Reconciliation #3: Initial Discussion on Christianity and Spiritual Illusion [2/2]   Leave a comment

Introduction

This Reconciliation attempt will be both difficult and yet intellectually stimulating I believe. In this Initial Reconciliation attempt I will be writing about the Notions of New Age Spirituality and Fundamentalism and try to spot in them elements that I feel are legitimate (in light of all the research throughout the years) and which are cause for concern. This Reconciliation is Initial in the Truest Sense of the word, because, Fundamentalism and New Age beliefs are both on the rise as both have rejected the concepts founded in Classical Christianity, whether knowingly or not. I do believe the New Age and the Fundamentalist to both be extremes and thus illusory as well. Again however, everything has a degree of truth to it and because of that if we work our intellectual muscle long enough we can wrestle out of a worldview nuggets of truth of various sizes and qualities. Throughout this Reconciliation I will post videos and links for further reading, unlike the previous 2 Reconciliation attempts however I will not structure this Reconciliation in the similar fashion.

The New Age Movement

Now I have written on my blog against New Age beliefs as well. I have given proportionate attention to the New Age beliefs of Our Day as I have to the Fundamentalist. This reconciliation will certainly be initial, it will also certainly be intellectually stimulating to convey certain points of agreement or offer clarification. Before going into the reconciliation, the first thing that needs to be put on the table is the complaints. The complaints I had are as follows:

(1) Turning Christ’s Death on the Cross into some Socio-political Statement and Refusal to Contemplate on it’s Theological and Spiritual Significance
(2) Having This Relativistic Indifference, or “Spiritual but Not Religious”
(3) Making Spirituality into An End In Itself
(4) The Similarities the New Age Movement Has to The Early Heresies of the Early Church Itself

The First Complaint stems from Turning Christ’s Death on the Cross into some Socio-political Statement and Refusal to Contemplate on it’s Theological and Spiritual Significance. However, to refuse the reality and power of the Cross is to give The Adversary the upper hand. How? The Cross represents the foolishness of evil, of a will that seeks to go against God and His Created Order. It exposes all God-forsaken evil for what it is, and we are all witness to what it had done to the Pure and Innocent God-Man Jesus Christ. The Cross shows man, how much God loves him. How? Again, he is willing to send His only Son to the limits of perverted evil in order to reign in the rest of creation, with man being the height of said creation. When we deny the Cross and the Resurrection, we essentially fall into spiritual despair, we think that “God wouldn’t do that for me, I need to work to save myself!” enter the New Age Philosophy, that one can attain enlightenment, nirvana, gnosis all on one’s own or through some guru like figure.

Speaking of Guru figures this is my other concern, the New Age movement reminds me a lot of the Early Heresies of the Early Church. Now don’t we have guru like figures in the history of the Church? Yes and No. We have the Church Fathers, we have the Desert Mothers and Fathers, and we have Monks, however whereas the Yogi counts himself enlightened in life, the Monks and Theologians know that they must never claim to have been already saved. Such a claim cannot come to pass until this life ends, because to think that you are already saved opens the door to sins rooted in Pride and Spiritual Sloth, thats why when certain spiritual fathers were praised they demanded that people stop praising them because it could potentially poison their hearts and minds and threaten the key Christian Virtue of Humility. The video below describes well the relation our Current New Age Movement has with the Early Church Heresies:

A more common issue that I see that has a New Age tone to it however, is the popular phrase, “Spiritual but Not Religious.” Such a notion seems to lack conviction, in my honest opinion and often times the reasoning behind it stems from either a belief that the Institutional Religions are societal control mechanisms (rooted in Anger and Violation of Trust), just a sense of shame and embarrassment to be around that which is being attack by the popular media and popular notions, or thinking that religion is just dry mechanistic motions that lack spirituality. But people still believe in something spiritual, so they drop the dry movements of Church life and its structure for being adrift and lost in a sea of spirituality. Also this culture of “Spiritual, But Not Religious” tends to embody our own materialistic and consumeristic culture that true spirituality would tend to rise up against. How so? Consider the fact that this relativistic indifference, this “lost in a sea of spiritualities” essentially causes us to think of adopting a new way of thinking so nonchalantly, in a word we treat profound spirituality as if we were shopping for new shoes. Such an uncritical assumption of novel ideas is dangerous if associated with a spirit of profoundity. To me this way of thinking is intellectually lazy and I find it lacking conviction and principles. This article sums up my point all too well when the author writes,

“Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.”

