In parts one and two of this series, I revealed the fact that certain flawed and dangerous educational currents or strategies have found their way into mainstream educational philosophy and curriculum.
These approaches to education are so flawed that it can be logically deduced that they have contributed to many problems, including the recent rise in school violence. It can be shown that they certainly contribute to lower educational performance and can facilitate participation in occult involvement.
This series will demonstrate that many teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, and educational strategists are knowingly – or unknowingly – implementing either new age occult oriented programs, or highly questionable, inappropriate (often illegal), psychotherapeutic techniques into the classroom.
This has produced a number of confrontations between parents and educators and school boards around the country. Some challenges have met with success and others have not — proportionate to the preparedness to the parents.
The reader is encouraged to procure a copy of Public Schools: The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice? written by Ankerberg, Weldon and myself, in order to recognize the problematic programs, to know how to effectively challenge and eliminate them, and how to effectively counter the expected responses to challenges.
This is important, as even though I stated earlier that some educators are unknowingly perpetuating these programs, some are not only knowingly doing so, but are calculated in their deception. For example, Barbara Clark, education professor at California State University and author of the popular graduate level textbook Growing up Gifted answers the rhetorical question, “Can we really use altered states of consciousness [i.e., meditation/hypnosis] in the classroom? What will the parents say?” Clark answers, “The phrase ‘altered states of consciousness’ may sound too strange, so you need to use other terminology” (p.601).
What other terminology? Jack Canfield, popular author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and a major new age educator, writes, “If you’re teaching in public school, don’t call it meditation, call it ‘centering’.” Another new age educator, author, and educational consultant Deborah Rozeman writes, “Due to fear of parent criticism, I call it [meditation/hypnosis] centering and concentrating our energies…. I tell the parents and my classroom’s volunteer that centering was a relaxation exercise for increasing the children’s concentration”.
When parents challenge the legality and inappropriateness of certain curricula, they are often met with the response, “This is not religious”, or “This is not new age”. When asked what ‘new age’ means, they invariably either do not know or present a caricature. In order for the reader to be better able to spot these types of courses and practices, and to be better able to demonstrate their religious nature, I will describe the New Age Movement.
The New Age Movement (NAM) is a title that refers to a worldview or a philosophy of life in which many people believe. It is a particular way of defining reality and living. In large measure the NAM is basically a synthesis in varying degrees of many religious traditions and practices, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, spiritism, Shamanism, witchcraft, and other forms of classical occult practice and philosophy. The NAM is indeed a religious philosophy because it is based on religious views; for example, New Agers hold to pantheism, a belief that everything is part of God. That is, God is all, and all is God. They believe that every person is part of God.
Through mystical experiences, or while participating in techniques, which alter their state of consciousness, people are powerfully persuaded that the religious worldview of the NAM is true. But for some people, the religious nature of the NAM may not be well understood because America’s perception of religion is biased toward our majority practice of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam-theistic religions.
America is becoming more and more of a melting pot as the religions of the Far East have become increasingly prominent in our culture. As Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experiences point out, “Asian immigrants, some of whom have come to America specifically to spread Eastern religions, have found receptive audiences, especially since the 1960’s.” For example, recent Barna and Gallup polls have revealed that 34% of Americans believe a new age form of God, 20% identify themselves as new age practitioners, and 30% now believe in reincarnation. The Hindu practice of Transcendental Meditation alone, a method frequently encouraged by transpersonal educators, has initiated some millions of people.
The NAM is a multi-faceted, multi-focused trend. It does not refer to any one group or even primarily to a collection of groups. It is fundamentally a mindset, a way of viewing reality that has implications for all of life.
J. Gordon Melton, founder of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, and a nationally recognized authority on religion, writes, “while the New Age Movement is a social movement, it is also an inherently religious one…. The movement is centered upon the experience of a personal spiritual-psychological transformation that is identical to what is generally termed ‘a religious experience’.”
I present a brief synopsis of relevant NAM religious views:
- God-an impersonal, all-pervading energy.
- Man-inwardly good and divine.
- Salvation-the attainment of “higher” consciousness or realization of one’s own inward divinity through the practice of New Age techniques, such as altered states of consciousness and meditation.
Publisher’s Weekly also noted the religious nature of the NAM and even its increasing outreach to children. They write, the essence of the New Age has always been an exploration of the spiritual side of humankind…. Domestic trends indicate that New Age values and principles are finding their way into mainstream concerns. Almost every New Age catalog offers titles directed to the expanding children’s market…Immense opportunity exists in the future for the flow of inwardly directed, transformative material, whether it is called metaphysical, esoteric, occult, mystical, holistic, human potential, or New Age. The NAM affirms there exists only one ultimate divine reality (monism), and in its true nature everything that exists is part of that reality. This one reality is cataloged under various pantheistic terms such as the divine essence, universal energy, and all-pervasive consciousness.
In other words, all humans are inherently divine or part of God-even if they don’t yet realize it. While they are smaller manifestations of the divine essence, they have tremendous power available to them (within their divine nature) if they will just turn inward and unleash its powers.
According to New Age thinking, man’s basic problem is that he perceives himself, incorrectly, as a finite and limited being. New Age groups characteristically offer the techniques and practices which they feel will better enable us to individually and collectively evolve spiritually, to inwardly unveil awareness of our true divinity through a state of occult enlightenment.
Although the terms and techniques vary, almost all New Age groups employ various forms of meditation in the attempt to produce altered states of consciousness which they believe will permit people to get in touch with their true self, the essence of God.
The word occult is derived from the Latin occultus, which means “to cover up, hide, or conceal.” Perhaps most Americans are accustomed to defining the occult as Satanism, black magic, voodoo, and witchcraft exclusively. However, it is much broader than this.
While these are forms of the occult, a consultation with dictionaries would reveal that occultism actually involves the acquisition of hidden wisdom, knowledge, or power by the use of various acts or techniques-particularly consciousness-altering ones. Standard definitions of the word include the following:
The Oxford American Dictionary defines occult as:
1. Secret, hidden except from those with more than ordinary knowledge;
2. Involving the supernatural, occult powers. The occult [involves] the world of the supernatural, mystical, or magical.
In conclusion, to say that the NAM is not religious is incorrect. Nor is it legal to permit NAM practices and philosophy in our schools while prohibiting Christian belief and practice. If teachers cannot promote Christianity in the schools, neither should they be permitted to promote the ideology or practices of occultism/eastern religions.
In part four of this series, I will give several examples of how these programs present themselves in a wide range of curricula, document their new age/occult connections, and relate the legal and ethical basis of challenge.