When I hung
out in Berkeley, California in the early 70's, my "Bible" was Be
Here Now, a new age opus penned by Baba Ram Dass (a.k.a. Richard Alpert -
LSD sidekick of Timothy Leary). In what I thought was one of his most
profound chapters, Alpert wrote of the necessity of transcending the world of
"Yin-yang opposites." In relating to his counter-culture
audience, he included a brilliant illustration: cut-out paper-doll clothing,
half of it police uniforms and half hippie attire. His point was not only
that the externals were interchangeable for individual humans, but more
specifically that the extremes of "pigs" and "freaks" had produced the necessity for
their opposites in dynamic tension.
notice at the time that this is what the "father of modern
philosophy," Hegel, termed "the dialectic": thesis and antithesis
yearning for a transcending synthesis. (Of course, disheartening in
Hegel's system, the "synthesis" only becomes the new thesis that will
inevitably call forth its own anti-type, and so on ad infinitum.
And in truth, to a great extent our fallen world seems to "progress" this way.)
Alpert's vision of "the way things work" included Carl G. Jung's
concept of psychological "projection." In other words, "the
pigs" were projecting (and hating) their own repressed
"shadow-side" onto the unruly, unkempt "freaks," while
the latter were projecting their own unconscious (but hated) desire for
cleanliness and order onto the "blue meanies." The bottom line
of this mutual-projection dilemma was that, really, on a higher level - if each
could only get in touch with his own "wholeness" - the police and the
hippies were so much alike they were essentially interchangeable!
does this sort of perceptual overlay - which I believe is becoming more rather
than less widespread - impact our world today?
Try this on
for size: The self-styled "pagans" or new agers say that
Christianity, because it believes there is a Satan, has produced its
antithesis in the crazy inversions of Satan-worship. They would argue that
both these outmoded forms need to be transcended in a harmonious return to
pastoral Nature, where "evil" will finally be recognized as a humanly
contrived myth. Nor, I suspect, would their analysis change much
regarding the latest "paired-opposites" of Christianity and
Islam. With some justice they would say: "Religion is the
problem!" Here, they would say, you see two "old-style" monotheistic
religions at each others' throats - each one projecting
"the devil" on the other. Suddenly half the paper dolls are
wearing burqas and the other half bikinis! We need a transcendent synthesis
"back to the Garden"! (Is this a powerfully seductive
line of thought, or what?)
I'm going: The sudden intrusion of militant Islam onto the world scene may
temporarily obscure the identities of the ultimate contenders in the
"World-View Championships," but the final bout won't be
between the Judeo-Christian view and the Islamic, per se. The ultimate
challenger to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not Allah but
Brahman. The personal God of the Bible and the impersonal
"Universe-in-Becoming" of Hinduism will continue their clash on the
battlefield of human thought to the end of the current scene. One God is Real, the other a
counterfeit crafted over millennia from behind the perceptual curtain.
This page will
clarify contrasts between the two
colliding worlds of East and West at their root level. The following chart by Brooks Alexander and Robert Burrows, used by permission of the
Spiritual Counterfeits Project, appeared in the SCP Newsletter -Winter
84-85. (For subsequent publications see http://www.scp-inc.org.)
NEW AGE & BIBLICAL
Alexander and Robert Burrows
We believe that
the emergence of "New Age" thinking is a developing historical
process. Therefore we need to continually observe the influence of this
thinking in contemporary society and to understand its implications from a
biblical perspective. [The following] chart is intended to illustrate the
difference between New Age and biblical world-views. But it is also
arranged to illustrate the internal logic and coherency of the world-views
said, "We make our destinies by our choice of gods." Our
conception of God, the divine, or ultimate reality determines the rest of our
world-view; and that world-view is fleshed out in our lives. We are
shaped by who or what we worship. Thus, New Age and Christian conceptions
of God are reflected in their respective perceptions of humanity. When God
is conceived as impersonal amoral energy, humanity is similarly conceived.
When God is conceived as personal, caring, and moral, so too is humankind.
From each of
these streams of thought proceed further implications and conclusions about
human nature and existence. Thus, our conceptions of God and humanity
determine how our dilemma is described and what remedy is prescribed. Our
conceptions of God are of vital importance because they shape our entire
world-view. If they are askew, their deviance will be multiplied in their
extensions. If they are true, other elements will more likely fall into
place. If we see God as he is, we will see ourselves as we are. If
we do not see God clearly, we will see nothing clearly, including ourselves.
reality (god) is One and impersonal. Being One, it contains no
distinctions, is undifferentiated, without qualities or attributes.
It thus unifies all dualities and transcends all values, including good
and evil. It cannot be personal, since personality is a by-product of
differentiation and distinction. It therefore has no will and harbors no
purposes. God is pure unmanifest energy, and the cosmos is the
permutations of that energy, according to strict laws of cause and effect.
is personal and has attributes appropriate to personality: will, purpose,
values, concerns, freedom, creativity, and responsiveness. These
attributes are reflected in all that God is and does. All of God's
creation portrays some features of his nature, but the highest aspect of
his being -- personality -- is specifically displayed by the highest
development of his creation: humankind.
emanates the cosmos out of its own being. The cosmos therefore is an
extension of god, has the nature of god, and, in essence, is god.
ultimately is no distinction or discontinuity between god and the cosmos:
is one. God is creation.
3. The emanations
of god -- the cosmos -- are appearances which have only a limited and
deceptive reality. The full reality behind all appearances is the One,
which does not allow particularity of existence in any form, by
definition. The cosmos is therefore maya -- the play of illusion.
It has a largely negative value insofar as we take it for real.
creates the cosmos out of nothing. God transcends his creation and
is distinct from it. There is a radical discontinuity between God and what
he has made. The cosmos is not God and does not share his essential
being. It is subordinate to God, and God is sovereign over it.
God is not creation.
3. The creation is
both real and good. When God created ex nihilo -- out of nothing --
he brought a genuine novelty into existence. It was neither God nor
nothing, but something. The creation is now flawed and fallen.
Even so, it
continues to display the imprint of its Creator and remains in God's sight
"very good." In the end, God will renew it, not reject it.
also is not distinct from God. Human beings, like the rest of the cosmos,
are in essence made out of god. Like ultimate reality, they are reducible
to pure consciousness, featureless and impersonal. Thus, humanity too has
no definite nature. Whatever nature it seems to have is illusory.
5. Human beings,
therefore, like ultimate reality, have no innate attributes or inherent
limitations. No particular values or functions come as a given of the
human condition. Human nature is not fixed in any regard, but is protean
and infinitely flexible. All options are open. Humanity therefore has
infinite potential. Human beings inherently embody all the power,
knowledge, and wisdom of the cosmos, as well as its divine nature.
Humanity is God.
6. Divine humanity
has no limits and confronts no unbreachable barriers. Mortality is unreal.
Death is the final stage of growth; it resembles termination only from the
viewpoint of the illusory, separate self. Death is a process
within the illusory cosmos and is therefore an illusion as well. The
impersonal ground of existence is deathless and unchanging.
Human beings, in their divine essence, are therefore immortal.
Ultimately, death does not exist.
is part of creation. We share its reality and goodness. Human beings are
constructed to provide for the growth and development of personhood,
precisely because God himself is personal. God purposely conducted the
course of creation toward the pinnacle of personhood.
therefore, have a particular design, which yet provides for individual
development. The limitations of finite existence are not chains of
the spirit; they are boundaries which provide for the play of
freedom. The particularities and limitations of created existence
are intended, designed, and blessed by God. This also means that human
beings are distinct from God and subject to him. No created thing can bear
the burden of divinity. Humanity is not God.
6.In addition to
the providential boundaries of created existence, there are further limits
introduced by the brokenness of sin. Many of the limits we experience are
the result of the curse that followed the fall (Genesis 3:14-19).
Death in particular, the predicted destroyer, raises a baffling barrier to
the human quest for meaning. Death reduces our limited life to meaningless
absurdity. Because its reign is universal, it nullifies hope and
achievement. Death is God's judgment on sin and is therefore real
Link with God
link with ultimate reality is based on the oneness of all existence and
its essential unity with the divine. There may be self-imposed barriers
to the perception of this unity, but there is no discontinuity of being
at any point.
connection with God is through communion in relationship. The
distinction between God and his creation permits an appropriate and
fulfilling relatedness. God created us for this purpose, and he endowed
us with personhood -- his image -- to this end.
dilemma of humanity is a constriction of awareness. We have limited our
consciousness so we do not perceive the One, but only fragments of it.
Our problem is metaphysical ignorance.
limitations on our awareness are imposed by various forms of social
conditioning. From the beginning we are taught to break reality up into
parts and pieces: good and bad, us and them, me and you,
etc. As we move into adulthood, these mental systems become
more sophisticated, but no less divisive. Self, family,
nation, race, and "matter" all define illusory boundaries
where there is only Oneness.
