The Not So New Age Nonsense

St_-Therese-of-Avila-5

(I have discovered that some of my email has been going into a spam folder particularly those that come from outside the North American continent. I think I have resolved the problem – but I want you to know it is important to me to answer all who contact me. It may not be a great answer and sometimes I get backed up enough that it could be a week or longer, but I do answer. I was appalled that a dear woman from Scandinavia had a simple question that had been unread for a full two weeks. If I don’t answer, there has probably been some glitch. Press on and give me a chance. I have kind of fallen in love with our little virtual community here and I hate to think anyone is left unanswered).

The more I read of Connie Rossini’s website, “Contemplative Homeschool,” which I link to at the right under ‘Interesting Theological Sites,’ the higher the esteem in which I hold it. Do not be intimidated because I categorize it as a theological site. It is straightforward and accessible. Best of all, the material in it is useful and solidly grounded in the teaching of the saints.  Today she has a piece that rips up the deceits of New Age Occultism – and defends St. Teresa of Avila from the slander that she was spiritually one of the New Agers.

The “New Age” should actually be called the “Old Errors Wearing New Clothes,” for all it is is pantheism risen again – and pantheism was thoroughly discredited over 500 years ago. I guess it had to wait for people to both forget about the dry hole it is AND to be ignorant of history, philosophy and theology before it could don its Birkenstocks, patchouli and some pretty crystals so it could play at being something new. Sadly, it is on a mission to convince the unwary that it is compatible – and even complementary – to Christianity. Spirituality that involves “centering prayer,” yoga meditations, and “Reiki healing,” among other thing, is not compatible with Christianity. It is occultism, pure and simple.

Of course, we Christians deserve a lot of the blame for these errors rising again. People seek something profound and true. When we reduce Christ to a caricature, a formulaic two-dimensional scold or, conversely into a vague do-your-own-thing hippie, we present a false face to the world. Thus, when we have concealed what is deep, joyful and true under many veils of our own making, small wonder people should go chasing after what is merely frothy. For those who would make Jesus into a scold, I remind you that He was always full of compassion and tenderness for those rough characters who had lost hope – or thought they weren’t good enough. In fact, He trolled the ancient equivalents of biker bars and redlight districts to recruit disciples. His scolding was reserved almost exclusively for the conventionally piously religious of His time. Might want to think about that. For others who reduce him to a vague hippie guru, I remind you that forgiveness was not His last word when He healed someone or transformed them: He ended by telling them to “..go and sin no more.

Finally, two striking quotes from St. Teresa:

– “To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray – and thus acquired experience.” (I quote this one for all of you folks who are in pain because of family members who are right now far from God. The good God may well just be indulging them for a time that they may gain experience.)

– “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.” (If we could live this one well, I believe we would be at the very gates of the kingdom already.)

 

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
This entry was posted in Discernment, Spiritual Heroes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Not So New Age Nonsense

  1. Thanks again, Charlie, for sending your readers my way. You said it well above–there is nothing new under the sun.

    Like

  2. Patricia Doherty says:

    Charlie,
    Great two posts from St. Therese. Probably everyone reading this today will be able to apply them to their current situations.
    Thank you.

    Like

  3. marie says:

    Charlie, thanks so much for another great post. Sadly, I know several Catholics and other Christians here who practise yoga… Thanks also for setting up the ‘Readers are saying’ section! Brilliant ☺. Now we won’t miss comments on previous posts.

    Like

  4. Mary-Louise says:

    In response to Marie’s comment, let me say that the chancery of the archdiocese of Boston hosts yoga classes for its employees at work. When that was revealed it caused criticism by “conservative” Catholics that was ignored. A story about it here, with the vicar general’s comments as well: http://bostoncatholicinsider.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/boston-archdiocese-continuing-with-yoga-class/

    Boston was “Ground Zero” for the sexual abuse scandal, and it remains a troubled archdiocese, in need of prayer.

