Monday, February 6, 2012

Encouragement? Caution? All of the Above

In Matthew chapter 12, Jesus has been talking in parables, telling truths in story form.  At verse 43 he starts talking about evil spirits:
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none.  Then it says ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.  So will it be also with this evil generation.”
Now, look at the exchange in Job, chapter 1, between the Lord and “the accuser” or Satan,  verse 7:
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’  Satan answered the Lord, ‘ From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Notice the similarity in the descriptions.  Satan wanders about looking for a place to land.  He goes to and fro until he finds a resting place.  There is a reason that I bring this up.

As you know, I have been exploring the art of meditation, an aspect of Christian Mysticism, and I have discovered that not all books are created equal!  There are some books that claim to be about Christian Mysticism and Spiritual insight and, quite frankly, they are not books that I would recommend for someone exploring this topic!

There was one book that I read online, that was recommended as the sort of  “7 steps to meditation and mysticism” and, at first, it’s suggestions seemed reasonable.  But as I read further, I discovered that the writer’s view of the source of evil, and mine, parted ways in a dramatic fashion!  In a nutshell, the writer believes that evil comes about by “wrong thought” and that there isn’t really evil in the world.   Bad things happen to people because they “think” it into being.  An individual is in a car accident, for example, because they attracted the negative situation by their thoughts.  A child is ill because a parent had negative thoughts of sickness that manifested in the child.  The solution is simply to “neutralize” the negative thought pattern and then you start attracting positive things into your life.  I wish I was kidding about this but I’m not!  This is the point where I strongly disagree with the writer, based on my study of scriptures.

The entire book of Job is based on refuting such arguments!  It states, right from the beginning, that Job was indeed a righteous man.  His friends make the argument that the calamities that have befallen Job, are the result of some “sin” that he has committed.  If you read the entire book, you know that God himself refutes this argument!  And if Jesus didn’t believe that evil was real then why did he bother sending the demons into the pigs in Mark chapter 5?   Why would John Wesley preach so strongly, a caution about evil, if he didn’t believe that it existed?  Evil is real, and it is a force that is separate from God!

Believing that evil is real does not imply a “dualism” within God, which is the argument that is made to explain the belief that evil is simply thought gone wrong.  Yes, God is good and what he created is good!  God did not create evil.  Evil simply exists.  And that is an important point to remember if one intends to attempt Christian Meditation!

It is no wonder that Morton Kelsey, in his book, “The Other Side of Silence” warns that meditation is not for everyone!  If an individual does not have a thorough grounding in scripture, they could easily open themselves up to more problems then they had before!  Mr. Kelsey says this on the topic on page 52:
“The idea that we have outgrown our need to turn to God for help in dealing with evil, or the idea, in fact that there is no such thing as cosmic evil, would be funny if it did not show such a tragic lack of understanding.”  
Or this comment on page 74:
  “As long as one believes that there is no evil and that spiritual reality is relatively benign, there is no particular reason for caution.  This is why our belief systems are so important.”  (emphasis mine)
I have been impressed by the fact that throughout his book, Mr. Kelsey has emphasized that Christian Meditation is meant to help you discover deeper truths that can be practiced and applied in the here and now.  It is meant to strengthen your faith and it is meant to be used in practical ways to help others!

He also strongly suggests that a person doesn’t “go it alone.”  Yes, meditation is an inward journey but, you need a firm anchor in the world.  A mentor, a prayer group, family, close friends that you can talk to, are all incredibly important!  In taking this journey inward, you may discover things about yourself that are shocking or disturbing and there is a real need to have a support network around you to help “bring you down to earth.”  (On a personal note, I am discovering just how true this is!  I am my own worst critic, and that trait is even more intense in meditation.  My family and friends are far more forgiving of my flaws, as is God, which can be hard to fathom!)

Now, you may read this and think “well that’s just crazy!  Don’t we want to encourage people to go deeper in their spiritual walk?”  Of course we do!  But, the fact remains, it is important to prepare for that journey first.  I’m reminded of what Isaiah says in chapter 28, starting at verse 24:
“Do those who plow for sowing plow continually?  Do they continually open and harrow their ground?  When they have leveled its surface, do they not scatter dill, sow cumin, and plant wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and spelt as the border?  For they are well instructed; their God teaches them.” (Again, emphasis mine.)
It is important to plant, but FIRST they have to plow and harrow and level.  They have to be instructed well by God.  Otherwise, you can end up with weeds planted with the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30) and as the parable illustrates, it can cause a whole lot of problems!

So am I suggesting that Christian Meditation is a bad thing to try?  No.  What I am saying though is be certain that you are as prepared as you can be before you try!  Mr. Kelsey opens chapter 8 with this paragraph.  I am going to close with it as an important reminder.
“Meditation is not something one should do simply because others are doing it.  It can not be undertaken like an aesthetic exercise or merely for diversion.  Whether we expect it or not, in meditation we are opening the door to another aspect of reality, potentially just as rewarding and sometimes even more dangerous than the physical world.  Not many of us would turn a child loose in the physical world without teaching that child, as best we can, how to get around safely in it.”
Wise words indeed!


  1. Very good reminder, Trudy. That last Kelsey quote especially! Best to have partners in Christ with whom to share. One is indeed in dangerous territory if going it alone!

  2. I really appreciate the emphasis that Kelsey puts on staying grounded and having those connections with others! It is not a solo adventure and it is not meant to be taken lightly! But it is a wonderful practice that anyone can undertake if they are willing to do the work!