Vatican Weighs In on New Age Movement

Ninety-page booklet urges caution; addresses channeling, crystals, reincarnation, and more.

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The document, which was six years in the making, traces the history of the New Age phenomenon and notes the importance of the 1969 Woodstock festival and the musicial "Hair."

It defines "Age of Aquarius" as the astrological age that New Agers believe will usher in an era of harmony, justice and peace, following the current "Age of Pisces," which has been marked by wars and conflicts. The Vatican document is silent on when the "Age of Aquarius" begins.

It lists feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placing things to ensure a harmonious energy flow, as an "occult" New Age practice that emphasizes "being in tune with nature or the cosmos."

The document stresses that much of the New Age phenomenon is driven by marketing books, therapies, and crystals, and it notes some consider New Age just a label "for a product created by the application of marketing principles to a religious phenomenon."

The Vatican didn't say why the book was coming out now--more than 30 years after the New Age movement took hold in the United States and elsewhere--although it is current enough to acknowledge that yoga and crystals are enormously popular these days.

The booklet attributes such popularity, particularly in the Western world, to a "spiritual hunger of contemporary men and women" unsatisfied with existing religion, political institutions or science.

It offers some practical steps for priests to follow, saying the best way to counter the search for New Age remedies was to highlight the "riches of the Christian spiritual heritage." It encourages dialogue with New Agers, but stresses that their credentials must be checked. And it urges caution with groups that host prayer meetings or initiation ceremonies, saying they may lure people into a form of false worship.

The booklet was prepared by Fitzgerald's council and the Pontifical Council for Culture, with help from the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It is not considered to be the Vatican's final word on the matter. A definitive document will be published once the Vatican receives feedback from dioceses on the provisional one issued Monday.

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Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
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