This is an extract from a recent essay I penned entitled ‘Why I am Not a New Age Spiritualist in 7 Points.’
One of my major critiques of NAS (New Age Spirituality) concerns the nature and concept of God. I don’t think it is necessarily difficult to see that the concepts of “God” believed by New Agers are untenable.
God as Cosmic Consciousness – Often New Agers described God as being the “Universe” or some “Cosmic Consciousness” or “Cosmic Mind (1). God, on this view, is essentially an “Energy” or “Force” within the universe believed to be able to bring blessing or enlightenment into human life. This is a belief that would seem to be borrowed at convenience from Eastern philosophies that see God as being a “life force energy.”
I find this problematic on scientific and philosophical grounds. Both scientific and philosophical reasoning has well suggested that the universe had a beginning in the Big Bang some 13 billion years ago. Therefore, all things, including energy, came into being a finite time ago. Thus, energy is a created thing that is contingent on the creation of the universe. In other words, this “God” that New Agers believe in has not always existed, and is contingent on the beginning of the universe. What we are really calling God is some physical reality within the universe itself, or some natural law. So what New Agers are calling “God” is not God at all.
A further objection is that God on this view can just as well apply to an atheistic-naturalistic universe in which nothing beyond nature exists. The irony is that if atheism or philosophical naturalism is true (i.e. a transcendent, supernatural God does not exist, the supernatural does not exist, and the universe is here for no reason) then the “God” that New Agers believe still exists! That is because the God that many New Agers believe in, which is akin to a created thing or some natural law, is not actually God in the first place. It is not supernatural (existing outside of the natural world) nor is it transcendent (above and beyond its creation). Thus, if our concept of God is compatible with an atheistic view of the world then we aren’t actually talking about God, as opposed to some misuse of the word to apply to some created thing within the universe.
God is the Universe – In a similar way to what has been explained above, our best scientific evidence and philosophical reasoning tells us that the physical universe had a beginning a finite time ago. In other words, on this view the New Ager essentially believes (knowingly or unknowingly) that there was a time when God did not actually exist. There’s a problem here philosophically. What this would have us believe is that nothing, in the sense of absolute nothingness (no space, time, energy, matter, anything), brought God/universe into existence. This, however, is a logically incoherent view given that absolute nothingness has no causal powers to bring about any change or effect. So, if a God exists it would have to exist beyond the physical universe in order to bring the universe into being. This has a significant implication for New Age belief given that God cannot be the universe as it had to exist prior to it. In other words, God exists beyond the universe, and there would have been no impact on God if the universe had not existed.
Second, and exactly as I’ve mentioned above, this makes the New Age concept of “God” compatible with an atheistic universe. Given that the universe is a physical object itself (see philosopher William Lane Craig’s “ball in the forest analogy”(2)), then God, on this view, is no more than a physical object. Atheists would feel no need to provide any case against such a belief in defense of their atheism.
We Are God/Divine – One former influential New Ager, Barbara Marx Hubbard, penned that “We are immortal. We are not bound by the limits of the body,” (3) and that “We can create new life forms and new worlds. We are gods!” (4). New Agers don’t only believe that we have an innate divinity but also that through engaging in yoga, channeling, aura-reading, and crystal work we can develop this divine God aspect within ourselves (5).
However, again it seems that the word “God” is being used disingenuously. Like the universe, human beings are contingent and therefore depend on something else for our existence (6). But to be contingent also means that it was possible for us to not exist, as well as for us to possibly not exist in the future. It is conceivable that human beings would not have existed if it were not for favourable conditions in the environment such as food, water, oxygen, and so on. It is also conceivable that at some point in the future humanity could not exist or go out of existence. In other words, to call a contingent thing like a human being God is a clear misuse of the term. Any true definition of God would have to see it as a metaphysically necessarily being. This means that it could not, by virtue of what it is, ever not have existed, which New Agers would seem to believe. Thus again, this New Age concept of God is compatible with an atheistic view of the world.
Moreover, this next point I wish to make applies to all the above mentioned concepts of God that New Agers believe in. This is that I have discovered there to be compelling and convincing theological arguments in favour of general theism (the belief in a transcendent creator God or being) (7), and should their conclusions follow from their premises then New Age concepts of God must by definition be false. On a similar note, philosophies and worldviews that deny the existence of a transcendent creator God must also be false. The moral argument, for example, persuasively suggests a transcendent God as the foundation for objective morality, the Kalam Cosmological argument grounds belief in a transcendent creator God who existed prior to the universe and who is responsible for creating it, and the teleological argument points to a designer to the universe.
I strongly believe that for a worldview to have any reasonable claim at being true, it is imperative that its concept of God needs to make logical sense, which I don’t think is apparent with NAS. Thus, on these grounds I cannot accept New Age concepts of God as being true.
1. Halverson, D. 1996. The Compact Guide to World Religions. p. 164.
3. Hubbard, B. 1998. Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential. p. 212.
4. Hubbard, B. 1995. The Revelation: A Message of Hope for the New Millennium. p. 312.
5. Patheos. Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings. Available.
6. Nash, R. 1988. Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith. p. 127.
7. Craig, W. The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God. Available.