On the Growth of the New Age Movement and the Withering of Christianity …

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Last time, we ripped an extract on the New Age movement from my upcoming book, Cor Jesu Sacratissimum.

Now my book (among many other things) details how I became caught up in the New Age around 1980 – at a time when New Age thinking had still not exploded into the mainstream.

In the three decades since, however, my own lifetime has witnessed this explosion and the consequent withering of Christianity – at least in the world dominant Anglo-American culture.

Today, we present another book extract on this very theme.

I find it tricky ripping these fragments out of context like this – as such extracts may be less than fully clear.  Still I hope this following extract will be intelligible enough:

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Catholic Books on the New Age

“Now, the New Age is a growing phenomenon in this Twenty First Century. We lack the scope here to document this growth.

Still, sometimes even a single image can speak volumes. Thus not so long ago, I visited the largest bookshop in Europe – Waterstones, Piccadilly in London.

Here was a VAST emporium, selling books on an unimaginable range of topics. Such an emporium cannot in anyway be considered ‘specialist’ or anything less than mainstream. Presumably, it broadly represents the concerns of Londoners.

In any event, it might be reasonably taken as mirror of sorts for modern Britain. And in this mirror, I saw four gigantic bookshelves devoted to Christianity.

Across the same room, however, I found and began to count, one, two, three … 30 equally gigantic bookshelves devoted to ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ – the literature of the New Age movement.

Now here is a very personal and approximate image – but it nonetheless suggests a ratio of 30:4 – 30 to 4 seeking spiritual meaning through ‘New Age -ism’ as opposed to the Church.

Such things have lead me to think of once–Protestant England as the leading New Age nation in the world. Although personal experience of having lived in both America and Germany suggests that these formerly Protestant nations might be ‘runners up’ to Britain.

But it is the United Kingdom, which deserves the ‘New Age crown’.

Once more: my life in Spain and France was sufficient to demonstrate amply how much more alien New Age-ism still is to the once-Catholic world. (Alas, Ireland remains more vulnerable. The language she shares in common with Britain and America leaves her wide-open to their influence.)

Still from its stronghold in the now world-dominant Anglo-American culture, New Age thinking is spreading everywhere – and rapidly.

Enormous strides forward have been made in recent decades. For I can still recall first-hand, the comparatively early days of the New Age subculture.

Back in 1980, the movement was still relatively invisible.

For example, New Age literature was hardly found in mainstream bookshops, back then!

Three decades ago, I lived in a town an hour from London. In those days, it was necessary to visit specialist bookshops around London to find New Age texts.

Outside the great metropolis, such books were scarce. No longer!

All of this testifies to a vast shift, which has taken place in the last three decades.

Some Christians – including many liberal Catholics – will argue that it is all fairly harmless.

And they may contend that we should be encouraged by at least some sort of religious perspective in the New Age – a perspective which is, at least, preferable to the world’s growing materialism.

The argument is understandable. When I was still a liberal Catholic, I regularly argued the same thing, myself.

For a terrifying materialism stalks our world and one can and should acknowledge that New Agers are often less taken over by this materialism.

They frequently possess a deep sensitivity and noble quality of aspiration, which should not be dismissed. These are precious things.

Still three decades of experience have taught me this: New Age spirituality by and large flattens the Christian Mystery.

In effect, so-called ‘holism’ functions as a minimalist code for reducing Christianity to something far, far less than it truly is.

And as I began to see such things more sharply, I left behind the more ‘tolerant’ milieu of Liberal Catholicism.

For the heart of Liberal Catholicism is not pierced sufficiently – or so it seems to me.

For although it sometimes is pierced by the social injustice of the world, it would seem scarcely pierced at all by the tragic negation of Christianity, fostered by the New Age.

Instead, what would often seem uppermost in the Liberal Catholic mind is the same kind of professed ‘tolerance’ so beloved of the New Age and the Secular Zeitgeist.

This tolerance, however, often amounts to little more than a kind of lazy “Can’t we all just get along together?”

Yes, while Liberal Catholicism is sometimes very concerned by the material suffering engendered by global poverty, hunger and injustice, it hardly seems concerned with spiritual suffering at all.

Yet profound spiritual suffering awaits a world that is ever more stripped of the Mystery of the Church, robbed of the Graces that flow through Her Sacraments.

But all-too-frequently, the Liberal Catholic heart seems scarcely awake to this at all.

