Since we began this blog in 2009, I can’t tell you how many times we have received mail from people asking us to show them where we can find a prohibition against yoga, Reiki, and other New Age practices in Scripture. Because it’s not there (of course), the person feels that it is safe to assume no prohibition exists.
Not so fast!
Joseph Pearce, the Director of the Center for Faith and Culture and writer in residence at Aquinas College in Nashville, addressed this common error in a blog dated April 27, 2015. In it he refers to a Protestant who justified the use of artificial contraception because it wasn’t expressly forbidden in Scripture.
In short, he considers the idea of everything being permitted unless specifically forbidden in Scripture as being “problematic”. He then wisely lists a variety of obvious evils that the Bible also says nothing about.
“Communism is not condemned explicitly by scripture, nor is Fascism, nor is eugenics, nor is gay ‘marriage’,” Pearce writes. “Clearly moral theologians are meant to apply Scripture to present-day dilemmas . . .”
This is why the Church has the authority to address problems that arise as She moves through history.
“As such, the Church’s definitive teaching on contraception in Humanae vitae and elsewhere is authoritative, which is to say that it speaks with the same authority as the author of Scripture,” Pearce points out.
So how does this apply to the New Age?
Yoga is not specifically forbidden in Scripture, but the Lord specifically warns His people in Deuteronomy 12:31 against adopting pagan forms of worship, which means people who try to “Christianize” what is, in fact, a Hindu spiritual practice, needs to rethink what they’re doing.
We’re also warned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that practices such as yoga can “degenerate into a cult of the body.”
And those who claim they’re not worshiping other gods but just doing the “exercises”, as if this exonerates them from all sin, need to take another look at Romans 14 in which we’re advised by St. Paul not to cause scandal among the faithful or to become a “stumbling block” to another Christian. He makes this admonition regardless of whether you agree with your brother’s point-of-view or not. In other words, the absence of worship of Hindu gods isn’t the only way one can sin while practicing yoga, especially if a person’s family or friends could be led to believe participation in a Hindu spiritual practice is okay because they see you doing it.
The use of Reiki isn’t addressed in Scripture either, but the so-called “spirit guides” it relies upon sure are! In Deuteronomy 18:11 we’re told that those who “consult ghosts and spirits” are “an abomination to the Lord”.
The same verse condemns those who “seek oracles from the dead” which means the Long Island Medium can put all the statues of Mary she wants on her front lawn but it will never make her practice of mediumship anything other than an abomination in the eyes of God.
Using tarot cards, astrology, Ouija boards, psychics, and angel cards aren’t forbidden either, but these are considered to be practices of divination which is also forbidden in the same verse.
So is the practice of magic which is found in so many “harmless” young adult books such as Harry Potter. Even when the “magic” is used for good purposes, the catechism specifically states that the “one may not do evil so that good may result from it” (No. 1756).
Engaging in so-called prayer practices such as Transcendental Meditation and its many spawns are also not named as evils in Scripture, but, as the Catechism explains, Christian prayer is a “dialogue” with God – not a mental exercise. Twenty minutes of mind-blanking exercises in the morning and evening is not a dialogue with anyone except the beings we encounter while in the altered state we’re inducing in ourselves. These “erroneous notions of prayer” (see No. 2726 in the Catechism) aren’t found in Scripture, either but do they really need to be? Anyone with even a basic grasp of Christian prayer should know better!
As for the New Age, the Gospels are filled with admonitions against false prophets who distort the Gospel and preach their own idea of religion (see Matt. 7:15, 24:24). Who hasn’t heard the “fair and flattering speech” (Romans 16:18) of self-help gurus who tell us we can control our destiny simply by thinking a certain way?
A basic tenet of the New Age is that Jesus is “just another prophet” like Moses and Elijah, and yet we are specifically – and repeatedly – warned that “Every spirit that does not acknowlege Jesus does not belong to God” (1 John 4:3).
The bottom line is that scripture is meant to be read and prayed until its wisdom has been absorbed into our minds and hearts and can inform our consciences correctly. It was never meant to be an encyclopedia of “do’s” and “don’ts”.
If we fail to use Scripture correctly and continue to expect everything to be spelled out for us, we run the risk of becoming like the Scribes and the Pharisees who were so interested in following the “letter” of the law that they never comprehended its spirit.
And it is in the spirit of the law where the wisdom of God is found.