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Want to Start an Argument? Just Say “Yoga”

June 19, AD2014 197 Comments

Patti Maguire Armstrong - Yoga

Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater can get you into trouble. So can saying “yoga” in a group of Catholics.

I just do it for the stretches, I don’t do anything religious.

It’s evil…the work of the devil.

Oh please! The next thing you’ll be telling me is the number 13 brings bad luck.

Practicing yoga breaks the First Commandment; it’s pagan worship.

And so it goes. And goes. And goes.

Three years ago, I did an article titled “To Yoga or Not to Yoga.\” Initially, I wrote it then put it aside for around a year. I was not sure I was up for putting my head into a hornet’s nest. When the time seemed right, I posted it. The hornets came. So did a number of radio interviews in which the listener lines lit up the whole time. “Can you stay on for another half hour,” I was asked by host Drew Mariani at Relevant Radio. “This happens every time we talk about yoga.”

Why the Controversy?

There are a lot of issues that come with controversy—contraception, supposed same-sex marriage, and abortion, being among them. The difference is that the Church has spoken definitely on those issues. People can agree or disagree with the Catholic Church but they cannot pretend the Church is in favor of any of those issues. With yoga, interpretations abound. Debates can get heated, with both sides convince that yoga for exercise is either harmless or evil.

In a definition from About.com, yoga is described as, “ . . . a disciplined path for purification of our attachments to the temporal world of form (bodies and objects) and the ever changing world of energy and mind, to experience the bliss and unity of consciousness as the unchanging, ever permanent, immortal and infinite Being.” Wow. Cool. Wait, what’s that about the immortal and infinite Being? Is that God? Or the devil? Or is it nothing if I just show up with a mat and stretch pants ready to limber up?

Just the Exercise

Yoga is considered a whole body experience originating in Hinduism as a means to reach enlightenment through exercises and meditations that unite the body, mind, and spirit. For Catholics, worshiping or becoming one with a yoga deity breaks the First Commandment. No one argues that point. The question is, can we claim to just be there in pursuit of physical fitness alone?

Hatha yoga, the one used in exercise classes, prepares the body for enlightenment through physical postures. Some people say they don’t participate in the meditations or postures that could be religious. After all, if an atheist folds his hands, he’s not praying. So if a yoga posture used for worship means nothing but a balance exercise to you, then is that all it is?

Putting your body into a particular posture does not automatically turn it into a form of worship. But what if that is the purpose of the pose as many of the yoga postures are? Can you remain neutral even if the instructor is not? Isn’t the intent of the person what matters most?

The Problem with Yoga

The controversy with yoga goes beyond a person’s intent. No one is accusing Catholics of going to yoga class specifically to worship a Hindu God. The problem is that yoga holds that all existence is one; there is no distinction between God and the universe. Through enlightenment a person becomes one with all of existence.

Having taken a yoga class myself many years ago, I know that the stretches, relaxation meditations and poses, all mesh together. It would be hard to discern the instructor’s meaning behind everything. For instance, a classic yoga mantra: “So’ham” means, ‘I am the universal Self,’” which is often used repetitively, timed with your breathing.

A friend who took a yoga class told me everyone was supposed to fold their hands and bow before they began. She said she did not do that but upon considering that yoga exercise is one part of a bigger pagan spiritual practice, she decided to quit. “Why take a chance?” she said. “If parts of it are wrong, then I’m not going to participate in any of it.”

In part 1 of the 3 part series, “What is Yoga? A Catholic Perspective,” Fr. Ezra Sullivan O.P., a Dominican Friar of the Province of St. Joseph pointed out that one indication of yoga’s spiritual nature even in exercise classes is the way it affects practitioners over time. “The International Journal of Yoga published the results of a national survey in Australia. Physical postures (asana) comprised about 60% of the yoga they practiced; 40% was relaxation (savasana), breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation, and instruction. The survey showed very significant results: although most respondents commonly began yoga for reasons of physical health, they usually continued it for reasons of spirituality.

“In addition, the more people practiced yoga, the more likely they were to decrease their adherence to Christianity and the more likely they were to adhere to non-religious spirituality and Buddhism. In other words, whatever their intentions may have been, many people experience yoga as a gateway to a spirituality disconnected from Christ.”

Regardless of the warnings or information, there are always Catholics who say they will not give up their yoga because it makes them feel good and they personally don’t use it for religion. But there is a further consideration with yoga. By participating in yoga, or when a school or church sponsors classes, it gives the message of blanket approval. If yoga is okay with the Church or with Sally Stretchy, then it’s obviously okay, is the impression. So, if just part of it is wrong, is it still okay to practice some of it? What do you think?

(To read all three parts of the yoga article or for daily spiritual direction go to: http://spiritualdirection.com.)

About the Author:

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. Her newest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, a collection of stories to inspire family love, and Dear God, I Don't Get It and the sequel, Dear God, You Can't Be Serious; children's fiction that feeds the soul through a fun and exciting story. Read more at Catholic News and Inspiration and follow her at Twitter. Please "Like" her Facebook pages: DearGodBooks, BigHeartedFamilies, and A GPS Guide to Heaven and Earth.

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  • Phil Dzialo

    Yoga can be practiced as a form of exercise and relaxation by Catholics if they consciously separate the exercise from Hindu spirituality and integrate it into relaxation and conscious breathing….this is health. It’s the same specious argument that was used against Catholic opposition to acupuncture because of it’s roots in Chinese religions .. but now it ok if not tied into those religious beliefs. Zen meditation can be a great adjunct to Christian meditation. Prayer beads (rosary) date back to the 3rd century BC (Hindu and Buddhist traditions)….on and on. “New Age” is not new but date to the beginning of time. You can use any of these practices as a beneficial compliment to Christian belief as long as you consciously divorce practice from its religious ideology and roots. There is no argument if used for health of body and mind and connection to your God.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Pietra Fitness is a better option. http://pietrafitness.com/

    • Cami

      Thank you sharing this! Wonderful!

    • Kary

      Thank you!!!!! I have been looking for something like this for a few years now!

    • Kristin Bird

      My
      inclination is to believe that Theology of the Body sheds some light
      on this: The body has intrinsic meaning and therefore certain actions of
      the body have intrinsic meaning. According to St. John Paul II, the
      posture of the body both points to the posture of the heart AND affects the posture of the heart.

      The
      postures of yoga, just like the postures of the Sacraments, have
      meaning outside of the meaning I want to assign to them. I’ve avoided
      yoga not because I think it’s evil or that it will hurt my faith, but as
      a matter of personal integrity. I do not believe in or desire the
      spiritual effects of the yoga postures, so do them would be speaking a
      lie with my body.

    • Tom

      Or you could discover that meaning (of yoga practice) for yourself and come to your own authentic understanding. How do you know it is a lie until you have experienced the content of it? Just a suggestion.

    • FranklinWasRight

      I don’t need to go to a Buddhist temple to inserts and their teachings.

    • Tom

      You have no way of knowing whether the Buddhist intuition or any other non-Christian mystical intuition can be incorporated into an authentically Christian understanding unless you experience it for yourself. Mystical/contemplative experience does not interpret itself, and can be framed in a variety of ways. I’m not saying Christians need to seek out the experience of the Buddhist intuition, but suggesting that Christians who have an interest in doing so should not heed the fear-mongers.

    • CW Betts

      Yu do not need to experience something to know its truth or lack thereof. If personal experience was requires, then there are mysteries of the faith that would have to be excluded (such as the Trinity). It is enough to know that Yoga is a specific practice connected with Hinduism, one that has a meaning beyond the physical.

    • Tom

      Experiences cannot be true or untrue. They just are. Explanations and concepts of experiences, however, can be conceived as true or untrue according to a given frame of reference. In the area of mystical experience, you do need to experience it yourself to know/understand it, because mystical experience cannot be adequately conveyed by concepts/words alone, and can be interpreted in a variety of ways, Christian or otherwise.

    • MarcAlcan

      Indeed, experiences are not true or untrue. They are either good or downright demonic.

    • Tom

      Are you assuming that all eastern mystical experience is an encounter and collaboration with evil spirits? I could never accept that assumption, which is completely unfounded.

    • MarcAlcan

      You have no way of knowing whether the Buddhist intuition or any other non-Christian mystical intuition can be incorporated into an authentically Christian understanding unless you experience it for yourself.

      This is rubbish. We can know what is not in accord with Christian thinking. The Buddhist religion is in total opposition to the Christian faith.

    • Tom

      You missed my point. On the level of doctrine (bound up in language/logic), there are bound to be many differences. One the level of actual experience (which cannot adequately be conveyed in words/concepts), there may be many similarities. Mystical experience does not interpret itself.

    • MarcAlcan

      Mystical experience does not interpret itself.
      True. But WE can interpret mystical experience. We can determine whether they are of God or of the devil.

    • Tom

      Interpreting mystical experience is not simply a matter of analyzing the terms of the description of that experience. Describing and discerning the character of such experience is a complex business and judgments are often conditional. Psychological disturbances should not necessarily be interpreted as demonic possession. Likewise, ecstatic states should not necessarily be interpreted as an influx of the Holy Spirit. There are many aspects of eastern mysticism that are completely compatible with a Christian worldview, if rightly understood/framed. Don’t give the devil more credit than he’s due.

    • MarcAlcan

      I was not referring to psychological disturbances. There are mystical experiences that are diabolical.
      And the fact that we can assess the compatibility of “aspects” of eastern mysticism means that the Christian faith is the rule – the benchmark – by which we can asses these. Hence it is not necessary to try them for the Christian faith is already in possession of whatever is good in these religions and more.

    • MarcAlcan

      Sounds like, how do you know murder is bad until you’ve killed someone
      So let’s all do drugs, fornicate and commit all sorts of evil that we may know evil is indeed evil

    • Tom

      Fallacy of false analogy.

    • MarcAlcan

      Explain why it’s false. Saying so does not make it so.

    • Tom

      Well, the things you are comparing (immoral acts vs. postures, breath control and meditation) are just so different in nature that the analogy is simply invalid, so a bad argument.

    • In Yahweh Name

      Tom that is just your opinion. Jesus Christ fasted forty days and nights and THEN the devil tempted him. Jesus did not sin. We, followers of Jesus Christ, do NOT need to sin to be a good witness of His Goodness. And that is biblical!

    • Tom

      I never said we need to sin in order to witness to Christ. Where on earth did you get that from?

    • MarcAlcan

      Quite wrong because it is precisely our contention that such acts are precursors to what initially may be a subtle evil but which progress to a full blown evil. We are talking about techniques that open one to the entry of evil spirits.

      We are not talking here about trying a new pop soda and deciding for yourself whether you like it. This is like telling someone to try a pop soda that people have confirmed has been laced with arsenic and here you are telling them that they still should try it so they can find out for themselves.

      There is a saying that foolish people learn from other’s mistakes and wise men learn from others.

    • Tom

      Are you assuming, then, that “people have confirmed” eastern mystical experience to be a communion and collaboration with demons? This is a bizzare way of thinking and is unfounded. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of and curiosity about these traditions. What evidence could you present to support this idea? Perhaps you should inquire further into this assumption…

    • MarcAlcan

      Some have testified to this.
      Fr Fortea in his interview was asked as to why we seem to see a rise in demonic possesions these days.
      He explained that this has to do with the fact that more and more are dallying in New Age practices.

    • Tom

      This is one man’s opinion. Just because he is an exorcist does not mean he is infallible. There are good aspects of the so-called New Age movement. There is also a lot of drivel as well. What is telling is that many Christians have called contemplative prayer “New Age” but as Catholics we know it is firmly rooted in tradition. Calling something “New Age” doesn’t automatically make it evil. Again, you have to distinguish between occult fascination and authentic contemplative practice.

    • MarcAlcan

      The good aspects of the New Age are buried in the immense bad aspects. The ordinary Christian will find it hard to discern what is good or bad about it, which is precisely why so many are falling headlong into it and leaving the Catholic Church.

      And Fr Fortea’s opinion is not just one man’s opinion. You ought to read the testimonies of those who have been delivered from the lies of the New Age.

    • Tom

      “techniques that open one to the entry of evil spirits.”

      What techniques are you referring to here? In looking at this issue, one needs to make a distinction between genuine contemplative practice and practices aimed at the pursuit of occult power. The two are very different things. The only real danger for a contemplative is when his or her will is open to the influence of occult power. If one is steadfast in one’s intention to transcend (not become attached to or taken in by) the realm of occult power and energy, one need not worry for one’s soul. This is the case in both the high contemplative teachings of both east and west.

    • MarcAlcan

      The issue here is that the contemplative practices in discussion are in direct opposition to Christian belief.
      It is not surprising that Thomas Merton at the end of his life said that the his main goal is to become a good Buddhist.
      There is Christ …. and then there is the path that is not of Christ.

    • Tom

      Your problem is that you view religious traditions in terms of what divides and are content to remain within the “Catholic ghetto.” Merton and those like him view(ed) religious traditions in terms of what unites. With the unifying perspective, one can engage in authentic interreligious dialogue with men and women of good will, and share genuine human values with one another. Merton was a philosopher by nature and was interested in the concept of monastic culture, including the monastic culture of other religious traditions. The term just refers to the fact that there is a constellation of human values pertaining to the contemplative lifestyle which one can discern in the monastic expression of any religious tradition. Christianity doesn’t own them, and can learn from other traditions. I think it can fairly be said that, near the end of his life, Merton was interested in integrating the insights of other monastic traditions into the Christian monastic culture. I don’t see any controversy here. Religious conservatives generally tend to balk at the possibility of learning anything from other religious traditions. Their loss.

    • MarcAlcan

      Your problem is that you view religious traditions in terms of what divides and are content to remain within the “Catholic ghetto.” Merton and those like him view(ed) religious traditions in terms of what unites
      That is false. The Catholic views religious terms on what is true. It is not about division or unity but aobut what is true. If it is true to view an aspect of religion as a division, then it must be viewed as a division. If an aspect must be viewed as a unity, then it must be viewed as a unity.

      Whatever Merton’s interests are, it has no bearing on what we are talking about. The simple fact is, this person who dallied Buddhism ended up eschewing the Christian. One cannot say he remained Christian, because Buddhism is totally opposed to the Christian faith and he chose Buddhism.

      If someone has the fullness of faith, (which is precisely why we can say this and that facet is or is not in accord with this faith) then why else would you go for that other faith, when you already know what is truly good. That would be like choosing to taste water laced with a bit of arsenic when you already know that you have the pure glass. If you are one for drinking the one laced with arsenic, that’s your choice. I am just saying that there is pure water available.

    • Ingrid

      One can no more separate the exercises of yoga from its original spiritual intent. One cannot separate the “Sign of the Cross” from the Catholic Faith and change its meaning either. We are not the authors of yoga and have no right to attempt to change its theology. We are not authors of what God has ordained as Truth and in fact, we are instructed, “not to add to or take away from” what is written in scripture. In the realm of God’s enemy that rule holds just as much as it does in God’s Kingdom. We are after all, just creatures.

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      Rubbish….yoga is physical posturing and exercise. You can separate acupuncture from Chinese religious practice, as do most doctors. You can separate prayer beads from Hindu belief as well and prayer the rosary which is not a Christian invention. You can practice yoga without it’s theology, acupuncture without belief in meridians and chakras, rosary and prayer beads from each other. We do have mind, will, discernment….many New Age practices predate Judeo-Christianity, i.e. candles, incense, prayer beads, mantra and healing techniques. Christianity does not have a monopoly on healing the body and ascending the spirit to God!

