Delighting Grace interviews Marcia Montenegro, former professional astrologer and New Ager now the head of CANA or Christian Answers for the New Age. We talk about spirituality in school, yoga, occult, astrology, Twilight etc., that seduces high school and college kids.
You can check her website: http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org
Delighting Grace: Hi Marcia. Do you think that schools have a great influence in students especially in terms of spirituality?
Marcia Montenegro: When you ask about schools, I can only answer in terms of schools in the U.S. I know schools in the U.S. have an influence on spirituality. Many teachers are open to all kinds of beliefs and this comes through their teaching. Also, events like Earth Day can subtly promote pagan views. In university religion courses, the professors are often against biblical Christianity and will try to attack the Bible or Christianity, using arguments that are not based on facts or logic.
Delighting Grace: Tell me what do you mean by New Age and occult in layman’s term? How do high school and college kids get involved in this kind of stuff and why?
Marcia Montenegro: New Age is a blend of Gnosticism, Eastern views, and something called New Thought. New Age often overlaps with the occult, but the occult is dealing with supernatural knowledge or power through divination, sorcery/magic, and spirit contact.
The occult is a set of practices related to various beliefs that involves gaining supernatural knowledge or power through divination, sorcery, or spirit contact. These categories often overlap each other so distinctions are somewhat artificial.
Divination, often called fortune-telling, is reading hidden meaning into the natural world or into symbols, such as in astrology or tarot cards, or gaining knowledge through supernatural means such as using psychic powers. Other forms of divination include palm reading, tea leaf reading, using a pendulum, numerology, and scrying (gazing into an opaque surface such as water, crystal, or dark glass). Contacting spirits for guidance can also be a form of divination, as well as falling under the category of spiritism.
Sorcery, usually called magic by those who do it, is the attempt to alter reality by your will using certain rituals, incantations, and/or magical tools through calling on forces, spirits, or powers, whether believed to be within or outside of one’s self.
Spirit Contact, or spiritism, is contacting or summoning spirits, whether one thinks they are ghosts, angels, the dead or any kind of disembodied being. Using the Ouija Board is a form of spiritism as well as a form of divination.
All of these are strongly denounced and forbidden by God throughout the Bible. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 lists all occult practices and forbids them. These practices were related to the worship of false gods.
I think many high school and college students get interested in these things partly because it concerns the unknown, and maybe because these things are seen as forbidden or dangerous. This often makes them appealing.
Also, sometimes people get interested because they do not realize the danger involved, and due to playing games that features these things, or seeing movies and TV shows that make these practices glamorous or powerful looking, people dismiss the danger or are lured by the power and glamour attached to them.
Delighting Grace: Some might say,”Hey were just having fun. It’s not like we are abandoning our faith. These kinds of stuff doesnt promote Satan.” What’s your response to that?
Marcia Montenegro: Playing games or watching TV shows or movies that glamorize things God considers evil can have a subtle effect on us. It can make us less sensitive to these things, and to evil itself. If we expose our minds to occult themes, after awhile the occult does not seem so bad. Or we may think it’s all just pretend. Also, Christians should remember that they are ambassadors for Christ. Others watch us. So what we do can influence weaker believers or unbelievers. It can send the wrong message.
Delighting Grace: The Harry Potter and Twilight books are very popular here in the Philippines. They portray witches and vampires as heroes. Tell me is there a good or some say white witches or has Dracula just gave vampires a bad name?
Marcia Montenegro: There are witches who think they are “good” or “white witches practicing white magic. However, God makes no distinction between “white” or “black” magic; all magic is condemned in the Bible. There are even people in the occult who do not think there is a true distinction between black and white magic. Also, there are occult views that black magic is not wrong; it’s just a more powerful type of magic.
As for vampires, there really is no such thing. However, vampires in fiction used to be seen as scary or evil. Now they are portrayed sympathetically or even as heroes, as in “Twilight.” Although there are no real vampires, there are those who believe they are vampires. The vampire subculture contains very unbiblical views and behavior. Everything a vampire represents goes against the godly character Christ calls us to. Books like “Twilight” are softening the vampire image and calling evil good.
Delighting Grace: Is there a difference between cult and the occult?
Marcia Montenegro: A cult is a group or organization that is authoritative and dictates a lifestyle to members. People are not allowed to question or criticize, or they are discouraged from doing so. Also, religious cults always have teachings that are anti-Christian and against the Bible. The occult comes from a Latin word for “hidden.” The occult is a set of practices tied to different beliefs (see question 2). There are cults that use the occult, but the words “cult” and “occult” are not related in usage.
Delighting Grace: High school and colleges kids specially girls like horoscopes and card readings about their future, love life, etc in your experience as a former professional astrologer what goes behind that? When you read their “future” what do you see? Do you see the actual stuff or are you merely guessing? Do you feel some sort of supernatural powers albeit evil forces while you’re doing it?
Marcia Montenegro: Astrologers look at planets and patterns in a birth chart and the influence of planets at the present time on a birth chart to give what they call “forecasts.” Most astrologers do not claim to be able to tell the future, but rather, they say they can see various options. Also, most astrology readings are not future oriented, but more about the person’s past and present, and what choices they have. It’s very much like a counseling session sometimes, except the information is faulty. Giving forecasts may be only 15 to 20% part of a reading.
Horoscopes are based on the movement of the moon and the faster moving planets. Astrologers look at their positions and then relate them to each of the 12 zodiac signs. Most professional astrologers look down on horoscopes as useless because they are so general. Most astrologers do not do horoscopes – they do charts. However, Christians should not read horoscopes because they are based on a belief in the planets having a meaning for our lives.
