Daniël Maritz | 4 May 2020 | 10 min read
Part 1 of this article provided a basic outline of the New Age movement. Now, it is time to evaluate this movement’s main ideas and compare them to Christianity and its claims about reality.
What is there to Redeem in the New Age?
Although space is limited, any critical analysis of anything, should include, if warranted, a consideration of redeemable matters. In other words, one should ask whether there are features of the New Age spirituality that might be true and useful?
First, New Age spirituality gives some kind of priority to the spiritual dimension of reality. Both New Agers and Christians are critical of a naturalistic stance to reality wherein any form of transcendence or religion is dismissed as a mere superstition or psychological coping mechanism.
Secondly, the New Age movement reminds one of problems with organized religion. Many people, who have joined some stream of New Age thought, shared stories of how they were victimized and abused by the Church. It doesn’t follow from this that Christianity is false of course, but it does warrant a sincere apology from the Church. Unfortunately, the Church is not perfect.
Finally, New Age Spirituality has correctly questioned Enlightenment Rationalism. Christianity is based on nothing less than human reason. However, it is based on far more than just naked human reason. Although the anti-intellectualism of the New Age is not desirable, there should be place for mystery and a realization of the limits of reason. There should never be place for absurdity on the other hand.
Are there Cracks in the New Age Spirituality?
Does the New Age ultimately fulfill its promises? Does it provide a new life, a new person, and a new age of mass enlightenment?
In an article Mitch Horowitz, a New Age proponent, writes the following:
“I call upon my friends in the New Age movement, of which I am a part, to take seriously the crisis of intellectual inquiry often found within the New Age… I cannot conclude that the critics are right. I simply cannot conclude that, because I’ve seen too many instances where the therapeutic and spiritual ideas and methods that emerge from New Age culture prove meaningful in the lives of a wide range of people.”
Horowitz desperately wants to defend the New Age movement in all its finer details. I, for one, am not convinced that this movement is ultimately defensible. Here are the reasons why.
Spiritualism vs. Realism
The New Age worldview replaces a one-sided naturalism, found in secular cultures, with a one-sided spiritualism, or at least a very low view of “the real.” Although Christianity and the New Age are in agreement concerning anti-supernaturalism, reality cannot be lost altogether. The major influence from the East that has turned the world into a mere illusion, combined with occultic practices and rituals aimed to manipulate the spiritual, has separated this worldview from reality-anchored truths. In New Age thought, truth is not a matter of correspondence to anything real anymore, but only internal coherence, which is tested by your own personal, subjective experiences. In some cases, this also leads to the abandonment of the sensory faculties. Any knowledge that depends on our senses becomes irrelevant and is sometimes considered misleading. Ironically, science is still held in high regard, but this is an example of cherry-picking your sources of authority – irreconcilable differences! Sire explains that some New Agers will just accept all the different languages of reality, that of “sorcery and science, of witchcraft and philosophy, of drug experience and waking reality, of psychosis and normality.” This eventually leads to epistemological nihilism, since nobody can really know what is true. One can only know his or her own mystical experience. The New Age fails to see the importance of grounding reasoning and especially experiences in reality in spite of the fact that whatever is not based on reality is un-reality or unreal.
In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Of all the things Jesus might be saying in this verse, one thing He is claiming is to be the authority and ultimate reference point for truth – that which is real. He uttered perfect truth, expressed perfect truth, lived perfectly in the truth, and corresponded perfectly to the truth. In John 8:32 He also added that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Rather than seeking alternative states of consciousness or practicing rituals to detach His mind from what is real, Jesus found God’s hand in the real world. To Him, the lilies of the field reveals God’s care. The heavens and the skies pour forth “speech and knowledge” of God says the Psalmist. The apostle Paul writes that he discovered certain invisible attributes of God in the visible, real world by applying his sensory faculties (the things that he could see, hear, taste, touch or smell). We don’t need to enter alternate states of consciousness and detach ourselves from this world to arrive at spiritual truths. Also, the fact that Jesus was raised back to life in the same physical body with flesh and bones, and not some mystical or ghostly body, indicates that Jesus is saying “yes” to this world and confirms the importance of physical reality.
Gnosis vs. Logos
The New Age worldview leads to logical absurdities. In its quest to plumb the depths of the universe in search of secret, ancient, and hidden knowledge or gnosis, it arrives at untenable conclusions. If subjective experience is all there is, how can you know whether anything corresponds to the universe that other people also inhabits? If the divine reality is but an impersonal force, why is the only way to evaluate divine reality through a personal, subjective experience? Since certain experiences can mislead you, on what grounds do you make a distinction between deception and truth? If two sources blatantly contradict each other, which one is true and how do you know that? If our true identity is that of a god, how can one avoid the conclusion that the divine can also make mistakes and undergo changes?
Christianity certainly grants mysteries that are beyond reason, but not absurdities that contradict sound reason. It seems that the New Age has sacrificed sound reason for some kind of secret gnosis (knowledge) of the world and humanity. In many cases, this sacrifice and an embrace of absurdity is encouraged as a precondition for achieving the hidden gnosis. In John 1:1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word [Logos] was with God, and the Word [Logos] was God.” From Logos we get the word logic. “God is more than a rational being; he also has feeling and free will. Nonetheless, God is rational, and the principles of good reason do flow from his very nature. Consequently, learning the rules of clear and correct reasoning is more than an academic exercise. For the Christian, it is also a means of spiritual service.” Sound logic is our best tool for arriving at truth, and to abandon it for absurdities is absurd.
Moral Preference vs. Moral Obligation
Although the New Age worldview has a strong social agenda, in different levels of society with the aim to do good, it can’t justify any moral categories. In a pantheistic, monistic worldview, good and evil, right and wrong, are just divisions that restrain you. There is no real difference between them. One must rather transcend these categories and realize that they collapses into the oneness of ultimate reality. Good and evil has no meaning in the New Age, and consequently there is no obligation to pursue the good and to avoid evil. Rather, since “God is within, we do not need artificial moral dogmas. We simply need to be our true selves.” Morality becomes only a personal preference based on one’s personal experience.
The history books are filled with utopian visions that failed miserably in their striving for equality, elimination of poverty, enhanced health, democracy etc. Although social upliftment is good, it would be wise to base such an agenda on something more solid than mere illusions, preferences and experiences. This is exactly the reason why Christians started hospitals, schools, universities, and programs to help the poor throughout history. They went out of their way to raise orphans left for dead and show love and charity towards their neighbours. Why did they do it? Because, in Matthew 22:37-39, their Lord and God once said “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… and… you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The very nature of the Christian God is love. And love is not a shallow emotion that comes and goes, it is a desire to will the good of the other. Hence, this motivation to do good, for Christians, is based on something solid, the immutable nature of God.
Occultic Animism vs. Christian Theism
A big concern that arises from New Age spirituality, is its involvement in the occult and animism. Nicole Watt, a former New Ager, testifies that, “as the doorway to the demonic realm swung open, terrifying incidents occurred.” She adds “Although Christians often associate New Age philosophies with crystal balls, Ouija boards, and séances, most New Agers regard these activities as dime-store knockoffs of more mature paths of self-discovery.”
Sire explains that in certain New Age circles there are
a host of demigods, demons and guardians who inhabit the separate reality, or the inner spaces of the mind. Call them projections of the psyche or spirits of another order of reality: either way, they haunt the New Age and must be placated with rituals or controlled by incantations. The New Age has reopened a door closed since Christianity drove out the demons from the woods, desacralized the natural world and generally took a dim view of excessive interest in the affairs of Satan’s kingdom of fallen angels. Now they are back, knocking on university dorm-room doors, sneaking around psychology laboratories and chilling the spines of Ouija players.
