Someone just asked me, who will remain anonymous, the following:
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on centering prayer? It seems The Cloud of Unknowing refers to it.
ANSWER: Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, M. Basil Pennington, and William Meninger are not good teachers of Christian contemplation. They dabble with New Age ideas and incorporate Buddhist meditation techniques with Catholic meditation. Definitely you should avoid that.
I would point you to Thomas Dubay’s Fire Within for a contemporary teaching on contemplation, other than my own e-book, How to Experience God.
You can’t go wrong with anything based on St. Teresa of Avila’s teaching.
Also, Augustin Poulain’s The Graces of Interior Prayer has great teaching on contemplation.
Centering prayer, as I have argued in my e-book, in fact I spend a whole chapter on it (ch. 9, esp. part 2), is a New Age distortion of the contemplative prayer taught by the Catholic saints.
QUESTION: Have you ever come across Dave Cloud? Attached is a sample of his writing. I’ve come across several ‘Evangelical’ assessments warning against contemplative prayer. I struggle back and forth with whether to pursue it or not.
I’ve attached Cloud’s e-book (Evangelicals and Contemplative Mysticism) for your consideration. Some of the arguments ‘against’ contemplative prayer seem rather reasonable and not hyped up.
ANSWER: Contemplative prayer is basically what you make of it. It has an “opening” ability to the spirit world; it increases capacity for openness to spirits, whether demonic or divine. The best way to avoid demonic oppression is to contemplate Jesus Christ; and reject New Age theology. (Read Clifford Wilson and John Weldon’s Occult Shock and Psychic Forces; Douglas Groothuis’ Unmasking the New Age; Confronting the New Age; or cautiously and Charismatically approach Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon’s The Seduction of Christianity).
If you practice contemplative prayer with New Age views, the likelihood of you experiencing a New Age vision or dream or voice or sign is very high. However, if you maintain Evangelical views of theology and the world (Puritan, Methodist, or Pentecostal), then the likelihood of you having an Evangelical vision or dream or voice or sign is very high–if you practice Christ-centered contemplation.
Contemplative prayer will open you up to the invisible spirits that are operating behind your theology.
Contemplative prayer is what you make of it.
Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
See also the Puritan mystic Isaac Ambrose’s Looking Unto Jesus or Tom Schwanda’s Soul Recreation: The Contemplative-Mystical Piety of Puritanism.
I briefly skimmed Cloud’s e-book. I would put it in the same category as the other books which oppose contemplation. They are really preaching against Centering Prayer (with all its New Age theology through Merton and Keating). As I have argued before in my e-book, centering prayer is a modern New Age distortion of traditional Catholic contemplative prayer.