22 September 2010

How Catholics can avoid New Age & Occult practices. . .

I frequently get questions from readers about whether or not good Catholics can participate in or practice New Age or occult spiritual disciplines.  Below is part of a post I put up two years ago that offers questions for discernment.  NB.  Even if your pastor or spiritual director tells you that some New Age or occult practice is OK, ultimately, you are solely responsible for the condition of your soul.  Therefore, do your homework!

Most all of the religious practices of New Age Catholics are in some way a rejection of the proper relationship between the Creator and His creation. Believing that they will make themselves into gods without God, these folks embrace any number of liturgical practices that focus their intellect and will on themselves, making themselves into their own end. In other words, they worship themselves as already divine but fundamentally ignorant of their own divinity. Liturgical worship then becomes a matter of “coming to know” themselves more fully as always-already divine. Of course, this sort of Gnostic salvation creates a class of Fully Knowing Christians who are enlightened in their divinity. And, predictably, this elite class chafes at the authority of the Body of Christ when taught the truth that they are not enlightened but rather darkened in their rejection of the faith.
Discernment Questions

Given all of this, how does a faithful Catholic avoid New Ageism in his or her spiritual journey back to God? Ask these questions:

1). Does this practice clearly embody the proper relationship between myself as a dependent creature and God as my creator? Am I being taught to see myself as divine rather than good and holy?

2) Does this practice require me to reject the historical facts presented to me in scripture and tradition? (e.g., does the practice require me to reject Jesus as both fully human and fully divine incarnated as a first-century Jewish man?)

3). Does this practice lead me outward to God, or inward toward myself? (NB. A properly Catholic practice might lead you inward to God but in the end God is always both immanent and transcendent; that is, God is not found solely “inside me.”)

4). Does this practice have a reputable history in the long tradition of the Church herself, or is it something recently invented, cobbled together from other traditions, or merely an updated Gnostic practice rejected in the first four centuries of the Church?

5). Does this practice require me to involve myself with “spirit guides” or “energies” that lay claim to an existence apart from God as Creator?

6). Does this practice require me to reject as fundamental to my created nature my dignity as one made in the image and likeness of God Himself? Or to reject in another person his/her dignity as a creature of a loving God? (e.g., any practice that requires you to reject your embodied spirit as male/female, or violates human dignity by making the person into something easily killed, enslaved, neglected, etc.).

7). Does this practice ask me to ignore God’s providence by seeking answers to questions or seeking after insights into my future through divination? 

8). Does this practice ask me to worship other gods or make created things into idols? (e.g., some forms of meditation, yoga, healing all rest on false notions of the body/spirit relationship and require a certain amount of willful negligence of one’s Creator).

9). Does this practice assume my accomplished divinity and then ask me to become more aware of this divinity as a means to salvation/enlightenment?

10). Does this practice explicitly make Jesus Christ the only mediator between myself as a member of the Body of Christ and the Father, or does it require me to place someone else or something else between me and my Creator? (e.g., some forms of “dedication to the Blessed Mother" dangerously push this essential spiritual truth, that is, some prayers in private liturgies explicitly require the believer to acknowledge the B.V.M. as the savior.)

11. Does this practice rely solely on the power of God to achieve His desired end for me and with me, or does it require me to believe that I am capable of manipulating God through ritual or prayer? (e.g., some forms of popular devotion border on the magical in practice, "guaranteed never to fail novenas")

12). Finally, does this practice require me to understand my blessings and gifts as self-made, or am I encouraged to give thanks to God for all that I am and all that I have.
Conclusion: Obedience

This list of questions could go on for several more pages. These are a few of the essential questions to get you started. The best way to avoid New Ageism in your spiritual practice is to obey the Church, that is, to listen carefully to the teachings of the Church and submit yourself to the long wisdom of our mothers and fathers in the faith. This is not some sort of “blind faith,” but rather the practice of humility and trust. Before rejecting a teaching of the Church as false or harmful, ask yourself this question: “Am I smarter, wiser, holier than 2,000 years of God’s saints?” And even if you still find yourself wanting to reject a teaching of the Church, rather than assuming that the Church is wrong and that you are right, assume for the sake of argument that you have misunderstood the teaching and seek clarification. In my experience, people who have rejected the Church have done so not because they disagree with what the Church actually teaches but because they have failed to understand the Church. I am reminded of the example of a young man who approached me one time and informed me that he had left the Catholic Church because his roommate’s Bible Church pastor had shown him that Catholics worship Mary, a practice condemned by the Bible. He was shocked to hear me say that the Catholic Church also condemns the worship of Mary as idolatrous. Without first understanding the Church’s teaching, this young man left the Church not because he disagreed with the Church, but because he failed to understand.

Follow HancAquam ------------>

1 comment:

  1. Dear Fr.,
    Please pray that the Benedictine nuns will not allow this woman to speak in Cullman, AL.


    And will you share your email address so that I might share other info?