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Over the last week, I have been immersed in the controversy of New Age beliefs, where Oprah is headed and what that means to you and me. All of this started with my original post about Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and their online “educational” collaboration, which you can read here. One of the observations that I have come to is that anytime someones “Sacred Cow” is tipped, there is the usual rush to defend the “Sacred Cow” without investigating the truth. I don’t claim to be free from that sort of initial bias myself. However, truth must be what guides our actions and our directions. Unfortunately, in today’s world, truth can be an elusive goal. It often takes some determination to find it. Which is why so few of us wind up there, because it takes effort.
We want everything fast today. I’m as guilty as anyone on this count. We want what we want yesterday. Today is not good enough anymore. I can’t even stand waiting for 2-3 minutes in the line at McDonalds anymore. And the the 2:30 wait for a bag of popcorn to pop seems interminable to me at times. We live in a 24 hour news cycle so that we never have to wait to know what’s going on or what the weather is in a part of the country we don’t even live in.
With that cultural template as our guide, we blindly accept most of what we hear and see without ever taking the time to personally dissect and investigate for ourselves. That is a dangerous place for us all to be in. Especially when it comes to questions that impact eternal destinies.
Thanks to the authors of some very helpful websites, I was able to find the following information for your consideration (stick with this to the end and you’ll find where Oprah enters into this discussion):
The New Age Movement is in a class by itself. Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc. They often use mutually exclusive definitions for some of their terms. The New Age is in fact a free-flowing spiritual movement; a network of believers and practitioners who share somewhat similar beliefs and practices, which they add on to whichever formal religion that they follow. Their book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services.
Quoting John Naisbitt:
“In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience…With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center.” 1
The New Age is definitely a heterogeneous movement of individuals; most graft some new age beliefs onto their regular religious affiliation. Recent surveys of US adults indicate that many Americans hold at least some new age beliefs:
|8% believe in astrology as a method of foretelling the future|
|7% believe that crystals are a source of healing or energizing power|
|9% believe that Tarot Cards are a reliable base for life decisions|
|about 1 in 4 believe in a non-traditional concept of the nature of God which are often associated with New Age thinking:
The group of surveys cited above classify religious beliefs into 7 faith groups. 2Starting with the largest, they are: Cultural (Christmas & Easter) Christianity, Conventional Christianity, New Age Practitioner, Biblical (Fundamentalist, Evangelical) Christianity, Atheist/Agnostic, Other, and Jewish, A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group. 2
New Age beliefs:
A number of fundamental beliefs are held by many New Age followers; individuals are encouraged to “shop” for the beliefs and practices that they feel most comfortable with:
|Monism: All that exists is derived from a single source of divine energy.|
|Pantheism: All that exists is God; God is all that exists. This leads naturally to the concept of the divinity of the individual, that we are all Gods. They do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe.|
|Panentheism: God is all that exists. God is at once the entire universe, and transcends the universe as well.|
|Reincarnation: After death, we are reborn and live another life as a human. This cycle repeats itself many times. This belief is similar to the concept of transmigration of the soul in Hinduism.|
|Karma: The good and bad deeds that we do adds and subtracts from our accumulated record, our karma. At the end of our life, we are rewarded or punished according to our karma by being reincarnated into either a painful or good new life. This belief is linked to that of reincarnation and is also derived from Hinduism|
|An Aurais believed to be an energy field radiated by the body. Invisible to most people, it can be detected by some as a shimmering, multi-colored field surrounding the body. Those skilled in detecting and interpreting auras can diagnose an individual’s state of mind, and their spiritual and physical health.|
|Personal Transformation A profoundly intense mystical experience will lead to the acceptance and use of New Age beliefs and practices. Guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and (sometimes) the use of hallucinogenic drugs are useful to bring about and enhance this transformation. Believers hope to develop new potentials within themselves: the ability to heal oneself and others, psychic powers, a new understanding of the workings of the universe, etc. Later, when sufficient numbers of people have achieved these powers, a major spiritual, physical, psychological and cultural planet-wide transformation is expected.|
|Ecological Responsibility: A belief in the importance of uniting to preserve the health of the earth, which is often looked upon as Gaia, (Mother Earth) a living entity.|
|Universal Religion: Since all is God, then only one reality exists, and all religions are simply different paths to that ultimate reality. The universal religion can be visualized as a mountain, with many sadhanas (spiritual paths) to the summit. Some are hard; others easy. There is no one correct path. All paths eventually reach the top. They anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will evolve and become generally accepted worldwide.|
|New World Order As the Age of Aquarius unfolds, a New Age will develop. This will be a utopia in which there is world government, and end to wars, disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty. Gender, racial, religious and other forms of discrimination will cease. People’s allegiance to their tribe or nation will be replaced by a concern for the entire world and its people.|
Now that’s a lot of info to digest there. But let me highlight the key phrases from that information:
- Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc.
- most graft some new age beliefs onto their regular religious affiliation
- individuals are encouraged to “shop” for the beliefs and practices that they feel most comfortable with:
- A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group
Here’s the essential truth regarding NEW AGE beliefs – There is no ultimate truth. There is no text to read from and follow. Instead, there is an encouragement for you to “find your own way. Make up your own set of beliefs. Keep what you like and throw out what you don’t.” My friends, that is insanity. Truth is not a “pick and choose” sport. But that is exactly what New Age is promoting. So most people are apparently keeping some of their original faith teachings (but only the ones they really personally like) and adding a few others here and there. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of faith. Isn’t it wonderful? That’s certainly what practitioners would want you to believe. But what happens when the ingredients in the smorgasbord are not only tainted, but dangerous? How wonderful is it then? Sadly, according to this information, New Agers now represent approximately 20% of the population. And in today’s cultural climate of instant gratification and lazy approaches toward truth, that number is likely to grow.
And now, enter Oprah. She has become in some ways the worlds leading evangelist. Millions of people love her and trust her. That is a powerful to position to be in. And one of great responsibility. And where has Oprah decided to direct her millions of followers? Into the gumbo stew of pick-and-choose, find your own ingredients, faith. And if you should doubt that her latest venture is not, in fact, a New Age evangelistic outreach, here is the icon found at the bottom of the aforementioned website that provided the New Age information above:
Do not simply listen to me and take my word for it. Be a miner of truth. Find out where she is leading. Discern the truth. Take your time. Due your due diligence. She may be leading, but it is up to you to follow or choose a different direction.