"I've had all I can stand and I can'ts stands no more!" - Popeye
A few years back after I wrote an article for Youthworker Journal called "Desert Youth Worker: Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life". In it, I shared my journey with the classic spiritual disciplines and my experimentation with forms of contemplative prayer. In that article, I wrote the following paragraph:
"I started using the phrase "listening prayer" when I talked about my own experiences in meditation. I built myself a prayer room—a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine monks. I meditated for hours on words, images, and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns, the state in which dreams occur, while still awake and meditating."
Shortly after its publication, the editor warned me that the Lighthouse Trails Research Project would be contacting me. Youthworker Journal has a policy to forward complaints (as well as praise) to the writers of the offending or inspiring piece. Later that day I received an email calling me to repentance from my New Age practice of contemplative prayer. The email included a lengthy attachment which outlined the history of this insidious practice as well as a list of the nefarious hooligans who engaged in it. I was already familiar with the history of it, as it had been one sentence in my Christian history text regarding Christian mystics which had sent me running after class to the library to dig further and find out more on the subject. I'd been reading the works of these mystics for nearly 10 years, so my response to the document was to kindly thank Lighthouse Trails for pointing me in the direction of a few books I hadn't read on the subject, as well as a plethora of quotes by some of my favorite Christian writers.
Lighthouse Trails then granted me online notoriety by placing the above quote on one of their web pages, denouncing Youth Specialties (the publisher of Youthworker Journal), YS President Mark Oestreicher and of course, yours truly. Lighthouse Trails (which I will henceforth simply refer to as LT for simplicity) would later collectively decry Richard Foster and myself, and in a bold and daring move, use a different quote than the one above.
I say it's a bold and daring move, because I've discovered since then, if you google my full name, you will get the following links which all utilize the same quote about alpha patterns...over...and over...and over again.
Christian Answers for the New Age
Let Us Reason
Contemplative Spiritual Formation
One Truth Ministries
The No Goofy Zone Discerment Ministry ...no, seriously, that's really what it's called.
NC Bible Church - A PDF document...my heresy is on page 36. To their credit, they actually seem to have read my article, as opposed to copying and pasting LT's conclusions.
Christian Worldview Network
And my favorite, Parenting With Purpose, which calls me a leader of the Emergent Church movement. I get a kick out of the way I'm presented on these sites; it sounds like I go for coffee with Rick Warren (check out page 32 of this document to see how Rick and I are co-conspirators in this New Age plot), Richard Foster, Len Sweet and Brian McLaren on a regular basis. Don't I wish. These groups are so dedicated to stamping out contemplative prayer practices that they'll translate me into German, just to make sure I don't pollute any of my Deutsch brothers and sisters.
And while the document is no longer online, I am terribly fond of the one which called me a "New Age Christian to Beware Of" as it lumped me in with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. That's never going to happen again, I'm sure...
As if all that weren't enough, I came across this review of Ray Yungen's book, "A Time of Departing" over at the Ooze.com, where Sam Blair noted that Mr. Yungen "reserves his deepest criticism for Youth Specialties writer Mike Perschon, who described his own interest and involvement with meditation. At one point Yungen notes that Perschon describes his meditation as being able to achieve “alpha brain patterns (p176)”, a sort of lucid dreaming state. Yungen equates this alpha state with a kind of “alpha consciousness” described by Laurie Cabot, a Wiccan." I was curious, and wanted to see exactly what Ray had written about me, so I ordered his book from Indigo.com. Sam had summed it up nicely, but I think it can be stated a little stronger. Ray implies I practice witchcraft. Or at least, that's what I infer from page 177 of the book where he writes:
"Many of those involved in the emergent movement would cry out in protest, "Now, wait a minute--Perschon is not into witchcraft. He is a devoted Christian trying to walk deeply with the Lord. He hates anything to do with darkness or the occult. How dare you compare him with Laurie Cabot!" But Cabot, in one of her statements, makes the very point of my whole book when she says:
'Mystics in every religious tradition speak of alpha states of consciousness and the lure of Divine Light, although they do so in their own metaphors and images.'"
(Yungen 177, italics mine)
There you have it. Because Laurie and I use the term alpha states/waves/patterns, I am Wiccan. Or maybe she's Christian? Hmmm...
The irony here is that Yungen drives home his point with a Wiccan definition of Alpha patterns. It's the very thing he crucifies people for throughout his book, namely that they quote someone Yungen defines as being part of the New Age movement. It's guilt by association.
Now if Mr. Yungen had really wanted to pin me down, he wouldn't have to use Laurie (I like to use her first name, as we ostensibly belong to the same coven) to do it. After all, I love Harry Potter, play games like Dungeons and Dragons, and have had my tarot cards read by an actual witch!
I must confess, I was rather excited to find out that I'm a witch. Or a wizard. Whatever. But it's already halfway through September and I still haven't received my invitation to study at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I'll admit, I'm a little disappointed. I was really looking forward to buying a wand at Ollivander's...