WHAT IS THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT?
Any meaningful study of the New Age Movement must examine among
others, the following issues,
1. What is the New Age Movement?
2. How it got started?
3. Some distinguishing features of the Movement.
4. The strategy for growth.
5. The agenda of the Movement.
6. When will this so-called New Age begin?
7. What will the society of the New Age be like?
8. What are the basic teachings?
9. How the Movement affects the Church?
10. How should Christians respond?
11. How will it end?
It is extremely difficult if not impossible to find a single term to describe the New Age Movement. There are so many different facets and disguises that makes it difficult to understand the essence of its teaching or the heart of many of their constituent groups and institutions. Its spectrum is so vast that we can only highlight the essential points. Defining the New Age Movement is like, 1’Nailing Jello to a tree. It is like trying to straighten out a bowl of spaghetti’
Ellis and Clarke have stated,
. . . We have discovered that it is impossible to sum up the New Age in a few short sentences. Even New Agers don’t seem to agree 100% on what actually is. Roger who is a keen fisherman, likens it to trying to catch hold of a very slippery 25lb carp without a landing net. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it changes direction slightly and slips out of your hands. However, a fish is a fish whichever way you look at it, and the New Age, although a bit of a slippery character, does have several basic characteristics2 (Roger Ellis and Andrea Clarke, The New Age and You, Eastbourne: Kingsway Publication Ltd., 1992, 13).
They further say that the New Age Movement is,
A loose confederation of people who believe the world is on the verge of a transformation where people will reject Judeo-Christian values and enter a time of peace and one-world government with the aid of Oriental philosophies and practices.3
According to Basilea Schlink
The New Age Movement is a synthesis of Eastern religions and the old “Mystery Teachings,” and a combination of gnosticism and spiritism, based on esoteric (secret) teachings transmitted by demonic entities. This accounts for the varied forms of occultism it includes, such as clairvoyance, astrology, hypnosis, UFOlogy and yoga practices, plus mythology, pantheism, the belief in reincarnation and a renaissance of witchcraft. Consequently, the aspired New World Order has no room for the God of Christians: in His place Lucifer is to be enthroned. Ultimately, the driving force behind the New Age Movement is nothing other than Lucifer’s desire to be worshiped as God4
David M. Griffis states:
It is a religion of combined ingredients. Hinduism Buddhism, Zen, Gnosticism, Spiritualism, Transcendentalism, and the ancient paganism of the Greeks and Romans. 5
For Douglas Groothuis:
The New Age movement is an umbrella term referring to a variety of people, organizations, events, practices and ideas. Sociologically speaking, it is not a centrally organized movement with one human leader. Although it includes cults, sects, and even denominations, it is not restricted to any one of these. Rather it is a constellation of like minded people and groups all desiring a spiritual and social change that will usher in a New Age of self-actualization. Usually this scenario entails that we throw off both traditional monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and secular humanism (rationalism, atheism and skeptism).
Scores of New Age groups – whether they concern holistic health, politics, science, religious cults or psychology-loosely co ordinate their efforts through “networking” making contacts through any available media. 6
Berit Kjos in “Your Child and the New Age” quotes Douglas Groothuis’ definition of the
. . . a smorgasbord of spiritual substitutes for Christianity, all heralding our unlimited potential to transform ourselves and the planet so that a ‘New Age’ of peace, light and love will break forth7
The New Age is actually ancient occultism with a facelift. It is the beautiful side of evil, an enticing facade for the kingdom of darkness. Disguised as peace, power, wisdom, and love, this attractive deception pretends to offer everything God promises, yet asks nothing in return-for the moment . . .. The New Age shuns Christianity but welcomes all other religions. Each person adjusts what he already believes, adds the desired ingredients, and finds himself immersed in the counterfeit. Almost any combination works: Humanism plus supernatural power becomes New Age. Hinduism plus pop psychology becomes New Age. Pantheism plus confidence in human potential becomes New Age.8
Elliot Miller quoting from the “Discovery Series,” “A Crash Course on the New Age,” states,
An extremely large, loosely structured network of organizations and individuals bound together by common values (based on mysticism and monism-the world view that ‘all is one’) and a common vision (a coming ‘new age’ of peace and mass enlightenment, the ‘Age of Aquarius’) 9
In his informative book, “The New Age Cult, “Walter Martin
New Agers see themselves as advanced in consciousness, rejecting Judeo-Christian values and the Bible in favor of Oriental philosophies and religion.10
The most common name used to portray the growing penetration of Eastern and occultic mysticism into Western culture. The words New Age refer to the Aquarian Age, which occultists believe to be dawning, bringing with it an era of enlightenment and peace. Encompasses within the New Age Movement are various cults which emphasize a mystic experience (including Transcendental Meditation, the Rjneesh cult, Eckanker, the Church Universal and Triumphant, the Divine Light Mission, and many others.
