The article is based on material raised by the document from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue entitled Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life subtitled A Reflection on the “New Age” published in 2003. Before I begin this overview of the New Age Movement and the items raised by the above mentioned document, I would like to set out a few parameters. In this article I am assuming a mature audience who are prepared to avoid black and white thinking but are willing to find a balanced understanding free of the kind of fear that might lead to overreaction or emotion driven conclusions. This balance aimed for is one based on faith and reason.
To begin with we must always realize that only God has power and that any exercise of power can only come through God’s direct will or through his permissive will. Whatever God wills can only come from Who He Is, Love. So, all God’s actions including his permissive will arise from love and have a goal of bringing His creatures to love and thereby to salvation.
Out of love God created mankind. Out of love God gave man free will. Out of love God sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ to suffer humiliation, torture and death to redeem, justify and save mankind (John 3:17). Out of love God has provided us with a sure way to heaven to share in the glorious Presence of His Love for all eternity.
It was God’s will that His Only-begotten Son should suffer. Sometimes it is God’s will for us to experience suffering. God ordains this so that we may come to know the love of God and receive reward in heaven for our trust in God. By our faithfulness to God in the face of suffering we are promised blessings. In this regard, God sometimes allows His enemy, the devil, to have temporal power over the human race, individually and collectively. Two examples arise to clarify this statement.
First, we have the case of Job. Satan asked God to test Job in order to try to show that if he lost all the familial and material blessings God gave him he would turn against God (Job 1:11). In the end Job remained faithful to his belief and trust in God and had his material fortunes restored. Generally speaking for us, we are not likely to see this kind of restoration of God blessings until we are in heaven. It is there that every tear will be wiped away (Isaiah 25:8; Rev 21:4) and where eye has not seen nor has ear heard nor has the mind of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him (1Cor 2:9).
In similar fashion God can give Satan power over mankind and the whole Church. In 1886 Pope Leo XIII has an experience that appears quite similar to the case of how Job came to be tested. The Pope fell into an unconscious state where he heard Satan bargaining with God and in the end Satan was given a period of time to bring evil upon the Church. To counteract this attack on the Church allowed by God, Pope Leo composed the St. Michael the Archangel prayer which was to be said after low Masses. Although it is a mystery to us why God would allow Satan to attack the Church we can be sure that in the end it will be for good, for His glory and to the benefit of mankind. We know this because God is Good and God is Love and He cannot do but what is loving and good.
The point here is that we should never fear Satan or his power. Satan has no power other than what God permits. Jesus said, “Fear only Him Who has the power to cast into Hell” (Luke 12:5-7) – God. We need have no fear of Satan or evil; we need only trust in God. And trusting in God is trusting in the fact that God is Love and everything He does or permits comes out of His love. So we as believers are called to trust completely in God and never fear the devil, other human beings or events. Everything is in God’s good hands.
And as a result we should make it a practice of entrusting ourselves, our loved ones and the whole world into the hands of God. This is especially true where sin or evil has taken root, such as, if our own children are involved in practices expressly forbidden by the Church or if they wilfully run the risk of spiritual harm in practices that are spiritually dangerous.
God’s most precious gift to us is our free will. This gift is given so that we might freely choose God, to love Him, to follow His commands to love and to choose to act in love of Him by loving our fellow man. Any activities or movements that deny our free will or through controlling structures take away our freedom of will are directly opposed to the great gift of free will given to us by God. But the exercise of our free will is meant to choose God and in so doing choose life (Deut 30:15-20). To choose otherwise is to choose death. This includes choosing practices that are condemned by the Church or are otherwise spiritually unsafe.
This idea of being willing to act in spiritually risky ways leads to a second point I would like to make before proceeding. St. Paul says, “All things are lawful but not everything does good, all things are lawful but it is not everything that helps to build” (1Cor 10:23-30). This freedom of being children of God leads us to know that “God turns to good all things for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:21 & 28). But these statements are in reference to our conscience. In our hearts we must be clear that our actions are not against our conscience, that is, against the law of God. So St. Paul also advises us, “you have been called to freedom but not freedom that gives full reign to the flesh” (Gal 5:13). In fact, St. Paul tells us to “make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14).
If in conscience we knowingly act wrongly we give power to the evil one over us. For instance, regarding the subject matter of the topic under consideration here, the New Age, if I believe it is wrong to practice yoga and I do it anyway I give power over myself to the devil, the accuser. Thereby, I run the risk of the spiritual harm of sin and the harm that comes with sin, obsession or even possession by evil spirits. Of course it should be obvious that it is never prudent to run the risk of spiritual harm no matter how slight we deed that possible harm.
Jesus said, “…everyone who lives in sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). St. Paul said in Romans 6 that sin is slavery and slavery to sin led to death. If we are enslaved to sin Satan has power over us. We therefore as Christian believers want to avoid sin and with the help of God root it out of our lives so that we become ‘slaves of justice’, ‘slaves of love’ by our free choice to believe and love God.
Concerning our will, if we are actively seeking something motivated by sinful desire even if there is something good and healthy in it, it can lead to us giving power to the devil over us. For instance, if someone seeks to prepare for their future marriage by learning from pornography they are not only committing sin but they open themselves to inculcating sinful roots in body and soul that will bring evil upon them. In this regard, even non-sinful practices such as some relaxation exercises can lower our spiritual resistance and open the door to the ingress of evil in our body and soul. Needless to say, this can be further exacerbated by the use of drugs.
Drugs are another concern, in terms of the New Age, especially psychotropic or mind-altering ones. These can offer a field day for the devil in affecting and damaging our psychological and emotional functioning. The elderly English priest, Father Jeremy Davies after many years as an exorcist states that sexual promiscuity, drugs and even relaxation exercises can lead to the infestation of evil spirits.
Yes, relaxation exercises can open us to evil influences. They can awaken carnal feelings that lead to sexual desire and even sexual arousal. A survey showed that about 1/6th of women attending public gymnasiums in the USA for work-outs reported experiencing sexual orgasm while exercising.
We might say that it is the person and not the exercise that is the cause of sin. This, of course, is true, but if an activity becomes an occasion of sin are we not morally obligated to recognize the danger of this area of temptation to sin. In the same setting of gymnasiums, for instance, other temptations can occur. Again our self-focused desire to be healthy and fit, legitimate goals though they be, can also open the door to the sins of pride and lust.
So, sinful activity obviously can only come from the will but there is evidence that yoga also can create sexual effects even when such effects are not sought after. One might suggest that pampering the body can open one to the incursions of evil in the form of temptations. Despite today’s focus on taking care of our self, ‘looking after me” so to speak and seeking legitimate bodily comforts; St. Paul admonishes us to make no provision for the flesh. So, all of these dangers come from our will, the will of the individual. If activities are either in contravention of the dictates of conscience and therefore spiritually dangerous and possibly clearly evil or if they simply open the individual to evil by pampering the flesh, the person may be making him or herself vulnerable to the wiles of the devil.
This discussion on the dangers of catering to the body is not to discount a reasonable attitude toward our health. Pope John Paul II had a swimming pool put in at the papal summer residence shortly after being elected pope. When asked how he could in conscience approve the expenditure; he responded with, “It is cheaper than having another conclave.” The implication is that we should be prudent about our health for the glory of God. On the other hand, St. John Paul II was not able by his efforts to prevent himself from being afflicted with a debilitating disease. On the other hand, St. Anthony of Egypt, the first of the Desert Fathers, ate poorly and lived a very austere and frugal life yet he lived to be over 105 years. Nevertheless, what matters is where our heart is; is my effort toward health for God’s glory or mine.
So, let me sum up this preamble. Do not be afraid! God is in charge of everything and nothing can happen without God expressly willing it or allowing it in His permissive will. This means that everything comes under the direction of God’s love and aims to bring forth a harvest in love. Secondly, man’s free will has a direct influence in avoiding or opening the door to evil. This can happen when a person consciously seeks what is forbidden by God or through selfish or self-seeking behaviour opens the body and soul to the power of evil. Nevertheless, even in our sinful ways God uses everything to bring us back to His love. As with the prodigal son, He may leave us to find the emptiness of our own behaviours that we may come to our senses and return to His loving embrace.
Brief History of the New Age Movement
I shall make a cursory review of what I deem pertinent items in the history of the New Age movement. In deed, this history could have and has filled many books. Nevertheless, I think it is necessary to put the New Age movement into a basic historical perspective so that we have a better sense of what we are up against. I think it is also important for Christians to adhere to a firm faith in the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is this that will illuminate and overcome all practices not sanctioned by God. It will also lead to a world where we will all witness the fullness of Truth in this world. This renewal of the face of the earth by the light of the Gospel can be aptly summarized in the expression, the triumph of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This represents the coming of God’s Kingdom of holiness that will be established in the hearts and minds of all mankind. Then we will no longer need to teach each other because the Law of God will be written on our hearts (Jer 31:33-34) and there will be no need to teach each other.
Please do not take the above future hope as suggesting a Millenarian belief in a physically present reign of Jesus for 1000 years (Millenarianism is considered a heresy by the Church.). It is simply that eventually the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will refute all error and see established the unity of the Church that Jesus prayed for as recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 17 verse 21.
The earliest roots of the New Age Movement are visible in the New Testament writings as are the predictions of its culmination in the person of the Antichrist. St. Paul talks about the mystery of inequity that is being restrained (2Thes 2:7). This mystery of inequity or the secret force of lawlessness was already at work at the time of St. Paul but was restrained more or less until human history passed the first millennium. This is not to say that there weren’t numerous errors that crept into the lives of many Christians over this time but that there was a sense of unity within the Church. This was likely because from the beginning of the Church and up to the approach of the year 1000 there was expectation that Christ’s return was imminent. However, when Christ had not returned by the year 1000 the mystery of inequity began to take on a stronger force as people began to believe that all ‘things will go on as before’, that ‘everything will be peaceful and quiet’. Despite these warnings that appear in the Prophet Jeremiah, Jesus in the Gospels and in the Book of Revelations, a form of distrust in God, a questioning around Jesus’ return led to greater reliance on man and his ability to take care of things began to rise in the Western world.
We have the first clear and lasting split in the Christian world with many of the Eastern Churches separating from union with Rome in AD 1054. There was a long history that led up to this split with the spirit of arrogance and rebellion, unfortunately, evident on both sides. The self-righteous attitude of blaming and defending put human attitudes above the will of God and above the unity of His Church.
There was a great sign that appeared in the sky in 1054 when this rift in the Church took place; a supernova burst forth in what is now known as the Crab Nebula and it could be seen in the sky even in daytime. It was recorded by Chinese (where it was seen in the day) and other astronomers in different places around the world. It makes me wonder if this great split in the Church had not taken place, would not the Eastern Church have spread the Gospel more zealously and effectively to these eastern lands like the western Church brought the Gospel westward. The RussianChurch brought the Gospel to Sibera but not to China or Japan. Historically we can see that the Eastern Churches for the most part have lacked the evangelical zeal evident in the western Church in spreading the Gospel. The Eastern Churches including the Greek Orthodox, have pretty much remained more or less entrenched in its original territories for 1000 years spreading only by the migration of its members.
As we progress into the Middle Ages we witness a rediscovery of many ancient writing exposing the West to the knowledge of ancient Greeks, Middle East and some oriental materials. This came first via Arab scholars and included many contemporary and ancient treatises on mathematics and science. Later, with the Renaissance, esoteric and philosophical manuscripts were also brought to Europe where they were prised by a culture in the nobility and in an emerging merchant class growing in wealth and economic and social influence. These groups had become affluent by the explosion of trade around the Mediterranean and in Europe.
The people of the Renaissance built on what they gleaned from ancient science and through their own enterprise saw many advances in science, technology and the Arts. The effect on people was a gradual emergence of a new hope; a hope rooted in the world more than the hereafter which had once been the sole focus of the Church. As the educated classes grew in affluence they more and more began to see this world as an end in itself and not so much as a preparation for the next world. I should point out that throughout the time of these changes the common person in Europe was a deeply faith-filled believer. But the influence of the elitist classes would filter down at a gradual but increasing rate over the centuries to bring the common person in line with the New Age thinking of the elitist groups.
Obviously there were good things that came with the Renaissance that would benefit mankind in this world and provide a belief in man’s ability to subdue the earth and have dominion over all its creatures (Gen 1:28). This awakening of human control and the ability to manipulate the world also brought out a certain worldly self-interest. Thus emerged a growing sense of independence and self-sufficiency in the people first in Italy where the Renaissance began. This spirit had quickly spread to the rest of Europe by the 16th century. The era saw the rise of humanism with the great proponent, Desiderius Erasmus.
The humanist movement had its positive side in bringing into focus the dignity of all people and the need for certain rights intended by God for every person. The process was very gradual not taking itself to its full realization until the 20th century. It was only then that the rights and dignity of women, for instance, and the equality of the races were recognized and institutionalized. And even in this 21st century we have Pope Francis calling for a greater effort to help raise the dignity of the poor and to see, for instance, a greater role for women in the life of the Church.
The downside of humanism was where it moved away from having God and man’s conscience as the ultimate reference for human behaviour. As a result, we saw the gradual growth of secular humanism, that is, humanism without God. Ironically, this move to secular humanism also extends to animal rights that for some groups put the treatment of animals above the needs of human beings. As our reference document points out, man is qualitatively greater than any other creature on earth. (…Bible, in which human beings are at the centre of the world, since they are considered to be qualitatively superior to other natural forms.)
Increasing self-sufficiency and the rise in recognition of the dignity of the individual open the doors for some powerful individuals and groups to want independence from those ruling over them. What was a united Europe began to be broken down into divided kingdoms and for many rulers the Kingdom of the Church, the Vatican, was seen not so much as the Church of Jesus Christ but as a rival state and the Pope, not so much as a spiritual leaders but as a secular one. What united Europe was language, Latin and the Church. All scientific, secular and ecclesial documents were written in Latin. The rise in independent states and particularly independence from the Vatican led to the use of vernacular languages that served to add division in Europe. These challenges toward independence were the meat of discussions among the scholastic elite and the nobility some of whose members, paradoxically, were behind the revolutionary changes that emerged in Europe in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
Among the writings to surface in the Renaissance were certain esoteric treatises such as the writings of Hermes Trismegistus (Hermeticism). The writings of this philosopher had been referenced by many early Christian writings back as early as the 1st century. Even in the Middle Ages Hermes was known but only in fragmentary and in referential form from writings of the early centuries of the Christian era. However, large portions of his writings were finally introduced into Europe in 1463. These writings contained scientific, philosophical and esoteric material that fed a growing interest in scientific, alchemistic and philosophical thought and experimentation by certain elite in Europe.
Some milestones of the Renaissance include the writings of Francis Bacon on the scientific method, the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, all of whom helped contribute to human knowledge and gave humanity the knowledge and skills to investigate the world around them. But some of these men were also influenced by esoteric beliefs.
Galileo was involved in Hermeticism which among other things taught that a revolution was coming that would see a transformation of how the world was seen (i.e. the sun being the centre of the world; not the earth) a more important place for women in the function of society, freedom from tyranny and oppression (such as seen in the Popes and state leaders). It was in fact his association with Hermeticism that Galileo was censured by the Inquisition. Nevertheless, the ideas of Hermeticism spread among the intelligentsia and can be seen in the rise of Rosicrucianism, Free Masonry, Illuminati, Theosophy and an increasing number of organizations and movements that challenged Church and state authority in favour of individual freedom, republican governments and freedom from laws that might restrict choices for individuals. One of the areas of concern in terms of restriction of choice was to do with the body of esoteric beliefs and practices increasingly available but not sanctioned by the Church and civil authorities. These changes were the true roots of the modern New Age movement and along with certain philosophical and scientific thought led to the so called Enlightenment.
Paradoxically, the Enlightenment was seen as a move toward rationalism and empiricism in addressing the natural world but in fact, also included many non-rational esoteric beliefs that closely resembled the Gnosticism of the early centuries of the Christian era and became the modern foundation of the New Age Movement.
Among the changes that came with these movements were a belief in a universal religion, moral relativism, a blurring of the lines between humans and God, a kind of pantheism that blended all nature into a single interrelated organism. Eternal consequences for individual human misbehaviours were denied in favour of reincarnation to work off karma (consequences) or in many cases it is believed that there were no consequences at all. In other words, there is no eternal hell for unrepentant sinners, there is no real distinction between God and man, the universe, God and man are essentially one organism and all spirituality is essentially the same and related to the universal religion of the ancients. You will see these ideas in many of the activities of the New Age movement we will be looking at farther on.
As the New Age Movement came of age in the 20th century all these principals in whole or in part became universally accepted by adherents to the various expressions of the movement. A noted point is that you will find a great tolerance among different practitioners of New Age philosophies and activities toward other New Age groups, however there is an equally intolerant attitude toward traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. Secular humanism and materialism in some ways are the New Age movement without God or spirituality.
The New Age Movement includes philosophies and belief systems, practices aimed at personal enlightenment and physical and spiritual wholeness and various healing practices. New Age practices are often deceptively presented without their underlying belief systems but rather as opportunities for fitness, health or meditation suited to the Western world. This makes them more presentable to western cultures. For the audience I envision for this article, faithful, committed, practicing Catholics the outright New Age activities and beliefs are evidently contrary to the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, the subtler forms of these practices can deceive and lead people where they may not want to go. So, in discerning New Age practices, especially the simple ones that look like fitness work, it is important to investigate the underlying belief systems. It is there that we are likely to discover the dangers.
Before going further in examining the specific practices in the New Age movement, it is important to recognize that for non-Christians many of these practices are part of their traditional religious beliefs, rites and understanding. So, for them and in those cases we must first be tolerant and not attack these beliefs and practices. We should follow the dictates of the Documents of Vatican Council II on the Declaration on the Relation of The Church to Non-Christian Religions which can be summed up in saying that God works in these religions and they carry some truths and holy practices which the Catholic Church does not reject. In prudence and charity Catholics should be ready to enter into discussion and collaboration with the people of these religions. Yet, she (the Church) proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the Way the Truth and the Life. I should point out also that God will protect from evil those who in their traditions follow some of these practices with a sincere desire to do what is right.
Regarding Catholics we have a different obligation, that is, to admonish the sinner and warn them of the dangers inherent in these New Age ideas, groups and practices. There are three things, then, that we are focusing our awareness on, the philosophy or ideas, the purpose of certain practices and the healing techniques.
One other point about the New Age movement in terms of the Catholic Church; all these groups and practices tend to be heterodox or syncretistic. Heterodox means holding a belief or doctrine contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. So, for instance, a heterodox belief would be that Jesus was not God incarnate but only a man or one of many human prophets. This is the heresy known as Arianism. Most New Age groups will see Jesus as a man who brought some truth but his true teaching were lost and corrupted but they were likely the truths of the ‘ancient religions’.
Syncretism means that all doctrines and beliefs systems are equally valid and can be freely added together no matter how diverse the elements. Syncretism might mean being Catholic yet believing in the power of animalistic spirits in plants and animals as valid means of helping one in life; or the use of crystals to generate good health. Animism is also a heresy for Catholics, but at the same time it is part of the religions of many aboriginal peoples around the world. Regarding them we should follow the dictates of the Documents of Vatican II that is to treat them and their beliefs with respect and tolerance, try to befriend them in genuine human relationships and as the grace of God affords the opportunity share the reason for our great hope with great gentleness and respect(1Pt 3:15).
In terms of Catholics engaging in New Age practices there is quite a different story. I will begin with Scripture and share related information.
In Genesis 3, we see that Eve was enticed by the serpent, that is, Satan, to take of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge she sought represented power, enlightenment that she and Adam would be ‘like God’ knowing good and evil. In a sense this was knowledge hidden from her. Another word for hidden is occult. Every time we seek hidden knowledge we are like Eve being tempted by the devil. The serpent’s enticement was sufficient for Eve to turn against God by trusting rather in the words of the serpent than in God and in joining her husband in disobeying God. Adam’s sin already shows his loss of innocence when he attempts to blame God for his sin, ‘It was the woman you put with me.’ As a result, our first parents brought death, suffering and misery to themselves and the whole human race.
Perhaps we should take a moment to consider what Adam and Eve lost by turning away from God and disobeying Him. They already had the gift of knowledge, they had the gift of perfect communication, they had the gift of immortality, they had the gift of living in perfect peace and harmony with their environment, all their physical needs could be met in their environment, in Eden and most of all they had a continuous ready communication with God at a level that only some mystics and saints have attained for brief periods.
Obedience to the will of God is a first protection against the evil of the world, the flesh and the devil. In 1Sam 15:22 we read, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Listen to what St. Margaret Mary says on obedience:
“The greatest adversary of Jesus is Satan.” Jesus warned me to be on guard and said my greatest defence was obedience. “Don’t believe easily,” He said, “in every inspiration, and don’t be too sure of it. Satan is furiously bent on deceiving you. So don’t do anything without the approval of those who are guiding you. As long as you have the sanction of obedience, he can never delude you. He is completely powerless over those who obey.”
So, our first defence against the incursion of evil in our lives is obedience. If the Church has made a definite condemnation on any particular practice we are obligated to follow the Church’s direction. Otherwise we run the risk of giving Satan power over us through sin.
Related to obedience is the virtue of humility. Humility has a great power to protect us from the danger of the world, the flesh and the devil. People don’t realize that under their curiosity about their lives and their future is pride and self-interest. As we cultivate the virtue of humility we are protected from the lures of many of the attractions of New Age practices.
Roman 2 verses 14-16 tells us we all, Christians and non-Christians, have a conscience in which the Law of God is written and it is through this conscience and reason that we are able to assess the value of an activity. For we who are Catholic our conscience must be informed by the teaching of the Church. If we do not follow our conscience we open ourselves to sin and give power to the devil over us.
Finally, in assessing an activity or belief system we will need to look at the fruits or outcomes of those activities in the lives of others for Jesus tells us, “By their fruits will you know them” (Mt 7:20).
So, to sum up on our preparedness to assess New Age activities we need to be obedient, humble, search our conscience and look at the fruits of these activities. In terms of obedience if we don’t have a spiritual director we should get one as this will afford us a further protection. A spiritual director should be chosen with prayer, care and mutual discernment.
A good place to start in terms of being obedient to the teaching of the Church is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church section 2115, 2116 and 2117:
2115God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, (a lack of prudent planning for one’s family and future) however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.
So, disobeying the Church’s teaching on any of the practices list in the CCC 2115-2117 is sinful and in some cases gravely sinful and therefore gives power to the evil one over us. These practices can cause great harm to us and leave lasting bondage that prevent us from enjoying our inheritance; the freedom of the children of God.
I will try to elucidate some of the items listed in the CCC and add others that relate to those that are condemned. I will also attempt to show how some of these ideas and practices are related to errors long condemned by the Church. I will refer to each of the many items listed in the document published jointly by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. I will attempt to show if and how the items on this list may be dangerous.
It needs to be clear that to be faithful to our Catholic Faith we are under obligation to obey the direction of the Church to avoid sin and to strive for ourselves and those in our care to be spiritually and even physically safe from evil. For those who have received the blessing of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Holiness of God, it is not so much an obligation to obey God but a joyful, almost childlike response to honour our loving Father in heaven.
Condemned Practices and Beliefs:
Gnosticism/Albigensianism / Occultism: Esoteric or hidden knowledge that only the initiated are privy to and a rejection of the good of the physical human body which is seen by these groups as evil and insignificant compared to the soul or spirit. It also sees that spiritual powers can be obtained to control the world, one’s life and other people. These are all roundly condemned by the Church yet surface in many New Age practices and beliefs.
Modernism/Religious Indifference: The belief that there is no miraculous or direct intervention of God in the lives of human beings and in the world. Religion is seen as being unimportant. Part of these beliefs is to bring about a reinterpretation of Scripture as a sociological phenomenon and in the process dismisses miracles, healings, exorcisms and so forth. This attitude and these beliefs have been condemned by the Church but have emerged even in some Christian circles.
Brethren of the Free Spirit/Meister Eckhart: The emphasis here is to a form of indifference to salvation, and attacking the sacraments of the Church in favour of a mystical union with God in this life. Many New Age Movements refer to the heresy or like to quote Meister Eckhart, a Dominican priest who attempted to distance himself from the beginnings of this movement. A modern version of this error is the EST (Eckhart Seminars Training). I might add that people are sometimes directly harmed by this seemingly helpful practice.
Pelagianism: The belief that one could live a good moral life and attain salvation by his or her own natural gifts (3rd-4th centuries). The error was revived in many ways in modern times by a former Catholic priest, Matthew Fox who preached original blessedness rather than original sin among other errors. After being censured by the Church Matthew Fox left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopal communion.
Arianism; This is the belief that Jesus was only a man. Many New Age groups regard Jesus as a man, a prophet, a holy man yet others go so far as to say he did not exist at all.
Pantheism: The belief that all nature is spiritual and interrelated and that God is nature and therefore nature can be worshiped. Related to this is the idea of man evolving into God, the unity of all creation into a cosmic whole where everything is interrelated and evolving toward the godhead. The Church defines these beliefs and practices related to it as heresy.
Montanism: Began in the late second century (156 AD) by Montanus who fell into a trance and began to prophecy. This was eventually condemned as a heresy not because the follower were required to enter into a trance to get their messages for God but because they put their personal revelation above the authority of the Church. This movement is sometimes compared to the modern day charismatic renewal or Pentecostalism. However, these modern movements avoid trance and receive their messages in a conscious state and are free to speak the message or withhold it (1Cor 14:32).
Freemasonry: Since many of these practices are deceptive in nature I would like to focus on Free Masonry. Free Masonry is a secret society that on the surface appears to be a benevolent humanitarian fellowship. However, the Church has consistently condemned Free Masonry in that its members are bound by blood oaths, there is a hierarchy of secretiveness that ascends toward something equivalent to Satanism at the top of the numerous degrees and related organizations. Masonry has a theology; God is the architect of the universe but generally leaves creation alone to look after itself. There are two forces governing human beings, a positive force that has characteristics of charity and a negative force that has elements of Satanism. I read in one Masonic book, “… you don’t seem to grasp the fact that what we want to do is seize the seething power of Satan.” In Masonic parlance the negative force of nature is powerful because it is so unused. Finally, the Masonic Order proclaims liberation, liberation from the Church, especially the RC Church, liberation from all sovereignties and from all restrictive moral codes. There is a sense that nothing a person does or believes is really wrong and therefore no one should dictate to a person their moral code.
One cannot be a Catholic in good standing and be a member of the Masonic Order. The Church has strongly warned Catholics not to be involved even at the lower echelons of the Order under pain of sin. We therefore are called in obedience to avoid involvement in this organization and to warn our Catholic brethren of its dangers.
Masonry has been implicated in the French Revolution that saw the destruction of so many sacred things and the murder of clergy and the repudiation of religion. More than half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in the US were members of the Masonic Order and Most American presidents have been Masons.
There are many books written about the Masonic Order and I encourage you to explore these if there is a valid reason for you to want to gain this knowledge. By a valid reason, I mean if you know someone, especially a Catholic who is involved in this order and needs correction the more knowledge you have the better you will be able to help him.
Cabbalism/Numerology: Cabbalism like numerology and the I Ching are means of identifying personality traits, relationships and forces impinging on individuals by the use of numbers and letters converted to numbers of a person’s name. Like Astrology they will also be used to predict the future and outline a path for the individual for worldly and even a type of spiritual success and in so doing deny a reliance on the Divine Providence. These practices are condemned in the CCC.
Fortune Telling/Tarot Cards/I Ching/: Any form of fortune telling is condemned by the Church. We are to trust in God to take care of us and not to become obsessed with what might happen to us, our loved ones or the world. Often fortune tellers will also use charms, amulets, talismans and the like to afford protection to the client. However, unknowingly many of these clients have become infested with evil spirits through obsessions, bondages and even possession. These are very risky practices and open the person to evil and for our protection the Church condemns such practices.
Astrology:I turn to a most obvious and extremely prevalent practice in our day, Astrology. Astrology is an esoteric practice of learning personality traits, interpersonal relationship patterns and predicting good and bad influences on one’s life according to the positions of the sun, moon and planets at one’s birth and the changing position of these celestial objects over time.
Minimum users learn their sun sign and read their daily horoscope and occasionally purchase an annual sun sign horoscope. But for some astrology may be a simple matter of reading a horoscope in the newspaper to the extreme of having a complete horoscope cast with predictions and warnings for the future. These are sometimes produced by a present day astrologer or through some online computer program.
People will ask, “Why is astrology a problem? They will say, “It doesn’t harm anyone and it would be helpful to know what might be coming in terms of difficulties or successes.”
Well, there are two problems here. First, we are offending God by rather than trusting in Him and accepting our life with humility and submission to His will we are attempting to manipulate our lives according to our own will. There may also arise anger at God blaming Him, like Adam did, for the misfortune we suffer in this world. Also, we may want to relieve ourselves of responsibility for our failures, again blaming God for our weaknesses.
Secondly, depending on astrology or even the reading of daily horoscopes can become addictive to us and in this as with all sinful behaviour we actually lose control of our lives and of the freedom God meant for us to have as His children. Dependent on what the horoscope says today versus having childlike trust in God that no matter what happens we are in His hands. If we direct our lives to avoid problems and gain success we may in fact be avoiding the very thing God puts in our way to help others and to gain His blessing.
Also when people are so intent on avoiding bad things and seeking good things by the use of astrology the next step can be falling into a related sin; the use of charms, talismans, or even trying to have some occult practitioner cast a spell for us. Astrology may never lead to these other sins but its practice is an affront to God’s divine providence for us and as such a sin of seeking hidden knowledge over what God wants us to know. For these and other reasons the Church rightly condemns the practice of or participation in astrology.
Sufism: This is a Muslim esoteric philosophy and its practices. This is dangerous for Christians to be involved in since it first requires acceptance of certain Islamic beliefs. In fact, one Muslim practitioner has said one must be Muslim to engage in this activity. Sufism has its detractors in Islam with serious persecution because of mainstream Muslims believing the practice of Sufism is contrary to Islam. That fact that Sufism is a sect within Islam may not be a problem for the syncretism that characterizes the New Age movement but it certainly is not possible for a practicing Catholic to be involved in it. We must always remember that in Islam God is never seen as Father so any aspiring to God through Sufism for a Catholic is necessarily flawed. Therefore Catholics are not permitted to participate in Sufism.
Rosicrucianism: This is an esoteric belief system that includes common elements of the New Age movement such as acquiring power over nature, self and others through secret knowledge. It holds a doctrine or theology built on esoteric truths of the ancient past, which, concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe and the spiritual realm. It also includes many New Age practices like astrology, divination and the like. This is definitely not compatible with Christianity!
Celtic/Druid: Many groups in the New Age movement draw on a belief that the Celts and Druids held that secret knowledge of the ancients which included the powerful universal mother earth religion which adherents claim was supplanted by Christianity. However, there is no historical evidence to support the practices that are more related to animism and Wicca than to known practices of these groups. There is often a rewriting of history to make present practices appears to be a revision of the ‘ancient religion’. As in many of the New Age practices interests in ancient Celtic and Druidic beliefs are in fact a novelty that attempts to satisfy curiosity and power for self and over others.
Alchemy/holistic medicine/homeopathy: Alchemy is the belief in the transmutation of elements but includes a great variety of chemical and magical beliefs. In the middle ages there was a search for the philosopher’s stone to change base metals to noble metals and the elixir of life to give health and longevity. It is also rooted in Hermeticism with its esoteric focus on magic and secrets to give the adept power over nature and others. Today much of the world of herbology, alternate and ‘holistic’ medicine and homeopathy are equally unproven attempts to produce positive health effects and long life. We are called to be prudent in taking care of God’s temples, our bodies but this care should be based on reason and verifiable processes and not on some esoteric or quasi-esoteric process that requires a belief in unproven practices or belief systems. Involvement in this kind of activity can lead to more deceptive and more all-encompassing esoteric beliefs that can be addictive, create dependency traps and open us to evil influences.
Hermeticism: This has been mentioned above in how it contributed to the New Age movement from 1500 onward. However, as with many thoughts and philosophies gleaned from the past, the New Age movement pulls them into use by a kind of corruption in order to make the ideas fit the current practitioners’ needs and desires. They are also used to fit with attaining power over the world and the current situation. The writings of Hermes Trismegistrus have had a profound influence on many of the currents of the New Age movement and one should be aware of the many ways these influence our current world through the New Age movement (see above).
Other Practices and Beliefs mentioned in Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life
Enneagrams: The Enneagram is a personality and an interpersonal relational process that defines a person according to responses to a questionnaire. There are many ways to describe personality using questionnaires that can give psychological and emotional insight as an aid to people’s personal and interpersonal life. However, when these take on cult-like characteristics and create a kind of oppression to those uninterested or unwilling to enter into this knowledge categorizations it can be both uncharitable on the one hand and create dependency on the other. The dependency thus created is not unlike the effects of astrology where one devotes considerable time in assessing one’s self and others according to these pre-defined types.
In 2000, the United States‘ Committee on Doctrine produced a draft report on the origins of the Enneagram to aid bishops in their evaluation of its use in their dioceses. The report identified aspects of the intersection between the Enneagram and Catholicism which, in their opinion, warranted particular scrutiny and were seen as potential areas of concern, stating that “While the enneagram system shares little with traditional Christian doctrine or spirituality, it also shares little with the methods and criteria of modern science… The burden of proof is on proponents of the enneagram to furnish scientific evidence for their claims.”Partly in response to some Jesuits and members of other religious orders teaching a Christian understanding of the Enneagram of Personality, a 2003 Vatican document called Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life. A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’ says that the Enneagram “when used as a means of spiritual growth introduces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith. Since the Enneagram has no scientific basis and it introduces ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian it is something that definitely be avoided.
It is clear from the bishop’s document that the Enneagram should be avoided. If people are obedient to this statement from the Church they will avoid the pitfalls evident in the use of this system. Otherwise, apart from being deluded by an unproven system people run the risk of dependency in assessing self and other, bringing an unnecessary mental burden upon self regarding self and other and having a risk of sin against charity in how other’s are seen and treated. So, to be clear, it is a prudent action to avoid Enneagram and one should certainly not impose such a system on anyone.
Other types of questionnaires can also generate the same problems. Questionnaires can be helpful for therapist in assessing and deciding a course of therapy for individuals, couples and even families. However, these are generally not meant for the lay person and individual use is discouraged by professional ethical practices.
Another problem with categorizations through psychological questionnaires, numerology or astrology is it tends to divide people into us and them, those friendly and those unfriendly and even good and bad. Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities, deplores any group, organization or means of categorizing that would divide us rather than unite us. He even questions some associations approved within the Church.
Darwinist Evolutionary Theory: Darwin, his writings and his theory have never been condemned by the Catholic Church. However, some modern movements, such as, secular humanism, materialism, communism and scientific empiricism have use Darwin’s evolutionary theory to deny God. Therefore, the Church advises its members first of all that it is a theory or more than one theory and how a Church member could properly apply and scrutinize these theories. A theory is a scientific proposal or series of suppositions that give a coherent explanation of related observations, data and facts. It is not a law but is in the process of becoming a law which can be achieved when sufficient criteria are acquired to satisfactorily explain the subject under investigation.
Catholics must also to be prepared to answer questions regarding God and creation that will help people see there need not be a conflict between this or other scientific theories and faith in God. We simply start with the belief that God created everything and nothing was created or evolved without God. If evolution of the universe and evolution of life prove to be viable theories they must ultimately show that this is how God has created. (In a future article I plan to give a fuller explanation of the Catholic perspective on creation.)
Zen Buddism: This is a type of meditation practiced in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan and has become popular in the Western world since the Second World War. Like many of the eastern meditation practices it involves a process of emptying the consciousness of distractions in order to achieve a state of enlightenment (Buddha means enlightened one). A Zen practice is to have participants go beyond teachings, beliefs and doctrines with the goal of leaving knowledge and understanding behind so as to be freed to entre enlightenment. There are past masters called Bodhisattvas who remain to help meditators achieve enlightenment. This brand of Buddhism also encourages worship of ancestors and pray for their help. Apart from the risk of influence from Bodhisattvas there is always risk in emptying oneself since in some circumstance evil spirits may enter.
Yoga/Chakra System/Sufism System: In the Western milieu Yoga is also a process of meditation quite similar to Zen. However, the process is different. In Yoga and the Sufi system there are several areas within the body that one ascend to achieve supernatural powers such as clairvoyance and special knowledge of the spiritual world and the people in it. Some of these powers come through attaining entrance into the astral plane. If one achieves this through a mastery of each of the 6 Chakras one enters the 7th Chakras prepared to deal with the spiritual forces one may encounter in the astral plane. There are yogic techniques that can propel a meditator into the astral plane bypassing the 6 Chakras and thus puts an undisciplined practitioner in danger of seriously evil influence and even possession.
Most Western practices of Yoga are for health or exercise reasons to build bodily and mental strength. This brand of Yoga is called Hatha Yoga. This type of Yoga is even taught in Catholic centres and schools. The Vatican has warned against this practice because it can open one to evil spiritual effects even when one is only seeking relaxation and/or fitness.
Reincarnation/Transmigration of Souls: Both Zen and Yoga teach transmigration of souls or reincarnation. This means that at the end of life one’s conscious self resides on the astral plane until reborn into a new body. The belief in karma means that people have to pay for mistakes or wrongs done or good not done from their past lives in living the new life. For instance, if a person was overly proud of the beauty of their own face the person might be reincarnated with a deformed face. The idea in both Zen and Yoga is that after one has overcome all human weakness one is freed from the cycle of death and reincarnation. In Buddhism the end is called Nirvana or oblivion where the individual person or personality is lost in enlightenment. In this sense Buddhism is essentially atheistic – there is no God. In Yoga the goal is that the soul be united in Brahman one of the 3 most important Hindu gods but it also refers to attaining the true self.
The Church teaches that ‘man is given to die but once and then comes judgement’ (Hebrews 9:27). The Church also teaches we are saved by grace through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. We are further informed that we cannot do anything of ourselves; any good we can accomplish is by the grace of God alone. Therefore it should be evident to Catholics that reincarnation is contrary to the Faith. Nevertheless, I have had discussions with people who claim that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah. This of course is false as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah that is to say he was not Elijah reincarnated.
Psychology/Religious Experience of James/World view of CG Jung/Esalen Institute/Transpersonal Psychology: Surprisingly there are many areas in psychology that bear with our careful scrutiny. They of course tend to be focused on the ‘self’ both through experiences and beliefs that tend to be more esoteric rather than scientific. William James began this ingress into psychology with his Varieties of Religious Experience introducing the idea that personal experiences, including drug induced ‘religious’ experience were valid scientifically and especially for the individual experiencing them. In his Pragmatism he laid out his version of truth. Basically, he said truth could not be nailed down since fact produced a train of events that moved toward some truth and then back to facts and then to new versions of the truth. The underlying philosophy defined a relativism around truth which made it a matter of personal choice based on experience.
Aldous Huxley contributed and the future psychedelic drug craze beginning in the 1960s with his publication of Doors of Perception describes self-transcendence induced through the use of peyote cactus (mescaline). The religious aspect of this so called transcendent experience was soon lost in the hippy generation who merely sought a ‘high’. Unfortunately, many people experienced in the use of psychedelic drugs end up with mental dysfunction that finishes their productivity and satisfaction in life.
Carl G Jung broke from Sigmund Freud’s human psychology with his belief in transpersonal psychology that more and more over his life grew into an esoteric belief system that included a kind of universal mind similar to some aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism. But he also found material in animism showing universal similarities around the world from which emerged his archetypes and archetypal patterns. In a sense, at least to some degree, Jung brought mystical beliefs into psychology. His work lead to what is called transpersonal psychology. This branch of psychology which is scorned by the more scientific in the psychology community is focused on attaining some personal perfection through sorts of meditative practices such as mind control to produce religious experience that strengthen and enhance a person’s life.
The focus on personal experience and strengthening the self has led to many quasi-psychological programs and retreats such as Esalen. In their own words Esalen is a ‘world-wide network of seekers who look beyond dogma to explore deeper spiritual possibilities; forge new understandings of self and society; and pioneer new paths for change’.
Altered States of Consciousness: One aspect of transpersonal psychology, meditation practices and drug assisted religious experience is achieving an altered state of consciousness. This is very similar to many esoteric experience throughout the history of the New Age. It is about experiencing a state of conscious union with the universal self, Brahman, the gods and gives one knowledge above the knowledge found by the usual intellectual and experimental pursuits. This is not equated with astral projection but carries with it much of the same hidden knowledge. The hidden knowledge could be health information, predictive information about self and others and the world in general and often includes spirit guides who meet the person in this altered state.
