Last time I gave material from my upcoming book, which spoke of my experience of Findhorn, the New Age and a general disdain therein for “limiting” the representation of the Transcendent to personal terms like God or Jesus. And I indicated the Sanctuaries at Findhorn, where people could sit in silence and meditate, while “free” from”divisive” religious imagery. And I spoke of how these Sanctuaries were hardly attended at all by the actual members of the Findhorn Community …
And yet when I left Findhorn, I sought to create another such Sanctuary outside the community. Continued material from my book manuscript:
“A few years later, I joined with others in establishing a New Age centre in Cambridge, England. Our purpose was to create a public outpost there for Findhorn-style spirituality, where it could be extended to the best young minds and future leaders, rising through this world centre of academic brilliance.
Not surprisingly, our centre would have a Sanctuary: a bare and neutral room with circles of chairs. And just like at Findhorn, it was not particularly used by many folk. Now for this Sanctuary, there was an inscription on the door, which I myself wrote and placed there:
“This sanctuary is dedicated to the idea that there are no words or forms that can express the ultimately REAL, without also limiting it, and that no religion or belief may be said to be the TRUTH but only a refraction among many such refractions that serve to guide the way.
This room is therefore dedicated to silence and simplicity that every seeker may feel welcomed here to find within the SACRED REALITY for which no words suffice, but from which healing, inspiration and renewal FLOW.”
Here from my own pen is perhaps a small, encapsulated “gem” of New Age ideology – with all the requisite vague and imprecise terminology! Years later, a New Age friend of mine asked me, if I still agreed with the words I had erected on that door. My response to her was “Yes and No”.
Yes, of course, I explained, God is infinite and ultimately beyond any attempt to perfectly capture in words. But no, if we are to take my inscription for that which it tacitly advocated: a new religious approach, where one despairs of representing the Holy and which draws the conclusion that although there may be refractions which “serve to guide the way”, such refractions can have little outstanding claim to truth or importance, beyond any other such refractions.
Here is relativism in a somewhat muted form, dear Reader: Christianity itself is just one more limited refraction. You may as well choose another refraction or do away with it altogether, if you like. Nothing will be lost if you do. This is the message I erected on that door in Cambridge. Mea Culpa.
And here too is iconoclasm in a somewhat muted form. Away with all the icons, statues, stained glass windows, away with the Pieta of Michelangelo and away with all the crucifixes! Away with theology, philosophy, scripture and a myriad of attempts to “limit” God in words! We no longer need these things which serve to bring disunity. This is the cause I was also serving in Cambridge. Mea Maxima Culpa. Even if I was twenty-eight years old and like many a New Ager not really conscious of what I did.
Now to say baldly “Away with all the icons!” is to speak in terms more extreme than most New Agers would favour. For many sincerely affirm and believe in their acceptance and tolerance of such things. But after years of experience, I am concerned that the underlying reality is somewhat different.
For I see that there is frequently indeed a marked intolerance, not only of (particularly Western) icons and religious imagery, but theology in general – that is to say of countless attempts to represent God in particular and personal ways.
Now to represent God in a particular and personal way belongs to the very essence of Christianity! God became human to represent Himself to us in the most particular and personal way He could!
And speaking from years of experience, I may guarantee you, dear Reader, that my use of that last capitalised pronoun – “He” – is enough to raise the ire – if only unconsciously – of many a “tolerant and all-embracing” New Ager.
If only unconsciously, this “tolerant and all-embracing” New Ager is actually rejecting vast, vast tracts of Tradition – particularly Christian but also of course Judaic, Islamic and more.
But the unconsciousness needs to be stressed, for, whether it is in Findhorn, Cambridge, California or any other number of locales, I am invoking sincere idealists who genuinely believe they are pioneering a new, open culture and spirituality, free of the traps of materialistic society and “old age” religion.
Such sincere idealism is not without attraction. Now many Catholics who know the deep joy of the Church might question why I say this. For them, like myself today, the idea of life without the riches of the Church will seem unpalatable indeed – nay unbearable.
Not for us, a life where one would never turn oneself, nor ever hear another soul turn in worship or reverence to our Lord and to our Lady – such a life would seem like death itself.
Not for us, a world wherein one rarely hears of God, but instead of fuzzy, impersonal terms like “Spirit”, “the Universe” or the “Source”. Or a world where one never sees the beauty of a church or most importantly of all, feels the interior power of the Sacraments …
If you are such a Catholic yourself, dear Reader, I say this, that you may know how much I empathise with your feeling! Even if I were compelled by some circumstance bizarre to return a spell to Findhorn, how empty and sterile would I now find this New Age world of non-definition and rejection of Tradition. Having tasted the beauty and mystery of the Church, how unappetising would I find all this!
But it is clearly not unappetising for New Agers. And it must be stressed these Mysteries of the Church have rarely indeed been consciously tasted by New Agers! These Mysteries of the Church are as a rule completely invisible to them. May I venture here again the notion that much of the mysterious power of the New Age, may lie in the fact that few of its adherents have consciously encountered the Mysterious Power of the Church?
Yes so many of my New Age fellow-travellers were, like myself, of Protestant heritage, who knew nothing, nothing at all of the Sacramental Church. And like my own, their concept of Christianity was not of Sacred Mystery, but like a caricature of Calvin´s. Coming from such impoverishment, New Age Spirituality can appear attractive indeed!”