Fr. Thomas Keating on NPR: Heresy as Mysticism

Saturday, December 24. I went to Keene, N.H. to run errands. On the way, I said a chaplet of the Rosary. While carrying out my errands and on the trip back, I clicked on the local NPR affiliate to see if there was any news worth hearing. It would have been better had I prayed more chaplets of the Rosary.

What I ended up hearing was a series of interviews on the very original theme of — hold your breath — science and religion. I’m not sure if the interviews were all carried out for the purpose of this show, or if the producers at NPR repurposed older material for it. The show featured interviews with various experts first on whether Albert Einstein actually believed in God, then on whether the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan really learned his brilliant mathematical formulae when a goddess wrote them on his tongue during dreams. There was a bit on Karl Jung’s theories of archetypes, as they applied to another scientific genius Jung was treating for depression. The whole show was itself quite depressing, featuring as it did a panorama of atheists, scientists, and scholars of religion giving their disparate and muddleheaded ideas on the divide between science and religion. (For Indians, like Ramanujan, we learned, science and religion are seen as harmonious, not opposed to one another. This was presented as profound and awe-inspiring, as if the same could not be said of all the great thinkers of Christendom. It was the Reformation and the Enlightenment that divided Western man’s mind, putting asunder what God joined together, namely, faith and reason.)

Toward the end, and out of character with the rest of the show, there was an interview with Father Thomas Keating, the 85-year-old Trappist who helped to create “centering prayer.” This is not an exact quote (I’m going from memory — and I was driving at the time), but he clearly said something very close to this: God is so immense that no one religion suffices to explain him. The comment was made in response to the interviewer’s question about whether or not Father Keating’s Christian notion of contemplative prayer is essentially the same as what Buddhists and others do. The response was, not surprisingly, in the affirmative. After all, the Trappist affirmed, it’s the “same God” that we are all trying to get to know by the contemplative experience — the same God, mind you, that Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians, theists and pantheists are all trying to know.

Of course, this is rank indifferentism.

Hearing Father Keating’s mystical heresies the day before Christmas made it all the more surreal. Buddhists don’t worship the Trinity, and Hindus don’t believe that God was born in Bethlehem, having become Man in the womb of the Virgin Mary nine months before. Whatever pantheism may claim to offer by way of man becoming “deified,” it differs in kind from the Christian notion of sanctity, even at the merely theoretical level. This is aside from the fact that false religion cannot actually effect the union of God and man. Just as several commentators noted in the earlier segment concerning Einstein’s analogous usage of the word god, we must state that Buddhism and Hinduism do not posit belief in God at all.

Father Keating went on to explain how limited we are in approaching the ineffable mystery of God. Had he left it at that, he would have made a valid point that all sound theology acknowledges. But instead, he left out the inerrancy of Christian revelation, its truth and definitive character, and ended up putting Christianity on the same level with all other efforts to attain to union with the transcendent.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Father Keating participates in “Monastic Interreligious Dialogue,”  an effort that brings together Benedictine and Trappist religious with “contemplative practitioners of diverse religious traditions,” including non-Christian ascetics like the Dalai Lama and various Hindu gurus.

Such a “dialogue” is what brought “centering prayer” into existence in the first place.1

The next morning, as I was meditating on the liturgical propers for the Mass at Dawn, I could not help but note how authentic Christian mysticism comes from those revealed truths that we have “seen and heard” — those same mysteries we encounter in the Mass, and that the Most Holy Virgin pondered in Her Immaculate Heart. The religion of Father Keating has gotten away from this beautifully incarnate reality narrated to us by Saint Luke:

At that time the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. And they came with haste and they found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger. And seeing they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this Child. And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

  1. In the mid-seventies, Trappist Abbot Thomas Keating asked the monks, “Could we put the Christian tradition into a form that would be accessible to people . . . who have been instructed in an Eastern technique and might be inspired to return to their Christian roots if they knew there was something similar in the Christian tradition?” (Intimacy with God, 15). Frs. William Menniger and M. Basil Pennington took up the challenge, and centering prayer is the result. In a few short years it has spread all over the world.