    Like

  5. ellenchris says:

    Charlie, this blog of yours is an oasis of fresh springs in a dry and thirsty land. If God wants to put us into a “dark night,” then He will do it His way in His time. This business of putting ourselves into the darkness on our own is very dangerous — I have seen it do a lot of damage. And just BTW — just to add my own snarky 2 cents — St. Teresa of Avila was totally what is called a “kataphatic” mystic: that is, one whose experience is all about Light. In my arrogance I got all excited about this darkness stuff some time ago with no good results. God is very merciful and seeks out His lost lambs. “Centering prayer” seems to me to be an artificial method of inducing apophatic mysticim — the “way of darkness” according to our own power, tastes and ideas. Surrender!!!! Give up and come along quietly! Let God be God. St. John: “God IS Light; in Him there is no darkness.” Amen

    Like

  6. MM Bev says:

    An excellent resource is “Jesus Christ – The Bearer of the Water of Life” which is a Cathoic reflection on the “New Age” put out by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Pontifical Council for Culture). It is very readable, and the information is very good and isn’t written in theological-ese. (Honest.) I believe it’s on the Vatican website, and can be printed off.
    New Age is everywhere. Most often Catholics and other denominations are not aware the programs they become involved in are New Age. “Course in Miracles”, “The Source, “The Alpha Program – unless you are already aware and you’re not or you wouldn’t be taking it, anything by Marianne Williamson; all kinds of places you wouldn’t suspect. Oprah Winfrey is a top proponent of New Age material and has run courses on the Internet, Wayne Dryer is also New Age. Anything that places a high emphasis on the Law of Attraction or Positive Thinking fall into the same category. They replace Christ. Don’t think it can happen? About five months ago the Knights of Columbus insert in the all the parish bulletins quoted Wayne Dryer and his positive thinking and attracting whatever you want to yourself (out of the cosmos, I guess). Usually at least two “new” forms appear every year. Some are presented as self enhancing retreats, like the one in which the woman died in the sweat lodge at the end of the retreat’s events, “Burning Man” is a yearly event. Don’t bother with “circles” or “vortexes”. When you start watching you can go on and on. They usually cost you money, and you get further from Jesus if you buy into it….whatever “it” is. Personalities can really sway the observer and I would put Sylvia Brown, and John Edwards in that category, as is already mentioned Wayne Dryer. These, like Ekhart Tolle (probably spelled wrong), Oprah’s darling, become fairly famous but there are many who are flash in the pan, with you frying. I have discovered that quite a number of people of good faith have incorporated the slime into their thinking without realizing it like the poor Grand Knight who was quoting Wayne Dryer.
    The ultimate goal of the “One World Religion” that will be touted in the future, will be New Age, with any part of your faith belief that you want to throw in for good measure. All can participate happily. There is even an “Ark” with a charter already in existence which resided in the U.N., for a period of time. Read the charter and be really nervous. (You can learn amazing things on the Internet.) And sorry to say, make sure of whatever Catholic retreat house you choose – some of them still haven’t been swept out.

    Like

    • Nancy says:

      Bev, what is the Alpha program? It is being introduced in our parish and father has been pushing it since lent.

      Like

      • charliej373 says:

        The Alpha Program, Nancy, was originated in an Anglican Parish in England. It explores themes that are common to most major Christian denominations – with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit from a charismatic perspective. From everything I have seen and read about it, it is orthodox. It omits some things specific to particular denominations. So, for example, you won’t get much on Mary there unless your parish adds it on. But they might – for the originators encourage various Churches to add on matters of doctrine that are specific to their faith tradition. While it does not include them, it is not hostile to them. Whether or not it is for you is probably a matter of taste and interest – but no one has told me anything about it that gives me cause to be concerned that it is leading people away from authentic Christian faith.

        Like

        • Nancy says:

          I am so uncomfortable with being told that something would be good for me, yet the person recommending it really doesn’t know me or the stage of my journey. Charlie, thank you for the information, because it could be a source of help for others I know. I realize that our pastor is really trying for more than just social growth (everyone goes to parish festival). He wants to increase a spiritual growth. For some reason, I am reluctant to participate. That could be my melancholic temperament or a fear of being led astray.

