A Closer Look at the New Age Movement

Author: Fra John Carlo Rosales, FFI

A Closer Look at the New Age Movement Fra John Carlo Rosales, FFI

The author, a deacon and theology student, writes us: "About a year ago, while I was in the waiting area of a subway station in Rome, I happened to get one of many pamphlets that were scattered around. I was surprised by its contents. It read something like this: "The New Age Movement...We use crystals...occult practices...'It seemed to say that one can try this 'New Age program as an alternative way to solve man's problems.

"Some months ago I was able to watch a program by Mother Angelica. The guest speaker was Constance Cumbey, a practising American lawyer. The topic discussed was the New Age movement. I was surprised by what Ms. Cumbey related because I didn't realize that the New Age movement involved transcendental meditation, reincarnation, the use of crystals, and other strange and occult ventures. Constance Cumbey has written a book entitled , published in 1983, which covers at length the New Age Movement, a movement which is rapidly spreading. In West Germany alone there are about 500,000 adherents as well as countless sympathizers.[1] I also learned that the roots of the New Age movement trace back to the Theosophical Society founded by Russian-born Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1875, in New York."

Special abbreviations used in this article are the following: CCC = , translation copyrighted 1994 by Geoffrey Chapman- Libreria Editrice Vaticana. DS = H. Denzinger and A Schonmtzer, SJ, , Barcelona, Herder: 1966. GS = Vatican II, , 7 Dec. 1965. LG = Vatican II, , 21 Nov. 1964.

Origins and History

Helena Petrovna Hahn Blavatsky, born to a distinguished family in the Ukraine, 1831, was married to Gen. N.P. Blavatsky, but soon deserted him and left Russia. According to the memoirs of her cousin Count Whitte, she spent some time in Cairo and Tibet before arriving in New York in 1873. Through a common interest in spiritualism, she became associated with Henry Steel Olcott, an American lawyer and newspaperman and student of spiritualism, in the formation of occult groups, culminating in the sixteen-member Theosophical Society.[2] In 1877 she published "Isis Unveiled,"a collection of material from Eastern thought, serpent worship, witchcraft, alchemy, and 19th century science, which she ascribes to her Tibetan masters but which was often taken verbatim from fifty standard works on occult subjects in Olcott's library. In 1878, the theosophist leaders went to India and settled in Adyaar near Madras and left William Q. Judge, an Irish-born American, in charge of the American section.[3] In 1888, Mme. Blavatsky formed an esoteric section of the Theosophical Society in London for advanced study of the occult. Eventually this movement spread among the English and Irish literary circles. In Dublin, the Irish Theosophical Society was formed under the leadership of Charles Johnston. Mme. Blavatsky died on May 8 of 1891 in England and was succeeded by Anni Wood Besant who was born in London of Irish ancestry in 1847.[4] A.W. Besant founded the Central Hindu College at Banaras, India, in 1898 and the Indian Home Rule League in 1916. She also became president of the Indian National Congress held in 1917. But before she became a member of the Theosophical Society, she wrote under the pen name of "", in England, in favour of free thought and birth control.[5] Meanwhile, a controversy arose in the American section which led to a permanent division in 1894-95. Other divisions within the movement led to the founding of the Temple of the People in 1899 at Syracuse, NY, and to the formation of the Universal Brotherhood at Point Loma, California. These divisions were not due to differences in doctrine but rather to the question of the legitimate line of prophetic succession.[6]

While the divisions were going on in America, the Adyar and London groups became associated with the Old Catholic Church[7] by the ordination to its ranks of five theosophists, among whom was the former Anglican clergyman Charles W. Leadbeater, who played an important role in the formation of the Liberal Catholic Church.[8] This Church blends theolsphical mysticism and Catholic Sacrementalism. In 1902, Rudolf Steiner became the secretary general of the German section. However when A. W. Besant recognized a young Hindu named Krishnamurti as the Messiah, R. Steiner protested and separated from the Society along with 2400 German members and formed the Anthroposophical Society in 1913.[9] There are other societies which were formed through the Theosophical Society embracing basically the same principles. Today, however it seems that the number of members in the Theosophical Society has greatly decreased; nevertheless, its spiritual ideological influence and new religious forms of thought are largely encountered in the New Age Movement.[10]

