Twenty five years ago, I was an enthusiastic young member of the Findhorn Community in Northern Scotland.
Findhorn: it remains today one of the major world centres of the New Age movement, or as a Vatican document puts it:
‘The two centres which were the initial power-houses of the New Age, and to a certain extent still are, were the Garden community at Findhorn in North-East Scotland, and the Centre for the development of human potential at Esalen in Big Sur, California, in the United States of America.’
And for long years after I left Findhorn in 1988, I remained an enthusiastic apologist for Findhorn and the New Age.
That is, until something happened in 1997 and I stumbled on the Road to Aquarius and I discovered something I would never have, could never have found at Findhorn.
I tell my story of stumbling on the Road to Aquarius in my upcoming book Cor Jesu Sacratissimum.
My book is not really autobiographical. Although it does employ some select slices of my autobiography to illustrate some key differences between Christianity and New Age-ism.
Now in a recent weblog entry, I mused along the following lines:
As a New Ager living at Findhorn, how confident I would have been that Catholicism was simply another label, an “Old Age” religion fading away as we exited Pisces and entered the Age of Aquarius.
And what would I have thought had I been told then that twenty five years later in the future, this “Old Age Piscean religion” would be more precious than anything that Findhorn could ever give me?
Because that “Old Age Piscean religion” is not a label, not a belief system, not a human-created denomination – but a Living Mystery which can turn your life inside-out …
And what would I have thought, had I been told then that twenty five years later in the future, this “Old Age Piscean religion” would be more precious than anything that Findhorn could ever give me?
As it happens, in my upcoming book, I try to give a rather fanciful answer to the very question posed here – what my pre-1997 New Age self would think of my Catholic Faith today.
A rather fanciful answer: I actually imagine a dialogue between myself today in 2012 and the terribly committed New Ager I still was in 1996.
And my hope is that this fanciful, imaginary dialogue may shed some light on a few – not all! – of the profound differences between Catholic and New Age conceptions – and thus, the profound difficulties Catholics and New Agers are likely to have, when it comes to dialogue.
Extract from my upcoming book:
It would seem that my old friends feel that I have lost something, even changed for the worse. Indeed, I have been told as much.
In their defense, may I reiterate once more: The New Age mindset is very, very strong. In their defense, I say that it would have been very hard to penetrate the New Age mindset, which once possessed me.
What would my former self think of me today? He would scarcely be able to conceive the change. He would think I had gone mad …
If my pre-Christian self – let us call him Roger Buck 1996 – were able to read this book from 2012 – what would he do?
I imagine he might throw it in the bin – as an outmoded, retro relic from the ‘Age of Pisces’.
Now forgive me, dear Reader, but I would now like to insert a little flight of fancy at this point – a little flight into science-fiction, even.
Here I will imagine that I have found a way to travel back through time to 1996. I have also found fantastic technology to utterly change my appearance. Perhaps rather than being corpulent, I now appear to be rakishly thin and roguishly handsome!
And thus, technologically disguised like this, Roger Buck 2012 encounters Roger Buck 1996 and even manages to engage him in dialogue.
All the while, Roger Buck 1996 is thinking: ‘Who is this crazy Catholic?’
Still he decides to give this poor, deluded soul his empathetic attention:
RB 2012: There is more, I tell you.
RB 1996: Of course, there is more. There is always growth, development and evolution. There are further stages of psychological integration and even – in esoteric language – initiation.
RB 2012: What more there is, will not be found on these roads of psychotherapeutic integration and esoteric initiation – but in something else altogether different.
RB 1996: And where might this “more” be found, then?
RB 2012: It will be found along a path that you refuse to look down, it will be found in a direction, which is deliberately excluded – if somewhat unconsciously – by your so-called ‘holistic universality’.
I speak of the Church – where you will not look.
RB 1996: And why should I look to the Church?
RB 2012: You are broken, broken.
Tiny and fallen, in ways you cannot credit.
That so unfashionable thing called ‘sin’ blackens your heart. You do not have the strength to bear this – and so you deny it.
