Thursday, November 27, 2014

New Age Alternative Therapies and Medicine: A Need For Discernment

A photo of New Age alternative medicines and therapies.
New Age Therapy and Medicine: Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Today's post introduces a new book on the dangers of the New Age entitled, Spiritual Deceptions in the Church and the Culture: A Comprehensive Guide to Discernment written by Moira Noonan and Anne Feaster, and published by the Ave Maria Centre of Peace.

The book title does justice to its content as it truly is a comprehensive guide to discernment. It also serves as a key resource for anyone seeking clarity and understanding about the dangers of the New Age, and its deceptive belief systems and practices.

Detailing many aspects of the New Age, this book cites heavily from the Vatican document, Jesus Christ The Bearer Of The Water Of Life, a Christian reflection on the New Age, released in 2003, as a response to the New Age phenomenon. Whether you are new to the dangers of the New Age or if you are somewhat well read on the subject matter, this book is a perfect compliment for those seeking to further their understanding, and bring awareness to others.

If today's post is the first time you have been alerted to concerns raised about the New Age, may I suggest you read my initial post on the New Age, The New Age: A Basic Introduction.

With fourteen chapters totalling almost three hundred pages, this book covers a variety of topics on the New Age including: the heresies that form the historical basis of New Age thinking; the false philosophies that underlie its belief systems; a comparison between Christian contemplation and Eastern meditation; the truth behind alternative healing therapies and medicines; how popular culture, media and the youth have become the doorways to the occult; dedicated chapters for discernment of spirits; an explanation on demonology and deliverance; spiritual warfare and a "Q and A" chapter of questions posed by readers.

The Endnotes are an impressive twenty pages that are sure to satisfy any reader's intrigue and desire for further reading. Included are several well known sources such as: Exorcists Father Jeremy Davies and Father Gabriele Amorth, Pope Leo XIII, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Monsignor Milivoj Bolobanić, Archbishop Norberto Rivera, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Father Mitch Pacwa, Michael D. O'Brien, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, LifesiteNews and Catholic News Agency just to name a few.

In addition there is an extensive Glossary providing a much needed quick reference for what is sure to be for many, an unfamiliar listing of New Age terms, beliefs and practices. Add to this Appendix A, the complete document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for evaluating Reiki entitled, Guidelines For Evaluating Reiki As An Alternative Therapy.  Appendix B contains three pages of scriptural passages.

In my view, the publication of this book has been long overdue and will certainly make for a welcome addition to your reading on the New Age phenomenon.

Due to the volume and density of information contained in this book, and for the sake of brevity, I have decided to focus today's post on chapter seven Alternative Holistic Healing Therapies Affecting Mind, Body and Soul, which specifically deals with the many New Age alternative therapies and medicine. It is an especially important chapter given the fact that it is through the medical field and the health/fitness industry that the New Age has established a domain for alternative healing practices. The result for many has been the following of false prophets, an acceptance of alternative belief systems and practices, and the reception of counterfeit healing and treatments

Today's focus also coincides with concerns stemming from my observations during many of my daily walks in which I have discovered several New Age practices within my local community such asacupuncture, chiropractic, holistic and preventive medicine, homeopathy, reiki, qigong, iridology, Traditional Chinese Medicine or "TCM" and yoga. This list is by no means an exhaustive one as Noonan and Feaster point out in chapter seven, there are many different types of therapies and medicine that fall into the alternative medicine category: 
The domain of alternative medicine is extensive because of the numerous types of therapies offered: homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, herbalism, applied kinesiology, reflexology and aromatherapy, bio-energy therapy, reiki, touch for health and therapeutic touch all fall under the heading of alternative therapies, with the list continually growing. Although the origin of each therapy may differ, they are all categorized under holistic health... (101)
Should you endeavour to do likewise and discover if the New Age has infiltrated your community, be on guard against the euphemistic titles and deceptive descriptions such as: oasis, sanctuary, wellness, mind body and spirit, holistic therapies, remedies, weight loss, massage therapy, natural and herbal, preventative and alternative medicine.

If there is a treatment that you are unfamiliar with, do not assume it to be acceptable. This has been the mistake of many, failing to question the validity of these treatments and their origin. Also be cognizant of where such "services" are provided, which is typically within trusted medical centers, and health and fitness locations. Be prudent, hold off and do the research. Do not be anaesthetized by the pleasant setting, and encouraged by others who seem to readily accept New Age practices.

