Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life by the Pontifical Council for Culture Part 2
It is difficult to separate the individual elements of New Age religiosity – innocent though they may appear – from the overarching framework which permeates the whole thought-world on the New Age movement. The gnostic nature of this movement calls us to judge it in its entirety. From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others. Since the New Age movement makes much of a communication with nature, of cosmic knowledge of a universal good – thereby negating the revealed contents of Christian faith – it cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous. In a cultural environment, marked by religious relativism, it is necessary to signal a warning against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith, making the difference between faith and belief seem relative, thus creating greater confusion for the unwary. In this regard, it is useful to remember the exhortation of
The following questions may be the easiest key to evaluating some of the central elements of New Age thought and practice from a Christian standpoint. “New Age”refers to the ideas which circulate about God, the human being and the world, the people with whom Christians may have conversations on religious matters, the publicity material for meditation groups, therapies and the like, explicit statements on religion and so on. Some of these questions applied to people and ideas not explicitly labelled New Age would reveal further unnamed or unacknowledged links with the whole New Age atmosphere.
* Is God a being with whom we have a relationship or something to be used or a force to be harnessed?
The New Age concept of God is rather diffuse, whereas the Christian concept is a very clear one. The New Age god is an impersonal energy, really a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world. Divinity is to be found in every being, in a gradation “from the lowest crystal of the mineral world up to and beyond the Galactic God himself, about Whom we can say nothing at all. This is not a man but a Great Consciousness”.(65) In some “classic” New Age writings, it is clear that human beings are meant to think of themselves as gods: this is more fully developed in some people than in others. God is no longer to be sought beyond the world, but deep within myself.(66) Even when “God” is something outside myself, it is there to be manipulated.
This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life. God is in himself personal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion of his life with creaturely persons. “God, who 'dwells in unapprochable light', wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity”.(67)God is not identified with the Life-principle understood as the “Spirit” or “basic energy” of the cosmos, but is that love which is absolutely different from the world, and yet creatively present in everything, and leading human beings to salvation.
* Is there just one Jesus Christ, or are there thousands of Christs?
Jesus Christ is often presented in New Age literature as one among many wise men, or initiates, or avatars, whereas in Christian tradition He is the Son of God. Here are some common points in New Age approaches:
– the personal and individual historical Jesus is distinct from the eternal, impersonal universal Christ;
– Jesus is not considered to be the only Christ;
– the death of Jesus on the cross is either denied or re-interpreted to exclude the idea that He, as Christ, could have suffered;
– extra-biblical documents (like the neo-gnostic gospels) are considered authentic sources for the knowledge of aspects of the life of Jesus which are not to be found in the canon of Scripture. Other revelations about Jesus, made available by entities, spirit guides and ascended masters, or even through the Akasha Chronicles, are basic for New Age christology;
– a kind of esoteric exegesis is applied to biblical texts to purify Christianity of the formal religion which inhibits access to its esoteric essence.(68)
In the Christian Tradition Jesus Christ is the Jesus of Nazareth about which the gospels speak, the son of Mary and the only Son of God, true man and true God, the full revelation of divine truth, unique Saviour of the world: “for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father”.(69)
* The human being: is there one universal being or are there many individuals?
“The point of New Age techniques is to reproduce mystical states at will, as if it were a matter of laboratory material. Rebirth, biofeedback, sensory isolation, holotropic breathing, hypnosis, mantras, fasting, sleep deprivation and transcendental meditation are attempts to control these states and to experience them continuously”.(70) These practices all create an atmosphere of psychic weakness (and vulnerability). When the object of the exercise is that we should re-invent our selves, there is a real question of who “I” am. “God within us” and holistic union with the whole cosmos underline this question. Isolated individual personalities would be pathological in terms of New Age (in particular transpersonal psychology). But “the real danger is the holistic paradigm. New Age is thinking based on totalitarian unity and that is why it is a danger...”.(71) More moderately: “We are authentic when we 'take charge of' ourselves, when our choice and reactions flow spontaneously from our deepest needs, when our behaviour and expressed feelings reflect our personal wholeness”.(72) The Human Potential Movement is the clearest example of the conviction that humans are divine, or contain a divine spark within themselves.
The Christian approach grows out of the Scriptural teachings about human nature; men and women are created in God's image and likeness (Gen 1.27) and God takes great consideration of them, much to the relieved surprise of the Psalmist (cf. Ps 8). The human person is a mystery fully revealed only in Jesus Christ (cf. GS 22),and in fact becomes authentically human properly in his relationship with Christ through the gift of the Spirit.(73)This is far from the caricature of anthropocentrism ascribed to Christianity and rejected by many New Age authors and practitioners.
* Do we save ourselves or is salvation a free gift from God?
The key is to discover by what or by whom we believe we are saved. Do we save ourselves by our own actions, as is often the case in New Age explanations, or are we saved by God's love? Key words are self-fulfilment and self-realisation, self-redemption. New Age is essentially Pelagian in its understanding of about human nature.(74)
For Christians, salvation depends on a participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct personal relationship with God rather than on any technique. The human situation, affected as it is by original sin and by personal sin, can only be rectified by God's action: sin is an offense against God, and only God can reconcile us to himself. In the divine plan of salvation, human beings have been saved by Jesus Christ who, as God and man, is the one mediator of redemption. In Christianity salvation is not an experience of self, a meditative and intuitive dwelling within oneself, but much more the forgiveness of sin, being lifted out of profound ambivalences in oneself and the calming of nature by the gift of communion with a loving God. The way to salvation is not found simply in a self-induced transformation of consciousness, but in a liberation from sin and its consequences which then leads us to struggle against sin in ourselves and in the society around us. It necessarily moves us toward loving solidarity with our neighbour in need.
* Do we invent truth or do we embrace it?
New Age truth is about good vibrations, cosmic correspondences, harmony and ecstasy, in general pleasant experiences. It is a matter of finding one's own truth in accordance with the feel- good factor. Evaluating religion and ethical questions is obviously relative to one's own feelings and experiences.
Jesus Christ is presented in Christian teaching as “The Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14.6). His followers are asked to open their whole lives to him and to his values, in other words to an objective set of requirements which are part of an objective reality ultimately knowable by all.
* Prayer and meditation: are we talking to ourselves or to God?
The tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer. They are often a good preparation for prayer, but no more, even if they lead to a more pleasant state of mind or bodily comfort. The experiences involved are genuinely intense, but to remain at this level is to remain alone, not yet in the presence of the other. The achievement of silence can confront us with emptiness, rather than the silence of contemplating the beloved. It is also true that techniques for going deeper into one's own soul are ultimately an appeal to one's own ability to reach the divine, or even to become divine: if they forget God's search for the human heart they are still not Christian prayer. Even when it is seen as a link with the Universal Energy, “such an easy 'relationship' with God, where God's function is seen as supplying all our needs, shows the selfishness at the heart of this New Age”.(75)
New Age practices are not really prayer, in that they are generally a question of introspection or fusion with cosmic energy, as opposed to the double orientation of Christian prayer, which involves introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. Far from being a merely human effort, Christian mysticism is essentially a dialogue which “implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from 'self' to the 'you' of God”.(76)“The Christian, even when he is alone and prays in secret, he is conscious that he always prays for the good of the Church in union with Christ, in the Holy Spirit and together with all the saints”.(77)
* Are we tempted to deny sin or do we accept that there is such a thing?
In New Age there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment, which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques. Those who take part in New Age activities will not be told what to believe, what to do or what not to do, but: “There are a thousand ways of exploring inner reality. Go where your intelligence and intuition lead you. Trust yourself”.(78) Authority has shifted from a theistic location to within the self. The most serious problem perceived in New Age thinking is alienation from the whole cosmos, rather than personal failure or sin. The remedy is to become more and more immersed in the whole of being. In some New Age writings and practices, it is clear that one life is not enough, so there have to be reincarnations to allow people to realise their full potential.
In the Christian perspective “only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind's origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a development flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another”.(79)Sin is an offense against reason, truth and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity...(80)Sin is an offense against God... sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it... Sin is thus 'love of oneself even to contempt of God'”.(81)
* Are we encouraged to reject or accept suffering and death?
Some New Age writers view suffering as self-imposed, or as bad karma, or at least as a failure to harness one's own resources. Others concentrate on methods of achieving success and wealth (e.g. Deepak Chopra, José Silva et al.). In New Age, reincarnation is often seen as a necessary element in spiritual growth, a stage in progressive spiritual evolution which began before we were born and will continue after we die. In our present lives the experience of the death of other people provokes a healthy crisis.
Both cosmic unity and reincarnation are irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being, who lives one life, for which he or she is fully responsible: this understanding of the person puts into question both responsibility and freedom. Christians know that “in the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed. Christ – without any fault of his own – took on himself 'the total evil of sin'. The experience of this evil determined the incomparable extent of Christ's suffering, which became the price of the redemption... The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the redemption, Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption. Thus each man in his suffering can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ”.(82)
* Is social commitment something shirked or positively sought after?
Much in New Age is unashamedly self-promotion, but some leading figures in the movement claim that it is unfair to judge the whole movement by a minority of selfish, irrational and narcissistic people, or to allow oneself to be dazzled by some of their more bizarre practices, which are a block to seeing in New Age a genuine spiritual search and spirituality.(83) The fusion of individuals into the cosmic self, the relativisation or abolition of difference and opposition in a cosmic harmony, is unacceptable to Christianity.
Where there is true love, there has to be a different other (person). A genuine Christian searches for unity in the capacity and freedom of the other to say “yes” or “no” to the gift of love. Union is seen in Christianity as communion, unity as community.
* Is our future in the stars or do we help to construct it?
The New Age which is dawning will be peopled by perfect, androgynous beings who are totally in command of the cosmic laws of nature. In this scenario, Christianity has to be eliminated and give way to a global religion and a new world order.
Christians are in a constant state of vigilance, ready for the last days when Christ will come again; their New Age began 2000 years ago, with Christ, who is none other than “Jesus of Nazareth; he is the Word of God made man for the salvation of all”. His Holy Spirit is present and active in the hearts of individuals, in “society and history, peoples, cultures and religions”. In fact, “the Spirit of the Father, bestowed abundantly by the Son, is the animator of all”.(84)We live in the last times.
On the one hand, it is clear that many New Age practices seem to those involved in them not to raise doctrinal questions; but, at the same time, it is undeniable that these practices themselves communicate, even if only indirectly, a mentality which can influence thinking and inspire a very particular vision of reality. Certainly New Agecreates its own atmosphere, and it can be hard to distinguish between things which are innocuous and those which really need to be questioned. However, it is well to be aware that the doctrine of the Christ spread in New Age circles is inspired by the theosophical teachings of Helena Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy and Alice Bailey's “
The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord. He is at the heart of every Christian action, and every Christian message. So the Church constantly returns to meet her Lord. The Gospels tell of many meetings with Jesus, from the shepherds in
One of the attractive elements of John's account of this meeting is that it takes the woman a while even to glimpse what Jesus means by the water 'of life', or 'living' water (verse 11). Even so, she is fascinated – not only by the stranger himself, but also by his message – and this makes her listen. After her initial shock at realising what Jesus knew about her (“You are right in saying 'I have no husband': for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly”, verses 17- 18), she was quite open to his word: “I see you are a prophet, Sir” (verse 19). The dialogue about the adoration of God begins: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (verse 22). Jesus touched her heart and so prepared her to listen to what He had to say about Himself as the Messiah: “I who am speaking to you – I am he” (verse 26), prepared her to open her heart to the true adoration in Spirit and the self-revelation of Jesus as God's Anointed.
1Helen Bergin o.p., “Living One's Truth”, in The Furrow, January 2000, p. 12.
The woman “put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people” all about the man (verse 28). The remarkable effect on the woman of her encounter with the stranger made them so curious that they, too, “started walking towards him” (verse 30). They soon accepted the truth of his identity: “Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world” (verse 42). They move from hearing about Jesus to knowing him personally, then understanding the universal significance of his identity. This all happens because their minds, their hearts and more are engaged.
The fact that the story takes place by a well is significant. Jesus offers the woman “a spring... welling up to eternal life” (verse 14). The gracious way in which Jesus deals with the woman is a model for pastoral effectiveness, helping others to be truthful without suffering in the challenging process of self-recognition (“he told me every thing I have done“, verse 39). This approach could yield a rich harvest in terms of people who may have been attracted to the water-carrier (Aquarius) but who are genuinely still seeking the truth. They should be invited to listen to Jesus, who offers us not simply something that will quench our thirst today, but the hidden spiritual depths of “living water”. It is important to acknowledge the sincerity of people searching for the truth; there is no question of deceit or of self-deception. It is also important to be patient, as any good educator knows. A person embraced by the truth is suddenly energised by a completely new sense of freedom, especially from past failures and fears, and “the one who strives for self-knowledge, like the woman at the well, will affect others with a desire to know the truth that can free them too”.(87)
An invitation to meet Jesus Christ, the bearer of the water of life, will carry more weight if it is made by someone who has clearly been profoundly affected by his or her own encounter with Jesus, because it is made not by someone who has simply heard about him, but by someone who can be sure “that he really is the saviour of the world” (verse 42). It is a matter of letting people react in their own way, at their own pace, and letting God do the rest.
Christ or Aquarius? New Age is almost always linked with “alternatives”, either an alternative vision of reality or an alternative way of improving one's current situation (magic).(88) Alternatives offer people not two possibilities, but only the possibility of choosing one thing in preference to another: in terms of religion, New Age offers an alternative to the Judaeo-Christian heritage. The Age of Aquarius is conceived as one which will replace the predominantly Christian Age of Pisces. New Age thinkers are acutely aware of this; some of them are convinced that the coming change is inevitable, while others are actively committed to assisting its arrival. People who wonder if it is possible to believe in both Christ and Aquarius can only benefit from knowing that this is very much an “either-or” situation. “No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn” (Lk 16.13). Christians have only to think of the difference between the wise men from the East and King Herod to recognise the powerful effects of choice for or against Christ. It must never be forgotten that many of the movements which have fed the New Age are explicitly anti-Christian. Their stance towards Christianity is not neutral, but neutralising: despite what is often said about openness to all religious standpoints, traditional Christianity is not sincerely regarded as an acceptable alternative. In fact, it is occasionally made abundantly clear that “there is no tolerable place for true Christianity”, and there are even arguments justifying anti-Christian behaviour.(89) This opposition initially was confined to the rarefied realms of those who go beyond a superficial attachment to New Age, but has begun more recently to permeate all levels of the “alternative” culture which has an extraordinarily powerful appeal, above all in sophisticated Western societies.
Fusion or confusion? New Age traditions consciously and deliberately blur real differences: between creator and creation, between humanity and nature, between religion and psychology, between subjective and objective reality. The idealistic intention is always to overcome the scandal of division, but in New Age theory it is a question of the systematic fusion of elements which have generally been clearly distinguished in Western culture. Is it, perhaps, fair to call it “confusion”? It is not playing with words to say that New Age thrives on confusion. The Christian tradition has always valued the role of reason in justifying faith and in understanding God, the world and the human person.(90) New Age has caught the mood of many in rejecting cold, calculating, inhuman reason. While this is a positive insight, recalling the need for a balance involving all our faculties, it does not justify sidelining a faculty which is essential for a fully human life. Rationality has the advantage of universality: it is freely available to everyone, quite unlike the mysterious and fascinating character of esoteric or gnostic “mystical” religion. Anything which promotes conceptual confusion or secrecy needs to be very carefully scrutinised. It hides rather than reveals the ultimate nature of reality. It corresponds to the post-modern loss of confidence in the bold certainties of former times, which often involves taking refuge in irrationality. The challenge is to show how a healthy partnership between faith and reason enhances human life and encourages respect for creation.
Create your own reality. The widespread New Age conviction that one creates one's own reality is appealing, but illusory. It is crystallised in Jung's theory that the human being is a gateway from the outer world into an inner world of infinite dimensions, where each person is Abraxas, who gives birth to his own world or devours it. The star that shines in this infinite inner world is man's God and goal. The most poignant and problematic consequence of the acceptance of the idea that people create their own reality is the question of suffering and death: people with severe handicaps or incurable diseases feel cheated and demeaned when confronted by the suggestion that they have brought their misfortune upon themselves, or that their inability to change things points to a weakness in their approach to life. This is far from being a purely academic issue: it has profound implications in the Church's pastoral approach to the difficult existential questions everyone faces. Our limitations are a fact of life, and part of being a creature. Death and bereavement present a challenge and an opportunity, because the temptation to take refuge in a westernised reworking of the notion of reincarnation is clear proof of people's fear of death and their desire to live forever. Do we make the most of our opportunities to recall what is promised by God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? How real is the faith in the resurrection of the body, which Christians proclaim every Sunday in the creed? TheNew Age idea that we are in some sense also gods is one which is very much in question here. The whole question depends, of course, on one's definition of reality. A sound approach to epistemology and psychology needs to be reinforced – in the appropriate way – at every level of Catholic education, formation and preaching. It is important constantly to focus on effective ways of speaking of transcendence. The fundamental difficulty of all New Age thought is that this transcendence is strictly a self-transcendeence to be achieved within a closed universe.
Pastoral resources. In Chapter 8 an indication is given regarding the principal documents of the Catholic Church in which can be found an evaluation of the ideas ofNew Age. In the first place comes the address of Pope John Paul II which was quoted in the Foreword. The Pope recognizes in this cultural trend some positive aspects, such as “the search for new meaning in life, a new ecological sensivity and the desire to go beyond a cold, rationalistic religiosity”. But he also calls the attention of the faithful to certain ambiguous elements which are incompatible with the Christian faith: these movements “pay little heed to Revelation”, “they tend to relativize religious doctrine in favor of a vague worldview”, “they often propose a pantheistic concept of God”, “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”.(91)
First of all, it is worth saying once again that not everyone or everything in the broad sweep of New Age is linked to the theories of the movement in the same ways. Likewise, the label itself is often misapplied or extended to phenomena which can be categorised in other ways. The term New Age has even been abused to demonise people and practices. It is essential to see whether phenomena linked to this movement, however loosely, reflect or conflict with a Christian vision of God, the human person and the world. The mere use of the term New Age in itself means little, if anything. The relationship of the person, group, practice or commodity to the central tenets of Christianity is what counts.
*The Catholic Church has its own very effective networks, which could be better used. For example, there is a large number of pastoral centres, cultural centres and centres of spirituality. Ideally, these could also be used to address the confusion about New Age religiosity in a variety of creative ways, such as providing a forum for discussion and study. It must unfortunately be admitted that there are too many cases where Catholic centres of spirituality are actively involved in diffusing New Agereligiosity in the Church. This would of course have to be corrected, not only to stop the spread of confusion and error, but also so that they might be effective in promoting true Christian spirituality. Catholic cultural centres, in particular, are not only teaching institutions but spaces for honest dialogue.(92) Some excellent specialist institutions deal with all these questions. These are precious resources, which ought to be shared generously in areas that are less well provided for.
*Quite a few New Age groups welcome every opportunity to explain their philosophy and activities to others. Encounters with these groups should be approached with care, and should always involve persons who are capable of both explaining Catholic faith and spirituality, and of reflecting critically on New Age thought and practice. It is extremely important to check the credentials of people, groups and institutions claiming to offer guidance and information on New Age. In some cases what has started out as impartial investigation has later become active promotion of, or advocacy on behalf of, “alternative religions”. Some international institutions are actively pursuing campaigns which promote respect for “religious diversity”, and claim religious status for some questionable organisations. This fits in with the New Age vision of moving into an age where the limited character of particular religions gives way to the universality of a new religion or spirituality. Genuine dialogue, on the other hand, will always respect diversity from the outset, and will never seek to blur distinctions in a fusion of all religious traditions.
*Some local New Age groups refer to their meetings as “prayer groups”. Those people who are invited to such groups need to look for the marks of genuine Christian spirituality, and to be wary if there is any sort of initiation ceremony. Such groups take advantage of a person's lack of theological or spiritual formation to lure them gradually into what may in fact be a form of false worship. Christians must be taught about the true object and content of prayer – in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, to the Father – in order to judge rightly the intention of a “prayer group”. Christian prayer and the God of Jesus Christ will easily be recognised.(93) Many people are convinced that there is no harm in 'borrowing' from the wisdom of the East, but the example of Transcendental Meditation (TM) should make Christians cautious about the prospect of committing themselves unknowingly to another religion (in this case, Hinduism), despite what TM's promoters claim about its religious neutrality. There is no problem with learning how to meditate, but the object or content of the exercise clearly determines whether it relates to the God revealed by Jesus Christ, to some other revelation, or simply to the hidden depths of the self.
*Christian groups which promote care for the earth as God's creation also need to be given due recognition. The question of respect for creation is one which could also be approached creatively in Catholic schools. A great deal of what is proposed by the more radical elements of the ecological movement is difficult to reconcile with Catholic faith. Care for the environment in general terms is a timely sign of a fresh concern for what God has given us, perhaps a necessary mark of Christian stewardship of creation, but “deep ecology” is often based on pantheistic and occasionally gnostic principles.(94)
*The beginning of the Third Millennium offers a real kairos for evangelisation. People's minds and hearts are already unusually open to reliable information on the Christian understanding of time and salvation history. Emphasising what is lacking in other approaches should not be the main priority. It is more a question of constantly revisiting the sources of our own faith, so that we can offer a good, sound presentation of the Christian message. We can be proud of what we have been given on trust, so we need to resist the pressures of the dominant culture to bury these gifts (cf. Mt 25.24-30). One of the most useful tools available is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There is also an immense heritage of ways to holiness in the lives of Christian men and women past and present. Where Christianity's rich symbolism, and its artistic, aesthetical and musical traditions are unknown or have been forgotten, there is much work to be done for Christians themselves, and ultimately also for anyone searching for an experience or a greater awareness of God's presence. Dialogue between Christians and people attracted to the New Age will be more successful if it takes into account the appeal of what touches the emotions and symbolic language. If our task is to know, love and serve Jesus Christ, it is of paramount importance to start with a good knowledge of the Scriptures. But, most of all, coming to meet the Lord Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments, which are precisely the moments when our ordinary life is hallowed, is the surest way of making sense of the whole Christian message.
*Perhaps the simplest, the most obvious and the most urgent measure to be taken, which might also be the most effective, would be to make the most of the riches of the Christian spiritual heritage. The great religious orders have strong traditions of meditation and spirituality, which could be made more available through courses or periods in which their houses might welcome genuine seekers. This is already being done, but more is needed. Helping people in their spiritual search by offering them proven techniques and experiences of real prayer could open a dialogue with them which would reveal the riches of Christian tradition, and perhaps clarify a great deal about New Age in the process.
In a vivid and useful image, one of the New Age movement's own exponents has compared traditional religions to cathedrals, and New Age to a worldwide fair. TheNew Age Movement is seen as an invitation to Christians to bring the message of the cathedrals to the fair which now covers the whole world. This image offers Christians a positive challenge, since it is always time to take the message of the cathedrals to the people in the fair. Christians need not, indeed, must not wait for an invitation to bring the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are looking for the answers to their questions, for spiritual food that satisfies, for living water. Following the image proposed, Christians must issue forth from the cathedral, nourished by word and sacrament, to bring the Gospel into every aspect of everyday life – “Go! The Mass is ended!” In Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte the Holy Father remarks on the great interest in spirituality found in the secular world of today, and how other religions are responding to this demand in appealing ways. He goes on to issue a challenge to Christians in this regard: “But we who have received the grace of believing in Christ, the revealer of the Father and the Savior of the world, have a duty to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead” (n. 33). To those shopping around in the world's fair of religious proposals, the appeal of Christianity will be felt first of all in the witness of the members of the Church, in their trust, calm, patience and cheerfulness, and in their concrete love of neighbour, all the fruit of their faith nourished in authentic personal prayer.
William Bloom's 1992 formulation of New Age quoted in Heelas, p. 225f.:
*All life – all existence – is the manifestation of Spirit, of the Unknowable, of that supreme consciousness known by many different names in many different cultures.
*The purpose and dynamic of all existence is to bring Love, Wisdom, Enlightenment... into full manifestation.
*All religions are the expression of this same inner reality.
*All life, as we perceive it with the five human senses or with scientific instruments, is only the outer veil of an invisible, inner and causal reality.
*Similarly, human beings are twofold creatures – with: (i) an outer temporary personality; and (ii) a multi-dimensional inner being (soul or higher self).
*The outer personality is limited and tends towards love.
*The purpose of the incarnation of the inner being is to bring the vibrations of the outer personality into a resonance of love.
*All souls in incarnation are free to choose their own spiritual path.
*Our spiritual teachers are those whose souls are liberated from the need to incarnate and who express unconditional love, wisdom and enlightenment. Some of these great beings are well- known and have inspired the world religions. Some are unknown and work invisibly.
*All life, in its different forms and states, is interconnected energy – and this includes our deeds, feelings and thoughts. We, therefore, work with Spirit and these energies in co-creating our reality.
*Although held in the dynamic of cosmic love, we are jointly responsible for the state of our selves, of our environment and of all life.
*During this period of time, the evolution of the planet and of humanity has reached a point when we are undergoing a fundamental spiritual change in our individual and mass consciousness. This is why we talk of a New Age. This new consciousness is the result of the increasingly successful incarnation of what some people call the energies of cosmic love. This new consciousness demonstrates itself in an instinctive understanding of the sacredness and, in particular, the interconnectedness of all existence.
*This new consciousness and this new understanding of the dynamic interdependence of all life mean that we are currently in the process of volving a completely new planetary culture.
Heelas (p. 226) Jeremy Tarcher's “complementary formulation”.
1. The world, including the human race, constitutes an expression of a higher, more comprehensive divine nature.
2. Hidden within each human being is a higher divine self, which is a manifestation of the higher, more comprehensive divine nature.
3. This higher nature can be awakened and can become the center of the individual's everyday life.
4. This awakening is the reason for the existence of each individual life.
David Spangler is quoted in Actualité des religions nº 8, septembre 1999, p. 43, on the principal characteristics of the New Age vision, which is:
*holistic (globalising, because there is one single reality-energy);
*ecological (earth-Gaia is our mother; each of us is a neurone of earth's central nervous system);
*androgynous (rainbow and Yin/Yang are both NA symbols, to do with the complementarity of contraries, esp. masculine and feminine);
*mystical (finding the sacred in every thing, the most ordinary things);
*planetary (people must be at one and the same time anchored in their own culture and open to a universal dimension, capable of promoting love, compassion, peace and even the establishment of world government).
Age of Aquarius: each astrological age of about 2146 years is named according to one of the signs of the zodiac, but the “great days” go in reverse order, so the current Age of Pisces is about to end, and the Age of Aquarius will be ushered in. Each Age has its own cosmic energies; the energy in Pisces has made it an era of wars and conflicts. But Aquarius is set to be an era of harmony, justice, peace, unity etc. In this aspect, New Age accepts historical inevitability. Some reckon the age of Aries was the time of the Jewish religion, the age of Pisces that of Christianity, Aquarius the age of a universal religion.
Androgyny: is not hermaphroditism, i.e. existence with the physical characteristics of both sexes, but an awareness of the presence in every person of male and female elements; it is said to be a state of balanced inner harmony of the animus and anima. In New Age, it is a state resulting from a new awareness of this double mode of being and existing that is characteristic of every man and every woman. The more it spreads, the more it will assist in the transformation of interpersonal conduct.
Anthroposophy: a theosophical doctrine originally popularised by the Croat Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), who left the Theosophical Society after being leader of its German branch from 1902 to 1913. It is an esoteric doctrine meant to initiate people into “objective knowledge” in the spiritual-divine sphere. Steiner believed it had helped him explore the laws of evolution of the cosmos and of humanity. Every physical being has a corresponding spiritual being, and earthly life is influenced by astral energies and spiritual essences. The Akasha Chronicle is said to be a “cosmic memory” available to initiates.(95)
Channeling: psychic mediums claim to act as channels for information from other selves, usually disembodied entities living on a higher plane. It links beings as diverse as ascended masters, angels, gods, group entities, nature spirits and the Higher Self.
Christ: in New Age the historical figure of Jesus is but one incarnation of an idea or an energy or set of vibrations. For Alice Bailey, a great day of supplication is needed, when all believers will create such a concentration of spiritual energy that there will be a further incarnation, which will reveal how people can save themselves.... For many people, Jesus is nothing more than a spiritual master who, like Buddha, Moses and Mohammed, amongst others, has been penetrated by the cosmic Christ. The cosmic Christ is also known as christic energy at the basis of each being and the whole of being. Individuals need to be initiated gradually into awareness of this christic characteristic they are all said to have. Christ – in New Age terms – represents the highest state of perfection of the self.(96)
Depth Psychology: the school of psychology founded by C.G. Jung, a former disciple of Freud. Jung recognised that religion and spiritual matters were important for wholeness and health. The interpretation of dreams and the analysis of archetypes were key elements in his method. Archetypes are forms which belong to the inherited structure of the human psyche; they appear in the recurrent motifs or images in dreams, fantasies, myths and fairy tales.
Enneagram: (from the Greek ennéa = nine + gramma = sign) the name refers to a diagram composed of a circle with nine points on its circumference, connected within the circle by a triangle and a hexangle. It was originally used for divination, but has become known as the symbol for a system of personality typology consisting of nine standard character types. It became popular after the publication of Helen Palmer's book The Enneagram,(97) but she recognises her indebtedness to the Russian esoteric thinker and practitioner G.I. Gurdjieff, the Chilean psychologist Claudio Naranjo and author Oscar Ichazo, founder of
Esotericism: (from the Greek esotéros = that which is within) it generally refers to an ancient and hidden body of knowledge available only to initiated groups, who portray themselves as guardians of the truths hidden from the majority of humankind. The initiation process takes people from a merely external, superficial, knowledge of reality to the inner truth and, in the process, awakens their consciousness at a deeper level. People are invited to undertake this “inner journey” to discover the “divine spark” within them. Salvation, in this context, coincides with a discovery of the Self.
Evolution: in New Age it is much more than a question of living beings evolving towards superior life forms; the physical model is projected on to the spiritual realm, so that an immanent power within human beings would propel them towards superior spiritual life forms. Human beings are said not to have full control over this power, but their good or bad actions can accelerate or retard their progress. The whole of creation, including humanity, is seen to be moving inexorably towards a fusion with the divine. Reincarnation clearly has an important place in this view of a progressive spiritual evolution which is said to begin before birth and continue after death.(98)
Expansion of consciousness: if the cosmos is seen as one continuous chain of being, all levels of existence – mineral, vegetable, animal, human, cosmic and divine beings – are interdependent. Human beings are said to become aware of their place in this holistic vision of global reality by expanding their consciousness well beyond its normal limits. The New Age offers a huge variety of techniques to help people reach a higher level of perceiving reality, a way of overcoming the separation between subjects and between subjects and objects in the knowing process, concluding in total fusion of what normal, inferior, awareness sees as separate or distinct realities.
Feng-shui: a form of geomancy, in this case an occult Chinese method of deciphering the hidden presence of positive and negative currents in buildings and other places, on the basis of a knowledge of earthly and atmospheric forces. “Just like the human body or the cosmos, sites are places criss-crossed by influxes whose correct balance is the source of health and life”.(99)
Gnosis: in a generic sense, it is a form of knowledge that is not intellectual, but visionary or mystical, thought to be revealed and capable of joining the human being to the divine mystery. In the first centuries of Christianity, the Fathers of the Church struggled against gnosticism, inasmuch as it was at odds with faith. Some see a reborth of gnostic ideas in much New Age thinking, and some authors connected with New Age actually quote early gnosticism. However, the greater emphasis in New Age on monism and even pantheism or panentheism encourages some to use the term neo-gnosticism to distinguish New Age gnosis from ancient gnosticism.
Great White Brotherhood: Mrs. Blavatsky claimed to have contact with the mahatmas, or masters, exalted beings who together constitute the Great White Brotherhood. She saw them as guiding the evolution of the human race and directing the work of the Theosophical Society.
Hermeticism: philosophical and religious practices and speculations linked to the writings in the Corpus Hermeticum, and the Alexandrian texts attributed to the mythical Hermes Trismegistos. When they first became known during the Renaissance, they were thought to reveal pre-Christian doctrines, but later studies showed they dated from the first century of the christian era.(100) Alexandrian hermeticism is a major resource for modern esotericism, and the two have much in common: eclecticism, a refutation of ontological dualism, an affirmation of the positive and symbolic character of the universe, the idea of the fall and later restoration of mankind. Hermetic speculation has strengthened belief in an ancient fundamental tradition or a so-called philosophia perennis falsely considered as common to all religious traditions. The high and ceremonial forms of magic developed from Renaissance Hermeticism.
Holism: a key concept in the “new paradigm”, claiming to provide a theoretical frame integrating the entire worldview of modern man. In contrast with an experience of increasing fragmentation in science and everyday life, “wholeness” is put forward as a central methodological and ontological concept. Humanity fits into the universe as part of a single living organism, a harmonious network of dynamic relationships. The classic distinction between subject and object, for which Descartes and
Human Potential Movement: since its beginnings (
Initiation: in religious ethnology it is the cognitive and/or experiential journey whereby a person is admitted, either alone or as part of a group, by means of particular rituals to membership of a religious community, a secret society (e.g. Freemasonry) or a mystery association (magical, esoteric-occult, gnostic, theosophical etc.).
Karma: (from the Sanskrit root Kri = action, deed) a key notion in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, but one whose meaning has not always been the same. In the ancient Vedic period it referred to the ritual action, especially sacrifice, by means of which a person gained access to the happiness or blessedness of the afterlife. When Jainism and Buddhism appeared (about 6 centuries before Christ), Karma lost its salvific meaning: the way to liberation was knowledge of the Atman or “self”. In the doctrine of samsara, it was understood as the incessant cycle of human birth and death (Huinduism) or of rebirth (Buddhism).(103) In New Age contexts, the “law of karma” is often seen as the moral equivalent of cosmic evolution. It is no longer to do with evil or suffering – illusions to be experienced as part of a “cosmic game” – but is the universal law of cause and effect, part of the tendency of the interconnected universe towards moral balance.(104)
Monism: the metaphysical belief that differences between beings are illusory. There is only one universal being, of which every thing and every person is a part. Inasmuch as New Age monism includes the idea that reality is fundamentally spiritual, it is a contemporary form of pantheism (sometimes explicitly a rejection of materialism, particularly Marxism). Its claim to resolve all dualism leaves no room for a transcendent God, so everything is God. A further problem arises for Christianity when the question of the origin of evil is raised. C.G. Jung saw evil as the “shadow side” of the God who, in classical theism, is all goodness.
Mysticism: New Age mysticism is turning inwards on oneself rather than communion with God who is “totally other”. It is fusion with the universe, an ultimate annihilation of the individual in the unity of the whole. Experience of Self is taken to be experience of divinity, so one looks within to discover authentic wisdom, creativity and power.
Neopaganism: a title often rejected by many to whom it is applied, it refers to a current that runs parallel to New Age and often interacts with it. In the great wave of reaction against traditional religions, specifically the Judaeo-Christian heritage of the West, many have revisited ancient indigenous, traditional, pagan religions. Whatever preceded Christianity is reckoned to be more genuine to the spirit of the land or the nation, an uncontaminated form of natural religion, in touch with the powers of nature, often matriarchal, magical or Shamanic. Humanity will, it is said, be healthier if it returns to the natural cycle of (agricultural) festivals and to a general affirmation of life. Some “neo-pagan” religions are recent reconstructions whose authentic relationship to original forms can be questioned, particularly in cases where they are dominated by modern ideological components like ecology, feminism or, in a few cases, myths of racial purity.(105)
New Age Music: this is a booming industry. The music concerned is very often packaged as a means of achieving harmony with oneself or the world, and some of it is “Celtic” or druidic. Some New Age composers claim their music is meant to build bridges between the conscious and the unconscious, but this is probably more so when, besides melodies, there is meditative and rhythmic repetition of key phrases. As with many elements of the New Age phenomenon, some music is meant to bring people further into the New Age Movement, but most is simply commercial or artistic.
New Thought: a 19th century religious movement founded in the
Occultism: occult (hidden) knowledge, and the hidden forces of the mind and of nature, are at the basis of beliefs and practices linked to a presumed secret “perennial philosophy” derived from ancient Greek magic and alchemy, on the one hand, and Jewish mysticism, on the other. They are kept hidden by a code of secrecy imposed on those initiated into the groups and societies that guard the knowledge and techniques involved. In the 19th century, spiritualism and the Theosophical Society introduced new forms of occultism which have, in turn, influenced various currents in the New Age.
Pantheism: (Greek pan = everything and theos = God) the belief that everything is God or, sometimes, that everything is in God and God is in everything (panentheism). Every element of the universe is divine, and the divinity is equally present in everything. There is no space in this view for God as a distinct being in the sense of classical theism.
Parapsychology: treats of such things as extrasensory perception, mental telepathy, telekinesis, psychic healing and communication with spirits via mediums or channeling. Despite fierce criticism from scientists, parapsychology has gone from strength to strength, and fits neatly into the view popular in some areas of the New Age that human beings have extraordinary psychic abilities, but often only in an undeveloped state.
Planetary Consciousness: this world-view developed in the 1980s to foster loyalty to the community of humanity rather than to nations, tribes or other established social groups. It can be seen as the heir to movements in the early 20th century that promoted a world government. The consciousness of the unity of humanity sits well with the Gaia hypothesis.