Reason and belief, in
particular, are barriers to a true perception of the One. The
fragmenting abstractions of the intellect must be erased and
belief-systems that predefine reality must be swept away. Those
who preach the primacy of reason or belief obstruct the evolution of
humanity and hinder the advent of the New Age.
10. When we see
reality in pieces, the effects are numerous and negative. Subjectively
we experience the anxiety and alienation of illusory separateness.
Division, hostility, and conflict emerge as alienation is projected onto
other, equally illusory "selves," thus deepening and
multiplying the mistake. All the hatreds and miseries we see
around us derive from the simple error of attributing reality to
separate, limited, individual existence.
dilemma of humanity is a broken relationship with the God of Creation.
Our primal ancestors were dismissed from the presence of God -- in part
for their own protection. All their descendants are likewise born into
spiritual exile. We have made ourselves enemies of God. We have lost the
very relationship in which we were designed to find fulfillment.
9. The source of
our loss of relationship with God is human rebellion, ancient and
enduring. Rebellion, freely willed, has poisoned our
gene-pool. It is both our inheritance and our
tradition. Our inborn and inbred response to God is rejection:
struggle or evasion, fight or flight. We continually turn our backs on
God, not just with indifference, but with hostility. The career of
Jesus clearly demonstrates that if God lovingly plants himself in our
midst, we will resort to murder to remove him. That is who we are. We
are caught in a situation of our own making which we are powerless to
10. The nature
of sin is rebellion. Its primal and dominating effect is death -- an
unnatural undoing of the integrity of life. Sin fragments,
separates, and alienates. It divides us from God and deepens our
spiritual blindness. We begin by rejecting God's presence; we end by
denying his reality. Continually avoiding God, we soon cannot see
him at all. Sin also divides people, internally, against
themselves. And, of course, it divides human beings against one another.
It is useless to talk of humanity solving its own problems as long as it
is infected with sin; for it is sin's nature to divide people and turn
them against one another.
remedy for our dilemma is to attain knowledge of divine reality -- the
One. Such knowledge is widely known and goes by many names
-- gnosis, enlightenment, god-consciousness. Whatever
it is called, it represents a return to the source, union of dualities,
fusion with the One, and transcendence of human nature to self-divinity.
12. The self is
both the subject and the agent of enlightenment.
Self-realization, as enlightenment is sometimes known, is precisely that
-- knowledge of the self, by the self. Yet the self, as ego or
persona, is also the source of the problem. It must be
undone so the Superself -- the One -- may emerge and be known. Awareness
of the One is accessible only to those who can step outside ordinary
modes of perception into altered states of consciousness which dispel
the illusory boundaries of individual existence. Therefore the
self applies to itself techniques of manipulation that finally dissolve
its own existence.
If humanity is a cause
and effect emanation of the One, the technique of enlightenment is first
to control, then to reverse those cause and effects. The process of
reversal will be as mechanical and impersonal as the process of
manifestation which it seeks to undo -- which is to say, totally.
ultimate effect of union with the One is the dissolution of manifest
existence in general and of identity and personhood in
particular. In effect, enlightenment repeals the curse of
life by embracing the curse of death. It undoes the structures of
individuation by embracing the powers of disintegration. It
ends the alienation of personal existence by ending the existence of the
The healing of our condition depends on the restoration of our
broken relationship with our Creator. There are no techniques to apply,
no procedures to learn. As the dilemma is personal and relational, so is
its resolution. Healing is initiated by the choice of God and is
accepted by the choice of human beings. On the human side,
acceptance of God's forgiveness is a turning or revolution. This turning
is called "repentance," or metanoia. Repentance is
simply acknowledgement of what was previously ignored: our
creatureliness and dependence on God, but especially our rebellion and
hostility against God.
is not the source or active factor of salvation. Salvation is a gift.
Repentance is the passive act of accepting that gift. The gift is
God's reconciling love demonstrated in Christ, who bore our deadly
hostility and rose to undo our due judgment: death itself. The gospel is
the news of that gift, as an act in space and time.
The entire process of
restoration is personal and relational, from its conception in the mind
of God to its acceptance or rejection in the minds of humankind.
effect of salvation is to repeal the curse of death by restoring our
relationship with the God of life. When our fundamental relationship is
restored, our personhood is properly based and becomes more intense and
coherent. The guilt and alienation of our condition are erased,
but the basic structures of individuality are not lost or weakened. The
purpose and import of the gospel is that the personal in humankind be
cleansed, not disposed; restored, not rejected; strengthened, not
[End of SCP
Regarding the new age
worldview's illusory "dream of the senses," I
must therefore admonish: