What's "New Age"? Is Dan Smith a Leader?

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What's "New Age"? Is Dan Smith a Leader?

Postby ryguy » Mon Aug 27, 2007 5:10 pm


The above link is an article entitled An Approach to the New Age by
Stratford Caldecott for the Centre for Faith & Culture at Plater College, Oxford.

It is a brilliant read, and summarizes a growing movement that encompasses a very wide range of beliefs and practices, but which also shares a few very specific core truths that are a part of those beliefs, and the apparent allure of those. These are important to recognize. I've quoted some of the article here - for the full read, please click the link above.


Many Catholics and Evangelicals believe that through a vast, worldwide conspiracy known as the “New Age” movement, Christians are being systematically diverted from the essentials of their faith, becoming easy prey for one false prophet after another. Eventually the Antichrist himself will come, claiming the titles of Christ, Mahdi and Maitreya, offering world peace under the banner of a syncretic world religion.

Is there a conspiracy at work? New-Ager Marilyn Ferguson reminds us in her classic account The Aquarian Conspiracy (Routledge, 1981) that to “con-spire” means to “breathe with” or to share the same inspiration. On that definition, even Christianity is a conspiracy - perhaps the greatest conspiracy of them all: the conspiracy of the Holy Spirit. St Paul teaches us that a cosmic war is raging between invisible forces: our enemies are the principalities and powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Very well, we should fight with all the spiritual weapons at our disposal. But they must be spiritual weapons. Clarity must be joined to charity, and faith to hope rather than fear. The Devil has much to gain from a witch-hunt.

In my view – which some will regard as hopelessly naïve - the New Age (or “New Consciousness”) movement is less a reaction against Christianity than it is a reaction against a materialist and practically atheist society and way of life. That this reaction has not led to a widespread renewal of traditional religion is something for Catholics to ponder. And that is all I aim to do in the pages that follow: to examine a few of the issues the movement raises for Catholic and other mainstream or orthodox Christians.

If the origins of the term and to some extent of the movement lie in modern occultism, social and cultural conditions at the end of the last century played their part by enabling exotic alternatives to Christian belief to flourish. The progress of science, though impressive, had left many people dissatisfied. Hungry for some kind of spiritual fulfilment which neither science nor Christianity seemed able to offer, they were easily attracted to spiritualism and the Theosophical Society. The movement quickly divided and sub-divided (Krishnamurti, Steiner) and other influences came to bear (Jung, Teilhard, yoga, ecology, feminism). The scriptures of other religions, alongside the writings of Jewish Kabbalists, Christian mystics and previously obscure Christian heretics, became more widely available in translation. In the wake of Swami Vivekananda and the Vedanta Society, new gurus appeared from the East (Gurdjieff, the Maharishi, Bhagwan Rajneesh). A wave of interest in Zen Buddhism (Alan Watts, D.T Suzuki) and Sufism (Pir Vilayat Khan, Idries Shah, Frithjof Schuon), prepared the ground for exiled Tibetan rinpoches and the Dalai Lama himself to create centres of Buddhist meditation and ritual in the West - even entire monasteries, like Samyé Ling in Scotland.

Meanwhile, as the corrosion of Christianity continued apace, leading physicists became interested in mysticism and even Chinese philosophy (Shroedinger, Jeans, Planck, Capra). The “new physics” inspired similar developments in chemistry (Prigogine) and later biology (Sheldrake). Beginning in California, humanistic psychology flowered into the “human potential movement” (Maslow, Perls, Assagioli). [n]The popular fascination with mediumistic phenomena and spiritualism so prominent at the end of the nineteenth century re-emerged under the cloak of parapsychology (the academic discipline founded by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s), and rather less respectably as the 1980s fashion for “channelling” (Ramtha, Lazaris, Seth). [/b] An interest in the native traditions suppressed by European colonialists, and in the use of hallucinogenic drugs led (through the writings of “anthropologist” Carlos Castaneda and others) to the rediscovery of shamanism. Indeed, Paganism and Wicca (witchcraft) are now regarded by many academics as a significant religious minority, with as many as 20,000 exponents in the UK alone.

