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Posts Tagged ‘illumination’

*** Published with permission

 

The Voice: Who Are You Listening To?

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” I Timothy 4:1& 2

Many are hearing a voice today that they believe is God. This voice comes as a “still small voice”, an audible voice, an “inner” voice, or a feeling/impression that is referred to as God’s voice or the voice of the Holy Spirit.

For some, the voice comes out of “nowhere”. They just hear it in an almost audible, but rather “inner” capacity. Some refer to it as “in their spirit”. For many others, the hearing of this voice comes through a learned system and practice/meditation in order to be trained to hear the voice. Are these voices, God, or something else?

What if the voice tells you one thing, but tells someone else the opposite relating to the same thing? Or what if the voice predicts something but it does not come true? Does that make the voice false? Can it really be God?

The defining “test” that is given by those who hear the voice is that the voice, if it is of God, does not contradict Scripture. Is this a fair “test”? How does one define if the voice is contradicting Scripture or not? Are there guidelines for knowing how to measure it? Can someone be in error even if the voice does not contradict Scripture? If what the voice says can be found in Scripture, then what is the point of the voice? What about when satan tempted Jesus Christ? Did he not quote Scripture? Was it validly applied? What about Eve? She heard the voice of God, yet satan tricked her subtlety by repeating almost what God said in question form with a subtle twist. Can we be tricked as well? “The heart is deceitful above all else . . ., Jeremiah 17:9 tells us. Are we really only hearing what we want to hear and the inner “voice” complies?

What is the huge push to hear the voice of God that people pursue it with such fervor, as if God will be obedient to man’s ploys and pleadings? Where does this concept come from and who is teaching it that the mass of Christianity is clawing to hear a voice and experience “God” in a deeper, ethereal, ultra spiritual way? Does the Holy Spirit need to “speak verbally” in order for us to know what God wants of us and to “lead and guide us into all truth”? Do we really need the kind of direction that is so heavily promoted by the teachers of this greater truth – that any Christian can actually hear God’s voice and must hear it to know Him and His will?

There appears to be two venues through which this teaching comes. One is the Faith Movement – perhaps better known as the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement including the Assemblies of God, Four Square Gospel, Full Gospel, Apostolic, Latter Rain, Prophetic Movement, Dominion Movement, Kingdom Now Movement, etc churches and denominations. The other is through the contemplative movement which has been introduced to Christianity at large, although the Faith Movement is also contemplative in its foundational groundings.

Both venues are based in the same mysticism which can be traced back to “ancient mystics” – nuns, priests, and monks who believed and practiced meditation rights and liturgies to “find God”. This also included mazes and labyrinths, etc. The emergent church movement openly teaches this kind of “meditation”, while the Faith movement hides this mysticism in the practice of the “manifestations of the Holy Spirit” as the “gifts of the Holy Spirit”. These practices cross back and forth between the two venues, but are brought to fruition from a little different perspective. The results are the same: the need to hear the voice.

What is the appeal to hear the voice? I believe it comes through the desire to reach into a “deep” place where God is supposedly found, outside of our rationale and into a spiritual realm that is beyond human understanding. Because of my past personal experience with the voice, I found the following explanation most interesting and revealing, and immediately related to it:

Quote [with the author’s permission – Gary Gilley]:

“The journey to mystical experience, almost universally, involves three stages: purgation, illumination and union.”

Purgation:
“Purgation is the cleansing stage which begins with self-examination and penitence and leads to a holy life … and involves detachment from the things of the world including material and physical desires; and mortification, the building of new paths to replace the old ones now rejected.”

Illumination:
“The illumination stage is when the mystic begins to experience inner voices and visions. The goal of illumination is to know genuine spiritual truth, but such truth cannot be found in conventional or even rational ways … and feel their thoughts and mental impressions can be explained as the inner voice of God. The true mystic has come to the conclusion that the secret and “deep” things of God cannot be understood rationally. They can only be understood through the experience of illumination. The means by which mystics achieved illumination was through fasting, long seasons of specialized prayers known as contemplative prayers and by following various spiritual disciplines of which the best known today were designed by the Catholic monk and founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola. As we will see later, it is upon Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises” that Richard Foster patterns his famous book, The Celebration of Discipline [Mr. Foster also promotes the “dark night of the soul” that was first noted by John of the Cross during the 16th century] .

Union:
“The ultimate goal of the mystic is unmediated union with God. This point, at which the soul attains oneness with God … The ancient mystics would frame this experience in romantic, even sensual terms. John of the Cross “describes the union in terms of spiritual betrothal, where the soul, conceived of as feminine, is married to Christ as the bridegroom. Bernard of Clairvaux (12th-century), who managed to turn the Song of Solomon into an erotic love story between God and man, described this moment of union as the time when the believer is “kissed with the kisses of His mouth.”[10] Similar depictions are common in mystical literature.”

“In other words, the mystic has no confidence in human knowledge accessible through normal means such as the propositional revelation of God (Scripture). If we are to know God, it must come from a mystical union with Him that transcends the rational thought process or even normal sensory experience. This takes place through [the above] three stages of purgation, illumination and union; implementing the spiritual disciplines and most importantly, practicing contemplative prayer.” 1

 

That mystical system is the base through which all teachings and literature pertains to the practice of meditative processing to hear the voice of God as it was done in ancient times of the past, and how it is applied today.

Although there seems to be a group of people who hear the voice without the meditative process [as I experienced at first], I believe that the “spirit of the thing” is the same. It is still a desire to hear God physically so that one feels nearer to God. From my perspective that presents two overall issues across the board. First of all, lack of faith that God can lead and direct us without special revelation or that He needs to interact with us experientially through a voice and secondly, that the Scriptures are not preeminent, but supplemental to the voice.

Going back into church history, the writings of the great mystics of the Catholic Church are now being offered as “new” and “spiritual” compared to the “dryness” of the church at large. It is this push to revive the “ancients” as having a better perspective that has appealed to people, as a multitude of modern day “gurus” are pushing something that is centuries old. As Solomon said, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

What is this “new” mystical approach to God? Quoting again from Gary Gilley’s article:

Quote:
“Roman Catholic monk, William Johnston describes the mystical process this way, ‘In this mystical life one passes from one layer to the next in an inner or downward journey to the core of the personality where dwells the great mystery called God.’[12]
“Other well-known mystics, holding to these or similar views, throughout church history include: Meister Eckhart, Juliana of Norwich, Thomas à Kempis, Teresa of Ávila, Evelyn Underhill, St. Francis of Assisi, Madam Guyon, George Fox, Thomas Merton and Agnes Sanford. Modern mystics of import include Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning and most importantly, Richard Foster . . . As a result classical, Medieval Roman Catholic mysticism has been dusted off and offered as the newest and best thing in spirituality.” 2

I would also add to the list Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” (1600s) and Hanna Whithall Smith’s “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” (1875). Brother Lawrence was a monk who believed one must practice the presence of God 24/7. Hanna Smith was part of the holiness movement and believed one could reach sinless perfection [the Holiness Movement which held this main theology and is still taught in much of the Charismatic venue]. Both books are extensively used within the Christian community and Charismatic specifically.

If this mystic contemplative approach to hear God’s voice is correct, then where is it found in the Bible? Did God miss the opportunity to show us a better way to hear from Him? Why would He trust Catholic mystic ancients with this “hidden” truth and then suddenly spring it on us at this late date as an afterthought of truth?

The Scriptures tell us something different in many texts. Here is an example:
2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Who is teaching this “ancient” mystical process to hear God’s voice currently?

These quotes from teachers in many Christian venues across the scope of “normative Christianity”, as well as the Faith Movement, show the pattern. Also included are some of the “ancient mystics” so you can see for yourself how intertwined these teachings are.

Richard J Foster [Quaker; Renovare`; Celebration of Discipline, a book about how to mystically meditate on God by using the contemplative prayer process]

Rick Warren [Saddleback Church (Emergent); Purpose Driven Life teachings]
From his article: Receiving Guidance From God – Learning to Hear God’s Voice – Part 4 of 4 [my comments within the starred portions *]:

“”The fact is God does speak to people today. We’ve been looking in this series about Learning to Hear God’s Voice . . . God is more willing to talk to you than you are willing to talk to Him.
“I’m going to get alone, get off by myself, eliminate external distractions so I can hear God speak. Find a quiet place alone . . . One of the reasons why you don’t hear God speak to you more is because you are surrounded by noise . . . So you can’t hear the still small voice of God . . . Get alone, removing every external distraction possible . . . You need to quiet yourself down . . . Hurry is the death of prayer . . . When your mind starts moving from subject to subject you can’t hear God . . . I just stop and write it down and go back, pray some more and something else comes up, I stop and I write it down . . . The next voice you usually hear is your conscious . . . That is not the voice of God . . . He wants to love you . . . Relax your body . . . Wait in silence . . . God speaks to people who take the time to listen . . . put on a praise tape, some slow Christian music . . . Once your body is still and once your mind is quiet then you become sensitive to hearing God speak. Inner calm opens the intercom to God and you can hear Him.”

***At this point Rick interjects this argument:*** “Some of you are saying, this sounds like TM — transcendental meditation. It’s the exact opposite of transcendental meditation [TM]. TM and humanist meditation says you want to make your mind go blank. That’s the goal of it. The goal of prayer is not to make your mind go blank. The goal of prayer is to hear — tune in — to the voice of God so you can talk to Him and He can talk to you. Withdraw and then wait.” — *** What Rick has described is exactly “TM”. Quieting your mind is TM. The point, as Rick shows, is to empty your mind of thoughts and concentrate on God in order to allow Him to speak, this is a form of “TM”.***

Continuing with his “instructions”:

” . . . God often wants to speak through a mental picture . . . It’s the primary way God contacts people — through impressions in your mind. He gives you a mental picture or image or vision inside your head . . . This is the number one way God speaks to people, by giving them a mental picture . . . Some of you are saying, “I thought visualizing was New Age.” [*** that’s because it is!!! > > > ***] . . . You can develop the ability to see with your spiritual eyes if you’ll practice and let God work on it in your life. You can train yourself . . . “Jesus, is there anything You want to show me? Do You want to give me an idea, an impression?” . . . Many of you, your prayer life has got in a rut — . . . and a routine . . . Write out your prayers as you think them . . .You ask, Is it ok to write while you’re praying? Of course. How do you think we got the Bible? . . . godly men and women were praying and talking to God and when God talked back to them, they wrote it down [*** They didn’t pray and then write down whatever came to mind!!! And no women authored any book of the Bible!!***] . . . The Bible says real clearly that not very idea you get is from God. Some of them are from the devil [***???***] . . . but you don’t want to go testing and analyzing your prayers while you’re praying. That ruins the whole spirit of the thing. So you just pray and receive what God wants to say to you, you write it down, and later you can go back and test it and look at it . . . When you have received God’s loving response, you’ve asked a question and you’ve heard an answer in your mind and you write it down, it’s going to make you want to love the Lord more and draw you closer. This turns prayer from a monologue into a dialogue, a conversation . . . If you’ll practice these and begin to develop them in your life, more times than not, God will talk to you.”

*** Rick was bored with prayer before he took a mystic approach:*** “I was bored to death with prayer until I learned how to do this. It was like talking to a brick wall. I never expected an answer. I never expected to hear from God. It was just me talking. It didn’t matter if anyone was there or not. I don’t like to just talk to myself. But once I realized that God does want to have a conversation with me — we talk about Jesus wanting to have a relationships, you can’t have a relationship without people talking. If you do all the talking, you don’t have a relationship. But you’ve got to take these steps and make time.”

Charles Stanley [First Baptist Church Atlanta; TV/website: In Touch Ministries] quotes: “The essence of meditation is a period of time set aside to contemplate the Lord, listen to Him, and allow Him to permeate our spirits.” . . . “Since God knows our future, our personalities, and our capacity to listen, He isn’t ever going to say more to us than we can deal with at the moment.”

Billy Graham [Southern Baptist Church; Billy Graham Evangelistic Association]

Endorses Loren Cunningham’s Book, Is That Really You, God?: Hearing the Voice of God . Product description: “This practical guide to hearing God’s voice shows how an ordinary man who committed to hearing God and obeying Him . . .”

Promotes Henry Blackaby’s book, Listening for the Voice of God. Product description: “Few of us have the option of direct conversation with God as Moses did. God speaks to each of us in ways that are personal and unique. “Ordinary” people who are ready to listen are sometimes led to do “extraordinary” things. Gain valuable insight on ways to “hear” and discern God’s voice, identify ways He speaks and respond to revelations of His will.”

David Wilkerson [Times Square Church (Charismatic, Prophetic); Cross and the Switchblade; Hungry for More of Jesus: Experiencing His Presence in These Troubled Times]
From his article: “Hearing the Voice of God!” October 17, 1988

“One of the greatest blessings a true believer has is to hear and know the voice of God. It is possible to hear God’s voice today as certainly and clearly as did Abraham and Moses – as clearly as did Samuel and David – as clearly as did Paul, Peter, the apostles, and John on the isle of Patmos! God has promised to make His voice clearly known for one last time during these end days . . . God is going to bring together a holy, separated remnant into spiritual Zion and make His voice known to them.”

“God speaks to them clearly and certainly, and they live by His voice! They are directed by His voice, comforted by His voice, guided in all things by His voice! This is the one great characteristic of a holy people: They are not mistaken about God’s voice. They know it – they hear it – they are governed by it. It is sure, steadfast, and unmistakable!”

“God’s voice is heard only by those shut up with Him is secret prayer. God is very careful to whom He speaks. It is only to those who value His voice so much they shut the whole world out to get alone and wait for Him.”

” . . . unless it [voice] was born in the secret closet, out of a deep communion, a broken spirit, and much time spent alone in His presence. I am convinced that all God’s people would be able to hear His still, small voice if they simply would lay down sin, idols, and would get shut in with Him alone – and not leave until He speaks!”

IHOP [International House of Prayer/Kansas City Prophets][Charismatic/Word of Faith]

Taken from their website: Practical Prophetic Hearing Intensive (March 11–13, 2010)

Quote: “Do you long to hear God’s voice? Can you discern the Lord’s voice from other voices? Do you need to learn how to receive guidance from Him? This three-day retreat will give you practical ways to develop an ear to hear His voice in the midst of busy, everyday life. Attendees will receive a workbook of prayer tools designed to be personalized for individual needs. Each attendee will also receive the book, Marketplace Christianity.

