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Theology for the common man

THE NEW AGE – RELIGION OF THE GLOBAL VILLAGE?

The modern world, at the current level of human techno-technological progress, an all-encompassing communications system which enables an almost immediate flow and exchange of information and a much faster form of movement from one hemisphere to the other, has been called in the last hundred years the phenomenon of the ”global village” (Marshall McLuhan, 1964). The New Age, a great social/cultural movement whose premise bears a tendency toward the unification of all manifestations of human thought and action, particularly those once overlooked as borderline - the so called (para) sciences - is perceived here as a kind of universal religion. So too is the task professed by the individual guru, electronically collecting the achievements of the human spirit of previous generations, wherever they may exist, in order to replace currently prevailing Christianity. Rules applying to the latter are eyed with great mistrust, for it is thought that a favorable moral-spiritual threshold remains unavailable, thus resulting in an established social order subordinate to the institutions of the State and to some extent the Church, which looks upon the New Age with reluctance and often with outright hostility. For the Church is regarded as the cause of spiritual ossification, which discredits Christianity as a religion of the free spirit and leads to decadence of the entire previous Western civilization over which Christianity once presided. What is the truth about the New Age and can it take on a leadership role shaping the destiny of future generations of civilization in place of current Christianity? These questions are more to the point, since for decades every sphere of human activity, like it or not, always has brushed up against issues related to the New Age.

Aquarius
Perhaps most precisely to the question: What is the New Age? The underlying answer hidden under the sign of the Zodiac Aquarius - generally shown today with the rainbow and the triangle rising out of a semicircular sun on its right side - is what they symbolize. Its creator, Paul le Cour, probably never even dreamed that several years later his astrological-esoteric theory would become a transparent sign of the entire subsequent motion opposing the all-encompassing level of civilization, calling for a new world order. Now this French advocate of the occult sciences, in 1937 wrote the book called L’ere du Verseau (The Age of Aquarius), in which he tried to demonstrate the existing interaction between the phases of the Zodiac, in which at any given moment the sun can be found and the simultaneous prevalence on earth of religious ideologies or hierarchy of values. He concluded that the planet Earth, more or less, every 2000 years passes through various phases of civilization dependant on the influence of whichever sign of the Zodiac in which it finds itself. And he was so convinced that when the sun found itself in the phase of the sign of the Bull (4320-2160BC), in many places on earth: Egypt, Assyria or Babylonia, the prevailing religions were associated with the cult of the bull. In the subsequent two thousand years, the sun passed through the sign of Aries, which exhibited the influence of Judaism as expressed in the offering of Abraham, or the beliefs of Egypt and Babylonia with components of the worship of the ram. From the beginning of our era to more or less our contemporary time, the sun has been under the sign of Pisces, which corresponds to Christian civilization. Appropriate to the character of the “feuding brothers’, civilization has distinguished itself by inequalities, slavery, rivalries, operational policies of man relative to nature, brutal conquest of non-European cultures, patriarchal order, lack of tolerance, authoritativeness, etc. In current times, made significant by the transitioning into the new phase of the sun called the Age of Aquarius, which is to end the reign of Christianity, there will begin a new era (New Age). Here finally new holistic values will dominate the harmony of human culture and all of nature, with peace and tolerance, a voice allowing entrance to all spiritual spheres previously forbidden or unknown.

Birth of the New Age
Of course, Paul le Cour in writing these words was not completely without “new knowledge”, which already in the past hundred years and in his time as well presented itself in environments outside of Christianity. The word is that knowledge of the scope of the occult, esotericism and Gnosticism, which did not fit within the Judeo-Christian orthodoxy in the face of the existing foundation of Western civilization, was always present on the sidelines of recognized trends. According to the leaders, failures of Christianity, precisely now called for serious alternatives - solutions for the new civilization. Hence it is proposed that the theosophist Paul le Cour referred to these solutions. He was aware of the activities of the theosophical society, founded by Helen Blawacka (1875) and popularized a half-century later by Alice Bailey. They claimed among themselves that this was a new unified religious-social world order, indicative of a common core of all religions, but discrediting Christianity which effected the dismissal of satanic symbolism, spiritualism, alchemy and magic. Meanwhile, the voice began to pursue elements of Eastern religions and paganism with their attractive methods of meditation designed to experience fairly quickly the divine power concealed within every single person. To this add the popular interest in the so-called new psychology of the self (psychoanalysis) in the works of Z. Freud and his successors, along with the pagan beliefs associated with the worship of the earth, a stopgap for the coming interest in ecology. All these elements became critical leaven for the later flourishing of what today we call the New Age. The horrors of two world wars, the totalitarian system, the natural breakdown of the environment, man’s alienation in urban environments, all added fuel to the fire that in the opinion of an alternative culture testified to a burnout of Christianity. Toward a more immediate popularization of the idea of the New Age in the sixties and seventies, the last century contributed visits of gurus from the East to Europe and America where they established their own schools of religion along with popular movements: Beatniks and Hippies dissatisfied with the current direction of civilization, known as the counter-culture. It is they who by messages contained in music and song (blues, jazz, rock) broadcast via radio and CD reached the broad masses throughout the world. Among the pioneers and patrons of the new age we must include a few notables: Rudolf Steiner, Grigori Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, Aldous Huzley, Timothy Leary, etc.

The Contemporary Image
Even this cursory search into the history of the formation of the New Age shows its presence today stronger than ever. It ought to be noted that this movement has no main command center modeled after church with its priests, sacred books, registered members, because a creed (confession of faith) in their opinion is alien to the universal idea of the one mystic religion alleged to be a reflection of every other. It is a sort of global spiritual movement gathering to itself all forms of so-called free spirits, who can always be found unconnected to a particular institution. Its followers and practitioners are people who share similar beliefs not based on any designated religion. In place of central organization they occupy themselves with publishing books; in place of homilies they use seminars and informal groups focused on new ideas. As we have seen, part of this ideology emanates from elements of Eastern religions, from paganism, esotericism, occultism, magic, gnosticism, theosophy, alchemy, astrology, spiritualism, parapsychology, along with proven methods of meditation and initiation into the phenomenon of the spirit. New Age analysts speak of the internal existence of a so-called new cosmic spirituality, a new scientific paradigm considering the spiritual element of the world along with a new transpersonal psychology surpassing personal limits. All are attempts to explain the theoretical complexities of the new age on the plane of religion, (para)scientific and psychological, giving basis to the conformity of our civilization corresponding to their era of Aquarius.

General Doctrine and Its Representatives
As a result of the above fundamentals of the New Age, it is possible to list a few elementary doctrines by which it can be characterized:

-The pantheistic concept of nature and energy, being in continuous relationship between macro (global) and micro (human) space,

-The equalization of all known gods to date, presenting them as accidents of geography, history and culture.

-The formation of a new religion without dogmas, morals, institutions, God and grace,

-A belief in alternative spiritual beings subject to transmigration, requiring advanced knowledge on their part of the phenomenon of the spirit,

-An occultism in a new scientific and ecological guise, serving here as a means of achieving the goals and happiness of man, creating a new world without God under the auspices of the all-encompassing power of nature.

Counted among the contemporary leaders of the New Age are: Fritjof Capra, David Bohm, James Lovelock, Gregory Bateson, Joseph Campbell, Marilyn Ferguson, Theodore Roszak, Stanislav Grof, Ken Wilber, etc.

Christian Criticism
Christianity is aware of the dangers stemming from the New Age, since even from the beginning the movement did not conceal its hostility toward the institution of the church and its resultant civilization, but saw therein the alleged source of crisis. In the first place, criticism of Christianity by the New Age is one-sided and unreliable. Secondly, and this must be carefully stated, in confrontation with the Church this movement has involved all the aforementioned disputed arguments of culture that are in contradiction with Christian teaching. Contemporary culture expert, Fr. John Andrew Kloczowski, adds a few of their particularly dangerous ideologies: it characterizes itself as a so-called free-market spirituality, making truth dependent upon whichever of its recognized beliefs happens to please them, just as one might make a purchase in a supermarket; it returns to the original myth of the savage with his lifestyle in line with divine nature, without God but with pagan habits and lacking in grace; the very name “era of Aquarius” already is introduced as a watery(weak) element: the lack of institutions, of traditional authority and naïve faith in unfamiliar authorities, the lack of clear identity, bringing in the incorporeal dimension only of the psychological and labeling it spiritual, on this are based their wholly new transpersonal theories.