ES, this church is cold, the priest
admitted at the beginning of his homily. The priest was referring to problems
with the buildings furnace, but I knew from years of
Lacanian psychoanalytic training that
another meaning hid behind his prophetic words. I looked at the huge drop
cloth covering the chapel of the Blessed Virgin. Some sort of
renovation, I thought, but I didnt miss the message that on that
day in particular Marys chapel was closed. So I considered the deeper
meaning in the priests words.
While the priest gave his homily
about social justice, my thoughts wandered off into a consideration of what
he wasnt saying. Just as I must be careful not to be misled by what
my clients say to me and have to listen carefully for what they
dont sayand are therefore trying to avoidI thought
about his words. Yes, social justice is admirable. But what about devotion?
What about prayer? What about the total submission
of self to God that has to occur internally through divine grace, especially
with the aid of the Sacraments, before one
can even think about social changes? In the midst
of these reflections I heard his voice again. This church is cold.
And so I understood. On that particular day, with the Blessed Virgins
presence covered up, as I shivered in the cold draft blowing through the
pews of that parish, the chill of neglected devotion bit my heart.
And that chill, like the misty
rain, lingered through the day.
At a dinner later that evening
I met a nun who worked with a rehabilitation program for prostitutes. She
clearly had the hard-nosed features of a shrewd administrator. I wondered
if she had the spirit of Mary in her heart.
During the course of the evening,
the nun told us about a prostitute who, as a young child, had been physically
and sexually abused by her father and who was struggling
to forgive him. I dont think I could forgive someone who abused
me like that, she concluded.
I winced. Doesnt the capacity
to forgive point out the difference between the
Blessed Virgin and a feminist? No wonder she didnt
wear a habit. No wonder she had been talking earlier about waiting for the
day when there would be women priests. Here was a nun admitting
that her furnace, too, had been shut off. I felt the chill in the
If there were no lust, there
would be no prostitution. If men were
not roaming the worldafter the example of the devil, like roaring
lions, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)preoccupied
with the desire for self-indulgent pleasure, there would be no money in
prostitution. If women were not willing to use their bodies as goods to be
bartered for wealth and power, the flame of lust would die out. If we, men
and women, did not trust so much in psychological
defenses against our emotional wounds, we would
trust in God and wouldnt be so vulnerable to
Make no mistake:
God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the
one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one
who sows for the spirit will reap everlasting life from the
Certainly, women have received
many wounds from men throughout history. And with this sadness comes the
danger of temptation to fall bitterly into an obsession with
politics is based on revenge. But Christianity
isnt. In order to receive refuge and forgiveness, one must
But if you do
not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your
Every personal injury has to
be carried and healed within ones own heart, through an inner
transformation by Christs real presence. To bear all injuries through
surrender to God is the basis of any sanctuary in God. And sometimes, when
we recite words about forgiving others, as in the
Lords Prayer, we really dont
understand what we are saying.
How often do we recite prayers
as if they were just a string of words? In our psychological impatience,
we end up endowing our reverence with all the murk of split pea
soupElemeno P soup, we might say, if you remember your
childhood alphabet recital.
So we all too often miss the
reverence of slow, prayerful submission, and in this loss we miss the
seven distinct petitions of the Lords
Prayer. And one of them is Thy will be done.
To say that we
abandon our will to anothers will seems very easy until through experience
we realize that this is the hardest thing one can do if one does it as it
should be done.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection, ch. 12, no. 5
Yes, as it should be
done: through true inner transformation with devotion and
When a person grows cold by
neglecting true inner transformation through devotion and prayer, he or she
may as well be a pagan devotee of the goddess through New Age
sin has been deconstructed into a mere
patriarchal invention that oppresses free-spirited souls who
take delight in their wicked disobedience.
And who is this
Lets just say the goddess
took on all comers without discrimination. But not for money. In her time,
in the days when her natural cycle of birth, initiation, consummation,
repose, and death was worshipped solstice after solstice, year after
year, she demanded only one thing: recurring human sacrificethe death
of her current king and consort. It was a gruesome reality hidden behind
the allure of being non-judgmental and able to feel good about yourself by
basking in all things
So what does this goddess want
Maybe, like Shylock claiming
his pound of
she wants the destruction of the one King who wouldnt give her what
she wanted and instead told her to go and sin no
Hell hath no fury like a goddess
The Real New
Age: the New Spiritual Dark Age
When the Roman Empire collapsed
as a result of barbarian invasions and the destruction of Rome, all of the
technological expertise of the Roman culture was lost as well. In the following
centuries, the Dark Ages of Western Europe were dark because of the loss
of secular learning. But there was no loss of
faith. In fact, during the Middle Ages, the Catholic
Church provided western culture with its only light, its only source of human
dignity and hope.
