Catholics and the dangers of New Age movement – the Experience of Father Kneemiller

Nowadays, it is not uncommon that Catholics feel themselves attracted to New Age Movement. They are sometimes, alas, even encouraged by their priests to do so. But what is the New Age Movement? Dr. Shea gives us the following explanation:

This so-called New Age movement is a cultural current that has engulfed the world today. There is therefore a pressing need for Catholics to understand authentic Catholic doctrine to properly assess New Age themes. New Age thought and practice is, like second and third century gnosticism, an assortment of positions that the Church has identified as contradicting the Catholic faith. […] A society which has undergone a breakdown of faith in the Christian tradition and in the unlimited process and progress of science and technology has now to confront the surprising return of gnosticism, a compendium of cosmic religiosity, rituals, and beliefs which had never really disappeared. Gnosticism has its origin in the pagan religions of Asia, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, and Babylon, and also in astrology and Greek Platonism. Its basic tenet is the doctrine of salvation through knowledge. The New Age movement claims to be able to acquire this knowledge in an esoteric way through such methods as dream analysis and through the medium of a “spiritual master.” (for more details click Here).

But is the New Age Movement harmless? Conform with the Catholic Faith? Not so, like Father Bill Kneemiller tells us from his own experience:

by Father Bill Kneemiller

(from The Catholic Messenger, H/T: The Courageous Priest)

The topic of New Age movements, once a budding campus phenomenon, is now mainstream and as close to us as our local bookstore or DVD movie. New Age refers to forms of spirituality that draw from old systems of knowledge such as Zen, Gnosticism (secret knowledge) and Eastern meditation.

New Age concepts and ideals are even becoming part of our vocabulary. I know this terminology well, as I had a former involvement with Eastern meditation practices before my reconversion to my Catholic roots. I have been steeped in both traditions. So, I may have some insights for Catholics who are dabbling in New Age practices.  I have not publicly written about this before because it has taken time to come out of this New Age involvement.

I was blessed to get a solid Catholic education in St. Charles, Mo., attending Catholic grade school and high school, and being taught by dozens of faith-filled priests and religious Sisters. After high school, I was ready to see more of life. As far as my faith life, Catholicism was OK but I wanted to get a spiritual high. At the University of Missouri I was intrigued by the philosophy of yoga, and in reading my first yoga book “Heaven Lies Within,” it seemed then to fit with me, the new “seeker.” After all, didn’t Jesus use these very words? After about a year of stumbling around with self-help yoga books, I started practicing the Eastern meditation technique, transcendental meditation. From this date in the early 1970s, there followed about 18 years of doing everything with this program. I traveled to half-a-dozen countries spending months, even close to a year overseas at a time studying the technique and advanced programs.

Also, I thought I was meeting the coolest people in the world such as Deepak Chopra, now a self-help guru in his own right, and Johnny Gray, author of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” At the time, it seemed great to me that Catholic leaders such as the Trappists in Massachusetts were practicing this meditation technique along with priests endorsing it. Everything seemed OK at the time because I was taught it is just a technique which enriches everyone’s own religion and the mantra used for this meditation practice was a meaningless word. It would be decades before I learned that mantras are names of Hindu gods.

After about 18 years of Eastern meditation involvement, I started going to a family rosary, at first, out of curiosity. I was taught “prayer with the heart” and it completely changed my concept of prayer from being a rote practice to being a conversation and relationship with Christ. With my newfound rosary friends, I enjoyed going to Catholic conferences and events. The first change I noticed was that I wanted to be around people who believed in the Catholic faith; the conversation and New Age-culture started sounding unusual, even strange.

After a few years, the Catholic culture won out, and I just stopped all involvement with Eastern meditation. I did wonder at the time if I could just walk away; was there any closure? Five years of seminary followed, then, soon after ordination, I started attending the healing Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. One of the priests there offered a prayer of deliverance for me at that time, and recommended that I denounce the mantra, and that was a huge step in cutting my former ties with Eastern meditation.

