VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A new Vatican document on the New Age movement has stirred up great interest in the media.
The report, entitled “Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age,'” was presented Feb. 3 by a team of members of different Vatican organizations, including the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. The signatories acted with the assistance of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
To lend a greater appreciation of this important document, ZENIT interviewed one of its authors, Dr. Teresa Osorio Goncalves, of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, coordinator of the working group on Sects and New Religious Movements.
Q: In facing an umbrella movement such as the New Age, where spiritism, occultism, theosophy, black and white magic, pantheism, and neo-paganism converge, and where many groups and associations use “New Age” techniques to some extent, could you point out the principal differences between New Age and Christianity?
Osorio: Above all, we Catholics believe in a Creator God, a God who freely creates out of love and who creates man free. God is not identified with the universe (pantheism), nor has the universe issued from him by emanation. From the Christian perspective, it is equally false to say that God is identified with man. Certainly, he dwells in man, but he is at the same time his creator, Lord, and savior. Through a plan of love, God has made man his interlocutor. Otherness preserves personal dignity and man’s freedom.
We engage in dialogue with this God through prayer. Prayer is not the simple rediscovery of one’s most profound self, but presupposes the meeting of two persons: it is to place oneself freely in adoration, in thanksgiving, in supplication. It is to be in harmony with the will of the Father.
Q: Followers of New Age seek liberating techniques…
Osorio: We are in need of Christ’s redemption, because we are sinners. The Christian sees man as fundamentally good, but wounded by original sin. No technique of liberation, no personal effort of concentration, no harmony of millions of consciences, can save man. Christ, the Son of God made man, who “entered” history to save us, is our only way of salvation.
Q: What is the meaning of death and suffering?
Osorio: Followers of the New Age movement do not accept suffering or death. Redemption comes to them through techniques of expansion of conscience, rebirth, journeys to death’s doors; redemption is also obtained with any method that helps one to relax, to increase one’s vital energies.
Instead, for Christians, suffering, lived in union with Jesus crucified, who revealed his love for men on the cross, is the source of salvation. Death is also a unique event: it is not access to a new reincarnation that will be followed by others, but the obligatory step to enter eternal life.
Q: Does New Age speak about changing the world?
Osorio: A pamphlet of the Indian Brahma Kumaris movement says: “Something is going to happen … You can make it happen by associating at the same time with millions of others, gathered in a type of new communion of saints, who by their strength and intrinsic creativity have the force capable of tipping the world over to the side of righteousness.” But will thought be enough to change the world?
The way proposed to us by Jesus Christ is far more exacting and fascinating: it is the one of reciprocal love, that is translated into concrete works and creates living communities that build a new world.