Topics covered include:
• 17 Ways to Hear God
• Hindrances to Hearing God
• Understanding How the Prophetic Works
• How to Process the Prophetic
• Discerning God’s Voice
• Supernatural Wisdom ”

Cindy Jacobs [Charismatic/Word of Faith; Prophet] Book: Voice of God: How God Speaks Personally and Corporately to His Children Today. Product description: ” The first half of the book concentrates on the individual: learning to hear the voice of God, preparation for the prophetic gifts, prayer and devotional life;”

Becky Tirabassi [Rock Harbor Church (Emergent); Ministry: Change Your Life]
Bestselling author of Let Prayer Change Your Life] Product description: Becky Tirabassi shares that it really is possible to hear from God. Most Christians long for a closer connection with God–to talk to Him and hear His voice. They believe He wants to guide their lives, but get discouraged when He seems far away and silent. Becky Tirabassi encourages readers that God wants to talk to them, and shows them how to recognize His voice. She invites readers to connect with God in a two-way conversation that will satisfy the longing of their souls to know Him and be loved by Him.
William Branham [Charismatic/Pentecostal Preacher/Healer] “That if we would pray and pray until our soul comes into the Presence of God, and then just relax and listen to His voice . . . Men and women who will hear the voice of God, God still waits to speak to every individual that’ll open their ears to hear God’s voice . . . Jesus Christ is still willing to speak that still small voice to anybody that’ll listen for Him. He’s still ready to do it if we’d just quieten ourself.”

Thelma Wells [Lancaster First Baptist Church; Ministry/Website: A Woman of God Ministries; featured on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s international television special during the month of January 2007] quote: “by spending time praying to Him; by spending time praising Him and asking Him to speak to us. Then, we need to listen. God’s voice is seldom loud or interfering. His voice is quiet, simple, to the point and few words . . . You’ll know it is His voice because you will have a sense of peace that comforts you, the power of confidence that builds you up and a depth of joy that seems unreal to the human spirit but so real to your inner-person.

Thomas a` Kempis [Catholic Monk -1380-1471AD; book: Of The Imitation of Christ]

Product description from the back cover: “The Joy of Being Like Christ [headline]As Thomas Kempis, a serene and devoted man of God, walked in the Lord’s presence, he discovered priceless steps to becoming more like Christ daily. In ‘Of the Imitation of Christ’, which has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible, the author presents timeless principles for living the Christian life, including how to: * Hear God’s voice* Turn adversity to good* Overcome temptation* Have perfect love* Find lasting peace*. As you read this great Christian classic, you will join the millions of believers who have been inspired to become imitators of Christ.”

Dallas Willard [The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God – received Christianity Today’s “Book of the Year” award, 1999; Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God ] product description, Hearing God: “Being close to God means communicating with him, and this communication is a two-way street—telling him what is on our hearts in prayer and hearing and understanding what he is saying to us . . . Hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship, and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God . . . provides rich spiritual insight into how we can hear God’s voice clearly . . . becoming a responsible co-laborer with Him . . . walking so closely with him that it becomes easy to know his mind and hear his voice . . . Dr. Willard’s hope is that Hearing God will leave you with a clear sense of how to live confidently in a personal walk that is complemented by an ongoing conversational relationship with God.”

A.W. Tozer [Alliance Church; Pursuit of God and 56 other volumes] misc quotes:
“. . .The free man who has learned to hear God’s voice and dared to obey it has felt the moral burden that broke the hearts of the Old Testament prophets, crushed the soul of our Lord Jesus Christ and wrung streams of tears from the eyes of the apostles.”
“The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it… Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven”.
“The only condition is that we get still enough to hear his voice and that we believe and heed what we hear . . .”

Jack Deere [Presbyterian Pastor but actually is Charismatic; former Dallas Theological Seminary (emergent) professor, now conference speaker and author] various quotes:
“In order to fulfill God’s highest purposes for our lives we must be able to hear his voice both in the written word and in the word freshly spoken from heaven. . . Satan understands the strategic importance of Christians hearing God’s voice so he has launched various attacks against us in this area. One of his most successful attacks has been to develop a doctrine that teaches God no longer speaks to us except through the written word. Ultimately, this doctrine is demonic even [though] Christian theologians have been used to perfect it.”

“God can and does give personal words of direction to believers today that cannot be found in the Bible. I do not believe that he gives direction that contradicts the Bible, but direction that cannot be found in the Bible.”

“God spoke to his children … in an audible voice . . .”

Surprised by the Voice of God – Product description: “. . . shatters the myth that God speaks today solely through the Scriptures. Jack Deere first shows the variety of ways God communicated to first-century Christians. Then he reveals why God continues to speak to us using those same methods.

Finally, Jack tells how to accurately hear God speak through prophecies, dreams, visions, and other forms of divine communication.”

Watchman Nee [House Church Movement; Converted from Buddhism which “bleeds” through his work (concepts like the inner light, inner voice, soulical realm): The Spiritual Man] various quotes:

“Spiritual life is maintained simply by heeding the direction of the spirit’s intuition. The believer will wait quietly for the voice of the Holy Spirit to be heard in his spirit, intuitively. Upon hearing the inner voice he rises up to work, obeying the direction of intuition.”
“This is because conscience, being fully under the control of the Holy Spirit, daily grows more sensitive until it is attuned perfectly to the voice of the Spirit.”

“In abiding by the spirit and listening to the voice of conscience . . .”

“In case our knowledge is inadequate and our conscience continues its censure, we must obey its voice at all cost. We should never philosophize that since this thing is not wrong according to God’s highest standard, we can do it in spite of what our conscience says.”

Oswald Chambers [Itinerant Preacher; My Utmost For His Highest ] various quotes:

“Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.”

“When any duty presents itself we hear God’s voice as Our Lord heard His Father’s voice, and we are ready for it with all the alertness of our love for Him.”

“What hinders me from hearing God’s voice is that I am taken up with other things.”

“The voice of the Spirit of God is as gentle as a summer breeze— so gentle that unless you are living in complete fellowship and oneness with God, you will never hear it. The sense of warning and restraint that the Spirit gives comes to us in the most amazingly gentle ways. And if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice, you will quench it, and your spiritual life will be impaired. This sense of restraint will always come as a “still small voice”, so faint that no one except a saint of God will notice it.”

Rick Joyner [Charismatic/Word of Faith; MorningStar Ministries; Apostolic Ministry’ Prophetic Ministry; TheFinal Quest]

Quote: The Army of God Mobilizes, Part 7 Week 7, 2008:
“Knowing His voice and obeying, are the most basic characteristics of those who would mobilize to be a part of the army of God . . . All of God’s people need to know His voice, not just prophets, pastors, or church leaders . . . The ability to know His voice and obey Him is fundamental. If this does not compel them to get to know His voice, and always be listening for it in order to obey Him, ultimately they will be removed as they will be a danger to all. The times that we are entering will be such that it will be a life and death matter to know His voice and obey Him.”

C Peter Wagner [Charismatic/Word of Faith/Apostolic Reformation/Prophetic/Kingdom Now/Spiritual Warfar ; Global Harvest Ministries; World Prayer Center; Former professor Fuller Theological Seminary; coined the term Third Wave]

The expression “Third Wave” was coined by Christian theologian C. Peter Wagner around 1980, in his book The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit: Encountering the Power of Signs and Wonders Today, to describe what followers believe to be the recent historical work of the Holy Spirit. It’s part of a larger movement known as the Neo-Charismatic movement. The “Third Wave” involves those Christians who have received Pentecostal-like experiences . . . One of the largest groups in the Third Wave are the members of the New Apostolic Reformation.

