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THE MAILBAG: STRANGE PRACTICES IN CHURCHES AND WHAT IS AND IS NOT 'NEW AGE'
Recently, when the Church issued what amounted to a reprimand concerning U.S. nuns (for often failing to abide by Church doctrine), there was no specific mention of the New Age. But was it implied?
For as we have pointed out before, the fact is that the New Age -- our modern name for psychic phenomena (and sometimes deeper things of the occult) -- has pervaded convents, retreat houses, and sometimes church halls, apparently because priests and particularly nuns (and other diocesan workers) are not aware of the darkness. We get reports on a consistent basis. And we can recall "mind control" taught in a Catholic grammar school in Binghamton. It is important to control our thoughts, of course, but we should do so through the discipline of prayer, not hypnosis. Yoga? The only mantra on our lips should be "Jesus."
This lack of awareness over subtle manifestations of the occult is also true, most acutely, among the general public. Still, debate rages over what's occultic and what is too quickly branded as New Age.
Take physiology and health care.
We have had a number of articles on esoteric forms of healing (about which we have expressed great caution) and we continue to get feedback.
It can be very difficult to discern.
A number of people in the field defend practices (chiropractic, acupuncture, and so forth) that one Vatican document, Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life, tied to the New Age (saying: "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, etc.) meditation and visualisation, 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. The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy."
"I'm a cradle born Catholic chiropractor who has been practicing chiropractic for eleven years," wrote Charles Jakubczak, D.C. of Dallas, Georgia.
"The chiropractic profession has endured systematic bias, prejudice and attacks from the medical profession, osteopathic profession, insurance industry, federal government, legal profession, political action committees, media avenues, etcetera. Those attacks I expect. To have the Vatican come forth with a document inferring chiropractic has New Age aspects is disheartening and a shot to the soul. Now I have to explain to other Catholics that I'm not part of the New Age or occult, on top of the other misconceptions regarding their health."
"I have been following Spirit Daily for years," wrote another, Jake Avancena L.Ac. "I've noticed the articles questioning the advisability of taking advantage of alternative therapies due to a fear that they may involve the summoning of spirits or otherwise being New Age in orientation. I have been a licensed acupuncturist for over fifteen years and would like to offer my view.
"Though such alternative therapies such as: acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, and herbal medicine may to a lesser or greater extent be outside of the conventional medicine's understanding, it does not follow that these therapies are not effective. Particularly in the case of terms such as 'chi' or 'ki' energy, life-force, etcetera, one has to understand that these words do not infer a spiritual aspect of the body but are used as descriptions of a force that may be more easily understood as electrical in nature.
"There is much research that has shown that energy of a micro-electrical nature can be measured in the human body. This puts these descriptions of electrical energy in the field of biology instead of spirituality. It is true that the minds of many alternative practitioners have been infected with New Age spiritual ideas, but this is more a reflection of their own spiritual biases rather than a condemnation of the modalities. Let's not forget that there are many conventional medical doctors who are also infected with this New Age spirit (e.g. Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil). Because of these practitioner's personal link to the New Age, should one turn away from the therapy?
"Terms such as 'energy' or
'spirit' may actually indicate an attempt to define something that is
non-substantial -- where one can see the effects rather than the cause.
This is true of early Western medicine as well as early descriptions of
electricity. It's important to look a bit more deeply into a modality
in order to truly understand its foundation. Making determinations of
whether the modality is New Age or not should be based on reason applied
to the modality and not based on misunderstandings of specialized terms
used within the method. Furthermore, one must separate the individual
bias of the practitioner from the medicine."
"I appreciate your search for truth and desire to get some clarity on what establishes 'New Age' danger in natural remedies," wrote Meg Lund.
"This is a question that I've been dealing with for the past two decades, so I thought I'd share a bit.
"I've had to defend myself against being 'New Age' ever since I started my 'natural conversion' eighteen years ago. I was accused of being New Age just because I changed my family's diet to natural foods, when it was clearly given to me as an answer from God for so many things that I had been struggling with, namely, irritability, gluttony and illness. But I was giving too much attention to my body, according to my accuser, making a cult of my body to care so much about what I was eating. I'm so grateful for taking this route, after twenty years of raising a healthy, happy family. What a person takes into themselves is important, in my opinion."
On this we can venture a straightforward view: natural foods are certainly more Godly than unnatural ones (by their ingredient labels you will know them). However, we advise intense discernment of alternative medicine that is attached to unusual energetic ideas.
"I've been watching the articles on this with some interest as my family and
I use herbal medicines (including some homeopathic meds, which we've found
especially useful for things like allergies) as a first defense before
heading to an allopathic physician," wrote Krista Snyder. "I believe that the fundamental problem is
that New Agers tend to co-op traditional medicine (i.e.: herbal, pre-scientific
revolution stuff) because their general world view is based on some
pan-Gaia philosophy coupled with a healthy dose of Nietzschean will to
power/god complex. Instead of operating out of the belief that the body is
the temple of the Holy Spirit, their general position is that they are gods
and can heal themselves, etcetra, through self mastery.
"But that does not mean that herbal medicines themselves are the problem. Here's a case in point: Blessed Hildegard of Bingen, soon to be a Doctor of the Church, wrote extensively about natural medicine and discussed things which might seem New Agey to some. (And in fact, there are plenty of New Agers and feminist earth-mother types who are all obsessed with Blessed Hildegard).
"However, she was articulating many of the medicinal principles that were known at the time, chiefly: the principle of the four humors of the body and how to balance them, etcetera with herbs. That is not that radically different from the Ayruvedic notion of doshas if one looks at it objectively.
"In some European countries (Germany comes to mind) there is a long tradition of natural healing in the form of herbal medicine, going to thermal spas, saunas, therapeutic massage, and the like. These are not informed by a New Age philosophy at their core, but I'm sure that plenty of New Agers do co-op them. For my part, I use discernment, keeping St. Augustine's principle that not everything from the pagan world is useless."
For our discernment.
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