Volume 7, Issue 2: Non Est
New Age Peace
Peace is the heart and soul of Christian
faith. Christianity depicts both the origin of man and the future of the faithful as
states of peace. Christ's purpose in His incarnation was to restore peace between
God and man by reversing the rebellion initiated by Adam.
Every non-Christian religion or philosophy parrots this framework in one form
or another. Every view acknowledges a lack of peace and promises peacewhether
that promise of peace is Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, secularist, Marxist, conservative,
liberal, pagan, scientific, or New Age. Now such parroting isn't strange if Christianity
is true. If Christianity is true and thus finds its origins in the earliest
point of history, then we should expect that human rebellion would work itself
out in many crafty imitations of reality.
The promises of peace offered by the various forms of New Age thinking highlight
this. New Age thinking is popularly envisioned as a sort of techno-Hindu-environmentalism
for the self-absorbed with enough money. But New Age followers often get very
testy when you actually try to sketch their outlook, since so many diverging
views have been handcuffed together under one title. New Age infighting is quite
a grisly sight, and it makes Christian denominationalism by comparison look like
a happy union. (Such infighting should also quiet Christian fears that New Age
thinking will dominate the next millennium.) New Agers do, unsurprisingly, share
a united disgust for historic Christianity.
In New Age Answers to Age Old Questions,1 Rodger Stevens outlines a common
New Age worldview. Stevens sketches an original peace followed by a disruption
of peace and a restoration of peaceakin in many ways to the basic Christian framework
of Creation-Fall-Redemption. New Age thinking, though, dresses this framework
in revitalized Eastern monism or oneness of all things. Monism is crucial
to understanding many varieties of both Eastern and New Age thought. In short,
monism is the view that everything that exists is made of the same stuff without
distinction or divisioneverything is really One. Instead of the Christian world
of Creator, creature, mind, matter, spirit, etc ., monism posits a simple Oneness
of being. As Stevens explains, "Each of us is God playing the role of a human
being. But that same God is our essence is also the essence of everything else
in existence. . . . All is One and One is All." 2
But the world doesn't appear to be One; it appears to be fractured and divided.
On New Age grounds, this lack of peace is purely a construct of unenlightened,
divisive human thinking, a mind having forgotten the true Oneness of reality.
Divisions like good/evil, pain/pleasure, you/me, true/false are "classifications
which exist only in the mind of man. . . . [E]vil is just a state of mind, a
certain way of looking at things." 3
New Age enlightenment seeks to transcend such divisions. As Stevens explains
"Enlightenment is our natural state; it is the state in which we first entered
this earthly plane, it is the Garden of Eden. . . . We err in failing to recognize
that the kingdom of heaven is within. . . . Enlightenment is a coming back home,
the 'Oh Yeah!' of recognition that the so-called ills of man are of his own making." 4 Enlightenment also brings a transformation of a person's character, "where before
you were judgmental and opinionated, now you are compassionate and understanding.
. . . Being reborn can happen only when you have died to all of the illusions
which you formerly took to be true; for most of us, it is a gradual process wherein
one falsehood after another falls away like a dead skin, revealing fresh and
vital growth beneath." 5 Oneness, Illusion, EnlightenmentCreation, Fall, Redemptionthe
pattern is the same.
The primary problem with such an outlook is that it lacks the courage to fully
carry through with itself. The problems with any serious form of monism are multiple(!).
For example, if all existence is truly one without division, then the New Age
"fall," that illusory disruption of peace, could never have started. The human
"fall" from Oneness into false, divisive thinking assumes some kind of opposing
elements within the One. Yet monism supposedly precludes such division. When
you query New Age folk about the origin of the human dualistic thinking, they
often start talking about human forgetfulness of our true Oneness. But that
just pushes the same question back. How did that which was perfectly One diverge
into forgetfulness in the first place?
A similar problem arises with New Age enlightenment. New Agers are ardent in
their support of tolerance, compassion, and world harmony. Above, Stevens explained
that enlightenment transforms us from "judgmental" into "compassionate" people who
strip away "falsehoods." But if everything is truly One, then how can he assert
any difference between bigotry and compassion or truth and falsehood? If everything
is truly one, then hatred is exactly the same thing as compassion and truth is
the same as falsehood. If all divisions are ultimately identical anyway, then
why condemn Christianity or seek to persuade non-New Agers? All is one, or is
In the end, New Age thinking is inherently parasitic on the very divisions that
it professes to go beyond. It mocks Christian divisions only to sneak them through
in its own back door. How can anyone be sincerely expected to take New Age claims
sincerely? The tiresome New Age retort here is to retreat into an authoritarianism
of subjectivity and claim that unenlightened opponents are just refusing to hear
the truth of New Age within themselves. Christians could say the same thing about
New Agers (Rom. 1:18ff.), but at least Christians can live in accord with their
view of the world and not act like closet New Agers in the way that New Agers
act like closet Christians.