* The First “wave” occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century with the rise of the Pentecostal movement, beginning with the Azusa Street Revival.
* The Second “wave” occurred during the 1960s as the Charismatic movement spread throughout mainline Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic Church. The Word of faith movement is also an expression of this movement.
* The Third “wave” occurred during the mid 1980s and continues today, and is associated with Wagner’s own ministry, as well as the Vineyard Movement. The Toronto blessing and Eternal Grace are also an expression of this movement.

Third Wave: “Prophecy and hearing the voice of God. The Third Wave movement affirms the ongoing direct communication of God. Not only does God still speak to people, they are literally able to hear God’s voice (sometimes referred to as receiving a “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” from God).”

Wagner was heavily connected with John Wimber – the originator of Vineyard Church [Charismatic].
Wagner quotes:

“Learning to hear the voice of God was a long process for me because it was such a readical departure from my past. The key question is not, ‘Does God speak to us?’ But rather, Are we listening to his voice.”

“Through the years I have received a considerable amount of valuable new revelation from God through prophets, revelation that is not to be found in the Bible.”

Brother Lawrence [(1614-1691AD) Catholic French Monk; Practice of the Presence of God ]

“[T]he 17th century [French] monk, Brother Lawrence, developed a technique–mostly through inspiration and intuition–which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation. In The Practice of the Presence of God” he wrote:

“This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to GOD, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world … I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy Presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of GOD. Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion.” — Western Mystical Traditions (Quote by Brother Lawrence from First Letter)

“It is said of Brother Lawrence that when something had taken his mind away from love’s presence he would receive “a reminder from God” that so moved his soul that he “cried out, singing and dancing violently like a mad man.” You will note that the reminders came from God and were not his own doing. (Gerald May, The Awakened Heart (New York, NY:Harper Collins, First Harper Collins Paperback Edition, 1993) p. 87, citing from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, translated by John Delaney, Image Books, 1977, p. 34.)

Brother Lawrence says that secret conversations with God must be “repeat[ed] often in the day,” and “for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things.” He speaks of the trouble of wandering thoughts and says that the habit of practicing the presence of God is the “one remedy” and the “best and easiest method” he knows to dissolve distractions.

“When we come upon this word, we need to pause, look to God’s indwelling presence, and ask Him to search us and point out our faults. As God is the ‘Father of mercies’, He gives us fresh insight and allows this word to wake us out of our sleep when we ask Him. He wipes away our past transgressions when we repent and gives us His strength to move forward in our new awareness.”
Leanne Payne [ Mystic Inner Healing/Spiritual Therapist; Pastoral Care Ministries and Seminars; Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal; Heaven’s Calling]

From an interview:
“In an age of noise, confusion, and hurry, we often don’t hear the voice of God. But listening prayer can add a new dimension to the way ones soul comprehends the great disciplines.”

“To walk in the Spirit, listening, is to live in the present moment, looking to Christ, practicing His presence, moving in tandem with Him. It is to live from the locus of the true self as the old one is being crucified. This is the centre where we are in union with Christ, that completed self that hears and obeys God.”

Listening to God is an important part of the practice of the presence . . . I knew that if I could practice His presence and learn to listen to Him, then anybody could learn! . . . Until we start listening to God and receiving the words and the images that come from Him, then we are sick. [Interview with ChristianBook.com]

Jack Hayford [Church On The Way; Four Square Gospel Church (Charismatic) Jack Hayford Ministries]

Endorsement of Leanne Payne: “I can imagine no more spiritually sensitive teacher than Leanne Payne to prompt us on a pathway toward a more prayerfully sensitive hearing and responding to Gods voice.”

Living the Spirit Formed Life – In Part II: The First Disciple: Committing to hear God’s Voice:
“PRINCIPLE: To read and study God’s Word is to lay the foundation for all understanding and growth. However, the Bible is the living Word. It has not been given solely for information, analysis and education. God wants to speak to each one of His children in order to teach and correct, lead and direct, and keep and protect. For this to take place, vitally and “ongoingly,” believers need to learn to hear the “word” within the Word, to receive the prophetic intent of the Holy Spirit Who breathes truth into our hearts, transforming our lives.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen [1932-1966; Catholic Priest; Lived with monks; authored over 40 books]

“ . . . one of his biographers revealed that in a 1994 survey of 3,400 U.S. Protestant church leaders, Nouwen ranked second only to Billy Graham” …Ray Yungen

“And if there’s still any doubt that Nouwen is talking about a repetitive mantra derived from the Eastern religions, which fatally warped the theology of these heretical hermits he then says, “The quiet repetition of a single word can help us descend with the mind into the heart . . . It can be like a ladder along which we can descend into the heart and ascend to God.” Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (New York: Ballantine Books, 1981), pgs. 64-5

“Nouwen also wrote the foreword to a book that mixes Christianity with Hindu spirituality, in which he says: ‘[T]he author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Muslim religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian …’ ”

Nouwen Quotes:
“We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.”

“But what I would like to say is that the spiritual life is a life in which you gradually learn to listen to a voice that says something else, that says, “You are the beloved and on you my favour rests.”… I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. I want you to gradually hear that voice. We both have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are. That is where the spiritual life starts – by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved.”

“Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter,” “my beloved son,” “my beloved child.” To pray is to let that voice speak to the centre of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.”

Benny Hinn [Charismatic/Word of Faith Healer/Prophet TV personality Miracle Crusades; Benny Hinn Ministries; false prophecies; Good Morning Holy Spirit ]

Quote:
“There are no shortcuts. You have to go through the process. You have to come to the outer court and get on your knees, making your requests known to God in the first realm. It is easy to get distracted in the outer court because there is so much activity. The flesh is still in control. You get tired and worn out. You cannot hear God’s voice there, so it gets easy to give up.”

A commentary on Good Morning Holy Spirit – “How to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

“Benny makes no bones about the importance and significance of his spiritual experiences. He writes, “A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument” (p.98). Later in the book he writes of an experience where he weeps for “more than three weeks” (p.150). Strewn throughout the book are his constant references to “feeling” the Holy Spirit; experiencing what feels like “jolts of electricity” or “a blanket of warmth” (p.110). In fact, Benny is so hung up on experiences that, like a drug addict who must ever increase his dosage to maintain his high, Benny must always intensify his experience. At one point in the book, he asks, “Is that all there is?” (p.109). This focus on sensational experiences puts Benny in the dangerous position where his spiritual experiences must intensify at expense of the truth. In other words, Benny generally does not encourage his readers to seek to grow in personal holiness and in their understanding of the truth. Instead he encourages them–by his own example–to primarily seek temporary sensational experiences. ”

“Instead of guiding us to seek direction from Scripture, he asks us to be ready to receive personal, direct revelation from the Holy Spirit in the form of an inner voice. Though Protestants have been very open to this teaching lately, it must be noted that this idea radically denies the sufficiency of the Scriptures in all matters of faith and conduct. Scripture is our guide. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture and applies it to our life to guide us. An inner voice from inside is too vague and too prone to stem from our own desires and lusts and therefore must be questioned as a source to guide us. But not for Benny. He writes, “During a church building program I was asked, ‘How do you know you’re doing the right thing?’ The answer was the same as if I’d been asked about my salvation. ‘I know that I know, that I know, that I know.’ The Lord, through the Holy Spirit, told me to start building. Every decision in my life is based on that same inner voice” (p.76).

