ike ‘postmodern’, ‘New
Age’ is a term you will have encountered. As with ‘postmodern’, you may
have a general idea of what it refers to, without being able to pin it
down to anything
The New Age can assume a bewildering variety of forms: ‘spiritual channeling’,
in which spirit beings are believed to offer guidance to humans; esoteric
healing techniques; psycho-therapeutic practices; belief that crystals
can be sources of positive energy; the quest for personal fulfilment; interest
in Gnostic texts from the early Christian era; environmental concerns;
beliefs of Eastern origin, such as reincarnation and karma;
| a gap in many people’s souls, and they are turning
to New Age beliefs and practices and not the church to fill it. For Christians,
then, the New Age can be seen as both challenge and opportunity.
Drane has read widely, and has talked to large numbers of New Agers in the course of researching for this book. As a committed Christian he is of course critical of much New Age thinking, but his first concern is sympathetic understanding. That alone makes this book valuable. When he turns to criticism, he makes many interesting points: I was particularly struck by his comment that, for all that the New Age draws on Eastern religions and ancient texts such as those of Gnosticism, it is often very selective in its use of these non-Western traditions; on closer analysis the New Age may be another form of Western ideological imperialism, promoting yet another version of Western individualism under the guise of rediscovering ancient wisdom.
But the chapter that will be of most interest to readers of BTW will
be the last, in which Drane asks how the church is to respond. A series
of questions he asks towards the end of seem particularly apt: ‘Why is
it that when people need healing – whether personal, emotional or physical
– they never think of the church? … that when they have a need to belong
to a meaningful community, the church is the last place they would go?
… that when they are looking for ministry to their emotions they prefer
altered states of consciousness? … that when they want someone to stand
alongside them … they steer clear of Christians?’ (p. 202). Why indeed?
FRANCIS of SALES
ANXIETY of mind is not so much an abstract temptation, as the source whence various temptations arise. Sadness, when defined, is the mental grief we feel because of our involuntary ailments;--whether the evil be exterior, such as poverty, sickness or contempt; or interior, such as ignorance, dryness, depression or temptation. Directly that the soul is conscious of some such trouble, it is downcast, and so trouble sets in. Then we at once begin to try to get rid of it, and find means to shake it off; and so far rightly enough, for it is natural to us all to desire good, and shun that which we hold to be evil.
_____ 9 - 16
|If any one strives to be delivered from his troubles out of love of
God, he will strive patiently, gently, humbly and calmly, looking for deliverance
rather to God's Goodness and Providence than to his own industry or efforts;
but if self-love is the prevailing object he will grow hot and eager in
seeking relief, as though
all depended more upon himself than upon God. I do not say that the person thinks so, but he
acts eagerly as though he did think it. Then if he does not find what he wants at once, he
becomes exceedingly impatient and troubled, which does not mend matters, but on the contrary makes them worse, and so he gets into an unreasonable state of anxiety and distress, till he begins to fancy that there is no cure for his trouble. Thus you see how a disturbance, which was right at the outset, begets anxiety, and anxiety goes on into an excessive distress, which is exceedingly dangerous.
This unresting anxiety is the greatest evil which can happen to the
soul, sin only excepted.
Anxiety arises from an unregulated desire to be delivered from any pressing
evil, or to obtain some hoped-for good. Nevertheless nothing tends so greatly
to enhance the one or retard
(For more of Francis of Sales’ delightful use of natural imagery in his reflections check him out at ccel.com)
Mr Ho Chee Kiong 10/7