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:. 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: 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: 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. 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. 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.
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": 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.
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. 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". 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".
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. 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. One of the recurring themes in New Age writings and thought is the "new paradigm" which contemporary science has opened up. 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". 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: 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. 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".
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". 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:.
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: There is, thus, no more alterity; what is left in human terms is transpersonality. The New Age world is unproblematic: 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.
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? 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. 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: 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". Christianity always seeks to measure human endeavours by their openness to the Creator and to all other creatures, a respect based firmly on love.
Whatever questions and criticisms it may attract, New Age is an attempt by people who experience the world as harsh and heartless to bring warmth to that world. As a reaction to modernity, it operates more often than not on the level of feelings, instincts and emotions. Anxiety about an apocalyptic future of economic instability, political uncertainty and climatic change plays a large part in causing people to look for an alternative, resolutely optimistic relationship to the cosmos.
There is a search for wholeness and happiness, often on an explicitly spiritual level. But it is significant that New Age has enjoyed enormous success in an era which can be characterised by the almost universal exaltation of diversity. Western culture has taken a step beyond tolerance - in the sense of grudging acceptance or putting up with the idiosyncrasies of a person or a minority group - to a conscious erosion of respect for normality.
Normality is presented as a morally loaded concept, linked necessarily with absolute norms. For a growing number of people, absolute beliefs or norms indicate nothing but an inability to tolerate other people's views and convictions. In this atmosphere alternative life-styles and theories have really taken off: It is essential to bear in mind that people are involved with New Age in very different ways and on many levels.
In most cases it is not really a question of "belonging" to a group or movement; nor is there much conscious awareness of the principles on which New Age is built. It seems that, for the most part, people are attracted to particular therapies or practices, without going into their background, and others are simply occasional consumers of products which are labelled " New Age ". People who use aromatherapy or listen to " New Age " music, for example, are usually interested in the effect they have on their health or well-being; it is only a minority who go further into the subject, and try to understand its theoretical or "mystical" significance.
This fits perfectly into the patterns of consumption in societies where amusement and leisure play such an important part. The "movement" has adapted well to the laws of the market, and it is partly because it is such an attractive economic proposition that New Age has become so widespread. New Age has been seen, in some cultures at least, as the label for a product created by the application of marketing principles to a religious phenomenon. Like many other things in contemporary economics, New Age is a global phenomenon held together and fed with information by the mass media.
It is arguable that this global community was created by means of the mass media, and it is quite clear that popular literature and mass communications ensure that the common notions held by "believers" and sympathisers spread almost everywhere very rapidly. However, there is no way of proving that such a rapid spread of ideas is either by chance or by design, since this is a very loose form of "community". Like the cybercommunities created by the Internet, it is a domain where relationships between people can be either very impersonal or interpersonal in only a very selective sense.
New Age has become immensely popular as a loose set of beliefs, therapies and practices, which are often selected and combined at will, irrespective of the incompatibilities and inconsistencies this may imply. But this is obviously to be expected in a world- view self-consciously based on "right-brain" intuitive thinking. And that is precisely why it is important to discover and recognise the fundamental characteristics of New Age ideas. What is offered is often described as simply "spiritual", rather than belonging to any religion, but there are much closer links to particular Eastern religions than many "consumers" realise.
This is obviously important in "prayer"-groups to which people choose to belong, but it is also a real question for management in a growing number of companies, whose employees are required to practise meditation and adopt mind-expanding techniques as part of their life at work. It is worth saying a brief word about concerted promotion of New Age as an ideology, but this is a very complex issue.
Some groups have reacted to New Age with sweeping accusations about conspiracies, but the answer would generally be that we are witnessing a spontaneous cultural change whose course is fairly determined by influences beyond human control. However, it is enough to point out that New Age shares with a number of internationally influential groups the goal of superseding or transcending particular religions in order to create space for a universal religion which could unite humanity. Closely related to this is a very concerted effort on the part of many institutions to invent a Global Ethic, an ethical framework which would reflect the global nature of contemporary culture, economics and politics.
Further, the politicisation of ecological questions certainly colours the whole question of the Gaia hypothesis or worship of mother earth. New Age as spirituality. New Age is often referred to by those who promote it as a "new spirituality". It seems ironic to call it "new" when so many of its ideas have been taken from ancient religions and cultures. But what really is new is that New Age is a conscious search for an alternative to Western culture and its Judaeo-Christian religious roots.
People discover their profound connectedness with the sacred universal force or energy which is the nucleus of all life. When they have made this discovery, men and women can set out on a path to perfection, which will enable them to sort out their personal lives and their relationship to the world, and to take their place in the universal process of becoming and in the New Genesis of a world in constant evolution. The result is a cosmic mysticism 51 based on people's awareness of a universe burgeoning with dynamic energies.
Thus cosmic energy, vibration, light, God, love - even the supreme Self - all refer to one and the same reality, the primal source present in every being. This spirituality consists of two distinct elements, one metaphysical, the other psychological. The metaphysical component comes from New Age's esoteric and theosophical roots, and is basically a new form of gnosis. Access to the divine is by knowledge of hidden mysteries, in each individual's search for "the real behind what is only apparent, the origin beyond time, the transcendent beyond what is merely fleeting, the primordial tradition behind merely ephemeral tradition, the other behind the self, the cosmic divinity beyond the incarnate individual".
Esoteric spirituality "is an investigation of Being beyond the separateness of beings, a sort of nostalgia for lost unity". It is evident when the children of Aquarius search for the Transcendent Unity of religions. They tend to pick out of the historical religions only the esoteric nucleus, whose guardians they claim to be. They somehow deny history and will not accept that spirituality can be rooted in time or in any institution.
Jesus of Nazareth is not God, but one of the many historical manifestations of the cosmic and universal Christ". The psychological component of this kind of spirituality comes from the encounter between esoteric culture and psychology cf. New Age thus becomes an experience of personal psycho- spiritual transformation, seen as analogous to religious experience. For some people this transformation takes the form of a deep mystical experience, after a personal crisis or a lengthy spiritual search.
For others it comes from the use of meditation or some sort of therapy, or from paranormal experiences which alter states of consciousness and provide insight into the unity of reality. Several authors see New Age spirituality as a kind of spiritual narcissism or pseudo-mysticism. It is interesting to note that this criticism was put forward even by an important exponent of New Age, David Spangler, who, in his later works, distanced himself from the more esoteric aspects of this current of thought.
He wrote that, in the more popular forms of New Age, "individuals and groups are living out their own fantasies of adventure and power, usually of an occult or millenarian form The principal characteristic of this level is attachment to a private world of ego-fulfilment and a consequent though not always apparent withdrawal from the world. On this level, the New Age has become populated with strange and exotic beings, masters, adepts, extraterrestrials; it is a place of psychic powers and occult mysteries, of conspiracies and hidden teachings".