The New Age Movement began with a member of the Theosophical Society named Alice A. Bailey. She was an Englishwoman who emigrated to America and who lived from 1880 to 1949. She laid the real foundations of the New Age Movement and is regarded as its high priestess. As a spiritist medium she allegedly received messages from a so-called master of wisdom, the Tibetan Djwal Khul. These messages, which she wrote under dictation from this demonic being were published in numerous books.[11] Her secret teachings, which to this day are followed minutely in New Age circles, set forth "The Plan for the New World Order."[12] According to some secret instructions, the Movement was to keep out of the public eye until 1975.[13]

In 1968 and before, it was known as a movement advocating the "Age of Aquarius."[14] This term is taken from astrology. The astronomical shifting of the vernal equinox, which passes approximately every 2000 years through a new constellation in the zodiac, is superstitiously believed by some astrologers to affect the fate of our planet Earth. At the turn of the century the vernal equinox will pass from the constellating Pisces (the Fishes) to the constellation Aquarius. Some reckon that this already took place in 1962. The fish, a sign representing faith in Christ, was often used by the Early Christians as a mark of identification. Hence New Age members believe that the transition away from the zodiac sign of the Fishes means that the era of Christ is coming to an end.[15]

What does the Theosophical Society teach?

Having known that the New Age Movement was formed through the Theosophical Society founded by Mme. Blavatsky, it is important now to consider the Society's doctrine. The word "Theosophy"comes from certain Greek words commonly translated as "divine wisdom." It is a system of thought which has appeared in different ages, taking different forms, and which has attempted to explain the nature of God, the universe, and man's relation to them. Among the Orientals it is conspicuous in the philosophical systems of China, India and Egypt. It is seen in the works of the Gnostics, the Neo-Platonists, and the Cabalists, and in the speculations of Jakob Bohme (1575 - 1624), Friedrich Willhelm Joseph von Schelling, and Johannes Meister Eckharad (1260 - 1327), Pythagoras, Plato and Plotinus. During the Middle Ages, traces of the teaching can be found in Masonry, and later in the Order of Rosicrucians,[16] and it has at all times comprised the esoteric side of the great man-made religions of the world.[17]

In the modern sense, theosophy is a modern Gnostic movement which attempts a synthesis of religious, philosophical, and scientific insights drawn from many traditions, but primarily from Hindu philosophy and occult sciences. We find Theosophist denying fundamental Christian concepts about the nature of God and the soul. They teach that God is immanent in the world and that He is not wholly external to creation but a part of it - this is, in fact, pantheism. The evolution of the soul is a fundamental doctrine of the Society. They believe that salvation comes from evolution and at the same time deny the need for vicarious atonement. Evolution, in the theosophic sense, is a process of self-realization or manifestation carried on by the Cosmic Life by means of repeated incarnations. Its alleged purpose is the perfecting of man and all creatures. All matter contains consciousness, which is evolving not in a mechanical way, but as a result of a divine plan guided by intelligence. It is conceived as a twofold movement. The first, involving an ascent into spirit. This is why the New Age movement refuses a rationalistic-mechanical conception of the world. In summary, the four key doctrines that are generally accepted among Theosophical societies, not excluding the New Age Movement, are the divine origin of the soul in a pantheistic sense, evolution reincarnation, and karma. The last doctrine comes from Hinduism, and claims that the spirit advances to its goal through a succession of earthly lives, and that the consequences of a man's actions in his present life are reaped by his successor on earth in a fresh incarnation.[18]

The original goals of the Theosophical Society were to establish a library and to circulate information concerning secret laws of nature. Later these objectives were amplified, and as of 1967 are the following:

1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour. 2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science. 3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

