Cross PurposesThe Serpent and the Cross Religious Corruption in an Evil Age by Alan Morrison K & M Books 638 pp #12 UK #13 p&p inc.
THIS BOOK deals with the phenomenon of New Age consciousness and religious syncretism head on from a Protestant and implicitly Calvinist perspective. But it is not of interest to a Christian alone as it seeks to link the phenomena of what is loosely labelled the "Age of Aquarius" and in so doing draws the reader's attention to common aspects of modern developments which certainly form a pattern.
The writer's principle thesis is that there being "nothing new under the sun", the "new" in New Age is not new at all but the continuation of the old Gnostic heresies in a modern guise and that this Gnosticism is a truly occult force doing, and the writer believes this quite literally, the Devil's work, hidden behind the disguise of a variety of trends such as feminism, rebirthing, meditation and yoga.
For the Christian, as understood in this book, someone who believes in the uniqueness of Christ's mission, to save those of us who have been predestined to be saved, and his nature, as the son of God, the Gnosticism of the modern age is profoundly heretical because it denies the historical uniqueness if not the literalness of the Bible story as a historical fact. As Mircea Eliade noted in Le mythe de l'eternel retour, the Biblical prophets were unique in giving a sense to history and providing history with a beginning and an end (in both senses of the word "end"). This is because in the Judaeo-Christian accounts, what happens only by the will of God and according to God's plan. For the man who does not hold to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, history unfolds according to fate or providence.
But that there is nothing new under the sun applies to this book as well. It belongs to a thriving school of conspiracy theory which sees the New Age Movement as some kind of Satanic plot, frequently including Nazis. A recent issue of the New Statesman took up this theme, with a lurid front cover of their issue and an emotive article worthy of Searchlight, exposing the hidden agenda of the New Age Nexus magazine. Other books in this school of thought include The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow and Unmasking the New Age and America: the Sorcerer's New Apprentice. As with all conspiracy theories, certain truths are extrapolated to be made universally applicable, as for example the connection between Heathenism and Satanism, which certainly exists, but in an interrelationship which is complex and largely created by the Christian Church, for it is Christianity, and Protestant denominations especially, which has associated the Heathen with the worshiper of demons. (Only consider the demonology of Paradise Lost). One man's devil is another man's delight.
For the Christian campaigners against the New Age this very relativism is proof itself of Satanic influence, since the strength claimed for Christianity is in its refusal of relativism, its insistence on the uniqueness of the truth and especially the uniqueness of the god of the Jews and God made man, Jesus Christ. It is the relativism of New Age religion, its ecumenicalism which constitutes its "Satanism" for in this relativism lies the corrosion which eats away at the rock of the Church. There is an authoritarian tendency to accept this for pragmatic purposes. People who believe in an absolute truth are more easily managed, will more readily acquiesce to a given social order and hierarchy, and may well be happier for doing so, as Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor insists they will be, with the "panic and emptiness" of being confronted with the meaningless of existence left to their betters. If you believe with all your heart and all your soul that there is an after-life, where, if you have been chosen to be saved, you will meet your loved ones in some kind of club, is not such belief as good as the truth? For the fundamentalist Christian of course this is the truth and none other. But for most of us, confronted with the non-return of Christ, the discoveries of science and the hopelessness of a creationist position (how much more eloquent Christians of this kidney are in deriding evolutionary theory than defending their own, infinitely more absurd and childish theory, that the world was made in seven days by Pater noster from the top of a cloud) this is very literally incredible. A large impetus of New Age thinking is undoubtedly to reconcile science and religion, something which traditional Christianity is unable to do. But the uniqueness of Christianity and the Christian message is lost on the way.