My story then picks up in 2010, after a tour as a military chaplain in Afghanistan, when I attend a healing conference in Chicago. This conference is held at Mundelein Seminary every August and is for priests involved in the healing ministry, along with training for exorcists. There I meet Father Bob Thorn, a diocesan priest from Wisconsin who had a similar history as me, being a former meditation teacher and now a Catholic priest. Fr. Thorn was helping with reconciliation one evening, so I waited, last in line to go to confession with him. I thought, “Well, Fr. Thorn may have some insights about the Eastern meditation movement, and his subsequent re-conversion to his Catholic roots.  I also thought that when we talked, it would be a friendly social visit, such as “Ha-ha-ha,” wasn’t that kind of crazy back then in the ‘70s, and our involvement with meditation and everything …”

But as soon as I sat down with Fr. Thorn, there was no “Ha-ha-ha” — only seriousness. I told him I was involved as a meditation teacher back then as he was, and he looked fairly concerned. He said, “Bill — you still have that Eastern meditation in you.”  He went on to explain that I needed to denounce every Hindu god that is invoked in the meditation ceremony.  I realized he was right. The transcendental meditation ceremony is filled with dozens of invocations to gods, such as ‘Brahma, Shiva’… you name it; it’s there in the ceremony in which everyone is taught the technique.

So, Fr. Thorn and I went to the conference directors and asked them if they could pray for us that evening. Fr. Thorn downloaded the meditation ceremony from the Internet, and we were ready to be prayed over for this intention.

Three priests helped with this, including one from Canada and one from Peru who I understand to be two of the most skilled exorcists in the world. The priests recommended that I denounce each god and proclaim Jesus Christ as savior, which took about a quarter of an hour.  I did this, and the priest did a casting-out prayer. The healing session was a profound gift and grace. Wow, the effects of spiritual healing! That night, I slept like a baby.

Then, the next week, and in subsequent months I have felt lighter and freer than I have ever experienced in my life. The next week at the healing Mass in Davenport, I gave a talk about healing from New Age practices and spent an hour-and-a-half afterwards hearing confessions and praying for people who had similar involvements. I could never recommend anyone using Eastern meditation for any reason at all. But, I also now see many intrusions of New Age thought, or re-formulated Hinduism in our culture, and some in our parishes.

“Many people are convinced that there is no harm in ‘borrowing’ from the wisdom of the East, but the example of transcendental meditation should make Christians cautious about the prospect of committing themselves unknowingly to another religion (in this case Hinduism),” according to a 2003 Church document entitled: “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age.”

“There is no problem with learning how to meditate but the object or content of the exercise clearly determines whether it relates to the God revealed by Jesus Christ … or simply to the hidden depths of the self,” the document states.

Our Church’s teachings remind us that we have in the person of Jesus Christ a trustworthy and sure guide, true man and true God, and source of all goodness!

(Fr. Kneemiller is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Hills and St. Mary parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols.)

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21 Responses to Catholics and the dangers of New Age movement – the Experience of Father Kneemiller

  1. toadspittle says:

    “Nowadays, it is not uncommon that Catholics feel themselves attracted to New Age Movement. They are sometimes, alas, even encouraged by their priests to do so. But what is the New Age Movement? “

    Says the intro.

    Note the word, ‘alas.’ And, as we see, we have not yet even defined what ‘the New Age Movement’ is.

    But, whatever it is, it’s clearly already no good.

    Alas.

    Not really much point in reading on, is there?

  2. toadspittle says:

    .
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/8270294/Tory-chief-Baroness-Warsi-attacks-bigotry-against-Muslims.html

    SOMEWHAT…off topic, but it struck Toad that if one substitutes the word ‘Catholics’ for the word ‘Muslims,’ in the above story – the Baroness would sound just like some of the folks on here.

    Where that gets us is another story.

  3. kathleen says:

    What are you talking about Toad? Have you read the article? Fr Kneemiller does exactly that – he describes what the New Age Movement is, at least in the field of meditation, and warns of its dangers.

    Having had dealings in Catechetics in the parish, with youngsters preparing for Confirmation, I can confirm that there is lot of New Age mentality around infiltrating all aspects of life, that has a strange allure for young people. Some of it is so subtle – seemingly attractive and harmless – and yet so harmful to the soul, that I can only imagine that it is one of the many traps of the wily devil!

  4. toadspittle says:

    .
    Kathleen,

    The point I was making above re ‘New Age’ was precisely that – before a word of Fr. Kneemiller’s argument could have even been read – the introduction was already disparaging ‘New Age’ with the small, but significant, word, ‘alas.’

    That’s all.

    Personally, Toad has no clue and little interest in whether ‘New Age’ is considered either good or bad. (Bit of both in most case generally, he finds.)

    Although, as a matter of Toadian policy, he always starts with the premise that, if anything is popular, (as New Age apparently is) it is almost certainly no good.

