Since the 80s at least, brave Christians have been noticing that there is some syncronicity between the mystical practices and teachings of Christianity and New Age theories. Being a fairly adventurous sort of mystically inclined Christian, I understand the allure. But in the end, I would strongly warn people against delving in too deep.
Many Christians warn against New Age teaching primarily because getting involved with New Age teachings is so frequently associated with leaving Christianity altogether or morphing it into some sort of strange hybrid. I very intentionally made a commitment to remaining an orthodox Christian (the historical version of orthodox, not any of these new fangled post-Constantine versions these kids these days are into) before delving into any New Age materials. Which I’m glad I did because some of it is just right there on the split edge of truth. It’s very easy to see why people who start down that path so often follow it. But I just kept coming back to the fact that at its core is a very shaming message.
At the core of New Age teaching are a lot of ideas which are really shaming to people who are struggling. No matter how gently they try to put it, the basic message is that there is something at the root of your suffering which must be addressed or corrected before you can reach enlightenment and end your suffering. I think even Christians like Richard Rohr get caught in this idea of the root of our suffering being about what we need to fix.
I know it’s meant to be empowering and hopeful, but when you’re six feet under and ready to die from pain, being told that your ego is at the root of all your suffering is not helpful. I mean, go tell that to the little girl who just got sold into slavery. Or the woman who did it. I call bullshit.
Then there’s the “name it and claim it” theology of The Secret. I also have a hard time with any practice which requires you to spend money on crystals and oils and classes. That chakra balancing Thai Yoga massage would probably do wonders for me, but not at $80 a pop.
New Age teachings very consistently fail to serve the needs of those who are poor, oppressed and suffering. Which means that they are not and cannot be the road to humanity’s freedom and enlightenment.
Among New Agers, what may need fixing is your ego or false self or energy balance or whatever. And none of it may be bad in and of itself. I’ve been thinking I have a blocked throat chakra for a while myself. But for a desperate person to be told “here are the answers” only to discover that the answer is “it’s all your fault for doing it wrong” is cruel. It’s no different than what Job’s friends did to him, except there’s a marketing arm involved.
I think Christianity is the only faith which offers a real answer to people who are suffering. It basically tells the suffering person that
1. No matter how much you are hurting, you are innocent. Through Jesus, God has declared it so.
2. It’s going to be a long, painful and messy process to work through all of this suffering, so don’t lose faith when it seems like you’re dying. Look what happened with Jesus. Have courage and be brave!
3. There is something better waiting for those who endure. When you can’t endure, don’t worry. It will pass. Victory is already secured. Jesus rose from the grave and promised he’d come back for you. It’s only a matter of time.
There were days that during the last few years when I would see some New Age guru saying things like, “everyday you can choose joy” or some broadside against my evil ego that was making me suffer and I wanted to hunt them down and strangle them for being so stupid. One of the reasons Jesus asks us to enter into the lives of the suffering is so we won’t go around saying dumb shit to people who life is grinding them down into dust. When you’re sitting pretty and just need a little boost, “life is what you make it” might be a message of empowerment and hope. When you’ve just had a nervous breakdown in the grocery store because your card was declined and there’s no food in the house, that same message is like a jackboot in the face. It’s not nice to put a jack boot in the face of a struggling human.
Anyways, there’s my long, rambling take on the issue. No doubt the theology of New Age teachings are all wonky. But they are so fluid that it’s almost pointless trying to discuss the errors without getting drawn into long endless arguments where “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” starts to sound like a valid point. But if you look at the message it sends to people who are poor or oppressed or unable to speak for themselves, it’s fruit is bad. And that’s really all we need to know to know the tree is bad as well.
(All that being said, any Christian who is interested in what New Age teaching can look like at its best should check out Deepak Choprah’s The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore which was surprisingly good. Of course, Choprah’s deeply rooted in traditional religions and understands his subject matter much better than many who write about New Age spirituality. In case you just need to hear more of my opinions! 😉 )