I was recently given a book by a person who is very close to my heart. For sake of brevity, I’ll just refer to this person as my friend. My friend was aware that I have been engaged in a very deep discernment of my Catholic faith for quite a while. We recently had a discussion about Christ and the Catholic Church, then my friend handed me a book that tries to combine Jesus Christ to various other world religions, especially Hinduism. The book is noted as Volume 1, so I presume there are additional volumes to the work (eye-rolling). So began my review of something I’ve come to know as New Age spirituality.
I began reading the book and was disturbed by the claims of the anonymous author. According to this book, Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, both fully human and fully divine, as Christianity has taught for 2000 years. The author describes Christ a man who realized an awareness that he was divine through the practice of yoga and self-realization. Jesus was basically a really gifted guru who achieved enlightenment and divinity and in turn, began to show it to others.
You may be raising an eyebrow right now because you realize that yoga was not practiced in and around Galilee 2000 years ago. You also realize that there is no hint of yoga or Hinduism in the bible. You may also realize that there is no group of humans, nor is there likely one human in the history of humanity, that would suffer unspeakable torture and death, in order to defend a guru or a “yogi”. Of course, I’m talking about the apostles, all of whom suffered imprisonment and horrid torture in order to coerce them to renounce Jesus Christ and his teachings. All but John the Evangelist were eventually murdered in brutal and gruesome ways. John the Evangelist was spared martyrdom. This is probably because he had stayed with Christ throughout the Passion and cared for the Virgin Mary until her assumption. But back to this strange book…
The book spends nearly 1000 pages explaining how the Christian Jesus is really a person who drew from many different world religions to show us a way (one of many) to personal divinity. In a nutshell, the book promotes the heresy of pantheism and syncretism. Pantheism is the belief that God is in everything and everything is God. Syncretism is the incorporation of a wide array of beliefs that do not even need to support each other, in order to attract and appeal to the largest number of followers. It wraps this warm and fuzzy blather into a sigle term called “Christ Consciousness”. It teaches that we just have to get in touch with our own divinity and then everything falls into place. Yikes!
The book does not stop at the Christian theology which teaches that God is in us, it goes beyond that and teaches that we actually are God and God is in everything. Everything, includes you, the computer screen, the cat, etc… As you read this, you might be thinking about the first commandment and the fact that the desire to become God is one of the greatest and most common sins in the bible. Satan fell from grace because of this desire and it is with this desire that he lured Adam and Eve into their fall from grace. But anyway…
Pantheism usually stops at physical things when it teaches that God is everything. Excluded are things such as good, evil, pain, pleasure, love and hate. According to this book, these things are merely illusions. Hmmm….. And to confuse things further, there is a lot of blurriness to the pantheistic theme of the book which can be demonstrated by the ramblings of Swami Vivekananda, a key figure in modern Hinduism, who wrote, “Good and evil are one and the same” and “The Murderer, too, is God.” (Vivekananda: the Yogas and Other Works, pub. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Centre, NY, 1953).
It appears to me that the book is little more than an effort to draw Christians away from Christ and into a belief that we are in total control of our own destiny as long as we add a whole bunch of yoga and “positive energy” to Christ. Maybe even more specifically, if we just find a really special guru and turn Christ into one of many people who had good ideas, we will have attained the lofty height occupied by God (including toasters, trees, gnats, etc…). This is the “Christ Consciousness” of which the anonymous author writes, but it is really just putting a Christianized title on Brahman or nirvana.
So these “new age” practices are truly about as heretical and dangerous as anything can be. As I talk with people about faith, I see that these vague ideas about God being in everything and that everything is God, have crept their way in to the lives of many people that still primarily identify as Christian.
Now we have an enormous population of Americans who no longer see any benefit of being affiliated with a specific denomination or church. This means that there is a large growth in disorganized religion. Disorganized religion looks strikingly similar to pantheism, syncretism, relativism and paganism with its trademark idol worship. Once a person drifts from organized religion and into the pantheistic realm of God is everything, they are sitting ducks for satan. Don’t get me wrong, simply identifying with a religion or a church is not enough to successfully reject satan, but once you drift from the flock, you are much more vulnerable.
Only time will tell, but I believe we are at a significant crossroads in history. People are either going to continue to fall away from Christ and his Church or there is going to be a phenominal resurgence of Christianity in Europe and America. There is one thing I do know, satan really likes pantheism, syncretism and relativism and he is counting on more and more people trying to “go it alone” under the illusion that they are their own God.
If you know anyone who says things like, “God is in everything”, or that they can “feel positive energy”, ask them what they think about Jesus Christ. Do they believe he became man and that he rose from the dead and is seated at the right-hand of God? I bet they will begin explaining how he was a great teacher, but that times have changed, so it is necessary to add a lot of new age ideas into worship and spirituality as if Jesus was vague about “the way”.
Just reassure them that they don’t need to make it any harder than it is. We have the bible plus 2000 years of Catholic teaching that brings us to the beauty, goodness and truth that can only be found in the Catholic Church. If they really want to live a life that is beyond all expectation, they need to put down the yoga books and pick up the bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the encyclicals of the last 6 popes, the writings of Augustin, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Scott Hahn and hundreds of other saints, doctors and theologians. After that, add them to your prayer list.