|For related material on this subject, see the following articles of Father Seraphim Rose in our library: “Contemporary signs of the end of the world” and “Signs from Heaven”.
In 1975 Father Seraphim Rose published a book entitled Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, which examined widely disparate religious and cultural phenomena in the modern world at that time – Yoga, Zen, Transcendental Meditation, various gurus, UFOs, the “charismatic” movement, etc. – and contrasted these with the Orthodox Patristic standard of spiritual life. When Father Seraphim was writing about the dangers of these phenomena in the mid-1970s, there were other “cult watchers” who had come to conclusions similar to his. Without the Patristic principles of spiritual life, however, they were not able to see the underlying unity behind Eastern religions, UFOs, and the “charismatic revival.” As Fr. Seraphim showed in his book, both UFO encounters and “charismatic” experiences are forms of mediumism, bringing one into contact with fallen spirits and providing an “initiation experience” that is pagan in character, not fundamentally different from the initiation experience offered by Eastern religions and various forms of shamanism.
Fr. Seraphim saw that the diverse spiritual phenomena of his time were converging to form a new religious outlook, and that this outlook was replacing whatever remained of the Christian worldview within Western civilization. Christian spirituality was on the wane in the West, while paganism was on the rise, gathering momentum like a tidal wave, hiding its force and power by manifesting itself in forms that bore no outward resemblance to each other, and that could even wear a Christian guise, as in the “charismatic” movement. These converging currents of paganism would ultimately comprise the “religion of the future,” in other words, the religion of Antichrist.
Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future struck a responsive chord in the decades following its publication, awakening many souls – both in America and abroad – to the spiritual dangers of our times. This article attempts to bring the book up to date, discussing developments in the formation of the “religion of the future” that have arisen during the last twenty-five years.
The “New Age” Movement
One reader of Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future has aptly observed: “Some years ago, when I read this book, it seemed very far-out to me. I thought: These are just fringe movements Fr. Seraphim is describing – this kind of thing can’t really be taking over the world. Now, however, I see otherwise. All that Fr. Seraphim was saying is true.”
Any thoughtful observer of the world today can see that the formation of a “new spirituality” has progressed precisely along the lines which Fr. Seraphim described. When Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future was first published in 1975, the form of neo-paganism in Western society was only beginning to be delineated. Today it has taken on a more definite shape, being seen most clearly in what has come to be known as “New Age” spirituality. In 1975 the term “New Age,” though familiar in Masonic, esoteric, and countercultural groups, was not commonplace parlance. Now it is a banner term for a whole worldwide movement – and a multi-billion dollar business.
Unlike most formal religions, the New Age movement has no central organization, membership, geographic center, dogma or creed. Rather, it is a loose network of people who share similar ideas and practices, and who align themselves with the worldview of the “new religious consciousness.”
Because the New Age movement has no single set of beliefs, it is difficult to offer a blanket definition of it. New Agers can hold to any number of neo-pagan beliefs, from pantheism, monism, reincarnation and karma, to a belief in a world-soul and in Mother Earth (Gaia) as a goddess or living entity. Various psycho-technologies (e.g. guided imagery, hypnoses, “past-life regression,” Yoga, Tantra, and hallucinogenic drugs), divination (tarot, astrology), and spiristic practices (now usually referred to as “channeling”) are undertaken in order to raise practitioners to new levels of consciousness, to develop new “mind-body-spirit” potentials, to effect “inner healing,” or to attain psychic powers.
Chiliastic at its core, the New Age movement is commonly associated with what popular author Joseph Campbell has called a “new planetary mythology”: a mythology which maintains that man is not fallen, that he is ultimately perfectible through the process of evolution, and that through leaps of consciousness he can realize that he is God and thus actualize the Kingdom of God on earth.
According to New Age thinking, since man and everything else is God, only one reality exists; and therefore all religions are only different paths to that reality. There is no one correct path, for all paths reach the Divine. New Agers anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will evolve and become generally accepted worldwide.
The Revival of Paganism
As the New Age “religion of the future” takes shape, we see in our Western, post-Christian society the continued rise of neo-paganism in every possible form. The Eastern religions that Fr. Seraphim wrote about – especially Hinduism and Buddhism – continue to gain followers, receiving endorsements from high-profile celebrities and being publicized through television talk shows, news magazines, and other media outlets.
Yoga, Vedic medicine, and other such Hindu practices have now been accepted into mainstream society. New Age self-help gurus such as Deepak Chopra (formerly a spokesman for the TM movement) promote them exclusively as a means towards “mind-body” health. However, as Fr. Seraphim observed and as every true Hindu knows, these practices cannot be divorced from their religious content, for they were devised precisely in order to dispose the practitioner towards Hindu religious attitudes and experiences. This fact is now playing itself out in the Western Yoga community, which, having arisen largely out of a quest for “mind-body” health, is steadily introducing the ritual worship of Hindu deities, together with a study of the Hindu Vedas and astrology.
Tibetan Buddhism has also seen a considerable gain in popularity among Westerners; it is now much more visible than Zen, which was the leading form of Buddhism among Westerners during Fr. Seraphim’s time. Combining Buddhism with the form of shamanism indigenous to Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism contains more overtly occult elements than does Zen, including temporary spirit-possession by Tibetan deities.
As Eastern religions continue to grow in the West, we see today an equal if not greater interest in Western forms of paganism. Witchcraft, Druidical magic, gnosticism, and Native American shamanism have gained enormous popularity among Westerners who find them closer to their own roots than Eastern religions. Kabbalah, the Jewish system of occultism developed after the time of Christ, has also attracted widespread interest; its adherents now include many celebrities from the movie and rock music industries.
While many people merely dabble in the various forms of paganism that are readily available in today’s spiritual supermarket, a growing number have entered deeply into their practice, thus taking part in the pagan “initiation experience” that Fr. Seraphim said would characterize the religion of the future.
