Part 1 – A Christian Response to the New Age
I first became aware of the New Age movement by name early in 1988. I say by name because I soon realised that many of the ideas I had come up against through evangelism, through my work as a teacher in London comprehensive schools and even from experiences within the church actually came from this source or were moving towards it. Perhaps this is the first lesson Christians need to learn about the New Age movement. It is not always easily identifiable like the Jehovahs Witness who arrives on your doorstep offering you The Watchtower. In fact many people who are putting over New Age ideas may not even be aware that they are doing so. So we need to ask the Lord for discernment in order to watch out that no-one deceives you for as the Lord warned, a sign of the end of this age and his return is that many false prophets will appear and deceive many people (Matthew 24:11).
Defining the New Age Movement
So what is the New Age movement? Certainly its profile has been raised over the past year with articles in both the religious and secular press familiarising people with the term. Yet there are many within the movement who are reluctant to use the term of themselves and unclear about how to define it:
A New Age writer Jeremy Tarcher has said, No one speaks for the entire New Age community. Within the movement there is no unanimity as to how to define it or even that it is significantly cohesive enough to be called a movement. New Age as a Perennial Philosophy (Los Angeles Times Book Review, Feb 88).
At best it is a loosely connected movement linking together a wide range of ideas and philosophical systems in an attempt to formulate an understanding of humanitys place within the whole order of natural creation. What is important for Christians seeking to recognise and respond to the New Age movement is not just to look for the term New Age but to be able to recognise the ideas behind it and to understand why they conflict with the revelation given us by God in the Bible. Then hopefully we will be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us and respond not with fear and paranoia, but with confidence in our faith and with love for those who are being misled and a desire to lead them out of darkness into the light of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That is the main purpose of this booklet, rather than to give a detailed analysis of the New Age Movement in all its various manifestations.
Origins of the New Age Movement
Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun and in many ways there is nothing new about the New Age. There is a strong link with Hinduism, which is not accidental, as many of these ideas began to take root in western culture in the 1960s with the interest in yoga, transcendental meditation and eastern gurus, which characterised the hippie movement. The Beatles looked to India and became for a short while the most famous evangelists of the New Age world view. The line from their song I am the Walrus. I am you and you are he, and he is she and we are one together is as we shall see straight New Age teaching. There is also a link with the mystical ideas of all the major religions and particularly with the early Christian heresy of Gnosticism. It is significant that there is a growing interest in the Gnostic gospels amongst radical theologians and those interested in the New Age. The idea is being raised that these may represent the authentic teaching of Jesus, which was suppressed by the early church.
This quotation from the Gospel of Thomas in which Jesus is supposed to be speaking expressed perfectly the New Age view of All is One, God is in everything:
It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From me did the All come forth, and unto me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift up a stone and you will find me there. (James M. Robinson ed. The Nag Hammadi Library, p. 126).
In addition the New Age draws heavily from pre-Christian tribal religions, from the Druids to native American (Red Indian) medicine men. The occultic art of astrology is a strong influence as the New Age is seen to be the transition from the dark violent Piscean age (i.e. this age) into the Aquarian Age, a millennium of love and light. In the words of the musical Hair the Age of Aquarius will be at a time when ‘. . – peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars… Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding. No more falsehoods or derision, golden living dreams of visions. Mystic crystal revelation and minds true liberation.
New Age Goals – World Transformation
What is new about all this is the coming together of so many diverse influences in a recognisable movement which hopes to cover the globe with a myriad of networks – interconnecting ideas, people, services and organizations in order to implement world transformation (DR Groothuis Unmasking the New Age. 31). The networks are an important aspect of the New Age Movement. There is no central organization, but like minded people coming together for a common purpose. Marilyn Ferguson in her book The Aquarian Conspiracy makes the point that Networks are a source of power never before tapped in history:
multiple self sufficient social movements linked for a whole array of goals whose accomplishment would transform every aspect of contemporary society.
When we begin to recognise this influence we detect it in such areas as entertainment, the media, education, health care, religious and political groups, environmental and feminist groups. With modem communications and travel facilities, ideas can quickly cross linguistic, national and political boundaries, and the New Age influence has taken root in Capitalist America and Communist Russia with the aim of transforming both and merging them into the New Age. The battle has begun and Christians cannot opt out because the goal of the New Age is a radical change in the way people see themselves, the world around them and God. This involves a definite denial and opposition to Christianity as John Dunphy writing in The Humanist (Jan -Feb 1983) on A Religion for the New Age says:
I am convinced that the battle for humankinds future must be waged and won in the school classrooms by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytisers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognises and respects the spark of what the theologians call divinity in every human being. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evil and misery and the new faith resplendent in its promise.
