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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Age Movement....

is hard to pin down into any definite set of beliefs or rules of the road. It is a montage of spiritual traditions form around the globe, plus some new interpretations made by meditative modernity. But judging from the brand most commonly found in Organic Food Magazines, there are some similarities that can be broadly grouped together under the airy-fairy title of “spiritual awareness”.

   Basically, according to Buddhist tradition, the only way of finding true fulfillment in life is by tapping into an inner divine force that each person is supposed to possess. Once it is found, people are supposed to be “at one with the universe” and have the power to drive away negativity and will positivity into being. This divine force is said to connect all living things and bind us in commitment to one another. Being a “conscious” usually also means trying to achieve both spiritual and physical health and wholeness. Yoga, Reiki, and pressure-point therapy all forms of this. Also, there is an emphasis on mind-over-matter, as seen in the arts of self-defense utilized in Kung Fu and Karate. 

    There is also a deep consideration for the natural world and a desire to “get back to nature”, eating organic foods and taking herbal remedies, plus taking an active part of preserving wildlife and endangered species. As to their perspective on duties to their fellow human beings…it varies. Some place a rather ridiculous emphasis on their own ability to obliterate negativity from the world by merely not adding to it, and therefore doing nothing to stop it. Others, as demonstrated in the series Kung Fu, actually take the idea of trying to bring truth and justice to the world very seriously.

    The New Age people realize that there is something more to reality than the mere physical, and they are willing to search out the truth about the mystery of our lives and our relationships with one another. That much I respect them for. I also respect their desire not to bring any unnecessary negativity to our planet, and as an organic eater and near-vegetarian who loves animals, I also sympathize with their dietary choices. Plus, I will confess to generally enjoying the Serius XM Channel Spa, which plays music broadly considered “spiritual”, ranging from Loreena McKennitt to LotR themes to meditative instrumentals to chants from every religion under the sun.

    But I feel that while they may have the best of intentions, the New-Agers have made a serious miscalculation: namely, who’s running the show. They say that human beings have “divinity” within them; but I would counter that it is merely a reflection of our Creator, who is truly Divine. We are made in his image and likeness, with a great capacity for virtue and an inherent attraction to truth and beauty. Indeed, being spiritually “conscious” is abiding by this inner desire for goodness and ultimately perfection. It is understanding that we must love and respect all living things, and work to heal a broken world and cultivate that which is noble.

   And yet, as wondrous as human beings are, we are still deeply flawed and perfection eludes us. We cannot just will that all suffering should cease and expect it to take place. That is not in our power. We must not turn inward and worship ourselves; we must not expect to find all the answers through mere meditation; that would be a betrayal of our own quest for perfection. Even done with the best of intentions, worshipping any part of ourselves is a dangerous perversion, settling for a reflection rather than the reality.

    So I would propose that those engaged in the New Age Movement would try to look beyond themselves in their quest for the Divine. They are on the right track when they say that there is something connecting “all the universe”. Basically, everything is made by the Creator, the ultimate source of goodness, truth, and beauty. That human beings are special among all other living things is because we have intellects and free wills in His own image, and as such we have a great responsibility to live up that by choosing good over evil. Sadly, we don’t always do it, and all sorts of “negativity” is brought into the world through our own deviation from that which is right. There’s no way of just wishing away all the evil in world – God will not even do that, since it would be a violation of our own free will.

    But that very “negativity” is still turned to good, because inevitably people will rise up to oppose evil and make sacrifices on behalf others. And as God is the Prime Mover of the Universe and Ultimate Cause of All Good, everything ultimately falls into His Providential Plan. As human beings, we are sub-creators in a fallen world, and it is our calling to become “spiritually awake” – but not to some divine force of our own, but by the Power of the Holy Spirit who enkindles in us the Fire of Love. Now, with this understood, there is certainly nothing wrong with choosing to respect all of God’s creation by “green-living”, and respecting our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit by eating organically and using herbal remedies. As far as I’m concerned, natural living is a form of growing close to God through the wonder of His creation.

    And there is certainly nothing wrong with using spiritually-evocative music for meditation, or lighting candles and incense for that matter, as long as we are worshiping God and not our “inner divinity”. But again, all this must be viewed cautiously from the perspective of a Christian, especially when it comes to certain exercises such as Yoga which were designed specifically for Eastern religious meditation. Opening certain doors that can lead to subliminal self-worship can be spiritually perilous. Nevertheless there is certainly no reason for us to be intimidated when we encounter those who ascribe to the New Age Movement. Far from it. We should do our best to dialogue about our commonalities on the spiritual journey and clearly point out our differences, encouraging the development of personal relationships and minds open to the truth.


Meditation, fine; self-worship, not so!

    

6 comments:

  1. Well thought-out, excellent Pearl! I do wish you would collect some of your best essays and publish them as a book.

    Cheers,

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  2. The New Age movement is actually much more dangerous than it appears to be at first glance. It may seem to be a disorganized cluster of meditation practices, but I'm afraid that at its core, it is a "parasite religion" - one that takes what you believe in and subtly twists it around until, as you mentioned, it's not really God that you're worshipping anymore.
    And it gets worse. New Age was, quite frankly, founded by the devil.
    A few years ago I attended a talk by Susan Lee Giganti, a cradle Catholic who was lured by New Age into "deeper spirituality." Reputed as the most spiritual person her friends knew, Susan studied "A Course in Miracles" (which is "the New Age Bible") and became a teacher and counselor of New Age principles. This and other books were supposedly dictated to their authors by channeled spirits. The author of "A Course in Miracles" claims to be Jesus. It also claims that Jesus is not God, that there is no devil, that Scripture is fallible, and that the Fall never happened.
    I'll never forget the silence in the room when Susan told us that according to the book, "you are given many helpers" on this road. "Their names are Legion."
    Mark 5: 1-20. Dangerous stuff.
    Even though yoga on its own may seem harmless, I stay far away from it. I don't want to have anything to do with Legion.
    You can read the rest of Susan's story on her website:
    http://www.newagedeception.com/new/free-resources/5-a-warning-about-a-course-in-miracles.html

    - Katherine Anne

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  3. @Mack: Thank you for the read! I certainly might be interested in taking a shot at publishing some of my articles someday -- I'd appreciate your advice on the matter!

    @Katherine Anne: I have indeed heard Susan Lee Giganti on the radio; thank you for providing the link! I agree that Yoga is probably best avoided for Christians, since one certainly does not want to open themselves up to subliminal self-worship, which can be a tool of the devil.

    I would say, however, that I think there are definitely different variants of the New Age movements, and wildly different perspectives on the part of the adherents. I certainly am no expert, but I don't believe any practicing Buddhist would ever claim to worship God as we understand Him- that's not in their theology. They believe that divinity is a force within them, and that Buddha serves an example of how to become at one with the universe. So in that sense, I don't think it's a "parasite religion" - just another religion entirely.

    From there on out, there were spin-off sects trying to mix Eastern and Western traditions, sometimes in ways that really don't work. Of course, channeling spirits is always dangerous...and I would NEVER trust anyone coming through on the intercom line! Basically, best to stay away from all such practices, but I am willing to venture that many people involved in Buddhism/New Age are truly seeking the truth, and have hit upon some elements that correlate with our own beliefs. I think a lot hinges on how we interact with them, as Christians, during their search, to encourage a deeper exploration of spiritual realities.

    God bless,
    Pearl

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, this is going to be a bit of a rushed reply, so I hope it makes sense - I don't think Buddhism and New Age are the same thing. New Age borrows some concepts from Buddhism, such as the sense of the goal of life being to immerse yourself into "the one," but Buddhism is thousands of years old while New Age is relatively recent. Buddhism dates back to the teachings of the Buddha, while New Age dates back to... well, to channeled spirits. I think that when we first encounter anything reminiscent of Eastern spiritualism, we tend to think of "New Age," but I think there are some things that belong to both Buddhism and New Age and some that don't, just as Hinduism and Buddhism are two distinct religions that share a few ideas.
      What I meant to point out is that it's important to be aware that there actually is an organized New Age Movement out there that is directly headed by the devil. That's what I meant by it being a "parasite religion" - people like Susan Lee Giganti can get gradually engrossed in it and never realize that they are being slowly turned away from their own beliefs. And, of course, you are absolutely right that the people involved in New Age practices are seeking the truth - that's how Susan Lee Giganti got involved, after all. She was raised in Catholic school, but she never felt spiritual fulfillment there: she said that all she really remembered was making a lot of banners. She turned to New Age spirituality to fill the void in her life, and didn't realize where it all was going until some pretty bad things had happened. And that's precisely why New Age is so dangerous - because of its claim to fill the void so many people have in their religious life.
      So I guess my point is that there's some difference between traditional Eastern religious practices and modern New Age ideas. I believe that all religions contain some element of truth, however distorted, because religion is the result of people looking for God, and there are things that can be found out about God apart from divine revelation. However, I draw the line at anything that was dictated by a channeled spirit... so I thought it was important that that be considered in any evaluation of New Age ideas. So I think the important thing is to be aware of that line and distinguish between an ancient Buddhist practice that might have some value to a Christian, and something out of "A Course in Miracles" which should be avoided like the plague. : )
      I hope this makes a little more sense!
      - Katherine

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  4. Hi, Katherine,

    Thanks for clarifying! I guess I'm going by my observations made while reading New Age magazines and websites. Basically, the term can be used in a wildly broad fashion, and the adherents may cling to wildly different philosophical notions. Some are basically Buddhists (or very close to it) who feel the need to announce their arrival on the western scene by calling themselves "New Age"...when in fact it's "Old Age"! Others, as you rightly mention, lean towards channeling spirits, etc. Others, I have observed, seem to be more Wiccan or Druidic. Still others are a mix of these things, with no set doctrines. Basically, from my observation, it's pretty much a toss-up.

    My point in the article was to give a broad overview of the "oneness" theory that I believe most New Agers have carried over from the Buddhists. However, I will try to be more specific when identifying the New Age movement strictly with Buddhism from now on :)

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  5. It can be argued that Buddhism has influenced the "New – Age" moment, though “They say that human beings have “divinity” is not exclusive from Christianity. Gnosticism is a modern term referring to a variety of ancient religious and philosophical movements which flourished particularly in the second and third centuries AD and focused on gnosis (Greek: knowledge) as the means of salvation. While many of these groups called themselves ‘Christians’, according to Justin Martyr in mid second century Rome, they had a contradicting view of mainstream Christianity. While I may not go in-depth concerning the theological history of it which can be outlined by Valentinians, that God had sexual intercourse with himself and so on. A few points can be raised by Gnosticism. Marcion (A well-known Gnostic) contrasted the two gods, the two testaments and law and grace. The God of the Old Testament, the God of the Jews, the God who created this material world was incompetent and vindictive – allowing sin to enter the world and harshly judging those who commit it, creating evil (Isaiah 45:7), demanding ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ (Exodus 21:24), contradicting himself by both forbidding the making of images and commanding the creation of the bronze snake. Also, he gave the Sabbath command yet ordered his people to march for seven days around Jericho. Further he told the Hebrews to plunder the Egyptians. He was a God who changed his mind (unacceptable to Greek philosophy’s immutable God) as when he decided not to punish the Ninevites in Jonah’s day, the list can go on. For Marcion these were the two first principles – the good God whom Jesus first revealed and the Demiurge who created this world. The God of the Law and the Prophets according to Marcion, was “a worker of evils, a lover of wars, inconsistent in judgement and self-contradictory”, to be distinguished from the God who sent Jesus, “the Father, who is above the god that made the world”. On the contrary, why would one bring this topic up? The supreme God sends a saviour from the Pleroma (Totality of divine powers) with liberating knowledge (gnosis) to release humans from ignorance about their origin, nature and destiny and from imprisonment in the body and the material world. Thus the serpent in Genesis 3 who points Adam and Eve to the tree of knowledge (gnosis) is on the same side as the supreme God. The creator god, on the other hand, wanted to keep gnosis from them. In regards to this, the point I’m attempting to make is that the “New – Age” movement has continuously been part of Christianity and will influence Christians today, Katy Perry is a perfect example. Personally I believe that Christianity needs reform, however not in the sense of Liberalisation of our scripture but a return to Traditionalism. With the Traditional values disappearing, and a natural aversion to the progressive values being shoved down our throats, there are some who have nowhere to turn. So they are sold a new chimerical reactionary ideology. Although Christianity has seen a rise of a new forms of Traditionalism, which may show some similarities it does still contradict the teachings of scriptures, which is evangelicalism… but that is a story for another day.

    -British Free Corps

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