The followers of various gurus, such as, the late swami Muktananda, Sai Baba, Baba Ram Dass, Mahareeshi Mahesh Yoga, and Guru Maharijih, personify the essence of modern New Age leadership. Other groups such as the
“Human Potential Movement” exemplified in Est (or The Forum), Lifespring, Silva Mind Control, Summit Workshops, etc., and many (though not all) of the advocates of the various approaches to holistic health, accurately represent the spirit of the New Age.11
Marilyn Ferguson insists that,
The New Age Movement “is not a new political, religious, or philosophical system. It is a new mind-the ascendance of a startling world view that gathers into its framework break-through science and insights from earliest recorded thought.12
Dave Hunte explains,
“Insights from earliest recorded thought” is a euphemistic way of referring to ancient occultism. The “new mind” that Ms Ferguson speaks of comes about through acceptance of basic Hindu philosophy, which is the cement that holds together the otherwise seemingly disparate views of this new world religion. And it is political, for the common goal is a new world order, a world government.13
The Association for Global Education, Cooperation, and
Only by the birth of global consciousness within each individual can we truly achieve trans-nationalization. 14
Servers Network has attested to the,
Emergence of a new universal person and civilization. 15
Hunte further states,
The normal loyalty to the nation of one’s birth is being overturned in favor of “planetary citizenship.” That this is being advocated by sincere persons under the stress of the dire emergencies we face and in order to save our species from extinction is not doubted. Much of the energy, time, and attention expended by those in the New Age Movement is directed inward, getting “in touch with themselves” and with their “feelings” in order to find out who they really are.
The new global consciousness is based upon the experience of “unity consciousness” that comes through drugs or Transcendental Meditation (TM) and other forms of Yoga and Eastern meditation, and leads to the Hindu belief that atman (individual soul) is identical with Brahma (universal soul). This is a denial of the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible in exchange for the belief that we are all “God.” This ancient Hindu belief is being accepted today as a non-religious modern science. By handful of naive fanatics? No, by millions of well educated sophiscates.16
The range and scope and influence of the New Age Movement is worldwide and truly awesome. No one lays it out as well as Marilyn Ferguson:
The Aquarian Conspirators range across all levels of income and education … schoolteachers and office workers, famous scientists, government officials and law-makers, artists and millionaires, taxi drivers and celebrities, leaders in medicine, education, law, psychology.
They have coalesced into small groups in every town and institution. They [are effecting a]…social transformation that is increasingly visible if you know where to look….
There are tens of thousands of entry points to this conspiracy.17
Dave Hunte also states,
Marilyn Ferguson has called this Movement The Aquarian Conspiracy. Many others agree with her in identifying the new age as the Age of Aquarius. New age thinking involves a new “openness” to one another, to ourselves, to nature, to a universal “Force” pervading the whole cosmos-which allegedly produces an awakening of unimagined powers of the mind. Playing an important role in the new age, astrology is based upon a belief in this interconnectedness, which determines personality and destiny, depending upon the date and location of one’s birth in relation to certain heavenly bodies. Like Hinduism, upon which it is based, the Aquarian Conspiracy claims to embrace all beliefs, all religions on the premise that all is one. Dealing with the question “Is nuclear war in our future?” New Age astrologer Virginia Kay Miller declared:
…the world is in the midst of a massive upheaval.
… many people believe that human-mankind is on the verge of an evolutionary break-through and we are standing on the threshold of a New Age.
Called the “Aquarian Age” it will bring about a new world order in which individuals will realize their true spiritual being and their interconnectedness with all life.
To survive . . . as a planet, we must develop the Aquarian consciousness, which recognizes that we are all linked together as members of the human race and as inhabitants of planet Earth.
We must network…. 18
The New Age Movement (NAM) is a title that refers to a world view or a philosophy of life that many people hold. The NAM can also be properly called a religion because it is based on religious views; for example, New Agers hold to pantheism, a belief that everything is part of God. That is, God is all, and all is God. They believe that every man is part of God, even though those outside of the New Age might not realize it.
Through mystical experiences, or while participating in techniques which alter one’s state of consciousness, people are powerfully persuaded that the religious world view of the New Age is true.19
Shirley MacLaine, one of the leaders of the New Age Movement, described the following
mystical experience in a hot tub,
My whole body seemed to float. Slowly, slowly I became the water… I felt the inner connection of my breathing with the pulse of the energy around me. In fact, I was the air, the water, the darkness, the walls, the bubbles, the candles, the wet rocks under the water, and even the sound of the rushing river outside. 20
Experiences of this nature have led New Agers to believe that they are “one” with the universe and “one” with God; that they have uncovered “human potential” which they define as an alleged divine power within themselves and within all people. The deeper implication is that this human potential is unlimited. The mission of New Agers is to help people discover this power and to realize experientially who they are.
New Agers expect that once people have this mystical experience, they will live out their new world view. This would lead to a constructive striving for world unity and world peace. People will then be motivated to use their new powers to realize it.
Many New Agers freely describe their encounters with “spirit guides.” These “spirit guides” depict themselves as good spirits.
They claim to be people who have died and who now reside in the spirit world. Their mission is to guide and to help others spiritually.
Biblical Christianity interprets these mystical experiences very differently from New Agers. For Orthodox Christians, the New Age Movement is a mixture of Eastern religious beliefs along with many forms of the occult, such as “channeling,” or spirit-possession. Christians therefore, believe that the dramatic out-of-the-body experiences, extraordinary sensory knowledge, and the mind trips that New Agers experience during their “altered states of consciousness” are demonic inspired with the view of deceiving people. The visions that who are hospitalized have of huge rats or pink elephants that tend to frighten them, constitute a false reality. The Bible states,
The Spirit clearly says that in the later time some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (I Timothy 4:1)
…the devil,…is a liar, and the father of it.(John 8:44)
…for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14)
From a Biblical perspective the New Age Movement has a false religious world view. It is one that is inspired by Satan and his forces who are parading as benevolent “spirit guides” interested in the welfare of humanity. Dr. D. James Kennedy has stated,
This dangerous serpent of the New Age has a hundred heads and more, and moves about society today in an extremely subtle manner, consuming people by the millions… However, most of the faces of this serpent do not appear to be threatening nor frightening. In fact they are beguiling, their faces are wreathed in smiles, and they craftily beckon the unsuspecting to draw near.21
Notes to Chapter One
1. James Kennedy, The New Age (Florida: Coral Ridge Ministries), 2.
2. Roger Ellis and Andrea Clarke, The New Age and You (Eastbourne: Kingsway Publication Ltd., 1992), 13.
3. Roger Ellis and Andrea Clarke, 46.
4. Basilea Schlink, New Age, from a Biblical View Point (Darmstadt-Eberstadt: Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, 1988),7.
5. David M. Griffis, Spirit Wars (Cleveland, Tennessee: Pathway Press, 1994), 26.
6. Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age (Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1988), 18.
7. Berit Kjos, Your Child and the New Age (U.S.A.: SP Publications, 1990), 17
9. Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement, p. 15. Quoted by Martin R. DeHann II- in Discovery Series, What’s the Appeal of the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids Mi.: Radio Bible Class, 1990), 3.
10. Walter Martin, The New Age Cult (Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 130.
11. Martin, 18.
12. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in 1980s (Los Angelos, 1980), p. 23. Quoted by Dave Hunt in Understanding the New Age Movement (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1983), 9.
13. Hunte, 9
16. Hunte,. 9-10.
17. Hunte,. 10.
18. Hunte, 6-7.
19. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the New Age Movement (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1988),. 7.
20. Ankerberg, 7.
21. Kennedy, p. 2.
Total Number of words : 2506
HOW IT GOT STARTED?
In order for us to understand the New Age Movement, even in an elementary manner, it is necessary that we recognize its ancient roots in the occult. Mc Dowell states:
The word “occult” comes from the Latin word “occultus” and it carries the idea of things hidden, secret, and mysterious.1
Hoover lists three distinct characteristics of the occult;
1. The occult deals with things secret or hidden.
2. The occult deals with operations or events which seem to depend on human powers that go beyond the five senses.
3. The occult deals with the supernatural, the presence of angelic or demonic forces.2
Under the designation occult we would class at least the following items: witchcraft, magic, palm-reading, fortune-telling, ouija boards, tarot cards, satanism, spiritism, demons, and the use of crystal balls. This list we could add much more.3
The occult is a substitute faith that is found throughout the history of world religions. This includes the Hebrews themselves, as seen in their esoteric and occultic book, “The Kabala.”
Amano and Geisler state:
According to MacLaine, the occult is simply the methods by which one brings “hidden truth” to the conscious mind. She believes that this surfacing of hidden truth unleashes infinite potential. She says, “When you get in touch with your spiritual potential everything opens up-if that’s witchcraft, then I’m for it.” She claims, “We are all psychics, we just know it.”4
Man’s attraction and fascination with the occult comes from an intense “human hunger for power.” 5
The Encyclopedia of Magic and Superstition says that,
Magic has kept its long hold on the human mind because of the promise power, which it holds out, however delusively, to each one of us, the prospect of spiritual mastery in the shape of the all encompassing divine power which religion reserves of Almighty God alone.6
This modern New Age Cult is a revival of this ancient occultism. It has strong historical ties to Sumerian, Indian, Egyptian, Chaldean, Babylonian, and Persian religious practices.
English translations of Oriental Scriptures entered the American society early in the 1800’s and began to shape American culture. The wisdom of the East attracted influential people like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, leading lights of transcendentalism. They borrowed from the East what suited them and rejected what did not. They in turn powerfully influenced American society.
The 1800’s also witnessed the birth of two “alternative-reality traditions,” namely, “Spiritualism” and “New Thought.” We could date the birth of the former to March 31, 1848, when the Fox sisters heard rappings allegedly communicated by the spirit of a murdered peddler whose body lay somewhere beneath their house in Hydesville, New York. Spiritualism is the branch of occultism that seeks to confirm the reality of the unseen world and humanity’s immortality by communicating with departed spirits. That interest broadened to include psychic or paranormal phenomena, the ability to read minds, travel out of the body, bend spoons with thought, stomp over burning coals, and other such experiences.
The emergence and influence of Spiritualism led to the formation of organizations that conducted scientific investigations of the psychic and the paranormal. For the Spiritualists, these signs pointed to humanity’s innate capacities for re-creation, placing the possibility of fashioning the new man into humanity’s own hands. Emmanuel Swedenborg, the eighteenth-century Neoplatonist, supplied the Spiritualists with the framework for its theories.
The Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, was a leading figure in the rebirth of nineteenth-century occultism. He influenced both Spiritualism and New Thought. Mesmer, was the grandfather of hypnotism. He used trance-induction techniques in his practice. He suggested that healing could be effected in trance states because of a current of energy, which he called “animal magnetism,” that passed from the healer to the patient.
Phineas Quimby, the American psychic-healer, modified Mesmer’s explanation. He proposed that it was not “animal magnetism” that healed, but the powers of the mind. Mary Eddy Baker, the founder of Christian Science, supported Quimby’s views. This led to the formation of several mind-science organizations including: the Unity School of Christianity and the Church of Religious Science.
The New Thought Movement continues to be influential. We can trace much of the power-of-positive thinking movements to it. The priestess of prosperity, Terry Cole-Whittaker, comes directly from the New Thought tradition. New Thought’s emphasis on the mind’s power is based on the premise that all that exists is the mind of God, which is in the mind of men. New Thought tradition says: “I think, therefore, it is.” 7
From that affirmation, it naturally follows that mental orientation produces an individual’s circumstances. Poverty is a state of mind and prosperity only a “right thought” away. On that basis Terry Cole-Whittaker could state:
You can have exactly what you want, when you want it, all the time.8
Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), the founder of a branch of occultism that emerged in the nineteenth century, was an eccentric Russian noble-woman, who arrived in America at the height of the Spiritualist excitement. She was initially a Spiritualist supporter. She broke with the Movement and, with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. Blavatsky and Olcott moved to Adyar, India, where they studied all they could about Hinduism and Buddhism. That experience had a distinct influence on Blavatsky’s esoteric writings, which were a blend of Western occultism and Eastern mysticism. She passed on those seminal ideas to her followers.
Blavatsky was not only interested in communicating with the spirits of the departed but also with the spirits of the “ascended masters,” highly evolved beings who had moved up the spiritual hierarchical ladder and now supervened in human affairs, dispensing knowledge and power to the worthy. She was also keenly interested in spiritual evolution.
The Occults appropriated Darwin’s theory of “The Origin of the Species,” for their own purposes. Evolutionary theory was consistent with the notion of gradual progress that was implicit in the emanationist cosmology of occultists and mystics. If humanity had become human by passing through various stages, it seemed plausible that it was leading toward godhood. It was just as possible to believe evolution applied to a particular race as it was to believe it applied to an entire species.
Blavatsky divided human evolution into seven stages. She believed a new age was about to dawn. At such a time the “ascended masters” would reincarnate as world teachers, to help humanity up the evolutionary spiral. Annie Besant (1847-1933)
Blavatsky’s successor, took up that theme and provided the movement with a messiah. Besant, in collaboration with C. W. Leadbeater, founded the Order of the Star in 1911, a movement designed to promote the young Indian Jiddu Krishnamurti as the avatar of the dawning new order. However, in 1929, Krishnamurti repudiated his messianic status and rejected the movement. Martin states:
However, Krishna murti declined the honor of Mrs. Besant’s anointing due largely to the death of his brother and his subsequent disillusionment with the claims of Theosophy. And so the search and the anticipation continued.9
Blavasky’s vision illustrates two views. The first is that each age has its avatar, and Jesus of Nazareth was simply the avatar of His age. The second view shows that Western occultism and Oriental religions reject Christianity, but they often assimilate its terminology and its founder. However, they often give meanings to terminology that the Bible does not. Consequently they teach that Jesus was a guru who awakened mankind to the hidden wisdom and directed humanity to the god within.
In that same era, Nicolas Notovich began to teach that Jesus visited the East between the age of twelve and thirty. There He allegedly studied under some Oriental gurus and returned with the message of monism. Notovitch’s was only mythical. Even the eminent orientalist, F. Max Muller, denounced the work as pure fabrication (Goodspead 1956). This myth, however, is still very much in circulation.
The discipline of Psychoanalysis became known in the nineteenth century and became another avenue for chanelling the ancient wisdom. Its theories about the inner workings of the human psyche had been explored by the occults and mystics. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Jung (1875-1961) were acquainted with occult literature and were influenced by it. Freud’s was anti-religious. He secularized the ideas he adopted and gave them materialistic interpretations. However, he gave support to the occultic’s influence by his practice of hypnotism as a therapeutic instrument. Freud did not attribute inherent healing properties to trance states, but like a medium conjuring ghosts from the underworld, he used trance induction to ferret out haunting repressions from the subsconcious. Like the occultist, he assumed that ordinary states of mind were not the most reliable source of truth. In the main, Freud was successful in wresting borrowed concepts from the mystics’ grasp by attaching them to inviolable instincts-particularly sexual instincts.
