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FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF ESOTERIC SOPHISTRY

One of the most common elements in New Age "spirituality" is a fascination with extraordinary manifestations, and in particular with paranormal entities. People recognised as "mediums" claim that their personality is taken over by another entity during trances in a New Age phenomenon known as "channeling", during which the medium may lose control over his or her body and faculties. Some people who have witnessed these events would willingly acknowledge that the manifestations are indeed spiritual, but are not from God, despite the language of love and light which is almost always used.... It is probably more correct to refer to this as a contemporary form of spiritualism, rather than spirituality in a strict sense. Other friends and counsellors from the spirit world are angels (which have become the centre of a new industry of books and paintings). Those who refer to angels in the New Age do so in an unsystematic way; in fact, distinctions in this area are sometimes described as unhelpful if they are too precise, since "there are many levels of guides, entities, energies, and beings in every octave of the universe... They are all there to pick and choose from in relation to your own attraction/repulsion mechanisms".(22) These spiritual entities are often invoked 'non-religiously' to help in relaxation aimed at better decision-making and control of one's life and career. Fusion with some spirits who teach through particular people is another New Age experience claimed by people who refer to themselves as 'mystics'. Some nature spirits are described as powerful energies existing in the natural world and also on the "inner planes": i.e. those which are accessible by the use of rituals, drugs and other techniques for reaching altered states of consciousness. It is clear that, in theory at least, the New Age often recognizes no spiritual authority higher than personal inner SELF experience.


2.2.2. Harmony and Understanding: Good Vibrations

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. Love is energy, a high-frequency vibration, and the secret to happiness and health and success is being able to tune in, to find one's place in the great chain of being. New Age teachers and therapies claim to offer the key to finding the correspondences between all the elements of the universe, so that people may modulate the tone of their lives and be in absolute harmony with each other and with everything around them, although there are different theoretical backgrounds.(24)


2.2.3. Health: Golden living

Formal (allopathic) medicine today tends to limit itself to curing particular, isolated ailments, and fails to look at the broader picture of a person's health: this has given rise to a fair amount of understandable dissatisfaction. Alternative therapies have gained enormously in popularity because they claim to look at the whole person and are about healing rather than curing. Holistic health, as it is known, concentrates on the important role that the mind plays in physical healing. The connection between the spiritual and the physical aspects of the person is said to be in the immune system or the Indian chakra system. In a New Age perspective, illness and suffering come from working against nature; when one is in tune with nature, one can expect a much healthier life, and even material prosperity; for some New Age healers, there should actually be no need for us to die. Developing our human potential will put us in touch with our inner divinity, and with those parts of our selves which have been alienated and suppressed. This is revealed above all in Altered States of Consciousness (ASCs), which are induced either by drugs or by various mind-expanding techniques, particularly in the context of "transpersonal psychology". The shaman is often seen as the specialist of altered states of consciousness, one who is able to mediate between the transpersonal realms of spirits and gods and the world of humans.

There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric, others connected with the psychological theories developed in Esalen during the years 1960-1970. Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of "bodywork" (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualisation, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colours, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programmes (like AA)and self-help groups.(25) The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy.

Inasmuch as health includes a prolongation of life, New Age offers an Eastern formula in Western terms. Originally, reincarnation was a part of Hindu cyclical thought, based on the atman or divine kernel of personality (later the concept of jiva), which moved from body to body in a cycle of suffering (samsara), determined by the law of karma, linked to behaviour in past lives. Hope lies in the possibility of being born into a better state, or ultimately in liberation from the need to be reborn. What is different in most Buddhist traditions is that what wanders from body to body is not a soul, but a continuum of consciousness. Present life is embedded in a potentially endless cosmic process which includes even the gods. In the West, since the time of Lessing, reincarnation has been understood far more optimistically as a process of learning and progressive individual fulfilment. Spiritualism, theosophy, anthroposophy and New Age all see reincarnation as participation in cosmic evolution. This post-Christian approach to eschatology is said to answer the unresolved questions of theodicy and dispenses with the notion of hell. When the soul is separated from the body individuals can look back on their whole life up to that point, and when the soul is united to its new body there is a preview of its coming phase of life. People have access to their former lives through dreams and meditation techniques.(26)


