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

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Contemplative Prayer - Alpha, What it Is and Its Connection With Spiritual Experiences

 Carol Brooks

Chapter I -  An Introduction to Contemplative Prayer: What it is, how it is practiced, its claimed importance, the introduction to evangelicals, the spread, and the million dollar question.

Chapter II -  The Source of The Tradition: Many Christian mystics claim that Contemplative Prayer as it is taught and practiced in the modern church is rooted in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. This is as far from the truth as it gets.

YOU ARE HERE 001orange Chapter III - Alpha - An Altered State of Consciousness: Alpha, the "resting state" of the brain, often associated with the transportation to a "higher realm of consciousness" or mystical experience, is harnessed by Buddhist meditators, Hindus, New Agers, Shamans, Witches and 'Christian' mystics alike.

Chapter IV - Summary and Conclusion: Contemplative Prayer is unsupported by Scripture regardless of how many out-of-context verses supporters pull up in the effort to bolster their claims. Besides which, silence is not God's first language, God does not dwell in us, we cannot decide how to approach the Almighty, and Christians may be transformed by pagan practices, but it is a transformation not for the better Finally, if the teachings of the mystics is true, God has been remarkably negligent.

Chapter V - Eastern Meditation Vs Biblical Meditation: Since the words meditate, meditation etc. are not exactly unknown in the Bible, it is imperative that we are aware of the difference between Contemplative Prayer and Biblical meditation.

Chapter VI - Experiencing God: Unfortunately, in this world of 'warm fuzzies' people are obsessed with how they feel. Thus they assume that since they don't feel the presence of God, He must not be there or is simply ignoring them.

Chapter VII - Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Thomas Keating: These four influential and very popular teachers of contemplative prayer fraternized with Eastern mystics, embraced the spiritual philosophies and religious practices of Buddhism, Hinduism etc. incorporating them into Christianity. They also endorsed various pagan 'spiritual' books that flatly contradict the Bible. Yet, multiple thousands of people all over the world, including many well known church leaders, have seen fit to suspend all common sense, ignore the many, many warnings in Scripture, and blindly follow the teachings of these wolves.


Four Levels Of Brain-Wave Activity
Science and an Altered States of Consciousness
Altered State of Consciousness and The Occult - Witchcraft, Shamanism etc.
Mystical Experiences and 'Magic Mushrooms'


Four Levels Of Brain-Wave Activity
Neurons, the cells within the nervous system, are the basic working unit of the brain. They are designed to transmit information by generating electrical signals.

In the 1920's, Dr. Hans Berger, a German psychiatrist, hooked patients up to an electro-encephalograph (EEG) and made some interesting discoveries about the activity of the brain during various stages of human consciousness. The four levels of brain-waves are designated by the corresponding Greek letters: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. 

    Beta: is our normal waking consciousness.  When the brain is actively engaged in mental activities, it generates beta waves with a frequency of 15 to 40 cycles a second. A person in active conversation would be in beta, whereas someone engaged in a debate would be in high beta.

    Alpha: is the "resting state" of the brain when its activity slows down and emits waves from about 8 to 13 cycles per second. This passive, non-critical and non-analytical state occurs when you are truly relaxed or half way between being fully awake and asleep. Listening to music, relaxing, or simply day dreaming can also induce Alpha, as can light hypnosis, meditation, and biofeedback. What is interesting is that during the Alpha state, the brain is said to be capable of excellent memory retention and rapidly makes 'connections'. Most people know that it is not at all uncommon for 'aha' moments to happen when they are about to fall asleep.

    Alpha is the state that most concerns us here, since it is often associated with the transportation to a "higher realm of consciousness" or mystical experience and is the goal of both Christian and pagan spiritual practitioners. 

    Theta: also known as the twilight state, occurs when brain activity slows almost, but not quite, to the point you are actually sleep. During Theta, one is unaware of one's surroundings and can mentally disengage from routine tasks. A person driving on a freeway (as opposed to a country road), or someone who has been jogging who cannot recall what he has been doing for the last few minutes  may be in a Theta state. Theta is occasionally achieved by those in a deep meditative state

    Delta: the slowest of all four brain wave frequencies usually occurs during a deep dream-less sleep when the individual is unreceptive to any stimuli. In this state the brain waves are very slow - usually between 2 to 4 cycles per second.

In summary: "When we go to bed and read for a few minutes before attempting sleep, we are likely to be in low beta. When we put the book down, turn off the lights and close our eyes, our brain waves will descend from beta, to alpha, to theta and finally, when we fall asleep, to delta". [01]

Feelings experienced during an altered brain state are usually temporary, can be either pleasant or unpleasant, and can profoundly affect personality, judgment, values, physical feelings and responses. A different level of consciousness can be induced accidentally, incidentally, or intentionally.

    Accidentally The Alpha state is often achieved very naturally. We all know that sitting by the sea and listening to the crashing of the waves can be extremely relaxing, as can listening to the rain, or even simply daydreaming. It is believed that listening to a certain kind of music like Baroque (especially the adagio movements with a 40 to 60 beats per minute cycle) is said to be able to slow brain activity and induce the Alpha state.

    Incidentally Alpha can be the result of fever, infections such as meningitis, sleep or oxygen deprivation, nitrogen narcosis (deep diving), neuro-chemical imbalances, or a traumatic accident. Drugs and alcohol that affect perception, motor skills and personality also induce an altered state of consciousness .

    Intentionally While hypnosis is arguably a commonly known form of induced altered consciousness, the Alpha state can purposely induced by a number of methods including meditation, chanting, rhythmic breathing, rhythmic dancing, and mantras, etc.

Science and an Altered States of Consciousness
There is considerable scientific evidence that lowering the frequency of one's brain waves induces relaxation that has significant physical benefits. According to the Mayo clinic, breaking the train of everyday thought and slowing your heart and breathing rate can reduce stress symptoms by lowering blood pressure, reducing anger and frustration, improving concentration and mood, boosting confidence etc. etc.

There seems to be a very fine line between practicing something that physically benefits you and something that is used to further occult abilities and experiences. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea where that line is. Perhaps it is the artificially induced Alpha state that is more dangerous. But, on the other hand, I have had a very terrifying experience with a purely natural Alpha state when I was falling asleep. But more about that later.

Although the article on the Mayo Clinic web site does not specifically mention an altered state of consciousness, one method they suggest for those wishing to try relaxation techniques is to "repeat words or suggestions in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension" [02]. This is no different from focusing on a single word or phrase as the Christian mystics instruct people to do, and undoubtedly leads to an altered state of consciousness.

In fact, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, one study conducted in Italy concluded that,

    "Rhythm formulas that involve breathing at six breaths per minute induce favourable psychological and possibly physiological effects". However, it mattered not whether it was a prayer or a mantra. Reciting the rosary or a yoga mantra had exactly the same effect - "reducing respiration to almost exactly six respirations per minute, which is essentially the same timing as that of endogenous circulatory rhythms." [03]

However, as said by Don Matzat in What Is Centering?

    "The issue is not the natural experiences of human consciousness, but rather the relationship between the alpha level and spiritual experience. Does such a relationship exist? If so, is the Holy Spirit producing the experience or is there an alternative source? Should we be concerned that this altered state of consciousness is associated with a variety of occult practices? [04]

Lending legs to his question is the fact that Alpha is harnessed by numerous pagans and occultists.

Altered State of Consciousness and The Occult
In an article entitled Music and the Healing Arts, author Sarah Belle Dougherty talks about anthropologist Michael Harner, founder and director of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in Mill Valley, CA. whose book Way of the Shaman is often called a classic on shamanism. In time spent with the Peruvian Indians he learned shamanic practices and went on to become a practicing healing shaman. Incidentally the term Shaman has many 'meanings' including 'one who walks between the worlds' ... (All Emphasis Added)

    "In his system the practitioner uses drumming and rattles to induce a non-ordinary state so that he can journey at will through inner worlds, perceive the psychic causes of wellness and disease, and help others regain or maintain health by his actions taken on astral planes. Similar techniques are used by many healers in traditional cultures worldwide, who integrate music, art, dance, and drama in the healing process...

    Harner's therapeutic experience has indicated that almost everyone has the potential, to one degree or another, to cultivate shamanic abilities if he or she wishes to do so... Several researchers, such as Harner and Stanislav Grof, who began with the use of drugs to induce various altered states for therapeutic purposes, were surprised to find that the same states could be induced in almost anyone by such simple procedures as drumming or altered breathing rhythms". [05]

The article also issues a warning (All Emphasis Added)

    "As with the uses of hypnosis or suggestion, one needs to be aware of the consequences of putting one's being en rapport with that of another person or of opening oneself to the inhabitants and forces of the astral range of nature which may be difficult to shut off The forces on all planes which can be released by music and vibration may be invisible but they are real and extremely potent." [06].

Note: "Inhabitants and forces of the astral range of nature" is simply a euphemism for demons.

