they have begun to do, and now nothing that they have imagined will be impossible to them." (Gen. 11:6). . These four elements of "doctrine" are the earmarks of occult philosophy. Though they may be articulated in varying ways, all four are basic to the teaching of most of the eastern cults now active in the west -- from the self-professedly innocent and "non-religious" transcendental Meditation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to the more obvious blasphemies of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. If we understand that they are explanations of an experience, and that the experience itself provides the underlying dynamic of mysticism, we can see that these four elements are also present, though masked, in diverse forms of yoga, meditation and martial arts disciplines. Taken together, and discerned in terms of the experience which they rationalize, they provide us with a yardstick by which to evaluate groups and teachings that may be otherwise unfamiliar to us. If a cult or belief manifests even one of them in obvious form, you may be certain that the thrust of its teaching runs counter to authentic Christianity. . However, while faith may be fulfilled in the identification and rejection of the false, apologetics has a more extensive aim. As active participants in our Lord's battle against "principalities and powers," we should try to understand the monistic experience both positively and negatively; that is, we should know it for what it is, as well as for what it is not. . The most prominent fact about this experience of "cosmic oneness" is its universality. The philosophies and belief-systems that spring from it seem to be the dominant religious expression of humanity apart from Christ. Monism is an ancient, natural and seemingly inevitable response to the human condition, as C.S. Lewis points out. This is an important clue. Natural man's universal bondage to the curse of death is revealed in the solidarity of the human condition itself, which results from death. As the writer of Ecclesiastes perceived, human beings find their truest common bond in the grave to which all descend. . Just as death is -- humanly speaking -- a final and total separation, so the awareness of that end shatters our attempt to find some sense or value in the pattern of life here and now. As that final entropy creeps backward into our every experience, it brings with it a conviction of brokenness, anxiety and alienation that penetrates to the heart of our being. All "religion" ultimately is an attempt to come to terms with the pervasive and insidious fragmentation of our lives that is introduced by the prospective certainty of death. Humanity cannot, therefore, escape a "religious" response to its condition because individual humans can never escape the fact that they must die. This religious response is, specifically, a groping for some ground of unity that will enable us to grasp an unknown harmony beyond the brittle disintegration of meaning that fractures all our hopes and pleasures. . But the available grounds of unity are strictly limited. Those who seek unification of a broken reality must find it either above the ordinary level of our splintered existence, or below it -- either in the living, personal God who speaks the cosmos into existence, or in some impersonal substrate of "being" which underlies even the primordial duality of matter and energy, a substrate which is within the cosmos and constitutes its invisible foundation. That such a created substrate does exist seems a reasonable inference from the account of Genesis 1:1-10, in which the Lord reveals that the initial stage of cosmic formation was a state which possessed true created existence, but was "formless and void," that is, "without determinate structure." It was only later that this unitary state of "bare" existence passed through the primordial duality (the separation of light from darkness, v.4) and beyond, into the increasingly elaborate dualizations (e.g., the separation of firmaments, the separation of land from water, etc.; vv.6-27) by means of which God built up the complex forms of material creation. It is is true that human "consciousness" is itself an instrument of perception which is capable of making contact with the subtle and unstructured basis of its own created existence (and there seems no Biblical reason for denying it), we can see that this latent and inherently accessible possibility offers a form of unification that is naturally appealing to fallen man. Occult mystical experience encounters this lowest-common-denominator of creation, calls it "God," and merges with it to the dissolution of identity and individuality. . In Romans 1:25, the apostle Paul tells us that the essence of false religion is "the worship of the creature..." In its wider meaning, the word translated "creature" extends to the whole realm of "creation" and hints at the profound implications of Paul's thought. Such "worship" of the creation, however, is false not only to God, but to its ostensible object as well. Mystical enlightenment represents a radical implosion of consciousness which in effect reverses the flow of God's creative process by disassembling the complexities of the created order and seeking an unstructured root of impersonal existence. . Thus the religious desire for unity is faced with two options for its fulfillment: (1) "transcendence" through Christ to contact with the uncreated God, or.. (2) "subscendence" through mystical self-awareness to contact with the created void. . The Bible warns us, however, that we can realistically expect the bulk of humanity to reject the first option in favor of one that panders to the pride and perversity of its fallen nature. We know that man in his natural state not only is apart from God, but actively repudiates Him. Those who follow this tendency are thereby shutup to the only remaining possibility. . To speak of God and His creation is to exhaust the scope of the real. There is nothing else. Everything that exists is either God Himself or is created by Him. In this we can see the inevitability of the present proliferation of mystical religions and occult philosophies. Those who refuse to find the unification of their fragmented lives in God must seek it within the realm of creation. Since the creation itself is fallen (Romans 8:19-23), the conclusion of the matter is that mysticism declares the way by which one embraces the fulfillment of the curse here and now. . This is why Jesus can speak of only two roads: the narrow way which leads to life, and the broad way which leads to death. Just as there is only one Truth, there is really only one Lie, though it may take many forms. Although the broad road has many "lanes," they all lead to the same place in the end. Brooks Alexander Spiritual Counterfeits Project GLOSSARY ..... ESOTERIC: Derived from a Greek root signifying inner or within; anything that is withheld or veiled from the public at large and revealed only to an inner circle of initiates; commonly applied to the techniques and experiences of mystical enlightenment as well as the ideas of mystical philosophy. KABBALAH: A distinctively Jewish form of occultism, developed by certain rabbis especially during the Middle Ages; it is based in part on a mystical and esoteric interpretation of the Old Testament. MONISM: The philosophical doctrine that there is only one ultimate reality in existence, and that all things are parts of or are composed of this reality. OCCULT, OCCULTISM: While most westerners are accustomed to think of the occult as equivalent to Satanism, black magic, astrology and fortune-telling, the word in its true sense simply means "hidden" or "concealed." Thus it is closely related to esoteric (above). Occultism in all its forms consists of secret techniques of consciousness-alteration, coupled with secret doctrines which explain the inner meaning of the experiences thereby attained. An occultist has declared that "occultism may be defined as the use of the hidden powers in man to discover the hidden life in the world." TANTRA: A series of Hindu and Buddhist scriptures which are concerned with special yogic practices for swiftly attaining enlightenment; also, the practices and techniques taught by those books; also, the philosophical tradition based on those teachings. TAOISM: A Chinese religion and philosophy based on the "Book of Tao", ascribed to Lao-Tzu (600 B.C.); basically monistic in character, it emphasizes that the "One" is ineffable and undefinable. The "I Ching," a Chinese book of divination, is associated with Taoism. VENDANTA: A monistic philosophy based in part on the "Vedas", which are ancient Hindu scriptures; the literal meaning of Vedanta is "the end of the Vedas," that is, their ultimate import of meaning. YOGA: Literally, "yoking" or "union"; any systemized technique or form of spiritual practice by which the practitioner (or yogi) seeks to condition himself at all levels -- physical, psychic and spiritual -- in ways that will facilitate the experience of conscious union with the divine principle. DOWNLOADED FROM: COMPUTERS FOR CHRIST #11: DOUG MOORE,SYSOP 312-362-7875

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