Understanding the New Age Movement
In April 1982 we opened the Brisbane Courier-Mail to see a full-page advertisement proclaiming "THE CHRIST IS NOW HERE". The same advertisement had been inserted in major newspapers around the world by Benjamin Creme.
Among other things, the item said, "Throughout history, humanity's evolution has been guided by a group of enlightened men, the Masters of Wisdom. They have remained largely is the remote desert and mountain places of earth, working mainly through their disciples who live openly in the world. This message of the Christ's reappearance has been given primarily by such a disciple trained for his task for over 20 years. At the centre of this 'Spiritual Hierarchy' stands the World Teacher, Lord Maitreya, known by Christians as the Christ. And as Christians await the Second Coming, so the Jews await the Messiah, the Buddhists the fifth Buddha, the Moslems the Iman Mahdi, and the Hindus await Krishna. These are all names for one individual."
In 1986 in a previous parish we screened a film entitled, "Gods of the New Age." The film had been recommended to us by UCA Moderator, Rev. Ray Hunt. The viewing was well-attended and opened our eyes to a movement that seemed to be "sneaking in", infiltrating society in many ways. At the close of the film some public servants came up to express concern about seminars on New Age thinking that they were expected to attend. Other reports emerged of New Age input into the training of the army and police.
Our Deaconess took her holidays in USA and on her return commented on the appearance of rainbow emblems all over the place - often with the colours reversed. Was it just a symbol of hope in a despairing world? or did it have some other significance?
Our junk mail included a leaflet calling on us to join in "a million minutes for peace" and included a variety of prayer and meditation suggestions for us to choose. About the same time the media carry a story of meetings of psychics around the world to concentrate their psychic powers at the same precise moment to bring peace and usher in the new age.
In retrospect we recognise all these seemingly-unrelated events as part of the New Age movement and the claim that humanity has passed from bondage to the Age of Pisces (the fish being seen as a symbol of Christianity) and now enters the Age of Aquarius in which each person will be his/her own god.
In part, the origins of the movement go back to Madame Blavatsky who founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. Among the stated aims were "to oppose the materialism of science and every form of dogmatic theology, especially the Christian, which the Chiefs of the Society regard as particularly pernicious; to make known among Western nations the long-suppressed facts about Oriental religious philosophies, their ethics, chronology, esoterism, symbolism; to counteract, as far as possible, the efforts of missionaries to delude the so-called 'Heathen' and 'Pagans' as to the real origin and dogmas of Christianity and the practical effects of the latter upon public and private character in so-called Christian countries."
Blavatsky had previous involvement in Spiritism. But whereas the latter sought immediate contact with a deceased relative, for instance, Blavatsky was seeking contact with "spiritual Masters" as the source of a whole system of spiritual beliefs and occult powers.
In its modern form the New Age movement arose out of the counterculture of the 1960s in America and Europe. The movement is a blanket term applied to a variety of people, organisations, events, practices and ideas - all directed to a spiritual and social change that will usher in a New Age of self-actualisation. This entails throwing off both traditional monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and secular humanism (rationalism, atheism, scepticism). Allowing for this diversity, a number of fairly common characteristics can be noted.
Evolutionary optimism - we are moving upward to a New Age of spiritual discovery. This requires the "cleansing" of our planetary consciousness. (Some New Agers believe that opponents of the movement must be removed.)
Monism - all is one and one is all. The New Age viewpoint tends to dismiss the diversity of creation and to seek a kind of peace in which the individuals lose their identity.
Pantheism - everything that exists is "God". The New Age "God" is not a moral being to be worshipped as supreme. Rather it is a principle within each of us, a force within that we can realise and harness.
Transformation of consciousness - a "rebirthing" or reawakening to self. New Agers are often encouraged to be initiated - whether by meditation, drugs, yoga, martial arts, the use of crystals... The goal is to feel oneness with everything and to realise one's own divinity or "higher self."
Create your own reality. New Age ethics is not rooted in any objective moral order.
Unlimited human potential. One writer says, "You are unlimited. You just don't realise it." New Age books promise psychic powers, astral travel, precognition and much more.
Spirit contact - now called channelling - claims to put people into contact with the thoughts of "the Masters". Predictably the messages are less than Biblical. Some have even claimed to channel Jesus himself and have him saying such things as, "The sayings in the Epistles and in the Gospels and in Revelation to the effect that my blood saves from sin are erroneous."
Religious syncretism - the essence of all religions is one. The appeal is to a supposedly mystical core that unites all religions - that all is one, all is God, we are God, we have infinite potential, we can bring in the New Age.
One writer has described New Age spirituality as "a rather eclectic grab bag of Eastern mysticism, Western occultism, neopaganism and human potential psychology." It is clearly anti-Christian, though this fact is usually kept carefully hidden. It looks for a one-world government and a one-world religion, both under the control of a New Age "Christ".

© Peter J Blackburn, 1991,1999. This material was originally prepared for Antioch School. Permission is given for the printing and use of this material by congregations and individuals.