A Theological Analysis of the New Age Movement



The Garden of Eden
     The first and second chapters of the book of Genesis record the creation of the heavens, the earth and its inhabitants.  In the beginning all was well between God and his creation, “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31a).  But a rebellion against God took place when the most beautiful of His angelic creatures, Lucifer, said in his heart:

           I will ascend to heaven;
           I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
           And I will sit on the mount of assembly
           In the recesses of the north.
           I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
           I will make myself like the Most High (Isa. 14:13b-14).

With his desire to become like God, Lucifer introduced evil into the heavenly realm of God’s righteous system.  This evil seed sprouted on earth when the serpent in the Garden of Eden subtly convinced Eve, the first woman, that she could not trust God and His Word—that she would not die as a result of eating the forbidden fruit, but that “. . .in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5b).  Eve had been deceived, but Adam knowingly rebelled against his Lord God.  Satan’s plan to become the god of this world, and his desire to secure the worship of men was realized.

     By the time of Noah, Satan and his allies had deceived all of mankind (Gen. 6:12) except Noah and his family.  The near-absolute reign of evil caused God to use a global flood to destroy all mankind, saving only Noah and his family.  For the second time mankind was given the opportunity to fill the earth with godly seed, but evil succeeded and reigned, this time taking root through Noah’s son, Ham.  The forces of evil continued to deceive men, soon to climax in the Tower of Babel incident.

The Rebellion at Ancient Babylon

     The rebellion at Babel was significant.  Not many years after the Flood of Noah evil again had ripened among men.  Mankind proclaimed with his “tower” that he controlled his own destiny apart from God.  With man’s inclination toward evil and the advantage of a common language, God saw that nothing which man imagined and purposed to do would be impossible for him (Gen. 11:6), so God scattered mankind over the face of the earth and instituted the different languages.

     A movement to restore unity and purpose among men, apart from God, was begun.  Alluded to only sparingly in the bible, this anti-god development was directed by Nimrod, the son of Cush and great grandson of Noah.  Alexander Hislop reports:

               As Diodorus makes Ninus “the most ancient of the Assyrian kings”, and
          represents him as beginning those wars which raised his power to an extraordinary
          height by bringing the people of Babylonia under subjection to him, while as yet
          the city of Babylon was not in existence, this shows that he occupied the very
          position of Nimrod, of whom the Scriptural account is, that he first “began to be
          mighty on the earth,” and that the beginning of his kingdom was Babylon.  As
          the Babel builders, when their speech was confounded, were scattered abroad on
          the face of the earth, and therefore deserted both the city and the tower which they
          had commenced to build, Babylon as a city, could not properly be said to exist till
          Nimrod, by establishing his power there, made it the foundation and starting point
          of his greatness.[4]      
      The greatness of Nimrod in battle stimulated the worship of his people toward him, and eventually he was considered to be deity—a man who became “God”.  The practice of deifying men can be accurately traced back to Nimrod as can most of the pagan religious systems and gods of mythology (see Hislop pp. 1-90).  Nimrod caused man to realize that he can worship himself as God, thus making Nimrod the most prominent early humanist.  Surrounding Nimrod, a system of secret rites and initiations was set up.  A person had to experience these secret rites and initiations in order to “know” (Gk: gnosis) the secrets of the gods and of the universe.  This desire to “know” paved the way for the Gnostic philosophy of early Christianity.

Gnosticism:  Seedbed for New Age Theology

     In order to understand the theology of the New Age Movement it is necessary to have a basic understanding of Gnosticism.

             In all ages of which we have any literary records we find the tradition of a recondite
          knowledge which could not be disclosed to any save those who had undergone the
          severest tests as to their worthiness to receive it.  This knowledge was very generally
          known under the term of the Mysteries, and it was concerned with the deepest facts
          of Man’s origin, nature, and connection with supersensual worlds and beings, as well
          as with the “natural” laws of the physical world.  It was no mere speculation; it was real
          knowledge, Gnosis, knowledge of “the things that are,” knowledge of Reality; a
          knowledge which gave to its possessor powers which . . . have been regarded as pertain-
          ing only to the gods, and which are, indeed, widely denied today as possibilities of
          human achievement.
              The basis of this knowledge, the fundamental principle on which all the teachings
          rested, was the essential inherent divine nature of man, and the consequent possibility
          of becoming by self-knowledge a god-like being.  The final goal, the final objective of
          all the Mysteries, was the full realization by the Initiate of his divine nature in its one-
          ness with the Supreme Being—by whatever name called—who is the Universe in all its
          phases and in its wholeness and completeness.[5]

Early in the history of Christianity (probably within the lifetimes of John and Paul) a heresy on the above tradition, called Gnosticism, infiltrated the Church.  The Gnostics were dualists, believing that matter was evil and spirit was good.

             Salvation is to be achieved mainly by ascetic acts to deny the desires of the material
          and evil body (Col. 2:14-17, 20-23) and by a special gnosis or knowledge accessible
          only to the elite among Christians.  Faith is relegated to a subordinate position in this
          system that panders to human pride.[6]

    The Gnostic yearns for redemption that will free him from the world and imprisonment in his body.  The key-note is knowledge (Gk: gnosis), a possession of ancient secrets which would ultimately facilitate the soul’s union with God.  The goal of this knowledge was salvation.  In the Gnostic thought there was no resurrection.  Evil material bodies were not saved, only the soul or spirit could inherit salvation.  The Christ-Spirit had given special gnosis to an elite while resting upon the man, Jesus.  This gnosis was necessary for the process of salvation, but “only the pneumatic Gnostics, those possessing the esoteric gnosis, and the psychic group, those having faith but no access to the gnosis, would get to heaven.”[7]

    Until the beginning of the twentieth century, Gnosticism was seen as a Christian heresy.  Within this century evidence has been gathered (as in the Egyptian Nag Hammadi documents) to show that Gnosticism may have existed as an independent pagan religion that did not come out of, but penetrated into, Christianity.  Some early Christians with their Judaistic or pagan backgrounds fell easily into Gnosticism.  The pagan converts had a propensity toward accommodation and syncretism.  The Jewish converts had a history of accepting pagan religious customs with their idols and godlets.  This Jewish history was established prior to their exodus from Egypt and was amplified during the Babylonian captivity by the heirs of Nimrod.

     Before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ Oriental mysticism, asceticism and astrology had permeated the Greco-Roman world—a world quite troubled by the fear of death.  One source suggests that Gnostic religious thought emerged from Greek and Oriental elements under the influence of dispersion Judaism.[8]  Since many early Christian congregations were heirs of the Jewish synagogues of the Dispersion, it is possible that Gnostic thought entered Christianity in this manner.  The seeds of Gnosticism, then, can be traced to a pool of thought before the time of Christ that emphasized an added light, or a secret knowledge necessary for fulfillment and salvation.  This way of thinking is quite similar to the Nimrod worship of ancient Babylon and to the thought of the occultic core of the New Age Movement.

     According the Cairns, “Gnosticism sprang from the natural human desire to create a theodicy an explanation for the origin of evil.”[9]  Since matter was evil and God was righteous, He could not have created matter.  Therefore the Gnostics developed the concept of a “demiurge.”  The demiurge was

          “ one of a series of emanations from the high god of Gnosticism.  These emanations
          were beings with less of spirit and increasingly more of matter.  The demiurge, as one
          of these emanations, had enough of spirit in him to have creative power and enough of
          matter to create the evil material world.  This demiurge the Gnostics identified with the
          Jehovah of the Old Testament, whom they heartily disliked.[10]

      The Christology of the Gnostics is also significant.  Since matter was evil and distinctly separated from God and His righteousness, Jesus was but a man in whom “the Christ” resided for the time between His baptism and early suffering on the cross.  The “Christ spirit” (or power or consciousness) left the body of the man Jesus while on the cross.  The other Gnostic view held Jesus to be a phantom with only the appearance of a physical body (Docetism).

     Abingdon Bible Handbook summarizes Gnosticism with these words:

          . . . Gnosticism was spreading through the Mediterranean world.  It offered people
          secret, saving knowledge of the universe:  of the supreme, pure-spirit God, untouched
          by “evil” matter; of the many divine beings (aeons) thought to connect him with the
          evil world, which had been created by the lowest aeon;  of man’s nature as sprit
          enmeshed in an evil body; of the releasing of man’s spirit from evil flesh for its ascent
          to its proper heavenly abode through enlightenment brought by a divine savior and
          through secret, sacramental rites and mystical experiences; of practices permitted and
          forbidden those who have achieved freedom of spirit; of the coming liberation of the
          soul from the body at death, as the seal and consummation of a resurrection already
          achieved in mystical experience.[11]

      The most influential group of Gnostics, called Valentinians, was established in Rome around A.D. 140.[12]  Other Gnostic groups were the Sethites (worshipped Seth), the Ophites or Naasenes (worshipped the serpent), the Barbelo Gnostics (who stressed the role of their hero Barbelo in Valentinian Gnosticism), the Marcionites (followers of Marcion of about A.D. 145) and other closely related groups such as the Cerenthians, the Encratites, the Hermetics, and the Docetists.

      Although it is not the purpose of this thesis to document the history and theology of Gnosticism, a look into the aforementioned Hermetics supplies some interesting insights regarding the derivation of their name.  Alexander Hislop states:

          . . .Who was the historical Bel?  He must have been Cush; for “Cush begat Nimrod”
          (Gen. 10:8); and Cush is generally represented as having been a ring leader in the great
          apostasy (see Gregorius Turonensis, De rerun Franc., lib. i, apud, Bryant, vol. II. pp.
          403,404.  Gregory attributes to Cush what was said more generally to have befallen
          his son; but his statement shows the belief in his day, which is amply confirmed from
          other sources, that Gush had a pre-eminent share in leading mankind away from the
          true worship of God.).  But again Cush as the son of Ham was Her-mes or Mercury;
          for Hermes is just an Egyptian synonym for the “son of Ham”.  Now Hermes was the
          great original prophet of idolatry; for he was recognized by the pagans as the author
          of their religious rites, and the interpreter of the Gods.  The distinguished Gesenius
          identifies him with the Babylonian Nebo, as the prophetic god; and a statement of
          Hyginus shows that he was known as the grand agent in that movement which
          produced the division of tongues.[13]

     So according to this line of thought, Cush was Mercury and Mercury is fabled to have acted as the interpreter between the men whose tongues had been divided at Babel.  Hence an interpreter is called a Hermeneute after Mercury or Hermes, the interpreter of the gods.  The Gnostics had their hermetic sect which, in name, recalled the family of Nimrod, and today there is the field of Hermeneutics.

     Identified with Hermes is the Egyptian God, Thoth, also called Hermes Trismegistus.  Hermes Trismegistus is the reputed founder of  “. . .alchemy and other occult sciences. . . .”[14]  To this Hermes “. . .was attributed the authorship of all the strictly sacred books generally called by Greek authors Hermetic.[15]  The name of Hermes was placed at the head of many ancient syncretistic writings.  These writings were

           . . .partly of an Oriental tendency, partly an offshoot of popular Greek philosophy,
          partly Stoic.  They are all more or less mystical and Gnostic in tone, but represent no
          single dogmatic system. . . .  A number of these pieces were put together into what is
          called the Corpus Hermeticum, which still survives.[16]

      The seed of evil and deception which was planted in the Garden of Eden and revitalized after the flood of Noah, through the line of Cush and Nimrod, survives to this day.  Hislop records that the Greek god Dionysus was Bacchus who was ultimately the “Branch of Cush” worshipped in Babylon as El-Bar or God-the-Son and these all refer back to Cush, Nimrod and their heirs.[17]  Annie Besant verifies and expands this lineage:

             Erigena teaches the restitution of all things under the form of the Dionysian adunatio
          or deificatio.  These are the permanent outlines of what may be called the philosophy of
          mysticism in Christian times, and it is remarkable with how little variation they are
          repeated from age to age.

    In the eleventh century Bernard of Clairvaux. . .and Hugo of S. Victor carry on the mystic tradition, with Richard of S. Victor in the following century, and S. Bonaventura the Seraphic Doctor, and the great S. Thomas Aquinas. . .in  the thirteenth.  Thomas Aquinas dominates the Europe of the Middle Ages, by his force of character no less than by his learning and piety.  He asserts “revelation” as one source of knowledge, Scripture and tradition being the two channels in which it runs, and the influence, seen in his writings, of the Pseudo-Dionysus links him to the Neo-Platonists.  The second source is Reason, and here the channels are the Platonic philosophy and the methods of Aristotle— the latter an alliance that did Christianity no good, for Aristotle became an obstacle to the advance of the higher thought, as was made manifest in the struggles of Giordano Bruno, the Pythagorean.  Thomas Aquinas. . .remains as a type of the union of theology and philosophy—the aim of his life.  These belong to the great Church of western Europe, vindicating her claim to be regarded as the transmitter of the holy torch of mystic learning. . . . In this century also S. Elizabeth of Hungary shines out. . .while Eckhart. . .proves himself a worthy inheritor of the Alexandrian schools. . . .

    Eckhart is followed in the fourteenth century by John Tauler, and Nicolas of Basel. . . From these sprang up the Society of the Friends of God, true mystics and followers of the old tradition. . . . So linked together are the followers of the wisdom in all ages. . . . Thomas a. Kempis. . . . Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa. . .Giordano Bruno. . .Paracelsus, who drew his knowledge directly from the original eastern fountain,  instead of through Greek channels. . . .

    Jacob Bohme. . .S. Teresa. . .S. John of the Cross. . .S. Francois de Sales. . . .Mme. de Guyon. . .Miguel de Molinos. . . .

   Henry More (A.D. 1614-1687). . .Thomas Vaughan, and Robert Fludd the Rosicrucian. . .the Philadelphian Society. . .William Law. . .S. Martin. . .

    Nor should we omit Christian Rosenkreutz. . .whose mystic Society of the Rosy Cross, appearing in 1614, held true knowledge, and whose spirit was reborn in the “Comte de S. Germain,”. . .Mother Juliana of Norwich. . .

    Eliphas Levi, has put rather well the loss of the Mysteries, and the need for their re-institution.  “A great misfortune befell Christianity.  The betrayal of the Mysteries by the false Gnostics—for the Gnostics, that is, those who know, were Initiates of primitive Christianity—caused the Gnosis to be rejected, and alienated the Church from the supreme truths of the Kabbala, which contain all the secrets of transcendental theology. . .recognize only those who know as teachers of those who believe.”[18]

This ancient heritage is obvious in the doctrines of the New Age movement whose initiated adherents claim to possess all of the ancient occult secrets.


[4] Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, p. 23

[5] William Kingsland, The Gnosis or Ancient Wisdom in the Christian Scriptures, p. 93

[6] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries, p. 68.

[7] Ibid., p. 99.

[8] The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v. “Gnosticism,” by A.F. Wells, p. 473.

[9] Cairns, p. 78.

[10] Ibid., p. 98.

[11] Edward P. Blair, The Abingdon Bible Handbook, p. 305.

[12] The Wycliffe Bible encyclopedia, 1975 ed., s.v. “Gnosticism,” by A.K. Helmbold, 1:688.

[13] Hislop, pp. 25,26.

[14] Webster’s New Twentieth Century dictionary of the English Language, 1977 ed., s.v. “Hermes Trismegistus,” p. 852.

[15] Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Hermes Trismegistus,” 11:505.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Hislop, pp.71-73.

[18] Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity, pp. 110-117.


 Top       Chapter 2 of 5