AUTHORS LAY OUT 'NEW AGE': CLAIM YOGA, ENNEAGRAM, AND CENTERING PRAYER ARE ROOTED IN THE OCCULT
As always, there are the two extremes in the realm of discernment: those who fall into the often subtle, enticing, refined deceptions of falsity or occultism -- what is now called the "New Age" -- and those who declare everything with which they are unfamiliar as "New Age," even when occult it is not.
It's quite a hot branding iron, once something is stamped rightly or wrongly as "New Age." We have to be cautious not to jump to condemnation. There certainly have been false accusations.
But occultism there is, and it's rampant -- a spirituality sans God: this view of the universe as one organized by an impersonal albeit quasi-intelligent energy that is out there somehow, a divine force and nothing but a force (the lower case "g" in "god'). Or, by many gods (and goddesses; nature spirits).
This we label generically, and correctly, as "New Age."
Simply put, the New Age is anthropocentric.
It puts the focus on Man instead of his Creator.
It draws "energies" from other than the Holy Spirit.
It is rehashed druidism, European witchcraft, and Egyptian-Babylonian magic.
And it integrates all sorts of arcana: psychic phenomena, Eastern mysticism, spiritualism, and just plain good old paganism, reworked with crystals and aromatherapy and the wrong (Ommmmmm) kind of meditation.
(Here's the right mantra: Jesus.)
There can be no question about the dangers.
In the world of spirituality, deception equals the demonic.
There are dark spirits that prank us, that lure with false comforts, that draw us in, that promise power, and it violates the First Commandment: to have no God but the Real One, the One Who ministers to us through His Spirit, Whose Son is Jesus. The New Age wants all the gifts of the Holy Spirit but without the One True God -- without Jesus.
It's enough of a danger that in 2003 two Vatican pontifical councils jointly released a document, "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life" [available here in booklet form, here online], defining the New Age.
"The beginning of the Third Millennium comes not only two thousand years after the birth of Christ, but also at a time when astrologers believe that the Age of Pisces – known to them as the Christian age – is drawing to a close," said the Vatican overview. "These reflections are about the New Age, which takes its name from the imminent astrological Age of Aquarius. The New Age is one of many explanations of the significance of this moment in history which are bombarding contemporary (particularly western) culture, and it is hard to see clearly what is and what is not consistent with the Christian message."
It has not been without its controversy and confusion. For example, in the Vatican definition: chiropractic healing and acupuncture are mentioned in a way that could be seen as lumping them in with standard occult practices [see footnote at the end of the article]. This is the subject of intense debate (there are Catholic chiropractors, including devout ones).
What is "new age," and what are simply non-Western, alternative, or unconventional approaches to the spiritual dimensions?
Authors Moira Noonan and Anne Feaster take a diligent stab at this in a new book that is worth having, Spiritual Deceptions in the Church and the Culture: A Comprehensive Guide to Discernment, with an introduction by Croatian exorcist Monsignor Milivoj Bolobanic. As the authors point out, refined, and modernized occultism has infiltrated just about every aspect of modern Western life. Look no further than the TV set, the kid's library, or even the golden arches.
"A woman came up to me at a conference in southern Illinois, handed me a toy, and asked, 'What is this?'" says one of the authors. "She had taken her four-year-old granddaughter to McDonald's and in the 'happy meal' there was a toy witch with a little booklet. The toy was a little witch named Sabrina and it came with a booklet explaining what her power was. Sabrina's power was from Earth, or 'Earth energy,' and as children keep reading, it tells them what ritual she performed to obtain the powers. The plastic figure portrayed Sabrina casting her spell. This kind of thing is insidious; it's everywhere."
Indeed. And it is what the Vatican said in its document: hostile to the core beliefs of Christianity. It seeks transcendence of self by itself instead of with Jesus. Druidism, magic, and gnosticism are alive and vigorous. From Disney to Pokemon to the local astrology column, they have slipped into the mainstream of our confused culture and have evolved rapidly into more direct stuff (Harry Potter, vampires, TV mediums).
Simply take a look at all the images in current movies, which are often classic demonology (even Batman now has a very dark countenance, never mind the creatures in Godzilla; the list is a long one; celebrities flaunt occult symbols).
Perhaps no aspect of it is sweeping across our culture swifter than yoga -- widely adapted and adopted especially among the young as a new way to relax and exercise.
It can be a tough call: there are aspects of mediation (and twelve-step programs) that do not contravene Christianity. We are called upon to meditate, to contemplate. It is often where the "small, still Voice" speaks. Nor is there anything wrong with eating right and the physical discipline of exercise -- quite the contrary. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Treat it that way.
The trouble with yoga, point up the authors, is that in the end it involves mantras that call on pagan deities. It springs from a religion that's based on numerous "deities" (precisely the sort of idols Christ came to dispel). "The truth is that yoga is a part of the Hindu religion," write Noonan and Feaster. "The word 'yoga' means 'union with god' or 'yoke with god.' The god of yoga is not the Triune God of Christianity -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- but rather an impersonal deity who pervades the universe. The goal of Hinduism is to discover your True Self, a divine self, which is called god or Brahman. The Hindus view yoga as a path to this discovery of the True Self, divine self, or god realization, and they use postures, meditations, and mantras to attain this. Hindu literature states, 'The sage yoked in yoga soon attains the Absolute (Brahman).'"
Taking yoga for the physical aspects can lead to the mystical dimension as well. It is seen by yogics as praying with one's body. One can be invoking a spirit. Mantras are often outright pagan names. And there's plenty of it afoot: in 2012, at least 20.4 million Americans (nearly nine percent of adults) were practicing yoga in some form and the numbers are increasing rapidly.
Yoga-wear is starting to replace jeans.
"People doing yoga do not understand that the postures themselves have an effect on the central nervous system and the endochrine system, and these postures can produce altered states of consciousness," says the book. "It does not matter if the person is interested in Hinduism or if the person is doing this innocently as a stretching exercise. Altered states of consciousness are problematic and very dangerous."
When one speaks of manipulating "prana" and other energies, this is certainly headed toward the occult. An "aura" may be one thing (saints are seen with halos). Kundalini is another. "From what I thought was just stretching (Hatha Yoga), I continued on to self-realization yoga (Kriya Yoga), which opens the 'third eye' and psychic channels," said a Catholic convert from California.
From there, she points out, in the book, it's a short hop to clairvoyance.
How many sitting in the "lotus position" know that it's to align "energy centers" to balance that prana? Yet, one sees it even in parish halls (and many retreat houses operated by modernistic nuns).
It is one reason convents have been decimated.
This is not to denounce every single aspect of Eastern religions. There is good is most major religions. And there are problems within our own. In the authors' estimation, this includes the widespread Catholic use of "centering prayer," labyrinths, and the enneagram.
Take the labyrinth -- which is seen now on church properties as well as spas and hospitals (that maze one walks around in, meditating).
Those who defend it point out (accurately) that one of Europe's oldest and most august cathedrals, Chartres in France, has an old labyrinth in its floor (we've personally seen it). And this place is not "new": it is just about ancient.
But it gets dicey when the labyrinth is used (as it is now) to locate the god, or goddess, within. God without God is godless. Period.
The enneagram, meanwhile, is a personality chart that promises self-realization.
Its origins, warn the authors, are in Sufi mysticism, the Kabbalah, and astrology.
In 2000 the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices described one of the developers of this practice as what the books says is "an apostate Catholic who claims that he discovered the system's personality types under the influence of a spirit, named the Archangel Gabriel."
Because a New Ager contacts angels, does that make all encounters wrong? Because a New Age twist is often placed on respect for the environment -- God's Creation -- does that make all environmentalism bad? Because there is a false apparition, does that negate them all?
It does not. But it does send up warning signals. This all can go on: New Age music, TM, martial arts. The authors argue that these too can be used to lead the faithful astray. How far to go with it all?
Well, listen now: many good Catholics still insist that citing Harry Potter indicates paranoia. Is that one of the "extremes" we warned about? By the fruits we know something -- and according to a study by the Barna Group (which regularly takes surveys to do with religion), one of every eight adolescents who has read Potter said the books increased their interest in witchcraft.
We're talking millions: eighty-four percent of surveyed American youngsters (aged thirteen to eighteen) had read the series.
Christian prayer also brings an "altered state of consciousness," one can argue -- but it does so in union with Christ, which is a big difference. Is there deception in Christian circles? Certainly. And also: we can denounce other things while ourselves being deceived. New Age can slip into everything from Marian apparitions and near-death experiences to charismatic meetings.
But the biggest problem by far is in our culture, which is in a state of collapse (as ancient pagan societies also fell).
Some things really stand out.
Take "Lady Gaga." (Please.)
"Her 'Bad Romance' music video contains an abundance of satanic symbols," state Noonan and Feaster. "The goats on either side of the bed in the video are a symbol of Baphomet, the horned idol of Western occultism."
You can see such symbols with dozens of current singers, there on display during music awards, or half-time at the Super Bowl.
Do certain folks go too far denouncing things (and people)?
Sometimes, we can see things where things are not. We can shoot from the hip. Yes, we can be paranoiac.
But it doesn't hurt to be vigilant (as long as we are careful not to denigrate).
Meanwhile, remember also: video "games" may not be a game to Satan (Darksiders, Devil Summoner, Dragon Age Origins, and Shadow Hearts, to name a few: also, In Tecmo's Deception: Invitation to Darkness).
Does it get any louder than that?
Our poor young!
Don't you wish this was preached?
One can go on about this for -- well, for a book, as these authors have.
Is homeopathy New Age? What about magnetic healing?
Read, and then pass discernment.
The Holy Spirit informs. So does an uneasy feeling in the gut (and not because it's a chakra). There is the real danger -- in any of this stuff -- of spiritual defilement. Reiki. Attunement. The credo: No good; no evil; the ying-yang).
In the end, no God.
It's not exactly a recipe for Heaven.
Be careful not to denounce everything new to your pattern of thought as "New Age" (rigidity is likewise from the dark side), but always bear in mind what Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through Me."
[resources: Spiritual Deceptions in the Church and the Culture: A Comprehensive Guide to Discernment and Jesus Christ Bearer of the Water of Life
[see also: St. Benedict's Cross, A Life of Blessings and The Other Side]
[See also: Retreats: signs of the times: Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Louisiana]
[see also: 'Yoga wear' taking over where jeans left off]
[Footnote, quoting the Vatican's document: "There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric, others connected with the psychological theories developed in Esalen during the years 1960-1970," said the Vatican document. "Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of “bodywork” (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualization, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colors, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programs and self-help groups."]
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