Occultist to Evangelist
Moira Noonan will be celebrating Halloween as the vigil of All Saints. That’s a break with her previous life as a leader in the New Age movement. The Register asks her about her trek back to the Church.
Moira Noonan left the Catholic faith in the early 1970s and became a leader in the New Age movement. She mastered occult practices and belief systems that have passed from the fringe into the cultural mainstream, infiltrating even the Church.
Following a powerful conversion recounted in her autobiography, Ransomed From Darkness: The New Age, Christian Faith and the Battle for Souls, she initially felt desolate after having spent “so many wasted years looking for truth in all the wrong places.” Finding hope in St. Paul’s assurance that “All things work for good for those who love God,” however, Noonan has devoted her life to exposing the errors she escaped and evangelizing for the faith. A diocesan-certified catechist and Benedictine-certified spiritual director, she travels internationally, speaking at seminars, workshops and retreats.
Register correspondent Matthew Rarey recently spoke with her.
How did you become involved in the New Age?
It’s a long story, and I fully recount it in my book, Ransomed from Darkness. But here’s the short version.
I was raised Catholic, but my faith began drifting away when I attended a non-Catholic boarding school. This was during the “Age of Aquarius,” when gurus and Eastern mysticism were all the rage. I became interested in both and pursued these interests during college. Today I ask people interested in New Age and occult practices, “Is your faith stronger than your fascination?” Well, my Christian faith may have gone by the wayside, but my fascination never abated. You see, people are by nature spiritual beings, and if they don’t have the truth, their spiritual vacuum will be filled with falsehoods.
After college, I pursued the feminist dream of becoming a successful, professional woman. I had a great job working as a publicist for Francis Ford Coppola. Then I got into publishing and was very successful at that. But when I was 28, I had a major car accident. For a year I was partially paralyzed and in chronic pain. Nothing seemed to help. So I reverted to spiritual search mode. And I like to say that my insurance company paid for me to become fully brainwashed in the New Age.
Your insurance company?
Yes. It sent me to a clinic that’s now affiliated with the Menninger Clinic. The main therapy was autogenic. That’s a form of hypnosis and “New Thought” approach to reprogramming the mind. Basically, they would brainwash us into a mind-over-matter way of thinking that “If you believe you have no pain, then you have no pain.” This was achieved through hours of self-hypnosis in which the mind is reshaped to conform to this new “reality.” We also were taught that suffering has no purpose and that pain can be cured by healing our thoughts. We were specifically told that believing in a savior who would rescue us from pain, or who would make our suffering spiritually redemptive, was a waste of time. We had to do it for ourselves. It’s important to know that the New Age trinity is Me, Myself and I.
And the system worked. I was off pain pills and beginning to feel good again. And this is the clincher: There is power in these anti-Christian practices and teachings, but the power is not divine. It’s a power that leads us away from Christ by trading in our Judeo-Christian beliefs for a “new” way of thinking about ourselves and the world. And that’s the point.
And after you left the clinic?
I was there for a little over a month, and I was looking forward to resuming an active life. So I asked my new mentors about going to church again after leaving. They said I definitely needed spiritual support but that the Catholic Church was totally out of the question. If I wanted to stay free from pain, I had to remain in this “New Thought” frame of mind and only certain “churches” offered this: Unity churches, Dianetics, other churches without Christ.
Basically, one thing led to another, and over the next decade, I immersed myself deeper and deeper in many New Age and even old-fashioned occult practices. I worked in religious science ministry and got fully certified or developed expertise in hypnotherapy, clairvoyance, spiritual channeling, crystals, the Course in Miracles, past-life regression, astrology, to name just a few. It was exciting. But sometimes it could be very scary — opening oneself to demonic influences may bring power of a sort, but it does not bring peace of soul.
Then one day in 1990 I had a wake-up call that shocked me back into reality and started my conversion back to the Church.
What is the New Age, and is it really new?
It’s only new insofar as it’s new marketing for an age-old lie, the same pride that inspired Adam and Eve to choose the forbidden fruit: “You are equal to God. You are the creator. You can realize your true divinity.” When you start dabbling in the New Age, right away you break the First Commandment. After that, it gets easier to rationalize all the other commandments and let them fall away. You become the author of your own life; you make your own rules. God is no longer in charge.
How does the New Age differ from old-time apostasies?
The New Age thrives on the fallacy that so many people think it’s a religion. And most Americans are reluctant to criticize any religion. It’s not a religion, however, but a loosely structured, eclectic movement based on monism that leads people to believe in pantheism, that all is “God.” And it may ultimately lead people to reject salvation because it makes one feel there is no need for penance.
How does the New Age do this?
Because it runs on lies and half-truths. The New Age offers a kind of utopian vision of one world unity, harmony and peace, which sounds very good. It seeks to accomplish this through such diverse means as Eastern mysticism, Eastern religions, Western occultism and humanistic psychology. Although Jesus’ name may be used, and many New Age practices are “packaged” to appear Christian, New Age beliefs deny doctrines essential to Christianity such as the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.
From the Christian point of view, the New Age is a movement of false spirituality. This deception, however, is now widespread.
You mentioned Oprah Winfrey.
Since Jan. 1, Oprah has been offering on her daily radio program a year-long course on the New Age Christ from the New Age bible called A Course in Miracles. With one lesson a day, she will completely cover the 365 lessons from the companion workbook. However, A Course in Miracles is not Christian.
The Course is actually three books based on the messages received by its “scribe,” Dr. Helen Shucman, a psychologist at Columbia University who was a self-described atheist. Starting in the mid-1960s and lasting for seven years, she claimed to receive daily instructions from an invisible teacher who called himself Jesus, and she auto-wrote these messages, seemingly without exercising her own will. She was always uneasy about this.
Anyhow, this “Jesus” explained that his biblical counterpart was misunderstood and misquoted — that his true teachings were not revealed. Her colleague, Dr. William Thetford, and especially her pupil, Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, got the Course published and popularized. And here’s an interesting factoid: Dr. Wapnick, a former Catholic seminarian, studied under Dr. Shucman with Father Benedict Groeschel. They’re like night and day. Wapnick has worked tirelessly promoting the Course, getting it into Barnes & Noble and helping make it mandatory reading in so many [university] psych departments.
At the height of my New Age career, I participated in study groups in which Dr. Thetford was involved. Maybe because I spent so much time studying the Course, its radical departures from Church teaching are so shockingly clear.
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- October 26-November 1, 2008