Of course, the next situation is similar in tone to “inventing a tradition all for yourself” and that is the common delusion of treating spirituality as an end in itself. Today former Christians see Christ as either non-existent or just another Prophet/Guru/Oracle/Philosopher of Spiritual Wisdom, and a teacher but nothing else. The Problem with this way of thinking is that it threatens the legitimacy of Christ’s teachings. How so? If we look at the story of the New Testament Christ tells us that we are either against Him or with Him, Christ is on trial for Blaspheming, namely of claiming to be God. This forces upon us a decision, either you are with Him because He is God or your against Him because you think He is Misguided and Dangerous, there is no middle ground. If you think Christ’s teachings are Good, Wise, Insightful Teaching, you must admit that He is of God and with God, you cannot pay lip-service to His Teaching and reject the source from which He Claims His Teaching Stems from. You agree or you do not with said teaching and you think He is the Son of God or you do not.

Having now spoken of my complaints concerning The New Age Movement, it is now time to talk about what I have come to admire. First of all from all New Age type of people that I see they have a desire to seek wisdom, they desire the Spirit and the Truth, we all do but to the extent that they want to be part of it by essentially creating a tradition for themselves is something that is a sure sign of their drive, motivation, and effort. This trait ought not to be forgotten under any circumstance, the problem from my perspective is that it can be misinformed or misguided even turned into outright hostility toward those who will tell them otherwise. It is like as if they want to swim in an above-ground pool, with all the Spiritual Wetness, but they suffer from lack of boundaries and become Spiritually inundated, because it all comes from one gelatinous mass anyway.

There are certainly a few individuals of a New Age or New Age-like Origin that have shaped my opinion throughout the years as well. Coming of Age, I have been influence by New Age Thinkers like Edgar Cayce, Rhonda Byrne, David Icke, Israel Rigardie and Michael Tsarion, some of these peoples being more far-fetched then others in their claims. Growing up I also was interested in Psionics, Remote Viewing, Astral Travel, Lucid Dreaming, NDE’s, Communication with the Dead, among other things. A brief explanation follows:

Edgar Cayce was an American Psychic who died in 1945, he was said to offer psychic insights into profound and everyday problems, the particular thing which interested me was the notion of what New Agers called the “Akashic Records” which was claimed to be this field of knowledge and information that can be tapped into, a kind of super-conscious library.

Rhonda Byrne is most notable in modern times for her book and DVD called, “The Secret” I had bought the DVD and viewed it. But what interested me was the “ancient knowledge” from which this Law of Attraction was derived. There was a commentary I recall viewing describing the Introductory Scene showing the History of “The Secret” and what interested me most was The Emerald Tablet founded in Hermetic Belief System, which encouraged me to investigate further into The Hermetica.

David Icke was more conspiratorial in his outlook, especially with the notions of Reptilians. I did not believe the Reptilian notions in such a literal fashion, but I did understand that the Human Brain is composed of three levels, one being called “The Reptilian Brain” which was responsible for basic animal instincts.

Israel Regardie was my initial connection into the Occult and Esoterica, he wrote the book called: “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” through him I found Manly P. Hall and was throughly acquainted with Esotericism, especially that of the West (Qabalah, Alchemy, Mysticism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Ceremonial Magick, Essenes, Tarot, Astrology and Neo-Paganism). For a time I had practice lightly in the Occult and Arcane.

Michael Tsarion had the same undertones as the others, he had given me a better introduction to Carl Jung and through Carl Jung became interested in the notions of Psychology and Religion. I watched his, “Architects of Control: Program One” from this I was thoroughly enmeshed in some serious New Age, Conspiratorial, and Occult beliefs for awhile.

Briefly, my interest in Psionics was mental control over my physical environment, think of telekinesis or pyrokinesis, anything which can be controlled and throw in -kinesis. Remote Viewing and Astral Travel, essentially meant using your mind to get to places were your body couldn’t go. Lucid Dreaming meant being conscious of the fact your dreaming and taking control of the dream, it is the only skill that I see as legitimate today, but like any skill it is a tool not to be obsessed over. NDE’s and Communication with the Dead came from interests in watching programs on TV in which you see people playing with the Ouija Board and suddenly opening up a “portal” to the other side and usually malevolent spirits wreck havoc on those peoples lives. The NDE’s came from my early involvement in trying to come to terms with death and what exists on the other side.

Having now confessed what used to influence me back when I was younger and immature, I want to talk briefly with what I experienced when I was in that realm of thinking and what I see from others who are in that realm of thinking. With regard to others, I usually see people who are lost and desperate to find answers, for some this appearance does not always seem Eu-stressful, but distressful. These people are typically impulsive, if it “doesn’t work” or at the first sign of it failing then they do not use it, this can show the superficiality of their beliefs. Most of the time the person they listen to offers the same words, “think positive” and while I do not want to undermine the notion of thinking positive, certainly there happy go lucky candor is not that helpful with the real problems that stare at them in the face everyday, demanding to be resolved.

