The Christ of the New Age Movement
by Ron Rhodes
"Who do you say I am?" (Luke 9:20, NIV) The question was first asked of Peter by
Christ nineteen centuries ago, and has continued since then to the present day to
be the litmus test of spiritual authenticity. Perhaps never in the history of the
Christian church has this question been more relevant than it is today. One reason
for this is that New Agers have taken the New Testament sculpture (if you will) of
Christ, crafted an esoteric/mystical chisel, and hammered away at this sculpture
until a completely new image has been formed.
The new sculpture is one that fits nicely on a display shelf with sculptures of
Buddha, Krishna, and other "holy men." This Christ is broad-minded and
nonjudgmental. He is a "Master" among "Masters," who -- with the others -- is
leading the human race into a New Age of enlightenment and harmony.
Glossary of Key Terms
Avatar. One who "descends" into human form from above, never having gone
through reincarnation. Such a one is considered a manifestation of divinity and
seeks to reveal divine truths especially important to a particular age.
Christology. The doctrinal study of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Esoteric. A word used to describe knowledge that is possessed or understood only
by a few.
Esoteric Christianity. A mystical interpretation of Christianity which sees its "core
truth" as identical to that of every other religion (i.e., man is divine). This approach
seeks hidden or inner meanings in Scripture.
Karma. Refers to the "debt" a soul accumulates as a result of good or bad actions
committed during one's life (or past lives). If one accumulates good Karma, he or
she will be reincarnated in a desirable state. If one accumulates bad Karma, he or
she will be reincarnated in a less desirable state.
Mass Incarnation. An incarnation of the Christ in all humanity. Some say this
incarnation is now taking place on a planetary scale, and is not unlike the
incarnation of the cosmic Christ in the body of Jesus, 2000 years ago.
Medium. Traditionally, the word refers to an occultist through whom disembodied
spirits communicate. New Agers use the word of Jesus acting as a bodily vehicle
for the Christ.
Metaphysics. A branch of philosophy which focuses on the ultimate nature of
reality. In New Age circles, the term has become synonymous with the "mind
science" school of thought developed by P. P. Quimby (see article) and with New
Age philosophy in general.
Monism. A metaphysical theory which sees all reality as a unified whole. Everything
is seen as being composed of the same substance.
Note: Additional technical terms used in this article are defined within the text.
Fundamental to any discussion of New Age Christology is the recognition that New
Agers distinguish between Jesus (a mere human vessel) and the Christ (variously
defined, but always divine, and often a cosmic, impersonal entity). Part One of this
series will therefore focus on the Christ of the New Age, and will provide a brief
history of the various views as to his (or its) identity, his purpose, how he aims to
accomplish this purpose, and his relationship to humanity. Part Two will focus on
the Jesus of the New Age, and will address such issues as the "lost years" of Jesus
(as described by Levi Dowling, Edgar Cayce, and others), his supposed training in
Eastern/occultic concepts, his "attunement" to the Christ, and his "New Age
Regarding methodology, this article will anchor on two reference points -- one
primary and one secondary -- from which the history of New Age Christology will
be traced. The primary reference point will be Theosophy; the secondary
reference point will be the teachings of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. We might
liken Theosophy and Quimby's teachings to two trees which grew side by side,
having been planted close to the same time (the mid to late 1800s) in the same
soil, fertilized with common ingredients (nineteenth-century transcendentalism, the
philosophy of Emmanuel Swedenborg, the influx of Hindu monism, etc.). Certainly,
in many respects these two have distinct beliefs and different goals, but they both
took root and flourished in the same mystical climate. Taken together, these
represent an appropriate starting point for a study in New Age Christology.
THEOSOPHY AND ITS OFFSHOOTS
Theosophy, founded in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, teaches that each
human being evolves through seven planes of existence (the physical plane, the
astral plane, the mental plane, etc.). Each plane a person evolves through brings
him or her ever closer to union with the Absolute (God). Theosophists reason that
this process can take a very long time, hence requiring innumerable reincarnations.
According to "revelations" received by Blavatsky, it is not only individuals who
evolve; the human race as a whole also evolves. So far there have allegedly been
three races: the Lemurian, the Atlantean, and the Aryan. Each of these three
(which Theosophists call "rootraces") are divided into "subraces." Mankind is now
in the third rootrace -- the Aryan rootrace -- and is about to enter the sixth
subrace of the Aryan rootrace.
Theosophy teaches that at the beginning of each subrace, the Supreme World
Teacher (also known as "the Christ," the bestower of divine wisdom) enters the
body of a disciple in order to assist and guide the spiritual evolution of man. Each
"incarnation" reveals more to man about God than the previous one. The five
incarnations of Christ in the five subraces of the Aryan rootrace were Buddha (in
India), Hermes (in Egypt), Zoroaster (in Persia), Orpheus (in Greece), and Jesus
(at the River Jordan, where the Christ came upon Jesus at His baptism).
Jesus is said to have volunteered his body for use by the Christ. Annie Besant, who
took over Theosophical leadership when Blavatsky died, said: "For Him [the Christ]
was needed an earthly tabernacle, a human form, the body of a man...The man
Jesus yielded himself a willing sacrifice, 'offered himself without spot' to the Lord of
Love, who took unto Himself that pure form as tabernacle, and dwelt therein for
three years of mortal life."
Theosophists reject any suggestion that Jesus died on the cross to pay for man's
sins. Man saves himself through continual reincarnations. This spiritual evolution
leads men further and further away from the physical plane and closer and closer
to spiritual planes of existence. Because of this process, every human being --
regardless of race or religion -- is a potential "Christ."
Human beings who continue to evolve through reincarnation eventually become
"Masters." This is a group of formerly historical persons who have finished their
earthly evolutions and voluntarily help lesser-evolved human beings to reach their
Because Theosophists believe the fifth subrace of the Aryan rootrace (the subrace
of intellectual man) is about to give way to the sixth subrace (the subrace of
spiritual man), they believe another incarnation of the Christ will soon take place.
Note that since this will be the sixth appearance of the Christ in the Aryan
rootrace, it is not spoken of as the "second coming."
Annie Besant first announced the coming of this Messiah in 1906. Her aim was to
groom Jiddu Krishnamurti for the role of World Teacher or Messiah. In 1925 she
claimed for this young Indian man the title of "Messianic Leader and Reincarnation
of the World Teacher." But by 1929, Krishnamurti became convinced it was all a
mistake. On November 20 of that year, he "refused to receive further adoration
[saying frankly], 'I am not an actor; I refuse to wear the robes of a Messiah; so I
am again free of all possessions.'" Theosophy's Christ remains to appear.