NEW AGE MOVEMENT
Jacob Thomas, Pathanamthitta
D. Sin is an illusion
Humanity's crises stem from a fragmented vision blind to this essential Oneness and to humanity's innate divinity. There is no place for the concept of sin in the New Age. There can be no sin because there is no transcendent God to rebel against. There are no rules or absolute moral imperatives. New Agers have a "New Thought" view of sin, which knows nothing of a representative man (Adam) by whose sin all men sinned. Nor does New Thought teach that there is any original sin, but that man's true essence is divine and perfect. Indeed, it finds nothing which is of the nature of sin. Instead, it speaks of "troublesome desires" which appear to be natural human impulses which direct men from consciousness to their identity with God, and, therefore, are troublesome but hardly sinful. Since New Agers believe that each person is god, thereby having endless potential for self-improvement. Sin as the Bible defines it is denied (man being inherently sinful and utterly depraved Rom. 5:12). Sin is merely ignorance of one's "inner divinity." Because sin does not exist, there is no need for repentance or forgiveness, and Jesus did not die for our sins. They think that any perceived lack that man might have is merely a lack of enlightenment, thereby eliminating the need of salvation or a Savior. In fact, salvation is not even an issue for New Agers. The soul is part of the universe and never dies.
Humanity's crises stem from alienation from God brought about by sinful rebellion (Isa. 53; John 3:19-2o; Rom. 3:10-18; 5:12-21). The Bible teaches that sin is real (I John 1:8-10), that sin separates an individual from God (Isaiah 59:2: Revelation 20:12, 15), and that Christ died to forgive human sin (John 3:16; I Peter 2:24). This contrasts and refutes the New Age teaching that sin is an illusion and Jesus is the master who revealed way to higher consciousness.
The basis for morality according to Scripture is God's own holiness as revealed in it (I John 1:5; 2:29; 3:4). The Bible rejects the NAM teaching of a morality based on personal preference which can lead to a potentially destructive approach to personal living and ethics.
Sinful man needs to be saved if he wants to escape the judgment of God. The Bible does not ensure the salvation of all people who hold diverse kinds of beliefs. The door of salvation is open to all those who repent of their sins and accept Christ as Savior and Lord. Salvation is an instantaneous free gift received by grace through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 6:47; I John 2:25; 5:13). A lengthy process of realizing one's own deity as proposed by NAM is rather condemned in the Scriptures. Attaining enlightenment through yoga and transcendental meditation is an attempt of salvation by works. The Bible speaks of a real heaven and hell; all those who are saved will go to heaven whereas the unsaved will have to depart to hell fire. The Bible does not approve of reincarnation in any sense. There is no chance for the dead spirit to come back and be reincarnated as taught by NAM. (Matthew 25: 46; Philippians 3:20, 21; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:10-15; 21:1-22:5).
Even though there are differences among the New Agers on different aspects of beliefs, there are certain ideals that are common with all the New Agers. Salvation by works is the most significant among them. Once they deny the existence of God as possessing personality, it becomes easier for them to construct the idea of salvation around man, who himself is God. In the New Age Movement man is his own savior. There are various methods of practices at the disposal of man; he can choose any of this to attain salvation. If he denies that he can work out his own salvation, that is the real sin. Karma or duties are the common means for salvation; some others speak of meditation and still others knowledge.
The Bible speaks of salvation purely on the basis of the grace of God. (Eph.2:8; Titus 3:5; Romans 5:20). Humanity needs to be transformed through the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which reconciles us to God. (John 3:3-8; 1 Cor. 6:9-1 1; Col. 1:20-22) Man has to admit that he is unable to save himself, in that as he is sinful, he needs outside help. The Bible speaks of God-made salvation which is simply received by man as a free gift. It may sound strange for a New Ager; that is because he has a wrong conception about God and the original state of man. The salvation Christ provides is experienced in this life and secured for the life to come (John 3:16; Phil. 1:21; Rom. 8:35).
F. Karma and Reincarnation
There arise so many questions in front of man about the sufferings in the world, while other people just enjoy life. New Agers have a ready made answer for that. They say that it is all because of the karma (the quality of actions both good and bad). The karma even has its after effect in the recurring lives which is called reincarnation. Today one person enjoys because the balance sheet of his karma is good; about the person suffering vice versa. Because of his bad karma he may be born as a wild animal in a forthcoming incarnation. The accumulation of all the good deeds will promote a person to merge with Brahman which is the ultimate state of nirvana.
It is reborn or reincarnated in different physical bodies in a succession of future lives. The good or bad "karma" earned in the present lifetime determines one's subsequent incarnation. Humans should seek to progress to higher states of consciousness and higher planes of existence. There are many different paths to the goal of spiritual perfection. No one path is the only correct path. The assumed cycle of reincarnation and karma presupposes a salvation by works, contrary to the principle of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).]
Man according to The Bible is the creation of the Almighty God who is completely different from the creation. The present life of man is not a reincarnation of an animal or plant lived previously. Man will not undergo another reincarnation. Man lives here as the creation of God. Because he is sinful on account of Adam’s sin, he is sinner by birth. Man is not divine in any sense nor can he attain that state even in eternity. Man needs to be reconciled with God; that is salvation in the Biblical sense. As he is unable to do that, Christ who is God became man and died a substitutionary death on the cross and all those repent of their sins and believe the death of Christ will be saved. If a man dies in his original state, that is in sin, he has to suffer the penalty of sin, that is death (eternal separation from God in hell). Death, according to the Bible is not a door to another reincarnation but everlasting punishment for sin. This is the reason the Bible stresses that salvation is so imperative for each individual. One has to take decision in this life. The Bible does not leave any chance for another life. There is sharp contrast between New Age ideas and teachings of the Bible.
The Bible teaches that both wisdom and knowledge come by non-mystical means (Prov. 1; I Tim. 4: 10-16; II Tim. 2:15; 3:14) and rejects the New Age idea that so called "higher" knowledge is available in mystical states of consciousness. Revealed knowledge of God and spiritual truth come from God himself who is truth, "who cannot lie"(John 14:6; Titus 1:2) by means of verifiable divine revelation (II Tim. 3:16-170, not spiritistic imitation that gives false information (I Tim 4:1; I John 4:1).
4. Who are the Leaders of New Age Movement ?
Shirley MacLaine, a TV star is the most visible New Age proponent. In her televised mini-series she inspired thousands to take up channeling. In 1987 she made nation wide seminars attended by almost 14,000 people. At Crestone, Colorado she began a 300 acre spiritistic retreat center. She is known as the super sales woman of the New Age Movement. Ken Wilbur is the New Age theorist. Medium Ruth Montgomery is a major popularizer of the New Age Movement. Marilyn Ferguson is one of the leaders of NAM, who wrote the best selling book The Aquarian conspiracy: Personal Social Transformation in the 1980's. She is also the editor of the Brain-Mind Bulletin and the Leading Edge Bulletin which discuss the scientific and social advances of NAM. The founder of Erhard Seminars Training, Werner Erhard is another leading figure. The Tao of Physics and Turning point, written by Fritjof Capra is a physicist who promoted to modern man. Carlos Castaneda, an Anthropologist, who converted to NAM, later wrote a couple of books on sorcery such as The Teaching of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Benjamin Creme is the self proclaimed forerunner of a New Age guru Maitreya. He is the author of the book The Reappearance of the Christ and Masters of Wisdom. John Lilly and Charles Tart are pioneering scientific researchers of altered state of consciousness. Robert Muller, is the author of New Genesis: Shaping a Global Spirituality.
5. How the New Age Movement is Affecting Society?
New Age Movement is affecting and influencing people in many ways. First of all it affects theologically. Those Christian workers who deal with the people that are influenced by eastern religions will soon notice that deep down in their heart they have an idea about God. That view is that God is impersonal residing in man himself. An atheist thinks that there is no God, but once he realizes that there exists a true God, he will have a drastic change of outlook. But for people affected by New Age, it is very difficult because they have an idea of God who is impersonal and inactive not a person. This kind of outlook shuts the door for any kind of spiritual renewal. Such people are immune to the spiritual realities such as reality of God, sinfulness of man, and redemptive work of Christ. This is the most devastating effect of NAM.
Secondly, it affects morally. One of the basic beliefs of the New Age Movement is that sin is not a reality it is only an illusion. This means that absolute morality is wrong. For one person some thing is wrong but for another the same is right. This view is common with all the new agers even though they disagree on certain issues. This is the reason that Swami Vivekananda said, "good and evil are one and the same." Bhagawan Rajneesh denounced the existing moral rules. "We have divided the world into the good and evil. The world is not so divided. The good and evil are our valuation. If there is no man on earth, there will neither be good nor bad. Things will exist. Things will be, but there will be no valuation. Valuation is human. It is our imposition, it is our projection. . . There is no good, there is no bad.. .So, do not impose on the creative process (God) your own feelings, your own valuations, rather if you want to know the creator, creative process, go beyond yourself, beyond these dualisms." There is no God as a person to judge the evil of man in NAM much more man is God. Then the logical conclusion is that what ever man does is right even though some may think it is evil.
Look, how this kind of false teaching can change the basic structure of morality of society. When the Bible says "Thou shalt not kill" Exodus 20:13, New Age Movement says, "Kill, murder, fully conscious, knowing that no one is murdered and no one is killed." So it becomes clear that the New Age Movement tries to bring in another model of morals by which they overthrow the existing moral and ethic laws.
The third important influence of NAM is its stress on human potentials. Cutting across party lines, all the New Agers emphasise the importance of man. All the theology of NAM revolves around man. Man according to NAM has enormous capabilities. Each of their leaders past and present are people who discovered their own potential, e.g. Swami Vivekananda, Bhagawan Rajneesh, Sathya Sai Baba, Matha Amruthandha Mai, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. All these people one way or another claimed to be god. In reality all those who accept this as their life style can claim themselves as God.
No doubt man is the crown of creation and created in the image likeness of God Genesis 1:27. Man is created to rule, but man can never claim to be God. Christian Theology gives God the prominent place. God is infinite and man is finite. God is immortal and man is mortal. The undue importance given to man will create lot of problems for humanity.
The fourth thing is that New Age Movement invades modern society through forwarding spirit possession (channeling). Many may doubt that how modern society can be influenced with such primitive culture and practice. One survey conducted recently in United States reveals some shocking facts. 67 percent of Americans believe in the existence of supernatural entities and 42 percent believe that they have contacted spirits of dead people. So the stage is set for the revival of spiritism. Many people adopt this as an alternative for religious worship. From man's point of view it may not be so serious but God warned his people against all kinds of mediums and spirits which can turn their hearts from the living God (Deut. 18:9-12).
Another important influence is that it will give a wrong impression for people especially young people about the Bible and people belonging to the true Christian faith. All the people affected by New Age teaching look down upon the Christians. NAM ideas encourage them to think that the Bible and Christian faith are rude and unscientific. It is not just belief but it becomes the way of life and it makes a drastic change in the out look of person. It becomes an uphill task for a Christian worker to make a New Age follower to be convinced about his real condition. Much more than these many other practices of New Age like crystals, yoga, transcendental meditation, healing with cosmic energy are also forbidden by the Bible.