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Back some years ago the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue came out with a document about the New Age.

It was called "Jesus Christ, the Bearers of the Water of Life: a Christian reflection on the 'New Age," and in it was a passage saying that "advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of 'bodywork,' (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch, etcetera), meditation and visualization, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music, or colors, reincarnation therapies, and, finally, twelve-step programs and self-help groups."

It was, to say the least, eye-opening; to many, it was also perplexing: no further rationale or explanations were given for listing most of the practices. Particularly surprising was the mention of acupuncture, homeopathy, nutritional therapies, and twelve-step programs (for example, Alcoholics Anonymous -- which often holds meetings in Christian, including Catholic, churches). Had the council simply decided not to delve into depth on each subject, or were the members simply unfamiliar with the details such practices (and thus not prone to expand upon each)? Was the council referring only to some in the above fields who stray (as seen in advertisements)?

We have had previous articles on the acupuncture debate. Most recently, viewers have questioned the citing of homeopathy -- whereby a small amount of a substance that causes symptoms of a disease is given to someone based on the belief that a substance that in large doses will produce symptoms of a specific disease will, in extremely small doses, cure it. (For example, if the symptoms of your cold are similar to poisoning by mercury, then mercury would be your homeopathic remedy, says a website devoted to it.) The remedy is taken in an extremely dilute form; normally one part of the remedy to around 1,000,000,000,000 parts of water.

Is this -- is homeopathy -- truly occult? Or just alternative medicine? Doesn't the Bible mention herbs?

What perhaps caught the Vatican's attention is the fact that, according to Wikipedia: "Homeopathy is a vitalist philosophy that interprets diseases and sickness as caused by disturbances in a hypothetical vital force or life force. It sees these disturbances as manifesting themselves as unique symptoms. Homeopathy maintains that the vital force has the ability to react and adapt to internal and external causes, which homeopaths refer to as the law of susceptibility. The law of susceptibility implies that a negative state of mind can attract hypothetical disease entities called miasms to invade the body and produce symptoms of diseases."

"Life" or "vital" force often brings to mind Eastern concepts of c'hi (or ki) -- a supposed energy or aura around people -- and this indeed meanders, in the view of many, into psychic phenomena. One expert, Erika Gibello, who, "as a pharmacist and Catholic retreat preacher, secretary to the International Associations of Deliverance and Exorcism in Rome," has thus described homeopathy as "soft occult."

We don't pretend to know the mechanics of life. On the "other side" of the veil, when we die, we may all be profoundly surprised at many things. There are certainly spiritual aspects to disease (otherwise, Christ would not have healed by casting dark spirits out). Others have written to us describing beneficial effects -- as we also have heard from those who say they were helped by acupuncture or chiropractors. Indeed: there are good Catholics (even prominent ones) who are chiropractors. Here we also get into magnetic therapy.

But we must be very cautious with the esoteric.

While many chiropractors stick with what seems similar to sports medicine (manual physical therapy), others stray into realm of the metaphysical and many chiropractors adhere to the philosophical principles that retain vitalistic qualities. "Early chiropractors believed that all disease was caused by interruptions in the flow of innate intelligence, a vital nervous energy or life force that represented God's presence in man; chiropractic leaders often invoked religious imagery and moral traditions," says the encyclopedia.

And so we get back to that "life force," which you also hear about in certain martial arts and which is involved in acupuncture (which seeks to remedy flows of unseen energy).

Says a defender: "Though some homeopathic doctors definitely employ the occult philosophies of Yin-Yang, many do not. Homeopathy is a method of treating disease with small amounts of remedies that, in large amounts in healthy people, produce symptoms similar to those being treated (a very effective form of natural medicine). For example: What do people do when they have the flu? They have teary eyes, sinus congestion, etc. A homeopathic solution would be to eat some hot peppers or onions. No kidding! When I get a cold, I eat Mexican food and hot-sauce. It works for me.

"When our daughter received homeopathic treatment, it was strictly of a medical nature. Now if you go to the same doctor with a stress disorder or hot-temper asking for help, you might be presented with occult doctrines (which could just as easily be said of any doctor). If you go to any 'normal' doctor with an emotional problem, you're just going to be sent to a Godless psychiatrist, who will send you to a neurologist, who will just put you on drugs. Many believers have been brainwashed into believing that all forms of natural healing are wrong. Folks, natural healing is the best way to go!"

There is even a "Christian's Guide to Homeopathy."

When does "natural" (which is certainly good) turn into the "occult"?

Says a site dedicated to praying against the New Age has one prayer that goes as follows:

"Recognizing the occultism and esotericism in the philosophies and practices of New Age errors that have infiltrated Holy Mother Church, and compromised the eternal salvation of many souls which include priests and nuns who practice and propagate eastern meditations [name them: Transcendental Meditation, vipassana, yoga, zen, etcetera] and alternative medicines [name them: acupuncture, homoeopathy, pranic healing, Reiki, etcetera.], we pray to You:

"New Agers believe that You are an impersonal, amoral, evolutionary force within the universe; but You are a moral, personal Being, who is the all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present Creator of the universe.

"New Agers believe that we, humans, are the apex of evolution, having unlimited potential, giving self-awareness to the 'Divine Life Force,' depending on our own 'intuition' and capable of guiding the process of evolution; but we know that You created us in Your image and likeness as personal, rational, moral beings."

Commenting on it, Pope John Paul saw the "New Age" as “one of the greatest threats to Christianity in the third millennium."

Adds a non-Catholic fundamentalist: "Many homeopaths use radionic pendulums (to detect and analyze human 'energy fields' and to occulticly 'douse' for answers to questions) and astrology in their diagnosis. They also communicate with spiritualists in their search for cures." 

That we know to be errant. Some even assert a link to Freemasonry. In fact, the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), was a Mason.

But, again, not all use overt occult methods. We'll have to ask you to help us discern the rest of it.

The question is: when does something become New Age?

There is another question:

If it is bad, what about such practices and their wide use in convents and retreat centers run by nuns?

There, as we have reported before, it is rampant.

[see also: Jesus Christ, the Bearers of the Water of Life: a Christian reflection on the 'New Age, Infiltration of Catholic nuns, and  A defender and A detractor]

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