Monday, November 18, 2013

The New Age: A Basic Introduction

Aquarius - The "New Era"
If you are struggling to identify, and define what the New Age is, you are probably not alone. I was a member of that club until a little over a year ago. In late'2012, I took it upon myself to do some research on the New Age. It was the beginning of a clarification process: an unravelling all the ambiguous language, practices, approaches, alternative thinking, and trying to grasp the very different world view contained at the heart of the New Age movement. My need to discover the truth about the New Age stemmed from a concern that I had regarding all the New Age elements within my local community and the adjacent communities, which no doubt mirrors the penetration of New Age phenomena into the mainstream culture on a regional and national level. Today's post extends my concern for all communities in Canada, and throughout the world. 

My research began by seeking the truth, and it led me to three main sources, which I consider essential for any Christian seeking to understand the New Age, especially with respect to some of the more popular New Age elements such as yoga, tai-chi and reiki. In preparing for this and subsequent posts, I began the process of rereading, and reviewing my main sources which I would like to share with you now:
The first source, the Vatican document Jesus Christ The Bearer of The Water of Life, provides the reader with a detailed Christian reflection of the New Age from a Catholic perspective. This document is an important source for any one seeking a comprehensive understanding on the truth about the New AgeIt provides Catholics with a solid foundation by which we can respond positively in the defence of our faith, and explain the truth about the New Age, and its many forms of expression in the mainstream. By doing so we accept the invitation of St. Peter in his first letter:
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?  But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:13-17)
The second source, the Vatican document Letter to The Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, was issued to address the needs of spiritual growth for many Christians, in particular with respect to meditation. So many Christians have abandoned Christianity, and wandered to Eastern religions to discover what they have to offer, failing to realize that the Catholic faith provides for complete spiritual growth in the form of meditative prayer.

The main thrust of this document focuses on the "genuine Tradition of the Church," seeking to ensure that the many forms of prayer, including new ones, never lose their correct personal and communitarian nature. The document also provides clarity for those Christians who not only have come into contact with other religions, but for those who have inquired about what value non-Christian forms of meditation might have for Christians.

The third source, Br. Max Sculley's book, Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki - A Guide For Christians, is a timely warning against these popular mainstream practices that claim to provide wellness, health and relaxation, but in fact are closely linked to Eastern philosophies that are incompatible with Christianity.

Brother Max exposes the deceptive techniques in which devotees are invited to engage their minds to enter into an "altered state of consciousness," claimed to be necessary to provide any real benefit. This is where the danger lies. The practitioner is introduced into a world inimical to the Christian faith. The entire process is synonymous to a "Trojan horse" for dangerous spiritual infiltration that can eventually lead to exposure to demonic forces, and ultimately spiralling downward that any person who follows these religious philosophies to their full extent can find themselves worshipping a false God.

Jesus Christ, The Bearer of The Water of Life and what does it reveal about the New Age?

Today, I will begin my New Age awareness solely focussing on the first source, Jesus Christ, The Bearer of The Water of Life. It is a thorough fifty nine page document that essentially decodes the New Age streams of thought and approaches, which are fundamentally, alternatives and a contradiction to Christianity. To counter the details and the newness of ideas stemming from this movement, the reader throughout the document is orientated back to Jesus Christ and Christianity, culminating with a dedicated section, Jesus Christ Offers us The Water of Life. The Notes section provides a thorough list of resources for further reading. Part of this list cites references to various experts in the New Age research field, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well to many documents from Pope John Paul II.

What exactly should one understand about the New Age? Basically, it is an alternative thinking and approach to a view of the world that is in sharp contrast to Christianity. It is referred to as a paradigm shift, a wholesale transformation of perspective of a person and a community's beliefs, values, and more.(2.1) The New Age exists not so much as a single, uniform movement, but as a loose network of practitioners whose approach is to "think globally but act locally." It is spread across cultures and finds expression in music, films, art, seminars, workshops, retreats, therapies and much more. Some traditions that flow into the New Age are: ancient Egyptian occult practices, Cabbalism, Early Christian gnosticism, Sufism, The lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, Medieval Alchemy, Renaissance Hermeticism, Zen Buddhism and Yoga. This list is not an exhaustive one by any means, but it does provides you with a glimpse of how far ranging the New Age movement is. It is clear from the above listed traditions alone, that the New Age provides alternative world views that are not consistent with Christianity.

The New Age in many ways is a "child" of today's culture. Many people are increasingly detaching themselves with any connection to institutions, and do not rank official judgements above their own. The increased focus on the individual has to some extent promoted an internalizing of religion, which has provided the ground work for a celebration of the sacredness of self. In certain New Age practices, God is reduced to further the advancement of the individual. (1.1) The New Age appeals to people who have absorbed the values of modern culture, such as freedom and self-reliance, and with those who have problems with patriarchy. The New Age is easily accepted by many because it demands very little faith. (1.1)  

One of the most defining characteristics of the New Age, similar to gnosticism of the second and third centuries, is that it represents something of a compendium of positions that the Church has identified as heterodox. (1.4) Heterodox is defined as "not conforming with accepted or orthodox standards or beliefs." Under the section entitled, The New Age and Catholic Faith, there is a reference to a warning from Pope John Paul II: 
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 practising gnosticism – that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words. Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian”.(6) An example of this can be seen in the enneagram, the nine-type tool for character analysis, which when used as a means of spiritual growth introduces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith. (1.4)
The message is clear, the New Age is not compatible with Christianity, and is something that Christians must completely avoid. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by the subtlety of some of the elements or by the philosophies, and anything that the New Age practices and approaches claim to be and provide. The New Age is something to be on guard against, and to be totally rejected.

One of the most bizarre characteristics of New Age is the anticipated entry into a "new era," the Age of Aquarius. According to New Age thinking, we currently live in the "Age of Pisces" one that has been dominated by Christianity. Apparently, this current age is to be replaced by the "Age of Aquarius," early in the Third Millennium. This alternative world vision is one encouraged by those in the movement who desire to change the culture of the world, and how we relate to it.

As you can read from this introduction to the New Age, it encompasses and includes a wide range of ideas, approaches and practices that have subtly made their way into the mainstream culture. The acceptance of the New Age in gyms and health clubs, retreat and community centers, health and grocery stores and many other places, as well as in the hearts and minds of many devotees of yoga, tai-chi, reiki and other New Age practices , is a troubling reality in my community and the surrounding ones. So, if you too are a "member of the club," and want to understand the New Age, I hope that this post has begun the process for you. It is only when we know and understand the truth, can we then filter out the many New Age lies and deceptions that threaten the spiritual health of our communities.  
  




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