+JMJ+ Welcome to part 5 of the continuing series, Re-Reading the New Age. I’ve been thinking lately about how I got into the New Age “movement,” for lack of a better word. I don’t like calling it a movement because it gives the impression that it’s somehow organized, as if somebody were in charge and leading it. There are leaders but no leader. The New Age is more every man for himself than an organized movement with clear goals.
This is not to say that there are no clear goals; just that not everyone in the New Age has any idea what those goals might be. I sure didn’t. I’ve been discovering just how clueless I was during this re-read, and during the weekly soul series, too. So much I didn’t know before or now. So much to learn, still. And that doesn’t bother me at all. Ah, to know that there is more, always more to learn, to know, is what I live for. Well, part of what I live for. I also want to grow closer to Christ and become more like Him. I have a really long way to go on that one.
We’ll be talking more and more about those New Age goals as this series continues. This post is about the things I read as a New Ager, and how I got into it, and how I got out of it, or at least a beginning of a look, a start, a fumbling around, feeling my way to the next phase of a larger project. As I think about these things, I always remember something more or see something I hadn’t before, and that is why I periodically write a version of my conversion story again. I keep seeing more of my life and my past and hopefully understanding more of it, too.
By the way, the subtitle for this post was going to be, “How I got into the New Age and back out of it again, or, Don’t Let This Happen to You or Anyone You Love, But even if it Does, There is Still Hope,” but I decided it was too long, just a wee little bit. So I snuck it into this paragraph here.
Now, to tell you something about how I got into the New Age movement. I was searching for answers about Christianity from as early as I was first exposed to it, which was when I was a little kid. I thought at first that some of the poets had the answer or at least a clue, the poets I read in grammar school and high school. But it didn’t take long to realize that either they didn’t have the answer or I probably wouldn’t live long enough to ferret it out.
A friend of a friend gave me my first Tarot deck and some books and got me interested in astrology, too. Now don’t you go thinking I mean those sun sign columns in the newspapers. That wouldn’t have held my attention for even a few seconds. And I also didn’t do any star worship, if that’s what you’re thinking. I know some people do that. I did not. But my fascination with astrology continued for a long time. After conversion I finally gave it up and had to ignore it completely for years to get it out of my system, as with so much of the New Age. It’s a strong and heady poison, toxic and lethal. Even now I have to be careful, but now I’m not so much attracted to it as repulsed by it. Maybe one day it won’t get even that much of a reaction from me. In any case, I won’t let it steal my joy.
I also began trying “esoteric” versions of Christianity. First in books, then by exploring things like Christian Science at the “mother church” in Boston and a service in a much smaller spot in New Hampshire. By far the most boring thing I have ever put myself through. Sorry, Christian Scientists, it’s not for me. I tried the Unitarian church. Nope. I tried Unity School of Christianity. Nope, nope, nope. Too touchy feely and good grief, the angel books in the giftshop/bookstore. Oy. And the Katherine Ponder books, and Randolph Stone, and James Redfield (the Celestine Prophecy author), oh, my! And oy vey. (No, I haven’t read those things yet. I’ve never felt the urge. I flipped through the books enough to know I wasn’t interested in the least.)
Unity is also where I met someone who was involved with the Alice Bailey Triangles (short and inadequate description: sort of a meditation group) and had donated a full set of the Bailey books to the Unity library downstairs. I already knew of these books and had tried to read some, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with them. I hoped my new friend could teach me. But she was an older lady and ended up in a senior living facility before she could teach me much.
Really, I think God, via my Guardian Angel, was protecting me. He was letting me discover things on my own and letting me make some pretty stupid mistakes, but He was protecting me from some truly stupendously stupid things I could have and would have done otherwise.
See, I never did stop believing in God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I never stopped believing that someone out there somewhere could explain Christianity to me. I never had stopped praying and even as a Buddhist, I began my meditation sessions with a prayer to Our Father. Every day when I would go out into the world, I would ask the Lord to show me whatever He wanted me to see or learn that day, or lead me to help somebody or discover someone who could help me. All through those years I never felt distant from Him.
Someone asked me recently about atheism and I have to tell you, atheism never has tempted me. Sure, I’ve had doubts from time to time but I have never felt the pull of atheism that some have said they’ve felt. I looked at it, I thought about it, I said NOPE, and that was that. On to the next thing.
The next thing was Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship and their correspondence lessons. I’ll tell you sometime about something that happened to me while doing those. I didn’t do them for long. Then I explored Vedanta and moved right on into Buddhism.
And there I found a temporary home. Here at last was something I could read, understand and use, immediately. And I saw positive changes in my life. But I was not happy with the atheism of it, the teachings on the soul, or, rather, the lack thereof. Not the lack of teachings about the soul, but the teaching that we lack souls. That’s right. Buddhism teaches that there is no soul, no self. Atman is self (Hindu idea) and anatman is no-self (Buddhist idea), no permanent self.
All compounded things are impermanent…The Four Seals of the Dharma.
All emotions are painful…
All phenomena are without inherent existence…
Nirvana is beyond extremes…
All is suffering. And the Buddha teaches the way beyond suffering, the way to enlightenment, the way between the extremes. One cannot really escape suffering but one can escape being blown about all over the place by one’s suffering.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s an absurdly basic description. The problem I had with Buddhism is that idea of there being no permanent self. I still had (and have) the idea of heaven and angels and God as the Trinity and the place where Christians hope to go after death, and I liked that idea, and, more importantly, I thought (and think) it’s true. It was firmly ingrained in my heart and mind. I tried to see things the Buddhist way, but I finally gave up and realized that I would never be able to fully absorb the Buddhadharma, no matter how hard I tried or for how long.
Enter the Church. Or more correctly, enter a tiny bookstore that I found on the way home one day. I was excited to tell my Catholic friend about it. I began exploring that store and spent many hours there, especially after I volunteered to put the books in order. But I was only studying the books there out of curiosity at this point. I still thought I could stick it out as a Buddhist even though I was having problems with it intellectually.
During this time I tried to take A Course In Miracles in the local Unity church—and I do use the term “church” very loosely when I say that, but they think they’re a church, so… Even as a Buddhist I could see big problems with what we were reading. But when I looked around to see if anyone else had a problem, I could see that they looked just as happy as could be. This I found to be alarming. Whenever I tried to make a comment, I was received—well, let’s just say I was reminded of the reaction I got as a child questioning Christianity in Sunday School. I was trying to understand, for heaven’s sake, weren’t they?
No, as it turns out, they weren’t. They thought they already did understand it and they couldn’t see why I didn’t or why I couldn’t let it go. Sigh. Good times.
Here’s part of my problem with A Course In Miracles: it’s presented as having been written by Jesus, or, rather, to have been channeled from Jesus through a psychologist named Helen Schucman. Riiiiight. I can’t think of a single channeled book that I regard highly. Not those “God Calling” or “Jesus Calling” “devotionals” or the Urantia Book or the Alice Bailey books or Seth or Ramtha or the I AM stuff or, oh, the list goes on forever. And it’s all enough to make my eyes roll back in my head and get stuck there. (Well, I did think there might be something to the Bailey books for some years, but I finally gave up there, too, only to find out how horrible they actually are, during our re-read.)
But this Jesus seems to be unaware of what He taught 2,000 years ago. He says, oh, those wacky apostle guys got it all wrong, those silly boys. This is what I really meant. Uh huh. Why did He let them go so long and so wrong? Why did He wait so long to tell somebody and straighten it all out, huh? And those who call it a “course correction for Christianity”… Why would Jesus issue a course correction through this non-Christian set of writings if the Holy Spirit has been doing what Jesus promised He would do, which is leading us and guiding us? Why would He do that?
He wouldn’t, because it’s not Jesus. Just read it for yourself. That is not Jesus talking. It’s just not. A good spiritual director would have shut that nonsense down before it got started. Maybe someone dictated that mess to her but it was emphatically NOT Jesus, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh Who dwelt among us.
One of the biggest problems I have with the Course is its use of Christian terminology but with very different meanings. That will deceive people who are somewhat familiar with the Christian ideas and terms, but not with the New Age ideas being disguised by them. It’s an old problem: using the same terms to mean different things, and different terms to mean the same things. Confusion reigns.
I’ve covered a lot of ground here without going in to many specifics, and we’re still just on the part about how I got into the New Age. I’ll have to leave how I got out of it for a later installment. I think I’ll take this post, whatever it is, apart and give examples for our next post in the series. I’ll have my work cut out for me with that. Hopefully I can do it. This whole idea will expand as I remember and understand more, as time goes on. I hope you’ll go along with me on the journey. Looking back I can see that I forgot to mention Jung or Campbell or the Golden Dawn or Paul Foster Case or any of a gazillion other people or groups or ideas that meant a lot to me in my time in the New Age. Well, there’s only so much time in a day, or an evening. I think to mention them all would require a book. Hmmm…🤔💡
Thank you for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, but mostly virtuous and holy. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- I’m going to save the notes and links for the next posts when we’ll be looking at more specifics. And I hope any of what I’ve written here makes any sense. I’m sure there are typos, too. I’m trying to get this written and posted tonight before it becomes morning.
- Well, no notes other than this: Esoteric Astrology is the book that got me started on the long and winding road to nearly becoming a full-time astrologer. Yep, that’s what I wanted to do. Thanks be to God, He put the kibosh on that. That’s a story for another time, another ramble.
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