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New Age Spiritual Candy
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Friday, February 17, 2017
Alf Cengia

I love books.  In fact I devour them.  As I’ve related before, one of the first places I go to when I visit any book store is the section on Religion.  Most stores have a general “Religion” bookshelf. 

It’s understandable that one may find the Koran or a book on Sufism or Hinduism there. However, I shouldn’t expect to find some counterfeit or anti-Christian book in the Christian section.

Yet it’s annoyingly consistent that, despite whatever Book Store I visit, I’ll invariably find a contra-Christian book that more correctly belongs in the New Age section.  Call me fussy but I have a problem with that.

In a prior commentary I wrote about finding Deepak Chopra’s counterfeit Jesus books there.  I then went on to argue that Dr Chopra’s Jesus is a figment of his imagination and preconceptions.  In fact if I didn’t stress this previously, I’ll emphasize this again – many (if not most) New Age writers use the name “Jesus” to help market their products to a less than discerning audience.

A few weeks ago I walked into one of the local Book Store chains; ambled over to the “Christian” section and spotted a book by Paramahansa Yogananda.  It was called “The Yoga of Jesus – The Hidden Teachings of the Gospel”.

One of the blurbs states:

“In this remarkable book, Paramahansa Yogananda reveals the hidden yoga of the Gospels and confirms that Jesus, like the ancient sages and masters of the East, not only knew yoga but taught this universal science of God-realization to his closest disciples.”

Why these teachings were hidden to everyone else except the “closest disciples” – I don’t know and we’re not really told. But, unlike Jesus, Yogananda is apparently willing to clue anyone in to how they can realize their true God-Self within.  They only need to buy the book.

According to one of the reviews:

“...the work of Yogananda illuminates much of their likely original mystery and meaning with new perspective.  This little work would revive the most jaded who know the history of institutionalized religion.  Questions such as ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Why am I here?’ are rarely directly addressed by dogma on baptism, sin, and heaven and hell...”

Yet a plain understanding of verses like Matthew 7:13-15John 1:1-143:1610:9 and 1John 2:22-23 tell a clearly different story.  There aren’t any hidden meanings but there are warnings.  Sadly, the peddlers of the Hindu-inspired New Age genre twist selected Scripture in such a manner that should make the most liberal scholars blush.

Paramahansa Yogananda drew millions of followers (me included) via his famous autobiography. In it were fantastic accounts of the miraculous.  Who wouldn’t want to align themselves with the special Kriya “God-science” that Yogananda promised to teach his devotees?  He assured his readers that Christ was a self-realized Kriya yoga master and they could be one too.

One of his central characters (other than Christ) was another “master” called Babaji, who was India’s version of Jesus Christ and his spiritual equal.  In fact I later found out that many other gurus channeled Babaji as well.  I guess they wanted some of the action.  Interestingly they all seemed to have different versions of the “master” along with differing details.  Perhaps there were many Babajis or maybe he was just a postmodernist.  The one other option is that Babaji is...well...a scam.

Yogananda was fond of saying that India had a superior religious system and superior saints in contrast to the West.  Yet he (as other gurus have done) peddled an invented Christ and wrote his own spin on The Sermon on the Mount.  One would have thought that this was unnecessary given his pedigree.  But it helps if you’re marketing your product inside a predominantly Christian nation.

Ironically, a spiritually-superior nation should reflect those traits in its society, yet that isn’t the case with India.

The fact that Yogananda used the name of Christ so many times was a stumbling block to me because I was seeking Him.  According to the Self Realization website:

“One of the essential goals of Paramahansa Yogananda’s mission was “to reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.”

His books are beautifully presented.  If you’re a book lover, they are the kinds of books you would want to see sitting in your library.  They have superb illustrations and slick smooth pages brimming with the promise of power and miracles.

And yet the more I studied the less confident I was that he really knew Christ or anything else.  There were the occasional disturbingly naïve remarks about health and fitness.  I knew something about the subject due to my lifestyle.  But wasn’t he, after all, a “realized master”?

I desperately wanted to believe.  I even tried to get advice from my dreams as prescribed by Edgar Cayce.  It’s a testament to how self-deluded human nature can become when I managed to interpret my clearly negative dream answers into positive ones.  Note that gullibility isn’t constrained to a lay person like me.  Gurus like Yogananda draw hundreds of devotees from the academic fields as well.  Gullibility can affect smart people too.

One of the problems with the New Age is that it’s like a candy store.  You can feel good about yourself and the future by selecting whatever doctrines and stories you want to believe in.  There’s plenty on offer for the particular mind and it doesn’t even have to contain any allusions whatsoever to Christ.

Years ago Dan Millman wrote a book called “Way Of The Peaceful Warrior”.  He writes about meeting a miracle working spiritual mentor called Socrates.  When I first read the book, the “fictional” aspect of his biographical work wasn’t highlighted.  After Millman had gained a considerable following and written a number of non-fiction books, “Socrates” was relegated to the foggy background.

Best selling author of “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”, Richard Bach, also has a proclivity for merging fiction with real life.  His books offered the possibility of wonder-working miracles and meeting soul-mates in out-of-body experiences.  His “biographical” book “The Bridge Across Forever” was as much fiction as biography.  Even his miracle-working, messiah-character Donald Shimoda was a construct of his imagination.  Yet many people still buy into it.

Probably one of the greatest New Age cons of the 20th century was the charismatic Carlos Castaneda.  I remember seeing his books everywhere at one time.  He wrote about his adventures with a miracle-working shamanic individual called Don Juan.

There seems to be a pattern here – have you noticed?

As it turned out he was an adept scammer who profited from plagiarism and the gullibility of academia; to the shocking detriment of some of his female devotees.  After his death the evidence of his fraud became overwhelmingly evident, yet his publishers continue to print his books as non-fiction and some universities still stock them in the non-fiction sections of their libraries.

Robert Marshall writes:

“Among anthropologists, there’s no longer a debate. Professor William W. Kelly, chairman of Yale’s anthropology department, told me, “I doubt you’ll find an anthropologist of my generation who regards Castaneda as anything but a clever con man. It was a hoax, and surely don Juan never existed as anything like the figure of his books. Perhaps to many it is an amusing footnote to the gullibility of naive scholars, although to me it remains a disturbing and unforgivable breach of ethics.”

As a pilot, Richard Bach would never fly a plane without reading the correct manufacturer’s manual first.  Moreover, he likely wouldn’t trust any manual I might write about the plane’s functions.  Likewise, we shouldn’t trust Millman, Bach, Castaneda, Yogananda or anyone other man with our eternal destinations.

Two of the above are now dead.  Sadly, many new aspiring “masters” and “teachers” are following in their footsteps.  All of them wolves in sheep’s clothing and some of them are infiltrating Christian churches.

The devotees of Yogananda have tried to ascribe saintly status to him by declaring that his “body was apparently in a phenomenal state of immutability.” However, the truth is that there is a much more mundane explanation for this phenomenon.

Don’t be fooled.

There is only one True Master we can trust; and His grave is empty because He has risen.  Only He can truly satisfy our longing.

When I was still in Australia my future wife printed and sent me a series of bookmarks with Bible verses and Christian website addresses.  I slipped some of them within the pages of the New Age books in my local library. I have lots left over.

It looks like I have an appointment at Barnes and Noble.

Originally written: October 21, 2011

About Alf Cengia

Last week: On Satire, Prejudice & Intolerance

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