Examining the New Age

Sidebar by Martha Quillen

March 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

When I started the pyramid story, I didn’t know anything about the New Age — except the obvious.

I had noticed that people in the 70s tended to blame their problems on their home lives, by the 80s they blamed their past lives.

And it had struck me as notable that some of my friends had quit talking about their doctors and started talking about their iridologists and massage therapists.

But otherwise, I didn’t know a chakra from a Shasta soda.

In a New Age book, this is where I would say, “And then things began happening to me. I’d never even thought about telepathy before, but suddenly I knew other peoples’ thoughts, their feelings, and even their secrets.

“I didn’t know what to do; it was upsetting, unnatural. And to make things worse, I started seeing things — before they happened. Then one night, I felt the most peculiar sense of awareness, as if…”

Well, that didn’t happen, but I did learn a few things I probably should have known all along.

The New Age preaches a multitude of sermons. Open your mind. Open your heart. Accept new ideas. God is within you. Reality is an illusion. You make your own reality. Learn to let go.

And it embraces all beliefs: Hopi, Mayan, Buddhist, Christian, Arcturian, Lemurian, Uranian, Atlantian, New World, Old World, Other World and Inner World.

Adherents of the New Age don’t follow any single creed or doctrine. They are free to explore, to compile, and to mix-and-match — because the term New Age refers not to any given belief, but to a way of looking at things.

THE New Age isn’t new, either. It is merely the latest phase in a long struggle against scientific rationalism.

Simply put, rationalism is the philosophical viewpoint that reason is the source and test of all knowledge.

And if anything is genuinely new in this world, it’s reason.

For the majority of human history, superstition, magic and mysticism ruled mankind, and thus the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Hebrews, et al, managed to build civilizations without ever being seriously hampered by logic.

The further one goes back in literary tradition, the more the “real world” mingled with the “spiritual world.” Knights slew dragons daily, and Odysseus talked with gods more readily than he conversed with his wife.

Rationalism was a slow development. Although it started to assert itself in the sixth century B.C., it didn’t really take hold until the 17th century, after Rene Descartes decided philosophy should share the clearness of mathematics.

Descartes aimed to produce a philosophical system which men could agree upon as easily as they agreed upon Euclidian geometry. Hoping to create that coherent philosophy, Descartes contended that the main obstacle was man’s impulsive desire to believe before his mind was clear.

Therefore, Descartes lauded doubt. Doubt was the method Descartes proposed for finding truth, and thus he encouraged doubting everything — in the hope of finding indubitable truths.

Since men are not particularly reasonable in nature, not even brilliant men, Descartes never applied his doubt to his religion, and therefore he never foresaw his theory’s consequences in terms of what it would do to religion.

But soon after Descartes died in 1650, rationalism’s new devotion to doubt escalated that philosophy’s effect.

From the first, rationalism didn’t mix well with religion.

And for good reason. As Encyclopaedia Britannica puts it, “To the contemporary mind, it is too obvious to warrant debate that reason and revelation cannot both qualify as sources of ultimate truth for, were they to conflict, truth itself would become self-contradictory.”

But that didn’t stop intellectuals from trying to mix the two. Before Descartes came along, learned monks spent centuries trying to meld rationalism with Christian revelation. A lot of others, however, never tried.

Famous amongst those who revered mysticism above reason was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. As much an adventurer as Indiana Jones, Blavatsky wandered the world, reveling in the occult, dabbling in spiritualism, and studying exotic religions. A flamboyant, cigarette-smoking, 220-pound mystic, Blavatsky became the inspirational force behind the newly-formed Theosophical Society in 1875.

Not one to do things the ordinary way, Blavatsky claimed that her first published work, Isis Unveiled, had been revealed to her in an astral light. Then, after critic William Collette cited over 2,000 incidents of plagiarism in the book, Blavatsky protested that she had merely copied the work from an astral light, and was therefore not responsible.

Subsequent works rained from above in the form of letters from Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi (later spelled Kuthumi).

In her books, Blavatsky established a complicated cosmology which mingled both Eastern and Western beliefs. With Col. Edward Olcott, her chief disciple and live-in companion, Blavatsky traveled the world, spreading Theosophy across three continents. Accusations of fraud and deception followed her everywhere, but Blavatsky weathered them, and consequently inspired numerous followers to search for truth in the mystical ceremonies and sacred texts of ancient and modern religions.

After Blavatsky’s death, Theosophy lived on under the direction of Annie Besant, but scandal continued to plague the society. Letters from the Mahatmas continued to arrive, even without the clairvoyant Blavatsky’s presence — until Besant announced that an associate, William Judge, was forging the letters. Besant demanded his resignation, and Judge left, but he took almost all of the American Theosophical Society with him.

Another blow to Theosophy came with the defection of Krishnamurti. The society had groomed and promoted Krishnamurti as a future teacher and holy man; this was not appreciated by Rudolf Steiner, who felt that Besant was changing the nature of the society.

In 1909, Steiner left the Theosophical Society and founded the Anthroposophical Society, which survives to this day.

While Blavatsky pursued the ultimate truth in India, in America another movement was growing. Called New Thought, the movement promoted the viewpoint that illness was a matter of the mind. By the 1890s, New Thought congregations had spread across the country, influencing Mary Baker Eddy and Edgar Cayce.

Inspired by both Theosophy and New Thought, Guy and Edna Ballard founded the “I Am” movement in 1934. Employing Blavatsky’s Mahatmas or Masters, they called them Ascended Masters and elevated Master Saint-Germain to a position of prominence.

After Guy’s death, and Edna’s indictment for mail fraud, Mark and Elizabeth Prophet adopted St. Germain and Koot Hoomi. Although Mark is gone, their organization lives on today in Montana as the Church Universal and Triumphant.

Another former Theosophist, Alice Bailey, left the society in 1920, but compiled several dozen books, presumably dictated by Master Djwhal Khul.

Then in the 1970s, one of Bailey’s fans, Benjamin Creme, claimed he had established contact with the returning Christ, whom he called the Maitreya.

In 1963, a former Avon lady in Elmira, N.Y., had her first psychic experience. In the following years, Jane Roberts wrote numerous books, including The Seth Material. One of Seth’s favorite messages was that people create their own realities.

Channeled entities visited by the dozens in the 80s, among them Ramtha, Lazarus, Michael and Barking Tree. After Shirley MacLaine’s books made channeling fashionable, the activity became so popular that courses were offered in how to do it.

In the past twenty years, there’s also been an explosion in the extraterrestrial population, resulting in a mob of books, newsletters and organizations for the interested and the abducted.

Today, the Trinity Foundation of New Mexico is only one of hundreds of New Age organizations. And it’s only one of many channeling Kuthumi.

Milanovich’s statement that Christ is called Sananda is interesting, however. Sananda is best known for sending messages to a Mrs. Keech throughout the summer and into the fall of 1952. Mrs. Keech, who communicated with Sananda by automatic writing, was told that flying saucers would come for true believers on Dec. 20, to save them from a cataclysm to take place the next day. With several hundred bystanders and a crowd of journalists looking on, the group of faithful assembled. Then, huddling together in the cold, they ignored the jeering crowd and waited. But the spaceships never came.

Of course, it’s possible that Sananda has come through for others. With so many channelers around, it’s hard to keep track.

But the name Trinity doesn’t seem like such a wise choice, either — at least not for a foundation in New Mexico. On the other hand, maybe the actual name of something isn’t as important as its numerological significance.

As for the Trinity Foundation’s pyramid, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to find enough money for their proposed project, since even Maharaj Ji of the Divine Light Mission wasn’t able to fill, or pay for, the Houston Astrodome in 1973.

By that year, the Divine Light Mission had established more than forty centers in North America, and Maharaj Ji’s tours were accompanied by massive publicity. Only a year earlier Maharaj Ji had been received by a huge meeting of disciples in Montrose, Colo., and his popularity was inarguable. But the Astrodome fiasco and subsequent family in-fighting led the Divine Light Mission into a decade-long decline.

That’s not to say there isn’t money in New Age religion. Some channelers get several hundred dollars per hour for a consultation, and some hustle huge amounts for weekend seminars attended by large crowds. In actuality, the New Age is getting more commercialized than Christmas.

The Trinity Foundation’s packet alone contained a five-page promotion for Athena Publishing, complete with order forms for books, tapes and posters. Plus a page promoting Tachyon Energy Products, with a phone and fax number for further information. Plus another page, complete with order blank, advertising a $38 badge for fending off electro-magnetic radiation — which, according to the ad, can cause cancer and depression.

Obviously, the struggle against Cartesian rationalism is doing very well.

Welcome to the New Age.