In the mid-1970s, Dave Hunt wrote a book chronicling the life of Paul Gupta, a Christian convert and the founder of Hindustan Bible Institute. That biography began Dave’s research efforts regarding Hinduism and Eastern mysticism. Shortly thereafter, Dave met a former Hindu guru who had converted to Christianity, and Dave collaborated with him on his conversion story titled Death of a Guru. It was during that time period that the New Age Movement (NAM) got underway in the US.
Defining the NAM is rather challenging given all the different perspectives and influences involved, yet its fundamental teachings are rooted in Eastern mysticism. New Agers also declare a common belief in what has been termed the “perennial wisdom,” a guiding principle stating that all religions, at their core, worship the same God, which is defined as Ultimate Reality. The New Age Movement encompasses a staggering variety of individuals, ideas, themes, and practices, all emphasizing the nonphysical/spiritual realm. Some of the movement’s most influential individuals include Helena Blavatsky, Marilyn Ferguson, Teilhard de Chardin, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Oz, Benjamin Creme, Michael Harner, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Shirley MacLaine, Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Yogi Bhajan, Helen Schucman, Neale Donald Walsch, Marianne Williamson, Ken Wilber, Oprah Winfrey, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Beliefs and practices include alternative healing methods, astrology, spiritual energies, meditation, parapsychology, witchcraft, yoga, quantum mysticism, Gaia and goddess worship, reincarnation, UFOs, channeling, karma, hallucinogenic drugs, feng shui, altered states of consciousness, the martial arts, spiritualism, the kabbala, transpersonal psychology, and the human potential movement.
In the late 1980s, Dave Hunt and I wrote America, The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice: The Rise of New Age Shamanism. The motivation and purpose for writing that book was to give Christians a better understanding of what the NAM and Eastern mysticism were all about. We were greatly concerned that much of what was clearly New Age was entering and taking hold within Christendom. Not everyone concurred with our concerns, however, including a Christian apologetics author who announced that we had “made up the whole idea of the New Age Movement.” Surprising as that was from someone professing to encourage discernment, it nevertheless underscored the need for an informative work explaining what the NAM believed and practiced, its physical and spiritual dangers, and how its religious concepts were diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity. As noted, the ultimate reality of the NAM is an impersonal force or energy of which everything consists. Although there are various names for this energy (ki, chi, qi, prana, mana, barakah, innate), it is described in god-terms as pantheism, which is the teaching that everything in the universe consists of God. That widespread belief clearly does not describe the personal, infinite God presented in Scripture. Furthermore, if God were everything or in everything, then “it” would be subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which tells us that energy is inevitably degenerating toward a terminal stage. Undoubtedly, the eternal God of the Bible is not an impersonal energy force.
Many today believe that the New Age Movement is itself in a state of entropy or decline. On the contrary! Though the name may not be bandied about as it was thirty years ago, its beliefs and practices are more universally accepted than ever. That would hardly be significant were we considering only India and the countries of the Far East, where the prevalent religions for millennia have centered upon a spiritual energy force. No, it’s the “Christian” West that has been seduced in staggering proportions by the East. Though the stratagems that have ushered in that spiritual flood are too numerous for this two-part series, some of the most significant ones will be identified. And, of course, the prophetic Word of God will be given to underscore the fact that what is taking place is hardly random but rather the orchestration of God’s chief adversary, Satan himself. “Now the [Holy] Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy:4:1).
“Seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” may seem too extreme for most Christians today. Understandably, that reaction may arise due to the notoriety of some ministries that “find” Satan in everything and behind everything. Or it could be that most Christians today simply don’t know the Scriptures or the validity of Bible prophecy. Those words that Paul wrote to Timothy were not his own ideas but rather the words of God given to Paul by the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians:2:13). We see what should be obvious from Scripture: “Seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” reflect Satan’s lies at the very beginning of his communication with mankind, which constituted 1) a repudiation of God’s command to Adam that he not eat of the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden, resulting in the penalty of death for his disobedience, and 2) the seductive offer to Eve that she and Adam could be “as gods.” These self-willed and god-wannabe doctrines are indeed demonically inspired and are the very centerpiece of the NAM and Eastern mysticism.
Most people are aware that the 1970s era was a time of anti-war protest, psychedelic drug use, the hippie movement, the end of the war in Vietnam, the enormous popularity of the Beatles, and the search of young people to “find themselves.” That search led many from the West to India. What few know, however, is that at that time there was likewise a massive missionary effort from the East coming into the West to convert “Christians” to Hinduism by spreading its beliefs and practices. In his book Yoga and the Body of Christ, Dave Hunt reported, “Hindu gurus from the East, such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Baba Muktananda, Yogananda, Yogi Bhajan, Vivekananda, Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, and a host of others, were pleased to learn in the late ’50s and early ’60s, that through the popular use of psychedelic drugs, millions of Westerners were experiencing a nonphysical reality that Western science had long denied existed. They were quick to recognize that a vast market for their teachings had thereby been opened up in the West. The New Age movement was birthed. Yoga, once practiced in the East only by ‘holy men,’ was made available to the masses in the West, and it soon spread everywhere, even into churches and among evangelicals.
“The call went out to Hindus and yoga enthusiasts, ‘The New Age movement...has accepted the great ideas of the East.... Let us invade the American Campuses armed with the vision of Vedanta’ [from America: The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice, p. 281]. Few, if any, realized that the West had fallen victim to the largest and most successful missionary campaign in history…. Most Westerners find it difficult to think of these smiling, bowing, obsequious, and supposedly broadminded yogis, swamis, and lamas as missionaries determined to spread their mystic gospel. It comes as a great surprise that the largest missionary organization in the world is not Christian but Hindu—India’s Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)” (Dave Hunt, Yoga and the Body of Christ [Bend, OR: The Berean Call, 2006], p. 12).
Those gurus found their audiences throughout the West, from college campuses to Hollywood. But none were more successful (or deceptive) than the Beatles’ guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Launched into the public’s eye by the British pop group, he introduced his religious beliefs and practices as the “Spiritual Regeneration Movement.” However, opposition arose against his effective attempts to get his program into public schools. Stymied by the courts, he changed its name to “The Science of Creative Intelligence” and later to Transcendental Meditation (TM). That success was unparalleled and set the basic stratagem for promoting Hinduism in the West: disguise its religious roots in the fog of pseudoscience. Proclaim that it’s for self-improvement, for health, for peace of mind, even for “spiritual enhancement” as long as it’s “not religious!”
One aspect of the NAM that boosted its acceptance in the West was the spiritual vacuum created by materialism, which didn’t pan out as the scientific answer to solving mankind’s increasing problems. On a mundane level, many realized that having more material goods did not bring about the happiness and peace of mind they thought it would. So, the “spiritual/mystical” solution became ripe for acceptance, and multitudes joined in, especially because there were no “accountability or judgmental strings” attached. Yet there was a major “string” that had to be accepted by the rational Western mind.
In Hinduism the physical reality of the universe is not real at all. It is maya, an illusion, the escape from which is the ultimate goal of yoga. The true reality is found in the nonphysical realm, according to Eastern mysticism. Some in the West were given an inkling that such might be the case based on their experience of reaching altered states of consciousness through psychedelic drugs. Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley led that mind-expanding drug parade, oblivious to or in denial of its destructive results, physically (and spiritually). Yet those “bad trips” opened the doors wide for the gurus who taught a supposedly harmless method for reaching what they claimed to be higher consciousness.
So what is being sold in the West by the gurus, the Eastern mystics, and the NAM leaders? Although “perennial wisdom” over thousands of years seems thus far to have failed to solve the extensive problems in the East, are we to accept its claim that it is going to vastly improve the West? Really? It hasn’t worked in its purest form in the East. (A recent comment by a native of India in The Times of India declared: “I am convinced. We are amongst the MOST depraved of societies in the world. And it’s only going to get worse.”). Are we now to believe that the homogenized versions practiced in the West (including Doga [yoga for dogs], Snowga [yoga and snow sports], laughter yoga, and SUP yoga [stand up paddleboard yoga]) will bring about the solution to what ails America?
Again, what is being promoted? It’s the idea that the physical world is an illusion, i.e., true reality exists in the nonphysical realm, which is entered by suspending normal consciousness. This suspension is accomplished by experiencing an altered state of consciousness primarily through drugs and/or meditation.
I suggest that rather than suspending our normal consciousness, let’s instead apply the biblical definition of meditation, which means to deeply consider what’s being communicated. The philosophies of the gurus et al. attempt to persuade us that achieving a higher state of consciousness is far better than retaining our normal state, which is supposedly preventing us from realizing that we are all part of the divine Being. Moreover, they insist that our ordinary consciousness is keeping us from experiencing continual peace and bliss in our lives.
Should I then opt for spending most if not all of my time in an altered state of consciousness? There are yogis in India who do so. Ironically, their physical needs must be attended to by those who function in a normal state of consciousness. One doesn’t need much insight to recognize the dire consequences of attempting to live one’s life alternating between the two states of consciousness.
Since it began, the New Age Movement never got around to addressing the practical issues of its spiritually eclectic teachings and practices. It simply pushed forward as though it were a given that the spiritual grass (pun intended) was greener in another reality. But that was then. Have the world and the West moved on? Not quite. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the name “New Age Movement” may be little used today, but its content is hidden in plain sight and its seeds have taken root seemingly everywhere.
Next month, the Lord willing, I will point out some of the many manifestations of Eastern mysticism—in particular the deep inroads the concepts and practices have made in the evangelical church. As shocking as that is, it is nevertheless confirmed by prophecies related to the apostasy that Scripture declares will take place prior to the Lord’s return. Among the many verses that indicate this apostasy are 2 Timothy:4:3-4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” and Luke:18:8: “…Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Although that condition is prophesied, it is a statement referring to Christendom collectively—not Christians individually. In other words, apostasy will indeed take place and will infect, perhaps, most Christians, but each Christian will be held personally accountable for his or her walk with the Lord. Not every Christian will be seduced by the end-times deception.
Just as the Beatles were the main springboard for launching the Eastern mysticism of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, so Star Wars, which premiered in 1977, popularized the religious concept of God as a Force. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, told Bill Moyers that since childhood he had been puzzled by the number of religions in the world and concluded that they all worshiped the same God. Hence, the perennial wisdom of the Force, which he believes accommodates all religions. He clearly did not mean biblical Christianity, yet that truth has hardly dampened the world’s enthusiasm for an impersonal god that holds no one accountable.
Although Lucas no longer controls what he created 38 years ago, the Force is back and may be more influential than in all its previous series of films. Based upon its opening successes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is on its way to becoming the biggest box office hit in movie history. For those in the movie’s audience who may not be aware of what the Force is all about (I can’t imagine who that might be, including the light-saber-swinging very young), it is explained throughout the film, including a basic teaching by Han Solo. This is indeed New Age mysticism déjà vu.
Although one might expect the world to relish the spiritual pie-in-the-sky offered by New Age mysticism, it is both shocking and disheartening to see Christians taking it in with little or no biblical discernment. Next month: “Christianized” Eastern meditation, “Christianized” yoga, and related “Christianized” practices. TBC