ANGELS OF THE NEW AGE KIND
by Mary Drahos
Fifteen-year-old Tara carried a dog-eared angel book with her
wherever she went. At home, school or alone in her room, she read and
reread the pages of what had become a treasured possession. Family
members observed Tara's intense interest in angels. Once Tara asked
her mother whether she thought people became angels when they died.
Then Tara was suddenly killed in a car accident.
After her death, Tara's parents became avidly interested in the whole
concept of angels. They believed that their daughter had indeed
become an angel, the family's guardian angel. They opened an angel
novelty shop in Los Angeles in her memory. It is called Tara's
A sad way for them to make sense of their daughter's death? Perhaps.
There is another gift shop in a vacation spot on the East Coast
called On Angels' Wings. A friend of mine went in; she experienced
an eerie sense of darkness as soon as she walked in. The heavy smell
of incense was overpowering.
"I asked the proprietor, who was wearing a black headband, 'Where on
earth did you get the name for your shop?' He moved closer,
squinting. And he just riveted his eyes on mine, never blinking. It
was kinda scary. Then he said slowly, 'Well, it came to me when I was
in an altered state of consciousness."
Angels, angels, everywhere! Modern descriptions of these celestial
beings are plentiful: "visions," "kind people in disguise," "balls of
whirling energy," "thoughts," "vivid dreams," "lights," "rainbows,"
"animals" and even "invisible hands." No wonder Christians have
difficulty distinguishing modern-day angels from the kind they find
in Scripture! What in heaven's name is happening?
We have "feel-good" angels. The Los Angeles neighborhoods that were
so badly ravaged in the 1992 riots now sport a very small touch of
heaven. An intrepid artist, Jill D'Agnenica, leaves 12-inch plaster
cherubs, painted magenta, in the most unlikely places--on street
corners, atop trash piles, at bus stops, in parks and even in empty
lots. Her goal is to distribute close to 5,000 angels throughout the
blighted area. Why?
"The experience of seeing an angel," she says, "or even more
important, when word gets out, the act of looking for an angel will
remind each person of their place in the City of Angels."
In the media we see a growing New Age grassroots "revolution of the
spirit." Angels are the "in" thing. Even Hillary Rodham Clinton wears
a gold pin with angel's wings on days when she "needs help,"
according to Time magazine.
Movies and TV are becoming all "aflutter with winged spirits," says
an entertainment writer, including "dogooding seraphim" and a "Super
Angel." As for publishing's celestial explosion, there is even a
thriller planned about "a renegade pack of angels."
All these "heavenly" profit-making ventures make earlier efforts at
angelic public relations, such as the Angel Collectors Club of
America, seem quaint. For many years, their members have collected
angel dolls and ornaments. They give talks on angels to churches and
retirement homes and have a newsletter appropriately called, "Halo,
New Age Angels
Is this newfound belief in angels a positive sign? Not necessarily:
"For those who choke too easily on God and His rules, theologians
observe, angels are the handy compromise, all fluff and meringue,
kind, nonjudgmental. And they avail themselves to everyone, like
aspirin," writes journalist Nancy Gibbs.
A large number of today's angel devotees and authors do not perceive
angels in the same way Catholics do. We should not excuse excesses or
eccentricities as touching "spiritual" or "angelic" phenomena.
Real angels always point the way to God. Angels are not a replacement
of the transcendent God whom they adore joyfully, without ceasing.
They serve Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of humanity, with complete
willingness. They carry out the will of the Triune God in the power
of the Holy Spirit. (This is the true test of any angel, no matter
when or in what form that angel comes).
We must apply this criteria to any popular book we read on angels, to
any documentary about them, and certainly to any talk shows. Do they
ever mention the Christian God, or are the angels they present merely
disembodied autonomous spirits? Whether through word or art, is
there any allusion to Jesus or the Incarnation? Are angels presented
as self-empowered or Spirit-empowered?
I often hear the objection: "That's too heavy. I happen to think it's
wonderful that so many people say they believe in angels these days."
And that is precisely the problem. The New Age philosophy is
enveloping and diminishing traditional Christian belief in angels.
Real angels help us grow spiritually. The media often portray
modern-day angels as ethereal, all-forgiving images of light. This
often produces a kind of "discount spirituality," whose adherents
feel free to pick and choose from Judeo-Christian beliefs. The Ten
Commandments and the cross are conveniently forgotten. People are
invited to get in touch with their "inner angel," to seek "angel
psychotherapists" or to view themselves as "angels in training" who
are growing their own wings.
Some people simply dismiss all this as a spiritual fad. Others
consider the "Angelic New Age" a distressing amalgamation of faith
facts, self-help lingo, Eastern spirituality and even the occult.
In truth, the New Age "angel awareness" can be both a sham as well as
a sign of hope. It may be nothing more than a self-indulgent search
for something novel . . . but this awareness may also signify true
In that case, modern-day angels can be of value in our skeptical and
jaded world. They can point the way to the only spiritual treasure
that lasts for eternity --Jesus, the pearl of great price. This is
exactly where real angels lead. All the more reason we should not be
intimidated by the New Age "angel pushers," or so confused that we do
not share the truth of our faith in real angels.
Wrote Cardinal John Henry Newman: "Let us beware lest we make the
contemplation of [angels] a mere feeling, and a sort of luxury of the
imagination.... Many a man can write and talk beautifully about them,
who is not at all better or nearer heaven for all his excellent
New Age Ideas
The New Age philosophy is difficult to pin down, but we must
nevertheless try to understand it. Author Russell Chandler says that
"The [New Age] goal is to redefine spirituality . . . to change our
culture's dominant world view--which is still Christian, more or
"The term 'New Age' is a reference to a particular time in the near
future when mankind will presumably enter into an era of spiritual
enlightenment characterized by the collective realization of the
god-consciousness within each person," writes a Christian scholar,
Mary Ann Lind. "The universal release of such spiritual power will
then usher in a 'new age."'
There are four basic elements to New Age thought and philosophy,
according to Father Mitchell Pacwa, S.J., foremost Catholic authority
on the New Age movement.
1. Monism. Everything in the universe is one. This includes all forms
of life--material things and even angels. "There is no difference
between us and the air, us and the rocks, and so on," says Father
2. Everything is God. God is in everything. God is everything. This
is pantheism, the belief that everything is in the one divine nature.
"We are God, the lights are God, the chair I sit in is God,"
elaborates Father Pacwa.
3. We need to be enlightened through humanistic psychology. We must
be made aware of our oneness and spiritual power. This is where many
Catholics veer off course with things like the enneagram, a system of
numerology intended to make a person perfect, better and whole by
understanding personality types. "The way it is taught," says Father
Pacwa, "people try to save themselves instead of depending on the
grace of Christ. People go from enneagrams to Eastern meditation to
get out of their 'personality types."'
4. Expect a New Age to dawn. It will rise "out of the ashes of the
Western world view" (cosmic evolutionary optimism). They wish to
displace Christianity with a great "collective unconsciousness,"
where all "archetypes" dwell (that's what New Agers perceive angels
New Agers see angels as "doorways" into the spirit world. A New Age
mystic named Andrew Ramer writes his travels with an "angel" through
many reincarnated lives, "the two of us working to bridge the
physical and spiritual worlds." His angel comments: "We angels cannot
enter your world unless you open a window or a doorway for us."
New Age angelologists develop that opening through a host of
techniques that are intended to help people connect with a personal
angel. Besides the usual angel workshops--attended by a surprising
number of professionals and religious folk-- there are angelic
oracles, spiritual specialists, divination tools, angel cards (like
horoscopes), karma cleansing and much more.
We can discern New Age angels by applying Jesus's classic test, "By
their fruits you shall know them." The kingdom of darkness is always
in opposition, camouflaging its intentions. Evil spirits are sent in
the guise of good angels.
A typical New Age view is that "Our angels tell us the future is
now," we read in a New Age book authored by Alma Daniel, Timothy
Wyllie and Andrew Ramer. "Talking with our angels, connecting with
the divinity within us, elevates our personal awareness, which in
turn improves our lives and circumstances."
By contrast, good angels know that only through Jesus is our
salvation assured and our perfection in God possible when our earthly
life ends. Angels work diligently, leading us to an ever closer union
with Our Lord and Savior.
New Age Angels Come in Disguise
Many New Agers say that their angelic informants tell them that,
through the ages, people have had a very false impression of fallen
angels. Lucifer, for example, "has been identified in our mind as the
devil, instead of an aspect of God dedicated to our growth by helping
us strengthen our spiritual muscles," we are told. He is the "Light
Bearer" who teaches about the necessity of life's dark side.
This reminds us of the words of St. Paul, "Even Satan disguises
himself as an angel of light. It comes as no surprise that his
ministers disguise themselves as ministers of the justice of God. But
their end will correspond to their deeds" (2 Cor 11:14-15).
Satan and the other fallen angels are very smooth con artists. Satan
can assume an air of sanctity and act as though his were the noblest
of motives-- a real gentleman, as Shakespeare put it.
Discerning New Age Spirituality
Former Catholics more easily succumb to ritualistic or occult
practices because Catholicism is steeped in ritual action. For
example, Catholics bless themselves with holy water, are blessed with
the monstrance at Benediction, and often have their homes, rosaries
and medals blessed by a priest. All are a sign of our united belief
in Christ and in His Church.
Think about it. When a Catholic is shopping around for a little gift,
wouldn't a pastel- layered, pyramid-shaped candle with a tag reading,
"Rainbow Blessings," likely catch the eye? Would the "cute" promise
of a lucky charm and a message capsule inside (which, it turns out,
is a prayer that "the angel of happiness" shower joy and celebration)
bring a smile?
Neither are the trappings of "nature worship" always easily
recognized as evil. Wicca has been whitewashed in the media lately,
so much so that some very unlikely people could get sucked in. The
prime public-relations ploy is to say that witches have only an earth
religion and do not believe in Satan. Their chants and rituals, they
insist, are only their way of praying, of helping them to create
"sacred space." But to whom do they pray?
New Age philosophy holds that we are already perfect and we are
already gods, but we remain unaware of our immense power. We must be
enlightened bit by bit, weaned away from our "archaic"
Judeo-Christian beliefs. If this seems extreme, think of how many Far
Eastern meditation techniques have gained wide acceptance, even by
many in the Church. This is one area where we need the wisdom of the
angels to use meditation as a tool for humbly deepening our faith in
an all-loving and omnipotent God--not displacing Him.
Many Christians have been so deluded by religious soft-sell that
later admonitions fall on deaf ears. So it might be wise to consider
these precautions when the lure of New Age philosophy seems
1. Be aware! False Christs have always been around (see Mt 24:23-27).
Astrology and reincarnation are false (see Heb 9).
2. All religions are not equal. Beware of any teaching that equates
Jesus Christ with Buddha, Mohammed or any other great teacher or
prophet. (He is so much more. He is the very Son of the living God.)
3. Be discriminating in your reading. Never agree to follow blindly
the spiritual dictates of a popular author or book. Do not be so
impressed with a book's popularity that, if it contains definite
contradictions to faith, you remain silent. Any self- improvement of
a spiritual nature must agree with basic Catholic belief.
4. Ask your guardian angel to pray to God for greater discernment for
you. Become well-grounded in Scripture and Church teaching. "This is
the best protection against the New Age Movement for yourself, and
it's a good way to learn what to evangelize to other people," says
Mary Drahos lives with her family in Medfield, Maine. This is adapted
from her new book, "Angels of God, Our Guardians Dear," Charis Books,
P.O. Box 8617, Ann Arbor, MI 48107 (c) Mary Drahos, 1995. Used with
This article appeared in the September 1995 issue of "New Covenant"
magazine. To subscribe write Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 200 Noll
Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750-9957 or call 1-800-348-2440. Published
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