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Oprah Winfrey, dangers lurk for you. You are in danger and -- no doubt unintentionally -- you are putting millions of others at risk.

You are a good person. No doubt about that either. You have done charitable things. You have made Americans, especially women, aware of matters with which they should be familiar. You have striven to be spiritual.

But it is precisely in this realm -- spirituality -- that you have crossed the line.

It is good to be open, Oprah. It is good to be inclusive. It is good to see that the Light of God can shine in ways we have not imagined, and in people who differ religiously.

We try not to be closed-minded. Everyone can be deceived. That includes us. And we agree that it's unfortunate when folks think they have the truth (and nothing but the truth) and that no one who doesn't think and believe exactly as they think and believe has a shot at Heaven. We strongly dislike cultic behavior -- in whatever religion it rears its head.

The most important thing is whether we love each other and whether we love God. Jesus told us that, and true Christians acknowledge it. John Paul II said the same. So does Benedict. On this we should all find common ground. When we get to Heaven, there are going to be many surprises for the closed-minded!

But Oprah, you are stepping onto treacherous territory. You are promoting the New Age to such an extent that you have become its doyenne. USA Today says of you: "She's no longer just a successful talk-show host worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes' most recent estimate. Over the past year, Winfrey, 52, has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium, a moral voice of authority for the nation."

There is much good you have done. And there are many points that sound good -- and by themselves are good -- in arcane philosophies.

But if you will excuse a strong opinion, you have wandered into the domain of deception. Your creed, the New Age, Oprah, is the old lie of paganism -- reheated occultism -- and you are its greatest current purveyor.

Good as many aspects are, the teachings you promote focus on self and materialism. That's the beginning of the problems. They also downplay Jesus. They take liberties with the Bible. They are too general about God, too impersonal. He becomes an energy. You yourself, in defending the New Agers, have said, from what we now read, that He [Jesus] is not the only way.

He is not the only way, Oprah?

We realize that God will judge in a way we can not fathom (there are millions who have not been given the opportunity to know Him). But here's the bottom line: your dabbling with mystery religions began in a big way in 1992 with promotion of a work called A Course in Miracles. It is very big with you right now. You are having this "course" taught even over your international XM satellite radio channel. Meanwhile, on your show, you have promoted a long series of those whose intentions may be good but who are mainstays in what can only be described as occultism.

It is not a matter of a crack in your door, Oprah; your door has been blown wide open.

Let's stay, for a moment, on the Course. It is based, as you know, on the revelations of Helen Schucman -- a Columbia University professor of medical psychology who "channeled" a spirit beginning in 1965 and hit it big with the psychic crowd in the 1970s. It bears many resemblances -- the philosophy it espouses -- with aspects of witchcraft.

"For seven years Schucman diligently took spiritual dictation from this inner voice that described himself as 'Jesus,'" states one biography. "A Course in Miracles was quietly published in 1975 by the Foundation for Inner Peace. For many years 'the Course' was an underground cult classic for New Age seekers who studied 'the Course' individually, with friends, or in small study groups."

As one preacher has outlined it, the "course" instructs that there is no sin, that the Crucified Christ bears little relevance, that His journey to the Cross should be the last "useless" journey (that we should not "cling" to that ancient piece of wood), that finding God is through finding self, that our focus should be on our own limitless power, that there is no need for salvation, that the Name of Jesus is a "symbol," and that evil -- at least in the way Christians view evil -- does not exist.

Oprah, if that's not enough to raise red flags, what about how the "channeler" -- Helen Schucman -- died?

This we take from a fellow Columbia psychologist (but also a priest) named Father Benedict Groeschel:

"Groeschel continued to try to 'open the doors of the Church' to Schucman, but his influence was subverted by her husband, William Thetford, also a Columbia professor, a mysterious character, and 'probably the most sinister person I ever met,' the priest recalled," according to one writer, Randall Sullivan. "Only after he retired from teaching did Thetford's Columbia colleagues (who knew him best as a rare-books expert) discover that all during the years they worked with him, the man had been employed as an agent of the CIA -- one who was, among other things, present at the first fission experiment conducted by physicists assigned to the Manhattan Project. Thetford also was 'the most religious atheist I have ever known,' Groeschel recalled, and conceived a great enthusiasm for A Course in Miracles, personally arranging for its publication.

"Schucman was embarrassed, Groeschel remembered, and confided to the priest her fear that the book would create a cult, which of course it did.

"Groeschel initially read the Course as 'religious poetry," but grew steadily more negative in his assessment of it as the years passed and sales of the three volumes passed into the millions of copies.

"From his point of view, A Course in Miracles served to undermine authentic Christianity more effectively than just about any other work he could recall."

In one of his books, Father Groeschel describes the "black hole of rage and depression that Schucman fell into during the last two years of her life." 

She had become frightening to be with, Groeschel recalled -- spewing "psychotic hatred" for all things spiritual, even her own Course in Miracles.

When the priest sat at her deathbed, we are informed, she "cursed, in the coarsest barroom language you could imagine, 'that book, that [---] book.' She said it was the worst thing that ever happened to her. I mean, she raised the hair on the back of my neck. It was truly terrible to witness."

Cursing one's own work? A black hole of rage?

Oprah, this is not a good fruit and yet this is the author of the teachings you now promote to the entire world. Schucman regularly disavowed the teachings in her last years!

But the Course lives on by way of an author named Marianne Williamson, who gained fame, Oprah, through your show -- as have other New Agers.

Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians have used The Course in Sunday schools and special study groups within the church. Presently there are over 1,500 official study groups that have utilized The Course both inside and outside traditional Christian churches.

And the Course is only the beginning. Here's a list of what you have promoted. You were also the force behind a deeply New Age bestseller called The Secret, and now -- big-time -- a book by Ekhart Tole called A New Earth, which many associate with the New Age (we don't yet know enough about it).

Our paths once crossed when you were starting out as a young talk-show host in Baltimore. You were an excellent, well-informed interviewer. Our paths have not crossed since then. They say that many junctures of your career were "magical" -- instant success. Perhaps it was a blessing. We can't discern. We can say that you are talented. And we can say that you have strayed. "Although I meditate every day and I pray every night and I read spiritual material, my greatest teaching is The Wizard of Oz," we see you quoted as saying. "[The good witch says to Dorothy] 'You've always had the power, my dear. You've always had the power!' [then you said, Oprah] 'That good witch, she's my girl!"

Oprah, there is no such thing as a good witch.

"I've got a new light shining inside!" you say. And you want your viewers to have that light glowing within them, too.

Oprah, that's admirable.

But make sure that your fame and fortune come from the right place; make sure the light you see is not a shining darkness. 

As for Schucman, your guru?

"What Groeschel found to be at once most thrilling and confusing about Helen Schucman's process was that, during the time she wrote A Course in Miracles (a book that any number of fundamentalist Christian ministers have called the most dangerous ever published), she became intensely attracted to the Catholic Church, attended Mass regularly, and was devoted to the Virgin Mary," wrote Sullivan. "Only under close questioning did Schucman admit that, many years earlier, she had briefly been a Christian. This had resulted from an 'accidental' childhood visit to Lourdes, where she had been so moved that she received Baptism upon her return to the U.S. She also had prayed the Rosary for years afterwards, Schucman claimed, until she adopted scientific skepticism as her creed, and lived by it for most of her adult life."

What was perhaps most chilling and to the point is that Schucman ended up dying on the Lourdes feast day.

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