Gnosticism of the 20th Century: The New Age Or An Old Lie?
Many people are becoming aware of what is commonly referred to as “The New Age Movement.” To most people, these diverse beliefs and practices seemed to grow out of nowhere.
The term “New Age” is somewhat misleading as it actually refers to a coming new era, a new state of existence – the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”
Adherents claim that this new state of utopian global bliss and consciousness will occur when enough people are converted or initiated.
Actually the beliefs and practices are very, very old. Their root lies in the dawn of time and began to grow and branch out throughout Biblical and modern history.
As Brooks Alexander writes, “…these presuppositions have been systematically expounded in such esoteric disciplines as astrology, alchemy, reincarnation, yoga, magic, Taoism, tantra and Zen. Today, because of the wide spread cross-fertilization of these and other schools of thought, new forms of this basic world view are being created,” (Special Collection Journal, Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Vol. 6 Number 1, 1984, p. 14).
This basic world view states that all reality is one undifferentiated cosmic energy or consciousness (monism). There is no personal God, but all is God; or God (an impersonal force) is all (pantheism).
Man is therefore a divine entity and “salvation is equated with the discovery of this higher Reality with its laws,” (Ibid, p. 16).
The attainment of this experiential knowledge (gnosis) leads to self-realization which “Leads to the mastery of spiritual technology and the attainment of psycho-spiritual power,” (Ibid).
Matter, sin, and finiteness are therefore an illusion.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines gnosis and gnosticism as the gaining of spiritual knowledge reserved only for special initiates, “Distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation or salvation comes through this special knowledge.”
Closely related and associated with gnosticism is occultism.
Classically the word “occult” means hidden or secret teachings and practices. But “by `secret’ it is not meant that the positions taken are not available in most instances. Rather, the beliefs and practices are secret in the sense that performance of the rites is considered to be effective only when performed by those who are deeply initiated in the lore of the cult,” (Cults, World Religions, and the Occult, Ken Boa, p. 139).
Therefore, a working definition of the New Age would be a revival of ancient eastern mystical/occult beliefs and practices based on gnostic roots.
It involves the belief that spirituality or godhood is gained by the use of magical/mystical practices which transcend the illusory physical universe and senses.
This pagan philosophy has its historical root in Genesis 3:1-5. Satan in his temptation of man seduces Eve by questioning the character, benevolent rule and word of God (vs.1).
Satan also denies the reality of death (as does reincarnation), and promises that if man partakes of the forbidden, secret knowledge (occult/gnosis) then he will be raised up on the level of God, independent of Him (vs. 3-5).
“…the tempation of the autonomous and infinitized self remains the alpha and omega of spiritual pride,” (Special Collection Journal, p. 22).
From this unfortunate beginning, the embodiment of this philosophy can be historically traced through the Bible. Ancient Babylon in its mystery religions consistently reflects this heresy.
Throughout the Old Testament, these practices are exposed and condemned (Deut. 18:10-14; Isaiah 47:8-15).
For instance, the Ziggurats of Babel (Genesis 11) and the entire Chaldean culture were deeply rooted in the esoteric science of astrology.
This philosophy expressed in the Samarian and Egyptian cultures as well. God lays bare the deceitfulness of this paganism in Isaiah 47:8-10.
Eschatologically, mystery Babylon demonstrates that it is preeminently a religious system throughout the ages culminating in the final judgment (Revelation 17 and 18).
Continuing to trace the history of this heresy, Paul addresses the Stoic philosophers at Athens (Acts 17:16-34) who were the pantheists of that day. Paul also confronted this heresy in Ephesus (Acts 19:17-20).
Sections of the New Testament, especially in Colossians and 1 John were written specifically responding to the gnostic beliefs of that day.
In more modern times, this gnostic/occultic philosophy has continued to evolve in expressions like Indian Shamanism, transcendentalism, spiritism and spiritualism, New Thought, Rosicrusianism, Theosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen, Kabala, Sufism, Yoga, Christian Science, Mind Sciences, Unity, Silva Mind Control, Edgar Cayce, Transcendental Meditation, Witchcraft, firewalking, Church Universal and Triumphant, parapsychology and many more.
“That which has been is that which will be, and that which is done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Historically the effect of the perennial heresy has always been death and so it will be in the future: “For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong,” (Revelation 18:8).
As C.S. Lewis cogently remarked, “And Pantheism in that sense has, in the long run, only one really formidable opponent – namely Christianity,” (Miracles, pp. 84-85).