But there are the Sacraments – He has given us these.
RB 1996: Sacraments?
RB 2012: The Sacraments will not only give you strength, they will cleanse and liberate you.
RB 1996: These Sacraments – I suppose you will say that they are dependent on an institution, on a hierarchy, on a centralised, patriarchal system – full of dogma.
It is time we moved beyond all that.
RB 2012: So speaks your own dogma. I cannot emphasise to you enough how much you need these Sacraments, nor how much I need them …
RB 1996: Are you not in danger of becoming attached, dependent on these Sacraments? What about some detachment, here?
RB 2012: But mine is not an Eastern way of detachment. And I fear this very question betrays the deeply oriental slant to your ‘universal spirituality’ – whether you know this or not …
No, I am not an oriental. I do not seek detachment! I am very attached to Christ and to His Church – but not enough! Still not enough!
Let me seek to attach myself still further! Let me not fear to confess – I need you, My Lord and Thy Church …
RB 1996: I am not surprised you feel so needy with an outlook like this!
It strikes me as pretty dour. Are you not in danger of becoming morbid and negative, with all this emphasis on sin?
RB 2012: Morbid? But this Catholic Mystery has served to teach me what joy there is in confessing with relief that I am broken, fallen.
And there is no need to pretend that I am anything other than that.
How very often – if not always – New Age spirituality involves the pretense that we are not fallen.
And what can come of this, save pride?
You do not know it friend – but you are aloof and arrogant. I know of nothing, which can show you the way out, save that which He gave us as the way out of darkness – The Sacraments of His Holy Church.
RB 1996: Please – give me a break!
RB 2012: The Sacraments give me the grace that can be had in learning to confess that I am a broken, fallen, human thing. The Church showed me how to kneel.
There is a sacred cité* you do not know yet. Like no other place you have ever seen, neither at Findhorn, nor Dornach, nor Glastonbury. People have the humility to kneel there.
RB 1996: And why do you need to tell me all this? The modern world wearies of all this proselytisation. Perhaps the Church needed to proselytise in the past, but we are in a New Era now.
RB 2012: Are we truly? Are you telling me that there is no New Age proselytisation? That you New Agers do not proselytise – relentlessly?
Do you not announce constantly your beliefs like you just did – that we are in a New Era now? Did you not just now try to assert your belief that the Church belongs to an old era?
RB 1996: Go on …
RB 2012: Can anyone avoid proselytising, I wonder?
Does not the secular-capitalist world continuously proselytise that salvation is to be found in material satisfactions? Does not this liberal society constantly proselytise its values: abortion is fine, the hyper-sexualisation of culture is fine, the elimination of traditional values is fine —
RB 1996: I will grant you this – I have never quite looked at it like that before.
RB 2012: In time, you will. In time, you will.
But you have asked me another question: why. Why I need to tell you this? Here is my answer:
The more I weep for the world, the more I see how the world buries what most is needed. I would speak to New Agers – because more than many people in the world today – they are less caught up in materialism.
They sense a spiritual reality beyond this materialistic society.
And yet their conceptions of this spiritual reality are channelled, limited and conditioned by oriental and Theosophical thought-forms – to put it in your esoteric language …
How would I have related to my future self? I guess that I would listen to him politely – and then dismiss him out of hand …
He would have tried to speak of something more. But my 1996 self has never experienced this more. He has not experienced the Sacraments, he has not experienced the Church …
End of Book Extract
Note: As I said above, I know this dialogue only highlights a few key differences between New Age-ism and Catholicism.
And this is why I have chosen the graphic above for this weblog entry – because it can also suggest so much more that I have failed to articulate in this short space.
For those who are interested in more of my reflexions as as Catholic convert from Findhorn and the New Age, much more can be found under the label New Age (see our labels in the footer below).
* Footnote: The reference regarding sacred cité is to Paray-le-Monial in France – where Our Lord revealed His Sacred Heart for the world at large in the late Seventeenth Century. There is much more in my book and indeed this website concerning Paray-le-Monial (see the labels Catholic France and Sacred Heart below).