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The New Age Movement in the Business World

Written by: Watring, Richard    Posted on: 04/24/2003

Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics

Source: CCN

              The New Age Movement in the Business World                           by Richard Watring

    The consciousness of American business is slowly, almost imperceptibly being desensitized to the introduction of a New Age philosophy into our culture.

    In the larger culture, the New Age movement is gaining wider exposure through the influence of people like actress Shirley MacLaine (Out on a Limb, Dancing in the Light), Reverend Terry Cole Whittaker, writers Norman Cousins (Human Options), Marilyn Ferguson (The Aquarian Conspiracy), Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull), Hugh Prather, Human Potential Leaders Jean Houston (The Possible Human), Michael Murphy (Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance), Abraham Maslow (The Farther Reaches of Human Nature), George Leonard (The Transformation - A Guide to the Inevitable Changes of Humankind), Willis Harman (An Incomplete Guide to the Future, Higher Creativity), and others.

    This has not gone unnoticed by the media.  The NEW YORK TIMES and U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT have both devoted articles to the subject, as have ABC's 20/20, The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show, to name a few.

    In the business world, attention has been focused by the NEW YORK TIMES (April 17, 1987 - Guru's Hired to Motivate Workers are Raising Fears of Mind Control), The WASHINGTON POST (January 9, 1987 - Zen and the Art of Making Money), NEWSWEEK (May 4, 1987 - Corporate Mind Control), FORTUNE (July 6, 1987 - Merchants of Inspiration; and November 23, 1987 - Trying to Bend Manager's Minds), and TRAINING (September 1987 - what's New in the New Age?).  Professional conferences for Human Resource Development practitioners add important exposure by featuring proponents of the movement such as Jean Houston, Marilyn Ferguson and others.

    In an editorial entitled "Who Put the Guru in Guru Mind Control?", Jack Gordon of TRAINING hit the nail on the head: "There is an implicit belief held by many in the HRD profession that their job is nothing less than to self-actualize the American workforce."  He opined that this view is both preposterous and arrogant.  On the other hand, Patricia Galagan, editor of TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT JOURNAL wrote that it is "the fear experienced in getting to that ambiguous and unfamiliar place that sends the untransformed to their lawyers." Whichever side you are on, the positions on both sides of the issue seem to be solidifying.

    In a series of letters to TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT JOURNAL, a number of training professionals offered their views.  For instance, Paul Rondina of Digital Equipment wrote, "I see the training industry being used to proselytize New Age religion under the deceptive marketing of increased productivity, self-actualization and self- improvement.  As trainers, we must sound the alarm to this covert missionary work."  Doug Groothius, himself an expert on the New Age movement offered, "Some practices ... induce a trance-like state wherein one's critical faculties are suspended.  Effective businesses need sharpened minds, not dulled ones."  Lea Deo of St. Lukes Hospital of Kansas City wrote "spiritual encounters should not be disguised as training."  Carolyn Sorensen Balling of Amex Life Assurance offered, "For a company to concentrate on developing the 'inner selves' of their employees for the sake of higher performance seems manipulative".  Kevin Garvey, a consultant predicted "an array of unprecedented lawsuits" and urged that "no corporation should blithely incur this penalty."

    But what is this movement that has attracted so much attention?

    Briefly stated, the New Age Movement promotes a "personal transformation" of spirit (usually referred to as consciousness) through the use of certain techniques, often called psychotechnologies.  The movement suggests that humankind has the ability and capacity to fully self-actualize (sometimes called reaching Enlightenment or Inner-wisdom, Higher Self) and that this is the goal of transformation.  Inherent in the movement is the Eastern philosophical view of monism, the belief that all of reality is composed of the same essence, that there is no distinction to be made between matter and spirit and that, therefore, humanity is connected and individuals are extensions or manifestations of the whole.  Under this view of reality, there would be no separation between God and Creation, since creation emanates from, and is made of, the same "stuff" as God.

    Because humanity's true destination is the realization that humankind is divine, the movement promotes techniques that accelerate the transformative process.  Among these techniques are a number that are being used with greater frequency in business.  Business does not usually admit to the promotion of transformation.  Most often other reasons are cited for the use of the technique.  For instance, meditative techniques are used as part of a Stress Management strategy.  Techniques recommended for their stress reduction value include meditation, Transcendental Meditation, Self-Hypnosis, guided imagery, yoga, and centering.

    Some techniques are used to enhance creativity or the intuitive process: Guided Imagery, Visualization, Silva Mind Control, Dianetics and Focusing.

    Certain techniques enhance self-regulation.  Techniques that assist in self-regulation include bio-feedback, hypnosis, self- hypnosis and affirmation.

    Certain techniques are used to encourage employees to accept a greater share of responsibility for themselves and their company. These include EST (newly called The Forum or Transformation Technologies), Lifespring, D>M>A>, Actualizations and other human potential seminar programs.

    Some techniques are used to promote accelerated learning - namely, Suggestology and Visualization.  Others are used to improve interpersonal skills, such as Neurolinguistic programming.

    These motives, the reduction of stress, the enhancement of creativity and intuitive processes, self-regulation and the acceptance of responsibility, accelerated learning and the improvement of inter- personal skills, are not bad, in and of themselves.

    The danger, however, is with the techniques that are used to achieve these ends.  I have a number of very serious concerns regarding the use of these types of personal development techniques.

    Firstly, most people who have grown up in a Western Judeo- Christian tradition do not share the same view of reality as that promoted by the New Age Movement.  In order for the technique to be of value, the individual must adopt the new view (often called paradigm- shift) which underlies the change being sought.  For this reason, one sees increasing acceptance of beliefs in reincarnation, karma, monism (or pantheism), synchronicity (the belief in the interconnectedness of all life), metaphysics (the belief that the mind has the power to influence forces within the universe which can change material reality), cosmic unity, paranormal phenomena, out-of-body experiences, and the like.

    Secondly, most of the techniques described are either tantamount to a hypnotic induction, or, their use renders the individual more highly suggestible to hypnotic induction.  Most people know what hypnosis is, however, very few people know that the use of affirmation, suggestology, neurolinguistic programming, some forms of guided imagery, est and est-type human potential seminars employ some of the same psychological dynamics as hypnosis.  (Most lay persons are not aware of the fact that hypnosis can be induced without a relaxation suggestion - this is called active-alert hypnotic induction).

    Even those techniques that do not qualify as hypnotic induction may ultimately facilitate the same result.  Most meditative techniques increase the level of "alpha" rhythms in the brain (so do chanting, the repeating of a mantra and other spiritual exercises).  People who are in an alpha state are substantially more suggestible than those who are not.  Further, when people use certain meditative exercises, they often experience the loss of self-identifying awareness and come to experience a oneness with a wider consciousness, often called cosmic or unitary consciousness.  If this experience is reached while the person is in this heightened state of suggestibility, they are more susceptible to influence than if they were in a normal working state.  It's quite logical then that persons will be more inclined to adopt the "belief" in a unitary reality because they have "experienced" it while in a heightened state of suggestibility.  This would explain why so many are embracing an Eastern philosophy or religious practice.

    Thirdly, while it cannot be proven scientifically, many people believe in the existence of a supernatural realm, one inhabited by either angels or demons, departed spirits, or discarnate souls.  Many of the techniques being promoted involve encountering a person's "inner wisdom" or "higher self" or "master teacher".  This entity encountered through Silva Mind Control and some forms of guided imagery and visualization is often described as simply the personification of our own psyche or sub-conscious.  But, what if it is not?  If there really is a spiritual realm, then it is possible that the entities which are encountered are not really part of our self, but some other self.  If so, then the promoters of these techniques are really promoting a form of spiritism.  Worse yet, some, including Willis Harman, are encouraging the process of "channeling" as a means toward higher creativity.  What used to be considered mediumship or occult correspondence is now being promoted as a benign technique for transformation and human potential.

    In his book, Higher Creativity , Harman poo-poos the issue of whether or not the source of "illumination" is the self, or is apart from the self.  He wrote, "The fruits of the channeling phenomenon can come to be appreciated and used to the benefit of humankind - leaving open the issue of the ultimate nature of the channeling source ..." This attitude must be strongly discouraged in favor of hard answers to some very hard questions.

    Four years ago, a survey was conducted among 9,000 Personnel Directors regarding their exposure to a number of New Age techniques as well as certain of their beliefs.  Of the over 10% response, roughly 45% had either used or seen used at least one of eleven New Age psycho-technologies included in the survey.  More surprising, 15% believed that at least one of the eleven was beneficial in developing human resources.  The survey included meditation, biofeedback, Silva Mind Control, T.M., visualization, hypnosis, focusing, est, Dianetics, centering and yoga.

    I am usually asked certain questions as I present my arguments against the use of these techniques.  Among them, "Aren't these techniques beneficial to industry?  Don't they really help a company or employees in some way?"  I cannot, and do not, argue against the effectiveness of many of these techniques.  Meditation probably does reduce stress.  Biofeedback most certainly is an effective tool for self-regulation.  Hypnotic induction can certainly be of therapeutic value when administered properly.  However, I do not think that the potential benefits are worth the risks, as outlined earlier.

    Another question I am often asked is, "Why are businesses rushing to use these techniques?"  Obviously, business is striving for excellence in every respect.  If business can gain a competitive advantage by having their employees use New Age techniques, certainly they will be open to it.  I honestly believe that most business people who promote these techniques are ignorant of the psychological and spiritual dynamics involved, however, there are a small number who are actively trying to promote transformation.

    Another question I am often asked is, "Where do I see this going? What is the likely outcome of the continued use of these techniques?" I see two specific outcomes if business continues its use of these techniques.  First, I see the potential for religious discrimination charges being filed by persons who suffer some adverse action at the hands of their employer because they resisted the program or technique.  Secondly, I foresee serious liability damages being awarded to persons who suffer psychological harm as a result of New Age techniques.  Some psychologists and sociologists consider many New Age techniques to be a form of mind control.  Already, many individuals have sued a number of human potential or "new religious" movements for psychological harm.  Many individuals and anti-cult groups consider these and other New Age groups to be "destructive cults".  If these groups are open to damage suits, it stands to reason that the corporations that offer or encourage these same programs to employees will become co-defendants in such suits.

    Finally, I am often asked, "What difference does it really make?" It makes a great deal of difference if you subscribe to a Christian world and life view.  The underlying view of reality and of the nature of human beings of the New Age Movement stands in direct contrast to the primary tenets of Orthodox Christianity.

    Having said all that I've said, my concluding message is very simple: Private corporations that are not church-affiliated should neither attempt to change the basic belief systems of their employees nor should they promote the use of techniques (i.e. altered consciousness) that accelerate such change, and while spiritual growth is important, corporations should not prescribe the methods whereby employees grow spiritually.  This is better left for those more qualified than the Human Resource Development Department.

Computers for Christ - Chicago

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