NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY

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NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY

The New Age movement is a Westernspiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology“.[2] The term New Age refers to the coming astrologicalAge of Aquarius.[1]

The movement aims to create “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas” that is inclusive and pluralistic.[3] It holds to “a holistic worldview”,[4] emphasising that the Mind, Body, and Spirit are interrelated[1] and that there is a form of monism and unity throughout the universe.[5] It attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality”[6] and embraces a number of forms of mainstream science as well as other forms of science that are considered fringe.

The origins of the movement can be found in Medieval astrology and alchemy, such as the writings of Paracelsus, in Renaissance interests in Hermeticism, in 18th-century mysticism, such as that of Emanuel Swedenborg, and in beliefs in animal magnetism espoused by Franz Mesmer. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, authors such as Godfrey Higgins and the esotericists Eliphas Levi, Helena Blavatsky, and George Gurdjieff articulated specific histories, cosmologies, and some of the basic philosophical principles that would influence the movement. It experienced a revival as a result of the work of individuals such as Alice Bailey and organizations such as the Theosophical Society. It gained further momentum in the 1960s, taking influence from metaphysics, perennial philosophy, self-help psychology, and the various Indian gurus who visited the West during that decade.[7] In the 1970s, it developed a social and political component.[8]

The New Age movement includes elements of older spiritual and religious traditions ranging from monotheism through pantheism, pandeism, panentheism, and polytheism combined with science and Gaia philosophy; particularly archaeoastronomy, astronomy, ecology, environmentalism, the Gaia hypothesis, UFO religions, psychology, and physics.

New Age practices and philosophies sometimes draw inspiration from major world religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Sufism (Islam), Judaism (especially Kabbalah), Sikhism; with strong influences from East Asian religions, Esotericism, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Idealism, Neopaganism, New Thought, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Universalism, and Wisdom tradition.

The New Age Movement is in a class by itself. Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc. They often use mutually exclusive definitions for some of their terms. The New Age is in fact a free-flowing spiritual movement; a network of believers and practitioners who share somewhat similar beliefs and practices, which they add on to whichever formal religion that they follow. Their book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services.

Quoting John Naisbitt:

“In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience…With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center.” 1

The New Age is definitely a heterogeneous movement of individuals; most graft some new age beliefs onto their regular religious affiliation. Recent surveys of US adults indicate that many Americans hold at least some new age beliefs:

8% believe in astrology as a method of foretelling the future.
7% believe that crystals are a source of healing or energizing power
9% believe that Tarot Cards are a reliable base for life decisions
about 1 in 4 believe in a non-traditional concept of the nature of God which are often associated with New Age thinking:

11% believe that God is “a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach”
8% define God as “the total realization of personal, human potential”
3% believe that each person is God.

The group of surveys cited above classify religious beliefs into 7 faith groups. 2 Starting with the largest, they are: Cultural (Christmas & Easter) Christianity, Conventional Christianity, New Age Practitioner, Biblical (Fundamentalist, Evangelical) Christianity, Atheist/Agnostic, Other, and Jewish, A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group. 2

History of the New Age movement:

New Age teachings became popular during the 1970’s as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity and the failure of Secular Humanism to provide spiritual and ethical guidance for the future. Its roots are traceable to many sources: Astrology, Channeling, Hinduism, Gnostic traditions, Spiritualism, Taoism, Theosophy, Wicca and other Neo-pagan traditions, etc. The movement started in England in the 1960’s where many of these elements were well established. Small groups, such as the Findhorn Community in Inverness and the Wrekin Trust formed. The movement quickly became international. Early New Age mileposts in North America were a “New Age Seminar” run by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, and the establishment of the East-West Journal in 1971. Actress Shirley MacLaine is perhaps their most famous current figure.

During the 1980’s and 90’s, the movement came under criticism from a variety of groups. Channeling was ridiculed; seminar and group leaders were criticized for the fortunes that they made from New Agers. Their uncritical belief in the “scientific” properties of crystals was exposed as groundless. But the movement has become established and become a stable, major force in North American religion during the past generation. As the millennium comes to a close, the New Age is expected to expand, promoted by the social backlash against logic and science.

The one version of the “New Age” that does not exist:

Major confusion about the New Age has been generated by academics, counter-cult groups, fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians and traditional Muslim groups, etc. Some examples are:

Many of the above groups have dismissed Tasawwuf (Sufiism) as a New Age cult. In reality, Sufiism has historically been an established mystical movement within Islam, which has always existing in a state of tension with the more legalistic divisions within Islam. It has no connection with the New Age.
Some conservative Christians believe that a massive, underground, highly coordinated New Age organization exists that is infiltrating government, media, schools and churches. No such entity exists.
Some conservative Christians do not differentiate among the Occult, Satanism, Wicca, other Neopagan religions. Many seem to regard all as forms of Satanism who perform horrendous criminal acts on children. Others view The New Age, Neopagan religions, Tarot card reading, rune readings, channeling, work with crystal energy, etc. as merely recruiting programs for Satanism. In fact, the Occult, Satanism, Neo-pagan religions are very different phenomena, and essentially unrelated. Dr. Carl Raschke, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Denver describes New Age practices as the spiritual version of AIDS; it destroys the ability of people to cope and function.” He describes it as “essentially, the marketing end of the political packaging of occultism…a breeding ground for a new American form of fascism.”

New Age beliefs:

A number of fundamental beliefs are held by many — but not all — New Age followers; individuals are encouraged to “shop” for the beliefs and practices that they feel most comfortable with:

Monism: All that exists is derived from a single source of divine energy.
Pantheism: All that exists is God; God is all that exists. This leads naturally to the concept of the divinity of the individual, that we are all Gods. They do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe.
Panentheism: God is all that exists. God is at once the entire universe, and transcends the universe as well.
Reincarnation: After death, we are reborn and live another life as a human. This cycle repeats itself many times. This belief is similar to the concept of transmigration of the soul in Hinduism.
Karma: The good and bad deeds that we do adds and subtracts from our accumulated record, our karma. At the end of our life, we are rewarded or punished according to our karma by being reincarnated into either a painful or good new life. This belief is linked to that of reincarnation and is also derived from Hinduism
An Aura is believed to be an energy field radiated by the body. Invisible to most people, it can be detected by some as a shimmering, multi-colored field surrounding the body. Those skilled in detecting and interpreting auras can diagnose an individual’s state of mind, and their spiritual and physical health.
Personal Transformation A profoundly intense mystical experience will lead to the acceptance and use of New Age beliefs and practices. Guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and (sometimes) the use of hallucinogenic drugs are useful to bring about and enhance this transformation. Believers hope to develop new potentials within themselves: the ability to heal oneself and others, psychic powers, a new understanding of the workings of the universe, etc. Later, when sufficient numbers of people have achieved these powers, a major spiritual, physical, psychological and cultural planet-wide transformation is expected.
Ecological Responsibility: A belief in the importance of uniting to preserve the health of the earth, which is often looked upon as Gaia, (Mother Earth) a living entity.
Universal Religion: Since all is God, then only one reality exists, and all religions are simply different paths to that ultimate reality. The universal religion can be visualized as a mountain, with many sadhanas (spiritual paths) to the summit. Some are hard; others easy. There is no one correct path. All paths eventually reach the top. They anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will evolve and become generally accepted worldwide.
New World Order As the Age of Aquarius unfolds, a New Age will develop. This will be a utopia in which there is world government, and end to wars, disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty. Gender, racial, religious and other forms of discrimination will cease. People’s allegiance to their tribe or nation will be replaced by a concern for the entire world and its people.

The Age of Aquarius is a reference to the precession of the zodiac. The earth passes into a new sign of the zodiac approximately every 2,000 years. Some believe that the earth entered the constellation Aquarius in the 19th Century, so that the present era is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Others believe that it will occur at the end of the 20th century. It is interesting to note that the previous constellation changes were:

from Aries to Pisces the fish circa 1st century CE. This happened at a time when Christianity was an emerging religion, and many individuals changed from animal sacrifice in the Jewish temple to embracing the teachings of Christianity. The church’s prime symbol at the time was the fish.
from Taurus to Aries the ram circa 2,000 BCE. This happened at a time when the Jews engaged in widespread ritual sacrifice of sheep and other animals in the Temple.
from Gemini to Taurus the bull circa 4,000 BCE. During that sign, worshiping of the golden calf was common in the Middle East.

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New Age practices:

Many practices are found among New Agers. A typical practitioner is active in only a few areas:

Channeling A method similar to that used by Spiritists in which a spirit of a long dead individual is conjured up. However, while Spiritists generally believe that one’s soul remains relatively unchanged after death, most channelers believe that the soul evolves to higher planes of existence. Chanelers usually try to make contact with a single, spiritually evolved being. That being’s consciousness is channeled through the medium and relays guidance and information to the group, through the use of the medium’s voice. Channeling has existed since the 1850’s and many groups consider themselves independent of the New Age movement. Perhaps the most famous channeling event is the popular A Course in Miracles. It was channeled through a Columbia University psychologist, Dr. Helen Schucman, (1909-1981), over an 8 year period. She was an Atheist, and in no way regarded herself as a New Age believer. However, she took great care in recording accurately the words that she received.
Crystals Crystals are materials which have their molecules arranged in a specific, highly ordered internal pattern. This pattern is reflected in the crystal’s external structure which typically has symmetrical planar surfaces. Many common substances, from salt to sugar, from diamonds to quartz form crystals. They can be shaped so that they will vibrate at a specific frequency and are widely used in radio communications and computing devices. New Agers believe that crystals possess healing energy.
Meditating A process of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object.
New Age Music A gentle, melodic, inspirational music form involving the human voice, harp, lute, flute, etc. It is used as an aid in healing, massage therapy and general relaxation.
Divination The use of various techniques to foretell the future, including I Ching, Pendulum movements, Runes, Scrying, Tarot Cards.
Astrology The belief that the orientation of the planets at the time of one’s birth, and the location of that birth predicts the individual’s future and personality. Belief in astrology is common amongst New Agers, but definitely not limited to them.
Holistic Health This is a collection of healing techniques which have diverged from the traditional medical model. It attempts to cure disorders in mind, body and spirit and to promote wholeness and balance in the individual. Examples are acupuncture, crystal healing, homeopathy, iridology, massage, various meditation methods, polarity therapy, psychic healing, therapeutic touch, reflexology, etc.
Human Potential Movement (a.k.a. Emotional Growth Movement) This is a collection of therapeutic methods involving both individualized and group working, using both mental and physical techniques. The goal is to help individuals to advance spiritually. Examples are Esalen Growth Center programs, EST, Gestalt Therapy, Primal Scream Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga.

The Canadian Census (1991) recorded only 1,200 people (0.005% of the total Canadian population) who identify their religion as being New Age. However, this in no way indicates the influence of new age ideas in the country. Many people identify with Christianity and other religions, but incorporate many new age concepts into their faith.

“Indigo Children”

Some within the New Age movement believe that children with special powers and indigo colored auras have been born in recent years. According to Nancy Ann Tappe, this is a global phenomenon affecting over 95% of newborns since 1995. She writes:

“As small children, Indigos are easy to recognize by their unusually large, clear eyes. Extremely bright, precocious children with an amazing memory and a strong desire to live instinctively, these children of the next millennium are sensitive, gifted souls with an evolved consciousness who have come here to help change the vibrations of our lives and create one land, one globe and one species. They are our bridge to the future.”

Some New Agers feel that the special personality factors among Indigo Children result in them being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD by therapists who do not understand their special qualities and needs. 6,7,8

 

The author Nevill Drury claimed there are “four key precursors of the New Age”, who had set the way for many of its widely held precepts. The first of these was Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), a Swedish scientist who after a religious experience devoted himself to Christian mysticism, believing that he could travel to Heaven and Hell and communicate with angels, demons and spirits, and who published widely on the subject of his experiences.