In England, a leader and inspirer of the New Age movement for much of his long life has been Sir George Trevelyan (nephew of the well-known historian), the founder of the Wrekin Trust - one of a number of important New Age centres that include Findhorn and Dartington Hall. In A Vision of the Aquarian Age (Coventure, 1977), he sums up much of the New Age world-view:

“Behind all outwardly manifested form is a timeless realm of absolute consciousness. It is the great Oneness underlying all the diversity, all the myriad forms of nature. It may be called God, or may be deemed beyond all naming.... The world of nature, in short, is but a reflection of the eternal world of Creative imagining. The inner core of man, that which in each of us might be called spirit, is a droplet of the divine source. As such, it is imperishable and eternal, for life cannot be extinguished. The outer sheath in which it manifests can, of course, wear out and be discarded; but to speak of ‘death’ in relation to the true being and spirit of man is irrelevant” (pp. 5-6).

Not that the authentic teacher needs to appear in the flesh. One of the most commercially successful channelled teachings allegedly from an invisible entity is to be found in the Course in Miracles, a series of books which have sold in the hundreds of thousands since their publication by the Foundation for Inner Peace in 1975, and have generated an extensive secondary literature. The author identifies himself with Christ: "I am the only one who can perform miracles indiscriminately, because I am the Atonement." He continues: “You have a role in the Atonement which I will dictate to you. Ask me which miracles you should perform. This spares you needless effort, because you will be acting under direct communication.... Lead us not into temptation means ‘Recognize your errors and choose to abandon them by following my guidance’ ” (p.7).

Such views are representative of a large body of opinion to the effect that Christianity must have lost something vital in the early centuries - and it is with the claim to have rediscovered or reconstructed this “lost Christianity”, to have discarded the husk but found the kernel of living truth, that many New Age groups begin. Against it must be set the view of many converts that it is precisely in Christianity that they have been able to find the practical spiritual help that was so lacking in the New Age. They have found it not only in the ancient monastic tradition of practical spiritual guidance, but in the practice of a regular life of prayer anchored in the sacraments and the continuing real presence of Jesus Christ. Such converts may form a valuable resource for pastors and Church authorities seeking to understand the attraction of alternative spiritualities, and to develop a suitable and compassionate response.

What I have been attempting to describe as if it were a unified “movement” is not, of course, anything of the sort. It is certainly highly unstable, and has a tendency to break up in at least three main directions. Some members tend to lapse back (or move on) into more traditional religious allegiances, becoming Buddhists, or Christians, or Muslims. A second group consists of those who are “captured” by one of the extreme religious sects or new apocalyptic cults (ranging from Scientology and the People’s Temple to the Unification Church). A third group simply merge back into the mainstream culture. By this I mean that the New Age has a tendency to become big business. Pop stars (e.g. the Beatles), film stars (e.g. Shirley MacLaine), and Wall Street yuppies have all helped to promote it. Chains of shops appeared, selling books, crystals and records of New Age music. Publishers responded to a growing market by investing heavily in the production of new titles, employing “New Age” as a marketing device. In fact, this was a major factor in the rapid growth of the movement during the 1980s. However, the very success of New Age products was taken by many in the movement itself as evidence for the growth of the new global awareness.

The New Age “festivals” or “fairs” that took place during the 1980s expressed very clearly the “coming of age”, not of mankind, but of the New Age itself as a self-conscious movement. This was the spiritual quest married to consumerism: a marriage arranged and consummated in America but soon on honeymoon in the rest of the world. The compatibility of the two partners, after all, runs very deep. Life in a market economy (mirrored in the thinking of postmodernist intellectuals) dissolves the sense of personal identity by increasing mobility, instability and consumer choice. For the armchair tourist, culture itself becomes a commodity. The Existentialist philosophers had claimed that “existence precedes essence”, that we are what we choose: the modern consumer lives out that understanding in everyday life. When the consumer embarks on a spiritual quest (the search for a deeper reality or transcendent unity), it naturally tends to take the form of a review of different religious options and belief systems, with a view to choosing an alternative lifestyle that will suit his individual tastes. The deeper level where all is one corresponds to the all-embracing unity of the market economy, and the radical plurality of the available ways to God matches the goods on display in any shopping mall or supermarket.

The New Age - understandably and rightly, in my view - attempts to overcome the split between mind and matter, and in this way to overcome the isolation of the spiritual Self in a world of material forces. But in general it remains trapped in the modernity shaped by Galileo and Descartes: trapped, that is, between the two poles of the opposition. Either it remains dualistic, and - like the Gnostics - seeks to escape from the oppression of matter through some kind of spiritual liberation (reincarnation culminating in reunion with the divine consciousness), or it tries to turn materialism on its head by absorbing matter into mind, declaring the very distinction to be unreal (spiritual monism). These two paths can also be combined by making dualism merely a preliminary, a “lesser truth” destined to be left behind in the higher stages of spiritual enlightenment.

The New Age can partly be understood as a reaction, or set of reactions, to the atomic individualism of post-Enlightenment modernity, and to the social fragmentation and alienation associated with this. In its negative aspect, it presents a picture of the Self desperately battering against the bars of its own cage - the Self unable to worship itself, trying to find a way out, but constrained by one or other unexamined assumption of modernity. It seeks to submit to an authority, but will no longer look in the one place where genuine authority is to be found. It seeks love, but it cannot bring itself to make a commitment. It seeks to respect and venerate nature, but at the same time it wants to escape the constraints of nature. It wants to become immortal, but at the same time it wants to evolve into something different from itself. It wants to know everything, but not by becoming humble enough to learn. It wants to be free, but not by having to make a decision.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that man’s relationship to God and the demand for a religious ‘experience’ are the crux of a profound crisis affecting the human spirit. While the secularization of many aspects of life continues, there is a new quest for ‘spirituality’ as evidenced in the appearance of many religious and healing movements which look to respond to the crisis of values in Western society. This stirring of the homo religiosus produces some positive and constructive results, such as the search for new meaning in life, a new ecological sensitivity, and a desire to go beyond a cold, rationalistic religiosity. On the other hand, this religious re-awakening includes some very ambiguous elements which are incompatible with the Christian faith.

“Many of you have written Pastoral Letters on the problems presented by pseudo-religious movements and sects, including the so-called ‘New Age Movement’. New Age ideas sometimes find their way into preaching, catechesis, workshops and retreats, and thus influence even practising Catholics, who perhaps are unaware of the incompatibility of those ideas with the Church’s faith. In their syncretistic and immanent outlook, these parareligious movements pay little heed to Revelation, and instead try to come to God through knowledge and experience borrowed from Eastern spirituality or from psychological techniques. They tend to relativize religious doctrine, in favour of a vague world-view expressed as a system of myths and symbols dressed in religious language. Moreover, they often propose a pantheistic concept of God which is incompatible with Sacred Scripture and Christian Tradition. They replace personal responsibility to God for our actions with a sense of duty to the cosmos, thus overturning the true concept of sin and the need for redemption through Christ.

“Yet, in the midst of this spiritual confusion, the Church’s Pastors should be able to detect an authentic thirst for God and for an intimate, personal relationship with him. In essence, the seach for meaning is the stupendous quest for the Truth and Goodness which have their foundation in God himself, the author of all that exists. Indeed, it is God himself who awakens this longing in people’s hearts. The often silent pilgrimage to the living Truth, whose Spirit ‘directs the course of the ages and renews the face of the earth’ (Gaudium et spes, n. 26), is a ‘sign of the times’ which invites the Church’s members to examine the credibility of their Christian witness. Pastors must honestly ask whether they have paid sufficient attention to the thirst of the human heart for the true ‘living water’ which only Christ our Redeemer can give (John 4:7-13). They should insist on the spiritual dimension of the faith, on the perennial freshness of the Gospel message and its capacity to transform and renew those who accept it.

“Saint Paul tells us that we must ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God’ (Col. 3:1). To neglect the supernatural dimension of the the Christian life is to empty of meaning the mystery of Christ and of the Church: ‘If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). Nevertheless, it is a sad fact that some Christians today are succumbing to the temptation ‘to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being’ (Redemptoris Missio, n. 11). To preach a version of Christianity which benignly ignores, when it does not explicitly deny, that our ultimate hope is the ‘resurrection of the body and life everlasting’ (Apostles’ Creed) runs counter to Revelation and the whole of Catholic tradition.”

