Cults and New Age groups reject Christianity but typically also force some connections with it. (My opinion is that this is a stab at credibility and/or an attempt to attract Christians who are stepping away from their faith but still have a sort of nostalgia for Christianity.) Here are a few examples of such attempts to connect the dots, as it were.
- The Church Universal and Triumphant was founded in 1975 by Elizabeth Claire Prophet, who called herself a “vicar of Christ.” (Note that the title “vicar of Christ” is also used of the Roman Catholic Church itself, or its bishops/priests. Vicar means “substitute” or “agent.”) Christian leaders said this group’s teachings are “thinly veiled to look Christian” (Moody magazine, Sep 1987; interesting that the CUT at that time had a list of organizations and individuals they felt were malevolent—and so chanted decrees [“astral invocations”] against them). The official CUT website in 2022 says the group is “sponsored” by “the ascended masters Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha.” Those two worthies will “initiate” anyone who is pursuing “the path of Christhood.” There’s also a rosary—but note that “Mother Mary” dictated to Ms. Prophet some updates to the traditional Catholic version.
- “New Agers often invoke Jesus as their ally, even claiming Him as a forerunner of the New Age,” said cult expert Douglas Groothuis. He also points out that “New Agers misinterpret the biblical record of Jesus and usurp its authority by appealing to exotic sources.” Like, for example, viewing pagan or secular texts as more reliable than what the New Testament says about Jesus. (“The New Age Goes Mainstream,” Bookstore Journal, October 1990)
- Supposed clairvoyant/psychic Edgar Cayce claimed that Jesus became Christ only after 30 incarnations (“The New Age Goes Mainstream,” Douglas Groothuis, Bookstore Journal, October 1990). Anything along those lines aims to reduce the true Christian view of Jesus and the Bible to something archaic and inaccurate. With some new guru, then, you still have the connection but with “enlightenment.”
- One practitioner claimed to channel the angel Gabriel (but also a spirit named Ashtar).
- Time magazine cover story of 12/7/1987 featured actress Shirley MacLaine, who had become a very noticeable New Age teacher. The reporter watched MacLaine speak to an audience and noted these words of hers: “See the outer bubble of white light watching for you. It is … that part of God that you have not recognized.” And, “If you don’t see me as God, it’s because you don’t see yourself as God.”
- Gotta wonder why a book titled Harmonic Wealth (and promising to show “how to get past all the reasons you think you can’t have what you want”) would be connected to fasting and meditation (which seem sort of Christian) but also to shaved heads, “spiritual warriors” retreats, Native American sweat lodge ceremonies … (Deaths occurred during the infamous 2009 sweat lodge exercise.)
- A reporter described the teachings of the Heaven’s Gate cult as a mix of New Age, UFOlogy, and Christianity.
- “Much of [New Age teaching] starts in Eastern religion and in forms of the occult, but it’s so vague that it just blends in. A lot of it even sounds kind of Christian” (award-winning religion writer Russell Chandler in Understanding the New Age, 1988; quoted by journalist Terry Mattingly, 1994). Chandler also said that New Age faith has “become so visible that it’s now all but invisible.” I take that to mean that certain aspects don’t alarm us as they should, having become mainstream.
- A man claiming to bring teachings from the star Alpha Centauri said (and with an Irish accent): “Greetings from the almighty form of God” (Time magazine, 12/7/1987).
- Some say that Jesus spent years in India, learning from Hinduism and Buddhism. The implication being that what we get in the Bible actually meshes with those Eastern religions.
- Occultist Benjamin Creme published The Reappearance of Christ and the Masters of Wisdom (in 1980). That title, on first look, could appear to mean Jesus Christ. It doesn’t. It’s the coming cosmic christ.
- Benjamin Creme also said, “Prayer and worship as we know it today will gradually die out and men will be trained to invoke the [inner] power of deity” (p 136 of his Reappearance book, quoted in John Ankerberg newsletter, June 1988). A couple of different writers pointing out features of the New Age mentioned the interest in contacting spirit guides. But these writers couldn’t resist saying how odd that seemed. After all, if each of us has “the divinity within,” as New Age teaching claims, why would we need to look outside for further divine information/help?
Journalist Otto Friedrich said many years ago, “So here we are in the New Age, a combination of spirituality and superstition, fad and farce, about which the only thing certain is that it is not new” (Time magazine, 12/7/1987). The writer of Ecclesiastes said it first: “What has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
If we know Lord’s truth, we won’t try to connect dots that aren’t there.