In a later work, David Spangler lists what he sees as the negative elements or "shadows" of the New Age: The positive aspects he stresses are the function of New Age as an image of change and as an incarnation of the sacred, a movement in which most people are "very serious seekers after truth", working in the interest of life and inner growth. The commercial aspect of many products and therapies which bear the New Age label is brought out by David Toolan, an American Jesuit who spent several years in the New Age milieu. He observes that new-agers have discovered the inner life and are fascinated by the prospect of being responsible for the world, but that they are also easily overcome by a tendency to individualism and to viewing everything as an object of consumption.
In this sense, while it is not Christian, New Age spirituality is not Buddhist either, inasmuch as it does not involve self-denial. The dream of mystical union seems to lead, in practice, to a merely virtual union, which, in the end, leaves people more alone and unsatisfied. In the early days of Christianity, believers in Jesus Christ were forced to face up to the gnostic religions.
They did not ignore them, but took the challenge positively and applied the terms used of cosmic deities to Christ himself. The clearest example of this is in the famous hymn to Christ in Saint Paul's letter to the Christians at Colossae:. Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity. Now the Church is his body, he is its head. As he is the Beginning, he was first to be born from the dead, so that he should be first in every way; because God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross" Col 1: For these early Christians, there was no new cosmic age to come; what they were celebrating with this hymn was the Fulfilment of all things which had begun in Christ.
Eternity entered into time: What other 'fulfilment' would be possible? For Christians, the real cosmic Christ is the one who is present actively in the various members of his body, which is the Church. They do not look to impersonal cosmic powers, but to the loving care of a personal God; for them cosmic bio-centrism has to be transposed into a set of social relationships in the Church ; and they are not locked into a cyclical pattern of cosmic events, but focus on the historical Jesus, in particular on his crucifixion and resurrection.
Properly understood, this means that authentic spirituality is not so much our search for God but God 's search for us. Another, completely different, view of the cosmic significance of Christ has become current in New Age circles. The divine pattern of connectivity was made flesh and set up its tent among us John 1: The Cosmic Christ is local and historical, indeed intimate to human history.
The Cosmic Christ might be living next door or even inside one's deepest and truest self". For New Age the Cosmic Christ is seen as a pattern which can be repeated in many people, places and times; it is the bearer of an enormous paradigm shift; it is ultimately a potential within us. According to Christian belief, Jesus Christ is not a pattern, but a divine person whose human-divine figure reveals the mystery of the Father's love for every person throughout history Jn 3: All men and women are invited to share his life, to live "in Christ".
Christian mysticism and New Age mysticism. For Christians, the spiritual life is a relationship with God which gradually through his grace becomes deeper, and in the process also sheds light on our relationship with our fellow men and women, and with the universe. Spirituality in New Age terms means experiencing states of consciousness dominated by a sense of harmony and fusion with the Whole.
So "mysticism" refers not to meeting the transcendent God in the fullness of love, but to the experience engendered by turning in on oneself, an exhilarating sense of being at one with the universe, a sense of letting one's individuality sink into the great ocean of Being. This fundamental distinction is evident at all levels of comparison between Christian mysticism and New Age mysticism.
The New Age way of purification is based on awareness of unease or alienation, which is to be overcome by immersion into the Whole. In order to be converted, a person needs to make use of techniques which lead to the experience of illumination. This transforms a person's consciousness and opens him or her to contact with the divinity, which is understood as the deepest essence of reality.
The techniques and methods offered in this immanentist religious system, which has no concept of God as person, proceed 'from below'. Although they involve a descent into the depths of one's own heart or soul, they constitute an essentially human enterprise on the part of a person who seeks to rise towards divinity by his or her own efforts.
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It is often an "ascent" on the level of consciousness to what is understood to be a liberating awareness of "the god within". Not everyone has access to these techniques, whose benefits are restricted to a privileged spiritual 'aristocracy'. The essential element in Christian faith, however, is God's descent towards his creatures, particularly towards the humblest, those who are weakest and least gifted according to the values of the "world".
There are spiritual techniques which it is useful to learn, but God is able to by-pass them or do without them. A Christian's "method of getting closer to God is not based on any technique in the strict sense of the word. That would contradict the spirit of childhood called for by the Gospel. The heart of genuine Christian mysticism is not technique: For Christians, conversion is turning back to the Father, through the Son, in docility to the power of the Holy Spirit. The more people progress in their relationship with God - which is always and in every way a free gift - the more acute is the need to be converted from sin, spiritual myopia and self-infatuation, all of which obstruct a trusting self-abandonment to God and openness to other men and women.
All meditation techniques need to be purged of presumption and pretentiousness. Christian prayer is not an exercise in self-contemplation, stillness and self-emptying, but a dialogue of love, one which "implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from 'self' to the 'You' of God". Here is a key point of contrast between New Age and Christianity. So much New Age literature is shot through with the conviction that there is no divine being "out there", or in any real way distinct from the rest of reality.
From Jung's time onwards there has been a stream of people professing belief in "the god within". Our problem, in a New Age perspective, is our inability to recognise our own divinity, an inability which can be overcome with the help of guidance and the use of a whole variety of techniques for unlocking our hidden divine potential. The fundamental idea is that 'God' is deep within ourselves. We are gods, and we discover the unlimited power within us by peeling off layers of inauthenticity. We are said by some to be living in "an age in which our understanding of God has to be interiorised: Here theosis, the Christian understanding of divinisation, comes about not through our own efforts alone, but with the assistance of God's grace working in and through us.
It inevitably involves an initial awareness of incompleteness and even sinfulness, in no way an exaltation of the self. Furthermore, it unfolds as an introduction into the life of the Trinity, a perfect case of distinction at the heart of unity; it is synergy rather than fusion.
This all comes about as the result of a personal encounter, an offer of a new kind of life. Life in Christ is not something so personal and private that it is restricted to the realm of consciousness. Nor is it merely a new level of awareness. It involves being transformed in our soul and in our body by participation in the sacramental life of the Church. It is difficult to separate the individual elements of New Age religiosity - innocent though they may appear - from the overarching framework which permeates the whole thought-world on the New Age movement.
The gnostic nature of this movement calls us to judge it in its entirety. From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others. Since the New Age movement makes much of a communication with nature, of cosmic knowledge of a universal good - thereby negating the revealed contents of Christian faith - it cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous.
In a cultural environment, marked by religious relativism, it is necessary to signal a warning against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith, making the difference between faith and belief seem relative, thus creating greater confusion for the unwary.
In this regard, it is useful to remember the exhortation of St. Paul "to instruct certain people not to teach false doctrine or to concern themselves with myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the plan of God that is to be received by faith" 1 Tim 1: Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview.
This only adds to the confusion. It is therefore necessary to accurately identify those elements which belong to the New Age movement, and which cannot be accepted by those who are faithful to Christ and his Church. The following questions may be the easiest key to evaluating some of the central elements of New Age thought and practice from a Christian standpoint.
Some of these questions applied to people and ideas not explicitly labelled New Age would reveal further unnamed or unacknowledged links with the whole New Age atmosphere. The New Age concept of God is rather diffuse, whereas the Christian concept is a very clear one. The New Age god is an impersonal energy, really a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world.
Divinity is to be found in every being, in a gradation "from the lowest crystal of the mineral world up to and beyond the Galactic God himself, about Whom we can say nothing at all. This is not a man but a Great Consciousness". God is no longer to be sought beyond the world, but deep within myself. This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life. God is in himself personal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion of his life with creaturely persons.
By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity". Jesus Christ is often presented in New Age literature as one among many wise men, or initiates, or avatars, whereas in Christian tradition He is the Son of God. Here are some common points in New Age approaches:. Other revelations about Jesus, made available by entities, spirit guides and ascended masters, or even through the Akasha Chronicles, are basic for New Age christology;. In the Christian Tradition Jesus Christ is the Jesus of Nazareth about which the gospels speak, the son of Mary and the only Son of God, true man and true God, the full revelation of divine truth, unique Saviour of the world: On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father".
Rebirth, biofeedback, sensory isolation, holotropic breathing, hypnosis, mantras, fasting, sleep deprivation and transcendental meditation are attempts to control these states and to experience them continuously". When the object of the exercise is that we should re-invent our selves, there is a real question of who "I" am. Isolated individual personalities would be pathological in terms of New Age in particular transpersonal psychology. But "the real danger is the holistic paradigm. New Age is thinking based on totalitarian unity and that is why it is a danger The Christian approach grows out of the Scriptural teachings about human nature; men and women are created in God's image and likeness Gen 1.
The human person is a mystery fully revealed only in Jesus Christ cf. GS 22 ,and in fact becomes authentically human properly in his relationship with Christ through the gift of the Spirit. The key is to discover by what or by whom we believe we are saved. Do we save ourselves by our own actions, as is often the case in New Age explanations, or are we saved by God's love? Key words are self-fulfilment and self-realisation , self-redemption. New Age is essentially Pelagian in its understanding of about human nature. For Christians, salvation depends on a participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct personal relationship with God rather than on any technique.
The human situation, affected as it is by original sin and by personal sin, can only be rectified by God's action: In the divine plan of salvation, human beings have been saved by Jesus Christ who, as God and man, is the one mediator of redemption. In Christianity salvation is not an experience of self, a meditative and intuitive dwelling within oneself, but much more the forgiveness of sin, being lifted out of profound ambivalences in oneself and the calming of nature by the gift of communion with a loving God.
The way to salvation is not found simply in a self-induced transformation of consciousness, but in a liberation from sin and its consequences which then leads us to struggle against sin in ourselves and in the society around us. It necessarily moves us toward loving solidarity with our neighbour in need. New Age truth is about good vibrations, cosmic correspondences, harmony and ecstasy, in general pleasant experiences. It is a matter of finding one's own truth in accordance with the feel- good factor. Evaluating religion and ethical questions is obviously relative to one's own feelings and experiences.
His followers are asked to open their whole lives to him and to his values, in other words to an objective set of requirements which are part of an objective reality ultimately knowable by all. The tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer.
They are often a good preparation for prayer, but no more, even if they lead to a more pleasant state of mind or bodily comfort. The experiences involved are genuinely intense, but to remain at this level is to remain alone, not yet in the presence of the other. The achievement of silence can confront us with emptiness, rather than the silence of contemplating the beloved. It is also true that techniques for going deeper into one's own soul are ultimately an appeal to one's own ability to reach the divine, or even to become divine: Even when it is seen as a link with the Universal Energy, "such an easy 'relationship' with God, where God's function is seen as supplying all our needs, shows the selfishness at the heart of this New Age ".
New Age practices are not really prayer, in that they are generally a question of introspection or fusion with cosmic energy, as opposed to the double orientation of Christian prayer, which involves introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. Far from being a merely human effort, Christian mysticism is essentially a dialogue which "implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from 'self' to the 'you' of God".
In New Age there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment, which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques. Those who take part in New Age activities will not be told what to believe, what to do or what not to do, but: Go where your intelligence and intuition lead you. The most serious problem perceived in New Age thinking is alienation from the whole cosmos, rather than personal failure or sin. The remedy is to become more and more immersed in the whole of being. In some New Age writings and practices, it is clear that one life is not enough, so there have to be reincarnations to allow people to realise their full potential.
In the Christian perspective "only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind's origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a development flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another".
It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity Sin is thus 'love of oneself even to contempt of God'". Some New Age writers view suffering as self-imposed, or as bad karma, or at least as a failure to harness one's own resources. Others concentrate on methods of achieving success and wealth e.
In New Age, reincarnation is often seen as a necessary element in spiritual growth, a stage in progressive spiritual evolution which began before we were born and will continue after we die. In our present lives the experience of the death of other people provokes a healthy crisis.
Both cosmic unity and reincarnation are irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being, who lives one life, for which he or she is fully responsible: Christians know that "in the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed. Christ - without any fault of his own - took on himself 'the total evil of sin'. The experience of this evil determined the incomparable extent of Christ's suffering, which became the price of the redemption The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man.
Every man has his own share in the redemption, Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption. Thus each man in his suffering can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ". Much in New Age is unashamedly self-promotion, but some leading figures in the movement claim that it is unfair to judge the whole movement by a minority of selfish, irrational and narcissistic people, or to allow oneself to be dazzled by some of their more bizarre practices, which are a block to seeing in New Age a genuine spiritual search and spirituality.
Where there is true love, there has to be a different other person. A genuine Christian searches for unity in the capacity and freedom of the other to say "yes" or "no" to the gift of love. Union is seen in Christianity as communion, unity as community. The New Age which is dawning will be peopled by perfect, androgynous beings who are totally in command of the cosmic laws of nature. In this scenario, Christianity has to be eliminated and give way to a global religion and a new world order. Christians are in a constant state of vigilance, ready for the last days when Christ will come again; their New Age began years ago, with Christ, who is none other than "Jesus of Nazareth; he is the Word of God made man for the salvation of all".
His Holy Spirit is present and active in the hearts of individuals, in "society and history, peoples, cultures and religions". In fact, "the Spirit of the Father, bestowed abundantly by the Son, is the animator of all". On the one hand, it is clear that many New Age practices seem to those involved in them not to raise doctrinal questions; but, at the same time, it is undeniable that these practices themselves communicate, even if only indirectly, a mentality which can influence thinking and inspire a very particular vision of reality.
Certainly New Age creates its own atmosphere, and it can be hard to distinguish between things which are innocuous and those which really need to be questioned. However, it is well to be aware that the doctrine of the Christ spread in New Age circles is inspired by the theosophical teachings of Helena Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy and Alice Bailey's "Arcane School".
Their contemporary followers are not only promoting their ideas now, but also working with New Agers to develop a completely new understanding of reality, a doctrine known by some observers as "New Age truth". The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.
He is at the heart of every Christian action, and every Christian message. So the Church constantly returns to meet her Lord. The Gospels tell of many meetings with Jesus, from the shepherds in Bethlehem to the two thieves crucified with him, from the wise elders who listened to him in the Temple to the disciples walking miserably towards Emmaus.
But one episode that speaks really clearly about what he offers us is the story of his encounter with the Samaritan woman by Jacob's well in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel; it has even been described as "a paradigm for our engagement with truth". One of the attractive elements of John's account of this meeting is that it takes the woman a while even to glimpse what Jesus means by the water 'of life', or 'living' water verse Even so, she is fascinated - not only by the stranger himself, but also by his message - and this makes her listen.
