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Volume 7, Issue 2: Non Est

New Age Peace

Douglas Jones

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 it?
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.

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