New Age Ethics – Introduction
A quick look to Hollywood, and I think we can all understand New Age ethics. Brad Pitt declares, “It’s taking everything you’ve learned from your parents and school and finding out what works for you and what you have to offer. The important question is, ‘What feels right for you?’”1 Shirley MacLaine reminds us, “It [is] not possible to judge another’s truth.”2
The ethics of the New Age are based on its theological pantheism and philosophical monism. If each of us is God, then final authority resides in us, and we must seek the freedom to act in harmony with our inner truth. “Free will,” says Shirley MacLaine, “is simply the enactment of the realization you are God, a realization that you are divine: free will is making everything accessible to you.”3
Individual autonomy is the one ethical absolute promoted by the New Age movement. This autonomy places the authority for judging values squarely within the soul of each human being. Marilyn Ferguson writes, “Most importantly, when people become autonomous, their values become internal.”4 Internalized values allow us to seek higher consciousness, whereas any external limit or authority blocks our ability to get in touch with our inner truth. Thus, Vera Alder tells us, “We should search ourselves very carefully to see if we have any fixed ideas, any great shyness or self-consciousness. If we have, we must seek freedom.”5
Shakti Gawain provides us with a practical application of total freedom in relation to our sexuality: “If you’re setting limits on your sexual energy, it becomes distorted. If you believe it is something to be hidden, ignored, and controlled, then you learn to hold back completely or act sexually only at certain safe moments.”6 According to the Cosmic Humanist worldview, such limitations sap our personal power and deny our godhood. We must not acknowledge outside boundaries––especially the boundaries of the Ten Commandments, which are an external authority and, as such, hinder our evolutionary growth.
New Age Ethics – Moral Relativism
When we choose New Age ethics and ignore all outside authority and all rational restrictions, boundless moral relativism results. Ferguson admits as much: “Autonomous human beings can create and invent. And they can change their minds, repudiating values they once held.”7
This kind of relativism means that no one may decide whether another’s actions are right or wrong. Ferguson believes that once we achieve the higher consciousness of the New Age, “There is less certainty about what is right for others. With an awareness of multiple realities, we lose our dogmatic attachment to a single point of view.”8
In other words, we must not judge other people’s beliefs or actions. Tolerance is the key: Cosmic Humanists must tolerate all other views regarding morality because ethics is relative to the truth within each of us. “Adam and Eve,” says Marianne Williamson, “were happy until she ‘ate of the knowledge of good and evil.’ What that means is that everything was perfect until they began to judge––to keep their hearts open sometimes, but closed at others....Closing our hearts destroys our peace. It’s alien to our real nature.”9
Randall Baer, a former Cosmic Humanist who converted to Christianity, states the basic New Age credo: “create your own reality according to what feels right for you.” Whether you choose to be homosexual, bisexual, monogamous, polygamous, etc.––any choice you make is acceptable as long as “It’s right for me” or “It’s done with love, and no one’s hurt.” This is a kind of relativistic, human-founded ethics (or design-your-own ethics). In effect, New Age followers pick and choose from the multitudes of options in each area of life according personal preferences.10
New Age Ethics – Karma and the Unity of Good and Evil
According to New Age ethics, we must simply assume that everyone acts morally by following inner truth. Gawain, in fact, absolves Adolf Hitler and every other human being of moral responsibility by claiming that everyone is following the shortest path to higher consciousness and is, therefore, acting morally: “I believe that every being chooses the life path and relationships that will help him or her to grow the fastest.”11
Moral relativism leads Cosmic Humanists to a point where the distinction between good and evil becomes hopelessly blurred. No absolute right or wrong exists, only what is right or wrong according to each individual’s truth. If everything is one, it is difficult to distinguish between good and evil. What may appear evil in this life could be the reverse in a reincarnated existence.
This concept involves what New Age devotees refer to as karma, which Shirley MacLaine defines this way: “Whatever action one takes will ultimately return to that person––good and bad––maybe not in this life embodiment, but sometime in the future. And no one is exempt.... For every act, for every indifference, for every misuse of life, we are finally held accountable. And it is up to us to understand what those accounts might be.12
Unfortunately, because there is no standard by which to judge what may be “an act of indifference,” or “a misuse of life,” we cannot know if there is any difference between them or, for that matter, if there is any difference between cruelty and non-cruelty. This is an alarming conclusion, but one Cosmic Humanists accept. This acceptance results from the New Age concept of unity––if all is one, then good and evil are one, and so are right and wrong.
Ferguson explains unity this way: “This wholeness unites opposites.... In these spiritual traditions [that form the basis for New Age thought] there is neither good nor evil. There is only light and the absence of light...wholeness and brokenness...flow and struggle.”13 David Spangler echoes this view, but in more startling language: “Christ is the same force as Lucifer....Lucifer prepares man for the experience of Christhood....Lucifer works within each of us to bring us to wholeness as we move into the New Age.”14 What the world considers evil––war, murder, etc.––becomes a part of the evolutionary flow and struggle of reality as supraconsciousness strives to be born on a higher level.
New Age Ethics – Conclusion
In New Age ethics, morality is a nebulous thing. Each of us must listen to the “God within” to determine our own ethical system, but we may never hold others accountable to our system. Ironically, nothing is ever really wrong except judging other people’s moral beliefs and actions.
Yet judging cannot be completely bad either because it is part of the unity of reality. If “all is one,” then even horrible mistakes, like judgmental actions, are manifestations of God. Thus, by individualizing both good and evil, difficulties multiply like dandelions in Cosmic Humanist ethics. Such a skewed worldview leads to drastically skewed thinking.
Kevin Ryerson’s thoughts on karma give us a telling example of this truth: “Criminals and murderers sometimes come back around to be murdered themselves, or perhaps to become a saint. For instance, Moses was a murderer....He beat the fellow to death out of rage, which was not exactly the most ethical decision. But he went on to become a great intellect, a great law-giver, and is considered a saint by many people. So basically, you get many chances. Your karma is your system of judgment. There is justice.”15