Astrologers have spirit guides. These are fallen angels, though the astrologers do not think this (same goes for tarot card readers, palm readers, psychics, mediums, etc.). Therefore, sometimes astrologers get info correct and are accurate about the person’s past and present because the fallen angel is feeding this info to the astrologer (tarot card reader, palm reader, psychic, etc.). People who do these things do not think it is evil. They may sense or be aware of supernatural guidance, but they don’t think it is evil. They are not guessing.
Just to clarify, there are a group of psychics, astrologers, and others who are professional scam artists. These people usually have storefronts and big signs outside advertising what they do. This group is not the group I am talking about in answering these questions. I am talking about people who do what I used to do – people who believe in it and are usually in a New Age type of spiritual belief
Delighting Grace: Some psychics after predicting future events say “You dont really have to believe all this stuff. Prayers and faith in Jesus is stronger and will prevail.” What’s your response on that?
Marcia Montenegro: .I’ve never heard of a psychic or astrologer saying this type of thing. I would say, however, that almost all astrologers and psychics who claim to believe in Jesus are probably not true Christians. They may pray before the reading or say they are Christian or have a cross on the wall, but this does not mean they are really Christian because what they are doing is against God. Even if they are a Christian, then they are going against God.
Delighting Grace: Marcia, let talk about yoga. Yoga is very popular here. From TV ads, cup noodles, corporate entity yoga has really gain grounds. What about yoga? Can you just filter out the spiritual stuff of yoga and just get the healthy benefits of it?
Marcia Montenegro: If one filters out all the Eastern concepts, terms, and activities from yoga, then it is no longer yoga. Yoga is not an exercise, but a spiritual discipline that is part of Hinduism. There are many types of yoga – Hatha Yoga, the kind we are most familiar with in the West, is just one. The word “Hatha” comes from the words for “sun” and “moon.”
The purpose of all forms of yoga is to unite with the Hindu godhead – in the New Age, one would say unite with the One, with God, with the Source, with the Higher Self, or whatever a person may think is some higher spiritual being or awareness. Hatha yoga is designed to prepare one’s body and mind for deeper levels meditation found in more advanced yogas.
Whatever benefits in health that one may get in yoga can be found in other ways. Since yoga is a spiritual practice from a religion opposed to Christianity, one should assume there can be a spiritual cost in practicing yoga.
Hinduism teaches that trying to arouse the kundalini (an alleged power coiled at the base of the spine) through the chakras (the 6 or 7, depending, invisible “wheels” that range from the base of the spine to the top of the head, can be dangerous and one can even die doing this. Therefore, one should only do this under the guidance of a teacher. Likewise, yoga was once practiced only by those who were supervised by gurus. It was not for the general public and certainly not for the west.
This does not mean it’s okay to do these things with a teacher of course. The point is that the original teachings were very exclusive and esoteric, but they have now become popular and mass marketed. This does not, however, remove the danger. I do not see the danger the same way as the Hindus, but I do think there is danger.
Delighting Grace: What’s the difference of eastern New Age and westernized New Age?
Marcia Montenegro: The New Age tends to take Eastern beliefs and make them more acceptable to Western minds and sensibilities and less complex. For example, Hindu beliefs are that a person can reincarnate as an animal or even insect. But New Agers believe you can only reincarnate as a human.
Some terms and concepts are also changed to have a more psychological meaning sometimes. For example, the idea of death is taken in the West to mean destroying something that is holding you back, such as your fears.
New Agers in the U.S. have the more optimistic American outlook on life and so don’t keep the more sober or darker aspects of some Eastern practices and beliefs. In some forms of Buddhism, one is encouraged to meditate on corpses, or on a picture in your mind of yourself as a dead person. This is supposed to help you overcome the usual fear and concept of death. However, we in the West do not hear much about this kind of meditation unless you are reading the more serious Buddhist texts.
The Dalai Lama is held out in the West to be very tolerant. However, the DL believes time is on his side, because he believes that one day everyone will eventually be Buddhist. He does not think there is another way to be enlightened or liberated – Buddhism (in particular Tibetan Buddhism) is the only way.
Delighting Grace: What makes Christianity stand out or more true than New Age?
Marcia Montenegro: The only answer for that is that Christianity is based on God’s word and has the authority of Christ. The New Age comes from many beliefs and has no authoritative evidence or writings.
Delighting Grace: You have one of the amazing testimonies that I read. It’s straight out of X-Files. What’s the difference back then and now that you’re a Christian?
Marcia Montenegro: The difference between how I was before and now that I am a believer are mainly two things: I have the assurance of the truth through knowing Jesus, and I have the assurance of where I go after death. Before, I was searching for various “truths” and picking what I liked. I also was not sure what happened after death though I believed in reincarnation. Still, no one had clear answers as to how this worked.
Delighting Grace There are people who might be into New Age or trap into to it and wants to get out. What can you say to them? Is there really hope? Is Biblical Christianity really the truth that they can trust?
Marcia Montenegro: People in the occult might feel fearful and often think there is no way out. However, Jesus is more powerful than any power in the occult, and He died to pay for our sins because of God’s love for the world (John 3:16). Jesus said that to believe in Him is to have eternal life. So the occult is death but Jesus is life. Anyone, no matter what they have done, can have this eternal life when they trust in Jesus.
Delighting Grace: Thank you Marcia, you’re a power house of information. Tell me about your ministry and what you do?
Marcia Montenegro: My ministry, Christian Answers for the New Age, is to educate Christians about the New Age and the occult so they can be more discerning and better equipped as believers; I also respond to those in the New Age and occult so they can hear about eternal life through faith in Christ. I do these things by speaking, writing, being on radio, and through my website, www.christiananswersforthenewage.org.
Delighting Grace: So guys check Marcia out in her website. Tons of great information and apologetics for those that are attracted with New Age stuff. Also find her on Facebook. Thank you guys for reading this interview.