Since writing my first article on the New Age (you can read it here), I’ve heard from people who had more questions about their own practices and whether or not they should stop doing what they are doing. For example, one reader reached out to me to ask about yoga. We’ll tackle the topic of yoga below, but I want to clarify that my purpose is not to tell you what you should or should not be doing. Instead, I’m trying to help you, Mama Bear, to learn more about the New Age so that you can spot it when it comes up. I encourage you to read Scripture and pray about your practices and ask the Holy Spirit whether you should make a change.
I also heard from a friend who just realized she was a New Ager! These ideas are sneaky, friend. People can be full-blown New Agers and not even know it. As you learn more, you may see that some things you or your friends do have New Age associations. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a New Ager, though. Again, you need to take a look at your own life and prayerfully consider whether or not you need to change things up.I heard from a friend who just realized she was a New Ager! These ideas are sneaky, friends. People can be full-blown New Agers and not even know it. Click To Tweet
Over the past several weeks, I’ve compiled some of the questions I’ve been asked about the New Age Movement, and I’ve answered them below. If something you want to know about wasn’t addressed, feel free to ask in the comments section.
- How did the New Age Movement begin, and is it really still around?
- What are the basic beliefs of New Agers?
- What is channeling?
- What are crystals, and why do New Agers use them?
- Is yoga related to the New Age Movement?
- Do New Agers believe in reincarnation?
- What is the relationship between holistic health and the New Age Movement?
- Who are some of the most famous New Agers?
- Does the New Age stem from other religions?
- How can I tell if I’m being influenced by the New Age?
1. How did the New Age Movement begin, and is it really still around?
When you look at what was happening in our world in the 1960s, it’s not hard to understand why the New Age Movement would have blossomed during that time. Our nation was at war, challenging authority was becoming the national pastime, drug use was rampant, and transcendental meditation was on the rise.
The term “New Age” wasn’t new even in the 60s, though; it was popularized by author Alice Bailey, who dreamed that one day there would be a universal spirit of religion. Bailey wrote several books, many of which she claimed she had channeled from a spirit named Djwhal Khul (D.K.), who was a Tibetan master.1 (There’s more about channeling in a question/answer below.)
When the musical Hair made its Broadway debut in 1968, the “Age of Aquarius” was in full swing. People were desperate for peace, love, and unity, and the New Age Movement supposedly offered them a way to achieve those things. Disillusioned people no longer looked for hope in the Bible. Instead, they sought a spiritual universe of power and enlightenment, and they developed practices to access this power through astrology, yoga, crystals, and meditation.
New Agers are typically tolerant and accepting, and in the 60s, that was paramount. However, they were tolerant of all ideas except Biblical Christianity, which they blatantly challenged—teachings like the Ten Commandments and the supremacy of Christ. Tolerance and absolute acceptance are idolized in today’s society, too, which means that the New Age remains a steady presence. Not sure about that? Well, according to the Barna Group, 28% of Christians who responded to a poll in 2017 said that all people pray to the same God, no matter what they call Him. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said that meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is.2 These are undoubtedly New Age beliefs. Christians need to be able to spot the New Age Movement in their own world, so that they can combat it with the truth offered within the Bible.
2. What are the basic beliefs of New Agers?
- Monism. This is just a fancy word that means all is one. (Monism should not be confused with monotheism.) Monism means that everything is one thing. In other words, there is no real difference between the grass, your baby, and your baby’s dirty diaper. They are all one, even with god. Keep in mind that the New Age god is not the same as the Christian God, who is our Creator and wholly separate from His creation. According to New Agers, though, we all have unique energies, but we’re of the same quality. We are all one essential substance.
- Pantheism. This is similar to monism, but pantheism means that all is god. Nature is god. Creation is god. We are all part of the larger, cosmic energy force that creates life as we know it. Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that humanity is, in fact, god. Nothing is more or less important than anything else. Your kids are of equal value to the broccoli they just spit out. This does not align with the Christian view of God, who is personal, infinite, and distinct from His creation (Acts 17:24-25, Romans 1:25, Revelation 5:13).
- Syncretism. This may be an unfamiliar word, I know, but this one is important for you to know if you’re going to understand religious pluralism. Syncretism means that all religions are one. New Agers believe that there are many paths to God (remember that video of Oprah telling the Christian that Jesus isn’t the only way?). As Christians, we know this cannot be true. The Bible describes Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life.” There is no way to the Father but through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
3. What is channeling?
You might have heard of psychic mediums like Theresa Caputo, John Edward (not to be confused with Jonathan Edwards!), and Sylvia Browne (I actually read a few of Browne’s books back in college when I was investigating my own faith). Mediums claim to be able to connect to the spirit world and communicate with particular spirits.
