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Pop Mysticism

New Age, New Thought, and occult understandings of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions tend to be superficial at best. I am not excempt from that analysis, though I have been personally trying to deepen my knowledge of those sources from which I draw the most, especially the Bible, Christian mysticism, Zen Buddhism, and the old Hermetic documents. I am still no expert, but I’ve learned some things of importance. In Hermetics, we try to take the broad view of things: neither losing the forest for the trees, nor the trees for the forest. We don’t always succeed, but at least the effort tends to lead us in the right direction.

For around six months, I was a member of a truly amazing church family in Waynesville, NC. The Creative Thought Center is a marvelous church based in New Thought, especially Earnest Holmes’ Science of Mind (or “Religious Science” as he sometimes called it). The CTC is, thankfully, independent of any otherarching hierarchical organization, such as Holmes’ Church of Religious Science, which allows them to be very accepting of people of all manner of religious and spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and many more obscure that you likely have never heard of. I had overwhelmingly positive experiences with these folks. I want to emphasize my love for them before I move on.

Unfortunately, the CTC family has a tendency, like many involved in the study of one metaphysical branch or another, to fall prey to one or more of the various “pop mysticisms” which keep coming into existence these days. Perhaps more than any other time in history, mysticism is a popular topic, but also more than any other time, it is heavily overlaid with modern and postmodern expectations and imaginings so as to lose much of the true message of mysticism.

“We’re all ONE, so you can be RICH!” It sounds ridiculous when you put it in stark terms, but that’s exactly the message so often given. It does not follow.

I will be the first to say that, yes, greater material prosperity can be had through the use of magic, affirmative prayer, and so on. Such uses of the so-called “powers” are not, however, the primary objective of mysticism; the powers, when used at all, are to be used in all ways to aid in the mystical ascent and to aid those around us.

In many ways, it is a good thing that pop mysticism has gotten people to re-evaluate their place in the world, their relationship to the Divine, and their relationships to one another, but I think that it often does more harm than good as it turns the mystical quest into the same debased search for power found in the medieval demonologies.

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  1. March 29, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    What timing! Yesterday I was presenting a workshop on shamanism at a local pagan event, and one of the folks there asked about the concept of manifesting something through thought, a la “the Secret”. I took the time to explain that that sort of New age theory is basically a really watered-down interpretation of magic, and gave a brief explanation of the psychological aspects of positive thinking (and why it isn’t all that and a bag of….ummm….pork rinds. Or something.).

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