Carl Jung was one of Freud’s disciples. He was beset by paranormal experiences all his life and was an avid advocate of the alternative-reality tradition. He attributed one of his seminal works, “The Seven Sermons of the Dead,” to automatic authorship-ghostwriting in the most literal sense. It was, in fact, that dictation that gave Jung the basic framework for his psychologizing.
There are several points of contact between Jung and the occult. Hoyt states,
His “collective unconsciousness” echoes the mystical conception of the cosmos as mind. His idea that both good and evil are intrinsic to the self, which unites them, reflects the mystical notion that duality is intrinsic to the cosmos which is ultimately one. Jung, like Freud, was also intent on giving his ideas a measure of scientific respectability. He was not, however, driven to provide everything with a materialistic explanation. As a result, Jung’s psychology, far more than Freud’s represents a “restatement of the ideas at the core of occult tradition in terms accessible to those ill at ease with religious language” (Webb 1976,387).10
Although Oriental traditions influenced Western Culture all along, it launched its major offensive in the 1960’s. Several earlier figures, however, led the way. Swami Vivekananda visited Western shores and left a favorable and lasting impression on the World Parliament of Religions held in 1893 at Chicago World’s Fair. Vivekananda remained in America and formed the Vedanta Society. The Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan, brought the teachings of his ancient lineage to the West. Paramahansa Yogananda came in 1920 to attend the International Congress of Religious Liberals. He went on to establish the Self-Realization Fellowship. The self-avowed avatar, Meher Baba, came to the United States in the early 1930s, and he declared,
Philosophers, atheists and others may affirm or refute the existence of God, but as long as they do not deny the existence of their own being they continue to testify to their belief in God-for I tell you, with divine authority, that God is Existence, eternal and infinite. He is EVERYTHING” (Baba 1976, 13).11
These are a few of the historical predecessors of the New Age Movement. They all contributed to the search for an alternative to the secularism of Western culture. The period, however, that gave birth to the New Age Movement supplied it with its most formative influences.
Zen Buddhism was the inspirational focus of the fifties and the final movement of major significance before the 1960’s. Zen had appealed strongly to the disenchanted Westerner. Like Buddhism in general, Zen was perceived to be a religion, but in a real sense it was not, in that it was not concerned with the deities. It was even agnostic towards them. It was therefore well suited for the secular psyche. Zen was in itself a critique of the busyness of Western culture and the vanity of life itself. It emphasized the futility of all desire and striving that will come to naught in the end. Zen taught, that we should eat when we are hungry, we should sleep when we are tired. The Zen spirit cut through the complexities of the contemporary world and recaptured the simple joy of living fully in the moment.