While it preaches themes such as ‘Justice and Peace’, it often hardly seems to realise that real justice and real peace flow from the Sacramental Encounter with Jesus Christ.

And it often hardly seems to care that this Sacramental Encounter is preserved for future generations.

At least, my own years as a Liberal Catholic tell me this: Liberal Catholicism cares about the material plight of the world’s children, but it  seems scarcely pierced at all by the spiritual plight of generations of children to come – children who are being robbed of Christianity and offered – at best – New Age reductionism in its place.

At best, I say: at worst, children everywhere today are being fed terrible New Age lies and Secular Materialist lies. At what cost to their souls? Who can say?

We who are Catholic face a terrible challenge, if we are to preserve for future generations the Mystery of His Sacrifice on Golgotha.

For if the New Age to Christian ratio in Britain has reached something like 30:4 in three decades, here is a question, which merits pondering: what might that ratio be in another three decades? 60 to 4? … 60 to 1?!”

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6 responses to “On the Growth of the New Age Movement and the Withering of Christianity …”

  1. Edwin Shendelman Avatar
    Edwin Shendelman

    The Church must understand and then clearly provide alternatives. If the New Age people are generally looking for personal experiences of the sacred, a deepening of soul and integration of mind, body and spirit then Christians must shed light on these elements which are not always explicit in conventional presentations of the Faith. MOTT is not the only approach for others have looked at this problem but it is a good example. This would not have to mean watering down the Faith but highlighting these elements more clearly, incorporating it in Catechesis and Adult Education programs. There are excellent ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary resources to draw on from all branches of Christianity including Roman Catholic, Byzantine, Protestant and other streams. It is a question of accessing these resources and packaging them in a way accessible to the average Christian.

  2. roger Avatar

    Yes indeed Edwin to what you say about not “watering down the Faith” and providing a clear alternative.

    I think what has really hit home to me over the years, is how effectively the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church achieved so much of what you indicate.

    It did not for example relativise the “ancient, medieval” understandings of the Christian Faith in favour of a modern, “demythologised” contemporary theology, which aims to please the modern relativist world trapped in materialistic thinking.

    This pre-Vatican II teaching was still filled with Sacred Mystery – a point I have tried to express here – and I think many of today’s New Agers would respond to that.

    Unfortunately in so many parts of the Church taken up with the modernising “Spirit of Vatican II” there has been a determined effort to play down, relativise, “demythologise” the very things which are most desperately needed and which I believe you indicate here.

    You invoke MOTT and I have a post here about why the author of MOTT compared these things to the kiss of Judas.

    And the years have forced me to agree with this author’s words about the Judas kiss. New Age-ism is triumphing in large part because coming from within the Church herself, there has been a psuedo-affirmation of the Faith, which is in fact a profound betrayal …

  3. Comment Deleted Avatar
    Comment Deleted

    Comment deleted at author’s request.

  4. roger Avatar

    Dear Charlotte,

    Thank you for this long sharing of the evident thinking and reading you have been clearly undertaken over years in response to the problems of Christianity and the New Age.

    I started replying to you in the comments boxes, but my response grew far too large. So it is being presented as a post at this site, indeed as an Open Letter to you.

    It will very shortly appear and will be called Valentin Tomberg, the New Age and the Way of the Heart.

    Given that I will shortly post a very long engagement with your searching enquiry, I will limit what I say in this comments box.

    For I must say here that Valentin Tomberg asked that his pre-Catholic works never be re-published, though perhaps you did not know that when you quoted those works above.

    And I really need to beg you not to do this again, for as I hope I make clear in my long Open Letter to you it seems very clear indeed why Valentin Tomberg would not want these republished.

    I have put a great deal of time and effort into this long Open Letter to you, so I will not say anymore here, except this:

    You invoke Steiner’s ‘Sixth Cultural Epoch’ with what you quote from the young Tomberg.

    This is what the Catholic Tomberg meant by the Hexagram, as the Fifth Cultural Epoch is the Pentagram and the Fourth is the Cross (6, 5, 4). And the Cross – and obedience – must never be abandoned. Here is the tragedy in the ‘fifth epoch’ that led the mature Tomberg away from the material that you quote.

    Now in my shortly upcoming Open Letter to you, I have quoted from a very profound passage indeed from Meditations on the Tarot regarding these epochs found on pages 118 – 119.

    I hope that you may find time and energy to give to my long letter to you – but if you could do nothing else, I would hope that you could deeply ponder Tomberg on pgs 118-119 in light of what you quoted above.

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