Today, we are awash in technology.
We are so overly dependent on trust in gadgetsand the glorification
of the self that they buttressthat most
persons have lost any sense of trust in God. And so we are on the brink of
a new Dark Agea spiritual Dark Age of ingratitude, insolence,
and atheism, lost in its own spiritual
New Age Healing
Christianity teaches us that
all of us, through a fundamental disobedience and lack
of trust, have lost the place in divine life for which God created us.
Christ, the only Son of God, came into this world, like a shepherd looking
for lost sheep, to lead us back into the divine presence. In his flesh he
has seen me has seen the Father(John 14:9). And in the shedding of
his blood he manifested love, the willingness
to sacrifice oneself for the sake of saving others from their own
Thus Christ told his Apostles,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me (John 14:6). Therefore there is no healing, no truth,
and no path to divine glory except through the Cross, the way of
sacrifice, obedience, and prayer. So, if we want
truth and life, we have to follow Christ in the Way of the Cross.
Still, many persons
fear the cross. Beaten down by abuse and
desire only to be accepted and validated. Like
that nun in the story above, casting forgiveness from their hearts, and angry
with the Father because of the sins of their own
fathers, they want an easy way to feel good about
And so a multitude of lost and
wounded souls seek out healing practices that, within an offer of easy
acceptance, covertly oppose fundamental Christian faith.
non-Christian practices, in denying or subverting the reality of sin, hold
out the expectation that we can set aside our dependence on receiving divine
grace through the Sacraments, and, like an angry, spurned goddess, they seduce
us into taking matters into our own hands so as to attempt to heal
ourselves of our separation from the divine life.
Buddhism is not a religion; in its purity, it is an Oriental, atheistic
philosophy whose goal is to escape human suffering. Because the philosophy
is an ethical system, based in a natural philosophy with nothing in it that
must be believed (as opposed to a theological system based in
supernaturally revealed truth), its ideas are often taught in the West for
their value in achieving a sense of psychological relaxation.
who have turned away from Godespecially because of
anger at Godturn to Buddhism precisely because
the system holds out nothing to believe in. But
in the psychological sense, what does it mean to believe in? Well,
in the words of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, we
believe in beings in so far as they are
able to say
And what is Christianity all about but the Word of God speaking to us, saying
something very, very important? That Word is the core of all beliefand
the core of all love. So, with nothing to believe
in, you put yourself in a wasteland where there is no real love, no God,
nothing at all. You can call this emptiness Nirvana or anything else you
want, but it has nothing to do with Heaven.
Prayer. This type of prayer is a form of meditation, similar to
Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM was popularized by a Hindu guru in the
US and Europe during the latter part of the 1960s, just as the new Age of
Aquarius began to billow into the world on clouds of marijuana smoke. In
Centering Prayer a person spends a half hour or so once or twice a day focusing
on his or her breathing to establish a sense of relaxation. A
Christianized form of this prayer instructs practitioners to
meditate on the name of
Simple forms of
meditation can be helpful in teaching a person how to relax and focus attention.
Similar practices based in pure physiology, such as
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) and
Autogenics (both of which I explain on A Guide to
Psychology and its Practice), can also facilitate a healthy state of
mental and bodily relaxation. All of these psychological practices
can serve as a prelude to learning more complex forms of prayer and contemplation
in the context of the Christian worship of the Triune God.
The danger with centering
prayer (and all other similar practices), for a Christian, is that a person
is tempted to follow just simple, easy practices (such as spending only a
half hour in meditation a day) and neglect other
prayer (such as the Celebration of the
Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, the
Liturgy of the Hours, the
Rosary, and the Chaplet
of The Divine Mercy) as well as the moral
obligations of a holy lifestyle. In this neglect of worship, devotion,
and morality, the psychology of the self becomes raised to the level
of the mystical, and Christianity becomes reduced to a form of
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that allegedly
promotes healing. It is administered by physical touch (or near touch), as
a sort of laying on of hands. Reiki is based on the idea that
it can stimulate and direct an unseen life force energy in such
a way that facilitates spiritually-guided physical healing.
Practitioners claim that Reiki is not a religion, but they advocate simple
ethical ideals that supposedly promote peace and harmony.
Peace and harmony
sound nice, dont they? Well, the danger is
that those simple ethical ideals are a watered-down
version of Christian morality that, like a Trojan Horse, will attack genuine
Christianity from within. Just remember that if you follow the way of
sacrifice, obedience, and prayer, your
energy fields will be guided by Christ Himself.
What greater healing is there than that?
Some forms of healing are claimed to have been received as teachings directly
from angels or as channeling from spirits.
In his letter to
the Colossians, Saint Paul warned against anyone who advocates
the worship of angels, taking his stand
on visions (Colossians 2:18). Let us not forget that not all
angels are holy beings; the fallen angels are
demonic. A Christian who dabbles in spiritism is
playing with firehell fire.
Wicca is another name for witchcraft, though Wicca tends more often than
not to be practiced as a form of white witchcrafta worship
of the White Goddessrather than outright Satanism. Wicca can be traced
back to Neolithic and Bronze Age fertility cults that included human sacrifice
as a fundamental component of the natural cycle of the seasons.
In todays world,
especially because of the fascination with fantasy
literature, Wicca tends to be popular with those who seek a
natural spirituality. But the spirits of nature are fallen
angelsthat is, demons. Wicca also tends to be
popular with school girls who are completely ignorant of the demonic dangers
with which they dabble. In fact, many girls are led into Wicca by feminist
teachers (and nuns!) trying to reclaim some sort of mythic lost
femininity. But Wicca is fundamentally opposed to Christianity, for
the White Goddess wants nothing more than the destruction of the one King
she couldnt seduce.
Yoga, an ancient Hindu practice, has two basic forms. Raja
yoga consists of meditational practices based in
polytheistic religious beliefs. Hatha yoga consists of body movements
that purport to enhance the flow of body energy forces.
If practiced purely
as a form of self-discipline and physical exercise to keep the body limber,
hatha yoga can be helpful even to a Christian. Its danger derives from the
anti-Christian spiritual beliefs that underlie its physical practices.
1. One reader, a Protestant woman, has actually
demanded that I remove this story. And yet in making this demand she only
proves the psychological point of this entire web page. That is, in hearing
that this nunindeed, any personis subject to Gods judgment,
the readers fear of punishment for her own
unconscious anger is aroused, and so she reacts
by demanding that the truth be suppressed. Therefore, we can say that a fear
of punishment is the psychological basis for the New Age denial of sin.
So please remember that neither in protesting Gods justice nor in
attempting to hide from it will you be saved from it. Your only hope is to
reconcile yourself with God the Father through the
mercy offered to us through Christ His Son.
2. William Shakespeare, The Merchant of
Venice, Act I, Scene III.
3. Jacques Lacan, Seminar of 21 January
1975. In Mitchell, J. & Rose, J. (Eds.), Feminine Sexuality:
Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne (New York: W. W. Norton
[paperback], 1985). See p. 169.
4. Centering prayer, however, should be distinguished
from the Jesus Prayer, which was popular with the desert monks of the Eastern
Church who practiced hesychasm (from
the Greek hesychia, stillness). The prayer has many variations, from
the basic Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me to
a shorter Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy to an even shorter Son
of God, help me. If the prayer is practiced properly as a way to pray
constantly (see the writings collectively known as the Philokalia
for more information) it will lead to an understanding of Christianity as
an all-encompassing lifestyle of mind in the
heart, and it will draw you into true detachment
from the world. Many persons today, however, make
the unfortunate error of using the Jesus Prayer as a quasi-Buddhist meditative
practice where the words themselves, rather than their heartfelt meaning,
drive away distractions. Still, the Jesus Prayer
can be used today by the laity as a sort of background prayer to maintain
a constant awareness of God within the silent spaces between and behind all
of our work activities. Think of it as a mortar that binds together
all the other work and vocal prayers of the
How to turn the emotional wounds
of daily life into psychological growth.
Collected texts about
the spiritual depth
of clinical psychology