    Centering prayer originated in St. Joseph’s Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts. During the twenty years (1961–1981) when Keating was abbot, St. Joseph’s held dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu representatives, and a Zen master gave a week-long retreat to the monks. A former Trappist monk who had become a Transcendental Meditation teacher also gave a session to the monks. (From “The Danger of Centering Prayer” by John Dreher)

  • Babysaver

    I think you mean “theme” not “them” in the second paragraph, second line.

  • Justin

    Back when I was transitioning from Buddhism to Catholicism I was reading stuff by Keating and his ilk like John Main since that was all that was in the libraries around here.It must have been through grace because once I started looking into things like the Rosary and reading real Catholic theology I had to drop Keating and company and their ideas.

    One thing worth pondering is just how shallow the faith of some of these Trappists must have been for them to essentially go from the solid Catholic practice of Mental Prayer as shown in Dom Vitaly Lehodey’s book to the pseudo Hindu pantheism of Centering Prayer in a mere matter of decades after Vatican II. Do you think Thomas Mertons popularity and vocal sympathies for Hinduism, Buddhism etc helped destroy the Trappists?

    This piece reminds me of why I do not listen to the radio or watch TV anymore…

  • Thanks Babysaver. I fixed it.

  • L.M.

    I think you mean “indifferentism” not “inidifferentism” in your shortest one-sentence paragraph.

  • Thank you, L.M. I fixed the typo.

  • Steveessner

    Br. Andre Marie,
    I would not be too sure of myself if I were you.  We are wrong sometimes.  I think that Fr Keating is pretty much on track.  But I have been wrong before.

  • Daisytoo

    Thomas Keating’s endeavor to bring back Christians who had become enamored by Eastern religious traditions to our Christian roots worked for me. I’d been long gone from the Catholic Church but through many miracles – which Fr. Keating always appeared in an integral way – I’ve gratefully returned to the Church. I love contemplative prayer – and only wish that my truly kind, albeit wordy, priest would cut short his Sunday sermon long enough so that I could have some time to pray contemplatively w/my fellow parishioners every Sunday. Finally, everything else could fall away; I’m there for the Eucharist. And I love and practice contemplative prayer.

  • FCap

    Hi there. I’m a Protestant, but I came across this post regarding Keating. I find it interesting and disheartening. I love much of his work, but agree with you: a lot of what he said (and others like Nouwen) were heretical and unorthodox, refusing to place Christ “at the center” not only of our own spirit but of the world. I feel that centering prayer only works if you are centered in Christ, yes, but if Christ is also made the center, as He has been in the Scriptures and in much of the history of the Church. I think God can use Keating and others like him to bring people to Jesus Christ while, at the same time, condemning the heretical conclusions these teachers come to. God the Father can do anything and will use anyone to call people to His Son. Unfortunately, people often can’t differentiate between the method through which God works and the Truth itself. I’m reading Jeanne Guyon’s “Exploring the Depths of Jesus Christ” and I recommend this book, rather than Keating’s, because she keeps Christ as the center of our worship, prayer, and contemplation and keeps a distinct line between those who belong to God and have His Spirit, and those who are in the world. Thanks for the article.

  • Philip

    Interesting… I googled Fr. Thomas Keating for his kind and compassionate words and this diatribe showed up. It immediately made me think of the fundamentalist group ISIS and how unbending it is to any and all deviations from its core belief structure… Religion — giving people hope in a world torn apart by religion. They inflict their rigid belief structure by smashing the image down, you inflict your rigid belief structure by building the Virgin Mary image up. You didn’t have to listen to the program, could have changed the channel. But I am powerless to turn off or even lower the volume on the cacophony of mindless hymns inflicted into my home by a blaring campanile from a nearby evangelical Lutheran church.

  • Alyosha Karamazov

    But who are you to judge, right?

    I find that the my-karma-ran-over-my-dogma types are often the most declamatory against other people’s religious beliefs.

    Oh, and if someone actually considers his “belief structure” to be true because revealed by God, is it not at least intellectually consistent to be “unbending … to any and all deviations” therefrom?

    On the other hand, to go on a diatribe against someone for going on a diatribe seems, well, hypocritical.

    And the ISIS comparison… sweet! I’m so glad you avoided the worn out old associations with Nazism and the Taliban. That was very kind and compassionate of you.

  • John Haggerty

    Br Andre Martin has been ‘charmed’ by Father Keating. I mean ‘charmed’ in the Irish sense. Deceived. Under an occult spell. We are all Christians, aren’t we? Our historic Christianity joins us to the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed through the Holy Spirit and the church, through the canonical Scriptures and through the teaching of the early and later fathers of the church. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, exposed the ‘false Christs’ (St Paul’s words) of Gnosticism in his seminal work, Against Heresies (181-189) . Irenaeus was close to Polycarp and the elders of Asia Minor; he was the most informed churchman of his time regarding the true Christian revelation. Father Keating is well-intentioned. But he reminds me of the words of an Oratory father I knew years ago in Birmingham, England – John Henry Newman’s Oratory. Father Phillip would say of someone ‘Oh, lovely man. But no brains.’ Father Keating has no brains. And if he knew any doctrine it has been smothered long ago under a welter of Eastern mysticism. (Yes, I have watched all his talks on YouTube and I am appalled at the winsome nonsense he talks and babbles.) Does this make me sound ‘narrow’? Then I am reminded of the lady who told the great Protestant preacher Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones that the Gospel he was preaching was too narrow. ‘Madam,’ he said, ‘the narrowness of the Gospel is the narrowness of God.’ Precisely. Os Guinness, an Evangelical and a friend of the Catholic Church, exposed the dangers of mysticism in his prophetic book The Dust of Death. Read it. Os wrote of the fatal embrace of Eastern thinking. Dr Peter Jones, a systematic theologian, published a book titled Spirit Wars, warning us of the fatal drift towards Gnosticism in western societies. (The fashion for ‘gay marriage’ comes from gnostic spirituality and a gnostic view of sexuality.) Read an informed online essay, Apostasy Alert -Thomas Merton: The Contemplative Dark Thread. I think we all read Merton in our youth and then saw through him . The ‘blackness of darkness’ is his legacy. New Age Christianity is a Trojan horse. It is rooted in shamanism and magical thinking. It morphs with false meditation techniques. It is profoundly antichrist. Read my comments on Busted Halo – Can I be spiritual without going to church?

  • John Haggerty

    My apologies, Brother Andre. I meant to write that Steveessner has been ‘charmed’ by Father Keating. I agree with every word that YOU have written in the above essay. Keating is indeed anti-incarnational. But of course he will smile his charming smile and say he is not. Like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, Keating makes words have any meaning he wants them to have. As I said, nice man, no brains.

  • John Haggerty

    On a YouTube talk, ‘Spiritual But Not Religious?’ Father Keating says: ‘Faith precedes belief systems…Faith is the consent or surrender to the divine reality … to the ultimate reality or whatever his name is.’ Anyone taken in by this old humbug ought to read ‘A Faith To Live By’ written by Donald Macleod former principal of the Free Church College, Edinburgh. Professor Macleod is a first-rate systematic theologian. We need real Christian doctrine and Bible-centred worhsip not mysticism.

  • That’s OK, John. I figured there was a mixup. Not a problem.

    Thank you for your comments on this posting.

  • John Haggerty

    Oh, Philip, no one on this site enjoys making a critique of Father Keating’s ideas. As for his compassion, only God can see into his heart. Don’t let your sentimentality delude you. Some of us believe he has lost his way. We believe in the centrality of sound Catholic doctrine. Doctrine is the backbone of faith. The early church fathers fought the good fight of faith against heresies such as Arianism. Their weapons were prayer, sound Scriptural teaching and living Christ-centred lives. Fidelity and not fundamentalism was their way. They were nothing like Isis, nor are we, Philip. There is a site on YouTube called Defeating Modernism. I hope you get something out of it. You may be interested to know that liberal Protestant churches lost their way in the late 19th and 20 Centuries. What did men who loved Christ do? They reminded the liberals of the sound teaching of the Puritan preachers like John Owen and Richard Sibbes and George Whitefield. Samuel Rutherford believed Christ was never given anything like the glory and honour He deserved. He debated fiercely but always with love for souls. ‘Christ cannot be set too high,’ Rutherford said again and again. That is why Scripture speaks of ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’. Even in Heaven we will never come to the end of those riches. Saint Therese of Lisieux said Satan makes one final assault on us as we face death. We must prepare for this now by going to Christ. That is always the Christian’s answer to the assaults of the devil – we go to Christ. Father Keating has dishonoured Christ by his remarks.

