Skip to comments.Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age
Posted on 02/03/2003 11:50:30 AM PST by Loyalist
The present study is concerned with the complex phenomenon of New Age which is influencing many aspects of contemporary culture.
The study is a provisional report. It is the fruit of the common reflection of the Working Group on New Religious Movements, composed of staff members of different dicasteries of the Holy See: the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue (which are the principal redactors for this project), the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
These reflections are offered primarily to those engaged in pastoral work so that they might be able to explain how the New Age movement differs from the Christian faith. This study invites readers to take account of the way that New Age religiosity addresses the spiritual hunger of contemporary men and women. It should be recognized that the attraction that New Age religiosity has for some Christians may be due in part to the lack of serious attention in their own communities for themes which are actually part of the Catholic synthesis such as the importance of man' spiritual dimension and its integration with the whole of life, the search for life's meaning, the link between human beings and the rest of creation, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity.
The present publication calls attention to the need to know and understand New Age as a cultural current, as well as the need for Catholics to have an understanding of authentic Catholic doctrine and spirituality in order to properly assess New Age themes. The first two chapters present New Age as a multifaceted cultural tendency, proposing an analysis of the basic foundations of the thought conveyed in this context. From Chapter Three onwards some indications are offered for an investigation of New Age in comparison with the Christian message. Some suggestions of a pastoral nature are also made.
Those who wish to go deeper into the study of New Age will find useful references in the appendices. It is hoped that this work will in fact provide a stimulus for further studies adapted to different cultural contexts. Its purpose is also to encourage discernment by those who are looking for sound reference points for a life of greater fulness. It is indeed our conviction that through many of our contemporaries who are searching, we can discover a true thirst for God. As Pope John Paul II said to a group of bishops from the United States: Pastors must honestly ask whether they have paid sufficient attention to the thirst of the human heart for the true 'living water' which only Christ our Redeemer can give (cf. Jn 4:7-13). Like him, we want to rely on the perennial freshness of the Gospel message and its capacity to transform and renew those who accept it (AAS 86/4, 330).
(Excerpt) Read more at vatican.va ...
And now over to the panel of experts for their comments!
Phenomena as diverse as the Findhorn garden and Feng Shui 23 represent a variety of ways which illustrate the importance of being in tune with nature or the cosmos. In New Age there is no distinction between good and evil. Human actions are the fruit of either illumination or ignorance. Hence we cannot condemn anyone, and nobody needs forgiveness. Believing in the existence of evil can create only negativity and fear. The answer to negativity is love. But it is not the sort which has to be translated into deeds; it is more a question of attitudes of mind.
I was hoping for something more theologically inclined and perhaps an explanation of why Buddha on the Altar is not appropriate. Instead, it was nothing more than a hit piece and a refusal to look in the ecclesiastical mirror. They should have consulted people who understood the arena before writing this.
This will not go over well in the Catholic community at large, for a lot of reasons.
I agree with you. Did you happen to notice that in Section 8.1.: "Documents of the Catholic Church's Magisterium" no document sourced is dated earlier than 1989?
The more I think about this, the more disturbed I am by it. Given the current situation in the Church, the neglect and dismantling of our mystical and deep spiritual traditions in favor of bland and insipid substitutes, why IS the Vatican surprised at the attraction to the New Age movement? What are they doing to stem the tide? Do they even understand it? I'm afraid they have lost moral authority with the scandals and any document along these lines will simply be laughed off. What I am more afraid of is they are unaware of our Spiritual Traditions which could bring in the lost and spiritually searching.
I concur. A very uneven, but mostly inadequate treatment of the subject.
Seems to rely too heavily on Marilyn Ferguson, who has a similarly superficial outlook.
No mention at all of the Qabbalah. No mention of the Order of the Golden Dawn. No mention of Aleister Crowley. No mention of the star Sirius.
Even Freemasonry gets just 3 mentions in passing, nothing in depth. They don't even make the cut for the glossary.
Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a "New Age book"? LOL! Did they even buy a copy?
Don't drink any herbal tea!
I am pursuing a Masters in Religious Ed and my cohorts in the course are so pathetically ignorant about their faith, it's sad. It's all me, me, me. Not God, God, Go, and his mercy towards me as revealed by His Son and the gift of Grace. V's wife.
If there are two or more interpretations of a text, choose that interpretation which is more plausible. Such is the principle of charity in matters of interpretation. Why not say this: they merely cited Kuhn's definition of paradigm because the they think the term is used by the New Age people in that sense? They were not at all saying that Kuhn himself was a New Ager. I do not doubt that the folks who drew up the document have read their Kuhn. Or do you think you are the only one in the Church who has read Kuhn?
And yes, they connected everything under the sun to New Age, because everything under the sun figures into worldviews. That is what a worldview is, an all embracing comprehensive account of reality as a whole. And that is what New Age is, a cultural movement that is seeking to formulate an alternative worldview. Furthemore, by being so comprehensive, the Church is demanding that people critically reflect upon everything in their lives and purge from our lives all that does not come from Christ.
As for herbal therapies, I do not think they are talking about taking herbal cold-medicine or using nutritional supplements, or programs, as relief from chronic pain. They are talking about the ritualistic use of these things for the sake of acquiring enlightenment about one's inner self, as a program for finding the meaning of life. How many Freepers do that? (there are other things to which New Agers put such things to use).
