Where Are You Heading, Friend?
Friday, February 24, 2017
“I’ve drunk of every fount of pleasure and quaffed every cup of fame, yet, alas, I die of thirst!” ~ Lord Byron
I haven't been able to ascertain if this attribution to Byron is correct. But, true or not, it seems appropriate to begin this week's column with it.
The quote came across my desk after watching a conference presentation by a former New Ager. This presenter is now a Christian, active in a ministry warning others about the dangers of the New Age. One other conference presenter mentioned Wayne Dyer, a name I am very familiar with and have discussed in previous columns.
Dyer is one of the gurus of the self-help industry. When I was a New Ager, one of my favorite books was his You'll See It When You Believe It. He taught that when someone visualized a desired outcome and applied real faith, it would manifest in one's life. I liked the book so much I gave a copy to two friends - even though Dyer's ideas never worked for me.
Wayne Dyer also prescribes a meditation which he calls I AM That, I Am. It borrows from Exodus 3:14 where God ascribes that name only for Himself. Yet Dyer teaches that practitioners, in repeating this mantra in meditation, actualize that same divine God aspect within themselves. In essence it is a practice in blasphemy.
His latest book is called I Can See Clearly now. He notes that he wasn't aware of the future implications that all his early experiences were going to offer him:
"Now, from a position of being able to see much more clearly, I know that every single encounter, every challenge, and every situation are all spectacular threads in the tapestry that represents and defines my life, and I am deeply grateful for all of it."
Despite this bravado and beliefs about manifesting desired outcomes, cancer and another marriage breakdown were unwelcome and unforeseen events in his life. These are what led him to write his book.
By his own account Dyer was devastated when his wife left him for another man. His admission to believing in a kind of "open marriage" and feeling free to have dinner with women he found attractive, should have been a routine red flag. One didn't need special meditations to see potential problems ahead.
Another favorite New Age author was Richard Bach who was famous for his concept about perfect soul mates. Bach also wrote about spiritually travelling backwards and forwards into time to dialog with younger and older versions of himself.
He is famous for authoring, Jonathon Livingston Seagull and Illusions - The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. In the latter novel, Bach poses the question:
"What if somebody came along who could teach me how my world works and how to control it? ... What if a Siddhartha came to our time, with power over the illusions of the world because he knew the reality behind them? And what if I could meet him in person, if he was flying a biplane, for instance, and landed in the same meadow with me?"
In 2012, Bach crashed his plane after hitting power lines during an attempted landing. This is not what he expected or desired. He suffered massive injuries to the brain, chest and spine; and woke up from his coma a week later, tethered to a ventilator because of respiratory failure.
Richard Bach recovered from his injuries and is able to fly again. Unfortunately, his experience hasn't changed his perspective on life:
“I’ve had 41 airplanes, and Puff [the crashed plane] had a personality. When I first bought her I really loved her. I was ferocious that Puff had to be rebuilt. It was very, very important. I had a relationship with that little spirit.”
Bach passionately believes his material. In fact his near-death experience has motivated him to revise his Jonathon Livingston Seagull and write Illusions II. He notes:
"There's no blessing that can't be a disaster, and no disaster that can't be a blessing."
These "teachers" try to make sense of their adversities from their metaphysical worldviews. Bach believes he chose the incident as a learning experience, and at some level even prayed for it as a test of his mental abilities. He claimed that he needed to know whether his beliefs would overcome his problems.
Washington Post's Ron Charles rightly observes:
"Try hawking that that New Age goo to children dying of cholera in Haiti."
Some time ago, one of my precious relatives passed away in denial of the cancer that finally took his life. He kept people away because he didn't want them to affirm its reality. Denying the disease didn't help him.
I grew up with people who were more confident in their own abilities than I'll ever be. They were constantly looking for that new challenge, and never satisfied until it came along. One of them now lives in his car, addicted to alcohol and penniless. Another friend - who knew no fear - now sits at home alone and dependant on his medication for depression.
We had only just reached our forties when one friend confided that he sees an old man in his mirror. Younger people would likely agree that anyone over twenty is way too old. Yet my friend lived a vital life excelling in his chosen sports and was, by most accounts, practically indestructible. Yet the years caught up with his body. Now he tries to find ways to cram as much of life as he can before the inevitable end of his life.
Despite man's laboring, he inevitably ends up in the grave. Moreover, that journey is often accompanied with much pain. No one can change that - not Bach, Dyer or anyone else. Ecclesiastes has a lot to say about man's vanity.
I said in my heart, "Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals." For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. (Ecc 3:18-20 NKJV)
We live in an increasingly hostile and frightening planet that has made a Covenant of Sin and Death. This world is caught in an endless circle of seeking pleasure but never finding lasting satisfaction.
And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
There is only One Hope. This same hope is offensive to many people who reject their sinful state and cringe at the name of Jesus Christ. Yet he says of Himself:
"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)
"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
Christ promised a resurrection to those who choose Him. They will possess powerful and incorruptible bodies similar to His own, and experience eternal joy (1 Cor 15:42-43; 1 John 3:2).
Man's natural destiny is death. Do you know where you're heading?
Have you accepted Him yet?
What are you waiting for?
Originally written: September 5, 2014
About Alf Cengia
Last week: New Age Spiritual Candy
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