          Like

          • charliej373 says:

            That is a challenge for everyone, Nancy. If you love going to new things, you risk getting caught up in mere superficial manias or, worse, being led astray. If you look at everything with suspicion, you risk stunting your spiritual growth. Let me tell you what I do.

            If something seems worthy of consideration, but I am leery of it, I say a prayer. I tell the Lord, “Lord, you know I love you and want to follow you in all things. I am going to try this for (usually four weeks). If it is good and your will, please show me. If you do not show me, I will quietly let it go and find other things.”

            Remember, I was raised a fundamentalist Protestant – so I was imbued with a dread of Mary. When I fell in love with the Catholic church and was received in, someone gave me a beautiful Rosary at Easter as a gift for my being received into the Church. I still had a dread of the “Hail Mary” prayer, but I was happier than I had ever been in my life – so I used the method I described specifically about the Rosary. I had four weeks of the most improbable blessings of my life – and have been a joyful Marian devotee ever since.

            Trust the good God and He will show you. It may be intended for you – and He will show you if you ask and promise to submit. It may be good but not for you – in which case nothing much will happen – it will be just like a normal class. If there is bad, He will show you. Trust and obey what you promise and you can tread anywhere without fear.

            Like

          • MM Bev says:

            Charlie, your’s is the best advice I have read/heard so far. We did end up with a priest some years ago, and be the time the Bishop was aware of the programs he was using and where the emphasis leading, he took subtle but strong action. I was amazed, because his nature was very introverted and he hated conflict or confrontation. The priest in question moved to another diocese quietly, but the parish had certainly been affected. It took quite a number of years before, and alas, the quiet leaving of some prominent people in the parish who refused to let go of the ideas they had formed, before it returned to what the Bishop approved of. He has gone and we have a new Bishop now. However, it took a few priest,s even one brought specifically for a determined amount of time before the tabernacle was removed from it’s closet where it couldn’t be seen, a crucifix was in the center behind the altar and the water fountain/spa-like/baptismal font/ holy water for the Sign of the Cross, was replaced with a normal holy waster receptical, and a normal baptismal font appeared. (I do have to say, that it really was the most spectacular feature of the church.) It happened slowly, slowly, as the influence of one program after another was introduced, sliding along a number of years. The reverse also had to take a number of years and teaching, so that despite honest efforts, instigators and die-hards chose to leave, rather than give up “their ideas” and the majority of the parish remained. That was sad because some very committed and talented people preferred to leave. (And there are kneelers now, too.) I went to a number of the programs and recognized the problems. I was amazed by two things: how quietly, slowly, but surely people were nudged by peer approval, and that they didn’t have enough Catholic knowledge to see what was happening. If you wanted to be emersed in the activity of the parish that was the direction you had to choose. Second, it took as long to slowly move back to a stable Catholic parish as it did to move it away. And the cost to the priests involved on clean up duty, really suffered. The only one who didn’t was the priest who came from England for a specified period because he wasn’t incarcerated into the Diocese. Just another good reason to pray every day for our priests.

            Like

      • MM Bev says:

        As nearly as I have been able to figure out, how and who, specifically who, presents the program has an effect on the outcome. It isn’t heretical, but can drift or emphasis aspects that are not Catholic in their nature or outcome. In our Diocese we have a wonderful Bishop who ensures that not only the Programs used have his endorsement, but that the facilitator is also comeone who is credible and has some certification before allowing them to proceed. A good number of our programs and courses take place within the Chancery itself or at the very least in a parish facility.
        This has led me to observe a new “phenomenon” in the Church. There are a number of adults, both male and female, who are choosing to remain single and celibate, each living on their own, with a sibling, or reaming at home. Most of them are close to or past thirty and have made a commitment to servicing the Church as a single person. These range from Catholic teachers, to RCIA leaders, to street ministry, to overseeing approved programs for Adult education. None of them has in any way broadcast their decision, and I only know because I have mentioned it in some way to them. None of them have attached themselves to lay affiliation with any order, although a couple have gone through programs to enable them to become familiar with that order’s lay program. I am truly amazed at how many there are. Some, especially once having a degree to teach leave for other provinces.
        I have no familiarity with the United States. Do any of you see the same thing happening?

