Nonetheless, the popularity of the New Age is unbelievably - I have no official statistics on the subject, but my simple observations in bookstores, on television, and the like have all confirmed this. It is nearly inescapeable.
In a rabid search for anything that might be conformable to its wishy-washy spirituality, it has co-opted the ancient Gnostics, various forms of pagan spirituality and religions, every form of Eastern religion and philosophy it can get its hands on, and now even Catholic authors and saints.
The most notable figures that have been co-opted by the New Age movement, both within and outside of the Church, are St. Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Merton, Bl. Julian of Norwich, and Meister Eckhart; however, a multitude of other writers pop up here and there - almost any female mystic is automatically portrayed as a powerful voice of the Spirit silenced by an evil collective of misogynistic patriarchs. It's all rather exhausting.
The reason that I write this is to warn people that not every book one finds on these figures is safe - oftentimes, they are laced with heretical commentaries and interpretations that do to their writing what Morgoth did to the elves in Lord of the Rings, warping them into Orcs.
For example, St. Hildegard of Bingen, recently proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, has been co-opted largely by Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest who left the Church to join the Episcopalians and a proponent of "Techno Cosmic Masses" and "Creation Spirituality".
Meister Eckhart is routinely misunderstood, and Fr. Seraphim Rose's words on St. Seraphim of Sarov could also apply here: "others try artificially to set his 'spirituality' against the 'institutionalized Church,' as if the two could be separated; still others would make him to be a 'charismatic' figure who justifies the empty ecumenical 'spirituality' of our own poor days; and a few imagine him to be a 'guru' whose experience places him 'beyond Christianity' and all religious traditions"1. Eckhart has been adopted especially by Eckhart Tolle, who has made a career out of misinterpreting the German mystic.
Thomas Merton is adopted by the New Age because of his sympathies to Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, all of which are incessantly distorted by the movement itself.
The few examples above show that the New Age movement knows no bounds - to me, it is much akin to a cheap meat processing plant, producing mechanically-separated versions of great spiritual figures and writings, and forming them into neat little hot-dogs packed with all kinds of spiritually-detrimental additives. Truly, it is a product of our time, I think. It is empty and false ecumenism.
Unfortunately, most of the works by the three authors above inevitably come with New Agey commentaries and notes. The funny thing is, the New Age seems entirely incapable of grasping the profound thought of these figures, especially St. Hildegard and Eckhart. St. Hildegard's writings do focus very much on the natural world in some areas - they are also incredibly apocalyptic, prophetic, and entirely, thoroughly Catholic in their teachings. Eckhart, if the New Age would bother to try and understand fully, was a faithful son of the Church, and admitted his errors - he also defended himself, not with ambiguous and fluffy spiritual statements, but with the authority of St. Thomas Aquinas, a figure that has nothing about him that could ever be warped into a New Age idea.
Why does the New Age movement seek to co-opt our writers and saints then? My thought on it is that it is a spirituality that caters to the disgruntled person forced to go to church on Sunday mornings, the person whose pastor said something awful to them once and drove them away from the faith, the hurting person in need of a quick fix for an aching soul. It also presents a non-committal form of spirituality, something I can see being increasingly popular in the secularized world; in essence, its a spirituality built on relativism and modifications of existing religions.
The point is, be careful out there. As a Catholic, I think one should always be prudent in their spiritual reading. This does not mean that one can only read good, orthodox Catholic writings - far from it. I think it simply implies being aware, checking the ingredients, as it were. In this age of spiritual relativism, it's more important than ever to do so, I think.
1 - Little Russian Philokalia - Vol 1: St. Seraphim of Sarov, pg. 13