Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
Mysticism In The Church/ Contemplative Prayer

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Drumming in The Contemporary Church

Drumming is an ancient practice being incorporated into our so called 'worship services'. Ominously, Shamans call rhythmic drumming "A Bridge to the Spirit World".

Carol Brooks

    Index To The Pioneers - Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Thomas Keating HERE

    Index To All Seven Chapters on Contemplative Prayer HERE



    Drumming in The Contemporary Church
    Drumming is an ancient practice being incorporated into our so called 'worship services'. In fact it has become quite a fad in recent years with very many churches firmly convinced that drum circles can be used to praise and worship God. And this current trend crosses all denominational lines.

    For example

      The Church of the Holy Comforter in Richmond, VA. About three years ago (on Wednesday Feb. 26 2014) Shaman-Reiki Master Rob Murphy spoke at the church on Shamanism and shamanic drumming. [01]

      Shawano Presbyterian Church in Shawano, Wisconsin  See

      St. Francis Catholic Church, San Antonio, TX had a Community Drum Circle at the Parish Festival. [04]

    See THIS page for pictures of drumming circles in Churches

    Various organizations have been formed to promote this practice.

      Psalm Drummers: In their own words, "A 'Psalm Drummer' can be identified as a drummer who, by faith, drums to announce the Kingdom of God"... They "share a vision and sense of calling to declare Gods Word orally and rhythmically as an act of prophetic worship" [05] Whatever "prophetic worship" may happen to be..

      Drummers For Jesus "was formed in Dallas, Texas in 2002. Drummers for Jesus is a world wide network of drummers and percussionists who use their drumming to spread the message of Jesus Christ". [06]

    And, of course, influential individuals have jumped on the bandwagon and done their bit to spread the practice. Mike Perschon, part-time associate pastor of Holyrood. Mennonite Church in Edmonton, Alberta says that when he worked as a church planter they

       ... began using contemplative elements in worship from the outset. We held "thin place" services in reference to a belief that in prayer, the veil between us and God becomes thinner. Entire nights were devoted to guided meditations, drum circles, and "soul labs." At soul labs we used the rave culture's approach of multiple rooms for different music to create a number of prayer stations, where people could try various approaches to contemplative prayer. [07] 

    Biblical Support?
    In an article entitled Drumming Up The Spirits, the author Christine Stevens quotes the Reverend Dr. Bonnie L. Benda of Cameron United Methodist Church in Denver, Colorado, who stated,

      "The community drum circle is a powerful, unifying spiritual experience. It appeals to many different people of all ages and walks of life. It is one of the most successful evening programs we've ever hosted." [08]

    She also refers to the Bible to support the supposed Christian roots of drumming. 

      drumming was actually one of the most ancient forms of praising God. Rhythm is deeply rooted in spiritual practice. After the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites celebrated their exodus from Roman oppression by drumming. "And Miriam the prophetess took a drum (Heb. tph) in her hand; and all the women went out after her with drums and with dances." Exodus 15:20. [09]

    What Was The Tph And When Was it Used?
    In Exodus 15:20 quoted above, the Hebrew word translated 'drums' is tph. While tph might have been a drum, chances are that it more closely resembled a tambourine. In fact, every Bible version I know of translates tph into the English tambourine, tabret, or timbrel. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia,

      "Sometimes small, thin pieces of metal are hung upon the rim, which jingle when the timbrel is shaken, as in the modern tambourine - The Egyptians and the Assyrians possessed this instrument. The pictures of the former show it only in the hands of women; among the Assyrians it was played by men also. Among the Hebrews it was usually played by women, as an accompaniment to joyful dancing" [10]

    There is a distinct difference between a tambourine and a drum.

    Ancient Forms Of Praising God?
    Additionally, Christine Stevens calls drumming "one of the most ancient forms of praising God". She goes on to quote Exodus 15:20 that tells us that after the Lord defeated the Pharaoh and his army,  "Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing". She then refers to a book entitled "When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm" by Layne Redmond that addresses "the role women played in drumming for ancient religious worships". [11]

    I have little idea whether or not women drummed in other ancient religious worship but they certainly did no such thing in the Bible. The tph wasn't used for praising God in normal everyday life, but on joyful occasions. For example, while there is more to the story than can be told here, the tph was one of the instruments used by David and all Israel to celebrate the return of the ark of God to Jerusalem.

      They carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, even with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and with trumpets. (1 Chronicles 13:7-8 NASB)

    Jeremiah, chapters 30 and 31 were probably penned after the fall of Jerusalem. In which case, both verses refer to Israel's return from captivity in Babylon - a joyful occasion if there ever was one.

      "Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, and go forth to the dances of the merrymakers. (Jeremiah 31:4 NASB)

    Psalm 150 lists a number of instruments by which to praise the Lord - the trumpet, psaltery and harp, timbrel and dance, stringed instruments and organs, cymbals etc. However, note how verse 4 links 'timbrel and dancing'

      Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.  (Psalms 150:4 NASB)

    Timbrel and dancing was exactly how the ancient Hebrew women publicly celebrated national victories

      When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. (Judges 11:34 NASB)

      It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments.  (1 Samuel 18:6 NASB)

    When the Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea, Moses and the other men sang a song of victory to the Lord (Exodus15:1-19). In response, Miriam and the other women danced and sang in celebration of their salvation...

      Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, "Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea." (Exodus 15:20-21 NASB)

    There is a huge difference between a program the sole purpose of which is to get people together to drum, and the ancient Hebrew women who were celebrating the downfall of their captors that undoubtedly saved their lives.

    Timbrels Were Apparently NOT used in the Temple Services
    When the musical instruments used in the Temple services are listed, the timbrel is notably absent.

      Moreover, David and the commanders of the army set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, who were to prophesy with lyres, harps and cymbals; and the number of those who performed their service was: (1 Chronicles 25:1 NASB)

      and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets (2 Chronicles 5:12 NASB)

      He then stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with harps and with lyres, according to the command of David and of Gad the king's seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the Lord through His prophets. (2 Chronicles 29:25 NASB)

      Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to the directions of King David of Israel.  (Ezra 3:10 NASB)

      Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres.  (Nehemiah 12:27 NASB)

    In any case, singing and dancing for thirty minutes is NOT worship, much as we have been assured otherwise. While the singing of hymns can be incorporated into genuine worship, the Biblical meaning of worship is far more than songs of praise. Also See Worshipping God

    In fact, if you read your New Testament never, by either word or example, does it puts forth 1) corporate worship, 2) hearing a sermon, 3) evangelism, or 4) fellowship. as being the reason believers assembled together. See The Church... Then and Now - Part II.

    In summary, since it is clear that the modern version of drumming was NOT derived from the ancient Hebrew customs and was never used in the temple rituals, one has to ask where the practice originated?

    The answer is simple. Like Contemplative Prayer, drumming circles have been adopted from pagan and occult customs. Christine Stevens very aptly named her article Drumming Up The Spirits (plural), since that is probably exactly what they do. The drumming at Cameron United Methodist Church was started to "attract a younger membership" and "kick-off to future church based drumming programs" was "born" out of a Halloween program. [12]


    See Halloween:
    Can Christians participate in a festival that celebrates death, witchcraft and the occult without without compromising their faith and being disobedient to God's commands?

    Drumming and The Occult
    Jim PathFinder Ewing is an "accomplished journalist, sought-after teacher and lecturer, and acclaimed innovator in energy work. In addition to serving as his community medicine man, he travels extensively, lecturing on shamanism, energy medicine, and Native American spirituality". [13]   In his words,

      Native Americans and most of the indigenous peoples of the Earth have known for thousands of years that drumming is a powerful spiritual tool... the ability of sound to induce meditative states was well known thousands of years ago to ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures, which used rhythmic chanting, singing bowls, finger chimes and other methods to transcend ordinary consciousness, as well. [14]

    The Healing Drums of Africa:
    According to the site http://www.rhythmpraise.org/,

      The djembe, also known as the spirit drum or the healing drum comes from Africa and it is becoming the most popular drum in the drum circle. The native African culture believes that a drum which is made from the solid trunk of a tree with an animal skin, either goat or water buffalo, stretched across it- takes on the spirit of the tree and animal. They believe the drums spirit has the power to heal the person playing it but more so it gives the person playing it (generally know as the witch doctor or shaman) the power to heal others. [15]

    The Starwood Festival:
    To understand how entrenched drumming is in modern paganism, consider the Starwood Festival - a seven-day Neo-Pagan, New Age, multi-cultural and world music festival, that takes place every July in Pomeroy, Ohio. Hosted by the A.C.E. (Association for Consciousness Exploration) the festival is a camping event featuring live musical performances, rituals, bonfires, multimedia presentations and workshops on subjects such as sensory isolation, Kirlian photography, Neopaganism, shamanism, Wicca, holistic health, tarot divination, Thelema, and past life regression. As an example, last year's festival featured Reiki Master Mervyn Alphonse who teaches Kundalini Yoga. [16]

     However, relevant to this article is the fact that there are classes on the drumming and dancing styles of Africa, South America, Ireland, the Middle East and elsewhere. All-night drummer's bonfires are held each night in at least two locations.

    Daniella Waterhawk, who along with her husband Don, is a regular presenter at the Starwood festival. In a book by Patricia Telesco and Don Waterhawk, she describes the pull of the drum, that the author calls a "sacred, magical" tool (Pg. 60)

      The first time I was in a drum circle it moved me to tears. There were about 50 people and 100 drummers, and as I watched, the sound from that group reached across the land, spreading throughout Central Park. People from all around gravitated toward it. They were being called to the circle by something they didn't understand, and something they'd never before experienced. Without coaxing or direction, they all started dancing and swaying and flowing into the circle. One hundred fifty people turned into a thousand, of different races and creeds, all celebrating life together. That is the power of the drum. [17]

    Shamans and Drumming
    The web site shamanicdrumming.com describes Shamanic Drumming as "A Bridge to the Spirit World" (Emphasis Added)

      Shamanic drumming is drumming for the purpose of inducing a range of ecstatic trance states in order to connect with the spiritual dimension of reality. Practiced in diverse cultures around the planet, this drum method is strikingly similar the world over... In oral-aural cultures, sound is regarded as one of the most effective ways of establishing connections with the spirit realm, since it travels through space, permeates visual and physical barriers, and conveys information from the unseen world... The shaman uses the drum to create a bridge to the spirit world, while simultaneously opening the awareness of all the participants to that bridge. [18]

    And they aren't blowing smoke. Scientific research supports the idea that drumming and other rhythmic sounds (including the repetition of a 'mantra or 'sacred sound) are indeed associated with changes in brain wave frequency.

    Drumming and Changes In Brain Wave Frequency
    Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) looked into the question of whether various drumming patterns were associated with different brain wave activity (as measured by cortical EEG). Their research supported the theory that

      ... suggest that the use of the drum by indigenous cultures in ritual and ceremony has specific neurophysiological effects and the ability to elicit temporary changes in brain wave activity, and thereby facilitates imagery and possible entry into an ASC (altered state of consciousness), especially the SSC (shamanic state of consciousness). [19]

    And, as they go on to say (Emphasis Added)

      The pattern of the drumbeat as it relates to beats per second can be correlated with resulting temporary changes in brain wave frequency (cycles per second) and/or subjective experience, provided the drumming pattern is sustained for at least 13-15 minutes. [20]

    In summary, steady rhythmic drumming produces the same effect as the mantra or, to use the terminology, the 'sacred word'.

    I will give the last word to a Catholic web site (Women of Grace) that hits the nail on the head when it says (Emphasis Added)

      The bottom line is that drumming circles are founded in shamanism and were not designed to be used for praising God. They have a distinct spiritual component to them in that they are all meant to create some kind of trance or altered state of consciousness a state which leaves us open to the direct influence of evil spirits. None of us needs to enter an altered state of consciousness to have a dialogue with Christ which is the point of Christian prayer and no matter where the drumming circle is being hosted, in or outside of a Church, a Christian should be very wary of participating in them. [21]


    Footnote I - Seena Frost and Soul Collage
    As the web site www.soulcollage.com says,

      "Seena Frost was a psychotherapy clinician and supervisor in California for over thirty years, and used many healing modalities including the work of C. G. Jung, Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, Eric Berne, Roberto Assagioli, and others." [22]

    The site gives a short history of how SoulCollage came to be (Emphasis Added)

      The seeds for the flowering of SoulCollage® were sown in her final project for a three-year "Human Capacities" program led by Jean Houston from 1987 to 1989.

      Seena says, "It was a time when I was immersed in world myths and archetypal psychology, and also I was exploring various spiritual paths. I was also practicing psychotherapy in my professional practice. The card-making process evolved over time with the aid of many women in my therapy groups. As they made their powerful, personal cards, shared them with each other and consulted them, we discovered the transforming possibilities of these images

      In those on-going therapy groups, and over several years, Seena, along with her clients and workshop participants, developed the structures of the four suits, the personal collaged cards, and the style of doing intuitive readings. The work of C.J. Jung, James Hillman, Roberto Assagioli, and others formed the psychological and spiritual underpinnings.

      Originally, it was named the "Neter Card" process. Neters were, in ancient Egyptian lore, the gods and goddesses that came forth from the One Neter, or Source, to help or challenge humans. The word "Neter" continues to be used in SoulCollage® to indicate each of the many guides, allies, and challengers depicted in the images on our SoulCollage® cards.

    And as they went on to say,

      SoulCollage® is a creative and satisfying collage process. You make your own deck of cards - each collage card representing one aspect of your personality or Soul. Use the cards intuitively to answer life's questions and participate in self-discovery. [23]

    Enough said?


    End Notes
    [01] Richmond Shamanic Meetup & Drum Circle. https://www.meetup.com/Richmond-Shamanic-Meetup-Drum-Circle/messages/65460192/

    [02] See their Face book page

    [03] Winfield United Church Something for everyone.  www.winfieldunitedchurch.ca/page/httpwinfieldunitedchurchartsitescaprograms

    [04] https://www.facebook.com/events/441990765920006/

    [05] http://psalmdrummers.org/about/

    [06] Drummers For Jesus. About Us. http://www.drummersforjesus.com/about-us/

    [07] Mike Perschon. Desert Youth Worker: Disciplines, Mystics, and the Contemplative Life. October 8, 2009.  http://youthspecialties.com/blog/desert-youth-worker-disciplines-mystics-and-the-contemplative-life/

    [08] Christine K. Stevens, MSW, M.A., MT-BC .  UpBeat Drum Circles. Drumming Up The Spirits. http://www.ubdrumcircles.com/article_spirits.html

    [09] ibid.

    [10] Timbrel Or Tabret: Executive Committee of the Editorial Board., Immanuel Benzinger. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14399-timbrel

    [11] Christine K. Stevens, MSW, M.A., MT-BC .  UpBeat Drum Circles. Drumming Up The Spirits.. http://www.ubdrumcircles.com/article_spirits.html

    [12] ibid.

    [13] Jim PathFinder Ewing (Nvnehi Awatisgi). Drumming as a Form of Prayer. http://www.shamanportal.org/article_details.php?id=269&friend=1

    [14] ibid.

    [15] http://www.rhythmpraise.org/. See 'Drumming Articles - Drum Circle Intro

    [16] http://rosencomet.wixsite.com/starwood-36-archive/presenters1

    [17] Daniella Waterhawk As quoted in Sacred Beat: From the Heart of the Drum Circle, by Patricia Telesco and Don Waterhawk..
    Publisher: Red Wheel (June 1, 2003). Pgs. 36-37

    [18] http://shamanicdrumming.com/index.html

    [19] Presentation Abstract - Melinda Maxfield, Ph.D. https://web.stanford.edu/group/brainwaves/2006/Maxfieldabstract.html

    [20] ibid.

    [21] Sebastian Brinkmann. Exploring the Pagan Roots of Drumming Circles. Women of Grace. http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=9571

    [22] Soul Collage. http://www.soulcollage.com/seena-b-frost-0

    [23] Soul Collage. The History of SoulCollage. http://www.soulcollage.com/about-soulcollage



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