By Dr. Steve Kumar

In a time of intellectual, moral and spiritual crisis the West is being influenced by a new movement which promises peace, prosperity and a New Age of Enlightenment. The message of the movement is radical and its solution is unconventional, but many are joining the bandwagon thinking it is the panacea to the human predicament. This new mind-shift is transforming Western values, culture and life-style. Foreign ideas and bizarre beliefs are moulding the minds of many people who are desperately seeking for answers.

This new view of reality, popularly termed “The New Age Thinking” is quickly dominating education, science, medicine. business, psychology. politics, religion. cinema, media and even the military. It is estimated that up to 60 million in America and 20 million in Europe believe in some form of New Age Movement. The growing influence of New Age thinking is evident in the great success of actress Shirley MacLaine’s books, Out On a Limb, and Dancing in the Light. Her autobiographical occult odyssey was aired by A.B.C. TV as a “Mini-series.” Millions were exposed to her spirituality and occultic practices. Observing the trend, Brooks Alexander of the Berkeley based Spiritual Counterfeits Projects comments, “The twilight is ending. Night is descending. And angels of light come dancing in the dark.”1

What really is the New Age Movement? Why are Westerners dabbling in it? What are its basic views of life and reality? Is the New Age Movement really new or an ancient religion cleverly dressed up in a modern suit? Are the New Age beliefs adequate? Do they make sense in the light of what thinkers through the centuries have upheld, namely rationality and commonsense?

The human heart cannot remain in a state of emptiness. People are made for something deeper than the physical. Disappointed by materialism and disillusioned by formal liberal Christianity, many are desperately searching for something more personal, intimate and fulfilling. To these empty hearts and uncertain minds the New Age prophets are promising peace, power and prosperity.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE

The New Age Movement is unlike any other movement the West has ever had. It has no single leader, no definite doctrine and it has no headquarters. The term “New Age Movement” covers a loosely-structured network of organisations and people who are united by common convictions and values. It is also known as New World Consciousness, New Orientalism, Cosmic Consciousness, Cosmic Humanism, The Aquarian Conspiracy, Mystical Humanism, Human Potential Movement and Holistic Health Movement. Although the label may differ, yet the basic convictions are the same. Westmont Sociologist, Dr. Ronald Enroth, suggests that the Movement is a very loose network of organizations, individuals, and philosophies that share a common world view, a common vision of humanity, and a common basis for hope and change.2 It is a new perception of reality, a move away from traditional western rational realism to the mystical oriental idealism.

Dr. F. LaGard Smith, Professor of Law at Pepperdine University and author of many books including Out on a Broken Limb, notes, “To understand the New Age Movement, you have to understand that we are talking about a world-view with completely new definitions of who man is, who God is, where we come from, and where we’re going. Understanding the New Age Movement requires a major thought shift whereby we’re looking at everything from a new perspective. The New Age Movement is a custom-made religion for each person. It doesn’t follow any of the traditional notions of churches, but it draws from Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Secularism and Selfism. Each person then mixes all that stuff together and arrives at a custom-made religion for him or herself.3

Russell Chandler, the best selling author of Understanding the New Age, points out, “People buy in at various levels. There are a of people who are New Age and don’t know it. There are a lot of people who borrow the world view and assumptions of the New Age. They wouldn’t label it New Age but that’s what it is.”4 The New Age specialist Douglas Groothuis rightly observes, “The New Age Movement is not simply another new cult; it has no one leader or unified organizational structure. It’s more of a creeping Influence that advocates a change in people’s thinking by returning to an ancient but appealing message.”5

Essentially the New Age Movement is a strange combination of Mysticism and Humanism. Borrowing a few ideas from Christianity, a technique from Hinduism and a dose of Buddhist Witchcraft, you can create your own personal religion. The New Age offers you a large cafeteria of religious goodies to choose from. As one writer puts it, “There’s something for everyone. Feel good about making lots of money. Feel good about having none at all, but most of all, feel good. Do it right and you can do anything you want. And there are a lot of people out there who want to show you how–for a price of course.”6 You can choose anything from astrology, biofeedback, clairvoyance. crystals, channelling, E.S.P., meditation, hypnosis, rebirthing, self-healing, visualization, witchcraft, yoga and others. According to Chandler, “It is a religion which appeals to those who want to be rich without working, smart without studying, and holy without giving up any vices.”7

Surprisingly the approach of the New Age appeals to many people living in the post-Christian West. A new convert to the Movement declares, “I once was a failure, struggling with bitterness and hurt, but now I am free. I can create my reality; I can do whatever I want; I have found the resources within to climb the mountain. No longer do I fear death, for I have discovered that it does not exist.”8 This type of testimony is frequently proclaimed by the New Agers. A New Zealand singer states, “It’s fantastic. Life in the New Age is really exciting, a wonderful thing to be involved in.”9

THE MESSAGE OF THE NEW AGE

At the heart of the New Age thinking is the belief that mankind is entering into a new millennium which will bring not global disaster but a new Spiritual awareness. As N.Z. Listener puts it, “Humankind has passed through the agricultural age, the industrial age and the communications age. Now we’re entering the consciousness-raising age.”10

The West has been dominated by science, rationality and technology, these they insist need to be brought together by spiritual and psychological progress. In order to achieve our highest potential we must move from our traditional dependence on the left brain, which they regard as our logical faculty and the “masculine” nature, and shift to the right brain, our “feminine”‘ nature which is the intuitive. By focusing deeply on our inner essences we will recover the ancient wisdom of our true self.

THE WISDOM OF THE NEW AGE

The fundamental assumption of the New Age is that all reality is fundamentally one. This assumption, technically called Monism, has its roots in Eastern and Greek philosophy. Ramakrishna used to say, “Reality is One, sages call it by various names.” Plotinus, the Greek mystic, proposed that the purpose of life is to be “One with the one, alone with the all.” All diversities are illusory and only exist in the finite realm. The mistake of the West is the rational division and separation which we maintain in our analysis. This division they believe is the root cause of our environmental exploitation, nuclear escalation and the reason for out alienation between humanity and creation. The wisdom that will lead us to paradise is that all is one. “You are God. Honest,” says Jack Underhill. “I know your driver’s license says differently, but what does the D.M.V. know?”11 Edgar D. Mitchell, a leading light of the Movement, states, “God sleeps in the minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals, and thinks in man.”12 This novel idea appears profound on the surface to many Westerners, but some hard thinking on the subject will disclose many of its shortcomings.

First, the Monistic teaching has a destructive effect in the East. Can the West expect anything better? Second, by assuming that all is one, are we not arrogantly elevating ourselves to the level of the Creator? It’s a hopeless assumption to maintain that man is the master of the world when in reality he can’t even create a blade of grass. If man is equal to God, what type of God is he? Man hates, kills, rapes, envies and destroys. Also, a God who needs reminding of his divinity and wisdom has neither of these. Third, there is no rational basis for Monism. The reality of human life demonstrates conclusively the obvious diversity of existence. Both man’s conscious experience and rational thinking provide sufficient evidence to reject the Monistic viewpoint.

COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS

One of the most striking features of the New Age Movement is its way of getting in touch with reality. The emphasis is not only that reality is one but that people achieve cosmic consciousness by means of meditation, visualisation, yoga, drugs, chanting, hypnosis, martial arts, sensory deprivation and others. The New Ager believes that it is through cosmic consciousness that we attain cosmic oneness. On the conscious level, man is separated from God, but in his essential essence he is one with God. His conscious sense deceives his real self as a separate being, but he must transform his conscious thinking by spiritual technology. Shirley MacLaine in her book, Dancing in the Light, says, “You are unlimited. You just don’t realise it.”13

New Age advocate Fritjof Capra describes his cosmic experience which altered his life view: “I saw the atoms of the elements and !hose of my body participating in the cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I heard its sound, and at that moment I knew that this vas the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshipped by the Hindus.”14

The experience of cosmic consciousness is expressed by various terms including self-realisation, enlightenment, God-realisation, atonement, satori and Nirvana. This mystical experience produces the feeling of cosmic oneness where all distinctions of good/evil, male/female, reality/fantasy, light/dark and man/God disappears.

NEW AGE THINKING IS NOTHING NEW

These ideas only appear new to those who do not know their origin. The thinking of the New Age was first expressed by the serpent to our first parents in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). It is the lie of the serpent that man’s destiny and his salvation is within himself. Modern man finds the old lie gratifying. When a man does not stand for the truth he will fall for any lie. Modern man is no exception to the rule; he finds the message of the serpent appears to offer hope and power. It exalts man to the place of God, gives him a false sense of security and makes him believe the key is in his hands. This is a delusion.

The tragic experience of the New Age is graphically illustrated in the life of a young woman, Cindy Williams, who moved into the New Age to find hope after experiencing the trauma of divorce. Even though admitting that she was “cautious” during the first encounter she says her life has changed, the problems have vanished, and now she is seeking to get in touch with her true self. She is looking forward with great expectation to the promise of the New Age and says, “I’ve got my feet firmly planted on this illusion.”15

To think man is the master of his destiny is not only arrogant but madness. The facts of human experience and history provide more than sufficient evidence to dispel any possible notion of the divinity of man.

How many wars have we fought, how many crimes have we done, how many injustices have we committed? How could the New Age man not see the truth? Is it any wonder that the Scripture says, “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,” (2 Thes. 2:10,11).

End Notes

1. “Brooks Alexander: New Age Movement” by Ronald Enroth. Fundamentalist Journal, Feb. 1968, p. 49.
2. Ronald Enroth, ibid.
3. F. LaGard Smith, The Door, p. 18.
4. Russell Chandler, The Door, p. 7.
5. Douglas Grouthuis, The New Age Wave, Moody Monthly, 1985.
6. N.Z. Listener, September 23, 1989.
7. Russell Chandler, ibid., p.7.
8. Erwin Lutzer & John DeVries, Satan’s “Evangelistic” Strategy for this New Age, 1988.
9. N.Z. Listener, ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Jack Underhill, “New Age Quiz,” Life Times Magazine, 6.
12. Edgar Mitchell, Bridging Science and Metaphysics in the 20th Century, 1983.
13. Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light, 1985, p.133.
14. Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 1975, p.11.
15. Erwin Lutzer & John DeVries, ibid, p.49.

Advertisements

by Steve Kumar

An Eastern sage once said that he could write the biography of’ a Westerner in three words, “Hurry, worry and bury.” In our rush for successful living we often fill victim to tension and stress. In our crisis nothing sells better than a recipe for relaxation. In TV, sports, business and even in education yoga is promoted as a panacea for stress, health, success and peace. It is attractively packaged as an exercise for the body and cleverly presented as a science of the mind. The sales person for yoga tells us it has nothing to do with religion. What is the real truth?

The verdict of Professor Ruth Tucker, a leading authority on contemporary religious, should be noted, “The true religious nature of yoga is frequently disguised in the West, and individuals frequently practice the exercises without, they claim, becoming involved in the actual religion. But the two are deeply entwined and ought to be viewed in that light,” (Another Gospel, p. 386). Another authority, Professor Irving Hexham of Calgary University, in answer to the question “is yoga truly a religion?” declares that people who practice yoga, “gradually and imperceptibly begin to accept other concepts which involve definite religious convictions.” He argues that, “despite claims to the contrary . . . yoga cannot be practised in isolation from other Indian beliefs. The whole concept of yoga is based upon a carefully worked out theory of beliefs about the human condition. The terminology used to explain the practice itself involves acceptance of presuppositions with religious origins,” (Update, Sept. 1986, p.6). US. District Judge H. Curtis Meanor declared the practice of T. M. yoga “is religious in nature.” There are five reasons that one could propose to establish the religious nature of yoga.

