Monday, November 9, 2009

Struggling with a "New Age" Mentality?


The “New Age” mentality which has permeated our current society speaks of spirituality instead of religion. Many people now say, "I am not religious but spiritual;* I don’t pray, I meditate; I don’t rely on faith, but I listen to my inner experience." This view of religion is a shift in consciousness and a move away from the biblical Christian tradition.

Today, many people who have rejected the Traditional Christian religion say the “divine (avoiding the word God) is not up in the sky but is here in my heart, my conscience, my energy, in silence, a gentle warm light, bringing peace and love that permeates all."  What they are rejecting is a common childhood notion of God who is distant, which is not the nature of the God they say they are rejecting.  They are rejecting in immature view of the Christian God. But what are they embracing?

Inherent in this shift from being "religious" to being "spiritual." is the influence of Hindu ideas that came into out culture in the late 1800's. In Hinduism it is Atman (the self) which equals the Brahman (the divine). Each person is a god. One seeks the cosmic unity in which one is identified with the absolute through some from of meditation. The individual self is dissolved into a cosmic consciousness.

Some of what they say is similar to the mystical theology of the Orthodox Christian faith. Orthodox Christians do not think of God as some supreme being or an individual sitting on clouds in the sky. No, they believe in a God who resides in the heart and speaks though our conscience. Spirit is one's life energy and when one is in touch with God they experience peace and infinite love. Here is where the two views begin to differ. Orthodox Christians are to develop a intimate personal relationship with God. The Christian God is a triune God; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one in unity; the resurrected Christ, the incarnate image of the Father; and the Spirit that permeates and animates the cosmos. All was created by God the Word (Christ) and all is called to divination, to become the Body of the Word. All humans are made in the image of God, whose perfection was seen in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God who took on flesh. Through Him the human person is lifted up, with full personhood, and brought into union with God. The individual does not disappear into some absolute consciousness.

The “New Age” thinking is quite different because it reduces man, eliminating his irreducible personal reality, allowing him to dissolve into a Cosmic consciousness. Why? Because they see truth residing in some kind of impersonal reality, some undefinable cosmic consciousness that subsumes all that is personal.  They do not accept the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and His teachings about resurrection. There fore they speak of a spirituality, a god unknown, an impersonal god.

In truth, God became man through the incarnation of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. This is a demonstrable historical fact. This mind defying event took place to reunite man in his personhood with God. Through Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection mankind was transformed, and the Holy Spirit was awakened in His heart. Man and all of creation are united with God without separation or confusion. This is experienced in the Eucharist where by the Holy Spirit, water, wine and bread are transformed into the body and blood of the incarnate God. The work of Christians is to nurture the Holy Spirit working throughout their whole being, permitting the contemplation of God in all things, and a way of living that exemplifies virtue and love for all. Christian mystical theology assumes the hopes of the ‘New Age” believers about love and peace, but integrates the mystical nature of God with the irreducible nature of the person. Man is never lost in some impersonal realization of the Cosmic energies, but is saved through his union with God, his resurrection, and through his salvation saves the cosmos.

It is in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that humanity is rescued from the abyss of nothingness, from being dissolved and assumed in a cosmic consciousness. Our aim is not to disappear into an abyss of nothingness. It is to be resurrected, immortal, incorrupt, and spiritual,living in union with God in Paradise.
The Nicene Creed created by the first and second Ecumenical Council of the Church in the 4th century affirms in its final clause: ‘We await the resurrection of the dead.’ Body and soul, that is to say, are separated at the moment of our physical death, but this separation is only temporary. We look forward, beyond physical death, to the Last Day when the two will once more be reunited. As Christians we believe, not simply in the immortality of the soul, but in the ultimate survival of the entire person, soul and body together.     Bishop Kallistos Ware of Diokleia

* A USA Today/Gallup Poll in 2002-JAN indicated that 33% of Americans consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” 

5 comments:

  1. "
    The “New Age” thinking is quite different because it reduces man, eliminating his irreducible personal reality, allowing him to dissolve into a Cosmic consciousness. Why? Because they see truth residing in some kind of impersonal reality, some undefinable cosmic consciousness that subsumes all that is personal. They do not accept the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and His teachings about resurrection. There fore they speak of a spirituality, a god unknown, an impersonal god."


    I spent close to ten years in Buddhism and I thank God every day that He brought me out of the abyss and into the light. Hinduism still sort of has the idea of a a God wheras the Buddha rejects everything, including God, life, death, happiness, peace and anything else you can think of. It was a soul crushing despair and emptiness I felt when i tried to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha.

    At any rate this post is timely and I hope many read it and listen to what you have to say. After ten years I realized Buddhism, while noble in some ways, was unable to save me from darkness; for that I needed Jesus Christ.

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  2. Thanks for your comments Justin. You bring out an important point, one similar to my own experience. You can be led to darkness or the uncreated light in personal union with God.

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  4. Perhaps its just me...but it often seems that many times Christians will dismiss anything in regards to asetic practice and contemplative thought as if it is somehow a matter of simply being "New Age"---and in the process, they actually give many of those in New Age much ground

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