to the New Age Movement
by Clyde Snobelen
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
One Thousand Points of Light
We are living in exciting times. The world is undergoing fantastic change. A New Age is emerging -- a paradigm shift in reality and consciousness. The year 2000 is quickly approaching. A few years ago even George Bush went on international television and spoke passionately about 'one thousand points of light'.
Every thoughtful person on planet earth is deeply concerned with this transition. Apart from obvious concerns about the environment and the preservation of the natural order of earth there is deep anxiety over the course of personal human endeavor. What is happening in the mind of man? Why is there an apparent increase in what is defined as crime and man's inhumanity to man? Where are we going? But perhaps, more important; how will we get their?
An ancient battle is shaping up. The conflict of the ages. It has to do with the mind of man and the presence of true light. The following is an attempt at a brief overview of the problem.
The Ultimate Enlightenment?
Adherents to what is now know as "New Age" thinking pursue the idea that the solutions to earth's problems and the great transition are bound up in the heart of man. Ultimate enlightenment is achieved through the Higher Self'. This is perhaps best described as the supposed God-Self within. New Agers seek connection to this state through meditation. It is also called the Christ-Self and sometimes the Oversoul.
This concept is bound up with the idea of the god within. In pure fact it is connected with Human Potential. Most in the New Age Movement promote the idea that untapped mental and spiritual resources lie within every person and these can be utilized through various altered-state exercises. The most popular of these is TM (Transcendental Meditation).
This practice was introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960's. It consists of two 20-minute sessions of meditation a day during which a specially-given mantra is repeated. TM has contributed greatly to the interest in meditation in the West and in making the process accessible.
The above leads into a further step in the process of personal transformation called Transpersonal Psychology. The term simply means "beyond the personality", and, again, pertains to the Higher Self. The first force in psychiatry was classical psychoanalytical theory in the Freudian mould. The second force was behaviorism, the third humanistic psychology. Transpersonal psychology is now known as the fourth force, a psychological model appropriate to the New Age in that it concerns itself primarily with transcendent states, mystical and other peak experiences.
Many of these experiences' are created in the mind through visualization, a common practice of the New Age Movement. At its most basic, visualization is the ability to make pictures in the mind. It lies at the heart of almost all modern magical practice, as well as autogenic training, Silva Mind Control, pathworking, and various positive thinking practices.
The new paradigm or model of the New Age is Metaphysics'. This term simply means, beyond the physical'. Meditation is the basic activity that underlies all metaphysics and is the primary source of spiritual direction for the New Age person. Metaphysics has been described in the Dictionary of Mysticism as "a science dealing with intelligent forces or unknown powers."
Fundamental to the teaching of Metaphysics is the "law of rebirth" or what is more commonly know as reincarnation. This teaching divides all existence into two planes, the seen world, which is known as the physical plane, and the unseen world which has many planes. One of the most significant of these planes' is the astral plane where everyone goes after death to await their next incarnation or bodily state.
The earth or physical plane is seen as sort of school through which people pass on a continual process of being born, living, dying, then returning to the astral plane for re-assignment. This process is for their training, in order to learn the lessons that are necessary for final self-realization or arrival at the ultimate state of bliss, Nirvana. This cycle has to do with the "law of karma" where past failings are worked through to achieve the higher state.
Yin and Yang
So, there is also no good or evil. Both are part of the light; positive forces that shape the soul. In traditional Chinese thought there is yin and yang. They are two complementary principles on whose interaction the whole of the manifest universe depends. Yin is defined as dark, negative and passive; yang as light, positive and active. The yin/yang concept is by no means purely academic. It is an intensely practical aspect both in the divination system of the I Ching and the medical system of Chinese acupuncture. In the latter, diseases are often classified and treated in relation to the over -- or under -- abundance of yin or yang in a practical meridian.
New Age practice does not only deal with the mind, then, it also deals with the body. Through numerous practitioners various "healing" arts and "bodywork" are preformed.
Reiki is a Japanese form of laying on of hands involving an energy transfer which catalyses the universal life force to promote healing and well-being, reducing stress and alleviating the symptoms of serious illness. The list of options is almost limitless and includes Rebirthing, Reflexology, Iridology and Rolfing. Rolfing is a muscular realignment therapy developed by Ida Rolf to eliminate chronic back and neck pain by releasing muscles frozen by stress.
But a huge question remains to be answered. Will the mind, soul, body, personal transformation of New Age teaching really save mankind from the ultimate reality of death? Can mankind save itself though personal transformation? Will a new paradigm of peace and harmony emerge simply by thinking about it? Will good prevail over evil? And, is evil really evil?
Jesus Christ is accepted by both New Agers and Christians as being, at least, a great teacher. Herein lies the answer to ultimate truth. And, the key has to do with one vital question, "was the Christ resurrected or, rather, was he subject to karmic reincarnation?" These are both supernatural questions.
The Christ Consciousness
To New Age teaching, Jesus was a great Master. They speak freely of the "Christ-Consciousness". This state is one of the higher levels of consciousness and awareness and is usually reached through meditation. When one realizes the divine they become one with God' and thereby a "Christ" or an enlightened being. This is the claim of the New Age.
Did Christ, by shedding His blood (giving his life for the sins of mankind), redeem the world from death? Or did He just present another path' to divinity along with other great "Masters" including Buddha?
An article in the Victoria Times Colonist (Feb.22/96) had a revealing piece on this subject. In it, an Anglican Bishop pronounced that Christianity is not the only pathway to God'. In speaking to a Lenten forum he told those gathered that, "under the doctrine of pluralism, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and believers in the world's other major religions are following their own path to God." "There are different pathways -- there is only one summit, one peak but people take different tracks to get there," he went on to say.
Well is this true? John Bradshaw, a prominent New Age speaker, has published his view on the subject. "... Jesus calls us to creativity and our own unique I AMness." (Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, (New York: Bantam Pub., 1990), p. 274. The acclaimed Metaphysical teachers have all declared "I AM GOD! as the most basic of metaphysical spiritual understandings.
So the question remains and requires an answer. Who was Jesus Christ? Did He really die for the sins of mankind? Or even more basic, do people actually sin and therefore require some form of outside redemption?
Everyone has an opinion about Jesus Christ. Who do men think Jesus is? To the Jew, Jesus was an imposter -- falsely laying claim to the Messianic hope of the Jewish Old Testament scriptures. To the Hindu, Jesus was a great master', teacher, guru -- sort of like Gandhi. To the Moslem, a Jewish prophet of God, succeeded by Mohammed. To the New Age, an ascended "Master", teacher or holy man. To most Christians, a third part of the godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). To the skeptic, an over-rated first century teacher for whom there is little, if any, objective historical proof. To most everyone else, a prominent Bible personality whose birth was allegedly hailed by angles, and who brought the world some very useful moral teachings.
Well it turns out that the question of who Jesus is has been debated for thousands of years. For the most part, we are all content to discuss this question from a sort of arms length position much as did His immediate disciples. When asked by Jesus Himself who they thought He was they answered by telling Him who everyone else thought He was. "Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." (Mark 8:27-28 NIV)
The Hard Question
But this is not the answer to the most important question of all times. The question is, as re-asked by Jesus, "But what about you?" He asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." (Mark 8:29 NIV)
The real question is not general, it is personal and is a hard question. That is perhaps why all mankind including the very disciples of Jesus have done everything to avoid the question and the answer. We do not want to face the eternal truth.
Peter, the most likely disciple to respond first in any and every situation, said, "You are the Christ." The answer seems simple, but in fact it is very profound. What Peter said when he said, "The Christ", was that Jesus was the Messiah in the full Hebrew context. He was, according to Peter, the Savior and redeemer of not only the Jewish people but, according to promises made thousands of years before to Abraham, the Savior of all mankind. He would, therefore, re-establish the fallen kingdom of Israel through the line of David and, further, would rule over a worldwide kingdom from Jerusalem. This is what Peter's reply clearly implied.
The truth of the matter is, if everyone believes that Jesus Christ was a notable figure from the past, then the best understanding of Him would come from the very writings that claim to be His. This should make sense especially to the New Age Movement. So what did He really say?
In the exchange between Jesus and His disciples, there was clearly a serious misunderstanding that lies at the root of the age old question. Peter and the disciples thought that Jesus would immediately take political and military action to unite the Jews and overthrow the Roman occupying power, thereby setting up the universal kingdom of Israel according to the Biblical promises. This was the human understanding, even though there was abundant information to the contrary.
Jesus repeated to them the divine way. "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this ..." Mark 8:31-32 (NIV) The real legacy of Jesus' answer lies in the four words of His statement above: suffer', rejected', killed', rise'.
Peter, like the rest of the mankind had difficulty with these words and took Jesus aside to rebuke him. Jesus called Peter a Satan' and said, "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." The typical human response to Jesus and His teachings has always been to tell Jesus the way it should be. Peter was no different.
So, here are some facts that must be addressed. If Jesus, by His own words, had to suffer' there must be a reason; if He was rejected' it meant that His teaching came into direct conflict with normal human ideals; if He was to be killed' it meant that He could actually die, like the rest of mankind; if He would rise' it would be through the supernatural intervention of Almighty God and therefore His life would be a miracle. So, therefore, His teachings must be understood as the miracle of the things of God' -- as above.
The Cross Before the Crown
There is more. Jesus called the whole crowd to Him, along with His questioning disciples, and said: "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:34-35 NIV) The eternal truth, stated by Jesus himself, is that the path to redemption is along the road to self denial, not self fulfillment. Mankind will therefore not be saved through human action or the development of human potential but through the denial of self and the acceptance of the way of the miraculous teacher which was and is the way of the cross.
So what is wrong with mankind? Well the problem is in the heart as stated throughout the Bible and delineated perhaps best by the great prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah 17:9 states. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Now this may not appeal to most, but it is certainly consistent with our knowledge of human response. It sure explains a lot of things. The problem is the heart of man. This is exactly what Jesus himself declares, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." Matthew 15:19 (NIV) It is a problem that is basic to all mankind. There is no cure. So redemption is the only answer -- plain and simple.
The popular New Age teaching that man is basically good and that from a child what is needed is for parents and society to, as it were, get out of the way and let the god within develop -- just will not work. This is further illustrated by a well know proverb. "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15 (NIV) You will never hear of a parent having to sit down and teach a child how to be bad. For the most part, children already know. Parents have to teach children how to be good and how to function according to basic societal laws. It does not come naturally.
So mankind needs not only redemption but also enlightenment. We all need the light. Jesus is the light. The ancient prophets of Israel proclaimed His coming. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2 NIV) "... he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be My servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6 NIV) But mankind has rejected the true light. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19 NIV)
Jesus is also the way, the truth and the life according to His own words. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV) So, contrary to what the Anglican Bishops might say, there is only one path to God and one choice for salvation. It is through Jesus Christ according to the plan of Almighty God. Contrary to what John Bradshaw might say, we are not the I Am. We are only in so far as we allow Jesus to come into our lives to direct according to His way. His way, as witnessed by His own death is the way of sacrifice and denial of the self and an acceptance of His guidance and enabling in our lives. There is no future in the heart or the solutions of man. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NIV)
New Age human potential teaching is proving to be a failure. It has failed to address the basic reality of the human heart. It creates a false sense of feeling good, removing the need for personal responsibility while society crumbles around us. And society is -- everyone knows it. We have higher rates of teenage pregnancy, teen crime and teen suicide than ever before. We have an incredibly large percentage of our population that has come from or lives in a home without a father or any particular rules for living. We have a generation of people who only see life in terms of me first' with little concern with the old workable rule of putting our neighbor first. Our world is no longer a caring world.
We all need salvation or we will perish for eternity. The appeal is that we turn to the real Biblical Jesus. Read and take to heart His own words, not the words of others. His words are spirit and they are life.