Spirituality and Business: A Christian Viewpoint

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  1. What Is Spiritual Leadership?
  2. Spiritual Leadership - A Peer-Reviewed Academic Articles | GBR
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This analysis forms the basis for developing organizational objectives, strategies, and action plans for implementation. These comprise the quality, stakeholder satisfaction, and financial measures found in the Balanced Scorecard performance categories. Employee learning and growth is the central balanced scorecard performance category because it is a leading indicator that drives the other performance categories.

The Learning and Growth category is primarily driven through the spiritual leadership process whereby both leaders and followers are more likely to cultivate a sustainability mindset, be more committed to the organization, and have higher levels of life satisfaction and psychological well-being. This yields employees dedicated to continuous process improvement, resulting in higher quality products and services that, in turn, satisfy key customers and other stakeholders, including those committed to sustainability. This ultimately leads to better financial performance which, when taken together, maximizes the triple bottom Line.

Through this integration, empowered teams emerge, allowing workers to utilize their talents and abilities to effectively deal with important stakeholder issues. As mentioned earlier, the starting point for organizations committing to engage all stakeholders from a Spiritual Leadership Triple Bottom Line Perspective is the recognition of the innate dignity of all human beings.

Moreover, a sustainability mindset becomes critical for leaders who are consciously engaged in caring for, respecting, and serving all stakeholders, especially those focused on the environment and those in need. Following are three examples of CEOs and their organizations that, although they might not describe their experience in terms of spiritual leadership, have discovered a way to connect with and serve something greater than themselves to embed sustainability into their triple bottom line.

An example of a CEO and an organization that seeks to serve all stakeholders from a humanistic ethical system based in altruistic values that exemplifies the Spiritual Leadership Triple Bottom Line Business Model in action is Paul Poleman, CEO of Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch company with , employees, 76, suppliers in countries, and factories worldwide. At Unilever, environmental risks and poverty are major problems for almost every part of business operations from manufacturing laundry detergent to growing tea.

He also believes that customers will abandon companies that fail to grasp that, while businesses that embrace the triple bottom line will inevitably become more profitable. In response Poleman has remained steadfast to his philosophy. In doing so he sided with those who argue that the intense pressure to meet quarterly targets traps companies in a vicious cycle of pressure to maximize share price for investors to the detriment of long-term growth and execution of complicated strategies, like improving working conditions, improving the environment, and sustainability ambitions.

Poleman believes that success is not defined by a title or position but rather by having a purpose in life and setting out to achieve it. He also takes the time to interview entry-level candidates as well as have small focus groups, dinners, or lunches with people in the company at all levels there are only five levels at Unilever. He views this as one of his most important jobs, to create a supportive culture to facilitate their career journey. Poleman says that the main thing he has discovered in life is that it is not about yourself, it is about investing in others.

Above all he believes the chief quality of a leader is to be a moral, ethical human being.

No one is more special because of their job title or responsibilities. The best advice he says he got from his father is to not forget where you came from a family of modest means and keep your feet on the ground. Oprah Winfrey Network. A woman of great talent and gifts, Oprah has produced and acted in movies, given commencement speeches, launched products, appeared on talk shows, and been awarded the U. From this place of conscious awareness also comes a space of humility and the realization that she does not have all the answers and must rely on a leadership team she can delegate to.

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This is reflected in conversations with trusted executives who use words like disciples, sacred, moral compass, and spiritual leadership when speaking of her. At her spiritual core is her belief and understanding that there is a force she calls God that is a presence, a divine entity that loved her into being that helps her stay grounded, centered, and strong. She feels called to inspire people, to get them to look at themselves—to do better and be better to everybody.

What mattered most to her about creating OWN was having a platform where she could connect ideas that let people see the best of themselves through the lives of other people. Her vision is to inspire individuals to create opportunities that enable underserved women and children to rise to their potential. Opened in , the school serves more than 1, boys and girls and is a model for teaching and learning throughout Africa. Aflac is a Fortune company that insures more than 50 million people worldwide. The company was founded in in Columbus, Georgia, by three brothers from Enterprise, Alabama.

They were raised in the Methodist Church, and they applied the Christian principles they learned there in starting and building their company. They knew that doing the right thing would be critically important to their success in business. Dan Amos is chairman and chief executive officer of Aflac Incorporated. During Mr. Today, Aflac is the leading provider of individual insurance policies offered at the worksite in the United States and is the largest life insurer in Japan in terms of individual policies in force.

Although Aflac is not a religious company or trying to bring religion into the workplace, faith plays an important role in the company as it was founded and built upon principles rooted in Christianity. Paul S. Amos, a former board of directors member who resigned in June to join a private equity firm, believes that the teachings of Jesus absolutely create the right principles for the right way to treat other people and that you bring people into the culture and emphasize these principles from day one on how they provide guidance for how you behave in meetings and how you behave both inwardly and outwardly.

And when leaders are doing the right things they are also teaching their people how to do the right things. As the market leader in the supplemental insurance industry, Aflac leaders are committed to making business decisions that balance the needs of their policyholders, employees, sales force, and shareholders, while recognizing the obligation they have to the global community.

As such, they have embedded a commitment to sustainability into their triple bottom line by striving to balance effective and efficient management of operations with caring for their people and responsible environmental stewardship, including promoting awareness among their employees and interested stakeholders of their shared responsibility towards protection of the environment. Aflac also carefully considers the impact of their actions—not only today, but in the years to come.

As a large, publicly-traded company, Aflac recognizes its responsibility for leading the way in eco-friendly business initiatives. The company became the first insurance company in the United States to be ISO Energy Management System registered, which represents the latest best-practice thinking in energy management. For several reasons, the path for embedding sustainability in the triple bottom line is not easy, nor is it a given that all leaders have the capacity to perceive or walk it.

First, leadership that emphasizes sustainability reflects an emerging consensus for leaders to live their lives and lead their organizations in ways that account for their impact on the earth, society, and the health of local and global economies. Thus, the very definition of leadership is extended to those who seek sustainable change, regardless of role or position; to build the kind of world that we want to live in and that we want our children and grandchildren to inherit.

Second, this requires leaders with extraordinary abilities, as sustainability and sustainable development call for organizations to operate within complex interconnected and dynamic environmental, economic, and social systems that require conscious moral decision-making and complex problem solving. New hearts Index. Du kanske gillar. Should Prometheus be Bound? Philippe De Woot Inbunden. Permanent Record Edward Snowden Inbunden. Spara som favorit. Skickas inom vardagar. Other friends and counsellors from the spirit world are angels which have become the centre of a new industry of books and paintings.

Fusion with some spirits who teach through particular people is another New Age experience claimed by people who refer to themselves as 'mystics'. It is clear that, in theory at least, the New Age often recognizes no spiritual authority higher than personal inner experience.

Harmony and Understanding: Good Vibrations. Phenomena as diverse as the Findhorn garden and Feng Shui 23 represent a variety of ways which illustrate the importance of being in tune with nature or the cosmos. In New Age there is no distinction between good and evil. Human actions are the fruit of either illumination or ignorance. Hence we cannot condemn anyone, and nobody needs forgiveness.

Believing in the existence of evil can create only negativity and fear. The answer to negativity is love. But it is not the sort which has to be translated into deeds; it is more a question of attitudes of mind. Love is energy, a high-frequency vibration, and the secret to happiness and health and success is being able to tune in, to find one's place in the great chain of being. New Age teachers and therapies claim to offer the key to finding the correspondences between all the elements of the universe, so that people may modulate the tone of their lives and be in absolute harmony with each other and with everything around them, although there are different theoretical backgrounds.

Health: Golden living. Formal allopathic medicine today tends to limit itself to curing particular, isolated ailments, and fails to look at the broader picture of a person's health: this has given rise to a fair amount of understandable dissatisfaction. Alternative therapies have gained enormously in popularity because they claim to look at the whole person and are about healing rather than curing.

Holistic health, as it is known, concentrates on the important role that the mind plays in physical healing. The connection between the spiritual and the physical aspects of the person is said to be in the immune system or the Indian chakra system.

