Fundamentals Of Meditation (Part 1. Christian Meditation vs. New Age Meditation)
Although this is part of a series, it is a complete study on its own. (Part 1 of 9 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
The purpose of this article is not to address the New Age Movement (I may do that in yet another article for there is much to say) but my intent is just to motivate people to give serious thought to what they feel is proper meditation. As soon as one says the word meditation, an image comes to mind of someone sitting in a lotus position with their fingers forming circles and their eyes closed. Meditation has been around for so long and not much is taught in our Christian churches about this practice. The popular notion about meditation sits contrary, I believe, to the Scriptural idea of meditation. To get a general idea of what people think of meditation, I think Wikipedia had a great definition of this practice.
"Meditation is a holistic discipline by which the practitioner attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation is a component of many religions and has been practiced since antiquity. It is also practiced outside religious traditions. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual or psychophysical practices that may emphasize different goals—from an achievement of a higher state of consciousness to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind."
The basic idea is to decrease the "busy-ness" of one's mind, to narrow the stream of thought, or even to empty one's mind of everything. Some versions of meditation say to focus inward and in some other variations to focus outward to some infinite obscure point in time and space. The result is supposed to be an expanded awareness, a sharpening of the senses, a clearing and cleansing of the mind. This goal is already at odds with what Scripture says about meditation, so it's easy to see how this idea can be corrupted into something insidious, as Eastern religions claim one can climb out of this earthly box and achieve enlightenment. They can attach meanings and rituals to the elements of this practice and make it into a fleshly, even dangerously evil spiritual enterprise.
I believe that most Christians think that relaxation/meditation is harmless and can be beneficial to its adherents. It has however turned into a big hideous monster that has infiltrated Christianity. What has grown out of this misapplication of a Biblical mandate is what is known as the New Age Movement. The New Age movement has been encroaching on the church for a while and the number of Christians who regularly meditate and take elements of this movement as part of their personal lives and devotions is truly frightening.
A somewhat recent meeting of the minds has re-energized what already was a growing cultish group that sneers into the face of God and His word at every turn. There was published a renewed Manifesto for New Agers, the tenets of which were based on the original Manifesto incorporating the ideals of Alice Ann Bailey.
The nine basic goals of these "New Agers" are as follows:
1. A New World Order.
2. A Universal Credit Card System.
3. A World Food Authority.
4. A World Health Authority.
5 A World Water Authority.
6. A Universal Tax.
7. A Universal Military Draft.
8. Abolishing Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in favor of a Universal "Faith" of human awareness.
9. One Uniting World Leader.
This agenda is upsetting enough to people with any Biblical knowledge at all, but with Christians using New Age methods incorporated into their Christian meditation, or even replacing Christian meditation altogether, it is distressing indeed.
Compare this New Age idea of what meditation is, to how the Apostle Paul spoke of it.
"Be careful [anxious NKJV] for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think [meditate NKJV] on these things." (Philippians 4:6-8) KJV
Since the mind is never empty, the notion that someone can empty it is utter foolishness. The mind was not meant to be empty or idle. I believe that it was not meant for much "drifting" thought either. All of us hears in our minds, endless words of thought dialogue and sees endless scenes of memory and imagination. What a person can do is insist their thought's focus would narrow to one thought path, a deeper consideration, a pondering of things usually not considered deeply. But for what aim? for what benefit?
Let's look at the differences between true and empty/dangerous meditation. The first thing we take from the definition above is that their meditation is a "holistic discipline." Discipline is a positive word. Without discipline, we can run amok. It sounds so good, doesn't it? The trick is in the word holistic. This holistic approach is what distorts the reality of the shallowness of this practice. This practice supposedly "tunes" one into to a sense of the whole of existence. The word holistic used generically is harmless, but when used to put a worldly spin on the spiritual worship experience, it becomes evil. The idea that the center of anything for a Christian could be something other than Jesus Christ, is blasphemy. What is the essence, the sense of the whole, as far as the Christian is concerned? Is it not God Himself? Any attempt at meditation for some purpose other than worship/contemplation with God or fellowship/communication with God is nothing short of blasphemy. The very concept of blasphemy is to continually reject God and to put the self above Him. Meditating to achieve self-awareness, or to become one with the physical universe (the creation) instead of the Creator Himself is blasphemy. To elevate the creation above the Creator is blasphemy. To endeavor to "find one's center" without God being that center, or saying that "the human self is the center," or the "physical universe" is the center, or some cosmic energy "that some might call God" - all of these references go blasphemously against God's Holy Word.
The definition above also calls meditation practiced commonly as psycho-physical. That is the attempt to blend mind and body with elements of "universal energy" to achieve something in an individual that is greater than what he himself was at the start. How ironic that God has offered that very thing when we are born again. He, the God of the universe, has offered to come into us (indwell us) and to never leave us again. His wish is to make us holistically more than we were before but only on His terms. To say that there is a way to do some practice, without God, that will somehow allow you to crawl out of your "earth-bound" life box and become anything more - is blasphemy. Some that are "friendly" to Christians say that they narrow their focus to just focus on God. Yet the actual practice involves merely repeating a mantra "Jesus" or "Spirit" over and over, or try to fill their consciousness with the "energy" of love. Those people still miss the mark of what Christian meditation is.
The next problem we see is that meditation was supposed to have one set of goals and not to encompass an individual's tailored concept of what was to be achieved. Meditation is a divine command and the goals are clearly stated. Basically, no one can meditate, in the Biblical sense of the word, without being a Christian. That may be considered by some an antagonizing statement but nevertheless, it is true. Meditation is the emptying of oneself before the throne of God. To lay at the Lord's feet all sin, all fleshly encumbrances and make your requests known to God. It is awaiting, with the word of God in hand, and bathing yourself in those words. It is worship in the deepest sense, as you receive communication from the Holy Spirit and are renewed in Him.
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thyself prosperous, and thou shalt have good success." (Joshua 1:8 KJV)
"Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all." (1 Timothy 4:15 KJV)
Seventy-two times David wrote a directive into his Psalms that required a pause, or a complete stop of a song to dwell on the meaning. That meditation notation is the word selah in Hebrew (seh-law') meaning to pause, stop, consider, to meditate on. It is from a root word ca-lah (saw-law' Heb.) which means to hang up. (Literally to hold in place with the foot to weigh its value or worth). The idea David wanted to convey is at that point in the song there was an important concept or thought that needed to be considered, meditated on, so he put the notation selah there so that one may pause or stop to consider what was actually being said, so as not to lose the significance of the statement. The term selah has been recognized as the benchmark term for meditation in the Old Testament and gives us a key piece as to how to meditate.
"Stand in awe and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah . (Psalm 4:4)
"I said, "I will take heed to my own ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me." I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue. Lord make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold thou hast made my days as a handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee; verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity [emptiness]. Selah." (Psalm 39:1-5)
In both of the Scriptures above, important pieces of meditation are present.
1. Emptying yourself before God. (which unbelievers don't do)
2. Taking note of your sin and logically confessing it as sin before God (which unbelievers don't do)
3. Realizing that one is frail and nothing, emptiness, vanity, before a holy God. (which unbelievers can't do)
4. After the emptying and the confessing, a musing or an enveloping of oneself in the word of God. (which unbelievers won't do)
5. Be still and wait on communication from God, as one lays as an empty vessel waiting for God to fill Him with His fire, His power from on High. (which unbelievers can't do)
Meditation is supposed to be a cleansing from sin and the burdens of the flesh that weigh one down and hinder fellowship with a holy God. Meditation provides a way of allowing God to speak to us individually through His word. He will empower His word to heal a broken spirit, to cleanse the heart of lust and strongholds of Satan and to get us back into perspective for service to the King of Glory. How shallow it is for those who meditate sitting in a lotus position and saying their mantra over and over. How evil it is for people to think that they will achieve any enlightenment or oneness with the real universe that is in line with a Holy God. All they're doing is wasting time and effort in order to gain virtually nothing of benefit.
A sense of self? That will not save. A sense of clarity? About what? Even if one is relaxed and clear that will still not pay for their sin debt. All is vanity and emptiness if God is not there.
So what do you want to achieve with your meditation? Do you want a true sense of clarity? Do you want a cleansing of the confusion of life? Then do the first step and become a Christian and then the very goals you have for meditating in the first place will become your reality.
Here is the start:
Realize that before a Holy God you stand a sinner and that you can not save yourself.
"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
Realize and believe that Jesus came to earth to bleed and die to pay for your sin.
"For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Empty yourself before that God and ask Him to save you.
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
Pray this (or something like it): Lord God, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that You died to pay for my sin, that You, God came in human flesh and shed Your blood for me. I believe that You were buried and rose from the dead. I need You to save me. Please come into my heart and save me right now. I turn from my life and turn to You as the only way of salvation. Thank You, Jesus for saving me. Amen.
Other hubs about Christian Meditation: