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  • Confronting Neo Paganism Part 2

    Posted in ,
    August 26, 2019

    In the Culture and in the Church

    III. The Revolution Is Just Beginning: What ever happened to the New Age?

    I recently registered for an online forum, Beyond Awakening: The Future of Spiritual Practice. You could say Beyond New Age. Hailed as “the most important conversation for the planet today,” the program consists of interviews with many of the old lions of the New Age—Jean Houston, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Surya Das, Ram Das, and Michael Murphy, having their last shot, along with lion cubs like Ken Wilber. Within a few weeks this forum had enrolled 35,000 participants. They call themselves “Cultural Creatives,” “Progressives,” “Evolutionaries,” “Integral Spiritualists,”  “Interspiritualists” or “Transtraditional Spiritualists.”[45] They are organized in multiple national and international visionary groups that are responding to a world in crisis. (There are apparently 50 million Cultural Creatives in the USA and 90 million in the European Union). They claim that thirty-nine percent of the US population are SBNRs (spiritual but not religious), and half the boomer generation thinks all religions are the same. With such odds, these spiritual progressives plan to take over the US culture by AD 2020.

    Into this triumphalist spirituality steps a new Vedantic Prophet, Ken Wilber, a Mahayana Buddhist from a Christian background, a proponent of “integral spirituality.”[46] Wilber proposes a bold post-deconstruction metanarrative of a spiritual evolutionary synthesis, an all-inclusive philosophy that weaves together science, morals, ethics, aesthetics, Eastern as well as Western philosophy, and the world’s great wisdom traditions. He concludes that all major worldviews are basically true and the universe is winding up not down. Only one modernist metanarrative survives—bio-spiritual evolution. In this system, every entity and concept or Holonshares a dual nature: as a whole unto itself, and as a part of some other whole.[47] His catch phrase is “transcend and include,” in an evolutionary movement through nine stages[48]:

    Phase 9Integral-Holonic
    Phase 8Universal Holistic
    Phase 7Integrative
    Second Tier Consciousness
    Phase 6The Sensitive Self (Green egalitarianism)
    Phase 5Scientific Achievement (Enlightenment Rationalism)
    Phase 4Mythic Order (an All-powerful Other: Theism, Two-ism)
    Phase 3Power Gods (Magical-mythical)
    Phase 2Magical-Animistic
    Phase 1Archaic-Instinctual
    First-Tier Consciousness

    Wilber’s final phase is “Integral Spirituality,” what he calls “direct spiritual experience,” the non-dual joining of matter, consciousness, and spirit into an undifferentiated One—into deity, formless and non-dual deep spirituality–a perfect description of Oneism.

     But Wilber’s ascending ladder has problems. First, all the systems he mentions exist simultaneously in history. So where is the “progression” except in his own religious value system? Second, eight of his nine steps are Oneist. The only Twoist system (the Mythic Order, which is described as belief in an All-powerful Other) is dismissed as one more primitive religious stage of “developmental arrest” to “transcend and include.” This is intellectual subterfuge because you cannot transcend and include or synthesize Two-ism or theism into a Oneist system without dismissing its core affirmations. But the new hybrid of Eastern spirituality allied with Western social activism, has political goals that are staggering. “Sincere care” of the planet for the sake of human survival, and coded terms like compassion, justice and inclusiveness are part of a strategy to eliminate “the B team” that is now running the world.

    The futurists speak of a “Journey toward Oneness,” carried along by “Global Spirit” (a modern form of animism). Nothing will stop them, they believe, from building a New Humanity, based on oneness, which will include the gender blur of the rising generation, which refuses to be confined to normal heterosexual distinctions.

    An example of this virtually apocalyptic optimism is the Vision Project, an on-line site that gathers visionary statements from leading occultists, theosophists, Perennialists and interfaith globalists, such as Riane Eisler, radical feminist; Jean Houston, channeler; Barbara Marx Hubbard, director of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution; Ervin Laslo, author of Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything; Michael Lerner, editor of the journal of progressive Jewish spirituality, Tikkun; Robert Mueller, Under-secretary General of the United Nations, New Ager and founder of the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica; David Stendl-Rast, syncretistic Benedictine monk; Sarah McKechnie, president of Lucis Trust, founded by the occultic Alice Bailey; Dale McKechnie, Vice-president of the Lucis Trust, USA, to name just a few here featured.

    The apocalyptic vision of a this-worldly utopia is given powerful expression by the brilliant One-ist spiritual philosopher Richard Tarnas. Tarnas sees a rising “powerful crescendo”[49] as many movements gather now on the intellectual stage as if for some kind of climatic synthesis [emphasis mine]”[50] This synthesis will happen when “the human mind actively brings forth from within itself the full powers of a disciplined imagination and saturates its empirical observation with archetypal insight that the deeper reality of the world emerges.”[51] Or, as Wilber says, Enlightenment Liberalism is now ready to embrace deep spirituality.[52] The secularist logos is swallowed up/transcended and included, in mythos.

    Mitchell Silver, who teaches philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, is a self-identified Jewish atheist who, with careful analysis, shows how this synthesis could occur. He examines the “new god” of contemporary Judaism[53] as expressed in the progressive spiritual writings of Michael Lerner, Arthur Green, and Mordecai Kaplan,[54] and shows that the secularists and what he calls the new-god believers are “two groups of moderns who actually accept the same literal description of reality. They agree on what is known.” It is a question of “their different attitudes to the unknown…The new god believers have a taste for extreme emotions…the secularists have less of a thirst for heavenly joy.”[55] So the real difference between atheists and pantheists has to do only with emotions. The “new godders” believe that the essential work of religion is this-worldly and share with moderns the notion of ‘freedom’ that flows from the rejection of supernaturalism.”[56] Thus, both “new godders” and atheists can join in the common social vision of the shared notion of freedom in a this-worldly utopian tomorrow. He concludes:

    …when the messiah arrives (or after the revolution), there will be those singing god’s praises and others whistling a secular song, and neither need be out of tune.[57]

    A form of this synthesis is already here. “Evolutionary Christianity” is producing the longed-for and much-prophesied synthesis, namely, the union of science and spirituality, of “transcendent” romanticism and rationalistic humanism. Evolutionary Christianity is a variant of Wilber’s Theory of Everything, a worldview of One-ism that claims to explain everything through the notion of human evolution into a non-dual divine. Michael Dowd, the ex-Evangelical now evangelist for evolution states: Agreeing with Bishop’s Spong’s “post-theistic Christianity, Dowd declares “supernatural other-worldly religion will die out for a post-metaphysical natural religion.”[58] Here “evolution” is not just a scientific theory of origins but also a theological hermeneutic.

    In this movement are strange bedfellows, brought together in another on-line forum, called Evolutionary Christianity,[59] which is one more example of Utopianism, what Thomas Molnar calls The Perennial Heresy.[60] They include Evangelical theistic evolutionists, “progressive” Emergent Christian leaders, radical post-theistic Christian liberals, Christian non-dual mystics, pro-homosexual ministers, radical religious feminists, and recognized evolutionary scientists. Some are deeply influenced by Pierre Teillard de Chardin, and pagan “geologians” such as Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme. All their views are synthesized into a vision of spiritual/”Christian” evolution by pro-evolutionary Michael Dowd, who wrote Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our world.[61] Dowd is an ex-Catholic, ex-Pentecostal, now married to a Unitarian Universalist, and a disciple of Thomas Berry.

    Is evolution the answer? Will the world get better? Will the spiral always evolve upwards? These “Cultural Creatives” or “Evolutionaries” believe themselves called to create a pax planetarium, a global empire of utopian pretensions, where religious, political and human conflicts will exist no more. Pollster Daniel Yankelovich said in 1997 of this movement: “We are witnessing nothing less that the re-invention of spirituality.”[62] For some, this is obviously progress. Goldberg is doubtless right when he observes that the Vedantic worldview fits perfectly the present spirit of the contemporary America where non-sectarian autonomy and religious freedom dominate the spiritual quest.[63] Goldberg believes that “This non-dual religion is likely to ascend because studies show that human beings move upward along a continuum of spiritual expansiveness.”[64] He adds, “…society will surely welcome a “non-dogmatic” spirituality, over against the “deadly forces of tribalism, ethnocentrism and fundamentalism, over against the outworn dogmas of the past, of people who believe “mine is the true religion.”[65] Such believers are on “the wrong side of history.”[66]

    But just how “non-dogmatic” is this religious option? There is an iron fist in this velvet glove, a religious non-negotiable that must not be questioned. A secular observer chillingly calls this vision “world purificationism,” driven by an unrelenting ideology.[67] For over all of these variations of pagan spirituality that claim to be “non-dogmatic” and tolerant, be they Hinduism, Gnosticism, Mythology, Jungian Depth Psychology, the Perennial Philosophy, Interfaith, or the spiritual homosexual agenda, you must write the Hindu term Advaita, “not two.” (Not Two-ism.) The synthesis will be “non-dual.” Goldberg believes that Advaita or “non-dual…oneness, unity nonseparation” are “the generic term[s] increasingly used to describe spirituality”—meaning that God and the world are not two.[68]

    Their terms “All is One,” and “Not Two” leave nothing to the imagination and sum up the nature of the battle we as Twoists have on our hands, we who must affirm the very opposite: “All is Two,” “Not-One.” It is clear that true Oneist spirituality must eliminate the God of the Bible, as C. S. Lewis understood, having concluded that there are only two possible answers to the religious search: Hinduism or Christianity. For Lewis, these are the ultimate, contradictory expressions of religion, either Hinduistic monism (where paganism is “full-grown”)[69] or Christian theism.

    In the midst of the Sixties cultural revolution, world historian, Arnold Toynbee said of modern times: “…[this] chapter [of history] which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race.”[70]

    IV. The Oneist Revolution Goes to Church

    Christians are often unaware of the Hindu elephant in the room. Indeed, some are baptizing Eastern Vedantic spirituality as thoroughly Christian, even as it eviscerates Western Christendom of its essential understanding of God. Modern Christians make the mistake of thinking that modern culture is, at worst, neutral and, at best, the work of the Spirit that will bring in the coming of the kingdom. The UK emergent leader, Kester Brewin believes we must admit “our dependence on the host culture”[71] “open ourselves to…and adapt to it”[72] and recognize its “essential goodness.”[73] But if you make contemporary culture the norm, you will end up in non-duality.

    We expected such thinking from Liberals, who were once attached to rationalist non-supernatural forms of Christianity, but are now finding their spiritual home in the new or integral spirituality of neo-paganism. Now called “progressive” or “evolutionary” spirituality, the mystical, supra-rational state represents a desirable liberation from the mythological sky God of outdated theism. The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, San Francisco Grace Cathedral’s Canon for Special Ministry [popularizing the labyrinth], tells her story of awakening from modernity to spiritual enlightenment in a similar vein: “We mistakenly thought that the intellect was the avenue to experiencing the Sacred, to nourishing the soul. We discounted the imagination and our other faculties of knowing mystery.[74] Harvey Cox sees a promising future for “Christian” Gnosticism.[75]

    We expected it from esoteric “unity” spiritualists, claiming a form of Christianity, such as that expressed in a forth-coming book, Can Christians Be Saved? A Mystical Path to Oneness by Virginia T. Stephenson and Buck Rhodes. They suggest “a new reformation of Christianity, turning away from the dualism that creates separation to the principle of Oneness or non-dualism.”[76] According to the homosexual spiritualist, Toby Johnson, “The book presents a wonderful study of the meaning of Jesus’ teachings interpreted through a Buddhist view of Hindu, Sumerian, New Age mythologies and through personal experience and dreamwork.”[77] The main tool the authors use for spiritual growth is “‘Deeksha’ (also known as the Oneness Blessing)…which affects a neurobiological shift… that activates the kundalini, balances the chakras, to induce…higher states of consciousness, and ultimately…the state of Oneness itself.”[78]

    The great irony is that evangelicals are also drinking at the source of pagan non-dual synthesis, proposing a new hybrid of non-dual mysticism and social action as the essence of Christianity in our postmodern world. Phyllis Tickle calls the general return of spirituality “the Great Emergence,” a “new reformation” of solus spiritus. The Martin Luther of the “new reformation,” Brian McLaren, willingly contributed to the Vision Project, assembling the future visions of leading occultists, theosophists, Perennialists and interfaith globalists, proposed as various elements of a “greater, emerging vision… keyed to synthesis.”[79] Indeed, when McLaren looks at the movement of modern culture and the process of history, he concludes, as far as I can tell, with this same notion of synthesis in view: “the beautiful whole that is as big as the cosmos, and bigger still, in which every particle is known, named, and loved. Can we even say something absurd? Can we say that this beautiful whole is even bigger than God…”[80]

    Who would have thought that forms of Evangelicalism would contribute to the Hinduization and paganization of Christianity? Interestingly, Rob Bell, who, along with McLaren, enthusiastically endorses Ken Wilber,[81] says: “We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.”[82] The church, listening to the culture, is aping the new One-ist hybrid of spirituality and activism, but with little sense of a Gospel-driven love of sinners or the personal piety and holy living essential to the Creator/creature distinction. She is imbibing a hybrid, neo-pagan eschatology of synthesis—a union of the inner and the outer, a radical joining of the opposites. Such an approach is increasingly influenced by the teaching of Roman Catholic “non-dual” mystics, so that Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr teaches evangelical pastors Third Eye, non-dual thinking and spirituality in one of our significant evangelical seminaries.[83] Rohr teaches that “The incarnation actually happened 13.7 billion years ago with a moment that we now call “The Big Bang.” That is when God actually decided to materialize and to self-expose…as the cosmic Christ.”[84]This eliminates both the Creator/creature distinction, and the uniqueness of the historic incarnation, and makes us, as the old New Agers used to say, “little christs,” the ultimate implication of “non-duality.” For Rohr, the world is the body of God.”[85]

    In the light of this, I cannot help but think of the prediction Alice Bailey, leader of the occultic Theosophical Society made in the Forties of the last century, that “…[thanks to the] the efforts of the UN…a new church of God, gathered out of all the religions and spiritual groups, will unitedly bring to an end the great heresy of separation,”[86] clearly to realize the great Oneist lie of Advaita.

    [45] Goldberg, American Veda, 344.

    [46] Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality(Boston: Shambala, 2001).

    [47] Wilber, A Theory, 40.

    [48] Wilber, A Theory, 8-13.

    [49] Tarnas, Passion, 411.

    [50] Ibid., 403.

    [51] Ibid., 434.

    [52] Wilber, A Theory of Everything, 80-82.

    [53] Mitchell Silver, A Plausible God: Secular Reflections on Liberal Jewish Theology (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006).

    [54] Michael Lerner, Jewish Renewal (NY: Putnam, 1994); Spirit Matters (Charlottesville, VA.: Hampton Roads, 2000); Arthur Green, Seek My Face: Speak My Name (London: Aronson Press, 1992); These Are the Words (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2000); Mordecai Kaplan, Judaism without Supernaturalism (New York: Schocken, 1958); Dynamic Judaism, ed. Mel Scult and Emanuel Goldsmith (New York: Schocken, 1985).

    [55] Silver, Plausible God, 111.

    [56] Ibid.119.

    [57] Ibid., 105.

    [58] Michael Dowd – “Big Integrity: Deep-Time Eyes and a Global Heart,” Beyond Awakening: An on-line Interview with Michael Dowd (March 20th, 2011).

    [59] See the Website, The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity.

    [60] Thomas Molnar, Utopia: The Perennial Heresy (New York: Sheed & Ward 1967), 9.

    [61] Michael Dowd, who wrote Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (New York: Viking, 2008). The book is endorsed by many in the world of “progressive” non-dual spirituality.

    [62] Cited in Goldberg, American Veda, 339.

    [63] Goldberg, American Veda, 340.

    [64] Goldberg, American Veda, 345.

    [65] Ibid.

    [66] Goldberg, American Veda, 340.

    [67] Ernest Sternberg, “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For,” Orbis 54:1, (Winter 2010) 65,

    [68] Goldberg, American Veda, 344.

    [69] Letters of C. S. Lewis, W. H. Lewis, editor, 1993, 479-480. See also John W. Robbins, “Did C.S. Lewis Go to Heaven?” The Trinity Foundation Newsletter website.

    [70] Goldberg, 347.


    [77] See the review by Toby Johnson on the Amazon page. Johnson is the author of nine books on gay spirituality.

    [78] Virginia’s blog.



    [81] Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 287, and Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 192.

    [82] Cited by Andy Crouch, “Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today (November, 2004).

    [83] Course, SP761: Action and Contemplation (8 units), Fuller DMin program, 2010.

    [84] Richard Rohr, “Creation as The Body of God,” The Huffington Post (March 4, 2011).

    [85] Richard Rohr, “Creation As The Body of God,” The Huffington Post (March 4, 2011).

    [86] Alice Bailey, The Destiny of Nations (New York: Lucis Trust, 1949), 152, cited in Lee Penn, “The United Nations: Globalist and New Age Plans,” SCP Journal 23:2-23:3 (1991), 51.