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Responding to the Lure of New Age

Interview With Father Paolo Scarafoni of the Academy of Theology

ROME, MARCH 2, 2004 (Zenit) - A yearning for spirituality and a good dose of distress can even lead Catholics to the New Age, says a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology.

The Church can counter that phenomenon, says Legionary Father Paolo Scarafoni, by proclaiming Jesus Christ "living and risen," "whose person has greater fascination than any other" and who fills life with meaning.

Father Scarafoni, who is also rector of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, was one of the speakers at last Friday's worldwide videoconference on "The Church, New Age and Sects," organized by the Congregation for Clergy (www.clerus.org).

"New Age does not consider original sin and tends not to consider man's sin and, therefore, not to make man responsible for his actions," Father Scarafoni explains in this interview. "New Age is nourished by Jung's psychology, whose approach is clearly anti-Christian."

Despite its name, New Age ideas "derive from ancient religions and cultures. What is genuinely new is the conscious search for an alternative to Western culture and its Judeo-Christian roots," the priest says, referring to the document of the pontifical councils for culture and for interreligious dialogue: "Jesus Christ, Bearer of Living Water: A Christian Reflection on the New Age."

Q: How can the success of New Age be explained, even among Christians and Catholics?

Father Scarafoni: It depends at least on three elements: an essential element in human nature -- the yearning for spirituality and prayer; an existential element -- the desire to be rid of the distress that many experience in present-day Western society, which does not guarantee stability or a future; and a psychological element, that is, the proposal of a spirituality that springs from the encounter between esoteric culture and psychology to verify the transformation and peace obtained through techniques.

Q: How does New Age propose peace to escape from the division and distress of Western culture?

Father Scarafoni: In several ways -- all far from the Christian experience. The fad of trips to India; the search for mystical experiences; the experience of drugs that produce states of consciousness that enable one to perceive the unity of reality; "sexual mysticism," which would allow for profoundly loving relations only after full liberation from sexual taboos; recourse to esoteric traditions -- Gnosticism, alchemy, astrology, magic, spiritism, witchcraft, religions oriented to mystery; Satanism and occult sciences. Crystal-therapy is very widespread.

Some New Age books argue that crystals have a hidden intelligence capable of influencing our lives, and they teach how to enter into contact with their supposed power.

Q: Followers of New Age often talk about the angels.

Father Scarafoni: There is a genuine fixation with angels, which the followers of Aquarius see everywhere.

But their angels have nothing in common with those of Christians. They have strange names and powers similar to those of talismans and amulets. To them are added many other popular figures of the New Age, such as "guiding spirits" and varied "entities."

Q: Peace and happiness are the feelings New Age proposes.

Father Scarafoni: It's true, but they are aspirations whose way of fulfillment goes against the Catholic Church.

The conclusions shared by these and other ways of searching for peace and happiness are: the need to abolish truths and dogmas that break and divide the vision of reality, and refuge in intuition and in the irrational mysterious; the need to suppress churches or forms of stable organization of religions, especially the hierarchy of the Catholic Church; the search for a new mysticism accessible to all.

Q: Of what does the new mysticism consist, which they propose?

Father Scarafoni: The new mysticism, also practiced by many Catholics, is nourished by the most varied traditions of prayer, especially Eastern.

It rejects the vision of a transcendent God, separated and far from us. It provides for inner purification, signs and wonders, a phase of interior emptiness and, finally the attainment of an encounter with "oneself," the real self, which is one with God, with the universe, and with all that exists.

Q: How does the Church plan to address the challenge posed by this movement?

Father Scarafoni: The pastoral principles to address the New Age phenomenon are: the confident presentation of the relation between faith and reason; the school of Christian prayer and of active participation in the sacraments, appealing also to the great tradition of the Christian heritage; the proclamation of Jesus Christ, living and risen and at present in communication with us, whose person has a fascination that is greater than any other and whose presence fills with meaning the life of every man; the view of the world as creation that is loved by God, Creator, and that is led to fulfillment by him.

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Keywords

New Age, Theology, Sects

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