After her initial shock at realising what Jesus knew about her "You are right in saying 'I have no husband': The dialogue about the adoration of God begins: Jesus touched her heart and so prepared her to listen to what He had to say about Himself as the Messiah: The woman "put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people" all about the man verse The remarkable effect on the woman of her encounter with the stranger made them so curious that they, too, "started walking towards him" verse They soon accepted the truth of his identity: They move from hearing about Jesus to knowing him personally, then understanding the universal significance of his identity.
This all happens because their minds, their hearts and more are engaged. The fact that the story takes place by a well is significant. Jesus offers the woman "a spring The gracious way in which Jesus deals with the woman is a model for pastoral effectiveness, helping others to be truthful without suffering in the challenging process of self-recognition "he told me every thing I have done", verse This approach could yield a rich harvest in terms of people who may have been attracted to the water-carrier Aquarius but who are genuinely still seeking the truth.
They should be invited to listen to Jesus, who offers us not simply something that will quench our thirst today, but the hidden spiritual depths of "living water". It is important to acknowledge the sincerity of people searching for the truth; there is no question of deceit or of self-deception. It is also important to be patient, as any good educator knows. A person embraced by the truth is suddenly energised by a completely new sense of freedom, especially from past failures and fears, and "the one who strives for self-knowledge, like the woman at the well, will affect others with a desire to know the truth that can free them too".
An invitation to meet Jesus Christ, the bearer of the water of life, will carry more weight if it is made by someone who has clearly been profoundly affected by his or her own encounter with Jesus, because it is made not by someone who has simply heard about him, but by someone who can be sure "that he really is the saviour of the world" verse It is a matter of letting people react in their own way, at their own pace, and letting God do the rest.
Guidance and sound formation are needed. New Age is almost always linked with "alternatives", either an alternative vision of reality or an alternative way of improving one's current situation magic. The Age of Aquarius is conceived as one which will replace the predominantly Christian Age of Pisces. New Age thinkers are acutely aware of this; some of them are convinced that the coming change is inevitable, while others are actively committed to assisting its arrival.
People who wonder if it is possible to believe in both Christ and Aquarius can only benefit from knowing that this is very much an "either-or" situation. Christians have only to think of the difference between the wise men from the East and King Herod to recognise the powerful effects of choice for or against Christ. In any society or social system, there are four ways in which integration can occur. Two of these are for our purposes here quite trivial, namely spatial integration when entities simply occupy the same space and nothing more and external integration when two or more entities are linked to each other through some other entity, for example grass and flowers may grow together at the same rate because of the external factors of sun, soil and rain.
The third, functional integration, is far from trivial. This, for Sorokin, describes the interlocking interdependencies we now recognize as crucial in complex systems. Indeed for many scientists "functional integration," or its modern cybernetic equivalent "syntegration," Beer, --the dynamic interdependence of entities that are in symbiotic interaction with each other--is of the utmost importance. Whole societies, whole systems, are held together by their mutually interdependent functional interactions and, following Wright's model, any changes in one will need changes elsewhere in the system to restore dynamic equilibrium.
Sorokin also proposed a fourth level of integration, which, in his view, was the highest form of integration. He called it "logico meaningful integration," to try to describe the underlying idea that things are held together because of what they mean, because of deep values in the culture. Sorokin argued that this level of integration not only provides coherence in life to individuals through the underlying meanings in their culture, but also results in these deep values being manifest in all aspects of a culture, from science to religion.
For Sorokin, a culture at its peak will be integrated in both functional and logico-meaningful ways. He approached the problem of meaning in the following way. Sorokin argued that the macro cultures in Western Civilization evolved through stages that could be understood in terms of their central meanings. At one end of a continuum, these underlying meanings were essentially sensate, that is reality was defined entirely in terms of the physical world and the truth of the senses. At the other end, reality was "ideational," by which Sorokin meant spiritual in the sense that the eternal infinite spiritual reality is real, while the material world is an illusion.
In this case truth of faith is the only truth. Halfway along this continuum was the "idealistic" point, where truth of faith and truth of senses were balanced through "truth of reason.
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Table 1 gives the main elements of the sensate, ideational and idealistic forms. Sorokin elaborated seven types of culture mentality. The three listed above are the two extremes--Active Sensate and Ascetic Ideational, as well as a middle point, the Idealistic culture type. Table 2 outlines the logico meaningful consequences of the three types of culture mentality for weltanschauung or worldview , power and object of control, and activity.
For Sorokin, the "logical satellites" are aspects of the culture that follow logically from the central integrating principle of the culture. In Sorokin's words, "each of them the logical satellites is connected logically with the dominant attitude toward the nature of ultimate reality. Ideas such as progress and evolution are central to such a viewpoint.
In addition, the dominant ideas on control stress control of the external sensate reality and hence activity in the outer world. In contrast, the ideational culture is based on "being", stressing lasting value. In addition, self-control and repression of the sensual person and of self lead to a focus on the inner life.
Idealistic culture for Sorokin is an attempt to balance both worldviews, to live in both the inner and outer worlds, and balance being and becoming, control of the external environment and control of self. Table 3 details how each culture mentality affects what is meant by "self" and what is defined as knowledge in each type of culture mentality.
Both the sensate and ideational types are highly integrated around completely different reality definitions. The sensate culture is associated with a view of the self as a material entity dissolved or living totally in the immediate physical reality. Under this view the material world provides the basis for everything, and materialistic models of reality are likely to be dominant in all compartments of culture.
Mechanistic models of the universe and materialistic biochemical models of health are typical examples of the sensate view of reality, a view that stresses caring for the physical body, sensual liberty for example, sexual freedom and sensual egotism for example, cultivating the body beautiful. Such a worldview will naturally develop physical and biological sciences that study and manipulate the external world, and in so doing will develop technology for this purpose.
In contrast, the ideational culture type searches for the inner self, which is experienced as dissolved or existing totally in the ultimate spiritual reality. The external material world is seen as an illusion, and knowledge of the spiritual, psychical and immaterial reality becomes the basis for knowledge.
Using meditation and other self exploration approaches, knowledge of the inner self, including inner peace, becomes central. As in the case of Table 2, the idealistic culture mentality attempts to balance both approaches. Table 4 illustrates the approaches to truth and to moral values in the three culture mentalities. Thus the active sensate culture is based on "truth of the senses," where truth is validated through observation of, and experimentation with, the external environment.
The five human senses are ultimately the basis for establishing truth, and inductive logic is used to relate the evidence from the senses to models of reality. The moral value system of the sensate culture is relativistic and utilitarian, based on maximum sensate happiness. In contrast, the ideational worldview is based on "truth of faith," whereby the inner experience of the ultimate reality, the mystical experience discussed above, is achieved through concentrated meditation, intuition, revelation, or prophecy.
This ideational culture mentality is based on absolute, transcendental values, values that are God-given, imperative, everlasting and unchangeable. The idealistic culture mentality stresses both "truth of the senses" and "truth of faith" in a truth system that Sorokin calls "truth of reason.
Table 5 illustrates the characteristics of the three culture mentalities as these relate to aesthetic values and social values. In the sensate culture, art and aesthetic values are based on increasing the joys and beauties of a rich sensate life, while social and practical values give joy of life to self and partly to others.
In particular, they stress the value of monetary wealth and physical comfort. Prestige in society is in large measure based on these factors. In conflicts, physical might is more important than being right in the moral sense. The ideational culture type sees aesthetic values as being servants to the main inner values, which are essentially religious and non-sensate.
For social values, only those which serve the ultimate inner spiritual reality are of value, while materialistic values, such as economic wealth, are seen as ultimately worthless. The principle of sacrifice is an integral part of the ideational social value system. As in the above cases, idealistic culture attempts to balance sensate and spiritual concerns.
Sorokin and his helpers collected and coded huge amounts of information on various aspects of Western macro culture, including indicators of sensate and ideational worldviews, in art, science, mathematics, architecture, discoveries and inventions, philosophy, ethics and jurisprudence. Using this data, he argued that there was a tendency, over long periods of time, for Western macro culture to swing from one end of the continuum to the other in their central meanings, and that these changes in central meanings are manifest in all aspects of an integrated culture.
A crude summary of his findings are presented in Table 6. The still evolving Western civilization, in Sorokin's view, had achieved overripe sensate status with too much stress on materialism and an almost complete disregard for spiritual values and was now in crisis, swinging back towards the ideational pole. Such a swing would inevitably manifest itself in the emergence of "new holistic paradigms" in many different areas, as illustrated above, as well as in the re-emergence of ideational, religious or spiritual worldviews.
It will also, in Sorokin's view, lead to a period of turmoil, crisis and catharsis, from which the new ideational or idealistic culture will emerge. Every model of reality--including Sorokin's--is a simplification of reality to some extent. In various ways, the global situation today is more complicated than Sorokin's model suggests, since the world is also more complex than when he wrote. There are, for example, multiple interactions between different cultures occurring in the world today, which are not in Sorokin's model.
Despite this fact, it is nonetheless interesting that a number of new, holistic scientific paradigms and worldviews are emerging today in a number of different areas--just as Sorokin predicted 65 years ago would happen as part of a return to more spiritual values in Western cultures today.
There is, however, within the scientific community itself, some difference of opinion over whether the new, holistic scientific paradigms deal only with the physical world, or whether they also parallel holistic spiritual values and experiences of reality. The latter view was the thesis of Fritjov Capra's book, The Tao of Physics, for example, but not all physicists agree with Capra.
Similarly, the Gaia Hypothesis is interpreted by some in a purely "functional" integration sense K. Boulding, and by others within a spiritual framework, suggesting "intentionality" and an "intelligence" behind the way Gaia operates. Ruether, ; Badiner, James Davies, who has written various books popularizing the New Physics, also asks: To Davies, the fact that we can study and understand the universe at all, and that science is even possible at all, implies that the universe is not a random event, but rather that intentionality and purpose are behind its creation and design.
Davies, Other scientists also note the extremely low statistical probability of life--including self-conscious, self-aware, intelligent life as represented by humans --evolving on earth, which to some scientists implies an intentionality or purpose behind our physical universe, its creation and the design of its evolution. The fact that life itself seems to evolve towards ever more intelligent self awareness--whether in human form on earth or other possible forms elsewhere in the universe--implies a designer behind the design to some scientists.
In summary, new holistic, scientific paradigms are emerging across a variety of fields, and increasing numbers of people are seeing connections between the spiritual and material aspects of these paradigms. Sorokin's work focused primarily on Western cultures, so further research needs to be done by others today on this question. As Sorokin himself concluded: The systems of mentality of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Sufism, early Christianity, and of many ascetic and mystical sects, groups, and movements i. Indeed, there are powerful forces of change sweeping the planet today.
In many ways, Eastern cultures represented especially by Asian countries are undergoing rapid economic development, technological growth, and increasing materialism as a result. This has led many thoughtful people to be concerned that the whole world is perhaps becoming Westernized and materialistic.
But an equally strong counter current is also occurring within Western cultures today, where the achievement of a certain level of material comfort often leads people to seek other values in life, especially spiritual values, in an effort to find meaning. Spiritual and religious movements of various kinds are thus having a comeback--especially in cultures and countries that have undergone the greatest degree of material development, i. This is no accident. Indeed, it can be argued that both Western and Eastern cultures, in their pure or extreme forms to the extent that they did actually at times represent one of Sorokin's two opposite cultural types , have traditionally both been out of balance, and that today, for the first time our increasingly interdependent world is providing the conditions for both Eastern and Western cultures to become more in balance, in terms of honoring both spiritual and material values, inner peace as well as outer peace values, and group as well as individualistic concerns and perspectives, and that this is indeed the most promising development occurring in the world today, in regard to creating the foundations for a global culture of peace--for both East and West--in the 21st century.
And indeed, we see that this is happening today. Crime and violence are on an increase everywhere. Fanatics of the left and right--including religious cults promoting violence in the name of God or spirit a total contradiction in terms --are multiplying. The transition period does not guarantee an easy ride. But change is inevitable, and it must be dealt with as constructively and consciously as possible, so that we can get through this transition period with as little real catastrophes and violence as possible.
Sorokin's work suggests--at least based on his analysis of the alternations in Western cultures historically--that such balanced Idealistic periods usually lasted about years. In non-Western cultures, Sorokin saw Confuscianism and much of Ancient Egyptian culture which lasted 3, years as good examples of the balanced, Ideational form. As Eastern and Western cultures increasingly come together and interact with each other, now and in the future, perhaps such a balanced period could last for a long time--drawing on both Eastern and Western cultural values for its maintenance and sustenance.
If that were to become possible, then the so-called "Golden Age" prophesied in various religious and spiritual traditions could indeed become a reality. This might be more likely if both Eastern and Western cultures could continue to develop in isolation from each other, but in our increasingly interdependent world, this seems unlikely.
The more preferable, balanced scenario, however, would be for the East to increasingly develop economically--as it no doubt will do, with many economic observers having called the 21st century the "Pacific Century--while still maintaining and preserving its rich spiritual traditions and values, and for the West to increasingly further an interest in spiritual, inner peace questions, while still maintaining a decent materialistic lifestyle and concern with social justice issues in the outer world.
The transition period of getting there may indeed be rocky. But a peaceful world, based on attention paid to both inner peace and outer peace, including social justice questions, is indeed one possibility for the 21st century. At different times in history, and in different cultures, divinity or the sacred or spiritual has been represented in different ways: There are a number of books that have been written in recent years--many by feminists who are trying to recapture the spiritual and societal role of women historically--about the factors leading to the above transition from female goddess to male God.
There is not space here to explore this subject in greater depth. The important point here is just to note that divinity has been portrayed and experienced differently, at different times in history and in different cultures. Underneath this diversity, however, was a common search for some kind of spiritual meaning in life--whatever the form that this took, which one could argue was at least partly a reflection of the dominant cultural values that existed at the time.
It is not the purpose of this paper to argue that one symbol system for spirit or divinity is correct and others are wrong. All sought to honor spirit in some way. If God or spirit is beyond all dualities, however--which the mystical traditions of all religions seem to suggest--then clearly God or spirit or divinity is also beyond our human attempts to categorize it as either all male, or all female, at the exclusion of the other. As Lao Tsu said, "the Tao that can be named is not the Tao. One of the themes of this paper is that if we want to create peace in the world, then we need to find a way to include all the parts of the whole, or the world, in this process.
It would thus seem in keeping with this theme that divinity or spirit should be seen to be the unity that transcends all opposites or dualities, however they are represented. In support of this idea, Figure 3 cites examples of spiritual symbols from a number of different religions in the world, which are all based on this idea of recognizing that the spiritual path involves balancing and transcending polar opposites, or dualities.
Indeed, the mystical or esoteric path in all religions is based on this simple truth: Represents the unity of opposites, which are symbolized by the two halves of the Ankh: The Ankh also symbolized eternal life and immortality with the balancing and transcending of opposites--represented by the male and female principles--being the way to get there , as well as the union of Upper and Lower Egypt the upper half representing the Delta region of Lower Egypt and the bottom half representing the rest of the Nile River that flowed through Upper Egypt, in the South, to the Delta in the North.
The Celtic Cross is an interesting Christian cross in that it combines the traditional symbol of the cross representing Christ on the cross, who died to the physical life and was resurrected into eternal life with the Father--more a representation of the male principle with the circle around it representing the female principle.
This pre-Christian, Celtic symbol also represents the unity outer circle of opposites--the two inner circles, which are also seen to be overlapping or interdependent. The area in the middle, where these two circles overlap, is also the shape of a fish, which later became one of the dominant symbols for Christianity. This symbol can be found on the ancient well at Glastonbury, England, which some call the mythical "Isle of Avalon" of King Arthur legends. This well has provided healing waters at a constant temperature for 5, years, according to tradition.
This overlapping and interdependence of opposites also represents, in the Celtic tradition, the interdependence of spiritual and material life; it is not a choice of one or the other, but of both together. This is the famous Yin-Yang symbol from Taoism, which also represents the idea of the unity, balance, and interdependence of opposites--as the basis for a balanced and healthy life, including a spiritual life.
What is most interesting here is that there is always a small amount of the opposite characteristic in each half of the symbol Yin or Female in Yang or Male, and Yang or Male in Yin or Female. The meaning of this is clear. If you try to totally eliminate your opposite, and create a pure Yin, or pure Yang half of the whole , it will have the opposite effect of what you intended, i. Thus the lesson is clear: Another version of the balance of male and female principles or opposites as a symbol of the path to attain spiritual union with God can be seen in the Hindu symbol of a male and female in an often voluptuous embrace.
Westerners sometimes misinterpret the meaning of this symbol. What it really means is that the spiritual, mystical path requires the balancing and transcending of opposites, not the elimination of opposites. These ancient spirals--moving in two opposite circular directions--can be found on the ancient temples to the goddess in Malta, on ancient stone circles in England and Europe, and even in the Andes, as well as other places. These symbols have been interpreted to mean the spiral of coming into life and the spiral of going out of life as a continuous and interconnected process, thus indicating a belief in reincarnation by the people drawing these symbols.
Apparently the Jewish Menorah is an outgrowth of one of these spirals which was cut in half. Further research follows re: In conclusion, if a symbol can represent a whole philosophy, as well as an approach, to the mystical path of enlightenment, then perhaps these symbols--from a number of different religious traditions--are a simple, visual way to do so. These symbols are also archetypal and thus communicate in deeper archetypal ways to our psyche or consciousness. One might also note that many, if not most religions, are based not only on the idea of the unity or interconnectedness of opposites; they are also based on the trinity principle in which two opposites come together and create something new.
This section will look at the role of mythology--especially as interpreted in the works of Joseph Campbell, and later Jean Houston--in showing a way to bridge one's outer life in the world with the inner life of the spirit. It will also look at universal aspects of the "hero's journey" the journey to our inner selves in the myths of all cultures; the stages of the hero's journey; and East-West cultural and historical differences in the hero's journey. While some people living in our demythified Western world tend to think of only facts as true, and therefore myths as untrue or illusory, those who study myths note that they have a deeper type of truth to them, which attracts people in almost all cultures to them.
Indeed, mythology can be seen as a link between our outer lives in the world and the search for deeper, archetypal levels of meaning and purpose in life, which then leads to the inner life of the spirit. Therefore myths do not speak to us in factual terms, but in archetypal, metaphorical language. Joseph Campbell himself said that "myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation. Myths can also help people realize how their everyday life can take on extraordinary or heroic dimensions via the way they choose to deal with these events, as often inspired by other heroic figures from mythology.
In this he posits the idea of a "monomyth"--the one great story which underlies much mythology" from different cultures around the world. While the outer forms can vary from one culture to another, the deeper aspects of the journey are universal and transcend different cultures. His ideas gained a great following and popularity in the United States through the six part television series, "The Power of Myth," in which Bill Moyers interviewed Joseph Campbell for public television.
In this series, as in other writing, Campbell encouraged people to "follow your bliss," meaning to listen to your own inner voices and follow your own dream, which will take you on your own hero's journey of self discovery and transformation. Jean Houston, who works with mythology in the tradition of Joseph Campbell, talks about "sacred psychology" where our "deepest fulfillment comes from experiencing union with the divine and bringing a sense of the sacred into our everyday lives"--especially in Western society which has become increasingly disconnected from the deeper "waters of life.
These three realms include:. This realm also serves as a cultural template, providing the primal patterns that take form as works of art, architecture, literature and drama. This is the realm that was revealed to Moses in the wilderness, for example. They need the intermediate WE ARE realm of mythology and archetypal stories as a bridging place to prepare for the life of the spirit and to learn how to navigate through the various stages of the hero's journey.
The hero's journey is basically a road map that shows any human being a pathway from the outer world of our everyday lives inward towards deeper spiritual dimensions. There are various versions of these stages. Another more detailed version of the hero's journey has five stages, borrowing on ideas of both Joseph Campbell first, and then Jean Houston, in each stage as follows:.
Another version of this stage is that you hear an inner call to adventure, which you can either accept or reject. Often a mentor or teacher must be found who can act as a guide on the journey. Another version of this stage is that once the call is accepted, you will find allies to help you on the journey.
There is a particular point or place where you must leave all the things of your old, familiar life behind you, and jump off into the unknown. Another version of this stage is that you must get past the guardians at the threshold, who represent the limitations of conventional thinking, which one must outwit if one is to be allowed to enter the realms of the creative and mysterious depths, where one will be tested.
The hero's journey involves real testing, where you will be confronted with demons and dangers, which will require that you confront your own inner demons and fears and limitations, if you are to develop mastery in the situation; this part of the hero's journey is the real "initiation". If you survive it, you will grow and be changed in the process, and you will be able to return to your society a changed or transformed person--whether your hero's journey was an adventure as Odysseus , a spiritual initiation as Christ, Buddha, Moses, and others , or the development of authentic mastery in some artistic tradition.