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There are hundreds of more quotes. You can see the common thread that permeates every facet of Christianity. The Internet is filled with websites promoting teachers, authors, and mystics from every venue of the Church as well; promoting hearing a voice that they define as “God” or “the god within”. Bookshelves are overloaded with authors all pushing their way into our lives explaining the “God within” and how to “get in touch with it” and to “communicate with it”, in both secular and Christian bookstores. The most notable fact is the presence of the voice outside of Christian circles comes through the identical practices and meditative processes as in the psychic venue.

The historical background of the Pentecostal Movement weaves into the Charismatic movement. Although “classical Pentecostals” do not like to refer to themselves as Charismatic, it is difficult to separate the beliefs and practices from each other. The unique emphasis on both is that faith is a force of power by which the gifts of the Spirit are fully engaged, through the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”. This distinctive follows every segment of the movement, which is often referred to as the Charismatic or the Faith Movement as I will refer to it.

It is through the Faith Movement that the voice teaching is hyper sensationalized due to the prolific “gifts” of tongues, dreams, visions, interpretations, words of wisdom and knowledge and prophetic “words from the Lord”. The prophetic and apostolic offices have monopolized Christendom, currently, with the voice mantra and special revelations directly from the “mouth of God”. The Internet is swamped with websites all proclaiming these revelations given through prophetic dreams, visions, and “words” as well as the churches throughout the Faith Movement venue, all due to the desirability and operation of the voice. These websites all have their own “store” to purchase the “latest and the greatest” revelations.

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 ***And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you:*** whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

Going back into the roots of the Pentecostal Movement

The Pentecostal Movement helps give clarity in understanding the foundation which is based in mystic, occult concepts and practices. Although Pentecostalism and the Faith Movement concentrate on the gifts of the spirit, especially the practice of tongues, the voice behind the ability is the motivator. Without the voice, the prophetic and the ability to work in the gifts are useless.
Charles Parham is considered by most to be the “Father of Pentecostalism”. In 1900 Parham started a “school” in Topeka that was in an abandoned castle called Stones Folly. There, he and about 40 students and their families lived. They set up two of the towers as their prayer towers and prayed 24 hours a day. Living conditions were harsh. While Parham was gone on a trip he encouraged his students to search the Scriptures for evidence of the Holy Spirit and upon his return was told by them that it was speaking in tongues. They began to seek God for this experience. The first to receive the “second blessing” was Agnes Ozman who began speaking in tongues after praying for several weeks. 3 In other words, the experience was achieved through man’s motivation and “revelation”, and not by God.

Besides the Latter Rain Second Blessing teachings, Parham’s belief system, which blends Quakerism and the Holiness Movement into the mystic “inner light”, fuels all of his teachings. These teachings have been funneled into all Pentecostal/Charismatic venues and are the base for an understanding of the mysticism of the voice. 4

Parham’s “mentor” was David Baker [His wife, Sarah’s grandfather], who was a Quaker. In a biography of Charles Parham, written by his wife, Sarah; Parham said of Quakers “. . .These people have reached an elevated plane in Christian experience . . .” 5

According to Encarta and the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Quaker movement began with George Fox who taught the “Christ within” which later developed into the “inner light”. Their beliefs included:

* Divine revelation is immediate and individual, called “inner light” or “Inward Light”.
* This “inner/Inward Light” is referred to as the “God found in every man”, and is the direct awareness of God that allows God’s will to be known personally.
* All persons may perceive the word of God in their soul.
* Worship is based on silence. 6

The Quakers were also heavily influenced by pantheism, the occult, fundamentalists, quietist seekers, anti antinomian Ranters, theocratic militants; which were in turn influenced by English lollards, European Anabaptist Mennonites, and by mystics like Jakob Boehme. Boehme’s philosophy was the “cosmic consciousness” in which one is raised above himself in immediate relationship with “God”, partaking of “Divinity” – a mystic process to experience direct conscious union with the “Absolute, Divine Mind, Univeral Intelligence” [“‘God’ of the heart”] through the five senses, intuition, visualization, and healing techniques. The “nature” of this deity is not defined – in other words, it is not the Almighty God of the Bible. Jacob Boehme, also heard the voice – a spirit guide named Nirmanakayas, who watched over and guided him. 7

The definition of a spirit guide as given by secular sources: “A spirit guide is meant to advise you and lead you on your life path. These spirits are with everyone and are there for your own good and will never give you “bad” advice. Unfortunately most people cannot hear their guides.”
“Spirit guide” is a term used by the Western tradition of Spiritualist Churches, mediums, and psychics to describe an entity that remains a disincarnate spirit in order to act as a guide or protector to a living incarnated human being.”

“A spiritual entity who teaches a medium or channel and who guides them in their spiritual work.” 8
This system of “guidance” is identical to how people understand hearing the voice no matter what venue. It is their “spiritual guide”. According to Jesus Christ, to be led by the Holy Spirit is not by a voice, but to bring through our “remembrance” or our memory – which is based on what we have *read* in His written Word.

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

* Note that Jesus said, what He *has said* – past tense.

The search for experimentalism, no matter what form, has overtaken much of Christianity for those who are seeking after hearing from God personally through a voice.

The Quakers were also affected by other false theologies – the denial of the Deity of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit as the “divine energy”, and quietism – a mystic communion with God that comes from a state of quiet which is practiced by Hindu philosophy and Sufism. Quietism also allows the passive state of the soul to be absorbed by the divine spirit so that it pours down, and the annihilation of the will. Quakers also preferred personal revelation and experience over Biblical authority, which we also find within the Faith Movement.

Quakerism was also marked with trances, shaking, tongues, visions, etc. and assimilated within the Faith Movement. Maria Woodworth-Etter of the Holiness Movement introduced being “slain in the spirit” when her followers would fall back in a trance, contortions of the face and body, trembling, laughter, etc. All marks of the Faith Movement. 10

The influences of these teachings, doctrines and philosophies intersect and weave throughout a host of authors and teachers of mysticism, both in the church and from without. Many of these teachers are occultists who once entering the cosmic conscious experienced being immersed in rose colored clouds, overwhelming joy, and illuminations/revelations of the world. These ethereal sensations are experienced by those in the Faith Movement as well – pointing to the fire and other manifestations which are experienced with the Kundalini power [serpent power at the base of the backbone and up to the mind], Toronto Blessing, Azusa Street, Brownsville, Keswick, Fire/Holiness movements, Freemasonry, kabbalah, Rosicrucian, Golden Dawn, and sorcery. 11

All of the Quaker/Boehme/mystic/occult plethora of unscriptural concepts are the background of what Charles Parham believed and influenced his teachings. On top of that, Parham was a KKK member, a free mason, taught experimental salvation and the two seed theory of the Christian Identity movement [whites are the superior race], etc. 12 Parham’s theological roots also came from Frank Sanford, John Alexander Dowie, John G Lake, John Irving, John Wesley, John Nelson Darby, and others. 13 Parham founded the Church of God in Christ [inc. Black Pentecostals], Assemblies of God, United Pentecostal Church, Unitarian Pentecostal Church, Unitarian Pentecostal Church of God, and The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. 14 This is the tangled weave that forms the checkered tattered quilt of the Faith Movement.