 REASONS WHY YOGA IS RELIGIOUS

1. The Origin of Yoga

The origin of yoga goes back to Hinduism. It is the outworking of Hindu religious metaphysics. In other words the Hindu perception of reality gave birth to the techniques of yoga. This notion is irrefutable as virtually all respectable scholars disciplined in the field would agree.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica states, “Yoga assumes the existence of God, who is the model for the aspiration to spiritual release.” (Vol. 12., p.846). Mary Ann Lind in her book, From Nirvana to the New Age insists, “Ask any Hindu living in a village in India and he will tell you that yoga is a very intrinsical part of his ancient religion.” (P. 74). She correctly points Out, “When we trace the origins of yoga, our search takes us to the ancient Hindu sacred text, especially to the Bhagavad Gita, in which the Hindu hero god, Lord Krishna, introduces yoga as a pathway to heaven,” (p.75). T. George Harris, editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, insists, “All the Eastern exercises grew out of religious roots, and all are designed to evoke specific religious experiences. The word yoga literally means yoked with God. ” (Dec. 1975).

2. The Meaning of Yoga

The very meaning of yoga confirms its religious element. The word (Sanskrit) yoga literally means “yoking” or “union.” The question is “union with what.” The consensus view is union with Brahman; the individual (Purusa) soul must unite with the cosmic being. According to Hindu scholars yoga is designed to reverse the process of evolution and get back- to the original cosmic stage. Since the mind dominates the body and causes the soul to experience pain and pleasure the mind must be mastered and emptied in order to reach its original stage. It is a method by which one brings self-redemption or self salvation. It would be meaningless to talk about union with nothing. According to Hinduism the answers to our problems and suffering, are found in yoga. It is the key to humanity’s liberation. In the practice of yoga, as professor Arindam Chakrabarti of University Delhi affirms, “A self can get back to its pure essence and stop suffering,” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, p.355). Hindu thinkers have always understood yoga as the uniting of the individual with the cosmic force. The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states, “The object of yoga is to isolate this eternal element (the soul) and to free it from implication in the material world” (Vol. 8, p.358). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, explains, “Yoga is the discipline or yoke necessary for the pure subject to recognize itself, and separate itself from the empirical reality with which it is confused”

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary declares that yoga is, “A Hindu theistic(God) philosophy teaching the suppression of all activities of body, mind and will in order that the self may realise its distinction from them and attain liberation.” The Encyclopaedic Edition of Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary confirms that yoga is, “A Hindu system of mystical and ascetic philosophy which involves withdrawal from the world and abstract meditation on any object, as the Supreme Spirit with the purpose of identifying one’s consciousness with the object.”

3. The Practice of Yoga

When one practices yoga one is engaged in performing a religious ritual and activity that has its origin in Hinduism and is an essential practice of the religion. The Hindu text says, “Disciplined action, study of the self, and Surrender to the Lord, constitute the practice of yoga” (Yoga Sutra 11.1). Bruce Nicholls confirms, “Yoga has come to be universally practised by the religious sects of Hinduism, however much the metaphysical interpretations may vary” (p.148). The yoga physical postures (Asana) are specifically developed to control consciousness. It is meaningless to deny that an activity is nonreligious when its origin and practice are intrinsically Hindu. Redefining something and calling it nonreligious does not deny its essential nature. A rose with another name is still a rose. Yoga is central to Hinduism, without yoga Hinduism has no meaning. Trying to isolate yoga from Hinduism is like attempting to isolate fish from water. They are mutually dependent. You cannot have one without the other.

