Ransomed from the Darkness
as told to Donna Steichen and originally appearing in her book Prodigal Daughters
The three classic sources of temptation are the world, the flesh, and the devil. In my case, the flesh was less significant than the world — I was highly susceptible to the Zeitgeist — but the chief reason I fell away from the faith was fascination with the devil’s tricks. I was born into a Catholic family, yet for more than twenty years I pursued the works of darkness, and during the last ten of them, I was a professional New Age therapist, as deep in the movement as one can go.
My introduction to the inner life of the New Age came after I was seriously injured in an auto accident in Hawaii in 1980. Two years later, I was still in too much pain to raise my own coffee cup to my lips. My sister, a California attorney, called me to recommend a pioneer pain clinic in the Midwest that was showing impressive results in getting patients off pain-killers and back to work. My insurance company quickly agreed to refer me there and pay the tab for my treatment. At the pain clinic, I was launched into a dangerous way of life that led me ever deeper into the occult.
The Church, of course, has always warned the faithful against meddling in the occult, but, like many of my generation, I didn't listen to her.
New Age practices are variations of the sorcery condemned in the Old Testament (Deut. 13). They violate the first Commandment by putting a creature in the place of the Creator. Yet most New Agers are not deliberately foisting demonic paganism on society; they are looking for something they see as good, something they think is scientifically explainable or at least experientially demonstrable. People outside that milieu may find it hard to believe, but there can be perceptible power in esoteric techniques, and that is what lures adepts ever deeper into the occult world. That power is not of God, however, so it does not lead to good but down to its source in the Prince of Darkness.
He tempts recruits with the same bait he offered to our first parents — the promise that they can be gods. Once they swallow it, the idol they serve is actually the self. Only gradually do followers learn what it means to say that the self is divine: it means we are each an autonomous consciousness, alone in the universe, with no one to save us, no one to help us. Everything depends on that lonely, isolated self. The New Age "holy trinity" is "Me, Myself and I."
After ten years, with unsolicited, unforeseen, and unmerited love, God rescued me from that life of darkness. For His astonishing mercy I owe him my gratitude for all eternity.
How could I have turned my back on my Catholic faith to walk without hesitation into the world of esoteric phenomena? It was possible because I had already rejected Catholicism ten years before my auto accident, for a weaker dosage of the same spiritual illusion, received at second hand from a favorite high school teacher.
My earliest Catholic memory is of my mother saying that she would send her children to Catholic Schools because the nuns could raise us better than she could. My first school experience was a kindergarten at a Sacred Heart convent in Detroit, run by the Religious Sisters of the Coeur Jesu, the prestigious teaching order founded in nineteenth-century France by St. Madeleine Sophie Bart. By the eighth grade, I was at Eden Hall, then a fine R.S.C.J. convent boarding school in Philadelphia. But when I was in tenth grade, Eden Hall burned down. In the wake of the fire, a guidance counsellor suggested that my parents send me to a secular college-prep boarding school, MacDuffie School for Girls, in Massachusetts, and so they did. In that entirely secular environment, students were on their own about attending religious services. The girls who became my best friends were neither Catholics nor churchgoers, and I quickly adapted to prevailing custom.
One of my teachers, an engaging young woman in her twenties, was also my housemistress. As she lavished time and interest on us after school, she made a strong impression, and I soon took her as a role model. She had studied in India, was a practicing Hindu, and was engaged to a Hindu professor from Princeton University. He often came to visit her at school, exotically attractive in his turban. Captivated by the mysterious Indian culture, we went with her to Ravi Shankar concerts, and listened respectfully to everything she said about Indian religion: karma, nirvana, chakras, and reincarnation. Dismissing Catholicism as a relic of the outgrown past, I buried all thought of the Sacrament of Penance and went to Mass only on major holidays at home, when family practice made it impossible to avoid. But incongruously I still believed in the Blessed Mother.
By the time I graduated from high school, the seed of this exotic new belief system had rooted solidly in me and was germinating as a longing for enlightenment. Many New Agers follow gurus, in a common belief that only a living teacher can show them the way home to God. I was convinced that I, too, must go to India to find my own guru.
Instead, after graduation in 1970, I went to college, first at the University of Denver and afterward at the University of Colorado. But in the back of my mind I still intended to go to India eventually. For my junior year, I went to college in Avignon, France, through a University of Washington transfer program. When the year ended, I travelled to Greece and Turkey, thinking I would take the train right on to India. I didn't feel I needed to finish college, but I knew I needed to get enlightened.
My devout and resolute grandmother undid that plan. She tracked me down in Europe by telephone and told me to come home and finish college or be cut off financially. So I came back to the University of Washington in 1974, when virtually everything our parents valued was being questioned on college campuses: their beliefs, their culture, their way of life, the entire American system. Hindu influence was still strong. The Beatles and other popular musicians were frequently pictured in the media visiting their Indian gurus. At UW, as at many colleges, meditation classes sprang up, and groups of devotees promoted one or another guru.1 The cult of the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, for example, caught on so strongly that, as some readers may remember, he eventually moved from India to Antelope, Oregon, where he drew flocks of young followers until the federal government at last deported him.
By the time I finished college, however, worldly ambition had diverted me from spiritual searching. Having internalized the feminist dogma that an American woman is nothing without a career, I set India on a mental back shelf and aimed toward success in a publishing career. That journey went smoothly for a half dozen years. Through most of my twenties, I was working so hard that I never thought about anything spiritual. At age twenty-eight, I was a publisher with Visitor Publications in Hawaii; I had my own house, and the future looked limitless.
That changed abruptly the day I crashed in the company car. I was left seriously disabled. Month after month I endured constant pain; I could not work or even drive. Pain pushed me back toward a spiritual search mode that made me receptive to the ideas I encountered at the model pain clinic in Wisconsin.
One of the first such clinics in the country; it had already won a good deal of media attention and has since achieved international prominence in its field. But even as dimly as I remembered Christianity, I soon noticed that its perspective was not Christian. The treatment offered was based entirely on "New Thought".
"New Thought" is a metaphysical theory holding that reality is immaterial. It describes God as the abstract; impersonal "Divine Mind" expressed in each human being as "the Christ". The more fully we are attuned to our "Christ consciousness" — our awareness of the universal, "cosmic Christ" existing in us — the more effectively we can use its power to achieve such desirable goods as healing, happiness, love, or wealth. This power is accessible to those who understand that reality is an illusion projected by the self.
While this theory has elements in common with older gnostic belief systems like alchemy, transcendentalism, theosophy, 2 and Hinduism, it was articulated and labelled in mid-nineteenth-century America under the "New Thought" label by Phineas P. Quimby, a faith healer and medium who made a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy when he treated her for back pain. After Quimby died, Mrs. Eddy amplified the ideas she had absorbed from him and like-minded others 3 and expressed them in her own writings as Christian Science. International Religious Science, another outgrowth of the same movement, was founded in the early twentieth century by Ernest Holmes, author of The Science of Mind. Currently the Unity School of Christianity is the New Thought denomination most widely known and most dearly identified as New Age. 4 Divine Science is another, as are the Church of Divine Man, the Church Universal and Triumphant, and Self-Realization Fellowship. In all of them, the only reality is the universal Mind. God is seen as supreme creative intelligence, a "Life-Force" of which we are all inseparably part. Since matter is an illusion, the essential human self is in fact part of the same divine spirit, and its ruling principle is that of New Age pantheism: "All is One, all is God, I am God."
Obviously, these are not Christian churches, though they may be listed under that heading in telephone directory yellow pages. As New Thought has subdivided, its message about the need for transformation through changing consciousness has more explicitly separated the person of Jesus from the Identity "Christ". We are not saved by Jesus, the unique God-Man who atoned for original sin, but by "Christ . consciousness", that is, knowledge that we are expressions of the one Divine Mind. Jesus is not our atoning Saviour — because we were never separated from God or in need of forgiveness. Instead, Jesus is an example of one who so fully attained "Christ consciousness" that he manifested power over matter, sin, and death. All men and women can do the same if they too become "self-actualized" through "Christ consciousness". When we become self-actualized enough, we will realize that we ourselves are the divine "I Am".
This system of thought reawakened the interest I had developed in "enlightenment" when I was in high school. It never gave me the answers I sought, but the expectation of fulfilment, never satisfied but always promised, impelled me on to ten more years pursuing the New Age.
People involved in Science of Mind or similar New Thought groups seemed to be over-represented on the staff of the model clinic. All New Age systems first require followers to set aside their basic beliefs, so their minds can be reprogrammed. The field of pain control uses brainwashing techniques to implant a mind-over-matter attitude. They took away our pain pills, and we spent eight hours a day being indoctrinated with "autogenics", a system combining self-hypnosis and "New Thought", from tapes intended to alter our brain waves. In this "subliminal mode", our minds would open to absorb the new belief system that would free us of pain.
The completely non-Christian perspective of New Thought was evident in videos we were shown of psychic surgery, in the talks on shamanism, and in the endless repetition of messages condemning any acceptance of suffering. There can never be virtue in suffering, we heard repeatedly; no suffering can be from God or be redemptive. Suffering is a result of our errors in thinking and our self-punishing guilt. They warned us against hope, telling us that to wait for a Savior was as pointless as "rocking in a rocking chair, going nowhere".
If we wanted ever to be pain free, we would have to do it ourselves. To remind ourselves of that focus, we wore red lapel buttons reading, "ME FIRST". This drumbeat of suggestions phenomenon. went on hourly, daily, for the duration. and it is even sold in some Catholic bookstores.
Some patients stayed at the pain clinic for months, and many came back regularly to have the hypnotic effect reinforced. But I was so highly suggestible that after a single month, I no longer felt unmanageable pain, and I didn't need pain pills anymore. This was the effect of hypnosis, not a physical healing.5 To stay well, I would have to keep doing self-hypnosis daily and constantly reassuring my ego that I could do it.
Clients were sent home with autogenic tapes and mind control programming for continuing self-hypnosis. For help in keeping those New Thoughts vivid in my mind, I was also advised to seek spiritual support. As the clinic staffers common spiritual attitudes, I asked them what churches went to. They urged me to try Science of Mind churches, preferably the Church of Religious Science or a Unity church, which can be found in most American towns today.
Back home in Hawaii, I obediently started attending a Unity church, and I found it very interesting. It is seductive to hear that you are the ultimate power and the absolute moral authority. It was also less trouble than going all the way to India to search for a guru. I also sampled the Human Potential Movenient, by way of Werner Erhard's est (later renamed the Forum, and still later called Transformational Technologies, Inc.). Next I tried Silva Mind Control. Then came A Course in Miracles, a program that synchronized perfectly with New Thought. Not only is it still going today, it has become an international business phenomenon. Many Christian churches offer it to members, and it is even sold in some Catholic bookstores. That fact should astonish anyone who knows where it came from.
Between 1965 and 1973, an inner voice dictated the twelve-hundred page Course to the late Helen Shucman, an atheist research psychologist at Columbia University Medical School, whose mother had been a Christian Science practitioner. Bewildered by the phenomenon, Dr Shueman simply transcribed, in shorthand, what the inner voice told her, without clearly understanding its significance or even its literal meaning. Ironically, though she wrote in the Course that suffering does not exist, she spent her last two years in the blackest of psychotic depressions.
