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New Age and the Need for Soul Food

June 14, AD2013


In this world where science and reason reign as twin demi-gods, there is curiously a sizeable portion of intelligent Catholics being lured into the new age lair.  There’s no shortage of articulate theologians and apologists what with Catholic publishers and websites swamping us with brilliant Catholic writers. Yet the baffling mystery of Catholics with one foot in the new age and the other in Church remains.

I’ll solve that riddle by parting the cobwebs of the new age skeletons in my closet.

As a teenager, dabbling in Ouija Boards and fortune telling cards was part and parcel of hocus focus fun.  However, the new age charm tugged fiercely when I was in college and law school. Astral travel in psychology classes and field trips to occultists’ caves and gushing waterfalls were enticing alternatives to required classes on theology, philosophy, business and legal cases. There was always enough room in my bookshelf to squeeze in Deepak Chopra, Paolo Coelho, and The Celestine Prophecy beside the Enneagram.  Enya caterwauled with a tape on hypnosis on discovering my former life and regular Zen meditation session. If yoga had been peddled on every street corner as it is now, I would have signed up for some twisty poses.

I have since gone to confession and submitted to deliverance prayers. And this I firmly conclude: my fascination for the mysterious unknown was triggered by the fact that though my mind was fed with substantial doses of input, my soul was starved for its own food. I longed to be filled with the non-material and supernatural. I craved magic that new age was happy to provide.

I don’t have a quarrel with theology (nor philosophy  and apologetics) because those studies answered many of my mind’s essential questions. My unease is when the scholarly approach to Catholicism takes center stage to the exclusion and neglect of the mysteries and miracles of the Catholic faith. This creates an imbalance between the dual sides of a human body and soul.

Theology 101 hammered into my mind its very definition: faith seeking understanding. My professor was quick to reiterate that faith always comes first. Faith is a prerequisite to theology, otherwise the study becomes hollow and collapses like a house built on sand. Theology brings down the intangible to the realm of our human understanding.  But faith elevates our souls to the level of the holy and supernatural.

Theology is brilliant but it is insufficient to combat the phenomenon of the New Age because theology presupposes that one has enough faith to seek it. The alarming rise of new agers highlights that many Catholics have atrophied muscles of faith or have lost the attraction to faith because we’ve either forgotten or choose to ignore the soul’s first and basic need: to be goose-bumped in awe at the supernatural. Chances are, the new age seekers are hungry to read up on soul food, not theology.

Faith in the pure unknown-ness of a Supreme and loving God –that’s something souls irrevocably need to understand and accept in humility. There will always be something beyond us that is a mystery. I am a mystery –to me, to my husband despite ten years of marriage, to my mother despite having been in her womb and her home far longer than that. The future, the Asian culture, the weather, the after life and who killed JFK are mysteries. Mystery is a fact of life and there’s no shame in admitting that. Nor in admitting that there are just mysteries of faith that lie beyond the earthly bounds of theology.

Catholics would benefit much from being in a state of constant wonder and amazement about the intangible mysteries of our faith: the transubstantiation of the Eucharist; the glory of the resurrection; the invisible graces of the Sacraments; the miraculous medical healings through Our Lady’s intercession at Lourdes; the incorrupt bodies of St. Pio and St. Catherine Laboure; the mystical gifts and powerful intercession of the saints; the Holy Spirit’s undeniable presence in the Bible and at World Youth Day; the powerful sacramental like scapulars and holy waters in the rite of exorcism; the protection and presence of the spirits called angels, and naturally the flip side of evil, the fallen angels masquerading as good in the new age.

Let the miraculous mysteries of our faith lead us into theology, which will in full circle point us back to pure faith. Then the seeming novelty of the mysterious new age won’t hold a candle to Catholicism.

© 2013. Anabelle Hazard. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Anabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic, non-practicing attorney, learning homeschooler, penniless novelist (of Catholic novels “Written in the Sand and Stars” & “Fireflies Dance”), and unpredictable blogger at Written By the Finger of God.

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  • Oh, can I relate! But I was drawn away from the new age to the Church precisely because of her theology (especially reading the Catechism and books on moral and spiritual theology). I think we need to distinguish between theology taught by someone who has not encountered the mystery, and theology taught and communicated by one who has not only encountered the mystery but is in ongoing and deep (and deepening) relationship with that mystery. That teacher will more likely be able to communicate the mystery because of that deep soul-communing with God, the Mystery of mysteries. But we can’t hand on what we do not ourselves have. I wish I had discovered the Church in all of her profound truth, beauty, and mystery before I wasted so many years in the wasteland of the new age desert.

    Thanks for writing this article. And I’m glad you gave all that up and confessed it. (I did, too, and threw the garbage away.) God bless you! Peace be with you! 🙂

  • markiemarie

    What a Wonderfully insightful article,thank you for writing what the hearts of so many feel and know to be true,Amen !