The writer of this work singles out feminism as an especially significant force of the New Age Movement. Feminism is roundly equated with witchcraft, which again begs the question. It is worth remembering that the exposing and hunting down of witches reached its peak not in the Middle Ages but afterwards, during the early days of the Enlightenment, at a time when Christianity already felt challenged by science. The suppression of female sexuality is one of the most important features of the three great Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, a key element in all these religions being an insistence on the evil nature of female licentiousness, indeed the Bible tells us that it was Eve's disobedience and Adam's weakness towards her which caused all evil in the world and all human suffering. Many modern feminists do call themselves witches and associate closely with Gaya, the earth, in confrontation with what they believe is a typically masculine desire to appropriate and exploit. The Christian notion that the world was created for a purpose is rejected as a typically male conceit. The universe has no higher nor lower purpose, they affirm, than joy in itself, joy in life. But the rejection of Christian laws can easily lead to a rejection of all laws, including natural ones.
For this writer, caution is called for, a way between two extreme positions. On the one hand the suppression of natural joy out of a fear of instability, an imposition of rules of conduct which draw their inspiration from historical accounts and authorities which are tenuous to say the least and which because they are unnatural (fighting female sexuality for example) cause immense human suffering. The Christian Church has such a damnable legacy of physical and psychological cripples. On the other hand a "devil may care" (as it were) attitude to the demands of duty towards the social and the natural order: the "free love" philosophy of the seventies directly or indirectly has left modern society with a bad hangover-family breakdown, single mothers, a hysterical homosexual movement, AIDS, divorce, cynicism, pessimism, vulgarity, profanity, disrespect and erotic over-kill in the form of a flood of pornography which has left even the most salacious among us, like a guest at a diner table who has over-indulged, saying, "that was very nice, but I shan't have any more for the moment thank you very much."
In The Serpent and the Cross we are provided with a comprehensive examination of what the writer deems to be Satan's plan, namely the corruption of Christianity by Gnostic heresy. Once we accept the writer's premise (Biblical Christian faith) it is difficult to gainsay his conclusions that the attempts to reconcile the Church to modernist doctrines of tolerance and liberalism, especially religious relativism, which is found in the Eastern religions especially and in Paganism, are incompatible with the Biblical message. Morrison emphasises the (for him) highly suspect conceit that "God is within you", which New Age message he equates with the original temptation in the Garden of Eden, "Eat of this fruit and ye will become like Gods". Certainly the modernist emphasis on the self, as in self-discovery, self-reliance, self-healing, is remarkable. It seems to be essential to the modernist ontology. As this reviewer was reading Mr. Morrison's comments on the Satanic notion of self discovery and self love, a negress was warbling these words on the radio: "The greatest love of all is happening to me. I found the greatest love of all inside of me. The greatest love of all is easy to achieve: learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all." For a Christian, this must be heresy if not blasphemy since according to Christian faith, the greatest love of all comes only through Jesus Christ and earthly love is a reflection (at best) of divine love. For Morrison, the most effective corruption of the Church lies in the acceptance of these doctrines of self-love and self- discovery not when they are offered as an alternative to Christianity but as a sublimation or fulfilment of Christian faith. Here Morrison does not hide his belief that Roman Catholic mysticism and esotericism, from Saint Thomas Aquinas to St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, St Ignatius of Loyala and the recusant priest Teilhard de Chardin, plays a significant role in the propagation of Gnostic heresies.
According to Gnostic tradition the Fall of Man was certainly not a falling away from self-awareness; quite the contrary: man became too self-aware, too aware that is of his own uniqueness as an individual. This is precisely what a body of Gnostic teaching urges us that we should learn to overcome.
Crucial here in Gnosticism is the faith that we can be restored to our original state of grace (and Gnostics and Christians do share a belief in an original state of grace from the high standards of which modern man has tragically fallen) through our own efforts and without help from an outside deity, in fact God being within us we do not seek help from outside at all. We have fallen from Godhood to manhood and the path to divinity is the path of self discovery to mergence with the supreme being of which we are only a minuscule part. For a Christian this constitutes a denial of the uniqueness of the soul and a denial of the necessity of relying on God's saving grace. This heresy, so Morrison, works by way of what he calls the "ink blot strategy". Hundreds of different institutions, initiatives, workshops, books, and the like work independently but with the aim of growing and all with the same aim, until like expanding blobs of ink they cover the whole table cloth in black. Morrison argues that the media "have been especially useful in this respect". He also identifies Gnostic influences at work in the world of business, the health professions (mental health cure being particularly open to abuse).