A moderate progression of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement shows a trail from Charles Parham all the way foreward towards today’s most “notable” gurus in the Faith Movement. Parham > Ozman > William Seymour [Parham’s student] > Azuza Street. The Azusa Street Revival became the raging fire that spread throughout the world. For this, we can thank Charles Parham.

Quote:
“Seymour and his followers concluded that they held centre stage in God’s plan for the last days. They were convinced that the events experienced at the Azusa Street Mission were clear evidence of a “new Pentecost” – a long-awaited “restoration of the faith once delivered to the saints.” Their name, “Apostolic Faith Movement”, demonstrated their conviction that they were the continuation of the apostolic Acts 2 experience; the label “Pentecostal” came a little later and pointed to the centrality of the first Christian Pentecost in their self-understanding. In the early stages Pentecostalism was already an urban movement. It took roots not only in rural areas but also in scores of gospel tabernacles, unused downtown mainline denominational churches, neighbourhood stores fronts, and other urban facilities.” 15

Quote:
“The Azusa Street meetings were characterised by spontaneous prayer and preaching and the active participation of women. In addition, an unparalleled inter-racial makeup of the services also highlighted the revival, accompanied by a message of reconciliation. In particular, however, visitors witnessed what they saw to be evidence of a special post-conversion baptismal experience of the Holy Spirit. Those that were convinced carried home with them this new teaching, and Pentecostalism began as a world-wide movement . . . To summarize, the rapid beginning of Pentecostalism can be understood against the backdrop of a revival of tongues-speaking in Topeka, 1901, after which Charles Parham formulated the doctrine of “initial evidence:” that tongues-speaking is the initial evidence of Spirit baptism, which he understood to be a separate work of the Spirit to conversion and sanctification. Then when the re-occurrence of tongues speaking at the Azusa Street meetings from 1906-1909 gained a worldwide audience, William Seymour, a former student of Parham, used the revival as a platform to teach this new doctrine of Spirit baptism. Visitors witnessed this first-hand and then carried the new teaching abroad.” 16

From there, the influence of Pentecostalism raged onwards through many “healers” and promoters of “the second blessing” and the manifestations of the “spirit” and gifts. Early on, peddlers of this kind of “faith” were Aimee Semple McPherson, Katherine Kuhlman, John G Lake, Maria Woodworth-Etter, and others in the 1920-30s. Then came William Branham, Oral Roberts, and Smith Wigglesworth in the 1940s-50s+. The Healing Revival Movement/Word of Faith Movement began it’s complete infusion into the Pentecostal movement with William Branham, Oral Roberts, A.A. Allen, T.L. Osburn, Kenneth Hagin, Sr and many others from the 1940s to the end of the 1960s. The torch was lit and carried forwards by Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Paul Wierville, Lonnie Frisbee, John Wimber [Vineyard Church], Chuck Smith [Calvary Chapel, California], and a host of many others to numerous to mention like Jack Deere, CJ Wagner, Rick Joyner, Jack Hayford, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Fred Price, Jesse Duplantis, Bob Jones [prophet] etc. Wierville, Frisbee, Wimber, and Smith were all associates. Wierville started his own cult group called The Way International – it is still in existence today.

 

 

Personal Experience

In 1995 I was fully engrossed into the Faith Movement. I cut my spiritual teeth on Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin, Sr., and they became my “teachers”. It was through their preaching and writings that I yearned for the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” aka “the second blessing” of tongues, and the subsequent voice. Soon I was speaking in tongues and hearing the voice myself. Daily dialogues between me and who I thought was God became my understanding of Scriptural truth and how I was lead in obedience to God.

The first time I heard the voice, I was not in silence “before the Lord”, nor was it a “still small voice”. I was riding in my car and the voice filled my head and would not stop for hours. I “saw” in my mind, that Jesus was speaking to me. He told me of things to come, what I would be doing for Him, what my “ministry” would be like. None of it came to pass, and it was all based on Scripture. Most of what I heard from that moment onwards was based in Scripture [totally out of context, but verse upon verse, none-the-less – just as satan quoted the OT to Jesus when he tempted Him].

I soon heard the voice in the prophetic realm. For over five years I took down the “words of the Lord” [including visions and dreams with interpretations]. I still have a box full to remind me of my days of influence under that seductive spirit. None of those prophecies came to pass, not one single prophecy. I would often hear the voice for hour after hour, writing down every word that was spoken. These words were confirmed by two other “prophets”. Yet no “word” ever came to pass, and still I was convinced that it was God because the voice told me it was a test, and asked if I would still be willing to obey if nothing came to pass. I always responded in the affirmative. What a terrible deception. God does not lie.

Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
1 Corinthians 13: 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, *** but rejoiceth in the truth;***

As time progressed, I was drawn into the “silent before the Lord” meditative practices so I could hear the voice clearer. Of course that meant I had to pray in tongues more, which is really the same mantra as “breathing in the ‘spirit’” and “saying a word over and over again to concentrate on the Lord” – which led to “quieting my mind and listening for the still small voice”. I would lie on the floor “prostrate before the Lord”, just waiting for Him to speak. He would then instruct me to get paper and pen and start taking “His Words” – just like the prophets of old. Often times while I was writing down what I “heard”, I would pray in tongues quietly so that I would be sure to “hear correctly”. You would think with all that “insurance” I would have heard the Lord, but instead, all I got was a “stone”. So why do you suppose that was?

==================
1 Gilley
2 Ibid
3 http://healingandrevival.com/BioCFParham.htm
4 http://www.seekgod.ca/mystics.htm
http://www.seekgod.ca/cosmic.htm
http://www.seekgod.ca/quakers.htm
http://www.seekgod.ca/more.htm
5 Ibid
6 Ibid
7 Ibid
8 http://www.thepsychiccenter.comglossary, http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_guide, http://www.reiki.nu/treatment/healing/dictionary4/dictionary4.html
9 http://www.seekgod.ca/mystics.htm
http://www.seekgod.ca/cosmic.htm
http://www.seekgod.ca/quakers.htm
http://www.seekgod.ca/more.htm
10 Ibid
11 http://www.seekgod.ca/fatherparham.htm
12 http://www.seekgod.ca/parham.htm
13 http://www.seekgod.ca/fatherparham.htm
14 ibid
15 http://www.reformedreflections.ca/other-religions/azusa-street.html
16 http://talkingpentecostalism.blogspot.com/2007/03/why-was-pentecostalism-successful.html

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Additional information coming at a later date.

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Labyrinths seem to have made their way into most religious venues, including  Christianity.  I ran across an interesting article on labyrinths, which I found to be quite informative.   Included here are several quotes, but the full article is well worth the read.  The link for it is at the end.

The Labyrinth Journey:

Walking the Path to Fulfillment?

By Carl Teichrib

Forcing Change: www.forcingchange.org

——————————————————————————–

“Symbols are keyholes to doors in the walls of space, and through them man peers into Eternity…Symbolism, then, is the divine language, and its figures are a celestial alphabet…”- Manly P. Hall [1].

“…symbolical rites are the external expressions of man’s inward desire to unite with Divinity.” – Roberta H. Lamerson, F.R.C. [2].

“Whilst we cannot be exactly sure what the labyrinths were used for, they were clearly a symbol of the Christian way, representing the path of the soul through life.” – About Labyrinths and Mazes [3].