  1. The second person was Franz Mesmer (1734–1815), who had developed a form of healing using magnets, believing that there was a force known as “animal magnetism” that affected humans.
  2. The third figure was the Russian Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891), one of the founders of the Theosophical Society, through which she propagated her religious movement of Theosophy, which itself combined a number of elements from Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism with Western elements.
  3. The fourth figure was George Gurdjieff (c. 1872–1949), who founded the philosophy of the Fourth Way, through which he conveyed a number of spiritual teachings to his disciples.
  4. A fifth individual whom Drury identified as an important influence upon the New Age movement was the Indian Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), an adherent of the philosophy of Vedanta who first brought Hinduism to the West in the late 19th century.[10]

The term New Age was used as early as 1809 by William Blake who described a coming era of spiritual and artistic advancement in his preface to Milton a Poem by stating: “… when the New Age is at leisure to pronounce, all will be set right …”[11]

Some of the New Age movement’s constituent elements appeared initially in the 19th-century metaphysical movements: Spiritualism, Theosophy, and New Thought and also the alternative medicine movements of chiropractics and naturopathy.[1][5] These movements have roots in Transcendentalism, Mesmerism, Swedenborgianism, and various earlier Western esoteric or occult traditions, such as the hermetic arts of astrology, magic, alchemy, and Kabbalah. The term New Age was used in this context in Madame Blavatsky‘s book The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888.[12]

A weekly journal of Christian liberalism and socialism titled The New Age was published as early as 1894;[13] it was sold to a group of socialist writers headed by Alfred Richard Orage and Holbrook Jackson in 1907. Contributors included H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats; the magazine became a forum for politics, literature, and the arts.[14][15] Between 1908 and 1914, it was instrumental in pioneering the British avant-garde from Vorticism to Imagism. Orage met P. D. Ouspensky, then a young original philosopher of metaphysics, in 1914 and began correspondence with Harry Houdini; he became less interested in literature and art with an increased focus on mysticism and other spiritual topics; the magazine was sold in 1921. According to Brown University, The New Age “… helped to shape modernism in literature and the arts from 1907 to 1922.”

Popularisation behind these ideas has roots in the work of early 20th century writers such as D. H. Lawrence and William Butler Yeats. In the early- to mid-1900s, American mystic, theologian, and founder of the Association for Research and EnlightenmentEdgar Cayce was a seminal influence on what later would be termed the New Age movement; he was known in particular for the practice some refer to as channeling.[17]

The psychologist Carl Jung was a proponent of the concept of the Age of Aquarius.[18] In a letter to his friend Peter Baynes, dated 12 August 1940, Jung wrote a passage:

This year reminds me of the enormous earthquake in 26 B.C. that shook down the great temple of Karnak. It was the prelude to the destruction of all temples, because a new time had begun. 1940 is the year when we approach the meridian of the first star in Aquarius. It is the premonitory earthquake of the New Age …[19][20]

Former Theosophist Rudolf Steiner and his Anthroposophical movement are a major influence. Neo-TheosophistAlice Bailey published the book Discipleship in the New Age (1944), which used the term New Age in reference to the transition from the astrological age of Pisces to Aquarius. While claims of racial bias in the writings of Rudolf Steiner and Alice Bailey were made,[21] Bailey was firmly opposed to the Axis powers; she believed that Adolf Hitler was possessed by the Dark Forces,[22] and Steiner emphasized racial equality as a principle central to anthroposophical thought and humanity‘s progress.[23][24] Any racial elements from these influences have not remained part of the Anthroposophical Society as contemporary adherents of the society have either not adopted or repudiated these beliefs.[25][26]

Another early usage of the term, was by the American artist, mystic, and philosopher Walter Russell, who spoke of

… this New Age philosophy of the spiritual re-awakening of man … Man’s purpose in this New Age is to acquire more and more knowledge …

in his essay “Power Through Knowledge”, which was also published in 1944.[27]

Contemporary usage of the term[edit]

This barrel house was the first dwelling constructed at the Findhorn Ecovillage.

The subculture that later became known as New Age already existed in the early 1970s, based on and adopting ideas originally present in the counterculture of the 1960s. Two entities founded in 1962: the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and the Findhorn Foundation—an intentional community which continues to operate the Findhorn Ecovillage near Findhorn, Moray, Scotland—played an instrumental role during the early growth period of the New Age movement.[28]

Widespread usage of the term New Age began in the mid-1970s (reflected in the title of monthly periodical New Age Journal), “when increasing numbers of people […] began to perceive a broad similarity between a wide variety of “alternative ideas” and pursuits, and started to think of them as part of one “movement””.[29] This probably influenced several thousand small metaphysical book- and gift-stores that increasingly defined themselves as “New Age bookstores”.[30][31] As a result of the large-scale activities surrounding the Harmonic Convergence in 1987, the American mass-media further popularised the term as a label for the alternative spiritual subculture, including practices such as meditation, channeling, crystal healing, astral projection, psychic experience, holistic health, simple living, and environmentalism; or belief in phenomena such as Earth mysteries, ancient astronauts, extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects, crop circles, and reincarnation. Several New Age publications appeared by the late 1980s such as Psychic Guide (later renamed Body, Mind & Spirit), Yoga Journal, New Age Voice, New Age Retailer, and NAPRA ReView by the New Age Publishers and Retailers Alliance.

Several key events occurred, which raised public awareness of the New Age subculture: the production of the musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (1967) with its opening song “Aquarius” and its memorable line “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius“;[32] publication of Linda Goodman‘s best-selling astrology books Sun Signs (1968) and Love Signs (1978); the release of Shirley MacLaine‘s book Out on a Limb (1983), later adapted into a television mini-series with the same name (1987); and the “Harmonic Convergenceplanetary alignment on August 16 and 17, 1987,[33] organized by José Argüelles in Sedona, Arizona. The claims of channelers Jane Roberts (Seth Material), Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) (note that Walsch denies being a “channeler” and his books make it obvious that he is not one, though the text emerged through a dialogue with a deeper part of himself in a process comparable to automatic writing), and Rene Gaudette (The Wonders) contributed to the movement’s growth.[34][35] Relevant New Age works include the writings of James Redfield, Eckhart Tolle, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Christopher Hills, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, John Holland, Gary Zukav, Wayne Dyer, and Rhonda Byrne.

While J. Gordon Melton,[36]Wouter Hanegraaff,[37] and Paul Heelas[38] have emphasised personal aspects, Mark Satin,[39]Theodore Roszak,[40]Marilyn Ferguson,[41] and Corinne McLaughlin[42] have described New Age as a values-based sociopolitical movement.

People who practice New Age spirituality or who embrace its lifestyle are included in the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) demographic market segment, figures rising, related to sustainable living, green ecological initiatives, and generally composed of a relatively affluent and well-educated segment.[83][84] The LOHAS market segment in 2006 was estimated at USD$300 billion, approximately 30 percent of the United States consumer market.[85][86] According to The New York Times, a study by the Natural Marketing Institute showed that in 2000, 68 million Americans were included within the LOHAS demographic. The sociologist Paul H. Ray, who coined the term cultural creatives in his book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (2000), states, “What you’re seeing is a demand for products of equal quality that are also virtuous.”[87][88]

The movement is strongly gendered; sociologist Ciara O’Connor argues that it shows a tension between commodification and women’s empowerment.

Some New Agers advocate living in a simple and sustainable manner to reduce humanity’s impact on the natural resources of Earth; and they shun consumerism.[91][92] The New Age movement has been centered around rebuilding a sense of community to counter social disintegration; this has been attempted through the formation of intentional communities, where individuals come together to live and work in a communal lifestyle.[93]

Holistic health[edit]

See also: List of branches of alternative medicine

Practitioners of New Age spirituality may use alternative medicine in addition to or in place of conventional medicine;[82][94][95] while some conventional physicians have adopted aspects or the complete approach of holistic health. The mainstreaming of the Holistic Health movement in the UK is discussed by Maria Tighe. The inter-relation of holistic health with the New Age movement is illustrated in Jenny Butler’s[94] ethnographic description of “Angel therapy” in the Republic of Ireland.

Music[edit]

See also: List of New Age music artists and List of ambient artists

New Age music is peaceful music of various styles intended to create inspiration, relaxation, and positive feelings while listening. Studies have determined that New Age music can be an effective component of stress management.[96]

The style began in the 1970s with the works of free-form jazz groups recording on the ECM label; such as Oregon, the Paul Winter Consort, and other pre-ambient bands; as well as ambient music performer Brian Eno and classical avant-garde musician Daniel Kobialka.[97][98] In the early 1970s, it was mostly instrumental with both acoustic and electronic styles. New Age music evolved to include a wide range of styles from electronic space music using synthesizers and acoustic instrumentals using Native American flutes and drums, singing bowls, and world music sounds to spiritual chanting from other cultures.[97][98]

Many online radio stations exemplify New Age, which has always been a non-empirical phenomenon-intuitive-ethereal genre. For example, Gaia Radio

Reception[edit]

Organized religion[edit]

Further information: Comparative religion

Mainstream religious institutions have been critical of New Age spirituality. Author Johanna Michaelson published her own experiences with various New Age practices in The Beautiful Side of Evil (1982); after concluding these activities were demonic, she converted to Christianity.[99] Michigan attorney and activist Constance Cumbey offered the first major criticism of the New Age movement from a Christian perspective in The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism (1983).[100]

The Roman Catholic Church published A Christian reflection on the New Age in 2003, following a six-year study; the 90-page document criticizes New Age practices such as yoga, meditation, feng shui, and crystal healing.[101][102] According to the Vatican, euphoric states attained through New Age practices should not be confused with prayer or viewed as signs of God’s presence.[103] Cardinal Paul Poupard, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the “New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man”.[101] Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stated at the Vatican conference on the document: the “Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age”.[104]

Expressing agreement with the Vatican’s position, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention stated that there’s “widespread agreement” by Baptists who regard New Age ideas as contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine: “Richard Land, president of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said there would be widespread agreement among Baptists that New Age ideas are contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine.” [105]

Academia[edit]

In the 2003 book A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America written by Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs[106] Barkun argues New Age beliefs have been greatly facilitated by the advent of the internet which has exposed people to beliefs once consigned to the outermost fringe of political and religious life. He identifies two trends which he terms, ” the rise of improvisational millennialism” and “the popularity of stigmatized knowledge”. He voices concern that these trends could lead to mass hysteria and could have a devastating effect on American political life. Richard H. Jones has given a sustained attack on the New Age use of science.[107]

Integral theory[edit]

Further information: Integral Theory

The author Ken Wilber posits that most New Age thought falls into what he termed the pre/trans fallacy.[108] According to Wilber, human developmental psychology moves from the pre-personal, through the personal, then to the transpersonal (spiritually advanced or enlightened) level.[109] He regards 80 percent of New Age spirituality as pre-rational (pre-conventional) and as relying primarily on mythic-magical thinking; this contrasts with a post-rational (including and transcending rational) genuinely world-centric consciousness.[108][109] Despite his criticism of most New Age thought, Wilber has been categorized as New Age due to his emphasis on a transpersonal view,[110] and more recently, as a philosopher.[111]

Indigenous peoples of the Americas[edit]

Further information: Indigenous peoples of the Americas

Some adherents of traditional disciplines, such as the Lakota people, a tribe of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, reject “the expropriation of [their] ceremonial ways by non-Indians”. They see the New Age movement as either not fully understanding, deliberately trivializing, or distorting their disciplines.[112]

They have coined the term plastic medicine men to describe individuals from within their own communities “who are prostituting our spiritual ways for their own selfish gain, with no regard for the spiritual well-being of the people as a whole”.[112] The term plastic shaman has been applied to outsiders who identify themselves as shamans, holy people, or other traditional spiritual leaders, but who have no genuine connection to the traditions or cultures they claim to represent.

The academic Ward Churchill criticized the New Age movement as an instrument of cultural imperialism that is exploitative of indigenous cultures by reducing them to a commodity to be traded. In Fantasies of the Master Race, he criticized the cultural appropriation of Native American culture and symbols in not only the New Age movement, but also in art and popular culture.[113]

Goddess movement[edit]

Further information: Goddess movement

Followers of the Goddess movement have severely criticized the New Age as fundamentally patriarchal, analytical rather than intuitive, and as supporting the status quo, particularly in its implicit gender roles. Monica Sjöö (1938–2005) wrote that New Age channelers were virtually all women, but the spirits they purported to channel, offering guidance to humanity, were nearly all male. Sjöö was highly critical of Theosophy, the “I AM” Activity, and particularly Alice Bailey, whom she saw as promoting Nazi-like Aryan ideals. Sjöö’s writings also condemn the New Age for its support of communication and information processing technologies which, she believes, may produce harmful low-level electromagnetic radiation.[114][115][116]

Social and political movement[edit]

While many commentators have focused on the personal aspects of the New Age movement, it also has a social and political component. The New Age political movement became visible in the 1970s, peaked in the 1980s, and continued into the 1990s.[117] In the 21st century, the political movement evolved in new directions.

