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What is a New Age Holistic Health Technique and What Isn’t?

March 7, 2016

In the course of my own wellness journey, both personally and as a health coach, I have seen many references to certain holistic health methods as being New Age and therefore Catholics should stay away from them. I was shocked to see that modalities such as chiropractic and nutritional therapies are being labeled as New Age. Why would anyone call these methods New Age?

So, I searched the Vatican website and I found a document called Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the “New Age” by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. This is an extensive document, about 60 pages, on all things New Age. It begins with the sentence, “The study is a provisional report.” This report is not dogmatic in any way, yet certain circles have dogmatically used section 2.2.3. Health: Golden Living, to steer all Catholics away from any wellness modality that the New Age Movement has claimed as its own!

This section of the report acknowledges that “formal (allopathic) medicine today tends to limit itself to curing particular, isolated ailments, and fails to look at the broader picture of a person’s health: this has given rise to a fair amount of understandable dissatisfaction.” It goes on to say that the claims of the New Age Movement imply that if we treat our bodies properly we will never die. I don’t have a direct reference for that yet, but I did find the reference for the subsequent paragraph that labels all of the New Age holistic health approaches.

The report says: “There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric, others connected with the psychological theories developed in Esalen during the years 1960-1970. Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of “bodywork” (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualisation, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colours, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programmes and self-help groups.(25) The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy.”

The second quote came almost directly from New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought by Wouter J. Hanegraaff. Sadly, the coverage of New Age health methods in this book and in the Vatican report is a very small portion of each publication. I have to do further research on the sources in Hanegraaff’s book, and there are many.

Back to the listing of “New Age” approaches for promoting holistic health. I cannot comment on every approach; some are truly New Age. But many of them ARE NOT New Age. Sure, the New Age Movement has been in development since the Renaissance, and some of these approaches have come into existence since then, but timing does not equal association. Other approaches have existed as long as mankind. St. Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in the twelfthhildegard century, wrote a book on “various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, [and] metals” and many other natural substances. She was just named a Doctor of the Church a few years ago. A Catholic Saint is a New Age healer? I don’t think so. Rather, the New Age has adopted the writings of St. Hildegard, and we, the faithful of Holy Mother Church need to reclaim them.

Chiropractic and nutritional therapies are not New Age either, just more modalities claimed by the movement. Do you brush your teeth? That is as New Age as chiropractic. If you eat you need to brush your teeth. If you fall down or twist your back you need a chiropractic adjustment. Nutritional therapies: sure the New Age claims it, but that the writers of the Vatican report left it in their list of health methods to avoid really boggles my mind! Yes, people have had nutritional deficiencies and corresponding illnesses since the beginning of time, but we have them even more so now because the devil is part owner of the modern food industry. Yes, the devil. We have been brain washed to think that taste is the sole health factor in the food we eat. But most of the food we eat today is processed into empty calories, if it even has calories.

There is so much more to say on this topic, but I will end this post with this: Yes, there are New Age health therapies, and we need to be aware them. Not all of the practices and approaches listed above are New Age, BUT, we do need to be aware of the people offering health services, ANY health services, be they alternative or traditional health services. Your MD could be a New Age practitioner. You can either watch for clues in the suggestions they make for your care or you can interview your doctors and other health care providers and find out what belief systems they subscribe to. New Age is not limited to the approach, it also involves the personal beliefs of the people caring for you.

We have been wonderfully made by our God. Our bodies can heal themselves if they are treated properly. St. Augustine said: “Treat the body as if you are going to live forever, and treat the soul as if you are going to die tomorrow.”

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