As mentioned, I am preparing a book Cor Jesu Sacratissimum for publication. A provisional subtitle for this volume is: From Materialism and the New Age to the Catholic Mystery.
As the subtitle suggests, my book attempts a certain meditation on three worlds of my experience. First, there is the arid, secular, materialist and hyper-capitalist culture that increasingly threatens to scorch us alive. Second is the New Age subculture, to which many dying in this burning desert of materialism, turn to in reaction. And lastly, of course, there is the beating heart of the Catholic Mystery, often buried and invisible under countless misperceptions of modern society.
It might be mentioned that I was once very deeply committed to the New Age, including during a time as a member of the Findhorn Community in Scotland – perhaps the leading New Age centre in the world.
I thought today I would present an extract of the book, as I continue revising it.
I hope that through the course of this book some may gain insight into this phenomenon of New Age phenomenon that increasingly dominates the lives of the spiritually hungry in the West. Yes I hope to provide insight and perhaps stimulus for further research. But the scope of this book does not include a comprehensive exegesis of the New Age phenomenon.
Still, I point. I point in certain directions, which I think are fruitful for understanding the hidden unity of the New Age movement. For example, having stepped beyond the New Age cafeteria, it now appears to me as a movement of people, which has its main focus in the countries of Protestant heritage.
While I lived at Findhorn, for example, much was made of how cosmopolitan Findhorn was, bringing together a number of nationalities. These included those who actually lived in the community, as well as the thousands who poured through yearly as visitors.
Now, people from different countries certainly came to Findhorn. From Europe, came mainly British and Germans, as well as folk from some smaller northern European states. Thus, I recall meeting a surprising number of Dutch. There were also people from the New World lands largely settled from these countries. Thus there were Americans, Anglo-Canadians and Australians. All this was seen as very international.
What was less observed was how very few French, Italians, Spanish, Irish came and scarcely any Hispanics or others from the New World settled by Catholic peoples. No by and large, the international New Age culture that I have experienced at Findhorn and elsewhere does not stem from a Catholic heritage.
And if we can observe that the centre of the international New Age movement is bound to countries of Protestant heritage, we can go still further, I think. Its epicentre is the Anglophone world, and perhaps England most of all. And in their rejection of Protestant heritage and materialism, this group of people have turned to a stream of literature which it seems to me is far less universal and far more bound in time and culture than is commonly admitted.
The stream of literature I have in mind is one that stems to one degree or another from late nineteenth century Theosophy. Now this is not to say that this Theosophy is the only root of the New Age culture. As I will come to, other streams feed in as well, for example Freudian and Jungian psychotherapy which also arose from the same era. But here is my conviction, dear Reader, the deeper you will dig, the more you will find Anglophone Theosophy at the root of so much New Age thought.
Anglophone Theosophy … Here I have in mind a current of writings initiated by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and often known as simply H.P.B..
Blavatsky was a Russian, but a Russian who ventured far beyond her land to write her works in English, most notably The Secret Doctrine published in 1888. And these are writings with an avowedly anti-Christian and anti-Church tone, as well as writings which then gave impetus to a number of other English authors, who carried her Theosophical legacy into the twentieth century, Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater and most significantly I believe, Alice A Bailey.
Taken as a whole, these Theosophical teachings served to introduce a vast panoply of esoteric ideas into Western culture. Publicly in the West, groups of people began to speak and write of concepts which had scarcely appeared in the West before.
Yes prior to Blavatsky, few indeed had ever heard at all of notions such as an astral plane, the human aura, chakras, “channeling” disincarnate entities and many other things that now continue to be perpetuated in the New Age movement. But for the moment, I am not so concerned with these propositions about an esoteric nature of reality, as I am with certain very basic ramifications in Theosophy of social and even political consequence.
What do I mean? Let me respond with a concrete example. At the heart of the New Age movement, I have been suggesting there is the tenet of one single spiritual path, with the different religions as limited expressions thereof. Accompanying this doctrine, if not central dogma, is the idea that transcending “limited” religion represents an evolutionary development.
Humanity is now meant to evolve beyond religion, with its so-called divisive concepts, sectarianism and dogma. Religion-less spirituality – or at least a spirituality where religion is greatly reduced in significance – is frequently seen as destined to be the paradigm for a New Age.
All of this finds its antecedents in the Theosophical stream. Within that stream in fact, it is linked to the zodiac sign of Aquarius. In this idea of the Aquarian paradigm, qualities are attributed to the previous paradigm of Pisces, including many Christian notions of sin, devotion and so forth, which are no longer seen as appropriate as they perhaps were, in the ‘previous age of Pisces’.
The consequences are many. They entail a certain shift from the notion of Grace – and certainly Grace as mediated by the hierarchy of the Church! – to a doctrine more oriented toward “working on oneself.” Yes I believe we have an implicit Pelagian doctrine in this movement which claims so frequently to have transcended doctrine!
Though frequently denied, tenets such as these carry real implications. For how frequently I have seen this “holistic” idea it is used to ridicule, marginalise and exclude Christianity as something “Old Age”, hopelessly outmoded and irrelevant to a dogmatically asserted “spirit of the times”!
How often since I turned to the Grace of the Church have those of a New Age persuasion expressed to me the idea of my retrograde movement “back to religion”! Yes, yes, an Irish woman once assured me, I can see why someone would turn back to the safety and comfort of the Church.
And far more charitably, a friend of mine from Findhorn once tried to affirm me: “It’s so good you want to do something to heal the Church.” To heal this poor, backward, limping Church! I turned to him and said: “It is not I who am healing the Church! It is the Church which is healing me!”
I suspect that my response was surprising indeed to him. For so ingrained is the idea that the Church belongs to an old age now superseded, though perhaps we New Agers who know better might here and there condescend to lend a helping hand in our self-evident superiority … And what of the idea that the Divine Grace mediated by the Catholic Church could be of a nature of the greatest imaginable healing? One can live comfortably for decades in New Age milieux, without such a novel idea even beginning to surface in one’s consciousness …
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