The appeal of the New Age is clear. The gods of the old age – Christianity, Secular Humanism, Capitalism and Communism – have all failed; the earth is on the brink of environmental catastrophe; we must work for a new age in which we rediscover the sense of the sacred in nature and in ourselves in order to save the world. It all sounds so plausible – but that is the nature of deception. The New Age movement probably represents the greatest (and most subtle and sinister) challenge to Christianity since the heresies of Arianism and Gnosticism assailed the Early Church in the Second Century AD.
Love and Light or Doorway to Occult
The more we study the ideas behind the movement, the more we come to recognise that for all the fine sounding words such as love and light, which are extensively used in New Age writings, there is a demonic influence at work within it, manipulating those who are involved. This should not surprise us as Satan is able to transform himself into an angel of light in order to deceive those who reject the Lord. The New Age appeal will always be to improve the quality of peoples lives, relating to different kinds of people in different ways. For example it appeals to those concerned for the environment by promising that when people are attuned to New Age ways of thinking they will naturally work for the healing of the planet. To businesses and individuals wishing to improve their efficiency and earning power it offers programs on how to relieve stress, increase concentration and visualise your dreams and work for their accomplishment. Many of these programs use yoga and eastern meditation techniques either openly or packaged in some westernised non religious form.
The New Age also seeks to influence Christians through using titles which will appeal such as Creation Centered Spirituality or A Course in Miracles. The following advertisement from the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland illustrates this:
A Course in Miracles is a channeled three-volume set of books in a self study format. The goal of the course is inner peace found through forgiveness and turning within for guidance. In the supportive environment of a group we will look honestly at our relationships, seeing when through fear we deny and project our guilt onto others and how we can learn to love ourselves and each other by forgiving rather than judging. Using meditation, guided imagery and higher self exercises we will endeavour to make contact with the guidance of the Holy Spirit within. (Guest Programme. April – Dee, Findhorn Foundation 1990, P- 22).
We should note that the word channelled refers to the New Age practice of receiving insights intuitively or psychically from non-physical entities. Alert Christians should have no difficulty in identifying such entities as demons. We should also note that this programme offers the guidance of the Holy Spirit, inner peace and forgiveness without reference to the Lord Jesus, the one to whom the Holy Spirit bears witness and who offers us peace and forgiveness through the blood of his cross. Biblical Fall and Redemption theology is ridiculed and rejected by New Age teaching and is held up as the main barrier to people achieving peace through discovering the god within. Of course as an angel of light, Satan offers good things, not evil, to those whom he seeks to deceive.
In The Magic of Findhorn, the story of the community by Paul Hawken, the author relates how Robert Ogilvie Crombie (Roc), an associate of the Findhorn Community met a spirit being whom he recognised as Pan. This being, during the course of the ensuing conversation, asked him, Do you love my subjects? Yes. In that case do you love me? Why not? DO YOU LOVE ME? Yes …You know of course that I am the Devil? You have just said that you love the devil. No you are not the devil. You are the god of the woodlands and countryside. There is no evil in you. There are many other references in the book to contact with spirit beings.
David Spangler, one of the leaders of the New Age movement states in Reflections on the Christ (p. 40-44), published by the Findhorn Foundation, Christ is the same force as Lucifer, .(who) is an agent of Gods love acting through evolution – . . Lucifer prepares man . . for the experience of Christhood . . . The light that reveals to us the path to Christ comes from Lucifer . . . the great initiator . . . Lucifer works within each of us to bring us to wholeness as we move into the new age . . . each of us is brought to that point which I term the Luciferic initiation , . Lucifer comes to give us the final Luciferic initiation . . that many people in the days ahead will be facing, for it is an initiation into the New Age.
Could such an initiation be the powerful delusion of which Paul speaks in 2 Thessalonians 2, causing people to worship the man of sin? Whatever our conclusions on this point we have to recognise that we are dealing with a powerful force of antichrist, whose goal is for Lucifer to take the place of Christ, which means for Satan to take the place of God.
- Many in churches today play down the need to study Christian doctrine. Why is this dangerous in the light of information in this chapter?
- A saying of the early church was Heresy has many gospels. The Church has four. How would you argue for the Gospels we have in the New Testament being the authentic record of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ?
- Compare the quote From the Gospel of Thomas with John 1:1-18. What conclusion do you come to?
- Read Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:12-19, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Revelation 12- 13. What do these passages tell us about Lucifers/Satans ambitions, his downfall and our victory over him?
Part 2 – Monism/Pantheism All is One
The New Age bottom line can be stated In three words: All is One. The cosmos is pure, undifferentiated energy – a consciousness or life force. Everything is one vast interconnected process (Russell Chandler -on understanding the New Age p. 28).
This idea of God being in everything, the belief that God is one in essence with the created world is fundamental to New Age thought. It also underlies Hinduism as well as Greek philosophy which thought of the cosmos as a great animal organism with a body, a soul and a spirit. The New Age movement has given the idea a particular relevance with the Gaia hypothesis – that nature itself is a living being. As Fritjof Capra puts it:
The universe as a whole is alive; therefore the living environment is there and life in its multiple manifestations will arise again and again in various parts of the universe because the whole thing is alive. (Resurgence magazine September/October 1989).
Just as different parts of the body are needed to make the whole function and the ability of the whole body to function properly is weakened when one part is hurt or damaged, so the various parts of the ecosystem – air, water, plants, animals, human beings, etc – need to work together to make the whole function as a healthy living body. (Christians will no doubt see a parallel with the New Testament concept of the church). Because human beings have become alienated from Gaia – mother earth, the forces of nature -we are polluting the earth and thus banning our own body. So we must urgently rediscover the sacred both in nature and in ourselves before we destroy the planet.
At a New Age meeting I attended the speaker spoke of the native American saying All my relations by which she meant not only other human beings, but also animals, plants, rocks, rivers etc. New Age and Ecology The most important result of the growth of this world view is the effect it has on green issues, which have become heavily infused with New Age ideas. Bob Hunter describes ecology as New Age relegation in an article in Environmentalism in the 1980s, Greenpeace Chronicles no, 18 (August 1979):
Nature is quite obviously the physical totality of Gods work. Within it, as part of it, viewing what is Our Self from the individual compartments of our little selves, we become aware that Nature is in fact us. The world is Our Body . . . Mother Earth is not passive. To align oneself with her energies is to liberate the Godhead within you, to be lifted up into a higher slate of being, to align yourself with her energies is to liberate at the same lime the true animal within.
The entry point for the destructive view of nature for many New Agers is the Protestant reformation. The Reformation attempted to take the magic out of nature and to concentrate on the spiritual life, within human beings. The idea that places and material things, even that the consecrated mass was sacred, was anathema. Nature was not a living system with a spirit and a life of her own. The idea that Nature should be reverenced by men was considered idolatry. . . . The idea of sacred places was denied. (Rupert Sheldrake -Rebirth of Nature in Resurgence Sept/Oct 1989). This paved the way for the industrial revolution in which man would probe and torture nature to Find out her secrets in order to gain power and dominion over her, so that she could be subjugated and used to serve mans purposes. (same article).
As a Christian I too am concerned at the destruction of nature in order to serve our industrial system, but I cannot approach this problem from the New Age pantheistic view of nature, which the Bible strongly contradicts. Because most Christians have surrendered to evolutionary teaching we often fail to grasp the significance of God as Creator, as it is taught throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Although there is a harmony in nature, all is not one, as New Agers teach. All things are created by God, but God is separate from his creation, which is not the physical totality of his work. There is also an unseen spiritual realm through which God can communicate with us by the Holy Spirit. What is more the revelation of Gods creative work in Genesis 1 shows that he separates different created things from each other: light from darkness, waters under the firmament from waters above the firmament, dry land from sea, different kinds of plants, living creatures and human beings, all of which contain their seed within them and reproduce after their own kind. This is also taught in the New Testament; God gives . . . to each kind of seed its own body. All flesh is not the same. Men have one kind of flesh, birds another, fish another . . .(I Cor. 15:38-39). Human beings have a value above other created beings in Gods sight.
The biblical view of the unseen world is also dualistic not monistic. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph.6:12). This conflict between God and Satan means the Christian must learn to separate good from evil. Test everything; Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil (I Thess. 5.21-22). On the day of judgment the Lord will separate the lost from the saved, those who have accepted the salvation offered us in Christ from those who have rejected it. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matthew 25:46). All of this has profound implications in our response to the New Age movement.