If on the one hand Gnosticism argues against the uniqueness of the soul, it is on the other hand, strongly in favour of the right of the individual to decide on his or her own destiny and interpret his or her own reality. There is ultimately, according to Gnostic religion, no objective history and even no objective reality. We cannot leave ourselves and therefore we are all that ultimately matters to ourselves. This, according to Morrison, is simply the extreme but logical conclusion of all preachings of salvation through self-healing. All religions which do not accept the uniqueness of history and the revelation of human history by God lead this way too. The writer is therefore firmly against all attempts to reconcile world religions in some kind of higher faith, an attempt which he associates firstly with Free Masonry and its notion of the supreme Being as depicted on the dollar note and back in history via various Eastern religions, most notably Hinduism and Buddhism, to the Satanic death wish, the refusal of God's gift of eternal life. The key to Interfaith and Ecumenical Movements is "the suppression of all differences in order to further the destruction of a common enemy. In this case, that enemy is none other than the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ, the exclusiveness of which is despised by the world (John 15: 18-21).
This book is replete with Biblical references in support of its arguments; is it a Pagan and devil inspired churlishness in me that suggests that Morrison's profuse Biblical references are often more convincing when not looked up? The passage in John does not seem to me to refer to a hatred of the uniqueness of the message of Christ but hatred of its truth, a subtle but in this context important distinction, since Gnostics do not question the truth of Christ's gospel, they question its exclusiveness. (Here is the rub: it is Morrison's argument that the Truth and the uniqueness of the truth of revealed religion, simply cannot be separated. To argue for the relativeness of religious truth in the Bible is heresy by the standards of Christian fundamentalism.
Such dogma the French Right terms reductionism, the reduction of all aspects of human experience to a listing of truths in one time and place and insisting on their universal validity and applicability. Some religious commentators such as the Abb‚ de Nantes, have argued that such "anti-reductionist" traditionalism is scarcely distinguishable from an anti-traditional liberalism, and its message of "live and let live".)
Exclusiveness and uniqueness are key elements of Morrison's account, which is a vigorous rejection of Hinduistic and Taoist reconciliation to Christianity. Within Christianity only those elected to be saved will be saved and not through deeds but through the will of God and the gift of His grace. The coming together of traditionalists of different denominations he would reject with equal scorn, one assumes, although the absence in this book of names like Guinon, Evola or Schuon is astonishing, even Gurdjieff is only mentioned once, in connection with the "hundredth monkey" evolutionary paradigm of Lyall Watson (the hundredth monkey sets a unique example of behaviour advantageous to the species, so that the whole mass is soon following the example-in this way some New Agers suggest that humanity itself will take a "leap forward" in evolution following the example of the few). In fact Alan Morrison is happiest when comparing the actual activities of his many and varied bugaboos and showing by Biblical reference that they are the carriers of old heresies with a new label. He is less happy when discussing theory, either Gnostic or Christian (the word "theory" he would presumably not use in conjunction with Christian in any case), since what he does not argue is the case that the world was made in seven days, the Bible was written by those inspired by God, he does not in a word reveal the wherefore of his own or any other person's faith in the historical veracity of the Bible story either at the level of historical events or, more importantly still, at the ontological level. He is much more persuasive pointing out that Teilhard de Chardin was probably involved in the Piltdown skull fraud or in stressing the links between Jung's theories and the modernist insistence on self-discovery and mind bending, notably through reality-distorting drugs.
This book then is a journey of discovery to reveal the occult significance of many trends which claim to be and are widely considered to be beneficial. It makes no attempt whatever to argue that such modern trends are not beneficial other than by showing that they are the Devil's work. So were one to say "but this Devil chap seems to be doing a lot of good", this book would have no answer other than to utter dire warnings of what the Devil has, according to Biblical prophesy, got planned in the future. The book fails singularly to point to what is going wrong today in the modern world and connecting this with the Devil's conspiracy.
Since Nesta Webster's classic studies of secret societies and their influence in history (with which Alan Morrison is familiar) there have been any number of works which lay claim to revealing new secrets about the real rulers of the world. Conspiracy literature is wide and varied and growing every year. Denis Wheatley helped to popularise conspiracy theories about the Devil in his best-selling thrillers. The Serpent and the Cross is better informed, better researched and more intelligent than most books or pamphlets of its kind. The writer is has gathered much of his material at first hand. (He was himself active in New Age movements and preaches now against them with all the fervour of the penitent.) Where he is especially effective is in showing up the interrelatedness of apparently disparate movements and how the "ink blot strategy" works as the subversion of institutions from within by initiatives which may be hardly aware of each others' existence but which in occult fashion are working towards the same end. Even if you do not believe that Old Nick is out there somewhere masterminding it all, it is possible to acknowledge the value of this book as pointing to the cohesion and significance of certain developments in the field of religion and esoteric philosophy. There are patterns and schemes behind the unfolding of events, there is a plan, whether God's, Satan's or just Man's. Books which help us to see how plans operate contain more understanding of the world in them than a whole year's subscription to Time magazine.
Whether one believes in the Devil or not, Alan Morrison usefully draws attention to an element in training and education which is taking place in the world of business, medicine, and children's education, which at the least seems to be close to crankiness and should surely be a cause of concern to more people than it is. The writer cites the staid- sounding Education Network Newsletter of the Association for Humanistic Psychology. Surely a parent does not have to share Mr. Morrison's religious faith to feel that something if not downright sinister, at least disturbingly batty, is being recommended in this checklist for school activities?
"do Yoga each morning before class; interpret their astrological charts; send messages via ESP; mind project; heal their own illnesses; speak with their higher selves and receive information necessary for joyful living; life energies from the power Chakra to the heart Chakra; practise skills necessary for color healing; hold an image of themselves as being perfect; receive advise from personal guides; merge minds with others in the class to experience the collective consciousness of the group."
There is a similarity between a conspiracy theory concerning the move to one universal faith and a conspiracy concerning the move to one universal world government. In fact the writer, when claiming that the Worldwide Fund for Nature is "one of a number of front organizations for the Bilderberg Group" shows that he is not unfamiliar with political conspiracy theories. The argument that universalism, for this is surely what it boils down to, is a conspiracy engineered by the Devil, raises the problem most acutely: to what extent are world events steered and to what purpose? Christian eschatology is one answer. The notion that Heathenism, Gnosticism and nature worship are in line with the move to one world government does of course skirt round the rather obvious fact that there is an increasing conflict between the defenders of nature and the forces of progress, yet with both sides, so far as one can see, leaning very much in favour of the harmonisation of laws and the breaking down of national and religious barriers. But it is in the nature of conspiracy theories to play down the importance of conflict of interest between what they consider to be no more than different faces of a same beast.
But all those who point to a world universalist conspiracy are obliged one way or another to indicate why the universalist development is undesirable and this itself involves some defining ideology which explains the nature of good and evil. National Socialists and Christians are on relatively sure ground here, since they at least are able to explain world events in terms which make "cosmic sense". What is more they are able to reconcile the apparent contradiction between their universal (some would say reductionist) ideology and their rejection of any other kind of universalism. Their struggle takes place at the level of universal values. Nationalist resistance to universal humanism and interracialism by contrast is being overtaken by events: only a nationalism backed by religious faith could successfully oppose the one world-one race concept. Similarly, the cry "the right to be different" as a shibboleth with which to resist the New World Order is likely to be undermined by the fact that the strength of humanism lies precisely in its use of that and similar slogans to undermine authorities which stand in its way. And if it is not in the name of Christ that we oppose the development to world harmony, integration and development, then in the name of whom or what? This book forces those who have not yet done so to pose that very ticklish question and make their position clear if not to others, at least to themselves. Ultimately this book can help to fulfil that old injunction, which ironically Alan Morrison would probably also class as theologically suspect: "know thyself".