Tapping inner energy/cosmic energy: The idea of cosmic energy or inner spiritual energy runs through many of the New Age practices and beliefs. It should be clear to Christians that there is only one power in the universe and that is God. God is beyond manipulation but He can allow the evil one to delude us with the lure of cosmic power. The devil’s only goal is to ruin people and mankind in general and he will use whatever lures he can including the idea of ‘energy’. Again it becomes a matter of seeking power and control rather than trusting in God’s perfect care for us. Seeking these energies is a sign of self-focused ego aggrandizement that gives the evil one power over us.
Meditation/Visualization: This is a form of mental activity that focuses on attainment of things in the world, fame, fortune, love and power. This idea is that by bringing certain goals to mind and concentrating on the goal believing you have it and it will become yours. This practice has crept into many aspects of modern society with its contrary, ‘if you didn’t get it you did want it enough’. Again we see the focus on self, self-empowerment where the need of the self comes before the needs of others. An interesting contrast can be seen in the fact that no one ever tries to focus on being selfless and loving toward others using these practices. In our societies’ norms such a focus would be seen as being untrue to self.
Mediums/channelling/Spiritualism/Spiritism/Necromancer/Mediators(angels, spirits, devils, spirit guides): The Catechism of the Catholic Church has given clear direction on these items listed above in CCC # 2116. This concurs with biblical dictates to avoid the dead and that witches, necromancers and sorcerers should be killed. In 1Samuel 28 Samuel rebukes Saul for conjuring him up and predicts Saul’s demise. The Mosaic Law forbids necromancy (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6), declares that to seek the truth from the dead is abhorred by God (Deuteronomy 18:11, 12), and even makes it punishable by death (Leviticus 20:27; cf. 1 Samuel 28:9). Despite the warnings of the Church, the many charlatans and the dangers of actual medium activities many people think it is okay to consult mediums. Nevertheless, no only should we avoid these practices and practitioners but we should warn others about their dangers. Familial spirits can infest a person and his family. Deep spiritual bondage and dependency can be the result of involvement in these activities.
Body Work/Orgonomy/Feldenkrais/Rolfing/Reflexology/Polar Massage/ Deep Massage/TherapeuticTouch/Reiki/Chiropractic/Kinesiology/ Homeopathy/Iridology: These items listed in the document under study here need to be separated into scientifically supported ones and those not support scientifically. Massage, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Kinesiology show varying degrees of scientific support. For instance, Chiropractic compared to Physiotherapy for relieving lower back pain was but more effective and required shorter treatment than Physiotherapy. Physiotherapy and Kinesiology are bases on human anatomy and are employed in physical therapy and sports medicine. However, when used not as a treatment but as relaxation techniques there may be dangers. Also, there are some practitioners of Chiropractic that is not only not scientifically based but borders on New Age healing practices.
Body work including Orgonomy, Feldenkrais, Rolfing, reflexology, Polar Massage, deep massage, therapeutic touch, Reiki, homeopathy, iridology and the use of magnets, crystals, metals, are not based on accepted scientific study and often imply a special knowledge or power on the part of the practitioner imparted to the client or patient. Reiki has been studied scientifically and has been shown to have no effect yet practitioners continue and clients continue to pay. The problem with these practices as noted above is that they can lead to a state of vulnerability and openness to evil infestations.
Healing Crystals/Metals/Music/Colours: In terms of power God can impart blessings in objects that are endowed with holiness where the object is taken out of the physical world and placed into the Kingdom of God. We see this with the Arc of the Covenant, the Temple and the many blessed objects and places that have emerged throughout the history of the Church. Objects that represent psychic manifestations are either evil, like some crystal skulls, dangerous like crystals and show no effect like metals or colours. However, even the use of metals and colours where a person invests a belief in their power can open them to receiving power from the evil one who only wishes to confuse and destroy God’s people.
Psychic Healing: This is a category of body work that claims to use psychic energy to heal. This brings to mind the whole idea of cosmic energy and psychic power. Again, as Catholics we know there is only one power in the universe, God and to seek power elsewhere is to court the danger of evil. Invariable when people go for psychic healing they become obsessed, oppressed or even possessed by evil spirits. The bondage thus incurred may take considerable effort in prayer, fasting and faith to attain freedom from such bindings. It not only is dangerous but according to the CCC it is a sin to engage in such activities either to do or to seek psychic healing. Also, the power of our merciful God to heal is sure, greater and will always be for our good.
Feminism/Wicca/anti-patriarchal: There is a part of the New Age movement that strikes against the patriarchal structure of the Church. Some of this thinking has entered the Church. Notwithstanding Pope Francis’ desire that women take more responsible roles in the Church we should be on guard against the tendency to categorize the Church as anti-woman and pro-patriarchy. The extremes of this aspect of the feminist movement is the return to the ‘ancient religion’ Wicca which has ‘mother earth’ as its god and the female characteristic as superior to male. Wicca can also be satanic in the use of ‘black magic’ but ‘white magic’ is seen as okay as it does not do harm to others. Regardless of the type of Wicca, it is forbidden by the Church. In response to the dictates of the Law in the Old Testament witches have been killed. The Protestant churches in Germany killed an estimated 60,000 women accused and convicted of witchcraft in the 16th and 17th century. The Church today takes a firm stand against capital punishment in any form but the sinfulness of being involved in witchcraft no matter how lightly has not changed and is dangerous because it opens one to evil influences.
Gaia/Mother Earth/Ecology (Implicit Pantheism): When we talk about Gaia we are talking about two different things. There is a scientific theory that the world acts as a single organism. This theory has some valid points but it is a far from complete scientific assessment of the function of the planet. The second theory is a New Age belief in the mother earth god, Gaia, the ancient Greek’s god of the earth. This belief goes with Wicca, pantheism and animism already discussed. There is only one God, Him alone are we to serve. All other gods are not gods at all but can be used by the evil one to deceive and destroy the children of God.
Dream Therapy: God can speak to us through dreams as He did to the patriarch Joseph and to St. Joseph. However, unless a dream is a visitation from the Lord, in which case there would be no doubts from where it came, dream interpretation is nonsense. Let’s look at what the Book of Sirach says about dreams. “Empty and false are the hopes of the senseless, and fools are borne aloft by dreams. Like a man who catches at the shadows or chases the wind, is the one who believes in dreams. What is seen in dreams is to reality what the reflection of a face is to the face itself. Can the unclean produce the clean? Can the liar ever speak the truth? Divination, omens and dreams all are unreal; what you already expect, the mind depicts. Unless it be a vision specially sent by the Most High, fix not your heart on it; for dreams have led many astray and those who believed in them have perished” (Sirach 34: 1-7). On the other hand I would say that dreams tell us about our current life, our stresses, anxieties and physical problems but they should not be delved into in an effort to discover some hidden message. Rather we should take our dreams as signs to deal with our daily issues with the help of God and his ministering people.