With regards to me I was a lot like them, I was lost and desperate for answers because I wasn’t satisfied with the answers I got initially from organized religion. Also I was impulsive, I needed to do whatever I could in order to sustain my illusory perception to make the problems in life less real or serious. However, I did not swing toward the optimistic “Happy Go Lucky” sentimentalism, rather I swung toward the very serious seeker for knowledge. I was a Gnostic Christian, I read parts of the Nag Hammadi Scriptures, and I believed in their system for salvation, because I had trouble with the notion of Faith and Suffering, Gnosticism offered a way for me to not be challenged and uncomfortable, but true Spiritual Development will always entail a sense of Stress to it. Yet despite this overall, I felt dead inside, I felt frustrated that I wasn’t going anywhere with all this knowledge, and I hadn’t changed [much] at the fundamental root of my being I was just going through the motions from one novel idea to the next novel idea, I would crest and fall from one idea to the next. Despite all this depth of knowledge, any love, happiness and life I had was at best superficial, I felt detached and lonely from everyone around me despite being around people.

What changed this all around for me? A Voice, a still and soft voice, that said to me “Turn back to Christ…” It didn’t come from me, because I was still determined to make the New Age work, but this external voice that I heard in my mind and felt in my heart told me to go back to Christ. I gave up on many things of the New Age, and moved forward with my interests in Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology surrendering many of my New Age ideas, hobbies, and fancies and found the Eastern Orthodox Church, because it was the one that I could best associate with and felt most comfortable coming back to Christ in, with what I understood thus far. Its hard to describe exactly, but in terms of my pursuit for knowledge and understanding though Love of the Divine my old dissatisfactions and frustrations with the New Age Movement and New Age-like Beliefs have been satisfied in Christ.

Conclusions

St. Justin Martyr put it best when describing the The Truth of the Faith as it relates to the philosophies and spiritualities around it, “Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians. For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them.” (Second Apology of St Justin Martyr, 13) Notice, St. Justin is not saying this because of some narrow-minded religious expression, he is saying this because, Christ is the embodiment of the Truth, the representation of the Fullness of Truth, and because of that anything that is Truly Right, Truly True, and Truly Good has Christ in it, we just need to wrestle with whatever that maybe in order to extract such Truth from said item in order to see it: This blog was created in part to try and bring reconciliation, how can anything be reconciled to anything else, if we cannot see a trait or a similarity of ourselves in someone else?

It was said that God (The One Personal Objective Transcendental Reality), when He came he was going to separate the wheat from the chaff. To most readers they tend to think of this in terms solely of sinners and the saved, I think though it would be wise to also look at this in terms of all human insights and wisdom and showing the nuggets of truth and wisdom that came from God and what came by way of human error. In the end, two quotes are very telling of the what I am talking about: CS Lewis talking about the Fundamentalist states that, “They pretend that their researches lead to that doctrine: but in fact they assume that doctrine first and interpret their researches by it.” But in this contemporary day and age, I would go so far as to say that the same can be applied to the New Age Movement as well, by this does he mean that, instead of seeking the truth, fundamentalists spend most of their time protecting their accepted doctrine. GK Chesterton on the other hand says that, “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.” Again, I argue (based on my observations over the years) that New Age believers also act in the same manner as fundamentalists, in the circumstance that they stumble across a conflict with one of their doctrines, they immediately go looking for a satisfying solution for that conflict, rather than considering another truth.

In the end the one thing that frustrates me more is this veneer of tolerance and acceptance, yet in spite of these surface traits there comes with it under the surface a sense of hatred, spite, and suspicion toward The Tradition revealed By God Himself. GK Chesterton said it best though, “There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” Before I conclude, it should be fair to point out that certain New Age believers believe in the notion of Panentheism, to this extent is the New Age believer correct in viewing God from The Traditions point of view, in fact this fact shows that the New Age believers come closer to Christianity then its own fundamentalist element which believes in a Monotheistic God, yet it is the Fundamentalist who agrees with the notions of Christ as God.

In light of all that I had written here today, if I could offer an analogy it would be this: Religious Fundamentalism and Literalism seems like an above-ground kid sized pool its too confining and it is at best a training ground to grow out of, whereas the New Age Movement is a broken pool that blew open on all sides and left us inundated. True Religion then is like a pool big enough to move around and play in, but still has strong boundaries to prevent the water from spilling, flooding, and inundating. We could also say that Religious Fundamentalism and Literalism is like eating one form of food day in and day out, whereas the New Age Movement sees spirituality and philosophy as one big incoherent melting pot, that you can mold your own religion out of. True Religion then is like a salad bowl, you need variety yes but you admit that certain elements are healthier for you then others (wild lettuce and tomatoes over the shredded cheese and dressing).

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