The Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz Prayer Club

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Feminism and the New Age Movement

An Ordinary Viewpoint
An Occasional Column of Episcopal Comment by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, S.T.D.

On February 3, 2003, the Holy See issued an important document entitled “Jesus Christ, The Water-Bearer of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age”, which is a study and research paper, as well as a significant Catholic instruction, about the New Age Movement. The Roman document asserts, “It must never be forgotten that many of the movements which have fed the New Age are explicitly anti-Christian. Their stance toward Christianity is not neutral but neutralizing. Despite what is often said about an openness to all religious standpoints, traditional Christianity is not sincerely regarded by New Agers as an acceptable alternative. In fact, it is occasionally made abundantly clear that there is no tolerable place for true Christianity in the New Age, and there are even arguments justifying anti-Christian behavior. This opposition initially was confined to the rarefied realms of those who go beyond a superficial attachment to New Age, but has begun more recently to permeate all levels of the ‘alternative culture’, which has an extraordinarily powerful appeal, above all, in sophisticated Western societies.”

It should be remembered, however, “that not everyone or everything in the broad sweep of New Age is linked to the theories of the movement in the same ways. Likewise, the label itself is often misapplied or extended to phenomena which can be categorized in other ways. The term New Age has even been abused to demonize people and practices. It is essential to see whether phenomena linked to this movement, however loosely, reflect or conflict with the Christian vision of God, the human person, and the world. The mere use of the term ‘New Age’ itself means little, if anything. The relationship of the person, group, practice, or commodity to the tenets of Christianity is what counts. Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview. This only adds to the confusion.”
Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that the New Age in its varied forms “cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous because it negates the revealed contents of Christian Faith, creating confusion for the unwary. (1 Timothy 1:3-4)”.

The Vatican document notes that one of the “feeders” of today’s New Age Movement was 19th century “theosophism”. It was in that century when ancient superstitions such as alchemy, magic, astrology, and traditional esotericism began to be merged and integrated with a scientific search for causal laws, evolutionism, psychology, and the study of comparative religions. Using those ideas and attempting to merge Eastern and Western religious outlooks, a Russian immigrant living in New York, who made money as a “medium” and fortune teller, Madame Helena Blavatsky, with her friend Henry Olcott, founded in 1875 the American Theosophical Society, whose announced purpose was to eliminate all distinctions of race, religion, caste, or color, to promote science, philosophy, and the laws of nature, and to investigate the latent powers in human beings. Their aims included eliminating Christianity as a form of “irrational bigotry”. Of course, “science” for them meant “occult science”, “psychic practices”, and the discovery of “primordial tradition”.

“A prominent component of Blavatsky’s writings involved an attack upon the ‘male God’ of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She urged people to return to the mother-goddess of Hinduism... This continued under the guidance of Anne Besant, who was in the vanguard of the feminist movement.” Although Blavatsky’s doctrines were considered a laughable absurdity at the time, they recently have been revived and promoted by some modern groups under the guise of such terms as “wicca and women’s spirituality”. Some extremist feminist nuns and people such as Joan Chittister, Rosemary R. Reuther, and various members of the Call-to-Action sect carry on this struggle against what they call “patriarchal” Christianity today. They, wittingly or unwittingly, echo theosophist silliness, and sometimes try to insinuate themselves into the Church by disguising themselves as “Catholics”. We should be aware of the danger that these kinds of people with their false and evil feminism imbedded in the New Age can pose to eternal salvation.

Another doctrine of the New Age involves what they call “conscious transformation” with which New Agers oppose “older forms of thought judged to be entrenched in the status quo.” What they have been successful in doing in this regard, according to the Holy See, “is the generalization of ecology as a fascination with and resacralization of the earth, Mother Earth or Gaia, with the missionary zeal characteristic of Green politics.” The New Agers say, “the Earth’s executive agent is the human race as whole, and the harmony and understanding required for responsible governance is increasingly understood to be a global government with a global ethical framework. The warmth of Mother Earth, whose divinity pervades the whole of creation, is held to bridge the gap between creation and the Father-God of Judaism and Christianity, and this removes the prospect of being judged by such a Being.”

The Holy See points out that “in such a vision of a closed universe that contains God and other spiritual beings along with ourselves, we recognize an implicit pantheism. This is a fundamental point which pervades all New Age thought and practice, and conditions in advance any positive assessment where we might be in favor of one or the other aspect of its spirituality. As Christians, we believe, on the contrary, man is essentially a creature and remains so for all eternity, so that an absorption of the human “I” into the divine “I” will never be possible.”

One of the ways to oppose this aspect of the New Age Movement, according to the Holy See, is to “give due recognition to Christian groups which promote care for the earth as God’s creation. Care for the environment in general terms is a timely sign of a fresh concern for what God has given us, perhaps a necessary mark of the Christian stewardship of creation.” However, we must resist other “kinds of deep ecology based on pantheistic and occasionally Gnostic principles. A great deal of what is proposed by the more radical elements of the ecological movement is difficult to reconcile with the Catholic Faith.” The Holy See also tells us that in our efforts as followers of Jesus Christ to oppose the New Age Movement, “it is of paramount importance to start with a good knowledge of Sacred Scripture.”


Thanks to a reader for alerting me to this article and, indeed, this column.