The Christian emphasis on a particular man of flesh and blood, his gruesome death and empty tomb - unless interpreted as a purely symbolic narrative - strikes them as absurd or even unwholesome. Yet it is in this emphasis on the physical Incarnation that the foundation of Christian mysticism can be discovered. And here, I think, we can rediscover the most authentic Christian way out of the modern dilemma. Certainly, if we do not take this as our starting point, any use made of the elements of other traditions is likely to result in a dilution or distortion of the distinctive contribution of Christianity.

Right from the start, of course, the Jewish religion attributed great importance to history. It was after all founded on history: the Covenant and its periodic renewal; the liberation from slavery in Egypt; the giving of the Law through Moses. The Jews also believed that history would come to a conclusion: the restoration of David’s kingdom by the Messiah. For Christians, the life of Jesus of Nazareth was the continuation, and the beginning of the fulfilment, of Israel’s long history. The precise Christian claim is easy to state, but difficult to grasp: that Jesus, who was the long-awaited Messiah, was a human being, a man, but also God: a divine Person, the Second Person of the Trinity. In him, the Creator of the cosmos became (and will eternally remain) a man of flesh and blood like us. “The Christian is immersed in wonder at this paradox, the latest of an infinite series, all magnified with gratitude in the language of the liturgy: the immense accepts limitation; a Virgin gives birth; through death, he who is life conquers death forever; in the heights of heaven, a human body is seated at the right hand of the Father” (John Paul II, Orientale Lumen, 1995, n. 10).

For dualists and monists alike, this claim is scandalous. If true, it means that Jesus is more than any Jewish prophet; more than (to use the Indian term) an “Avatar”. The Supreme Reality has not merely revealed itself on earth as though in a mirror, but has stepped, like Alice through the Looking Glass, into the very realm of shadows. It has done more: it has brought the realm of shadows back with it to the real world, the “truly real” world of the Absolute, or of God’s Eternity. The implication of the Resurrection and Ascension, linked to the Incarnation, is that no event in the earthly, historical life of Jesus can ever be “over and done with”. The elements of his life no longer lie in the past, in historical time alone, for they have been raised up with his human flesh to God’s right hand.

These facts change our destiny. Our highest aspiration is no longer to be liberated from the body in order to merge our particular spirit with the universal Spirit. There is a higher destiny than nirvana: it is “salvation”, the Beatific Vision, the marriage of heaven and earth. In that case, Christianity does not offer less than the other religions, but more. When the Church Fathers wrote that “God became man so that man might become God”, they did not mean that we will one day awaken to the fact that we were God all along. They meant that we were not God, but may become so: God by grace not by nature. Once divinized through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the divine nature in which we share is undivided, and yet we remain eternally distinct from every other person, human or divine. Through losing ourselves in the contemplation of the Beloved, we will receive an eternal identity in the Communion of Saints.

Notice in particular how, if the cosmic relationship of Self and Other, of Subject and Object, is to be transcended, as oriental religions and the New Age believe, “eternal life” must consist of extinction - the extinction of a raindrop in the ocean. This is a unity of absorption: the Lover is absorbed into the Beloved. But at that point love itself comes to an end: loves turns out to have been merely a longing for unity with God, which is now satisfied. There is no Lover any more: only the Beloved. But while a Christian may agree that duality - the separation of Self and Other - is not the end of the story, only a Christian knows the “happy ending”. The Incarnation has revealed a distinction in God between Father, Son and Spirit. The message is that Lover and Beloved can “live happily ever after”. Love does not merge with the Self into the Other, but preserves them in relationship. In place of the unity of absorption, Christianity places a mystery of unity without confusion, and proclaims that love need never come to an end (1 Cor.13:8). Our relationships are the most important things about us; love is the way, the only way, to enter into eternal life.

The New Age is growing for a combination of negative and positive reasons. The negative reasons: many people are repelled by the face of Christianity they see around them and in the history books. They consider that Christians throughout the ages have been responsible for religious wars and persecutions, and that even among today’s believers a majority seem to be only nominally or culturally Christian, lacking any visible spirituality or moral integrity beyond the average. To set against this, there is evidence within the Church of genuine sanctity, often of an heroic nature, and frequently attested by miracles. However, sanctity (in the Catholic tradition particularly) is associated in the minds of many with an extreme asceticism, and a cult of sentimentality, that they find repulsive.

