The New Age is everywhere these days. We just saw it last week when a Native American blessing replaced a traditional Christian invocation at the beginning of a national memorial service to honor the victims of the Tucson shooting. Health care workers in our hospitals offer us the thoroughly New Age – and medically unsubstantiated – Reiki, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy, and reflexology. Yoga and tai chi have taken over the gym and invaded our schools (where you can’t say the name Jesus but you can bow to the snake god). Parishes host “Christian yoga” classes and retreat houses offer labyrinths, enneagrams and Christian Zen. It’s even in the vet’s office where a pet owner can get their anxious animal some relief through” integrated energy therapy.”
IMHO, as Christianity is slowly being removed from our society, it is being replaced by the New Age or other world religions (or a combination of both). Because man is both a physical and spiritual creation, he will always seek spiritual fulfillment whether that be in Christ or in whatever substitute is being offered.
But the Pontifical document on the New Age has a much more profound explanation of the phenomena of the rapid spread of New Age.
” . . .(I)t is significant that New Age has enjoyed enormous success in an era which can be characterized by the almost universal exaltation of diversity. Western culture has taken a step beyond tolerance – in the sense of grudging acceptance or putting up with the idiosyncrasies of a person or a minority group – to a conscious erosion of respect for normality. Normality is presented as a morally loaded concept, linked necessarily with absolute norms. For a growing number of people, absolute beliefs or norms indicate nothing but an inability to tolerate other people’s views and convictions. In this atmosphere, alternative life-styles and theories have really taken off: it is not only acceptable but positively good to be diverse.” (Sec. 2.5)
This certainly explains why Christianity never seems to be “tolerated” by the tolerant. Christianity is associated with the normality that has become anathema to the social and political elite of our time which is why the current standard of diversity is so blatantly selective and will never include us.
And as this twisted form of diversity proliferates, so does the New Age and all of its clever new forms of “spirituality” that are marketed via the internet and other forms of mass media.
As the document explains:
“It is essential to bear in mind that people are involved with New Age in very different ways and on many levels. In most cases it is not really a question of belonging to a group or movement; nor is there much conscious awareness of the principles on which New Age is built. It seems that for the most part, people are attracted to particular therapies or practices, without going into their background and others are simply occasional consumers of products which are labeled ‘New Age.’
“People who use aromatherapy or listen to New Age music, for example, are usually interested in the effect they have on their health or well-being; it is only a minority who go further into the subject and try to understand its theoretical (or “mystical”) significance. This fits perfectly into the patterns of consumption in societies where amusement and leisure play such an important part.”
The New Age movement has indeed thrived on consumerism. As the document points out, there will always be a way of profiting from people’s perceived spiritual needs – and profit they have.
Estimates of the number of people who identify with the New Age movement in the U.S. is said to as high as 20 million, with a significant number of these being middle-aged baby boomers who left established religion in the 60’s to chase after the Age of Aquarius and a Harmonic Convergence that never happened. We also happen to be the generation with all the money at the present moment.
There’s a lot of money to be made in the New Age. For instance, becoming a Reiki master can cost as much as $10,000 and Masters charge anywhere from $175 to $500 for their services.
Psychic readings are another goldmine (for the psychics). Prices with an average psychic reader range anywhere from $180 to $240 with megastars like George Anderson charging $1200 for a 60 minute phone session and Sylvia Browne earning $750 a session.
The New Age book market is another boom (for New Age writers). More than 10 percent of all total sales of adult books are in the Body/Mind/Spirit category which is dominated by New Age writers. That amounts to billions of dollars a year in sales.
I could go on and on but I think you get the point – the New Age is an industry that is not exactly on the very of bankruptcy.
As Christians, we need to be aware of these trends and hone our message accordingly. Above all, we must never forget our marching orders:
” . . .Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own liking, and will turn away from listening to the Truth and to wander into myths” (2 Tim 4: 2-4 RSV).
Let us keep one another in prayer as we continue to fight the good fight!