A Course in Miracles uses a redefined Christian vocabulary to indicate that its spirit-author is Jesus, bringing a new revelation to "purify" the teachings of Christianity. His old revelation, it declares, was "not the lesson I intended to offer you" and for that reason has only added to human suffering a crushing burden of guilt. The "miracles" referred to in the title are not supernatural interventions in the natural order, but products of corrected thinking, just as in other New Thought systems.
The Course was published in 1976, and study groups began using it in New Age churches around the United States. Its later wildfire success owes a good deal to the promotional talents of Marianne Williamson, who discovered it at the West Hollywood Church of Religious Science, a New Thought center famous for the many movie personalities in its congregation. A Return to Love, Williamson's 1992 blockbuster (thirty-nine weeks on the New York Times best-seller list) was an interpretation of the Course as a "program of spiritual psychotherapy", aimed at those who found the original too complex. Her 1993 book, A Woman's Worth, spent nineteen weeks on the NYT best-seller list. By 1997, Mother Jones magazine was profiling her as the Course's "public face". In that capacity, she has built an avid audience for her lectures and tapes, and her psychic counselling practice has involved such clients as Hillary Clinton, Shirley MacLaine, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Nothing is ever enough in the New Age way of life; there is always pressure to do more, learn more, be more, get more. Its goal is "progressive spiritual evolution" to accrue enough good "karma" to escape from the "wheel of reincarnation" and at last become one with the Universal Mind. So I studied the "Ascended Masters", the hierarchy of fully self-realized spiritual leaders purported to rule the planet, having advanced beyond the cycle of reincarnation, yet somehow retaining their individuality, instead of being assimilated into the Universal Mind. In standard theosophical theory and in the variant interpretations of Elizabeth Clare Prophet (Church Universal and Triumphant), Alice Bailey (New Group of World Servers), and similar sects, Jesus is considered one of the Ascended Masters — but not superior to such others as Buddha, St. Germain, Kuthumi, or Maitreya.
Next I studied Native American Shamanism and Native American Medicine Cards, which are tarot cards displaying Indian symbols instead of the traditional tarot symbols, though they are nevertheless read in the standard way.
In 1983, I was married in an Episcopal church in Seattle, in a ceremony compatible with my spiritual condition: the officiating clergyman was a former Catholic priest who had defected to marry a nun. Contracted without the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony and lived without the support of the true faith, our marriage did not survive the clash of our conflicting personalities. The New Age, focused only on the self, had neither grace nor practical advice to offer us. But by the time we separated in 1991, Roger and I had our lovely daughter, Malia.
While I was pregnant with her, I went to Europe on a holiday with my mother. In Paris, Mother said, "Please come to Mass with me?'
As we entered the magnificent Basilica of Sacré Coeur, I saw, behind a bank of votive candles, a beautiful statue of our Lady. The Holy Spirit must have moved me to do what I did next, because I didn't even know a prayer of consecration. Leaving my mother behind in the pew, I went over to the shrine, lit a candle, and consecrated my unborn baby to the Virgin Mary. "Blessed Mother, this is your child," I whispered. "I give this child to you?"
When our daughter was born, I called her Malia; the Hawaiian form of "Mary".
My fascination with the New Age did not fade, however. We were living in Southern California when I enrolled in a ministry training program at the North County Church of Religious Science in Encinitas. For a text, the program used Holmes' book, The Science of Mind. I spent the next four years learning about ministry from the pastor, who like me was a former Catholic.
My preparation for ministry was the same kind of mental reprogramming I had first encountered at the pain clinic, but now promoted in greater depth, with more sophisticated brainwashing techniques, until I truly did have a new belief system. It was based on denial of original sin and offered the same deceptive promise Satan offered Eve in the Garden of Eden. With my "I Am presence" thus "activated", my self-image inflated from self-confidence to self-idolatry.
In my first venture as a New Age professional, I became a "prayer practitioner" at the Seaside Church of Religious Science in Del Mar, where my stipends came from client donations to the church. My work had nothing to do with God or prayer as Catholics use those terms. Prayer practitioners use their "Christ consciousness" to help people "manifest" (obtain) what they want by commanding the Universal Mind as a magician would command a genie, rather than by beseeching God's help, in the way a creature addresses his Creator. My role in the "prayer" sessions — called "treatments" — was to lead clients to get what they wanted by using the right techniques.
Prayer practitioner work led me into healing and counselling. Having suffered pain for so long, I was drawn to the New Age healing arts. These are various kinds of psychic alternative or "holistic healing" therapies, including Reiki, Aruvedic healing, trance healing by mediums (like the late Edgar Cayce), psychic healing, yoga, and chakra treatment.
First I became a certified Reiki Master healer and teacher. Reiki is a system that calls on spirit guides to transmit healing energy through touch or simply by directed thought, even from a great distance. Next I took training classes from Barbara Brennan, founder and director of the Hands of Light School of Healing. Hands of Light healing is similar to Reiki, but focuses on diagnosing and treating the "aura" or energy field that is believed to surround and flow through all living things and is visible to clairvoyants. Soft-spoken and gentle, Barbara Brennan is sometimes called to consult with legitimate medical personnel, but, like Reiki, her method calls on spirit guides.
My experience with Reiki made me want to learn more about the psychic world. So I went for psychic training classes at the Teachings of the Inner Christ church in Lemon Grove, to get more closely connected to my spirit guides, and to learn to see, feel, and hear beyond the normal physical range of the senses. And I did become clairvoyant. When I told people I saw something, like their childhood experiences, I really did see them. I could sit down beside a stranger and see his past life unreel like a movie. Sometimes I could even converse with the people I was seeing. But eventually, like other clairvoyant channelers, I couldn't sleep at night because the sheer volume of "messages" demanding attention in my mind became a torment, and I could not turn them off.
My daughter Malia instinctively hated the Inner Christ church and adamantly refused to be present at any services, even though I was "in ministry" there.
Next, I trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) under Anthony Robbins, at his noted Research Institute in San Diego. NLP is a system of hypnotic verbal techniques used in communication and persuasion.
From NLP, I moved into more intense study of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy as a private student. Many people assume Ericksonian Hypnotherapy to be a scientific system of psychotherapy. Actually, it is a complex of techniques for manipulating people who don't know they are being subjected to hypnotic techniques.
The emphasis in my own training was on past-life regression therapy — and even "future-life progression" therapy: Those therapies of course presuppose belief in reincarnation, the doctrine that we have many lifetimes to reach enlightenment and self-actualization-which is central to New Age theory. If New Agers really had no savior but themselves, as they insist, not even all those lifetimes would be enough. None of us can save himself.
I used this training professionally, with private clients acquired through the Del Mar and Lemon Grove churches. I helped them draw "mind maps", to unblock places where I thought past life influences were trapping them in unproductive behaviors that kept them from manifesting as successfully as they might. In the hope of gaining greater effectiveness, I went back to Hawaii in 1990 for a more advanced program and became a certified Ericksonian Hypnotherapist. There I was immersed still more deeply in the practice of hypnosis. It led to an ever deeper "reprogramming" of my own mind, an enslaving dependence on self-hypnosis, and a progressive weakening of personal will power.
While waiting in the lounge between classes one day, I came on an article in New Age Journal that started changing my life in ways that might have surprised the editor. It was an account, by New Age leader Sondra Ray, of a trip to visit the site of recent apparitions of someone she called "Mother Mary". Sondra wrote that she was in London, preparing for a visit to her guru, when she first heard reports that the Blessed Mother was appearing in Yugoslavia. 6 She decided to stop on her way to India so she could see for herself.
At St. James Church in Medjugorje, the priest invited her to come into the upper room with the visionaries during an apparition. She said she felt our Lady's presence but did not see her. Ray did not have a conversion, but she was moved to write the dramatic article I was reading. While traveling on through India and back home to America, she decided that "Mother Mary" was a goddess from heaven, come down to meet the earth goddess, "Gaia". In light of that conclusion, she felt she was meant to promote the goddess movement, a growing strain in the New Age movement.
Reading the article, I was stirred with strong but ambivalent emotions. Up to that time, I had heard no claims that Our Lady was visiting anyone in the contemporary world. I was thrilled that Sondra Ray, who was not a Catholic or even a Christian, would go to such an out-of-the-way place to look into a reported vision of the Blessed Mother. But some residual shred of the truth I had learned in childhood assured me that Our Lady is not a goddess.
When I got back to San Diego, I stopped in Long's drug-store, and there I found a new issue of Life magazine with a statue of Our Lady pictured on the cover, above the title "Do You Believe in Miracles?" Hastily, I bought a copy and read every word, comparing it to the one in New Age magazine. To my relief, I found that the Life version did not portray Mary as a visiting goddess. I decided that I needed to go to Yugoslavia, too. That would entail substantial expense, for travel as well as child care, and I still believed I had to manifest what I needed.
When I first started ministry training, I used to take Malia to Sunday school at the Church of Religious Science. But before she was six, she refused to go anymore. "Mom, this isn't right", she said. "I don't like what they're teaching me."
I didn't know what to do, because I had to be there every Sunday. It didn't occur to me to send her to a Catholic church; I was sure they would never accept the child of a fallen-away Catholic New Ager like me. But I believe the Blessed Mother took a hand in what happened next to her little protégée. Just before the beginning of the school year, at the neighbourhood swimming pool, a woman I barely knew walked up and asked, "Do you have your daughter in Sunday School?"
She was a Lutheran, and she said she made it part of her Christian mission to invite children to Sunday School. I didn't know much about Lutheranism, except that it is Christian, but it seemed possible to my divided mind that God might prefer to have her there rather than at the New Age church. So I said, "Oh, yes, she can go. It is kind of you to ask."
"If you can have her completely dressed and ready to go by 8:30 every Sunday morning, I'll take her to church with us", she said. So for the next five years, Malia went with our generous neighbors to the Lutheran church.
She even went to First Communion there. I was still in the New Age ministry at the Religious Science church in Del Mar, but by then I had started reading about our Lady visiting at Medjugorje, and I knew something was missing from the Sunday School books she brought home to prepare for the Lutheran First Communion.
"Malia, I don't want to offend our good neighbors," I said, "but I know that what you were taught is different from what I learned when I had First Communion. So would you be willing to go to First Communion at the Catholic church, too?"
I called a nearby Catholic parish and told the secretary honestly about our tangled situation. I said I was a New Age minister at the Church of Religious Science, but I really wanted my daughter to make her First Communion in the Catholic Church. With great kindness, the secretary took Malia under her wing and enrolled her in the Monday night CCD program. Meanwhile, she continued to go to the Lutheran Sunday service.
About that time, my grandmother died, and among the things she left me was her Miraculous Medal, on a chain. I began to wear it, and I also started saying the "Memorise' prayer of St. Bernard that was printed on a card that came with it. That was the real beginning of my conversion, though it took me several years to come all the way out of the New Age world.
Later, when I had come back to the Catholic faith, Malia said, "I really owe a lot of thanks to our neighbors, because they saved my soul from all that New Age stuff."
Ciera, a friend with whom I had discussed the Medjugorje apparitions, called one day and told me excitedly to watch Joan River’ television show, because her guests were two priests and a woman who was receiving messages from Mary. I watched the program, and my interest rose even higher. Afterward, Ciera and I looked in the telephone book for a Catholic bookstore where we might be able to learn more about it. We found the address of a "Catholic Charismatic Center" in La Jolla. When we called and asked whether anyone there could tell us about the apparitions, and the possibility of visiting Medjugorje as tourists, we were told, "Come right over. A speaker is going to talk about it this very day."
