Monday, April 18, 2011

Wellness: The New Age Trojan Horse in Healthcare

by Marcia Montenegro (Christian Answers for the New Age - CANA)

There have been warnings about the New Age concepts and techniques in the alternative healing field, including energy healing, remedies based on Taoist or Hindu concepts of the body -- such as chi (Taoist) and Ayurveda treatments (Hindu) --, as well as the concept of Buddhist “mindfulness” in stress reduction and psychology. Education in these areas to alert people of the New Age in health fields is still needed, but now the New Age is becoming more subtle and taking other forms, such as the “new” concept of health....Wellness.

New Age holistic health used to be "body, mind and spirit" (in some cases, it still is) but that evolved (pun intended) into the concept and term, "Wellness." Wellness is not just being healthy in the sense of being free from illness, but encompasses (as wellness proponents define it) how you eat, exercise, work, relate to others, your attitudes toward the world itself, your level of consciousness, and whether you deal with stress effectively. These goals may sound okay on the surface, but the problem is that these concepts and goals are measured according to some kind of spiritual (New Age) standard and view, and the remedies involve some New Age practices. Some non-New Age humanistic views may be mixed in with this as well, especially from psychology.

The New Age ideas in health fields are not always obvious and are often mixed in with references to physical health that are factually or medically based. But the overall concepts and perceptions involve New Age views. The goal in New Age health is to take the person beyond the body into a wider perspective of assessing and treating one’s spiritual state as well as one’s attitude toward the world in general.  What is considered a good spiritual state or good outlook is based on subjective New Age standards.

As with cults, terms do not mean what you may think, which is why the deception is so subtle. Two documents below serve as good examples. You may read these and nod your head in agreement, but certain terms are being used with New Age meaning and assumptions behind them. There are some New Age buzz words, such as "consciousness," “awakening,” "body intelligence," "body scans," and "self-attunement."

From A Fitness Client to a Wellbeing

Body Intelligence: A Guide to Self-Attunement

Some sample quotes from the documents revealing New Age thinking are:
"The concept of wellness takes on different faces at different levels. Becoming a Wellbeing is about a gradual awakening rather than a static state. As clients evolve toward the third and fourth levels of consciousness, their lives and worlds expand considerably, as does their approach to fitness and health. At earlier levels, fitness is something they do to their bodies—it isn’t as multidimensional.” 
"At lower levels of consciousness, perspectives are narrow and concrete: ‘I want to lose 10 pounds by the senior prom.’ As consciousness develops, we progress to wider, more inclusive ways of seeing and behaving in the world." 
"Envisioning the 21st century Wellbeing (a human being who engages the values and actions of healthy living in all its dimensions) requires that we dip beneath the surface of behavior patterns and fitness preferences. If people are to thrive throughout the ages and stages of life, we need to “get” the core beliefs that feed their concern for and engagement in healthy eating, intelligent training, mastery of stress and mindful living."
The excerpts above all signal New Age beliefs, some perhaps mixed in with a secular humanist view of humanity. One should be asking: “Levels of consciousness” based on what? Who determines these levels and how?  Why is a level “lower” and one “higher?” What is meant exactly by “inclusive?” What is meant by “healthy living in all its dimensions?” What is “mindful living?” The answers from those making these declarations involve New Age concepts, including the Neo-gnostic concept of movement from the “lower” material realm to the “higher” spiritual one, evolution of consciousness, being open to the view that all beliefs are equal (“inclusive”), the spiritual “dimension” being defined by certain standards in order to achieve “healthy living,” and adapting Buddhist concepts of mindfulness for “mindful living.”

Evidence that these documents draw on New Age thinking lie not just in the language, terms, and concepts used, but also in the New Age authors listed as resources at the end of each article, and, in at least one of the documents, referenced in the text itself. New Agers included are Ken Wilber, Dr. Andrew Weil, Abraham Maslow, Georg Feuerstein, Daniel Goleman, Jenny Wade, and others.

 And Why Does This Matter? 

The reason for this warning is to be aware of subtle New Age language and concepts penetrating all aspects of culture. The health field is just one such area that seems especially permeable to this infiltration, especially because some aspects of health care (nutrition, stress reduction, psychology) are open-ended, changing, and influenced by prevailing theories.

Accepting the premises and assumptions behind such language is to be open to or at least possibly influenced by the views upon which they hinge. We must always ask the hard questions, insisting on factual evidence (not just from vague “studies”), a medical or scientific basis, and questioning the meaning of seemingly innocent or neutral terms that are used, such as “wellness,” “consciousness,”  “inclusive,” and others.

The New Age is not neutral. It is a spiritual system that aggressively seeks to guide others to what it defines as “enlightenment.” The New Age excels at using language from science, psychology and medicine to appear current, practical, and marketable. The ubiquitous presence of New Age in the culture is not a sign that it is good or right.
“…for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
photo credit: lobstar28 via photopin cc
photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

 Additional Resources  

UPDATE: Ingrid Schlueter interviews Marcia Montenegro and Christine Pack (Crosstalk at VCY America 4/26/11) to discuss Marcia's 4-18-11 Wellness Article - you may listen here

Are We All Syncretists Now? A Conversation About Evangelical Christianity and Alternative Medicine with Historian Candy Gunther Brown (Dr. Al Mohler)

Alternative Medicine: A Mind Blowing Magical Mystery Tour  (Free, online e-book exposing the unsubstantiated claims [both currently and historically] made about many "natural" remedies)

Problems with Alternative Medicine
 (Marcia Montenegro)

Natural = Better? (Sola Sisters)

Apple founder Steve Jobs 'regretted trying to beat cancer with alternative medicine for so long' (The Telegraph, 10-21-11)

Severe liver damage from certain dietary aid supplements  (Examiner, links to archived New York Times article, 11-3-13)

Hospitals: A New Dark Age? (Marcia Montenegro)

Tapping: The Next Big Thing in Alternative Medicine (Sola Sisters)

No Scientific Evidence For "Chi" or "Qi"
 (NYU Langone Medical Center)

The Scientific Method and Why It Matters

The Biblical Worldview Is The Foundation of Modern Science

The Christian and Essential Oils: A Few Thoughts [UPDATED]
 (Sola Sisters)

Essential Oils Revisited (Sola Sisters)

 John Ankerberg Resources and Articles