(10) What does New Age say about Jesus Christ?

Most New Agers do not believe that Jesus Christ is God in the way that Catholic Christian faith does.  On the contrary, New Agers hold that the “christic consciousness” that animates Jesus Christ is essentially a type of vibration of the energy of the cosmos or universe.  This profound consciousness penetrates all things and can incarnate itself in various avatar or spirit guides or masters, who guide humanity toward the New Age.

At one time, New Agers claim, this cosmic consciousness manifested itself in Jesus of Nazareth, from the time of his baptism.  They further claim that during our times, the Christ returns in different Messiahs, such as Maitreya or Ishvara, who inaugurate the Age of Aquarius.  This Aquarian Christ has  in his hands the future of the universe, and will put an end to the Christianity of the Age of Pisces.  He shall be one of the many faces of the christic Spirit, in the same way as the great adepts of the various forms of gnosis or esoteric knowledge.  His knowledge and his powers have come to him from the teachings of the great adepts who preceded him. There is not only one Christ as the Church teaches.  Rather, in the course of the ages, there are several persons who shall become Christ’s by virtue of initiation into this profound cbristic consciousness.

In other words, most New Age groups say that Jesus Christ was just another enlightened teacher among many others. They say that the only difference between Jesus Christ and other human beings   was that he became aware of his divinity, while most men and women are yet to discover theirs.  In this way, New Age denies Jesus Christ’s unique, unrepeatable character as Son of God and rejects the fact of God becoming human to save us from sin and all other evils that oppress us and to guide us to the fullness of life and happiness.

(11) Can you describe the claim of some New Agers that during his earthly life Jesus traveled to other lands, learned the ancient wisdom of these lands, and taught this to his disciples?

Some New Agers, in order to justify their teachings that depart from correct Christian teaching, especially about Jesus Christ, claim knowledge of the “hidden years” or “unknown years” of his earthly life, knowledge not available in the Bible as we know it now, nor in the teachings of Christianity.  In this connection, New Agers claim that during his youth Jesus traveled to other lands and there learned the ancient wisdom of these lands. They further claim that upon attaining the stature of a teacher Jesus taught his disciples this ancient wisdom, quite akin to present-day New Age beliefs, but that those who later wielded power in the Christian Church suppressed these teachings within the first centuries of its existence.

Two of the more widely known of the many versions of such claims about the “hidden years” of Jesus are found in The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, by Nicholas Notovitch, and in The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, by Levi H. Dowling.  Notovitch bases his claims on personal travels and alleged ancient literary sources, while Dowling claims to have discovered the information by tapping the Akashic Records, chronicles that are believed by New Agers to have been preserved in the “astral plane,” an alternative dimension of reality, which carries the imprint of everything that ever happened.

Notovitch, a Russian, claims to have discovered documents that prove that Jesus traveled to the East and studied under several Hindu and Buddhist teachers. He describes his journeys to India, Kashmir, and then to Tibet, where, in the library of an ancient lamasery, he discovered an old manuscript that contained reports of the travels and teachings of Jesus. At the age of 13, Jesus is said to have secretly left his family and embarked on a trip to the East in order to perfect himself and to study the works of the great Buddha. He traveled in various Eastern countries where he became acquainted with Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions prevalent in the East. Back in Palestine, he propagated the ancient wisdom he had learned, and came into conflict with those who opposed his teaching.  It is Pilate who finally condemned Jesus, while the Jewish priests and elders found no fault in him and implored Pilate to release him.  Jesus was crucified between two thieves, but his body was removed by Pilate’s order and buried elsewhere.  The resurrection is omitted, if not completely denied. , In general, Notovitch gives a picture of Jesus as a glorious prophet chosen by God to fight idolatry and magic wherever they occur.

