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Mormonism and New Age Parallels

February 28, 2010

I’ve been fighting a pretty nasty head cold all week and finally went to the doctor yesterday to get some drugs, so bear with me if I make little sense. However, I wanted to discuss the quote I shared in the previous post. As Aaron discovered (by being a good internet sleuth), this was a quote from the book Psychic Children by New York Times #1 Bestselling author, Sylvia Browne (a self-proclaimed psychic, master hypnotist, past life regressionist, and spiritual teacher) who starts the book by talking about her Spirit Guide, Francine, who tells her spiritual truths.

She gives advice for children who are afraid of their psychic gifts such as clairvoyance, or their encounters with spirits and ghosts. She proclaims that God is the Source of these gifts and “He’s the One to turn to for guidance when and if it becomes overwhelming.” She says children should be encouraged to pray for God’s divine guidance so that their “potentially scary psychic talent” can be turned into “a happy, comforting and informative source of messages from Home” (pp. 23-25).

She states that she grew up in a psychic family and had her first psychic experience as a young child: “I was seven years old, alone in my bedroom, playing with my flashlight one night as usual, when, with no warning, the glow from the flashlight began to grow and intensify until it filled the room with almost blinding white light. I was gaping at it, too mesmerized and frightened to move, when from what seemed to be the center of the light a woman’s high-pitched chirping voice said, with a clarity I’d never experienced before from the spirit world, ‘Don’t be afraid, Sylvia. I come from God'” (p. 38). She later states “I was in regular communication with Francine from that night on” (p. 39).

She does not find any contradiction between her involvement with spirits and her “God-centered” life. Rather, she believes she has “lived in God’s service by putting my psychic gifts to His best possible purpose” (p. 31).

When she receives letters or emails from thousands of parents who are concerned that their children’s psychic abilities seem evil or godless, she uses her own self-proclaimed authority to pronounce that “nothing could be further from the truth.”  How does she know this?  She knows it “from the core of my soul” (p. 29).  She further proclaims, “God is our foundation, our essence, our inspiration, our motivation, the Source from which our gifts and yours were given.”

Now I don’t want to draw more out of this connection than is reasonable.  However, I find it interesting that one of the revelations Sylvia Browne has received (as quoted in the previous post) parallels one of the unique, distinctive teachings in Mormonism that sets it apart from classical Christianity–namely, the teaching that human spirits are eternal.

Sylvia Browne: “Our spirits, like the infinite universe we inhabit, always have been and always will be.”

Joseph Smith: “”[T]he soul—the mind of man—the immortal spirit. Where did it come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation…. We say that God himself is a self-existent being…. Man does exist upon the same principles…. The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself…. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had not beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven”” (King Follett Sermon).

So I am pondering on the possible reasons for this parallel. As I see it, these are the possibilities that exist. Let me know if you think of any others.

1)  Modern revelation is available to all people due to the Mormon teaching of the Light of Christ in everyone. Therefore, Sylvia Browne is able to receive modern revelation from her Spirit Guide that parallels the revelations given to Joseph Smith. These teachings are leading people in the New Age movement closer to the truth about who we are, where we came from, and why we are here.

2)  Joseph Smith received revelation from a similar source as Sylvia Browne and this is a false teaching that is causing people to be deceived about who they are, where they came from, and why they are here.

What other possibilities am I leaving out?

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37 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2010 2:59 am

    Before you begin by attempting to draw what you are claiming to be a “possible parallel” understand that there are many things people can draw parallels from (good or bad) between Christianity and Paganism.

    In fact, if you truly want to talk about parallelism within religion – study and research the parallel’s between how different cultures developed a concept, form of worship, and belief system around a “Sun God”. In every religious cultural identity of primitive human existence, one will find that various cultures had one central figure they devoted their form of worship too – the Sun God. This is a good parallel distinction because it establishes a very logical premise as to natural observation of human nature and the worship of the divine.

    Another example is the possibility that Christianity is not unique when it comes to a “resurrected” divine being. The Worship of Baal actually has roots in the idea and concept of a “god” that dies and rises (this being understood in the context of agricultural development and Baal actually was associated with agriculture and fertility). Egyptology and Mythology has a “resurrected” divine being.

    Does the above disprove Christianity all together? No, but what it does is that it helps us understand the overall context of how religious devotions develop in human behavior and how we relate and understand the things within our world.

    So, just because one can draw parallel’s between Sylvia Brown and what Joseph Smith taught does not establish any authoritative understanding that Mormonism teaches “New Age” concepts and ideals. Believe it or not, the early Apostles claimed to have had the ministering of Angels. Patriarchs of the Old Testament had the ability to know when they had the ministering of angels. There are countless of Christians worldwide that have made claim that they have had significant encounters with Angelic beings, and even deviant and benign beings that are evil.

    Essentially, what all this means is that we fully do not comprehend what is beyond the veil. If a child were to come to you and tell you “Jessica, I prayed to Jesus and he told me to tell you that he loves you and you will be healed of your sickness, and I saw him and talked with him” are you going to say that 6 year old child is lying and being deceived? Yet, a 15 year old goes out and prayes queitly and has a very profound spiritual experience and is now being dragged throught he mud, called a deciever and a liar because we can’t fully comprehend what is and what is not beyond the veil.

    Yes, are there spirits that deceive people? You bet, and I will not for one minute say that there is not. Are there angels? Yes, you bet, scripture testifies that there are angels who come and minister when necessary and needful. Are there ghosts? well, if one person says they saw a ghost, that is questionable. If 100 people have the same experience and describe to the minutest detail that they saw an apparition and all had the same experience and stories as to this particular apparition, then you bet, they are telling the truth and it can’t be argued against – or even questioned.

    Even Christ himself stated that we need to show compassion because we never know that when we entertain a stranger, we just might be entertaining an angel sent to test us. Ever heard stories of people who said that a stranger had come to them, they provided their needs and then that person disappears, only to find that they were blessed?

    So, do I believe in psychic abilities? Well – what is the difference between Sylvia Brown saying to someone – “your grandmother wants you to know that she is in a better place, that she wants you to be happy and to forgive yourself of the burden you have carried” to that of a Christian who says “I was driving by and the Holy Spirit convicted me that I should stop and speak with you and to pray with you”.

    In a sense, when someone receives a prompting from the spirit, or if one believes they have the ability to speak in tongues and interpret that speech, is this not classical form of being a psychic? Having the ability to receive divine revelation and information from the spiritual realm in a way that it will affect the course of one’s life and thought and how it impacts others?

    Parallelism is just simply that, parallelism.

    So, unless otherwise specified, what merit does this have against Mormonism? Other than one can draw parallelisms in any given religious and non-religious context?

  2. March 21, 2010 10:40 pm

    “Parallelism is just simply that, parallelism.”

    Absolutely. I agree.

    Reminds me of those websites that try to link Mormonism with Freemasonry and it’s just obvious that the author is automatically assuming that everyone is going to agree this is a bad thing.

    “Oh! Freemasonry! Run away!”

    “Oh! New Age! Just one more definite negative against Mormonism!”

    But of course, the author never tells us why either of those things are real negatives such that even if a link could be established with Mormonism, it should be a mark against us. Why is being “New Age” a bad thing? Why are associations with Freemasonry a negative? Because they link Mormonism with other things some Evangelicals are ignorant and bigoted about?

    And this is assuming that the connection between the two subjects was ever firmly established, which I’m not sure you have done here.

  3. March 21, 2010 10:52 pm

    Seth,

    What do you think of these comments I saw recently over at FMH?

    31. #15 — Your comment made me remember that I had another great pal during my master’s work in Scotland, a New Yorker who was a born-again Christian turned pagan (yes, a born-again pagan). We found we had TONS in common: a belief in a mother in heaven/goddess, a belief that all things were created spiritually and physically, common rituals and traditions, etc. In fact, when we compared the Mormon/Wiccan beliefs against common Protestant ones, there were really more similarities in the former than in the latter. That last bit came as a surprise to me. Yes, Molly Mormon and Polly Pagan got along together just fine. I went to both Samhain and Beltane with her and learned a lot about people who aren’t at all the “devil worshippers” I’d heard about decades earlier. (go figure. :))

    Comment by A Paperback Writer — March 13, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

    33. So true, APW, my SIL is a Wiccan and she is immensely spiritual.

    Comment by Kimberly — March 13, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=2980

  4. March 22, 2010 12:27 am

    I think it’s fine.