There is a reason why Christianity closed this door long ago. Although Christianity maintains the existence of good angels under the command of God, and fallen angels under the command of Satan, Christians should not contact them or attempt to mobilize their aid. You see, God alone should be the Christian’s source of power, wisdom, and strength. In Mark 5:1-20 Jesus casts out the demons from the Gerasene demoniac. These demons were real beings and not just a projection of the man’s psychosis. They used language to deceive and plan and they entered a herd of pigs once they were cast out. But they were still inferior to Jesus. Jesus, being God in the flesh, has complete control over them, and it is in that truth that the Christian finds hope.
Are we Gods, or are we God’s?
It seems like the ancient lie, from the serpent, that we can be “like God” is here to stay. Given our human nature, we should expect it to. G.K. Chesterton said that “of all the horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within.” It is a horrible religion, for it is deeply seated within our “sinful desires.” It seems as if the waters of this religion are sweet and pleasant. That its cup is “spiritually intoxicating” for fallen human beings. New Age beliefs clearly underestimate the effect of sin on us as humans, and the world. While New Agers believe they can save themselves with their advanced secret gnosis, inherent godhood, and upper spiritual awareness, Christians maintain that, because of sin, we are ultimately unable to save ourselves from within. Our source of salvation lies outside of ourselves, because we don’t belong to ourselves. We are God’s.
Clark and Geisler describe the answer to this problem vividly:
The Christian message of the cross is this: the hope for genuine personal transformation, social revolution, and cosmic reconciliation comes not from us but from God. Through the cross of Christ, the evil we all experience and long to overcome has already been defeated. Through the cross, human values can be enhanced and human redemption achieved. In Jesus Christ, the living Water, the thirst for peace and hope that drives the New Age will be quenched.
The New Age spirituality will be present for some time to come. It has swept across the U.S.A., Europe, Asia, and is penetrating the continent of Africa to the point of being alive and well in South Africa. The question is: Are we ready to do God-honoring apologetics in the New Age?
Clark, David K and Geisler Norman L. Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1990.
Groothuis, Douglas. Confronting the New Age: How to Resist a Growing Religious Movement. Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press, 1988.
Herrick, James A. The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclispse of the Western Religious Tradition. Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
Steyn, Chrissie. Worldviews in Transition: An Investigation into the New Age Movement in South Africa. Pretoria: UNISA, 1994.
Zacharias, Ravi. Why Jesus: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed spirituality. New York: Faith Words Publishers, 2012.
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.
 In their book, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories that Shape Our Lives (Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press), Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford give some features that can be viewed as positive within the New Age worldview. This brief discussion will focus on their list of positive aspects given on p. 130-132.
 “In Defense of New Age” by Mitch Horowitz, available at https://medium.com/s/real-magic/in-defense-of-new-age-4e55f8dadcc2, accessed April 7, 2020.
 Wilkens and Sanford, Hidden Worldview, p. 132-133.
 A Pantheistic monistic worldview maintains that all is God, and all is one. Any observation of diversity or independence is an illusion.
 David K. Clark and Norman L. Geisler, Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers), 122.
 James S. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press), 212.
 Luke 12:27.
 Psalm 19.
 Romans 1:20.
 Wilkens and Sanford, Hidden Worldviews, p. 132-133.
 Like the doctrine of the Trinity or the Hypostatic Union of Christ for example.
 Norman L. Geisler and Ronald L. Brooks, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids: Baker Book house), 6.
 Clark and Geisler, Apologetics in the, p. 131.
 “I was a New-Age healer. Then I realized I wasn’t the one doing the healing” by Nicole Watt, available at https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-june/nicole-watt-reiki-master-new-age-healing.html?utm_source=&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=2013&utm_term=28967654&utm_content=708417743, accessed April 22, 2020.
 Sire, The Universe, p. 209.
 Deuteronomy 18:9-14.
 Genesis 3:5.
 G.K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Company), 138.
 Abraham Kuyper. The Work of The Holy Spirit (New York: Funk & Wagnalls), 328.
 Clark and Geisler, Apologetics in the, p. 235.
 Christina H. Steyn, “A New Look at New Age in South Africa,” Religion & Theology 14 (2007): 265.
Jack Finnegan. “Christ or Aquarius?: A Christian Reflection on the New Age,” The Furrow 54(6): 346.