Barbara Marx Hubbard, a New Age leader, wrote prolifically on the evolution of a unified human consciousness and Carl Jung envisioned psychotherapy as a means of facilitating it.
During the twentieth century, some sought this goal through altered states of consciousness achieved by meditation (contemplation), drugs or even contact with the spirit world. And, by the 1960s, with the advent of the Beatles rock group and their foray into eastern mysticism with their own private guru, the popular culture followed suit and begin to delve into altered states of consciousness.
During this same time period, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow were seeking to recast psychology into a medium for the masses to become transformed and indoctrinated into new ways of thinking, feeling, seeing and behaving.
Thus began the ‘self-help’ movement (also called the ‘human potential’ movement’), which quickly became an official arm of the New Age movement. At an alarming speed this movement entered into the evangelical church world during the 1980s and 1990s and was quickly integrated into theology, in a manner that taught that man was basically good but needed a bit of help from God.
Thus humanistic psychology became an efficient tool with which to begin the process of inculcating believers with the idea that they were on a progressive spiritual journey, in which they could perfect themselves and even the planet.
The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) performed human experiments on mind and matter, advocating Extrasensory Perception (ESP) as a way to further man in his spiritual development.
At a key juncture, Willis Harman, a leading theosophist at SRI, would positively impact evangelical Christian leaders during a series of two ‘Consultations on the future’, sponsored by the Billy Graham Association in the late 1970s.
It was at these two consultations that evangelical leaders heard about alternative future scenarios in which Jesus was not coming back to earth imminently. These churchmen were encouraged to ‘envision’ new future scenarios in which mankind could perfect the earth and itself, via science and philosophy, social change and ‘global mind change’ (the title of a Willis Harman book).
Fuller Theological Seminary
Much has been written about the rise of the postmodern, neo-evangelical movement but, to briefly summarise, the headquarters of this new eschatology would become Fuller Theological Seminary. Here, the professors began working arduously on creating new theologies that would incorporate a new worldview, where the church was seen to be evolving to greater perfection on earth.
This included Dominionism (which was also being touted in other quarters of the Christian world), that taught that mankind must perfect itself and the planet before Jesus will return. The US Centre for World Mission (headed by Ralph Winter, who was highly influenced by Willis Harman) began to reorganise the planet into ‘affinity’ groups, based on ethnicity (not language).
This is not an anomaly. All esoteric evolution contains an element of racial purity, either explicitly or implicitly insinuating that some are lower on the evolutionary scale. Some have even devised assessments to ascertain ‘higher order’ skills and abilities.
‘Spiritual formation’ was a concept developed at Fuller by Roberta Hestenes (Larry Crabb and Richard Foster would make further inroads into the popular evangelical culture). Spiritual formation represented a perfect mixture of mysticism (altered states of consciousness) along with physical structure/alignment (i.e. formation). It must be noted that practising eastern mysticism, for example Yoga, requires both a physical and mental component.
Peter Drucker, the well-known business leader and ‘guru’, began to become quite influential in the church at this time, helping to launch Leadership Network.
Based on the same networking hierarchical structure as detailed by Marilyn Ferguson in her description of how the New Age would operate, Leadership Network began to form new church group structures based on downline networking structures that were hierarchical in nature (not unlike multilevel marketing).
These structures provided a clear channel for indoctrination, ensuring that the ‘DNA’ of the leader would be transmitted downline, in uniformity. It was felt that this homogenous message would facilitate the emergence of a new church order, in which there would be unity of purpose for the achievement of a collective, harmonious whole.
Notably, Peter Drucker grew up in a family that was part of the Vienna Circle, a group that was devoted to the furthering of a new societal order (Comtean positivism). He believed that men in collective formation would emerge to a higher form of spirituality.
Drucker began envisioning this as the ‘concept of the corporation’ (the title of his first book) — a collective business organism. He viewed the state (government) as the chief vehicle to facilitate this evolution, but only as it was merged with the corporate (business) and private (charities and churches) sectors to function together as a ‘3-legged stool’.
Drucker worked with key evangelical church leaders (Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, etc.) in the latter third of his life to develop the mega-church model as a quasi-corporate structure, broken down into manageable cells (small groups) that could best facilitate this paradigm shift.
It should be pointed out that the church, as it was reformed into this downline networking hierarchy, would begin to interlock with global state and corporate entities in novel ways heretofore unknown in the history of mankind.
C. Peter Wagner
C. Peter Wagner, also from Fuller, would dedicate several decades of his life to forming a global network that he has called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), headed by self-proclaimed ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’ who claimed to have attained superior supernatural abilities.
Several years ago, Wagner’s NAR network began to boast that it would be in charge of seven mountains (or ‘spheres’) to rule the earth — a clear reference to Dominionism.
Significantly, Wagner had incorporated into his theology some esoteric evolutionary doctrines from an obscure cult known as Latter Rain, which had been influenced by Gnosticism and taught that the church could perfect herself on earth, take over the planet, implement judgement, and that, by so doing, men would become gods.
Concurrently, the Emergent Church movement was launched by Leadership Network in the late 1990s as an open attempt to facilitate a ‘quantum shift’ in spirituality in the evangelical church world.
Leonard Sweet, one of the founders of this movement, would even articulate this as a new ‘quantum spirituality’, in a book with this title. He would go on to further integrate the evolutionary ideals of the New Agers, including Teilhard de Chardin especially, recasting them into a Christianised mould.
Leadership Network held a significant 2000 conference, called ‘Exploring off the map’, in which leading New Agers such as Peter Senge (the guru of evolutionary mysticism) and other leaders were keynote speakers.
Warren Smith, an evangelical author with a testimony of coming out of the New Age movement, has written extensively about Sweet and this Emergent movement. In fact, the word ‘emergent’ is steeped in meaning in Teilhard’s evolutionary cosmogony. Much more could be said about this topic.
It should also be pointed out that certain marketing methods, particularly those developed by sociologist Dr Everett Rogers (‘diffusion of innovation’), have lent themselves to the evolutionary worldview.
These principles are based on the esoteric and evolutionary science of Thomas Kuhn, author of the 1962 book, The structure of scientific revolutions. Kuhn proposed that not only was man’s understanding of science evolving, but science itself (truth) was evolving. Kuhn proposed a model of a ‘paradigm shift’ to explain the sometimes sudden shifts in mindsets and understandings of science.
This ‘paradigm shift’ in mindset then became an active research project for many government social scientists, as well as psychologists and professional marketers. This psycho-social marketing method became the standard tool for ‘missional’ evangelisation across the world.
‘Paradigm shifting’ was heralded as the main method of societal transformation articulated by Marilyn Ferguson’s New Age book The Aquarian conspiracy. And ‘paradigm shift’ (or the less offensive term, ‘transformation’) would become a rallying cry for some segments of the evangelical world as well. This was especially through the training of Leadership Network, which openly sought to transform the church away from denominations and doctrines.
So, rather than repentance and confession of sin, and the transformation of the inner man, there was substituted a mind change, a new worldview and a new set of beliefs. But this is not true salvation.
Author’s note: Special thanks to Dr Martin Erdmann for his guidance in preparing this article.
Sarah H. Leslie, B.Sc, M.Sc