Imagine yourself sitting in a small, green room with Chinese "healing" music playing softly in the background. Your feet are in a large bucket which contains a mixture of very hot water, sea salts, and an aqua chi machine. The machine gently send an electric pulse into the water to stir up the molecules. In about 15 minutes the once clear water in the bucket will be slowly and methodically transformed into reddish/black sludge. You take a deep breath and wait in anticipation....
On the walls hang beautiful pictures of various photographs of landscapes, waterfalls and sunsets. Sipping a cup of peppermint tea mixed with honey, you breathe in large amounts of recycled office air and pretend you are in Hawaii.
Sitting next to you, receiving a similar foot bath, sits a balding man in his mid-40's. His large and crystal clear blue eyes protrude forth from darkened eye sockets. He looks tired. You notice he is reading a weathered paperback with a title that reads something like "Finding the Inner Light Within."
After a few minutes of silence, he puts down the book, takes a sip of his green tea (which has been steeping on the table next to you) and smiles in your direction.
"Are you into metaphysics?" he asks abruptly.
Hmmm. How to answer that question you think to yourself? "Yes I am," you simply reply, silently thinking to yourself, "but not metaphysics as you understand it."
An interesting conversation commences about the role of diet in spirituality, whether some people can "see auras," how to stay focused during meditation and repel vain thoughts, as well as finding the "inner guide" along the path of life. Your conversation is lighthearted yet each one of you brings a certain intensity to the discussion as well. Not much time goes by before you both realize you are having a hard time communicating, both unable to come to common definitions of the ideas and words being used.
However, he concludes his thoughts by saying that he had once been a Christian but felt it did not offer him the ability to truly heal his soul. And with that comment, all of the sudden commonality comes rushing back into the discussion.....
Two quite paradoxical impressions from this encounter yesterday afternoon struck me:
1) Although it almost goes without saying, New Age Pagan spirituality has hardly *anything* in common with the ancient patristic/monastic/Eastern Christian spiritual Tradition.
2) New Age Pagan spirituality has more in common with the Orthodoxy than much of contemporary American Christian spirituality.
The wave of the future in the realm of missions work for the Orthodox Church (according to the author of a recent article in Again magazine) is with the New Age Pagans. After talking with a bona fida pagan yesterday, I can see why the author would think so. The new pagans have rejected the heresy of their (typically) western Christian upbringing. They have a deep desire for the sacramental experience of God, a life of prayer and discipline, and for a spiritual life that is holistic. While they may have knee jerk reactions to anything that smacks of Christianity, they seem to be more open to the type of spirituality that is found in Eastern Christendom.
However, that work will be very difficult. At least with western Christians, there are some important foundational points of commonality. However, with the pagans there exists such a large divide between the teachings of the historic Church and the hodge-podge spirituality they have created for themselves.
Of course, the New Pagans are not very new. They are in most respects just like their ancestors of old who populated the Roman Empire. But it is clear that many are searching. And many, if shown the True Faith, I think would eagerly embrace their true spiritual home, just as many did 2000 years ago. Time will tell....