  5. kathleen says:

    I apologise Toad. On rereading your earlier post I see now what you meant to say.

    Yes, I quite agree that anything widely popular is almost invariably no good, or should at least be analysed carefully first before being blindly accepted just because it’s popular. The Gospel itself warns us of this, as you know.

    On the other hand, that which is criticised, hated, and attacked by so many in the world ie. the Catholic Church, is often because She stands for all that is right and good, and therefore unpopular to the libertine spirit of the world!

  6. toadspittle says:

    “On the other hand, that which is criticised, hated, and attacked by so many in the world ie. the Catholic Church, is often because She stands for all that is right and good, and therefore unpopular to the libertine spirit of the world!”

    True enough, Kathleen.

    No doubt every pious Muslim in the world shares exactly the same sentiments, although on a rather different page of the song-sheet.
    Which is why there are so many bodies scattered about the planet these days.

  7. kathleen says:

    Yes Toad, but the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, Son of God, is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

  8. rebrites says:

    Looks to me like Father Kneemiller´s deliverance was not so much from the “New Age movement” as from Transcendental Meditation, a neo-Hindu self-help cult popular in the 1970s.

    “New Age” beliefs encompass a much wider and broader spectrum than the yoga, Gnosticism (secret knowledge) and Eastern meditation described here. They take in everything from Native American Shamanism, crystal-gazing, water-dowsing, palm-reading, spirit-channeling, chakra-cleansing, astrology, Numerology, alchemy, Tarot, Rosicrucianism, voodoo, Druidism, labyrinths…. you name it.

    New Age is a giant spiritual cafeteria, and people without strong religious roots (or people who´ve denied theirs) pick and choose from the menu whichever combination of ritual, divination, and/or liturgy is pleasing. TM and neo-Hinduism of the Kneemiller variety are just one corner of the vast, multi-billion-dollar New Age beliefs business — which includes a lively market in rosaries and saints´images.

    I would hesitate to lump Zen or yoga into the “New Age” category. Zen is a denomination of Buddhism, a legitimate meditative philosophy that is thousands of years older than Christianity. (it has no God figure, so technically is not a religion). Yoga is a collection of physical poses and exercises designed to keep bodies strong and supple between hours and days of meditative stillness. New-Agers may have adapted elements of both to their own ends, but lumping them all together is like linking Roman Catholics and First Friday Devotions to the Southern Baptist Convention.

  9. kevinpaulcondon says:

    Yoga is not harmless exercise. Its purpose is union, which is what the word means in the Vedic tradition. It has been popularized by people who don’t know its roots. Buddhism is an offshoot of the Vedic tradition. Its purpose is renunciation and attaining nirvana, a spiritual state. If you get Eastern philosophy from People magazine or classes at the Y, it has been cleaned of its root meanings. Substituting Eastern practices for approved spiritual practices dilutes the effectiveness of our path and is an obstacle to knowing Christ more fully.

  10. Brother Burrito says:

    Well said KPC.

    Yoga, stripped of its ‘spiritual’ dimension, is harmless physical procedure, and most probably good for one. It amounts to finding quiet, stretching, and breathing well, after all. We all do that anyway, before we discover it is called ‘yoga’.

    ‘Union’ with an impersonal spiritual being is dangerous +++++. There are a legion of impersonators.

    Only Christ, must we be united to.

  11. toadspittle says:

    “Yoga is not harmless exercise. Its purpose is union,”intones KPC

    Well, yoga is, in fact, beneficial exercise. At the yoga classes Toad attened, aeons ago, there was no mention of anything ‘spiritual’ at all. Just a lot of bending, stretching and then relaxing. What it was originally is neither here nor there.
    Toad assumes KPC was originally a baby.

    But, since KPC brings it up, union with what? Oneself? How bad is that?

    And isn’t God ‘an impersonal spiritual being’? Burro?

    Or are we back on the Bogey Man?

    (Toad can’t see that the ability to put one’s head between one’s legs need be an obstacle to knowing Christ more fully. Might actually help)

  12. joyfulpapist says:

    No, Toad, God is a personal spiritual being.

    You’ve got your proper avatar here. What’s up with that?