Laurie Cabot, an American witchcraft high priestess and one of the most high-profile witches in the world, was one of the first people to popularize witchcraft in the United States. In her book, Power of the Witch: The Earth, the Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment she writes a great deal about Alpha. I quote (All Emphasis Added)

    "The science of Witchcraft is based on our ability to enter an altered state of consciousness we call 'alpha', where brain waves register at seven to fourteen cycles per second. This is a state of consciousness associated with relaxation, meditation and dreaming... In alpha the mind opens up to non-ordinary forms of communication, such as telepathy, clairvoyance and pre-cognition. Here we also may experience out-of-body sensations and psychokinesis, or receive mystical, visionary, information that does not come through the five senses. In alpha the rational filters that process ordinary reality are weakened or removed, and the mind is receptive to non-ordinary realities... " [07]

    Alpha is the springboard for all psychic and magical workings. It is the heart of Witchcraft. The Alpha state is the scientific basis for magic. In order to develop your own psychic powers and learn the ways of the craft, you must learn to control Alpha". [08]

Mystical Experiences and 'Magic Mushrooms'
Walter Norman Pahnke boasted an MD from Harvard Medical School, a BD (now MDiv) from Harvard Divinity School, a PhD from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and a Harvard psychiatric residency. He was also a psychedelic researcher at Harvard University.

In 1962, as part of his PhD thesis, he conducted what was known as the Marsh Chapel Experiment under the supervision of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert aka Ram Dass. On their way into the Boston University's Marsh Chapel, Harvard psychiatrist Walter Pahnke administered a dose of psychedelic mushrooms (Psilocybin mushrooms to a group of theology students and professors. He was seeking to

    test his hypothesis that psychedelic drugs, taken in a religious setting, could provoke a genuine spiritual experience. His investigation would go down in psychedelic history as the "Good Friday experiment.

    He was right. Nine out of the 10 students who took the mushrooms reported having a mystical experience. One of those students was the historian Huston Smith, who went on to write [09]

Incidentally,Timothy Leary claimed (on national TV) that he carried on Aleister Crowley's work.

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And, much more recently, (All Emphasis Added)

    As part of a small pilot study, psychologists at Johns Hopkins and New York University are giving psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to spiritual leaders... By working with leaders of different faiths, the researchers hope to learn something about the shared mystical core of all the world's major religions...

    People commonly report that the experience is one of the most personally and spiritually meaningful of their lives....

    Psychologists define the experience based on its major components, including a sense of sacredness, feelings of unity, ineffability, peace and joy, transcendence of time and space and feelings of being confronted with some objective truth about reality. 

    ... early research and anecdotal reports suggest that chemically induced mystical experiences may not be so different from those that occur as a result of years of meditation and prayer. [10]

Apparently, one does not have any need of the Jesus Prayer or any other 'sacred' word in order to 'experience God' during Contemplative Prayer as Nouwen and his ilk would have us believe. Be they Christian or pagan, all anyone needs is a small dose of the right kind of mushroom.


     Calling it a "Jesus Prayer" or a 'sacred' word' does not alter the basic fact that repeating a word or phrase over and over again is nothing but a mantra.

     Mantra's can and do lead to an Altered State of Consciousness associated with the transportation to a "higher realm of consciousness" or mystical experience

 An Altered State of Consciousness, far from being limited to Christians, has been practiced by Hindus, Buddhists, Shamans, and various indigenous tribes for thousands of years. See Drumming

     This practice leads both believers and non-believers to an identical feeling of unity with God, the universe, enlightenment - however the individual interprets it. However, the experience is exactly the same.

     Science talks about how frequently repeated brief prayers slows respiration, increasing calmness and wellbeing, with similar effects resulting from reciting the Ave Maria or the yoga mantra

     Witches tell us that in the Alpha state we may receive mystical, visionary, information that does not come through the five senses.

 The Shaman mentions that drumming and rattles can induce a non-ordinary state so that the Shaman can journey at will through inner worlds and almost everyone has the potential, to one degree or another, to cultivate shamanic abilities if he or she wishes to do so.

003white  Continue On To Chapter IV - Summary and Conclusion
Contemplative Prayer is unsupported by Scripture regardless of how many out-of-context verses the mystics pull up in the effort to bolster their claims. One of them actually makes the claim that the Bible doesn't tell us "precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants". The fact is that silence is not God's first language, we cannot decide how to approach the Almighty, God does not dwell in us and Christians may be transformed by pagan practices, but it is a transformation not for the better.  Finally,  if the teachings of the mystics is true, God has been remarkably negligent


End Notes. Chapter Three

[01] What is the function of the various brainwaves? www.web-us.com/brainwavesfunction.htm

[02] The Mayo Clinic. Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress.

[03] Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study.

[04] Don Matzat . What Is Centering? http://www.issuesetcarchive.org/issues_site/resource/journals/centerng.htm

[05 Sarah Belle Dougherty. Music and the Healing Arts. http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/death/he-sbd.htm

[06] ibid.

[07] Laurie Cabot. Power of the Witch: The Earth, the Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment. Publisher: Delta (Sept. 1 1990) Pg. 173

[08] ibid. Pg. 183

[09] Carolyn Gregoire. Here's What Happens When You Give Psychedelic Drugs To Spiritual Leaders. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/psychedelic-drugs-religious-leaders_us_58750c36e4b02b5f858b350a

[10] ibid.



Contemplative Prayer -
The Source