  • John Haggerty

    You say God can use Keating to bring people to a true knowledge of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. But that at the same time (if I follow what you are saying) God will condemn Keating’s ‘false conclusions’. I need to convince you that Keating’s teaching is false and rotten at its very foundations. God cannot work through such a man. God cannot be untrue to Himself. Many churches today, Catholic and Protestant, are filled with every filthy demon. Spiritualism, ideas borrowed from Freemasonry, pseudo-occult practises such as being ‘slain in the spirit’ or rolling around on the floor babbling in strange tongues – you will find all this spiritual fornication and more. On YouTube I saw the neo-Hindu antichrist Sri Chinmoy Ghose leading a prayer meeting in a Swiss monastery. He stood beside the altar under the crucifix and led nuns and lay Catholics in prayer. Only it wasn’t a prayer. It was blasphemy. Ghose claimed he was the world’s greatest living ‘avatar’ and that he possessed ‘God consciousness’. He said he could look into the souls of his disciples and see their ‘previous lives’. He said (in a book) that ‘Jesus laughs when his followers say he is the only way to God because there are many sons of God’. Chinmoy Ghose ran a sex ring within his ‘meditation groups’ and raped many young women over the course of years, swearing them to silence. An official document of the Second Vatican Council says that Hindus can achieve ‘perfect union’ with God. (Is it any wonder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre said the Church was in a state of apostasy?) No surprise, then, that the late Chinmoy Ghose was received by Pope Paul VI and John Paul II. Paul said ‘We will meet in Heaven. John Paul said ‘I bless your divine work.’ The Popes were badly advised by their own theologians to say the least. Keating is promoting the image of the ‘third eye’ which Chinmoy Ghose also promoted. It rests on the evil idea that we humans are divine in our essential nature, rather than the fallen children of Adam ‘dead in trespasses and sins’. It is exactly what Satan wants us to think. Paul said he was not ashamed of the Gospel. ‘If we or an angel from Heaven preach another Gospel than the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.’

  • John Haggerty

    Please let no one despair by my remarks. GK Chesterton said ‘Three times the faith went to the dogs and each time it was the dog that died.’

  • John Haggerty

    I am delighted you are running the advertisement for Hilaire Belloc’s books. It is my shame that I have only read six or seven of his prose works, though I still go to his poems. Even his book on John Milton has that Bellocian touch that made his work special. Then there is The Path to Rome, with his love of Italy and its beautiful Catholic churches, and his account of sailing his wooden ‘cutter’; books that feel like going on a pilgrimage. Please could you also advertise the books of Chesterton, Frank and Maisie Ward, Meriol Trevor, Father Ronald Knox etc? My late father had these writers on his book shelves from the old Catholic Book Club. I am reading Evelyn Waugh’s biographies of Edmund Campion and Ronald Knox, republished in a single volume by Continuum. Why don’t we start Catholic book clubs in our parishes where prayer and sound doctrinal teaching can be nurtured? T

  • John Haggerty

    If you want to hear ‘shallow’ Justin, listen to Father Richard Rohr on Summary of the Emerging Church (YouTube). ‘The emerging church question,’ he says, ‘is what are you in love with? What have you fallen in love with? What do you believe? Not who’s going to hell. But what is the heaven I have discovered?’ Our sinless Saviour, Jesus Christ, purchased our salvation by becoming sin for us, through the perfect sacrifice of Calvary. But the New Age emerging church is ‘what heaven have I discovered for me, myself and my needs’. In her vision of hell, the Polish saint Faustina Kowalski said she recognized real people she had known from the past. These damned souls were surprised to find themselves in hell. People just like me, I should imagine.

