Blog Post

Is all “self discovery” New Age?

capturedCB writes: “Could you give me a statement regarding the phrase 'self discovery’? This rings alarm bells for me but in the absence of clear cut info, I am struggling to find the right words.”

Not all self-discovery is problematic - but a lot of it is!

Let me explain.

Webster’s defines the term “self-discovery” as the act or process of achieving self-knowledge. For Christians, the pursuit of self-knowledge is vital for acquiring spiritual maturity because it requires a person to see themselves as they really are – sinners who are in need of salvation.

In psychology, it can mean searching for one’s true identity.

In the New Age, it usually means discovering your inner divinity or “higher self”. Because the New Age is essentially pantheistic (God is all in all), it believes that because God is in all of us, we are all gods and have only to look within ourselves to discover and claim our hidden divinity.

Unlike what Catholics believe, that God inhabits us by grace but remains the Creator and we the created, New Agers believe the presence of God within us makes us gods. This is why such a large number of their practices are devoted to connecting with this “god within”. They believe that the path to one’s “inner universe” is through the unconscious mind and so they utilize a variety of methods to bring about altered states of consciousness, most commonly Eastern meditation practices that use mantras to blank the mind.

We must also be careful with psychological applications of the concept of self-discovery which too often go beyond searching for a better understanding of who we are to actually enter the realm of the spiritual which is almost always a very New Age view of spirituality.

This is most obvious in the Human Potential Movement which blends psychology and spirituality – or where “science meets mysticism” as the authors of the Pontifical document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, describe it.

“The stress laid on bodiliness, the search for ways of expanding consciousness and the cultivation of the myths of the collective unconscious were all encouragements to search for the “the God within” oneself. To realize one’s potential, one had to go beyond one’s ego in order to become the god that one is, deep down. This could be done by choosing the appropriate therapy – meditation, parapsychological experiences, the use of hallucinogenic drugs. . . “ (Sec. 2.3.2.)

Many psychological practices incorporate mind-altering techniques such as hypnosis, meditation techniques, dream analysis, mindfulness, etc.

There is also an enormous self-help industry devoted to helping people achieve self-mastery in the form of books, seminars, retreats and conferences by the likes of New Age gurus such as Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, etc. All are variations of the same theme - what the mind can conceive, a person can achieve. The mind is God, we are God. All we need to do is learn how to be who we really are.

The bottom line is that you have good reason to be suspicious of “self discovery” because although it can be a good and healthy practice when properly applied, it has been thoroughly co-opted by New Agers and can pose serious mental, emotional and spiritual dangers for the unwary.