As has been explained previously, this is a very personal series, which is drawn from a letter originally written in 2005 for old New Age friends of mine.
As I touch on below, my writing and thinking today differs considerably from six years ago, which was significantly less traditional. Still with amendments I hope these thoughts on Catholic-New Age dialogue may still be of use.
These days I feel very different from my New Age past. As I said, a key to this was geographical upheaval. Why? The short answer is that moving abroad for me felt like stepping outside a bubble. A bubble of the “holistic” culture that it seems to me is extremely strong in Britain – which I sometimes think of as the world capital of “Holism”.
This culture is nowhere near as strong in Switzerland or Ireland, though – and my experience of these very different countries, has allowed me to look at it as a bubble – and from a distance. In the British holistic scene, I had met people such as William and many of you who may be reading this, whom I profoundly respect.
But outside this culture I met people of very different views, that I also profoundly respected – who penetratingly questioned the English “holistic” culture. These questionings had gravity and sophistication and led to torment in my soul.
I am still struggling with this mystery of the holistic bubble, as I put it. Let me be clear: I am by no means claiming that I am not also in some kind of bubble. I am sure that I must be. That we are all in these different bubbles.
But I am puzzled by the mystery of these different bubbles … these very different fields in which different kinds of sincere souls cluster.
And I have had a perhaps unusual experience, of being intensively steeped in the “holistic” movement – and then stepping beyond it, and seeing how different it looks from outside.
It no longer looks – as it once did – as necessarily at the cutting edge, but rather as a more limited phenomenon, more strongly anchored in a certain culture than I had realised.
Some who receive this may be astonished that I could have once considered the “holistic” movement so all-encompassing.
At the same time, I doubt they realise how powerful it is in Britain. I visited the largest bookshop in Britain last year, a vast emporium that was by no means a New Age specialist shop. It had thirty gigantic bookshelves dedicated to ‘Mind-Body-Spirit’. Christianity had four (equally gigantic) ones.
But this ratio of 30:4 helps to account for the sense of holistic triumphalism that can be felt sometimes in the New Age culture – at least in Britain.
Back in 2005 I remarked that there were those who might be astonished by the fact that I once considered the “holistic” movement so all-encompassing.
But this is what New Agers tend, at least, to think. They tend to consider that New Age-ism represents the universal timeless philosophy, which exists beyond the “limited” world religions …
And that now as the Age of Aquarius dawns, humanity is awakening to this “universal” philosophy.
Here is colossal hubris, of course. But it is usually completely unconscious. Yet there are increasing numbers of people living within this (expanding) Aquarian bubble, believing that it represents the spiritual wisdom of the ages – or at least something close to it.
The point I make in this series is lost on them. This is to say, that what is termed “holistic” is hardly universal, but actually very rooted in Anglo-American culture and rather than being timeless, particularly draws on assumptions of the late (“post 68″) twentieth century.
In the above, I make it clear that I could only break free from the New Age bubble by stepping outside Britain. And I suggest that Britain could be the worldwide “capital” for this movement.
How much more true this looks to me in 2011 than in 2005! For in the intervening years, I left Ireland to live in France and Spain. France and Spain with their Catholic heritage are far more impervious to New Age-ism.
Seen from those countries, it becomes even more clear how much the “universal” New Age is truly a very English-speaking phenomenon.
However English language and culture becomes ever more dominant on the globe today. And as it does it so, it exports its values.
Through the English speaking culture, New Age-ism is being exported throughout the world as the “universal” philosophy ready to replace “old age” Chrisianity.
In my remarks in this series, I have indicated the possibility that Catholic Traditionalists may find my 2005 writing problematic – for reasons that I understand far more clearly today.
But at the same time, it must be said such Traditionalists are frequently not facing the problem of the New Age. It is understandable – their attention is rivetted elsewhere: The tragedy that has happened to the Mass, the destruction of tradition, the danger of the Church becoming a “clone” of Protestantism (as the Holy Father acknowledged when he was still Joseph Ratzinger …)
In the future, I hope we will see how much we owe to Catholic Traditionalism for alerting us to all of this with often-startling prescience. (Recently I have been studying Archbishop Lefebvre’s interventions at Vatican II in the 1960′s and am truly startled by their prescience. But this must be the subject of another post.)
At the same time, I pray that Catholic Traditionalists can be more prescient in regards to the New Age …
To be Continued …
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