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Section 12...The New Age

 

003white  Index To New Age Beliefs, Goals and Conflicts W Christianity     >    Part I - New Age Growth and Expansion

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The New Age Part I
 Growth, Expansion & Diversification, Celebrity Endorsements

Carol Brooks

Index To All Six Sections

 

Definition
The Free Dictionary defines 'New Age' (New Age Movement or NAM) as "relating to a complex of spiritual and consciousness-raising movements originating in the 1970's and covering a range of themes from a belief in spiritualism and reincarnation to advocacy of holistic approaches to health and ecology".

Despite its popularity, New Age philosophy is difficult to define because, although its roots lie in Eastern religions and the occult, it is not a unified system of beliefs and practices. It has no official leader or headquarters, no centralized authority, no doctrinal creed, and no membership - it is an umbrella term used to group varied practices under one simple heading.

However, very little of it is 'new'. Much of the ideas and concepts are actually thousands of years old, regaining popularity as people grow tired of traditional Western society and its standards.

This multi-cultural, multi-religious fusion, usually rejects traditional religious doctrine and dogma, but draws inspiration from Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, plus other ancient religious traditions such as native American spirituality. In fact, the vast majority of New Age beliefs and practices are modern (read western) re-interpretations of ancient teachings and practices. Because New Agers combine elements that appeal to them from a variety of sources, the path each one follows is both subjective and highly individualistic. Different New Age groups will focus on various aspects. For example, some are more focused on alternative healing methods, others on the environment etc.

Note: Although the NAM is tolerant of almost any theological position, it is opposed to what is called Christian "narrow-mindedness" that teaches Jesus is the only way and that there are moral absolutes. Perhaps, the most alarming of New age teaching is that since we are all gods capable of self-redemption, we have no need of the salvation Christ offered us.

Because everything is part of God (See Chapter 2- Evolutionary Godhood), New Agers usually show a great respect for the environment and are usually interested in ecological issues of all kinds. In fact, some believe that the Earth is a living organism called Gaia... a goddess with maternal (thus feminine) attributes. (In Greek mythology, Gaia was the primal Greek Mother Goddess; creator and giver of birth to the Earth and all the Universe).

    Note: It is unfortunately true that environmental issues receive very little attention in Christian circles. On the contrary their belief of a transcendent God who created this world should cause Christians to realize that they have a sacred responsibility to the earth and the creatures within it. See Christian Environmentalism by Dr. Ray Bohlin

Personal Experience, Feelings, and Intuition
Instead, because they believe that every person is a part of what makes up "god", most New Agers stress that intuition and feelings must play a primary role in our decision making.

    All those who espouse New Age principles stress the importance of personal experience. The fact that something is meaningful and good for one person does not necessarily mean that it is right for another. Personal experience is a reliable point of reference. We have to experiment and find out what is good for us, "what works." Intuition and emotion take precedence over rationality. In the eyes of adherents, the major moral and religious institutions, associated with rationality and dogmatism, have failed.  As people gradually learn to achieve self-realization, they no longer need these institutions to find the truth. Because New Agers understand mind, body, and soul to be one, they believe that it is possible for people to cure emotional and physical ailments by getting in touch with their inner selves, thus achieving inner harmony.. this often done through meditation, yoga etc. [01]

See The Christian and Yoga and More To Yoga Than Meets The Eye
For many in the West, yoga is simply a system of physical exercise, a means of strengthening the body, improving flexibility, or even preventing a variety of bodily ailments. But an investigation into the history and philosophy of yoga shows that, much more than a system of physical exercise for health, Yoga is an ancient path to spiritual growth. The end result of Bhakti Yoga, also called "the path of devotion" is that one "ultimately reaches the state of union or oneness with God". [02]


Spiritual 'Helps'
Additionally, in their quest for inner harmony, many New Agers use a large array of 'spiritual helps' to contact with the source of divine energy. These include Tibetan bells and bowls, Runes, Peace Poles, Talismans, Amulets, Tarot Cards, Pyramids, Pendants, Charms, Statues, Crystal Balls, Healing Crystals, Dream Catchers (often marketed as Native American Sacred Objects). 

Along the same lines, the term "New Age music" is "applied to the works of various composers and musicians who strive to create soothing audio environments rather than follow song structures". [03] This type of music, often used as an aid to meditation, is said to promote relaxation and inner harmony. 

