David Torkington on prayer—marvelous!

While making supper this evening, I listened to this podcast: From Meditation to the beginning of Mystical Contemplation by David Torkington, who is an expert on contemplative prayer and author of Wisdom from the Western Isles, Wisdom from The Christian Mystics, and Wisdom from Franciscan Italy

It is marvelous and very much in line with the tradition of English Catholic mysticism.  Thank you, Lisa Nicholas for introducing me to this man’s books, blog and podcasts.

His blog, full of extremely solid and practical teaching on prayer, is here.  

I am as delighted as all other orthodox Catholics that the Spanish Bishops have spoken out against all forms of prayer involving  Eastern meditation techniques and the mindfulness  movement in their document, My Soul Thirsts for God, for the Living God: A Doctrinal Orientation on Christian Prayer (published 3rd September 2019). But is it too little, too late? This spiritual heresy has been deceiving people to my knowledge for over forty years with little official condemnation, leaving the laity in limbo-land,   looking for guidance and looking in vain. Most of these techniques have been imported from Buddhism and have no place in Catholic spirituality. The particular form that I am familiar with is taught by ‘The World Community for Christian Meditation’ which was founded by a Benedictine monk,  Fr John Main. Let me tell you a spiritual horror story to show just how dangerous the teaching of this movement is.


Authentic Christian Contemplative Prayer

Fr. Main told Amelia  to keep repeating the word Maranatha. He explained that by repeating this mantra, she would almost instantly come to experience   inner peace and inner recollection. Furthermore he told her, quite erroneously, that what she was experiencing was in fact the mystical contemplation as described by St Teresa of Avila in her masterwork Interior Castle.  Exactly the opposite happened to her because she was using the word as a short  prayer, not as a technique to generate inner peace. She was in fact using it to ask God to come into  her,  and to abide in her. Her prayer helped her to keep the deep primordial desire for love, that is in all of us,  fixed on God the source of all love. The selfless loving embodied in her constant prayer acted as a spiritual lightning conductor directing God’s love into her heart. However, in authentic Catholic Mystical Theology, as explained best by St John of the Cross, the fire of  God’s love first reveals and then draws out  of a person all the sins and all the sinfulness that prevents being  totally possessed by him. What the receiver must then do is to see the sins and the sinfulness that are preventing  God’s love totally possessing them and confess them, receive absolution and continue praying as before to enable God’s love to continue the process of purification in what St John of the Cross calls The Dark Night of the Soul. Far from leading to inner peace it leads to inner turmoil and sometimes to spiritual depression to see oneself laid bare.

Sent to a Psychiatrist

To a competent mystical theologian this is how God acts in the Night of Purification. But Fr John Main was not a competent mystical theologian, nor for that matter do the later leaders of his movement know anything about mystical theology. Inevitably Amelia was tragically spiritually violated by a charlatan. When she explained how despite what he told her to do she experienced, not peace and tranquillity but inner turmoil, he was perplexed. His ignorance was responsible for giving her potentially disastrous advice. As he and his bogus way to mystical contemplation could not possibly be wrong, he concluded that there must be something wrong with her. He sent her to England to receive psychological help from a psychiatrist in London whom he recommended. Once cured she could then return to him and he would teach her how to attain mystical contemplation in no time at all, simply by endlessly repeating a mantra. Her problem he believed was that she was psychologically ill  and therefore unable to benefit from his mystical teaching which is in fact the old heresy of Pelagianism. Believe me, it is utterly devastating for a poor soul struggling in the Night to be told  they are mentally ill, because it confirms their worst fears and it can not just destroy their spiritual lives but devastate their whole lives, sometimes permanently. These false messiahs must be stopped and stopped for good.

Please read the whole thing and go on over and enrich your spiritual life by reading this man’s work.

8 thoughts on “David Torkington on prayer—marvelous!

  1. WITH GREAT RESPECT, The work of Fr. John Main and Fr. Laurence Freeman enriches my spiritual life, as I live each day for the Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.


  2. Fr. John Main’s canonical and spiritual connection to the Benedictines is open to some question. He, Basil Pennington, OCSO, and others were part of a centering-prayer movement some decades ago that, whether it can be consonant with Catholic prayer, is not what I would be able to call Benedictine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Torkington is a spiritual teacher of unimpeachable orthodoxy with a genuine charism for making the truly Christian contemplative way accessible to anyone willing to persevere in prayer. For those who believe “centering prayer” is the best way to know Christ and grow close to him, I recommend reading the wonderful blog series David Torkington has just completed on Dan Burke’s Catholic Spiritual Direction website, particularly part 13, “Genuine Christian Meditation and its Counterfeit” (https://spiritualdirection.com/2018/09/20/genuine-christian-meditation-and-its-counterfeit-part-13-mini-course-on-prayer). He mentions Fr. John Main, who encouraged use of a mantra during prayer, as one of those who popularized this counterfeit version of contemplative prayer.

    His concern is that sincere Catholics will be misled by Eastern techniques into thinking that contemplation is something that we can do on our own, by inducing a particular state of consciousness — whereas true Christian contemplation is something that God infuses into our souls without any help from us, and only after we have come a lo-o-ong way in getting to know Him and to love Him as He truly is. I personally would hate to risk settling for a counterfeit just because it makes me feel good, rather than coming to know the One True God as He truly is.


    • PLEASE OH PLEASE Do not criticise a persons method of prayer, some love the rosary, some the daily office, some like walking along the beach just talking to God, etc, etc.If your prayer method brings you close to God, so be it. “WHO AM I TO JUDGE”. God really loves us no matter how we pray. COME HOLY SPIRIT.


      • TODAY I have just read a report by our parish Mediation Group on its year, 2019, The report is on page 14 of our end of year magazine, “CROSSROADS”.The group use JOHN MAIN OSB works in their group. All I can say is that it is a wonderful prayer filled group.


  4. PEOPLE have contacted me to seek more information in regard to our Mediation Group, which, by the way, I AM NOT A MEMBER,so I quote from the page 14 report in “CROSSROADS”.—-The author writes:—I have been a member of a Mediation Group for the best part of 20 years.Mediation has been an important part of my life and it was significant in helping me to recover from cancer, NOT once, but three times. We loosely base our practice on the Benedictine tradition begun by John MAIN ,OSB.. Our Mediation is very simple, we are in a state of awareness of God”s presence, a prayer of the heart each time we meet together. We bring ourselves to silence by using a “sacred word” or a phrase which we silently repeat to help us come closer to our living God. The Psalms, and much more in the Bible repeatedly refer to stillness and silence as one measure of GOD”s presence. Mediation grants us balance, peace of mind, an understanding of the very nature of holiness. Brief notes help us to be aware of the purpose of what we do each week. Most of these notes come from John Main OSB, writings.. In an unusual way , mediation merges faith and religion as we confirm our identity, yet on an individual basis we relate to our wonderful GOD. THIS MY FRIENDS IS REALLY WONDERFUL PRAYER.


    • I Note my earlier post regarding our Parish end of year magazine, CROSSROADS, page 14 has been removed from the replies section. This post was really a part of the nuance of the above reply, otherwise the context of the Crossroads magazine,PAGE 14 IS LOST.


  5. Pingback: The power of a pure intent | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

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