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New Age Movement
By Ron Rhodes
ZondervanCopyright © 1995 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePart I: Introduction
I. What Is the New Age Movement?
The New Age movement has been called "the fastest growing alternative belief system in the country."
A. Definition of the New Age Movement
1. The New Age movement is a loosely structured network of individuals and organizations who share a vision of a new age of enlightenment and harmony (the "Age of Aquarius") and who subscribe to a common "worldview."
2. The common worldview is based on monism (all is one), pantheism (all is God), and mysticism (the experience of oneness with the divine). 3. Because it is so broad and organizationally diffuse, the New Age movement cannot be categorized as a cult by any accepted sociological definition of "cult."
a. Movements are multifaceted, involving a variety of individuals and groups whose respective practices and emphases (and even some beliefs) may be distinctive and diverse.
b. To be a New Ager, there is no single organization one must join and no particular creed one must confess.
B. Diversity in Unity in the New Age Movement
a. The New Age movement is made up of many different individuals and organizations who have a wide variety of interests and are committed to different causes.
b. Jeremy P. Tarcher, a New Age book publisher, says: "No one speaks for the entire New Age community."
c. The New Age movement includes holistic health professionals, ecologists, political activists, educators, human potential advocates, goddess-worshipers, reincarnationists, astrologers, and much more.
a. All these diverse individuals associate comfortably under the common umbrella of "the New Age movement."
b. Their common vision for humankind and their common worldview enable them to "network" together to accomplish their common ends, despite their distinctive interests within the movement.
C. Characteristics of the New Age Movement
One of the best ways to understand the New Age movement is to examine its primary characteristics. While not every New Ager would hold to every characteristic below, most New Agers would hold to most of them.
a. New Agers draw from various sources of "truth."
b. They feel equally at home with the Christian Bible, Levi Dowling's The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, the readings of the "sleeping prophet" Edgar Cayce, and advice from Ramtha (a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior-king as channeled through J. Z. Knight).
2. Religious Syncretism
a. The New Age movement is syncretistic-combining and synthesizing different and sometimes contradictory religious and philosophical teachings.
b. The New Age movement gathers the teachings of all the world religions and syncretizes these into its mystical worldview: "We honor the truth and beauty of all the world religions, believing each to have a seed of God, a kernel of the spirit that unites us."
c. New Agers do not render exclusive devotion to any one teacher or teaching.
d. New Agers believe that God revealed himself in Jesus, but that he also revealed himself in Buddha, Krishna, and a host of others.
e. The Bible can therefore make no claim to be God's only revelation to humankind.
a. Monism is a theory that sees all reality as a unified whole.
b. The word itself comes from the Greek word monos ("one"). c. Everything in the universe is viewed as composed of the same substance; all is organically one. As New Ager George Trevelyan puts it, "Life is a Divine Oneness."
d. Humanity, God, and the world of nature are likened to waves in a single cosmic ocean.
e. Perceived differences are apparent, not real.
f. Therefore, all of reality is interrelated and interdependent.
a. Pantheism is the view that God is all and all is God.
b. The word pantheism is based on the Greek words pan ("all") and theos ("God").
c. Benjamin Creme explains that "everything is God. There is nothing else in fact but God."
d. The New Age pantheistic God is an impersonal, amoral "it."
e. There is no distinction between the Creator and the creation in pantheism.
5. Deification of Humanity
a. Humanity is God.
b. The belief in human divinity follows from the belief in monism and pantheism (discussed above): if all is one (monism) and all is God (pantheism), then we, too, are God.
c. Beverly Galyean states, "Once we begin to see that we are all God, that we all have the attributes of God, then I think the whole purpose of life is to reown the Godlikeness within us; the perfect love, the perfect wisdom, the perfect understanding, the perfect intelligence...."
6. Transformation: There are two aspects of transformation within the New Age movement-personal transformation and planetary transformation.
a. Personal transformation, a counterpart to being "born again" in Christianity, hinges on one's personal recognition of oneness with God, humanity, and the universe.
(1) This recognition is described variously as "enlightenment," "attunement," "self-realization," "God-realization," and "self-actualization."
(2) We need such enlightenment because we have "bought the lie" (or succumbed to the illusion) of human limitation and finitude. We have forgotten our true divine identity.
(3) Only by a transformation of consciousness can we escape this lie and realize our true potential.
b. Planetary transformation is brought about as a "critical mass" of personally transformed individuals takes socio-political responsibility for the world of humankind.
a. Definition: The means of loosely coordinating New Agers' efforts. (1) Though New Agers are diverse-having a wide variety of interests and commitment to different causes (such as health, psychology, politics, science, and education)-they unite to accomplish common goals.
(2) New Agers "all have their own turf and agendas, yet they co-operate in the network because they also have some common values and visions."
b. Media and networking
(1) New Ager Marilyn Ferguson says networking takes place through "conferences, phone calls, air travel, books, phantom organizations, papers, pamphleteering, photocopying, lectures, workshops, parties, grapevines, mutual friends, summit meetings, coalitions, tapes, [and] newsletters." (2) Modern telecommunications via computers is also key to the networking process.
c. Politics and networking
(1) New Agers believe one of the most effective ways of flexing political muscle is through networking.
(2) As Ferguson states, networking "generates power enough to remake society. It offers the individual emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and economic support. It is ... a powerful means of altering the course of institutions, especially government."
8. Ecological Orientation
a. Since all is one (monism), it follows that human beings are intimately interrelated with the world of nature.
(1) We must care for nature.
(2) To damage nature is ultimately to damage ourselves.
b. Many New Agers view the earth as a living organism. Because the earth is a living organism, it must be treated as such and cared for ecologically.
c. New Age activists interested in ecology have joined together to form a powerful worldwide political movement known as "the Green movement."
9. Belief in a Coming Utopia
a. New Agers believe there is a new world coming which involves one-world government, global socialism, and a New Age religion.
(1) Ken Carey, author of several New Age handbooks, envisions A.D. 2000 as a kind of psychic watershed, beyond which lies "a realizable utopian society."
(2) David Spangler says that the Mayan and Aztec civilizations believed that a "cycle of dark ages" would end before A.D. 2000; following this, a New Age of harmony and wholeness will emerge.
10. Not a Conspiracy
a. New Agers are not following the lead of an individual or group in the unfolding of some sinister New Age master plan.
b. Though New Agers share a common worldview and vision for the future, there is no conspiracy on a human level-even though New Agers do "network" to attain common goals.
c. Despite their common worldview, New Agers have distinct individual beliefs, interests, agendas, and strategies.
d. Still, we might say there is a conspiracy on a spiritual level-that is, the powers of darkness (demons) are working in the New Age movement to draw human beings away from Christ and the truth of Christianity. But in this sense of the word, all belief systems antithetical to Christianity (including some antithetical to the New Age movement as well) are part of Satan's conspiracy.
D. New Age Spirituality
a. New Age spirituality is a hybrid spirituality, drawing from many different sources.
b. New Age spirituality includes Eastern meditation, altered states of consciousness, reincarnation, and spiritism (channeling).
2. Life- and World-Affirming.
a. New Agers value other people, worldly pleasures and amusements, culture, and the entire universe.
b. This affirmation is in contrast to classic Hinduism, which is self- and world-denying.
(1) While many New Age ideas about God, humanity, salvation, and the world are rooted in Hinduism, New Age spirituality de-parts from Hinduism in its world-affirming emphasis.
(2) In Hinduism the spiritual and earthly realms are viewed as being in conflict, hence earthly things must be renounced.
3. Involves a Revival of Paganism (Neopaganism)
a. Neopagans reject such allegedly Western distinctives as:
(1) Organized religion
(2) Male-dominated society
(3) Patriarchal, male-exalting religion (evidenced by such phrases as "God the Father")
(4) Abuse of nature
b. Neopagans share the feminist perspective which seeks to reharmonize people with "the One," which is called "the Goddess."
(1) Goddess worshipers equate the Goddess with the world, which is manifest in us. (2) Goddess worshipers often speak of kindling the "goddess within" (that is, inner divinity).
(3) Humanity's inner divinity is one of the primary doctrines of New Age theology (see Part II below).
II. Pervasiveness of the New Age Movement
A. The Impact of the New Age Movement on Health Care
1. Holistic Health
a. Marilyn Ferguson notes that "patients and professionals alike are beginning to see beyond symptoms to the context of illness: stress, society, family, diet, season, emotions." This has given rise to "holistic" health care.
b. The word holistic, when applied to health care, refers to an approach "that respects the interaction of mind, body, and environment." Indeed, holistic health focuses on the whole person and his or her surroundings.
c. New Agers typically criticize Western medicine as being reductionistic in its approach.
(1) As Fritjof Capra puts it, "by concentrating on smaller and smaller fragments of the body, modern medicine often loses sight of the patient as a human being, and by reducing health to mechanical functioning, it is no longer able to deal with the phenomenon of healing."
(2) New Agers see reductionistic medicine as disease-centered, not person-centered, treating only the parts of the body that are ailing (the heart, for example).
d. Holistic health is multidimensional.
(1) A holistic approach to health is a "multidimensional phenomenon involving interdependent physical, psychological, and social aspects."
(2) The holistic approach seeks to treat the whole person-body, mind, and spirit-and also considers the social aspects of the patient's life as a factor to health.
(3) Holistic health claims to be person-centered, not disease-centered.
2. The New Age Concept of Energy and Holistic Health
a. The New Age model of holistic health is based primarily on its conception of energy, not matter.
b. The editors of the New Age Journal report: "All of the healing systems that can be called 'holistic' share a common belief in the universe as a unified field of energy that produces all form and substance.... This vital force, which supoorts and sustains life, has been given many names. The Chinese call it 'chi'i,' the Hindus call it 'prana,' the Hebrews call it 'ruach,' and the American Indians name it 'the Great Spirit.'
Excerpted from New Age Movement by Ron Rhodes Copyright © 1995 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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