If you survive the initiation and testing, and develop internal, as well as external mastery, then you will be able to return to your society able to share your wisdom and mastery with others. You will have received great boons, i. While there are, according to Campbell and Houston, universal aspects of the hero's journey in the myths of all cultures as noted above , Campbell and others also noted that there are important distinctions in the nature of the hero's journey--at different stages of history, as well as in Eastern and Western cultures.
While we cannot go into these differences in any depth here, it should be noted that Campbell believed that there were four major mythological periods:. Campbell and others have also noted important differences in the hero's journey as it is lived in Eastern and Western cultures. In the East, where a group identity and culture are more dominant, one must follow the path set before by one's guru, spiritual teacher or master, in an unbroken lineage passed down from master to apprentice, while in the West, where individual identity and culture are more dominant, the hero must embark on the hero's journey at a place and time of his own choosing.
In short, the hero cannot follow a path set by others, but must find his own path. Campbell believed that the best illustration of the hero's journey in Western culture was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, where each of the knights, in their search for the Holy Grail which search is basically that of the hero's journey had to enter the forest the unknown at a point of their own choosing.
Campbell also believed that the hero's journey--if it is to impact people's lives-- must be adapted to the times and the culture in which this mythological story appears. Ancient myths or stories must thus be reset in new contexts and environments if they are to relate to people's lives today. In this context, it is interesting that the Star Wars Trilogy was George Lucas' attempt to take the idea of the hero's journey and adapt it to a space age environment, which may be one of the reasons for the film's great popularity. If one looks at the five stages of the hero's journey outlined under Section 4 above , one can see how closely the Star Wars story followed Campbell's five stages:.
Here Luke Skywalker who lived with his aunt and uncle who were farmers and were suddenly found murdered had already been yearning to explore new horizons and now had nothing holding him to his old life anymore. Luke finds Obiwan Kinobe, who becomes his teacher in the ways of "the force". There is a famous bar scene, filled with strange looking alien creatures, which symbolically represents Luke's jumping off place into the world of the unknown, which he does in the company of his mentor, Obiwan Kinobe.
Once in the unknown, Luke must receive further training in the ways of the force--by Obiwan Kinobe and later by Yoda; he must undergo many adventures; and then he must finally be tested, in the form of confronting Darth Vader--the symbol of evil itself. Only after he has passed this test, does the adventure come to an end. Here victory over the dark side is celebrated and the trilogy ends. While Star Wars was a great success, it still glorified fighting and violence against evil , and as such is still not the best archetypal model we can find for creating a peaceful, nonviolent world in the future.
Indeed, society seems more violent than ever. In looking at the role of the warrior image in mythology, such as Star Wars, a few observations need to be made:. First, it is important to point out that the hero's journey--even for the warrior archetype-- need not be violent. With the destructive power of modern technology, clearly our future survival requires that we find alternative ways to resolve our conflicts short of violence. As Elise Boulding has noted, we can take the adventuresome energy of the warrior hero archetype and channel it consciously into nonviolent action in the world.
Second, it is clear that we also need to find new types of hero figures, besides the warrior archetype today. Various books have been written exploring alternative types of archetypes, and this type of research needs to continue. Women, who identify less as a whole with the warrior archetype than men, are looking for such alternative archetypal images, which could provide models with which they could identify as women.
In addition, alternative, non-warrior archetypes also need to be found for men. Third and lastly, we need to remember that when we go to do battle in the world--the warrior archetype--that the real battle is really within oneself. Indeed, the external battle in the world is really a reflection or mirror of the inner battle within--to master one's own fears, limitations, insecurities and demons. Once we can consciously recognize this, then 'perhaps' we will realize that we can focus our primary energies there, on developing internal mastery and balance, which can then be expressed in nonviolent ways in the world, and then we will not have to act out the warrior need to do battle in the external world in what has too often been a violent way.
Or if we must do battle in the world, we can do it against poverty, injustice, ignorance, prejudice, intolerance, etc. Certainly there are plenty of admirable battles that need to be addressed and they do not require violence as a means to engage in such efforts. In conclusion, this section has explored the possible role of mythology as a bridge between our outer lives in the world--what is comparable to the exoteric aspect of religion, with the development of an inner life of the spirit--what is comparable to the esoteric aspects of religion.
If mythology and archetypal figures can help us to embark on the hero's journey to discover and encounter the deeper aspects of our being, then perhaps nonviolent, archetypal models can also be found for our actions in the world that are appropriate to our technologically sophisticated and interdependent world for our actions in the world. If, for the sake of brevity, we oversimplify peace thinking, then it is possible to identify at least six broad categories of peace thinking which, in large measure, also correspond to the evolution of peace thinking in Western peace research.
This is not to say that all scholars once thought one way and now think another, nor is it to say that the majority of peace researchers now adopt holistic paradigms. Rather it is to argue that overall there has been a trend in peace research away from the traditional idea that peace is simply the absence of war towards a more holistic view, as seen in Figure Figure 4 summarizes six perspectives on peace in terms of the levels of analysis and theoretical focus that each includes.
The first perspective, peace as the absence of war, is applied to violent conflict between and within states--war and civil war. This view of peace is still widely held among general populations and politicians. In certain situations, it can be argued, this is still a legitimate objective, at least until the killing stops and it is possible to ask for more out of life than avoiding death in war.
Furthermore, all six definitions of peace discussed here require absence of war as a necessary precondition for peace. Quincy Wright modified this absence of war idea to suggest that peace was a dynamic balance involving political, social, cultural and technological factors, and that war occurred when this balance broke down. Wright argued that this balance of forces occurred in the international system--defined in terms of the overall pattern of relationships between states and International Governmental Organizations IGOs --as well as between and within states.
Wright also discussed the role of domestic public opinion within a state--which involves the community level of analysis. His model assumed that any significant change in one of the factors involved in the peace balance would require corresponding changes in other factors to restore the balance. For example, Robert Oppenheimer, the much misunderstood "father of the atomic bomb," adopted Wright's view when he insisted on continuing to develop the bomb so that a global political institution, the United Nations, would have to be created to help control the new global military technology.
Galtung further modified Wright's view, using the categories "negative peace" and "positive peace" that Wright had first put forward some 28 years earlier. Galtung developed a third position and argued that negative peace was the absence of war and that positive peace was the absence of "structural violence", a concept defined in terms of the numbers of avoidable deaths caused simply by the way social, economic and other structures were organized.
Thus if people starve to death when there is food to feed them somewhere in the world, or die from sickness when there is medicine to cure them, then structural violence exists since alternative structures could, in theory, prevent such deaths. Peace under this rubric involves both positive peace and negative peace being present. Galtung's model in addition to the community, within states, between states, and international levels of analysis includes the global level of analysis, such as the global economy which is influenced by non-state actors, such as MNCs.
