July 12, 2006|
A Time of Departing :
How Ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians with the World’s Religions by Ray Yungen
Publisher: Lighthouse Trails Publishing
By Kari David
Twenty years ago the church seemed well aware of the dangers of the “New Age” movement. Though you don’t hear about it so much anymore, its influence is even greater now than it was then. The New Age movement has gone “underground”, and it may surprise you to find out that it has found a new home…perhaps in your very own church home. It has made its way into the depths of Christianity and has become so infused with the Church that few seem aware that this infiltration has taken place. Not only have New Age practices, which are rooted in ancient Eastern mysticism, taken hold in the Church, they are actively being promoted by many church leaders. We can hope that the harm that has been done to the Church through the teaching of these practices has been unintentional, and thank the Lord that books like Ray Yungen’s A Time of Departing are lifting the veil that has blinded many within the Church.
In the expanded 2nd edition of his book, A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen carefully documents the “departure” that he sees taking place within the Christian church. It has been subtly introduced through “contemplative spirituality”, which includes such things as breath prayers, centering prayer, Christian yoga, and spiritual formation, things that sound good on the outside but are rooted in ancient mystical practices. The goal of these exercises, whether participants realize it or not, is to achieve altered states of consciousness which then makes them vulnerable to other spiritual influences. Mr. Yungen points out that many people get involved with these practices to reduce stress, to aid in healing, and because they sincerely desire a deeper relationship with God. Unfortunately, they are being led down a path whose eventual destination is the conclusion that God is in all things, people and objects alike. The aim becomes one of finding the divinity within, the “higher self” or “Christ consciousness” (the realization that one is divine and one with God), as a means to healing and wholeness. This is essentially what Satan tempted Eve with in the garden, “…you will be like God”.
Yungen gives a great deal of attention to Thomas Merton, perhaps the greatest influence within the Christian mystical movement, who promoted the idea that everyone is connected together by the “Divine Oneness” and that different religions can find unity with each other through exploring this “Divine Oneness”. Merton is quoted as saying “I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian [mystical] traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own Christian traditions.” Many adherents to Merton’s teachings believe that this joining together of the world’s religions around a core spirituality is the way to solve the world’s problems.
Yungen quotes Matthew Fox, another Christian mystic and popular writer, who has said “Without mysticism there will be no ‘deep ecumenism’, no unleashing of the power of wisdom from all the world’s religious traditions. Without this [mysticism] I am convinced there will never be global peace or justice since the human race needs spiritual depths and disciplines, celebrations and rituals to awaken its better selves.” We can see in these previous two quotes the hints of a progression towards the establishment of a One World Religion, in which Jesus Christ will no longer be seen as the only means of salvation and in which people will be encouraged to seek “enlightenment” through any path they choose, be it “Christian”, Hindu, Islam, etc. Yungen discusses the prophesies of New Age writer Alice Bailey and what she called “The regeneration of the churches”. Yungen comes to the conclusion, “…instead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness!”
After decades of de-sensitization to eastern mysticism Yungen’s book steps forward to re-sensitize the Church to the dangers of joining with the false religions around us and helps us identify the New Age principles and practices that are currently at work within the Church. Lest you think that these practices are anomalies that are not widespread within the Church today, Yungen demonstrates how this form of spirituality is being promoted by some of the most beloved names in Christianity, including Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Rick Warren. Yungen reminds us that just because something sounds good, or healthy, or helpful, doesn’t mean it is good.
A Time of Departing is exceptionally well researched and meticulously footnoted. For some, this book will be a confirmation that the Church is moving into dangerous territory. For others, it will come as a shock and will be a difficult read. Undoubtedly, some will put it aside and suggest that it be disregarded as a gross over reaction to the new move of spirituality in the Church. To all, it will be a challenge to “test the spirits” of what we are being taught within the Church. It is my hope that leadership and lay people alike will take this matter very seriously, and will prayerfully consider the evidence that Ray Yungen presents. I applaud his courage to tackle the subject of Eastern mysticism within the Church, and to do it so thoroughly. I also commend Lighthouse Trails Publishing for presenting books that shed light on difficult issues within the Church.