A motto of the Theosphical Society is "There is no religion higher than Truth." Their international headquarters where their president resides is in Adyar, India. It is established in more than 50 countries, and it has among its adherents members of almost all religious sects. In America, they publish a monthly magazine called , which is sent to all members and furnishes an exchange of ideas among the lodges. Meanwhile, they sell a magazine called , published annually, for non-members.[19]

Borrowing a system of doctrine from Theosophists, the New Age Movement has given it adaptations and further development. They advocate a need for a new way of thinking which considers all things as interdependent, which accordingly need to be regarded holistically. Every individual must feel a part of nature and the whole cosmos-a micro-cosmos in the macrocosms. Thus rational thinking, which proceeds analytically and critically and which formed the basis of scientific method, is to give way to synthetical thinking and intuitive knowledge based on non-rational experience. The philosophy of the New Age Movement aims at reconciling all opposites in such way that science and occultism are placed on a par. All ethical values collapse, good and evil no longer exist. All is one. This explains their move towards a synthesis of all religions. New Agers agree with Catholic Thomists in claiming that the ultimate goal of man is to find happiness. Their main emphasis for the criterion of living is on personal satisfaction and temporal success. Fear of apocalyptic events is therefore channelled into escapism to a utopian "world society where there are no tensions."[20]

The New Age Movement as a Religion

The New Age movement has its own "holy scriptures,"prayers and mantras. It also has its own spiritual centres, such as the Findhorn community in Scotland and the Esalen Institute in California. Within the movement can be found priests and gurus, a proclaimed "Messiah,"prophets and people with allegedly extraordinary powers. Furthermore, the Movement proclaims that man is God and that man created God in his own image. Indeed, true to their conviction that "all is one,"they consider man to be a part of the Godhead, i.e., the "cosmic consciousness"or the "Force". All one needs to do is to discover and develop his yoga and other methods. Ultimately, man is on his way to godhood. It is even said that one may enter fully into the spirit of the God of Force.[21]

Believing that God is a neutral force that can be manipulated either for good or evil, New Age occultists are greatly interested in learning the means by which they can achieve this. Thus at the centre of this New Age spirituality is faith in man in the all- pervasive energy or life force throughout the cosmos.[22]

An essential part of the New Age Religion is the use of certain psycho technologies. They include the following practices: meditation, yoga, Zen, hypnosis, transpersonal psychology,[23] and positive thinking. The growing feminism has some links with New Age spirituality. While feminist theology endeavours to represent the God of the Bible as being both masculine and feminine or even as an exclusively feminine godhead, the radical vanguard of the New Age feminist movement is already demanding that the Christian faith be replaced by the myth of Gaia, "mother Earth,"whose cult is now being revived and practised. What is common among many New Age groups is a counterfeit religious experience such as contact with demons through drugs, meditation, psycho technologies, and other ventures. They also believe in UFO's and extra-terrestrial beings, from which they reputedly also receive messages. The symbols used by the Movement are notable. For example, the occult Indo- Germanic sign of good luck adopted by Adolf Hitler. The biblical number 666 (Apoc. 13.18) which according to Alice Bailey, possesses sacred qualities and which according to New Age teaching should be used frequently in order to accelerate the progress of civilization and the coming of the New Age. One of its most widely used signs is the rainbow, which is meant to symbolize the bridge between man and the Great Universal Mind, in the final analysis, Lucifer. Indeed, it is remarkable how frequent the sign of the rainbow has become lately. You can find it, for instance, on promotional gifts, stationeries, clothing and toys.[24]

A few other facts about the movement

While undertaking this study of the New Age movement, I was able to find a volume of their authentic propaganda, totally New Age. One article, by Marilyn Ferguson, states that a Gallup poll released in February, 1978, reported that 10 million Americans were engaged in some aspect of Eastern religion, 9 million in spiritual healing. Those involved in Eastern religions tended to be young adults, college educated, living on either of the two coasts, about equally men and women. Catholic and Protestant, at least nominally. The author tries to justify the need for a new religion that will satisfy man's hunger for peace and happiness on this earth, and proposes the New Age Religion as the way this would be accomplished. She also cites western psychologists like William James, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, and Roberto Assogioli, as trying to understand transcendent needs and the irrepressible hunger for meaning which leads to an affirmation of the New Age Movement. Marilyn Ferguson also wrote other material which has contributed a lot to the awareness of New Age teaching among the general public. "Lauding the promised land of the New Age and the joys of altered states of consciousness, it (her literature) propagates the New Age Plan throughout the world.[25]

Another article in the volume speaks extensively of the New World Order, which seems to be a main concern of New Agers. Five ethical principles are listed for the New World order. They are:

1. The value of all human beings (despite New Agers'support for abortion). 2. The right of all human beings to satisfaction of their basic human needs, physical, psychological and metaphysical. 3. Equality of opportunity for self-development for all human beings. 4. Recognition that these principles and goals must be achieved within ecological tolerance of lands, seas, air, forests and the total carrying capacity of the biosphere. (Hence their pacifism.) 5. Recognition that all these principles apply with equal emphasis to future human generations and their biospheric life support system. Thus they include a respect for all other life forms, and the Earth itself a respect which is often not the same as our Christian respect.

Intermediate goals of the Movement

Although the New Age Movement's ultimate goal is world domination, there are numerous intermediate goals of a political, social, and economic nature. These include the following: - a universal credit card system; - a world food authority which would control the world's food supply; -a a universal tax; -a a universal draft, in spite of the Movement's pacifist ideas. After the Movement presented itself to the public in 1975, further details came forth: -the establishment of a world economic system; - the replacement of private ownership of credit, transport and staple production with ownership by a world directorate; - the recognition of biological controls on a worldwide basis of population and disease; - a minimum standard of freedom and welfare throughout the world; - a duty of subordinating personal life to that of a world directorate. Professing peace and love, the Movement has succeeded in blinding many of its adherents to its real goals and deceiving them in supporting the following: -Aryanisim, i.e., the domination of the Western races; as with Hitler, this is linked with anti-Semitism; - mass planetary initiation, also called "Luciferic initiation,"i.e., an act of consecration to Lucifer. - cleansing action, i.e., the extermination of all those who disagree with the Movement's goals; - abortion and artificial insemination; - forced limitation of family size; - genetic control; - death control, whereby a cult is made of death, which is regarded as a euphoric experience and the transition to continuously new life cycles.[26]

An assessment and critique

The New Age Movement has already done much toward corrupting morality, in our Christian sense, by creating its own values incompatible with Catholic Christianity. At the outset it is difficult for ordinary persons, or even professionals, to recognize the hidden agenda of this Movement because it is presented so nicely and so humanely and with so much concern for the environment that it appeals to common sense to partake in such a common concern. But in all their plans, as listed above for the New World order, there is no due place for God. It is all humanistic and ecological. God for them is not here on earth where everyone will be satisfied and live always in peace. On the other hand, such an idealistic view cannot be realized because we are created not to live forever on this earth, but to be with God forever in His Kingdom. That is why the Church calls our sojourn here on earth a pilgrimage to the heavenly city. (GS 57) This is not to mean, however, that we should neglect due care of God's creation; rather, this involves not a lesser, but rather a greater commitment to working with (GS 57). But the Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, will receive perfection only in the glory of heaven when together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re- established in Christ. (LG 48; CCC 1042). Thus it is our duty to make this world a better world; but we should not lose the view of our ultimate end - God Himself. (Cf. CCC 27).

Since the New Age Movement contains the errors of Theosophy, as we have seen, it shares the condemnation of Theosophy by the Holy Office. This condemnation was confirmed by Pope Benedict XV on July 7, 1919. It puts the question: Can the doctrines which today men call theosophical, be reconciled with Catholic doctrine, and hence is it lawful to enroll in theosophical societies, take part in their gatherings, read their books, periodicals, journals, writings? And replies: Negative in omnibus (In the negative in everything). (DS 3648;ASS 11 (1919), p. 317)[27]

As we have seen above, the New Age Movement, together with Theosophical Societies, involve occult ventures. The Church on her part rejects such practices. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly says that "...All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to unveil the future...All practices of or , by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention on harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to the so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity."(CCC 2116-2117).

Another problem that induces people to abandon their Catholic faith, or to become lax in it, and venture into the New Age program is the problem of suffering. This is a big problem indeed, but it is perhaps because they have lost the eschatological view of the Christian Faith. Indeed, " the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rom. 8:18; LG 48) On the other hand, Pope John Paul II treats the problem of suffering extensively in his encyclical , on how suffering can be for our advantage and also for the advantage of others in the order of charity.

Many things are involved in the New Age Movement which are not covered in this article. However, I think that I have covered the essentials. It should be clear that we should beware of its dangers to human society and to the individual, and at the same time see a need, when opportune, to warn others.

Christian Order Magzine, Volume 37, Number . January, 1996


1. Basilea Schlink, , Evangelical Sisters of Mary, Darmstadt. West Germany, p. 6.

2. , Vol. 18, p. 277.

3. Ibid., p. 278.

4. R.K. MacMaster, s.v. "Theosophy," in McGraw- Hill Book Co., Washington D.C., 1967, pp. 74-75.

5. Eugene T. Adams, s.v. "Besant, Annie Wood" (1847-1933), from Vol. 2, p. 212.

6. R.K. MacMaster, s.v. "Theosophy," in

7. A loosely associated group of schismatical, autonomous communities brought together in the Union of Utrecht in 1889, which dissented from the First Vatican Council.

8. This Church has many similarities to the Roman Catholic Church with regard to doctrine and the sacraments: but it does not exclude Eastern beliefs such as reincarnation.

9. Fulton J. Sheen, s.v. "Theosophy," in The Gilmary Society, N.Y., 1929, p. 947.

10. , ed. Hans Waldesfels, San Paolo, Milano, 1993.

11. Basilea Schlink, , p. 8.

12. This New World Order involves a New World Government and a New World Religion, with the main political objective of global control, and advocates the dissolution and/or destruction of individual nation states in the interest of peace and conservation, according to Constance E. Cumbey, , Huntington House, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana, USA: 1983, p. 63.

13. Ibid., p. 8.

14. M. Fuss, s.v. "New Age," in , p. 642.

15. Basilea Schlink, , p. 13.

16. In Latin: , or Brotherhood of the Red Cross. A sect of this name arose at the beginning of the 17th century, but traced its origin to the 16th century Johann Valentin Andrea (who used the pseudonym Christian Rosencrenz, meaning "rose cross"), who is said to have learned Arabian magic while travelling in the East. The sect engaged in occultism and mysticism. From the 19th century it has been considered by some to be a branch of Freemasonry. In recent decades there have been at least three groups of Rosecrucians headquartered in various cities in the United States.

17. James S. Perkins, s.v. "Theosophy," in , Americana Corp., N.Y., 1967.

18. H. M. Kallen, s.v. "Theosophist," in .

19. James S. Perkins, s.v. "Theosophy," op. cit.

20. Basilea Schlink, , p. 11.

21. E. Dowling, in the introduction to as quoted by B. Schlink, op. cit., p. 14.

22. B. Schlink, , p. 14.

23. "Transpersonal psychology pertains to experiences reaching beyond the limits of the individual, that is, beyond the limits of the personality and personal consciousness. During which experiences the person sacrifices his or her independent personality and allows himself to be ruled and manipulated by the psychotechnician in order to regress into prior lives or submerge into other worlds." (B. Schlink, , p. 31).

24. B. Schlink, , pp. 13 18.

25. Basilea Schlink, , p. 9.

26. Basilea Schlink, , pp. 11-12.

27. Enrico Zoffoli, s.v. "Theosophy," Sinopsis Initiative Culturale, Roma, 1992, p. 524.

Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN