A SUBVERSION OF REALITY AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE SUBVERSION OF MIND

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The original video of Tim Mackie’s talk at Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon, “Prayer and Paradise,” dated Oct. 7, 2022, was the basis for the first version of this article, but when I tried to find the video later, it had been removed. I found another video of the talk dated Oct. 19, 2022. I watched this “new” video and noted that four things I addressed in the first article (which was posted on Facebook) are missing, while other statements I do not recall are in it. I also added some information in this article from a Foreword Mackie wrote to a book by Tyler Staton. This article serves as an update of the first article and includes the same information.

 

Some concerns in another CANA article on Mackie are repeated here, although each article differs somewhat in the way the issues are addressed, so reading the other article is recommended. A more recent CANA article on Tim Mackie and Greg Boyd’s influence is here.

 

The four missing statements/ideas are:

 

  1. Mackie stated that he started his day in a new way by asking God to speak to the part of him that is not his mind.
  2. Mackie stated that he learned about prayer from Trappist monk Thomas Keating, one of the founders of the modern Contemplative Prayer Movement (originally called Centering Prayer).
  3. Paul was talking about a “super reality” in Acts 17.
  4. Jesus was “Eastern.”

 

The last three sections of this article address Mackie’s remarks in the original video.

 

It Starts with a Spiritual Director

Tim Mackie gave a talk at Bridgetown Church, formerly pastored by John Mark Comer, whose pastor is now Tyler Staton. Mackie references the 24/7 Prayer conference going on at the time. The 24/7 Prayer was started by Peter Greig of the UK, who heavily promotes contemplative practices and who has recommended Richard Rohr’s books.

 

In the original video, Mackie states he started seeing a Spiritual Director who told Mackie to start every day by sitting in a long period of silence, opening his hands, and asking God to speak to “the whole of me” in some way he could understand (in the original video, he said he was told to ask that God would speak to him in some way outside of his mind, but this was not in this video). This is a form of Contemplative practices. (John Mark Comer, the former pastor of Bridgetown where Mackie is speaking, had a Jesuit Spiritual Director, Fr. Rick Ganz, speak at Comer’s church on May 14, 2017 who recommends the Examen prayer in his talk; I believe that Ganz is Comer’s Spiritual Director).

 

Mackie later felt God was speaking to him through people and not “just through my mind.” He also states words started coming into his mind unbidden that he later connected with things in his life. This motivated him to be open to experiences where there is a way to be in “relationship as a human with Jesus” that is not just about his mind.

 

However, how is communication done in Scripture? It is in words that we read and understand with our mind. What part of a person would one need to speak to outside of the mind? Our reactions can be physical, emotional, or spiritual, but the mind is still the processor of the communication. Contemplative teachings always downgrade the mind. I have noticed this in the 25 plus years of research and reading I have done in this area.

 

Mackie and Keating

Although Mackie’s statement about Thomas Keating (d. 2018) is not in the “new” video, Mackie wrote the Foreword to Tyler Staton’s book, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, and quotes Keating on p. xiii of the Foreword by first writing:

 

“My hope is that you will come to experience prayer and the presence of God in the way Keating describes it.” Mackie, as quoted in Word Like Fire

 

The quote Mackie offers is quintessentially Keating:

 

This Presence is so immense, yet so humble; awe-inspiring, yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender and personal. I know that I am known. Everything in my life is transparent in this Presence. It knows everything about me–all my weaknesses, brokenness, sinfulness–and still loves me infinitely. This Presence is healing, strengthening, refreshing–just by its Presence … It is like coming home to a place I never should have left, to an awareness that was somehow always there, but which I did not recognize. – Quote from Keating’s book, Open Mind, Open Heart, given by Mackie in the Foreword to Tyler Staton’s book (I have read this book by Keating).

 

The quote may not seem alarming, but if you know about Keating, have read his books, or have read my article on Keating, you would know that “the Presence” is not the biblical God. The quote is compatible with Perennial Wisdom and, I think, indicates it. Keating in my view was likely a Perennialist, like his good friend Richard Rohr.

 

Keating thought Christians could learn about prayer and meditation from Buddhist monks and from TM (Transcendental Meditation), and when he was Abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass., he even brought Buddhist monks and a TM teacher to the abbey to teach the monks Eastern meditation. Roman Catholics have warned about Thomas Keating.

 

Knowing about Keating makes Mackie’s recommendation all the more distressing. I would not want anyone to experience prayer or the supposed presence of God as Keating did or as he taught. Keating is someone to strongly warn about, not recommend.

 

Paradise, the “Real” Reality, and Sub Realities

Mackie talks about the word “paradise” in Luke 23, the garden of Eden, and Revelation. He claims that Jesus, Paul, and the biblical authors “have a different way of seeing reality than most of us do” (this idea starts around 40 min.). Mackie states there is also a “state of consciousness” which is an “altered state” that Jacob, Ezekiel, and John all experienced.

 

Ezekiel had a “severe alteration of consciousness” when he had his vision in Ezekiel 8. This explains, according to Mackie, the alleged different views of reality Ezekiel and other biblical characters had, and  their other “states of consciousness” (starting around 49 min.). This did not need to be spelled out to anyone when the Bible was written, claims Mackie, because they all “took it for granted.” I do not think there is evidence for this in the text; furthermore, I think that seeking such states as well as the belief in “different levels of reality” is contra God and the Bible. A forthcoming article will address this issue and attempt to explain why this is not compatible with Scripture.

 

Our reality, claims Mackie, is constructed from our experiences (starting around 50 min.) in which we develop “coping mechanisms” and so “what we experience as reality is a result of these shields we build up for years and years.” Whereas we take our dreams as fantasy and what happens during the day as reality, the biblical authors have “the opposite view,” asserts Mackie.

 

Astonishingly, Mackie adds that the biblical authors consider the day to day reality that man experiences to be “a very sub, sub, distorted manipulated version of reality that we are making for ourselves,” and that “true reality” is what happens “when we let our guard down,” such as in sleep when we are at the “deep primal core” of our being.

 

“This is how the biblical authors see the world,” asserts Mackie.

 

Mackie declares that he had been cultivating his relationship with Jesus with his “active level of consciousness” and by hearing Jesus through Scripture. This is not the only way, states Mackie. Mackie claims that

 

“There is a level of consciousness awareness and reality that is soul level. It’s a full-on language in a way of interacting with the eternal now.”

 

Mackie makes this statement as though it is fact. However, it is an esoteric idea in my view and not compatible with Scripture. It is an idea found in every esoteric teachings I was involved in or read about. Mackie thinks that because he was not interacting in that manner at “soul level,” he had “an undeveloped soul” (he stated this at the beginning of the talk as well). It took” a set of experiences,” Mackie avers, to make him aware of this “vision of reality.”

 

Mackie continues, stating that “at the heart of all beng and existence….is a person whose essence and heart is love.” Mackie says he must “open himself” using “practices that are very ancient and that go back to the prayer habits of Jesus, then I can open myself to Paradise now in ways that will break your vision of reality.”

 

The practices he refers to are the contemplative practices he probably learned from Thomas Keating and others like Dallas Willard (Mackie has taught on contemplative practices and recommended a book by Dallas Willard, which I think was The Spirit of the Disciplines.)

 

Mackie closes by stating that we need to “go on a journey, forming the habits of mind and heart” to see reality “the way Jesus sees it.” There is “more to be tasted and experienced” that the “eternal now wants to do in our midst if we open our minds and our hearts.”

 

When Peter, James, and John saw Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, they saw “the one who makes all reality possible.” Mackie concludes by talking about how we need to go on a “journey” and be “willing to surrender and open our eyes and our minds and our heart.”

 

Response To Mackie

Mackie’s talk about reality and consciousness is not new to me. This is the kind of thinking I encountered in the New Age and in Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism. I am not saying Mackie is a New Ager or a Buddhist. What has happened is that Mackie has been seduced by mysticism. It has changed his view of reality and even of what reality and consciousness are. This is what happens when one does Eastern spiritual meditation practices, contemplative practices, and/or from New Age meditation and influences.

 

The journey Mackie speaks of is the road into Contemplative practices (note that Mackie used the word “ancient” to describe the Contemplative practices). The influences of Thomas Keating  and Dallas Willard (and probably John Mark Comer as well) on Mackie are clearly evident.

 

The truth is that Jacob, Ezekiel, and John and other biblical authors received a revelation directly from God, whether it was a dream or a vision. We do not know how this was done, nor do we need to know. These are singular events initiated by God; there is no evidence for an “altered state of consciousness.” Why would God need to change someone’s consciousness to give that person a revelation? And where is any biblical support or principle for that? God made us and certainly knows how to communicate whatever, whenever, and however he desires to do so.

 

Altered states are hypnotic states and are not natural but result from Eastern, occult, and New Age forms of meditation.  Nor are such states productive. In fact, these states of mind cut off the thinking mind, and the thinking mind is one way we are made in the image of God. Nothing in Scripture is against the mind nor are people told by God not to think.

 

Mackie claims that we were in more innocent states when younger and that this gets messed up with conditioning as we experience life and get input from others. This sounds alarmingly like many ideas I heard in the New Age.

 

It Gets Worse

(This section and the following two sections are mostly from the original video.  Some of the material overlaps with what is said in the “new” video. I think it is important to have these remarks as a record).

 

Mackie refers (in the original video) to Keating’s term “ego level consciousness” as though it is valid. In truth, “ego” is used in Perennial Wisdom and the New Age to refer to the false self. The True Self, an idea that is part of Contemplative teachings, is the self that, for Rohr (and likely for Keating), was never separated from God.

 

When we sleep, Mackie continues, we are at a “soul level” and “a being level” of consciousness, and are open to a reality that we are not open to when we are in “ego consciousness.” We live in a “subversion of reality,” claims Mackie, and there is “actually a deeper soul-level of reality,” “more real” than our present reality, which is what Jesus and the biblical authors knew.

 

Paul in Acts 17

(This section is also from the original video)

 

Mackie takes Paul’s words in Acts 17:28 to say this super reality or ultimate reality is what Paul was talking about.

 

and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Acts 17:26-28

 

An ultimate reality is not what Paul was talking about. The meaning of Paul’s words is that God created and sustains all, and God is omnipresent. Our existence is dependent on God. Paul was making a point about who God is, and follows this by saying God is not an image of gold, silver, or stone, referring to the pagan false gods. The pagan gods were limited by their areas of rulership. They could not travel and had to be worshiped as man-made images. Their supposed rule was puny and pathetic compared to the true God who, Paul declared, cannot be limited and is everywhere because he is the creator of all. He rules creation and time, and appoints the time for men to die. This sovereignty was in stark contrast to the false gods.

 

There is only one reality and God created it. Receiving visions or revelation from God was not another reality, and there is not some more “sublime reality” we need to reach (through contemplative practices). It is true that one can think one is in a “higher” or more “ultimate” reality, but that is a delusion. That corruption of the mind is what happens with contemplative practices, which are mysticism. Followers of Perennial Wisdom teach that mysticism is the bridge between all religions; and indeed it is. But Christianity and mysticism are not compatible so if one is doing “Christian mysticism,” it is not Christianity.

 

Jesus was “Eastern”

(This is from the original video)

Mackie admits some might think this talk of other states of consciousness might sound like Eastern mysticism, but he asks the audience, “where did the Jesus movement originate?” He then answers, “It originated in the East.” Mackie is sure that when Jesus was praying, he was reciting whole Psalms and “those Psalms were sending his consciousness traversing the universe with his Father in heaven.”

 

Saying that Jesus is Eastern is not technically correct. Jesus was Jewish and was in the Middle East. The type of Eastern mysticism Mackie refers to is from Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism, which are from India and the Far East. The Emergents (now Progressives) like Rob Bell love to say that Jesus was “Eastern.” They say this to make a contrast with the “Western” mind which is not as open to other ways of seeing, in their view. (The New Age makes the same false dichotomy with Eastern and Western for everything).

 

I do not think Jesus’ consciousness had to traverse anything because Jesus was in constant communion with the Father, and Jesus made this clear many times, such as when he said “I and the Father are one” and that he is doing what the Father tells him (John 5:19-20, 14:31).

 

Mackie is a Bible teacher who has gone down the contemplative path and from remarks in other videos I recently heard, has been on this path for several years. If he learned prayer from Keating, and believes we are in a “subversive reality,” then all who are open to or accept these ideas from him are in trouble. Mackie is an example of what I have warned about: that doing contemplative practices, just like doing Eastern meditation, can change your view of reality, and even of God and Jesus.

 

Richard Rohr, who was good friends with Keating and was influenced by him, has stated that contemplative practices are for unlearning. This “unlearning” involves changing one’s paradigm of reality. So now we can see its effect with our own eyes by examining this talk from Mackie.

 

I have written about how the Enneagram, Contemplative Spirituality, Richard Rohr (and Thomas Keating) all converge. Others in this mix include John Mark Comer, Tyler Staton, and Peter Grieg, who are also connected to Mackie.

 

We are not in a “sub-version or subversion” of reality; rather, it is the case that  Contemplative Spirituality is a subversion of God’s word and of the mind.

 

Addendum

People and terms connected to Contemplative Spirituality: (Just a sampling of the most influential)

Richard Rohr
Dallas Willard
Richard Foster
Ruth Haley Barton
Thomas Keating
Peter Scazzero
John Mark Comer
Tyler Staton
Terms:
Spiritual Formation
Spiritual Disciplines
Spiritual rhythms
Soul Care
Spiritual Director
Silence
Solitude
The Still, Small Voice
Lectio Divina
Ancient practices
Thin Place
Labyrinth

 

More Information

Concerns with Mackie’s troubling teaching on the atonement have been addressed by others herehere, and here.

 

Tim Mackie of the Bible Project agrees with Michael Heiser that there is more than one “elohim.” They try to redefine “elohim” as a “spiritual being,” but “elohim” in the Bible is used of men as well. According to Heiser and Mackie, elohim are part of God’s so-called Divine Council.  See CANA Article on The Unseen Realm: Another Way to See the Bible and God?