New Age spiritualism in the Church
THE UNICORN IN THE SANCTUARY:
The Impact of the New Age Movement in the Catholic Church,
by Randy England,
(Tan Books, Illinois, U.S.A, Paperback, 160 pages, ISBN: 0–89555–451–8)
The Unicorn in the Sanctuary was written to warn Catholics of the dangers inherent in the so-called "New Age" movement so influential throughout the Western world. While over twenty years have passed since Randy England, a Missouri lawyer, wrote the book, the "New Agers" have not disappeared. The book is still relevant as a book for Catholic secondary and tertiary libraries, as well as for the general reader.
Cardinal Gottfried Danneels, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, once wrote that "Modern Europeans are (often) bored with Christianity and allergic to the Sacraments of the Church but fascinated by all manner of spiritualities."
The new spiritual ideas, often explored in the "Mind, Body, Spirit" section of large bookshops, are commonly "New Age" attempts to satisfy the age-old search for the meaning of life. However, they are not Christian, while some do intersect with Christianity at times or appear to do so.
While it can be difficult to understand, the fact is that "New Age" teachings and attitudes are even seductively fascinating to some members of Religious Congregations, including some Congregations founded in the Nineteenth century to provide Christian education, health and welfare services to the exploding numbers of the Catholic working class throughout the Western world.
It seems that some people, after life-times of Christian service, are – as the Cardinal wrote - bored with Christianity and looking elsewhere to assuage their spiritual hunger! In this context, a German bishop wrote humorously but unkindly: "The Church is faced with the rebellion of the Nursing Home!" Very droll, Bishop!
Nevertheless, where issues of revealed truth, Gospel integrity and eternal salvation are concerned this is not a laughing matter. There are few jokes or humorous asides in The Unicorn in the Sanctuary.
Why does the Church warn Catholics in particular, and all Christians in general, to avoid "New Age" thinking and practices? In essence, the Church is saying that New Age is not Christian; New Age is modern paganism; anathema to the person and message of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Gospel kerygma is based absolutely on Jesus Christ, not a "Jesus" who was merely a heroic human being dedicated to service of the poor but, on the contrary, God-become-Man, the Second Person of the eternal Trinity, who lived and preached a whole way of conversion for salvation.
The New Age movement is a general, wide-ranging philosophical approach shared by many cults and societies but, in essence, rooted in Asian pagan religions, especially Hinduism.
There is a seductive side to New Age spirituality. There is the optimistic yearning for a world transformed, an ecological concern for the fate of the earth and noble ideals for the unity of mankind, which would lead to a one world government and a one world religion.
Moreover, there can be no doubting that New Age is popular with many people. If you attend any market in Australia, you are likely to find stalls peddling New Age literature, alternative remedies and merchandise, crystals and pyramids which are supposed to assist us to get in touch with the powers of the universe.
Interwoven, there is the Celtic revival, eastern (pagan) mysticism, feminist literature, psychic assessments, astrology, tarot cards and palm readings.
Randy England does his best in The Unicorn in the Sanctuary to explain, illustrate and dramatise why Catholics should shun New Age ideas in the same way that their early forebears in St Paul's time were to shun the pagan deities and eastern mystery religions favoured by many citizens of the contemporary Roman Empire. The book deserves a wide readership.