New Respectability in a New Age
|By: Dave Hunt; ©2003|
|Dave Hunt explores the impact the drug culture of the ‘60s had on the acceptance of New Age teachings today. The specific focus of this article is “Ramtha,” a mystical warrior fugitive from Atlantis, who is channeled by Washington state housewife J.Z. Knight.|
New Respectability in a New Age
It has been more than 20 years since housewife J. Z. Knight exploded onto the New Age scene as the channel for Ramtha, that mythical warrior fugitive from Atlantis. In 1988, “amid a barrage of negative press… she withdrew from public view.” Nevertheless, more than a thousand of Knight’s followers have moved to Yelm, Washington, to buy property and build homes near her 3-million-dollar estate and to attend her “Ramtha School of Enlightenment.” About 2000 others reportedly “descend on Yelm to attend twice-yearly retreats… to encounter Ramtha via Knight; to learn a blend of Yoga, quantum physics and mental exercises they say enhance spiritual awareness and psychic abilities; and to seek spontaneous healing of everything from corns to cancer.”
In February 1997, Knight paid the expenses of a group of 14 scholars, headed by J. Gordon Melton, religion researcher from University of California, Santa Barbara, to visit her to determine whether she and Ramtha are legitimate. The result of their investigation is included in Melton’s book, Finding Enlightenment: Ramtha’s School of Ancient Wisdom. That Knight invited them demonstrates her sincerity and willingness to be tested.
Rejection and Rebellion
Knight claims her spiritual odyssey began when, as a teenager ostracized by “a stepfather who loathed her,” she “fell in love with God” and “talked to Him incessantly,” and eventually “God began to talk back to her.” This “talking with God” to obtain new insights and revelations independent of the revelation that God has given us in His Word is characteristic of the occult and of much that claims to be Christian. Knight’s “god” is certainly not the God of the Bible.
Ramtha’s concept of God has been expressed by many other entities through other channels. So has nearly everything else Ramtha says.
- God is a mind composed of consciousness and energy, birthed from the void. And the power of God is to transform [energy waves] into particles of experience.
- We’ll make a New Age of superconsciousness possible, in which new kinds of energy coexist with the old.
To imagine that “the void” could birth anything is obviously the same delusion as Edgar Mitchell’s unconscious god awakening in plants. That intelligent people by the millions accept such lunacy while rejecting the God of the Bible testifies again to the self-delusion which grips those who imagine they can escape moral accountability to God. It reflects, too, the growing respectability of occultism in today’s world.
The rejection of the God of the Bible by the “flower children” of the ’60s resulted in rebellion against all authority. They concealed their self-centeredness with talk of peace and love. No rules would be needed in their brave new world. Everyone would be free to take dope, listen to groovy music, enjoy free sex, and “make love instead of war.”
The fantasy of cosmic unity doesn’t work in real life. Camelot was a farce. One could, however, keep on dreaming the impossible dream—through yoga or drugs or both. The flight from reality and reason continues with the growing popularity and acceptance of “pot” and other consciousness-altering drugs (and now heroin) along with Eastern meditation. Gene Edward Veith painted the grim picture well:
- Fashion magazines such as Vogue and W have been featuring a new look for the ’90s: gaunt, emaciated women with hollow eyes sprawled on a bathroom floor, holding out their arms for a needle. Glamorous models cultivate a zoned-out look, shuffling down the runway like semi-conscious zombies. The fashion world is calling it “heroin chic”… [and] teenage drug use is skyrocketing… [up] 78 percent from 1992….
- “I believe in drug use,” confesses the head of a major record label, quoted anonymously in The Los Angeles Times. “It’s part of growing up and the creative process….”
- The psychedelic ’60s turned on with LSD; the strung-out ’70s…[on] amphetamines; the hard-charging ’80s got its kicks from cocaine. Today’s pop culture is cultivating a dark, depressed mood…. Young people, dressed in black, indulge themselves in bleak, moody introspection, and their music wallows in cynicism, anger, and despair. Their drug of choice, increasingly, is heroin….
- Secular drug treatment agencies boast success rates only in the single digits… Teen Challenge cures 70 to 86 percent of the addicts it serves. Other Christian groups and churches are meeting with similar success. Bondage to drugs, like other bondage to sin, is best dealt with by the gospel of Christ.
We have previously noted the relationship between drugs and the occult. The New Testament refers to the occult as “sorcery,” the English translation of the Greek word pharmakeia. And now a new dimension has brought further respectability to occultism: the “potheads” and “dropouts” of the ’50s and ’60s are the doctors, lawyers, politicians, psychologists, social workers, university professors, and scientists of the ’90s.
The consciousness revolution is no longer spearheaded by a bunch of scraggly young freaks; it’s being fed to us from the top down. Its occult fruit is ripening for a horrible harvest. Again, as Veith put it, “The upsurge of drug use during President Clinton’s administration is probably due less to his cutbacks in the drug czar’s office and interdiction efforts than to the permissive culture he embodies and represents… joking on MTV about wishing he had inhaled….”