During the 's and 80's, a fourth perspective was ushered in by feminist peace researchers, who extended both negative peace and positive peace to include violence and structural violence down to the individual level. Brock-Utne, The new definition of peace then included not only the abolition of macro level organized violence, such as war, but also doing away with micro level unorganized violence, such as rape in war or in the home. In addition, the concept of structural violence was similarly expanded to include personal, micro- and macro-level structures that harm or discriminate against particular individuals or groups.
This feminist peace model came to include all types of violence, broadly defined, against people, from the individual to the global level, arguing that this is a necessary condition for a peaceful planet. The 's has seen the emergence of two types of holistic peace thinking. Dreher, ; Macy,; Smoker, Here, as with the feminist model, peace between people applies across all levels of analysis--from the family and individual level to the global level.
In addition, Gaia-peace theory places a very high value on the relationship of humans to bioenvironmental systems --the environmental level of analysis. Peace with the environment is seen as central for this type of holistic peace theory, where human beings are seen as one of many species inhabiting the earth, and the fate of the planet is seen as the most important goal. This type of holistic peace thinking does not have a spiritual dimension, peace being defined in terms of all forms of physical violence against people and the environment. This sixth view of peace sees inner, esoteric spiritual aspects of peace as essential.
Spiritually based peace theory stresses the interactive relationships, the mutual co-arising, between all things and the centrality of inner peace. In addition to the relationships of human beings with each other and the world--including the environment-- a spiritual dimension is added to Gaia-peace theory. This dimension is expressed in different ways by peace researchers, depending on their cultural context.
As in the Tao of Physics, where new paradigms in physics resonate with worldviews found in Eastern mysticism, this new paradigm in peace research resonates with much thinking in world spiritual and religions traditions. Peace has truly become indivisible. Two important issues in the evolution of the Western peace concept concern the various interpretations of "positive peace" which, following Galtung, was expressed in terms of absence of structural violence and "nonviolence" the verbal construction of which suggests an "absence of violence" framework, i.
In this section of the paper, we would like to consider the evolution from negative to positive views of peace, including the evolution of the "positive peace" concept itself.
Schmidt, in his critical Marxist analysis, "Politics and Peace Research," argued that value positive concepts of peace were doomed to failure within peace research, because it would not be possible for peace researchers to achieve a consensus on what constituted a positive view of peace. He put forward the view that peace researchers could only agree on what they were against--for example war, starvation, and poverty. Schmidt's article was arguably the main stimulus to Galtung's rejoinder, in which he redefined Quincy Wright's concept "positive peace" to mean the absence of "structural violence"--harmful social, political and economic structures that are responsible for avoidable human deaths through preventable starvation or treatable illness.
Galtung's positive peace concept --the absence of structural violence, like his negative peace concept --the absence of war, did not include an inner or spiritual dimension. Peace of both sorts took place in the outer world and positive peace was a function of human social structures. Feminist theory, the fourth perspective defined above, broadened the positive peace concept to include micro structures, such as the family, as well as Galtung's macro structures, but for the most part it still emphasized elimination of the undesirable--such as war and wife beating.
At the same time, however, there was an increasing emphasis on value positive thinking stressing desirable alternatives, such as visualizing alternative futures as a part of the process of moving towards those futures--the work on imaging positive futures by Elise Boulding in the peace research community being an excellent example. An earlier paper Smoker, discussed the extent to which peace research--as reflected in the pages of a defining journal, such as the Journal of Peace Research--had focused almost entirely on negative concerns, such as how to avoid or control war, aggression, physical violence and structural violence.
Since that article--which was part of a special issue of the Journal of Peace Research on peace--the situation has not changed significantly. Within the last six months, the Editors of the Journal of Peace Research have revisited the idea of peace in the positive sense--as opposed to positive peace in the Galtung sense--and are considering including a section on the topic not a whole issue at some future time.
However, a decision has not yet been made. There is little doubt that positive images of peace have been the exception, rather than the rule, in Western peace research. This has not been true in Futures Studies, where a focus on alternative futures has contributed towards the development of both negative and positive conceptualizations.
There is a sizable group of people within the Western futures community--but by no means all futurists--whose visioning of positive alternative futures is based, in part at least, on a spiritual, holistic, perspective. The works of Barbara Marx Hubbard, Marilyn Ferguson, and Jean Houston--an outstanding group of women futurists--are particularly notable examples. In part this is because of our realization that, whatever our nationality, culture or religious tradition, we are all interconnected and interdependent. Viewed from space, planet Earth is a blue-green sphere, we cannot see national boundaries, but we can see the land and the water, ice caps, deserts and forests.
The Earth is clearly a whole complex system, a living being perhaps, but we as individuals and groups are but a part of the planet as the planet itself is a part of the solar system, galaxy and universe.
Legal Procedures and the School of Wisdom
The new thinking, it can be argued, represents a return to wholeness, not in the sense of uniformity, but in the sense of complexity dynamically balanced in interaction, the whole as integrated synergy, syntigration. This mindset enables an appreciation of the interdependence of species in the global ecosystem, of particular cultural meanings in the context of the total global cultural system, and of particular faiths in the rich diversity of global religions. The whole is more than the sum of the parts, and the greater the variety of the parts, the richer the expression of the global whole.
Whereas "peace as absence of war" typifies the conceptual framework for most popular "peace thinking," there are other aspects to peace. The answer to the question " if you think about peace, how would you define it? But the answer to the question "when you are at peace, what does it feel like? This is because the actual experiences of peace that most, if not all, of us have as human beings--in Western or Eastern culture--are related to inner peace.
Inner peace also involves an inner knowing or intuitive dimension--beyond the feeling dimension--where one suddenly understands patterns and relationships between things which were not understood before. This is the classic "aha" type experience which is the basis for creativity, and tapping this source would do much to enrich peace researchers visions of a positive future world at peace. Positive peace can therefore be seen as an evolving concept, a concept that does not yet exist in the initial "peace as absence of war" definition, but a concept that subsequently takes on different meanings as the peace concept expands.
An important theoretical question concerns the possible meanings of the term "culture of peace", particularly since the previous section of this paper illustrated the broad range of interpretations given to the word peace, and the ramifications this has for peace action. The difficulties of understanding what might be meant by "culture of peace" are further magnified by the fact that "culture," like "peace," can and has been defined in many ways. Therefore this section of the paper is best seen as a contribution to a preliminary discussion of the culture of peace concept, a discussion that is likely to continue for some time.
Earlier in this paper, we noted that culture can be defined as learned, shared, patterned behavior, as reflected in technology and tools; social organizations, including economics, politics, religion, media, education, and the family; and ideas. Under this view, socialization is the process through which culture is learned, including our religious beliefs and practices, and the agents of socialization include language, politics, economics, religion, education, family, and media. Culture under this view provides the medium through which we interpret the world, the context of meanings, small and large, that makes coherence possible.
A culture of peace, therefore, would be a culture that made peace possible, and, as we have seen in the previous section, what is meant by a culture of peace will almost certainly vary according to the concept of peace that is used. If peace is just the absence of war between and within states, then a culture of peace would be a culture that made war between or within states increasingly unlikely, until eventually interstate and intrastate war would cease.
Such a culture of peace has long been established in certain parts of the world and between certain states, for example, between Canada and the United States, the U.