Life, Hope & Truth

From the March/April 2020 issue of Discern Magazine

The New Age Movement

What is the New Age movement, and why is it spreading? What are New Age beliefs, and what are the dangers of this movement? Here’s what you should know.

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Western society is experiencing a spiritual awakening of sorts. Unfortunately, though, it’s not a shift toward the true God of the Bible, but rather a move to New Age spirituality, with elements of Eastern religions.

We can see the signs of the New Age movement all around us:

  • Virtually every bookstore has a section of New Age books with one best seller after another about becoming spiritually enlightened and discovering the hidden force within you, along with how-to guides for mastering out-of-body experiences, spirit channeling, dream interpretation and crystal healing.
  • About 36 million Americans regularly practice yoga, a technique in its original form designed to help harmonize the individual with his or her “universal energy.”
  • Meditation retreats and astrology boutiques are popping up all over North America.
  • Plots for sci-fi movies and television series revolve around ghosts, supernatural forces, past lives, extraterrestrials and other paranormal phenomena.
  • Talk shows promote ideas like, “Connecting with your higher self opens yourself up to miracles and magic,” and, “What can be seen with the physical senses is an illusion.”

What is the New Age movement?

Probably most people have heard of the New Age movement. This term has been bandied about for decades—ever since the 1980s when the ideas and practices noted above really started becoming popular.

Still, not everyone knows what the movement is actually about, nor do those who espouse New Age ideas always identify with the label. It can mean different things to different people.

That said, there are some generally accepted definitions.

In The Second Coming of the New Age (2018), coauthors Steven Bancarz and Josh Peck define the New Age movement as “a collection of beliefs and practices aimed at bringing enlightenment. The goal, at an individual level, is to ‘raise the consciousness’ to a ‘higher density’ or a ‘higher vibration,’ meaning that knowledge of self, combined with divination and occult practices, can elevate our spiritual condition to a level of self-divinity. This movement teaches that we don’t become divine, but that we already are divine in and of ourselves” (p. 2).

New Age philosophy draws heavily from:

  • Eastern mysticism (primarily Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism).
  • Gnosticism (the teaching that physical matter is evil).
  • Neopaganism (particularly witchcraft, nature worship and animism, which is the belief that spiritual energy is in inanimate objects).
  • Metaphysics (the branch of philosophy that addresses the nature of existence).

One of the reasons there are differing ideas about what the New Age movement entails is that it is not a formal religion. There is no statement of beliefs, governing body or membership list.

Rather, the New Age movement is comprised of individuals who share some basic ideas but are only loosely connected with each other through the seminars and conventions they attend. Its followers aren’t expected to adhere to particular doctrines or practices and often have conflicting beliefs.

New Agers frequently describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious,” meaning they believe in a higher power of some sort, but are not members of a religious organization. They typically see spirituality as a matter of what someone feels and experiences, not what is believed.

The continuing growth of the New Age movement

Without membership rosters, it’s impossible to determine exactly how many New Age adherents there are. There is, however, no doubt that the acceptance and practice of New Age spirituality is at an all-time high. Numerous surveys in recent years confirm this.

One of them is a 2018 Pew Research Center poll that found that 62 percent of Americans hold at least one New Age belief (either reincarnation, astrology, animism and/or the use of psychics).

Specifically, 42 percent of Americans believe in animism, 41 percent in psychics, 33 percent in reincarnation, and 29 percent in astrology. These percentages are up dramatically from a similar poll conducted in 2009.

Another Pew survey, conducted in 2017, reported that 27 percent of American adults put themselves in the “spiritual but not religious” grouping, which is up from 19 percent in 2012. Not all of these are New Agers, but many are.

Those who adopt New Age ideas tend to do so because they see organized religion as restrictive, inflexible or outdated. They are drawn to this new spirituality where they can have the freedom to think and do as they please.

Others turn to the New Age movement (or cosmic humanism, as it is also known) after becoming disillusioned with secular humanism.

Secularists interpret the world in terms of materialism (meaning everything that exists is strictly physical). This worldview has created a spiritual void for many who ache for purpose-filled lives and something “bigger” than themselves.

However, they may continue to embrace the human-centered approach of humanism—which is why they choose cosmic humanism over traditional religions.

What does the New Age movement believe and practice?