        Like

  7. MM Bev says:

    Also be aware that much of this stuff uses Christian terminology with a different meaning attract to trick you.

    Like

    • MM Bev says:

      Gee whiz. I started my first comment and when I posted it five other people had already gotten theirs up. So I go fast and what happens. Ugh. “Different meaning attached to trick you”.

      Like

  8. Pam says:

    Thank you Charlie for this, many years ago in the 80’s when I was young a stupid, I drifted slowly into some new age books and ideas. Our Lady rescued me and invited me to Medjugorje. Such a wonderful, beautiful change in my life where the solid truth of the Catholic Church brought me back to reality. What left a strong impression on me was the beautiful priest who heard my confession outside on that red clay dirt of Medjugorje, he began to cry and put his head in his hands (of course I thought I had really done the impossible of shocking a priest with my confession ..) but he told me he weeps because of all the priests he knew who were really getting involved in the New Age and what a sad loss it was and how lonely the ones left who were trying to hold on to the truth.

    So many good things are going on now, back then we had to drive many miles to find a decent Mass or attend a Marian Conference. Now my parish has 24 hour adoration, benedictions, Divine Mercy hours. Also, after 30 years we now have a tabernacle in the Church instead of a closet. As terrifying as the world is getting, our parish life is profoundly blessed .

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      Medjugorje has been a lifesaver for many people caught up in these deceptive mystical cults, Pam. Please remember to offer both your prayers for our faithful priests and befriend a few who you can. Theirs is often lonely work – and they need friends they can just kick back with from time to time.

      Like

  9. Robyn says:

    I remember years ago I was searching…I wasn’t even sure what for exactly. I wanted to develop a spiritual life and wanted to learn how to pray beyond the prayers I had memorized as a child (I didn’t know how to just speak with God, which is prayer). I bought a book called “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson. I thought, “this is what I’ve been looking for,” this book looked like it was right up my alley. I took it on vacation, sat on a beach and started reading, the whole time time thinking I was going to love this book. Funny thing happened though, I couldn’t get into it. I kept thinking, “what wrong with me I should love this book. This is what I’ve been looking for.” Still nothing, nada. I pressed on until I found it. There it was, maybe 30 pages in (give or take), in black and white, it read “There is no devil…no such place as hell”. Even though I didn’t know that I could talk to God any time, anywhere… still spiritually an embryo I knew this was wrong, this person was wrong and even dangerous in what she was teaching. I felt so relieved…that’s why I couldn’t get into this book! Not long after that I took up the search again and found a book about Medjugorje- The Visions of the Children by Janice Connell..and my whole life changed. The search was over. My own beautiful Blessed Mother came and saved me from myself and taught me how to pray… and so much more!

    Like

  10. Barbara Dore says:

    please pray for all priests and they need our prayers badly. I read that Our lady promises to repay us if we pray for her beloved sons…offer the daily rosary for her beloved sons. Our Lady said all priests are her beloved sons. Our Lady did repay me that I got two lovely surprises and she led an unknown priest to my hospital bed as I was surprised to see him approaching me… he blessed me with the oil. He told me that he was the best friend of my chaplain (RIP). It was a small world! ,..I was blessed to have a lovely priest from USA to stay in my house for three days a few years ago. We had three masses being celebrated in my house. I felt very honoured to have him with us for the few days. It was definitely Our lady’s hand!I realised it was due to Our lady’s promise. I assure you that She will definitely repay you if you offer the rosary every day for her beloved sons ( priests).

    Like

  11. donna269 says:

    Connie or Charlie:
    I have friends who are trying to get me to go to Centering Prayer retreats which are based on Fr Thomas Keating’s teachings on this subject. I am aware of Yoga being new age. What are your thoughts on the practices of Keating?