I am surprised that you folks are not happier that they acknowledged a big problem within the Church and are doing something about it. Listen to what they write:
"It must unfortunately be admitted that there are too many cases where Catholic centres of spirituality are actively involved in diffusing New Age religiosity in the Church. This would of course have to be corrected, not only to stop the spread of confusion and error, but also so that they might be effective in promoting true Christian spirituality." section 6.2
As for the remark about resources within the Catholic tradition for attracting these people to Christ, the document says:
"The beginning of the Third Millennium offers a real kairos for evangelisation. People's minds and hearts are already unusually open to reliable information on the Christian understanding of time and salvation history. Emphasising what is lacking in other approaches should not be the main priority. It is more a question of constantly revisiting the sources of our own faith, so that we can offer a good, sound presentation of the Christian message. We can be proud of what we have been given on trust, so we need to resist the pressures of the dominant culture to bury these gifts (cf. Mt 25.24-30). One of the most useful tools available is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There is also an immense heritage of ways to holiness in the lives of Christian men and women past and present. Where Christianity's rich symbolism, and its artistic, aesthetical and musical traditions are unknown or have been forgotten, there is much work to be done for Christians themselves, and ultimately also for anyone searching for an experience or a greater awareness of God's presence. Dialogue between Christians and people attracted to the New Age will be more successful if it takes into account the appeal of what touches the emotions and symbolic language." section 6.2
In this last excerpt, there is a direct appeal to draw upon the traditions of the Church precisely as effective forms of personal spiritual development and as means for reaching out.
So we have condemnations of certain novelties and appeals to tradition, and you people are dissapointed with the document?
It seems to me that most of you have not read the document carefully, or not read it charitably. As for me, I am deeply impressed with the document. It rings true to much of what I have experienced with New Agers, acknowledges problems in the Church, gives a good description of the relationship between New Age and Gnosticism, sets the movement within its larger philosophical context, including the damnable portions of modernity, urges us to employ traditional devotions, is setting up to rollback new age retreat centers, and sets a course for dealing with the vast influence of New Age. My only complaint is that it is twenty five years too late. But better late than never. Some people, relying upon this document, will be a part of the solution. Others will just bitch.
It is not considered to be the Vatican's final word on the New Age issue. A definitive document will be issued once the Vatican receives feedback from diocese to the provisional one issued Monday, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
This is a provisional draft of a more definitive document yet to come. I think the document talks about several things in New Age that are flatly incompatible with the Catholic faith. See especially the questions to be used for discernment that are provided in section 4. This is mostly repetitive for those who are well formed Catholics, but not for those who are steeped in New Age thought and confused by it. Also, section 4 brings into focus those specific points that might otherwise be difficult for faithful Catholics to articulate. Section 7 reduces this polymorphous spirituality to a definite intellectual position, even if variations on the theme are numerous.
The new age nuns should be concerned about this document.
I've been exposed to a lot of New Age stuff over the years... people don't even realize what they are doing, so it is good that the paper seems to be fairly specific and hopefully there will be no question of what comprises "New Age" spirituality.
I'd posit that almost anything that leaves the traditional fullness of the faith in search of Him, could be linked to New Age. It is almost like we are looking beyond Catholicism and expecting to find Truth - usually within ourselves as He does dwell in us - and that is the starting point for New Agers. Sadly, a lot of the clergy are infected with this to some degree. When they jettison a lot of the traditions of prayer of the Church, they are forced to look elsewhere.
I did not see "centering prayer" mentioned in the paper - wish they had done so. I'd also link inclusive language here as well.
Yes, but now it is spelled out for them and it gives us something to hand to them when they start to infect others. Wish I had had this last fall when a couple of New Agers (a priest and a nun) were invited in to lead our parish in a parish retreat, I woulda handed it to them. They are the authors of books on enneagrams and centering prayer - connected with Basil Pennington. I'm tellin' ya, it was scary. Scarier yet, I don't believe most/all the parishioners were aware they were being drawn into the snare. Which is what it is.
I was forced to walk past the nun on my way out one day... she looked me in the eyes and I shivered. Honest. I will never forget her eyes.
I'm sorry, but due to times we live in I am not going to make any automatic assumptions about anything. I am evaluating the article on its merits. It comes up lacking in many ways. Parts of it show a deep lack of understanding of the issues at hand. Add this to the low level of credibility which the Church has fallen to in light of recent scandals and this document is classified as a bomb. Anyone who is pursuing a New Age path will simply laugh at it while those who have an understanding of it will be embarrassed by it. It is evident the authors have not studied the situation first hand but are relying on books which are opinions of their authors. The scholarship here is lacking. I could drive a truck through all the holes.
Yes, they are saying that Kuhn's book is a "New Age Book."
9 GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY
9.1. Some New Age books
William Bloom, The New Age. An Anthology of Essential Writings, London (Rider) 1991.
Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, Berkeley (Shambhala) 1975.
Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point: Science, Society and the Rising Culture, Toronto (Bantam) 1983.
Benjamin Creme, The Reappearance of Christ and the Masters of Wisdom, London (Tara Press) 1979.
Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy. Personal and Social Transformation in Our Time, Los Angeles (Tarcher) 1980.
Chris Griscom, Ecstasy is a New Frequency: Teachings of the Light Institute, New York (Simon & Schuster) 1987.
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago (University of Chicago Press) 1970.