After the political turmoil of the 1960s, many activists in North America and Europe became disillusioned with traditional reformist and revolutionary political ideologies.[118] Some began searching for a new politics that gave special weight to such topics as consciousness, ecology, personal and spiritual development, community empowerment, and global unity.[119][120] An outpouring of books from New Age thinkers acknowledged that search and attempted to articulate that politics.

According to some observers,[121][122] the first was Mark Satin‘s New Age Politics (1978).[39] It originally appeared in Canada in 1976.[123][124] Other books that have been described as New Age political include Theodore Roszak‘s Person / Planet (1978),[40][125]Marilyn Ferguson‘s The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980),[41][117]Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler‘s The Third Wave (1980),[117][126]Hazel Henderson‘s The Politics of the Solar Age (1981),[117][127]Fritjof Capra‘s The Turning Point (1982),[117][128]Robert Muller‘s New Genesis (1982),[129][130]John Naisbitt‘s Megatrends (1982),[130][131]Willis Harman‘s Global Mind Change (1988),[8][132]James Redfield‘s The Celestine Prophecy (1993),[8][133] and Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson‘s Spiritual Politics (1994).[8][42]

All these books were issued by major publishers. Some became international bestsellers. By the 1980s, New Age political ideas were being discussed in big-city newspapers[134][135] and established political magazines.[122][136] In addition, some of the New Age’s own periodicals were regularly addressing social and political issues. In the U.S., observers pointed to Leading Edge Bulletin,[130][137]New Age Journal,[138][139] New Options Newsletter,[130][140] and Utne Reader.[138][141] Other such periodicals included New Humanity (England),[142] Alterna (Denmark),[143]Odyssey (South Africa), and World Union from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (India).

As with any political movement, organizations sprang up to generate popular support for New Age political ideas and policy positions. In the U.S., commentators identified the New Age Caucus of California,[144][145] the New World Alliance,[146][147] Planetary Citizens,[130][148] and John Vasconcellos‘s Self-Determination: A Personal / Political Network[130][149] as New Age political organizations. So, on occasion, did their own spokespeople.[150] There may have been more New Age political organizing outside the U.S.;[148] writer-activists pointed to the Future in Our Hands movement in Norway (which claimed 20,000 adherents out of a population of four million),[151] the early European Green movements,[152] and the Values Party of New Zealand.[153]

Although these books, periodicals, and organizations did not speak with one voice, commentators found that many of them sounded common themes:

  • Our world does not reflect who we at our best can be.[122]
  • All our most significant social and political problems go back at least 300 years.[154]
  • The political system therefore needs to be transformed, not just reformed,[117] with the help of a new political theory appropriate to our time.[118]
  • Holism – seeing everything as connected – is the first step on the way to creating that new political theory.[117][122]
  • Doing away with the categories of “left” and “right” is another essential part of that task.[117][122]
  • Significant social change requires deep changes in consciousness; institutional change is not enough.[118][155]
  • Above all, consciousness needs to become more ecologically aware,[122][130] more feminist,[122][130] and more oriented to compassionate global unity.[117][130]
  • Desirable values include nonviolence, diversity, a sense of community, and a sense of enoughness.[130][136]
  • Human growth and development, not economic growth, should be the overarching goal of New Age society.[136]
  • Ownership and control of institutions is important. But the size of institutions is at least as important. We must move away from big governments, big corporations, and other large institutions to the extent it enhances our lives.[117][136]
  • We can begin this process by interlacing hierarchical structures with horizontal networks.[130][156]
  • Global unification is a key goal, but is probably best accomplished by networking at many levels rather than establishing a centralized world state.[117]
  • The agent of political change is no longer the working class, or any economic class. Instead, it is all those who are developing themselves personally and spiritually – all who aspire to live lives of dignity and service.[118]
  • Evolution is to be preferred to revolution. However, the forces of evolutionary change need not be a statistical majority. A “critical mass” of informed, committed, and spiritually aware people can move a nation forward.[117][146]

Over time, these themes began to cohere. By the 1980s, observers in both North America[122][155] and Europe[157][158] were acknowledging the emergence of a New Age political “ideology”.

Political objections at century’s end[edit]

Toward the end of the 20th century, criticisms were being directed at the New Age political project from many quarters,[159][160] but especially from the liberal left and religious right.

On the left, scholars argued that New Age politics is an oxymoron: that personal growth has little or nothing to do with political change.[161][162] One political scientist said New Age politics fails to recognize the “realities” of economic and political power;[155] another faulted it for not being opposed to the capitalist system, or to liberal individualism.[118] Antinuclear activist Harvey Wasserman argued that New Age politics is too averse to social conflict to be effective politically.[122]

On the right, some worried that the drive to come up with a new consciousness and new values would topple time-tested old values.[148] Others worried that the celebration of diversity would leave no strong viewpoint in place to guide society.[148] The passion for world unity – one humanity, one planet – was said to lead inevitably to the centralization of power.[163][164] Some doubted that networking could provide an effective counterweight to centralization and bureaucracy.[130]

Neither left nor right was impressed with the New Age’s ability to organize itself politically.[122][146] Many explanations were offered for the New Age’s practical political weakness. Some said that the New Age political thinkers and activists of the 1970s and 1980s were simply too far in advance of their time.[165] Others suggested that New Age activists’ commitment to the often frustrating process of consensus decision-making was at fault.[146] After it dissolved, New World Alliance co-founder Marc Sarkady told an interviewer that the Alliance had been too “New Age counter-cultural” to appeal to a broad public.

The principal difference was anticipated in texts like New Age Politics author Mark Satin‘s essay “Twenty-eight Ways of Looking at Terrorism” (1991),[167]human potential movement historian Walter Truett Anderson‘s essay “Four Different Ways to Be Absolutely Right” (1995),[168] and mediator Mark Gerzon’s book A House Divided (1996).[169][170] In these texts, the New Age political perspective is recognized as legitimate. But it is presented as merely one among many, with strong points and blind spots just like all the rest. The result was to alter the nature of the New Age political project. If every political perspective had unique strengths and significant weaknesses, then it no longer made sense to try to convert everyone to the New Age political perspective, as had been attempted in the 1970s and 1980s. It made more sense to try to construct a higher political synthesis that took every political perspective into account, including that of the New Age.[171][172]

Many 21st century books have attempted to articulate foundational aspects of this approach to politics and social change. They include Ken Wilber‘s A Theory of Everything (2001),[173]Mark Satin‘s Radical Middle (2004),[174]David Korten‘s The Great Turning (2006),[175]Steve McIntosh‘s Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (2007),[176]Marilyn Hamilton‘s Integral City (2008),[177] and Carter Phipps’s Evolutionaries (2012).[178] In addition, many organizations are providing opportunities for focused political listening and learning that can contribute to the construction of a higher political synthesis. They include AmericaSpeaks,[179]Association Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations,[180] Listening Project,[181]Search for Common Ground,[182]Spiral Dynamics Integral,[183][184] and World Public Forum: Dialogue of Civilizations.[185]

Another difference between the two eras of political thought is that, in the 21st century, few political actors use the term New Age or post-New Age[186] to describe themselves or their work. Some observers attribute this to the negative connotations that the term “New Age” had acquired.[120][186] Instead, other terms are employed that connote a similar sense of personal and political development proceeding together over time. For example, according to an anthology from three political scientists, many writers and academics use the term “transformational” as a substitute for such terms as New Age and new paradigm.[154]Ken Wilber has popularized use of the term “integral”,[173] Carter Phipps emphasizes the term “evolutionary”,[178] and both terms can be found in some authors’ book titles

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The New Age movement is a Westernspiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology“.[2] The term New Age refers to the coming astrologicalAge of Aquarius.[1]

The movement aims to create “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas” that is inclusive and pluralistic.[3] It holds to “a holistic worldview”,[4] emphasising that the Mind, Body, and Spirit are interrelated[1] and that there is a form of monism and unity throughout the universe.[5] It attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality”[6] and embraces a number of forms of mainstream science as well as other forms of science that are considered fringe.

The origins of the movement can be found in Medieval astrology and alchemy, such as the writings of Paracelsus, in Renaissance interests in Hermeticism, in 18th-century mysticism, such as that of Emanuel Swedenborg, and in beliefs in animal magnetism espoused by Franz Mesmer. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, authors such as Godfrey Higgins and the esotericists Eliphas Levi, Helena Blavatsky, and George Gurdjieff articulated specific histories, cosmologies, and some of the basic philosophical principles that would influence the movement. It experienced a revival as a result of the work of individuals such as Alice Bailey and organizations such as the Theosophical Society. It gained further momentum in the 1960s, taking influence from metaphysics, perennial philosophy, self-help psychology, and the various Indian gurus who visited the West during that decade.[7] In the 1970s, it developed a social and political component.[8]

The New Age movement includes elements of older spiritual and religious traditions ranging from monotheism through pantheism, pandeism, panentheism, and polytheism combined with science and Gaia philosophy; particularly archaeoastronomy, astronomy, ecology, environmentalism, the Gaia hypothesis, UFO religions, psychology, and physics.

New Age practices and philosophies sometimes draw inspiration from major world religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Sufism (Islam), Judaism (especially Kabbalah), Sikhism; with strong influences from East Asian religions, Esotericism, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Idealism, Neopaganism, New Thought, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Universalism, and Wisdom tradition.

 

The New Age Movement is in a class by itself. Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc. They often use mutually exclusive definitions for some of their terms. The New Age is in fact a free-flowing spiritual movement; a network of believers and practitioners who share somewhat similar beliefs and practices, which they add on to whichever formal religion that they follow. Their book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services.

Quoting John Naisbitt:

“In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience…With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center.” 1

The New Age is definitely a heterogeneous movement of individuals; most graft some new age beliefs onto their regular religious affiliation. Recent surveys of US adults indicate that many Americans hold at least some new age beliefs:

8% believe in astrology as a method of foretelling the future.

7% believe that crystals are a source of healing or energizing power

9% believe that Tarot Cards are a reliable base for life decisions

about 1 in 4 believe in a non-traditional concept of the nature of God which are often associated with New Age thinking:

11% believe that God is “a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach”

8% define God as “the total realization of personal, human potential”

3% believe that each person is God.

The group of surveys cited above classify religious beliefs into 7 faith groups. 2 Starting with the largest, they are: Cultural (Christmas & Easter) Christianity, Conventional Christianity, New Age Practitioner, Biblical (Fundamentalist, Evangelical) Christianity, Atheist/Agnostic, Other, and Jewish, A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group. 2

History of the New Age movement:

New Age teachings became popular during the 1970’s as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity and the failure of Secular Humanism to provide spiritual and ethical guidance for the future. Its roots are traceable to many sources: Astrology, Channeling, Hinduism, Gnostic traditions, Spiritualism, Taoism, Theosophy, Wicca and other Neo-pagan traditions, etc. The movement started in England in the 1960’s where many of these elements were well established. Small groups, such as the Findhorn Community in Inverness and the Wrekin Trust formed. The movement quickly became international. Early New Age mileposts in North America were a “New Age Seminar” run by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, and the establishment of the East-West Journal in 1971. Actress Shirley MacLaine is perhaps their most famous current figure.

During the 1980’s and 90’s, the movement came under criticism from a variety of groups. Channeling was ridiculed; seminar and group leaders were criticized for the fortunes that they made from New Agers. Their uncritical belief in the “scientific” properties of crystals was exposed as groundless. But the movement has become established and become a stable, major force in North American religion during the past generation. As the millennium comes to a close, the New Age is expected to expand, promoted by the social backlash against logic and science.

