This is a caution against mantra meditation (contemplative prayer) in the church. In mantra meditation, a word or phrase is repeated for several minutes until an altered state of consciousness is reached: complete absence of thought, emptiness; contemplative prayer promoters call this state “the silence,” the “cloud of unknowing” . . .
I’ve reread a book, Youth, Brainwashing, and the Extremist Cults by Ronald Enroth (the original 1977 edition; see 2000 edition here), in which former members of various cult groups were interviewed. A common thread that jumped out at me from all the stories this time was that members of the groups were expected to do mantra meditation. One person said, “We were taught that our mind was of the devil.” A former member of a different cult group said that when he left, he “had to work on learning to think again.” He added this insight about the cult leaders: “The people at the top didn’t meditate at all. They had to be able to count; somebody had to be able to keep track of the money.” In other words, the mantra meditation had effects beyond the immediate experience. Negative effects. The leaders knew that—and manipulated members to further their own dark agendas.
Real enlightenment comes through our minds, not “mindlessly.” The Scripture is given to us so that we “may know” (not un-know;1 John 5:13). Our minds are to be renewed (not emptied; Romans 12:2). Review some of the Bible’s famous prayers: Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2), King David’s prayer (Psalm 51), King Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 8), the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6) . . . A true prayer has content (is not contentless).
The fact that any spiritual practice—in this case, mantra meditation—is a key element of the cults should at least raise a red flag.