Angelico Press has published another imaginative work from their unconventional list of authors. This time it is The Gentle Traditionalist Returns, by Roger Buck. Described by its author as “a comic book without pictures”, it is designed as a fable, to show how New Age thinking in all its subtle and seductive forms is waging an unceasing war on traditional Christianity – especially in the Anglosphere: the UK and the US. It follows an earlier book by Buck: The Gentle Traditionalist, in which the author describes his own conversion, after a long immersion in New Age spirituality.
The “Gentle Traditionalist” aka “GT” is Gilbert Tracey, a denizen of different eras and places but always at the service of the Church, which he passionately loves and eloquently defends. Pitted against him in argument is Gareth LightShadow a slick New Age salesman who is trying to corrupt a young Irish girl, Brigid; she is protected by Tracey’s friends, Anna and Geoffrey (loosely reflecting the author and his wife). Geoffrey, a convert to Catholicism, refuses to take the threat of modern pagan spirituality as seriously as his wife, wondering if he is “addicted to sitting on the fence”. Tracey reminds him that what Catholics need is “an intensity of conviction that refuses vacillation and scepticism.” There is no room for peaceful, heads-down, back-pew Catholicism in this war.
For it is a war, both spiritual and cultural, that we experience around us today. I recently engaged in a Facebook discussion on “hate speech”, mentioning a friend once visited by the police simply for stating publicly that same-sex adoption is not in the interests of children. I was met with incomprehension rather than insult; it was a small skirmish in a wider battle between Christian teaching and the modern Western world. Roger Buck shows how deadly this struggle is: on the one side is the Church, with Revelation, her teachings, her ancient traditions, her saints and her life of prayer and the Sacraments; on the other is the mantra to “be kind… be tolerant”, to embrace a “universal spirituality” in a “free, multicultural society”, in which “all you need is love”.
There is a superb summary of the New Age “creed” on page 77 which includes the fuzzy nonsense of “I warmly affirm the right of all individuals to freely choose their own spiritual path. No perspective is ever any more real or valid than any other”, which is contrasted with St Patrick’s Confession on page 155, his heartfelt, humble submission to God who, “taking pity on my youth and ignorance, guarded me before I understood anything, or had learned to distinguish between good and evil…”
As Tracey emphasises, this modern “spirituality” tries to avoid Christ and the Cross at all costs; not understanding its saving power, people flee from it in fear and loathing; what matters is “enlightenment, mindfulness and self-knowledge.” In response to one of LightShadow’s fatuous remarks, Anna remonstrates: “Nothing…reaches the core of our being like the Catholic sacraments. No healing, no mediation, no rituals, no exercises, no therapy…” As Bucks points out, modern man, desperate for a truth more beautiful and satisfying than atheistic materialism, has invented an ersatz parody of Christianity which offers only temporary consolation because it worships a false god.
Buck’s fable, though sometimes repetitious and rambling, deserves to be seriously debated. Naturally, Tracey has all the best tunes; LightShadow, in contrast, is a caricature character, only capable of comic book-type retorts. Had he been more convincingly conceived, the dramatic arguments would have been better balanced. After all, he and all those who extol the benefits of sham spirituality are human souls, tragically ignorant of Christ and the true cost of their salvation.