2.2.4. Wholeness: A Magical Mystery Tour

One of the central concerns of the New Age movement is the search for "wholeness". There is encouragement to overcome all forms of "dualism", as such divisions are an unhealthy product of a less enlightened past. Divisions which New Age proponents claim need to be overcome include the real difference between Creator and creation, the real distinction between man and nature, or spirit and matter, which are all considered wrongly as forms of dualism. These dualistic tendencies are often assumed to be ultimately based on the Judaeo- Christian roots of western civilisation, while it would be more accurate to link them to gnosticism, in particular to Manichaeism. The scientific revolution and the spirit of modern rationalism are blamed particularly for the tendency to fragmentation, which treats organic wholes as mechanisms that can be reduced to their smallest components and then explained in terms of the latter, and the tendency to reduce spirit to matter, so that spiritual reality including the soul becomes merely a contingent "epiphenomenon" of essentially material processes. In all of these areas, the New Age alternatives are called "holistic". Holism pervades the New Age movement, from its concern with holistic health to its quest for unitive consciousness, and from ecological awareness to the idea of global "networking".


2.3. The fundamental principles of New Age thinking

2.3.1. A global response in a time of crisis

"Both the Christian tradition and the secular faith in an unlimited process of science had to face a severe break first manifested in the student revolutions around the year 1968".(27) The wisdom of older generations was suddenly robbed of significance and respect, while the omnipotence of science evaporated, so that the Church now "has to face a serious breakdown in the transmission of her faith to the younger generation".(28) A general loss of faith in these former pillars of consciousness and social cohesion has been accompanied by the unexpected return of cosmic religiosity, rituals and beliefs which many believed to have been supplanted by Christianity; but this perennial esoteric undercurrent never really went away. The surge in popularity of Asian religion at this point was something new in the Western context, established late in the nineteenth century in the theosophical movement, and it "reflects the growing awareness of a global spirituality, incorporating all existing religious traditions". (29)

The perennial philosophical question of the one and the many has its modern and contemporary form in the temptation to overcome not only undue division, but even real difference and distinction, and the most common expression of this is holism, an essential ingredient in New Age and one of the principal signs of the times in the last quarter of the twentieth century. An extraordinary amount of energy has gone into the effort to overcome the division into compartments characteristic of mechanistic ideology, but this has led to the sense of obligation to submit to a global network which assumes quasi- transcendental authority. Its clearest implications are a process of conscious transformation and the development of ecology.(30) The new vision which is the goal of conscious transformation has taken time to formulate, and its enactment is resisted by older forms of thought judged to be entrenched in the status quo. What has been successful is the generalisation of ecology as a fascination with nature and resacralisation of the earth, Mother Earth or Gaia, with the missionary zeal characteristic of Green politics. The Earth's executive agent is the human race as a whole, and the harmony and understanding required for responsible governance is increasingly understood to be a global government, with a global ethical framework. The warmth of Mother Earth, whose divinity pervades the whole of creation, is held to bridge the gap between creation and the transcendent Father-God of Judaism and Christianity, and removes the prospect of being judged by such a Being.

In such a vision of a closed universe that contains "God" and other spiritual beings along with ourselves, we recognize here an implicit pantheism. This is a fundamental point which pervades all New Age thought and practice, and conditions in advance any otherwise positive assessment where we might be in favor of one or another aspect of its spirituality. As Christians, we believe on the contrary that "man is essentially a creature and remains so for all eternity, so that an absorption of the human I in the divine I will never be possible".(31)

2.3.2. The essential matrix of New Age thinking

The essential matrix of New Age thinking is to be found in the esoteric-theosophical tradition which was fairly widely accepted in European intellectual circles in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was particularly strong in freemasonry, spiritualism, occultism and theosophy, which shared a kind of esoteric culture. In this world- view, the visible and invisible universes are linked by a series of correspondences, analogies and influences between microcosm and macrocosm, between metals and planets, between planets and the various parts of the human body, between the visible cosmos and the invisible realms of reality. Nature is a living being, shot through with networks of sympathy and antipathy, animated by a light and a secret fire which human beings seek to control. People can contact the upper or lower worlds by means of their imagination (an organ of the soul or spirit), or by using mediators (angels, spirits, devils) or rituals.

People can be initiated into the mysteries of the cosmos, God and the self by means of a spiritual itinerary of transformation. The eventual goal is gnosis, the highest form of knowledge, the equivalent of salvation. It involves a search for the oldest and highest tradition in philosophy (what is inappropriately called philosophia perennis) and religion (primordial theology), a secret (esoteric) doctrine which is the key to all the "exoteric" traditions which are accessible to everyone. Esoteric teachings are handed down from master to disciple in a gradual program of initiation.

19th century esotericism is seen by some as completely secularised. Alchemy, magic, astrology and other elements of traditional esotericism had been thoroughly integrated with aspects of modern culture, including the search for causal laws, evolutionism, psychology and the study of religions. It reached its clearest form in the ideas of Helena Blavatsky, a Russian medium who founded the Theosophical Society with Henry Olcott in New York in 1875. The Society aimed to fuse elements of Eastern and Western traditions in an evolutionary type of spiritualism. It had three main aims:

1. "To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, caste or colour. 2. "To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science. 3. "To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

"The significance of these objectives... should be clear. The first objective implicitly rejects the 'irrational bigotry' and 'sectarianism' of traditional Christianity as perceived by spiritualists and theosophists... It is not immediately obvious from the objectives themselves that, for theosophists, 'science' meant the occult sciences and philosophy the occulta philosophia, that the laws of nature were of an occult or psychic nature, and that comparative religion was expected to unveil a 'primordial tradition' ultimately modelled on a Hermeticist philosophia perennis".(32)

A prominent component of Mrs. Blavatsky's writings was the emancipation of women, which involved an attack on the "male" God of Judaism, of Christianity and of Islam. She urged people to return to the mother-goddess of Hinduism and to the practice of feminine virtues. This continued under the guidance of Annie Besant, who was in the vanguard of the feminist movement. Wicca and "women's spirituality" carry on this struggle against "patriarchal" Christianity today.

Marilyn Ferguson devoted a chapter of The Aquarian Conspiracy to the precursors of the Age of Aquarius, those who had woven the threads of a transforming vision based on the expansion of consciousness and the experience of self-transcendence. Two of those she mentioned were the American psychologist William James and the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. James defined religion as experience, not dogma, and he taught that human beings can change their mental attitudes in such a way that they are able to become architects of their own destiny. Jung emphasized the transcendent character of consciousness and introduced the idea of the collective unconscious, a kind of store for symbols and memories shared with people from various different ages and cultures. According to Wouter Hanegraaff, both of these men contributed to a "sacralisation of psychology", something that has become an important element of New Age thought and practice. Jung, indeed, "not only psychologized esotericism but he also sacralized psychology, by filling it with the contents of esoteric speculation. The result was a body of theories which enabled people to talk about God while really meaning their own psyche, and about their own psyche while really meaning the divine. If the psyche is 'mind', and God is 'mind' as well, then to discuss one must mean to discuss the other".(33) His response to the accusation that he had "psychologised" Christianity was that "psychology is the modern myth and only in terms of the current myth can we understand the faith".(34) It is certainly true that Jung's psychology sheds light on many aspects of the Christian faith, particularly on the need to face the reality of evil, but his religious convictions are so different at different stages of his life that one is left with a confused image of God. A central element in his thought is the cult of the sun, where God is the vital energy (libido) within a person. (35) As he himself said, "this comparison is no mere play of words". (36) This is "the god within" to which Jung refers, the essential divinity he believed to be in every human being. The path to the inner universe is through the unconscious. The inner world's correspondence to the outer one is in the collective unconscious.

The tendency to interchange psychology and spirituality was firmly embedded in the Human Potential Movement as it developed towards the end of the 1960s at the Esalen Institute in California. Transpersonal psychology, strongly influenced by Eastern religions and by Jung, offers a contemplative journey where science meets mysticism. 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 God within" oneself. To realise 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. These were all ways of achieving "peak experiences", "mystical" experiences of fusion with God and with the cosmos.

The symbol of Aquarius was borrowed from astrological mythology, but later came to signify the desire for a radically new world. The two centres which were the initial power-houses of the New Age, and to a certain extent still are, were the Garden community at Findhorn in North-East Scotland, and the Centre for the development of human potential at Esalen in Big Sur, California, in the United States of America. What feeds New Age consistently is a growing global consciousness and increasing awareness of a looming ecological crisis.

2.3.3. Central themes of the New Age

New Age is not, properly speaking, a religion, but it is interested in what is called "divine". The essence of New Age is the loose association of the various activities, ideas and people who might validly attract the term. So there is no single articulation of anything like the doctrines of mainstream religions. Despite this, and despite the immense variety within New Age, there are some common points:

the cosmos is seen as an organic whole

it is animated by an Energy, which is also identified as the divine Soul or Spirit

much credence is given to the mediation of various spiritual entities

humans are capable of ascending to invisible higher spheres, and of controlling their own lives beyond death

there is held to be a "perennial knowledge" which pre-dates and is superior to all religions and cultures

people follow enlightened masters...


2.3.4. What does New Age say about...

2.3.4.1. ...the human person?

New Age involves a fundamental belief in the perfectibility of the human person by means of a wide variety of techniques and therapies (as opposed to the Christian view of co-operation with divine grace). There is a general accord with Nietzsche's idea that Christianity has prevented the full manifestation of genuine humanity. Perfection, in this context, means achieving self-fulfilment, according to an order of values which we ourselves create and which we achieve by our own strength: hence one can speak of a self- creating self. On this view, there is more difference between humans as they now are and as they will be when they have fully realised their potential, than there is between humans and anthropoids.

It is useful to distinguish between esotericism, a search for knowledge, and magic, or the occult: the latter is a means of obtaining power. Some groups are both esoteric and occult. At the centre of occultism is a will to power based on the dream of becoming divine.

Mind-expanding techniques are meant to reveal to people their divine power; by using this power, people prepare the way for the Age of Enlightenment. This exaltation of humanity overturns the correct relationship between Creator and creature, and one of its extreme forms is Satanism. Satan becomes the symbol of a rebellion against conventions and rules, a symbol that often takes aggressive, selfish and violent forms. Some evangelical groups have expressed concern at the subliminal presence of what they claim is Satanic symbolism in some varieties of rock music, which have a powerful influence on young people. This is all far removed from the message of peace and harmony which is to be found in the New Testament; it is often one of the consequences of the exaltation of humanity when that involves the negation of a transcendent God.

But it is not only something which affects young people; the basic themes of esoteric culture are also present in the realms of politics, education and legislation.(37) It is especially the case with ecology. Deep ecology's emphasis on bio-centrism denies the anthropological vision of the Bible, in which human beings are at the centre of the world, since they are considered to be qualitatively superior to other natural forms. It is very prominent in legislation and education today, despite the fact that it underrates humanity in this way.. The same esoteric cultural matrix can be found in the ideological theory underlying population control policies and experiments in genetic engineering, which seem to express a dream human beings have of creating themselves afresh. How do people hope to do this? By deciphering the genetic code, altering the natural rules of sexuality, defying the limits of death.

In what might be termed a classical New Age account, people are born with a divine spark, in a sense which is reminiscent of ancient gnosticism; this links them into the unity of the Whole. So they are seen as essentially divine, although they participate in this cosmic divinity at different levels of consciousness. We are co- creators, and we create our own reality. Many New Age authors maintain that we choose the circumstances of our lives (even our own illness and health), in a vision where every individual is considered the creative source of the universe. But we need to make a journey in order fully to understand where we fit into the unity of the cosmos. The journey is psychotherapy, and the recognition of universal consciousness is salvation. There is no sin; there is only imperfect knowledge. The identity of every human being is diluted in the universal being and in the process of successive incarnations. People are subject to the determining influences of the stars, but can be opened to the divinity which lives within them, in their continual search (by means of appropriate techniques) for an ever greater harmony between the self and divine cosmic energy. There is no need for Revelation or Salvation which would come to people from outside themselves, but simply a need to experience the salvation hidden within themselves (self-salvation), by mastering psycho- physical techniques which lead to definitive enlightenment.

Some stages on the way to self-redemption are preparatory (meditation, body harmony, releasing self-healing energies). They are the starting-point for processes of spiritualisation, perfection and enlightenment which help people to acquire further self-control and psychic concentration on "transformation" of the individual self into "cosmic consciousness". The destiny of the human person is a series of successive reincarnations of the soul in different bodies. This is understood not as the cycle of samsara, in the sense of purification as punishment, but as a gradual ascent towards the perfect development of one's potential.

Psychology is used to explain mind expansion as "mystical" experiences. Yoga, zen, transcendental meditation and tantric exercises lead to an experience of self-fulfilment or enlightenment. Peak-experiences (reliving one's birth, travelling to the gates of death, biofeedback, dance and even drugs anything which can provoke an altered state of consciousness) are believed to lead to unity and enlightenment. Since there is only one Mind, some people can be channels for higher beings. Every part of this single universal being has contact with every other part. The classic approach in New Age is transpersonal psychology, whose main concepts are the Universal Mind, the Higher Self, the collective and personal unconscious and the individual ego. The Higher Self is our real identity, a bridge between God as divine Mind and humanity. Spiritual development is contact with the Higher Self, which overcomes all forms of dualism between subject and object, life and death, psyche and soma, the self and the fragmentary aspects of the self. Our limited personality is like a shadow or a dream created by the real self. The Higher Self contains the memories of earlier (re-)incarnations.

2.3.4.2. ...God?

New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, which are reckoned to be uncontaminated by Judaeo- Christian distorsions. Hence great respect is given to ancient agricultural rites and to fertility cults. "Gaia", Mother Earth, is offered as an alternative to God the Father, whose image is seen to be linked to a patriarchal conception of male domination of women. There is talk of God, but it is not a personal God; the God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent. Nor is it the Creator and sustainer of the universe, but an "impersonal energy" immanent in the world, with which it forms a "cosmic unity": "All is one". This unity is monistic, pantheistic or, more precisely, panentheistic. God is the "life-principle", the "spirit or soul of the world", the sum total of consciousness existing in the world. In a sense, everything is God. God's presence is clearest in the spiritual aspects of reality, so every mind/spirit is, in some sense, God.

When it is consciously received by men and women, "divine energy" is often described as "Christic energy". There is also talk of Christ, but this does not mean Jesus of Nazareth. "Christ" is a title applied to someone who has arrived at a state of consciousness where he or she perceives him- or herself to be divine and can thus claim to be a "universal Master". Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, but simply one among many historical figures in whom this "Christic" nature is revealed, as is the case with Buddha and others. Every historical realisation of the Christ shows clearly that all human beings are heavenly and divine, and leads them towards this realisation.

The innermost and most personal ("psychic") level on which this "divine cosmic energy" is "heard" by human beings is also called "Holy Spirit".

2.3.4.3. ...the world?

The move from a mechanistic model of classical physics to the "holistic" one of modern atomic and sub-atomic physics, based on the concept of matter as waves or energy rather than particles, is central to much New Age thinking. The universe is an ocean of energy, which is a single whole or a network of links. The energy animating the single organism which is the universe is "spirit". There is no alterity between God and the world. The world itself is divine and it undergoes an evolutionary process which leads from inert matter to "higher and perfect consciousness". The world is uncreated, eternal and self-sufficient The future of the world is based on an inner dynamism which is necessarily positive and leads to the reconciled (divine) unity of all that exists. God and the world, soul and body, intelligence and feeling, heaven and earth are one immense vibration of energy.

James Lovelock's book on the Gaia Hypothesis claims that "the entire range of living matter on earth, from whales to viruses, and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity, capable of manipulating the Earth's atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts".(38) To some, the Gaia hypothesis is "a strange synthesis of individualism and collectivism. It all happens as if New Age, having plucked people out of fragmentary politics, cannot wait to throw them into the great cauldron of the global mind". The global brain needs institutions with which to rule, in other words, a world government. "To deal with today's problems New Age dreams of a spiritual aristocracy in the style of Plato's Republic, run by secret societies...".(39) This may be an exaggerated way of stating the case, but there is much evidence that gnostic ?litism and global governance coincide on many issues in international politics.

Everything in the universe is interelated; in fact every part is in itself an image of the totality; the whole is in every thing and every thing is in the whole. In the "great chain of being", all beings are intimately linked and form one family with different grades of evolution. Every human person is a hologram, an image of the whole of creation, in which every thing vibrates on its own frequency. Every human being is a neurone in earth's central nervous system, and all individual entities are in a relationship of complementarity with others. In fact, there is an inner complementarity or androgyny in the whole of creation.(40)

One of the recurring themes in New Age writings and thought is the "new paradigm" which contemporary science has opened up. "Science has given us insights into wholes and systems, stress and transformation. We are learning to read tendencies, to recognise the early signs of another, more promising, paradigm. We create alternative scenarios of the future. We communicate about the failures of old systems, forcing new frameworks for problem-solving in every area".(41) Thus far, the "paradigm shift" is a radical change of perspective, but nothing more. The question is whether thought and real change are commensurate, and how effective in the external world an inner transformation can be proved to be. One is forced to ask, even without expressing a negative judgement, how scientific a thought-process can be when it involves affirmations like this: "War is unthinkable in a society of autonomous people who have discovered the connectedness of all humanity, who are unafraid of alien ideas and alien cultures, who know that all revolutions begin within and that you cannot impose your brand of enlightenment on anyone else".(42) It is illogical to conclude from the fact that something is unthinkable that it cannot happen. Such reasoning is really gnostic, in the sense of giving too much power to knowledge and consciousness. This is not to deny the fundamental and crucial role of developing consciousness in scientific discovery and creative development, but simply to caution against imposing upon external reality what is as yet still only in the mind.


2.4. "Inhabitants of myth rather than history"(43)?: New Age and culture

"Basically, the appeal of the New Age has to do with the culturally stimulated interest in the self, its value, capacities and problems. Whereas traditionalised religiosity, with its hierarchical organization, is well-suited for the community, detraditionalized spirituality is well-suited for the individual. The New Age is 'of' the self in that it facilitates celebration of what it is to be and to become; and 'for' the self in that by differing from much of the mainstream, it is positioned to handle identity problems generated by conventional forms of life".(44)

The rejection of tradition in the form of patriarchal, hierarchical social or ecclesial organisation implies the search for an alternative form of society, one that is clearly inspired by the modern notion of the self. Many New Age writings argue that one can do nothing (directly) to change the world, but everything to change oneself; changing individual consciousness is understood to be the (indirect) way to change the world. The most important instrument for social change is personal example. Worldwide recognition of these personal examples will steadily lead to the transformation of the collective mind and such a transformation will be the major achievement of our time. This is clearly part of the holistic paradigm, and a re-statement of the classical philosophical question of the one and the many. It is also linked to Jung's espousal of the theory of correspondence and his rejection of causality. Individuals are fragmentary representations of the planetary hologram; by looking within one not only knows the universe, but also changes it. But the more one looks within, the smaller the political arena becomes. Does this really fit in with the rhetoric of democratic participation in a new planetary order, or is it an unconscious and subtle disempowerment of people, which could leave them open to manipulation? Does the current preoccupation with planetary problems (ecological issues, depletion of resources, over-population, the economic gap between north and south, the huge nuclear arsenal and political instability) enable or disable engagement in other, equally real, political and social questions? The old adage that "charity begins at home" can give a healthy balance to one's approach to these issues. Some observers of New Age detect a sinister authoritarianism behind apparent indifference to politics. David Spangler himself points out that one of the shadows of the New Age is "a subtle surrender to powerlessness and irresponsibility in the name of waiting for the New Age to come rather than being an active creator of wholeness in one's own life".(45)

Even though it would hardly be correct to suggest that quietism is universal in New Age attitudes, one of the chief criticisms of the New Age Movement is that its privatistic quest for self-fulfilment may actually work against the possibility of a sound religious culture. Three points bring this into focus:

it is questionable whether New Age demonstrates the intellectual cogency to provide a complete picture of the cosmos in a world view which claims to integrate nature and spiritual reality. The Western universe is seen as a divided one based on monotheism, transcendence, alterity and separateness. A fundamental dualism is detected in such divisions as those between real and ideal, relative and absolute, finite and infinite, human and divine, sacred and profane, past and present, all redolent of Hegel's "unhappy consciousness". This is portrayed as something tragic. The response from New Age is unity through fusion: it claims to reconcile soul and body, female and male, spirit and matter, human and divine, earth and cosmos, transcendent and immanent, religion and science, differences between religions, Yin and Yang. There is, thus, no more alterity; what is left in human terms is transpersonality. The New Age world is unproblematic: there is nothing left to achieve. But the metaphysical question of the one and the many remains unanswered, perhaps even unasked, in that there is a great deal of regret at the effects of disunity and division, but the response is a description of how things would appear in another vision.

New Age imports Eastern religious practices piecemeal and re- interprets them to suit Westerners; this involves a rejection of the language of sin and salvation, replacing it with the morally neutral language of addiction and recovery. References to extra-European influences are sometimes merely a "pseudo-Orientalisation" of Western culture. Furthermore, it is hardly a genuine dialogue; in a context where Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian influences are suspect, oriental influences are used precisely because they are alternatives to Western culture. Traditional science and medicine are felt to be inferior to holistic approaches, as are patriarchal and particular structures in politics and religion. All of these will be obstacles to the coming of the Age of Aquarius; once again, it is clear that what is implied when people opt for New Age alternatives is a complete break with the tradition that formed them. Is this as mature and liberated as it is often thought or presumed to be?

Authentic religious traditions encourage discipline with the eventual goal of acquiring wisdom, equanimity and compassion. New Age echoes society's deep, ineradicable yearning for an integral religious culture, and for something more generic and enlightened than what politicians generally offer, but it is not clear whether the benefits of a vision based on the ever-expanding self are for individuals or for societies. New Age training courses (what used to be known as "Erhard seminar trainings" [EST] etc.) marry counter- cultural values with the mainstream need to succeed, inner satisfaction with outer success; Findhorn's "Spirit of Business" retreat transforms the experience of work while increasing productivity; some New Age devotees are involved not only to become more authentic and spontaneous, but also in order to become more prosperous (through magic etc.). "What makes things even more appealing to the enterprise-minded businessperson is that New Age trainings also resonate with somewhat more humanistic ideas abroad in the world of business. The ideas have to do with the workplace as a 'learning environment', 'bringing life back to work', 'humanizing work', 'fulfilling the manager', 'people come first' or 'unlocking potential'. Presented by New Age trainers, they are likely to appeal to those businesspeople who have already been involved with more (secular) humanistic trainings and who want to take things further: at one and the same time for the sake of personal growth, happiness and enthusiasm, as well as for commercial productivity".(46) So it is clear that people involved do seek wisdom and equanimity for their own benefit, but how much do the activities in which they are involved enable them to work for the common good? Apart from the question of motivation, all of these phenomena need to be judged by their fruits, and the question to ask is whether they promote self or solidarity, not only with whales, trees or like-minded people, but with the whole of creation including the whole of humanity. The most pernicious consequences of any philosophy of egoism which is embraced by institutions or by large numbers of people are identified by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as a set of "strategies to reduce the number of those who will eat at humanity's table".(47) This is a key standard by which to evaluate the impact of any philosophy or theory. Christianity always seeks to measure human endeavours by their openness to the Creator and to all other creatures, a respect based firmly on love.

wakeinbliss@yahoo.ca

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THULE - SARMATIA
The East European Metapolitical Association of New Right International

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A HAIL TO THE METAL INVASION !
A HEAVENLY KINGDOM ON EARTH !
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