The one version of the “New Age” that does not exist:

Major confusion about the New Age has been generated by academics, counter-cult groups, fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians and traditional Muslim groups, etc. Some examples are:

Many of the above groups have dismissed Tasawwuf (Sufiism) as a New Age cult. In reality, Sufiism has historically been an established mystical movement within Islam, which has always existing in a state of tension with the more legalistic divisions within Islam. It has no connection with the New Age.

Some conservative Christians believe that a massive, underground, highly coordinated New Age organization exists that is infiltrating government, media, schools and churches. No such entity exists.

Some conservative Christians do not differentiate among the Occult, Satanism, Wicca, other Neopagan religions. Many seem to regard all as forms of Satanism who perform horrendous criminal acts on children. Others view The New Age, Neopagan religions, Tarot card reading, rune readings, channeling, work with crystal energy, etc. as merely recruiting programs for Satanism. In fact, the Occult, Satanism, Neo-pagan religions are very different phenomena, and essentially unrelated. Dr. Carl Raschke, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Denver describes New Age practices as the spiritual version of AIDS; it destroys the ability of people to cope and function.” He describes it as “essentially, the marketing end of the political packaging of occultism…a breeding ground for a new American form of fascism.”

New Age beliefs:

A number of fundamental beliefs are held by many — but not all — New Age followers; individuals are encouraged to “shop” for the beliefs and practices that they feel most comfortable with:

Monism: All that exists is derived from a single source of divine energy.

Pantheism: All that exists is God; God is all that exists. This leads naturally to the concept of the divinity of the individual, that we are all Gods. They do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe.

Panentheism: God is all that exists. God is at once the entire universe, and transcends the universe as well.

Reincarnation: After death, we are reborn and live another life as a human. This cycle repeats itself many times. This belief is similar to the concept of transmigration of the soul in Hinduism.

Karma: The good and bad deeds that we do adds and subtracts from our accumulated record, our karma. At the end of our life, we are rewarded or punished according to our karma by being reincarnated into either a painful or good new life. This belief is linked to that of reincarnation and is also derived from Hinduism

An Aura is believed to be an energy field radiated by the body. Invisible to most people, it can be detected by some as a shimmering, multi-colored field surrounding the body. Those skilled in detecting and interpreting auras can diagnose an individual’s state of mind, and their spiritual and physical health.

Personal Transformation A profoundly intense mystical experience will lead to the acceptance and use of New Age beliefs and practices. Guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and (sometimes) the use of hallucinogenic drugs are useful to bring about and enhance this transformation. Believers hope to develop new potentials within themselves: the ability to heal oneself and others, psychic powers, a new understanding of the workings of the universe, etc. Later, when sufficient numbers of people have achieved these powers, a major spiritual, physical, psychological and cultural planet-wide transformation is expected.

Ecological Responsibility: A belief in the importance of uniting to preserve the health of the earth, which is often looked upon as Gaia, (Mother Earth) a living entity.

Universal Religion: Since all is God, then only one reality exists, and all religions are simply different paths to that ultimate reality. The universal religion can be visualized as a mountain, with many sadhanas (spiritual paths) to the summit. Some are hard; others easy. There is no one correct path. All paths eventually reach the top. They anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will evolve and become generally accepted worldwide.

New World Order As the Age of Aquarius unfolds, a New Age will develop. This will be a utopia in which there is world government, and end to wars, disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty. Gender, racial, religious and other forms of discrimination will cease. People’s allegiance to their tribe or nation will be replaced by a concern for the entire world and its people.

The Age of Aquarius is a reference to the precession of the zodiac. The earth passes into a new sign of the zodiac approximately every 2,000 years. Some believe that the earth entered the constellation Aquarius in the 19th Century, so that the present era is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Others believe that it will occur at the end of the 20th century. It is interesting to note that the previous constellation changes were:

from Aries to Pisces the fish circa 1st century CE. This happened at a time when Christianity was an emerging religion, and many individuals changed from animal sacrifice in the Jewish temple to embracing the teachings of Christianity. The church’s prime symbol at the time was the fish.

from Taurus to Aries the ram circa 2,000 BCE. This happened at a time when the Jews engaged in widespread ritual sacrifice of sheep and other animals in the Temple.

from Gemini to Taurus the bull circa 4,000 BCE. During that sign, worshiping of the golden calf was common in the Middle East.

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New Age practices:

Many practices are found among New Agers. A typical practitioner is active in only a few areas:

Channeling A method similar to that used by Spiritists in which a spirit of a long dead individual is conjured up. However, while Spiritists generally believe that one’s soul remains relatively unchanged after death, most channelers believe that the soul evolves to higher planes of existence. Chanelers usually try to make contact with a single, spiritually evolved being. That being’s consciousness is channeled through the medium and relays guidance and information to the group, through the use of the medium’s voice. Channeling has existed since the 1850’s and many groups consider themselves independent of the New Age movement. Perhaps the most famous channeling event is the popular A Course in Miracles. It was channeled through a Columbia University psychologist, Dr. Helen Schucman, (1909-1981), over an 8 year period. She was an Atheist, and in no way regarded herself as a New Age believer. However, she took great care in recording accurately the words that she received.

Crystals Crystals are materials which have their molecules arranged in a specific, highly ordered internal pattern. This pattern is reflected in the crystal’s external structure which typically has symmetrical planar surfaces. Many common substances, from salt to sugar, from diamonds to quartz form crystals. They can be shaped so that they will vibrate at a specific frequency and are widely used in radio communications and computing devices. New Agers believe that crystals possess healing energy.

Meditating A process of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object.

New Age Music A gentle, melodic, inspirational music form involving the human voice, harp, lute, flute, etc. It is used as an aid in healing, massage therapy and general relaxation.

Divination The use of various techniques to foretell the future, including I Ching, Pendulum movements, Runes, Scrying, Tarot Cards.

Astrology The belief that the orientation of the planets at the time of one’s birth, and the location of that birth predicts the individual’s future and personality. Belief in astrology is common amongst New Agers, but definitely not limited to them.

Holistic Health This is a collection of healing techniques which have diverged from the traditional medical model. It attempts to cure disorders in mind, body and spirit and to promote wholeness and balance in the individual. Examples are acupuncture, crystal healing, homeopathy, iridology, massage, various meditation methods, polarity therapy, psychic healing, therapeutic touch, reflexology, etc.

Human Potential Movement (a.k.a. Emotional Growth Movement) This is a collection of therapeutic methods involving both individualized and group working, using both mental and physical techniques. The goal is to help individuals to advance spiritually. Examples are Esalen Growth Center programs, EST, Gestalt Therapy, Primal Scream Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga.

The Canadian Census (1991) recorded only 1,200 people (0.005% of the total Canadian population) who identify their religion as being New Age. However, this in no way indicates the influence of new age ideas in the country. Many people identify with Christianity and other religions, but incorporate many new age concepts into their faith.

“Indigo Children”

Some within the New Age movement believe that children with special powers and indigo colored auras have been born in recent years. According to Nancy Ann Tappe, this is a global phenomenon affecting over 95% of newborns since 1995. She writes:

“As small children, Indigos are easy to recognize by their unusually large, clear eyes. Extremely bright, precocious children with an amazing memory and a strong desire to live instinctively, these children of the next millennium are sensitive, gifted souls with an evolved consciousness who have come here to help change the vibrations of our lives and create one land, one globe and one species. They are our bridge to the future.”

Some New Agers feel that the special personality factors among Indigo Children result in them being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD by therapists who do not understand their special qualities and needs. 6,7,8

 

The author Nevill Drury claimed there are “four key precursors of the New Age”, who had set the way for many of its widely held precepts. The first of these was Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), a Swedish scientist who after a religious experience devoted himself to Christian mysticism, believing that he could travel to Heaven and Hell and communicate with angels, demons and spirits, and who published widely on the subject of his experiences.

  1. The second person was Franz Mesmer (1734–1815), who had developed a form of healing using magnets, believing that there was a force known as “animal magnetism” that affected humans.
  2. The third figure was the Russian Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891), one of the founders of the Theosophical Society, through which she propagated her religious movement of Theosophy, which itself combined a number of elements from Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism with Western elements.
  3. The fourth figure was George Gurdjieff (c. 1872–1949), who founded the philosophy of the Fourth Way, through which he conveyed a number of spiritual teachings to his disciples.
  4. A fifth individual whom Drury identified as an important influence upon the New Age movement was the Indian Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), an adherent of the philosophy of Vedanta who first brought Hinduism to the West in the late 19th century.[10]

The term New Age was used as early as 1809 by William Blake who described a coming era of spiritual and artistic advancement in his preface to Milton a Poem by stating: “… when the New Age is at leisure to pronounce, all will be set right …”[11]

Some of the New Age movement’s constituent elements appeared initially in the 19th-century metaphysical movements: Spiritualism, Theosophy, and New Thought and also the alternative medicine movements of chiropractics and naturopathy.[1][5] These movements have roots in Transcendentalism, Mesmerism, Swedenborgianism, and various earlier Western esoteric or occult traditions, such as the hermetic arts of astrology, magic, alchemy, and Kabbalah. The term New Age was used in this context in Madame Blavatsky‘s book The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888.[12]

A weekly journal of Christian liberalism and socialism titled The New Age was published as early as 1894;[13] it was sold to a group of socialist writers headed by Alfred Richard Orage and Holbrook Jackson in 1907. Contributors included H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats; the magazine became a forum for politics, literature, and the arts.[14][15] Between 1908 and 1914, it was instrumental in pioneering the British avant-garde from Vorticism to Imagism. Orage met P. D. Ouspensky, then a young original philosopher of metaphysics, in 1914 and began correspondence with Harry Houdini; he became less interested in literature and art with an increased focus on mysticism and other spiritual topics; the magazine was sold in 1921. According to Brown University, The New Age “… helped to shape modernism in literature and the arts from 1907 to 1922.”

Popularisation behind these ideas has roots in the work of early 20th century writers such as D. H. Lawrence and William Butler Yeats. In the early- to mid-1900s, American mystic, theologian, and founder of the Association for Research and EnlightenmentEdgar Cayce was a seminal influence on what later would be termed the New Age movement; he was known in particular for the practice some refer to as channeling.[17]

The psychologist Carl Jung was a proponent of the concept of the Age of Aquarius.[18] In a letter to his friend Peter Baynes, dated 12 August 1940, Jung wrote a passage:

This year reminds me of the enormous earthquake in 26 B.C. that shook down the great temple of Karnak. It was the prelude to the destruction of all temples, because a new time had begun. 1940 is the year when we approach the meridian of the first star in Aquarius. It is the premonitory earthquake of the New Age …[19][20]

Former Theosophist Rudolf Steiner and his Anthroposophical movement are a major influence. Neo-TheosophistAlice Bailey published the book Discipleship in the New Age (1944), which used the term New Age in reference to the transition from the astrological age of Pisces to Aquarius. While claims of racial bias in the writings of Rudolf Steiner and Alice Bailey were made,[21] Bailey was firmly opposed to the Axis powers; she believed that Adolf Hitler was possessed by the Dark Forces,[22] and Steiner emphasized racial equality as a principle central to anthroposophical thought and humanity‘s progress.[23][24] Any racial elements from these influences have not remained part of the Anthroposophical Society as contemporary adherents of the society have either not adopted or repudiated these beliefs.[25][26]

Another early usage of the term, was by the American artist, mystic, and philosopher Walter Russell, who spoke of

… this New Age philosophy of the spiritual re-awakening of man … Man’s purpose in this New Age is to acquire more and more knowledge …

in his essay “Power Through Knowledge”, which was also published in 1944.[27]

Contemporary usage of the term[edit]

This barrel house was the first dwelling constructed at the Findhorn Ecovillage.