  • Charlie Mc

    I am a newcomer to this conversation. I lived as a monk in Dom Thomas Keating’s monastery and I believe we knew each other very well and have continued corresponding since I returned to secular life in 1968. All I have to say is that you do not know the man. Thomas Keating is one of the holiest men in the world and is a close friend to Popes, the Dalai Lama, to Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim scholars and teachers of prayer and recognized by them all as a wise, friend to them all, as I imagine Jesus would have been to other genuinely wise and holy men in his time on earth. It was not those men who put Jesus to death on the cross, but so called religious leaders who had considered themselves to be in a religion which believed “Nulla salvatio extra (my) ecclesiae” Jesus , incarnate God, said “The kingdom of God is WITHIN you. Believe this ‘good news'”
    To think that Jesus’ message was meant to be exclusive rather than inclusive is not true. Thomas Heating is not a heretic any more than Jesus was not a heretic, although he was considered such by Jewish religious leaders. Please read, “The Common Heart”(2006).

  • Charlie Mc: I think that your comments have helped to confirm the position in my original posting. Dom Thomas Keating is an indifferentist, by which I mean that he thinks one religion just as valid as another to help a man to become holy and (therefore) saved. I believe you and I are in agreement that such is Dom Thomas’ position. Where we part ways is when I point out that this position you both hold is actually heretical, is not what Jesus taught, and has no resemblance to the Catholic religion.

    Your claim that Jesus was condemned to death by people who believed that their religion was exclusively true and salvific — even if true — has no particular relevance, since Jesus Himself clearly believed that of what He Himself taught. Consider, for instance, His utterances: “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins”; “no man comes to the Father but by me”; “All those who are of the truth hear my voice”; “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”

  • Charlie Mc

    Brother Andre Marie: Have you read Father Raymond E. Brown”s “Introduction to the New Testament’, or J.P.Meier’s “A Marginal Jew”. If you consider them heretic’s, then you may (wrongfully I maintain) consider me one. To be fixed in an understanding that all quotes ascribed to Jesus as verbatim must be taken literally is to persist in using the sacred scriptures in such a way, even the Church now teaches is no longer acceptable. The authors of the Gospels interpreted Jesus’ life and teachings in a way that fit the needs of their readers, in a language they would understand but not as a videotape recording of the actual words of Jesus. Dom Thomas Keating, Pope Francis, and Pope John XXXIII, all appear to be breaking with some long held traditions when they opened the windows of the Church to both let the Holy Spirit in and to go out to the world “catholic”, i.e., “universal. To hold to “nulla salvatio extra Ecclesiae” is to keep the windows shut. It can get very stuffy that way.

  • Charlie Mc: There is a certain consistency to your position. Having dismissed the obligation to believe infallible pronouncements of the Solemn Magisterium, it makes sense to go the whole hog and blithely dismiss the scriptural utterances of the Incarnate Word Himself.

    The new religion shuns certitude, and enjoys a sort of comfortable vagary in the arena of faith.

    Father Raymond Brown was a Modernist. Ultimately, he denied Biblical Inerrancy, as most modern biblicists do. Catholic theologians have always argued from Scripture, as if its words were inspired and inerrant. True, they would interpret in different senses, but dogma has to be based on the literal sense of Scripture (as well as on Apostolic Tradition), which is the sense that has been most undermined by modernist scholarship.

    Your opening and shutting of windows metaphor — very tired old 1960s sloganism that should have died out with bell-bottoms and lava lamps — leaves something important out. The Church has the Holy Ghost as her very Soul. He did not need to be “let in,” except inasmuch as individual Catholics need to be more receptive to His Grace. The “airing out” that has been done during these times of ecclesiastical revolution has let a lot into the Church, for sure, but the new air of Dom Keating, Father Brown and company is as spiritually toxic as it is malodorous.

  • Charlie Mc

    I thank you for the preceding attempts at dialogue but I feel your condemnations of Dom Keating, Thomas Merton, Pope John XXIII, Pope Francis and others who believe and think as I do, help me to realize the closed mindedness of you and a multitude of those sharing your thoughts and the nearly impossible challenge to attempts at real dialogue. I add a prayer for you but also believe that you shall be greatly amazed at how unfortunately inadequate has been your estimation of the numbers and kinds of those receiving “salvation” into the Kingdom of God.I do not wish to pass “judgement” on you but it seems the log is in your eye, but it may only be apparent.

  • Charlie Mc: Having said nothing of Pope John XXIII or Pope Francis, I take exception to your accusing me of “condemning” them.

    Your arguments are very subjectivist, which does not surprise me, since your religion is.

