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Like my previous posts on the New Age, today's post specifically draws from the Vatican document, Jesus Christ The Bearer of The Water of Life, a joint effort by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue. The focus of this post will be on what the New Age says about the human person, God, and the world. I will conclude with a section on why the New Age has grown so rapidly, and spread so effectively.
If you are not familiar with the topic of the New Age or unclear as to what it is all about, you are probably not alone. The subject matter can be somewhat ambiguous, and at times, difficult to absorb and recall. This is one of the reasons why I have chosen to deal with the aforementioned document in selected sections. To do otherwise would inundate any visitor to my blog with too much information.
In a "nut shell," the New Age is basically is an alternative view of the world that differs substantially from the Christian tradition. At times the differences can be a sharp contrast, and a complete contradiction to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Any serious reading about the New Age will require you to run the gauntlet of unfamiliar ideas, perspectives, approaches, practices, attitudes and thinking. I have run through this gauntlet a few times, and my posts on the New Age are aimed at making your run an easier one.
Today's post forms part of a series of posts that I have been developing to expose the New Age within my community, and bring awareness to others. You might want to consider reading my previous posts on the New Age to strengthen your understanding: The New Age: A Basic Introduction and The New Age: Further Aspects.
What does the New Age say about the human person?
Fundamental to the New Age thinking with respect to the human person is the belief that we can achieve perfection solely by implementing a variety of techniques and therapies, available to us for the choosing. This is in sharp contrast, and a total contradiction to the Christian tradition which views perfection as something we can certainly strive for, but only available and achievable by divine intervention; that is, grace.
The New Age views one's "self" as the source of fulfillment because apparently, available to us are a set of values which we can create and achieve with our own strength. So, there is no need for a higher authority, nor a recognition of God's role in our lives. It is all about us, and our decisions. As a matter of fact, the New Age view of the human person is in accord with Nietzsche's idea that Christianity has prevented the "full manifestation of genuine humanity." (126.96.36.199)
So how does the New Age reveal each individual's "divine power." From the New Age perspective, the answer is "mind expanding" techniques. These "techniques" amount to the exaltation of humanity, which points to the second major contradiction with Christianity because it overturns the correct relationship between Creator and created being.
This rebellious spirit is characteristic of the Evil One, who desired to be held in high regard, and worshipped when refusing to accept the Father's plan for humanity with the life and death of Christ. An example of one of the more extreme forms of this self fulfilling mind expanding process is Satanism. (188.8.131.52) Some of the characteristics of Satanism are: selfishness, aggression and violence. This contrasts the message of the New Testament of peace and harmony.
The esoteric culture that this New Age approach to the human person promotes has infiltrated the realm of politics, education, legislation and ecology. In particular, the New Age view of the human person is certainly evident in ecology, where people illustrate by a variety of methods, the preference and belief in the "self" and their negation of God. Examples are such efforts are population control strategies and genetic engineering. In essence, this amounts to "playing God" with life which spotlights another contradiction. God is the author of life, and life is sacred specifically because of God's creative act when each human being is conceived. This truth is completely ignored in the New Age view of the person.
Some other ideas of the human person that stems from the New Age thinking are: we are co-creators, we create our own reality, there is no sin only imperfect knowledge, the identity of every person is diluted in the universe. There is more to this list, but you get the general idea of how alternative the New Age thinking is with respect to the human person.
What does the New Age say about God?
The New Age does not recognize and acknowledge the one and true God of Israel, but has a preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, which according to the New Age view, have not been "contaminated" by the Judaeo-Christian traditions. This paves the way for the New Age to seek a whole host of alternative ideas, and approaches that has a very anti-Christian character about it.
You will find in reading about the New Age, the intentional use of the word, "God," is never in reference to the Holy Trinity. It is always some alternative false god. The New Age god is not a personal one, but impersonal; nor is their god a sustainer of the universe, but an "impersonal energy" existing throughout the world in some sort of "cosmic unity." (184.108.40.206) This so called unity is referred to as: monistic, pantheistic and more precisely, panentheistic. Although, the document, Jesus Christ The Bearer of The Water of Life, does not get into their specific meanings, I thought to provide a brief definition of each:
- Monism - is a philosophical position which argues that the variety of existing things can be explained in terms of a single reality or substance. The wide definition states that all existing things go back to a source which is distinct from them. The common, restricted definition implies also a unity of substance and essence. Contrasting with monism are metaphysical dualism and metaphysical pluralism.The term monism originates in western philosophy, but has also been applied to religions.
- Pantheism - The idea that all things are both a manifestation or revelation of God and a part of God at the same time. Pantheism was a common attitude in the early societies of Egypt, India, and Greece—the term derives from the Greek pan meaning "all" and theos meaning "deity. A pantheist is someone who believes that God and the universe are the same.
- Panentheism - (from Greek πᾶν (pân) "all"; ἐν (en) "in"; and θεός (theós) "God"; "all-in-God") is a belief system which posits that the divine (be it a monotheistic God, polytheistic gods, or an eternal cosmic animating force) interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it. Panentheism differentiates itself from pantheism, which holds that the divine is synonymous with the universe.
Perhaps the most contrasting aspect of the New Age's view of God is with respect to the use of the word "Christ." The New Age does not speak or refer to "Christ" as in Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world, but refers to a state of consciousness that one arrives at where the individual perceives himself or herself as being divine. (220.127.116.11) For the New Age, Jesus of Nazareth was not the "anointed one" or Christ, but one of many historical figures in whom the "Christic" nature is revealed.
If this wasn't enough, the New Age calls what they consider to be the "holy spirit" (not in the true Christian meaning) as the "innermost and personal ("psychic") level on which "divine cosmic energy" is "heard."
What does the New Age say about the world?
The New Age's view of the world is not only alternative, but perhaps one of the most challenging views to comprehend. The New Age does not accept the traditional mechanistic model of classic physics, but instead proposes a "holistic" world. This so called "holistic" world is one of modern atomic and sub-atomic physics, based on the concept of matter as waves or energy as opposed to particles. (18.104.22.168) According to this alternative view of the world, the "universe is an ocean of energy, which is a single whole or networks of links." What the New Age refers to as spirit is the energy animating the universe.
Why has the New Age has grown so rapidly and spread so effectively?
The New Age appeals to many individuals because it promotes much of what today's culture promotes, the "self." Many people are rejecting the traditional Christian tradition, yet are still seek some spiritual fulfillment. This is where the New Age "captures" those searching souls with enticing language and a wide variety of practices, therapies, ideas and approaches to choose from.
The New Age approach attempts to provide warmth to those who have experienced harshness in the world, operating on the level of feelings and emotions. In reaction to all of the world's problems, be it political, economic, social or environmental, the New Age encourages individuals to seek an alternative, "harmonious" relationship with the cosmos. (2.5)
The New Age broadens its appeal with a rejection of morality. Moral people are considered intolerant of others. In an atmosphere where "anything goes," being different and alternative is not only acceptable, but preferable. In most cases, it is not so much being a member of a group or organization, but more a result of an attraction to therapies and practices, without understanding or having full knowledge of them. The Vatican document, Jesus Christ The Bearer of The Water of Life, provides an example of such a scenario when those who use aromatherapy or listen to New Age music are interested in the health effects and benefits for their well being, but only a minority will actually seek the truth behind the experience. (2.5)
If you have read this post, and my two previous posts on the New Age, together with Jesus Christ The Bearer of The Water of Life, then you have made it through the "gauntlet." The remainder of this Vatican document beginning from section three, New Age and Christian Faith, is a relatively easy read that specifically focuses on the contrasting spiritualities between Christianity and the New Age.
For what ever reason, Jesus Christ The Bearer of The Water of Life, has not received the kind of attention it deserves considering how the New Age has infiltrated into the main stream culture. For those who have not read it, I hope my posts will encourage you to do so. May it strengthen your understanding, and empower you to share it with others. We need to be better informed about the spiritual threats to our respective communities. This document certainly helps in that process. May all who endeavour to spread awareness be successful in their efforts.