The subculture that later became known as New Age already existed in the early 1970s, based on and adopting ideas originally present in the counterculture of the 1960s. Two entities founded in 1962: the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and the Findhorn Foundation—an intentional community which continues to operate the Findhorn Ecovillage near Findhorn, Moray, Scotland—played an instrumental role during the early growth period of the New Age movement.[28]

Widespread usage of the term New Age began in the mid-1970s (reflected in the title of monthly periodical New Age Journal), “when increasing numbers of people […] began to perceive a broad similarity between a wide variety of “alternative ideas” and pursuits, and started to think of them as part of one “movement””.[29] This probably influenced several thousand small metaphysical book- and gift-stores that increasingly defined themselves as “New Age bookstores”.[30][31] As a result of the large-scale activities surrounding the Harmonic Convergence in 1987, the American mass-media further popularised the term as a label for the alternative spiritual subculture, including practices such as meditation, channeling, crystal healing, astral projection, psychic experience, holistic health, simple living, and environmentalism; or belief in phenomena such as Earth mysteries, ancient astronauts, extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects, crop circles, and reincarnation. Several New Age publications appeared by the late 1980s such as Psychic Guide (later renamed Body, Mind & Spirit), Yoga Journal, New Age Voice, New Age Retailer, and NAPRA ReView by the New Age Publishers and Retailers Alliance.

Several key events occurred, which raised public awareness of the New Age subculture: the production of the musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (1967) with its opening song “Aquarius” and its memorable line “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius“;[32] publication of Linda Goodman‘s best-selling astrology books Sun Signs (1968) and Love Signs (1978); the release of Shirley MacLaine‘s book Out on a Limb (1983), later adapted into a television mini-series with the same name (1987); and the “Harmonic Convergenceplanetary alignment on August 16 and 17, 1987,[33] organized by José Argüelles in Sedona, Arizona. The claims of channelers Jane Roberts (Seth Material), Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) (note that Walsch denies being a “channeler” and his books make it obvious that he is not one, though the text emerged through a dialogue with a deeper part of himself in a process comparable to automatic writing), and Rene Gaudette (The Wonders) contributed to the movement’s growth.[34][35] Relevant New Age works include the writings of James Redfield, Eckhart Tolle, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Christopher Hills, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, John Holland, Gary Zukav, Wayne Dyer, and Rhonda Byrne.

While J. Gordon Melton,[36]Wouter Hanegraaff,[37] and Paul Heelas[38] have emphasised personal aspects, Mark Satin,[39]Theodore Roszak,[40]Marilyn Ferguson,[41] and Corinne McLaughlin[42] have described New Age as a values-based sociopolitical movement.

People who practice New Age spirituality or who embrace its lifestyle are included in the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) demographic market segment, figures rising, related to sustainable living, green ecological initiatives, and generally composed of a relatively affluent and well-educated segment.[83][84] The LOHAS market segment in 2006 was estimated at USD$300 billion, approximately 30 percent of the United States consumer market.[85][86] According to The New York Times, a study by the Natural Marketing Institute showed that in 2000, 68 million Americans were included within the LOHAS demographic. The sociologist Paul H. Ray, who coined the term cultural creatives in his book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (2000), states, “What you’re seeing is a demand for products of equal quality that are also virtuous.”[87][88]

The movement is strongly gendered; sociologist Ciara O’Connor argues that it shows a tension between commodification and women’s empowerment.

Some New Agers advocate living in a simple and sustainable manner to reduce humanity’s impact on the natural resources of Earth; and they shun consumerism.[91][92] The New Age movement has been centered around rebuilding a sense of community to counter social disintegration; this has been attempted through the formation of intentional communities, where individuals come together to live and work in a communal lifestyle.[93]

Holistic health[edit]

See also: List of branches of alternative medicine

Practitioners of New Age spirituality may use alternative medicine in addition to or in place of conventional medicine;[82][94][95] while some conventional physicians have adopted aspects or the complete approach of holistic health. The mainstreaming of the Holistic Health movement in the UK is discussed by Maria Tighe. The inter-relation of holistic health with the New Age movement is illustrated in Jenny Butler’s[94] ethnographic description of “Angel therapy” in the Republic of Ireland.

Music[edit]

See also: List of New Age music artists and List of ambient artists

New Age music is peaceful music of various styles intended to create inspiration, relaxation, and positive feelings while listening. Studies have determined that New Age music can be an effective component of stress management.[96]

The style began in the 1970s with the works of free-form jazz groups recording on the ECM label; such as Oregon, the Paul Winter Consort, and other pre-ambient bands; as well as ambient music performer Brian Eno and classical avant-garde musician Daniel Kobialka.[97][98] In the early 1970s, it was mostly instrumental with both acoustic and electronic styles. New Age music evolved to include a wide range of styles from electronic space music using synthesizers and acoustic instrumentals using Native American flutes and drums, singing bowls, and world music sounds to spiritual chanting from other cultures.[97][98]

Many online radio stations exemplify New Age, which has always been a non-empirical phenomenon-intuitive-ethereal genre. For example, Gaia Radio

Reception[edit]

Organized religion[edit]

Further information: Comparative religion

Mainstream religious institutions have been critical of New Age spirituality. Author Johanna Michaelson published her own experiences with various New Age practices in The Beautiful Side of Evil (1982); after concluding these activities were demonic, she converted to Christianity.[99] Michigan attorney and activist Constance Cumbey offered the first major criticism of the New Age movement from a Christian perspective in The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism (1983).[100]

The Roman Catholic Church published A Christian reflection on the New Age in 2003, following a six-year study; the 90-page document criticizes New Age practices such as yoga, meditation, feng shui, and crystal healing.[101][102] According to the Vatican, euphoric states attained through New Age practices should not be confused with prayer or viewed as signs of God’s presence.[103] Cardinal Paul Poupard, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the “New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man”.[101] Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stated at the Vatican conference on the document: the “Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age”.[104]

Expressing agreement with the Vatican’s position, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention stated that there’s “widespread agreement” by Baptists who regard New Age ideas as contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine: “Richard Land, president of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said there would be widespread agreement among Baptists that New Age ideas are contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine.” [105]

Academia[edit]

In the 2003 book A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America written by Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs[106] Barkun argues New Age beliefs have been greatly facilitated by the advent of the internet which has exposed people to beliefs once consigned to the outermost fringe of political and religious life. He identifies two trends which he terms, ” the rise of improvisational millennialism” and “the popularity of stigmatized knowledge”. He voices concern that these trends could lead to mass hysteria and could have a devastating effect on American political life. Richard H. Jones has given a sustained attack on the New Age use of science.[107]

Integral theory[edit]

Further information: Integral Theory

The author Ken Wilber posits that most New Age thought falls into what he termed the pre/trans fallacy.[108] According to Wilber, human developmental psychology moves from the pre-personal, through the personal, then to the transpersonal (spiritually advanced or enlightened) level.[109] He regards 80 percent of New Age spirituality as pre-rational (pre-conventional) and as relying primarily on mythic-magical thinking; this contrasts with a post-rational (including and transcending rational) genuinely world-centric consciousness.[108][109] Despite his criticism of most New Age thought, Wilber has been categorized as New Age due to his emphasis on a transpersonal view,[110] and more recently, as a philosopher.[111]

Indigenous peoples of the Americas[edit]

Further information: Indigenous peoples of the Americas

Some adherents of traditional disciplines, such as the Lakota people, a tribe of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, reject “the expropriation of [their] ceremonial ways by non-Indians”. They see the New Age movement as either not fully understanding, deliberately trivializing, or distorting their disciplines.[112]

They have coined the term plastic medicine men to describe individuals from within their own communities “who are prostituting our spiritual ways for their own selfish gain, with no regard for the spiritual well-being of the people as a whole”.[112] The term plastic shaman has been applied to outsiders who identify themselves as shamans, holy people, or other traditional spiritual leaders, but who have no genuine connection to the traditions or cultures they claim to represent.

The academic Ward Churchill criticized the New Age movement as an instrument of cultural imperialism that is exploitative of indigenous cultures by reducing them to a commodity to be traded. In Fantasies of the Master Race, he criticized the cultural appropriation of Native American culture and symbols in not only the New Age movement, but also in art and popular culture.[113]

Goddess movement[edit]

Further information: Goddess movement

Followers of the Goddess movement have severely criticized the New Age as fundamentally patriarchal, analytical rather than intuitive, and as supporting the status quo, particularly in its implicit gender roles. Monica Sjöö (1938–2005) wrote that New Age channelers were virtually all women, but the spirits they purported to channel, offering guidance to humanity, were nearly all male. Sjöö was highly critical of Theosophy, the “I AM” Activity, and particularly Alice Bailey, whom she saw as promoting Nazi-like Aryan ideals. Sjöö’s writings also condemn the New Age for its support of communication and information processing technologies which, she believes, may produce harmful low-level electromagnetic radiation.[114][115][116]

Social and political movement[edit]

While many commentators have focused on the personal aspects of the New Age movement, it also has a social and political component. The New Age political movement became visible in the 1970s, peaked in the 1980s, and continued into the 1990s.[117] In the 21st century, the political movement evolved in new directions.

After the political turmoil of the 1960s, many activists in North America and Europe became disillusioned with traditional reformist and revolutionary political ideologies.[118] Some began searching for a new politics that gave special weight to such topics as consciousness, ecology, personal and spiritual development, community empowerment, and global unity.[119][120] An outpouring of books from New Age thinkers acknowledged that search and attempted to articulate that politics.

According to some observers,[121][122] the first was Mark Satin‘s New Age Politics (1978).[39] It originally appeared in Canada in 1976.[123][124] Other books that have been described as New Age political include Theodore Roszak‘s Person / Planet (1978),[40][125]Marilyn Ferguson‘s The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980),[41][117]Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler‘s The Third Wave (1980),[117][126]Hazel Henderson‘s The Politics of the Solar Age (1981),[117][127]Fritjof Capra‘s The Turning Point (1982),[117][128]Robert Muller‘s New Genesis (1982),[129][130]John Naisbitt‘s Megatrends (1982),[130][131]Willis Harman‘s Global Mind Change (1988),[8][132]James Redfield‘s The Celestine Prophecy (1993),[8][133] and Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson‘s Spiritual Politics (1994).[8][42]

All these books were issued by major publishers. Some became international bestsellers. By the 1980s, New Age political ideas were being discussed in big-city newspapers[134][135] and established political magazines.[122][136] In addition, some of the New Age’s own periodicals were regularly addressing social and political issues. In the U.S., observers pointed to Leading Edge Bulletin,[130][137]New Age Journal,[138][139] New Options Newsletter,[130][140] and Utne Reader.[138][141] Other such periodicals included New Humanity (England),[142] Alterna (Denmark),[143]Odyssey (South Africa), and World Union from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (India).

As with any political movement, organizations sprang up to generate popular support for New Age political ideas and policy positions. In the U.S., commentators identified the New Age Caucus of California,[144][145] the New World Alliance,[146][147] Planetary Citizens,[130][148] and John Vasconcellos‘s Self-Determination: A Personal / Political Network[130][149] as New Age political organizations. So, on occasion, did their own spokespeople.[150] There may have been more New Age political organizing outside the U.S.;[148] writer-activists pointed to the Future in Our Hands movement in Norway (which claimed 20,000 adherents out of a population of four million),[151] the early European Green movements,[152] and the Values Party of New Zealand.[153]

Although these books, periodicals, and organizations did not speak with one voice, commentators found that many of them sounded common themes:

  • Our world does not reflect who we at our best can be.[122]
  • All our most significant social and political problems go back at least 300 years.[154]
  • The political system therefore needs to be transformed, not just reformed,[117] with the help of a new political theory appropriate to our time.[118]
  • Holism – seeing everything as connected – is the first step on the way to creating that new political theory.[117][122]
  • Doing away with the categories of “left” and “right” is another essential part of that task.[117][122]
  • Significant social change requires deep changes in consciousness; institutional change is not enough.[118][155]
  • Above all, consciousness needs to become more ecologically aware,[122][130] more feminist,[122][130] and more oriented to compassionate global unity.[117][130]
  • Desirable values include nonviolence, diversity, a sense of community, and a sense of enoughness.[130][136]
  • Human growth and development, not economic growth, should be the overarching goal of New Age society.[136]
  • Ownership and control of institutions is important. But the size of institutions is at least as important. We must move away from big governments, big corporations, and other large institutions to the extent it enhances our lives.[117][136]
  • We can begin this process by interlacing hierarchical structures with horizontal networks.[130][156]
  • Global unification is a key goal, but is probably best accomplished by networking at many levels rather than establishing a centralized world state.[117]
  • The agent of political change is no longer the working class, or any economic class. Instead, it is all those who are developing themselves personally and spiritually – all who aspire to live lives of dignity and service.[118]
  • Evolution is to be preferred to revolution. However, the forces of evolutionary change need not be a statistical majority. A “critical mass” of informed, committed, and spiritually aware people can move a nation forward.[117][146]

Over time, these themes began to cohere. By the 1980s, observers in both North America[122][155] and Europe[157][158] were acknowledging the emergence of a New Age political “ideology”.

