An Interview with David Torkington: Christian Mantras

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"An Interview with David Torkington on Mantras" by Melanie Jean Juneau (CatholicMom.com)

By Marianne Stokes, Public Domain, Link

I interviewed David Torkington, a spiritual theologian, author, and speaker who specializes in prayer, Christian spirituality, and mystical theology, about the use of Catholic mantras while meditating. Years ago my husband and I joined a group who followed Fr. John Maine’s methods but discerned it was not for us. David’s responses reveal his vast knowledge and experience and the real reasons for our unease.
Melanie: Are you familiar with the Fr. John Main’s use of a Christian mantra, Maranatha, while meditating?
David: Yes I am. But I do not agree with his use of mantras for everyone, at all stages of the Christian prayer journey. To quote from my website:
  1. The Christian mystical tradition continually asserts that any man-made means or techniques cannot attain true contemplation, which is a pure gift of God.
  2. The gift of contemplation is only given after years of practising prayer in the context of an ascetical life-style. There is no such thing as instant mysticism in the Christian tradition. Techniques that purport to lead to the same are bogus.
  3. Authentic Christian prayer never begins by introducing mantras to teach people how to pray, but by introducing them to a loving person to teach them how to love. It is only when first love leads them on, that words or phrases are taught, not to generate or maintain states of inner peace but to maintain the heart’s attention on the love that radiates from God. They should not be repeated, come what may, but should be discarded the moment this love begins to make itself felt so that it can be savoured in silent contemplation.
  4. The experience of contemplation, then, is not due to the recitation of mantras calming the mind, but to the tangible experience of the love of God drawing the heart to ever more absorbing degrees of intensity. The use of words or phrases is merely a means to this end.
  5. The ultimate aim of Christian contemplation is not to search for an experience of inner peace, but to search for God whose love eventually leads them into experiences that infinitely transcend any form of man-made
 Melanie: You have just written the best response I have ever read. We live only two hours from Montreal, where Fr. Main’s monastery is, so his second, Fr. Lawrence Freeman, gave talks in Ottawa decades ago. We tried the mantra for a year but Fr. Lawrence repudiated any contact with the Holy Spirit … any sense of God’s love, any sense of an inner word or a word of knowledge or any insights. It seemed ridiculous to us and impossible to even try control the flow of the Spirit and shut out His voice.

David: I know of one person who travelled from the UK to John Maine’s monastery, and after a year of endlessly being told to ‘Keep saying your mantra,’ she was in despair. Her prayer life came to a halt until she discarded his method and returned to praying in the Christian way. We now have Fr Freeman in England promoting the John Main method and sadly he has a following…. All my writings try to promote the Christian way of prayer, and I consider it my life’s work.

You sound as if you could see the way … and 9 children, how magnificent!
MelanieYes, God has been gracious to me and loved me through my children. In fact they have formed my spirituality. It is all grace now because He shows up when I least expect it and our communion is sheer gift, a surprising gift.
David:  I appreciate your understanding of ‘sheer gift’. 
Copyright 2016 Melanie Jean Juneau
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About Author

Melanie Jean Juneau is a mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. Her writing is humorous and heart-warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, the Editor in Chief at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC & author of Echoes of the Divine.

2 Comments

  1. There are many ways to live with the lord and we should respect that as god respects our choices.in the catholic Church we are lucky to have a rich liturgy which helps us,but on top of that God gives us each a special way of communicating with him. The term”mantra”can be off putting as it has an indian connotation,I prefer the term prayer,praying the rosary is one way (i find it relaxing),as is repeating the prayer of the heart:”lord Jesus,son of David, have pity of me ,a sinner.it puts me back right were I belong,a small person who puts herself and her sins in God’s hand,letting him do what He thinks is best.It stops us in our judging of others.I take this opportunity to wish,you Melanie,a very happy christmas with your gang!My own 6children will all be back home with us ,that s the best gift of all.thank be to God.

    • You bring up excellent points which I agree with, of course. The difference between praying the rosary and repeating the prayer of the heart is that John Maine’s expectation is not simply to bring the body to a place of peace but that it will bring about a deep unity with God. In addition, people are to ignore any revelations or insights from the Holy Spirit while repeating the word, Maranatha.

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