Positive Thinking: the conviction that people can change physical reality or external circumstances by altering their mental attitude, by thinking positively and constructively. Sometimes it is a matter of becoming consciously aware of unconsciously held beliefs that determine our life-situation. Positive thinkers are promised health and wholeness, often prosperity and even immortality.
Rebirthing: In the early 1970s Leonard Orr described rebirthing as a process by which a person can identify and isolate aoreas in his or her consciousness that are unresolved and at the source of present problems.
Reincarnation: in a New Age context, reincarnation is linked to the concept of ascendant evolution towards becoming divine. As opposed to Indian religions or those derived from them, New Age views reincarnation as progression of the individual soul towards a more perfect state. What is reincarnated is essentially something immaterial or spiritual; more precisely, it is consciousness, that spark of energy in the person that shares in cosmic or “christic” energy. Death is nothing but the passage of the soul from one body to another.
Rosicrucians: these are Western occult groups involved in alchemy, astrology, Theosophy and kabbalistic interpretations of scripture. The Rosicrucian Fellowshipcontributed to the revival of astrology in the 20th century, and the Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis (AMORC) linked success with a presumed ability to materialise mental images of health, riches and happiness.
Shamanism: practices and beliefs linked to communication with the spirits of nature and the spirits of dead people through ritualised possession (by the spirits) of a shaman, who serves as a medium. It has been attractive in New Age circles because it stresses harmony with the forces of nature and healing. There is also a romanticised image of indigenous religions and their closeness to the earth and to nature.
Spiritualism: While there have always been attempts to contact the spirits of the dead, 19th century spiritualism is reckoned to be one of the currents that flow into theNew Age. It developed against the background of the ideas of Swedenborg and Mesmer, and became a new kind of religion. Madame Blavatsky was a medium, and so spiritualism had a great influence on the Theosophical Society, although there the emphasis was on contact with entities from the distant past rather than people who had died only recently. Allan Kardec was influential in the spread of spiritualism in Afro-Brasilian religions. There are also spiritualist elements in some New Religious Movements in
Theosophy: an ancient term, which originally referred to a kind of mysticism. It has been linked to Greek Gnostics and Neoplatonists, to Meister Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa and Jakob Boehme. The name was given new emphasis by the Theosophical Society, founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and others in 1875. Theosophical mysticism tends to be monistic, stressing the essential unity of the spiritual and material components of the universe. It also looks for the hidden forces that cause matter and spirit to interact, in such a way that human and divine minds eventually meet. Here is where theosophy offers mystical redemption or enlightenment.
Transcendentalism: This was a 19th century movement of writers and thinkers in New England, who shared an idealistic set of beliefs in the essential unity of creation, the innate goodness of the human person, and the superiority of insight over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths. The chief figure is Ralph Waldo Emerson, who moved away from orthodox Christianity, through Unitarianism to a new natural mysticism which integrated concepts from Hinduism with popular American ones like individualism, personal responsibility and the need to succeed.
Wicca: an old English term for witches that has been given to a neo-pagan revival of some elements of ritual magic. It was invented in
Esalen: a community founded in Big Sur, California, in 1962 by Michael Murphy and Richard Price, whose main aim was to arrive at a self-realisation of being through nudism and visions, as well as “bland medicines”. It has become one of the most important centres of the Human Potential Movement, and has spread ideas about holistic medicine in the worlds of education, politics and economics. This has been done through courses in comparative religion, mythology, mysticism, meditation, psychotherapy, expansion of consciousness and so on. Along with Findhorn, it is seen as a key place in the growth of Aquarian consciousness. The Esalen Soviet-American Institute co-operated with Soviet officials on the Health Promotion Project.
Findhorn: this holistic farming community started by Peter and Eileen Caddy achieved the growth of enormous plants by unorthodox methods. The founding of the Findhorn community in
Monte Verità: a utopian community near Ascona in
John Paul II, Address to the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to Bishops on Certain Aspects of Christian Meditation (Orationis Formas),
International Theological Commission, Some Current Questions Concerning Eschatology, 1992, Nos. 9-10 (on reincarnation).
International Theological Commission, Some Questions on the Theology of Redemption, 1995, I/29 and II/35-36.
Argentine Bishops' Conference Committee for Culture, Frente a una Nueva Era. Desafio a la pastoral en el horizonte de la Nueva Evangelización, 1993.
Irish Theological Commission, A New Age of the Spirit? A Catholic Response to the New Age Phenomenon,
Godfried Danneels, Au-delà de la mort: réincarnation et resurrection, Pastoral Letter, Easter 1991.
Godfried Danneels, Christ or Aquarius? Pastoral Letter, Christmas 1990 (Veritas,
Carlo Maccari, “La 'mistica cosmica' del New Age”, in Religioni e Sette nel Mondo 1996/2.
Carlo Maccari, La New Age di fronte alla fede cristiana, Turin (LDC) 1994.
Edward Anthony McCarthy, The New Age Movement, Pastoral Instruction, 1992.
Paul Poupard, Felicità e fede cristiana, Casale Monferrato (Ed. Piemme) 1992.
Joseph Ratzinger, La fede e la teologia ai nostri giorni,
Norberto Rivera Carrera, Instrucción Pastoral sobre el New Age, 7 January 1996.
Christoph von Schönborn, Risurrezione e reincarnazione, (Italian translation) Casale Monferrato (Piemme) 1990.
Working Group on New Religious Movements (ed.),
André Fortin, Les Galeries du Nouvel Age: un chrétien s'y promène,
Claude Labrecque, Une religion américaine. Pistes de discernement chrétien sur les courants populaires du “Nouvel Age”, Montréal (Médiaspaul) 1994.
The Methodist Faith and Order Committee, The New Age Movement Report to Conference 1994.
Aidan Nichols, “The New Age Movement”, in The Month, March 1992, pp. 84-89.
Ökumenische Arbeitsgruppe “Neue Religiöse Bewegungen in der Schweiz”, New Age – aus christlicher Sicht,
Mitch Pacwa s.j., Catholics and the New Age. How Good People are being drawn into Jungian Psychology, the Enneagram and the New Age of Aquarius,
John Saliba, Christian Responses to the New Age Movement. A Critical Assessment,
Josef Südbrack, SJ, Neue Religiosität - Herausforderung für die Christen,
“Theologie für Laien” secretariat, Faszination Esoterik, Zürich (Theologie für Laien) 1996.
David Toolan, Facing West from
Juan Carlos Urrea Viera, “New Age”. Visión Histórico-Doctrinal y Principales Desafíos, Santafé de Bogotá (CELAM) 1996.
Jean Vernette, “L'avventura spirituale dei figli dell'Acquario”, in Religioni e Sette nel Mondo 1996/2.
Jean Vernette, Jésus dans la nouvelle religiosité, Paris (Desclée) 1987.
Jean Vernette, Le New Age, Paris (P.U.F.) 1992.
William Bloom, The New Age. An Anthology of Essential Writings,
Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, Berkeley (Shambhala) 1975.
Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point: Science, Society and the Rising Culture,
Benjamin Creme, The Reappearance of Christ and the Masters of Wisdom,
Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy. Personal and Social Transformation in Our Time,
Chris Griscom, Ecstasy is a New Frequency: Teachings of the Light Institute,
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago (
David Spangler, The New Age Vision, Forres (Findhorn Publications) 1980.
David Spangler, Revelation: The Birth of a New Age, San Francisco (
David Spangler, Towards a Planetary Vision, Forres (Findhorn Publications) 1977.