Dualism/Holism: We mentioned dualism above in relationship to freemasonry but the holism’ belief tries to move from the good versus evil paradigm to everything is one, that is, part of the whole. Apart from freemasonry which in some way may accept holism most New Age beliefs and activities accept the idea that there is a unity to all. It may have a yin and yang but it all goes together to form the whole.
Music Therapy: Music therapy can be helpful in the hands of a qualified music therapist. However, much of what is used for music therapy these days is a kind of music that easily brings one into trance. This type of music is often used with psychic therapies such as Reiki and psychic healing. These ones should be avoided as noted but even listening to this type of music or sounds recordings at home can produce the kind of vulnerability that can lead to infestation of spirits or openness to sin.
Trance: This is another dangerous state of spiritual vulnerability. Any program or activity that brings a person into a trance is to be avoided. I have heard of a person practicing Tai Chi who found herself getting into a trance while doing the prescribe exercises. This fortunately scared the woman and she stopped practicing this Martial art. We are right to steer clear of any activity that brings us into trance.
Martial Arts: Karate, Kung Fu, Tai Quan Do, Tai Chi: As noted above martial arts can seemingly unintentionally bring one into a trance but martial arts often have a ritual that actually invokes pagan gods. You may often see Karate experts praying before a contest. There may be some good discipline in these activities and positive respect for others but there is also the search for power and control which is contrary to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who, believe it or not tells us to turn the other cheek. There are obvious dangers in most martial art practices.
Twelve-Step Programs/Self Help Groups: This was also listed in Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life. However, my experience of twelve-step programs is that God is part of the process. One does not depend on oneself, nor on outside power but recognizes that one is powerless in dealing with the difficulty, whether alcohol addiction or emotional management and that one can only be helped by God. Now some individuals or even groups may identify God with some weird idea but for the most part people in these programs are Christian and are entrusting themselves into God’s hands by trying to work the program and by trying to help others. Nevertheless, whenever a group forms there is potential for problems; but I would see that most of the problems that arise in twelve-step programs are social and not spiritual problems. This is not to say that many with addictions don’t have spiritual issues to deal with but for the most part the twelve-step program, with the help of God, will to some degree help them in managing their problems. A person with addiction issues may be well-served with Christian healing and deliverance ministry to help free them from their addictions.
Other self-help groups may be based on popular psychology or on New Age practices. Obviously New Age type self-help schemes are more dangerous than popular psychology ones but even this latter one can have dangers one should want to avoid. A good spiritual director could help in deciding if a self-help program is actually going to help. On the other hand, we have many Catholic ways of dealing with problems and inner woundedness and they should be given a priority.
Rituals: Rituals are not just practiced by Catholics; many New Age philosophies have their own rituals. These rituals are either dangerous or outright evil. If pagan rituals are preformed over an object or person some evil will have taken over the person or the object. Well-known exorcists, Father Elias Vella says that even after such objects are blessed they still should be destroyed. Persons will need prayer, possibly deliverance or exorcism.
Feng Shui: Is the Chinese practice of bring a home into harmony. Unfortunately, this harmony is in terms of various pagan gods. There are many stories of people who have had their home put in ‘harmony’ only to find evil befalling them. Some avail themselves of Feng Shui for merely aesthetic purposes, for style, not realizing they are opening the door to the influence of pagan gods. Sometime homes require exorcism to free them of evil influences after having them organized under Feng Shui. And the residents may also need healing, deliverance and even exorcism. Definitely, this is something to avoid for a believing Catholic.
Popular books and Movies: Harry Potter/Star Wars/Witch/Vampires/Ghouls/Goth: St. John Paul II said our culture in the western world has become a culture of death. This is certainly reflected in our movies with so many movies built on the subject of the living dead, ghouls and vampires. Even movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars have their problems. Potter is about obtaining magical powers, about being powerful rather than in submitting to the will of God and allowing His power to guide and protect us in this life. Witchcraft and wizardry condemned in the Bible and by the Church has become a popular fantasy. It is sad that even with the dangerous content of the Harry Potter series it is promoted in Catholic schools for reading exercises. Star Wars is about dualism, the good force and the dark side of the force which throughout denies God in favour of some inanimate force that controls everything in the universe. It is very much like freemasonry.
Names of God: Before I conclude this issue I would like to say something about the Name used for God in different languages and cultures. We must not always assume that the name of God in a foreign language or culture is bad. For instance, in Indonesia the word for God (the One God) is Allah. This has obviously come through Islam. However, the Christians in Indonesia are by law not allowed to use this word common in the language for God. So Christians, including Catholics have been lobbying the government to allow them to use this word for God in their churches.
On the other hand, if one is using the name of a strange god, that is, not the One God in the Judeo-Christian tradition then one must be careful. This is especially true if one is chanting the name. One may end up in a trance having some evil spirit taking the role of the ‘god’ and be without the protection of God. This is certainly the case with Transcendental Meditation. Some people try such meditation techniques using the Holy Name of Jesus but one needs to ask the question why go to such techniques when we have a long history of experts in the Church on the subject of meditation and contemplation. There are many books and testimonies of faithful Catholics to guide us in our search for union with God. Nevertheless, even experts like St. Theresa of Avila warn of the dangers of techniques in place of seeking only the God of Love to be joined with Him in Love; this is what Christian meditation or contemplation should be about.
This article covers most of the items listed in “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life” but obviously does not cover everything and those covered are not covered in detail as that would make this little paper into a book. Therefore, one must be discerning about any novel practice and consult with trusted experts in the Church before becoming involved and such practices.
Antichrist: I want to end this article on Antichrist. The reason is that the mystery of evil I spoke about above will culminate in the person of the Antichrist. Even though God would have a good purpose in mind for this person, according to prophecy He will choose to cause himself to be worshiped in the temple of his body which is meant to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. As a result of his choices he will come to enormous power in the world. He will appear to be a good and virtuous man but hidden from the eyes of the world he will be filled with every vice. He will be cunning in his dealings with people so that those he needs to believe him virtuous he will be so seen and those he wishes to be used for evil ends will be carefully admitted to his confidence. He will have an awesome power over those who come under him and will cause the most horrible persecution of the virtuous who will suffer under him the worst abuse the Church has had to endure. He will also lure all New Agers who will see him as the messiah of the Age of Aquarius. He will also, for a time, be accepted by the Jews as their messiah. However, in the end his true evil intent will become visible and many Jews will turn against him. But in the end the Lord will bring him to an end and to an end the last persecution of the Church. After this time the Church will spread the truth throughout the world and bring in the reign of God in the hearts of mankind. Jesus will have accomplished His mission of saving the world and bring into one the scattered children of God. All New Age practices will cease and all will practice the True Religion.