The New Age is not a Movement
Groups such as the I AM Movement, Rosicrucians, the Lemurian Fellowship, Theosophy and Doreal’s Brotherhood of the White Temple Church are occult groups that transitioned from the nineteenth century into the twentieth century. These groups were the precursors to other ideologies and forms of mysticism that took hold in the twentieth century, now known collectively as the New Age Movement. The New Age is the latest phase in the occult, a persistent tradition that has been the constant companion of Christianity through the centuries.
There are four phases for which people are coerced into New Age groups:
- First, an initial interest or intellectual curiosity creates tension within the individual.
- Second, this creates spiritual experiences and emotional convictions that drives the person to meet like-minded individuals.
- Lastly, there is a social support of a community that performs collective rituals.
It may be argued that the New Age is not a movement at all. The New Age has none of the characteristics of a movement – a social system with a minimum of structure, a recognizable hierarchy, points of reference in the natural landscape, and activities they follow. In addition, the New Age is not organized centrally but around teachers, texts, interests and commercial products. Bonds between New Age believers are weak and voluntary because of the emphasis on the individual, not the group. Therefore, the New Age may be described as a local event, organized around specific issues with fluctuating membership. New Age adherents are usually concerned with civil, not political affairs. Thus, people pursue change at a social and institutional level as well as at a personal level.
Additionally, the New Age movement lacks racial and ethnic diversity. Most working-class people do not join the New Age because there is a disdain for economic striving and want of material objects. Thus, those of the working class who need financial security do not find New Age beliefs compatible with their own. Most New Age participants are middle-aged white females, meaning there will be a diminishing population of adherents if younger people are not actively recruited. Some social controls will be necessary to preserve ideas otherwise, the ideas of the New Age will gradually accommodate the cultural norms of the dominant culture. There must be a conscious effort to produce a shared identity to pass on to a younger generation.
New Age adherents are preoccupied with individual and societal transformation. There is an almost narcissistic overtones in that a person believes that they are unique, rather than a normal person. The New Age rejects modernity, avoids party politics and emphasizes the self and personal consumption. New Age beliefs thrive in consumer economies like the United State, Britain, and Australia because products, services and training are sold for fees. The commodification of the New Age beliefs is acceptable because it reinforces the autonomy of the consumer. Committed New Agers are very entrepreneurial because they establish themselves as an expert within a field. They work as self-employed practitioners, not as part of a regulated profession.
Teachings of the New Age
Many New Age adherents view God with Christian bias but incorporate fairies, angels and nature spirits. Buddhist mediation, aspects of Native American religions and Christian mysticism coexist with crystal healing, neo-pagan goddess worship and psychotherapies. Remote and reinvented beliefs of Tibet, China, Celts and Native American groups are easier to manipulate than familiar religions like Christianity, which has negative connotations of imperialism, sexism, racism and authoritarian regimes. When Christianity is accepted into a New Age framework, it is usually in its historical form like Celtic Christianity and early forms of Christian mysticism.
Participation in the New Age is due to a conscious critique of the Christian religion. There is an average of two years between a person’s break with Christianity and exposure to New Age ideas. One reason that people seek New Age groups is that there is a loss and a need for community. The New Age assists with self-development and restores a religious function, providing myths and rituals. The New Age provides a way to think about patriarchal Christianity and Eurocentric attitudes where a Christian god appears less as a universal truth and more as a gendered story about a particular cultural tradition.
The New Age may be classified as a sub-type of a popular religion, which is not founded on authoritative documents or by religious leaders; it can be adopted by any person who rejects authoritative religion. In contrast to established religion, popular religion is simpler, more direct and establishes a more profitable relationship with the divine. New Age beliefs are eclectic and adopted without concern for its compatibility with other beliefs. The ancient practices of the Celts, Essenes, Egyptians and Atlanteans are used to justify a personal belief system. Incompatible beliefs are resolved by asserting integration at a cosmic level of consciousness. Hence, there is a fundamental unity behind apparent diversity.
New Age Practices
The New Age engages science, religion, feminism, biomedicine, psychotherapy, environmentalism and non-western philosophies. New Agers tend to practice holistic health where the mind, body and spirit are given priority, not isolated medical symptoms. New Age practices such as Chinese herbal remedies, acupuncture, chiropractic spinal manipulations and complementary forms of medical practice are becoming more mainstreamed in American medical culture. Other New Age practices include acupuncture, shiatsu, channeling, color therapy, crystals, hypnotherapy, past-life therapy, and reflexology; astral projection, iridology, chromotherapy, shiatsu, and pyramid power.
The goal of the New Age is to find a new way to interpret the experience of modernity. One key belief of New Age adherents is that the self is divine and if it is not it can be made divine through ritual or therapy. Humans are believed to be good and if they are not it is because of their environment or circumstance. New Age beliefs stress that the individual is holy, freeing human potential to understand the self. Therefore, New Age beliefs are self-religions and encompasses highly individualized interpretation of spirituality. Personal experience is the highest form of knowledge. Truth is relative, where there are a variety of truths, not just one.