    If you don’t want to pass judgment on me, then don’t. And please do not say you don’t want to before proceeding to do so, especially if you are going to use the words of the Gospels, which, as you say, “fit the needs of their readers, in a language they would understand but not as a videotape recording of the actual words of Jesus.”

    Since, lacking the videotape, you cannot know His actual words, shouldn’t you avoid trying to use them?

  • Sally MacPherson

    Yes of course you can be spiritual without going to Church. Jesus was! Get a reality check!

  • GeneDe

    I am really curious what you mean by: “Yes of course you can be spiritual without going to Church. …”
    Is it that you mean you are somehow connected to the “spiritualness” of, let’s say, the Holy Spirit (the Holy Ghost)? If not, then what “spirit” are you reflecting on?
    Let us also remember that Jesus (Our Lord) founded a Church. Further, He said that the gates of hell will not prevail against her.
    Are you saying that you have the Holy Spirit in your life without being in the Church that Christ founded?
    I know a few women who told me that they don’t believe in “organized religion”, but considered themselves “spiritual.”

    I would appreciate any info you may pass on to me… God bless and Merry (Mary) Christmas.

  • Thomas J. Hennigan

    The ancient expression: “Exra ecclesia nulla salus” is still true, but it must be properly understood.

  • Thomas J. Hennigan

    The quest for the historical Jesus is fine in its own context. Howeer, whether some expression attributed to Jesus in the Gosepel was literally said by him or not is a rather secondary matter. If it is in the Gospel, then it is part of the inspired Word of God. Modern exegetical methods can be helpful to interpret the Gospel, they don’t have the last word. Terruallian stated that the Bible was given to the Church an it belongs to her, so that in the final analysis, it is to be intreperted in accordance with the Tradition of the Ghurch. See what Vatican II’s Dei Verbum has to say about Scriipture and Tradition.

  • GeneDe

    “Dialogue”? Hmmm… dialogue for? What does “dialogue” mean to you? I suggest that true “dialogue” would lead to true ecumenism, that is, getting non-Catholics to come into the Church, right? Or… is there another reason for “dialogue”? Seems to me that the modernists version of dialogue results in nothing, status quo, period. Again, what does “dialogue” mean to you??

  • As must every dogma of the Church, of which extra ecclesiam nulla salus is one.

  • Joanie

    How very silly! Of course Jesus went to “church.” He was presented in the Temple as an infant and taught in the synagogue (the Jewish “church”). Read your Bible Sally.

  • Jeff Olson

    Charlie Mc: I am a year late to the party here, but what wonderful words you have to guide and inspire. Thank you, thank you.

  • Christina Howard

    Just as another stated above, I stumbled across the centering prayer by Keating & found this blog. In my youth I searched for truth and came across Buddhism, which helped explain some truths to me from a different perspective & actually brought me back to Christ. Ultimately, much like I shunned the Christian “truth” of who’s going to hell, I also instinctively shunned the Buddhist “truth” of our innate God-ness vs. sinfulness. I admit in these days it is very hard to decipher truth. However, hate speak certainly turns everyone away. I believe that the fruit bears witness most of all to the inner workings of the heart. It is hard to imagine that it would be so hard to find heaven in the end, yet people just like me may also be found there, surprisingly.

  • Christina Howard

    I also wish that the “moment” of silence was cherished more & given more space. It seems sorely needed by everyone in our “modern” world.

  • Nadine Strick

    I have practiced meditation with techniques derived from Christian, Buddhist, and Yogic traditions. Most of the techniques are physical and neurological, and become spiritual when an intention or object of contemplation is introduced. As a Catholic, I reject any practices that include dogma from other religions that are counter to the Church’s teachings, and as a student of human rights and history i also reject any religious teaching that is used to reify discrimination and hatred. I believe Father John Keating’s words, while shocking to some religious adherents of many faiths, are in keeping with many of the Popes’ and Saints’ teachings. Here are some examples, linked below, of what I believe allow many people to accept Father John Keating’s teachings, at least those that focus on practices.

  • Nadine Strick

    I apologize, I meant Thomas Keating not John. I am writing this while muddle headed from pneumonia, so please consider forgiving my error.

  • JaneD

    One question ….. Has the official Church condemned Thomas Keating and other Contemplatives or at least sanctioned them? If not, why not.

  • Miriam

    Brother Andre Marie,

    Thank you so much for explaining Fr Keating’s heresy clearly! Thank you, too, for your reasoned, measured and very charitable exchange with Charlie Mc! I agree with all you have said.
    I am particularly grateful to you because a protestant friend and I are currently discussing centering prayer. My friend has been reading Fr Keating. I explained that much of his work is considered heretical by the Catholic Church. I also explained how centering prayer is based on eastern mysticism and is dangerous to Christians; and I have been trying to show that the meditation and contemplation which has existed in the Catholic Church from the beginning is what she is seeking. My friend tells me that her experience of centering prayer has brought her peace and ‘good fruit.’ I have tried to show her that in using centering prayer, she christianized it by using the name of Jesus Christ as her ‘sacred word’ and that could be why she has experienced benefit. How may I help her to let go of this inferior and dangerous practice? Thank you and God bless you!

  • donsalmon

    It’s perfect possible to hold the belief that Christianity is infinitely superior to any and all possible religions (I don’t hold that belief, but it is possible) and say, “We all worship the same God.”

    We don’t worship God in the same way, that’s all. Christian understanding of God is infinitely superior to all others; Christians have infinitely superior scriptures, theology, teachings, priests, members, etc. The Jews, Hindus, Sufis, etc have an infinitely inferior understanding of God, have impoverished scriptures, are themselves infinitely inferior to even the lowliest Christian.

    You see? Keating’s comment holds, and in the interpretation I gave above, doesn’t remotely come close to “indifferentism.”

    Do you think the formulation I gave is too extreme? Every time I stopped over to Barnes and Noble or Starbucks near Bob Jones University during the years I lived in Greenville, SC (which was at least once a month), I heard exactly those thoughts (if you could call them thoughts – they’re really “passions” in the 3rd century Desert Fathers’ sense) from BJU students.

    It really makes it clear why Father Keating’s efforts at interfaith dialog are so essential for the 21st century.

  • Miriam, if you are still looking for help, I have a blog dedicated to teaching people about the errors of Centering Prayer. You may find the Quick Questions page especially helpful. Please note that some people call their practice Centering Prayer when they are actually praying in a traditional manner. But if they are practicing what Fr. Keating teaches, you are right that it is not prayer.

  • Garrett Taylor

    “Doctrine is the backbone of faith” reminds me of two things. First, how long it took the church doctrine to include Galileo’s realizations, and second, the difference between genius and stupidity. Genius has a limit.

  • Barbara Drees Herr McCann

    My understanding is that centering prayer, meditation, contemplation, etc was used by the Desert fathers before the Romans took over and turned our Catholicism into power, rules, regs, land acquisitions, etc. To take the Bible literally is the lowest form of thought, as we accuse our fundamentalist brothers and sisters of doing. The Trinity is my love and stronghold. Jesus preached love and inclusion. There is room for everybody!!!!!!!

  • Dear Barbara,

    Pax Christi. Your understanding is a grave MISunderstanding. “Centering prayer” as devised by Fathers Keating, et alia., has no basis in Christian tradition. It was an effort to baptize Transcendental Meditation, which was, itself, an effort to secularize pantheistic oriental practices like Zen and Yoga.

    The mediation and contemplation of the Christian tradition, in the desert Fathers, the early monastics, the medieval monks and mendicants, the counterreformation Jesuits and Carmelites, etc., while diverse in their various schools, held certain essentials which were dramatically different from the modernist influenced stuff of Spencer Abbey.

    Regarding the Romans turning Catholicism into “power, rules, regs, land acquisitions, etc.,” perhaps it would do you some good to read about Pope Saint Gregory the Great, or his predecessor, Saint Leo the Great, or Saint Benedict himself, who was very “Roman.” This is fake history.

    “To take the Bible literally is the lowest form of thought…” That is a gratuitous statement based upon nothing. I suggest you read up on the Quadraga, the four ways of reading Holy Scripture according to the literal, allegorical, tropological, and anagogical senses:

    This study is very illuminating and traditional as well as very anti-modernist.

    Yes, there is room for everybody in the Church, so long as they are willing to accept God’s truth and set aside error.