I lived in Southern California for 13 years, where it was a regular occurrence to run into New Age spirituality almost anywhere I went. My wife and I were talking a walk in the hills above Anaheim one day, and were intrigued to hear the sound of a drum and voices, out of sight among the trees ahead of us. I thought maybe it was a Boy Scout group. Our path took us right by the source, and I was wrong: it was 13 people in a circle chanting praises to earth, air, fire, and water. We vacationed in places like Carmel, California, and Sedona, Arizona, both of which are hotbeds of this kind of spirituality. We passed more than one ritual fire circle along a trail above our campsite in Sedona, and the town itself is full of interesting places like this Center for the New Age. Of course we had friends who were avid followers of New Age.
Here in southeastern Virginia it’s been different. The dominant employers here are the military (all five services including the Coast Guard, plus whatever they do at Camp Peary) and shipbuilding. We have the Jefferson Lab accelerator facility, and lots of historical tourism and research revolving around Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. California is, well, California; and this has been different, either because of the forms of industry, or because things are generally more conservative here on the East Coast. I have had very little contact with the New Spirituality lately.
New Age Resurgence? Until the last year or so, that is. One reason for that change has been the way Oprah Winfrey has been promoting Eckhart Tolle. Tolle has one book ranked at #2 at Amazon today, and another ranked at #20; and he and Oprah claim viewership in the millions for their combined advocacy for the message of “A New Earth” and “The Power of Now.” One of the most common search phrases by which visitors have been finding this blog lately is “the church of Oprah.”
Contradictory Beliefs Part of the New Age message is that many paths lead to one goal, even if these paths are in many ways contradictory. This morning I heard a talk by Ravi Zacharias that is very germane to this topic. He was born and raised in a high-caste family in India, but now travels and speaks as a leading Christian thinker. The talk I’m referring to here is on pantheism and its contradictions: the contradictions really do matter, in spite of suppositions that there is an “Eastern” sort of logic in which they are of no consequence.
His website’s design does not permit me to give you the URL for the page where his talk is linked. You would need to begin at the Just Thinking page, and navigate through the archives to “Secularism and the Illusion of Neutrality, Part 3.” I trust, though, that they will not begrudge my providing you some shortcuts. You can:
His main point is that even in Eastern religions, with which he is very familiar, contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time in the same relationship. That’s the dry version. You’ll his telling of it to be far more entertaining than that!
(I strongly recommend all of Zacharias’s talks, so once you listen to this one, I suggest you go back for more; even subscribe to his podcast.)
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