Printer Friendly

Vatican on New Age.

A document on the "complex phenomenon of 'New Age"' was released recently by several authorities of the Holy See: the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue (the main authors of the report); the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

A challenge to Catholics

The authors of the report hope that it will have wide coverage among "those engaged in pastoral work...involved in preaching the Gospel and teaching the faith at any level within the Church", which, when you look at it, includes just about every Catholic. Those engaged in dialogue must first be well grounded in their own Catholic faith before they can take on proponents of New Age ideas and those who, although not specifically attuned to New Age, are searching for meaning to their lives. Catholics must root themselves firmly in the fundamentals of their faith, in order to understand and be able to respond to the "often-silent cry in people's hearts" which will lead them elsewhere if they do not find what they seek in the Catholic faith.

What's new

There is very little "new" about New Age. From the early time of Christianity when Gnosticism put down roots, through Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry at the time of the French and American Revolutions, to today's rejection of a personal God and indifference towards the Christian faith, there have always been those who look internally for complete control of their own lives.

What is new is the New Age call for a "paradigm shift", a widely held perception that the time is ripe for a fundamental change in individuals, society, and the world--a shift from mechanistic physics to quantum physics; from reason to emotion and feelings; from masculinity and patriarchy to a celebration of femininity (Mother Earth, Gaia). The document notes that people today are thirsting for something to touch them deep in their hearts, something that will help them make sense of and overcome their feelings of alienation, pain, and loneliness. If organized religion, especially Christianity, cannot quench their longing, then they are open to the enticements of alternative ideas about God and spiritual matters to give them a sense of connectedness with the world, with others who feel as they do, and in an environment where they do not feel threatened or ridiculed.

John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Faith (p. 90) warns, with regard to the "return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age", that "We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practising gnosticism--that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words."

New Age spirituality: an overview

New Age is not a religion. It is rather a broad tradition which has incorporated ancient Egyptian occult practices, Cabalism, early Christian gnosticism, Sufism, the lore of the Druids, Celtic Christian hermeticism, Zen Buddhism, Yoga, etc. In fact, many of the movements which have fed into New Age are explicitly anti-Christian; so, although New Age advertises that it is open to all, a study of its "beliefs" shows a definite intolerance toward Christianity. It is a revolution insofar as the shift away from traditional beliefs calls into question the fundamental interpretation of those beliefs. For example, the New Age interpretation of Christianity "is a total recasting of the life and significance of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to reconcile these two visions."

New Age is definitely not a return to orthodox Christian beliefs and creeds. Our mainstream culture is infused with New Age advertising, from home and office decorating using an occult Chinese method called Feng-shui, to psychic healing, reflexology, polarity massage, twelve-step programmes, holistic forms of medicine and the use of the enneagram for deciphering personality types. There has been a giant cultural shift in mainstream ideas that emanate from New Age thought, so that we might deduce that the paradigm shift is already in full swing.

What does New Age offer to those who feel that they need something other than what Jesus offers as the Way, the Truth and the Life? New Age spirituality has a fascination with extraordinary manifestations and in particular with paranormal phenomena. It maintains that there is no such thing as good and evil, and nobody needs forgiveness. "Believing in the existence of evil can create only negativity and fear." Rather one must attune one's mind to streams of consciousness that are positive and in harmony with all that is good in the world and in the environment. Illness and suffering come about by working against nature, so that when one works in harmony with nature one can expect a healthier life, and even material prosperity. Some New Agers even believe that there should be no need for us to die.

Since it is believed that the human person can be perfected (i.e., achieve self-fulfillment) through a wide variety of techniques and therapies, humans will eventually be divine and there will be no need of a transcendent God of Salvation, or Revelation. Humans will experience the "salvation hidden within themselves by mastering psycho-physical techniques which lead to definitive enlightenment."

Much is written about the "cosmic Christ" as espoused by Matthew Fox, former Catholic priest and New Age leader in California. But "a gnostic belief in cosmic powers and some obscure kind of destiny withdraws the possibility of a relationship to a personal God revealed in Christ." For Christians, the real cosmic Christ is He who is involved intimately and personally in their lives; they are not locked into a cyclical pattern of cosmic events, but focus on the historical Jesus, especially his death and resurrection. The Christian conception of God is one of a Trinity of Persons who has created the human race out of love, desiring to share His creation with His created beings. Christian spirituality, therefore, is "not so much our search for God but God's search for us", that we might share His life for eternity, to live with and in Him.

In a review of this important new Vatican document, it is possible to highlight only a few areas. Catholics should obtain a copy of the report, to become well-versed in the differences between New Age and Christian spirituality, to recognize New Age ideas when confronted with them, and be able to rationally explain the differences between Christianity and New Age beliefs.

There are several sections at the end of the document which bear mention: section 7.1 lists some brief formulations of New Age ideas; section 7.2 is a glossary of terms to help the reader who is wading through unfamiliar vocabulary; section 8 lists Catholic documents on New Age; and section 9 has a good bibliography.

The 90-page document is entitled Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: a Christian reflection on the New Age and should soon be available in Catholic bookstores. It is available on the Web at <>.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Catholic Insight
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Glover, Janice
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Previous Article:Decree on liturgy, 40 years later.
Next Article:Pope wrong? (News in Brief).

Related Articles
Swiss liberalize abortion law, bishops outraged. (The Church and Abortion).
Elderly must play active part in society. (News in Brief: Vatican).
New posts in Curia. (News in Brief: Vatican).
Retirement frenzy in 2003? (News).
Dhani Bachmann, a new recruit of the Vatican's elite Swiss Guard stands at attention before the swearing in ceremony for 33 new members at the...
Book of numbers.
Quebec archbishop now a cardinal.
New Age influence.
Archives on the Inquisition to be organized.
As questions arise, Pope sees his frailties as affirming life: can John Paul II continue to do the work necessary to lead a worldwide institution...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters