Catholics and the New Age
by Susan Beckworth
As a traditional Catholic, an important question I have often asked myself is why do some Catholics turn away from their faith and turn to New Age spirituality? I have concluded that the answer can be found in one word-- PRIDE. The pride comes from the desire to be like God; the same temptation that took place with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The temptation that says: “You are equal to God. You are the Creator.” These are some of the promises of the New Age Movement.
So what has the Church done to respond to this temptation? In 2003 the Vatican released a major document entitled: “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life.(JCBWL)” I would recommend that not only Catholic Christians read this worthwhile document, but all Christians because new age philosophies have migrated in all cultures and in all walks of life. In presenting this lengthy, 88-page document, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said, “the New Age phenomenon is one of the most urgent challenges for the Christian faith.”
The Vatican report takes its title from the encounter between the Savior and St. Photini, the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John4). Jesus Christ urges her to seek Him: The Way, the Truth and the Life. The Lord Jesus - not the zodiac’s water bearer (Aquarius) - Is the One Who bestows “Living Water.” Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, aims to explain how the new age differs from Christian faith.
The document specifically identifies the following as new age: Zen, Buddhism, Yoga, Enneagram, Wicca, the Higher Self, the True Self, ALC’s (altered level of consciousness), the “god” within and TM (transcendental Meditation), but yet I am shocked that if you pick up almost any diocesan newspaper, you are likely to see many of these un-Christian practices advertised.
Yoga has become one of the major practices introduced to Catholics by way of retreat centers. The document warns that according to New Agers, yoga exercises lead to an altered level of consciousness (ALC) and are believed to lead to enlightenment (JCBWL 2.1, 2.3, 2.4)
I am amazed these days at those who ridiculously suggest that one can perform yoga exercises without being affected. This misses the mark, because the physical benefits are secondary to the practice of a false Hindu religion and a false God. Could one then say a Protestant could receive the Eucharist, not as a religious experience, or that the Eucharist is not really the Body and Blood of Jesus, simply because one does not believe?
The Centering Prayer Movement has become popular through Retreat centers, RCIA programs and even some Seminaries. The Vatican document has linked centering prayer as New Age. It states Christian prayer is not an exercise in self contemplation, stillness and self emptying, but a dialogue of love, one which implies a flight from self to God. A Christian’s method of getting closer to God is not based on any technique (JCBWL 2.2.3, 3.4). Also found in retreat centers is the worship of Mother Earth and nature called “Wicca”. The document warns against this popular technique found among many feminist enclaves (JCBWL 7.2). Some retreat centers offer Thomas Merton workshops. The Bearer names Thomas Merton and Carl Jung as writers who had the most influence on New Agers. (JCBWL 9.2-notes)
Some New Age practices are also introduced through some parish programs which might direct one to a Labyrinth to pray to the “goddess within,” or to an Enneagram workshop which Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life identifies as stemming from Gnosticism (JCBWL1.4).
Some may argue that the use of a labyrinth is a good thing because it has been around for centuries. While it’s true that the labyrinth dates back to earlier years, I have never found any indication it was ever used for anything other than a decorative object. Today, the labyrinth is always used as a New Age tool. People who use it are not interested in salvation through Jesus Christ, but rather to continue living on earth through reincarnation. Reincarnation, as stated in the document, is New Age. (JCBWL 7.2)
Another topic discussed in the document is Holistic Medicine. (JCBWL 2.5) The document states for New Agers, the source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy. One such technique used in holistic medicine is “therapeutic touch” also known as Reiki healing. Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life identifies these alternative practices as New Age. (JCBWL 2.2.3)
It interests me that in many Catholic hospitals these days, it’s hard to find a Catholic chapel. But do you know what you can find? People practicing alternative healings which are all demonic. Reiki Masters wave their hands over you and perform a kind of weird healing by calling on your energy fields or “chakras”. You can see why God would forbid this, yet many Catholics are flocking to these techniques at alarming rates.
There is no such thing as a Christian “Reiki Master” or Christian “Yoga Master,” yet many try to present these practices as being from God by wearing a cross. God condemns divination and activities like Reiki (Duet.18:10-13), and giving God credit for something he is not doing is rationalizing or excusing oneself for rebellion against God. I believe Satan simply takes the spiritual principles that God has created and twists and corrupts them for his own purposes. Satan then seduces people into thinking his counterfeit gifts are “Godly”.
The document concludes by suggesting of a number of practical steps.” We must follow the Scriptures,” the report says, ”but ‘most of all’, coming to meet the Lord Jesus in prayer, and in the Sacraments is the surest way of making sense of the whole message.”(JCBWL 6.2)
An invitation to meet Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, will carry more weight If it is made by someone who clearly has been profoundly affected by his/her own encounter with Jesus, not because it is made by someone who has merely heard about him, rather by someone who is sure “that he really is the Savior of the World". It is a matter of letting people react in their own way, at their own pace, and letting God do the rest.
Susan Beckworth writes at The Defender website.