Political objections at century’s end[edit]

Toward the end of the 20th century, criticisms were being directed at the New Age political project from many quarters,[159][160] but especially from the liberal left and religious right.

On the left, scholars argued that New Age politics is an oxymoron: that personal growth has little or nothing to do with political change.[161][162] One political scientist said New Age politics fails to recognize the “realities” of economic and political power;[155] another faulted it for not being opposed to the capitalist system, or to liberal individualism.[118] Antinuclear activist Harvey Wasserman argued that New Age politics is too averse to social conflict to be effective politically.[122]

On the right, some worried that the drive to come up with a new consciousness and new values would topple time-tested old values.[148] Others worried that the celebration of diversity would leave no strong viewpoint in place to guide society.[148] The passion for world unity – one humanity, one planet – was said to lead inevitably to the centralization of power.[163][164] Some doubted that networking could provide an effective counterweight to centralization and bureaucracy.[130]

Neither left nor right was impressed with the New Age’s ability to organize itself politically.[122][146] Many explanations were offered for the New Age’s practical political weakness. Some said that the New Age political thinkers and activists of the 1970s and 1980s were simply too far in advance of their time.[165] Others suggested that New Age activists’ commitment to the often frustrating process of consensus decision-making was at fault.[146] After it dissolved, New World Alliance co-founder Marc Sarkady told an interviewer that the Alliance had been too “New Age counter-cultural” to appeal to a broad public.

The principal difference was anticipated in texts like New Age Politics author Mark Satin‘s essay “Twenty-eight Ways of Looking at Terrorism” (1991),[167]human potential movement historian Walter Truett Anderson‘s essay “Four Different Ways to Be Absolutely Right” (1995),[168] and mediator Mark Gerzon’s book A House Divided (1996).[169][170] In these texts, the New Age political perspective is recognized as legitimate. But it is presented as merely one among many, with strong points and blind spots just like all the rest. The result was to alter the nature of the New Age political project. If every political perspective had unique strengths and significant weaknesses, then it no longer made sense to try to convert everyone to the New Age political perspective, as had been attempted in the 1970s and 1980s. It made more sense to try to construct a higher political synthesis that took every political perspective into account, including that of the New Age.[171][172]

Many 21st century books have attempted to articulate foundational aspects of this approach to politics and social change. They include Ken Wilber‘s A Theory of Everything (2001),[173]Mark Satin‘s Radical Middle (2004),[174]David Korten‘s The Great Turning (2006),[175]Steve McIntosh‘s Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (2007),[176]Marilyn Hamilton‘s Integral City (2008),[177] and Carter Phipps’s Evolutionaries (2012).[178] In addition, many organizations are providing opportunities for focused political listening and learning that can contribute to the construction of a higher political synthesis. They include AmericaSpeaks,[179]Association Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations,[180] Listening Project,[181]Search for Common Ground,[182]Spiral Dynamics Integral,[183][184] and World Public Forum: Dialogue of Civilizations.[185]

Another difference between the two eras of political thought is that, in the 21st century, few political actors use the term New Age or post-New Age[186] to describe themselves or their work. Some observers attribute this to the negative connotations that the term “New Age” had acquired.[120][186] Instead, other terms are employed that connote a similar sense of personal and political development proceeding together over time. For example, according to an anthology from three political scientists, many writers and academics use the term “transformational” as a substitute for such terms as New Age and new paradigm.[154]Ken Wilber has popularized use of the term “integral”,[173] Carter Phipps emphasizes the term “evolutionary”,[178] and both terms can be found in some authors’ book titles

 

NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY

The New Age movement is a Westernspiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology“.[2] The term New Age refers to the coming astrologicalAge of Aquarius.[1]

The movement aims to create “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas” that is inclusive and pluralistic.[3] It holds to “a holistic worldview”,[4] emphasising that the Mind, Body, and Spirit are interrelated[1] and that there is a form of monism and unity throughout the universe.[5] It attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality”[6] and embraces a number of forms of mainstream science as well as other forms of science that are considered fringe.

The origins of the movement can be found in Medieval astrology and alchemy, such as the writings of Paracelsus, in Renaissance interests in Hermeticism, in 18th-century mysticism, such as that of Emanuel Swedenborg, and in beliefs in animal magnetism espoused by Franz Mesmer. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, authors such as Godfrey Higgins and the esotericists Eliphas Levi, Helena Blavatsky, and George Gurdjieff articulated specific histories, cosmologies, and some of the basic philosophical principles that would influence the movement. It experienced a revival as a result of the work of individuals such as Alice Bailey and organizations such as the Theosophical Society. It gained further momentum in the 1960s, taking influence from metaphysics, perennial philosophy, self-help psychology, and the various Indian gurus who visited the West during that decade.[7] In the 1970s, it developed a social and political component.[8]

The New Age movement includes elements of older spiritual and religious traditions ranging from monotheism through pantheism, pandeism, panentheism, and polytheism combined with science and Gaia philosophy; particularly archaeoastronomy, astronomy, ecology, environmentalism, the Gaia hypothesis, UFO religions, psychology, and physics.

New Age practices and philosophies sometimes draw inspiration from major world religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Sufism (Islam), Judaism (especially Kabbalah), Sikhism; with strong influences from East Asian religions, Esotericism, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Idealism, Neopaganism, New Thought, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Universalism, and Wisdom tradition.

The New Age Movement is in a class by itself. Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc. They often use mutually exclusive definitions for some of their terms. The New Age is in fact a free-flowing spiritual movement; a network of believers and practitioners who share somewhat similar beliefs and practices, which they add on to whichever formal religion that they follow. Their book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services.

Quoting John Naisbitt:

“In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience…With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center.” 1

The New Age is definitely a heterogeneous movement of individuals; most graft some new age beliefs onto their regular religious affiliation. Recent surveys of US adults indicate that many Americans hold at least some new age beliefs:

8% believe in astrology as a method of foretelling the future.
7% believe that crystals are a source of healing or energizing power
9% believe that Tarot Cards are a reliable base for life decisions
about 1 in 4 believe in a non-traditional concept of the nature of God which are often associated with New Age thinking:

11% believe that God is “a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach”
8% define God as “the total realization of personal, human potential”
3% believe that each person is God.

The group of surveys cited above classify religious beliefs into 7 faith groups. 2 Starting with the largest, they are: Cultural (Christmas & Easter) Christianity, Conventional Christianity, New Age Practitioner, Biblical (Fundamentalist, Evangelical) Christianity, Atheist/Agnostic, Other, and Jewish, A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group. 2

History of the New Age movement:

New Age teachings became popular during the 1970’s as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity and the failure of Secular Humanism to provide spiritual and ethical guidance for the future. Its roots are traceable to many sources: Astrology, Channeling, Hinduism, Gnostic traditions, Spiritualism, Taoism, Theosophy, Wicca and other Neo-pagan traditions, etc. The movement started in England in the 1960’s where many of these elements were well established. Small groups, such as the Findhorn Community in Inverness and the Wrekin Trust formed. The movement quickly became international. Early New Age mileposts in North America were a “New Age Seminar” run by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, and the establishment of the East-West Journal in 1971. Actress Shirley MacLaine is perhaps their most famous current figure.

During the 1980’s and 90’s, the movement came under criticism from a variety of groups. Channeling was ridiculed; seminar and group leaders were criticized for the fortunes that they made from New Agers. Their uncritical belief in the “scientific” properties of crystals was exposed as groundless. But the movement has become established and become a stable, major force in North American religion during the past generation. As the millennium comes to a close, the New Age is expected to expand, promoted by the social backlash against logic and science.

The one version of the “New Age” that does not exist:

Major confusion about the New Age has been generated by academics, counter-cult groups, fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians and traditional Muslim groups, etc. Some examples are:

Many of the above groups have dismissed Tasawwuf (Sufiism) as a New Age cult. In reality, Sufiism has historically been an established mystical movement within Islam, which has always existing in a state of tension with the more legalistic divisions within Islam. It has no connection with the New Age.
Some conservative Christians believe that a massive, underground, highly coordinated New Age organization exists that is infiltrating government, media, schools and churches. No such entity exists.
Some conservative Christians do not differentiate among the Occult, Satanism, Wicca, other Neopagan religions. Many seem to regard all as forms of Satanism who perform horrendous criminal acts on children. Others view The New Age, Neopagan religions, Tarot card reading, rune readings, channeling, work with crystal energy, etc. as merely recruiting programs for Satanism. In fact, the Occult, Satanism, Neo-pagan religions are very different phenomena, and essentially unrelated. Dr. Carl Raschke, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Denver describes New Age practices as the spiritual version of AIDS; it destroys the ability of people to cope and function.” He describes it as “essentially, the marketing end of the political packaging of occultism…a breeding ground for a new American form of fascism.”

New Age beliefs:

A number of fundamental beliefs are held by many — but not all — New Age followers; individuals are encouraged to “shop” for the beliefs and practices that they feel most comfortable with:

Monism: All that exists is derived from a single source of divine energy.
Pantheism: All that exists is God; God is all that exists. This leads naturally to the concept of the divinity of the individual, that we are all Gods. They do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe.
Panentheism: God is all that exists. God is at once the entire universe, and transcends the universe as well.
Reincarnation: After death, we are reborn and live another life as a human. This cycle repeats itself many times. This belief is similar to the concept of transmigration of the soul in Hinduism.
Karma: The good and bad deeds that we do adds and subtracts from our accumulated record, our karma. At the end of our life, we are rewarded or punished according to our karma by being reincarnated into either a painful or good new life. This belief is linked to that of reincarnation and is also derived from Hinduism
An Aura is believed to be an energy field radiated by the body. Invisible to most people, it can be detected by some as a shimmering, multi-colored field surrounding the body. Those skilled in detecting and interpreting auras can diagnose an individual’s state of mind, and their spiritual and physical health.
Personal Transformation A profoundly intense mystical experience will lead to the acceptance and use of New Age beliefs and practices. Guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and (sometimes) the use of hallucinogenic drugs are useful to bring about and enhance this transformation. Believers hope to develop new potentials within themselves: the ability to heal oneself and others, psychic powers, a new understanding of the workings of the universe, etc. Later, when sufficient numbers of people have achieved these powers, a major spiritual, physical, psychological and cultural planet-wide transformation is expected.
Ecological Responsibility: A belief in the importance of uniting to preserve the health of the earth, which is often looked upon as Gaia, (Mother Earth) a living entity.
Universal Religion: Since all is God, then only one reality exists, and all religions are simply different paths to that ultimate reality. The universal religion can be visualized as a mountain, with many sadhanas (spiritual paths) to the summit. Some are hard; others easy. There is no one correct path. All paths eventually reach the top. They anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will evolve and become generally accepted worldwide.
New World Order As the Age of Aquarius unfolds, a New Age will develop. This will be a utopia in which there is world government, and end to wars, disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty. Gender, racial, religious and other forms of discrimination will cease. People’s allegiance to their tribe or nation will be replaced by a concern for the entire world and its people.

The Age of Aquarius is a reference to the precession of the zodiac. The earth passes into a new sign of the zodiac approximately every 2,000 years. Some believe that the earth entered the constellation Aquarius in the 19th Century, so that the present era is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Others believe that it will occur at the end of the 20th century. It is interesting to note that the previous constellation changes were:

from Aries to Pisces the fish circa 1st century CE. This happened at a time when Christianity was an emerging religion, and many individuals changed from animal sacrifice in the Jewish temple to embracing the teachings of Christianity. The church’s prime symbol at the time was the fish.
from Taurus to Aries the ram circa 2,000 BCE. This happened at a time when the Jews engaged in widespread ritual sacrifice of sheep and other animals in the Temple.
from Gemini to Taurus the bull circa 4,000 BCE. During that sign, worshiping of the golden calf was common in the Middle East.

