Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why “New Age” Practices are Dangerous




New Age and self-help ideas and practices stem in part from the arrival of leaders of various Hindu sects beginning in the early 1900s (50 years later came Buddhism).  The Hindu methods that were taught to Americans all have an underlying assumption of a spirituality that is foreign to Traditional Christian beliefs and can be misleading to Christians and misapplied. Their view does not recognize the fundamental belief in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, of God becoming man, His subsequent Crucifixion and Resurrection where He showed victory over death and thereby liberated all mankind, and our immortal irreducible personhood though our own resurrection and union with God in Paradise.

Why is this important? A USA Today/Gallup Poll in 2002-JAN indicated that 33% of Americans consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” This means they are creating their own personal spirituality. When you define for yourself what is spiritual, you lose true humility and are engaging in a process of defining your own god. This weakens belief and reduces God to something that is relative to your own perspective.  It becomes easy to change your beliefs based on the last seminar you attended or the last book you read, leading to a very weak or even no firm belief system to support your spiritual growth or to provide needed comfort in times of suffering.  Hieromonk Damascene says this leads to the following for such a person:
He has religious interests in several area, but he basically believes that all is relative: i.e., “My ideas work for me, your ideas work for you.” He believes in everything at once, but in nothing very deeply, and in nothing that will demand a sacrifice from him. He has nothing worth dying for…. His spiritual interest is intimately connected to his quest for ego gratification, and thus stands poised to receive anything from anywhere that will provide this gratification. He is as clay in the hands of the spirit of antichrist, which , as the Apostle teaches, is already in the world (1John 4:3). He is a candidate––or rather a target–– for the “religion of the future” about which Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote.
The resulting New Age thinking that counts among it leaders Deepak Chopra, Bernie Seagal, Marianne Williamson, Barbara DeAngelis, LaVar Burton, Richard Carlson, Betty Eadie, Eckhart Tolle and most other self-help self-proclaimed gurus of the wholistic health and feel good programs now proclimed weekly on TV and in our bookstores and online web sites, is now a large social and money making  phenomenon. Remember the fate of the followers of Reverend Jim Jones and the recent deaths in the sweat lodge in Arizona? Your adventures may not be this extreme, but beware, many of these approaches rely on well known occult methods and practices that can lead to quick relief and a temporary sense of well being, but do not lead you to a true relationship with God, the only permanent solution to your angst. In this sense these "new" methods can be deceptive and therefore dangerous. Even though they may not identify the underlying religious beliefs and assumptions, they can replace legitimate spiritual disciplines and practices with false psychological based methods. They may lead you to think you have found God and His healing power when you have not. Your suffering and stress may be intended to bring you closer to god, but by finding a temporary relief you miss this opportunity. Further, they can build up your ego-self and make you feel less dependent on any higher power than yourself, leading to vain glory and pride which separate you from God. They tend to lead a Christian away from the humility that is needed for salvation and a true relationship with God.

In short, these new self help methods lead many Christians to adopt a "new Christianity," one that is watered down, quite different from what was taught by Jesus and the Apostles, one that no longer has the saving power of the early Church and in fact includes ideas that are counter to Christian beliefs and traditions. The effect is your practice of Christianity may become powerless as you learn to place your trust in psychic and occult methods that differ from traditional Christian ascetic practices. Many have given up proven traditional Christian practices and with it their striving for a true relationship with God.

Kevin Allen, an Orthodox Christian who previously was a Hindu practicioner, says the following:
Clement of Alexandria, two thousand years ago wrote that pre-Christian philosophers were often inspired by God, but he cautioned one to be careful what one took from them!
So we acknowledge the eastern seeker through his ascesis or contemplative methodologies may experience deep levels of created beauty, or created being (through self-contemplation), para-normal dimensions, or even the "quantum field" that modern physics has revealed! However, it is only in the Eastern Orthodox Church and through its deifying mysteries that the seeker will be introduced to the province of Uncreated Divine Life. It is only in the Orthodox Church that the eastern seeker will hear there is more to "salvation" than simply forgiveness of sins and justification before God. He will be led to participate in the Uncreated Energies of God, so that they "may be partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). As a member of the Body of Christ he will join in the deifying process, and be increasingly transformed after the Likeness! Thankfully, deification is available to all who enter the Holy Orthodox Church, are baptized (which begins the deifying process) and partake of the holy mysteries. Deification is not just for monks, ascetics and the spiritual athletes on Mount Athos!
The reliance on self-help techniques is ever increasing along with the application of unauthorized and prescription drugs.  We need to ask, “Have we Orthodox become secular and prone to self-help techniques for our spiritual ailments? Do we give secondary importance to the teachings of our Orthodox Christian faith?”

One can have confidence in the 2000 year old Tradition of the Couch based on God's revelation to mankind.  It is not the easy way, but is the way necessary to gain our salvation.  Let's not let these new self-centered techniques distract us and water down our Orthodox world view.

5 comments:

  1. Wow; this is a very well informed and timely post on the dangers of what has sometimes been termed "spiritual materialism." I just saw a movie called "Whatever Works" that sort of captured the essence of this aimless nihilism/relativism that passes for wisdom in this age of ours. It was tough to watch because it (in typical hollywood fashion) portrayed Christians as superstitious idiots and exalted homosexuals, atheists and relatvists as the real wise men of the age.

    I noticed that there are even books these days that try to discredit traditional Christianity by bringing the gnostic heresy back to life and claiming Jesus really taught reincarnation! I'm thinking of Ellaine Pagels here.

    Since I spent many years in the Buddhist world I can say that I've seen all types and heard everything. Many of these people in our culture are good people but they are misguided and deluded in believing that their own criteria for a spiritual/moral life are the only acceptable model. It's hard to believe that these days Deepak Chopra is considered to be an authority on everything from mental health to poltics and gets more press and accolades than any true and humble practicing Christian.

    It's heartening to see that folks like yourself are refusing to succumb to the age and are instead offering up a tried and true alternative. All is not lost.

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  2. Would love to hear someone's comment on Deborah King's 21st Century Energy Healing workshops & books. I admit to taking the 48 week course. Thank God that I had been shown 3 red flags during this course that made me stop & think & ask questions that were not being answered. Then while reading the bible, I heard to ask her about the Holy Spirit. Did not recieve an answer from her. Therefore shared with her that what she was teaching was against my beliefs. I feel sorry for all the people that do not have a clue walking,following blindly behind her. Is there anything more I could have said or done.

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  3. Maybe you should do the actual Christ-like thing to do, live and let live. If somebody is practicing something against your beliefs that doesn't harm anybody, than maybe you should keep your opinions, which seem border-line offensive, to yourself. :D

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    1. For the benefit of those reading this and disturbed by it: that is not the actual Christ-like thing to do. Christ's love is also corrective. New Age is harming many souls with falsehood.

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