Beware the New Age Movement

Manila Bulletin, March 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

Beware the New Age Movement


HARRY Potter does not represent a problem for a Catholic. It was the first time this very famous fictional boy wizard elicited a public statement from the Vatican Press Office as reported by the Zenit News Agency. The occasion was a press conference on a recently published document entitled Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection in the New Age.

Father Peter Fleetwood, an English priest who was a former member of the Pontifical Council for Culture remarked what most pro-Harry Potter readers have been saying: "In each one's childhood there have been fairy godmothers, magicians, angels and witches, which are not bad things but a help for children to understand the conflict between good and evil." Except for those children who have been completely deprived of a religious formation in the Christian faith, there is no danger that Harry Potter would induce anyone to believe in superstition.

It may be useful to quote here once more the doctrine of the Catholic Church about divination and magic, especially after the recent celebration of the Chinese New Year during which some tended to attribute divine powers to mere external performances. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out in paragraph 2111, "to attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior disposition that they demand, is to fall into superstition"

Furthermore, paragraph 2110 and 2117 state:

"All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

"All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers, or the exploitation of another's credulity."

The New Age Movement, to which some Filipinos are being attracted, contains some practices that dangerously border on superstition. That is why the recent document which offers a Christian reflection on the New Age contains an explanation of some terms commonly used by the New Age believers. Let me cite some of the most commonly used terms:

Karma: (from the Sanskrit root Kri = action, deed) a key notion in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, but one whose meaning has not always been the same. In the ancient Vedic period it referred to the ritual action, especially sacrifice, by means of which a person gained access to the happiness or blessedness of the afterlife. When Jainism and Buddhism appeared (about 6 centuries before Christ), Karma lost its salvific meaning: the way to liberation was knowledge of the Atman or "self. …

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