Sunday, July 17, 2011

Oprah and the New Age

Oprah Winfrey is a well known proponent of mystical, New Age ideologies. There is nothing new about celebrities being involved in New Age mysticism, but in Oprah's case it is especially dangerous because she is such a well-respected figure, commanding the admiration and I would even say obedience of millions around the world.

I have spoken before on the tragedy of Oprah's falling away from the Christian faith due to a tragic but simple misunderstanding of the phrase "I am a jealous God" from the Old Testament; at least, this is the reason she herself cites for her apostasy. But how did she go from baptist skeptic to New Age ideologue, and what exactly are her current New Age connections?

According to Oprah, this transition happened because of a book entitled Discover the Power Within You by "Unity" minister Eric Butterworth. The Unity Church movement, like the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses, uses your standard Christian vocabulary - God, Christ, the Bible, etc. - but means things totally different by these terms than orthodox Catholics or even conservative Christians would understand by them. For example, "Christ" means the divinity in all people; the historical Jesus is a great teacher who exemplifies the full expression of what it means to discover the "Christ" within you. Prayer is seen as a rejection of negative energy, and so on and so forth.

Oprah, upon reading this book, said, "This book changed my perspective on life and religion. Eric Butterworth teaches that God isn't "up there." He exists inside each one of us, and it's up to us to seek the divine within." This universal immanence of God within all of us, excluding His transcendence or any moral demands upon the human subject of God's indwelling, inform all of Oprah's spirituality. 

She has used her fame and the forum of her television program to promote this spiritual vision; in fact, if one takes a topical look at all of the guests on her show over the years, it could be argued that the majority of them have been dedicated to promoting this New Age vision. Take the example of Gary Zukav. Zukav was a physicist who began delving into New Age spirituality in the 1980's, culminating in his best selling book The Seat of the Soul (1989), which taught that the human being was evolving to a point where the existence of the soul would be known and felt empirically - that just as humans evolved to use reason, so they would evolve, and were evolving, to master the powers of the soul. The utilitarian "use" of the souls powers would be as natural as the use of sight or speech. Zukav claimed to be able to possess this ability and taught that others could as well through "moving beyond the limitations of the five senses." 

Zukav was first featured on Oprah in 1998 and since then has appeared on her show 35 times, which is more than any other guest. Oprah says Zukav's book is her favorite book of all time "except the Bible"; by her own admission, Oprah keeps a copy of this book by her bedside. Another favorite New Age author of Oprah is Eckhart Tolle. Oprah summarized Tolle's teaching as about religious experience primarily, "God is a feeling experience and not a believing experience. If your religion is a believing experience, then that's not truly God." (source). In her insistence on religious experience over objective religious fulfillment in any beatific vision, and her belief in universal divine immanence in all humanity, Oprah is nothing other than a New Age modernist.

With her audience of 22 million, mostly female, adherents, Oprah's propagation of these views has tremendous consequences. Christianity Today once called her one of "America's most influential spiritual leaders" (source). For most of you, this is old news; but is important to know, especially if you know a Christian friend who is taken by Oprah. She is a false messiah and a very dangerous priestess of modernism.

Related: Oprah and the Big Questions of Life


Anonymous said...

go Boniface! Down with oprah( purposely uncapitalized, she doesn't deserve it.)

Geremia said...

Wow, their understanding of Christ sounds like the Modernists' notion of "vital immanence" (cf. Pope Pius X's encyclical Pascendi).

Nick said...

Another Catholic blogger wrote a very good article (here) about Oprah that I'd suggest as a prelude to yours.

I'd quote from it, but it would spoil it.

Anonymous said... has a series of articles about Oprah's spirituality.