There are also positive reasons that might attract someone to search out alternatives to Christianity. A need for healing, or just a desire for freedom and adventure; a need for community and greater participation (do-it-yourself rituals are a common feature of New Age spirituality). A sense, too, that the Truth must be greater than any human words can express, which goes with a preference for mythology, storytelling and poetry over seemingly prosaic dogma. Above all, perhaps, a hunger for a higher level of consciousness than that of the everyday mind, so preoccupied with trivial affairs, and for first-hand religious experience, for access to invisible worlds and beings, rather than second- or third-hand accounts. (Many of these features are found within the Charismatic movement - which could be seen as the Holy Spirit’s answer to many of these concerns of the New Age movement.) But there are less noble motives also: the attraction of becoming part of an elite group, of sharing a secret knowledge, of becoming special, of acquiring supernatural powers.

The enormous growth of the New Age movement in recent times is partly caused by misguided attempts to demythologize and “de-mystify” Christianity. It seeks a transforming contact with mystery (that which transcends us) and with the supernatural - a hunger for true love, for beauty, for healing, for saints and miracles: for poetry not prose. It therefore appeals to the imagination in a way that Christianity in a period of cultural decline finds it increasingly hard to do. The New Age could almost be described as the revenge of the imagination on Western Christians, who in their obsessive emphasis on reason and the will, on naked truth and virtue, have tended to regard feeling and the imagination, if not as actually demonic, then as an irrelevance or a distraction. Writers such as George MacDonald, Coventry Patmore, G.K. Chesterton and the “Inklings” (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams) are modern exceptions, but outside the Romantic movement prose has reigned over poetry, despite the perennial tradition of the great “poet-theologians”, from St Ephrem and Romanos to St Thomas Aquinas, Dante, St John of the Cross and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

To end this brief survey, I have chosen a poem from Gertrude von Le Fort’s collection Hymns to the Church (translated by Margaret Chanler and published in 1942 by Sheed & Ward). For it is within the Church and her saints that the wisdom can be found that so many are seeking in the New Age movement.

Your voice speaks:

In my arms I still carry flowers from the wilderness,

the dew on my hair is from the valleys of the dawn of mankind.

I have prayers that the meadows lend an ear to,

I know how storms are tempered, how water is blessed.

I carry in my womb the secrets of the desert,

on my head the noble web of ancient thought.

For I am mother to all earth’s children:why do you scorn me,

world, when my Heavenly Father makes me so great?

Behold, in me long-vanished generations still kneel,

and out of my soul many pagans shine towards the infinite.

I lay hidden in the temples of their gods,

I was darkly present in the sayings of their wise men.

I was on the towers with their star-gazers,

I was with the solitary women on whom the spirit descended.

I was the desire of all times, I was the light of all times,

I am the fullness of all times.

I am their great union, I am their eternal oneness.

I am the way of all their ways,

on me the millennia are drawn to God.

"Only a fool of a scientist would dismiss the evidence and reports in front of him and substitute his own beliefs in their place." - Paul Kurtz

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'New Age' is the religion of the elite

Postby zplix » Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:53 pm

As Monica Sjoo reveals in here book, The Return of the Light Dark Mother. The so-called New Age, when looked at closely is riddiled with racism and fear of the dark (the two go hand in hand)

It really has been strongly influenced by Theosophy, and the writings of Madam Blavatsy, etal. All of whom expouind racist mystical ideologyies.
And they embrace Apocalyptic endings, s o as , they insist, to 'liberate the light which is trapped in dark matter'

So it is mostly all focused on 'light' and 'positivity'. And if anyone doesn't agree then they are of the dark and must be exterminated.

Eugenics is a baby of this mindset. the desire to 'purify' the 'race' and get rid of 'dark influences'. The very self-superiority of the small elite running this depraved show depends on 'royal bloodlines'....So we see that the root of this evil stems from that mindset. And yes it does go far back. Ever since humans decided they were more important than the other species, and could dominate them. Dominionism

So there is so-called New Age. And then we have the faiths that are gainst it, like the Church and all the Abrahamic belief systems. But i see a problem with those too. Ie., the same root, actually

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