Channeling is a bit more involved than simply hearing from spirits. Channeling is where the medium releases control of their consciousness and allows the spirit to use their body. The spirit speaks through the medium and leaves once the message is complete. In one sense, the spirit controls the medium, but there are limits to what the medium agrees the spirit can do.3
There are different types of channeling: 1) clairaudient, where the human is a messenger and remains fully conscious—this is also hearing in one’s mind spirit communications (not always considered channeling, per se); 2) automatisms, where the spirit communicates through the use of the human’s body (like possession), 3) various levels of trances, ranging from light to very deep; and 4) full body/incarnational, where the human experiences something that has been described like death.4What's the difference between channeling and trances? Find out here. Click To Tweet
One famous example of channeling is Edgar Cayce in the 1940s. He made various claims about his ability to channel spirits and heal others while he was asleep. Although he technically lived prior to the New Age Movement, he is considered one of the first public figures of the movement.5
Sharon Beekmann, the reader for my New Age articles, was deeply rooted in the New Age Movement. She channeled five spirits who lied to her about being famous people. They told her information about themselves, and she read books later that validated what they told her. One spirit, Sister Therese of Lisieux, told Sharon just enough about herself to gain Sharon’s trust. Sharon even read Sister Therese’s book, Story of a Soul. However, eventually, Sister Therese dropped her disguise and revealed herself as a demon.6 Mama Bears, this is real stuff and there is real danger in communicating with spirits that we cannot verify as coming from God.
The Bible specifically warns us to avoid seeking the advice of mediums and to instead go directly to Him—“Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19). Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says not to engage with anyone who does witchcraft, sorcery, or consults the dead. Most mediums profess that they channel the dead, but we know that they are actually channeling spirits who are impersonating the dead. Scripture tells us to test the spirits to determine if they are from God (1 John 4:1). We’re even told how to do it: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2-3). We must evaluate claims made by prophets to determine if they align with Scripture. And remember: not everyone who refers to Christ is talking about the same Jesus of Nazareth Christians believe is God.
4. What are crystals, and why do New Agers use them?
Crystals supposedly attract and store spiritual energy. New Agers believe that we need to harmonize ourselves with the universe, and one way to do that is through the vibrations created by crystals. Crystals are used for a number of things like psychic healing, getting in contact with spirits, and reaching a higher consciousness (which, you might recall, is one of the key goals for New Agers). The energy from the crystals can be released by holding them, meditating on them, or sometimes by simply being in the crystal’s presence (which is why some New Agers wear crystals).7
Should Christians wear crystals? This one is a toughie, and there are Christians on both sides of the fence. Crystals in and of themselves are not evil (how many of us have diamonds or other jewels in our wedding rings and other jewelry?!). Crystals were created by God. However, we do need to acknowledge that there is spiritual warfare happening all around us. This is the key reason why you need to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Also, check your intentions. Do you wear the crystal because it’s a pretty stone or as a simple piece of jewelry? Or, are you wearing it because you think it gives you some sort of divine protection, healing, or other supernatural power? If it’s the latter, we want to remind you that protection comes from the Lord (2 Thessalonians 3:3; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 91); healing comes from the Lord (Psalm 103:3-4; 1 Peter 2:24); and power comes from the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:6; Psalm 147:4-5).
Finally, if you have come out of the New Age, I don’t recommend that you wear crystals as this could be a stumbling block as you continue to move forward and away from New Age practices and beliefs. Again, seek guidance from the Holy Spirit about what you allow into your home and what you wear. Our God alone has all of the answers, and He can (and will) guide us in the right direction!
5. Is yoga related to the New Age Movement?
Full disclosure: I do not practice yoga regularly. This isn’t necessarily because I find it wrong or unbiblical, but because I am just not very good at holding tree poses or sun salutations for more than a second or two. Seriously, if you ever saw me do these, you’d encourage me to find something else to do to get healthy.
What are the connections between yoga and the New Age? It’s tough to say exactly where yoga came from, but many people believe it originated from Hinduism. Yoga was an important part of religious practice in India well before the first century B.C.8 The goal of yoga is to reach a higher consciousness, to join “one’s spirit to a god.”8
There are many different types of yoga, but most forms include mental and physical discipline, which lead to total freedom from the human body. Yoga International says that yoga stimulates energy flow and removes any blockages to that energy.9
Should Christians practice yoga? Just like with crystals, it depends on who you ask. In his book, Unmasking the New Age, philosopher and apologist Douglas Groothuis says that “all forms of yoga involve occult assumptions…and [Christians] should steer clear of yoga.”10 Nearly all of the Christian books and Websites I consulted discouraged Christians from doing yoga. However, there is a group called Christians Practicing Yoga that says it is possible to practice yoga in a Christian way.11
It is up to you, Mama Bears, to determine your purpose in practicing yoga. I have Christian friends who do yoga, and I have attended a few yoga classes myself (but like I said before, I am just not cut out for it). I did, however, find the classes relaxing. Like anything, I encourage you to pray about it. I know this might not be the definitive answer you’re looking for, but our purpose is to present the facts to you and allow you to come to your own conclusions through prayer and studying God’s word. I do not recommend that you repeat the mantra namaste, which means “I bow to the divine in you,” at the end of a yoga session. We recommend saying imago dei, instead. Nobody will be able to tell the difference. Remember that the words we say matter in the spiritual realm.
6. Do New Agers believe in reincarnation?
Yes. One of the ultimate goals of New Agers is to reach a higher consciousness. They believe that with every life cycle, the soul can improve. They also believe in karma, which is the belief that you will get from the universe what you put into it. So, if you live a good life, your next life will likely be improved, but if you are a bad person in this life, your next life will be worse. This kind of treatment is the way the universe rewards or punishes you for your behavior. What do New Agers think about reincarnation? Find out this and more. Click To Tweet
There are some New Agers, like Shirley MacLaine, who say that reincarnation was originally in the Bible but was taken out. MacLaine claims in Out on a Limb that “Christ’s teachings about reincarnation were [removed] from the Bible during the Fifth Ecumenical Council meeting in Constantinople in the year A.D. 553.”12
As promised in my first post about the New Age, I’m going to dive into this issue a bit more here because there is an important apologetic point to be made. Let’s talk history for a second (bear with me!). The Fifth Ecumenical Council’s condemnations against Origen didn’t include anything about reincarnation at all.13 Plus, the Council wasn’t ruling against anything originally in the Bible (as Shirley asserted), but things that Origen said. Origen’s writings were never included in the Bible, so there was nothing for the Council to remove from the Bible.
Finally, as Douglas Groothuis notes in his book, Confronting the New Age, Origen never taught reincarnation. Yes, Origen may have held the belief that there is pre-existence of the soul, but that does not mean that he believed in reincarnation.14 There’s a huge difference between the two beliefs! Humanity is destined to die once and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
Bottom line, reincarnation was never in the Bible, despite what some New Agers claim. It simply is not a biblical concept.
7. What is the relationship between holistic health and the New Age Movement?
First off, just like with yoga, I’m not going to tell you not to use holistic medicine techniques. If you want to use essential oils, meditation, or acupuncture, that’s up to you (although I must emphasize that there are Biblical and non-biblical ways to meditate, and they should not be confused.). As with all things, I encourage you to research and prayerfully consider anything you get involved with. Paul said that we have the right to do all things, but not everything is constructive or beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). Scripture also reminds us that we shouldn’t lean on our own understanding, but trust in the Lord with all of our hearts (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Some scholars consider the holistic health movement as a “medical arm of the New Age Movement.”15 New Agers desire to be whole (to reach their highest consciousness), and they approach this desire in metaphysical and spiritual ways. This includes psychic healing, meditation, and natural ways of healing (avoiding extremes like medication or even surgery whenever possible).16 Christians primarily find wholeness in Christ as we love and obey Him. Bottom line, some (not all) holistic treatments may find their origin in New Age principles, so it would be completely appropriate to ask questions about what the practitioners believe. We’d suggest avoiding the ones who are doing said treatments with a New Age mindset and maybe seek out Christian holistic practitioners.
8. Who are some of the most famous New Agers?
Shirley MacLaine, Oprah, and Deepak Chopra are probably the most famous names you’d recognize. Some well-known New Age authors include Eckhart Tolle, Rhonda Byrne (author of The Secret), and Louise Hay.
9. Does the New Age stem from other religions?
Yes. The New Age Movement has roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, the human potential movement, and mysticism. Zen Buddhists seek higher consciousness. Reincarnation and karma are both prevalent features of Hinduism and Buddhism.