  • St_Donatus

    Bill S, you do get around don’t you. I am starting to understand you. You aren’t really interested in Truth. Having been an Atheist for over a decade, I do feel sorry for you. You only get to have the sad realities of an ungodly world, while us Catholics get to also enjoy God’s love in the supernatural world.

    Anabelle, beautiful article. I agree so much. We have everything but sadly, for many years it seemed like we were ashamed of it. Many Catholics were discouraging the Rosary, reverence of the Saints, belief in miracles, etc. Thankfully, our own experiences tell us otherwise. I myself, since coming back to the Church have experienced many small ‘miracles’ that appear be gifts from God.
    May God Bless you and keep up the good work.

    • Bill S

      “You aren’t really interested in Truth.”

      I’m not interested in the Truth as in “the Truth, the Way and the Life” or “the Truth, the Light and the Way” if that’s what you mean. I am most definitely interested in the truth that is being pursued every day by science.

    • Anabelle Hazard

      Thank you for the encouragement, St. donatus. I would love to read about your little miracles.

  • Bill S

    “I longed to be filled with the non-material and supernatural.”

    There might be things like happiness, love, etc. that one might call the “non-material” but there is no supernatural anything (unless you consider the intelligence behind the design of the universe to be supernatural). There are no angels, demons, miracles, etc. if there were that kind of supernatural, modern science would have discovered evidence of it. To date, there has yet to be discovered one shred of evidence of the supernatural. Instead there are a lot of delusions and pious frauds like Padre Pio, my great grandmother’s cousin. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion. Take my word for it. It’s true.

    • MT McClanahan

      My thought is that it always comes back to the basic question of creation; if you can have the supernatural in design, there must also be the supernatural in creation? Creation and design infer intelligence which, to me, points to personality. If this is possible, why is it not possible for the other intities you mention. Can science “discover” good and bad? They are not quantifiable so I would say there is no science of good and bad, but I dare say there is good and bad in the world. Science cannot “discover” many things that exist. And I would never let the failings of man dictate my belief in something greater than man.

    • Bill S

      “Creation and design infer intelligence which, to me, points to personality.”

      I’m not so sure that the existence of design and creation necessarily points to personality. I don’t see any per personality at work in the Big Bang and the laws of nature. If such a super intelligence that is evident in things like the fine tuning of the physical constants and the coding of DNA has a personality, that might change my worldview. I’ll have to think about that one.

    • MT McClanahan

      I believe it takes more than intelligence to be more than a robot. Spock (Star Trek) could never really have existed. I don’t know the nature of God for sure so I use the word “personality” because that’s what I can relate it to I guess.

    • James1225

      I just read ”
      Mind and Cosmos” by Thomas Nagel. He states that consciousness could not have come from random mutations and natural selection. Perhaps the is a cosmic consciousness with a personality.

  • MT McClanahan

    Last week my 3 year old grandson, JackJack, asked why the “Live Oaks” (we
    were at the beach) were so crooked and curved. I proceeded to explain (and I may
    be wrong on this) that as they grew from little sprouts the strong winds would
    bend them, and as they continued to grow to adulthood they stayed curved and
    curled in response to these winds. JackJack replied, “yea, that’s the way God
    made them”. I thought that a cute and almost profound example of reason in
    relation to faith; they’re not reliant on each other yet not mutually exclusive
    either, i.e., Jack and I believe the same thing. No matter how much reason
    though, it never satisfies, doesn’t fill the void, like you say. Jack seemed
    quite satisfied with his answer though.

  • Karen

    Well put.

  • the mad-eyed monk

    Oh the humility the Mysteries require and the fire of the miraculous–more amazing than mere magic! Thanks for a wonderful piece of writing! God Bless!

  • MarytheDefender

    You are right there is a disconnect between our Theology courses and the spirituality of our faith. I even had a prof who denied Jesus’ miracles! It is sad because Ignatian spirituality is so rich! Yet most graduate without knowing anything about it. Emphasis is given to Theo and Philo, but little is known about Catholic spirituality.

  • Nathalie Mariano

    So insightful! I think we Catholics need to accept in humility that we do not have a monopoly of God nor of truth, nor can we confine the mystery and generosity of God. The Spirit blows where it wills. This is the starting point of inter-religious dialogue, which Asian Bishops strive to practice.

    Here’s a quote from a paper from The Loyola School of Theology site by James T. Kroeger, on Asian Dialogue Decalogue. “God’s saving will is at work, in many different ways, in all religions… God’s saving grace is not limited to members of the Church, but is offered to every person… His ways are mysterious and unfathomable, and no one can dictate the direction of His grace.”

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  • Nancy Shuman

    This is oh, so good. Indeed we do long for the supernatural and the non-material, because we were made for it (for God)!! Thanks for saying it so clearly.