David Spangler, The New Age, Issaquah (The Morningtown Press) 1988.
David Spangler, The Rebirth of the Sacred,
Christoph Bochinger, “New Age” und moderne Religion: Religionswissenschaftliche Untersuchungen, Gütersloh (Kaiser) 1994.
Bernard Franck, Lexique du Nouvel-Age,
Hans Gasper, Joachim Müller and Friederike Valentin, Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen. Fakten, Hintergründe, Klärungen, updated edition, Freiburg-Basel-Vienna (Herder) 2000. See, inter alia, the article “New Age” by Christoph Schorsch, Karl R. Essmann and Medard Kehl, and “Reinkarnation” by Reinhard Hümmel.
Manabu Haga and Robert J. Kisala (eds.), “The New Age in
Wouter Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture. Esotericism in the Mirror of Nature,
Paul Heelas, The New Age Movement. The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity,
Massimo Introvigne, New Age & Next Age, Casale Monferrato (Piemme) 2000.
Michel Lacroix, L'Ideologia della New Age, Milano (Il Saggiatore) 1998.
J. Gordon Melton, New Age Encyclopedia,
Elliot Miller, A Crash Course in the New Age,
Georges Minois, Histoire de l'athéisme, Paris (Fayard) 1998.
Arild Romarheim, The Aquarian Christ. Jesus Christ as Portrayed by New Religious Movements, Hong Kong (Good Tiding) 1992.
Hans-Jürgen Ruppert, Durchbruch zur Innenwelt. Spirituelle Impulse aus New Age und Esoterik in kritischer Beleuchtung,
Edwin Schur, The Awareness Trap. Self-Absorption instead of Social Change,
Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, The Future of Religion. Secularisation, Revival and Cult Formation, Berkeley (
Steven Sutcliffe and Marion Bowman (eds.), Beyond the New Age. Exploring Alternative Spirituality, Edinburgh (
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self. The Making of the Modern Identity,
Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity,
Edênio Valle s.v.d., “Psicologia e energias da mente: teorias alternativas”, in A Igreja Católica diante do pluralismo religioso do Brasil (III). Estudos da CNBB n. 71,
World Commission on Culture and Development, Our Creative Diversity. Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development, Paris
M. York, “The New Age Movement in
(1)Paul Heelas, The New Age Movement. The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity,
(2)Cf. P. Heelas, op. cit., p. 164f.
(3)Cf. P. Heelas, op. cit., p. 173.
(4)Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Dominum et vivificantem (18 May 1986), 53.
(5)Cf. Gilbert Markus o.p., “Celtic Schmeltic”, (1) in Spirituality, vol. 4, November-December 1998, No 21, pp. 379-383 and (2) in Spirituality, vol. 5, January-February 1999, No. 22, pp. 57-61.
(6)John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, (Knopf) 1994, 90.
(7)Cf. particularly Massimo Introvigne, New Age & Next Age, Casale Monferrato (Piemme) 2000.
(8)M. Introvigne, op. cit., p. 267.
(9)Cf. Michel Lacroix, L'Ideologia della New Age, Milano (il Saggiatore) 1998, p. 86. The word “sect” is used here not in any pejorative sense, but rather to denote a sociological phenomenon.
(10)Cf. Wouter J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture. Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought,
(11)Cf. Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, The Future of Religion. Secularisation, Revival and Cult Formation, Berkeley (
(12)Cf. M. Lacroix, op. cit., p. 8.
(13)The Swiss “Theologie für Laien” course entitled Faszination Esoterik puts this clearly. Cf. “Kursmappe 1 – New Age und Esoterik”, text to accompany slides, p. 9.
(14)The term was already in use in the title of The New Age Magazine, which was being published by the Ancient Accepted Scottish Masonic Rite in the southern jurisdiction of the United States of America as early as 1900 Cf. M. York, “The New Age Movement in Great Britain”, in Syzygy. Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture, 1: 2-3 (1992),
(15)In late 1977, Marilyn Ferguson sent a questionnaire to 210 “persons engaged in social transformation”, whom she also calls “Aquarian Conspirators”. The following is interesting: “When respondents were asked to name individuals whose ideas had influenced them, either through personal contact or through their writings, those most often named, in order of frequency, were Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, C.G. Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Aldous Huxley, Robert Assagioli, and J. Krishnamurti. “Others frequently mentioned: Paul Tillich, Hermann Hesse, Alfred North Whitehead, Martin Buber, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Tarthang Tulku, Alan Watts, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Muktananda, D.T. Suzuki, Thomas Merton, Willis Harman, Kenneth Boulding, Elise Boulding, Erich Fromm, Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, Frederic Spiegelberg, Alfred Korzybski, Heinz von Foerster, John Lilly, Werner Erhard, Oscar Ichazo, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Joseph Chilton Pearce, Karl Pribram, Gardner Murphy, and Albert Einstein”: The Aquarian Conspiracy. Personal and Social Transformation in Our Time,
(16)W.J. Hanegraaff, op. cit., p. 520.
(17)Irish Theological Commission, A New Age of the Spirit? A Catholic Response to the New Age Phenomenon,
(18)Cf. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago (
(20)It is worth recalling the lyrics of this song, which quickly imprinted themselves on to the minds of a whole generation in North America and
(21)P. Heelas, op. cit., p. 1f. The August 1978 journal of the Berkeley Christian Coalition puts it this way: “Just ten years ago the funky drug-based spirituality of the hippies and the mysticism of the Western yogi were restricted to the counterculture. Today, both have found their way into the mainstream of our cultural mentality. Science, the health professions, and the arts, not to mention psychology and religion, are all engaged in a fundamental reconstruction of their basic premises”. Quoted in Marilyn Ferguson, op. cit., p. 370f.
(22)Cf. Chris Griscom, Ecstasy is a New Frequency: Teachings of the Light Institute,
(23)See the Glossary of New Age terms, §7.2 above.
(24)Cf. W.J. Hanegraaff, op. cit., chapter 15 (“The Mirror of Secular Thought”). The system of correspondences is clearly inherited from traditional esotericism, but it has a new meaning for those who (consciously or not) follow Swedenborg. While every natural element in traditional esoteric doctrine had the divine life within it, for Swedenborg nature is a dead reflection of the living spiritual world. This idea is very much at the heart of the post-modern vision of a disenchanted world and various attempts to “re-enchant” it. Blavatsky rejected correspondences, and Jung emphatically relativised causality in favour of the esoteric world-view of correspondences.
(25)W.J. Hanegraaff, op. cit., pp. 54-55.
(26)Cf. Reinhard Hümmel, “Reinkarnation”, in Hans Gasper, Joachim Müller, Friederike Valentin (eds.), Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen. Fakten, Hintergründe, Klärungen, Freiburg-Basel-Wien (Herder) 2000, 886-893.
(27)Michael Fuss, “New Age and Europe – A Challenge for Theology”, in
(28)Ibid., loc. cit.
(31)Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation (Orationis Formas), 1989, 14.
Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 19; Fides et Ratio, 22.
(32)W.J. Hanegraaff, op. cit., p. 448f. The objectives are quoted from the final (1896) version, earlier versions of which stressed the irrationality of “bigotry” and the urgency of promoting non-sectarian education. Hanegraaff quotes J. Gordon Melton's description of New Age religion as rooted in the “occult-metaphysical” tradition (ibid., p. 455).
(33)W.J. Hanegraaff, op. cit., p. 513.
(34)Thomas M. King s.j., “Jung and Catholic Spirituality”, in
(35)Cf. W.J. Hanegraaff, op. cit., p. 501f.
(36)Carl Gustav Jung, Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido, quoted in Hanegraaff, op. cit., p. 503.
(37)On this point cf. Michel Schooyans, L'Évangile face au désordre mondial, with a preface by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Paris (Fayard) 1997.
(38)Quoted in the Maranatha Community's The True and the False New Age. Introductory Ecumenical Notes,
(39)Michel Lacroix, L'Ideologia della New Age, Milano (il Saggiatore) 1998, p. 84f.
(40)Cf. the section on David Spangler's ideas in Actualité des religions nº 8, septembre 1999, p. 43.
(41)M. Ferguson, op. cit., p. 407.
(43)“To be an American... is precisely to imagine a destiny rather than inherit one. We have always been inhabitants of myth rather than history”: Leslie Fiedler, quoted in M. Ferguson, op. cit., p. 142.
(44)Cf. P. Heelas, op. cit., p. 173f.
(45)David Spangler, The New Age, Issaquah (Mornington Press) 1988, p. 14.
(46)P. Heelas, op. cit., p. 168.
(47)See the Preface to Michel Schooyans, L'Évangile face au désordre mondial,
op. cit. This quotation is translated from the Italian, Il nuovo disordine mondiale,
(48)Cf. Our Creative Diversity. Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development, Paris (UNESCO) 1995, which illustrates the importance given to celebrating and promoting diversity.
(49)Cf. Christoph Bochinger, “New Age” und moderne Religion: Religionswissenschaftliche Untersuchungen, Gütersloh (Kaiser) 1994, especially chapter 3.
(50)The shortcomings of techniques which are not yet prayer are discussed below in § 3.4, “Christian mysticism and New Age mysticism”.
(51)Cf. Carlo Maccari, “La 'mistica cosmica' del New Age”, in Religioni e Sette nel Mondo 1996/2.
(52)Jean Vernette, “L'avventura spirituale dei figli dell'Acquario”, in Religioni e Sette nel Mondo 1996/2, p. 42f.
(53)J. Vernette, loc. cit.
(54)Cf. J. Gordon Melton, New Age Encyclopedia,
(55)David Spangler, The Rebirth of the Sacred,
(56)David Spangler, The New Age, op. cit., p. 13f.
(57)John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (10 November 1994), 9.
(58)Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance,
(59)Cf. the document issued by the Argentine Bishops' Conference Committee for Culture: Frente a una Nueva Era. Desafío a la pastoral en el horizonte de la Nueva Evangelización, 1993.
(60)Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Orationis Formas, 23.
(61)Ibid.,3. See the sections on meditation and contemplative prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§. 2705-2719.
(62)Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Orationis Formas, 13.
(63)Cf. Brendan Pelphrey, “I said, You are Gods. Orthodox Christian Theosis and Deification in the New Religious Movements” in Spirituality East and West, Easter 2000 (No. 13).
(64)Adrian Smith, God and the Aquarian Age. The new era of the Kingdom, Great Wakering (McCrimmons) 1990, p. 49.
(65)Cf. Benjamin Creme, The Reappearance of Christ and the Masters of Wisdom,
(66)Cf. Jean Vernette, Le New Age, Paris (P.U.F.) 1992 (Collection Encyclopédique Que sais-je?), p. 14.
(67)Catechism of the Catholic Church, 52.
(69)The Nicene Creed.
(70)Michel Lacroix, L'Ideologia della New Age, Milano (Il Saggiatore) 1998, p. 74.
(71)Ibid., p. 68.
(72)Edwin Schur, The Awareness Trap. Self-Absorption instead of Social Change,
(73)Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 355-383.
(74)Cf. Paul Heelas, The New Age Movement. The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity,
(75)A Catholic Response to the New Age Phenomenon, Irish Theological Commission 1994, chapter 3.
(76)Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Orationis Formas, 3.
(78)William Bloom, The New Age. An Anthology of Essential Writings, London (Rider) 1991, p. xvi.
(79)Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 387.
(80)Ibid., § 1849.
(81)Ibid., § 1850.
(82)John Paul II, Apostolic Letter on human suffering “Salvifici doloris” (11 February 1984), 19.
(83)Cf. David Spangler, The New Age, op. cit., p. 28.
(84)Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio (7 December 1990), 6, 28, and the Declaration Dominus Jesus (6 August 2000) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 12.
(85)Cf. R. Rhodes, The Counterfeit Christ of the New Age Movement, Grand Rapids (Baker) 1990, p. 129.
(86)Helen Bergin o.p., “Living One's Truth”, in The Furrow, January 2000, p. 12.
(88)Cf. P. Heelas, op. cit., p. 138.
(89)Elliot Miller, A Crash Course in the New Age, Eastbourne (Monarch) 1989, p. 122. For documentation on the vehemently anti-Christian stance of spiritualism, cf. R. Laurence Moore, “Spiritualism”, in Edwin S. Gaustad (ed.), The Rise of Adventism: Religion and Society in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America, New York 1974, pp. 79-103, and also R. Laurence Moore, In Search of White Crows: Spiritualism, Parapsychology, and American Culture, New York (Oxford University Press) 1977.
(90)Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical letter Fides et Ratio (14 September 1998), 36-48.
(91)Cf. John Paul II, Address to the United States Bishops of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska on their “Ad Limina” visit, 28 May 1993.
(92)Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (14 September 1995), 103. The Pontifical Council for Culture has published a handbook listing these centres throughout the world: Catholic Cultural Centres (3rd edition, Vatican City, 2001).
(93)Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Orationis Formas, and § 3 above.
(94)This is one area where lack of information can allow those responsible for education to be misled by groups whose real agenda is inimical to the Gospel message. It is particularly the case in schools, where a captive curious young audience is an ideal target for ideological merchandising. Cf. the caveat in Massimo Introvigne, New Age & Next Age, Casale Monferrato (Piemme) 2000, p. 277f.
(95)Cf. J. Badewien, Antroposofia, in H. Waldenfels (ed.) Nuovo Dizionario delle Religioni, Cinisello Balsamo (San Paolo) 1993, 41.
(96)Cf. Raúl Berzosa Martinez, Nueva Era y Cristianismo, Madrid (BAC) 1995, 214.
(97)Helen Palmer, The Enneagram, New York (Harper-Row) 1989.
(98)Cf. document of the Argentine Episcopal Committee for Culture, op. cit.
(99)J. Gernet, in J.-P. Vernant et al., Divination et Rationalité, Paris (Seuil) 1974, p. 55.
(100)Cf. Susan Greenwood, “Gender and Power in Magical Practices”, in Steven Sutcliffe and Marion Bowman (eds.), Beyond New Age. Exploring Alternative Spirituality, Edinburgh (Edinburgh University Press) 2000, p. 139.
(101)Cf. M. Fuss, op. cit., 198-199.
(102)For a brief but clear treatment of the Human Potential Movement, see Elizabeth Puttick, “Personal Development: the Spiritualisation and Secularisation of the Human Potential Movement”, in: Steven Sutcliffe and Marion Bowman (eds.), Beyond New Age. Exploring Alternative Spirituality, Edinburgh (Edinburgh University Press) 2000, pp. 201-219.
(103)Cf. C. Maccari, La “New Age” di fronte alla fede cristiana, Leumann-Torino (LDC) 1994, 168.
(104)Cf. W.J. Hanegraaff, op. cit., 283-290.
(105)On this last, very delicate, point, see Eckhard Türk's article “Neonazismus” in Hans Gasper, Joachim Müller, Friederike Valentin (eds.), Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen. Fakten, Hintergründe, Klärungen, Freiburg- Basel-Wien (Herder) 2000, p. 726.
(106)Cf. John Saliba, Christian Responses to the New Age Movement. A Critical Assessment,
(107)Cf. M. Fuss, op. cit., 195-196.