New Respectability in the Church
One can hardly blame the world for embracing the occult when the church is doing the same. Church leaders increasingly jump onto a bandwagon with little regard for where it came from and where it is going. Evangelical acceptance of M. Scott Peck and his heretical best-selling books is a case in point. By December 8, 1993, when Peck appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, his first book, The Road Less Traveled, had been on The New York Times bestseller list a record-breaking 500 weeks. He told Oprah that he had been “divinely led” to write it. Yet he had earlier admitted that he was not a Christian at that time. The anti-Christian teachings in that book (“the collective unconscious is God,” etc.) refute any claim to divine involvement.
In his next book, People of the Lie, published after his alleged conversion. Peck’s heretical pronouncements continue unabated. Peck says he “would not exclude from the [exorcism] team any mature Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, atheist, or agnostic who was a genuinely loving presence.” In The Different Drum, Peck declares that “the salvation of the world” would come “through communities… nothing is more important.” No mention of salvation through Christ. Peck’s position on the faculty of the Omega Institute, which offers courses in “Zen, magic, witchcraft, altered states of consciousness, and various other occult arts,” belies his professed Christianity.
When New Age Roman Catholic priest (now Episcopal priest) Matthew Fox published The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, in which he equates fundamentalist Christianity with fascism and separates Jesus from the “Christ” that dwells in us all (a common occult theme), there was M. Scott Peck’s glowing endorsement on the back cover. Nevertheless, Peck and his books continue to be praised by leading evangelicals. The following comments by authors Brenda Scott and Samantha Smith are a shocking reminder of the new respectability which the occult has gained even within the evangelical church:
- If New Agers recognize Peck as one of their own, and if he is content to be so identified, then why can’t Christians have the [same] discernment…? Instead, he conducts seminars… teaching Christian pastors his Zen methods of “community.”
- Dr. Calvin Van Reken, assistant professor of moral theology at Calvin Seminary, recommended The Road Less Traveled in the January 24,1992 issue of the campus periodical. David Mains spent several days reading from Peck’s book. The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, on nationwide broadcasts of “The Chapel of the Air.” David Mains never told his listeners that Peck considers his books New Age or that The Different Drum… mocks the sinlessness of Christ and teaches Zen Buddhism.
- We wrote to the “Chapel”…, explaining Peck’s New Age doctrines and affiliation, and enclosed a copy of his article from New Age Journal. We were concerned that the “Chapel’s” endorsement of Peck might lead many astray. Our letter was never acknowledged, and The Different Drum continued to be aired….
Writing in the magazine of the Evangelical Covenant Church, North Park Theological Seminary professor Richard W. Carlson decries the “paranoid responses” on the part of critics of the New Age movement. “All is clearly not bad in New Age,” he writes, and some “aspects may even be healthy for the church….” No wonder such statements as the following could be uttered triumphantly by a professor lecturing at Harvard Divinity School:
- The environmental movement, in conjunction with New Age spirituality and the rediscovery of the native American worldview, is assaulting the arrogant domination of nature that has brought the planet to the brink of ecocatastrophe….
- All life is sacred and must be protected from the ravages of the species ironically titled Homo sapiens. And so, more recently, there has been the revelation of Gaia, the entire earth as a living entity. The Great Goddess has had many names and this is but the latest….
- It is above all the Bible that must be blamed…! The repressive, racist, phallocratic and hierarchical heritage of biblical religion has deformed Western culture. The Christian churches, of course, have been the chief vehicle of this monumental deformation….
- What is on the decline is the tattered residue of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the churches and synagogues…. This particular god is dying if not yet quite dead. But other, more ancient, gods are alive and stirring.
- Joan Connell, “The New Age Spiritualist and the Old School Scholars; Academics Take Their Measure of Longtime Channeler JZ Knight,” in The Washington Post, March 8, 1997, pp. B7-8.
- Gene Edward Veith, “Heroin Chic,” in World, November 8, 1996, pp. 13-15.
- M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (Simon & Schuster, 1978), p. 282.
- M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie (Simon & Schuster, 1983), p. 201.
- Brenda Scott and Samantha Smith, Trojan Horse: How the New Age Movement Infiltrates the Church (Huntington House Publishers), p. 133.
- Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ (San Francisco: Harper, 1988), pp, 6, 7, 32.
- Scott and Smith, Trojan, p. 135.
- Richard W. Carlson, “The New Age: A Weather Report,” in The Covenant Companion, January 1991, pp. 6, 7, 45.
- Peter L. Berger, “The Other Face of Gaia—From a lecture given at the Harvard Divinity School by Aglaia Holt, Professor of Wymyns Studies, California State University at Poco, in First Things, August/September 1994, pp. 15-17.