So what does the concerned Catholic do in trying to discern what therapies and medicine are acceptable, and which are not. In addition to rooting your effort in prayer and fasting, seeking the truth is essential. This last inclusion of "seeking the truth" may seem rather obvious, but with so much information out there, it really is a necessary reminder for all of us.

What this entails is accessing the right sources such as the aforementioned Vatican document, books such as the one that I am blogging about today, scripture and Church teaching which can be found in the Catechism of The Catholic Church.

In Noonan and Feaster's book, chapter seven under the subheading, Alternative Medicine, they provide information to help the discerning Catholic recognize which therapies and medicine fall under the New Age. For your immediate reference, I have included the four "common characteristics" to help you identify what are New Age holistic health practices:
  1. Altered States of Consciousness: Used by a vast number of practices, including: therapeutic touch, psychic diagnosis, dream work, crystal healing and higher mind healing. 
  2. Maya: A concept that claims that illness is just an illusion and proper healing can be induced through thinking, meditation, visualization or positive affirmation.
  3. A Magical Worldview/Divination: With this belief, the practitioner uses psychic powers to diagnose, predict or forecast alleged illnesses.
  4. Life Energies: The New Age model of holistic health is based primarily on its conception of energy and not matter. Illness is not seen as primarily a physical problem, but rather as an imbalance of energy in the body or as a by-product of unenlightened consciousness.
To clarify, "altered states of consciousness or "ASCs" are abnormal mental states that aim to create a void in the practitioner's mind typically characterized by a significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will. It is through ASCs that practitioners are brought to an encounter with the demonic.

Further in chapter seven under the subheading, Alternative Medicine, the authors recommend applying the following principles to acquire the truth about any New Age treatment: 
  • Determine if the practice is inherently unbiblical. Does it involve immorality, idolatry, demonic forces, mediums or Eastern mysticism? Better to continue to be physically sick than to become spiritually diseased (Deut 18:10-13)
  • If acceptable in a Biblical worldview, does it really work? Be a pragmatist. Don't just accept stories and testimonies which do not prove anything by themselves. Controlled studies are the best means of determining the effectiveness of any therapy.
  • If acceptable in a Biblical worldview and scientifically feasible, make sure that the practitioner does not influence you with a false spirituality or a mystical worldview. 

Having identified the problems with New Age alternative therapies and medicine, what then is to be understood about authentic healing? The authors provide guidelines in chapter seven under the subheading, Guidelines for Authentic HealingThe point to remember about authentic healing is this: it is a matter of divine grace, a gift from God!

Healing by divine grace is never achieved by employing techniques or through some ritual; nor, should it be considered and associated in any way with an "energy" or "power" to be harnessed, handed down, manipulated or used at human disposal.

Healing by divine grace comes in the form of the sacraments and prayer. The authors specifically note: the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick; the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession); intercessory prayer of the faithful; and the charism of healing that is bestowed upon individuals. These healing gifts are freely available given to the Church for its benefit. Those individuals who possess the charism of healing do so as a matter of being instruments of the Holy Spirit. All this is in stark contrast to the New Age, which seeks to obtain healing apart from God; a false and counterfeit healing whose source is the demonic.

Proper Catholic discernment tells us that under no circumstances even for the purpose of achieving "better health" are we to have recourse to the demonic. The Catechism of The Catholic Church makes this very clear:
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity (2117)
The spiritual perils of New Age therapies and medicines are also revealed by the fact that they are both scientifically unproven and questionable. That being the case, to rely on them is a matter of superstition which reveals the New Age's anti-Christian approach as Noonan and Feaster point out: 
If a medicine, or any healing system, cannot be explained and proven effective by the most reliable method of science available, then relying on it could very well be a form of superstition. Trusting in an illogical type of medicine or device for healing would be no different than believing in superstitious practices such as carrying objects for good luck. To do so is to act contrary to the virtue of religion. (111) 
To further your awareness and understanding of what therapies and medicines are considered to be New Age, below is a list that Noonan and Feaster have compiled in chapter seven, under the subheading, Alternative Therapies at a Glance. The authors have also categorized the following practices as: "scientifically questionable (SC); scientifically unproven (SU); and/or energy healing (E)" (114):

  • Acupressure (SQ, E), Acupuncture (SQ, SU, E), Allergy Elimination Techniques (SQ, SU, E), Applied Kinesiology (SQ, SU, E), Aromatherapy (sometimes SQ, SU), Astrology and Horoscope Readings (SQ, SU), Aura Healing and Aura Soma color therapies (E), Ayurvedic Medicine (SU, E)
  • Bach Flower remedies (SQ, E), Body, mind and spirit healing and workshops (SQ, E), Bio-energetic healing (mystical energy) (E), Biofeedback (can be SU, E)
  • Chakra Balancing and Healing (E), Chelation Therapy (can be used but SQ), Chiropractic (can be E, can be SQ, can be SU), Colonics (can be SQ), Colour Therapy Healing (E), Cosmic and Vortex Healing (E), CranioSacral Therapy (SQ, can be E), Crystal Healing (E)
  • Eckankar Soul Travel (E), Edgar Cayce Methods of Psychic Healing (SU, E), Energy Balancing and Energy Healing (E), Energy Medicine (SQ, E)
  • Feng Shui (art of energy displacement) (E)
  • Herbalism (SQ, E), Homeopathy (SQ, SU, E), Hot Stone Massage (SQ, SU, E)
  • I Ching (Chinese fortune telling) (SQ, SU), Iridology (SQ)
  • Live Blood Analysis (Nutritional Blood Analysis) (SU, SQ)
  • Magnet Therapy (SU, sometimes E)
  • Naturopathy (SQ, SU, E), Nine Star Ki (fortune telling) (SQ, SU), Numerology & Charts (divination) (SQ, SU)
  • Palm Reading/Angel Readings (SQ, SU)
  • Pendulums, Dowsing, Consultancy and Healing (E), pH Balancing (SU), Polarity Therapy (chakras and energies) (E)
  • Power Bands/Energy Bracelets/Q-Ray/Ion Bracelets (SU, SQ, E), Psychic Healing and Psychic Readings (Psychic surgery) (SU, E), Psychics, Mediums, Clairvoyants (SU, E)
  • Qigong (SU, E)
  • Reflexology (SQ, E), Reiki (SU, E)
  • Self-Hypnosis and Hypnotic Regression (SQ, SU), Shamanic Healing and Work (E), Sway Testing (SQ, SU, E)
  • The Healing Code (SQ, E), Therapeutic Touch (energy channeling) (SQ, E), Traditional Chinese Medicine (SQ, SU, E)
  • Visualization or Guided Imagery (can be SQ, SU; and sometimes E)
  • Yoga meditation (Yogic Hindu Spirituality) (E)

Some practices are more dangerous than others, such as reiki which I have written about in my previous post, The Dangers And Deception Of Reiki: A Counterfeit To Christian Healing.

The one common thread running throughout all these New Age alternative treatments and practices is a departure from faith in God. Whether someone does this knowingly or unknowingly, what is at the core of New Age practices is an alternative to God's authority. This is simply an extension of the New Age itself, an alternative thinking, and very different world view to Christianity. For further details on the New Age world view, in addition to my aforementioned basic introduction to the New Age, may I also recommend two of my posts: The New Age: Further Aspects and The New Age: The Human Person, God and The World.

We all want to be in good health, and have it abundantly. We can seek healing for our ailments properly, and avoid the New Age deception of its counterfeit healing as this post has detailed. Our decisions should respect God's authority, and reflect a personal trust in His will for our lives. So many want to bypass God's authority, and seek immediate healing remedies. Such decisions are contrary to God's law as the First Commandment tells us, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." Any therapy or medicine that is either scientifically unproven or questionable or "energy healing" should be removed from consideration, and never accepted as a treatment. Avoid anything that involves the occult, magic or superstition, and has roots in pagan religions. Noonan and Feaster also point out that seeking good health with the use of conventional medicine is also part of an authentic approach to healing, one that cooperates with divine grace.

I would like to conclude with Father Jeremy Davie's warning regarding New Age alternative therapies and medicine. Father Jeremy Davies is an exorcist for London's Westminster Archdiocese and a co-founder, together with Father Gabriele Amorth, of The International Association of Exorcists. Noonan and Feaster have included his expert advice which I consider essential to spotlight the dangers of the demonic element of New Age practices:
Beware of seeking help from anyone except Christ and the Catholic Church. On the physical side of things, accept, as a general rule, your doctor's advice. Don't answer advertisements of healers or physics or spiritualists, don't go to sects or cults, don't be tempted by universal energies or eastern religions or magic cures or alternative therapies or self-realization courses or psychological breakthroughs--most of them are demonic and will one make your worse. (113)
May God guide you in your discernment, protect you in your quest for the truth and grant you an abundance of good health.

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