Sponsored link:

New Age practices:

Many practices are found among New Agers. A typical practitioner is active in only a few areas:

Channeling A method similar to that used by Spiritists in which a spirit of a long dead individual is conjured up. However, while Spiritists generally believe that one’s soul remains relatively unchanged after death, most channelers believe that the soul evolves to higher planes of existence. Chanelers usually try to make contact with a single, spiritually evolved being. That being’s consciousness is channeled through the medium and relays guidance and information to the group, through the use of the medium’s voice. Channeling has existed since the 1850’s and many groups consider themselves independent of the New Age movement. Perhaps the most famous channeling event is the popular A Course in Miracles. It was channeled through a Columbia University psychologist, Dr. Helen Schucman, (1909-1981), over an 8 year period. She was an Atheist, and in no way regarded herself as a New Age believer. However, she took great care in recording accurately the words that she received.
Crystals Crystals are materials which have their molecules arranged in a specific, highly ordered internal pattern. This pattern is reflected in the crystal’s external structure which typically has symmetrical planar surfaces. Many common substances, from salt to sugar, from diamonds to quartz form crystals. They can be shaped so that they will vibrate at a specific frequency and are widely used in radio communications and computing devices. New Agers believe that crystals possess healing energy.
Meditating A process of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object.
New Age Music A gentle, melodic, inspirational music form involving the human voice, harp, lute, flute, etc. It is used as an aid in healing, massage therapy and general relaxation.
Divination The use of various techniques to foretell the future, including I Ching, Pendulum movements, Runes, Scrying, Tarot Cards.
Astrology The belief that the orientation of the planets at the time of one’s birth, and the location of that birth predicts the individual’s future and personality. Belief in astrology is common amongst New Agers, but definitely not limited to them.
Holistic Health This is a collection of healing techniques which have diverged from the traditional medical model. It attempts to cure disorders in mind, body and spirit and to promote wholeness and balance in the individual. Examples are acupuncture, crystal healing, homeopathy, iridology, massage, various meditation methods, polarity therapy, psychic healing, therapeutic touch, reflexology, etc.
Human Potential Movement (a.k.a. Emotional Growth Movement) This is a collection of therapeutic methods involving both individualized and group working, using both mental and physical techniques. The goal is to help individuals to advance spiritually. Examples are Esalen Growth Center programs, EST, Gestalt Therapy, Primal Scream Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga.

The Canadian Census (1991) recorded only 1,200 people (0.005% of the total Canadian population) who identify their religion as being New Age. However, this in no way indicates the influence of new age ideas in the country. Many people identify with Christianity and other religions, but incorporate many new age concepts into their faith.

“Indigo Children”

Some within the New Age movement believe that children with special powers and indigo colored auras have been born in recent years. According to Nancy Ann Tappe, this is a global phenomenon affecting over 95% of newborns since 1995. She writes:

“As small children, Indigos are easy to recognize by their unusually large, clear eyes. Extremely bright, precocious children with an amazing memory and a strong desire to live instinctively, these children of the next millennium are sensitive, gifted souls with an evolved consciousness who have come here to help change the vibrations of our lives and create one land, one globe and one species. They are our bridge to the future.”

Some New Agers feel that the special personality factors among Indigo Children result in them being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD by therapists who do not understand their special qualities and needs. 6,7,8

 

The author Nevill Drury claimed there are “four key precursors of the New Age”, who had set the way for many of its widely held precepts. The first of these was Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), a Swedish scientist who after a religious experience devoted himself to Christian mysticism, believing that he could travel to Heaven and Hell and communicate with angels, demons and spirits, and who published widely on the subject of his experiences.

  1. The second person was Franz Mesmer (1734–1815), who had developed a form of healing using magnets, believing that there was a force known as “animal magnetism” that affected humans.
  2. The third figure was the Russian Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891), one of the founders of the Theosophical Society, through which she propagated her religious movement of Theosophy, which itself combined a number of elements from Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism with Western elements.
  3. The fourth figure was George Gurdjieff (c. 1872–1949), who founded the philosophy of the Fourth Way, through which he conveyed a number of spiritual teachings to his disciples.
  4. A fifth individual whom Drury identified as an important influence upon the New Age movement was the Indian Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), an adherent of the philosophy of Vedanta who first brought Hinduism to the West in the late 19th century.[10]

The term New Age was used as early as 1809 by William Blake who described a coming era of spiritual and artistic advancement in his preface to Milton a Poem by stating: “… when the New Age is at leisure to pronounce, all will be set right …”[11]

Some of the New Age movement’s constituent elements appeared initially in the 19th-century metaphysical movements: Spiritualism, Theosophy, and New Thought and also the alternative medicine movements of chiropractics and naturopathy.[1][5] These movements have roots in Transcendentalism, Mesmerism, Swedenborgianism, and various earlier Western esoteric or occult traditions, such as the hermetic arts of astrology, magic, alchemy, and Kabbalah. The term New Age was used in this context in Madame Blavatsky‘s book The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888.[12]

A weekly journal of Christian liberalism and socialism titled The New Age was published as early as 1894;[13] it was sold to a group of socialist writers headed by Alfred Richard Orage and Holbrook Jackson in 1907. Contributors included H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats; the magazine became a forum for politics, literature, and the arts.[14][15] Between 1908 and 1914, it was instrumental in pioneering the British avant-garde from Vorticism to Imagism. Orage met P. D. Ouspensky, then a young original philosopher of metaphysics, in 1914 and began correspondence with Harry Houdini; he became less interested in literature and art with an increased focus on mysticism and other spiritual topics; the magazine was sold in 1921. According to Brown University, The New Age “… helped to shape modernism in literature and the arts from 1907 to 1922.”

Popularisation behind these ideas has roots in the work of early 20th century writers such as D. H. Lawrence and William Butler Yeats. In the early- to mid-1900s, American mystic, theologian, and founder of the Association for Research and EnlightenmentEdgar Cayce was a seminal influence on what later would be termed the New Age movement; he was known in particular for the practice some refer to as channeling.[17]

The psychologist Carl Jung was a proponent of the concept of the Age of Aquarius.[18] In a letter to his friend Peter Baynes, dated 12 August 1940, Jung wrote a passage:

This year reminds me of the enormous earthquake in 26 B.C. that shook down the great temple of Karnak. It was the prelude to the destruction of all temples, because a new time had begun. 1940 is the year when we approach the meridian of the first star in Aquarius. It is the premonitory earthquake of the New Age …[19][20]

Former Theosophist Rudolf Steiner and his Anthroposophical movement are a major influence. Neo-TheosophistAlice Bailey published the book Discipleship in the New Age (1944), which used the term New Age in reference to the transition from the astrological age of Pisces to Aquarius. While claims of racial bias in the writings of Rudolf Steiner and Alice Bailey were made,[21] Bailey was firmly opposed to the Axis powers; she believed that Adolf Hitler was possessed by the Dark Forces,[22] and Steiner emphasized racial equality as a principle central to anthroposophical thought and humanity‘s progress.[23][24] Any racial elements from these influences have not remained part of the Anthroposophical Society as contemporary adherents of the society have either not adopted or repudiated these beliefs.[25][26]

Another early usage of the term, was by the American artist, mystic, and philosopher Walter Russell, who spoke of

… this New Age philosophy of the spiritual re-awakening of man … Man’s purpose in this New Age is to acquire more and more knowledge …

in his essay “Power Through Knowledge”, which was also published in 1944.[27]

Contemporary usage of the term[edit]

This barrel house was the first dwelling constructed at the Findhorn Ecovillage.

The subculture that later became known as New Age already existed in the early 1970s, based on and adopting ideas originally present in the counterculture of the 1960s. Two entities founded in 1962: the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and the Findhorn Foundation—an intentional community which continues to operate the Findhorn Ecovillage near Findhorn, Moray, Scotland—played an instrumental role during the early growth period of the New Age movement.[28]

Widespread usage of the term New Age began in the mid-1970s (reflected in the title of monthly periodical New Age Journal), “when increasing numbers of people […] began to perceive a broad similarity between a wide variety of “alternative ideas” and pursuits, and started to think of them as part of one “movement””.[29] This probably influenced several thousand small metaphysical book- and gift-stores that increasingly defined themselves as “New Age bookstores”.[30][31] As a result of the large-scale activities surrounding the Harmonic Convergence in 1987, the American mass-media further popularised the term as a label for the alternative spiritual subculture, including practices such as meditation, channeling, crystal healing, astral projection, psychic experience, holistic health, simple living, and environmentalism; or belief in phenomena such as Earth mysteries, ancient astronauts, extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects, crop circles, and reincarnation. Several New Age publications appeared by the late 1980s such as Psychic Guide (later renamed Body, Mind & Spirit), Yoga Journal, New Age Voice, New Age Retailer, and NAPRA ReView by the New Age Publishers and Retailers Alliance.

Several key events occurred, which raised public awareness of the New Age subculture: the production of the musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (1967) with its opening song “Aquarius” and its memorable line “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius“;[32] publication of Linda Goodman‘s best-selling astrology books Sun Signs (1968) and Love Signs (1978); the release of Shirley MacLaine‘s book Out on a Limb (1983), later adapted into a television mini-series with the same name (1987); and the “Harmonic Convergenceplanetary alignment on August 16 and 17, 1987,[33] organized by José Argüelles in Sedona, Arizona. The claims of channelers Jane Roberts (Seth Material), Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) (note that Walsch denies being a “channeler” and his books make it obvious that he is not one, though the text emerged through a dialogue with a deeper part of himself in a process comparable to automatic writing), and Rene Gaudette (The Wonders) contributed to the movement’s growth.[34][35] Relevant New Age works include the writings of James Redfield, Eckhart Tolle, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Christopher Hills, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, John Holland, Gary Zukav, Wayne Dyer, and Rhonda Byrne.

While J. Gordon Melton,[36]Wouter Hanegraaff,[37] and Paul Heelas[38] have emphasised personal aspects, Mark Satin,[39]Theodore Roszak,[40]Marilyn Ferguson,[41] and Corinne McLaughlin[42] have described New Age as a values-based sociopolitical movement.

People who practice New Age spirituality or who embrace its lifestyle are included in the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) demographic market segment, figures rising, related to sustainable living, green ecological initiatives, and generally composed of a relatively affluent and well-educated segment.[83][84] The LOHAS market segment in 2006 was estimated at USD$300 billion, approximately 30 percent of the United States consumer market.[85][86] According to The New York Times, a study by the Natural Marketing Institute showed that in 2000, 68 million Americans were included within the LOHAS demographic. The sociologist Paul H. Ray, who coined the term cultural creatives in his book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (2000), states, “What you’re seeing is a demand for products of equal quality that are also virtuous.”[87][88]

The movement is strongly gendered; sociologist Ciara O’Connor argues that it shows a tension between commodification and women’s empowerment.

Some New Agers advocate living in a simple and sustainable manner to reduce humanity’s impact on the natural resources of Earth; and they shun consumerism.[91][92] The New Age movement has been centered around rebuilding a sense of community to counter social disintegration; this has been attempted through the formation of intentional communities, where individuals come together to live and work in a communal lifestyle.[93]

Holistic health[edit]

See also: List of branches of alternative medicine

Practitioners of New Age spirituality may use alternative medicine in addition to or in place of conventional medicine;[82][94][95] while some conventional physicians have adopted aspects or the complete approach of holistic health. The mainstreaming of the Holistic Health movement in the UK is discussed by Maria Tighe. The inter-relation of holistic health with the New Age movement is illustrated in Jenny Butler’s[94] ethnographic description of “Angel therapy” in the Republic of Ireland.

Music[edit]

See also: List of New Age music artists and List of ambient artists

New Age music is peaceful music of various styles intended to create inspiration, relaxation, and positive feelings while listening. Studies have determined that New Age music can be an effective component of stress management.[96]

The style began in the 1970s with the works of free-form jazz groups recording on the ECM label; such as Oregon, the Paul Winter Consort, and other pre-ambient bands; as well as ambient music performer Brian Eno and classical avant-garde musician Daniel Kobialka.[97][98] In the early 1970s, it was mostly instrumental with both acoustic and electronic styles. New Age music evolved to include a wide range of styles from electronic space music using synthesizers and acoustic instrumentals using Native American flutes and drums, singing bowls, and world music sounds to spiritual chanting from other cultures.[97][98]

Many online radio stations exemplify New Age, which has always been a non-empirical phenomenon-intuitive-ethereal genre. For example, Gaia Radio

Reception[edit]

Organized religion[edit]

Further information: Comparative religion

Mainstream religious institutions have been critical of New Age spirituality. Author Johanna Michaelson published her own experiences with various New Age practices in The Beautiful Side of Evil (1982); after concluding these activities were demonic, she converted to Christianity.[99] Michigan attorney and activist Constance Cumbey offered the first major criticism of the New Age movement from a Christian perspective in The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism (1983).[100]

The Roman Catholic Church published A Christian reflection on the New Age in 2003, following a six-year study; the 90-page document criticizes New Age practices such as yoga, meditation, feng shui, and crystal healing.[101][102] According to the Vatican, euphoric states attained through New Age practices should not be confused with prayer or viewed as signs of God’s presence.[103] Cardinal Paul Poupard, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the “New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man”.[101] Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stated at the Vatican conference on the document: the “Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age”.[104]

Expressing agreement with the Vatican’s position, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention stated that there’s “widespread agreement” by Baptists who regard New Age ideas as contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine: “Richard Land, president of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said there would be widespread agreement among Baptists that New Age ideas are contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine.” [105]

Academia[edit]

In the 2003 book A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America written by Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs[106] Barkun argues New Age beliefs have been greatly facilitated by the advent of the internet which has exposed people to beliefs once consigned to the outermost fringe of political and religious life. He identifies two trends which he terms, ” the rise of improvisational millennialism” and “the popularity of stigmatized knowledge”. He voices concern that these trends could lead to mass hysteria and could have a devastating effect on American political life. Richard H. Jones has given a sustained attack on the New Age use of science.[107]

Integral theory[edit]

Further information: Integral Theory

The author Ken Wilber posits that most New Age thought falls into what he termed the pre/trans fallacy.[108] According to Wilber, human developmental psychology moves from the pre-personal, through the personal, then to the transpersonal (spiritually advanced or enlightened) level.[109] He regards 80 percent of New Age spirituality as pre-rational (pre-conventional) and as relying primarily on mythic-magical thinking; this contrasts with a post-rational (including and transcending rational) genuinely world-centric consciousness.[108][109] Despite his criticism of most New Age thought, Wilber has been categorized as New Age due to his emphasis on a transpersonal view,[110] and more recently, as a philosopher.[111]

Indigenous peoples of the Americas[edit]

Further information: Indigenous peoples of the Americas

Some adherents of traditional disciplines, such as the Lakota people, a tribe of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, reject “the expropriation of [their] ceremonial ways by non-Indians”. They see the New Age movement as either not fully understanding, deliberately trivializing, or distorting their disciplines.[112]

They have coined the term plastic medicine men to describe individuals from within their own communities “who are prostituting our spiritual ways for their own selfish gain, with no regard for the spiritual well-being of the people as a whole”.[112] The term plastic shaman has been applied to outsiders who identify themselves as shamans, holy people, or other traditional spiritual leaders, but who have no genuine connection to the traditions or cultures they claim to represent.

The academic Ward Churchill criticized the New Age movement as an instrument of cultural imperialism that is exploitative of indigenous cultures by reducing them to a commodity to be traded. In Fantasies of the Master Race, he criticized the cultural appropriation of Native American culture and symbols in not only the New Age movement, but also in art and popular culture.[113]

Goddess movement[edit]

Further information: Goddess movement

Followers of the Goddess movement have severely criticized the New Age as fundamentally patriarchal, analytical rather than intuitive, and as supporting the status quo, particularly in its implicit gender roles. Monica Sjöö (1938–2005) wrote that New Age channelers were virtually all women, but the spirits they purported to channel, offering guidance to humanity, were nearly all male. Sjöö was highly critical of Theosophy, the “I AM” Activity, and particularly Alice Bailey, whom she saw as promoting Nazi-like Aryan ideals. Sjöö’s writings also condemn the New Age for its support of communication and information processing technologies which, she believes, may produce harmful low-level electromagnetic radiation.[114][115][116]

Social and political movement[edit]

While many commentators have focused on the personal aspects of the New Age movement, it also has a social and political component. The New Age political movement became visible in the 1970s, peaked in the 1980s, and continued into the 1990s.[117] In the 21st century, the political movement evolved in new directions.

After the political turmoil of the 1960s, many activists in North America and Europe became disillusioned with traditional reformist and revolutionary political ideologies.[118] Some began searching for a new politics that gave special weight to such topics as consciousness, ecology, personal and spiritual development, community empowerment, and global unity.[119][120] An outpouring of books from New Age thinkers acknowledged that search and attempted to articulate that politics.

According to some observers,[121][122] the first was Mark Satin‘s New Age Politics (1978).[39] It originally appeared in Canada in 1976.[123][124] Other books that have been described as New Age political include Theodore Roszak‘s Person / Planet (1978),[40][125]Marilyn Ferguson‘s The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980),[41][117]Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler‘s The Third Wave (1980),[117][126]Hazel Henderson‘s The Politics of the Solar Age (1981),[117][127]Fritjof Capra‘s The Turning Point (1982),[117][128]Robert Muller‘s New Genesis (1982),[129][130]John Naisbitt‘s Megatrends (1982),[130][131]Willis Harman‘s Global Mind Change (1988),[8][132]James Redfield‘s The Celestine Prophecy (1993),[8][133] and Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson‘s Spiritual Politics (1994).[8][42]

All these books were issued by major publishers. Some became international bestsellers. By the 1980s, New Age political ideas were being discussed in big-city newspapers[134][135] and established political magazines.[122][136] In addition, some of the New Age’s own periodicals were regularly addressing social and political issues. In the U.S., observers pointed to Leading Edge Bulletin,[130][137]New Age Journal,[138][139] New Options Newsletter,[130][140] and Utne Reader.[138][141] Other such periodicals included New Humanity (England),[142] Alterna (Denmark),[143]Odyssey (South Africa), and World Union from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (India).

As with any political movement, organizations sprang up to generate popular support for New Age political ideas and policy positions. In the U.S., commentators identified the New Age Caucus of California,[144][145] the New World Alliance,[146][147] Planetary Citizens,[130][148] and John Vasconcellos‘s Self-Determination: A Personal / Political Network[130][149] as New Age political organizations. So, on occasion, did their own spokespeople.[150] There may have been more New Age political organizing outside the U.S.;[148] writer-activists pointed to the Future in Our Hands movement in Norway (which claimed 20,000 adherents out of a population of four million),[151] the early European Green movements,[152] and the Values Party of New Zealand.[153]

Although these books, periodicals, and organizations did not speak with one voice, commentators found that many of them sounded common themes:

  • Our world does not reflect who we at our best can be.[122]
  • All our most significant social and political problems go back at least 300 years.[154]
  • The political system therefore needs to be transformed, not just reformed,[117] with the help of a new political theory appropriate to our time.[118]
  • Holism – seeing everything as connected – is the first step on the way to creating that new political theory.[117][122]
  • Doing away with the categories of “left” and “right” is another essential part of that task.[117][122]
  • Significant social change requires deep changes in consciousness; institutional change is not enough.[118][155]
  • Above all, consciousness needs to become more ecologically aware,[122][130] more feminist,[122][130] and more oriented to compassionate global unity.[117][130]
  • Desirable values include nonviolence, diversity, a sense of community, and a sense of enoughness.[130][136]
  • Human growth and development, not economic growth, should be the overarching goal of New Age society.[136]
  • Ownership and control of institutions is important. But the size of institutions is at least as important. We must move away from big governments, big corporations, and other large institutions to the extent it enhances our lives.[117][136]
  • We can begin this process by interlacing hierarchical structures with horizontal networks.[130][156]
  • Global unification is a key goal, but is probably best accomplished by networking at many levels rather than establishing a centralized world state.[117]
  • The agent of political change is no longer the working class, or any economic class. Instead, it is all those who are developing themselves personally and spiritually – all who aspire to live lives of dignity and service.[118]
  • Evolution is to be preferred to revolution. However, the forces of evolutionary change need not be a statistical majority. A “critical mass” of informed, committed, and spiritually aware people can move a nation forward.[117][146]

Over time, these themes began to cohere. By the 1980s, observers in both North America[122][155] and Europe[157][158] were acknowledging the emergence of a New Age political “ideology”.

Political objections at century’s end[edit]

Toward the end of the 20th century, criticisms were being directed at the New Age political project from many quarters,[159][160] but especially from the liberal left and religious right.

On the left, scholars argued that New Age politics is an oxymoron: that personal growth has little or nothing to do with political change.[161][162] One political scientist said New Age politics fails to recognize the “realities” of economic and political power;[155] another faulted it for not being opposed to the capitalist system, or to liberal individualism.[118] Antinuclear activist Harvey Wasserman argued that New Age politics is too averse to social conflict to be effective politically.[122]

On the right, some worried that the drive to come up with a new consciousness and new values would topple time-tested old values.[148] Others worried that the celebration of diversity would leave no strong viewpoint in place to guide society.[148] The passion for world unity – one humanity, one planet – was said to lead inevitably to the centralization of power.[163][164] Some doubted that networking could provide an effective counterweight to centralization and bureaucracy.[130]

Neither left nor right was impressed with the New Age’s ability to organize itself politically.[122][146] Many explanations were offered for the New Age’s practical political weakness. Some said that the New Age political thinkers and activists of the 1970s and 1980s were simply too far in advance of their time.[165] Others suggested that New Age activists’ commitment to the often frustrating process of consensus decision-making was at fault.[146] After it dissolved, New World Alliance co-founder Marc Sarkady told an interviewer that the Alliance had been too “New Age counter-cultural” to appeal to a broad public.

The principal difference was anticipated in texts like New Age Politics author Mark Satin‘s essay “Twenty-eight Ways of Looking at Terrorism” (1991),[167]human potential movement historian Walter Truett Anderson‘s essay “Four Different Ways to Be Absolutely Right” (1995),[168] and mediator Mark Gerzon’s book A House Divided (1996).[169][170] In these texts, the New Age political perspective is recognized as legitimate. But it is presented as merely one among many, with strong points and blind spots just like all the rest. The result was to alter the nature of the New Age political project. If every political perspective had unique strengths and significant weaknesses, then it no longer made sense to try to convert everyone to the New Age political perspective, as had been attempted in the 1970s and 1980s. It made more sense to try to construct a higher political synthesis that took every political perspective into account, including that of the New Age.[171][172]

Many 21st century books have attempted to articulate foundational aspects of this approach to politics and social change. They include Ken Wilber‘s A Theory of Everything (2001),[173]Mark Satin‘s Radical Middle (2004),[174]David Korten‘s The Great Turning (2006),[175]Steve McIntosh‘s Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (2007),[176]Marilyn Hamilton‘s Integral City (2008),[177] and Carter Phipps’s Evolutionaries (2012).[178] In addition, many organizations are providing opportunities for focused political listening and learning that can contribute to the construction of a higher political synthesis. They include AmericaSpeaks,[179]Association Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations,[180] Listening Project,[181]Search for Common Ground,[182]Spiral Dynamics Integral,[183][184] and World Public Forum: Dialogue of Civilizations.[185]

Another difference between the two eras of political thought is that, in the 21st century, few political actors use the term New Age or post-New Age[186] to describe themselves or their work. Some observers attribute this to the negative connotations that the term “New Age” had acquired.[120][186] Instead, other terms are employed that connote a similar sense of personal and political development proceeding together over time. For example, according to an anthology from three political scientists, many writers and academics use the term “transformational” as a substitute for such terms as New Age and new paradigm.[154]Ken Wilber has popularized use of the term “integral”,[173] Carter Phipps emphasizes the term “evolutionary”,[178] and both terms can be found in some authors’ book titles

 Kathy Kiefer

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