William Watson, author of A Concise Dictionary of Cults and Religions, states, “The practice of yoga, with its various postures and exercise, leads man to self liberation and god-realization,” (p.259). Ronald L. Carlson in his book, Transcendental Meditation: Relaxation or Religion, points out, “Yoga’s practical motive is to attain salvation or liberation through disciplined activity,” (p.41).

A leading authority in Hindu philosophy, Sarvaepalli Radhakrishum in his work, A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, confirms, “The special feature of yoga system is its practical discipline, by which the suppression of mental states is brought about through the practice of spiritual exercises” (p.453). Dr. Ruth Tucker, a research specialist on contemporary religions, points out, “Yoga is a Hindu system of mental and physical exercises, the goal of which is to separate the soul from the body and mind in order to release the soul from the endless cycle of reincarnation” (Another Gospel, p. 385).

Yoga is a central part of many pseudo-religious groups including Divine Light Mission, Hare Krishnas, Transcendental Meditation, Sri Chimnoy, Sathya Sai Baba, Theosophy, and Eckankar. Hindu gurus have long insisted the discipline of yoga is religious both in purpose and practice,

4. The Consensus of Scholars

Virtually all scholars who have specialised in the study of yoga unanimously agree that yoga is a spiritual activity. Even to attempt to justify the above assumption is as futile as trying to inform mode mind that our world is global. One only has to read standard texts on religion and encyclopaedias to see the truth. Hindu teachers, priests and philosophers including Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekenanda, Gandhi, Aurobino Ghose, Sai Baba, Bhagwan Rajneesk all agree on the religious nature of yoga. Even the most popular work The Encyclopedia of Mind, Magic & Mysteries by Francis X. King admits, “Many, perhaps most, Westerners tend to think of yoga as no more than an unusual type of culture, characterized by strange postures and breathing exercises. In reality this physical yoga–hatha yoga is vastly more complex than is generally appreciated, there being a great deal more to it than its purely physical component” (p. 194). In his insightful book, The Spirit of Hinduism, Dr. David Barnett notes, “Hatha yoga was not developed to stand on its own, but as a preparation for Raja yoga” (p.203).

Why Yoga Should Be Rejected in Schools

Introducing yoga to our schools is a subtle means of introducing Hinduism. It is politically wrong to use taxpayers funds to promote a religious practice in the name of education. This is essentially proselytising which clearly violates the stated purpose of neutrality claimed by educationalists. We believe in freedom of religion in New Zealand and if religion is to be kept away from schools then Hinduism should not be promoted in the name of creativity, arts, drama or even therapy in the fight of overwhelming evidence that yoga is religious. To promote it in schools is to impose Eastern religious systems and beliefs on our youth.

Yoga advocates must not ignore the warning of Julio Ruibal, a former yoga master and guru; his experience is most revealing. He states, “I became the youngest guru in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most advanced and powerful. Twice a week I taught yoga on television. Hatha Yoga sounds like a nice simple set of exercises; everyone thinks it is just gymnastics. I want to warn that it is just the beginning of a devilish trap. After I became an instructor in Hatha Yoga, my guru showed me that the only thing these exercises do is open your appetite for the occult. They are like marijuana; they usually lead you on to a drug that is worse and stronger, binding you so completely” (A Mirage from the East, p. 8). Yoga teacher R.L. Hittleman admits that in yoga, health benefits are secondary and that he used the health angle to hook Westerners on the Eastern metaphysical view. (Guide to Yoga Meditation, pp. 9-14).

It does not take too much reflection to understand the devastating consequence of the practice of yoga in the son of India. As researcher Dave Hunt points out, “Hinduism has turned India, in spite of its vast natural resources and manpower, into one of the poorest and most suffering countries on earth.” (Peace, Prosperity and the Coming Holocaust, p. 82). A sensible mind must ask the crucial question, What is the fruit of yoga? The test of the fruit is in the roots. If the teaching and practice of yoga has been such a miserable failure in the East would it help us any better in the West.