We listened eagerly to what the speakers said about the apparitions and bought a beautiful Medjugorje poster. But when the talks ended, and they invited us to stay on for a Bible study, we said, "No, thank you." For years, we had been studying the Bible "metaphysically", and we thought we knew more about it than they did. So we decided to go off by ourselves and do some crystal work instead. (Most confirmed New Agers carry their crystal pendulums with them, just as most good Catholics carry their Rosaries.)
As we came out of the Charismatic Center and headed for the beach, we met Beverly Nelson, a lay coworker with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. Beverly proved to be an important guide in my journey back to the faith. That day, she asked whether the meeting was over. We said it was over for us; we had found what we were looking for. We showed her our Medjugorje poster and told her that we were trying to figure out how we could go where Mother Mary was appearing.
"You don't have to go all the way to Yugoslavia to get to an apparition site", she said. "There are Marian apparitions being reported right now from Scottsdale, Arizona, just six hours from here." 7
That was exciting news, because we could drive to Scottsdale anytime. We went on to the beach, and as we settled onto our towels, Ciera took out her crystal pendulum, to channel her spirit guide. But when she asked it a question, she couldn't get it to respond; it hung motionless in the air. At last she held it out toward me and said, "You try it; you're always good at this."
I reached for it, but I could not touch it. It was as though there were a glass wall between me and the crystal pendulum. I was still clairvoyant then, and I looked down and saw a beautiful crystal Rosary lying across my hands. At the same time, in my head, I heard a voice saying, "Pray the Rosary. Through prayer all is answered."
"I need to pray the Rosary", I said.
The next morning, Ciera called to tell me that she had already gone out to buy a Rosary. I still had to get one of my own. Then we learned that a group of New Age friends were arranging to drive to Sedona, just north of Scottsdale, to sit in the vortexes and watch for UFOs. 8 That was how it happened that I found myself not long afterward in St. Maria Goretti Church in Scottsdale. We learned that the evening service was not going to include an apparition but a fifteen-decade Rosary and a healing service, followed by Mass.
After being away from the sacraments for twenty years, I stayed in church for more than four hours that night. At Communion time, I had the audacity to go forward and receive our Lord unworthily. Instantly, with scalding conviction, I recognized my sinfulness and my desperate need for the Sacrament of Penance.
When the Mass ended, I rushed to the sacristy and asked to speak .to a priest. "Father has already left", an altar boy said. "You might be able to catch him in the parking lot if you hurry." So I dashed out the door and searched the parking lot for the priest. When I found him, he was getting ready to leave.
"Father, I've got to make a confession really fast" I said to him. So right there, standing in the lot beside his car, he heard my twenty-year confession.
Meanwhile, some of my New Age friends, unfamiliar with Catholicism, had decided they would be uncomfortable in church, so they chose to wait through the long hours of the services in the Eucharist Adoration Chapel. They were so entranced with the peace and grace they experienced there that they were all reluctant to leave for Sedona.
The next night, UFOs forgotten, we all came back to the Scottsdale church, where a charismatic prayer meeting was being held. We were completely unfamiliar with charismatic
The next night, UFOs forgotten, we all came back to the Scottsdale church, where a charismatic prayer meeting was being held. We were completely unfamiliar with charismatic prayer and bewildered when people began praying in tongues, but the charismatics were so hospitable that they prayed over us with true Christian love. One of our group, Gary, dates his conversion to that night. He is now a devout Catholic and works as the cook at a Benedictine Abbey in Southern California. Another New Age friend, our driver for the weekend, had been separated from his wife. Both were lapsed Catholics. He went home from Scottsdale, told his wife that the Blessed Mother wanted them to stay married, and persuaded her to reconcile. They are now happily married.
Once back in the Church, I had much to learn or to re-learn. During more than twenty years away, I had forgotten a great deal about the faith, and I had been oblivious to what was happening within Catholicism. All that time, I had been absorbing false notions from New Age gnosticism mixed with westernized Hinduism. It was a difficult adjustment, on coming out of the New Age movement, to hear and try to assimilate the news that I am not a co-creator, but a mere creature of the Creator. It also required a disconcerting mental shift to stop believing in “the wheel of reincarnation”. Ironically, that belief is one of the hardest for converts from the New Age to overcome, despite the fact that it makes them feel trapped and isolated in a bondage from which not even suicide offers escape.
The “ancient wisdom” of which the New Age Movement boasts consists entirely of occult practices. Now I know that God has explicitly condemned all these practices in Scripture, as He told Moses: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor fortune teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord” (Deut 18: 10-12).
Who is ‘The Prince of Peace’?” I asked my friend Gary. “That’s a name for Jesus”, he said. “You surely must have learned that in Sunday School or somewhere!”
But I hadn’t, or if I had I could not remember it. I went into the chapel and prayed without moving for two hours. “Oh, Jesus,” I said, “If you are the Prince of Peace, I really need you, because no one has been able to give me peace.” My head was like a metro train station at rush hour because the clairvoyant visions would not leave me alone.
God in His infinite mercy had guided me to exactly the right place. The spiritual director I found is a priest who grew up in India, and his familiarity with Eastern religions gives him penetrating insight into the spiritual errors I had lived by for so long. He has advised me what to read, taught me how to pray, introduced me to St. Thérèse’s Little Way, and led me through my personal history step by step in an ongoing healing of my memories. With the help of friends, I spent days clearing my house of thousands of dollars’ worth of New Age books, tapes, videos, tarot cards, crystals, pictures of gurus, and other artifacts.
Finally, in the Sacrament of Penance, I had to renounce by name, one at a time, each of the occult practices I had used. That deliverance took a cumulative sixteen hours, with one single session lasting eight hours. Healed by this minor exorcism, I lost my psychic skills and abilities. I was no longer clairvoyant. The voices in my head fell silent. It was a tremendous gift of peace.
God has poured His graces on me with unimaginable mercy. I am certain it was the maternal intercession of our Lady that guided me home to her Son, Jesus. She is reaching out with the same love to all the foolish children lost in the New Age. Many of them are afraid of Jesus and His justice, but they are strongly drawn to His Blessed Mother. To all those who long to escape from the despairing darkness of the New Age, I urgently recommend her Rosary. Take one step toward Mary and she will come to where you are, and lead you to her Son.
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A native of San Francisco, Moira Noonan now lives in the San Diego area. After her return to the Church in 1992, she was horrified to discover New Age practices being introduced to Catholics through some retreat centers and church-related organizations. Because of her history, she is often called upon to explain the dangers of the New Age, as a guest on Catholic radio and television and in lectures and press interviews. An ardent Catholic evangelist, she has also helped to lead seven friends out of the New Age and into the Church.
2. Helena Blavatsky was the grandmother of nineteenth-century theosophy and hence largely responsible for the New Age movement. Theosophy is a gnostic belief system, e.g., one claiming to offer "secret knowledge", that claims there is in human beings a latent psychic power which, if he can develop it, will give man godlike power over matter and events. Christians who don't know their faith are easily misled by such claims.
3. Another influence was Pir Wart, a Sufi teacher who introduced the ideas of that Islamic mystical sect into the United States early in the twentieth century. He married Mary Baker Eddy's cousin, Ora Ray Baker.
4. Among organizations incorporating New Thought are the Church of Mental Physics, the I AM movement, the Church of Divine Man, Rosicrucianism, Self-Realization Fellowship, L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, and, to some extent, the Unitarian-Universalist church. The same ideas are found in witchcraft, now called the religion of Wicca.
7. St. Maria Goretti Church in Scottsdale is only one of many sites where apparitions have been reported in recent years. Like most such phenomena. these are not approved by the Church, and all reports rest on the word of those making the claims.