  13. piliersdelaterre says:

    re. The New Age-
    William Blake said, ‘A fool who persists in his foolishness grows wise’ (non sic).
    I suggest that the problem with toying with many bits & bobs of religious & magical traditions, is that it is not about persisting, but eclecticism gone mad. A kind of theological sweetshop, likely to make one sick before very long.
    Once when I was working in a 2ndhand bookshop, a customer entered whose whole presence gave me a shock- she was in her fifties, with a completely shaved head and saffron robes- obviously a westerner who’d embraced Buddhism- in that corner of Australia there are many who return from South-East Asia in love with the culture (which they tend to see as more spiritual, meaningful, & less materialistic than theirs).
    What shocked me was the quality of compassion surrounding this person- no pseudo- religion here. It had WORKED. She was a genuinely marvellous example of a spiritualized person, not just someone poncing about in fancy dress, drugged to the gills (Fremantle can be like that).
    I suggest that if the New Age were about other faiths ONLY it wouldn’t be too bad- it is about the dilution and trivialization of ALL faiths, more likely. New Age interests maybe contain that which could be useful but encourage passivity, lack of judgement, narcissism and have a druglike effect upon people, who are lured by it rather than making it a serious choice in their search for God. Yes, fundamentally it is a huge & lucrative industry, feeding a need & never quite satisfying it.
    I hope this doesn’t sound too relativistic, but I am being empirical here (St Thomas might back me up).

  14. I almost never leave a response, but after browsing a few of the remarks
    on Catholics and the dangers of New Age movement – the Experience of Father Kneemiller |.
    I do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay. Is it simply me or does it seem like a few of the comments appear like they are coming from brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are writing on other online sites, I would like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Could you list of every one of all your public pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  15. There is a growing appetite for a one-world religion. Convergence. So many uninformed young people tell me that ‘all religions are saying the same thing’. It could be that the world stage is set for the emergence of a so-called ‘world teacher’. This is the myth of ‘Maitreya’ or ‘Master Jesus’ … definitely not the Jesus Christ of Scripture, our Blessed Lord, Saviour and King. Readers of this blog might like to check out another blog, ‘GALATIANS 4: More on Catholicism and Hinduism — The Popes, Mother Teresa and a Hindu guru Sri Chinmoy’. The last named, Chinmoy Ghose, was a charlatan who demanded total obedience from his many brainwashed disciples. Ghose fooled his disciples into believing he could see their ‘previous lives’. Walking away from his evil cult would seriously damage their karma. Yet Pope Paul VI met Ghose and said, ‘We will meet in heaven.’ John Paul II told Ghose, ‘I bless your divine work.’ The writer Os Guinness warned Christians of the danger of being seduced by Eastern ideas in his prophetic book ‘The Dust of Death’ published in 1973. Perhaps Catholicism can learn from evangelical Christianity. John Murray the eminent Protestant theologian wrote a great book on our salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is called ‘Redemption Accomplished and Applied’. It has been republished with an introduction by Carl Truman. JACK HAGGERTY, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND.

  16. katusablog says:

    Thank you, Father Kneemiller, for your article on the “New Age” implications for Catholics over the past at least 5 plus decades and beyond! Perhaps this more relates to American Catholics and other Western Catholics, but not certain.
    When you mentioned eastern mediation (with it’s wide array of ‘false gods’ in montras and more, this whole presentation really got me thinking, in a much more right-headed, Jesus-Centered way of thinking!
    As a boomer generation female infant of the 50’s and then a child of the 60’s, and 70’s and beyond, I remember how the whole “New-Age Movement” seemed oh-so-very-normal and even ‘better than’ other teachings than those of my generation had encountered in our young lives. Of course, being young, made us ripe for the taking and taken so very many of us were!
    Now in this most-difficult era in the midst of the 2nd decade in the 22nd Century, A.D., with the 2nd, 3rd of even 5th (I’m not sure) rumblings from what was the Byzantine Empire, with its calls for world-wide caliphate, with it’s attendant Islamization of the whole world as it’s goal, I fear those “New Agers” may even be more susceptible to this “lure”!
    You were so right when you noted “depths of evil” and here it is as well with more “false gods” and prophet(s)!
    And, wow, one last thought — EXORCISM to remove any vestiges of new age false gods and ingrained teachings (certainly what comes from all the mediation and chanting and listening to “wisdom” — the devil, evil, takes so many forms and can appear most helpful and seductive!

  17. katusablog says:

    Reblogged this on katusablog and commented:
    Very interesting article by Catholic Priest; was to me as a member of boomer gen, child of 60’s and 70’s, etc. Recommended Reading!

  18. Pingback: Catholics and the dangers of New Age movement – the Experience of Father Kneemiller | katusablog

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