Judgment, the New Age and the Christian Difference

French Station of the Cross

I had a dream of infidelity this night.

Were I to bear the contents of this dream, the response of many I suppose would be: “So what? It was only a dream.”

In the dream, in fact, it was “only” a few moments of infidelity. I pulled back and perhaps began a somewhat partial and confused process of repentance, whilst still dreaming.

I imagine voices still more encouraging: “There, there: nothing to worry about, you see.”

But the dream disturbs and moreover, I feel it does not disturb enough. For I confess, I feel a blasé indifference somewhere inside myself, as well. I too, believe it was “just a dream”.

But the dream points to darkness in my heart and the blasé indifference points to the fact that my heart would rather remain asleep to its darkness.

Profound global consequences stem from such attitudes. As I have departed New Age pastures for the Church, I have oft had occasion to the hear in a new light, the attitudes of my New Age friends: “Do not be negative, judgmental and intolerant. Do not tell us of sin and evil.”

In my New Age past, I felt significant accord with such a litany. Now my impression is different.

For in hearing this litany now, I feel as though I am often hearing the cries of tiny children – the tiny children inside us all: “Please do not tell me I am bad! Please accept me, just the way I am – without any acknowledgment that I am in need of change! Please do not remind me who I am, with judgmental and intolerant words like sin and evil!”

To be fair, I would say that such defensiveness may be partly a reaction to a terrible, arrogant, self-righteousness of many Christians in the past. It has been called scapegoating:a smugness where one person intentionally shames and condemns another.

There has been a pretension – at least implicitly – to purity, while the other is scourged as sinner. This terrible pattern has occurred countless times over centuries – in the witchcraft trials for example.

And Our Lord of course, warned against this very pattern: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone (John viii 7).”

It is therefore understandable, if a reactive, self-protective pathos comes to the fore – a pathos crying “Do not judge me! Do not tell me I am bad! Do not tell me I sin!”

But what if we take a different tack altogether? What if I do not scapegoat you: pretend implicitly (or not) that I am white and that you are black?

What if I try to come off my high horse, abandon my smugness and say “Dear friend, you and I are both in the grip of darkness. Every moment, we face temptation – temptation to heedlessness, to greed, to pride, to a thousand other things – precisely because this darkness is constantly at work in our hearts, every instant of our lives.”

There is also fear. Personally I am prepared to confess on the internet a dream of infidelity, but I am not prepared to publicly confess all kinds of other darkness to which my heart is subject. And my actions, too.

And perhaps it is because I am anxious, afraid. I am in a word: weak. My heart is subject to not only dark lusts – but fear as well. Countless temptations seek to distort my actions every moment of my life.

Yes it seems to me that if I can begin to sincerely speak like this, I aspire to true Christianity, where there is no scapegoating. There is no scapegoating, because each of us is confessing not by rote, but with sincerity that which Priest and laity alike confess twice in the Tridentine Mass:

Quia peccavi nimis cogitatione verbo, et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

(That I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, deed: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.)

The Novus Ordo adds to this: “Through what I have done and what I have failed to do.”

Here we have the very opposite of so much New Age-ism! But if we try to say it sincerely – i.e. really mean it – we also have the very opposite of scapegoating. Here none of us have the right to cast stones, nor do we even want to, because we see with compassion that we are all broken, wounded, fallen. And we all need a DOCTOR …

Is this not the truly Christian alternative to “Do not throw stones at me, because I am fine – exactly the way I am?” Or: “I’m OK – You’re OK!”

No my New Age friends, I can no longer join you in a bright, optimistic world, where human nature is painted all-too-white. But by the Grace of God, may I be granted ever more to see the darkness of my heart and refuse to condemn you – not because you are innocent, but because I know, really know, that I am very far from innocent as well …

By the Grace of God, I pray this …

And in truth, it seems to me that my prayer is answered. And that this is what Christian Grace confers. This is a True Gift of the Eucharist: The growing ability to acknowledge one’s darkness, to know that it is serious and yet to also know and feel that we are loved by God.

In the Sacraments, we are being given vital medicine for our condition – once we are honest and contrite.

This I would like to repeat is what Christian Grace confers: The ever-increasing strength to bear the cross of our fallenness. And the New Age does not have the Sacraments. It does not readily have the means of turning in contrition and receiving Supernatural Grace.

It is not therefore entirely unsurprising that so much New Age Spirituality is characterised by self-protective denial. But with True Christianity, the New Age Child can start to abandon its Make-Believe World and gain the strength to Carry the Cross. At least, such describes my own journey from the New Age to the Sacraments of the Holy Church …

I suggested above profound global consequences stem from attitudes of blasé indifference to the Fall. New Age spirituality is partly what I have in mind. But there are other things as well, to which I hope to return …

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4 Comments

  1. Billy Bishop
    Posted 26 May 2010 at 05:20 | Permalink

    Roger – I had dreams like yours, too and they were very disturbing. I hesitate to say it, but I think I had them while I was having the experience of living through Trump XV. I don’t know if there will be something for in Letter XV of the MOTT but maybe it’s worth a look?

  2. Posted 27 May 2010 at 07:34 | Permalink

    Billy, thank you for not hesitating and revealing your experience in this clearly supportive way. I appreciate it and am reflecting on your words.

    For those who may not know, Billy is referring to Meditations on the Tarot where the Tarot cards are presented for Christian contemplation and never for divination.

    More specifically Billy refers to the card of the Devil – which alone is singled out for non-contemplation.

    “One ought not to occupy oneself with evil, other than in keeping a certain distance and a certain reserve, if one wishes to avoid the risk of paralysing the creative élan and a still greater risk – that of furnishing arms to the powers of evil [Emphasis mine]. One can grasp profoundly, i.e. intuitively, only that which one loves.

    Love is the vital element of profound knowledge, intuitive knowledge. Now, one cannot love evil. Evil is therefore unknowable in it essence. One can understand it only at a distance, as an observer of its phenomenology.”

    In context of my post above, there might be those suspicious that my regard for a book on the Tarot is akin to New Age. To this I will say that it is this profoundly Catholic book which saved me from the New Age mindtrap.

    And that even in the very short quote above, we can see the vast difference. New Age books do not take the problem of evil with this profound depth of moral seriousness …

  3. Posted 29 May 2010 at 17:36 | Permalink

    I find New Agers to be incredibly judgmental of those who don’t follow their group consensus reality. In particular, regarding “a smugness where one person intentionally shames and condemns another”, is their defining characteristic. New Agers resort to crude and defamatory language against critics of their positions, rather than reasoned arguments. Then there is their host of accusations — racist, anti-semite, homophobe, male chauvinist, and so on — that are vague and impossible to defend against. (Whatever is immoral in those accusations is adequately covered in traditional moral teachings.)

    The prayers from the two masses show how far the Novus Ordo has deviated from Tradition. The N.O. prayer leaves out sins of thought and word. In their place, it substitutes “what I have failed to do”. That is a sign of hubris … there is only so much a man can do, so what he fails to do is unbounded. How can that be a proper matter for confession?

  4. Posted 4 June 2010 at 08:25 | Permalink

    I am sad to say that I find a significant degree of truth in what you say here, Cologero.

    To my mind, these things must be recognised and in one sense judged, whilst at the same time, there is a need to recognise that such things exists always and everywhere in fallen human culture, stemming from the profound darkness of our own hearts. The current dumbing-down of all “culture” everywhere – not simply the New Age subculture – doesn’t help either.

    As to your second point concerning hubris. Well I certainly believe in “sins of omission” or what I called above “heedlessness” – i.e. when I wrote that:

    “What if I try to come off my high horse, abandon my smugness and say “Dear friend, you and I are both in the grip of darkness. Every moment, we face temptation – temptation to heedlessness” etc …

    But yes I do see how, if taken in a “global sense” that Novus Ordo prayer could also generate “hubris” as you say.

    So much danger everywhere. Hubris, smugness … the further I go, the more I see this terrible danger for all of us. I certainly see it very much in my own heart and feel I should pray to see it as much as I can bear to. (I am sure the full extent is more than I could bear).

    Only in this way I think can I be protected. Because as I say, I do find a significant degree of truth in what you write here, and then the challenge becomes: when we see this lack of “reasoned arguments”, this lack of tolerance in another collective (e,g, the New Age collective) how do we respond to it?

    For on the one hand, we need to be alert to the things that you see sharply here, VERY alert for something very tragic is going on.

    And yet for me at least, there is also a danger of this necessary alertness again turning into hubris, smugness, unless by the Grace of God, we can also confront it in our own hearts.

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