The Rise of Witchcraft
In the youth culture of America and England, witchcraft has become an extremely popular theme. The phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books – with over 250 million copies sold around the world since 1997, and over half the children in the U.S. having read at least one of his books – has been a catalyst in this trend. Under the cloak of innocent fantasy, these books introduce the young to real occult practices and real figures in the history of witchcraft. The seven projected books in the series trace Harry Potter’s seven-year training in witchcraft, the curriculum of which closely resembles the seven-year program of the Ordo Anno Mundi, an occult group based in London. While author J.K. Rowling disavows any personal involvement in the occult, she admits to having done much research into witchcraft in order to make her books more realistic, and acknowledges that more than one third of her books are based on actual occult practices. Intentionally or not, her books – together with the movies and franchise based on them – are a portal into the occult for those wishing to take the next step.
The Harry Potter phenomenon represents only one of many vehicles by which witchcraft is being popularized in the youth culture. Movies and television shows target young audiences with the allure of how powerful and “hip” one can be through occult practices, and a plethora of books and Web sites offer detailed instruction and guidance in how one can become a witch.
The youth are taking the bait. Since 1996 there has been a dramatic rise in the number of young people contacting neopagan groups and Web sites. The Witch’s Voice Web site, which claims to be “the busiest religious Web site in the world,” has had over 100 million hits since its inception in 1996; according to a survey conducted in 1999, 60% of the respondents have been under 30, and 62% have been female. In acknowledgment of this trend, the youth magazine Spin has ranked witchcraft as the top interest among teenage girls in America.
The same phenomenon is occurring in England as it is in America. In 2001, the Pagan Federation of England appointed its first youth officer to deal with the increased number of queries from young people. The Federation’s media officer, Andy Norfolk, attributed the youth’s increasing interest in witchcraft to the Harry Potter books and to the other books, articles, and television shows that make witchcraft look attractive. He further stated that, after every article on witchcraft or paganism appears, “we have a huge surge of calls, mostly from young girls.” A survey in the year 2000 of secondary-school children in England found that over half were “interested” in the occult, and over a quarter were “very interested.”
Today in America, the most popular form of witchcraft is Wicca. Its founder, British occultist Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), was a personal friend of the notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley, a member of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientalis, and a member of the Fellowship of Crotona, a co-Masonic organization. In the Fellowship of Crotona, Gardner was supposedly initiated into a coven of witches who claimed to belong to a lineage going back hundreds of years, and who worshipped the “goddess” and the “horned god.” In 1951 the law against witchcraft was repealed in England, and shortly thereafter Gardner began to publicly promote witchcraft under the old British name “Wicca.” Gardnerian Wicca combined the practices and ideas of his coven together with those of the Ordo Templi Orientalis, Eastern philosophy, and Freemasonry. Today, having been impacted by various spiritual and cultural trends, Wicca has become an amalgam of medieval witchcraft, feminism, goddess worship, pantheism, “deep ecology,” and worship of the earth.
In terms of percentage, Wicca is the fastest growing religion in the United States and Canada. Numbers of adherents went from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001. With adherents being inducted from among the old and young alike, it is estimated that the number of Wiccans in the U.S. and Canada is doubling every thirty months. According to polls taken by the Covenant of the Goddess, the total number of self-styled pagans in the United States, including witches, is now nearing a million and a half.
Tragically, the phenomenal increase in the number of witches coincides with a decrease in the number of Christians in America. A poll conducted in 2001 found that, during the previous eleven years, the number of Christians in the U.S. had been decreasing by two million every year.
Wicca is but one of the varied expressions of New Age spirituality. As Wiccan author Carol LeMasters explains: “The impact of New Age spirituality on the goddess community has also been incalculable. Emerging approximately at the same time, the two movements have now become so intertwined as to appear indistinguishable.”
The Leaven of New Age Spirituality
New Age / neopagan gatherings take place on a regular basis throughout the world. In America the most prominent of these are the Rainbow Gatherings held in various parts of the country, and the Burning Man Festivals held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Drawing New Agers, Wiccans, goddess-worshippers, earth-worshippers, and outright Satanists together with curiosity-seekers and party-goers, the Burning Man Festivals increase in size every year: in 2004 there were 35,000 participants. The Festivals conclude each year with the torching of a forty-foot-high sacrificial wooden man, reminiscent of the ancient “wicker man” sacrifice practiced by the Druids on the feast of Samhain (now known as Halloween).
While such gatherings are a significant indicator of the growing normalization of paganism in our society, more significant is the fact that New Age ideas and practices are entering more and more into all spheres of human thought and activity, shaping the lives of millions who may not consciously identify themselves as neopagans or New Agers.
Thus, the “New Age” has become less a movement than a cultural trend, a leaven insinuating itself everywhere: into psychology, sociology, history, the arts, religion, health care, education, and government. Mental hospitals throughout the country have instituted New Age programs: Eastern meditation, transpersonal psychology, biofeedback, and music mediation. Many senior citizen centers have adopted Yoga as a way to promote “mind-body” health. A large number of major corporations have sponsored New Age seminars for their employees, where visualization, hypnosis, “psychic healing,” “dream work,” contacting spirit guides, and other “consciousness-raising” practices have been taught. Even in public, government-funded schools, mediumism under the name of “channeling” has been taught as a means of “inner healing.” A consortium of concerned parents in Connecticut has described what has been happening in the classroom: “In the name of discovering their ‘life purpose,’ children are encouraged into trance-like states of mind where they communicate with ‘guardian spirits.’ The use of Yoga exercises and mind control techniques are other example of the format of this program.”
Christian churches, sadly, follow the same dangerous trends, trailing in the dust of the world’s march of apostasy. In the mid-1970s Father Seraphim had written: “The profound ignorance of true Christian spiritual experience in our times is producing a false Christian ‘spirituality’ whose nature is closely kin to the ‘new religious consciousness’.” Years before “channeling” of disembodied entities had become a New Age fad, Father Seraphim had quoted charismatics speaking about how they “channeled” the “Holy Spirit.” But even if we omit the issue of the charismatic revival, the prognosis he made has been borne out in other areas. As New Ager Marilyn Ferguson writes in her book The Aquarian Conspiracy: “An increasing number of churches and synagogues have begun to enlarge their context to include support committees for personal growth, holistic health centers, healing services, meditation workshops, consciousness-altering through music, even bio-feedback training.”