    • MarcAlcan

      Maybe you should watch this

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd8-e3lVmqs

    • james

      I didn’t know what to expect of Fr Joseph as he began this saga of finding
      his faith. The climax of this story was his telling of the ” fascinating
      experiance of finding myself disappearing, to a world of no suffering and
      no self.” He did this in the lotus position while in deep meditation. His
      subsequent delve into the occult is a separate experiance that he chose
      to embark on, a demarcation that straddles a line between enough and too much of a good thing. Going back to this climax I can only surmise that his experiance is directly reflected in Luke 17: 21. When Jesus says,
      ” Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

    • Tom

      Agree. Would just add that Fr. Joseph says that all major religious traditions contain teachings which caution against the pursuit of occult powers, or the use of psychic/energetic powers for manipulative purposes. I would guess the reason is that it is too easy for one to become ensnared/addicted to the pleasure, power or security offered by such abilities, and thus fail to reach the goal of spiritual practice as conceived by the tradition. In every major tradition, that goal is transcendent, and lies beyond the pale of occult fascinations.

    • james

      Very well said, thanks.

    • MarcAlcan

      And yet those who do try yoga go on to the occult.

    • Tom

      This statement conveys no actual information. It is an argument, not a fact.

    • MarcAlcan

      You’re wrong. It is a fact. Many who have done yoga have also done reiki. Reiki is occult.

    • Tom

      To say “those who do try yoga go on to the occult” is not the same as to say “many who have done yoga have also done reiki.” I don’t dispute the second statement. There is no necessary connection between stretching, breathing and awareness practices on the one hand and the occult on the other.

    • MarcAlcan

      On the surface there isn’t. But the fact that many end up doing the occult after doing yoga speaks for itself.

    • MarcAlcan

      One leads to the other

    • james

      It says ” within you ” in my Catholic douay version of the bible and the
      point of yoga is physical and meditive discipline not anihilation.

    • MarcAlcan

      The Douay version has some errors in translation (Gen 3:15 being one as well). The correct translation is among you.
      The goal of yoga is nirvana – the extinguishment of desire.
      This is very different to Christianity – the goal of which is the fulfilment of desire – Christ.

    • james

      It’s not translation but interpretation that has the most errors.

    • MarcAlcan

      In the case you cited it was an error in translation. And I think that the error in translation occurred because of an erroneous interpretation and they followed they erroneous interpretation and thus translated accordingly.

      As for interpretation, who is the adjudicator in this regard? ‘Who decides what is correct translation and false translation?

    • james

      the human heart, for it speaks to all of us in different ways on different paths – it meets us were we are

    • MarcAlcan

      Sorry but that is just pure nonsense and has absolutely no bearing on the previous posts.
      What has that statement got to do with translation and interpretation.
      Your reply makes as much sense as replying ” I love pancakes with icecream” when you are asked what the weather is in New York.

    • james

      better than one authority deciding and abolishing all nuance.

    • MarcAlcan

      But if the one authority decision is the truth and the individual nuances lies, then I would go with the truth. Only the foolish prefer lies. Lies lead to evil. As the Lord Himself said, the devil is the father of lies.

    • james

      Anyway, Marc, it’s been nice theoliging with you.

    • Tom

      Fr. Joseph, at least in this video, doesn’t adequately describe the potential similarities between Christian spirituality and eastern forms of spirituality. It seems he overemphasizes the personal element of Christian spirituality and fails to mention the Christian apophatic tradition, which is more amenable to an understanding of the Divine as impersonal. As Catholics, we can believe in a God who is both personal and yet transcends personality. It’s a both/and thing.

      Eastern spirituality is often caricatured as impersonal or unconcerned with love, but in Hinduism there are various forms of spiritual practice centered on personal love of a deity. This is bhakti yoga. Along with that, there is karma yoga, which incorporates the horizontal element of love. Fr. Joseph also never mentions (at least in the video) the fact that Buddhism, especially in its Mahayana form, considers compassion and compassionate action to be half of enlightenment. It should also be mentioned that there is a debt among scholars of early buddhism as to whether the buddha even taught that there is no soul. The anatta doctrine could simply be an ancient eastern expression of what we, as Catholics, would call the via negativa. One can best understand the soul by what it is not. Same, at least in the apophatic tradition, with God.

      I would not want to equate eastern teachings with Christian teachings, but only point out that the mystical/contemplative expressions of the east and the west may not be as different as it may first appear. Yes, there are differences (especially in terms of the use of language and logic–different cultures, after all), but the contemplative experience and its expressions are very similar if you are willing to dig beneath the descriptions that accompany them. For example, the experience of the sense of self dropping away (nirvikalpa samadhi or nirvana) is known in Christian mysticism, though it seems different terminology is used to describe it. Also, this experience, once it has matured and one has become acclimated to it, does not prevent one from expressing love, it just changes the point of reference. And in a good way, I’d argue.

    • MarcAlcan

      Transcendent does not mean impersonal. God is transcendent but never impersonal.

      I think if you re-read your post, you would see straight away the problem there in.

      You write: “Hinduism there are various forms of spiritual practice centered on personal love of a deity.”

    • Tom

      “Transcendent does not mean impersonal. God is transcendent but never impersonal.”

      Are you familiar with the apophatic tradition? Transcendent means that God’s Essence cannot be adequately understood by means of any analogies or concepts we assign to It, including personality or impersonality. One could say that God’s Essence is both personal and impersonal, or that God’s essence is neither (strictly) personal nor (strictly) impersonal. A good way to say it would be that God’s Essence transcends and includes personality and impersonality. God outstrips human thinking even while taking it into account. I don’t see a problem here. This is a Dionysian understanding of God’s Essence, which is taken up by Aquinas.

    • MarcAlcan

      Are you familiar with the apophatic tradition? Transcendent means that God’s Essence cannot be adequately understood by means of any analogies or concepts we assign to It, including personality or impersonality
      Transcendence and immanence are not contradictory terms. Personal and Impersonal are contradictory terms. Ergo God can be both Transcendent and immanent but He cannot be both personal and impersonal This is why Christian theology has always stressed that God is a family of Persons.

    • Tom

      I don’t think it is any more of a contradiction to say that God is both personal and impersonal than it is to assert that God is both three and one. God is a mystery beyond words. Our dogmas point us in the direction of God, but our dogmas are not God.

    • MarcAlcan

      Quite wrong. Impersonal is the opposite of personal therefore a total contradiction.
      But the Trinity is not a contradiction. When we say that God is three and God is one, we are saying that God is family (one) of Persons (three).
      While our dogmas are not God, there are dogmas that speak truly about God and there are dogmas that speak falsely of God.

    • Tom

      Hey MarcAlcan, I decided before to put an end to our discussion because it didn’t seem you were open to anything I was saying. That’s okay, as I ultimately don’t care if I convince you or not, but I did want to offer you a tip regarding this personality and impersonality debate since you brought a good point up. Dionysian theology would say God is beyond both personality and impersonality rather than that God is both personal and impersonal. The latter could be said to imply a contradiction (unless further distinctions were made in the same way the Church speaks about God’s unity and trinity) but not the former.

      Also, if you read certain mystics in the Christian tradition, you will see that God is experienced personally/relationally as long as one’s separate self sense remains. This only makes sense, because as long as we experience ourselves as fundamentally separated from God, we can only relate to God as an object out there. There is a wide variety of mystical experience that fits within this category. Further development is possible, though. Once the separate self sense drops away after many years of faithful spiritual practice (in most cases anyway) and the advent of grace, one no longer experiences oneself as separate from God, so one’s sense of God changes accordingly. I’m not talking about the mystical marriage here, because this still involves a separate self sense and God-as-object. I’m talking about a definitive state of union in which one no longer perceives a separate identity to oneself, nor is there anything Divine that is experienced as a discrete object in this pure state. This is admittedly a rare experience in the Christian tradition, and it is even more rare that it is written about openly and clearly. This is an important point, and perhaps the most important thing it teaches us is that God is fundamentally not an object, even if our doctrine attempts objectification. This is the best we can do in the realm of the cataphatic. This is precisely why the apophatic perspective is necessary–it completes the cataphatic perspective.

      Anyway, feel free to look further into this, or not. Your choice. You seem like a person who likes a good argument. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily. Just remember to be silent before God’s mystery once in a while. You might learn something in unknowing.

    • MarcAlcan

      Who cares about Dionysian theology. It is not Church teaching that God is impersonal. We are not deists. We are theists. We believe that God is a person or more properly 3 persons in one God.

      You could go as far as cite this and that Church father but remember, the Church father is not the adjudicator of truth – the Church is.

      As for what certain Christian mystics experience, the fact that they experience the love of God means that God is personal.

      As for not being open to anything you are saying, I hear and understand what you are saying, but I know that a lot of it is false. The bottom line for me is the veracity of your claims. Truth matters because Jesus said He is truth.

      All you are saying here is a bunch of mental gymnastics aimed to confuse people.

    • Tom

      “Who cares about Dionysian theology.”

      As I said before, Aquinas takes up Dionysian theology in his teaching, as do other important Doctors of the Church, and Aquinas provides the basic framework for Catholic theology. So, as to who cares, the Church does.

      “As for what certain Christian mystics experience, the fact that they experience the love of God means that God is personal.”

      Very true. I never denied that God is personal. But I’m telling you that to experience God as personal is only one subset of mystical experience. There is more to it than that–at a certain stage of spiritual development God is not experienced as any thing that can be related to, because God is fundamentally not an object out there, but the very Condition of Existence/Reality itself. This means that to say God is personal is only part of the picture.

      “All you are saying here is a bunch of mental gymnastics aimed to confuse people.”

      I’m not trying to confuse anybody. The confusion lies in the fact that you are struggling with the truth that God cannot be reduced to the personal experience of God.The rational mind, even with the aid of revelation, is always inadequate in fully grasping God. The way of Christian mysticism is not one of clinging to thoughts/reflections about God (as object), but one of releasing thoughts about/of God in order to grasp him by love. Love ultimately transforms lover into Beloved, which reaches fruition in knowledge of God by Identity. Dogma points us in this direction, but that’s it. We don’t worship it. That would be idolatry.

      “it is not good to contemplate in silence a FALSE idea of God’s mystery – that kind of mysticism will not be coming from God but from the sower of lies.”

      In theory I agree, but what I’m telling you is that to contemplate God as ANY idea, even what you would call a true idea, is not to fully grasp God. God is not ultimately an object/idea which can be thought. Or, to put it another way, meditation/thinking (even theological thinking or contemplating dogma) is only a means to approach God. The whole point of dogma is to allow us to approach God’s Mystery in love, which is the only real way to truly know God. God’s Essence ultimately transcends all concepts and ideas, while love ends up transforming us into the object of our contemplation. This is the highest knowledge/realization.

    • MarcAlcan

      As I said before, Aquinas takes up Dionysian theology in his teaching, as do other important Doctors of the Church, and Aquinas provides the basic framework for Catholic theology. So, as to who cares, the Church does.
      But taking some part Dionysian theology does not necessarilly mean endorsing this aspect of Dionysian theology.
      Furthermore, there are some aspect of Thomist theology that are not ratified by the church.
      Thisis the problem when people argue from authority. As great a doctgor of the Church he is, not all his writing is 100 percent endorsed by the Church.

      I never denied that God is personal. But I’m telling you that to experience God as personal is only one subset of mystical experience.
      But that is nonsense. The fact that God is experienced at all means that He is personal. We are not able to experience God save for His own initiative allowing us to experience Him.

      “All you are saying here is a bunch of mental gymnastics aimed to confuse people.”

      The confusion lies in the fact that you are struggling with the truth that God cannot be reduced to the personal experience of God.

      You are completely misunderstanding me. I am not saying that God is to be reduced to a personal experience. Whether God is experienced at all or not, He remains a family of Persons , ergo His relationship with His creation will always be personal. He therefore cannot be impersonal.
      As I have said before, we are not Deists.
      This is the problem you have because you have been dabbling in eastern mysticism that you fail to understand this. God is a person and He is always personal. He is always interested in His creation. That is what the Church teaches. Whether you believe that is up to you but what you have been saying here is false and cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Church.

      God is not both personal and impersonal. He is always personal.

      but what I’m telling you is that to contemplate God as ANY idea, even what you would call a true idea, is not to fully grasp God. God is not ultimately an object/idea which can be thought. Or, to put it another way, meditation/thinking (even theological thinking or contemplating dogma) is only a means to approach God. The whole point of dogma is to allow us to approach God’s Mystery in love, which is the only real way to truly know God. God’s Essence ultimately transcends all concepts and ideas, while love ends up transforming us into the object of our contemplation

      I never said that we truly 100 percent grasp God. But there are false ideas of contemplation (as set out in Eastern Mysticism) which are totally incompatible with Christian mysticism and that is what I am saying is false. You on the other hand have this relativistic idead that all mysticism is true just because according to you “we cannot completely apprehend God”. Christian mysticism is grounded on the premise of God’s own revelation. Therefore mysticism that is not grounded on God’s own revelation of Himself in Scripture and in Jesus is false mysticism.

    • Tom

      Aquinas doesn’t dictate Church teaching, but is philosophical/theological approach is held in high esteem by the Church. We do well to pay attention to it, and are fools to ignore it.

      To say that God cannot be reduced to being personal isn’t to deny that God is personal, which I’ve never done. God is beyond the analogy of personhood while remaining personal in nature. That’s why I said God transcends and includes personality. It isn’t eastern mysticism that provides this insight–it is in the heart of the Christian tradition. So this isn’t a
      plug for eastern mysticism as you seem to think.

      Love of God (I-Thou) ultimately leads to knowledge of God by identity, in
      which God is not experienced as an object which can be related to as an
      Other, but as the deepest center of our being, indistinguishable from us.
      It isn’t a matter of God being impersonal here, but of one going so deep
      into personal love of God that one comes to realize He is beyond not only
      all words/ideas (including dogmatic formulas) about Him, which are
      basically impersonal as they assume a third person perspective, but also
      all possible personal experiences of Him. So God is beyond the conceptions of personality and impersonality, and yet He can still be experienced and
      spoken of both impersonally and as personal. This is an inclusive view.

      To point to the doctrine of the Trinity as an argument for God not transcending personality is incorrect, because the Divine Nature
      itself, which is shared by the Three Persons, is fundamentally beyond the analogy of personality or personhood. Aquinas says that God’s Nature outstrips any possible analogy we could apply to It.

      “The reason why eastern mysticism teaches that God is impersonal is because they do not teach that God is love.”

      This is the same claim made by Fr. Joseph in that video, and it is
      patently false. I’m willing to bet you haven’t read any sacred text of
      eastern mysticism, at least not carefully.

    • MarcAlcan

      Listen, I never said that you were denying that God is personal.
      You have to read better what I write.

      My contention with you is your proposal that God is BOTH personal and impersonal.
      I said that is a contradiction. And it is a contradiction. You cannot wipe out that contradiction just by appealing to authority (a fallacy) or some nebulous idea of God not being entirely knowable.
      That is my main contention with you. God is only ever personal. Never impersonal.

      You agree with me that God is love. You even went so far as to state that we can only know Him truly in love. If that is the case, then God is only ever personal because His reality is love and love is always only ever personal. If the verse essence of God is love, then love can never ever be impersonal.

      Eastern belief does not hold to this. Eastern beliefs are so contrary to Christian belief that you cannot merge the two.

      My second contention with you is your advocacy for the benefits of practicing eastern practices.
      And I said that is rubbish.

      As I have explained before – if Jesus is who He claims He is, then He is the fullness of truth. Therefore we have no need of any other and any other can only lead us away from Him. And this is very evident. Just look at all those who have succumbed to eastern practices – they now believe that Jesus is only one guru among many.

      The reason I keep replying to you is to show the lie of what you write because what you write is dangerous. You are leading people down the wrong path.

    • Tom

      You need to read better what I wrote, MarcAlcan.

      What I have been saying to you over and over is that it is more accurate to say that God’s Nature/Essence is beyond the analogies of both personality and impersonality than it is to say that God is both personal and impersonal. I do agree with you that the latter presents a potential contradiction, unless further distinctions are made, such as that God reveals Himself and can be approached and apprehended, to a limited extent, in an impersonal manner, just as He reveals Himself and can be approached and apprehended, to a limited extent, in a personal manner. Better to say, though, that He includes and transcends the analogy of personhood.

      The fact that God is said to be love in the bible does not do away with the traditional theological understanding that God is beyond any analogy we may apply to Him, including love. To say God is love is a true understanding of God, but God’s Essence is beyond that particular analogy. Scripture is clear that God dwells in unapproachable light, and that He is beyond our understanding. If you understand traditional Catholic theology, there is no controversy here. It is a controversy of your own making.

      Your second contention with me is your opinion that one can learn nothing but lies from other religious traditions. That understanding does not accord with the understanding of the Vactican II fathers, who taught that whatever is good and true in other traditions should be preserved. If nothing was good or true about these other traditions, there would be no need to say this. If you, and others like you, don’t find the study of other traditions helpful or fruitful for deepening your faith, that’s okay, but other people do. Your accusations of confusion and leading others astray are baseless, as I’m well grounded in my faith as are many who study eastern traditions. Sure, some lose their faith after they start looking into meditation, yoga or eastern traditions, but some also lose their faith after beginning to study physics. There is no necessary connection between looking into eastern religious traditions and losing one’s faith, just as there is no necessary connection between studying physics and losing one’s faith. It is a matter of being well-grounded in one’s faith.

      Getting back to the original topic: can you explain to me, in detail, how it is that systematic stretching, slow and controlled breathing, and awareness of breath, heartbeat, sense impressions and thoughts, is contrary to the gospel? I would love to hear your explanation. The fact that these things have been called dangerous and have become the subject of evil tells me that some Catholics, including you, are very superstitious. I have read multiple books on exorcism and I’m familiar with the Church’s warnings about New Age teaching and the testimony of those who have been delivered from slavery to occult involvements, and it is good to be aware of these things, but let’s not throw out the good and true with the bad and untrue.

    • MarcAlcan

      What I have been saying to you over and over is that it is more accurate to say that God’s Nature/Essence is beyond the analogies of both personality and impersonality
      Tom, several posts ago you said that God is BOTH personal and impersonal. You wrote that so stop trying to wiggle out of that.
      Secondly, God’s nature is NOT BEYOND personhood. Now if you want to believe what you wrote, you are free to believe that. But that is not Christian belief. God may have other attributes but He is a person. He cannot be a person and not a person at the same time.
      And to say that God is love is not an analogy. God IS love. If you don’t get that very point, then it is no wonder our conversation is going the way it is going.
      As for Vatican II and other religions I have already explained this before.
      Please read this very carefully. The reason V2 can say that we must not reject what ever is good in other religions means that WE are the ones determining what is good in other religions. The reason we can see what is good in other religions is because we know they are good, because we ALREADY HAVE THEM in Christianity. Whatever is good in other religion has ALREADY BEEN PERFECTED in Christianity. Do you get that at all?
      So my point is, if we already know what is good, why would you dabble in other religions where there is a possible contamination of the bad things that are in these religions.
      It is a fact, that people who have dabbled in these religions have in fact abandoned Christianity. As I have explained, even Thomas Merton who was supposed to be well grounded in his faith in the end ended being Buddhist instead of Christian.
      The devil is very subtle. Why in the world would you please with his lies?

    • Tom

      “Tom, several posts ago you said that God is BOTH personal and
      impersonal. You wrote that so stop trying to wiggle out of that.”

      I like how you’ve ignored my subsequent clarifications of that
      statement, which I’ve offered multiple times. Let me explain it again to you,
      since you aren’t getting it. I’ll be very brief, so that you have less chance
      of twisting it up. One could say that God is both personal and impersonal IN THE SENSE THAT He can be understood and spoken of in an impersonal manner, as in theology and philosophy, as well as in a personal manner, as in the life of prayer. To be true to Catholic teaching, though, one must say that God’s Nature is beyond any analogy/concept we may apply to It, including personhood—this is basic Thomistic theology.

      “He cannot be a person and not a person at the same time.”

      Yes, He can, if you understand that personhood IS an analogy,
      which Aquinas does. You say that “God is love” is not an analogy, but it really is, because it is a concept used to attempt an understanding of God’s nature and activity. Any concept we apply to God is applied analogically, even being/existence. The true nature of God’s “love” is beyond any positive statement we can make about it, since God is infinite and lacks all limitation. Theological language has inherent limitations. Again, this is basic apophatic/negative theology, the basic premise of which is that all language about God ultimately falls short. This is why silence is so highly valued in the Christian contemplative tradition. This is why contemplatio comes after meditatio and oratio.

      “The reason V2 can say that we must not reject what ever is good
      in other religions means that WE are the ones determining what is good in other religions.”

      This much, I can agree with. As Catholics, we bring our particular perspective to bear on other religious traditions, just as they do
      when they look at us. It cannot be otherwise.

      “The reason we can see what is good in other religions is
      because we know they are good, because we ALREADY HAVE THEM in Christianity. Whatever is good in other religion has ALREADY BEEN PERFECTED in Christianity.”

      This is where you go off track. You are assuming that the
      Catholic tradition contains all possible expressions of truth, goodness and
      beauty in perfected form on any subject within the purview of religion. Because this is patently false, there are things we can learn from other religious traditions.

      “So my point is, if we already know what is good, why would you
      dabble in other religions where there is a possible contamination of the bad
      things that are in these religions.”

      Again, this isn’t a great danger for one who is grounded in the faith.
      Why would you study anything that has any potential at all to make you question your faith or lose it? That would include things like the natural sciences, which because of the nature of their methodology could tempt one to ignore metaphysical realities.

      And Merton didn’t end up Buddhist. That is a senseless thing to
      say. He simply had a profound interest in Buddhism.

    • Tom

      You still haven’t answered my question:

      “Getting back to the original topic: can you explain to me, in detail, how it is that systematic stretching, slow and controlled breathing, and awareness of breath, heartbeat, sense impressions and thoughts, is contrary to the gospel?”

      Would love to hear what you have to say, other than “the devil is subtle.” That is a nonanswer–evasion.

    • MarcAlcan

      I thought the fact that you were making a comment about Fr Joseph’s video that you must have watched it. But it seems not.

      Re-watch the video. Somewhere towards the end of the video, he poses your question to a Guru.
      And the Guru laughed out the suggestion that somehow Yoga – the exercise can be divorced from the spiritual side of yoga. He said Yoga is yoga. Whether you intend the effects, you get the effects.

      Over and over in my replies to you, I have highlighted how people who have dabbled in these things have ended up in the spiritual side of yoga and doing the occult.

      I have a feeling that you have not really read my replies or maybe you have a kind of selective reading difficulty operating somewhere.

      I even gave you the analogy of being offered water laced with arsenic. Why would you even touch the stuff if you already have pure clear water?

      It is getting tiresome having to explain this over and over again. If you are going to propose a new tangent please do so but going back to something that I have explained before is getting tiring.

      And the “devil is very subtle” IS an answer. As has been evident in those who have taken up Yoga and proceeded to abandon their Christian faiths or else fallen into syncretism as you have done. He starts off precisely with the kind of argument that you have made: what’s the harm in these postures?

      So yes, the devil is very subtle.

    • Tom

      You are one snarky guy, MarcAlcan. Did you read my other reply?

      I did watch the video and heard that part of it. What I have pointed out to you, multiple times, is that there is a difference between yoga, even the spiritual side, and “the occult.” If you read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he is clear that pursuing occult powers is a distraction, potentially dangerous. This is the understanding in the high contemplative teachings of every contemplative tradition, not just Christianity. As I said, this is what Fr. Joseph admits as well. That is why I said you have to distinguish between the realm of the occult, which is aimed at the pursuit of power, pleasure, security, and authentic spiritual practice, which is aimed at the Transcendent.

      “Over and over in my replies to you, I have highlighted how people who have dabbled in these things have ended up in the spiritual side of yoga and doing the occult.”

      And, over and over, I have told you that there is no necessary connection between occult fascination and the practice of controlled breathing, body awareness and concentration. There are many people who practice some form of meditation or body awareness who remain firmly within the Christian fold. By the way, I did notice that you wisely avoided pronouncing breath control, body awareness and concentration as contrary to the gospel. Isn’t this just common sense?

      “I even gave you the analogy of being offered water laced with arsenic. Why would you even touch the stuff if you already have pure clear water?”

      And I pointed out before (if you bothered to read) that that is a terrible analogy since, among other things, it assumes that Truth/God can be possessed like real estate. Look up my earlier reply. I’m not going to type it out again.

      You accuse me of syncretism, but I repeatedly stated that there are differences between different faith traditions. What I am trying to point out to you is that there are some values, even spiritual values, we share in common with other traditions. This only makes sense, since we share a common humanity. To say “the devil is very subtle” is really not a reply, but a cop-out for lack of intelligence and curiosity. Blame it on the devil and you don’t have to deal with it.

      In our exchanges, I’ve noticed that you are coming from a perspective which is so locked into its own understanding that it fails to see the real value in other perspectives. This is not “syncretism” but just the use of one’s intelligence. Some of the greatest theologians of the Christian tradition were not afraid of examining non-Christian philosophy and integrating it into the Christian understanding. This is a tried and true approach, even if it may not interest non-philosophic Christians. In light of this, I have to ask: are you even Catholic, MarcAlcan? I guess I’ve been assuming you are. I ask this because the only other people who have had so many problems with what I’ve been saying to you are evangelical or fundamentalist Christians.

      There are other angles we could take on this, but I’m not sure it would be worth our time. Looking at your replies to others, it seems you are engaged in constant arguments. Have you noticed this yourself? One thing I might point out, though, is that one reason many Christians look to eastern contemplative disciplines to enrich their faith is that many of these traditions integrate disciplines like body awareness and mental equipoise into the spiritual life better than Christianity historically has. Now, it is certainly true that the Christian contemplative tradition does include these things in some form, but not to the extent other traditions have, generally speaking. Eastern practices have also helped many Christians understand the need for discipline and hard work in the contemplative life. This is also present in the Christian tradition, but it is usually grace that is emphasized. Another example of this type of thing, in Buddhism, is the practice of metta (or, contemplation of the four immeasurables) or tonglen. Here again, it isn’t that these types of practices are completely alien to the Christian tradition, but it isn’t as developed as in the Buddhism, at least not as a systematic spiritual practice. The bottom line here is that well-grounded Christians can use such practices with great benefit without endangering their faith, because there is nothing contrary about these practices to Christian faith. Even the ultimate Buddhist intuition is not necessarily contrary to Christian faith, if rightly framed–it all depends how you understand/frame it. This goes back to what I keep saying: mystical/contemplative experience does not interpret itself–it is given an interpretation by a mind which imposes categories/concepts upon it.

    • MarcAlcan

      You are one snarky guy, MarcAlcan. Did you read my other reply?

      I did watch the video and heard that part of it. What I have pointed out to you, multiple times, is that there is a difference between yoga, even the spiritual side, and “the occult.”
      It seems you really have a problem understanding what I write. Or maybe it is selective reading again. I NEVER SAID that the spiritual side of Yoga is the same as the occult.
      What I said was that the spiritual side of Yoga is against Christianity and that those who dabbled in the exercise side can have the spiritual side and the spiritual side is pagan religion – idolatry!
      Get that? So tell me, why is it good to engage in Pagan religion when we already have Christ?
      If you read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he is clear that pursuing occult powers is a distraction, potentially dangerous.
      But since I never said that the Yogi’s purse the occult, this comment is irrelevant. If you will only read better what I write instead of assuming what I think then we will converse better.
      And, over and over, I have told you that there is no necessary connection between occult fascination and the practice of controlled breathing, body awareness and concentration.
      You are right. There isn’t between controlled breathing and the occult. But Yoga is much more than controlled breathing. Yoga is Yoga – a series of techniques and poses that were developed in praise of pagan gods. And if as explained above, the exercise cannot be divorced from the spiritual, then in doing this practices you are opening your body up to evil spirits.
      There are many people who practice some form of meditation or body awareness who remain firmly within the Christian fold.
      Perhaps. But many more who venture into this end up having the entire camel – not just the nose – because it is a one piece camel.
      And I pointed out before (if you bothered to read) that that is a terrible analogy since, among other things, it assumes that Truth/God can be possessed like real estate. Look up my earlier reply. I’m not going to type it out again.
      And that rebuttal is downright stupid because I was not talking about God, but the world view and spiritual view being proposed.
      As Pope Benedict wrote with regards Liberation theology :

      Such a statement applies to yoga.
      Here is a tip: learn to differentiate between terms so you do not give confused answers.
      When I address theology, reply vis a vis theology. When I make statements about God, then reply vis a vis God. Do not conflate the two.
      You accuse me of syncretism, but I repeatedly stated that there are differences between different faith traditions
      And the differences can be that some of these faith traditions are false and incompatible with Christianity.
      . What I am trying to point out to you is that there are some values, even spiritual values, we share in common with other traditions.
      And I do not dispute that. But as I have explained, before, the fact that we can say that some things in other religions are good is because the benchmark – the truly good – is Christian faith.
      So, the question is, if you already have the Christian faith –the true good – why in the world would you dabble in one where the true is swimming in a soup of lies?

      This only makes sense, since we share a common humanity. To say “the devil is very subtle” is really not a reply, but a cop-out for lack of intelligence and curiosity. Blame it on the devil and you don’t have to deal with it.
      And as I have already explained, it is not a cop – out. It is a real statement. Sharing in a common humanity does not mean that somehow every faith is good. It isn’t. So since we know that Christianity is IT, then why in the world would want to wade in contaminated water. If you know that Eastern Religion is not all good when put against the light of Christian faith, why even go there? Unless of course you are saying that there is something lacking in the Christian faith that can only be found in Eastern Religions.
      The only benefit of knowing the Eastern Religion is as a mental exercise – so that we can expose the lies.
      In our exchanges, I’ve noticed that you are coming from a perspective which is so locked into its own understanding that it fails to see the real value in other perspectives.
      Then obviously you did not understand what I wrote at all.
      Let me make it simpler.
      We say that Christianity has the fullness of truth for after all it is GOD’S OWN REVELATION. Let’s say it is 100%.
      We also say that in some religions we find in some 2% that is compatible with this fullness of truth, some maybe 9%, others perhaps 20%.
      The reason why we know the 5%, 9%, 20% is true is because we are using the 100% as the benchmark.
      So, if you already have the 100%, why would dabble in these Eastern religions who have 95%, 81% or 80% of lies when you already have the 100% truth. Why would you do that when the 5,9 and 20% of truth they have is already in the 100% truth you hold?
      This is not “syncretism” but just the use of one’s intelligence.
      It is syncretism. Refer to my response immediately above.
      Some of the greatest theologians of the Christian tradition were not afraid of examining non-Christian philosophy and integrating it into the Christian understanding.
      Examining these for intellectual purposes is different to using them. The things that can be integrated into Christian thinking IS ALREADY in Christian thinking.
      This is a tried and true approach
      According to you. But not according to the CDF.
      IIn light of this, I have to ask: are you even Catholic, MarcAlcan?
      No Tom. You should ask yourself that.
      Looking at your replies to others, it seems you are engaged in constant arguments. ?
      And that is the most laughable thing you have ever said so far considering that you said you are no longer replying and yet here you are still with long posts going over and over again.
      I suppose in your pristine perception of yourself I am engaging in arguments while yours is nothing more than enlightened civil discourse.
      How about googling the definition of hypocrisy?

    • Tom

      “What I said was that the spiritual side of Yoga is against Christianity and
      that those who dabbled in the exercise side can have the spiritual side and the
      spiritual side is pagan religion – idolatry!

      Get that? So tell me, why is it good to engage in Pagan religion when we
      already have Christ? Yoga is Yoga – a series of techniques and poses that were
      developed in praise of pagan gods.”

      Here you just demonstrate your partial knowledge of the yoga
      tradition. There are various forms of yoga. In Hatha yoga, a more modern form, certain
      poses were named after Vedic gods or seers, but there is no necessity in
      consider these poses as worship. It is in the intention. For one who considers
      it worship, it is. For one who considers it exercise, it is nothing more. The general
      purpose of Hatha yoga is not worship of Gods anyway—that is the domain of
      bhakti yoga—but to make the body healthy, supple, neurologically balanced, and
      to prepare the mind for concentrative meditati0n. Now I don’t personally
      practice hatha yoga, but I think it is superstitious to say that a Christian is
      worshipping a pagan idol by utilizing a universal posture which some far away
      culture named after one of the gods of its ancient tradition. This is absurd,
      and downright superstitious. Grow up!

      “And I do
      not dispute that. But as I have explained, before, the fact that we can say
      that some things in other religions are good is because the benchmark – the
      truly good – is Christian faith.

      So, the question is, if you already have the Christian faith –the true good –
      why in the world would you dabble in one where the true is swimming in a soup
      of lies?”

      This is your particularly view on it. I could just as easily say
      to a literature buff: if you don’t need to read that stuff for your salvation
      and you won’t learn anything by reading literature that you can’t already find
      in the Christian faith in perfected form, why would you want to read that
      literature? It could steal your faith. You can choose to live with this approach,
      but I absolutely will not.

      “The only benefit of knowing the Eastern Religion is as a mental
      exercise – so that we can expose the lies.”

      Again, this is your
      opinion, to which you are entitled. It is not the only approach, though. Are
      yu an SSPXer? VII does not endorse this approach to other faith traditions.

      “Examining these for intellectual purposes is different to using them. The
      things that can be integrated into Christian thinking IS ALREADY in Christian
      thinking.”

      Wow. Do you realize what you are saying here? You are
      essentially saying that the work of theology is complete. You are saying that
      there is no possibility of further understanding of the faith, that there are
      no other perspectives to take on the faith, no new insights about the faith, that
      theologians can either resign themselves to quoting old theological texts or go
      get jobs delivering pizza. I fundamentally disagree with this approach, since
      it all but abolishes the work of theology. This statement of yours is a perfect
      demonstration of why you need to round out your thinking with apophatic
      theology. Precisely because our words can never fully grasp God’s unfathomable
      Essence, we are always able to say more and come up with new ways of looking at
      God. Even if some ways are more true/integral than others, setting up any formulation as final or complete is idolatry. This
      is why I keep saying: WE WORSHIP GOD, NOT OUR DOGMAS. Ponder that.

      I think we’ve pretty well drawn the lines in the sand. I don’t
      think you have a sufficiently Catholic approach. You accuse me of the same
      thing. There you have it.

      By the way, MarcAlcan. Despite our disagreements, I do wish you
      well.

    • MarcAlcan

      There are
      various forms of yoga. In Hatha yoga, a more modern form, certain poses were named after Vedic gods or seers, but there is no necessity in consider these poses as worship. It is in the intention. For one who considers it worship, it is.

      You really must be suffering from short term memory loss.

      Did we not just go over the statement from Fr Verlinde where
      the Hindu Guru said that you cannot divorce the spiritual side from the
      exercise. Did not the Guru say that it is not a matter of intention because Yoga is Yoga? That whether you intend the spiritual effects or not, you get the spiritual effects?

      This is your particularly view on it. I could just as easily say to a literature buff:
      if you don’t need to read that stuff for your salvation and you won’t learn anything by reading literature that you can’t already find in the Christian faith in perfected form, why would you want to read that literature? It could steal your faith. You can choose to live with this approach, but I absolutely will not.

      That is an absolutely stupid analogy. You claim to be Christian. Well helloo,
      Christianity claims that Jesus is God and Jesus said He is the Truth.

      Again, this is your opinion, to which you are entitled. It is not the only approach, though. Areyu an SSPXer? VII does not endorse this approach to other faith traditions.

      No it isn’t my opinion. If Jesus is just another Guru then yes, you can say that it is just my
      opinion. So therefore it is you who has to make up your mind as to who Jesus is for you.
      As for V2′s approach to other faith traditions. It is you who do not undertand V2. Read Lumen Gentium.

      Wow. Do you realize what you are saying here? You are essentially saying that the work of
      theology is complete.

      Another dumb conclusion from my statement. I did not say that theology is complete. I am saying that you cannot contradict what has been revealed. We have a revealed faith. The apopathic tradition is only Christian when it limits itself to those that are not part of revelation.

      Precisely because our words can never fully grasp God’s unfathomable essence, we are always able to say more and come up with new ways of looking at God.

      Only when it does not contradict Divine Revelation.

      By the way, MarcAlcan. Despite our disagreements, I do wish you well.

      I do wish you well too. And pray and hope that you do not end up like Thomas Merton.

    • Tom

      Not sure if you say this comment, because it somehow got buried:

      “Tom, several posts ago you said that God is BOTH personal and
      impersonal. You wrote that so stop trying to wiggle out of that.”

      I like how you’ve ignored my subsequent clarifications of that
      statement, which I’ve offered multiple times. Let me explain it again to you,
      since you aren’t getting it. I’ll be very brief, so that you have less chance
      of twisting it up. One could say that God is both personal and impersonal IN THE SENSE THAT He can be understood and spoken of in an impersonal manner, as in theology and philosophy, as well as in a personal manner, as in the life of prayer. To be true to Catholic teaching, though, one must say that God’s Nature is beyond any analogy/concept we may apply to It, including personhood—this is basic Thomistic theology.

      “He cannot be a person and not a person at the same time.”

      Yes, He can, if you understand that personhood IS an analogy,
      which Aquinas does. You say that “God is love” is not an analogy, but it really is, because it is a concept used to attempt an understanding of God’s nature and activity. Any concept we apply to God is applied analogically, even being/existence. The true nature of God’s “love” is beyond any positive statement we can make about it, since God is infinite and lacks all limitation. Theological language has inherent limitations. Again, this is basic apophatic/negative theology, the basic premise of which is that all language about God ultimately falls short. This is why silence is so highly valued in the Christian contemplative tradition. This is why contemplatio comes after meditatio and oratio.

      “The reason V2 can say that we must not reject what ever is good
      in other religions means that WE are the ones determining what is good in other religions.”

      This much, I can agree with. As Catholics, we bring our particular perspective to bear on other religious traditions, just as they do
      when they look at us. It cannot be otherwise.

      “The reason we can see what is good in other religions is
      because we know they are good, because we ALREADY HAVE THEM in Christianity. Whatever is good in other religion has ALREADY BEEN PERFECTED in Christianity.”

      This is where you go off track. You are assuming that the
      Catholic tradition contains all possible expressions of truth, goodness and
      beauty in perfected form on any subject within the purview of religion. Because this is patently false, there are things we can learn from other religious traditions.

      “So my point is, if we already know what is good, why would you
      dabble in other religions where there is a possible contamination of the bad
      things that are in these religions.”

      Again, this isn’t a great danger for one who is grounded in the faith.
      Why would you study anything that has any potential at all to make you question your faith or lose it? That would include things like the natural sciences, which because of the nature of their methodology could tempt one to ignore metaphysical realities.

      And Merton didn’t end up Buddhist. That is a senseless thing to
      say. He simply had a profound interest in Buddhism.

    • MarcAlcan

      One could say that God is both personal and impersonal IN THE SENSE THAT He can be understood and spoken of in an impersonal manner, as in theology and philosophy, as well as in a personal manner, as in the life of prayer.
      You think that that somehow mitigates your blunder? Listen carefully, whether we understand or speak of God in an impersonal manner does not change God. There is no “IN THE SENSE THAT” in this case, because our understanding does not God. So no, your IN THE SENSE is not a way to wiggle out of your false statement.

      Yes, He can, if you understand that personhood IS an analogy,
      Personhood IS NOT an analogy.

      You say that “God is love” is not an analogy, but it really is, because it is a concept used to attempt an understanding of God’s nature and activity.
      No it isn’t. It is a revelation. Concepts used to attempt an understanding of God is theologizing. That God IS love is not theologizing but a revelation from God.

      Any concept we apply to God is applied analogically,
      But God is love is not a concept. God IS Love is A REALITY. Just as the incarnation is a reality.

      The true nature of God’s “love” is beyond any positive statement
      I am not talking about God’s “ love” but God’s reality, God’s being which IS love.

      Again, this is basic apophatic/negative theology, the basic premise of which is that all language about God ultimately falls short.
      I think you are completely confused here. Apophatic theology means to speak of what God is not. So in apophatic theology it would be like saying God is not hate. God is not evil.
      But to be able to say what God is not is precisely to say the opposite – What God is.
      Further more, not all apophatic statements about God are congruent with Christian doctrine.

      This is why silence is so highly valued in the Christian contemplative tradition. This is why contemplatio comes after meditatio and oratio.
      Contemplation in Christian tradition is not synonymous with silence though it best occurs in silence. Contemplation in Christian tradition is vastly different to Eastern tradition because we see contemplation as a gift that God bestows rather than a height that we climb to by pulling at our own bootstraps.

      This is where you go off track. You are assuming that the Catholic tradition contains all possible expressions of truth, goodness and beauty in perfected form on any subject within the purview of religion. Because this is patently false, there are things we can learn from other religious traditions.
      Okay then, what goodness do we see in other religions faiths that is not already in existence in Christianity.

      Again, this isn’t a great danger for one who is grounded in the faith.
      One would think the LCWR leadership and Morton are all grounded in faith and look what happened to them. Pride goes before a fall.

      And Merton didn’t end up Buddhist. That is a senseless thing to say. He simply had a profound interest in Buddhism.
      Oh yes he did. Compare this statement in his early years:
      “Ultimately, I suppose, all Oriental mysticism can be reduced to techniques… and if that is true, it is not mysticism at all. It remains purely in the natural order. That does not make it evil, per se, according to Christian standards: but it does not make it good, in relation to the supernatural…”
      To this: “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”

      Wake up!

    • Tom

      “Personhood IS NOT an analogy.”

      Yes, it is. To say personhood is not an analogy is to say that
      God is a person in exactly the same
      sense in which we are persons. This is not proper Catholic theology. It is
      anthropomorphism. All language about God is analogical. You can call it a
      revelation, or whatever you want, it doesn’t change the fact that it is an
      analogy. Scripture abounds with analogies about God—as jealous, as repentant,
      as a Mother, a Father, as love, merciful. These are all analogies—they imply
      positive realities about God, but these are realities we cannot fully fathom.
      Whatever language we apply to God implies a similarity between us and Him, but
      the similarity is outstripped by an even greater (an infinitely greater)
      dissimilarity. This is Aquinas 101. Read the Summas, or some sort of
      introduction to them.

      “Further more, not all apophatic
      statements that some have come up with regards God are congruent with Christian
      doctrine.”

      Is this just a general statement so you can dismiss what I’m
      saying, or do you have something in mind? You haven’t given any examples. I
      think you are just covering for your own ignorance of apophatic theology. You
      really ought to familiarize yourself with Aquinas.

      “Contemplation in Christian
      tradition is not synonymous with silence though it best occurs in silence.
      Contemplation in Christian tradition is vastly different to Eastern tradition
      because we see contemplation as a gift that God bestows rather than a height
      that we climb to by pulling at our own bootstraps.”

      I wasn’t referring to eastern traditions here. What you are
      saying does not contradict what I have said. I will point out, though, that
      even Christian teaching views discipline as important in the contemplative
      life, and eastern teachings, generally speaking, do use the language of grace
      to speak about contemplative experience, particularly the theistic traditions.

      As for
      your two statements from Merton, there is not necessarily any contradiction
      between them. One can learn from techniques in the contemplative life, as long
      as one isn’t attached to them. As for Merton’s change in attitude, this could
      easily be explained as him having come to learn more about the tradition itself,
      that it cannot be reduced to mere techniques, that it is more than that. The
      earlier statement was made out of ignorance; the later statement out of a
      deeper appreciation. I challenge you to find anything Merton said which unequivocally
      demonstrates his renouncing the Christian faith.

    • MarcAlcan

      Yes, it is. To say personhood is not an analogy is to say that God is a person in exactly the same
      No it doesn’t. The light that is coming from the flashlight is the same light that is coming from the sun. It is light. Smaller perhaps, less able to illuminate perhaps but it is light.

      Personhood is the same. God is the fullness of what Personhood means but to be a human person is not an analogy of Divine Personhood rather a limited “revelation” of Divine personhood.

      Whatever language we apply to God implies a similarity between us and Him, but the similarity is outstripped by an even greater (an infinitely greater) dissimilarity.
      But the greater dissimilarity does not make the similarity just an analogy. We do not say that God is like a person. We say that God is 3 Persons in one God.

      This is the problem of taking appeal to authority to the extreme and taking apophatic theology to the extreme. We have Divine Revelation. If we do not have Divine Revelation then your argument holds. But because we have Divine Revelation then your argument is not quite right.

      As for your two statements from Merton, there is not necessarily any contradiction between them. One can learn from techniques in the contemplative life, as long as one isn’t attached to them.
      Not if the techniques were results of a bad and false underlying philosophy.

      As for Merton’s change in attitude, this could easily be explained as him having come to learn more about the tradition itself, that it cannot be reduced to mere techniques, that it is more than that. The earlier statement was made out of ignorance; the later statement out of a deeper appreciation. I challenge you to find anything Merton said which unequivocally demonstrates his renouncing the Christian faith.

      He may not have publicly renounced his faith, but what he has written shows what he believed.
      When you are “supposedly” Christian and you say that your aim in life is to be as good a Buddhist as possible, then you have completely lost the plot as to what Christianity means.

      He tried to syncretize Christianity and Buddhism and Buddhism trumped Christianity as far as he was concerned. That statement said it all.

      Writing about his experience standing before the Hindu god Shiva, Merton said: “I don’t know when in my life I have had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely, with Mahabalipuram and Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself. I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for. I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and disguise.”

      There are many people who call themselves Christians but what they believe is no longer Christian.

    • Tom

      Realized I forgot to reply to this statement:

      “You think that that somehow mitigates your blunder? Listen carefully, whether we understand or speak of God in an impersonal manner does not change God. There is no “IN THE SENSE THAT” in this case, because our understanding does not change God. So no, your IN THE SENSE is not a way to wiggle out of your false statement.”

      Okay, here’s the deal MarcAlcan. I understand that the language we use about God, whether impersonal, third-person language or personal, second-person language, does not change God’s Nature. That is obvious. I’m am simply telling you that we can relate to God both impersonally or personally. A further possibility, which I pointed out before, is that we can relate to God transpersonally, not in a personal way, and yet not in an impersonal way. We can come to know God as the Deepest Center of our Being, indistinguishable from us (knowledge by identity). This is not an intellectual exercise or a particular mystical experience of God. This is the height of the grace of union. The purpose of the dark night of the spirit (John of the Cross) is to purge us of our solidified sense of self so that we can be most intimately united with God.

      All of that deals with our relation to God. It is the domain in which I am saying that God can be spoken of as impersonal. Read Aristotle’s metaphysics and you’ll understand the impersonal approach. The way of the Christian mystics always begins with the personal approach, but you can see that at its heights it culminates in knowledge by identity, which is beyond an I-Thou perspective.

      In Himself, though, God is beyond the concepts of impersonality and personality (personhood). We can affirm God’s personhood, but if we do so (and we do) we have to affirm that we don’t fully know what we’re talking about, because anything we posit about God is limited, whereas God is infinite. Any analogy between us and God implies a similarity, but an even greater dissimilarity.

    • MarcAlcan

      I’m am simply telling you that we can relate to God both impersonally or personally.
      Since my point was never about how we relate to God but how God is in His Person as per the doctrine of the church, then that clarification is irrelevant. It only shows that you misunderstood what I was getting at.

      This is the reason we going round and round. You assume things I never said and proceed to refute that assumption.

      That said, before we end up in confusion again, how does a person relate non-personally to God?
      The point I am getting at here is something like : how does a dog relate to another being save doggily?

      The purpose of the dark night of the spirit (John of the Cross) is to purge us of our solidified sense of self so that we can be most intimately united with God.
      Note your wording: to purge us of our SENSE of self — not the purging of the self itself – of personhood.

      In Himself, though, God is beyond the concepts of impersonality and personality (personhood).
      Only according to you. If God is 3 Persons in One God, then God is not ABOVE personhood. He is the fulfilment, the perfection of personhood to which we aspire.

      You are really taking apophatic theology to the extreme.

    • MarcAlcan

      Tom, I am interested in your answer to my question. Here is how one tangent of our conversation went:

      Me: The reason we can see what is good in other religions is because we know they are good, because we ALREADY HAVE THEM in Christianity. Whatever is good in other religion has ALREADY BEEN PERFECTED in Christianity.”

      You: This is where you go off track. You are assuming that the
      Catholic tradition contains all possible expressions of truth, goodness and
      beauty in perfected form on any subject within the purview of religion. Because this is patently false, there are things we can learn from other religious traditions.

      Me: Okay then, what goodness do we see in other religions faiths that is not already in existence in Christianity..

      Tom:????

    • Tom

      “I think if you re-read your post, you would see straight away the problem there in. You write: “Hinduism there are various forms of spiritual practice centered on personal love of a deity.””

      Reread what I wrote: “I would not want to equate eastern teachings with Christian teachings, but only point out that the mystical/contemplative expressions of the east and the west may not be as different as it may first appear.” etc.

    • MarcAlcan

      “I would not want to equate eastern teachings with Christian teachings, but only point out that the mystical/contemplative expressions of the east and the west may not be as different as it may first appear.”
      But they are very different for the simple fact that Christian teaching centres on Christ – not simply what He said but by what He is – what He willed and His very Person. There is a vast gulf between that and the many dieties in Hinduism.

    • Tom

      Again, I am pointing to a similarity of expression, not of dogma. The point I was making was only to counter Fr. Joseph’s contention that eastern religions do not incorporate love or personal relationship. That is just false. Not a good grounds on which to criticize eastern religions.

    • Douglas Pearson

      Yoga is more than physical posturing… it certainly includes that but it is more. You might as well say that the Rosary is just a set of beads… The beads are part of the Rosary but the Rosary is much more than beads.

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      You’re, it’s also about breathing and freeing the mind of distraction….

    • Bob

      Yoga is more than physical posturing if you make it more than physical posturing. I have taken yoga classes which were nothing more than exercise.

    • Anita

      Sorry Phil you are wrong. One cannot separate the religion of Hinduism from the practice of yoga, one is part of the other. Any Christian cannot use a practice that is totally opposed to their faith and yoga is just that. Ir is a religious practice of Hindus and belongs to their religion.and is not an exercise. That is a false concept.

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      Anita, I am wrong because you say so? The aide to Benedict when he was head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith begs to differ with you:

      Since the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions [Nostra Aetate, 2], a Catholic should not be prejudiced against controlled breathing, mantras and other Eastern practices as being non-Christian. The Catholic can, however, take from them what is useful, provided he does not lose sight of the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and its needs since it is within the Christian spiritual sphere these practices must be employed.

      An Italian Catholic bishop states he is “open” to the use of Eastern meditation by Catholics in their prayer life. However, Msgr. Raffaello Martinelli, the Bishop of Frascati, (consecrated 2 July 2009), who served as an aide to Pope Benedict XVI when the pope was the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, said these practices must be used in the framework of Christian spirituality

    • teresa24

      thing is, Phil, what everyone else seems to be saying, at least those on the more “conservative” side, from the few comments I’ve read so far, is, WHEN and HOW do you separate or “take from them what is useful”, since every single human being is in one body, both spiritual and mind? Does one have the Holy Spirit put a
      “divider” of some sorts to protect us against spiritual invasion of other gods while doing the yoga exercises? How does this work in real time, the “taking what is useful” while you’re doing yoga exercises And repeating mantras that have nothing to do with God as understood in the Christian sense of the word? That’s what I think some people are bringing up.

    • Judy

      As Christians we believe in Christ as God Incarnate and all His teachings as the Word of God, directing and providing exactly what we are to do to live for enternity in heaven with God. Jesus did not teach us to do Yoga exercises. The origins of these are not from Christ’s teachings. What part of that is not clear… why are Catholic and Christians crossing the line? Our Catholic Church has spiritual practices of Christ and the saints and teachings that are so remarkable most people haven’t even begun to explore what is avaible. Using reliable Catholic sources one can access materials to grow spiritually and never will want to leave the Church.

    • Ingrid

      satan is a devious opponent. if one takes a bowl of flour which 100% pure is Truth and adds a half teaspoon of ash (which is 100% pure falsehood) is it still a bowl of flour (100% Truth)? No. But we humans love to make excuses and exceptions to God’s Truth all the time. So we rationalize and once we get to where we no longer feel guilty about it, satan adds a bit more ash to the mix. On and on the cycle goes and at some point the flour is useless for baking. So, unless one removes every particle of falsehood from God’s Truth the flour cannot be used for baking. This is what happens with yoga. The source of yoga is not truth and one cannot graft a bad branch onto a good tree and expect good fruit. It doesn’t work that way. Yoga is a doorway to things not of God, it might look good and feel good but ultimately it will bite you in the end.

    • Tom

      Fallacy of false analogy. There is no necessity of accepting other religious traditions as a whole (metaphysics and all) as there is with a mixture of flour and ash. A religious tradition or philosophy is not necessarily useless or devoid of truth because it doesn’t perfectly align with the Catholic faith. One can separate the true from the false and learn from what is true and good in other religious traditions, provided one is grounded in one’s faith and has a discerning/inquiring mind. Are you aware that our greatest theologians (Augustine and Aquinas) took many of their principles from pagan philosophy? Nowadays Aquinas is seen as the bastion of orthodoxy, but that hasn’t always been the case. Truth should be acknowledged wherever it can be found, at least for those who are interested in truth.

    • MarcAlcan

      A religious tradition or philosophy is not necessarily useless or devoid of truth because it doesn’t perfectly align with the Catholic faith.

      True. But it is precisely by the truth of the Catholic faith that we judge what is true or false in other religions. So if the measure of truth is already the Catholic faith, then there is no need for any other.

      But those who have not the faith, then I suppose it is better that they have at least some semblance of the truth that may be found in these other religions. But the goal is to move from there and into the fullness of faith.

    • Tom

      Not every Catholic is going to have the compulsion to study and understand other religious/contemplative traditions, and that’s okay. It’s just that too many Catholics, and Christians in general, tend to think that their expression of the faith is universally applicable. Not every Catholic has an interest in philosophy, or chemistry, or physics, or mathematics, or art, or literature or architecture, and yet all these avenues of knowledge and experience can enrich the Catholic faith. Each one’s expression of the faith will be different.

      My contention is that a mature Catholic can take interest in other contemplative and religious traditions without compromising his or her faith. Sure, there may be dangers, but there is also the danger of falling into atheism while studying physics and yet no intelligent Catholic would say that nobody should study physics because it could lead to atheism! There may be no need of physics to attain salvation according to Christian tradition, and yet it is a worthwhile pursuit. God gave us intelligence, and exercising it is a fulfillment of our nature.

    • MarcAlcan

      My contention is that a mature Catholic can take interest in other contemplative and religious traditions without compromising his or her faith. Sure, there may be dangers, but there is also the danger of falling into atheism while studying physics and yet no intelligent Catholic would say that nobody should study physics because it could lead to atheism!
      False analogy.
      1) Taking an interest in other religions does compromise once faith unless the interest is purely from an intellectual point viewpoint so as to be able to assess the difference among them. To take an interest an interest in other religions with the aim of using this as an adjunct to Catholic Spiritual life is not only stupid but dangerous. Stupid because you already have the fullness of the truth and the faith in Catholicism so there is no need for any other. Dangerous because the other religions are contrary to what Christian faith is all about
      2) It is a false analogy to compare the above with studying physics because natural sciences and religion are on two completely different planes. That is why those who claim that they are atheists because they are “scientific” are speaking from profound stupidity because the supernatural world is not within the purview of science. Physics can only lead one to atheism when one has lost the ability to use reason. On the other hand, Eastern Religions and the Christian faith both deal with the supernatural.

      And yes, God did give us intelligence and we need to exercise it. And there is a wrong and right way of exercising it.

    • Tom

      “Eastern Religions and the Christian faith both deal with the supernatural.”

      I think you are artificially imposing categories here. Eastern religions and the Catholic faith both deal with the “natural,” so the analogy isn’t false on the “different planes” argument. The Catholic faith is large enough to incorporate all that is true and good, both in the natural and supernatural realms, however defined.

      If you don’t feel that studying eastern religions can enrich your faith, that’s okay. That is not the case for everybody, though. Don’t impose your personal limitations and doubts on everybody else. Just acknowledge it isn’t for you and move on.

    • MarcAlcan

      You’re not getting it. Both religions deal precisely with that – religion. Physics does not. That is why your analogy is ludicrous.

      As for “If you don’t feel that studying eastern religions can enrich your faith, that’s okay”, that is nothing more than relativism.

      And I am not imposing my limitations and doubts on anyone. You are advocating for something that is untenable and false and I am showing you that your reasoning is up the creek and that it is false. If you are game to post your opinions on the net, then you must be game for it to be called into question.

      This is the problem I have found with some posters who think their position is so rock solid but when you start showing its holes, they say you are mposing your opinion on them.

      If that is the case, then you were imposing your opinion on us by saying that yoga is compatible with Christianity.

    • Tom

      Hey MarcAlcan, I’m going to make this my last response in our back and forth as it’s taking more time than I can reasonably spare and I’m quite certain we’re talking past each other.

      With regard this this last comment, I think you are failing to understand me. The Catholic faith does not deal exclusively on the level of the supernatural. There are aspects of Catholic teaching that deal with the natural plane (morality, social order, evolution, for instance) and the same is true of eastern religions, which is why my analogy was not false because of your “different planes” argument. Yes, physics and religion are different avenues of knowledge which utilize different methods, but they do overlap, particularly when you get to theoretical physics. That is beside the point, though. My point was only that, in the same way that we should not shun the study of physics because it could lead to atheism, we should not shun the study of other faith traditions because it could lead to apostasy. The analogy ends there. If one has a well-grounded faith, one can take in truth from any field of knowledge and give it the proper context. And there are things Catholics can learn from eastern religious traditions, in the same way there are things we can learn from protestant Christian denominations. The Church has a human element to it, and we can learn from other communities and traditions. That, at least, is my contention. You may or may not share it and that’s your right.

      I think you overestimate the “holes” you’ve poked in my comments. If you have poked holes, then I have as well and you’re failing to see that. We just have different perspectives on the faith.

      I shared your perspective at one time–the perspective that it is dangerous to be curious about “non-Christian” philosophies and other religious traditions–but now I see that this position was based on my own condition at the time. For me at the time, it was true, but no longer. Your fear of eastern religions is true for you right now. That’s just where you’re at. Fine. So be it. It’s not where I’m at, and it’s not where many other intelligent Christians are or have been, in the case of those deceased.

      Your water analogy falls short, because it assumes that truth is something that can be divided and owned. We don’t have God in our pockets. Our pure water cannot be contained in a glass, no matter how hard we try, because God is God. You keep going back to the phrase “the Catholic faith has the fullness of truth.” You have to understand what this doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that all truth on any given subject can be found in complete form in Catholic teaching, and we can therefore learn nothing from other avenues of knowledge, even other faith traditions. Perhaps you have trouble understanding this because you only view other religious traditions in terms of their metaphysical views. As I’ve said before, there are fundamental differences at the level of language and logic, but other faith traditions cannot be reduced to their doctrines, in the same way that the Catholic tradition cannot be reduced to its doctrines. It is a living experience, not just a verbal formula. This is a very important point.

      Anyway, I’m sure you’ll come up with some way to dismiss all this. And I actually don’t even care. If you feel you are where you need to be with your current understanding, good for you. I just don’t share that perspective. Peace be with you.

    • Tom

      Hey, last comment here MarcAlcan. With respect to everything we’ve been talking about (yoga, eastern religions, and so on): follow your well-formed conscience. I will do the same.

    • MarcAlcan

      No Tom. You are the one who are not understanding me.
      My point about the religion dealing with the supernatural is to point out to you that your analogy is about yoga and physics is completely up the creek. That is all that it was meant to convey.
      Of course the Catholic faith deals with the natural world, it has too because it is an incarnational faith.
      And here again you go ahead with your analogy which as I have shown is just completely illogical. There is no direct correlation between the study of physics and atheism because they are on different spheres of study. Physics is a natural science. That would be as stupid as saying that maths will make you lose your faith. Anyone who makes those arguments shows that they’ve got no idea about logic.
      But Buddhism and the Catholic faith are both faiths.
      You are obviously not getting why your whole analogy is faulty. Maybe you should ask someone who has a bit of training in logic.

    • Judy

      Tom found this interesting an artical of a woman who studied and practiced Eastern Traditions, and is back in the Church after 40 years .
      http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?cat=925

    • Judy

      Phil here is artical giving information about doing just the yoga postures without the spiritual, from Yogic teachers. Check it out:

      http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?cat=925

    • David Ciavarella

      “Yoga can be practiced as a form of exercise and relaxation by Catholics if they consciously separate the exercise from Hindu spirituality and integrate it into relaxation and conscious breathing….this is health.”

      When anything spiritual is obviously not Catholic in nature, the best thing is to avoid the near occasion of impropriety. The worst is to insinuate that one can be conscience enough to control or have power over whatever entity is not of God that may come through as a result of the practice. Remember that the devil can be very subtle and draws from ambiguous intentions. I personally would choose an alternative and not take the chance.

    • teresa24

      would you care to illustrate how one does this, “separate the exercise from Hindu spirituality”? without intended sarcasm, unless you’re God and in someone else’s mind and body I am greatly puzzled as to how on earth this takes place. just wondering.

    • David Ciavarella

      I Quoted the first paragraph from Phil Dzialo and my response to him was written below the quote. Not sure why it wasn’t place below his quote Teresa24. I am with you that they can’t be separated per my intended response to Phil.

    • Sharon

      What is the goal of using Zen meditation as an “adjunct” to Christian meditation. What would the purpose be? Would Zen meditation be added because there is something lacking in Christ, some improvement that can be made by adding “not Christ” to our Christian meditation? If Zen meditation is for some reason a great adjunct to Christian meditation, why stop there? Why not explore all other religions? Christian meditation is focus on Christ. That is not the focus of Zen meditation.

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      Read my above reply to Anita…whatever techniques help us join in higher union with the Lord and enhance meditation on Christ are ok. Christians have always borrowed techniques from eastern mysticism….

    • teresa24

      does that make something “wholesome” though, “borrowing techniques from eastern mysticism”. am not so sure about that. and if the mantras are invoking a God who is not the Lord and is not Jesus Christ, pray, how can they help us to achieve “higher union” with Christ? Seems to me that “higher union” would be achieved to whichever Hindu deity is being invoked by whatever mantra is being recited no?

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      @theresa…God is God. “I am who AM”…He manifests himself in many ways, in many cultures, in many belief….God id God. We develop issues among ourselves when we anthromorphize Hiim…He is without definition and all attempts to define Him are contradictory. You do not define or categorize the infinite…many manifestations…one God!

    • Sharon

      Do you mean He manifests Himself in Hindu gods, for instance?

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      John 10:34 “Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?…God is ALL….

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      Christ….Krishna (sound similar) ..look at the similarities

      http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jckr1.htm

    • David Ciavarella

      Wrong and disingenuous to say god is God no matter what definitions you would like to suggest. The Holy Bible states there are false gods. God has defined himself for us.

      Exodus 20:2-6
      “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      John 10:34″ Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?…..Also, are not Churches filled with “carved images”?

    • Sharon

      Pagans actually worship their false images, Phil. We have statues that are there to remind us of real people, to surround us with beauty and raise our hearts and minds to the true God.

    • Sharon

      Can I ask, Phil, are you Catholic? I would be surprised to see the “carved image” comment from any well-educated Catholic. If you are Catholic, then your comments only confirm how confused a person can become by practicing yoga.

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      Was and I am more educated than many…I ask questions and you resort to “ad hominen” argumentation. Not very nice…BTW the God of the OT did not want to be defined anthromorphically….

    • Sharon

      It’s not an attack against you, Phil. The question about carved images is one that Protestants often ask. I had thought you were responding to the article as a Catholic so I was surprised to see that question fron you. Thank you for clarifying that you are a former Catholic. I can see that you are educated in Eastern meditation, but I don’t think you can use your experience with yoga or other Eastern religious practices to show how they have brought you closer to Christianity. That is not a personal attack, it is just an observation from reading your comments, and I think it’s relevant since Patti Armstrong raises the concern that yoga can lead someone away from the faith.

    • http://healingandempowerment.blogspot.com Phil Dzialo

      @Sharon, this is a discussion and I do not take your opinions as an attack. Let me clarify, I have not been trained nor practice eastern religion … in fact I really don’t have a particular religion. I take care 24/7 of my son who is totally disabled (can’t communicate nor move) as a result of a near drown (25 minutes under water) 16 years ago. I do read and reflect when not caregiving. I deeply believe and love God…not in a conventional sense which is why I responded to “carved images”.
      I believe that God is ALL, As Yahweh states in the OT. “I am who AM” I think we all go astray when we unite ourselves with an anthropomorphic deity, one to whom we ascribe all sorts of human characteristics and who we create images of that make Him anthropomorphic. God IS and I believe when we capture him in statue, images, pictures we reduce Him to something less that what He is. Truly spiritual people need no visual reminder…they remain in union with God. Unfortunately, all religions (most all) rely on images and people never understand God beyond the image.

    • Judy

      Phil, In the OT we have the experience of God. God is Spirit. God cannot be depicted actually we know that. God did Incarnated into form as Jesus God-Man through the Holy Spirit which is the great Love between the Father God and Son of God Jesus. God is a living Trinity. The bible makes this point really clearly: At the baptism of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father was heard: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16-17)
      Jesus’s Incarnation to us here on earth is out of Gods compassion and Love for fallen humanity. Since Adam and Eve’s sin we could no longer enter heaven. In OT times it got pretty bad the life of people. They we were practicing false religions, buddhism, hinduism existed they worshipping idols and much worse as we have read. We still have free will to choose the old false religions or follow Gods Word.
      Jesus has a human Mother, as God Incarnate He needed to be also human to fullfill Gods plan for redemption.
      Since the NT the relationship to God became fuller with the mission and Incarnation of Jesus and the decent of the Holy Spirit on the Church. Jesus is the Son of God. We remember Him and all He did for us through images used to meditate, contemplate upon those sacred mysteries.and wounds of Christ Crucified. Mary and the Saints remind us of our humanity, our journey and our true destiny with God and Christ in Heaven.
      To remain only focused on God as known in the OT is to not realize the fullness of Gods great Love and Compassion. In the compiling of the whole bible we could not fully understand OT or NT without on or the other. Jesus the Word of God Incarnate of the NT is making clear the Way to know and be with God the Father for Eternit, showing the Way so the confusion of satans deception can end. But we must choose what we follow, God has left us with free will just as Adam and Eve. God Bless.

  • Anabelle Hazard

    Patti, thank you! I’m linking this up to a post a did a while back which still gets search hits.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m with you too Patti! Ironically, the ads on the side of the page are both for yoga, and can’t be related to me because I didn’t do any searches for yoga. Strange.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Ah, I’m letting the owner know pronto. What happens, I think, is that the ads pick up key words from the page itself. Boo. Yes, I see it too.

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      Oh my, how ironic!

  • Libby Conger

    This is really interesting, I became a certified instructor about 3
    years ago and re-found my Catholic faith profoundly in the last year.
    Even in the years before when I wasn’t a practicing Catholic, I was
    never drawn to the religious aspects of yoga and never really considered
    the two could be at odds until I started coming back to church. I
    realized my style of teaching was very different from the other studio
    in town – I don’t include the meditation or mention of chakras, I do
    very much focus on breathing, but I don’t think anyone will argue that
    that is essential for life. I teach my students to settle their
    anxieties, to be comfortable sitting quietly in a loud and obnoxious
    world, how to listen to their body when they are stretching in the hopes
    they are given basic control back over their physical ailments (it’s a
    physical freedom to know how your own body stretches and moves). I lead
    a guided relaxation that helps people to relax and let go of tension in
    their muscles (during the silence here, I say a mental Hail Mary and
    Our Father over my students), my hope is that people will quiet their
    mind enough for them to hear the Holy Spirit speak to them. Maybe what I
    offer isn’t yoga any more, but I’m not sure what else to call it!

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      What you are doing sounds like great exercise and relaxation and nothing more and your prayers added as a bonus. The problem is that the name Yoga means a lot more than that so that it’s promoting something that you don’t personally promote. I know Yoga is ubiquitous in our society so it’s hard to call such an exercise class something else.

    • Libby Conger

      I hope to open my own studio in the next few years, and this has given me a lot to think about. Do I “revolution” the industry and create a new practice? Call it “Yoga-style Stretching and Breath”? The nice part is that when people find out I teach, they ask “what kind” Vinyasa, Hatha, Hot, etc…? It’s a good foot in the door to explain where my focus and intentions are. But that’s what we’re called to do, right? Stand out from the mainstream, be an example for our faith? Rewriting the world of yoga would definitely be just that!

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Check out a group called Pietra Fitness – they can help do it the right way. http://pietrafitness.com/

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Dan, I spent some time reading through that site today. Wow, some really illuminating explanations about the spiritual dangers of yoga, particularly on the P.F. is not Yoga page. Thank you. Bookmarked!

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Thanks Stacy – they are great folks that have worked with scholars and have a real heart to submit to the teachings of the Church. There is another great group out there called Soulcore – excellent folks as well. http://www.soulcoreproject.com/

    • Sharon

      I have to thank you for those links, too, Dan! I sent the “P.F. is not yoga” page to my daughter who feels that yoga is just stretching. I know that the information will at least keep her from attending a class that includes the use of chants and mantras because the facts about those are so clear in the article. I just ordered the DVD for her, too!

  • captcrisis

    Evidently you can’t be relaxed, at peace with yourself and the world, and remain Catholic. Now that I think about it that explains a lot.

    • http://twitter.com/cinhosa Jeff Cann

      Properly catechized Christians understand that peace with oneself and the world comes through belief in God and trust in God’s will for our lives (c.f: Matthew 11:28-30). Catholics recall this sentiment when we say to one another, “peace be with you” (c.f. John 14:27). Prayer and striving to live a life of virtue help direct our hearts to peace within our selves and the world. (c.f., Proverbs 3:5-6, 4:23).

      The struggle I think you may be alluding to is that to be a Christian means to die to oneself (meaning to give up my will and what I want and discern through prayer and Scripture God’s will for me. c.f., Matthew 16:24-26).

      In my experience as a Catholic convert, dying to myself is much harder in everyday situations. So, to others I may seem troubled at times when in fact, I am in these moments sorting the internal disconnect of my will and God’s. I find that when I accept His will in that moment, I feel abiding peace – much more than I ever did when I practiced yoga.

    • Sharon

      Yoga is not necessary to be relaxed and at peace with yourself.

    • MarcAlcan

      Amen. Real peace can only come from Christ.

  • james

    I think when Saint John Paul put the statue of the Buddah on the altar at Asissi and invited the Dalai Lama to the Vatican he was saying ‘ grow up’ to the kind of paranoid
    Catholics who could possible say “Why take a chance?”

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      Funny you should bring up JPII.
      On November l6, 2003 Our Sunday Visitor published an article called “Is It Too Much of a Stretch?” by Marianna Bartholomew. Her article gave Vatican warnings about yoga and stated “The Church is
      calling Catholics to firm up their faith and consider whether New Age influences like those of yoga are subtly eroding their intimacy with God.” She quotes Pope John Paul II when he cautions “those Christians
      who enthusiastically welcome certain ideas originating in the religious traditions of the Far East” in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

      If some Catholics say: “Why take a chance?” because they are wanting to be cautious regarding Yoga which is an Eastern religion, then they do it out of love and respect for God. Who are you james, to tell them the Pope was telling them to “grow up?”

    • james

      Sorry, a poor choice of words on my part to attribute to a Saint, even one who wasn’t afraid to pray,congregate and dialogue with these … pagans ( a Catholic conservative’s term) on numerous occasions. If some folks can’t filter out theology from exercise and breathing techniques, then fragile is their faith indeed. As the lyrics go “ the things that we’re afraid of will show us what we’re made of in the end.

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      james, I think it’s wonderful for our Popes or any Catholic not to be afraid to pray and dialogue with people of other religions. To say that the things we are afraid of show us what we’re made of in the end, is belittling. Being a Catholic and praying with others is a good thing. Participating in the worship of false God’s is another thing. Yoga represents an Eastern Pagan religion. Even Yoga masters will say you can’t separate the physical from the spiritual. But regardless, you are not responding as to why you don’t have a problem with participating in yoga, instead, you mock those who consider the pagan spirituality too close for comfort. Many mainstream Christian and Catholic sites and priests advocate avoiding Yoga. It is a hot button topic but mocking the opinion of others adds nothing to the conversation.

    • james

      I don’t think Jesus would call the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path a pagan concept. Of course, if you are oblivious to this creed it’s a product
      of your orthodoxy which is far right as oposed to far left both being equidistant from the middle. And, I have nothing more to reiterate but the excerpt from my post. ” If some folks can’t filter out theology from exercise and breathing techniques, then fragile is their faith indeed. “

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      Ah, some good discussion without the snipes. You make thoughtful points. For Catholics choosing not to participate in yoga, it’s not about filtering but about not being a part of something that includes pagan worship. No doubt for many Catholics, it’s about filtering, so they continue with that mind set. I agree with you that if your Catholic theology is strong sitting in a yoga class should not annihilate it. However, the fact remains that you are part of something bigger than just exercise in a yoga class. How big a part depends on the instructor and to what extent spirituality and worship is included. And consider also from a macro vantage point, the study mentioned n the article shows that participants in yoga become more interested in the spiritual aspect of it over time and less engaged in their Christian faith.

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      Just one more thought, james. When I participate in a “part” of something, I want to know what the “whole” is about. So for instance, even though the Shriners put on circuses, should a Catholic join at the bottom in spite of the fact that it’s a Mason organization? By doing just a little of something, are you are part of the rest of it? I would say yes and no. No, you are not participating on the upper levels but you are still a part of the whole. No doubt there are lines we all cross where this is true–for instance making a puchase from a business where we don’t share values. But with Yoga, religion is directly involved and often a part of the exercises, so it is worth thoughtful and prayerful consideration.

    • james

      Just about everyone played with magnets when I was growing up – today
      they are the mortal enemy of anythiing digital or in hard drive. It was fun
      to see how close you could put polar oppoistes before they snapped out
      of your fingers to join. But after they did it was no big deal to pull them apart. But hey, your thought experiment was to start an argument.

    • james

      ” the study mentioned n the article shows that participants in yoga become more interested in the spiritual aspect of it over time and less engaged in their Christian faith.”
      Well, to me that is akin to saying that someone totally devoted to Gravity would give up on the idea if they get too deep into the Strong or Weak nuclear forces. That if one gets too close to electro magnetism one or all of the other 3 forces will suffer because of it. What I detect is a guarded
      jealousy, a wish that the other faiths would just go away, quit tempting
      them with … some Truth. I do respect your point but not the inherent
      fear behind it.

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      james, religion and gravity? Really? No comparison.
      I respect your opinion, but your radar needs some adjustments if you think you are detecting a guarded jealously and fear of being tempted with some Truth. You make a good case for why I am not interested in participating in yoga–an activity that supposes it has some Truth over on the Catholic faith. I have the whole truth and nothing but the truth in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

    • james

      Actually, the reference to the 4 forces in the universe is how they seem to relate to the world’s 4 major faiths. Catholicism = gravity. Strong nuclear
      = eastern deism. Weak nuclear = Judaism and electro magnetism is that
      of Islam, almost 1 in 4 people on earth. Just like these forces, neither of them is going to give way to the other. One is as dependent on the other to run the universe and together they make TOE, the theory of everything
      which scientists are so eager to find. But I will end now as you and I have exhausted the subject with our subjective views – and me a little bit better
      at discussing thoughts without the need for “snipes”.

    • Jude

      Wow. What are you on? And yes, I have a problem with the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, as they are the products of a weak, atheist belief system.

    • james

      Well, as they say in the military : sounds like a personal problem and has nothing to do with me.

    • Tom

      Buddhism is not atheistic. It simply chooses to frame its ultimate intuition in a negate-ive way rather than a posit-ive way.

    • Tom

      Yup. Truth should be pursued wherever it is found. So many “orthodox” Catholics forget that our greatest theologians looked to the pagans of the ancient Greek and Islamic worlds for the foundations of their philosophical approach. In fact, engaging with the mystical literature of the world’s religious traditions suggests that there is much more similarity in terms of basic intuitions about Reality than those of a parochial mindset would like to admit. It is in the areas of metaphysics that the greatest distinctions lie.