    (Note that various crystals are supposed to be able to do pretty much everything except cook your dinner. It is claimed that they can stimulate the sex drive and the third-eye, ward off psychic attack, and connect with the wisdom of your Higher Self).

A plethora of occult New Age books and magazines cover every topic imaginable... from mind/body philosophies, to instructions on how be able to communicate with both your guardian angels and spirit guides, or improve the energy in your home with Feng Shui. Services in alternative medicine and various other New Age therapies are available almost everywhere you look. They range from acupressure, astrological readings, aromatherapy, drumming workshops, herbology, hypnotherapy, meditation and/or yoga classes, nutrition counseling, psychic channeling, palmistry, past life regression, reflexology, shamanism, Tai Chi classes, Tarot and Rune reading, and color therapy also called chromotherapy. 


Expansion & Diversification
There was a time when this kind of thinking and lifestyle (to say nothing of the accompanying paraphernalia) was the sole domain of the lunatic fringe. No longer!

Over the last several decades unnoticed by all but a very few, New Age beliefs and practices have gradually and stealthily gathered momentum over the face of the earth. It is currently estimated that, worldwide, there are millions of people who believe and practise one or another form of New age principles.  In fact, it has so permeated our culture that, whether we realize it or not, virtually every single person has been exposed to the New Age.

In fact, New Age teachings have even found their way into the prison system. The book Letters from the Dhamma Brothers by Jenny Phillips documents

    "...the profound changes experienced by inmates in the four years after completing a 10-day Vipassana meditation course taught in the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama... The course has now become a regular treatment program at two Alabama prisons". [04]

(Note: Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation, taught by Gautama Buddha as a universal remedy for universal ills).

Blended with mind/body/self-help, much of the New Age is now appealing to a far more mainstream consumer who is interested in becoming not only more spiritually aware, but healthier and more successful to boot. The prevalence and popularity of New Age beliefs is clearly seen in the fact that it show up in so many areas. For example,

     Organized religions like Christian Science and Unity.

     In the secular world in the form of human potential teachings under various names -   self-help, becoming all you can be, being the master of your own destiny, positive confession, positive imaging, boosting your self-esteem etc. Motivational speakers are very much in demand while self help/motivational books is a booming industry. For example, Although there is no question that Tony Robbins does much good partnering with organizations such as Feeding America, and works with a water company that provides fresh water to small villages in rural eastern India to prevent waterborne diseases, the companies he founded are reputed to earn approximately $6 billion in annual sales.

     Various in between forms including Transcendental Meditation, Visualization, Channelling, Yoga, Tai Chi, Feng Shui, and some alternative health practices

However, traditional New Age concepts and writings remain popular. For example, Napoleon Hill's original formula to achievement called the "Holy Grail of success philosophy" is always available on Amazon - the overwhelming majority of readers giving the book a five star review. The Hermetica - Greco-Egyptian writings attributed to the legendary sage-god Hermes Trismegistus (Greek for thrice-greatest Hermes), also seems to sell rather well. (This is a terribly confusing and convoluted subject.)


Celebrity Endorsements
This meteoric growth in popularity has been helped in no small part by the Internet that has helped spawn this many-headed Hydra.

Very popular shows like Dr. Oz also often endorse New Age alternative medicine and relaxation techniques. One that comes to mind featured crystal sonic therapy with Dr. Mitch Gaynor demonstrating how this ancient form of healing can help "curb cravings, improve memory, sleep better and tame migraines" [05]. While listening to different sound frequencies does have an effect on the brain, my concern is that these are Tibetan singing bowls are often touted as "Chakra meditation" - accompaniments to deep meditation or yoga etc. The sound of these bowls may not, in themselves, be harmful, but one has to remember that they were originally used in religious ceremonies in Tibet, China, Japan and Vietnam. The pre-Buddhism shamans in Tibet used them to invoke benevolent spirits for healing, plentiful harvests and to disperse negative energies.

