A World of Stone: Materialism's Expiration Date 

"There’s a growing realization that materialism and the rational, empirical worldview that comes with it has reached its expiration date."

Many of us are impatient with the cold, dry, meaninglessness of materialism--philosophical materialism, that is. Some of us have looked at historic Christianity and found it to be a true and satisfying conjunction of spirituality and rational sense. Others have given up on a search for rational truth, and have embraced postmodernism. Still others, like the speaker of the quote above, have turned to New Age philosophy.

The speaker is Daniel Pinchbeck, in a NY Times Magazine article entitled "The Final Days" by Benjamin Anastas. Pinchbeck wrote an "alternative-culture bestseller," 2012, The Return of Quetzalcoatl. He is part of a growing movement that looks to the Mayan calendar as an indicator that the world will come to an end--or some kind of major spiritual revolution--on December 21, 2012. 

I used to see a lot more New Age when I lived in southern California. Once my wife and I were on a hike in the Anaheim Hills, and heard a group of people ahead of us that we thought might be Boy Scouts playing an outdoor adventure game. When they came into view, we realized instead that they were a pagan circle, chanting praises to Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Frequently, hiking in the mountains of southern California, or in places like Sedona, AZ, we would see the remains of ritual fire pits.

Having moved away from there in 1993, I could almost think the New Age movement had subsided. I don't know know what the research would say on that, but articles like this indicate it is still strong. Why is this? The Christian movement can trace its beginnings to an historical event, and it is supported strongly by evidences both of a philosophical and an historical nature. Why would someone latch onto the Mayan calendar for their spiritual hope?

Anastas also quotes Chet Snow, who "tracks the impending consciousness shift on his Mass Dreams Newsletter, organizes annual crop-circle and sacred-site tours, and gathers [people] for conferences devoted to ancient mysteries and the paranormal." Snow says,

"The pillars of our expectations about the future in the West have started to crumble. Religion, politics, economics--none of it is working any more. So when you hear about the ancient Maya and this changeover in 2012 involving solar cycles and astronomical events, you say, 'Huh, maybe I need to connect with that.'"

We certainly need to connect with something, and materialist philosophy doesn't know what it is. The Renaissance/Rock band Blackmore's Night sings of a "World of Stone:"

"Bring to me all of my arrows
Bring to me my crossbow too
I fear we might need them both
Before the night is through

"Once a world of glittering hope
This world is not the world we knew
The only light left to shine
Is between me and you

"On our own
In a World of Stone
We are not alone

"I had once believed in angels
They were everywhere I looked
A gentle hand guiding me
To give more than I took

"But I have died a thousand times
Watching all these angels fall
Their lonely eyes haunt me still
We will avenge them all"

Our world is become one of stone. The angels have fallen, not as Lucifer fell but as snowflakes fall and die in a lake. They're gone. Scientistic naturalism has driven out the spiritual, and we have died a thousand times for it. I think this is indeed where the roots of Western New Age religion lie. With the angels' lonely eyes haunting us, many are willing to avenge their deaths by slaying materialism and even rationality.

This is not a necessary war. Part of the beauty of Christianity is that it offers the best of both worlds: spirituality and rationality coexist, for there really is a God and a spiritual world, and God, the Logos (the Word), is also the author of rationality. (See the interesting ambiguity in Romans 12:1: devoting ourselves to God is something that can be translated either as a spiritual or as a reasonable act of worship. Both meanings exist in the original Greek word, and both apply.) So New Age philosophy is a search on the wrong path, yet at least it is partly a search for the right thing: for a sense of spirituality, of connection to the Source. The author of this yearning is God himself, who created us in his image for relationship with him. This is, in Blackmore's Night's words, "the world we knew," or at least the one we deeply sense is right for us.

New Age often tries to grab hold of power, to manipulate spirituality through magic or other means, or to set persons up as gods. In that it is not seeking the right thing, so of course I cannot fully endorse its quest. But I can at least sympathize with the need for something more than a World of Stone. My prayer is that seekers will search for God where he may actually be found: in the very alive, very spiritual person of Jesus Christ. 

Posted: Wed - July 4, 2007 at 08:01 AM           |

© 2004-2007 by Tom Gilson. Permission is granted to quote up to two paragraphs of any blog entry, provided that a link back to the original is included or (in print) the website address is provided. Please email me regarding longer quotes. All other rights reserved.

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