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      Well, Donna, he was one of the founders of the Centering Prayer movement. I have met some people who have gone for contemplation or retreats through Snowmass, where he lives. Those I have met come back confused, disheartened, or enthused about the practice rather than the Christ. Centering prayer is a portal to deeper occult practices and I have never seen any good, any fruit come of it. It is one of those practices defended as being compatible with the faith while, when you meet those who actually practice it, all their enthusiasm is drawn away from Christ.

      But your larger point probably is, if we can find some priest or nun somewhere who fill figuratively “baptize” a bad or semi-occult practice – or especially take the lead in promoting it, doesn’t that make it okay? That a priest speaks so makes something worthy of serious consideration, but does not relieve us of our obligation to discern. Many abuses and errors have been introduced over the ages by well-meaning but confused clerics, or by clerics whose enthusiasm was captured by something strange, or worse.

      I have never seen any positive fruit from centering prayer and much that is negative. I regard it as New Age nonsense and avoid it as such – just as I avoid the mystical teachings of yoga despite having met a few priests who were mistakenly enthused by it.

      Like

      • ann says:

        On centering prayer–I knew a lovely old woman of simple faith (since gone to be with the Lord) who went to a local convent to participate in a centering prayer workshop. (she often had done holy hours in their chapel) she told me “I don’t know what was wrong I just couldn’t do it. I had to leave.” I told her I thought her Guardian Angel had protected her. She had a great life long devotion to Our Lady!!!! No wonder she was protected. I don’t judge the motives of those who sponsor such things but we must must must pray for them.

        Like

        • charliej373 says:

          Thank you, Ann. The best of people are often deceived about certain things – at least for a time. If you read good solid biographies of the saints that are not mere hagiography, you find that even the saints are deceived for a time about certain things. It is their unwavering enthusiasm for Christ that brings them back from what turn out to be unholy enthusiasms. And it may well be – as St. Teresa is quoted above – that they God suffers them to be led astray for a time that, through their experience, they may be even more effective advocates for the truth against the particular error that briefly seduced them. It amuses me sometimes to think how frustrating things must sometimes be for the devil. How often does he think he has seduced someone only to find later that all he accomplished was to give advanced training to what would turn out to be one of his most effective foes! So you are right – judge neither the holiness or worthiness of a person merely by their errant enthusiasms.

          Like

          • MM Bev says:

            There are certain things that you should run as fast as you can from. The, and it’s not current, presentation of mediation and contemplation is an example. The books can be tricky. One that I read was called “Sadana, a Way to God” which was by an East Indian Jesuit. He gave a presentation in our diocese back in the 80’s. A snake by any other name is still a snake.
            There is, I believe Christian methods of meditation, but make sure that is what it is. The Beatles and music artists brought back a lot of garbage from their trip to India (see the songs from that period) and there were plenty of ashrams started on both coasts of the US. Contemplation cannot be achieved by humans, us. Contemplation is a pure, gratis gift of God. You can’t earn it, you can’t practice your way to achieving it, you can’t study enough to learn how to attain it. You can learn how to prepare yourself with effort and hard work, so that if God wishes to give you this gift, you have laid some groundwork. Contemplation cannot be achieved by human beings, it can only be give to the soul as a purely gratis gift from God. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, put it on Charlie’s blog. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk, and discussed contemplation in his book, “Bread in the Wilderness”, which is a book on the Psalms. Best explanation, and clearest I have ever read. I hunted for five years to find him. Quoting one and one half pages should clear up any misunderstandings.
            In the early eighties, I went to a “mediation” group. Met once a week and then practiced at home. Leader kept telling me I was just doing wonderfully, and not to be concerned about what was happening, It was just going perfect. Bilge. It was twenty minutes a day, and the focus was on Jesus, only I would immediately fall asleep when I began and wake up twenty minutes later. I was assured that Jesus was doing wonderful things in my soul ever though I was asleep the entire time. I decided that if Jesus could work wonders in me in twenty minutes of sleep, I might as well use the time productively, and He could work on me a lot longer when I was asleep at night. Frankly the only amazing thing about it was I would wake up after twenty minutes on the dot. Hummmmm.

            Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s