In the city of Detroit, for example, mind control courses have been taught by a Roman Catholic priest and nun. In New York, the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine has features sermons by David Spangler – a leading member of the Findhorn Foundation who has said that a “Luciferian initiation” would be required to enter the New Age. In Oakland, California, the “University of Creation Spirituality,” under the leadership of Episcopal priest Matthew Fox, advocated a “redefined” Christianity that rejects the traditional Christian theology and the ascetical Christian worldview while embracing Wiccan spirituality. Here, “rave masses” (also known as “techno-cosmic masses”) are held every month, having been originally launched at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in California. Described by one observer as “a syncretistic brew of paganism, witchcraft, nature-worship, drama, art, and dance, these multi-media “masses” are attended by well over a thousand people.
Concurrently, there is now a movement in contemporary Roman Catholicism to assimilate the teachings of Carl Jung, one of the founding fathers of the New Age movement. Jung, who participated in s?ances and admitted to having “spirit guides,” taught that the exclusion of the “dark side” is a fatal flaw in Christianity, and that therefore there needs to be a fourth hypostasis added to the Holy Trinity – Lucifer! His theories are being extolled in Roman Catholic seminars and workshops, and his psychotherapy is being practiced in some Roman Catholic churches, and by monks and nuns in some monasteries. Episcopal and Protestant (especially Methodist) churches have also entered this movement; a number of Protestant ministers also work as Jungian analysts.
Within many mainline Christian churches there is a strong and determined movement to “re-imagine” the Christian faith along the lines of radical feminist theology, neopagan goddess worship, and a New Age worldview. In 1993 the first “Re-imagining” conference was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in conjunction with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. The conference was attended by over two thousand participants from twenty-seven countries and fifteen mainline denominations, most prominently the Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, and American Baptist. One third of the participants were clergy. Speaking of the need to “destroy the patriarchal idolatry of Christianity,” the conference speakers rejected and at times ridiculed the Christian dogmas of the Holy Trinity, the Fall of man, the unique incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, and the redemption of man by Christ’s death on the Cross. In place of these articles of faith, the conference promoted pantheism, shamanism, and homosexual rights. The participants took part in a “liturgy” wherein milk and honey were used rather than bread and wine, and the goddess “Sophia” was worshipped rather than Jesus Christ. The chant was repeated: “Our Maker Sophia, we are women in your image… with our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasure and sensations.” At a later Re-imagining conference held in 1998, Sophia-worshipping participants also shared biting into large red apples to express their solidarity with Eve, whom they regard as a heroine for having partaken of the forbidden fruit.
Although conservative Christians have spoken out against the conferences, the Re-imagining community remains influential within mainline churches, holding inter-denominational caucuses to discuss strategies for expansion. Worship of the goddess Sophia continues within these churches. As recently as June 2004, during the Presbyterian General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia, a “Voices of Sophia” meeting was held in which Sophia was invoked as a goddess.
More significantly, feminist theology has become the most prominent trend on mainline seminary campuses today, and is a driving force within the ecumenical movement. The main coordinator of the 1993 Re-imagining conference, Mary Ann Lundy, is now the Deputy Director of the World Council of Churches. At the 1998 Re-imagining conference, she made clear the agenda of both feminist theology and modern-day ecumenism: “We are learning that to be ecumenical is to move beyond the boundaries of Christianity. You see, yesterday’s heresies are becoming tomorrow’s Book of Order.” As we have seen, this is also the agenda of the New Age movement.
The “Toronto Blessing”
Since Fr. Seraphim first wrote about the “charismatic movement” that was sweeping Christian churches, the movement has grown at a phenomenal rate. Worldwide, Pentecostalism is the fastest growing segment of Christianity: it is increasing at a rate of thirteen million people per year – primarily in Asia, Africa, and South America – and now claims nearly half-a-billion adherents.
Fr. Seraphim’s observations about charismatic experiences have been borne out most strikingly in the “holy laughter movement” that mushroomed in the 1990s. About “laughter in the Holy Spirit” Fr. Seraphim had written: “Here perhaps more clearly that anywhere else the charismatic revival reveals itself as not at all Christian in religious orientation.” This is precisely the charismatic phenomenon that has seen the greatest increase in the last decade.
The rise of the current laughter movement can be traced to another movement that arose within Pentecostalism: the so-called Faith Movement in the 1980s. Also known as the “health, wealth, and prosperity gospel” because of its teaching that Christ has delivered believers from the curse of poverty and sickness, the Faith Movement contains strange tenets which resemble those of the New Age movement, such as belief in the power of creative visualization (visualizing what you want, and then “claiming” it), the belief that a person can become as much an incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was, and the denial that Christ redeemed man through His death on the Cross.
Through the ministries of leaders such as Kenneth Copeland, Rodney Howard-Browne, and Marilyn Hickey, the Faith Movement has spread its heresies and attendant charismatic phenomena throughout the world. Since the spring of 1993, the movement has had a profound impact, not only on Pentecostal churches, but on mainline Christian churches as well. It was then that Faith Movement leader Rodney Howard-Browne drew widespread attention to his televised “laughing revival” at an Assemblies of God church in Lakeland, Florida. Thousands came from around the world to take part. Howard-Browne would walk through the crowds, placing his hands on people, and saying such things as “Fill! Fill! Fill!”, whereupon many would collapse on the floor, laughing uncontrollably, cackling and hooting. Others would writhe on the floor screaming hysterically, act as if drunk, be stuck to the floor with what Howard-Browne called “Holy Ghost glue,” or be “slain in the Spirit,” that is, fall to the ground on their backs, often into unconsciousness. Each of these manifestations would often last for up to several hours, and sometimes (as in the case of uncontrollable laughter) for several days.
Calling himself a “Holy Ghost bartender” who is “drunk all the time,” Howard-Browne showed disdain for any attempts to test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4:1). “I’d rather be in a church where the devil and the flesh are manifesting, – he stated, – than in a church where nothing is happening because people are too afraid to manifest anything… And if a devil manifests, don’t worry about that, either. Rejoice, because at least something is happening!”
In August 1993, Randy Clarke, pastor of a charismatic church in St. Louis, Missouri, attended a Faith Movement meeting led by Howard-Browne in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Four months later, Clarke brought the “laughing revival” to the Airport Vineyard Church of Toronto, Ontario. What began as a four-day series of meetings expanded into months of nightly services that sometimes lasted until 3:00 A.M. At this point the laughter movement skyrocketed, eliciting massive coverage by the worldwide media. Dubbed the “Toronto Blessing,” the “holy laughter” meetings were billed as the top tourist attraction of 1994. Hundreds of thousands of Christians came to the Toronto church from all over the world – not only Pentecostals, but also Mennonites, Nazarenes, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, Roman Catholics, etc.
In Toronto, the manifestations of the Faith Movement-inspired “laughing revival” grew even more bizarre than those reported earlier. In addition to the phenomena already described, people were seen to crawl on the ground and roar like lions, bark like dogs, paw the ground and snort like bulls, oink, howl, moo, crow, growl, and emit other animal noises. Other manifestations of the “revival” included jerking and shaking of the head and body, karate chopping motions, imitating warriors, dancing uncontrollably, abdominal spasms, intense chest pain, “vomiting in the spirit,” and “birthing” (going through a mock labor and delivery).
Of the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken part in the “Toronto Blessing,” 15,000 have been Christian ministers and pastors. They have subsequently brought the movement to their congregations throughout the world, causing such phenomena as “holy laughter” and being “slain in the spirit” to multiply at a rapid rate on five continents. In England alone, 7,000 churches, including those of the Church of England, have embraced the Toronto Blessing. The manifestations of the laughter movement have now swept what has long been regarded as mainstream Christianity. In July of 1995, a Pentecostal and several Protestant and Roman Catholic charismatic scholars defended the animal noises as either manifestations of the Holy Spirit or human responses to the Holy Spirit’s working.
The widespread acceptance of these manifestations reveals an utter ignorance of the traditional Christian standards of spiritual life. In the Orthodox Church, most of these manifestations have been historically regarded as clear signs of demonic possession. In Orthodox Christian countries even today, such behaviors are exhibited by possessed individuals during services of exorcism performed by Orthodox priests. An American Orthodox nun, who attended such exorcisms in Russia in 1995, records that “once the services are underway, the demons begin to show themselves. One woman rages in a male voice, another person shakes violently, another shrieks, another is thrown to the floor, losing consciousness… yet another looks as though he is in distress and pain, just before vomiting on the floor…They scream their hatred for the priest, vowing to have their revenge, as he douses them with holy water. Some demons make jokes, others are just raw anger and hatred. But the loudest noise always seems to be that of animals: mooing, crowing, and especially barking and growling.”
Although, as Fr. Seraphim has noted, charismatics would disclaim any association with occultism and paganism, it is noteworthy that the same manifestations of the “holy laughter” movement are found in the New Age movement. The Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, called by his disciples the “divine drunkard,” encouraged his devotees to come and “drink” from him. His spiritual “wine” was often passed on with a single touch to the head (known as the shakti-pat), at which his followers would collapse in ecstatic laughter. Another famous guru, Swami Muktananda, would hold meetings at which thousands of his followers from around the world came to receive his touch. They experienced uncontrollable laughing, roaring, barking, hissing, crying, shaking, as well as falling unconscious. Muktananda was only imparting to his disciples experiences that he himself had undergone: roaring like a lion and other involuntary animal behaviors, which he attributed to spirit-possession by the goddess Chiti.
It is also noteworthy that prominent New Agers have spoken out in favor of the “holy laughter” movement that has entered Christian churches. One such spokesman, Benjamin Cr?me, well known for his predictions of the imminent coming of a New Age Messiah, has said the following about the “Toronto Blessing”: “People are reacting to new energies invading our planet. Energies emanating from the ‘christ’ give them a sense of peace.”
Popular evangelist Oral Roberts, who hosted a revival led by Rodney Howard-Browne, has called the “holy laughter” movement the beginning of “another level of the Holy Spirit.” Howard-Browne himself has said the movement marks a “powerful new wind of the Spirit,” bringing with it “the exciting sound of joy, joy, joy, joy!” that is “energetically stirring us to higher levels with God.” This is remarkably similar to claims made by today’s New Age “prophets.” At the same time “holy laughter” began to ripple through the churches, New Age leader Barbara Marx Hubbard wrote that the human race was soon to experience a leap in evolution which she called “The Planetary Pentecost” or “The Planetary Smile.” “From within, – she wrote, – all sensitive persons will feel the joy of the force flooding their systems with love and attraction. As this joy floods through the nervous systems of the most sensitive persons on earth, it will create a psycho-magnetic field of empathy… This massive sudden emphatic alignment will cause a shift of consciousness of Earth.” As a result of this, she says, “the ‘christ’ will appear to you all at once.”
With mainline Christians having the same experiences and harboring the same expectations as neopagans, we see the fulfillment of Fr. Seraphim’s words about how many Christians will be deceived into accepting a pagan initiation experience.
UFOs in the Contemporary Mind
In the area of UFOs, Fr. Seraphim’s conclusions have also been borne out by new developments. Now there is a growing consciousness, not only on a scientific but on a popular level as well, that the UFO phenomenon is not just a matter of beings from other planets in spaceships, that it is somehow involved in the psychic and occult realm, and that the “aliens” are somehow inhabiting the earth with us. Also, the image – promoted by director Steven Spielberg in his films Close Encounters and E.T. – of benevolent and even “cuddly” aliens, is now being replaced by an image closer to the truth. With the experiences described by Whitley Strieber in his book Communion: A True Story (1987), the public has been shown that these so-called “visitors” are in fact cruel, malicious beings who wreak psychic havoc on those who contact them. (This aspect of the phenomenon also corresponds very closely with the evidence amassed by the scientists Vallee and Hynek.) “I felt an indescribable sense of menace,” Striber writes. “It was hell on earth to be there, and yet I couldn’t move, couldn’t cry out, and couldn’t get away. I lay as still as death, suffering inner agonies. Whatever was there seemed so monstrous and ugly, so filthy and dark and sinister…” Strieber also describes peculiar smells associated with his “visitors” – among them, a “sulfur-like” odor such as is mentioned when the ancient Lives of Saints speak of demonic encounters.
Since the publication of Communion, hundreds of thousands of UFO “abductees” have come forward with accounts of their contact with aliens. Today they have formed a substantial network, sharing their views and experiences through the internet and call-in radio shows.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this UFO network has found itself segueing into the New Age movement. Whitley Strieber is himself an indication of this. Now one of the leading spokesmen of the UFO network, he has in more recent books offered reflections on how contact with aliens can help usher in a New Age. As one UFO “abductee,” Col. Philip J. Corso, writes in his endorsement of Strieber’s latest book, Confirmation (1999): “During an ‘alien encounter,’ the message that they were offering mankind, ‘A new world – if you can take it,’ was conveyed to me… It took an intellect like Whitley Strieber to give this message’s meaning to me and the world.”
Setting forth the evolutionist view that “we are passing into a great change of species,” Strieber writes: “As we express ourselves into the next age, we will come to a prime moment of this species, when mankind gains complete mastery over time and space and lifts his physical aspect into eternity, inducing the ascension of the whole species into a higher, freer, and richer level of being… As mind frees itself from time and thus approaches singularity of consciousness, nations as we know them – directed by power politics, greed, and lies – will end.”
Strieber sees this utopian dream being realized as mankind leaves behind the “old hierarchies” of the past: “The absolute blackness of the past symbolizes the rigidly authoritarian nature of the past civilization. Indeed, its customs have echoed forward all the way to the present, where they persist still in our governments, our ritual-encrusted religions, and our moral lives with their emphasis on sin.” As humanity abandons the “religious mythology” of those who “identify aliens with their version of demons,” it will become open to the “new world” offered by the visitors: “As we move into the Age of Aquarius, we do indeed see authority weakening in almost every human culture and institution. The new willingness to entertain notions like the presence of visitors and to largely reject the refusal of the old authorities to deal rationally with such matters signals a new eagerness to form opinions outside the traditional control mechanisms. As those mechanisms fade, the unknown uses their weakness to attempt to break through into the conscious world, and we find ourselves inundated with reports of UFOs, aliens, and all sorts of weird and wonderful things.”
In order to reconcile the obvious contradiction between the apparently sinister nature of the visitors and his own utopian ideas about aliens helping to usher in a New Age, Strieber attempts to blur the distinction between good and evil: “We live in an ethical and moral world that is like the ethical context of the UFO phenomenon, full of ambiguities, a place in which plain good and plain evil are rare.”
Strieber’s view, which is shared by many in today’s UFO network, is that the visitors are highly evolved beings which want us also to evolve – for their sake as well as ours. He speculates that, in their often terrifying encounters with humans, the visitors are exploiting us and at the same time “tempting” us to advance further in our evolution, to “close the gap” between us and them, so that we may “join them as a cosmic species”: in other words, that we may become like them. This, he says, “explains why many people are taken to an evolutionary edge in their experiences” of aliens.
Strieber notes that “In all the past fifty years, there has been no instance of the visitors directly adding resources. Nobody gets the plans to a starship. Nobody gets a map back to the home world. What we get instead are fear, confusion, cryptic messages, and a feeling of being pushed around – and the sense of something beyond price, lying just out of reach… Rather than satisfying us, they are likely to tempt us further and further – with outrages, with dazzling displays, with promises – with whatever it takes.”
Perhaps the saddest “sign of the times” in our post-Christian age is the fact that great numbers of spiritually impoverished people now find it preferable to be in contact with these monstrous “visitors” than to feel all alone in what seems to them an impersonal universe. As a journal called The Communion Letter states, “People all across the world are encountering strange beings in their homes and even in the streets… along the roads of dream and night.” The journal asks people to “learn to respond usefully and effectively to the visitors if they appear in your life. Discover the mystery, the wonder, and the beauty of the experience… the things that ordinary media will not reveal… the strange and wonderful truths that are rushing up out of the darkness.”
In the face of all this, the Christian believer can hardly doubt Fr. Seraphim’s words that “Satan now walks naked into human history.” Whitley Strieber is likewise correct when he observes that, with the decline of the “control mechanisms” of traditional Christian civilization, the “visitors” are attempting more and more to “break into the conscious world.” But instead of leading us to the New Age that Strieber envisions, these attempts will help to usher in precisely what he described of his first encounter with aliens: “hell on earth.”
The Plan for the New Age
It is interesting to note that 1975, the year that Fr. Seraphim Rose’s book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future came out, was a banner year for the “new religious consciousness.” This was the year which the deceased occultist Alice Bailey (1880-1949) – one of the major builders of the present New Age movement and an avowed enemy of our Orthodox Christianity – had designated for her disciples to publicly disseminate hitherto secret teachings to all available media. During that year David Spangler and a host of other New Age spokesmen and organizations began their public work.
The goals of today’s New Age movement were mapped out well in advance in the writings of occultist and medium Helen Blavatsky, who founded the Theosophical Society in 1875, and later by Alice Bailey, Nicholas Roerich (author of the Agni Yoga writings), Teilhard de Chardin (the evolutionary thinker and paleontologist), and H.G. Wells. In the words of Teilhard, these goals include a “convergence of religions” in tandem with a “confluence” of political and economic forces toward World Government. Today, some New Age circles speak of “The Plan” for a “New World Order,” which would include a universal credit system, a universal tax, a global police force, and an international authority that would control the world’s food supply and transportation systems. In this utopian scheme, wars, disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty will end. All forms of discrimination will cease, and people’s allegiance to tribe or nation will be replaced by a planetary consciousness.
According to some of the major architects of the New Age movement, this “Plan” can be traced back to the fall of Lucifer and his angels from heaven. Alice Bailey wrote that the revolt of the angels against God was part of “the divine plan of evolution,” for by it the fallen angels “descended from their sinless and free state of existence in order to develop full divine awareness on earth.” In this total reversal of Christian theology, the Fall of man was really an ascent to knowledge, for by it man’s eyes were opened to good and evil. Thus, wrote Helen Blavatsky: “It is natural…to view Satan, the Serpent of Genesis, as the real creator and benefactor, the Father of Spiritual mankind. For it is he who was the ‘Harbinger of Light,’ bright radiant Lucifer, who opened the eyes of the automaton created by Jehovah… Indeed, mankind was taught wisdom and the hidden knowledge by the ‘Fallen Angel’.” As man’s “benefactor,” Lucifer continues to assist man’s evolution. In the words of David Spangler, a disciple of the writings of Blavatsky and Bailey, Lucifer is “the angel of man’s evolution.”
Within New Age esoteric societies it is taught that, for the furtherance of “The Plan,” mass “planetary initiations” will occur. According to Benjamin Creme – another follower of Blavatsky and Bailey – “revitalized” Christian churches and Masonic lodges will be used for the purpose of giving these initiations. And as we have seen, David Spangler has stated that these initiations will be Luciferic at their core. Reiterating the teachings of Alice Bailey, who “channeled” them from a discarnate entity called “Djwhal Khul,” Spangler writes: “Lucifer works within each of us to bring us to wholeness as we move into the New Age… each of us is brought to that point which I term the Luciferic initiation… Lucifer comes to give us the final… Luciferic initiations… that many people in the days ahead will be facing, for it is an initiation into the New Age.”
As “The Plan” approaches fulfillment, the one-world religion acquires its final shape. “The day is dawning,” wrote Alice Bailey, “when all religious will be regarded as emanating from one great spiritual source; all will be seen as unitedly providing the one root out of which the universal world religion will inevitably emerge.” Helen Blavatsky said that this universal religion was “the religion of the ancients,” the memory of which was “the origin of the Satanic myth” of Christians. “The religion of the ancients,” Blavatsky wrote, “is the religion of the future.”
“The Plan” reaches its apotheosis with the coming of the New Age Messiah: the so-called “Maitreya–the Christ.” David Spangler speaks in anticipation of this event: “From the depths of the race a call is rising for the emergence of a saviour, an avatar, a father-figure… who can be for the race what the ancient priest-kings were in the dawn of human history.” According to Alice Bailey, “angels” will appear with this false Christ in order to convince people that they should follow him. Thus, the final stage of the “New Age” reversal of Christianity will be the worship of the Antichrist, whose coming is after the power of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (2 Thess. 2:9).
It should be pointed out that many New Agers today would not be aware of, much less subscribe to, all the points of “The Plan.” As we have seen, the movement incorporates a diverse array of groups, ideas, and practices. If it can be called a “conspiracy,” this is certainly not because all New Agers are working together secretly, on an organizational level, toward fulfillment of “The Plan.” Ultimately, “The Plan” is being orchestrated not on a human but on a demonic level, and the architects of the New Age movement are, to a large degree, only mouthpieces of ideas that are not their own.
The New Age movement is only the “spiritual” side of a much broader movement which has mushroomed in the decades since Father Seraphim Rose’s death. This is the multi-faceted movement towards “globalism,” which is very much in the interest of those whose goals may not be religious at all.
In recent years international investment bankers and corporations have made enormous strides toward their goal of a hegemony of world finance and a global economic system. In 1980 the following warning was issued by Admiral Charles Ward, a former member of the elite Council on Foreign Relations, which includes major government figures, heads of multinational corporations, and representatives of the largest banking firms in the world: “The most powerful cliques in these elitist groups have an objective in common – they want to bring about the surrender of the sovereignty and the national independence of the United States. A second clique of international members in the CFR… comprises the Wall Street international bankers and their key agents. Primarily, they want the world banking monopoly from whatever power ends up in the control of global government.” More recently, in 1993, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, announced on television: “You had me on before to talk about the New World Order… I talk about it all the time… It’s one world now… Willing or not, ready or not, we are all involved… The competition is about who will establish the first one-world system of government that has ever existed in the society of nations. It is control over each of us as individuals and over all of us together as a community.”
This vision of the future has been shaping the foreign policy of many governments, not least that of the United States. A clear declaration of the globalist agenda was made in 1992 by Strobe Talbott, long-time personal friend of President Bill Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State during the Clinton administration, and one of the chief architects of the U.S.-led military intervention in the Balkans: “Nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority.” In Talbott’s view, nations are nothing more than social arrangements: “No matter how permanent and sacred they may seen at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary… It has taken the events in our own wondrous and terrible 20th century to clinch the case for world government.”
With the establishment and expansion of the European Union, the creation of the Euro currency, the advances toward a cashless society, the control of former Eastern-bloc countries by Western financial interests, the formation of an international criminal tribunal by the United Nations, and the consolidation of state armies as “peacekeeping” forces under the United Nations and NATO, we see what appear to be the forerunners of such a one-world system. Some of these developments are not necessarily evil in themselves. Taken together, however, they help to set up a global apparatus which can make way for the rising “religion of the future.” Such was the expectation of Alice Bailey, who in the 1940s wrote: “The expressed aims and efforts of the United Nations will be eventually brought to fruition, and a new church of God, gathered out of all religions and spiritual groups, will unitedly bring to an end the great heresy of separateness.” Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, expressed the same belief on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995: “At the beginning the United Nations was only a hope. Today it is a political reality. Tomorrow it will be the world’s religion.” A proponent of the teaching of both Alice Bailey and Teilhard de Chardin, Muller says that mankind’s goal should be “to see the religions globalize themselves urgently in order to give us a universal, cosmic meaning of life on Earth and give birth to the first global, cosmic, universal civilization.”
Today, those with a globalist agenda in the political and financial sectors work alongside globalists in the religious sector, particularly with “interfaith” organizations such as the United Religions Initiative (founded as a religious counterpart to the United Nations), the Temple of Understanding (an official consultant of the United Nations Economic and Social Council), and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (a revival of the World’s Parliament of Religions, which first convened in Chicago in 1893). It is interesting to note that in the last decade, witchcraft has played a prominent role in the interfaith movement. At the centennial conference of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Chicago in 1993, Wicca took center stage. As “Covenant of the Goddess” officer Don Frew notes, “We witches found ourselves the media darlings of the conference!… By the end of the nine days, the academics attending the Parliament were saying, ‘In 1893, America was introduced to the Buddhists and Hindus; in 1993, we met the Neopagans.’… From that point on Neopagans would be included in almost every national or global interfaith event.”
Although interfaith organizations usually affirm that their only aim is to promote “understanding” and “dialogue” among religions, it is apparent that in some cases this aim is only a first step in a larger program: the “convergence of religions” in the New Age. As William Swing, Episcopal Bishop of California and founder/director of the United Religions Initiative, expressed it in his book The Coming United Religions: “The time comes… when common language and a common purpose for all religions and spiritual movements must be discerned and agreed upon. Merely respecting and understanding other religions is not enough.” Bishop Swing imagines all the world’s religions as paths up a mountain, converging from below on a single point, a “unity that transcends the world.” At the top of the mountain, the esoteric believers from each faith would “intuit that they were ultimately in unity with people from other religions because all come together at the apex, in the Divine. Everyone below the line would be identified as exoteric.” Like Blavatsky, Bailey, and Teilhard before him, Bishop Swing looks to this convergence of religions with messianic expectancy. In his opening address to the 1997 summit conference of the United Religions Initiative, he proclaimed: “If you have come here because a spirit of colossal energy is being born in the loins of the earth, then come here and be a midwife. Assist, in awe, at the birth of new hope.”
Although not all globalists and globalist organizations share specifically religious goals, they are certainly united in their view of what kind of religion will not fit into the one-world system they are working to create. Conservative, traditional adherents of a religion, who believe that their religion is a unique revelation of the fullness of truth, will not be welcome in the “global village.” As Paul Chaffee, board member of the United Religions Initiative, said in 1997: “We can’t afford fundamentalists in a world this small.” The same view was expressed at the 1998 State of the World Forum (sponsored by a host of international investors and corporations), where Forum president Jim Garrison announced: “If my theology is an impediment, then I have to get rid of my theology… I think history is moving beyond dogma… During times of transition, orthodoxies fall and the heretics and mavericks are the people creating the new orthodoxy.”
Also in 1998, this subject was discussed in some detail by one of the more recent ideologues of the “new religious consciousness,” Ken Wilber. A popular author whose works have been praised and avidly studied by both former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, Wilber outlined the agenda that the world must follow in order to combine science with religion, as well as to establish a “universal theology” which all religions can embrace without losing their outward differences. “Religions the world over,” he writes, “will have to bracket their mythic beliefs,” and he cites as examples Moses parting the Red Sea, Christ being born of a Virgin, and the creation occurring in six days. Further, he says that “religion will also have to adjust its attitude towards evolution in general,” and “any religion that attempts to reject evolution seals its own fate in the modern world.”
As we have seen, evolution is a key element in the New Age utopian dream. A pantheist, Wilber believes that the entire universe is God, evolving throughout billions of years towards Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point.” Man, having evolved from a primordial soup, now evolves toward total God-consciousness, and in this way even God is in the process of becoming. According to New Age thought, with Darwin’s “discovery” of physical evolution, and even more so with the “discovery” of spiritual evolution, evolution has become conscious of itself, and this new paradigm shift will accelerate the process of cosmic evolution. Thus it is that, in Wilber’s view, those religious believers who reject evolution and “pledge allegiance to a mythic Eden in any actual sense” are destined for extinction. Only those who embrace the new religious consciousness, or who at least “bracket” their religious beliefs, will survive in the coming global society, which Wilber says will be marked by a “worldcentric” awareness based in “universal pluralism.”
Since traditional Christianity is an obstacle to the dreams of globalists both on the secular and spiritual fronts, there is now a concerted effort to reinterpret and denature the Christian faith – to transform Christ from a Divine-human, unique Saviour of Christian orthodoxy to a mere “spiritual guide” of the New Age variety.
We have already discussed how the feminist theologians of the Re-imagining movement have sought to reinvent Christianity: for them, Christ is not particularly unique, but is only one of the many “expressions” or “servants” of the goddess Sophia. These theologians, however, represent only one facet of the cultural trend to denature Christianity.
If, according to the neopagan view, we and everything else are but emanations of God, then there is nothing for Christ to do but guide us back to knowledge (gnosis) of what we already are. This idea is precisely what is being promoted today under the guise of being the authentic, esoteric teaching of Christ. In actual fact, it is but a revival of the ancient Gnostic heresy, based on pagan philosophy, that was rightly condemned by the early Fathers of the Orthodox Church. This message of Gnostic “Christianity” is being publicized today through the writings and media appearances of scholars with an obvious bias against traditional Christianity, chief among whom is Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief. The same message has recently received much attention through the quasi-historical novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: a blasphemous assault on traditional Christianity that has sold over twelve million copies since its publication in 2003.
Ken Wilber speaks of the teachings that are being “rediscovered” in the ancient Gnostic texts: “It is obvious from these texts that Jesus’ primary religious activity was to incarnate in and as his followers, in the manner, not of the only historical Son of God (a monstrous notion), but of a true Spiritual Guide helping all to become sons and daughters of God… Elaine Pagels points out that there are three essential strands to the esoteric message of Christ, as revealed in the Gnostic Gospels: (1) ‘Self-knowledge is knowledge of God; the highest self and the divine are identical.’ (2) ‘The “living Jesus” of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance.’ (3) Jesus is presented not as Lord but as spiritual guide.’
Here is a clear outline of the “new Christianity” that can easily be accommodated by the “religion of the future” – an imitation Christianity that leads not to Christ but to antichrist. Here, Christ is seen as a vague concept of ultimate Good, the belief in Him as the only begotten Son of God is rejected as a “monstrous notion,” and the idea is put forth that we ourselves can be just like Him. This is a crucial element in the “religion of the future,” for by it the antichrist will actually convince everyone that he is another incarnate Son of God.
In one sense, the imitator of Christ will appear as a kind of saviour, solving man’s economic and political problems and offering to satisfy his spiritual aspirations through what Fr. Seraphim called a “melting pot” of science and world religions. According to the worldview of the “new religious consciousness,” however, the ultimate saviour will be evolution itself, moving forward in a natural development of this world into supposedly the Kingdom of God. The last great deceiver, who in the end will pretend to be Christ, will be seen as but another magnificent product of evolution.
The Vague Expectancy of the “New Man”
If, as we have said, the worldview of the “new religious consciousness” is entering into all aspects of human thought, what are some of the signs by which one can identify it? It can be seen, first of all, in the common sentiment that all religions are one, all are equal, all are saying the same thing, only in different ways. On the surface this idea appears attractive because it seems to give everyone a fair shake. On a deeper level, however, it can be seen how this concept, under the pretense of fostering “unity in diversity,” actually destroys diversity. If an adherent to a religion believes that all other religions are equal to his own, he can no longer truly hold to that religion; he can no longer be who he is. Instead, while perhaps holding to some outward cultural artifacts, he becomes essentially a blank – a blank waiting to be filled by some new revelation. He has become as blank as everyone else who has been infected with the same modern mentality. Thus there is no true unity or diversity, only sameness based on blankness. This false “unity in blankness” is precisely what Satan will use in order to hypnotize the mass mind in the last days. As Father Seraphim once pointed out in a lecture: “Such a vague thing is exactly what the devil likes to grab hold of. In any particular religious belief you may be mistaken, but at least you put your heart into it, and God can forgive all kinds of mistakes. But if you do not have any particular religious belief and you give yourself over to some kind of vague idea, then the demons come in and begin to act.”
The religious mentality of modern man is becoming more amorphous and hazy all the time. A poll taken in 2002 indicates that 33% of Americans consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” which is to say that they do not identify with an organized religion but are creating their own personal spirituality. According to the same poll, the number of such people is increasing by over two million each year, even as the number of those who consider themselves religious is declining at the same rate.
The new, “spiritual” man of today can browse through bookstores or surf the internet to find any religious idea or practice that strikes his fancy, from Western to Eastern, from Sufism to Satanism. The more data he stores in his head, however, the more vague his worldview becomes. He has religious interests in several areas, but he basically believes that all is relative: i.e. “My ideas work for me, your ideas work for you.” He believes in everything at once, but in nothing very deeply, and in nothing that will demand a sacrifice from him. He has nothing worth dying for. But his antennae are out, feeling for something else that will strike his fancy, that will satisfy his vague unrest without asking that he honestly look at himself and change, without disturbing his constant endeavor to satisfy his ego. His spiritual interest is intimately connected to his quest for ego gratification, and thus he stands poised to receive anything from anywhere that will provide this gratification. He is clay in the hands of the spirit of Antichrist, which, as the Apostle teaches, is already in the world (1 John 4:3). He is a candidate – or rather a target – for the “religion of the future” about which Fr. Seraphim wrote.
A sad indicator of the spiritual condition of contemporary man is seen in the enormous popularity of the Conversations with God books by Neale Donald Walsh, which have sold over seven million copies since the first book appeared in 1995. At the 1997 summit conference of the United Religions Initiative, Walsch said of himself: “I represent the new paradigm of a religionless religion – a religion without structure – a spirituality that transcends all boundaries.” Walsch claims to channel a being whom he calls “God.” Flattering readers with the idea that they too are God, Walsch’s “God” tells them there is no such thing as sin and no need for repentance, for the “Original Sin” was really the “Original Blessing” – an ascent to knowledge. Walsch’s “God” speaks to the blank mind of the new, “spiritual” man: “You may want to consider the possibility that what would work for the world right now – given what the world says it wants to experience, which is peace and harmony – is a New Spirituality based on New Revelations… A spirituality that enlarges upon organized religion in its present form. For it is many of your old religions, with their inherent limitations, that stop you from experiencing God as God really is. They also stop you from experiencing peace, joy, and freedom – which are other words for God as God really is… The world is hungry, the world is starving, for a new spiritual truth.”
In these revelations from Walsch’s “God,” one can recognize the same basic message that was channeled by earlier occultists such as Alice Bailey. But while this message resonated with a relatively small number of occultists during Bailey’s time, today it resonates with mainstream society, with the emerging “global consciousness.”
If one perceives a common thread among occult and New Age teachings spanning generations, this is because there is a single mind directing the formation of the new religious consciousness. It is the mind of the same fallen angel who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden with the words: Ye shall be as Gods (Genesis 3:5). But while the evil one’s servant, the Antichrist, will appear to triumph for a time, in the end it is he whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).
From all that has been said above, it can be seen how, in the years following the publication of Father Seraphim’s book, the formation of an actual “religion of the future” has become increasingly real and believable. Now we can see even more clearly how humanity is being made open to the “demonic Pentecost” that Father Seraphim predicted, in which the multitudes of the world – including those who call themselves Christians – can actually be initiated into the realm of demons.
Only Orthodox Christianity – with its Patristic standard of spiritual life and its thoroughly refined teachings on spiritual discernment – can cut through all the deceptions of our times at once. For this reason, Satan sees it as his greatest enemy, and is doing all in his power to undermine it. But for the same reason we must do all that we can to cling to it, as Father Seraphim exhorts us.
“He who does not experience the Kingdom of God within him,” writes St. Ignaty Bryanchaninov, “will not be able to recognize the Antichrist when he comes.” In Orthodoxy we behold Christ undistorted. We can know who He is, and we can know His Kingdom within us, without fantasies, hysteria, heated emotional states, and without any mental images. Knowing this, we will not be starving for a new spiritual truth, for we have found the Truth, not as an idea but as a Person – and we partake of Him in Holy Communion. We will not be a blank waiting to be filled, for we will already be filled with Christ, Who is all, and in all (Col. 3:11). Having Christ’s Kingdom within us, we will inherit it for eternity.