    • Judy

      James, what happened at the Assisi interfaith meeting, all participants were invited at the end of the service to conduct their own closing ceremony and this was one sponsored by Buddhists. Unfortunately, stories such as the one you forwarded immediately shot around the world making it look like the Church was condoning the worship of Buddha – it wasn’t – it was allowing a Buddhist to conduct a closing prayer service inside of a Catholic church.

      As this article explains, the gesture was widely misinterpreted so the Vatican chose to conduct subsequent ecumenical services in a much different manner. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1104055.htm

    • james

      Thanks, Judy. This is the second ( different ) interpretation of the event and I think only a video would provide clarification. In any case, it makes this yoga thread pale by comparison. I have highlighted in your link this sad, sad aspect of what is wrong with … fill in the blank. ” For one thing, the participants will not pray together — at least, not in a formal fashion.”

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  • http://www.ruffedgedesign.com/ Cheryl Ruffing

    I’ve never practiced yoga and have no plans to do so. My Bellicon rebounder works wonders for my physical and mental health. Therefore, I don’t really have an opinion on the spiritual ramifications of yoga. I do, however, have an opinion on Catholics telling other Catholics that they’re not “doing it right.” I’ve been involved in many online homeschool groups, some Catholic, others not, and I have to say that the group consisting of more than 1,000 homeschoolers from all over the world, and just about every flavor of religion available, was infinitely more welcoming, charitable, and respectful of differences than the group consisting of hundreds of Catholic women. At least twice a year, I could count on a major blowup in the Catholic group (and quite likely, someone leaving the group), because a member got offended or someone wasn’t “nice.” Whatever the specifics, it seems to me that it always boiled down to the same thing: one person telling another that they are somehow not Catholic enough, because they don’t live their faith and parent their children the way someone thinks the Church says they should.

    As you have pointed out, the Church is very clear on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, but there are no official statements/requirements about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, spanking, unschooling, sending kids to college (I kid you not; that one made me finally give up on the group), yoga, acupuncture, reading the Harry Potter books, or going to a particular museum exhibit.

    So, perhaps the yoga debate is not so much about harmless exercise vs. spiritual damnation. Maybe it’s really about people feeling free to be the individuals God calls them to be. After all, not every saint was a hermit or a nun.

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      For the record, I am in a book study with a yoga instructor. She is very sweet and I like her very much. And discussing something in a comment box forum is different from telling people how to live their lives. I do agree with you that all that drama is not good.

    • Jude

      Right, because blowups never happen on the secular homeschooling websites. Sorry, but that is just false. I think you are completely missing the point of the article, instead using it to vent an unrelated frustration.

    • http://www.ruffedgedesign.com/ Cheryl Ruffing

      And you are obviously missing the point of my comment.

    • Jude

      What is the One Central Idea of the author’s article?

    • http://www.ruffedgedesign.com/ Cheryl Ruffing

      The author’s article is about yoga being a contentious topic among Catholics. The point of my comment is that there seems to be an inordinate number of contentious topics among Catholics. Why did you pick out my comment to criticize? Is it because I “didn’t do it right”?

    • Jude

      My point was that disagreement is not limited to, or any more prevalent among, Catholics. And also that the idea of the article is not simply that Catholics disagree, but also that, despite disagreement, there are reasons that Catholics should think twice before doing yoga. It’s not an attack on free will. It is information that those who think yoga is just stretching and breathing should have. We are given our bodies to worship God alone. The poses in yoga are to worship Hindu gods. As the author states, the controversy goes beyond intent. Should my child see me bow while stretching in my room is one thing. Should my child see me bow while standing in front of a statue of Vishnu, that would impart something else altogether, even if my intent were only to stretch. What we do with our ensouled bodies matters.

    • http://www.ruffedgedesign.com/ Cheryl Ruffing

      I agree with you, and I appreciate Patti sharing what she knows about the spiritual ramifications of yoga. Her article, however, was not just about the yoga. It was also about how much strife the subject causes among Catholics. As I wrote in my original comment, I don’t see this strife among Catholics being confined to the subject of yoga. I see it all too often, related to a myriad of subjects. While I never contended that there are no arguments in online, secular, homeschooling groups, I was making the point that in general, Catholics (especially the ones with whom I’ve been “privileged” to share the homeschooling journey) seem to have a problem with letting other Catholics live their faith, and I find this disappointing and disheartening. If I can actually feel confident that no one will dispute my assertion that abortion is wrong, because we are all Catholics faithful to the Magisterium, why do I have to worry about getting attacked because I think the Couple to the Couple League is a fabulous organization for teaching Catholic couples natural family planning (this really happened)?

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      Any time you are attacked for enthusiastically supporting a Catholic group that is faithful to the Magisterium, then the attacker is either a rebellious Catholic or has a penchant for drama and disagreement. I have not experienced anything of the sort. Perhaps people just keep their negative thoughts to themselves around me knowing I’ll respond back. It is a shame that Catholics and any group, can let their human nature sink into criticism of one another to the point of creating animosity.

      Even though I have introduced this topic as one that brings out passionate debates and opinions, I would hope we can limit our negative feelings to the topic at hand and still embrace our fellow Catholics as fellow children of God.

    • Sharon

      Cheryl, I completely understand where you’re coming from. It is hard to be in a group of Catholics when some of the most vocal ones become judgmental. It is drama, as Patti said, it is hurtful, and as your CCL example shows, it is often ridiculous. I appreciate this discussion, though, in a separate way, because I think it is providing information that can help a Catholic decide whether to use yoga or to find an alternative. The comments have been enlightening and the links to alternatives were especially helpful. Now if all Catholic mom groups could be the same!

    • steve5656546346

      Cheryl, my experience is that the damage come when the discussion changes from WHAT is Catholic to WHO is Catholic.

      Patti was discussing WHAT is Catholic.

    • http://www.ruffedgedesign.com/ Cheryl Ruffing

      You make an interesting distinction, but wouldn’t you agree that judging a person’s actions and judging a person often seem like the same thing, especially to the one on the receiving end? I’d have to say that distinction (or lack thereof) is at the heart of why saying “yoga” starts an argument.

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      Steve, that is so well put.

  • May

    I visited a presbytery in the university town my son was studying at. I had told my son that I believed Yoga was not spiritually healthy – the priest informed my son it was fine. When he opened the presbytery door, on the right was a 4ft gold statue with the most beautiful head of Christ crucified. The bottom part was of bhudda with weak spindly legs. I literally cried when I saw it. When I challenged the priest, his whole persona changed. He said he used it to meditate and closed the door on me. I have no doubt that Yoga is spiritually harmful (which of course, also manifests physically). If you remember that satan is depicted as a snake, it’s good to remember that his ways are subtle – he slithers into our lives without are even knowing about it.

  • Cindy T.

    Good article, Patti!

    Several years ago (3/25/09) the USCCB put forth Guidelines informing against the use of Reiki in our churches, hospitals, retreat houses, etc. I believe that it is time to re-write the Guidelines or at least add on to it about not using Yoga as well. http://www.usccb.org/upload/guidelines-evaluating-reiki-alternative-therapy-2009.pdf — I honestly wish they would go so far as to say that both practices are forbidden.

  • Baker’s wife

    If it’s not bad, then certainly all of the prayers for the release of bondage to the occult would not include yoga as something which needs to be renounced. See “The Healing of Families” by Fr. Yosefu or “Unbound” by Neil Lozano.
    As Fr. Yosefu put it so well, we are both spirit and body. What we do with our bodies always affects our spirit, and vice versa.

    • Kirry

      Ahh… I just posted something similar. We must read the same books. :-)

  • Ingrid

    I think ignorance and pride are the cause of the arguments. One must look at the root of something because all things that produce fruit come from a root. If the root is not in Christianity then there are problems because it is not rooted in the truth. One should look at what the yoga people (guru’s) believe. They know the root of their “yoga religion” and hate to see attempts to “Christianize” it. Several priests have written about this subject, Fr Joseph Ssemakula talks about the subject in his book “The Healing of Families” and Fr. Don Calloway talks about it in his book, “Under the Mantel”. I urge reading of both. I’ve also had personal email contact with these two priest who travel the world in healing ministry and both have instructed me to stay away from yoga. A telling sign of the times is its popularity…..churched and unchurched alike are being lured by a false promise of health and well being. Satan works that way…deceptively (just like he did with Adam and Eve) and eventually the hooks sink in. He sets a pleasant table and then kaboom, one hits the abyss. The Christian path is difficult, full of trials and struggles. It is Christ alone who produces true healing, healing from any other source will not last and will manifest in another area. Most people these days have lost touch with the spiritual dimension of their lives and forget that there is a battle of epic proportions swarming around us in what cannot be seen. In Hosea, we are told: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” Now is no different.

    • Kirry

      I like you Ingrid. You really get to the “root” of the problem in your opening statement. Too many people either don’t believe in or underestimate the devil. He’s been at this a long time and he knows how we think and what the best traps for us are. Why do people think they can outsmart him? They must think, “oh I can practice it and be the exception”. Like all sins, people like to rationalize away the wrong they are doing. The pride inherent in our fall never ceases to amaze me. We are guilty as charged.

    • David Ciavarella

      Fabulous reasoning Ingrid. Couldn’t have said it better.

  • Tom

    I think a lot of the problem behind the fear of yoga (and similar things) is that so many Catholics have not seriously studied philosophy, either formally or informally, and do not have an adequate understanding of the historical foundations of the faith or of the Christian mystical tradition. Appreciation of these things does a great deal to open the mind/heart to the insights of other religious traditions. Without the open mind/heart, it is too easy to dismiss these other treasures because of ignorance, fear and sometimes just sheer laziness and self-contentment.

  • Kirry

    How many martyrs of the church died because they wouldn’t bow or burn incense to a idol? “You don’t have to mean it. Just do it to save your life.” Now we pay money to perform postures of pagen worship all for the sake of the cultural worship of the body. Amazing. By the by, I know for a fact that exorcists cite yoga as one of the more common inlets for possession these days. Just read a little of Fr. Gabriele Amorth’s works. The devil is no legalist. He doesn’t care if you don’t mean it…just doing it gives him an outlet. I recommend the book “The Healing of the Families”. Expands on the long forgotten Catholic belief that the body and spirit are one and you cannot separate the effects of the one on the other…. for good or ill. Additionally the Vatican has spoken about the incompatibility of yoga with Christianity but apparently only Catholics who bother to inform themselves about their faith have taken the time to learn what they have said. A simple google search of “John Paul II and yoga” will deliver all the necessary info.

  • Cami

    Our local parish, which is great in all other ways, offers yoga and even incorporates it into student physical education ( within the school on site). It baffles me and is clearly confusing parishioners. We had a heated discussion in our moms group about it. Some said our intention precedes any dangers but others of us agree, “why risk it?” The spiritual world is complicated and evil spirits are conniving and can make something seem innocent when it is harmful. The very fact that yoga goers get so heated tells me evil is at work. It almost feels like trying to pry drugs from the grip of a friending addict.

    • Cami

      *fiending*

  • Cami

    I can also attest that I took yoga briefly in college but left abruptly due to some injuries I had. I then experienced a serious period, over 6 years, of severe depression. Medication did nothing for me, despite my doctors’ efforts. It only fully went away when I immersed myself in Theology of the Body and rediscovered my Catholic faith. Of course I cannot say for sure that yoga brought on a spiritual attack that caused me so much suffering but it certainly is possible.

  • Ferrari5858

    To combat these dangerous errors, the Vatican has released a 62-page document which exposes the beliefs and practices of the New Age. It is called Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age. It was written to inform Catholics of this growing problem, and to warn them that New Age beliefs are contrary to Christian belief. The document states “People need and have a right to reliable information on the differences between Christianity and the New Age” (#1.2) It goes on to say that “The New Age is still very much alive and part of the current cultural scene.”(#1.5) Why is this so? The document gives this reason: “The success of the New Age offers the Church a challenge. People feel the Christian religion no longer offers them – or perhaps never gave them something they really need. The search which often leads people to the New Age is a genuine yearning: for a deeper spirituality, for something which will touch their hearts, and for a way of making sense of a confusing and often alienating world.” (#1.5) There are also believers who think it is permissible to mix New Age beliefs with Christian beliefs. The document states that its “influence is clear from the rapidly growing numbers of people who claim that it is possible to blend Christian and New Age by taking what strikes them as the best of both. It is worth remembering that deviations within Christianity have also gone beyond traditional theism in accepting a unilateral turn to self, and this would encourage such a blending of approaches. The important thing to note is that God is reduced in certain New Age practices so as furthering the advancement of the individual”(#1.1) However, the document explains that this cannot be done. It says “…..given the underlying vision of New Age religiosity, it is on the whole difficult to reconcile it with Christian doctrine and spirituality. (#2) “John Paul II warns with regard to the ‘return of ancient Gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age: We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practicing Gnosticism.” (#1.4) It says, “Since the New Age movement makes much of a communication with nature, of cosmic knowledge of a universal good – thereby negating the revealed contents of the Christian faith – it cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous (harmless).”

    The document states, “It is essential to bear in mind that people are involved with New Age in very different ways and on many different levels.” It goes on to say “It seems that, for the most part, people are attracted to particular therapies or practices, without going into their background, and others are simply occasional consumers of products which are labeled ‘New Age’.” (#2.5) Listed below are some of the ideas, practices, and groups listed in the document as New Age:

    Enneagram, Mantras, YOGA, Chakras, Self Healing, Color Healing, Sound Healing, Altered States of Consciousness, Cabbalism, New Age Music, Ancient Egyptian occult practices, EST training course, Channeling, Acupuncture, Biofeedback, Chiropratic* Kinesiology, Homeopathy Iridology, Some types of massage, Rebirth, Various Kinds of Body Work, (Orgonomy, Feldenkrais, Reflexology, Rolfing, Polarity massage, Therapeutic touch, etc.) Meditation and Visualization, Nutritional therapies* Psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine* Healing by crystals, Metals, Music or colors, Reincarnation therapies, Some Twelve Step Programs and self-help groups* Sensory isolation, Fasting and Sleep Deprivation*, Holotropic breathing, Hypnosis, Wicca (Witchcraft), Parapsychological experiences, Transcendental Meditation.

    Pantheism, Gnosticism, Monism, Sufism, Lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, Mediaeval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, Reincarnation, Cosmic Unity, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Karma, Transpersonal psychology Human Potential Movement, Feng-shui. Belief that believing in the existence of evil can create only negativity and fear. No distinction between good and evil. No sin, just imperfect knowledge. Belief in “friends” or “counselors” from the spirit world called “angels” or avatars, Great White Brotherhood. Belief that we can create our own reality. Personal inner experience is the highest authority. A sense of letting one’s individuality sink into the great ocean of being, a sense of harmony and fusion with the whole, nature as a living being. Cosmos is animated by an Energy, and is seen as a organic whole. Cosmos is identified as a divine Soul and Spirit. Belief that people are born with a divine spark. The fundamental idea is that ‘God’ is deep within ourselves, or self-realization. The difference in creator and creation is called Dualism and it is thought to be an erroneous concept. Belief in theosophy. Belief in evolution (also in a spiritual sense, that we are moving toward a fusion with the divine.) Expansion of consciousness. The belief that the path to the inner universe is through the unconscious, Jungian psychology (depth psychology) and the collective unconscious. The belief that one has access to former lives through dreams and meditation. Right brain thinking. Continuum of consciousness, cosmic evolution, quest for unitive consciousness, getting in touch with inner energy or cosmic energy. Belief that love is energy – a high frequency vibration. THE BELIEF THAT COSMIC ENERGY, VIBRATION, LIGHT, LOVE, EVEN THE SUPREME SELF ALL REFER TO ONE AND THE SAME REALITY, THE PRIMAL SOURCE IN EVERY BEING. The belief that the Higher Self is our real identity. (also called True Self) Divine energy is Christic energy. This Higher Self is a bridge between God as divine Mind and humanity. The Higher Self contains the memories of earlier incarnations. Esotericism (search for knowledge). Use magic (occult) to obtain power. All religions are the expression of the same reality. Age of Aquarius. Want one-world government. Believe that looking within we can know the universe and change it. Global religion and new world order. Worship of Mother Earth (Gaia) Radical ecology or the belief that the divinity of Mother Earth (Gaia) pervades the whole of creation. The belief that Jesus is not God, but one of many historical manifestations of the cosmic and universal Christ For New Age, the Cosmic Christ is seen as a pattern which can be repeated in many people, places, times; it is the bearer of an enormous paradigm shift. It is ultimately a potential within us. Belief that the death of Jesus on the cross is either denied or re-interpreted to exclude the idea that He, as Christ, could have suffered.

    In a select Glossary (#7.2), the following New Age concepts, practices, or groups are explained. They are: Age of Aquarius, Androgyny, Anthroposophy, Channeling, Christ, Crystals, Depth Psychology (Carl Jung), Enneagram, Esotericism, Evolution, Expansion of consciousness, Feng-shui, Gnosis, Great White Brotherhood, Hermeticism, Holism, Human Potential Movement, Initiation, Karma, Shamanism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Transcendentalism, Wicca. It also lists those who have had the most influence on New Agers. Among the list were TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, CARL JUNG, AND THOMAS MERTON. (#9.2)

    This document states that this list is not complete. However, it does cover most of the New Age concepts and practices.
    *Those marked with the asterisk are NOT explained in the document. However, some Chiropractors use New Age therapies. Others stay clear of the New Age, and many people benefit from their treatments. In regard to the herbs, some doctors use “spiritually potenized” herbs that are prepared through psychic methods, and consumed orally.

  • Douglas Pearson

    The heat created by this debate, to me, is a warning that it Yoga is to be avoided. I don’t like the spirit of Yoga or the anger it inspires when criticized.

    • MarcAlcan

      Yoga practitioners say it is only exercise. But just look at the vehemence with which they defend this “exercise”. It is a sure sign the spiritual aspect is very much ingrained.

  • Arenotamso

    Can’t recommend this book strongly enough. Believing yoga is bad in and of itself is like believing a pagan can put the whammy on a Christian; or that certain movements or sequences of movements of the human body, which have no base motive, are somehow profane. Both ideas are ridiculous. It is true that the church and her members are affected by the culture around it, and yoga is part of a culture that is in and of itself not pro-church. That however is the worst true thing that can be said about it. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough for Christians who who wonder if yoga could somehow be a threat to their salvation. It’s called Christian Yoga, and was written by a Benedictine Priest, Jean-Marie Déchanet, O.S.B. The hot yoga I myself do does not involve meditation per se. The trick is to stay focused on what one is doing, and not drift off. It’s asanas are comprised of 26 of the nearly 100 hatha yoga asanas. Whatever the teacher may believe about yoga has absolutely nothing to do with the class, which is a kind of boot camp that lasts for 90 minutes.

  • Jay Weston

    Some months ago our family began reading and praying for the generational healing of our combined families. The book we have used is Father Ssemakula’s “The Healing of Families” as a guideline to heal those areas that have afflicted our families in the past that were never reconciled with God. Section 1 of Chapter 4 of his book speaks directly to the physical and spiritual nature of man. These two things cannot be separated, as God created them within us, so while we could not see Him we could communicate with him in prayer. Our problem was and continues to be that we do not carry our spiritual awareness into our physical world. As we are created this way, spiritual communication continues often times without outside or physical awareness. As Father says “Whatever happens in my body happens in my spirit” and vice versa. “Just as my physical body can be confused so can my spirit as well”. He continues to explain this very well throughout the chapter.

    It seems that a prayerful Christian who chooses to undertake Yoga, must have a deliberate mindset against the spiritual forces that the physical exercises enkindle (for that is their design, to awaken the Buddha spirit as it were). I have personally found a deliberate prayerful mindset focusing on the Holy Spirit can be difficult for many even for a few moments, let alone 45 minutes of exercise. If Father’s definition above is correct and I believe it is, we, by ourselves cannot separate the body from the spirit. We hope the Yoga practicing Christian understands the “enkindling”, the exercises enjoin are NOT with the Holy Spirit and if it is not of the Holy Spirit just what is it and why are we knowingly engaging it?

    I think as a rule we have to stop pretending that Satan doesn’t exist in the details. He is every where and will use any means to separate us from God, our intentions of innocence in engaging something..anything other than the Holy Spirit, whether consciously physical or spiritual, have no standing with Satan. He is a well informed enemy.

    Lastly, God has given us several Doctors of the Church that were mystics and contemplatives among them being St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis and many others..who perfected as best as humanly possible seeking and maintaining spiritual union with God. There are many of their writings available that can lead us to that union that so many practicing Yoga practitioners seem to be trying to achieve, why not use their accepted teachings instead.

  • Lisa

    You ask what we think? I practiced yoga for many years before I was Catholic. As a convert I disavowed all of these practices. Although I do think one might be putting oneself into jeopardy by pursuing yoga (please speak to your priest about this!), I find myself appalled by the ignorance and prejudice of my fellow Catholics. Sometimes their condemnation of other people, including fellow Catholics is so disgusting to me. I hear a lot of “opinion” but I see no love and charity. Without love and charity, all of our “opinions” and piety mean little. I would rather be with a yogi who practices love and charity than with a condemning, sour Catholic! If you have ever seen the movie Monsieur Vincent… there is a great scene where two women sitting in the front of the Church before the Blessed Sacrament are gossiping about someone else, I think a woman who has placed flowers on the altar. Our Saint Father Vincent is appalled… and has to turn away from them because he finds their gossip and condemnation of this woman so horrendous. Is this who we are? I think this is why Pope Francis has said in certain terms, stop pointing the finger at others and start looking at your interior. You might find a beautiful glass on the outside but inside just a rotting corpse. Yoga? Is that the problem?

  • Fulton J. Waterloo

    Idiotic. Yoga prevented me from suffering serious injury while playing semi-professional football (at age 53!). I also have a question: some of the stretching exercises I had not seen before. Does this mean that if we discovered that Muslims originated the jumping jack, we as Christians are not allowed to perform it? Should Christian athletes not perform certain physical movements unless they were developed by “Blessed Fred of Freiburg?” This entire controversy is the result of Church Ladies (of both genders) with too much time on their hands. As a matter of fact, I DO get to perform a lot of penance reading the meandering, 400 page diatribes of “Blessed Edith of Sheboygan” and her ilk who need to get counseling for their conspiracy theory fantasies…

  • Fulton J. Waterloo

    Oh yes, the woman who taught our course was a beautiful Italian Catholic mother of 4 children who was a physical fitness instructor because she did not have to put her kids in daycare They played at the gym while she ran classes. A real pagan, right?

  • faith379

    Yoga is DEMONIC and Father Armorth .. Chief Vatican Exorcist priest who has performed over 200,000 Exorcisms has written many articles that YOGA IS DEMONIC… when a person is delivered from demonic oppression or possession,, the demon is demanded to tell where it came from.. and guess what you guys… YOGA has been name over and over and over… and of course the DEVIL who is the master of deception has worked his way now in to the church… with YOGA and smiling all the way back to the fires of hell with many names and you cannot think is is nothing… it is bound to Hinduism … HELLO ?? all I can say is why risk it and who is wiser the Exorcist priest who has been warning the public for years.. he would not make that up!

  • Mary

    I did yoga when for a while I was a teen simply for the exercise. However, as I grow in my Catholic faith, I don’t think it is a good idea. A few years ago, our parish was advertising a yoga class in the bulletin. I emailed our pastor and sent him some articles I had read from some Catholic authors. At first he defended it. But I noticed that the next bulletin had no ad. My opinion is that due to the fact that there is an opportunity for straying into violation of the Faith or the Commandments, it is best not to do it. There are plenty of other exercise programs available. Why take a chance?!

  • Believer

    Interesting to see this article. My mother years ago took a yoga class taught by a nun at St. John Vianny Church in Walnut Creek. I thought it was odd that they taught Yoga at a church, since it was fundamentally a Hindu ritual. This was at a time when I did not attend church regularly, but my mother did. At any rate, years later I started to participate in a free Yoga class at work. I enjoyed it because it was with a group of friends and it focused on stretching and not the spiritual aspects of Yoga. One day, we had a guest teacher. Now, if you have ever taken yoga, you might know that during the poses, the teacher often goes around and “adjusts” you so that you get into the position correctly. The regular teacher would always ask and then adjust you if you gave permission. The guest teacher just went around and did it. When she came to me, she touched me in two locations, and it was like I was hit with a cattle prod. I felt pain and then my upper back hurt for weeks. I could not explain this experience, but strangely, a few weeks later, in class, the regular teacher, presumably upset by the mix of people that came that day said “well, if you find this too hard, you should just not come”. These words hit me and that was the last time that I went.

    I share this story, just as one more perspective on this question. I can’t explain it, but by my assessment, something called me away from Yoga. At the very least, I find it interesting that in this supposedly harmless and gentle workout, I was physically injured.

    • Anna

      It is not “harmless.” No form of exercise is. There was a controversial article in the NYT a year or so ago about what happens to people who overdo yoga (e.g., headstands). You have to use commonsense as you would in any other exercise program, and it sounds like the teacher was at fault here. I’m usually sore after sessions, but that’s my fault for living such a sedentary life.

  • Anna

    The hands together with slight bow is not only used for worship. It is the standard greeting on the Indian subcontinent, with the salutation “Namaste.” It has religious origins, but then, so does the word “Goodbye.” If you have lived there, as I have, you will find yourself using these in your daily life. I expect all Christians there do.

    Hinduism is not just what we think of as a religion, it is a culture, a caste system, a language, and so much more. What some people are suggesting is that we banish the Indian culture from our lives – which would be a shame. It is rich and beautiful, from the Mahabharata to ancient Hindu sculpture to palak paneer.

    I have attended yoga classes off and on since I was eleven. The one I am in now has no chants, no religious content, or anything that calls into question my religion, unless you consider intentional breathing and relaxation compromising to your religion.

    The positions may have had religious origins – everything in the culture did – but they are no more (necessarily) involved with the practice today than “Goodbye” means “God be with ye” every time people here say it.

    Yoga, as well as Hinduism is general, is thousands of years older than Western exercise practices, and as a consequence has more overall knowledge of the human body. It works to harmonize functions (e.g., exercises that help the right functioning of kidneys, liver, that increase balance, coordination, flexibility, etc.), not just develop muscles, make your heart beat fast, and “work off calories.” That is it’s chief value to me. I seem to have that in common with everyone else in the class.

  • james

    I would think that after all the ( sometimes ) hard words and feelings germane to this post you
    might want to try to contrast it with : If you want to start a peace process …

  • Linders

    I feel it’s important to dialogue on this topic, especially amongst Catholics, so I applaud Patti in taking a stab at the topic – and more than once. To add, however, I’ve yet to hear a non-yoga-practicing person accurately reference the practice (or wisdom) of yoga. And it’s no wonder. There are hundreds of different versions and aspects of yoga, dating back to 3000 BCE or more. It’s a little like trying to define types of worship. It is so varied, one cannot clearly define specifically how people worship. And from what I’ve observed, this very fact of fluidity in definition and practice of yoga is difficult for many people, who prefer neatness in their spirituality and religion – with labels of ‘right way’ and ‘wrong way’. For starters, yoga is not doctrine – it’s a practice, and it has everything to do with supporting each persons’ (obviously) unique journey inward (or not), which may (or may not) include their encounter with God. The only thing truly outlined are the ‘tools’ or structure of the practice. Your experience is yours, and the wisdom of ‘classical’ yoga is much too humble to describe much more than that. It does not attempt to define your understanding for you. What I love about raising the topic of yoga for Catholics is that it nearly forces us to practice OUR catechism – that of examining our own conscience to come to our own understanding. And to this extent – the philosophical premise of yoga is baked right into our own catechism!

    At best, I can say the following (having been a cradle Catholic, and yoga practitioner for many years): the practice of yoga is wonderfully life-giving for some, and not ideal for others. As for quantitative ‘field research’, I can offer you this: of the hundreds of yoga practitioners I’ve met, worked with, and known over the last two decades, I’ve never encountered anyone experiencing something ‘dangerous’ to their souls. On the contrary, I’ve seen numerous people led from dismay and addictions and toward the light of God. I would prefer to turn the question of yoga around and ask the following instead: what are we truly afraid of? Is our fear imagining a snake that is actually a rope in the light of more understanding? And can we also remember that it is God that directs and inspires us all if we truly seek Him out? And finally, who do you think inspired prayerful practices across the globe? To me it’s clear: it’s the same God that abolishes the fear in our hearts so that we may open ourselves up to the wisdom, in whatever form, that graces our world, as outlined in our beautiful Catholic constitution of Nostra Aetate.

  • Linders

    I feel it’s important to dialogue on this topic, especially amongst Catholics, so I applaud Patti in taking a
    stab at the topic – and more than once. To add, however, I’ve yet to hear a non-yoga-practicing person accurately reference the true spirit of the practice (or wisdom) of yoga. And it’s no wonder! There are hundreds of different versions and aspects of yoga, dating back to 3000 BCE or more. It’s a little
    like trying to define types of worship, its so varied. And from what I’ve observed, it’s this very fact of fluidity in definition and practice of yoga that challenges so many people, especially those who prefer neatness in their spirituality and religion – with the added labels of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. For starters, yoga is not doctrine nor is it an organized religion (although those in religions use it). It can be best expressed as a set of practices, which support each persons’ (obviously) unique inward journey, that may aid them to their own personal participation with God. What is more clearly defined in ‘classical’ yoga (circa 250 BCE) are the ‘tools’ or structure of the practices – and not what the experience should be. Your experience is yours, and yoga is much too humble to attempt to define what that is for you. What I love about raising the topic of yoga amongst Catholics is that ultimately it coaxes us to practice our
    catechism – that of examining our own conscience to come to our own understanding of whether yoga is right for us or not. And to this extent – the philosophical premise of yoga is baked right into our own catechism – that of coming to our own understanding, through our own rigorous application of
    examination.

    What I can suggest regarding this practice (having been a cradle Catholic, and yoga practitioner for many years): is that it is wonderfully life-giving for some, and not so inspiring for others. As for quantitative ‘field research’on any possible dangers, I offer this: of the hundreds of yoga practitioners I’ve met, worked with, and known over the last two decades, I’ve never encountered anyone experiencing harm to their soul. On the contrary, I’ve seen numerous people led from dismay, addictions or lack of aliveness, to a movement toward a higher level of consciousness, health, kindness
    toward others, and openness to God. Considering this, I sometimes find it more fruitful to turn the question of yoga around and ask the following instead: Is it not the same God that inspired the revelation of the New Testament…or the wonders of the rosary (which was sourced from the prayer beads of Islam, and prior to that, from the prayer beads of Hinduism) that also inspired sacred wisdom and practice in all its different forms across the world – to all those that sought Him with a virtuous heart? And if your answer may be no – I suggest the beautiful teachings of our Catholic constitution for guidance – that of Nostra Aetate.