If you’ve ever heard of places like the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, or groups like Erhard Seminar Training (Est) or Lifespring (created by John Hanley and now defunct), you have likely heard of the human potential movement, even if you can’t quickly define it. Essentially, the human potential movement teaches that humanity can do anything, if we simply put our minds to it. According to philosopher Douglas Groothuis, it blends Eastern and Freudian philosophy with behavior modification to help humans reach their ultimate state of being.17
New Agers rely heavily on their experiences, rather than facts. Mystical experiences give them all of the evidence they need that their beliefs are true. This leads them to dabble in astrology, channeling of spirits, meditation to reach a cosmic consciousness, or even drugs.18
10. How can I tell if I’m being influenced by the New Age?
Why do you believe what you believe? Where did your beliefs come from? Anything you believe should be checked against what is true in the Bible. Many New Age beliefs contradict with Scripture, so that’s a great place to start when evaluating your own beliefs and practices. Apologist Elliot Miller says that “no Christian is immune from exposure to New Age influences.”19 If we don’t educate ourselves (and you’re doing that by reading this post!), we cannot identify the warning signs. So, what should we look out for? Miller warns Christians to be leery of key terms like Christ consciousness, Jesus the Christ, and the Master Jesus.20 Also look out for words like harmony, balance, and natural.
Another thing you should be concerned about is if you believe that we can all have our own truths, and that’s okay. [Side note: Hillary and Rebekah go in depth into this postmodern belief in the upcoming Mama Bear Apologetics book, which is available for pre-order right now at Target, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.] Your truth, my truth…that’s not what the Bible says. Our God is truth (John 17:17; 1 John 5:20). Our God is not a liar (Titus 1:2). The Bible warns us that men and women will create unsound doctrine to suit their own desires, follow myths, and turn away from the truth. As Christians, we must keep our heads in those situations, and remember what is true (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
We can’t begin to cover everything about the New Age in just a couple of blogs. If you have more questions about the New Age Movement, I recommend the following resources:
- Beekmann, Sharon. Rescued and Redeemed: How to Discern Demons from the Divine. Denver: Illumify Media Global, 2018. Sharon (also the reader for my articles on the New Age) tells her story of freedom from the New Age in this deeply personal book.
- Groothuis, Douglas. Unmasking the New Age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986.
- Groothuis, Douglas. Confronting the New Age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Groothuis was the go-to expert on the New Age back in the 1980s and 90s. He wrote a lot, and it is still useful today. His books are easy to follow, thorough, and concise.
- Miller, Elliot. A Crash Course on the New Age Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989. This is probably longer than you would expect for a “crash course,” but it serves as a good resource if you want to understand the history of how the New Age Movement grew in the Western world.
- Montenegro, Marcia. Christian Answers for the New Age. http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/. Marcia was a part of the New Age Movement for decades, and she uses her experiences to bring knowledge to others. She has answers for questions on just about anything having to do with the New Age Movement.
Special thanks to Sharon Beekmann for taking the time to read through this article for accuracy. Your valuable insight and contributions are appreciated.
Lindsey Medenwaldt is our resident Mama Bear expert in world religions. She is a perpetual student and a bonafide nerd (but the good kind), and she has a J.D., as well as a Master’s in Public Administration. Currently, she just earned a Master’s in Apologetics and Ethics at Denver Seminary in May 2019. She’s been married to another apologist, Jay, for 12 years, and they have three incredible daughters, ages 12, 8, and 6.
- Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 146.
- You can read more about this survey at https://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/.
- Thank you to Sharon Beekmann for providing me with more insight about channeling. See also John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the New Age Movement (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1988), 15.
- Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 165-66.
- Bryan McAnally, World Religions and What People Believe (New York: Guideposts, 2008), 232.
- You can read more about Sharon’s experiences in her book, Redeemed and Rescued (Denver: Illumify Media Global, 2018).
- Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 189.
- Willard G. Oxtoby, ed., World Religions: Eastern Traditions (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1996), 59.
- Yoga International, https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-and-energy.
- Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 68.
- You can read more about Christians Practicing Yoga here: http://www.christianspracticingyoga.com/.
- Shirley MacLaine, Out on a Limb (New York: Bantam, 1983), 268.
- Fritz Ridenour, So What’s the Difference? A look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths, and Religions and How They Compare to Christianity (Ventura, CA: Gospel Light, 2001), 154-55.
- Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 103.
- John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the New Age Movement (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1988), 28-29.
- Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 59-62; Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book, 1989), 92-94.
- Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 78-79.
- John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the New Age Movement (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1988), 13-14.
- Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 186.
- Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 186-87.