Dowling, from the United States, and more commonly known as Levi, claims that when Jesus returned home after being lost and found in the Temple, he returned home and took up carpentry with Joseph, Ravanna, an Indian prince visiting Palestine, became a guest of Joseph, who made him welcome. ln return Ravanna observing the wisdom of the child Jesus, offered to be his protector and to take Jesus with him to the East so that he might acquire the wisdom of the Brahmins.  With his parents consent, Jesus went with Ravanna to the East.  The experiences of Jesus outside his homeland include studying under Hindu, Buddhist, and Persian masters, preaching in Athens, and joining an Egyptian              mystic brotherhood.  Levi recounts the resurrection of Jesus, and even the way Jesus actually rose from the dead. For Levi, Jesus is a profound mystic, a great teacher who finally attains the great illumination and becomes the Christ.

(12)What are the main kinds of sources that New Agers use to found or legitimize their teachings about the earthly life of Jesus Christ?

New Agers claim the following sources to found or legitimize their teachings about Jesus Christ.

(a) ancient esoteric knowledge found in Rosicrucian and Masonic source literature

(b) discoveries of ancient manuscripts that are accepted as authentic by various New Age authors or groups

(c) reliance on “Akashic records” accessed and interpreted by prominent New Agers;

(d) information received through messages of spirits, often communicated by cbannellers since the nineteenth century

In effect, these sources either claim to be based on some kind of historical record, no matter how unusual, or on spirit communication and channeling.

(13) How reliable are the sources that New Agers use to found or legitimize their teachings about the earthly life of Jesus Christ?

The sources that New Agers use to found or legitimize their teachings about the earthly life of Jesus Christ are quite unreliable.  The material that they claim to be historical is questionable and insufficient, are often contradictory to each other, and do not pass the test of reliable historical criticism.  Some of these “sources” are outright inventions or forgeries. The “information” that comes from spirit communication and from channeling fails to convince, because the material is quite personal, is incoherently mixed-up, or contradicts known well-established historical data.  Materials from channeling or spirit communication cannot be checked or subjected to independent scrutiny.  There seems to be no limit or parameters to what one can claim or say, based on supposed data from channeling or from spirit communication, about the life and role of Jesus.

New Age teaching about Jesus Christ is grossly unreliable, insofar as it deviates from the Christian teaching about Jesus Christ.

From the viewpoint of historical scholarship, Christian teaching about Jesus Christ is very much more reliable, to say the least, than New Age teaching. Christian teaching obviously wins out from the historically relevant criteria of the antiquity and abundance of sources and the coherence of the teaching contained in these sources.  A good source for more information on how Christian teaching fares according to these criteria is the article entitled “Gospel,” by René Latourelle, in Dictionary ql Fundamental Theology, edited by René Latourelle and Rino Fisichella, and published in Makati City, Metro Manila, by Saint Pauls, in 1994.

(14) For Catholic Christians, who is Jesus Christ?

For Catholic Christians, Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God the Father (John 1: 14).   He is the divine Word (self-knowledge and self-expression) of God, through whom all things were made (John 1: 10). In him, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1: 14), entering human history once and for all, conceived in Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, ministered in Galilee and Judea, died and rose from the dead in Jerusalem.  As self-expression and perfect image of the Father, Jesus Christ is truly God.  As son of Mary, he is truly man,

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1: 15), and at the same time the Savior of the world (John 3:17), and Lord of the Church and of the universe (Philippians 2:9 -1 1). Jesus Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful ones through his Spirit (Galatians 4:6).  In him we perceive the self-giving loving kindness of God. Through him and in him we will one day see the divinization of human beings, as adopted children of God, sons and daughters in the Son (Galatians 4:4-7,). For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that those who believe in him may not die, but may have eternal life (John 3: 16).

(15) What is the place of reincarnation in the belief system of New Age groups?

The doctrine of reincarnation is found in many non-Christian religions.  In its classical forms in Hinduism and Buddhism it involves the taking on by the soul or the psychic element in human beings, of a body in successive lives. The good or evil one thinks, says, or does in previous incarnations results in the accumulation of positive karma or negative karma. (The term karma is Sanskrit; and literally means “action” or “activity,” but in the context of Hindu or Buddhist belief in reincarnation, it can be better translated as “cause and effect.”  Positive karma can be called “merit,” while negative karma can be called “demerit.”) Depending on the balance between one’s merits or demerits, after one’s death to  one’s present incarnation, one could be reincarnated at a higher, an equal, or a lower level of being. A human being could therefore be reincarnated at a subhuman level of being.  The aim of one’s striving should be to liberated from this cycle of deaths and rebirths, called samsāra, and be reunited with or absorbed into oneness with all being.

In the modern period, the concept or reincarnation has entered in an altered form into Western culture, mainly through the New Age groups.  The altered Western understanding of reincarnation that is dominant among New Agers does not admit of reincarnation at a lower level of being.  Instead, at each reincarnation one passes to a form of life better and more beautiful than the previous, and ever more consonant with the energy of the universe, the energy that is the all and the divine. There is no point trying to free oneself from this cycle of deaths and rebirths, because it is never-ending, since it is the natural situation in which human beings find themselves, in the same way that fish are naturally at home in water. The law of existence and life underlying this altered Western concept of reincarnation can be rendered as “To be born, to die, and then to be born again, always attaining progress with each rebirth.”

Belief in reincarnation has spread to the Philippines in this altered form especially among our Westernized economically and socially dominant classes.  There are many reasons for this spread, here and abroad, include the mistaken belief that reincarnation can provide a solid foundation or support for the following notions and aspirations: purification from the faults of one’s previous life; just compensation for innocent suffering and renunciations in this life; and being able to bring to reality the potential for good that could not be fulfilled in the short span of a single life.

(16) What kind of experiential evidence do New Agers put forward to support belief in reincarnation, and how credible are they?

The experiential evidence that New Agers put forward to support belief in reincarnation consist of “past life” experiences or memories.  These may be spontaneous or may be elicited by hypnotherapy.  Most items of this evidence are questionable because with good reason they can be attributed to the following: forgetfulness of similar experiences that took place earlier in life; suggestion by the therapist; inventions and delusions of the one who claims to have been reincarnated.

Even those few items of evidence that appear impressive are not free from the reasonable suspicion that they are due to manipulation of the mind by malign deceiving spirits, because they contradict Christian teachings that the spirit and the body of each human being are intimately related (human beings are “embodied spirits”), and that human beings live only one life, after which comes judgment, which immediately or eventually brings eternal fulfillment or frustration, as the person deserves.

(17) May a Catholic Christian accept belief in reincarnation?

Definitely not.  A Catholic Christian may not accept belief in reincarnation, because the latter contradicts some tenets of Christian faith. The idea of a re-embodiment or reincarnation of the soul after death in a new life in this world completely contradicts Holy Scripture and the Church’s tradition of faith.

According to the Christian faith, no number of earthly lives could suffice for the purification and fulfillment of human beings. God alone and life with God are the holiness, justice, and fulfillment of human beings. Furthermore, according to Christian teaching that human beings are embodied spirits, body and spiritual soul are so intimately related that they cannot be separated in such an extreme way that the soul could assume different bodies without thereby losing its own identity. Finally, this life and the moral effort that it includes, is taken with true and sufficient seriousness only if it is understood as a unique chance for deciding with God or without God, for God or against God – a chance that ends once and for all in death.  This once-for-all quality of our earthly life corresponds to the once-for-all salvific deed of God through Jesus Christ, in which we permanently and definitively receive a share at our death to this mortal present form of life (Hebrews 9:27-28).  This salvific deed of God culminates in our resurrection, like that of Jesus Christ, to a glorious and unending new form of life in which we shall experience the fulfillment of all our really worthwhile aspirations (John 11:25-26; John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Revelation 21:1-5).

(18) What can be said of the New Age claim that early Christians commonly believed in reincarnation, and that it was originally accepted as part of correct belief until it became suspect in the controversies over the influence of Gnostic ideas?

There is no basis to claim that early Christians commonly believed in reincarnation, much less that it was originally accepted as part of correct belief until it became suspect because it was a doctrine perceived to linked with gnosticism. On the contrary, for the early Christians, reincarnation held little if any in being considered an exotic and alien idea. Origen (about A.D. 185 – A.D. 254), a famous Church Father (who entertained the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls before, on, but not reincarnation, contrary to the claim of New Agers) already pointed out that reincarnation did not appear in the Bible or in Christian tradition. If it was mentioned at all among Christians, usually educated ones, it was with the awareness that it was Greek philosophy, and not the Bible nor Christian tradition, that was concerned with reincarnation.

So unknown in the early Church was belief in reincarnation that it was never discussed nor debated, much less was there felt a need to condemn it formally.  The Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (A.D. 553) did not directly condemn reincarnation, but rather the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls.  The indirect effect, of course, was also to condemn reincarnation, since the preexistence of souls is a precondition for reincarnation.

(19) What about the passages in the Bible that some New Agers claim to support belief in reincarnation?

New Agers cite some Bible passages in their attempt to support belief in reincarnation.

For example in Matthew 11: 14 Jesus speaks of John as the Elijah whose coming was predicted. He also associated John the Baptist with Elijah in Matthew 17:1-13 (the Transfiguration account).  But these cannot refer to reincarnation.  According to 2 Kings 2:9-18 Elijah did not die but was taken bodily into heaven. Not having died, he cannot have reincarnated.  Moreover, by the time the Transfiguration took place, late in Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist had already lived and died. If John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah, the latter would no longer be able to appear at the Transfiguration scene, since he would no longer exist, his identity being subsumed, as it were, in John the Baptist and in the latter’s new reincarnation.

The real connection between John the Baptist and Elijah is indicated in Luke 1: 1 7. John was to go before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.  Thus John the Baptist would virtually fulfill in his person what people were anticipating to be accomplished in the person of Elijah in the light of Malachi 4:5-6.

In John 3:1-7 Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of new birth in the water and the Spirit.  Some New Agers claim that Jesus was referring to reincarnation. Not so.  What is referred to here as new birth is the new spiritual life given by God to the Christian who has responded to God’s call by faith and conversion of life. This giving of new life from God is symbolized and effected in the Sacrament of Baptism.

In John 9:2, Jesus’ disciples ask him about the man blind from birth: “Master, was he born blind because of a sin of his, or of his parents?” New Agers take this as an evidence that Jesus and his disciples believed in reincarnation. Their reasoning is that the only way a man could have sinned before his birth so as to deserve the punishment of blindness is to have sinned in a life previous to his present reincarnation. However, their reasoning fails because of the fact that during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry some rabbis believed and taught that human fetuses in the womb could commit sin before their birth. This is one very plausible explanation for the above-cited verse, which renders unnecessary a resort to the postulation of reincarnation.

In sum, there is no verse or passage in the Bible that supports belief in reincarnation.

(20)What is meant by karma?

Karma is a Sanskrit word literally meaning “action” or “activity,” but better translated as “cause and effect” in the New Age context. It is a belief basic to Hinduism and to Buddhism, according to which every action is the effect of a cause, and is in its turn the cause of an effect.

In the life of human beings, the doctrine of karma or karmic retribution holds that the good or evil one thinks, says, or does in previous incarnations results in the accumulation of positive karma (merit) or negative karma (demerit).

The doctrine of reincarnation is found in many non-Christian religions.  In its classical forms in Hinduism and Buddhism it involves the taking on, by the soul or the psychic element in human beings of a body in successive lives. The good or evil one thinks, says, or does in previous incarnations results in the accumulation of positive karma or negative karma. (The term karma is Sanskrit; and literally means “action” or “activity,” but in the context of Hindu or Buddhist belief in reincarnation, it can also be better translated as “energy.” Positive karma or energy can be called “merit,” while negative karma or energy can be called “demerit.”)  Depending on the balance between one’s merits or demerits, after one’s death to one’s present incarnation, one could be reincarnated at a higher, an equal, or a lower level of being.  A human being could therefore be reincarnated at a subhuman level of being. The aim of one’s striving should be to liberated the cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation, called samsāra, and be reunited with or absorbed into oneness with all being.

In New Age, karma and reincarnation are closely interrelated, although New Agers have a concept of these two that is different from that of Hindus and Buddhists.  New Agers opine that when a human being dies, his or her soul transmigrates to another body, there to resume its task of spiritual education under the guidance of spirit guides or angels of light, who are charged with showing him or her the way to a perfect life and how to get rid of the evil residues that had accumulated during his or her previous lives by virtue of the law of karma.  In this way the human person becomes a perfect being  who lives, in harmony with the universal and cosmic energy, according to the maxim “All is energy, all is one, all is divine.”

(21)How are Christians to regard the New Age teaching about karma?

A well-instructed and committed Christian knows that human beings are creatures endowed by God with freedom, and who are therefore responsible for their actions, and who by their deliberate decisions, work out their salvation and shape their eternity. A Christian believes that reward and punishment form part of the revealed message of the Bible, and operate in the lives of humans. Our human acts have great significance- we are responsible for their consequences, and they fix us in a situation that we have chosen and which may become definitive.

Nevertheless, humans are not moved and determined from outside by karma, this fatal law in relation to which one has no choice but to submit, in order to make up for evil committed in past lives. Biblical revelation teaches us that humans dispose of only one life, and that at their death, they have to render an account to the One who wishes not that humans be condemned, but rather wishes that they may live forever. Yet God cannot constrain the human beings who misuse their freedom of choice by sinning against love and who during their earthly existence have preferred sin and not friendship with God.

At the same time, Christians believe that Jesus Christ, by his ministry, death, and glorious resurrection, has freed them from the possibility of being caught in the oppressive cycle of samsāra, the eternal return or beginning of all things.  Consequently, it is not purificatory and ascetical rites and practices, not human beings own efforts and merits, that confer salvation on them and admit them to eternal blessedness. It is only a life of faith, inspired by great love for God, for other humans, and for creation, that permits Christian believers to hope that one day they will participate in Christ’s glory, passing with him from death to life, from time to eternity, once and for all. This is very different from karma and reincarnation, as this is understood and taught by many New Agers.

(22) Why does New Age give such importance to astrology, the horoscope, tarot cards, spiritism, and other occult practices, and what does Christian faith have to say about these?

Astrology, the horoscope, tarot cards, spiritism (the seeking of communications with the spirits of the dead), are examples of occult practices.  Occult practices aim to enable humans to know, activate, and control the hidden forces and influences outside them, and the potentialities or energies that lie dormant in their own selves.

New Agers tend to be fond of these occult practices and give them much importance, because  they fit in well with the New Age emphasis on the development of the physical and mental potentialities of humans, through appropriate connections or contacts with the spirit world or the higher spheres of being.

Christians thinking in the light of their faith do not deny the existence of certain forces and energies still little known and insufficiently studied.  It is the function of science to study these better in order to put them at the service of the true progress of human beings. Nevertheless, Christians grounded in Biblical revelation reject practices and experiences that attempt to control or domesticate God, humans, and the universe, in the process impairing the freedom of human consciousness and thus becoming means of manipulation of humans and of things.

(23) How are we to regard the New Age inclination to spiritism?

Spiritism is unacceptable to Christians because it seeks undeserved control over other spiritual beings, and this control demeans those who are subjected to it.  Moreover, spiritism exposes its practitioners to deceit and other harm from the malign spirits that they may establish contact with in the course of their spiritistic activities. These are among the reasons why the Bible says that God bans spiritism, and why the Church strongly prohibits its members from engaging in spiritism

Part 3



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