According to Greek mythology, Narcissus would have lived a long life had he never come to know himself. But, after he had angered the gods, Narcissus saw his reflection for the first time in a pool of water. As he bent to drink he instantly fell in love with himself. Each time he clasped at the image it disappeared. As he sat for days at the pool, dying, he cried in despair, unable to embrace his own love.
The myth has relevance today in that our society has for some time now come to know itself. It has devoured fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Atheism, agnosticism and a contempt of moral absolutes has left man with only himself to worship, a futile religion indeed.
But man, being the spiritual being he is, has not been left pining after himself. Secular humanism is said to have buried the notion of God. The New Age movement today is resurrecting him. God has now been made in the image of man. Narcissus never had it so good.
World history makes it very clear that mankind always worships God or gods, and falls into atheism only as a transition to occultism or when externally forced to, (e.g. communism).1 Man is a creature who must have hope and faith in the future. A belief in some form of Eastern mysticism is, to quote C.S. Lewis, “the attitude which the human mind naturally falls into when left to itself.“2
No matter how enthusiastic secular humanists such as Carl Sagan or Norman Lear may be about agnosticism, their continued evangelistic efforts are just money into a dead horse. Secular humanism is bottoming out. As Mircea Eliade has said, secular man “killed a God in whom he could not believe but whose absence he could not bear.“3
Secular humanism of the ’60s ’70s and ’80s has been such a transition period, and the ’90s are quickly shaping up as the decade where we all will choose between Christ and the New Age movement.
In the U.S. the line is being drawn and men and women are faced with the same decision Elijah offered his countrymen: “If Baal is God, then serve him. But if the Lord is God, serve Him.”
Just what is “New Age?” What makes it a religion? Why is it dangerous?
It is important to realize that the majority of those involved have very little idea of what the movement is all about.4 In fact this may be the only thing the New Age movement has in common with Christianity: many of those who profess to be a part of it are out on the fringe. They are usually involved for very superficial and selfish reasons:
- It removes the notion of guilt.
- It provides one with pleasant emotional experiences.
The angel of light doesn’t present himself as a masochist. The experiences New Age evangelists speak of are very real and very appealing, especially to those who want to have their sin and enjoy it too. When it comes to fellowshipping with these spirits, New Agers can choose their poison: drugs, self-hypnosis, internal visualization, biofeedback or even sex.5 It’s commonly referred to as a change in consciousness. What being born again is to Christianity, consciousness changing revolution is to the New Age.
At the heart of the New Age movement is monism. All is one. There is no difference between you, me, God or this newspaper. (It never claims to be an intellectual philosophy).
Monism radically opposes a biblical account of God separating light from darkness, earth from heaven, and clouds from the water. Genesis pictures God continuing to create many different things, all of them different, ending with man, whom He created in His image. We don’t live in a mystical soup of homogeneous reality. “Even God Himself is not an undifferentiated unity, but a tri-unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Trinity.“6
But once one is convinced that he and everything else are really one, it is a short step to pantheism, where everything is God and, of course, we are all perfect. Like I said, no one claims this to be at all intellectual.
But how could it be otherwise? If everything is God, it must be perfect. There is no light or darkness, no perfect or imperfect, and above all else, no good or evil. Yes, and that reflection in the pool is really very beautiful!
So here we are at one of the seductive claims of the New Age. We’re not only perfect; we are, in fact, gods. “Whether it comes from Eastern religions such as Hinduism – ‘Atman is Brahman’ (the individual self is really the universal Self) – or from classical occultism – ‘as above, so below,’ (God and humanity are one) – or from the new self-actualizing psychologies – all knowledge, power and truth are within and waiting to be unlocked – the New Age raises the placard of pantheism high: you are god!“7
Such a belief begs an obvious question. If all men are gods, why are we so rotten? The Bible explains this very reasonably when it says we have all fallen away from God’s goodness and wholeness. New Agers dismiss it as simple ignorance. (Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!)
You see, we just need to get in tune with our real selves. We must change our consciousness, which will lead to an awareness of oneness and spiritual power.8
By whatever name this change in consciousness is called, and there are many, it is said to be necessary for the rescue of Western civilization and the world.
That’s an odd thought. Where was Eastern mysticism when Western civilization began? What has it done for nations such as India? It is a simple fact of history that any nation embracing it has also been impoverished, destroyed or both.
The New Age (it’s really just the same old Baal worship) can be looked at as a threat. But it is really just an opportunity for evangelism that the world has never known. The ’90s will be a decade of incredible manifestations of God’s power by God’s people. Just as the Apostle Paul faced a pantheistic people in Athens who worshipped a litany of gods, so we too will introduce them to the One they call “the unknown god.”
If you are flirting with New Age ideas it might interest you to know that the image of Narcissus could be a very beautiful one indeed. It doesn’t take drugs or Eastern mysticism or parapsychology. It just takes coming clean with God.
The Bible admits that the sin you justify with New Age ideas is “pleasurable for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). But the Bible also says that “in the end it brings forth death” (Romans 6:23). That death isn’t speaking of eternal damnation (although that’s a part of it). It is speaking of a life lived outside of God’s presence, and away from His precepts. He may be “unknown” to you, but He is accessible if you will believe He is, and that He is gracious towards those that seek Him. You can’t trust me with your life and you can’t trust a New Age guru. God is the only one you can give your life to, and you can only do it by totally committing your whole life to Him.
Why waste your time flirting with something that may be right? If New Agers are right, Christians will be reincarnated and have another shot at it, right? If Christians are right, New Agers will stand before the Great White Throne of Eternal Judgment. That’s not the time to discover the tragedy of Narcissus.
l Douglas R. Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (InterVarsity Press), 1986, p. 29.
2 C.S. Lewis, Miracles (Macmillan), 1947, p. 82-83, quoted in Groothuis.
3 Mircea Eliade, Occultism, Witchcraft and Cultural Fashions (University of Chicago Press), 1976, p. 5, quoted in Groothuis.
4 Paul de Parrie and Mary Pride, Unholy Sacrifices of the New Age (Crossway Books), 1988, p. 25.
5 Groothuis, p. 25.
6 Ibid., p. 20.
7 Ibid., p. 21.
8 from an interview “The New Age Movement,” The John Ankerberg Show.