Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whither the New Age?

The final thoughts in my last post, on the Testimony of John, got me thinking about what always acted as a foil for me: New Age thought. What happened to it?

Perhaps I am the last person you should ask about it; for, having left the book store, I left any contact with New Age thought. It just disappeared from my life; there was no longer any reason for me to pick up any of that literature again. And so I never did.

But...always that disclaimer...I do have to admit though I may have left it, it never left me. In my days at the book store I did manage to put out a text, a long essay in effect, called "Every Thousand Years," on my disagreements with New Age thinking. It's buried somewhere in a box, somewhere in this the fifth house I have lived in since I wrote it. Maybe in a thousand years I will retrieve it.

What is not lost, however, are two insights I arrived at in the course of writing that essay.

The first is this: there is a real and important distinction to be made among religion, spirituality and church. I don't remember the exact wording I used, but let me say it now as I think I said it then: Religion consists of the values, practices and rituals that bind a people together; spirituality consists of the relationship one has with the depth of one own being; and church describes a people who are called together by a shared text, believed to have been revealed, and which touches on the concerns of religion and spirituality.

I have ever since then held to that basic distinction, and to the one further corollary: church is there to mediate between the extremes of religion and spirituality.

The second insight was this: Gnosticism (the original New Age thinking)was for a long time considered as nothing more than a Christian heresy. We now understand it as having an origin and existence separate from Christianity. But the fact that it was for so long considered simply as a Christian heresy means that there is something in Christian thought that invited that linkage.

What that, in turn, has led me to ponder is whether there are perhaps hundreds of other ways of thinking buried in the body of Christian thought we have inherited.

And that, my friends, is another dimension of why I have called this website "The Potluck Catholic." I suspect that even now there is in the church a whole plethora of understandings that are begging to be brought to the table. And so I close with yet another invitation: bring what it is that nourishes you to the table. Perhaps I will like it too.

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