    I’m not particularly scared of “New Age cooties.”

  5. March 22, 2010 12:32 am

    And that’s nothing. Check this blog post out:

    http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/2008/05/daughtrey-dissertation-mormon-neo-pagan.html

  6. March 22, 2010 12:42 am

    WOW

    She said, “I got it. I got what the temple is there to teach me. I really am God, and I don’t need to go back now.” What she really got at the deepest level is what Joseph Smith said near the end in that the most important thing for human beings to is to learn to become God.

    Do you see any problem with this???????!

  7. March 22, 2010 1:01 am

    Nope. Sounds like a great idea.

  8. March 23, 2010 7:00 pm

    In my experience many Mormons tend to have the same attitude that Seth has demonstrated. They have no issues with New Age, Necromancy, or Spiritism. I personally believe it is due to a few things.

    1) Mormonism is founded based upon having a “spiritual experience.” New Age practices simply take this method of “finding truth” to another level. In their eyes, what is the harm in adding more spirit communication to the mix.

    2) Most Mormons are not aware of how clear the biblical commands are AGAINST such practices.

    3) The ultimate goal of New Age practices and beliefs is to become a “god.” Traditional Mormonism has the exact same goal. They are bascially two sides of the same coin, and this is due to the fact that their belief systems are founded in the same source.

    From a biblical standpoint, New Age is very dangerous, for it is nothing more than communication with demons whose sole desire is to lead people away from the God of the Bible. Afterall, satan himself transforms himself into an “angel of light”.

    Darrell

  9. March 23, 2010 7:45 pm

    The idea of becoming a god is very much a biblical notion.

    And the Bible is just fine with spiritual experiences as long as they are the good kind.

  10. March 23, 2010 8:32 pm

    The biblical teaching is that there is, was, and will always only be one God. So the biblical notion of becoming ontologically the same as God is that it is wholly not righteous or possible.

    Yes, some Spiritual Experiences are okay from a biblical perspective. However, those experiences must be tested, and the Bible makes it very clear that using a pragmatic test for their truth is wholly inadequate, for satan will disguise himself as an “angel of light” and even his workers will transform themselves into “ministers of righteouness”.

    In addition, there is a huge difference between having a “spiritual experience” and communing with supposedly deceased spirits or trying to tap into a overarching secret power so you can influence others for your benefit.

    Bottom line, your test of whether the experiences are the “good kind” of experiences, in my opinion, falls woefully short of being an adequate test.

    Darrell

  11. March 23, 2010 10:03 pm

    Except when he is three gods of course Darrell.

    Right?

    And you have provided no test for spiritual experience whatsoever that is of any use – except to say that they should not be used to exert control over others.

    Which Mormons agree with.

    What else ya got?

  12. March 23, 2010 11:17 pm

    Except when he is three gods of course Darrell.

    Good thing He isn’t three gods.

    And you have provided no test for spiritual experience whatsoever that is of any use – except to say that they should not be used to exert control over others.

    Which Mormons agree with.

    Seth, I was specifically talking about occult New Age beliefs and teachings… not Mormon teachings. I doubt very many Mormons (or pew sitting Christians for that matter) understand very much about New Age/Occult beliefs or teachings so I wouldn’t expect Mormons to disagree with what I was saying. In addition, I find it funny that you think that “using a power to exert influence over others” is not okay, yet you are defending New Age/Occult practices and beliefs. Kind of ironic.

    My point simply was that many Mormons I have spoken with don’t have a problem with the surface level teachings of New Age because in many respects they rely on the same test for truth: experientialism.

    You are correct, I didn’t provide a test. No one asked me too. However, if you would like to see my thoughts on this subject, I did do a post here on the subject of experientialism a few days ago.

    Nevertheless, my point remains that simply looking at the experience to see whether it is “good” (whatever that means) is wholly inadequate.

    Darrell

  13. March 23, 2010 11:23 pm

    Darrell, given the agenda-driven analysis I have endured from some Evangelicals about Mormonism – I frankly don’t trust them to represent New Age movements any more fairly. A lot of the rhetoric about Wicca, for instance sounds rather hysterical, and similar to those amusing “ban Harry Potter” book clubs you used to hear about.

    Final note Darrell –

    If you can make “One God” out of three beings, I can make “One God” out of more.

    That is all.

  14. March 23, 2010 11:45 pm

    … I frankly don’t trust them to represent New Age movements any more fairly.

    I can understand where you are coming from Seth. I don’t expect you to take my word for it. Do some research on it… find out for yourself. Especially before you come out touting how it is “okay” or “sounds like a great idea”.

    If you can make “One God” out of three beings, I can make “One God” out of more.

    Not really Seth. There is virtually no scriptural support for this pantheistic idea of us getting swallowed up and becoming one with God. In addition, your statement is analogous to me claiming that…

    “Well if you say birds can fly, then I can say donkeys can fly.”

    It’s ridiculous because we all know that the essence of a donkey doesn’t allow it to fly. In the same sense, man’s essence is not the same as God’s. So, no, just as a donkey can’t fly, man can’ t be ontologically one with God.

    Darrell

  15. March 23, 2010 11:51 pm

    Sure there is Darrell. There’s plenty of support for it in our scriptures.

    Or were you trying to rig the game again by limiting discussion to the Bible?

  16. March 23, 2010 11:52 pm

    Seth,

    I also meant to add that in addtion to there being virtually no scriptural support for man being ontologically swallowed up into God, i.e., becoming one with Him, there is also a whole host of scripture which teaches against this, i.e., the ontological distinction between the Creator and creation.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  17. March 23, 2010 11:53 pm

    And it’s a misrepresentation of my position to say that I believe in some amorphous “being swallowed up” in God.

    Do you think your One God is an amoeba?

    Well, neither do I.

  18. March 23, 2010 11:59 pm

    Funny Seth.

    No, I prefer to stick to an actual historical document. No point in delving into JS’s fictional writings.

    BTW, have you ever read the Inspired Version? I am in the process of doing a few posts on it… man, JS had no problem adding words in that have NO BASIS whatsoever in the Greek manuscripts. Wow!

    Anyway, gotta go. We are having a meeting with an Atheist Group from a local college tonight. Should be a fun and interesting discussion.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  19. March 24, 2010 12:03 am

    You can rig the game on your own terms if you want Darrell. Just don’t expect it to have any persuasive value with me.

  20. March 24, 2010 12:05 am

    And there isn’t a “host” of Bible verses on the ontological distinction.

    Just a handful of verses that seem to make a certain point if you have one outside agenda, yet make a different point if you have a different agenda.

  21. March 24, 2010 12:57 am

    Seth,

    Have you ever read The Light That Was Dark?

    I agree with what these other reviewers on Amazon said about it – it was a really, really good book.

    http://www.amazon.com/Light-That-Was-Dark/dp/0976349213

  22. March 24, 2010 2:18 am

    You know Jessica, the honest truth is that I’ve heard so many “harrowing journeys” out of… whatever… that they’ve kind of lost their power to impress me any more.

    What about the Mormon convert from my ward growing up as a kid who had a “harrowing journey” out of being a Southern Baptist? Or the “harrowing” story of a kid who grew up Catholic, but now, thank goodness, is free of that and is now an enlightened atheist? Or what about the dime-a-dozen “harrowing journeys” out of Mormonism I hear about that – on closer inspection – seem to be more about the screwed up family life of the author than about anything I really identify with in my religion?

    I think I’ll probably pass.

  23. March 24, 2010 3:22 am

    Generalizing can be a powerful tool to accommodate intellectual laziness and shelter false beliefs. Seth, you have made it clear on this blog that you don’t have “New Age cooties.” My prayer is that you back up your apparent belief that the Occult/New Age movement is truly harmless with facts.

    Darrell

  24. March 24, 2010 4:32 am

    I’d say the burden is on the one yelling “dangerous loonies” to provide proof Darrell.

  25. March 24, 2010 4:44 am

    I’d say the burden is on the one yelling “dangerous loonies” to provide proof Darrell.

    I accept your mission.

  26. March 24, 2010 1:28 pm

    Jack,

    This reminds me of Romans 1:25.

    “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.”

    Darrell

  27. March 24, 2010 3:13 pm

    Seth,

    I am genuinely curious about your take on the New Age/Occult worldview. I am not looking to “trap” you, but would really like to have a conversation about your understanding and perception on this issue. Over the past few months you have appeared to indicate on more than one occasion that you really see no harm in it, and you have given hints that appear to indicate that your beliefs may have some commonality with them. I am curious about this.

    What is your understanding on the New Age/Occult worldview? For example, the basic theistic worldview teaches that there is a transcendent personal God who created and continues to sustain all things. Obviously there is a more to it than this, but it is a rather simple way of stating it. So, how would you describe the New Age/Occult worldview (in your understanding)?

    Darrell

  28. March 24, 2010 3:44 pm

    I see it as an attempt to tap into one’s inner spiritual life via mythical narratives – which the practitioner may, or may not, take literally.

    As long as they’re not having you sign over the deed to the house, encouraging sexual excess, or other harmful behaviors, I don’t see what the big deal is.

    It’s no worse than the people at your workplace who are Catholics in name only. Or people who are really into martial arts as a method of mental and physical conditioning.

    And good thing Romans 1:25 doesn’t apply to the LDS Church – seeing as we do not worship “created” things.

  29. March 25, 2010 3:48 am

    What, in your opinion, do they hold their inner “spiritual life” to be or mean?

    Darrell

  30. March 25, 2010 3:49 am

    Also, what do you mean by “mythical narratives?” Stories? Practices?

    Darrell

  31. March 25, 2010 6:07 pm

    Also, Seth, you said:

    And good thing Romans 1:25 doesn’t apply to the LDS Church – seeing as we do not worship “created” things.

    You must not have understood my comment. It was addressed to Jack in regards to the video she posted of a New Age tree worshipping group. I was not talking about Mormons.

    Darrell

  32. March 25, 2010 6:24 pm

    Well, they were an emo environmentalist group. Not sure if they were formally “New Age,” although nature worship is part of the New Age Movement and as such a related subject. I’m sure some of them were New Agers.

    I mostly just posted it for the lulz.

  33. March 25, 2010 6:44 pm

    Jack,

    It was pretty funny.

    You are correct though. Nature worship is a part of the New Age movement. I am reading an interview in the April 1989 New Age Journal with Matthew Fox. He is a proponent of Creation Spirituality, and teaches the concept of “the original blessing” or the “worship and celebration of the beauty of creation” (New Age Journal, April 1989, 54). He says:

    In Western Religion we have this notion of theism – that God is “out there” somewhere, while the soil is just sitting here. But in my tradition of the Cosmic Christ, the soil is divine (Ibid, 55).

    Scary. This is exactly what Romans 1:25 is talking about.

    Darrell

  34. March 25, 2010 7:37 pm

    What’s so scary about it?

    I find five-point Calvinism scarier than that stuff.

  35. March 25, 2010 7:45 pm

    Seth,

    Come on! You can’t actually be being serious. You don’t find worshipping nature (the creation) to honestly be a problem given the mandate of scripture?

    Oh, I made several comments above. Don’t overlook them.

    Darrell

  36. March 25, 2010 7:47 pm

    Oh, it’s a problem.

    Just not half as horribly damaging as the implications of the TULIP.

    Compared to that, these guys are a bunch of fluffy bunnies.

    Never said they weren’t wrong.

  37. March 25, 2010 7:57 pm

    I am not a proponent of 5 point Calvinism, but I don’t find it to be non-Christian. It holds to the doctrine that Christ is god and the only way to Heaven. These guys on the other hand, don’t even hold Him to be divine, much less the only way to heaven. Yet they worship dirt. So, I find your assessment to be way off given the test of 1 John 4:1-3. By this test, the New Agers that teach this crap are of the spirit of Anti-Christ.

    Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

    Darrell

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