While individuals within the New Age movement may have varied beliefs and practices, they generally hold to certain core ideas:

  • New Agers believe God is in everything that exists, and everything is God. The term for this view is pantheism. It asserts that the universe and all that’s in it—the stars, planets, mountains, oceans, plant and animal life, etc.—collectively comprise what God is. Therefore, human beings, as part of the universe, are part of God. Nature, too, is considered sacred.
  • New Agers view God as a force or an essence that pervades all things. Usually this divine essence is referred to as the Higher Self, but it is also known as the Universal Energy, Divine Self, Higher Consciousness and Ultimate Reality. Humanity as a whole is believed to have suppressed the “Higher Self” within it.
  • New Agers believe our purpose in life is to discover the divine essence in us and achieve self-realization or enlightenment. Paranormal activity, such as out-of-body experiences, psychokinesis (moving objects with the mind) and psychic healing, is seen as evidence of the supernatural essence in humans.
  • New Agers believe enlightenment is achieved through reincarnation. After death, people are believed to be reborn in another body and live another life. This cycle repeats itself until the desired spiritual state is reached.
  • New Agers believe the physical world isn’t real in the truest sense. Only spirit is real, which exists above and beyond the physical world.
  • New Agers view Jesus Christ as “either merely a wise, human teacher or something quasi-divine, such as an Ascended Master, spirit guide, or even an extraterrestrial being who came here to teach us how we can ascend and reach the same level of consciousness He had,” explain Bancarz and Peck (The Second Coming of the New Age, pp. 5-6). New Agers also see others, such as Buddha and Muhammad, as “Ascended Masters.”
  • New Agers believe spirit guides are available to help people with their spiritual growth. They can read our thoughts and send us guidance via our dreams, or they might communicate to us through spirit mediums, channelers, tarot card or palm readings, astrologers or psychics. Extraterrestrials and ghosts may also communicate information to humans.
  • New Agers believe the ultimate destiny of human beings is to return their life energy back into the collective cosmic consciousness. In other words, as Dean Halverson, author of Crystal Clear: Understanding and Reaching New Agers, puts it, “The ultimate end of the individual is to expand into the universal oneness, which really means that the individual disappears as a separate person” (1990, p. 77).
  • New Agers believe various practices can help participants cultivate self-realization, experience spiritual healing and awaken their divinity. These include yoga, hypnosis, meditation (transcendental and mindfulness), astral projection (where the body’s “spirit” leaves the physical body), channeling spirits, chanting, aura cleansings (to clear away negative energy) and crystals (to “purify” the body’s energy systems).

Dangerous grounds: Is the New Age movement satanic?

A very serious danger posed by New Age practices is that they can lead us to Satan’s world.A very serious danger posed by New Age practices is that they can lead us to Satan’s world. The authors of The Second Coming of the New Age warn that the supernatural practices used in New Age spirituality (channeling, consulting spirit mediums, astral projection, etc.) put people in direct contact with demons and should be avoided.

Other New Age practices are transpersonal in nature, the authors explain, using the definition of Roger Walsh and Frances Vaughan in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology—“the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos” (“On Transpersonal Definitions,” 1993, p. 203).

Yoga and meditation fall into this category. These practices can become dangerous springboards into the demonic world, though they aren’t supernatural in and of themselves.

Giving heed to your so-called Higher Self could easily result in your becoming influenced and harmed by evil spirits. Demons are more than willing to become your spirit guide if you invite them in through New Age practices.

The Bible emphatically warns us not to have anything to do with the demonic realm. Leviticus 19:26, 31 cautions against the practice of divination or consulting with mediums. In Deuteronomy 18:9-14, these practices are called abominations. Leviticus 20:6 equates consulting psychics and mediums with spiritual adultery.

New Age religion vs. Christianity

Another very serious danger with New Age spirituality is that it takes people away from God’s truths. The movement downplays the Bible to the point that most New Agers don’t read it, and those who do take it metaphorically, not literally.

Sadly, books written by New Age gurus are typically their primary source of spiritual wisdom. Even then, New Agers are usually encouraged to listen to their inner voice and come up with their own realities.

The most important truth the New Age movement rejects is who God is. God is regarded not as our Father, but merely an impersonal force.

“A personal relationship with this force is impossible because it is not a person, meaning it has no awareness, free will, rationality, etc. It cannot reciprocate or interact with you and your intentions. It is like turning on a microwave and trying to have a relationship with the frequencies it emits” (The Second Coming of the New Age, p. 130).

Ironically, many New Agers want meaning and purpose to their lives, yet they also seem to be proclaiming that “God and the Bible aren’t for us.”

The truth is, the only way to have a purpose-filled life is through a relationship with the one true God—not by coming up with our own human-centered “realities,” contacting the demonic world or creating a science-fiction version of God.

About the Author

Becky Sweat

Becky Sweat is a member of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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