New Age Self-Sufficiency and Christian Relationship (and Redemption)

The Fall

What the New Age fails to recognise …

And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods (Genesis 3 iv- v, Douay Rheims translation of the Vulgate).

I am grateful for all the rich comments and analysis that my last entry New Age Denial of the Fall has generated and thought I would continue with these themes this time, mainly in response to the very insightful things Edwin has raised.

For when you make the comparison, Edwin, “In New Age one tries to spread a thought through the self (like the mantra you mentioned) to alter one’s feeling and perception.”

with:

“In Christianity the emphasis is handing oneself over to God and His redemptive work.”, you go directly to the point I am concerned with. A point that speaks of that which I consider tragic and even dangerous in the New Age.

The point is the belief that we don’t need God. The belief that we can do it ourselves – we can heal or even redeem ourselves. This belief implies what is often actually explicitly stated – that we are God or as God.

In my experience, I have noticed that this assumption, that we can be as God, prevails throughout New Age thinking.

And I think it can be used in order to obscure or surmount a sense of shame about being helpless, in need or broken. I suppose this is why I focus my thoughts on the denial of the Fall.

For to obscure the fallen reality of our predicament is pretense – a pretense that can so easily degenerate into grandiosity. This is why I consider denial of the Fall a belief that is dangerous.

As I wrote before, to be able to fall to one’s knees in sorrow or regret, through the admission of one’s brokenness, is an act that naturally surrenders ourselves to the mercy and love of the One Who is greater, God.

It is an act that produces a sense of humility, as our place within God’s Order is truly acknowledged. We have as you so rightly put it, Edwin “handed ourselves over to God.”

To imagine oneself as God can only lead to the opposite. To a false sense of self worth, to arrogance and worse.

I cannot say that there is no good within the New Age. Yet I can say that I see the very foundations upon which it is built to be shaky indeed. In my mind, as I say, dangerous. For they seem to me, to be foundations that claim that we have little or no need outside of ourself.

I see that this self-sufficiency can lead to a life that is impersonal, focussed on the self and its development rather than relationship. Relationship, which is of course at the heart of Christianity. Personal and collective relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.

And it seems to me that these two different ways lead to very different results.

When the emphasis is, as Edwin says on “changing oneself from within”, as is the case in the New Age, the result can be withdrawal. An action that withdraws within onself, away from the world.

Whereas, again as Edwin states, when “the emphasis is on redemption through God (in Jesus Christ)”, as is the case in Christianity, the result is one of reaching out. Reaching out from oneself towards God.

When I contemplate these two ways, I see that they produce very different results. To withdraw into oneself creates a sense of separation from the world, whilst to go out of oneself results in reaching out to others. In so doing, I wonder if the former closes the heart to the world, whilst the latter opens it.

For when one acknowledges one’s own falleness, it immediately connects one with the falleness of others, with our shared original sin. I think that this naturally opens the heart to suffering or to tragedy in the world. When the focus remains on the self, it closes a person off from the world.

Whilst as you say Edwin, in your latest comment, it is important to dialogue with the New Age movement, I think it is crucial to recognise that when something so fundamental as the Fall is denied, it has grave consequences indeed.

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2 Comments

  1. Edwin Shendelman
    Posted 16 November 2009 at 22:10 | Permalink

    Indeed, I have been re-thinking my openness to the New Age (in my way of dialogue, not belief). The worldview of Christianity (or indeed any Biblically-based religion) seems so radically different. I, too, because of my line of work frequently encounter New Age types. A recent encounter illustrates your point well, I think. A woman who I’ve known for several years who has a lot of what could be called “new age” beliefs was in conversation with me. She’s not entirely hostile to Christianity being of Catholic background. Over the years I’ve tried to expose her some deeper aspects of Christian teaching. She doesn’t turn them away but the hold of New Age beliefs are so strong. I mentioned a Christian speaker, Vassula Ryden to her and said what impressed me so much was her emphasis on the need to repent to receive the Holy Spirit the first time I heard her speak. My friend was almost shocked and said very New Age “why emphasize repentance if you can just stay conscious all the time?” I kind of replied “because we do not stay conscious, but fall.” Moreover, repentance has endless depths and subtleties that cannot be glibly passed-off by saying something about staying conscious.

    On another occasion a woman walked in where I work. She is a long-time customer and very into New Age practices which she sometimes attempts to share. She started some interaction with me saying “now I visualize white light for healing, but so I don’t take on any of your negativity I visualize yellow light and cut myself off from you.” I watched this display somewhat amused because its presumptiousness. When she said the last part I said “aren’t we one in one body the Body of Christ.? And why do you want to be protect yourself from negativity instead of being like Christ who takes on pain and suffering of the world?”

    But this reflects a big religious-spiritual divide in our culture. Not only the fall but sin has been removed from public discourse. We are embarrased by these concepts because they symbolize “repression.” But this is sad because the effects of repentance, contrition and confession are healing and restoring when they are followed by some sense of absolution (formal or informal). Repentance should lead to authentic wholeness, wholeness based on a restored relationship to God and Man.

    Seeing the pervasiveness of New Age ideology and how it really holds people back from authentic spiritual relationships that can only be found in the great Traditions I’ve begun to wonder if indeed there is something evil about it. It could be said to offer a counterfeit spirituality. New Age types tend to be very sensitive spiritually, this sensitivity can serve them well in exploring traditional spirituality such as found in the Catholic Church. This is my point about an esotericism grounded in a great religion like Christianity.

    Denial of the fall and sin certainly reflects an attempt to be spiritually self-sufficient. But it is an illusion.

  2. roger
    Posted 18 November 2009 at 13:56 | Permalink

    I am going to jump in here.

    Kim and I very much appreciate this comment Edwin. And all your comments, as well as Aaron’s. They have all been filled with valuable insight and we are very grateful to have them ENRICHING this web project. Thank you so much again, Aaron, Edwin.

    Now I am not sure to what degree it has been indicated here, but due to an eye problem, Kim’s capacities for internet interaction are more limited than my own …

    I think she will want to say more in time. Although I understand she also wants to take her weblog to other, non-New Age territory that she finds more rich and meaningful to speak of. Often she would rather be talking of the beauty and joy she finds in the Catholic Tradition, than the New Age …

    In the meantime, I found thoughts almost writing themselves, in response to you, Edwin, which I hope will shortly go up at my own weblog. Perhaps even later today.

    I will just say this: they are very much honouring I hope, of what you have been saying about the need for dialogue.

    At the same time, they try to grapple with your reflection regarding evil contained in this:

    “Seeing the pervasiveness of New Age ideology and how it really holds people back from authentic spiritual relationships that can only be found in the great Traditions I’ve begun to wonder if indeed there is something evil about it.”

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  1. […] Kim´s weblog, concerning the Denial of the Fall. (That dialogue started here and then continued here). I felt real value there in the comments left by Aaron and Edwin and am grateful indeed for […]

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