We cannot identify with the idea of a God who is a universal energy, an impersonal force behind the universe, because God is personal, knowable and at the same time so much greater and higher than the created universe. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Our problem is not alienation from Gaia but alienation from God who has given us specific moral laws which we have disobeyed both individually and collectively, causing the dreadful slate of our world today. The environmental crisis of our world is the direct result of human sin and failure to take care of the earth in the way God commanded us to in Genesis.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the Fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the ground (Gen 1:27-28).
Since the original creation was very good human dominion over the living creatures must imply care for the environment and their welfare and not exploitation of it for our selfish greed (See also Psalm 8). Any committed Christian must join with the environmentalists in crying out against the destruction of nature in order to feed the Frankenstein monster our industrial society has become. But we will do this from the very different motive of our concern for what God has created and given humanity to look after and not that we are harming the earth mother, Gaia.
Pantheism/Monism and Idolatry
From the biblical point of view the main problem of pantheism is that it leads straight into idolatry. Because Satan is actively working in fallen human nature, if you look for God in nature and created things, inevitably you end up finding some thing or place which is invested with a special religious significance and you worship it. The effect of denying the creator is clearly spelled out in Romans 1, leading to a situation where people exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised (Romans 1:25).
There is nowhere like India, the source of so many New Age ideas, for the worship of idols, and sacred places. This has not led to enlightenment or even to environmental concern, but to fear, superstition and is a major factor in contributing to Indias poverty. In the quote above from Rupert Sheldrakes article it is significant that he criticises Protestant Christianity not only for taking the magic out of nature but also for denying the idea of sacred places. New Agers go to places like Glastonbury and Stonehenge to make the great invocation for the new age of truth, justice and co-operative living. There is an interest in locating sacred places through ley lines where one can make contact with and harness spiritual energy and power.
A New Age leaflet calls for 144,000 Rainbow Humans to gather at sacred sites such as stone circles, ancient earthworks, sacred mountains and lakes. Beacon hills, hill carvings, cathedrals, churches, abbeys, fountains, village crosses to invoke great fire Serpents to bring about a planetary change of consciousness and become co-creators and friends of God. (Harmonic Convergence published by Acorn Publishing, Wiltshire). Incidentally this has a parallel in the way many professing Christians are making pilgrimages to such places as the shrine to Mary at Walsingham. For Bible-believing Christians all this is a massive deception, for the earth is the Lords and we may call on his name at any time in any place. The condition of whether or not he hears us is whether or not our hearts are right with him and whether or not we come in repentance and faith in the one mediator between God and humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have experienced the presence of the Lord in the most unpromising places – an inner city comprehensive school, or the London Underground – and his absence in the most magnificent cathedrals and the most spectacular coastal scenery in Cornwall, depending on the condition of my relationship with him at the time. The danger of looking for spiritual experiences of God in specific places considered holy or sacred is similar to the danger we will be looking at in the next chapter of looking for God within ourselves. We may well have an experience of the supernatural which is demonic in origin which the unwary may believe to be an experience of God. Many of these places favoured by New Agers have been centers of occultic worship from pre-Christian times and are now places where it is easier for evil spirits to make contact with human beings who are looking for spiritual experience, but denying the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.
Another negative result of the pantheistic view is that it gives no adequate explanation for the problem of evil and suffering and reduces our will to resist evil. Despite all the New Age calls to world transformation, where its view has become dominant in any culture it leads to a fatalistic view of life that suffering and evil are inevitable and have to be accepted as karma through which we pass into a better life in our next incarnation. I heard of a Christian working in India who was discouraged from doing welfare work to alleviate poverty because it would prevent those suffering from working out their bad karma and thus preparing for a better incarnation next time.
The biblical view sees God as separate yet involved in his creation, a personal being whom we can know and a holy being who calls us to repentance and faith. This gives us a reason to struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil and a hope in the resurrection of the dead. Jeremiahs rebuke to his generation for their idolatry is very relevant to our generation who look to eastern religions for enlightenment:
My people have exchanged their glory for worthless idols…They have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:11-13).
- What difference will our approach to the issue of creation make to our response to the New Age? Does the evolutionary ides fill in with the New Age view that all is one?
- What does Romans 1:18-32, particularly verses 20 and 25, have to say about the pantheistic view of nature?
- What does John 4:20-24 have to say to those who believe some places are more sacred than others?
- Why should a dualistic view of the unseen world (i.e. God and Satan, angels and demons exist in opposition to each other) give us a different view of suffering and evil from a monistic view (all is one)?