There is a long tradition of Christian meditation stretching all the way back to the early church. Sometimes it is called “contemplative prayer” or “recollection”. One of the most famous forms, developed by the desert fathers of the third century AD, is the Jesus Prayer of Eastern Hesychasm: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Simpler still is the repetition of the Holy Name of Jesus as a kind of mantra. In recent times, there has been a significant revival in Christian meditation, particularly through the work of Thomas Keating, who popularized the “Centering Prayer” and John Main, who re-introduced the mantra “Maranatha”.
Another important figure is Thomas Merton, who had a profound effect on my own prayer life. He was a Trappist monk who wrote eloquently about the Christian monastic life and calling, but who was also very interested in learning from other faith traditions, especially Zen Buddhism. One book I found particularly helpful is Zen and the Birds of Appetite, where he dissects with great skill and subtlety the human propensity to indulge the ego in spiritual materialism. A fourth important figure that deserves mention is the Benedictine monk Bede Griffiths (Swami Dayananda) who established a Christian ashram in South India where Christian practice is deeply infused with the spirit of meditation.
Jumping continents to South America, we find a plethora of syncretic Christian churches, such as the Santo Daime and União Vegetal in Brazil, which use psychoactive sacraments such as ayahuasca in their services. They use a variety of prayers, meditations and icaros, special “magic songs” for use during ceremonies, as well as a simple step dance, with the emphasis on personal and collective religious experience and the holistic integration of mind, body and spirit.
I have been interested in both the contemplative “mystical” path and the dynamic “shamanic” path for many years now. It seems to me that these crucial elements of authentic, full-blooded religiosity are sadly missing from most modern forms of Christian worship. Those who want something stronger than the somewhat diluted draught on offer at conventional churches are forced elsewhere, to Buddhism, Sufism, yoga, and to shamanism and psychedelics.
The psychedelic renaissance is upon us. So far it has manifested itself primarily in the context of secular therapeutic medicine, with clinical trials popping up all over the place, most prominently at Imperial College London and John Hopkins University in the US. The results so far are extremely promising. However, there is little movement in the religious sphere, which arguably provides a much more conducive and capacious context for the transformative spiritual use of entheogens (“generators-of-God-within”).
As a step towards the holy grail of CSPU (church sponsored psychedelic use), I am therefore offering “virgin psychedelic” meditation to any churches who are interested. The idea is to introduce the basic framework of psychedelic worship, incorporating essential elements such as meditation, music, movement and singing to create an embodied spiritual experience, but without the psychoactive component. Hopefully this will help people deepen their faith and practice, and integrate it better into their everyday lived experience.
The flyer goes something like this:
Virgin Psychedelic Christian Meditation
Two hours of meditation, music, movement and discussion
This is a non-drug “virgin psychedelic” meditation experience using the power of meditation and music to awaken our inner mystic and inner shaman.
We begin with a guided mindfulness meditation followed by the Core Mantra:
- Amun, Ra, Atum, Ka, Ba, Gaia, Jah (corresponding to the Father)
- Mystic, Shaman, Warrior, Monk, Philosopher, King, Friend (corresponding to the Son)
- Peace, Love, Goodness, Beauty, Truth, Consciousness, Bliss (corresponding to the Holy Spirit)
This is followed by some simple stretching exercises, after which we settle down to listen to a piece of beautiful devotional Christian music.
After some more stretching, there is a period of guided movement and/or dance.
We end with a simple chant based on the Core Mantra and some time for questions, sharing and discussion.
If this sounds like something your church (or a church you know) might be interested in, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org