What Is Spiritual Leadership?

In a New Age perspective, illness and suffering come from working against nature; when one is in tune with nature, one can expect a much healthier life, and even material prosperity; for some New Age healers, there should actually be no need for us to die. Developing our human potential will put us in touch with our inner divinity, and with those parts of our selves which have been alienated and suppressed. The shaman is often seen as the specialist of altered states of consciousness, one who is able to mediate between the transpersonal realms of spirits and gods and the world of humans.

There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric, others connected with the psychological theories developed in Esalen during the years Inasmuch as health includes a prolongation of life, New Age offers an Eastern formula in Western terms. Originally, reincarnation was a part of Hindu cyclical thought, based on the atman or divine kernel of personality later the concept of jiva , which moved from body to body in a cycle of suffering samsara , determined by the law of karma, linked to behaviour in past lives.

Hope lies in the possibility of being born into a better state, or ultimately in liberation from the need to be reborn. What is different in most Buddhist traditions is that what wanders from body to body is not a soul, but a continuum of consciousness.

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Present life is embedded in a potentially endless cosmic process which includes even the gods. In the West, since the time of Lessing, reincarnation has been understood far more optimistically as a process of learning and progressive individual fulfilment. Spiritualism, theosophy, anthroposophy and New Age all see reincarnation as participation in cosmic evolution. This post-Christian approach to eschatology is said to answer the unresolved questions of theodicy and dispenses with the notion of hell.

When the soul is separated from the body individuals can look back on their whole life up to that point, and when the soul is united to its new body there is a preview of its coming phase of life. People have access to their former lives through dreams and meditation techniques. Divisions which New Age proponents claim need to be overcome include the real difference between Creator and creation, the real distinction between man and nature, or spirit and matter, which are all considered wrongly as forms of dualism.

These dualistic tendencies are often assumed to be ultimately based on the Judaeo-Christian roots of western civilisation, while it would be more accurate to link them to gnosticism, in particular to Manichaeism.

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The fundamental principles of New Age thinking. A global response in a time of crisis. The perennial philosophical question of the one and the many has its modern and contemporary form in the temptation to overcome not only undue division, but even real difference and distinction, and the most common expression of this is holism, an essential ingredient in New Age and one of the principal signs of the times in the last quarter of the twentieth century. An extraordinary amount of energy has gone into the effort to overcome the division into compartments characteristic of mechanistic ideology, but this has led to the sense of obligation to submit to a global network which assumes quasi-transcendental authority.

Its clearest implications are a process of conscious transformation and the development of ecology. What has been successful is the generalisation of ecology as a fascination with nature and resacralisation of the earth, Mother Earth or Gaia, with the missionary zeal characteristic of Green politics. The Earth's executive agent is the human race as a whole, and the harmony and understanding required for responsible governance is increasingly understood to be a global government, with a global ethical framework. The warmth of Mother Earth, whose divinity pervades the whole of creation, is held to bridge the gap between creation and the transcendent Father-God of Judaism and Christianity, and removes the prospect of being judged by such a Being.

This is a fundamental point which pervades all New Age thought and practice, and conditions in advance any otherwise positive assessment where we might be in favor of one or another aspect of its spirituality. The essential matrix of New Age thinking. The essential matrix of New Age thinking is to be found in the esoteric-theosophical tradition which was fairly widely accepted in European intellectual circles in the 18 th and 19 th centuries.

It was particularly strong in freemasonry, spiritualism, occultism and theosophy, which shared a kind of esoteric culture. In this world-view, the visible and invisible universes are linked by a series of correspondences, analogies and influences between microcosm and macrocosm, between metals and planets, between planets and the various parts of the human body, between the visible cosmos and the invisible realms of reality.

Nature is a living being, shot through with networks of sympathy and antipathy, animated by a light and a secret fire which human beings seek to control. People can contact the upper or lower worlds by means of their imagination an organ of the soul or spirit , or by using mediators angels, spirits, devils or rituals.

People can be initiated into the mysteries of the cosmos, God and the self by means of a spiritual itinerary of transformation. The eventual goal is gnosis , the highest form of knowledge, the equivalent of salvation. Esoteric teachings are handed down from master to disciple in a gradual program of initiation. Alchemy, magic, astrology and other elements of traditional esotericism had been thoroughly integrated with aspects of modern culture, including the search for causal laws, evolutionism, psychology and the study of religions.

The Society aimed to fuse elements of Eastern and Western traditions in an evolutionary type of spiritualism. It had three main aims:. The first objective implicitly rejects the 'irrational bigotry' and 'sectarianism' of traditional Christianity as perceived by spiritualists and theosophists A prominent component of Mrs. She urged people to return to the mother-goddess of Hinduism and to the practice of feminine virtues. This continued under the guidance of Annie Besant, who was in the vanguard of the feminist movement.

Marilyn Ferguson devoted a chapter of The Aquarian Conspiracy to the precursors of the Age of Aquarius, those who had woven the threads of a transforming vision based on the expansion of consciousness and the experience of self-transcendence. James defined religion as experience, not dogma, and he taught that human beings can change their mental attitudes in such a way that they are able to become architects of their own destiny. Jung emphasized the transcendent character of consciousness and introduced the idea of the collective unconscious, a kind of store for symbols and memories shared with people from various different ages and cultures.

The result was a body of theories which enabled people to talk about God while really meaning their own psyche, and about their own psyche while really meaning the divine. A central element in his thought is the cult of the sun, where God is the vital energy libido within a person. The path to the inner universe is through the unconscious. The inner world's correspondence to the outer one is in the collective unconscious.

The tendency to interchange psychology and spirituality was firmly embedded in the Human Potential Movement as it developed towards the end of the s at the Esalen Institute in California. Transpersonal psychology, strongly influenced by Eastern religions and by Jung, offers a contemplative journey where science meets mysticism.

To realise one's potential, one had to go beyond one's ego in order to become the god that one is, deep down. The symbol of Aquarius was borrowed from astrological mythology, but later came to signify the desire for a radically new world. The two centres which were the initial power-houses of the New Age, and to a certain extent still are, were the Garden community at Findhorn in North-East Scotland, and the Centre for the development of human potential at Esalen in Big Sur, California, in the United States of America.

What feeds New Age consistently is a growing global consciousness and increasing awareness of a looming ecological crisis. Central themes of the New Age. The essence of New Age is the loose association of the various activities, ideas and people who might validly attract the term. So there is no single articulation of anything like the doctrines of mainstream religions. Despite this, and despite the immense variety within New Age, there are some common points:.

New Age involves a fundamental belief in the perfectibility of the human person by means of a wide variety of techniques and therapies as opposed to the Christian view of co-operation with divine grace. There is a general accord with Nietzsche's idea that Christianity has prevented the full manifestation of genuine humanity. Perfection, in this context, means achieving self-fulfilment, according to an order of values which we ourselves create and which we achieve by our own strength: hence one can speak of a self- creating self.

On this view, there is more difference between humans as they now are and as they will be when they have fully realised their potential, than there is between humans and anthropoids. It is useful to distinguish between esotericism , a search for knowledge, and magic , or the occult: the latter is a means of obtaining power. Some groups are both esoteric and occult. At the centre of occultism is a will to power based on the dream of becoming divine.

Mind-expanding techniques are meant to reveal to people their divine power; by using this power, people prepare the way for the Age of Enlightenment. This exaltation of humanity overturns the correct relationship between Creator and creature, and one of its extreme forms is Satanism. Satan becomes the symbol of a rebellion against conventions and rules, a symbol that often takes aggressive, selfish and violent forms. Some evangelical groups have expressed concern at the subliminal presence of what they claim is Satanic symbolism in some varieties of rock music, which have a powerful influence on young people.

This is all far removed from the message of peace and harmony which is to be found in the New Testament; it is often one of the consequences of the exaltation of humanity when that involves the negation of a transcendent God. But it is not only something which affects young people; the basic themes of esoteric culture are also present in the realms of politics, education and legislation.

Deep ecology's emphasis on bio-centrism denies the anthropological vision of the Bible, in which human beings are at the centre of the world, since they are considered to be qualitatively superior to other natural forms. It is very prominent in legislation and education today, despite the fact that it underrates humanity in this way.. The same esoteric cultural matrix can be found in the ideological theory underlying population control policies and experiments in genetic engineering, which seem to express a dream human beings have of creating themselves afresh.

How do people hope to do this? By deciphering the genetic code, altering the natural rules of sexuality, defying the limits of death. In what might be termed a classical New Age account, people are born with a divine spark, in a sense which is reminiscent of ancient gnosticism; this links them into the unity of the Whole. So they are seen as essentially divine, although they participate in this cosmic divinity at different levels of consciousness. We are co- creators, and we create our own reality.

Many New Age authors maintain that we choose the circumstances of our lives even our own illness and health , in a vision where every individual is considered the creative source of the universe. But we need to make a journey in order fully to understand where we fit into the unity of the cosmos. The journey is psychotherapy, and the recognition of universal consciousness is salvation. There is no sin; there is only imperfect knowledge. The identity of every human being is diluted in the universal being and in the process of successive incarnations.

People are subject to the determining influences of the stars, but can be opened to the divinity which lives within them, in their continual search by means of appropriate techniques for an ever greater harmony between the self and divine cosmic energy. There is no need for Revelation or Salvation which would come to people from outside themselves, but simply a need to experience the salvation hidden within themselves self-salvation , by mastering psycho- physical techniques which lead to definitive enlightenment.

Some stages on the way to self-redemption are preparatory meditation, body harmony, releasing self-healing energies. The destiny of the human person is a series of successive reincarnations of the soul in different bodies. This is understood not as the cycle of samsara, in the sense of purification as punishment, but as a gradual ascent towards the perfect development of one's potential. Yoga, zen, transcendental meditation and tantric exercises lead to an experience of self-fulfilment or enlightenment. Since there is only one Mind, some people can be channels for higher beings.

Every part of this single universal being has contact with every other part. The classic approach in New Age is transpersonal psychology, whose main concepts are the Universal Mind, the Higher Self, the collective and personal unconscious and the individual ego. The Higher Self is our real identity, a bridge between God as divine Mind and humanity. Spiritual development is contact with the Higher Self, which overcomes all forms of dualism between subject and object, life and death, psyche and soma, the self and the fragmentary aspects of the self.

Our limited personality is like a shadow or a dream created by the real self.

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The Higher Self contains the memories of earlier re- incarnations. New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, which are reckoned to be uncontaminated by Judaeo-Christian distorsions. Hence great respect is given to ancient agricultural rites and to fertility cults. There is talk of God, but it is not a personal God; the God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent. This unity is monistic, pantheistic or, more precisely, panentheistic. In a sense, everything is God.

There is also talk of Christ, but this does not mean Jesus of Nazareth. Every historical realisation of the Christ shows clearly that all human beings are heavenly and divine, and leads them towards this realisation. The universe is an ocean of energy, which is a single whole or a network of links. There is no alterity between God and the world. The world is uncreated, eternal and self-sufficient The future of the world is based on an inner dynamism which is necessarily positive and leads to the reconciled divine unity of all that exists. God and the world, soul and body, intelligence and feeling, heaven and earth are one immense vibration of energy.

The global brain needs institutions with which to rule, in other words, a world government. Everything in the universe is interelated; in fact every part is in itself an image of the totality; the whole is in every thing and every thing is in the whole. Every human person is a hologram, an image of the whole of creation, in which every thing vibrates on its own frequency.

Every human being is a neurone in earth's central nervous system, and all individual entities are in a relationship of complementarity with others. In fact, there is an inner complementarity or androgyny in the whole of creation. We are learning to read tendencies, to recognise the early signs of another, more promising, paradigm. We create alternative scenarios of the future.

The question is whether thought and real change are commensurate, and how effective in the external world an inner transformation can be proved to be. Such reasoning is really gnostic, in the sense of giving too much power to knowledge and consciousness. This is not to deny the fundamental and crucial role of developing consciousness in scientific discovery and creative development, but simply to caution against imposing upon external reality what is as yet still only in the mind.

Whereas traditionalised religiosity, with its hierarchical organization, is well-suited for the community, detraditionalized spirituality is well-suited for the individual. The rejection of tradition in the form of patriarchal, hierarchical social or ecclesial organisation implies the search for an alternative form of society, one that is clearly inspired by the modern notion of the self. Many New Age writings argue that one can do nothing directly to change the world, but everything to change oneself; changing individual consciousness is understood to be the indirect way to change the world.

The most important instrument for social change is personal example. Worldwide recognition of these personal examples will steadily lead to the transformation of the collective mind and such a transformation will be the major achievement of our time. This is clearly part of the holistic paradigm, and a re-statement of the classical philosophical question of the one and the many. It is also linked to Jung's espousal of the theory of correspondence and his rejection of causality. Individuals are fragmentary representations of the planetary hologram; by looking within one not only knows the universe, but also changes it.

But the more one looks within, the smaller the political arena becomes. Does this really fit in with the rhetoric of democratic participation in a new planetary order, or is it an unconscious and subtle disempowerment of people, which could leave them open to manipulation? Does the current preoccupation with planetary problems ecological issues, depletion of resources, over-population, the economic gap between north and south, the huge nuclear arsenal and political instability enable or disable engagement in other, equally real, political and social questions?

Some observers of New Age detect a sinister authoritarianism behind apparent indifference to politics. Even though it would hardly be correct to suggest that quietism is universal in New Age attitudes, one of the chief criticisms of the New Age Movement is that its privatistic quest for self-fulfilment may actually work against the possibility of a sound religious culture. Three points bring this into focus:. The Western universe is seen as a divided one based on monotheism, transcendence, alterity and separateness. This is portrayed as something tragic. The response from New Age is unity through fusion: it claims to reconcile soul and body, female and male, spirit and matter, human and divine, earth and cosmos, transcendent and immanent, religion and science, differences between religions, Yin and Yang.

There is, thus, no more alterity; what is left in human terms is transpersonality. The New Age world is unproblematic: there is nothing left to achieve. But the metaphysical question of the one and the many remains unanswered, perhaps even unasked, in that there is a great deal of regret at the effects of disunity and division, but the response is a description of how things would appear in another vision.

Furthermore, it is hardly a genuine dialogue; in a context where Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian influences are suspect, oriental influences are used precisely because they are alternatives to Western culture. Traditional science and medicine are felt to be inferior to holistic approaches, as are patriarchal and particular structures in politics and religion. All of these will be obstacles to the coming of the Age of Aquarius; once again, it is clear that what is implied when people opt for New Age alternatives is a complete break with the tradition that formed them.

Is this as mature and liberated as it is often thought or presumed to be? New Age echoes society's deep, ineradicable yearning for an integral religious culture, and for something more generic and enlightened than what politicians generally offer, but it is not clear whether the benefits of a vision based on the ever-expanding self are for individuals or for societies. The ideas have to do with the workplace as a 'learning environment', 'bringing life back to work', 'humanizing work', 'fulfilling the manager', 'people come first' or 'unlocking potential'.

Christianity always seeks to measure human endeavours by their openness to the Creator and to all other creatures, a respect based firmly on love. Whatever questions and criticisms it may attract, New Age is an attempt by people who experience the world as harsh and heartless to bring warmth to that world. As a reaction to modernity, it operates more often than not on the level of feelings, instincts and emotions. Anxiety about an apocalyptic future of economic instability, political uncertainty and climatic change plays a large part in causing people to look for an alternative, resolutely optimistic relationship to the cosmos.

There is a search for wholeness and happiness, often on an explicitly spiritual level. But it is significant that New Age has enjoyed enormous success in an era which can be characterised by the almost universal exaltation of diversity. Normality is presented as a morally loaded concept, linked necessarily with absolute norms. For a growing number of people, absolute beliefs or norms indicate nothing but an inability to tolerate other people's views and convictions. In this atmosphere alternative life-styles and theories have really taken off: it is not only acceptable but positively good to be diverse.

It is essential to bear in mind that people are involved with New Age in very different ways and on many levels. This fits perfectly into the patterns of consumption in societies where amusement and leisure play such an important part. New Age has been seen, in some cultures at least, as the label for a product created by the application of marketing principles to a religious phenomenon.

Like many other things in contemporary economics, New Age is a global phenomenon held together and fed with information by the mass media.

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Like the cybercommunities created by the Internet, it is a domain where relationships between people can be either very impersonal or interpersonal in only a very selective sense. New Age has become immensely popular as a loose set of beliefs, therapies and practices, which are often selected and combined at will, irrespective of the incompatibilities and inconsistencies this may imply. And that is precisely why it is important to discover and recognise the fundamental characteristics of New Age ideas. It is worth saying a brief word about concerted promotion of New Age as an ideology, but this is a very complex issue.

Some groups have reacted to New Age with sweeping accusations about conspiracies, but the answer would generally be that we are witnessing a spontaneous cultural change whose course is fairly determined by influences beyond human control. However, it is enough to point out that New Age shares with a number of internationally influential groups the goal of superseding or transcending particular religions in order to create space for a universal religion which could unite humanity. Closely related to this is a very concerted effort on the part of many institutions to invent a Global Ethic, an ethical framework which would reflect the global nature of contemporary culture, economics and politics.

Further, the politicisation of ecological questions certainly colours the whole question of the Gaia hypothesis or worship of mother earth. New Age as spirituality.

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But what really is new is that New Age is a conscious search for an alternative to Western culture and its Judaeo-Christian religious roots. People discover their profound connectedness with the sacred universal force or energy which is the nucleus of all life. When they have made this discovery, men and women can set out on a path to perfection, which will enable them to sort out their personal lives and their relationship to the world, and to take their place in the universal process of becoming and in the New Genesis of a world in constant evolution. The result is a cosmic mysticism 51 based on people's awareness of a universe burgeoning with dynamic energies.

This spirituality consists of two distinct elements, one metaphysical, the other psychological. The metaphysical component comes from New Age's esoteric and theosophical roots, and is basically a new form of gnosis. It is evident when the children of Aquarius search for the Transcendent Unity of religions. They tend to pick out of the historical religions only the esoteric nucleus, whose guardians they claim to be. They somehow deny history and will not accept that spirituality can be rooted in time or in any institution.

The psychological component of this kind of spirituality comes from the encounter between esoteric culture and psychology cf. New Age thus becomes an experience of personal psycho- spiritual transformation, seen as analogous to religious experience. For some people this transformation takes the form of a deep mystical experience, after a personal crisis or a lengthy spiritual search. For others it comes from the use of meditation or some sort of therapy, or from paranormal experiences which alter states of consciousness and provide insight into the unity of reality.

Several authors see New Age spirituality as a kind of spiritual narcissism or pseudo-mysticism. It is interesting to note that this criticism was put forward even by an important exponent of New Age, David Spangler, who, in his later works, distanced himself from the more esoteric aspects of this current of thought.

The principal characteristic of this level is attachment to a private world of ego-fulfilment and a consequent though not always apparent withdrawal from the world. The commercial aspect of many products and therapies which bear the New Age label is brought out by David Toolan, an American Jesuit who spent several years in the New Age milieu. He observes that new-agers have discovered the inner life and are fascinated by the prospect of being responsible for the world, but that they are also easily overcome by a tendency to individualism and to viewing everything as an object of consumption.

In this sense, while it is not Christian, New Age spirituality is not Buddhist either, inasmuch as it does not involve self-denial. The dream of mystical union seems to lead, in practice, to a merely virtual union, which, in the end, leaves people more alone and unsatisfied. In the early days of Christianity, believers in Jesus Christ were forced to face up to the gnostic religions. They did not ignore them, but took the challenge positively and applied the terms used of cosmic deities to Christ himself. The clearest example of this is in the famous hymn to Christ in Saint Paul's letter to the Christians at Colossae:.

Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity. Now the Church is his body, he is its head. For these early Christians, there was no new cosmic age to come; what they were celebrating with this hymn was the Fulfilment of all things which had begun in Christ. Eternity entered into time: what 'fulfilment' could be greater than this? What other 'fulfilment' would be possible? For Christians, the real cosmic Christ is the one who is present actively in the various members of his body, which is the Church. They do not look to impersonal cosmic powers, but to the loving care of a personal God; for them cosmic bio-centrism has to be transposed into a set of social relationships in the Church ; and they are not locked into a cyclical pattern of cosmic events, but focus on the historical Jesus, in particular on his crucifixion and resurrection.

We find in the Letter to the Colossians and in the New Testament a doctrine of God different from that implicit in New Age thought: the Christian conception of God is one of a Trinity of Persons who has created the human race out of a desire to share the communion of Trinitarian life with creaturely persons. Properly understood, this means that authentic spirituality is not so much our search for God but God 's search for us.

Another, completely different, view of the cosmic significance of Christ has become current in New Age circles. The divine pattern of connectivity was made flesh and set up its tent among us John The Cosmic Christ The Cosmic Christ is local and historical, indeed intimate to human history. For New Age the Cosmic Christ is seen as a pattern which can be repeated in many people, places and times; it is the bearer of an enormous paradigm shift; it is ultimately a potential within us. According to Christian belief, Jesus Christ is not a pattern, but a divine person whose human-divine figure reveals the mystery of the Father's love for every person throughout history Jn ; he lives in us because he shares his life with us, but it is neither imposed nor automatic.

Christian mysticism and New Age mysticism. For Christians, the spiritual life is a relationship with God which gradually through his grace becomes deeper, and in the process also sheds light on our relationship with our fellow men and women, and with the universe. Spirituality in New Age terms means experiencing states of consciousness dominated by a sense of harmony and fusion with the Whole.

This fundamental distinction is evident at all levels of comparison between Christian mysticism and New Age mysticism. The New Age way of purification is based on awareness of unease or alienation, which is to be overcome by immersion into the Whole. In order to be converted, a person needs to make use of techniques which lead to the experience of illumination. This transforms a person's consciousness and opens him or her to contact with the divinity, which is understood as the deepest essence of reality.

The techniques and methods offered in this immanentist religious system, which has no concept of God as person, proceed 'from below'. Although they involve a descent into the depths of one's own heart or soul, they constitute an essentially human enterprise on the part of a person who seeks to rise towards divinity by his or her own efforts. Not everyone has access to these techniques, whose benefits are restricted to a privileged spiritual 'aristocracy'.

There are spiritual techniques which it is useful to learn, but God is able to by-pass them or do without them. That would contradict the spirit of childhood called for by the Gospel. For Christians, conversion is turning back to the Father, through the Son, in docility to the power of the Holy Spirit. All meditation techniques need to be purged of presumption and pretentiousness. Here is a key point of contrast between New Age and Christianity. Our problem, in a New Age perspective, is our inability to recognise our own divinity, an inability which can be overcome with the help of guidance and the use of a whole variety of techniques for unlocking our hidden divine potential.

The fundamental idea is that 'God' is deep within ourselves. We are gods, and we discover the unlimited power within us by peeling off layers of inauthenticity. Here theosis, the Christian understanding of divinisation, comes about not through our own efforts alone, but with the assistance of God's grace working in and through us. It inevitably involves an initial awareness of incompleteness and even sinfulness, in no way an exaltation of the self.

Furthermore, it unfolds as an introduction into the life of the Trinity, a perfect case of distinction at the heart of unity; it is synergy rather than fusion. This all comes about as the result of a personal encounter, an offer of a new kind of life. Life in Christ is not something so personal and private that it is restricted to the realm of consciousness. Nor is it merely a new level of awareness.

It involves being transformed in our soul and in our body by participation in the sacramental life of the Church. The gnostic nature of this movement calls us to judge it in its entirety. From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others. In a cultural environment, marked by religious relativism, it is necessary to signal a warning against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith, making the difference between faith and belief seem relative, thus creating greater confusion for the unwary.

In this regard, it is useful to remember the exhortation of St. Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview.