Some people would like to see changes introduced to Orthodoxy without first understanding or realising its treasure. For these people the Church is seen as ancient, institutionalised, highly ritualised and irrelevant to their experience of the modern age. Orthodoxy for these people is not suitable because it is not custom made or designed for their own individual experience.
In these troubled times of great social turmoil, people gaze out to the universe guided by their perception and personal feelings in an attempt to find an answer to the most important questions facing them in their life. If it were any other field or discipline, commercial endeavour or pursuit, you could be assured that these same individuals would thoroughly research their subject before drawing any conclusions and investing their time and money in ventures that have no proven methodology.
Unknown to many people, Orthodoxy is highly disciplined, and has a clear developed methodology. In contrast to this, the new customised approach to religion demands that we put our own experiences before any established methodology because the individual is regarded as the centre of all experience. The argument here is that the self is the centre of universal experience. With this approach it is no wonder that the expression of one’s own opinions feature highly in contemporary spiritual movements. Consequently many people today make decisions about spirituality on the flimsiest of evidence.
Orthodoxy demands the opposite to this approach in that it is God centred. Its methodology is the Word of God, and is manifested by faith and Truth, which continues as a living experience for all the faithful guided by the Holy Spirit.
The New Age Movement
New age religions espouse peace, harmony and things of beauty such as music, aroma therapy and clean green sustainable environments, that appeal to the senses. Ironically they are based on the same selfish, self-serving, individualistic and lifeless gods of the commercial world. These new age religions do not stand up to scrutiny of any kind, they are first and foremost forgiving in this regard to themselves for the sake of their own survival, backed by their followers’ personal experiences and theories of the universe. They quietly mislead the unsuspecting lost souls by declaring an eclectic approach, allowing people of any faith to feel included without fear of rejection to retain and discard their own private feelings and life experiences. This is nothing more than a by-product of the commercialised market disguised as an alternative for those seeking to escape the meaningless existence of the economic rationalist world. The ‘new age’ is no different to the system that gave it birth. Not wishing to acknowledge its mother, it sits comfortably under the ‘alternative’ life style banner. A new religion to join the fashion world, the spirit of man succumbing to trivialisation.
‘New age’, all inclusive, broad based, minimum exclusion criteria, superficiality guaranteed, short term benefits disguised as eternal knowledge and blessings, unconcerned with history or tradition and most importantly, anthropocentric. This is the spiritual lie of the ‘new age’ declaring its revolt against its true origins, to deceive the unsuspecting and the ignorant. Despite its carefully chosen association with the love of the environment and its friendship with the spirit of man, this demon and his helpers gives himself away, for his message is not based on truth, ignoring the Creator whilst promoting the worship of creation. There is no thanksgiving in this, and though it speaks of spiritual cleansing, it does not know how to practice it as instructed by God. New age worships the earthly kingdom seeking an earthly peace and harmony which is short-lived, whereas Orthodoxy glorifies God, gives thanks to Him, marvelling at His Creation and for His eternal Heavenly Kingdom for which we strive to become eternal citizens through the mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
St Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain instructs us never to trust in ourselves but always to trust in God. The ‘new age’ religions instruct the exact opposite to this teaching. But this thinking is appealing in today’s world because it promises much, asks for little, though in actual fact gives nothing in return.
People can do as they wish without great effort, and whatever effort there is, it serves their own interests without serious challenge. It is consoling and comfortable but is based on deceit.
The Lie Is Widespread
Sadly many Orthodox Christians, and Christian denominations have fallen prey to the ‘new age’, choosing to compromise and ignore the Word of God, the Canons and Teachings of the Church, preferring to serve people rather than to serve God and learning to love the Truth; that is learning to accept the Truth without innovation, and serving God and His Church in the Apostolic Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
In his letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul wrote, “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
(2 Thessalonians 3:8-12).
Why is it that the Truth which is universal is so misunderstood? Could it be to do with our degree of acceptance of the Truth and our impoverished spiritual state? St Paul in his letter to Titus wrote, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure: but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable disobedient and disqualified for every good work.”
Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou