Friday, March 28, 2008

The "Shifty" New Age

Part 2:
The Great Heretical Idea:
Oprah and Eckhart Do the New Age Shift

By Warren Smith

“This basic principle – the Divinity of Man – is the dynamism of Christianity that can save the world and lead mankind to a new level of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’”[14]
-Eric Butterworth
Discover the Power Within You

“The great sin of mankind is not to know the divinity that lies unexpressed within every individual.”[15]
-Eric Butterworth
Discover the Power Within You

“‘Namaskar!’ Behold yourself in a mirror and say, ‘Namaskar!’ (I salute the divinity in you.) And then go out and act the part.”[16]
-Eric Butterworth
Discover the Power Within You

Several million people have already downloaded Oprah and Eckhart Tolle’s webcast classes on Tolle’s new book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Obviously this book is connecting deeply within people. Why? Because Tolle is giving very practical applications on how to be a better person and how to love your neighbor, becoming more sensitive to others and to your own life. These very practical things that he is talking about are part of the reason I was drawn into the New Age for 5 years before realizing I was being deceived. From my background, I can totally understand how people are attracted to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. It seems so right, feels so good, and appears so wonderful. However, for all the worthy applications that Oprah and Tolle are teaching, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal 5:9).

Oprah and Tolle completely invalidate the interpersonal lessons they are teaching when they suddenly “shift” to the teaching of the “Divinity of Man,” which is the core New Age belief that man is “God” and that man is “Christ.” For whatever good Tolle and Oprah might be sharing with their audience, it is utterly undone when they build it on the foundation of the “Divinity of Man” teaching. The Lord Jesus Christ said if you build your house – no matter how nice – it’s going to fall if you build it on a foundation of sand (Matthew 7:26-27). No matter how beautiful your house, how good it feels, how nice it looks, if it is built on the wrong foundation it will fall. Of particular concern is the fact that Oprah and Tolle selectively pick Scriptures from the Bible for their own convenience and then omit the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:7).

This is the “shift.” It is a bait and switch. It is reaching people through their “felt needs,” which are genuine and real, but then tells them that they are “God” and they are “Christ.”

In their first Internet class, Oprah and Tolle were very careful to not describe “the shift” or their spiritual beliefs as “New Age.” They tried to distance themselves from the term "New Age" by saying "New Age" was more “I want:” what they were doing was on a much higher plane. So rather than calling their New Age teachings for what they are – New Age – they were now describing them as the New Spirituality.

Because many Christians are rightfully concerned about heretical New Age teachings, Oprah and Tolle and most New Age leaders are now trying to redefine the term “New Age" to mean something selfish and frivolous. New Age teacher Marianne Williamson is particularly clever at this. However, the New Age by any other name is still New Age. To confuse matters even more, Oprah described herself on the webcast as a “Christian” and not as the New Age believer that she is. This had to be very confusing to her audience; and when the first caller asked how Oprah reconciled this “new form of spirituality” with her “Christian” beliefs, Oprah responded by talking about “Christ consciousness” –

First Caller (“Kelly from Alton, Illinois”): …Well, my question is regarding religion and spirituality.... In reading books such as Tolle’s… it’s really opened my eyes up to a new way of thinking, a new form of spirituality that doesn’t always align with the teachings of Christianity. So my question is to you, Oprah, how have you reconciled these spiritual teachings with your Christian beliefs?

Oprah: … I’ve reconciled it because I was able to open my mind about the absolute, indescribable hugeness of that which we call God. I took God out of the box because I grew up in the Baptist church and there were, you know, rules and, you know, belief systems and doctrine….

…And, you know, it’s been a journey to get to the place where I understand… that what I believe is that Jesus came to show us Christ consciousness…. Jesus came to show us the way of the heart… to show us the higher consciousness that we’re all talking about here….

And as I said earlier in the preshow here, there was a wonderful book called Discover the Power Within You by Eric Butterworth, which helped me reconcile the two. So that might be really good for those of you who are Christian and trying to balance the two.[17]

Butterworth: Christian or New Age?

Twenty-one years earlier, on her September 18, 1987 Oprah Winfrey television program on the topic of “The New Age Movement,” Oprah actually defined the term ‘New Age’ by talking about this same Eric Butterworth and the same book Discover the Power Within You. This program was significant because in it Oprah introduced the New Age movement to her American audience. The ideas of “awakening” and “shifting” one’s awareness to the “divine self” – everything that she and Eckhart Tolle are now calling the “New Spirituality” – was clearly described by Oprah and her guests on that 1987 program as the “New Age movement.” Oprah began that program by stating:

“They call themselves members of the New Age movement, and they say that our hope for survival as a planet comes from learning about our own individual power and our own divinity….” [18]

Guests on that show included:

  • Marilyn Ferguson, author of The Aquarian Conspiracy, which Oprah referred to in her introduction as “the bible of the New Age movement”
  • Glenn Lehrer, “a minerologist and gemologist who has been working with …doctors who use crystals for healing”
  • Keven Ryerson, “the trancechanneler made famous by Shirley MacLaine in her books and also on her miniseries, ‘Out on a Limb’”
  • Marcello Truzzi, a skeptic who “says that much of the New Age philosophy is just yuppie spiritualism”
  • Dr. Donald Curtis, a Unity minister, who “says that Christ did not come to preach his own divinity, but to tell us of our own divinity”

Later in the show, Oprah is told by Dr. Curtis that her remarks concerning author Eric Butterworth perfectly defined the term ‘New Age’:

WINFREY: One of the most important books, I think I’ve read, in my life was a book by Eric Butterworth…. Called Discover the Power Within You. And what Eric Butterworth said in that book is that Jesus did not come to teach how divine he was, but came to teach us that there is divinity within us. So that is essentially what we are talking about.

Dr. CURTIS: That’s a summary statement of exactly where we are in what we call the New Age or New thought.

Oprah and Dr. Curtis had several other noteworthy exchanges:

WINFREY: …There seems to be a spiritual movement afoot, and I wonder if it’s because I sense my own spiritual evolvement, or is this something that’s really happening, Dr. Curtis?

Dr. CURTIS. Unity Minister: Well, I’m sure it’s happening, because as you said in the introduction, that the New Age or the new thought religions are very much in line with traditional religion. I think it’s a dimension that comes when we’re aware of the awakening in consciousness, the shift, the new paradigms of thought and all of the awakening of that divine self in individuals, that of course, where is one to go to find security, or to find a sense of their own reality, except within?... [bold added]

…Dr. CURTIS: Can you imagine any greater revolutionary or New Age thinker than Jesus Christ when he came on the scene?

WINFREY: Yeah, absolutely.

Back to the Future

On her March 3, 2008 webcast with Eckhart Tolle, Oprah was actually reiterating what she had already said about the New Age movement over twenty years ago on that 1987 Oprah Winfrey Show. Her statements about Eric Butterworth and his book then were almost identical to what she is saying now – that man is divine. And Dr. Curtis’s description of the New Age “awakening” and the New Age “shift” to the “divine self” on that 1987 program are essentially what Oprah and Tolle are teaching now – but instead of calling it “New Age” they are trying to distance themselves from the term by calling it the “New Spirituality.”

But there is nothing new about the New Age/New Spirituality, or what Oprah and Tolle have been teaching in their worldwide webcast. The New Age/New Spirituality Movement has been around for decades, working its way into the world’s mindset in some extremely creative ways. Take for example the extremely popular Chicken Soup for the Soul books. These books are commonly found in Christian bookstores. The co-author of these books, Jack Canfield, has been a New Age leader and educator for over thirty years. He wrote an article entitled “Education in the New Age” for New Age Magazine in 1978. He has also written school curriculums that instruct teachers how to use guided visualization to help children get in touch with their spirit guides.[20]

It was not by chance that the first story in Canfield’s very first Chicken Soup for the Soul book was written by Oprah’s New Age mentor, Eric Butterworth. The quote preceding the Butterworth story was by Teilhard de Chardin – the father of the modern New Age movement. Also, in that first Chicken Soup for the Soul book Canfield included one of his own stories entitled “The Golden Buddha.” The “feel good” moral of this little story about Buddha is that there is a “golden Christ” inside each one of us who is our “real self.”[21]

New Age leader Jack Canfield and his Chicken Soup for the Soul books speak loudly to how the New Age has integrated itself into the world and into the lives of Christians. Canfield’s introductory quote by Teilhard de Chardin, the story by Butterworth, and his own story about the “Golden Christ” within each person, perfectly dovetails with Oprah and Tolle’s New Earth webcasts. This is the way the deceptive New Age “shift” works. The “shift” seems so innocent and beguiling, but in reality it is a “shift” to the heretical teaching of the “Christ within.”

As a footnote, Canfield’s book Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul sits in many Christian bookstores – as does his first Chicken Soup book that has the Butterworth story and the story about the Christ within.

The Ultimate Ego Trip vs. Being Born Again

During that 1987 Oprah Winfrey Show on the New Age movement, a woman in the audience courageously presented the Gospel message that “you have to accept Jesus as your personal savior.” Oprah responded by telling her, “That’s your personal feeling.” Dr. Curtis then jumped in and explained away the woman’s comments as representative of an “orthodox interpretation.” Then Oprah responded with a shocking statement about Jesus:

“…I mean, I was raised a Baptist – if in fact what we are taught when you go to church and you adore Jesus and you praise Jesus and praise this, it means Jesus would have been the biggest egotist that ever lived, if that was his purpose in coming to the world, to have people adore him and worship him and carry on about him, as people do.”

There was a brief further discussion and then a commercial break, after which Oprah immediately began to do damage control over what she had just said:

“I just want to clarify, I did not say Jesus was an egotist, so don’t write me saying I said he was an egotist. I didn’t say that. Okay?” [22]

Twenty-one years ago her comment was a very controversial statement. Today, with the widespread influence of the New Age movement, many people believe this way, including a number of emerging church leaders.

But, contrary to what Oprah and Tolle state, New Age beliefs can not be reconciled to biblical Christianity. The Bible makes it very clear that Jesus Christ came to the world as Messiah – the one and only Christ. He did not come to teach humanity to “shift” from the “ego” to their “inner Christ.”

What Oprah, Tolle and all other New Age/New Spirituality leaders seem to overlook in their discussion of the ego is that the absolute, ultimate ego trip for man to believe that he is God. When you “shift,” you are not leaving the ego at all! Setting up God in your own heart, you make a mockery of the one true God. Claiming the title of "God" and "Christ" for himself, man succumbs to the original beguiling by the Devil in the Garden of Eden that “ye shall be as gods.”

Jesus Christ taught “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). He said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). He said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Being born again means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, not accepting yourself as “God” and shifting to a nonexistent “Christ within.” Accepting yourself as “Christ” is not being born again. It is to fall into the very deception the real Jesus Christ warned us to beware of in Matthew 24:4-5:

“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”

To be continued . . . .

14. Eric Butterworth, Discover the Power Within You: A Guide to the Unexplored Depths Within, Based on the Actual Teachings of Jesus (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 8
15. Ibid, p. 233.
16. Ibid. Also seeé for definition of “namaskar.”
17. ITunes podcast: “Oprah and Eckhart Tolle Discuss Chapter 1 of A New Earth” 3/3/08.
18. The Oprah Winfrey Show, Show #W265, Air Date September 18, 1987, official transcript.
19. Ibid.
20. Johanna Michaelsen, Like Lambs to the Slaughter: Your Child and the Occult (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1989), p. 88.
21. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc. 1993), pp. 1-4; pp. 69-71.
22. The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ibid.

Warren Smith is the author of Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church, The Light that was Dark: From the New Age to Amazing Grace and Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel.

Read Part 1: click HERE