What does “You shall not have strange gods before me” mean?
This commandment forbids us: to adore other gods and pagan deities or to worship an earthly idol or to devote oneself entirely to some earthly good (money, influence, success, beauty, youth, and so on) to be superstitious, which means to adhere to esoteric, magic or occult or New Age practices or to get involved with fortune telling or spiritualism, instead of believing in God’s power, providence and blessings to provoke God by word of deed to commit a sacrilege to acquire spiritual power through corruption and to desecrate what is holy through trafficking (simony).
Is esotericism as found, for example in New Age beliefs, compatible with the Christian faith?
No. Esotericism ignores the reality of God. God is a personal Being; he is love and the origin of life, not some cold cosmic energy. Man was willed and created by God, but man himself is not divine; rather, he is a creature that is wounded by sin, threatened by death, and in need of redemption. Whereas most proponents of esotericism assume that man can redeem himself, Christians believe that only Jesus Christ and God’s grace redeem them. Nor are nature and the cosmos God (pantheism). Rather, the Creator, even though he loves us immensely, is infinitely greater and unlike anything he has created.
Many people today practice yoga for health reasons, enrol in a meditation course so as to become more calm and collected, or attend dance workshops so as to experience their bodies in a new way. These techniques are not always harmless. Often they are vehicles for doctrines that are foreign to Christianity. No reasonable person should hold an irrational world view, in which people can tap magical powers or harness mysterious spirits and the “initiated” have a secret knowledge that is withheld from the “ignorant”. In ancient Israel, the surrounding peoples’ beliefs in gods and spirits were exposed as false. God alone is Lord; there is no god besides him. Nor is there any (magical) technique by which one can capture or charm “the divine”, force one’s wishes on the universe, or redeem oneself. Much about these esoteric beliefs and practices is superstition or occultism.