Julie and I like to escape winter here in Minnesota for some weeks during January and February. For the past three times, we have traveled to Tucson Arizona and we always make sure to stop in Sedona for a few days. Sedona is a beautiful area and we enjoy hiking the tails up and down the canyons. The rock formations and colors are spectacular and show that God's creative energy worked way over time in creating Sedona. It is a wonderful reminder that we have an amazing God that created a beautiful universe.
When one goes to Sedona, one will encounter a fair amount of what would be called New Age spirituality. There are many shops for crystals and other spiritual items, many retreat facilities, and the vortexes of Sedona. These vortexes are particular locations that people claim have a special energy. From the Sedona visitors website:
Sedona has long been regarded as a place both sacred and powerful. It is a cathedral without walls. It is Stonehenge not yet assembled. People travel from all across the globe to experience the mysterious cosmic forces that are said to emanate from the red rocks. They come in search of the vortexes.
Although all of Sedona is considered to be a vortex, there are specific sites where the energy crackles most intensely. The four best known Sedona vortexes are found at Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon—each radiating its own particular energy. Some are thought to produce energy flowing upward while at others the energy spirals downward, entering the earth.
I would wholeheartedly agree that all of Sedona is a very sacred place that does indeed possess unique energy. Many times that Julie and I hike the canyons we will both comment on how the canyon walls seem to be glowing and pulsating. We have also wondered what the Catholic Church would teach about vortexes?
Interestingly, The Chapel of the Holy Cross a Catholic Chapel where Mass is offered one morning a week is one of the main vortexes of Sedona. The chapel proudly proclaims, “the chapel is a shrine that provides peace to all who enter.” The setting for the Chapel is stunning and the view of the surrounding valley and mountains leaves one spellbound. It is meant to be a chapel for people to pray in, but the reality is there are so many people coming and going around and inside the chapel, it makes it hard to have a prayerful experience. I will say the crucifix is one of the most captivating ones I have ever seen.
There is an interesting 2003 document from the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialog entitled “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the “New Age”. Looking through this unusual and rambling 36 page document, one can find a very hardline stance that New Age practices are not in line with Christianity. I pulled a few sentences that seem to address the question of Vortexes, although it is hard to isolate this from their critique of New Age practices.
An adequate Christian discernment of New Age thought and practice cannot fail to recognize that, like second and third century gnosticism, it represents something of a compendium of positions that the Church has identified as heterodox.
New Age is not a single, uniform movement, but rather a loose network of practitioners whose approach is to think globally but act locally.
The rejection of modernity underlying this desire for change is not new, but can be described as “a modern revival of pagan religions with a mixture of influences from both eastern religions and also from modern psychology, philosophy, science, and the counterculture that developed in the 1950s and 1960s”.
Some nature spirits are described as powerful energies existing in the natural world
It is clear that, in theory at least, the New Age often recognizes no spiritual authority higher than personal inner experience.
New Age teachers and therapies claim to offer the key to finding the correspondences between all the elements of the universe, so that people may modulate the tone of their lives and be in absolute harmony with each other and with everything around them, although there are different theoretical backgrounds.
“Gaia”, Mother Earth, is offered as an alternative to God the Father, whose image is seen to be linked to a patriarchal conception of male domination of women. There is talk of God, but it is not a personal God; the God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent.
The universe is an ocean of energy, which is a single whole or a network of links. The energy animating the single organism which is the universe is “spirit” … God and the world, soul and body, intelligence and feeling, heaven and earth are one immense vibration of energy.
As no surprise, at the end of the document, they reject the concept of the New Age movement.
belief in cosmic powers and some obscure kind of destiny withdraws the possibility of a relationship to a personal God revealed in Christ. For Christians, the real cosmic Christ is the one who is present actively in the various members of his body, which is the Church.
From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others.
Julie and I have been to the four main vortexes and I cannot say that I had an anymore powerful experience than other experiences I have had at other amazingly beautiful spots. You do see people at these spots with their crystals, meditating and allowing the crystals to recharge for them to take home.
So what are we to do? Caroline Makepeace in writing about her experiences with and spirituality surrounding vortexes has these tips: "Remain open to it. Be willing to experience. Let whatever will be will be. By that I mean if you feel something that is wonderful and if you don’t feel anything that is also wonderful."
I think that is good advice for approaching something like vortexes. If you have an energizing experience give thanks to the Holy Spirit for providing you with such a beautiful connection to God’s creative energy. If you feel nothing special that is okay also. As we found out from Erin O'Leary during our parish retreat on prayer, we all have different ways of praying, and for some nature is a powerful connection to God and for others, it is not so powerful. The danger is when it becomes an idol onto itself or a replacement for our Trinitarian God that invites all of us into a beautiful dance of Love and relationship with the creator God of the universe.
Peace, Love, and Blessings