By Emily Baez

Jesus, the New Age, and Our Hidden Desires

A few years ago, I noticed something strange on my visits to a local bookstore: fully stocked shelves of books on witchcraft, potion-making, and other occult topics.

While New Age practices have existed across cultures throughout time, some practices (like Tarot cards or horoscope readings) have become so mainstream that it’s safe to bet most students (maybe even you) have already been introduced to them. One study finds that Gen Z is 29 percent less likely than older generations to identify as Christian. They’re also 83 percent more likely to say that astrology has bettered their lives. This surge in popularity had me wondering… Why do so many people gravitate towards the New Age while rejecting other forms of spirituality? (i.e., Christianity).

You’re probably reading this and thinking the answer is obvious. The modern-day church has been plagued by bad leadership, hypocrisy, and scandal. But I’ve also wondered if the answer is even simpler than that. Maybe, New Age practices promise to deliver on some deep human desires we’ve always had and always will have. When we investigate these desires, we’ll not only find that they’re natural and normal, but they’re also best satisfied in deep relationship with Jesus.  

Desire for Control 

Ten years ago, most non-religious college students would have described themselves as firmly atheistic or anti-supernatural. Now, they might describe themselves as “spiritual” or confess belief in a higher power. What changed?

At the height of the pandemic, there was increased discussion of witchcraft and manifesting on social media (“WitchTok” was the name given to this pandemic-era genre of videos on TikTok that showed users how to manifest or live into their natural “witchiness”). Most of us associate the COVID years with feelings of anxiety, panic, isolation, and helplessness. Part of that helplessness stemmed from not knowing how long the world was going to spiral. We agonized over questions and worries like, Will the rest of my college experience be confined to a Zoom room? What about those hopes I had to study abroad or visit friends? Am I going to have to miss Christmas this year? I don’t even feel safe buying groceries or hugging my mom. 

Having little control over our lives feels awful. The occult has historically appealed to marginalized groups that have had little to no control in society: women, sexual minorities, and ethnic minorities. When the world strips certain groups of their inherent dignity and autonomy as people created in God’s image, they are more likely to reach for something that restores power.

As Christians, our faith or practices, like prayer, are our ways of finding hope when feeling out of control. 

You could argue that there are similarities between Christians and New Age practitioners. We both believe in powers beyond our physical world. We both recognize that, on our own, we may not be able to figure out all the problems of the universe. But a key aspect of Christian prayer is surrender, not grasping for power.

This is one of the most beautiful and radical features of the Christian faith. Surrender pushes back on the belief that limitations make us deficient. Rather, limitations make us human. And because we can bring our human limitations—our feelings of helplessness and powerlessness—to someone that is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-righteous, we’re already better equipped to face the many harsh realities of this life. When we surrender through prayer, we understand that our burdens are not our own to carry but are sought after by a creator who wishes to carry them with us and take them from us. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God already makes clear his attitude towards us and our limitations. 

When we’re truly in tune with God in a regular practice of prayer, making our requests and heartaches known, we relinquish the belief that we know what’s best for us. We give up the search for power and control and grow to want the good (and better) things our Father wants, even if this means abandoning our own self-interests.  

Ephesians 3:20-21 explains God’s power in relation to our desires. It says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." God’s dreams are bigger than ours. If we are open to his power, to letting him work in and through us, we’ll be surprised at how much more he is able to do for us than we could ever do for ourselves. 

Desire to Be Seen and Validated 

One of the most popular and mainstream New Age practices—astrology— appeals to so many people for the same reason personality tests do: Human beings have an unquenchable thirst for categorization.

I’ll never forget the day a college counselor advised me to take the Meyers Briggs test because I couldn’t figure out what major to declare. It felt like a chore, something extra I had to do on top of all my other assignments and responsibilities. Within a few hours, though, it became an obsession. 

I stayed up all night reading about creativity, romanticism, and deep internal worlds—features of the INFP. I was also told which careers would fit me: teacher, psychologist, artist, writer. With this information, I felt validated. I felt like I'd been misunderstood my whole life. Finally, I was safely exposed and warmly accepted. My failures were explained, my strengths were amplified, and my path forward was clearer. 

Astrology might offer a similar kind of relief. When people discover their astrological sign, they pore over personality descriptors that truly resonate. With things like horoscopes or Tarot readings, they might also find direction or confirmation for the path they’re on.

The desire to be seen, validated, and guided in a special and important direction is a common one. But once again, Jesus offers a richer and deeper answer to this longing. 

In John 1, when Jesus first meets Nathanael, he speaks to him as if he knows him. Nathanael asks, “How do you know me?” And Jesus says, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 

In Luke 19, Jesus recognizes Zacchaeus's effort to stand out above the crowd and receive Jesus’ attention. Despite Zacchaeus’s reputation, Jesus sees him, calls him, understands him in all his sin and imperfection, and loves him. 

Even personality tests—Meyers Briggs, the Enneagram, Big Five, you name it— can’t mimic this level of understanding and acceptance. 

God created us in his image: multi-faceted and complex. He knows each and every one of us in a way that isn’t formulaic or systematic but deep, intimate, and unique. Like Nathaniel, he calls each of us by name, not a number, a sign, or an acronym. And he loves each of us, despite our health levels, sin patterns, and flaws.

We can take comfort in knowing that no system created by man truly captures or compares to the love and understanding God has for us. So, while the desire to be seen, validated, and even categorized is a real one, the safest place to find our identity is in the arms of Jesus.

Our Ultimate Desire 

We as Christians don’t believe that New Age spirituality is going to solve the very real problems and questions of our fallen world. We can’t cast spells to end racism, war, or pandemics. We can’t manifest our way out of serious mental illnesses or poverty. And we can’t discover our identity or our purpose in the stars (though it might be fun to pretend).

What we can do is try to understand why the New Age has persisted throughout human history and address the longings buried underneath that many are trying to answer through its current resurgence.  

C.S. Lewis said, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." Everything we invent to heal or help our broken condition falls short of what God offers us. In him, we can seek refuge when we feel helpless. In him, we are seen, known, and directed. 


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Emily Baez is a writer on InterVarsity’s Communications Team in Madison, Wisconsin. She enjoys long hikes, watching movies, and overly competitive game nights with friends. You can support her ministry at