The despair of the counterculture of the sixties was just as acute. The “Hippie Generation” embraced a mystical vision that was already in place. Hoyt states,
The widespread use of consciousness-altering drugs, particularly LSD, was a major mode of initiation into the subculture, which became a mass movement. From the beginning, the psychedelic experience was tied to the enlightened consciousness of the mystics by its major propagandists, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Alpert eventually became disenchanted with the ephemeral effects of drug-induced enlightenment and set out on more traditional paths to permanent bliss. He went to India, came back a changed man with a changed name, and as Ram Dass, became one of the more engaging and effective popularizers of the mystical vision.12
Many journeyed to the Orient and the Orient journeyed to those who did not. Gurus from the East visited North America frequently in the 1960s and early 1970s. These gurus, with the help of the media, successfully presented the message of humanity’s godhood, and the techniques of meditation and Yoga, traditionally used for achieving it. Hoyt outlines,
One of the first gurus to arrive, and certainly the most influential, was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, of Transcendental Meditation fame, whose early disciples included some cultural heroes of major stature including the Beatles. Yogi Bhajan, the Sikh master of Kundalini Yoga, arrived in 1968 and quickly attracted a Western following marked by their white turbans and energetic industry. Swami Muktananda, the charismatic guru who transmitted his powers by the touch of a peacock feather, came in 1970. Shaktipat denotes the transfer of psychospiritual power from guru to initiate through a touch or a glance. Guru Maharaj Ji, the adolescent “Lord of the Universe,” arrived in 1971, announced the inauguration of the millennium in 1973, and quickly fell into oblivion.13
The Tibetan Buddhist influx to the West, which followed the Communist annexation of Tibet, was also significant in the counterculture drift Eastward. Tarthang Talku Rinpoche arrived in 1969 and established the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center in Berkeley, California.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche set down on American soil in 1970 and founded the Karma Dzong Meditation Center and Naropa Institute at Boulder, Colorado. The institute was a major forum for the syncretistic integration of his brand of Buddhism with the West. It regularly offered sessions featuring an impressive slate of guest faculty, from Allen Ginsberg to Norman Mailer.14
Continuing to describe the historical context of the New Age Movement, Hoyt skillfully points out,
In 1968 Carlos Castaneda published The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Thanks largely to his captivating stories, native-American shamanism joined the widening current of mystical magical religiosity and fanned interest in native-American rituals and rites. Castaneda’s tales offered an alternative within the alternative-reality traditions. The fantastical world of power animals, places of power, and spirit guides that Castanada described was, no doubt, very appealing to those who were already weary and a little bored with contemplating the mystical void. Castaneda’s universe was more interesting, simply because it was inhabited. But the principles that informed it were in essence the same as those of the Eastern schools.
Castaneda’s South American sorcery was only one of the traditions oriented to the earth. Neopaganism, which held a natural attraction to a generation longing to return to the purity and simplicity of mother nature, also began to emerge in the 1970s. By the decade’s end, it had blossomed into full-blown revival-the religion of choice for the ecologically minded and many spiritually inclined radical feminists.15
Humanistic and transpersonal psychology embodied the new spirit. These forms, however, were not always religious. Abraham Maslow, Fritz Perls, Carl Rogers, and Rollo May were key figures in the new field of Humanistic Psychology. They represented a new brand of psychologist who sought an alternative to the psychological norms of their times. They felt that Freudian psychoanalysis appeared to make humanity a victim of instinct and social conditioning. Skinnerian behavioralism made it a pawn in an environment of biological stimulus/response. These pioneers of humanistic psychology wanted to restore human dignity. They offered a psychology that glorified self. It declared people’s impulses to be essentially good, they affirmed the idea of unlimited human potential, and they taught that personal growth was an individual’s highest goal. The affinities between the new psychology and mysticism was closely observed by its founding fathers.
Maslow has listed the “transcendent” at the top of his hierarchical needs. For him, this dimension of humanity needed to be satisfied before self-actualization was complete. Maslow however, did not see that the other God of Biblical revelation could satisfy this human desire for the transcendent. This transcendent dimension was that dimension of an individual that intersected with the larger realties of the cosmos.
Maslow’s self-actualized man was a self satisfied man, a fulfilled man, who was full of himself. His belief that human consciousness linked humanity with the fundamental realities of the universe became the foundation of Transpersonal Psychology which was aligned with ancient wisdom. It attracted intellectuals who can now make erudite analyses of humanity’s higher dimensions.
Humanistic psychology which attempted to make personal growth the highest good, has had some negative effects. This discipline originally aimed at constructing a psychology of personal liberation but it ended up as a psychology of personal license and a rationale for a social self-absorption:
The trend in therapy toward a deification of the isolated self [shows] the ways in which selfishness and moral blindness now assert themselves…as enlightenment and psychic health….It is in many ways the logical extension of the whole human potential movement…The refusal to consider moral complexities, the denial of history and a larger community, the disappearance of the Other, the exaggerations of the will. The reduction of all experience to a set of platitudes (Marin 1975, 45 ff).16
Dr. D. James Kennedy has stated,
Secular Humanists are evolutionists. They teach that there is no mind, no spirit, no God. They are atheists; everything is based upon evolutionary chance.17
According to Kennedy, the position is well summed up by the famous evolutionist, Bertrand Russell, who said,
Man is the product of causes which had no provision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system….18
Bertrand Russell argued,
These truths were so firmly established by science that the only firm foundation upon which we can build out lives is unyielding despair.19
That pessimistic view of life is not easily accepted nor does it last long. The inevitable reaction came from both Christians and non-christians. Even those who might go as far as accepting or returning to ancient pagan religions, sought an alternative to this depressing concept. Douglas Groothuis has put it so well when he said,
. . . the modern West began to desacralize (to take away the sacred out of the world.) What was once the theatre of mystic splendour and spiritual participation was slowly transformed (by evolutionary science) into a cold mechanism of natural laws and regularities. The spirits were chased from the woods and only the trees remained. The sacred grove became the lumber yard as nature was view as mere stuff. . . 20
Man is not satisfied with this kind of “stuff” and so the unbelieving world responded with the New Age Movement that says that the dark and dim view of life is unacceptable. The New Age Movement is sometimes called “Cosmic Humanism.”
It is useful for us to compare and contrast both Movements.
First, while Secular Humanism is totally pessimistic and ends in “the entropic black hole of disillusionment,” the New Age Movement is totally optimistic. It teaches that we are entering the Age of Aquarius where we as gods, will dictate the future of the world.
Second, they are both monists. Whereas in the New Age Movement, monism is spirit, “all is one”, “all is spirit,” in Secular Humanism, (and evolution) monism is matter, “all is matter.” According to Kennedy, Carl Sagan has stated in “Cosmos,” his ten hour television series that there has never been, there is not, and there will never be anything in the universe but matter. There is no soul, no mind, no angel, no God, all is matter.
Third, Secular Humanists are atheists. They deny the existence of God. The New Ager says, “There is nothing but God.” Both are wrong.
This is only a very brief description of the background and environment in which the New Age Movement emerged. Its origin cannot be traced to any single one. It was fed by many tributaries. The New Age Movement owes much to preceding traditions whose teachings and practices it has combined and expressed in varied and creative ways.
The various areas of ancient wisdom that preceded the emergence of the New Age Movement appeared to have all merged into one. Each strand became almost indistinguishable from the other. All drew from one another. The New Age Movement is therefore a complex and confusing mixture. We should note that the New Age Movement has made its greatest gains through the professions which aim at reaching out to people, namely psychology and health care. These are areas that help the hurting and demonstrate care and compassion to the needy should be the greatest concerns of the Church.
Blavasky’s idea was revived by Alice A. Bailey, (1880-1949) an Englishwoman, who emigrated to the United States of America. She was one of the leading characters of the Theosophical Society. Bailey wrote more than twenty (20) books. These were allegedly influenced by a “spirit guide” who communicated with her telepathically. Elliot Miller states:
In Bailey’s “The Externalization of Hierarchy,” the same book in which the year 1975 is given significance in the Hierarchy’s plan, we are also told that “in 2025 the date in all probability will be set for the first stage of the externalization [bodily appearances] of the Hierarchy” (530). Later on we are told that after these first masters appear “if these steps prove successful, other and more important reappearances will be possible, beginning with the return of Christ” (559).21
She is widely regarded as its high priestess having laid the foundations of the New Age Movement. Bailey was a spiritist medium who received messages from the Tibetan Djwal Khul, a so- called “master of wisdom.” Her secret teachings are carefully and minutely followed in New Age circles. They are set forth in “The Plan.”
The New Age Movement did not go public until 1975, the stipulated time for it to disclose the fact and nature of “The Plan for the New World Order.” New Agers planned from this time onwards, to use the media extensively to spread their teachings. They planned also to adverstise their expectation of a New Age christ throughout the world.
With the Movement going public, several details emerged. They include the following:
The establishment of a world economic system the replacement of private ownership of credit, transport and staple production with ownership by a world directorate.