——————————————————————————–

I was struck by the simplicity of the above statement: that labyrinths are “clearly a symbol of the Christian way.” An interesting position, especially given the fact that the authors of this particular quote admit, “we cannot be exactly sure what the labyrinths were used for…”

We live in a day and age where many “new things” are sweeping through the Christian church. Some of these alternative directions are simply a reflection of changes in style and format. However, in our exploration towards alternative forms of spiritual expression – particularly as we try to build relevancy in a post-modern culture – it is imperative that doctrinal discernment and discretionary principles come into play. This is especially true as society rapidly embraces a plethora of alternative spiritual practices, beliefs, and paths. Sadly, we as Christians often flounder in doing our homework, and in that vein we may inadvertently open our congregations to highly questionable choices and spiritual experiences.

Paradoxically, while the evangelical Christian community talks about “spiritual warfare” and “putting on the full amour of God,” many of these same churches can be found embracing that which they claim to counter. In seeking relevancy, we have become dangerously “experiential,” and old forms of mysticism are becoming center-pieces in “experiences of faith.”

The labyrinth prayer-walk, which follows a single winding path to a central location, is a case in point. Primarily jump-started by a UK-based Christian movement in alternative spiritual expressions and by an influential San Francisco cathedral, denominations around the world are embracing labyrinths as a viable part of the spiritual journey. But are labyrinths part of the Christian encounter, as suggested by the third introductory quote above?

Understand, Christians looking for ways to bring in new relevancy within church worship did not rediscover the labyrinth as a spiritual tool. As we shall see, it’s been part of the esoteric world for a very long time. Which is why, today, labyrinth walks and “prayer journeys” are being promoted by Rosicrucian groups [4], at New Age festivals and celebrations [5], and throughout the neo-pagan world. Not surprisingly, one of America’s largest witch, shaman, and neo-pagan assemblies, the 2005 Pagan Spirit Gathering at Wisteria, OH, held a night-time Summer Solstice Labyrinth ritual, which was described as a “transformative, walking meditation through an all night labyrinth formed by 1000 lighted candles” [6].

———-
The primary historical focal point for the lore of the labyrinth goes back to Cretan and Greek tales of Queen Pasiphaë, her perverse sexual desire for a specific sacrificial bull, an abominable act of bestiality, and the birth of a strange hybrid offspring – the dreaded Minotaur, which lived in a labyrinth built to cage him [7].

Each year, King Minos, the husband of Pasiphaë, demanded that seven boys and seven girls be given as a sacrificial tribute to be devoured by the Minotaur. One year, a hero named Theseus accompanied the children. Taking a ball of twine, he unravelled the string as he went through the labyrinth, giving him a trail leading back out. Once inside the labyrinth, Theseus followed the maze to it’s center, where he battled with the Minotaur and eventually beat the creature to death.

The labyrinth containing this Minotaur was not the typical single-path labyrinth of today, but rather a complex maze containing halls and chambers. However, esoteric philosophers have long understood that the Minotaur maze directly corresponds to the ancient (and now modern) spiritually-connected labyrinth walk; the long soul journey with its many twists and turns, the ultimate arrival at the central convergence point, the struggle with the inner monster – and the final victory over the forces of darkness and ignorance (which can only happen when one is illumined at the center), and the repeated journey back to wholeness and the light of day. This esoteric significance of the Cretan story has never been lost on the initiates of the Mystery Schools.

Don’t forget, this Grecian/Cretan story was immersed in the pagan religious context of the day; that’s the metaphysical origin of the labyrinth as we can trace it. Hence the story of Pasiphaë, with its labyrinth journey and inner battle, is of interest first and foremost to the world of occult lore: for the simple reason that this is the intended context.

————–

On the mystical journey to spiritual fulfillment, the middle-eye of the labyrinth becomes a place of divine illumination. Even Kimberly Lowelle, the President of The Labyrinth Society – a network of labyrinth scholars and enthusiasts – recognizes this basic function. “The labyrinth is an archetype of transformation. Its transcendant nature knows no boundaries, crossing time and cultures with ease. The labyrinth serves as a bridge from the mundane to the divine…” [10]

————–

“Labyrinths are temples that enhance and balance and bring a sense of the sacred – a place where we can confirm our unity with the cosmos, awaken our vital force and elevate our consciousness. These structures are space/time temples where we can behold realities that oddly enough transcend space and time. The orientation, form and geometry of a labyrinth has symbolic as well as spacial [sic] importance. It is a mirror for the divine…

…Moving through a Labyrinth changes ordinary ways of perception connecting the inner and the outer, the right brain and the left brain, the involutional and the evolutional through a series of paths that represent the realms of the Gods and Goddesses. These realms are associated with planetary movement as a process that induces Union with the One.” [12]
Divine illumination is the end-goal of esoteric philosophy; it’s the central arena of occultism.

Manly P. Hall, one of the 20th century’s greatest esoteric philosophers and an eminent Masonic historian, tells us that the labyrinth was symbolic of man’s search for truth [13]. Other occult scholars tell us that the labyrinth symbolized to the people “the difficulty of finding the Path to God” [14]. All of this points to the same thing – the mystical realization of our own divinity.

As Hall states in one of his earlier books, “Man is a god in the making, and as in the mystic myths of Egypt, on the potter’s wheel he is being molded. When his light shines out to lift and preserve all things, he receives the triple crown of godhood…” [15]. Rosicrucian authority Christian Bernard explains this mystical goal as the building and unfolding of the inner Temple, “The Temple of the Universe, the Temple of the Earth and the Temple of Life are only one in the Temple of Man. This is why the time has come to work towards rebuilding it, for the Messianic Light must emanate from the Heavenly Jerusalem which vibrates within us.” [16] Laying it out very plainly, Annie Besant – an early Theosophical leader – simply said, “Man is not to be compelled; he is to be free. He is not a slave, but a God in the making” [17].

—————-

Freemasonry: when the Masonic candidate undergoes his initiation, he is led on an invisible path from station to station throughout the Lodge room. Each point and part of this journey is given an exoteric explanation – that is, the real meanings are cloaked in allegory and symbolism. After completing the journey around the Lodge, he is led to the center of the room where he kneels before an altar. The Worshipful Master asks what the candidate most desires, and the initiate responds with “Light” [20]. Know this, the light requested is not incandescent light or some other physical light energy, but spiritual illumination [21].

Order of the Golden Dawn: Initiations rites such as the Ceremony of the Grade of Philosophus have the candidate embark on a spiritual journey, following an invisible yet tangible path throughout the Lodge room. This journey, like that of Freemasonry, is intended to elevate the candidate’s level of transformative enlightenment [22].

Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis: In AMORC’s Temple ritual, Second Portal, the student partakes in an allegorical journey searching for light and knowledge. While engaged in the ritual, the student follows a path to each point on the compass, and returns to a central triangle. Again, like the two other illustrations above, this act is part of the mystical journey towards “light” and cosmic unity [23].

Order of the Eastern Star: As a co-Masonic body, the OES engages in a series of ritualistic initiations. Unlike Freemasonry, the OES ritual work is performed on a giant floor-rug pentagram. This pentagram, with an altar placed in its center, is called a Labyrinth. Each of the various initiation rites – journeys on the path to greater understanding – takes place in and around this Labyrinth [24]. Beulah Malone, Past Grand Matron and Secretary of the OES explains,

“The winding in and out of the labyrinth symbolizes the human soul stumbling and struggling through life; learning by mistakes and experiences that the way leading to the supreme life and to God is not easy but is a way of testing one’s power and strength.

By following the examples symbolized in the lives of the heroines of our Order [Author’s note: this is part of the OES Labyrinth journey], we may come into a full light of His Star and into wisdom and understanding. The great magnet of our Star as it shines forth in the world is missioned to bring Unity, the Truth of Fatherhood of God, and Brotherhood of Man.” [25]
And herein lies the deeper spiritual meaning of the labyrinth-walk that has become so fashionable today. It’s the symbolic journey of illumination, completely spiritual in nature, and dependent on our works – the “journey,” or the “testing [of] one’s power and strength.”

The path to the center of the labyrinth is as the invisible but tangible path leading to the esoteric altar – it’s an initiation into the mystical.

——————-

Hundreds of Christians have taken part in labyrinth prayer walks, and many churches across North America and Europe are embracing this tool as a means to expand their spiritual experience. The Rev. Jill Geoffrion, a “certified labyrinth facilitator” and author of such books as Christian Prayer and Labyrinths and Praying the Labyrinth, writes,

“We are currently in a period of historic labyrinth revival. Churches, retreat centers and Christian camps are placing these prayer tools inside and outside. Christians all over the world are installing labyrinths in their yards and gardens. Many are using the labyrinths as a ministry tool, bringing portable versions to prisons, national denominational conferences and church group meetings. It is conservatively estimated that there are over 5,000 labyrinths in the United States alone. God is blessing the use of the labyrinth; many are being drawn closer to Jesus, experiencing healing and gaining spiritual clarity as they pray on its path.” [26]

On her labyrinth prayer website, Geoffrion offers suggested prayers for different labyrinth events. In dedicating a new labyrinth, she suggests that those in attendance form a circle on the pattern and extend “the energy that is in our hearts and minds through their hands towards the labyrinth.” Following this exercise is a meditative time where each person physically lays hands on the labyrinth and calls forth “the image of a loved one walking this labyrinth and receiving what is needed.” After more “imaging,” she recommends this responsive prayer,

“Community: We dedicate this labyrinth to spiritual awakening and reawakening.
One: With hearts extending in many directions, Let us pray…Sacred Sustainer, Way to wholeness, Creator of possibilities, Supporter of change, Forgiving Releaser, Freedom, Honesty, Wisdom, Hope, Joy…we thank You for the beautiful spiritual tool on which we are standing…” [27]

Geoffrion suggests other reflective meditations for the labyrinth, including short prayers from the “Christian Tradition,” “Egyptian Tradition,” “Hindu Tradition,” and “Sufi Tradition” [28].

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For Christians holding to the exclusive message of Jesus Christ in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” a serious rift is now encountered. It’s the dilemma that exists between what Geoffrion’s first quote described verses the religious pluralism that the labyrinth appears to propagate. And because of the nature and metaphysical history of the labyrinth, this spiritual pluralism is inescapable. However, this ever-widening religious inclusiveness – which is the expression of the esoteric idea of the Fatherhood of God – shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, in the labyrinth experience every path is relevant, every road is right, every religion is valid.

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Grace [Cathedral], San Francisco’s prominent Episcopal Church, has been North America’s “pathfinder” congregation in the labyrinth movement, hosting prayer walks on their two labyrinths for years. Moreover, Grace’s outdoor labyrinth is open 24 hours, and the church now has an involved global networking organization dedicated to advancing the labyrinth experience. Hence, Grace has been viewed by many Christian labyrinth advocates as the driving influence for this new spiritual expression in North America.

There’s no doubt that one reason for Grace Cathedral’s success is their connection to Chartres Cathedral in France. As an ancient medieval church, Chartres hosts an original pattern that is today’s recognized prototype for the Christian prayer walk. Grace meticulously copied Chartres, has marketed it very well, and is now a major spokes-church for the Chartres experience. Consider Grace’s website titled “Walking the Labyrinth: Reflections from Chartres, “A profound meditation tool, a metaphor for the spiritual path, a feminist Christian icon, a symbol of Mary or even all Christianity, even perhaps an almost cult-like centerpiece of a movement – the labyrinth is, most everyone can agree, a powerful inspiration.” [29]

The labyrinth exercise, Grace further explains, should be viewed in three parts,

“Purgation (Releasing) ~ A releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions. A time to open the heart and quiet the mind.
Illumination (Receiving) ~ When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.
Union (Returning) ~ As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in, you enter the third stage, which is joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul reaching for.” [32]
As an institution, Grace is no ordinary church. Not only has it been extremely influential in propagating the labyrinth prayer walk, it has been a hotbed for global interfaith work.
In the 1990’s William Swing was Bishop of Grace. During the 1995 United Nations 50th Anniversary, Swing proclaimed that Grace would work towards the building of a global interfaith network. After an intense amount of travel and lobbying, Swing succeeded in forming the United Religions Initiative – one of the world’s leading UN affiliated inter-religious partnerships. Today, the URI is an active player in advancing global religious unity.

Why does this matter? Remember all the connections between various esoteric philosophies with the labyrinth concept? A parallel runs between both themes; Unity. As a spiritual interface, and as Grace Cathedral reminded us, the mystical labyrinth belongs to “all religions traditions.”

Grace is open about the deeper meanings of the labyrinth. On the front piece to their labyrinth website, Grace states,

“The Labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world. By walking a replica of the Chartres labyrinth, laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France around 1220, we are rediscovering a long-forgotten mystical tradition that is insisting to be reborn.” [30]

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Reiki Master Kate McManus, in her article “Walking the Fire Labyrinth,” tells of her friend’s spiritual journey.

“This year a friend mentioned an event that was to be held further out west a week after our winter magic festival. She described it as a fire labyrinth ritual in which a stone labyrinth would be lit at night to be walked with conscious intent and so mark the end of the year and begin a new one, a shedding of the old and birthing of the divine child.” [35]

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In an earlier quote by the Rev. Jill Geoffrion, she proclaimed that “God is blessing the use of the labyrinth; many are being drawn closer to Jesus, experiencing healing and gaining spiritual clarity as they pray on its path.”

On the surface this sounds great. But is God really blessing this “new thing”? Moreover, can God bless something that has its origins in esoteric doctrine and ancient pagan mythologies? Adding to its historical pagan significance is the fact that the labyrinth has never lost its occult meaning. As mentioned earlier in the article, labyrinths are still being used, and will continue to be used, as an instrument of pagan spirituality.

If God is going to bless labyrinth prayer journeys, how is He going to deal with Deuteronomy 12:1-14, 18:9-13 and Exodus 34:10-17? In each of these Scripture passages God explicitly tells His people to refrain from anything used in pagan practices. Moreover, the entire book of Jeremiah is a warning against involvement in alternative religious practices.

Furthermore, if God is going to bless labyrinth prayer journeys, how is He going to excuse the interfaith aspect that is common throughout the movement? John 14:6 clearly states that the only path to the Father is through Jesus Christ, and by no other way.

Yes, the majority of Christians would affirm that their labyrinth prayer walk is completely focused on Jesus Christ. That may be true, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that the labyrinth is, by its theological nature, an inter-religious and deeply mystical device. If God is going to bless the labyrinth experience, how is He going to deal with 2 Corinthians 6:14-16?

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?…”

http://www.forcingchange.org/the_labyrinth_journey

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