EXPLORATIONS IN CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUALITY
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Below are referrals to a few hand-picked sites that, in our opinion, either provide reliable sources of religious information or embody the principles of authentic spirituality. We point people in the direction of experiential spiritual realization, and we shun teachings that fall short of this goal. Stay tuned for updates.
- John Roger Barrie
For Christian mystical practices, we recommend that you contact your pastor (if Protestant) or parish priest (if Catholic). If they cannot prescribe a contemplative regimen for you, try contacting the Benedictines, Carthusians, or Trappists, or one of the Orthodox branches that actively teaches The Jesus Prayer.
We steer away from recommending megachurches, televangelists and megavangelists. Many, but not all, are slick marketers who profiteer by selling the commodity of Christ. Many instill dogma and beliefs into their followers but provide no means for, "the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God" (from Fr. Meninger's website). Follow Jesus instead. And take up contemplative prayer.
In 1974 Father William Meninger revived the practice of Christian (Catholic) contemplative meditation and founded the Contemplative Prayer (centering prayer) movement. Contacts for local Contemplative Prayer groups are listed below. Along with Fr. Meninger, the chief proponents of the Contemplative Prayer movement include Trappist monks Thomas Keating, the late Basil Pennington, and Carl Arico.
In 1975 Father John Main initiated Christian contemplation at his Benedictine monastery in London. Thus began a global spiritual network known as The World Community for Christian Meditation, now directed by Father Laurence Freeman.
The Benedictines [a contemplative Catholic order]
The Carthusians [a contemplative Catholic order]
Centering Prayer resources [compiled by Contemplative Outreach of Northern California]
Contemplative Outreach [Father Thomas Keating's website]
Contemplative (Centering) Prayer [Father William Meninger's website]
Glide Memorial Church [Although I'm not aware of any mystical practices promoted by
this legendary San Francisco-based Methodist Church, founded by Rev. Cecil
Williams, I have rarely seen a more stunning example of Christian principles in action.]
Orthodox Prayer resources [This link provides an excellent compendium of information on
Orthodox Christian prayer. The only drawback is its staunch anti-ecumenical stand.]
The Trappists [Also known as the Cistercians. Think Thomas Merton.]
Coming as soon as we can get to it!
Hinduism, as with Christianity, has seen its share of questionable teachers. The one movement that we highly recommend is the Ramakrishna Order, named after Sri Ramakrishna (d. 1886), which promotes the Vedanta philosophy. Managed by educated, respected Hindu monastics who maintain an impeccable degree of integrity, they also serve as ministers of its various centers located throughout the world.
We generally shun referrals to hatha yoga teachers. Hatha yoga is a relatively superficial practice that focuses too much on the body. Practice deeper meditation techniques and transcend all identification with the body.
Ramakrishna Order [the main center in India]
Ramakrishna Order - U.S. Centers [includes ten U.S. states]
Ramana Maharshi [d. 1950. One of the great Hindu adepts of the 20th century]
Ramana Maharshi - Worldwide Centers [includes one authorized center in New York]
Sri Karunamayi [Although we withhold comment on her claims to divinity, of the many
"Divine Mothers" on the contemporary spiritual scene, we like Karunamayi's teachings,
which espouse authentic spirituality, and represent the heart of the Hindu tradition.
She does not infantilize her disciples but empowers them.]
Swami Ramdas [d. 1963. Not to be confused with the American Baba Ram Dass]
Swami Sivananda [d. 1963. Swami Sivananda was a prolific author and indefatigable
teacher. Focus less on his (and his disciples') hatha yoga teachings and more on his
spiritual teachings in order to reap the most benefit.]
The inner or mystical element within Islam is Sufism, one of history's most beautiful spiritual traditions. But not without controversy. Some hold that Sufism existed before Islam, while purists maintain that Sufism developed after the birth of Mohammed. Some believe that Sufism can be practiced apart from Islam, while the traditional view asserts that one must first be a Muslim before they can become a Sufi.
There are several Sufi traditions originating from India, Iran, Turkey, and other African and Middle Eastern nations that have active communities within the United States. There are also several modern traditions that partake of elements of Sufism. Because of the controversy and politics often involved, we refrain from making recommendations to particular Sufi groups. By the same token, if you find a genuine Sufi master who stems from a legitimate lineage, the spiritual power carried in their transmission can be overwhelming.
We rarely see compromised lineages within the Jewish tradition because of the rigid rules needed to obtain ordination. A disreputable rabbi would rarely survive because of cultural ostracism. A few renewal teachers promote Jewish mystical meditation, which is often based on, yet is somewhat distinct from the more well-known Kabbalah teachings.
Chochmat HaLev [a center for Jewish meditation directed by Rabbi Avram Davis]
Rabbi David Cooper [Rabbi Cooper incorporates eclecticism into this teachings]
Rabbi Avram Davis [Rabbi Davis studied with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and Rabbi
Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, among others]
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone [Rabbi Firestone studied with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi]
Rabbi Steven Fisdel [more of an emphasis on the Kabbalah than other teachers we list]
Jewish mystical teachings]
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi [the founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement, a
pioneer in ecumenism, and one of America's preeminent spiritual teachers]
Westerners sometimes equate Chinese mysticism with the martial-arts practices of Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. While these practices help to cultivate energy, increase vitality, and improve health, they rarely promote spiritual enlightenment. It is the internal Qi Gong and Taoist meditation practices you want to target. Or take up a combination of martial-arts practices and internal-meditation techniques.
It is nearly impossible to find a genuine Taoist master. Most are invisible and anonymous; these traits indicate they have mastered the deeper Taoist teachings. Read the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu to glimpse what is essentially ungraspable. True Taoism is about blending, flowing, and being. It cannot be analyzed; only experienced.
Taoism Directory [a directory of links related to Taoism]
Taoism Info [brief, knowledgeable discussions on Taoism]
Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego [some insightful articles on Taoism and Taoist meditation]
Way of Perfect Emptiness [Taoist teachings by the enigmatic Master Wu]
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EXPLORATIONS IN CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUALITY
Copyright 2006-2016 The Barrie Family Trust. All Rights Reserved.
Last Update: October 30, 2016