Oprah Winfrey:
However, much of the popularity of New Age topics can be laid squarely at the door of the self styled guru of the New Age - Oprah Winfrey, whose influence on the genre can hardly be understated. For example, when she announced she had purchased 1,000 copies of her Marianne Williamson's book, Return to Love, the publisher is said to have received over 200,000 orders by the end of the day. Deepak Chopra’s book sold 130,000 copies the day Oprah promoted it on her show. [06]

As her show progressed, Oprah gradually began to feature more and more new age guests such as

    Shirley MacLaine - who in the 80's chronicled her conversion to New Age thought in several best-selling autobiographies and multiple media appearances, which helped bring the New Age perspective into the limelight" [07]

    Eric Butterworth - As far back as 1987 Oprah Winfrey endorsed Unity minister Eric Butterworth’s book Discovering the Power Within You, reiterating his view that "Jesus did not come to teach how divine he was, but came to teach us that there is divinity within us'. Butterworth's book is dedicated to Charles and Myrtle Fillmore - foreword written by Maya Angelou.

    Marianne Williamson author of A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. In 2008, Marianne Williamson began teaching the 365 lessons from the New Age Bible, A Course in Miracles, on Oprah's XM Satellite Radio. Page 147 of the Course Text teaches that we are "God": "The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself. " See A Return to Love   and   A Course in Miracles

    Rhonda Byrne - whose book 'The Secret' can be summarized by the statement 'thoughts become things.' Page 164 states: "You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh" See The Secret

    Deepak Chopra -  widely recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda -a system whose guiding principle is that the mind exerts the deepest influence on the body. [08] He is a prominent figure in the New Age movement.

    Dannion Brinkley and Betty Eadie - both authors of several books on near-death experiences.

    Marilyn Ferguson-  best known for her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy that literally became the bible of the New Age movement

    Kevin Ryerson - a trance channeller See Channeling

    Sara Breathnach called "the Martha Stewart of the soul" by Time Magazine,

    James Van Praagh - clairvoyant and spiritual medium

    Gary Zukar a 'spiritual teacher' has appeared more than 30 times on Oprah's Show to discuss transformation in human consciousness etc..

    Eckhart Tolle: Oprah also launched an online course with metaphysical teacher Eckhart Tolle that was based on his book The New Earth: Awakening to Your Soul's Purpose.

    Jack Canfield co-author of the Chicken Soup book series appeared on the Oprah show in December 2015.

Note: To date the Chicken Soup book series have sold "well over 100 million books" in the U.S. and Canada alone". [09] Although the books contain a great deal of common sense, Christians should be aware that they are also steeped in a spirituality completely opposed to biblical Christianity. Canfield promotes meditation, centering, mandalas (psychic pictures), yoga, and spirit guides. He once wrote

    "As we flew home on Cathay Pacific Airlines I began to think to myself, "We are all like the clay Buddha covered with a shell of hardness created out of fear, and yet underneath each of us is a 'golden Buddha,' a 'golden Christ' or a 'golden essence,' which is our real self." [10]

The promotion of those beliefs are blatant examples of Canfield's New Age world view, but his focus on "self-esteem" is more subtle and, therefore, more insidious. See Chicken Soup For The Soul


Two Central Concepts
However, in spite of the diversity of emphases and practices, two central concepts form the basis of the New Age movement -  Evolutionary Godhood and Global Unity.

Continue on To Part II - Evolutionary Godhood HERE

 

End Notes. Part I
Unless Otherwise Stated, All URLs were accessed in February 2018.

[01] The New Age: Finding One's Bearings. By Jocelyn Girard, Gouvernement du Québec Ministère de l’ÉducationDirection de l’enseignement catholique, 1994. Available here - https://www.scribd.com/document/74096692/New-Age-jocelyn-Girard

[02] Vedanta Center of Greater Washington, DC. What is Vedanta? http://vedantadc.org/what-is-vedanta

[03] New Age Movement. New Age or Old Occult? http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Cults/newage.htm

[04] Juan Martinez. New Age Pragmatism. Publishers Weekly, 9/22/2008.
 http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20080922/10447-new-age-pragmatism.html

[05] http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/sonic-therapy-future-medicine-pt-1

[06] Craig Branch. Engaging the New Age - April 2, 2014. https://arcapologetics.org/comparative-religion/engaging-the-new-age/

[07] Douglas Groothuis, New Age Spiritualities.
http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2006/07/new-age-spiritualities-published-in.html

[08] Deepak Chopra. Mind-Body Healing Guru & Best Selling Self-help Author. http://deepakchopra.wwwhubs.com/

[09] What is Chicken Soup for the Soul? http://www.chickensoup.com/about/what-is-chicken-soup-for-the-soul

[10] Jack Canfield's story "The Golden Buddha," Chicken Soup for the Soul 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit. P. 71.

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