Keating, Kundalini and Contemplative Prayer


By Brian Flynn

The class began with a meditation exercise that we were to practice everyday when we awoke and again each evening. Elinor instructed us to sit with our feet firmly on the ground and to close our eyes. She then asked us to imagine roots or cords extending from the soles of our feet down into the earth. She said to imagine going deeper and deeper to the light, with the heat and power of the earth below us. Her words flowed from one to another and had an almost hypnotic effect on me:

Once the cords reach a certain point, attach the cords to that power. Bring that energy up those roots, up through the soles of your feet, up your legs, and allow them to attach to the base of your spine to the first Chakra. You are now grounded in earth’s energy.

I finally felt I was heading in the right direction and tapping into a world and an energy that would give guidance and insight. Excerpt from Running Against the Wind.

During my years as a New Age medium, grounding myself was one of the first steps required to prepare my mind before performing psychic readings. It was from this series of meditative steps that I was able to hear from my spirit guides.  Who could have guessed that years later I would be warning Christians not to imitate this exact same practice?

After I was saved, many church leaders asked me if I would be willing to share my testimony and to offer an explanation of the New Age practices that I used to perform. At first I felt a little apprehensive because although I was involved in these practices personally, I actually knew very little about their origin. This led me to do extensive research on the movement I had left behind.

After several years of research on this topic, I was fortunate to have the chance to speak to Peter Jones who has authored many books on the occult. When I described the meditation process of what we called in class “running our energy” he explained that it was a form of a Kundalini meditation. I had never heard the word used to describe this practice before.

The Sanskrit word Kundalini means the curled one, and is also called Kundalini awakening or the awakening of the serpent. Practitioners describe it as a curled channel in the tailbone area. It can rise through the chakras (psychic centers situated along the spine from the tailbone to the top of the head), creating physical symptoms ranging from sensations of heat and tremors to involuntary laughing or crying, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, rigidity or limpness, and animal-like movements and sounds.

I considered myself fortunate to have never experienced the symptoms that are described above.  However, I never knew the reason why until recently. My publisher, Lighthouse Trails Publishing, received a letter from a woman who before becoming a Christian was practicing Kundalini. After reading my book, she offered an interesting insight as to why I did not experience any of the negative manifestations of the Kundalini awakening:

First and most startling, when Brian and his wife went to the spiritual coach, to learn to channel, they did a type of grounding exercise which they called “running their energy.”  This running of the energy is what saved them from possibly having a neurological crisis.  In other words, although the purpose of the class was nefarious, the technique was good!  The technique was to keep them “grounded” while they were flying off into the empyrean (the highest heaven) to contact spirits, for their protection.  Apparently it worked to this extent:  although they became subject to spirit guides, they did not become sick.

People who practice kundalini in America often become sick.  Because they are not grounded, for one thing, or if they are grounded, they push the exercise beyond where grounding can physically protect them.  When I had my kundalini awakening, I was not grounded and was not taught what it was at all.  So I became very sick.

I am not sure if my teacher knew that the grounding portion of the multiple steps to running our energy was to prevent the Kundalini effect or not. When I asked my teacher what were the origins of this practice she often danced around the question. She either did not know or refused to share that information. In either case, does it not seem odd that a spiritual practice whose purpose is to either bring harmony in one’s life or to feel closer to God would have a negative physical manifestation?

On a pro-contemplative spirituality web site, I came across the descriptions of those who had experienced the same effect while practicing contemplative prayer. Here is one example:

“I have been practicing Centering Prayer for 2 ½ years…. I began experiencing Kundalini-like symptoms three months after beginning the practice. They were quite intense at first. They have continued in various forms since then. Lately, I only experience them at the very beginning of prayer. I am not aware of any other moral manifestations. Father [Thomas] Keating advised me personally to ignore them if I could, and if they were too bothersome to “balance the energy” with physical exercise or a yoga practice.”—Gary

Thomas Keating

Is the practice of kundalini and contemplative prayer the same? Father Thomas Keating, who has inspired  many evangelical contemplatives like Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, and Brennan Manning, wrote the foreword to Philip St. Romain’s book, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality. In the forward, Keating acknowledges that kundalini is the same as Christian contemplation. He states:

Since this energy [kundalini] is also at work today in numerous persons who are devoting themselves to contemplative prayer, this book is an important contribution to the renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition. It will be a great consolation to those who have experienced physical symptoms arising from the awakening of kundalini in the course of their spiritual journey … Most spiritual disciplines world-wide insist on some kind of serious discipline before techniques of awakening kundalini are communicated. In Christian tradition … the regular practice of the stages of Christian prayer … contemplation are the essential disciplines…

Keating explains that the reason spiritual directors are needed is to help guide the Christian contemplative is because of the powerful and dangerous nature of kundalini. He says that these “spiritual directors” may need to consult with “Eastern teachers in order to get a fuller understanding.”

The disciples of Jesus Christ did not call upon Eastern teachers to guide them when praying to our Lord. Nor is there any warning in the Bible cautioning us about negative physical manifestations when engaging in simple Christian prayer.  For years, I have been telling my Christian brothers and sisters that contemplative prayer is an Eastern form of meditation. Finally, I have a contemplative who admits it to be so. And now that I know about Keating’s declaration that kundalini is the same as contemplative, Richard Foster’s statement makes more sense. In Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, he states:

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on the nature of the spiritual world, we do know … there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.… “All dark and evil spirits must now leave.”

I believe Foster made these comments because he was well aware that contemplative prayer could be dangerous because it is no different than kundalini. And yet in Celebration of Discipline (p. 13, 1978) he says “We should all without shame enroll in the school of contemplative prayer.”

The unfortunate outcome is that both Thomas Keating and Richard Foster continue to  endorse contemplative prayer and encourage others to engage in this un-biblical practice when they know good and well it can have detrimental effects.

How much more evidence do the leaders in our churches require before they repent of promoting this practice When Rick Warren stated in his first book, Purpose Driven Church that Foster’s spiritual formation was a wakeup call to the church, he gave the green light to millions to practice something that could potentially have long or permanent lasting damage on practitioners.

I pray fervently that my fellow Christians will return to the word of God for comfort and knowledge and that they will come to understand the true means of grace that our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. Please pray with me that this will come to pass.

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